The darkening of hearts

The true fighters

Chapter Eight: The true fighters

Lerina did manage to get home, then she had a sort of nervous breakdown and Alimiel had to take care of Ariniel until she managed to pull herself together. Nerdanel had gathered some of the ner of the mansion to ride back for Lerina but now they didn’t have to. Nerdanel felt terrible since she had ridden off but Lerina told her she didn’t bear any grudges against her, Nerdanel had thought of her unborn baby and Lerina would have done the same had she been in that situation.

Now they started to think that maybe they really ought to leave, to seek refuge in the woods, and Lerina had a feeling that it would be wise. Then one morning as they prepared for the day there was a strange light spreading over the horizon and soon it became stronger and warmer and everybody went outside in awe and shock. The light came from a huge golden orb that slowly made its way across the skies and Lerina had to shield her eyes and blink. The light was stronger than that of the trees, much more harsh but at the same time it held more heat. The elves saw the effects of the darkness for the first time, the fields were naked, the forest stood without leaves, it was a barren land now but that would change fast.

The golden light slowly descended and another silvery one, much smaller took its place. Some of the servants left for Tirion to hear what this was and they returned and told that it was the last fruits and flowers of the two trees, turned into lights and guarded by two maiar who had dedicated themselves to the task. Suddenly there as a night and a day once more and life felt better. The leaves slowly returned after some showers of rain and the world turned green once more, living became more easy. But the attitudes didn’t change that much, and Nerdanel made the decision for them all. As soon as her new child was born and strong enough to travel they would leave for the forests. The mansion simply couldn’t feed them anymore, there wasn’t enough land and it was too close to the cities.

Nerdanel gave birth to a girl, a very beautiful girl with her father’s raven locks and her mother’s green eyes and she soon made herself well known with very strong lungs and a constant high volume. Ariniel loved to baby sit and proved to have quite a talent for it too and that enabled the other nissi to pack and prepare things they needed to bring along. Lerina had lived in luxury there, now her life would be much simpler but perhaps it would be better in many ways. Nerdanel’s daughter was named Alciel and she grew at an alarming rate and it soon became very apparent that she had inherited both her father’s temper and his intelligence. They left for the woods early in Alciel’s second year, the house had been prepared for their arrival and Mahtan had made sure that it was safe. There were wood elves living in that area, elves who had lived their entire lives across the sea but had died and been reborn there in Aman. They refused to have anything to do with the aman elves and few even knew they were there.

Lerina was glad they no longer had to go to Tirion that often, here they had all they needed and soon they became very independent and formed a sort of a small tribe. The servants had followed them and Lerina felt safe, and content. Then Ariniel got closer and closer to her coming of age and that started a new type of problems. She was after all of the blood of Finwê, and a princess. Finarfin demanded that she came to court to learn how to be a proper lady and Lerina didn’t like it, she didn’t like it at all! Indis sent Lerina a letter, promising to take care of the young nis and protect her and Lerina knew that they were right. Ariniel had to face the truth and learn who she really was. She was a tall and very pretty young nis now and she had a sort of innocent charm that was very endearing.

Still the vanyar and the teleri were hostile against any noldor they came across and as the years went some who had died started to return from the halls and the things they told were enough to make anyone shiver. Lerina refused to listen to any of it. She didn’t have the stomach to endure hearing any of it and she was afraid of what her daughter would have to face. Nerdanel tried to calm her and make her feel better about it and Alciel would join Ariniel at court. The daughter of Fêanor was already a very skilled artist and she had a keen wit and a sharp tongue and she knew that truth about the past events since Nerdanel never tried to sugar coat anything. Ariniel was thrilled when she left, she was eager to learn new things and to see that splendor that was the court with her own eyes. She didn’t anticipate any sort of problems at all.

With their daughters gone the two nissi had to fill their days with work of different sorts and Lerina found that her fondness of herbs was proving to become a source of income. She learned how to dye fabric with herbal concoctions and she also gathered and dried herbs for the healers. And she was busy gathering nuts and berries, making decorations of dried flowers and she kept herself busy all the time. Then the maiar started to show up, one by the other, all bearing sad news. Fêanor had died, then his sons, one by one did they perish and end up in the halls and as the truth of their deeds was made public there was a collective reaction of sheer shock and horror. Nerdanel was crushed, beside herself with grief and they all had to fight hard to stay sane. More and more elves came through the halls, more and more information was passed on to the living and Lerina couldn’t believe it. The scale of the bloodshed and the horrors was one she couldn’t even comprehend in her darkest nightmares.

Ariniel did write quite often, but now the letters were getting shorter and shorter and there could be weeks between them. Lerina got nervous and Nerdanel was nervous too. Alciel hadn’t written to her in weeks and the last letters only told of some rather indifferent happenings and had no real hint of the young nis emotions. Lerina feared the court but she couldn’t hesitate, she had to go there in person and see for herself that her daughter was alright. So she and Nerdanel got some horses and put on their best gowns and rode to Tirion. It took days now, and Lerina got more and more nervous the closer they got. The anger and hatred some felt for the noldor was still seething and she wanted to avoid any sort of trouble. Finarfin was thrilled to see them and so was Indis. She had sort of lived in the shadows since Finwê was slain, and she looked tired and sad and the spark was gone from her eyes. She was seen as a usurper by many still and she preferred to stay away from court and only do her duties when she absolutely had to.

Ariniel and Alciel were good friends, and they spent most of their time together and both were glad to see their mothers but said moms could immediately see that something was amiss. Lerina felt that Ariniel was hiding something and soon the truth came out, although reluctantly. Both had been treated like garbage by those vanyar who appeared at this court, and Ariniel had been ridiculed by some young ner, and they were in fact noldor but not of those who had followed Finarfin. Their parents had stayed behind and felt that they were sort of purer and guilt free. They had even pretended to be interested in her and then mocked her and Lerina was aghast at this confession. Her lovely daughter had been called things that made her stomach churn and Alciel had been called even worse things. Finarfin hadn’t known and Indis had tried to talk to the parents of the ner behind it but all she had managed to do was to make the problem even worse.

Now the two young nissi were regarded almost as outcasts and only the fear that their mothers would be hurt had kept them from telling anyone of the situation. Lerina was seething with rage and Nerdanel was very angry too, but there was very little anyone could do about it. Being of Finwê’s blood was like being a pariah and it wouldn’t change anytime soon. When the two were there at court, trying to comfort their daughters one of the maiar of Manwê came to the palace and declared that any nis married to one of the exiles from now on were regarded as unmarried. All marriage bonds were severed and the marriages annulled and they were free to remarry if they wanted to. That made Nerdanel cry and Lerina got terrified that her parents yet again would try to interfere with her life. They chose to return home and Ariniel followed them. She had learned all she needed to learn and longed to get away from all the vicious tongues and gossip. Lerina was proud of her, Ariniel wanted to become a healer and she started her apprentice ship with one of the maiar or Lorien and suddenly she was transformed yet again. Now she was smiling and looking forward to every day and Lerina couldn’t have been more happy.

Nerdanel on the other hand had a problem, Alciel was getting more and more rebellious. She sort of saw through all the lies, all the facades and with her swift tongue and sharp intellect she made herself rather infamous fast. Then one day Nerdanel received a letter that made her both laugh and cry. The vanyar had sort of demanded that the valar exiled all noldor from eldamar and forced them north, to live near the grinding ice. The valar had refused of course and the vanyar had gathered to a meeting to discuss what to do. Ingwe tried to make them come to their senses again but all he managed to do was to be thrown out of the meeting. Unfortunately Alciel had heard of the meeting and she had gotten to the mansion they used in secret and there she had managed to cause a spectacle of epic proportions. She had poured laxatives in the stew, herbs that caused people to vomit in the wine and in the baths she had swapped the soap and shampoo with some oils used to remove hair from animal hides. Several vanyar elves had to go bald for weeks and soon the news spread through the entire area. The vanyar claimed that Alciel was an abomination and too dangerous to be allowed to be running around and Manwê had finally had enough of the meddling vanyar and put up a list of rather strict rules they would have to follow.

Nerdanel was proud of her daughter and at the same time shocked by the nis audacity and courage. She was in every way her father’s daughter and Nerdanel knew that Fëanor would have been very proud of her indeed. Lerina started to make a name for herself with her work and she was glad she could make herself useful. Her hands were hard and calloused now, and her skin wasn’t as fair as it had been but her life was good. Ariniel was doing well and learning fast and Lerina was hoping that her daughter would face a great future.

But as the years passed everybody started to realize that something needed to be done, the amount of dead elves arriving at the halls was staggering at times and now Nerdanel only had two sons left alive. Finarfin had his daughter Artanis somewhere in that land across the sea but his other children had perished, one by one. A maia had come to Lerina one evening, with a letter written by someone in the service of Fingon. The ner had promised to tell Lerina of the events which had taken place and so she learned that Saeriel had died, killed in an attack. She had given Fingon a son they named Gil Galad and the boy was sent to safety by the coast. Fingon had perished just as his father had and his brothers and Lerina hadn’t believed that she had any more tears to shed but she was wrong. Indis had a breakdown too, and were taken to the gardens of Lorien to recover, but everybody said that she probably would succumb to her grief and share the fate of the first high queen.

Lerina felt frustrated, angry even. Anger was so rare a feeling for her but now she felt it boiling every day. She realized that Fêanor was right, that the valar were far from being as omnipotent as they would like everybody to believe. She and the rest of the family hardly ever left the woods now, the stories of the atrocities were well known and the anger of the population didn’t seem to diminish at all. Some noldor started to be reborn, those who hadn’t really done much wrong, and even those were the subjects of harsh criticism from others. Other elves returned too, and immediately sought out their own kin and so the population slowly grew once more but the vanyar were the group which was largest by far. Then a half elf arrived in a battered old ship, pleading for help and the decision was made to go to war.

Now there weren’t that many noldor left and those who had fought and died refused to return so the valar gathered a huge host of Vanyar elves and some teleri. Finarfin went, with as many as he could gather of his followers and Lerina suddenly faced a new sort of dread.

Ariniel was a healer now, fully trained and she wanted to join the elves going to war, to aid them. She wanted to see if she could find her father and bring him back and Lerina knew that nothing she could say or do would change Ariniel’s mind if she was set upon this. Alciel went to the young nis and had a long chat with her and at the end Ariniel sort of forgot about her wish to leave, Lerina had no idea of what the daughter of Fêanor said but she was forever grateful. Ariniel had agreed upon travelling to Tol erressea to stay there and help with the healing of those who arrived there, fleeing the war. Lerina found it incredibly tough to be separated from her daughter yet again but did find some solace in the fact that she was safe there and not in those strange lands, where orcs and other terrible creatures roamed.

Lerina often thought of Maedhros, she had no idea of what he would be like now, if they were to meet again. Those who had met him across the sundering sea told of a hardened warrior, scarred and maimed by the enemy yet fighting like a blazing fire, like a raging lion upon the battlefields. The polite and controlled young ner was gone, what had taken his place was a grief ridden mad and fatalistic nightmare. Eldamar was a quiet place now, the vanyar had been so haughty and so righteous and now some of their own returned and told of things so terrible those who had stayed had a hard time believing them. And the noldor had went to fight this, out of their own free will. In those days Nerdanel found a new strength, she fought hard to clear her husband’s name, to make everybody see that he had been right all along, that Melkor had poisoned their minds and souls and blinded them as well. Some spoke up against her and demanded that she shut up and returned to her home but slowly the people changed. The hatred didn’t really disappear but it changed its focus. Fêanor changed from being the criminal to becoming the victim of a crime and they did find some sympathy from not a few. Lerina was very proud of her law mother then, and the elves got more unified by the war too. The vanyar had to face the same horrors as the noldor and when one is forced to fight for one’s life the ideals forged in a peaceful realm with no real danger soon vanish like morning dew.

Then one night Lerina had a dream, the war had gone on for some years now and they had no idea of whether or not they would win. Ariniel wrote every week, telling of elves arriving with horrible injuries and even more injured souls and Ariniel soon became well known as a healer capable of soothing the distressed and healing their wounded minds. Lerina was very proud of her. This night she had gone to bed late, she had organized a huge gathering of fruits and it took some effort since they needed a lot of equipment. Some had discovered that by putting the fruit in boiled glass jar, sealing them tight and them boiling them again you could preserve the fruit for years and Lerina had become a master at it. She was so tired she fell asleep the moment her head hit the pillow but before long she was dreaming and the dream not a pleasant one at all. She was standing on a plain where the ground was torn and ripped open, fumes and smoke rose together with immense heat and it was a hellish sight. Lerina turned around, he stood right next to one of those fissures, clinging one of those accursed jewels to his chest, she did see that his right hand was gone and she could have wept. Gone was the beautiful and bright spirit she had known, this was a broken soul, one tormented by deeds to horrible to imagine, by grief and sorrow and loss. He was scarred and almost a shadow of his former self, the fire of his soul subdued and flickering.

Lerina held her breath, stared at her former husband and he stared at the jewel, then straight at her. The eyes were hollow and empty and it made her sob. “ I am sorry, tell her I love her, tell her I love her more than life, but this has to end. Before we bring this poison any further”

Lerina wanted to scream, but she couldn’t, she just stood there as he turned around and just fell, disappeared into the vapors with a sore cry. She woke up with a start, bathed in sweat, with the scent of Sulphur in her nose and the heat still clawing at her skin and she knew he was dead. She let out a gasp, clinging to her sheets with all of her might. It felt as if she had lost something she hadn’t even known was there until now, like a scaffold holding her up. She had been Maedhros wife, but now she was just a widow and she had no idea of what that might bring forth of bad things. She just knew that she was grieving him and she did for years to come. The war ended, the valar were victorious and Melkor cast into the void but the victory came with a bitter after taste. So many had perished and so much was changed, the very face of the earth itself was different and the general atmosphere in Aman changed a lot. Lerina drowned herself in her work, tried to forget that way and she soon ran a rather large business. The demand for fruits and nuts was high in the cities and she sort of let her job define her.

Some asked her why she didn’t do as the valar suggested and remarried but Lerina didn’t want that, she wanted to be in charge of her life and she had come to understand one very important difference between the elves of Aman and those of the old world. Here in Aman a nis role was very defined, there were things you could do but there were also things you couldn’t do. The nandor sindar and avarin elves who were arriving from the halls and bringing their attitudes and customs were very different indeed. First, the roles of ner and nissi were the same, the only difference was that the nissi did give birth, other from that nissi could even be warriors. Second of all, sleeping with someone didn’t mean that you got married, they often sought the pleasures of the flesh with one partner or more, just to have a good time. And third and not the least, they didn’t regard the rules of the valar as anything but a load of pious crap. Lerina started having customers of Silvan, Sindarin or even Avarin origin and she soon realized that she just loved their open hearted and unrestrained ways.

Then one day Ariniel came home with some news, she was a grown nis now, and had been for many a long year and Lerina hadn’t really realized but now she saw that her daughter was older than she had been when she married her daughter’s father. Ariniel had met her one, a half teleri born across the sea and his father had been a sinda. Lerina was in shock, in complete and utter shock, her daughter wanted to get married? Where had the years gone? And what would everybody say to such a union? As expected there was a bit of an uproar but it was silenced by Finarfin who said that this was exactly what they needed to bring the fractions back together again and make the ancient wounds heal. Ariniel had suffered a lot in secret, some almost blamed her for the second and third kinslayings since her father was dead and gone and she had developed a sort of strength Lerina envied her a lot. Nerdanel and Alciel were busy still, working to let people know the truth about the whole mess and the public opinion was slowly swinging in their direction, but that brought some new problems. The inhabitants of Aman could perhaps understand Fêanor and his sons but those elves who had lived in Endor sure as hell could not.

Lerina faced some sympathy from even the silvan and the sindar since she after all was a widow and had stayed there in Aman but she also lost customers when they found out who she was and she knew that her past would keep haunting her for the rest of her life. Ariniel got married and Lerina felt guilty for not sitting down with her, having that little chat before the wedding. The truth was that Lerina was terrified of revealing the great secret, that Ariniel in fact was Saeriel’s daughter and not her own. That meant losing the most beloved person in her life and Lerina would never admit to the little lie freely. Ariniel should never have to live with the shame of knowing that she was born out of wedlock, to another ner’s wife. The wedding was beautiful and grand and Lerina wept the whole day. She had gained a son as some said but the truth was that she didn’t know her new law son at all and although she did like him and understood why Ariniel loved him so much she sort of lacked the will and determination to sit down and really get to know him. Lerina had become so familiar with loss she sort of expected it all the time and refused to bond with anyone or anything, out of fear of yet more grief. Nerdanel tried to make her see that she was neglecting herself but Lerina refused to listen to it, she focused on her work and her business and tried to forget about everything except that.

Ariniel was happy in her marriage and she often visited her mother with her husband and Lerina could feel a sort of envy witnessing their happiness, and for that she felt shame and guilt. She didn’t try to interfere with the happiness of those two and she was just glad her daughter had found a safe harbor and was living a rather normal life after all. If she missed having someone special she never told anyone but Ariniel was getting worried that her mother would stay lonely for the rest of time.

Nerdanel and Alciel kept working tirelessly to raise awareness of the true nature of the past events and they did have little time for Lerina and the other nissi of the family. Curufin’s wife Canien left them after a few centuries and returned to her own family, she had learned that her son too had perished and could not bear that knowledge anymore. She had to get help or lose her mind. Maglor’s wife knew he was alive somewhere and those who came to Aman told that he was roaming the beaches like some sort of hermit, half crazed and utterly alone, making penitence for his sins. Alimiel felt that he probably wanted to punish himself but that no punishment ever would feel severe enough. She grieved but she didn’t move on, she too preferred to live as a widow, never taking a new husband.

Ariniel wanted to wait with children, and her husband agreed. The times were still turbulent and things kept happening in Endor that made everybody shocked. As time went by they heard of Numenor and its fall and of Sauron having survived the fall of Angband and regaining power. Lerina had made a name for herself and was in fact regarded as a very successful person when disaster struck. A sort of disease swept through the woods near the great cities and for some years the trees didn’t produce any fruit at all. The fruits just shriveled and fell off before they could become ripe and Yavanna worked tirelessly to cure them. But Lerina was depending upon the rich yields of the orchards and she lost a lot of her income and many customers too. She was in despair and then Ariniel made a suggestion. The trees of the deep woods were unaffected and Lerina had enough money to keep going for sure. What if she visited her daughter and law son for a few years and let the trees around Tirion recover? Lerina was reluctant at first, she didn’t want to become a burden to her daughter but Ariniel told her very sternly that she would be no burden at all and then she sort of surrendered.

Ariniel and her husband lived deep in the woods of Orome, to the south of the Pelori and by now there were rich thriving societies there made up by mostly sindar elves and some silvan and avarin elves too. Cities had been erected and they had become a world of their own, separated from the cities of Eldamar, ruled and run in their own manner. Lerina did like it there, she did look like a sinda in some ways and she sort of fit right into that way of living. Here she could forget about her past life, about her parents and her marriage and she started learning new skills from the sindar nissi who looked upon her with some pity once they learned of her past. By now the amount of elves being reborn sort of decreased, and few died. It was good that way and Lerina was thrilled to hear that the twins Amrod and Amras had been allowed to be reborn and returned to their mother. They had been so young when they died the valar decided that they couldn’t be held responsible for their deeds and so Nerdanel was overwhelmed by joy and kept busy by those two very energetic ner for months. They were thrilled to meet their new sister and she soon brought them with her and taught them new and very inventive pranks.

Then Lerina was told of the death of Fingon’s son in the battles of the last alliance and she wept yet again for days, she had never met him and yet she mourned that ellon, since he had been the last thing left of her niece. She didn’t know if Saeriel ever would be reborn and that tormented her for years, the uncertainty of it all. Maedhros would probably never be reborn but she had some hope that Fingon would be forgiven for whatever sins he had committed.

The vanyar elves had suffered heavy losses during the war of wrath and as their dead started to return after about an age in the halls the piousness and ridiculous stiff upper lipped attitudes sort of diminished. The vanyar sort of started to remember who they had been before the great journey and started embracing their old ways more and more. Now you could see vanyar wearing just thin silky gowns again, lots of visible jewelry and even piercings and tattoos. The reborn avarin elves often chose to be reborn with all of their old scars and marks and so a new fashion spread through society. The valar frowned but nobody paid any attention to that anymore, some even flirted and had one night stands and back in the years of the trees that would have caused some of the moral guardians to suffer from apoplectic shocks.

Lerina had discovered that these woods were filled with species she hadn’t seen before, trees with nuts and berries so wonderful she often just stood there in shock. Ariniel was busy working as a healer and her husband was making ropes and barrels so they didn’t have time to help her that often but Lerina had learned how to help herself. She had become very independent, perhaps too independent too. She had discovered huge holts of trees carrying very tasty nuts and she tried to make maps of them and calculating how much she could harvest each autumn. One day she decided to go to one of the holts to pick some nuts and berries for their own household. She also wanted to send some barrels of nuts to Nerdanel and another to Indis as a thanks for her support and she had managed to design a sort of harness for one horse or mule onto which huge baskets could be attached. She had gotten a docile although very large mule from a tradesman and now she tacked the animal up and left for the woods as soon as the sun did rise. She was in a good mood and the weather was warm so she had put on a brand new dress she had bought the day before. It was made from a new fabric called cotton which some had brought from the old world and it was white with nice blue embroideries along the hems.

Lerina found the holt easily and started to fill the baskets, this sort of work really brought her peace of mind and she was humming a merry tune as she went along and emptied bucket after bucket into the baskets. It wasn’t until the baskets were full she realized what a mistake she had done, the baskets were on the ground and the mule was tall and a basket containing more than a hundred pounds of nuts is heavy. She swore and sighed, she didn’t want to empty the baskets again so she dragged them to a rock and sort of pulled them up on top of it. That made her sweat profusely in the heat but she did get both the baskets up there. Then she got the mule and placed it next to the rock and tried to attach the baskets again. She swore as she worked, that she could be this stupid, it was so annoying! She ought to have thought of this before and let the baskets stay on the mule. She managed to attach the first basket but then something happened, the mule made an annoyed sound and then it reared and kicked and Lerina lost her balance and sort of fell onto the broad back.

She grasped onto the coarse mane with all of her might and the mule ran off, kicking and bucking due to the weight of the basket on one side. Lerina didn’t have the reins and the mule was getting rather terrified, the harness had twisted itself and it spooked the animal and some piece of it probably pinched the poor animal and caused it pain too. Lerina could only hang on for dear life as the mule ran off through the unfamiliar terrain. It ran over a hill and then down into a narrow valley and Lerina was terrified and couldn’t do anything to stop it. The nuts were raining around her ears and she was afraid that this was it, that she would be killed in a freak accident. Then the valley suddenly and very abruptly ended, in a cliff and Lerina screamed in terror as the stupid beast sort of headed straight for it. She did hear a waterfall and the mule let out a wild whinny and kicked off. Lerina stared down, the cliff wasn’t that high but underneath it was a lake and she couldn’t swim at all. The mule hit the water with an almighty splash and went under and Lerina felt a hard collision and water closed above her head. She let go of the mule in panic, kicked and squirmed and swallowed water, convinced that she was going to drown. Her lungs burned and she didn’t know which way was up or down and she was so afraid she never would see her daughter again.

Then something grasped onto her, something very warm and hard and she felt herself being pulled up, air hit her face again and she gasped for it, desperately. A strong grip held her tight and she was towed towards shore where that blasted mule now shook itself, looking rather smug. Lerina coughed and puked water, cold to the core and still in shock and she was gently turned around, placed onto a rock. A pair of eyes met her own and she had never seen eyes like those before. They were a mix of amber golden and jade green and almost hypnotizing as they were lined by very dark eyelashes and brows. She blinked, stared at the face of the ner who had rescued her and he smiled and tilted his head. “ I have heard a lot of the blessed realm but nobody ever told me I could expect it to be raining beautiful ellith and mules from the skies”

Lerina swallowed, felt like a drowned cat, the ner talking to her was huge, not as tall as Maedhros but not far from it and he was both muscular and elegant at the same time, and now she did also realize one other interesting fact about him. He was as naked as the day he was born. She felt herself blush like a beet and she tried to look at his face instead of that absolutely stunning body. He was very tanned and his hip long hair a deep dark golden brown with hints of red in it, he had very wide archers shoulders and he even had tattoos and some visible scars here and there. She blinked, felt like a moron, what did she say to thank her savior? Without risking sounding like a complete idiot? He was rather imposing this close up and he was if not as beautiful as Maedhros much more masculine and way more hardened than her husband had been while he lived in Aman, that was for sure. This was a warrior, one who had fought his whole life and he was…he was the most stunning male she had ever seen. If Maedhros had been a lion and Fingon a cheetah this was a panther, strength and speed combined into one, one awesome and both attractive and terrifying power pack. He made her mouth go dry, and her heart beat like that of a tiny bird.

“I….” She didn’t really manage to say anything, then she got aware of yet another fact, one incredibly embarrassing one. Her dress had gotten wet and now it was completely transparent and clung to her like an almost invisible second layer of skin. He could see all of her, every tiny detail and she squeaked and tried to cover her breast and crotch with her hands while her eyes got huge as those of an owl. He looked at her hand, she realized that he was studying her ring and she blinked again. She had never taken it off, to her it was a sort of safety but she saw something akin to disappointment in his eyes when he saw that it was a wedding ring. “My lady, what happened?”

She tried to smile, still feeling terribly vulnerable. Oh Eru, he didn’t even try to cover himself up! It wasn’t as if she hadn’t seen anyone naked before, she had bathed with Maedhros a few times and even shared the bath with him and Fingon and Saeriel but this male here looked as if he could put them both to shame. His accent put him as a sindar and so did the height. They said that the now dead king of the Sindar elves, Elu Thingol had been even taller than Maedhros by a whole foot. “ Ah, the mule ran out, it must have been spooked when I tried to lift some baskets with nuts onto it”

He frowned. “ A basket of nuts? That is rather heavy now isn’t it? Couldn’t your husband have helped you with that?”

Lerina shivered, felt a sort of helplessness she never had felt before. “ I.. I am a widow”

He made a grimace “ I am sorry my lady, my apologies”

She tried to smile. “ It is alright, you couldn’t have known now could you, thank you for saving me, I cannot swim at all. “

He bowed his head. “It was a pleasure, it was Eru’s luck I was taking a swim here today”

She saw some things on the beach nearby. A mighty bow with a quiver, a dead deer hung from a branch and some leather clothes lay in a neat heap by the rock. She didn’t know what to think or say next, her mind stood completely still.

He stared at the elleth he just had rescued, she was a slender lithe thing and looked absolutely terrified. Poor thing, how old could she be? She looked rather young but her eyes told him she had seen some millennia, yet there was a strange sort of innocence to her and he felt his protective instincts kick into action. She was gorgeous, and what a hair. Deep dark silvery grey, .like polished steel. He had only met one elf with that hair color and that had been his king, Elu. This elleth looked like a dream, he did notice that her hands were calloused, she was used to hard work, and she had a slight tan. Her dress was expensive but not too elaborate and she had been picking nuts on her own? No spoiled lady from the nobility then, good. Her eyes were a strange color too, he couldn’t really decide whether they were green or blue and they shimmered in the sunlight. Huge lovely eyes, so expressive and a pair of rosy lips just made for kissing.

Had one of the maiar fallen from the heavens? She did look absolutely toothsome, the way the dress clung to her form told him she was an adult female for sure and he couldn’t help but notice her nice shapes. Her breasts were just perfect, a little perky with stiff pink nipples and further down… he had to tear his eyes away from her more private areas, that tiny waist combined with round elegant hips and that small shade where her thighs met, oh Eru he was fighting a hard battle against himself not to become visibly aroused by it. So she was a widow? He did pity her husband then, dying when you have something like that waiting for you back home had to be what he could only describe as the very maximum of bad luck. Would her husband return to her maybe? She did look like an elleth of mixed heritage, the colors were telerin or perhaps vanyar but her heart shaped face with high cheekbones and a pointy chin was most certainly a noldorin feature. She looked like a doll, but a very tempting and living breathing one. “ Do you have any family around, who can help you? Where do you live?”

He kept his voice soft and calm, to soothe her nerves, she looked as if she had suffered a bad shock and he did pity her. She whimpered. “ A daughter, I have a daughter. I live with her now, in the village to the east of here”

He swallowed, so she had a child of her own, definitely an adult then, perhaps she wouldn’t mind having some company? “That is great my lady, have you been alone for long?”

Lerina tried to smile. “Yes, my husband…my husband died during the war of wrath”

He was thinking fast, that was a long ago now, he should have been returned to her if he was of those allowed to be reborn. That meant that there could be a chance, he had never felt so fascinated by an elleth before, and he had no idea of why, except from the fact that she was sexy as hell like that. He got up, tried to avoid staring at the lovely body of hers. “Allow me to escort you home then my lady, that mule looks as if it needs someone with a bit more strength than you if I may be so bold. Do you gather nuts often around here?”

She nodded, still trying to cover herself, in an almost maidenly fashion. That was odd, was she shy? Or perhaps born into one of those ridiculously pious families of vanyar elves? He had to grin to himself, perhaps her husband only had been allowed to enjoy all that gorgeous ness under the cover of darkness, and several layers of blankets and a nightgown. Poor bastard in that case. “ I make a living collecting nuts and berries and herbs, I was just dumb to try to lift the baskets up onto the mule unaided. I am Lerina by the way, of Tirion”

He frowned. Tirion? Then she was someone of importance after all, but gathering nuts? That was work for a commoner. Lerina, the free one, it was a lovely name but he sort of felt that this was one elleth who barely knew what freedom was at all. Why he didn’t know but by Eru how he would have liked to show her a really good time. She couldn’t have gotten any for a long time, and she did look like a rather sensual being in spite of her maidenly reactions. She had stared at him as if she hadn’t seen a naked ellon before and the way she blushed when her eyes sort of flew by his gweth. It was intriguing. “That is a pretty name, is it a noldorin one?”

He did know some quenya and she nodded, a sort of cloud passing over her face. “Yes, my father is noldo”

Her voice told him she didn’t see eye to eye with her own dad, that was yet another mystery and he became even more intrigued. He walked over to his clothes and picked up his cloak, handed it over to her and she wrapped it around herself with a hint of desperation in her eyes. Was she that afraid of being seen naked by an ellon? Why? The sindar had a very natural view on such things as nudity, nobody saw anything wrong with it and after all, their bodies were something they ought to be proud of and find joy in. He had learned that the Aman elves were very restricted in many ways, and he found that absolutely ridiculous. The valar did perhaps make rules to regulate everything, even peoples sex lives but that was not the will of Eru, he was willing to swear upon that. Back home nobody had cared about such things, it was all accepted and he had bedded both ellyn and ellith alike and found great joy in it too. He stared at her, she still refused to look at him and he had to chuckle, her cheeks burned red and she was blinking constantly, oh he knew how females reacted to his physique, she was as easy to read as an open book.

“But your mother must have been a Teleri? Or a Vanya?”

She made a grimace, her voice low, almost demure. “Both actually”

He cocked his head, in the light from the sun her hair looked like spun mithril and those eyes, oh no gems could do them justice. He got his loincloth and boots on, in this warm weather he didn’t bother wearing anything else and she still blushed like mad. He put his belt with his axes on and then he attached his bow to his back with some straps of leather, he was ready to go. She stared at his tattoos, and his scars. “Ah, you are a sinda yes? Where do you come from?”

He had to grin. “Well, from the halls if you mean in this life, I was re-embodied two summers ago. But in my first life I lived in a realm called Doriath, under king Thingol and queen Melian of the maiar. I am sorry, I have been rude and forgotten to introduce myself, I am Mablung of Doriath, marchwarden of king Thingol, I am honored to meet you lady Lerina”

She just stared at him with slack jawed amazement, she had heard that name before, now who the heck was he?

I apologize for the long wait, I have been busy working on a novel with a deadline and I just finished it recently so now I can start updating my fan fic’s again, yaaayyy!

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