Wandering Heart: Chapter Three
Cennanon leads the way on the steep, twisting path that leads down into the hidden valley of Imladris. Sweet-smelling pines give way to the oaks and beeches that we eledh love so well. There is a sleepy feeling about the valley of Imladris. No evil thing has been here. The night is silent, save for the rustling of leaves as wind passes through the trees and the content noises of small animals as they move about their business, their eyes gleaming in the darkness. Blinking fireflies flit past, briefly illuminating themselves, then going dark again. Overhead, the stars are a pure, intense white and the moon is round and full, with a golden aura about it.
The night is so beautiful. But I know better than to speak of it to my father. Something is bothering him; I can tell by the way he walks, tense and wary, like a cat. In this mood, I know that it is best to leave him alone with his thoughts.
So we walk silent underneath the bright stars and golden moon, passing through the trees and making our way through the drowsy valley. Faintly, I can hear the merry sound of water falling over stones and rushing on its way, and I know we are coming to the ford. A shaft of moonlight cuts through the trees, illuminating the grassy riverbank and a narrow, mossy stone bridge that crosses it, here at its shallowest point. The ford.
Cennanon stands motionless, looking at the silvery water of the river. “Adar,” I say, coming to stand by his side. I follow his eyes, trying to figure out what he is looking at, but all I see is the river, and the opposite riverbank with the continuing path, bordered by tall grass sprinkled with wildflowers; the scene lit by moonlight. “Adar,” I say again. “Are we going to cross?”
He gives a heavy sigh. “Yes.” But he does not move. Wondering what could possibly be bothering him, I slip past him and step onto the bridge. With another sigh, he follows. The bridge over the ford is well-worn with the passing of many feet. I look over my shoulder at Cennanon. For an elf, he is taller and broader in the shoulders than most, and appears heavier, but he has an amazing sense of balance and as I have said before, walks with the grace of a cat.
I study his face thoughtfully. The shadows of the night give his face a baleful look. His hair and eyes are dark. He has a strong, stubborn chin and high cheekbones that speak of a strong, stubborn personality. He is strong and quick on his feet. He wears grey, except for his tall black leather boots and broad belt with a silver clasp. From it hangs two knives, the only weapons he carries, though he is skilled with the sword and the bow. Unlike many of our race, Cennanon prefers to fight with his hands. They are strong hands…he is strong.
Though my father’s trade is that of an artist- a skilled potter, it is clear that he is a mighty warrior. The fresh blood, sweat, and dirt from the recent fight only enhance this. The thought strikes me as funny and I feel a sudden urge to laugh.
He notices my look and lifts an eyebrow. I turn back around and cross the rest of the bridge, lightly jumping from it to the riverbank. He joins me, and we walk quickly, rounding the final bend in the path.
Before us is the Last Homely House, ruled well by Lord Elrond Peredhel. Warm yellow light spills from its windows and open door. I can hear laughter, merry voices, and even merrier singing.
I suddenly wonder how we will be received, coming unlooked for from a battle. Doubt and apprehension are steadily growing in my mind, but before I can worry further, Cennanon steps through the door, and I follow.
The elves nearest us fall silent, looking at us with wonder in their eyes…mixed with something else I cannot read. Are they afraid of us? I wonder suddenly. To them…we look strange, fell-looking warriors from an age gone past.
An elf with a merry face and bright eyes comes to us. He bows, and greets us. “Gi nathlam hi, Eglir! Lend and?” (We welcome you here, Strangers! Long journey?)
Cennanon nods. “Aye. I am Cennanon Aravalonion Anwamane. And this my daughter, Indiel.”
The elf smiles. “Welcome. Lord Elrond is not here, he is elsewhere in the valley, but you will see him as soon as he returns. I am Celegon. You must be weary and hungry. Come, I will bring you to a place where you can wash…and then eat.”
I fight back a smile. We do look rather terrible.
We follow him through a door at the back of the room and then down a quiet hallway lined with many doors, and Celegon shows us each to a room. “These will be your quarters for as long as you are with us,” he says, with another merry smile. We thank him and he takes his leave of us.
In my room, I wash and then slowly empty my pack. I change from my dusty, blood-stained tunic, leggings, and boots to a green dress from my pack and a pair of soft slippers. I quickly unbraid my hair, comb it out, and then leave the room. Cennanon is three doors down. I tap on his closed door, but there is no sound from inside and the door does not open. Sighing, I start down the hallway. If he wants to be left alone, then I will leave him alone.
I slip into the great hall unnoticed, and make my way to an empty table in the corner. I do not see Celegon. I remain in the corner for a long time, inwardly sulking about the fact that my father is ignoring me for some unknown reason and I have no idea how to behave here. It is the music that finally draws me out. A few elves have gathered in the center of the hall, where they play softly, one with a harp, another with a lute, and two others with flutes. Together they weave a bright melody. Unconsciously, I lift my voice and begin to sing.
“Across the sea lies Elvenhome,
Forever lost to those who roam,
Ah! Elvenhome, across the sea,
Will we ever return to thee?
Sweet were the days in the light of Aman…”
They all stop and stare at me. I blush, hoping I have not offended them, and make to scurry back to my seat, but they urge me to remain with them and ask if I play an instrument.
“I have some experience with the harp…but I warn you, I do not play exceptionally well,” I say shyly.
The elf holds his small lap harp out to me, laughing. “Come, friend, we wouldst hear you, if it be thy pleasure!”
I pause, then hand the instrument back to him. “I will play,” I say, and then smile again, “But let me fetch mine own harp. We know each other better.”
This wins a laugh from the elf and the other musicians. “Hurry then! The night is quickly passing,” they cry. I take my leave of them, hurry to my room, and fetch my harp. It is unusually small, unadorned, and the frame is slightly scratched, but it has a beautiful, lovely tone that comes only with age. Returning to the hall and settling myself among the musicians, I begin to tune the harp, wincing and apologizing with flaming cheeks at each sour note. Finally, all the pitches are to my satisfaction, or, at least, they do not sound like a bee droning or a pig squealing. I run my fingers over the strings lightly and begin, singing slowly in Quenya, the high ancient language of the elves.
My song tells of the days in Valinor, of the glory of the light of the Two Trees, and of the wonders that were wrought in that time, of the Silmarils made by Fëanor, son of Finwe. I lower my voice, singing soft and sad, as I sing of the black treachery of Morgoth, of how Ungoliant destroyed the Two Trees, and the chaos that followed, and how Morgoth stole the Silmarils, though they burned him, and how Finwe, who stood in the path of Ungoliant and Morgoth, was slain before the doors of his own house.
The rest of the lay tells of how Fëanor, in his rage at the theft of his treasures and the slaying of his father, was deceived in his mind, of the binding oath he and his seven sons swore, of the flight of the Noldor…and the doom that came upon them and their kin. I stop abruptly…I cannot go on. A hush has fallen over my listeners…aye, and all the other elves who sit in the hall. I set aside my harp and look up, towards the doorway. For a split second, I think I see Cennanon there, his face turned aside, but I blink, and when I look again, he is gone.
“I am sorry,” I say quietly, turning my gaze to the floor, “But I will play no more.” I rise and make my way across the hall to the door before any can protest. At the door I stop and turn around. The elf who urged me to play rises and bows towards me.
“Never has such a fair voice been heard in this house,” he says. His eyes are bright with tears. “We thank you for your gift.”
I lower my head in a deep nod, acknowledging his statement, and say, unsure of myself, “…Thank you…for listening.”
I make my escape to my room, shut the door firmly, and collapse wearily on the bed. I lie on my stomach, tracing the grain of the wooden planks of the floor with my eyes, and allow myself to rest in the peaceful safety of the Last Homely House.