Chapter Six - Homecoming
The sun was setting and the elves were quietly singing. Legolas had said that they would be leaving next day and their belongings were all packed, ready to lift onto the horses in the morning and start the long, slow, ride home. One of the ellyn had carved a box from the wood of these foreign trees to hold the ashes of Glengadil; now their song both remembered his passing and gave thanks that those who sang would soon be back in the trees they had chosen to make their own.
From the Rohirrim camp, too, came sounds of singing – they were clearly also happy to be returning home.
Legolas was sharing a jest with Gimli when a messenger arrived, out of breath as if he had run all the way through the campsite.
“Their majesties King Elessar and Éomer, King of Rohan, request that Legolas Lord of Ithilien attend them with all haste,” he said.
Legolas nodded in acknowledgement and then commented to those around him that he thought all the arrangements for the morrow had been completed – perhaps the kings wished to share a bottle of wine before their glasses were packed away! Gimli said in that case he was most certainly not letting Legolas go alone and they both followed the messenger whilst the elves continued their song.
Very little time passed, just enough for the sun to drop from sight, before Legolas returned to camp, Gimli some distance behind. Legolas’ face was impassive but his own elves recognised, in the length and speed of his stride, that something was wrong.
“We ride tonight,” he said before he told them that Egric and Céolfrith, known to many of them, had ridden without rest from Ithilien; and the news they brought.
They buried Túriel at sunset, wearing the dress she had danced in for Midsummer, in a quiet glade where the light that fell on her grave would be dappled by leaves. Every elf in the colony was there – Faramir sent men to guard the fences for the night.
Word had been sent to her parents in Eryn Lasgalen but the funeral could not wait; Saeldauron and Tária silently cast in the first of the leaves and flowers that would cover her body before any earth was put back. Then, one after another, elves stepped forward and spoke about Túriel; she was quick to smile, she had shared their childhood, she was a skilled weaver.
Tindómë had never been to an Elven funeral – she had not expected she ever would – but Eldroth had taken time to explain it to her; it was not required that everyone speak about the dead elf, only those who felt moved to do so. Tindómë waited until many others had spoken, then she pulled her shoulders back, lifted her head high and stepped forward.
“Túriel would have been my friend,” she said, “she made me feel as if I belong here.”
She stepped back.
She felt, rather than saw, someone move close to her at one side and then someone at the other. They said nothing, but she was reassured that she did not stand alone. Voices began to sing softly, the sound tugged at Tindómë’s heart-strings and she wanted to weep – but she wasn’t sure if that was acceptable behaviour. Then she looked surreptitiously around and realised that many of the others, both ellyn and ellyth, had tears slowly running down their cheeks as they sang. She let the tears fall.
There was no time to say farewell to anyone else in the encampment. Gimli wished them best speed – he knew that they could make better time without him – he would ride with Aragorn or Éomer. Aragorn arrived with his brothers, grim-faced, beside him and Éomer King followed mere minutes later accompanied by men leading a string of spare horses. Within minutes the Elves were ready to travel north.
The letter, penned quickly by Eldroth to Legolas, had told them of Túriel’s death, and named the two ellyn seriously injured. There had been mention of others being wounded, but no more names. Rumil sorrowed for the family of the dead elleth, and guiltily rejoiced that it had not been Tindómë’s name Legolas had found in the message – nor was she listed as seriously injured.
‘Oh,’ he thought, ‘to be back in Eryn Ithil. To know if she is amongst the ‘other injured’. To know if she is well.’
For the first time ever he wished that they had the unbelievable vehicles Tindómë had described, from the other world, which could travel tirelessly at great speed.
They turned all the horses together and rode into the night. With the change of horses they should get back to Ithilien in six or seven days, eating and sleeping on horseback. Orophin rode at his brother’s side; he understood Rumil’s fears.
“She will be well. Our little warrior will be awaiting you as we ride in, brother.”
Rumil knew Orophin was probably right but, if she had been injured, would she heal well? Could she still sicken from a wound as mortals did?
His worst fears were allayed within an hour of setting off when Legolas moved back down the line to talk to him.
“There were messages from Faramir as well as Eldroth,” he began, “With a brief mention of why it may have only been Eryn Ithil that was attacked, not any mortal settlement. He wrote particularly that he had spoken to Tindómë about it. He did not say whether she was amongst the injured but, if she was, she cannot have been in need of poppy juice – his letter implied she was, most certainly, in full control of her faculties when he arrived.”
Further conversation was difficult as they continued to canter; just why Faramir might have been discussing the attack with Tindómë, rather than just Eldroth, only became clear when they finally stopped for more than a change of horses well into the next day.
As they paused, to let the horses eat and drink, Legolas explained to all the warriors what Faramir, Arwen, and Tindómë had concluded about the attack on Eryn Ithil. It was as well that the previous leader of this Haradic tribe was already dead. As well, too, that they were many miles from the remains of the Haradrim army and in a hurry to return home; elves have no qualms about killing in cold blood when the targets are not other elves.
It was just over two weeks since midsummer. No-one knew just how far south Egric and Céolfrith would have needed to ride to reach the army; but Éowyn had reassured the elves that her men, like the elves themselves, could ride with no more than short breaks to rest the horses and even sleep in the saddle. Now, those on the fences not only kept a close eye on the mountains to the East – but also on the road from the South.
News that the warriors had been sighted in the distance, late one afternoon, spread through all of Eryn Ithil faster than wildfire.
Tindómë was very glad that she was not due to go out onto the fences at dusk; she so wanted to see Rumil (and Legolas and the others, of course…), but there was no chance of the border being left unguarded. She hurried to brush her hair and change into her favourite green dress.
She remembered her reunion with Rumil after she was kidnapped by ‘Lord Lomion’ from the stables in Minas Tirith. The return of the warriors did not, therefore, surprise her.
Eldroth stood in the clearing at the centre of the settlement. Every other elf not on the fences stood in small groups, quietly, behind him. Hooves could be heard approaching – calming from a canter to a walk before the party emerged through the trees, Legolas at their head.
No-one moved. The riders remained on their mounts; those on the ground continued to stand quietly. Tindómë could see Rumil, near the rear of the troop. She caught his eye but neither as much as smiled – however she could feel his emotions flow over her like a shaft of sunlight.
“Welcome home, my Lord,” Eldroth said, hand on his heart.
“Thank you,” Legolas said, equally formally, “I received your report of the attack on our people. Have all the injured survived?”
“Yes, my Lord, although Calrithar and Maelas are not yet fully healed.”
“Are the fences secured?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Eldroth answered, again.
“I sorrow with Tária and Saeldauron on the death of Túriel,” Legolas said, still sounding very formal, “and sadly inform you that Glengadil did not return alive from the South.”
Tindómë did not know Glengadil but she thought he couldn’t have any close family here or Legolas would, she was sure, have spoken to them by name.
“We are saddened that Glengadil did not return alive, yet glad to have you home, my Lord,” Eldroth said, then added, “My written report is in your office.”
“We are glad to be home,” Legolas answered, “and I will wait to receive your verbal report until our horses have been cared for and we have eaten.”
He nodded, almost imperceptibly, and all the warriors dismounted as one. Only then did anyone else move and, as others also moved to greet brothers or friends, Tindómë walked towards Rumil. Out of the corner of her eye, as she got close to Rumil, she saw Legolas approaching Tária and Saeldauron. Time to greet her gwador later, she thought, when he had done his duty as the Lord of Ithilien.
Before she reached Rumil, Orophin caught her briefly in his arms and kissed the top of her head. “Are you uninjured?” they said in unison, and then both smiled.
“Completely,” Orophin answered.
“Almost,” Tindómë said at the same time again.
Orophin raised an eyebrow, but turned her to face his brother, before taking Hirilmith from Rumil.
“I will see to Hirilmith,” Orophin said in a tone that brooked no argument.
Rumil, just as he had that night on the banks of the Anduin, put his hands on her shoulders and brought his forehead down to touch hers. They stood together as elves and horses moved around them. Tindómë was not sure how long they stood together before Rumil spoke.
“Almost?” he queried.
Tindómë undid the ribbons on the sleeve of her dress and slid it down over her shoulder. The stitches were gone, and all that remained of the slash wound was a fine red line; she was healing almost as quickly as an elf. Rumil dropped a kiss onto the healing flesh.
“And you?” Tindómë asked.
“I sustained not even a scratch, meleth,” he answered. “It seems I was in less danger with the army of men than you were amongst the trees…”
It should have been a night for rejoicing, for reunions, a night of laughter and pleasure. But it was not. As the moon rose overhead all those not on the fences gathered again in the clearing where they had buried Túriel. Legolas stood between Tária and Saeldauron as some of the returning warriors, who had known Túriel for many years, placed flowers onto the disturbed earth and spoke of the dead elleth.
Then a warrior produced a trowel to dig a small hole near Túriel’s grave and Legolas emptied the contents of a carved wooden casket into it. Tindómë knew, from what Rumil had said as they walked in the procession to the clearing, that these were Glengadil’s ashes. Again elves stepped forward and spoke of their friendships with Glengadil, of patrols in Eryn Lasgalen, of evenings spend dancing with him.
Finally everyone began to make their way back towards the settlement. As Tindómë, Rumil, and Orophin walked together, Laegwen approached them.
“I owe you my thanks,” she said to Tindómë, “although I am sure that you would have preferred it to have been me that died and Túriel you saved.”
‘Talk about grudging thanks!’ Tindómë thought, but out loud she said “Well no… I would have preferred
it if neither of you had died. There is no real need for your thanks – but I’ll accept them. You do
owe me more though. Twenty gold pieces, I believe.”
Laegwen showed no emotion (so not surprising, Tindómë thought), but inclined her head in acknowledgement before moving away from Tindómë and her ‘two elf escort’.
“What was that about, meleth?” Rumil asked.
“I’ll tell you later, both of you,” Tindómë said. “I don’t want to make the evening any less pleasant.”
It was good to see the sun rising through the green leaves all around, Rumil thought, good to have rested in a bed for the first time in some months, good to watch Tindómë sleep. Although it had been right for him to go with the army – he was an artist, yes, but still a warrior first and foremost.
Orophin called softly from the other side of this, this… well it was not exactly a talan – saying he had prepared food for all three of them and it was good, too, to sit together again over breakfast.
It was Orophin who asked Tindómë what the elleth had meant, the night before, leading to Tindómë describing her own part in the defence of the settlement. Rumil was proud to hear that Eldroth had also deemed her ready to wear a swordsman’s braids – Orophin equally so. Orophin questioned her closely about each of the attackers she had encountered, how she had fought against each one; Rumil was simply glad that she was, indeed, a ‘little warrior’.
“But what did you mean about Laegwen owing you twenty gold pieces?” Orophin asked her eventually. “Had you made a wager? If so you clearly won it.”
When Tindómë told them about Laegwen’s accusations Rumil worked hard to keep his emotions under control, for he knew Tindómë would be all too aware of them – and an urge to slap the other elleth very, very, hard was not really one of which to be proud.
She looked at him and grinned. “Me too,” she said.
Tindómë seemed inclined, now, to take the matter lightly but, Rumil said, as Laegwen had also questioned Legolas’ decisions he really should be told. Rumil was certain the Lord of Ithilien would not be pleased. But the elleth should have thought of that sooner. Rumil had no sympathy for anyone who was unpleasant to his almost-betrothed – even though she had, quite clearly, dealt well with the situation.
His not-quite-betrothed, he thought, had grown up a little more in the time that he had been away. Perhaps it was part of having been, or having seemed to be, a mortal; she changed faster than an elleth. She was full of life; like a stream high in the mountains, just setting off on its course to the sea, she was touched with her own dancing sunlight, moving quickly to her own lilting song. Somehow she absorbed knowledge and experiences with no shadow to her fëa; maturing, instead, so much in such a short time that she seemed at least half a yén older than she had at her coming-of-age celebrations.
Now she was laughing at something Orophin had said, and blushing; Rumil hoped she never grew too mature to blush. He wondered how long it would be before she felt mature enough to bind…
Legolas had visited all the wounded, spoken at length to Eldroth, and had a visit from Faramir before Tindómë was able to talk to him. She did not start with Laegwen – she started by trying to find out how her gwador was himself. Angry, she thought; actually she was sure that he would have been livid for the whole, hard, ride home.
He was, indeed, fuming and she thought he would be even more so when she mentioned Laegwen – she would leave that for now. But, she thought as he paced around, he was not only angry. Anger made him very calm and still. No, there was more.
She finally pulled him up short in his pacing by literally telling him to stop
, he was giving her a headache watching him, and to come and sit down
With a rather rueful expression he did as he was told.
“You’re upset,” she said straight out. “Upset and all guilty feeling, unless I’m very much mistaken.”
He didn’t answer. That would be a ‘yes’, then, she decided.
“Buffy got all angry, and upset, and guilty when she suggested something that seemed the right thing to do, and other people got killed,” she went on.
“It’s my fault,” he answered. “I have hardly been the Lord of this place for more than the blink of an eye and two of my elves are dead. If I had not brought them here, or had not offered to send warriors with the men, then Túriel would still be alive, and Glengadil.”
“Well yes,” Tindómë answered – no point in denying the obvious.
“But they came of their own free will; which, you know, trite answer but true.” She paused for a moment, and then said, “And I bet you weren’t really angry
about Glengadil until you found out what had happened here.”
He looked at her, his expression cool, and then slowly relaxed before he answered.
“You are absolutely right, nethig. Sometimes you are very wise for one so young.”
“Yeah, well, I seem to have had a lot packed into my apparently short life. And maybe some of the ancient wisdom of my Key-ness reaches my brain sometime… eh?
“Anyway,” she continued, “you still thought you were right, then. So it was sad that a warrior died, but he was a warrior, and it was a battle, yeah?”
“Yes. And I think our input saved a lot of the men we fought alongside. Our archers are a deadly force.”
“Totally,” she said. She remembered coming up onto the deck of that Corsair ship three years before and seeing the bodies; each neatly killed with an arrow, or two, in the throat so that they had made no sound. Arrows fired in the gloom of evening from something like one hundred fifty or two hundred yards.
Legolas spoke again. “But I knew
the Haradrim had that ridiculous belief and yet I left Eryn Ithil without sufficient guards.”
Yes – that’s what she thought he must be feeling.
“You are so
like my sister, sometimes! No wonder you feel so much like a brother. You can’t be the boss of everything – you’re treating the rest of us as if we are stupid…”
“I am not!”
knew the Haradrim thought that – I was the one that told you, after all. But it didn’t occur to me they’d try to sneak up the back way and try to capture ellyth, either.
“And you so didn’t
leave Eryn Ithil without enough guards – we totally kicked ass. We killed thirteen Haradrim warriors and a whole heap, literally in the end, of orcs. The only difference it would have made if you’d been here yourself is that, if you’d very publicly refused to go to war, word would probably have reached them and the raid wouldn’t have happened.”
She knew he was listening – she might have channelled her inner Galadriel before but she thought this was more her inner Giles.
“They probably didn’t know for sure that our warriors would ride with the army, but they’d have guessed it likely. The way they work they’d expect Aragorn to order you to go.”
Her gwador stiffened and when he spoke his voice was icy. “I am not a vassal of any mortal king.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know that, you know that, Aragorn knows that,” she said, thinking ‘but Galanthir’s comment that you are, whether you say so or not, cuts very close to the bone…’
“But,” she went on aloud, “the Haradrim
wouldn’t believe it. So they’d expect Aragorn to order you to take every elf who could raise a bow, even though that would leave the place totally unguarded except for the men at Emyn Arnen. And you didn’t do that. You only took the unbound warriors and left a lot of us here who could fight.
“Otherwise,” she finished with a shiver, “they might well have been able to take ellyth prisoners.”
“Even so, it will not happen again,” Legolas said, flatly.
He didn’t expand on his statement, and she decided it best not to push. Hopefully Aragorn would have been able to totally disillusion the new leader of that particular lot of Haradrim about sex with an elleth and immortality. No-one better really…
But she thought it likely that not only would Aragorn not ask for elven help if there turned out to be a next time – he would probably refuse it if it was offered.
‘And that would be better than him asking and Legolas refusing,’ she thought, ‘so let’s hope he doesn’t ask…’
She did not mention Laegwen to Legolas until the next day, and then only on Rumil and Orophin’s insistence. She had been quite right; Legolas had not been amused when he had heard what Laegwen had said. He had sent for the elleth, whereas under most circumstances he would simply seek out anyone he wished to talk with.
He saw Laegwen alone and, although Tindómë thought that she would probably never know just what he had said to the other elleth, it was clearly effective. Tindómë had seen her gwador ‘Lording’ more than once and he could be very intimidating. She had a feeling his father must be very, very, impressive.
Within hours of that ‘audience’, Laegwen made it known that she was returning to Eryn Lasgalen, at least for some time, and left with the ellyn who took word of Glengadil's death and Túriel's funeral to their families.
Tindómë could not say that she was sorry to see her go. At least the other elleth had paid her wager money before she left Eryn Ithil. The money could go towards something for the new home she would eventually share with Rumil.
Talking of which…
Sitting beside the pool where they had been starlight bathing, Tindómë spoke to Rumil as he gently combed her hair.
“I have been thinking more about what I want as our permanent home here,” she began. “If you don’t mind, melethron nín, I would like something more solid than a talan. Something with proper walls, and a door, and windows with shutters…”
“I would want to be amongst the branches, if we can, meleth,” he answered slowly. “Would you be happy with a home above the ground?”
“Well yeah… just, you know, something that can cope with the winter without me freezing –” she nearly said ‘to death’ but he would worry about her every day of winter, then!
“Would something similar to Legolas’ current home be all right for you meleth?” he asked.
“I think sort of – but if we could find trees that were happy to let us build amongst them,” and how weird would Dawn have found that, Tindómë thought wryly, “I thought maybe with a big open balcony where you and Orophin, and even me sometimes, can sleep under the leaves or just sit out…”
She waited a moment, gathered her thoughts together and then spoke again. “And I was thinking that, when it’s finished, I would very much like us to get betrothed…”
As his mouth met hers, and she felt his emotions washing over her, she was pretty sure he would like that, too..........................................................
The End - at least of this episode...
Disclaimer: The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only, and all rights remain with the estate of JRR Tolkien. (And Joss Whedon if he is at all bothered that Tindómë once spent a short time in his care...)