Istuion

Bittersweet: Of Places Homely

Eruviel remembers

“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.”

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A Bitter Wind (part 2)

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Eruviel remembers.

 

A day had passed, and then another before Milloth and Rainion had returned. And when they had they stayed long enough to trade out horses and speak in private with their father. Then with a kiss to Artis’s forehead they were off again.

As for father, he and she had not spent their customary walks at twilight together. The first night he had missed and Istuion had sought her out, not telling her why but to apologize and say he would be there the following evening. He was not. They had missed twilight’s when he was away or had business, but never before had she been there standing alone. Why does he not tell me. Why does he not tell me anything?

Her chest heaving with a sigh Artis sat up to rest at the edge of her bed, abandoning her book to the nightstand. A cold northern wind batted against the windowpanes, and the harder it blew, the deeper the chill that something was amiss delved into her bones.

Wrapping a soft, woven ivory blanket around her shoulders she rose to her feet and began to pace slowly around her quarters. Stopping in the wide curve of the bay window she cast her eyes down to the main courtyard below. Eery shadows danced away from the torches and through the naked tree branches as the wind poured over the high walls. Only the necessary Eldar guards and troops had remained as the others had been sent to fight both the enemy and fires to the east. She had not seen her father leave . . . but then again she had not seen her father at all.

Her emerald eyes rose to search the horizon and she was about to turn away when she saw it; the faintest orange glimmer amidst the darkness to the south. Her breath faltered as she looked again through the ripples of rain coursing over the glass. That was past the bridge . . . The Eldar were no where near there . . . .

“They won’t get there in time,” she muttered under her breath. But maybe . . . maybe I can make it. Dropping her blanket she paced to the red mahogany armoire and changed out of her nightdress into the trousers, tunic, and leather curiass she kept hidden beneath her skirts. She opened a side cabinet and stopped. Then she remembered that Istuion had taken her bow and short swords several days back. ‘To ensure that you do not follow through with any bad ideas,’ had been his words. Sucking a harsh tisk through her teeth Artis fixed a thick cloak over her shoulders and strode purposefully out of her room.

None of the few servants still out in the halls stopped her or spoke to her, but all of them moved out of her way. Taking the steps two at a time Artis swung open the doors to her father’s study. She did not bother stopping to look around the empty room as her eyes locked on her target that hung against the wall over the cold fireplace. Crossing over the Lorien-woven rug, a victorious smile curled up her lips as her hand easily reached and closed around her father’s ebony bow.

_ _ _ _ _

The wind pierced through the thick wool of her drenched cloak. Almost there. Almost there, she told herself as she whispered to her steed, urging the animal to run faster. The black giants of trees watched her as she flew forward, racing towards the distant glow of fire. She had heard the talk. Goblins. She had seen pictures and heard tales of what they looked like and what they did. Artis told herself it could be worse. It could always be worse.

Cresting the next rise Artis reigned in her mount, the horse reeling around at the abrupt halt and stomping as the inferno came into view. The whole outpost was awash with flame, and the shouts of battle and crash of steel echoed up from the knoll. Turning back she tied her horse to a tree a short ways off then backtracked back to survey the chaos.

Bodies littered the ground and only a small number of human soldiers remained. But what puzzled Artis was the enemy. They were fewer in number than she had feared . . . though she didn’t know what to expect. The problem was that they were too tall to be goblins; too tall and too thick. The enemy crushed in past a line of rangers and the fighting intensified. Overwhelmed, she pulled the ancient bow from her back and notched an arrow when a hand clasped over her mouth.

Artis could have sworn her heart stopped. Her body went rigid as her head was pulled back . . . and then her heart stopped again.

“What in Valinor,” Istion growled as he glared down at her, his dark hair fallen from it’s usual ponytail to hang wet and wind-whipped across his hardened features.

“A-Ada,” she gasped, staring up at him in shock.

“You should not be here,” he said darkly, releasing her as he turned his steel-grey eyes towards the fire and fighting several hundred yards away.

“I –” The words wouldn’t come. I wanted to help. I know I could. You can let me. You can trust me. I am strong enough. “Ada?”

Istuion took the bow from her hands, his care more chilling than the bitter light in his eyes that stabbed down at her. “We are going home.”

“Wha — but the humans,” she insisted, suddenly discovering her heart as it lept back to life, pounding furiously in her chest as she watched him walk away. “You cannot leave them to this!”

“I can, and I will,” he said simply, the words flowing too easily from his mouth. “You will learn, daughter, that humans only bring this,” he said, motioning to the desperate fight below, “no matter how much hope is placed in them.”

Artis followed a few steps and stopped. “They wanted to help. They could have.” She turned to look back as one of the large beasts cut down another Arthedain soldier. So much blood . . . so much death. They didn’t choose this death. “We have to help them!”

“No. We do not. Get your steed. We are going home.”

“Ada! How can you –“

Enough!” he hissed, whirling around to face her as the main hall of the fort collapsed, crushing the few wounded with tremendous crash and explosion of embers. “You are my daughter, and I said we are going. You will never hold a bow again.”

Damn it all!” she suddenly shouted, stepping towards him. “What did they ever do to you? Punish me later,” she insisted, desperate. “I will bear whatever consequences that you see fit, but please, Ada! They are dieing!”

Istuion looked back to the outpost where the last three soldiers, Jarrin among them, faced off against twelves of the beasts. “They chose this,” he mutter bitterly as he pivoted to walk away.

Artis stared at him in disbelief. She moved to follow, but her joints felt stiff, her core ached . . . and screamed and thrashed as the rain drove ever harder down to the earth. “No,” she whispered, halting.

What?” Istuion asked, the Eldar’s fury filling the air around them. Before it would have made her quiver. Before she would have retreated, ashamed and begging for his forgiveness. But not now. If he didn’t tell her why he hated them, that was on his head, not hers.

“I said no,” she responded quietly, her head held high. “You chose this.” Not caring to see the reaction on his face she snatched the black bow from his hands and sprinted away in the dark towards the hissing ruins and screams of fallen men.

She felt numb as she dashed down the far side of the rise, letting gravity pull her ever faster towards the flames and monsters and men. Nock, draw, loose. Nock, draw, loose. The first arrow buried its barbed tip deep in the back of the first beasts head even as the third shot from her string. Artis did not know if it was fear or shock, but she was certain it was not bravery that drew her closer.

Seeing the enemy drop and her sprinting to join them the men suddenly attacked the tall beasts with a renewed energy. Another fallen beast, then another. The soldier to the right was knocked to the ground, but an arrow through the monster’s arm gave the man enough time to cut it down.

Then, a cry from the side drew her attention. One of the enemy stood over Jorrin, a spear through the man’s chest. With a shout Artis rebounded off a charred post to help the man when the wind was knocked out of her. The world spun and as Artis crashed to the ground all her senses rushed back to her. The blood, the fire, the burned flesh crawled into her nose, the screams of the wounded lost in the dark and the roar of a defiant fire poured into her ears. Artis had but seconds, scrambling for a muddy, lost shield before an enemies meteor hammer came crashing down with a resounding crack upon the wood and steel. The shock racked her body, slamming her head against the hard ground, the layer of mud and ash not offering a bit of protection. The shield remained whole.

A roar reached her, not quite human, not quite beast, and as the foul creature brought his arm up to attack her again a bolt of lightning shot through its chest. The white-blue light flashed over her vision again and again. It resounded through the woods around them and as she sat up, the air around her crackled with energy. Looking up she saw Istuion standing over the last of the creatures, a long, sparking dagger sticking up out of the the top of the beasts head. He was magnificent, and terrifying. Was that really her father? She wanted to both run to him and to flee. But there was no going back. It might have been the only thing she was sure of.

One of the soldiers staggered over to her, pulling the shield off of her and offering her a hand up. Seeing the shock and gratitude in his expression she too his hand, rising shakily to her feet. The fire had finally began to die down and a dim, grey light rose in the east. Steam rose and swirled about them as the cold wind continued to blow through the high branches. Retrieving the bow she turned in a slow circle, the growing light revealing the full extent of the human’s losses. Seeing one of the last soldiers kneeling beside the commander Artis joined him. Blood trickled out of the side of Jorrin’s mouth, and he could only manage a sputter as she knelt down to try and help stave the hot flow seeping from his mortal chest wound. She had never seen so much blood.

And then she looked to Istuion, and he looked back at her. As drenched as the least of them, Artis had never seen her father so expressionless. “Ada,” she said weakly, her mouth dry as droplets of water coursed down her face.

His cold eyes saw right through her. There was something in that look. It was angry and betrayed and it cut her to the core. Retrieving a long knife from the neck of one of the creatures he cast a disdainful look at the pitiful remnant of the human outpost. Then his gaze found hers. “Since this is what you want, help them to the human fort the the east. Do not bother coming home till you do.”

No going back. He would think less of me if I did not stand by my decision. I would think less of me. Standing, Artis nodded curtly, not caring that her arms shook and that the cold sent an aching shiver through her body. “So be it.” Was she so wrong?  Ada.

Nodding, his cold eyes flicked over her, checking for injury, and she could feel every droplet of water, every bit of mud and blood on her. Then Istuion turned away from her, and disappeared into the shadows of morning.

A Little Taller

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Eruviel remembers.

 

“What am I?! What am I?!” Artis begged, bouncing on her toes as she pressed her back against the door frame atop the kitchen stairwell.

“Right now you are a grasshopper. Hold still, Artis,” Nostariel chuckled.

The young eldar’s whole body heaved with a sigh as she reluctantly complied. “Yes, mother.”

A moment passed, Artis standing more still than she probably had in the past month, before her mother hummed softly.

“What? What is it?” asked Artis with bated breath.

Nostariel leaned over, smiling mischievously at her little girl, waves of golden hair falling over to frame her face. “Ah-ah, you promised to tell me why before I tell you what.”

Artistuion scrunched up her nose and made a sour face as she looked away. “Rainpromisedme,” she muttered under her breath.

“Huh? Really, tindomiel, elf maidens should not mutter,” teased Nostariel as she stood upright and set a hand on her hip. “What did Rainion promise you?”

“He  . . . he promised me that if I was five-foot by the time he got back from Evendim he would take me shooting,” huffed Artis.

“Oh? Well you know that he arrived last night, right?”

“I KNOW,” Artis exclaimed disparagingly. “How tall am I, Nana?”

“Well . . . ,” responded Nostariel, drawing out each letter as she picked up the little eldar’s bow. “You should probably make haste then. You are five feet and one inch.”

Artis shouted with delight and dashed away, only to scramble in slowing herself and sprint back to her mother. “Thank you!” she cried, flinging her arms around her mother’s waist for a brief hug before snatching the bow from her grasp, her circlet from a nearby chair, and racing back down the corridor. “Thank you! I’ll finish my lessons tomor –” Her words faded out quickly as she vanished further into the house.

Nostariel gazed down the now-silent hall for a moment longer before picking up her skirts and heading down the stairs towards the kitchens. She could see bits of little Artis’s future, and much of it gave her hope. Glancing out a side window she could see across the yard to Istion’s study where the elf lord sat bent over his desk. Have grace with your little star, beloved.

_ _ _ _ _

Artis pattered down the long flight of steps as fast as her feet could carry her, one hand clutching her bow and skirts, the other pressed atop of her head to keep her circlet from flying off. “Rainion? Rain — ooph!” she gasped as she ran headlong into her eldest brother.

“Careful there, Moriquendë,” laughed the towering elf lord as he quickly took her by the arm to keep her from falling. “What is the hurry?”

“I didn’t want to be late! I had to tell you, I’m tall enough to shoot with you!” she said, her excitement more hushed as she looked up in reverence to the Eldar that fought under Glorfindel. If only she could be as mighty as he!

Rainion arched a dark eyebrow in amusement as he turned to walk with her down the hall towards the courtyard. “You do know I made that a condition to get you off my back?”

Artis frowned at him in disbelief. “What? You mean to tell me I could have been shooting with you years ago?!

“No. But you practiced harder as you waited to grow, did you not?”

Artis pursed her lips in a poorly faked pout as she pushed open the gate for them. “I  . . . well, I did, yes. I’ve been practicing as much as I can, but Ada has been overseeing most of my archery.” She kicked at a pebble on the path, sending the stone flying. “He never lets me do anything cool like you and Milloth get to.”

Rainion hummed as he led the way along the back of the long training yard to where a servant arranged weapons on a wooden table. “That is probably for the best. Yes, I suppose some of what Milloth and I do can be considered as ‘cool,’ but we do more that is dangerous. Father does not always approve of our ventures, but we are also old enough to take the path that calls us away from home.”

“Do you think I can take my own path?” she asked quietly, swinging her light bow to bounce from one shin to the other, her eyes gazing longingly at the other weapons.

Rainion did not respond, and when she looked up his stormy eyes were fixed on the balcony overlooking the yard. “What path would you like to take?” he asked in a hushed voice.

Quickly looking back there was no one on the balcony, but her wondering about what he’d seen was pushed aside by his question. “I want to help. I want to fight to help others,” she said softly. “Father wants me to be a lady, to be educated and live a long peaceful life married to some lord . . . but what good is my living in peace if everyone else dies in strife? Long life, and all my abilities go to waste sipping tea and writing poetry behind flowers and hedges.” When her brother remained silent she looked up at him to see him gazing down at her with a warm smile, a spark in his eyes. “What?” she asked incredulously.

“Nothing, onórë,” he chuckled. Taking up his dark-hilted elven blade he dabbed two fingers with oil from a vial and motioned for her to follow.

Leaning her bow against the table Artis took one of the smaller short swords and went after him. “Are we not shooting today?”

“You learn archery from Milloth,” said Rainion. Glancing to her he nodding in approval at her choice of weapon. “From now on you will be learning swordsmanship from me.”

Without skipping a beat Artis shot him a smirk, flipping the sword in her hand. “Just swordsmanship?”

“Patience, Moriquendë,” laughed Rainion. Painting the edge of his sword with the oil on his fingers, Rainion muttered a spell under his breath and pivoted around to face her, poised to either attack or defend. Sparks of white electricity flicked along the blade’s edge.

“Hey!” Artis exclaimed, turning to face him. “That is not fair! Can I not have some?”

Rainion held his stance but shot her a wink. “Get a little taller first, then we can talk about it.”

Artis huffed and stet her feet, preparing to attack. “And stop calling me ‘dark elf’. Father says it is an unbecoming title for any high-elf.”

“Well father has no sense of humor. Not since Gondolin. Do you still sneak out at night?”

Artis made a face, and nodded.

“Then you are Moriquendë,” he snickered. “Now, onórë, attack me before I die of old age.”

A Tribute: Daughter of Twilight

 

Eruviel remembers.

“Artis? Tindomiel! Hurry, little light, or you are going to miss it.” Istuion stood atop the grand, polished stone steps leading up from the lush summer garden. His tall, regal form stood like a beacon, silhouetted by the golden sunlight descending far beyond the wide balcony.

“I never miss it, Ada,” the little elf child known as Artis huffed indignantly. Scampering down the path, the white sand was hardly disturbed by her flight, though her long, dark mahogany hair flew in disarray behind her. The strings of garden lights twinkled on behind her, urging her little legs to run faster at the prospect of missing her favorite time of day. “Ada, I am — ooph!” she cried as she stumbled up the last step.

The Noldor lord laughed at her, the rare sound echoing off the stone arches as he stooped down, catching her before she fell. “Ah, take care. You are not that late, daughter.” Scooping her up into his arms he walked out onto the balcony. “There we are,” he chuckled, setting her down to sit on the railing. The balcony lined the fifty foot high cliff on the western edge of the haven, and though she knew he did not like her sitting on the edge, he still let her sit there for some reason unknown to her.

“Thank you, Ada!” she chimed, beaming a bright smile up at him as he sat beside her. She liked it when he laughed. It was a warm, rich tone that filled her with a joy her young mind could not quite grasp. But she would, she told herself. She did not know why he hardly ever did so unless around her or Nana, but as soon as she could figure out what she did that caused it, she was determined to do it more. Dangling her feet into the seemingly vast space, she let her legs swing freely in the hopes of feeling the mist rising from the waterfall twenty yards to their left.

Her glistening emerald eyes widened as the sun disappeared over the horizon. The light did not fade, however. The swirling streams of clouds lit up in golds, pinks and purples, the soft rays of warm light dancing against the darkening sapphire sky. Above the northern edge of the horizon the first star emerged, twinkling in greeting.

“There!” Artis pointed, her face illuminated with delight. “Ada, do you — Ada!” she grumbled, jutting out her jaw as if to incriminate Istuion as she caught him watching her instead of the twilight.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he chuckled warmly. “Where is it?” Putting an arm around her as she leaned to far forward for comfort, he looked to where she pointed. “I see it.”

Artis giggled, scooting closer to sit against him, wrapping her little arms around his as they watched the stars emerge, one after the other. “Ada?’

“Yes, daughter?”

“Are you a king?”

The elf lord’s shoulders shook with a laugh. “No, little light, I am only a lord. There are no more Eldar kings, though if my kin and Gondolin had survived you would be wearing a circlet and not a braid around that little head of yours.”

Artis hummed in thought, leaning her head against his side. “Ranion said he would make me one.”

“Oh? Maybe I should help him in this. A crown might keep you in your studies and not out getting your feet muddy in the vineyards.”

Artis’s brow furrowed slightly. “But I like riding horses and climbing trees. Milloth even told me he would teach me how to shoot a bow.”

Istuion grew quiet for a moment, and in the stillness Artis did not have the courage to look up into his stern, ageless face. “We will see about that,” he said quietly, giving her a soft squeeze. “But for now let your mother teach you history and dancing. Young elf princesses have no need to shoot a bow.”

Artis nodded dutifully, thinking it best not to tell him about the sword hidden under her mattress, crafted for her by Ranion. Looking up to study her father’s face she wondered if he already knew.

The dark of night enveloped them as the last glimmer of twilight disappeared into the west. Light from the garden and the veil of stars cast a misty aura around them, Artis caught a sad glint in Istuion’s eyes as he lifted her up and set her on her feet beside him. “Ada? What is it?”

The Noldor lord looked down at her for a long moment, holding her small hand in his. “I was just thinking that I have to leave for several months. I will miss watching the twilight with you.”

Stepping with him as they moved in the direction of the tallest stone home Artis shook her head violently. “You are going to Im-mdris and Lo . . . Lorien?” she asked, struggling with the pronunciations.

“I am, I’m afraid,” he replied, giving her hand a squeeze. “I have friends to visit and buisness to discuss with the other lords.”

“Then I’m going too!” she exclaimed, skipping.

“Oh no, you are not.”

“Yes I am,” she insisted, her innocent tone leaving no room for refusal.

“No, you are not.”

“Mhm!”

“And how is that?”

Artis did not miss a beat. “Because Ranion and Milloth are going, and mother wants to go too, and you promised that you would take me some day. Why not now?”

Istuion looked down at her in surprise, having forgotten his promise and that his sons told her everything. He opened his mouth to respond, but Artis jumped in once more.

“Besides,” she said sweetly, “If I go, then we won’t miss twilight.”

Lifting her up Istuion set her on his hip as he continued on towards the house. Through the second story bay window they could see his wife reading, curled up on a small couch as she always did. “Well, I suppose I could let you come . . . . We cannot miss an evening together, now, can we?”

Artis shook her head, wrapping her arms around his neck as he carried her. “Nope. Not ever.”

 

(In honor of my father’s birthday, Saturday, August 30th. Having passed away this spring, I wanted to write this in his memory. He always encouraged me to pursue my passions, and though fiction was not his forte, he was always proud of me and supported me in my every endeavor.)

Partings

lotr_Grey-Havens_by_paul_lasaine

Eruviel remembers…

She had been here before. The familiar, overwhelming calm rippled across her skin as the wind danced around the tall towers of the Grey Havens. She loved the smell of the sea that blew through the glistening harbor. She loved the way the sun beamed through the clouds onto the white sails of ships waiting patiently at the docks. Every time she had ridden down this road she wished she could sit in blissful silence, simply listening to the sound of the gulls, the billowing of the sails, and the sea air swirling around her. Looking past her kin riding before her she could see a ship exiting the harbor, cutting through the waves with ease and eagerness.

At the head of their procession rode her father, Istuion. He rode tall and stern, leading the march of family and friends down to the ships. He held his head proudly . . . yes, he was always proud. Istuion thought himself an example of their kin before them. Old and haughty, he had been indifferent towards the race of men since the fall of Numenor. He had remained in Lindon during the battles of the Last Alliance, and had spurned her, his youngest, for seeing hope in the world. Well, that and because she had become everything he didn’t want, thanks to her two elder brothers. She did not hate him for all his unkindness to her. He had seen dark things that would have driven any other elf over the sea ages ago.

But now her eldest brother was gone, perished at the battle of Fornost. And now her family sailed to the west to join him.

Beside Istuion rode her mother, Nostariel who, though as old as her husband, did not harbor ill towards any of Iluvitar’s children, and was a light wherever she went. Behind her trailed her now-widowed sister-in-law Talathiel — a plain, graceful elf maiden.  Following them came several dozen other Elves who had lived under her fathers protection since the death of Celebrimbor. Finally, taking up the rear behind the lindar, and clad in leather elven armour that looked a stark contrast to the flowing robes of the others, she rode with her brother Milloth beside her.

Others of their kin were waiting to take the horses as all but the two last riders dismounted and moved towards the boats. Istuion paused and turned to look at his last children. There was no sorrow nor warmth in his eyes as he met their gazes. After a minute the towering Elf turned and crossed the gangplank to take his final voyage.

“Artistuion,” their mother said softly, coming up beside her horse.

She turned to look down into her mother’s soft blue eyes. “Naneth,” her voice caught as she took her mother’s raised hand.

“Will you not come with us, child? You are certain that this is what you want?” Nostariel searched her daughter’s bright, forest-green eyes.

“Aye, naneth. I will remain here. We are needed.” She squeezed her mothers hand reassuringly. “Do not fear for me. Milloth will keep me on the right path.” Her eyes darted over to her brother who smiled softly, nodding his head in agreement.

Nostariel reached up, cupping Artistuion’s soft face in her hands. “Tinu, my sweet girl, my little lion. You need your amliesse before I depart.” Artistuion closed her eyes, imprinting the warmth of her mother’s hands into her memory. She willed her expression to remain as it was, yet her true emotions overflowed from her glistening emeyes as she opened them.

“Eruraviel,” her mother said softly, the name flowing richly off her lips. “Yes,” Nostariel says with a smile, pulling her daughters face down to kiss her forehead one last time. “My lioness. Eruraviel suits you, tinu.” The woman stepped around her daughter’s horse to embrace Milloth. “Take care of each other.”

And then she was gone. The boards were pulled back and the ships unfurled their wings to begin their passage into the west. Along with her brother, she raised her right hand in farewell to the vessels, watching in silence till the last one disappeared into the sunlight.

“Come, Eruraviel,” Milloth beckoned with a smile as he turned his black steed around to face the way they had came. “Eriador awaits us.”