My Lady Mórëfindessë
had said when she woke this would be a busy day. The air was getting chill
with the Winter Solstice only a month away. She had asked Lady Mermardë
and Lady Lelyafelmë over for luncheon and wished the leaves swept
from the balcony and the sheers hung about it. Luncheon with the ladies
usually meant a long afternoon of talk and many emptied bottles of wine.
The laundry would just have to wait until tomorrow.
Her bath took up most of the morning. She luxuriated in the warm swirling
waters while I went to have a quick break fast and fetch her some fresh
biscuits from the south kitchen. Yávëhire had just opened
the first of this years apple-pear jams and declared them fit to
eat. I thought they were even better than last years and said so
to Tosseryn, Lady Nindëyahtës girl. I brought a pot back
to serve with the warm biscuits piled under the cloth.
The kettle water I had set up was about to boil as I returned. I swung
the arm out from the fireplace and set up my Ladys favourite tea
in her pot. Everything fit neatly on the latticewood tray but for two
biscuits, which I put aside for later. The tray lifted easily, perfectly
balanced through years of experience. I softly cleared my throat outside
the bathroom and entered as she called Come!
Wisps of chill fog drifted in through the windows, bedewing the intricate
floor tiles and making a soft curtain about my Ladys warm basin.
I glided through and set the tray down beside the lip. She lay floating
in the swirling water, stretched full length, her long dark hair making
a roiling thunderstorm around her placid face. How I longed to wear her
straight black silk instead of my own brown curls.
She slowly opened her eyes and glanced at her breakfast tray, then looked
up and smiled at me. Thank you, Baranfinnath. This looks,
she breathed in deeply, and smells, delightful. Will you join me?
There looks to be enough for us both.
She always asks, and as always, I answered Thank you, my Lady, but
I have already eaten in the kitchen.
She rolled over and swept her hair back with both hands. After so many
years, I still do not tire of her warm invitation and smile. Perhaps one
day I will be brave enough to join her.
She turned her storm-grey eyes up to me as she poured the kettle water
into her pot. Would you tend to my hair while I break fast, then?
Of course, my Lady. I replied, already fetching her brush
and combs from the shelf by the hand basin.
she murmured. Is this the new jam?
she asked around her forefinger, gleaming wet and golden.
Yes, my Lady. Yávëhire has just broken it open.
This puts last years in the deep, deep shade, dont you
think? she held her finger to me with a fresh burden of gold.
I nodded vigorously and told her I said that very thing to Tosseryn
in the kitchen this morning, my Lady, but I would burst asunder if I had
She licked her finger clean, then ladled more upon a warm biscuit before
turning to present me with her wet black tresses.
Lady Mermardë she said, has had a clasp made as
a golden butterfly, very much like Master Elronds.
Would you like the silver cords in your braids, then, my Lady?
She chewed and thought while I brushed out the water. Yes, but make
it one thick, loose herringbone. I like the way the silver weaves through
it, like comets through the night sky.
I nodded and whispered, Yes, my Lady, it does. Like the sky
before the sun and moon rose. When her grandmother, or perhaps even mother,
stood before the glory of The Trees, faces made pale and hair burned deep
black by them. She bore the marks that they had been in the presence of
the Valar. They had been in the West and returned.
I brushed as she ate
stroke, stroke, stroke. She finally poured
her tea - much too strong for my taste. She said she came to like it that
way during her visits with the Éothéod. Strong tea
for strong men... she would occasionally toast.
Stroke, stroke, touch of hazelnut oil, stroke, stroke, stroke. My fingers
flew with minds of their own. Stroke, comb, comb, pull, over, under, pull,
stroke. The silver cords wove themselves through the darkness at my touch.
Silver stars now twinkled from her brow and temples.
She finished the last of the biscuits as I knotted the last cord. I placed
her dressing gown across her shoulders as she rose from the waters, keeping
her night sky dry. She turned and looked over her shoulder at her reflection
in the silver mirror. Baranfinnath, You have outdone yourself. Lady
Arwen could not wish for better.
Oh, my Lady, hush. I did only highlight your beautiful tapestry.
While she browsed her wardrobe, I hung the sheers around the balcony,
swept most of the yellow-gold leaves between the balusters, over the edge
and watched them float down into the Bruinen below. I left several scattered
about. My lady likes to watch them twirl and swirl into the waters as
much as I.
Baranfinnath! she called.
Yes, my Lady?
Are we using the green cloth or the amber on the table today?
I was going to use the green, my Lady, if that is what you wish.
Very good. The green is what I had in mind. What do you think of
the maroon velvet, then? She stepped out of her bed chambers holding
the robe before her.
I nodded and said It would be lovely, my Lady.
I slid the table out onto the balcony and lay the green cloth upon it.
Plates, knives, goblets, gifts, an assortment of wines and an arrangement
of leaves and berries finished the table. I drew three soft chairs near
for the ladies to place as they desired at the moment.
Then to my Ladys chambers to help her prepare for the luncheon.
The maroon robe she chose accented her pale skin and brought out the color
of her lips. As a finish, I set a single silver star upon her breast,
like Eärendil sailing home in the sunset. She smiled.
There were footfalls in the hallway. I hurried and opened the door, as
Taerorn from the kitchens was about to knock. He bore a tray of meats,
cheeses, more wines, dried fruits and fresh breads. I pointed to the sideboard,
but he was already on his way there. I remained by the door to admire
the view from behind. He filled out his kitchen whites very nicely, and
his legs had great stamina from the many stairs in Imladris. I smiled
to myself, remembering festival nights spent with my own legs locked around
his as he displayed their stamina....
Good morning, Taerorn. My Lady Mórëfindessë
purred, looking a vision, stars twinkling in her night sky hair. Have
you heard aught of your father? Her eyes twinkled too, seeing how
disconcerted he was at her tone and intimacy.
H...h...he is recovering slowly, he managed to stammer out,
then more surely, The foul beasts bolt missed his heart, but
its poison is slow to leave, even with... forest remedies.
I stepped from the door and overstepped my place. He can be brought
to Imladris if he is not improving, just as that Halfling.... I mean to
say, Master Elrond is very generous with his healing arts.
Lady Mórëfindessë smiled at me, but I knew she was not
pleased at that moment by my interruption.
Yes, Baranfinnath, Master Elrond is most generous.
you could be dismissed, sent back to Greenwood in disgrace, if word got
to him that you were not thankful for his generous nature. She did
not have to speak it. I did not have to read it in her eyes. It was etched
in my heart. I should never have presumed to speak with such
Taerorn brushed past me on the way out, I had not noticed my Lady had
dismissed him, so caught up in my own concerns was I. My fingertips did
not trail over his hip as he passed, as they usually did. I would hear
of that too, later, from him. Would he think I had lost my affection for
him? Could he not see how distressed I was? How could he think I did not
care for him any longer?
Baranfinnath! I started at her sharp voice. Stop daydreaming.
Our guests should be arriving soon at the summons of those fresh breads,
if I know them at all.
Surely, Lady Mórëfindessë, it is not our noses
that drew us here, but your delightful companionship. Lady Lelyafelmës
voice startled me from behind.
There was a quick rapping on the doorframe and Lady Mermardës
voice asked, Though we do not have the splendor of our hostess,
may we join you anyway?
I regained my composure and held the door open as the Lady Mermardë
glided and Lady Lelyafelmë strode into the apartment. Each handed
to me a small cloth wrapped box and nodded unnecessarily toward the table.
Two pairs of slippered feet hurried away in the hall outside. Naneduin
and Tuilinde were probably hurrying down to the kitchen, knowing I would
now attend to their Ladies needs. Sometimes, I wished my Lady Mórëfindessë
attended more parties than she held.
The Ladies greeted each other with careful hugs, lest they disturb each
others exquisitely arranged raiments before they were properly appreciated.
I placed the two boxes upon the table near my Ladys gifts to her
friends, then moved to the sideboard to offer if they desired some assistance.
From there, I could admire the Ladies without intruding. Lady Lelyafelmës
loose flowing, rich blue blouse and black velvet leggings showed her ready
to ride off in an instant. Her intricately braided knotwork hair stayed
in its place, and hid twinkling stars much like my Ladys in its
black recesses. Lady Mermardë had a long robe, the russet of autumn
leaves, gathered by a black, star-spangled girdle. Her ebon tresses hung
loose, almost to the floor, gathered slightly at the nape of her swanlike
neck by a golden butterfly.
Lady Mermardë and Lady Lelyafelmë were both lovely to see, but
neither of their girls had been able to dress them to outshine my Lady.
She noticed me appraising her friends and smiled just for me. I felt a
quick smile flit across my lips in return, then the heat of a blush. I
turned to arrange the unlit lamps on the sideboard so they were absolutely
The quiet swish of slipper soles and Lady Lelyafelmës booted
tread warned me. I slipped to the far end, ever ready to assist, but they
did not need my help. Despite their grace and beauty and exquisite dress,
they wielded the knives as the warriors they were. Slices of meats and
slabs of still steaming breads flew to their platters with flicks of their
wrists. In moments, there was little left but battlefield refuse and several
They carried their treasures to the balcony and gently lay them down.
Ladies Mermardë & Lelyafelmë placed the gifts they brought
before Lady Mórëfindessë, and she placed hers before
them. They murmured thank-yous and slid them unopened out of harms
way. Later, after her guests had returned to their own apartments, my
Lady would open the gifts and dictate to me thank you messages to deliver.
Then she would scowl at some flaw in the workmanship, laugh aloud, or
simply close the box and hand it to me to add to the collection in the
rear of her wardrobe. Occasionally, she would look upon the gift in surprise
and add it to her jewelry or treasured trinkets. I found it all a bit
difficult to understand. When gifts were exchanged in Greenwood, at least
in my family, they stayed in their wrappings only long enough for ones
fingers to get a better grip to tear them off.
I caught my Ladys finger motions and brought her the wax knife from
the sideboard. One long-practiced flick and the seal of the wine bottle
flew off. Goblets were filled and toasts made.
To Master Elrond.
To friends in the West.
At the last, they drank somberly and gazed each off into their own distance.
Moments later, they were telling each other their news of the past few
months, Ladies again.
Lelyafelmë intoned ominously. There is trouble abroad. I can
feel it. I can taste it.
Mermardë nudged her with her bare elbow. You have been spending
too much time in Lorien. Lelyafelmë snorted in amusement.
Is he really that good? Your pony will not last the winter at this
Lelyafelmës grey eyes gleamed. Mermardës delicate
eyebrows arched and a laugh escaped from my Ladys pursed lips.
Perhaps he would like to come here for a while. Or, you could find
Lelyafelmë leaned forward, taking their hands in hers. I have
companions. What I need is a
. She smiled. They
all burst out laughing and slid back into their soft chairs.
Mermardë held up a half a sausage upon her knifepoint. The
kitchens deliver wondrous loaves and meats. Perhaps they will also deliver
She shook her blade and the sausage quivered. Lelyafelmë & Mermardë
roared with laughter. Mórëfindessë smiled, but caught
my eye as I again burned with embarrassment. I was very glad Taerorn was
What of Master Elronds visitors? Many have lingered under
his hospitality this past month. If they were strong enough to travel
so far, perhaps they have enough strength to keep us content, or at least
Yes, Lady Mórëfindessë, I saw the look you were
giving Gloin at dinner in the Chamber Of Fire. Mermardë said
My Ladys eyebrows leapt up now. I
Her friends laughed again at her indignant glare. Mayhaps,
Mermardë gasped out, you think he looks much like your friend
Durin... the Deathless!
Was that you appraising the Prince of Mirkwoods backside,
Lady Mermardë, or was someone else wearing your gown
Lelyafelmë whooped in delight as her friend fumed like the pits of
Perhaps, I thought, my Lady had struck too close to the mark on that one.
I busied myself tidying up the remnants of the kitchen platter, and sampling
the dried apricots, so it would be ready for Taerorn when he came for
it later. I would have to apologize to him for Lady Mórëfindessës
intrusive questions and my lack of attention on the way out. Sometimes,
apologizing can be very, very nice.
Have you seen Estel lately?
Estel? Lady Lelyafelmë sounded puzzled.
Remember? His mother left him in Elronds care, then went west.
She was Eldar? But he grows a
No, Felmë. Your brains had been pounded out by your days with
the horsemen. His mother went back to her people in the wastes that were
Oh, yes. Now I recall. They did leave most of their chieftains
heirs in Elronds care.
does he not look like he stepped off the last boat from
Numenor? Mermardë sighed wistfully. He would complement
this years jam most delightfully.
Lelyafelmë chuckled at her friends unfocused gaze.
Do not say that in such a way outside of these curtains lest Lady
Arwen hear you. Mórëfindessë warned in hushed tones,
She would make sure you were standing watch in the Trollshaws in
Lelyafelmë changed the subject slightly. That Lord from the
south kingdom looks very like him. Have you not seen the resemblance?
I heard young Estel served in his grandsires guard for several
years. my Lady replied, her eyes narrowing as she counted.
In truth? Hmmmm. How could Lady Arwen not have noticed they looked
so much alike? Do you think she suspects something
Estel was about in the world?
She and Boromir were dancing together often after dinner. Quite
closely, as I saw it. Maybe she wishes Estel was broader in the shoulder
and mightier in the thews.
He was a joy to dance with. Especially close. Have you had the pleasure?
He danced with most everyone, and I still felt it was only me he cared
about. When home, he must have flocks of women nipping at his
Indeed he has a great power
. He had leaned over to
quietly ask directions of me, and I was captivated by his whisper. Then
his breath warmed my cheek and his beard brushed my ear
My Lady fanned herself as though overcome by heat.
You are very quiet while we delight over the southern Lord, Lelyafelmë.
Lady Mórëfindessë finally said.
I was just thinking
what a waste, for such a fine specimen
of Manhood to return to the south, never to be seen again.
Felmë! Did you
Lelyafelmë! You have the stealth of a Ranger! We never heard
a thing of it!
He was every inch a gentleman, Lelyafelmë said quietly,
leaning forward. I felt it just and right to return the consideration.
From the morning he arrived, he would never have had to leave his chambers
if he so wished. I have not heard a murmur of any liaisons. Have you?
Yet I suspect I could not have been the only
Mórëfindessë & Mermardë blushed furiously. Lelyafelmë
leaned back and smiled.
Mermardë murmured, Yes, it would be a waste
All three laughed until they could scarcely breathe. One of Lady Lelyafelmës
knotworks had come undone so its strands hung loosely down her back. I
felt the momentary urge to dash to her side and repair it, but that would
be Tuilindes job, if she were here with her Lady.
They finally gave a collective sigh and drained their goblets. I approached
and refilled for them. My Lady Mórëfindessës fingertips
brushed my arm. I turned, and she held my gaze and asked. Baranfinnath,
what do you think of Boromir, Lord of Gondor? I blushed again but
strove to regain my composure. Why should I be blushing at this, or any
other implication I heard today? At home in Greenwood, almost every word
can be made to imply the rude, and my brothers often did. Here were three
warriors who have seen and, from their tales, done everything. Why should
I be embarrassed by anything I might say to them?
How many times have I had this argument with myself, and still I blush.
There is something about being in their presence that makes me feel as
nothing. Do they feel the same when near one of the First Born?
I must agree with Lady Lelyafelmë. He is very
much a gentleman. Perhaps the effects of their strong wine were
infectious. When I went to his chambers to fetch your gown,
her eyes grew wide and I heard her friends chuckle, and return his
linen underthings, Lady Lelyafelmë let out a whoop of laughter,
he did not presume I was there for his favor. I felt I was
as red as a cherry. He opened the door fully dressed for the time
of the night and was courteous in receiving his intimates and returning
yours. I am sorry to hear that he is leaving soon.
I felt dizzy speaking in such a manner to my Lady, but she did ask.
She narrowed her beautiful grey eyes. And how soon would he be leaving?
My lips pressed together in a thin line as I bit them to hold them closed.
I had betrayed a confidence I should never have had.
Baranfinnath. When is he leaving? Her patience with me was
Just after the Solstice Festival. Lady Mermardë said
casually. Hadnt you heard? I sagged inside in relief,
limp as a washcloth. My Lady looked to her friend and I stepped away,
into the shadows, trembling.
The stablehands are having trouble finding tack for that amusing
little pony the Periainnath brought with them, but they were certain they
would have him ready by then.
Lady Lelyafelmë sounded puzzled. Why are they bringing the
pony with them? How will he keep up with real horses?
No horses. They are walking to the Sammath Naur to destroy Isildurs
Bane in the Fire of Doom.
There were a snort and a sputter at that. Thank the Valar I had never
been to Mordor, but from the tales I have heard the march would be a very
long and difficult one, especially for the barefoot Periainnath.
Half of our companions went West from Dagorlad while we slew fetid
Uruk by the cartload, just so a Halfling can now walk the lost power of
Morgoths butt boy back to him in his pocket?
I hear Master Elrond feels the stealth of a small party will protect
them. My Lady tried to assuage her friends ire.
Perhaps his studies have taught him something in the time since
he let Isildur walk from those chambers with his accursed trophy.
Lady Lelyafelmës voice was as bitter as I have ever heard.
Sshhik went the wax knife as another bottle of strong wine was opened.
Before I could turn, someone was refilling the empty goblets.
Estel is going
Trust you to think of him.
The Grey Wizard, the ringbearer, the three other Periainnath and
the Nogoth, Gimli.
Estel goes by the name Aragorn, now.
I would almost want to travel with them to hear the squabbles between
the forest elf and the dwarf.
There were many heated words between them at Master Elronds
council, I had heard.
Heard from your friend from Dale?
Lelyafelmë snorted. Hardly a friend, but he has a free wagging
tongue at times.
Mermardës voice smiled. So does Elrohir, but he would
not say a word of the Council. Lelyafelmë snorted again.
Perhaps Prince Legolass elves will guide them through Greenwood
. Lelyafelmë, you know well the Vales of Anduin
from your days riding to Éothéod, or do you only recall
what the sky there looked like?
Lelyafelmë laughed at my Ladys sharp wit. The sky there
was sometimes clear blue and sometimes starry black, but it was most often
russet bearded and smiling.
Their goblets clinked together as they toasted the men of Éothéod,
who now dwell in the lands of the Rohan.
Why would they choose a Periain to bear it?
I hear none else may hold it.
It makes me uneasy to think it chose him.
The Lord of the Winds consented to bear the Grey Wizard here. Could
he not ask him to carry the Periain to the Sammath Naur?
If we find it difficult to get a straight answer from Master Elrond,
imagine the troubles in persuading the Lord of the Winds to do your bidding.
His folk speak only to Manwë and his kin.
And if he did consent to bear the Periain there, who could be sure
the Periain would destroy it? Perhaps all we would gain is the shortest
Úlairi. Lelyafelmë snorted.
Mayhaps Lord Glorfindel and Asfaloth would carry him there. Then
toss him in if he did not relinquish the trophy.
"And it would be over at last."
Lord Glorfindel and Asfaloth are mighty, indeed, but they would
show themselves like a full Moon on a clear night. Every Uruk in Mordor
would gather to bar their way.
That would be a more grievous loss than Lord Boromir.
There was a quiet knock on the door. I went to let Taerorn in while my
minds eye was seeing the glory of Glorfindel the golden, his splendor
enfolding my Lady as his mighty hands slipped her robe from her shoulders.
Hello again, Baranfinnath. May I retrieve the luncheon platters?
Taerorn stood framed in the doorway, slight in comparison to my vision,
but worthy in his own ways.
Hello, Taerorn. I glanced back over my shoulder. I felt his
fingertips near my ear but his hand was gone when I turned back. The
Ladies are still lunching, I told him, holding his gaze, but
you can take back the platter if you wish.
I must apologize for earlier. He whispered.
It was ungracious to push past you like that, especially after you
leapt to my aid.
I turned and strode to the sideboard, blinking the wetness from my eyes.
I could hear he was but a few steps behind me. I turned quickly before
reaching the sideboard and stood in the alcove of my chamber door. He
stopped behind and I felt his gentle touch upon my shoulder.
Finneth, please do not be angry with me. He kept his voice
low. Lady Mórëfindessë can be very
especially after you have dressed her so. I feel I can never know her
intentions. His fingers tightened. Thank you for throwing
yourself in her way, but I am afraid of what she will do to you. She will
not send you away, will she? My mothers cousin has a house in the
north of Mirkwood he is not using. We can move in there for a while
I held his trembling hand to my shoulder and turned into his arms, breathing
the warm smells of the kitchen and his skin.
It will be alright with my Lady, Almbeorn. You are the type she
plays with, not the type she desires. I slid my arms around his
chest and pressed him to me. He laid his smooth cheek against my ear.
For a moment, I remembered a beard pressed there.
Baranfinnath! I heard my Lady call. I slipped from his arms,
checked myself quickly for kitchen residue and rushed quietly to the balcony.
Yes, my Lady? I asked.
Have the stables prepare Alagoson for me and be quick about it.
I shall be needing him this evening and will be riding trail for a fortnight.
If you see Naneduin and Tuilinde, tell them to have their Ladies steeds
She looked past me to see Taerorn waiting by the platter.
If you use my chambers, be sure to do the laundry before I return.
She stood abruptly and walked her friends to the door, all speaking in
Whatever is redder than a cherry, I believe I outshone it.