Of More Surprises and a Few Frustrations
Mellolaes strode through the crowded halls. Normally, few had qualms with brushing against her as they passed one another. Now all stepped an arm-length out of her path.
She went to her room and put on a set of work clothes before grabbing her knife-belt, quiver, and bow. The elleth then left the palace and strode to the lakeside. There the Silvan practiced upon the targets bobbing on the surface of the lake. Her ire had not cooled before Legolas found her there.
“Mellolaes?” The elleth continued to gaze at her target. She released her arrow. It sped away and struck to the right of the center. Only then did Mellolaes lower her bow, turn, and give a deep curtsy while speaking in a tone as cold as a damp cave.
“Is there something you needed, your highness?”
Legolas' shoulders slumped further. “Mellolaes, I beg your forgiveness for my attitude earlier. I was certain at the time Lord Elrond’s request would give you joy.”
Mellolaes turned back towards the lake while drawing another arrow from her quiver and notching it. “I forgive you.” She raised her bow, drew back, and fired. The arrow hit the next target slightly off center to the left. Legolas watched.
“Would you mind telling me why Lord Elrond’s request did not please you?”
Mellolaes notched another arrow. “Perhaps if Lord Elrond had made his offer to me, I may have been pleased with it.”
Legolas shut his eyes and cursed himself for a fool. “Forgive him Mellolaes. Lord Elrond fears reawakening my father’s ancient ire against him. He is careful not to do anything that might offend our king. The Half-elven likely feared offering you the position without seeking my father’s permission first. I should have insisted he also send a separate missive to you as well.”
“I would have appreciated that, your highness.” Legolas sighed. He continued to watch her practice. She was still not looking at him. Finally, the warrior walked to her side and then stepped in front of her.
The elleth went still. He laid his hand upon hers. Mellolaes started at his touch and lowered her weapon while meeting his gaze. The elf's eyes pleaded with her like they never had before.
“The manling needs you desperately, Mellolaes. No others will agree to become his nurse.”
The elleth's mouth grinned, but her eyes flashed. “So, I was not first choice was I?”
Legolas shut his eyes and grit his teeth. How did he keep making this worse? The elf's eyes reopened as he placed a hand over his heart.
“You were my first choice, Mellolaes. The child is mellon nin. He needs someone to watch over him, to teach him how to keep well in the woods, to find joy in their beauty and bounty, to befriend the creatures within them, and care for them as well as let them care for him. And he needs another friend. I am his youngest, and that is sad indeed. He is lonely Mellolaes. There are many who love him in his home, but there are many more who do not, and he knows it.”
The anger in the elleth's eyes evaporated. Pity rushed up from their depths instead. Finally, she pulled away from him, raised her bow again, re-aimed, and released the arrow. It hit the target about the same distance and to the right as the other had. Then she strode down the beach toward the next group of targets.
“I am still not pleased with the way Lord Elrond requested my services.”
Legolas bowed his head with a sigh. “That is a ‘no’ then?”
Mellolaes stopped and turned to gaze back at him. “I will think carefully and seriously on the matter.”
She turned and continued on toward the targets leaving an even more puzzled, yet relieved warrior behind her.
Elrond gazed at the dwarf sitting before him. The dwarf stared back, arms crossed, weapons dripping from him, face expectant, but unworried. The lord of Imladris was careful to keep his voice calm and level. “Your cousins sent you here saying 'I might have work for thee?'”
The dwarf nodded. “Something about guarding a valuable that seems to get away from ya.”
The pieces snapped into place. Elrond's eyes slid shut. He took a deep breath. “I am afraid we are looking for someone with slightly different qualifications.”
“I have not even told ye my qualifications.”
“I am certain you are a great warrior, but . . .”
“These axes are not for splitting kindling.”
“I am sure of it, but . . .”
“They've shattered more orc skulls than wood.”
“There is no doubt of that in my own mind, but . . .”
“And that is not even counting severed goblin limbs.”
“Yes, but . . .”
“Trust me elf there are none among the free peoples better at guarding treasures than dwarves.”
“Yes, I know that . . .”
“Perhaps if I gave thee a demonstration.”
“No!” The Lord of Imladris had finally lost his composure. The dwarf straightened in his seat and looked offended. Elrond relaxed back into his own chair and lowered his voice. “I am afraid the particular . . . valuable you cousins mentioned to you is not something that can be guarded by standing by it night and day even as well armed as you keep yourself. My valuable is something else entirely.”
Elrond smiled apologetically at his guest. The dwarf burst into laughter. The elven lord blinked at him. The dwarf slapped his knee. “You should have seen the look on your face. I told those cousins of mine I could make you raise your voice to me. Ho-ho-ho!”
Elrond sagged back further into his chair, his brows drawn together and voice came forth eerily level . . . and cold. “Did you?”
“Aye, it was a little bet we had goin. I am really here to give you the payment for our annual purchase a few months early. This year we could not wait to see who was right, you see, my kin or I.”
“Yes, I believe I do see.”
“I do not even be knowin, what this valuable is. My cousins only said it was a living thing and you were mighty embarrassed when they found and returned it to thee. Guess you do not want any of these sharp things hanging around it, do ye?” The dwarf patted one of his axes.
Elrond nodded. “Since this matter is now settled would you like to eat before we examine the goods you came for?”
The dwarf's shoulders slumped. He nodded with a sigh. “Aye, lets go fetch the usual bowl o' greens.” His face brightened slightly. “Do you have any of those tarts on hand?”
Elrond smiled. “Indeed we do.” Thank goodness Estel asked for them a few days back.
“But Mellolaes, you already have so many scars upon your heart.”
The elleth turned to look into her friend's eyes. They gazed back into hers with points of pain in their centers. The Silvan sighed. “What else can I do?”
Nithrestil stared back without blinking. Her sweet voice caught in her throat. “Don't go. Elrond can find another. He, his twins, and some of his closest servants already care for the manling. Legolas says so himself.”
Mellolaes grinned. “Elrond would not have sought out a Silvan nurse if he were anything but desperate. Besides, there is joy before the pain. If I go and love my new charge, I will find joy before he is taken away from me. If I never go, I will regret refusing a child my love. Regret is a hard thing to live with for all the history of Arda, Nithrestil.”
The Sindarin elleth sighed and looked down into her lap. Then a soft smiled played over her lips. “Tirven loves Imladris. His praises for The Hidden Valley have stirred a great longing in my heart to see it.”
Mellolaes reached out, took the other elleth's hand, and squeezed it. “Thank you, my friend.”
Mellolaes exited the king's audience chamber and jumped as a voice called her name. “Mellolaes!”
The elleth spun around to see the pouting face of her little charge of long ago. Her own face smiled gently upon greeting it. “Hello Rhovamil.”
The other elleth crossed her arms. “My brother already disappears every spring. Now Elrond has invited you to vanish into his Valley for years. And you just told Ada you would do it, did you not?”
Mellolaes raised her eyebrows at the elleth who sometimes still acted like the elfling she had helped raised. “Rhovamil, have you heard why I am going?”
The Half-Silvan cast her gaze down to the floor while biting her bottom lip. Mellolases grinned at her as if she had not noticed. “I am going because a little manling needs me, just like a little elleth needed me a long time ago.”
Rhovamil's shoulders slumped. “Mother says you and Legolas are safer there anyway.”
Mellolaes stepped up and embraced the younger elleth. “I am not going to keep myself safer. You and the other warriors protect me just fine here. I hope I can guard the manling half as well.”
Rhovamil leaned into the older elleth and embraced her back. “I still need you too sometimes, Mella.”
Mellolaes ran her hand up and down the warrior's back and murmured into her hair. “I know, but it won't be for long, my elfling. Manlings grow up so fast.”
Dear Elrond Eärendilion, Lord of Imladris,
My King has consented to release me into your service if I so wish to be released. After some thought, I decided to accept the position you have offered. I will be glad to watch over, teach, feed, nurse, play with, clean up after, and otherwise care for your adopted son in any way I can. I would have arrived by now myself instead of sending this letter, but I was informed I should not only give notice of my decision first, but also ask you to inform me of when you desire my arrival in Rivendell to take place. I await your instruction.
Your new Servant and Friend
Elrond lowered the letter and looked upon those who had listened to him read its contents. Glorfindel, Elladan, and Elrohir were tense with excitement, eyes shining and mouths grinning. Erestor's form was relaxed. His eyes stared at the floor without focus, but he gave a nod. “I suppose we should send someone for her as soon as is suitable.”
Glorfindel chuckled and slapped his broad hand upon the steward's back. “Do not be so sorrowful, old friend! There have been hundreds of other battles you have won and there are more victories yet ahead of you.”
Elrohir turned towards the servant as well. “She sounds cooperative as well as eager. That is an excellent sign.”
Elladan slapped his hands together. “Let us go tell Estel the good news.”
The elves stared at the child's red face. The manling had crossed his arms over his chest. He was gazing back at them from under furrowed brows. Elrond answered with a voice like ice water. “‘No’ what, Estel?”
Elrond's own brows drew together. Elrohir knelt down in front of his little brother meeting the child’s gaze. “Brother mine, I am surprised at you. Why don’t you want the Silvan elleth to come here and be your nurse?”
“I just don’t!”
Glorfindel and Elladan looked to each other with identical expressions of bewilderment. Elrond and Erestor’s eyes focused on Estel alone. Elrond took a step toward his youngest son.
“You are getting a nurse whether you want her or not, ion nin. She will be here as soon as your brothers return with her.”
Elrond grit his teeth. “Enough of this, Estel.”
The manling’s chest began to heave. Hot drops of water filled his eyes before spilling over to race down crimson cheeks. His arms unfolded to straighten at his sides. His hands clenched into fists. He stomped a foot on the marble floor. “You don’t love me anymore! I won’t love you anymore either!”
Elrohir rocked backwards while still kneeling on the floor. The elves stared at the manling. Elrond swallowed. “Estel, go sit in the stairway. We will speak of this later.”
The child turned and did as he had been told, stomping every step and chest heaving in every breath. When Estel was out of the room, Elrohir rose to his feet and turned to their father. “I do not understand. Why has he reacted this way?”
Erestor straightened and cleared his throat. “We can ask him when he has calmed down. He will soon realize he is being irrational.”
Glorfindel shook his bowed head. His eyes focused on the floor, but were seeing far away in time and space. His voice sounded hollow as he spoke.
“Perhaps not. Estel has just demonstrated a stubbornness I believe I have seen before. Those who demonstrate it often never conclude they are wrong on their own. They brood on the ‘justness’ of their grievance until outer forces prove it is otherwise. Sometimes, not even that causes them to admit they have erred.”
Elrond shut his eyes. He forced himself not to tremble at the memory of another, red, human face lit by the glow of melted stone. In spite of his determination, a slight shudder coursed through the Peredhil.
His sons, Steward, and Captain turned to him eyes filled with concern. Elrond waved them away before they could advance toward him. “I will speak with him. There is no proof any of you need to worry about either of us, yet.”
The Lord of Rivendell walked out of the room. The other elves waited in silence and stillness for his return. None of them looked unworried.