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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

5:  Meeting

‘What did he say?’ Lothiriel asked, her eyes intent on the elf beside her.

Mithrellas smiled.  ‘He said, ‘Lady, it is not safe to be in these woods alone.  Will you allow us to return you to your kin?’  He was very courteous – he bowed before he addressed me, despite all my dirt, and he looked me in the eyes and spoke so earnestly.’  She paused.  ‘Of course, our conversation was rather hindered by the fact that I did not understand a word he spoke.’

Elphir laughed.  ‘That would put a damper on the meeting,’ he agreed. 

‘How is it that you recall his words, then?’ Amrothos frowned.

‘I am an elf,’ Mithrellas shrugged.  ‘My memory remains undimmed by time.’ She sighed.  ‘I did not know what he said then, but later the meeting meant much to me and I have lived it in my dreams.  Do men not recall the words spoken when they first meet their beloved?’

‘They do,’ Elphir confirmed with a reminiscent smile.

‘I could not say.’ Imrahil raised his hands defensively as his other children looked at him.  ‘I knew your mother from my earliest years.  If you insisted on knowing what she said at our first meeting I would have to say it was probably no more significant than a wail.  My father always told me that on making her acquaintance I immediately stole her cake and in return she slapped me.’

‘Mother was not one to allow anyone to take liberties,’ Erchirion laughed.

‘I was not anyone,’ Imrahil replied with some hauteur, while his eyes twinkled, ‘I was the son of her Prince.  All cake belonged to me by right.’

Mithrellas watched them with fascination.   Imrahil was as comfortable with himself and his role in life as Imrazor had grown to be – men whose devotion to their duty had not taken anything from their love of their family and friends, men who had treated the possibility of death in battle as something that had to be borne as part of protecting life and to whom responsibility for those in their care was as automatic as breathing.  And the qualities shone from his children’s eyes: bred in them through the generations, trained in them from their earliest years.  She smiled.  It was no wonder that something deep within her had responded to the gleam in Imrazor’s eyes and the open honesty of his heart.

Lothiriel shifted impatiently, anxious to hear more of the story.

‘As he looked at me,’ Mithrellas continued, ‘he gradually seemed to notice that I was not quite what he would have expected.  His next words were in Sindarin – his accent was strange to me, but I could make out what he was saying.’


‘What is an elf-maiden doing sitting beside a pool in the glens of Belfalas?’ he asked. 

‘Combing her hair,’ Mithrellas told him, holding up the teasel head she was using to keep her long locks under control.

He smiled.  ‘That I had observed,’ he said.  ‘But you are far from home, my lady, whether that home be Edhellond or the Elven Havens to the north, and you seem to be alone.  Would you accept our care?’

Tears stung Mithrellas’s eyes as his words opened wounds and allowed her to touch worries she had suppressed since that dreadful day when she had roused to find herself alone.  ‘Tell me, my lord,’ she asked, ‘know you of any elves who have in recent months made their way to shelter from an ambush in the mountains?  We were attacked by a large group of raiders and were separated as we rode to freedom – and I have seen no sign of any since.’

He approached slowly, as if afraid that he would frighten her, before dropping to one knee so that he looked up into her eyes.  ‘I fear not, my lady,’ he said regretfully. ‘But it is likely that I would not.  My father is charged with the care of Belfalas and he considers me too young to be a part of his councils.  And if the attack took place in the White Mountains, it is more likely that any of your companions would have been found in Lamedon or made their way down to Anfalas than that they should be found here.’  He smiled at her and his face lit up.  ‘You have come a long way, my lady,’ he remarked.  ‘Allow us to ease the remainder of your journey.’

‘I thank you for your courtesy, my lord,’ Mithrellas said formally.  ‘I have been travelling long and I would be grateful for your help.’

‘Then let us abort our hunt,’ he told his friend cheerfully, ‘and take this lady to my mother.’ 

He lifted her onto his horse as if she weighed next to nothing and mounted behind her.  She tensed, unused to close contact with any and finding the presence of this son of Men alien, but as they rode she relaxed enough to find comfort in the feel of arms supporting her and his scent, of good soap and fresh clothing, was pleasant. 

He had been, he told her later, very nervous.  She had felt barely there – as light as thistledown, as frail as a bubble.  He had been afraid to support her lest he frighten her and when she had rested her head on his shoulder in a strange open-eyed daze, he had worried that she had survived the hardship of her escape only to die in his arms within short hours of safety.

‘Elves sleep with their eyes open,’ his friend told him.

Imrazor looked sideways. ‘How do you know?’ he asked.

His guard smiled.  ‘I rode with your father before he decided you needed a more strong-minded watcher,’ he said.  ‘We encountered elves in Eriador.  They are good fighters,’ he observed.  ‘And much stronger than they look.’

‘If she has survived a journey from the mountains to here – unaccompanied, on foot and with no provisions, she is certainly stronger than she looks,’ Imrazor agreed.

Mithrellas blinked and turned a suspicious gaze on them. 

‘I am afraid that Grendil has no Sindarin,’ Imrazor explained. 

‘We cannot all be sons of Númenor,’ Grendil prodded him amiably, picking out the key words.  ‘You need some commoners to order around.’

Their destination proved to be an elegant castle set on an island in a small lake: clearly defensive, it had an outer wall built to keep out unwelcome visitors and a wooden causeway leading to its one entrance, but, as they rode past the guards and into the courtyard, Mithrellas could see that the high-towered structures within were airy and spacious, with room for gardens and orchards among them.

Her breathing shortened and she looked round in panic as the gates were closed behind them.

‘Don’t worry,’ Imrazor said softly. ‘You are quite safe now.’

Mithrellas remained tense.  The man clearly had no idea of the bond between elves and the forest.  Even the idea of being confined behind stone walls was terrifying to one who had lived unfettered among the trees for an age, but the hum of content from the greenery inside the curtain wall gradually relaxed her, until, in her openness to their song, she became aware of the number of Men nearby.  She started to shake and withdrew from them in such a way that, even though Imrazor held her, he could no longer be certain that she was real.

‘She’s not used to people,’ Grendil said quietly.  ‘Take her to your mother’s gardens and I will go and see if she will meet you both there.’

In the privacy of the green oasis, with the occupants of the castle at a greater distance, Mithrellas calmed down and when Adrahil escorted his wife into the peaceful corner where she sat, she was able to meet them without obvious distress.

Imrazor rose and bowed formally to his parents, leading her to copy his action and Adrahil smiled as he returned her greeting.

‘My lady,’ he said in fluent Sindarin.  ‘It is an honour to see one of your race in my house.  You are most welcome to remain here until you are recovered from your journey and we will do all we can to reunite you with your friends.’ 

Mithrellas looked into his eyes and he met her gaze with a serenity that showed he was familiar with the ways of elves.  ‘We were heading to the sea, my lord,’ she said. ‘I do not know whether any reached safety.’

Adrahil hesitated.  ‘I have heard,’ he said carefully, ‘that Lord Amroth came safely to the Haven and is waiting on board the last Elven ship in the hope that Lady Nimrodel may be found.  He has said that he will not sail without her.  Those on board have waited through many weeks for word, but none has come.’

Mithrellas lowered her head and wept, her hope that her companions had all reached safety now destroyed.  Adrahil glanced at his wife and she came forward to rest a slender hand on the elleth’s arm, making the soft sounds of comfort that are common to all peoples.  She drew the elf maiden down onto a bench set under the late roses and stroked her hair consolingly.

‘She may yet be safe,’ she said.  ‘Lord Amroth has not lost hope – and you are here beyond all expectation.  Rest here awhile until you have regained your strength and Imrazor will accompany you on your way before the winter storms set in.’

Before all the leaves had turned, Mithrellas was ready to ride to Edhellond to join the last remnants of her people.  But, one night, shortly before the party was due to depart, a great storm, one of the fiercest ever known in the history of Gondor, roared down from the frozen north and slashed across the land, tearing ancient trees from the land and damaging all it touched.  It snarled its fury across the Bay of Belfalas, ripping ships from their moorings and hurling them out across the raging sea.

Among those driven into the riotous waters was the ship bearing Amroth of Lorien.  When he woke to the knowledge that every moment was taking him further from discovering the fate of his beloved, he leapt into the tempestuous waves to swim for the land, but, even as those in the towers above the water watched, his golden head was lost to sight.

When Imrazor brought Mithrellas to the empty haven, they sought out those who told her of the light Elven-ship riding high in the water as it sailed west before the wild wind, the last elves of Edhellond clutching the rails and looking back as the valiant but doomed Amroth sought to rejoin his beloved Nimrodel.

She abandoned hope then.  She sat in the cold stillness and watched the water.  Her home lost, her companions gone, she was alone in this country of Men.  Imrazor offered to take her back to Lorien, but she could not bear to return carrying with her a tale of such tragedy, yet neither could she move on to sail to the Undying Lands.  She was an exile, a last echo, drifting on the wind.

He gave her time, but, as the last leaves fell, he took her and led her back to his parents’ home.  His hand was gentle and his voice soft and she followed him without protest, trusting that he would do her no harm.  She mourned her losses, but allowed her rescuers to coax her into eating and, as time passed, so did the likelihood of her fading and casting her spirit into the hands of Namo.  The winter of her despair seemed long, but spring came, and as the leaves budded on the trees and the first celandines showed their gleaming faces, Mithrellas had lifted her head and begun to look forward. 

She found with surprise that she had grown accustomed to living within walls of stone and she no longer found the presence of Men intolerable.  Her ears had grown used to their gruff tongue and as she learned to speak with them she learned that their lives were not all brutish fighting and thoughtless ignorance.   The dances of their spirits were as complex as the lives of elves and each was different.  In time they no longer all looked the same to her and she heard their stories – and she learned that they were frail.  For all their solidity and heaviness, their grasp on life could be shattered by something as insignificant as a dip in icy water or a week without food.  She grew to fear for them.

In between the duties he owed his father, Imrazor had done his best to aid her in search of information about the elves lost to her, seeking in the high valleys of the White Mountains and putting word out to merchants and traders who frequented the area where they might have been found.  Mithrellas had accompanied him at times, once Imrazor’s parents had learned that an elven maid was not one who would thrive in the confinement expected of the ladies of Gondor.  They had persuaded her to accept attendants of her own, who followed her as she asked the trees of elves wandering in their forests, and they rode with her in pursuit of fairytales.

As Mithrellas grew to accept that Nimrodel would not be found, she sang of her love and Amroth’s and of the sorrow that came to them in their quest for each other.  Her lament brought tears to the faces of those who heard it, as they saw in their mind’s eye the tall golden elf and his dark haired love, who had sacrificed themselves in their undying passion.   

Elves seeking to take ship at Edhellond carried the song back to the north as they returned with news of the deserted haven; bearing the knowledge of Amroth’s fate and the loss of Nimrodel and her attendants back to Golden Wood. 

Soon, elves no longer came south across the mountains, but, despite her isolation from her kind, Mithrellas lingered in Belfalas as the years passed.

Imrazor grew older.  From being considered too young – and light-minded – to be worthy of a place among his father’s councillors, he became a valued captain and a respected advisor, serving the King in his wars on Gondor’s borders, returning infrequently to his home.  Mithrellas long looked on him as no more than a friend, one whose presence added a feeling of comfort to her life, but she worried, at times, that she was growing too close this mortal.  Nevertheless, she ignored the occasional opportunities to travel to the Grey Havens or to pass north across the mountains and return to the woods of her birth.  A strange feeling on inevitability kept her waiting in the halls of Men.

One cold winter’s day, he arrived unexpectedly, swirling the crisp outdoors into the small sitting room overlooking the frozen garden.  His icy fingers took Mithrellas’s hands and raised them to his lips, before he raised his dark head and gazed at her with his storm-grey eyes glinting silver.

‘It is refreshing to see you again, my lady,’ he said.  ‘You, at least, never change.’

‘That,’ she said dryly, ‘is only to be expected.’  She hesitated.  ‘Grendil?’ she asked.

‘He has been a part of my life as long as I can remember,’ Imrazor sighed.  ‘But he is failing.’  He turned to the window, looking down at the white-blanketed bushes.  ‘He is unlikely to be with us still when the snow melts.’  He gazed in silence as a number of small birds squabbled over the food spread on the frozen surface of the snow.  ‘Do you never close your windows?’ he asked idly. ‘Or have a fire lit in here?’

‘Only if your mother chooses to come and sit with me,’ Mithrellas told him, ‘and that is not often – I think she finds the steps too much.’

Imrazor looked at her and smiled.  ‘That is not surprising,’ he said.  ‘How many are there?’

‘I have not counted,’ she replied with dignity.  ‘It is immaterial.  I like being up here away from the crowded halls.  I can watch the stars and think.’

His eyes darkened.  ‘What do you think of, my beautiful lady, up here on your own?’

‘Have you been speaking to Grendil?’ she asked suspiciously.

‘I have,’ he admitted.

‘And was his advice to you the same as it was to me?’

‘That would depend,’ he said, ‘on what he said to you.’

On sudden impulse, Mithrellas stepped forward, holding his gaze steadily, and, after a brief pause to allow him to retreat should he so desire, kissed him full on the mouth.

He stiffened and drew back, looking at her seriously.  ‘Are you sure?’ he said. ‘Men and Elves do not have a happy history when it comes to love.’

‘I would rather,’ she said, ‘have a few short years with you, than live without you throughout the ages.’

He touched her cheek gently.  ‘You will do that anyway, my lady,’ he said.  ‘I can expect no more than another seventy years or so – and that is only if I survive a lifetime of battles.  And I will become old and ill, while you remain as you are now. It is not fair to bind you to me.’

Mithrellas shook her head.  ‘It is too late for me,’ she told him.  ‘I am bound, whether I will or no.  My heart abandoned me years since, when you came across a wandering elleth and offered her your aid.  Everything you have done since has only served to make me love you more.’

‘I do not know what my parents will say,’ Imrazor warned her. 

‘They are resigned to it.’  She smiled at his expression.  ‘Your father had a dream – a rather persistent dream – that has convinced him that this outcome is inevitable.’

‘Did no-one think to inform me of the situation?’ Imrazor raised his eyebrows and looked down his nose at her, the effect somewhat spoiled by his decision to draw her into a tentative embrace.

‘And what would you have said, my lord, if your father had commanded you to take me to wife?’

‘I would have been remarkably obedient,’ he said promptly. ‘He would have been impressed by my filial respect.’  He hesitated.  ‘It must have been a very forceful dream,’ he added.  ‘I remember that when you first came he was very insistent that I should keep my distance and warned me of the enchantment in elven eyes.’

‘I believe it was the kind of dream that cannot be gainsaid,’ she told him.  ‘The kind of dream that comes with the tag of prophecy attached.  Apparently, Gondor and the future of your House demand that you should wed me.’

‘Well,’ he said, a slow smile spreading across his face, ‘in that case, we had better oblige – I would not want to be the cause of disrupting the machinations of fate.’

‘I am not,’ she remarked rather breathlessly, as he ran wondering fingers through her mass of hair and she caressed his face, ‘entirely sure that it would be possible.’

‘Good,’ he murmured, his lips reaching for hers.  ‘I gave you your opportunity to change your mind, my lady.  It is too late now, Mithrellas.  You are mine.’


‘Fate,’ Imrahil said thoughtfully.  ‘I am never entirely sure whether I believe in fate, or whether it simply provides an excuse to do something that would otherwise be considered unwise.’

‘Prophecy has its place,’ Mithrellas shrugged.  ‘Lady Galadriel has her mirror – it shows much: that was, that is, that could be.  I have had – true visions.  They are rarely an absolute, but I am certain that there are times when the Powers guide our actions.  I believe that I was meant to meet Imrazor, that our love was inevitable and that our children have played a part in building your country.’

‘That is true,’ Imrahil agreed.

‘We had many happy years together,’ Mithrellas told him.  ‘The legend forgets that – it is less romantic to tell of contentment than to speak of tragedy and loss.’

‘Although,’ Elphir remarked, ‘when you are sitting with an army waiting to be summoned to battle, stories are often of little things.  Tragedy sits better in front of a warm fire, with a mug of ale in your hand and your wife by your side.’

‘Deny the myth,’ Lothiriel said intently. ‘Tell us of your love.’


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