Like blood and fire

Of wrath unbound

Irelen had tried to calm him down, to ease his mind regarding this Timar character but it hadn’t worked. He had an uneasy feeling in the very bones of his body and he couldn’t fall to sleep that evening. The soft light of the hearth danced around and created shadows and figures upon the rough walls of the hut and he couldn’t stop looking at them. They frightened him, he thought he saw things in those shadows, things he would have preferred he could forget. He knew that not all humans were as friendly towards the firstborn as Irelen and the rest of her village, this man who brought them so much torment and pain could very well be one of those who hated and feared his race and he knew that such feelings never should be underestimated. He had seen the ravages brought by hatred and fear before and he wished that he knew more of this human.

He didn’t fall asleep until the first fragile light started to appear in the east and Irelen probably understood because she let him sleep until he woke up by himself. He didn’t feel well rested at all, his head hurt and he had a terrible taste in his mouth. Irelen gave him a cup of tea and he sat down to eat and drink, he had no appetite and felt slightly nauseous, He had a sense of foreboding, this Timar would bring naught but death, he sensed that.

He helped Irelen prepare some herbs that day, it was hard work because they had to be crushed so that all the juice was gone from them, and that juice had to be boiled down into a sort of syrup that was mixed with other types of herbs to make different ointments and medicines. It was interesting but it made his arms ache and he had this weird feeling the whole time, as if someone was calling his name, and he couldn’t quite figure out from where that voice came. The whole village was nervous, he sensed it. There were few voices coming from the outside, he didn’t hear anyone walking by, the children were kept indoors. In the evening they both took a small break to rest and he fell asleep, leaned up against the wall of the hut.

He was immediately dreaming, it was a memory. He had followed his brothers and cousins out of Tirion, they had been hunting and they had such a good time. He remembered the friendship, the camaraderie and the jokes and jests. It had been a happy time, a time he could look back upon with joy. There had been no dark shadows back then, no fear, no oaths to drive people insane.

The dream changed, he was in the woods again and it was just him and Fingon, and it was among his most private and treasured memories. He remembered it so well, the moment when they finally had accepted what they felt, what they wanted. The timid touches that so fast turned into something more, something hungry and demanding. How lust and need and longing had overwhelmed them and become all they were. He hadn’t had male lovers before, Fingon had and he had taken control, been the one in charge. It had been painful but he had welcomed that pain, he had wanted it. He had wanted to be possessed, to be claimed, held so hard by someone not seemingly fragile like an elleth, someone who could match his fire.

They had laid there for a long time afterwards, not saying anything. Words had been useless, too primitive, almost an insult. Their connection was on a different level, so much deeper. The dream changed again, the wars, the battles, Fingon’s face, the faces of his brothers. It made him moan and squirm and he didn’t want the dream to continue but it did. He saw the funeral, his lover’s body being burned and it had broken his heart. Only shards had been left of it, broken and sharp and deadly. From there on it had all been a downward pointing spiral, towards his end. He struggled to break free from the dream, suddenly he saw Fingon standing in front of him, clad in white wearing a circlet of white metal upon his brow, his face serene and yet worried. “Wake up melethron, do not share my fate”

Maedhros woke with a start, he gasped for air and felt that the temperature of the hut had dropped a lot. Irelen sat by the hearth, throwing wood into it. “It has gotten chilly!”

He got up, shook himself. He knew what to do, what he needed. He gestured towards Irelen and she got up. “Yes, what is it?”

He grasped the small knife she wore and made a gesture as if to make it bigger. Then he pretended as if he was hammering at something. She frowned, then she smiled. “ A sword my lord? We do not have many swords, and they are old and not much to brag about. “

He sighed, repeated the hammering movement and she nodded. “The forge? You want to see our smithy?”

He nodded eagerly, remembered how disappointed his father had been when it became clear that he really didn’t have much talent for making such amazing things as their father. But that didn’t mean that he was completely without skills, he knew how to make a decent blade and Irelen tilted her head and shrugged. “Alright then, I guess that can be arranged.”

She threw a shawl around her shoulders and they left the hut. He was still limping but he clenched his teeth together and forced himself to walk. The smithy was an ordinary village smithy, simple and without much tools, the blacksmith was putting shoes on a horse and he looked surprised. He did smile though and bowed his head. Irelen petted Maedhros on his arm, she didn’t reach up to his shoulder. “He wants to either make a sword or fix a sword?”

The blacksmith made a grimace. “Well, we do have some weapons here but they are terrible to be honest. The steel is bad and the method with which they were made is dubious to say the least. “

He turned around and went into a small cabin behind the smithy, it was the village armory, if such a nice word could be used. It was more of a storage for whatever metal objects they had and had to store when they were out of use. “The things we have here have a past as everything from plowshares to horseshoes, Metal is precious, it is reused until nothing remains of it.”

He reached out and he had some scabbards in his hands, Maedhros cringed when he saw them. Rust and grease and sooth had discolored the cloth and leather covering them, and he dreaded what he would see when the blades were pulled free.

He was not disappointed, they were worse than he had feared. One blade couldn’t be removed from the scabbard at all due to rust and he groaned and shook his head. The blacksmith looked apologetic but it wasn’t his fault. These people were not warriors, they had no way of knowing how to take care of a good blade and these swords had never been good. The metal was terrible, soft and brittle and filled with slag and the very shape of the blades told him some village smith had forged them and he hadn’t done it well.

Maedhros knew what his father would have said if he had seen these blades, he would have thrown them onto the garbage heap claiming that not even a senile orc would touch them. The very idea made him grin for a moment. He chose two of the blades, one was made from steel that was way too brittle and the other one from a metal mixture that was rather soft. He had an idea of how he could use that and he removed the pommel and the paring bars from the blades and made the blacksmith light the forge. Maedhros felt eager, almost frantic. He could do this, and he wanted to teach this blacksmith how it ought to be done. The man was obviously convinced that the huge elf knew what he was doing for he was paying attention to whatever the redhead was doing.

Maedhros found that he liked it, he let the blades melt down until they were mere lumps of glowing metal, then he hammered the impurities out of them and started reshaping them, he placed the two types of metal next to each other and hammered them together, creating a long blade with two layers, then he folded it back several times and hammered it out again, repeated the process over and over again. He had a crowd by then, many of the menfolk had come and were watching with obvious fascination and he was enjoying this. He showed the blacksmith the color the metal should be when it was ready to be shaped, he showed him the amount of coal he should use, the temperature of the forge. Even though he couldn’t speak he managed to make the man understand. He spent most of the afternoon by the forge, he didn’t rest, he just continued working.

He shaped the blade, found a hilt and a pommel he could use, he just had to reshape them a bit. It was a good feeling, being able to do something and do it well. It was getting dark but he continued working. Irelen brought him some food and he ate while he shaped the edge of the blade. He then put the sword together and used the rest of the evening placing new leather onto the hilt and sharpening the steel. It was a very elven sword now, rather long and very dangerously looking but well balanced and in a way beautiful. But the steel was bad, it was nowhere near the quality he was used to of old and his father would have cried if he had been presented with something like that.

To the men of the village on the other hand it was a wondrous thing and he let them hold it and swing it. It was way too long for them, he had created it to fit his own considerably taller frame and long arms and they almost stumbled or lost their balance while trying to swing it. He had to show them and it felt like reawakening, it felt right and yet frightening. He knew how to use it, knew how to kill. He just wished that he never would have to do that again. When he went to bed that night he was terribly tired, his arms were aching and he smelled of hot metal and sooth but he slept well. He had a weapon, he could defend himself if he had to. And the blacksmith knew how to make more weapons now, better ones.

He woke up to the sound of Irelen singing, she had a soft and gentle voice and although it couldn’t be compared with the voice of one of the firstborn it had a quality to it Maedhros couldn’t remember having heard ever before. It was haunting, melancholic and sad and yet beautiful in a weird way. He closed his eyes again, he didn’t understand the words but he let the feelings in that simple song embrace him. Irelen smiled, there was something dreamy in her eyes. “My mother taught me that one, it is in her native tongue, she came from the south. It is about a maiden who loses her heart to a knight but he leaves her to marry some noble woman and the maiden dies of a broken heart.”

He nodded, he could sort of guess it was that sort of a song. Irelen prepared some breakfast and she hummed while doing it. Maedhros stretched his legs, he didn’t feel the injuries that much now, he was a little stiff and a little sore but it would go away. He could walk and perhaps even run and it was good. He continued to polish the sword afterwards, completed the job. The blade had become very sharp when he was finished, he could split a falling hair on it but it was too brittle to be very good. It could snap in half and he wished he had some of the steel his father had made. Fëanorian steel was the best there ever had been and he was a bit proud of it. It was strange really, he had gathered armies, lead them to war, fought an almost invincible enemy and yet here he was, in a poor humans hut with a sword that the smiths back in his father’s days would have died of shame of if it had carried their insignia.

He then helped Irelen again and afterwards he just sat outside of the hut, enjoying the warmth of the sun. He was older than it, it was a strange thought, and a bizarre one too but it was true, Was there anybody left from that age? Did anyone remember? The day went by, he was followed by a couple of village lads who wanted to show him their ponies when he wanted to go for a short walk and the boys were in awe of the sword. They all wanted to touch it and he had decided to name it Reaver, it was a rather violent name but it suited the blade. It did look a bit menacing. One of the village hunters had brought home a deer and there was meat being distributed among the inhabitants. Irelen got a rather huge piece since she was the healer and she instantly gave much of it to a young pregnant woman who needed the extra food. But she kept enough to make herself and the elf a very tasty dinner and he really enjoyed the food and the sensation of being a bit spoiled.

The day came to an end and the darkness fell and he was contemplating going to sleep when they heard shouts and he got out of bed immediately. He heard the sound of hooves, of horses at a gallop and something that only could the clattering made from light armor and weapons. He felt cold, terrified. Irelen stared at him with confusion in her eyes, then she realized what it was he heard and she went pale. Maedhros grasped the blade he had forged, he didn’t have a scabbard for it but he wrapped a blanket around it, tightly. He grasped Irelen’s hand and made her hold it, if she held it closely it could perhaps resemble a cane, it was sleek enough and it was dark outside.

There was whinnying and shouts and he peered out of the door, ten riders on small stubby horses. One man wore a light armor and he had a rather nice sword by his side. The rest carried crude spears or war hammers and they looked very confident, almost arrogant. They rode into the central square as if they owned the place, Timar stared at the villagers with something that reminded Maedhros of disgust. He felt his nerves tingle, this was a bad person, a man who back in the days would have served Morgoth for sure. Maedhros felt his throat go tight, his heart was beating faster, he was ready to fight if he had to.

Timar remained seated on his horse, he almost sneered. The village blacksmith was the spokesperson there, he was someone everybody respected for without a proper blacksmith few could survive for long. Even Timar wouldn’t dare harming him, the smiths were almost seen as holy men by some for their ability to shape glowing metal into useable objects. Maedhros stared through the crack in the door, the man was trying to look more regal than he was. He wore a nice wolfskin coat and his clothes were rather expensive but the elf’s keen eyes did see that they were dirty and in disrepair and the man had a face that told Maedhros he was too fond of drinking and food. The features had perhaps been handsome once but they weren’t even attractive any more, he reminded the elf of a toad for some reason. The eyes were bulging and bloodshot and Maedhros saw that the man was rather short too. He tried to hide the fact that he was fat by wearing that huge coat but it only accentuated the problem.

He had seen such men before, men small in spirit and even smaller in terms of morality and wisdom, small men who threw long shadows. The riders sat there looking extremely smug, the villagers stood there looking nervous and frightened and he could see how this pleased these men. To them fear was exhilarating, as intoxicating as a fine wine. It made them drunk on power, well, maybe he could sober them up. He had a feeling of knowing what this moron of a human wanted, why he was there. Timar stared at the blacksmith, he was the only person in this village to whom he bothered speaking, the others were below him and he considered them as little more than cattle. “Where is the elf? Ghunlar told me you keep an elf here”

The blacksmith frowned. “ And if we do? That is no business of yours, the elf is a guest here and you know the rules of hospitality.”

Timar almost snarled, he didn’t like being questioned. “The elf could be an enemy, a spy even. I demand to speak with him.”

The blacksmith just grinned, a narrow smile. “He is a mute, that will be a one way conversation I fear.”

Timar laughed, a very sarcastic laughter. “ Oh a mute now, how convenient. I want to meet the elf or I will make sure that you all regret housing such creatures.”

Maedhros didn’t doubt for a second that Timar would hurt people, he nodded to Irelen and she opened the door, walked straight behind him and she did notice that he exaggerated his limp. He was clever, made himself seem more fragile that he was. Still he was a very impressive sight and Timar’s eyes got wide when he saw the figure that emerged out of the darkness. Maedhros knew how he had to look for this human, like a giant. He had noticed that these humans were smaller than the ones he had encountered in his previous life and perhaps his race too had shrunk over the ages.

Timar stared, he didn’t even blink. He had hardly ever met an elf in his life, and those he had seen had been tall yes, but nowhere near as tall as this creature. He just stared at the elf with a feeling of being stunned, the creature was overwhelming. He saw the broad well muscled shoulders, the long arms and strong and yet elegant torso and felt something akin to lust, a need to own, to possess. The face was strong too, with elegant and very masculine features and yet so beautiful it put most women to shame, the waist long red hair looked like a river of fire in the torchlight and the badly fitting clothes didn’t in any way mar the perfection that was this creature.

The eyes stared straight at him, they were piercing and cold and reminded the man of flint, he suddenly felt nervous and the majestic aura of the elf made him feel insecure and insignificant. It wasn’t a feeling he could tolerate, he couldn’t accept such feelings.

He tried to sit straighter on the horse, even on horseback he was just a little taller than the elf and that feeling of being belittled made him angry. “So this is the pointy eared freak you have been sheltering? A snake in our midst maybe?”

He pushed his horse closer to the elf, tried to dominate him but the elf didn’t move, not an inch. Those cold eyes did frighten Timar, he suddenly realized that this was a dangerous creature, nothing like the peaceful tradesmen he had met before. This was a warrior, and a very experienced one too and he felt something snap within him. He almost shrieked to his men. “Seize him, I will make him speak!”

Maedhros hissed, he had preferred that violence was avoided but the idiot didn’t give him an opportunity for that. He grasped the sword from Irelen as the first riders came towards him and he pushed her back towards the others and then he moved. The first rider came towards him with a spear and he simply cut the shaft in half before he spun around and hit the man in the head with the pommel of the sword. The human fell to the ground without a sound. The second rider hesitated when he saw that the huge elf was armed and that became his undoing. Maedhros had fought trolls and orcs and the most foul of Morgoth’s many creatures, he simply used his fist and hit the man square in the chest so hard he fell of the horse and landed on his ass in the grass with a gasp and a startled cry.

Maedhros knew that Timar was the dangerous one, the others just followed him and they had no loyalty to speak of, he was the most ruthless of them and so he had become the leader of the pack simply because the others preferred to follow orders and let the leader take the full responsibility if anything went wrong. The short fat guy was sitting there gawking in shock and then he spurred his horse towards Maedhros, drawing his sword. He screamed something nobody there really understood for the words were more shrieks than anything else and Maedhros knew that he had to make the men respect and fear him, deter them from attacking again. He moved so fast his motions became a blur, just a fleeting glimpse of fire and steel.

Reaver wasn’t an excellent blade but it served its purpose, he moved it in a very powerful arch and to the horror of Timar’s men he simply cut straight through the neck of Timar’s horse and decapitated the animal completely before the blade sliced across Timar’s broad chest as the horse fell like a sack of potatoes. The cut wasn’t deep, he didn’t want to kill the man but it drew blood and Timar was thrown forwards and landed awkwardly in the grass, rolling with a terrified scream. He sat up, stared at the bleeding gash that crossed his chest and the body of his horse, still shivering in death spasms, he looked as if he had fallen down from the moon or something, eyes wide and mouth open in a soundless cry of disbelief.

Maedhros wished that he could speak, that he could have told this idiot where to go, that he should be ashamed of himself. Instead he just growled, keeping an eye on the remaining riders. They sat on their horses and all were pale and they looked as if they were about to bolt and make a run for it. Timar got up, he just stared at the elf, to shocked to be able to speak. He hadn’t believed those who told him what amazing fighters elves are, now he was a believer and he knew that they didn’t stand a chance. He managed to make a squealing request for a new horse, one of the men gave him his own and shared saddle with one of the others instead. Timar got in the saddle clumsily, the pain was finally kicking in and he was seething with anger and fear. He roared and pulled the new horse around, almost too enraged to think. “This isn’t the last of this, mark my words. You will regret this!”

He rode out of the village and the men followed him, they didn’t even look behind them. Maedhros didn’t let go of the sword until the sound of the hoof beats had been gone for several minutes, he stared into the darkness and felt both enraged and a bit scared. Timar was probably able to seek revenge. Irelen went over, put a hand on his arm. “That was impressive my friend, you have made them fear you, I hope that is enough.”

Maedhros just shrugged, he stared at the dead horse. Gestured for the villagers to deal with the carcass. The meat was edible and they shouldn’t let it go to waste, he didn’t like killing an innocent animal but the alternative had been killing Timar and he would prefer not to do that. He shook the blood of the blade and the blacksmith came over, he spat in the grass and shook his head. “ Timar got frightened now, and he was made to look like a fool, weak. He will not forget and he will absolutely not forgive. He will be back.”

Irelen sighed, she closed her eyes. “ I know, do you think you can ride?”

Maedhros just nodded, his eyes were sad. He had put these people in danger with his actions but there had been no choice. He would not let that man capture him, he would never again be in chains. He wished that he could explain everything to Irelen and the others but he couldn’t. The blacksmith laid a gentle calloused hand on his shoulder, pressed it lightly. “ I have a horse you can borrow, it is a draft horse and he is big enough even for you.”

Irelen smiled and her eyes were sad. “I will ask if the boy who found you will accompany you, it will be good for him seeing some more of the world. “

Maedhros smiled, he liked Lannam and he would very much prefer to travel with someone. He didn’t know the landscape nor where he was supposed to go. The blacksmith nodded. “ I will have the horse ready by the morrow, rest and gather your strength.”

The elf just sighed, he didn’t really want to leave this place but there was no way around it. He was endangering these peaceful people by staying and he knew he could defend himself so much better on his own. Irelen took his hand, pulled him with her back to the hut. She sat down by the hearth and started preparing food. She didn’t look up. “Men like Timar are the most dangerous kind you know.”

He swallowed, put the sword next to the bed. She stared at him through the corner of her eye, “He is unable to see his own errors, and every obstacle he may encounter is somebody else’s fault. His grudges grow until they are a fully developed hatred, he will hate you my friend, and he will stop at nothing to get back at you.”

Maedhros nodded slowly, he already knew that. He wished that he could have done something for them, something that could show his appreciation of what Irelen and the village had done for him. He felt like a scoundrel for having used their hospitality the way he had and that without being able to repay them in any way. He sighed and Irelen put a bowl of stew in front of him. “Do not worry my friend, we will be alright. And I know you elves are masters at travelling without leaving any traces of your whereabouts. “

He smiled and petted her hand, sat down to eat. She grinned. “ I will see if I can get you a cloak or something.”

He felt so embarrassed, such kindness and he didn’t feel as though he deserved it at all. He finished the meal and laid down, he needed to sleep but the adrenaline was still causing him to shiver and he had problems relaxing. When he finally did fall asleep he dreamed again, flames and blood and blades. Screams, roars, horrible contorted faces, a dark presence unlike any other, evil incarnate and he writhed in his sleep, unable to escape the memories he hadn’t shared with anyone.

He had been unconscious when they tossed him into a sort of cell, he had woken up in shackles, helpless. He had been so afraid, so terribly so and the fear only mounted as he just hang there and nothing happened. The servants of Morgoth were clever, they knew that the fear of torture was even worse than the torture itself. He heard screams, heard others dying, heard flesh being ripped apart, heard the gleeful chuckling from orcs, delighting in the agony of their victims. He heard orcs roaring in pleasure, heard pitiful screams and prayers for salvation, for death, for a way out.

When they finally came for him he was so weak he couldn’t stand and what they did was so deliberately cruel, so devilishly cunning. Words were their tools at first, cruel words who spoke just lies, just empty filthy lies about his father, about them all. But there was a grain of truth in those lies, even he could see it and as the days and weeks went he knew that that grain was far greater than anyone could have guessed. When the pride of who he had been was smashed into the mud, soiled and defiled they started breaking who he was. He had been a prince, had been a king, now they used him for their own perverted pleasure and he thought that nothing could be worse than that. He was begging, screaming, they never quit. They allowed him to heal between the rapes and beatings and it made it so much worse.

And the voice, that terrible voice, slick with self content, with wickedness and malice, telling him he was nothing, worthless, a worm. He just wished for death to find him, for an end to this torment. He was probably going to be condemned by Mandos forever but everything was better than this. And then he was hauled from the cell, hauled from the bowels of that terrible fortress and he was certain that this was it. They were going to kill him, he was of no further value to the dark lord. He didn’t mind, death would be salvation. But it wasn’t to be so, he was chained to the mountain, hanging there alone and abandoned and no torture could ever be more cruel, that loneliness and loss of hope almost crushed his soul. The body grew senseless, his soul didn’t although he wished that it had.

When Fingon found him and got him down minus his right hand he spent a long time trying to recover, but he never fully healed. There was a dark abyss within him, a void where he had stored it all, all the hatred and the fear and the darkness he now carried with him. There was no way to escape it, it was forever a part of his soul and he had to admit that it still was, Mandos had obviously not been able to remove it from him. He just had to accept that he was forever stained, tainted. He was almost certain that the dark lord sooner or later would have been able to make an orc out of him, luckily that fiery spirit of his ancestry had protected him.

He woke up rather early, feeling rested but also in doubt. He didn’t look forward to travelling but he knew he had to. Irelen had been busy while he slept. By the bed he saw a set of boots, a huge warm cloak and a shirt and a belt with a rather good knife and some blankets too. He felt his heart swelling with gratitude and Irelen came in and she grinned. “ It isn’t much but it will make a world of difference for you.”

He got up, got dressed and Irelen had packed some food and a few kettles and other equipment needed for camping. She sent him a sweet smile. “Lannam and one of the other boys will escort you, they have been given a map. You should be able to find the hidden valley thus, but it will be a long journey.”

He felt something swelling in his chest, if he only had been able to speak. He bent down and hugged her, hard. Irelen giggled and she hugged him back. Kissed his cheek and it made him blush. “There there you big oaf, you don’t owe me anything, Caring for you have been a pleasure.”

He felt tears in his eyes and wasn’t ashamed to let her see that. She touched his cheek gently. “The boys are waiting already, they are well prepared. “

He got the cloak on, with the clothes and the equipment he had been given he felt more like himself again, ready to take on the world. He got out of the hut and saw that many had gathered to bid him farewell. Lannam and a boy who presented himself as Olof stood there holding a mule each, the type bred from draft horses and the animals were large and very calm. The blacksmith stood there with a very large black horse by his side. He petted the animal gently and Maedhros liked the horse immediately. It was sturdy and friendly but had plenty of strength and endurance. It wasn’t a racehorse but he hoped that he wouldn’t need that sort of speed. The blacksmith handed him the reins. “His name is Hammer, he is above his best years but he is still a very good horse.”

Maedhros smiled and pressed the man’s hand. He wished he could express his gratitude and the blacksmith sniggered. “You taught me some tricks with that sword, that is very valuable. Consider that payment.”

He nodded and Irelen hugged him again. “Have a safe journey my friend, and remember us.”

He felt almost dizzy, he didn’t want to go. Lannam and Olof were already in the saddle so he took a deep breath and got up onto Hammer, the horse was very tall but very fitting for him and he found that he could ride without too much discomfort. He saw many who smiled at him, waved their hands and he smiled back, almost shy all of a sudden. Irelen even blew him a kiss and he blushed and swore to himself that he would carry them with him in his memories forever. He made Hammer trot after the two mules and knew that he was about to enter a new chapter of his life, the future lay in front of him like an unused canvas and he wondered what destiny had in store for him now.

Glorfindel and the three others had been travelling for more than a week now, they were back in familiar terrain and could ride fast and Glorfindel had gotten more and more impatient. He needed to get Halariel to Elrond, and he was greatly worried for her She had grown so silent, so lethargic and that playful energy that had mesmerized him when he first met her seemed to be gone. It was as if the very light within her was extinguished and he was so sorry, he was so terribly sorry if his attempt at seeing her true self was the cause of this. He shouldn’t have done it and he was well aware of that fact.

They hadn’t encountered any problems so far, no orcs, no danger at all and he hoped that they would reach Imladris in a couple of days. He was watching over her like a hawk, he never let her out of his sight and the twins did the hunting and gathering that was needed. They rode down along a narrow valley when they saw a wagon that was pulled by two grey horses. A couple of riders followed it and Elrohir recognized the wagon. It was a travelling merchant who went from town to town, selling cloth, ribbons, jewelry, pots and pans and almost everything they could imagine. The old man was very friendly and the two had often encountered the human who always had a funny story to tell or some candy to give to eager children or elflings alike.

Glorfindel felt a bit uncertain but if the merchant had something a bit better than what Halariel was currently wearing then it would be nice. They had money and so they rode down towards the wagon. The merchant recognized them from afar and called out, he waved his hands in joy and his guards stopped their horses. It was two young men, probably his grandsons. Old Albeth got down from the drivers seat and bowed, the elves stopped their horses and dismounted. “My lords Elladan, Elrohir, lord Glorfindel, what a delight to meet you again.”

Albeth was grinning from ear to ear and he was a truly nice person, one the elves knew they could trust. “ Albeth, we are glad to see you are well.”

The old man nodded. “ Oh, you know, these old bones are aching but I cannot complain, my own father was laying in bed shitting himself not knowing who, where or what he was at my age so I guess I can say I am blessed.”

He noticed Halariel and his eyes got wide. “ And who may this flower be? That is a fair face which I never have had the pleasure of resting my eyes upon.”

Glorfindel tried to smile. “This is Halariel, she is ill and we are heading back to Imladris, Lord Elrond must have a look at her.”

Albeth cocked his head, “Ill? Oh what misery, such a fair thing and to suffer, the world is not a place where justice rules, be sure of that.”

Elladan hawked. “ Ah, as I am sure you see our friend here is wearing some less than…decent…garments. We wondered if you have a dress?”

Albeth grinned. “ A dress? But of course my young lords, of course”

He snapped his fingers. “ Gier, the black chest please.”

The young boy went into the wagon and came back pulling a very huge heavy chest after him, he opened it and Albeth grinned. He pulled some clothes out of it and at the bottom he found some dresses. Glorfindel had lowered Halariel down from Asfaloth and she just stood there, looking utterly lost. Albeth threw some glances at her. “Hmm, tall, very tall indeed. And such nice…ahm, attributes. Curvy I would say, yes, let us see here.”

He pulled forth a dress that made the elves stare, it was made from velvet so dark green it almost looked black and there were gold and silver lace stitched onto the linings and the end of the sleeves. It was a dress which probably was rather expensive but they could very well imagine that it would look amazing on her. “This should fit her, I believe. “

Halariel blinked and stared at the dress, she looked confused but then there was a small light of understanding growing in her eyes and she giggled and grasped it, ran behind the wagon to try it on. Glorfindel was just staring, he suddenly felt hope renewed, she hadn’t reacted to anything at all lately.

Before long she returned and they were right, the dress looked amazing on her and the sight made the two young men just stare with their eyes and mouths wide open. Albeth slapped his grandsons across the back of their heads. “ Boys, mind your manners, you are drooling are you”

They pulled their eyes to themselves, with some difficulties. Halariel was grinning and her eyes were shining as she took some dance steps over the grass. Albeth leaned closer to Glorfindel. “What is wrong with her?”

Glorfindel tried to smile, he was really having problems watching her like this, gods, she was beyond beautiful, she was stunning. “It was a shock, she has forgotten her past, and how to speak.”

Albeth shook his head. “Poor poor dear, now, I am sure Elrond will be able to fix that in a flash, he did fix my wife when she had that nasty lump in her breast.”

Glorfindel nodded. “ Yes, I remember. I do have faith yes.”

Elrohir handed the old man a rather generous amount of money and Albeth bowed and accepted with a grin. “ You could buy four dresses for that lad.”

Elrohir just shrugged. “You need the money.”

Elladan got back onto his horse. “ So, have you seen anything out of the ordinary of late?”

Albeth shook his head. “ Not much, orcs, some not so trustworthy people, the usual stuff you know.”

Glorfindel helped Halariel back onto the horse, now it was getting rather hard imagining riding with her in front of him in the saddle. “You are brave to travel thus, with just two guards.”

Albeth nodded. “So say they all, but we stick to the main roads and travel only by day and the gods have looked upon me with kind eyes until now so I just hope they continue to do so.”

The elves were back on their horses and Albeth grasped a small box and tossed it to Glorfindel. “Here, I didn’t pay him for healing my wife, he said he didn’t want anything, but I came across that thing in a small village to the north and it isn’t much but a token of my gratitude, Please give it to him.”

Glorfindel smiled gently and stuffed the box into the saddlebag. “ I most certainly will my friend.”

Albeth crawled back up onto the wagon and the horses started moving again, Glorfindel stared after it. Elladan smiled and Halariel was fidgeting with her dress the whole time. She seemed to be completely transfixed with it. The lace and the fabric and everything, it had obviously touched her more vain side and every woman wants to look good. The problem was, she did look too darn good now, and Glorfindel had to admit to himself that these last days before they reached the hidden valley would be tough on him. Sitting there in front of him in the saddle he saw most of her chest and since she wasn’t that lethargic anymore she started to affect his libido in a very invigorating way. He groaned inwardly and spurred the horse, yes, the days would be long indeed and the nights even longer.

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