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Nerwen the Green and the Search for the Entwives

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I am a big fan of JRR Tolkien’s works, the first of them, The Lord of the Rings, I read at 16, and re-read innumerable times. Later came The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, Sons of Húrin, and other ones.

Like all fans passionate about a work, I fantasied thousands times to be part of it, and so I created an alter ego of myself, Nerwen the Green, great friend and colleague to Gandalf the Grey, and also a disciple of the Valië Yavanna Kementári, the Queen of Earth.

With the arrival of the first movie of the cinematographic trilogy The Hobbit I got finally the right inspiration to write a fan fiction narrating Nerwen’s adventures. I tried to stay as much as possible true to the geography and nomenclature of the Tolkienian universe, and also to the plot already established by the Oxfordian Professor – I won’t alter any storyline of his – however, the spirit in which I write it is much more modern and “daring” than Tolkien’s. Therefore, don’t expect his romantic nineteenth-century discretion in the representation of sentimental situations: the characters I describe – mine or borrowed – are definitely more “carnal”, be they Valar, Maiar, Elves, Dwarves of Humans. Therefore, no Valar or Maiar like sexless angels, but instead much more alike to the Olympic or Norse gods, with their passions, virtues and flaws; and no Elves so transcendent to look preternatural, but made of blood and flesh precisely like Dwarves and Humans, immensely wise if you want, but fallible, and amiable or annoying exactly like all other inhabitants of Middle-earth.   

For the experts of the Tolkienian universe, the detailed descriptions I give about backgrounds, environments and characters could sound useless and pedantic, but I want the story to be enjoyable also to those who know little or nothing about the Professor’s works.

The mature rating is indispensable, as I narrate in detail also love situations, exactly like all the other ones, because I think that love – included its physical expression – is the most beautiful thing in the world and therefore there’s no reason to feel ashamed. Anyway, my characters don’t have sex, but make love, or at the most, they have sex with feeling; therefore this kind of scenes can be described, if anything, as erotic, and not at all as pornographic.

Finally, please note that English is not my mother language, so I ask you to be patient with my mistakes and oddities; any correction by English native speakers is very welcome.

Good, now you’ve been warned! XD If you’re still willing to explore the twists and turns of my story, I welcome you. In this case, elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo (*).

 

Lady Angel

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(*) A star shines upon the hour of our encounter. (Quenya tongue, from “The Lord of the Rings”)

 

OOO

 

 

Chapter I: Nerwen’s Garden

 

Nerwen Laiheri, the Lady of the Green, bent over a basil plant and caressed gently its scented leaves.

“Bravo, little brother”, she praised it, “Grow and spread your fragrance everywhere.”

Nerwen’s vast garden was the richest and luxuriant of all Valinor, and often its inhabitants – Valar, Maiar and Eldar – came here looking for plants in order to decorate their parks and to enrich the taste of their food. Thanks to her ability and to the special gift Yavanna Kementári granted her, Nerwen could grow in her garden all the plants of Arda, from the mosses and lichens of the subarctic climates to the succulent plants of the deserts, from the northern conifers to the equatorial palm trees. A profusion of flowers, trees, shrubs, herbs of all genres and types flourished on her wide land, in a cheerful mixture of colours and scents offering joy to the hearts of those who looked at them. Such was the beauty of this place, comparable only to the Gardens of Lórien, that many came here even only to take a stroll and fill their eyes with these incomparable colours and their nostrils with these delicious aromas.

Nerwen was a Maia, one of the lesser Ainur who came into Arda along with the Valar – greater Ainur – at the time of Creation. Since the Beginning of Times, she had been a disciple of Yavanna, the Queen of Earth, the one who gave life to all the plants and animals in Arda. With her, she had travelled far and wide across Arda, curing the wounds Melkor, the Great Enemy, had inflicted, when there was no other light than Varda Elentári’s stars; with her, she participated to the creation of the Two Trees of Valinor, which light had illuminated Aman before Isil and Anar, the Moon and the Sun; with her, she cried upon their destruction by the hand of Melkor Morgoth; and with her, she had seen the arrival of the Shepherds of the Trees, the Onodrim, who in later ages would become known by the name of Ents. For all of this, Nerwen was called Laiheri, the Lady of the Green.

Nerwen

 

With her brown eyes and hair, Nerwen looked very much alike to her Mistress, even if obviously the resemblance with her sister Melian was much more remarkable, except for the eyes that the latter had green. Melian had been far away from Aman for a long time; in Beleriand, across the Great Sea, she had met an Elda, Elwë, later known as Thingol, and for the love of him she stayed there, where together they founded the kingdom of Doriath and where she gave birth to a daughter, Lúthien. Nerwen went often to visit her sister and her family, and spent long periods with them, but she never abided permanently in Endorë, or Middle-earth as it was called by its inhabitants, even if she came to love that land almost as much as Valinor. Then, when Thingol was killed, Melian came back to the Blessed Realm, and she dwelt with her sister since.

Now, innumerable years after these events, Nerwen took care as always of the olvar, the vegetal creatures of the world, and Melian helped her. She said that busying herself with the plants of Aman soothed the sorrow in her heart, deprived of husband and the only daughter, a sorrow that would last for all eternity, and only the abidance in the Blessed Realm made it somehow bearable.

Not far away from where Nerwen was walking, a sweet, sad song arose. It was Melian, singing a lay of Endorë, or Middle-earth; it narrated the story of Lúthien and her human beloved, Beren, who called her Tinúviel, meaning nightingale. Together, the two of them accomplished a task which still was unequalled in Arda’s history: rescue a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown; but Lúthien chose the Fate of Men for the love of Beren and went in a place that no Vala, Maia or Elda could reach, because it was meant only for the Second-Born of Eru Ilúvatar, the Creator. Nonetheless, something of Melian’s daughter had remained in the world: through Dior, hers and Beren’s son, her lineage still walked in Endorë.

Nerwen halted to listen; the lay was very long, and Melian never sang it in its entireness. That day, she was narrating about Lúthien’s goodbye to Doriath in order to follow Beren in the place that would become their dwelling, and where she would give birth to Dior.

A butterfly with iridescent colours approached her, flying about. Observing the movement of its multi-coloured wings, much slower than normal, Nerwen realised immediately it was a messenger.

“Tell me, little sister”, she invited her therefore. And the butterfly spoke to her with her ethereal voice:

Kementári wishes to speak to you, Laiheri. She awaits you in her palace in Valimar, as soon as you can go to her.

“Thank you, little sister”, Nerwen answered, “Now your mission is complete, choose a flower or a plant and rest.”

I’m grateful to you, Laiheri, the wonderful butterfly stated, then went away flying lightly and set down on a flower-filled wisteria.

The Maia went to her sister, who seeing her approaching stopped singing and smiled at her, with a love going beyond their blood bond. Melian had with Nerwen a gratitude debt she was convinced she would never be able to pay back completely. For a short moment, Melian’s memory went back to what happened so much time ago: when Thingol was killed, Nerwen perceived her sister’s immense suffering through the enormous physical distance separating them and begged Nienna to help her go to her. The Lady of Grief, moved by pity, satisfied her request, transferring her magically in an instant to Melian, who was letting herself die out of sorrow. Nerwen offered her the comfort of her love and convinced her to come back to the Blessed Realm, where her affliction could be soothed, even if it would never be cancelled.

Melian

 

Since then, many years had gone by: Númenor was built out of the waters of the Great Sea to be the dwelling of the Edain, the Fathers of Men, as a thanksgiving for having fought along with Eldar and Valar against Morgoth, and then it was sunk because of the arrogance of their descendants, blinded by Sauron’s deceits; Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anárion were able to escape the Fall of Númenor, or Atalantë (*) as this tragic event was later called, with a small number of Elf Friends and a fruit of Nimloth, descendant of the Silver Tree. And then there was the Last Alliance between Eldar and Men, the first ones led by their high king Gil-galad son of Fingon, the second ones by Elendil and his two sons, who together defeated Sauron; Isildur seized the One Ring, infused with all the malefic power of Sauron, but it was lost in the disaster of the Gladden Fields; the realms of Arnor and Gondor, founded by Elendil and held by the descendants of Isildur the first, of Anárion the second, grew and flourished for centuries, but later Arnor fell, was divided in three smaller realms and finally vanished, while Gondor lasted much longer, but then Anárion’s lineage faded. Therefore, in the north no realm existed any longer, but Isildur’s descent continued to exist, while in the south Anárion’s descent was no more, but his realm continued to exist…

Nerwen spoke, and Melian came back to the present time.

“I’ve been summoned by Kementári”, she informed her, “I must go to Valimar.”

“I see”, Melian answered, nodding, “Please pay my respects to her; see you when you’ll come back.”

Nerwen smiled lovingly to her sister, then she nodded her goodbye and headed for their abode; the gardens, located between the Pastures of Yavanna and the Woods of Oromë, were very large and set in the deep south of Aman, so that to go across them one would need two days, but thanks to a Passage Mandos created for her, the house was reachable in a few minutes from every point of the land Nerwen ruled.

The house of the two sisters was actually an underground cavern opening in a hill, partially natural, partially dug. The façade was made of ochre tuff blocks, where the green painted, honed wooden entrance door opened, as well as a number of windows, adorned with flowers. The rooms not facing outward were lit by a kind of phosphorescent lichen, which had the quality to increase or lessen its luminosity according to the house-owners requests, from a faint glimmer just enough to outline a room, to a radiance comparable to full day. The interior was dry, thermally well insulated, so it was cool in summer and warm in winter, therefore it needed only little heating; furthermore, there was an underground hot spring providing warm water galore.

Nerwen reached her dwelling and headed for her room to change, taking off her comfortable gardener clothes – breeches and short tunic without sleeves – to wear a rider outfit – another kind of breeches, shirt and doublet. In a bag, she placed an elegant dress, apt to present herself to Yavanna, accurately folded, with appropriate shoes and a few jewels; then she wrapped some food in a cloth, filled a bottle with water and put them, too, in the bag. Finally, she braided her hair, then she exited and sent out a long, modulated whistle. She was answered by a far away neigh, and a few moments later she heard the gallop of an approaching horse; shortly after, a stunning mare with a shining white coat and blond mane and tail stopped in front of the Maia.

Silmelote

 

“Good morning, Silmelotë”, Nerwen saluted her, “I’ve been summoned to Valimar: do you like to come with me?”

The mare, whose name meant Flower of Starlight, raised her proud head and neighed joyfully her consent. Nerwen laughed:

“You like the idea to gallop around half Aman, don’t you?”, she commented in jest. Silmelotë shook her mane and it looked almost as she was shrugging.

I can’t help it, I like to run, she said in her ethereal voice. Nerwen chuckled amused, then she showed her the harness and the mare, obediently, allowed her bridle and saddle her; finally, the Maia mounted, shouldered her bag and said:

“Let’s go.”

Silmelotë moved on a walk, heading northward; then she went on a light trot that would allow her to travel for long distances without getting tired. Occasionally she would sprint in a gallop, just to indulge in her longing to run, and Nerwen gladly would let her do sp.  

Silmelotë wasn’t just a horse, but a Chargeress. This meant she had the power to use the Passages Mandos created, exactly like Valar and Maiar, a power that had been infused in the race of the Chargers by Mandos himself along with Yavanna at the dawn of times. Among all the kelvar, the animal creatures of Arda, only these ones had this capability. 

The mare arrived at the first Passage about half an hour later; for a moment, the world looked blurred in Nerwen’s eyes, then, when her sight returned clear, the landscape had changed: now they were near the Gardens of Lórien.

The next Passage, which would take them near the Mansions of Aulë, was farther, a little less than one hour, and the one after that about double so. In whole, they got through four Passages, needing less than a day’s journey to travel a distance which otherwise would require six days on a normal mount.

 

OOO

 

(*) Notice the surprisingly similarity with the word Atlantis… I don’t think the Professor did it accidentally :-)

 

OOO

 

Author’s corner:

 

Welcome to my version of the Tolkienverse! :-)

If, despite my warnings, you have made it to the end of this chapter, I thank you warmly! And I very much hope it intrigued you enough to go on with the reading.

I hope, too, that you will be so kind and generous to take some minutes to leave me a comment, even only a few words, just to encourage me, or to make some constructive criticism or to correct mistakes of any kind: my knowledge of Tolkien’s world and of the English tongue may be good, but is far from perfect.

The image of Melian is by Inveleth.

 

Lady Angel

 

 

 

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Chapter II: Yavanna’s Task

 

Nerwen and Silmelotë reached Valimar in the late afternoon; while Anar’s chariot was descending toward the West, the Lady of the Green and her Chargeress entered the marvellous city of the Valar, located at the feet of the north-western Pelóri. The streets were crowded with blond Vanyar, the Fair Eldar, those who were the first to arrive in the Blessed Realm coming from Endorë, during the First Age of the world. Much less instead were the brown Noldor, who usually lived in the splendid city of Tilion on the green hill of Túna, at the entrance of the Cleft of Light, the only passage through the Pelóri, right in front of the Great Sea. Very few were finally the black-haired Teleri, great mariners, who dwelled in the enchanting Alqualondë – the Swan-haven – on the seashore. Some pedestrians recognised her and greeted her cheerfully, and Nerwen reciprocated them smiling, but didn’t stop, heading without delay for Yavanna’s town abode.

The beautiful palace in white marble, surrounded by an opulent garden, was exactly as she remembered it; Nerwen didn’t even have the time to dismount her horse in front of the gate of pale wood, and it opened, as proof of the fact she was awaited.

“Good evening and welcome, Laiheri”, the butler – an Elda with the typical dark hair of the Noldor – saluted her with a bow.

“Thank you, Varnon, and good evening to you”, she reciprocated him, getting off the saddle; she trusted Silmelotë’s bridle to the groom who had come rushing, a young Vanya Nerwen didn’t know, “She’s a Chargeress”, she warned him therefore, so he would use the appropriate way with this kind of mount, which wasn’t an ordinary horse.

“I see…”, the stable hand murmured with an admired gaze, reaching out his hand to caress Silmelotë’s silky face, being careful in going near to her slowly and openly. Nerwen realised that, even if young, the groom knew his job, and indeed the mare didn’t pull back and, on the contrary, showed appreciation for the Elda’s homage. After taking leave from her friend, Silmelotë let him take her away.  

“Come, Lady”, Varnon exhorted her, “We have a room prepared for you. Kementári will receive you as soon as you’re freshened up.”

“Thank Kementári for me”, Nerwen said, entering the sun-lit hall, “I’ll try to be quick.”

Less than half an hour later, wearing her elegant dress in green and white silk, Nerwen exited the room she had been given and found Varnon waiting for her; the butler escorted her and made an announcement before introducing her in Yavanna’s private parlour.

Yavanna

 

The Valië was sitting on a comfortable armchair, upholstered in silk damasked with a floral motif; she smiled at Nerwen when she entered and stood up to welcome her. The Maia took three steps, then made a low curtsy to pay homage to the Queen of Earth, but the latter approached her and, as soon as Nerwen rose from the bow, hugged her affectionately. Being much taller than Nerwen, whose height was unusually short for a Maia, she had to bend down a little.

“Welcome, my dear”, she greeted her with her sweet contralto voice. Nerwen responded to her smile with the same affection.

“Thank you, my Lady Kementári”, she answered. Yavanna shook her hand nonchalantly:

“We’re not sitting at council in the Ring of Doom”, she said, “Between us, formalities matter only there.”

It was true: even if Nerwen was a Maia and Yavanna a Valië, the two of them were much more than simply mistress and disciple. Companions since the very remote age of the Music of the Ainur, together they had passed through many vicissitudes in the constant fight against Morgoth and his terrible devastations, together they had suffered the pain for the wounds he inflicted to kelvar and olvar, together they had mourned for the destruction of the Two Trees, and together they rejoiced in the coming of the Firstborn and the Second-born, of Aulë’s Dwarves, of Yavanna’s Onodrim and Manwë’s Eagles. If Nerwen and Melian had been created as sisters, Nerwen and Yavanna had chosen each other as sisters. Therefore, when they were not forced by the solemnity of peculiar moments, as a great council in the Ring of Doom could be, generally they preferred to avoid addressing each other with the official titles due to them.

So, Nerwen smiled and nodded to Yavanna, who signalled her to take a seat on the armchair opposite to hers. On the small table of carved wood between them there was a silver tray with two goblets, also in silver, and a crystal carafe filled with a golden liquid.

“Sweet cider”, the Valië revealed, winking slightly. Nerwen chuckled: it was her favourite beverage, and her Mistress knew it well.

They took their goblets, already filled, and drank to each other’s health.

“What is the reason of your summons, Yavanna?”, the Maia asked, curious.

Yavanna set down her glass and her gaze became solemn.

“You know the present situation in Endorë”, she began, stating it not as a question, but as a plain fact. Nerwen nodded to confirm: they had spoken about it very often, long and thoroughly, ever since it had been decided to send there five disguised Maiar, at the beginning of the second millennium of the Third Age, in order to fight Sauron’s power which was growing again, and try to unite all those who had the willpower needed to resist him; but it was forbidden to them opposing to Sauron their own power, or trying to dominate Elves and Men by force or fear. Among these five Maiar, there was also a good friend of Nerwen, Olórin. What Yavanna disliked, and Nerwen agreed with her, was that the plans, both of the Valar who made the decision and of the Maiar who had accepted the task, did not include the Onodrim, the Shepherds of the Trees created on Yavanna’s request; ancient, wise and powerful beings, the Onodrim since forever lived very isolated and therefore had ended up being almost forgotten by everybody in Endorë, but of course not by their contriver and her follower. At the time, Yavanna insisted that, among the emissaries, there should be also Aiwendil, who like Nerwen was a follower of hers, but she wasn’t satisfied owithf his doings.

“I don’t like it, not at all”, Nerwen answered Yavanna’s comment, “Sauron’s power grows with each cycle of Anar, and it doesn’t seem to me that the Istari have been able to do much to unite his opponents.”

She said it in a bitter tone: of two of them, who went to the wild lands in the East, they lost trace almost immediately; of the other three, Aiwendil stayed on his own, more interested in the life of animals, birds in particular, instead of that of the beings on two legs who dwelt in the world, while the last two had very different conducts, the most powerful shut in a tower to study the Enemy, the other, who was Nerwen’s old friend, perennially wandering around the world.

“I think time has arrived to do something”, Yavanna said, “If Eldar and Men don’t achieve anything, the Onodrim will take care of it.”

“For many years they seem to have vanished from Middle-earth”, Nerwen objected, “Could they become extinct?”

“Should it be, I would know. No, they live still, my friend, even if very dwindled in number and well hidden.”

“They’ve never liked to meddle in the doings of the other inhabitants of Endorë”, Nerwen observed doubtfully, “How can we succeed in making them change their minds?”

“That’s exactly the mission I was thinking to trust you with”, the Valië answered, looking her in the eyes. The Maia raised her eyebrows.

“Me?”, she cried, surprised.

“I know no better qualified person”, Yavanna confirmed with a slight smile. And it was true: except herself, who had conceived them, it was Nerwen Laiheri the one who knew the Onodrim the best and could understand them. Not even Aiwendil, more interested in animals than in plants, was able to.

Yavanna sobered again:

“If you accept the mission, you must understand that, differently than from the other Istari, you won’t be incarnated in a human body; you won’t therefore be subject to malady nor to ageing; nor your memory of Aman will be dimmed, or your Second Sight taken away. However, the quality of Endorë will influence you; you won’t be able to preserve all your Ainurin powers and you’ll therefore be diminished, and you’ll feel tiredness and pain, both physically and spiritually; and you can be wounded, even if not killed. You are not allowed to reveal yourself to anyone, except those I’ll tell you, in your Ainurin majesty; and, like the other Istari, you’re not allowed to rule the inhabitants of Endorë by your power, or dominate them by force or fear. This goes for both for the two-legged creatures such as Eldar, Men, Halflings and Dwarves, and for kelvar and olvar.”

Nerwen nodded to show she had understood.

“Be aware that Endorë will influence you also in another way”, Yavanna went on, “Not possessing all your capacities anymore, you’ll be exposed to sudden and violent sentiments and emotions. This means you’ll love, hate, rejoice, get scared with much more force and immediacy, and you’ll need to learn to handle it.”

Again, Nerwen nodded: during her sojourns in Beleriand, when she went visiting her sister Melian and her family, it didn’t happen, but then she was a full Aini, not diminished like she would be now. Not knowing exactly what it meant, she was slightly worried; but she didn’t let herself be intimidated, because if her friend Olórin had been able to do it, she could well do it, too. Yavanna, too, was sure of it, or else she wouldn’t propose her this mission.

“And what do the other Valar think about it?”, she enquired.

“I spoke to Manwë”, Yavanna answered, “He gave me his approval. He thought it unnecessary to call at council all the others.”

This news struck Nerwen deeply: that the First among the Valar had decided on his own, without asking the opinion of his equals, gave her the full measure of the importance he recognised to the task Yavanna wanted to trust her with.

The Maia put down her glass and joined her hands on her lap, showing an expression of deep concentration. She was silent for a long while, and Yavanna didn’t disturb her thoughts.

Finally, Nerwen lifted her gaze again to her Mistress. In her eyes, the Valië glimpsed a quiet, but very firm decision.

“I accept the mission, Kementári”, the Maia declared in a formal way, “I’ll leave tomorrow.”

Yavanna smiled warmly.    

“I had no doubt, my friend”, she asserted, “In Alqualondë a ship is waiting for you, she will take you to Cìrdan at Mithlond. I asked Ulmo to convey him news of your arrival”, she concluded, “He told me he would send Uinen. Let’s make a toast!”, she suggested at this point, taking again her goblet of cider and raising it to Nerwen, “To the success of your mission in Endorë.”

The Maia did the same and they drank.

“How will we communicate?”, Nerwen asked at this point.

“Mentally”, Yavanna answered her, “Tomorrow, before you leave, we’ll create the telepathic bond. Because of the enormous distance that will separate us, it will cost you a great amount of energy each time you’ll use it, so I recommend you not to make use of it if not for really important matters, and always in safe places, because after the procedure you’ll be exhausted.”

“Understood”, the Maia said, “I ask you the favour to take news of me to Melian, when I’ll contact you from Endorë, just to tell her I’m fine and reassure her.”

“Of course, I’ll do it gladly.”

“I thank you, Yavanna.”

They took another sip in a comfortable silence.

“Don’t spend the night alone”, the Valië suggested her, “You’ll be away from Aman for a long time, and surely you’ll have to spend long periods in solitude.”

“Yes, you’re right…”, Nerwen mused, “If Calion is in town, I could send for him.”

“He’ll be happy to see you, and above all to give you an adequate goodbye”, Yavanna smiled, “I guessed you’d like to see him, so I already enquired on where he was, and I confirm you he’s here in Valimar. I’ll send for him to tell him you’re here and that you invite him for dinner. I’ll issue instructions so that you can dine in your room.”

The Maia smiled gratefully at her Mistress.

“You know me better than myself”, she commented, smiling. Yavanna reciprocated her smile.

 

OOO

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Now the fundamental plot of my story has been roughed out: Nerwen’s mission in Middle-earth, searching for the Ents, who will take her to the search for the Entwives… I hope it intrigues you! :-) It intrigued ME since I read the tale Treebeard makes of it to Merry and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, and I always thought it was too bad that Tolkien never let know exactly what fate occurred to the Entwives. So I thought Nerwen had to solve the mystery – and who better than her, who is the Lady of the Green? :-) Of course, during her search she’ll have many adventures and meet many characters, already known such as Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin Oakenshield, Elrond, Galadriel and Treebeard himself, but also brand new characters, born out of my vivid imagination.

The image of Yavanna is by  Lady Elleth.

I thank you heartedly if you’ll leave me a couple of words of comment!

 

Lady Angel

 

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Chapter III: Love Encounter

 

Awaiting Calion’s arrival, Nerwen went out in the garden. Even if it was located in the middle of a town, the trees were crowded with multi-coloured birds, which the Maia addressed:

“Little brothers, is there among you someone willing to take a message to my sister Melian?”

A few moments later, an agile kestrel flew toward her, and perched on a low branch. The small bird of prey stared at Nerwen with a proud gaze and talked to her:

I volunteer, Laiheri.

“Thank you, winged brother”, said the Maia gratefully; she loved birds of prey very much. She gave him the message: My beloved sister, Kementári entrusted me with a mission of great importance, which will keep me away from home for a very long time. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to communicate with you, but from time to time Kementári will send you news of me. Please, take care of the garden for me. With all my love, Nerwen.

The kestrel confirmed he had understood, bid her his goodbye and took off in the sky that was now darkening into dusk.

At this point, Nerwen headed for the library to refresh her memory regarding history and geography of Endorë. After all, innumerable years had passed since she regularly went to visit Melian, Thingol and Lúthien in Doriath, and those lands had changed greatly ever since, some of them actually even didn’t exist anymore.

About one hour later, Varnon stuck his head in:

“Lord Calion has arrived, Laiheri.”

“Thank you, Varnon, let him in.”

“Very well. I’ll see to your dinner being brought in your room, Lady”, the butler said, taking his leave with a bow.

A few moments later, on the threshold appeared a tall Vanya with light-green eyes. Nerwen got up and approached him extending her arms to him:

“Calion!”

Calion

 

The blond Elda smiled and hugged her:

“My dearest Nerwen…”, he murmured, before kissing her. As usual, it began sweetly, lips brushing lips, and ended passionately, tongues interlacing in a sensual and exiting dance.

“It’s good to see you again”, Calion said, his breath slightly accelerated, placing another kiss on her lips.

“Same here”, Nerwen answered frankly. She never missed to meet him, each time she came to Valimar; and sometimes he came to visit her in her lands in the south of Aman. They had been lovers for a great number of years now, but none of them wanted to formalise their relationship, aware that, despite of the attraction bonding them, they were not destined to form a couple. This capability – to know for certain you have met your other half – was shared by Valar, Maiar and Eldar; sometimes the recognition took a little time, but it never failed.

“How long will you stay in town?”, Calion enquired. The previous time they were together for a week and he hoped that this time it would be longer.

“Only this night”, she answered instead, to his great disappointment, “I must leave for a long journey.”

She didn’t say where she would go or why: so far, the Istari’s mission had remained a secret known only by the Valar, the five directly involved Maiar, and a very small number of others. And now she, too, had become, in all ways, an Istar.

Something told Calion that, because of this journey, he would lose her. Not because she would die – the Ainur, differently form the Eldar, couldn’t be killed – or because she would never return in Aman, but because she wouldn’t be the same person. Instinctively, he tightened his grip around her.

“Therefore we have only a few hours”, he said in a hoarse whisper, due not to the violent desire that had suddenly risen in him after this premonition, but to the sadness coming from that same premonition.

Against her belly, Nerwen felt the evidence of his desire and was flattered, but at the same time perplexed. There was in him a kind of… despair… that unsettled her.

“What is it, Calion?”, she asked under her breath. The Vanya hesitated before answering: after all, what could he tell her? That he had the feeling this would be their last love encounter?

“I’m sorry you’ll stay away for so long”, he finally decided to say, and anyway it was completely true, “I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too”, the Maia – the Istar – stated sincerely.

They withdrew from their embrace and, hand in hand, went upstairs, heading for Nerwen’s room. There, they found the small table set for two and a trolley with their dinner.

“I’m not hungry for food, now”, Calion said in a low voice, looking at her. She reciprocated his intense gaze and felt her most intimate part quivering.

“Nor do I, actually…”, she whispered.

She let herself go against Calion’s solid body, enjoying deeply the warmth of this contact, acutely aware that it could be the last time. The mission awaiting her in Endorë involved great perils, and even if she wouldn’t die, the fate – which not even the Ainur had the capability to change – could force her never to return in the Undying Lands.

She lifted her face, and Calion kissed her again passionately; Nerwen felt all her thoughts fly away like a flock of swallows, and responded to his kiss with the same fervour.

Calion started to unfasten her dress on the back, slowly at the beginning, then with more and more impatience, almost with urgency. The gown fell around her ankles in a heap of green and white silk; then Calion laid his hands around her waist, raising them slowly along her torso to cup her full breasts. Through the transparent muslin of her petticoat, he felt her stiff nipples. He caressed them with his thumbs, and Nerwen exhaled a sigh of pleasure.

Calion was still too dressed for her liking: after a few moments, Nerwen pulled away and fumbled with the buckle of his belt, unclasping it quickly and throwing it on the floor. Accepting her silent invitation, Calion gently pushed away her hands just the time needed to get rid of his doublet and shirt; the sight of his muscular chest, covered with thin golden hair, caused a great wave of heat in Nerwen’s body. Chewing at her lower lip, she pulled at the knot closing the wide neck of her petticoat, loosed it and had it slipping down her shoulders; the light garment fell in a heap over her dress. Then she embraced Calion, pressing her breasts against his chest. A sigh full of longing escaped them both.

Calion kissed her, deeply, intensely, caressing her back under the cascade of her silken brown hair. He felt her tremble under his gentle and at the same time exiting touch; then he lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bed, where he eased her down and laid at her side. He placed his mouth on her neck, where it arched toward the shoulder, and then he moved downward, tracing a wake of tender kisses on her smooth skin, until he reached a nipple; he took it between his lips, nibbling and sucking at the hard bud. Nerwen gasped, feeling pleasure expanding quickly from that point until it reached the burning centre of her femininity. She placed her hands on his head, plunging her fingers in his long blond hair, pressing him against her breasts. Calion answered by sucking harder and began to fondle the other nipple between thumb and forefinger.   

“Oh! Calion…”, Nerwen murmured in an ecstatic tone. He lapped at her nipple one last time, then he continued his journey down her beautiful body, towards the triangle of dark curls at the junction of her thighs. Already knowing what he was about to do, Nerwen let his head go, feeling her internal walls contracting at the thought of what would follow in a few moments.

Calion took his time, descending slowly, relishing each kiss. Nerwen’s skin was soft and smooth like rose petals; it smelled like a forest in autumn and aromatic honey. Then he reached her feminine treasure.

Nerwen uttered an muffled cry; she grasped spasmodically the damask silken bedcover, throwing back her head and shivering in pleasure. Calion savoured her intimately, a rich and sweet taste, with a slight zesty flavour. He heard her moan, and decided impulsively to pleasure her this way, before looking for his own fulfilment.

“Ah…”, Nerwen panted, feeling pleasure growing inside of her, sending sparks up and down every fibre of her body. Her breath became more and more erratic. She tensed in the prelude of completion, which a moment later shook her womb in powerful spasms of pure elation, eliciting a piercing, ecstatic cry out of her.

After this, she remained on her back, her breath laboured, a veil of perspiration on her skin. Calion pulled back and looked at her, delighted by the sight of her, stunning in her nudity.

Nerwen finally half-opened her eyes and noticed his gaze, amused and adoring at the same time. She curved her lips in a naughty smile:

“You really know how to treat me well”, she chuckled, “How can I repay you?”

Calion uttered a low, throaty laugh that Nerwen found extremely exciting.

“I can think of a couple of things”, the Elda replied, climbing slowly over her, a hand travelling up her body in a rousing caress, from her thigh up to the curve of her hip and to the tender roundness of her breasts, “One is this.”

He bent down and placed his lips on hers, exploring the velvety recesses of her mouth, initially sweetly, then with a kind of urgency that recalled the despair Nerwen had felt earlier in him; the Maia realised that Calion, too, felt that this could be their last encounter.

“Let me touch you”, Calion whispered on her lips; he began to caress the soft curves of her body, slowly, as wanting to impress them in his mind, indelibly, inch by inch. He brushed skilfully every sensitive place in this body he knew so well, until she gasped and moaned desperately in renewed desire, again ready for him. Then he entered inside of her, slowly, relishing each millimetre of her hot feminine depths; she arched under him, welcoming him. Calion felt her warmth wrap him; rivulets of pleasure ran down his backbone.

“I feel you… oh Nerwen…”, he sighed, “…so right…”

He moved, back and forth, while the rivulets became torrents, rivers. She dug her fingertips in the muscles of his back.

“Calion…”, she whispered hoarsely.

He grasped her hips and thrust, increasing suddenly the swiftness of his movements. He wanted to get lost in her, he wanted to fuse together with her forever.

Nerwen wrapped her legs around his waist, so that he could sink even deeper into her; in a matter of a few moments, the long familiarity of their bodies allowed them to move in perfect synchrony. 

After only a few minutes, Calion felt Nerwen’s internal muscles begin to convulse and heard her breath becoming more and more laboured; he realised she was again near the apex. He was, too, but he restrained himself, longing to watch Nerwen’s face transfixed with pleasure. When she screamed his name, shuddering in the spasms of climax, Calion was swamped away by such a piercing pleasure, his sight was dimmed. He collapsed above her, breathless.

“By all the stars of the firmament…”, he panted, “It has never been like this…”

Nerwen’s eyes were full of tears.

“Never. Never.”

It was true: it had never been so intense between them. Physically, yes, but not spiritually. Perhaps they were not compatible as partners for eternity, but surely their long familiarity, the friendship, the affection between them, had created a bond of undeniable importance. The thought that mayhap she wouldn’t see him anymore hurt her at least as much as the thought not to see Melian again, even if obviously in a different way.

 

OOO

 

Later they had their dinner, and then they went to bed again. That night they made love several more times, sleeping intermittently, not caring about the lack of sleep that the day after would circle their eyes with a dark shadow.

 

OOO

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Well, you had here a taste of the carnality about which I warned you: neither Ainur seen as angels, nor Eldar seen as more spiritual than physical beings :-D

And you could get an idea about what I meant with detailed descriptions of love situations: sexy, but not smutty. Or so I intend them, and from many quarters they tell me I am able to render them exactly so. Please tell me your opinion about it! Thanks. 

Calion's performer is Chris Hemsworth.

 

Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter IV: Departure for Middle-earth

 

The morning after, they awoke and found the sun already high in the sky. They had their breakfast together, in Nerwen’s bedchamber, and then Calion took his leave with a last, long kiss.

When the Vanya left Yavanna’s palace, his face was sad; he had always known that their association would end eventually, even if he didn’t expect it this way. He thought that, one day, the one or the other would find his or her soul mate and would end their relationship. Nerwen going only the Valar knew where embittered him. He would have much more preferred she found her spouse: even if he didn’t love her that way, he felt true affection for her and wished her sincerely to be happy.

Then a thought struck him: perhaps Nerwen would find her life partner during this same journey.

That thought, somehow, comforted him and his sadness was soothed, even if it wouldn’t disappear completely for a long time.

 

OOO

 

Unseen, Nerwen watched Calion leaving the palace; she, too, felt his same sadness for the long separation awaiting them, which would perhaps last forever. Her Second Sight – the ability of her race to peep at flashes in the future – wasn’t of any use, in this moment, because it didn’t show up by command, and therefore she had no possibility to glimpse at something whenever she wished. Usually it arrived in the most unexpected, sometimes even inopportune, moments, without warning; and often what she peeped at was so enigmatic that it was of no use until it happened. This was anyway for the best, otherwise a too precise knowledge of the future would influence her and those who surrounded her in a way that could be dangerous or harmful; but in this moment, Nerwen wished like never before to be able to see through the veil.

 

OOO

 

Later, the Istar went to Yavanna to take her leave. She was about to make a curtsey in front of the Valië, but the latter hugged her.

“Each and every olvar and kelvar in Endorë, unless fallen under the Shadow, will be your ally and supporter”, whispered Yavanna, “And you’ll have the friendship and respect of the Dwarves opposing Sauron, because you’re a follower of Kementári, spouse of Aulë, whom they call Mahal. In this regard, I bring you a gift from my husband: the knowledge of Khuzdul, their language.”

Yavanna took Nerwen’s head in her hands; the Istar closed her eyes and felt a great, agreeable warmth somewhere inside her skull, where her Mistress was transferring the knowledge of that language directly in her mind, sending it to join the many others she already knew.

“And now I’ll create the telepathic bond between our minds”, Yavanna went on, continuing to keep her fingers on her temples, “so we’ll be able to communicate across the incommensurable space separating us.”

Again, the sensation of pleasurable warmth in her brain, this time in a different area. Behind the black screen of her eyelids, Nerwen saw the image of a small door. She was wondering about it, when she heard a knock, so she imagined opening it, and in front of her there was Yavanna, smiling.

You will perceive this way a possible contact request of mine, the Valië explained, and in the same way, I will perceive one of yours.

I see, Nerwen thought in answer.

Yavanna drew away from her disciple, both mentally and physically, and looked in her eyes. Her attitude changed subtly, going from friendly to solemn.

“Now you are ready to leave, Laiheri”, she said, “An arduous task awaits you, but you have all the capabilities to carry it out.”

“I thank you, my Lady Kementári”, Nerwen answered with the same solemnity, “In this mission I will put all my heart, mind and soul”, she concluded, using the traditional formula.

“One last thing”, said Yavanna gravely, “I have been authorized to reveal to you who the Keepers of the Three Elven Rings are, so that you’ll be able to collaborate with them. You have the advantage that you already know them all, so they will have no reason to distrust you. Thanks to the power of their Rings, they will recognise your true nature: only they will be aware of it, besides the other Istari.”

Nerwen took a deep breath, struck: the identity of these three persons was a secret known only by the Valar, the Istari – which she was now part of – and the Keepers themselves. Again, the awareness of the enormous importance of the mission she had been entrusted with struck her. However, it didn’t overwhelm her: as Yavanna had just stated, she was capable to bear its weight.

“Narya, the Ring of Fire, was entrusted to Círdan, Lord of the Grey Havens”, the Valië told her, “but he gave it to your friend Olórin, who in Endorë is known with the name of Mithrandir, and also Gandalf the Grey. Nenya, the Ring of Water, is in Galadriel’s keeping in Lothlórien; and finally Vilya, the Ring of Air, is kept at Imladris by Elrond, the descendant of your sister Melian.”

“I’m in very good terms with all of them”, Nerwen mused, glad of it, “As you said, this is to the advantage of collaboration.”

Yavanna nodded, then kissed her brow.

“Leave accompanied by my personal blessing”, she said, “May the road rise to meet you.”

Nerwen bowed her head, accepting the blessing, then she turned and exited. She headed for the stables, where she found Silmelotë already saddled and ready to leave.

“We go to Alqualondë”, she announced her, caressing the silken muzzle of the Chargeress, “And then we’ll cross Belegaer and go to Endorë. I’m afraid we’ll be away from Aman for a long, long time.”

Silmelotë snorted and shook her head.

I’ll miss my land, she told to her, but the important thing is, we’re together, my friend.

Nerwen tapped her on the neck to show her gratitude, then she mounted; she nodded a goodbye to the young groom she met the day before, who had taken care of the Chargeress, then left Yavanna’s palace and exited Valimar from the southern gate, this time toward the Calacirya, the Cleft of Light. She still remembered the time when the light of the Two Trees shone through it toward the dwellings of the Teleri on the sea; but in this occasion, she wouldn’t pass through the deep gorge in the Pelóri, because a nearby Passage brought directly to the Swan-haven, otherwise a journey of over one day far.

Two hours later, the Maia was trotting over the paved streets of the main town of the Teleri on the shores of Belegaer. When she arrived at the haven, she headed for the harbourmaster, where Tasarion the Ship Marshal, a Teler with a long black mane braided in the way mariners used to, welcomed her.

“I was waiting for you, Laiheri”, he told her, bowing and addressing her formally, “By order of Yavanna, we have prepared a ship for you, the Telpewinga. (*) She’s in command of captain Soronwen, the best sailoress I know.”

What a beautiful name for a ship, Nerwen thought.

“Thank you, Marshal Tasarion. I will go immediately on board; I would like to leave as soon as possible.”

“Sure. I accompany you.”

Shortly after, guiding Silmelotë by the bridles, Nerwen was getting on the white ship, a small twin-masted, slender vessel. Seeing Tasarion with her, the sailor on watch sent immediately for the captain, who arrived just a few minutes later.

“Welcome on board of the Telpewinga”, the Teler greeted Nerwen with a bow, like earlier the harbourmaster, “We have a cabin prepared for you, and a shelter for you mount. We’re ready to sail anytime, as soon as the tide will be favourable.”

“Very well, captain”, Nerwen said, entrusting the bridles of the mare to a mariner who had stepped forward, “Go with him, my good friend”, she exhorted her, “He will take you to your shelter.”

Silmelotë didn’t protest, her ears down and a lost attitude: she had never been aboard a ship and didn’t appreciate it much. She addressed a gaze to her friend, looking for reassurance, and having received a smile and a caress, she quietly let the sailor take her away.

“Superb animal”, said Soronwen, admired, “A Chargeress, right?”

“Exactly”, Nerwen confirmed, “When she’ll be settled, I’ll go down to visit her, she’s not comfortable.”

“No horse is, when it goes aboard a ship for the first time”, the captain said, nodding sympathetically, “but once she’ll get used to the movement of the waves, she shouldn’t have any problems.”

“Thank you for accompanying me, Marshal”, the Maia said, turning to Tasarion, “May the stars shine upon your path”, she bid him farewell, with her typical parting formula.

“May the Valar accompany you, Laiheri”, the tall Teler took his leave, bowing again, “And you and your crew, too, captain Soronwen”, he added with a nod.

Taking Nerwen to her cabin, Soronwen commented in a casual way:

“It’s been a long time since any ship set sail for Endorë: I had a hard time to find the required navigational charts…”

Clearly, the reason of her journey intrigued her, but she had not the gall to ask directly explanations to someone who was evidently undertaking a mission on behalf of a Valië. Nor Nerwen intended to give her any of it; however, it was useless to deny that there was a very important reason.

“I see”, she nodded therefore, “Luckily you found them: mine is not a pleasure trip like in the ancient times, when I went to visit my sister Melian in Doriath. Your ability in sailing will be a contribution, maybe small but important, to the task I am going to face, and for this I am grateful to you.”

Soronwen bowed her head accepting her appreciation; she didn’t investigate any longer, realising it was a classified matter.

 

OOO

 

They set sail at noon; they coasted Tol Eressëa, the great island in front of the Bay of Eldamar, and the day after they passed the chain of the Enchanted Isles, which no mortal could cross if not by special leave of the Valar.

ship

 

The journey continued with no trouble for several days, until in a certain place, in the middle of Belegaer, they abandoned the Straight Road to venture into the Rounded World, location of Endorë and once also of Aman, before Arda was changed.

 

OOO

 

Many days passed, and finally they arrived to the point where they could see the shores of Endorë. Soronwen’s ability in sailing was so great, they arrived directly in the Gulf of Lune, at the bottom of which the Grey Havens stood, dwelling of Cìrdan, called the Shipwright, who had welcomed all the Istari when, one or two at a time, they had arrived on the Hither Shore, so many years ago.

It was Mid-Year’s Day (**) of the year 2940 of the Third Age, according to the reckoning of Middle-earth.

 

 

(*) Quenya for Silver Spray

(**) First Lithe, Mid-Year’s Day and Second Lithe are three consecutive days that don’t belong to any month, set between June and July.

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

With this chapter, the introductive part of this fan fiction has ended: Nerwen’s mission is about to begin. Many adventures await her, unexpected meetings, strong emotions, dangers, joys and losses; she will renew old friendships and acquaintances, meet new friends, and face old and new enemies…

Did I intrigue you? I hope so! XD

I hope that after reading you’ll be so kind to leave me a comment, even just a few words of encouragement; also the highlight of oversights and mistakes is welcome, and the constructive criticism is good, too. Thank you in advance!

 

Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

 

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Chapter V: At the Court of Círdan the Shipwright

 

Nerwen took her leave from captain Soronwen and her crew, thanking them all, and then led Silmelotë by the bridle along the gangway of the Telpewinga to the grey stone jetty, where a tall Teler was waiting for her, his long silvery mane indicating him as belonging to the royal descent of this tribe; unlike the Eldar’s habit, he sported a long beard giving him a very unusual old look; but the lively spark in his bright eyes contradicted the elderly appearance. Nerwen recognized him immediately, even if a long time had passed since the last time she’d met him: he was Círdan, King of Lindon and Lord of the Grey Havens, and was here to welcome her in person. The absence of a closet was a lack of formality indicative of their ancient acquaintance.

Cirdan

 

“Welcome back in Ennor, Lady Nerwen”, he said, bowing, “and welcome in my dwelling of Mithlond.”

Nerwen needed some moments to grasp his words, expressed in the local Eldarin tongue, which was Sindarin. She hadn’t spoken it in thousands of years, but being endowed with an excellent memory, she was able to answer easily in the same idiom:

“Thank you, Lord Círdan. I’m glad to meet you again, after so long a time.”

“Me too, I’m glad to meet you again”, Círdan said, “Uinen told me about your arrival. Please follow me: you’ll be my guest for all the time you’ll need to prepare for your journey in Ennor”, he took a closer look at Silmelotë, “It’s a Charger, isn’t it?”

“Yes, exactly: a female. Her name is Silmelotë.”

“Nice to meet you, Silmelotë”, Círdan said, bowing slightly his head in a greeting, showing he knew the Chargers understood the two-legged beings’ language, in every idiom they were talking. Silmelotë responded with a very similar nod of her proud head.

Círdan moved on, showing the way; Nerwen came up beside him, and Silmelotë followed her obediently. Both took their first steps in a slightly tentative way, not used anymore to firm land after so many days at sea, but soon they got back to their usual walk.

Nerwen looked around, intrigued: she had never seen Mithlond before. The last time she had been in Endorë, before the War of Wrath, Beleriand still existed, therefore the Gulf of Lûhn, which had formed after the sinking of that land, was still to come; at that time, Círdan was Lord of the Falas, and lived in the coastal towns of Brithombar and Eglarest, now disappeared under the waves of the Great Sea. Comparing to Alqualondë on the shores of Valinor, the ancient havens of the Falathrim were only a pale shadow; here, Harlond and Forlond, the two parts of Mithlond divided by the estuary of the river Lûhn, were in turn a faded memory of the ancient havens in Beleriand. Nothing the Eldar built in Endorë, as splendid as it was in comparison to the buildings of Dwarves and Men, could equal anything built in Eldamar. It was something that had to do with the essence of Endorë, which was different from the essence of the Undying Lands. Feebler. The light itself seemed to be fainter, on this side of Belegaer.

Nonetheless, the well-kept buildings struck Nerwen; in bright grey stone, they were tall and graceful, dense with steeples and full of balconies and loggias; intricate friezes, reproducing plants and sea animals, packed the walls of both public and private edifices. Grey was the dominant colour, in a variety of different shades, but there were also many spots of colour, due to plants and flowers embellishing terraces and rooftop gardens.

Nerwen followed Círdan up a staircase with low and very wide steps, designed also for mounts to go, and Silmelotë actually had no difficulties to ascend it. The roads were crowded with Teleri – no, in this continent they called themselves by the name of Sindar. And she had to stop thinking in Valarin, and even in Quenya and Telerin: here the Eldar – the Elves – spoke Sindarin. Later, she needed to find someone willing to teach her Ovestron, or Common Speech, spoken by all the inhabitants of Middle-earth. This wouldn’t take her much time: as an Aini, she had the capability to learn or teach mentally everything in a few moments, like Yavanna did with her for the language of the Dwarves.

During the walk to the palace of the Lord of Lindon, Nerwen asked him:

“Do you have any news about the Istari?”

“Not recent ones”, Círdan answered, regretfully, “Mithrandir wanders perennially around all the lands of Ennor, Curunír is always shut inside Orthanc, Aiwendil comes around very seldom, while of Alatar and Pallando we have no news at all, since they went to the East. I’m afraid they’re dead.”

Being Ainur, the Maiar couldn’t be killed; but by accepting the mission the Valar had entrusted them with, the five Istari who preceded her were given a human body, with an elder appearance even if they aged actually so slowly, it was not perceivable to the mortal creatures of Middle-earth. Therefore, in a human body the possibility the two Istari who had travelled to the oriental lands were dead was concrete.

Nerwen pondered Círdan’s words. She had never liked Curunír, Aulë’s emissary, because she thought him somehow ambiguous; she was sorry about that, because Aulë was her Mistress’ spouse, but she couldn’t help it; on the contrary, Mithrandir, or Olórin, Manwë Súlimo’s emissary, was a close friend of hers, even closer than Aiwendil, who was also a follower of Yavanna like her. As for Alatar and Pallando, both emissaries of Oromë, she knew them little.

Meanwhile they had arrived at Círdan’s mansion, a building larger than other ones, but with no ostentation, as it is in the Elves’ tastes, shared by Valar and Maiar. Nerwen saw a Sinda approaching, black haired as it was typical of his tribe, who stopped a few steps from them and bowed respectfully.

“Hello, Master Faladil”, Círdan greeted him, “Lady Nerwen, meet Faladil, our supervisor of the stables. He’ll take care of your horse.”

“Nice to meet you, Master Faladil”, the Istar greeted him smiling, “I’m afraid I can’t entrust you immediately with Silmelotë: she’s a Chargeress of Aman, and has very different reactions than a normal horse. I’ll arrange her personally, and get her acquainted with you, so you can teach her the customs of Ennor.”

Faladil made an astonished face: clearly, he had never heard about Chargers before. However, he recovered quickly and bowed again:

“Then, Lady, if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to the palace’s stables.”

Nerwen turned to her host to take her leave, but he spoke before her:

“Go ahead, Lady Nerwen. I’ll send a servant to help you with your luggage. When you’ll settled in your quarters, if you like to you can dine with me and my wife Eärwen.”

“Thank you, Lord Círdan”, Nerwen accepted, glad of the invitation, “It’d be my pleasure.”

She led then Silmelotë to the box Faladil pointed her out and took off her saddlebags and harness, which the stable supervisor helped her to store.

“My dear friend”, the Istar told her, “first of all, I must change your name to its local version, in Sindarin: from now on, I’ll call you Thilgiloth. Is that alright?”

The Chargeress seemed to muse about it for a moment, then she lowered and lifted again her head in what looked totally as a consenting signal.

I like it, she told her. Faladil, who of course couldn’t hear her speak but had well seen her approval nod, dropped his jaw:

“I’ve never seen something like this!”, he said in a low voice, “And it’s since the years of Gil-galad that I’m in horses of every kind!”

Nerwen smiled, but not condescendingly:

“The race of the Chargers looks like horses only physically”, she explained, “They have been endowed by Ilúvatar with a very acute intellect, an extraordinary memory and the life of the Firstborn.”

She didn’t mention the ability to use the Passages of Mandos, because they existed only in Aman and Faladil wouldn’t even know what she was talking about.

“I see”, the chief groom nodded, “The most extraordinary horse-race in Middle-earth is that of the mearas of Rohan, splendid, very intelligent, strong, brave and long-lived. But Thilgiloth is a hundred times more than the best specimen among the mearas.”

The Chargeress snorted in what appeared actually a pleased chuckle.

“This flatters your vanity, he, old friend?”, Nerwen teased her, and Thilgiloth turned to give her a flick with her nose, making her laugh. Faladil shook his head, amused by this exchange: if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he would take it for pure folly.    

At that moment a young Elf arrived, hardier than the average Teleri, who were rather slim and slightly shorter than their brothers among the Noldor and Vanyar.

“Lady Nerwen?”, he asked, rather uselessly because she was the only other person there, apart from Faladil, “My name’s Giltor. Lord Círdan sends me to pick up your luggage and take you to your quarters.”

“Thank you, Giltor, but before I must take care of my mount”, Nerwen answered, “I’ll need half an hour, I think. Do you want to wait, or do you prefer to take away my bags in the meantime?”

The valet chose the second solution; shouldering her saddlebags, he took his temporary leave with the agreement to come back later.

Nerwen asked Faladil for a brush and began to carefully groom Thilgiloth’s silvery coat, until it shone; meantime, she exhorted her to accept Faladil’s and his assistants’ care, even if they might be different from those she was used to in Aman.

“Now we are on the other side of Arda”, she reminded her, “Here there’s not one single realm like in Aman, this means we won’t find just one, but many customs different from those we’re used to. As I must adapt, you also must. Understood, my friend?”

Thilgiloth knocked the ground with one front hoof, showing some level of perplexity, but then nodded.

“Fine”, Nerwen approved, because she knew the Chargeress was capable of a certain degree of obstinacy, “Master Faladil, do you have a nice apple for Thilgiloth?”

“Sure”, the Sinda answered, “I’ll fetch it.”

Shortly after, he came back with a big and glossy green apple, which he handed to Nerwen. The Istar took it and offered it to Thilgiloth, who grasped it delicately with her teeth and munched it gleefully.

“Good, now I go to freshen up myself”, Nerwen announced her, patting her affectionately on one side, “Tomorrow I’ll be busy with Lord Círdan, organising our journey in Middle-earth, and therefore someone else will take you out for a walk to stretch your legs, alright?”

Thilgiloth turned her head to Faladil and moved it in his direction.

I’d like him to take me out, she said.      

“She asks you to take her out, tomorrow”, Nerwen translated. By now, the supervisor of the stables had ceased to marvel about the capability of these two to communicate.

“Very well”, he said, “It’ll be my pleasure, Thilgiloth.”

Again, the Chargeress nodded, then she plunged her head in the trough, evidently hungry.  

Giltor arrived shortly after to guide Nerwen to the quarters prepared for her. Círdan’s palace was very large, at the point they needed over ten minutes to arrive to the opposite wing, where her rooms were located.

“Here, Lady”, Giltor said, opening for her the double door in polished oak-wood and going in, “May I introduce you Luinnen? She will take care of you during your stay.”

A tall and slightly thin Sinda came forth; her hair was honey-blond, a rather rare colour among the Elves of Middle-earth, who mostly belonged to the raven-black haired tribe of the Teleri or to the brown-haired one of the Noldor. Evidently, Luinnen had one or more ancestors among the blond Vanyar.

“Welcome, Lady Nerwen”, the handmaid said, “I thought you would like a nice bath, so I prepared one.”

“Thank you so much, Luinnen”, Nerwen smiled gratefully, “I really need one: on the ship it wasn’t possible to take a bath.”

Giltor took his leave, and Luinnen turned to the guest:

“Lady Eärwen sends you a few gowns for your convenience during your stay”, she told her, “I’ll show you them while you take your bath, so you can choose one for dinner.”

Nerwen appreciated greatly the courtesy of Círdan’s wife, who had the perspicacity to imagine that her guest couldn’t bring court dresses in her luggage.

Luinnen helped her take off her travel clothes and enter the bathtub of enamelled copper, then she showed her a number of soaps of different floral fragrances, among them Nerwen selected the relaxing, refreshing lavender. For her hair, worn out by sun and salty air during the crossing, Luinnen offered her a preparation based on olive oil, which she applied in abundance, combing accurately the long tresses and then wrapping them in a canvas towel. The Istar relaxed against the headrest of the tub and closed her eyes with a satisfied sigh; finally, the handmaid washed her hair with a chamomile lotion, and then Nerwen dried them with a simple act of will, a skill of the Ainur that left Luinnen astounded and the Istar a little embarrassed: she didn’t mean to show off her power, even for such a trifle. In Aman none heeded it, but she had to learn to remember she wasn’t in the Undying Lands anymore, because sooner or later she could be in places where it could be dangerous to reveal unusual capabilities.

From the dresses Lady Eärwen had offered her, Nerwen chose a gown in silk the colour of amethyst, with light sleeves in white organza suitable to the hot season. Luinnen, who had quickly recovered from her amazement, helped her dressing, tying the gown on her back and then brushing her hair. Finally, the Istar was ready to join her hosts for dinner.

As soon as she entered in the dining room, the Lady of Lindon spotted her and walked to her, smiling. She was rather minute, like Nerwen, and her raven-black mane was streaked with silver, giving her the same elderly air as her husband, so atypical among the Firstborn; but her eyes, green like the sea in some places in the world where the water is warm and the sand snow-white, shone with a light of perpetual youth of soul.

“It’s a great pleasure to see you again, Lady Nerwen!”, she cried, extending both her hands, “It’s been such a long time…”

The Aini took her hands and squeezed them, reciprocating her smile:

“You’re right, Lady Eärwen… It’s a pleasure for me, too, to see you again.”

“Are your quarters to your liking?”, her host enquired.

“Absolutely”, Nerwen confirmed, “and Luinnen is very efficient.”

“Glad to hear it”, Eärwen nodded, “Please, take a seat”, she showed her the place of honour at the high table, on the right hand of Círdan, “Remembering you like it very much, I ordered sea-food for dinner, but if you got tired of it on board the ship, there’s also some mutton roast.”

“Unlike my expectations, actually I didn’t eat that much sea-food, on board the Telpewinga”, Nerwen revealed her, “therefore I’ll be very glad to have it tonight.” 

While they were sitting down, Círdan arrived, and then in rapid succession all the notable people of the realm of Lindon, the most important ones taking place with them at the high table, the others at the lower ones. Nerwen knew many of them, but an even greater number not; it was a definite sign that a really long time had passed, since her last visit to Middle-earth. To be precise, six-thousand, four-hundred and sixty-three years, or coranar as the Elves called them, since Thingol had been killed and Melian had come back to Valinor, in mourning.

During the meal, Nerwen chitchatted pleasantly with Círdan and Galdor, his prime minister, whom the Istar wasn’t acquainted with.

When dinner – which Nerwen appreciated greatly – was over, most headed for the Hall of Fire, where they sat down around the great central fireplace for the entertainments – there are always plenty of them, in an Elven palace: music, poetry, tale-telling, or simple conversations. This evening, a bard narrated the thrilling story of Eärendil the Mariner, whose ascent was half Elven and half Human, who dared to cross the Great Sea to reach Valinor and ask the Valar for help against Morgoth, and who during the War of Wrath fought and killed the great dragon Ancalagon, ending up roaming perennially the skies of Arda with the only rescued Silmaril on his brow, discernible as the brightest star of the firmament, called after his name. Nerwen knew personally part of those events, having witnessed, in her place next to Yavanna’s throne in the council hall, Eärendil’s plea to the Valar in the name of both Men and Elves, of whom he bore the double descent, and got greatly emotional hearing them transformed into a poem.

While taking his leave, at the end of the performance, Círdan turned to her:

“Lady Nerwen, tomorrow at mid-morning, please meet me in my study: we’ll talk about how I can help you in your journey.”

“Thank you, my friend”, the Aini answered, “I bid you a good night.”

“Good night to you, too.”

When she got back into her room, Luinnen helped her taking off her clothes, and finally Nerwen went to bed, but she had some trouble to fall asleep: for the first time after the Telpewinga had left the Straight Road to venture into the Round World, she realised she had left the Undying Lands for good. She did it already many times, in the past, when she came to this side of Belegaer to visit Melian and her family; but now Doriath was no more, the entire Beleriand was no more, and these lands were totally unknown to her; and a great number of the people she knew so many years ago were no more. Abruptly, she felt the great weight of the awareness of having left – maybe forevermore – everything she knew and loved. The path in front of her seemed obscure and full of solitude, and suddenly she felt homesick. She wondered how she could face the months and years to come, if she felt like this after only a few weeks; but maybe, she tried to tell herself, time would soothe this melancholic mood… 

Finally she fell asleep, even while Eärendil appeared, bright as ever; its other name was Gil-Estel: the Star of Hope.

 

OOO

 

The morning after, at the time appointed Nerwen went to Círdan, who welcomed her in his office and showed her to a sofa, upholstered in amaranth silk. 

“Lady Nerwen”, he began, “anything you need, know you can count on me. Other than the obvious such as provisions, clothing, blankets and the whole equipment for a journey, what else can I get you?”

“Do you have detailed maps of the various areas of Ennor?”, Nerwen asked, seizing the opportunity, “The ones I found in Valimar weren’t much accurate.”

“Sure: in my library you’ll find very exhaustive charts of the main regions of Middle-earth: from Gondor to Erebor, from Rhovanion to the Shire…”

“The Shire?”, Nerwen asked, surprised: this was a name that didn’t appear in the maps she had studied back in Valimar. 

“The realm of the Halflings”, Círdan explained, “Even if talking about a realm isn’t correct, because they have no king. They call themselves Hobbits. They are peaceful and jovial people, lovers of food and comforts.”

“They look like a nice folk”, the Istar stated. Círdan nodded:

“They are. We trade with them since they settled west of Lindon; they are honest people, capable of unexpected courage, which you wouldn’t guess form their appearance. There’s much more to them than what you would expect, in the best sense of the word.”

“I guess that, leaving Lindon westbound as I’m planning to do, I’ll meet them”, Nerwen mused, “Is there anything more to learn about them?”

“Besides they adore their land and are very hospitable, I’d say no”, the Lord of the Grey Havens said, “Your old friend Mithrandir knows them very well”, he added, “He seems to have a special interest in them that I was never able to explain.”

“When I’ll meet him, I’ll ask him about it”, Nerwen smiled, “In this regard, I’ll send messengers for him: birds, mainly, because they can cover greater distances than any other creature. I could use the assistance of the Great Eagles, but I know they dwell very far from here, in the northern part of the Misty Mountains, if I’m not wrong.”

“Correct. However, you could send a message to Gwaihir, asking for their help: I think he’ll be inclined to give it to you, by virtue of his friendship with Mithrandir, if anything, to whom you too are befriended.”

“I’ll try”, Nerwen nodded.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Lady Nerwen?”

She shook her head:

“That’s all for now. I thank you, Lord Círdan.”

“My pleasure, I assure you.”

Nerwen stood up and took her leave. She went to visit Thilgiloth, whom she found strolling leisurely in the stable corral. After she had made sure she was satisfied with the accommodation and treatment she was receiving, the Aini headed for the gardens in front of Círdan’s palace, lush with plants, flowers and herbs. Usually, her curiosity and love for everything vegetable would induce her to observe all of them with great interest, discovering varieties unknown in Aman, or different by some detail like colour shade, shape, size; but now the thought of the way she could contact Mithrandir was distracting her. Should she send a messenger to the Eagles, creatures of Manwë Súlimo and therefore particularly friendly to the Istar who had been sent by the mightiest among the Valar? Or should she rather set around a substantial number of creatures, winged and on four legs, so that they may look for him and, once found, report him her wish to meet him?  

While she was there, brooding, a blackbird whistled, drawing her attention to him; she spotted him immediately, perched on a branch in a holly oak, with his glossy black plumage and the bright orange beak. Now this is a very smart bird, Nerwen thought.    

“Hullo, little brother”, she greeted him. The blackbird watched her intently, then he opened his wings and flew down from the branch he was perching on to go and perch on another, lower and nearer to his interlocutor.

Hullo to you. You’re Nerwen Laiheri?, he asked her. Surprised, the Istar hesitated a little, then confirmed:

“Yes, in person!”

The blackbird radiated a feeling of satisfaction.

I bring you a message from Mithrandir, he announced. Even more surprised than before, the Maia gaped: she was racking her brains to realise how she could make contact with her ancient friend Olórin, and he sent her a messenger? And who arrived exactly at this precise moment? The coincidence was extraordinary, to say the least.

The Lord of the Winds has informed him about your arrival, the blackbird went on, He says to wait for him here in Mithlond: he’ll arrive in a few days.

Lord of the Winds was an enough accurate translation of Manwë’s epithet, Súlimo. Nerwen supposed that Yavanna had asked to Mithrandir’s protector Vala to tell him she was coming to Middle-earth, and that she recommended him they met. Again, her Mistress had anticipated her wishes and needs. 

“You have all my gratitude, little brother”, she said, “You’ve just solved a big difficulty of mine.”

The blackbird moved his head downwards in what looked through and through like a bow.

“Your mission is accomplished, my friend”, Nerwen went on, “Rest now in this beautiful garden. I thank you again for your care.”

It was a pleasure, the bird answered graciously, and flew away flapping his wings to find a place to his liking and rest, as the Aini encouraged him to do.

All of a sudden, Nerwen felt euphoric: in a few days, after countless years, she would meet again her best friend. Her feet moved as animated by a mind of their own, and the Istar danced among the flowers and trees of the garden. In the wake of joy and good mood she released at her passage, animals and plants rejoiced with her.

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

We have finally arrived in Middle-earth, site of the great events of The Hobbit before (which will occur the year after Nerwen’s arrival) and The Lord of the Rings later. It was very thrilling for me to disembark with Nerwen on the Hither Shore, where many years ago my heart was captured and is still kept as a happy prisoner!

The image of Círdan is by Kimberly, found on the Tolkien Gateway website.

Thank you all, you who read: even if you don’t comment, the only idea you are reading me makes me feel deeply honoured. I hope you will go on; from my part, I will put into my small creation all my love for the wondrous universe Tolkien gave us as a gift of his genius, and I hope this will he appreciated.


Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

 

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Chapter VI: An Old Friend

 

In the following days, Nerwen studied closely the maps of Middle-earth that Círdan had made available to her, memorizing names, locations, distances and shapes of the various lands. Furthermore, she read many books and treatises on populations, realms, customs and traditions, history, as well as herbs and animals of Middle-earth, using the prodigious reading and learning speed typical of her race.  

The ninth day after the receiving of Mithrandir’s message through the blackbird, the Maia was buried as usual in documents, scrolls and books. She had found a history essay about the Dwarves, Aulë’s beloved children, a tome totally intact because no one except the Dwarves knew Khuzdul, and the book was there surely only out of love of collection. An illustrious historian had written it; wanting to learn more about this people, as well as exercise in Khuzdul, she had begun to read it. At a certain point, she arrived at the narration of the terrible battle of Azanulbizar (or Nanduhirion, according to the Sindarin name), fought in 2799 between Dwarves and Orcs in front of the gates of the fallen Dwarven realm of Moria. The description of the deeds of the young Dwarven prince Thorin struck her particularly: on this day, he became known for his indomitable courage, which brought him, after having his shield broken, to pick up a large oaken branch and go on with the battle, earning that way the suggestive name of Oakenshield.

books

 

At that moment, someone entered the library and addressed her with a quiet:

“Good afternoon, Nerwen.”

The Istar lifted her gaze, the interruption vaguely annoying her; she saw a Man, very old but with an imperious poise, very tall, with long grey hair and beard, and equally grey robes. On his head, he sported a big pointy hat, again grey and somewhat banged up, and in his hands, he carried a wooden staff, a rough crystal set on its upper end.

“Good afternoon to you”, Nerwen responded to the greeting, making an effort to be polite in spite of the slight irritation, “Do I know you?”

“It has been a long time since the last time we met”, the old man said, chuckling, “and my appearance was very different, then. Maybe it’s better I show myself to you as I was once…”

He raised one hand and made a gesture with his fingers; the crystal on top of his staff glowed up, and a thread of bright light came out of it, twisting around the Man’s shape until it created a cocoon so radiant, Nerwen had to squint in order to avoid to be blinded by it. It took just a few moments, then the light vanished, and in the place of the old man there was now a handsome youngster, clean shaved, tall and brown haired, with piercing eyes of a shade between grey and blue; by her utter amazement, Nerwen recognised her ancient friend, now a colleague as an Istar.

Olorin

 

“Olórin!”, she cried joyfully, jumping up and running to him. He laughed heartedly and, leaning quickly his staff against the wall, welcomed her in his arms, lifted her up and spun her around; being she so minute compared to him, it wasn’t difficult.

“My dear, dearest friend”, he said, kissing her brow, “Really didn’t you recognise me, in my identity of Gandalf the Grey?”

“No, I didn’t, really!”, Nerwen laughed, “Maybe, with a little more time, I could recognise your eyes, but you took me too much by surprise…”

They broke their hug, but held still one another by their arms.

“My dear Olórin…”, the Aini whispered. He shook his head:

“I’m not used to this name anymore”, he stated, “and Valinor is no more than a vague and nostalgic memory in my mind, like the shadow of a dream… Do you mind to call me Gandalf, or Mithrandir? That’s how they call me all, in these lands this side of the Great Sea.”  

“No problem”, Nerwen reassured him, “Come, my old friend, let’s sit down and have a cup of wine to celebrate our encounter.”

“Very gladly”, Mithrandir accepted. Nerwen led him to a small table where, on a tray, was set a porcelain flagon with a slender neck and some silver goblets, available to the library visitors. After pouring the wine, a red one with a fruity and slightly sweet flavour, Nerwen handed a glass to her friend and then they toasted.

“Delicious”, Mithrandir said, “Círdan has always good wine, in his reserve…”

They went to a sofa and sat.

“Tell me about Melian”, Mithrandir asked her, “How is she?”

“Melancholy takes her still, when she thinks back to the happy times in Doriath”, Nerwen confided him, “When it becomes too unbearable, she goes to Lórien for a short stay: Irmo is the only one capable to ease her grief, even if only for a short time. The sorrow for the loss of Thingol and Lúthien will never fade completely from her heart.”  

“So it is”, the Istar confirmed, nodding gravely, “I wish it’d be possible to inform her that the appearance of her beloved only child has come back to tread the roads of the World: I’m sure the news would hearten her.”

“Is there really someone who resembles Lúthien?”, Nerwen marvelled, “Who’s she?”

“Elrond’s daughter… you remember him, don’t you?”

“Yes, I met him shortly, just before the War of Wrath”, the Aini confirmed. Mithrandir nodded satisfied and went on:

“He married Celebrían, the daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn; their children are the twins Elladan and Elrohir, and Arwen, called Undómiel. She looks exactly like Lúthien.”

“Well, I’ll see it by myself”, Nerwen revealed him, “I must meet all three the Keepers of the Elven Rings.”

“You know who they are?”, Mithrandir marvelled.

“Yavanna disclosed it to me”, she answered, “and she told me also that Círdan gave you Narya when you arrived on these shores.”

“That’s true”, the Wizard confirmed, raising his right hand; with a small amount of willpower, he made a golden ring visible, adorned with a fiery ruby, usually hidden from the view of anyone: it was the Ring of Fire, “He said I would need it much more than him, having it the power to inspire in others the resistance against tyranny, domination and desperation, as well as to give resistance against the weariness – both physical and psychological – of time, which I’m subject to, in the human body that was given to me.”

The jewel disappeared again, and Mithrandir took another sip from the goblet.

“May I ask you why Kementári thought there was need to send another emissary of hers?”, he enquired.

“She worries the doings of the Istari so far aren’t enough to thwart Sauron’s power, which she perceives growing more and more each year”, Nerwen answered, not seeing any reason to keep the truth from him, “She fears that Eldar, Men and Dwarves are not enough to defeat him, once he’ll reveal himself again to Middle-earth. Therefore, she wants me to find the Onodrim and persuade them to join the opposition to Sauron.”

“I see”, Mithrandir nodded, feeling troubled, “The Onodrim – or Ents, like they’re more commonly called here – seem having vanished from the face of the world… For many years now, we have no news of them. They may be no more.”

Nerwen shook her head in a sign of denial:

“No, Yavanna perceives them still alive, even if they’re now very few and hidden even from her sight, so well they’re concealed. I was hoping you could give me some news about them.”

“Once they lived scattered in all the woods of Middle-earth, but now I wouldn’t know where to look for them”, Mithrandir mused, frowning in the effort to remember, “There’s a very ancient wood, called the Old Forest, near the Shire; it’s kept by Iarwain Ben-adar… or Tom Bombadil, as he calls himself now. There were Ents there, once. Maybe he will be able to tell you something.”

Nerwen remembered she saw the location on a map of the Shire: the Old Forest was located on the eastern border of this land, separating it from the Barrow-downs, an uninhabited area with tombs that a legend said haunted by wraiths.

“Very well”, she nodded, “I’ll begin my search from there. Then I’ll go to Imladris to Elrond, and later to Galadriel in Lothlórien.”

She took a sip of wine, while Mithrandir watched her thoughtfully.

“At each Istar was attributed a colour”, he pondered, “in which he normally dresses up. The leader of our order is called Saruman the White, I am Gandalf the Grey, then there’s Radagast the Brown, and finally the two Blue, now vanished into the East, of whom I don’t even remember the names…”, he made a vague gesture; Nerwen opened her mouth to tell him those names, but he didn’t notice it and went on, “To you, because of your love toward the plants, I’d suggest green.”

The Aini forgot her resolution to remind him of the names of the missing Wizards, and contemplated Mithrandir’s recommendation.

“I’d say it’s appropriate, my friend”, she agreed, “I’m already called Lady of the Green, therefore Nerwen the Green is absolutely fitting.”

They drank more wine, and then something else struck Nerwen:

“My friend, would you teach me Ovestron? I could acquire it from anyone of the Elves living here in Mithlond, but when I learned you were coming, I’d preferred to wait for you.”

“But gladly, my dear Nerwen”, Mithrandir nodded, “I guess you’d like to use our special method of learning, from mind to mind…”

“Sure, otherwise it’d take too long”, the Maia confirmed, “But we can easily think about it tomorrow: it’s almost dinner time now, and I think you’d like to freshen up before it… Did you already greet Lord Círdan?”

“It was Lady Eärwen who welcomed me”, Mithrandir informed her, “and she told me she would give me quarters near yours. I fear she thinks that in Valinor our relationship went way beyond friendship…”, he shook his head, amused: Olórin preferred those of his same gender, as it happens sometimes. It wasn’t frequent, but it wasn’t considered unbecoming at all, neither in Aman, nor in Middle-earth.

“You can tell from this that she doesn’t know you well”, Nerwen commented, equally amused by the apparent misinterpretation.

“Yeah… and how could she, anyway? She met me only very few times, because I come very seldom in Lindon…”

They got up, and the Wizard took again his staff, transforming back into Gandalf the Grey. This look was very different from Olórin’s, that was why she didn’t recognise him at first; however, she noticed that he kept the same tall stature and broad shoulders, and especially the piercing, vivacious eyes.

She smiled at him: she was very happy to have met him again.

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

I always loved the character of Gandalf, with all his lights and shadows; it’s one of the reasons because my alter ego is an Istar, she too. Their encounter thrilled me very much: I really felt like meeting again a very dear friend after much, too much time I didn’t!

Here’s an example of what I call “character who decides on his own”: I never thought Gandalf could be gay… it was him who revealed it to me while I was writing! LOL Probably it has been an association in my brain with the actor who plays him in the movies, Sir Ian McKellen, who is openly gay; but I thought it could fit even with the character, why not? :-) Maybe the good Professor will turn in his grave, but who knows, maybe not: after all, this is only a fan fiction, chitchat on no importance compared to his great Masterpiece, and it doesn’t deserve so much attention from him…

Thanks to all those who follow me: I hope I won’t let you down! And I hope you will be so kind to take a couple of minutes to leave me a few words, commenting my story. Thank you in advance!

Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter VII: In the Company of Mithrandir

 

In the evening of the second day they were playing bookworms, Mithrandir stretched his aching shoulders and back, and said:

“My eyes are so tired I see double… I need a nice smoke of my pipe.”

Nerwen stared at him, confused. She saw him rummaging in his belt-pouch and pulling out of it an odd item, long and curved, with a kind of small cup at one end; then, he produced a smaller pouch, from which he got out a pinch of what looked like some kind of desiccated and shredded herb. Its aromatic smell surprised her:

“What is it?”, she asked therefore, intrigued, referring to both things.

“This is a pipe”, Mithrandir explained, “Look, this is called stem, and this, burner. And this is pipe-weed, a plant that grows only this side of Belegaer. I learned about it through the Hobbits, skilled growers and consumers of this herb.”

Nerwen’s interest as an herbalist awoke immediately:

“And what’s its purpose?”

Mithrandir, busy stuffing the pipe burner, paused a minute before answering.

“What’s its purpose?” he repeated, pensively, “Hum… to smoke, of course.”

Nerwen had no idea what he was talking about:

“…to smoke?”

“Yeah, you know…”, the Wizard squirmed, looking for words appropriate enough to explain a notion to a person who didn’t even know the premises, “I might as well show how this works to you”, he supposed. He took a thin wooden stick, lit it on the flame of the nearest candle, then he approached the flaming end to the pipe burner and began to draw air from the stem; soon enough, the pipe-weed became ember, and Mithrandir began emitting smoke from his mouth. His look of manifest satisfaction made Nerwen realise he found this activity very agreeable.

Gandalf smokes

 

“Come, try it”, he said, handing her the pipe, “Draw the smoke into your mouth.”

Intrigued, the Maia did what she had seen him doing and drew air from the stem. The smoke filled her mouth, and instinctively she blew it back out through her nostrils. Mithrandir felt upset:

“Good gracious, I needed months to figure out how to get the smoke through my nostrils without any risk of choking!” 

“It just made sense to me”, Nerwen said, rather surprised by his reaction; she sniffed the aroma, “It smells good!” she said.

“That’s fine,” he mumbled, still a little sour about the easy way his old friend had done something he struggled for a long time to learn, “It’s Old Toby, one of the best varieties of pipe-weed.”

Then he realised the complete pointlessness of his irritation and went back to his usual good cheer.

“But this, you’re not able to do,” he chuckled, drawing in more smoke; he curled his mouth in a funny face that made Nerwen smile, but then her smile turned to an expression of utter marvel when the smoke took the form of a flying seagull, which flew away fluctuating before dissolving in the air.

“How did you do it?” she asked.

“You need much practice,” Mithrandir answered, his wounded pride finally satisfied by Nerwen’s evident admiration, “If you like, I’ll teach you…”

 

OOO

 

Several days passed; Nerwen learned the Common Speech from Mithrandir by extracting the knowledge from his mind, and continued to study, in the books provided by Círdan and with him, too, the customs and traditions of Middle-earth. She also engaged in the activity called pipe smoking so frequently to the point Mithrandir made a pipe for her, very similar to his own, with a long curved stem, and gave her part of his personal reserve of Old Toby; the Aini learned also how to create with the pipe smoke some simple forms, like flowers, trees, animals, but she never matched his old friend’s skill – not in the limited time they stayed at Círdan’s home. 

The moment they had to leave was drawing nearer, when one afternoon the Wizard made her a request:

“Could you deliver a message for me? It’s on your way and you’d spare me a long detour…”

“I’d love to help you, if I can,” Nerwen accepted immediately.

“On the way to Imladris, you’ll pass through the town of Bree,” Mithrandir said, and she nodded: she had seen its location on the maps, “There lives currently a friend of mine, a Dwarf who works there as a smith. His name is Thorin…”

“Thorin Oakenshield?” the Aini interrupted him, marvelled.

“Yeah, precisely,” he confirmed, marvelled in turn, “How do you know him?”

“I read about him in a history book in Khuzdul,” she explained. Mithrandir’s eyes widened further from the additional dose of surprise:

“You speak the language of Dwarves?”

Nerwen realised she hadn’t told him so far; but they had had to speak about so many things, in those few days – years, centuries of adventures and misadventures, especially from his part – that she really hadn’t thought about it.

“A gift from Aulë,” she explained, “to make me more agreeable to his favourites, in the same way Entish made me agreeable to the Ents, at the time.”

“An excellent idea,” Mithrandir approved, recovering from his amazement, “I know only a few words in Khuzdul; even if the Dwarves honour me with their friendship, they’re very jealous of their speech and don’t teach it to anyone fluently. What do you know about Thorin, then?”

“That he is the legitimate heir to the throne of Erebor, destroyed by a dragon called Smaug, and that he earned the sobriquet of Oakenshield during a terrible battle at the gates of another Dwarven realm, Moria”, Nerwen told him, “I would’ve never imagined a prince and great warrior like him making a living as a smith…”

“Unfortunately, the few survivors of the realm of the Lonely Mountain lost everything, in Smaug’s attack,” Mithrandir explained, “and for a living, noble or not, they must do what Dwarves do best: miners, smiths, jewellers. Some are mercenaries… even Thorin had been, sometimes; but because, besides a sword, he uses very well also hammer and anvil, in peacetime he devoted himself to the forge. For some years now he has lived in Bree, where his work is greatly appreciated.”

“I see,” Nerwen said in an undertone, feeling sorry for the fate of such a noble prince, deprived of his homeland, his possessions and his heirloom, and forced to a humble – even if honourable – work to make his living, knowing his decimated and exiled folk had to do the same, after having been great and mighty and renowned everywhere.

“What’s the message?” she asked at this point.

“Please, tell him these exact words: the moment has almost arrived, Thorin Oakenshield. Gather the companions we spoke of and get ready with them to the accomplishment of the mission. He’ll understand what it is.”

“Very well,” she nodded, and repeated word by word to make sure she had understood. Mithrandir approved.

“I thank you very much, my dearest friend,” he concluded, “You have given me a huge favour.”

“My pleasure, believe me,” Nerwen reassured him, smiling at him affectionately, “No need to thank me.”

In response to her statement, Mithrandir hugged her gratefully, then he took a step backwards to watch her intently from head to toe with his bright grey-blue eyes, so intensely he almost made her feel uneasy.

“Is there something wrong?” she asked him therefore, frowning. He nodded slowly:

“Your look is too… luminous,” he said, “One can see immediately you’re not an ordinary Elda. I recommend you to cloud a little your true nature.”

“I agree,” Nerwen accepted, not having thought about it up to now, but then immediately she remembered her faithful travelling companion, “I suppose it’s better doing the same for Thilgiloth…”

“It’s surely advisable she takes on the look of a normal horse of Middle-earth, even if stunningly beautiful”, Mithrandir confirmed, “If they ask you, say she comes from the land of Rohan, which is famous for its horses, therefore they’ll mistake her cleverness for simple training, for the accuracy of which the Rohirrim are well renowned.”

“Thanks for your advice,” Nerwen nodded, “Better I do it immediately, so I won’t need to think about it at the last moment…”

She walked away a few steps, then she closed her eyes and focused on her appearance; she imagined a veil forming around her and wrapping her completely, passing through her clothes to lay on her skin and hair, not missing a single square centimetre. Mithrandir saw her look change subtly, losing the characteristic luminosity of the Ainur – Valar and Maiar – to develop a more worldly appearance. Now she looked like a normal female Elf, but after a few more moments, the characteristic pointy ears of this race became round, and finally he was in front of a human woman.

Nerwen re-opened her eyes.

“What do you think of it?” she asked him. Mithrandir examined her closely from head to toe, then he came near and looked into her eyes: she resembled through and through a human female, except for the ancient wisdom perceivable in her gaze, which no obscuration could ever cancel however.

“Very well,” he answered finally, “but tell me, why did you choose the appearance of Men? You could easily look like an Elda…”

“I’ll have to deal with Dwarves,” she answered, “and it’s well known they don’t have great love for the Elves: I’ve thought it therefore better to look like a human. Besides, also the other Istari have this appearance: I simply stuck with it,” she concluded, smiling. Mithrandir nodded:

“I see… And it won’t be a problem for you to be accepted by the Eldar, even if you look human, because they’ll be able to see through your veil with no great difficulty. Well done,” he approved.

 

OOO

 

A few days later, Gandalf the Grey and Nerwen the Green took their leave from Lord Círdan and Lady Eärwen: the two Wizards would journey together beyond the Tower Hills, and then they would take the Great East Road until the fork to Sarn Ford, where Mithrandir would turn southwards, while Nerwen would continue through the Shire until arriving at Tom Bombadil’s land.

Gandalf mounted a splendid brown bay, with black mane and tail, called Lagordonn because of his swiftness and colour; Thilgiloth, even though she had been obscured, kept her magnificent snow-white coat, shiny like silk, and her black eyes, glowing with intelligence.

The first evening already, when they camped, Nerwen felt weariness, particularly on back and shoulders; a feeling that she, as a complete Maia, would never have experienced. Even her derriere was quite beaten and, while stretching, she groaned. Gandalf glimpsed at her, worried:

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, it’s just weariness: I’m not used to it… As Ainur, we wouldn’t feel it, in Aman. Even when I went visiting Melian in Doriath, it didn’t happen.”

Gandalf smiled, understanding his old friend’s uneasiness:

“To accomplish our mission, we’ve been diminished,” he observed, “and we haven’t all our maiarin capabilities anymore… I too, needed some time to adjust. Let a few weeks pass and then you’ll get used to it, too…”

 

OOO

 

A few days of travelling later, after crossing the Tower Hills, Nerwen and Gandalf reached the Shire’s borders.

shire

 

“The Shire is a peaceful and cosy land,” Gandalf told her, “and there aren’t any dangerous animals such as bears or wolves. You can easily sleep outdoors, but you’ll find many inns down the road; when you’ll arrive near Bywater, I recommend The Green Dragon. When you’ll arrive in Bree, I recommend The Prancing Pony, the owner of which, Goldweath Butterbur, is an old acquaintance of mine: name me freely, when you get there. And his wife Violet is an outstanding cook.”

“Very well,” Nerwen nodded, “As we cross the Shire, what can you tell me about the Hobbits?”

“They are discreet and modest people,” Gandalf answered smiling, “of ancient origin, but nobody knows anymore where they came from; they love peace, tranquillity and the well-cultivated land. They are quite coy with the Tall People, as they call Men; they have very sharp hearing and sight, and even if, because of their love for food, they have a tendency to plumpness they are surprisingly agile and quick, and are able to vanish rapidly and silently at the arrival of people they don’t want to meet… There could be dozens of Hobbits here around, and we would neither see nor hear them, if they don’t want to make themselves seen or heard. They are very fond of parties, and love laughing and singing and dancing. Among them I am particularly renowned for my ability with fireworks…” he made a vague gesture in the air, “They don’t know my true Istari nature,” he concluded. He paused, suddenly wistful, “Yet,” he went on slowly, “under their mild and well-fed appearance, Hobbits hide a surprising resilience and a considerable temper. It’s difficult to frighten or kill them, and their love for good things is due to the fact they can do without, if necessary, in order to resist hostility and adversity… The courage of their race awakes slowly, but is worthy of the greatest deeds of Elves and Men.”

“I see you think greatly of them,” Nerwen mused. Mithrandir nodded to confirm:

“Yes, there’s more in them than meets the eye. They’re not adventurous, and indeed they rarely leave their borders to go out and explore the world; however there are a couple of families among them – that because of this are of ill reputation – that during their history proved themselves particularly reckless and brave: the Tooks of Tuckborough and the Brandybucks of Buckland…”

 

OOO

 

Some days later, they arrived at Michel Delving on the White Downs, the largest settlement of the Shire and, even if not officially, its capital, being it the abode of the Mayor who, as Gandalf had explained to Nerwen, was elected each seven years and represented the highest authority in the country. Here they would go separate ways, because Gandalf was taking the road to Sarn Ford, where he would cross the river Baranduin, or Brandywine as the Hobbits called it, while Nerwen would continue on the Great East Road toward Tom Bombadil’s land, which was beyond the eastern border of the Shire.

Caracoling on the wide dusty road, they ran into a number of Hobbits, who got out of their way, but who anyway made sure to address them a nod of greeting, displaying simultaneously cautious and polite reactions, exactly the way the grey Istar had described them.

Even if it was just halfway in the afternoon, the two friends, reluctant to say goodbye to each other after having been apart for such a long time and a great distance, headed for the biggest inn of the settlement, The Bold Rooster. Leaving the horses in front of the door – not fearing they could be stolen because theft was not in the Hobbits’ nature, nor would they be able to ride them because of their small seize – they entered the hall, bowing to come through the round door, painted a bright yellow. Mithrandir had to take off his hat, but even so, with his height of 1.80 m, he had to stay a little crouched in order not to bang his head against the ceiling; unlike him, Nerwen could stay upright, being about twenty centimetres shorter than him.

Mithrandir shook the small bell, placed on the counter to call for service, and a few moments later a strong-built middle-aged Hobbit arrived, sporting a curly brown mane and big hairy feet. 

“Well, if this isn’t Gandalf the Grey!” he cried, “It’s been a long time now you haven’t come this part of the Shire.”

Gandalf looked closely at the Hobbit.

“Tobold Hornblower!” he said at length, his lips curving into a smile, “Nice to see you. The last time you were about to marry: how’s Gardenia?”

“Very well, thanks. We have three children, two girls and a boy, all healthy and pretty.”

“I’m glad to hear it. This.” Gandalf went on, half-turning to his companion, “is Nerwen the Green. Do you have two rooms for us?”

“Sure!”, the innkeeper nodded, “Our beds are too short for you Tall People,” he went on, addressing directly Nerwen in an apologetic tone, “but I’ll see to a pallet with clean and soft covers making a valid substitute.”

“It’ll be perfect,” Nerwen reassured him; during her long life, she had occasionally slept in far worse conditions.

“We need also a shelter for our horses,” Mithrandir added.

“We’ll put them into the pony corral and give them our best fodder,” Tobold declared.

The two Istari took then possession of their rooms and freshened up, and later met again in the common room, by this time still empty. They ordered a carafe of cool beer and sat at a table, of course Hobbit-size and therefore rather small for them, especially for Gandalf. But they were in the Country of the Halflings and had to make themselves comfortable the best they could.

“My heart is heavy,” Gandalf confessed to Nerwen, not hiding his sadness for the now impending separation.

“Are you worried about me, my friend?” she asked him. The Wizard shook his head:

“No, I know you’ll be perfectly safe, guarded by animals and plants in every place you’ll go. No, it’s the awareness I won’t see you again for who knows how many years, which makes me sad.”

“It makes me sad, too.” Nerwen admitted, “but this time they won’t be by far as many years.”

“Your Second Sight is telling you this?” he enquired, looking at her with his bright eyes; after his arrival in Middle-earth, this ability had almost completely faded away, in him, like many others. The Maia nodded:

“Yes, it is. Even if it’s not clear to me neither the when nor the where, I saw clearly that we’ll meet again two times, the first one in a short time, the second much later; but the second time we’ll never part again. This makes me think we’ll accomplish our tasks by then, one way or another.”

“You comfort me greatly,” Gandalf stated then, “because sometimes I doubt I’ll be able to accomplish something and I feel frustrated…”

“Never doubt the path you walk in the name of the Valar,” Nerwen exhorted him, placing her hand on his and squeezing it strongly, “Even if sometimes it looks dark or you think you lost it, persist. The Grace of the Valar is with you and won’t abandon you.”

Encouraged, Mithrandir addressed her a smile.

“My dearest friend, you’d be able to hearten this table!” he declared emphatically, tapping lightly his hand on the table top, “And this quality will surely open for you doors that are normally closed for everyone else”, he added, “Hum…” he grumbled then, “I need my pipe.”

“Good idea,” Nerwen approved, turning and rummaging in her pouch to pull out what she needed. While outside the afternoon waned, the two Istari smoke together, and Gandalf didn’t miss the opportunity to amaze and amuse his friend, creating more and more complex forms with the smoke of pipe-weed.

 

OOO

 

By dinnertime, the common room filled up with both the inn guests – not many, to be honest, not being it the time of the Free Fair of Mid-Year – and external patrons. Nerwen and Gandalf ate in a secluded corner, targeted by many a glance, intrigued, but not insistent, as it was in the discreet nature of the Hobbits; and finally they retired for the night.

 

OOO

 

The following day, the parting moment arrived – now inevitable.

On the crossway where the Great East Road forked in the road taking to Sarn Ford, Mithrandir hugged Nerwen strongly, towering over her with his tall stature, which was accentuated by his pointy hat.

“Good luck, Nerwen the Green,” he said solemnly, “May the Grace of the Valar be always with you.”

“Thank you, Gandalf the Grey,” she answered, equally solemnly, “May the stars shine upon your path.”

With a last embrace, the two old friends parted, then each mounted on his or her horse and took the chosen road, Nerwen eastward and Gandalf south-eastward. 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Of course, Nerwen couldn’t go around Middle-earth with too much a different look than the other Istari! If these have a human look, the same must have she.

I know I promised to fully respect Tolkien’s canon; however, to find a way to make Nerwen meet Thorin the way I wanted it to, I had to change some details, such as, for instance, the fact that Thorin and Gandalf knew each other for some time and had already begun to make plans to conquer back Erebor, while in the appendixes of The Lord of the Rings is clearly stated that the two meet out of chance in Bree on March 15th, 2941, meaning just a little more than a month before the beginning of their great adventure. Frankly, this seems to me hardly credible: how can Thorin trust Gandalf so much to entrust him with the organisation of the re-conquest of the Lonely Mountain, if he barely knows him? (I humbly ask the Professor’s pardon, but this is an inconsistency I really cannot stomach…) Besides, at this time Thorin didn’t live in Bree, but in the Ered Luin, or Blue Mountains, with his sister Dís and his nephews Fili and Kili, and a few hundreds of Erebor Dwarves.

Passage chapter before the beginning of the Great Adventure: from the next one, we’ll jump right into the story (somebody will surely say: about time!!! LOL), and we’ll begin to meet in rapid fire already known characters like Bilbo, Tom Bombadil, Thorin Oakenshield, Elrond and many others, and some brand new ones. It won’t be easy nor granted, and Nerwen will face not only physical dangers, but confront also the influence that the quality of Middle-earth will exercise over her on an emotional point of view, as Yavanna warned her, and this won’t be easier than confront bandits, orcs, werewolves and such…

I was very sorry to part from Gandalf; but he has to accomplish his task, while Nerwen hers.

Thank you to all those who follow me, and an even bigger thank you to those who leave a comment!

A very special thank you to ColdOnePaul, who edited this chapter! My English may be good enough, but it’s far from perfect, so his help is very welcome and priceless!

 

 

Lady Angel

 

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter VIII: An Interesting Dinner

 

In the following days, Nerwen crossed undisturbed the quiet and tidy countryside of the Shire. The entire land emanated serenity and peacefulness, and she felt at ease; somehow the pastoral land reminded her of her beloved gardens in southern Valinor, now so far away, and which she perhaps – only perhaps – would be able to see again a long time from now.

The third day after parting from Gandalf, she arrived at the crossing with the road coming from Bywater, where the inn recommended by Gandalf, The Green Dragon, was located. The Aini turned Thilgiloth to the left and took that road, cantering calmly both because she wasn’t in a hurry and didn’t want to scare off the increasing number of wayfarers on the road.

A couple of hours later she reached the small village of Bywater, so called because it was built on the waterfront of a tiny lake; Nerwen located immediately the Green Dragon because it was the largest building in the settlement, and also because its sign – a winged, bright green dragon – was definitely self-explanatory.

 

green drago

 

She dismounted and whispered to Thilgiloth to wait quietly for her, then she stooped her head and entered in the wide-open doorway, round as it was customary among the Hobbits.

“Hullo, stranger!” she was greeted vivaciously by a young female Hobbit with long brown curly hair and a bright smile, less timid than the majority of the Shire-folk, “We don’t receive many visits from the Tall People, around here…”

Her tone was clearly puzzled, but out of discretion, she didn’t ask her directly where she came from and what she was doing here. Nerwen reciprocated this beautiful girl’s smile:

“I’m on my way to Bree,” she said, “Do you have a place where I can sleep, and lodging for my horse?” then, remembering Tobold Hornblower’s concern, she added, “I know everything’s Hobbit-size, but I’d be satisfied with just a pallet, and Thilgiloth can stay in an outdoor corral.”

“Then there aren’t no problems,” the pretty Hobbit smiled, “Welcome to Bywater, madam. My name’s Petunia Cotton, I’m the owner of the Green Dragon, at your service.”

The owner? Nerwen readjusted her perception of the supposed age of this Hobbit female, remembering that Gandalf had told her they were rather more long-lived than Men but less than Dwarves. Petunia wasn’t certainly old, but not even so young as she had thought at first.

“I’m Nerwen the Green”, she introduced herself, “Thank you for your welcome.”

 

OOO

 

A couple of hours later, Nerwen had freshened up and changed her clothes. She hadn’t been able to take a proper bath, being the bathtubs small for her due to their being meant for Hobbits, but at least she had warm water, a pitcher and a basin at her disposal, so she had used a washcloth to clean her face and body, and then she had donned a green housedress in light cotton muslin. Since Gandalf assigned her the colour as an Istar, she had adopted it for all her travel clothes.

Petunia informed her that dinner would be at sunset in the common room, where she would keep a table for her. In a rather concerned tone, she warned her that, again, everything was Hobbit-size – tables, chairs, dishes – but Nerwen, remembering her experience at The Bold Rooster, reassured her it would be fine.

When she got down in the hall, Nerwen crossed it and headed for the door to the common room, passing it and only stooping slightly. In the large room there were several Shire-folk, sitting at the tables or in front of the bar. Petunia beckoned her and Nerwen approached her, while the Hobbit lady slipped between two patrons carrying an empty tray.

“I’ll take you to your table,” she told her, leading the way. The Istar followed her to a corner of the room, where a table had been set for one.

“Please take a seat, dinner will be served shortly,” Petunia said, “We’ve got pork loin or roasted chicken, with mushrooms and raw seasonal vegetables: which do you prefer?”

“Chicken, thank you.”

“Fine. As for dessert, I can offer you a peach-jam tart or puff pastry rolls stuffed with cottage cheese and candied fruits.”

“I don’t know the latter,” Nerwen admitted, “I’d like to try them.”

“Sure!” Petunia lit up at the thought she could offer something new to try to such an obviously prestigious stranger, “As for drinks, we’ve got cider, beer, and red and white wine,” she went on, “All cool from the cellar.”

“Then cider, thanks.”

“Very good,” the Hobbit lady nodded, and with a quick nod she went away. Looking around, Nerwen noticed many eyes staring at her, more or less openly curious, exactly as it had been in Michel Delving; but most people, according to the slight shyness of this race, averted their faces as soon as they saw she was gazing at them.

But there was an unexpected exception: a middle-aged Hobbit, with a curly mop, hazelnut brown with some grey strands, well dressed in a dark green jacket, a yellow waistcoat and brown breeches. He came off the desk and crossed the room, clearly heading for her. When he arrived at two steps distance from her table, he addressed her with an elegant bow and introduced himself:

“Bilbo Baggins, at your service, madam.”

His distinguished look and impeccable manners struck Nerwen: the Hobbit she had met so far gave her the impression to be cordial but not very sophisticated, in other words, kind but not overly refined country people.

“Nerwen the Green, at yours,” she answered therefore along his lines.

Bilbo raised his eyebrows, surprised:

“… the Green? Like Gandalf the Grey?”

“Precisely, I’m a friend and colleague to him,” she confirmed, “You know Gandalf?”

“Last time I saw him, I was still a very young lad… It’s a long while now since he showed up these parts, so long I didn’t even remember his looks; but I remember well he’s very talented with fireworks: is he still in business, then?”

“Yes, sure.”

“Uh… I wonder: if he’s a Wizard, are you therefore a Sorceress?”

“More or less…” Nerwen nodded, keeping it vague: Gandalf, too, didn’t open up too much with the Hobbits and preferred presenting himself simply as an illusionist, very good at fireworks, or just something more, hence she decided to follow his example, “but I’m not as good as he is at fireworks,” she added, just in case: as a matter of fact, she didn’t even know how to light them, and should she try to mess around with them, she would probably cause a major disaster.

“I don’t want to sound intrusive, madam, but we don’t see many members of the Tall People here around…”

“They told me,” Nerwen smiled, amused by his obvious curiosity, “I’m just here on my way to Bree”, she explained, choosing to omit the intermediate step she was planning to take to Tom Bombadil’s land.

“I see”, Bilbo said, “So you’re staying just for the night…?”

“Exactly,” she confirmed, “even if I must admit that I’d like to be able and stop here longer: your Shire is a very beautiful country.”

Bilbo straightened his shoulders and puffed out his chest in an evidently proud attitude.

“Yes, you’re right,” he confirmed, not out of arrogance but out of true love for his land, “I think it can easily be compared to the much-praised Elven realms, which are described to be of a striking beauty.”

Even if Nerwen had an unachievable comparison, which was Valinor, she had to admit that the Shire, with its serene and luminous atmosphere, could truly hold a candle to Lindon, so far the only Elven realm she had visited in Middle-earth, excluding the ones of the now-sunken Beleriand.

“I think so, too,” she agreed therefore, smiling, “I’m about to dine: would you like to join me and keep me company?”, she asked impulsively this polite and nice Hobbit.

The invitation took Bilbo clearly by surprise, but he was very glad of it.

“With great pleasure!” he cried, coming nearer and taking the chair in front of her, “You’re really kind, madam.”

Noticing that Nerwen had a guest, Petunia Cotton approached their table.

“Are you dining now with Lady Nerwen, Mr Baggins?”, she enquired.

“Yes, she was so nice to invite this old curious Hobbit to dine with her,” Bilbo confirmed smiling.

“What can I fetch you, then?”

“The same the lady ordered, thank you, Petunia,” he answered, and the innkeeper took her leave; shortly after, she returned with a jug and two pewter goblets, which she placed on the table. Bilbo, the perfect gentlehobbit, poured the cider, and then raised his goblet in a toast:

Elen sila lúmenn’ omentielvo,” he said. His accent sounded bizarre to Nerwen’s ear, but she appreciated his use of the Quenya language in toasting with her. She touched her glass to Bilbo’s.

“A star shines on the hour of our meeting,” she agreed, voicing the sentiment in Westron, “I didn’t think a Hobbit would be interested in the ancient Elven tongue…”

“I am very fascinated by Elves and everything concerning them,” the Hobbit revealed in an undertone, almost as a secret, “A quite extravagant interest, my fellows here would say. To them, everything that isn’t Hobbit, is odd, if not even dangerous,” he added, in a conspiratorial way that made Nerwen laugh.

“I see,” she answered, but she thought this mistrust on the part of the Shire-Folk absurd, “And tell me, do you know also the tales and legends of the Elder Days?”

“For sure!” Bilbo answered proudly, not having the slightest idea that he was talking to someone who walked on the land of the now-lost Beleriand during the First Age of the world.  “I know the tale of the theft of the Silmarilli perpetrated by Morgoth, which induced most of the Noldor to come back to Middle Earth in order to rescue them; the tale of the building of the great Elven exile realms in Beleriand – Nargothrond, Gondolin – and of their downfall; the tales of Túor, of Túrin, of Beren and Lúthien, of Eärendil and Elwing, until the War of Wrath that caused the crumbling and sinking of Beleriand…”

“Outstanding!” Nerwen cried, sincerely.

Bilbo felt proud of himself and went on enthusiastically:

“My favourite tale is surely the Lay of Leithian, which speaks of love and adventure, even if the ending is rather sad.”

Nerwen nodded; of course, she didn’t disclose to Bilbo that she had personally met the main protagonists of the tale, which had become a legend to many in Middle-Earth, and then slowly faded into myth with each passing millennium: Lúthien and Beren, Thingol and Melian, and even Morgoth. Not even the other Istari had met them all, not having visited Endorë before the Valar entrusted them with their mission.

“Yes, it has a bitter ending,” she agreed; in the end, the two lovers, who after so much struggling had finally managed to get married, could live together just a little more than thirty years, “but at least their descendents still lives in Middle-earth: Elrond of Rivendell is their great-grandson, is he not?”

“True, and they say his daughter looks very much like Lúthien. Did you ever see her?”

Bilbo took it for granted that Nerwen was walking around Middle-earth for a long time, at least as long as Gandalf, to whom she said to be colleague and friend. She thought it wasn’t important to correct his presumption.

“I had no occasion to meet her yet,” she answered therefore, “but I plan to meet Lord Elrond, in a near future, and so I’ll see her.”

She was surely very curious about Arwen and wanted to verify personally if she looked really so much alike Melian’s daughter.

When they finished dinner, Bilbo leaned against the back of his chair with a satisfied look:

“The food was excellent,” he mused, “and the company even better.”

“I agree,” Nerwen stated, having really enjoyed both equally.

Bilbo rummaged in the small bag he carried, hanging at his belt, and produced a long-stemmed pipe.

“Being Gandalf a friend of yours,” he enquired, “maybe you know pipe-weed? He appreciates it very much, as far as I recall.”

“He told me, indeed, and he made me appreciate it, too,” Nerwen pointed at her pouch, “Here I’ve got a small provision of Old Toby which he gave me, as well as a pipe he made himself for me.”

“How nice! So how about having a good smoke together?”

“Very gladly…”

 

bilbo

 

OOO

 

So it was that Nerwen the Green spent a very nice evening in conversation, sometimes in a learned manner, sometimes in a funny one, with Bilbo Baggins. The Istar had no idea she was facing a person whose actions, one year or some more on, would become renowned among Dwarves, Elves and Men, with deeds narrated in tales and songs – but not among Hobbits; on the contrary, here he would be stared at with a good deal of distrust because he let himself involved into an adventure, a word that, in the Hobbit vocabulary, was regarded as almost indecent; but then, no one is recognized as a prophet in his own land… But, as the minutes ticked away and became hours, she began to feel stronger and stronger the vivid sensation that this peculiar Hobbit was destined to something more than the easy life of a wealthy country squire. Her Second Sight didn’t focus on anything specific, but she began to share Gandalf’s opinion that in this race – or at least in some of its members – there was much more than what meets the eye.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

I completely agree with Tolkien’s idea that History is often made by lesser persons – an idea you can find in The Hobbit and even more in The Lord of the Rings – because it really happens that ordinary people, overwhelmed by events, show a totally unexpected courage and change the course of History. In a way, you expect Thorin to be a hero because he is a prince and a warrior; you expect Gandalf to be a hero because he possesses a great mystic power; you expect Aragorn to be a hero because he is Isildur’s Heir; but who would expect that small, timid Hobbits – Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, even Merry and Pippin – could be able to play a decisive role in the big events…?

This is why I admire these characters. And this is the reason, too, I wrote this chapter, which has an end in itself and no importance at all to the overall development of the plot, at the point you could easily skip it completely; but I wanted to pay tribute to the Heroes Out Of Necessity in the person of Bilbo. Besides, I confess, I couldn’t resist the sympathy and charm of this gentlehobbit and I wanted to meet him at any cost! LOL

Thank you to all those who continue following this fan fiction! And again, special thanks to ColdOnePaul for his precious editing of this chapter!

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

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Capitolo IX: Heading for Tom Bombadil’s Land

 

The following morning in the early hours, after a night of restful sleep, Nerwen resumed her journey along the Great East Road, heading for the Brandywine Bridge, almost 70 kilometres away; from there, she would take the road that, immediately after the Bridge, led southwards to Bucklebury and beyond, to the confluence of the Withywindle into the Brandywine, some 35 kilometres more on. She would need a couple of days, and then one more to go up the Withywindle to Tom Bombadil’s abode.

She spent the first night at Whitefurrows, in an inn very similar to The Green Dragon that boasted of having the best cider of the Shire, and indeed Nerwen found it excellent. The day after, again early in the morning, she continued her journey; a couple of hours later she crossed the large stony bridge on the Brandywine and immediately took to her right on the road to Bucklebury, crossing the gates – which were closed at night – marking the entrance to Buckland; this territory, even if located beyond the river, was still part of the Shire, which border in this area departed from the Brandywine to follow the Hedge, a high and thick, impenetrable range of shrubbery, beyond which was the fearsome Old Forest, a place haunted by malevolent spirits. This was indeed a vestige of the immense forests that, of which its dense and wide range had become lost in the mists of time, covered vast portions of Eriador, the land situated between the Misty Mountains and the sea; and who knows what peculiar creatures inhabited it. Tom Bombadil lived on the other side of the Old Forest, by the springs of the Withywindle, the river crossing and dividing it in two unequal parts; the Hobbits assiduously avoided drinking the water of the Withywindle, believing that it was poisonous or at least carried strange enchantments of sleep and oblivion; and they even avoided completely going upriver. Therefore, in order to draw no further attention and also not to alarm needlessly her kind hosts, Nerwen never mentioned her destination, and anyway she doubted the Shire-folk knew of Bombadil’s existence.

In the early afternoon, the Maia caught sight of a bird of prey flying high in the sky, circling above her and then going away. From the dimensions and shape, she thought it was some kind of hawk, but it was too far even for her sharp Ainurin eyes to establish exactly which species. Among all the birds, the birds of prey were her favourites, especially the hawks.

In the late afternoon, she glimpsed a second one, or maybe it was the same; this time she heard also its cry kek-kek-kek, from which she assumed it was a cálë hawk, a beautiful medium-sized species. She tried to send to it a greeting, but the bird slid through the wind on its wing, heading toward the Old Forest and flying away at great speed.

 

calad

 

Nerwen stayed overnight in Standelf, a small village located at the end of the road coming from the Brandywine Bridge, here, too, welcomed with cordial curiosity; and the morning after she started again.

When she arrived at Hedge End, where the large shrub ended close to the riverbank of the Brandywine, Nerwen caught again sight of a hawk flying in the sky, and decided it couldn’t be a coincidence; but before she could call to the bird and ask about his persistence in following her, the bird of prey, maybe perceiving she maybe perceiving her curiosity, swiftly flew away, heading southwards.

“Did you see that hawk?” she asked Thilgiloth; the Chargeress snorted:

Yeah, it’s the third time it comes, and I wonder what it may want from us, she answered.

Perplexed, the Istar continued staring at the spot in the sky’s horizon where the bird had vanished, but it didn’t reappear; so she let it be and resumed her pace. When she went past Hedge End, she immediately found the confluence with the Withywindle and began to go upriver on its northern bank, with the wood on her left and the river on her right. Proceeding northwest, Nerwen noticed the trees were becoming increasingly taller and dark, old and gnarled, as the river narrowed. The August sun shone down hard on her shoulders and on the wide-brimmed hat she wore, which she had taken on following Gandalf’s example, even if it wasn’t as high and pointy as his old friend’s. It was very hot. 

When midday arrived, Nerwen stopped Thilgiloth in the shadow of a tall birch tree with a double trunk and dismounted. Going down to the riverbank, she plunged one hand into the water, checking it with her power: she didn’t think it could truly be poisonous, but every legend or rumour has normally a real kernel of truth to be born. However, she found nothing.

 

birch

 

“The water’s good,” she told Thilgiloth, “We can drink.”

The mare came near and lowered her head, drinking abundantly: the heat of this day was affecting her, too; Nerwen emptied her canteen and refilled it with fresh water, then she drank, discovering it had a slightly vegetal taste, quite pleasant. Then she went to sit under the shadow of the birch and ate her lunch of bread and cheese and an apple, while Thilgiloth grazed the tender grass on the riverbank. 

There was an uncanny silence: no birds singing, no insects humming, no leaves rustling. Combined with the heat of this summer noon, Nerwen felt a pleasurable languor rising up, and she leaned more comfortably her back against the trunk of the birch, with the intention to close her eyes one minute to enjoy the quietness. Thilgiloth stopped grazing and, lowering her head, shut her eyes, too.

Nerwen felt like falling into sleep, and this caused her a sense of alarm: she wasn’t particularly weary, because in the last few days she didn’t ride for very long distances, besides she rested well in the cosy Hobbit inns, nor her Chargeress could be very tired, she was used to much harder performances. She fought the drowsiness, which in turn seemed to fight back to subdue her with a mellow voice, enticing her to rest, to let herself go, to sleep… sleep…

She thought she heard far away a worried kek-kek-kek.

Even more alarmed, now convinced she was in danger, Nerwen gathered all her extraordinary Ainurin willpower and imposed it with extreme determination: the spell attempting to enthral her tried to resist, but then it split up in thousand pieces like a fragile crystal bubble. Nerwen sprang to her feet, furious, because she had finally identified the source from where the attack originated.

“Birch!” she cried harshly at the tree she had lain against, “How do you dare to try and imprison me in your bewitched cobweb? Don’t you know who I am?!”

The tree shuddered in a violent tremor that no windstorm could arise, much less in a completely windless air like now. Nerwen projected her special senses toward the birch; in the beginning, she perceived a great anger emanating from the tree, which immediately turned into incredulity. The tree stopped shaking and seemed to wilt on itself, pervaded by a sense of recognition and dread.  

“Good, I see you recognised my nature,” Nerwen growled, fuming, hands on her hips, “You will never again try such a trick! And warn your equals about my presence in this dale: if they dare to attack me, I’ll be ruthless with them as much as I’m loving toward the friendly olvar. You know what I’m capable of, don’t you?”

Another shiver passed through the birch, expressing all its dismay: it would never expect to stand face to face with one of the Ainur, and precisely of one who had power particularly on plants. What a big mistake it had made, to antagonize such a person! It bent its crown in a sign of acknowledgment and submission; but its heart, even if trembling in terror, stayed black in wickedness. Such was its nature, and such it would stay until the End of Days.

Nerwen was well aware of this; she picked up her saddlebag and drew back several steps, without turning her back to the tree: she had forced it to subdue to her, and she was sure it wouldn’t try and mesmerize her again in a hex or disobey her command to warn the other hostile trees in the Withywindle Dale; but it would use branches and roots to wrap and imprison her, forcing her to destroy it in order to free herself, and even if it was a vicious being, doing so would repel her.

Thilgiloth, freed of the birch’s spell at the same moment as her two-legged friend, had witnessed motionless the clash of wills; now she drew near to Nerwen, snorting quietly to make her aware she was right behind her. Not taking her eyes off of the tree, the Istar threw the saddlebag on her shoulder and got in the saddle; the Chargeress didn’t need any encouragement and started to trot along the riverbank, withdrawing quickly from the maleficent tree.

What was that, in Kementári’s name?!, Thilgiloth asked Nerwen, shocked. Only a very few things could frighten the Chargeress, but among them there were for sure those she didn’t know and appeared dangerous, to herself and those she loved, like that birch.

“A being who was corrupted by the Dark Power in ancient times,” the Maia answered, thoughtfully, “or more probably, given its apparent age, a descendant of it. Unfortunately Morgoth’s black influence contaminated many things, in the world: olvar, kelvar, two-legged creatures at all levels… even one of my own kin”, she concluded bitterly. She had known personally Mairon, a brilliant and powerful Maia, follower of Aulë, who had become ensnared by Melkor and became his disciple, and finally took his place after his fall at the end of the First Age; then he took the name of Sauron.

Thinking she had now reached a safe distance, Thilgiloth slowed down her pace.

Now her companions will stay out of our way, after your warning, she commented, pleased.

“You can be sure of it,” Nerwen confirmed, stretching her lips in a ferocious sneer, “I put into that creature so much dread to last one year and one day”, then she raised her gaze and observed the sky, “Did you, too, hear the call of the  cálë hawk, earlier?”

Actually, no, the mare answered. No bird was in sight, thus the Aini concluded she had maybe imagined it.

They rode on undisturbed for some hours; Nerwen extended her perceptions and felt a feeling of rancour surrounding them, coming from the trees they were passing; but a strong fright was keeping the anger at bay. Nothing, in this dale, would ever dare to attack again her or Thilgiloth.

At about mid-afternoon they passed near an old willow tree, from which radiated a particularly strong sense of hostility, but which didn’t dare attempt any action against them, evidently warned by the birch. Nerwen would never learn it, but a good number of years later, that same old willow would try a trick similar to the birch’s on a group of four Hobbits, in charge of a very difficult and delicate mission.

It was about dusk when Nerwen arrived in sight of a mound; a large house in grey stone was built on top of it, covered by a thatched roof; from the chimney raised a wisp of smoke. A well-defined path wound up the shallow hillside.

 

house

 

 

 

Drawing nearer, they saw that on the threshold of the green painted door there was a male shape, not very tall and rather plump, wearing bright coloured clothes: sky-blue jacket, pea-green breeches and yellow boots; on the high hat he sported a blue feather.

As he saw horse and rider coming near, the bizarre being moved, dancing forward, and when he was close enough, Nerwen could see his face, red and wrinkled, adorned with a long hazel-brown beard; vivacious sky-blue eyes stared back at her, smiling.

“Welcome, thousand times welcome!” he cried, taking off his hat and bowing low, “Tom Bombadil is glad to welcome you in his land and house!”

Nerwen dismounted and reciprocated the bow:

“Nerwen the Green and Thilgiloth are glad to meet you, Tom”, she answered, borrowing his unusual way to express himself in the third person, “Am I wrong, or you were expecting us?”

Tom put on his hat again and opened his arms:

“Many eyes watch my land and saw you coming.”

Nerwen raised her eyebrows in surprise:

“Among these eyes, are there also those of a cálë hawk?”, she asked. Bombadil nodded:

“My good friend Calad”, he answered, “Did you see her?”

“Yes, and I think she even tried to warn us of a birch which tried to enthrall us.”

“Ha, Old Woman Birch!”, Bombadil shouted, begrudged, “Along with Old Man Willow, she’s the creature who causes more troubles, here in the Withywindle Dale. I’ll have to reprimand her!”

“That won’t be necessary,” Nerwen calmed him down, “I did it myself, and at least for one year and one day she won’t dare to attack anybody, not even a rabbit.”

“Oh, well done!” Bombadil said approvingly, leaping joyfully, already oblivious to his irritation, “Serves her right!” Then he bowed again, “But please, both of you, come. Having realised what your nature is, I am prepared to receive you in my humble dwelling with all the honours you deserve. My sweet lady Goldberry is cooking an exquisite dinner, and I prepared my best fodder and a cosy shelter for Thilgiloth.”

They went first thing to the stables, where a large pony that Bombadil introduced as Fatty Lumpkin, his mount, warmly greeted the Chargeress. Thilgiloth was unsaddled and curried, then left to eat with Fatty Lumpkin and they went to the house. During the short trail, Bombadil began singing:

 

”Hey! Come bella dol! Arrived have our friends!

Sorceress and Chargeress! We are all happy now!

Let’s have fun and sing all together!”

 

And from the inside there came a clear female voice, young and at the same time ancient as Spring, flowing like the waters of the Withywindle, which source gushed just a few meters away from the house:

 

Let’s have fun and sing all together

About sun, stars, moon, mist, rain and hope,

Light on the bud, dew on the plains,

Brambles on the shady pond, lily on the shivering waters!

Old Tom Bombadil and the River-woman’s Daughter!”

 

They entered, and presently came a woman with long blond hair, wearing a green gown, looking like a girl, but an aura of wisdom and dignity surrounded her as only a great number of years can give. Similar in this was she to an Elven queen who lived many centuries, but in her bright eyes there wasn’t the gravity of those who have seen too much winters to count them; instead there were joy and light-heartedness similar to those shining in Bombadil’s clear blue irises. Thanks to her Second Sight, Nerwen saw beyond and realised that he was the Forest, and she the River, ancient as the world, but always renewed and young. She bowed slightly to greet and pay homage to them.

But Goldberry ran to her and took her hands:

“No, please don’t bow to us, you who come from the Undying Lands! We are the ones who bow to you…”

She made a deep curtsy, and Bombadil bowed low. This time it was Nerwen the one protesting:

“For the mission I accepted to accomplish, my status this side of Belegaer means little. Here I am Nerwen the Green, an Istar like your friend Gandalf, nothing more and nothing less. Besides, I’m your guest, and it’s simple politeness to greet my hosts.”

Hence, Goldberry stood upright smiling and said:

“You are welcome in our house, Nerwen. Come, I take you to the room we got ready for you.”

She went ahead through the room, opened a door and went on along a corridor, at the end of which they arrived to a room with one of the ceilings slanting to one side; the stonewalls were entirely clad in green wickers and yellow curtains, and the tile floor was covered with small carpets made of woven canes. In the middle of the northern wall stood a bed with snow-white sheets, and on the wall at its side was a small table with a large jug, a basin, a mirror, towels and soaps.

“Dinner will be ready soon,” Goldberry told her, “Freshen up and change into comfortable clothes.”

Nerwen gladly did as she had been told to, shaking off the long day on horseback; she took from her meagre luggage her home dress and donned the soft slippers she discovered beside the bed, and lastly she untied her braided hair and brushed it. Finally ready, she headed for the main room of the mansion, where meanwhile her hosts had set the table. 

“Well, very well!” Bombadil rejoiced, glancing at her, “Here’s our guest! Come and sit with us at our table! Cream and honey, bread and butter, and cheese, herbs and berries to satiate our hunger; and to calm down our thirst, sweet wine and cold beer!”

They ate and drank, and Bombadil entertained the ladies with many a song and rhyme interposed with a remarkable quantity of dong dillo and bella dol as a completely personal refrain. When they were finished, he and Goldberry quickly cleared the table, and then they sat down on the comfortable armchairs in front of the hearth, where in spite of the summer season a small fire was burning, not to warm up the room, but for the glee the flames rise in the spirits.

“Tell me, my lady,” Bombadil began, “what did you come looking for, in Tom’s house?”

“Information,” Nerwen answered straightforward, “My mission is finding the Ents, but it seems they’ve vanished from Middle-earth for many centuries now and nobody knows where they’ve gone. Maybe you know where I can find them?”

Bombadil became thoughtful, and his reddish, wrinkled face lost some of the perennial jovial expression characterizing it, while his bright eyes dimmed.

“Truly much time has passed since the last time I saw an Ent,” he said slowly, “Here in the Old Forest live some corrupted descendants of that race, like the Birch Woman or the Willow Man, but of the true Ents I don’t hear for centuries … Ent the earthborn, old as mountains,” he quoted an ancient rhyme describing the living beings of Arda, “After all, for many a century now I retired to this small portion of land, of which I defined borders I have no intention to cross. Here I am Master, and the rest of the world is not my concern.”

Nerwen didn’t approve of this point of view, which she considered restrictive; but Iarwain Ben-adar, the Oldest and Fatherless, was who he was, and she couldn’t change his nature, no more than she could change the nature of fire or water.

The thought of water made her think of Tom’s spouse, who was following silently their exchange, sitting next to them.

“Goldberry, did the river ever spoke to you about the Ents?” she asked therefore. Goldberry shook her head:

“No, the Withywindle don’t know anything about them, nor the Brandywine with which it joins and which flows to the Great Sea. From here to the shores of Belegaer, there is no trace of the Ents.”

Nerwen nodded; she was disappointed, but she didn’t expect to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Ents on the first try.

“Thank you anyway,” she said therefore, “I’ll go on my search walking the roads of Middle-earth: sooner or later, someone will be able to provide me news.”

“This, I don’t doubt!” Bombadil cried, suddenly finding again his usual good spirits, “I think the High Elves will be more helpful than us: Lord Elrond of Imladris has a reputation of great knowledge, and so has Lady Galadriel of Lothlórien. And then of your order there’s Radagast the Brown, who could know something about the Ents.”

Again, Nerwen nodded: she, too, had thought about asking Aiwendil, who like her was a follower of Yavanna; but unlike her, he was more interested in the kelvar, especially birds, rather than in the olvar. She knew from Gandalf that he lived in a place called Rhosgobel, on the borders of Mirkwood.

“Thank you again, my friends,” she repeated, feeling suddenly sleepy; but it was a very different feeling from what she had felt that day from the Old Birch Woman’s spell, completely natural, even if she wasn’t yet used to it: in Aman, as an Aini she wouldn’t feel tiredness, but Yavanna had warned her that in Ennor things would be different; she yawned.

“Forgive me, but the hour’s late by now and I need rest,” she declared. Bombadil jumped up, mortified:

“Tom, Tom, how could you forget that your guest comes from a long day on horseback?! My sweet lady Goldberry, light a candle and take Nerwen to her room, please.”

Goldberry stood up and took from the shelf of the fireplace a silver candlestick with a white candle, which she lighted at the fire; then she went ahead Nerwen along the hallway to her room, where she lighted another candle.

“Sleep well, my lady,” she said, “Tomorrow wake up at whatever time pleases you and we’ll break our fast together.”

“Thank you, Goldberry,” the Istar answered, hiding another yawn behind her open hand, “Good night.”

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Tom Bombadil is, using Tolkien’s words, a mystery. Maybe not even the Professor knew exactly who and what this character is; that Tom may be the Forest (the Trees) and Goldberry the River (the Water) is only an interpretation of the scholars who study the Professor’s work, not an explanation of his about their true nature.

This mystery fascinated me since forever and so, like Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, I inserted it in my modest fan fiction; of course, with all the humbleness of an admirer in front of a masterpiece. Besides, it was rightful to think that maybe, because of his nature (the Forest) and his age, Tom could know where the Ents were, and therefore Nerwen needed to meet him; but it would be obviously too easy to solve it this way, not to mention that, in this case, Nerwen’s adventure would end immediately, while I have many more events in store for her…

Best thanks to ColdOnePaul for his precious editing work!

 

 

Lady Angel

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Chapter X: Calad’s Arrival

 

The Sun had come up on another summer day when Nerwen got off bed, early bird as usual. As she arrived in the dining room, she found the table already set with milk, butter, honey, several fruit jams, and fragrant bread. A moment later, on the kitchen door appeared Goldberry, holding a bowl full of peaches and apricots.

“Good morning, good morning!” she greeted her smiling, “Tom was in the orchard,” she added, showing her the bowl before putting it on the table.

“A fruit just plucked from the tree is the most exquisite,” Nerwen said, returning Goldberry’s smile; she took a peach and bit into it: it was very sweet and juicy, and the Aini half-closed her eyes while savouring its taste, “Delicious,” she said. Goldberry picked an apricot, then she signalled Nerwen to take a seat. Shortly afterwards Tom joined them, carrying a small basket of berries: wood strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and blackcurrants.

They had a rich breakfast, chitchatting pleasantly.

“From here you can get to Bree before the sun sets,” Bombadil told her, buttering generously a large slice of bread, “but my lady Goldberry and I hope you’d stay today as our guest, in order to rest before the long journeys awaiting you in the future. What do you say?”

“Thank you, I’m honoured to accept,” Nerwen answered, well aware that Tom was right: as far as Bree, it would be easy, but from there to Rivendell there were over five-hundred kilometres; not pushing the pace, she could travel the distance in ten or twelve days, but the inconvenience would be that, during all the way to there, she would find only a single inn, about one day beyond Bree, and then nothing else. She wasn’t afraid of possible dangers in travelling alone – not counting Thilgiloth – because she was able to defend herself very well, but she wasn’t used to sleeping in the open for so many nights in a row. Well, there was nothing she could do to change this, therefore she just had to adjust.

She spent the day in Tom Bombadil’s and Goldberry’s company, the Forest and the River, and she enjoyed the peace and serenity of this secluded corner of Middle-earth.

bombadil and golberry

 

It was about halfway in the afternoon and she was walking with her hosts along the bank of the young Withywindle, when they heard in the distance a shrill cry, sounding like kek-kek-kek; Nerwen raised abruptly her gaze and, in the cloudless sky, she saw a black spot approaching swiftly from the north-west, and it turned out to be a cálë hawk.

“Oh, here’s our friend Calad!” Bombadil cried, taking off his hat and waving his arm in a greeting. The she-hawk made a large circle above them, turning elegantly on her right wing and spiralling down, until she landed on a boulder near the bank. Her fierce gaze, sparkling with intelligence, glided over the bystanders, and finally rested on Nerwen.

Greetings, Lady of the Green, the Istar heard her ethereal voice.

“Greetings to you, Calad,” she replied, using the name she had heard from Bombadil, “You know me, I see.”

Goldberry and Bombadil stared at her, perplexed, because they were hearing only one side of the conversation, but stayed silent, waiting to learn more.

Calad opened slightly her wings in a gesture that meant agreement.

So it is, she admitted, Many creatures speak of you, since you arrived from over the Great Sea. I’m here to offer you my help: I can be your eyes from above wherever you go.

“Thank you!” Nerwen cried, pleasantly surprised: again, Yavanna’s assurance regarding the alliance and protection she would be offered by olvar and kelvar of Middle-earth was bearing out to be true, “But why do you want to help me?”

Strange voices cross the wind, Calad answered, Eerie voices about the awakening of an ancient evil, far from here, but never far enough to be safe. Your coming from across Belegaer right now cannot be a coincidence… am I right?

As usual, the perspicacity of the kelvar, or at least of some of them, was extraordinary.

“You’re right,” Nerwen confirmed therefore, “However, you still have not told me what makes you willing to help me.”

I want to fight this evil, the hawk answered simply, but with the typical fierceness of her species.

Nerwen nodded.

“I see,” she said slowly, “But you must know that my mission could take me to places very far from your land, savage and inhospitable places. Are you really sure you want to come with me?”

I am, Calad asserted, opening her wings again, this time wider to emphasise her point.

“You could endanger your life,” the Istar insisted, “You could die.”  

She wanted no misunderstandings in this respect; she herself and Thilgiloth, being creatures of the Undying Lands, didn’t run this risk, but anybody else in Middle-earth who would join their mission instead would face this reality, and she wanted the bird of prey to be well aware.

I understand this, Calad stated, I won’t say it doesn’t bother or frighten me, because it wouldn’t be the truth; nevertheless, I want to fight.

Nerwen looked at the hawk with great respect; because of her nature, she respected deeply any living creature, animal or vegetal, whatever its intelligence and self-consciousness level might be. But only a few could gain her admiration like Calad had just done.

“In this case, I accept your offer to help me,” she said solemnly, “Know that I don’t wish you to commit to me with any kind of promise or vow: you’ll follow me until your heart will feel you can bear it. If, in the very moment you feel it’s too much for you, you’ll be free to take your leave and go back home. Are we clear with this?”

The bird of prey opened completely her wings, flapping them slowly: the sign of the utmost complete consent.

So be it, she said with the same solemnity as the Aini had.

Nerwen turned now to Tom and Goldberry, who had been able to follow only half of the exchange.

“Calad wishes to help me in my mission,” she explained, even if they surely had already guessed, “I made it clear what risks she’ll face, but she insisted, and therefore I accepted her offer.”

“Well done!” Bombadil cried, “Calad is a good friend to Tom and Goldberry, loyal and brave: she’ll be a good friend to you, too, Tom is sure of it!”

“Come, let’s go back home,” Goldberry invited them, “so Calad and Thilgiloth will get to know each other.”

“Good idea,” Nerwen approved: it was better if the two animals became familiar with each other as soon as possible, having to journey together. They wouldn’t be able to communicate directly between them, but they would do it through her. However, out of experience the Maia knew that, in time, they would develop a certain degree of communication based on attitudes, postures and callings: Silmelotë hadn’t been the only kelvar living with her in her gardens in Valinor, and she saw it happen a sufficient number of times to know it.

They went back to Bombadil and Goldberry’s mansion, with Calad soaring above their heads. Thilgiloth and Fatty Lumpkin had gone strolling in the fields beyond the hill where the house stood, and weren’t in sight; but Nerwen’s modulated whistle was enough, and shortly afterwards the Chargeress arrived galloping, followed much more slowly by Tom’s stout pony. Calad perched on the white fence marking the edges of Goldberry’s vegetable garden.

Well, look who’s there, Thilgiloth said, recognising the hawk she had caught sight of in the past days.

“Thilgiloth, this is Calad, a friend of Tom and Goldberry, and now of us, too,” Nerwen introduced her, “She’ll escort us in our journey,” she turned now to the bird of prey, “Calad, this is my mount, Thilgiloth; she, too, comes from beyond the Great Sea.”

I realised already she isn’t just any horse, Calad declared, Not even the mearas of Rohan are so splendid, she turned directly to the Chargeress, Greetings, Thilgiloth.

“Calad greets you,” Nerwen said, “and expresses her admiration.”

Greetings to you, Calad, the quadruped replied, And thank you. You, too, are a magnificent specimen.

“Calad returns greeting and admiration,” the Aini said; the she-hawk sent out a satisfied feeling, then she looked to the right and suddenly took off, and then nose-dived for about ten metres and sprang up in the air again, with a large rat in her claws. 

Sorry, I haven’ eaten a thing since yesterday and I’m hungry, she explained, coming back to them and perching once more on the fence, but slightly farther than before.

“We’ll leave you alone to your meal then,” Nerwen concluded, understanding.

“And it’s time for a snack for us, too!” Goldberry laughed, taking the hint, “Blackberry juice with honey cookies!”

They got to a pergola shadowed by a vine full of leaves and unripe grapes, under which stood sofas in delicately wrought iron and stuffed with plenty of cushions, and a wooden table with a central stem, again in iron, wrought in the shape of a tree trunk. The hosts made their guest sit down, then went and took all what was needed: the blonde River-woman’s Daughter came back with a tin box filled with cookies in the most various shapes – mainly leaves and flowers, but also simple geometric shapes – and some small dishes, while the red-faced Tom arrived with three goblets and a jug of blackberry juice, cool from the cellar. They sat with Nerwen around the table and so they had their snack, nattering cheerfully, reserving more grave thoughts for another day.   

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

I adore birds of prey, especially hawks; so one of them had absolutely to be among Nerwen’s allies. She won’t be the only one, even if most will be just occasional allies, who will intervene in case of need to support and defend Yavanna’s emissary.

I hope you’re enjoying reading my fan fiction as much as I’m enjoying writing it! If so, please let me know, I’ll appreciate it greatly. Thank you!

Special thanks to ColdOnePaul for his patient editing!

 

 

Lady Angel

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Chapter XI: At the Prancing Pony

 

As usual, Nerwen got up early; after a delicious and plentiful breakfast with Tom and Goldberry, she took her leave, accompanied by their blessings, and after mounting Thilgiloth, she headed northward, with Calad flying high above their heads.

Following Tom’s directions, Nerwen kept the Old Forest at her left, skirting it at a safe distance, while on her right side she had the mounds of the Barrow-downs.

This was an ancient land, a remainder of a kingdom of Men vanished innumerable years ago, where tombs had been built of past kings who thought themselves so great as to be remembered throughout eternity, and who instead had been forsaken in the ruthless and relentless flowing of Time. It was believed that the wights of these ancient kings haunted the Barrow-downs, but if that was the case, Nerwen didn’t fear them for sure.

When they arrived at the northern end of the Old Forest, the Istar and her two kelvar friends stopped for lunch and an hour’s rest, then they resumed the journey – terrestrial and airborne – northeast to get to the Great East Road. Finally, as evening drew near, they came to Bree; the town was located at the foot of a hill, rising exactly at the crossing of the Great East Road with the Old South Road, another important track that, from the fallen city of Fornost in the north, arrived far in the south to Tharbad, and then went on through Dunland to the Gap of Rohan and to the Fords of Isen, a road now scarcely travelled and heavily covered in grass, which gave reason fo it being called Greenway.

Before arriving to the West Gate of Bree, Nerwen halted and called Calad telepathically:

My friend, maybe you’d feel uncomfortable in town: would you rather stay and wait for us outside it?

I don’t know, the answer came, filled with uncertainty, To be honest, I have never tried to enter a town. Do you think it dangerous for me?

It could: some individual with few scruples could think about capturing you for taming…

Better dead than a prisoner! Calad cried indignantly. Nerwen sent her a feeling of comfort and protection:

Don’t worry, if you stay next to me, nobody will dare even to think about it; but feel free to decide on your own if you wish to venture in town or not. I don’t want to force you in any way.

Calad seemed to think it over.

I’m curious, she confessed finally, and I trust you: I’ll come to town.

Fine, then, Nerwen approved, Better we show up together: I have no falconry glove, but I can use my cloak.

She rummaged in her saddlebags and took out a light summer cape, the colour of moss; she wrapped her left forearm in it and then held it out.

Come, perch here, she invited the bird of prey. Calad came down, radiating some hesitancy: it was clear this was a new experience for her. Lightly, she laid her feet on the offered arm, closing carefully her razor sharp talons around Nerwen’s wrist, protected by the fabric of her cloak.

Hold on tight, if you feel uneasy, Nerwen exhorted her, then signalled to Thilgiloth she could go on, and the Chargeress started to pace; the gate was open – the Men of Bree closed it only by night – nor was there any guard to stop those entering town, which proved this was a peaceful and friendly place.

Following Gandalf’s directions, the Istar proceeded along the main street, actually the Great East Road; where it sharply bent southwards, ending up exiting the town through the South Gate, and here stood the inn that had been recommended to her, The Prancing Pony.  It was a huge building with two wings going backwards from the street, forming an inner courtyard accessible through an arc in the main façade. A large wooden sign, with a small white prancing horse painted on it, hung over the street, next to the entrance door under the arch.

prancing pony

 

Nerwen got off her horse and gave the bridles to the groom who had promptly arrived, a young Man with red hair; the Chargeress showed some sign of nervousness: she still hadn’t completely overcome her natural mistrust toward the strangers, but she had begun to control herself, at least with those Nerwen could trust. The Aini sent her anyway a calming thought, but she nonetheless instructed the young groom to treat her with the utmost care. Then she placed Calad on the saddle and told her silently not to fly off Thilgiloth until she returned for her.

There was no one behind the desk in the hall, but a tiny brass bell was placed in plain view on the top; a note with ring me written on it was stuck by a corner under its rim, in the case someone wouldn’t understand its purpose. Nerwen shook it vigorously; she almost hadn’t set it back again, and a panting man arrived, tall and chubby, with a tawny great beard and hair and grey eyes.

“Here I am!” he cried in a jovial tone, “Goldwheat Butterbur, at your service, lady.”

“Hullo, Mr Butterbur,” the Aini greeted him, taking a sudden fancy to him, “I’m Nerwen the Green, and my old friend Gandalf the Grey recommended your inn.”

“Old good Gandalf!” the landlord laughed, “It’s about three generations of Butterbur – no, wait, with me, it makes four! – that the Grey Pilgrim passes here now and then, never forgetting to stop at the Pony. It’s an honour, Lady Nerwen. Do you wish only to dine, or to sleep, too?”

“To sleep, too,” she confirmed, “and also a nice bath, if possible.”

“I’ve got some rooms with a private bath,” Butterbur said, “They are more expensive than the others, but service is included. Besides, they’re large enough to allow you to eat in them, if you have no fancy to come in the common room.”

“Fine,” Nerwen accepted; she hadn’t had a proper bath since she left Círdan’s house, “And I need also a shelter for my mount; also I carry a hawk with me.”

“If it’s well trained and doesn’t soil around, you can keep it in your room,” the landlord said, “but I have no perch.”

“That’s fine, I’ll wrap the back of a chair in a cloth and have her perch there.”

“Very well. I’ll get someone to take you to your room, then.”

Butterbur turned toward a shelf and took a bell, bigger than the one placed on the desk; he shook it forcefully and rather long, and some moments later a boy arrived, a lanky lad with a curly mop the same colour of the landlord’s.

“Go and call immediately your sister Mina,” Butterbur instructed him, “then run for the lady’s luggage and carry it to room number 12.”

“Yes sir!” the lad cried, vanishing in no time. Butterbur smiled in his beard:

“My son Amaranth,” he revealed to Nerwen, “Quick as a pixie, and also very clever. Like his sisters Jasmine and Rosie. They all took after my wife Violet, fortunately,” he laughed uproariously to make it clear it was a joke, “Ah, here you are, Mina… Take Lady Nerwen to room number 12 and then help her with her bath.”

The lass, some 4 or 5 years older than Amaranth, was a brunette, unlike her father, but possessed his same grey eyes; she smiled at Nerwen and addressed her a slight curtsy.

“Mina, at your service, lady,” she introduced herself, “Please follow me.”

“Wait, let me go get my hawk. Oh, in this regard… where can I get a falconry glove?”

“There’s Bob Lichen, the leather-goods manufacturer,” Butterbur answered, “He’s not far from here. Tomorrow morning I’ll give you directions.”

Nerwen thanked him, then she stepped out the door of the inn and headed for the courtyard, where meanwhile Thilgiloth’s bridle had been tied to the fence in front of the stables; Calad was still perched on Nerwen’s saddle. The bags were no longer there, as Amaranth had picked them up.

“A magnificent specimen, lady,” the redheaded groom said in an admiring tone, coming out from the nearest box, “Never seen such a shining coat.”

Thilgiloth snorted, flattered.

“Thank you,” Nerwen answered the youngster. Vain horse, she spoke in a mental undertone to the Chargeress, amused; Thilgiloth snorted again, louder, sharing her friend’s amusement.

The Maia wrapped again her forearm in her summer cloak and had Calad perch on it. Then she gave a silver coin to the groom:

“A thorough currying and then the best oat you have,” she recommended. The youth examined the coin and his eyes widened: it was a positively generous tip.

“I’ll see to it, my lady,” he assured her, beginning to take off the Chargeress’ harness already.

“Relax, you’re in good hands,” Nerwen reassured Thilgiloth.

Yeah, I think so, too, the horse replied, I like him, he has gentle manners.

Nerwen got back into the inn with Calad on her arm, then followed Mina upstairs. The room, as Butterbur had stated beforehand, was large and furnished with old but well-kept furniture; a wide canopy bed, with two nightstands at its sides, dominated it, leaning against the wall opposite to the door, with a chest at its foot, where her saddlebags had been placed; furthermore, there were a dresser, a desk, two well-stuffed and apparently very comfortable armchairs placed in front of the fireplace, and a small table of polished wood with two massive chairs.

Nerwen was about to put down Calad on the back of a chair, when she perceived that the hawk was sending out a feeling of uneasiness.

My friend, is there something wrong? she asked mentally.

I think I don’t like to be indoors, Calad answered, apologetically: after all, it was her who had asked to come into the dwelling of the two-legged beings; but Nerwen understood perfectly her reasons: one cannot expect a wild animal, used to the freedom of an unlimited space, to feel comfortable inside a building.

No problem, don’t worry, she therefore answered; the room was provided with a terrace looking over the courtyard, and Nerwen went there, placing Calad on the balustrade. The bird of prey opened shortly her wings, as to feel the free air, then she exuded a feeling of satisfaction at the change of venue for her perch.

Mina had followed her guest’s movements; returning into the room, Nerwen noticed her interrogatory expression.

“Calad doesn’t like enclosed spaces,” she explained, “Far better if she stays outside.”

“But won’t she fly away?” the girl objected, perplexed, “I see she has no jesses to tie her…”

“Actually, I don’t use these things,” Nerwen answered, “Calad stays with me out of friendship, and it’s only because of friendship that she comes back to me each time she flies, that’s the reason I don’t need to tie her to a perch.”

“I see,” Mina said, not less perplexed as before but favourably struck, “A very interesting concept…,” she stopped mid-sentence, “Forgive me, lady, I’m forgetting myself: here’s the bathroom,” she opened a door to the right of the entrance, showing a room with floor and walls covered in white, green and blue majolica tiles and equipped with a large copper bathtub with supportive pins shaped like lion paws.

“I fetch you some towels,” the girl said, “We have lavender, rose, calendula and honeysuckle-scented soaps: which one do you prefer?”

“Calendula,” Nerwen chose, thinking the fresh fragrance of that yellow flower very apt to the summer heat, “Can you prepare a bath for me before dinner?”

“Sure, we have hot water in the kitchen anytime, and by this hot weather there’s no need of much… unless you wish otherwise, of course.”

“No, no, a lukewarm bath with this temperature is just perfect…”

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Holy Valar, I didn’t think that arriving at the Prancing Pony – like Frodo with his three companions will do 78 years from now – would thrill me so much! I imagined Goldwheat Butterbur as Barliman’s grandfather, very similar in his chubby looks, but less distracted LOL

Short transition chapter: I promise that the next will be more significant both in length and in substance. Indeed, a meeting taking a totally unexpected turn expects Nerwen, and will confront her – for the first time full force – with the influence the quality of Middle-earth exerts on her…

Many thanks to the priceless ColdOnePaul for his careful editing!

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

cover

 

Chapter XII: Blue Eyes

 

The following day, after a relaxing bath, a delicious dinner in the common room and a peaceful sleep in a soft bed, Nerwen showed up at the desk in the hall, looking for Butterbur. Called by the ringing of the bell, the landlord arrived, out of breath as he seemed to be constantly.

“Good morning, lady, do you wish directions to go to Master Lichen, the leather manufacturer?” he asked, reminding her request of the night before.

“Exactly. Besides, I’m looking for the Dwarf smith, Thorin: do you know him?”

“Sure! Master Thorin is the best smith in Bree-land, both for weapons and for furnishings…”

The landlord explained then where Bob Lichen lived, and where Thorin’s forge was located. With his ample directions, Nerwen found immediately Lichen’s workshop, where she ordered a falconry glove; the artisan took her measures and told her he could manufacture it by nightfall, and if she wanted it, he could deliver it where she was staying; Nerwen gave him therefore the name of the Prancing Pony and gave him a generous down payment.

At this point, she headed to Thorin’s smithy, located in a side road on the southern quarter of Bree. Like for the leather manufacturer, Butterbur had given very clear directions, so she had no trouble in finding it.

From the forge came a perfectly regular metallic beat. Nerwen didn’t want to enter the workshop without permission and therefore called in a loud voice:

“Hey there, I’m looking for Master Thorin!”

The beat didn’t cease.

“I’m coming!” a baritone voice arrived from the inside. A few other beats, then a hissing sound told the Istar that the piece in the works had been immersed in cold water. A moment later, on the threshold of the workshop appeared a Dwarf, unusually tall for his race, with a long, wavy black mane, streaked with some white locks; an aquiline nose dominated a noble face, surrounded by a short and well-trimmed beard; but it were his eyes – of an intense bright blue – that struck Nerwen with the force of a maul, piercing her through and through. For a moment, she felt breathless.

thorin

 

“Greetings,” the Dwarf said, “I’m Thorin.”

“Greetings to you, Master Thorin,” she answered, forcing herself to breathe again, “My name’s Nerwen, and I bring you a message from our mutual friend Gandalf the Grey.”

“Really?” Thorin asked, not hiding his surprise, “Gandalf’s friends are my friends: please, come in.”

He stepped back from the threshold and Nerwen moved to follow him inside the workshop; just indoors, Thorin turned to the right and walked through another door, entering the house. She followed him closely and found herself in a clean and well-lit kitchen, which they crossed heading for the next room, a dining room, and finally in a parlour. The house, furnished in a simple style, looked very well kept, being a bachelor’s abode. In a corner, Nerwen noticed a small and elegant harp in golden-painted wood.

“Please sit down,” Thorin pointed to a well-stuffed armchair, “Can I get you cider, or wine?”

Reminding the Dwarves’ passion for another drink, Nerwen smiled and asked:

“May I have an ale?”

“Sure!” Thorin replied, disappearing quickly in the kitchen; he came back shortly after with two ceramic tankard. He placed them on the small table next to Nerwen’s armchair and sat down on another armchair.

“To our friend Gandalf, then,” Thorin suggested, rising his mug.

“To Gandalf,” Nerwen answered; she took a sip, finding the light beer agreeably cold.

Placing his stein back on the table, Thorin stared at her with those extraordinary eyes which seemed to pierce right through her.

“So, what news does the old Wizard want to let me know?” he asked in a voice full of expectation.

“The moment has almost arrived, Thorin Oakenshield,” Nerwen recited by heart, “Gather the companions we spoke about and prepare yourselves to the fulfilment of the mission.

The Dwarf froze for a moment, then he bent forward, placing elbows on knees and leaving his hands hanging in between, on his aristocratic face an almost incredulous expression.

“After all these years, the moment has finally arrived…,” he whispered. Then he was silent, engrossed in thought, and Nerwen waited quietly.

Several minutes later, Thorin straightened his back and gazed at her.

“Did he name a deadline?” he enquired, “Weeks, months?”

“No,” she answered, “The message was just the one I already delivered; he added only that he would contact you as soon as the exact moment to move will arrive, but he didn’t think it’d be before next spring.”

“I see,” Thorin whispered, with a sigh which told her that he would rather prefer to leave immediately toward whatever destination he and Gandalf had spoken about. For some more moments, the Dwarf took on a distant expression, as if being immersed in thoughts very far from the present time, then he came suddenly back to reality, “I am very grateful to you, Nerwen. How can I thank you?”

The Istar shrugged:

“No obligation exists between us,” she declared, using the formal expression in the Common Speech she learned at the Grey Havens, “In case, it exists between Gandalf and me,” she added on a lighter tone, chuckling, “as it was he who asked me this favour.”

All of a sudden, Nerwen realised her task here was over, and felt sorry, because it meant going away, although she would like to learn more about Thorin Oakenshield, this appealing Dwarf prince, dethroned and reduced to working as a common smith. Their gazes met again, and the blue fire in his eyes pierced her again.

“The truth is, that you do not know the importance this message you delivered has for me,” Thorin said, speaking slowly, “that’s why I feel I owe you. I’d like to buy you lunch… Where are you staying?”

Nerwen thought it was a good way to spend some more time with the attractive Dwarf.

“At The Prancing Pony,” she answered therefore, “Gandalf recommended it as the best inn in Bree.”

“And it is,” Thorin confirmed, nodding, “Violet Butterbur is the best cook in Bree-land: her mutton stew is renowned in the entire neighbourhood. If you allow me, later I’ll come there and we can have lunch together.”

“Gladly,” Nerwen affirmed, finishing her beer and standing up, “I’ll tell the landlord I’m expecting someone.”

“You can tell them it’s me,” Thorin said, stranding up in turn, “They know me well.”

He saw her out, this time letting her through the main entrance, and in taking his leave, he bowed to her as he would do to a great lady or a princess. Nerwen responded with a small curtsey, then she left and strode along the paved street. Thorin stayed on the threshold, staring at her, thoughtful.

Rarely had he met a woman who intrigued him, and none more than this friend of Gandalf’s. He and the Wizard knew each other for many years, but he never heard him mention her; however, this didn’t surprise him, because Gandalf didn’t speak much about himself or his plans, on the contrary, he often acted mysteriously and for obscure reasons. Yet Thorin trusted him completely, having had the opportunity to test his loyalty and honesty, qualities that had quickly overcome the customary mistrust the Dwarves feel toward anyone not of their race. Nerwen had in herself something that reminded him of Gandalf, and therefore – beyond the friendship she claimed sharing with the Wizard – he felt he could trust her as much as the old Istar. Her looks were those of a female of the race of Men, exactly as Gandalf was a male of the same race; but exactly like him, even in Nerwen Thorin perceived the existence of something more, even if he could not tell precisely what.

During all his life, the exiled heir to the throne of the forsaken Dwarven realm of Erebor had never felt attracted to females who weren’t of his own race; and even then, only rarely someone had been able to get him interested. This was because of the endemic scarceness of Dwarven females, which imposed a perennial sexual and sentimental austerity to the males of this race; but in case of fatal encounter, the most sober Dwarf could transform into a passionate and insatiable lover, with great delight of the Dwarven females or of the few women of the race of Men who a Dwarf had taken an interest in. This passion did not apply to female Elves, because of the great animosity the two races had for one another, which had been only occasionally mitigated through intense trade as had transpired between Erebor and the realm of Greenwood, or between the Dwarven realm of Moria and Eregion.

Never before Thorin felt attracted to someone who wasn’t a Dwarf female; but Nerwen had unexpectedly fascinated him, so much, he wanted to invite her for lunch just for the pleasure of increasing the time he could spend in her company. He shook his head, perplexed, trying to understand the reasons of his interest in Gandalf’s friend; but he had to give it up soon, because there are things reason cannot work out and one must therefore accept them as they are. Or refuse them, that is; however, Thorin had no intention of rejecting them.

He snapped out of his thoughts; observing the position of the sun in the sky, he thought he had a couple of hours before going to the inn and having lunch with Nerwen, and it was best if he stopped for now and went to clean himself up: he could not go for sure in his work clothes, stained with soot and in several places even perforated by the incandescent particles of the metals he wrought, nor with smoky-smelling beard and hair. Even if he never forgot his royal heritage nor his warrior vocation, he liked his trade and was proud of the works he created; nonetheless, he thought that, in the hope of raising in Nerwen an interest equal to his, he had to look at his best.

 

OOO

 

Even as Thorin pondered, Nerwen walked in the streets of Bree, heading for The Prancing Poly. Like the Dwarf’s thoughts were full of her, hers were full of him.

At the time of her visits to Doriath to see her sister Melian and her family, she met several Dwarves, or Naugrim as the Elves used to call them; she always thought they were steadfast, tough, valiant and proud, slow in forgetting the suffered wrongs or the received favours, exceptional friends or formidable enemies, lovers of the splendid items they manufactured – to the point to seem avaricious of material goods and not much inclined to spiritual matters – excellent artisans, and extraordinary warriors. Their best virtue was surely their loyalty, once they had granted it to someone, which wasn’t easy because of their characteristic mistrust; and their worst flaw was their stubbornness, which often ruined them. Nerwen had resented them for a long time because they had killed Thingol, Melian’s husband; but in time she realised she couldn’t blame an entire race because of the act of few, or of one.

And now she had met Thorin Oakenshield; Nerwen had read in Círdan’s books the history of the Realm of the Lonely Mountain, Erebor, of its richness, power and splendour, of its ruin by the terrible dragon Smaug, the diaspora of its people, the battles they fought against the Orcs who took possession of the ancient realm of Moria, and particularly Thorin’s feats during the brutal battle of Azanulbizar, which men called Dimrill Dale, where he gained the appellation of Oakenshield. Here in Bree she had seen him in the modest guise of a smith but, even under the soot of the job he did for a living, his royal mien was apparent.

From what he had told her, Gandalf felt evident admiration and friendship for Thorin and his folk. Nerwen had already learnt he was a great person from her readings in Círdan’s library, and now that she had met him, she was persuaded more than ever; but it wasn’t this what had struck her. No… it had been his eyes. Blue like Valinor’s immense sky, blazing like incandescent flame, they had her literally nailed. Yet Thorin hadn’t glanced at her in any particular way: curiosity, surprise, gratitude, all totally normal feelings. Nonetheless, Nerwen had felt her knees turning to jelly like the first time she had met Calion, a long time ago; so much, she hadn’t believed she could remember the way it felt.

Suddenly she realised she had arrived at the inn’s entrance; with an effort, she put away those thoughts and climbed the steps leading to the door, opened it and entered, crossing the hall dominated by the desk. Behind it stood the portly owner, Goldwheat Butterbur.

“Hullo, lady!” he greeted her exuberantly, “Did you find the leather manufacturer? And the smith?”

“Hullo to you, Mr Butterbur,” Nerwen reciprocated the greeting, “Yes, thanks, your directions were accurate and I found them immediately. Master Lichen will come by nightfall with the falconer glove I ordered: would you please inform me when he’ll arrive?”

“Of course.”

“Fine. Also, Master Thorin will have lunch here with me, today.”

“Very good,” the landlord nodded, “I’ll have a table set for you in the common room, or do you prefer eating in your room?”

Nerwen thought she would like to stay alone with the charming Dwarf, undisturbed by the other customers who, if they were the same of the night before, were rather noisy; but receiving him in her room seemed excessive: she had no intention to end up in bed with him.

Not so soon, at least…

“Is it possible to have a table a little secluded?” she asked anyway, looking for a middle ground, “We’d like to talk in peace…”

“I’ll take care of that,” Butterbur assured her, “In any way, at lunchtime there’s much less confusion than in the evenings, don’t worry. Is there something particular you wish to eat?”

Nerwen reminded something the Dwarf had said:

“Master Thorin told me about Mrs Violet’s mutton stew,” she said therefore.

Butterbur lighted up:

“Yes, it’s her speciality, and Master Thorin, too, comes here just to eat it. I’m glad he mentioned it to you, it means he appreciates it more than he tells – you know, he’s not very talkative…”

“Very good,” Nerwen interrupted him, trying not to laugh because, if Thorin wasn’t, Butterbur definitely was very talkative instead, “Mutton stew, vegetables at Mrs Violet’s discretion, and if possible something sweet in the end.”

“What about a cheesecake with honey and raisin?”

“Sounds delicious.”

“And of course the best wine from the Staddle vineyards will be at your disposal,” the landlord added.

“Fine,” Nerwen nodded, “Please call me when Master Thorin arrives.”

“I’ll do that.”

The Istar took her leave with a nod and exited again, heading for the stables; Thilgiloth greeted her with a cordial flick of her nose, then she drew back and looked at her closely.

You look… strange, she said, What’s the matter?

The matter is a charming Dwarf, Nerwen answered sincerely, I met him one hour ago.

She projected Thorin’s image; the Chargeress shook her head, snorting.

One hour ago?? That’s big matter, he turned you completely upside down, she considered in an unmistakably amused tone, Not since you met Calion, have you reacted like this to someone.

Thinking back to the handsome Vanya she had left in Valinor made Nerwen a little sad. She missed him, and surely not only for the warm embraces they had shared for so many years. Calion hadn’t been her first lover, nor would he be the last; she never had been in love with him, but in time she had developed a great affection for him, which would never change, even if she would finally find her soulmate – which she seriously doubted would happen for centuries now, because she hadn’t found him yet. Well, if there was none, none there was: it meant she would stay an unmarried Aini, such as Nienna, the Valië Lady of Mourning, or Arien, the Maia who drove the Sun in her circumvention around the sky of Arda.

You’re right, my friend, she confirmed, talking to Thilgiloth, I’d never thought a Dwarf would fascinate me so much.

How is he different from the Dwarves you met since now?, the Chargeress enquired, marvelled. She had known Nerwen since the Years of the Trees, before Sun and Moon were created, and what roused now her two-legged friend was something she had seen only a few times, and anyway never so suddenly.

The Istar perceived Thilgiloth’s amazement, and because she, too, was amazed by her reaction, she tried to find an explanation:

He’s noble; I don’t mean highborn, not only, but he’s got a noble soul. Seldom had I met a person with such a high dignity as I see in Thorin Oakenshield. I understand well, now, why Gandalf has such a high esteem of him… 

But this interpretation didn’t satisfy her completely; it was undoubtedly true, but it wasn’t all. She let her conscience drop and thought in a more earthly way.

And he’s got extraordinary blue eyes, intense, as sharp as spear-points, she went on, They literally pierced me through and through.

Will you mate with him? Thilgiloth asked, meaning no vulgarity, but simply asking the question from her animal and instinctive point of view: if she liked a male, she had no problems to mate with him, and thought that all beings, with two or with four legs, were allowed to do the same.

Used to the kelvar’s way of reasoning, Nerwen wasn’t offended; but she wasn’t very sure about the answer: being immortal and having all eternity to do everything, she had never been hasty in her choices and decisions, and now this unexplained attraction she was feeling for Thorin disoriented her greatly.

Well, if he feels the same desire, she answered therefore slowly, maybe I will… She shook off those disturbing thoughts and moved on other things, I came to see if you’re content of the way the stable hands treat you.

Thilgiloth radiated a feeling of satisfaction:

Yes, thanks, I’m fine: the straw is dry, food is good and plentiful, and water is always fresh.

Reassured, Nerwen stroked the Chargeress and took her leave to go to her room, where she sat down by the open window to read, until Mina came and informed her that Thorin had arrived.

Nerwen stood up, smoothing the skirt of her gown; she felt suddenly agitated: a life measured not by years, but by the eras of the world, had not been enough to extinguish in her the capability to feel thrilled, nor, as for this, she would ever want this. However, in all her life she had never felt such an instantaneous attraction like with Thorin, and this confounded her. While slowly descending the stairs, heading for the entrance, she thought that evidently, as Yavanna had warned her, the intrinsic quality of Middle-earth – mortal land, unlike Valinor – was influencing her and imposing on her its rhythms that, compared to those of the Undying Lands, were much faster.

When she arrived in the hall, she found Thorin chatting with Butterbur in a quite friendly way; she noticed the Dwarf had changed his clothes and wore now a white shirt of light muslin under a blue velvet waistcoat, and light-brown linen breeches, as well as knee-high boots. If wearing work clothes he had struck her, seeing him so elegantly dressed up left her speechless for a moment.

Hearing her approaching, Thorin turned, and again his bright blue eyes pierced her, making her risk stumbling; she forced herself to focus her willpower on going on and showing a – she hoped – normal, welcoming face.

From his part, Thorin was staring at her almost hungrily; he had seen her just two hours ago, but he thought now he hadn’t noticed how really beautiful she was, with that long dark hair, the velvety brown eyes and the delicious hourglass-shaped figure wrapped in the light-green dress. He straightened his back, trying involuntarily to reach his full height, even if he remained nonetheless a few centimetres shorter than her; but his natural dignity compensated amply the lack in stature, even compared to a tall big Man like Goldwheat Butterbur.

“Welcome, Thorin,” Nerwen greeted him, in her emotional turmoil forgetting to call him the courtesy title due to a master craftsman; even if, technically, Your Highness would be more appropriate, for a prince like him.

“Thank you, Nerwen,” the Dwarf reciprocated, addressing a bow to her, never taking his eyes off her, “My good friend Goldwheat was telling me he has a table already set for us.”

“Yes, it is,” the landlord confirmed, “Rosie had taken care of it. You can take your seats straightaway.”

Thorin offered his arm to Nerwen; she laid her hand on it and this way, striding majestically as if in a royal court and not just in a modest inn, they entered the common room, where some customers were already present. Rosie, Butterbur’s elder daughter, who looked very alike her sister Mina, approached them and, after a small curtsey, led them to a table in a corner, already set for two.

After Rosie had taken her leave, Thorin, keeping his attitude as if they were in the feast room of a royal palace, pulled a chair for Nerwen and had her sitting, before taking his own seat in front of her.

“I took your advice,” Nerwen told him, recovering her usual confidence, “and ordered the mutton stew. Butterbur offered his best wine, but we can ask for beer, if you prefer.”

“If he was talking about the wine of Staddle, it’ll do perfectly,” Thorin declared, “It’s excellent.”

At that moment, Rosie came back with a jug of freshly drawn red wine, which she poured in the two goblets, then she left, quick and unobtrusive; evidently, her father warned her that the two of them wanted to be left alone. 

Thorin raised his chalice to Nerwen:

“To our encounter.”

“To our encounter,” the Istar repeated, touching her cup to his. They took a sip; the wine was cool, fruity and slightly sparkling.

“Verily excellent, as you said,” Nerwen commented. Thorin nodded, then he placed down his goblet and asked:

“Forgive my curiosity, but how do you know Gandalf?”

“I became part of the Istari Order a short time ago,” Nerwen answered, without going into details, “but actually we have known each other for a much longer time. You’d say we grew up together.”

Thorin finally realised why Nerwen seemed to be something more than a simple woman.

“So you, too, are an Istar like my old friend Gandalf,” he mused thoughtfully, “Actually, I immediately thought that you two look somewhat alike… Well, not in the physical appearance for sure,” he specified, grinning, “you look like a young and beautiful woman, while he looks like an old and far less attractive man.”

Nerwen, too, laughed:

“You’re right; but he and the other colleagues chose the appearance of elders to look like wise men at first sight, while I preferred otherwise.”

Thorin raised an eyebrow, surprised:

“You mean it doesn’t matter to you looking at once a wise and authoritative Istar, in order to impress your interlocutors?”

“Not at all,” she declared, “I prefer to surprise them: sometimes it’s useful, being underestimated.”

“Interesting strategy,” the prince pondered, “I never took it into account… Maybe because it’s too subtle, for me. I’m a very straightforward person, cutting immediately to the chase.”

“Me too, sometimes,” Nerwen admitted, “It depends on circumstances… But tell me, how do you know Gandalf…?”

 

OOO

 

They spent this way a couple of very agreeable hours, chatting in a pleasant and relaxed way, initially in front of a tasty stew with zucchini, aubergines and string beans, and later in front of a slice of cake. Often, like animated by a will of their own, their eyes met, but immediately they took them off of one another with some kind of shyness.

When only the crumbs of the lunch they shared were left over, Thorin began to think regretfully that in a short time he must take his leave.

“How long will you stay in Bree?” he decided finally to ask, fearing the answer.

Nerwen hesitated. Her plan had been originally to leave the day after the delivery of the message, but for sure she hadn’t expected to have such an intriguing encounter… to be charmed by two light-blue eyes.

“Actually, I don’t know,” she decided finally to answer, “I’m early in my travelling plans, and a long way expects me: I’m going to Rivendell.”

Elrond’s realm was indeed her next stage; then from there she planned to go to Lothlórien to speak to Galadriel and Celeborn, thence to Radagast’s abode in the hope to finding and asking him about the Ents.

Thorin’s expression lightened up.

“Well then, I hope you’ll stop here for a few days: I’d like to get to know you better,” he said bluntly.

She liked his frankness. 

“I, too, would like to get to know you better,” she admitted, with the same frankness. Thorin’s face opened to a smile, which illuminated him and made him even more attractive.

“Fantastic,” he declared, then he seemed thinking for a moment, “I’d like to take you to see an enchanting, and maybe enchanted, place in the Chetwood. It’s about one hour ride from here; we could go there even now, but I have to finish a work I began this morning: I promised to deliver it tonight… We can go tomorrow, and take lunch with us, what do you say?”

A trip in the woods, Nerwen thought; romantic… and exciting.

“I say yes,” she accepted, “I’ll ask Rosie to prepare a picnic lunch.”

“Then we see us tomorrow one hour before noon,” Thorin said, getting up. He took his leave with an impeccable bow, then he left the room, while a number of patrons nodded to him, as well as Rosie and Mina, who were waiting at the tables. Rosie hurried to Nerwen.

“You and Master Thorin have been satisfied, my lady?” she asked, while Nerwen, too, was standing up.

“Yes, completely, thank you Rosie,” the Istar answered, “Tomorrow morning, could you please prepare a picnic lunch for two people? I leave it up to you choosing the food and drinks.”

“Of course, my lady…”

 

OOO

 

Later, Nerwen went out to the large courtyard of the inn to let Calad fly under her watchful eye; she didn’t really expect someone trying to steal the hawk, but one can never know, in a crowded town like Bree. Calad caught a couple of rodents, eating them in a secluded corner of the courtyard, while Nerwen was chatting with Thilgiloth.

Tomorrow we take a trip in the woods, she announced her, A stroll of about one hour.

Fine, I love walking around in the woods, the Chargeress mused, Your Dwarf will come with us?

It was he who invited me, the Aini revealed to her. Thilgiloth sent off a feeling of impish amusement:

Then I’ll go away and leave you alone to mate…

Again, the Chargeress didn’t imply anything coarse. 

Well, anyhow it doesn’t mean it’ll happen, Nerwen objected. Thilgiloth glimpsed at her knowingly:

If he feels like you do now, you can bet on it happening, she affirmed, amused. Nerwen couldn’t reply, because she knew this was the simple truth.

Calad, having finished her meal, came back to her friends, perching on a fence nearby; Nerwen told her, too, the program of the coming day.

I know your species doesn’t like to fly among trees, therefore I won’t force you to come with me and Thilgiloth, she added.

You’re right, the bird of prey confirmed, I prefer avoiding woods, especially if they’re thick. I’ll come with you until you’ll go in, then I’ll stay around there and wait for you to return.

Having agreed on this, Nerwen went back to her room with Calad, who perched on the balustrade of the terrace. A little over an hour later, Amaranth came and informed her that Master Lichen, the leather manufacturer, had arrived. The Istar went downstairs to the hall, where she received the falconer glove from the craftsman; after complimenting him for his punctuality and the careful manufacture of the item, Nerwen paid the agreed price and went back to her room, where she showed the purchase to Calad, explaining what it was.

But I would never wound you intentionally with my talons, the hawk assured her.

I know, my friend, said the Maia, but you could scratch me accidentally; this glove will avoid it. And then it’s more comfortable than the cloak, just try…

She put on the glove and Calad came to perch on it, hopping on it and finally calling herself satisfied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

To someone, Thorin will appear out of character; he is for sure, compared to the book, but in Peter Jackson’s movie I saw him this way: hard, proud, even ruthless, but capable of very deep feelings and love. In this I have been surely influenced by his performer, Richard Armitage, who in an interview said that, while he and Peter Jackson were trying to develop a background for Thorin in order to contextualise and therefore describe/interpret him better, he imagined a lost love; of course he was referring to some Dwarven princess, but in my mind I re-elaborated the thing with a view to my story and I ended up deeply involved… but to know how and how much, you must wait the next chapter… :-D

Many thanks to ColdOnePaul for his editing!

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

cover

 

Chapter XIII: The Song of the Spring

 

The morning after, Nerwen went early downstairs for breakfast, as she usually did; this time it was Mina, the one who waited on her. Back in her room, the Maia sat down to read, but she could hardly concentrate, because the memory of Thorin’s extraordinary blue eyes distracted her constantly. At last, she gave up and, trying to calm down, she got out of the inn to take a stroll in the pleasant streets of Bree. Workshops and stores overlooked the main street, where many people, both Men and Hobbits, walked along it in both directions.

Nerwen looked around and decided that she liked Bree; it did not possess the serene atmosphere of the Shire’s villages, but it was a pleasant place nevertheless.

She came back in time to change her clothes, putting on her riding attire that she had cleaned the day before, consisting of a short tunic, breeches and boots – she hated riding in a skirt – and then she headed for the stables, where she saddled Thilgiloth personally. Calad flew down from the balcony of her room and waited, perching on the nearby fence. 

Nerwen was tightening the girth when Thorin arrived, riding a beautiful white and black speckled pony. With his height, just a little shorter than Nerwen’s, he could easily ride a horse, but clearly he preferred otherwise.

He nimbly got off the mount and approached her, leading the pony by the bridle; taking her hand, he bowed to kiss it.

“Good morning, Nerwen,” he greeted her, straightening his back again. His lips had just brushed the back of Nerwen’s hand, but nonetheless she felt goose-bumps on her skin.

“Good morning to you, Thorin,” she returned his greeting, managing somehow to keep her voice steady, which threatened to tremble. By all the stars of Varda, she never thought a Dwarf, even if so charming, would affect her so deeply, with only a simple kiss on her hand!

Their eyes met, as if it had so often happened the day before; but unlike before, this time they stayed locked, as if incapable to get off of each other, some kind of enchantment fettering their gazes.

The world around them disappeared.

“I brought you your picnic lunch, lady,” Amaranth’s peppy voice interrupted them. Startled, they abruptly diverted their gazes from one another.

“Thank you, Amaranth,” Nerwen said, even if she would gladly strangle him. Then she realized that the poor boy was only trying to do his job and couldn’t possibly know anything about what was going on between her and Thorin, and therefore she couldn’t possibly blame him for the interruption. She accepted the bag he was holding out to her, but Thorin took it gently from her hands.

“I’ll take care of this,” he said, shouldering it. Nerwen noticed that, in spite of the temperature, he wore a fur stole, making his height, already remarkable for a Dwarf, even more imposing; a couple of stiff leather bracelets covered his forearms, from the back of his hands to the elbows, and hanging from his belt, he carried a sheath with a long dagger. Prudently, he had chosen not to go out of town unarmed and vulnerable: after all, one can never know who or what he or she can meet, around the world, even at a short distance from home.

The pair both got on their mounts and went out in the street; Thorin turned to the right, followed by Nerwen, heading for the Western Gate; they rode slowly in the middle of the road, in order not to inconvenience the pedestrians, who walked on the sides. Like the day before in the inn’s common room, a number of persons greeted the Dwarf: clearly, the master smith was well known, in Bree.  

When they got out of town, they turned north on the Greenway, now side by side so they could chat. Calad flew high in front of them, gliding in lazy circles but staying alert in her self-appointed role as sentinel.

“You have a gorgeous mare,” Thorin observed, looking at her from below because of the lower height of his speckled pony, “but I’m not able to guess which race she belongs to.”

Nerwen thanked mentally Gandalf for his suggestion to dim Thilgiloth; she aroused much curiosity just this way, let alone if she wouldn’t have been obscured

“She’s one of the mearas of Rohan,” she answered, giving the usual explanation, “Her name’s Thilgiloth.”

The Chargeress’ eardrums vibrated and she sent off a feeling of slight annoyance: she didn’t like it much, being forced to hide her true nature. Nor did Nerwen, actually, but they had to adapt themselves.

“How long have you been living in Bree?” Nerwen asked, wanting to know more about him.

“Almost ten years,” Thorin answered.

“I understand you’re very well known and respected,” she observed.

“I do my job as best as I can,” the Dwarf mused, “and I don’t meddle in other people’s business.”

“Two good ways to gain people’s respect,” Nerwen nodded.

They continued chatting as they went riding along the Greenway, skirting the Chetwood for some kilometres, then they turned again to the right, venturing among the trees. Nerwen halted Thilgiloth and, slipping on her falconer glove, raised her gaze to look for Calad and call her, but the hawk was already descending towards them; she landed lightly on Nerwen’s wrist.

I’ll wait for you here, she announced.

Fine, see you later, the Aini answered, before launching her. Calad jumped in the air and flew away, taking her leave with her typical call kek-kek-kek.

Turning back her gaze, she saw that Thorin was staring carefully at her.

“You speak with animals?” he asked, but it sounded more like a statement.

Gandalf had told Nerwen that Dwarves, differently from Hobbits, knew that he belonged to the Order of Istari and that, being such, he had particular powers; out of respect, they had given him the name of Tharkûn in their language. Therefore, now Nerwen thought it useless keeping from Thorin her characteristic talent and nodded:

“Yes,” she confirmed, “and with plants, too; that’s reason I’m called the Green.”

“I see,” said Thorin, thoughtfully, “It must be handy to talk to your horse, when she gets temperamental,” he added, humorously. Nerwen laughed:

“No doubt!” she agreed. Thilgiloth snorted indignantly, making Nerwen laugh even harder; Thorin, too, laughed.

They set forth again, going into the wood; the trees in this particular copse were totally different from those, very old, gnarled and of disquieting appearance, which characterized the Old Forest: these ones were tall, slender, relatively young, even if some had a very respectable circumference. Nerwen recognised beeches, ashes, hazels, walnuts, oaks, limes, firs and pines. As a whole, the wood emanated a positive ambience that put her in a good mood.

“It’s a very beautiful wood,” she commented, “Young and full of vitality.”

“Walking among these trees makes me feel good,” Thorin revealed, “almost like walking on solid rock.”

Said by a Dwarf, it was surely remarkable, Nerwen mused.

“…almost,” the prince specified, as for a change of mind. Trust Dwarves for it, Nerwen thought, but she was amused.

They got deeper into the wood, illuminated by a suffused light, somewhat greenish because of the innumerable leaves over heir heads. The undergrowth, principally soft ferns, wasn’t very thick and allowed an effortless passage to their mounts.

After a little more than one hour after they had left Bree, Nerwen noticed that up ahead the light was increasing, and indeed, after several dozen meters, they arrived at a clearing, lit by the noon-sun. The glade was covered by flower-dotted grass, mainly buttercups and daisies, but also aromatic herbs such as wood garlic, cow parsley, savory and watercress. On the other side of the clearing, a spring spurted in a tiny waterfall, descending from a rocky rim and spilling into a small pond, which glittered under the sunrays.

Nerwen perceived immediately a serene and merry energy coming from the spring, which in her ear vibrated like a far song of joy.   

“You were right, Thorin,” she said, “This is truly an enchanted place. Here the energy of Arda, blending with water, stone and vegetation, is particularly concentrated. It’s not everybody’s talent to sense something like this,” she concluded, looking at him with new respect. Thorin felt suddenly proud of himself.

“Then I’m very happy I took you here,” he claimed, getting off his pony and fastening the bags with their lunch to the saddle, “Come, let’s go near the water.”

Nerwen dismounted and walked with Thorin to the spring, whose soft pounding felt increasingly similar to a melody.

“It sounds almost as if the water is singing,” Thorin whispered, and Nerwen felt awestruck: if it wasn’t common to feel the energy of a place, it was even less common to hear its voice. This Dwarven prince had a definitely out of the ordinary receptivity toward the invisible things.

“So it is, indeed,” she confirmed, “A chant as ancient as Creation itself. The ability to hear it is even rarer than sensing the energy of Arda.”

Thorin stared at her, feeling now not proud anymore, but rather almost dazed.

“Ah,” was the only thing he managed to utter. Impulsively, Nerwen brushed his arm, meaning to reassure him in front of something he was clearly unfamiliar with; surprisingly, he took her hand, bowed and kissed her fingers, reverently, like he would do with Yavanna herself, the spouse of the Dwarves’ Vala, Aulë, whom they called Mahal. A deep emotion throbbed in Nerwen’s soul.

Thorin straightened his back again; he looked at her, and in her eyes he saw the emotion that had come over her. He felt thrilled, in a way he hadn’t felt for a long, long time. The strong attraction he felt for her had nothing to do with it: this was something transcending flesh, something deeper, as if his soul was speaking with hers and heard it answering.

Overwhelmed, he diverted his gaze and let her hand go, clearing his throat.

“I’m hungry like a wolf,” he said in a falsely cheerful tone, “Don’t you?”

Nerwen felt as if hanging between disappointment and relief. On the one hand, she wished this magic moment between them would last longer, evolving into an embrace, a kiss and – who knows – maybe more, but on the other hand she felt very disquieted, almost frightened, by the strong turmoil of feelings inside of her. In the past – when she came to see Melian in Doriath or was travelling around Beleriand – the quality of Middle-earth didn’t affect her, upsetting her control in the way it was doing now; but in the past, she had been a full Aini, not an Istar, not a diminished Maia. Yavanna had warned her that this would happen, and she couldn’t do anything but accept it and adapt as soon as possible. 

She breathed in deeply.

“Yes, the ride made me hungry,” she confirmed. Thorin went back to his pony and took the bag, as well as the blanket rolled up behind his saddle.

“Let’s sit down there,” Nerwen suggested, pointing to a spot under a beech. Thorin nodded and unrolled the blanket, laying the bag on it.

They got comfortable, sitting somewhat distant from one another.

“Let’s see what Rosie had prepared for us,” said Thorin, beginning to take the contents out of the bag. They found bread, cheese, hardboiled eggs, ham, several peaches and two slices of strawberry-jam tart. There was also a canteen of water and a flask of red wine, the same superb Staddle they had the day before.

“I’ll change the water,” Nerwen announced, taking the canteen and standing up, “I’d like to drink from that spring.”

“Good idea, the water’s excellent,” Thorin told her, having tried it during his previous trips to this place. Nerwen went back to the pond, where the small cascade fell, and emptied the canteen in it, substituting the content with the water from the source. She tasted it, finding it delicious, with a vague minty aroma. The musical vibration seemed to increase as if expressing satisfaction, and so she answered, hinting some musical notes under her breath to thank the spring.

“True, it’s very good,” she confirmed when she went back sitting on the plaid. She handed the canteen to Thorin, and he took it; inevitably, their fingers brushed, but it was only for a moment.

“It has improved,” Thorin claimed after taking a swig, glancing at Nerwen, “I think it’s because of the nice company.”

Nerwen smiled at his compliment, and suddenly the atmosphere was relaxed again, as it had been before the unexpected kiss on her hand by the spring.

They ate the simple but excellent food, finishing with the tart.

“Absolutely exquisite,” Nerwen stated, “Strawberry is my favourite fruit.”

Thorin watched amused while she was licking the crumbs off of her fingers; noticing it, Nerwen burst into laughter:

“I’m serious, when I eat strawberries I become like a child, I devour them until I’m stuffed like a turkey!”

“But did you never break out in hives?” he enquired, feeling even more amused. No grim and stern Istar here: Nerwen could be very funny.  As much as Gandalf in a state of grace. Except she was much more beautiful…

“No…”, Nerwen was about to tell him she could not get sick, but she wasn’t allowed to reveal her Aini nature, so she rephrased it to something different, “…probably I tolerate them well, or I always stopped in time,” she hiccupped softly, “Best if I take a draught…”

Thorin handed her the flask of wine, but she shook her head; so he handed her the canteen of water, from which the Maia took a couple of sips before handing it back. Then she laid down on her back, looking at the leafy branches of the beech, through which she could glimpse the blue sky.

Blue like Thorin’s eyes…

Following her example, the Dwarf, too, laid down, opposite to Nerwen. In this position, turning their heads they could gaze at each other, but they would see each other upside down.

“It’s really nice here,” Nerwen whispered; she closed her eyes, savouring the serenity surrounding them.

Thorin saw her closing her eyelids and was caught by a sudden, hot desire to kiss her; to kiss her, and then caress her, kiss her again, breathlessly, and then make love to her… He stiffened and clenched his fists. For all the hammers of Mahal, he had never craved for a woman so much, but he wouldn’t certainly become an animal assaulting and taking her in no time! Except, of course, she would encourage him to do so… He brusquely drove away that thought, which was dangerously close to causing him an embarrassing rigidity in a certain part of his body; he closed his eyes, trying to pull himself back together. 

They stayed like this for a long time, laying down only a few centimetres apart but as if separated by an insurmountable space. Then all of a sudden, Nerwen heard the song of the spring changing and becoming stronger.

She jumped up sitting.

Alarmed, Thorin shot up sitting, too, and put his hand on the hilt of the dagger he carried on his belt.

“What’s up?” he asked, immediately alert.

“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to alarm you,” the Istar apologised, “The source… do you hear it?”

The Dwarf tried to listen carefully; indeed, the feeling that the water was singing had become stronger.

“Yeah… but what does it mean?”

Nerwen got up and went to the spring; there was an almost perfectly flat boulder beside it, as large as a chair, even if much taller. Sitting on it, the Aini bent just slightly her knees, but this way she could focus better on the song.

Thorin followed her and stood behind her, close but without touching her.

Nerwen listened attentively; the source was narrating a story, a love story, beautiful and heartbreaking, dating back to the First Age, concerning a human girl and a Silvan Elf. Madly in love, they had been hindered by their families, who didn’t approve of the potential union between a Human and an Elf, she mortal, he immortal. She yielded to the pressure, thinking she would age and die, hurting her beloved Elf, whose sorrow would last for the rest of his life; but he would have none of it, he was willing to live the short years of her mortal life and to survive her, because this was his nature, carrying his love for her in his heart until the End of Time.

“Do you hear it?” Nerwen asked Thorin, “Do you understand what it says?”

“I only feel something,” he answered, regretfully, “I hear no words.”

She turned halfway and took his hand, pulling him closer; approaching her, Thorin placed his other hand on her shoulder. In this position, he loomed slightly over her, therefore he tried not to invade her personal space too much; but she pushed back against him, closing in, and took also the hand he had laid on her shoulder. She closed her eyes.

The words of the song poured into him, conveyed by Nerwen.

The Elf had finally been able to convince his beloved that the sorrow he would feel for being refused would be worse than losing her because of her mortal nature, so they had fled together and taken shelter in the Chetwood, near the source. There, they lived for all the time it was allowed to them, until her death, when she finally passed away in very old age in her beloved Elf’s arms. Then he left and went West to the Great Sea, looking for a ship that would take him to the Undying Lands, the only place in the world where his grief could be soothed. Their descendants stayed, having the mortal nature of the woman, and still lived, scattered among the small communities of the Bree-land.

Dwarves may seem very unsentimental, whereas yet they can be very romantic and poetic, even if sometimes unlike Elves and Men; this love story, which had happened thousands of years ago, touched Thorin’s heart deeply, as much as Nerwen’s.

A gust of wind stirred their hair. Nerwen’s scent was irresistible, and Thorin yielded to the urge to lower his face and bury it into her soft dark hair. She parted her lips in a sigh and turned her face to Thorin. She half-opened her eyes, seeing those irises the colour of the spring sky, which had struck her from the first moment, very close. 

nerwen and thorin

 

Thorin thought of nothing more; stooping a little more forward, he placed his lips on hers.

Thilgiloth ogled at them triumphantly for a moment and then, as she promised, she discreetly went away, going nibbling at the tender grass on the farthest spot of the glade; Thorin’s pony, maybe somehow influenced by the mare’s action, followed her example.  

Thorin kissed Nerwen very tenderly: if she was simply feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the romantic tale of the spring, he didn’t want to take advantage of it, convincing her to do something she actually didn’t want to; but Nerwen felt like melting in his arms, and if she wouldn’t leaning half-sitting on that boulder, she would surely collapse, because her knees had given way. She parted her lips, inviting him to a more complete kiss.

Thorin felt his heart leap up to his throat. He moved around Nerwen to get her in front of him and held her tightly against his chest; she wrapped her arms around his neck. Then their kiss deepened, becoming more passionate, but keeping still the original tenderness.

They kissed for a long time, so long, they lost track of time. The song of the spring still enshrouded them, now without words, only glowing with joy for having been able to tell them the ancient love story. Drawing back, Thorin rained small kisses all over Nerwen’s face, brow, eyes, nose, cheekbone, returning at last to her lips for another long kiss. His sweetness was disarming and at the same time exciting, and Nerwen felt the surge of her desire swelling up. She exhaled a sighing moan, expressing openly her feelings.

Thorin sensed her desire and lifted her up in his arms: for him, she was as light as a feather. He carried her toward the blanket where they had their lunch, and gently laid her down. The pulled back shortly, taking off his fur and leather bracelets and throwing them heedlessly over the stole; then he bent again over Nerwen, kissing her.

Little by little, they took each other’s clothes off, uncovering and discovering slowly one another. Thorin had a potent physique, with rock-hard muscles; Nerwen caressed slowly his chest, slightly covered with black hair, and his large shoulders; he had a surprisingly smooth skin, so warm it seemed almost feverish. And indeed Thorin felt feverish and at the same time delirious, because he thought it impossible he was holding in his arms a creature as much wonderful as Nerwen. 

Sweetly, he placed one hand at the base of her throat, where he felt her accelerated heartbeat, which had him deeply moved. He lowered his head and kissed this palpitating spot, while slowly sliding his hand down, surrounding one breast. With his thumb, he stroke its taut nipple, which at his stimulation hardened even more; Nerwen felt hot shivers radiating from there, shivers which became stronger when he took the stiff bud in his mouth and brushed it with his tongue, making her tremble. Involuntarily, she contracted her fingers and sank her nails in his shoulders.

Her reaction flattered Thorin; he went for the other breast, giving it the same attention, and heard her breathe becoming increasingly erratic. Then he slid down her beautiful body, caressing her at first with his hands – the large, calloused hands of a smith and warrior, so surprisingly tender – and then with his lips, sucking and nibbling gently her quivering belly.

At last, he reached his aim and touched her at the junction of her thighs, finding her hot and wet with desire, and she winced violently.

“Oh, Thorin…,” she moaned. At that sound, Thorin’s throat went dry. He bent lower and placed his lips on her feminine flower, eager to taste its nectar. Nerwen tensed like a bowstring and uttered such a heartbreaking moan, he felt his very soul tremble. He could resist no longer: he raised himself over her, laid down on her and, with that incredible tenderness which had characterised his each and every gesture from the moment he had embraced her near the source, looking deeply into her eyes, slid deeply inside of her. 

Nerwen gasped, overwhelmed by her feelings.

“Thorin…!”   she hiccupped, holding him even tighter.

“Nerwen…,” Thorin whispered, “Sweet Nerwen…”

He began to move inside her, slowly, looking for the angle and depth which would pleasure her the most. It wasn’t long before he began to feel her internal flowers vibrating and clenching his length, urging him along, and so he increased the rhythm, but not too much, because he wanted it to last as long as possible. Nerwen, too, didn’t want it to end too soon: she was feeling something too extraordinary, too dazzling for her to wish ending it immediately in the hurry to reach completion. She cupped Thorin’s face, searching for his lips for a passionate kiss; their tongues interlaced in a sweet and at the same time erotic dance. Then Thorin leaned his forehead against hers and began to thrust harder. Immediately, Nerwen’s depths responded, sending shivers of delight all over her body, growing, increasing steadily, until she felt like being swallowed up into a vortex, sweeping her away and flinging her to vertiginous heights; a blissful cry escaped her throat.        

Feeling her clenching all around him, Thorin held back as long as he could, trying to lengthen as much as possible her pleasure; at last, with a low groan, he let himself go.

Afterwards, they lingered in their embrace, the physical and emotional turmoil that had engulfed them slowly quieting down, placating their racing hearts and laboured breathes. Regaining partly her lucidity, Nerwen considered flabbergasted she had just made love with someone she had met only the day before. In the Undying Lands, with the slow rhythm characterising them, this would never happen; but here, in Middle-earth, where everything happened much faster, it was different.

She was different. 

From his part, Thorin was no less flabbergasted. As a member of a race which males were used to sexual austerity because of the scarcity of females, he had never thought he could lie with a female – and not even of his own people! – barely twenty-four hours after meeting her.  

He propped on his elbows and looked into her eyes. Nerwen returned his gaze.

“You’re amazing,” he whispered, caressing slowly her cheek. She brushed away a strand of hair from his brow.

“Thank you,” she answered in a low dreamy voice, short of words: no one, in all the long years of her life, had ever described her as amazing.

 

OOO

 

It was almost sunset when they got back to Bree; Thorin escorted Nerwen to The Prancing Pony and, once in the courtyard, he took her hand to kiss it.

“I’d love to spend the night with you,” he said in an undertone. Nerwen smiled at him, then she addressed the stable groom who was approaching them:

“Billy, take care of Master Thorin’s mount: he’ll stay here for the night.”

 

OOO

 

Nerwen moved in with Thorin a couple of days later. If anyone was shocked, it wasn’t because the two of them didn’t care hiding they were lovers – in itself, this was nothing scandalous – but only because, during the ten years he had lived in Bree so far, Thorin had never shown interest in any woman. And above all, he had never, ever neglected his job; someone got upset, but most people, learning the reason of his desertion, felt rather amused, and some of them – those who held the Dwarf smith in particularly high esteem – where happy for him.

 

OOO

 

Nerwen was lying with her head on Thorin’s bare chest. They were in bed; they had just made love and, as usual, now they were holding each other, exchanging caresses. Nerwen never ceased to feel surprised by Thorin’s capability to be so tender even at the heights of his hottest passion: even if he sometimes made love to her very impetuously, he always kept this incredible element of sweetness.

Almost four weeks had passed by from the day they heard the song of the spring in the Chetwood. In this time, they had lived together, almost never leaving the house, so much focused on one another to forget the rest of the world.

As well an excellent swordsman and smith, Thorin was also an outstanding harp-player. For years, he had left his instrument neglected in a corner of his parlour – where Nerwen had seen it the first time she came to visit him – but now he had a reason to use it, therefore he dusted it off. With his magnificent baritone voice, he sang to Nerwen the most beautiful songs of his people; when Nerwen explained to him that Mahal, through his spouse, gifted her with the knowledge of khuzdul, he was delighted he could express himself in his own language, since the best of translations sometimes cannot convey the peculiar nuances of each idiom. He sang to her the bardic poems narrating the adventures of his ancestor Durin – the oldest of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves and their first king, called the Deathless because he lived so long they lost track of his age – and of the greatest heroes of his people; and he sang to her love songs, with a romanticism none suspected Dwarves could possess, because it was a part of their character they revealed only to the females of their own people.

arpa

 

Nerwen wished those days would never end; but she was bitterly aware this couldn’t be: she had a mission to accomplish, from which depended maybe the same existence of Middle-earth and all the free creatures who inhabited it. Included Thorin.

She felt a lump in her throat, like a strangling rope: the time had ultimately come; she couldn’t afford to linger anymore for her contentment only.

“I must leave,” she whispered, talking under her breath because she risked bursting into tears.

Thorin shut his eyes: he had always been aware this moment would arrive.

“I know,” he murmured, “You’ve got a task to fulfil. So have I.”

Slowly, Nerwen nodded: she had almost forgotten about the message she had brought to him from Gandalf. Soon, he had to accomplish his mission, too, whatever it was.

Thorin opened again his eyes and looked into hers:

“We’ll meet again, Nerwen,” he asserted, “When both of us have done what we must, we’ll meet again and we’ll be together.”

There was an tinge of desperation in his voice, revealing clearly how little he actually believed this could happen. This meant his mission was so perilous, he feared he could not return from it alive.

Nerwen gulped, trying to untie the knot clamping her throat. She strove to use her Second Sight to see something beyond the mists of future, but this faculty came when it wanted, often not required and sometimes not even wished for, and in that moment it denied itself to her. 

“I’ll pray all the Valar that this will be,” she whispered, before kissing him.

 

OOO

 

Three days later, Nerwen the Green left Bree. Thorin Oakenshield escorted her to the Southern Gate, where he lingered, watching her riding slowly eastward, along the Great East Road. Hot tears ran down his cheeks and dispersed in his beard.

The same tears running down Nerwen’s face.

thorin weeps

 

It was the sixteenth day of September.

 

OOO

 

Author’s corner:

 

This chapter carried me away, meaning that what I planned flew out of the window and I came up with something completely different, in tenor if not in substance. In other words: I planned this had to be a burning flirt with a single hot night for the two of them, passionate and thrilling as much you like, but… just one night. And instead, the protagonists decided it had to be something much deeper and more romantic, and I had no choice but to adjust with it. Therefore it occurred that, while I was writing the few lines narrating their parting, their sorrow and their tears were also my sorrow and my tears… This is what I meant, in my corner in the previous chapter, when I told about how much emotionally involved I got in the story. 

I hope I got you involved as much as I was…

The original picture of Thorin and Nerwen is by Rodrigo Gonzalez T. and has been re-elaborated by a friend of mine to fit this fan fiction.

A big thank you to ColdOnePaul for his wonderful editing!

 

Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XIV: Ambush on the Great East Road

 

Nerwen rode the entire day in complete silence, not even seeing the road. Thilgiloth and Calad, feeling the deep sadness of their friend, forebore speaking with her and instead just kept watch on the road for her.

In the late afternoon, they arrived at the Forsaken Inn, built on the northern side of the Great East Road; it was a far smaller edifice than the Prancing Pony, or even the Green Dragon, not very well kept, as it was rarely visited.

At this point, Thilgiloth stirred Nerwen from her dejection, talking to her gently:

My friend, we’ve reached today’s destination…

Nerwen came back from the limbo she had voluntarily exiled herself to in the attempt to keep her sorrow at bay; if the parting from Calion had been grievous, parting from Thorin was feeling much worse.

She looked at the building in front of which Thilgiloth had come to a halt, a two-storey house in stone and wood. The wood was peeling, some shutters were missing from the sides of its windows and a window-glass was broken; but from the inside came an animated rattle, and in the stable by the inn stood three horses and a mule. A warm yellow light radiated from the windows on the ground floor. 

Nerwen dismounted and entered the run-down building; the door creaked, opening on a small hall not very well kept, lit by a few oil lamps.

“Landlord!” she called.

“What is it?” an annoyed voice came from the next room.

“A traveller looking for shelter for the night!” Nerwen answered curtly. Tonight she was in no mood to be nice with someone who seemingly wasn’t in turn. 

A very tall and thin Man arrived, sporting a few grizzled hair on his head and a sloppy moustache; he had a scowling face, but the moment he saw her, he immediately changed his attitude.

“Good evening, lady,” he said in a suddenly kind tone, “Excuse me, I thought it was that irritating old woman, my neighbour Zeda. She’s got a farm two hours from here, and once in a while she comes bothering me because she wants to gamble, and as she owes me much money, I forbade her coming back here until she settles her debt…” seeing her frown impatiently, he changed the subject, “Beg your pardon, you surely don’t care about this. You want a room for the night, I suppose?”

“Right; and accommodation for my horse,” Nerwen answered, “as well as something to eat for dinner.”

“Of course! This is a very modest inn, as you surely noticed, but the sheets are clean and the food’s good, you’ll see. Jack! Jack, where are you, you sluggard?”

A youngster of about twenty-five came running; he was short and chunky, his gaze elusive and his yellow hair so dishevelled, it looked like a heap of hay.

“Take the lady’s horse to the stable, then curry and feed it…”

“I’ll take care of my horse myself,” Nerwen intervened, instinctively mistrusting this stable boy, “She’s very quick-tempered with strangers,” she added, anticipating any possible objection, “When I’m done, I’ll dine and then go to bed. I’ll leave again tomorrow at sunrise: is it possible to have breakfast so soon?”

“Sure, we’re used to early hours,” the landlord answered, “Don’t worry about it, lady.”

Nerwen exited, the groom on her tail; he led her to the stables and showed her where to accommodate Thilgiloth and find brushes and fodder.

I don’t like that Man, the Chargeress declared, I’m glad it’s you taking care of me, tonight.

I don’t like him, either, Nerwen admitted, That’s why I insisted on taking care of you myself. Stay alert during the night. I won’t close the pen: I’m afraid someone can try stealing you, therefore, should you hear suspicious noises, go on the run. I’ll tell Calad, too, to be vigilant.

When she finished freshening up the mare, the Istar exited and called to the hawk, instructing her. Worried by the distrust she sensed in her friend, Calad flew down and settled down on the inn’s roof, in front of Thilgiloth’s box, in order to keep a better eye on it.

Going back inside with her saddlebags, Nerwen headed for the common room and sat at the table the landlady showed her; the latter was a large woman with red hair who was also the cook. For dinner, Nerwen ordered roasted pork with potatoes and cabbage, bread and cider; the food was simple, but surprisingly good, considering the bad impression the inn made on her. The landlord didn’t lie, claiming she would eat well.

The room, too, proved better than she had feared: it wasn’t large, and was rather dusty, a sign it hadn’t been used for a while, but the sheets were actually clean, and on the washbasin table there were an equally clean towel and a new soap, as well as a pitcher with warm water.

Nerwen went to bed and closed her eyes, thinking she would have trouble falling asleep; and indeed, a terrible feeling of emptiness overwhelmed her immediately: her body, her soul missed Thorin sorely, much more than they had ever felt Calion’s… She wondered why: after all, even in Thorin she hadn’t recognised her life partner, her other half.

Nonetheless, this thought was of no comfort to her; new hot hears welled up in her eyes, escaping through her tightly closed eyelids and falling on the pillow.

Mára mesta an ni véla tye ento,Thorin… ya rato nea,” she whispered.

Goodbye until I’ll see you again, Thorin... and I hope it’ll be soon.

By the grace of the Valar, in a short time she fell asleep.

 

OOO

 

After an unexpectedly calm night, Nerwen got up one hour before sunrise and dressed again in her traveling clothes, then she went downstairs to the common room, where she found the landlady preparing a substantial breakfast with pancakes dressed with maple syrup, bread, butter, honey, fried eggs and bacon. Pleasantly surprised, the Maia ate her fill, planning to skip lunch whilst eating just one or two apples, and then took her leave. The bill she was presented with was in no way exaggerated, and she ended up leaving a tip, because, in spite of the appearance of the premises, she had received a fine treatment.  

Thilgiloth, too, confirmed that the night had passed very quietly, and Calad had noticed nothing out of ordinary. While the sun was rising in front of them, Nerwen and her two friends resumed the road to Rivendell.

 

OOO

 

About three hours later, the road entered into a wood; tall trees loomed on both sides, mostly holly oaks wrapped in ivy, their branches growing over the track covering it almost completely, leaving only a strip of open sky; thick heather shrubs filled the spaces between one tree and the other, creating an impassable undergrowth. Calad flew high, watching the uninhabited landscape in front of them, beyond the trees.

ambush

 

All of a sudden, four Men, hooded and with scarves on their faces, jumped out from behind the shrubs, pointing at her with great bows with notched arrows. Instinctively, Nerwen pulled hard on Thilgiloth’s bridles; the mare reared, neighing out of surprise and fright.

“Get off the horse!” the chunkiest guy ordered her. Even if he was trying to disguise his voice, Nerwen’s sharp hearing recognised him: he was the groom of the Forsaken Inn, Jack. 

The Aini thought about simply spurring Thilgiloth into a gallop, trampling on the nearest thief and going on the run: their arrows wouldn’t wound her or the Chargeress. She reminded herself just in time that she wasn’t a full Maia anymore, she had been diminished, and consequently she could be wounded, even if not killed. And the same applied for Thilgiloth.

Therefore, Nerwen stayed still on the saddle, staring at the four scoundrels. Sensing the danger, Calad cried both indignant and frustrated, because she couldn’t do anything against four bows.

Don’t worry, I can handle it, Nerwen sent her, Stay at a safe distance.

Her mind reached out to the trees, awakening their conscience and asking for help. The trees answered, animated by a momentary but very lucid awareness.

“I said: get off your horse!” Jack yelled.

What about teaching him a nice lesson? Nerwen said silently to Thilgiloth.

Gladly, the Chargeress answered with a certain amount of ferocity: unlike Calad, she knew what her friend was capable of.

Slowly, Nerwen got off the saddle. Immediately, one of the bandits grabbed Thilgiloth’s bridles and drew her away from her mistress. The mare showed no sign of opposition: for what she guessed was about to happen, it was better if she stayed at a certain distance.

The trees began quivering, and the branches above them rustled; it would be nothing unusual, if not for the fact that there was no breeze causing them to move. The bandits, however, too focused on what they were doing, gave no heed to it.

“We’ll get good money out of this one,” Jack said sniggering, nodding toward Thilgiloth.

“And I bet the lady here has good money in her pocket,” grinned the one who had seized the Chargeress, gesturing toward the pouch hanging from Nerwen’s belt, “C’mon, pull out the coins!”

Moving slowly in order not to irritate the rogues, Nerwen opened her pouch and took out the small bag with her money, throwing it towards the crook who solicited her. Faking a wrong shot, she had it finishing under the Chargeress’ legs.

Don’t move, my friend, she admonished her, let him take it…

The bandit stooped and grabbed the purse, weighing it to evaluate its contents.

“Not bad, boss,” he nodded to one of the other two bandits who were standing back a little from the Chargeress.

The ivy surrounding the nearest tree trunks began to move, removing itself from the bark and crawling silently on the ground toward the Men.

The boss was staring Nerwen up and down. Her short sleeveless tunic and the tight breeches, even if covering her appropriately, revealed all the curves of her body.

“She’s quite a thing, don’t you agree?” he observed, sneering coarsely, “How about a little fun, before letting her go?”

The other ones stared at her in turn, looking at her now in a different light.

Nerwen’s stomach tied up, not out of fear but of rage. She crossed her arms under her breasts, exhibiting them deliberately to cause even more uproar among the thieves.

“Yeah, we could have fun,” she hissed, “Who begins? Do we go in alphabetical order? Or age order? Or based who’s the strongest?”

Nerwen’s words were meant to turn them on each other to be the first; and indeed the four scoundrels glared at one another in a reciprocal challenge.

“I’m the boss,” said the one who suggested the fun, “I’ll begin.”

“But it was me, the one pointing her out,” Jack objected.

“Well, as for this, it’s been me who fetched the horses to come here…” grumbled in a low voice the fourth bandit, who hadn’t spoken so far.

“It’s me the one in charge!” the boss yelled, raising his bow and aiming at Jack.

Nerwen chose that very moment, when all the four bandits were distracted, to give the attack signal to her vegetal allies. At lightning speed, several branches snapped like whips and hit the swindlers from above or sideways, according to where they were positioned.

The boss was hit full in his chest and hurled backwards, slamming against a tree. He screamed in pain, his ribs shattered, and lost his bow, which fell among the shrubs. Promptly, the heather seized it and made it disappear into the ground cover, while the ivy enveloped the Man who had claimed to be boss.

Thilgiloth took care of the second one, having him within reach: she reared up and struck him down with a hoof on his shoulder, breaking the collarbone. Quickly, another ivy frond came and enveloped the scoundrel.

The third bandit – the one who claimed he had fetched the mounts – tried to take aim with his bow, but Calad dove from the sky, clawing at his head and tearing into his cheek. The man screamed. A branch from the tree next to him swiftly struck down at him on one side, flinging him against a fallen trunk, and again the ivy intervened, blocking his hands and feet.

Now only Jack remained; he was leaning against a boulder partially obstructing the road; he had fallen in a sitting position, and the dark stain on the front of his breeches showed clearly he had urinated in his pants. Nerwen looked at him disgusted, full of a terrible wrath.

“Jack, you’re an imbecile,” she threw at him, making him realise she had discovered his identity in spite of his scarf, “You thought you were dealing with a helpless woman, didn’t you? Appearance can be very deceiving!” she screamed with an appalling voice, standing up in front of him, looking suddenly tall and dreadful, “I am Nerwen the Green, member of the Order of the Wizards! Animals and plants are my allies, and if someone dares attacking or disrespecting me, he gets trouble!”

Jack pulled the scarf down and began to whine:

“Spare me, powerful lady, great sorceress, I implore you! I’m only a poor sod, getting in trouble with these outlaws! I’ve been forced to help them…!”

Nerwen’s anger became even greater and she grew even more in front of the crook, by now reduced to a wailing and quivering heap:

“Yes, sure, as they would force to have fun with me, right??”

As to highlight her wrath, a branch of poison ivy detached itself from the nearby tree and lashed at Jack, who screamed because of the burning the acid had caused: the lash would leave him with an indelible mark, eternal reminder of the mishap he got into.

Nerwen wasn’t a violent person, or a vengeful one, yet she didn’t tolerate misdeeds. She thought she had punished sufficiently these four wretches: two had broken bones, another likely a concussion, and Jack had been branded forever on his face. She went back to her original appearance of a minute, defenceless woman, except for her eyes, which still threw daggers.

“I leave you to your miserable life,” she snarled at Jack, who covered his face and head with his arms, fearing he would be hit again, “Don’t you dare follow me. And, if you all have any sense in those empty heads of yours, change your ways and take up an honest job!”

Nerwen retrieved her coin purse, then turned to Thilgiloth and beckoned her; the Chargeress approached her, jaunty, radiating satisfaction.

We clobbered them good, didn’t we? she said. The Aini mounted on her back, smiling fiercely:

“I think so, my dear friend,” she answered.

Calad came, flitting around frantically, and Nerwen hurriedly put on the glove to let her perch on her wrist: the hawk looked very distressed.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry! she cried, sending a feeling of deep affliction, I didn’t see them!

“But you couldn’t, my friend,” Nerwen pointed out, “They were well hidden, and leeward, at the point not even Thilgiloth could smell them.”

Calad hid her head under her wing, emitting a feeling of shame.

I failed in my task as a sentinel, she complained.

“No, not at all,” the Istar reiterated forcefully, “You were in no condition to see them, mind you! Therefore you didn’t fail anything. Stop feeling guilty. And anyway, I saw how you attacked that scoundrel: you nearly tore off his eyes!”

The bird of prey uncovered one eye to look at her.

You truly don’t blame me? she asked. Nerwen smiled:

“I don’t, Calad. On the contrary, I thank you for your intervention,” then she addressed the plants which had helped her, “Thank you for your help, friends,” she said in a loud voice, “Stay alert until these wretches go away, and should you ever see them again, teach them another good lesson.”

The trees, the ivy and the heather moved and rustled, assuring her wordlessly that they would do as she asked them. After one last thanking nod, Nerwen took her leave and spurred Thilgiloth, who resumed walking along the road.

 

OOO

 

When the shadows of the late afternoon became very long, Nerwen left the road to camp, protected by a small bunch of trees on the southern side. She picked up some wood for the fire and lighted it using flint and steel to create a spark, seizing it with her thoughts and improving it to better set fire to the fuse, made of a number of dried leaves tightly wrapped together. She felt quite exhausted: she had decided to rest just one hour, during the day, and now she was paying for it. She still wasn’t completely used to the feel of fatigue, so she wasn’t still very good at gauging her strength.   

Calad hunted some rodent and Thilgiloth grazed grass and tender leaves; Nerwen, too, nibbled reluctantly a bit of beef jerky and a piece of cracker. Suddenly she felt the whole weight of solitude, in this vast uninhabited country; the recent separation from Thorin made this feeling even worse. 

Sensing her unease, Thilgiloth came to lay down beside her friend, to give her the comfort of her presence. Predated animals such horses never did this, in the open, preferring to sleep on their legs, ready to bolt in case of need; but Nerwen really needed to be consoled.

Calad, too, came near her, tapping her with her head before preparing to sleep at her side.

Nerwen felt moved; grateful, she caressed her two kelvar friends before falling in a dreamless sleep.

 

OOO

 

Author’s corner:

 

I confess it has been very difficult to write this chapter; not because of the plot, which I had already decided, but because I had to take away Nerwen (and myself) from Thorin, a character who, at least in the cinematographic version, truly impressed me: in the scenes where Nerwen feels bad because she misses the Dwarf, I felt bad, too… I got definitely very involved, maybe as much as never before. But then, it’s also the first time I try my hand writing in the Tolkienverse, and I didn’t take into account my deep passion about this marvellous world that, so many years ago, captured me and in which I still am – happily – a prisoner.

Will Nerwen smile again? Sure, no doubts about this, even if she will need some time: I HATE ill-ending tales, because in real life there are too much of them; therefore, at least in what I write, my tales ends always well, even if they can be very dramatic and the protagonists must sometimes get over terrible ordeals…

I never forget to thank ColdOnePaul for his perfect editing!

 

Lady Angel

 

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XV: Arrival at Rivendell

 

About ten days later, in the afternoon, Nerwen arrived on the banks of the Bruinen, or Loudwater as it was called in the Common Speech. The journey had been solitary and undisturbed, as she had neither met any travellers nor encountered any other peril, after the clumsy ambush of Jack and his accomplices.

Approaching the river, Nerwen sensed its defensive spell, an impassable barrier to those who weren’t invited to Rivendell, similar to Melian’s Girdle that, a long time ago, protected Doriath with enchantments of dismay and folly. Only those who knew the Elven magic could create an opening in this invisible fence, cross the ford, and so entering Elrond’s realm.

Nerwen called Calad, making her perch on her wrist, and then led Thilgiloth on the bank of the Bruinen. She projected her mind toward the barrier, which was similar to a cobweb of ethereal energy, invisible but very powerful. Studying the barrier’s magic briefly, Nerwen realised that its defensive action would raise the river’s waters, which would sweep away every incautious creature daring to cross it with malevolent intents. She wove therefore an adequate counter-enchantment, which opened delicately a safe passage, allowing her to advance undisturbed in the low waters of the ford, until she reached the stony bank on the opposite side.

 

OOO

 

While sitting on a sunny terrace in his palace at Imladris, Elrond suddenly raised his head from the book he was reading: his mind had just perceived the perturbation caused by the action of someone who was manipulating Elven magic to open a passage in the barrier on the Bruinen. The way it was modified was definitely a non-hostile action, but he wondered who could it be: usually, those who came to his realm sent word to him… except for Mithrandir, he thought, amused, who always arrived unexpectedly, even if well-accepted. However, to him Elrond had given the mental key that all the inhabitants of Rivendell possessed, therefore he wouldn’t perceive that it was the wizard crossing the Bruinen. Whoever it was, it wasn’t an enemy – otherwise the protective spell would spring into action – and possessed great powers, at least as much as Mithrandir.

Elrond

 

He stood up and clapped his hands: immediately, the Palace Administrator showed up.

“Lindir, prepare to welcome guests, but I don’t know how many they are. They crossed the ford right now.”

Lindir blinked, surprised: not everyone had the capability to cross the river without Lord Elrond’s prior permission, therefore he realised correctly that it had to be someone very powerful. 

“Understood, my liege,” he said, bowing before taking his leave. He went on slowly: if the host or hosts had just passed the river, their journey would need at least one hour before crossing the slender bridge leaping over the young Bruinen, and arriving at the foot of the long staircase leading to the main entrance of the palace.

 

OOO

 

Just past the barrier, Nerwen signalled to Calad she could resume flying, and the hawk jumped away, much more preferring to glide on the airflows rather than bouncing on the Istar’s wrist while riding.

Thilgiloth began to canter towards the path at the end of the pebbly shore, which began immediately to climb on the first spurs of the Misty Mountains. A little further, the path began to climb steeper, but it stayed a well-kept and easy path also for horses, even if quite narrow. 

Something more than one hour later, Nerwen arrived at the slender bridge connecting the two sides of the gorge, beyond which stood Lord Elrond’s magnificent palace.

Imladris

 

At the time she had met him, at the end of the First Age, Elrond was very young and hadn’t yet become a king among the Elves, nor at that time Imladris existed. The Maia stopped for a moment to contemplate the wonderful palace in pale stone and carved marble, similar to a fine lacework, and the other graceful edifices built on a terrace on the side of the mountain; many springs gushed and sprang from there in thin falls into the Bruinen, which rumbled loudly in its stony bed on the bottom of the ravine. The air was fresh and pure, and the energy of this place reminded her strongly of the Undying Lands, even if on the background one could nonetheless sense the mortal quality intrinsic to Middle-earth.

Then, on the other side of the bridge, Nerwen caught sight of an Elf, brown haired, tall and slim, seemingly waiting for her. Therefore, she called for Calad to return to her arm, in order to immediately introduce her properly, and spurred Thilgiloth, who started to walk on the bridge.

Sitting on the Chargeress and with the calë hawk perched on her wrist, Nerwen the Green arrived at Imladris, which Men call Rivendell.

With his Elven double sight, that perceived the visible and also the invisible, Lindir realised immediately he was looking upon someone much greater than a simple, minute human female such as she appeared, and therefore, even if he still didn’t know who she was, as soon as she came across the bridge he bowed respectfully.

Lindir

 

“Welcome to Imladris, the Last Homely House, Lord Elrond’s realm,” he said solemnly in Sindarin tongue, sure that she would understand, “My name is Lindir.”

“I am Nerwen the Green,” she introduced herself in return in the same language, as gravely as the Elf, “and I thank you for your welcoming words.”

She dismounted, while another Elf came to take Thilgiloth’s bridles, being evidently the palace’s groom.

“Her name’s Thilgiloth,” Nerwen informed him, trusting her to him, “Sometimes she’s a little moody, but you need only to treat her gently. She loves running very much, and her favourite forage is oat.”

The groom nodded with a smile, showing he had understood, and took over the Chargeress, who followed him with great ease: she felt very safe, in this place and with these people, both reminding her her land beyond the Great Sea.

Then Nerwen turned back to Lindir, nodding sideways toward the hawk:

“And this is Calad. May I set her free to fly and hunt?”

“Of course; hawks are noble animals and here in Imladris they’re very popular.”

Automatically, Nerwen translated for Calad, who in response bowed her head and opened her wings, taking off.

“Calad thanks you for the hospitality,” the Aini said to Lindir.

“So you talk to animals, like Aiwendil,” the Elf pondered, now sure he was facing an Istar. Nerwen confirmed with a nod, thinking it unnecessary to tell him she spoke also with plants.

“The Istari are always welcomed guests, at Imladris,” Lindir went on, “Please, follow me: Lord Elrond is waiting for you.”

Soon after, Nerwen was brought to a parlour where, by the glass doors opening to the terrace, stood waiting a very tall Elf with long brown hair. Hearing her entering the room, he turned, and Nerwen saw it was Elrond.

The Elven lord watched her for some moments before recognising her, dimmed as she was now, unlike she had been when he met her, at the end of the First Age, and with a human appearance; then his face brightened up into a wide smile:

“Nerwen Laiheri!” he cried, taking three steps toward her and then bowing. Lindir was a bit shocked: never had he seen his lord bowing to someone.

Strictly speaking, because of her status, this homage was due to Nerwen, even from a great king like Elrond; but she was no longer a complete Maia, and at best she could consider herself equal to him, not superior. And anyway, Elrond was a relative to her, being son of Elwing, daughter of Dior, the son of Nerwen’s only niece, Lúthien.

“No bows, my friend,” she therefore said, “Now I’m simply Nerwen the Green, member of the Order of the Istari.”

“I see…” said Elrond, standing upright, “Would you like something fresh to drink?” he asked, the attentive host; she nodded, grateful, “Lindir, let us have some apple juice. And get our best room ready for Lady Nerwen: she’s an honoured guest.”

“I’ll see to that, my liege,” Lindir said, bowing and taking his leave to go and issue the appropriate orders.

Being now alone, Elrond showed Nerwen a seat.

“What an incredible and pleasurable surprise to see you, Lady Nerwen,” he said, taking a seat, too, “A long time has passed, since the last time we met, even for our way to perceive the passage of years.”

“You’re right: almost 6,400 years, as it is measured in Middle-earth. You and your brother Elros were just two youngsters, at that time…”

The two twins had chosen very different destinies: sons of Elwing and Eärendil, they were half Elves, half Men on both parts of their parents, and at the end of the First Age the Valar had decreed they had to choose between the two races. Elrond, who preferred Elves, opted for the Firstborn, while his twin Elros favoured Men, and thusly started the bloodline of the High Kings of Númenor.

Elrond nodded in confirmation.

“I didn’t think the Valar would send other Istari to Middle-earth,” he mused, in a clearly puzzled tone. Nerwen then told him about the mission Yavanna Kementári had entrusted to her.

“I’m here in the hope you’ve got any news about the Ents, or if you know where they may live,” she concluded.

Elrond shook slowly his head:

“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about them,” he answered regretfully, “but mayhap in my library you’ll be able to find some news, at least about their last known location. Of course you’ll be my guest for the duration of the time you need to do your research; But now, now autumn is coming, and travelling in winter is never easy, especially having to cross the mountains: if necessary, you can stay here through the whole winter.”

“I thank you very much, Lord Elrond,” Nerwen said, “I accept gladly your offer.”

They sipped at the apple juice a servant had brought.

“I’m keen to meet your daughter, Arwen Undómiel,” Nerwen added, “Mithrandir told me she looks very like my niece Lúthien.”

“As for this, I can’t tell, I never had the honour to meet my ancestor,” Elrond said, “Unfortunately, at this time my daughter isn’t here: she is spending some time with her mother’s relatives, in Lothlórien.”

Nerwen recalled Gandalf telling her that Elrond had married Celebrían, daughter of Celeborn and Galadriel; but over 400 years before, the queen of Imladris had been abducted by the Orcs, who tortured and poisoned her. Her twin sons Elrohir and Elladan had managed to find and rescue her, taking her back to Rivendell, where Elrond had perfectly healed her body; however, Celebrían never recovered in her mind and spirit, and lost all love and interest in Middle-earth, so much so that at that point the next year, she had taken her leave from husband and children; she went to the Grey Havens and from there sailed for Valinor.

“I see,” Nerwen nodded, rather disappointed: she had been truly eager to see the living image of her sister Melian’s daughter, “Mayhap I’ll meet her there, because I’m going to Lórien, too, and meet the Keeper of Nenya.”

Elrond stared at her with his dark and piercing eyes.

“You know the identity of the Keepers?” he asked, quite plainly. Nerwen just nodded; then, the king of Rivendell held out his right hand and made the Ring of Air appear, a magnificent sapphire mounted on a simple gold band, not very different from Narya, except for the colour of the gem.

“Here’s Vilya,” Elrond said, with evident pride and emotion, “Very few know that it’s kept here in Imladris, in my care.”

Vilya was the most powerful of the three Elven Rings Celebrimbor had created; its power consisted in preserving the beauty of the world, and to keep a state of peace and serenity similar to the Undying Lands. For this reason, Elrond had been able to make Imladris so alike to Valinor.

“Superb,” the Istar claimed, struck: it was truly a jewel of rare beauty, even for Valinor’s standards. With another wave of Elrond’s hand, the ring disappeared, again invisible.

Placing her now empty cup on the table, the Istar felt suddenly all the tiredness she had accumulated in the past days; she stretched her back:

“Twelve days on horseback and ten nights camping in the open left their marks on me,” she declared, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to retire to my room.”

“Of course,” Elrond nodded, clapping his hands. Lindir appeared immediately on the threshold.

“Have Lady Nerwen taken to her lodging,” he instructed him, “and assign her a personal handmaid to help her in anything she’d need: a bath, clothes, food, drinks and anything else,” he turned back to his guest, “If you’re too tired, don’t feel obliged to come to dinner; and tomorrow morning you can have your breakfast in your room whatever time you wake up; but I hope to see you at my table tomorrow for lunch.”

“I’ll be happy to,” Nerwen declared. At that moment, a young female Elf showed up, with gold-brown hair, petite almost like Nerwen; she curtsied to both.

“I’m Gilriel,” she introduced herself to the Maia, “Lindir assigned me to your service, Lady Nerwen.”

“Nice to meet you, Gilriel,” Nerwen said, standing up, “With your permission, Lord Elrond…”

The king of Rivendell stood up in turn:

“My home is your home,” he said, using the traditional sentence of the host to the more than welcomed guest, “Rest, and for anything you may need, call Gilriel.”

 

OOO

 

The lodging Elrond had given to her was large and bright, made of a bedroom and a bathroom, and was equipped with a huge terrace overlooking the ravine, on which bottom the Bruinen flew; the sight was breath-taking.

“Would you like to take a bath, Lady Nerwen?” the handmaid asked. The Aini nodded, grateful: there was nothing better than bathing in perfumed water to relax muscles tired after long days on horseback.

While she was waiting for the bathtub to be filled, Nerwen went outside to look about from the white marble balustrade of the terrace; far away, she caught sight of a familiar form flitting around in the sky. She called, and soon after, Calad perched on the parapet; she radiated a feeling of great satisfaction.

I feel good, here, she informed her. The Istar nodded:

“You’re right, Calad, I feel good here, too: it reminds me of home. And I’m glad of this, because we shall stay here quite long: I must do some research, and by the time I’ll be done with it, very probably the season will be too advanced to cross the mountains and continue our journey. It’s therefore likely we’ll stay here over winter.”

I have no objections, the hawk stated.

“Now go back flying: here you’re absolutely safe,” Nerwen smiled at her. Calad flapped her wings as a leave-taking and took off.

Now the bath was ready; the tired Istar slid into the lukewarm water, sighing in content. Later, she learned that Gilriel was an accomplished masseuse, and therefore she accepted gladly to be rubbed with lotions helpful in easing the weariness and stiffness the journey had caused her.  

As Elrond had suggested, being he very attentive to his guests, she dined in her room, and then went to see Thilgiloth, not because she had any worry about the treatment she was receiving, but to inform her, too, that she foresaw to spend the winter months at Imladris.

The Chargeress didn’t mind, thinking she would feel comfortable in this place so alike to Valinor, and therefore Nerwen took her leave to go to bed.

 

OOO

 

That night she dreamt about Thorin. They were at the enchanted spring and were kissing sweetly; the kiss was followed by caresses, then other, more passionate kisses. Like the first time, they made love under the beech, and Nerwen felt happy, as never before in her life.

She awoke with the feeling of Thorin’s kisses in her mouth and of his hands on her skin, only to realise that reality was very different. Again, bitter tears rolled down her cheeks. If this dull pain she was feeling in the bottom of her heart was part of her present state as an Istar – a diminished Maia – she didn’t want it. She cursed the moment she had accepted this mission; but immediately she repented of this thought, based on her discouragement: she was Nerwen the Green, appointed by the Queen of Earth to find the Ents, who could play a fundamental role against Sauron, and she was proud of it. Unfortunately, she had learned that there was a price to pay, which she thought now too high; but time would mend her sorrow, especially if she could spend some time in a place, blessed by the Elven power, like Imladris. Elrond would never know how much she was actually grateful for his offer to harbour her.

 

OOO

 

For lunch, as she had promised, Nerwen joined Lord Elrond’ table; her host invited her to take a seat at his right hand and introduced her to the other ones with her Istar name, which aroused quite an impression. Among the others, he introduced to her Lady Míriel, his First Counsellor, a copper-red haired Elf with eyes the colour of sapphires, whose quiet but firm appearance Nerwen appreciated much. She had to be a formidable person; after all, Elrond wouldn’t appoint her as his First Counsellor if she wouldn’t be.

In front of her, two identical twins were sitting, very alike to Elrond: they were Elladan and Elrohir, the king’s sons.

twins

 

“We’re honoured to meet you, Lady Nerwen,” Elladan declared – or was it Elrohir? The two were indistinguishable, in her eyes, like many years ago had been Elrond and Elros.

“Thank you; and for me it’s a pleasure to be your guest here at Imladris,” she answered, smiling.

“From what tells us our father,” Elrohir said – or was it Elladan? Their incredible likeness confused her, and would continue to do so for some time, until she would learn the tiny differences between the two twins – “you’re our great-great-great great-aunt.”

Nerwen counted the great and nodded:

“Exactly, as I am aunt to your great-great grandmother Lúthien. They say your sister Arwen looks very much alike to her, and I was hoping to found out by myself, but your father told me she’s in Lórien…”

“Yeah, that’s right,” one of them confirmed, “We think we’ll go there, too, next spring.”

“Really? Celeborn’s and Galadriel’s realm is on my travel itinerary, mayhap we could go together.”

“Sure! Gladly…”

They chatted pleasantly through the whole lunch; Elrond was quieter than his sons, and more than once Nerwen caught him watching her discreetly. The reason became apparent to her later, when the Elven king invited her for a stroll in the palace’s gardens.

“I see a great sadness in your heart, Nerwen,” he said, omitting her honorific title to highlight he was addressing her as a friend. Nerwen was surprised: she would never have thought that someone outside Aman would be able to read so deeply inside of her. But on the other hand, Elrond’s Elven double sight was enhanced by his Ring.

“So it is, my friend,” she confirmed, thinking denial was useless, “Here in Ennor I met a person who impressed me greatly, but I had to leave this person, probably forever, and this grieves me very much.”

She avoided mentioning she was referring to a Dwarf: she knew the king of Rivendell didn’t exactly fancy this race, even if he was far from being hostile as much as other Eldar were.

“A mortal may have this effect on us, yes,” Elrond nodded, thoughtfully, “We grow fond of them, but we know since the beginning that we won’t be able to stay with them for long, and this makes us sad. We should never feel an emotional bond with a mortal, however the heart wants what it wants and you cannot control who to love and who not. Even your niece Lúthien wasn’t able to, and she fell for Beren; and so Idril fell in love with Tuor…”

And the nameless Elf fell in love with the female Human, Nerwen added in her mind, thinking again of the song of the spring; but because this had been a quiet love and had produced no epic actions or, as a consequence, songs or poems, it had stayed unknown. Except to her and Thorin…

Elrond kept silent for a moment, becoming pensive: the people he had just mentioned were all ancestors to him, and therefore their lives touched his closely. Then he cast a glance to his guest:

“I hope your stay in my realm will ease your grief,” he concluded.

“Thank you, Elrond,” Nerwen whispered, “I’m sure it will: your land is very similar to the Blessed Realm, and there is no grief that cannot be eased in that place, even if perhaps not cancelled.”

At that moment, a dark-haired boy of about nine years came running and yelling:

“Uncle Elrond, uncle Elrond!”

Elrond’s face brightened in a smile, quiet but radiating all the affection he felt for this vivacious and gorgeous child. Nerwen watched him closely: he had shoulder-long hair, and his grey eyes shone with intelligence and curiosity. One could easily mistake him for a Noldo, except for his round ears that revealed he was a member of the race of Men. What was a human boy doing at Rivendell? And why did he address the king with the name of uncle?

The lad noticed her and stopped, confused; then he recovered from his astonishment and gave her a polite bow:

“Good afternoon, my lady.”

Elrond’s smile grew wider, unequivocally a father-like pride shining through.

“Lady Nerwen, may I introduce to you my pupil Estel, the son of dear friends,” he said, “Estel, this is Nerwen the Green, an old acquaintance of mine, and friend to Mithrandir.”

The boy seemed impressed:

“I thought there weren’t any females in the Order of the Istari…,” he said in a clearly marvelled tone.

“I’m the only one, actually,” Nerwen answered, amused, “and I’ve become one just a short time ago.”

Estel nodded, showing he had understood. Then he turned to Elrond and pulled out of his belt a wooden sword, presenting it to him.

“Look, uncle Elrond, Lord Glorfindel gave me this,” he said proudly, “From now on I can use this instead of the short rod.”

Elrond looked at the wooden weapon and nodded:

“Good! If Glorfindel gave you this new weapon, it means he’s satisfied with you and that you passed the first phase of your fencing training. Well done, son.”

He stroke his hair, and the child smiled at him with the love of a son toward his father.

“Glorfindel is here?” Nerwen asked Elrond, amazed: she knew the fair Vanya from Valimar, where he had dwelled before coming back to Middle-earth, during the First Age. She didn’t see him since then, even if she had heard much of his deeds, among which was the killing of a Balrog.

“Yes, he lives here in Imladris,” Elrond confirmed, “He’s the commander of my army, and also Estel’s fencing instructor; he trained my sons, and all of my soldiers: there’s no better swordsman than him, nor mightier or braver warrior, in Middle-earth.” 

Nerwen nodded, agreeing.

“I’m going and show the sword to Elrohir and Elladan!” Ester announced out of the blue, starting to run away. Then he remembered his manners and addressed a bow to both:

“See you later, uncle, my lady…”

Elrond dismissed him with a gesture, smiling, and Estel, thrusting the sword around in the air, ran away in a hurry, heading for the palace.

Nerwen’s Second Sight kicked suddenly in. She saw that same child, but at an adult age, a young Man about twenty years old, all dressed in white, very tall and already possessing the mighty build of a warrior, his face handsome and radiant. Then the image changed and she saw him older, standing in front of her, with the stern air of someone who has seen many things. He brandished a shining sword, and behind him fluttered a black banner, embroidered with a white tree, seven stars and a winged crown. All around Estel, a terrible battle raged.

“Nerwen… Nerwen! Are you well?”

Elrond’s concerned voice shook her out of her vision. She hadn’t realised she had faltered, and that the Elven king had quickly made her sit on a nearby marble bench.

“Yes, yes… I’m fine,” she reassured him, quite weakly, “I just had a vision. Everything’s fine, really!” she added more emphatically, seeing Elrond’s gaze still preoccupied, “It’s only that my Second Sight rarely comes so forcefully like now.”

“What did you see, if I may ask?” the king of Imladris asked swiftly, shaken.

“I’ll tell you, but before, please explain to me who, exactly, Estel is.”

Surprised by the question, Elrond leant against the seatback and watched her, pensively.

“As I said, he’s the son of dear friends,” he answered at length, “but not only: he’s also the last direct descendant of my brother Elros.”

That was why he called him uncle, thought Nerwen.

“A Númenorean, then,” she whispered, “Estel isn’t his true name, is it?”

“You’re right,” Elrond confirmed, “He’s Aragorn, son of Arathorn II, Captain of the Dúnedain, and of Gilraen the Fair. His father died seven years ago at the hands of the Orcs, and his mother came to live here in Rivendell, so that the child could grow into adulthood safely. Now she’d gone to visit her people, and she’ll be back next summer,” he looked where the boy had disappeared – his nephew through many and many generations of Men – and concluded, “He’s the last of his lineage, and their greatest hope, the reason why he has been called Estel [high hope in Elven tongue, author’s note].”

“Now I understand many things…” Nerwen nodded slowly, “His Elven appearance – I’d mistake him for a Noldo like you, except for the shape of his ears – his presence here, the fact he calls you uncle…” she paused and collected her thoughts, “I saw him as an adult,” she went on, “Young at first, mayhap twenty, white-dressed and glowing in happiness; and then older, a sword in his hand, during a raging battle, and behind him fluttered the banner with the White Tree of Númenor.”

Elrond pondered on the Istar’s words.

“About the first vision I can’t tell anything, except that with his mother we decided to reveal him his true lineage at the age of adulthood; perhaps that’s why you’ve seen him so happy. On that day, he’ll receive the symbols of his inheritance: Narsil, the Blade That Was Broken, with which Isildur cut off the One Ring from the hand of the Enemy; the Ring of Barahir, father of Beren; and the Star of Elendil; as for the Sceptre of Annúminas, I will deliver it to him only if the Great Realm will be rebuilt, Arnor and Gondor again reunited, but this is very unlikely.”

A strange tingling at the back of her neck made Nerwen shudder. Sometimes, instead of the Second Sight, she received this kind of feeling, telling her that what she was seeing or hearing could be untrue.

“Don’t be sure about it, Elrond,” she said therefore, “That child is destined for great deeds…”

 

OOO

  

Author’s corner:

 

I am realising that, everywhere I go in Middle-earth – the Grey Havens, the Shire, Tom Bombadil’s and Goldberry’s house, Bree, Rivendell – I’m terribly thrilled. Arriving at the Last Homely House, as Imladris is also called, hasn’t been any different; I must confess, I don’t like Elrond very much, even if I greatly respect his wisdom, and I understand perfectly why, as a good father, he wants only the very best for his daughter Arwen, that is the reason he will require very much from Aragorn before consenting to their marriage – but I suspect that, should he not, the two would anyway end up together, as Beren and  L úthien in spite of Thingol… I know that Tolkien loved Elrond very much, therefore, for his sake, I tried to treat him fairly and not showing my dislike.

Elrond’s twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, are mentioned very few times in the book, and they are virtually absent in the movies, therefore I cannot tell the reason why I imagined them this way: pleasant and vivacious and playful. Maybe to balance my aversion for their father? :-D

Meeting Aragorn – Estel – as a child got me truly moved: after all, he’s my favourite male character in The Lord of the Rings.

Thank you to all those who are following this humble fan fiction, I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know, I’ll be grateful.

Once more, a very big thans you to ColdOnePaul for his patient editing of this chapter!

 

Lady Angel

 

 

Chapter Text

banner

 

(This chapter had not been edited yet, pls forgive oddities & mistakes)

Chapter XVI: In Elrond’s Realm

Dining, Nerwen had the opportunity, after a very long time, to meet Glorfindel. The Elven High Lord approached immediately the Istar.

glorfindel

 

“Nerwen Laiheri, it’s such a great pleasure to see you again,” he said gallantly, bowing to kiss her hand, “They just informed me about your presence, otherwise I’d have come earlier to greet you.”

Nerwen looked at him from the shortness of her stature: if Elrond was tall, Glorfindel was even taller, being over 1,90 m; his long golden hair shone in the light of the lamps in the hall.

“Glad to see you again, Glorfindel,” she smiled at him: she had always liked this Vanya of very noble ascent, even if between them there had been nothing more than smiles and flirtatious gazes, “but now I’m only Nerwen the Green, of the Order of the Istari,” she added.

This news struck Glorfindel greatly.

“An Istar!” he cried, “I had no idea more of them would arrive…”

“I said the same,” Elrond intervened, amused: he and his general often acted or talked in identical way, after all the centuries they knew each other. They were as Elrond and Elros could have been, if the latter would have decided for the life of the Firstborn.

“Like the others, I’m here on behalf of the Valar,” Nerwen explained in a low voice, “I’m looking for the Ents, but it seems nobody knows anything about them: neither Mithrandir, nor Tom Bombadil, nor Lord Elrond.”

“If a great erudite like Lord Elrond isn’t able to tell you something about them,” Glorfindel claimed in a regretful tone, “much less can I: I always cared much more for weapons than books…”

At that moment, Elladan and Elrohir joined them.

“Nice to see you again, aunt Nerwen,” they greeted her, calling her the way she had asked them to; Glorfindel rose an eyebrow, perplexed, before remembering their kinship, “Estel told us he met you, this afternoon,” Elladan went on – yes, it had to be him, Nerwen decided, still not entirely sure on how singling out each of the two twins.

“You made quite an impression on him, he never stopped twittering excitedly how beautiful you are,” Elrohir added, laughing, finishing his brother’s sentence, as it often happened between them. Nerwen, too, laughed:

“I had no idea I made such a great impression on him… Are you serious?”

“Yeah, and I can’t disagree with him,” Elladan confirmed, winking at her, “Wouldn’t you be my aunt, I’d woo you gladly.”

“Elladan!” Elrond pretended to reprimand him, rising an eyebrow, perfectly conscious it was only a joke, “Don’t disrespect Lady Nerwen!”

All laughed, but Nerwen noticed Elladan casting a sideway glance at a beautiful female Elf with auburn hair, who was standing just a few steps away from them, engrossed in a conversation with other young ladies; as feeling his gaze, the Elf turned her head and made eye contact with the prince, blushed and hastily turned again to her friends.

Nerwen stifled a smile: those two liked each other, but had still not found the audacity to express themselves, or maybe they hadn’t yet figured out the nature of their attraction, if it was forever or just for a momentary company, and therefore didn’t know well how to behave.  

When they were finished with dinner, the commensals transferred to the Hall of Fire. Gilriel approached Nerwen to see if she wanted something to drink, and the Maia asked for some sweet cider, which the slender blonde Elf fetched her immediately, then she sat behind her, at her disposal. Nerwen wasn’t very used to have a handmaid always ready to serve her and felt a bit uneasy; but as she had learned at the Grey Havens at Círdan’s, this was the custom in the Elven courts for the distinguished guests like her, and refusing it would be offensive toward the host. 

Glorfindel came and sat next to her, as he had done during dinner. He, too, was holding a cup with some golden liquid, maybe wine, maybe cider like Nerwen.

Wishing to keep her company, being the good nephews, also Elrohir and Elladan came and sat next to her.

They watched the performance of a musicians’ trio – one of them was Lindir: a harp, a flute and a tambourine, which played a number of sweet and harmonious pieces. Later was the turn of a bard who, strumming a lyre, telling about the creation of the Two Trees, Laurelin and Telperion, which before Sun and Moon shone on Arda. Nerwen, who had a small part in their realisation helping Yavanna’s work, felt very moved: after all those millennia, their destruction, caused by Morgoth, still grieved her, nor it would ever cease to do so because, in all the history of Arda, two olvar of this beauty, grace and splendour had never been seen.

trees

 

There was a break, during which conversations developed; without realising it, Nerwen and Glorfindel took up again their old game of gazes and smiles, finding again the understanding they had shared so many years ago; but both knew that they wouldn’t go further, because between them there was no true attraction, only a great harmony.

Then several musicians took place on the small stage and began a gavotte with a moderate rhythm, and a number of dancing couples performed it with graceful movements; among them there was also the beautiful Elf with the auburn hair who seemingly had caught Elladan’s interest. The prince indeed didn’t take his eyes off her throughout the whole performance, and when it ended, he applauded more emphatically than usual. Nerwen decided on impulse to do something and leaned over to him.

“That little redhead is very good at dancing. Who is she?”

“Her name’s Gaerwen,” Elladan answered, “She’s the daughter of Lady Míriel, my father’s First Counsellor.”

“I like very much dancing, but I don’t know the dances you do here… What do you think, would she be willing to teach me?”

“You can ask her even immediately,” Elladan smiled, not imagining it was just an excuse to get them together: she and Gaerwen would need male partners, and she had in mind to involve both the twins, but then she would dance only with Elrohir, obviously…

The prince stood up and offered his hand to Nerwen in order to help her getting up, then he led her to the auburn haired maiden.

“Aunt, this is Gaerwen,” he introduced her formally, “Gaerwen, this is my aunt, Nerwen the Green,”

Gaerwen made a curtsey.

“I’m honoured to meet you, Lady Nerwen,” she said, smiling, and Nerwen noticed she had gorgeous eyes of the same tender green of just sprouted leaves.

gaerwen

 

“Me too, Gaerwen,” the Istar responded, “I see you’re very good at dancing, and because I like very much dancing, but I don’t know the local dances, I wondered if you’d be willing to teach me…”

“Very gladly!” the young Elf answered, genuinely enthusiastic, “But we’ll have to find partners…”

This was what Nerwen was expecting, so she seized the opportunity:

“Elladan, what do you say? Would you volunteer?”

Surprised, the prince needed a minute before answering:

“But sure! I like dancing. And my brother, too, likes it: I’m going to ask him if he wants to join us.”

Nerwen carefully hided her satisfaction: her plan had worked perfectly, with the unaware complicity of those directly concerned.

Elrohir was pleased to join the company and become the fourth element, so they decided that the first class would be the next day in the early afternoon.

 

OOO

 

The next morning, Nerwen went to Elrond’s library; his collection of books and scrolls was the largest and most complete of all Ennor, assured her Doronel, the librarian; not even the renowned library of Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor, could compare to it.

“Do you know if there’s any text speaking about the Ents?” the Istar asked her. Doronel nodded:

“Not many, and only hints. I’m going to fetch them…”

Showing an incredible memory, the librarian went straight to look in some shelves, bringing back two books and four scrolls.

“They date back to the Second Age,” she revealed her, “except this scroll, which comes directly from Gondolin. It has been drafted by King Turgon himself, who met the Ents in Dorthonion, as he reports here…”

A spell of preservation, which suspended the decay of the perishable matter the books and scrolls were made of, conserved perfectly the documents. Now Doronel broke the spell to give the papers to Nerwen, who thanked her.

When she was immersed in reading, the Istar easily lost track of time, therefore she asked the librarian to warn her when noon had arrived; then, she sat down on a comfortable armchair with a high seatback, purposely located next to a large window, and began studying the documents.

She consulted immediately Turgon’s scroll; the king of Gondolin, the Hidden City located among the mountains north of Doriath, had encountered the Onodrim in the forests of the plateau of Dorthonion, before Morgoth invaded it and made of it a place of darkness and terror; this undoubtedly forced the Shepherds of the Trees to abandon the area and seek shelter elsewhere; where, however, Turgon couldn’t tell.

It wasn’t much, but anyway better than nothing, and at least it was a beginning. Because Beleriand had sunken in the deep waters of the Great Sea after the War of Wrath, the Ents had certainly relocated east of the Ered Luin, which at that time were the eastern border of Beleriand: they had surely survived the devastation, otherwise Yavanna, their protector, would have perceived their disappearance.   

Indeed, reading the other documents, written more recently than Turgon’s scroll, Nerwen found hints to places were walking and speaking trees had been spotted, calling them now with the new name of Ents. From the description of the location of one of these places, Nerwen deduced it was the Shire, where the Old Forest constituted the last remnant of a huge wood that once covered all the land from Ered Luin to Hithaeglir – Blue Mountains and Misty Mountains in Common Speech. Another had surely to be Eryn Galen, the Greenwood now called Mirkwood, beyond the Misty Mountains; the other places were not described in a sufficiently detailed way and Nerwen wasn’t able to understand where they were.

Anyway, now the Ents did not dwell in the Old Forest, or else Tom Bombadil would have known it; nor did they live in Mirkwood, otherwise Elrond, who maintained close relations with Thranduil, king of the Silvan Elves who abided there, would be aware of it.

Noon came, and Nerwen interrupted her study of the documents to go to lunch; then it was time for her first dance class. Elrohir and Elladan took her to a large room in the palace where Gaerwen was waiting for them with a friend of hers, Lasseriel, who played the hurdy-gurdy and would provide the necessary musical support.

They began with two fundamental, very easy steps, which Nerwen immediately learned, and then went for the first dance: the Maya was quick to grab Elrohir and make him her partner, practically forcing Gaerwen to go to Elladan.

“You learn very quickly, Lady Nerwen,” the teacher observed, satisfied, when the lesson was over, “If you go on like this, you’ll be able to dance most of the dances during the party for Lord Elrond’s birthday…”

He would have his birthday in just a few weeks, they told Nerwen.

“Well, I’m favoured by the fact that your dances are, after all, not that much different from those I already know,” Nerwen admitted.

“Perhaps, but some ladies move like wooden sticks even after one hundred years,” Elrohir laughed, “You instead are light like a butterfly, I make no effort to lead you…”

 

OOO

 

Nerwen didn’t merely consult the few documents containing explicit references to the Ents: methodically, she began to seek every hint that could have a connection to them, including fables, myths and legends, sifting through one by one every document, large or small, ancient or recent, written by Elves, Dwarves or Men, which she found stored in the library’s shelves.

The second day, she had the nice surprise to find Elrond’s pupil attentively studying a big tome, bound in leather and wood, very ancient-looking.

“Good morning, Estel,” she greeted him. The boy raised his head and, recognising her, smiled:

“Lady Nerwen, how nice to see you!”

His eyes suddenly struck her: the first time she had seen him, she didn’t noticed them, but they were almost identical to Lúthien’s; not for the colour – her sister’s daughter  had had them grey-green, while Estel’s were light grey – but in shape, and even in their particular brightness. Across the abyss of time and the innumerable generations following one another during centuries and millennia, she felt like her much beloved niece was still looking at her. A sudden lump closed her throat, and she had to gulp a number of times before finding again her power of speech.

“Thank you, and for me it’s nice to see you,” she reciprocated Estel’s greeting, “What are you reading?” she enquired then, trying to find again her composure.

Estel showed her the cover, where the title Akallabêth was branded in archaic characters.

“It’s the story of the Downfall of Númenor,” he explained her, “Uncle Elrond appointed me to study it very extensively, so I came here to look for a book talking about it and Doronel gave me this. I find it quite boring, though…” he confessed, grimacing. Intrigued, Nerwen skimmed through the text: it was written in an archaic version of Westron, which sentences had a very convoluted syntax and pompous phrasing.

“I agree, it’s boring,” she agreed, “but if there is a text in the current linguistic style…”

They questioned therefore Doronel, who admitted the existence of a version dating back just a few decades before, easier to read, which had the only fault to be more concise.

“For a start, it’ll do,” Nerwen decided, “Once you’ll have studied the easier text, if necessary you’ll go to this millstone…”

Estel laughed at the description she gave to the tome, and began to read the newer one, finding it far more to his liking.

So it was that Nerwen and Estel formed a sort of study alliance; most of the time they stayed in silence, reading each his or her documents, but sometimes the Aini made live and real to the child’s eyes the story and geography of the Elder Days, talking about what she had lived in person in Beleriand, and he listened to her, charmed. He developed a particular passion on Beren’s and Lúthien’s tale, two people he still didn’t know to be his distant ancestors, and learnt by heart parts of the Lay of Leithian, the poem narrating their adventures. Elrond was very satisfied and thanked Nerwen wholeheartedly.

 

OOO

 

The Istar alternated her library hours with the dance classes with Gaerwen – arranging things in order to dance nearly always with Elrohir, switching him with Elladan only a couple of times just not to appear obvious – and regular outings with Thilgiloth and Calad. Her two kelvar friends were very satisfied with their stay at Imladris, where the Chargeress could run freely on the valley floor every time she wanted to and the hawk could fly and hunt everywhere in the large dale.

 

OOO

 

For Elrond’s birthday, as it could be expected, there was a grand feast, which began at noon with a sumptuous banquet and then continued through the whole afternoon with music, dances, songs and plays. Nerwen noticed pleased that Elladan and Gaerwen danced almost only together, while she alternated among Elrohir, Glorfindel, Lindir and Elrond.  

During a break, while a bard was reciting a comic poem, Nerwen found Gaerwen at her side while both were seeking something fresh to drink.

“I see you dance a lot with Elladan,” Nerwen began, testing the water. The Elf blushed slightly:

“Yes, we found out we get along very well. Dancing, I mean,” she hurriedly added. The Istar easily saw through it.

“In my opinion, you get along well also in other respects…”

Gaerwen’s blush deepened, confirming – if any need should be – what Nerwen thought about those two.

“Are you sure…?” the Elf maiden cast a glance at the prince, who was chatting with Lindir, “Do you think… he likes me?” she resolved finally to ask.

“Surely,” Nerwen confirmed, sipping at the lemonade she had poured herself a glass, “I understand it from the way he lookes at you.”

Gaerwen, too, sipped at the beverage she had chosen. Her gaze fell on Glorfindel, who was talking with Elrohir.

“Lord Glorfindel seems to look at you with interest,” she observed, but Nerwen laughed:

“Oh no, that’s only an old game between the two of us… We know each other for such a long time, if nothing happened until now, it’ll never happen. It amuses us, nothing more. Between you and Elladan, instead, things are different, believe me…”

The feast continued until dusk, and ended with a very spectacular fireworks show, which they watched on the open space in front of the entrance to the mansion, wearing capes and cloaks in order to fight off the crispiness of the autumn night: silver gushes, golden trees, purple flowers, violet flashes, green waves, multi-coloured intersecting circles and iridescent falls, which aroused cries and applauses from the admired spectators.

Nerwen noticed that Elladan and Gaerwen were nowhere to be seen and smiled to herself: she hoped they had gone to find some privacy and smooch. She didn’t think they would conclude immediately: Gaerwen was still a maiden – she had realised it from some attitudes of hers – and Elladan didn’t seem the type who wants to rash things.

 

OOO

 

In the following weeks, while autumn was coming, Nerwen continued tirelessly her research in the palace’s library. She found other hints, among them an indication, even if vague, going back to the beginning of the Third Era, about a territory called Greenland that, according to the anonymous author, was located south of the Hazy Range, where enormous walking trees had been spotted. Nerwen guessed it could be Calenardhon, now called Rohan, the Horse-country: the translation would be correct. And, in all likelihood, by Hazy Range the author meant the Misty Mountains. Even if uncertain, this indication looked promising to her; and if she was right about the location, Lothlórien, her next destination, was on the way.

Even if it wasn’t much, Nerwen decided it was time to contact Yavanna and report her progress in the search for the Ents. She went therefore in her quarters and asked Gilriel to make sure that none came to disturb her until she would call for her; then she laid comfortably on a couch and closed her eyes, allowing her astral body to leave the physical one and go to the no-space and no-time place where she could meet her Mistress; in her mind, she shaped the picture of a door, beyond which she imagined the presence of the Valië.

She knocked and waited. Some moments later, the door opened and on the threshold appeared Yavanna, who smiled at her.

My dear Nerwen! I’m so glad to see you, she said, holding out her hands to her; Nerwen took them and gripped them warmly, How are you, my friend?

I’m fine, she answered, I’m in Rivendell, a guest to Elrond’s.

The Valië’s parlour appeared around them and she signalled to her disciple to sit down, taking a seat herself.

Tell me everything, Yavanna exhorted her.

Nerwen told her about her arrival at Mithlond, Círdan’s and Eärwen’s welcome, her early documental research about the Onodrim, the meeting with Mithrandir; and then her short stay, pleasurable even if fruitless for her mission, at Tom Bombadil’s and Goldberry’s, and about Calad.

Then I headed for Imladris, she said, and on the way I stopped in Bree to take a message from Mithrandir to a friend of his… she paused: she had no intention to keep from her Mistress the experience she had gone through with Thorin, but she didn’t know exactly how to describe it, because it was unlike anything she had experienced during her long life. However, Yavanna read in her heart everything that happened and the feelings she had felt, and still felt. She caressed her hand.  

That is what I meant, when I said you would be exposed to feelings much stronger and quicker than those you are used to, she said sympathetically, I am sorry for your affliction: unfortunately, it is the price you must pay for accepting the mission I trusted you with. But know that time will soothe your sadness, as I see it is already doing, also by virtue of your stay in Imladris, under the power of the Ring of Air.

For a moment, I repented accepting the task, Nerwen confessed, quite uneasily, It was just a moment, because actually I wouldn’t it to be any different… but I felt it. I’m ashamed of it, she concluded, lowering her gaze. The Queen of Earth squeezed her hands in an affectionate way.

Don’t be ashamed, she told her, You are no longer a complete Maia, an Aini in all her force and power, and therefore it may well be that you are subject to moments of weakness. You knew it could happen.

Yes, I did; but knowing it and experiencing it are two extremely different things. I hope I have the necessary strength to fight my weaknesses…

You have it, Yavanna asserted firmly, in a quiet but definitive tone, Never doubt the path you walk on in the name of the Valar.

Recognising her own words, which she had addressed to Mithrandir some time ago, Nerwen took a deep breath: only now did she fully understand her friend’s uncertainties, because she herself had been exposed to them. And who knows how many other times she would be.

She got herself together.

You are right, my Lady Kementári, she said formally, I’ll make it.

She was silent for some moments, then she resumed her narration, including in it even the ambush she suffered on the Great East Road and the help she got from the local olvar, like Yavanna had prefigured, to which the Valië nodded satisfied.

When I arrived at Imladris, Elrond welcomed me with full honours, Nerwen went on, and here I met also his sons, Elrohir and Elladan. But not his daughter Arwen, who is now dwelling in Lothlórien, and who they say looks exactly like my sister’s daughter… By the way, how’s Melian? Did you hear from her?  

She is fine, the Valië reassured her, She is taking care of your garden. She asked me to tell you she wishes you well for your mission, and that she misses you a lot.

I miss her a lot, too, Nerwen said, yearning for her sister even more, Please, tell her I give her my kisses and hugs.

Sure, her Mistress assured her. At this point, Nerwen continued her narration, reporting to her the meagre news she found in Elrond’s exceptional library, and the small hint that maybe positioned the Onodrim in Rohan.

We knew it wouldn’t he easy, Yavanna commented, pensively, but, as they are not extinct, sooner or later you will find them.

Nerwen nodded: despite the difficulties, she too, was sure of it.

Now the season is too late to travel easily, she said, I’ll wait until spring, then I’ll go south. I was thinking about making a detour to look for Aiwendil and ask him about the Onodrim, as it seems they lived in Mirkwood and his abode, Rhosgobel, is built right at its margins; then I’ll go to Lothlórien to Galadriel. From there to the borders of Rohan there are just a little more than one hundred kilometres: probably they have more accurate news.

I think likewise, the Valië nodded.

Fine, Nerwen concluded, I have nothing more to report, for the moment.

Then it is time to part, my friend, said Yavanna, standing up, Do not consume your energy in vain.

Nerwen stood up, too, and curtseyed to her Mistress; surprisingly, the Queen of Earth placed her hands on her temples and kissed her brow.

May the road rise to meet you, she wished her, as she had done the day Nerwen left Valinor. She smiled at her, then slowly vanished, as did the parlour and the door through which she had entered.

Nerwen opened her eyes, finding herself again on the couch in the quarters Elrond had assigned her. She didn’t know how much time had passed: it could have been a few minutes, or many hours. Time passed by in a different way, in the no-space and no-time dimension where she met her Mistress. She felt spent: Yavanna had warned her that communicating with her would require a great effort from her part, which was why she had recommended her to do it only when she would be in safe places.

Staggering, she got up and called to Gilriel, who seeing her pale and clearly wary, cried preoccupied:

“My Lady, what happens??”

“Don’t worry, Gilriel,” Nerwen told her faintly, “I only need food and rest. Could you fetch me something to eat and drink?”

“First lay down,” the blonde Elf told her, supporting her to the bed, where she helped her setting down and took off her shoes, “I’ll take care of it. Are you sure I’ve not to call Lord Elrond? He’s a great healer…”

Nerwen smiled to her: in those weeks, a great fondness had arisen between them, and therefore Gilriel’s genuine concern didn’t surprise her.

“No need for it, relax,” she assured her, “Something sweet to eat and a glass of red spiced wine will be enough to fix me up.”

Gilriel ran away at lightning speed, and at the same speed came back with a covered tray, from which came three slices of different cakes – one with honey, another with walnuts and the third with chocolate – and a carafe of hot wine, flavoured with cinnamon, clove and orange peel.

Nerwen ate and drank everything, and quickly her strength returned; as she had learned talking with Gilriel, it was now almost dinner time, and therefore at this point she was too sated to eat more, so she sent her excuses to Elrond.

Immediately after dinner, Glorfindel came to see her, a little anxious for her, but the Maia reassured him. When he was gone, Gilriel addressed Nerwen:

“I know you told me that between you and Lord Glorfindel it’s just a game, but… I see you always alone, and sometimes you look so sad, like you’re missing someone… If you forgive my boldness, Lady, I think you could use some company. Sometimes it helps to forget the one you cannot have…”

Nerwen sighed, pondering the Elf’s words.

“You’re not wrong, Gilriel,” she admitted slowly, “but for the moment, it’s too soon…”

It would be for a long while.

 

OOO

 

In the following weeks and months, Elladan and Gaerwen didn’t hide their reciprocal attraction any longer, and soon it became a real romantic relationship that had the tacit approval both of Elrond and Lady Míriel. Nerwen watched them, glad for them: somehow, their joy, as well as the enchanted quality of Rivendell, sustained by the power of Vilya, soothed her enduring longing for Thorin and the wonderful days she spent with him in Bree.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

In Tolkien’s imagination, Middle-earth corresponds with Europe, and therefore someone could say that, before the discovery of America, chocolate wasn’t known; but the Professor talked about potatoes, and Jackson about tomatoes, therefore I took the liberty to insert the only sweet I’m really crazy about, that is precisely chocolate LOL

I loved to figure out a little about Aragorn’s infancy in Rivedell, about which we know almost nothing; I imagined his education, which had to be both martial and intellectual: in fact as an adult he’s known to us as a great warrior, but also as a man of noticeable culture, capable to help Bilbo creating poems and to sing parts of ancient epics.

Slowly, Nerwen is coming closer to find out the location of the Ents, but we’ll need some more time… otherwise the story would end too soon, and it would be a shame: I must make her go through much more adventures, meet much more people, discover other places and customs. Middle-earth is very vast, and there is much to recount! XD

A romantic interlude – Elladan’s and Gaerwen’s story – eased Nerwen’s melancholy on having to give up Thorin, and so it eased mine, too. Little by little, our Istar will feel again the desire for love… Actually, in a couple of chapters she’ll make a very interesting encounter. ;-)

I wish to thank those who are following this fan fiction: I hope you’re enjoying reading it as much as I am to write it! :-)

 

Lady Angel

 

 

Chapter Text

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(This chapter has not been edited yet, pls forgive oddities & mistakes)

 

Chapter XVII: Rhosgobel

 

Nerwen left Imladris by the end of April, just the day after Thorin Oakenshield, his twelve Dawarven companions, the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins – hired as a burglar – and the Wizard Gandalf the Grey had left Hobbiton, starting their great adventure.

The night before, Nerwen had taken her leave from all those she had met in Rivendell – and they were many – but nonetheless, in the morning Elrond, Estel and Glorfindel came to say goodbye; there was also Gaerwen, who was parting for a short time with Elladan who, along with Elrohir, was accompanying the Istar to Lothlórien.

Nerwen bent down to hug Estel, who threw his arms around her neck and told her:

“I’ll miss you very much, Lady Nerwen: you were able to make my study hours so funny…! I hope I’ll meet you soon again.”

She smiled at him:

“Mayhap it won’t be so soon, dear Estel,” she answered, “but I’ll do my best, I promise.”

The boy made a face half disappointed half hopeful, uncertain on how he should feel about this statement; but Nerwen had had no visions in this respect: she knew only that she would like very much to see again Estel – Aragorn – especially if he would fulfil completely the great destiny she had figured for him.

Glorfindel hugged her, towering over her with his tall stature.

“Take care of you, Nerwen my dear,” he recommended.

“Be sure of it, my friend,” she told him, smiling.

Elrond, too, embraced her.

“Have a good trip,” he wished her, “I too, like Estel, hope to meet you again.”

“I hope so, too,” Nerwen nodded, sincerely: in those months she got to know Elrond better – once only a superficial acquaintance, even if between them there had been immediately reciprocal esteem – and she had come to appreciate him for his thoughtfulness and his great erudition.

Gaerwen, whose expression was very sad, curtseyed to her, but the Maia hugged her and whispered in her ear:

“Don’t worry, it won’t be a long time before Elladan will miss you so much, he’ll come back to Imladris in a headlong gallop…”

Her statement managed getting a smile out of the Elf, who thanked her warmly.

Finally, the moment come to mount on their horses and cross the slender bridge stretching over the gorge of the Bruinen, and take the narrow trail leading to the High Pass, located at an elevation of a little more than 1500 metres. They had chosen this way to cross the Misty Mountains – slightly more difficult than the Caradhras, or Redhorn Pass further south – because Nerwen wanted to go to Rhosgobel, Radagast the Brown’s abode on the edge of Mirkwood.

With her and the princes of Rivendell came an escort of about ten armed men: the Misty Mountains were infested by Orcs, even if nobody knew exactly the location of their lairs.

 

OOO

 

They needed three days to get over the High Pass, as they had to proceed very carefully, especially because of the horses, to avoid the risk to make them break a leg on the steep and narrow path. Luckily, they hadn’t any unpleasant meetings and they were able to cross the pass undisturbed.

Once they had came down on the other side, they turned southwards for about 30 kilometres, skirting the slopes of the Misty Mountains, until they arrived to an ancient road that, going straight eastwards, was the ideal continuation of the Great East Road; here, they camped for the night, resuming the journey on the next day. Just after noon, they came to the Anduin, the Long River, here still not too wide; they crossed it at the Old Ford, and after a short break for a meal and a rest, they continued until evening, when they stopped for the night. The next day, they reached the borders of Mirkwood; here, they left the road, which now entered into the forest, and turned northward, heading for Rhosgobel, now only about ten kilometres away.

Calad flew away on reconnaissance; when she came back, she reported she had spotted the Wizard’s house, but nothing was moving inside or around it. However, there were a number of animals roaming about, seemingly somehow connected to the place.

Even if Nerwen doubted that Aiwendil knew something about the Ents, she had hoped that his deep knowledge of Mirkwood, which once hosted them, could give her some more hints about their present location. She felt therefore quite frustrated, but she decided to go on anyway to verify if the Wizard was really not there.

They halted at a certain distance from the house, which was randomly built around and in part inside an enormous walnut tree. Its haphazardly and almost chaotic look inspired some disquiet.

rhos

 

Nerwen, Elladan and Elrohir dismounted and approached it; as Calad had said, the building seemed deserted, doors and windows were barred, and no wisp of smoke rose from the chimney indicating somebody’s presence.

They knocked on the door, but no one came to open it, nor did anything move behind the hermetically closed shutters. They knocked again, and then called out, but received no response. At this point, Nerwen tried to expand her consciousness all around, seeking Radagast’s mind, but she didn’t find any sign of him. However, she perceived very near the alarmed awareness of a cat; examining the façade of the house, she spotted him, curled up on a ledge of the thatched roof. Its fur was of a shining black and its green eyes were staring at her cautiously.

Hullo, friend cat!, Nerwen greeted him, No need to worry: we’re friends.

Surprised, the cat started. His mistrust lessened; curious, he got off the roof with a nimble jump and came a few steps closer, but kept at a safe distance. Curiosity killed the cat, said an old proverb; but not this cat, thought Nerwen, amused: it was an old and very experienced feline, it would be difficult to take it by surprise and kill it. 

I hear you! Who are you?, the cat enquired, wary.

I am Nerwen, a colleague and old acquaintance of Aiwendil, she introduced herself.

Now I understand why you’re able to talk with me, as does Aiwendil… the feline mused, while its mistrust dissolved definitely, He left many days ago, it said, and they told me he’d stay away for some weeks; but I don’t know where he’s gone.

Now Nerwen’s frustration was complete. She addressed the twins:

“Looks like we came here for nothing: Radagast left days ago and won’t come back any soon. I’m sorry, I wasted your time.”

“Don’t worry, aunt Nerwen, it’s been a detour of just two days,” Elrohir reassured her, “It didn’t bother us at all.”

The Istar sighed, but there was nothing she could do. She watched the position of the sun in the sky, which was closing in toward the peaks of the Misty Mountains: it was now late afternoon. They would spend the night there, and then leave the morning after, heading for the Old Ford to cross again the river, before turning southward to Lothlórien, marching along the Anduin.

Nerwen addressed again the old feline:

Thanks for the news, friend cat, she transmitted him, We’ll sleep here, but we’ll try not to bother you and your companions.

No problem, the feline consented, If you’re friends with Aiwendil, you’re friends with us.

They set camp, lighting a fire to cook something warm, and let the horses free, which – well trained in the Elven manner – wouldn’t go away; Elladan and Elrohir assigned the guard duty, then they sought Nerwen to chitchat a little before dinner. They found her scowling, staring at the shadows under the trees, some dozens of metres away. 

“Aunt Nerwen, is there something wrong?” Elladan asked, seeing her gloomy face. The Maia pressed her lips together:

“I don’t like the looks of this forest,” she stated.

“Once it was called Greenwood the Great,” Elrohir said, “but when the influence of Dol Guldur and of its wicked Necromancer took possession of it, the name was changed to Mirkwood. Gigantic spiders, werewolves and Orcs haunt it, except to the north, where Thranduil’s realm is located. The Old Forest Road, on which we journeyed coming from the Old Ford, is no longer safe, and has fallen into disuse; the Elves of the Wooden Realm created a path further north, but being on the southern border of their realm, not even that way is devoid of danger, except for a great host.”

“Don’t worry too much, aunt,” Elladan encouraged her, “We are anyway out of Mirkwood’s borders, and we’ve got our sentinels.”

Nerwen sighed and nodded, momentarily reassured; besides, the animal roaming around didn’t look alarmed, therefore she attributed her aversion for Mirkwood to its lugubrious reputation.

When they finished eating, the sun had set and the dusk was turning into night; the stars lighted one by one in the clear sky, shining brightly against the black velvet of the firmament.

Raising his gaze to the starry vault, Elladan thought about his beloved Gaerwen, and felt inspired to sing; they hadn’t brought along musical instruments, but he could do without. Mouth closed, he started a tune; his brother recognised it immediately and started the second voice. Then Elladan began to sing in a clear voice:

 

Meled, nín ôl,

Cuiad lúthannen.

I tín hûn na i glawar,

I tín hin i elin estel,

I tín findel siria ned lagor sûl.

Meled, nín ôl,

Cuiad lúthannen.

 

Love, my dream,

Enchanted life.

Your heart is the light of the sun,

Your eyes the hope of the stars,

Your hair floats in the swift wind.

Love, my dream,

Enchanted life. (*)

 

Elrohir voiced the counter melody, and the two performed the love song until the end, gladdening the hearts of those listening; but Nerwen listened only distractedly, even if she appreciated both their beautiful voices and the song: an eerie uneasiness had begun to grow in her mind. The glanced at the forest, but in the faint starlight she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary; again, she thought the awful reputation of Mirkwood was influencing her, and she strove to ignore it.

They went to sleep, while two sentinels placed themselves on both sides of the camp. The night was quiet, and soon everyone drifted off to sleep.

Several hours later, Nerwen awoke feeling a great apprehension; she jumped up sitting, but everything was quiet. Watching the position of the stars and of the crescent moon lightening the sky, she estimated it was about one hour after midnight. The sentinels were still at their posts, alert like only the Elves can be when they decide, in case of need, to do voluntarily without sleep.

The Aini searched for Thilgiloth’s and Calad’s thoughts, finding them disquieted, but none was able to pinpoint a reason, only vague and undefined impressions. However Nerwen was on alert: something was wrong, even if she still didn’t know what. She kicked off the blanket, put on her boots and stood up, determined to explore the surroundings; she passed by one of the sentinels, who cast her a puzzled glance but didn’t dare asking her anything: no one questions an Istar about her or his comings and goings.

Nerwen slowly approached the trees, stretching out her senses in both worlds, the visible and the invisible; as soon as they penetrated beyond the curtain of trunks, in her mind exploded the image of a group of several werewolves ready to attack.

GOER!” she shouted at the top of her lungs; but the werewolves launched their assault at the same moment. Nerwen dove to the ground, just in time to avoid being hit by one of the attackers.

The Elven horses neighed terrified and ran at breakneck speed, seeking safety; all of them, except Thilgiloth, who as a Chargeress didn’t fear werewolves and instead leapt to Nerwen’s rescue.

Goer, goer!” the sentinels yelled, jumping to their feet, their arrows already notched. Abruptly torn out of their sleep, the others struggled looking for their weapons, while the first werewolf jumped in the middle of their camp and mauled the nearest Elf, who shouted in pain. Elrohir, still lying on the ground, grabbed his bow and shot an arrow, which caught the gaur exactly in the middle of its forehead and made it drop dead.  

Nerwen leapt nimbly on Thilghiloth, who had neither saddle nor harness; a gaur saw them and jumped on them, but the Chargeress reared up and hit it powerfully on the snout with her hoof, shattering its jaw. Furious because of the pain, the werewolf turned against her and tried to hit her with a paw; meanwhile, Calad swept in from above and clawed its eye, tearing it off. Mad with pain, the gaur howled and ran, but was intercepted by two arrows and crashed on the ground, dead.

Elladan rose and was about to notch an arrow, when a werewolf tried to assault him from the side, but three arrows, shot from as much Elven bows, hit it in the hip; one hit its heart and killed it on the spot.

Nerwen looked around in the faint light of the moon crescent. The fight raged and the bowstrings sang because of the swiftness the Elves used in shooting their arrows; but the werewolves were in great number, too much to let the assailed ones get out all alive. Nerwen recalled a wasp’s nest she had seen not far from Radagast’s house; now she called for them, asking their help, and immediately the large black-and-yellow insects swarmed out of their nest. They gathered around her, buzzing ferociously; Thilgiloth swerved, nervous.

Easy, my friend, they’re our allies, Nerwen calmed her down. She saw a werewolf staring malevolently at her, clearly planning an aggression, and instinctively she sent the wasps against it. The swarm went for the gaur, practically covering it, and many of them began to sting it ruthlessly; howling, the monster ran away at full speed. The wasps chased it briefly, then let it go and turned, looking for a new prey.

At that moment, an assorted group of wild animals joined them unexpectedly: stags, boars, bears, buffalos. Lead by a huge black bear, they immediately charged the werewolves. Nerwen was stunned: her appeal had been only for the wasps and therefore she didn’t expect the intervention of other kelvar. Where did these arrive from?

She had no time to think about it: noticing another threatening gaur, she directed the wasp swarm against it, and then against another and another. As soon as as they stung, the insects retreated, lessening the swarm, but there were still many of them before the fight was over. The battle lasted for many, unending minutes, among howls, roars, grunts, growls, bellows and shouts; but in the end, the goer were vanquished and lay dead or badly wounded. The Elves finished off the latter cutting their throats.

In the middle of the battlefield, suddenly a huge man appeared, with a thick black beard and long, equally black hair, wearing a short sleeveless tunic of coarse canvas; he carried a massive axe. He immediately headed for Nerwen, still sitting on Thilgiloth, and bowed to her.

beorn

 

“I am Beorn,” he introduced himself, “I live near here, and I was keeping an eye on Rhosgobel, knowing that Radagast is away; I saw you arriving, but being the Elves surely not enemies, I didn’t disturb you. But when I saw those cursed werewolves attacking you, I mustered the nearest friends and intervened.”

Elladan and Elrohir had come near and now were watching the big man, amazed.

“We heard about you, Beorn,” Elrohir said, “but I thought you were a fable… the skin-changer man who becomes a bear!”

He looked at them amused from the height of his two-metre stature:

“I’m not a fable, as you can see.”

“Of course you’re not,” Nerwen confirmed, “Your race is very ancient, Beorn, it goes back to the appearance of the first Men on Arda… But I’m forgetting my manners: I’m Nerwen the Green, and these are my nephews Elrohir and Elladan, sons of Lord Elrond of Rivendell.”

“Yeah, I recognised the emblems,” Beorn stated, then he looked at her askance, “The Green, huh? I heard you calling for help those good wasps; I assume you’re a colleague to Radagast and Gandalf.” 

“That I am,” Nerwen confirmed, “And on behalf of all of us, I want to thank you and your allies for your valuable help. But there are some wounded, among both yours and mine, who need treatment.”

“You’re right,” Beorn said, “Let’s take care of them. We’ll talk later.” 

It turned out that the first Elf who had been attacked had a broken humerus and deep lacerations due to the werewolf’s terrible canines, while another had light scratches on a thigh, inflicted by a paw, and a third one a serious contusion on his hip because of a fall, caused by a gaur that slammed him to the ground.

Nerwen thanked the wasps for their precious help, and the insects took their leave to go resting in their nest; then the Istar went straight to the most severely injured Elf. As the settlement of the broken bone would be very painful, she made him fall asleep whispering some enchanted words in his ear, then she aligned the fracture and used her thaumaturgic power to weld it; then she did the same with the gashes the werewolf’s teeth left, carefully cleaning the wounds from the monster’s contaminated saliva before healing them. While the fracture wouldn’t leave any trace, ugly scars would instead remain as a perennial memory of the fight; but probably the Elf would show them off proudly: getting out alive from a combat with a werewolf isn’t a foregone conclusion.

Elladan treated the other wounded – like his father, he was a very good healer; he cleaned the scratches with water and wine, and then applied an unguent based on hypericum.

Beorn’s unscathed allies had already gone, except four bears, while the bear-man took care of the injured, luckily only a few and all with minor wounds; these too, immediately after the treatment, took their leave to return to their dens.

Meanwhile, the Elves who hadn’t been injured took care of the werewolves’ carcasses; they counted 18 of them, amassing them in a heap about 50 paces away from the devastated camp. Then some Elves went to seek the horses, which had run in panic, while the other ones moved the bivouac outside the area of the fight.

Nerwen called Thilgiloth and Calad, who came immediately to her.

“Thank you, my friends,” she said, “You’ve been brave.”

I hate the werewolves!, the Chargeress snapped.

I fear them, Calad confessed, but when I saw you and Thilgiloth in danger, I just went for that monster and ripped one eye out of its head!

Nerwen caressed them, both with her hands and her mind, communicating them all her gratitude and her love. Her two friends reciprocated, rubbing themselves against her.

Beorn had come near and watched the scene, smiling in his thick beard: he, too, communicated with animals.

Nerwen turned to him:

“Did you give our thanks to your allies?” she enquired.

“Sure,” the bear-man confirmed, “They’re very satisfied with the way this battle ended,” he nodded toward the pile of dead goer, “What do you plan to do with them, now?”

“We’ll burn them,” Nerwen announced, “and scatter their ashes.”

So they did; they gathered a great amount of wood and made a pyre; Beorn showered it with a flask of a rather stinky fuel oil that, he assured them, would augment the temperature very much, so that the carcasses would burn quicker and better. Then he personally lighted the pyre, and helped the Elves to throw the werewolves’ corpses in the flames. In a short time, all were reduced to ashes and embers.

“There’s no danger anymore,” Beorn said, “At least, not of werewolves. I suggest you to sleep for the rest of the night; my allies and I will keep guard for you.”

“Thank you, Beorn,” Elrohir told him, “We are very grateful for your help.”

“The enemies of my enemies are my friends,” the bear-man simply answered, before taking his leave and organising his sentinels.

Nerwen doubted she could go back to sleep; she thought about smoking her pipe and try to relax, in the hope this could help her falling asleep, but then she gave it up: it was difficult to find pipe-weed outside the Shire and its immediate vicinity, and therefore she had to ration it in order to make it last as long as possible.

She laid sleepless for a long while; finally, taken by weariness, she fell asleep, only to be awakened a couple of hours later by the light of the sun, which had just arisen above the top of the trees, hitting her eyelids.

They found out that Beorn had taken care of their breakfast, fetching them bread, cream and honey, which were practically the only nourishment he fed on. The honey was incredibly good: it tasted like many different herbs and flowers, so many that Nerwen wasn’t able to identify them all.

“My bees produce it,” the bear-man told her in confidence, “They are very large and fly very far looking for the nectar with which they make their honey.”

After finishing their breakfast, the members of the escort scattered the ashes of the werewolves, by now cold, so that they would serve as fertilizer for the soil; Beorn gathered the few remaining bones and put them in a bag, in order to disperse them on the Anduin.

“It has been a pleasure to meet you, Nerwen the Green,” he told her, bowing low, “I hope one day our paths will cross again in better circumstances.”

“It has been a pleasure for me, too, Beorn,” the Istar stated, smiling, “and I hope we’ll meet again; until then, may the stars shine upon your path.”

The bear-man bowed his head in acceptance of her words, then he turned to Elrond’s sons and took his leave with a bow, asking them to pay his respects to their father, whose reputation of great wise he was familiar with; finally he nodded to the soldiers of the escort and walked away in long strolls north-westward, presumably in the direction of his abode.

Eventually, the company from Rivendell was ready to leave and off they went, retracing their steps to the Old Ford, in order to cross again the Anduin and resume their journey to Lothlórien.

 

 

 

(*) The author of the original verses (which I found on the internet and have re-elaborated) is Siri. My translation is surely poor, so I ask the purists to indulge me; but if someone is able to make the precise corrections, please be welcome!

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Well, the encounter with Beorn wasn’t foreseen at all! I imagined the scene of the fight with the werewolves considering that Nerwen, together with the wasps, would call out for the animals befriended to Radagast, roaming near Rhosgobel, but then all of a sudden the bear-man pops out with his animal allies. Another example of character who decides to get his way… maybe he was offended because I didn’t think about him? LOL

Picture of Rhosgobel, Radagast’s dwelling, by the great illustrator John Howe; Beorn by Leone on Deviantart.

 

Lady Angel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

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(This chapter has not been edited yet, pls forgive oddities and mistakes)

Chapter XVIII: The Golden Wood

 

The second day since they had left Rhosgobel, they reached a swampy area covered in canes and iris flowers, not difficult to cross; nonetheless, they preferred to bypass it, and Elladan explained to Nerwen that this place, called the Gladden Fields, had seen Isildur’s killing by the hands of the Orcs, and it was the place where the One Ring was lost, which Isildur had cut off from Sauron’s hand. Nerwen felt a cold shiver creeping down her spine and was glad they had decided to go around it instead of going through: this place held nefarious memories.

 

OOO

 

Three days later, in the early afternoon, the small company that had set off from Rivendell came into view of the northern border of Galadriel’s and Celeborn’s realm. Calad, who was flying high above them but not much ahead, swooped to approach Nerwen, who hastily put on her falconry glove to allow her to perch on it.  

Sooner or later she’ll crash to the ground, Thilgiloth commented amused, but also a little worried: the two kelvar had become close friends, exactly like Nerwen had hoped, and they cared for each other. Nerwen sent a reassuring thought to the Chargeress: flight swiftness was a characteristic of the birds of prey, and particularly of calë hawks.

I’ve never seen such huge trees! Calad cried, marvelled, transmitting her the image her sharp eyes had seen. Even if in Aman existed massive trees, taller than 150 metres and thousands of years old – actually in her garden grew two of them – Nerwen was impressed: these were only a little smaller, both in height and in circumference.

Getting nearer, she recognised the kind: they were mallorn trees, with their smooth silvery bark, similar to the birch, and peculiar leaves, green on the upper side and silvery on the lower one.

golden wood

 

The vast forest, home to the Galadhrim or People of the Trees, was located in the corner formed by the confluence of the Celebrant into the Anduin; the capital, Caras Galadhon, was built on a high hill at about fifteen kilometres from the encounter of the two rivers, well inside the tree cover, and was the site of the biggest trees in the whole wood.

Elrohir signalled to the commander of the armed group, who unfolded the banner of Rivendell, a blue standard with a large silver star (*). When they arrived near enough from the first mellyrn they halted, and only the standard bearer advanced for some dozens metres.

“The sons of Lord Elrond, Lord of Imladris, salute the Galadhrim!” he cried in a strong and clear voice.

From behind the silvery trunks suddenly appeared two dozens of Elves, dressed in a silver-grey colour with green shades, perfectly blending into the forest colours. Most had raven-black hair, claiming manifestly their descent from the ancient Teleri who undertook the long journey from Cuiviénen to the Undying Lands, but who stopped along the way, becoming the Nandor, the Silvan Elves. In the group there were also some brown-haired Elves, surely of Noldorin lineage; only one showed blond hair, declaring ancestors among the Vanyar. It was he who signalled to them all to lower their large bows of yew wood, bent with arrows notched to the strings and aiming to the strangers, this way revealing him as the patrol leader.

The twins recognised him and smiled, spurring their horses to approach him.

haldir

 

“Haldir, old friend!,” Elrohir greeted him, dismounting to clasp his wrist in the Sindarin custom. Haldir returned his grasp and did the same with Elladan.

“Hullo, and welcome back to Lórien,” he said; his accent was slightly different from the one of Rivendell, which was in turn different from the one of the Grey Havens.

Haldir looked puzzled at Nerwen, who had come near riding on Thilgiloth. Elrohir invited her to dismount, and when she was next to them, he introduced her formally:

“Haldir, this is Nerwen the Green, relative to my father; Lady Nerwen, may I introduce you to Haldir of the Galadhrim, captain of the border guards?”

Haldir bowed low:

“I’m honoured to meet you, my lady,” he said.

“The honour is mine, Captain Haldir,” she reciprocated.

“We were waiting for you,” the blond-haired Elf said then, looking at them, “Messages have arrived from Imladris to Lady Galadriel some days ago, announcing your arrival.”

This didn’t surprise Nerwen, who knew how Elrond and Galadriel, through the power of Vilya and Nenya, were able to converse mentally even through great distances; a capability that Narya didn’t possess, though, excluding therefore Mithrandir from the communications.

“I’m on patrol for another couple of days,” Haldir went on, “I’ll have two of my people taking you to Caras Galadhon; as soon as I come back, I’ll see you.”

“Fine!” Elladan replied, “So, tell us how you’re doing with that pretty blonde girl, Ireth…”

Haldir’s eyes lighted up like stars, hearing the name of the one who evidently was his beloved, but being reserved, he didn’t comment.

“Beriadir!” he called, turning, and from the group came forth a very tall Noldo, who came near quickly. His eyes, of a very deep shade of blue, rested on Nerwen and stayed on her a moment longer than needed; struck by that gaze, where she could read deep admiration, the Maia returned it, thinking the Elf was really very attractive.

“Escort our friends from Imladris to Caras Galadhon,” Haldir instructed him, “Take Glinnel with you. Then you can stay there, as you shift will almost be over.”

From this point, Caras Galadhon was about forty kilometres away, which they had to travel on foot because their guides had no horses, and this meant an eight-hour walk at the least. Given the hour, they wouldn’t arrive before nightfall; therefore they would sleep outside, and their arrival would be in the late hours of the morning after.

At Beriadir’s nod, a slender female Elf with raven-black hair came at his side; as the other ones, she wore a tunic and britches and carried a great bow over her shoulders. She smiled cordially at the group coming from Rivendell.

“We’ll meet there, then,” said Haldir, taking his leave; he bowed again to Nerwen and clutched the twins’ wrists.

“See you soon,” Elrond’s sons said.

Nerwen called to Calad, who came quickly down and perched on Thilgiloth’s saddle. The Galadhrim watched her manoeuvre with curiousness: it wasn’t a common thing seeing a hawk taking place so comfortably on the back of a horse. It was apparent that the two animals had a great confidence with each other.

“I’m afraid this time you’re forced to come with us in the wood,” the Istar said, talking to the bird of prey, “but they told me there are large clearings, where you’ll be able to fly easily.”

Calad shook her proud head in disapproval.

Very well, if it’s truly necessary, I’ll do it, she said, with a certain grace even if she was somewhat moody because of her aversion to forests.

The Elves of Lórien marvelled at this only for a moment: after all, Nerwen introduced herself as an Istar, and all of them knew Radagast, who talked with animals.

The rest of the group coming from Imladris dismounted; with a last parting nod to Haldir and his patrol, they entered among the tall and slender trees, leading their horses by the bridle.

They walked mostly in silence, occasionally making some remark about the surroundings. Nerwen was very glad that in a short time she would see again Galadriel, her old acquaintance from Valinor; she had met her various times in Menegroth, during her visits to Melian, but their last encounter had been before the War of Wrath, because Galadriel and Celeborn had left Doriath for Nargothrond, the realm of one of her brothers, Finrod. Very similar in their characters, being both strong and determined, mindful but capable of infinite glee, Nerwen and Galadriel had been good friends – even if not exactly intimate – during the time the latter had dwelt in the Undying Lands; even if after Morgoth’s theft of the Silmarilli the fair-haired Elda chose the voluntary exile to the Hither Shore, their friendship had lasted through the entire First Age; and even if thousands of years had gone by, Nerwen had no doubt that this friendship was still intact, and therefore they would renew easily as soon as they would meet.

Concerning Celeborn, Galadriel’s husband, Nerwen knew him enough well, and had a great respect for him: he was the only Elda who, for moral and intellectual stature, could be an equal to Galadriel, who was considered the greatest and wisest among the Noldor. Celeborn was related to Thingol and like him, he belonged to the royal lineage of the Teleri, characterised by the silvery colour of their hair; he had met Galadriel in Doriath, when she had arrived there after leaving Valinor, and here the two of them had fallen in love and had married.

Nerwen snapped out of her thoughts noticing Beriadir had left Glinnel to lead alone the group and had come to her.

“Forgive my curiosity, my lady,” he said, “I heard Lord Elrohir introducing you to Captain Haldir as Nerwen the Green, and this reveals your belonging to the Order of the Istari; but I thought only men were part of it.”

Who anyway weren’t Men at all, even if they had their looks, Nerwen thought; but she didn’t say it, because only very few knew the true nature of the Wizards.

“Indeed I’m the only female,” she confirmed, “and I joined them just recently, even if I’ve been acquainted to them for many years. I’m a good friend to Mithrandir,” she added, knowing that the Grey Wizard was very well liked in Lórien.

Beriadir nodded:

“I see…”

The Silvan Elf found Nerwen quite fascinating and his question had been only an excuse to begin a conversation, but even he had never been particularly timid with the other sex, he found himself unexpectedly running out of topics. Then his gaze fell on Calad, still perching on Thigiloth’s saddle.

“I’m fond of birds of prey,” he said, “Here in the woods live owls, little owls and barn owls; as a boy I had an eagle-owl, with whom I went hunting. His name was Erannad.”

“She’s a calë hawk,” Nerwen revealed, “and her name’s Calad. She’s my lookout, and when on reconnaissance she saw the mellyrn, she was very impressed. I, too, actually: I’ve never seen trees this size, in Middle-earth.”

That was true: not even the lost great forests of Beleriand could claim such gigantic trees, except for a few like Hírilorn, the huge beech with a triple trunk where Thingol imprisoned Lúthien in the vain attempt to prevent her to help Beren in the search for the Silmaril he had asked him in exchange of her hand. 

Beriadir, who was very proud of his land, was pleased by Nerwen’s admiration.

“Lórien is the only place in Middle-earth where they grow,” he told her, ignoring she already knew about this, having learned it during her research at the Grey Havens, “In autumn the leaves become golden and don’t fall until spring, when the new ones appear; and also its flowers, blossoming in April, are golden. That’s why this is called the Golden Wood.”

“I guess it’s quite a pretty view,” Nerwen commented sincerely. There were many mellyrn in Tol Eressëa, the great isle in front of the Calacirya, but they didn’t form a wood because they grew scattered, solitary or on groups of three or four.

“Yes, it is indeed,” Beriadir confirmed, nodding with a smile.

“Were you born here, Beriadir?” she asked him, curious to learn how a Noldo ended up among Silvan Elves.

“Yes, I was; but my father was born in Valinor and is part of Finarfin’s House. My mother instead is a Nando.”

Finarfin, Galadriel’s father, was the High King of the Noldor, and in Valinor he dwelt in Tirion on the green hill of Túna. Nerwen knew him well; unlike his children – Galadriel and her three brothers – he didn’t leave for Middle-earth after Morgoth stole the Silmarilli; and even if he joined the War of Wrath, which in the end defeated the Dark Enemy, after the battle he went back to the Undying Lands, therefore his daughter, who at that time had already left Beleriand with Celeborn and was the only one of his descent who had survived until the Third Age, didn’t see him since she left Valinor. 

“Do they live in Caras Galadhon?,” Nerwen asked.

“No, they live up the Celebrant, at some distance from the city; my father is known to be the best boat-maker throughout Lórien...”

The following hours passed in no time for Nerwen, who enjoyed very much Beriadir’s conversation, brilliant and funny. She learnt thus how Galadriel and Celeborn had become the Lady and Lord of Lothlórien, even if they weren’t of the same kin of the Galadhrim: Amdír, founder of Lórinand – the original name of this land, which meant golden valley – had died during the battle of Dagorlad, when Sauron was defeated by the Last Alliance, and his realm passed down to his only son, Amroth; but the latter decided to abandon it in order to cross the Great Sea with his beloved Nimrodel. Deprived of a leader, the Galadhrim proclaimed Galadriel and Celeborn as their Lady and Lord; this was the reason why they didn’t hold the title of king and queen. Galadriel changed the name of the place to honour the place she had dwelt in Valinor, Lórien, abode of the Vala Irmo, the Lord of Visions and Dreams.

When they halted briefly to rest and eat something, Beriadir excused himself with Nerwen and went to Glinnel to talk with her about the way still to go. Elrohir approached the Istar and winked at her:

“I see you made a conquest, aunt Nerwen,” he said, amused. She burst into laughter:

“O come on, he just met me!”

“So what? You can be struck at first sight, don’t you know?” the Prince of Rivendell replied, peppy. Nerwen fell silent: yes, she knew it. She knew it all too well, because it was exactly what happened to her and Thorin. Only this time she didn’t reciprocate in the same way – assuming her nephew was right – Beriadir’s interest. He was very attractive, sure, but she didn’t feel for him what she had felt for the Dwarven prince… She doubted she would ever feel that way again.

They resumed their path, deviating slightly westward; Beriadir, who came again to walk next to Nerwen – to Elrohir’s great amusement, and to Elladan’s, too, who his twin had alerted about what, in his opinion, was going on – explained to her that before sunset they would reach a flet, a tree refuge typical to the Galadhrim, where they could comfortably spend the night. 

Thus, they arrived in the evening to a small mound where, among the branches of two adjacent trees, platforms had been built.

Glinnel jumped high and grasped one of the lower branches, then with a nimble loop she sat on it, beginning to climb on the tree and disappearing in the central hole of the platform. Soon after, a rope ladder was lowered along the trunk and the Elf came down again.

“You can leave your horses here, they’re perfectly safe,” she suggested them all, “then you can go up, here or on the other mallorn.”

Meanwhile, Beriadir had climbed on the second tree, and at that moment he was lowering another ladder to allow the access to that flet. This was smaller, about the half of the first, so it was decided that the members of the armed escort would go on the larger, while Nerwen, Elladan, Elrohir, Glinnel and Beriadir would sleep on this one.

They dined, using the food brought from Imladris: dried fruits, ripened cheese and stripes of corned beef. The two Silvan Elves offered lembas, a particular type of cracker, very nourishing, which recipe, in the Elder Days, Melian had given to Galadriel, and of which the Galadhrim made large use; they drank fresh water, taken from a nearby spring.

After dinner, they chatted a little, while the light waned and night came; then they rolled themselves in their blankets and slept until morning.

 

OOO

 

They arrived at Caras Galadhon more than one hour before noon, coming from northeast; the only access was a large gate opening in the southern part of the wall protecting the city of trees, a tall earthen rampart surrounded by a moat full of water. They circumvent a good third of the circular wall, going over the bridge in front of the gates – which were permanently open, but a mechanism would allow a very quick closure in case of need – and taking the path, climbing with many bends the sides of a great hill, toward the most impressive mallorn of all, which had no equal even in Tol Eressëa, growing almost at the exact centre of the city and hosting Celeborn’s and Galadriel’s palace. As they approached the foot of the immense tree, they saw they were awaited, because some grooms came to take the newcomers’ horses, assuring them they would see to their luggage to be brought to their lodgings.

palace

 

Calad, still perched on Thilgiloth’s saddle, looked at Nerwen, perplexed:

Where shall I go now?

The Maia pondered briefly: it didn’t seem suitable to bring her immediately into the palace, nor to make her go to the stables with the horses. Then she remembered Beriadir telling her he had had an eagle-owl: of course it wasn’t exactly the same thing, but it was anyway a bird of prey.

What if I ask Beriadir to keep you for a couple of hours, until I learn where I’ll stay and come to fetch you? she asked the hawk.

Calad flapped her wings in an acceptance sign:

He has a favourable attitude towards you, so I think it’s all right.

It was her way to tell her she had noticed how the Silvan Elf liked Nerwen. The Istar concealed a grimace, not knowing if she felt exasperated or amused by the situation, and turned to Beriadir:

“May I ask you the favour to keep Calad for a couple of hours? Just as long as I need to learn where I’ll stay, then I’ll come to fetch her.”

The Elf bowed to her:

“Anything for you, Lady Nerwen.”

Elrohir, beside the Istar, turned to the other side to hide a grin: Beriadir had fallen for good, he thought. He hoped his aunt decided to reciprocate his interest: he had seen her very lonely, during the months of her stay in Rivendell, and even if she had explained to him the true nature of her relationship with Glorfindel, he wondered why she hadn’t thought to choose him as a companion to ease, even if only momentarily, the solitude he saw in her heart.

“I’m afraid my falconry glove is too small for you,” Nerwen was talking to Beriadir, unaware of her nephew’s thoughts. Beriadir unfastened his cloak and wrapped it quickly around his arm, extending it toward Calad in an inviting gesture. The hawk soared and went to perch lightly on the Elf’s forearm.

“Hello, Calad,” Beriadir greeted her, and she answered him with her typical call kek-kek-kek: the Silvan Elf smiled, then he turned to Nerwen:

“I live in the Third Street, eighth mallorn on the right; on the sign there’s my name, Beriadir Cairtanion.”

“Very well…”

In the meantime, some servants had signalled to the escort from Rivendell to follow them to the lodgings appointed to them, while a court dignitary had come to welcome Elrond’s sons and their relative:

“Welcome, my lady and my lords: Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel are waiting for you,” she told them with a graceful curtsey, “My name is Nimgil, the Palace Superintendent,” she introduced herself to Nerwen – obviously Elrohir and Elladan already knew her from their previous visits.

Beriadir turned to Nerwen and the twins:

“I take my leave, for the moment,” he said with a bow, while Glinnel did the same, “I hope to see you soon, all of you.”

He cast a glance to Nerwen, who smiled at him, then he and his colleague turned and went away.

“He wants to see only aunt Nerwen, not us,” Elrohir whispered to Elladan, who winked at him, agreeing.

“Hey, I heard you, you impertinent nephew!” Nerwen reprimanded him, but she couldn’t avoid a giggle.

Nimgil invited them to follow her, and the three did, beginning to ascend the long stair climbing on the gigantic mallorn, winding in a right-moving spiral around the colossal trunk. Many metres higher, they passed through the hole in the large platform on which the palace was built and entered the dwelling of Galadriel and Celeborn, Lady and Lord of Lothlórien.   

 

 

 

(*) Actually, I don’t know what the emblems of Rivendell are; I found this description on the internet and I liked it, but if someone know the actual one, please let me know.

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Among the Elven realms imagined by Tolkien in all of his narrative, Lothlórien is surely my favourite, for two reasons: first, because it’s a realm in the middle of nature, and I love nature dearly – it’s not by chance that Nerwen is the Lady of the Green; second, Lórien is the abode of Galadriel, my favourite female character in the Tolkienverse, for whom the Professor himself had a great admiration. So be prepared to a certain number of chapters set in the Golden Wood. ;-)

Who knows if a new suitor will be able to make Nerwen smile again? It surely won’t be easy, for Beriadir, to win the Istar’s melancholic heart…

 

Lady Angel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

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(this chapter has not yet been edited, pls forgive mistakes and oddities)

 

Chapter XIX: Caras Galadhon

 

Celeborn: very tall, with long, silvery hair and a solemn stare; at his side Galadriel: slender and tall as much as him, with the shimmering golden hair which gained her the name Celeborn had given her, maiden crowned with a radiant garland, and made her prefer it over the names her parents had given her.

couple

 

Both were dressed in white and silver, and awaited their guests at the bottom of the large stairs leading to the throne room. Elladan and Elrohir bowed low to them as the Lord and Lady of Lórien, but then rushed to hug them as the maternal grandparents they hadn’t seen in a long time. Even if the twins were tall, they didn’t match the height of their hosts, who were over 1,90 m.

Galadriel kissed their brows, then she turned to her old friend.

“Nerwen Laiheri, welcome in our home,” she said.

“Only Nerwen the Green, now,” the Istar corrected her, returning her smile. Galadriel nodded: she had noticed her look was different, and it wasn’t just because of the shape or her ears; she was veiled, as Elrond had told her.

She opened her arms, and Nerwen approached her; the two old friends hugged affectionately, happy to meet again after all those centuries: the last time had been in Menegroth, the underground palace of Thingol and Melian in Doriath, before Galadriel and Celeborn decided to go east, beyond the Ered Luin, and before the War of Wrath which would destroy Beleriand. 

When they parted, Nerwen looked into Galadriel’s bright blue eyes and saw that, in the many centuries that had passed since their last encounter, the Lady of the Galadhrim, who already in Valinor was counted among the wisest of the Noldor, had grown even more in wisdom.

“I’m glad to see you,” she said.

“I, too,” Galadriel said, in a moved tone uncommon for her, who was usually very self-controlled. 

Celeborn, too, came near and, in a more formal way but with equal pleasure, embraced his wife’s old friend.

“Welcome, Lady Nerwen,” he said, “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Thank you, Lord Celeborn,” she answered, “I, too, am glad to be here.”

“Where’s our sister?” Elrohir enquired.

“We sent for her as soon as we learned you were about to arrive at Caras Galadhon,” Galadriel answered, then she cast a glance at Nerwen, “Arwen looks exactly like your niece Lúthien,” she warned her. The Istar nodded:

“Mithrandir told me. I’m actually very curious to verify personally how much this is true.”

“Very,” Galadriel assured her.

“Elladan! Elrohir!” they heard an excited voice. Turning, Nerwen was shocked: the only, most beloved child of Melian, Lúthien Tinúviel, the most beautiful creature who had ever trod the world’s paths, was standing before her, alive and vibrant with joy. The Aini staggered, and Celeborn supported her by her elbow, looking at her slightly worried.

arwen

 

The apparition ran to the twins and hugged them impetuously, peppering them with kisses, and receiving back as much.

“Arwen, little sister, we missed you so much!” they greeted her.

So it was true, Nerwen thought, feeling dizzy: Arwen Undómiel, Elrond’s daughter, was the living image of her great-great-grandmother: the same lovely features, the same supple shape, the same black hair, very long and wavy. When the gorgeous maiden turned to look at her, intrigued, the Maia noticed the only difference: the eyes, which were of the same shade of blue as a mountain lake, while Lúthien’s had been grey-green, the perfect blend of those of her parents.

Noticing her gaze, the twins turned, and Elladan hurried to introduce them to one another:

“Arwen, this is our aunt Nerwen the Green, Melian’s sister. Aunt Nerwen, may I introduce you our sister Arwen?”

Finding back her composure, the Aini left Celeborn and drew near the siblings.

“You look exactly like Lúthien…” she said to Arwen, still flabbergasted; then she blinked and came completely back to herself, “I beg your pardon, I forget my manners: glad to meet you, Arwen. Double so, because you remind me so much to my beloved sister’s daughter. Melian would be happy – more than happy – to meet you.”

“Me too, I’d be happy to meet my foremother,” Arwen said smiling, not completely understanding her relative’s feelings, but nonetheless feeling moved by them in turn, “Meanwhile, I’m happy to meet you.”

They embraced, a little awkwardly because, after all, they had just met; but both felt it was an important moment.

“Come,” Celeborn invited them all, “let’s have lunch together; before it, you can go to freshen up in your quarters. You two have the usual room,” he went on, talking to the twins, “near Arwen’s; for you, Lady Nerwen, we ordered the apartment we give to the guests of honour.”

Nerwen thanked him: again, her original status would be superior to her hosts’, but she didn’t forget it wasn’t any longer that way, now; however, the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim were treating her like a queen, as Elrond had done, too.

Celeborn was about to call a servant to have Nerwen escorted to her quarters, but Arwen stopped him:

“I’ll take care of it, Grandpa… Come, Aunt Nerwen, follow me,” she said, taking her arm, “My brothers know the way to their room and can go by themselves…” 

After a curtsy to the Lord and Lady, niece and aunt took their leave and exited through a door on the opposite side.

Arwen was truly very glad to meet her foremother’s sister; Melian and Thingol started the bloodline Arwen herself belonged to, back in the Elder Days when neither Sun nor Moon existed yet, and not even the Two Trees, and Arda was illuminated only by the stars of Varda Elentári,.

“Do I really look so alike my great-great-grandmother?” she asked her, thrilled: the tale of Beren and Lúthien was, among the ancient stories, her favourite one.

“Oh yes,” the Maia confirmed, “except for the eyes, Lúthien’s were grey-green; but for everything else, you are absolutely her precise double.”

“I hope I’ll have a love as extraordinary as hers,” Arwen said in a dreamy voice, “Of course, with a happier ending, but I’d like truly to love and be loved as much as she did and was.”

A premonition caught Nerwen, but her Second Sight didn’t come up; nor did the feeling reveal itself as positive or negative.

“Be careful what you wish for,” she admonished her, “because you could obtain it…”

“I don’t see any peril in dreaming the love of your life,” Arwen replied, with what Nerwen, in time, would learn to be her inexhaustible optimism, “By the way, would you like me to borrow you a gown for lunch? I think we have the same size…”

“Yes, I agree; but you’re much taller than me, I’d surely trip in the skirt!” Nerwen laughed; she always made fun of her stature – which was unusually short for an Aini or even an Elf.

“Oh, that won’t be a problem: we just pin the lower hem, anyway it’s only temporary…”

When they arrived at Nerwen’s rooms, they found a handmaid who was finishing dusting.

“Oh, Gwilwileth,” Arwen called for her, “Would you please go to my room and fetch a dress for Lady Nerwen? The light blue with white sleeves. And bring some pins, too: we must shorten the skirt in the front.”

The female Elf – with the typically raven-black hair of the Nandor and bright hazelnut-brown eyes – made a small curtsey and ran away to accomplish the task she had been entrusted with.

There was a little table with a mirror, a washbowl and a pitcher full of water, as well as soaps, towels and washcloths; also combs, brushes, hairpins and hair ribbons were available. Nerwen freshened up, and in the meantime, Gwilwileth returned with the dress and the pins. As she had noticed Nerwen was wearing boots, very cleverly she had brought also one pair of slippers.

She and Arwen helped Nerwen putting on the gown, which was made of light velvet the colour of aquamarine with long and wispy sleeves in white silk veil. Then, the handmaid shortened the hem, adjusting the skirt length to Nerwen’s lesser stature, inserting the pins in a way so they weren’t visible; the slippers were too large, but for the moment they could do.

Eventually, Arwen invited her aunt to sit down and fixed her hair, undoing the practical braid that she wore while travelling and letting her mane falling free on her back; she braided only two tresses on her temples and pulled them back to avoid them falling on her face, decorating them with white ribbons.

Seeing the enthusiasm she had in taking care of her, Nerwen realised she missed greatly her mother, Celebrían and her heart flew out to Arwen. When her niece was finished, Nerwen looked in the mirror, then she stood up and turned slowly around, appreciating what she was seeing.

“Thank you, little niece, I feel gorgeous,” she said affectionately, and hugged her. Arwen returned the hug, feeling satisfied of her own job, and even slightly thrilled: she already loved this relative coming from such a distant time and place. Evidently, through the generations their blood spoke and recognised itself… she had no other explanation.

“Let’s go, it’s almost time,” Arwen invited her, taking again her arm. They exited the room, and Arwen led her aunt along the corridors of the tree palace to the private dining room of Galadriel and Celeborn; the Lady of the Galadhrim was on a small terrace, sitting on a wicker armchair while having a cold drink. As soon as she glimpsed at them through the open door, she waved them to join her; Nerwen looked out and her breath caught in her throat: the sight from this point, at the top of the highest mallorn on the highest hill of all Lothlórien, was simply amazing.

“It’s wonderful,” she said, “Surely worthy of Valinor.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Galadriel agreed, nodding, “and indeed it’s one of the reasons Celeborn and I were happy, and not only honoured, to accept governing this place, when we were asked for it. We already knew it, having been a couple of time guests of Amdír, the founder of the realm of Lórinand; and we renamed it Lothlórien because it reminded me of the place I used to live in Valinor, the gardens of Lórien.”

“It’s a perfectly proper name,” the Istar said, taking the goblet Arwen was handing to her, “What is it?”

“Sweet cider,” Galadriel answered, an almost mischievous gleam in her blue eyes. Nerwen burst out laughing: her passion for this beverage had been often the cause of many jokes, between the two of them. Arwen looked at her grandmother and her aunt, amused despite she didn’t know the reason of their fun.  

The Lady of the Wood raised her cup to her old friend:

“To our meeting, after so much time,” she toasted. Nerwen reciprocated:

“To our meeting.”

Arwen was curious:

“So, how long have you known each other?” she asked. 

“For a long, long time,” Nerwen answered, “I know your grandmother since she was born, during the Years of the Trees. They say – and I think not without reason – that the light of Telperion and Laurelin has been entrapped in her hair, that’s why Celeborn named her Galadriel…”

Arwen nodded: she knew that the paternal name of her grandmother was Artanis, and the maternal Nerwen, exactly like her aunt, but that she had preferred over them the one created for her by her beloved, who later had become her husband.

Arwen addressed Galadriel:

“But you met the other Istari only when they arrived in Middle-earth, am I right?”

“Yes, that’s right,” she Lady of the Galadhrim confirmed. At that moment, Elladan and Elrohir arrived; both joined them for a draught of cider, and therefore Galadriel didn’t go on with the issue. Finally, also Celeborn joined them.

They sat down and ate bread, cheese, raw vegetables and fruits, a light lunch following the custom of Lothlórien, where the day began with a very rich breakfast and ended with a substantial dinner, while the mid-day meal was the least significant of the three.

When they finished lunch, Nerwen took her leave to go to Beriadir and take back Calad. By now, her luggage had surely been carried in her quarters, therefore she told Arwen she would return her her dress, but the girl invited her to keep it until evening, so she hadn’t to change again. The Istar went anyway back to her room to recover her shoes, because the too large slippers, besides not being suitable outdoors in the streets, made her risk tumbling down headlong already a couple of times. Then she took her falconry glove and went off, walking down the long spiral stair; once she arrived on the street, she asked information on where to find Beriadir’s abode. It wasn’t difficult: the Silvan Elf had given clear directions, and in a short time Nerwen was in front of the gate that lead to a small garden surrounding the trunk of the mallorn where he lived; on the sign, as he had told her, she read his name and patronymic.

Nerwen hesitated, not knowing what this place’s customs were about showing up at someone’s doorstep: calling aloud? Entering and ascending the stair climbing around the trunk, and then announcing oneself once arrived at the entrance of the flet? She decided for a simpler solution and mentally called Calad who, hearing her, took off from the platform and came to perch on her glove. 

Here am I, as promised, Nerwen said.

Nice to see you again; did you find the people you were looking for? the bird of prey enquired.

Yes, and they gave me a nice and wide lodging, with a terrace you can be comfortable on, the Istar answered, I say hullo to Beriadir and then we can go.

Lifting her gaze to the flet, about ten metres above her, Nerwen saw him showing up at the edge of the platform. For a moment, she forgot breathing: the Silvan Elf was shirtless, revealing the muscular chest and shoulders of an accomplished archer.

beriadir

 

He, too, saw her, and cast her his dazzling smile; he nodded, then he got back and swiftly donned the shirt he had been about to put on when he had seen the hawk flying away. Swiftly, he slipped through the door and went downstairs.

“Welcome to my home,” he said, opening the gate, “I see Calad is impatient to return to you, my lady: I hope it doesn’t mean she was uncomfortable with me.”

“Not at all,” Nerwen reassured him, having sensed the hawk’s wellbeing, “I thank you for having taken care of her.”

“Don’t even mention it, it was a matter of just a few hours,” he looked at her openly, “You’re very appealing in this attire, Lady Nerwen. As you were also before, anyway,” he added with a chivalrous smile.

And you’re very appealing wearing nothing, Nerwen thought involuntarily, then she blinked, amazed at herself: she hadn’t had such cheeky thoughts for a long time. She didn’t have such thoughts not even about Thorin: his eyes were what had bewitched her, not his physical appearance. Calion, too, had struck her in a different way, at the time.

All of a sudden, she realised she liked Beriadir wooing her. Not that she was feeling ready to jump in a bed with him, but maybe the handsome Silvan Elf could help her getting over Thorin, whose memory was still very strong in her mind and in her heart. Even if her Second Sight didn’t show her visions in one direction or the other, she thought she wouldn’t see the Dwarf Prince ever again: their missions laid between them; but even if they would meet again, Nerwen knew that Thorin wasn’t her partner for life, and this made wrong her staying tied to his memory.

“Thank you,” she said therefore, thinking his remark agreeable, “You surely know how to compliment a lady…” she added jestingly. He shook his head:

“I’m just saying what I think, I guarantee.”

They stayed there, looking at each other smiling, for some more moments, then Nerwen took her leave:

“I’m going back to the palace to check on Thilgiloth and arrange things for Calad. Mayhap later I’ll take an explorative stroll through the town…” she added, intentionally. Beriadir immediately took the prompt:

“I’d love to be your guide, Lady Nerwen,” he offered.

“You’re very nice,” she thanked him,” If you’re really not busy… What about coming at the palace entrance in one hour?”

“Very gladly. See you later, then…”

Nerwen returned to the palace almost dancing: she felt euphoric, and she wasn’t sure about the reason. Yes, Beriadir was surely a very handsome Elf, but it wasn’t certainly the first time she had a date; and, by the way, this couldn’t be called exactly a date, as it was just an explorative tour of the town; and, unlike what happened with Thorin when he invited her to that fateful trip in the wood, she didn’t foresee nor wished it ending up in horizontal position. She tried to understand what it was that made her so happy, but even if she was racking her brains, she didn’t draw any conclusions. Therefore, she decided to live the moment as it came, and eventually the reason would manifest itself.

Once at the palace, she asked a servant where they were sheltering Thilgiloth, and he addressed her to the stables, located at a short distance from the immense mallorn. The Chargeress was lazily munching fodder, but as soon as she saw Nerwen and Calad arriving, she stopped and moved to meet them.

I sense you’re content, as you haven’t been for a long time, Thilgiloth noticed, feeling her friend’s state of mind, At Imladris you cheered up, but your soul was still melancholic. Has that Elf to be credited for, the one who you talked so long with yesterday and this morning?

I think so, Nerwen admitted, I still couldn’t figure out the reason, because I’m not attracted to him as I was to Thorin, but… I like the way he talks to me.

Good; I’m glad for you, the Chargeress commented.

Reassured about Thilgiloth comfort, the Aini took her leave and climbed again the long stair leading to the tree palace. Once she arrived in her apartment, she showed the terrace to Calad, and here she found out that someone had thought about bringing a perch and a basin of water for the hawk. Maybe the twins had given orders to a servant: she would ask them at the earliest opportunity, and if so, she would thank them.

Calad went and drank some water, then she made herself comfortable on the perch; gazing at the landscape, she mused:

From here I can take off without fearing to get caught in the branches. It’ll be easy going hunting: a bit far away, having to exit the forest, but all in all, it’s fine.

I’m glad you like it, Nerwen said, as usual very attentive to the wellbeing of her two faithful kelvar friends, Like in Rivendell, you’re free to come and go at your leisure: we’re among friends, here. Now I’ll take a little rest, then I’ll go for a walk in town… 

 

OOO

 

When she went again downstairs, Beriadir was already there, awaiting for her; over his shirt, he sported a dark green doublet in damasked silk, tight at the waist so that his shoulders looked even broader. Once more, his looks struck Nerwen.

The Silvan Elf turned; seeing her, he beamed. She liked the way he smiled: his whole face lightened up and his eyes sparkled.

“My lady…,” he greeted her, bowing slightly. The Istar decided she had enough of all those formalities, at least with him.

“Oh, call me just Nerwen,” she invited him, “as friends do.”

He gave her his arm:

“I’m honoured to call myself a friend of yours, Nerwen,” he said with an even wider smile than before, the heat of which would melt even the ice covering the Helcaraxë strait. She felt her stomach flutter while she was slipping her hand under his arm.

“Same here,” she reciprocated, trying to maintain a casual tone; but she felt rather unsettled.

Beriadir sensed Nerwen’s agitation, and at first he felt flattered, realising she returned his attraction; however, a moment later, he realised that, under it, there was hesitation. Something was holding her back and, very wisely, the Elf decided not to push her further. 

“Come,” he invited her, “I take you to see the market.”

Nerwen learned that, near the city gates, a market was held four days of the week; one could find all sorts of goods produced by the Galadhrim, and it was always very crowded: in fact, there weren’t any shops in Caras Galadhon, and those who had a craft workshop, sold their articles at the market, when they didn’t produce them directly behind the stall.

Nerwen and Beriadir wandered among the colourful market stalls; they really had everything: fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, eggs, cheeses, bread, sweets, spices, beverages of all sorts; and then fabrics, clothes, laces and trimmings, footwear, belts, gloves, underwear and household linen, carpets and tapestries; bags and purses, baskets and pack baskets, dishware, perfumes and ointments, jewels, and dozens of other items. There was also one stall selling herbs and flowers, and it was here that Nerwen stopped: in her garden in Aman there were all, truly all of Arda’s olvar; however, as she already noticed since her arrival in Middle-earth, the size and colours here sometimes were different, and discovering the differences intrigued her much.

She and her escort continued to walk arm in arm, glancing at the many goods; Beriadir stopped by the bow-maker to purchase a new string for his great yew bow, and while he was at it, he bought a new baldric for his quiver, too.

Going on walking, the sweet smell coming from the pastries stall attracted Nerwen and her stomach grumbled: that morning she had a quite meagre breakfast, and the light meal she shared with the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim and her nephews and niece didn’t completely satiate her. Therefore, she was tempted by a slice of apricot pie with sweet cream and covered by apricot jelly; Beriadir, too, had one. Then they went to the stall selling beverages and bought some white wine, sweet and cool.

When they ended their walkthrough of the market, they sat on a bench to rest briefly, before going back to the palace; in front of them, a fountain, its stone basin carved like a flower, merrily spurted water. There were many fountains, in Caras Galadhon.

“There are other things to sightsee,” Beriadir told Nerwen, “but sunset is close, and you’re surely tired…”

sunset

 

“A little,” Nerwen admitted, now used to the feeling and capable to manage well with it, exactly as Gandalf had predicted, “but when you have time again, we could go on visiting the town.”

“Gladly,” the Silvan Elf said, “I’m finished with my guard duty at the boundary, so now I have some days off.”

“Fine!” Nerwen cried, then hushed: she was showing too much enthusiasm, she thought, considering she had no intention to encourage him. Yes, she liked him wooing her, but she was not at all sure about how much further she wanted to go: she still felt too confused about this.

Beriadir sensed again the struggle inside of her and, like before, he didn’t push her: something told him that, should he do it, she would withdraw. He had to be patient: he thought Nerwen was incredibly charming, and he didn’t want to ruin everything for one misstep.

It was almost sunset when he accompanied her back to the palace.

“Can I see you again tomorrow?” he asked, “I’d like to take you to the city park.”

Nerwen wondered how could there be a park in a town that already was a park in itself, and thought it was worth finding out.

“Alright,” she answered, “Two hours after noon?”

“Good,” Beriadir took her hand and kissed it, “See you tomorrow. Enjoy your evening.”

“You too,” Nerwen said, before turning and beginning to climb the long stair, now illuminated by the silvery light of lanterns. She showed easiness, but the gentle kiss the Elf had placed on her hand, even if formal and in no way allusive, had increased her heart rate.

It was useless denying it: she was attracted to Beriadir. However, Nerwen still felt it too soon to get over Thorin, even if she knew she had to do so. Well, she decided, when the moment would come, she would know it, and then she would react consequently. Not earlier. Otherwise, it would be detrimental and deceitful towards Beriadir and even toward herself.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

What an incredible thrill meeting Galadriel, my favourite female character in the Tolkienverse! And then Arwen, the living image of Lúthien: for Nerwen, it’s truly a great joy meeting her and therefore find again something of her most beloved niece, lost to her family and to the world so much time ago…

Beriadir begins to make his way in Nerwen’s feelings, if not in her heart: maybe he will really be able to soothe her sadness? Let’s see… :-)

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

banner

 

(this chapter has not yet been edited, pls forgive mistakes and oddities)

 

Chapter XX: In Galadriel’s Garden

 

At night, after dinner – that again Nives had in the company of the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim and their grandsons and granddaughter, as they would do throughout her stay in Lothlórien – like in all the Elven courts there were entertainments: music, poetry, dances. Galadriel wanted Nerwen sitting by her side, and so the two old friends enjoyed the performances together.

At a certain point in the evening, Galadriel bent over to Nerwen and told her under her breath:

“Elrond sent word of your search: tomorrow morning, after breakfast, let’s go in my garden and we’ll talk about it.”

“Excellent,” Nerwen answered, “We have much to tell each other, too, besides my mission…” she added smiling.

“Indeed,” Galadriel confirmed, returning her smile, “Two full eras of events…”

 

OOO

 

The following morning, after a large breakfast as was the habit of the Galadhrim, Nerwen followed Galadriel to her garden, which was located in the southeast section of the city of trees, close to the protective walls. To reach it, they crossed a high hedge and then descended a flight of stairs, beside which a water rivulet trickled merrily; at the centre of the small circular space harbouring the garden, a pedestal of white stone, exquisitely sculptured in the shape of a leafy tree, held a low basin of shiny silver. Leaning against the rocky wall at the end of the staircase, stood a small building in the shape of a tiny house, of the same stone as the pedestal and equally decorated

Galadriel took off her shoes – she had always liked walking barefoot on the grass – and sat down on the edge of a low and wide wooden step, relaxing into a rare informal pose; but she was too familiar with Nerwen to feel forced keeping, with no real need, her dignity as a High Elf and Lady of the Galadhrim; with her old friend, she felt free to be simply Galadriel.

galadriel

 

Nerwen sat beside her, equally relaxed and at ease, and imitated Galadriel taking off her shoes.

“Coming to Lórien,” she began, “I stopped at Rhosgobel: I hoped I’d find there Radagast, but instead of him, we found werewolves: they attacked us, and I don’t know how would’ve happened if a Bear-Man living nearby, Beorn, had not intervened.”

“Beorn the Skin-changer? I thought he was a legend!”

“Also in Rivendell they thought it, but he isn’t. His race goes back to the first Men; they have always been small in numbers, and very private. After the First Age, we lost track of them: no wonder they ended up being considered a myth. Beorn knows Radagast well and, knowing about his absence, he was keeping an eye on his house; when he saw us, he thought there was no need to show up, but when the goer attacked us, during the night, he mustered a good number of his animal friends and intervened, allowing us to survive the fight almost unscathed.”

Galadriel nodded, accepting the news with great interest.

“Why were you looking for Radagast?” she asked then.

“Because of my mission,” Nerwen answered, “Kementári put me in charge to find the Ents: she is sure that, in spite of their coy character, they can play an important role in the battle against Evil.”

“The Ents…” Galadriel repeated, thoughtful, “I don’t know if Radagast has any recent news about them: it’s a good number of centuries that we have none. They have always stayed away from other sentient beings, even more than the Bear-Men, but during the First Age it wasn’t that much unusual to meet one or a group; and more or less, we knew where they were settled. They escaped the devastation of Beleriand because they abandoned it a long time before the War of Wrath. During the Second Age they surely inhabited the forests of Eriador, of which now remain only a few scattered vestiges…” Nerwen nodded, recalling the Old Forest, “and Greenwood, too. I remember Oropher, Thranduil’s father, telling me about them: they were on good terms, the Silvan Elves and the Ents. But when Sauron took up residence in Dol Guldur, almost two thousand years ago – even if we didn’t know it was him, at the time – and Oropher was forced to withdraw to the north, the Ents vanished from Greenwood and none heard from them since. But perhaps Oropher told something more to his son Thranduil: perhaps you should visit him.”

Nerwen shook her head:

“Mayhap later, but before I want to verify a clue I found in Elrond’s library, leading elsewhere,” she told her friend, “I found a hint to a place called Greenland – which is the literal translation in Common Speech of Calenardhon – located south from the Hazy Range, surely another way to call the Misty Mountains.”

She paused, eager to see if Galadriel would make her same assumption.

“It seems hinting to Rohan,” the Lady of the Galadhrim indeed said, some moments later, “and this makes me think of Fangorn Forest.”

Nerwen recalled having seen it on the maps of the Horse-Country.

“Why would you say that?” she enquired, curious.

“Because the Rohirrim talk about walking trees,” Galadriel answered, “and about eyes ogling at them, about voices murmuring in that forest. They fear the place, calling it the Gloomy Forest and talking about it only in whispers. A river flowing through it is called Onodló, or Entwash in Common Speech, and it means for sure that, at least in the past, the Ents inhabited it. But I’ve never been there, nor anyone of the Galadhrim, therefore I can tell you nothing more about that forest. The Ents are not evil, so I can’t get the reason they’ve given it this bad name; this leads me to suspect that the Ents have nothing to do with it, and that this name comes because of other creatures, dark and wicked beings.”

Nerwen nodded thoughtfully: as it was Galadriel the one to warn her, she would be more careful, and wouldn’t be caught by surprise like with the Old Birch Woman on the riverside of the Withywindle.

“So you’ve contacts with the Rohirrim?” she asked then. Galadriel shook her head:

“Not anymore: for many years now they consider us legend and stay away from the Golden Wood, which they call Dwimordene, the Haunted Valley. How they came to this I don’t know, as in Eorl the Young’s days the Galadhrim helped them, during their great ride from the north to the rescue of Gondor; but these are strange days,” she paused, pondering if telling or not some things to her old friend; but she trusted her completely, therefore she decided to go on, “We, too, are uneasy: something’s stirring in Dol Guldur. For a long time now, Mithrandir pushes for an attack to that evil place, but Saruman don’t want to know anything of it: he says we mustn’t provoke Sauron, we must leave him alone while he stays shut up in his fortress, without doing any damage; but I forebode that, sooner or later, the Enemy will make his move and assail the beautiful Valley of Singing Gold, Laurelindórenan, our Lothlórien... It would be good if it’s us, the ones making the first move, because I agree with Mithrandir in saying that, in this case, the best defence is a good offence. But Saruman is powerful, and persuasive, and so far he succeeded in convincing us to wait.”

“Often in the past the wait proved an awful choice,” Nerwen agreed, “Mayhap it’s time to change tactics.”

“I agree,” Galadriel nodded, “therefore I want to call soon for the White Council.”

Nerwen furrowed her brow: now this was something she didn’t know anything about.

“What is the White Council?” she enquired.

“Forgive me, I was forgetting you’re gone from Ennor for a very long time,” Galadriel said in an apologising tone, “It’s the high command of the Free People of Middle-earth,” she explained, “consisting of the most powerful among the Eldar – Elrond, Thranduil, Círdan, Celeborn and I  – and of the Istari. Technically, even the two ones who never returned from the East are part of it… and now you, too,” she concluded, looking at her hopefully, clearly already expecting to find an ally, in her.

“I’m afraid my mission will take me far away, with no possibility to communicate,” Nerwen was sorry, “but if I’d still be around when you’ll call for the White Council, I’ll come. Anyway, what does it do, exactly?”

“Its purpose is to control and stop Evil in Middle-earth,” the Lady of the Galadhrim answered, “and also to search for the One Ring, and if possible to destroy it, because that wicked thing is infused with the power of Sauron, the main creator of Evil in Ennor.”

“So Saruman is in charge of the Whit Council?” Nerwen supposed, recalling what Galadriel just said about the power and persuasive skills of the White Wizard.

“Yes, he is,” she confirmed, “even if I’d rather had Mithrandir, but he didn’t accept.”

“That’s typical of him,” Nerwen commented, “He never wants to be formally in charge of anything, because he thinks himself an assistant, not a leader.”

“But he’s wrong,” Galadriel claimed firmly, “He’s wise, and cautious, and valiant, and for him, Arda’s sake is worth more than his personal one. What can one ask more of a leader?”

“Tell him,” Nerwen retorted with a rough smile; she agreed with Galadriel, but she knew too well her best ever friend: nothing would persuade him to change his mind about himself.

“You’re right,” Galadriel laughed, “he’s really thick-headed!”

At this point, she stood up and headed for the tiny house of stone; she opened the small wooden door and entered shortly, coming back with a silver tray on which she carried two goblets and a long-necked jug, also in silver. She smiled at Nerwen:

“All this chitchatting parched my throat, and yours?”

“Actually, mine, too,” the Istar admitted, reciprocating her smile.

Galadriel placed the tray on the step they were sitting on and went to fill the carafe with the water sprouting down halfway from the small rock wall, then she came back to pour it in the goblets and sat again. They drank, and Nerwen found the water very cool and refreshing.

“Tell me about Valinor,” the Lady of the Wood exhorted her, bending over to her, “How’s my daughter?”

“She lives in your old house in Lórien,” Nerwen revealed. Galadriel nodded:

“Yes, I told her myself to go and dwell there. Her decision to abandon Middle-earth after her abduction grieved me, but the stay in Valinor, and especially in the Gardens of Lórien, was the only cure for the wounds of her soul…”

Nerwen recalled Elrond making the same remark: he had been very saddened by Celebrían’s choice, but no cure, not even the love of her husband and children, had been enough to soothe her distress, after the tortures she suffered by the hand of the Orcs. Going to Lórien was the only remedy.

“She’s much better now,” the Istar anticipated the next question of the Lady of the Wood, “I met her only a few times, but the improvement between one and the other time was always very evident.”

A veil, which Nerwen hadn’t perceived until this moment, fell from Galadriel’s strikingly beautiful face, and it became even brighter: the sorrow for her daughter was deeply buried in her heart, but nonetheless it pained her profoundly.

“Thank you,” she said, in an unusually moved tone, “It comforts me greatly, knowing my daughter’s feeling better…” she sighed slightly, before posing the next question, “And my father?”

“Lord Finarfin is well,” Nerwen answered, “but he misses you,” she added in an undertone. This was a sensitive issue: Finarfin had opposed the departure of his children, who were following Fëanor with the purpose to win back the Silmarils that Morgoth had stolen, but they didn’t want to hear it and left Aman in spite of his veto; this of course had created resentment between them and their father. After the War of Wrath and the Valar’s pardon to all those who had departed against their will, Finarfin wished badly to see his daughter – the only one left of his lineage, because all of his male children had perished tragically in Beleriand – but she and Celeborn had long ago crossed the Ered Luin.

Sorrow veiled Galadriel’s face.

“I miss him, too,” she confided to her, “Who knows, if one day I’ll decide to leave Middle-earth…”

She left the sentence unfinished: she loved very much her adopted land, where after all she had dwelled for most of her life; and even the more she loved it because the power of Nenya – the Ring of Water – made it more beautiful, infused of a quality similar to Valinor, exactly as it was in Imladris because of Vilya. It was unlikely she would leave it, even to go back to her homeland.  

“He’ll welcome you with open arms,” Nerwen completed her sentence. Galadriel cast a stealthy glance at her and, to her surprise, the Maia saw tears gleaming in her friend’s eyes.

“Do you really believe that?” she asked, hopefully. Nerwen nodded firmly:

“Absolutely,” she confirmed. She knew the heart of Finarfin the father even better than she knew the heart of Finarfin the High King of the Noldor. She knew for sure that he loved greatly all of his children; learning that three of them – Finrod, Aegnor and Angrod – had died grieved him immeasurably, and he still regretted that the last words they addressed to each other were spoken in a rage. Seeing again the only child he had left would make him beyond happy, and he would be greatly comforted.

“The world is changing,” whispered Galadriel in a gloomy voice, “I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air… Mayhap, one day not much far off anymore, it will be changed so much, that I’ll wish to return to Aman… But not now,” she concluded, brushing away the sadness that had caught her thinking of her distant father, “Tell me about you and Melian!” she urged her. Nerwen realised that Galadriel didn’t wish to talk anymore about Finarfin; for the moment, it sufficed her to know he was well. Talking more about him would only grieve her.

“After Thingol’s death, she came to live with me in my gardens,” Nerwen told her, “Sometimes she goes to Lórien, when the sorrow becomes unbearable… In time, it happens less and less frequently, but I’m afraid it won’t stop never completely.”

“In all this time, didn’t Melian find a little comfort in some friend-in-love?” Galadriel asked, not to gossip, but with sincere empathy.

“A couple of times,” Nerwen confirmed, “but always short relationships.”

Galadriel nodded: losing one’s partner for life meant always this kind of reaction, and indeed, among the Firstborn, it was very uncommon that one remarried, once widowed.

“Celeborn and I had our disagreements, in the past,” she revealed to the Istar, “We did even dwell separated, for some time; but I can’t imagine living without him. I don’t dare to think about how much Melian suffered,” she shook her head and sighed, “And about yourself, what do you tell me?”

Nerwen shrugged:

“Since the last time we met, in the halls of Menegroth, my life has always been the same as before; the only significant change was Melian coming to live with me. Like her, me, too, I had some friends-in-love, but I still didn’t meet my partner for life – if he even exists. Then one day Kementári summoned me to Valimar to talk about the Onodrim; and so I’m here in Ennor, after so long, in search of them… As you see, my life hasn’t been very eventful, until a few months ago!” she laughed, “I bet yours, instead, has been much more interesting…”

And she was right: Galadriel told her how, after leaving Beleriand during the First Age, she and Celeborn settled in Lindon, where they led a small group of Elves as vassals of Gil-galad, who was the High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. Then, they travelled eastward and settled in a place called Eregion, or Hollin, just east of Moria, the great Dwarven realm in the Misty Mountains, with which they had close trade links, proving that Elves and Dwarves could live near and respect one another; but maybe for them it was easier, because the Noldor shared with the Dwarves the passion for the creation of metal items, from weapons to jewels; and Celebrimbor, Fëanor’s grandson, was the creator of the famous, magical doors of the Western Gate of Moria. In that same time, Galadriel and Celeborn came into contact with Lórinand, the Nandorin realm of Amdír, on the opposite side of the Misty Mountains, and decided to move to it. There, their only child Celebrían was born. And as in time they had proved to be great wises, when Amdír died in the Battle of Dagorlad, at the end of the Second Age, and his son Amroth left Middle-earth, the Silvan Elves asked them to lead them, becoming their Lord and Lady.

“…and when I began planting mellyrn and seeing them flourish here like nowhere else in Ennor, I decided to rename the place as Lothlórien, in memory of my dwelling in Aman,” Galadriel concluded.

This was not the only reason, as Nerwen well knew.

“It’s no coincidence that this is the only place in all Middle-earth where the mellyrn grow,” she said in a low voice, “Lothlórien is blessed and safeguarded by the power of Nenya.”

Galadriel watched her intently with her piercing blue eyes, then nodded slowly.

“I thought you would knew about it,” she said, and raised one hand with the back turned toward her: on her middle finger appeared a magnificent ring of mithril, the fabulous silvery metal, stronger than steel but much lighter, which could be found only in the mines of Moria; a flawless diamond was set on it, which, intercepting a sunray, sent out a dazzling flash: among the Three, the Ring of Water was surely the most stunning.

“Its power is protecting, preserving and hiding from Evil,” the Lady of the Galadhrim explained, “Yes, you’re right: it’s thank to it that Lothlórien became so much like Valinor’s Lórien,” she concluded, while hiding Nenya again.

They stayed in a comfortable silence for some minutes, then Galadriel stood up again, took the carafe and filled it up again. Then she went to the pedestal with the silver basin and filled it up to the rim; she placed the jug on the ground, blew on the water making it ripple, and when it stilled again, she beckoned Nerwen to come near.

The Maia came up beside her; her friend’s earnest expression, while gazing into the basin, made her do the same; but she didn’t see anything unusual: the water was pristine and its surface perfectly still.

“This,” the Lady of Lothlórien said in a low voice, “is the Mirror of Galadriel. In it, eyes that can see can penetrate the mists of Time: you can see things that were, things that are, and things that perhaps will be, one day. You who have the Second Sight, you would be able to see very far, and you could find this device very useful for your search,” she raised her gaze to watch the Istar intently, “Do you wish to look, Nerwen?”

Nerwen knew well how the knowledge of the future could be unreliable, because the future is in constant movement, changing at each choice one makes – or doesn’t make; and Galadriel had indeed said things that perhaps will be. Besides, the knowledge of the future is a double-edged sword, because all too often, to avoid an unpleasant future, one takes actions that end up in realising exactly what one hoped to avoid.

“Will the Mirror show me what I wish, or what it wants?” she asked.

“I can command the Mirror to show what you most want,” Galadriel answered, “But if it is set free, the Mirror will show even non required things, and often these are exactly the most useful ones; however, in this case I cannot tell you what you’ll see, and sometimes not even the wisest can understand the images he or she is watching.”

Nerwen pondered a minute longer about Galadriel’s offer; then she made her decision:

“I’ll look.”

“Very well,” the Lady of the Galadhrim nodded, “Watch carefully into the basin. Don’t touch the water.”

She stepped back a little, not because of privacy – she wouldn’t anyway be able to see what the Mirror showed to another person – but to allow Nerwen focusing better.

The Aini did as Galadriel had told her and watched intensely into the silver bowl, thinking of the Ents. The water seemed to shiver, became opaque, darkened for some seconds, and then became again transparent; but now the basin had become a window through which Nerwen could look and see events and people, remote in Space or Time, or both.

At first, it was like getting closer at eagle’s flight to a forest looking very old, foggy and full of musk; long lichen beards hanged from the huge, gnarled trees. A young river exited from the deep shadow of the wood, flowing rapidly on a vast grassy plain, crossed by large herds of horses. Colossal things crossed the forest and the trees seemed to wave, writhing like the billows of the Great Sea.  

Nerwen guessed she was looking at Fangorn, the Gloomy Forest as the Rohirrim called it, and realised why it had the bad name they gave to it: just looking at it was distressing, even more than Mirkwood.

Yet Nerwen wasn’t completely convinced: something indefinable made her realise that this was only the looks, and that the substance actually wasn’t evil; certainly hostile, even dangerous maybe, but not evil. Differently than Mirkwood, she doubted that creatures submitted to the Enemy were creeping around in Fangorn.

Then the vision changed. It turned to the direction where the sun rises and, at a vertiginous speed, under Nerwen ran endless, scarcely inhabited territories, sometimes barren; then a well cultivated, densely populated land; a wide inland sea; an immense forest; again deserted plains; high red mountains with peaks capped with perennial snow; and beyond these, a blooming land, dotted with small woods and crossed by many rivers and brooks, and bordering on a sea; it wasn’t Belegaer, but another ocean. Getting closer, Nerwen noticed that many trees were moving, with stiff but nonetheless graceful movements, walking far and wide across that lush territory. Ents! the Istar immediately thought; but where that fertile land was located, was impossible to determine: she didn’t see it on any of the innumerable maps she had consulted at the Grey Havens and in Rivendell.

The vision faded and the water became as grey as mist; then it became clear again. This time, she was presented with an image of Lothlórien: laying down under the trees of a high hill crowned with mellyrn and covered in flowers of elanor and niphredil, there were two naked bodies, tightly embracing, while kissing fervently. They were clearly making love, but the vision drew near them with no modesty; Nerwen was about to take off here eyes – she never liked to spy on people in their privacy – but then she recognized the female part of the couple of lovers: she was Arwen, dishevelled and flushed with passion. The male part was a dark-haired Man, tall and handsome, and with a start of surprise, Nerwen recognised Estel, or better, Aragorn, as she had seen him in the second part of her vision in Rivendell, not very young anymore, but in the fullness of his manhood.

A green sparkle attracted Nerwen’s gaze on Arwen’s hand, which laid on the wide, muscular back of her lover: the flash came from the gems of an unusually shaped ring.

Nerwen was sure, of such an absolute certainty she was stunned, that she wasn’t looking at two friends-in-love, but at two partners for life.

Arwen wished for a love like that of her foremother Lúthien, and this was exactly what her destiny seemed having in store for her.

The vision faded and the water became pristine again, not showing anything more.

Quite bewildered, Nerwen drew back and staggered; promptly, Galadriel supported her and took her to sit down, then she handed her the silver goblet with some water so that she could drink. Refreshed, the Maia shook her head as to clear her confused thought.

“The sharper the sight, the stronger the effect of the Mirror is,” Galadriel said, “You need some time to get used to it. Even Mithrandir, the first time, had the same reaction as you had,” she paused, “Did you see what you wanted to?”

“I did,” Nerwen answered, “First thing, I saw Fangorn, but there weren’t Ents, or at least I didn’t see any; I saw them instead in a unknown land, very far away to the east, beyond Wilderland and a great inland sea, an immense forest and a very high mountain range. Where this place may be, however, I’ve got no idea, because it isn’t shown on any of the maps I studied, in Valinor or here in Middle-earth…”

She broke off, uncertain if reveal to Galadriel the third vision of the Mirror; she decided better not: after all, it didn’t concern her, at least not directly.

“Not all of Wilderland has been charted,” Galadriel pointed out, “We know very little of what lies beyond the Carnen flowing from the Iron Hills to the Sea of Rhûn, which is probably the inland sea you saw; on its north-western shores lies Dorwinion, practically the last known territory; beyond this sea there’s a great forest, called Eryn Rhûn, but we don’t know a thing about it, nor the true extent, nor who possibly inhabits it.”

“In the case I won’t find the Ents in Fangorn, at least I have a clue on the direction to take in order to find those I saw in the Mirror,” Nerwen said.

“I hope that you mustn’t go so far,” the Lady of the Galadhrim said.

The Maia’s Second Sight chose that precise moment to manifest itself: she saw from the rear a very tall Elf with raven-black hair going down his neck, dressed in an unusual, tight black leather attire. When he turned, he showed a long, sharp nose over a proud mouth, and two eyes of a clear, bright blue, which reminded her of Thorin’s. He was talking, and his face was worried. At the horizon behind him, beyond a vast wooden land, loomed the snowy peaks of the red mountains she had seen in the Mirror.

aryon

 

It was just a fleeting moment, then the vision dissolved like fog in the sun.

Whoever that Elf was, he was important for her future, maybe fundamental; otherwise, her Second Sight wouldn’t had shown him.

“I think instead I’ll have to go there for good,” she whispered.

 

Author’s corner:

 

“The world is changing…” is a sentence Tolkien gives to Treebeard (The Return of the King, Chapter VI “Many Partings”); but I wanted to pay homage to a very evocative moment in the cinematographic version, where in the prologue you can hear it voiced by Galadriel.

I had absolutely to mention the famed Mirror, and let Nerwen use it: it’s surely one of the most intriguing and mysterious artefact created by Tolkien’s imagination. Besides, a very useful way to find clues about the elusive Ents :-)

The mysterious Elf in black has actor Richard Armitage’s looks – yep, the same performer of Thorin! XD

Thanks to all those following this fan fiction of mine, which is growing beyond my expectations: I continuously come up with facts and events and characters and details to add… I really don’t know where I’ll end up, going on! LOL I hope you won’t get tired and will go on reading; and if you sometimes drop me a couple of lines, I’ll be very happy, so I’ll know if I’m doing well or not.

Lady Angel 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXI: Strolling Through Lothlórien  

 

Later, Nerwen descended the long stair of the tree palace and, like the day before, she found Beriadir waiting for her.

Seeing her, the Silvan Elf couldn’t help but notice how the cut of the water-green dress she was wearing hugged her beautiful shape; under the smouldering gaze of those dark blue eyes, Nerwen felt suddenly very hot.

“Good afternoon,” Beriadir greeted her, bowing slightly; she reciprocated with a nod, hoping it would look sufficiently casual.

The Elf offered her his arm; she accepted it, and so they strolled down the main avenue of Caras Galadhon, to the opposite side of the city gates, until they reached a clearing ending against the protective walls. Small paths covered with white gravel winded among colourful flowerbeds, interposed with low green shrubs; tiny fountains in marble, white, pink, grey and pale green, and benches in pale wood decorated the paths. Songbirds such as thrushes, chaffinches, blackbirds, nightingales and goldfinches sang in a cheerful concert, and a number of peacocks with magnificent white plumage walked around in the carefully trimmed lawn.  

“Wonderful!” Nerwen cried, sincerely, and Beriadir smiled, pleased by her appreciation.

They strolled down the paths in the light of the afternoon sun; now it was mid-May, and in this southern land it was already quite warm; Nerwen was therefore glad to have heeded Arwen’s suggestion that morning and changed the cloth sleeves of her gown with veil sleeves, similar to the ones of the blue dress her niece had borrowed her the day before.

The movement of something white drew Nerwen’s attention to the left: near a lilac rhododendron bush, an albino peacock was laying. She was impressed: never, in all the long life, had she seen one, even if she knew of their existence. 

pavone

 

“It’s amazing!” she cried, careful not to raise her voice too much in order not to frighten it. Beriadir smiled of her evident awe; he inhaled and produced the cry of the female peacock in heat; immediately the male stood up and deployed the feathers of its long, snow white tail, puffing out its chest and looking anxiously around in search of the female, which of course he didn’t find. Nerwen watched him, charmed, one hand covering her half-open mouth and wide-eyed like a child. Her expression was so heart-melting, that Beriadir felt the strong impulse to take her into his arms and pepper her face with kisses; but he held back.

Disappointed, the peacock folded its tail and scampered stiffly away.

“He’s offended,” Nerwen laughed.

“So it seems,” Beriadir confirmed, laughing in turn, “Maybe he felt mocked…”

They continued to walk lazily, Nerwen watching closely plants and flowers; she knew them all, of course, but noticing the differences among the varieties growing in Lothlórien, Rivendell, the Grey Havens and Valinor was for her a perennial source of enthusiasm.

They walked past a couple, sitting on a bench, hugging and kissing tenderly. Nerwen cast them a quick glance, and inevitably the memory of Thorin came to her mind; strangely enough, it overlapped with the face of the Elf she saw in the Mirror of Galadriel. Puzzled, she wondered why.

Just ahead of them, grew a bush of pink hibiscus; walking past it, Beriadir picked up a particularly large flower and offered it to Nerwen.

“Thanks!” she said, accepting it smiling, and tucked it in her hair, securing it behind one of the braids adorning her temples.

Walking on, instead of his arm Beriadir offered her his hand, inviting her to a more confidential contact; Nerwen hesitated for a moment: she could easily ignore the hand and take his arm to continue as before, but the attraction she felt to him was undeniable, and not admitting it would be completely futile. She placed her hand in his.

Beriadir addressed her one of his incredibly bright smiles, capable of illuminate the darkest night, and once more Nerwen felt her knees wobble; but the Elf did nothing more than lead her around, hand in hand, and didn’t try to come nearer.

After they had completed the tour of the park, they sat on a bench and enjoyed the westering sun. Nerwen closed her eyes and listened to the place. There was a great serenity, like a bubble of peace enclosing the whole territory of the Golden Wood; however, its borders were all but quiet.

“There’s a great serenity, in your land,” she told Beriadir, “but I sense a watchful and constant vigilance all around it.”

“So it is,” the Elf confirmed, sobering, “We patrol constantly our boundaries, especially those toward the Misty Mountains, from where sometimes the Orcs infesting them come raiding; but lately we increased surveillance along the Anduin, toward Dol Guldur: the Lord and the Lady are worried about the Shadow that is growing there again. We won’t let it overcome us. We’d all die, rather than surrender to it,” he concluded threateningly.

“It won’t be necessary, I hope,” Nerwen said, placing one hand on his arm to calm him down, “The Dark Power isn’t stronger, just appalling, and that’s why sometimes to those who are weaker it looks invincible. But here you’re supported by the Power of the Light, of which your Lord and Lady are the first champions, and all of you are supporting them: as long as you’ll be steadfast, the Enemy won’t be able to defeat you.”

“Your words comfort me,” Beriadir said, grabbing her hand and kissing it, grateful, “It seems you know the Enemy well,” he added then in a quizzical tone.

Nerwen thought of Mairon, Aulë’s powerful and handsome disciple who, when Melkor Morgoth had seduced him, had become Sauron.

“Better than I’d like to,” she admitted, shaking her head, “but let’s not talk about it anymore, my friend, not in such a beautiful day and place! By the way… I’m not used to the light midday meal you have here, and now I’m a bit hungry: where could we find something to eat?”

Beriadir stood up, still holding her hand.

“A grocer whom I know, a friend of mine, produces an incredible ham,” he told her, beaming, “I bought one right this morning at the marked. Come, my home isn’t far away: we can sit in the garden and have bread and ham. I have also some tasty salami, and an excellent wine from Dorwinion.”

They went to Beriadir’s dwelling where, at the bottom of the mallorn, stood a number of chairs and a small table. The Elf went upstairs to take from the larder what he had announced, and came back with a tray, placing it on the table. The two of them had a nice luncheon with bread, salami and ham, drinking a glass of sparkling red wine.

In the late afternoon, Beriadir saw Nerwen to the palace. As the night before, he took his leave kissing her hand.

“May I hope to see you tomorrow?” he asked. Nerwen had no particular plans, for the following day; but she had to begin thinking about her next step, Fangorn. She couldn’t let Beriadir woo her without warning him.

“I had a good time with you, yesterday and today,” she told him sincerely, “but I won’t stop here for a long time: in a few days I’ll have to leave.”

Beriadir didn’t conceal his disappointment.

“I see,” he said in a soft voice, then was about to go away, but he turned again, “Nerwen, by now you’ve surely realised I like you very much, and until you leave Lórien, I’d like you to allow me taking any opportunity to enjoy your company. By day… and by night.”

Nerwen caught her breath: it wasn’t the custom, in Valinor, to propose oneself as a friend-in-love after such a short time; but maybe the Eldar of Middle-earth were influenced by its intrinsic quality exactly like her, and therefore they had partially acquired its rhythms, much faster than those of the Undying Lands.

“You haven’t to answer immediately,” Beriadir hurriedly added, aware he had abruptly accelerated the course of their relationship; but he was forced to do so because of the circumstances, “Think about it, tonight.”

Nerwen nodded:

“Very well,” she answered, “I’ll think about it.”

She climbed the stairs taking to the tree palace, her head slightly spinning. Actually, she hadn’t to think much about it: she appreciated greatly Beriadir’s diurnal company and she would gladly enjoy it again, during her stay. As for the nocturnal, at the moment she didn’t want to consider it.

 

OOO

 

The following day, after breakfast, Nerwen asked Celeborn if she could see some detailed maps of the area between Lothlórien and Fangorn Forest, and the Lord of the Galadhrim was so kind to take her personally to the library and look for what she had asked him. Together they verified that the distance between the two woods was slightly over 100 kilometres, which she could cover on horseback in a couple of days; the territory Nerwen would cross was flat, dotted with small elevations, easily accessible. It was an uninhabited region, a no man’s land, located between the rivers Celebrant and Limlight, which marked respectively the southern border of Lothlórien and the northern one of Rohan. Nerwen would head south-south-west and arrive directly on the northern limit of Fangorn.

“I’ll be glad to provide you with anything you need,” Celeborn concluded, “even an escort, if you wish one.”

“Thank you, Lord Celeborn, but there’s no need for an escort: I can take care of myself.”

“I don’t doubt it,” the tall Teler nodded, aware she really could, “As you wish, then.”

They spent the rest of the morning planning Nerwen’s journey, choosing the best trail, considering how much and what kind of food she had to take with her, and if it might be best using a packhorse.

“When will you leave?” Celeborn finally enquired.

“Within one week,” Nerwen decided.

“And where will you go, after Fangorn?”

“It depends on what I’ll find there – assuming there’s anything to find, that is,” the Maia considered, “If I’ll find the Ents, I’ll stay there all the time I’ll need to convince them of the importance of their intervention in the battle against Sauron; only then, the mission Kementári trusted me with could be called accomplished. However, I have reasons to believe that I won’t find them, because in a vision I saw them in a very distant land, beyond very high red mountains I didn’t find so far in any map, and which I think are located very far to the east. So probably I’ll return here and then I’ll go to Thranduil, as Lady Galadriel suggested me: as at the time of his father, Oropher, Ents lived in Greenwood, mayhap he’ll be able to tell me something about them.”

Celeborn agreed:

“Indeed, Thranduil could have news of them…”

When the meeting with Celeborn was over, Nerwen went down to the stables with Calad, in order to see Thilgiloth.

“In a week we’ll leave,” she announced them, “The next step is Fangorn Forest, a couple of days’ trip from here.”

Another forest? Calad grumbled, not at all enthusiastic.

“And mayhap we’ll have to stay there for a long time,” Nerwen reinforced the message, amused but also sorry for her feathered friend, “in case, as I hope, we’d find the Ents; but at that point you’ll be free to go back home, because my mission would be accomplished.”

Because Nerwen had projected in their minds the road they had to go, Thilgiloth pointed out gladly:

“I see wide plains are awaiting us… I’ll have plenty of space to stretch my legs!”

“Exactly, my friend; and for you, Calad, all the room you want to fly, before reaching the forest.”

This means I’ll use it as much as I can, the bird of prey said, resigned.

 

OOO

 

At the end of the midday meal, Arwen addressed Nerwen:

“Aunt, would you like to came riding with me, later?”

“Sure!” the Istar accepted immediately; she was glad getting to know better her niece, looking so alike her lost one; besides, Thilgiloth wouldn’t surely mind stretching her legs.

“Shall we meet in one hour?” the Elven maiden asked.

“Fine,” Nerwen answered, thinking that, this way, she could take another look to the maps, to better study the area of the Wooden Realm, in case she had to go there, “You’ll find me in the library.”

Punctual, Arwen came by and the two of them headed together for the stables, where the grooms had already saddled the Chargeress and Arwen’s mare, Mortinnad. Side by side, the two horses made a spectacular clashing of colours: one was of a shimmering white and the other of an equally shimmering black.

It wasn’t allowed to go on horseback inside Caras Galadhon, except for couriers carrying urgent messages for the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien, therefore Nerwen and Arwen led their mounts by the bridles until the town gates, where they mounted and set off along the road skirting the city walls. When they arrived northwest of the perimeter, they took a wide path proceeding in that direction, where they could set a trot side by side and so chat pleasantly. 

One hour later, they came into view of a hill; on top of it were two circles of trees; the ones on the outer ring were white barked ashes, the ones on the inner ring were mellyrn. The grassy slope was covered in golden elanor and pale niphredil. Nerwen recognised the place instantly: it was the same hill where she had seen Arwen and Aragorn. 

cerin amroth

 

“This is Cerin Amroth, once dwelling of the last king of Lórinand; it’s named after him,” Arwen explained to her aunt, “They say that, when the wind blows among the boughs of the trees on the top, you can hear the sound of the distant sea and the seabirds. Up there there’s still the flet where Amroth used to live,” she concluded, pointing at the most impressive mallorn, where the residential platform typical of the Galadhrim was visible.

They dismounted and let the mares free to graze at their leisure, while they ascended toward the summit. Nerwen felt on pins and needles, and she realised she had to reveal to Arwen, at least partially, what was in store for her in a not too far off future.

“You remember telling me how much you’d like to meet the love of your life,” she began; immediately interested, Arwen nodded, “Well, this morning I looked into the Mirror of Galadriel and I saw a scene regarding you,” Nerwen hesitated one moment, uncertain on how to expose her vision, “Know that you’ll be granted this: you’ll meet your partner for life, and I don’t think it’ll take many more years…”

“But this is wonderful!” Arwen interrupted her, too excited to notice her involuntary rudeness. Nerwen raised one hand in an admonishing gesture:

“It could be difficult,” she warned her, “but as you are destined together, you mustn’t allow nothing and no one dividing you. Have faith in your love; have faith in the two of you.”

“Exactly like Beren and Lúthien,” Arwen mused, thrilled; their love had been strongly opposed by Thingol. Nerwen bit her lip, wondering if Elrond would accept that a Man, even if of a very high lineage and his relative, and whom he loved dearly, would marry his only daughter. A mortal and an immortal… They would spend together all the years of his life, which would be very long being him of the line of the Númenóreans; but it would nonetheless have an end. He would age and die, while she would stay always unchanged, young and gorgeous, and finally in despair for having lost him forever. Unless she would choose mortal life: descending from both races from her father’s part, she would be offered with that possibility, at the end… In this case, she would be able to share with him the Gift of Ilúvatar to Men, and go where neither Ainur nor Eldar were allowed to go, as only Lúthien had done.

She wouldn’t reveal more about this, even because there was always the possibility that the future she had seen wouldn’t come true: at the moment, it was only a potentiality, even if very strong, and something could turn it down. However, should this be, both Arwen and Aragorn would be incomplete and would feel an inexplicable sense of lacking, as if their lives were partial. At the moment, Arwen was – in Elven terms – still too young to feel it, and Aragorn an unaware child; but Nerwen knew well this sense of lacking, and didn’t wish for others whom she loved, such as Arwen and Estel, to be condemned feeling it. Therefore, she decided to do whatever she could in order that this destiny would come true, though it would be sweet and bitter at the same time.

“Exactly like Beren and Lúthien,” she confirmed, “but remember, nothing is definitely determined, in the future. The tides of chance are in perennial movement, and I’ve seen only one of the possible futures opening in front of you, even if I think the chances are high. Your relationship could be very difficult, but if you both will believe in your hearts, believe in you two, you’ll be able to overcome every struggle.”

Arwen looked troubled, now.

“Will you help me, Aunt?” she asked.

“I’ll stand by you,” Nerwen reassured her, “Morally, at least; because I have a task to accomplish that will take me soon away from Lórien, and I don’t know if or when we’ll meet again. But I’ll make sure you won’t be completely alone, in your fight.”

Arwen nodded, a little comforted.

They strolled along the slopes of Cerin Amroth, and Arwen soon cheered up again – her inexhaustible optimism helped her much. They sat under a tree and chatted, with Arwen asking more and more details about the Elder Days, and about Melian and Thingol, and Beren and Lúthien, but also about her father in the way Nerwen had met him, a young Elf with a sensible character, but at the same time a valiant warrior.

At last, they returned to Caras Galadhon; once in the palace, Nerwen excused herself and sook audience with Galadriel, who met her immediately in her personal parlour. It was almost evening, and from the terrace of the small salon – Nerwen had noticed that practically all the rooms in the tree palace had a balcony – the view on the sunset was spectacular. 

“What can I do for you, my friend?” the Lady of the Galadhrim asked her kindly.

“I must ask you for something,” Nerwen answered, sitting on the small armchair her friend showed her, “It has something to do with what I saw in the Mirror.”

With a nod, Galadriel invited her to go on.

“In a few years, Arwen will meet her partner for life,” the Istar began, and the Lady of the Wood smiled, “Someone could think him unsuitable to her, but it’s not for us to decide who the person more apt to become our partner is. I already told about this to Arwen, and I exhorted her not to listen to those who will try to dissuade them from being together. I ask you to help them, or at least not to hinder them.”

“An unsuitable partner, you say?” Galadriel asked, frowning, “For my part, the most important thing is, he’s a good person, and that he loves her as much as she deserves it. Even if she’d fall in love with an Elf who, for a living, is a carpenter, or a hunter, I wouldn’t be against it.”

“What it he wouldn’t be an Elf?” Nerwen asked in a soft voice. Surprised, Galadriel leaned against the back of her armchair.

“I never thought about this possibility,” she answered slowly, “Among her ancestors from her father’s side, there are two weddings between Firstborn and Second-born; so it wouldn’t be something unheard of. However, I foresee that such a love would be opposed, by some. Elrond wouldn’t surely be enthusiastic, even if he descends from those weddings; or maybe exactly because of them.”

“Arwen and her partner for life will need someone who supports them,” Nerwen went on, “I would do it myself, because it’s not fair separating two people destined to be together, but I’m afraid I won’t be there. That’s why I’m asking you to do it in my place… Or at least, not to oppose them.”

Galadriel pondered her friend’s words for a long time.

“That’s a great deal to ask,” she said finally, “After all, Arwen Undómiel is the highest born unmarried Elda in Middle-earth. Kind of like her foremother Lúthien. But nevertheless I agree with you: two people destined to be together mustn’t be opposed, or they’ll both be unhappy for the rest of their lives: I surely don’t want unhappiness for the daughter of my only daughter,” she was silent for a moment, “All right, Nerwen: I won’t antagonise them. However, I don’t promise I’ll support them: everything depends on who will be her partner for life.”

“That’s enough for me,” Nerwen said, relieved, “One more thing: I foresee they’ll have to be separated for long periods, therefore I ask you to teach them how to meet in Olorendor.”

“The Land of Dream? It’s been a long time since I used this technique, but I didn’t forget it. And it could be of great comfort to them, if truly they’ll be separated for long periods,” she cast her a long, inquisitive glance, “Something tells me you already know and appreciate the one who’ll become Arwen’s partner… am I right? Otherwise, I can’t explain the reason you’re trying so hard to favour them.”

Nerwen smiled: it was impossible to conceal something to Galadriel’s sharp eyes.

“You’re right,” she answered, “and I think, too, you’ll get to respect him, in time. A great destiny waits for him: the heart tells me so, even if my brain tells me that the future is never certain until it transforms into present.”

“Over time,” Galadriel mused, pensively, “I ascertained how the heart can be much less mistaken than the brain…”

 

OOO

 

Immediately after dinner, instead to go as usual to the Hall of Fire, Nerwen headed for Beriadir’s home: she wanted to let him know she would leave next week. They could spend some time together, if he wished to.

Having she asked about the Galadhrim customs about showing up at someone’s home, this time Nerwen ascended the stair leading to the flet and, a number of steps before emerging from the central hole, she called in a loud voice:

“Beriadir, are you at home? It’s Nerwen.”

Beriadir answered immediately:

“Come in, come in…!” he met her while she was climbing the last steps, “How nice to see you!” he cried, smiling contentedly, “I didn’t expect it any longer, today.” 

“I made some plans for my journey,” the Istar explained, “and then I spent the better part of the afternoon with my niece Arwen.”

The Elf had her sitting at his table, where laid still the remaining of his dinner.

“May I offer you some wine? An infusion?” he asked her.

“An infusion, thanks,” she accepted, seeing the kettle already over the fire. Beriadir took a tin can from the pantry, measured two pinches and put them in the teapot, then he poured hot water on them. A very aromatic scent emanated from the pot.

“A blend I invented myself,” her host explained, “black tea with orange zest, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla.”

“It’s surely delicious as its aroma,” Nerwen commented.

“Tell me,” Beriadir urged her, “What are your plans, I you may tell me?”

“I’ll leave in one week,” she answered, not seeing any reason to hide it from him, “to go to Fangorn.”

“Fangorn!” the Elf looked dumbfounded and worried, “That’s not a very safe place, at least from what they tell about it.”

“I have my reasons to believe its reputation is more smoke than fire,” Nerwen replied, “unlike Mirkwood.”

“I see,” Beriadir said, not mveryuch convinced, “but I still don’t like it. Please, promise me you’ll be very careful.”

“I will, don’t worry.”

“I hope we’ll spend these days together,” Beriadir went on with an expectant look.

“I’ll be glad to,” Nerwen said, “but I can’t promise you anything,” she added, gently but determined to be clear. Beriadir took her hand and placed a feather-light kiss on it.

“I won’t ask for anything,” he said, “It’ll be enough for me being with you.”

Nerwen’s heart jumped: this Silvan Elf, handsome as well as well-built, was also very sweet. She wasn’t at all sure she really wanted to resist to the charm of those sea-blue eyes and dazzling smile… Not for a much longer time, at least.

“Thanks,” she said, grateful.

“So, let’s meet tomorrow,” Beriadir concluded, not hiding his contentment.

They chatted a while longer, then Nerwen took her leave to go back to the palace. While walking, she couldn’t help but think of the moment Beriadir told her it was enough for him just being with her and of the thrill this statement had aroused in her heart. The attraction she felt to him was growing stronger, and she thought the moment it would ripen wasn’t far away.

 

OOO

 

When she returned to the palace, Nerwen met Elrohir and Elladan.

“Good evening, Aunt,” Elladan greeted her, “We noticed tonight you missed the Hall of Fire… Are you fine?”

He looked slightly worried, like his twin; this made Nerwen realise they were remembering that, back in Rivendell, one night she had excused herself being a little sick, when she had contacted Yavanna for the first time.

“I was seeing a friend,” she explained to them. Elrohir raised his eyebrows and smiled:

“Beriadir?”

The Istar stared at her nephew from down-under in a fake frown:

“Sure… so what?”

“So, we’re very glad for you,” Elrohir said, “You were too sad in Rivendell.”

At this point, Nerwen opened wide her arms and hugged affectionately both twins.

“Thanks, little nephews,” she told them, “You’re very dear to me.”

They reciprocated her hug.

“You’re very dear to us, too, Aunt,” Elladan assured her. Nerwen felt moved: the death of her only, beloved niece had left a great hole in her heart, but it had now been filled again with three of her descendants, and one of them looked so alike her she was now convinced that, after all, the world hadn’t truly lost Lúthien Tinúviel.

 

 

 Author’s corner:

 

I always wondered why Arwen, the first time she met Aragorn who mistook her for Lúthien, introduced herself by telling him that, even if she wasn’t her foremother, maybe her destiny wouldn’t be unlike hers: how could she know? Mystery solved: Nerwen did reveal it to her! XD

Olorendor is my invention; because I like very much the way Peter Jackson in the movies has been able to insert Arwen in Aragorn’s thoughts and dreams, and vice versa, I got the idea they could somehow communicate and meet, during the long years when they weren’t together; and so I came to the idea of this dream dimension.

The image of Cerin Amroth if by the great illustrator Alan Lee.

Thanks to all those following this “graphic adventure” of mine! 

 

Lady Angel 

Chapter Text

banner

 

(This chapter has not yet been edited, pls forgive mistakes and oddities)

 

Chapter XXII: Taking Leave

 

A few days passed, as Nerwen prepared for her journey to Fangorn. Celeborn suggested taking a packhorse to carry enough provisions for a couple of months.

“There are only two days on horseback until the northern border of Fangorn.” he pointed out, “but you don’t know how long you’ll have to stay away, or if you’ll find shelter. Besides, even if the season is good and you’ll be able to sleep outdoors, there’s always the possibility of rain, and a small tent is surely advisable.”

Nerwen approved: she had slept outdoors on the whole way from Bree to Rivendell – except the first night – and then from Rivendell to Lothlórien, and even if she had been lucky and had never run into rainy weather, it couldn’t be that way forever. Also, in the forest it’s always very damp, and a tent would protect her.

Galadriel told her she would bake a supply of lembas, the Elven crackers; she learned the secret of its preparation from Melian, during the time she had lived in Doriath. Nerwen, who knew the recipe, too, offered to help her, and therefore the two old friends spent a good number of hours alone in the kitchen, kneading and baking and talking.

Nerwen spent much time with Arwen, too, who had plainly become attached to her and was sorry to see her going so soon. The Aini comforted her by promising she would return: Fangorn wasn’t very far away, and if she decided to go to Thranduil’s Wooden Realm or head for Wilderland, eastward Anduin to look for the red mountains she saw in the Mirror of Galadriel, in both cases she would stop by Lórien.

In her spare time, Nerwen met with Beriadir; usually they walked along the streets of Caras Galadhon, at the market or at the park; or else they took a ride in the wood. Beriadir wooed her pleasantly, and in his company, she felt as euphoric and carefree as a young girl. Surely, the quality of the place – blessed by the power of Nenya – had something to do with it; but Nerwen acknowledged that the most credit went to the handsome Silvan Elf, his kindness, humour, witticism. And, of course, his bright smile, too.

 

OOO

 

Two days before her departure, Beriadir took her on a trip on the Celebrant, the tributary of the Anduin coming from the Misty Mountains. Nerwen had always liked water, in every form: brook, river, lake, sea; and indeed in her garden in southern Valinor, there were many streams and even a small mere, not to mention the hot spring heating her house, where in a room carved into rock, she and Melian liked to spend time in complete relax, enjoying the warm vapour.

At the dock nearest to Caras Galadhon, about half an hour on horseback, Nerwen and Beriadir took a boat, a long and narrow canoe in flexible ash wood, painted in green and gold, with paddles shaped like leaves. They paddled upstream; the river was swift but its current not exceedingly strong. The rowed to a small wooden jetty leading to a semicircular lawn covered in countless flowers: Nerwen recognised mallows, daisies, clematises, cornflowers and periwinkles. Mellyrn and alders surrounded it, as well as shrubs of thistle, box and elderberry, which made the access from the landside difficult.

“This is the Picnic Lawn.” Beriadir revealed, helping Nerwen to get off the canoe, “Actually, there’s a table and some wooden benches for those who want to stop here and have a bite, and lie in the sun and bathe.” he looked at the river, which in this point formed a quiet cove, “Too bad the water’s still too cold to bathe, otherwise we could dive.” he concluded on a light note, winking to ease what would otherwise look like a too audacious suggestion.

Nerwen’s stomach fluttered at the thought of the two of them swimming naked in the pristine water.

She would have liked to do it.

Oh yes. Very much.

She forced herself away from that alluring idea and asked instead:

“If this is the Picnic Lawn, I suppose that there’s something edible in that bag…?”

She pointed to the bag Beriadir had unloaded earlier from the horse and placed on the bottom of the boat.

“Exactly.” he answered laughing, “Because you’re always hungry, in the afternoons, I thought it a good thing to bring something to munch.”

“Well, we rowed for a long way, you can’t possibly blame me!” she replied, laughing in turn.

Hence, they sat at the table, which Beriadir prepared like for a banquet with everything he had brought: bread, soft cheese, honey cookies, apricots, cherries and strawberries. The latter roused Nerwen’s inevitable enthusiasm; she adored them, as Beriadir discovered now, amused.

“You’re spoiling me.” the Aini accused him in a fake reproach.

“As much as I can.” he replied, “as long as you’ll stay here.”

The hint to her departure broke a little Nerwen’s spirit, which so far had been cheerful; her smile clouded.

Realising her change in mood, Beriadir felt sorry; there were now only very few days left to their separation, but he tried to make her cheer up again offering her a cup of sweet cider, Nerwen’s favourite drink, as he had learned in those days.

“This is made with the juice of golden apples.” he explained, “I think it’s absolutely the best.”

Nerwen tried it and found it definitely delicious.

“Excellent!” she confirmed, “The best I ever had in…” she stopped in time: she was about to say in Middle-earth, which implied her coming from elsewhere; but this was something only few were allowed to know, “in recent times.” she concluded.

They consumed the simple but tasteful food, finishing with the honey cookies that Beriadir had personally baked.

“A recipe of my mother.” he told her in confidence, “She has a bee husbandry and produces the best honey in Lórien.”

They spent a couple of hours in pleasant conversation; when the sun began westering, preparing to disappear behind the high peaks of the Misty Mountains, Beriadir and Nerwen embarked again. This time, being the current favourable, they didn’t paddle and got simply carried downstream, adjusting their course from time to time.

Once they returned in Caras Galadhon, Beriadir saw Nerwen back to the palace. A servant came immediately to take Thilgiloth and lead her to the stables.

“I hope you enjoyed the trip and picnic.” the Silvan Elf said, looking at Nerwen with a slightly quizzical expression.

“I liked both very much.” Nerwen said emphatically, nodding, then she looked around, encompassing the city of trees, “This is a marvellous land. I’m sorry I must leave it.” she concluded, sighing. She thought it for good: somehow, she had felt it less hard leaving Rivendell, even if she had spent there several months and not only a few days as in Lothlórien; but the latter looked so much like her distant home, in Valinor, that she would miss it much more.

Beriadir’s throat tightened. Impulsively, he grabbed Nerwen’s hands and brought them to his lips, kissing lightly her fingers.

“I’ll miss you.” he said in a low voice, “I’ll miss you badly.”

Nerwen’s heart leaped under the intense gaze of those eyes the colour of the ocean. She would miss him, too, but she lacked the voice to tell him.

Something in her expression told Beriadir he could dare more; he turned her hands and, staring into her eyes, kissed slowly the palm of each one. Nerwen felt a warm shudder running down her spine; Beriadir felt her trembling, so he took her in his arms, slowly, ready to stop if she showed the slightest hesitation.

But Nerwen had finally become tired of uncertainties, and longed for the warmth and comfort of a loving embrace. She placed her open hands on his chest and lifted her face in a clearly inviting gesture.

Seeing her response, Beriadir shivered, thrilled; holding his breath, almost afraid that, should he breathe too loud, she would run away, he lowered his head, and placed his mouth on hers.

The kiss began gently, slow and delicate touches, over and over again. Then Beriadir pressed his lips firmer against hers and brushed them with the tip of his tongue, asking for access. Nerwen had been waiting for this and parted her lips, reciprocating warmly; she moved her arms around his neck, pressing her body more into his.

It lasted a long time, so long that in the end both were out of breath. When they finally parted, it was only for the time needed to catch their breaths, and then they kissed passionately once more.

Against her belly, Nerwen perceived the evidence of Beriadir’s longing, and she felt like burning; she uttered a sighing moan and rubbed herself against the Elf to make him understand she reciprocated him, that she wanted him, now.

“You come upstairs?” she murmured against his lips.

Beriadir’s heart leaped to his mouth: he had hoped for a positive response, but he didn’t think it could be so complete.

“Yes. Oh yes…” he answered in a husky voice. Nerwen drew back and called for the servant who had led away Thilgiloth, in order to trust him with Beriadir’s horse, too; then she took the Elf’s hand and led him upstairs, to the tree palace and her room; when she stopped next to her bed, she turned again to face him and began to untie his shirt; Beriadir let her do it, and once it was open, he took it off.

beriadir

 

Seeing his wonderfully shaped, muscular chest, Nerwen held her breath and recalled the moment she had seen him shirtless, the day they had arrived in Caras Galadhon. Was it really just one week ago? It seemed to her a much, much longer time…

She lifted her hands and placed them on his torso in a slow, sensual caress that made him shiver; then she got nearer and placed a number of feather-light kisses where her hands had just brushed him; when she reached one nipple, she touched it with the tip of her tongue, and Beriadir uttered a chocked groan. He pushed her slightly back, and this time it was him, the one untying her shirt, throwing it on the floor over his; under her shirt, Nives wore a corset, which she quickly unknotted to get off it. Charmed, Beriadir contemplated her beautifully shaped breasts; he lifted his hands and cupped them, then he bent forward and took one nipple in his mouth, sucking delicately. Now it was Nerwen’s turn to utter a choked groan; arrows of fiery heat ignited her female depths. She placed her hands on Beriadir’s and pulled him on the bed, next to her. He lifted his head and got lost in her dark eyes, fogged by desire; once more, he kissed her, taking his time, savouring her mouth; then he moved along her body, placing a row of small kisses on her neck, chest, breasts, abdomen, until he came to tease her belly-button with the tip of his tongue. Nerwen quivered; she felt hot, very hot, so when Beriadir drew back just enough to take off her ankle boots and the rest of her clothes, she was more than happy.

Beriadir took off his own garments and the Maia contemplated from head to toe his chiselled physique; then he laid back again next to her and took her in his arms.

Nerwen held him tight; she sought his lips in a long, sensual kiss, caressing slowly his shoulders and back. Beriadir reciprocated, running his hands along her body, trying hard to move slowly, even if actually he was feeling a burning desire to take her. He followed the form of her hip and went down her thigh until he reached the socket behind her knee; he lifted her leg and placed it on his, then he slipped his hand on the inside, climbing toward the centre of her femininity. When he touched her, Nerwen jumped and a breathless cry escaped her throat. On his fingertips, Beriadir felt a burst of heat, revealing him the measure of her desire, and was delighted and thrilled. He teased her skilfully, and Nerwen tensed, her breath ragged, her lips parted upon a voiceless moan; eventually, Beriadir felt her ready, so he moved to lay down on her and take her, but to his surprise, Nerwen shook her head in a denial gesture. Taken aback, Beriadir withdrew, and she made him lie down on his back. Her face was flushed in excitement as she started to caress him. Under her touch, at the same time delicate and sensual, Beriadir shivered, feeling alternatively hot and cold, and when she finally came to brush the erected sceptre of his manhood, he inhaled sharply and closed his eyes, overwhelmed. 

“Nerwen…” he whispered in a hoarse voice, “please…”     

She lingered a few more moments, having a good time in driving him mad as he had done earlier with her; then, she addressed him an impish grin, straddled him and, slowly, made him slide inside of her. Unable to hold back, Beriadir lifted his hips to meet her, and both gasped in pleasure.

They began to move in unison, slowly at the beginning, trying to become familiar to each other, to understand what pleasured the other one; then the rhythm improved, as the pleasure they were giving one another increased. Beriadir placed his hands around Nerwen’s slender waist, shifting his movements in order to push inside of her the way she liked most; he realised he had hit his mark when he saw her throwing back her head with a delighted cry.

“Beriadir…!” Nerwen panted, “Ah…”

Pleasure grew inside of her, rising like the tide, growing, growing more and more impetuously, until it hit her like an irresistible wave, tearing off her an ecstatic scream, followed a moment later by his.

Gasping, Nerwen crouched on Beriadir’s chest, and he wrapped her in his arms, dazed and breathless. They held each other until the physical and emotional turmoil was over. Then, Nerwen moved to slip away from Beriadir, but he stopped her, holding her tight. He kissed her, repeatedly, tender and feather-light kisses.

“It’s been wonderful.” he whispered in between kisses, “Thousand times better than I imagined during the last days.”

“Oh?” she said, drawing back and arching an eyebrow with a naughty grin, “And… did you imagine it often?”

“Oh yes.” he admitted, reciprocating her grin with a likewise one, “Very often…”

Nerwen realised all of a sudden that Beriadir was still very solid, inside of her.

“It looks like you haven’t had enough.” she pointed out, chuckling, and tightened her inner muscles.

“Ah!” he panted, exquisitely caught off guard by her move, “I don’t think so…”

He turned her on her back and their sighs soon filled the room again.

 

OOO

 

Much later – dinnertime was way past – they heard a knock on the door.

“Who’s there?” Nerwen asked from the bed, where she and Beriadir still laid, hugging.

“I’m Arwen, aunt” her niece’s voice answered.

Nerwen couldn’t ask her through the door what she wanted, it would be too rude; besides, she had nothing to hide.

“I’m coming.” she answered therefore. Reluctantly, she got off Beriadir’s arms and stood up, took the petticoat from the trunk, where it laid over her home-dress, and slipped it quickly over her head; finally she got to the door and opened it.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Nerwen, but we didn’t see you at dinner and we were wondering if you’re well.” Arwen said in a half worried, half quizzical tone: Nerwen was all dishevelled and messy, and looked tired, but was smiling.

“Hum, I’m pretty fine.” she answered her, “I… have a guest.” she added, winking. Arwen’s eyes widened in surprise, and then she remembered her brothers telling her about Beriadir. She giggled:

“Oh, I get it! Sorry for the interruption, then… Would you like me to send for a servant fetching you something to eat?”

“Excellent idea, thanks.” the Aini accepted, grateful. Smiling, Arwen took her leave and went in search of Gwilwileth, to ask her for a tray of food for two people and take it to her aunt’s room.

 

OOO

 

Beriadir spent the night with Nerwen; the following morning, he left her for a couple of hours, letting her completing the final preparations for her departure, agreeing to see her for lunch at his flet.

Nerwen was late for breakfast and found the small room deserted, even if the table was still set; Arwen, guessing she would easily be late, had indeed arranged it.

After breakfast, the Istar headed for the stables, where the day before they had taken her new packhorse; he was a hardy, slightly stocky gelding, with a golden bay coat and blond tail and mane, named Thalion. After the first moment of surprise as he realised he could actually understand Nerwen, Thalion took quite a fancy at her, while he was in awe in front of Thilgiloth, who appeared to him like a queen to a peasant. The Chargeress had a proud character, but she wasn’t arrogant, and Nerwen was sure the two of them would bond very fast.

thalion

 

After checking both Thilgiloth and Thalion, the Maia made arrangements with the head of the stables in order to have the first saddled and the second loaded with the luggage and food she would take with her, so that they would be ready to leave as soon as she would arrive.

Then, Nerwen headed for the kitchen, where the head cook had received instructions about the preparation of the food; finally, the Aini looked for Nimgil, the Palace Superintendent – Lindir’s equal at Rivendell – who Celeborn had tasked to fetch the needed things for her journey: tent, blankets, pots and pans, more spare clothes, and anything else could be useful.

During her coming and going in the tree-palace, Nerwen came across Elrohir, for once without Elladan. As soon as he saw her, he beamed at her so widely, he risked his face opening in two pieces, but he didn’t say a word and just winked at her. Anyway, both he and his twin had already said what they thought about her relationship with Beriadir.

Nerwen appreciated his discretion and smiled back at him.

“Will we meet at lunch, Aunt Nerwen?” Elrohir asked her. She shook her head:

“No. Beriadir invited me over to his flet.”

“Oh? Then I think we won’t meet at dinner, either…” the prince of Rivendell presumed, but he said it with no impishness, just as a matter of fact.

“No, I’d like to have a last meal in with my hosts and nephews and niece, before leaving.” Nerwen said, “I don’t count tomorrow’s breakfast, because I’ll leave very soon… and I won’t spend the night here.” she added with an eloquent smile.

“I see.” Elrohir nodded, again meaning no naughtiness, “Have a good time with your Beriadir, then: see you tonight.”

“See you tonight.” she confirmed, taking her leave.

 

OOO

 

It was just past noon when Nerwen climbed to Beriadir’s flet, where she spent the whole afternoon in his very pleasurable company. The handsome Silvan Elf was rather disappointed, learning she would go back to the palace for dinner, but he was promptly comforted when she told him she would gladly spend the night with him.

“Tomorrow morning I’ll see you to the ferry on the Celebrant.” he told her. Nerwen was glad to accept.

 

OOO

 

When she arrived for dinner, Galadriel welcomed Nerwen with a hug.

“Elrohir told me.” she whispered in her ear, smiling, “I’m happy you found some comfort in my land.”

“Thank you, Galadriel.” Nerwen answered, not surprised that her nephew had told her about Beriadir: she would have done it herself, if she had had the chance to see her during the morning.

Soon Celeborn, Arwen and the twins joined them, and they sat down to dine. Knowing it would be the farewell meal, Galadriel had ordered it to be almost a banquet: mushroom soup, vegetable pie with cheese, roasted boar, grilled perch, boiled asparaguses, artichokes with onions and olives, spinach salad and green peas cooked in butter, the whole coming with the best wines of Dorwinion. To cap it all, a cherry tart.

At the end, after cleaning the table, the servants brought an elegant, long necked crystal bottle, containing a golden liquid, and small crystal glasses.

“This is miruvor.” Celeborn announced, “the cordial made with honey that you, Lady Nerwen, taught my Lady to craft, so much time ago in Doriath.”

The Maia nodded: she remembered perfectly. It was a liquor Yavanna Kementári herself created at the Beginning of Time, which recipe was known to very few, in Middle-earth.

Celeborn in person poured the cordial and handed it out, beginning from the guest of honour, Nerwen. Then he raised his glass:

“Here’s to an easy journey; may success on your search await you at the end of it.” he said solemnly. Everyone raised her or his glass, then they took a sip. The liquor was sweet and cold, not too strong.

“I thank you for your hospitality and the help you offered me, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel.” Nerwen then said with the same solemnity, “and for the good wishes you’re making. May the grace of the Valar always accompany you.”

When they finished drinking, everybody stood up and hugged Nerwen.

“I hope to see you again, soon, aunt.” Arwen whispered, her eyes moist with tears.

“So do I hope, too, little niece.” the Aini answered, touched.

 

OOO

 

The following morning, as promised, Beriadir escorted Nerwen, taking his horse by the bridle; they headed at first for the palace to take Thilgiloth, Thalion and Calad, then they walked along the streets of Caras Galadhon to the gate, where they got on horseback and headed for the ferry, located on the westernmost point of the Gore, the large, almost perfectly triangular meadow at the junction of Anduin and Celebrant.

While the ferrymen was busy in taking the two horses along the jetty and see them on board, Beriadir took Nerwen in his arms and kissed her. His heart was as heavy as a rock in his chest.

“I’d like you to stay.” he murmured, “but I know you must go, now.”

She nodded: her heart, too, was heavy.

“I count on coming back.” she said under her breath, “but I can’t tell you when: it depends on what I’ll find, or not find, where I’m going.”

The Elf kissed her again, fervently.

“Take care of yourself.” he begged her, “I’ll wait for you.”

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Finally Beriadir has been able to break through Nerwen’s resistance, and makes her smile again… Thorin and she are not destined together, therefore it was necessary for her to overcome her melancholy, and such a help as the handsome Silvan Elf offered is surely a good thing…

Are you enjoying this fan fiction? Please, let me know…!

Again, Beriadir is “performed” by Alex O’Loughlin, in a superb elaboration of image made by a friend of mine.

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

banne

 

(This chapter has not yet been edited, pls forgive mistakes and oddities)

Chapter XXIII: Exploring Fangorn

 

Two days later, Nerwen arrived within sight of the northern border of Fangorn. The journey from Lothlórien had been easy, crossing an open land slightly undulated by sweet slopes, with the Misty Mountains on her right side, while on the left the Anduin flew away, in a wide bend, heading southeast.

Nerwen skirted the forest for two or three kilometres before coming across the Limlight; here, she looked for the ford that she had seen on the maps in Rivendell and Lórien, located a dozen of kilometres downriver. When the sun was about to set, she camped on the riverside, putting off the crossing of the stream to the next day. She didn’t set up her tent – neither had she done it earlier: the days had been sunny, and in this southern land the temperature of the second half of May, even in the night hours, were already agreeably warm.

The following day, she crossed the Limlight on Thilgiloth’s back, with Thalion following her: the good packhorse had a docile and willing character, and he tailed the Chargeress with no need of being led by the bridle, obeying the orders Nerwen gave him verbally or mentally. Calad, of course, flew in front of them, keeping an eye on the territory, but there wasn’t a soul: beyond the Limlight, the terrain climbed again gradually in a region called simply The Wold; here, they were already in the realm of Rohan, or Riddermark as the inhabitants called it, but this area was completely uninhabited.

Nerwen turned upstream, going back to Fangorn. Once she reached it, she stopped Thilgiloth and dismounted, approaching the trees. The variety was surprisingly wide: the commonest  appeared to be the most long-lived types, such as oaks, firs, chestnuts, yews, but there were also elms, beeches, maples, lindens, and many others. All of them had in common a very ancient look, with large trunks often gnarled and crowns full of lichens; the undergrowth was very thick, with ferns, junipers, hollies, strawberry shrubs, blackthorns and mushrooms, some of them edible – along with strawberry, Nerwen liked the latter very much. Rocks emerged randomly from the scrub, covered in moss, which colour ranged from a bright green to a dark brown.

fangorn

 

The Istar extended her special senses and scanned the wood; unlike the Old Forest and Mirkwood, Fangorn was richly inhabited by animals, such as foxes, badgers, squirrels, moles, hares, hedgehogs, and birds like little owls and long-eared owls, woodpeckers, cuckoos. Nerwen perceived also the awareness of the vegetal beings, vigilant and mistrusting, but they didn’t seem particularly hostile; there was no trace of Ents, at least not within the range of perception – which was several kilometres – of the Aini’s mind. Anyway, she didn’t count on it: the forest covered over 14.000 square kilometres, and even if the Onodrim actually inhabited it, which she has still to ascertain, meeting one at the first attempt would be really too much to ask.

Because of the vastness of the territory to explore, she needed to do it systematically: therefore, she had decided to begin going upriver the Limlight until the base of the Misty Mountains, following them southwards for several kilometres and then going back eastwards, reaching again the forest’s margin, and so on, coiling back and forth. As the constant use of her Ainurin senses involved a certain effort, she couldn’t employ them too many hours each day, therefore she had reckoned that, to cover the entire expanse of the forest, she would need from six to eight weeks.

She saddled up again.

“Come on, friends: let’s get started,” she exhorted her three companions. Thilgiloth began to walk forward, while Calad glided down and perched on Thalion’s luggage-filled back; the mild packhorse had been at first a little intimidated by the hawk, but Nerwen had reassured him, so now he showed no sign of nervousness and just moved lazily his long blond tail.

This forest doesn’t alarm me as the one where we met the werewolves, Calad said. Nerwen nodded:

“You’re right: there’s no evil, in it, at least not within the area I can perceive.”

The looks are a bit threatening, the Chargeress chimed in, but not the substance.

“Exactly, old girl,” Nerwen confirmed, while they were entering the first rows of trees, “Nothing to do with Mirkwood, and not even with the Old Forest.”

They continued all day, following the Limlight, which began narrowing while getting closer to its point of origin; they took a number of breaks to allow Nerwen’s special senses resting, covering more or less the half of the distance they would do without her using them. At night, they camped on the riverbank; after tending her horses, Nerwen set up her tent to spend the night sheltered from the forest’s dampness, then she fished two perches and baked them on the fire.

She was about to go to sleep, when a fox approached the small camp, shy but curious; Nerwen saw its eyes glittering on the border of the firelight circle; the fire alarmed it, but even fascinated it.

Don’t be afraid, the Istar sent her, reassuringly. The fox relaxed a little, but not completely. Therefore, Nerwen tossed it the remains of the fish; the small predator took them and retrieved, vanishing into darkness, but from the sounds and the satisfaction Nerwen perceived, it was greatly enjoying the food. Smiling, Nerwen got into the tent and wrapped herself in the blanket, falling asleep in a few minutes.

 

OOO

 

The next morning, Nerwen made herself a cup of black tea and broke her fast with a small piece of lembas, then she broke camp and resumed the exploration. A little after noon, she reached the slopes of the Misty Mountains, where she halted briefly to have lunch with stale bread and aged cheese, to which she added some dehydrated apricots. She went on southwards for some kilometres, skirting the side of the mountain range, and then she turned again eastward. There was no risk of getting lost: not only could she verify where the north was simply watching where the moss grew and flourished, but she could send Calad to fly over the tree crowns to see for the sun.

They went on this way for four weeks, back and forth between the eastern limits of the forest and the slopes of the Hithaeglir; leaving the river, they proceeded slower than Nerwen had hoped, because the depths of Fangorn were very thick and passing through wasn’t easy. Occasionally, they met wild animals, in particular squirrels, owls and badges, which watched at them from a safe distance, curious but non afraid. Nerwen continued scanning the forest, seeking the trademark brain pattern of the Ents, which was much more complex than the trees’ one: she hadn’t perceived one in two Ages, but she couldn’t get wrong in recognising it.

At the end of the fourth week, while she was going towards the mountains, Nerwen sensed a vegetal conscience particularly vigilant, located a few kilometres in front of her and on her right. It was too far to recognise its nature, that is, if it was a normal tree with just an unusually high conscience, or a true Ent. Perceiving her excitation, Thilgiloth sped up her pace with no need for the Aini to urge her on, followed by Thalion with Calad on his back; diverting slightly from the straight line they were going on, they headed for the source of the consciousness that Nerwen was sensing.

While getting near, Nerwen became more and more perplexed: the mental patterns were those of an Ent, but somehow… diminished, like maimed. Maybe he was sick? Hurt? Reduced to a semi unconscious state?

The Istar arrived at about one hundred metres distance, then she pulled Thilgiloth’s reins to slow her down, and ordered Thalion to stop. She continued slowly, all of her Ainurin senses alert, but she didn’t find any trace of a malevolent will.

And then she saw it: a great, majestic beech, its immense tangle of roots sinking into the ground; the bark was bright and solid and its brilliant-green leaves proclaimed it perfectly healthy, nonetheless it exuded a sense of prostration. No, Nerwen corrected herself, analysing better the feeling: of surrender.

faggio

 

She halted Thilgiloth and dismounted to go more easily to the massive tree. 

Hullo, ancient beech, she greeted it. A mild surprise emanated from the tree.

Who are you, whom I can understand? it asked faintly.

A friend, Nerwen introduced herself simply, trying to radiate a reassuring feeling, Are you sick?

The beech seemed to ponder.

Sick? it repeated, as marvelling at the word, No… I’m just very tired. I’m resting.

I see, Nerwen answered, perplexed: she couldn’t make out the reason of the beech’s resignation, but why are you tired?

I laboured too much, in the past, it answered, indifferent, Now I leave the effort to the other ones.

This statement made a bell ring in Nerwen’s mind. She was by now sure that this was indeed an Ent, however at the same time it wasn’t, not completely.

The other ones, who? she enquired: there could be more of its species, possibly more lively, more dynamic; true Ents, that is.

My own kind, those who still walk and talk, the beech answered, those who still aren’t tired as much as I am…

This was the perfect description of the Onodrim, the Maia thought, excited.

Where can I find them? she asked.

Around here, the tree answered, but his voice was becoming feebler, Now I must sleep…

Wait! she begged it, Can’t you be more specific on where to find them?

The beech sent her the image of a sunny rocky terrace, high enough to emerge from the crowns of the trees, located a few kilometres inside the forest; the view stretched on the large, lush plain of Rohan, similar to a sea of grass, and this told Nerwen that the terrace faced eastward. Not far on the right, there was a river, larger than the Limlight: it had to be the Entwash, which ran in the southern part of Fangorn.

Thank you, Nerwen sent, grateful, Rest now.

The beech didn’t answer, already deep in its green sleep.

Nerwen got back in the saddle and directed Thilgiloth to Thalion and Calad.

“I received a quite specific hint,” the Istar revealed them, “Let’s go back, out of the forest, then we’ll head south.”

 

OOO

 

They reached the margin of the wood at mid-morning of the next day; here, they turned to their right to skirt the forest in a south-westerly direction; the terrain of the Wold went up and down, but luckily never too steep for the horses.

They went on for the rest of the day, with only one break for a meagre meal; and finally there it was, in front of them: the sparkle of water of a still young river, which soon, flowing into the plain and collecting many tributaries, would become large and slow, until it would divide in a vast marshy delta before joining the Anduin.

When they arrived where the river came out from the forest, Nerwen sent Calad to seek the rocky ledge that the sleepy beech had showed her. The hawk raised up in wider and wider circles to a noticeable height, then she headed in-wood, flying over the trees at a distance, but her very sharp eyes were nonetheless capable to see everything very clearly. It didn’t take long for her to pinpoint the rocky rim, about fifteen kilometres inside the forest; she circled over it a number of times, slightly lowering to detect more details; on the left of the small, treeless ledge, she glimpsed a staircase with very high steps, steeply dropping to the ground.

entwash and fangorn

 

Returning to Nerwen, Calad perched on her falconry glove and sent her the images she had seen.

In my opinion, this sort of a stair is very near to the river, she conjectured.

Nerwen checked the position of the sun: it was almost setting, therefore she decided to postpone the search for the rocky terrace to the next day, when she would have many more hours of light at her disposal: tracking it down could seem easy and quick, from here, but actually she didn’t know what she would find, penetrating among the trees. In this place, they were particularly massive and gnarled, and the shadows of the wood were thicker than elsewhere. The Maia cast her mind among the trees; she perceived a sense of more vigilance than before, but no kind of hostility or resentment, only suspicion and circumspection. Fangorn Forest’s sinister name was surely undeserved, at least in part.

As she didn’t want to annoy the tree- entities, whatever they were, Nerwen preferred to set camp at a safe distance from the forest margin; after dinner, she laid down to watch the stars: Menelvagor, the Swordsman of the Sky, dominated the dark canopy, with Helluin’s blue flame at his feet, while a little further Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar, cast its eternal admonishment to the Dark Enemy and his servants. The Aini remembered the time when only the stars were illuminating Arda, when the world was young, and she and Yavanna travelled through it, awakening olvar and kelvar, while the two-legged beings – Elves, Men, Dwarves and Hobbits – were still to come. It had been an exciting time, full of fervent activity for all the Ainur who had asked Eru Ilúvatar permission – and he had granted it – to make their vision true: Eä, the Created World; however, it had been also a solitary time, which Valar and Maiar had spent in anxious wait for the Children of Ilúvatar, Firstborn and Second-born, and for the other sentient beings. No, she didn’t want those times back: the following Ages had been far more interesting and thrilling, even if they had brought sorrows for all, even for the Ainur, who had to witness the devastation of Arda, operated by Melkor, and the troubles of its inhabitants… Luckily, the quality of the Blessed Realm could ease that sorrow, or else, in all likelihood, they might not endure it; Nerwen, who had had a taste of the suffering the inhabitants of Middle-earth must stand, wondered how they could be capable of bearing it. The Elves were allowed to leave the Hither Shore to go overseas and ease it, but the others couldn’t do the same. All of a sudden, Nerwen realised that these races – Dwarves, Men, Hobbits – were truly admirable, despite all the imperfections some of their individuals could have. Not that the Elves were flawless: even among them one could find envious, jealous, greedy, violent, arrogant individuals. In the past, Nerwen had met some, and if so far in this Age she hadn’t, it was only by chance, and surely it wouldn’t last for long.

She shook off those thoughts: if she went on like this, she risked a sleepless night. Better drop it and go to sleep.

 

OOO

 

The following morning, as usual Nerwen got up early, had a quick breakfast and broke camp; she loaded again the patient Thalion, and Calad perched over the luggage, then Nerwen sprang on Thilgiloth’s back and set off, seeking the staircase leading to the terrace the beech had shown her. Following the Entwash, she entered Fangorn Forest; now, in the morning light, it looked less gloomy.

It didn’t take long – a little more than one hour and a half – before Calad’s sharp eyes caught the staircase, a few hundred metres from the riverbank: she had been completely right supposing it wouldn’t be far from the Entwash. Promptly, Nerwen headed for it; examining the steps, very high and deep, she immediately knew there was no way for the horses to climb them.

“Thilgiloth and Thalion, you’ll have to stay here while I’m going up there,” she told them; immediately Thalion exuded a sense of apprehension: it was apparent he didn’t like the idea of her going away; therefore, she patted him on his muscular neck to reassure him. Then the Istar began to ascend, or better, to climb the stair: it was so steep and the steps were so high, she had to use both hands and feet. Calad, advantaged because of her wings, preceded her in flight.

When she reached the shelf, Nerwen looked at the panorama and recognised it exactly as the one the beech had showed her: it was undoubtedly the right place. The sun had climbed the sky and now lighted the natural balcony, warming it. The Aini smiled: the caress of Anar’s rays always lifted her spirits. She opened her arms, raising her face to the sky, and began to dance; Calad, infected by her sudden good mood, flitted about screeching joyfully her call kek-kek-kek, while Nerwen traversed the terrace dancing to an interior music.

Eventually, the euphoric moment passed and Nerwen lowered her arms again; she extended her senses, trying to perceive the presence of Ents, but she didn’t find anything. She tried again, making a greater effort and focusing harder, but she sensed nothing more than the usual lifeforms of the forest: squirrels, badgers, foxes, owls and so on.

Disappointed, Nerwen sat down on a boulder, planted her elbows on her knees and laid her head on the palm of her hands. The place was the right one, but maybe the time wasn’t. The old beech could have referred to a hundred years ago, or even a thousand, and now perhaps the Ents weren’t there anymore. After all, there were only rumours about the presence of walking trees, but how long was it, since someone had actually seen one? A number of centuries, undoubtedly, according to the reports of the Nandor who once inhabited the southern part of Greenwood, before it became Mirkwood. However… a feeling at the bottom of her mind, a kind of itch, told Nerwen she had to insist.

She was travelling for five weeks with no breaks, now. She decided it was time to stop and rest for some days. She could set camp there: the wood and the river would supply fresh food, sparing the one she brought from Lothlórien. She would stay vigilant: if an Ent would pass nearby, she would sense him.

 

OOO

 

They spent four days in complete relax; the only sounds were the occasional rustle of the higher branches of the massive trees and the calls of the animals inhabiting the forest.

At mid-morning of the fourth day, Nerwen was on the terrace, watching the sea of grass of Rohan’s plains. It was time to resume the search: she would leave the next day, following the Entwash to the slopes of the Misty Mountains – as she had done with the Limlight weeks ago – and from there she would come back, coiling back and forth to explore the part of the forest she skipped after the encounter with the old beech. If her search would prove fruitless, she would come back to the Entwash, crossing it to explore the small portion of forest extending there: even if at that point the hopes would be almost nil, she couldn’t leave any place unexplored. Once ascertained there were no trace of the Onodrim in Fangorn, she would return to Lothlórien, and there she would decide if go back north to speak with Thranduil, or head immediately eastward, seeking those unknown red mountains beyond which, in the Mirror of Galadriel, she had seen the Ents.

She was about to stand up and descend the steep staircase, when suddenly a sound wave swept through the forest, so low it was almost inaudible; the very boulder on which Nerwen was sitting vibrated, but it wasn’t an alarming sensation as with an earthquake. From below, the Istar heard Thilgiloth’s and Thalion’s agitated neighs, however they weren’t expressing fear, but rather surprise. Calad, who had gone hunting, came swiftly back.

What was that? she asked; she, too, sounded disconcerted, rather than afraid.

“I’ve got no idea,” Nerwen admitted; she was unsettled, because she had never experienced anything similar in all her long life.

Then, at a distance, they heard a sound like the ringing of a horn with a very low timbre, which had the forest vibrating again, but in a different way than before. From the high rocky terrace, facing upstream, Nerwen and Calad saw the tree crowns moving as if powerful wind gusts were shaking them, but there was not even the slightest air waft in the calm summer afternoon. They heard crashes and cracks, like a giant passing through the trees moving off his way boughs and branches. For a moment, Nerwen thought about a mountain troll coming down from the slopes of Hithaeglir, but immediately she marked the hypothesis as unlikely: where they were, the mountains were at least one hundred kilometres away, and mountain trolls tended to stay near their lairs for fear the sunlight could catch them, transforming them at once in stone.

The horn rang again, much nearer, like a hoom, hoom, huum. At this point Nerwen felt her heart leap in her chest and a triumphant cry erupted from her throat: this was an Ent!

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Apparently, Nerwen is finally about to meet an Ent! Let’s see who he is, but I don’t think it’s very hard to guess XD

The picture of Fangorn with a stream (possibly the young Entwash) is Paul Lasaine’s.

Astronomical facts: Menelvagor (also called Menelmacar and Telumehtar) is the constellation of Orion, while Helluin is the star Sirius; Valacirca is the Ursa Maior, or Great Bear.

 

Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

banner

 

Chapter XXIV: In Treebeard’s House

 

Nerwen ran to the staircase and began to descend it with all the extraordinary nimbleness Ainur and Eldar had in common; she reached quickly the bottom, where she found Thalion and Thilgiloth looking both in the direction of the approaching noise, resounding and oddly melodious, almost a music from huge horns and bagpipes marked by equally huge drums. Both mounts were tense, but they still showed no particular alarm; even Calad, who perched on a low branch nearby.

And finally, there he was, emerging among the tree trunks: the shape was similar to a Man’s, but he was gigantic, more than twice the height of a troll, very sturdy, with a long head and almost no neck; a grey-green bark covered his body, but his long arms were brown, while his huge feet had seven toes. Over a long and thick beard, looking like mossy twigs, two brown eyes shone, dotted with green.

treebeard

 

Seeing Nerwen, the Ent came to a sudden halt and silenced abruptly; his mane of leaves rustled noisily. 

Nerwen froze: ever since Yavanna Kementári brought the Onodrim in Middle-earth, she had seen none. Even when she went to Beleriand visiting her sister Melian, she heard rumours about them, but never saw them again; and therefore, now she felt so excited, she was hardly able to utter a single word.

The Ent watched her intently, equally silent. His eyes had a calm and solemn expression, but nevertheless, they were piercing; its pupils looked like very deep wells, full of things seen and kept in mind and pondered slowly and constantly since a very remote past; but on its surface, present sparkled vividly.

Finally, Nerwen pulled together enough to remember the traditional greeting formula; she bowed and said in Entish:

“I greet you, Shepherd of the Trees.”

She needed several minutes to articulate the sentence in the slow, resonant language of the Onodrim, and her vocal equipment was put to the test. She would need some time to train her tongue, throat and lungs to this idiom, which was so totally different from any other one on Arda.

At the sound of his own language voiced by another living being, the Ent’s eyes widened and he gaped because of the enormous surprise: nobody knew the idiom of the Onodrim, except their creatrix. Could this be Kementári in person?

He watched her even closer, while she was talking; she hadn’t the aura of a Valië, and yet there was something in her that went beyond her human appearance. A disguised High Elf, perhaps? No, that was different. But how?

Suddenly he realised it: she had to be a follower of Yavanna, a Maia. She didn’t look like an Aini, even of the lower rank; but no other could know his language.

When Nerwen finished the greeting, the Ent bowed in turn, bending stiffly his body at the hips.

“And I greet you, Ancient One,” he said in Common Speech. Nerwen was glad: if he was willing to speak a different language than his, communicating would require much less time, and much less energy from her part.

“So you know who I am?” she asked in the same idiom, not much surprised he had recognised her: the Ents were known for seeing deeply inside things, even if it could take some time; it was a talent similar to the Elves’ one, who were able to discern what they were looking at, much beyond its appearance.

“I do not know your name,” the Ent specified, “but I think you come from the Blessed Realm, because you speak my language, and this makes me think you are a disciple of the Queen of Earth.”

“It is so in Valinor,” she confirmed, “but here in Middle-earth, I’m only Nerwen the Green, an Istar.”

The Ent looked surprised:

Hoom, hom,” he grumbled, “What a short name for such an ancient being!” he commented, voicing his perplexity, “O well, buràrum, each one has his own customs…” he concluded.

“Indeed,” Nerwen confirmed, and couldn’t help but feel amused, “And what’s your name?”

“Oh, that is rude of me!” the Ent cried with a thunderous rumble, “Well, my true name would require many days to be articulated, having it grown as years and centuries went by; and many are the names that the two-legged beings gave me, Elves and Men I had the chance to meet. The most recent was given to me by Oropher of the Nandor of Greenwood the Great, and it is Fangorn, or Treebeard in Common Speech. Yes, Treebeard will do.”

“Nice to meet you, Treebeard,” Nerwen said. Treebeard moved his gaze to the horses, and the Istar quickly introduced them, “These are my friends Thilgiloth and Thalion. And…” she pointed, “that’s Calad.”

“Your friends are my friends,” the Ent said, using a widely spread formula; the animals’ tension disappeared instantly, and only curiosity remained.

Buràrum!” Treebeard boomed, “I have came to check a little on the outer world from my favourite observation point, over there,” he pointed at the steep staircase, which high and deep steps were evidently planned for his colossal feet, “Would you like to join me?”

“Of course,” Nerwen accepted, omitting she had just been there.

Treebeard bent down and stretched out his enormous hand:

“I will carry you,” he said, “The stair is difficult for your short legs.”

That hand could crush an enemy in an instant, but Nerwen perceived clearly that the Ent felt very favourable towards her and therefore she had no worry to accept his help. She sat on that colossal open hand and let Treebeard carry her up the staircase to the sunny shelf, where he placed her back again on the ground, with a gentleness that, given his size, surprised her.

Treebeard watched for a long time the landscape visible from that high place, beginning from the north where the terrain climbed gradually in the Wold, passing through the east where the endless sea of grass of Rohan’s plains stretched, to the south, beyond the Entwash, in the direction of the White Mountains, beyond which the ancient realm of Gondor was located.

Hum, hoom,” Treebeard grumbled, “There is nothing to see, I would say. Like always, these times, I would add. Everything is very calm, but I do not know, it seems to me an ostensible, superficial calmness, as if under the earth’s crust, a secret agitation is flowing. Despite the quietness, something is moving, very slow for now, but my roots tell me it will not stay long like this.”

He paused to move his gaze to Nerwen, still standing where he had set her down. She turned to reciprocate that deep and solemn gaze.

“The world is changing,” she confirmed, repeating the words Galadriel had addressed her and that she knew true, like Yavanna, too, knew.

“So you feel it, too,” the Ent murmured, “It is not just my feeling,” he turned to inspect again the horizon, “We Onodrim do not like changes, especially when they are sudden; but this is emerging slowly, and therefore, I will look to it that we are not be taken by surprise.”

He stared at the landscape for some minutes more, then he stretched out again his hand to the Istar:

“Come, Lady Nerwen, I will take you to my home: I will be glad to have you as a guest.”

They went down the sheer stairs, at the bottom of which they found the three kelvar patiently waiting for them.

“Treebeard invites us up to his place,” Nerwen told them. The Ent looked at her in surprise:

“You talk to animals?” then he sobered, “Oh, of course, silly me: you are a disciple of Kementári, why should you not?”

“I talk to plants, too,” she revealed, not seeing any reason to keep it from him, “even if obviously plants normally do not speak with words.”

Treebeard nodded:

“So it is, but with those who can listen, they talk quite well.”

He started up the Entwash, and in this way Nerwen realised that he had meant it literally, by saying he would take her to his home. Surely, her small weight was nothing for a massive being like him.

Calad came and perched on Thilgiloth’s saddle; the latter moved to follow Treebeard, and Thalion placidly began to walk behind her. They had to keep up a fast pace, because the Ent’s strides, even if calm, were incredibly long.

During the journey, Treebeard and Nerwen talked at times, mainly about trees and herbs, and also about animals, water and earth; but for most of the time, the Ent sang softly to himself, partially in Entish, partially in Sindarin and in Common Speech; ancient songs with long compound words expressing the slow, pondered thoughts of the Onodrim.

Early in the afternoon, when Nerwen’s stomach grumbled, they stopped briefly and she grabbed a quick snack, then they resumed the journey, still along the right riverside, going on until evening; and finally, while dusk was swiftly falling under the trees, shrouding them in darkness, they arrived at Treebeard’s house, which was located on the lower spurs of Methedras, the last peak of the Misty Mountains, in this point going rather far inside the forest. The Entwash was now nothing more than a loud and energetic stream: its springs weren’t much far away, higher on the mountain’s slopes.

“Here we are,” Treebeard said, “This is one of my favourite abodes, and the oldest one. I have more, scattered in the forest, and each one has a different name. This is called… but no, the complete name would be too long, being it as ancient as this wood. Let’s call it … hrrrumm… Wellinghall? Yes, that will do.”

They climbed up the treeless, grassy slope; above them, the stars were blossoming in a clear sky. They came up in front of a large opening in the hillside, with two tall evergreen trees at each side, similar to vegetal pillars; their interlaced branches barred the passage like a living gate. From under the wooden grid, a rivulet ran out, descending the slope and joining the Entwash.

“Your mounts can stay here and graze freely,” the Ent suggested, halting, “I suppose you want to take care of them, before coming in.”

“Yes, thank you,” Nerwen answered.

“There is enough food for your hawk, too,” Treebeard added, putting down the Maia, who nodded.

Nerwen unloaded the luggage from Thalion’s back and unsaddled Thilgiloth, then the Ent helped her to carry her belongings inside. When he approached the entrance, the trees protecting it removed their branches, freeing the passage. In the now imminent shadows of night, the Aini’s sharp sight identified a large cleft in the hillside, with a flat floor and high, steep walls, at the bottom of which towered two lines of trees with smooth, straight trunks. On the opposite side was a niche carved in the rock, with a vaulted ceiling, from where a small creek fell, forming a kind of curtain in front of the cavity; the water gathered in a sort of basin, carved into the floor, and then ran gurgling along the floor, exiting the dwelling.

wellinghall

 

They entered; Treebeard quickly preceded Nerwen to the niche, where it was already dark. The Istar advanced carefully in order not to set foot into the brook running on the floor, but a few moments later, a soft green-gold light – like sun passing through a thick curtain of leaves – radiated from the cavity, coming from two vessels laying on a high stony table; the trees, too, began to shine in a phosphorescent light of different colours blending into one another: green, gold, copper, until the whole dwelling was illuminated.

Marvelled, Nerwen watched intently the luminescent trees, and concluded there was none of the kind in Aman: they were a variety totally unknown to her. She grimaced, half amused and half irritated: her certainty she knew all the plants and animals on Arda, even if not each and every variety, had just been shattered. After all the millennia of her life, finding something new to learn was at the same time exciting and frightening; but she had never been one who withdraws in front of the challenge of new knowledge, and the excitation she felt was definitely much greater than fright.

“Your house is stunning, Treebeard,” she said sincerely, joining him in the rocky niche.

“Do you really mean it? Thanks!” the Ent cried, very happy, “I placed here your belongings,” he went on, “You can add the rest, too.”

He pointed on a shelf behind him, looking like a step one metre high, carved into the rocky wall, big enough to serve as a bed for at least six people. Nerwen did as she had been told, placing there her remaining stuff.

Meanwhile, Treebeard took two jars – one very large, the other one much smaller – and filled them with the water falling from the ceiling. He handed the smaller jar to Nerwen, keeping the larger one for himself; bringing it to his lips, he took a long swig.

Buràrum!” he rumbled, satisfied, “This was much needed, after such a long day of marching.”

Nerwen drank in turn; the water was cool, and it tasted halfway mineral – iron, mainly – and vegetal, mostly basil, or athelas using its sindarin name (*), with a trace of thyme. It was delicious.

And it made her feel strangely: she felt her scalp prickling and her hair growing and lengthening, only a few millimetres, but unmistakably. She felt also her body prickle, especially the tip of her fingers and toes. Something told her that also her nails and stature had grown, even if, these too, just a few millimetres, like her hair.

She placed the jar on the shelf: better drink cautiously the water of the Ents. She had heard about it, a long time ago, but she never had the chance to taste it, so far. It was the only nourishment of the Onodrim, and its effect on the other living beings was to make them grow at abnormal speed.

“Thank you for sharing your food, Treebeard,” she said therefore, “but my species needs another type of food: I hope you won’t take offence if I have some of my own.”

“And how could I possibly take offence, when the question is asked with such courtesy?” the Ent replied, “Go on, Lady Nerwen. And prepare a pallet the way you prefer, as your species requires, so you can rest comfortably.”

While Treebeard continued sipping at his prodigious water, Nerwen took some smoked meat from her backpack, eating it with a small piece of lembas and adding to it some dehydrated apricots, then she drank from her canteen. The next morning she would fill it up with normal water from the Entwash. 

Outside the Entish dwelling, night had fallen.

“It is quite late,” Treebeard said, “Let’s rest: we will talk again tomorrow morning.”

Being carried by an Ent hadn’t been more tiring than riding, but Nerwen admitted she was weary enough to wish for a good sleep. She spread her blanket on the ledge, positioned the saddle to use it as a pillow and, taking off her boots, she laid down. The stony bed was quite hard, but for one night she could bear it; should she sleep here longer, she would fetch some grass and dry leaves to make a mattress.

 

OOO

 

The next day, Nerwen woke up as early as ever, but found that Treebeard was already gone. She went outside, and not far from the entrance of the Entish house, she caught sight of her two horses, who were peacefully grazing. Seeing her, Thilgiloth came to her, and from the sky dove Calad, who perched on a rock close by.

“Did you have your rest, my friends?” Nerwen asked them.

“Yes, this is a peaceful place,” Calad confirmed, while the Chargeress sent an assenting thought to her two-legged friend.

“I agree,” the Aini nodded. The two kelvar returned to their businesses, while Nerwen began looking for dry wood to make a fire. She lighted a small one, paying attention in staying away from the gate-trees, aware that fire upset Ents and their kind. She began to prepare tea, and while waiting for the water to heat, she heard Treebeard arriving, chanting softly to himself a sweet and sad melody, of which she couldn’t hear the words.

“Well, good morning, Lady Nerwen!” the Ent greeted her, “Knowing something about the food requirements of your species, I went seeking something for you.”

He bent and extended his enormous hand, on which laid a large, concave leaf filled with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

“Thank you, Treebeard!” Nerwen cried, moved by his thoughtfulness, “You’re very kind.”

She took the fruits he was offering her and tried them: they were perfectly ripe and very sweet, more than usual. She supposed that the Ent, before plucking them, had asked the corresponding plants which were the best ones.

She ate also another small piece of the Elven crackers, which sweet flavour well matched the one of the berries, and then she drank her hot tea. While waiting for her to finish, Treebeard went over to a sunny spot of the meadow, raising his gnarled arms and enjoying the sun that was climbing in the blue, cloudless sky.  

After putting out the fire, Nerwen approached the Ent who, hearing her coming, turned to her.

Hoom hoom, I think it is time to talk,” he said; the Istar nodded, sitting on the grass and watching the massive being from below. Anyone else would surely feel intimidated, but not her, who had assisted her Mistress while she was creating the first Ents. For her, it was like looking at a godson she had seen being born, now grown up.

“I suppose, hroom, you didn’t come to Fangorn Forest out of chance,” Treebeard began in a half quizzical, half uncertain tone.

“You suppose correctly,” Nerwen nodded, “You see, I was looking for the Onodrim on behalf of Kementári, because for a long time we have heard no news about you.”

Treebeard blinked slowly, pondering carefully and calmly those words, as it was the nature of his race.

“I am greatly honoured that the Queen of Earth worries about us,” he said slowly, “If she has no news about us, it is because we decided to lay low: as the world does not care for us, we do not care for the world.”

This was unexpected, for Nerwen, and she didn’t like it; she frowned slightly.

“But you are part of it,” she pointed out, “whether you care for the world or not, and whether the world cares for you or not.”

Hummm, this is true, for sure,” Treebeard admitted, “but there is only a few of us left, and many of these few have become, how can I say, tee-ish, and by now they have little left of Entish. For most of the time they doze, when they have not fallen completely asleep yet. We call them Huorns.”

Nerwen recalled the old beech that had provided her with the vision of the rocky terrace.

“They completely lost interest in the world,” Treebeard went on, “and therefore they estranged themselves from it. It is happening to all of us, slowly but inexorably. Until one day only I will remain, and then I will fall asleep, I too.” 

“But why?” Nerwen cried, dismayed, “What happened, what turned off your will to live?”

“We lost the Entwives,” the Ent explained in such a terribly sad tone, it made tears well up in her eyes: they had lost their females…?

“Lost?” she repeated, “Are they dead?”

“Dead? Oh no,” Treebeard answered, “They are gone. We searched for them, far and wide. The Elves wrote many a song about our search for the Entwives. But we never found them again, and finally we took shelter here, and slowly we are fading.”

“But that’s horrible…” Nerwen whispered, not having foreseen such a turn in the matter, “How’s that possible? Why did they go away?” she asked.

“Oh, it is a long, long tale,” Treebeard grumbled, “but I will try and tell you as shortly as possible, even if for me it is a great sorrow to recall this matter.”

He was silent for a long time, while recollecting his memories.

“The Ent and Entwives have always been together, since the beginning,” he started to speak, “We crossed each corner of Middle-earth, protecting trees to the best of our ability. We took care of the vast primordial forests of Middle-earth throughout all the Elder Days. The Ents loved particularly the biggest trees, such as oaks, redwoods, lindens, cypresses, chestnuts, pines… The Entwives, instead, preferred the smaller trees, the herbs, the fruit plants. This brought us to become estranged from one another so much that, at a certain point, when we arrived in this corner of Middle-earth, while we Ents roamed through the forest, the Entwives told us they would cross the Anduin to grow gardens according to their preferences. We went often to visit them, and actually their gardens were lush, colourful and smelling nicely, inhabited by birds and small animals of the woods. They were a true marvel, but even if we liked them much, we preferred in any case to go back to our forest, to take care of the great trees growing there. Little by little, our visits became less and less frequent…”

Treebeard broke off and paused for a long time. Nerwen didn’t pressure him: she had extended her special senses to better understand the old Ent’s feelings, and she perceived his sorrow, regret, ache. Therefore, she waited for him feeling ready to go on.

Eventually, Treebeard resumed the narration, his voice unusually low:

“One day, the desire to see again Fimbrethil, my beloved, caught me; hence, I left the forest, walked through the sea of grass and crossed the Great River; but the land beyond it, once so green and flourishing, was empty and scorched. Where once were lush orchards, there were only a few bare, charred trees; there was no trace of flowers anymore, or of herbs, or vegetables. Where once had been striking beautiful gardens, there was only arid land…”

Again, the Ent paused. Nerwen felt a lump in her throat: Treebeard’s grief was quiet, but very deep. Unceasing grief and regret that was lasting for centuries.

“We never learned what happened exactly,” the old Ent went on, his voice even lower, “What we found out did not concern directly the Entwives, but other peoples, Elves and Men. There had been a great war between them and the Shadow, which had ended with the victory of the first ones, but it had brought disaster on the Entwives’ land. The Brown Lands, now they call them.”

Nerwen realised he was talking about the terrible battle between the Last Alliance and Sauron’s forces, at the end of the Second Age; this meant that the Entwives had disappeared over three thousand years ago.

“For many years we tried to find the Entwives,” Treebeard went on, “Every once in a while, one of us left and journeyed far and wide through Wilderland and Eriador, calling for them, looking for them. So did I, too, many times. All was vain. Our deeds inspired many a song and ballad, composed mostly by the Elves, and a few by Men; but as the years and the centuries went by, the hope to find the Entwives faded, until it was lost; and in the end, nobody left anymore to go and seek them. Never again did we hear about the Entwives…” 

His saddened voice broke off; he could maybe not understand the love of the females of his race for the fruits of the earth, and he could disapprove of their decision to leave their males to pursue their own goals, however he was strongly suffering because of their disappearance and missed them tremendously. No future could there be for the Ents, without Entwives; and therefore, his sorrow was not only personal, but extended to all his people, condemned to fade.

Nerwen was nearly crying: Treebeard’s grief upset her heavily. As deep as the Great Sea did it appear to her, and as endless as Time itself.

Then an intuition crossed her mind like a lightning, making her frown.

“Tell me, Treebeard…” she began, trying to shape the idea whirling in her head, “Are the Onodrim all here, in Fangorn?”

“As far as I know, yes,” the Ent confirmed, “As I said, for a long time now none of us leaves to go seeking the Entwives anymore.”

“No, I mean: are there no other groups of Ents, in Middle-earth? In other forests, mayhap far away east?”

As he couldn’t shake his head in a negative gesture, Treebeard swung from side to side.

“No, there are no other ones; there have never been many of us, and I know them all since I was an Entling, in the vanished Beleriand. And since we lost the Entwives, our number constantly dwindled: some died, killed by the hands of those damned Orcs – buràrum! – other ones fell asleep until they became normal trees with no voice and no movement… No, there are no other Ent communities in Middle-earth.”

“Yet I saw something,” Nerwen insisted, “Very far from here, beyond very high red mountains, on the shores of another sea. They looked like Onodrim; and if they weren’t, then they look very much like you.”

Again, Treebeard swung from side to side.

“I do not know where the place you describe may be,” he said, “Anyway, the world is so vast that none has seen it entirely, not even we in our long peregrinations seeking the Entwives,” he stared at her with those immense vegetal eyes of his, “You say they look like Onodrim? Could… could they be the Entwives?”

“I don’t know for sure,” Nerwen dampened his enthusiasm, not wanting to give him false hopes, “I must find them and verify I’m not mistaken…” she paused, while her Second Sight hit her, suddenly and unexpectedly as usual. She saw herself at the foot of the mountain range, while looking up to the red peaks, covered with perennial snow, one of them looking, in shape and height, very alike Taniquetil , the mountain on which Manwë Súlimo and Varda Elentári dwelled. She was indicating it to someone at her side, a male shape dressed in black, whom she caught but out of the corner of her eye and couldn’t therefore see clearly. It was only an instant, then the vision vanished, suddenly as it had arrived.

Then, Nerwen knew she would go there. Everywhere this there might be.

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

I swear, the encounter with Treebeard impressed me for real!!! LOL

That athelas, or Kingsfoil, might actually be basil it’s my own supposition, based on the fact that the etymology of the word basil means “regal plant, majestic” (from Greek basilikon, coming in turn from basileus “king”).

Tolkien wanted that what really happened to the Entwives remaining a mystery, even for himself, but in one of his letters he wrote “I think that the Entwives are really vanished, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance.” However, this explanation of his never satisfied me: it sounds almost like “I don’t know what to say to justify their disappearance, and so I kill them all.” LOL Therefore, in my dissatisfaction, I decided I would find them myself! That is, of course, Nerwen will find them. She must still go a long way and much time must pass, but nothing will stop our green Istar in her Search for the Entwives!

Again, I thank all those reading my fan fiction, in the hope you’re enjoying it.

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXV: Back to Lothl ó rien

 

It was time to contact again her Mistress.

A few days had passed since the encounter with Treebeard, and other conversations, which had completed the picture of the story concerning the disappearance of the Entwives, had followed the first one. By now, Nerwen was persuaded that they had fled during the terrible war, when the Last Alliance between Elves and Men had overthrown Sauron’s armies, at the end of the Second Age, and that they had gone as far as possible, somewhere into the east. The only clue she had, was the great red mountain range she had glimpsed at, once in the Mirror of Galadriel and twice through her Second Sight.

Mindful of the previous time, before proceeding the Maia had some energy food prepared, in this case some acacia honey, fetched by her generous and attentive host, and walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and the always excellent lembas.

Nerwen laid back on her mattress in the Ent-house; she had warned Treebeard about what she was going to do, so that he wouldn’t worry about her staying motionless like dead. She closed her eyes and visualised a door, beyond which she imagined Yavanna waiting. She knocked and a few moments later the door opened; her Mistress appeared on the threshold, smiling at her affectionately. They embraced, while around them the garden of Yavanna’s palace in Valimar appeared.

Nerwen, my dearest, I am so happy to see you, the Valië said, sitting her on a near wooden bench, placed in front of a pond surrounded by large lilac flowers.

garden

 

I, too, am happy to see you, Yavanna, the Maia said, I wanted to update you, because I have some news.

Tell me, Yavanna exhorted her.

Therefore, Nerwen reported her the departure from Rivendell, the inconclusive stopover at Rhosgobel in the hope to find Radagast, the assault of the werewolves and the providential intervention of Beorn; the news that in Middle-earth Skin-changers still existed surprised Yavanna agreeably, as Nerwen had been, too. Her account went on with the arrival at Lothlórien and Galadriel’s and Celeborn’s welcome, and the poignant encounter with her niece Arwen, perfect living image of Lúthien.

Does she really look so alike her?, Yavanna asked, more stunned than doubtful of her disciple’s words.

She does, Nerwen confirmed, except for the eyes, blue instead of grey-green.

Melian never truly accepted the destiny her daughter has chosen for herself, the Valië considered, Mayhap, knowing about Arwen, she will find a little comfort.

The Maia felt a twinge in her chest and she realised that perhaps Arwen’s fate would be similar to Lúthien’s. Melian’s daughter had chosen a mortal life to be with her beloved Beren; and Arwen could make the same choice for the love of Aragorn. The future wasn’t decided yet, but the way she had seen them – partners for life – left little doubt.

I don’t know, she said gloomily, My Second Sight revealed that Arwen seems to be destined to repeat Lúthien’s case: she, too, could be lost for the Eldar and choose the Fate of Men for the love of a mortal. Perhaps it’s better not telling anything to Melian, so her grief won’t be renewed.

Yavanna pondered on what her disciple had said.

You are right, she agreed in the end, better save her this sorrow.

After a short pause, Nerwen went on, telling her Mistress about the White Council and Galadriel’s anxieties, and about her Mirror and what she had seen in it. Involuntarily, she thought of Beriadir, too, and Yavanna smiled.

I am glad you found someone helping you to ease the sadness that having to give up on Thorin caused you, she said.

Finally, Nerwen got to the most important part of her update: the meeting with Treebeard. Yavanna tensed, anxious to receive at last news about her creatures.

So few remain… she whispered, sorrowful, when the Istar finished, And the Entwives, vanished thousands of years ago… There is no future, for them.

Until they stay separated, so it is, Nerwen confirmed, but the vision I had in the Mirror of Galadriel gives me hope.

They could just be more male Onodrim, the Queen of Earth objected. Nerwen nodded:

They could, she admitted reluctantly, but I want to believe that instead they are the females. The look of the landscape I’ve seen would suggest it: a well-cultivated land, like a garden, what the Entwives prefer, while the Ents love better the wild forests.

It is surely possible that this is the case, Yavanna agreed, but you need to go there and verify.

I’ll do it, the Istar declared firmly, This will give back to the Ents the hope for future, and therefore a reason to feel involved again in Middle-earth’s cause and to intervene, if needed, should Sauron arise again. Therefore, even the Entwives might want to play their part.

Yavanna nodded slowly.

Since you left, one year ago, she said, I felt his menace growing, like a pressure at the bottom of my mind. The earth itself perceives it. Now I have no more doubts: Sauron is gathering his forces to launch an attack. Warn the White Council: they shall not tarry any longer.

I’ll tell them, Nerwen answered.

Good; now tell me about your plans about the search for the Entwives, Yavanna exhorted her.

I’ll begin with the itinerary the vision in the Mirror of Galadriel suggested, the Maia said, I’ll go to Dorwinion, cross the Sea of Rhûn and Eryn Rhûn, and then I’ll look for that strange red mountain range, beyond which I’ve seen what I hope is the land of the Entwives.

It will be surely a very long journey, the Queen of Earth considered, in wild and little-known places. It will be quite dangerous.

I can see that, Nerwen agreed, but the help of olvar and kelvar already proved highly valuable, and I have no doubt it’ll continue.

Indeed: you can always count on them, should you be in need of help, the Valië confirmed.

The most relevant subject being now exhausted, Nerwen asked about her sister, and she was reassured she was fine. She asked to her Mistress, too, if she could bring word of Galadriel to her father Finarfin and her daughter Celebrían, and Yavanna gladly accepted to do so.

They were about to part, when a deep rumble resonated in the distance, and the floor under their feet shook violently like for an earthquake.

What’s going on? the Istar asked, alarmed: she didn’t think that in the psychic world where she and Yavanna communicated – somehow similar to Olorendor, the Land of Dreams – there could be true dangers, but this sound was really scary, and the feeling of the earth teetering was highly disturbing.

A rip in the space-time, Yavanna answered, distraught, Sauron is drawing from dangerous energies in order to increase his power. I fear he is under such a terrible attack, he panicked and now he is defending himself with all he can find, even what could destroy Eä’s fabric itself! Wait… Yavanna paused; her face became like stone because of the intense concentration, It is not now, but it will happen in a near future. And the result has been his downfall, but only apparently: actually he was able to escape.

Nerwen noticed that the Valië had suddenly changed verb tense from future to past and felt confused: the battle, which eco they just heard, had already taken place, or not yet?

Yavanna’s next words unravelled immediately the mystery:

The damage to the space-time fabric had it seriously altered, Nerwen: you cannot go back in the same time you left, but only after the battle, when the damage is fixed. Months have passed. You left your body in a safe place, did you not?

Sure: in Treebeard’s Ent-house, the Istar answered, troubled, Thilgiloth and Calad will be terribly distressed, she considered, worried, let alone Treebeard…

The Queen of Earth extended again her senses of Valië to see if it was somehow possible to move up Nerwen’s return, but she saw no chance.

Go, my friend, she exhorted her, Do not worry, nothing happened to your body: it is in complete stasis, but the long stillness has debilitated it and you will have some trouble to move, at the beginning. Be careful and take all the time you need to recover, she suggested.

Nerwen nodded; then, Yavanna embraced her.

May the road rise to meet you, she wished her, like the last time; then slowly she and the garden vanished.

 

OOO

 

Opening her eyes, Nerwen found herself in Wellinghall; she looked around: it was day, and the light seeped through the ceiling of branches in the not covered section of the Entish house. Calad was close by, roosted on a perch made of two twigs, criss-crossed and tied together, her head under her wing, as if sleeping. Nerwen sent out her thought to her feathered friend, who started suddenly and looked at her.

You’re back!, she rejoiced, You’re awake!

She took off to land next to her arm and rubbed her head against her hand, in an affectionate gesture.

How long did I sleep? Nerwen enquired. Good Valar, she was so thirsty she could dry out the Anduin, not to mention how much hungry she was…

Four lunar cycles have passed, Calad answered. End of October, the Aini immediately computed.

I go and call the others, the hawk announced, jumping in the air and going away flittering along the passage lined by the trees, which leaves had acquired the colours of the fall livery.

Soon after, announced by a pounding hoom, hrum, hum, Treebeard arrived at full speed, Calad in front and Thilgiloth close behind. The Ent stopped next to her pallet and watched her intently.

“Well, well, I see you are back,” he considered, “Buràrum, you wandered for months in a limbo from which we were not able to awake you! How do you feel?”

“Thirsty,” Nerwen squawked, her throat completely parched. She was also starving, but in those conditions she would never be able to swallow anything.

Quickly, Treebeard fetched some water from the spring and took it to the Istar; he looked positively hasty, showing how much he was worried.

Nerwen sat up and took the jar the Ent was handing her, but she was so weakened, she wasn’t able to rise it; therefore, Treebeard helped her, using very carefully one of his huge fingers. The Maia took a sip, then another, and another, trying not to gulp down too quickly and choke. The Ent-draught gave her instantly strength, enough to let her keeping the jar by herself and draining it in a few swigs. The energy of the magical liquid filled her, like a heat wave radiating from her stomach to her limbs, until the tips of her fingers and toes.

“Better,” Nerwen whispered; she handed back the jar to Treebeard, who filled it up again, and then brought it back to her. Nerwen took another couple of swigs, slower, and then she looked around.

“I’m so hungry, I’d swallow down a whole Oliphant!” she cried, hoarsely. Treebeard burst into a thundering laughter, and she got feelings of relief and amusement from Calad and Thilgiloth.

You had us terribly worried! the Chargeress told her, reproachful, What happened? Why did you sleep so long?

“While I was speaking with Kementári, Sauron disrupted the fabric of the world,” Nerwen explained, trying to simplify the concept, so that it could be comprehensible to her interlocutors who, unlike her, didn’t witness the Music of the Ainur that created the universe, and therefore couldn’t know how it worked, “This prevented me to come back in my body at the time I left it, and I was able to do so only now. I’m so sorry I worried you, my friends, but I couldn’t help it.”    

“It’s not your fault, Lady Nerwen,” Treebeard reassured her, “Now think about getting your strength back.”

“Lembas,” the Istar suggested, pointing at her backpack, close by on the same shelf she had slept on for all those weeks. Thilgiloth, who was nearer, slid it toward her pushing it with her muzzle; Nerwen opened it and took out a bundle of the Elven crackers, which in its mallorn leaf had stayed fresh and crispy as if just baked. She wolfed down a whole one, occasionally alternating a swig of Ent-draught to the mouthfuls. Soon enough, her strength was back and she dared to move some steps; her muscles, which had stayed still for so long, hardly responded to her solicitations: she would need a number of days, before they would return in shape like they had been.

“Sauron disrupted the fabric of the world?” Treebeard enquired, “Hroom… as a matter of fact, some days ago I felt a great disquietude in the earth. By branch and root! Maybe the Dark Enemy has been attacked and he did not expect it, therefore he reacted in confusion and panic, creating a disturbance in the forces of the universe,” he looked at Nerwen, who was swallowing up the last crumbs of the Elven cracker, “Am I right?”

The Maia nodded.

“I don’t know the details,” she said, “but Kementári, too, thought so. Besides, I know for sure that Lady Galadriel pressured the Council to launch an attack to Dol Guldur, trying to wipe out the presence of the Dark Enemy from that place. But I have to go back to Lothlórien to know for sure.”

“You are in no condition to go nowhere, for now,” Treebeard considered, looking at her while she was trying to move some more stumbling steps, probing her own strength.

“I see,” Nerwen admitted with a sigh, going back to sit on the shelf she used as a bed, “I’ll wait until I’ll recover…”

 

OOO

 

Nerwen was able to leave Wellinghall the fourth day of November; Treebeard escorted her, leading her directly northward along the foot of the Misty Mountains, in order to shorten the journey as much as possible. In just three days they reached the Limlight, in this place nothing more than a large brook, and forded it, ultimately reaching the northern margin of Fangorn Forest in a rainy day. Here, Treebeard halted, looking northeast, towards Lothlórien.

“The time for me to leave my forest has not yet come,” he said slowly, “nor for the Ents to reveal themselves again to the world. Please, don’t disclose our presence here, for the moment, not even to your friends, the Elves.”

From under the hood of her cloak, Nerwen looked Treebeard straight in the eyes, where green lights floated, flashing lively.

“I doubt I can keep a secret, to the piercing gaze of the Lady of the Golden Wood,” she said quietly. Treebeard mused about it: he knew Galadriel and her perspicacity. 

“You are right, Lady Nerwen,” he admitted, “but should the Lady of the Galadhrim guess even what you will not tell her, beg her not to speak to anyone about it, except Lord Celeborn.”

“Alright,” the Istar accepted, “As you wish, my friend.”

“Thank you, Ancient One,” the Ent then said, conferring her again the formal title his race used for Nerwen’s, “I thank you so much for taking up to find the Entwives, and therefore I name you, here and now, Friend of the Ents.”

Touched, Nerwen addressed him a clumsy bow from Thilgiloth’s back:

“You honour me highly, Shepherd of the Trees,” she said, using, she too, the formal title, “I hope I’ll succeed.”

“I hope it, too, with all my heart… even if, knowing the history, I confess I do not dare hoping too much,” he sighed, and it sounded like the blow of the wind in the chimney of a great hearth, “It was an honour and a pleasure to meet you, and I hope we will be able to meet again under better circumstances.”

“So do I,” the Aini replied, “Meanwhile, may the stars shine upon your path.”

“And upon yours,” Treebeard answered, bowing stiffly.

Nerwen spurred Thilgiloth, who started pacing under the rain, followed by the quiet Thalion; Calad took off flying in front of them, taking on again her task for scouting.

Treebeard stayed and watched them go, until they disappeared behind a fold of the terrain; then he turned and marched back into Fangorn’s depths. Many years would pass before he would meet again other two-legged beings wandering in his forest, and those would bring a great turmoil in his life and in his kindred’s…

 

OOO

 

Celeborn and Galadriel received Nerwen immediately, in private; the Lady of the Wood told her that, soon after the Istar’s departure for Fangorn, she had called for the White Council; in that occasion, Saruman had finally given his consent to attack Dol Guldur. Mithrandir had taken on the task to lead the army of the Galadhrim, and two weeks ago the battle had taken place, fiercely fought by weapons and Power; when they were about to win, Sauron drew to the essence itself of Eä to launch a desperate counterattack, which Mithrandir had been able to hold back only thanks to the Power contained in Narya, assisted by the one of Nenya brandished by Galadriel. Yavanna had been right, Nerwen thought: Sauron had used very dangerous energies in the effort to win the battle. Luckily, he didn’t succeed, nor the damage on the fabric of Eä had been irreparable, even if it had cost her a time leap of almost four months.

Anyway, Sauron had been defeated and forced to leave his fortress, escaping to a still unknown destination.

Nerwen was sorry she had been unable to be there, not so much for the help she could give in battle – indeed scarce – but for the opportunity to see Gandalf; her Second Sight had told her they would meet again soon, before another long separation, but it hadn’t been like that; after all, the future isn’t immutable, except in very broad terms. If she wasn’t speaking with Yavanna in that precise moment, she would have come back to Lothlórien much sooner and therefore her vision would have become true; but it had been otherwise. At this point, she would meet her best friend again only in many years, and she was sorry about it.

“Too bad we cannot annihilate him,” Galadriel complained at the end of the recount of the battle, referring to Sauron, “No force in this world can. Only the destruction of the One Ring can do it, but it has been lost so much time ago and it hasn’t been found anymore…”

Nerwen grimaced.

“What’s been lost, must be found,” she considered, gloomily. Celeborn watched her intently, concerned:

“Your Second Sight gave you some hints about it?”

Surprised, Nerwen reciprocated his alarmed gaze:

“Hum, not really: I was just quoting the old proverb.”

What she didn’t know – what at the moment nobody knew – was that the One Ring had already been found, and by the maybe most unlikely creature in all Middle-earth; but this would be revealed only in a number of decades.

And therefore, unaware of this, they changed subject.

“How was your search in Fangorn?” Galadriel enquired.

“I made a remarkable encounter,” the Istar answered, well aware it would be useless to try keeping something from her old friend’s sharp gaze, “but I’m not at liberty to talk about it. Anyway, as a result, my mission will go on in Wilderland, far away eastward, beyond the known territories. Do you remember my vision in the Mirror, Galadriel?” the Lady of the Galadhrim nodded in confirmation, “Well, that’s where I must go.”

“We’re sorry you cannot tell us about what you found in Fangorn,” Celeborn said, “but of course we won’t insist, if you have to keep it private. With regard to what concerns the continuation of your mission, it’s not advisable travelling during wintertime, unless it’s about very serious and urgent business: if you like, you can spend here the cold months and leave again in spring.”

“Thank you, Lord Celeborn,” Nerwen accepted gratefully, “Luckily my task isn’t that much impelling to force me travelling in the bad season.”

 

OOO

 

Nerwen had her previous quarters back. Elladan and Elrohir had returned to Rivendell, but Arwen still dwelt by her maternal grandparents and was more than glad to see her aunt again, whom she had become so attached in no time.

The day after her return to Caras Galadhon, Nerwen went looking for Beriadir, but she didn’t find him. Calad offered to keep an eye on his flet, but she didn’t see the handsome Silvan Elf that day, nor in the following ones; he had to be on duty somewhere along the frontier of the Golden Wood.

Some days later, on an afternoon, Nerwen was in Arwen’s sitting room, playing teliad with her, an ancient board game consisting in getting out of the chessboard all of your pieces before the adversary did. Both the player were very good at it, and they were having fun in beating each other more or less equally, when Calad perched on the sill of the closed window and tapped on the glass with her beak to draw their attention. Nerwen stood up and opened the window, even if to communicate there was no need to do so.

teliad

 

Beriadir is back, the hawk announced, I saw him arriving.

“Thank you, my friend,” Nerwen said, smiling gladly: she was truly looking forward to see again her friend-in-love, but decided not rushing to him: if he just came back from his guard duty, he surely needed to freshen up, grab something to eat, rest. She would send him a note, inviting him to her as soon as it suited him best.

Beriadir didn’t make her wait a long time: less than two hours later, he showed up at the palace and was taken to Nerwen’s room, and she joined him after a few minutes. As soon as he saw her on the threshold, his ocean-blue eyes sparkled and he beamed one of his dazzling smiles.

Mae govannen, Nerwen,” he murmured, getting near her in a few quick paces. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly.

Of course, on that evening the Istar sent her apologies to her hosts for not being able to dine with them.

 

OOO

Nerwen spent the winter alternatively in the palace or at Beriadir’s, according to his guard duties; by the end of January, one late afternoon a messenger arrived, carrying a letter of Mithrandir to Nerwen. The Maia didn’t expect receiving news from her old friend, and quickly retired to her room to read in private, by candlelight. Beriadir was patrolling the northeast border of Lothlórien, on the river Nimrodel, and would return in a couple of days.

reading

 

My beloved Nerwen, Gandalf began in his elegant calligraphy, I write to you from Beorn’s hall; he is harbouring me for the cold season along with Bilbo Baggins, while we are returning to the Shire; I learned that, during you journey, you met them both, and they send their greetings to you.

Apart from that, I would like to tell you that it is a pleasure to write to you, but unfortunately this is not the case, because I have news that I know will grieve you.

As you know, Thorin Oakenshield had a mission to accomplish, which now I have the liberty to reveal to you: win back his lost realm of Erebor, destroyed by the dragon Smaug over one hundred and seventy years ago. And he did it; Smaug is dead – even if not by his hand – and the Realm Under the Mountain has been restored. As a result, a terrible battle occurred, involving five armies, and even if it ended with the victory of Dwarves, Elves and Men against Orcs and Werewolves, we paid a dreadful price: almost one third of our forces has been killed, among which, sadly, also Thorin himself, and with him his nephews Fili and Kili, his heirs, fallen while defending him.

The letter slipped from her suddenly weakened fingers. Hot tears welled up in her eyes and began to flow down her cheeks, now ashen-pale.

Thorin… killed!

The pain she was feeling surprised her: after all, she had always been aware that Thorin would eventually die, being mortal. This was what affected her so much, when she had left him in Bree: even if they would meet again and be together, it would last only the time of Thorin’s lifespan, very long, as he was a Dwarf, but nonetheless limited. However, Nerwen had hoped for him a long and prosperous life, and his premature death grieved her deeply.

She took up again Gandalf’s letter, her hands shaking, and tried to be strong enough to go on reading.

This happened the third-and-twentieth day of November. Now, their cousin D á in Ironfoot is King Under the Mountain.

My dearest friend, I wasn’t aware your encounter had generated affection, between you and Thorin. During the long months we spent together, he never told me, but this doesn’t surprise me, knowing how jealous he was of his feelings, especially the deepest ones. He revealed it to me before parting from this world; his last words have been for you: “Tell her that my heart was hers. Tell her that, would I have lived, I would have asked her to be my queen. I hope she will keep the memory of me and of the time we spent together in Bree.”

Again, Nerwen had to stop reading, because tears prevented her to see. She closed her eyes and cried for a long time, bitterly.

She would never forget him. In her heart, there would always be a special place for Thorin Oakenshield, Dwarven prince, Durin’s Heir, King Under the Mountain.

Namárië, Thorin

  

 

Author’s corner:

 

The teliad (Sindarin, meaning simply “game”) is an invention of mine, and its rules are inspired by the Egyptian senet, one of the most ancient board games in history.

The news of Thorin’s death traumatised me; obviously, I knew perfectly that it had to occur, but describing Nerwen’s grief was devastating, and again, her tears have been my tears… Luckily, there’s Beriadir to comfort her, a character I specifically created for this purpose: I didn’t want her to confront this great sorrow alone.

From the next chapter on, we’ll leave the known lands of Midde-earth to enter the far less known Wilderland: so far, Nerwen’s adventures have been relatively easy, favoured by persons and places more or less familiar, but from now on it won’t be the case any longer and things will grow more difficult…

Thanks to all those who are following this fan fiction: please let me know if you’re enjoying it! Hugs to everybody!

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

banner

 

Chapter XXVI: In Wilderland

 

Throughout the winter, Nerwen and Arwen spent much time together; in Elrond’s daughter, the Istar didn’t only see again the appearance of her beloved niece Lúthien, but she had found also a very sweet person, considerate but also sunny, with whom she shared many things, both serious, like a way to see the world, the relationships with people, the feelings, and playful, such as riding, playing teliad or other board games, reading. The two of them grew very fond of each other.

Nerwen spent many pleasant hours with Galadriel, too; but it was with Beriadir that she shared the most delightful days and nights of her stay in the Golden Wood.

She spoke to no one about the deep sorrow of her heart, caused by Thorin’s death, because she knew that no Elf would truly want to understand, or accept, that an immortal, moreover one of high rank like her, could feel so connected to a mortal, a Dwarf out of all beings; she didn’t even tell Galadriel, even if – differently from most Elves – the Lady of the Galadhrim had a lot of sympathy for Dwarves, because she doubted that even her old friend would truly understand her feelings. However, neither to her piercing eyes, which went far deeper than the visible things, nor to Arwen’s and Beriadir’s affectionate ones, could Nerwen hide her hurt, and so she told them only that she had had news about the death of a person she had been very fond of. All three felt sorry for her, but Beriadir was the one who kept really close to her, bestowing on her much care and attention; and cuddling her constantly, so little by little he was able to ease her pain. And because of this, even more than his exquisite and passionate embraces, she would be forever grateful to him.

 

OOO

 

This way, the months passed by, and eventually the moment for leaving arrived. Saying farewell to Lothlórien and to those she had become attached to was harder for Nerwen, this time, because differently than the first time, she didn’t plan on returning, or at least, not in the near future.

Celeborn and Galadriel insisted on having a great farewell banquet, much more munificent than the previous one; Captain Haldir and his fiancée Ireth were invited, and of course also Beriadir, as well as all the notable people of the realm. There were plenty of food and drinks, and in addition music, poetry, jugglers, acrobats, and dances until late.

Nerwen and Beriadir retired relatively early, but they didn’t sleep much, that night.

 

OOO

 

The next day, they got up at about nine o’clock; again, Beriadir offered to escort her.

Unlike on the Celebrant, there was no ferry crossing the Anduin, but Celeborn had ordered one prepared expressly for Nerwen.

While Thalion and Thilgiloth, with Calad perched on the saddle of the latter, were taken on board of the barge, Beriadir clutched Nerwen’s hands and lifted them to his lips.

“We had a really good time together,” he said in a low voice, looking into her eyes. She nodded:

“Yes, indeed,” she confirmed, smiling.

He pulled her into his arm and kissed her sweetly, for a long time.

“I hope one day you’ll come back to Lórien,” he said under his breath, “Till then, may the grace of the Valar be with you and guard you during your long journey.”

His words touched Nerwen, because she guessed that, from now on, she would truly need it: so far, she had had a relatively easy time, moving into a territory that was well-known – even not to her personally, as during the First Age she visited only Beleriand – and among friendly people, almost all familiar with her, from Círdan to Galadriel; but from now on, she would journey in lands little or not at all known, and would meet completely foreign people. Besides, so far her travelling had been facilitated by the existence of important roads, like the Great East Road, or by the company of an escort, such as the one from Rivendell to Lothlórien, or by detailed maps, like going to Fangorn; but from here on out, things would change radically. This meant that difficulties, hazards and dangers would surely come in greater extent, both in numbers and in measure.

“Thank you, Beriadir,” she answered, “I, too, hope to come back, one day… but we have no way of knowing it.”

She stroked his cheek, slightly bristly because of the beard he had shaved hastily.

“May the stars shine upon your path,” she whispered, warmly. Beriadir turned his head to kiss her hand, and then he let her go. Nerwen took a step backwards, turned and went on board, walking quickly to overcome her reluctance. If the first time she had left Beriadir and Lothlórien, almost one year before, had felt hard, now it was a hundred time harder because, unlike the previous, this time she didn’t know if it would be possible for her to return.

Standing on the deck, she kept watching Beriadir’s shape becoming smaller and smaller while the barge was moving away from the shore. She would miss him. Not like Calion, because they hadn’t spent as much time together; and not even like Thorin, because what she had felt for the Dwarven prince would stay forever a unique and unrepeatable feeling. But nevertheless, she would miss Beriadir. 

 

OOO

 

On the riverbank, Beriadir kept staring at Nerwen, motionless, almost as if wanting to imprint her in his mind indelibly. He uttered a long sigh: he would miss her for a long time. Even if they weren’t meant to be partners for life, Nerwen had entered in his heart and would occupy there an important place for long, surely until the day he would meet his own soul mate.

Seeing that the ferry had finally reached the other shore, Beriadir turned and climbed back on his horse; with another sigh, he shook the bridles and returned slowly to Caras Galadhon.

 

OOO

 

Reaching the shore, the boatman moored the barge at the trunk of a tree, strong enough for the task, and had the horses getting off; after thanking him, Nerwen hopped in Thilgiloth’s saddle and spurred her, moving away from the river. She headed eastward, in the direction of Mirkwood.

It was mid-April, and the noontime sun shone already quite warm at this latitude, therefore Nerwen had put on her hat.

After Sauron had been chased away, those lands – even if located just about 40 kilometres south of Dol Guldur – were relatively safe, for now: Orcs and Werewolves infesting the forest had run away with their master. Nonetheless, Calad monitored carefully the territory from above, and both Nerwen and Thilgiloth remained constantly alert. 

The Istar planned on reaching Mirkwood in three or four days and then skirting it almost due eastwards, arriving to its southernmost point. From here, she would proceed eastward, keeping north of the Brown Lands in order to avoid their desolation; then she would cross the large plain separating Mirkwood from the inland sea of Rhûn: her next destination was Dorwinion, a journey which would require about three weeks.

Thalion, the reliable packhorse who had accompanied them to Fangorn, was loaded with provisions and luggage, but his strength and resistance were so great, it didn’t bother him; he always walked in the tail of Thilgiloth, for whom he had a true veneration.

Halfway in the morning of the third day after leaving Lothlórien, from her high position Calad spotted the dark line of Mirkwood on the horizon; they reached it in the late afternoon. They set up camp at a good distance from the trees – after all, one could never know, Nerwen thought gloomily, recalling the dreadful experience with the Werewolves at Rhosgobel, almost one year ago; but the night passed quietly, and the next day they resumed their journey, with the bleak Brown Lands far to their right; the dark forest loomed to their left, but soon enough they left if behind, and entered the vast prairies of Wilderland, or Rhovanion. Here, the landscape was mostly flat and quite boring, only here and there dotted with minor heights, small trees clusters not even worth the name of woods, and creeks just a few strides wide, fortunately numerous enough to save them the problem of water supply. There were no roads or tracks, because Dorwinion did business mostly by river, sailing up the Celduin for hundreds of kilometres northwest until Lake-town, and from there up the Forest River, reaching Thranduil’s Wooden Realm; the Elven king, Nerwen had learned from Celeborn, was very fond of the excellent Dorwinian wine. A tributary of the Celduin, the Carnen, led instead to the Dwarven realm of the Iron Hills, farther east than Lake-town.

For many days, Nerwen and her kelvar friends proceeded in the empty lands of Rhovanion without meeting any living being except animals like hares, rodents, grouses, pheasants, moles, anteaters, lizards, and a great number of insects, from bees to butterflies, from ants to dragonflies. They heard frogs and toads along the small streams they crossed, and sometimes they caught in the distance the curt bark of foxes and coyotes. The grass was lush, a good forage for the horses, and the abundance of rodents and large insects fed the hawk perfectly.

 

OOO

 

Finally, in the early afternoon of the sixth day of May, after an almost three-week journey with no remarkable events, Nerwen got to the Harnenduin. In this place, the river was almost halfway between its springs in the southeast and its merging into the Celduin to the northwest, and it was already quite wide; it looked placid, but Nerwen knew out of experience that, more often than not, a quiet surface hides strong streams, and therefore crossing it would be a serious matter, not to underestimate, because it could prove rather tough.  

harnenduin

 

Nerwen was a good swimmer, and of course she couldn’t drown; Thilgiloth, too, for the same reasons could handle it, and for Calad obviously there was no problem, as she could easily fly over the river. But poor Thalion was frightened by the width of the stream, not to mention there was no way to carry the luggage. Nerwen had a hatchet to cut wood for a campfire, but it was way too small to cut trunks big enough to build a raft – assuming the could craft it, that is, which she seriously doubted: during her long life, she had learned to do and make many things, but not boats, not even as simple as a raft.

There was only one solution: they had to find a ford, or a ferry. Nerwen watched intently one way and the other; it was more likely to find a ford upstream, but maybe downstream there was a village with a ferry.

Calad, my friend, would you go and look for signs of a crossing? she asked the hawk, who was perched on Thalion’s back. After receiving the necessary instructions, Calad took off and started upstream; she would stay away several hours, then she would come back to report and, if she had found nothing, she would start again downstream, obviously after resting some time. Considering this, Nerwen dismounted and set up camp, preparing her tent and lighting a fire. On a flat hot stone, she baked a carp she had caught in the river, seasoning it with thyme and wood garlic she had gathered nearby. Free of ties, Thilgiloth and Thalion began to graze peacefully.

The sun was almost setting when Calad returned; her long scouting had been fruitless, because she hadn’t spot any place suitable to cross the river.

“Rest, now,” Nerwen exhorted her, “Tomorrow morning you’ll fly downriver. If you find nothing even there, we’ll go upstream until the river becomes narrow enough and we’ll be able to cross it, even if it’d take days.”

 

OOO

 

The following day, Calad started again at an early hour; she came back shortly after lunch, while Nerwen was indulging in the luxury of smoking her pipe – her supply of pipe-weed was almost over – sitting in the shadow of a poplar. Directing her thoughts to the bird of prey, the Aini perceived immediately her gladness and realised she had found what they were looking for even before she told her:

I caught sight of a building cluster of the Two-Legs, Calad said, sending her the image of a village of stone and wood cottages, There are boats, too.

Indeed, there were three docks along the riverbank, two large enough to host each a dozen of moored boats, the other one smaller, with a barge; on the opposite riverbank there was its counterpart dock, empty.

It was difficult for Calad determining the distance, but presuming she had found the small town in half of the time she had been away, had surveyed it for some minutes and then had come back immediately, Nerwen guessed it could be around 80 kilometres. If she started at once, they could get there by the evening of the next day.

She broke camp, loaded Thalion and mounted on Thilgiloth, starting along the riverbank. There were many wooded spots, and sometimes the trees arrived as far as the water, forcing the Istar to withdraw some hundred metres from the river, but for most of the time she could ride on keeping an eye on the water on her right side.

In the late afternoon of the next day – a little earlier than she was expecting – they reached the place along the Harnenduin where, on the opposite riverbank, they found the village Calad had seen. Here, the river was even wider, and approaching the dock with the ferry, Nerwen wondered how they would see her from the opposite side. Luckily, there was no problem: at the beginning of the jetty, she found a small wooden box, closed all around except in the front; inside of it hung a horn with a brass mouthpiece; above it, the words play me were written in Common Speech as well as in Sindarin.

“Simple and efficient,” Nerwen commented, she dismounted and crossed over to the box, took the horn and blew it firmly, getting a low but resonant sound. She kept an eye on the opposite jetty, and soon enough she saw a strong built Man marching on it; they looked at each other across the water, then the Man waved his arms as if telling her he had seen and heard her. She watched him getting on board the ferry, and a second Man arrived shortly after. Together, they untied the moorings and began to pull at the rope stretched across the river, beginning the crossing.

Nerwen put back the horn in its place, then she took Thilgiloth and Thalion by their bridles and led them on the jetty, waiting for the barge to arrive.

It took over half an hour, but finally the flat-bottomed boat docked. The first Man stayed on board, while the second one, taller but less sturdy than the other, his head completely shaved, disembarked and headed for her.

“Hello, stranger,” he said in a heavy accent that sounded quite odd to the Maia’s ears, “Is that only you with two horses?”

“That’s right, master ferryman,” she answered politely, “How much to take us on the other riverbank?”

The Man glanced at the horses, as if estimating their looks and value.

“Ten and five silver coins,” he answered boldly. Nerwen arched her eyebrows, dumbfounded: in Valinor there was no money, but she used it each time she had come this side of the Great Sea and, even if the present worth differed from the First Age, soon she had learned how much it was, and the sum the ferryman had just requested was exorbitant, to say the least. Then she recalled something she had read about the culture of Dorwinion, but paid no mind to it: the inhabitants used to bargain ferociously for everything. The ones offering goods or service asked for an outrageously high sum, and the ones wanting to buy had to offer an outrageously low sum.

She couldn’t help but play along.

“You’re kidding me,” she replied buoyantly, “I’ll give you three coins.” 

Three was a ridiculously low sum. The Man pretended to be scandalised, with an excessive emphasis.

“No, that’s absolutely not enough!” he cried, “Let’s make ten and three.”

“No way. Five.”

“But I have a wife and four children to feed, how can I make it…? Ten and one coins.”

“You can whine as much as you want, you don’t fool me… Six coins.”

“Ten…”

She stretched out her hand:

“”Let’s make it eight and we have a deal.”

The Man shook her hand, grinning from one ear to the other:

“Deal.”

Nerwen and the horses embarked, with Calad perched on Thalion’s back as it had become customary, except the times she made herself comfortable on Thilgiloth’s saddle when her rider wasn’t there. The other Man, too, welcomed Nerwen beaming broadly: he had followed the banter closely and had appreciated it much.

“Where did you learn to bargain so well?” he asked her while unwinding the binds.

“From those who came here before me,” she answered grinning.

They crossed the Harnenduin and reached the other riverbank while the sun was closing in to the horizon.

The two ferrymen helped Nerwen to disembark, then they led gently the horses along the pier to the grassy riverside.

“Can you suggest me a good inn for the night?” the Aini asked to the Man with the shaved head.

“There’s only one, here in Rhomarian,” he answered, pointing along the road, “You see that white building with the red shutters, at the bottom of the street? That’s it. The Silver Key, it’s named. The owner is my sister Viduravi.”

“Thanks, master ferryman,” Nerwen said, handing him the eight silver coins they had agreed upon, to which she added four copper coins; at his confused glance, she explained, “For the excellent service.”

“Uh, thank you, Missus!” the Man cried, surprised, and she considered amused that, from stranger, she had suddenly become missus, “Tell Viduravi from my part to give you her best room. My name’s Ulfgan.”

“Very well, Master Ulfgan, I’ll do that,” the Istar said, mounting on Thilgiloth, “Have a good night, you and you companion,” she added, nodding to the other ferryman, who reciprocated her.

A few minutes later, Nerwen dismounted in front of the entrance of The Silver Key. As usual, she tied neither Thilgiloth, who had no need for it, nor Thalion, who did everything the Chargeress did.

Be wary, she recommended to Thilgiloth and Calad, We’re among strangers: mayhap they’re honest, and mayhap not. If someone comes too close, call me at once.

The Chargeress and the hawk sent her their agreement, therefore the Maia got inside.

Like all inns, the first room was a hall with a counter, behind which a child was standing on a chair; she was a girl with long blond curls, about eight years old. As soon as she spotted her, she smiled and jump from the chair, running away.

“Mummy, mummy, there’s a very lovely lady!”

A moment later, a woman in her early thirties arrived, as blond as the girl was. Seeing Nerwen, she beamed broadly:

“Welcome to Rhomarian and The Silver Key, Missus,” she greeted her cordially.

“Thank you… Viduravi, I suppose?” at her confirming not, Nerwen went on, “Your brother Ulfgan sends me. He says you should give me your best room.”

“Really? He doesn’t easily say that, you must have impressed him very positively, Missus…”

“Nerwen the Green,” the Istar introduced herself. She wasn’t sure if this title would made her known as a member of the Order of the Wizards, highly respected everywhere in Middle-earth, but she discovered at once that the fame of the Istari had reached also Dorwinion, because Viduravi stared at her in wonder. 

“Many years ago, a Wizard passed through here. I don’t remember his name – it was at the time of my grandmother – but I think he was called the Grey. Is there some connection…?”

Nerwen wondered where Gandalf had not been, in Middle-earth; but she thought Dorwinion was the easternmost place he had gone, because he had told her he never went to the east.

“Yes, he’s Gandalf the Grey, a friend and a colleague of mine,” she answered.

“My granny used to tell me he was very satisfied with her beer, and so he put a spell on it by which it would be excellent for ten generations of this family. Today still, the beer we produce here at The Silver Key is the best in a radius of 100 kilometres…”

Nerwen laughed:

“Beer and pipe-weed, his passions!”

“Pipe-weed?” Viduravi repeated, confused.

Galenas,” the Aini explained, using the corresponding word in Sindarin; the woman lighted up:

“Oh yes, that too! We do grow it, not near here, but in the north-western region of our country… But I’m rambling. So, you want a room, Missus Nerwen?”

“Yes, and two stalls for my mounts.”

“Very well. I’ll have Grendel taking care of this, and I’ll see your baggage in your room.”

“May I take a bath?” the Istar enquired.

“Sure. I’ll send for you as soon as it’ll be ready.”

 

OOO

 

A couple of hours later, freshened up by a lukewarm bath in a simple but large wooden bathtub, Nerwen headed for the common room, where she had an excellent chicken roast with vegetables, and a piece of carrot cake, which was new to her, because she would never think a vegetable could be suitable to prepare a sweet loaf.

“How far is Gobelamon from here?” the Maia asked Viduravi, before retiring for the night.

“On horseback, four days, more or less,” the innkeeper answered.

“Have you never been there?” Nerwen asked, wanting to know more about it.

“Once, when I was a lass,” Viduravi told her, “my brother and I, with our parents, went to the Biennial Fair, the biggest fair in Dorwinion, which lasts one week. There was it, where I met the one who’d become my husband, Pekka,” she smiled, “A tall and handsome youngster, with long blond hair and incredible green eyes,” she winked and nodded towards the man behind the counter: clearly, she was deeply in love with her husband who, actually, was a very handsome specimen of Man, Nerwen admitted by herself.

“And how is it? The town, I mean.”

“Huge,” Viduravi answered, in a tone expressing, even now after so much time, her marvel, “It is located on a hill by the Celduin, exactly where it begins to broaden before flowing into the sea, and it’s completely enclosed by gigantic walls. You can find anything there, any type of goods, coming from the Elves of the Wooden Realm, the Men of Lake-town, the Dwarves of the Iron Hills, from Gondor, Rohan and once even from the Elves of the Eastern Forest, but it’s from the time of my granny that we’re not on good terms with them, and since that time you don’t see any of them, in Dorwinion.”

Nerwen’s ears perked up:

“What happened?” she enquired. Viduravi shrugged:

“Who knows? To us populace, the potentates tell very little. There are rumours about some offence caused by their queen to our king of the time, or to his son, but what kind of offence it was, I can’t tell. As much as I know, the Elves tell the story differently, and talk about an offence caused to their queen by our king or his son, not even to them is it clear… The fact remains that for at least 50 years the diplomatic relations between our two folks are very tense, and if anyone of us ventures into the Eastern Forest, he or she risks being caught as a spy and thrown in jail or, even worse, being killed on the spot.”

The Aini pressed her lips together: she would never understand why people couldn’t solve a State matter as good as a personal one. Unless it was about dealing with Sauron’s servants, of course, but here it was about Elves and Men.

These circumstances were making her journey surely more dangerous.

 

OOO

 

The next morning, Nerwen bargained fiercely with Pekka who, as his brother-in-law the ferryman, began asking her a ridiculously high price, just to be answered with a ridiculously low counteroffer; and like the previous day, the negotiation ended up with both parts satisfied. One wasted a little time, Nerwen thought amused, exiting The Silver Key, but she found it very funny. Moreover, accepting and following this peculiar tradition of them, she would gain the respect of the inhabitants of Dorwinion, and this translated in a more confidential treatment, instead of being regarded as a stranger.

Leaving the village, the Maia took the road that, following the directions Pekka had offered her very gladly, would take her to the next step, the small town of Glavudd, located at almost one day on horseback from Rhomarian to the north-east; there, she would come across one of the main roads of Dorwinion, which would take her to Gobelamon.

 

OOO

 

For four days, Nerwen rode on calmly in a generally flat landscape, well-cultivated mostly with grains such as wheat and barley, and with grapevines, olive-trees and citrus-trees. 

Halfway into the afternoon of the fourth day, the Maia got over the crest of a hill range and glimpsed at the Celduin, or River Running, which from the Long Lake ran for almost 900 kilometres to flow into the Sea of Rhûn, from this place visible as a distant glitter on the eastern horizon.

As Viduravi had told her, the town was located on a solitary mound at about 100 metres from the river, which marked the northern border of Dorwinion; in this place, the Celduin began to widen in an estuary, preparing to its encounter with the inland sea.

gobelamon

 

Watching the town, capital city of Dorwinion, Nerwen couldn’t help but thinking it was much less impressive than Viduravi’s words led her to believe; but then she thought that she had an unmatchable comparison, that was Valimar, the city of the Valar that, as for size and majesty, could have no similarity, in Middle-earth.

The Istar came at Gobelamon’s gates and found them wide open and unguarded, even if in the breadth of the walls – very massive – a sentry box had been carved, manned by a bored-looking guard who watched her distractedly while she was passing through the gates. But when Nerwen halted and nodded him in greeting, he stood up and came out.

“Hello, and welcome to Gobelamon,” he said affably, “May I help you, Missus?”

“Yes, thanks,” she answered, “I’m looking for a good inn: can you give me your advice?”

The soldier pondered for a moment, trying to guess from the looks of his interlocutor what kind of a lodging he could suggest to her: she had to be some kind of noblewoman, he decided, judging from her delicate features and the stunning mare she mounted, as well as the fact she was accompanied by a packhorse and a hawk. She was alone, and maybe in incognito, he supposed.

The Palace of the Stars,” he answered, choosing the best inn in town, where only the richest merchants and the nobles visiting the Queen of Dorwinion stayed, when there was no place in the castle, and then he gave her the directions to get there.

 

OOO

 

Less than one hour later, Nerwen was freshening up in the room they had assigned to her, a well-furnished chamber. The large canopy bed looked very comfortable, the armchairs were well cushioned and covered in satin decorated with alternating glossy and opaque stripes, on the balcony stood a tiny table and a small wicker-couch full of pillows, the bathroom was covered in decorated majolica and displayed a bathtub in enamelled copper. They had accommodated Thilgiloth and Thalion in the well-run stables of the inn, treating them with great care, while for Calad they had fetched a solid perch. The place was absolutely luxurious, if compared to the normal inns Newen had found so far, from the Shire on, even if it was far from the splendour of an Elven royal palace. Nerwen was very satisfied; looking around, impulsively she decided to stop here for some days rest, before finding a way to get to Eryn Rhûn, or Eastern Forest as they called it here.

 

OOO

 

In the following days, making good use of Viduravi’s suggestion, Nerwen explored Gobelamon wandering in the streets only by day, and keeping pretty close her pouch, where she carried the purse with her money.

She drank the best wine she ever had, finding out that, even if it was the same one they exported, consumed on-site it was more flavoursome; and in a shop she found pipe-weed, of course of a different quality as the Southfarthing’s in the Shire, but all the same satisfying. She made a good supply of it, expecting it unlikely finding more along the way.  

On that evening, she sat on the terrace of her room at The Palace of the Stars, which faced westward, and enjoyed a good smoke admiring the sunset. She had fun exercising in the smoke shaping, an activity at which, after two years practice, she had become quite good, even if she was far not as good as Gandalf. Watching at her last creation – a blossomed mallorn – she thought that, on their next encounter, she would challenge her friend to who would create the most spectacular figure: they would have great fun for sure.

She sighed: she was still sorry for having missed Mithrandir, at Lothlórien, last fall. Now many years had to pass, before they could meet again… but both had an important task to accomplish.

How much important these tasks were, however, none of them had any idea: this would be revealed only much farther ahead.

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

The custom to bargain fiercely on a price is inspired to my personal experience in Egypt; at the beginning I was annoyed, but when I realised it is simply a cultural fact and I adapted to it, I began to enjoy it. Exactly like Nerwen, I received the locals’ compliments, and their attitude towards me was more relaxed and familiar, helping to make my holydays more pleasant: it’s nice not to feel a stranger in strange land. :-)

And I truly noticed that a wine produced and consumed on-site is better than the same wine drunk far from the production place: you can test it by yourselves! ;-)

With Dorwinion, the known lands come to an end; Nerwen is therefore going to enter in completely unknown territories. Her adventures are about to go in a different direction, literally, and we will see it in the next chapter already.

Again, I thank those who follow my fan fiction, in the hope they’re enjoying it: please let me know!

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXVII: The Sea of Rhûn

 

Nerwen tarried in Gobelamon a fortnight, comfortably lodged at The Palace of Stars. The owner, a very clever, tall and bony Man named Dronegan, with thick fawn hair, took quite a fancy at her from the first moment, when she bargained the price of her stay in the inn with such a fierce determination, she had him crying she was like a merchantress of Vinàsgar, meaning – as Nerwen had later learned – a great compliment, as the merchants of that town had a reputation in being the most capable negotiators in all Dorwinion. 

Such fancy proved very helpful for her when she asked about a way to reach Eryn Rhûn: because of the very tense diplomatic relations between the two kingdoms, there were so many bureaucratic barriers to overcome, it was almost impossible to go there except for commercial reasons closely surveyed from both parts: however, one could do it by the back door, like the smuggled goods passing back and forth: mainly wine, firewater and grain from Dorwinion, and gems, fine cloths and metals from the Eastern Forest.

There were two ways to get to Eryn Rhûn: by land, crossing the Celduin and going east; or by sea. Dronegan advised her against the first, as bandits of both parts infested the territory, attacking the commercial convoys going back and forth between the two kingdoms; for this reason, strong contingents of heavily armed mercenaries always escorted the convoys. By sea, it was much safer.

“I know someone,” Dronegan told her confidentially, “an Elf of the Eastern Forest named Corch, who sails between Gaerlonn and Gobelamon for more or less… hum… regular commerce. Let’s say that not always the cargo manifest declares everything he’s got in the hold, huh? Sometimes he transports passengers, too. I wouldn’t describe him as recommendable, but with an adequate reward, you can trust him.”

Nerwen didn’t like much the whole thing, but she didn’t see much choice: either join a convoy and risking finding herself in the middle of a fight; or embarking on a ship full of smugglers, but who wouldn’t drag her into a fight. At the worst, they could try to rob her – like it had happened on the Great East Road with Jack and his accomplices – taking her by surprise, but if she would stay on constant alert, she would be ready to confront possible dirty tricks. As it was the lesser of two evils, she therefore chose to go by sea.

Dronegarn organised a meeting with captain Corch, in a tavern at the port of Gobelamon, out of town, on the Celduin riverbank, and he escorted her personally.

Corch was a tall and brawny Elf, with steel-grey eyes and brown, curly hair that, unlike the western Elves, he sported down his neck; a well-trimmed goatee – this, too, an uncommon detail for an Elf – decorated his chin and upper lip. From his looks, he seemed of Noldorin ascent; Nerwen would even call him attractive, if it weren’t for his sneer. 

Together with Dronegan, she took a seat at the table where the smuggler was already sitting.

“Captain Corch, may I introduce you Nerwen the Green?” the owner of The Palace of the Stars said, “Lady Nerwen, this is captain Corch.”

Corch addressed her with a sitting small bow, showing good manners, if nothing else.

“Nice to meet you, Lady Nerwen,” he said with cold politeness, “Your title qualifies you as a member of the Order of the Istari, am I right?”

“You’re right,” she confirmed laconically: Gandalf had a controversial reputation in Dorwinion, and some recalled his name with respect, some others with mistrust, according to the circumstances of the meeting. However, she had no intention to hide her official identity.

“Well, I won’t mess around with you,” Corch commented with a mocking grin, “I don’t want you to throw any lightning at me, or transform me into a goat.”

Nerwen wasn’t able doing either one, but she didn’t consider it necessary letting him know: maybe he didn’t believe it much himself, but it was better keeping him in doubt.

“As you rightly imagine,” she replied icily, “it would occur only if, precisely, you’d mess around with me.”

Dronegan had followed closely the banter, where he could feel the sharp reciprocal dislike of the two interlocutors; as there would be a reward for him if they made a deal, he decided to intervene before things would go bad.

“Captain Corch, Lady Nerwen is looking for a lift to Gaerlonn,” he announced in a low voice, “and I told her you could get her one.”

The Elven smuggler looked her up and down, making a perplexed face.

“What is a beautiful woman like you going to do in that Valar-forsaken land?” he asked, in this way revealing he wasn’t local to Eryn Rhûn. Nerwen wondered where he came from, but put aside her curiosity: after all, it wasn’t important.

“I have my reasons, and I don’t have to share them with you,” she retorted, annoyed, “It’s me with two horses. I’m willing to pay you a fair fee. So, are you interested or not?”

Her tone would scathe and crumble apart a rock, Dronegan thought, impressed.

Corch, too, looked impressed by the self-confidence he had heard in the Istar’s voice.

“It depends on what you mean by fair fee,” he said insolently, refusing to yield despite all.

At that moment, the waitress arrived, a pretty redhead woman whose dress showed off all of her prosperous curves.

“What can I take you, lady and gentlemen?” she asked.

“A pint of beer,” Corch answered.

“Me, too,” Dronegan said.

“The same for me,” Nerwen added.

The waitress departed with their orders, wiggling garishly her hips, followed by the eyes of many men.

“I thought you were more the white wine type,” Corch observed, again in a mocking way.

“It depends on the circumstances,” Nerwen replied curtly; Dronegan worried again about his own interest and was about to intrude, but the Istar went on and he had no time to do so, “Tell me your price, captain.”

“One hundred gold coins, for you and the two horses,” he answered promptly.

“Don’t try to fool me,” she warned him, sharply, “For such a sum I could buy your tub, instead of catching a ride. Twenty gold coins.”

“My Feingwend isn’t a tub!” Corch protested, “And there aren’t many ships willing to sail for Gaerlonn. Ninety.”

“Not many, surely; but there are some, and I could turn to them. Twenty-five.”

“Eighty…”

Nerwen got the best of it with forty gold coins. At the end of the bargain, Corch was red-faced as if he had downed a glass of firewater – the strong liqueur distilled from wine they made in Dorwinion – in a single gulp.

“You’re as hard as a merchantress of Vinàsgar,” he grumbled, disgruntled.

“They already told me,” Nerwen said, unperturbed, “You’ll receive twenty gold coins now, the rest will stay in the safekeeping of our good friend Dronegan, who will give them to you upon your return, after I’ll be safe and sound in Gaerlonn.”

“Prudent,” the smuggler commented, grinning, “but how will Dronegan know I brought you there, and I didn’t instead throw you overboard?”

Nerwen looked at him up and down as if he was some stinking excrement.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got my ways,” she said under her breath. Corch’s grin went off like a blown-out candle.

“I was wrong,” he muttered, “You’re harder than a merchantress of Vinàsgar.”

The waitress came with the beers, which she left on the table; Corch took one and raised it:

“Well, let’s drink to our deal.”

“Sure,” Nerwen accepted, rising in turn one of the mugs, but without touching it to the smuggler’s one, “To our deal.”

Dronegan did the same and they drank.

Nerwen was well aware that her distaste for Corch was reciprocated: this wasn’t going to be an easy trip. Luckily it would take just a few days.

 

OOO

 

Two days later, at sunset, Nerwen embarked on board the Feingwend, a three-mast clipper; its figurehead was a maiden in a white dress, which evidently gave the name to the ship.

The mariners had a small fenced area prepared for the horses, close to the quarterdeck, in a pretty sheltered part of the deck; Nerwen liked this arrangement, even if Thilgiloth and Thalion didn’t show much enthusiasm. Calad would stay with them: Nerwen thought that a ship’s cabin, surely small and dark, would be too uncomfortable for her, as she was used to the unlimited space of the sky.

Captain Corch came personally to welcome Nerwen and supervise the embarking operations of the two mounts, as well as their accommodations. His behaviour was marked by impeccable politeness; but as his smile continued to look mocking, the Maia didn’t change her mind at all about him.

Take turns to sleep, she advised Thalion, Thilgiloth and Calad, and be wary: I don’t trust these people.

All three kelvar sent her mentally their agreement.

Nerwen settled in the cabin they had given her, a space that barely contained a berth, a chair, a small table and a trunk, but for two nights and one day it would do. They would indeed sail the next day at dawn, while the arrival was due during the morning of the following day. After storing her bags in the trunk, she closed it with its padlock and hided the key on herself, slipping it into her bodice.

Corch had invited her to dine with him; aversion or not, a refusal would be a useless discourtesy, and therefore Nerwen had accepted. A little later, the captain’s attendant, a big, muscular blond youngster – the crew consisted in both Men of Dorwinion and Elves of indefinite origin – knocked at her door: he had come to get and escort her.

The table had been luxuriously set: cloth of embroidered cotton muslin with matching napkins, painted ceramic dishware, goblets and cutlery of shining silver, bronze candle holders with candles of perfumed beeswax. Nerwen thought that Corch was trying to impress her, perhaps in order to seduce her, even if she didn’t understand how he could plan this, given their reciprocal dislike; anyway, she mentally prepared herself for an evening of unpleasant tension waiting for a proposal she had no desire to receive.

Instead, nothing such happened; the smuggler captain proved a courteous host, even if in a strictly formal way, and entertained her with futile but brilliant small talk, sometimes biting, but never too impertinent; he asked about any need she or her animals could have, and never left her goblet empty. If he was trying to get her drunk, however, he could dry all of his wine supply and his cargo, because Nerwen’s Ainurin metabolism absorbed alcohol completely, making drunkenness impossible.  

During dinner, from his behaviour and some of his statements, Nerwen realised Corch was a very vain person; indeed, his looks were very clean-cut, far more than one could expect from a common smuggler. Probably, the room was full of mirrors much more for his narcissism than to increase candlelight, the Istar thought, shaking inwardly her head. In any case, the captain’s charm was going completely to waste, with her.

When dinner was over, Corch was plainly tipsy, but enough stable on his legs to escort her to the dining room’s door and to bid her goodnight with a formal bow without staggering. Halfway between amusement and relief, Nerwen wished him a good night and headed for her cabin, barring warily the door.

 

OOO

 

When she awoke, early in the next morning, Nerwen went up to the deck and noticed they were already far away from Gobelamon, sailing in the middle of the Celduin estuary.

caracca

 

“Good morning, Missus,” she was greeted by Lieutenant Dolimavi, the the first officer on board, an impressing, tough-looking woman of Dorwinion with blond greying hair, “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thanks,” the Maia answered, surprised she was addressing her in such a cordial way, “You too, I hope.”

“The usual,” Dolimavi answered, shrugging.

“Is it a long way to the sea?” Nerwen asked.

“A couple of hours, at this speed,” Dolimavi answered, turning to look at the horizon ahead the prow, “Not only do we have a favourable current, but also wind in the sails: indeed, we had to shorten them or we would speed up too much, and there’s much traffic here, we could risk a collision.”

Indeed, the quickly widening estuary was full of watercrafts of every type and tonnage, from the rowboat to the fishing vessel, from the drifting boat with a single mast to the three-mast sailing ship like the one Nerwen was on.

As the lieutenant had said, two hours later the Feingwend reached the Sea of Rhûn, which waters were very salty, much more than Belegaer, as Nerwen learned from Vurgan, the ship’s boatswain and chief helmsman.

Navigation proceeded undisturbed, even if the wind turned and began to blow from starboard, presently from land to the open sea, forcing the helmsman to adjust the course constantly. On the northern horizon, the coast was barely visible as a dark line: they would sail in view of the shoreline throughout the whole journey.

At lunch, Nerwen was again Captain Corch’s guest, who once more acted like the perfect host, even if far from being cordial. A very savoury vegetable soup was served; the cook had decidedly exceeded with spices and, after three spoonfuls, the Istar smelled out the reason: a foreign substance had been added, and spices were an attempt to mask its taste. Wouldn’t it have been for her special Ainurin senses, sharpened in millennia of specific training because of her love for the vegetal and animal world, it would have escapes her, so much the savour was confused and covered by the spice aromas. Her organism analysed the foreign substance’s composition and identified it: it was nennin, a strong sleep-inducing milky liquid extracted from the fruit of the poppy, lethal if administered in overdose.

They were trying to drug her, if not to kill her. They couldn’t know that, as an Aini, neither drugs nor poisons had any effect on her, exactly like alcohol; her human looks – whether Istar or not – had obviously mislead them. That would be their end…

She placed back her spoon and brought one hand to her head, simulating a sudden sickness.

“Are you feeling unwell, Lady Nerwen?” Corch asked.

“I’m afraid so,” she murmured, “Maybe some spice made me ill…”

Corch stood immediately up and came near her, showing concern:

“Do you want to lie down on the couch?”

“No, no, I think a breath of air is enough…” the Maia refused, getting up with difficulty. Corch offered his arm to help her, but she declined and, feigning an unsteady pace, exited from the room; she walked down the short corridor of the bridge house leaning on the wall and exited on the deck, where she immediately propped on the gunwale, simulating to be on the edge of passing out. She saw Thilgiloth and Thalion, shut in their improvised corral on the other side of the deck, while Calad was perching on the balustrade of the forecastle. She contacted them mentally:

Beware…

She couldn’t finish the thought because Calad interrupted her with a warning call. Nerwen spun around, but it was too late: Dolimavi, her sword drawn, was on her in an instant; she was aiming to her kidneys, but her designated victim’s movement ruined her plan. However, she was able to plunge the blade in her hip.

The pain exploded in Nerwen’s brain, clouding her sight and taking off all breath from her lungs. In all her multi-millennial life, it was the first time she was being wounded. Of course, it had happened to her cutting herself with a knife, or getting scratched or falling from horseback; but her nature of Aini had always protected her from pain, and her wounds healed instantly.

But now it was different, because she had been diminished.

She reeled, trying in vain to contain the sharp pain she was feeling. Dolimavi raised her sword again, ready to hit her a second time; and this time, she wouldn’t miss her mark.

The moment she saw her two-legged friend being assaulted, Calad took off screeching angrily; she lifted in the air to take enough distance and dove on the first officer. At the last moment she slowed slightly down, throwing herself, claws ahead, towards the woman’s face. Dolimavi had to divert her attack on the Istar and waved around her sword in the attempt to defend herself; Calad had to break off her assault to avoid being hit; but in the meantime, Thilgiloth, rearing and furiously neighing, was flinging herself towards Dolimavi, tearing down the fragile barrier made by the improvised corral’s ropes. Thalion followed her promptly, equally infuriated.

The only physical weapon Nerwen had, was her hunting knife, which however was locked in the trunk in her cabin; besides, even if it was a magnificent Noldorin dagger – manufactured in Tirion back in Valinor – it would be anyway completely inadequate to defend herself from a sword. Not mentioning the fact that, in her present conditions, she wouldn’t be able to wield even a spoon. The only thing she had left was her prodigious dexterity, typical of both Ainur and Elves; the excruciating pain of the wound dimmed her capabilities, but she had no other choice.

With an effort that made her almost faint, she sprang on the gunwale and tried running to the forecastle, but her knees gave abruptly way and she fell overboard.

Out of the corner of her eye, Calad saw her tumbling down and called out desperately, then plunged toward the point her friend had fallen.

Cornered, Dolimavi was swinging frantically her sword, barely keeping at bay Thalion and Thilgiloth, who were furiously attacking her. About eight crewmembers intervened at her rescue, included Vurgan the boatswain, who threw several ropes and seized the horses.

Meanwhile, Corch had appeared on the deck, his sword drawn.

“Where’s that little wretch?!” he spat. Dolimavi, quickly gaining back her composure, pointed overboard. The smuggler captain ran to the side of the ship and looked down, but saw nothing.

“I injured her severely,” his first officer told him, “She jumped on the gunwale and then fell in the water. She’s drowned by now.”

Corch drew back from the parapet.

“Better this way: we got rid of her,” he considered coldly, then he gazed at Thilgiloth and Thalion who, despite the ropes, still moved frantically, “We’ll get good money by selling those horses. Put them back in the corral and tie them well. And in that woman’s baggage we’ll find valuable things, for sure. What a stupid overconfident wench… posing herself as an Istar, when you never heard about female Wizards!” he grinned briefly, “Dronegan earned his twenty gold pieces.”

Dolimavi, too, grinned:

“That avid innkeeper is very useful,” she observed, “With this one, it’s the sixth passenger he tells us about.”

“Yes,” Corch nodded, “I wonder what happened to the hawk…,” he added, looking around; he caught sight of Calad crisscrossing over the water, now far off the stern, “It’s trying to find her mistress,” he concluded, shrugging, “Worse for it, it won’t find her, or at best it’ll find her cadaver, should it ever emerge. Let’s go and see what we can get from her cabin…”

 

OOO

 

Nerwen hit violently the water surface and sank. She felt an intense burning where she had been wounded, caused by the salty water; exhausted, she continued sinking, while around her everything became cold and dark. She couldn’t die, neither for the injury nor drowning, but nonetheless, unprepared to face this unfamiliar and terrible experience, she was scared. For long moments, she was unmoving and powerless, unable to react with body or mind, while she was slowly sinking deeper and deeper. Her ears began to ache because of the pressure.

She passed by a large grouper, which with a powerful swing of its tail turned to look at her, too bewildered to feel frightened. Nerwen met those enormous round and bulky eyes, and the sight of another living being gave her heart. She moved faintly to fight the descending motion and concentrated on her thaumaturgic power; she felt the rims of her wound beginning to join and weld with what seemed to her an exasperating slowness, but it actually took only a few seconds. It would leave her a scar, marring her otherwise perfect skin, but she didn’t care; relieved, she felt the pain lessen in a good measure, allowing her to regain partially her strength. She moved her legs, and slowly started to swim upwards, to the surface, to the light and warmth of the sun.

 

OOO

 

Calad was frantically exploring the low waves, trying to penetrate the water surface with her sharp eyes to catch sight of Nerwen, but she wasn’t able to see her. Anguished, she called out, over and over again. Long minutes passed by, and finally she saw Nerwen surfacing. With a cry of joy, the hawk plunged toward her friend.

Sensing her tension, Nerwen lifted her gaze and saw her flying about anxiously at a few metres distance.

I was scared I wouldn’t see you ever again! Calad cried.

I can’t die, the Aini reminded her, but thank you for looking for me. Where’s the ship?

The bird of prey turned her head in the direction of the Feingwend that, with all her sails set, was now very far away.

What will become of Thilgiloth and Thalion? she asked, worried.

Now I’ll contact them, before they get too far…

Nerwen focussed on them and sent her thoughts towards the ship; she immediately found Thilgiloth’s mind. The Chargeress was on the verge of panic.

I’m fine! she told her forcefully, but she had to repeat it twice more before her friend, mad with wrath and worry, would hear her, You and Thalion?

We’re fine, but where are you?!  cried Thilgiloth; she was truly very shaken.

Far off, in the water, the Maia answered, There’s also Calad with me, l’ll be fine, she tried to reassure her. She sensed the Chargeress’ effort to calm down: after all, she knew her two-legged friend’s resources and capabilities.

You and Thalion, stay calm, let them believe you’ve given up, Nerwen instructed her, I’ll come and get you in Gaerlonn.

Fine, Thilgiloth answered, increasingly far away, Take care of yourself.

And you of yourself and Thalion.

The now excessive distance broke off the contact. Over Nerwen’s head, the hawk continued to fly about, clearly awaiting news of her four-legged friends.

Thilgiloth and Thalion are fine, the Istar reassured her, Corch has no use for two horses and will sell them: we’ll find them again in Gaerlonn, don’t worry. Meanwhile, we need to get to the shore…

She looked around, but the coastline was too far to be seen from the sea surface. On her request, Calad flew about ten metres higher and, through her eyes, Nerwen was able see the shore that, considering her position on the water, could be about a couple of kilometres off. She was an excellent swimmer, but she was still greatly debilitated from the devastating pain she had felt when injured. Reaching the coast would be very difficult, and possible opposing currents, in her present state, would represent an insurmountable hindrance; but she surely couldn’t stay there, either.

She began moving, slowly to save her strength; at the same time, she launched an appeal, seeking for any sea creature willing to help her.

For long minutes, she got no answer; then, she sensed the intelligent mind of a cetacean, a female dolphin joyfully scampering at a few kilometres distance.

Who are you? the dolphin asked, curious.

I’m a friend in distress, Nerwen answered, stopping swimming to better communicate, I must reach the shore, but I’m very tired: can you help me?

Driven by the natural curiosity of her species, and sensing the benevolent nature of her mysterious interlocutor, the dolphin had no hesitations in accepting and swam at full speed toward her.

About fifteen minutes later, Calad caught sight of a grey dorsal fin emerging from the water and warned Nerwen, who sighed, relieved and grateful.

The dolphin swam about her, watching at her with great interest.

You’re a Two-Legs! she determined, I’ve already seen some, but none spoke to me! How’s it possible?

It’s a talent shared by few of my species, Nerwen answered, that’s why you never met one before.

I see, the dolphin accepted satisfied her explanation with no other question, Come, hold on to me.

The Istar did it, grabbing her dorsal fin. The dolphin began to move toward the coast.

What are you doing so far off the shore? she asked the Istar.

I was on a ship, Nerwen explained, sending her the image of the Feingwend because surely the dolphin wouldn’t understand what a ship might be, They wanted to hurt me, and trying to escape I fell in the water.

Bad Two-Legs! cried the dolphin, outraged, But now you’re safe, don’t worry.

Nerwen, exhausted, sent her a grateful thought.

The dolphin continued swimming, while the coast approached. At a certain point, seeing in front of them a cliff, low but hardly accessible, the cetacean deviated to the right and went on swimming in parallel with the seashore, until she overcame the rocks and came in front of a small cove with a sandy beach. Beyond it, they could see the trees of a forest: Eryn Rhûn.

This is a good place, the dolphin said, but there’s a very strong opposing current, and for much space in both directions. I take you there, beyond the current.

They moved forwards, and indeed Nerwen felt the water drag her forcefully backwards: if it hadn’t been for the dolphin, she would never make it to the shore, not even with her full strength.

At about thirty metres distance from the beach, the cetacean stopped.

It’s good here, right? she asked. There was definitely no more current.

It’s perfect, Nerwen approved, Thank you so much for your help, my dear friend. I’m indebted to you.

No debt, the dolphin contradicted her, I was happy to meet someone who can understand me so well. I’d like to play with you, but I feel it’s not the right moment.

I hope there will be another opportunity, said Nerwen, who in the past had played with dolphins, along the coasts of Valinor, and thought it always being glorious.

So they parted; Nerwen headed for the beach, swimming slowly, while the dolphin turned and went back offshore.

When she could put her feet down, Nerwen stopped swimming and walked to the beach, where she flopped on the ground, sitting down on the sand, exhausted: it hadn’t been easy to hold on to the generous cetacean all that time. Besides, her injury, even if healed, pulsed still disturbingly.

Calad landed beside her.

Are you well? she asked her, tilting her head to look at her with one eye.

“I’m still very angry, but I’m fine,” Nerwen answered aloud, taking off one boot to shake off the water, “I need to drink, and then to dry off… Here there’s all the dry wood I need to light a fire, but we need to find freshwater.”

I’ll take care of that, Calad said, taking off. Nerwen could only wait, using the time to rest: it was paramount to find freshwater, while lighting a fire wasn’t impellent, as it was warm enough; she had no flint – lost with her luggage on the Feingwend – but she knew ways to light a fire even without.

Soon after, the hawk returned and told her she had found a creek, coming out of the forest to flow into the sea, at about a couple of kilometres from there. Nerwen put on back her boots, got up and started, her legs still weak.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Sincerely, I didn’t expect this sea adventure! It came practically by itself. Well, I see: not only certain characters do as they wish instead of doing what I decided them to do, now even the events do the same… LOL And luckily I read many sea adventures (precisely, Patrick O’Brian’s novels) so I hope I made the scenes on the ship realistic enough…

For the first time in all her life, Nerwen has to face injuries and pain: as an Aini, she had always been exonerated, but as a diminished Maia – as Yavanna warned her – she finally confronted this experience; even if she can’t be killed, the physical pain had her completely taken aback, at least as much as the emotional pain she felt for Thorin…

Note for the pronunciation: the –ch of Corch sounds like the German “ch,” as in “Schumacher”. 

 

Lady Angel 

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXVIII: The Avari

 

When she came across the creek, Nerwen walked upriver, entering a short way into the looming forest, until the riverbed turned from sandy to stony, making water enough pure to be potable. The Istar drank her fill, rinsing her mouth from the taste of the salt; then she got busy gathering dried wood. She piled it on the forest limit and, when she had collected enough of it, she dug a shallow hole in the sand and piled up in it the thinner twigs; then she found some grass, dry enough to serve as a fuse, sat down and began to rub two wood pieces, in order to overheat them until the fuse ignited. She needed several minutes, but finally smoke rose from the dry grass; at once, she reached mentally for the upcoming sparkle and, when it burst out, she grasped and dilated it, making it ignite the fuse, which she then threw on the small pile of twigs and other dry grass she had prepared. After a few minutes, a small fire was burning in the hole.

Relieved, Nerwen went back to the creek, took off her clothes and washed the salt away from her body and hair, untangling the latter as best as she could by combing it with her fingers, and then she dried it with her power. She inspected the wound on her hip: it had perfectly healed, turning into a red scar of about 10 centimetres length. In time, it would fade, but the gash would remain, as a perennial reminder of Dolimavi’s treacherous assault, at least until she would go back to Valinor and regain her full power as a Maia – and this wasn’t certain at all.

The wounding and the resulting pain she felt had been a critical experience, for her. Her mind had found it difficult to accept what occurred and, clouded by physical pain, had responded slowly. For the first time since she had arrived to Middle-earth, she had confronted something totally unconceivable, for an Aini; the awareness it could actually happen had been of no use to her, because there is a huge difference between knowing something and experiencing it.

She had been taught a real lesson, and from now on, she would bear it carefully in mind.

She shook off those thoughts, plunged also her clothes in the water to rinse them from salt and squeezed them as much as possible. Before going back to the fire, she put them back on: in Valinor there weren’t big issues going around naked in certain circumstances, like swimming in the sea, or in a lake or river, or at the thermal baths; but here in Middle-earth, customs were different and, even if she was enough sure there weren’t people around, she wasn’t willing to take any risk to be caught undressed, therefore she dried off in turn one garment at a time, beginning from her shirt. 

When she was done, the sun was low on the horizon; Nerwen collected more wood in order to maintain the fire burning all night through: it wasn’t cold, at the end of May in this southern country, but by the seashore there is always a lot of humidity, and she had no blanket to keep it off.

She sat down, thinking about what to do now.

First thing first, she had to go to Gaerlonn, where surely that swindler Corch would go, even if only to sell his goods – among them there were now also Thilgiloth and Thalion – and to buy those offered by the Elves. To reach the port city, she only needed to follow the coast eastwards, but she didn’t know exactly how far away it was, therefore she had no idea how much time it would take her to get there, on foot. That was anyway a secondary issue: the major problem would be water in the first place, and then food. She had no canteen, so she could only hope to cross other creeks along the way; as for the food, in the wood she could find berries, mushrooms, edible herbs, roots, tubers and acorns, but they wouldn’t offer a large nourishment, especially having to walk a lot. All she could do was hoping that along the coast she would find fishing villages where, in exchange of some thaumaturgic service, they would give her provisions, and maybe a mount to go faster on her journey. She knew, from overhearing casually chitchats among the sailors, that Corch stopped averagely ten days in the port, before sailing again to Gobelamon, and she wanted to get there in time to meet him and recover her belongings. In which way, she would see to once there.

Her stomach grumbled: at noon, she had swallowed just a few spoonful of soup, and now she was hungry. But she couldn’t help it: it was late now to seek for something edible, because soon it would be too dark, under the trees. Better putting if off to the next day.

Calad suddenly started fidgeting. Sensing her nervousness, Nerwen leaped up, alarmed, and turned to the forest. From behind the trunks, about twenty Elves emerged, their bows bent, their arrows aiming at her. They were all dressed in camouflaging colours – various shades of green and brown – and their hair was brown or raven-black, sported short or just down their necks, unlike the Elves of the western lands.

Avari, Nerwen thought. Those who had refused to undertake the Great Journey, the migration of the Eldar – or Quendi, as they called themselves at that time – from Cuiviénen, the place they had awaken. Of course, she had expected to meet them, eventually; but not in this way, for sure.

Frightened by the bows, Calad flew away and perched on a branch at a short distance.

A very tall Elf came forward; unlike the others, he wasn’t armed with a bow, but carried a sword, and he was entirely clad in black. His ice-cold eyes were light blue, blending into grey, and were piercing her through and through. There was a blinding light into them, very alike to the light one could see in the eyes of those who lived in Aman; but how was this possible, for an Avar who had never seen the Undying Lands? Nerwen wondered, confused.

Aryon encounter

 

“Stop where you are,” he ordered her peremptorily in Common Speech. His baritone voice had a shiver creeping down her spine, as if she was recognising it; but she was sure she never heard it before.

Then, her heart skipped a beat as she realised who he was: the Elf she had glimpsed at with her Second Sight, the day she had looked into the Mirror of Galadriel, whose eyes reminded her of Thorin.

The black-clad Avar strode toward her.

“Who are you?” he asked rudely, “And what are you doing here?”

The Istar tried to straighten herself and planted her eyes into those of her interlocutor; her imperious attitude wasn’t lessened at all by the fact he was nearly 1,90 m, while she was almost 30 centimetres shorter. In the Elf’s eyes shone a steely gleam, cold and hard; but unlike it had been with Corch, Nerwen didn’t feel any mistrust: something, at the bottom of her soul, told her she was facing an honourable person.

“My name is Nerwen the Green,” she introduced herself firmly, “and I was cast away here. I was travelling on a ship, but the crew assaulted me and I had to throw myself off board to save my life. I reached the shore swimming. I don’t even know where I am. If I violated your territory, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

The Elf halted in front of her, looming over her with his considerable stature; his glare didn’t impress the Maia and she continued to stare back at him.

“You’re telling me you arrived here swimming from a ship off the coast?” he asked her in a low and dangerous voice, “There’s a very strong opposing current, you never would have made it… Tell me the truth, instead: you’re a spy from Dorwinion, and they dumped you here with a tender. Did I guess right?”

“Not at all,” Nerwen replied wryly, “As you can see, I’ve got nothing with me, neither bag nor purse: if I’d got here in a tender, I’d have at least some baggage, don’t you agree?”

The Avar frowned and looked around, verifying that things were exactly as the young – and very attractive – woman in front of him had stated. However, the natural mistrust of his people, combined with the one imposed by his specific task, didn’t allow him to trust her word, even if her eyes – brown and charming, he had to admit – seemed sincere. Besides, her ruffled appearance reinforced her argument, even if it looked implausible.

He turned and ordered something to his people, in a tongue Nerwen didn’t recognise, even if it sounded very similar to Sindarin. A female Elf gestured to some companions, who scattered to search around, evidently looking for evidence that could confirm or deny the stranger’s claims.

Nerwen crossed her arms, glowering.

“May I know who I’m having the dubious pleasure to speak with?” she asked, not caring to hide her nuisance. The Elf looked up and down her with a rather disquieting scowl, but he noticed immediately she wasn’t at all impressed; this surprised him, because usually his gloomy appearance and remarkable stature were enough to intimidate anyone. Perplexed, he wondered who this woman might be: she looked through and through a woman of the race of Men, but there was something unusual in her, something he wasn’t able to define. And why did her shape sometimes double, as if she was there and at the same time she wasn’t? Besides, what did Nerwen the Green mean?

“I’m Aryon Morvacor, First Sword of the Queen of Eryn Rhûn, my sister Eliénna Dhillel, High Sovereign of the Six Tribes of the Avari,” he answered proudly. And he was: proud to be what he was, that is the first paladin of his queen, as well as older sister; but, again, the mysterious foreigner showed no sign to be impressed.

“It was for sure not this, the welcome I expected coming to Eryn Rhûn,” she said instead, disapprovingly. Aryon shrugged:

“If you’d arrive openly, instead of stealthily, it’d be different.”

“I didn’t arrive stealthily!” she flared up, beginning to feel really angry, “I told you I was forced to throw myself overboard from a ship, and it’s only thanks to the grace of the Valar that I came safe and sound to the shore!”

At that moment, the female Elf who had led the search came back, telling him something, shaking her head; Nerwen guessed she was reporting him the results of the search.

“They didn’t found anything, did they?” she asked, triumphantly. He scowled at her, not uttering a word, “Well, of course!” she snapped, opening her arms in an exasperated gesture, “Because there’s nothing to find!”

Now it was Aryon, the one crossing his arms, while scrutinising her; his face was still surly, but in his bright eyes there was now a little uncertainty.

“Tell me again who you are,” he exhorted her.

“I told you: my name is Nerwen the Green.”

“Fine, but what does the Green mean? I don’t know this title.”

This surprised the Aini. They didn’t know the Istari? Actually, the Wizards operated almost exclusively in the western part of Middle-earth, but Gandalf had come to Dorwinion, which was not far from the Eastern Forest, and until a few decades ago, these two realms had very strong business relationships; besides, two Istari had come into the east, and very likely they have passed through this land: but they had disappeared many a year ago, as she recalled.

“I’m a member of the Order of the Istari,” she explained, even if she didn’t think this would clarify the matter.

Aryon needed some moments to recognise the term – it sounded differently than in his tongue – but when he grasped it, he curled his lips in an ironic smirk. 

“The Wizards are a tell-tale, or at best a fable for little children,” he stated. Nerwen narrowed her eyes; Aryon thought she had a dangerous look, and wondered how this could be, considering her small stature.

“Oh, really?” she snarled. Her icy tone made the Avar’s hair stand on end.

“Of course,” he insisted anyways, “They’re a mere legend.”

“Do you see that hawk?” the Maia asked, pointing to Calad with a nod. Aryon glanced at her and nodded, wondering.

“Calad, come here,” she said with words and thoughts. The bird of prey jumped from the branch she had taken shelter when the Elves had arrived, and came perching on Nerwen’s outstretched arm, putting great care not scratching her with her talons.

Aryon shrugged:

“Just a well-trained bird of prey,” he dismissed the demonstration. Nerwen curled her lips in a sarcastic smirk, mirroring the Elf’s one.

“Calad, fly off and make a circle first in one direction, then in the other,” she exhorted her winged friend. Guessing the reason of her request, the hawk took off and did as she had been asked for, then she went back perching on the branch she had left.

Aryon blinked, not able to hide his surprise.

“Noticeable,” he admitted, “but you didn’t convince me completely: it could still be the result of a superb training.”

Nerwen’s frown deepened.

“You’re right, Lord Aryon,” she agreed reluctantly, “Then, look at that tree,” she invited him, pointing to a maple. The Avar turned slightly, in time to see the lowest branch move and slap the archer next to its trunk.

With a cry halfway between fright and indignation, the unfortunate Elf jumped away, turned and bent his bow; but then, realising nobody was there, he lowered it, his expression confused. The maple moved another branch and tried to hit the Elf again, but he noticed it and leaped away, out of range of the fronds. 

“I can do better,” Nerwen announced, and the trees – more maples, and holms, ashes, downy oaks – shook their branches in unison, pushing them toward the nearest Elves. All the archers withdrew hurriedly, dismayed.

Aryon’s eyes had widened in shock; he turned again to Nerwen.

“This is magic!” he cried. She nodded:

“Exactly: the magic of the Istari,” she confirmed, then the crossed her arms again in a defying attitude, “Did I convince you?”

Aryon glowered: he never liked admitting to be wrong, but it would be dishonourable not doing it.

“So it seems,” he grumbled through clenched teeth. His tone, an octave lower, had a strange shudder running down Nerwen’s spine. “However,” the Avar prince went on, glaring at her again, “this is no evidence you’re not a spy.”

The Aini snorted, losing her temper.

“You’re really stubborn, Lord Aryon!” she cried, “Didn’t I show you just now my power over animals and plants? How do you think I could manage swimming through the current, even if, as you said yourself, it’s insurmountable? I’ll tell you how I managed it: a dolphin helped me, taking me to the shore!” she took a step forward, almost bumping into the tall Avar, her fists clenched and her eyes flashing, “Besides, I want to point out, too, that I could command the trees to hit your archers much harder and neutralise them, but instead I didn’t. What does this mean, in your opinion??”

Aryon’s light blue eyes revealed puzzlement, even if his face stayed unmoved.

“This might mean two things: either you’re incredibly cunning…”

“…or I’m sincere!” she concluded sharply, almost yelling in her frustration. By Tulkas’ helmet, he’s stubborn as a mule! she thought, exasperated.  

The Avar prince hesitated, then he nodded slightly.

“I’m still not sure I can trust you, Lady Nerwen,” he said slowly, as if pondering carefully his words; Nerwen noticed satisfied he had called her with the courtesy title given to high ranked dames, “You proved you possess a noticeable power, but I still think Wizards are only a legend. However, I’ll give you a chance: I’ll take you to Bârlyth as a free woman, not a prisoner; but beware: if you try to escape, or do anything else that can make me think you’re deceiving me, I’ll tie your hands and feet.”

“I won’t try to escape,” the Istar guaranteed him, crossly, “nor to deceive you in any way. But before I can come with you, I must go to Gaerlonn and get back my horses and my belongings.”

Aryon opened his mouth to say it was out of the question, when Nerwen’s stomach grumbled loudly. He arched his eyebrows, surprised, and she shrugged:

“I haven’t eaten anything since this morning,” she explained.

This small detail testified the truthfulness of her story; but Aryon still preferred to be prudent.

“We’ll talk later about Gaerlonn,” he said therefore, trying to look friendlier, “Meanwhile, as we all still have to dine, I invite you to join us: I don’t want you to misjudge the hospitality of the Kindi.”

Nerwen felt relieved and welcomed his subtle change in attitude towards her, uncomplete but anyway indicative of a beginning.

“I accept gladly,” she answered, “Indeed… very gladly,” she added, with an ironic grimace, “I’m hungry like a wolf.”

Also Aryon’s lips curled in a half-smile, getting her a glimpse at his white, perfect teeth; it was only one moment, then his face turned to stone again. The prince turned and cast some orders to his archers, who lowered their bows and disappeared among the trees, returning soon after with bags and backpacks. They immediately busied themselves around the fire that Nerwen had lit, enlarging it and pulling out everything they needed to cook.

Again, the Maia noticed that the idiom Aryon was using was so alike Sindarin, she could catch the meaning, even if th tonal accents and pronounce of the vowels were unusual, and the singsong inflection sounded bizarre to her ears.

An Elf brought a wicker rug, spreading it on the ground; Aryon pointed to it:

“Shall we sit down, while they prepare dinner?”

They sat, cross-legged; Nerwen noticed that the small carpet was well manufactured, its solid straw tightly woven and dyed in a moss-green colour. 

“Who are the Kindi?” she asked. Aryon glanced at her, surprised, then he nodded, as answering himself.

“You just demonstrated you’re not from Dorwinion,” he considered, a tinge of amusement in his voice, “Would you have been one of our unloved neighbours, you’d know all the six tribes of the Avari: Kindi – my people – Penni, Cuind, Hwenti, Windan and Kinn-lai. Here in Eryn Rhûn live the Kindi, while Cuind prefer the sea and therefore live along the coast, included Gaerlonn. The Hwenti and the Windan live in the plains beyond the forest, while the Kinn-lai dwell on the Red Mountains.”

At the latter name – Red Mountains – Nerwen’s ears perked. It had to be the impressive mountain range she had seen in the Mirror of Galadriel.

“Your language sounds very alike Sindarin,” she observed, changing subject, “so much, I guessed what you ordered to your subordinates.”

“Of course; after all we derive all from the same people, the Teleri,” Aryon answered, “We are the descendants of those who didn’t feel the desire to follow Oromë Aldaron to Valinor, and preferred staying where they had awakened, on the shores of Cuiviénen. That’s why they called us Avari, the Unwilling.”

“I know history,” she nodded, careful not saying too much in order not to reveal he real nature. More than knowing history, she remembered it: she had been there, when Oromë reported to the Valar the rejection of part of the Quendi to relocate in the Blessed Realm.

“So you speak Sindarin?” Aryon asked, changing the topic.

“Yes, I do,” Nerwen confirmed, “Therefore I think I won’t have any trouble learning your language.”

“Good thing, because few of us speak Westron, except in Gaerlonn,” the prince informed her, “But now, Lady Nerwen, tell me what takes you to Eryn Rhûn; you can refuse to answer me, but then you’ll have to answer the queen, who doesn’t like unwanted guests in her realm, at all.”

His tone was authoritative, however not impolite: it was apparent he still mistrusted her, but at least he didn’t see her as an enemy anymore.

“I’m seeking the Entwives,” she answered simply, because she had nothing to hide in this; but Aryon glanced at her, confused.

“Who are they?” he asked.

“The females of the Onodrim,” she explained then, using the Sindarin term. The Avar prince smirked sarcastically:

“A few minutes ago I’d describe this as a fable for little children, but you just demonstrated that one of the things I thought to be a fable isn’t at all, hence I won’t say it.”

Nerwen felt amused: his auto-ironic statement made him look definitely nicer as he had earlier.

“I’m sorry, we don’t know anything about Onodrim in our territory,” Aryon went on, “Neither here nor in the forest, or in the plains or in the mountains.”

“Well, I’m just passing through,” the Istar revealed, “Actually, I think they might be beyond the Red Mountains.”

He frowned:

“We believe they are impassable. Or at least, my people never found an accessible pass, and the mountain range is so long, we don’t even know where it ends.”

Nerwen felt disheartened: if not even those who lived in the mountains knew how to get over them, her journey would be much more difficult, because it implied exploring an unknown territory – it was useless looking where the Avari already had, who dwelled in this place for thousands of years – and this meant of course extending the journey by who knew how much time and space.

“Well, somewhere a pass must be,” she said, “All mountain ranges have some: this cannot be different from the other ones.”

Under her defying tone, Aryon caught the disappointment her voice bore and, in spite of himself, he sympathised with her, and felt sorry for her.

“Probably you’re right,” he comforted her, “I’m sorry for not being able to help you,” he added formally but sincerely. He wondered why: after all, what on Arda could he care for the difficulties of a stranger, who arrived uninvited in his land? Perhaps she wasn’t a spy, but she claimed to be on such an absurd mission, that it appeared totally unbelievable. He didn’t say it, but he anyway still thought that the Onodrim where a fable for little children, nothing more and nothing less than the Wizards. The fact she demonstrated the latter could actually not be a fable – actually, he wasn’t completely convinced – didn’t mean that also the mythical walking and talking trees could be real.

An Elf came, carrying two bowls with a meat and vegetables soup and bread; they took them and began to eat. Nerwen devoured her portion in no time.

“Delicious,” she complimented, putting down the empty bowl. Aryon was still half through it and stared at her, arching an eyebrow.

“You sure were very hungry,” he commented with ironic humour, then he signalled the Elf to bring another dish. Nerwen ignored his sarcasm and accepted the second bowl, which she consumed slower.

When they were finished eating, Aryon handed her a flask.

“Wine from Dorwinion,” he said, “Mayhap we don’t love our neighbours, but this doesn’t prevent us loving their wine.”

What a bizarre individual, Nerwen thought: at first he was ironizing over her appetite, and now he was offering her a fine beverage. She took the flask, thanking him with a curt nod: if he did nothing to look more polite, she hadn’t to do it either. She drank, then she handed back the flask, and Aryon took a sip in turn, then he closed the bottle and gazed at the sky, by now completely dark: light clouds veiled the stars.

“We’ll sleep here,” he decided, talking to Nerwen, “Tomorrow morning we’ll leave. At half a day march we have an outpost, where we’ll find horses: we’ll take some, and we’ll escort you to Gaerlonn.”

She watched him intently:

“Shall I thank you for your thoughtfulness, or is it simply a precaution because you fear I won’t keep my word and will escape you?”

“Both,” the prince answered, briskly, “If you have to cross the territory of the Six Tribes, better you’ve got a pass granted by Queen Eliénna, because uninvited foreigners are not welcomed, here; therefore, until you don’t have one, you’ll have me. Besides, you can never be too careful: as I said, I’m willing to give you a chance, but I’m not going to take any risk.”

Nerwen pondered about it and decided that, after all, she couldn’t blame him, if he had to obey his orders, which evidently concerned the safety of his country.

“Alright. How much time will we need, getting to Gaerlonn?”

“From the outpost, it’s a two-day ride.”

“Fine. That knave of a captain – Corch, the commander of the ship I had to escape – will arrive tomorrow, but he’ll need a few days to cut his deals, therefore I’ll surely catch him, and then he’s going to deal with me.”

Nerwen’s voice bore a steel vibration that, once more, made Aryon’s hair stand to an end. He guessed that this woman – this Istar – in spite of her innocuous appearance, could be a very dangerous enemy; the thought alarmed him, stirring up again his mistrust. However, he had claimed he was willing to give her a chance, and he couldn’t take back his word; therefore he tried not to show it.

He called for one of the Elves with a nod and gave him orders to find a rug and a blanket, to make a pallet where their guest could sleep. Again, Nerwen understood a few words, from which she guessed the meaning of the sentence.

“Thanks for calling me a guest,” she then said to the prince. Aryon turned to look at her:

“I have no reasons to consider you a prisoner, for the moment,” he said in a stern way, accentuating the last two words, “I suggest you to get to sleep soon: tomorrow morning we’ll start at the crack of dawn.”

Nerwen sighed inwardly: by now, she had realised she would need time, to get over the mistrust innate in this Avar prince and probably in all his people. Her Maiarin charm – even if dimmed – wasn’t working as usual.

Later, when all had gone to sleep – except two sentinels – Calad came and landed next to Nerwen.

I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see them in time, she said in a contrite tone, but they suddenly appeared among the trees. A moment before, there were none, I’m sure!

They’re Wood-Elves, Nerwen considered, If they don’t want you to see or hear them, you simply cannot neither see nor hear them.

She felt her winged friend calming down, even if with difficulty: she was always very earnest about her role as a sentinel, and when she failed it, she blamed herself deeply; but there were circumstances when her piercing bird of prey sight could fail.

They looked hostile at the beginning, Calad said, still referring to the Avari.

They were: they thought I was a spy from Dorwinion, the Istar confirmed, but I proved them wrong.

So they’re friends now? the bird of prey asked.

I won’t say this, yet; but, at least, we can say they’re not enemies. And they’ll help us finding Thilgiloth and Thalion.

This is good, the hawk concluded satisfied. She stuck her head under one wing and prepared to sleep; Nerwen did the same. 

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

I planned that Nerwen would arrive alone to Gaerlonn, finding her four-legged friends and then beginning to pass through Eryn Rh û n, and meanwhile she would come across the Avari and the mysterious black-clad Elf; but no, once more a character wanted to have his way and jumped (literally) out to meet the protagonist earlier than I planned.

About the pronunciation: the accent is on the first “a,” therefore it’s Á vari and not Avàri.

For those who don’t remember my “Author’s corner” in Chapter XX “In Galadriel’s Garden,” the actor performing prince Aryon is Richard Armitage.

I hope you’re having fun in reading this fan fiction! If so, please let me know, I’m keen to hear of my readers.

 

Lady Angel

  

 

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXIX: Gaerlonn

 

The next day, as planned, they awakened Nerwen while the sky was just paling at east. They hurriedly broke their fast with a black tea scented with bergamot and some cracker similar to lembas, even if not as sweet and fragrant, and then they set forth following the coast, keeping close to the trees. They stopped just once at half-morning, to have a quick snack – dried fruits and a tasty ready-mix of nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios – then they marched on. It was almost noon when they finally reached their destination, a massive, low defensive tower built of an almost black stone, placed on a hill at the sea-shore, upon which waved a long banner with a red tree on a dark-green field: the emblem of the Kindi, as Aryon explained to Nerwen.

They halted just for the time needed to have a warm morsel together with the small garrison of the tower, then Aryon chose six of his people, among them the female Elf commanding the squad, to escort him and Nerwen, and gave instructions to have mounts prepared for them. After finishing their meal, they exited and found eight magnificent horses with crownpiece, bit and bridles, but without saddle, replaced by a wooden cloth secured around the belly by belts. This was indeed the way to mount typical among the Silvan Elves, used also in Lothlórien. During the First Age, Nerwen tried the saddle with stirrups, customary to the Men, and she had adopted that way to ride since, finding it more comfortable; but for a few days, she wouldn’t have any problem to adjust.

She caressed the bay mare’s snout they had assigned her and greeted her mentally, so to make her acquaintance. The mare perked her ears in surprise, vaguely unsettled, but the Maia sent her a reassuring feeling and the animal calmed immediately down.

Thanks for carrying me, Nerwen told her, caressing her fawn neck.

It’s a pleasure, the horse answered, You’re small, you don’t weigh much.

The Aini frowned a little: something in the mare’s statement suggested a precise reason, thus she examined her. She discovered she was pregnant, just a few weeks; the minuscule embryo looked healthy, but it wasn’t very firmly attached to the uterus.

You mustn’t exert yourself, she said then, or you’ll lose your baby.

A feeling of alarm radiated from the mare, but again she calmed her down:

It’s fine, as long as you take it easy.

“I cannot ride this mare,” she announced in a loud voice, “She just started a pregnancy, but she risks abortion: keep her into the stable and make sure she doesn’t exert herself.”

Aryon glowered:

“And how do you know?” he asked. She turned to glare at him, one hand on her hip; she didn’t answer, just lifting one eyebrow.

Aryon felt annoyed by her attitude; then he recalled her capability to communicate with animals – she told him about Calad and the dolphin, so there was no reason to doubt she talked to horses, too – and felt silly.

He hated feeling silly.

“Of course,” he said through clenched teeth, then he turned to the groom and reported to him what Nerwen had said. The other Avar answered in a protesting tone, but the prince, intolerant to any objection, glared at him in a way that would incinerate a dragon; the poor Elf hastily bowed and seized the mare’s bridles, ready to lead her away.  

Nerwen patted the mare’s side to take her leave and mentally wished her good. She got back a feeling of gratefulness.

Aryon approached the Istar.

“The groom claims this mare has never been covered,” he said, in a tone that demanded an explanation. Nerwen glared at him again: it looked like he didn’t want to give up doubting her.

“Not always a mare mates when her owner decides it,” she said coldly, “Apparently she decided on her own.” 

The Elf hesitated, then he nodded: he, too, knew this sometimes occurred.

Soon after, the groom arrived with another horse, this time a young roan stallion. He talked to Aryon, who translated:

“He recommends carefulness, Kerfin is a little exuberant.”

Nerwen nodded, then she caressed the horse’s muzzle as she did earlier with the mare and introduced herself. The stallion took a step back in surprise, but his curiosity prevailed and he returned to her. An immediate fondness sparkled between him and the Istar.

Nerwen therefore mounted him, with the help of one of the soldiers of the garrison, who joined his hands and let her use them as a stirrup, and she joined the group leaving for Gaerlonn. Aryon lingered a few minutes to speak with the commander of the tower, perhaps instructing him to send a message to Queen Eliénna, and then mounted on his horse. Nerwen noticed, slightly amused, that it was black, as it’s rider attire.

The Avar prince guided his stallion to the front of the departing group and signalled Nerwen to come by his side; finally they set forth, with Calad preceding them flying in reconnaissance.

 

OOO

 

They reached Gaerlonn two days later in the early afternoon, with no accident whatsoever. Before entering the town, Nerwen called Calad back and made her perch in front of her, on the blanket.

The port city of the Elves of Eryn Rhûn was much smaller and humbler than Gobelamon, and had a very simple architecture; the houses were mostly in wood, some in wood and stone, and only a few – probably the government buildings – were entirely in stone. It was very far from the appearance of any other Elven town in Middle-earth Nerwen had seen so far – the Grey Havens, Rivendell, Caras Galadhon – but the atmosphere was anyway somehow similar.

Many people crowded the streets and squares – in one of them they were holding a market – and there were many carts drawn by mules or manually, loaded with goods and provisions. Most traffic was going to or coming from the port, as Nerwen noticed after some time.

If the town was half so large than its counterpart in Dorwinion was, the port was instead equally vast. The Istar scrutinised the numerous ships of various tonnage moored at the long jetties, trying to locate the Feingwend.

Aryon headed for a low and large building, evidently the Harbourmaster’s Headquarters. When Nerwen and the prince entered, the harbourmaster’s orderly, an unusually massive Elf with dark eyes, his brown hair tied in a bun on top of his head, raised his gaze from the document he was reading. Recognising Aryon, he instantly stood up and bowed in greeting.

“Cunn Aryon!” he cried, talking in Avarin, then he noticed the woman accompanying the prince and switched to the Common Speech, “What brings you at Gaerlonn?”

“A search,” Aryon answered laconically, “Is Captain Misselot here?”

“Surely, my prince, she’s in her office,” the Elf answered, “I’m going to announce you immediately.”

Soon after, he led Nerwen and Aryon to the next room. Captain Misselot was relatively short, but she had an authoritative air appropriate to her position; her long hazelnut-brown hair was braided in a tress hanging down on her shoulder, while her green eyes sparkled with a lively light: as a whole, Nerwen liked her much.

Misselot stood up to greet them:

“Welcome, Lord Aryon,” she said, bowing; she spoke in the Common Speech, as her orderly had informed her there was a foreigner accompanying the queen’s First Sword. Now she openly gazed at the young woman.

Aryon introduced them; hearing the title the Green, the captain arched one eyebrow: probably she had no idea what it meant, but she didn’t comment on it.

“What can I do for you, my prince?” she enquired instead. Aryon turned to the Maia:

“Lady Nerwen…,” he said, inviting her to speak.

“I’m looking for a ship,” she explained then, “The Feingwend, owned by Captain Corch.”

Misselot nodded:

“Yeah, she arrived the day before yesterday. Let me see where she’s docked…,” she browsed through a large leather-bound journal, laying on one side of her desk, “There she is: at the end of pier number 12,” she watched again Aryon, then Nerwen, “My lady, I must ask you what business you have with Captain Corch,” she said, in an apologising but firm tone: it was plain she was very dutiful, and she wouldn’t make exceptions, not even for somebody under the protection of the queen’s brother.

“Let’s say he has in his keeping some belongings of mine that I intend to retrieve,” Nerwen answered; her sentence had been diplomatic and revealed nothing, but her tone had an underlying dangerous tone that made Misselot’s hair stand on end. The captain glanced at Aryon, but the prince just nodded in an encouraging way.

“Very well,” Misselot therefore said, “You can go.”

“Thank you, Captain Misselot,” Nerwen said, appreciating her cooperation.

They exited and set forth on foot; their horses remained in the custody of an operator of the Port Authority, so the entire escort could go with the Istar and Aryon.

Calad, worrying for Thilgiloth and Thalion and wanting to find them as soon as possible, took off and followed her friend; a few minutes later, they reached the quay marked with the number 12 and they walked down it; the Feingwend was docked at the far end.

As there was no guard – there was no need for it, as they were in friendly territory – Nerwen, Aryon and the six members of the escort got on board undisturbed, bus as soon as they set foot on the deck, a sailor recognised the Istar and shouted a warning call. Lieutenant Dolimavi came running and, seeing Nerwen, stopped abruptly, almost slipping on the newly waxed planks.  

“You!” she cried, her eyes popping out, “I thought you were drowned!”

“As you see, I’m not,” Nerwen said tersely, “I want to speak with Corch, now!”

Dolimavi withdrew a couple of steps, then she motioned to the mariner who called the alarm, and he dashed toward the quarterdeck.

Nerwen looked around: there was no sign of her horses, nor of the corral they were kept in during the journey. She pressed her lips together: if Corch had sold them, she would force him to tell her to whom he had and then she would go find and retrieve them by any means, and to the incautious buyer she would tell to go to the smuggler to get back his money.

Meanwhile, a good number of the Feingwend’s sailors had gathered around them, positioning themselves all over the place, on the quarterdeck, on the deck, on the forecastle. Aryon motioned to his people; they notched their arrows to the strings, but did not bend their bows yet; as for him, the prince placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to unsheathe it. Calad, remembering the crossbows, went off and perched on a pole, out of sight of the mariners.   

Corch arrived, taking big strides, walking with an arrogant attitude; but seeing the armed company, he slowed down, coming nearer hesitantly. Coward, Aryon thought, disgusted.

“Lady Nerwen…,” the smuggler began, halting at a fair distance, “I didn’t expect to see you again.”

“Worse for you,” she growled, “I’m here to retrieve my belongings. What about my horses, scoundrel?”

“Be a little more careful with insults,” he said, unable to avoid behaving insolently and placing his hand on the hilt of his sword, “You’re only eight, and we are twenty…”

Instantly, Aryon drew his sword and the other bent their bows, lifting and pointing them at the crewmembers.

“Beware your conduct,” the prince warned Corch in a threatening tone, “I’m Aryon Morvacor, First Sword of Queen Eliénna, and Lady Nerwen is under my protection.”

The smuggler captain paled: evidently, he had realised who he was facing. He withdrew his hand from his blade and opened his arms.

“Your horses are… gone, Lady Nerwen,” he said.

“I can see that for myself,” she replied, stinging as a porcupine, “Where are they?”

“I sold the packhorse to a merchant just this morning,” Corch answered, “As for the mare, I don’t know where she is.”

“What do you mean?” the Istar insisted, frowning.

“She escaped,” the captain explained, “This morning. When we led her ashore, she turned against my men, threw off those who held her and bailed. There was no way to stop her, she knocked down with her hooves anyone trying to stand in her way, included the city guards. She was unstoppable like a twister! She exited town and vanished. Actually, also the other horse tried to break free, but we were able to hold him…”

Nerwen kept her grim face, but inside she felt proud of her four-legged friends.

“I want the merchant’s name,” she said, crossing her arms and tapping impatiently her foot.

“Gailar Begalion,” Corch answered at once: he had apparently concluded that cooperating was a wise move.

“Fine, and now I want my belongings,” Nerwen said. The smuggler hesitated only the fraction of a second, then the nodded to Dolimavi, who rushed toward the quarterdeck. Shortly after, she and a few sailors arrived, carrying the Istar’s luggage, and she inspected it carefully. Relieved, she found both the pipe Gandalf had given to her and the large galenas provision she purchased in Gobelamon. However, one thing was missing.

“My dagger,” she said imperiously, planting herself in front of Corch. The Elf sighed deeply and bent down, pulling out the hunting knife from his boot and handing it to this minute but terrible woman. The presence of Aryon and his escort had been crucial, but the smuggler suspected that, even if she had been alone, she would nonetheless give him a very hard time.  

Nerwen snapped the Noldorin dagger out of his hand and slipped it into her belt.

“Forty gold coins were not enough, for you?” she asked, venomously, “You wouldn’t earn the same amount not even selling my horses, therefore I wonder what on Arda got into your dead head, to try and rob me.”

“Twenty gold coins,” Corch revealed, “The other twenty are Dronegan’s reward, for having recommended you.”

Nerwen blinked, having a hard time to understand the smuggler’s words. Dronegan – the nice, polite innkeeper – was his accomplice! She trusted him, and he had sold her? She felt her face flush in anger, but also in shame: she had been fooled like a chicken! What good were her thousands of years and experience?? The only excuse she could have, was that she knew little about the race of Men, and maybe this was the reason Dronegan had been able to fool her so completely. Anyway, excuse or not, the embarrassment would haunt her for a long time.

“Are we done?” asked Corch rudely, again incapable to control his overconfidence.

This was the last straw.

“No,” Nerwen replied, seizing unexpectedly his head, one hand above, one on the side, “Your actions and your arrogance deserve a punishment.” 

She released an inverted flux of thaumaturgic energy: under her hands pulsed suddenly an unwholesome, greenish light and Corch shrieked. Dolimavi took a step forward, but the point of Aryon’s sword, promptly aiming at her, dissuaded her to try any defensive move in favour of her captain. The sailors, too, stayed still, under the threat of the arrows.  

Nerwen let go and withdrew; on Corch’s cheek, where she had pressed her hand, a scarlet mark had appeared, while from his head, large locks of hair had fallen out, exposing the underlying scalp.

“Now, each time you’ll look into the mirror, you’ll remember Nerwen the Green,” the Istar snarled, “reminding that you definitely don’t want to make a Wizard angry, whether male or female.”

She rubbed her hands, and the brown curls sticking to her palms fell on the planks; Corch, livid and speechless, took his head into his hands and fell on his knees. Dolimavi dashed to him.

Calad took off from the pole; still furious because of the way Corch had treated her friends, both the two-legged one and the four-legged ones, she retaliated in her own fashion, throwing an excrement right to the smuggler’s head. The victim yelled in vain a range of curses to the hawk, while Nerwen and the Elves escorting her burst into laughter, making Corch’s humiliation complete.

Calad simply ignored his insults and withdrew, satisfied, and perched on one of the bollards of the jetty, at a safe distance from possible retaliation from the crossbow-armed mariners.

On Aryon’s signal, two of the Elves of the escort picked up Nerwen’s luggage, then the group marched down the gangway, the prince with his sword drawn and four archers with their arrows still notched to the strings walking backwards, in order not to lose sight of the crew. Once on the wharf, they quickly walked away.

“I’m curious,” Aryon told Nerwen, sheathing his sword, “Why did you choose that particular form of punishment?”

“I’ve noticed how much vain Corch is,” she answered, shrugging. The prince smirked, amused despite of himself:

“You’ve been pretty wicked, I’d say,” he commented.

“I’m not a revengeful person,” she said, “but when it’s called for…”

“From what you told me, he undoubtedly deserved it,” Aryon confirmed. Nerwen nodded:

“Let’s look for this Gailar Begalion,” she exhorted him, changing subject, “to retrieve Thalion; then we’ll search for Thilgiloth.”

Returning to the Harbourmaster’s Headquarters, they retrieved their mounts and got back in town. Here they asked around, and they addressed them to a stable in the western quarter of Gaerlonn.

The horse merchant protested vehemently:

“I paid good money for that horse and I’m not going to let nobody taking it, not even the First Sword of the Queen! Now I’ll call for the bailiff…”

“Do it,” Aryon invited him, a baleful expression in his face, “Just know, before doing so, that that horse won’t be found on the cargo manifest of the Feingwend and will therefore be held as smuggled goods. Do you know the penalty for those who import illegally from Dorwinion to Eryn Rhûn?”

Gailar paled; Nerwen guessed it had to be a very hard punishment.

“I see I haven’t got no choice,” the unhappy trader grumbled, “but how do I know the lady is for good the owner of that animal?”

“Is my word not good enough for you?” Aryon sneered, intolerant at seeing his authority defied. He seemed ready to draw his sword and skewer the poor merchant on the spot, so Nerwen intervened to avoid the argument going bad.

“No, he’s right,” she said, “Gailar, I think you’re a honest person and that you’ve been fooled by that rogue Corch. I’ll demonstrate to you that Thalion is truly my packhorse.”

She extended her thoughts inside the stables and immediately found the faithful animal’s mind, who neighed, excited and happy and reared up inside his box. The groom ran to him, worried, but Gailar signalled to him to forget it and stared at Nerwen, wide eyed.

“It’s him, isn’t he?” she said, entering the stables and heading without fail toward the fifth box on the left, where she truly found Thalion who, seeing her, neighed again and stuck out his head to get a caress.

“Yes, that’s it,” Gailar admitted reluctantly, definitely defeated. Nerwen turned to him:

“Where’s his harness?” she asked peremptorily.

They found it inside the box; after retrieving them, the Istar came out of the stable with Thalion in tail, without any need to lead him by the bridle.

“But my money…” the horse merchant ventured to ask, faintly.

“Ask Corch,” Nerwen replied, wryly, “and next time, make sure that what you buy is actually legal merchandise.”

Aryon came beside her and glared at Gailar in such a way, he felt instantly dissuaded to raise more objections.

Shortly after, they exited town; the baggage had been loaded again on the sturdy packhorse, who followed very closely his mistress, afraid someone could separate him from her again.

“How will you trace your mare?” Aryon asked to Nerwen. The Aini watched carefully around, uncertain about which direction she had to choose. Thilgiloth could have gone everywhere. No, she thought then, not everywhere: she knew Nerwen would come for her and therefore she would stay in proximity of Gaerlonn, even if not as near as to be seen from the town.

“We’ll move in wider and wider arcs away from Gaerlonn,” she therefore answered the prince’s question, “I’ll call for her, and when she hears me, she’ll come to us.”

Hence, they moved as the Istar had told them, going first eastward – that is, in the opposite direction from which they had come – then entered a short way into the forest and came back; in short intervals, Nerwen sent out her thoughts seeking Thilgiloth’s. After a while, Aryon was about to ask her, perplexed, why she wasn’t calling, having assumed she would use her voice, but seeing an expression of deep concentration on her face, he realised she was using her mind, as she had done with Calad on the first day, when they had met, or better, argued.

Considering the way their acquaintance had begun, the prince pondered, they could have been ending up slaughtering each other, verbally, if not by knives; and instead, now they were side by side searching for a missing mare. This could be the prelude to an interesting friendship, he concluded. If she would prove trustful, that is, which he still wasn’t completely convinced of.

A few hours passed; when it became too dark in the forest to go on with the search, they stopped and set camp. They spent a quiet night, and as soon as there was enough light, they resumed the search. Not two hours had passed, and finally Nerwen contacted Thilgiloth’s mind; perceiving her, the Chargeress expressed joy and relief, and soon after they saw her arriving at full gallop, like a bright white flash among the trees.

Glancing at her, the Avari’s eyes widened: never had they seen such a splendid horse.

Nerwen jumped off Kerfin, the stallion carrying her, and ran toward Thilgiloth. Thalion and Calad did the same, and so the amazed Elves of Eryn Rhûn witnessed the reunion of four friends very different from one another. 

Nerwen threw her arms around the Chargeress’ neck, and she lowered her head on the Maia’s shoulder, reciprocating her; with his nose, Thalion patted her on her side; and Calad flitted about excitedly, throwing joyfully her cry kek-kek-kek.

We knew you’d come for us, Thilgiloth transmitted to Nerwen, but when that Corch rascal tried to sell us, we were afraid you wouldn’t be able to find us again, therefore I thought better for us to run, she turned to the packhorse, I’m sorry I abandoned Thalion, but I realised he wasn’t with me only after having exited town.

“You’ve been great,” Nerwen told her, “and Thalion, too, who not being able to follow you, has feigned resignation, but he told me that at the first opportunity he’d escape, too,” she patted both on their sides, “You did very well, my friends.”

Aryon recovered from his bewilderment; he got off his horse and approached them.

“If I didn’t know you talk to animals – and trees – I’d think I’m hallucinating,” he said, in his voice a reluctant tone of respect. Nerwen turned to look at him, her eyes sparkling and a dazzling smile on her lips; Aryon couldn’t but think she was charming.

“Meet Thilgiloth,” she told him, “Thilgiloth, this is Aryon Morvacor, prince of the Avari, and I hope I can call him soon a new friend.”

At these courteous words, Aryon bowed his head to thank her: being the brother of the High Sovereign of the Six Tribes of the Avari, he hadn’t to spend words often in thanking people, except the queen herself, but of course good manners sometimes imposed over him, too; and this was certainly one of those times.

“It’s a superb specimen,” he claimed, admiring Thilgiloth, “I’ve never seen a coat of such a shiny white: it looks like silk. Is she a mearh of Rohan?”

“She is,” Nerwen confirmed, “And as all mearas, she’s extremely clever.”

“They say they’re the most beautiful palfreys in the world… and now that I see one, I can’t but agree. Legend has it that it was Oromë Aldaron taking mearas to Middle-earth,” Aryon said, showing to know well this race of horses: indeed, it had been the Vala Oromë, also called the Great Rider, who relocated some of them from Valinor to Endor, where they had proliferated. Then, Aryon seemed to remember something and turned to stare at Nerwen with his bright blue eyes, which looked as if they were able to punch a hole in a stonewall.

“I thought mearas accepted to carry only the kings of Rohan,” he said; suspicion was slithering back in his voice. Unprepared, for a moment Nerwen couldn’t answer: now here was something she didn’t know… Either Gandalf didn’t know it, or he forgot telling her.

“Thilgiloth is the exception,” she answered, trying to sound casual, “She accepted me because I have the ability to speak to her, but also because we met when she was a just small foal, and we bonded.”

This was strictly the truth, even if Aryon could never imagine that this had occurred in Aman and not in Middle-earth.

“I see,” the prince nodded, recalling her telling him that both Calad and Thalion accompanied her out of friendship, and didn’t consider her a mistress, nor she considered them her property. As far as he knew, it could be true that even a mearh would join this woman who was able to speak to animals and plants, “Fine,” he went on, “as we retrieved your belongings and your friends, at this point, as agreed, I’ll take you to Bârlyth, to the presence of Queen Eliénna.”

He watched her intently, waiting for a signal of confirmation or dissent, on the basis of which he would react: if she would even just hint to not keeping her word, he wouldn’t hesitate a minute to do what he had threatened, that is, to tie her up and compel her to hold her promise; indeed, he still didn’t withdraw his orders to the archers to be ready and aim their bows at her, if need should be.

However, Nerwen never gave her word lightly, and when she did, she kept it, at any cost.

“Sure,” she said, “Give me just the time to saddle Thilgiloth, and we’ll go.”

From the baggage they retrieved from Corch, she took the Chargeress’ harness, prepared her and finally mounted. She approached the roan stallion they borrowed her and bent to caress his neck.

“Thank you for carrying me so far, Kerfin,” she told him. The stallion snorted and shook his tail gently.

My pleasure, he answered.

By now, Aryon and the other Elves of the escort had begun to get used at the Istar talking to animals – and at them actually understanding her – therefore they didn’t stare in disbelief anymore.

The prince, too, mounted on his black stallion, and so the small company set forth, heading for Bârlyth, the residence of the High Sovereign of the Six Tribes of the Avari, and capital city of the realm of Eryn Rhû, too.

 

aryon horse

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

I had a great time mistreating Corch, the first hostile Elf Nerwen has to do with… Nerwen could teach a good lesson to Dolimavi, too, who was responsible for her wounding, but after all the First Officer was only executing orders, and the actual guilty party is the smuggler captain. 

I am writing with all my passion and enjoying it much, and I hope you’re having a good time in reading my fan fiction; if so, please let me know, I love feedback from my readers!

 

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXX: The Queen of the Kindi

 

They reached Bârlyth in the afternoon of the fourth day of their journey; the capital city of the Kindi was located almost exactly at the centre of Eryn Rhûn, which stretched over one hundred kilometres from east to west, and about two hundred from north to south.

The town, enclosed by tall walls in wood and stone, was built on three ample hills with gentle slopes; it was completely surrounded by trees, even if the close proximity had been deforested for some hundred metres, so that a possible enemy army would be in the open, an easy target for the city defences; the buildings were entirely in wood and the royal palace, the largest edifice and located on the highest point, was no exception.      

As soon as they came to the city gates, Aryon dismissed the escort; Nerwen took her leave from them in Avarin, as she had begun to learn the first principles of that idiom so alike Sindarin; judging from their smiles, they appreciated her courtesy, looking not so distrusting anymore. Not too much, at least: Nerwen had never had so many difficulties in gaining someone’s trust, and Aryon seemed the hardest one to win over.

“Let’s go,” the black-garbed prince said, signalling to Nerwen to stay by his side; riding slowly, they crossed the gates and entered the town, closely followed by Thalion, who never got farther than a couple of metres from Thilgiloth. Calad, invited by Nerwen, came and perched on her glove-covered arm.

The street was wide and well paved, and it wound up to the top of the tallest hill in a twisting way, expressly designed to avoid that a possible invader could find a direct way to the royal residence. Once they arrived to the large clearing where the palace stood, two grooms came running to take their mounts into custody.

Nerwen watched in admiration at the mansion’s structure; even if it was entirely made of wood, it was impressive, in a simple but at the same time elegant style, with its high roofs painted in bright aquamarine green and its windows framed in white. Never had the Istar thought it would be possible to build such a grand edifice using simple wood.

wooden palace

 

She trusted Thilgiloth and Thalion into the care of the palace grooms; Calad made herself comfortable on the Chargeress’ saddle and let them take her away along with her four-legged friends.

Aryon led Nerwen to the entrance; there were two honour guards at the door’s sides, both female, very tall, their long black hair braided in a peculiar way; they were dressed in dark green with red adornments, and on their helmets, they sported the emblem of the Kindi, showing the same colours.

Aryon talked briefly to one of them, who nodded and ran away. To Nerwen’s quizzical gaze, the prince explained:

“I sent word to the queen that we’ve arrived; let’s wait here, I don’t know if she can receive us immediately or if she’s occupied elsewhere.”

It turned out that Eliénna would receive them straightaway in her private office. They went upstairs, with Aryon leading the way for Nerwen in the twists and turns of the palace, which was no less vast than its homologues at the Grey Havens and Rivendell. They met several people, who greeted deferentially the First Sword of the Queen and stared with curiosity to his human companion; the prince reciprocated the greetings with a quick but polite nod. Even if basically surly and blunt, he was well-mannered, Nerwen thought, feeling inexplicably satisfied about this.

The door to the private office of the High Sovereign of the Six Tribes of the Avari was in solid, shiningly polished oak wood; on the upper panel it had a writing – probably the royal house’s motto – in an archaic calligraphy that Nerwen wasn’t able to decipher, both because of lack of time and her ignorance of the Avarin tongue.

A valet waited by the door; seeing them approaching, he briefly knocked on the door, then opened it, announcing them in a formal way:

“Aryon Morvacor, First Sword of the Queen, and Nerwen the Green.”

They entered, and the page withdrew immediately, closing the door behind them.

The room was bright, furnished with refined but functional furniture, made of fine woods like mahogany and cherry, some finely embellished with precious rosewood.

Eliénna Dhillel was sitting at a large desk, placed under one of the windows in order to take advantage of all the light coming from outside; she had turned at the valet’s announcement, and now sat three-quarter on her seat, her striking face framed by long hair, dark with unusual violet reflections. A superb golden diadem with a ruby encircled her brow, matching her earrings and necklace of equal noticeable manufacture. The other Elves thought the Avari a coarse and underdeveloped people, Nerwen thought, but from what she had seen so far, this wasn’t true at all.

Eliénna

 

The Istar looked openly at the queen, thinking a frank gaze was the best way to introduce herself to endemic distrustful persons such as the Avari were.

Eliénna returned her gaze, watching her intently; unlike her brother, her eyes were brown, but in them, too, were a particular light, similar to the brightness in the eyes of those who had gazed upon the Blessed Realm. Again, Nerwen wondered how this could be possible.

The monarch’s expression was proud, but not particularly hostile. 

“Hail, foreigner,” she said in a neutral tone, talking in the Common Speech, “They reported to me your adventurous arrival in my realm. I hope you won’t judge too harshly the welcome my brother gave you, but we don’t like strangers much.”

“I realised that,” Nerwen replied, in the same tone as Eliénna’s, “It’s your right wanting to know who’s treading your realm’s roads; but I’m just passing through, and I assure you my intentions are absolutely not hostile.”

“It’s up to you demonstrating it,” the queen countered, raising one eyebrow. The Aini hesitated, dissatisfied, then she nodded slowly and admitted:

“Fair enough.”

Eliénna, too, nodded, apparently satisfied.

“Aryon says your tale is believable, at least to a certain extent, and that so far you behaved yourself, hence for this reason he tends to give you credence; as I trust my brother’s judgement, I will, too, give you credence. At least as long as you won’t make me think otherwise.”

“I don’t see any reason why I should,” the Maia answered, beginning to feel the sting of irritation: believable, at least to a certain extent? By Ulmo’s beard, these Avari were more suspicious than Dwarves!

Eliénna nodded again, then she went on:

“What takes you to the realm of the Kindi, Lady Nerwen?”

At least, she was using the courtesy title, the Istar thought, trying to suppress her annoyance. She was irritated because, with these untrusting Elves, her natural Ainurin charm seemed to have small effect. So far, she had won the fondness of all those she had met – almost all, she corrected herself, recalling Corch and his gang, as well as Dronegan, who had literally sold her to the smuggler captain; and Jack from the Forsaken Inn.

“Your Majesty, I’m sure your brother already reported to you everything I told him,” she answered, keeping her voice strictly in check because it was risking to show her discontent, ant his wasn’t diplomatic at all in this moment; hearing her words, Aryon curled his lips in an involuntary grin, which he immediately repressed, “Believe it or not, I am seeking for the Entwives, the females of the Onodrim,” Nerwen concluded.

Seeing her brother’s expression, reluctantly amused, the Queen of the Kindi guessed he was fond of their guest, whether he realised it or not. Well, she had to admit that, for a female of the race of Men, she truly was very beautiful, almost as much as an Elf female. No surprise that Aryon, alone for a long time now, could feel attracted to her.

“I’ve got no problems to believe you’re actually looking for the Entwives,” she answered, “Instead, I doubt greatly about the existence of the Onodrim.”

“Only because you never saw one, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” Nerwen countered promptly, “You’ve never seen an Istar, too, but here, there’s one right in front of you.”

Eliénna pressed her lips together, showing scepticism.

“Yes, Aryon told me about your powers, or what look like powers, over animals and plants; but I prefer judging on my own.”

Nerwen’s eyes flashed indignantly. At that moment, she would have liked holding the power to throw a lightning and incinerate something, so much did she feel frustrated, but she had to keep herself in check and so, she just nodded stiffly.

“Why are you seeking these Entwives?” the queen asked. This question, more than anything else, made Nerwen truly realise that the Istari, thought to be a mere legend, didn’t hold any deference in the Avari’s territory. Indeed, elsewhere none would even dream about asking such a query, questioning a Wizard about his purposes. From now on, she had to resign earning the esteem of those she met, because it wouldn’t be handed over to her on a silver platter anymore simply thanks her being an Istar, and even less a Maia, as she wasn’t allowed to let her true nature known.  

“Evil is growing again, in the world,” she answered cautiously, not willing to reveal too much, “and in my opinion, the Onodrim could help the forces of Good in a decisive way.”

“You’re talking about the Dark Enemy,” Aryon said, intervening for the first time in the conversation. His wasn’t a question, Nerwen noticed.

“Exactly,” she confirmed. Eliénna stood up and moved a few paces, clearly worried.

“Even voluntarily isolated as we are, we heard disquieting rumours,” she stated in a low voice, “Strange things are moving, to the south-east of the Six Tribes’ territories. Werewolves, Orcs, Trolls and… other things not yet identified. It seems that the Easterlings have been approached by emissaries from the Black Land, but we don’t know what their intentions are, because we have no contact with them; but I don’t like this, at all.”

“And you shouldn’t,” Nerwen observed, “Nothing about what has to do with Sauron bodes well.”

Eliénna quickly moved her fingers in what looked like an exorcism, and so did Aryon.

“Don’t say that name openly!” the queen exhorted her, “For us, it’s synonym of the worst misfortune."  

“For my people, too, as for this,” the Aini agreed, “but he won’t disappear nor end his threat to the world, just by avoiding speaking out loud his name.”

Eliénna frowned, unpleasantly struck by the truth in the words of her bizarre interlocutor. However, she wouldn’t be a good ruler if she ignored the uncomfortable truths.

“You’re right,” she admitted, “and we won’t hesitate defending us with all means, if need occurs.”

She got back to her desk, but didn’t sit down, turning instead to look at Nerwen very carefully. There was something really unusual, in this foreigner, but she couldn’t make out what it was. She didn’t think her dangerous, however prudence advised her she had not to trust her too much; not so soon, anyway.

“Very well,” she concluded, “You’ll be our guest for some time, Lady Nerwen, so I can form an opinion of you. If it’ll be favourable – as my brother’s opinion makes me think – I’ll give you a safe-conduct that will allow you to go freely everywhere in Eryn Rhûn and in the other realms of the Avari; otherwise, you’ll be taken back to Gaerlonn and we’ll arrange a safe passage to Dorwinion or another place of your choice on the Sea of Rhûn. Meanwhile, you’re free to move around in the palace, the gardens and Bârlyth, but not to go out of town without my permission.”

At least, they wouldn’t throw her in prison, Nerwen thought with gloomy sarcasm. The situation disappointed her, but she could put to good use her forced, even if pleasant stay at the palace: surely, the Kindi had maps of the lands east of Eryn Rhûn, as their territory stretched there. Thus, she forced herself to put aside her discontent, also because irritating the queen was not the best of ideas: she would risk to be thrown in some jail cell for an undetermined extent of time, where neither olvar nor kelvar could come to her aid.

“As you wish, Your Majesty,” she said with her best good grace, “As I’ll have to stay here, can I have a look to your maps? I’m particularly interested in the region between here and the Red Mountains.”

Aryon recalled her statement that maybe the Entwives were located beyond that mountain range and nodded to himself. Eliénna thought instead that her request confirmed what Nerwen had said about just passing through.

“Why are you interested right in that territory?” she enquired anyway.

“I found information that the Entwives might live beyond the mountains.”

“There’s no known pass to go over them,” Eliénna warned her.

“Lord Aryon already told me, but all mountain ranges have passes, and I don’t want to believe this is an exception, at the risk to search for it for years, or to reach its farthest end to go beyond it.”

“I see you’re very resolute,” the queen observed, “Fine then, you’ll have free access to our library. Aryon, you see to this, please.”

The prince nodded to confirm; hence, Eliénna rang a small silver bell on her desk, and immediately the valet came to the door. The queen gave him instructions in Avarin, which Nerwen was able to catch almost completely: she was telling him to take her to the guestroom that was located in the southwestern tower of the palace and have carried there her luggage, too. 

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the Istar said, anticipating the translation that the queen was about to tell her. Eliénna arched her eyebrows, surprised:

“You know our tongue?”

“I’m trying to learn it,” Nerwen answered, “I talk Sindarin, which is very similar.”

“I see,” the queen said with some satisfaction, “You can retire, now. Tonight you’re invited to have dinner with me and my brother.”

Uncertain if it was an actual invitation or rather an order, Nerwen nodded to show she had understood and curtseyed, then turned and left, following the page.

 

OOO

 

“I don’t think she told us everything,” the queen said to her younger brother, “There’s something very peculiar, in her.”

Aryon nodded, agreeing:

“I noticed it, too. She looks as one of the race of Men, but at the same time, she looks… something more. But I don’t understand what,” he concluded, shaking his head.

Eliénna searched for the right words to describe it:

“I don’t know, it’s like she’s here and, at the same time, elsewhere…”

She paused; a memory had suddenly come to her mind.

“She reminds me of our father,” she said, thoughtful. Aryon looked at her in surprise:

“In what way?”

“Don’t you remember?” she asked, “He, too, sometimes looked like being here and not here.”

“True!” the prince confirmed, disconcerted, “I didn’t put the two things together… How’s it possible for a woman of the Human race?” he frowned, pondering, “Mayhap it’s because she’s truly an Istar, as she claims to be?”

“Mayhap… But our father told us that we saw him like that because he came from beyond the Great Sea, and it’s simply impossible for Nerwen coming from there…”

She paused for some moments, trying to find a possible explanation; not finding any, she shoved away the topic for the moment and went on:

“These powers about which this so called Istar boasts, Aryon… are they real?”

“I think so,” the prince confirmed.

“Are you sure they cannot be simple tricks, or illusions?” Eliénna insisted. He shook his head firmly:

“If it was only about her animals – the hawk and the horses – I’d say, too, they were just nasty tricks; but I cannot figure out how she would be able to make the branches of trees move at her will. And then I saw her with my own eyes causing marks on the face and fall out hairs from the head of an Elf just by touching him.”

“You didn’t tell me this one,” she said in a tone of mild reproach, quite surprised, “Why would she act like this?”

“He robbed her and tried to have her killed,” Aryon explained, “When she went to retrieve her belongings, he said something way too wrong and Nerwen took her revenge in this way.”

“Are you telling me that, if this Elf wouldn’t make a comment she didn’t like, she wouldn’t have done him any harm?” Eliénna marvelled. Aryon shrugged:

“I can’t tell for certain, of course, but I think so.”

“Interesting… This tells us much about her character: she’s hard, but neither violent nor cruel. And this speaks for sure in her favour. However, let’s see how she’ll conduct herself in the next days, before deciding what to do with her. See to it.”

Aryon nodded:

“Alright, sister. I’ll keep an eye on her for you.”

 

OOO

 

The queen’s valet trusted Nerwen to a handmaid, handing over the instructions Eliénna had given him. The Istar followed her along several hallways, turning here and there enough times to lose tracks of the way, until they reached the tower on the southwestern corner of the palace, where they climbed two storeys. The room they had given to Nerwen had walls slightly slanting inwards, being actually the roof of the tower; there were many windows, but no terrace. The furniture was less luxurious than the queen’s private office, but the pieces were of good walnut or strong durmast. There was a canopy bed with dark blue velvet curtains, embroidered in silver thread, and then a desk, a dresser, a chest and a small sofa with a tiny table; in the next room stood a bronze bathtub and a stand with washbasin, jug and mirror.

“Soon they’ll bring you your luggage,” the handmaid said; she had introduced herself as Parànel, “Meanwhile I’ll take you some towels and bars of soap. Do you wish to take a bath, before dinner?”

She had spoken in Avarin, but so far, Nerwen had learned enough of that idiom to understand the meaning, if not all the words, of what she had said.

“Yes, thanks,” she accepted, trying to give the correct accent to the two simple words. The handmaid took her leave with a curtsy, not blinking an eye, and this made Nerwen hope she hadn’t embarrassed herself too much.

 

OOO

 

After having freshened up with a lukewarm bath, Nerwen donned her light green dress – the only one she travelled with – and changed her boots to shoes; then, she took her falconry glove and went downstairs, looking for her kelvar friends. Asking for directions in her still uncertain Avarin, she reached the palace’s stables, where she found Thilgiloth and Thalion unsaddled, curried and eating a fine mixture of hay, oat and barley. They were very satisfied of the way they had been treated.

Where’s Calad? Nerwen asked, not seeing the bird of prey.

She flew away, I think looking for food, the Chargeress answered, And you, are you happy with the welcome they gave you?

I had better ones, she revealed, but it could be worse, she added on second thoughts, therefore I won’t complain.

After taking her leave from the two four-legged friends, Nerwen left the stables and watched the sky, seeking Calad. She wasn’t worried: the hawk was well able to take care of herself, besides she didn’t think she could be in any danger, in Bârlyth or in its immediate neighbourhood; but she wanted to tell her where she could find her.

From the top of the hill, looking over the roofs of the houses, she could see the dark green sea of the trees stretching in all directions; the sky was dotted with soft white clouds.

As time went by and Calad didn’t show up, Nerwen resumed her walk, returning toward the palace. She passed near the entrance and kept going, strolling lazily along the small paths covered in light grey gravel; the garden of the royal residence was dotted with trees, shrubs and colourful flowerbeds, and there were some wooden benches, but no fountain.

Half an hour later, Nerwen heard from afar Calad’s characteristic cry; soon after, the hawk appeared from behind one of the palace’s roofs and came up to her. The Istar quickly slipped on her glove and raised her arm, and Calad came and perched on her wrist.

Had you a good hunt? the Aini enquired.

Yes, thanks, Calad answered, radiating a feeling of contentment, And you, did you find food and shelter?

I’ve been offered both, Nerwen confirmed, I still don’t know how long we’ll stay here. Meanwhile I’ll show you where I’m lodged.

She strode back, rounding the corner of the palace towards the entrance, where they could see the tower that contained her room, and she pointed out its windows for Calad.

There’s no terrace, but it’s hot, so I’ll always keep one window open, so you can come and go at your discretion, she told her. The hawk opened slightly her wings, signalling she had understood.

The sun was westering and the light becoming golden, while the afternoon was grewing old. Soon it would be time for dinner, thus Nerwen got back inside, taking Calad with her; expecting someone would come calling for her, she headed for her room, and indeed not much later Parànel knocked on her door to take her to the queen’s private dining room. 

A few minutes later, Nerwen was introduced into the room where Eliénna Dhillel used to have her meals in informal occasions, together with her family and possibly with a few, selected guests.

Aryon was already there, as usual wearing all black, but he wasn’t carrying his sword, and he donned comfortable house shoes instead of boots. With him were two Elves, a male and a female; both resembled Eliénna very much. They turned to gaze at her, intrigued and only slightly distrustful, and this made her think they were very young.

Seeing her entering, Aryon motioned her to come in.

“Lady Nerwen, may I introduce my niece and nephew, the children of my sister the queen?” he said, “This is Lorgil Torandyr, heir to the throne; and this is Myranna Fàrodes. Nice, nephew, this is Nerwen the Green.”

This explained the resemblance to Eliénna, the Istar thought.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Your Highnesses,” she said formally, curtseying; once more, she tried to speak in Avarin. Aryon noticed it and was pleased; a fleeting smile appeared on his usually stern face.

“Our pleasure, Lady Nerwen,” Lorgil said, answering her curtsy with a nod; he sported black hair down his neck, as customary among the Avari, and his brown eyes were identical to his mother’s.

Myranna, too, responded to her greeting; her blue eyes – very similar to her uncle’s, but a shade darker – watched her, intrigued.

Nerwen had noticed that all the Avari, or at least those of a certain rank, had a second name, which always was an attribute: she wasn’t able yet to translate them all, but Morvacor meant surely the Black Swordsman and Dhillel Shiny Star; Fàrodes had to mean Young Hunteress, while Torandyr was harder to guess, maybe Forest Wanderer or something like that.

At that moment, Eliénna came in from another door, which probably led to her private rooms. Nerwen curtseyed, lower than to the two young princes. She wasn’t used in making bows so continuously – even because it happened more often that others bowed to her, instead of being her to bow to others – but she didn’t want risking any dislike because of a lack in showing respect.

The queen accepted her homage with a nod.

“Good, I see we’re all here,” she said, talking in Ovestron, “Let’s sit down, at noon I had near to nothing and now I’m starving…”

“I see this is a family dinner,” Nerwen said in the same tongue, feeling an intruder, “I’m afraid I’m bothering you…”

“If that would be true, I wouldn’t have invited you,” Eliénna dismissed her observation waving casually her hand. Her invitation wasn’t the result of simple politeness: actually, she hoped that a relaxed circumstance like a family meal would make her reluctant host’s defences drop, so that she could study her better and, as announced, begin building up her own opinion about her.

While everybody was taking her or his seat, the queen rang a tiny silver bell; a moment later, a valet appeared on the threshold.

“We’re ready to serve dinner, Your Majesty,” he announced.

“Let’s begin then,” Eliénna ordered.

A waiter entered, carrying a large tureen, from which came a delicious aroma; he served them a creamy soup of zucchini and potatoes with bits of brown toasted bread, followed by rotisserie chicken with string beans and fingerling potatoes, in addition to lettuce and radish salad; as drinks, water and a cool white wine, dry and sparkling, coming from their vineyards in the east of Eryn Rhûn, as Aryon informed Nerwen. It wasn’t bad at all, even if not up to Dorwinian wine, the Aini thought, but she avoided voicing this in order not to irritate her touchy hosts. Winning their trust could pass even through such trifles…

During the meal, Eliénna asked about her children’s doings. Nerwen came to learn therefore that both were studying with tutors; Lorgil excelled particularly in mathematics, logic and oratory, while Myranna preferred history, literature and herbal medicine, the latter making her especially appreciable in the Istar’s eyes.

“Do you want to become a healer, Lady Myranna?” she asked her. The young Avar’s eyes lighted up with enthusiasm:

“Yes, that would be my aspiration, even if Mother doesn’t agree much…”

Nerwen turned to look quizzically at the queen, who smiled indulgently and with obvious motherly pride:

“I just think it isn’t apt to a royal princess,” she pinpointed. The Maia bit her lower lip to avoid saying what was on her mind: that is, a parent should never prevent a child to try realising her or his dreams, even if they look inadequate. But she had no right to speak: she wasn’t a close relative, nor was she herself a mother to have knowledge of this. However, she came to this conclusion by her own, seeing some bad examples that had caused distress and unhappiness, not least her brother-in-law Thingol, who had tried in every way to hinder his daughter’s love dream.

“You’re probably right, Your Majesty,” she said, unable to keep completely quiet, but trying to express herself in a diplomatic way, “Besides, Lady Myranna is still very young and therefore there’s much time for her to decide what she really wants to do with her life. However, following one’s dreams gives hope to every individual; and it’s certainly better try and fail, or find out that, after all, something is not for us, than never trying and then wonder forever how it would have been…”

All eyes stared at her, some grateful, some surprised, some pensively. Slowly, Eliénna nodded:

“You’re right, Lady Nerwen: you said a very wise thing. I didn’t expect it, from such a young woman; but after all, if you’re truly an Istar as you claim, your looks could be misleading, and you may have the same venerable age showed by your legendary colleagues.”  

“Mayhap,” Nerwen said, avoiding a direct answer; she felt unexplainably more amused than annoyed by the queen’s doubts. Maybe this was because, now that she had seen her as a mother and not as a monarch, she found her more pleasant.

Myranna stared at her, wide eyed:

“You mean you are a few hundred years old?”

The Aini smiled: in this room, she was the oldest one, as she was born even before Arda itself, not only a few hundred years; she didn’t want to lie, validating the princess’ supposition, but she wasn’t allowed to tell the truth, revealing her real nature. Hence, she remained silent.

Aryon watched her intently, trying to hide it because he didn’t want to look impolite. Could this young and beautiful woman really be several centuries old, as it was rumoured the Wizards were?

“If so, you surely look good for your age…” he grumbled. At his remark, Nerwen couldn’t but widen her smile:

“Thank you, Lord Aryon.”

It wasn’t a confirmation. Not exactly, at least. Anyway, she doubted hard he would believe her, and thought it more likely they would take this simply as one more confirmation of her claim – which they still doubted – to be an Istar.

Dinner continued with other kinds of conversations, more or less light; Nerwen was pretty sure that, would she not be here, brother and sister would talk also about things regarding the realm’s government – safety, commerce, agriculture, justice – but as she was a foreigner, they avoided carefully hinting to such topics. She sighed inwardly: succeeding in making them trust her seemed a difficult task. She wasn’t used to it, because her natural Maiarin charm had made things always easy for her. Well, this meant it was time to make a new experience, she told herself with ironic humour. It was a long time since it happened last: it would be interesting. Frustrating, too; but undoubtedly interesting.

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

And so, Nerwen finds herself facing people who are not subject to her natural appeal, doubting her reasons and even her claim to be an Istar. It’s an annoyance, for sure, but it represents also the excitement of newness.

Anyway, don’t think Nerwen is an exception: Tolkien told as about Melian’s irresistible charm, and even more about her daughter Lúthien’s one, maybe even greater than her mother’s, to the point that neither the terrible Morgoth, nor the unyielding Mandos could resist it… Clouded or not, Nerwen so fat had it easy – except for a few times – but the Avari are severely testing her ability to enthral her interlocutors :-D

The wooden palace in the picture actually exists: it’s the accurate recreation of Tsar Alexis I of Russia (1645 – 1676), father to the famed Peter the Great, and is located in Moscow in the Kolòmenskoje museum-national reservation.

Thanks to all those who are following this fan fiction, in which I’m truly putting all my love and passion for the fantastic world created by Tolkien, which got me involved – or better, dragged in and carried away – since the very first time I read “The Lord of the Rings, now many years ago.

 

Lady Angel 

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXXI: The Stay in Bârlyth

 

The next morning, Parànel brought her Aryon’s invitation to have breakfast with him. Uncertain if it was pure politeness or another way to keep an eye on her, Nerwen followed the handmaid, who led her to a terrace looking towards the town; the prince was waiting for her, gazing in the distance leaning on the balustrade, which small wooden columns were shaped in spirals. Hearing her approaching, he turned, and their eyes met. Once more, the light in the ice-blue depths of Aryon’s gaze struck Nerwen.

“Thank you for your invitation, Lord Aryon,” she said in Avarin. He motioned her to take a seat at the small round table, set for two.

“It’s a pleasure, Lady Nerwen,” he answered in the same idiom, with a certain warmth, “Anyway, I don’t like having my meals alone alone,” he added in Common Speech, as having second thoughts, or repenting an effusiveness that maybe he hadn’t in him, “Your mastery of our tongue is improving on a daily basis,” he concluded, completely changing the topic.

Nerwen blinked, confused by those sudden variations in his behaviour.

“Thank you,” she said, sitting, in reply to his observation, “Now that everybody around me speaks it, it’ll be easier to learn. I intend also using your library to read and enhance even more my knowledge.”

There was a far quicker way to learn the Avarin tongue, the same that had allowed her to learn Khuzdul and Ovestron, but it required a deep trust between the two parts, such as she had shared with Yavanna and Gandalf; therefore, at the moment this system was out of question for her.

Aryon signalled to a servant, then turned again to Nerwen:

“If you wish, after breakfast I can take you to the library and I’ll instruct the Keeper of the Books to assist you,” he offered.

The servant came to them with a steaming teapot and poured the hot liquid into the two commensals’ cups. A fragrant scent arose and Nerwen recognised the strong black tea, aromatised with bergamot, which was the favourite breakfast beverage among the Kindi, as she had ascertained during the days of her journey with the prince and his escort.

“I thank you for your courtesy, Lord Aryon,” she said, even if she was sure it wasn’t simple politeness: after all, the day before the queen herself had given him the direct order to see to it, therefore it wasn’t his choice. Besides, probably he had to instruct the librarian about what he could let her see and what not: surely, there were documents inappropriate for a foreigner to see, especially one about whom they hadn’t decided yet the level of reliability.

She sighed inwardly: she had to walk on eggshells, and this was something she hated, because she much more preferred to be frank and blunt; however, she wasn’t willing to risk being misinterpreted.

“You’re welcome,” the prince answered, “I’ll use the opportunity to make some research about the Istari, even if I think I won’t find much information.”

His candour contrasted blatantly with the typical prudence of the Avari, and Nerwen felt even more confused.

“I could tell you something by myself, about them,” she considered coolly, “but of course you could choose not believing me.”

The prince stretched his lips in a sarcastic smile, to which she responded with one equally ironic; at this point, Aryon burst out laughing, shortly but, finally, really amused.

“You’re not easily put on the spot,” he considered.

“I agree,” Nerwen confirmed placidly, but amused, she too.

Meanwhile, the servant had brought up bread, butter, honey and fruit jams, as well as soft cheese, hardboiled eggs, corned beef and an odd cream, white and rather compact.

Curious, the Maia tried it: it was cool and had a sour, but pleasant taste.

“Lovely!” she said, “What is it?”

“Fermented milk,” Aryon answered, “We call it ertan. It’s delicious with honey, but also with bits of fresh or dried fruit, or grinded nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and so on.”

Nerwen added a teaspoon of honey, stirred it in and tried it again; the sour taste had gone, replaced by the sweetness of the honey. She nodded: Aryon was right, it was luscious.

The prince took a bite of bread and cheese and chewed pensively, glancing sideways at his guest. He wasn’t able to decide how he had to feel about her: the natural distrust of his kin toward all foreigners clashed with the attraction he felt for her, an attraction he couldn’t understand, because never before he had felt the least interest for a member of the race of Men.

Once more, he saw her doubling, in that bizarre way he couldn’t understand. If he would have been the only one to notice it, he would think he was hallucinating, but Eliénna had observed it, too. 

Having finished his work, the servant withdrew discreetly, therefore Aryon decided to face the topic openly.

“Lady Nerwen, explain to me why I see you as you’re here and at the same time as you were… elsewhere, too.”

She raised abruptly her gaze from the dish and stared at him, genuinely flabbergasted: Aryon had the Elven double sight, but seemingly he didn’t know what it was. This was a gift shared by all Ainur and Eldar of Valinor – who walked both in the visible world and in the invisible one – and it was common also among the Elves in Middle-earth who had a Valinorean ascent, but not among those who were born and had lived this side of Belegaer such as the Avari; hence, it was quite bizarre that the prince had this talent.

She couldn’t disclose her true origin, but it was better if she gave him some plausible explanation.

She put down her fork and looked at him intently.

“You’ve got the double sight of the Eldar,” she explained, slowly, “It’s the ability to see things on both the visible and the invisible level. All the inhabitants of Valinor – Valar, Maiar, High Elves – can be seen in this way, because they exist in both levels. The Istari, too: that’s why you see me on both.”

There was no need to specify that the Wizards were, actually, diminished Maiar.

Aryon, too, put down his fork, feeling like a lightning had struck him: suddenly, all his doubts about Nerwen were gone, and he was certain she was telling the truth: the Wizards actually existed, and she was a member of their Order.

“I saw this way my father, too,” he revealed her. The Maia startled in surprise:

“Your father was an Istar?,” she asked, thinking he could have been one of the two Blue Wizards gone missing into the East so long a time before; but this would make absurd the conviction of the Avari they were just a fable, good for children. 

Sure enough, Aryon answered:

“No, he was part of Oromë’s follow, when he came to Cuiviénen with the invitation of the Valar. There, he met my mother, Lauriell, and they fell in love. For the love of her, he stayed on the Hither Shore, until an ice kobold killed her on the Red Mountains, at the beginning of the Second Age. Then, it seemed that life had lost all significance for him, even if my sister and me, his children, were with him. He took his leave and went away, intending on crossing the Great Sea and return to Valinor,” his gaze became blank and clouded with wistfulness, which was unexpected, given the unyielding character he had shown so far, “We never heard from him since.”

Even as he spoke, Nerwen became tenser, but she tried in every way to conceal it.

“You said he was in the follow of Oromë the Hunter,” she considered in a low voice, “So he was a Maia…”

Now the reason was clear about Aryon’s High Elven double sight, and about the extraordinary light in his and his sister Eliénna’s eyes: they were half-Ainur. As had been Lúthien.

“Yes, exactly,” the prince confirmed, “His name was – or is – Galadhost.”

Nerwen nodded to show she had understood. She didn’t know this name, not even in its Valarin version, which was Aldarosto. It was apparent that Aryon would like to know about what happened to his father, and for sure Eliénna, too, would like it. Maybe Nerwen could contact Yavanna and ask her if she knew something about him.

And then, there was another thing: the unexpected disclosure of the prince revealed that something had him convinced that, after all, he could trust her. The fact he could see her with the Elven double sight, and the explanation she had given for it, made him change his mind about her. Therefore, he deserved to have his truste returned.

“I have seen something unusual, in you and your sister the queen,” she revealed therefore, “Now I understand the nature of it: you’re children of a Maia,” at his surprised glance, she smiled softly, “The Istari can not only be seen walking both the visible and the invisible world, but can also see in both worlds.”

The prince nodded slowly.

“Seems to make sense,” he commented, then he frowned slightly, perplexed, “Therefore, do I, too, walk in both worlds?”

“No, neither you nor your sister,” Nerwen answered – nor did Lúthien, as for this, she added to herself, “but you’re Ainur for one half, and in your eyes there’s the same light you can see in the inhabitants of Valinor.”

He gazed at her again, in wonder:

“Did you actually see a Valinorean?!”

The Istar barely held herself back at biting at her lip, which would make him understand she had talked too freely; but being in the presence of the son of one of her own kin, she had relaxed, and her anxiety to gain his trust made the rest. Hence, the words had slipped out without her considering the implications they contained.

She quickly thought about some convincing explanation that could get her out of trouble.

“Every Istar is the follower of a specific Vala,” she answered slowly, “For instance, I am disciple of Yavanna Kementári. As such, I had the honour to meet her, and her eyes were bright like yours and those of Queen Eliénna.”

She didn’t like resorting to half-truths, not to mention actual lies; but when she couldn’t be completely sincere, and showing too much reticence would be counter-productive, she had to resign herself to it.

“Kementári…,” Aryon murmured, fascinated, “It couldn’t be anyone else than the Queen of Earth, given your powers over plants and animals,” he fetched up his fork again and resumed his breakfast, “Tell me, have you ever seen Valinor? Or other Valar?”

Nerwen made a grimace to show her regret:

“I understand I’ve just begun to gain your trust, Lord Aryon, but unfortunately I’m not free to talk about this outside the Order of the Wizards,” she said in an undertone, sincerely sorry. This time, rather than half-truths, she chose to be mute. With others, maybe she wouldn’t mind to lie, but she truly wanted to gain the esteem of this wary prince of the Avar. As well as of his sister, of course.

“I see,” he said, seeming not particularly offended, or suspicious, “It’s just that… well, I’m very curious: after all, Valinor is my father’s homeland, but I never had the opportunity to see it – nor I’ll ever have it, probably. Therefore, should I find someone who had been there, I’d flood him or her with questions about it. You just escaped this danger!” he concluded with an humorous touch.

She, too, smiled, even if she did add nothing. From now on, she had to watch her tongue: even if she was confronting an Elf whose status was comparable only to her niece Lúthien’s, which she had thought unique and exclusive, she wasn’t allowed to reveal herself completely. It wasn’t like with Círdan, Elrond and his children, or Galadriel and Celeborn anymore, who had known her since before she became an Istar and therefore knew what her true nature was…

 

OOO

 

When they finished breakfast, Aryon led Nerwen to the palace library, five or six large and bright rooms occupying the best part of the southern wing of the building, at the ground floor.

library

 

“It’s the largest and completest collection of books and parchments of all the Six Tribes,” he said proudly while they were entering, “It contains very ancient documents, originals or copies: essays, novels, myths, legends, sagas, poetries, songs, and of course books about history, geography, medicine, in short, all the knowledge of the Avari.”

“Excellent,” Nerwen said in appreciation.

An Elf came, looking frail and somewhat dusty, perhaps because his garment was grey and crumpled; his eyes, equally grey, were instead very alive and present, denying his shabby appearance.

“Lady Nerwen, may I introduce Teithir, the Keeper of the Books?” Aryon said, “Master Teithir, this is Lady Nerwen, and she’s got the queen’s permission to access all of the exposed documents, on any topic.”

The word exposed strengthened in Nerwen the conviction she was right: there were documents – evidently hidden ones – that she wouldn’t be allowed to see.

Teithir bowed to her:

“Welcome, my lady,” he said, “What kind of documents do you wish to consult?”

“For a start, maps of the region between here and the Red Mountains,” she answered at once, “and of the Red Mountains themselves.”

While he was looking for the requested papers, Teithir invited her to sit at a table. Aryon took his leave:

“I hand you over to the best possible hands, Lady Nerwen.”

The Aini felt strangely unhappy.

“You said you wanted to find some news about the Istari…” she reminded him. He made his typical half-smile:

“I think I found a better information source than books,” he declared, “Whenever you wish, you can tell me about them, at least as far as you’re allowed to.”

“I’ll gladly do it, Lord Aryon,” Nerwen promptly accepted. The prince nodded her goodbye and left.

Sitting at the table they had shown, Nerwen pondered: had this been a statement of trust, or was it just another way to question her? No, she decided, it was the first: after all, Aryon had decided he could believe her, at least to a certain point. This obviously didn’t imply he had to share State secrets with her: not even Elrond, Círdan or the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim did it. The documents they forbad her had surely be of this kind.

 

OOO

 

While he was going away from the library, heading to fulfil his duties, Aryon’s thoughts lingered on Nerwen. He was beginning to believe that maybe it was truly possible trusting her, and this made him feel relieved. The reason of this relief was surely the attraction he felt for her, but he couldn’t let such feelings get in the way and must instead try reaching an objective assessment. But he would truly love it, if she proved trustworthy…

 

OOO

 

A few days passed, which Nerwen spent mostly shut up in the library, studying and memorising maps, and reading about many subjects, particularly history, myths and legends of the Avari, seeking for news that could hint to Ents or Entwives. She read up, too, about this territory almost totally unknown to the inhabitants of the western lands. She learned therefore that the Red Mountains, also known as Orocarni or Eastern Mountains, stretched for an almost endless length, beginning in the farthest north of Middle-earth and reaching the Great Eastern Sea. It was for sure the longest mountain range of Ennor; many rivers rose from it, passing the plains beyond the Eastern Forest; among them was one called Rinnen, which reached the Sea of Rhûn and crossed the realm of the Kindi, used as a transport route between the latter and the realm of the Kinn-lai, the Avari who lived on the slopes of the Orocarni; this same stream acted as border between the territories of Hwenti and Windan. The Red Mountains where rich with precious metals – gold, silver, copper, platinum – and gems, particularly rubies and emeralds; for this reason, since the First Age four of the Seven Houses of the Dwarves had settled there, precisely the Stiffbeards, the Ironfists, the Stonefoots and the Blacklocks; they were allocated respectively to the north, the centre-north, the centre-south and the south of the Orocarni. The Avari Kinn-lai lived more or less in the exact middle of the mountain range, between the Ironfists and the Stonefoots, and had with the Dwarves merely business relations.

 

OOO

 

When she wasn’t buried amid books and parchments, Nerwen strolled in the garden surrounding the palace, often with Calad; there, a couple of times she met Myranna, busy in cataloguing the plants of the garden as part of her healer education, and she was glad to give her advice in this matter. The young princess of the Kindi had already looked favourably upon her, and her esteem grew even more when her knowledge of herbs, plants and flowers developed noticeably thanks to Nerwen’s teachings.

The meals had become a routine since the first day: she had her breakfast on the terrace, sometimes alone, sometimes in Aryon’s company, and sometimes Eliénna, too, joined them, with the professed purpose to get to know her better in order to express a fair judgement – she indeed refused her brother’s influence, by now convinced of the Istar’s reliability – while she had her lunch served by Parànel in her own room; at dinner instead she was a regular guest at the queen’s family table, where she met also Lorgil and Myranna, and of course Aryon. After dinner, instead of the Fire Hall like the Elves in the western parts of Middle-earth, there was oft – but not always – a peculiar entertainment called atrabes. A theme was suggested, about which the attendees, sitting in a circle on comfortable couches, gave their views on it while drinking a delicious beverage, made of watered down wine aromatised with spices, from a large common bowl, the possess of which gave the right to speak. One could also just sit outside the circle to listen – but in this case, one wasn’t allowed to intervene in the debate – and Nerwen did it often in order to getting to know better the people who hosted her. She had concluded that the idea of rusticity and backwardness that the western Elves had about their Avari brothers was completely wrong, because even if they had slightly different customs and traditions and an extremely mistrustful mentality toward the rest of the world, they were highly refined, cultured and civil.

 

OOO

 

About ten days after her arrival in Bârlyth, Nerwen was in the library, reading a detailed description of the Orocarni in the territory of the Kinn-lai, written in a very boring style; after over one hour, she could stand no longer the author’s pedantry, hence she laid aside the book and stretched like a cat, with a wide yawn that almost dislocated her jaw. Raising her tired gaze, she glimpsed at Aryon who was looking at her, his bright eyes sparkling with amusement and the ghost of a smile on his lips.

smirk

 

“Whoops!” Nerwen cried, covering her mouth with one hand, even if it was far too late now, “I’m afraid you’ve seen my tonsils…” she jested. She felt like laughing at her own words; she tried to keep herself, but her efforts were completely useless, and after a few moments she burst out laughing uncontrollably, doubling over: good Valar, her tonsils! Where on Arda did that come from??

Her unexpected wit caught Aryon by surprise; seeing the usually composed Istar laughing her socks off caused him one of his infrequent full smiles, which looked all the brighter because of their rarity.

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to distinguish a tonsil from a uvula,” he answered in the same playful tone. Nerwen laughed again, then slowly calmed down:

“Forgive me, Lord Aryon,” she said, wiping the corners of her eyes, damp because of the tears the laughter attack had caused her, “but I was mortally bored… I don’t yawn in people’s face customarily…” she chuckled, and again the moody prince smiled, amused, “I apologise,” she repeated.

“There’s nothing to apologise for, Lady Nerwen,” Aryon said, waving one hand in a dismissing way. The Maia took a deep breath and composed herself definitively, then she looked at him quizzically:

“What can I do for you, Lord Aryon?”

He looked thoughtful for a moment.

“In the first place, we could drop formalities and call each other simply by name,” he answered, “If you agree, of course,” he added, uncertain about what was the required etiquette with an Istar.

“Of course I do agree,” Nerwen reassured him; she never liked the exceeding use of titles, except in the formal occasions.

He came up to her and placed his hands on the table, bending slightly toward her. Looking at him from below, once more Nerwen realised how tall he was: not as much as Celeborn, but as he was broader, he looked more impressive.

“I was wondering if we could have that famous talk about the Istari,” the prince said, “I was afraid to bother you in your research, but you just claimed you’re bored, so mayhap I am offering you a distraction…”

“Which I accept gladly,” she interjected cheerfully, standing up, “This treaty is noticeable, but awfully tediously written: I need a break. Therefore your suggestion is perfect timing,” she cast a glance outside the window, where they could see the garden, sunlit in this mid-June afternoon, “Shall we go out?”

Soon after, they were walking down one of the paths in the garden; it was warm, but Nerwen liked warm weather. She raised her face to the sun, closing her eyes to enjoy better its caress on her skin and greeting mentally Arien, who drove it through the skies every day.

Aryon noticed her movement and for some reason he liked it.

“You love the sun, don’t you?” he asked.

“Very much,” she confirmed, “I love light and warmth, be they those of the summer sun or of the fire in the hearth during winter.”

She’s a creature of light, shot through the prince’s mind; he was completely unaware about how true and fitting thIS description was.

They heard a kek-kek-kek above their heads; raising their gazes, they saw Calad gliding towards them. Nerwen hadn’t her falconry glove with her, hence the bird of prey just flew in circles around them.

Good afternoon to you and your companion, she said.

“Good morning to you, my friend,” Nerwen said, “Calad greets you,” she added then, addressing Aryon. The prince lifted one eyebrow: he still wasn’t used to the fact that someone could speak so easily with an animal.

“Ah… tell her I return her greetings,” he said, feeling vaguely clumsy. This irritated him: by Oromë’s moustache, the First Sword of the Queen of the Kindi was never embarrassed! Then he thought it was very silly getting angry for such a trifle and, with a shrug, he forgot about his annoyance.

They sat on a bench in the shadow of a maple, while Calad spun around and away, intent on her matters.

“So, what do you wish to know?” Nerwen asked.

Aryon got right to it:

“What are, precisely, the Istari?”

Nerwen had prepared an answer, therefore she didn’t hesitate:

“Summing it up, they’re people endowed with particular gifts, which they use in the fight against Sauron’s evil.”

Aryon started to make the gesture his people always made when hearing that ill-omened name; then he stopped, remembering what Nerwen some days earlier had said – correctly – to him and his sister: that not naming it wouldn’t keep away neither him nor the forces of Evil.

“What are these gifts?” he enquired, “For instance, you speak with plants and animal, but your colleagues?”

“I’m not allowed to be completely exhaustive in this matter,” she warned him, “but I’ll tell you what everyone knows. Like me, one of them – Radagast the Brown – speaks with animals, particularly with birds, and like me, he’s a true expert in plants and their virtues. Saruman the White, chief of our Order, possesses the power of persuasion, being very wise and learned; furthermore, he’s very skilled in mechanics and engineering. Gandalf the Grey can suggest dreams and visions, and reveal what’s hidden; besides he’s a formidable fighter.”

“So there’s just the four of you?” Aryon asked, amazed: for some reason, he had been convinced the Istari were many more.

“Actually, there are two more, the Blue Wizards,” Nerwen answered, “but they vanished a long time ago in the east of the world. Perhaps they passed through here…” she suggested, hopefully: if she would find Alatar and Pallando, she could question them about the Entwives.

Aryon shook his head:

“We have no memory of Istari in our lands,” he said, “at least, not that I know of. But as you’re turning our library upside down, mayhap you’ll find news about them, buried and forgotten,” he concluded with a hint of humour. The Aini smiled, amused even in her disappointment:

“Who knows? Mayhap,” she admitted, “If nothing else, I’m learning your tongue, even if…”

She paused thoughtfully: could she ask him to teach her in the special Ainurin way? Would Aryon trust her enough?

“…even if?” he urged her on, curious. Nerwen looked him straight in the eyes – those bright eyes filled with the light of Valinor even if they had never seen the Blessed Ream – and made up her mind to try. After all, at the worst she could receive a no as an answer.

“…even if there would be a faster and better way,” she finished the sentence, “but it means you have to trust me completely. Now the question is precisely this: do you trust me?”

Aryon returned her forthright gaze with one as much forthright. Nerwen’s question, expressed in the frankness he was beginning to learn was typical to her, had taken him by surprise.

Such a bluntness deserved the same in turn, he thought. 

“I’m not yet ready to trust you blindly,” he answered calmly, “because I don’t know you well, and therefore I’m still a little afraid that my trust might be misplaced. However, this is what my mind says; my gut instead tells me I can trust you… and if you must know, it tells me so since almost the beginning,” he added, in a more confidential tone, “but my people is so used to distrust all those who are not Avari, that it took me a good deal of time to realise it.”

Nerwen nodded slowly; his admission struck her favourably.

“I thank you for you sincerity, Aryon,” she said in a low voice. He, too, nodded.

“What would it be, anyway?” he enquired.

“Another special talent of the Istari,” she answered, adjusting the truth just slightly, as this talent wasn’t just the Wizard’s, but also all the Ainur’s, “Learning something extracting it directly form someone’s mind, of course with his consent.”

“I see,” the prince murmured, scratching thoughtfully one sideburn, “And how do I know you won’t look into other parts of my mind in order to learn its secrets?” he asked in a quiet tone, making her understand he wasn’t implying she would want to do it, but just that he needed to know.

“Here it’s where trust comes in,” Nerwen answered with disarming candour. Aryon tilted his head slightly to the side and smiled his characteristic grin: once more, the Istar laid all her cards out on the table with complete frankness, and he liked this.

He decided to trust his guts: anyway, in the past he had been rarely wrong.

“Let’s go with it,” he therefore said. Nerwen couldn’t but smile contentedly: finally, she was certain she was winning the trust of this stern and stubborn Avar prince, and in this way she hoped she could win his sister the queen’s, too.

“What am I supposed to do?” Aryon asked.

“Close your eyes and relax,” she instructed him. The prince did as she had told him; a moment later, he felt Nerwen’s hands on his cheeks, her fingertips on his temples, warm and light. Suddenly he recalled Corch and the treatment the Istar had inflicted him to punish him; he felt frightened, but it was only a moment, because immediately after he felt a warmth in some part of his brain, presumably where the knowledge of his mother tongue was allocated: it was anything but a bothersome feeling, so he calmed down. The contact of Nerwen’s fingers on his face was pleasant and reassuring as a loving caress, and he didn’t think of anything else.

A couple of minutes later, Nerwen pulled away and said in perfect Avarin:

“Thank you very much, Aryon. Not so much for the help you just gave me, but for the trust you chose to grant me, despite your reservations.”

The prince was dumbfounded, to say the least: the difference between the knowledge of the language she had shown before and was showing now was astonishing, because if earlier she had it rather good, but clearly as a foreigner, now she looked mother tongue as much as himself.

“It’s… incredible! You sound native to Bârlyth,” he stated; then he realised what the meaning of Nerwen’s phrasing had been, “As I said, even if I’m not yet willing to trust you unconditionally, I believe in the honesty of your intentions, though.”

She nodded solemnly, accepting his statement, which confirmed to her she had finally breached the wall of circumspection and suspect surrounding this Elven prince of extraordinary high lineage. A wall behind which, it seemed, also all other Avari barricaded themselves, she added by herself, thoughtfully; but she realised suddenly that she cared only of the wall beyond which stood – or had been standing – Aryon. She felt fleetingly dismayed: why should she care about it differently? Sure, winning the trust of the First Sword of the High Sovereign of the Six Tribes of the Avari could help her with all others, included the queen; but it didn’t matter to her for this reason. No, she admitted: it mattered to her for herself. What she didn’t understand was why.

She decided to take off her mind from these thoughts, changing subject:

“My horses are very comfortable, in your stables; and Calad, too, is happy to be here.”

“I’m glad to learn this,” he commented, then he became thoughtful, “If you like to go for a ride to move your mare, from this moment on you’re free to do so. You can explore a little the surroundings of Bârlyth, if you wish to.”

“With no escort?” she asked, arching playfully one eyebrow. Aryon showed his typical half-smile:

“If you prefer so… I trust you enough to think you won’t cut and run, and that you will wait a few days more, until my sister will decide if she should give you or not her safe-conduct. Am I right?” he enquired, watching her intently: after all, he was putting himself in the line for her, on the sole basis of his guts; but she had entered his head and didn’t take advantage of it, and this made him take another step toward trust. And then, after all, he wished dearly he could trust her, because he liked her, he liked her really much.

“You’re right,” Nerwen confirmed, holding his gaze relentlessly, “I gave my word, and I’m not the kind of person who breaks it.”

“I believe you,” the prince nodded, “I’ll inform the city guard to let you come and go at your wish.”

“Thank you,” she said, standing up, “Now better I go back to the library and finish that boring treaty. Who knows, maybe now that I know Avarin perfectly, it may be less arduous…” she added smiling. Aryon stood up in turn and nodded:

“I hope so. Have a good time, then,” he concluded, taking his leave.

“See you tonight,” she answered. They parted, each one going to see for their tasks.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Various trivia:

The black tea with bergamot aroma obviously is the well-known Earl Grey, my favourite XD

  1. Ertan is nothing else than yogurt – from Sindarin ertannen, stirred, that’s the meaning of this word of Turkish origin ;-). I’m crazy about this food and therefore I inserted it in the story. Like for chocolate, someone could object that in Medieval Europe – more or less the temporal and geographical correspondence of the Tolkienverse – yogurt didn’t exist, but as Turkey (where seemingly it was devised) is much nearer than the American continent where potatoes come from, which the Professor names in his work, I think it can be well possible that the Avari know it – all the more because they live in an area to the east of Middle-earth, exactly like the Anatolian Peninsula is located to the east of Europe.
  2. Fork has ancient origins, being in use both among Greeks and Romans; it disappeared from western Europe during Middle Age and was reintroduced by Venetians through a princess of the Byzantine Empire, who in 1003 married the son of a Doge.
  3. Discussing about a topic while sitting in a circle and drinking a light aromatised wine from a bowl, which possession gives the right to speak, is a custom inspired by the symposium of ancient Greece.

 

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

banner

 

Chapter XXXII: Mid-Summer Feast

 

The following day, Nerwen went down to the stables, planning a tour in the outskirts of the town. The night before, at dinner, Eliénna and her children had been very curious about her new, sudden mastery in their tongue; she had given a short description of the mental technique she had applied, describing it as a special skill of the Wizards and pointing out the important role that Aryon’s trust in her had had. Then the queen looked upon her more favourably, even if she still didn’t reach to a final conclusion, and confirmed her brother’s permission for her to come and go at her leisure.

A groom quickly saddled Thilgiloth, who was very pleased to go wandering about with her two-legged friend; with them came Calad, too.

The near environs of Bârlyth were rather monotonous, but still knowing nothing about the neighbourhood, for the moment Nerwen would not enter the forest, following the roads radiating from the large clearing surrounding the town. Hence, after a couple of hours she got back; she was slightly bored, but the walk had been good for the Chargeress, therefore she decided to repeat the excursion in the next days.

The morning after, passing through the large palace hall while going to the stables, Nerwen came across Myranna.

“Good morning, Lady Nerwen,” the princess greeted her, “Are you going out?”

“Yes, I was thinking of going for a ride with my mare,” she answered. Myranna hesitated, then she told her confidentially:

“I should go on cataloguing the plants in the garden, but sincerely, this morning I have no feeling for it… a ride would be much more agreeable,” she concluded with a sigh and a funny grimace.

“Can you do it in the afternoon?” the Istar asked, amused by her expression. The princess pondered about it:

“Well, yes, actually…”

“Then forget it for the moment and come with me,” Nerwen invited her, “What do you say to that?”

“I say yes!” Myranna cried, laughing cheerfully, “I make a run for my riding boots.”

“I’ll wait for you in the stables,” Nerwen told her smiling.

Once out of town, Myranna led the Maia to the north-west, down a wide road entering the forest. About twenty minutes later, they came across the Rinnen, the river coming from the Orocarni, passing through the realm of the Kindi and flewing into the Sea of Rhûn. The path went on in both directions of the stream; Myranna chose to turn downriver.

“There’s a port upstream,” she explained, “where all the watercrafts land, coming from the eastern plains and the Red Mountains. Windan, Hwenti and Kinn-lai come here to trade with us.”

“And the Dwarves of the Orocarni?” Nerwen enquired. The princess shook her head:

“We’ve no direct contact with them, only through our brothers the Kinn-lai.”

They rode on for almost one hour, chatting pleasantly; then the forest opened in a wide, sunlit clearing, concomitantly with the river that, in this point, wrought a large meander; at the inside of it was a beach of fine white sand. Several people were bathing in the stream, which was very gentle here, or sunbathing, laying on cloths or wicker carpets. All were completely naked, but this didn’t surprise Nerwen, because it was common custom in Valinor, too. After all, bathing dressed makes no sense.

river beach

 

There was also a kiosk selling drinks and food, with wooden tables and benches.

“Let’s have a snack!” the princess suggested.

“Gladly,” Nerwen accepted. They dismounted, and a few minutes later they were sitting and eating fruit skewers with sparkling dry cider.

“Now that I know of this place, I’ll come back: I love swimming,” the Maia said, looking around: the water was pristine and, in that heat, it looked very inviting.

“I like swimming, too,” Myranna revealed, “We could come together, sometime.”

“Sure!” the Aini nodded, happy to have found company.

As they finished their snack, they set forth to return. Once back at the palace, Myranna observed:

“In three days, it’ll be Mid-Summer: we’ll have a great feast, we’ll dance and there’ll be fireworks. I’d be very happy if you’d come.”

“Thank you, Lady Myranna, I adore dancing,” Nerwen smiled, “But I don’t know your dances,” she added: they were surely very different from those in use at Rivendell and Lothlórien.

“That’s no big problem,” Myranna reassured her, “Ours are line dances, made of a few basic figures that, before each dance, are called in the required sequence. Some are more complicated than others, but I’m sure that you’ll be perfectly able to perform the simpler ones, especially if you have a skilled partner… My uncle Aryon, for instance, is an accomplished dancer: I’ll ask him to be your partner.”

“Thank you, you’re very kind, but probably he has his own partner…” Nerwen objected: this was something she didn’t know, that is, if the prince had a spouse or a friend-in-love; she had learned that his sister the queen was a widow, but about him, she ignored everything.

“Usually it’s me, his partner,” the princess answered, “but I’ll have only the more complicated dances, those which would be too difficult for you: as for the other ones, I’m glad to share him,” she concluded laughing.

“Well, then it’s fine,” the Aini smiled; then she remembered something, “Oh, my only dress isn’t very apt to a feast at the palace, but I’ll content myself with it…”

Of course, in her meagre luggage there was no ball gown. In Rivendell, at Elrond’s insistence, she had a couple of elegant dresses made, suitable to the court life, but she had left them there when she departed; while in Lothlórien, Arwen had borrowed her her own ones, if need had come.

Myranna furrowed her brow:

“Oh! I didn’t think about this…” she glanced sideways at Nerwen, pondering her shape, “I think Lady Ziriel, my history teacher, is about your size. She’s taller, but it’s not hard shorting a gown…”

“And just who’s not taller than me?” the Aini laughed, as usual with a great sense of humour about her short stature. The princess smiled, amused:

“Well, for instance, the palace chief-cook: I think she doesn’t go over one and a half metre… and in spite of it, she bosses around the whole kitchen staff: even the Superintendent of the Palace must submit to her directions, when it comes to her department.”

Nerwen had never met her, but Myranna’s description made her laugh.

“That’s fine, then, try and ask your teacher if she’s willing to borrow me a gown for the occasion, but don’t make her feel like she has to do it, I beg you,” she said, aware that she was still surrounded by much aversion. The princess nodded:

“Alright…”

 

OOO

 

Nerwen spent the afternoon in the library, as usual; by now, she had read many books and documents and had collected a great deal of information about the Avari and their history, as well as their territory; but to her great disappointment, there was no trace of the Onodrim in their writings.

On the evening, Aryon deserted the queen’s table: his tasks had him held up, hence he would dine later, alone.

After dinner, returning to her room, Nerwen realised she had missed the prince.

And his amazing grey-blue eyes.

And his engaging half-smile.

And his charming baritone voice.

With a start, the Istar realised she felt very attracted to Aryon Morvacor. She wondered why; the prince was very attractive, of course, but he was introvert, surly, grumpy, and she had always preferred partners with a diametrically opposed character, sunny, open, peppy, like Calion and Beriadir.

Then she recalled Thorin: the Dwarven prince, too, hadn’t been precisely her type, being quite moody and taciturn, but despite of it, she had lost her head in no time.

She went to sleep rather confused.

 

OOO

 

When the morning arrived, Nerwen got up and, as it had become customary, she headed for the terrace where she usually had breakfast. She had slept on the problem and come to accept the situation: if she felt attracted to the queen’s brother, she felt attracted, and it was useless trying to find rational or logical reasons, because feelings are anything but rational or logic. Therefore, she set foot on the balcony rather calm… and her calmness shattered as soon as she glimpsed at Aryon’s broad back, while he was sitting at the table chatting with his sister. With an effort, she got a grip on herself.

Hearing her approaching, both turned.

“Good morning, Nerwen,” Aryon greeted her, looking at her with those bright irises of his. For a moment, the Maia got lost in them.

“Good morning to you, Your Majesty, Aryon…” she managed to answer, regaining her confidence.

“Myranna told me you took a ride together, yesterday,” the queen said, sipping at her tea.

“Yes, we did,” Nerwen confirmed, helping herself with a cup of ertan, which she had come quickly to appreciate eagerly, “We rode to the beach on the Rinnen,” she added, taking her seat.

Aryon couldn’t resist the temptation to provoke her:

“Mayhap our custom to bathe disrobed scandalised you,” he observed, a corner of his mouth slightly lifted in his characteristic grin; but his tone wasn’t mocking, only amused.

However, it took a lot more to embarrass Nerwen.

“Not at all,” she replied with a seraphic glance at him, “I find it simply absurd bathing or entering a bathhouse dressed.”

This is good sense,” the queen commented, satisfied, “Indeed, I don’t understand why many people think nudity indecorous or even outrageous in settings where it’s just reasonable.”

“Nor do I,” the Aini admitted.

Aryon kept silent, his eyes staring his dish: after hearing Nerwen’s answer, he couldn’t but imagine her undressed, taking a bath in the Rinnen, and the conjured imagine had his throat completely dried. He took a sip of tea, trying to regain quickly his composure. It was a short but fierce fight, which he won out of pure stubbornness; only then was he able to go back participating to the chatter.

Nerwen had noticed his silence and wondered about the reason, perplexed; but when he resumed talking with her and his sister, she forgot about it.

When they finished breakfast, they parted; Nerwen headed straight for the library: in the afternoon she planned on going to the river for a good swim, therefore she wanted to use the morning for her habitual research.

She soon was aware she couldn’t concentrate easily, because her mind constantly drifted away to think about Aryon; his tall shape; his broad shoulders; the noble features of his face; his piercing eyes; his well-drawn lips… she wondered how it could feel kissing them… feeling them parting against her own…

She abruptly tore herself off those arousing thoughts, self-annoyed because she was unable to control them, and bent ferociously her will to the study; but it was only after a strenuous fight that she got her way.

Around noon, she returned to her chamber for a light meal, then she headed for the stables. Should she meet Myranna, she would invite her to come along – if she wasn’t occupied otherwise – but she didn’t see her.

While one of the grooms was saddling Thilgiloth, Nerwen visited Thalion, who was enjoying these relaxing days.

Be careful not getting fat, old friend, the Istar warned him, amused while watching him munching cheerfully the excellent fodder filling his manger.

They keep me exercised every day, he informed her placidly. Satisfied, Nerwen took her leave and headed for the Chargeress, who meanwhile had been taken outside. She checked that her saddle was correctly fastened – after all, the Avari weren’t used to that kind of harness – then mounted and set forth, exiting town and heading for the river.

She spent a pleasant afternoon, bathing in the cool waters of the Rinnen and sunbathing, laying on a large cloth Parànel got for her; when she returned to the palace, one hour before dinner, she went to her room to change; soon after, while she was brushing her hair, there was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” she invited. Myranna entered, followed by her servant, a maiden of about her age with long, brown curls, who was carrying a bundle.

“Good evening, Lady Myranna,” the Maia greeted her, standing up.

“Good evening to you, Lady Nerwen,” the princess answered, “I brought you a gown to try on, if you like it.”

At her signal, the maid undid the bundle, revealing a dress of light lavender silk, simply tailored but decorated with embroideries in silver thread on the bodice, both front and back; it had no sleeves, suitably to the summer season.

“But it’s stunning!” Nerwen cried, struck by the refinery of the embroidery, forming wisteria twigs and flowers, “Lady Ziriel is very kind, borrowing me such a superb gown.”

“I asked her as a personal favour,” Myranna told her, glad that her mission had been successful; she chose not to tell her that her history teacher, learning it was for the foreigner, hadn’t been enthusiastic at all, “and as she has a soft spot for me, she told me to choose the one I preferred. I thought this would suit you,” she concluded, “It’s not your colour, but the vegetal theme of the decoration made me think of you.”

Nerwen smiled, thankful for her care and concern.

The servant helped her to try on the dress; it was slightly wide on the upper body, but with the strings on the back it was easily adjusted; as for the length, the maid measured it and said she would take care of shortening the skirt just enough.   

The matter settled, Nerwen and Myranna headed downstairs for the queen’s private dining room for the evening meal. This time Aryon’s presence didn’t upset the Istar exceedingly: she had had all day to clear her head and she had concluded that the best thing to do, was paying close attention in catching possible signals from the prince, to see if he returned her interest, and then act accordingly. But neither that evening, nor the following day, was she able making out anything in particular about his behaviour. Frustrated, she concluded that, apparently, her Maiarin appeal was failing, again…

 

OOO

 

Mid-Summer Day turned out being scorching hot, so much that Nerwen tried to cool off under the trees in the garden, laying on a hammock Parànel set up for her, reading the nth treaty.

By evening, she went upstairs to change for the feast, which would begin after sunset. She would dine there, as there would be large tables full of refreshments of all kind.

Parànel helped her dressing up and did her hair, braiding it into a four-lock tress, which she wrapped around her head and decorated with ribbons and flowers. For the occasion, Nerwen wore one of the very few jewels she travelled with, a necklace Galadriel had given her, made of glittering moon-crystals that, when struck by the light of the silvery night orb, shone like diamonds.

At the agreed time, she headed for the ground floor, where the feast hall was located, occupying the farthest part of the eastern wing. Three of the walls were mobile and had been removed; solid wooden columns, carved like tree-trunks, supported the ceiling, allowing the evening air circulating freely. Just outside, long tables had been set, loaded with food and drinks, as well as chairs and benches for those who wanted to rest in between dances. Close to the only wall remaining, the one toward the inside of the palace, a few musicians were playing on a low dais; there were two kettledrums, a harp, a psaltery, a rebec, a vielle, a lute and a flute, all played with consummate skill by the instrumentalists.

The guests were about a hundred, as Eliénna had anticipated to Nerwen in the morning at breakfast, and many had already arrived. In the weeks spent in the palace, the Aini had met many notable of the realm, among which the two main counsellors to the queen, Annil Sinton and Tellar Golìnnen – two people very different from each other, the first unusually stocky for an Elf, loquacious and witty, while the second was tall and gangly, rather silent and stern; but both were endowed with great perspicacity and vast notions of all kind, and were deeply loyal. Then there were the two young princes’ teachers, some of them being notables of the realm, such as Gartor Sinévrin who taught mathematics, or Ziriel Dennsar, who borrowed Nerwen the gown she was wearing.

The Istar saw precisely her, a few metres away, a tall Elf with an undulated mane of the typical jet-black hair of the Avari, and approached her.

“I hadn’t yet the opportunity to thank you for this stunning dress, Lady Ziriel,” she said, “It was princess Myranna’s idea; I hope you didn’t mind.”

The teacher looked down at her from her 1,75 metres height; her face was aloof, barely veiled by a hint of formal courtesy. 

“I love the princess very much and I wouldn’t deny her anything,” she explained in a neutral tone. Nerwen frowned slightly, disappointed: how long would they take, these Avari, stopping being so reluctant to show themselves affable to her?

“I realise you did her a favour, not me”, she said, coldly, “but nonetheless, I am grateful: as you can well imagine, travelling around I don’t carry with me a wardrobe fitting to a royal court.”

Ziriel stiffened her shoulders at her bickering: how did she dare, this Human? It was rumoured she was one of the legendary Istari, but she thought it a fable. However, she was the queen’s guest, and it wasn’t a good idea antagonising her. She nodded her curtly in confirmation, just enough not to seem too rude.

At that moment, behind her Nerwen heard Aryon’s deep voice.

“Lady Ziriel, it’s nice to see you,” he greeted first the elder lady, or who he thought was the elder one. The Istar saw he was dressed in black as usual but, given the temperature, like the majority of the other male guests he wore a sleeveless shirt of thin muslin, and linen trousers; he wore light shoes, suitable for dancing.

The prince turned to Nerwen and his gaze showed admiration.

“You’re truly charming, tonight,” he said gallantly.

“It’s all thanks to Lady Ziriel,” the Maia said, staring at the female Elf straight in the face, “She’s been so kind to borrow me this gown, so I’m not looking too bad at this feast.”

Ziriel had the good grace to blush, hearing Nerwen praising her even if she had treated her so coldly.

“It was… a pleasure,” she claimed awkwardly. With a hint of perfidy, Nerwen felt satisfied about her embarrassment: this will teach her about being ill-disposed to someone just because of her prejudices, she thought.

Aryon sensed the tension between the two and thought it better cutting it.

“Nerwen, can I get you a cup of sweet cider?” he invited her, lending her his arm. During the last weeks, he had learned it to be her favourite drink, “There’s a sparkling type, truly delicious.”

Casting a last, icy glance to Ziriel, Nerwen accepted Aryon’s arm and let him take her to one of the tables, where the prince poured the golden liquid into two goblets. The cider was really excellent and the Maia drank it gladly.

The musicians were playing a cheerful tune with a quick rhythm that captured Nerwen’s ear; after a few moments, she was tapping with one foot along with the drum.

Aryon noticed it.

“Myranna told me you love dancing,” he said, “but that you don’t know our dances, and she asked me to lead you through the easier ones.”

“I hope you don’t mind her request,” Nerwen said, looking at him and recalling annoyed Ziriel’s reaction.

“Not at all,” he assured her with an apparently casual tone; but actually, when his niece asked him, he had felt pleased, because it offered him the opportunity to stay with her practically all night long.

The music ceased and the Mistress of Dances came forth.

“Dancers, please take position for The Maiden’s Reel,” she invited. Aryon recognised a dance Nerwen could do and extended his hand to her; the Istar quickly put down her goblet and took the offered hand. He grasped her fingers lightly in an encouraging way and led her to the centre of the hall, where other dancers were gathering; the ladies lined up on the left of the Mistress of Dances, in groups of four, and their partners in front of them. Aryon positioned himself as the fourth of one group, and Nerwen placed herself across him.

The Mistress of Dances called the first figure, which the first couple of each group performed, and right after the other ones, continuing with the following figures in an intertwining that looked very complicated to Nerwen, but after performing it – led by Aryon – she realised that actually it has a very simple sequential logic. When the music began, vivacious like the reel named in the title, she threw herself into the dance and enjoyed it very much. The prince was indeed an accomplished dancer and guided her easily through the different figures.

At the end, smiling slightly he asked her:

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Very much!” she stated with such an enthusiasm, the corners of his mouth lifted even more, until one of his rare full smiles blossomed on his lips. Nerwen got wrapped up in watching him: if Aryon was a stunning Elven male specimen while grave, he was spectacular while smiling… 

The Mistress of Dances called for The Bridge of Kisses, again a dance that Aryon thought she could do, and therefore he invited her for a second round; after this came The Exchange of the Hidden Valley, this time a circle dance that presupposed the continuous turnover of the couples; Nerwen found it particularly amusing. Then came The Lady Marshal of the Ford, with a slower rhythm but more complex figures, therefore Aryon quitted; however, Nerwen had seen Myranna and motioned her to come near, hence uncle and niece danced together, while the Aini was getting herself some food.

At the refreshments tables, she found Lorgil.

“Nice feast,” she said, just to make some small talk: the crown prince had a kind character, but more reserved than his sister, therefore in those weeks she hadn’t build up a strong bond with him.

“Indeed,” Lorgil confirmed, nodding politely, “If you’d like to eat something, I suggest you the cold roasted calf with olive and caper sauce,” he added, pointing out the dish among the exhibited ones on the table.

“Thanks,” Nerwen answered; she took a plate and helped herself with a slice of bread, on which she placed a cut of meat topped with sauce, “Delicious indeed,” she confirmed, after taking one bite.

Eliénna showed up at that moment, wearing an elegant dark-red gown with golden embroideries and a magnificent tiara with rubies. Nerwen put immediately down her dish to curtsey: she really wanted to make clear, especially in public, that she had the uppermost respect for the High Sovereign of the Avari.

“Good evening, Your Majesty,” she greeted her.

“Good evening, Lady Nerwen,” the queen responded, “Do you like the feast?”

“Yes, very much,” the Istar answered, “Especially the music, it’s very cheerful and it makes one wanting to jump and dance till dropping exhausted.”  

Unexpectedly, the queen laughed; she was less thrifty of smiles than her brother was, but hearing her laughing heartily was rather rare.

“You’re right,” she confirmed, “I remember when I was young, at one feast for Mid-Summer Day I danced through the whole night with Kalivon… It was when we realised we were partners for life. And at dawn we went to the terrace on the eastern tower to see the sun rise, and there… well, the rest is rather private,” she concluded, while her smile faded slightly into sadness. It was the first time she mentioned her husband who, as Nerwen had learned, had been killed in a skirmish with the Easterlings about three hundred years before. Her expression reminded her of Melian and her inextinguishable bitterness for Thingol’s death; suddenly, the last remnants of aversion she still held for Eliénna disappeared like fog in the sun.

“I’m sorry for your husband,” she said in a low voice, “My sister, too, is a widow; therefore I know what sorrow for the loss of a partner means.”

Not for the first time, the queen thought that the Istar – because by now she didn’t doubt anymore she was one – possessed a great deal of empathy. She gave her a grateful glance, then she turned to her son:

“Lorgil, would you fetch me some wine…?”

“Sure, Mother,” the prince answered, quickly taking the carafe and pouring the beverage in a silver goblet, “Here you are,” he said, handing it to her.

Eliénna thanked him with a nod and drank.

After a second dance, Aryon and Myranna joined them, but the princess immediately grasped her brother and laughing dragged him to the dance floor. Watching him, Nerwen saw that Lorgil was good at dancing.

“Dancing runs in the family, I see,” she said, pointing at the young prince. Eliénna nodded:

“Exactly; after all, among me, Kalivon and Aryon, my children couldn’t but get passionate to it, they too…”

Annil Sinton approached them and made a low bow to the queen.

“Your Majesty, may I have the honour of this dance?” he asked her. He was about ten centimetres shorter than her, but Nerwen had seen he was a talented dancer, even if more enthusiastic than skilful.

Eliénna accepted gracefully, and the couple headed for a dance in circles.

Aryon chose a small pie with cheese and vegetables, and began to nib at it.

“Dancing makes one hungry,” he observed casually,

“And thirsty,” Nerwen added, deciding to try the wine Eliénna had drunk. It was cool and slightly sparkling, sweet and fruity.

The next dance was easy enough for Nerwen to do, therefore Aryon invited her once more.

This way, time went on cheerfully, among dances, chats, food and drinks. Around eleven o’clock, Nerwen thought about taking a break.

“I go and sit down a minute,” she informed Aryon, after concluding the last dance together.

“Tired?” he asked her, escorting her off the dancefloor.

“A little bit, but above all flushed,” she confessed, “Between dances and wine, I need to rest a few minutes.”

“I come with you,” he offered, “I, too, won’t mind an interruption.”

After all, he had danced double so much than Nerwen, as he was the partner of Myranna, too. Besides, he wouldn’t mind at all to go somewhere private with her…

Walking by the refreshments tables, Aryon took a carafe of fruit juice and two glasses, then he strode on, the Istar at his side. Torches and lanterns lit the darkness of the summer night, making it easy walking down the paths in the garden.

They found a bench, but it was already occupied, therefore they went on until they found a free one, where they sat down. Nerwen took the goblets Aryon was handing her and the prince filled them up, setting then the carafe down on the ground. They drank, relaxing against the seatback.

“Now that you’ve been here for a few weeks, how do you judge the hospitality of the Avari?” Aryon asked her, referring to their encounter/fight on the beach: actually, it was one way to ascertain if her disposition toward him was favourable or not.

“I surely cannot complain,” Nerwen answered sincerely, “Even if you didn’t trust me, you treated me with great respect, and for this I thank you.”

He nodded, satisfied; but before he could go on, she asked:

“May I ask you if you’ve got an idea about when the queen could make up her mind? Even if I like your hospitality, I cannot tarry here forever: I must resume my mission…”

The hint to her departure troubled him: he didn’t want her to go, he thought, not so soon.

“I think it won’t take much more time, by now,” he answered reluctantly, “and I think it’ll be a favourable decision, because you gave us no reason to mistrust you further,” he added, looking at her. Nerwen nodded:

“Nice to know it!” she commented, laughing, “Convincing you had been no piece of cake…”

“Yes,” Aryon admitted, “We’re suspicious by nature: it isn’t easy winning our trust, but you succeeded. In an utterly complete way, at least for what I’m concerned.”

She watched him, lifting one eyebrow:

“So far to trust me with your life?” she provoked him, recalling the limit he set the day when he allowed her the learning of his tongue from mind to mind.

Aryon bent his lips in his typical half-smile, recalling the same scene.

“There’s really few people I’d trust my life with,” he answered in a low voice, “but, if you’re not yet among them, know that it won’t take long.”

Unexpectedly, Nerwen felt very thrilled.

“Oh…,” she breathed, “Thank you, I’m… honoured.”

The prince shook his head:

“The honour is mine,” he claimed, “It doesn’t happen all the time, to meet an Istar.”

She chuckled:

“Especially if until the day before one thought it was just a fable, good for children!”

Aryon’s half-smile broadened:

“Exactly…”

At that moment, a loud bang startled them.

“The fireworks,” the prince said. They heard a second warning bang, then the show began: silver fountains, golden rains, blue willows, fuchsia lightings, green flowers, orange meteors crossed the night sky standing out against the stars and filling the sky with bright colours. Nerwen and Aryon kept comfortably sitting on the bench and enjoyed the show, which lasted over fifteen minutes. The Maia had seen more scenographic fireworks in Rivendell, but these were just a little less and she appreciated them much.  

fireworks

 

Three bangs announced the end of the pyrotechnic show.

“Beautiful!” Nerwen commented, referring to the fireworks.

“Yes, this year they’ve been particularly creative,” Aryon confirmed, “I hadn’t seen yet the purple falls, or the multi-coloured intersecting circles…”

She nodded, agreeing.

All of a sudden, with no warning at all, her Second Sight manifested itself, so powerfully she thought she received a blow on her head, so strongly did it take her breath away. What she saw made her eyes widen; she felt astonished, while her heart jumped up in her throat.

She and Aryon. In bed together. Naked. Arms wrapped around one another. Lips glued together. Heart to heart. Legs intertwined. Ecstatic faces.

But this wouldn’t upset her much: Aryon was extremely charming and it wouldn’t be absurd at all, ending up in bed with him.

No; what perturbed her was the abrupt awareness that it wouldn’t be a friend-in-love kind of relationship, but as partners for life.

Aryon saw her disconcerted face and was afraid she was feeling bad.

“What’s up, Nerwen?” he asked, worried, “Are you well?”

She moved her lips, but no sound came out of her mouth, as if she had lost the power of speech. Now really concerned, Aryon placed one hand on her shoulder, ready to support her, should she hint to fainting; but a few moments later, the Istar shook her head as if clearing her head and he heard her whispering:

“No, it’s nothing, don’t worry…”

Usually, the awareness to be partners for life came almost at the same time to both peoples involved. If Aryon wasn’t yet conscious of it, in a short time he, too, would realise it: it could be a matter of minutes, at the most hours.

The prince frowned:

“You sure? You’re trembling…”

Nerwen made an effort to breathe normally and calm down her altered heartbeat. Her head was spinning. It was a good thing she had been sitting while her Second Sight switched on, otherwise her legs wouldn’t have supported her and she would have collapsed.

She had expected anything could happen during her long journey in Middle-earth in search of the Onodrim; anything… except receiving the revelation she had found her partner for life.

After looking into the Mirror of Galadriel, she had had the vision of this moody Elf: now the reason of it was clear.

“I’m sure,” she replied firmly.

She looked into his eyes and waited, breath bated.

Aryon was truly concerned and watched her intently in the light of the lanterns. What had her so troubled to widen her eyes and make her jump as slapped?

But seeing her returning steadily his gaze, he calmed down: whatever it had been, it had apparently gone.

“Fine, then,” he said, standing up and stretching out her hand to her, “Shall we go?”

Nerwen felt awful; she had hoped very much he would realise immediately what was their destiny together, but it appeared not to be the case. Maybe the typical stubbornness of the Avari had something to do with this, and Aryon was particularly gifted with it… 

Suppressing a disappointed sigh, she stood up and took his offered hand, allowing him leading her back to the hall; but the remaining of the feast looked pretty dull to her.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

THUD! What a blow, people… after MILLENNIA of waiting, you discover all of a sudden you have your other half right in front of you! I can completely understand Nerwen almost fainting! XD

Now of course she’s waiting for Aryon’s answer… how long will he make her wait? And what will the prince’s reaction be, discovering something he surely doesn’t imagine, not even remotely?

The dance type I depicted – as well as the titles of the various pieces – is inspired by Scottish Country Dance, which I had the pleasure to practice for a few years, and still do sometimes – to my great enjoyment – during parties the local association throws.

 

Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXXIII: Precipitous Departure

 

Soon after one o’clock in the night, during a break in between dances, Eliénna Dhillel announced she would retire, but invited everyone to go on with the feast at their leisure. Nerwen, too, thought about retiring: she was tired of waiting; that obstinate Avar prince could maybe need days to figure out they were partners for life, but she had enough for one evening. Therefore, as soon as the queen had gone, she took her leave from Myranna and Aryon, who were about to perform the next dance.

“It wouldn’t be bad for me to retire, too,” the black-clothed prince announced, “Tomorrow morning I must get up rather soon. Do you mind going on dancing with Lorgil?” he asked, turning to his niece.

“Not at all,” she answered graciously, “Go ahead, Uncle Aryon. Good night, Lady Nerwen,” she concluded, nodding to her. She left them, seeking her brother.

“I’ll walk you to your chamber,” Aryon said. Nerwen’s heart skipped one beat: had he finally realised the news and was now looking for an opportunity to be alone with her, in order to tell her about his feelings? Suddenly she felt hot, then, equally suddenly, cold.

“Thank you,” she accepted, trying to steady her voice. Good Valar, she never ever felt so thrilled at the idea to be alone with someone. So was this the way one felt about the love of one’s life? Now she could wholly understand Melian’s feelings for Thingol, or Lúthien’s for Beren, or Galadriel’s for Celeborn… It was a sense of fullness, joy, gratefulness, marvel, something that gave her a force and an energy through which she would be able to defy the Dark Enemy himself… and win.

Exactly like her sister’s daughter had done, when she confronted Morgoth and won.

Aryon, completely unaware of the storm of feelings raging in Nerwen’s heart, offered her his arm, and she accepted it.

They took the nearest stairway going to the upper floor; once there, Aryon walked her to the stairs leading to her quarters, and without stopping, he went on, going upstairs with her. At this point, Nerwen was sure the prince had realised everything and was going to tell her openly, and then he would ask her to spend the night together. At the mere thought, her throat turned dry because of the thrill.

When they arrived in front of the door to Nerwen’s bedchamber, Aryon stopped; she turned to look at him, full of expectation.

“It’s been a wonderful evening,” the prince said.

“Yes,” she agreed, unable to put together a longer sentence. Aryon’s bright eyes sparkled like jewels in the uncertain light of the only lamp lighting the landing; the Maia felt her knees turning to jelly.

Aryon was uncertain: could he make a pass at her? This was the reason why he had walked her there in the first place: he had felt her very close earlier, when they were sitting on that bench in the garden… but then, somehow she had withdrawn. He truly didn’t know what to make of it.

Maybe he had been wrong, he concluded.

“Good night, Nerwen,” he murmured, bending slightly to brush her hand with his lips; then he turned and went for the staircase.

Nerwen felt like petrified. For long moments, she wasn’t even able to breathe or organise a full thought; dazed, speechless, she stared at Aryon going away.

Aryon descended slowly the first two steps; all of a sudden, he felt like punched in the stomach and lost his breath. He gasped for air, while in his brain an abrupt, absolute certainty exploded.

Nerwen the Green was his partner for life.

He straightened his back as if jabbed with a sword and spun around to look at the Istar, his eyes wide, bedazzled. She was staring at him, frozen; the dismayed expression on her beautiful face stabbed his heart.

Dumbfounded, overwhelmed, he froze as well, his eyes imprisoned in hers. Eliénna had described to him what she had felt when she recognised Kalivon as her partner for life, and his few intimate friends had done the same, but nothing, nothing had him prepared for the emotional hurricane that was hitting him now, literally cutting off his breath.

For long moments, they stayed there, devouring each other with their eyes, unmoving, speechless, almost without even breathing.

Then Nerwen, realising that finally Aryon was aware of their fatal bond, she parted her lips in the hint of a smile. That small movement shook Aryon out of his paralysis; with just a few strides of his long legs, the prince annulled the distance between them and cupped her face.

“You…” he whispered in an incredulous tone, “It’s you…”

almost kissing

 

She fought the lump that was trying to close her throat and managed a sigh:

“Yes…”

That single, barely audible syllable made his heart jump in his throat.

“Blessed Vána…” he murmured in a choked whisper, invoking the name of Oromë’s spouse. Following his instinct, he bowed his head and placed his lips on hers.

Nerwen felt a vibration inside of her, as if she was a harp from which the skilful hand of a musician had just taken a celestial chord; during all her long life, she had never felt something even by far comparable to this, and the sensation shook her deeply, both in body and soul. She moved her arms and wrapped them around him.

Aryon’s lips pressed against hers firmly, but at the same time gently; her mind empty of coherent thoughts, Nerwen opened her mouth, calling him to deepen the kiss. The prince accepted promptly her invitation and their tongues brushed, touching and caressing one another, advancing and withdrawing in a dance that was both sweet and exciting.

They kissed for a long time, stopping just for brief moments to catch breath and then go again for it, each time hotter than the one before. Passion grew and spread inside of them like a fire, until it was uncontrollable. They stumbled toward the chamber’s door, slammed into it; Aryon pressed Nerwen against the closed doorway, crushing his body into hers. By Oromë’s shield, how soft was her body, and delicious her mouth…!

Unable to hold back, he stole one hand up her hip until he brushed the side of one breast. He heard her moaning in approval and lost his head. He fumbled in search of the doorknob, found it, turned it and opened the door. Crushing her even more against his body, he lifted her and carried her inside, kicking the door closed. Two lamps turned on automatically, spreading their soft golden light in the chamber.

Nerwen was incapable to think anymore, as if she had lost her senses. As far as she was concerned, all of Eä could have disappeared and now there were only the two of them left, engrossed in this sensual embrace.

Aryon placed her down and unglued his mouth from hers, only to bend lower and kiss her neck; she threw back her head, offering him access to the soft skin of her throat, which he quickly tasted with the tip of his tongue, finding it as exquisite as vanilla. He heard her gasp and he bent even lower, brushing her chest with his lips, and lower, where, just above the rim of the neckline of her dress, the soft mounds of her breasts swelled up.

A long, hot shudder swept over Nerwen. Aryon’s lips, arms, body felt so right, so perfect, as if they had been made just for her; and indeed, they were, because he was her partner for life. As much as she had been created for him… She grabbed his shoulders and uttered a sigh full of desire, not only physical desire, but of soul and heart, too.

Aryon searched for the strings on the back of her gown, undoing them; once the garment was sufficiently open, he slid it down her shoulders, leaving her with only her chemise of thin silk veil. Through the transparent fabric, he could see the dark areolas crowning her breasts, with at their centre the hard and erect nipples; he took one into his mouth, sucking gently.

Nerwen felt like going up in flames.

“Oh, Aryon…!” she moaned, and it sounded like a prayer. Longing to give him pleasure as much as he was giving it to her, she lowered one hand and touched the evidence of his virility. It was Aryon’s turn to utter a delighted groan. He straightened his back and seized Nerwen’s lips for another fiery kiss; she slipped her hands over his back, caressing him. He grasped her by her hips and crushed her to his body; in reply, she rubbed her body against his, making him groan again in pleasure. He cupped her cheeks again, and doing so, his fingers brushed her ears.

Ears with round auricles.

Human ears.

He felt as if the earth was shifting under his feet and stiffened. With a gasp, he tore himself off her soft lips and stared at her, incredulous. Confused, Nerwen opened her eyes and looked at him.

“What…” she stammered.

“It’s… it’s not possible,” the prince panted, “You belong to the race of Men, I to the Eldar! How can you be my partner for life?”

He took one step backwards, leaving her. Nerwen staggered for a moment, bewildered: what on Arda was Aryon talking about?

“Wh… what?” she spluttered.

Aryon ran one hand through his hair, torn by doubts.

“I am the son of a Maia,” he mused under his breath, “I can’t believe that my destiny is united with that of a Human, a mortal…”

Nerwen blinked, while the prince was taking another step back. He was rejecting her! she thought, incredulous. How could he refuse his own destiny?

Then, like a slap in the face, the reasons he was adducing hit her.

He was rejecting her because he thought her of the race of Men. Lesser. Unworthy.

Pain and anger flared up in her spirit, concocting in a racking rush.

“You mean I’m not enough for you, do you?!” she cried, her voice trembling with equal parts of rage and tears.

“Don’t…” Aryon began, but Nerwen was too distressed to let him speak:

“You mean that, should I’ve been the last of the fishmongers at the market, but an Elf, I’d do fine, but because I’m Human, even if an Istar, I don’t?!” she burst out, “I didn’t think you were so haughty! You’re presumptuous, arrogant, mulish, despicable… and hateful! Go away! Get out of here!”

She took off one shoe and threw it at him. Taken by surprise, Aryon raised his arms to deflect the blunt object; seeing her taking off the other shoe, he withdrew three steps.

“Calm down!” he cried, “I never should have…”

You never should have even looked at me!” Nerwen yelled, beside herself, hurling the second shoe, which hit him on one leg, “Go away!!

Aryon stared at her for a long moment; he wanted to tell her something, something that could soothe the pain he saw in her face, mixed with anger, which was tearing apart his heart, but he couldn’t think of anything sufficiently compelling. Therefore, he gave up; he turned on his heels, reached the entrance and exited, closing the door behind him.

Nerwen’s legs gave way; she fell on her knees and burst into tears. Deep sobs shook her chest while she collapsed.

After millennia of vain waiting, almost resigned to be alone forever, beyond all hope she had instead met her partner for life, only to be refused by him because he thought her less than him and therefore unworthy. If only he had known who she really was… if only she could tell him…

Yet there was something worse: she never, ever would have thought him so petty, so disdainful. Whether he liked it or not, they were partners for life, but this was apparently not enough for him to accept their ostensible race differentiation. She recalled the Elf about whom the spring in Chetwood had sung, telling her and Thorin about his love for the human woman. That Elf hadn’t cared about different races, on the contrary, it had been him insisting for them to be together, choosing to live with her the years he was allowed to, instead of solitude.

Seemingly, Aryon wasn’t cut from the same cloth.

Nerwen had fallen for him without realising it and, in spite of his haughtiness, arrogance, stubbornness, despicability, she couldn’t help but love him. Because, like it or not, he was her partner for life. In the same way, Aryon, too, couldn’t help but love her, yet he had rejected this love. The Aini couldn’t grasp how this could be possible. She had never heard it occurring.  

Bewildered, discouraged, embittered, Nerwen stood up and, staggering, headed for the bed, where she dropped. She had neither the strength nor the will to change for the night or to turn off the lamps. Sinking her face into the pillow, she wept until she fell asleep.

 

OOO

 

Aryon reached his chamber, but he wasn’t in the least sleepy. Nevertheless, he tried to go to bed, but he didn’t sleep a wink, flustered by totally unknown and upsetting emotions and feelings.

Nerwen was a female of the race of Men, sure; but she was an Istar, too. If what was rumoured about the Wizards went for her, too, she was endowed with a much longer life than Men. Nonetheless, she was mortal, and this meant that at a certain point she would go to a place where he couldn’t follow her. No one knew the fate in store for the souls of Men, who didn’t stay in the Halls of Mandos waiting to be reincarnated, as the Eldar did. On the other hand, even belonging to the race of Elves wasn’t a guarantee for an eternity together, because Elves, too, could be killed, as it had happened to his brother-in-law Kalivon; but it was possible for their souls to meet again in the Halls of Awaiting, and it was rumoured that, being born again, those who loved each other much would reunite, even if it wasn’t possible to state it for certain, because when one reincarnated, one didn’t remember the earlier lives. However, this hypothesis represented a hope, if nothing else, while instead, coming to Humans, it failed, and therefore he would end up losing her forever, sooner or later.

Nerwen was wrong: he didn’t think her lesser than him or unworthy. He loved her, he couldn’t deny it, nor could he help it, because she was his partner for life; but in front of the certainty of sorrow for losing her, he faltered and hesitated. His sister had almost died of consumption, after Kalivon’s killing, and if she had survived, it had been only for the love of her children; while his father, when he lost his wife, had chosen to return to Valinor seeking relief, and with the hope to meet her again, one day, in case she would reincarnate there. He didn’t want to face that sorrow, worsened by the despair of knowing there was no possibility to find Nerwen ever again.

Sleepless, he tossed and turned in his bed until the first signs of dawn; then he got up, dressed and marched to the stables, where he personally saddled his black stallion, Allakos. Then he mounted and headed out of town. He had business to do, and after having them settled, he would take some days away from the palace – and from Nerwen – to ponder and make up his mind.

 

OOO

 

The following morning, Nerwen didn’t show up at the terrace where she used to break her fast with Aryon and Eliénna, asking Parànel to fetch her something to her chamber: at the risk of looking coward, she wasn’t ready to confront Aryon.

During the morning, the queen sent for her. The Aini got immediately downstairs, wondering what she might tell Eliénna if she asked her why she didn’t come for breakfast; she hadn’t thought on pleading to be sick.

The queen was waiting for her in her office, the same room where she had received her the day of her arrival in Bârlyth; she was sitting at her mahogany desk and invited her to take a seat, unlike the first time when she had left her standing all the time. Nerwen sat therefore on the stuffed chair beside the desk.

“This morning you didn’t show up, at breakfast,” Eliénna said, a quizzical expression on her stunningly beautiful face, “Are you well?”

“Yes, I’m fine, I just overslept,” Nerwen answered, “I beg your pardon, Your Majesty; I’m not used to keep early hours,” she added as an explanation.

“I see,” the queen said, hiding her perplexity, “Did you anyway have your breakfast?”

“Yes, thank you: Parànel brought me something in my room.”

“Very well,” Eliénna nodded, dismissing the matter, “Aryon, too, wasn’t there this morning: he was up and out before dawn for his duties, leaving word he will be back only in a few days…”

Nerwen felt disappointed, and it surprised her: she would rather expect to feel relieved; but actually, she felt embittered because he wanted to avoid her. Like she was a leper…

“However,” the queen went on, completely unaware of her interlocutor’s torments, “following my brother’s opinion, I decided to give you a safe-conduct that allows you to move freely within the entire territory of the Six Tribes, with no escort nor limitations of any kind. I therefore instructed my secretary to draw it,” she pointed to the sheet laying on her desk, “and I was about to sign it.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Nerwen said stiffly; at Eliénna’s perplexed look, she tried to shape up, “I am very grateful, but above all I’m glad to learn that, in the end, you accepted to believe to my good faith.”

The queen nodded graciously.

“I still think your mission is… a fantasy,” she stated tactfully, “but I’m disposed to give you the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, perhaps one day you’ll be back with a host of Entwives in your wake, and then I’ll be glad to admit I was wrong,” she added humorously. Nerwen smiled only slightly, still in too bad a mood about what had occurred last night, and also too embittered by Aryon’s behaviour: not only he had decided to avoid her, but he had also urged his sister to send her away.

“May I leave immediately?” she asked impulsively. Better going away, as he clearly didn’t want her.

“Of course,” the queen answered, not hiding her surprise, “but do you want to leave with no word to my brother? I thought you liked each other…”

Nerwen blushed, not knowing if it was because of embarrassment or anger.

“So did I,” she answered, “but yestereve… we worked it out.”

“Oh,” the queen uttered, rather puzzled: she had been so sure Aryon had become besotted with Nerwen and that she reciprocated him… but no? How strange, she rarely misjudged people’s state of mind, especially of those she knew best: and she knew no one better than her brother, except maybe her children.

Giving up for the moment the understanding of the situation, she took her quill, dipped it in the inkwell and signed with a flourish, then she used the sealing wax to add her seal, making the document official for all intents and purposes. Finally, she handed it to Nerwen so that she could read it; the Istar scanned it quickly and nodded, showing she had understood. Hence, Eliénna gave her a tubular leather case, where she could store the rolled up safe-conduct, and Nerwen slipped the document in it.

“Thank you, Your Majesty,” she said, standing up and curtseying, “With your permission, I’ll leave tomorrow morning.”

“As you wish, Lady Nerwen,” the queen answered, “From now on, you’re free to come and go at your leisure in my realm.”

After another curtsy, less deep, the Maia took her leave and returned to her chamber, where she began to pack and secured the precious document that made her wait so long. At noon she nibbled something, cursing Aryon for her lack of appetite – she never had a poor appetite, damn him! – and then in the afternoon she headed for the stables to warn her kelvar friends that the following morning they would leave.

Thilgiloth didn’t hide her perplexity:

It looks like a very hasty departure, compared to the previous ones, she observed, Did something happen that annoyed you?

Nerwen didn’t even think about keeping her reasons from her four-legged old friend and told her briefly the facts of the previous night.

I wasn’t aware you were attracted to him, the Chargeress said, baffled, It wasn’t like the other times…

Not even I was aware of being attracted to him, Nerwen explained, Not particularly, I mean. And even less was I aware I was falling for him… Until I realised he is my partner for life. But he wants me not… Besides, his flight makes it quite clear he wants nothing to do with me. I don’t understand how this is possible! she shook her head, still disbelieving at what looked like a paradox, The queen’s decision comes at just the right time: better I go away. It is what it is, she concluded with an unhappy sigh.

Thilgiloth didn’t know how to comfort her: for her nature, she wasn’t able to grasp the idea of partner for life and what it implied at an emotional level. She only knew her old friend was sad, and she didn’t like it. She felt like hating Aryon: how did he dare rejecting Nerwen? Who did he think he was? She badly wanted to trample him.

 

OOO

 

Wishing to take her leave properly from Eliénna and her children, Nerwen showed up for dinner even if she wasn’t very hungry. But the smell of calf stew made her appetite return, therefore she ended up eating almost normally.

Myranna was sorry to hear about Nerwen’s departure: the foreigner was interesting and she would gladly get to know her better; besides, her knowledge in herbal remedies had helped her much in her studies, to say nothing about her encouragement in front of her mother, who didn’t approve of her choice to become a healer. Lorgil instead accepted the news with more detachment, both because of his more reserved character and because he had had less opportunities to interact with Nerwen.

When she took her leave, Eliénna Dhillel saluted her with the traditional parting formula of the Avari:

“May Oromë’s shield protect you from danger, and may Vána’s flowers ease your step.”

Nerwen responded with her own:

“May the stars shine upon your path.”

Perhaps they hadn’t come to love each other, but they sure had come to respect each other; therefore, their parting was rather formal, but surely heartfelt.

 

OOO

 

Early in the morning of the following day, Nerwen left Bârlyth; with a last glance at the beautiful wooden palace on the top of the highest hill, the Istar turned Thilgiloth to the right, towards the Rinnen, where the road skirting the river would lead her first to the port and then, going on, out of the forest, in the vast plains between Eryn Rhûn and the Orocarni.

 

 

 

Author’s Corner:

 

Argh! Have you got any idea on how difficult it has been tearing Nerwen off Aryon’s arms?? But it couldn’t be so easy: our Istar cannot have anyone she wants falling under her charm just with a snap of her fingers, even if often, thanks to her appeal, in the past it seemed like this, and in spite he’s her partner for life.

Now let’s see how long it will take for Aryon to make up his mind and surrender to his destiny…

 

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

banner

 

Chapter XXXIV: Doubts and Torments

 

Aryon Morvacor mounted and shook the bridles; obediently, Allakos moved, setting forth down the road out of the port on the Rinnen.

After carrying out his duties, Aryon had a mind to take refuge in his hunting lodge, located in an area, rich in game, to the north of Bârlyth, seeking solitude and peacefulness to ponder and make up his mind about his future with Nerwen, as he promised himself two nights before, while he tossed sleepless in his bed. The memory of the fiery kisses they had exchanged, of the scent of her skin, of the softness of her body crushed against his had left him for not even one moment, and he was becoming obsessed. He would give his right arm to live again through those exciting moments, but just when he thought about it, his mind ruthlessly reminded him about the reasons why he had fled. Yes, fled: no point in refusing to admit it, this had been a flight, a flight from a dilemma; but Aryon Morvacor, First Sword of the High Sovereign of the Six Tribes of the Avari, was not the type to run from nothing. The problem was only delayed, and not for long, because he had every intention of facing and resolving it, one way or another.

He took the northbound path that, from the Rinnen, led to the hunting lodge, unaware that in this same moment, Nerwen was leaving Bârlyth.

In the late afternoon, the prince reached his destination; he dismounted and took Allakos to the box next to the lodge, where he took off his harness and groomed him nicely, before feeding him some fodder, stored in bags stacked in a corner. Finally, he entered into the lodge, where he lit a lamp; from the inn at the port, Aryon brought enough food for a couple of days, and now he began to nibble at a slice of bread with some cottage cheese, drinking many cups of red wine. Then he climbed into the bed, tired and in a foul mood. With a sigh, he closed his eyes, and immediately Nerwen’s imagine took shape in his mind, with only her chemise on, her amiable body visible through the semi-transparent fabric, her erected nipples pushing against the soft cloth; he started and a warm shiver of desire made him tremble. It wasn’t just the physical desire of having her with him in this very bed, in his arms; but also seeing her, hearing her voice, her laugh, smelling her peculiar scent. He realised he was excruciatingly missing her, as if he had stayed away from her for months, not only two days.

Without knowing it, he slipped into sleep.

 

OOO

 

The next day, he got up feeling all broken and numb, as if he had been sleeping outdoors with no fire on a wet autumn night. This worsened his mood, which stayed dark all day through while he was loitering around with bow and arrows; but he was so slouched that he didn’t pay attention, hence all game had ample time to bolt and run.

The following day wasn’t better than the first, and the prince’s bad mood worsened even more, while he was struggling in the vain attempt to make up his mind.

At nightfall, he went to bed very disgruntled.

 

OOO

 

When she came to the borders of Eryn Rhûn, Nerwen stopped for the night even if there was still light; after all, these were the longest days of the year.

This evening, too, she decided to spare as much as possible of the supplies she had been given at the palace and sought for edible herbs and mushrooms to make a soup, in which she dipped some crackers. She still had lembas, but it was running out, therefore she preferred to spare it. She thought annoyed that, wouldn’t she have been in such a hurry to leave Bârlyth, she could have baked some in the wooden palace’s kitchens; but as it got this way, she would do it at some other point, whenever the opportunity would rise.

After dinner, she prepared the fire to burn low as long as possible – not much for the heat, as the season didn’t require it, but for the light – and unrolled the wicker carpet she had asked for, on which she spread her blanket. Using the saddle as a pillow, she prepared to sleep. She was tired and frustrated: the disappointment about Aryon’s behaviour was far from gone, and would need much more time to subside. Oh, how much she hated him!

Finally, she fell asleep.

 

OOO

 

It was dawning, when Aryon got up; not wanting any breakfast, he dressed and went out in the cool morning air. Unexpectedly, he discerned Nerwen among the trees in front of the lodge: she was wearing a light blue dress under a musk-green cloak, her long brown hair down her back, and she was looking at him. The prince wondered fleetingly what she was doing there, but his heart was thumping with such a joy, he immediately forgot about it; he hurriedly made his way to her, while she was watching him, motionless, smiling. He thought she was the most beautiful creature in the world.

When he got near her, Nerwen threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly, sending his heart jumping. Rejoicing, he pulled her in close, lifting her off her feet, and returned her kiss with equal fervour; but, under the passion, he felt the ineffable melody of a sentiment he never felt before, an indescribable emotion tightening his throat and moistening his eyes.

kiss

 

They parted, and Aryon set her back down; short-breathed, they exchanged a glance, silently understanding each other perfectly, then he took her hand and led her to the lodge. While walking, the prince realised he found Nerwen’s close proximity deeply pleasurable. No, it was more than pleasurable: it was… right. She was exactly where she had to be: at his side. Walking with him. Looking in the same direction. Not only physically, but also metaphorically.

Once inside, he led her to the bedroom, where they laid down. Quickly, their clothes disappeared and Aryon could kiss and caress her everywhere, until she was moaning with desire. Then he took her, determined to achieve the uppermost peaks of pleasure; but suddenly he realised that this took second place compared to the joy to see her face transfixed with ecstasy, hear her voice calling his name at the high point, and feel her body vibrating under and around his in the paroxysm of bliss. He pushed himself up on his arms to look at her and began to move…

 

OOO

 

Nerwen woke up startled, breathing hard while her body was shivering in pleasure. She had just had a very vivid dream, but its reminiscence was already waning. The only thing she knew for certain was that Aryon was making love to her. She placed one hand on her feverish brow: was it possible that she had had an orgasm while dreaming about him…? She got angry at herself: by Manwë’s hurricanes, he refused her, and she instead fantasised about rolling around in a bed with him?? Had she no esteem of herself, no shred of dignity?

Tears welled up in her eyes, therefore as a reaction she clung at her anger: blast him!!

She rose; dawn was still far away, but she would sleep no more, hence she poked up again the fire and made herself a strong bergamot tea for breakfast.

 

OOO

 

Aryon woke up feeling as if his heart was singing. He remembered each moment of the most stunning dream of his life: loving Nerwen with every cell of his being, body and soul. What a fool had he been, thinking he could reject destiny, embodied in his partner for life, the one he had awaited for so many centuries he had almost lost hope to meet her! What difference did it make if she belonged to the race of Men? She was an Istar: giving credit to the tales he had heard about Wizards, tales going around for almost two thousand years that referred they didn’t age, she would live for a very long time: centuries, maybe even millennia. But even if this wouldn’t prove true, if instead he would be allowed to stay with her only the few decades of human life, he wanted to live each moment together with her, not wasting any more precious time…

He jumped out of bed and dressed quickly; he threw in bulk all his belongings in the saddlebags, then ran to the stable and saddled Allakos. He hoisted on the stallion’s back and spurred him on, whispering:

“Run as fast as you can, my friend!”

Allakos was no Charger and could not understand his words, but he had been infected by his rider’s hurry and at his signal, he leaped forward, galloping down the path taking to the Rinnen and Bârlyth.

 

OOO

 

It was growing dark when Aryon reached the palace; he left Allakos into the care of the palfrey who had come to receive him, and sprinted upstairs to the entrance, then he ascended hastily the stairway of the tower where Nerwen’s chamber was located. The door was wide open, therefore he barged in, only to find the room deserted. Thinking she might have gone to dinner, the prince hurried down and reached his sister’s private dining room, entering like a whirlwind, almost breathless; the table was already set for the evening meal, but it was still too early for someone to be there.

The handmaid who was putting the finishing touches to the table set spun around to look at him, scared by his sudden appearance. 

“Where’s Lady Nerwen?” Aryon asked her, too impatient to realise how harsh his voice was while speaking to her. The servant winced and stuttered:

“I don’t know, Lord Aryon… you should ask Parànel, her maid, or your sister the queen…”

The prince nodded curtly and headed for the door for his sister’s private chambers. He knocked, and hearing her invitation to come in, he opened.

“Eliénna, may I talk to you?”

“Sure, Aryon, come on in,” the queen exhorted him, having just finished freshening up before dinner, as usual. He entered and closed the door behind him.

“Welcome back,” his sister said, “Where have you been? You disappeared with no world to anyone…”

“I’ve got work to do,” he explained concisely, trying to use a calmer tone, “I’m looking for Nerwen, do you know where I can find her?”

“I’m sorry, Aryon, she left three days ago…”

“Left?” he was startled, interrupting her without even realising his rudeness, “What do you mean?”

Eliénna frowned: with her, Aryon was never rude.

“I mean that I gave her the safe-conduct, as you suggested days ago, and she decided to leave immediately,” she explained dryly.

Aryon passed one hand over his face, dusty because of the day on horseback, feeling disheartened. But he could blame only himself: it was solely his fault, if Nerwen left in such a hurry.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled, “I just, you know, needed to talk to her about an important matter.”

The queen had a sudden feeling.

“Like, you changed your mind and you want to be with her?” she threw him. Aryon stared at her, stunned.

“I’ve realised immediately you like Nerwen,” Eliénna went on, “but she didn’t reciprocate your interest; not at the beginning, at least. Then things changed, as days passed by. I’d have sworn you’d spend together the last part of the night of the Mid-Summer feast, but she told me you didn’t. She looked like being in a terrible hurry to leave, and I supposed she offered herself to you, but you, for some reason, refused her. Am I right?”

The prince sighed.

“You’re right, Eliénna,” he admitted, “but it’s more complicated than this. It’s not just a love-friendship: Nerwen and I are partners for life.”

There, he had declared it openly. As soon as he said it aloud, it seemed the most natural thing in the world.

Eliénna felt pretty dumbfounded at this claim.

“Are you serious?” she asked. It was Aryon’s turn to frown:

“Am I looking as if I’m kidding?”

The queen shook her head:

“No, of course not… but you’ll admit that this is slightly unexpected news.”

“Don’t tell me!” he grumbled, “It caught me totally by surprise. It happened when I walked her back to her chamber after the feast. And you’re right, we almost ended up straight in bed. But then, I began to think that she belongs to the race of Men, that she’s a mortal, that when she’ll die I’ll lose her for good, and how much this will hurt me… Worse than our father when mother died. At least he knows that sooner or later her spirit will reincarnate and perhaps he’ll be able to meet her again, but me…? Nobody knows where the souls of the mortals go, after passing… Therefore, I rejected her…”

“…but now you repent it,” the queen concluded, watching him intently.

Aryon nodded to confirm.

“What made you change your mind?” his sister enquired.

“I realised I can’t fight destiny,” he answered under his breath, “She and I are made to be together, and that’s it. Better just a few years with her, than all eternity without… Besides, she’s an Istar, and if what they tell about them is true, then it won’t be only a few decades, but much longer.”

Eliénna went silent; pondering her brother’s words, she walked to the window and watched outside, at the last lights of sunset. As hers, Aryon’s royal status was accentuated by being the son of an Ainu; nobody, in Middle-earth, could claim such a high ancestry. Whoever their partner for life might be, he or she could not match such nobility, but neither she nor her brother did ever worry about this, considering the impossibility to find an equal. Kalivon had been a member of the lesser Avarin nobility of the Windan tribe; for Aryon, Eliénna was expecting at least the same, but also a non-noble Elf could do, as long as he was happy. She never thought about someone of a different race than theirs, also because their contacts with non-Elves were virtually nil, since they broke off their relations with Dorwinion. This didn’t anyway change the fact that Nerwen was her brother’s partner for life; she ended up respecting her, and even if she couldn’t say for certain that she liked her, surely she didn’t dislike her. What she disliked instead was that, because of her, she would lose her brother, her First Sword, because if he wanted to be with Nerwen, he had to follow her on her unlikely search.

All these thoughts swirled through her mind for several minutes. Finally, she turned again to Aryon.

“What will you do, now?” she asked him.

“Nerwen wanted to find a way to cross the Red Mountains,” Aryon considered, “and the shortest way to reach them is following the Rinnen upriver, and then the Sirlechin. I’ll go after and find her.”

“And then? Will you accompany her for the rest of her absurd search?” the queen insisted. Her brother stretched all of his noticeable height.

“If necessary, yes,” he stated firmly. Eliénna wasn’t surprised at all: deep down, she knew he would answer this way.

“And to do so, would you abandon me, your sister and queen?” she asked in a low voice. Aryon stared into her eyes, then he lowered his head: his unease was apparent.

“I could never do it, unless you give me permission,” he answered despondently.

But Eliénna never had intended preventing him to follow his destiny, his love: she knew perfectly what it was like finding one’s partner for life, and she could never do that to him, she loved him too much. Her question had only intended to remind him where – always and forever – his loyalty was.

“I’m sorry to lose the best First Sword a queen can wish,” she said, slowly, “both for capability and for blood ties; but I’d never deprive you of your happiness, brother mine,” she was silent for a moment, “I release you from your duties, Aryon Morvacor,” she added solemnly, “I’ll find a substitute, and I’ll be fine.”

The prince lifted his gaze again, incredulous; then he ran to hug his sister.

“Thank you,” he whispered, holding her tight, “Thank you!”

 

OOO

 

The sun had just risen over the horizon, when Aryon left Bârlyth without knowing if he would ever return. The night before he had taken his leave from his niece and nephew and from his closest friends, then, after a quick bath and a light dinner, he had gone to bed. He had some trouble to fall asleep, being so impatient to leave, but finally he managed to sleep a few hours.

He took a second horse with him, a bay gelding with long legs named Nordhir; this way, he could switch mount as soon as the one he was riding would show signals of weariness, and this way catching up with Nerwen more swiftly.

 

OOO

 

In the late afternoon of this same day, Nerwen reached a village on the river of the Rinnen. The only inn was so humble, it didn’t even have a bathtub, but at least the Istar could use a basin and a washcloth to take off dust and sweat. She dined and then went out for a stroll along the riverbank; she sat in the grass of the bank to smoke her pipe, but when she realised she was nervously munching at the stem, she gave up. She returned to the inn and retired to her room, where she got to bed and tried to sleep; but her thoughts tormented her.

In the last few days, she had been so angry with Aryon, she didn’t truly realise how much his refusal had hurt her; but with the passing of time, anger had subsided, and now dejection had emerged. She thought wistfully about her beautiful gardens in the south of Valinor and wished she were there, where the quality of the Blessed Realm would ease the pain that was crushing her heart to the point she felt like having a boulder in her chest. To fight off her misery, she tried to regain the feeling of indignation she had just a few hours ago, but she didn’t succeed.

At last, somehow she fell asleep; but she awoke several hours before dawn and wasn’t able to sleep a wink anymore. Therefore, she decided to contact Yavanna: she needed to vent and, who knows, perhaps her Mistress could give her some good advice.

Behind the screen of her tightly closed eyelids, she visualised the inner portal symbolising the connection with Yavanna and knocked.

A few moments later, the door opened and her Mistress showed up on the threshold.

Nerwen, my dear, I’m glad to see you, she welcomed her, smiling. Around them appeared the library of her palace in Valimar.

Nerwen took the hands the Valië was extending to her and squeezed them affectionately.

I,  too, am glad to see you, Yavanna, she said.

They moved and sat on two stuffed chairs, next to the window opening on the garden, a triumph of summer greenery. Here, it was mid-afternoon.

Do you have news about your search? Kementári asked her. Obviously she was expecting a positive answer, as their contacts were essentially meant for that; but Nerwen had to disappoint her:

No, this time it’s about me: I need your advice, my Mistress Kementári.

Yavanna watched her closely, rather surprised: it had happened very rarely that her disciple, endowed with the insight of the Ainur, needed advice.

Tell me, she exhorted her.

I met my partner for life, Nerwen announced up front.

The Queen of Earth smiled, glad for her friend: she knew her follower had always wished to meet him, and that sometimes she worried because it hadn’t happened yet, until she had come to believe he didn’t exist.  

I am very happy for you, she said. Nerwen nodded to thank her, but didn’t return her smile, on the contrary, her face became distressed, What is troubling you, my dear? she asked her then.

He… rejected me, Nerwen explained under her breath. Yavanna lifted her eyebrows, flabbergasted:

What? But… this is impossible!

Nonetheless, he did, the Istar sighed, He is a prince of the Avari, brother to their High Sovereign. He thinks I’m a Human and therefore not worthy of him.

How mean! the Valië cried, indignant.

Yeah, Nerwen commented, but I don’t think he believes himself superior to me just because he’s an Elf and a prince: he and his sister are the children of a Maia and the previous queen of the Avari.

Kementári felt astonished as much as her follower had been when she learned about it: she, too, had believed that, in all of Arda’s history, there had been only one union between an Ainu and an Elda, the one between Melian and Thingol.

Who is this Maia? she asked.

Galadhost, a follower of Oromë, Nerwen answered. Yavanna shook her head:

I do not know him.

He was with Aldaron when he went to Cuiviénen, the Istar told her, There, he met and fell in love with an Elda, Lauriell, hence he decided to stay in Endorë and marry her. She was killed at the beginning of the Second Age, and then Galadhost decided to come back here, seeking relief from his sorrow.

A very similar story to Melian’s, the Queen of Earth mused. Nerwen nodded: she, too, had noticed it.

If only I could tell him who I really am… she whispered.

You cannot, Yavanna said.

I know…

No, it is not only about the prohibition you are subject to, the Valië explained, taking one of her hands, Should he accept you are partners for life only because you match his status – actually, yours is superior – he would truly show himself as mean, even if I cannot believe that you have been appointed to such a consort. He must accept you for what he thinks you are, overcoming his haughtiness: only then, he will be worthy of you.

Nerwen felt blown away: she never considered the matter this way, that is, from a totally reversed point of view.

You’re right, she admitted, frowning, but what happens, if he doesn’t change his mind? We’ll be both maimed of our partner…

Kementári shook her head again:

In all of Arda’s history, it never occurred that someone refused his or her partner for life. He will realise he is wrong and change his mind. I am sure of it.

Nerwen felt a ray of hope glimmering inside of her. Actually, her Second Sight could show her a future that could not come true, but her Mistress’ words comforted her greatly.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have left that much hastily, she mused, I should have stayed and waited, insisting…

There is no need, Yavanna reassured her, As soon as he will realise he cannot resist destiny’s call, he will come for you.

Seeing her face lighting up, the Valië smiled again.

Tell me, what is his name? she asked, How is he?

Her question diverted Nerwen from the strong emotion that had pervaded her.

His name is Aryon Morvacor, she answered, He is very tall, dark haired, with very bright blue eyes; he dresses always in black, and has a rather grouchy, reserved and untrusty character, which seems to be the norm, among the Avari; but when he smiles, oh!, it looks like sunshine rising in a foggy day.

At this description, Yavanna’s smile widened: she had never seen Nerwen with eyes sparkling so much while talking about a lover.

As I said, the Maia went on, unaware of her Mistress’ thoughts, he is brother to the High Sovereign of the Six Tribes of the Avari, Queen Eliénna Dhillel.

And why is it it him, the king? the Valië enquired, knowing that, mostly, the peoples of Middle-earth followed a male lineage.

She is his elder sister, Nerwen explained, The Avari don’t differentiate birthright between males and females.

Kementári nodded, showing she had understood.

At this point, Nerwen stood up to take her leave: she thought she had already demanded enough of her Mistress’ time for a personal matter that had nothing to do with the mission she had been appointed with.

Thank you for listening, Yavanna, she said, Now I feel better.

The Valië stood up, too; as usual, she embraced her disciple and wished her good luck, before the imagine of her and the library dissolved in a soft white mist.

 

OOO

 

Nerwen woke up in her bed in the inn; outside, the sun had risen by now. As usual, after an astral journey, she was hungry and thirsty; she dressed quickly and went downstairs to have a hearty breakfast before setting forth again.

While mounting, Thilgiloth noticed her calmer state of mind and she remarked:

It’s good you’re back to your old self, my friend… In the last few days you’ve been truly as dark as a storm cloud…

I know, and I beg your pardon, Nerwen answered; she had actually been so enraged, she wanted to bite someone, I’ve calmed down, now.

For sure, that Avar prince made you as furious as rarely happened in the past, the Chargeress observed.

That’s right, the Aini admitted.

What will you do, should he show up?

Involuntarily, Nerwen’s heart jumped. If he followed and found her, as Yavanna had predicted, how would she feel?

I’ll jump him, she grumbled, but I don’t know if I’ll do it to kiss him or give him a black eye.

Thilgiloth snorted: she would never understand why the two-legs had always to make life so difficult…

 

OOO

 

Nerwen felt worn out and hot. Her hat protected her head from the sun, but even if she was wearing only a sleeveless shirt in light cotton cloth, sweat was dripping down her back. Six days had passed since she had had the opportunity to wash, in that small village on the Rinnen where she had contacted Yavanna. She glanced at the river and thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stop and freshen up, bathing and resting in the shade of a tree, but here the riverbank was steep and there were no trees. She hoped to find a more favourable place ahead; meanwhile, she told Calad what she had in mind. The hawk began to search the surroundings.

Less than one hour later, Calad spotted a brook flowing into the Rinnen from this side of the river; the road made a detour to an easy ford, no more than 200 metres away. About one kilometre more upriver, a patch of trees attracted the bird’s attention and she headed for it; in that spot, a series of rocky steps formed a string of small waterfalls; each large step hosted a water basin of an intense turquoise colour, like many small pools.

falls

 

It was a wonderful place, to say the least, and perfect for bathing.

Calad flew quickly back and informed Nerwen about her sighting, and the Aini was very pleased.

“Today we’ll make an early stop,” she said to Thilgiloth and Thalion, both with mind and voice, “and we’ll rest a bit. We’ll go on tomorrow.”

As they reached the patch of trees, Nerwen halted the Chargeress in the shade of a linden and dismounted, then she unsaddled her quickly and unloaded the luggage from the always sturdy Thalion. The horses, too, were sweaty, and she was sorry not having a sponge and a bucket to freshen them up; but they could drink their fill and roll into the grass in the shade of the trees. Therefore, she let them free while she fished out the wicker carpet from her baggage and prepared a pallet, on which she counted to rest after a revitalising bath.

Keep an eye on the surroundings, she told Calad, and warn me if anybody’s coming near this place.

It was unlikely, as the great majority of traffic between the Orocarni and ErynRhûn took place by river; besides, she was over one kilometre away from the Rinnen. However, you can never know, and even if the Avari didn’t show prejudices about nudity, she could also run into diverse travellers with diverse mind-sets.

She looked around: this place was striking, green grass dotted with flowers of bright colours such as mallows, yarrows, poppies and vetches. The chirping of many birds counterpointed the pounding of running water on stones, while a light breeze gently moved the branches, making them rustle softly. A delicious peace permeated the whole place.

Nerwen smiled, maybe for the first time spontaneously since the night of the Mid-summer feast; she prepared her pallet, then she disrobed and placed her sweat-soaked clothes on a boulder, planning to wash them after her bath; finally, she took a large cloth to dry her up and brought it to the bank of the brook. She plunged in the cool water with a satisfied sigh.

 

OOO

 

It was about mid-afternoon when Aryon glimpsed a hawk in the sky, flying lazily. The bird of prey saw him in turn and sent off its call kek-kek-kek, which identified it immediately as a calë hawk.

Aryon’s heart leaped: might it be Calad…?

The hawk circled above him, but stayed too high for him to positively identify it; with another cry, it turned back to where it had come from. The prince decided to follow it: if it was Calad, Nerwen couldn’t be too far away; if it wasn’t, he would realise it within a short time.

He nimbly jumped from Nordhir’s back to Allakos’, who was fresher, and urged the black stallion to a full gallop; the bay horse followed closely.

After about ten minutes, Aryon came across a creek arriving from his right side; the hawk had seemingly flown upriver. He signalled Allakos consequently; after a few minutes, he saw a small group of trees, under which two horses stood, one dazzlingly white: Thilgiloth, doubtlessly. The prince’s heartrate increased: he had finally caught up with Nerwen!

 

OOO

 

The pool she had chosen was unexpectedly deep, and the level of the water reached her chest. Nerwen resurfaced from a dive and pushed a strand of hair away from her face; she looked around, awestruck: this was truly a wonderful place. 

At that moment, she heard Calad’s cry and looked up, at the same time seeking her with her mind. She felt her rather agitated.

Is someone coming? she asked, at once vigilant.

Yes, and you’ll never guess who it is, Calad cried, sending her Aryon’s imagine riding on Allakos’ back.

The first thing Nerwen thought was: Yavanna was right! She felt hot.

The second was: I’m completely naked! She felt cold.

The third was: All the better! She felt hotter than before.

She turned to the direction Calad was pointing at and waited.

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

The creek forming the natural pools in the picture exists for good and is located in Laos, in the nature reserve of Kuang Si.

Well, finally we are at the confrontation between Nerwen and Aryon. What will our Istar decide to do? Will she kick him, or will she lavish him with kisses? Or maybe first one thing and then the other? XD

The next chapter will be very special, I promise.

 

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXXV: When Earth and Sky Meet

 

Aryon pulled lightly Allakos’ bridles to make him slow down: he didn’t want to scare Nerwen’s horses; hearing them approaching, Thilgiloth turned to look at them, and so did Thalion. Recognising Allakos, who had shared with them the palace’s stables in Bârlyth, after a moment of worry they relaxed again.

How would Nerwen welcome him? the prince wondered. Would she act coldly, or jump in his arms to kiss him, or slap him? Either way, he would accept anything she would throw at him, then he would take her into his arms to kiss her breathlessly and then he would make love to her in a way that would leave her speechless… but the one who remained speechless was he, when he arrived near the stunning natural pools and saw her in the water, watching at him, as motionless as a statue, her face unreadable. Of course, Calad had warned her of his arrival, he thought; the fact she had waited for him while bathing encouraged him to hope in a favourable welcome, but he preferred not taking it for granted.

He dismounted; he was sorry he couldn’t take care of Allakos and Nordhir, when they were so overheated, but now it was more important to clear things up with Nerwen: the horses had to be patient.

The Istar’s stillness and posture confused him; he had no idea how to act. He thought it silly speaking to her from the riverbank; on the other hand, he didn’t want to enter the water fully dressed.

As soon as he thought this, he realised what he had to do; he unbuckled his belt and let his sword fall on the ground, then he sat on a boulder and slipped off his boots.

Nerwen guessed immediately what he had in mind; her heart jumped up her throat.

Aryon stood up; hiding his apprehension under a glowering expression, he quickly disposed of his clothes and finally, completely disrobed, he entered the water. In this way, not only he was going near Nerwen, but he was washing away all the dirt and sweat of six days of frantic journey and he could present himself clean to the woman he loved.

While she was watching him undressing, Nerwen’s breath was taken away: Aryon had a mighty muscular structure that seemed like chiselled in marble, but because of his tall stature, he looked more slender than he actually was.

Aryon

 

He was simply magnificent.

The prince took a few strides forward, glad that the river floor was grit instead of slippery pebbles; soon, the water was up to his waist, and then he plunged for a few moments. He stood up again and brushed his hands over his face to clean it, then the moved forward again. His eyes searched for Nerwen’s; her ravenous gaze made his blood boil.

At last, he reached her and halted very close to her. He was ablaze because of the urge to pull her in his arms, but he held back, taking some moments to watch deep into her brown eyes. He couldn’t make out what their gaze was: were they smouldering with wrath, joy, desire? Or all of them in one?

“What do you want?” Nerwen addressed him in a low voice. Her tone, as her eyes, was enigmatic to him.

“I want you,” he answered softly, very simply.

Nerwen felt a cloud of butterflies swirling in her stomach.

“W…why?” she asked under her breath, staggering over the first letter. She had been so deeply embittered by his rejection, that now she had a desperate need for reassurance. Never, in her multi-millennial life, had she felt like this, toward anyone; but after all, she hadn’t met her partner for life before. She always had a very strong character, but she felt completely helpless to this Avar prince, and this vaguely frightened her.

“Because I love you,” Aryon said, equally under his breath, “I simply cannot stay without you. I never thought you’re not enough for me. If I hesitated, it’s been because of the thought I could spend with you only a few years, since you belong to the race of Men… but as many as they might be, I want to spend with you all of the years we’re destined to have.”

Nerwen felt tears welling up in her eyes and covered her mouth with one hand. She had misjudged him: he wasn’t mean, haughty, despicable as she had accused him to be. Her heart pulsed in her throat because of the deep emotions she was feeling, but the dread of another disappointment blurred them painfully.

Her apparent upset revealed to Aryon how much, actually, his refusal had hurt her. He felt full of consternation and wondered if he would ever truly be able to make up for his folly.

Wanting to comfort her, he opened his arms. After only a moment of hesitation, she threw herself in his embrace; Aryon held her tight, caressing her wet hair.

“I won’t leave you ever again,” he murmured.

“Promise,” she whispered, “Oh, promise…”

“I swear.”

Only two words, but uttered in such a resolute and definitive tone, there couldn’t be any doubt left. Nerwen felt such an overwhelming wave of relief, gratefulness and almost blinding joy, her head was spinning. She threw her head back to look at his face, curving her lips; seeing her smile, Aryon felt his heart somersaulting in his chest and reciprocated with one of his rare, splendid full smiles.

Like the first time they kissed, he cupped her cheeks and bent forward; he saw her closing her eyes and so did he, just moments before placing his mouth on hers.

Nerwen parted immediately her lips, anxiously, impatiently; but Aryon lingered to kiss them tenderly, once, twice, thrice; then he brushed her lower lip with his tongue, testing its softness. He heard her uttering a small, complaining whimper, and so he tightened his embrace and deepened the kiss, pleasantly invading her mouth. Nerwen crushed her body to his, her arms knotted around his neck, her breasts pressing against his chest. Against her belly, she felt Aryon’s desire swelling up and wheezed, while hot shivers were crossing her feminine depths.

With a sudden movement, Aryon scooped her up and waded back ashore. He had seen the pallet she had prepared and now headed for it, uncaring they were both dripping wet and would consequently soak the wicker carpet and the blanket.

Gently, he laid her down on the pallet, then he bent over her and covered her mouth again with his. Her lips parted at once at his gentle but firm touch and from her throat escaped a slight, excited moan that sent his heart somersaulting. He felt her arms holding him tight while their tongues were meeting, beginning another sensual love strife.

Nerwen felt a happiness apparently impossible. She thought she was on the brink of fainting: she was barely able to breathe, her heart hammered wildly in her chest, the roar of her blood deafened her, and in spite of the coolness of the water dripping from her body, she felt an intolerable heat.

Aryon caressed those arms holding him; his erection was becoming almost painful while he was craving to sink inside of her and take her with him to the highest peaks of pleasure, but before he wanted to caress and kiss her everywhere, driving her mad with desire as much as he was already.

Nerwen drew back and looked at him; she touched his cheek, smiling slightly, her eyes shiny, heartbreakingly beautiful.

“I still can’t believe you’re here for good,” she whispered. He lifted one hand to cover hers and turned his head to kiss her palm.

“I can’t believe, either, to be here, having you in my arms, kissing you… You’re so beautiful, Nerwen, so sweet and desirable… and I’m dying to make love to you…”

“Aryon…” she sighed, and his name on her lips was so arousing, he almost lost control. He closed his eyes for a moment, forcing to hold back; then he reopened them and lifted himself slightly to look at her better; slowly, his gaze slipped downwards, to the soft mounds of her breasts. His breath caught in his throat: she was gloriously perfect… On her breasts, her nipples stood erect, as he had seen them the night of the Mid-Summer feast, but then her chemise veiled them, while now they were offered fully to his hungry gaze. He moved to cup one breast, then he brushed his thumb over the hard bud revealing her arousal and he heard her sigh, and this increased his crave. He used also his forefinger to caress and tease the sensitive point, until she moaned and threw her head back, exposing her neck. Bowing quickly his head, Aryon placed there his lips, caressing her delicate skin.

Nerwen was intoxicated, almost dizzy; she felt like making love for the very first time in her life, and in a way, it was, because this was the first time she was making love with Aryon, her partner for life. The need of him overwhelmed her while his mouth and tongue brushed her neck. In between kisses, the was whispering tender words:

“You’re charming… so sweet… and adorable…”

She held him tight, her face flushed with passion, her lips swollen by the forceful kisses they were exchanging.

Aryon was enjoying the taste of her skin, of her scent; he pulled back to look at her again, wanting to spy on her expression, and met her dark eyes, foggy with longing. His heart skipped one beat; he stooped to kiss her once more and she wrapped him in her arms, caressing his back.

Nerwen melted her mouth to Aryon’s and moved her tongue to brush his lips in a provocative way, making him gasp. He responded kissing her long, deep, sensually.

Tearing off her lips, Aryon placed a chain of kisses on her face, brow, eyes, cheekbones, nose, chin, then he went lower, again on her neck, touching tenderly the point where the wild beat of her heart throbbed, testifying the passion pervading her. Then he went even lower, on her breasts, and caught one nipple in his mouth, sucking gently; hearing her delighted cry, he sucked harder, using tongue and teeth and making her moan louder. He felt her tremble in his arms, her back arched, her hands sinking in his hair.  

“Aryon…”

His sighed name sent him into raptures; he switched to the other breast, beginning the same delightful torture he had given to the former one.

“I… never felt like this…” she gasped.

“Neither did I, love… neither did I…” he murmured, his voice hoarse. Passion, desire, need of her were setting him aflame, but he wanted to give her pleasure much more than he wanted take his own. He slipped down her body, peppering it with kisses, and found a scar on her hip, marring her otherwise perfect skin; in a flash, he remembered Corch and the attempt to Nerwen’s life, and for a moment, he wanted to kill him; but then he was sucked back into the vortex of passion and didn’t think of anything but the superb creature he was holding in his arms.

Feeling Aryon’s lips brushing gently the scar, Nerwen shuddered, thinking briefly of the horror she felt when she had been wounded and had fallen overboard; but she was immediately called back to the present, when Aryon moved to her belly button, which he caressed with the tip of his tongue; her tummy quivered and she groaned again.

He lifted his gaze; Nerwen had closed her eyes and was biting her lip in pleasure. Captivated, he lingered, watching at her, while the pressure in his lower parts increased even more, becoming unbearable; but he had decided he would go on slowly, showing her all the worship and love he felt for her, before consuming their first union and take her to the top of ecstasy. Therefore, once more, he held back.

Nerwen opened her eyes and met Aryon’s; the ice of their pale blue had become as incandescent as ember and pierced her heart. She sat up and stretched out her hands toward his exposed virility.

“Nerwen…!” he cried, caught off-guard; he moved to stop her, but she shook her head.

“I want to touch you,” she whispered, making him lay down on his back. Subjugated by the intensity of her gaze, Aryon allowed her having her way.

Nerwen placed a kiss on his abdomen, making him quiver; then her hand slipped down and closed around his male sceptre. Now it was Aryon’s turn to jump because of pleasure, while her fingers were touching his warm flesh, solid and pulsating. Then he jumped again, harder, when he felt Nerwen’s mouth closing around him and caressing him in such an arousing way, he almost swooned.

“Nerwen… Nerwen…” he stammered.

Nerwen, too, was now beyond any kind of control.

“Love me, Aryon…” she breathed.

“Oh yes…”

Aryon switched again their positions, then he took her lips in another scorching kiss. Nerwen wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him over her, impatient to feel him inside her. They were made for each other, they were born to be one thing, flesh and soul, and she couldn’t wait any longer. She parted her legs, ready for him.

But Aryon had other plans; rising on his arms, he pulled back; before she could protest, he kissed her again, while caressing slowly her belly; then his lips followed his fingers in a trail of kisses, lower and lower, all the way down to his goal, at the joint of her thighs. With his fingertips, he touched her, and she uttered a sighing moan that made shivers run down his spine. He brushed the folds of her femaleness, damp with desire, and closed his eyes one moment, overwhelmed.

“Oh Nerwen…” he muttered, “I want to taste your flavour…”    

He heard her gasp at the thought while he stooped slowly over her.

A moment before his lips reached her, Nerwen held her breath; when she felt him lapping at her, she seized convulsively the blanket, uttering a breathless cry, and jumped so hard he almost lost her; therefore, he grasped her hips and held her in place, and began to inflict her the sweetest of torments. Nerwen arched her back while he caressed her over and over again, savouring the essence of her femininity. She gasped his name, once, twice, until she drew back abruptly.

“Please, Aryon…,” she breathed raggedly, “Take me, now…!” 

He was looking forward to this; after one last kiss at the centre of her pleasure, Aryon slowly laid down over her; he waited one more moment, watching at her: her face was flushed, her dark eyes blurry with want and need, surely as much as his. At last, gradually, little by little, he entered her sensual heath, which welcomed him like the most passionate embrace.

“Nerwen…” he whispered her name, breathless, “Finally…”

“Yes… yes, love…” she sobbed. Anything she had felt so far in a lover’s arms, faded in front of what she was feeling now. It was… glorious. She couldn’t find any other word to describe it, “Oh Aryon…”

He began to move, leisurely; the dream he had the week before, even if delightful, was nothing compared to the reality he was experiencing while sinking and withdrawing, spying on her face, seeking the angle that would give her the greatest pleasure. Hearing her uttering a gasp, he realised he had found it; he continued to move slowly, because he wanted to make this moment last as long as possible: the ineffable thrill, unique and unrepeatable, of their first time together.

Nerwen opened her eyes to look at him; the adoring expression she saw in his eyes moved her beyond any description, and tears welled up in her eyes. She felt like drowning in those extraordinarily blue irises, where a fire burned as hot as she had never seen before. How could she have thought those eyes were cold? Their heat would melt all the snow on the top of Taniquetil in an instant…

She lifted her knees and wrapped her legs around his waist, allowing him to sink even deeper inside of her. Aryon panted in pleasure; for a frantic moment, he wished to take immediately their lovemaking to completion but, enthralled by the light of rapture in Nerwen’s eyes, instead he stopped.

Never had he imagined that carnal union could be so overwhelming, both physically and spiritually. He was completely at the mercy of unknown and wonderful feelings, and he felt at the same time frightened and glorified. He had been insane, thinking he could oppose the strength of this sentiment.

Nerwen uttered a sound halfway between a groan and a sob, expressing clearly her discontent, therefore Aryon began to move again, his eyes staring into hers. He felt her tightening her arms and legs around him, as if she wanted to fuse completely with him.

Aryon lowered his head and kissed her neck, her throat, her shoulders, nibbling and sucking her smooth skin; half-closing his eyes, he listened to her sighing and moaning, feeling proud of himself, as one can be only giving, unconditionally, without expecting anything in return, just for the simple joy to make happy and content his or her beloved one.

Slowly, pleasure built inside of them, and with it, the rhythm of their dance of love. Step by step, it rose, climbing peak after peak, each time touching heights more and more vertiginous, but not reaching completion because there was still another peak to conquer, and then another and yet another.

At last, Nerwen could stand it no longer:

“Please… please…” she begged him, hoarsely. Her capitulation caused Aryon’s, too, who couldn’t bear the pressure any longer. He rose a little on his arms, increasing speed and width of his movements. Nerwen responded in counterpoint, while pleasure grew, grew whirling furiously inside of her, more and more, mounting like a tidal wave approaching the shore, nearer and nearer, until she felt it break and burst in the depths of her being, both in her soul and in her flesh, dimming her sight and making her scream, astounded. Almost at the same moment, Aryon uttered a prolonged, low groan while joining her in the elation of the most complete fulfilment they had ever experienced, because it didn’t touch only their bodies, but also their hearts and souls. 

Aryon dropped on her, temporarily spent, burying his face on her neck. Nerwen caressed his back, slowly, calling his name in a faint whisper.

They held on to one another, tightly, unwilling to part even slightly, awaiting for their panting breaths and wild pulsing hearts to go back to normal. Even if they had been dripping wet when they had begun, now they were both flushed.

Finally, Aryon rose again to look at her. Nerwen felt his gaze and opened her eyes to return it. He stooped and placed a kiss on her lips, full of tenderness.

“I’m still wondering how I could think, even for just one split moment, to do without you,” he murmured.

“I wonder about that, too,” she couldn’t help but reply, chuckling to ease the reprimand, “What made you change your mind?” she enquired then, brushing his cheek with the tip of her fingers.

“I had a dream,” he told her, “I had taken refuge in my hunting lodge, to be on my own and think. I missed you terribly, as if I hadn’t seen you for months and not just for a few days… This itself made me realise that you had already become too important for me to give you up, give us up… Then I dreamt of you. You were there, outside the lodge, looking at me. I came to you, and you flung your arms around my neck, kissing me. I took you inside and we made love. It was wonderful… even if reality has largely surpassed fantasy…” he smiled at her and kissed her lips, “When I woke up, I had realised that, even if maybe we can be together only for a few decades, and not for centuries or millennia, I want to spend with you each and every moment that will be granted to us.”

Nerwen touched his lips with her fingers, and he placed light kisses on them; then she frowned.

“When did you have this dream, precisely?” she asked. He thought about it for a moment.

“Eight nights ago,” he answered. The Istar counted quickly, and at the result of it, her eyes widened in astonishment:

“I had a similar dream, precisely the same night,” she revealed, “I don’t remember it in detail like you do, but I know that we made love in a bed… and when I woke up, I was angry with myself, because instead of being mad at you, I loved and wanted you more than ever…”

Aryon kissed her again.

“Forgive me for hurting you… It’ll happen never again,” he said, forcefully; he brushed away a strand of hair from her face, then he added thoughtfully, “Today, I didn’t know whether you would kiss me soundly or slap me hard…”

“I didn’t know, either,” she said; then she laughed at herself, “What a liar I am… of course I knew! If you wouldn’t have kissed me, I would have done it, and then I would have taken you, even if it meant to tie you at a tree…”

He lifted one eyebrow, amused:

“What an arousing idea…” he murmured with that half-smile of his that drove her mad each time she saw it.

Nerwen winked:

“Be careful about what you ask, my prince… you might well obtain it!”

He rested his forehead on hers, sobering.

“I’ve got everything I could wish already,” he claimed in a low, thick voice.

They stayed this way for some more minutes, then, fearing to weight on her too much, Aryon pulled away, but still held her tight. He lay on his back, dragging her to him and having her placing her head on his chest, one arm around her shoulders. They laid there for a long time, caressing each other leisurely, exchanging kisses full of tenderness; in their hearts, they harboured a feeling of completeness and an indescribable peacefulness they had never known before. They felt as if they had been only half-alive until this moment, and that now they were able to sense the whole world more vividly, intensely, as if their senses had suddenly improved.

 

OOO

 

Later, they made love again; then, they ate something and fell asleep in each other’s arms, only to wake up several times in the middle of the night and make love and then fall asleep again, stunned both by the pleasure they were giving to each other and by the power of the sentiment that had bloomed between them and had so overwhelmingly captivated them.

lovers

 

 

OOO

 

The rising sun caressed the two sleeping lovers with its rays.

Aryon was the first to wake up; he opened his eyes and immediately looked at Nerwen, as if wanting to make sure that what had happened had really occurred, and wasn’t just another wonderful dream. She was sleeping in his arms, her head reclined on his shoulder, her long hair scattered in disarray; realising it was all true, he felt like shouting up to the sky his joy, but held back, not wanting to frighten her, or the horses that were still sleeping, in a group, a few dozen of metres away.

The previous evening, before dinner, Aryon had taken care of Allakos and Nordhir, then he had put them to graze at their leisure; like all Elven horses, there was no need tying them to avoid them roaming too far away.

Meanwhile, Nerwen had hung out the wicker carpet and blanket that had been their bed, in order to dry them; Aryon brought his own ones and they prepared a new pallet, where they slept. Actually, they didn’t get much sleep… The prince smiled dreamingly, recalling their repeated embraces.

Nerwen, too, awakened. Cracking open her eyes, she glimpsed Aryon’s authoritative profile and for one moment, her throat tightened in deep feeling. His bright eyes, surrounded with black eyelashes, looked up in the sky, perhaps staring at the snow-white cirrus decorating the blue vault, but as soon as she stirred, he turned to look at her.

“Good morning, blossom,” he greeted her softly. She smiled at him:

“Good morning to you,” she answered, rising enough to place her lips on his in a kiss. He responded, then they gazed at each other.

“Did you sleep well?” Aryon enquired.

“Very well… what little I slept, at least,” she giggled, “And you?”

“Same thing…”

Nerwen sat up to stretch and doing so, she grimaced: she felt sore all over. She glared accusingly at Aryon and muttered:

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to ride, today…”

Worried, the prince, too, sat up, and he realised immediately what Nerwen had meant.

“Hum,” he grumbled, massaging his back, “Mayhap we overdid it…”

Nerwen scowled at him in jest:

“It’s your entire fault!”

He played along and made a grim face:

“It didn’t look like you backed off!” he retorted.

“Indeed!” she laughed, throwing her arms around his neck and making him fall back on the pallet. Aryon grinned and held her tight: he adored her exuberance, which made such a blatant contrast with him, who was a very private person. Their characters couldn’t be more dissimilar, but precisely therein laid the strength of their relationship, because accepting each other’s differences, the complemented one another.

Too sore for anything else, at least for the moment, they just exchanged a few kisses, then they got up and broke their fast. After eating, Nerwen thought again about what Aryon had told her of his dream, occurred at the same time as hers. How many probabilities were there, that it would happen spontaneously? She didn’t think it was possible to estimate less than one in a billion. There was only one plausible explanation.

“Do you know what Olorendor is?” she asked him out of the blue. He gazed at her with a blank look:

“Not at all,” he answered.

Nerwen explained it to him, concluding:

“I was mad at you, and you were irresolute, but our feelings gave us the slip and got us meeting there, where we realised what our true wish was, that is, to be together.”

Suddenly he crushed her in his arms, so hard she was astonished.

“It made me make the right decision immediately, without wasting any more time…” he murmured. The sentence revealed he was still worrying about the notion he could spend with her only a limited number of years, compared to what the Eldar could usually do. She couldn’t tell him that death couldn’t take her, even in her status of diminished Maia, but she could at least reassure him about her lifespan.

“The Istari have not the life of the Eldar… but not even the life of Men,” she told him, choosing carefully her words in order not to lie, but at the same time to conceal what she was not allowed to reveal. She was well aware that this way, the sentence sounded rather enigmatic, but she could in no way be clearer.

Aryon stepped back and watched her intently; doubt and hope merged in his gaze.

“Do you mean that what is rumoured about Wizards is true?” he enquired, “They live many centuries?”

“Precisely,” she confirmed, nodding. The Avar prince’s face opened to a smile, tiny as usual, but full of relief and joy; he brought her hands to his lips and kissed them.

“I’m happy to know that,” he said, “but it doesn’t change what I said yesterday: even if it was a small number of years, I would anyway spend them with you.”

Nerwen returned his smile, then suddenly she sobered: she had realised that, in the coming years, situations in which she wouldn’t be allowed to be completely frank with her partner would show up repeatedly. She didn’t like it, because she had always based the relationships of her life – with all people who had meant something to her, beginning from Melian and Yavanna – on honesty; but she had a ban that she had no intention to violate, under no circumstances.

Her earnest face alarmed Aryon and put out his smile.

“What is it, my heart?” he asked her. She freed one hand from his and cupped his cheek, searching with her gaze the blue depths of his eyes.

“I need to ask you to trust me,” she said under her breath; Aryon began to protest:

“But I do trust you…”

The Aini shook her head and hence he broke off.

“There are things I cannot tell you,” she informed him, still under her breath, “Things regarding me, the place I come from, my powers, my mission, things that I am forbidden to tell anyone. It’s not because of distrust, it’s because I cannot and want not break the ban that I received from a power that rules me, you and any other inhabitant of Middle-earth… including even Sauron.”

Aryon closed shortly his eyes, holding back the urge to move his fingers in the exorcism his people always did when they heard that terrible name.

“I understand,” he claimed, but actually he wasn’t completely sure of it. A power ruling even the Dark Enemy… only the Valar were above him. Was it possible that Nerwen was referring to the Powers of the World?

“I need you to promise you won’t insist, if I tell you there’s something I cannot discuss with you,” she pressed him; with her thumb, she caressed his cheek, stubbled because of the still unshaved beard, “I understand it’s a lot to ask; but this is the show of trust I need, much more than you putting your life in my hands.”

Aryon loved and respected her too much to let his pride get in the way, but this last statement made him realise how important Nerwen’s task truly was.

“Fine,” he therefore said, gravely, “I promise.”

Reassured, Nerwen smiled:

“Thank you… Because of this, I love you more than ever…”

 

OOO

 

They spent that fine summer day making love, talking and bathing in the brook, briefly forgetting the rest of the world. They decided to stay in this wonderful place for a few days, enjoying better their mutual company before continuing Nerwen’s journey and mission, which Aryon had now necessarily joined.

In the late afternoon, the Istar approached Thilgiloth and Thalion, whom she had neglected all day long, as well as Calad.

The Chargeress stared at her two-legged friend.

I had no chance yet to tell you, she began, but I, too, was very angry with your Avar prince and I would’ve been glad to kick him hard.

Nerwen giggled:

Things have changed a lot, now, haven’t they?

Yeah, sure! You’ve been very busy, between yesterday and today… Thilgiloth said, amused. Nerwen’s giggle became a loud laughter:

You’re right, my friend!

Aryon, who had gone to see his steeds, turned to look at her, surprised by that outburst of mirth, but realised instantly that she was talking to her mare; he wondered what they could be talking about that was so funny, but he didn’t want to intrude, so he got back taking care of Allakos and Nordhir: if the two friends were chitchatting, it was none of his business. And maybe, he concluded thinking about it better and grinning to himself, maybe he didn’t want to know…

 

OOO

 

“What did Eliénna say, when you told her about us?” Nerwen enquired after dinner, while rummaging in her saddlebag seeking her pipe.   

“She was surprise, as you would expect,” Aryon told her, “She was sorry because this meant I would be gone, leaving my office as First Sword, but she didn’t even try to stop me: she loves me too much to prevent me staying with my partner for life.”

“I like your sister,” the Aini told him, pulling out what she was looking for, “I think that we’d have become friends, if I could’ve stayed.”

Aryon watched with curiosity the things Nerwen held in her hands.

“I wasn’t aware you smoke a pipe,” he said quizzically.

“An old friend, as well as fellow Wizard, taught me: Gandalf the Grey,” she said, stuffing the bowl with the appropriate quantity of pipe-weed, “You smoke?”

“Yes, on occasion; but I’m afraid I forgot my pipe at home,” he complained.

“Well, then we’ll share, until you can buy a new one,” Nerwen smiled, lighting her pipe and anticipating amused the moment she would impress him with some spectacular smoke figure.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

I don’t think I ever wrote such a long and emotion-filled love scene like this one… it literally grabbed me, dragged me away, shook me and left me exhausted. As if I were Nerwen! (Hum… I would like to!!!)

My description of the way the two protagonists make love – and I certainly do not refer only to the physical part – reflects what I firmly balieve can be the reality between two people loving each other truly, deeply and unconditionally, with no ifs and no buts. I am aware that I’m a hopeless romantic, an impenitent dreamer, an idealist chasing a mirage… but that’s me and I don’t repent it: take it or leave it… I just hope I’ve not been too sappy! 

The title is definitely pretentious… but it came to me in a dream, and I firmly believe in my dreams! It’s referred to ancient myths, where the Earth symbolises the receiving female energy and the Sky the giving male energy, energies that, when they unite, become life and creation; but on a more prosaic tone, it refers also to the eye colour or Nerwen and Aryon, brown and blue, windows to their souls.

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

bennar

 

Chapter XXXVI: Terror Goes on the Plain

 

In the early morning of four days later, Aryon and Nerwen set forth, leaving reluctantly the wonderful place that had witnessed the fulfilment of their love. They followed the brook to the ford Nerwen had seen, crossed it and reached again the Rinnen; they rode beside it, proceeding north by northeast. Their next stop, a couple of days away, was Kopellin, the capital city of the Hwenti realm. 

In the late afternoon, they came across a herd of bison, consisting in about 15 specimens, a number of females – one of them was pregnant – a few very young ones and three little calves less than two months old. The herd was standing still and, so as not to frighten the animals, Aryon and Nerwen proceeded very quietly, with no sudden moves.

While surpassing them, the Istar noticed that a few females were grouped at the centre of the herd in what seemed to her an unnatural attitude; extending instinctively her special senses, she picked up a feeling of fear and concern so sharp, she was induced to pull Thilgiloth’s bridles and stop. Noticing it, Aryon promptly did the same.

“What’s up?” he asked her.

“There’s something wrong,” Nerwen explained, pointing to the abnormally herded females, “Those bison are terrified of something, and I want to find out what it is. I alert Calad.”

“All right,” the prince said, sitting straighter on his saddle to keep an eye on the surroundings, his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to unsheathe it at the slightest sign of danger.

Calad, Nerwen transmitted to the hawk, keep an eye out and warn me if something bigger than a badger shows up.

The bird consented.

The Aini then dismounted and went into the herd, radiating reassuring thoughts so that the animals wouldn’t be frightened, and heading for the anomalous group. When she approached it, she saw that a male of about two years was laying on the ground; blood covered one of his hindquarters. A particularly large female, with an air of authority – surely the heard leader – turned to the intruder; she showed no fear, only perplexity and a certain degree of mistrust.

bisontessa

 

I’m a friend, Nerwen quickly transmitted so as to reassure her. The female bison moved her ears, surprised, and watched her intently with her very lively brown eyes. Then in them sparkled a sudden light of understanding.

I greet you, Daughter of the Sunset, she said; this time it was Nerwen, the one who felt surprised.

Do you know me? she enquired: the epithet she had been addressed to revealed clearly that the bison knew where she came from.

Yes, I do, the leader confirmed, The wind talks about you, and so do water and grass, since you have arrived from beyond the Great Sea.

At this point, Nerwen recalled that Calad, too, had been aware about where she came from: it was clear that the news had spread far and wide, reaching the lands of the Avari, too.

I see, she commented, then she pointed to the youngster laying on the ground, What happened to him?

A monstrous being has attacked us, the female bison answered, anguished, I’m afraid we must abandon him: we have to run, or the monster will attack again.

That kind of monster is it? Nerwen enquired. The leader sent her a scary image: a big, menacing figure in which the Istar soon recognised a female troll of the plains, one of the few races able to bear the sunshine without turning into stone.

Maybe abandoning him won’t be necessary, she stated firmly, approaching the young bison and kneeling at his side, I think I can help him.

One of the females surrounding the wounded specimen looked at her pleadingly:

Can you, really…? she asked. From the strong feelings she was radiating, Nerwen realised she was the mother.

Yes, don’t worry, she reassured her, then she touched lightly the injured leg, examining the gash with her power. It wasn’t very deep, but it was about to become infected: first thing first, therefore, she had to clean the wound; she stood up and went back to Aryon.

“They’ve been attacked by a female troll of the plains,” she informed him, “One of the young bison has been injured.”

“A troll of the plains?” the prince repeated, frowning, “Last year there were some of them, sneaking around in the eastern part of the Hwenti territory; I led personally the hunt and I thought we had exterminated them all, but apparently I was wrong… We’ll have to keep very watchful so as not to be caught off guard.”

“Yes,” Nerwen commented, “Let’s hope she’ll stay away: I want to heal the wounded, otherwise the herd will be forced to leave him behind.”

Aryon’s face expressed doubt:

“But you’ll need days,” he observed; Nerwen remembered she had no chance yet to tell him about her thaumaturgic powers.

“Not if I use my magical abilities,” she explained him. The prince cast a glance to her, expressing his surprise, but he quickly dominated his perplexity: he had no doubt about his partner’s talents, even if he still wasn’t familiar with them all.

“Very well, then,” he nodded. She smiled, grateful for the trust he was showing, accepting her statement with not even one question.

She motioned to Thilgiloth, who walked up to her; the Istar took one of the water canteens from the saddlebag, then she returned to the young bison. She noticed he was shaking.

I’m afraid, he said. She brushed softly his side.

Don’t be, she reassured him, I’ll take care of you: you’ll be well soon, I promise.

The animal calmed down a little, even if he was still feeling anxious.

Nerwen washed his wound, then she extended her particular senses, looking for an antiseptic herb; at a short distance, she found some andlhaw, or longears in Common Speech, so called because of the slender, oblong leaves, similar to donkey or hare ears, very common in the meadows. She rose and moved to gather a bunch, which she washed with the water of the canteen and then crushed with her fingers, so as to get the juice and spill it over the injury; finally, she covered wound and remedy with both hands and focused her power on it, stimulating the antiseptic qualities of the herb and therefore fighting the infection more efficiently; in a few minutes, the infection disappeared from the gash and from the organism of the young bison.

Satisfied, Nerwen brushed away the herb, now useless, and cleaned again the wound, then she placed back her hands on it and focused again to close it; a white-blue light radiated off from under her fingers. When she finished, only an ugly scar remained of the injury. The patient turned his head to look at it, marvelling, and shuddered.

It doesn’t hurt anymore, he stated, astonished.

Fine: you can stand up, Nerwen told him, but try to move your first steps cautiously.

The young bison did as she had told him and got up from the ground, staggering slightly, still weak because of the loss of blood; then he moved carefully, trying his just healed leg and verifying he didn’t feel neither pain nor any kind of hindrance in walking.

His mother brushed with her muzzle the area that had been wounded, ascertaining the healing with a sense of complete wonder. Then she approached the Istar and touched shyly her hand with her wet nose.

Thank you, Daughter of the Sunset, she said, deeply moved, My son is safe.

I’m happy I could help him, Nerwen answered, sincerely, Now you can go on with no problems, even if not too swiftly: the youngster needs a little rest, to fully recover.

Now it’s late, the leader mused, observing the sun, now just above the horizon, We’ll have to stop here for the night, and hope that the monster won’t attack us again.

Is it pursuing you? the Maia asked.

I do fear so: we are a good food supply, and not only… it killed some of us to satisfy its hunger, but other ones, it killed them with no reason whatsoever, only to tear them apart and abandon their remains…

She sent her other images, horrifying ones, of females and youths mauled and left rotting in the grass. It was apparent that the troll was dangerous and wicked, because she killed only sometimes to eat, and other times with no reason, if not maybe for gratuitous fun. Besides, the way she tore to shreds the individuals she dragged away, showed a high level of sadism. Nerwen felt outraged: everyone has the right to feed – she did it, too – but not to use unnecessary cruelty.   

She turned to her partner and told him what she had just learned from the herd leader.

“The herd is still in danger,” Aryon considered, frowning, “but just the two of us can’t protect it,” he looked in the direction they were heading to, “If we could reach Kopellin, we could organise a new group to hunt down the troll and get rid of her once and for all.”

“But should we encounter her, or if she attacks the herd tonight, we wouldn’t be able to fight her,” Nerwen observed, “I’ll try to find some nearer ally.”

Aryon saw her expression becoming distant, her eyes empty as if they were seeing invisible things, and realised the Istar was extending her mind, looking for someone or something in a position to help them, as she had done while seeking Thilgiloth in the vicinity of Gaerlonn.

Nerwen began to scan the neighbourhood; unlike in Fangorn Forest, as she had not do control the here because there was Aryon to protect her, she could focus solely on the elsewhere and extend her awareness in a more than doubled area. Slowly, she pivoted, examining all around. Not much far away she found a deer herd, but as they were only females with their babies, not unlike the bison herd, she went on searching; she hoped to find a herd of males, possibly precisely bison. Animals among the most massive in Middle-earth, these big herbivores could reach over 2 metres height at shoulder level and an average weight of over 500 kilograms, and in case of need, they could run at high speed, wiping out every obstacle in their path. Their nature wasn’t particularly irritable or fierce but, if provoked or feeling in danger, they could be devastating. They would be truly perfect, to defend them against the troll.

She had luck: a few minutes later, at about a dozen kilometres to the north-west, she intercepted a herd of eight male bison.

Bison friends, I need assistance, she transmitted. The most massive one – surely the herd leader – raised his head from the ground, where he was peacefully grazing.

I hear you, Daughter of the Sunset, he answered, Speak.

This time Nerwen wasn’t surprised they knew who she was: it was by now evident that her reputation was preceeding her everywhere, among olvar and kelvar. She explained quickly the situation, asking the protection of these mighty cattle. As soon as she showed them the image of the troll, as she had seen her in the mind of the female herd leader, the male was filled with rage.  

We know that creature, he revealed, In the last season, it has persecuted my herd, killing babies and females until we’ve been able to catch and drive it away. We injured it, but it looks like it wasn’t enough to get rid of it. And now you say it’s tormenting this other group. We come immediately to you.

Nerwen thanked them, and then she returned here.

“I found a bison herd willing to help us,” she informed Aryon, “They, too, have dealt with this troll, and are anxious to get rid of her. This night they will protect us, and tomorrow we’ll be able to hunt her down with them.”

The prince didn’t hide his doubts.

“I don’t know how exactly to proceed,” he admitted, “I never hunted with bison… If anything, I hunted them. They could take it the wrong way, I fear.”

Nerwen understood his reservations.

“Don’t worry,” she reassured him, “The animal memory works more through smell than sight, especially the bison who don’t have very sharp eyes; therefore, unless they are the same you hunted and had the chance to catch your smell, they won’t recognise you.”

“I see,” Aryon nodded, relieved: he wouldn’t like to ruin this potential alliance because he was a hunter.

Nerwen informed the female leader about the news, and she was very pleased.

 

OOO

 

Aryon lighted a small fire, far enough from the animals so as not to scare them, and prepared a soup with the herbs Nerwen had gathered; they completed their dinner with some crackers and matured cheese.

The bison herd joined the female and babies one while dusk was turning into night. As soon as she saw the large cattle approaching, Nerwen stood up and went to meet them. The two herds blended and formed a single group, with the calves in the centre of it; the adult males, more massive and stronger than the females and youngsters, set up sentries all around. 

Calad landed next to Nerwen.

I’d like to have the eyes of an owl, she stated, unsatisfied: indeed, in the darkness her sight, even if very sharp, was unable to detect much, and the absence of the moon – that exactly this night was new – worsened the situation.

In this dark, sight isn’t very useful, the Istar comforted her, Much better hearing and smell, with which the bison are well endowed.

Don’t forget me! pointed out Thilgiloth, and Thalion, too, stated his willingness.

No, you can sleep, Nerwen told them, There are more than enough sentinels already.

Aryon of course didn’t follow the conversation and asked:

“Shall we take turn on watch?”

“No need for it,” she answered, “We already have all the guardians we could possibly want,” she explained at his raised eyebrows, pointing to the animals, “It’s enough if we move to the centre, where we’ll be better protected.”

He nodded, accepting the entire situation with no questions: he trusted completely her abilities, which he was quickly learning about, but above all, the trusted completely her.

They put out the last embers tossing earth over them and trampling them carefully, then they moved with their mounts well into the circle of females and youths, where they prepared their pallet.

Before going to sleep, they discussed a strategy to smoke out the troll and definitively free the area of her presence. Both knew well their allies’ characteristics – Nerwen being a follower of Yavanna, Aryon being an accomplished hunter – and therefore it wasn’t hard for them to work out a plan; the next day they would speak about it to the two leaders.

In spite of all the precautions and the protection of the animal sentries, Nerwen’s and Aryon’s sleep was light and troubled; both awoke several times at irregular intervals, and the Istar each time used her sleeplessness to scan the neighbourhood with her power, searching for a hostile mind, but the night passed without any show of danger.

Finally, dawn lightened the sky in the east, shifting little by little to a spectacular aurora; then Anar, the Chariot of the Sun containing the last fruit of Laurelin, rose from behind the horizon, driven by Arien.

Nerwen called for the two leaders and talked to them:

My partner and I have thought about how we can get rid of the monster persecuting you…

She explained the plan she and Aryon had devised the night before; the two animals had a lot of questions, because it involved tactics they were completely unused to, but in the end they understood and accepted it.

Aryon and Nerwen had a quick breakfast with crackers and dried fruits, then they mounted and finally set forth; the herd of females and youngsters, which would be the bait, went in front of all, followed immediately by Nerwen and Aryon; the calves were in the care of the male herd, following the female one at a few hundred metres distance, while Calad was flying high ahead of them all, scanning the plain.

In this formation, they left the river, heading eastward, in the direction from where the herd of females and babies had come, running from the troll.

Several hours later, while the sun was approaching its zenith, the land began to ripple in low ridges – it would be too much calling them hills; young ashes with grey bark dotted them, thick and numerous enough to call them a small wood, something rather unusual in this landscape that, so far, had been relatively monotonous.

The two herds passed by, turning slightly to avoid the small wood; there was no breath of air whatsoever, and the hotness of the day was heavy on them.

At that moment, Calad sent Nerwen an alarmed feeling:

There’s movement among the trees… I go and check it out.

She flew away, and soon after the Maia received the bird of prey’s thought:

It’s the troll: pay attention, she’s approaching at high speed!

They heard a few terrifying crashes; Thalion neighed, scared, while Thilgiloth turned sharply sideways, trying instinctively to go away from the noise. Even Allakos showed nervousness and Aryon had to tug hard at the bridles to prevent him from swerving.

They looked in the direction from where the noise was coming, but they didn’t see anything: the trees hid anything that was producing it. Nerwen extended her special senses, and immediately perceived a mind, full of simple as much as evil thoughts: hunger, kill, maul, devour, raid.

Meanwhile, the herd of females and youths had began to scatter, frightened. Following the plan she had devised with Aryon, Nerwen began to send mentally the agreed orders, calling for the first herd to go behind the males’.

Thalion, you go, too, she said to the packhorse: too slow to run, the animal would be an easy prey to the monster, if he would go too near, and it was better if he stayed safe until they would overcome the danger. Maybe clumsy in built, Thalion wasn’t less bright than any other horse and obeyed at once: with all the speed his load allowed him, he got back and stayed with the female bison, the youngsters and the calves.

Nerwen asked to the male bison to arrange themselves in front of the small wood on a concave line, of which she and Aryon on their horses would make the bottom, while the animals would line up on the sides, farther but in a more advanced position. In this way, coming out of the trees the troll would see at first the prince and the Istar; in her eyes, they would look like easy preys, so she would charge on them and probably she wouldn’t even see the bison. But meanwhile, the huge cattle would close on her like a pincer and so she would be trapped.

Soon after, from behind the trees that had covered her, the gigantic shape of the troll came out; her skin had the colour – and probably the hardness – of leather and her eyes were red like burning embers.

troll femmina

 

“Haaaa, I did smell fresh meat!” she roared viciously, coming forth in heavy steps. In her hands, she carried an enormous double-sided axe.

Instinctively, Aryon drew his sword, even if he could do very little against such a monster, three metres tall and weighing several hundred kilos.

Thilgiloth tensed visibly: a troll was a big enemy even for her. Sure, the Chargeress couldn’t be killed, but she could be injured, and therefore feel pain, and no living being likes it. Luckily, the bison were with them…

“We will not be your meal,” the Istar contradicted the troll, amplifying her voice with the aim to keep her focused on her, so that she wouldn’t see the bison, “None of us!”

The troll, unheeding, continued advancing and laughed nastily:

“I don’t see how you can stop me from eating you,” she replied.

“Like this!” Nerwen shouted and ordered mentally the bison to charge, “Out of here!” she yelled then, addressing Aryon; both turned their mounts and left in a gallop, retreating several dozen metres.

The large herbivores started running, converging on the troll, who finally saw them and stopped abruptly. Surprise froze her for only a few moments, anyway crucial for the massive cattle charging and closing in on her; when she realised she had lost precious moments, the troll began hitting frantically around with her axe, but she was too slow and held the blade too high, so she was able to wound only one of the attackers; then, the pincer closed and the troll shrieked while the bison gored, ran over and trampled her ruthlessly.

In a few moments, it was over; the troll was lying on the ground in a pool of blood, lifeless, and the bison retreated from the corpse, scattering around. Aryon and Nerwen watched that heap of bloody flesh, keeping their distance.

“Even if she was an evil and stupid creature,” the Maia said in a low voice, “I’m happy her death was quick, with no unnecessary suffering, unlike the one she inflicted to her victims.”

Sensing she was upset, the prince approached her and placed his hand on her arm, gently squeezing it to make her feel his sympathy.

“The world is now a safer place, without that monster,” he reminded her. She cast him a grateful glance and a faint smile.

The two leaders headed for Nerwen and Aryon.

My clan and I thank you and your companions, Daughter of the Sunset, the female said in a solemn tone.

“She is thanking us,” Nerwen said, talking to Aryon who obviously couldn’t hear the leader’s words. Then the female bison approached the male leader and touched him with her snout to show him her gratitude. The massive herbivore shook his head.

We too, we’ve been tormented by that foul being, he pointed out, therefore there’s no need for thanking.

The female radiated a feeling of agreement as an answer to the male bison, while again Nerwen reported the conversation to the prince.

Now we can continue on our way with no fear, the female bison mused, both us and the males.

“Indeed,” the Istar agreed, “you can go, we’ll stay here to eliminate the corpse: better not leave it here to rot.”

As you wish, Daughter of the Sunset. May you and your companions always find green grass and fresh water.

“Thanks, to you and yours, too,” Nerwen said. The male leader, too, took his leave, wishing her well, and she reciprocated.

While the two herds where slowly taking their separate ways, Aryon asked:

“What do we do with the corpse? Shall we bury it?”

“Too much work, that it doesn’t deserve,” Nerwen stated, “We’ll burn it.”

Meanwhile Thalion had come near them.

Are you well? the quiet packhorse asked; Nerwen sensed that he was feeling guilty because he left the fight and sent him a sense of comfort: there would be nothing he could have done, he would not have been able to defend himself in any way from the troll, and if he would have stayed, he would have been only one more concern for the Istar. A little reassured, Thalion halted next to Thilgiloth.

Calad was flying in circles above them and now cried her typical kek-kek-kek to draw their attention. Nerwen lifted her gaze:

I didn’t forget you, my friend, she transmitted her.

At least this time I saw her in time, the hawk grumbled, still remembering the time she didn’t see the bandits or the werewolves, even if in both cases it hadn’t been because of negligence, but because of pure and simple impossibility.

Nerwen and Aryon dismounted and got busy to gather an adequate quantity of dried wood, which luckily in this place was plentiful, thanks to the presence of the trees; they piled it over the corpse of the troll and around it, then they lighted a great bonfire. The monster’s mass, even if significant, was much less than the werewolves’ that had been burned at Rhosgobel, however, not having Beorn’s fuel oil, the fire had to burn for many hours, and therefore they had to add wood continuously. It was late at night when the remains of the troll were enough incinerated; they left the fire burning down, and went to sleep keeping some distance, to stay away from both the excessive heat and the stench of burned flesh and fat.

 

OOO

 

The following morning, they ascertained that the troll’s ashes were completely cold: they certainly didn’t want risking a small ember triggering a fire in the prairie.

Watching at the ash staining the grass, in which the residues of some of the bigger bones were visible, Nerwen regretted not possessing the talent to control wind: she would gladly stir a gust to scatter the ashes and clean the place. She shrugged: nature would anyway take care of it.

“Let’s go!” she cried, mounting Thilgiloth. Aryon mounted Allakos in turn; orienting with the position of the sun, the prince pointed the way:

“There,” he said, “It’s pointless going back exactly where we started, we’d only go a longer way: we’ll go straight northwest and reach the Rinnen again, then from there we’ll go on toward Kopellin.”

So they did, and before dusk they arrived at the river, where they camped for the night; the day after, they set forth again toward the capital city of the Hwenti.

 

 

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

…Zoological detail: the European bison, which is the one here referred to, is taller and more slender than its more famous American cousin, and has longer horns.

…Herbal detail: the andlhaw or longears that Nerwen uses to disinfect the young bison’s wound is nothing else than the common comfrey, which leaves look like donkey’s ears, and in phytotherapy it is actually used for its antiseptic qualities.

The “trolls of the plains” are non-canon in the Tolkienverse, but needing a race of troll compatible with the described territory, I have been forced to come up with something :-D

Trivia: I decided to introduce a female troll because of an observation of Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in the The Hobbit movies) during an interview, where he complained that Tolkien never named or described female orcs. Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Armitage! :-D

 

Lady Angel

 

Chapter Text

banner

 

Chapter XXXVII: In the City of the Hwenti

 

Early in the afternoon, they arrived at Kopellin, the capital city of the Hwenti; similar in looks to Bârlyth, this town was only a little more than half the size of the latter. It was built on the junction of the Rinnen with the Sirlechin, a smaller river coming almost exactly from the east, directly from the Orocarni.

At the entrance of the walls surrounding the town stood two sentinels, who looked at them in surprise. One of the soldiers bowed to Aryon, having evidently recognised him, and let them pass without stopping them. Nerwen thought amused that, if it would be just her, she would have to show the queen’s safe-conduct, as it already happened in the previous days.

Aryon dismounted in front of the booth: as he had explained to his partner, they had to declare themselves to the captain of the city militia.

“Lord Aryon!” the captain greeted him, “Welcome to Kopellin! We weren’t expecting you…”

“This time I’m not on official business, Captain Glorgan,” Aryon explained, “I’m just a traveller like anyone. My travelling companion is Nerwen the Green,” he concluded, pointing to the Istar.

Glorgan watched her doubtfully, probably wondering why the queen’s brother associated with a female of the race of Men, but he didn’t comment.

“Very well, I’ll check you both in. How long will you stay here?”

Aryon looked at Nerwen: she was the one who had to decide.

The Maia shrugged:

“We don’t know yet,” she answered, “It depends on various factors. Surely, at least two or three days.”

The captain of the guards nodded and didn’t enquire any further; certainly, Nerwen mused again, if she was alone he would question her thoroughly, but being with Aryon, brother to the High Sovereign of the Avari, protected her from such nuisances.

Exiting the booth, Aryon commented:

“Usually, when I come here, I stay at the royal palace: the king of the Hwenti, Séredor, is a good friend of mine. Even if I’m not on official business, he’ll host us gladly.”  

Nerwen nodded while they mounted again, then they headed for the centre of Kopellin, where the royal palace stood: another advantage to be in Aryon’s company, she thought, pleased. It would last only as long as they were inside the territory of the Six Tribes of the Avari, but in the meantime, she would gladly grab the opportunity.

As they arrived to the palace, a groom came to take their mounts. Recognising Aryon, he bowed low, but he looked Nerwen suspiciously up and down. She reciprocated firmly his stare, glowering, which was normally enough to put anyone in his place, but instead she obtained only a colder stare of dislike. Not again! she thought, exasperated. She felt like having gone back to the day when she met Aryon for the first time, on the shores of the Sea of Rhûn.

“I’ll take care personally of my horses,” she said brusquely, refusing to give him the bridles of Thalion and Thilgiloth. This upset the Elf even more, but she didn’t care a fig; grasping the situation, Aryon cast a ferocious glance at the groom, but he had turned and didn’t see it.

The prince followed Nerwen into the stables and, when the groom left them to tend Allakos and Nordhir, he crossed his arms on his chest and asked her in a low voice:

“You want me chopping him?”

Aghast, Nerwen turned to look at him:

“What?”

“I won’t have anybody looking at you the wrong way,” Aryon explained, mortally serious. The Aini stared at him for some moments, then burst into laughter:

“You forget the way you looked at me at the beginning...”

To her greatest surprise, the prince blushed:

“You’ve got no idea how much I’m sorry for treating you like that…” he began, but she placed one hand on his arm and interrupted him:

“Water under the bridge,” she reassured him, “You were just doing your job,” at his doubtful glance, she smiled, “If you must know, I’d have gladly kicked your ass, that day, therefore we’re even.”

Heartened and amused, Aryon cast at her his typical half-smile, which she came to love madly, as much as she madly loved the person who was giving it to her.

Nerwen began to unsaddle Thilgiloth, and therefore the prince, feeling uneasy to just watch by, began to unload their baggage from Thalion.

When Nerwen finished taking care of the Chargeress and the packhorse, she and Aryon headed for the palace entrance; again, the prince was recognised and they could pass with no formalities.

They waited in the hall while one of the guards was going to call for the Lady of the Palace, Lindir’s equivalent in Rivendell and Nimgil’s in Caras Galadhon.

About ten minutes later, they were joined by two female Elves, with the typical raven-black hair of the Avari, very alike to one another; the first – clearly the older one, with a solemn air – wore a simple, but elegant gown the colour of saffron, while the second one was sheathed in a tight black dress, highlighting her supple body; she sported her long, curly hair in an bun, while the plunging neckline of her gown revealed generous curves.

meledhiel

 

“Welcome, Lord Aryon,” the older one greeted formally the prince, bowing respectfully, and then studied the unknown human accompanying him, curious but – for a change – without the usual distrust so typical to the Avari.

“Thank you, Lady Kilven,” Aryon answered, “Nerwen, may I introduce you Lady Kilven Barhevel, the Lady of the Palace, and her daughter Meledhiel. Ladies, my companion is Nerwen the Green.”

Now the resemblance between the two Elven ladies was explained, Nerwen thought, addressing them both with a greeting nod; Kilven answered to it, but not Meledhiel, who stared at the Maia from head to toe with a spiteful expression. It lasted just one moment, then her stunning face, highlighted by striking eyes the colour of amber, pulled back into a smile addressed to Aryon solely.

“I’m happy to see you again,” she stated in a slightly hoarse voice, indisputably fitting to her seductive looks, “It’s been over one year now, that you didn’t come to visit us,” she added in a familiar, almost intimate tone that annoyed Nerwen.

Aryon paid no attention to the remark and just nodded to confirm, then he addressed Kilven again:

“I know I’m here unexpectedly, because mine isn’t an official visit, but I nonetheless came by to see if my good friend the king is willing to let us stay here.”

“You can ask him yourself, Lord Aryon,” the Lady of the Palace answered, “Please, follow me.”

“I’ll take care of this, Mother,” Meledhiel offered, “After all, I’m your assistant, and so you can go back checking the account books.”

“Thank you, Meledhiel,” Kilven accepted, grateful, “If you’ll excuse me, I have this boring but necessary task to carry out, but then at least I can forget about it until next month,” she explained with a certain humour that Nerwen found appealing. As much annoying was the daughter, as the mother was likeable, she pondered.

“Of course, Lady Kilven,” Aryon said, “No problem.”

Therefore, the Lady of the Palace took her leave and walked away. Meledhiel got back smiling at the prince and, ignoring Nerwen completely, she turned and took one of the corridors radiating from the hall. Aryon glowered: he was surprised by Meledhiel’s attitude, he knew her for many years and they had shared an erratic friendship-in-love, that is, it was valid only during his usual official visits to Kopellin, but they had put an end to it several years ago. Perplexed, he motioned to Nerwen and together they followed the beautiful Avar.

She took them to Séredor, who received them in his office, not unlike Eliénna did in Bârlyth.

séredor

 

“My dear friend!” the king welcomed Aryon, smiling; Séredor was shorter than him, but emanated an aura of calm authority very appropriate to his position, “What a nice surprise!”

“Thank you, Séredor,” the prince answered, calling him by name because of their long friendship; the monarch looked at Nerwen, showing, like his Lady of the Palace, only interest and not also mistrust.

Answering to his silent question, Aryon introduced them:

“Nerwen, this is Séredor, king of the Hwenti; Séredor, this is Nerwen the Green, member of the Order of the Istari that, contrary to what we thought, are neither a fable nor a legend.”

Séredor didn’t mind to hide his amazement:

“An Istar…? I confess I can hardly believe it.”

Nerwen curtseyed.

“Nonetheless, it’s true, Your Majesty,” she stated in the serene tone of one who knows what’s she’s saying and has no fear to prove it.

Meledhiel’s eyes widened in astonishement.

“Come on, Aryon, are you kidding us…?” she muttered, looking again at Nerwen up and down with a hostile stare. This time the prince didn’t let go: as he said earlier, he would allow nobody to look down on Nerwen or, worse, to treat her less than politely. Nobody, included any of his ex-friends-in-love.

“I’ve never been more serious in all my life, Meledhiel; Lady Nerwen is an Istar and has to be treated in a manner befitting her rank,” he said coldly.

“What kind of rank can a woman of the race of Men have, passing herself off as a legendary character?” the Avar female snapped, too blinded by her own prejudices to fear the dangerous light that was flaring up in Aryon’s gaze.

Nerwen was sick and tired with the distrust and latent contempt of the Avari for Men.

“Do you want to put me to the test, Lady Meledhiel?” she asked in a scathing tone, stressing the title so that it sounded almost like an insult.

“I’d really like to see what you’re capable of…” the vice-Lady of the Palace began rudely, but Aryon cut her short:

“I wouldn’t advise it, Meledhiel: I know what she’s capable of, and I assure you, it’s very preferable to be her friend than her enemy.”

Nerwen had crossed her arms on her chest, frowning in a dark way that didn’t bode well.

“Enough now,” Séredor intervened, using his authority, glaring at Meledhiel, “Lady Nerwen is Aryon’s guest, and that’s enough to treat her respectfully.”

Silenced by her king, the female Elf pressed her lips together, annoyed, but didn’t dare to reply.

“I’ll make arrangements to prepare two chambers,” she said instead, her teeth clenched.

“One will be enough,” the prince said, by this way stating publicly that Nerwen and he were lovers.

Nerwen had kept her eyes on Meledhiel; she saw her stiffening, then casting at her a fiery glance. She realised she was jealous of Aryon and held her stare without blinking an eye.

“Did you hear, Meledhiel?” the king asked, very irritated by the provocative behaviour of the assistant, as well as daughter, of his Lady of the Palace.

The female Elf stirred and curtseyed rigidly to her sovereign.

“I’ll give orders about it,” she stated with an evident effort.

When she was gone, Séredor opened his arms in an apologising gesture:

“I’m sorry about Lady Meledhiel’s behaviour,” he said, “Usually she’s a lot friendlier.”

Nerwen would have liked to slap her hard, if she could.

“It’s fine, Your Majesty,” she declared instead, in an apparently serene tone, “It’s obvious she dislikes me.”

The king nodded, not very convinced, then he turned to Aryon:

“What brings the First Sword of the High Sovereign to the realm of the Hwenti, my friend?”

The prince shook his head:

“I’m not the First Sword anymore, Séredor: I asked my sister for permission to leave my office in order to take up another mission.”

He said no more: it was up to Nerwen deciding to whom disclose her purposes.

Séredor was endowed with a noticeable perspicacity and realised that the prince was deliberately remaining vague; however, even if he wasn’t the First Sword anymore, Aryon was nonetheless the brother of the High Sovereign, moreover, they had been friends for a long time; therefore he didn’t press him to learn more. Instead he looked at Nerwen, who intrigued him much.

“And meanwhile you met this pretty woman,” he commented, “or better, this Istar, according to what you say. Lady Nerwen, forgive me if I’m still sceptic, but for all my life I thought Wizards were a myth, and now it’s really difficult for me to believe they aren’t, even if a trustworthy person like Aryon is assuring me it’s true.”

“This isn’t the first time someone doesn’t believe me,” the Maia placidly replied, casting an amused glance at the black-dressed prince. Aryon stretched his lips in his characteristic sardonic half-smile:

“I needed the great and good to be convinced myself, Séredor, I assure you,” he told him, “but in the end I gave up to evidence.”

“Fine, then,” the king nodded, “I trust your word, my friend. Are you two hungry?”

“Indeed, we didn’t dine yet,” Aryon answered for both.

“Well, I’ll have some food brought to your chamber,” Séredor concluded, “I think you’re tired, therefore you’re free to leave: freshen up, eat and rest. We’ll talk more, tomorrow morning.”

Nerwen curtseyed, while Aryon just nodded: Séredor was the king of the Hwenti, but he was higher in rank than he, being the brother of Eliénna, and he didn’t have to pay him homage.

A maid was waiting for them outside the office, with the task to take them to their chamber, where they found their baggage, brought there from the stables.

The room was less spacious than the one Nerwen had had in Bârlyth, but not less cosy, even if the furniture was more austere. In the small bathroom, covered in fine majolica tiles, a bathtub full of lukewarm, perfumed water was waiting for them.

“When you’re ready for dinner, ring it,” the maid instructed them, pointing to a small gong next to the door. At the confirming nod of the king’s guests, she took her leave and left them alone.

“I don’t understand Meledhiel’s attitude,” Aryon grumbled, unbuckling his belt with the sword and placing it into a corner.

“She’s jealous of you,” Nerwen revealed, in an obvious tone; how could he possibly not realise it?

He frowned.

“Jealous of me?” he repeated, “We’ve been on-and-off friends-in-love, but we split up by mutual agreement several years ago now: she’s got no reason to be jealous.”

The Istar raised one eyebrow, confronting his evident blindness.

“Did you ever introduce to her your current friend-in-love?” she asked him.

He thought about it for a minute.

“Well, no,” he admitted slowly, realising his mistake, “In this case, I was insensitive in asking her one room for the two or us; but after all, she made me believe she had no interest in me anymore.”

“Clearly, it is not so,” Nerwen concluded, “and maybe she didn’t know it, either, until she confronted with the situation.”

Aryon looked at her intensely.

“Well, anyway she doesn’t have the least chance, against you,” he stated. The Aini came up to him and placed her arms around his neck.

“But she doesn’t know it yet,” she pointed out with false calmness, “Tomorrow I’ll see to it, informing her in plain terms.”

Her low, menacing tone made his hair stand on end: he thought he wouldn’t want to be in Meledhiel’s shoes for the entire world.

He embraced her tight; his eyes shone mischievously:

“You’re not jealous, are you…” 

“It would make no sense,” she denied, but her eyes had a nasty light: true, it didn’t make any sense to be jealous, because Aryon was her partner for life and this meant he would love her till the end of time; but it didn’t mean she would tolerate anyone’s hostility. Usually, the revelation to be partners for life was enough to put an end to any issue. If instead, like in this specific case, this wouldn’t prove enough, she was willing to use an iron mace to get it into the head of that arrogant Elven female.

They bathed and changed, donning house-clothes, and then put away their meagre belongings; finally, Aryon rang the gong. A few minutes later, several servants arrived; two of them brought new towels and busied themselves in emptying and clean up the bathtub, while other two carried large covered trays, which they set on the small table in front of the bed. Again, the two guests were left alone, discreetly; they sat and had roasted chicken with vegetables, some cottage cheese and a peach tart, and drank water and a pleasantly sour cider, very refreshing.  

When they finished, they rang again and two handmaids came to clear the table; before taking their leave, they asked if they needed something else, and at their negative answer, they reminded them to call, should they change their minds.

At last definitively alone, Aryon looked Nerwen deep in her eyes.

“I crave kissing you for hours,” he stated, pulling her into his arms. She raised her face to his, smiling allusively.

“So what are you waiting for?” she provoked him.

Of course, they did more than just kissing.

 

OOO

 

The next morning, a page came, inviting them for breakfast in the garden with King Séredor and his wife, Lythelen.

“Nice to see you again, Aryon,” the queen greeted him warmly. The prince kissed gallantly her hand. 

“My pleasure, Lythelen,” he assured her, “May I introduce you to Nerwen the Green? Nerwen, this is Queen Lythelen…”

Nerwen curtseyed, while the queen gave her a polite, even if formal, nod.

“My husband told me about you, Lady Nerwen,” she said, “Are you truly an Istar?”

Her question was intrigued, just streaked with doubt, and the Maia didn’t feel irritated at all.

“So it is, Your Majesty,” she answered, “Wizards are not a mere legend.”

They took their seats at a small table loaded of food, where they received immediately the bergamot tea the Avari loved so much.

“It’s difficult to get rid of a general conviction that’s lasting for centuries,” Lythelen observed, lightening the mood with a little smile, “but Aryon states it as true, therefore I want to believe it. Unless it is proved wrong, of course,” she added, prudently. Nerwen responded to her smile, but didn’t reply; after all, the presence of the High Sovereign’s brother ensured her enough credibility as not to be hindered in any way: she was satisfied with this, for the moment. Anyway, she cared little if her professed identity persuaded them for good or not, as long as Aryon was.

Seeing Séredor picking up a bowl of ertan, she did the same: she truly loved this food, especially if sweetened with honey. 

“So, what takes you to Kopellin?” the king enquired, uncertain if he should address one or the other of his guests.

“I’ll tell you,” Nerwen answered, having never planned to conceal the goal of her journey, “but know that another legend will prove instead reality.”

“Good Valar, I am terribly intrigued!” Lythelen stated lively, “Very well, tell us…”

“I’m looking for the females of the Onodrim, the Entwives,” the Istar explained. The king and queen of the Hwenti were taken aback for a moment, then simultaneously cast a glance at Aryon, who held their gazes firmly, in this way confirming Nerwen’s statement.

Séredor took a deep breath. His trust in his old friend’s judgement was very strong, but he was already struggling to believe his protégée to be an Istar, and now she came up with… this.

“The Onodrim actually exist, then?” he asked quietly.

Nerwen couldn’t tell him she actually had met one just a little more than a year before without betraying Treebeard’s request not to reveal his existence, therefore she had just to hope that the king’s trust in Aryon was great enough to make him taking her word.

“Yes, Your Majesty, they truly exist,” she confirmed in an equally quiet tone, “I’m a follower of Yavanna Kementári, who created them at the beginning of Time: that’s why I know it.”

“As far as I know, we’ve never seen one, in the lands of the Six Tribes,” Lythelen stated slowly. Nerwen turned her eyes at her:

“We’re just passing through, actually; we’re heading for the lands beyond the Orocarni.”

“There’s no known pass to get over them,” Séredor stated.

“So I’ve been told,” the Aini nodded, “but all mountain ranges have passes. However, should we find none, we’ll get round them.”

“We don’t even know where they end,” the king warned her.

“Mayhap your brothers the Kinn-lai know this,” Nerwen replied, referring to the Avarin tribe dwelling in the Red Mountains, “and if not, mayhap the Dwarves they do business with.”

“The Ironfists and the Stonefoots?” Lythelen mused, doubtful, “Contacts with them happen only three of four times during the warm season, for the exchange of a small variety of goods; as for the rest, they don’t want to have anything to do with us, nor we with them, as for this. We don’t even know the exact location of their towns.”

Nerwen sighed inwardly: the well-known hostility between Dwarves and Elves was evidently harshened by the latter’s typical aversion to the foreigners, which anyway mirrored the former’s characteristic isolationism.

“I’m a follower of Kementári, their creator Aulë’s spouse,” she mused, “and speaking their language, I have some hopes to be better welcomed.”

“Besides, you don’t belong to the Elven race,” Séredor pondered, “this advantages you for sure.”

“You speak their tongue?” Lythelen asked her instead, looking at her appreciatively; Aryon, too, cast a glance at her in surprise and admiration, learning of this ability of hers he didn’t know about, “You’re full of unexpected talents, Lady Nerwen…”

“Thank you for saying so,” the Aini smiled, “Sire, may I ask you a favour?” she addressed then the monarch.

“Sure, if it’s in my power to help you, I’ll do it,” he assured her.

“I’d like to see all the maps of the Red Mountains you have here, would it be possible?”

“In our archives there are some, but they’re not as accurate as the ones you’ll find at the Kinn-lai,” the king informed her.

“Never mind, meanwhile I can get an idea.”

“Very well, then I’ll issue immediately orders to make them available to you.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty…”

When they finished breakfast, Séredor had Nerwen accompanied to the palace’s archives, where the Maia found an official waiting for her, who delivered her half a dozen of maps she could study at her leisure.

 

OOO

 

Aryon stayed in the garden with the king of the Hwenti; Lythelen, too, had retired, wanting to leave the two friends free to talk.

“Forgive me, my friend,” Séredor began, “I don’t want in any way to disrespect your Nerwen, but I’m surprised you chose for a friend-in-love a woman of the race of Men, and that for her you even renounced your office as the First Sword of Queen Eliénna.”

“It wasn’t my choice, actually,” Aryon answered, who had expected this question from his old friend, “She’s not just a friend-in-love: she’s my partner for life.”

Séredor didn’t hide his wonder:

“Are you serious? But… the previous unions between Elves and Men are more a legend than history: how is it that you, the son of a Maia, are destined to a mortal?”

His doubtful tone slightly irritated the prince, who in no way was willing to tolerate the least denigration towards the woman he loved; he glowered and answered in a rather curt tone:

“Perhaps she’s mortal, and perhaps she’s not. I told you, she’s an Istar, and the Istari are known not to age: this means they could be non-mortal. She herself confirmed it.”

The king of the Hwenti realised he had offended him and rose one hand in an apologising gesture:
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just that it’s hard for me to believe what you’re saying. In the past, there have been only two unions between Men and Elves, and never with an Avar…”

“This because we’ve lived apart from our brothers who abide more to the west of Middle-earth,” the prince pointed out, calmer, “Besides, I remind you that one of these unions involved the child of a Maia, exactly like Nerwen and me, therefore there’s nothing unheard of in my situation.”

Séredor pondered Aryon’s words, then he nodded slowly:

“You’re right,” he admitted, “I didn’t think about it. Besides, I cannot deny that I like Lady Nerwen, as a person: she looks strong, resolute, but also sweet and nice. Am I right?” he enquired, diverting the subject. 

Aryon grinned in his characteristically sarcastic way:

“Sweet and nice? Yeah, she’s both… except when you get her angry. I saw her with my own eyes chastising hard an Elf who attempted to have her murdered; but she could have killed him, and she didn’t do it. Like my sister said, this tells us much about her character.”

Admiration showed through Séredor’s expression.

“It tells much, indeed,” he agreed, nodding, “Well, I confess I was worried about you, but now I’m not anymore: from the way you speak of her, I think you found a partner worthy of you…”

The two friends chatted for over one hour and a half, then Séredor dismissed Aryon, having to take care of his duties. The prince then thought about heading for the stables to see how their mounts were doing. While exiting the palace, he thought he glimpsed somebody following him, but turning around he didn’t see anyone.

Once he arrived at the stables, he checked on the boxes of all four steeds, whom he found well lodged, clean and properly fed.

He was closing Thilgiloth’s box behind him, when he heard Meledhiel’s hoarse voice addressing him:

“My dear Aryon, just the one I was looking for…”

He spun around.

“Really?” he asked, rather coldly: he hadn’t forget how much unpleasant she had been to Nerwen, the day before.

“Yes… I wanted to talk to you,” the beautiful Elf stated in a vanilla tone, “but not here where everyone can see us. Come,” she invited him, heading for the entrance of the stables. She slipped into an empty box.

Aryon hesitated, then he followed her: maybe she wanted to apologise for her earlier behaviour, and possibly even clarify the reason of it. At least, he would learn if Nerwen was right, claiming she was jealous of him.

In the box, Meledhiel had turned and was waiting for him. The prince thought that her dress was more low-cut than usual, but perhaps it was just an illusion.

“I didn’t mean to be rude to your friend,” she began, “I was just surprised you would go with someone of the race of Men, that’s all.”

“It doesn’t look like a good reason to me,” the prince shot back, still annoyed she dared to treat Nerwen with so much discourtesy. 

Meledhiel pressed her soft lips together, surprised at his coldness: Aryon had never been unfriendly, with her. Quite the reverse, in fact… She changed her approach:

“But I don’t understand what she has more than me… Is it because she claims to be an Istar that makes her interesting in your eyes?”

He made an irritated gesture that induced her to stop immediately.

“She doesn’t claim, she is an Istar, believe it or not. And anyway, that’s not the only thing I like about her, for sure,” he stated. He didn’t understand what Meledhiel was getting at and thought about leaving her there high and dry.

“I think so,” she hastily said, changing tactics again, “You liked me, too, once…” she added, straightening her back to raise her torso, “We had much fun, together, remember?”

Attracted by the movement, Aryon’s gaze fell involuntarily on the curvy mounds of her breasts that the cleavage generously revealed.

“Yes, of course I remember,” he admitted, perplexed.

She came near him, shaking her head to wave around her long black curls, and staring at him with a captivating expression.

“Aryon, I am always available for you…” she whispered.

By Nahar’s mane, the prince thought, Nerwen had been right: Meledhiel still had designs on him. He had to tell her how things really were, between him and the Istar, this would surely convince her to back off her clear purpose to seduce him; he searched for the right words, as to not hurt her any more than was necessary, but there weren’t any, therefore he chose to do it head-on:

“I’m sorry, Meledhiel, but Nerwen is my partner for life,” he stated in a low voice.

This took the beautiful Elf aback, but it lasted just one moment: in all her life, nobody she had eyed had ever resisted her. Not even he, as for a long time, every time he came to Kopellin, he had spent his nights in her bed. No, she told herself, it wasn’t possible, it was absolutely not possible that a Human could be his partner for life! Aryon had gotten it all wrong. No, even worse: he was under a spell. An Istar, sure… that Nerwen was a sorceress and had charmed him with her witchcraft. There was no other explanation.

But she would break the spell, oh yes she would, on the spot!

“I see… What a shame we can’t be together anymore…” she murmured, taking on an air of regret; she pretended to hesitate, then her smile became more seductive and she began to untie her bodice, “What if we have fun one last time, parting in a friendly way…?”

Automatically, Aryon’s glance descended on those curves he knew well and that, once more, were to be displayed in front of him; he realised he was flattered, but completely uninterested.

“Meledhiel, this is not the case…” he tried to stop her by using a firm tone.

“Don’t tell me you don’t like what you see…” she provoked him, “Come on, touch me…”

Taking him completely by surprise, she suddenly grasped his hand and pressed it against her almost naked breasts; shocked, Aryon froze, open-mouthed.

 

OOO

 

Between studying the maps and asking for clarifications and thorough examinations, Nerwen needed a couple of hours to feel fully satisfied. Thanking the officer, who had proven a true gold mine of information, she left the archives and got back to her room, seeking Aryon, but she didn’t find him; therefore she exited and headed for her kelvar friends, to see how they were.

As she entered the stables and passed by an empty stall, she heard Meledhiel’s hoarse voice:

“What if we have fun one last time, parting in a friendly way…?”

The deep voice answering her got Nerwen frozen halfway through a stride.

“Meledhiel, this is not the case…”

“Don’t tell me you don’t like what you see… Come on, touch me…”

 

The Aini felt her blood rush to her head and she flung the door of the box open: she found Aryon and Meledhiel, standing one in front of the other, with her pressing one hand of his against her lavish breasts.

Both spun around as Nerwen burst in. Seeing them, the Istar stood still; slowly, she crossed her arms on her chest, while her face became icy. She uttered no word, staring at Meledhiel with a gaze that, should it have been a dagger, would have stabbed and cut her in thousand pieces.

The statuesque Avar turned pale like a ghost. Stifling a cry, she backed away from Aryon and rushed out the door, brushing Nerwen while she passed her, running. Viciously, the Maia stuck out one leg and tripped her over; Meledhiel screamed and fell, sprawling on the hay covering the floor. Under Nerwen’s implacable stare, the Elf pulled herself up, her face as red as a tomato; she slanted one last, hateful glance at her rival, then ran away with her tail between her legs, her hair and gown full of straws, her dignity shattered.

Nerwen realised she had made an enemy, but for the moment, she decided to ignore her. She turned to Aryon, looking into his eyes; in his gaze she read embarrassment, but not fright.

“Care to explain?” she exhorted him, in a neutral tone. She wasn’t accusing him of anything: from what she had heard and seen, it looked pretty clear that it had been Meledhiel the one taking the initiative, trying to seduce the prince with a brazen behaviour, not at all appropriated to her office as vice Lady of the Palace; but she wanted to hear it from him.

Aryon sighed:

“You were right: Meledhiel still had an interest in me,” he began, “I came to check on the horses; apparently she was keeping an eye on me, because I saw her stepping out all of a sudden in front of me. Under the pretext to talk with me away from prying eyes, she dragged me here and tried to tempt me recalling our history together; I told her clearly that you’re my partner for life, but she grabbed my hand and shoved it down her cleavage… and then you showed up.”

Nerwen nodded slowly. She had no reason to think he was lying: not only, after what she had heard before and seen later, it was obvious that things had happened exactly how he had reported but, but above all, she completely trusted Aryon, who had renounced his office, the most prestigious in all the Six Tribes, to be with her and help her in her mission, even if he still found it hard to believe in the actual existence of the Entwives. Despite all this, however, the worm of jealousy didn’t spare her: after all, being partners for life didn’t mean never giving in to temptation. Therefore, while her shoulders fell, she asked him:

“And what if I hadn’t shown up…?”

More than suspicious, her tone was miserable; the prince felt his heart going out to her and instinctively took a step toward her: he couldn’t bear to see her upset. He wanted to pull her into his arms to reassure her, but he was afraid she would reject him.

“I’d have told her to take a cold bath,” he answered firmly, “A very cold one,” he added through gritted teeth.

Nerwen stared for a long moment into his eyes – those gorgeous eyes the colour of the sky, where the light of Valinor shone – and found no trace of deceit.

Aryon took her hands and, looking at her, brought them to his lips, placing small kisses on each finger, with such a tenderness she felt like melting.

“You could tell me that the sun shines by night and I’d believe you,” the Aini muttered.

“That would be mutual,” he stated in total earnestness, then he grinned in that peculiar way she couldn’t resist and caressed the tip of her ring finger with his lips: the night before, he had discovered it as a particularly sensitive spot, and indeed, Nerwen shivered.

“Oh, you smutty rascal…!” she babbled. Actually, he was a very handsome rascal, she thought, while he continued looking into her eyes and kissed the palm of her hands, then the inner side of her wrists; finally he made her slide her arms around his neck, bent his head down and took her lips.

He kissed her slowly, deeply, putting in the kiss all the love he felt for her; he loved her unconditionally, unshakeably, and no Meledhiel in the world could stir the least interest in him.

Finally, he backed off; Nerwen looked at him, her eyes slightly glazed. She felt her heart like overflowing, flooded by the love she felt for him. Her lost gaze moved him deeply; struck dumb, he kissed her again, fervently, and she responded with equal ardour.

When their lips parted, he whispered:

“Now it’s me, the one in need of an icy bath…”

Nerwen’s lips bent in a grin very similar to Aryon’s typical one: against her belly, she was clearly feeling his desire for her.

“Then it’s better we stop right now,” she whispered, “because there’s two of us, in need of it…”

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

The sexy Elf trying to seduce Aryon wasn’t planned at all! So, here’s another character jumping out and forcing me on describing a totally unexpected situation XD Anyway, now we know for certain – by facts and not just by words – that no one has the slightest chance, trying to get between Nerwen and her Aryon…

The image of Séredor is by Emmil, found on the amazing site DeviantArt.

The image of Meledhiel is by Graysun_D, slightly elaborated by a friend of mine.

I want to thank again all those who are following this fan fiction, which is developing far more than I planned… I’m more or less like the Professor when he began The Lord of the Rings, which had to be just a sequel to The Hobbit and became instead the long, wonderful masterpiece we know; this without intending in any way comparing myself to him, of course!

 

 

Lady Angel

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXXVIII: Blinding Jealousy

 

“Let’s get betrothed,” Aryon told Nerwen.

It was night; they had dined wict Séredor and Lythelen, and after that, they had retired and were now undressing to go to bed.

Taken by surprise, Nerwen dropped the gown she had just taken off and stared at the prince, wide-eyed.

“W… what?” she squeaked. 

Aryon, shirtless, got around the bed and took her hands, bringing them to his lips.

“Let’s get betrothed,” he repeated, “It’s the custom of my people that, as soon as you meet your partner for life, you announce it publicly with a promise ceremony, witnessed by a male and a female sponsor. The betrothal lasts one year and one day, then the nuptial ceremony take place. I always thought of Séredor as my sponsor, because of our long friendship; and he’s here at hand. So, how about doing it?” 

Nerwen was still dumbfounded: she hadn’t expected his proposal, not while they were travelling.

“Good Valar…” she whispered, blinking a couple of times; she noticed the prince’s gaze clouding a little and realised that, with her hesitation, she was making him anxious.

“I’d be glad to,” she began, slowly, “After all, even where I come from they usually do so. It’s just that I don’t know where we’ll be, in one year and one day…”

“This is unimportant,” the prince stated, relieved that her objections were only of practical nature; he kissed the palm of her hand, “Anywhere we’ll be, we’ll ask other ones to be our sponsors for the wedding. Mayhap… they might be the Entwives,” he concluded with a smirk.

“Mayhap, who knows,” Nerwen answered, reciprocating his smile.

“Is that a yes, then?” he asked.

“It’s a yes,” the Aini confirmed. Aryon let her hands go and began fiddling with the string of her undervest, untying the knot.

“So, we have something to celebrate…” he murmured, his eyes still locket with hers. She felt like drowning in those light blue irises, while a now familiar trembling was sliding down her spine.

“I agree…”

 

OOO

 

Séredor was enthusiastic about his friend’s request; even if, deep down in his heart, he still kept some perplexity about the appropriateness of a union between an immortal and a mortal, even if she was endowed with a much longer life than ordinary humans, he admitted that, in the face of destiny, there is nothing anyone can do; besides, from what Aryon had told him, he had the High Sovereign’s blessing, therefore he had no reason to refuse.

Because in this place she had no friend to ask for being her sponsor – she would have had Melian, or Galadriel, but both were very far away – Nerwen asked Queen Lythelen, who accepted gladly in spite of her doubts, even stronger than her husband’s.

As they had no guests to call for – surely there was no need to invite Meledhiel – organising the ceremony required only a very short time, practically just as long as the two betrothed-to-be needed to find the promise rings, that traditionally were of silver; Lythelen sent them to her favourite jeweller, where they chose two identical rings, carved like a flat braid running on the whole circumference.

They didn’t pay for them: as the emissary of the High Sovereign, Aryon’s purchases were directly refunded by the Royal Treasury, and even if he wasn’t the First Sword any longer, his sister had allowed him to use the royal credit for all the time he would stay in the territory of the Six Tribes.

The Istar thought that this was generous of her: she had received money both at the Grey Havens and in Lothlórien, and anyway she could gather some using her medical abilities, but it was surely useful having a virtually unlimited credit like this, as long as they could.

They made the most of this stroll, buying a new pipe for Aryon and a stock of galenas, too.

When they returned to the palace, it was almost midday; as they had already agreed to have their lunch with the monarchs, they headed for their private dining room, where they were surprisingly led to the garden. Here, they had set up a pavilion, under which stood a table set as for a luxurious banquet, and next to it the sovereigns of the Hwenti were waiting for them.

“Perhaps we’re few in number,” Séredor smiled at them, “but the event deserves being adequately celebrated.”

The two lovers exchanged amused glances: they had already taken care of this the night before…

“Thank you, my friend,” Aryon said, forcing the sultry images of Nerwen’s embraces out of his mind, “You’re certainly right.”

“Come,” Lythelen called, motioning for them to get near, “If you like, we can begin straight away.”

Aryon took Nerwen’s hand and together they walked solemnly toward the king and queen. While they strode the few steps separating them from the other two, Nerwen felt the thrill becoming stronger and stronger, until she was almost short of breath. She knew by heart the few introductive words, but when they stopped in front of the ceremony sponsors, she thought she couldn’t remember a single syllable. She gripped spasmodically Aryon’s hand; the prince, sensing her nervousness, turned to look at her with what he wanted to be a reassuring expression, but he was actually as much as thrilled.

Noticing the exchange of glances, Séredor and Lythelen did the same, amused and moved; then they looked again at the lovers, waiting patiently for them to speak.

Aryon began, followed after only two syllables by Nerwen, who had suddenly found back her memory:

“After the ancient tradition of the Eldar, we ask you, our beloved ones and our joy, to witness our promise.”

The ceremony would involve the presence of friends and relatives, and the sentence would be addressed to them, but as they were only the four of them, it was addressed to the sovereigns only.

Then Aryon looked at Nerwen and went on:

“Here is the one I chose and to whom I have bound my heart,” he looked again at Séredor, “To you I rely as son of the soul: therefore welcome her like a father welcomes a daughter and be happy for our joy.”

Séredor sensed his friend’s infective thrill and had to take a deep breath to calm down before answering:

“Like a daughter I welcome her in my soul and in my heart.”

Sponsor and sponsored exchanged the ritual embrace, placing their hands on each other’s shoulders; then Séredor bent over to Nerwen and kissed her cheek.

Aryon took the ring out of his pocket and grasped Nerwen’s left hand.

“My heart is bound to yours,” he said, looking into her eyes, his voice one octave lower because of the emotion he was feeling, “Wear this ring, which now I give you, as a token of my faithfulness and of our bond.”

Slowly, he slipped the silver ring on her index finger.

Nerwen felt her heart leaping into her throat and had to swallow hard before being able to answer:

“Happily I accept it, happily I will wear it.”

She gave Aryon a bright glance so full of love, he felt his knees turn to jelly and almost staggered. He gathered all his willpower to grasp himself and took slow breaths, trying to calm down.

Now it was Nerwen’s turn:

“Here is the one I chose and to whom I have bound my heart,” she turned to look at Lythelen, “To you I rely as daughter of the soul: therefore welcome him like a mother welcomes a son and be happy for our joy.”

Lythelen beamed at her: in front of the evidence of the sentiment these two shared, her perplexities had vanished all of a sudden.

“Like a son I welcome him in my soul and in my heart,” she stated, embracing ritually her sponsored like Séredor had done earlier with Aryon, and then she kissed the prince on one cheek.

With shaking fingers, Nerwen fished the ring out of her waist bag and took Aryon’s left hand.

“My heart is bound to yours,” she said, repeating his words, her voice trembling with emotion, “Wear this ring, which now I give you, as a token of my faithfulness and of our bond,” she concluded, slipping the ring on his index finger.

Aryon’s heart skipped one beat before he could answer:

“Happily I accept it, happily I will wear it.”

They looked at each other intensely, exchanging with their eyes a promise even more solemn than the one uttered by their lips. Again, Lythelen and Séredor waited until the two betrothed recovered from their emotional state, and then they made the final statement together:

“The Valar witness with you what happened today.”

Impulsively, Nerwen and Aryon embraced, then they did the same with their sponsors.

“Congratulations,” Séredor said sincerely: like his wife, he had seen the plain sentiment joining his friend to the Istar and he had no more doubts that their union was right and appropriate.

Finally, they sat around the richly set table, and ate and drank in cheerfulness.

It was the thirteenth day of July.

 

OOO

 

In the following three days, Meledhiel stayed out of the way of both Nerwen and Aryon; the Maia was relieved, because she had no desire to start a war.

Unfortunately, it proved to be just the calm before the storm.

It was a sunny afternoon and, because of the heat, Nerwen had the sleeves removed from her green housedress. After having spent several hours in the library, doing more research on every available source about the Orocarni, seeking a hint about a pass that could lead her and Aryon beyond that immense mountain range, she was now returning to her chamber.

Walking along a rather dark hallway, out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed a sneaking movement on her right side. Instinctively, she threw herself sideways and this prevented her being stabbed in her back with a long stiletto, ferociously brandished by none other than Meledhiel; the thin blade of the dagger grazed Nerwen’s arm, opening a long wound, luckily only superficial, but it made her anyway scream in pain. 

With a shriek of surprise and disappointment, Meledhiel stumbled forward a couple of steps, then regained her balance and threw herself in another assault. Nerwen jumped backwards to evade the point of the deadly weapon, almost tripping over the hem of her skirt.

“Stop!” she yelled, “Are you gone nuts?!”

Meledhiel didn’t heed her and came back with a low cut meant to gut her, but the Istar escaped her with a backflip.

Unlike on the Feingwend, this time Nerwen had not been taken completely unawares; besides, her adversary didn’t brandish a long blade, but a dagger, so she could easier defend herself. Therefore, the Aini put into practice the hand-to-hand combat techniques Tulkas had taught her – she had rarely needed them, but sometimes she brushed up on them because you can never tell – and kept ready to counter the assault by any means. Her long gown hindered her, but she was able to get up from the somersault thanks to the prodigious nimbleness of her race. Her opponent was no less, though, besides she was wearing practical breeches and tunic, which made her movements easier; she whipped around like a snake and charged again.

This time, Nerwen didn’t just back off; she moved quickly sideways, seized the wrist of Meledhiel’s armed arm and twisted it in a painful grip that forced her opponent to drop her weapon. The stiletto fell clattering on the ground. 

The vice Lady of the Palace screeched, outraged, and attacked with her bare hands, her gorgeous face distorted in a mask of hate; but Nerwen was expecting this: she ducked, clutched Meledhiel’s arm and turned her own momentum against her, hurling her on the ground. The Elf landed hard and banged her face on the floor; with a growl, she rose again, blood streaming out of her nose. She glared resentfully at her adversary, but refrained from attacking her again: Nerwen practiced a type of hand-to-hand combat she had never seen and she didn’t understand how it worked, and furthermore, she showed a speed that was absolutely impossible for a Human. She concluded it was preferable recovering the stiletto, which gave her a sure advantage.

Nerwen noticed the direction of Meledhiel’s glance, but he had kicked away the dagger and now it was out of reach of both her and her opponent. She took advantage of the short break and lifted her shirt, thrusting its hem into her belt so as to move freely, ready to defend herself.

At that moment, summoned by the noise, two Palace Guards arrived running.

Meledhiel saw them coming up behind Nerwen and thought to use it at her own advantage.

“Guards! Seize her! She tried to kill me!” she shrieked, “She had a knife!”

The soldiers froze, taken aback, and looked hesitantly at the two adversaries, both wounded.

“What are you waiting for?” the female Elf yelled, “Seize her, I said!”

The two guards exchanged glances; having to choose between Lady Kilven’s daughter, whom they knew well, and the foreigner, whom was to them but a stranger, the choice was obvious. They moved to grab Nerwen.

Stop!” Nerwen shouted: her voice echoed appallingly, while her petite form became suddenly tall and powerful, “ Don’t you dare touching me!”

Flabbergasted, the guards froze; Meledhiel was speechless, in shock.

From behind the corner, other three soldiers appeared, led by a sergeant.

“What’s up here?” the latter bellowed, unsheathing his sword while the other two did the same.

“This woman attacked me with a knife,” Meledhiel declared venomously, repeating her accusation.

“Oh, of course,” Nerwen laughed at her, “So explain why it’s me, the one with a stab wound,” she challenged her, showing her bleeding arm to the sergeant. She would wait to heal it with her power, so that she would be able to show it as a proof of the attack.

The sergeant was neither a fool nor a naïve person, and even if he instinctively trusted more the vice Lady of the Palace than the human foreigner, the latter’s remark planted the seed of doubt in his mind.

“Indeed…, he said, scowling at the female Elf.

“Call for Lord Aryon,” Nerwen quietly suggested him, “He can vouch for me.”

“Yes, sure!” Meledhiel spat sourly, “Because you sleep with him!”

“Jealousy is a nasty thing, isn’t it?” the Aini spat back; she was trembling with fury, but she forced herself to stay calm, but oh!, what would she pay to kick her ass!

The sergeant motioned for his soldiers and one of them ran off; a few minutes later, he was back with Aryon.

The black-dressed prince took in the scene and paled when he noticed the wound on Nerwen’s arm: she shook her head, reassuring him she was fine.

Then Aryon turned to glare at Meledhiel with such a dark face, it would back off a battalion of Orcs in full battle gear.

Aryon furious

 

“Care to explain, Lady Meledhiel?” he asked in an icy tone. The beautiful Elf shuddered under his hard glance, however she didn’t yield:

“Your little friend here tried to kill me with a knife!” she spat, pointing to the stiletto still laying on the floor. 

“Actually, it’s the exact opposite,” Nerwen countered, showing off her injured arm, “Lady Meledhiel attacked me cowardly from behind, like a vile assassin.”

“What do you say in your defence, Meledhiel?” Aryon growled, turning to glare again at Kilven’s daughter. The female Elf, too blinded by her jealousy to realise her precarious position, flared up:

“In my defence?? I am the one who’s been attacked, I tell you! Why do you believe her and not me? How do you explain the son of a Maia kept by the leash by a woman of the weak race of Men? Don’t you understand she’s a witch and you’re under her spell…?”

Enough!” Aryon thundered, cutting her off. His tone made all flinch, even Nerwen, who recognised in it a trace of the imposing capability she herself could give to her own voice.

“How do you dare?” the prince went on, going up to Meledhiel, threateningly standing up at his full height; in front of him, the female Elf shrank, realising she had given herself away with her own words, “How do you dare throwing such accusations? Nerwen the Green is an Istar, not a foul witch, and she wouldn’t waste her power for a meaningless love-spell! Like it or not, she’s my partner for life and my bride-to-be, and attempting at her life won’t change the situation. Sergeant!” he shouted, calling for him imperiously, “Arrest Lady Meledhiel and take her to King Séredor for him to judge her!”

“There’s no need for it,” a male voce said, making all eyes turn in the direction it was coming from. Séredor come out of the corner of the hallway from where Aryon, too, had arrived. The guard who had called the prince had also sent for the monarch.

“I’m here,” the king went on while, frowning, he watched the daughter of his Lady of the Palace; he had heart most of the exchange between her and Aryon, but one question tormented him, “Why did you do it, Lady Meledhiel?”

“I didn’t do anything,” the female Elf meekly tried, by now aware she had get herself in a hopeless situation, however insisting on her act, “Please, Sire, believe me, at least you…”

Séredor hesitated: he knew Meledhiel since she had been born and it seemed to him truly impossible for her to attempt with no reason to the life of an honoured guest like Nerwen: then his eyes fell on the dagger, forsaken in a corner, and his face turned to stone. He motioned to one of the guards, who picked up the stiletto and brought it to him. The king turned it in his hands while his gaze was becoming more and more gloomy.

“I recognise this,” he stated in a troubled tone, “I gave it myself to your father…”

“No, no!” she shrieked, hopelessly, “It’s not that one, it’s not mine!!”

Séredor looked at her with compassion; he still didn’t understand her reasons, but it was clear she was not herself.

“Take her away,” he ordered the sergeant, in a low and bitter voice, “Lock her up in her chamber.”

He knew he should throw her in the dungeons, but he still didn’t feel like it. After all, she was the daughter of Lady Kilven, his trusty Lady of the Palace, and it was very hard for him punishing her, even if he was aware he had to do it. However, he wanted to take some time to understand the reason of her insane move and impose the appropriate sentence with a clear head.

The guards hurried to obey, seizing the now ex vice Lady of the Palace; while they were taking her away, Meledhiel turned and shot a last accusation:

“That one isn’t who she claims to be! She moves too fast!”

The soldiers didn’t stop and dragged the recalcitrant Elf away; perplexed, Séredor turned to Nives:

“What did she mean, by saying you move too fast?” he enquired. At first, Nerwen thought about denying, calling Meledhiel a fantasist, but then she pondered that, should she insist, in the long term this would arise legitimate suspicions.

“An Istar’s resources are often a nasty surprise for nasty people,” she answered in a deliberately enigmatic way, shrugging and pretending indifference: she could certainly not reveal that her extraordinary agility came from her being an Aini.

Even if the explanation didn’t satisfy him completely, Séredor had other plights tormenting him, at the moment; he nodded curtly and disguised his distress under a hard face, but Aryon knew him far too well to not see under the mask he had put on.

“I’m sorry, my friend,” he said in a low voice. Séredor shook his head:

“No, Aryon, I am the one to be sorry: an officer of mine wronged severely a guest of mine. Lady Nerwen,” he turned to the Istar, “be assured that Meledhiel will be adequately punished,” he looked better at her and noticed the wound, still bleeding, “But you need to be treated: I’ll call immediately for the palace’s physician.”

“There’s no need,” Nerwen said, “After all, it’s just a scratch, it’ll be enough cleaning the cut and treat it with a balm I have in my luggage… I ask for permission to retire,” she concluded with a slight curtsy.

“Of course you have it,” the king nodded.

“I go with her,” Aryon announced, and Séredor nodded again; obviously, the brother of the High Sovereign had no need to ask him for permission, but after all it was his home and it was a matter of politeness.

As the king of the Hwenti headed for his office to ponder over the difficult issue, Nerwen and Aryon went to their chamber.

The Maia took off her shredded and bloodstained dress, remaining with only the camisole, and in the meantime, the prince headed for the bathroom, where he poured some water from a jug to a basin and soaked a clean cloth; as he returned in the bedchamber, he used it to wash Nerwen’s injury, his face dark with concern. She let him do it, smiling slightly; noticing it, Aryon frowned:

“What’s there to smile?” he asked, perplexed. She caressed his cheek:

“You’re very sweet taking care of me,” she answered in an undertone, “but actually there’s no need for it.”

Surprised, Aryon stopped swabbing the cut and looked at her, clueless; then he recalled what she did to the young bison the troll had injured.

“You’re right,” he said slowly, “I was forgetting you’re an Istar.”

She smiled at him, then closed her eyes and focused on the wound, sending there her thaumaturgic power to heal it; under the prince’s watchful gaze, the cut closed, leaving only a slight trace that soon disappeared.

Re-opening her eyes, Nerwen noticed Aryon staring at her arm. Taking her unawares, he suddenly hugged her, pressing her strongly against his chest.

“Today Meledhiel could have killed you… By the Valar’s grace, she failed…” he whispered in a muffled tone.

Nerwen felt sick in the heart; she couldn’t reassure him in this area, not without revealing him her true nature, and this was forbidden.

“It’s not that easy killing me,” she tried to comfort him, knowing that it was a poor attempt, “I can heal myself as I did with the young bison, even if I cannot heal something deadly, like a stab in the heart, or a too fast working poison, or a too far advanced serious illness,” she couldn’t tell him this was not applying at herself, “Besides, I’m able to defend myself pretty well: Meledhiel’s broken nose is the proof…” she concluded, sardonically.

Aryon held her tight some moments longer, then slowly let her go.

“Yes,” he said in a low voice, “I think so,” he looked at her, while a slight grin bent the corners of his mouth, partially wiping away the concern from his face, “You’re full of surprises, sweetheart… I had no idea you were able to fight hand-to-hand.”

“I need it rarely,” she observed, “Usually my fame as an Istar is enough to strike fear into people and spare me from attacks, but this of course doesn’t apply if they don’t believe me,” she added, glowering. It happened on board the Feingwend, too: she had to learn to be more cautious.

“From now on, I’ll be there to defend you, if need arises,” Aryon stated with a resolute tone. He would allow nobody and nothing endangering his beloved; for her, he would confront a Balrog and would slice it up.

Nerwen cupped his face and looked into his eyes; in them, she saw all of his devotion.

“Thank you,” she answered, moved, then she pulled him to her and kissed him. He held her tight again, responding to her kiss.

When they parted, he glanced at her arm and brushed the area where the cut had been, feeling only smooth skin.

“Why isn’t there any scar, unlike the wound on your hip?” he asked, perplexed.

“The less serious the damage, the better I can heal it,” Nerwen explained, “This was only a scratch, while that sword blow was much deeper.”

He took her hand and brought it to his lips, placing a kiss on it.

“When I saw you wounded, for a moment I feared the worst,” he admitted, “It didn’t even cross my mind that you have this prodigious talent… which your colleagues share, I think: it would explain the length of your lifespan, so different from the Men.”

Nerwen preferred avoiding answering to this: the Wizards could be very good healers, able to act also on the invisible level to fight the detrimental effects of Sauron’s and his thugs’ dark power, but they didn’t possess the full thaumaturgic power anymore, having been diminished much more than her.

Noticing her silence, Aryon looked at her, puzzled; then he realised that this had to be one of those things she couldn’t share with him and, as he had promised, he didn’t push it. He changed subject:

“I still can’t grasp the reason why Meledhiel attacked you,” he said, “I told her very clearly that you and me are partners for life; besides, she learned about our betrothal; so, why try to kill you? She wouldn’t anyway win me back…”

“She was convinced I’ve bewitched you,” Nerwen reminded him, “and that this is the reason you think we’re partners for life, not because it’s true.”

“But this is pure folly!” the prince blurted, “When was it ever heard about a spell so powerful? And besides, what reason would you have to bewitch precisely me?”

“She could be thinking I’m in love with you, but you don’t reciprocate me, and therefore I resorted to witchcraft to force you,” she conjectured.

Aryon shook his head, still incredulous.

“I’m sorry to be the cause of her downfall,” he mused in a low tone, “I never thought Meledhiel evil and deserving to end up in jail, or exiled; because it’s one of these two, the punishment that Séredor will give her: even if so far she had his respect, the king cannot get over such an insult, which in addition involves me, the brother of the High Sovereign.”

“Meledhiel was blinded by her jealousy,” Nerwen said, “which turned her into a fool; but nonetheless, she’s responsible for her own actions and therefore for the consequences deriving from them. She’ll pay for her stupidity,” she concluded in a harsh tone that reminded the prince how, under her sweetness, the Istar hided a core of steel, which he had caught sight since their first encounter/clash on the shores of the Sea of Rhûn.

“Right,” he agreed laconically, embittered. Nerwen caressed his hand, which was still resting on her arm, in a comforting gesture.

“I’ll have to buy a new gown,” she observed on a lighter tone, in order to distract him from his dark thoughts, pointing to the torn and bloody garment. Aryon looked at it:

“I know a tailor, just outside the palace: we can go there…”

Nerwen nodded: she was a little sorry for the dress, which had been one of her favourites, but after all, it was just a garment; she would get a similar one.

 

OOO

 

The king sentenced Meledhiel to fifty years imprisonment, but out of respect for her mother Kilven, he ordered she wouldn’t spend them in the dungeons; instead, he had a chamber set up on the highest floor of one of the palace’s towers, where the female Elf was confined; strong iron gratings on the windows and a massive door of oak wood with steel bands and a thick steel bar, closed by a padlock, ensured the impossibility to escape. The padlock had three keys, one kept by Séredor, another by the captain of the Palace Guards, and the third by the Prime Counsellor of the king.

Distraught by the events, Lady Kilven resigned her office as the Lady of the Palace, but Séredor didn’t want hear of it; however, he gave her permission to retire from her office for all the time she would need to recover from the trauma the despicable behaviour of her daughter had caused to her. When she would feel like it, she would come back and resume her job.

 

OOO

 

Five days later, Nerwen and Aryon took their leave from Séredor and Lythelen; the prince left Nordhir to them; the horse, having completed his task as a spare mount, would be returned to Bârlyth with the first convoy of goods heading for Eryn Rhûn.

Orrodal, the capital city of the kingdom of the Kinn-lai, was located on the first skirts of the Orocarni; it was about 250 kilometres away from Kopellin and to reach it, the two travellers would need six or seven days, following the river Sirlechin.

orocarni

 

Already in the evening of the first day of their journey, on the horizon they caught sight of the highest peaks of the Red Mountains, surpassing 5000 metres height, hooded with perennial snow.

The terrain began to rise constantly, even if slowly; on the fourth day of their journey, Aryon led Nerwen on the top of a rather high, bare hill, from which he pointed out to her the immense mountain range barring the entire eastern horizon, disappearing in the distance both north and south with no interruption. It truly looked like an insurmountable wall.

Nerwen was impressed; it reminded her of the Pelóri, the massive range extending all along the eastern coast of Aman, which highest peak was Taniquetil, where dwelled Varda and Manwë, the two most powerful Valar.

They fully deserved the name Red Mountains, or Orocarni: even if it was just early in the afternoon, they looked like painted by the tawny light of a sunset, except the tips covered with pure white snow.

From that moment on, the mountains dominated the landscape more and more as they approached them, until it seemed there was nothing else in front of them, while the Sirlechin became narrower and narrower, but remained navigable. On the seventh day of their journey, Nerwen and Aryon entered into a wide valley opening in the mountainside; here, the Sirlechin flowed out of the lake of Orrodal, which took his name from the town built on its shores, a long and narrow mere surrounded by woods; the capital city of the kingdom of the Kinn-lai was located exactly at the bottom of the dale, on a slope.

orrodal

 

A well-kept road, even if not very large, skirted the lake, bound for the town; the two travellers rode on, with Thalion on their tail and Calad scouting in front of them.

“It’s been a long time since I came to Orrodal,” Aryon told Nerwen, while they were approaching the gates of the town that, unlike Bârlyth and Kopellin, was mainly built in stone, “Last time, I had a disagreement with King Túrion about some taxes he didn’t pay for ten years… We didn’t part on very good terms,” he concluded grimly, “therefore we cannot expect a friendly welcome like the one Séredor gave us.”

“Suffice not going to the palace and just mind our own business,” Nerwen suggested, but Aryon shook his head:

“Here, too, they know me well, and our arrival won’t go unnoticed. If we don’t want giving the impression we’ve got something to hide, better show up openly, even if just for a formal greeting. Anyway, let’s go and find an inn to make us more presentable; we’ll go to the palace tomorrow,” he concluded.

 

 

 

Author’s corner:

 

Don’t be surprised if Aryon and Nerwen look as if being in a hurry to formalise their relationship: they had to wait millennia to meet their partner for life, therefore it would make no sense to wait longer than strictly necessary to get married, don’t you agree? XD

The betrothal ceremony is the result of researches made by Gianluca Comastri, well-known Italian scholar of Tolkien and president of Eldalië, one of the most prestigious Italian societies of the Professor’s fans. With him as the male sponsor, I had the honour and the pleasure to be the female sponsor of an Elven betrothal and then of the following wedding, during one edition of Hobbiton, the annual festival of the Società Tolkieniana Italiana (Italian Tolkienian Society).

Nerwen’s journey is taking her even farther from the known areas of Middle-earth: now we are at the foot of the Orocarni, also called Mountains of the East, beyond which not even the Avari know what lies, because they never crossed them. The Istar and her prince will have to find a way to do it, because Nerwen’s vision showed the possible location of the Entwives being beyond this immense range: will they find someone willing to help them? Or will they be thwarted? For sure, their feat doesn’t look easy to accomplish…

 

Lady Angel 

 

 

Chapter Text

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Chapter XXIX: Orrodal

 

They found shelter in a rather elegant inn, The Silken Thread, not far from the royal palace; the room was large, bright and well furnished, and the bathroom had a huge tub in enamelled copper. Being almost dinnertime, Aryon and Nerwen hurried to freshen up, before heading for the common room to eat. On the waiter’s suggestion, they ordered one of the local speciality: a fish typical of the lake of Orrodal, similar to salmon but with a more delicate flavour, grilled and served with equally grilled vegetables; with it, they drank a cool white wine, which slight flavour of green apples pleasantly surprised Nerwen.

After dinner, they exited for a stroll in the narrow, but well kept streets of Orrodal. When they got back, they went to bed; however, before falling asleep, they used the comfortable bed for another purpose.

 

OOO

 

The following morning, after breaking their fast, they headed for the palace to meet king Túrion; the monarch of the Kinn-lai, after a short wait, received them formally in the throne room. Under the icy and irritating gaze of his green eyes, Nerwen curtseyed the bare minimum, while Aryon took advantage of his rank and simply nodded, barely within the limits of good manners.

turion

 

“Well, well…” the king said pungently, “What takes the First Sword of the High Sovereign to my kingdom, this time?”