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An Unexpected Meeting  by Bodkin

9:  Breaking Point

‘Was it long before you left?’ Lothiriel asked with tears in her eyes.

‘Longer than I thought it would be,’ Mithrellas said.  ‘It was hard – hard to go and harder still to stay.  A messenger came to us from Galador, bringing letters from him and Gilmith.  Iúliel was to present our son with another child and Gilmith wrote to say that she was bringing her husband and children to visit Belfalas.  It became impossible for me to depart without welcoming the child to the world, or seeing my daughter for a last time.’  She smiled sadly.  ‘We watched each other, Imrazor and I – knowing that each occasion could be the last.  The last sight of my children, the last word from my grandchildren, our last day as a family.  We wanted to savour it – but the taste was bitter.’

‘The young are eager for change,’ Imrahil mused softly, ‘but we grow more resistant to it as we age – we are more aware of the speed with which time passes and we know that once spent, moments will not return.’

‘And yet,’ Mithrellas smiled sadly, ‘we have to let our children fly, even as we know there will be times when they will fall.’

Lothiriel averted her eyes from her father and looked out over the shifting blues of the sea, clenching her hands in her lap, until a friendly nudge from Amrothos made her relax and smile at him.  

Imrahil sighed.  ‘I should be thankful that the war has spared them all to go their own ways – many have been less fortunate.’  He glanced at the elf in the shadows of the tree.  ‘My sister’s son is left alone to face a changed world – he lost both father and his most beloved brother to the last struggles.’

‘Not alone, I think,’ Mithrellas remarked.  ‘The young Steward is greatly valued by Elessar, who sees his worth – and the strong spirit of the Horse Lord’s sister will not let him mourn unduly.’  She paused and listened to the breeze in the leaves.  ‘It was neither Galador nor Gilmith who worried me,’ she added. ‘They had their lives to lead.  I knew they would miss me – and be angry with me for leaving – but they would recover.  But I was afraid for Imrazor.  I had seen how Heledh’s departure had affected Adrahil – how could I let my husband endure such misery if I could prevent it by remaining a few more short years?’


‘She is a lovely child,’ Mithrellas said, holding the second daughter of Galador and Iúliel in her arms as the infant slept.

Galador looked at the baby, his expression slightly less ecstatic than it had been at the arrival of his firstborn.

‘The son will come,’ Imrazor said, putting a hand on his shoulder consolingly.  ‘Do not hold her gender against her, Lord of Dol Amroth, for daughters should be very precious to their fathers.’

‘I would treasure her more,’ Galador admitted, ‘had her arrival come after that of a brother.  We have been married some years now and only have these two – Gilmith already has two sons and a daughter.’

Mithrellas lifted her eyes from the sleeping baby with some impatience.  Men were so concerned with having sons, she thought, that they sometimes appeared not to notice the vital part that females played in the process of producing heirs.  ‘Your son will arrive when he is ready,’ she told Galador plainly.  ‘And holding back your love from this little one will not make him come any more quickly.’

Her son threw her the wicked smile that had always melted her wrath.  ‘I would not dare,’ he said, ‘even if I could.  Her mother and sister are already her willing slaves – they would be most annoyed if I did not join them in their devotion.’

His mother was a little mollified.  ‘He will be a lover of the sea,’ she told him, ‘this son of yours, caring little for the deep woods and the high places, but he will be a fine lord for his people in his time.’

Galador looked at his mother with the touch of doubt that always struck him when he was reminded of her difference.  ‘I will heed your words,’ he said respectfully, ‘and remember them.’

‘You show some signs of wisdom then, my son,’ his father judged. 

On the day before her return to her husband’s lands, Gilmith had come to her outside, where the whispers of the green world were almost drowned out by the song of the waves.  Her arrival would have been unnoticeable to any save an elf, for she moved with her mother’s silent grace and the grass showed little evidence of her passing.  She linked her arm with her mother’s and rested her hand on the long fingers where they lay on the sun-warmed stone and they stood in companionable silence looking towards the West.

‘It will not be long now,’ Gilmith sighed at last as the sun’s fires sent out tendrils across the sky.  ‘Galador may not be willing to see it, but I can.’  She smiled wryly at her mother.  ‘We will not meet again, will we?  Either in this world or beyond its circles.’

Mithrellas turned her hand to clasp her daughter’s cool palm.  ‘The lives of Men are filled with welcomes and farewells,’ she said. ‘It is better that it should be a clean break.’

‘Indeed it is.’  Gilmith’s eyes gleamed silver in the evening light.  ‘It will be better for Father, too,’ she added softly.  ‘It must be an impossible decision to make,’ she said, ‘but he is taking the idea of your parting very hard.  It is making him feel his years – he is looking far older than he did when last he came to Minas Tirith.  He does not want you to go, but he is finding it difficult to endure the uncertainty.’ 

Turning her head, Mithrellas focused on her daughter’s face, absorbing every last nuance, from her flowing hair to her pale skin, the depths of her eyes and the curve of her lips.  She raised her hand and smoothed back the dark tresses, caressing the delicate ear before running her fingertips along her jaw to cup Gilmith’s face.

‘Thank you for bringing your children here so that I might see them,’ she said.

Gilmith smiled.  ‘Rochirion needed a considerable amount of convincing,’ she admitted.  ‘It took most of my wiles to get him to permit them to come, but something told me that it was important enough to persist.’

As the light of the day faded, Mithrellas took her daughter in her arms and held her close.  ‘My blessings on you and yours, my child,’ she said, her voice husky with pain.  ‘I wish you happiness and long life – and the love of those who surround you.’

Gilmith returned the hug with ferocity. ‘May you find peace, Naneth,’ she said, ‘until we are reunited beyond the end of days.’

Her daughter’s vision had been clear, Mithrellas had realised, and she had been right. The indecision was tormenting both her and Imrazor – and it would be best if she left soon, so that they could both begin to learn to live with the results.  She spoke to her husband, as she had promised, and suggested that it would be best if she disappeared while they were in Dol Amroth, so that he might have the comfort of their son’s family to help him deal with his grief.

Imrazor refused to countenance her solitary departure.  ‘I cannot let you go like this,’ he said helplessly.  ‘I need to know that you have reached safety.  You cannot leave me to spend the rest of my years wondering – as you have always wondered about Nimrodel.’

Mithrellas drew a sharp breath and sat down suddenly.  Of course her unresolved disappearance would be as much of a torment to him as her uncertainty.  Yet she needed to leave quietly and wanted to be unobserved.  ‘What then?’ she asked, spreading her hands in a gesture of acceptance.

Her husband turned to the window, looking out over the ships in the harbour.  ‘There is a ship waiting,’ he said.  ‘It has been ready for some years now.’  Imrazor looked at her, his eyes dark.  ‘It will take you north, to the Grey Havens.  Once you are there, there will be elves who can escort you safely wherever you wish to go.’ 

With the light behind him, Mithrellas thought she could almost disregard the toll of the years.  She stepped up to him and slipped her arms around his waist.  ‘It shall be as you wish,’ she said softly, resting her head gently on his shoulder.

‘Send me word,’ he pleaded.  ‘I do not expect you to write – but let me know you have arrived.’

As darkness fell, he escorted her to the small ship with the few possessions she would take with her and watched, stone-faced, as her grey-cloaked figure slipped on board.  The ship left with the tide and she watched him, standing upright on the quayside, gazing in the direction of the vessel long after his eyes would have lost any sight of it.

She remembered little of the voyage north.  All she was aware of was an aching emptiness, where once she had felt love.   She stood at the prow of the ship with the wind in her hair and stared forwards at the restless waves as the spray dampened her face and mimicked tears.  She had known it would come to this.  She had known that their few years together would be paid for with long centuries of sorrow, but these first days were hard, so hard.  It took all the strength she could summon not to command the sailors to return to Dol Amroth, the city by the sea that had first felt her prison but had become her home.

The weather deteriorated as they sailed and the captain implored her to take shelter in the cabin.  He did not want, he told her, to have to return to the Prince and tell him that she had been swept overboard.

She ignored him.  An elf who could run among the treetops was not going to be unsteadied by the rocking of the solid oak deck and the wildness of the water echoed her mood and brought her some relief.  It gave her the illusion, she thought, that she could still feel and that there was something beyond the numb calm that filled her.

It was not until the ship turned eastwards and headed into the sheltered estuary that led towards the Havens that she began to weep, but by the time the highly relieved sailors handed her into the care of the Shipwright, she was able to do little else.

Cirdan had clearly felt less than comfortable in her company and he had rapidly passed her on to the care of his household, who had held her and provided tubs of warm water to wash the salt from her hair and body.

‘Did those fool Men not give you any food at all?’ Cirdan’s housekeeper asked impatiently.  ‘You would not now be feeling so bad if they had.’

Mithrellas fought to control her sobs.  ‘They tried,’ she said.  ‘Give them their due: they tried.  But I would not . . .’

‘I know,’ Ninglor said with understanding, wrapping consoling arms around her.  ‘It feels like a betrayal to eat and drink when you are grieving.’  She patted Mithrellas soothingly as if she were an elfling waking from dark dreams.  ‘I have some broth that will help.’

‘Nothing will help.’  Mithrellas began to weep again.  ‘I shall never see him again – not here, not in the West, not until the end of days.  He will pass beyond the circles of the world and I shall not be with him.  My children are forever lost to me and I am alone now and throughout all the ages that will be.  I have no hope left to me.’

The fair-haired elleth sat back.  ‘Then what will you do?’ she said dryly.  ‘Will you choose to go to Namo straight away?  Or spend some while weeping and wailing until those around you run low on sympathy?  Or will you, perhaps, show some of the strength of character that your husband’s letter told Lord Cirdan should see you through the darkest days?’  She gazed at Mithrellas with sympathy. ‘Take some of this,’ she commanded, offering a cup of steaming liquid.  ‘Sip it slowly – it is hot and you have been allowed to go without food for far too long.’

‘I am sorry,’ Mithrellas said shakily as the hot liquid began to warm her.  ‘I did not mean to – what was it?  Weep and wail?’ 

‘I have been in a similar situation,’ the other said, taking the empty cup and refilling it.  ‘It is cooling down,’ she said, ‘but it will still do you good.’

‘I am not an elfling,’ Mithrellas snapped. 

‘My husband and son were both lost in the days following the darkening of Moria,’ Ninglor said evenly, ‘I came to the Havens to sail – but, once here, I chose for some reason not to go.  I may expect to see them again, in however many ages it takes for Namo to decide to release them, but, at the moment, that feels like little consolation.  I think Lord Cirdan decided that I would be the best person to help you as my loss is still fresh.’

Mithrellas stared at the steam rising from the cup.  ‘He does not feel I need a few days to wallow in my grief?’

‘I do not believe,’ Ninglor remarked carefully, ‘that Lord Cirdan is a great believer in self-indulgence.’

After a few moments, Mithrellas sniffed.  ‘I suppose he has a point,’ she said.

Before the ship of Dol Amroth headed back to its home port, Mithrellas summoned the captain to visit her, giving into his care a beautifully wrought circlet of mithril and sapphires, instructing him that it was to be given into no hands other than Imrazor’s own.   She made a point of employing the stare that her mother-in-law had taught her to use to impose her will on others, informing him, with a shameless lack of truth, that she would know if her gift did not arrive safely.   The unfortunate captain bowed himself out of her presence as quickly as he could, swearing on the lives of his entire acquaintance that he would carry out her request as swiftly as the waters and winds would bear him home.

It was mid-winter before Mithrellas realised that she had forgotten how differently time passed among elves.  The tranquillity of their slow dance through the seasons calmed her.  She grieved – she would always grieve – but the months spent waiting for a party heading towards Imladris had begun to distance her from her life in the Southlands.  Even the sea, she decided, was different here: it did not consist of a myriad of hues of blue, but instead varied from the grey of storm-clouds to the clear green of forest pools.  The image of Imrazor remained fresh, but the years that had weighed him down were shed and in her mind she saw him as the vibrant and enthusiastic young man who had chased across the mountains and valleys with her in search of lost elves, or as the passionate new husband who had held her in his arms with such tenderness.

The passage to Imladris was swift, once the snows had melted and the roads dried out. Most parties, she was told, headed in the opposite direction, seeking passage to the Undying Lands, and usually it was only messengers mounted on fast horses who rode east.  She shrugged.  She was sorry to part from some of the friends she had made, but she had made up her mind: she was going home.  It mattered not if it took her decades to reach the Golden Wood – time was no longer a consideration.

The first person she recognised in Imladris was Curánwen, whose few years in Belfalas had provided Mithrellas with the only elven company she had experienced since the loss of Nimrodel, and she had found it both painful and a release to spend time in the company of one who had known and appreciated Imrazor.   The healer’s awareness of the peculiarities of the Second-born was great enough, too, that she showed no surprise at the effect of the passage of so few years on both Belfalas’s Prince and on the children she had welcomed to the world.

‘It is likely,’ Curánwen said thoughtfully, ‘that your children will live longer than is customary, even among the descendents of Númenor, and that quality may well be passed on to their own children.  Did you find that, as young ones, they were less vulnerable to the illnesses that are common among Men?’

‘Galador and Gilmith were rarely unwell,’ Mithrellas admitted.  ‘I did not think of it – I do not expect the young to be ill – but Imrazor’s mother found it remarkable.  There was a time of pestilence when Gilmith was small – it carried off many in Dol Amroth, particularly among the very young, but, even though her nursemaid succumbed, my daughter showed no signs of the disease.’  She paused, allowing her mind to drift to the days of her children’s youth.  ‘They were less susceptible to cold as well, and neither did they seem to be worn by the steamy heat that could bathe the coast in summer.  They needed less sleep than full-blooded Men children and, although they were slower to grow, they were stronger than those who were greater in size.’   

The healer nodded slowly.  ‘Lord Elrond’s children have far less of the blood of Men, but I noticed similar things as they grew.’  She smiled suddenly.  ‘The effects were reversed, of course.  I think the only one that continues to irritate Lords Elladan and Elrohir since they have become fully grown is that they are more sensitive to cold weather than pure-blooded elves – but they have trained themselves to endure it without complaint.’

Mithrellas had been wary, at first, of Celebrían, the Lady of Imladris.  For all the kind letters that had arrived with Curánwen, Mithrellas could not forget that Celebrían was daughter to Galadriel and Celeborn, who had been left to direct the fate of the Golden Wood on Amroth’s abdication of his duty to follow Nimrodel and her maidens south to Edhellond on their way to the West.  It seemed unlikely that the daughter of Lothlorien’s Lord and Lady would be willing to welcome one who had abandoned the forest only now to seek its shelter as she left her family behind her.

‘You are alone?’  Mithrellas looked up from her seat in the orchard, where fine petals of the palest pink drifted towards the daisy-studded grass to see Imladris’s Lady standing before her, her silver-fair hair glinting in the sunlight.

Celebrían sank gracefully to join the Silvan Elf on the soft carpet of green.  ‘I will be leaving for the Golden Wood in some weeks to visit my parents,’ she remarked.  ‘I hope that you will join my party.’  She smiled.  ‘Elrond is concerned that the journey is less safe than in past days,’ she said, ‘and he will insist on a large party accompanied by guards – especially as Arwen wishes to travel with us this time.  The Wood has changed but little, I find,’ she added delicately, ‘and it is always a pleasure to find myself among the mallorns.’

‘I did not mean to trouble anyone,’ Mithrellas apologised.  ‘I would have slipped away and travelled northwards alone, but my lord was anxious about my safety and I found that I could not leave him to worry in ignorance of my well-being.’

‘I think your path has been in his mind for a good many years,’ Celebrían mused. ‘Curánwen returned with letters from him requesting our help when your time came to depart.  It is no easy thing to be the mortal spouse of an elf – it requires a generous heart.  You have been fortunate.’  She took Mithrellas’s hand between hers.  ‘There is still need of you in Arda,’ she said seriously.  ‘My naneth knew that you would return to Lorien one day and she will welcome you there.’

Lothlorien had indeed proved to be the refuge that Mithrellas needed.  The song of the trees soothed her and their long memories scarcely noticed the eighty odd years of her absence.  At first it had seemed strange, as though a lifetime of experience had been excised from her, leaving her reaching for memories that none shared, but soon she settled back into the life she had known since the beginning of the Third Age and the years of devoted love and shared joys would have seemed an illusion but for the emptiness in her being where Imrazor and her children should have been.

She sent word: not a letter, even as Imrazor had asked.  They both knew that her departure was a death of sorts and should be treated as such.  She had sent him a song – of hidden glades and cool dark pools, of ancient trees stretching up to the sun and timeless love.   Lady Galadriel had looked at her with those eyes of star-studded blue that saw more than surface meanings, as Mithrellas had asked that the melody be carried south of the mountains by some of the wandering elves who continued to roam the hidden paths of Arda, before inclining her head and agreeing. 

Some of the wanderers had returned within a few turns of the seasons and had sought out Mithrellas to tell her that they had met the Prince of Belfalas in the elf-blessed woods near his home and gifted him with the song of his wife’s creation.  He had wept, they said, but seemed at peace and he had sent to tell her that his love was unabated.  She bowed her head in thanks for their message and walked soberly away to secrete herself among the trees where Nimrodel’s stream ran among the tall trees.

Celebrían had brought the letter herself on one of her visits to her parents.  She had found Mithrellas beneath the stars as she rested on her own close to the tree in which she had chosen to make her home.  It was disconcerting, the Lady of Imladris thought, how the Silvan Elf seemed to be less – there – than she had been a score of years or so before.  Mithrellas, Celebrían decided, looked as if she might break if too much pressure were put upon her and that, she sighed, made this a very bad moment to present her with the documents that were in her hand.

‘He is dead, is he not?’ The dark hair framed a face that was as pale as the moon, but Mithrellas’s voice was steady.  ‘I felt it some months ago.  ‘The corner of my heart where his presence warmed me was suddenly empty and it was as if the wind had brought the hardest of the winter frosts.’

‘A messenger came from Cirdan,’ Celebrían said gently, ‘bearing letters from Gondor.  Your daughter wishes you to have these.’

‘What has Gilmith sent?’ Mithrellas asked, looking dispassionately up at the eternal stars.

‘It is not for me to know,’ Celebrían told her.  ‘They are here for you when you are ready.’  She sat then beside the bereft elleth and waited with her as the stars turned in the sky and the grey light of the day’s beginning hid them from sight.  Birds woke and sang their greeting to the dawn and the strong slow song of the trees woke from its night’s rest, yet still they rested motionless and silent, until, as the warm golden glow of sunlight sliced into the forest, Mithrellas began to weep.


Without thinking, Lothiriel turned and put her arms round her ancestress, hugging her tight.  ‘Oh, I am so sorry,’ she said, moving back almost immediately as she realised what she had done.  ‘We were advised in Minas Tirith to avoid touching the elves who had come to the bridal.  I hope I have not offended you.’

Mithrellas returned her hug and kissed Lothiriel’s brow.  ‘Being hugged by one of your family is not the same as being grabbed by many curious mortals,’ she said, running her fingers through the girl’s long dark hair.  ‘It was difficult at the wedding of Arwen Undomiel,’ she explained, ‘there were so many Men and we were the cynosure of their eyes.  It was most uncomfortable.’  She shuddered.  ‘The smells, the walls, the absence of green, the curiosity of the city dwellers – it was none of it pleasant.  I was glad to leave.’

‘The mithril circlet with sapphires,’ Imrahil mentioned.

Mithrellas smiled.  ‘You were wearing it when Elessar wed the Evenstar,’ she confirmed. 

‘Gimli told me it was Dwarven workmanship,’ Imrahil said thoughtfully, ‘but the design was Elvish.  He gave me some long explanation to do with the cut of the stones and the style of decoration.’

‘It is quite likely,’ Mithrellas confirmed.  ‘I obtained it in Mithlond from one who said that it came from Moria before the Dwarves were driven out, but it had been made many years before that.  It seemed a fitting gift.’

‘Why,’ asked Amrothos, ‘do the histories of our House infer that you left like a thief in the night?  Imrazor provided for your safe journey; messengers brought information back to him; Gilmith sent letters to you.  How is it that none of this is recorded?’

The elf sighed. ‘Galador did not forgive my departure,’ she said sadly. ‘He would not understand.  After Imrazor’s death, Gilmith told me that he refused to have my name mentioned.  And within the passage of so few years, there were none left to remember.’

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