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Old 11-17-2020, 08:52 AM   #1
Mithadan
Spirit of Mist
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Tol Eressea
Posts: 2,981
Mithadan has been trapped in the Barrow!
The Fairy Wife by Mark12_30

The Fairy Wife

by Mark12_30
________________________________________
I owe the inspiration for this story to Sharon, Child of the Seventh Age. She mentioned during a debate on the Barrow Downs forum, that the Fallohide tendency towards adventure and seafaring and most especially Frodo and Bilbo's being drawn to the elves, could indicate that the "fairy wife" mentioned in The Hobbit could have been a silvan elf. This raised numerous issues, some serious and some perhaps trivial: social barriers, parental approval, disparity in height, etc. It seemed impossible, and yet, could it have been?

For me personally, the worst barrier was actually Tolkien's statement that elf-mortal unions were rare. Somewhere he mentions that there were only three: Aragorn and Arwen, Luthien and Beren, Tuor and Idril. So if there had been an elf-hobbit marriage, it would have had to have been kept a secret even from The Historian Himself, and thus, from the elves or the elven community at large. Determining why such a marriage would have been kept secret from the elven community at large was, to me, the greatest challenge of writing the story. But there were other challenges; overcoming, or circumnavigating, cultural barriers not the least.

Sharon provided numerous suggestions and recommendations, which proved very helpful. I asked Lindil to proof the story for any possible abuses of osanwe; he also made several other suggestions, as did Nar. Those suggestions yeilded several needed revisions and clarifications.

If the story is successful, I remain in their debt.

Footnotes follow for those interested in such details; otherwise, feel free to proceed to Chapter One.

FOOTNOTES

Of The Fairy Wife: In the introduction to "The Hobbit", Tolkien casually mentions:

"It was often said (in other families) that long ago, one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy wife. That was, of course, absurd, but still, there was something not quite hobbit-like about them, and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures."

Of the Elves and Osanwe (from Many Partings):

"Often long after the hobbits were wrapped in sleep they would sit together under the stars, recalling the ages that were gone and all their joys and labors in the world, or holding council, concerning the days to come. If any wanderer had chanced to pass, little would he have seen or heard, and it would have seemed to him only that he saw grey figures, carved in stone, memorials of forgotten things now lost in unpeopled lands. For they did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro."

Of Galadriel and Osanwe (From The Mirror Of Galadriel):

"And with that word she held them with her eyes, and in silence looked searchingly at each of them in turn. None save Legolas and Aragorn could long endure her glance. Sam quickly blushed and hung his head."

This is the story of the migration of an early Fallohide family across the Misty Mountains, fleeing from the advancing darkness circa Third Age 1150.

The Fairy Wife

Chapter 1: The Hunt

The Northeastern Foothills of the Misty Mountains, circa 1150 Third Age
Doldo stalked noiselessly forward, completely silent and invisible, arrow on the string, bow bent. The antlers moved gently as the buck browsed, and as Doldo inched forward, the rest of the buck came into view. He stilled himself, brought his arrow-point into focus on the ribs just behind the shoulder, and then spared a quick glance to his left.

Young Sindo was not in place yet, but he was close. Doldo watched him stepping, gently, gently, and then Sindo likewise halted, focusing, finishing his aim.

A quick glance to the right showed Noldo already in position. Doldo breathed in slowly, and let out a single sound, a chirp like a small bird. The buck's head came up with a snort, and he tensed, ready to spring.

Doldo loosed his arrow, followed by Sindo, and Noldo loosed his last. The buck dropped in mid-leap, and landed dead. Sindo's arrow had pierced his throat, Doldo and Noldo's arrows were lodged in his heart. The three tall hobbits, father and two sons, exchanged glances and went forward, proud and satisfied, to inspect the buck.

Doldo was pleased with the day's hunt. "Noldo, fetch the ponies, " he said. "Sindo, help me dress him." They got to work.

Noldo ran back through the woods, elated with the day. The autumn was golden, the leaves turned but not yet fallen, the air crisp despite last night's rain, and the hunt had been good. This buck would keep the family in meat for a week. He leaped with joy as he ran.

He was still running as he entered the glade where they had left the four ponies, and they snorted mildly in surprise, but they were used to Noldo's exuberance. He untethered them, strung them together, leapt onto his own pony, and led them cantering back towards the dead buck.

The pack pony bringing up the rear was strangely restless, and steadily the other three ponies caught his fear. It wasn't long before Noldo could smell what they smelled. Burning. He wrinkled his nose and worried. Another goblin-raid? Trolls? Or had a dragon come down from the grey mountains again? He urged the ponies faster, suddenly worried about his brother and father, still on foot, gutting the buck, probably unaware of any danger. And then another fear struck him. Mother, alone at home. His heart came into his mouth.

He arrived and slithered to a halt, and quickly told his father what he had smelled. Doldo looked grim, and young Sindo looked very scared. Quickly, they heaved the bloody buck onto the pack pony, lashed him in place, mounted and headed home.

"By the wind, the burning is coming from the east, not the south, " Doldo said when they were halfway home. "I want to get to the lookout, and see where the fires are burning." They swung east, down the foothills, towards a promontory that gave a good view of the Langwell River where it joined the Anduin. The smell grew stronger and stronger, and with it, Noldo could smell burning flesh. His stomach turned.

The eastern edge of the forest was burning. There was a mild prevailing wind out of the forest and down the hill, but the fire at the edge of the forest had created an updraft there, a new wind rushing up the hillside from the river; and the edge of the wood was now a firestorm. Despite the rain that had fallen yesterday, the day had been crisp and dry; if the prevailing wind changed, the forest would not last long.

Suddenly, still within the woods, they saw it. "Stop!" Doldo shouted, and their ponies slithered to a halt. Doldo turned to young Sindo and shouted, "Turn your head!" But too late. Sindo's face showed his shock already. "Go back! Take the buck and go home! Find Mother!" Doldo shouted. Sindo obeyed, still shocked at first, but then fleeing, sobbing, recklessly lashing his pony for more speed. The pack pony labored to keep up.

Noldo and Doldo pressed their frightened ponies forward, sick with dread but hoping to find survivors. At the edge of the burned and blackened glade, Noldo halted again. Through the roiling smoke that now drifted, swirling, and now eddied eastward, he saw what he had feared. Fair, tall and graceful those bodies had been, noble and proud, but they were blackened now, and uneven eddies in the wind brought the stench of their burning to fill his nostrils. Sobbing and retching, he looked sickly this way and that, hoping to find survivors, but the bodies were all black and still. Doldo, tight-lipped with anger, counted about thirty dead. Noldo met Doldo's eyes, from across the smoke and stench, and in silent rage and sickened sorrow, they wept together.

"What do we do?" sobbed Noldo.

"We find Mother, " said Doldo grimly. Still silently weeping, he turned to face the dead elves. "You deserve mourning and burial, but we cannot give it to you. Not now. We must go and find the living. I am sorry to leave you thus. Rest in peace, if elves can find peace in death." He turned his pony homeward, but then he saw movement, and stopped and turned. Noldo followed his gaze.

A wild-eyed blond figure dropped down out of a tree, and fled. It was only a little smaller than the hobbits, and slender. There was no time to argue with it. Doldo urged his pony forward, and as he caught up with the small elf, jumped off his pony and all but tackled it. The elf collapsed shrieking and scratching. Noldo pulled up beside his father, who simply handed the slender elf, back-first, to him. Noldo clamped an arm around the tiny waist as it kicked and fought. "Ride home!" Doldo shouted, running to catch his pony. But Doldo's pony bolted in terror.

Noldo gave chase with the still shrieking elf clamped in his arm. "Hush!" he shouted, and to his astonishment, the elf did, now going almost limp in his arms. He took the reins in that hand, caught his father's pony, and fighting the tangle of reins and elf, turned back. Doldo was now shaking, glancing fearfully down toward the river, angry at his son for his disobedience but suddenly realizing that the lad had, in all likelihood, saved his life. Noldo heard what Doldo had been hearing, and his blood ran cold. There was an approaching tumult on the edge of the forest. Whoever they were, they were coming back.

Doldo wordlessly swung aboard his pony, and they fled homeward. Now they were racing the marauders for Sindo, Mother, and their home.
-------
On the Edge of the Forest

Doldo and Noldo pulled their ponies to a halt at the edge of the woods. Down by the river, the whole valley was burning. Black smoke billowed skyward from uncounted homes and barns. The noises of terror and chaos now assaulted their ears. Much closer to the edge of the forest, perhaps a thousand feet away, was the hole Doldo had shoveled into the high hillside, and the shed and barn he had built with his sons' help. Doldo scanned frantically for his wife and son. His pounding heart almost stopped. Numerous dark, large, misshapen figures roamed through his shed and barn, burning his little gardens, and breaking down the door and windows of his hobbit-hole. Thick new plumes of black smoke poured from the shed and the barn.

He drew his hunting knife and gathered his reins, his face twitching with rage, and urged his terrified and snorting pony forward. The pony refused. Doldo spun the reins and lashed him savagely, and he reared, gagging and swerving as Doldo wrenched at his mouth and hammered at him with his heels.

Feeling as frightened as his father's pony, Noldo tried to gather his own courage, thinking of Mother and Sindo. Choking back his tears, and wondering what to do with the almost-forgotten elf still in his arms, he drew his own knife and gathered his reins. The elf's eyes grew wide, and Noldo wondered again what to do with it, but he couldn't ask his maddened father.

"Dad! Stop! STOP!"

Sindo galloped out to meet them from within the woods. "Mother is with me! She's with me!!"

Doldo spun the pony ruthlessly. "Where??" he roared, fury now mingling with wonder and relief.

Sindo turned, and they galloped back into the forest several hundred feet. There they found four ponies, and Mother sitting elegant, tall, and calm on one of them, bravely smiling and brushing away tears. Doldo raced up to her, half spooking her pony, and reached a shaking hand towards her.

"Mallie!! Mallie, are you all right?"

"Yes, Doldo, I'm fine, " she said, settling her pony and laughing nervously. "You didn't expect me to invite them to tea, did you? I could see that the valley was burning." And she burst into tears, but gathered herself immediately, and smiled bravely again. Reaching, they held hands for a brief second, and Doldo drank from her glistening eyes.

He had Mallie and both his boys. Let the homestead burn.

Doldo snapped out orders. "Let's get going. Up the trail toward the mountain pass." The family, loosely herding the pack ponies, urged their ponies up the slope. Smoke plumes began blowing past them, stinging their eyes. The ponies, only too glad to be leaving the fire and smoke behind, began breaking into a brisk trot. The hobbits did not hold them back.

Doldo considered the three pack ponies, one still carrying the buck, but the other two packed heavily, blankets covering their loads. The implication sank in, and he turned to his wife. "You packed, when you saw the valley burning," he praised her, his heart swelling with love and pride.

She nodded. "Food for several weeks, I hope. One blanket apiece, and water bottles, and our winter cloaks. I assume we're crossing the mountains. I couldn't fit the books of family trees, " she said sadly.

He shrugged. "What we can't remember, we won't need, " he said. And then he smiled, for a single split second completely overwhelmed, by her brave smile, by her resourcefulness and strength, by relief at finding her alive and well. "Mallie, Mallie, my lovely Mallorn blossom, you are a queen among hobbits."

He turned to his sons. "Noldo, you lead us up the mountain pass, " he ordered. "Take the pack pony with the buck. Mallie, you follow Noldo, and lead the other two ponies. Sindo, you and I will bring up the rear."

Mallie suddenly focused on Noldo, observed for the first time what he carried, and then said simply, "Give me the child."

Noldo obeyed, weaving toward his Mother still at a quick trot; passing the elf to his Mother after whispering "You'll be all right" and brushing its hair with a quick kiss, and then trotting forward to catch his pack pony. The tall child gazed wide-eyed at Mallie, and then nestled in her arms.

"Mallie, if you're carrying the elf-child, then Sindo can lead the two ponies. I'll bring up the rear. We'll give the ponies a rest when I say so. Let's ride!"

Noldo glanced back at Sindo, and saw that he now had the string of two pack ponies. Comforted by his father's stern tone, and needing no further urging as the smoke penetrated the forest, Noldo set both his heels to his pony's ribs, and in moments the whole family was strung out at a flat gallop, churning up the mountain towards the pass.

*********

Chapter 2: The Tree Line

The Misty Mountains

Doldo called them to a walk long before he wanted to. It would do them no good to run the ponies to death, but he feared pursuit. He had been much too loud at the wood's edge over his homestead, and he knew it, and berated himself silently as they rode. He was worried, too, about going above the tree-line and being visible, vulnerable. Unsafe ahead, unsafe behind.

But the ponies could run no more. They were totally lathered, and one of the pack ponies had a slight limp. Sindo checked its foot and removed a stone wedged into the soft frog, but the pony still limped after he removed it.

"Can't be helped, " Doldo said grimly. "If we dally, he'll be goblin-meat."

While they were halted, Noldo fetched an apple each out of one of the packs, and they munched as they walked the ponies upward. The elf devoured the apple and looked for more. "Not just yet, " Mallie told her, but gave the elf the rest of her own apple. Noldo, watching, dallied, and offered the rest of his as well. It was accepted with a shy smile.

"I think she likes you, " Mallie smiled.

"She?" Noldo asked.

"Yes, it's a girl-child."

"I can hardly tell. I've never seen such a young elf. And they are all so beautiful."

"This is a lovely little lady, " Mallie purred.

"Little!" Noldo said. Like his tall father he stood four-foot-nine. Sindo was four-eight. But the willow-thin maiden was almost as tall as Noldo.

"Oh, I don't know how old she is. They develop slowly."

"They do?"

"Well, gently is perhaps a better word. They are under no pressure to grow, so they take their time."

"Can't she talk?"

"Well, she's frightened."

"Of course..."

"But I don't know. I wonder what your name is, and where you are from." Mallie looked into the girl's eyes. "Can you tell me your name?"

The deep blue eyes searched Mallie's brown eyes, but no answer came.

"Where did you grow up?"

No answer.

"Do you want another apple?"

That brought a smile.

"So you do understand me!"

Laughter, but no speech.

"I think she wants another apple," Noldo chuckled. "Perhaps we can buy an answer with one."

As the only untangled member of the party, Doldo took the hint, urged his weary pony forward next to the pack pony, and leaning over, got out another apple.
He held it up, several feet away, and the young elf clearly wanted it.

"What's your name?"

The silent, blue-eyed stare continued.

"Where are you from?"

The stare turned into a pleading.

Doldo made as if to put the apple into his pocket, and the elf frowned, hesitated, struggled, and replied carefully, "Lorien."

Doldo smiled. "You're from Lorien? Oh. What's your name?"

"Lorien, " the elf repeated.

"Is that your name or where you are from?"

The elf looked away.

"Doldo, she'll cry, " scolded Mallie, and indeed the tall girl looked ready to. Doldo produced the apple instantly, and Mallie, softening as quickly, passed it to the elf-maiden and smiled at Doldo. The elf recovered, and received the apple, now trying bravely to smile, but clearly overwhelmed by everything that had happened. She bit into the apple, and ate meditatively.

"Lorien. It'll do for a name, won't it?" Doldo mused.

"It's lovely, " said Sindo.

"My trees grow in Lorien," Mallie replied. "It's as lovely a name as anybody could wish for."

"The Mallorn trees? I thought elves grew them," Noldo puzzled.

"Of course, " Mallie laughed. "But only in Lorien. They don't grow in Greenwood, or in our woods, or anywhere else that I know of. Just in Lorien. Laurelindorinan..." she sighed, watching Lorien devour her apple.

"How were you named after a tree in Laurelindorinan, Mother?" Sindo puzzled.

"Well, you know my family comes from much further south," Mallie replied. "When my father was young, he was out hunting in the woods, and pursued a fast and clever buck far into strange territory. He was challenged by a young elf for trespassing. My father pleaded with Haldir to let him pursue the crafty buck, to no avail. But the elf took a liking to him. After a friendly archery contest-- which my father lost-- they became friends. Haldir taught my father many songs and tales, including what the land was like that he was forbidden to enter. My father used to go and trespass just to hear Haldir's stories, and they would talk far into the night up on Haldir's platform in the tree. He told my father about the Mallorn trees, silver and gold with golden blooms, and when I was born, my father named me after them."

"Did you ever meet Haldir?" Noldo wondered.

"My father took me to see him when I was a tiny baby, but I don't remember him, " sighed Mallie.

"So that's where your father learned all of his songs! From an elf up in a tree!" Sindo somehow thought this terribly funny. He tried to laugh quietly, and succeeded when Doldo shot him a warning glare. But then Doldo smiled too. It was good to hear his son laughing. It was good that his son was alive.

They were nearing the tree-line, and there they would rest the ponies. He still disliked the idea of going above the tree-line, feeling visible and vulnerable, but there was nothing else to be done. There was no hope in the valley behind them anymore.

He didn't know how much hope there would be over the mountains, either. And he didn't know whether they would find any elves to take care of this mystery elf-child, this apple-eating Lorien maiden.

When they stopped by a cold mountain stream, they filled the water bottles-- when she had packed, Mallie had had no time to run down to the stream-- and Doldo opened a loaf of bread, and divided it into five parts. They all ate in silence, sensing the chill in the air, and Mallie got out their winter cloaks. She had none for Lorien. "Whoever carries her will just have to wrap her up in their cloak, " Doldo ordered, and that sounded good to everyone; riding could be cold business, and the idea of sharing body heat with a passenger had tremendous appeal. For the remainder of the journey, anyone developing a chill on horseback took a turn holding Lorien, and warmed up quite well. This was also partly because as she began to recover from the shock and learn to enjoy her new friends, she grew more restless and active, and was apt to lean suddenly, or twist to look at something, and it took more and more effort and attention to keep her in the saddle. Since they all took turns, everyone slept well at night.

But that day they were not that cold yet, nor was she restless yet. They looked up at the pass looming over them, and although it was snowy, they were glad that the snow had not yet time to become deep. The ponies were sturdy, and they had lived on the mountains all their lives, and were not afraid.

Doldo was afraid of what was behind them. He walked up well past the tree-line and climbed up on rocks until he could see the valley below.

What he saw chilled him. Fires burned all through their lovely valley. Perhaps fifteen miles of the valley showed flames in the villages and towns. His heart sank. He returned grim and silent to his family, and they did not ask him anything. He sat with Mallie, and held her hands.

Lorien wandered over to Noldo and to his complete astonishment, sat in his lap, and played with his hair. Sindo came over to join them, and she played with his hair too, fascinated by the short brown curls.

Noldo studied her. "Can't you talk?"

The blue eyes met his, smiling, waiting. As Noldo waited, growing a little uncomfortable, Lorien grew impatient and began to frown. Soon her head was tipped to one side, and she reached up and took his face in both her hands.

"What?" Noldo puzzled. "Tell me. You have to tell me. I don't know what you want."

She started over. She focused on his eyes, smiled, deepened her gaze, and waited. He sensed that she trusted that he would do something, but he had no idea what. She waited longer, and then the impatience returned.

"I don't understand what you want!" Noldo said, exasperated. By now the rest of the family was watching. Again Lorien reached for his face, and again she started over, looking in his eyes, smiling, waiting.

He tried. He didn't know what he was trying to do, but he willed himself to do what she wanted him to do-- whatever it was. He studied her. She waited, fighting off disappointment. His heart sank (over what? he wondered.) Finally she gave up, and slumped; guilt invaded Noldo.

"No, look. Here. You have to learn to talk to us. Lorien! Look. Talk to me." He lifted her chin again, and then put his finger against her lips, and then lifting her hand to his face, he spoke again. "Talk. Like this." He put her hand against his throat, and spoke again. "With words. Talk to me."

He realised she was laughing at him. He turned to his Mother, exasperated. She shrugged.

"I've never met a teenage elf before, Noldo. I don't know when they learn to converse, or how."

"Maybe they read each other's minds, " offered Sindo.

"But she understands us when we speak, " Mallie countered.

"Maybe just the parents read the children's minds, " Doldo replied. "It sure would make things more peaceful around the house." He stifled a grin. Sindo almost rose to the bait, and then glared at him.

"Doldo, " Mallie softly scolded, almost purring. Doldo shared a secret, eyes-only smile with her.

Noldo tried again. "Lorien, please. Talk to me. Please?"

She again stretched to her full height, and for a moment hope rose in him. "Lorien, " she murmured, and turned to examine Sindo's furry feet.
Well, it was a noise, he consoled himself. Heaving her over onto Sindo's lap, he rose. "Isn't it time we rode further?"

To his surprise, Doldo shook his head. "I'd rather wait for twilight, or at least sunset. I feel too vulnerable without any forest over us. I think if we can, we should travel by night across the pass."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Noldo countered, and then felt he had overstepped himself.
But Doldo nodded. "Yes, it is, "he replied. "But I think there are worse dangers about, and the moon will help us. I'd rather avoid being seen as much as possible."

"All right, " Noldo agreed, and sat back down after checking the sun. They had about an hour's wait before the sun sank behind the mountains.

Lorien, still in Sindo's lap, turned back to him. "No," she said suddenly.
"What? No, what? What No?" He knelt by her, thrilled.

She pointed to him. "Me?" he asked. She nodded. He was delighted. "Noldo. Nol-"
"Noldo, " she announced, and turned to his brother. "Sin-da."

They beamed at her, and Sindo let out a whispered cheer. "Sindo," Noldo corrected gently, but she shook her head. "Sinda." Noldo frowned at Sindo, but Sindo laughed. "It's close enough. I know who she means."

Noldo tried several more times to correct her, but she maintained the -a ending. Sindo actually seemed to like it.

"It's feminine, " Noldo groused.

"Maybe not to the elves, " Sindo shrugged. He and Lorien shared a long smile.
By sunset she knew Doldo's, Mallie's, and all the ponies' names. But it did not seem to come to her easily.

When they mounted, she insisted on riding with Noldo. He was glad at first, but about three hours up into the pass in the moonlight, she was still endlessly, rhythmically repeating his pony's name and his name in an exasperating sing-song chant, and he thought he would go mad. She clung to him and would not let him give her to anybody else.

"Nol-do, Hun-ter, Nol-do, Hun-ter. Nol-do, Hun-ter, Nol-do, Hun-terЕФ
Noldo buried the fingers of his free hand in his curly hair, and pulled.

************
Chapter 3: The Staring Game

The western foothills of the Misty Mountains, above the Ettenmoors

Not too far from the bubbling little stream, the family lounged in a clearing, weary of traveling and enjoying an unseasonably warm afternoon. The ponies nosed about, drinking from the stream and grazing on whatever they could find. They had done well crossing the mountains, but there wasn't much to eat on this side, and Sindo fretted, feeling for their ribs and worrying about the approaching winter. He hoped they would come on some good grazing soon.

Mallie gave Lorien the last apple, and fretted about the dwindling supply of bread. She had packed plenty of dried fruit, which the elf reluctantly gnawed through, asking "Apple?" between every bite. Lorien did like potatoes roasted in the hot coals of a campfire; they had only lit one so far, afraid of unwelcome visitors in this new land. There were plenty of potatoes, but Mallie wanted to save some for planting in the spring.

Lorien did not relish meat, and ate as little as she could, wrinkling her nose with distaste. "Until her own people find us," Doldo growled, "she'll have to eat it. That's all we'll have this winter. She'll either eat meat, or go hungry." The family fretted over this, but saw no alternative, unless they found civilization soon. They had seen no signs of civilization so far. Mallie was immensely glad that she had impulsively seized the garden seeds on her way out the door and stowed them in her saddlebags. She shuddered to think what they would have done in the spring without them.

Doldo, too, was beginning to worry about finding a settlement. He had hoped to find other hobbits, but this did not strike him as Hobbit countryside, nor elvish, nor mannish either. He hoped that they had not crossed the mountains only to die on the other side. Now that their home was left behind, Doldo's love for his wife became his only anchor, and the boys noticed as the days wore on, that Doldo's eyes lingered on Mallie more and more.

While the sun streamed down on them, Doldo watched Mallie, and Mallie watched Lorien eating her apple, and Lorien, crunching, watched Noldo, and Sindo watched Lorien watching Noldo; Noldo in turn, was watching his parents, mostly, although Lorien occasionally drew his glance. The silence grew until Lorien finished her apple. Tossing the core into nearby bushes, she began wandering, softly lapsing into her singsong chant again.

"Nol-do, Hun-ter, Nol-do, Hun-ter..."

Noldo covered his ears, desperately wishing he could roar in anguish. Sindo laughed.

"I'm going hunting, " Noldo said, catching up his bow and quiver.

"Don't lose any arrows, " Doldo said. "And why are you going? We're not nearly done with that buck carcass yet." They had not dared to light many fires, and it had been cold enough. The meat would keep for quite a while yet. Sindo pitied the pony carrying it, but the pony did not seem to mind. It had frosted and there were no flies.

"I'm going, " Noldo said, "because I am sick and tired of that song of hers."

"She loves you, " said Sindo, darkly. "True, devoted and dedicated love."

Noldo churned, pacing. "Can't you woo her away from me, please?"

"I don't want you to go, son, " Doldo said. "I know she's irritating. But we don't know this countryside yet."

"Then let me scout it out, " Noldo said, his voice edgy with frustration. "I need some time away."

"Nol-do, Hun-ter..."

Noldo turned on her, on the very edge of control. "Will you STOP IT? Can't you sing something else???"

"Son, quiet! Calm down!"

"Then let me go for a while!"

"You've hurt her, " scolded Sindo, rising and walking to Lorien, and putting an arm protectively across her shoulders. She looked up at him with those huge blue eyes, and calmed down. Sindo stared back at her.

There they go again with the staring game, thought Noldo. He's got more patience than I do, that's for sure.

"Sing something else for a while, " Sindo prodded gently. "Just change the song, please?"

Suddenly she brightened.

"Nol-do, Lo-rien..."

Sindo's smirks grew uncontrollable, despite his father's attempts to hush him, and he was soon collapsed on the ground holding his sides. Noldo, torn between humor and rage, stalked out of the clearing. Sindo's laughter followed him until he crested the nearest ridge.

"You don't make it easy, that's for sure, " Doldo grumbled at Lorien, who pouted a little and changed her song again to "Dol-do, Ma-llie..."

"She does it to torment us, " Doldo grumbled, reaching for Mallie's hand.

"I think it's sweet, " Mallie purred.

"After three weeks?" Sindo sighed. "She could come up with another tune."

"Tune, " Lorien echoed seriously, turning their heads. "Tune." She approached Sindo, and started the staring game again.

"Tune, " he agreed, and stared back. She pondered, and began to hum softly, a rather pleasant wandering melody, and meandered off. They gaped.

"I wonder," Doldo said. "What do you do when she stares at you like that?"

"Nothing, " shrugged Sindo. "Stare back."

"She certainly seems to learn from it, " Mallie pondered. "You suggested another tune, and there it is."

"Well, I don't-- Hey, Lorien! Wait!" Sindo jumped up, and caught up his bow and quiver. Lorien was heading off in pursuit of Noldo.

Mallie worried, and Doldo shrugged, and chuckled, and reached for her hand.

"They'll be all right. The elf has obviously grown up in the woods. And our boys can take care of themselves."

"That's not what worries me."

"What then, my Mallie, my queen?"

She smiled gratefully at him and gave his hand a squeeze. "It's Noldo. He's almost twenty-nine. He's been getting restless."

"They both have been."

"You've seen it too."

"Of course I have, my love, " he murmured. "Once this elf-child returns to an elf-settlement somewhere, we'll find a hobbit settlement, and the boys can get back to normal."

She nodded. "How are we going to find the elves? Elves find you, you don't find them."

"They'll come, " Doldo said with complete confidence.

"Why?"

"I've been thinking about this. Elves always know, " he said. "They'll come and find her. They'll know."

She studied him, uncertain.

"Anytime they are missing one of their own, " Doldo continued, "they find him. They know where to look."

"You think that she will draw them to herself."

"I'm sure of it. Like that staring game. There's more to that than just who looks down first."

"Oh, they never do look down. It's not like that."

"That's what I mean. Sindo is onto something. Funny that she only plays the game with him."

"She's tried with the rest of us, " Mallie said. "She tried for the first whole week, with Noldo."

"And he had no patience with her, " Doldo snorted. "Young hothead. His temper worries me." Mallie bit her tongue. "But Sindo kept at it, and there's an understanding of sorts there, I think."

"And you think that she'll draw the elves to herself, like that. Calling them somehow?"
"I'm sure of it. They'll be here."

She stroked his hand, wondering.

"We could look for them for the rest of our lives, and never find them. You know that. They can't be tracked like other races can."

She nodded.

"We'll settle somewhere, then, and wait. We'll plant your seeds and your potatoes, and we'll hunt, and build a small shelter. And she'll call them, and they'll come."
She wanted to trust his judgment, but somehow she was uneasy, as if she was missing something.

She looked into his eyes, and forgot her uneasiness. She had thought him devoted before, but she was in awe of him now, in awe of his love for her. They stood and walked to the stream, and he drew her to sit close beside him on the bank, his arm around her. She watched the stream and he watched her, overflowing with tenderness.

Two hours later, when Noldo, Sindo, and the still-humming elf-maiden returned, Mallie had gently fallen asleep listening to the stream, and Doldo held her, stroking her hair. The three silently watched them for a few minutes, and then quietly turned again, and wandered aimlessly back into the woods, the hobbits staring at the ground or the sky, the maid chasing the leaves as they blew down from the trees.

*******

To be continued...
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the borders of the Elven-land.
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