Chapter Thirty-five: Confessions
After spending the entire morning working alongside Glorfindel in the kitchen, Miriel was somewhat surprised when he asked to spar with her later that afternoon. The Noldo was quite eager to see how much her skills had improved, if at all, since her departure from Imladris months ago.
Not one to refuse such a challenge, Miriel gladly agreed, although she had to find suitable clothing in which to “fight”, since the laundress’ had not yet returned her “traveling” garb. She sought out the twins, knowing they were the ones that could help put an end to her dilemma.
Her search for Elladan and Elrohir did not take very long. She found them on one of the porches, talking with Halbarad, Gúron, and Erestor.
“Greetings, all,” she said in a bubbly voice, joining the others.
The men warmly welcomed her.
“Where did you take off to so early this morning?” asked Elladan. “I woke before sunrise and you were already gone from bed.”
The others exchanged curious glances upon hearing Elladan’s comments.
“I went to help the cooks in the kitchen,” she answered, oblivious to the looks of her friends. She immediately changed the topic of conversation. “I’m in a bind,” she confessed. “Glorfindel wants to spar this afternoon, to see if my skills have improved - ”
“ - He’s in for a rude awakening,” interjected Gúron with a snort.
“I hope so,” Miriel replied, smiling. “I have nothing to wear,” she said, revealing her quandary. “My clothing is being laundered and I cannot fight in Arwen’s dress.” She fixed her gaze on the twins. “Can you two help me?”
“Of course we can,” answered Elrohir, surveying her with his keen eyes as if trying to guess her size. “Let me see what I can rustle up.”
When he started toward the door, Miriel said, “Meet us in my room.”
The youngest son of Elrond nodded before going back into the house.
She then linked arms with Elladan. “We’ll see you all later,” she added, addressing the others. She then pulled the Elf away, whispering, “I’ve got to talk to you.”
Erestor watched them intently as they disappeared into the House of Elrond. He then turned to Halbarad and Gúron. “Perhaps it’s just me, but I could’ve sworn I heard Elladan make the comment that Miriel was already gone from bed when he woke.” Arching a brow, he asked, “Is there something going on between them?”
“And that is why you are one of Rivendell’s chief counselors,” laughed Gúron, “Your keen sense of intuitiveness.”
“What?” queried a shocked Halbarad, his eyes widening in disbelief. “Miriel and Elladan? When did this happen?”
“You’re a Watcher, don’t you watch?” remarked the golden-haired Dúnadan.
“I have seen no indication - ” began Halbarad before his fellow Ranger cut off his sentence.
“ - Then you haven’t been watching closely enough!” interjected Gúron.
“How long have you known?” questioned the Watcher.
“A few days now. I learned of it whilst we were in Rhudaur, shortly after Thuringwethil’s death. Elrohir told me,” revealed Gúron.
“I had no idea,” muttered Hal, shaking his head.
“As I said, you should be watching your Slayer more,” added an amused Gúron. “I don’t know how you couldn’t
see it! It was rather obvious.”
“That is grim tidings,” said a rather dismal Erestor.
Furrowing his brows, Gúron queried, “How so?” From the Ranger perspective, he was thrilled at the prospect of witnessing yet another Elf mortal love affair. These instances were extremely rare, even when one looked back to the Elder Days. And now, in this day and age, Gúron was privy to, not only the love of Aragorn and Arwen, but also that of Elladan and Miriel. This was history in the making and he was delighted to see it firsthand. He couldn’t understand how that could be viewed as grim.
“Relationships between mortals and Elves always end in sorrow,” replied Erestor sadly. “I’m surprised, Gúron, that you have not given any thought to that. Surely, as a Ranger, you cannot have forgotten the lore regarding the kinship between our races.”
“I have only seen good come of it. Look at Lord Elrond. If it had not been for the love of Tuor and Idril and that of Beren and Lúthien, he would not have ever been born.”
“You speak truly,” answered Erestor. “However, those relationships ended in sorrow and brought much grief amongst the two kindreds. I’m afraid this news will trouble Elrond greatly.”
As Erestor and Gúron continued to debate the topic of Elf and mortal relationships, Hal remained motionless, still reeling in shocked disbelief over this revelation. He looked back over the weeks, searching for any signs that a romance had developed or was developing between his Slayer and the eldest son of Elrond. He hadn’t seen any.
After much thought, he raised his hand. “Wait a minute,” he said, interrupting the conversation between Erestor and Gúron. “I thought Miriel was in love with Glorfindel.”
The golden-haired Ranger chuckled. “That was but a young girl’s crush.”
“So, she doesn’t love Glorfindel,” said a very confused Halbarad.
“Not in a romantic way,” replied Gúron.
Hal’s thoughts then turned to Elladan’s previous comment to Miriel, which now began to bother him considerably. He locked eyes with Erestor. “Elladan indicated that he had slept in Miriel’s bed last night. Surely, he would not do anything… untoward
with a girl her age. Would he?” he demanded to know. The tone of his voice revealed both his doubt and displeasure with the whole situation.
“Of course not!” responded Erestor, aghast at the notion. “He’s the son of Lord Elrond and is as honorable and upstanding as they come. He would never take advantage of any woman, Elf or otherwise.”
“Do not get yourself wound up over this, Hal,” said Gúron in an attempt to quell the Watcher’s mounting ire. “Their relationship is in its earliest stage, like a flower, just beginning to bud.” He placed his hand comfortingly on Halbarad’s shoulder. “Quite honestly, I’m not sure that Miriel is aware of Elladan’s fondness of her.”
“You mean it’s one-sided?” remarked Erestor in surprise.
“For now, I believe.”
“I’m more confused than ever,” groaned Hal, shaking his head in dismay. “How is it that Elladan loves her, but she does not know?” He looked questionably at Gúron. “And how is it that you know of this?”
“Because I pay attention,” the Ranger replied. “I watch and I listen. Besides, Miriel has made comments that suggest that she does not realize her love for Elladan, yet.”
“I am beginning to better understand the wisdom of the Elves in this matter,” confessed Halbarad. “I deem that no good will come out of a relationship between Elladan and Miriel. If she should develop feelings for him, it could put us all at risk when faced with battle.”
“That’s rubbish,” said Gúron, waving his hand dismissively.
“No, it is not!” rebuked the Watcher. “Feelings like that will cause Miriel to lose focus, endangering not only her life but ours as well. We can have none of that!”
“That’s not your decision,” protested Gúron heatedly. “Just because you’ve decided to forswear love, does not give you the right to demand the same from Miriel, Slayer or not.”
Gúron’s mentioning of the word “love” caused Halbarad to snap. In an instant, he had sprung forth, his hand shooting out at astonishing speed, his fingers wrapping around his fellow Ranger’s throat with a vice-like grip. Poor Gúron was thrust backward, his back painfully colliding with the stone railing of the porch. Hal got within mere inches of his face, and hissed, “Don’t you dare talk to me about love, a word you know not the meaning of.” Spittle flew from his lips as he spoke. The skin of his face had turned a reddish hue. His grey eyes blazed with a fury that he usually kept in check except when confronted by the enemy.
“Get off me,” croaked Gúron, trying to pry the Watcher’s fingers from his throat.
Erestor attempted to wedge himself between the two Rangers, but Hal kept Gúron pinned in place with his body. “Let him go, Halbarad!” he demanded, unsuccessful at breaking the two apart.
“Miriel is my concern, not yours. You have no say so over her. Do you understand me?”
Gúron was incensed at being in such a predicament. Yet, he was unable to break free from the Watcher’s hold.
“Do you understand me?” Hal repeated with a snarl, squeezing his fingers tighter around Gúron’s throat
“Yea,” sputtered the golden-haired Ranger, miffed that he wasn’t able to overthrow his superior.
Halbarad finally backed off. Gúron gasped and coughed, rubbing his throbbing throat.
“I cannot believe the two of you would act in such a manner,” chastised Erestor. “You’re men of Arnor, of Westernesse. You’re held to a higher standard than others. I expect more from you.” He locked his disappointed gaze on Halbarad. “To resort to using violence against a fellow Ranger is a disgrace.”
With his chest still heaving from the adrenaline rush, Hal was in no mood for lectures. He turned and stormed off, leaving Gúron and Erestor behind.
Miriel and Elladan sat across from one another on her bed. He listened attentively as she told him all about her earlier conversation with Glorfindel and the promise he had demanded she make. “What do you think of that?” she asked. “Do you think he’s foreseen something horrible in my future?”
Elladan thought for a moment before answering. “He does have the gift of foresight. There are some that believe he can see further into the future than all others since he’s the only Elf in Endor that has been freed from the Halls of Mandos.” He paused before adding, “If Glorfindel has warned you against running off, then you’d do well to heed his counsel! It cannot get any simpler than that.”
Miriel frowned. She didn’t know what she had expected Elladan to say, but it wasn’t that.
“You’re planning on running off again, aren’t you?” asked the Elf in dismay.
“Of course not,” she replied unconvincingly.
Elladan raised a brow in doubt.
“I’m speaking the truth,” she said with much more conviction.
“I hope so,” he answered sadly.
Miriel could feel one of those lectures coming on. She could see it in Elladan’s eyes and body language. “You don’t believe me,” she groaned, falling back on the pile of pillows stacked against the headboard.
The Elf lay on his side, propping his head up with his hand. “I want to,” he said. “I wish I knew what to say or what to do to convince you that we’re here for you, no matter what enemy you’re destined to face.” He became more somber. “When you left us at the lake, I feared that I had lost you. I cannot imagine this world without you in it.”
His words tugged at the Slayer’s heartstrings. She rolled onto her side, facing him. “It’s going to happen, sooner or later. I’m the Slayer. A mortal. We don’t have - ”
“ - Long life spans,” he interjected, finishing her sentence. “I’m aware of that.”
She smiled. “Let’s forget about what Glorfindel said. I don’t want our conversation to get all gloomy and doomy.”
“Gloomy and doomy?” he chuckled. “You have such a way with words, Miriel.”
“Believe me when I say - I don’t,” she chortled in reply, recalling how atrocious her “love” poem was that she had written for Glorfindel.
“Alright then, let’s forget the gloomy and doomy. I’ve got a thought.”
“Just one?” she queried lightheartedly.
“For the moment,” he answered with a grin. “I want to immortalize you.”
“Immortalize me?” repeated a baffled Miriel. “What exactly does that mean?”
“Should anything happen to you, I want your memory to live on.”
The Slayer continued to look blankly at the Elf, unsure where he was going with this.
“I want to paint your portrait,” he said.
“Oh. And here I thought you Elves had discovered some deep magics that turn mortals into immortals. What was I thinking?” she said overdramatically.
Elladan waited for her response.
“I’ll have you know, my good Elf, that I’ve been immortalized in Minas Tirith. There’re several portraits of me there.” She paused, scrunching her face in thought. “Oh, and in Dol Amroth too,” she added.
“But your portrait does not hang on any wall in the House of Elrond,” he replied.
“And pray tell me, why would anyone want to see my portrait in the noble House of Elrond?”
“Because you’re an amazing woman,” Elladan answered without hesitation.
Miriel rolled her eyes.
“And you’re beautiful and brave.”
Her cheeks began to turn pink. “Stop teasing me,” she demanded, pushing Elladan back.
“I’m not teasing you. I speak the truth. Why does that bother you?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
There was a lull in their conversation. Elladan’s eyes remained locked on her. Miriel could feel this strange vibe lingering between them. It wasn’t tension, but something else. Deciding that she needed to say something, anything, she replied with, “Well, thank you for saying so.”
That brought a smile to the Elf’s face. “Sit up,” he said, helping to pull her upright. “Let me get a good look at you.” His hand went to her hair, which had been tied back. “May I?” he asked.
He gently slid the ribbon from her hair. “Yes,” he said softly. “I think I should like to paint you with your hair down.” He brought her hair over the front of her shoulders, positioning it just so. He then leaned back, studying her face. “Let me see you with your hair up,” he then said, readjusting her hair carefully into a bun. Holding her hair in place, he leaned back again. “No, I think I like it better down.”
“And they say women are the indecisive ones,” she quipped.
“I just want to make sure that I capture you perfectly.”
“Good luck with that,” she chuckled.
He then lifted her chin. His hand slid along her jaw line to her cheekbone. “You have wonderful bone structure.”
“Alright,” she drawled. “I have to say I’ve never heard that before!”
He cupped her face with both hands, gently caressing her skin. Miriel found that to be very odd.
“You act more like a sculptor than a painter,” she remarked. “Why this need to feel my face?”
“An artist uses more than his sense of sight for inspiration.”
“Hmm, I never knew that. I guess you do learn something new everyday.”
“Indeed,” he replied, as he continued to caress her face and readjust her hair.
“So, how long have you been painting?” asked Miriel, feeling a little awkward.
“Oh, around twenty five hundred years or so,” he answered.
“I sometimes forget how old you and Elrohir are. You definitely don’t look your age,” remarked Miriel with a chuckle. “You look no older than me.”
“Alas, I feel my age.” There was an underlying sadness in his voice.
The smile faded from Miriel’s face when she heard that.
When Elladan saw the Slayer’s reaction, he bounced back, saying, “But, you make me feel young again, Miriel. And that, in and of itself, is an extraordinary feat.” The smile returned to his face as he lovingly caressed her cheeks with his fingertips. He looked deeply into Miriel’s eyes, his heart full of such joy at finally discovering love after two thousand eight hundred and sixty seven years on this Earth.
For some reason, his thoughts turned to the story that Miriel had told months ago, the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
. Elladan wanted to be her knight in shining armor, the knight that rushes in and saves her from a horrible fate. Maybe, just maybe, a kiss would wash away all the evil ever done to her and awaken her love for him that he knew she would one day come to realize.
They continued to stare deeply into each other’s eyes. Miriel wasn’t pulling away from him. He took that as a sign. Now, he believed, was the perfect time to kiss her. He was about to make his move when the bedroom door suddenly flung open, startling them both. Miriel jerked back, out of Elladan’s tender grasp. Elrohir barged into the chamber, carrying a bundle of clothing in his arms. The moment was lost.
Elrohir immediately noticed the look on his twin’s face. He came to an abrupt halt, realizing a little too late that he had interrupted something. “I found you some clothing,” he said, his eyes darting from Elladan to Miriel.
“Ah, you’ve come through for me.” A delighted Miriel bounded off the bed and strode across the room to Elrohir. “Thank you so much,” she said, taking the garments and giving the Elf a quick peck on the cheek. “Have a seat whilst I change.” She then disappeared into the bathing chamber so that she could change in private.
With Miriel gone for a few minutes, Elrohir looked questionably at his twin. “Did I interrupt something?”
“You have no idea,” replied a glum Elladan.
Elrohir sat beside his brother. “I’m sorry, El. I didn’t know.”
“It’s alright,” he answered, offering his twin a halfhearted smile. “I reckon it wasn’t the time.”
Elrohir felt bad for his brother. He gave him a sympathetic pat on the back, assuring him that that time would come.
A few minutes later, Miriel burst back into the room, brushing her hair. “I think I need to braid my hair. What do you think?” she asked, looking at each twin.
“I’ll braid your hair,” offered Elladan as he sprang from the bed. “Sit on the floor in front of the chair.” He grabbed the brush from her hand as he passed her by. He glanced over his shoulder at his brother. “Can you find a clip?”
“There’s one on the dressing table,” said Miriel, plopping down on the floor.
After Elladan had finished braiding Miriel’s hair, the trio sat around, chatting away like old times. When two o’clock rolled around, the Slayer announced that it was time to meet Glorfindel downstairs in the vestibule.
“I have something I need to do first,” said Elladan. “I’ll be down shortly.”
“Alright,” replied Elrohir and Miriel in unison as they took off to meet the Noldo.
Glorfindel was already waiting downstairs with a small crowd gathered around him.
“There she is,” proclaimed the Noldo loudly, drowning out the others’ voices.
A hush fell over the score or so of people, as Miriel and Elrohir approached the group. “What’s this? An audience?” asked the Slayer, eyeing the group of Elves that surrounded the mighty Glorfindel.
“They want to watch,” he replied. “You do not have a problem with that, do you?”
Miriel smiled. “Of course not. The more people that see me kick your butt, the better.” Her smile widened. “Are you ready to be defeated by a girl?”
Glorfindel laughed heartily. “That remains to be seen, Dagnir. I’ve been at this far longer than you!”
“True, but you’re no Slayer,” she shot back with a wink.
The Noldo merely grinned in reply. He motioned toward the open front door. The Elves backed away, making a pathway toward the front porch. Miriel, Elrohir, and Glorfindel filed out, followed by the spectators.
“I’ve set everything out in the back garden,” the Noldo informed the Slayer, as they neared the corner of the house. He glanced at her. “I hope your proficiency with the bow has improved.”
While Miriel wasn’t too keen on that particular weapon, she had gotten better. “I’ll have you know that I’ve killed many an Orc with a bow,” she proudly boasted.
“Good,” he answered with a smile. “Then we shall begin with archery.” Though the Slayer grinned in return, Glorfindel heard the unmistakable sound of a low groan escaping Miriel’s throat.
By the time they had reached the rear of the house, many more Elves had gathered there. There were now about sixty Elves altogether. Apparently, the match between Noldo and Slayer would be their main form of entertainment for the day.
Miriel eyed the target, which was about seventy-five feet away. Her jaw dropped, as to her that was no target, but merely the bull ’s eye of one. The red circle was no more than six inches in diameter. She immediately lost confidence. “What the hell is that? That’s no target. It’s tiny!” she complained.
“Ah, but a true marksman can hit a target even smaller than that,” replied an extremely confident Glorfindel, as he grabbed an arrow from the pile on the ground. He then armed his weapon. A hush fell over the crowd as he eyed his target. A ping rang out as his missile went flying through the air, hitting the target dead center. The spectators cheered and applauded. He lowered his weapon, nodding approvingly. “And that’s how it’s done.” Glorfindel handed the bow to Miriel. “Your turn.”
The Slayer took the proffered weapon. Snatching an arrow from the pile, she took several deep breaths in an attempt to steady her nerves. Those observing went quiet, waiting anxiously for Miriel’s shot. She wiped the sweat from her palms before arming her weapon. O’ how she hated archery! She pulled back on the elven hair of the bow, then released her arrow. It went whizzing through the air, missing the target by nearly a foot.
There were some moans of disappointment from the crowd and more than a few chuckles.
“Damn it!” she bellowed, the blood rushing to her face in a mixture of anger and embarrassment. She was about to throw the bow down when Glorfindel placed his hand over hers.
“Let’s try again,” he said, stepping behind her. “Do not let your nerves get the best of you, Miriel,” he whispered. He raised the weapon, repositioning her hands on the bow. Miriel could feel the Noldo’s breath against her ear. “Focus,” he continued. “Look at the target as if it’s a troll’s eye. Go for the kill.” He let go and stepped to the side.
Miriel squinted, fixing her gaze squarely on the center of the target. She did her best to concentrate, contemplating Glorfindel’s words. With a ping, she released her missile, which sailed through the air, hitting the target’s edge. The arrow hadn’t penetrated the skin deeply enough and drooped, then fell to the ground.
“Fuck this,” she spat in disdain, too frustrated to continue on with archery.
The Elf Lord was sympathetic. “As long as you hit your target when it counts is all that matters.” He gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “However, practice makes perfect.”
Miriel remained dispirited. With her head hung low, she mumbled, “I hate the bow.”
“Then let us practice some more.”
“No!” she barked in a demonstration of her stubbornness. Feeling defeated, she threw down her weapon. She looked the Noldo in the eye. “Let’s face reality here,” she began, sounding more rational than a second before. “In real combat situations, you face the enemy one-on-one. That’s where the true test lies.”
“I agree, to a point,” replied Glorfindel. “But, if you are given the opportunity to shoot some of the enemy from afar, that increases your chances of surviving one-on-one combat.” He stepped closer, speaking softly so that none could overhear his words. “Perhaps we’ll practice archery at another time, when there are no others around, hmm?”
Miriel knew that Glorfindel wanted to help her excel at this particular activity. She felt her eyes beginning to well up at his kindness. She could only nod in reply.
With that issue resolved, the Elf Lord resumed speaking in a louder voice so everyone could hear. “Alright. Time to move onto something else. Shall we duel or wrestle? What’s your preference, Dagnir?”
The Slayer smiled, relieved that she would not be humiliated any further. She trusted in her ability to fight in a one-on-one situation, whether dueling or wrestling. “Take your pick, my Lord,” she answered with a curt nod. “I’m better at either sport.”
“Then we shall duel with wooden swords,” announced Glorfindel.
The excitement returned to Miriel’s eyes, which brightened at the Noldo’s suggestion. The Elves cleared a wide area for the two warriors to spar, seating themselves in a ring on the soft green grass.
As the two began their duel, Elladan strolled out of the house and onto the porch. Instead of joining his brother seated on the grass, he leaned against the porch railing, watching the contest unfolding on the lawn below. His smile widened when he saw Miriel use her body as a weapon, quickly besting Glorfindel in their first match.
He was so engrossed in the competition that he didn’t notice his father’s arrival until Elrond said, “Dagnir’s skills have greatly improved.”
“Yes, they have,” answered Elladan, his eyes glued to the dueling warriors.
Elrond surreptitiously watched his son from the corner of his eye, his concern for his firstborn weighing heavily on his mind. He paused, gripping the railing, as he thought of the best way to broach the issue that troubled him so. “Son, I need to talk to you,” he finally said.
Upon hearing the grave tone to his voice, Elladan stood upright and faced his father. “What is it, Adar?”
“It has been brought to my attention that you spent the night with Miriel,” revealed Elrond as delicately as possible.
Erestor, thought Elladan glumly, knowing exactly who had brought this subject to his father’s attention. “I did, but I assure you, Father, that it was perfectly chaste. Miriel and I had talked until we fell asleep.”
“I do not doubt that. You’re an honorable Elf. That, I do not call into question,” Elrond was quick to answer. He locked eyes with his son, keenly searching both his mind and heart. “You have feelings for this Slayer, no?”
“I have feelings for Miriel, yes,” he said, correcting his father. “There’s more to her than her… slayerness.” He sounded remarkably like Miriel, who had picked up the word “slayerness” from Buffy.
“Do you love her?”
Elladan shifted his gaze from Elrond to Miriel, who had just swept Glorfindel off his feet and onto his backside. Leaning on the railing once again, he answered, “Yes.”
His response was what Elrond had dreaded to hear most. It felt as if a dagger had just pierced his heart. He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Need I remind you that Slayers are not long for this world,” said Elrond, desperately attempting to conceal his anguish.
Elladan turned toward his father. “She has a name, Father. Addressing her as Slayer - ”
“ - Is my way of stressing to you that she is not long for this world,” interjected the Lord of Imladris. “She is death.”
Elladan slowly shook his head. “That’s where you’re wrong. She’s life and full of love.”
“She’s mortal,” reminded Elrond insistently.
Undaunted, Elladan replied, “So she is. And that’s what makes our time together more precious. Every day must count. Every day is a gift.” Finding his father’s comments hurtful, he asked, “Why do you try to dissuade my feelings when no one
has ever made me feel this way before?”
Sadness seeped from every fiber of Elrond’s being. “Am I to be deprived of not only my daughter, but my sons as well?” queried the Elf Lord with much sorrow.
“Elrohir is able to make his own choice.”
“And you think your brother would leave his twin behind, in hopes of finding solace in the Blessed Realm?”
Elladan did not answer.
Elrond stepped closer and placed his hands on his firstborn’s shoulders. “I love you, my son. But you must listen to reason. Miriel is not long for this world - you know that
. Do no deny yourself that gift which has been bestowed upon my children. There are other women in this world and also in Valinor. Who’s to say that your mate is not already there, dwelling in the fair lands of Eldamar?”
“There is only one for me and she is over there,” he answered, nudging his head toward Miriel. “Why can you not be happy for me, Father? After all these years, I’ve found love even when unlooked for.”
“Does she love you back?” asked Elrond point-blank.
“In time, she will. And I know you’ve foreseen that as well, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation, now would we?”
The Lord of Imladris dropped his hands to his sides, bowing his head in defeat.
“Do not let this news fill you with sorrow,” said Elladan, trying to console his father. “Rejoice in knowing that I have found love after many years of loneliness.”
Elrond glanced up at his son, tears forming in his eyes. He hadn’t really given any thought to the loneliness that either of his sons must have felt over the years.
“I would gladly forfeit my immortality to experience true love, even if only for a single day,” insisted Elladan.
“But, my son, Miriel’s life is destined to be short,” Elrond attempted to plead.
“It’s my choice, Father. My choice
,” Elladan said, letting his father know he would not be able sway him on this matter. Then, in a faraway voice, he added, “I will go to my death knowing that one day, upon the breaking of the world, she and I will be reunited and freed from the Halls of Mandos. And there, outside the doors, you and Mother will await, to welcome us back into the world.”
Elladan took a deep breath, shaking off the vision he had seen on a few occasions thus far. “Be happy for me, Adar,” he continued, offering his father a small smile. “You’re a descendent of Lúthien. Your line will not fail. It will continue through Arwen and Aragorn. Perhaps you’ll find healing in the West when at long last you’re reunited with Nana.”
At that moment, Miriel shouted for Elladan. He turned, only to see her waving him over. He smiled before turning his attention back to his father. “Do not let my love for Miriel divide us.”
“Never,” answered Elrond. He warmly embraced his son. “Nothing or no one will ever come between us.” He pulled out of the hug. “Go to her,” he added with a halfhearted smile.
“Thank you, Father.” Elladan turned and hurried down the steps of the porch, then rushed over to Miriel.
Erestor, who happened to be standing just inside the doorway, strolled onto the porch carrying two glasses of wine. He walked up to his lord, handing him one of the glasses. “I thought you could use this.”
“Thank you, my friend,” replied Elrond, taking the proffered wine. He took a sip, before leaning against the railing, looking on as Miriel threw her arms around Elladan’s neck in a moment of celebration. “I cannot help but feel that my line is doomed, that the hammer will soon fall upon my house,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Bitter days lie ahead.”
“I deem Thingol had made the same observation after Lúthien set eyes on Beren,” responded Rivendell’s chief councilor.
Elrond turned to Erestor with his brow arched.
“Surely, you’ve noticed that it’s been your forebears that have coupled with mortal kind.”
“Yet, I wish that Elladan could be more like Aegnor, the Lady Galadriel’s brother, and turn away from the love of a mortal woman, knowing that it will only end in sorrow.”
“None that live in this world or any other are immune to sorrow, and that you should know very well,” said Erestor firmly yet gently. “Grief has a way of seizing us all in its clutches, whether we are Elf or Man.”
Elrond needn’t be reminded of sorrow and grief, for he felt the loss of Celebrían daily. He fell quiet for a little while, lost in his thoughts. “Every union between Elven-kind and Mankind has heralded some doomful event,” he said, softly uttering his thoughts aloud. He faced Erestor, his eyes full of hope. “Could it be the same for Elladan and Miriel? Could it be that together they will overcome some great odds?”
“My lord, Thuringwethil is dead. I would say that was overcoming a great odd.”
“Hmm,” sounded Elrond, as he resumed watching the sparing match. He sipped his wine. “Elladan played no part in that.”
“No part?” repeated an astonished Erestor. “If not for your sons and the Rangers, Miriel would’ve been ambushed, with disastrous results! Elladan played his part, as he was destined to. No role is too small in the big scheme of things. For millennia, a shadow has lurked at the foot of the mountains, a shadow that has evaded us. It’s gone. It’s been defeated, thanks, in no small part, to Miriel. She has done what others have not, even those amongst the Eldar - she has slain a Maia, a Maia we have long believed dead. Does the Slayer not deserve to be rewarded for that? Is she not entitled to the love of one who chooses to give it freely?”
Elrond looked down at his glass, gently swirling the contents. “She is unaware that Elladan has affection for her.” He glanced up at Erestor. “Does love not happen at first sight? That is how it was with Celebrían and me. I loved her the moment I set eyes on her. And the same can be said for Arwen and Aragorn. They too claim to have fallen in love at first sight.”
“Nay,” said Erestor, waving his hand dismissively. “Love is not always realized at first sight or with the first touch. Sometimes love develops out of friendship. That’s how it was for me and my beloved.”
“She is so young, only seventeen,” said Elrond grimly. “And a Slayer.”
“If I recall correctly, Aragorn was twenty when he fell in love with Arwen. That’s not much older than she is now.”
“She’s still the Slayer and her doom draws neigh,” revealed the Lord of Imladris.
“You dwell too much on Miriel being the Slayer. She is a warrior, no different than… say, Aragorn. They both have a mission, a destiny to fulfill.”
“Yet I will not allow my daughter to relinquish her immortality until Aragorn proves he’s worthy. He will not have her hand until he is King of the reunited realms of Gondor and Arnor. And that will be no easy feat. It is unfathomable for me to think that Elladan would surrender his gift for a woman who will never bear his children, who will not live to see old age, and, who, chances are, will perish in battle.”
“And the death of Thuringwethil required little effort on Miriel’s part, hmm,” said Erestor, rather sarcastically. “You, my friend, are changing the rules when it comes to Miriel. She has proven her worthiness, especially in your son’s eyes. Too few women have accomplished such deeds as she. Should Miriel not be honored with the likes of your foremothers, Lúthien and Idril?”
“You, my Lord Elrond, are being selfish and are only thinking of your loss, which, by the way, hasn’t even been realized as of yet.” Erestor followed Elrond’s gaze, watching the Slayer in action against Glorfindel. “Miriel is a warrior, as is your son. How can it be unfathomable that he be would attracted to that, to her? Night after night, he’s out there, fighting the good fight. There is always the possibility that he could fall in battle. We Elves are not impervious to death. We are merely granted a longer life, for, in time, those of our kindred that do not heed the call to West, will begin to fade, becoming nothing more than shadows of our former selves.” He shifted his eyes back to the Lord of Imladris. “The question is: Is it better to have loved, even if briefly, than to have never loved at all?”
Elrond gulped down the rest of his wine, before saying, “A lesser man would not get away with speaking to me in that manner.”
“Well, then, let us thank the Valar that I’m not a lesser man,” replied Erestor, raising his glass to the West before taking a swig.
With a halfhearted smile on his face, Elrond faced his dear friend. “Why must you show wisdom when unsolicited?”
“Because I’m your Chief Councilor. That’s my job.” Erestor smiled. “And you know that I speak the truth. Let them be,” he advised, motioning his head toward Miriel and Elladan.
Elrond sighed as he leaned against the railing, resuming his watch on the Slayer. “So much tragedy and sorrow has befallen Miriel in her young life already,” he softly revealed.
“And yet she perseveres, overcoming the obstacles set out before her. That is a quality not often seen in Man.” Erestor glanced at Miriel, who was now wrestling the Noldo. “She reminds me of Húrin Thalion before his days turned dark.”
“That was before my time,” said Elrond.
“Not mine,” answered Erestor. “There is a strength in Miriel that is to be admired. She shows much resiliency.”
Elrond nodded in agreement, as there was no way he could refute that.
“And to think of how far she has come…” Erestor’s words trailed off. After a few moments, he turned, facing his lord. “Miriel did not choose this life of hardship and toil, but was chosen. She is from the noblest house of Gondor! She gave that up for the arduous life of slaying. She is to be commended. Not many of her stature, I deem, would so readily embrace their Calling.”
“Unless one is fleeing from the life they had lead,” said Elrond under his breath.
Erestor waited for the Lord of Rivendell to say more. When he did not, the Councilor continued, “We cannot change what is fated to be.”
“Doomed to be,” corrected Elrond dismally. “I would never have expected that all of my children would choose mortality over everlasting life.”
“That time is not yet upon us. Their choice is not to be made until you’re ready to leave Middle-earth.”
“What happened to ‘we cannot change what is fated to be’?” queried Elrond wryly. “You sound like a walking contradiction.”
“Of course, I am,” replied Erestor in a lighthearted tone. “I’m an Elf!”
Miriel had beaten Glorfindel in nearly all contests that dealt with hand-to-hand combat. It was a sweet, sweet victory despite a few of the Elves proclaiming that the mighty Noldo had let her win in order to boost her confidence when she returned to the world outside Rivendell’s borders. Of course, the cheerleader of the group was none other than Bandir, who apparently didn’t like Miriel much. She had given him the finger, but he merely looked at her strangely, not knowing the significance of that gesture.
She, along with the twins and Glorfindel then left the garden, returning to the house. On the way, the Noldo asked, “Will you be returning to the kitchen?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she replied, wiping the sweat from her neck. “I need a bath and don’t want to get sweaty again.”
“Alright. If you have time, I’d like to see you later. Perhaps after supper, in my quarters?” he asked.
“I’ll see you then.” Glorfindel then hastened ahead, disappearing into the throng of people.
“What do you think that’s all about?” Miriel asked the twins.
“I have no idea,” replied Elrohir with a shrug.
“Me either. I’m sure it’s important though. Why else would he want you to go to his rooms?” said Elladan. As soon as Elladan had said that, his heart filled with dismay. Was it possible that Glorfindel had begun to have feelings for Miriel, his
Miriel? The Noldo seldom invited guest to his private chambers.
Elrohir immediately noticed the change in his brother. He wanted to dispel any unpleasant and ridiculous thoughts he may be having as quickly as possible. “He loves you like a daughter,” he said. “I’ve never seen him act that way to anyone else… ever
That little reminder did the trick, snapping Elladan back to his senses. He smiled gratefully at his twin.
“I know,” replied Miriel. “I’m lucky in that respect, I guess. My substitute father is ten times better than my real one.” Of course, the mere mention of Denethor brought those unpleasant thoughts racing to her mind. She could feel a bout of melancholy beginning to creep over her.
“How is that so?” asked Elrohir, trying to dig a bit deeper into her relationship with the Steward of Gondor.
The Slayer never answered. Instead, she wrestled with her internal demon, expelling all thoughts of Denethor from her mind. Determined to swiftly change the subject, she asked, “Why does Bandir hate me?” She found that particular Elf annoying.
“He’s an ass!” exclaimed Elladan. “Don’t let him get to you.”
“But he does. And that kills me.”
“He’s stuck in the old ways,” said Elrohir.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he believes a woman’s place is at home, tending to the children. There are many Elves that believe a woman should never go into battle, that it’s a man’s duty to protect the women and children from harm.”
“Pfft,” the Slayer sounded, rolling her eyes at the absurdity of that. “You would think the Elves, of all people, would not forget history.”
“You’re right, Miriel,” chimed in Elladan. “Take our grandmother, Galadriel, for example. She’s not only the Lady of Lórien, from the line of Finwë, but she has also fought in many battles.” He looked at Miriel, smiling. “You remind me of her in a lot of ways.”
“Oh, Lothlórien,” said Miriel breathlessly, a dreamy expression coming to her face. “O’ how I would love to walk through the enchanted woods of Lórien. It’s rumored to be the fairest place in all Middle-earth.” She shook her head, knowing that she’d never go there. Frowning, she turned to Elladan. “And for your information, I’m nothing like the Lady Galadriel!”
“Do you know her?” queried Elladan, his brow raised in question.
“Of course not.”
“Then who are you to say that you’re not like her. You’re both courageous and wise.”
Miriel laughed. “Wise? Me? I think you have me confused with someone else.”
“You possess a wisdom far greater than those of your age.”
“And how many mortal women do you know that are my age?” asked Miriel with a chortle. She looked around at those still milling around outside. “For the life of me, I cannot see one mortal maid amid all the Elves.”
“They’ve been through here in the past.”
“Perhaps so,” she answered, conceding that point. “Regardless, there haven’t been any esteemed women warriors - mortal women warriors
,” she repeated with added emphasis, “since the Elder Days.”
“And what are you?” asked Elrohir.
“Oh, yes,” snorted Miriel, as they climbed the steps of the porch. “I’m sure people will hear all about me and my exploits.” She shook her head. “Need I remind you, Elrohir that I’ve been sworn to live a life of secrecy. No one knows who I am or what I’ve done.”
“This may come as a surprise to you, my friend, but I believe you’ve let the cat out of the bag on that one,” said Elrohir with a chuckle.
The Slayer rolled her eyes. “Alright, those in Rivendell know.”
“And I would deem that those in Bree-land know as well,” said Elladan, as they entered the front doors of the house.
“You think they know who I am? I mean, that I’m the Slayer?”
“I don’t know about that,” he replied.
“They know you’re something more than… normal,” piped in Elrohir.
“So, I’m abnormal?”
“I didn’t say that,” said Elrohir defensively. “I said they
think you are.”
“Why does that not make me feel better?” she said with a groan as they started down the hallway. “Looks like my legacy, if you want to call it that, will be confined to the annals of Halbarad’s diaries.”
“It needn’t be that way. I’ll write your story, Miriel,” said Elladan.
She laughed upon hearing that. “I’m sure Hal will appreciate that.”
“I’m serious. Your tale deserves to be told and I’ll see that it’s done.”
Miriel glanced at Elladan and smiled. “If you need to embellish parts - feel free,” she said with a wink. She immediately dismissed the notion. However, in years to come, Elladan would remain true to his word.
Once the Slayer had bathed, she slipped into a red dress that Elladan had chosen from his sister’s wardrobes. He insisted on starting his portrait of Miriel that afternoon. She grudgingly agreed. She, Elladan and Elrohir then headed downstairs to a small room with a wall of tall windows which filled the space with lots of natural light. A large, blank canvas had already been set on an easel, steps away from a hard, wooden chair placed near the back wall beside the windows. Elladan’s “tools of the trade” as he called them, were neatly arranged on a table next to the easel. There were several small clay pots filled with paint, paintbrushes in all shapes and sizes, and a few stained rags.
As soon as Miriel had taken her seat, Elladan came over, positioning her head just so. “Move your shoulders back,” he instructed, as he pushed against them slightly. He then rearranged her hair so that it fell over the front of her shoulders.
It wasn’t long before Miriel began to issue her first complaints. “Why is it that you painters always insist on seating your subjects on the most uncomfortable chairs imaginable?” the Slayer grumbled, as she repositioned her bottom on the seat. “You know that’s why hardly anyone smiles in paintings. They’re too damn uncomfortable!” She looked longingly at Elrohir, who lay stretched out on a comfortable, cushioned sofa.
“It’s not that
bad,” replied Elladan with a smile. “After the third or forth hour, perhaps, but you haven’t even been seated for twenty minutes! You can hold off on your complaining until then.”
“Well, I for one, have no intention on sitting on such a hard chair for hours on end.”
“You want this portrait to be perfect, don’t you?” asked Elladan.
“I’m not perfect, so why would I expect my portrait to be.”
“I expect it to be perfect. So sit still,” gently scolded the Elf.
Miriel kept her complaints of agony to herself, (for the most part). Elrohir did his part too, trying to keep her distracted when he could see her discomfort becoming too great.
When the dinner bells sounded, it was as if heaven-sent. The Slayer leapt out of that chair before the end of the first chime. “Saved by the bells,” she said gratefully, rubbing her sore backside.
Once again, the trio avoided eating with the rest of the household. They grabbed their plates of food, a bottle of wine, and headed upstairs, eating on Miriel’s comfy bed.
Shortly thereafter, Arwen joined them. She was feeling sad, missing Aragorn terribly. Her brothers and Miriel did their best to cheer up the sullen elleth, telling her about their adventures on the road, emphasizing Aragorn’s part in their skirmishes.
“He’s on the right path, Arwen,” said Elrohir. “He’s fighting as hard as he can to make your dreams come true.”
Arwen played with the Ring of Barahir on her forefinger. “The waiting is nearly unbearable.”
“But, it’ll be worth it in the end,” said Miriel, placing a comforting hand on Arwen’s hand. “You’ll see.”
No words seemed to help Arwen, and after a little while, she left.
“Let’s go for a walk tonight,” suggested Elladan, after gazing out the window. “It’s a lovely, clear night and the stars will soon be out, lighting up the pitch-black sky.”
“I’m up for it,” answered the Slayer.
“Weren’t you supposed to meet with Glorfindel?” reminded Elrohir.
“Oh, crap. I completely forgot,” said Miriel, jumping off the bed. Arwen had come to her room after dinner, which had been a while ago, so Miriel was quite late for her meeting with the Noldo. When Miriel reached the door, she glanced over her shoulder and said, “If you want to go for that walk when I get back, I’m still willing.”
“We’ll wait for you,” replied Elladan, stretching out on the bed.
The Slayer slipped out of the room and started down the hallway. It suddenly occurred to her that she had no idea where Glorfindel’s rooms were. The Halls of Elrond were enormous and there was no possible way that she could find it on her own. Perhaps the easiest thing to do would be to ask the twins, but Miriel’s feet continued on their way, descending the staircase instead. Distracted by her thoughts, Miriel happened to collide with Erestor at the foot of the stairs.
sorry,” apologized Miriel. “I didn’t see you.”
“We have to stop meeting like this, Dagnir,” chuckled the Councilor as he rubbed his shoulder, recalling how Miriel had collided with him on her last visit to Imladris.
“At least you stayed on your feet this time,” said Miriel lightheartedly, remembering that she had knocked him on his backside last time.
“That I did. Where are you off to in such a hurry?” he asked.
“Actually, you may be of some help, if you have the time. I’m searching for Glorfindel’s rooms. He told me that he wanted to see me after dinner, and, well… I’m late and lost.”
“I can most certainly help you there. We’ll need to go to the third floor,” he said, motioning toward the stairway behind the Slayer.
The two began to climb the steps, side-by-side. “So, how have you been, Miriel?”
“Fine,” answered the Slayer. “And you?”
“I’m well. Thank you,” Erestor politely responded. “Have you adjusted to your life on the road with the Rangers?”
“I guess,” she replied.
“You guess?” he queried, unsure if that was good or bad.
“Well, it is what it is, I suppose. I mean, it’s alright. But it’s nice being here, sleeping on a soft, warm bed at night instead of the hard, cold ground. And the food - I just love the food here. A diet of lembas gets old relatively fast.”
Erestor chortled. “I imagine it does. However, lembas provides a great deal of sustenance to keep you going.”
“I don’t deny that. Nothing beats a hot, home-cooked meal though. That’s what I miss the most on our journeys. That, and hot baths. We’re not afforded those luxuries on the road.”
The Councilor smiled. “I would deem that to be quite difficult for a young woman, especially.”
“I don’t know,” she answered with a shrug. “That’s just the way it is. You accept it or go home.”
They continued beyond the second floor to the third. “Have you ever thought about going home? To Minas Tirith, I mean?”
Miriel glanced at Erestor, finding his comment very strange. “No,” she answered firmly, shifting her gaze back to the steps. “This is my life now.”
The Councilor could feel the tension emanating from the Slayer because of his question. “I hope I haven’t offended you in some way.”
“No,” she answered curtly.
“I have offended you,” he said, watching Miriel closely as they walked down one of the third floor corridors. “That was not my intention.” Erestor attempted to explain himself. “I know that life must be difficult for you. To go from living the life of a princess to that of a hunter in the wilds - that has to have a lasting effect on you.” The Councilor sighed, thinking that he was probably making the situation worse. “I admire you and all that you do,” he confessed. “You have achieved so much in your young life. It’s quite remarkable when you think about it.”
Miriel could feel the heat rushing to her cheeks. “It’s really no big deal.”
Erestor’s smile widened. “Warriors are not usually known for their modesty.”
“I’m sure there are some that would beg to differ with you on that.”
“Here we are,” said Erestor, stopping outside the double-doors to Glorfindel’s quarters. “Perhaps we can chat again, before you leave.”
“Sure,” replied Miriel, offering the Councilor a quick smile. “Thanks for the escort.”
“My pleasure.” Erestor then turned and started down the hallway.
Miriel watched until he disappeared around the corner. She gad found their conversation to be very strange and was relieved that it was over. She knocked on the ornately-carved door.
A few seconds later, the door opened and there stood Glorfindel with his pocket watch in hand. “You’re late.”
“Sorry. I was - ”
“ - With Elladan and Elrohir. Yes, I know,” he said, finishing her sentence. He swung the door open further. “Come in. Come in.”
The moment Miriel stepped into what appeared to be Glorfindel’s sitting room, her jaw dropped and her eyes widened. The room was the most opulent she had seen in Rivendell thus far. What really grabbed her attention immediately was the dome-shaped ceiling. Emeralds, carved in the shape of leaves, mirroring a treetop, covered the entire ceiling and the upper portion of the light-wood colored, paneled walls. The lamplight reflected on the gemstones, bedazzling the eyes. A mammoth pillar, constructed from the same wood as the walls, stood prominently in the center of the room, carved in the likeness of a tree trunk. “Branches” forked out from the pillar near the ceiling, creating the illusion that one had stepped under a magnificent canopy of glittering green leaves. Arched windows that stretched from floor to ceiling formed the entire wall to her left. A set of glass double doors led to a balcony, which overlooked the grounds at the front of the house.
On the opposite wall was the fireplace, framed in green marble. An intricately carved mantle hung above, shaped into the likeness of flowers and ivy intertwined in contrasting tones of wood. It was exquisite! A painting of some cityscape unknown to the Slayer hung over the mantle, the details quite impressive. A green and gold striped couch sat before the fireplace, flanked by a green winged-back chair to the left, and one in gold to the right. A coffee table, the legs carved into the shapes of forest animals (squirrels and rabbits), sat before the sofa. There were a few leather-bound books and a handheld golden harp lying on the surface.
“I take it you like it,” said Glorfindel, a pleasing smile on his handsome face.
“Like it?” she said in awe. “This is the most amazing room I’ve ever seen in my life!” She shifted her gaze to the Noldo. “It fits you.”
Glorfindel nodded. “I’m glad that you approve.”
“Is that Gondolin?” she asked, pointing to the painting over the mantle.
The Noldo looked up at the painting. “No, I’m afraid not.” He strolled over to the portrait. Miriel followed. “That is Tirion the Fair, in Valinor.”
“That is our home, in the West,” he said wistfully. “It is a place where I have seen much joy and also much sorrow.”
Miriel looked closer at the Noldo. “Do you miss it?”
“Yes, yes I do.” He took a deep breath. “But I will, one day, go back. And I expect that day to be one of both joy and sorrow - joy at my returning, and sorrow at my departing Middle-earth.”
“Well, you Elves always see the joy and sorrow in everything. We mortals don’t have time to reflect on things like you do,” observed Miriel.
“You speak truly! Mortal lives are so tragically short. So few remember how things were when the world was young and new, to us Elves any way.”
“The world was blighted long before we came into the picture.”
Glorfindel faced the Slayer. “And it was blighted before we came into it, as well. Morgoth Bauglir had defiled the labors of his kinsmen long before the Eldar awoke upon the shores of Cuiviénen. Yet, the world was a wondrous place to behold and we saw beauty in most things within it.” He raised a brow in question. “Did you not see the beauty of Gondor in your younger days?”
“Not really,” replied Miriel. “I grew up in the shadow of Mordor. That’s not something beautiful that one wants to behold.”
“Yet there are many fair places in Gondor - Ithilien, Lebennin and Dol Amroth, where your mother’s kinfolk dwell.”
“You haven’t been to Gondor recently, I take it. Things have changed. They’re not as they once were. Sauron’s armies have ravaged many parts of our country and Ithilien is no longer inhabited by anyone other than our armed forces. Times have changed and not for the better, I’m afraid.”
“And so it has been for countless years,” said Glorfindel with a sigh. “Middle-earth has been plagued by wars since the beginning. Evil can be kept in check but not wholly destroyed, or so it seems.”
“I believe that too,” said Miriel, thinking about Buffy’s time in the future. “I don’t know if that’s by the design of the Valar, or Ilúvatar. But, for some reason, the Powers allow evil to run amok in this world.”
“The marring of Morgoth cannot easily be repaired. He was the most powerful of the Valar, and it is said by those in the West, that his fëa has found a way out of the Void, and, that, from time to time, he comes into this world to corrupt the hearts of Men.”
Miriel fell silent upon hearing that. Thoughts of Bregolas flashed into her mind. She remembered a few times when he seemed to be conversing with somebody even when there were no other living souls around except for her. Could it be that he was actually talking with Morgoth? Was it possible that the evil Vala had escaped the Void and corrupted the heart of her dear friend? That seemed plausible, for shortly thereafter, his attitude changed, and he became, at times, demanding and threatening. Conversely, why would Morgoth attempt to corrupt Bregolas when he no longer held any position of authority in Gondor? When he left with her, he became a wanted man.Because of you
, suggested her inner voice. He was a tool to get to you.
If that was so, then he failed. Bregolas was dead. Miriel was not.
“Are you alright?” asked a concerned Glorfindel, touching her shoulder.
The Slayer shook her head, pushing those thoughts out of her mind. “I’m fine. Just thinking, is all.” She glanced back up at the painting of Tirion, then looked away. There were no sanctuaries in Middle-earth except, maybe, Rivendell. She felt saddened and a little resentful that the Elves were able to call Valinor home when they grew weary of Middle-earth, when mankind could not. Men’s only abode in Aman are the Halls of Mandos, where all spirits are summoned at the time of death. And once again, Men had drawn the short stick, as they were not able to be re-embodied and released from that “prison,” only Elves were. That, to Miriel, seemed unfair and unjust!
“I can see your mind, Miriel,” said Glorfindel softly.
Miriel looked up into the Noldo’s empathetic grey eyes. Her guard was down.
“Unjust and unfair,” he said, repeating her last thoughts. “How cruel would it be for the Valar to allow mortal folk to dwell in a land of immortals, watching as their own bodies withered from age while the Eldar remain unchanged and hale? In time, they would become willful and overly proud, as your ancestors had, the Númenoreans, and would seek that which the Valar do not have the power to grant. It is by Eru Ilúvatar’s design that mortals’ lives are not long for this world. For what purpose, none can truly say.”
“Maybe that’s true, but if Morgoth marred the works of the Valar, who’s to say that he did not lessen the years of mankind.”
“But the Valar did not
bring Man into being. That is solely attributed to Ilúvatar.”
“But didn’t the Valar grant longer life spans to the Númenoreans? They had the power to do that, so who’s to say that Man wasn’t, in origin, immortal, and that Morgoth diminished that by his malice?”
Glorfindel pursed his lips together; his face wrinkled in thought. “I had not thought of that before,” he finally said after a long pause. He then smiled. “I was not expecting to debate philosophy with you! You are too young to dwell on such things. I have spoken with men much older than you that have never put things in perspective such as that. You are wise beyond your years, Miriel.”
She shrugged. “Not really. Unlike my fellow Man, I’ve gotten the shortest stick of all. My life is destined to be shorter than even theirs.”
That broke Glorfindel’s heart. He placed his hands comfortingly on Miriel’s shoulders. “What’s important is what you do with that life.”
“I’ve accepted my lot,” she replied with a small smile. “All I can hope to do is to take out more of the enemy than they take of us. I cannot do much more than that.”
Glorfindel’s eyes glistened with tears. He admired Miriel’s courage, her determination, especially in one so young. He pulled her into his arms, holding her protectively. “You’re well on your way, Miriel. Your skill in battle is worthy of praise. You’ve accomplished more in your young years than most Elves have in several lifetimes of Man.” He pulled out of the embrace and gently lifted her chin. “I’m so very proud of you.”
“I’m just doing my job,” she said, her cheeks flushing at the Noldo’s compliments.
“No, it’s more than that. There is a strength in you that is rare for your kind. I can see it. I can feel it.”
“That’s just my Slayer powers,” she said with a dismissive chuckle.
“I don’t believe it is,” he answered with a shake of his golden head. “It goes much deeper than that. It’s a part of your very essence.”
“I’ve got to disagree with you there,” replied a slightly uncomfortable Miriel, as she went over and plopped down on the sofa. “I’ve had to become strong in order to survive.”
Glorfindel took a seat on the other end of the couch. “You were strong long before you became a Slayer. I believe that’s one of the reasons why the Valar chose you.”
“I wish that were true.”
“Why would you doubt that?”
“Because I was weak. It wasn’t until I was chosen that I became… strong.”
“Do you ever regret being chosen?” asked a curious Glorfindel.
Miriel locked eyes with the Noldo, and replied with a firm, “No.”
“You do not miss the life you had before?”
“What’s with this line of questioning?” queried Miriel suspiciously. “Our conversation is starting to sound like the one I had with Erestor on the way up here. Have you two been talking about me? Is there some vast conspiracy going on behind my back?”
Glorfindel chuckled. “No, there’s no conspiracy. I can assure you of that. We’re all concerned for you and your well-being. The life of a wandering warrior is difficult, even for the most stout-hearted of men. It is not every day that we see a young woman thrust into that role. A Slayer. You’re a rarity in this world, but a most welcome one.”
Miriel smiled. “As are you,” she answered with a nod.
“I think that is one of the reasons why I was drawn to you, Miriel. We’re kindred spirits. The Valar chose both of us.”
“You were chosen?” asked the Slayer, her face a mask of confusion.
The Noldo smiled upon seeing her reaction. “What did you think? That I went out for a stroll and happened to wander to Middle-earth?”
“I remember you telling me that you came on the same ship as the Istari,” recalled Miriel from one of their earlier conversations. “But I didn’t know that you were chosen. I assumed you volunteered.”
“That I volunteered to leave the safety and bliss of Aman for the danger and rigors of Endor?” he said incredulously. “No. I did not volunteer. However, I felt honored to be chosen for such an important mission, and have accepted my lot. Alas, the same cannot be said for all of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mithrandir. He feared coming to these shores.”
“What? Gandalf was afraid to come here?” said a shocked Miriel. “Why?”
“Sauron. He fears Sauron.”
“Why? I mean, Mithrandir’s not only a Maia, but also a Wizard.”
“Ah, but Sauron has greater powers than he. And, let us not forget, many allies. Mithrandir came to these lands not knowing anyone other than me and his brethren, and has toiled relentlessly to do what he can to contest the might of Sauron.”
Miriel threw her head back onto the back cushion of the sofa, staring up at the glittering gemstone ceiling. She never had known that about Gandalf. With this newfound information, how could she not feel guilty over the way she had disrespected him when they last had parted. She felt awful. “I never knew that,” she uttered.
“I didn’t think so,” replied Glorfindel. “Not everyone embraces their life’s calling, chosen or not. And some are not… destined to fight in every battle. Sometimes, sometimes one is merely there to nudge someone out the door, to set them on their path.”
The Slayer’s head sprang up. She faced the Noldo, her eyes revealing her remorse. “You heard about what happened between me and Mithrandir, didn’t you?”
“I feel horrible about that,” she groaned. “Sometimes, Mithrandir makes me so angry.”
“I guess I think he should be doing more,” she answered. “He’s a Wizard for Eru’s sake! He should be more… wizardly.”
“What would you expect him to do? March into Mordor and use his powers of wizardry to overthrow Sauron?”
“Well, yeah,” she drawled.
The Noldo raised a skeptical brow. “Now you’re being ridiculous. Sauron is considerably stronger than Mithrandir, Wizard or no!”
Miriel didn’t immediately respond. She leaned her head back, staring up at the ceiling again.
Glorfindel watched her intently. However, the Slayer’s thoughts were closed to him. Her guard was up. After a few long minutes in utter silence, he asked, “What’s on your mind?”
The Slayer raised her head, turning toward the Noldo. “Do you think I’m fated to fight Sauron?”
He answered quickly and firmly with, “No! Absolutely not!”
“How can you be so sure?” she asked, slightly taken aback by his response. “I’ve taken out one Maia. Perhaps I’m destined to take him out as well.”
“And how do you propose to do that, hmm?” he queried. “Hundreds of thousands of yrch stand between you and the Dark Lord. And let us not forget the numerous trolls, wargs, and Eru only knows what other creatures lurk behind the borders of Mordor! It would be suicide, plain and simple.”
Once again, Glorfindel’s comments stunned the Slayer. “It’s nice to see that you have a tremendous amount of confidence in me,” she shot back sarcastically.
“I do not want you to die, or succumb to worse!” said Glorfindel. “The Dark Lord is cruel and unmerciful. You do not want to end up in one of his dungeons or torture chambers. His evil knows no bounds. I do not want you thinking such thoughts again. There are other forces at work, forces you’re unaware of. In time, we’ll see how things play out.”
“What other forces?” she queried.
The Noldo felt that he had said too much already. “Never you mind that,” he said dismissively. “Enough talk about the Dark Lord.” Abruptly wanting to change the subject, he said, “There’s a reason why I summoned you here.” Without saying another word, he rose from the couch and disappeared into an adjoining room. He returned a few moments later, carrying something wrapped in red cloth. He then sat beside her once again. “This is for you.” He held out the bundle.
“A present?” she said excitedly, all thoughts of Sauron dissipating from her mind.
“Yes,” he replied with a smile.
Miriel quickly unwrapped the cloth, revealing a new weapon. Her eyes widened to nearly twice their normal size when she saw a dagger nestled in a magnificent bejeweled sheath.
“Since your dagger is no more, I thought you could use a new one. One that, I trust, will not break in battle.”
“It’s beautiful,” she said, marveling at the case alone.
“Take it out.”
The Slayer wrapped her hand around the intricately carved, pearl handle and slowly started to pull the blade from its protective covering. She gasped the moment she saw the first part of the blade. “The metal glows red!” she exclaimed in awe. She quickly pulled the dagger completely out of its case. The blade looked as if it were made from red flame. It was unbelievable. Miriel had never seen anything remotely like that before.
“That is a very special blade.”
Miriel went to touch the fiery blade with her free hand, but pulled it back, fearing that the metal would sear her flesh.
“It will not burn you,” said the Noldo, carefully gripping the flaming metal. “Only the enemy.”
Of course, seeing Glorfindel touch it prompted Miriel to do the same. It did not feel hot or even warm. “How did you come by this?” she asked in amazement. “I mean, did you make it?”
“I do not have the skill to craft a weapon of that sort,” he answered with a laugh. “This is a Mahtanian blade.”
“A what?” asked a puzzled Miriel, unfamiliar with that name.
“Ah, yes,” he began, nodding. “A mere mortal from Middle-earth, even one descended from Westernesse, would not recognize that name. Mahtan is one of the greatest elvish craftsmen in Valinor.” He paused. “Actually, since the demise of Fëanor, he is surely the most skilled of our people.”
The Slayer looked blankly at Glorfindel. While she recognized the name Fëanor, she still had no idea who Mahtan was.
Seeing her face, the Noldo continued, “Mahtan is Aulë’s greatest pupil.” He leaned forward. “I deem that you know that name.”
“Of course. He is a Vala, one of the Aratar.”
“That is correct,” said Glorfindel, the smile still gracing his handsome face. “Mahtan is the father of Nerdanel, who had wedded Fëanor, son of Finwë, and taught Fëanor all he knew about the crafting of weapons.” His smile wavered. “He would come to rue that day.” He sighed heavily before fixing his gaze on the dagger. “This blade was made, in part, from the eternal fires in the forges of Aulë. Mahtan told me that Fëanor fashioned his own sword after this. But this, this dagger, is a blessed weapon. A powerful weapon. And now, it’s yours.”
Miriel snapped her jaw shut, which had hung open as she had learned more about the weapon. She carefully slid the dagger back into its case and offered it back to the Noldo. “I cannot accept this. It’s too valuable.”
“I insist,” replied the Noldo, gently pushing the sheathed weapon back toward Miriel. “It was made to be used, valuable or not.”
“This should be housed with other precious artifacts, not used in battle.”
“Do you think Mahtan gave it to me so that it could be put on display?” he asked incredulously. “Nay. It was gifted to me to be used, used against the enemy. I have used it many times in past battles. I feel that it would be put to good use if passed onto you.”
Miriel refused to take the dagger. “It was a gift for you. Not me.”
“It is mine to do with as I will,” he replied. “And I want you to have it.”
The Slayer remained adamant, refusing to accept the dagger. However, Glorfindel refused to take no for an answer. Miriel finally relented. “I’ll borrow it then. For a while.”
Glorfindel decided to agree to that compromise since Miriel refused to accept it outright. The Noldo then shared with her many stories in which that dagger had proved to be most effective in battle. They talked well into the night, the Slayer forgetting about her promised walk under the starlit sky with Elladan…
The following morning, Elladan asked why she had never returned for their promised walk. Miriel showed him the reason for her absence, but promised to make it up to him somehow. The Elf smiled, saying that if she were to sit for her portrait, he’d let bygones be bygones. So, after breakfast, Miriel slipped back into the red gown and returned to the room with the incredibly hard chair. Although, this time, Elrohir came to her rescue, bringing her a lovely cushion that fit perfectly on the seat. Her comfort lasted mere seconds, as Elladan demanded that the cushion had to go, saying that it threw everything out of perspective.
Miriel grumbled and cursed under her breath, not buying the eldest son of Elrond’s statement, at all. Yet, in the end, she endured the discomfort until lunch time, informing Elladan that she would not be returning to that abominable chair for the rest of the day.
After they had eaten, the Slayer returned to her room to change out of the red dress into something more suitable for frolicking around Rivendell. As she was dressing, she heard a light tapping on her door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Olwen, the laundress,” came the reply.
“Just a second,” Miriel said, quickly pulling up her breeches. “Come in,” she added, once she was completely dressed.
In walked Olwen with Miriel’s blue dress draped over her arm. “Afternoon, Dagnir,” she said in greeting.
“Good afternoon,” replied the Slayer with a smile.
“I wish it were so - good, that is,” said Olwen dismally. “As much as we’ve tried, we could not get the stains out of your dress,” informed the maiden as she held up the garment for Miriel’s inspection. “We did lighten the stains, but could not remove them completely. The tear we repaired as best we could. I’m truly sorry, Dagnir. If you’d like, we could salvage some of the fabric and make a… ” She paused, her eyes sweeping over the garment. Very little of it had not been damaged. “We could make a scarf,” she suggested.
Miriel took the dress from Olwen. “I’ll have to think about that,” she answered, trying her best to conceal her disappointment. “I really appreciate your efforts. Thank you for trying.”
“Let me know if you decide that you want me to make something out of the material,” said Olwen. She then turned and left the room, closing the door behind her.
Miriel sat down on the edge of the bed, staring at the gown clutched in her hands. A part of her had always known that the dress was ruined, but a part of her had held out hope that the Elves could make it look as good as new again. She was crushed at the news, and felt the need to apologize to Halbarad. Despite what Buffy had said (on more than one occasion), this wasn’t just a dress. It had belonged to someone dear to Hal and it broke Miriel’s heart that, in a moment of blind rage, she had ended up destroying this once beautiful gown. Carefully folding the dress over her arm, she departed her room in search of her Watcher.
It didn’t take her terribly long to find Halbarad. She found him sitting on one of the porches, puffing away on his pipe. He seemed oblivious to her arrival.
“I thought you’d been avoiding me these last few days,” he said, without looking in her direction.
“No,” she answered as she crept closer. “Just catching up with old friends.”
Halbarad slowly turned his head, fixing his twinkling grey eyes on her. A small smile adorned his face; one of his brows darted upward. “The twins, old friends? You’ve been spending a great deal of time with Elladan and Elrohir.”
For some reason, Miriel’s cheeks turned beet red. It wasn’t necessarily what Hal had said, but how he had said it. She glanced down at her feet, knowing that her reaction was amusing her Watcher all the more. “We have our routine here,” she rationalized. She then looked up, trying to regain her composure. “And I did spend a great deal of time with Glorfindel last night.”
“So I’ve heard,” he replied as he took a drag from his pipe. He then motioned for her to sit in the chair beside him. “What do you have there?” he asked, his eyes shifting to the garment draped over her arm.
Miriel took a seat beside him. Her mouth suddenly went as dry as the plateau of Gorgoroth. She had dreaded this moment. She tried to speak, but found herself unable to utter a sound.
Hal watched her intently. Seeing her struggle to find the words, tugged at his heart. He reached over and took the garment. Unfolding it, he could see the attempts to mend the gown had been futile. “Looks like the Elves were unable to get the stains out,” he observed with a sigh.
Miriel broke down, weeping. She slid out of her chair and knelt at Halbarad’s feet. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I’ve ruined it. I’m so sorry.” She place her head on his lap, the tears streaming from her eyes, rapidly dampening her Watcher’s breeches.
Hal placed his hand comfortingly on her head, stroking her hair. “It’s only a dress, Miriel.”
Her head shot up. “No. No, it’s not,” her voice squeaked between sobs. “It belonged to someone… important… someone beloved… and I ruined it.”
Hal lay the dress and pipe on the chair Miriel had just vacated. He tenderly cupped her wet cheeks, making her look at him through bleary eyes. “Listen to me, Miriel. It’s alright. It doesn’t matter about the dress. It’s merely fabric pieced together with thread.”
“But nothing!” He offered her a reassuring smile. “The only thing that grieves me is that I will not be able to see you in it again. It looked so lovely on you.”
“But it belonged to someone special to you, someone dear… ”
“Yes, yes it did. And, I have no doubt that Idhien would not be saddened in the slightest that that gown was ruined by your slaying of a monster. She would’ve willingly lost every dress she had for such a cause.”
Miriel stifled her tears. Idhien. That was a name she had never heard before. Halbarad had never talked about his family, his personal life. “Who’s… who’s Idhien?” she asked, blinking the tears from her eyes.
Halbarad leaned back and grabbed his pipe. He took a few puffs before answering, “My wife.”
The Slayer wiped the tears away on the sleeve of her shirt. “What… what happened to her?” she asked.
The moment of truth had arrived at long last. Idhien was a subject of conversation that Hal loathed talking about with anyone. It was too painful, even after many years. He took several deep draws on his pipe before exhaling a stream of thick tobacco smoke. “Let’s walk, Miriel,” he finally said, rising from his chair.
As Hal started down the porch, Miriel snatched the gown from the empty seat, too afraid that, if she left it, one of the Elves would toss it away. She hurriedly caught up with her Watcher, who didn’t speak until their feet treaded upon the soft green grass, out of earshot of those milling about.
“She died,” Hal finally said, as he repacked his pipe with weed.
Miriel watched him closely. She could see his discomfort and, for a moment or two, she considered changing the subject altogether. However, Hal never discussed his past aside from some tales of his adventures with the Rangers, and it seemed to her that maybe he was ready to tell her more. She wanted to know more.
The Watcher lit his pipe before replying. He took a couple of deep drags before answering, “Trolls. She was killed by trolls.”
Miriel gasped. Her hand shot to her mouth to still the sound, however too late. “I’m so sorry,” she said.
“Me too,” he said sadly.
The Slayer hesitated. Should she keep pressing, or wait for Hal to reveal more? She choose the latter, and sure enough, he continued.
“We were dwelling in Archet at the time. I was away, as I often was.” He spoke softly, in a faraway kind of voice. “Idhien wanted to return to Fornost to see her kin.” He turned to Miriel, his face etched in pain. “There are still some of us that dwell in those parts, though it is not inhabited as it once was.” He looked straight ahead once again. “I had always told her not to travel without an escort, an escort of Rangers, that is.” He sighed. “So eager was she, she hired a few Bree-landers to accompany her on the journey.” He paused, shaking his head. “Those men are not capable of defending themselves against other men, much less trolls.”
“We reckon some trolls had come out of the Ettenmoors in search of plunder and bloodshed. Her company was attacked in the hills just south of Fornost, not even a league from its borders. By the time the sentries informed the Rangers and assembled a party, it was too late. They managed to track the trolls and kill them, but I lost my beloved Idhien.” Hal’s voice cracked as he spoke the last part of his sentence. He sniffed, turning his head away from Miriel, not wanting to show any emotion regarding the most painful moment in his life.
Miriel placed her hand on his shoulder, stopping him. “Don’t be afraid to show emotion, Hal.”
The Watcher turned his tear-filled eyes to Miriel. “Emotions make us weak.”
“No,” she replied, shaking her head. “It makes us human.”
Hal looked at Miriel for what seemed like an eternity. His body began to tremble, his face a mask of pain and torment.
“What is it, Hal? You can tell me.”
“She was with child,” he revealed in a barely audible voice.
Miriel’s heart broke upon hearing that. She pulled her Watcher into her arms. “I’m sorry, Hal. I’m so sorry.” She felt her eyes welling with tears. “Let it out. Let it out, Hal.”
Her Watcher sobbed. His body quivering against hers. Thoughts of their battle with the trolls came rushing back to her mind, reminding Miriel that that was the first time that Halbarad had ever showed any concern for her. It made sense now.
Hal only let his guard down briefly. He quickly pulled himself together, looking as if he were embarrassed by his momentary breakdown. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“What? Behaving as a normal person would?”
“Men should not show their emotions.”
“Bullshit!” answered Miriel. “Emotions give us strength. They do not make us weak.”
Having regained his composure, Hal resumed their stroll, smoking on his pipe.
“Do you think I’m weak, Hal?” she queried; her eyes fixed on her Watcher.
“And I blubber half the time,” she said, attempting to lighten the mood.
“You’re a girl. Girl’s cry all the time.”
Miriel actually laughed. “Is that so?” She shifted her gaze to their path. “If any man had gone through what I have gone through, what I survived, they’d be dead. They’d do a Túrin!”
Hal glanced at her with a puzzled expression on his face. “Do a Túrin?”
“You know, fall on the sword. Kill themselves. Do a Túrin.”
“You say the strangest things sometimes,” he replied.
Miriel stepped in front of her Watcher, but continued on, walking backwards. “The thing is, Hal: We’re survivors. We’ve had to deal with tragedies and overcome adversities, left and right. It’s why we are warriors, why we’re Rangers. I’m truly sorry for your loss. If there’s anything I can do… if you ever want to talk. I’m here for you.”
“I seem to recall a similar conversation that we had,” he reminded her, “Back in Rhudaur.”
The Slayer turned around and began to walk beside her Watcher.
“Do you recall that?” he asked.
“I’m here for you, Miriel, if you need to talk.”
“So tell me about Idhien,” she said, quickly changing the subject from herself to Halbarad’s late wife. “What was she like?”
Hal then told Miriel the story of how he and Idhien had met and fallen in love, of her stubbornness, of her gentleness. She was quite surprised to learn that Idhien had been the daughter of a Ranger and a Bree-lander, and that she had been raised in Bree, not Fornost or its surrounding areas, like most Rangers’ children. Hal had never been accepted into the community of Bree-land, but was tolerated because of his wife’s mother’s kin.
When he had finished walking down memory lane, he pulled out a folded, wrinkled piece of parchment from his pocket. He unfolded it and showed Miriel the pencil sketch of his wife that he always carried with him. Her picture had faded and the parchment was torn at the edges and had dried water spots on it. Creases crossed through her face, but she looked lovely, nonetheless.
“Can I ask you something?” she said, after he had carefully folded the parchment and stuck it back into his pocket.
“Now that I know that you’re capable of love, why did you treat me so badly in the beginning of our relationship?”
“Don’t you know?”
She shook her head.
“Because I did not want my heart to be broken again. With love comes pain, and I’ve felt too much pain in my lifetime. And your being the Slayer means… ” His words trailed off.
“I know. A extremely short lifespan.”
“Yes,” he said sadly.
“What changed your mind?”
Hal shrugged. “You grew on me.” He then smiled, adding, “Like fungus.”
“Gee, thanks for that. I feel the love.”
He wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they continued on their stroll. “As do I.”