Daughter of Mirkwood

Chapter 3

Another Dawn Among Many

It was on the divan overlooking the Hidden Valley that Legolas found his little sister the following morning, curled up on the seat, the bed forgotten. The morning light streamed into the room from the multitude of windows around the room, bathing Aeslin in sunshine. Legolas couldn’t help but be impressed by the Lord Elrond’s choice of quarters for his sister. Growing up in Mirkwood under the overly protective eye of their father, especially since she was too young to remember it as the Greenwood, Aeslin had rarely, if ever, truly seen the sun in all of her near three hundred years. This room was perfect, for he could think of nothing Aeslin would love more than to be woken by the first rays of the morning sun and to bask in its warmth throughout the day. The view alone was breathtaking. Even now, as he approached her sleeping form, she was stirring as the first rays of sun fell across her face.

The first attempt to open her eyes was met with little success, as the light was too bright, causing Aeslin to squeeze her lids closed again. Eventually, blinking rapidly, she managed to adjust to the sunlight streaming through the archway, only to focus on Legolas sitting at her feet. He sat very still, gazing out at the valley that lay before Rivendell.

With little in the way of words, the siblings wished each other a good morning before Legolas retreated to the sitting room, allowing Aeslin to prepare herself for the day. Shedding her well-worn travel clothes, she stood in her shift before the wardrobe, suddenly struck with uncertainty once again. What exactly was appropriate attire for her situation? She was a guest, but also Lord Elrond’s pupil and a Princess of the Woodland Realm. Was she expected to adhere to a certain level of dress or was she free to wear what she pleased?

Throwing a robe around herself, Aeslin turned to the latticed table next to the door and poured out some fresh, clear water into the basin. After splashing a bit of water on her face, she dried her hands on the cloth next to the basin. Turning, she noticed the chest at the foot of her bed. Moving the cloth and the candleholder aside, she opened the chest to find several gowns, robes and other clothing items, all of which seemed perfectly chosen for her. After a few moments of perusing the options and debating whether or not she should pull one out to wear, Aeslin finally pulled a pale blue gown out from among the others and slipped into it, quickly doing up the lacings and pulling darker blue robe over that. After securing a silver embroidered girdle around her hips, she felt she was ready to face her new life.

Joining her brother outside, the young elf was led to the same hall where they had dined the night before. Breakfast was already served, and as Aeslin came to learn, the morning meal was not a formal affair and that everyone came and went as they pleased. It was there that Legolas and Aeslin met up with Elladan. With a smile that was far gentler than his teasing one the night previous, he bid the two wood-elves to join him. Aeslin couldn’t help but eye him warily.

“You are suspicious of me, Aeslin of Mirkwood.” Elladan’s eyes sparkled as he spoke. Legolas restrained his own smile as his little sister flushed, but having rested her spirits were bolstered since last night.

“A little, Master Elladan. How could I not be for the way you and your brother have treated me thus far?” Elladan chuckled, drawing a small smile from Aeslin.

“I suppose there is truth to what you say.”

“Of course there is.”

“Then I shall make it up to you, Milady. I would be honoured if you would permit me to introduce you to my home.” This time Aeslin did smile, her pale blue eyes lit with amusement.

“I would be honoured for you to do so.” She turned to Legolas, who was watching the exchange with an amused silence. In answer to the silent question in her eyes, Legolas graciously demurred to join them, earning a flicker of panic that played across her features. Still, once they had all broken their fast, Aeslin allowed herself to be led away by Elladan.

Over the course of the day, Elrond’s son showed her around Imladris, pointing out the Library, Elrond’s Study, the Wing of Healing, the Hall of Fire, the gardens, even the stables and the mews. All around them the sun shone, illuminating the grounds and glistening off the streams and rivers that flowed around them. By the time the sun’s last golden rays disappeared behind the cliffs that guarded Rivendell, Aeslin was nearly as well acquainted with Rivendell as she was with the Court of Mirkwood. As darkness settled around them, Legolas and Elrohir joined them, and together they made their way to dinner.

After a few weeks had passed, Aeslin was forced to bid her brother farewell. It was far harder than she had anticipated, but she had little choice but to concede it was time. Settling into Rivendell had become easier with familiarity and the meeting of new friends like Elrond’s sons. Nevertheless, Aeslin was hard pressed to keep her feelings in check as Legolas gave her one final embrace before mounting his horse.

Coming to stand at his knee, Aeslin couldn’t withhold the tear that escaped onto her cheek. Seeing this, Legolas reached down, brushing it away.

“Do not be sad. It will not be so long before I see you again, little sister. Until then, you have a great deal to learn. I know you will make us proud, Aeslin. You do not need to fear about that.” Aeslin responded with a weak smile. It was all she could manage in the face of the loneliness she felt growing in her heart. He was all she had. Sure, she had her Father as well, but he was distant, even cold at times. She had never known the same warmth and affection from him that she had from her brother, except in the earliest of her memories, when her mother had still been with them.

With one final farewell, Legolas turned his horse towards the gate and urged him forward, followed closely by the rest of the party that had brought Aeslin to Rivendell. This time, Aeslin managed to keep her tears in check as she watched her brother disappear around the bend in the road. She didn’t turn when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder, knowing it was Elladan. After a moment, she lifted her gaze to his and, seeing the sympathy there, had to look away again. After a long moment, he spoke, his voice low and soothing.

“It does get better, little one. You never cease to miss your family, but it does become easier to bear.” Aeslin took a deep breath, struggling to maintain her control as he spoke. “Every time I have delivered my own little sister to Lorien, I have felt the same pain of parting that you know now. You learn to bear it with grace, but it will never go away.” Aeslin turned to look at him again, managing a faint smile in gratitude for his understanding and his admission.

Perhaps she wasn’t going to be as alone as she had feared.

So it was that Aeslin began her training under Lord Elrond. At first she struggled with the expectations he placed on her, bringing back her previous fears and anxieties for a time. He had her start with learning about the intricacies of the body and the more mundane means of healing; the ways men and other non-magic folk tended to injury and health. The former she could understand, but the latter she could not comprehend in the slightest. She found this frustrating to no end, not understanding his methodology. Soon her frustration began to get the better of her.

After nearly a decade under Elrond’s tutelage, she’d had enough, and demanded he explain the purpose of learning such things. Never before had she seen Elrond frown the way he did that day. It was the closest she’d ever seen him to being angry, and it sent a slight tremor of panic through her. She held her ground though, keeping her expression of resolve fixed firmly on her features.

“There is a great deal more that you must learn to become a Healer of worth, young one. You cannot even begin to comprehend just how much. One day you may understand, but for now you will heed my lessons, and adhere to my methods.” Elrond’s voice was low and calm, but his words were sharp; their impact on the young elf before him was easily visible. With each syllable Aeslin tensed and the determined set of her features slowly gave way to one of shock and humiliation. Still, the set of her jaw was firm, and though he saw the shimmer of tears in her eyes, she stoutly refused to let them fall. Elrond sighed, impressed at her spirit despite her obstinate demands.

“Our strength is not infinite, young one; especially at your age. We must build toward more advanced lessons. And should you ever find yourself weakening to the point where it would be dangerous to continue, you then have a means to still treat patients until you regain your strength, for, though more primitive, more mundane means of healing can be just as crucial and effective as our ways for saving a life. That is why you are here, to preserve life whenever possible.” Finding herself mute under his chiding, Aeslin could only bow her head in acceptance. Taking another deep breath, Elrond dismissed her for the day, knowing the best thing for her right now was peace to think over what he’d said. Already, he could see the wheels of her mind turning, processing his words. Without another word, his pupil turned and whisked from the room, her pale skirts fluttering out of sight.

Aeslin did not slow her pace until she reached the gardens, and even then, she did not stop, but instead paced among the sweet-smelling flowers and pungent herbs. Thanks to her basic learning in herb-lore, she was now able to identify a great many of the plants and cite their uses. For a time that was what she tried to do to calm herself; list and review her growing knowledge of medicinal plants. Unfortunately, that only served to remind her of her ignorance; something Lord Elrond had so decisively brought to her attention. Finally her legs gave up on her mindless wandering, and she found herself sinking down among fragrant plants, her fingers wandering over the delicate sprays of leaves and soft, silken petals.

“There are more comfortable places to sit.” Aeslin was disturbed from her musings by the voice of Elrohir. While the passage of a handful of years is of little notice to an elf, it had still proven plenty long enough for Aeslin to form a close bond with Lord Elrond’s sons. They had endeavored to fill the void her brother’s departure had left in Aeslin’s heart, perhaps recognizing the familiar hollowness left by an absent sibling that is kept close to the heart. It was something she was sincerely grateful for. They had readily accepted her as something akin to a little sister, and she was growing to love them as if they were family also, something that had made her feel more at home in Rivendell than anything else. Elrohir, especially, had stepped up to become her companion during the last few years.

Aeslin could not help but laugh at his rather obvious observation, but any hint of mirth was drowned out by the melancholy she was currently wallowing in.

“Your father is displeased with me. I cannot understand his methods. I feel lost amid this sea of knowledge, and this dreadful feeling of inadequacy will not let me be. I know so very little. I can find no peace within myself anymore.” The older elf lowered himself down beside her, turning his gaze to survey the garden around them. Honeybees danced among the blossoms and the afternoon sun bathed the garden with a golden warmth.

“You need to learn patience. That is something you lack in your youth.” She stiffened beside him, hating that most of her flaws seemed to coincide directly with her age. “You don’t like to be reminded of how young you are. That is abundantly clear. But it is something that will improve with time. Right now, you would be best served in learning to be patient.” He reached out, turning her face to his, “not just with others, but with yourself. You expect too much, Aeslin. Centuries will pass before you acquire the breadth of knowledge you seek, and you have millennia and more to learn as you will.” Now she did smile, despite the sting of his criticism. She knew very well that he only spoke of her faults to help her improve on them. Just for good measure though, she reached out and gave him a playful shove, letting him know she didn’t intend to be bowed. Laughing, Elrohir got to his feet, reaching out a hand to help Aeslin to hers.

They began to walk back toward the main buildings, taking their time among the garden’s tranquil beauty.

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