Daughter of Mirkwood

Chapter 11

Start of a New Chapter

By the time night came and Aeslin retired to her room, she was so emotionally exhausted she could barely think straight. Yet as she lay in her bed, waiting for sleep to take her, she found she was too elated to sleep. Her betrothal to Haldir was official now that they had gained Elrond’s blessing, something that gave her no end of joy. In addition, her bond with her future husband was stronger for the unanticipated emotional baggage they had explored. Even as she lay alone, looking out at the moonlit landscape beyond her quarters, she could feel Haldir’s presence as strongly as if he was beside her.

Supper had been pleasant enough, with Elrond congratulating them while simultaneously announcing their troth for everyone to hear. Elrohir had promptly swept Aeslin up in an exuberant hug, proclaiming his joy at her good fortune. Haldir and Aeslin, though delighted themselves, were slightly more sedate than those around them. Haldir, especially, had fallen back on his old habits, and was as serious and staid as he had always been. Aeslin did not mind, though. She understood now why he was the way he was, and she loved him all the more for it, beginning to enjoy being the only one privy to what went on beneath the Marchwarden’s unreadable expressions. He was just as pleased as she was.

Congratulations and merrymaking continued around them long after their supper had been completed, Orophin and Elrohir having the most fun, teasing their siblings with glee, earning a great many laughs all around. However, private as he was, eventually all the attention began to wear on Haldir, something that Aeslin picked up on immediately. Eventually, Elrohir and Elladan moved on to other topics, a rousing song bursting from them at one point, Haldir and Aeslin slipped away, pausing only to wish Elrond a good night.

Once outside, Haldir released an exasperated breath, earning a laugh from Aeslin.

“They are happy for us, you know.” He smiled down at her, pleased by the joy in her eyes. He put his arm around her as the merry sounds of the Hall behind them began to dim.

“I know, I only wish they were not so—”

“Loud? Insufferable?” she supplied. He laughed.

“Indeed. They love you a great deal, the brothers of your heart.” She nodded, her face falling after a moment. He frowned at the sudden change. Feeling his concern, she explained.

“I miss my true brother, but I dare not contact him until after we are married.”

“For fear of your father.”

“Yes,” she whispered. “Once I am your wife, and you my husband, my father can complain all he wants, but he will be able to do nothing that would impact our marriage. I cannot wait for that day.” Haldir stopped, causing Aeslin to look up at him in confusion. After a moment he smiled and leaned forward to kiss her, savouring the warm softness of her lips against his and the feel of her in his arms.

“Say it again.” She looked at him questioningly, her eyes sparkling with mirth.

“Say what?”

“About wanting me to be your husband.” She smiled, leaning forward to kiss him again.

“More than anything.” They began walking again, and before long had reached Aeslin’s quarters. With one final good night they parted. She could see in his eyes that Haldir was tired, worn by the memories he had been forced to confront earlier that day. So much had happened, Aeslin could barely believe only a single day had passed. But she didn’t regret a moment of it. She and Haldir had accomplished what they set out to do.

Once they returned to Lorien they would wed. That it was approaching so quickly now was baffling to the young healer. She could hardly contain her elation at the prospect. Not even the shadow of her father’s expected disapproval could dampen her spirits. It was not long after that she drifted off to sleep.

They stayed in Rivendell for another month and a half before departing for Lorien. Parting was bittersweet for Aeslin, since she was set to wed Haldir upon her return, but she was saying goodbye to Elrond. She wished he could accompany them, to come to her wedding, but he had duties to attend to in Imladris. Elladan and Elrohir, on the other hand, had decided as soon as they heard of her plans that they would attend.

“After all,” as Elrohir reasoned, “you need to have some of your family there.” She smiled, knowing exactly what he referred to. The twins had even offered to ride to Mirkwood on her behalf, something she had reluctantly refused despite the wishes of her heart. She was deeply touched though, and grateful beyond words that they were to come to Lorien with her.

After one final farewell on the morning of her departure, she turned away from Rivendell, ready to mount her horse, only to have a small hand tug on her skirt. Behind her, Elrond paused in his farewell to Haldir to watch as Estel reached up for a farewell of his own, latching onto a lock of her soft, shining hair as had become his habit.

During her stay, the little boy had decided Aeslin was to be his friend, and had actively sought her out, much to his mother’s chagrin. Aeslin hadn’t minded in the least, becoming very fond of the boy herself. Elrond laughed when Aeslin struggled to detach the boy from around her neck, where he had latched on for one last hug.

“Will you visit me?” the expectant look on his face tugged at Aeslin’s heart.

“Perhaps, little one. There is no telling what the future holds,” Aeslin answered gently. At that moment his mother appeared to reclaim her child. Gathering him up in her arms, Gilraen spared Aeslin a grateful smile.

“Your presence has been a gift, My Lady. I wish you joy.”

“And I to you. Your son is a blessing, Gilraen. His regard has been a gift to me.” Smiling herself, she reached out and gently tugged one of Estel’s dark curls in farewell, unable to feel sorrowful thanks to his earnest excitement at the prospect of another future visit.

Elrond and Haldir watched the exchange from where they stood on the other end of the courtyard. Elrond nearly laughed when he spied an expression of tenderness flicker across the Marchwarden’s usually grim features. Eventually though, he had to laugh in earnest at the child’s antics and his reluctance to return to his mother’s arms. As Estel and Gilraen retreated, Elrond turned his attention back to Haldir, clapping him on the shoulder.

“Remember what I told you.” His face turned serious, “Keep her safe, for life would be far less bright without her. Farewell, Haldir.” With a solemn nod, he reciprocated Elrond’s goodbye. In an instant he was at Aeslin’s side, assisting her up into the saddle before mounting his own horse. With one final nod in Elrond’s direction, he led the troupe of elves out of the gate on the return trip to Lorien.

They had not been on the road overly long before Haldir turned to Aeslin and noticed a peculiar smile on her face. Angling his horse so that they were side by side, he cleared his throat, causing her to start.

“What were you thinking of, to earn a look like that.” Aeslin grinned, almost sheepishly.

“I was remembering Estel’s goodbye. He is such a sweet child. He will grow to be a good man.” Her look became somewhat distant after a moment, but before Haldir could reply, Elrohir came up on Aeslin’s other side, a familiar expression of teasing on his face.

“A little early to be thinking of things like that isn’t it, my sweet elfling?” It took a moment for her to realize his implication, but when she did, Aeslin’s eyes went wide as her cheeks began to flush, and she shot her adoptive brother a cutting look. Laughing to himself, the dark-haired elf urged his mount forward, leaving a rather embarrassed Aeslin behind. Cautiously, she looked over at Haldir, unsure what his reaction would be. After a moment he chuckled, reaching over and taking her hand to lay a kiss against her fingers, the tender look Elrond had caught earlier returning to his face.

“Ignore him, my sweet Aeslin, we needn’t think on that just yet. He is acting as an older brother is supposed to with his sister; like an idiot.”

“I heard that!” Ahead of them, Elrohir had twisted in his saddle, obviously still laughing. Aeslin twitched, fighting the urge to race ahead and topple him from his horse in retribution. After a moment though, she relaxed, laughing softly to herself. Yes, there was plenty of time ahead.

Two months after their return, Haldir and Aeslin were married. Under the golden bowers of Lorien, they bound their lives together. The day was dampened only in that there were precious faces that were absent; Elrond and Legolas being foremost in Aeslin’s mind. Yet nothing could truly diminish her happiness. Arwen and her brothers from Rivendell were there, as were Orophin and Lostariel, and Rumil and his young family. Galadriel and Celeborn were also present, the Lady being the first to offer congratulations and blessings on the newlyweds.

With weddings being merry as they are, the celebrations inevitably went on long into the night. All of Caras Galadhon was lit and carefree songs filled the night air. Aeslin was light-hearted and positively glowing with joy, with elanor blossoms in her hair. As was to be expected, Haldir could barely keep his eyes of his bride, and it earned him no shortage of teasing from his brothers and hers. And for once he wore his feelings for all to see, something that delighted Aeslin to no end.

Eventually though, the festivities wound down, and the newlyweds were free to retire to their new flet. As they drew closer, Haldir surprised Aeslin by suddenly sweeping her off her feet, carrying her the rest of the way while she laughed in delight. He finally set her down once they reached the privacy of their own quarters, but he did not let her go, not for a long while.

Aeslin took to married life rather quickly, soon wondering how she had managed before her life with Haldir. He had become such an important part of her existence that she could no longer imagine living without him. Even when they were parted they were always connected, for their bond continued to strengthen as time passed around them, and in what felt like a heartbeat they had been married for nearly a decade.

The only real hitch, so far as she was concerned, came when he was called back to his duties on the borders of Lorien. At first she was plagued by worry and loneliness, but she soon came to realize that she could feel when he was safe, when he was worried and so on. Their link even proved strong enough on occasion that thoughts could pass between them.

One such occasion came as she spent one particularly warm afternoon with Lostariel, Melima and Melima’s son, Veryan. At that point, Aeslin had only been married a little over two years. They all sat inside the flet Melima shared with Rumil, while their son attended to his studies off to the side, his growing adolescent form draped over the couch there. The three older elves sat together, keeping each other company while their husbands were away on the borders. Aeslin sat slightly apart, reading, while Lostariel and Melima talked quietly.

“He certainly is growing fast,” Lostariel said with a laugh.

“Too fast,” came the response, a hint of playful exasperation in Melima’s voice, “I did enjoy it so when he was small, when he was content to spend his days with me. Now all he speaks of are his desires to join the border-guard like his father.” Lostariel laughed again.

“Of course he does, he is a growing boy. I remember my mother saying the same thing of my brother, lamenting when he grew more interested in our father’s doings than hers. She missed having her baby with her always,” said Lostarial. Melima sighed, a smile on her face nonetheless.

“It is true, I grant you that. You needn’t laugh so, Lostariel. Sooner or later you will understand what I’m going through. Do you and Orophin still plan on having a child?” Now it was Lostariel whose voice grew wistful.

“Yes, we do. But as you can tell, it has not happened yet.”

“It will soon enough, don’t you worry about that.” She turned to Aeslin, who was only half paying attention. “What of you, little sister?” Aeslin started, looking from Melima’s playful grin to Lostariel’s.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Have you and Haldir discussed the prospect of children yet.” Aeslin felt a slight flush creep to her cheeks.

“No, not yet.” Lostariel looked at the younger elf in consideration for a moment, a hint of a teasing smile on her face.

“Do you want children?” the older elf asked, utterly failing at posing the question casually. Aeslin thought for a moment. They hadn’t really discussed it, and truthfully, she hadn’t truly thought of it before. Naturally, she did want children someday, and the idea that they would be Haldir’s filled her with joy. She smiled at her companions, answering with just that—she did someday—allowing them to move on with their conversation. But Aeslin continued to think on it though, wondering.

It was then that she felt as though she heard Haldir laughing, and before she could react, she heard his voice inside her head. There is still plenty of time for that, My Aeslin; all in good time. A small smile coming to her face, she laughed to herself before resuming her reading.

It was after they reached their second decade of marriage that Aeslin and Haldir finally heard news of her father’s reaction to their marriage.

Aeslin and Arwen’s friendship was undiminished by the new stage in Aeslin’s life, but the younger elf began to notice a change in her friend. After a long time trying to discern the cause, she eventually began to attribute it to threads of jealousy. While not begrudging her friend’s happiness, Arwen Undomiel longed for a love to call her own, something that Aeslin noticed was particularly prominent when Haldir was present.

Aeslin knew her love for Haldir had changed her; she was particularly sensitive to his temperament for one, and when they were close, they tended to gravitate toward each other. She knew Arwen saw this. It was something that was common among strongly bonded couples. Having experienced it herself, Aeslin saw it all around her, especially when she was near Galadriel and Celeborn. Their bond was very strong, which wasn’t surprising since not only were they a genuine love-match, but they had been together for such a very long time.

So when she found out that the time was approaching for Arwen to make the trip home to Rivendell, Aeslin was happy for her. She intended to stay in Lorien, so Arwen would be making the trip without her, something that obviously saddened the older elf.

“My father would love to see you,” she said to Aeslin the day Elrohir and Elladan arrived on the borders of Lorien. But Aeslin refused.

“Go, see your home again. Spend time with your father. Do not worry for me, I am perfectly content here.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Arwen rejoined with a cheeky smile. Making a sound of exasperation, Aeslin nevertheless drew her friend into a hug.

“Give your father my love, for I do miss him. Certainly more than I’ve ever missed my father.” She spoke with a light-hearted tone, but Arwen didn’t miss what lay beneath it. Before she could say anything else though, Aeslin turned, feeling that Haldir, along with the brothers of her heart were close.

A moment later they entered the flet of Galadriel and Celeborn, where Arwen and Aeslin had been awaiting their arrival. Elrohir and Elladan were quick to greet their sisters, especially Aeslin since she wasn’t going to be going with them. A short while later, Galadriel and Celeborn made their own appearance to greet their grandsons. Aeslin stood to the side while they talked, moving to stand beside her husband. However, they were soon drawn back to the group when Elladan looked to his adopted sister.

“Father has received a missive, Aeslin, from your Father.” The young healer tensed, afraid of what Elladan was about to say. Haldir laid a protective hand on her shoulder, reassuring them both, for he had begun to grow uneasy as well. Exchanging a glance with Elrohir, the dark-haired elf continued, reciting a portion of the message.

“Your Father was distressed not to hear of your wedding until after the fact, having been unable to discuss it with you beforehand,” Aeslin held her tongue, tempted to voice her cynical opinion on the type of discussion he had likely wanted, “Also, now that the darkness in Dol Guldur has been ejected these few years hence, he wishes for you to return to Mirkwood, so that he may meet your husband, and confer his blessing.”

“Only if he should deem him worthy, I suspect.” Elladan was surprised at how dark Aeslin’s gaze had become and how sharp her tone.

“You don’t know that, Aeslin.” Elrohir interjected.

“Don’t I? It is only when he are displeased with me that he finally asks me to return to the home of my childhood.”

“Your Father has never been displeased with you, Aeslin. He is proud of you, of what you have become.” Galadriel leveled her mild gaze at Aeslin, though the healer heard a hint of displeasure in the Lady’s quiet tone. Aeslin closed her eyes for a moment, fighting not only shame at forgetting that the Lord and Lady of Lorien were separated from their own daughter, but also the bitter well of emotion that was growing within her.

“How can he know what I have become? He has neither spoken to me nor seen me for nearly half my life, now. He’s never even written to me, only passing along platitudes through my brother’s letters.” Her tone had a note of despair to it, one that Haldir felt as well as heard.

“It is not only your father who misses you, Aeslin. Think of your brother.” There was a plaintive undertone to Elrohir’s plea, one that Aeslin could not ignore. “Were Arwen to marry without telling us…”

“I understand, Elrohir, truly. You have no idea how much it hurt me not to have him here, by my side. But there was no guarantee that our father would not resist our marriage. I could not risk it, I could not have borne it…” She trailed off. Eventually though, she spoke again. Looking to Haldir for a long moment, a glance of understanding passed between them. She turned back to Elladan.

“Very well. We shall make the journey to Mirkwood. But should my Father give any criticism of my choice in husband, we shall be gone from his domain shortly thereafter.” Knowing that was the best answer they were likely going to get, the Rivendell brothers let the matter rest.

It was later that night, after Elrond’s children had departed and they were alone in their own quarters that Haldir brought the subject up again.

“You truly wish to travel to Mirkwood?” Aeslin sat at her dressing table, brushing out her long, pale hair. After a moment, she sighed sadly.

“Yes” She turned to face him, feeling his concern, “Lorien is my home now, but part of me still longs to see Mirkwood, to wander the halls of my Father’s court and to see my brother again. At the very least, I wish to go to Mirkwood for him.” Still, he saw fear in her eyes. Haldir walked to her side, kneeling beside her. Taking the brush from her hand, he set it aside before taking her hands in his.

“I do not fear you Father’s judgment, Aeslin.” She tried to smile, but the expression more closely resembled a grimace as she reached out to touch his face.

“But I do. I fear what he will say, what he will do.” She took a deep breath, trying to chase away the fear growing in her heart. Haldir didn’t need to feel her emotions to know the struggle she was having; he could see it in her face. He gathered her into his arms.

“There is nothing he can say or do that would change this,” he said forcefully, placing kisses along her features before capturing her mouth. She kissed him back just as forcefully. After a moment, they ended the kiss. Aeslin smiled faintly, tracing her fingers along his jaw and up to the pointed edge of his ear.

“You are right, my love. He cannot take our love from us.”

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