Eden Cuil (New Life)
He clung to the log, unmoving, afraid to so much as breathe.
Soaked blonde hair clung to his face and fell over one blue eye, narrowing his world to half of its usual expanse.
The water was icy-cold at the close of autum, when the leaves had already turned and were beginning to fall.
Eirien couldn't feel his fingers, though he knew he still held to the log, since he wasn't being beaten about by the river's current.
His head lolled against the wet bark in exhaustion, eyes falling to half-mast even as he heard the approaching sound of footfalls too large to be a beast come to drink at the river.
The elfling felt his throat close up in fear as tears burned in his eyes. The churning, burning sensation in his gut and chest, like when his naneth started screaming, returned in a rush.
Eirien tried to be perfectly still, but he must've made some sound or movement he was unaware of, because the footfalls came closer.
"Who is there?" a woman's soft, but wary voice came.
She spoke in the Common Tongue, the language of Men.
Eirien's breath came fast and shallow and he bit his lip to remain silent, hoping she would pass him by.
He was ashamed of the whimper of terror that escaped him when she brushed the vine that had mostly hiddden him from view away, leaving him revealed, clinging to the log on the edge of the river.
Aegaswyn froze by the riverbank, certain she'd heard something out of place.
She frowned, listening hard. There! The sound of something small breathing fast, as if in fear.
The sound was coming almost from right beneath her!
The woman bent carefully, ready to spring away quickly if it were a wounded animal prone to biting, and her breath froze in her throat as she brushed the vine away from the side of the riverbank, where there was a small hollow that wasn't quite touched by the current.
Staring up at her in sheer terror, wet hair clinging to a pale, fair face, pointed ears laid bare, and he was clinging to a log as if his life depended on it.
Which, Aegaswyn supposed, it did.
His lips had a frighteningly blue tinge, and his fingers were white where he held to the log to keep from being swept further downstream.
The woman turned upstream, frowning in confusion. The nearest elven settlement was Eryn Lasgalen, or, Greenwood the Great in the Common Tongue. But, it was several miles away.
If this child hailed from that place, he'd been in the water for many hours. It was more than a day's ride to the elven settlement.
But, idle speculation about the boy's origins wasn't going to keep him from taking a chill.
She must get him out of the water, quickly!
He flinched as she stepped closer, and tears rose to Aegaswyn's eyes, wondering what horror had befallen one so small that he already was afraid to trust.
She frowned, worrying her lip momentarily as she wracked her memory for the few elvish words the Rangers who occasionally passed through had taught her, and some of the village men. It wasn't much, just enough to ensure there were no misunderstandings of violent intent if ever elves passed through.
"Band," she murmured quietly, meeting the elven child's so-blue eyes to guage if he understood. "Tolo an bar nín? Aes i naur?" Safe. Come to my home? Food and fire?
His little brow furrowed at was was obviously her butchery of his language, but she could almost see when he worked out what she was attempting to say.
"Saes," he whispered. "Adar. Naneth. Gwador nín," he murmured, a pleading look in his eyes. Please. Father. Mother. My brother.
Aegaswyn felt tears stinging her eyes anew at the look of hope in his gaze.
"Haeran. Duin. Helch. Allend. Dartha an echuir," she replied haltingly. Far. River. Bitter cold. No journey. Wait for spring.
Tears marked a silvery path down the boy's cheeks, and Aegaswyn went to her knees as close to him as she could get without falling into the river herself. "Tolo an enni. Band," she said, even as she gently prised his fingers from their death-grip on the log, drawing the boy into her lap and wrapping her cloak around the both of them. Come with me. Safe.
Eirien wasn't sure what to make of this woman. She was of Men, and yet, she spoke Sindarin. Very badly, and as if she merely knew a few words, but he could understand her.
Though, it puzzled him that she didn't speak Common Tongue. Perhaps she thought he wouldn't understand?
Men were very odd, as his adar had always said, when he didn't think Eirien and Legolas were within earshot.
His stomach clenched in fear as she plucked him from the log, but he relaxed marginally as she set him upon her lap, covering him with her cloak, warmed by her body.
Unable to help himself, so cold was he, that he melted against her, hardly noticing as she rose and made her way away from the river, into the village.
By the time they left the forest behind, however, Eirien had already fallen into an exhausted sleep.
Aegaswyn tenderly tucked a stray tress of white-gold hair away from the sleeping elfling's face, a knot in her throat at the thought of what must have befallen his family for him to have been taken by the river, so far from where he lived.
To have watched his family die...there were rumors of orcs forcing their way further into Greenwood the Great of late. And then, to have been taken more than a day's ride downstream in the River Carnen, to the borders of North Rhûn, almost into Dorwinon itself...It was a miracle, and a testament to the resilience of the elves, that he had even survived.
It was with a bittersweet hope that she wished for some surviving family member to come searching for him, though she knew it was unlikely any search would come so far.
Aegaswyn resolved to send a messenger to Greenwood that an elven child had been found. Her chest tightened at the thought that he would leave, but she could not justify keeping him if he did indeed have family mourning his loss. Her husband, Aron, lost now for two years, would never have approved, though he would've understood the gaping maw of grief that had never left her since their little son, Arion, had fallen from a fever.
Resolved to do what she could to reunite the boy with any family he may have, she mused at his baby-soft skin, trying to guage his age. He looked to be about three to four years old, and she couldn't quite remember if he would be younger or older. The rate of aging among elves was a source of no little confusion, after all.
If the messenger returned alone, what would she do? Keep the boy, obviously, and give him all that she could in place of his blood kin, but, what of his name?
She thought to not ask what he was called. She would teach him to write it, and he could record it for himself, but perhaps she would never hear his given name, that his family had given him. Perhaps that knowledge should be his, and his alone.
A new life deserved a new name, though Aegaswyn resolved to periodically remind him to think of his first name, and never to forget it, because it was his before she found him, and it was special.
And the name she gave him must be a special one, as well. A name that meant something to him, and would also mean something to his people, should he return to them. "Tinnûvion ar Carnenduin," she murmured reverently. Son of Twilight and the River Carnen.
The boy shifted in his sleep, settling deeper into the nest of blankets before the hearth, and Aegaswyn gave a soft smile.
Yes, he would return to his people someday, whether now, or when he was grown. She would make sure he was raised well, and would return to Greenwood proud of who he was and where he came from.
The next time a Ranger passed through, she would simply have to offer payment for his tutelage. They may not know everything, but they knew enough of the elves that Tinnûvion would know from whence he came, and would not fear returning one day.
Little did Aegaswyn know that it would be several thousand years, after the War of the Ring, before Tinnûvion would lay eyes on another elf.
And that the elf he met would be a mirror image of himself, right down to the startled blue gaze and hastily nocked arrow.
But, that is another story.AN:
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