“Are we there yet?” asked Artis, craning her neck to peer between the horses’ ears, her whisper echoing off the high stone walls.
“Patience, dear one,” Istuion replied, chuckling softly, catching the little elleth as she began to slowly slide from her seat. “You will see the light of the valley just around this next bend.”
Artis leaned against her father’s arm that held her safely on the large chestnut steed as she stared ahead. She couldn’t blink. She wouldn’t! What if she missed it, the first sight of the hidden valley?
A golden light beamed into the pass. Rounding the corner Artis could see sunlight streaming through leafy, green branches, and hear the distant rumbling of waterfalls.
“Ada!”she yipped excitedly, little legs kicking at the horse’s flanks. “I see it! I see it!”
“Calm yourself, little ligh–” Istuion’s words were cut off when the steed leapt forward, confused by his master’s calm pull on the reigns, and the little elleth’s delighted squeals.
The horse came to a halt near the roof of the first switchback. Nostariel’s melodic humming had turned into sweet, ringing laughter behind them, and their companions and escorts chuckled along with her. Artis did not hear them, and if she did it only added to the wondrous first moment of seeing Imladris with her own eyes. Small hands gripping the horse’s mane, she pushed herself up to lay on the animal’s neck, feet braced on Isuion’s knees and chin resting between the steed’s ears.
“Ooh..,” she exhaled in reverent awe. “Ada… Ada! Do you see? Oh, it’s so pretty!”
The noble Elf smiled warmly at his Autumn child. “Sit like a lady, Artistuion,” he chastised, lifting her up and setting her back down in front of him.
Giggling, Artis nodded quickly. “You didn’t tell me it was this pretty,” she whispered up at her father as if his lack of every single detail was a betrayal.
Istuion spurred his mount forward into a walk, and his dark brows rose as he looked down at her. “What if I wanted it to be a surprise?”
Artis thought on that, and her growing grin reflected the daylight reaching past the high peaks. “Will Rain be here?”
Istuion gave his wife a meaningful smile as she brought her horse up to ride beside them. “Yes, Rainion should already be here, as should Elrond and his sons, and the other Lords.”
Artis gasped happily. “Really? Do you think they will play with me?”
Istuion’s stern brow furrowed. “We are not here to play, dear one. This might be the last time it is safe enough to travel outside of Lindon for a long while. There is buisness –”
Nostariel’s mare pranced a few paces, and the Elf cleared her throat.
Istuion’s mouth tugged one way then another, but his conflicted frown vanished as he looked down to see his daughters bright, questioning eyes fixed on him. “We will see, little light. Maybe… Maybe if you ask nicely.”