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
“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
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
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
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
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
“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.”
“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
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
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
“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,” 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
“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