There's Always A Morning After
Mid morning. Gimli decided it was time to get up from his bed and stretch his legs, not that he expected to meet anyone at this hour today. He knew enough of these mornings after solstice celebrations to have been unsurprised when Tharhîwon had brought him in a mug of tea an hour or two ago, yawned, and then said he had had a good night and was now going to bed.
Nithdur was probably in it with him but, as long as he wasn’t likely to stumble over them, Gimli was unconcerned. Legolas, too, was unlikely to surface before mid-afternoon. Ithilienne was doubtless wherever Legolas was, but that was the way of Elves; Gimli was pleased that his friend was not fretting too much about still having no family here in Aman except Tindómë, and Gimli himself, of course.
He made his way into the kitchen of the hobbit hole to find, as promised, that Tharhîwon had left bread, meat, cheese and fruit for him. “Second breakfast” as the young ellon had said with a smile.
Perhaps Naltatamë would come down from the big house later to keep Gimli company, he thought; being Noldor she didn’t indulge quite as much as the Ithilrim in what were, mainly, Silvan pursuits…
Actually, the smith in question was unlikely to visit her dwarven friend for a while. Galanthir’s company was keeping her in her bed, but far from sleep.
It would be Celebrían who would arrive, around lunch time, to suggest Gimli joined her and her husband, on their sunny balcony overlooking the sea, for the rest of the day; and who would walk there with him at his pace which was, sadly, a good deal slower than it used to be.
Further down the hill Rumil was missing his wife. But not as badly as he would have if he had not been invited into the bed of his brother and brother-wife. All three were now sprawled, on top of the covers, drowsing in the warm sunlight streaming in through the open window. His son had company for the long day in his room above; his daughter, as everyone expected, was in the wing of Master Elrond’s house currently used by Legolas.
Legolas and Ithilienne were, about the time that Gimli reached the house with Celebrían, making use of the bathing pool in the wing which had been designed as a new home for the twins if – when – they arrived from the shores of Middle Earth. Ithilienne, as she had promised, had helped Legolas make use of the pent-up lust accrued during the hunt. Now they both lay, floating, within touching distance. Ithilienne looked to be drifting off to sleep; but Legolas felt strangely restless.
Mid morning. Tindómë only realised that she had fallen asleep sometime in the grey light of dawn, as the celebrations of Oromë’s hunt continued around her, when she woke. Lady Ferveren, too, seemed to have only just awoken. Looking around a little further Haldir could be seen, stretching, feathers and some wild flowers hanging, rather lopsidedly, from his hair.
Just as last time when they had awoken after a night in the company of The Great Hunt, there was food and drink left for them, but no-one else around. Again, just as last time, their horses stood cropping the grass nearby, their packs and saddles also close.
Wait a minute…
Packs? Saddles? Tindómë and Lady Ferveren had simply walked out of Mandos Halls and found themselves greeted by Nessa in the clearing where the Hunt were beginning their celebrations. They had not brought horses. Or packs.
And… clearing? This was not a clearing surrounded by trees. They had awoken on a gentle, grassy, slope that ran down towards a lake. An enormous lake. Perhaps not a Lake Superior sized lake, she thought, but at least a couple of miles across; perhaps more. Tindómë was pretty sure she would have noticed the stars and moon reflected in it if it had been there last night.
Actually, last night, it had almost certainly been exactly where it was now. But Tindómë was pretty sure that she
hadn’t been here last night.
“They’ve done it again, haven’t they?” she said to Haldir.
He was looking around him, his face difficult to read; a mixture of surprise, pleasure, and even a hint of embarrassment. Probably, Tindómë thought, embarrassment at falling asleep and not noticing that they had been moved in their sleep.
“I rather think they have,” he agreed.
Lady Ferveren was now awake and looking slightly puzzled. Before she spoke, however, another voice joined the conversation.
“Perhaps you may wish to bathe in the lake before breaking your fast?”
It was Cambasion, standing at the shoreline.
“Whoa… wait a minute,” Tindómë began, “where did the lake come from?”
“I believe the snow melts on the high mountains,” the Maia waved a hand generally into the distance, “and then runs down, forming streams, that join together to form larger…”
that!” Tindómë cut in. “I mean, uh, why are we beside an enormous lake now, when we weren’t when we went to sleep?”
“Because it is a good place to bathe,” the Maia said.
Then he paused briefly but, presumably, took pity on her and decided to answer the question she was really asking.
“My Lord Námo wishes you, all three, a safe journey back to join your people. Both he and Lord Oromë felt that this would be a good point from which to start your journey. Your horses are ready, including one for Lady Ferveren, your packs prepared, again including one for Her Highness, and you are on the eastern shore of this lake which is a little further north than the point where you crossed the mountain range on your journey to His Lordship’s domain.
“Perhaps I will see you again; I enjoy riding with the hunt on occasions, and it has been a pleasure to get to know you all in one way or another.”
The Maia waved a hand – and melted into his surroundings as if he had never been there.
‘Well,’ thought Haldir, ‘that was quite a night…’
They had begun the wild ride before sunset. He had no idea how far they rode, or for how long, but he recalled eventually feasting and dancing around a great fire as the first hints of sunrise were little more than pale wisps above the trees. He was sure he could also recall jumping over the flames as the sun rose.
The sound and rhythm of the dance were still in his head and he could feel them, yet, all through his body. In fact, he realised, there were still feathers and leaves tucked into his hair – even a flower or two… He had to admit that the celebrations the Ithilrim had brought with them from Mirkwood, or Eryn Lasgalen as they now called it, really could have had their roots in the celebration he had been part of last night.
It was, then, more than possible that the Silvan part of his heritage, and that of his fellow Galadhrim, was as old or older, and as important, as those parts that had come from the court of Elu Thingol. That would bear thinking about. But not right now. There had been a lot of very powerful wine last night, as well as powerful rhythm and dance.
He looked around this place more clearly, and spoke to the only other two now left here with him.
“I feel the need to bathe. It was a most strenuous night and I fear I will not smell sweet.”
He stripped, removed the additions from his hair, loosened it, and then dived into the water.
The shallower water at the edge of the lake was already warming in the sunshine, although Tindómë was sure that where Haldir was swimming, a matter of yards further out, it was a lot colder. Unexpectedly she remembered, clearly, the first time she ever bathed with elves in a deep stream in Rohan; she had a picture in her mind of Legolas disappearing under the water as Orophin swam beneath him and pulled him by his legs, and oh how she missed them both!
Rumil had not joined them that day, but she missed him
even more. If they had been together last night, she thought, they would be lying, satiated, together right now. Instead she was idly watching his brother swimming. As Lady Ferveren had said about Aran Thranduil, she yearned for her husband. She waded out of the lake and sat at the edge, letting the sun dry her, and thought of other celebrations of mid-summer, or mid-winter.
She was thinking of the first such celebration here in the West when Haldir joined her.
“It is a most impressive lake,” he said. “The only expanse of water I have seen to surpass it is the sea.”
“It would suit Orophin,” Tindómë said. “He quite fancies life as a fisherman.”
“He… what?” Haldir spluttered.
“Well, there is no longer the need for full-time warriors,” she answered, “and so he did once comment that he could become a fisherman!”
Haldir looked almost dumbfounded.
They did not ride very far, that first day, as Lady Ferveren had not been astride a horse for a very long time. And, when they paused to let her dismount and walk for a while, the trees they passed through all seemed to claim her attention.
‘What was it she said would suit?’ Tindómë thought. ‘“Oak and chestnut – a forest with broad leaved deciduous trees, and some evergreens”? Yep… that sums this area up nicely.’
She wondered if Haldir had the same thoughts. Her answer came later, as they made camp for the night, and the Queen of Eryn Lasgalen was out of ear-shot.
“Do you think,” Haldir asked his brother-wife, “Her Highness sees this area as one to share with Legolas, or do you think that they will choose to live slightly apart so that, should he choose to come, Aran Thranduil and his son will each have their own domain?”
“Good question,” Tindómë answered him. “And I really don’t know. I don’t suppose she’s thought that far ahead yet, either. But it would suit us all well. You wouldn’t mind, would you? I mean we know there are mellyrn, somewhere, for the Galadhrim because you’ve walked under them…”
Haldir developed a slightly far away look and then said, “There is so much land; so much to explore. This is just a small corner of it. I think there is certainly going to be space for us all. And even for any of the Noldor who choose to move… as long as they do not wish to take over, of course.”
Tindómë wrinkled her nose. She could imagine some of the Noldor would most certainly want to come and take over, if those she had encountered in Tirion were anything to go by. But they would have to cross that bridge when they came to it.
Actually, if some of those ellyth from Tirion were to be standing on it, Tindómë thought with a grin, crossing it and then blowing it up behind them would be even better!
She was still explaining why she was grinning when Lady Ferveren rejoined them.
Lady Ferveren admitted to being a bit out of practice at camping as well as riding; fairly unsurprisingly. But she certainly did not give the impression that she felt she was too good to get her hands dirty and happily collected kindling for their fire. That was a blessing. Tindómë noticed, too, that there was a bow amongst the luggage that had been provided for the Queen.
Haldir had clearly noticed it as well. He asked about it.
“I fear I will need a great deal of practice to regain my skills,” Ferveren replied, “but no-one who lived in Mirkwood was unable to use a bow once they were tall enough to draw one.”
“There is little here to defend ourselves against,” Haldir went on, “but there are certainly wild animals. Tindómë and I are well able to provide for the pot for our journey, but perhaps you might wish to spend a little time each day in practice? I recall, myself, that my new hröa came without the calluses I had built up over many years.”
“You know,” Tindómë commented, “that kind of surprises me. I thought Lord Námo, or Cambasion, or someone, said the new hröa is built as the fëa remembers itself. So that poet might well be buried deep inside you somewhere!”
“Well… I had some calluses,” he replied, sounding rather defensive, paused… and then gave one of those so elegant shrugs and changed the subject to watches and food.
That night they discussed the route they should take. Haldir thought that, if they headed directly East towards the mountains, there was a reasonable chance that they could make their way through the un-named great range north of where they had crossed it on their outward journey. They could then travel across the smaller area between that range and the Pelori and, he hoped, find a pass across them further north than the great gap in which Tirion sat. That should bring them onto the coastal side of the Pelori nearer to Alqualondë and would save Queen Ferveren any need to meet a lot of other people (‘read Noldor!’ Tindómë thought) before being reunited with her son.
“I am so glad that you have some idea of our route,” Lady Ferveren said. “For I know nothing at all of this land; I had never thought of leaving the Greenwood, of living in the West. Although, having met one or two who had lived here in the past, such as Galadriel, I did at least believe it existed, unlike some of my kinsmen.”
“May I ask a really personal question?” Tindómë queried.
The Queen tilted her head as if inviting Tindómë to continue, and so she did.
“If you had never thought of Valinor, or of following the call of Lord Námo, if many of your people remain, unhoused, in the Greenwood, why did you go when he called you?”
Haldir looked shocked at her temerity in asking something so personal, but Lady Ferveren did not seem so. She did not answer immediately, though, but seemed to be looking off into the distance. Finally she spoke.
“I think it was because he sounded so much as if he cared that I did not want to disappoint him!”