Like blood and fire

Hidden within

They had been riding for a week when things started to change. The elleth was still as cuddly as a kitten and Glorfindel had a hard time keeping her at bay at times, she obviously had no sense of shame or privacy and he was starting to dread the reactions she would receive when they reached Imladris. It wasn’t that elves were prudish but nobody would just tug their clothes off right in front of others, elflings could do that unpunished, not adults.

Glorfindel was sometimes close to exploding, it was like herding a flock of rabbits, she never paid attention to what they said and he wondered if she did understand anything at all. Was she damaged in the head? They rode through a rather narrow valley when she suddenly went stiff in front of him in the saddle and stared out into the forest surrounding them with wide eyes. Elrohir and Elladan frowned and didn’t understand anything, she acted as though she was frightened and she tried to say anything, it was obvious. She pointed towards the forest and whimpered and Glorfindel felt the need to shake her violently. “ Danger?”

She stared at him, nodding eagerly and he swore, she had been living alone for so long she was attuned to the woods in a way ordinary normal elves only could dream of. She was writhing in the saddle but suddenly she got very quiet, almost eerily so and her eyes were staring out into the semi darkness with a strange expression. Glorfindel was about to shake her when they heard the trees whisper, something was coming. The twins reined in their horses and prepared for a fight and suddenly they saw light, moving fast. A whole troop of orcs were heading towards them and Glorfindel took a deep breath, this didn’t promise anything good. They were three and among the best warriors ever but the orcs were many and they were heavily armed. The three prepared to fight but something extremely odd happened. The orcs didn’t seem to see them at all, they ran past them as if the three riders and horses were some sort of obstacle in the path, a huge rock or something. Glorfindel just stared, his sword in his hand and the twins were wide eyed.

The elleth gasped and seemed to almost swoon and Glorfindel realized how she had been able to live undetected for so long. She had some sort of protective magic and it had to be darn strong too. Elladan was staring still, the orcs had just run past them and they hadn’t even bothered to look behind themselves. “What in the name of Sauron just happened?”

Glorfindel sighed and shook his head. “ If you ask me I have no answer to give, whatsoever. She did it, that is the only thing I am sure of.”

Elrohir was a bit pale. “ Valar, how is that even possible?”

Glorfindel bit his teeth together and sighed. “ I have no idea, but it has become even more important than before that we get back to Imladris fast.”

Elladan petted his horse on the neck. “ Right, if we ride hard we can make it in two weeks unless something unexpected happens.”

Elrohir sent him a wry grin. “Well, at least we know that orcs won’t be a problem.”

Glorfindel almost growled. “ Be not so sure of that. It could be that she just was in luck.”

The peredhel just shrugged. “ Then we’d better ride now, if there is orcs in this area I want to find a safe place to rest before the night.”

After an hour the elleth awakened and she looked a bit confused and acted as though she was in pain. She touched her head and made miserable sounds and Glorfindel sighed. “ Headache ha? No wonder, you have got me really wondering young lady.”

She just pouted and he smiled and petted her head. “ I wish I knew your story, it has become rather important.”

She just pressed her face towards his chest and sighed and he felt a sort of pity flowing through him. She was so alone in this world, how long had she lived alone in that valley? He was starting to understand that she perhaps wasn’t just an elleth gone feral, she could be important. He had to find out what she was, and what she could do.

They set up camp within a holt of twisted and contorted trees, some huge boulders provided shelter and they didn’t light any fire. They had ridden long and were tired and the horses in special needed the rest badly. The twins had agreed to switch keeping watch and Glorfindel settled down with his bed roll and she had sat down next to him. Her head obviously still hurt and she looked a bit like some sulking child. He gestured for her to come closer and she did, eagerly. She was still very eager towards him and wanted to be touched, he could perhaps use that fact to their advantage. It was a risk to take but he could try to bind with her mind, it required a great deal of trust but she was like a child towards him, she was very obviously unable to suspect anything bad from him. Not that he in any way would hurt her, but searching someone’s mind could have unforeseen consequences.

He started massaging her neck and shoulders and she yawned and stretched and made a strange but very sensual little sound that really did turn him on quite a bit but he held himself in check for now. He had to make her relax, and he had to get her thoughts away from the discomfort she was feeling. She had closed her eyes and he continued massaging her, she surrendered to his touch without any doubts and he found a slow hypnotic rhythm. After a short time she was in a sort of trance and he took a deep breath and started to let his mind mingle with hers. It was a most peculiar experience, like nothing he had ever done. He had not done such a thing for a very long time but her mind was unique. It was like trying to bond with an animal, she was all senses and she had very little thoughts. It was just what she was perceiving at the moment and he felt confused and shocked.

There had to be more to it, she had to have some sort of memories? He delved deeper into her mind, this was getting dangerous but he had to try. Now there was resistance, conscious or subconscious he didn’t know but it was very firm and he felt his own heart battering in his chest. This was taking much of his strength, he was no healer damn it but he had to know, the gift she had revealed could possibly be a threat as much as a helpful thing. He tried to find a weak spot, a place or memory which would grant him access to her memories and he thought he caught a glimpse of something, something which probably could be link to her past.

It was the sight of a doe and her calf, peacefully grazing on a meadow. The doe was licking the calf’s coat while it was suckling at her udder and he felt how the sight had softened her heart, brought forth a sensation of longing. The vision changed, it was a small hut of the kind the avari elves would erect. Twigs and branches covered with moss and grass and the girl was obviously just a child. A woman with dark red hair was brushing her hair using a simple brush made from bone and porcupine spikes, she was humming a sweet tune and Glorfindel saw that the woman was very pretty and there was great love in her eyes. She was obviously the girl’s mother and she finished the job by braiding the girls hair. “ Now Halariel, go and play. I have nuts to roast and some yarn to dye.”

Glorfindel took a deep breath, what a name! Daughter of shadows, it had to have been a burden. The image changed, the girl was fighting some young ellon, screaming insults and being peppered with mud. Then he saw her confronting her mother and heard the words she spoke, of how the girl had come to be. He was horrified, in deep shock. So the kinslayers had been capable of not only murder but also rape? Not that it was that shocking, the things he had heard about the younger brothers had told him they were more than a little insane but he had always believed that the two elder one’s had been more normal. So that wasn’t so after all.

He saw her leaving the tribe and he noticed how her memories became more and more blurred and incoherent. She was becoming an animal and her consciousness had chosen that solution to guard itself from the truth. The knowledge she carried with her was too much, too hard a burden. It shouldn’t matter anymore, after all ages had passed by since those terrible days but to her it still did. The shame had burned a hole in her soul and nothing would be able to fill it again. He felt sorry for her, so very so. She had forfeited everything to hide her secret from the world, she hadn’t really lived. Being alive isn’t synonymous with living and she as the prime example of just that.

But what he saw told him naught about her gift, he could sense it somehow, within her thoughts, a fleeting memory of times when she had been able to hide when she should have been discovered but it wasn’t anything she controlled. It just happened and she didn’t think about it at all, it wasn’t anything she even questioned, it just was. He had to search deeper, see if there was anything in her past capable of explaining this. He was sweating and breathing hard, her mind was resisting his intrusion and it felt like walking through mud that was more than knee deep with lead boots. She didn’t want anyone to know, she would be furious when she discovered what he had done. He dove deeper, sought backwards in time, saw happy childhood memories from before she came to know what or who she was.

He saw a memory which seemed promising, the girl lay in a simple bedroll made from furs and blankets, half asleep. Her mother sat by a hearth of some kind and an ellon sat next to her. He was obviously a bit shocked by what the elleth was telling him, Glorfindel realized that the mother was sharing something rather painful with this other elf for she was crying and he appeared to be deeply moved by her words. He looked as if he wanted to embrace her, comfort her, but he didn’t quite dare to. The elleth sobbed. “His brother gave me a gift when I left, a piece of the leftover from when their father forged those accursed jewels, but it just disappeared. I have no idea of where it went. It wasn’t many days later that I discovered that I was with child.”

Glorfindel gasped, his mind stunned by the sudden realization, he quickly left the girls mind and she was still in a trance, staring into nothing. That could be the explanation, yes, it had to be it. He knew that the Silmarilli had been alive in some ways, that they had owned a consciousness. Perhaps the leftover from their creation had been similar to the finished results? If Halariel’s mother had been given a piece of unfinished jewel it could have seen a chance to become more than it was, through her womb. No wonder the girl had such powers, she carried the spirit of the stones of treelight. He felt a strong sense of awe but also fear, it was so very important that they got back to Imladris fast. Elrond had to know about this, Glorfindel had no idea of what this meant for her or for them all but it was significant, he just knew it.

He sighed and caressed her head, tried to justify his action. At least he knew what she was now, there was no doubt. She was the daughter of Maedhros and the light of the jewels were still alive within her. Valar, she was probably extremely strong but also so very fragile. They had to move slowly ahead now, she was volatile and dangerous and he just hoped that Elrond could help her overcome her shame and fear. There had to be a way to return her to normal, he just knew that he wasn’t strong enough nor wise enough to find it.

He covered her with a blanket and got up, he was cold and his skin clammy from the sweating he had experienced while scanning her mind. He felt dirty and walked over to the small stream, he wanted to clean himself and then he needed some sleep, sorely. He gasped, the water was freezing cold but he was quick and after a very fast dip he wrung the water out of his long hair and he was about to return when he felt eyes watching him. He turned around, she was standing by the stream and he hadn’t heard her at all. She stared at him, there was something sad in her eyes and a silent accusation too. He hawked, felt embarrassed and guilty. “ I…I am sorry, I had to find out who you are.”

She whimpered, her eyes on the grass and there were tears in them, he got out of the water, hesitated but then he embraced her. She shuddered and sobbed, there was confusion and fear in her eyes. She was starting to remember, the thought hit him like the strike from a Warhammer. “Sshhh, it is alright, it is okay.”

He stroked her arms, felt the heat from her body as something almost substantial, gods, she was so freaking perfect and at the same time so utterly broken. She groaned, shook her head, tears running from her eyes and the expression of shame was too much. “ No, don’t think like that, nothing is wrong with you. Listen to me.”

He had no idea of whether or not she understood him at all but she looked as though she was starting to realize that he tried to calm her down. He held her close, it was causing certain reactions on his behalf but he didn’t let it affect him. “ I know your name now, you are Halariel. I saw that in your mind.”

She gasped, let out a wailing sound and now she tried to wriggle herself free from his grasp, there was panic in her eyes, oh if she only had known how to speak! Glorfindel caught her in a firm grasp, held her close and she sobbed and fought him, her eyes flaming. He felt a chill run through him, she could be dangerous, if she used that gift of hers he could be in serious trouble. She gasped and kicked and squirmed and he just got an idea straight out of the blue. He remembered the tune her mother had been humming and he started repeating it, with a low voice. She suddenly felt like a ton of lead in his arms. She was trembling, making mewling sounds and he felt his heart swelling with pity and compassion. She had given up the struggle, just hang there and he lifted her and carried her back to the camp. Her eyes were dark and distant and he feared that she was suddenly able to remember more than she ought to.

Elrohir was sitting up, he was awake and his eyes did shine in the darkness. “ Is everything alright?”

His voice was low and Glorfindel wrapped her up in the blankets again, she was trembling again and he sighed deeply. He had caused her grief and torment and felt guilty. “ No, I tried to spy on her memories and got more than I bargained for.”

The peredhel stared at him, frowning. “ That was not a very wise move mellon, you are not trained for something like that.”

Glorfindel nodded slowly. “ I know, oh by the Valar do I know. But I managed to get her name, Halariel, and the truth about her existence.”

Elrohir moved closer. “ And?”

Glorfindel made a grimace, stared down at her. She had closed her eyes but looked like some child that has been abused. “ I was right, she is the daughter of Maedhros, and some silvan elleth.”

Elrohir raised an eyebrow. “ Why would a noldo lord take a silvan mistress?”

Glorfindel let his fingers run through his long golden locks. “ She wasn’t his mistress, he raped her.”

Elrohis suddenly looked very shocked, and disgusted. “ Then how could she have conceived? She didn’t fade from shock and grief?”

Glorfindel shook his head. “ I think her mother must have been one tough elleth, tougher than granite I suspect. And I think there is yet another reason. Maglor gave her a piece of silmarilli leftovers when she left, I think it sought an opportunity to live for real and grasped it, made her conceive and gave the child its powers.”

The peredhel stared at the girl, his eyes wide. “ Then by the Valar do father need to know about this. She could be terribly powerful.”

Glorfindel sighed and felt sad, and weary. “ Yes, but right now she is more terribly ashamed and confused than anything else. Do not tell her of this conversation saes? She is sleeping now and I fear that she will need all of her strength in the days to come. I am horrified by the thought of introducing her to the others, she is so nervous and if she has started remembering why she sought solitude in the first place seeing so many assembled could cause her a mental breakdown.”

Elrohid smiled, a sad grin. “ Of course, I will not hold the truth against her in any way, it isn’t her fault she is what she is.”

Glorfindel smiled and lay down next to her. The heat from her body was comfortable but he couldn’t help but wonder how she would be the next day, if things were as before or not. He fell asleep with his arm around her and the rest of the night was uneventful and peaceful.

Glorfindel woke up to the sound of weeping, he was confused at first, having wrapped himself up in his blankets so hard he had to wriggle around a little to get out of them and then he saw her, she was sitting on a log bent forward with her head in her hands and Elrohir and Elladan stood by trying to comfort her but they didn’t seem to reach her at all. Glorfindel felt how his heart dropped within his chest as though it had been transformed into a lump of rock. He had caused this, he had ripped that sense of innocence and ignorance from her and showed her the truth and she hadn’t wanted it. He could tell that now. He got up and walked forth, uncertain of what to do. He crouched down in front of her and hawked. “Halariel?”

She lifted her head, saw him and her eyes went wide, he didn’t know if the feeling he saw in her eyes were rage, shame, hatred or confusion, she just stared at him blankly with an empty expression on her face. Then she suddenly threw herself forth and he found her clinging to him as though he was her last hope. She was strong, in spite of her weakened body she had some serious strength to her and he had to wrestle a little with her to stop her from choking him. She was crying like a baby but he saw the confusion in her gaze and knew that she didn’t really knew why. Her conscious and subconscious mind didn’t cooperate at all.

She just knew that she felt terrible about something and sought comfort from the only one she trusted and he felt like such a dung of orcshit for having caused this, she shouldn’t trust him at all. He had caused this torment and he whispered to her. “ Please forgive me, I don’t know if you understand at all, but I do need your forgiveness, I cannot live with what I did to you.”

She just stared and her grasp was just as firm. He sighed and buried his face against her neck. “Sweet one, the gods alone knows that I regret what I did, but we had to know. I hope you’ll understand one day.”

She just made some whimpering sound and continued clinging to him and Elrohir nodded. “ We will prepare the horses, the terrain ahead is easy, I hope we will make some real progress today.”

Glorfindel nodded and got her clothes, started getting them onto her. “ Good, and may the Valar make sure we don’t run into any trouble.”

Before long they had broken camp and were heading westward again, riding rather hard and Glorfindel didn’t like the apathy he saw in her eyes or the silence. Usually she was much more lively but now it was as though he was riding with an unconscious person in the saddle in front of him. It was very unpleasant to say the least and he could just hope and pray that Elrond would be able to unravel the mystery that was her mind and undo the damage he could have done by forcing his entry into her mind. It had been a sort of rape, not physically but mentally and he still felt as though he deserved the worse possible punishment for it, but they had to know what her mysterious gifts was.

Irelen hadn’t been lying, there was a bathhouse in the small village and it was rather apparent that they used it for more than just washing themselves. The small room stank of sheep wool, fat that had gone bad and lye. They had to make soap in there and he saw some baskets with ash used to make the lye. Some buckets contained some terrible looking oozing liquids that had to be dye used to put color into yarn and the big wooden tub was probably used for almost every task done in the house. The thought made him cringe but he had to admit that it did look clean and the hot water was such a temptation. The boy had helped him walk across the small square outside of the healers house and he had stared at the gathering of small buildings with narrow eyes. This was a poor settlement but it wasn’t the worst he had seen. The buildings were whole and well maintained and the few people who stood there staring at him were healthy and well-dressed although the cloth he saw worn was rather simple and un-expensive.

The two women who had prepared the bathhouse had left and just Irelen was left there with him, he felt very self-conscious and nervous and she just smiled and helped him. She smeared some thick greasy ointment onto his wound to protect it from the water and he felt his skin twitch with anticipation of getting rid of all the grime and sweat. He saw that there was a sort of bench placed within the tub so it was possible to sit down and he pulled himself over the edge and into the tub.

The water was very hot and he cringed but forced himself into it, it didn’t feel that bad after a short while and he relaxed and sat down for real. Irelen poured some water over his head and started massaging his scalp and it felt so wonderful. She got the dirt out of his hair and combed through it and she even added some sort of oil to it. It smelled very good and he closed his eyes in bliss and let his mind drift. He remembered his childhood, his mother bathing him and laughing when he tried to splash water at her. He remembered his father’s proud gaze when watching how his son slowly learned to write. He remembered the birth of his brothers, each and every one of them. He remembered how tired his mother had been when the Ambarussa twins were born, he remembered her low voice, repeating a sentence over and over again. “ Never again, never again”

He remembered their house filled with light and joy and mischief and he had to smile. He could almost hear Maglor trying to tame the lyre and the miserable sounds he managed to produce at first, it sounded as if someone was torturing a cat. And later, oh later, how wonderful his voice had become and how talented he had been. He remembered the twins running around playing hide and seek, Caranthir’s temperamental fits when something didn’t go quite the way he wanted it to. He remembered how Celegorm would dress to go hunting and call his mighty hound to his side, he remembered Curufin flirting with the maidens and how the twins always interfered and played some rather vicious and yet innocent prank of their older brother. He remembered his father emerging from the forge, sweaty and covered with sooth and grime and the content expression on his face.

He was smiling but tears were running down his cheeks and it felt as though it had been yesterday but it was ages ago. Was anyone alive at all who remembered them? Irelen sighed and touched his cheek lovingly. “ Memories my lord?”

He nodded, tried to smile but it became a grimace. He remembered things he would have preferred to forget. He remembered standing at the dais on the square, in the middle of the crowd, his father’s eyes blazing in the darkness, a fire born of grief and rage and hatred and he heard those words again, those cursed words. He remembered his own feelings at that moment, his own terrible fear and doubt. You have cursed us all father, that was what he wanted to say, but he had repeated the oath instead, done his duty as a son should. They all had. That was the great tragedy of it.

He remembered burning ships, screams and blood, rivers of blood. The metallic stench still lingered on his tongue and he whimpered, what had they become? Naught but monsters, just as vile as anything the enemy had created and perhaps that had been his goal the whole time, to corrupt them, create something he could control. Hatred is as easy to lead as a horse wearing a bit and Morgoth had been sly, so very very sly. He was using the technique of divide and conquer and it had almost become their undoing.

Irelen was humming as she braided his hair, she was such a pure spirit, he could sense it. There was no darkness in this adeneth and he feared that he would stain her just by being there. He was an abomination, so terrible. He remembered their faces, every one of them. He remembered their deaths, their dead bodies laid on display. He remembered seeing his youngest brother dying, his body pierced by several blades, blood running from his mouth and his eyes wide open in agony and fear. He remembered a trembling hand, covered with blood, both his own and that of others, clawing at his own. “ Make it stop…make it…stop. It …hurts… Ammê”

He had called out for his mother, that had been the last words he had heard from his brother and he remembered how his heart had become so hard and calloused he wondered if it was beating at all. He felt as though he had become a wraith, a walking undead. Only Maglor had managed to save him from going utterly insane and the oath had been a terrible burden, dragging them along, forcing them to do things they otherwise would have thought unimaginable.

Irelen handed him some soap, it was rough and grey and didn’t smell very good but it did remove the dirt from his body and he started scrubbing himself. The water was rather dark now and he made a grimace and felt a bit guilty. They would have to clean the tub afterwards, he was filthier than he had imagined. He felt his own hands glide across his skin and wondered again, he was in his full strength, as he had been when they left Aman. There were no scars on him, his hand was still there and he felt as though he had lots of energy. His hair was as long as it ever had been, he had been rather proud of it back then, many a maiden had been jealous of it. He had to smile, remembered hands toying with it, fingers sliding through it.

He remembered one pair of hands in special, and a bang of sorrow hit him again. He had never recovered from the loss of his cousin, it had been love for sure, maybe not accepted by everyone, maybe it had been a sin but he hadn’t cared and it had been pure in his mind. There had been no such thing as shame when they had been together, only peace and contentment. He would never know that feeling again.

He remembered the feeling when he was found, when his torment finally came to an end. Only the help of the great eagle had enabled Fingon to get up there, physically help him down. He had been ready to die, he would have welcomed his cousin’s arrow in his heart as a redeemer, as salvation. He had no hope left, no strength. He thought that this one last glimpse of a familiar and beloved face would be the final thing he saw but destiny had wanted it otherwise. He was rescued but maybe not entirely. He never managed to recover completely, he never spoke to anyone of what he had been through, what he had seen. And it was eating at his mind the whole time, hollowing it out like a worm digging through an apple. Maybe it was because of all those memories he had chosen death, it had been one last desperate attempt at escaping the truth.

He sat in the tub until the water started to cool down and Irelen helped him getting out of it again, she dried him with a rather roughly woven towel and it made his skin itch but he was clean and it was wonderful. His hip and knee felt a lot better now and he could almost walk normally, it had to be the heat and Irelen finished by rubbing his skin with some sort of oil that smelled of summer blossoms. He felt drowsy and when he got back to her hut and the bed he lay down and drifted off into sleep immediately.

He didn’t wake up again until the next morning, Irelen had prepared some breakfast and he was hungry. He tried to show some restraint though, ate slowly and tried to make her understand that he appreciated the food.

Irelen massaged his thigh and it hurt but he knew it was needed, the scar would become stiff and make it hard to move otherwise. He let her do her job without complaining and she touched his cheek and grinned. “ You are truly very tough my lord, others would have been squealing like a stuck pig. “

He blushed and grinned and accepted the praise gratefully. Irelen left the hut and was gone for a while and when she returned she carried a pair of breeches and a tunic. “ I got these from the blacksmiths wife, I guess they could be wide enough across the shoulders and thighs but I fear that the tunic is a bit too short and the breeches too.”

He nodded and felt humble, they gave him clothes even though he wasn’t one of them? He felt a lump in his throat and placed his hand above his heart to express his gratitude. Irelen just giggled and helped him putting the garments on. She wasn’t shy at all and didn’t react at all to the sight of him being naked but he felt a little awkward and knew that his cheeks were red. The healer was right, the tunic was wide enough but nowhere near long enough and neither were the breeches. The tunic barely reached below his waist and the breeches ended just a few inches beneath his knees and she giggled and shook her head. “ You look like some boy wearing shorts, but it is okay for now I guess.”

He stared at himself, the cloth was dark brown and probably made from wool and some sort of herbal fibers and the breeches were reinforced with patches of leather in the groin, but it was all well worn garments and nothing fancy at all. He remembered having worn silk and velvet and expensive jewelry and he wondered where all the colors had gone. He seemed to remember his youth as a kaleidoscope of wonderful colors, here on the other hand everything seemed dull in comparison. He sat on the bed and felt as though he was a burden, Irelen grinned and pulled a small basket out from underneath the bed. It contained some sort of nuts and he frowned and stared at her incredulously. “ If you want to be useful sort these out. The ones that are very light are empty, put them in the hearth. The ones that are heavy must be cracked.”

She found a flat rock and a small hammer and he sighed and took the items. The basket was filled with nuts and it would take quite some time to crack them all. He started and soon he found a rhythm, lift, shake and either throw away or crack. Irelen was knitting and her hands were moving like lightning, he was amazed at the speed with which the cloth formed between her hands. She was obviously a very skilled person and he remembered his mother, emerging from her workshop covered in dust, grinning and lifting him up. She had been completely white a few times and she had chased him around the house, pretending to be a ghost and he had laughed so hard he thought he would lose his breath.

It was all gone now, and he had no idea of why he had been brought back. He had to have spent many millennia in the halls, but he had no memory of it. The valar didn’t send a feä back unless it was something rather important that person had to do, so what was his task? He had no idea. He finished the basket after some hours, his fingers were sore because of the lack of callouses and his hands felt stiff. He was unused to using his body and he wished that he could heal faster, so he could begin to retrain himself. If he was to meet other elves again he feared that he would need it, if he was meant to defend himself that was.

Perhaps he was being punished? Maybe he was to let others take out their anger or sorrow on him? He doubted that anything they ever did could be as bad as what he had been through though, they were not orcs. Irelen found a basket with wool and now he had to hold it while she was spinning it into yarn, at least the activities made it easier to deal with his thoughts. He had to concentrate on what he did and Irelen was pleasant company. He hadn’t spent much time with humans after all, he had looked down at them, both literally and metaphorically. To him they had been insignificant, short lived and naught more than animals with no real culture or history. He had been unjust and he knew it. Irelen was above her youth and her age was visible, an elf at her age would be barely more than a child but there she was, on her way towards the grave. It felt strange thinking about that fact, the secondborn were like shooting stars compared with an elf. They sparkled for a few short seconds and were gone but they could leave such an impression, one that would last through centuries.

Irelen made them some dinner, she had soaked some dried fish in water and boiled it with herbs and roots and the result didn’t look very tempting at all but it tasted rather good. She then opened a jug of something that had to be some sort of mead. He had tasted dwarfish mead once, while visiting Finrod in Nargothrond and it had been interesting but nothing he wanted to get too used to. This on the other hand was good, sweet and with a very pungent aftertaste of honey. He had emptied his cup before he knew it and it left a warmth in his belly that was very pleasant. They just rested for a while and he sat there with his eyes closed and felt at peace.

Irelen had gotten a bit tipsy and she grinned and sat down by the hearth with her knitting. “ I bet someone as pretty as you have got maidens lining up outside of your home or what? I do envy you firstborn your eternal youth, ours last for so few years and it fades fast.”

He tilted his head and she saw the expression on his face and her grin got wider. “ Oh I was sought after in my youth, believe it or not. I wasn’t this worn out old hag I am now, far from it. I had quite a fine body back then, busty and firm and my hair was shiny and long and the envy of the other maidens. “

She giggled. “ I hated the fact that my father married me off but I had had my taste of the joys of life before I was thrown into the marital bed. I knew what I was heading for, I was no blushing maiden although my husband believed so.”

He had to grin, he knew that humans often sought only the untouched females for marriage, why he had no idea of. After all, an experienced partner would know what to do and how to please the other one.

Irelen burped and tilted her head. “ Pardon me, but keeping it down can make one ill, I know dwarves always burp after a meal, to show that the food was good.”

He nodded, remembered the dwarfish table manners or rather the lack thereof. He had been shocked by it when he visited Finrod and he found the dwarves to be rather detestable but also entertaining in some ways. They were always so brutally honest and he did appreciate that, at least to some extent. He wished he could tell her about all the hilarious situations he had witnessed but he could not make a single word that was understandable. Irelen sniggered. “ I served this mead at a wedding once, the groom got so drunk they had to carry him to the bed and lift him onto his blushing bride, she confessed to me later that he was as limp as a dried out carrot. She had to wait for two more days before he managed to make a woman out of her.”

He had to blush and remembered some experiences he had had, some good and some not so much so and he did remember his first very well. He guessed that it was normal never to forget the first one shares one’s body with. It had been an elleth working for his mother as a model and it had been rather desperate and not that much to brag about but he had done it and he was beaming with pride afterwards and she had of course been bragging about having taken his virginity to all her friends and his mother had learned about the incident and grounded him for a whole year. She didn’t like the idea of him screwing someone employed by the family, it didn’t look good and it could damage their reputation. He hadn’t protested but he had been proud of himself for having had the courage to do it. And it had felt good, it had been wonderful but later he of course learned that it had been rather pathetic and not at all such a wondrous experience as he at first thought it was.

He was sitting there daydreaming when there was a knock at the door. Irelen got to it and opened it and he saw a man standing outside of the door in the rain, he was wearing a leather hat and a woolen coat and it was soaking through and through. Irelen looked puzzled. “ Airan, what are you doing here? Are any of the shepherds injured perhaps?”

The man shook his head, he refused to go inside and just stood there, dripping water. “ No, nobody is injured but I am going from house to house tonight. I met Farell earlier tonight, he had come across Timar and his entourage on the ettenmoors, they were heading this way and you know, that man is never anything but trouble.”

Irelen looked nervous all of a sudden. “Thank you for the warning Airan, make sure that everybody knows about this. “

Airan made a grimace, he stared at the ground. “ Farell told me Ghunlar had spoken with Timar, just so you know it.”

Irelen sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. “ Oh gods, that too. Well, it could be that he will head in another direction.”

The shepherd shook his head, a drop of water fell from his nose. “ Don’t count on it, be ready for trouble.”

He left and Irelen sighed and closed the door. The elf stared at her with questions in his gaze and she sat down and sighed. “ Timar is the scourge of this area, nothing but a bandit but he tries to pretend as though he is nobility of some kind. He thinks he can rule the farmers here but he has no right at all to any land or property. He liked to intimidate others and he has this group of loyal ass kissers following him everywhere.”

He wished he could ask more questions, his brow furrowed and his eyes worried. Irelen bit her teeth together. “ Ghunlar is the village drunk, he knows about you, I fear what he have told that scumbag.”

Maedhros felt a chill running down his spine, this didn’t sound good at all and she saw the fear in his eyes and petted him on his shoulder. “ Do not worry my friend, we won’t let him hurt you, he has no real power here and there are plenty of strong men here, ready to defend the village. He knows this, he may speak bold words and try to act like some goddamn king but his words are as hollow as his power”

He could only hope that Irelen was right, but his heart told him otherwise.

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