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Awaiting the Thaw  by Bodkin

Some eight centuries later, in another place . . . .

The Thaw

 

They stood shoulder to shoulder beneath the great tree, so that they looked shadowed among the bright elves flocking on the wide lawns before Elrond’s house.

‘Lord Elrohir,’ the elleth paused to greet them, inclining her head, before she turned to inspect his brother.  ‘Lord Elladan.  You are looking better.’

She left them then to continue their observation of the dance of courtesy among those who had been summoned to greet the twin sons of Elrond and Celebrían.

Elrohir tilted his head, his eyes sparking with interest.  ‘She knew us,’ he said.

‘How unusual.’

‘No, orc-brain.  She knew us.  She called me Elrohir – and you Elladan.’

‘It is the name to which I have been answering for a long time now.’

‘And it is still common for most we meet to stare somewhere between us and address the air.’  He grimaced.  ‘Even those who should know better.  How many would you say could glance our way and know instantly which of us was which?’

‘No more than a double handful,’ Elladan guessed.  His gaze followed the slender elleth in her gown of soft green, her long dark hair braided with fine golden ribbons that matched the fringed sash at her waist.  He liked the way she refused to look back, even though she must have been aware that they were watching her.  ‘Do we know her?’ he asked.

‘I think not,’ Elrohir considered.  ‘Although there is something familiar about her.’

A tall blond form detached himself from the clutch of an elleth whose long ebony hair was banded with a circlet of mithril wrought to resemble a wreath of twined orchids with each flower head flaunting a gleaming ruby that trembled on the end of the pseudo-stamen.  ‘There you are!’ he exclaimed. 

‘I do believe you are right,’ Elladan agreed.

Legolas inspected them.  ‘You look less than your best,’ he said candidly.  ‘I’ve seen better things dragged in by the cats.’  He looked from Elrohir to his twin.  ‘Have you avoided sleep altogether since Gimli and I sailed?’

‘Your adar appeared more than a little moth-eaten last time I saw him,’ Elrohir told him sharply.  ‘I do not see that we are any worse.’

‘Can we not get away from this gathering?’  Legolas appeared rather harried.  ‘You could do with sitting down – and taking a glass or two of your adar’s best red – and I could do with escaping the hunt.’

‘What hunt is that?’ Elladan’s interest was stirred.

‘You do not want to know.’  Legolas scowled briefly before his face brightened.  ‘Valar, it is good to see you again.  I had not realised how much I have missed you.’

‘The hunt, Legolas?’

‘Did you not see her?’ The former prince of Lasgalen shuddered.  ‘She is as dangerous as any orc.’

‘The elleth with the – er – creation on her head?’

‘You do not want to attract her notice,’ Legolas warned.  ‘And I am being very kind in warning you, because as Finarfin’s great-grandsons you will be of great interest to her – and I could push her in your direction to save myself.’

A spurt of sudden laughter lightened Elladan’s expression.  ‘You were not wont to avoid the attentions of ellyth,’ he grinned.  ‘I remember your being chased round the noble houses of Gondor by some of the most flirtatious.’

That, my friend, was a game,’ Legolas protested.  ‘With both sides understanding the rules.  This is to the death.’

‘I think our parents are still delighted enough by our presence for us to get away with the discourtesy of sneaking away,’ Elrohir judged.  ‘Come, my friend.  Adar has secreted a decanter in the small library – and the chairs there are most comfortable.  It will make a perfect refuge.’

***

Miriwen kept her head turned away from the twins.  She was a fool, she scolded herself.  She knew better than to pay them any attention.  Unless they came to the healing rooms dripping copious amounts of blood, she amended.   She had spent centuries convincing herself that her interest in Elladan had been no more than medical curiosity – and then she had allowed no more than a glimpse of the twins’ tall figures to lead her into speaking to them.  And, in an instant, the walls behind which she kept his image had crumbled into dust.   She would have to avoid them – perhaps even going so far as to leave Lord Elrond’s house again to maintain her peace of mind.

They did look better, though.  Worn as they were, their hair flat and their faces grey with exhaustion, they still looked better.  The pain had gone and there was a light in their eyes that then had been almost extinguished.   They leaned on each other still – but the gates were open and they held their arms wide.  It would not take long for the warmth and colour of these lands to enter them and provide a poultice to draw out their grief.  They would soon be healed.  At which point, she told herself, they would become the elves she had never even glimpsed.

Not that their parents would stop worrying about them, of course.  Lady Celebrían – and, having met her, Miriwen could understand how her wounding had torn the heart from her sons – was pale and fretful in her anxiety.  Lord Elrond had his hands full with reassuring her that healing would come and that their sons would overcome their trouble.  He seemed unconcerned – but then he would, she knew, having weathered so much worse.  And no-one who had not seen them then could really understand.

She drifted to the laden tables, where she could consider what she had seen without appearing to ignore her friends among the scatter of elves enjoying themselves, only to find herself beside another keeping in the shade.  This one, though, stood like a rock about whom elves washed like the sea – too old, too powerful, too wise not to understand his own reactions to the bright splendour of these lands.

‘Yours is a face I know.’  Glorfindel’s voice was calm as she reached for a strawberry, as confident as she remembered him.

‘Possibly, my lord,’ she agreed, her swift healer’s inspection of him assuring her that this one, at least, was well on the way to recovery.

His smile twisted slightly in silent acknowledgement.  ‘It has been some while since last we met,’ he said.

‘A few things have happened since then,’ she nodded.

Glorfindel looked around him with satisfaction.  ‘Many of them good,’ he commented, ‘to counter those that are less joyful.’  He looked at her and nodded.  ‘And happier times to come.’

‘I hope so, my lord,’ she replied.

‘I know so,’ he concluded.

***

‘So why have you dragged us away?’ Elrohir enquired as they settled comfortably in the shady library.  ‘And do not repeat any nonsense about avoiding predatory ellyth – you have been doing that successfully for centuries.’

Legolas grinned wryly.  ‘I can ask you questions that I would choose not to put to my adar,’ he admitted.  ‘Not now, at any rate.  And I know you well enough to be sure that I get some straight answers.’

A silent communion drew the brothers together.

‘No, you do not,’ Legolas told them.  ‘This is not some secret union among survivors – I am not having my adar sink into depression for the want of a few words from you.  And, come to that, I am not intending to let Aragorn or Arwen down by allowing you to mope.’

‘We are not moping,’ Elladan snapped.

Legolas stretched his long legs out before him and sipped his wine.  ‘No?’ he asked.  ‘I did.  For some while.  It was not until Gimli snarled at me for a selfish fool that I began to realise that I was wasting the time we had left.  Although I do not believe he meant it that way,’ he added thoughtfully.  ‘I felt – torn.  As if I had lost a limb and could not learn to compensate.’

A sigh broke from Elrohir, but he said nothing.

‘Perhaps we could do with someone taking Gimli’s approach,’ Elladan admitted.  ‘Everyone is being so careful around us – and striving not to cause us distress.’

‘Oh well,’ their friend shrugged.  ‘They would probably prefer not to set you off again.’

Elrohir’s eyes narrowed. ‘Set us off again?’ he said incredulously.

‘Your sister told me that you might be difficult.’  He grinned.  ‘And that I was to give you a hard time – in her name.  I will be only too happy to oblige.’

‘All you can see, before you board, is what you have to gain,’ Elladan remarked suddenly, leaning forward and resting his forearms on his knees.  He twisted the stem of his glass between his fingers, examining its contents, ‘and all you can see, when you land, is what you have lost.’

Legolas sobered.  ‘Adar was certain, as he landed, that he could have done no more,’ he said. ‘But now he wonders – and fears that he betrayed the land committed to his care.’

‘He need not be,’ Elrohir spoke fiercely.  ‘He did all that anyone could and more.’

‘You remember how it was before the gates of Mordor?’ Elladan asked.  ‘The land was dumb – the air inert, weighing us down, silent.  Ithilien came to life under your care, but –,’ he paused, studying the deep red wine, ‘the time of the elves is long past, my friend, and even the land rejects us.  Even our sister’s grandchildren’s grandchildren know us not.’

‘It is not that we are not happy to be here,’ Elrohir explained.  ‘But it is like,’ he waved a hand as he sought something comparable, ‘being taken from the aftermath of a particularly bloody battle and placed in a library, where the only knowledge those around you have of such matters is taken from books intended for elflings.’

Legolas rested a consoling hand on his friend’s arm.  ‘It gets better,’ he insisted.  He grinned.  ‘You are still at the stage where everyone is wrapping you in swaddling.  Once they let you out, you will see that there is a world of possibilities here.’  He glanced at the window, where the bright day was giving way to the silver of evening.  ‘I am dragging Adar to the forest,’ he said abruptly.  ‘He does not wish to go – I think he looks on it as an abandonment of the lands he ruled for so long – but I am in no mood to give way.  Your daernaneth apparently decided that Lord Celeborn required time among trees and I am of the opinion that Thranduil is in even greater need.’

Elrohir nodded.  ‘Trees and water,’ he suggested.  ‘I would avoid anything too much like Lasgalen, if I were you.’  He rose and turned to a large table on which lay several maps.  ‘North, perhaps,’ he said, tracing the line with a long finger.  ‘Where the Alagduin passes through pine forest on its way to the sea.’

‘You have always been obsessed with maps.’  Elladan sprawled back, crossed his feet on the small table beside his chair, and allowed himself to be amused.  ‘And now you are advising Legolas on where to go in a land you have never visited!’

‘It is not a bad idea,’ their friend protested.  ‘Adar is not as tied to pines – he prefers oaks and beeches – but it would be different enough to be interesting.  And getting him away from all this stone would help on its own.’

‘Not to mention the absence of Noldor,’ Elrohir added dryly.  ‘He might be interested to see more of the Teleri.’

‘Why do you not come?’ Legolas asked easily.  ‘You have spent enough of the last centuries with Adar that I believe he no longer counts you as sons of the Noldor.’

‘And more as foster sons to be kept in line,’ Elladan laughed.

‘No,’ Elrohir considered.  ‘I think not – Naneth is concerned enough without having to worry about us as well as Daeradar.’

‘But do not stay away too long,’ Elladan added.  ‘I begin to be intrigued by the potential you suggest.’

‘Good.’  Legolas looked at the twins as they lounged easily in the nest of their adar’s bookroom.  ‘For I have plans.’

***

It had taken Miriwen some time to adjust to healing rooms where the majority of the work consisted of research into the obscure properties of plants.  She had spent too many years, she had come to realise, in piecing together elves damaged by blade and arrow, poisoned by spiders and orc-potions and torn apart by grief and loss.  The healer in her had needed her own healing when she arrived at a crowded dock with victims of war no longer able to endure the sorrows of Middle Earth – but that was long ago, and her fëa now sang in harmony with the music of these lands west of the sea.

It had taken rather longer for her – and others – to find their way to Elrond’s side, but it had seemed a natural development.  He still was, as he had always been, one of the greatest healers the elves had produced and the work done here was as important as it had ever been.

But . . .  She sighed.  That had been when his sons remained in Imladris, upholding the last of his legacy to Arda.

Now her serene world was in turmoil again and she had to decide what to do.  Her parents, she knew, would choose to join their King, wherever he might decide to settle.  Should she go with them?  Dwell near her sister and her children and concentrate on helping them grow?  Abandon these halls and settle for caring for elflings’ scraped knees and occasional broken bones?  Or should she be resolute and ignore this brief flurry of emotion, assuring herself that it would soon pass? 

She examined the items before her and recorded meticulously her observations.

Why should she be driven away?  Her reaction had been nothing more than the recollection of a long-past desire to help.  Something she had outgrown – given up in her need to heal the many hundred elves and men who had passed through her care since.  No more than that.

She returned the dishes to the tray and moved on to the next.

She would stay.

She would stay and she would pay no heed to the sons of Elrond.  They were nothing to her.

The dishes rattled as her hands shook and she took a deep breath to steady herself.

She wished them joy in their reunited family, but she would do nothing to attempt to bring about their happiness.

In fact, she would go out of her way to avoid them.

‘It is more peaceful in here,’ Glorfindel’s clear tones echoed through the quiet rooms.  ‘Although I see few beds ready to succour the wounded – how do you entertain yourself these days, my friend?’

‘There is little entertainment in watching your friends and warriors suffer,’ Elrond replied.  ‘I find that I manage to cope in a land where injuries are few – and not inflicted vindictively.’  He smiled.  ‘And the patients we treat heal, Glorfindel.  Since I have been here, we have lost no elves at all to Námo’s Halls.  No wives or parents have faded from a grief intolerable, no children have been left orphaned, no friends left bereft.’

Miriwen felt her mood lifting.  It was true, she thought.  It was no wonder that Elrond looked whole – as he had not when he sailed; a pale reflection of himself, torn by his separation from his children, bleached by the failure of his power, eroded by the incessant struggle to protect those who turned to him for aid.   The Blessed Realm was a good place to be.   Not perfect – nowhere was – but offering the chance to be useful and fulfilled.

‘We meet again.’  Glorfindel smiled, lighting the room.  Deliberately, Miriwen thought.  He was up to something, and she was not sure she wished to be its focus.

‘My lord,’ she said politely, keeping her attention on the dishes before her.

Elrond looked at her with a slight frown, as if trying to work out the reason behind his friend’s greeting.  ‘The work goes well?’ he asked.

‘It is as we suspected, my lord,’ she said easily.  ‘I will repeat the experiments a few more times to be sure, before I bring you the results.’

He nodded.  ‘Thank you, Miriwen,’ he said with his gentle courtesy. 

Yes, she decided as she watched him shepherd Glorfindel from the suite of rooms.  She would not allow this – this nothing to drive her away.  She would stay.

***

‘Miriwen!’  Legolas’s call was more demanding than he usually allowed himself.  He was not one, she thought, for calling on his authority unless he had to do so.  It must be serious.

She emerged from the side room to see him supporting a dark-haired elf, slightly broader in the shoulder than himself, but scarcely in a condition to be recognisable to his own naneth. 

‘What have you done to him?’ she asked, indicating the couch and grabbing a supply of clean cloths and implements kept handy for such moments.

‘Why do you always blame me?’ Legolas complained.  ‘I have done nothing.  Well,’ he hedged, ‘not intentionally.’

She opened a stone jar of purified water laced with a mild astringent and began to remove the blood welling from the gash.  ‘It is nothing serious,’ she said, peering in the grey eyes in front of her and examining the way they reacted to light.  ‘Did you lose consciousness at all, Lord Elladan?’

Elladan blinked.  ‘I do not believe so,’ he murmured.

‘The cut will be better for a stitch,’ she told him, ‘once I am certain there is nothing in the wound.  How was the injury caused?’

The pair of them looked sheepish and ignored her question.

Miriwen laughed.  ‘The sort of injury that causes the parents of elflings to cast up their eyes and hope they soon outgrow such foolishness?’ she enquired.  ‘Juggling knives, perhaps?’

‘Of course not.’  Legolas managed to sound shocked.  ‘That would be really irresponsible.’

‘And you have refrained from doing that, at least, since your adar put you in mittens for a week,’ Miriwen agreed.  ‘What then?’

Elladan looked from one to the other.  ‘You knew each other as elflings?’ he asked.

‘We are much of an age,’ Miriwen conceded.  ‘But I am far more sensible.’

‘But I,’ Legolas insisted, ‘am far more dangerous.’

‘And this would appear to be a case of proof positive,’ the elleth informed him smugly.  ‘How was the damage done?  I promise I will not tell your parents.’

‘Please, fair maiden,’ Elladan grinned suddenly.  ‘Be kind enough to keep our secret.  I have no wish to be sent to my room.’

‘It was nothing much,’ Legolas said.  ‘If the Peredhel could only catch.’

‘If the Wood Elf could only throw,’ Elladan mocked him.

‘The cut appears to have been caused by a sharp metal edge,’ Miriwen abandoned hope of a sensible reply.  ‘It has sliced to the bone – but caused no greater damage.  It has bled freely – you had better go and bathe if you do not wish people to think you have been butchering pigs – but the bleeding has stopped now.  I will clean it and suture it, whereupon you will be free to go and continue your games.  Only a little more gently, please.’

‘Thank you, naneth,’ Legolas sniped at her.

‘That is all right, elfling,’ she retaliated before turning to her patient.   ‘If you lie down, Lord Elladan,’ she said.  ‘It will keep your head still while I deal with the wound.’

‘Just Elladan,’ he insisted.  ‘There is no need for all that ‘my lording’.  It makes me feel an even bigger fool to be stretched out, covered in blood and have my healer talking to me as if I were my adar.’

‘Oh, I think not, my – Elladan,’ she said.  ‘I think there are few who would mistake you for Lord Elrond.’

He closed his eyes and waited for her to finish treating his cut.  ‘I think I might have been insulted,’ he muttered.  ‘It is just as well I do not take offence easily.’

Finally, Miriwen moistened a cloth and cleaned his forehead around the now barely visible slice.  ‘It will do,’ she announced.  ‘You had better wash before you leave.’

Lifting himself up of his elbow, Elladan grasped her wrist with a hand crusted in his own blood.  ‘Thank you,’ he said, and she stopped breathing as his warm grey eyes gazed into hers.

She looked away with difficulty.  ‘Go then,’ she instructed them.  ‘I will leave it to you to see that the patient is bathed, Legolas.’  She grinned.  ‘But no throwing him in the river until that has a chance to heal!’

With a wave they were gone – and she was left with nothing but the debris of blood-stained cloths and a room that felt – different.

‘Oh, drat them both,’ she complained.

***

‘What is it about this elleth?’ Elrohir said with exasperation.

Elladan’s jaw tightened, but he refused to react.  ‘Try it,’ he said.  ‘See if she knows you at sight for who you are.’

‘If she knows you, she will know him,’ Legolas leaned back against the corner of the stable, one foot on the rail.  ‘It stands to reason.’

‘I do not know,’ Elrohir considered.  ‘She might call both of us Elladan – on the principle that she will be right half the time.’

‘What will you risk on that theory?’  Elladan’s smile took on a dangerous edge.

Elrohir met the challenge in his brother’s eyes.  ‘What do you want me to do?’ he asked with resignation.

‘Just speak to her.’  Elladan shrugged.  ‘See what she says.’

‘Shall I simply walk up to her and say ‘who am I’?’ his twin spoke sarcastically.  ‘Or do you think the matter requires slightly more subtlety?’

‘There is no need to be such an ass!’ Elladan sounded irritable.  ‘Can you just not pass her in a corridor or something?  Lean across her when serving yourself with porridge? Tread on her toe when there is dancing?  Do I have to think of everything?’

Elrohir exchanged a speaking glance with Legolas.  ‘Why do you just not talk to her?’

‘I . . . ,’ Elladan hunched his shoulders.  ‘I do not want to make anything of it, do you understand?’

Legolas took pity on the twins.  ‘Come with me, Elrohir,’ he commanded.  ‘I will talk to her – all you need to do is accompany me.’

‘Why do you need to visit a healer?’ Elrohir objected.

His friend shrugged.  ‘I will ask after her parents,’ he said dismissively.  ‘Or speak to her about my adar.  It matters little.  I have known her since she was an elfling – her expectations of me are not high.’

Elrohir grinned wickedly.  ‘She might begin to think that you are interested in her and seeking some way to pursue her.’

A crack of laughter dismissed a concern that his brother’s words stirred in Elladan.  ‘I think not!’ Legolas shook his head.  ‘She knows far too much about me to suspect that.’  The Wood Elf raised an eyebrow at Elrond’s sons.  ‘It will take you a while to pick up on everything that has been happening here over the last few hundred years, my friends.’  He detached himself from the stable wall.  ‘Well?’ he said.  ‘Are you coming?’

Elladan looked uneasy.  ‘There is no rush,’ he objected.

‘There is,’ Legolas contradicted him.  ‘You have been unable to remark on anything more interesting in weeks.  The sooner we get this out of the way, the sooner we will be able to get you out among the trees and blow away the trailing cobwebs of old sorrows.’

With a nod, Elrohir joined him.  ‘Stay here,’ he ordered his brother, ‘until we return. We do not need you peering round the corner to check up on what she says.’

***

She was not there.

The room was as neat as if it had never been occupied and there was no indication of the work that was carried out there.

‘She cannot have left,’ Legolas remarked.  ‘Can she?’  He turned and studied the neatly closed drawers and scrubbed surfaces.  ‘Miriwen is not like that.’

Elrohir frowned.  ‘Did she train in Imladris at one time?’ he asked.  ‘There is someone I recall – a young healer who came from Mirkwood for a while.’

‘I believe she did.’  Legolas stepped back and closed the door, leading the way to the larger rooms of the healing wing.  ‘I spent most of my time back then with the patrols, but I seem to remember that she left the wood for a time.’

‘I do not recall those years clearly,’ Elrond’s son admitted cautiously.  ‘Much happened that is still no more than a series of sharp-edged pictures in a fog of desolation.’

Legolas put an understanding hand on his friend’s arm.

‘But there was an elleth among the healers . . .’ Elrohir stopped and shook himself, before resuming more briskly.  ‘Where is she, then?’

‘Miriwen!’ Legolas called, tiring of the search.

‘She is in a meeting with Lord Elrond.’  A healer put his head through the door at the end of the corridor.  ‘And there is no need to shout!  There are those here in need of quiet.’

‘My apologies.’  Legolas tried to look chastened.  ‘Will she be long?’

‘As long as it takes,’ the healer replied waspishly.  ‘I do not believe my lord will find it necessary to hurry so that you might speak with her.’

‘Sorry, Sennuion,’ Elrohir added.  ‘We will return later.’

‘Very well, Elrondion.’ With a brief nod, the healer drew back.  ‘I will tell her you were seeking her.’

‘Do not bother,’ Legolas said hastily.  ‘I will find her some other time.’   As the doors to the healing wing closed behind them, he sighed.  ‘Well, that was not particularly successful.’

‘If she is in a meeting with Adar, she will be easy to find,’ Elrohir shrugged.

‘But we can hardly disturb them to discover if Miriwen can tell you from your brother.’

‘Ahh.’  Elrohir held up a finger.  ‘But Adar would never be so inconsiderate as to continue a meeting through lunch.’  He smiled and seemed to relax as the familiarity of life in his adar’s house brought comfort.  ‘If we pass the door of his room as the gong is rung to signify the readiness of the meal, she will step straight out into our arms – and we will have our answer.’

They waited in the light of a wide window, enjoying the breeze that stirred the filmy curtains until, just as the household began to stir and seek the dining hall, the door of Elrond’s office opened.   Elrohir muttered a few words in Khuzdul that made Legolas grin, even as he wondered if his friend knew what they really meant, and he pulled the Wood Elf with him to collide with the elleth ushered courteously out of the room in front of the elf lord.

‘I am sorry.’  Elrohir smiled charmingly at the healer, who shot a suspicious look at the two elves.  ‘I hope I did not hurt you.’

‘No, Lord Elrohir,’ she said.  ‘I am undamaged.’

He inclined his head and stepped to one side.  ‘Might I escort you to lunch?’ he asked, offering his arm.  ‘It is the least I can do after being so careless.’

Miriwen hesitated, then placed her hand delicately on his sleeve, glancing narrowly at Legolas before allowing Elrohir to guide her along the corridor.

‘No, you do not!’  Elrond stopped the Wood Elf as he moved to follow the pair.  ‘What is going on?  Elrohir has not been that clumsy since he was an elfling.  What are he and his brother planning?’

‘Never mind.’  Glorfindel remarked, his eyes knowing.  ‘You keep an eye on them, Thranduilion – while I explain the birds and the bees to this one here.’

***

Miriwen stood in the gathering dusk beyond the lawns, where the broad shapes of the trees spread out before the silver waters, her voice raised in harmony with the clear song of evening.  She closed her eyes, inhaling the fragrance of leaves and sun-warmed bark.  The grounds of Elrond’s home were remarkably calm, she always thought.  Rather too controlled for her taste, but they hummed with contentment, and, at times like this, when night concealed the proximity of other dwellings, she relished the tranquillity.  

She felt his arrival rather than heard it.  He waited – somewhat nervously, she thought – just far enough away that she could, if she wished, pretend that he was not there.  For a moment, she considered doing just that.  They had been painful, those long years when his image had been clear in her mind, and she had known that he was scarcely aware that she existed.  There was no guarantee that this would be any different.  He was still hurt – not in the same way, but still less than whole.  He might feed on her quite unintentionally as he healed and then leave her lonely and abandoned.  He might.  But that was no reason to close herself away.  Then, in her wish to guard herself, she would be the one causing harm.  Some chances had to be taken.

‘Elladan?’ she said.

‘Are you sure you wish to know me?’ he asked, a deprecating humour in his voice.  ‘After I set my brother and Legolas on you?’

She tilted her head.  ‘They did me no harm,’ she told him.

‘Glorfindel rebuked me for being an insensitive fool,’ he admitted.  ‘He said we should be mature enough to be able to talk to ellyth rather than setting up juvenile traps for them.’

‘He has a point,’ Miriwen allowed.

‘But you passed the test,’ he offered.  ‘With flying colours.’

‘I think I do not wish to be put through any more tests.’

‘And I have remembered why you feel so familiar to me.’

‘You have?’

‘You have seen more of me than is proper,’ he said reproachfully.

The healer smiled.  ‘I could hardly help it,’ she replied.

‘I missed you when you left.’  Elladan averted his eyes and spoke quietly, reluctant to part with the words.  ‘Not much – I was capable of little but rage at that time – but I noticed your absence.’

Miriwen inhaled past a lump in her throat that felt big enough to choke her.

‘You were the only person who laughed at us,’ Celebrían’s son continued.  ‘At a time when we frightened Arwen out of Imladris altogether and drove Adar and Glorfindel to despair, you refused to let our – obsession – cow you.’

‘You over-estimate my courage,’ Miriwen murmured.  She turned and inspected his face, pale in the moonlight. 

‘But I did not realise until now,’ Elladan said seriously, ‘that there is more to this than your ability to tell me from my brother.’  He came closer.  ‘It is that I, too, recognise you.’  He paused.  ‘Miriwen, I would like to come to know you better.’

She could feel his sincerity beneath the simple words he spoke.  This was no suggestion of a casual flirtation, but an admission of a deeper link between two fëar.  ‘There is no need for haste,’ she warned.

‘No need at all,’ he sighed and there was a bemused contentment in his tone as he looked around him.  ‘Here we have time in plenty.  But I have no patience with pretence and concealment – I would rather have things in the open, for all to understand.’

‘We can be friends,’ Miriwen suggested.  ‘You are not yet ready for more.’

‘Friends,’ he amended, ‘who intend to get to know each other at a deeper level.  I will not have you left in doubt.  Or me,’ he added after a moment.

She raised her eyebrows.  ‘And I will not be badgered,’ she informed him. 

He grinned.  ‘Legolas said you were bossy,’ he remarked.  ‘Would you do me the very great honour of walking with me beneath the stars on this fine evening, Miriwen, my healer?’

She inspected him for a long moment.  ‘Why, yes, my lord,’ she concluded finally, blinking back a sudden sting of tears, ‘I think I will.’





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