The Vessel chapter 24

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Put ‘em up! Put ‘em up! Or Calling Captain Jack Sparrow!

***
Now, I know you’re an emotional girl
It took a lot for you to not lose your faith in this world
But I can’t offer your proof
but your gonna face a moment of truth…

It’s a matter of Trust
Billy Joel

***

Bronwyn took one look at her bloodied brother-in-law before leaping into action, running to the next room and opening the door.

“In here. Put him in here.” Suezan was coming up the hall with clean linens. “Suezan, we are going to need hot water and healing herbs, now.” She held the door open and pulled herself against the wall, giving all the room she could to the three Elves. “What happened?”

Haldir and Rumil gently laid Orophin on the bed. Rumil pulled his boots off and Haldir gingerly began to strip the bloodied tunic from his chest. Bronwyn hissed when she saw the wound. It was deep, crusty, dirt and sweat ingrained into the oozing mass of damaged tissue.

“He was hacked at several times before some well-aimed waves felled his attacker.” Haldir’s voice was terse, angry. Bronwyn sat on the edge of the bed, taking Orophin’s hand.

“You are angry with me?” she hissed incredulously

“I am furious with you, but it will wait.” Haldir looked up at the sound of Meg and Suezan, bringing in pitchers of hot water and pots of what Bronwyn assumed to be ointments. Meg pointed to Rumil.

“Yew! The tub in Bro’wyn’s rume is full o’ ‘ot water. Yew gets yerself init now. Yew’ll be no gud to yer friend ‘ere awl tird an’ nasty.” She shoved him to the door.

“Now, truly ma’am…” Rumil tried to object. Bronwyn had been teaching the brothers and Heridil the Common Tongue and although halting, Rumil spoke quite well.

“I said git on wit’ yew an’ I meant it! Go!” Meg wasn’t used to being argued with. Rumil drew himself to his full height, towering over the woman. His glare was similar to his elder brother’s.

“Madam! He is not my friend. He is my brother and I do not wish to leave him.”

“I don’ care if’n ‘e’s yer brother, sister, father, and wife, yew’ll dew as I say an’ git in that tub!” Rumil found himself shoved out the door.

“Where is Heridil?” Bronwyn was almost afraid to ask.

“He is taking care of the horses and bringing our bags.” Haldir’s eyes never left Orophin. “He is unscathed, thanks to you.” He motioned over to the side table, where everything had been set. “Hand me a cloth drenched in hot water, Bronwyn.”

Oh, sweet Elbereth, he was angry!

She dipped the cloth in the hot water, scalding her hands. She wrung it out quickly before handing it to her husband.

“Can you heal him?” she whispered.

“Aye, but I want the wounds cleaned first.” His eyes never left his work, his hands, as he cleaned the filthy wound. “They are deep, serious. He will have to stay in bed many days. He was the first they reached.” For the better part of a half an hour, the two cleaned and ministered to the wounded Elf. Bronwyn was not aware when Heridil slid in, but Meg waylaid him in the hallway and he followed Rumil into the tub when he finished his bath. Quietly, the innkeeper and her maid refreshed and refilled the hot water and brought linens to dress the beds.

Beckett slept through it all.

Finally, the wound stopped oozing dirt and filth, the blood ran fresh and bright red. The Elves, Bronwyn and Meg stood in awe as Haldir laid his hands over the wounds and watched in fascination as serrated edges began to fuse, pull together. After what seemed forever, all that was left was an ugly reddened scar, swollen, but better than the gaping laceration. Whispering, Haldir murmured the sleep words in his brother’s ear and the youngest of the Lorien brothers fell into an untroubled, healing sleep.

“Yew dun wit’ ‘im?” A large calloused hand clasped Haldir on the shoulder.

“Aye. He will sleep. ” Haldir’s eyes never left his brother’s face. He searched it, as if confirming signs of life in the shallow breathing, the unconscious, glowing eyes. “It will be several days before he will be able to get out of bed and even more, probably weeks, before he will be able to ride.” Secure in the knowledge his brother would survive, Haldir allowed himself to relax, breath deeper. “He took two killing blows. I did what I could for him to survive the trip here.” His jaw twitched. “We met soldiers on the way here. They will deal with the bodies.”

“Gud!” Meg’s hand patted him. “We ‘ave fresh water in th’ tub. Go puht yerself init.”

Haldir rose, stretching kinks from his back. “No, I…”

“Gret Elluvatar! Do stubborness run in yer family?” She saw Bronwyn’s affirmative nod. “Pur child! ‘Ow d’ye stan’ it?”

“Believe me, madam, she is up to the task with her own!”

Meg turned on Haldir. “Don’ make me git me worthless ‘usband! Yer vile an’ yer lady won’ wan’ tuh cuddle wit’ yew smellin’ like y’;dew!”

Haldir’s eyes were flaming, furious as he looked at his wife, his venomous words directed at her. “Perhaps right now, I do not wish to cuddle with her!” He stormed from the room amidst gasps and Bronwyn’s sharply intaken breath.

Rumil immediately attempted to take her in his arms, console what he supposed would be tears.

“Tithen aras, he…”

“Do NOT excuse him.” Her eyes narrowed to slits, watery beads threatening, but she shoved them and the considerate Elf aside. “If that is how he feels, let him simmer in a cold bed tonight!”

“Ah, luvie. ‘E no mean it. ‘Tis th’ ‘eat of battle an’ worry an’…”

“Do NOT excuse him!” Bronwyn turned the fire of her fury on the unsuspecting Innkeeper. “I did not run fast enough to suit him. It does not matter I aided him, it does not matter that I did run. What matters was I did not run FAST ENOUGH!” Her mouth turned down into an angry frown. “Let him stew alone tonight. I would not have done it differently.” She looked at Rumil and Heridil, quiet horror on their faces and waved at them off-handedly. “Go to bed. I will watch Orophin.”

“Bronwyn, we…”

“Please.” Bronwyn turned pleading eyes to the Elves. “I will not be getting any sleep tonight. Not until he gets past his hissy fit enough to come argue with me and he comes to the conclusion that he is a neithado!l And I am too tired to argue. You sleep.” She dragged a chair over to the bed where the injured Elf lay sleeping oblivious to the chaotic feelings that surrounded him. She sat heavily in it, tears that had been impending finally falling.

Meg silently left the room, cursing under her breath the insensitivity of males. The two Elves sank into their beds, watching Bronwyn silently cry and wondering how they could possibly give her comfort.

***

Haldir was not faring any better. He angrily stripped off his sweat and blood-encrusted tunic, much to the dismay of Suezan, who although had attended men in their baths, had not had the ‘pleasure’ of having one’s bloody clothes thrown at her. She did not take time to admire the well-sculpted backside as he slammed his body angrily into the tub, cursing in what she supposed was Elvish. She left plain soap and cleansers within reach of the angry Elf and then fled from the room, her eyes flashing a warning to Meg as that one left the other room.

“Gud thin’ we no be ‘avin’ any udder guests. Wen they git goin’ wit’ th’ arguing, it won’ be purty!” Meg gazed sadly at the closed door. “Pur liddle laddie, in th’ middle.”

***

Not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me.

Sheryl Crow – I Shall Believe

***

Haldir finished his bath, trying carefully not to wake Beckett. The child slept hard, eyes glowing. Bronwyn’s teddy was tucked under one arm, his thumb in his mouth.

She was frightened for you.’ his conscious pricked. ‘She only wanted to make sure you were safe; your brothers, Heridil, were going to be okay.’

His resolve hardened.

No. She had allowed herself and Beckett to come in harm’s way. He had told her not to question, to go when he said. She had not. She promised and she broke it!

He crawled into bed and waited for her to come.

And waited.

And waited.

And finally decided to go to sleep without her.

He stared at the ceiling for the better part of two hours.

He tossed and turned in the big bed, cold, lonely. He pulled a pillow against him, in attempt to replace her. It did not have her curves, her plumpness, nor firmness. It most certainly did not have the breasts he enjoyed cupping at night. The pillow did not press itself into his groin, did not tuck its ankles between his legs, did not tuck its head beneath his chin.

He was miserable.

But still angry. Very angry.

And he wasn’t the only one who was angry. He could feel Bronwyn, her fury raging; he could feel her tears.

Sometime in the night, Beckett awoke. Haldir brought him to bed with him, but the Elfling seemed confused at the emptiness of the bed and fretted. Seeing the scrapes on the child’s knees, strengthened his determination, kindled his wrath anew. Their child had been hurt because she had not done what she was told, what she promised to do. Haldir brushed his hands over them, healing them. It did not diminish Beckett’s agitation.

“Mama.” It was rare when he asked for her.

“You want Mama, Beckett?”

Bewildered eyes implored up at his father, his small hand stroking the vacant side of the bed. “Mama, Ada.”

Who could argue with that? Even at his young age, the little one knew where his mother belonged. And it wasn’t in another room. Haldir rolled from the bed and pulling on leggings, reached out to the Elfling. He changed the babe’s diaper and sleep shirt and quietly went down the hallway to the Elves room.

He opened the door noiselessly, peering in. Heridil and Rumil were asleep, eyes slitted and glowing in the dark. As he stepped into the room, he saw Orophin, still sleeping deeply, Bronwyn sitting next to the bed. A small candle was on the table next to her and she held a small book in her lap. Her eyes slid to her husband.

Haldir came to the foot of Orophin’s bed.

“Baraermin. It is late. Come to bed.”

“No. And don’t you ‘Baraermin’ me!” Her voice was a whisper, but the vehemence in it slapped him as if her hand had struck his face.

Why was she angry at him? He had done nothing to incur her wrath.

Beckett was squirming, wiggling, his small voice starting to rise. Haldir set him on the bed, and the babe scrambled across it, over Orophin’s legs, to Bronwyn’s outstretched arms. “Mama!”

“Beckett needs you. I need you. We will discuss this in the morning. Now, please, come to bed.”

“What part of ‘no’ do you not understand?” Bronwyn kept her voice neutral, her eyes and smile resting on Beckett. The Elfling touched her face, stroking her tears. She looked down at the child who resembled his father so much. “Hello, my sweetness.” She cuddled him close.

“Baraer. Please. It is late, I have had a difficult day and am in no mood to argue with you. Allow my brothers and Heridil some peace and come to bed.” Haldir whispered.

“You are in no mood?” If eyebrows could reach the ceiling, hers would have. Beckett snuggled close into his mother, thumb in mouth, as if hoping his presence would sooth her. “You have had a difficult day? Pray tell, what have I been doing? Twiddling my thumbs? Did you think I was composing songs in my head on that damned horse, while galloping away to sing your praises in case of your death?” She snorted through her nose. “You have had a difficult day indeed! Well, you can just go get fu…” she stopped herself and looked at the Elfling in her arms. Beckett looked up at her, both small fists clutching her tunic, confusion on the small face. She put on a winning smile and pleasant tone of voice for her son. “Well, Ada can just go sleep by himself, can’t he, Beckett?” The child gave her a toothy grin.

“Baraermin, this is foolish. We are both tired. Come to bed.” He motioned towards the door.

“No. I said I would sit with Orophin in case he needs anything and that is exactly what I will do.” She waved towards the door. “You go on. Go to bed.” She held Beckett close, enjoying his sudden parental defection.

“Orophin does not need you to sit with him. He should sleep and if he is in need of anything, then Rumil or Heridil will be here for him.” Haldir’s voice was no longer a whisper. It was stern, commanding. “I need you more than Orophin. Bring our child and come to bed!” Beckett’s eyes became huge, and he stiffened in Bronwyn’s arms, his thumb going to his mouth, the other tiny hand reaching for a lock of his hair.

“No!” Bronwyn’s voice was no longer a whisper, either. “I said I would stay, and stay I will!”

“Your place is not here. Your place is in our room, in our bed, in my arms, you stubborn woman!”

“My place? My place? I know my place, Heru!” She spat the word as if it were distasteful. She jerked up, setting the child on the bed. “I am not some… chattel for you to order about! I am right upset with you right now…”

“Upset with me? What have I done for you to be angry at me for?” Haldir’s look was incredulous. “Nay, I am upset with you, as I have every right to be! And if you do not wish to continue to seek my displeasure, I suggest…”

“Your displeasure? Don’t make me put on my heels and come over there!” Her hands were on her hips and her eyes had narrowed into fiery slits.

“Oh-ho! You think to stomp me like that insect, Thranduil? I should put you over my knee…”

Her jaw dropped and he heard her inhale. “I am not a child! How dare you even suggest…”

“Then I suggest you stop acting as such!”

On and on it went. Beckett sat on the bed, looking back and forth, much as a spectator watching tennis. His scowl deepened, at the rising of his parents’ voices, the vehemence of their words as they deftly attacked, knowing which buttons to push. Finally, the Elfling decided to put an end to it the only way he knew how.

“If you think for one second…”

“NO!”

The two stopped dead, words hanging in the silence.

“No, Mama!” Beckett’s index finger was in the air and he shook it at her. “No!” He turned to his father before Haldir could revel in the self-satisfaction of watching his son tell his mother off. “No, Ada! No! No!” For several minutes, they were thoroughly blessed out with a combination and litany of mangled vowels and consonants that translated into no language but the Elfling’s own.

“Well, I do believe that settles that.” Both so-called adults jerked their attention to the speaker. Rumil rolled from his bed and came to stand between them. “Haldir, you are angry with Bronwyn, with good reason… nay,” his hand went up. “I do not wish to hear it. Bronwyn, you are angry with Haldir, for equally good reason…nay, I do not wish to hear it either. Bad enough I should be forced to listen it, but that Beckett should watch the two most important people in his life argue like Orcs-” Oh that cut! Haldir’s eyes bugged as if he had been squeezed and Bronwyn could have caught flies, her mouth had dropped so far open, “-over something so simple. And it is a simple thing! I realize you have spoken sleep words over Orophin, but how Heridil is sleeping through your quarrel is beyond me…”

“I am not.” The blonde head faced the wall “I keep hoping it is all a bad dream and I shall awake!” Haldir shut his eyes and clenched his jaw, while Bronwyn at least had the decency to look up to ceiling, blushing and looking slightly ashamed. Rumil reached for Beckett, the Elfling coming to him readily.

“Now,” Rumil said forcefully, sounding very much like his older brother, “you two may go into the hallway, your room, the common room, the street, the stable, I really do not care. But you will take your argument away from here.”

“But…”

“You will take your argument from this room. Go to the kitchen and throw Meg’s pans at each other. That is fine with me! Beckett,” Rumil tossed the Elfling on his arm, “shall stay with me tonight,” The little one squealed in delight, “until his parents can start acting like the cohesive unit they truly are.” He pointed to the door. “Out!”

“But…”

“Out!” Rumil stabbed his finger towards the door. “Right, Beckett?”

The Elfling mimicked his uncle and jabbed with his own finger. “Roo! Ow! Mama! Ow! Ada! Ow!”

“Great! I am being ordered around by my own child!” Bronwyn muttered under her breath as she went around Rumil. She kissed the little redhead. “Goodnight, my sweet.”

“Ow! Ow!” Beckett’s finger continued to point towards the door. Bronwyn gave Haldir a wide berth as she headed into the hall.

She did a double take in the hall. She could have sworn she saw a dark shadow in the corner but as she peered closer, she saw it was just an unlit alcove.

Haldir turned to follow her out.

“Wait.” He turned to his brother’s voice.

“Uma?”

“We have had this discussion before, but I will repeat myself just for the sake of hearing my own voice.”

Haldir’s eyebrows raised. Never had his brother spoken like this to him. Rumil had always deferred to him, looked up to him for council and advice and this turn of events was unsettling. Nice, forceful even. But quite unsettling.

“She is not like you. She thinks differently. She thinks, reacts from her heart, not a battle spirit. As you wish to protect her and this bouncy one,” Rumil was bouncing Beckett from side to side, much to the Elfling’s delight, “she likewise wishes to protect you. Remember that. What she did, she did out of love, not disrespect or disobedience. You are angry because you perceive she disobeyed you. She is angry because you do not understand why she delayed.” Rumil pointed to the door with his chin. “No matter what, remember, she quite possibly saved Orophin’s life. Now go and make up with her. Do not let the sun rise on your anger.” He turned towards the bed.

“Come, my energetic playfellow. Let us get comfortable in this bed!”

***

Haldir entered the room to find his wife sitting on the bed, her back to the door.

She had her guitar and strumming intricate riffs from it. Quietly, so as not to disturb her, he made his way around the bed. Her fingers flew over the strings, the melody rising in its beauty. It was a style he had not heard from her.

Tears flowed from closed eyes.

Eventually, the music faded. Her sigh was heavy.

“Baraermin. That was beautiful. What was it?” His voice was soft, quiet.

“A variaciones in the Flamenco style.” She opened bleary eyes. “I don’t like arguing with you.”

“Nor I with you. Please understand that I told you to think of yourself and our child first and you disregarded that.”

“No, I did not!” She jumped off the bed, laying her ancient guitar gently propped against the far wall before spinning on him. “I ran. I fled with our child, as you instructed! Without question.”

“But you…” Her hand flew up to ward him off.

“Talk to the hand, Heru!” Her eyes burned flames hotter than the fires of Mount Doom. “I looked back, simply to ensure your handling of the situation, to assure myself that you were alright. I saw you in trouble and did what little I could.”

“You should not have turned back!”

“I did not turn back! I looked back!”

Haldir took a deep breath, closing his eyes and yanking on a lock of his unbraided hair. “Why must you argue semantics with me?”

“Because I can!” He jerked his eyes open to see her standing with her hands on her hips. He held his hand out to her.

“I am tired, Baraermin. Come to bed. We will discuss this in the morning.” She jerked back from his reach.

“No.”

He took a deep breath. “Why not? I know you are tired as well.”

She was staring at the ceiling, her arms crossed. “Someone told me a long time ago, not to go to bed angry with your spouse. It would bring bad luck. So, no. I am not going to bed.”

Haldir scowled, damning whoever had said that to her. His fingers were tangled in the lock of hair. “Fine! Then I shall not go to bed either. Instead, you will tell me why you are angry with me!”

She could not believe her ears. “Why am I angry with you? Are you dense, Elf?”

“Apparently so.” His palms were up in supplication. “I understand perfectly why I am angry with you, however…”

“Oh, that just bites!” she spat. “I think it is perfectly understandable why I am angry at you, however I think your reasoning for being angry at me is ludicrous!”

“Ludicrous?” They were nose to nose, she was screaming, unaware her voice could be heard in the next room, down the halls, into the empty common room. His voice, albeit quiet, was stern, rankled. “Madam, I gave you a simple instruction-“

“Which I followed!”

“No, you did not!”

“You are angered because I did not flee fast enough!”

“That is correct!” There was a scant inch between them.

“See?” she screamed. “I understand why you are angry at me! Why am I angry at you?”

“If I knew that,” he bellowed, “I would be a rich Elf, indeed!”

“Neithadol!”

“Do you not mean arse-hole?” Her eyes narrowed.

“No! I meant jackass!” It was quiet for a few moments. “Haldir, do you not truly understand why I am so angry?”

“No, I do not.”

She took a deep breath, looking back at the ceiling. Haldir glanced aloft, wondering what was so interesting up there. “Entreat me not to leave thee.” Her voice was almost a whisper.

“Come again?”

She exhaled in exasperation. Her gaze shifted to the floor. “Entreat me not to leave thee. Or to return from following after thee…”

His shoulders dropped, his anger fell. “Oh, Baraermin…”

“For whither thou goest, I will go…”

She allowed him to pull her close and she buried her face in his chest.

“…Where thou diest, will I die…” His arms went around her protectively.

“I have no intention of dying anytime soon, Baraermin. You have too many adventures ahead of you and I believe the Halls of Waiting would be boring without you.” He felt her catch her breath.

“My heart was torn in two, Haldir of Lothlórien. I was protecting Beckett, but I needed to make sure you were fine. Instead I turn and you are surrounded by three murderers; Orophin is being hacked down and Heridil is being snuck up on. I threw my knives twice and slung a few tweaks. I did not want to leave you. I wanted to fight alongside you. But I left.” She took another calming breath. “I can’t explain…”

So she showed him. In the blink of an eye, she took Haldir back to the scene, from her vantage. He saw the four Elves, surrounded, saw the chaos and dust, felt her fear, her terror. And although he knew they were in control, Orophin was almost killed and he…

Understood.

His arms tightened around her. “I understand, Baraermin. I am still angry, but I understand.” Wild curls tickled his nose. “Turn and turn is fair play. Is there anyway you could possibly see this from my point of view?”

“No. But I understand why you are angry with me. You perceive that I left Beckett and myself in danger. I did not follow your request immediately. I would not change a thing, but I understand your displeasure with me.”

He felt her concede. “That I will accept.” All the energy that had been fueling her, suddenly fell away and her knees went slack. Haldir picked her gently and brought her to the bed. He stripped the dusty pants and tunic from her body before removing his leggings and crawling in beside her, her bottom snuggling against him and his hand cupping the warm breast.

“Good night, Baraermin.”

“Good night, Gracie.”

***

Orophin healed very slowly. Bronwyn had the distinct feeling he was pining and did not wish to be where he was. Haldir was of the same mind set, but who Orophin was pining for was a quandary. He was not involved with anyone, his last ladylove had not been heard from in a few years, they had been told she had left for the Grey Havens and had sailed to the Undying Lands. He made no attempts to get up from the bed, except to deal with personal matters. He was quiet and withdrawn.

“Perhaps we could stage another argument over the bed?” Bronwyn playfully asked, shadow boxing him.

Haldir was not amused. In his eyes, they had not resolved the causes of this last one. The only thing to have come out of it was a wonderful extended lovemaking session the next morning and an agreement not to argue so openly in front of Beckett. The child had refused to have anything to do with them the entire next day, preferring Rumil’s company. He finally made up with them that evening.

The days fell into patterns – Bronwyn going “cruising” in the mornings, following her nose, her palms, with Haldir patiently tailing her. She preferred markets, places with people, people who liked to talk, like to gossip. She made Haldir stand away during times, as most people were not used to the sight of an Elf. And let’s be honest – Haldir was a very nice sight! When Bronwyn thought about it, she always got a quirk in her smile. But people preferred to stare at him, rather than gossip. Afternoons were spent with Beckett, outings, with Bronwyn still following the itching of her palms. Evenings were spent pub crawling, much to Haldir’s dismay. She discovered, show a little leg, sing a little, get a man in his cups and he would talk! On nights she decided to go to the wharf, Rumil and Heridil both would go with she and Haldir, leaving Orophin and his heart with Beckett.

The new mayor had opened the library at the mayoral residence, where she had so callously gone through the records almost three years before. He expected her coming, having received an official missive from King Elessar with all the royal seals and proclamations. He had informed the receiving houses on the wharfs to open their records, to inform incoming ships to open their logs, to talk and not worry of reprisals. He did not know what her mission was, but he knew it would not bode well for him if he did not at least cooperate. He found the small woman and her silent hulking Elf to be both warm and intimidating. It was a disconcerting combination.

As bartenders got to know her, know Haldir, they opened up. When old sots got to know her, knew she liked to listen, they unloaded their pasts like ancient, well- worn books.

Old sailors told her stories of the sea, of pirates and sea monsters. Tales of lands in the mist that disappeared when you ventured towards them.

Young sailors told her stories of swash-buckling and their own sexual prowess. Sometimes they got so far in their cups, they forgot that not far off, a large Elf watched with hooded eyes, but he never let them forget for long. Typically, all that was needed was a sharp word, a refreshed ale and a song with the said sailor’s name, glorifying his exploits. Bronwyn knew her subject well.

And she listened, filed them away in her mind, collected.

And Orophin slowly healed.

***

You got me
Tied down with Battleship chains
Fifty -foot long
with a two ton anchor…

Battleship Chains
Georgia Satellites

**

“Come on, my favorite youngest brother! Time to see the sun!” Bronwyn had had enough of Orophin’s diffident inner disquiet.

“I like it here.” he groused. “This is a comfortable bed!”

“Tough shit, love!” she smiled. “It has been three weeks. You are too pale for my comfort and I wish to take Beckett t o the park. And you…” she yanked the coverlet from him, leaving him naked and struggling to cover himself in the bed, “are coming with us!” The scar was now thin, almost invisible. He caught the tunic and leggings thrown his way. “Braid your hair and get dressed!” She picked Beckett up from the floor, settling him in her arms. “Tell Uncle Orophin, we are going to the park!”

“Phin! Phin! Park!” The finger was not taking no for an answer.

Orophin pulled the clothing over his nakedness. “Where are my brothers? Heridil? Can they not go with you?

“Nope!” Bronwyn’s face was sunny and bright. “They have followed me around like a battleship chain around my neck for three weeks. Haldir especially. I told them to take a break, go explore on their own. You should be more than happy to join us. It is such a lovely day! Do not be a sour puss.” She headed towards the door. “Please, come with us.” Although phrased as such, it was not a request. She shut the door behind her.

Orophin growled under his breath as he put on his clothes.

***

I’m alive again on a Maymorning
Going to wipe the slate clean
Follow my dreams
All the yearning buds are here again
With the promise of a new life to come
Spring is here again

I’m alive again

Maymorning
Calum and Rory MacDonald
Runrig

***

The Elf and Woman sat on a bench, watching the Elfling chase seagulls on wobbly legs. Meg had given them stale bread and he enjoyed throwing them in the air and seeing the birds catch them. Beckett clapped his hands in delight and his laughter was infectious. For the first time in a long time, Bronwyn saw her brother-in-law smile. But it was wistful and longing.

“Orophin. Are you going to tell me about it?”

Orophin looked shocked. “What?”

“What is going on with you?” She handed more bread crumbs to Beckett. “I have never seen you like this.”

“Like what?”

Bronwyn rolled her eyes. “Orophin! You brood like Haldir used to. It is damned scary! Rumil ordering us as if we were squabbling children-“

“You were squabbling children, if what I have been told is correct. And I do not think Heridil would lie.”

She waved her hand at him, as if his words were an annoying fly. “Between Rumil ordering us about and you brooding, Haldir will have nothing left but his braid to yank! And his son will take that soon enough!” She gestured to the sitting child, quietly contemplating the diving seagulls, fist in his curls. “Now! What is going on with you?”

“Nothing.” His fierce gaze fixed on the small child.

“Bull shit. Who is she?” Orophin looked at her sideways, the Lothlórien Brother Scowl well etched on his face. “Who has captured your heart so that you cannot endure even your nephew’s company?”

Orophin’s gaze was focused on a leaf across the grassy park. “I should not say.”

“Oh, but you will, or I will be forced to have a talk with your eldest brother…”

“Bronwyn, please do not.”

“…you see,” she continued as if he had said nothing, ” I am now worried for you and of course that will affect my singing and my talking with the sailors and fishmongers and lowlifes on the wharfs and of course, it will affect and cause me so much anxiety, that I will be preoccupied when your brother attempts to make tender love to me…”

“I really do not wish to hear about yours and Haldir’s love life…”

“…which will upset him greatly if he thinks I have another man, or Elf, on my mind, especially if I do not respond with the proper moans and groans of satisfaction while he sweats and ruts heartily for my satisfaction…”

“Bronwyn, please. I will tell you, if you will cease.”

“…and he works so hard for my satisfaction, you know, because he such a considerate lover and he would be forced to harm whomever would come between us in whatever fashion…”

“Bronwyn, for pity’s sake, I shall tell you, if you would just shut up!”

“…I am, of course, all ears!” She turned the full force of her smile on him.

He took a deep breath. “You must not tell.” Bronwyn made a motion to zip her lips and throw away the key. He, of course, had no idea what she had done, but he gathered it was a secret hand motion from her time for keeping secrets. “It is Lera. Lera Meare.”

“The healer outside of Minas Tirith? The twins…”

“They call her their sister. Yes, she.” Orophin’s head was hung and he gazed on his fingers, twiddling aimlessly. Bronwyn tipped the chin up to see unshed tears.

“And this is a problem. Why?”

“She is mortal, Bronwyn. I wish to bond with her, but she will grow old and I cannot take her to the Undying Lands with me.” He clasped her hands in his. “What am I to do?”

She put her arms around the Elf. As with Elrond, she saw his past, growing up with his brothers, the bereft emptiness left by his parents at their death, how he had looked up to Haldir, Rumil, and Celeborn, his friendship with Heridil. And then it split.

Two possible outcomes:

Orophin alone, wasting away, fading in Rivendell, even before leaving for the Grey Havens, never making it to the Undying Lands. Or Orophin, on a large white boat, grieving, but with a tall, graceful young Elf at his side. A young Elf who looked like Orophin with sapphire blue eyes.

“Orophin, you must follow your heart.”

“My heart says to go to her! Bond with her and live until the end of her days. My brothers would persecute me, however for that decision.”

“Why would they do that? Orophin, they love you! They would want your happiness.”

“She is mortal, she will age and die, she…”

Bronwyn lay a finger across his lips. “Tell me of her. Tell me of this wonderful Lera Meare who has captured your heart.”

And he talked of his beautiful Lera, his smart, his funny, his tough Lera Meare. The poetry he had written for her, the songs he composed that he wished Rumil or she would put to music. Beckett got tired of the seagulls, came to her wanting a soft shoulder to nap on and she carried him on the walk back to the inn while Orophin continued to talk on. They stopped a block from the inn.

“Ai, Bronwyn. What do I do?”

“You follow your heart. What does it say?”

“It says to go, to leave today, tonight and go to her.” His sigh was heavy. “What am I saying? Haldir will never allow me to leave…”

“You feel forced to stay with us?” She shifted Becket to a more comfortable position, his eyes slitted in reverie.

‘Nay, I shall feel guilty leaving you…”

“Well, do not! Tell me,” she nuzzled Beckett’s curls, “How is your shoulder?”

“Sore, but…”

“Well, that’s it. You need to see Elrond!”

“But Haldir’s skills…”

She brandished her hand, annoyed at him. “Posh! You need Elrond. We will go tomorrow and make arrangements for you to return to Minas Tirith with the next regiment going out. My work is done here and I need to move on!” She looked at him as if he were a comical thorn in her side. “You are injured and cannot travel with us in your state and I can no longer wait!” Her eyes watered up. “But I shall miss you! Who will Haldir throw up on when I become pregnant again?”

Orophin’s embrace was gentle as he took both her and the Elfling in. “Perhaps Rumil for a change. Or maybe Heridil. Anyone but me!”

And they entered the cool inn, welcomed by his brothers and friend.

***

We’re going to lie down on the grass
Your lipstick in the clover
Going to marry Maera in the summertime
The Ocean round our shoulders

Slightly reconfigured from “The Message”
Calum and Rory MacDonald
RunRig

***

For the next eight years, the small party wandered the south of Gondor. Soon after seeing Orophin off, well protected with the regiment being replaced with a fresh troop, they meandered, making their way down the coast. They crossed the mouth of Anduin, spending time on the beach. Bronwyn cut off an old pair of jeans, frolicking in the waters in shorts and her tank. Music of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean reverberated from the sands. Bronwyn and Rumil stood on the edges of the tide singing ‘Surfin’ USA’ with arms outstretched, surfing on imaginary boards. Heridil shook his head, thinking they had to much free time on their hands.

“Baraermin?” Haldir asked at one point, dipping Beckett up from the crashing surf, “Who are these ‘California Girls’ and why do I wish all women were like them?”

“Shall I?” Bronwyn asked Rumil and Heridil. She had given them visuals just minutes before. Both Elves, after noiselessly consulting each other, shook their heads no. She shrugged. She supposed her husband would never know what he was missing.

The Elves fished in the waters, catching a pile of strange fish they cooked on a roaring fire on the sand. As the sun went down, she and Haldir gently swayed to ‘Do you love me, Surfer Girl?’ Beckett chased the surging water and was pinched by a rather cantankerous member of marine life. He smacked the offensive creature, causing it to drunkenly scuttle away, before it made its way to the ocean. “Bad cwab! Bad cwab!” he hollered after it, much to the amusement of his father. Haldir had quickly become his favorite person again, with Rumil following a close second.

They made their way down the Harondor, down to the sliver of land known as the Umbar. Despite Haldir’s deepest misgivings, they stayed in the City of the Corsairs, explored the Havens of Umbar. The Corsairs had been routed twice by Aragorn, most recently when he confiscated their pirate fleet in order to sail reinforcements up the Anduin during the War of the Ring. The pirates were sailing away, Gondor’s government slowly taking back control. Bronwyn loved the market in the port town, collecting musical instruments from parts unknown and bright, garish materials to replace clothing that was quickly wearing thin with travel and much use. Haldir complained they would have to add three more pack mules in order to carry all the things she had bought. Bronwyn found and lay her hands on the spot where Sauron had surrendered in the Second Age before he had returned to Baradur to recoup his losses. Civil unrest still was a problem and many nights, Bronwyn, Haldir and Rumil or Heridil, whomever was not staying with Beckett, had to fight their way out of a waterfront bar. Many times, Haldir had to heal one or more from their party. Bronwyn was forced to use her skills on several occasions and eventually, ruffians left them alone. It all came to a head when a pirate ship docked and the authority had wharf warfare on their hands, keeping the five literally locked in their rooms for several days. Haldir put his foot down and the day they were told that the streets were safe, they left.

They traveled up the coast, up the River Harnen and eventually left it to go into the Haradwaith, the Sutherland and into Far Harad. The land was desolate, a desert. One morning, she was on her horse, looking into the dust, Beckett in front of her, listless, bored of seeing nothing but dirt. Her look was wistful.

“Baraermin. Hand me Beckett.” Bronwyn lifted the growing child over to her husband, still contemplating what could possibly lie over the desert and if it did, how far. She almost missed Haldir’s comment.

“Are you coming?”

Her attention shifted back to the present. “What Cormmin?”

“Are you coming?” Heridil and Rumil had already turned their horses, their pack mule and was returning in the direction from which they had come.”

“Coming? We are going this way.” She motioned ahead of her.

“You may go. But we are not. I will not allow you to take Beckett into that Iluvatar-forsaken desert.” Bronwyn’s look was dead, empty. She turned to look into the desert again. Haldir called for Rumil and he handed Beckett to him, giving him instructions to move out, pointing in the direction they had come. He then pulled up alongside Bronwyn.

“Ha’ penny for your thoughts?” She glanced at him sideways.

“My time’s sayings sound funny on your tongue.”

“There are things I would rather have on my tongue.” he smirked. “Truly, Baraer. Why do you insist? There is nothing there.”

“There is.”

“Where?” He made a great show of peering into the dust. “Are you looking for a specific speck of sand? Peace, tell me what it looks like. I shall be happy to hunt it down and slaughter it like the Orc it is.”

“Ha. Ha.” she snarled. “Very funny.”

Haldir looked down at his saddle, almost ashamed of himself. “Baraermin. There is nothing there.”

“There is.”

“Where?”

She waved a hand, gesturing to the lifeless landscape. “Out there.”

“How far?”

“If I knew the answer to that,” she snapped, “we would not be having this stupid discussion!”

“Ah, but you do not, so we are having this discussion.” He leaned over and took her leather clad hand in his. “Baraermin. When I agreed to accompany you on this venture, Celeborn and Tari of the Valar told me you would walk through a pit of vipers to hear better the song of the robin. This…” he gestured to the desert, ” is the viper pit. Please. Do not go further. The robin song is not worth the danger I sense in this. I will not accompany you through it nor will I allow you to take Beckett. If I must, I will haul you over my saddle and carry you away tied. Do not force my hand.” He turned his horse. “Are you coming?”

She continued to look wistfully into the desert.

“Are you coming?”

“Aye.”

They headed back, eventually going into Near Harad and Khand.

***

TBC

***

Uma – Yes
Baraermin – My Fiery One
Heru – My Lord
Cormmin -My heart
Neithadol – Wronghead

The Vessel – chapter 23

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The Vessel 
Chapter 23 
The Elf-Lordling of the East Wing or Point me the way South. 

And now it’s time for
Silly Songs with Larry.
The part of the Show where Larry sings a silly song.
“Everybody’s got a water buffalo
Yours is fast but mine is slow…” 

Silly Songs with Larry
Veggie Tales

***

Bronwyn rolled over to an empty bed. By the light – or lack of it – she could tell it was still several hours before sunrise. Her hand reached to touch the pillow to find it indented, but cool.

Haldir had been up quite a while. She smiled softly, rolling to the other side of the bed, searching for Beckett’s crib. Sure enough, her husband stood next to the crib, looking intently down at the sleeping child.”You know, Cormmin,” she whispered, “they grow while they sleep.”

He did not look up from the sleeping child. “Is that true? Then I am watching him grow.” Even in the dark, his eyes glinted. “I did not think I would have room in my heart to love anything more, but I was wrong.” He held his hand out to her as she rose from the bed. She went to his side, allowing him to pull her close. Together, they looked down at the small Elfling, on his back, eyes slitted and glowing.

“Half-pence for your thoughts?”

Haldir thought for a moment. “You wish to know what I am thinking.” He took in her shadowed smile. “I was thinking about a conversation I had with Legolas, when you came into my life.”

“Oh really. And what conversation was that?”Arms tightened and she felt secure, safe within the boundaries of the cocoon of his love.

“I had not been happy for a long time. I searched for happiness in the caress of Liandrien, in the embrace of many. I sought it guarding the Golden Wood, everywhere. I told him I wanted a peaceful life, a life-mate and children.” He leaned down to nuzzle her hair. “I had no idea it all sat within my grasp, disguised as a filthy, vomit – covered youth.”

“What did Legolas say?” She felt the tall Elf chuckle deeply in his chest and squeeze her tighter.

“He said one cannot have peace AND children.”

Bronwyn laughed quietly with her husband. “I think he is wrong. Right now, I have a beautiful child and it is a peaceful feeling!” Her laughter did not cease.”Oh really? Just wait until your son wakes up demanding his late night feeding!”

And at that moment, Beckett did. For a few moments, there was no peace in their apartments.

***

For several days, it was not unusual to see Bronwyn, Beckett tied around her in a sling, sitting down in the catacombs with Gandalf, Elrond, and Celeborn, separate or in any combination, discussing, debating, or arguing over piles of scrolls. Bronwyn was amazed at the amount of written word that had survived for over a millennium.

However, as they delved deeper into the caverns, she was alarmed at the amount of dust, the staleness of the air, and feared for the babe’s lungs. Her own lungs burned as they had at Baradur and Elrond gave her an infusion of special herbs mixed in her tea to help clear them.

They bandied about talk to remove the scrolls from their place in the bowels of the fortress, but the parchment was in such delicate shape, she shuddered at taking them from the cool, dank dungeons to her bright chambers.

And so it was that the Guardian and Shield of Tel’ Lindar, became Ada and Chief Elfling -Sitter of Beckett, Elf-Lordling-In-Charge of the Two Rooms of the East Wing of the Palace. And Orophin and Rumil became Guardians of that same Elf-Lordling, greatly assisted by Heridil.”What do we do now?” Orophin asked, leaning over the crib. The four Elves pulled up chairs and staked out a side, each one peering over the crib, watching the rise and fall of the little one’s chest.

“How am I supposed to know? He is asleep.” Haldir whispered. ” ‘Tis the strangest thing. I can tell by the way he cries, what he wants.”

“Crying is crying!” Heridil scoffed.

“Nooo.” Both Haldir and Rumil shook their heads. “When he is hungry, it is like a sheep’s bleating. When he is wet, it is a bellow, very short.” Haldir reached into the crib and stroked a soft cheek with a calloused finger. 

“And next you will tell me that when he wants to be held, he sits up and says ‘Ada, please pick me up. I desire your attention.’ He is such a smart…” Three pairs of churlish eyes stared Heridil down. “I was joking!” He held his hands before him in supplication. “I am sorry! I will say no more.”

It was quiet for several minutes. “Now what?”

“I do not know! Does he do anything but sleep?”

Haldir didn’t even look up from the crib. “Aye. He makes a great smelly mess in his clothing, he gets bathed, and he eats. He eats a lot.”

Orophin raised a single eyebrow to Heridil. “And he has wrapped our stoic, serious brother around his finger! All Beckett has to do is…” the youngest of the Lorien brothers lifted one hand, pinkie raised, “pull, just like this!” He crooked the raised appendage.

There was quiet chuckling at the expense of the former March Warden, who was so well known for his arrogance and seriousness. Haldir grinned at the revelation. “Aye, it is true!” he turned dark blue eyes up to his youngest brother. “But, you wait. It will happen to you!”

“Oh, no!” Orophin shook his head. “I do not think so. Rumil has a better chance than I.”

“Oh, that was low!” Rumil punched the youngest Elf. “I would bet that Heridil will settle before us.” The three Elves watched as a rather sad look quickly passed over the Elf’s face, before covering it with a blank mask.

“Heridil?” Rumil inquired. “Did I say something amiss?”

Heridil had always been closed-mouthed with whom he had been with. It was not known when or whom he had slept first with, or if he had slept at all with anyone. If he had ever been in love, it was not common knowledge, no matter how much pleading and cajoling or spying – and yes, the brothers had lowered themselves to that a time or two – could pry anything from him.

“There is no one.” Heridil’s eyes were glued to the rhythmic rise and fall of the tiny chest. “Leave it be.” His voice was tight, terse. The brothers looked at each other, realizing they were walking on thin ice.

Haldir caught the attention of his brothers.”Go get Bronwyn. It is close to Beckett’s dinner time.”

The implied message was obvious. Go. I will talk to him. The two Elves got up quietly and left the room. There was silence for several minutes as the two watched the babe.”So, who is she?”

“There is no one.”Haldir’s smile was mirthless. “I have known you too many years, mellon. Who is she?”Heridil hung his head. “There is no one, Haldir. She loves someone else and their love is great. I am resigned to be her friend. And happy to be considered such. There is no one.”

The only sound was that of Beckett beginning to awaken from his slumber. The tiny fists stretched above reddish curls and a small, puckered mouth opened in a yawn. Before the babe could come fully awake, Haldir reached over and brought him to his chest, tucking the tiny head under his chin. The Elf’s hands totally encompassed the child from head to knee. “Does she know your feelings?”

“Nay. I hope she never does.”

“Ah.” Haldir nuzzled the curly locks. He thought back over the times Heridil’s eyes had followed Bronwyn; he had been fast to volunteer to travel with them, always under the guise of friendship for his brothers. He who had corrected her grip, fixed her quiver. At Baradur, he had quickly agreed to sit with her when no one else wished to. Heridil had been the one attempting fetch her back to his side that day on the flets, when she had died. She died attempting to rescue him. She had given him, in an obscure way, his father… he had quietly covered for her, aided her, silently watching her, always.

“Should I watch my back?”

Heridil chuckled softly. “Nay. Even after much daydreaming on my part, I came to the conclusion long ago that I could not handle your wife. She would be dragging me around by the nose in no time and I would be nothing but a lap dog.” The sounds of chattering and laughter came from the hallway. “Wake up, young Beckett.” Heridil whispered, “Your dinner arrives!”

***

Several times over the next several weeks, Haldir would catch Bronwyn inspecting her body when she dressed, when she exited her bath. Running her hands over the widened hips, waist, the marks fading too slowly. He could sense her disquiet, her unhappiness with her figure.

He ached for her. He had not touched her since the birth, the scene, the pain of her child birth etched on his mind. How long should one wait for his wife to recover from that? How long did it take? He posed the question to Galadriel.

“What?” she queried. “You have not touched her since? Haldir! It has been six weeks! Surely, she has said something to you…”

“No. She is unhappy with her body.” he retorted, yanking on his braid. “I reassure her, but I am worried and I am afraid Beckett will awake.”

“You have not touched your wife in six weeks?” Celeborn looked up from the ancient scroll he had been studying. He and Bronwyn had argued over the meaning of its words and he wished to examine it closer in order to continue the lively discussion with her. “Melkor’s Chains, you must be aching!” He ignored the nasty look his wife gave him.

“If you must know, eight weeks. She was very uncomfortable and the only position… she is short…” Haldir was yanking on his braid until Celeborn reached over and grabbed his hand.”My head hurts when you do that.”

Celeborn looked at his wife, who was deep in thought. “My love?”

Galadriel was tapping a slender finger against her lips. “A wet nurse… definitely…”

“I beg your pardon, my lady?”

“I am thinking a peaceful evening is what you need. If I can procure the services of a wet nurse for a few hours, perhaps a quiet, romantic dinner would do the trick.”

And so commenced the Romancing of the new Mother.

***
Scarce is the heart that does not reject
And the vow that binds eternally
Graceful, gentle girl
There is no other I could put in your place
I would walk with you to the back of the sun
And to the ends of time

Ribhinn Donn (Brown-haired girl)
From In Search of Angels
RunRig
***

She had been incensed when Haldir had come down into the musty caverns, determined she come to their rooms.

His brothers left when she arrived and Haldir had a tub, filled with rose scented oils and insisted she luxuriate in it until the water cooled. While Beckett slept peacefully, he washed her hair, rinsed it, washed her back. When Beckett awoke, he brought the babe to her, so she could nurse him in the tub and bathe him as well. Haldir found the scene highly erotic.

She was visibly upset when Haldir informed her that Galadriel and Celeborn wanted to play indulgent Grandparents for the evening. Considering she was spending so much time in the recesses of the ancient library, she felt Galadriel was taking her quality time with her baby.

But Haldir was quietly persistent.And when he brought her one of her softest, flowing gowns to wear, and she spied dinner being brought up, she knew, she had been set up. 

But she was determined to enjoy dinner. As dinner progressed, conversation was light. Haldir nevertheless felt her becoming more and more nervous as the obvious conclusion became closer.

As the sun set and servants cleared the dishes, he held her in his arms on the balcony.”Why are you nervous? Why would you be frightened of me?” His tongue flicked her and she shuddered in pleasure. 

“I am not frightened of you. I love you.” 

“Ah, but lately I wonder. You have hid yourself; kept yourself from my embrace.” Which was true. He had heard and accepted the excuses. When the last of the servants had left, he led her into their rooms, locking their doors and moving her to the foot of their bed. 

“I do not like what my body has become. Maybe, in a few more weeks…” She had stepped fully into his embrace, her head on his chest and her arms wrapped around his powerful torso. 

“I am not… how do you put it… I am not buying that excuse, Baraer.” His tone was stern. Mocking, but stern. His fingers were gently working the fastenings of the back of her gown. 

“My… my… butt… is big.” Her whisper was petulant. 

“Ah, so I fell in love with your… butt?” Her dress fell about her feet in a copious, gossamer pile. 

Bronwyn rolled her eyes. He didn’t understand. “My breasts. They are large and ponderous and they leak at the most inopportune times!” 

“Ah, so I fell in love with your breasts?” He had unhooked the undergarment that supported them and it too, fell to the floor. Bronwyn felt herself being nudged backwards, the back of her legs coming in contact with the bed. The rest of her undergarments came off in the batting of an eye. He prodded her and as she fell flat on the bed, he crawled up above her, straddling her now nude body. 

“Do you wish to know what I love?” Her answer was a low moan. His tongue went to her ear. “I love your ears. They are round and sensitive and when I kiss them like such…” He blew gently and flicked the rim before nipping the lobe, “it makes you shudder and I can hear your body scream.” He then moved, slid kisses to her mouth. 

“I love your mouth because it says things that make me laugh, make me think, make me angry. It gives sweet kisses and it tastes and licks and suckles parts of my body until I cannot stand or speak.” And with that his tongue plundered her mouth, stealing her breath, clouding her desire to wait. Wait until dark, wait until she was happier with her body. 

Well, forget that... 

His mouth moved downwards, tongue encircling achingly full breasts. The areolas were dark, deep chocolate brown and he flicked at the liquid that seeped from them.

“Ah, these I do love. I admit it wholly. I love to cup them at night in sleep, their weight brings me comfort. I love to play with them, I love how your nipples react to my breath, my tongue. They bring nourishment to my child and bring great pleasure to me…” his tongue sucked greedily at the nipple. “But I will admit that I have often wondered what my son finds so delectable in them…”

And to her relief, he gently devoured her… 

Eventually, he continued downward, over her soft belly, the indention at her navel…To the angry marks.”At first,” he whispered, “at first I worried, was enraged of the marks on you. They marred you, marked you and I did not like it. But…” he silenced her before she could excuse them, “But, I finally realized what they were, what they represented. I not only realized what they were, but I take pride in them, in their marking of you.

This one…” his tongue ran over a particularly long stretch mark, “this one is a sign of your courage to stand up to that… bastard Ramsey by not killing your first born before he had a chance to experience life.” Bronwyn’s moan intermingled with tears starting to flow.

“This one,” he picked another and followed its trail along her abdomen, “you received giving birth to Duncan, whom I realize I love very much.”

“This one,” his tongue continued its path, “you received in agreeing to bear our child.”

“This one was caused by carrying our son for almost twelve months.”

“This angry welt is a sign of your courage through a difficult labor…”On and on he continued, licking the trail, the weavings of each mark, naming them, praising her until she was squirming. His hands reached her thighs, spreading them, spreading her…

“Now thisssss…” He blew gently on her damp curls and spread her nether lips, opening her to the air, to his sight. “This, I love greatly. This passage that I have traveled so many times, into the core of your body, which harbored me, my seed, protected our child, my child, and he is my child as well as yours, and then led him to life. This I love much. But mostly I love it because this comforted me when I was unsure, assured me when I was confused and mostly, when I put my mouth right… here…” his thumb stroked the very wet nubbin, “you will jump.” And at that instant, his mouth covered her, his tongue finding that hard knot beneath it and his fingers delved into molten lava.

And he was right.

She jumped and only his quick thinking, and remembering what had happened the first time he had done this to her, kept him from seeing stars and silly talking rabbits as he pinned her neatly with his hand.

Her screams when she came, could be heard into the hallway. When she became conscious of sound as she came down, she could hear him removing his clothes; she heard the tunic hit the floor, the snapping of the ties on his leggings, the sound of them sliding from his hips, his legs. As her breathing returned to normal, she felt the dip in the bed and when she opened her eyes, she saw him over her, his moonlit tresses trailing up her body, finally settling on her shoulders. His hands propped his body above hers, his knee nudging her legs further apart.

His kiss tasted of her.”Do you love me?”

Her sigh rent the air as she cupped the face above hers. “You know I do. Why would you question that?”

He lowered himself, placed himself at her entrance, but did not enter. His forehead touched hers. “You hid from me. Held yourself from me. Did you think I was so shallow that all I cared about was what your body looked like? Even if it does not return to its former state… it is your mind, your laughter that I love. It is the way you argue with me, with Celeborn, with Elrond over scrolls older than me that I love. It is the way you banter with my brothers, with Heridil, the way you whisper with Legolas, dance with Gimli, the way you stand up to Thranduil, that I love. It is the way you sit at Gandalf’s feet and listen to him explain unknown things to you. It was the way you cried over the pain and loss of life in the Dead Marshes and Baradur that I love. It is the way you hold Beckett, love him, love Duncan that I love about you. The fact that you are Tel’ Lindar means nothing to me.” He lowered himself further, kissing the tears that ran down her cheeks. “You are Baraermin – My Fiery One. No one else, but mine. Please. Invite me in.”

She took a huge, sobering breath, taking in what all he had said to her from the moment her dress had hit the floor.

Never question.

Ever.


Haldir saw the flame flicker, catch, and begin to burn in those deep eyes of hers. Her voice was a soft whisper.”Dive in deep, Heru en Corrmin. The water is warm!”

He almost came the moment he buried himself to the hilt. “Warm?” he murmured raggedly in her ear. “Warm? Try hotter than the liquefied rock in Mount Doom.” He set a powerful rhythm and her legs wrapped around his waist, beckoning him, urging him. He managed to wait for her to tighten and when she called out to him, he growled and allowed himself to explode.

***

He took her twice more that night. And again that morning as the sun rose. It wasn’t until she cried at the pain in her breasts that he pulled on leggings and went to their apartment door where Orophin and Rumil had stood guard, allowing no one to disturb them that night, and sent one to get Beckett.

***

For two years, until Beckett was weaned and relying totally on solid food, they stayed in the White City, Bronwyn crawled the caverns with Gandalf and Elrond. She was present for the birth of Aragorn and Arwen’s first child – a son – and was totally disgusted at not only the ease with which the elleth gave birth, but the fact there were no marks on her body.

Some nights, she and her husband, usually accompanied by the Twins, Haldir’s brother’s, Heridil and sometimes even Celeborn and Galadriel, cruised the drinking establishments, Bronwyn taking her guitar and entertaining anyone who wanted to listen. She caroused the marketplace, listening to gossip, seeking out the Elders, remembering. She purchased every instrument she could find; drums, fifes, reed flutes, cymbals, bells…

Several times, the twins went to visit their new sister. After the fifth time, they invited Orophin and Rumil to join them. Orophin, who hated travel and was desiring greatly to return to Lothlorien, finally decided to tag along. Rumil was too enthralled by his nephew and by the sights in Minas Tirith to go.

One bright morning, Haldir awoke to trunks opened, clothing being packed, her traveling pack and satchels unrolled on the bed. Beckett crawled happily in the floor, jabbering and waving Bronwyn’s decrepit teddy bear around by the ear.

“Baraer?” His voice was sleepy. She had been very enthusiastic the night before.

“My palms itch, Haldir. My gut says it is time to go south.”

***Oh tell the Tale of the Wicked Soldier
Oh tell the Tale of the Wicked Man…

Wicked Soldier
Tonic***

“Dededo mobu nekky!” The chubby finger wagged at Rumil, the voice in early stages of authority.

“Yes sir!”

“Nono bebe garu! Neee nobo wawa bebe!” This was directed to Heridil.

The Elf looked straight ahead, never taking his eyes off the landscape before them.”As you wish”

Beckett sat in the saddle, held secure by his father. The child looked around in his most arrogant manner, so reminiscent of his father and spied his mother, stifling her giggles.”Mama! Yada yada yada!” His finger punctuated each word.

“Yada yada yada!” she answered before laughing outloud. She looked askance at the small, serious face. He looked down right put out with her reaction and raised his eyebrow at her. Oh no. His eyes narrowed in vexation.”Dammit!”

“Now, young sir, THAT is not necessary!” Bronwyn made a mental note to watch her language in the immediate future.

“Bebe! Nina lolo gerorewisa! ADA!” His small hand smacked the rock hard thigh.

Haldir never flinched, the Elf continued to look forward, carefully watching the small wisp of dust in the far distance.”You are most certainly correct.” He pulled the child closer to his body. The dust cloud was making him very uneasy.

Bronwyn watched her husband and her son in the saddle of His Arrogance. Identical facial expressions, identical scowls, identical vocal inflections. Mirror images. There was no way Haldir could deny Beckett was his – not that he would. He was too enthralled with the child. The only difference was that wild, unruly red hair. She told Haldir she had no idea where the child had gotten that from. That remark had started a love making session that went during the entire time of Beckett’s nap. 

Haldir moved his horse over towards Bronwyn. “Beckett,” he lifted the Elfling from his lap, “go to Mama.”  

“Nononono! Mama!” Beckett began to smack at Haldir’s hands. “Ada! Ada!” 

Bronwyn reached across for her squirming, angry child. “Come to Mama, honey.” Beckett continued to kick. 

“Nononono, Mama! Ada!” Beckett continued to smack, but once sitting down upon on Bronwyn’s lap, he quieted to a Bronwyn-like pout. “Ada!” His glare at Haldir was almost heartbreaking.

“I am sorry, Baraermin.” Haldir continued to peer into the approaching dust cloud, along with his brothers and Heridil. “I do not know why he prefers me.”

“I do and do not feel bad.” she smirked. “You both have the same thing between your legs!” Her knives, strapped around her waist, began to hum. “Haldir. I do not think that approaching cloud brings friends.”

“Neither do I.” He motioned to the other three Elves. Quickly, they moved forward, forcing Bronwyn and Beckett behind them.

Bronwyn immediately began to hunt for shelter, a copse of foliage, to hide the Elfling in. There was none. Her eyes narrowed into thin slits. Just try to mess with her baby! For forty-five minutes, they watched the cloud grow, become larger, come closer. They were able to make out riders, roughly twenty. The Elves did not speed up, ride out to meet or greet. They maintained their steady pace.

“Haldir.” Bronwyn’s voice was stern. “I cannot defend Beckett on this horse.”

Hearing his name, Beckett restarted his squirming. “Ada!” he demanded. “A-da!” Smalls hands reached for the tall Elf.

“I am aware of that. Stay behind.” Haldir’s voice was stern.”But I…”

“Do not even think about joining in the skirmish, if there is one!” Haldir never looked back, using the inflection of his voice to command. “You are to run if something happens.” He spun then on his horse and looked straight at her. “You are to take Beckett and flee. I will find you!” He pulled his horse alongside her. “Promise me you will take our child and flee.””But I…”

“Promise!”

“I will try.” Bronwyn sighed.

“Baraermin -” Haldir’s had pulled up next to her, their legs touching. Beckett’s shrill voice began shrieking for his Ada louder. “You will flee. We can handle a handful of roughnecks. Do not force me to worry for you!””But…”

“Do not force me, Bronwyn!”The use of her name brought her up full and even Beckett quieted, looking at his father with huge, frightened eyes; the child was unused to hearing his father’s voice used in such an intimidating manner. “You will ride toward Mansfield and wait for us there. Do you understand?”

Bronwyn refused to answer, looking at him with offended eyes. “You would bid me leave?”

“I would bid you to think of yourself and our child.” His voice was tense.”Do not worry for me. Just go if I tell you!” His eyes bore into hers and she knew if she disobeyed or flouted his authority, she would lose the final argument.

“Yes, Heru en Cormmin, I will flee.” Haldir’s hand reached out and caressed her cheek. He then tousled the curls of the wide-eyed child, smiling gently. Beckett continued to reach out.

“Ada!” The Elfling’s look was bewildered as his father smiled at him and rode back to the front of the formation.

Too soon for Bronwyn, they found themselves confronted by nineteen armed, scruffy outriders. They exchanged pleasantries, inquiries of destination. Haldir was not forthcoming. The outriders were equally vague.

Bronwyn looked at each outrider carefully and recognized the one in the back, trying desperately to hide. As the armed riders finally rode off, she approached her husband. Beckett immediately reached out for Haldir, but the Elf simply tickled the Elfling under the chin.

“The one hiding in the back. I know him, Haldir!”

“He was with the taxiser, was he not?”

Rumil’s gasp was audible, a hiss. “I thought I recognized him!” Orophin was livid. The group continued to ride on, if perhaps a little harder and faster towards their destination. Beckett was very unhappy riding with his mother. Bronwyn pretended not to notice the Elves furtively looking behind them.

At sunset, Haldir spoke out. “Here they come.” Bronwyn looked back and saw the dust cloud rising, gaining quickly on them. “It would seem, Baraer, the taxiser’s friend recognized you as well.” Haldir stated drily. “Ride fast to Mansfield. We are behind you!”

“Haldir, I cannot ride fast with Beckett” The armed horsemen could clearly be seen, swords drawn. Bronwyn was frantic, seeing the pace in which the riders were closing in.

At the lead of Haldir, the Elves had unstrapped swords, had pulled out their bows and were notching arrows. He never looked at her, never glanced at Beckett. “You will leave now, Bronwyn. Do not anger me.”

Despite Beckett’s screaming, she turned and headed towards the town, still at least an hour away. She heard Haldir’s bowstring release – his had a different vibration, unique in its pitch and sound – and despite what he had ordered her to do, she turned to look.

The Elves were surrounded. Five… six men were down, arrows protruding from bodies, but they had already reverted to swords. Bronwyn quickly dismounted, setting Beckett at her feet. Her chant had begun before she had completely dismounted.

“Beavis, Beavis, Beavis, Come to Beavis, my darlings…” her knives were out, spinning and quickly, they went into the back of the man whose sword was poised so close to Haldir’s back. They were back in her hands and she was quickly wiping them as the man hit the ground, his horse, stepping on his body in its terror. She flung again, this time hitting one who was bearing down on Heridil. Rumil saw the knives and glanced at Bronwyn in horror. As they returned to her hands, her music began to rise, the sound waves spinning, spinning…

Beckett began to crawl forward, his sights set on Haldir. With the waves still spinning in the air, she reholstered the knives, and reached forward, hauling Beckett back, scraping his knees on tiny rocks. His wails began again in earnest. Quickly assessing the situation, she flung sound waves at one of the three men hounding her beloved. Blood she could not see burst from the one’s ears and when he fell, she aimed at a second, his body spasming as he hit the ground. She saw Haldir dispatch the third and turning quickly in his saddle, she heard the word, saw his mouth form the word….

Go.

Nimbly, she lifted the screaming Elfling to her saddle and climbing on, she flung the waves a final time, felling the man who was hacking at Orophin. Beckett was kicking, his hands slapping at everything and she deftly spun him in the saddle, his tiny hands clutching her shirt. Bending low over the saddle, she clutched him to her body with one hand, while grabbing the reins with the other. Sea Spray, smelling the blood in the air, took off at a gallop towards the town still over an hour away.

Haldir felt her leave, felt her discomfort, felt her frustration as she galloped away. He did not see the tiny face, peering at him anxiously in terror from around her arm. He did, however hear his son screaming.

“ADA!”

***My love’s by the old tin wall
She’s waiting there
She’s waiting there for me..

Wicked Soldier
Tonic***

Bronwyn made it into town without being accosted. She was stopped by a sentry, a soldier from Aragorn’s army, who questioned her on the whereabouts of the ambush before sending a messenger to his commander. He was told to allow a party of four Elves – she sincerely prayed for the safe arrival of four Elves – in without much delay and a small party of soldiers was dispatched in the direction she had come from. In kindness, seeing she traveled with a small child, the commander accompanied her to her destination.

Bronwyn headed straight for The Wandering Sailor. It was a weeknight, so the eatery was not wholly busy, but she could hear a decent singer plying his trade inside. Beckett had cried himself to sleep and she gently lowered him to the waiting arms of the battle hardened soldier while she dismounted. He handed the Elfling back to her and told her he would stable and rub down her horse, as well as retrieve her bags for her.

She walked into the bright tavern. As usual, the smell of good food and ale permeated the air. The walls had been newly painted, new tables and chairs were scattered about and paintings of ships and happy people adorned the walls. The Wandering Sailor had been doing a fine business for the past three years. “Morgan! Morgan la Fay! ‘Tis truly yew?” Rory had expanded in girth as he barreled from behind the bar. As Bronwyn turned and he saw the sleeping Elfling she carried in her arms, he leaned over to the serving girl coming over. “Go git me Meg, Suezan. An’ make sure we ‘ave a room fer her and th’ babe.”

“I need two rooms, Rory. Hot water, food, and…” Rory quickly determined that she was distressed. When the commander of the king’s army came in the door with her baggage, he knew something was wrong.

Meg came crashing from the kitchen, and seeing the bedraggled woman and child, immediately took over. “Rory! Yew gits yerself behind that bar! I be takin’ care o’ Morgan an’ ‘er wee one. Yew!” she nodded to the serving girl, “Follow me! We be needin’ assistance!” Bronwyn followed her up the stairs, fatigue taking over her body. “Yew need tew rooms, Morgan?” They went up the stairs to the quieter section of the inn. The soldier, seeing she was in friendly and capable hands, made his leave, after handing the saddlebags to the sturdy Suezan.

“We were set upon by a large group of thieves outside the city. My husband, bade me flee with our son. He is with three other Elves.” She allowed the woman to take the sleeping Elfling and look closely at him.

“‘e looks like ‘is father, don’ ‘e?” She turned to the serving girl. “We needs hot water, a tub, ‘ealin’ ‘erbs, an’ food. Tell me worthless ‘usband, we needs both Garret’s old beds from the cellar.” She looked back at Bronwyn. “Garret’s me youngest. We hadda small bed fer our babes when they tew old fer a crib. An’ there only be one bed in t’room. We’ll set up anuther fer yer extra Elf, ifin’ tew don’ mind sharing.” She gently laid the sleeping babe in the middle of the large bed in the room they were in. “Now girl, yew gonna tell me yer real name or no?”

Bronwyn slid down on the bed, vaguely aware that the large woman had removed her knives and laid them gingerly on the sideboard. She had begun to remove her boots. “I am so sorry, Meg. My real name is Bronwyn. Bronwyn Morgan ap Powell. We didn’t want anyone to know we were together. My husband, Haldir…”

“The March Warden o’ Lothlorien? The big Elf wit’ yew is ‘e?” Meg’s eyes were huge. “We ‘ave ‘eard o’ ‘im! When t’ King came ‘ere with ‘is soldiers an’ Elves , they spoke o’ ‘im. ‘Ee now be the Guardian of… Tel Lin Dar.” She spoke the syllables very carefully. “Tuh Storyteller. ‘Tis yew! ‘Tis yew! Yer t’one they be talkin’ ‘bout. I knew yew ‘elped to run off t’ Mayor and stopped t’ Taxiser, but thet yer she…” the woman’s eyes were large. “An’ yew played ‘ere! Ah, such good luck yew brought us tew!”

“I’m glad I could help, Meg. The King was most distressed when he heard of the town’s plight.”

“Well, ‘ee’s a good ‘un, our king! Came right out ‘e did, an’ stopped all t’ unfair practices. We ‘ave ‘onest taxes now, we do. An’ we don’ mind payin’ ‘em, either!” Suezan brought up a huge bowl of steaming meat stew and Bronwyn’s mouth, despite her exhaustion, began to water. “Yew eat! We be takin’ care o’ t’ rest!” And with that, the large woman bustled out. As Bronwyn ate, a tub was brought up and steaming water poured into it.

She heard noises next door and when she looked to see the commotion, she saw not one but two beds being set up in the large room. Men, she was informed by Meg, were not like women and did not like to share the bed with other men.

Bronwyn smiled inwardly. You don’t know some of the stories I have heard, she thought, but it didn’t matter. The small child’s bed had just been set up and Beckett settled in it, when a racket rose from the hallway.

Bronwyn threw open the door in time to see Haldir and Rumil carrying a bloodied and unconscious Orophin down the hall


zee reads…

Hello and how are we all? I”m hanginng in there – got my car fixed – a new engine. I had it 3 weeks and the head gasket blew. Can’t complain to the original owner is my dad. He gifted me the car. Now I can job hunt.. Yes, I’m back to no job. Not fun, unexpected, sort of. I miss my students, my co-workers etc. It’s been a rough couple of months. BUT! I have faith God has something for me and I’m clinging to that.

It doesn’t look as if I read a lot this month. I did – I discovered books on my phone this month. Sadly, none of them are on Goodreads, so I’ve been unable to download covers. I’ll be honest – all 4 of them need editing badly!!! Poorly written by non-English speaking teenagers! Quick reads, thank God!!! I might make mention of the first one, we’ll see.

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The Power of that tiny hand – a Vessel Misadventure

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This was not written by me, but by one of my betas. With my permission. dame passed away shortly after writing this – yet another victim of dementia.

Title: The Power in That Tiny Hand

Author: Dame Niamh

Rating:G

This story is posted with the permission of Zee, who also provided beta services. It is dedicated to Zee, in honour of her epic “The Vessel.” The characters you recognize are creations of JRR Tolkien; Bronwyn is Zee’s entirely. Blessed be!

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