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The Vessel

Chapter 26

Keeping the peace or Old McDonald had a farm, OEOEA!

***

“Oh yeah! Here comes another one!” Bronwyn muttered under her breath as her eyes glazed and she focused on Sea Spray’s harnessed rump. She breathed deeply, willing herself to relax through the contraction. Her feverant hope that she was experiencing Braxton Hicks False Labor was rapidly diminishing.

“Baraer?”

She vaguely heard him calling to her through the thick fog of escalating pain. The cart dipped as he slid in next to her, large calloused hands taking the reins.

“Beck-“

“With Rumil.”

She sighed in relief, whether from the knowledge her son was looked after or the fact that the contraction had ended, was even her guess.

“We have a slight problem, Heru.”

Haldir’s eyes flicked over her face, her swollen belly. “Do we? I wonder what that could possibly be?”

Even by human standards, this baby was too soon.

Eight months. Barely.

***

They had agreed on the parapets of Helm’s Deep, while watching Legolas ride away from the ancient fortress; Éomer King proudly showing their accomplishments with the aid of Dwarves and Elves. The journey from Gondor had been slow, but not tedious, the small group exploring the Beacon Hills, Firien Woods, Mering Stream. They had been welcomed that summer into Rohan by Éomer and his wife, Lothiriel, taken almost immediately to Helm’s Deep, using the same passage as the Rohirriam had taken in flight from Sauron’s Uruk-hai Army.

Bronwyn had spoken to Éomer, the survivors, the widows of the Battle; listened to tales of heroism, chaos, despair. She had laid her hands on the rocks, the hillside surrounding the fortress, had captured faint traces of lingering tragedy in those sensitive fingertips.

They had left Beckett in the care of Rumil and Heridil and explored Tarlang’s Neck and back, all traces of the Ghostly Army gone, exorcized. Only whispers of forgotten voices left.

Legolas and Gimli had been at Helm’s Deep on their return and Bronwyn and Haldir had flipped a coin to see who would tell him of his fatherhood.

Haldir won.

Bronwyn had no idea what her husband said to the Elven Prince that night, but Legolas had gone white when he was told of his daughter, and stayed that way through the night, not speaking to anyone during dinner. At first light the next morning, he and the crusty Dwarf were mounted up and gone, headed into Gondor. Bronwyn met up with him in the stables.

“Saes, do not take her from them. Eowyn has lived in such fear and Faramir adores her. He has been a good father to her. It would be wrong to completely uproot her or cause her to become a pawn in a battle of tug of war.”

Legolas looked at her as if she had grown a second head. “Take her from them? Nay, I would never do that. I will have my time later on. But,” a long slender finger waved under her nose, “I will know my daughter.” And with that, he swung up on his horse.

Bronwyn felt a tugging at her tunic.

“Din’t worry, lass. I won’t let him do anythin’ rash!” Bronwyn felt a deep chuckle rise from her chest.

“Oh, and I suppose a Master Dwarf as yourself can stop him?”

Gimli’s eyes were alight with merriment. “I still have my ax, y’know!” He crooked his finger, motioning her downwards. “The lad did not sleep a wink last night. I fear he is in a state of shock.” He looked up to the tall horse and Elf and sighed. The Dwarf looked at Bronwyn with resignation and motioned at the height of the saddle with his head. Bronwyn, realizing his dilemma, gave him a hand up into the saddle. Quickly, she made her way upwards into the parapets, where her husband and son waited.

It was at that moment, standing on top of the tower, watching the unlikely pair head off into the sunrise, combined with the sound of Beckett trying his hardest in the early morning mist to blow into the mighty Horn of Helm’s Deep, that Bronwyn and Haldir had decided to put down long-term stakes in Isengard and agreed to have another child.

It had been mid-fall in Edoras, that Haldir lost his breakfast in the stable. By her calculation, the child was due in late summer. They made plans to stay in Rohan the winter; travel would be nigh impossible in the snow or ice-covered ruts. Éomer and his wife had a young son close to Beckett’s age and the two got along well – neither one slaying Orcs, thank Iluvatar!

But this pregnancy had been different.

She had shown faster, growing large, swelling soon. This child had been incredibly active, Bronwyn swearing that the babe was a spider, with eight arms and legs. Haldir’s morning sickness was short-lived, but she was unable to hold down meat of any kind, forcing her to become a vegetarian, steamed and raw vegetables and fruit becoming 95% of her entire diet. She tired quickly and often. In the deepest winter months, she stayed wrapped in front of the Great Fireplace, countless Rohirrim soldiers and ancient Horse Lords taking turns, sitting with her, talking, talking, talking. She shed countless, silent tears for the fallen, for her raging hormones.

Éomer King was a warrior, a reluctant but able ruler. He was grateful for the happiness of his sister’s marriage, for Faramir’s acceptance of her daughter by Legolas. Lothiriel was a gracious hostess, who spent a fair share of time sitting with Tel’ Lindar, telling of her life, growing up in another, graceful court.

There had been a late snow, delaying their departure, but they had finally left in mid-April, moving slowly, taking their time towards Isengard, thinking there was plenty of time.

There was not.

***

The contraction eased and Bronwyn was able to focus again.

“How much further?”

Haldir took a deep breath, hearing his wife’s discomfort, feeling her fear. “Several hours, I am afraid.” He lifted his chin, searching the horizon for the tall spire of the Istari’s Tower. “Are you going to make it?”

“Doubt it.” The next wave took her and he felt her struggling to keep from crying out.

“Beckett does not need to witness this.”

“No, he does not.” she gritted between her teeth. “Any suggestions?”

Haldir had several.

As a result, Rumil, with Beckett holding tightly to the saddle, raced Heridil to Isengard, ‘securing’ the fortress upon their arrival.

Stopping just inside the circular garden, under a copse of trees and rose bushes, Haldir helped Bronwyn down from the wagon between contractions. He quickly pulled blankets and pads, packed for her comfort and spread them in the shade. He returned to the wagon and found the herbs, the tea and utensils to heat water.

“Haldir. I am frightened. It is too soon.”

“I know, Baraermin.” Haldir tried to keep the fear from his voice. “Relax. Drink this.”

An hour later, Haldir caught both of his tiny, but healthy, twin baby daughters.

Faeowynne.

Anselm.

***

They rode to the spire the next day after spending the night beneath the trees. They had presented their daughters to Iluvatar hours after their birth and Haldir was grateful that Bronwyn had had an easier time at her labor. The twins were not as large as their elder sibling and both were quieter than their brother had been. Where Beckett looked like his father, with his mother’s coloring, the girls looked like their mother, with what would eventually be their father’s blonde locks. They were met by the front entrance by their son, who was beyond excited about the new building to explore, but not overly enthused about his new young sisters.

“Being an older brother is very important.” Haldir told the Elfling. “It is up to you to teach your sisters what they need to know.”

Rumil rolled his eyes at Heridil. “Hmmph!” he whispered. “Teach, my pointed ear! I remember him being bossy!”

Heridil kept his wise council to himself, but silently, he agreed.

Isengard was imposing, a labyrinth of rooms, abandoned quickly by Saruman. The dungeons were mud, water standing sometimes a foot deep and in spots, totally flooded out. Bronwyn immediately ordered all corridors and doors leading to the pits to be locked and barred. A long stairway led to the top of the spire, spikes and sharp edges dangerously jutting out from the sides all the way to the ground. She also commanded those doors to be barred and locked. Daily, she reminded Beckett to stay away from those places and as her daughters grew, they also were taught to stay away.

The scrolls and books left behind were wondrous. Numerous. Parchment was scattered everywhere and it took months, years to put them together in the proper order. Dust was thick throughout the Tower and immediately, Haldir was brewing tea with herbs to keep her from hacking. When possible, they sat in the gardens, stacks of reading material next to her, the twins, Beckett, climbing over everything.

Not once, did she tell her children not to touch the flowers, not to pull or pick them. And while Faeowynne toddled happily after her adored brother, Anselm was content to sit under the tree, looking into the sky as if she were listening.

The children were fascinated with Treebeard. They adored being plucked high into his branches and carted hither and yon, listening to his deep, rumbling voice. Many times, Anselm would disappear for too long a time, only to be found in the top of a tree, calling hoarsely to the Ent.

Orophin and Lera visited with their three children three times. The third trip was hard for the Elf’s wife. She was aging and it was heart breaking to watch Orophin, in his eternal youth watch his beloved wither before his eyes. When they left that final time, Bronwyn cried huge tears, knowing she would never see the spirited healer again.

Time passed.

Life was quiet and good.

Elflings grew.


***

The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things
Their tops are made out of rubber
And their bottoms are made out of springs…

From Winnie the Pooh

***

“Mama!”

Beckett stood in front of her, hands planted firmly on slender hips. “Mama! Tell Anselm that Old McDonald did NOT have a Warg on his farm!”

At age 52, he had lost the baby pudge and had taken on his father’s slimmer build. Heavy red hair hung past his shoulders and he fought to keep it in a proper Elven braid.

So very much like his Ada…

“Mama!” His exasperated voice cut through her musings. “Saes! Please!” The child pointed angrily to the petite, blonde standing next to him, a mutinous glare etched on her small, delicately cut features.

If Beckett was his Ada’s guts, it could be easily said that Anselm was a blonde clone of her mother.

“Did so! Did so!” the tiny child cried, lip quivering. “He did so have a Warg!”

“Did not!”

“Did so!”

“Did not!”

“Didsodidsodidso!” the little Elleth stamped a dainty foot. “An’ he had a wolf, an’ he had a Nazgul, an’ he had a spider an’ he had a banshee an’ he had an Orc…”

“Did not! He did not!”

Bronwyn rubbed her temples as her eldest and her youngest argued like… like… well, hell… like children.

Beckett had not accepted his new sisters in the beginning. The child’s arrogant glowering when Haldir and Bronwyn arrived with the two elleths the morning following their birth had angered his beloved Ada in a way Bronwyn had not seen in years. He had felt neglected, left out, and even once had wandered deep into the forest surrounding Isengard. Luckily, Rumil had followed him and had helped the child sort through and verbalize his feelings. Haldir and Bronwyn both had made it a point afterwards to spend special, quality time with the stern, commanding child.

As the girls had grown, he had softened his attitude somewhat. He was protective towards both, but he preferred Faeowynne’s company over Anselm’s. She enjoyed killing Orcs and stalking Oliphants. But Anselm was different.

Anselm was… fey.

“Did not!”

“Did so!”

“Did not!”

This study of contradiction, if it could be called that, continued. Bronwyn opened her mouth to ask them to stop, but a tall shadow stopped them.

“Cease this bickering!” Haldir strode into the dark, circular room. “Can you not see your Mama is up to her nose in dusty parchment?” He strode between the two suddenly ashamed children. “What is this about?”

The two Elflings scowled at each other. Beckett took a deep breath. And attempted to speak diplomatically.

“I was simply trying to explain to Anselm that Old McDonald did not have a Warg on his farm.”

Anselm immediately screwed up her face and sticking her index fingers in each ear began to sing at the top of her lungs.

“…and on this farm he had a Uruk-hai, EIEIO!”

“AAAAAAARGH!!!!”

Haldir’s eyebrow arched. He walked a wide berth around the two squabbling Elflings and called to her over the din.

“Baraer? Which one shall I take? Or would you prefer both go to their rooms?”

Bronwyn looked at both children, both equally angry, both equally determined to be the correct one.

“Is it still raining?” It had poured for four days, cooping the rambunctious children inside the dreary tower. The youngsters had helped her pack away scrolls and rolls of parchment, all to be sent with traveling Elves and Rangers to Imladris, the Grey Havens, and eventually, to the Undying Lands, for safe- keeping until hers and Haldir’s arrival. The three Elflings practiced drawing big ‘O’s on the crates, trunks and boxes, signifying these came from Orthanc. Beckett was adding and sorting the boxes by size and content.

“Nay. The sun came out a sort time ago.”

“Why don’t you,” she directed her gaze towards Beckett, “go outside with your Ada? Perhaps the two of you can find something to shoot.” The Elfling’s face lit up with a smile. There was nothing he liked more than to spend time with his Ada. He spun on his heel and ran quickly from the room. Haldir went to follow him.

“Cormmin, do not be harsh. They have been sequestered a long time indoors. Let him climb a tree or something. In fact, both of you go climb a tree!”

“As you wish.” His smile was mischievous, boyish.

She turned her attention to the little blonde. “As for you…” Bronwyn laid the scroll she had been reading aside. “Why do you not come and sit on my lap and talk with me for a spell?” She patted her knees and the litte efling ran to the comfort of her mother’s arms. Little arms went around her waist and she rested her head on her chest. Within seconds, sobs tore from the little one’s body as she burst into tears.

***

“Ada. Anselm is strange.”

Ah, this child was to the point, Haldir thought. He wondered where he got it from. Before the former March Warden could open his mouth to reply, the child continued.

“She is strange and she sings strange songs. She changes words and makes up things that make no sense. She is very silly.”

Haldir took a deep breath. “She is female, Beckett.” He said the statement as if that should answer everything.

“I know that! So is Faeowynne! Faeowynne is not silly!” The two headed towards the fruit trees, loving planted by the Ents on the southernmost side of Isengard. “Well, most of the time, Faeowynne is not silly. But Anselm, Anselm is ALWAYS silly!”

Haldir’s focus was on a specific pear tree. The fruit had ripened in the rain and he had been daydreaming of the crisp taste for several days. “Beckett, I have some Elf to Elf advice for you.”

Beckett was trotting to keep up with his father, but he nodded in acknowledgment. Anytime his Ada had Elf to Elf advice, it made him feel very adult.

“Elleths or women in general do not think like we do. They do silly things, they say silly things, they have silly thoughts, but we Males say nothing.”

“Why?”

“Because,” They had reached the tree and Haldir picked his son up and shoved him up into the branches. “It keeps the peace.” The Elfling looked down at his Ada, who was now himself climbing into the tree.

“It keeps the peace?”

“Aye. There are certain things Elves… and Men… do to keep the peace. One thing is allow their respective females silly things. It is either that or listen to them harp on things they should not harp on.” Haldir spied a particularly heavy branch of plump pears. He grabbed one, pulling it from the tree and handed it to the Elfling. He reached for a second and took a bite.

“Mama is not like that. She does not do silly things. She does not harp on things.”

Haldir took several bites before answering. “Yes, she does. But I am very good at keeping the peace. And part of that is keeping her happy.” The moment that was out of his mouth, he wished that the Elfling did not question him further. He did not – today.

“But what happens when… you cannot stand it anymore?”

Had Bronwyn seen the look on her husband’s face, she would have smacked him. Eyebrows were raised as he grimaced. “When you cannot take anymore? You go hunting. You go out drinking with our friends. You go on diplomatic missions or leave to guard our borders. You shoot things and climb trees and pick fruit and throw the bad ones…” he pointed to the approaching figure of Rumil and dropped his voice to a whisper. “… at an unsuspecting passerby…”

The two watched as Rumil meandered through the fruit trees, totally unaware that he was being targeted.

“Ada.” Beckett whispered. Haldir looked at him from the side. . “Just the other day, Anselm said the walls were talking.”

“Did she now?” Haldir had looked back and was watching the ever closing path of his brother. “What does she say they say?”

It was quiet as the youngling pondered his response. “She said they say the Vessel is destined to crack.”

***

“What is this? Tears? Over Beckett?”

“He… he… he… is so… mean to me.”

Bronwyn lifted the wet chin and using the end of the Anselm’s tunic, dabbed at her face. “What has he done to warrant such crying?”

“He thinks he… he… he knows eh… eh…everything!”

Hmmm, Bronwyn wondered to herself. Who does he get that from, I wonder?

“Well,” Bronwyn tried the diplomatic solution, “he is older and he has been many places. He is also male.” She said this as if that should answer everything.

“He does not know everything!” So much for the diplomatic solution.

Bronwyn chuckled to herself. “Nay, he does not. But because he is male, we let him think that.” She smiled to herself. “It keeps the peace.” She allowed the little Elfling to sob herself into what she thought would be slumber, but it was not meant to be. Tiny fingers wound their way in a lock of hair while fingers on the other hand fidgeted with the fastenings on Bronwyn’s tunic.

Deep, deep sigh from a petite chest.

“Mama. I do not like it here.”

The statement shocked her. It came from out of the blue.

“You do not like it here? Darling! There is a large garden to play in. You have the Ents… Treebeard at your beck and call.” Indeed, Treebeard was most fond of all three Elflings and it was not unusual for him to carry them off on their own adventures to see the forest. “There is this huge fortress…”

“It is evil here, Mama. Bad things happened here.”

Again, Bronwyn was stunned into silence. The adults had made it a rule, early on, to not speak of the horrors that had taken place there. The little ones knew that Saruman had lived there, had not done what was right and had lost his life over the consequences of his actions. The children knew that Orcs had been here and some had escaped into the forest and they were never to go into the woods alone. But the atrocities committed in the name of Sauron had never been discussed with them around; always after they were in bed asleep.

“What do you mean, Anselm?”

The little girl looked up her with ancient eyes, her words old for such a young tongue. “In the dungeons. Bad things were borned from the pits. In the walls, there are rotten whispers. Nasty beings stayed here. Gandalf was held prisoner on the roof.” Anselm’s fingers continued to play in her hair, on the buttons. “I am scared when I go to sleep. At night, I see dark shadows. They whisper and laugh at me.”

“What do they whisper about, sweetling?” Bronwyn was floored at the seriousness of her daughter’s statements.

“That you meddle in things you have no right to meddle in. That you read scrolls never meant for your eyes. That you hold memories never meant to be remembered.” Dark blue eyes roamed the circular room before settling back on her mother. “They say that if you continue on this path, the Vessel will overflow and crack.”

Bronwyn held her daughter close, pondering on the words of this unusual child. “Oh darling. It is just your imagination. This place is old, very old and the stones settle…”

“No, Mama.” Anselm’s voice was deepening, her vocabulary expanding. “Every year, the whispers become louder; more forceful. The shadows become darker, more solid. I am afraid to go to sleep. I am afraid I will never awake.” She cocked her head to the side, the young child returning suddenly. “Would you like to see, Mama?”

“Saes. Please.” With that, the fairy-like child jumped from her mother’s lap and taking by the hand, led her mother throughout the dark spire.

“Touch here.”

“Look here.”

“Listen.”

All throughout the fortress, Bronwyn touched. And looked. And listened. And was shocked and frightened. Several times, she thought she saw a dark visage, in dark robes, watching, hiding in the shadows. She heard the faint whispers, saw obscure outlines, heard faint cries in the cracks and the crevices. She felt the malevolence in the pores of the stone. The two stopped in front of the staircase that led to the top of the spire – a doorway that was locked against small hands opening it and climbing to the top.

“Something bad happened up there. Something bad happened to Gandalf.” Again, ancient eyes bore into Bronwyn’s. “He would have killed him, Mama. He would have.”

They also stopped at the doorway that led to the water filled dungeon. It too, was padlocked against prying, curious eyes.

“Uruk-hai got borned down there. An army.” Again, the voice was deepened, older than that of a 40 year old she-Elf. The vibrations from the door, as Bronwyn leaned against it, were vicious, angry.

She took her daughter by the hand and led her outside, into the sun. They walked to the edge of the woods and called for Treebeard, who always lingered nearby. He picked them up and carried them throughout the woods. They saw Beckett and Haldir in the top of a pear tree, throwing over-ripened pears at a laughing Rumil. They saw ever-patient Heridil, showing Faeowynne how to properly fletch arrows. And while feeling the wind in their loosened hair, Bronwyn asked her daughter what the Valar wished for them to do.

“Pack it up.” she whispered. “Pack it all up. Plant viney, clingy things around the walls and allow the forest to overtake it and destroy it.”

“It is time, Mama. It is time to go to Rivendell.”

***

It took many months, but by spring, they were ready to leave. Every time a group of Elves passed them by, going to Rivendell or heading to the Grey Havens, they were loaded up with trunks, containers, filled with scrolls, parchment. Anything the passing Elves had room to take. All had orders to be taken to whomever was in Rivendell; Elrond or Gandalf in Valinor. They knew, they were expecting them.

Treebeard had chosen specific plants to edge the dark walls. Wild things, with briars were planted several weeks before they departed and quickly, they trailed up the sides; wrapping around windows, encasements, anything to cling to. They also planted them throughout the gardens surrounding Isengard. Bronwyn cried at the loss of the beauty, but realized it was probably for the best.

Anselm was relieved. Each night was getting more and more difficult for her and she had reached a point where she avoided more and more places of the Tower. The voices, the feelings were getting more malevolent and she clung to her mother, her father, anyone.

Now that Bronwyn was looking, she too heard the sinister whispers. Several times, she saw the dark ghost hiding in the corners; but rather than feel fear, she felt it was watching her, watching her family.

A ghost that was a Voyeur. How lovely.

Practically everything to be sent to Rivendell, to the Undying Lands was gone. Many things, Bronwyn had read and burned, as she had at Baradur. She and Haldir stood at the edge of the garden, on the road that led to Rivendell. Already, the vines were climbing the spire, snaking through the garden. Haldir reached and plucked a rose – the palest of pink – from a bush nearby.

“Treebeard has given you clippings from this bush for Rivendell, for Valinor. He says it is called “New Dawn.” He handed the fragrant blossom to her. His eyes looked back towards the Tower.

“It will come down in time. Every thing here will shift, change and when we return, we will recognize none of it.” Bronwyn’s voice was saddened. “So much horror here. And yet so much good and knowledge.” She put her arms around her husband and leaned into him. “What could make someone who so enlightened and with so much intelligence do something so stupid as to side with Sauron?”

Lips were pressed to the top of her head and a calloused finger lifted her chin. Dark blue eyes bore into hers. “I do not know, Baraermin. Do not linger on it.” His eyes lifted and he beckoned to their party. “Linger on what matters. Look at Beckett.” Beckett had received a sturdy pony to ride and his entire posture screamed “Haldir the Red.” He was so proud to have his own mount and not have to ride with one of the adults. Faeowynne was perched in Rumil’s lap, while Anselm rode with Heridil. “Look at our children. What an education they have received here.”

Bronwyn chuckled. “Here? What an education they will receive when we reach Rivendell!” She strode to Sea Mist, the daughter of her beloved Sea Spray and Haldir’s former mount, His Arrogance, and swung up. “You have said your goodbyes?”

“To this place? Yes.” Haldir likewise mounted his mount. Anselm had named this one – Horse. “And you?”

“Treebeard came two days ago. The children said theirs then.” Bronwyn’s smile was rueful. “Funny. He acted as if he would see them again.” She rode off towards the two Elves and their children. She did not see Haldir’s face fall, the smile disappearing.

“Aye.” he whispered quietly. “I wonder what he knows that we do not. Will all of our children stay? And if they do, how we will survive it?”

***

They made their way through Dunland towards Lothlorien. Haldir longed to see his home and show it to his children. All the way, he and Rumil talked of growing up, the beauty of the trees, the city of Caras Galadhon. The Elflings were enchanted by the stories of the flets, the talans in the trees, the sparkling rivers with rainbow striped fish, the sparkling lights in the trees, with it’s winding risers. They could not get enough tales of the Brother Lorien’s exploits.

Their first night out, after the children had gone to sleep, Bronwyn took her reed flute to the edge of camp. Sitting next to a tree, she began to play, softly, a low tune. She knew Haldir was behind her, sitting quietly. Within minutes, he had joined her with his harp.

The music rose on the air. Too soon, it was over.

“We do not do this often enough, Baraermin.” They were leaning against each other, back to back.

“I know.” She swayed, her back rubbing against his playfully. “Again?”

“Aye. You start.”

“Nah! You start!”

“No. You start. I follow.”

Bronwyn looked over her shoulder in the darkening twilight. “But you follow me always.” She found herself pulled over his lap, blue eyes glowing in the night.

“Nay. Many would think so, but I do not follow you.” Her breath caught in the intensity of his gaze, the ferocity of his tone. “I stand by your side, keep you from places you should not be. I do not follow you.” Fingers gripped her tightly. “I am your equal. Do not forget that.” And with that, his mouth possessed her in a kiss so fierce, she forgot her reed flute in her hand.


 
artwork by Hayley Rust

And while they made love in the grass, under the tree, they were not aware that feral eyes watched them from not so far off; the wolf, very interested in the play, the language their bodies spoke to each other.

***

The Golden Woods were no longer golden.

Haldir realized it immediately, Rumil and Heridil’s similar thoughts following his within moments. The children were awestruck by the size of the trees, the trunks. Anselm cried for Heridil to stop, let her touch, let her climb, but he was too dismayed by the change he was seeing.

It was if fall had come early. The branches drooped, the leaves were dull. They were not stopped, they were not challenged until they almost reached the city. When the sentry finally descended from the branches, to the amazement of the Elflings, Haldir dismounted and in quiet whispers, begged for information.

“The Lady no longer resides here. Her ring has lost its power and she no longer holds sway with the seasons.” The sentry looked tired. “Every season, more and more of our people leave to go to the Undying Lands. Haldir, Caras Galadhon no longer sparkles. It wilts, like our beloved trees. Even Celeborn did not stay.”

“Celeborn is not here?” Haldir’s voice rose over the sounds of the forest and even his children cease to speak when they heard him raise his voice. “He did not intend to join Our Lady until the last boat.”

Several more sentries had slipped from the trees. They greeted Haldir, Rumil, Heridil. They smiled and hugged Bronwyn, making much over hers and Haldir’s children.

The children were wide-eyed, silent. Anselm immediately headed for the nearest mallorn tree, her hands encasing the trunk.

“Celeborn is in Rivendell.” the sentry pointed in the direction of Elrond’s home for so many millennia. “For a while, he gloated over the addition of the southern portions of Mirkwood to our realm, but he soon realized it was an empty gain.” The sentry was matter of fact, to the point. “We hear the call. Soon, very few of us will be left. And those that stay, will probably go to Mirkwood.”

Slowly, they made their way into the city.

The wolf sat on the edge of the woods, eyes narrowed. His muzzle was scared, burned. Slowly, he made his way inwards, so as not to be seen or noticed by the Tall Two Legs. These Two Legs were not like the ones on the plains who chased him and his family away. These had always been respectful of his right to survive. But still… one must be careful. He was drawn to her. She would help him. But it was better to be careful.

***

Bronwyn took one look at the city and her heart broke. She had known the city would fall into a shadow of its former glory after Galadriel left Middle Earth, but she was still not prepared for what it had become. She could sense the dismay in Haldir, could see it plainly on his brother and friend’s face. It was dull, almost shabby, everything drooping. Galadriel would have been heartbroken to see the state of her garden. It was overgrown, untended. Wild things grew alongside the carefully cultivated roses and camillas. The gazebo was almost hidden by untamed wisteria vines. Her mirror and pitcher were gone, the water in the grotto flowing freely. The children ran throughout, ducking, hiding, playing. But Bronwyn went straight to the gazebo, her head in Haldir’s lap.

“What is happening, Haldir? I remember your city, in its glory. What happened?”

Haldir just stared; stared into the garden, stared into the sagging trees.

“The glorious heart of Elvendom here in Middle Earth.” he whispered. “It is no longer needed. It no longer has a purpose. “

***

TBC

***

Baraermin – My Fiery One
Cormmin – My Heart