The Misadventures of Elrohir and Haradhel | 43 4A

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The Misadventures of Elrohir and Haradhel | 43 4A Empty The Misadventures of Elrohir and Haradhel | 43 4A

Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:58 pm

First Impressions

When Serenity had disappeared, Elnara had taken it upon herself at the young age of thirteen to take over their mother’s place in the home and take care of the children as if they were her own, rather than her brothers. When Garrick had been killed, and the children had been taken to the city to live with their grandparents, Elnara was the one the children had looked to for their strength, grasping for some sense of the familiar in a world that, for them, had changed so vastly in only a year. So when Elnara disappeared, only a few short months later, it tore the family apart more than the disappearance of their mother or the murder of their father had. Elrohir, being the eldest, had found his strength in comforting his younger brothers, and in this manner he had been the one to take the place of mother, father, and eldest sibling in the lives of his brothers.

Time hadn’t changed his attitude one jot, and even now, when his brothers were all grown and some of them beginning families of their own, he still felt protective of them. Despite the fact that his overprotection was no longer either necessary or wanted, it had been so deeply ingrained into his personality that he found himself constantly looking out for his nephews and niece now. While Ruel didn’t mind him checking up on Daeron and Eärendil every once in a while, he preferred to be the one who took care of Tinúviel on his own.

The problem was, Elrohir had spent so much time taking care of his brothers that, now that they were grown and had their own occupations, he himself had none to speak of. There was much that he could do, if he so wished, but there was nothing that he wanted to do. As it was, he contented himself with helping out wherever help was needed, and in his spare time (of which he had a lot) he quite often made his way to the top of the mountain to aid Daeron and Eärendil in their training.

Today was one of those days. He had already spoken with his grandmother, and as she had nothing for him to do, he found himself heading up to the mountain’s peak, where his nephews were training. They would be nearing the end of their training session by the time he got up there, but he didn’t mind that: he liked just to see what kind of progress they might have made during the day. It was rare that he actually took up a weapon to spar with either one of them.

Oddly enough, he seemed to have missed them today … because when he finally reached the top of the mountain, neither of them was in sight. Well, Daeron could be anywhere – at twenty years of age, he really didn’t need to train anymore, and he had other things he could do. But Eärendil … well, who knew where the boy was. He had reached adulthood this year, but nothing seemed to have changed for him – he still spent much of his time training.

But no, today it seemed as though Eldrin was busy with a younger class – younger, that is, save one trainee who, unlike the topless others, had opted to remain fully clothed. The reason for this was obvious: unlike the adolescent boys that filled the training compound, it was a young woman. At least, he assumed she was young. She was very tall – as tall as him, nearly, though extremely thin … almost deathly looking. He watched her curiously for a while, standing against a rock wall, blending into the grayness. She was swift in her movements, and very precise. Either she had been doing this for a long time already, or Eldrin was a good teacher. But the fact that she was in the lower class told Elrohir that she hadn’t been here more than a year at the most. They were using staffs today, quarterstaffs to be precise; and while for the boys the staffs were longer than the youths were tall, the girl was quite a bit taller than hers.

At the end of a quarter-hour, Eldrin told the group to split into twos and spar for practice. Immediately, the boys paired off, and Elrohir couldn’t help but notice that the girl (young woman? How old was she?) remained alone. She appeared all but furious at this arrangement: though her face remained impassive, her eyes were blazing as she watched her co-trainees begin to practice.

Eldrin started in her direction, but Elrohir was already on his way, and he held one hand up to stop the Captain, instead picking up a staff of his own as he headed over to the girl.

For a brief second, her face registered surprise that he was joining her, but in the same instant she masked it, and her face became once again completely expressionless. Without a word, she lifted her staff into an aggressive position and began to attack. Elrohir blocked, also without speaking, allowing her to test her skill: but he did not counter-attack.

“What is your name?” he asked her between blows, almost dancing to avoid her staff.

She spun and swung her staff around her back, hitting him in the center of his chest. “Haradhel,” she replied through clenched teeth, eyes narrow with concentration. “Why aren’t you counter-attacking?”

Elrohir blocked her staff again and examined her once more. She was so tiny … not height-wise, in that regard she was quite tall; but she was so thin, he was afraid that if he hit her, he would break her in half. She looked … fragile. There was simply no other word for it.

Anger flashed across her face, and she spun again, bracing her staff against her back and squatting so that it knocked Elrohir’s feet out from beneath him. He landed hard on his back, hitting his head on the rocky ground and getting his breath knocked out of him. Immediately, Haradhel was on top of him, knee on his chest, staff at his throat.

“You think I’m weak,” she scowled, her dark eyes flashing dangerously. “It’s a mistake. If you want to train with me, don’t insult me.”

Elrohir blinked at her, surprised at her speed and agility, and nodded slowly. “As you wish,” he murmured. She let him up, and he picked up his staff once more. This time, he also took an aggressive stance, and after countering her first blow he struck back. He hit her shoulder, but it was so light she hardly flinched. Once again, he found himself suddenly on his back, and this time, when he put his hand behind his head, he felt something sticky.

“You said you wouldn’t insult me,” she reprimanded him harshly, her knee once again on his chest. “If you have any skill at all, bring it to bear.”

Elrohir rubbed the back of his head, then pushed her aside. The girl hardly weighed a thing … “All right,” he nodded, his tone serious as he got to his feet. “If that is what you wish.” He rubbed his head again, then wiped the blood on his pants and stripped off his tunic. The desert sun, while partially blocked by some thin, wispy clouds, was still intense, and he was already sweating. He tossed his tunic aside, then picked up his staff once more and faced the girl.

Only this time, instead of attacking, she was staring at him – or, more precisely, his arm. He blinked at her, confused, and slowly he turned his head to see what she was looking at.

His tattoo …

“I apologize, my Lord,” Haradhel whispered, eyes wide, her expression aghast at having assaulted the prince. She sank slowly to one knee. “Forgive me … I didn’t know …”

“And I didn’t say anything,” Elrohir replied, striding forward and taking hold of her arm, lifting her back to her feet. “If you wish to continue, please, I am ready.”

She shook her head and gripped her staff firmly in both hands. “I have already injured you, my Lord. I will do no more today.” She looked away and called, “Captain! I believe I am finished for today.”

Eldrin wandered over, staring curiously at Elrohir. “Very well,” he nodded to Haradhel. “Then I will see you again tonight.”

Haradhel bowed stiffly at Eldrin, then turned and bowed to Elrohir. “My Lord,” she said quietly, straightening. She brought her staff to the equipment storage area and left the compound without another word.

Elrohir stared at Eldrin, his expression one of complete and utter perplexity. “When did she start?” he asked in a tone that was almost accusatory.

“About a year ago,” Eldrin replied. He looked as though he were trying to hide a grin. “She’s a quick learner, that one … and stubborn. Don’t let her appearance fool you. She looks mighty dainty … but trust me, that is the last word I would ever use to describe her. Anyways, you should get back down to the castle and get your head looked at. You’re still bleeding.”

Elrohir nodded and put one hand to the back of his head again. Yes, that would need healing.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” he told Eldrin softly. “Hopefully I won’t miss Eärendil next time.”

Eldrin nodded. “Come earlier,” he agreed. “And then you won’t have to risk Haradhel’s irritation, either. Trust me – you don’t want to see her in a bad mood.”

Elrohir shook his head slowly to himself as he headed slowly down the mountain. If that wasn’t a bad mood, he reflected, he didn’t want to know what was.

Last edited by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:05 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:59 pm

The Cold Shoulder

The days were growing steadily hotter, and Elrohir was waking earlier and earlier. He didn’t really mean to, he just did – but rather than wasting the day, he made use of it by heading towards the mountaintop once again to oversee his nephews’ training. As early as he had woken, though, he was certain that Eärendil at least would already be at the top of the mountain, even if Daeron wasn’t going up there at all. As he began the long climb up the steep, narrow stairs, he looked up and saw a silhouette way up at the top.

Eärendil, he thought to himself; and he averted his eyes and watched where he was stepping.

Within a matter of minutes, however, he could hear shuffling footsteps, and he looked up once more and saw that the figure – whoever it was – was on their way down, not up. Within another half-minute, he recognized the girl he had met the week before – what was her name again? Haradhel.

“You’re going to break your neck, going that fast,” he warned her as she drew nearer. He moved as far to the side as he could to give her as much room as possible.

Her dark eyes glared at him as she passed him, but she said nothing. He wondered where she was going, but shrugged it off and continued on his way up the mountain.

Ten minutes later, he heard steps again – this time, behind him. He looked back and saw Haradhel again, this time on her way up the mountain. He stopped in his tracks and stared. She was running up the steps … at that rate, she would tire herself out before she even reached the halfway point. The steps were nearly a mile high …

“Are you trying to kill yourself?” he asked her, confused, as she passed him by yet again.

Once again, all he got was a dark glare as she passed him and ran up the steep steps.

Elrohir shook his head. She was running – rather quickly, he might add – up the steepest steps anyone had ever seen, nearly vertically. He only hoped that she had the sense to stop before she lost her balance and fell.

Shortly thereafter, she passed him yet again – once more on her way down the steps. Elrohir was amazed. How could anyone go up and down the mountain as she was doing and not be out of breath? Not to say that elves weren’t fit – even those who didn’t train were physically fit – but a vertical mile, down, up, and down again?

Yet it still wasn’t long before she passed him yet again, heading to the top once more. Elrohir stopped and stared after her, wondering how she did it. She wasn’t doing anything special that he could see … no special way of running, just the typical lifting her knees – high, since each step was fairly tall compared to a regular set of stairs – and then forward momentum.

She didn’t come down again, and when Elrohir finally reached the top, she was nowhere in sight. He shook his head incredulously, still thinking about her, as he headed in the direction of the training compound. To have that sort of stamina … wow. But he was still amazed that she hadn’t fallen down the mountain. He knew he probably would have.

He felt uneasy about the entire affair – and he knew why. He was worried about her. Not for any special reason, he was certain; no, he just worried about anyone when they were doing something dangerous. It was just the way he was, the way he had been since his elder sister’s disappearance all those years – decades – ago.

Well, he mused, she probably just went to get some rest before her training began for the day.

And yet … when he arrived at the training compound and settled in to watch, he was startled to see her at the back of the area, behind the rest of the trainees, matching them step for step, move for move, never lagging, never dragging. How could she do that after two runs up and down the mountain? He could hardly believe it. And yet there she was …

He spotted Eärendil in the front row of trainees and leaned against a wall to observe the session. This group was training in defending this time, without any weapons at all. Elrohir recognized the routine: he remembered learning it alongside a matching aggressive routine that were put together for the trainees to get practice sparring together. Hand to hand had never been his favourite method of fighting, but that didn’t mean that he was any less proficient at it.

This time, when Eldrin told the trainees to split into small groups and spar, the girl didn’t even look for a partner. She took a long, deliberating look at Elrohir, then turned her back and disappeared into the depths of the compound.

“So what’s her story?” Elrohir asked Eldrin as the Captain came over to join him in observation. “Haradhel’s, I mean.”

Eldrin shrugged one shoulder. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he replied simply. “All I know is that your grandmother brought her up here a little over a year ago and asked that I teach her anything she wanted to learn, and train her up to be a member of the Home Guard. She trains at all levels, but spars in none … except last week with you.”

“I’m not sure that I’ll be repeating that any time soon,” Elrohir commented, rubbing at the back of his still-tender head. “Why is she like that? So touchy, I mean.”

“That, I can answer,” Eldrin replied solemnly. “You are an embodiment of her biggest annoyance. You see how fragile she looks. Like a single blow might snap her in half. She doesn’t agree. She believes that she can handle anything we can give her. Exercise-wise, I agree – I have never seen a more eager trainee, or a faster learner. However, I can’t vouch for how much abuse she could take. I know you hit her once last week, what do you think?”

Elrohir shrugged in his turn. “I barely touched her,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to hurt her.”

“Which,” Eldrin nodded, “is why she took you down so hard. Well, you do what you wish – you are High Prince, after all – and perhaps you’ll be able to help her more than even I can.”

Elrohir nodded, intrigued by the girl. He thought back to her trips up and down the mountain and mused that maybe, just maybe, he might also be able to learn something from her.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:00 pm


Elrohir had thought about this decision for a long time before making it, and it was nearly two weeks after his second encounter with Haradhel that he finally settled upon his decision to speak to his grandmother about her. He caught her just after breakfast on a day that he knew she was not in a rush, and joined her on her way to her study.

“I have nothing for you today, Elrohir,” the queen told him as they walked, her expression puzzled. “I thought I said that at breakfast already …”

Elrohir nodded. “You did,” he assured her, “but I have a matter I wish to discuss with you, if you have some time.”

“I do,” she told him. “What is it?”

He hesitated before speaking, wondering what was the best way to bring up the topic. He didn’t want to come across in any unintended manner, after all, but he couldn’t think of any entirely inconspicuous way of beginning. So he just talked.

“A few weeks ago,” he began, “I met a young lady on the top of the mountain, training with Eldrin. He told me that she was there under your orders … why? What’s special about her?”

Atalya stopped and turned to face him, and her eyes were wary. “Why do you ask?” she demanded softly.

“I’m only worried for her,” Elrohir said quickly, holding his hands up defensively. “I fear that it may be too dangerous for her. I don’t know how old she is, or isn’t, but she looks so …” He trailed off helplessly.

“Looks may be deceiving,” the queen replied softly, continuing on once more. “And that is precisely why I have ordered Captain Eldrin to instruct her in anything she wishes. Otherwise, he would have set limits upon her training based upon what he believes she is capable of. This way, she can choose her own limits.”

“But- but a woman, a girl, in the Home Guard? Nako, do you really think that’s wise?”

“What I think is irrelevant,” she answered shortly. “Skill alone is what matters. That said, I care little for the opinions of the people. When I was young, many of them wished me dead, and now that I am queen I’m afraid the opinions have only bettered slightly. If they do not wish to see a woman in the Home Guard, then I invite them to test her skill and see if she is worthy or not.”

“How old is she, anyways?” Elrohir asked after a moment’s thought. “I mean she’s as tall as I am, nearly, but she looks …”

“Older? Or younger?” Atalya turned to her grandson and smiled. “I have never seen another like her. She is the thinnest … well, I have been told that I was once so thin, but only when I was extremely young, and never have I been so disproportionately tall. I know, she looks as if she grew too tall too fast and the rest of her body never caught up, but she assures me she has always been so, since her birth.”

“But how old is she?” Elrohir pressed for the third time.

“That,” the queen replied softly, “is a question that only she may answer. If she does not wish you to know, then I am not one to tell you.”

Elrohir was growing frustrated with his grandmother’s evasive answers, but at the same time he was growing ever more fascinated with this girl. Why would she want to become a member of the Home Guard in the first place? Why would she be the only one to get such special circumstances in her training? And why was there so much secrecy surrounding her?

And why was everyone convinced that she would be all right?

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:01 pm


After Elrohir’s talk with his grandmother, he went out of his way to look for Haradhel for the answers to his questions that had left him frustrated. The top of the mountain was the first place he looked, but to his surprise she wasn’t anywhere he looked. Even Eldrin didn’t know where she was – either that, or he wasn’t telling.

Strangely enough, it was Eärendil who told Elrohir where she was.

“She’s just taking a break from training,” he told his uncle as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "For her, that usually means one of two things: that she’s running the steps, or climbing the mountain itself.”

“What do you mean, climbing the mountain?” Elrohir demanded. The image in his head was that she had gone down through the city, running the path as she had the stairs; but the trainees never left the mountaintop …

“I mean,” his nephew replied patiently, working through his routine, “that she’s probably climbing the mountain at the back of the compound.”

Elrohir blinked. “Right …” he murmured. “Thanks.”

He headed off to the rear area of the compound. It was a beautiful area, one of the few green areas in the entire Southland. The actual peak of the mountain was about a half-mile higher than the plateau where the compound itself was located, but it was so steep, so dangerous, that no one, not even the dwarfs, would dare attempt any construction on it. Somewhere up there was the spring that fed the river that wound down the mountain, supplying the city with its water, but of course this only made climbing the summit more treacherous. The compound itself had been built a short distance away, because there was always the danger of falling rocks at any given time.

This, then, was where Haradhel supposedly was.

Elrohir approached the mountaintop cautiously, one hand at his brow to shade his eyes from the sun’s harsh glare, and looked up to see if he could spot her.

She wasn’t high up, only about thirty feet or so, and she was on her way down already. She was almost plastered to the side of the mountain, fingers and bare toes gripping at the rocks. Her expression was one of complete and utter concentration, and Elrohir kept silent until she reached the ground once more, fearful of breaking her concentration and making her fall.

She jumped the last five feet to the ground, landing almost silently, and she straightened and turned to face Elrohir. She didn’t seem at all surprised to see him there, but she bowed her head respectfully. “My Lord.”

Then, all pretext of propriety set aside, she wiped the sweat from her brow and stared at him relentlessly. “Why are you here?”

“I wanted to talk to you,” he replied simply. She sighed and moved as if to pass him, but he held out one hand to stop her. “I spoke with my grandmother about you,” he told her, “but she wouldn’t tell me anything. Nor would Captain Eldrin. Are you really such a mystery, that no one may speak of?”

“Perhaps they recognize that my business is simply that,” she replied, pushing past him. “My business. What does it matter who I am or why I’m here?”

“I’m just curious,” Elrohir replied, turning to follow her. “Is that such a terrible thing?”

“I suppose that depends on why you’re curious,” she shrugged. “Why is it that you want to know about me? And what is it that you want to know about me?”

Elrohir had to think about that. Why did he find her so intriguing? “I guess I just want to know … why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why Grandmother has given such mysterious orders concerning you. Who you are, who your family is …”

“I have no family,” Haradhel snapped, turning and jabbing at his chest with one finger. Her eyes were smoldering, burning with anger. “My family believes that I’m dead. And it’s better that way.” She turned and strode away quickly.

Elrohir was stunned. “What?” He ran after her. “What do you mean, it’s better they think that you’re dead?”

“Do not question me,” she replied harshly without looking at him. “You of all people should understand. From what I’m told, your sister would have been better off that way as well, if you had believed she was dead rather than have her return. And now she might as well be, for all you care for her.”

Her words stung Elrohir. They had hit home, as they had undoubtedly been meant to be. His question then was, where had she heard about Elnara? From whom? And what had she been told?

“Are you telling me that you are like her?” he questioned, refusing to be put off. “If so, believe me when I say that it doesn’t bother me.”

“Don’t lie to me,” she hissed, whirling to face him again. “I know you were the one who made her leave. My family, those who call themselves my family, did the same to me, only they didn’t tell me to leave, they shipped me off. I would rather die than return to them.”

“But … they’re your family,” Elrohir tried to reason with her.

“So was your sister,” Haradhel retorted, “and look where she isn’t.”

Elrohir had no reply for that, so he changed the subject. “So don’t tell me about your family,” he shrugged. “Tell me why you’re here, why you’re training the way you are. Why are you doing what you’re doing?”

At that final question, the anger in Haradhel’s eyes was replaced by a smug expression, and she nodded.

“Because I can,” she said firmly. She stopped just outside a door and turned to face Elrohir again. “Now, unless you intend to follow me inside,” she said, her entire tone changing and becoming polite once more, “then I bid you good day – my Lord.”

She bowed her head at him and disappeared inside, and Elrohir sighed and headed for the steps once again. He had come for answers and ended up with only more questions. Not to mention, he was feeling guilty again. He wanted to know where, how, and how much he knew about Elnara, and why she felt it safe to rub his actions in his face.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:04 pm

Sorry …

The day was warm as per any day in the Southland desert, but for the first time in a very long time, Haradhel was not sweating, neither was she doing any activity that would cause her to do so. She wasn’t even wearing her training clothes today, but rather was dressed in the blues of a trainee who wasn’t at the training compound: billowing pants that stopped just above her ankles, a thin white sleeveless shirt, and the blue sleeveless vest that went loosely over that. Her long hair was neatly braided, and she her training sword hung from her right side.

This was the first time she had been down off the mountain since the day she had first arrived and requested to be allowed to train, and she felt strange. Particularly in light of why she was down here in the first place.

When she reached the palace, she made her request and within five minutes was shown into a room – a study, presumably – where Prince Elrohir was working. He looked surprised when she was announced, but she bowed respectfully before she had the chance to notice anything else. When she straightened once more, the guard who had shown her in was gone, and the prince was looking at her intently.

“My Lord,” she said nervously, wanting to fidget but forcing herself not to. That was one of the things her training had done for her, she was more able now to control her bad habits.

“Trainee Haradhel,” Elrohir replied, equally as formally, taking a seat and nodding at her. “Sit,” he invited, gesturing towards a second chair directly across his desk from him.

She would have felt more comfortable if she’d been asked to remain standing, but she did as he requested. She sat with her back straight, not even touching the back of the chair. “I came to apologize,” she said hesitantly, explaining her presence. “The last time we spoke … I said things that were not my place to say. I’m sorry.”

The prince rose and moved around the side of his desk, then looked down at her, arms folded across his chest. His expression was one of mixed curiosity and disbelief. “Why are you so defensive?” he asked her softly. “I don’t see why the questions I asked were so terrible, or why you’re so secretive. Am I so offensive?”

“Not particularly, my Lord,” Haradhel replied respectfully, turning her head to look up at him but otherwise remaining perfectly still. “In person, that is, you are not; but in your mannerisms I find myself drawn towards the positive.”

He appeared taken aback at that response, but, Haradhel mused, he had not only deserved it, but had asked for it.

“If my Lord cares to recall,” she continued on, sounding much braver than she felt, “he tried to stop me by force not once, but twice.”

The prince blinked, still surprised. “But my questions, you can’t say they were offensive,” he pressed.

He was obviously searching for some form of redemption, but Haradhel wasn’t going to give it to him. “You asked questions for which I gave answers you deemed unsatisfactory, and pressed further when I’m certain I was quite clear that I did not wish to answer at all.”

“And would you answer them now if I were to ask?”

Haradhel thought about it, and her expression grew suspicious. “I might,” she replied cautiously, “if they are not like the ones from our last encounter.”

“Then why don’t I ask the questions that I’m wondering,” the prince smiled easily, leaning against the desk, “and if you don’t want to answer, you just tell me. What do you think?”

Haradhel nodded slowly, but she was still wary of him.

“Then my first question,” the prince smiled gently, “is … how old are you? I find myself completely unable to guess.”

“Nineteen,” Haradhel replied, deeming the question safe enough. She waited for him to comment on how that seemed a bit old to begin training, but she was pleasantly surprised when he didn’t.

Instead, he merely nodded as if satisfied, then said, “I know your family believes that you are dead, and that you prefer it that way. I know you don’t want to say why you prefer that,” he added quickly, fearing (and rightly so) her temper rising at that inquiry, “but will you tell me what happened to make them believe in your death?”

Haradhel took a breath to calm herself before answering. Yes, that was a safe question, but she had nearly lost her temper on him again.

“My father sent me with a caravan to the south last year,” she replied, her words quick and clipped. “We were attacked by highwaymen. I escaped, and rather than go back home I came here to train.”

The prince looked confused. “Why the south?” he asked. “Was there something there that was not available here? Or someone?”

Haradhel had to literally bite her tongue to keep from shouting at him. Her face had grown dark, and her eyes were sparking angrily.

“I wasn’t being married off, if that’s what you’re wondering,” she almost spat at him. No, her father wouldn’t have forced her on anyone – his opinion was that no one deserved someone like her. That is, someone who needed babying, coddling, special care …

She didn’t need those things, but the problem was that she didn’t look like it. She knew she looked fragile, but she knew that she was as strong and hardy as anyone she cared to compare herself to. She knew everyone looked down on her, pitied her – but she didn’t want their pity. She despised it. Passionately.

The prince looked alarmed at her reaction, and he held his hands out defensively. “I didn’t mean that,” he said quickly, trying to calm her. “I just thought … maybe some family or something …” He trailed off at the look on her face.

“My family is in this city,” she told him simply. “All of it. So no. That wasn’t it. And I’m not saying why.”

She was starting to get really fidgety now, as much as she didn’t want to be. She had come down here to apologize, not get into a long conversation. To be honest, she hadn’t really had a conversation like this … ever. It didn’t help that he had managed to get her angry with him again.

What was it about him? It was more than the questions he was asking; there was just something about his mannerism, his actions, and his tone that was just infuriating. Apparently something about the look on her face made him realize this, because he stopped asking questions.

“I think I’d best be going,” Haradhel murmured softly, rising from her chair and bowing her head to the prince. “Perhaps I shall see you again.”

When she looked up once more, he had also straightened up and was bowing his head to her. “I look forward to it,” he told her, smiling kindly at her.

Haradhel blinked, surprised. She wasn’t sure why, but probably because he was treating her almost with the same respect she was giving him. Ah well. She turned on her heel and left the room, heading back in the direction of the safety of her mountain.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:07 pm

Sunset Meeting

It was another beautiful sunset at the top of the mountain, and Haradhel for once allowed herself to enjoy it. She had long since bathed and clothed herself in her non-training clothes, taking an evening off of training for the first time since she had arrived. She wasn’t sure why. Perhaps because she just felt as if she needed it for once, or perhaps because it was a particularly beautiful night. Still, it had been a very long time since she had allowed herself to do something as luxurious as even look at the sunset.

She had chosen to sit on top of the fifteen-foot wall that surrounded the training compound, keeping the trainees safely away from the dangerous edge of the plateau whence so many had fallen over the years and lost their lives. It wasn’t a very wide wall, perhaps only about a foot and a half in width, but for her it was comfortable enough. She wasn’t really sitting anyways, more lying on her side, stretched out along the wall’s top and propping her head up with her hand.

It was peaceful up here, and it was one of the few times and places where she actually felt relaxed and peaceful. A rare smile passed her lips, one that was neither forced nor spiteful. It disappeared, however, when she heard footsteps behind her. She looked to see who it was, and her frown deepened when she saw Prince Elrohir approaching her.

“What are you doing up here?” she asked him curiously, unable to help herself but feeling too comfortable at the moment to worry about proprieties. She squirmed carefully until she was lying flat on her stomach, her chin resting on the backs of both her hands.

He stared at her. “I … just came to ...” But whatever it was that he had come up to do, she never discovered; for in the next moment, without even finishing his sentence, he blurted, “What are you doing up there?”

She frowned. She didn’t like where that sort of question was leading. “Enjoying the sunset, not that it’s your business,” she replied. She sat up and brought one foot up onto the wall, letting the other dangle below her. “Why? Is there something wrong with that?”

“You should come down,” he told her, his expression worried. “You’ll fall …”

Haradhel’s peaceful mood vanished instantly, and her expression grew dark once more. Why was the prince so overbearing?

“I won’t,” she told him sharply, drawing up her other leg and sitting cross-legged atop the wall. “Don’t be condescending.”

“Condescending?” The prince seemed surprised.

“Yes,” she replied, sliding carefully off the wall and landing softly on her feet beside him. “Condescending. You’ve neither need nor cause to worry about me. So don’t.” As he opened his mouth to reply, she held up her hand to stop him. “No, don’t say anything. You’ve ruined pretty much everything lately: my training, by insulting me; my runs by questioning me; my climbing by condescending. I’m not fragile, I’m not going to break, and I’m not going to hurt myself. I’m not made of glass. So you will forgive me if I don’t thank you for being paranoid on my behalf.”

She slid past him and headed towards the barracks. “Good night,” she said flatly, her tone forbidding him to reply.

And yet she felt strangely dissatisfied when he didn’t.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:12 pm

Gathering Background Information

If there was one thing that irritated Haradhel about herself, it was her insane requirement to know absolutely anything and everything about the people with whom she interacted. This of course meant that she had to find someone who could tell her more about Prince Elrohir, and that meant going to the one who knew the most about him – his nephew.

Elrohir, for his part, was still stinging over being called ‘overbearing’. Was he really? He knew he tended to irritate the people he cared about with all his … whatever you wanted to call it, but he was just worried about them, he wanted them to be safe … and despite what Haradhel said, he couldn’t see running up a nearly vertical set of steps as safe, or climbing a dangerous mountain peak, or sitting atop a 15-foot wall. He needed to find someone to talk to, someone who could help him understand how Haradhel looked at him, someone who was like her. The only one he could think of for that … was Tinúviel.

Haradhel sought out Eärendil at the end of their mid-morning training session, choosing to spar with him rather than leave as she usually did. He appeared surprised, but pleased at the same time. She had spoken with him before (hence her knowledge of his disowned aunt) but he had been the one to seek her out, not the other way around. But truth be told, she’d actually enjoyed talking to him before.

Elrohir found Tinúviel in the library, poring through books. She was growing up into a lovely young woman, and that was precisely the reason he thought she could help him. She didn’t seem surprised to see him – the look on her face as she saw him approaching made her seem more amused than anything else.

He wasted no time with pleasantries but came right out with the purpose of his visit. “Tinúviel,” he said frankly, “am I condescending?”

Tinúviel giggled and flipped the page of her book without looking up at him. “Of course you are, Uncle,” she replied cheerfully.

”I feel honoured,” Eärendil joked with Haradhel as he picked up a staff to use against her. “You never spar with anyone.”

“I have some questions for you,” the tall woman replied seriously, taking stance and preparing to attack. “Such as why your uncle is so condescending. Why can’t he just mind his own business and leave me alone?”

Elrohir frowned at Tinúviel. “That wasn’t the answer I was looking for,” he told her dryly.

She looked up at him and grinned. “Then you shouldn’t have asked me for a truthful answer,” she replied. “You should have just come in and asked me to tell you that you’re not. Of course,” she added impishly, “I would have had to add that I was lying, but you might have felt a bit better, for a moment at least.” She laughed at the look on his face. “Come, Uncle, you can’t have expected anything different. You’re constantly hovering over us, even when Father’s threatening to disembowel you if you don’t leave us alone. And from what I understand, you’re harassing a certain trainee.” She looked back down at her book innocently.

Eärendil chuckled and blocked her attack. “You have to excuse my uncle. He’s just overprotective. He has been since as far back as I can remember. Don’t take it personally.”

She hit him solidly in the center of his chest with the end of her staff, and he took a startled step backwards. She didn’t let up at all, but pressed forward in her attack. “He’s taken the pleasure out of almost everything here,” she told him. “Climbing, running, training itself … he shows up and treats me like a child, or … like he knows so much and I don’t know anything.”

“I’m not harassing her,” Elrohir replied crossly, folding his arms across his bare chest. “I just keep running into her, that’s all.”

“Of course,” Tinúviel nodded agreeably. “That’s why she’s so furious with you.” She skimmed the page with her finger as if paying no attention to him. “Everyone’s talking about your little crush.”

Elrohir’s face flushed. “I do not have a crush,” he told her shortly, his words quick and clipped.

Eärendil blocked Haradhel’s attack and struck back, hitting her squarely in the side and nearly knocking her over. “Like I said,” he grinned, “don’t take it personally. I think it’s his meaning in life, taking care of anyone and everyone. Deep down, he knows you’re fine, but I think he feels a little … I don’t know, useless, maybe, when he doesn’t have someone he feels he can take care of.”

Haradhel recovered quickly and counter-attacked. “And am I his pet project, now?” she questioned, annoyed. “What did I do to deserve that?”

“Now, now,” Tinúviel grinned mischievously. “You’re well beyond the age where you should be married, and she’s-“

“Enough,” Elrohir interrupted. “I’m not looking for that. She’s a nice girl. That’s it.”

“Of course,” his niece agreed. “I’m just saying.”

”It’s nothing you did,” Eärendil shrugged, blocking. “It’s just in his nature, and even you have to admit that you don’t exactly look like the strongest trainee out here.”

“I’ve been dealing with that my whole life,” she retorted. “I don’t need it from him. I came here to get away from it.”

“Don’t hold it against him,” the other replied quickly. “Like I said, he can’t help it. It’s just in his nature to worry about people.”

“You know what?” Elrohir frowned. “You’re mad. I’m not going to listen to this.” He started for the door. “And I’m not condescending!” he called back over his shoulder as he left the room.

Haradhel attacked silently, thoughtfully. Maybe she would have to try a bit not to be so hard on him. “If only he would use a different tone,” she commented, though she knew there was no ill intention in his voice.

“Or you could just ignore him altogether,” Eärendil suggested, stopping as Eldrin called for a break and setting down his staff. “He’s not a bad guy, really.”

“Perhaps,” Haradhel agreed. She set her staff aside and wiped her brow. “Until tomorrow, then.” She bowed to him respectfully and headed off to wash and change clothes.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:14 pm

Come with me …

Time had a way of slipping away unnoted at the top of the mountain for all of the trainees, and Haradhel was no exception. She had lost track of how long she had been living up there. Day in and day out, her routine was the same, save the one time she had ventured down to attempt to apologize to Prince Elrohir. Trying to keep track of the day was even more difficult, and she had discovered a long time ago that it was far simpler just to ignore the passage of time (what was time to an immortal anyways?) and focus her attention on her training.

In a way it made things easier, as well, for she never worried about how long she had been away from home or how long her family had thought that she was dead (for even though she had no confirmation of the idea, she was certain that was their thought. What else could they think after her caravan was attacked and she disappeared for over a year with no word?).

On the other hand, she didn’t know what was going on in the outside world either. She didn’t know when her birthday passed, nor did she particularly care; she had no idea what sort of ceremonies were taking place down in the city, or for that matter even so nearby in the castle. For the most part she was indifferent, but once in a while she found herself wondering just what was going on in the outside world.

Thus, it came as a complete surprise to her when one day, when she was about to head out for a training lesson, there was a knock at the door of her quarters. It was the first time it had happened, that she could recall, and she was completely baffled as to who it might be. Her mind ran through the possibilities as she moved slowly to answer it, but each person she thought of made less sense than the one preceding.

When she opened the door finally, she blinked stupidly at the person who was standing before her. Of all the people she had thought of … he was the last person she would have expected.

“Hello,” Prince Elrohir smiled gently at her, bowing his head politely. He was dressed particularly finely today, in what appeared to be … ceremonial garb? No … it wasn’t quite like that … celebration garb, perhaps. But why?

“Good day to you, my Lord,” Haradhel replied finally, her training kicking in once more as she bowed at the waist. “What brings you here?” And so early in the morning, she added silently, straightening to face him once more.

The prince smiled down at her easily. “It’s the first day of the Enderi,” he told her. “I thought you might appreciate a day off from training, and join me for the day – as my guest.”

Haradhel blinked. The Enderi … that meant that this would be the first day of the festival. The thing was, it also meant that if she did join him, there was a pretty good chance she would run into her family, and that was one thing that she didn’t want to do.

“I … thank you, my Lord,” she said hesitantly, “but … I don’t know if that would be a good idea …”

Family issues aside, what would people say, seeing her with the prince?

“I think it would do us both some good,” he smiled persuasively. “Come. I’ll give you some time to prepare – but I’ve already spoken with Captain Eldrin, and he’s under strict orders not to train you or allow you to spar with anyone today, so you might as well come or else you’re going to have a boring day.”

Haradhel stared. She had never met anyone so presumptive before … but she found it actually somewhat … amusing. She smiled faintly and gave him a short nod. “Very well,” she acquiesced. “Give me a few minutes and I’ll be right out.”

Since she really didn’t have a choice.

An hour later, she and the prince were entering the festivities, Haradhel’s arm linked with his, her face flushed bright red with self-consciousness. The prince made sure that she wouldn’t have a chance to slip away on him, whisking her first into one dance and then into another, sticking by her side as one or both of them took part in some of the competitions, ushering her along with his hand in the small of her back as he led her to the next area he wanted them to visit. He bought her food and drinks and paid her all the attention he could, making sure she didn’t have a single chance to slip away and return to the mountain.

She needed to get out and relax, he insisted. Being cooped up on the top of the mountain was no good for anyone: even Eldrin came down a few times a week, and he lived up there.

By the time night fell, Haradhel found herself exhausted in a way that no training session had ever left her exhausted, and she leaned unconsciously on Elrohir’s shoulder for support as he brought her back up the road to the palace, and from there to the mountain steps. He escorted her all the way back to her quarters, and for the entire trip neither of them spoke a word. Haradhel had never had such a day in her life – when she had lived with her family, her father had deemed her too fragile to risk going out into a crowd like that – and she had never been anywhere with anyone else before.

She wondered why the prince had sought her out. For all his claims that she needed to relax, to take a day off training, she couldn’t believe that he had done all of that for her simply out of charity. No, she was convinced that he had some deeper reason for it.

But what it was eluded her.

When they arrived at her quarters finally, it was well past midnight, and she was ready to fall asleep where she stood. She didn’t show this, however, but stood tall and straight as she faced the prince.

“Thank you for taking me today,” she told him softly, and she was amazed at how sincere her words actually were. She added, “I really enjoyed it … truly. It was wonderful.” She smiled widely, the most sincere smile of her life. She could have added so much to her words, but she was more grateful than she had the energy to say.

The prince didn’t seem to mind. He smiled back and took her hand in his, bowing low over it and lightly kissing the back of her knuckles. “I’m glad,” he replied warmly. “I don’t suppose, then, that you would join me tomorrow as well? I also enjoyed your company today.”

Haradhel blushed, and was grateful that the night was so dark. “Perhaps,” she replied softly. “I shall think about it.”

Prince Elrohir smiled and nodded. “Then I shall return in the morning to find out your answer,” he murmured; and with a final bow of his head, he turned and headed back out of the training compound.

Haradhel went through the movements of washing and preparing for bed automatically. She was too tired to be able to think properly about what had happened that day, but that fact didn’t upset her. To tell the truth, she suspected that if she knew exactly what was going on, she might have refused flat-out to accompany the prince again tomorrow. As things stood, she thought, she just might.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:14 pm

Elrohir’s thoughts on the matter.

So for some obscure reason that even I can’t figure out, I followed Tinúviel’s advice (good or bad, I’m still wondering) and took Haradhel to the Festival. I have to admit, it was a wonderful day, but I’m not quite sure what to make of it. She didn’t seem to want to come at first when I asked her, and I’m not sure if that’s because of her family or just because it was so unexpected, but I really didn’t give her much of a choice. Why?

… I don’t know.

I know Tinúviel made me swear that I would get her to come with me, but for some reason I think that I would have compelled her to come even if I hadn’t promised Tinúviel. Haradhel is after all an extraordinary young woman … and quite different from what I had first thought. I admit, when I first met her I did not have a high opinion of her. She was rude and arrogant, highly defensive and overreacted at just about everything. I know now that what I saw then was little more than an outer shell – one of fear, I believe. But after today …

She is quite pretty when she dresses herself up – and I don’t mean when she puts on formal clothes or fancy clothes, I just mean when she’s not all sweaty from her training – though I have to admit she’s far from repulsive even then. But her thinness isn’t as noticeable, or as daunting, when she’s wearing proper clothes instead of her training uniform. And once she relaxes, lets her guard down a bit, she’s actually fun. Honestly – she’s a wonderful dancer (though when I complimented her on it she denied it almost vehemently), and when she’s not on the defensive she’s an excellent conversationalist. She’s intelligent, and rather than flat-out refusing to hear any opinion but her own, she engages in thoughtful debates. She’s more than willing to look at as many sides of an issue as I care to give her, and not only listen but also add to each one. She’s as open-minded as anyone I’ve ever met.

Except in one matter: her family. That was one subject that I dared not broach with her. It was the one thing that I was certain could ruin the festive mood that she had about her … and I didn’t need any more reminders of what I had done to my sister. Yes, it is my fault that she’s gone now, and I hate myself for it more and more every day, but with each passing day it seems that there is less and less that I can do about it. We’ve had visitors from Gaia, but none of them have given me any encouragement, and even her daughter, Serenity, who was here that one time … she said that Elnara is scared of me.

But I’m getting off topic.

Haradhel has said that she might come with me tomorrow, but she was so tired that I don’t know if my question even registered with her. I’ll find out in the morning – because I’m planning on going to get her at the same time that I did this morning, before the sun rises, so that she can’t start training and then use that as an excuse not to come. I honestly enjoyed today … and I would like to have another day like it. Who knows? Perhaps more. Tinúviel was right, after all – Haradhel is a lovely young woman, and I find that I like her very much. Perhaps I’ll find things to do with her even after the Festival is over … though I wonder if she would consent to come with me again. I don’t know what she’s looking for in life, besides proving everyone wrong about her. Does she want a family? Perhaps I should ask her … but not yet. I don’t want to scare her.

All in good time. After all, we are immortal – we have the time to wait.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:15 pm

Haradhel’s thoughts on the matter.

Over the years, one of the things that kept me sane while I was living at home with my family was my journal. I could write in it the way I truly felt about things, lash out in the only way I was able. When I escaped from the caravan the night it was attacked, I lost my journal, and only now, over a year later, have I decided to start another one. To be honest, there was really nothing to write until now; but now I find that I’m growing so confused with everything that’s going on that I need to write it all out, just so that I can get my thoughts straight.

Since my childhood, as far back as I can remember, I’ve … well I’ve had dreams for my future, but I never really thought about them. I looked to Mother and Father and wondered if one day I might find the same happiness that they had, and I looked to my brothers and wondered if I might someday be able to do the things they did; but I never truly believed that I would. I wanted to, but Father … saw only what he saw on the outside. When he looked at me, he saw frailty, weakness, fragility, and he treated me accordingly. I was rarely allowed outside to play – my only outside time was accompanying Mother to the market, or going for short walks with her or Father – and even inside the house my activities were very limited. Schooling, reading, writing, a bit of painting … but little else. I wasn’t even allowed to help out in the kitchen, so wary was Father of letting me do anything. He was afraid that I would get hurt, so afraid that he did more injury to me than any physical harm could possibly have done. I was never allowed to play with other children, and I grew to hate my father for what I saw as his captivity of me.

I still do.

I can’t hate my mother. She passed away about two years ago, and I’m certain she begged Father to treat me as a normal child – though never within my hearing. I think it was the looks she gave me, that said that she wished for more for me. But I think it was when she died that Father decided to send me away. I want to think that it was because I look so much like Mother used to, that it pains him to look at me in that manner; but I’m more inclined to believe that it was because he didn’t know what to do with me, without Mother to constantly take care of me.

Now that I think about it, I’m sure that he caused me to hate more than just he himself. I find now that I can’t stand anyone who even hints at treating me in such a manner as he did, as if I’m fragile, breakable, even if they don’t mean to. Is it possible for me to change? I hope to – truly, I do. Since I began my training here at the castle, I’ve pushed away nearly everyone who ever tried to speak to me – all, that is, save Queen Atalya and Captain Eldrin, and once in a while the Prince Eärendil. Am I lonesome? I don’t believe so. I’m always busy, so that helps … but I suppose that I never stopped to think about it. After all, what would it matter? Coming up here, allowing my family to believe that I’m dead, was my choice, and I wouldn’t wish to change it. If I hadn’t done what I had done, where would I be? Likely in Namu Ngulu, where Father was sending me with that caravan, making blankets or clothes for the rest of my life. I can’t do that … I would go mad. Do I prefer being alone all of the time?

… I do.

And yet, I don’t. Until recently, I believed that things were fine the way they were, with me training every day, pushing myself to become better, stronger, faster … but then I met Prince Elrohir. He drove me mad at first, always worrying about me, telling me I was going to hurt myself … it reminded me so much of Father … but this morning …

Well, a few days ago I spoke with his nephew, Prince Eärendil, and he assured me that Prince Elrohir is like that with absolutely everyone. Absolutely everyone. And that he drives everyone mad. In view of that fact, how could I take it personally? I can’t take it as an insult, then, that he worries about me getting hurt. And once I put that aside, I found it was actually nice to talk to him sometimes. Spar with him.

And then came this morning.

He was knocking at my door (how did he know which one was mine?) before sunup to ask me if I would accompany him to the Festival today (I can’t believe so much time has passed since I first got here – more than I thought). For the life of me, I couldn’t think of a reason not to. Well, I could – training, for one – but he informed me that Captain Eldrin had been ordered not to let me either train or spar today … so what else would I have done? I enjoy running and climbing, but I can’t do either of those for an entire day.

So I went.

And all the while, I was thinking … what am I doing on the arm of the High Prince? Propriety – and training – dictates that I, as a trainee, must keep my distance from him- a respectful distance. It also dictates that I, as a woman, should be seen on the arm of no man but the one courting me. Can you imagine, then how uncomfortable I was, being personally escorted, arm in arm, by one whom I should by no means have been even touching? But he would not let me go … I think he feared I would flee back to my mountaintop.

I’m not entirely sure that I would not have.

The day passed safely enough, I suppose. I saw my father in the city a few times, and my brothers a bit more … but I don’t think any of them recognized me. They all looked directly at me … and past me. I felt better after that, though a bit guilty, but I did manage to relax and enjoy most of the day. And I do have to admit – I would only be lying to myself if I didn’t – that he’s a wonderful person to spend time with. He’s kind, generous, and open for debates … though only on certain subjects. As curious as I am about his sister, I didn’t dare broach the subject. As odd as it sounds, I meant to wound him the first time I mentioned her – and I succeeded – but now I wouldn’t wish to offend him.

All I can say is, we’ll see if any rumours start circulating or not about us. Though I don’t know what I would do if they did.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:16 pm

One Small Condition …

Elrohir was more than pleased that Haradhel agreed to accompany him not only to the second day of the Festival, but the third day as well. Each morning, he went to get her before sunrise so that she wouldn’t have a chance to slip off and train, and each night he escorted her back to her quarters and bid her good night with a kiss on her knuckles. By the end of the third day, he knew that she was comfortable with him, and he also knew that he liked her – very much.

When he brought her back to her quarters on the third night of the Enderi, Haradhel thanked him once again for the wonderful time she’d had and then added, “And now that the Festival is over, I can go back to my training.”

Despite the fact that it sounded as if she was eager to return to her routine, Elrohir thought he saw a flicker of hesitation cross her face. And it gave him hope.

“I’ll let you go back to your training,” he replied softly, not letting go of her hand, but rather turning her to face him again, “but only on one condition.”

She looked up at him curiously, and he looked into her dark brown eyes, admiring how they reflected the bright moonlight. She remained silent, but he could see that she wanted to know what the condition was. The ever-so-slight furrowing of her brow indicated her worry about what it might be, and the way she pursed her lips told him that she wanted to ask, but was wary.

“For over a year, you’ve been alone on this mountain,” he said softly, cupping her hands in his. “Six days a week you work hard, never giving yourself a rest. I’ll let you return to your training and not come to bother you anymore, but only if you promise that you’ll train five days a week only, and on the sixth you’ll let me come and visit you, or come down to visit me, and perhaps accompany me to the city or something.”

Her only visible response was to blink in surprise, but besides that Elrohir couldn’t tell what she was thinking. He was growing slightly worried when she finally smiled. She withdrew her hands from his, then imitated his movement and cupped her hands around his.

“I think I could do that,” she agreed with a slow nod and a warm smile.

Elrohir left the mountaintop feeling more elated than he had ever felt before.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:17 pm

Will you please?

Today, Elrohir decided, was the day. He had been debating the matter for months, nearly half a year already, and he had been watching Haradhel closely every day he was with her, wondering when would be the best time to ask, searching for the first time he was certain that he wouldn’t be refused. Then again, despite knowing Haradhel so well now, despite studying her expressions, despite spending so much time with her, he still found himself unable to predict how she might react to certain questions. He had given up long ago trying to find a “right” time for anything; he had learned that there was no “right” time, only a “best” time.

Today, finally, he thought he might have found a possible “best” time. It was Mettarë, the last day of the year, and the next day then would be Yestarë, New Year’s Day, Coronation Day. As it was, He had convinced Haradhel to take an extra day out of her training – it wasn’t even a day of the week, he had argued – and accompany him down to the city for a day of celebration. It had, over the months, grown easier to persuade her to come with him, a fact of which he was delightfully aware, and that was one of the reasons why he had such a good feeling about today.

They had spent most of the day in the second level of the city, where the street was lined with elves selling their wares – mostly items of beauty, rather than food or necessities in this time of celebration – and there were groups of musicians playing beautiful music. The entire day had gone by with them dancing, resting, looking at the various shinies for sale, and a few times they had gone down to the third level of the city to indulge in some snacks and some drinks. Finally, when the sun was gently lowering in the sky, Elrohir took Haradhel’s hand and began to lead her once more on the path up towards the castle.

“Tell me,” he smiled at Haradhel, linking her arm in his and cupping his hand over hers, “did you enjoy today?”

It was a question that he asked at the end of nearly every day they spent together, and one that she never resented. Sure enough, just like every other time, she smiled at him and squeezed his hand slightly, her dark eyes shining in the same manner that he loved to watch so much.

“I did,” she replied softly, the same way she always did.

Normally, Elrohir would have stopped asking questions then, and they would have enjoyed the walk back home in a comfortable silence, but today he finally gathered up the courage to ask the question he had been wanting to for so long.

“Will you dine with me tonight?” he asked her, looking directly into her eyes so that she would be able to see exactly how serious he was about it.

Her expression changed to one of perplexity. “I always do,” she replied, puzzled, “when we go out.”

Elrohir shook his head slowly. “I mean,” he murmured softly, “with my family. Let me introduce you to everyone.”

Haradhel’s eyes grew wide and panicked. “I don’t think that would be a good idea,” she said quickly, her brow furrowing with worry. Her answer was so quick, so vehement, that Elrohir blinked, stunned. She added, “Elrohir, I’m in training for the Home Guard … the Home Guard don’t take their meals with the Queen.”

“Most don’t take their meals with the Prince, either,” Elrohir pointed out logically. He stopped her and took her face in his hands gently. “Haradhel, I love you,” he told her quietly, seriously. “I respect that you want to train with the Home Guard, but you can’t pretend that you’re no different from any of them. And I don’t mean because you’re a woman.”

“Oh, you would love me just the same if I were a man?” Haradhel teased him gently, covering his hands with her own.

Elrohir chuckled softly, letting the comment slide. “You know what I mean.” He leaned forward and kissed her gently in the center of her forehead, then brushed his thumb across her cheek and released her. “Not tonight, then, if you’re not ready,” he conceded, taking her arm once more and starting up to the castle once more. “But sometime? Perhaps soon?”

Haradhel was silent for a moment, then she murmured, “Not tonight. Perhaps tomorrow … if you’d like. I know it’s the anniversary of your grandmother’s coronation, but that would mean everyone would be paying more attention to her, right? They wouldn’t pay so much attention to me?”

Elrohir blinked at her, surprised. “Is that what’s bothering you?” he asked her gently. He drew her close and wrapped his arms around her. “If you’d like, then yes, I would love for you to come for dinner tomorrow.” He smiled, satisfied. To be honest, he had been expecting her to refuse outright: the fact that she was agreeing was more than he had hoped for.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:18 pm

Supper in the Spotlight - Part I

When Elrohir went to pick up Haradhel from her quarters on the evening of Yestarë, she was ready and waiting for him, as promised. She was dressed particularly finely today, and had even gone so far as to put her hair up in a manner Elrohir had never seen on her before. Two thin braids began at her forehead and moved around the sides of her head like a crown, and converged at the back to make a single long braid that hung above the rest of her hair, which she had kept loose.

“Are you ready?” he asked her with a warm smile, holding his hand out for her to take.

She set her hand in his and stepped out of her door, closing it behind her before looking at him again. “I don’t think I will ever be ready,” she replied softly, her own smile hesitant and frightened. “But I said I would, and I will.”

“You’re certain you want to do this?” Elrohir questioned her anxiously, tucking her arm into his. “Because you know we can wait if you want to.” He knew how uncomfortable she was, and he didn’t want to make her do anything she didn’t want to do.

“I’ll be fine,” she assured him, giving his arm a soft squeeze. “Truly. I mean it has been half a year already, and as you said I would have to do this eventually. Better now than later.” She smiled at him gratefully. “But thank you for the thought.”

Elrohir reached over and kissed her on the forehead. “You do realize,” he teased her gently, “that you’re a lot sweeter than you let people believe?”

Haradhel blushed and lowered her eyes, unable to come up with any sort of reply.

It wasn’t long before they arrived at the castle, and shorter still before they reached the Banquet Hall – since, as it was the anniversary of Atalya’s coronation, they were having a real feast instead of just a regular meal. Haradhel wasn’t the only guest there, either: Elrohir’s aunt Amalthea was there with her family, Prince Eregon of the Westland (her husband), three of her sons, and her daughter; Rigel and Soronúmë, Elrohir’s other grandparents; and all of the brothers except Riordan. Haradhel was obviously relieved to see that there were so many people there, and Elrohir could understand that. It meant that there would be less attention focused on her.

In theory.

At the moment, everyone was just mingling and chatting, since the meal itself wouldn’t begin for a while yet. Elrohir kept a worried eye on Haradhel, watching to see how she was reacting to all of this. It was the third time she had ever been in the castle, but the first time that it wasn’t on business, so really it was an entirely new experience for her.

Her face was nearly impassive, but he could read the slight movements she made. As per her training, her eyes were constantly moving, taking in everything, everyone. Once in a while she would give a short nod as if she had seen something she’d been expecting, and once in a while her brow would furrow ever so slightly with a hint of worry. Her smile came and went as if she had to remember to do so, and she kept tucking her hair behind her ears even though it wasn’t straying in front of her shoulders. It was, Elrohir had learned, a nervous habit she had that she wasn’t even aware of – at least, he didn’t think she was. To him, it only made her all the more endearing.

“Trainee Haradhel!” came a voice from behind them; and both of them turned and saw Eärendil approaching them, a broad smile on his face. “I’m glad you could make it!”

Eärendil was, so far, the only family member who knew how far the relationship had progressed, though Tinúviel of course still teased Elrohir mercilessly, and Daeron suspected. He plunged right into conversation with Haradhel, and Elrohir was grateful. He could see the lines of worry fading from her forehead with every passing moment, and very quickly her smile was genuine.

A moment later, he felt a tap on his shoulder, and he turned to see Lúthien standing behind him and looking at him expectantly. He excused himself from Haradhel and Eärendil’s conversation and stepped away with his sister-in-law. “Yes?”

Lúthien’s expression was halfway between amused and confused, and she smiled hesitantly at Elrohir. “I see you’ve brought one of the trainees here,” she commented, her tone curious as she nodded past Elrohir in Haradhel’s direction. “Is something going on?”

Elrohir raised one eyebrow. “We have a lot of guests today, in case you hadn’t noticed,” he replied. “Is it such a big deal?”

“Elrohir,” Lúthien smiled bemusedly, “the trainees don’t eat with us. The Home Guard don’t eat with us. The knights don’t eat with us. The Captain doesn’t eat with us, and he’s my own brother!”

Elrohir chuckled. “Maybe you should invite him, then. Have you even had a single meal with him since you married Ruel?”

“I have,” Lúthien replied, slapping his shoulder playfully. “But you’re avoiding the issue. Are we going to have another sister-in-law?” She grinned at him, taunting him, her eyes laughing.

He just shrugged. “Perhaps,” he grinned back, and he turned and joined Haradhel once more.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:20 pm

Supper in the Spotlight – Part II

“Your family is quite a bit larger than I seem to remember,” Haradhel commented to Eärendil, looking around at all of the elves that filled the Hall. “I’m certain I haven’t seen most of them before.”

“Probably not,” Eärendil agreed. “Great Aunt Amalthea came down from the Westland with her family, and most of my uncles are here – which they’re not usually. Normally they’re out working. Don’t feel intimidated, really they’re just regular people.”

“With high ranks,” Haradhel reminded him.

Eärendil chuckled. “You’re dating the High Prince, remember,” he reminded her with a grin. “Besides, you’re comfortable enough with me.”

“That’s different!” she protested, though she knew he was right. “I know you, that’s all.” She looked around for Elrohir, starting to feel abandoned; but he was walking directly towards her, smiling amusedly, and she relaxed. She held one hand out to him as he approached, and he took it and gave it a reassuring squeeze before linking arms with her.

“Sorry about that,” he smiled as Eärendil nodded respectfully to Haradhel and backed away, leaving them alone. “Lúthien wanted a word.” He brushed his lips across her brow. “I won’t leave you alone again.”

“It’s all right,” Haradhel assured him, feeling her face warming slightly. “I wasn’t alone.” She smiled up at him. “We were just talking about your family … it’s quite large, bigger than I thought.”

Elrohir smiled and slipped one arm around her waist. “And this isn’t even all of us,” he told her. “You know of course that my sister isn’t here, and one of my brothers isn’t, either.”

Haradhel watched him anxiously to see if he would become uneasy at all on the subject of his sister, but strangely he seemed more … angry … than anything. She reached up and cupped her hand over one of his cheeks and brushed her thumb across his temple. “What is it?” she asked him softly, worried now.

Elrohir looked down at her and smiled again, then laughed softly. But it seemed forced to her, and it only worried her more. She had never seen him like this before …

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it,” he chuckled, brushing her hand from his face and giving it a light squeeze. He looked around briefly, then back at her. “Come,” he smiled, gently ushering her forward with his hand in the small of her back. “Let us sit. The meal will be beginning soon.”

Haradhel nodded, but inside she felt a bit cold. She’d never attended a banquet before, far less one at the palace, and she had no idea what to expect. Not to mention, the last time she’d seen the Queen, the situation had been the polar opposite. Come to think of it … she hadn’t seen the Queen yet today. As she followed Elrohir towards the tables, she wondered briefly where she was.

She was amazed at how organized everything was. Everyone was heading towards a seat, and no one tried to claim the same one: it was as if everyone had their assigned places. Princess Amalthea and Prince Eregon sat with their family in the seats to the left of the King’s place, and Tinúviel sat to the right of the queen’s chair, with her parents and brothers on the other side of her. That filled the entire front table.

There were two other tables, equally as long, perpendicular to the center table, and Elrohir was directing Haradhel towards the one to the right of the Queen’s chair, towards the very end. As she looked around at the others, she thought she saw the pattern.

“You sit in order of age,” she whispered to Elrohir, looking to him for confirmation.

He nodded. “We always have, ever since we first came to live here. Tinúviel of course sits at the head table because she’s the atheling, and Aunt Amalthea because she’s Grandmother’s only surviving child, and then the rest of us go in order at the side tables, along with our guests.”

Haradhel looked around and saw that he was right: she wasn’t the only guest there that day. On the other hand, she did seem to be the only one who was in a relationship with the Prince who had invited her. She didn’t know this because of any knowledge of who these people were, but because she was the only female guest in an almost entirely male family.

She sat in the chair that Elrohir pulled out for her, and as he sat next to her, her heart was pounding in her chest. The tables had been placed so that everyone was visible to everyone else at all times, and she felt exposed in a manner that she hadn’t felt before.

She was startled, and jumped, when suddenly there came the sound of music: harps and flutes from she couldn’t see where. She shot Elrohir a questioning glance, and he smiled and raised his eyes meaningfully. She followed his gaze and looked up towards the ceiling, but stopped partway there: all around the room, around the tops of the walls, was an open space which, she assumed, hid the musicians behind them, for that was where the music was coming from. It was beautiful to listen to, but again she was distracted, this time by movement at the door.

As one, everyone in the Hall rose to their feet, standing at attention as the Queen entered on the arm of her husband. Haradhel had only rarely seen the Queen before, and each time she had met her she had found herself in awe of her; but this time, she thought, the Queen looked more beautiful – no, that wasn’t the word – more regal than ever.

The Queen stopped only steps into the room and looked around at everyone’s faces as if she was taking stock of all who were in attendance. It was only a matter or time before she met Haradhel’s eyes, and the young trainee couldn’t fail to notice the surprise that registered. She averted her eyes self-consciously, knowing that she was blushing furiously. She didn’t belong here.

Elrohir seemed to sense something of what she was feeling, for he reached over and took her hand in his and gave it a tight squeeze. She risked a glance at him and saw that he was smiling warmly at her. Reassured, she took a deep breath and relaxed. She would make it through this … for him.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:21 pm

The Morning After

Haradhel woke on the first day of the new week feeling restless. Three days in a row she hadn’t done anything with her training (since the first had been Valenya, and therefore her day with Elrohir, and the other two had been Mettarë and Yestarë, and celebration days), and now that Elenya had rolled around again she wanted to start her training right away.

She had been speaking with Eärendil the day before, at the feast, and he’d had an interesting idea that she wanted to try out. He had told her about the small training “arena” his uncle had designed and had built for him, west of the steps at the bottom of the mountain, and once she had dressed and braided her hair, that was where she headed. She stopped only to pick up a staff which she would use to practice.

She descended the stairs slowly today, her thoughts distracting her from her usual run. The Queen had taken her aside the day before and spoken with her, and the words she’d said were still on her mind.

“It seems to me that my grandson is quite smitten with you,” she’d told Haradhel. She had seemed amused at the thought.

Haradhel, on the other hand, was feeling very self-conscious. Never in her wildest dreams, even as a young child, had she ever imagined having a conversation like this with the Queen. Her face was bright red with embarrassment, and she lowered her eyes to avoid the Queen’s gaze.

Queen Atalya, however, didn’t seem to be willing to let her dodge the issue. She put her hand on the young trainee’s shoulder to get her attention again, and smiled kindly at her. “You’ve no reason to worry,” she said softly in a reassuring tone. “I’ve been following your progress with Captain Eldrin, and I would be honoured to have you join us.”

Haradhel hadn’t asked what “joining us” meant, but she thought that she could guess. Did she love Elrohir? Yes, she did. And she knew that he loved her in return. Her question was, what did the rest of the family think of them? She had ended up speaking with almost everyone at the feast the day before, and while most of them had treated her as if she was already family, some of them seemed a bit awkward, as if their conversations had been forced.

Then again, she mused, that could simply be because they didn’t know her. After all, had she not been exactly the same when she’d first come to train at the palace?

One comment the Queen had made, though, had stuck in her mind and was keeping her thoughts occupied.

“You know,” she had smiled after then had been chatting for a while, “I think you’re going to do my grandson a world of good.”

What was that supposed to mean?

Princess Tinúviel had made a similar remark.

“If you keep doing the things you do,” she’d laughed, “and Ada-tôl doesn’t die of fright, it will be a miracle!” Then she’d paused thoughtfully and added with an impish grin, “You’re perfect for him.”

Haradhel smiled softly to herself as she remembered back to that conversation. She liked Princess Tinúviel. She was funny and smart, and had a biting wit that Haradhel admired. At first she found it difficult to believe that this young woman would one day be queen: but soon after her conversation with the Princess, she’d been told that the current queen, when she’d been young, had almost borderline scandalous with her words and her actions. In view of that, she mused, then yes, Tinúviel would make a good queen.

She reached the bottom of the mountain steps and headed west down that path that Prince Eärendil had told her led to his own personal training area. It wasn’t far. She blinked when she saw it, surprised.

It was fairly large, about the size of the castle’s Banquet Hall, and perfectly square. It was carved into the marble rock of the mountain, and it looked like the smoothest surface she had ever seen, including the marble halls of the palace – and that was saying something. Then again, Eärendil had told her that it had been designed that way for a specific purpose.

It looked as if there was a trench of some sort around the outside of it, and she wondered briefly if there was supposed to be anything in there. Quite possibly not, considering that if anything was put into it, there would be no way to drain it – for most people, that was. But Haradhel wasn’t most people.

Still, she wanted to test it out before she tried anything potentially dangerous. Eärendil had said something about it being slippery … she wondered just how slippery it could be. It was, after all, rock … albeit a highly polished, incredibly smooth marble.

She stepped out onto it and cried out with surprise as her foot slid out from under her. She caught her balance just in time and steadied herself, then ventured out slowly. Apparently it was very slippery indeed … yes. She would just try it out as it was, at least until she was used to it. She made her way to the center of the area, then held her staff out in front of herself and closed her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she focused on the staff and the ground, and slowly, ever so carefully, began to go through the motions of practicing.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:23 pm

Testing the Limits

Elrohir was impatient for Valenya to come. Despite the fact that it was the new year, his agreement with Haradhel still stood: she would train for five days of the week, and the sixth they would spend the day together. He was pleased with how she had been accepted at the feast on Yestarë. Not that he had been worried about her being accepted by his family: no, he had known that they would accept her; but he had been worried for her sake, worried that she might have been unable to adjust, unable to fit in. But she had come through the evening beautifully – both literally and figuratively.

Today, however, was Menelya, and he had another day to wait before he could take Haradhel away from her training. On the other hand, he had a question for Eärendil, and so it was that he was headed in the direction of his nephew’s personal training area to find him.

What he found was not at all what he was looking for.

He knew the path well, so he wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going or looking at what was ahead of him; but as he drew near he felt a heat that far outweighed the heat of the desert sun. He raised his eyes to see what it was and cried out in shock. Eärendil’s training area was completely engulfed in flames! As far as he knew, his nephew had no control over fire as some of the rest of the family did, and he panicked.

It didn’t even occur to him that there was no way for the fire to be there naturally, and that therefore it had to be summoned by a firecaster. Nor did it occur to him that it was a controlled fire, or that it might be there for a purpose. All he saw, and that completely in his mind, was his nephew being consumed by the deadly flames, and he reacted as such. He dropped his bag and ran forward, heedless of any danger to himself, hands outstretched and trying to bring the fire down. Immediately the fire responded, and by the time he reached the training ground it was almost gone.

For a long moment, there was silence; then an angry shout: “Ada-tôl!

Elrohir stared, his face growing warm with embarrassment. There, standing in front of him, staffs in hand, were Eärendil and Haradhel. Obviously he had interrupted a training session … and neither his nephew nor his girlfriend were pleased. Both of them were glaring at him, their gazes so fierce that Elrohir wanted to melt. He wanted to say something, felt that he should; but at the same time he had a feeling that if he did, he would only make things worse. Still …

He coughed and tried, “So … no one’s hurt?”

Eärendil sighed and lowered his staff, the anger fading from his face. “You are what you are, after all,” he murmured, looking at his uncle emotionlessly.

Elrohir blinked. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he demanded, stung.

“It means you’re an idiot,” Haradhel spoke up, her face still dark with rage. Her hands tightened on her staff as if she was about to attack, but she remained motionless otherwise. “Elrohir, you know I love you, but sometimes …” She trailed off, forbidding herself to continue that thought.

“I saw the fire and I worried that someone might be trapped,” Elrohir tried to defend himself.

“And it didn’t occur to you that it wasn’t a natural fire?” she retorted. “Elrohir, it was a thin wall that followed the outside of the platform perfectly. There’s no way it could have been natural!” She let go of her staff with one hand and held her fist out, palm up. When she opened it, it looked as though her hand was on fire – but it wasn’t burning.

She let the implication set in for a moment, then closed her fist once again, dissipating the flames. Then she stared at Elrohir, eyes narrow with anger.

Elrohir was also staring, but in disbelief. “I … I had no idea,” he stuttered, his face red. Of course he should have known. He himself was a firecaster, he should have known what a summoned fire looked like. But he had no idea that Haradhel was down here with Eärendil, or that she was also a firecaster.

Except that she was apparently more than just a firecaster. While she had his attention, she tucked her staff under one elbow, then cupped her hands together and held them in front of her. They filled with water almost immediately, and she moved her hands out to the sides. The water remained where it was, floating just in front of her, for a moment; then, following the movements of her fingers, it split into several floating puddles that circled slowly around her.

She flicked her fingers once, and the water vanished. It was replaced with a sudden wind that was so strong that it was almost visible. It swirled around her, ruffling both her hair and her clothes, then left her at her direction and whirled instead around Elrohir, making him take a step backwards in surprise.

When the wind disappeared and the sand on the ground around them began to move, Elrohir wasn’t as surprised as he had originally been. By that time he was almost expecting it, though it did not lessen his sense of awe. He stared at Haradhel in wonder, barely noticing the ground moving beneath his feet until he nearly fell over. When he regained his balance, the shifting had stopped, and Haradhel was holding her staff once again, still glaring at him darkly.

He stared back, amazed at what she could do, shocked that he hadn’t known, that she hadn’t said anything about it earlier. They had been seeing each other for more than half a year, now …

“You’re … an elemental summoner,” he said finally, his voice soft and filled with wonder.

She nodded and tightened her grip on her staff once more. “Now if you don’t mind,” she said coolly, forcing herself to relax, “we were training.”

Elrohir opened his mouth to protest, since he had come to talk to Eärendil, not even having been aware that she would be here with him, but then he thought better of the idea.

Perhaps she would be in a better mood tomorrow, when it was their day to spend together.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:29 pm

The Question

A little over a year had passed now since Elrohir had first asked Haradhel to accompany him to the festival, and he woke one Menelya morning feeling … a mixture of emotions. Excitement, fear, anxiety, confidence, hope …

He had plans for today, plans that did not directly involve Haradhel. And yet, he only hoped that she wouldn’t hate him for what he was planning to do. A matter of months ago he had realized that he wanted to marry Haradhel, but there was a technical problem: he needed the permission of her father in order to be able to ask her, but her father believed that she was dead.

When she had told him why she preferred it that way, he had felt absolutely terrible. Not only because of the terrible upbringing she’d had, but because he now understood how he had made his sister feel when he had made her leave. However, he also finally understood why Haradhel didn’t want her father to know she was alive: the fear of having to return to the life she had led was too great for her.

Despite this, Elrohir knew that, as a trainee of the Home Guard not by birth but by special appointment by the Queen herself, Haradhel would never be able to leave involuntarily – unless by some treacherous act, which he viewed as impossible. Her father couldn’t touch her – she was safe. It was for this reason – and this reason alone – that he felt it was safe to approach her father and ask for his permission. He only hoped that after she found out, Haradhel would still speak to him.

He went alone, deeming a bodyguard more than unnecessary, but even a hindrance in this situation. Not that he took a bodyguard anywhere if he could help it, but on this occasion he made sure not to have one.

It didn’t take him long to find her father’s house – she had pointed it out to him once, on one of their trips into the city. He knocked solidly three times and waited for an answer.

The door was opened fairly quickly by a tall elf who shared many of the same characteristics as Haradhel. At the man’s questioning glance, Elrohir smiled and bowed his head politely.

“Good morning,” he said warmly. “I’m Prince Elrohir Aldrich. Are you Túrin?”

The man nodded, but appeared completely perplexed. “Can I ask why you’re here?” he questioned Elrohir curiously.

“I just have a matter of which I would like to speak with you,” the prince assured the man quickly. “May I come in?”

A rhetorical question. Who would refuse the high prince? The man nodded and stepped aside, inviting Elrohir into his home.

Elrohir stepped inside and looked around curiously. It was a fair-sized house, lavishly decorated. Interesting, considering the only elves who lived here were Haradhel’s father and two older brothers. Which brought him back to the matter at hand.

“I want to speak to you,” he told the man, turning to face him again, “about your daughter.”

Túrin couldn’t have been more surprised, or confused. “I have no daughter,” he replied, brow furrowed. “She’s dead, she was murdered a few years ago …”

“No,” Elrohir shook his head slowly. “She’s very much alive and well. She is a trainee for the Home Guard, and making swift progress. In addition to this …” He took a deep breath – he wanted to ask this before he said anything he knew might change the man’s mind – and said, “I came here today for permission to ask her to marry me.”

At that, the man’s face registered nothing more than complete and utter shock. His mouth opened and closed several times as if he were trying to say something, but nothing came out. His eyes were wide and staring, and he was looking at Elrohir as if wondering if he had heard correctly.

It looked as though the man needed a bit of help. “I love her,” Elrohir went on – though he was careful not to address the man too politely. What would come once he got permission would not allow him to use polite terms. “You know that I have more than enough means to take care of her, and I know that I can make her happy.” Which was more than this man had ever tried to do.

Finally, Túrin seemed to find his tongue. “It seems that I can’t say no, Prince Elrohir,” he said finally, though he was still a bit pale. “So … yes, by all means, marry my daughter … but know what you’re getting yourself into.”

Elrohir’s temper flashed, and now that he had his permission (which couldn’t be revoked) he felt that he could say more of what he was feeling – and especially after a comment like that one.

“I do know what I’m getting myself into,” he replied shortly. “I know that your daughter, despite what you have always believed, is one of the strongest elves I know – physically, emotionally, mentally, magically. As I said, she is a swift learner, one of the fastest learning of the Home Guard trainees. I love her as she has never known love.”

Túrin flinched. “Will you tell her to come and see me, then? So that I can see her again? Let me know when the wedding is, so that I may come, and her brothers?”

“No,” Elrohir shook his head firmly. “You won’t be seeing her.” Ignoring the man’s shocked expression, he went on. “If she doesn’t wish it, you won’t see her before, at, or after her wedding, nor will you see your grandchildren, if we are blessed. Nor will your sons, who are no different than you. She holds nothing but horror for your memories, and she does not even want you to know that she is alive. If you are lucky, you may one day see her walking down the street, but that will be the closest you will ever get to her. If you want to do anything to make her happy, refrain from attempting to see her or speak to her. Neither she nor I will ever speak to you again, and I trust that you will be content with that. You did, after all, attempt to get rid of your daughter, did you not? And now here she is being got rid of for you.”

He nodded again, his eyes glinting with a hard glare, and despite his soft tone he was not smiling.

“However, I thank you for your permission, and bid you farewell,” he concluded. Without waiting for a reply, he started for the door. “I’ll show myself out.”

Once he was outside in the fresh air, he took a deep breath and unclenched his fists. His hands were shaking – he hoped Túrin hadn’t seen. Still, he was feeling much better now. He smiled as he returned to the palace. Now it only remained to find the ‘best’ time to ask Haradhel.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:31 pm

A Question and a Confession

Haradhel was awake long before sunrise on that particular day. It wasn’t a Valenya, but it wasn’t any other day of the week either: to be strictly technical, it was Mettarë, a year and a half after Elrohir had first invited her to the festival of the Enderi with him, and a year after she had first been introduced to the family. By now she was familiar with and to all of them, and she found it far more comfortable to be inside the castle, even without Elrohir at times.

She still had her training, five days of the week, and she still had her Valenyas with Elrohir, and in general she was more than content – she was even beyond happy. Her life had turned around so drastically that she wondered if there were anything else that could happen to make it any better. It hardly seemed possible – everything, it seemed, was perfect.

When Elrohir came up to her quarters to pick her up for the day, she was ready and waiting for him outside. She was already in a good mood, but she perked up even more when he came into view, and she greeted him with a warm kiss and a tight hug.

“What’s on the agenda for today?” she asked him eagerly as they set out for the mountain steps.

Elrohir grinned and put one arm around her thin shoulders. “Well,” he replied cheerfully, “there are some tournaments going on this morning, which I thought might be of interest to you. Some sword, some staff, some throwing knives, some archery.”

Haradhel’s eyes lit up with eagerness, and Elrohir laughed, then continued.

“There’s also dinner and dancing … the dancing, as usual, goes on all day long,” he grinned. “After dinner, I understand there’s going to be a play of some sort, on the first level. There’s a huge stage set up for it. After that I’m not sure.”

Haradhel smiled mischievously and squeezed Elrohir’s hand. “I’m sure we’ll think of a way to fill the extra time,” she murmured.

Elrohir laughed. “I expect we will,” he agreed lightheartedly.

The day passed much as Elrohir had foretold. He and Haradhel took turns at each of the contests, danced until they were completely exhausted, enjoyed a pleasurable lunch, courtesy of Elrohir’s grandparents who owned the inn, and laughed together at the play. Then they returned to the dancing for a few more hours, until they agreed that it was time to return home for the night.

As they walked up the road back to the castle, Elrohir took a coin from his pocket and started flipping it absently with his thumb. He was quieter than usual, more serious, and Haradhel wondered what was on his mind. When she asked him, he stuck his hand back into his pocket and stared at the ground thoughtfully for several long moments before speaking.

“Haradhel,” he began, his voice quiet, far softer than she had ever heard him speak before, “it’s … been a long time since I met you. In that time … I’ve come to know you very well, and you me, and you’ve changed me – for the better. I just … somehow … started thinking about that, and … I just wanted to say thank you.”

He put both arms around her and drew her close, and repeated it again. “Thank you.”

Haradhel smiled and returned the embrace, though she was a little perplexed as to its suddenness. “Are you feeling all right?” she asked him worriedly.

Elrohir chuckled, and it warmed Haradhel’s heart. “Yes,” he replied softly, brushing his lips across her forehead. “I’m fine.” He lifted one hand and brushed some stray hairs away from her face and smiled warmly, then held her chin in his hand. “On the other hand,” he murmured, “I do have a question for you.”

Haradhel smiled and looked into his eyes, blushing at how close he was just at that moment. There was an almost hidden note in his voice that she hadn’t heard before, and she wondered what it meant. Her heart started pounding in her chest, and she took a deep breath to calm herself. “Yes?” she whispered, honestly having no idea what to expect.

He pulled his other hand out of his pocket again and took her hand, pressing something into it and closing her fingers around it.

“Will you marry me?” he asked, his eyes shining brightly.

Haradhel’s eyes grew wide and her mouth opened in a small O of surprise, and she looked down at her hand to see what he had put into it. It was a small ring, yellow gold, set with diamonds in the shape of a heart. Her breath caught in her throat, and she looked back up at Elrohir once more, for once at a complete loss for words. She closed her fingers around the ring once more, then threw her arms around his neck and kissed him fully on the mouth, tears of joy pricking at her eyes.

Elrohir kissed her back eagerly, then held her tightly, laughing softly. “I take that for a yes?” he chuckled softly.

Haradhel laughed, brushing tears away from her cheeks. “Yes,” she whispered, holding him so tightly that their waning shadows were one. She released him slightly so that she could look at his face and repeated, “Yes, Elrohir, I will marry you.”

Elrohir leaned forward and kissed her again, then reached down and took her closed fist in his hand. He opened it gently and took the ring, then straightened her fingers and slipped it on.

Haradhel laughed again, overwrought with emotion, and pressed close to Elrohir as he once again started leading her up the road towards the castle.

“I wish my mother were still alive,” she whispered, her eyes shining in the moonlight. “So that I could tell her … how happy I’ve become.”

Elrohir reached over and brushed away the tear that fell from her eye. “I’m sure she’s watching over you,” he murmured back softly, kissing her forehead. “I’m sure she knows.”

Haradhel nodded and smiled. Suddenly she frowned, thinking of something else. “Is it all right, though, that you didn’t ask my father first? I thought … isn’t it proper that …”

Elrohir remained silent, looking uncomfortably away as she looked at him to see his reaction.

She paled, and she felt something cold and hard growing in the pit of her stomach. “You didn’t …”

“I did,” Elrohir replied, looking back at her and taking her in his arms once again. “He knows now that you are alive, and where you are. But you don’t have to worry,” he added quickly, seeing that she was about to cry again, and this time not from happiness. “He can’t touch you. You never have to see him again, if you don’t wish it. He’s strictly forbidden to initiate contact with you … Haradhel, as a member of the Home Guard, you’re untouchable. You’re under Nako’s protection, he can’t come anywhere near you!”

Haradhel moved into the embrace and returned it, but her thoughts were elsewhere. As she listened to Elrohir’s words, she realized that he was right – she was untouchable. That fact, along with the fact that she no longer had to worry about her father spotting her when she and Elrohir went to the city, floated through her head, additionally muddled by the still-fresh idea that she was going to marry Elrohir. In every sense of the word … she was free.

When she reached that conclusion, she laughed and looked into Elrohir’s eyes. “You,” she murmured, smiling and running her fingers through his hair, “are,” she leaned close, so close that her forehead was resting against his, “perfect.”

And she kissed him.

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