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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

6: A Life Shared

The sun shortened the shadows, seeking out those resting in the garden, causing them to move from the roses to the shade of the trees.

Mithrellas put her hands on the ridged grey-brown bark and closed her eyes as she listened to its song.  ‘Your gardeners are skilled,’ she commented.  ‘It is not easy for trees to thrive in the salt wind of the land’s margins.  These are not as well-grown as they would be in a less harsh environment, but they are healthy and happy here.’

‘I believe that it is important to select the right types of plant,’ Imrahil remarked as he spread a blanket beneath the spreading branches of the walnut. 

‘It is,’ she agreed, ‘and some plants will thrive when transplanted and grow happily far from their native soils, while others fade.’

The Prince looked at her cynically.  ‘You speak of matters other than gardening, I feel, my lady,’ he remarked.

‘It is,’ she said, meeting his eyes, ‘a matter of making the right choice,’

Imrahil turned to look at his daughter as she and Amrothos carried trays of fruit and drinks to the warm dappled shade.  ‘But it is only in retrospect,’ he said softly, ‘that the rightness of our decisions becomes apparent.  My sister’s choice seemed wise – but was less than happy.  How shall I know whether Lothiriel’s is likely to bring her joy?’

‘You cannot,’ Mithrellas said simply.  ‘And no life consists of perpetual contentment. You can only love and hope and be there if things go wrong.’

‘But you think her choice is inevitable?’

‘It is made,’ Mithrellas shrugged.  ‘It may comfort you to know that she has chosen the man rather than the position he offers.’

Imrahil smiled wryly.  ‘I would expect that in her mother’s daughter,’ he said. ‘You have no idea how much difficulty I had in persuading her to marry me.’

Mithrellas laughed.  ‘I know that I would have found my marriage easier,’ she admitted, ‘had I not wed the rank as well as the man.’


‘You cannot spend the periods between Imrazor’s visits secluded in your tower,’ her husband’s mother said with exasperation. 

Mithrellas regarded her silently.

‘I will not live for ever,’ she continued, somewhat mollified by the lack of response.  ‘You will be the Lady of Belfalas – you need to know how to run your household.  Even if you choose to do so by delegating the authority, you will need to know who you can trust.’

She was looking older, Mithrellas thought.  Her hair was streaked with frost and there were lines around her eyes that the elf did not recall.  Adrahil, too, had aged in similar ways.  On consideration, Mithrellas thought that perhaps some twenty winters had passed here in Belfalas since she first passed through the studded wooden gates.  A blink of time in the life of an elf, but long enough among men to bring children to adulthood and carry the aged to their tombs. The elf felt a shiver of anticipation chill her.  Thus would her fate present itself: in the greying of his hair and the marks of age on his body as he grew and changed in a way she never would.

‘And you have been wed long enough,’ her mother-in-law continued, giving voice to her greatest worry.  ‘What if there are no little ones to come?  Can Elves and Men bear children between them?’

‘They can,’ Mithrellas said.  ‘I have known half-elven children.’ She hesitated.  ‘There never seemed to me to be any hurry – the child-bearing years of Elves extend over many centuries.’

Lady Heledh pursed her lips.  ‘Then you are fortunate,’ she said. ‘But it is no so among Men – and people are beginning to wonder if your union with my son will be blessed.’  She held out her hands to the small fire Mithrellas had burning in the grate.  ‘It is so cold in here,’ she observed.  ‘I do not know how you endure it.’  She waited, watching the flames curl round the pine cones.  ‘I have spoken to Imrazor,’ she admitted, ‘and he told me to leave you alone – he said that you would have children when you were ready and that the estates would run satisfactorily without you concerning yourself with their direction.’  She cast a quick look at the impassive elleth.  ‘I am sure that is so – but I want my son to have the best,’ she said apologetically, ‘and that means he needs his wife at his side, supporting him, bearing his children, guiding Belfalas when his duties take him to the King’s side.’

Mithrellas thought of Nimrodel and her childish demands for attention and adoration, demands that had led to Amroth’s abandonment of his people at a time of desperate need and, ultimately, to both their deaths.  Although she missed Imrazor when he was with the armies of Gondor, she respected his devotion to his obligations – and it was time that she took up hers.  Lady Galadriel, she thought absently, would have been unlikely to have been as patient as her mother-in-law had been with her reluctance to assume her responsibilities.  ‘You are right,’ she sighed.  ‘Although I am sure that many of the duties you undertake are not dissimilar to those involved in organising the Golden Wood, I was never more than a minor part of that, under the instruction of others.  I will do what I can.’ 

‘A child,’ her mother-in-law said firmly.

‘A child,’ Mithrellas agreed.  ‘Although that duty will have to wait for Imrazor’s presence before it can be set in motion.’

‘And in the meantime,’ Heledh said with determination, ‘you will give some attention to the running of the household.’

The concerns of the Lady of Belfalas turned out to be much the same as the duties of a Lady of Lorien – the provision of food to last her people through the cold months, the creation of simples to treat injuries, the spinning of yarn and the weaving of cloth, the establishment of safe shelter, the settling of disputes, the education of the young, the care of the infirm.  And then, beside these tasks, there were the rules of behaviour and the etiquette involved in the dance of social position.  Mithrellas found this part of Lady Heledh’s training the most irritating.  The rank of birth existed among elves, she could not deny it, but it did not take up much of their attention – and whether you were a king’s son or a forester’s daughter, the wearing of centuries ensured that you were valued for your own merit rather than the position acquired by your ancestors.

Fortunately, Mithrellas soon realised, many of the people she was supposed to govern were made as uncomfortable by her as she was by them, and she rapidly learned that they preferred to obey her from a distance, while her aides attended to the business of passing on her requests.

Her mother-in-law was, fortunately, amused to discover that projects she had found it difficult to initiate in an atmosphere of conservative resistance to change suddenly became possible when the objectors were fixed by Mithrellas’s cool grey stare and, despite her daughter-in-law’s reluctance, she began to draw her in as a last line of attack when all else failed. 

Imrazor lay collapsed with laughter on the lush grass of the hidden glade.  ‘The stare of death!’ he chuckled.  ‘One look from the dagger eyes of Mithrellas, the witch of the woods, and their protests crumble to dust.’

‘It is not funny,’ his wife said with dignity as she sat back on her heels.  ‘It is one thing to have them respect me – it is quite another to have them afraid of me.’

‘I should take you into battle,’ her husband chortled, infectiously enough to make her fight to suppress her grin.  ‘You would clearly be worth a battalion of trained archers.  You could put your hands on your hips and look down your nose at the enemy and they would be reduced to instant meekness and beg your pardon for their impertinence.’

Mithrellas narrowed her eyes and frowned at him.  ‘It is nothing to laugh about,’ she told him, using her long fingers to prod him in the ribs.

He grasped her round her waist and pulled her down beside him on the soft turf, lifting himself to one elbow to gaze at her.  ‘It is no use,’ he told her airily.  ‘I am immune to your wiles, my wife.  Your eyes have no power over me.’

‘No?’ she asked, running her fingers through his dishevelled mane of dark hair, intent on the face looking down at her.

He caught his breath and lowered his head to touch his lips to hers.  ‘Well,’ he conceded, ‘they do not make me fear you.’  Their kiss deepened and it was some moments before he was able to continue.  ‘They put quite different ideas in my head.’

Mithrellas smiled.  ‘Let us explore them, my love,’ she murmured.  ‘I would be interested to see if your ideas and mine are similar in nature.’

The child had been conceived there, in the fresh enthusiasm of spring, as the song woke from its winter slowness to ring in the trees and sing in the waters, resonating in the earth beneath them and echoing from the stars.  Mithrellas had felt his song start, there in her womb, and tears had stung her eyes at its thread-like purity.  Her child, the son of Elf and Man, whose fate would be shared with his father, but whose influence would be felt across the years.

‘What is it?’  Imrazor’s sword-hardened finger had touched the silver tear gently.  ‘Have I hurt you?’  He sounded concerned, and Mithrellas was again amazed at the sensitivity concealed beneath the warrior’s shell.

‘Your parents will be pleased,’ she told him, stilling his hand and kissing his fingers.  ‘I hope that you will be as happy to have a son.’

He looked at her in confusion.

‘Elves know,’ she said, ‘from the moment of conception.  They hear the new voice join the song – and count life as starting from that moment.  Today is your son’s begetting day, Imrazor, son of Adrahil.’

A slow smile spread across his face and he rested his hand low on her belly in wonder.  ‘A son?’ he asked.  ‘By this time next year I will be a father?’

‘You are a father now,’ she said literally.  ‘But a year from today you will be able to hold your son in your arms.’

He gathered her into his arms and held her as delicately as he would hold a flower, allowing the excitement to tingle through him before her words registered.  ‘A year?’ he said with confusion.  ‘I did not think that pregnancy lasted so long.  I am sure that in men it takes a shorter time.’

‘Really?’ she asked, thinking of those she had seen swell with child and give birth.  ‘You are right – I wonder if that will make a difference.’

Imrazor looked at her anxiously.  ‘Did you not say that Lord Elrond at Imladris is half-elven and a noted healer?  I will send a ship north to Mithlond in search of his wisdom.’

‘There is no rush,’ she told him comfortably, drawing him back down to the grassy bank.  ‘Let us remain here a while.’

Mithrellas had been surprised – and more than a little irritated – by the fascination with which the population of Belfalas greeted the progress of her pregnancy.  Every move she made was greeted with clucking: she was told to rest, or be active, eat carefully, or take what she chose – and every piece of advice seemed to contradict at least one other.  Heledh had laughed and told her to make the most of the attention, for it would not outlast the arrival of Belfalas’s heir.  The only thing her husband’s mother had insisted on was that the differences in elven gestation should be spread openly among the women of the court, so that no whispers would arise about the paternity of the child she carried. 

Imrazor’s messengers had been welcomed to the Grey Havens of the north, and escorted to the hidden valley of Imladris in their quest for information and had returned with copies of as much information as the Lord of Imladris could provide. They had also brought long letters from the Lady Celebrían, daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn and wife to Lord Elrond, detailing her experience of bearing children with mortal blood and containing an offer of an elven healer to aid Mithrellas with the birth.

‘Lady Celebrían seems to be saying that you are likely to carry the child for a shorter time than you would expect,’ Lady Heledh said thoughtfully on reading the letters, ‘and that the child will be bigger than you would have expected of an elven infant born early, yet not as large as a full-blooded man-child born at term.’

Mithrellas smoothed a slightly nervous hand over her swelling abdomen.  ‘He is growing more quickly than I would have thought,’ she said, sending soothing thoughts to the restless child within her.

‘Would you like to have an elven healer present?’ Adrahil asked.  ‘I am not sure that our midwives will be very impressed, but healers of your race are undoubtedly more skilled than our own.’

Mithrellas looked at her husband, who returned her gaze blandly.  ‘I suspect,’ she said, ‘that Imrazor sent messengers directly back from Dol Amroth to accept the offer.’

‘I would not have wanted aid to arrive too late to be of use,’ he replied.  ‘The presence of elves will do no harm.’

Heledh pulled a face.  ‘You do not wish the people of Belfalas to gain the impression that your son is more Elf than Man,’ she said bluntly.  ‘It would not be wise to fill your house with elves.’

‘One healer,’ Imrazor protested, ‘or even a handful, will hardly take over my household.’ 

‘Healers who specialise in childbirth are, as with the midwives of Gondor, generally female,’ Mithrellas added.  ‘I have observed that Men do not take females of any kind very seriously – they are unlikely to worry about an elleth who is also a healer.’

‘True enough,’ Adrahil observed.  ‘I have, in any case, something of more importance to discuss with you both.’

‘There is nothing,’ Heledh objected, ‘more important than our grandson!’

The Lord of Belfalas took her hand.  ‘Now Minas Ithil is lost and the fighting in the field has diminished, I want to establish a stronger presence at the coast.  The Elves no longer hold Edhellond; the Corsairs are sailing out of Umbar and I am of the opinion that Belfalas will need to hold Dol Amroth firmly against incursion.  We have long visited the city – but I now intend that it should be a centre of our power.’

His son looked at him and nodded slowly.  ‘Are you intending to leave the position we hold here controlling the river and the road?’

Adrahil waved his hand. ‘You mistake my meaning,’ he said. ‘I will continue to hold here, as I have always done.  I want you, my son, and Mithrellas to build a second stronghold on the sea.’  He smiled at his wife’s look of protest.  ‘It will not mean you leaving this year or next,’ he said in a mollifying tone, ‘but over the next ten years or so, you will move your household to be based there.  You will continue to spend months here – as we will visit you.’

‘It makes a lot of sense,’ Imrazor allowed.  ‘Belfalas is vulnerable from the sea – but the sea could also be a source of revenue much greater than the road.  A show of strength in the city could benefit the whole region.’

Adrahil smiled and raised his glass.  ‘To your son,’ he said, ‘the future Lord of Dol Amroth.’


‘Did Lord Elrond send an elven midwife?’ Lothiriel asked.

‘He did,’ Mithrellas nodded.  ‘The same one who, in fact, aided at the birth of Arwen Undomiel – and at that of her twin brothers.  She was very reassuring.’

Lothiriel looked at her rather uneasily.

Mithrellas smiled.  ‘A skilled midwife is a very important addition to any large household,’ she remarked casually.  ‘And it is well to ensure her presence well in advance of any need.  I think Curánwen’s years in Belfalas were probably of benefit to many young women for generations after she returned to the hidden valley.’

‘What was Galador like as a baby?’ Imrahil asked with interest.  ‘Did the elven side of his heritage show clearly, or did he appear to be a son of Men?’

‘Is your interest in my son?  Or are you more concerned about the son the Evenstar will bear your king?’ Mithrellas asked dryly.

Imrahil inclined his head in acknowledgement.  ‘I agree with Lady Heledh,’ he said.  ‘Elessar’s son will be a ruler of Men.  It is important for him to him to be a son of Gondor.’

‘Galador was clearly his father’s son,’ Mithrellas told him.  ‘His ears were round and he seemed to me to be more – boisterous – than an elven infant.  He grew swiftly and learned quickly, although he was more sensitive to the natural world than other boys.  But, I was told, he took longer to mature than others of his age.  Imrazor’s mother said that all the sons of Númenor took longer to reach adulthood than others, but that Galador was slower still to grow to his full height.  It did not matter, because he was stronger than most of his friends and possessed something of an elven agility.’

‘Was Adrahil right?’ Elphir asked.  ‘Was it a wise move to bring the rulers of Belfalas to Dol Amroth?’

Mithrellas shrugged.  ‘I am not the one to ask about such matters,’ she said.  ‘And Imrazor is not here to tell you what he thought.  He spent some years building up the defences of the city and beginning the construction of a home before we left his father’s castle permanently and brought the children to the sea. Until then, we spent part of the year here, but returned to the quiet of the wooded valleys for the winter.  The people of Dol Amroth seemed to welcome us – I think they felt more secure with Imrazor and his soldiers in residence here.  The town certainly became bigger and wealthier – the ships in the harbour came to outnumber the swans.’

‘It seems to me that it was the right thing to do,’ Amrothos said, his liquid eyes moving from the elf to look out over the water.  ‘Experience has shown that Dol Amroth is the key to holding Belfalas.  The river, the road, the passes through the hills – they are important, but they can be, they have been, held by small forces responding according to their standing orders.’

‘Especially,’ Erchirion said seriously, ‘since the Rohirrim arrived to take control of the land to the north of the mountains.  I think we should be quite glad of the Horse Lords, do you not agree, little sister?’


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