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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

7: Years of Harmony

The breeze stirred the leaves gently as they rested beneath the trees.

‘What was he like, Adrahil of Belfalas?’ Imrahil asked suddenly.  ‘There is little written of him.’

Mithrellas gazed at the pattern on the grass made by the sun’s rays gleaming through the canopy.  ‘He was not young – for a Man – when I met him,’ she said.  ‘He had been injured in his last battle and leaned heavily on a stick – but although he no longer led his troops to war, he always said that if war came to him, he would make it rue the day.’  She smiled.  ‘He was a brave man, an intelligent man – he led Belfalas well at a dangerous time and kept its people safe and prosperous.  He was, I was told, a good military leader – he was a commander under King Ondoher and later fought against Angmar – but he was also a kindly man and much beloved of his family and people.  He was a doting grandfather.’

Elphir laughed.  ‘He would not be the only one,’ he commented.

‘It is delightful to be a grandfather,’ Imrahil said easily.  ‘You are entitled to over-indulge the little ones and then hand them back to their parents to be disciplined.  It is your revenge on your children for all the sleepless nights they gave you.’

‘I probably,’ Mithrellas admitted, ‘do not know the kind of things about them – Adrahil, Imrazor and Galador – that you would like to be told.  I never saw them in battle or in conference with the kings and their stewards.  I did not know Eärnil or Eärnur.  I never met Mardil.  The Lords of Gondor tend to expect their wives and daughters to remain at home in temporary authority while they indulge in war and politics.’  She smiled.  ‘My stories are more – intimate.  I can tell you that Imrazor disliked early morning conversation and could be very bad-tempered if beaten at chess.  And that Galador could come up with some very enterprising ways of avoiding having to eat his greens – and he complained incessantly about the tedium of having to endure the attentions of tutors long after his friends had committed themselves to training as warriors.’

‘Like you, Amrothos,’ Erchirion teased.  ‘Maybe you are just a throwback rather than a changeling.’

Lothiriel and Amrothos exchanged the long-suffering looks of younger siblings.  ‘You are not funny, Erchirion,’ Amrothos sighed. 

‘The library is filled with scrolls that tell of the kind of history that is written down,’ Imrahil observed.  ‘We know of councils and wars – it is the detail that is fascinating to learn.  This is a unique opportunity this side of the Sundering Seas, Lady Mithrellas – there can be few Men who are granted the opportunity to meet their own ancestors. It is the detail that I would wish to hear.’

‘Tell us of Imrazor,’ Lothiriel pleaded.  ‘What was he like?  How was it, living back then in Dol Amroth?’

Mithrellas looked out over the water.


The sea shifted in the sunlight, mocking her – this elf trapped east of the sea in the company of Men, doomed to live brief lives and die as she watched them.  The forest had soothed her with its eternal song, but there were few trees here and they were themselves tormented by the salt winds.  Mithrellas found that she did not much like Dol Amroth.  It was nothing but a collection of stone buildings hanging over the sea, dependent on the fishing boats and the trading ships that moved goods north and south.  It stank – of fish, of people, of dirt and it made her want to return to the wooded hills by the Ringló.

Imrazor knew she was not happy here, but he did not begin to realise how much she disliked the harsh brilliance of sun on water and the open shadeless cliffs.  She learned to endure it, but the coast was no home for a Wood Elf.  He built his castle here high above the town and put in gardens before he built the keep, transplanting trees that would tolerate the winter storms and the salt spray, putting in deep-rooted vines and fragrant shrubs.  She knew why he did it, and loved him for it, but it was not really enough.  It could never be enough.

She looked forward to the winters, when they moved back to Adrahil’s home among the wooded valleys south of Ethring where the sea released its hold and she could be herself.

Imrazor worked hard in his desire to establish Dol Amroth as the secure hub of commercial activity on Gondor’s coast, in preference to destinations further south.  The harbour was undoubtedly better, he told Mithrellas as he speared slices of venison on his knife to eat hungrily after a morning of discussion, but there were other factors to consider.

‘Pelargir is a good staging post for Minas Tirith,’ he said earnestly, ‘and of course that is the biggest single market in Gondor – but its disadvantage is that the larger ships have difficulty making their way through the delta of the Anduin.  Tolfalas would make a good base for both the ocean-going ships and the smaller river boats, but it lacks a true natural harbour.  Linhir, I think, is too far upriver and not suited to the growth needed.’

Mithrellas nodded soberly, admiring the gleam in his eyes and the way he pushed back the windswept waves of dark hair.  It would never occur to Imrazor, she thought with quiet amusement, to come to the table without washing his hands, but, equally, like his son, he would never think to brush his hair. 

Without looking, she leaned over to Galador and uncovered the vegetables he had been attempting to hide.  ‘Eat them,’ she commanded.  ‘They are good for you.’

Her small son pulled a face, but the diversion had made his father turn his attention to his offspring and Galador sat up straight and began to consume small amounts of his least favourite foods without open objection.

Imrazor looked at the slight figure and raised an eyebrow.  His son returned the gaze, grey eyes meeting grey.  ‘If you behave yourself, you can ride with me this afternoon when I go to see the progress that is being made with the lighthouse,’ his father offered.  ‘Provided your nana agrees.’

‘Perhaps Nana would like to come,’ Galador said with enthusiasm.  ‘We could have a picnic and not come back until after it is dark and the stars are out.  Nana likes the stars.’

‘Perhaps,’ Imrazor said, his face bright with anticipation, ‘we could find a spot where we could sleep under the stars and not come back until tomorrow.’

‘Perhaps,’ his son continued, ‘we could run away to the woods and not come back at all.’

‘Now that,’ Mithrellas told them both, forestalling any remark of Imrazor’s, ‘would be sad.  Why would we not want to come back home – to our normal lives?  Where would be the fun in escaping our duties if they were not there for us to resume?’  She looked at her husband and smiled.  ‘If you have both finished eating, we could get ready,’ she suggested, ‘for our special trip.’

They had found it that afternoon, the secret sanctuary of green that had made the open cliffs tolerable.  They had ridden inland from the fresh cut stone of the tower of light at an easy pace suited to the barrel-bellied pony on which Galador had been mounted.

‘He will soon be big enough for a mount that is a little more elegant,’ Imrazor said quietly as their son pushed his obstinate pony to a canter.

‘He is in greater need of sure-footed than elegant,’ Mithrellas told him.  ‘Galador has an irrepressible need to be in the middle of whatever trouble is happening around him. It will do him no harm to wait a little longer for a faster horse.’

‘He is older than you appear to think,’ Imrazor told her. ‘Do not try to keep him a baby, my love.’

‘He is not yet ten,’ she insisted.  ‘Even in the life-span of Men, he is still a child.’

Imrazor turned his warm gaze on her.  ‘Has my mother been speaking to you?’ he asked with apparent irrelevance.

‘She has told me that it is more than time that Galador had a brother or sister,’ Mithrellas admitted.

‘What do you think of that?’

‘It seems too soon,’ Mithrellas told him frankly.  ‘Elflings rarely have siblings born before they are adult.  It is easier for parents to attend to the needs and education of a single child.  Lady Heledh says that it is not the same among Men – and I have seen that some families have many children with few years between them – but you are yourself an only child, as am I.’

‘I would like another child,’ Imrazor said thoughtfully.  ‘My parents would like us to have another son or two, I think, but I would like to have a daughter – one like her mother.’

Mithrellas smiled at him.  ‘If it would please you, my lord, I will give the project some attention.  It might be as well, anyway,’ she considered, ‘to undertake the matter before Curánwen decides to return to the north and she has been hinting recently that she has taught the healers all they are prepared to learn.’

Their son, meanwhile, had encouraged his sturdy pony to investigate a steep path to the side of the wide area of rabbit-nibbled turf.  ‘Father!’ he shouted urgently.  ‘Come and see what I have found!’

Imrazor met Mithrellas’s eyes.  ‘A dead sheep?’ he suggested.  ‘Or perhaps he has come across a bird’s nest.’

‘I cannot see him,’ she replied looking round. ‘He has somehow managed to disappear in this enormous expanse of nothing in particular.’

‘I know you prefer living where there are woods,’ Imrazor said apologetically, ‘but Father was right to see that Dol Amroth will secure the future of Belfalas.  If you wish, you can stay at Ethring while I am here.’

‘I would rather be with you,’ she said absently, listening carefully for the presence of their son.  ‘Galador,’ she called.  ‘Where are you?’

He had led them down a path to a small wooded valley, nestled between steep slopes on either side of a clear stream that headed towards the cliffs to pour out in a constant spray of water into the waters of the bay.

‘It is beautiful,’ Mithrellas said, kicking off her shoes and climbing swiftly into the branches of the welcoming oaks, leaving her husband to deal with the horses.  Galador scampered after her like a squirrel, jumping easily and confidently from branch to branch, while his father watched nervously.

‘It amazes me,’ he said, ‘that you can resist any attempt of mine to take my son sailing or provide him with a swift pony and yet remain completely unconcerned while he sways on branches too thin to hold him at the top of ridiculously tall trees.’

‘The trees will look after him,’ she replied leaping softly to land beside him.  ‘They know he is my son and will not let him fall.’  She took his hand and strolled with him towards the stream, pausing to touch the strong trunks as she passed.  They settled beside the water, spreading the blanket out on the grass and opening the basket of food they had brought with them.  ‘I suppose I am not being fair,’ she admitted.  ‘I am happy to have him doing things I expect elflings to do, but I resist what you want.’

Imrazor bit his lower lip.  He did not wish to spoil the afternoon, but the opportunity offered itself to say something his wife would have to accept before next she saw Adrahil.  ‘He is big enough now to begin his warrior training with the other boys,’ he said carefully.  ‘I know you feel he is too young – but you will always think that, Mithrellas.  If he is to be their lord, he must have the skills to lead them in battle – and the younger you start, the easier it is to learn.’

‘He is the size ellyn are when they begin their training,’ his wife allowed.  ‘They are older in years, of course, but he would seem to be ready.’  She looked regretfully at the small figure scrambling in the branches.  ‘Perhaps it would be a good time to provide your parents with another grandchild.  The diversion will help me cope as he grows away from me.’

Gilmith had been born the following summer.  She had been a cheerful gurgling baby, easy to amuse and captivating those around her with her delightful giggle.  Her dark hair had framed a face with the pale delicacy of her mother’s, but, like her brother, she was clearly her father’s child.  Galador had looked her over coolly, this mite come to take attention away from him, and then decided to adore her, a feeling she more than reciprocated. 

Imrazor’s mother had lived long enough to see her turn from a chubby baby into a quicksilver child with a talent for being where she was least expected.

‘I would have liked to have more children,’ Lady Heledh told Mithrellas in almost their last conversation.  ‘More sons for Adrahil, but a daughter or two for me.  But times were difficult when I was in my child-bearing years.  Adrahil was with the armies of Gondor, fighting the Wainriders and then, later, he was involved in the war against Angmar.  There seemed little reason to bring children into a world that could be destroyed at any moment.  Then, when Adrahil finally returned, he was injured and it took him a long time to recover.’  She watched her granddaughter attempting to put stitches in her first sampler.  ‘Treasure her,’ she said wearily.  ‘Choose her husband well.’

Mithrellas put her hands on her mother-in-law’s temples and massaged gently, a soothing coolness helping Lady Heledh relax. 

‘I am pleased that Imrazor married you,’ she said sleepily.  ‘I was not sure at first, but you have been good for him.  Care for him, my dear.  And do not let my death distress you – I am more than ready to depart.’

In the following years, Adrahil had spent an increasing amount of his time with his son’s family, allowing Imrazor to take on the majority of the responsibility for ruling Belfalas.  The elderly prince had taken his ease in the gardens overlooking the sea, talking to his granddaughter, and whiled away hours watching his grandson in the training yards as he developed the skills of a warrior.  His interest in the day-to-day monotony of directing his advisors had diminished and he appended his signature as his son recommended, without any of the intense discussions of previous years.

‘I am Prince of Belfalas in name only now,’ he said mildly as he eased himself down to the sheltered seat where Mithrellas sat stitching.  ‘It no longer seems important – I think my life is winding down.  I shall be glad to move on beyond this world.’

She gazed at him with stricken eyes.  ‘I do not want you to leave us,’ she said.

His gnarled hand patted her youthfully smooth fingers.  ‘It comes to all Men in time,’ he said.  ‘You will need to prepare yourself for it.’  He looked at the blue waters of the bay and watched the gulls wheeling.  ‘I am of the opinion,’ he said carefully, ‘that you should not remain here until the end of Imrazor’s days.  I think that the grief caused by watching him die might lead to your own end.’  He smiled at her quickly, his faded grey eyes shrewd despite his age.  ‘It should be possible,’ he said in a neutral voice, ‘to send to the Grey Havens in the north and ask that a ship be made available here, so that you can sail when the time seems right.’

‘No!’ she said sharply, then repeated more softly, ‘No.  I will not be sent away.’ 

He patted her hand again.  ‘It will not be for many years yet, my dear.  But you should have in mind what you will do.  I have told Imrazor what I think – and he does not agree with me either.’  He smiled again.  ‘He thinks you should return to the Golden Wood when age catches up with him.’

‘I will make my own choice,’ she said, her voice strained.

‘That is your right,’ he agreed.

They sat beside each other, looking straight ahead, their thoughts as bleak as the expression in their eyes.  ‘You cannot remain here,’ Adrahil said finally, so soft that only elven hearing would have caught his words.  ‘Your children are of the race of Men – and the time will come when they need you to leave them behind to live their own lives.’  He turned slowly to look at her face, as young as it had been the first time he saw her.  ‘I am saying this, Mithrellas, not because I dislike you – I do not – but because I do not believe that my son or grandson will ever be prepared to speak these words.’

Mithrellas lowered her head to inspect the fingers in her lap.  ‘I understand,’ she said, counting in her head the years left to her.  ‘I understand.’

They sat, then, in silence, watching the sun sink over the sea, setting by inches, slowly at first but then dropping below the horizon with a surprising speed as the minutes of the day ran out, until the golden glow was gone and the first star pricked the steel blue sky.


Five pairs of sombre grey eyes gazed at the elf as she stared at the dancing blue satin of the sea. 

Imrahil cleared his throat.  ‘For what it is worth,’ he said. ‘He was right.  It sounds cruel, but you could not have remained as you are in the house of your children’s children.  Your descendants are spread across Gondor – but, had you stayed, I suspect that would not have been so.’

His daughter turned a reproachful look on him. 

Mithrellas stroked the girl’s hand.  ‘It is true, Lothiriel,’ she said. ‘I had to leave.  Not then – my children were still young and my husband in the prime of his life.  Adrahil was right to prepare me.  There would come a time, when Galador was grown and Gilmith wed, when Imrazor reached old age – a time when I would have to choose.’


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