The Golden and the Black

Close Encounters

I wake up hungry.

I am unsurprised to find Laurefindel’s side of the bed unslept in. What does surprise me is how well I have slept. It has been my best sleep in three months… by Aulë’s hammer, it might even have been the best sleep of my life. I am still dazzled by wondrous dreams… of flight without fear… of winterless lands radiant with splendour… and, most wondrous of all, of Aulë’s great halls where I work with light heart and bring forth from my anvil works of beauty and great cunning.

I stretch languidly, and find myself smiling as my daughter kicks and turns a half-somersault inside me. I feel… free.

It is still dark outside the windows. My eyes wander with awe and admiration over the grace and beauty of the chamber, which I had been in no mood to appreciate last night… the slender figures in flowing garments carved into the columns of translucent white stone, the flowers and leaves and graceful branches that adorn the cornices and the arches of the windows… and a strange thought flits through my head… this house is not a copy of Imladris; it is the realization of all that Imladris ever sought to be…

I arise and take a bath—a proper bath, not a pathetic wash out of a small bucket below deck. Then, glowing with well-being, I feel more than equal to anything Aman could hurl at me. I pull on a teal-coloured dress I seldom wear—too bright, too many flowers on the skirts and sleeves. But my beloved likes it, and in my good mood I don it as befitting the new me. I admire myself in the looking glass. The dress is high-waisted and fitted at the bodice, the skirts skimming the swell of my belly. I have never seen such a lustre in my hair and eyes before, such a glow to my skin. Full of life and boundless strength, I am ready to scale Taniquetil, brave the worst of Itarillë. What is in the air of this place? I could liken it to being drowned in urnen. I do not feel like myself… or, perhaps, I am feeling more like myself than I ever have.

You lovely creature. How could anyone suspect this face? Bring it on, Amil Itarillë. I can take you on today. I can take on anything.

As I descend the graceful curves of the spiral staircase, I recall last night. How tense I had been, how overwrought. I replay the events of our arrival in my mind, and the confrontation with Itarillë, and am amazed by how detached I feel. Someday I shall look back on all this, and laugh.

In the great hall of the house, I smile sweetly at ellyn and ellith of the household as they ply me enthusiastically with a variety of nourishing foods and hot drinks, and ask many questions about our plans.

“When is the child due?”

“Will Glorfindel and you not stay here with us?”

“Where will you go?”

As I eat fresh nectarines and cherries—and oh, heavenly, the sweetest and most crisp of apples—I easily deflect the questions with a few noncommittal statements. The savoury pastries that follow are the most delicious I have ever eaten, the tea the most fragrant and flavourful I have ever drunk.

Much fortified and eager to find my beloved, I step out of the great front doors and into the cool morning air.

The harbour city lies still and quiet below me, the white buildings shimmering opalescent through a soft morning mist. The stars are slowly fading, and the sky in the east is lightening to gold. I take deep breaths of the pure, cool air, and allow the peace and enchantment of the place to seep into my fëa.

Finally, Flower, I comprehend what you mean when you call this our true home…

I sense him, and where he is. My feet are pulled down a wide flagstone path. I see faint flashes of vision… down past the stables this way… and from thence to the sea. There is a steep path descending yonder. I will dare even that. I am invincible today, I am clad in mithril and magic. Birdsong and wave-song serenade me as I walk. Trees with leaves of green and silver sigh and bow towards me as I pass. The fragrant white, crimson and pink flowers of shrubs that line the path nod at me and pour forth sweet perfume.


A voice.

A stone’s throw from the stables, a cheerful, booming voice speaking Sindarin carries in the quiet of the morning.

“So, my brother and my grandsons just arrived last night, hey? Is my mother here already, then?”

That voice. No.

I am rooted to the middle of the path. My eyes are riveted on the long, wooden building that is half-hidden from my sight by bushes bright with scarlet blossoms.

“Yes, she is,” comes a lighter, more musical voice… Gwendir? “We were all awake and celebrating most of the night. Your mother and son retired not long past to their chambers.”

“No matter, no matter. Disturb no one. I shall wait,” replies the deep voice.

A tall lord emerged from the stables with Gwendir at his side. The young ellon is looking more dishevelled—and happier—than I have ever seen him.

“Well, I’m off to the hall for breakfast. A bracing voyage, last evening! I am famished enough to eat an ox. My best regards to your fair lady. Eh?” And he winks as he elbows Gwendir lightly, almost knocking him over.

Gwendir blushes almost as crimson as the flowers in the shrubbery around, but also grins broadly. “And mine to yours, hîr-nín. Galu!” And he returns to the stables with some alacrity.

The tall lord saunters up the path towards me whistling a cheerful tune. He is taller than even my beloved. Peak of Taniquetil, he is almost as tall as his elven grandfather.

And he is the spitting image of his father, sans the beard. The same noble pride and confidence in every move, his build slightly broader and sturdier than the lithe forms of the Eldar. I take in the powerful, muscled shoulders, the girth of his torso and arms and thighs and calves. His flowing hair is the colour of corn silk, his bright blue eyes candid and compelling in their gaze. The lines of his nose and jaw and cleft chin are strong and manly, his face open and joyous. He had been surpassing fair, as a child, and even then he had had a strong look of his father. But now, seeing him in adulthood, I am shaken to the core by the resemblance. And he shines, his light brighter even than Laurefindel’s. Touched by the light of the silmaril he has carried across the skies through two long ages, he appears almost like one of the Ainur. The silmaril itself, I think in a daze, must be in the pack slung casually across his back.

The forget-me-not blue eyes of Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope, meet mine.

My chest tightens till I can barely breathe. In my ears are echoes, cries of death and sounds of battle. The ringing of blades—sword against axe, Anguirel against Dramborleg. I see, close to my face, grim battle fury in bright blue eyes.

I am suddenly overcome by a sensation of falling…

With all the will and strength in me, I stand straight as an arrow and very still as the blue eyes of he who is hailed as the Splendour of the Children of the Earth rest upon me. I find myself thinking, in the most detached fashion, that it is clearly not his father that dark-haired, grave-faced Elrond takes after, with his reserve and dry humour. For a moment, I doubt paternity.

The whistling stops, and the Bright Star of Morning and Eventide smiles and sweeps a gallant bow.

“Ae! Mae le’ovannen, fair lady! booms Eärendil Ardamirë, the Jewel of the World. We had conversed in Quenya, when he was a child. But it appears Sindarin is as common on Tol Eressëa as it was in Ennor, and as it must have been at the Havens. “Were you a passenger on the ship that arrived last night?”

At his greeting, I feel a spasm of bodily pain unexpectedly grip me, and catch my breath. I remember a desperate but futile parry, Dramborleg slashing at my groin, finding the vulnerable point in my black galvorn armour.

Mae le’ovannen, Hîr Eärendil. I was indeed,” I manage to reply as the pain subsides. My clearly advanced condition excuses me from a curtsey.

Ai! Know you who I am?” he exclaims in surprise. “You have the better of me then, híril-nín! You must then be one of my son’s household from Imladris?”

“Yes, I am, Hîr Eärendil.” My voice sounds strange to myself, thin and disembodied. As he walks closer to me, I resist the impulse to back away from him, and stand my ground.

“I saw the ship from Ennorath in the harbour as Vingilot landed and docked. The second in two months! And very possibly the last. A tiring journey, for an elleth in your delicate state. Blessings upon the joyous birth to come! Your hervenn travelled with you, I hope?”

“Yes.” My voice sounds calmer now. I hear myself add, “My hervenn is Glorfindel.” I am stunned to hear myself. Is this what two centuries of marriage to an incorrigibly honest nér has done to me?

The Herald of the Morning stops in his tracks, blue eyes widening. My stomach churns, my heart is hammering, and my palms are sweaty.

A friendly grin splits his face.

He opens his arms wide and advances on me.

“Sister!” he thunders. “So, you are the fair one who has finally made conquest of my sweet brother!”

Blessed relief… he truly knows naught. No one has told him… I am safe. Play along, woman. Smile sweetly at him. Call him brother. Welcome his embrace. Kiss his sodding halfelven cheek.

But involuntarily, my foot backs by a step, and he halts.

Díheno-nín. I can be a bit overpowering, my wife always says, but, well, you must understand my excitement—we are family!” He beams brightly.

Oh, you have no idea.

Eärendil’s hand goes to his strong, cleft chin and a speculative look grows on his face. His blue eyes narrow slightly and his blond eyebrows draw together as he gazes into my eyes. My black, black eyes. He looks puzzled. He takes another step forward. I hate my legs for going weak as he towers before me.

“Have we… met before, my sister?”

Oh, no no, of course not, Hîr Eärendil… of course we have never met… born and bred in the Third Age… never been to Beleriand...

To my horror, I hear myself say in an even voice, “We have indeed.” Shut up, fool. Shut up! But inexorably, this voice continues to speak from my lips… “In Gondolin.”

A blond eyebrow lifts in surprise, then his forehead furrows in perplexity. “Hmm… Gondolin?” He looks at me, unenlightened. “I was just a child then… I do not recall… Were you with us as we escaped? I do not recall you among the survivors.”

I gaze steadily into my nephew’s blue eyes, and hear myself say, “I did not escape.”

As he ponders that nugget with a deeper frown, pain hits me. A wall of it. I break out in cold sweat.

As my knees buckle, Eärendil exclaims sharply, “My sister! You are unwell?” And he reaches out. To steady me. I know it is only to steady me. You stupid cow, he knows nothing. He is but trying to help.

“Stay away from me!” I take a step backwards, dazed and bent over with pain. “You know not who I am.”

“Well, no, I do not,” says the peredhel, thoroughly baffled by the antagonism and bizarre behaviour of this strange woman his foster brother has married.

I sway. The world around me swims. Anguirel flying out of my hand… the black blade shrieking in terror as it hurtles into space, spins through the air, and plunges downwards…

And then I feel something burst.

“Oh, sweet Varda! Let me help you.” The son of Tuor takes a step forward and makes to carry me.

“No!! I need no help. Do not touch me!!”

I feel his strong hands on me. Lifting me as though I am a child.

…beneath me, the rocky slopes of Amon Gwareth, and a yawning chasm of flame…


…sky and earth turning, the air screaming past… no, that is me… that is me screaming…

“My sister, you can barely stand!”

…a split-second of clarity and terror as the rocks rush to meet me…

“Let me carry you into the house!”

…then the dark.

I hear the hum of voices. A low, intense murmur of hushed voices.

“Holy Varda, not a midwife within fifty leagues to be had,” mutters Elrohir in the background.

“No midwife. We don’t need a midwife,” says my beloved, firm and calm. “We have Thalanes.”

“Where is she?” says Elladan, somewhere nearby.

“In the healing hall preparing a herbal draught,” replies his father.

I open my eyes slowly. Laurefindel is the first person I see, sitting next to me, on the bed. He turns his head at once and smiles down at me. Behind him and gathered around the bed I see Elrond, Mithrandir, my sons, Elladan and Elrohir. And Eärendil, still with a slightly baffled look on his face. His mother is at his side with an unreadable expression on her face as she stares at me.

You would be ever so relieved, Itarillë, would you not, if I died in childbirth as weak mortals do? Or faded away like Miriel Serindë? Sorry to disappoint you. I am stubborn as stone and strong as iron.

Behind all these, I see a crowd of Imladrim hovering at the doorway.

“Vennoya?” I speak to his mind.

“Yes, vesseya?”

“Get… everyone… out.”

A movement to the left of the bed. I turn my head and see another gleam of gold… a figure standing quietly next to a wardrobe in the corner of the room, arms folded, long golden hair shimmering against his dark blue tunic. Brilliant grey eyes meet mine, and in their depths as they regard me there is nothing but kindness and warmth… and understanding. My law-father smiles luminously at me as I gape at him. He steps forward with a familiar, lithe grace and bows to me. “Mae le’ovannen, Lómiel. Im Finrod Finarfinion. Le suilannon...” His voice, though soft, is resonant and musical.

And in my mind, I hear: “…anelya.” It is gentler and less intrusive than Galadriel would be, leaving behind a warmth like a ray of sunshine.

Then, without waiting for my reply, or for a word from Laurefindel, Finrod quietly begins to herd everyone out, including Itarillë. She looks as though she would protest, but one gentle look from him, and to my astonishment she submits meekly, looking suddenly like the young niece he must have carried over the Helcaraxë on his shoulders. Last of all are my golden twins, who to their own surprise find themselves walking of their own volition out of the room at the rear of the crowd, the arms of their grandfather around their shoulders.

Only Elrond and Mithrandir remain behind with Glorfindel.

“There is nothing wrong with me,” I say, a tad testily, discomfited by their intent gazes. “My water has broken. That is all.”

“Let and Elrond and Olórin examine you, melimë—”

“Mithrandir? What would a maia know about having a baby??” I say indignantly.

“I am from the Gardens of Healing at Lórien, my dear.”

“Hmm… it looks like you are more than halfway dilated already—” murmurs Elrond.

“Well, well, obviously a baby in a hurry—” chuckles the maia.

“I am afraid there is no midwife, but Thalanes will be here shortly,” says Elrond.

“That is fine. Midwives are useless. I have had twins. This is nothing—” Then I suck in my breath as the familiar pain grips me. Lauro reaches for my hand and smiles.

“We need this time alone,” he says to the others. “Please.”

Elrond and Mithrandir nod and smile, and in a moment they have shut the door behind them. My beloved lies down next to me. “You had me frightened for a moment,” he says reproachfully.

“That was your father?”

He grins, the concern in his face replaced with a rapturous glow. “Yes! We spoke for hours whilst you slept… he is awesome…”

“And how did I get back here? What happened just now… with… with Eärendil… did you see?”

“No. But our sons did. All eager to go a-exploring, they were running to the stables when they saw you struggling with a tall stranger who, as they thought, was seeking to abduct you. They did my training proud, Gwendir says. Arman wrested you out of his arms, and Aryo knocked the feet out from under our hapless star, and turned him face down to the ground with his right arm pinned behind his back—”

I cannot help but smile at the thought of my son arm-twisting the mighty slayer of Ancalagon the Black, half a head taller than himself.

“—that was when I arrived. Eärendil was on the ground with Aryo sitting on him, and Arman was nearby holding you. Poor Eärendil was protesting vehemently that he had only been trying to help, and our sons were vilifying him for a cur and a kidnapper.”

I should not, but I laugh.

“The boys should have known better!” exclaims Lauro. “How many blond half-elvens are there on the loose in Aman, after all?”

“They must have been mortified when they realized their error.”

“Oh, yes. They could not apologize enough. I then carried you into the house. We had quite an audience, for, unfortunately, the ruckus by the stables had drawn the attention of everyone who was not stone drunk. Eärendil still has not been told anything, by the way—I have forbidden it. So I brought you here, sang healing for you, and…”

His voice fades away, and his face is haunted as he averts it. And I see it in his mind. My fall from Amon Gwareth…

Witnesses say I struck the rocks three times as I fell. It would have made no difference to me. I was dead on the first.

“But… you have seen this same moment before…” He had held me and brought light and healing to me as I fell in my dreams. I could not understand why it would cause him to unravel now. I see now, in his mind, flashing images of his own fall, though he tries to hide them. The balrog’s deafening howl. The agonizing, searing pain of fire devouring flesh, and the crackle of the flames, the choking smoke… flame and heat and the icy cold of the mountain heights all at once… the memories of his own death, that had not bothered him in over six millennia, suddenly resurrected by mine.

“It was most strange. I do not understand it myself… but this was not as a dream. It was truly as though we had gone back in time and were re-living it. As though I was sucked into you and we both were falling. I could not break free to proceed with the healing.” He shakes his head. “Elrond and my… my atar had to take over… I could not carry on… ”

“Finrod in my mind?” That utterly horrifies me. The thought of Elrond is appalling too.

“No, melimë. My atar would never do that without your consent. And you should know by now that it is not by song nor by osanwë that Elrond heals, but by skill of hand and herbs. My atar tended me, as Elrond tended you… ” I struggle to sit up and he helps me. He embraces me tightly and with a deep kiss banishes all memory of death, then pulls away with a smile but his face full of tender concern again. “Anyway, I feel fine now. Better than before. How about you?” Gazing into the depths of his azure eyes, I see that his father has given him what I could never have. The shadow is gone, that had touched him for a century.

Relieved to see him wholly himself again, I smile. That earlier sense of well-being, of strength and vitality has returned. “I am well. Very well.” Our daughter wiggles and kicks in my womb, impatient to get out, and we both laugh.

“Most assuredly a baby in a hurry,” he says, just as there is a soft knock on the door.

Thalanes enters with cups and a jug of a beverage I remember from the first birth—a warming, soothing, fortifying brew of herbs and honey. The earthy, minty fragrance fills the room as she sets it all down by the bed. “I shall wait upon you in the adjoining chamber, mellyn. Is there aught else you need at present?”

I am the veteran of a twin-birthing. “Naught for a long while more—” I begin to say, but then a spasm seizes me. “Aaaiii… muk!” And I grab my beloved’s hand and crush it.

Five minutes… The interval was barely five minutes…

He smiles at our friend the healer, unperturbed. “I shall call you nearer the end, Thalanes. In about forty hours.”

Laurefindel’s estimate of the time is not too far off. Thirty-nine hours later, as stars glimmer outside the window, a beaming Thalanes places the cleaned, swaddled infant in his arms, and he brings our child to me and places her on my chest. I gaze into her alert, curious silver-grey eyes and kiss damp strands of raven hair on her tiny head.

As Thalanes quietly shuts the door behind her, Laurefindel lies down by me, and gazes dotingly at our daughter. “Artalissë,” he pronounces over her, gently stroking her soft cheek with a finger.

Noble grace. A suitable father-name to honour the father’s paternal line.

I look into her little grey eyes, and the mother-name comes to me, unexpectedly but with conviction. “Mirimë,” I say, and Lauro nods solemnly at me. She-who-is-free…

I gently set her on the bed so she is cocooned between us. We interlace our fingers, and lie contentedly watching her move and feeling her kicks through the swaddling. I yawn and shut my eyes. As I drift away into Irmo’s realm, I hear the hushed voices of our sons from the door.

“Oohhh… she is adorable…”

“So are they. Look—sound asleep, both of them.”

I want to speak to them, to send them even a thought, but every fibre of my being is heavy, so heavy with exhaustion. I feel myself floating away on a cloud, and their voices receding…

“Aryo, she is looking at us!”

“She is too young to see us, Arman.”

“No—I swear to you, she is! See?”

“Holy Varda, you’re right! Aiya, little one… we are your brothers…”

…a shining lake in a vast forest… birdsong and a gentle breeze… Laurefindel takes my hand with a smile, and we walk towards the shore…

He gently wakes me with a kiss. “Vesseya…”

I come to with a start, waking from my beautiful dreams to the reality of my still sore, bruised and now-emptied body. “How long did we sleep?” I murmur, looking around the darkened room lit only by starlight.

“About two hours, I think,” he says, after a glance at the starlit sky visible through the window.

Then, feeling the void, I exclaim sharply, “Where is our baby?!”

“The boys must have carried her out.” He obviously had heard them too.

“I have not even fed her yet!”

“Worry not. They will know to bring her back when she needs it…”

And if they did not, surely there were many others in the house who would know to. We can hear flute and harp, singing and voices and laughter outside the chamber—a great feast is underway. I recall the peace and tranquillity of Lothlórien one hundred and twenty years ago with some regret.

We wash and dress with haste, and I change the cloth for the bleeding and don another of the loose, high-waisted dresses I have worn this past year. Already my body is beginning to reshape and tighten, to restore itself. It might be only another month before I am myself again, for I am not as stretched as I had been with the twins. As we descend the stairs and cross the foyer, the music wraps its beauty around us, hymns of Ulmo and the sea. The sight that unfolds before us as we step into the hall takes our breath away. Lamps of soft gold, white and rose hues glow above us in the high, arched ceiling, and upon the garden terrace. A constant flow of food and drink is circulating on large trays carried through the hall.

And all across the hall, singing and laughing, talking and eating, dancing in intricate circles and patterns, is a gathering of at least three hundred edhil.

However Elrond had tried to keep our arrival quiet, the news must have spread and led a number to abandon the festivities of the Falassë Númëa only to resume them here. I recognize many Imladrim of the late Third Age, but there are many unfamiliar faces as well—those who must have sailed ere I returned to Endórë. Murmurs and a chorus of welcomes and well wishes erupt as the crowd espy us entering the doorway. I scan the gathering anxiously for our daughter, and see Lindir singing with others on a dais, whilst musicians play nearby on harps and flutes. To our left, Erestor is deep in conversation with Elrond, Celeborn and Galadriel… diplomacy and inter-kindred relations in Eldamar, from the snatches I overhear. Out on the terrace, Celebrían is speaking with a dark-haired nís.

Down the centre of the hall runs a long wooden table. At one end of it sits a group playing what looks to be an exceedingly complex card game. The group comprises Eärendil, Elladan and Elrohir, Aryo, a maia smoking a pipe… and two special guests: a Sindarin-Silvan prince who was supposed to have already departed for the mainland, and an ancient dwarf who should have been in the halls of Aulë. They must have returned to Tol Eressëa in anticipation of our arrival.

“Glorfindel! Lómiel!” calls Legolas happily, springing to his feet and throwing down his cards. “Lû veren! Joyous occasion!”

“Joyous indeed!” Lauro replies with a laugh, as we walk arm-in-arm towards them—and then I see our daughter.

To our right, at a far corner of the hall, Finrod and Itarillë turn around at the sound of Laurefindel’s laugh. Next to them is a slender nís with silver-gold hair, rocking my baby in her arms. My baby moves restlessly in her swaddling clothes, pouting and resentful of restraint. Her tiny face is puckering and turning red. And right at that moment, she begins to wail.

I feel her hunger and fretfulness, and have no other thought but to go to her—but suddenly Lauro grabs hold of me, pushes my head down, and quickly pulls me under the table, slipping us past the legs of an astonished pair of peredhel twins with amazing agility.

“What the hell—” I protest in shock and anger, but he lays a finger on my lips and shakes his head.

Ssshhhnot a sound…listen carefully…”

And through the entrance to the hall, above the hubbub of music and chatter in the hall, I hear a deep voice speaking in Quenya:

“—and here they all are—”

My heart skips a beat and I hold my breath.

“—and Artanis here as well! You see? We were abandoned!” says the deep voice, sounding much aggrieved. Lauro and I peer past Elrohir’s legs to see the former King of Gondolin standing in the doorway, still in his deep-blue travel cloak. There, where we had been standing just a moment past. The tall, elegant Vanya next to him, clad in a silver dress covered with a cloak of lilac and turquoise, looks so like Itarillë that even were her hand not laid on Turukáno’s arm, a halfwit might have guessed who she is.

My king. He looks exactly as I remember. Formidable, half a head taller than even Laurefindel—the tallest among the children of Ilúvatar I have ever beheld, never having laid eyes upon Elu Thingol. His chiselled features are at present looking rather offended. That stern, aloof expression had ever held me at a distance even as he conferred honour upon honour on me. I could not save your mother, Lómion. Here, have a princely title. I killed your father, Lómion. Here, have a house and a lordship. For over a century I had stood at his right hand and sat in his most private counsels. “Good,” he would say with a nod. “Excellent. Well done, Lómion.” And his face—and heart—would be stone to me.

And I despised myself for weakness. For pathetically craving the sentimentality of a smile, a hand on my shoulder, even a pat on the back. Things I saw him casually bestow on a golden-haired lord who could occasionally make him laugh. Better to be respected and relied on, I told myself. Better to be the one whose counsel he heeds, not the fool who wins his smile…

I feel all of this come back to me with aching, bitter resentment in the first heartbeat that I gaze at him… then Laurefindel pulls me close, and leans his golden head against mine, and banishes it all with a warm surge of his love, fëa to fëa.

Abruptly, another person ducks under the table to join us, and we look into the face of our firstborn. In the gallery of portraits at Imladris hangs a large painting of the King of Gondolin. Aryo must have recognized him at once. My son’s brow is furrowed. The boys spent years dreaming of meeting Turukáno and his lords, of being introduced by their father, of living in a new Gondolin. And now, the moment has come, and here we are crouching under a wooden trestle, peering at the King of Gondolin through the gaps between Elladan and Elrohir’s legs. Aryo scowls. “I hate this.”

So do I, yonya.

I hate that he needs to hide from the myriad questions his golden head of hair would arouse, to hide from questions about his parentage. I hate that he will always need be ashamed of me, and that he cannot now openly take pride in his father and his father’s lineage. But stronger than all that is my wrenching guilt and fear, the overwhelming need to hide from the king I once served and swore fealty to, the uncle I failed and betrayed and destroyed.

Past Elrohir’s calf, I see Turukáno turn his head to look at the group at the table, and I shrink further back.

The full skirts of a long, white dress suddenly sweep before us and obscure our view of our former king. “Aiya, Turno, Elenwë. How good that you could join us,” says Galadriel.

Bronze-hued robes move forward as well. “Great-grandfather, great-grandmother. Amatúlië… It is a great honour to have you under my roof.”

“Where’s Arman?” my beloved asks our firstborn.

“Went to explore the winecellars,” replies Aryo, looking quite wretched and resentful.

Above the music and noise of the crowd, an angry wail signals our daughter’s hunger and tiredness. Immediately Lauro and I reach out to her to soothe her with loving thoughts. We look out past Gimli’s sturdy legs on the other side of the table and see, through the crowd, Amárië and Finrod slowly making their way past a group of dancers weaving in graceful patterns across the floor. They must be seeking to escape out onto the terrace. The Vanya rocks our daughter in her arms, and I see tiny hands flailing as the wailing continues. Osanwë is not enough for Mirimë—she needs her first milk, she needs our touch. Our attempts at soothing her only make her cries more demanding, more urgent. Anguish stabs my heart.

“She needs to feed. She needs us to hold her, and rock her to sleep.”

“I know, melimë… and such a surfeit of noise and lights and crowd is too much for a little one.”

Next to our hiding place, introductions are underway.

“…Elladan, Elrohir…”

“Noble forefather and foremother, our hearts rejoice to meet you…”

Turukáno has walked so close to the table now, we could reach out and touch him. We might have admired the stylish cut of his boots and the intricate embroidery on his cloak-hem more were we not so anxious not to be discovered.

I half expect Gimli, Legolas and Eärendil to peer under the table, bewildered and curious—and am relieved and surprised that they have not. Obviously, whatever they are thinking or feeling, they are taking their cue from the others—from Galadriel, Elrond, Mithrandir, Celeborn, Erestor and the pereldar twins. The solidarity of our allies and friends touches me.

“…but where is Laurefindel—Glorfindel—did he not sail with you?”

“Revered forefather, Glorfindel sailed with us indeed—”

“—but, ah, urgent matters have called him away. Quite suddenly—”

“—it would have grieved him most deeply to have missed you—”

As they speak, my eyes have been on my daughter again, as her grandparents chart a meandering course through the crowd.

Then it strikes me. Many of the Imladrim surely witnessed our disappearing act, yet all have blithely resumed dancing and singing, eating and drinking, as though naught has happened. And are all stalwartly not looking in our direction.

And that is when I realize they know. The Imladrim all know.


Any outrage I might feel at the magnitude of the perelda’s indiscretion is outweighed by awe at the Imladrim’s sympathy and support.

Lauro’s eyes meet mine. His thoughts match mine exactly.

Over the hauntingly beautiful chorus of a song of the Falmaríni, we hear our baby bawl.

“Poor Alassë…” says Aryo in thought.

We look at our firstborn.

“Alassë? Who is Alassë?”

“We didn’t know what names you had chosen, so… Arman and I gave her an epessë.”

“Alassë” is beyond a doubt the most unjoyful of babies at present.

“…I present Legolas son of Thranduil, and Gimli son of Gloin, of the Company of the Ring,” Elrond is saying.

“There is none in Eldamar who has not heard the tale of your valour and great deeds. I once met your companions, the halfling Ringbearers—” says Turukáno.

A shimmer of silver-blue to our right, as Itarillë quietly glides forward and stands next to her son.

Órenya linda let-cenien, Atto, Ammë—” she says in her light, sweet voice.

Anelya, why did you leave with no word for us?” says Turukáno reproachfully.

“When word of the long-awaited ship reached me, I knew not where you and Ammë were in the crowd, Atto. Forgive me that so eager was I that I rode hence without delay…”

“Why, I hear a baby...” An even lighter voice. Elenwë’s. “Vennoya, look over there—’tis Amárië—and Ingoldo!—with a baby! Amárië! Ingo! Heldor!”

The fair-haired prince and princess are already out on the terrace, but they turn, Amárië starting guiltily. She is remarkably lovely, this other blonde law-mother of mine, and as her face flushes, she looks like a delicate pink rose. Others in their place might have smiled and made pretence of surprise—“Why, fancy seeing you here, heldor! How charming!”—but not this pair. Finrod looks calm and resigned. Amárië looks like a child caught stealing sweets. The wail of our infant grows more strident even as we redouble our efforts to comfort her in thought.

Our baby needs us—” I am growing desperate.

I know.” His love for me and for our daughter contend with each other. He crouches ready to spring.

Amárië and Finrod walk towards us with our baby, even as Turukáno and Elenwë walk towards them flanked by Elrond, Galadriel, Eärendil, Itarillë and the peredhel twins. Our baby cries on.

“She is so hungry.” I cannot bear it much longer.

“I can feel it too.” In a moment, Lauro is going to charge out there. I put my hand on his arm.

“Don’t—you must not.”

“—what a lovely child—” says Turukáno, though the baby’s face is red and crumpled as she squalls. “—fine lungs—”

“—a newborn!—” coos Elenwë.

“—who are the parents?—”

“—a baby is so rare a treasure in these latter days—”

Amárië looks uncertain. Finrod’s gaze is steady. My heart sinks. This pair do not have it in them to lie.

Our baby’s cries have grown heartrending. My breasts have begun to hurt… and to leak.

Mothers have been known to ford floods and face ferocious predators for the sake of their children. Love conquers fear. For my babe, I can brave one uncle and erstwhile King of Gondolin. Damn it all, have I not once spat in Moringotto’s face and told Sauron to sod off? Steely resolve fills me.

“Stay here. I am going in.”

My beloved does not try to stop me. “Go. You can do this, melimë.”

The backs of the two unexpected guests are towards me. I slip out from under the table. I push my way through the crowd unhesitatingly, and Elladan and Elrohir gasp as I pass them.

Ai, Ernilvess Amárië, Ernil Finrod,” I sing out in Sindarin, in a sweet, breathless voice. Turukáno and his wife turn. I see the surprise on Elrond’s face, and the expression of utter shock on Itarillë’s. Amárië’s blue eyes are enormous. Even Galadriel and her brother look stunned. “My deepest thanks, mellyn vuin…” I murmur dulcetly to my law-parents. “Alassë, gwinig-nín… Nana is here…”

I bestow my most winsome smile on all present, giving Turukáno only the most fleeting of glances under my long, dark eyelashes as I move past him, repressing a shiver as my shoulder lightly grazes his arm. My eyes meet Amárië’s guileless azure ones, and she moves forward with a smile like a sunrise, a dimple quivering in her rosy cheek as she gently places the squalling baby in my arms. Almost instantly, the cries stop. My baby whimpers in near-exhaustion and nuzzles me hungrily. I kiss her and cuddle her close. I am almost in tears—so relieved to finally be holding her. “Novaer, noble lords and ladies,” I murmur hurriedly, as I turn and make my way back towards the door. “I must take my leave… she needs must be fed…”

“Blessings most abundant upon this new little life, fair lady,” says Turukáno solemnly in Sindarin, staring intently at me and the baby as I move past him. Behind him, I see Eärendil looking at me strangely. The Star of High Hope witnessed it all, of course—the dive under the table, the concerted efforts of almost all present to pretend Laurefindel and I were never in this hall. He is not completely stupid. He has guessed something. But like his mother, he says naught.

“Joy and blessings,” affirms Elenwë with a gracious smile.

“Le hannon,” I murmur demurely as I move past them…

And at that moment, from my left, whence lie the passages that lead to the kitchens, Arman suddenly bounds into view, calling out to those still seated at the table in Westron as he triumphantly hoists a small cask: “Rejoice, O Gimli! There is mead!”

Then Arman sees Turukáno and almost drops the cask.

Turukáno’s eyebrow lifts. “…Legolas Thranduilion?” And he dubiously eyes the tunic of silver and cornflower blue that the Sindarin-Silvan prince had not been wearing a moment past. And his now-loose, unbraided hair.

I glance at the table, and see Legolas and his braided hair and his Silvan green-and-brown attire suddenly whisked under the table by two pairs of hands. His face impassive, the maia seated next to a very bemused Gimli obscures the trio beneath the table with the folds of his amazingly long, silver robe.

Ai! Legolas! That was a swift change of raiment!” Elrohir is cheerfully saying to a bewildered Arman.

“Did we not say that shade of blue would bring out the colour of your eyes?” adds Elladan.

Arman looks completely stupefied. “I—ah—gi hannon.”

“And that which Legolas holds, Great-grandfather, is a quaint brew of fermented honey beloved to the Fírimar in Endórë. You must try it,” says Elrond smoothly. “Bring us cups!”

As I walk swiftly past the table towards the door, I hear a stifled sound from a Sindarin-Silvan prince, mostly drowned out by a soaring chorus from Lindir and the Imladrim.

Leaving the hall, I glance back to see Turukáno and Elenwë being persuaded by Finrod and Elrond to sample cups of mead. And as Mithrandir, Celeborn, Galadriel and Erestor stand in a wall shoulder-to-shoulder to block them from view, my beloved and my firstborn make a dash to the door, dragging poor Legolas between them.

Legolas sits cross-legged on the couch in our bedchamber, taking it all in, his hair and elven skin shimmering softly in the darkness.

“Bright Elbereth,” he says, shaking his silver-gold head in wonder. “I would never have dreamed… of course, I wondered oft about Arman…” Then he glances at me a little shyly, almost unable to meet my eyes. “Your secret is safe with me, fear not.”

“I know it is safe,” I reply quietly, as I lie on the bed with the baby sleeping on my chest, her tiny tummy filled with the first milk. I gently stroke her back.

How does one react at the news that one they know is a nér reborn as a nís? I think Legolas is still bewildered by the discovery. At the very least, I imagine it would be incentive for him to take care never to meet Námo.

Laurefindel stands at the window, the soft golden glow of his hair illuminating the room as he watches stars travel across the sky. Legolas smiles at Aryo, who is pacing the floor a little restlessly. “So I have cousins! I always wanted siblings, but this is better. I have always loved you and Arman.”

“You have been gwador to Arman and me, Legolas, long ere we ever knew ourselves kin to you. No brother could be dearer to us,” replies Aryo. He stops his pacing. “What are we to do now?” he asks his father. “Hide like rats in this chamber till Turukáno departs?”

“Perhaps not. I am wondering if we need go to the mainland at all. The Imladrim all know… and they are on our side. Perhaps we could stay. And live openly here.” He looks at me. “It went well enough with Turukáno, did it not? Could we not resume the life we had in Imladris? You are my wife, born in Ennor in the Third Age’s last years. Why should we not simply descend that staircase and hide no longer?”

“Truly, none could guess it, looking at you,” Legolas assures me. “Especially if they were to see you thus, holding little Alassë.”

“Mirimë—” “Her name is Mirimë—” Lauro and I say at almost the same time.

“Well, that is very pretty too. ‘Free’—is that what it means?”

“Your Quenya improves.”

“It does, does it not? Mayhap I will even speak it someday.”

Arman slips in the door without knocking and closes it silently behind him. “All that feasting and mead was too much for a two-hundred-and-sixty-one year old dwarf… I have just escorted Gimli back to his room and tucked him into bed. He called me ‘Legolas’ ere he dozed off. He began a grand snoring the moment his head touched the pillow…” His eyes soften as they rest on his tiny sister. “Aww… and Alassë sleeps as well!”

“Mirimë,” Lauro and I chorus.

Atto says that perhaps we could stay here,” Aryo tells his twin.

“I do not know about that… Prince Turgon has been asking about Ammë and Alassë—”

I stiffen. “Mirimë,” I murmur, all the same.

“—I overheard him remarking to Lady Galadriel ‘how like to Írissë’ Ammë and Alassë both look. He wants a chance to meet and speak to you again, Ammë.”

I feel a knot tighten in the pit of my stomach at that, and forget about correcting the name.

“That decides it, then—” says my beloved.

No one believes in knocking. The door opens and Finrod slips in.

The prince surveys us gravely and a little sadly. “I have a ship anchored in the harbour that can take twenty. The Súrirámar,” he says slowly, a little reluctantly. “Turukáno is still set on an interview with… ‘Aduialiel’, as Elrond has named her. It might be better if your family and horses cross the Straits before daybreak. Would you wish to?”

Laurefindel and I exchange a glance, a thought. “Yes,” he says.

“Very well. Elrond will then let it be known that ‘Aduialiel’ of Imladris has departed with her babe and husband for the mainland. The crew of the Súrirámar are all at the Falassë Númëa, but you and I, yonya, can sail it easily. Do you know Dolphin Cove? There is a house on the beach where you can stay. Wait a week for me there, and I will return to lead you by the loneliest paths through the Calacirya.”

After a five millennia away from Aman, Laurefindel knows that is wisest. “That is well, Atar.”

“We can sail too, Haru,” says Arman at once. The twins had grown skilled on the voyage from Endórë.

Finrod looks thoughtful, if a little despondent. “The three of you could certainly handle Súrirámar without me…”

“If we take her, would you have no other ship for your own return to the mainland?” Laurefindel asks.

Finrod smiles. “There are any number of ships that would be happy to carry us over the Straits, yonya. I am being foolish… it is just that we have had so little time. I have barely met all of you, my children, and now we are to part. I feel I have thousands of years to catch up on, and I am impatient to begin… it is naught, I must not be foolish. Shall we depart in an hour? Excellent. Lómiel and Alassë must rest well first.”

My beloved and I look at each other ruefully. Her brothers’ hastily, thoughtlessly chosen name has stuck in the minds of all. And in that moment, we surrender and accept the epessë.

We discuss a descent by a back staircase to a door near the kitchens, and thence to the stables. Legolas will return to the hall, keep an eye on Turukáno, and signal to us from the terrace if it is safe for us to ride forth. An hour down to the harbour, farewell to the prince, then a mere three hours to cross the straits in Finrod’s wind-swift ship…

As Arman and Legolas laughingly swop clothing, Laurefindel and I gaze down at the tiny head of black hair upon my breast, and look at our daughter’s sweetly dreaming silver-grey eyes.

Alassë. It is a good name too, we tell ourselves.

And one which we could only hope would prove true in every way.


Díheno-nín [S] – forgive me [formal]

Mirimë [Q] – “mirima” means “free” in early Quenya, and also sounds very much like “mírima” which means “very precious and lovely”. So great meanings all round!

Lû veren [S] – occasion/time + festive/gay/joyous

Amatúlië [Q] – welcome [plural]

Falmaríni [Q] – mermaids

Alassë [Q] – Joy

Órenya linda let-cenien [Q] – my heart sings to see you both

Heldor [Q] - friends

Ernil [S] – Prince

Ernilvess [S] – Princess / prince’s consort/wife

Gwinig-nín [S] – my baby

Novaer [S] – goodbye/farewell [no+maer = “be good”]

Aduialiel [S] – daughter of twilight – a Sindarin version of Lómiel [because I don’t want to use Lúthien or Arwen’s names]

Súrirámar [Q] – wings of the wind

Haru [Q] - grandfather

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