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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

2: Leaving Lorien

Lothiriel handed a goblet of the light fresh wine to the elf before her.  She had thought that she had become somewhat accustomed to the presence of elves during the celebrations that had accompanied the bridal of King Elessar and his half-elven queen, but, awe-inspiring though the reality of their existence had been, not even meeting Lady Galadriel compared to sitting here, in the garden where she had played since her earliest childhood, in the company of Mithrellas, who was her own grandmother some two dozen times removed.

Mithrellas accepted the glass, but she did not taste the wine.  Instead she gazed at Imrahil’s daughter with quiet wonder.  ‘You are very like Gilmith,’ she observed.  ‘I could not believe how swiftly they grew, my beloved children, but Imrazor only laughed and said I wished to coddle them.  He never really understood how time passes for an elf.’

A lazy breeze stirred the foliage, bringing with it the fragrance of roses mingling with the fresh salt scent of the sea.   The elf turned her eyes back to the wide blue expanse of the bay.  ‘I always loved to watch the swans on the water,’ she said.  ‘They brought to mind the stories I had heard of the swan ships of Alqualonde – and made me think that, perhaps, to sail into the West would not be so bad.’

‘I thought all elves longed for the Elvenhome,’ Elphir said in surprise.

‘It is home for the Lady Galadriel,’ Mithrellas replied simply, ‘but not for most of the elves who dwell within the woods and forests of Middle Earth.  We are Silvan Elves – and our home is here.  Some are called – like Thranduil’s son – but most are not.  I would not have chosen to leave the trees, had not Nimrodel decided that she must depart.’


‘I will not remain!’  Nimrodel’s voice was sharp.  ‘Not with the Dark reviving in the mountains, driving the Dwarves into flight – and orcs spreading from Dol Guldur like wasps.  The Elves fought last time – and look what happened!’

Amroth ran his hands though his gleaming hair of sun-kissed gold.  ‘I cannot just walk away, Nimrodel,’ he said patiently.  ‘I am the Lord of Lorien – it is my duty to guard the wood and those who live in it.’

‘Is that what your love is worth?’ she snapped.  ‘You would endanger us all!’

Mithrellas watched the repeat of Nimrodel’s argument with detachment.  It had been played out endlessly between the ruler of the wood and his beloved over years, increasing only in its ferocity since the dangers had become more apparent.  It was fairly obvious to her that Amroth was less than happy as Nimrodel edged closer to victory, and, in truth, Mithrellas agreed with him.    Nimrodel was not concerned with the welfare of Lorien.   She just did not want to share Amroth – and, whether she realised it or not, she saw the increasing danger as a way of taking her beloved away from the duty he had inherited.

‘I will take my attendants,’ Nimrodel declared, ‘and anyone else who wishes to come with me, and we will make our way to Belfalas.  You can join us if you choose, or we will sail without you.’

Mithrellas sighed softly.  This was not the first time that Nimrodel had issued an ultimatum.  Usually Amroth managed to coax her into behaving more reasonably before the process of arranging the emigration moved from talk to action, but there had been occasions when her party had been halfway out of the wood before he had won Nimrodel over and persuaded her to give him more time.  And there had been one memorable ride when only Nimrodel herself and her attendants had turned back, leaving the remainder of the travellers to continue to the sea.  Since that time, Nimrodel had been careful only to take with her a few people whose devotion to the beautiful elleth exceeded their passion for the idea of taking ship.

If only, Mithrellas thought, Nimrodel would just marry Amroth.  Perhaps if they were truly joined, she would be rather more considerate of his needs – and she might find it less easy to manipulate him in the way she did.  It was a shame, she reflected dispassionately: they were clearly besotted with each other, yet they – Nimrodel especially – treated love as some kind of display, rather like birds that had to show off the splendour of their tail feathers for their intended mates.  She amused herself for a moment considering what Nimrodel would do, should Amroth fail to follow and plead with her to reconsider.  There was a possibility, she decided, that Nimrodel would slip back quietly – and be rather easier to live with for a while – but a greater likelihood that she would carry them all the way to Valinor before she decided that she wanted to be back in Amroth’s arms, by which time it would be too late and she would spend uncounted centuries weeping and wailing and railing against fate. 

At least Nimrodel no longer tried to push Amroth into leaving within earshot of Lady Galadriel – although, Mithrellas reflected, that was not necessarily a good thing, as a simple lift of the powerful lady’s eyebrow had generally been able to keep him resolute and her more reasonable.  Galadriel and Celeborn intimidated the Silvan elleth, that was the truth of it – and their presence might even be one of the reasons that she was so determined to take Amroth to the Blessed Realm – far enough away to be certain that she could have him to herself.  

Mithrellas jumped as Nimrodel clasped her hand.  ‘There is no talking to some people!’ she said, with a flounce of her dark hair and a pretty pout.  ‘Come on,’ she told her friend. ‘Let us leave Amroth to busy himself with important things.’ 

‘They are important things, Nimrodel,’ Mithrellas said mildly as she followed her down the long flight of airy steps to ground level.  ‘Lord Amroth is right – he has a duty to the wood.  He cannot pack a bag and leave as if he were just anyone.’

Nimrodel turned, easy tears like diamonds sparkling in her eyes.  ‘Are you turning against me as well?  I thought you were my friend!’

‘I am your friend,’ Mithrellas sighed.  ‘If I were not your friend, I would not have packed my bags a dozen times to follow you to the sea, only to find myself still among the mallorns of Lorien.  But that does not mean that I cannot see both sides of the argument.’

Nimrodel smiled enchantingly, so that Mithrellas found her exasperation fading.  ‘Not a dozen times, my friend, surely,’ she said winningly.  ‘I am not so unreasonable.  And it is for the best,’ she added.  ‘I am right – it is time for us to leave the darkness and evil of Arda behind.  I will win Amroth over in the end,’ she warned with complete conviction.  

Mithrellas left her friend in her rooms looking through her gowns to decide with her other attendants which of them she would wear that night, and took herself off to a quiet glade where violets bloomed and the air was scented with their sweet fragrance.  She sank down in the dappled light beneath the arched boughs of a welcoming birch and allowed the peace of the forest to sink into her.   She wondered, when on her own among the trees, what it was that made her agree to follow Nimrodel on a journey she had no desire to take.  It was not the fear of the rising danger, nor yet the craving for the sea that came to some elves.  She was not making a decision of her own free will – merely responding to the demands of Nimrodel herself.  Mithrellas sighed.  Amroth’s beloved had the power to draw a veil of enchantment across the eyes of those who spoke to her.   It was extremely annoying.

‘Do you think we will go this time?’ Randir’s melodious voice asked, as he sat too close to her.

‘I do not know.’  Mithrellas sat up, shifting slightly to increase the distance between them.  Randir was nice enough, she supposed, but she found his admiring glances made her uncomfortable and he did not seem willing to take a hint.  ‘Nimrodel is determined, but she will not leave unless she is certain that Lord Amroth will follow – and he does not feel that he can abandon his duty.  Nothing has changed.’ 

Randir laughed.  ‘As long as Nimrodel continues to dither, Amroth will stay,’ he said. ‘She needs to show him she means to go, whether he will or no.’

Mithrellas narrowed her eyes.  ‘You are on her side in this?’ she asked.

‘I am,’ he declared proudly.  ‘We have nothing to keep us here – it is time for the Elves to leave this marred land to the Aftercomers.  Enough immortal lives have been lost to this cause.’

‘That is not what Lord Celeborn says,’ Mithrellas remarked. 

‘He is not thinking of what will be good for us,’ Randir sniffed disdainfully.  ‘His Noldor wife has twisted his mind – he prefers holding power in Arda to giving it up to live in the bliss of Valinor.’

Mithrellas glanced at him cynically.  Randir had spent too much time listening to Nimrodel’s unconsidered rhetoric, it was plain.  ‘I must go,’ she said, rising to her feet.  ‘I have tasks to carry out,’ she added vaguely.

It soon became apparent, Mithrellas observed, to one who knew Nimrodel as she did that something was different this time. Before, Nimrodel had protested her desire to leave, but she could be distracted by the light on the river or the song of the trees.  It had been, her friend thought, more an exercise intended to show that, unimportant elleth though she was, she had power over her beloved.  Even when her temperamental displays of decisiveness had made her set out for the sea, it had not taken more than a show of concern from Amroth to bring her back.  But something had changed.  The evil stirred up in the mountains of the Dwarves seemed to have affected her deeply as its influence spread, flowing through the waters and drifting in the air – the game was a game no longer. 

She watched as Amroth danced with Nimrodel, her silver gown catching the moonlight and her hair floating in the night breeze.  There was a magic about her that made her irresistible and the Lord of Lorien was plainly enraptured.  As she drifted like a snowflake across the glade, he followed her with an intense concentration that obliterated the presence of all others.  Their world, Mithrellas thought, contained no other, and a feeling of deep unease began to stir within her.

‘Lorien cannot be left leaderless,’ she heard a soft voice say, scarcely louder than a breath.  ‘He will allow his obsession for her to influence his thinking.’  The pain sounded disconcerting in the normally controlled and tranquil tones of Lady Galadriel.  ‘He will forget his duty and abandon the haven.’

‘It is not yet certain,’ Lord Celeborn spoke equally quietly, but his pitch was comforting.  ‘Do not borrow trouble.  Amroth knows his responsibilities.’  He hesitated.  ‘Perhaps we should leave – go to Imladris.  It will make it harder for him to walk away, if there is no-one here to take charge.’

Mithrellas turned her head slightly to see a bleak grief in Lady Galadriel’s face.

‘It will make no difference,’ she said.  ‘He is lost.’

‘You have seen it?’

Lady Galadriel turned to rest her head against her husband’s shoulder and his arms came round to hold her.

The Silvan elleth slipped away into the cover of the trees.  Lost?   She asked herself.   Lost in what way?   To them?   To Nimrodel?   To the Wood?   Or lost in the way that only Namo himself could mend?  Mithrellas breathed in the scent of wood and green leaves and allowed the song of the forest to calm her.  She was simply an elleth of the woods: politics were beyond her.  She would follow Nimrodel, she knew, simply because she loved her, but she was afraid that, here, love would not be enough.

Nimrodel paced.  Well, her friend reflected, in anyone else it would be pacing.  In Nimrodel it looked more like the elegant movements of a dance.  ‘He will not agree,’ she snapped.  ‘I had him this close to making the right decision,’ she said, holding her fingers out with no perceptible gap between them, ‘and then she came.’  She walked round the room again, before picking up an elegant goblet and hurling it at the corner of the floor to shatter into a thousand pieces.  ‘She does her best to make sure that we are never alone and she whispers into his ear all the time so that he will not listen to me.  I have had enough, Mithrellas.  We are going – and this time nothing will make me come back.  If he wants me, he will have to follow.’

‘It will take time to prepare, Nimrodel,’ her friend told her. ‘If we are really intending to go all the way to Edhellond, we will need to make sure that we have equipment and supplies.  We cannot be ready to leave in a few minutes.’

‘Last time it took no more than an hour,’ Nimrodel hissed.

‘Last time you did not intend to ride for more than a day,’ Mithrellas returned calmly. ‘You wanted Lord Amroth to come and beg you to return – when he did, you rode back with him, leaving us to gather up what little we had taken and follow you.  The sea is a long way away, Nimrodel, and there will be dangers to face along the way.  We will want to follow the safest path and we will not want to run out of supplies.’

‘Get Randir,’ Nimrodel ordered her.  ‘He can have the rest of today – but we are leaving at dawn tomorrow, whether you think we are ready or not.  Amroth has ridden off with Lord Celeborn to inspect the northern borders and I intend to be gone before he returns.  And then,’ she declared, ‘it will be up to him.’

The wood mourned them as their horses stepped between the trees and their long ride began.  She could feel it in the rustle of the leaves, in the movement of the branches.  She could hear it in their song.  It was in the air as it caressed their cheeks, in the earth beneath their feet.  The waters sang of parting.  It was oppressive and Mithrellas found it difficult to breathe as the forest bade them farewell.  It was disconcerting, as if the forest were better able to sense their intentions than they were themselves.  This time their departure evidently did not appear to be a part of the turbulent courtship of Nimrodel and Amroth.  This time it was real.  She looked at the trees, trees she had known since she was an elfling scarce able to walk, trees she would never see again, and opened herself to their melody.  Tears streamed unrestrained down her face and she raised her voice to join them in their lament.

They were leaving Lorien.


Lothiriel rested her hand on Mithrellas’s arm and stroked it gently.  It seemed in some ways impertinent to dispense the same kind of comfort she had administered to her sister-in-law when, during the last days of the war, she had wept for Elphir, but it would appear that numbering age in centuries did not protect an elf from grief.

‘You returned,’ she said softly.

Mithrellas gazed at her with her mournful grey eyes.  ‘I returned alone, years later – bound by love to a man who would die, with no knowledge of what had become of Nimrodel, aware that, in his longing to find her, Lord Amroth had drowned in this very bay where the white swans swim.  I was not the same elleth who had followed Nimrodel from the Golden Wood.’ 

Lothiriel blushed and Mithrellas ran her long fingers through the girl’s dark hair; her touch making the Princess of Dol Amroth shiver.  She smiled slightly on noticing the effect. 

‘But it was a relief to be back among the trees,’ she admitted, ‘– and they knew me still.  I have dwelt there since and they have consoled me.  I would have stayed beneath their shade until the world ended, but I will sail with Lady Galadriel as I would have gone with Nimrodel.  I have no reason to remain.’

‘What went wrong?’  Amrothos asked her seriously.  ‘The journey to Belfalas had been undertaken by many Elves before.  How was it that Nimrodel’s party failed to reach safety?’

Mithrellas continued to tease her fingers through Lothiriel’s hair, while she considered her reply.  ‘Silvan Elves are not like the High Elves of Valinor,’ she said finally, ‘nor yet the Grey Elves.  We are – lighter of heart, less moved by authority, disinclined to involve ourselves in events outside our homes.’  She paused again.  ‘We were foolish,’ she sighed.

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