Daughter of Mirkwood

Chapter 14

Time Passes

One facet of the magic in Lothlorien was that time seemed to move slowly, if it even seemed to pass at all, when in truth time has flown. Before Aeslin knew it, another twenty or so years had gone by, and yet it felt like none had passed at all. Arwen, though, grew discontented as the years passed, something that didn’t escape the notice of those around her. Aeslin especially saw the shift in her almost-sister, and wondered.

“You have changed, Arwen. A restlessness has formed in you that was not there before. What is it that troubles you?” Arwen shot her a stern look.

“It is nothing,” the dark-haired elf maintained. Aeslin couldn’t help but doubt that.

“It most certainly is not.” A sudden inspiration came to the healer. “It does not have to do with a certain man, does it?” Arwen refused to meet her gaze. Aeslin sighed, knowing she was right.

“I cannot stop thinking about him,” Arwen finally whispered, “wondering where he is, what he is doing. If he ever thinks of me; if he even remembers me.” She trailed off. Aeslin stood from her seat, going over to sit beside her friend.

“Though I am not sure there is anyone, anywhere, that could ever forget you, I certainly don’t think a mere man could miss the beauty of our Evenstar, nor dare forget her.” That earned a small smile from the older elf. “I worry for you, though.” Now it was Arwen’s turn to frown.

“You do not need to worry for me.”

“But I do,” Aeslin said emphatically, “If whatever it is you feel is strong enough, and unrequited, you could fade away. You know how deeply our race feels love, you heard as well as I the fate of Tauriel; she died because of her love. Her dwarf was killed in front of her and her heart broke. And if it is love that grows between you and Aragorn… he is mortal and you are not. I fear what loving him would do to you, if that is truly the path you are meant to take. You are my dearest friend; the closest thing to a sister I have.”

Arwen leaned against Aeslin, who placed an arm around her friend’s shoulder.

“As are you to me. But I do not fear that future if that is what lies before me. What I fear is being loveless for all the days of my life. There are a great many times when I feel numb, lost…alone. You once felt as I do, Aeslin, I know you did. But then you found Haldir.” Aeslin had little to say to that, for Arwen was right.

“One day, Arwen, one day you shall find it.”

As luck would have it, the Rivendell elf was soon to confront the object of her anxieties. As it was, Aeslin did not learn of this until after the fact, so concerned was Arwen about being discouraged from her path.

Nearly thirty years had passed since their first meeting, and yet very little had apparently changed in him.

“He is older and wiser, yes, but still so much like he had been that day in the garden,” she told Aeslin. “It was pure chance that I should’ve seen him here. It was fate.”

“He was in Lorien?” Aeslin was startled by the declaration. It was the first she had heard of Aragorn’s visit to the Golden Wood. Arwen nodded.

“Yes. He came, as if answering my prayers. As I walked among the blooming elanor and niphredil of Cerin Amroth, suddenly he was there. It was twilight, and as the moon rose, he appeared. He told me I was as a dream to him, and had been since he saw me in Imladris.” Arwen smiled, looking more joyful than Aeslin had ever seen her. “Every day since until his departure we met there, sometimes for hours, sometimes for mere moments stolen from the flow of the day. I knew in my heart that my destiny lay with him. He loves me, Aeslin, and I love him.

“We promised to marry, Aeslin. There, on Cerin Amroth.” Aeslin was astonished, and despite the warning in her heart she was immeasurably happy for her friend.

“Marry, Arwen?” With a laugh, the two embraced. When they pulled apart though, Arwen’s voice grew serious.

“I told him I would forsake the life of our people and bind myself to him.” Aeslin watched the shift in Arwen’s expression. Tears sprang to Aeslin’s eyes, something that her friend noticed, concern replacing her assured conviction. The Healer saw the question in her eyes.

“Do not make this decision lightly, Arwen. But it is your choice. If that is truly what you choose, where your heart lies, I wish you naught but joy. But I will miss you, my sister.” Arwen reached up and brushed away a stray tear that had fallen onto Aeslin’s cheek, her face compassionate beneath her concern.

“I know. But I know now, in my heart, that to live without him would be to have no life at all.” With a smile, Aeslin nodded, a faint laugh escaping her.

“That I can understand.”

As Aeslin suspected, Arwen’s announcement of her betrothal to Aragorn had mixed reactions. The only one who did not seem particularly astonished was Galadriel, something that didn’t really surprise Aeslin. In fact, the Lady was one of the few who didn’t immediately question Arwen’s choice, accepting that the Ranger was her destiny and that their love was true and deep. Celeborn, on the other hand, was not so pleased. He had come to know Aragorn during his time in Lorien, and the Ranger had earned the Lord of Lorien’s respect, but he was not happy about the price his only granddaughter would have to pay for her love; death.

However, the shock of Arwen’s secret betrothal to a mortal was soon overshadowed by greater threats. In the east, Sauron of Mordor was regaining strength and rebuilding his forces, something that greatly worried the Lord and Lady of Lorien. Haldir also was growing concerned about the growing darkness. Orcs were becoming bolder in the spreading gloom, and Lorien’s western borders were being harried all hut constantly by orcs out of Moria. Where before Aeslin had little reason to worry, now, every time Haldir departed for his duties on the borders she was now beset with fear.

Galadriel spent more time before her Mirror, becoming distant, while Celeborn grew more worried as every year passed. Aeslin was not terribly familiar with the tale of Sauron, his mighty ring and his rise to power, or his subsequent defeat at the hands of Isildur. What little she knew was what Elrond had taught her; that the ring was lost and that, unless it was destroyed, the Dark Lord would endure within the world. She remembered, even, the fear she had seen on the Lord and Lady’s faces when Sauron’s return became known, and the horror she’d felt at witnessing the cost driving him from Dol Goldur had demanded, having been there when the Lady had been returned from the ruined fortress, haunted and weak in Elrond’s arms. It had taken a great deal of both her and her mentor’s skill and power to help the Lady of Lorien regain her strength and heal from the immensity of her ordeal.

She also knew that Elrond was now keeper to the heirlooms of the Royal House of Gondor; a throne to which Aragorn was heir. However, with what little she did know, she knew the darkness that spread beyond the protected borders of Lorien would only grow. This worried her. She did not have the gift of foresight like Galadriel or Elrond, but she knew that if events continued on the trajectory they followed now, war was in their future.

Years passed, and the darkness grew, and there was a feeling of bitter anticipation that spread with it. Something was waiting to happen, entrapping all those who anticipated what was to pass. Yet life went on as usual, both beyond Lorien and within.

Eventually though, things did begin to change. The Darkness in Mordor, driven by the evil of Sauron, began to spill out beyond the mountains that hemmed its borders. Elrond, wary of the encroaching threat, recalled Arwen to Imladris.

Elladan and Elrohir, along with a party of three other Rivendell elves arrived to retrieve her, each one solemn and guarded. They did not stay long in Lorien, and the morning they departed was one full of melancholy and anxiety. The mountain passes were growing ever more dangerous, causing Elrond’s sons no end of concern.

Nevertheless, Aeslin was there to bid them a cheerful farewell, effectively disguising her growing fear for her adoptive family, though doing so took no small effort. Elrohir gave her an especially tight embrace, looking at her critically as he withdrew.

“You could come with us.” Aeslin was taken aback by the proposal, having never given any thought to the idea. In the back of her mind, she could feel Haldir musing over the suggestion, considering Elrohir’s words. His protective instincts toward her saw the appeal in sending her as far from Mordor as he could, but also baulking at the distance that would be between them and the threats present on the journey there in the first place. But before he could follow his thoughts through to any conclusion, Aeslin gave her answer, a hint of annoyance at her husband beginning to form.

“No, Elrohir. My place is here. Lorien is my home, and its borders are well protected. I will be safe here. You look to yourself. Reach Rivendell safely, for it would break my heart were you or Elladan or Arwen brought to harm.” Nodding in acceptance, Elrohir reached for her hands, laying a soft kiss on her fingers.

“Very well.” He turned to Haldir, who stood off to the side, out of the way of the farewells, waiting to escort the travelers to the borders of the Wood. They exchanged a look that Aeslin faintly recognized as pleading, though for what she did not know. As Elrohir moved off to receive his farewell from his grandparents, Aeslin moved to Haldir’s side, looking up at him.

You wish me to go, don’t you? When he didn’t respond, she took his hand, pressing against their bond. Finally he answered, though he refused to meet her gaze.

Yes, a part of me does, for part of me wants to whisk you as far away from the borders of Mordor as I can. To his credit he didn’t flinch when her alarm passed through their bond.

You want to send me away. The pain he felt flowing from her made his heart ache, and his gaze flew around to her.

“No. That I would not do. I made you a promise. I would only ask you to go if I were to go with you.” Relief coursed through her. “I need to know you are safe, Aeslin. That is all that matters to me.” She leaned against him, her eyes closing briefly when he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

Good, was the only response he got.

Their waiting was ended on a warm autumn day, several years after Arwen’s departure from the Golden Wood. Despite her friend’s absence, Aeslin continued to spend time with the Lady and her husband, often sitting with them for many pleasant hours, especially when Haldir was on the Borders. The Lady’s composed and gracious manner and Celeborn’s gentle presence never failed to calm Aeslin when she worried for her husband. So it was that she was sitting with the couple when news came.

Galadriel was sewing in the sunlight that streamed into her sitting room while Aeslin read aloud. They were disturbed, though, when Elladan and Elrohir were announced mere seconds before the brothers came through the door themselves.

Celeborn and Aeslin were surprised by their sudden appearance, but The Lady was not. She merely looked up at them in her usual mild but concerned look. Celeborn stood, a frown forming on his face, but before he could ask what was happening, Elrohir spoke, answering their unspoken questions.

“The One Ring has been found, Grandmother, Grandfather. It is in Rivendell as we speak.” A pregnant silence followed his words. Aeslin, nearly numb with disbelief, made to stand and leave in order to give the Lord and Lady privacy with their grandsons. One quick glance from the Lady stopped her in her tracks.

“You are certain?” Celeborn was just as bewildered as Aeslin. “The Ring was lost several millennia ago.” Elrohir nodded before answering.

“It was in the Shire, with a Halfling named Baggins. It would seem before that it was under the Misty Mountains. Beyond that we do not know.”

“Baggins?” All eyes turned to Aeslin. She hadn’t intended to speak, but the familiarity of the name had startled her.

“You know of this hobbit?” Elladan asked, concern in his eyes. Aeslin nodded tentatively.

“Yes, I believe so. When I was in Mirkwood, my brother told me of the happenings surrounding the fall of the Dragon Smaug of the Lonely Mountain and the Battle of the Five Armies. There was a hobbit, among the dwarves that passed through Mirkwood, a master thief. He helped them escape, and returned after the battle with Mithrandir. His name was Baggins; Bilbo, now named Elf-friend by my father, if I remember correctly, for in addition to doing my Father a great service, he found the halfling’s spirit and audacity amusing.”

“Indeed, we remember that party from when they passed through Rivendell.” Elrohir confirmed wryly, seeming like he was uncertain if the memory amused him or not. “You are right, there was a Halfling named Baggins with them. More recently still, that hobbit has come to reside in Rivendell. But it was a different hobbit who bore the Ring to Imladris, one Frodo Baggins, Bilbo’s nephew,” the dark-haired twin clarified. They all fell silent again. Galadriel had turned thoughtful as they spoke, her gaze far away.

“What is to become of the Ring now?” came Celeborn’s response. Elladan was the one to answer this time, his tone reserved.

“A Fellowship of Nine has been formed to bring the Ring to Mordor, to destroy it. They will depart Rivendell very soon if they haven’t already.”

“That is a great risk,” the Lord of Lorien sighed.

“But one that must be taken.” Celeborn turned to look at his wife as she spoke. “The hope of Middle Earth now lies in the hands of a hobbit. The fate of this world is in the balance.” Elladan nodded gravely confirming his grandmother’s quiet words.

“Yes, Frodo volunteered to bear the Ring.”

“A hobbit? What chance does a hobbit have against the great evil of the Ring, of Mordor?” Galadriel smiled gently at Aeslin’s exclamation, but for once it did not allay the fear growing in Aeslin’s heart.

“Have faith, young one. Hobbits may be a small race, but there is strength in their hearts that has yet to be tested.” She turned back to her grandsons. “What path do they take?” The brother’s exchanged a glance. Elrohir frowned, but eventually answered.

“We believe Mithrandir plans on leading them south along the Misty Mountains, before turning east to Mordor by way of the Gap of Rohan.”

A faint frown marred Galadriel’s face, “Gandalf the Gray leads them?”

“Yes. Also among their number are three more hobbits, a dwarf, two men, and an elf.” Aeslin grew wary when the brothers avoided her gaze.

“Who is the elf?” she asked quietly. Before they even answered, she could feel the unease grow within her heart.

“Legolas of the Woodland Realm.” Aeslin felt numb. “I am sorry, Aeslin.” Through her bond, she could feel Haldir questioning what was wrong, but she could not bring herself to answer. All she could do was draw on his reassuring presence, comforted by the contact alone. After a while Celeborn sighed.

“There is little then to do but wait. What will pass will come to pass.”

Wait they did, anxious for news of the Fellowship. At Celeborn’s request, news of the Quest of the Ring was to be kept within the knowledge of only those there to hear it. Elladan and Elrohir departed the next morning, anxious to return home. Again, they offered to bring Aeslin with them to Rivendell, concerned as they were for the safety of their littlest sister. It was a testament to the foreboding Aeslin felt growing in her heart that she nearly agreed, but her instincts to stay in Lorien overrode the feeling, and she had to refuse. Visibly disappointed, the Brothers of Rivendell took their leave, pausing only to bid their family goodbye. Upon receiving the blessings of the Lord and Lady of Lorien, they left, leaving Aeslin to wonder at just what lay before them. Just what was the future to hold?

That, though, was before them soon enough.

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