Stories > Jay's Quick List > Ch. 1

The Cloths of Heaven

Chapter 1: Dreams Crushed Underfoot

by Jay of Lasgalen 
September 9, 2011

As they entered the green forest of Ithilien, a young elf dressed in mossy greens and browns dropped from the canopy above them, landing silently on the grass.   Elladan started and swore softly as the elf gave a brief salute.   “Greetings, my lords Elladan and Elrohir,” he announced gaily.  “You are welcome here.  I am Brithil, and I am to take you to Lord Legolas.  Will you please follow me?”

“I wish they did not still do that!” Elladan muttered.  “It always startles me.  I swear they do it on purpose!”

“I would not be surprised if Legolas told him to do it,” Elrohir replied.  He dismounted, patting his horse’s neck.  “Thank you, Brithil.  I see Legolas has worked wonders on this land – Ithilien is very different to how I remember it!”

He fell into step beside Elladan as they followed Brithil along the narrow, winding paths through the woodland.  A sweet, fragrant smell hung in the air and he could hear at least a dozen species of birds singing among the branches.  There was an aura of peace here, despite the nearness of the shattered land of Mordor, and there was something that reminded Elrohir sharply of Lasgalen, in the far off years before the shadow darkened the land.

The plants, the trees, the birdsong; the dappled leaf shade of oak and beech and the scent of the air were all so different to Imladris.  There the sound of the waterfalls were a constant music, and the pine scented shadows cool and dark.

He and Elladan had once been regular visitors to the Greenwood, and had had many friends there - Legolas himself, the healer Calmacil, Tirnan, Alfiel, and Tionel.  And Taniquel.

He smiled. Taniquel had been a dear friend once, and perhaps more.  Where was she now?  She had survived the war, that much he did know; though Tirnan and Alfiel had not.  They had been slaughtered like so many others, for the battle beneath the trees had been fierce and prolonged. But Taniquel … she was probably still in the Greenwood, training new warriors to replace the thousands who had died.

His musings were broken as Brithil called to them. "This way!"

A stream bubbled merrily somewhere on their right, and soon the path turned to join it.   Stepping stones crossed the stream, and Brithil skipped lightly across while the two horses paused to drink, then splashed across the ford.

“Ithilien is a wondrous land!”  Brithil called back over his shoulder.  “I was born and raised in Lasgalen, though we named it Mirkwood then; for the depth of the shadows.  My wife was one of King Thranduil’s warriors, but after the war we came to Ithilien with Prince Legolas.”

“Your wife?”  Elrohir echoed.  Sure this child was too young to be married!

Brithil gave a shy smile. “We are expecting a child.  He will be the first babe born in the new realm of Ithilien!”

“Then Yavanna’s blessings be on you, and may he be the first of many,” Elrohir replied.  It had been a very long time since he had spoken the traditional blessing – far too few children were born now.

The trees ended, and they came upon a long green slope.  Vines had been planted on the hillside and several elves worked there, tending to the young plants that already bore a few bunches of tiny red or green grapes.

Brithil smiled again.  “Prince Legolas himself will stand as sponsor at the child’s Naming ceremony,” he added proudly.  “It is a very great honour for us!”

“Nonsense,” a voice called.  “You do me the honour of giving new life to the land!”  One of the elves tending the vines stood, and Legolas strode towards them, grinning broadly.  “Thank you for greeting them, Brithil,” he said.  “Will you take their horses to the stables?  My thanks.”  Turning to Elladan and Elrohir he added, “You must forgive me for not coming myself, but as you can see, there is so much still to be done!”

The hand he offered to Elladan was sticky and stained green with sap.  Legolas grimaced, wiped his hands on his dusty trousers, and then shrugged and embraced first Elrohir, then Elladan.  “Welcome, my friends. Welcome to Ithilien!”

Elrohir gazed at the vines, at a small orchard behind them, and the trees that rose beyond.  Here and there flets were visible between the leaves.  “You have done so much already!” he exclaimed.  “It looks very different now.”

“It has been hard work,” Legolas admitted.  “There is so much to do, and to learn.  The vines are a gift from my father, but the soil here is different than that in Dorwinia, so I think our wines will be different.   We are planting more vines every year.  These are two years old, and already producing their first grapes.  With luck and the Valar’s blessing I hope the first vintages will be ready next year.”  He flashed a grin at them.  “I hope my father will approve!”

He led them past the vines and through the orchard, reaching up to pluck an apple from the nearest tree.  The leaves rustled gently at his touch, even though there was no breeze.  “Wood-elf!”  Elladan muttered under his breath.

Legolas tossed the apple to him, and another to Elrohir, then pointed to a clump of sweet-smelling gorse and elderflower.   A chorus of squeals, giggles and splashes could be heard. “There are bathing pools beyond the bushes.  Gimli’s people helped build them.  There are hot springs here, and each pool is a different temperature.  The hottest are too much for me, but there are some who enjoy them.  You can bathe here at any time, but it is quieter in the evenings.”  He grinned.  “As you can hear, the children are playing there now.  They were born in the last years of the shadow, so there are few of them, and they are a great joy to us.”

They reached a wide clearing ringed with tall beeches all bearing flets among their branches.  At the foot of one of the trees stood a small thick-walled cabin built of stone.  “For Gimli, when he visits,” he explained.  “He dislikes the flets.  ‘Too much open air, laddie!’“ Legolas growled in a fair imitation of the dwarf.

Elladan laughed.  “That sounds like Gimli,” he agreed.

Steps like branches spiralled up the trunk of another tree and Legolas began to climb.  “This is our guest flet,” he said over his shoulder.  “I thought you Noldor might find it easier than climbing into the trees!”

Elrohir ignored the jibe and stepped onto the wide platform that surrounded the flet.  A carved railing entwined with ivy guarded the edge, for they were high among the branches now, with a breath-taking view towards the Anduin and the wide plains beyond.

“Well?  What do you think?”

Elrohir shared a grin with his brother.  “Quaint, and delightfully rustic,” he declared.

“Quite remarkable for a barbaric wood-elf,” Elladan added.

Legolas regarded them both calmly.  “This barbarian will pitch both of you over the edge in a moment,” he promised.  “Ah, but it is good to see you again!  Now, I can have hot water brought up for you if you wish, or you can use the pools.  And there is food here – bread, cheese, fruit – water, and wine."

Elladan interrupted him. "Tell me, have you ever been to The Prancing Pony in Bree?"

"Bree?  No, never.  Why?"

"Oh, never mind. You just reminded me of someone."

Legolas stared at him, then shrugged. "Anyway, will you join me later for supper?  On most evenings we gather for music, song and dancing, or for the telling of tales.”

Elladan nodded.  “That would be delightful,” Elrohir agreed.

“Good!  Then I will see you later.”


Legolas’s own talan was simply but comfortably furnished.  There were skins and rugs on the floor, a wide, low bed piled with more rugs, and a long couch.  They ate on the platform, perched high above the ground as the sun sank slowly in the west, and Legolas described the building of the colony.

“Mireth and Tionel followed me south.  Mireth claimed I still need someone to look after me, and bake honey cakes! I wish more could have come, but there is still much work to be done in Lasgalen in replanting the trees and cleansing the forest.  There are barely fifty of us, but more will come south to join me next year.”

“And what of Lanatus?” Elladan asked with a laugh.

“Lanatus, much to my father’s dismay, elected to stay in Lasgalen.  He wishes to finish indexing the archives there.  As you can imagine, I was quite devastated by the news.”

“Heart-broken,” Elrohir agreed.

“Tionel tells me that my father offered Lanatus the opportunity to create a new library here in Ithilien, though he flatly denied it when I asked him.  Fortunately Lanatus declined the offer,”  Legolas grinned.  “There are several others you would remember though, and with more fondness.”  He glanced at Elrohir.  “And someone you will remember in particular.  Shall we go?”

Elrohir frowned, wondering who he meant. Elladan glanced at him with the same question in his eyes.  "And who might that be, brother?  Could he mean - oh, what was her name again?"  He made a great show of forgetting.  "Ah, Taniquel, that was it!"  He gave Elrohir a sly look.  "I seem to recall you were quite fond of her once."

Elrohir smiled ruefully. "I was. But ... well, things change. And I expect she will not even remember me now!"

It was dark now, but torches marked the path and lanterns hung in the trees. Ahead a flicker of firelight warmed the darkness, and there was a low murmur of voices and the high clear song of a hymn to the stars.  Silvery notes from a flute showered the air.

They came to a wide clearing with a great fire in the centre.  Flames danced, leaping high and casting a golden glow on the trees.  A branch cracked in the heat and a shower of golden sparks drifted upwards like earth-bound stars.

 It looked as if the whole community was here, some sitting, some standing, and a handful of children running through the trees chasing each other.  Elrohir paused at the edge of the clearing.  The singer had finished his song, and now other minstrels took up a tambour and a fiddle and began a merry dance tune.  It was one he remembered from one of  his last visits to Lasgalen, when he had danced with Taniquel for the whole evening, much to Elladan’s mingled annoyance and amusement.

Then, across the circle of firelight, he saw her – her chestnut hair falling halfway down her back; the flames bringing out the reddish glints he remembered so well.  His heart gave an odd lurch.

Taniquel.  He had not seen her for hundreds of years, but she looked no different.  He moved forward, impatient to speak with her; but stopped again as Brithil appeared and paused by her side.  He bent and murmured something in her ear.  She looked up with a smile full of joy, and took Brithil’s hand as he pulled her to her feet. 

Elrohir felt as if he had been punched in the stomach.  He moved back into the shadows beneath the trees, feeling suddenly cold and nauseous.  He watched for a moment longer as Taniquel and Brithil joined the dancers, laughing together.

Unseen by Elladan, Legolas or anyone else, he walked away from the firelight and the music, lost in thought and still feeling sick.  He recalled Brithil’s words earlier:  ‘ … my wife … one of Thranduil’s warriors.’


He followed a path at random, not really knowing or caring where it went.  He knew he should be happy for her, and he was, but all he could think of were the times when they had danced together at Lasgalen or Imladris, laughing as they deftly sidestepped partners in chain dances so they always stayed together.  There were the evenings they had not danced at all, talking and sharing news and tales of all that had happened during the long years when they had not seen each other, talking of everything and nothing.  All he could see was her face; eyes sparkling with mirth or sombre with grief and lingering guilt as she told him of a patrol where elves under her command had been killed.

He wandered until the trees closed in on him, and he realised he had left the path and was unsure of where he was.  A stream trickled somewhere to his left so he followed the sound until he reached the water’s edge, then walked along the bank until he reached a glade he recognised.  He made his way back to the empty flet and sat on the wooden platform, lost in silent contemplation.  Although he often thought of her, he had not seen Taniquel for such a long time - so why did the thought of her marriage disturb him so?

The truth was blindingly obvious, but it was a bitter realization.  He had lied to Elladan, and even to himself. He had said he had been fond of Taniquel, but the truth was that he had loved her.  In the aftermath of the attack on his mother and the blood-soaked years that followed, all thoughts of love, happiness and friendship had disappeared beneath a sea of hatred and despair.

Yet now, seeing her again, he knew he still loved her.  Why had he never realized it before?

He was still there, hours later, when Elladan returned.

“Elrohir, there you are! What are you doing back here?  I wondered where you had gone.  Why did you leave so suddenly?  Taniquel was there – did you not see her?”

Elrohir did not reply immediately.  He knew Elladan would think him a fool.  “Did you speak to her?” he asked at last.

“Only briefly.  There were so many others to greet!  She asked where you were – she always could tell us apart – and said she had something wonderful to tell you.”

“I can guess what it is,” Elrohir said hollowly.

Elladan stared at him.  “El?  What is it?  I know something is wrong; you know you cannot hide it from me!”  He sat on the platform, legs hanging over the edge and leaned against a convenient branch.  “Are you going to tell me, or just suffer in silence?”  He paused, waiting for Elrohir’s response.  “You were looking forward to this visit,” he continued at last.  “What has changed?”

“I saw Taniquel.”

“Yes, I told you she was there.  But El, I thought you would be glad to see her!”

Suddenly restless, Elrohir stood and stared into the darkness. “I am such a fool,” he said without turning.

“Well, we all know …” Elladan’s teasing, laughing response died unfinished as he sensed Elrohir’s very real distress.  “Why?”  he asked instead.

“I have been so blind,” Elrohir continued unheedingly, his voice blurred and unsteady.  “I had the opportunity.  There were so many chances – and I wasted every one.  I am a fool.”

Elladan crossed the flet to stand at Elrohir’s side.  “El?”  he asked, puzzled.  “I do not understand.  Tell me.  What do you mean?”

Elrohir turned his head and gazed at him bleakly.   “Taniquel,” he said simply in explanation.

“Yes, Taniquel; I know."  Elladan frowned, still not understanding.  “What about her?”

Elrohir drew a deep breath, gazing at a spray of leaves just in front of him, studying the fluted edge and tiny indentations on the surface.  “She is married,” he said at last.

“Married?  I did not realise.  But what …” Elladan’s voice changed suddenly.  “Oh.”

Elrohir turned to face his brother at last.  “I love her, Elladan.  I think I always have, but never fully realised it.  How could I have been such a blind fool?” he ended in anguish.

“Oh, Elrohir.”  There was a world of sympathy in Elladan’s voice.  “I always thought you loved her from the start – but as time went on and nothing came of it I began to doubt the evidence of my own eyes.  But I thought she loved you too.”

“Perhaps she decided she had waited long enough for me to come to my senses, and turned elsewhere.  Perhaps she never loved me.  Perhaps she …”

“El, stop this!  Do not torment yourself.  Anyway, are you sure?  How do you know?”

Elrohir shrugged.  “Do you recall what Brithil said – that his wife was one of Thranduil’s warriors?”

“Yes, but that does not mean it is Taniquel!”

“I saw them, El.  I saw them together.  They both looked so happy.”

Elladan loosed a long sigh.  “I saw them too,” he admitted reluctantly.  He was silent for a long time, but his wordless sympathy and support was immensely comforting.  “What will you do now?” he asked at last.

“Do?  Tomorrow I will find her, and congratulate her, and tell her how happy I am for them.”  He glanced at Elladan.  “I have never lied to her before – do you think I will be convincing?”

“Not if you continue to look as miserable as a wet warg!”  Elladan tried to jest.  He sighed.  “El, go to bed – or better yet, come and have a drink.”

Elrohir eyed the wine bottle Elladan waved at him, and then shook his head.  “No – I do not want to drown my sorrows in drink.  It will not change anything, and I will feel even worse tomorrow.”  He turned away, and then looked back at Elladan.  “I cannot sleep tonight.  I will find somewhere to watch the stars and think.  I will see you in the morning.”

“El …”

“Do not worry about me – I will not do anything foolish!  I need to be alone, just for tonight.  I want time to think.”


He found himself beside the stream again, and sat on the bank beside the rippling, glimmering water; cursing himself for a thousand kinds of fool.  This was all his fault.  He had never once told Taniquel of his feelings, being content to enjoy her friendship and expecting nothing more.   Why was he so surprised that she was married?  They had been friends, that was all, and she had never harboured any deeper feelings for him.

‘ … my wife … one of Thranduil’s warriors.’  He pushed Brithil’s words away, quashing a wholly unreasonable hatred for the young elf.  This was not Brithil’s fault, or Taniquel’s.  They had been friends, nothing more, so why should she not be married?  It was none of his business.

But Brithil?  He was so young, scarcely more than a child himself!  He looked to be no more than five or six hundred years old at most.  Whatever did Taniquel see in a callow youth like that?  What could they possibly have in common?

‘We are expecting a child.’  He closed his eyes in anguish.  He could never tell Taniquel now, and would do nothing to destroy her happiness.  She deserved that much from him, at least.

They had been friends, nothing more.  But oh, it had been so much more.  Why had he never spoken?  He had left it far, far too late.

The night crept past while he sat silently, remembering.  They were happy memories, full of laughter.  She was the only maiden apart from Arwen who had ever laughed at him, who had never been in awe of him as Elrond’s son.  He could still hear her derisive laughter when he fell into a stream in Imladris, trying to prove how far he could jump.

His soft laugh startled a fox who had come down to the stream to drink.  It gave him a wary look, then finished its drink and melted back into the undergrowth.

All too soon the sky began to pale with the light of a new day, when he would have to face Taniquel again, and smile, and congratulate her.  Somehow, drawing on all the stubbornness that Elladan had always cursed him for, he would find the strength to wish her joy and give all of them his blessing.  He would never forget her, but had enough memories to last him a lifetime.

The decision brought a measure of peace.  There was nothing more he could do now, she was lost to him; but she loved Brithil and he would rejoice for her evident happiness.  If she was happy, then he would be content.

The sun cast long shadows and dew was still wet on the grass as he returned to the flet. Elladan turned as he approached, a smile of relief lighting his face. It was clear from his weariness and the half-empty wine bottle by his side that he had spent an equally sleepless night.

“Elrohir!  Thank the Valar.”

"Forgive me, El. I did not mean to worry you."

"You know I worry, little brother, but I know you needed some time by yourself. Did you find the answers you sought?”

“In a way, though not the ones I wanted.”

 “What will you do now?”

"When I see her I will wish her well, and try my best to forget her. What else can I do?"

Elladan shook his head sadly.  "Nothing.

Elrohir sighed, watching the drifting mist that rose from the forest as the rising sun burned the dew from the leaves and grass.  “I was going to ask her to marry me once.  Did you know that?”

For once Elladan stared at him in genuine amazement.  “I had no idea!  When?  And why not?  What changed your mind?”

“It was that time when I was injured returning from Lasgalen, when poor Mornaur was killed.  When I was back in Imladris there were all these pretty maidens fussing and offering their help, until I was drowning in a sea of cloying sympathies; but all I wanted was for Taniquel to laugh at me and threaten to kick my crutches away for feeling sorry for myself.”

Elladan laughed.  “Knowing Taniquel, it would have been more than a threat!”  he agreed. “She always was different to other maidens.”

“Anyway, I decided that as soon as possible I was going to return to Lasgalen and ask her.  But first …” he fell silent, twirling a shrivelled leaf between his fingers.  “First we had one more trip to make, to escort Mother to Lórien.”

Elladan stilled, his eyes sombre.  “I see.”

“After that, everything changed.  I never even thought about her for many years.”

"Until now."

“Until now,” Elrohir agreed.  “When it is all far too late.”  He turned and stretched, suddenly weary.  “I must find Taniquel, and speak to her.  I should apologise for disappearing so suddenly last night.”

“El, wait.  It is early yet.  Take breakfast with me before you do.”   Elladan’s nose wrinkled.  “And for pity’s sake wash and change first!  You look terrible.”

Elrohir glanced at himself, then regarded Elladan’s rumpled clothes.  “So do you,” he pointed out.  “Shall we find the hot pools Legolas was so proud of?  And then … then I will find Taniquel.”

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