Auros cast back his hood, desiring to feel the sun on the back of his neck as he and Melëar drew closer to the forest borders of Laurelindorinan. He sat more at ease on his horse after putting his hand to a pocket under his cloak. In that pocket were letters addressed to Amroth, king of the Golden Wood, from Lord Elrond himself. Auros was charged with delivering these missives: a task he was not eager for, but he could not refuse it.
"Looks like we're getting close," Auros said.
"We are," replied Melëar, "but how do you know? You haven't been here before." Auros made a discreet gesture to the sentinel watching from the trees. "Oh, of course."
"Maybe we can make this quick: deliver the messages, get the reply, and get back to Imladris."
"I don't think we're going to get through that quickly. It's the midyear. It's a shame Meneltir's sisters won't be here."
"Yeah, a real shame," Auros replied. Melëar shook his head. "I don't mean it like that, and you know it."
"Of course," Melëar responded matter-of-factly.
Auros let out a heavy sigh. "I'm sure they're wonderful people. They're Meneltir's sisters, after all, but we're better off with them in the Greenwood while we're here."
At that, Melëar couldn't help but grin. "Are we?"
"Considering that Meneltir is trying to surprise them, he's better off with them there too."
A voice came from the trees above. "Halt!"
With a sigh of relief, Auros exclaimed, "At last!"
The two Noldor were brought before the king and delivered the messages. The king needed time to respond to Lord Elrond's missives, however, and so after he extended to them the hospitality of the court, Auros and Melëar were free to partake in whatever festivities of the midyear celebration they wished. For Auros this meant that, after his official obligations as envoy were satisfied, he went straight to the training grounds, which for now was the quietest part of the entire city. Maybe he would participate in something later. Maybe. For now, it had been a long ride and he wanted peace and quiet to clear his head as the evening drew near. He even succeeded at having it for almost an hour until a woman came into the clearing bearing a tray and set it on a nearby bench.
"Here," she said. "You need to eat something. Travelling rations aren't that filling."
Auros stopped completely and stared at her. The woman's tone was decidedly more familiar than he would expect from someone he'd never met, nor was he expecting anyone to bring him anything. He certainly hadn't asked for anything. Maintaining a tone of formality, he asked, "What is that?"
The woman was clearly amused. "It's called food. I'm sure you've seen it before."
Auros shifted his sword to his right hand and planted the tip lightly on the ground. "No, I mean why are you bringing me food?"
The woman folded her hands. "Someone generously brings you a hot meal and you question it?"
Auros drew himself up but still maintained decorum. "It is my custom to exercise caution whenever anything is brought before me unbidden and unannounced by someone with whom I am not acquainted, even in such glorious and guarded places as this."
The woman maintained her good humor, apparently still amused by Auros' reaction. "What toil must it be for the retinue of lords and ladies, to each introduce themselves to you before the courtesies of their liege can be extended!" Auros wasn't sure if she was reproving or teasing him. "Very well," she said with a curtsy. "I am Erenriel, sister of Meneltir, with whom I am sure you are familiar, for you are Auros, one of his seven comrades who still walk the lands of Endor. Certainly my brother has spoken of me?"
Auros' countenance now became stern. "Indeed he has. In fact, he has told me that you are in the Greenwood right now, visiting family."
"My sons and sister are there, no doubt enjoying a meal prepared by someone who is not subjected to so much scrutiny. I had planned to go as well, but I heard we were expecting messengers from Imladris. I suspected it might be my brother, maybe with his son Telperos or one of his friends. I thought to surprise him so that he would not be wholly without family during the enderi, and though he did not come with you, it's fortunate for you I made that decision. Did you intend to eat anything tonight, or were you planning to sustain yourself on fresh air?"
Auros was unfazed, and his demeanor remained cool. "I intend to eat when I see fit."
"By the time you got around to it, if there was anything remaining of the evening's meal."
"That would be my problem."
For only a moment a shadow passed across her features, before her eyes gleamed and her impish grin returned. "You're not refusing the hospitality of the Golden Wood, are you?" Auros started to respond, but found he had no answer. He was not in enemy lands, and to refuse hospitality genuinely offered would be unacceptable. An air of satisfaction settled upon the woman.
At that moment, Melëar entered the clearing and both turned to face him. "Auros," he started, then he saw the woman. "Rillin! I thought you went to the Greenwood! Auros, this is Erenriel, Meneltir's sister."
Seeing this confirmation of her identity as another victory, Erenriel was a study in graceful triumph. Auros's expression did not change, but his stance became less tense, if not less formal. He gave her a low bow. "I offer you my sincere apologies. Had I known to expect this meeting ---"
Erenriel eased her stance as well and chuckled. "I suppose I can't be too upset. You were not expecting me to be here, and I understand that part of your obstinance was concern for the honor of my brother and his family. That includes me, after all. I had the advantage of learning who was sent from Imladris. I saw Melëar's horse in the stables, so I knew at least one of you. After all, " she added with a mischievous smirk, "I didn't want to offend a stranger by bringing food to him."
Auros returned a polite smile that was not completely without warmth. "We are still strangers. For the time being, at least."
"It's true that we only just now met, but I have heard many tales of your exploits, of the many times you have guarded my brother's and nephew's lives. That at least is enough for me to think well of you. I feel I know you well enough to start, though I suppose for Meneltir's sake we shall have to find a way to remedy our current association as you see it." She didn't leave Auros room to interject. "By the way, who's fault is it we are just now meeting? Why have you been avoiding Laurelindorinan for so long?" Auros had no answer for her, only a pensive look that spread across his face.
Melëar interrupted by walking over to the tray and lifting the lid as he said, "Is that what this is, food?"
Erenriel took the lid and put it back on the tray. "Yes, for Auros. I know you've had your fill already." She gave Melëar a teasing grin. "I saw you singing it up with a group of the minstrels."
"So you stuck around here just to taunt me and feed Auros?"
"I had purposed to taunt and feed Meneltir, but you two were here instead, and I didn't want either of you to feel left out."
Melëar began to laugh. Auros, realizing why, cracked a smile in spite of himself. Once Melëar had contained himself well enough, he explained that Meneltir had decided to surprise his sisters and nephews in the Greenwood. "He took Telperos and Hirilaur with him, so they are probably there right now wondering where you are!"
Erenriel also started laughing. "Well, at least they have my sons and Finnareth to keep them company over the midyear."
"And you are stuck with us." Melëar chuckled.
"I don't know." She turned back to Auros with her mischievous grin. "Playing hostess to you two might not be terribly boring." Auros looked at her with suspicion, but she had already moved on. "I'll leave you to it. I'm sure you can find on your own where the empty tray goes." With another curtsy, Erenriel left Melëar and Auros in the clearing.
After she was gone, Auros walked over to the bench where the tray was set. "So that's Meneltir's sister."
Melëar nodded. "His older sister, at least."
"Hmm." Auros lifted the lid off the tray to see what she brought. Melëar reached toward the tray and Auros snapped the lid down as he smirked and recited Erenriel's words: "You've had your fill already." Picking up the entire tray, he then said, "Come on, let's find something to wash this down with."
The next day, the messages were still not ready, so Auros found himself spending another day waiting to leave. After some exercise, he wandered over to where a group of elves, including Melëar, were singing and playing various instruments. Settling against a tree not far away he closed his eyes; not to sleep, but to focus on the music. He was still aware of everything around him, but soon his own thoughts absorbed him. While mulling things over, he heard someone approach. He could feel this person standing over him silently, as if anticipating a reaction, but he decided to acknowledge nothing until the person finally spoke. "I trust you're feeling more amicable today?" Rising to formally greet Erenriel, Auros invited her to join him in listening to the musicians. It was Melëar's turn.
As they both sat down, Erenriel settled into a series of questions. "Are you a musician as well?"
Remembering her comment from the previous day, Auros chose his words carefully. "I would not call myself one. I am familiar with music, but I have no particular passion for it I suppose, at least not in its creation. I can, however, appreciate the skill and talent of those who pour their passion into their music."
"So you have some measure of your own skill then." Motioning to the group of musicians, she pressed on. "Would you be more apt to pluck a harp, or is your voice your instrument of choice?"
Auros' laughter skirted the borders of hollow as he shook his head. "Me? Neither. I have not played an instrument in longer than I can easily recall, nor have I sung anything in almost as long." Lately he'd considered the idea of him doing either rather dubious.
"What about dancing?"
If singing or playing instruments was dubious, dancing was outright preposterous. Auros looked Erenriel in the eye and gave her a grin imbued by every bit of his charm, good humor, and wit. "Not even on a bet, milady."
Erenriel gave him a look he wasn't sure he could interpret. "So you intend to sit here and avoid as much of the festival as you can."
"I have not been avoiding anything. I am content with how my time is spent."
"Really? You seem eager to be up and gone with whatever missives Laurelindorinan's king is preparing for you."
Auros scowled. "Of course I am. I'm on a mission, not a vacation."
"You realize you're here for the enderi, don't you? Since this is the twelfth year, it's doubled. You have six days of celebration to endure... well, five now. Are you going to spend all of them on the verge of springing onto a horse and racing through the woods away from us as fast as possible?"
"Of course not." Auros's demeanor relented ever so slightly, and a wry grin appeared on his face. "I'd thought to spend the days on my horse in anticipation."
"Oh, so you do have a sense of humor!" There was a tone of laughter in Erenriel's voice. "Very well! You do not sing, you do not play instruments, and you simply will not dance, even were the most beautiful, graceful maiden in all the Golden Wood to come and extend her hand to you."
Auros gave a determined nod, still grinning. "That sounds about right."
"Well, Meneltir would never forgive me if he knew I let you spend the entire festival sitting under a tree listening to Melëar sing." Auros held back the laughter. Her tone of feigned torment by Melëar's singing was almost too much. More than that, though, was her assertion about Meneltir. He suspected more that Meneltir would commiserate with him, and imagined his friend's own childhood with Erenriel as his sister. He spent very little time with this image, however, as she went on. "Perhaps a trial befitting someone as knightly as yourself?"
Eyeing her warily once again, Auros' curiosity was piqued. "What did you have in mind?"
"Follow me." They rose and took a short walk to a spot some distance from the main events. A thicket stood as a border where some archery targets were set. A group of Elves were gathered, and a table was set nearby. A target was left swinging from a low tree branch.
One of the Elves approached. "Rillin! It's been a while since you joined us over here. Come to test your luck?"
"Not today, Ranwë." Auros did not miss that she spoke with a smile and a gleam in her eyes that remembered days where she had joined in this contest. Motioning to Auros, she added, "I have a friend here who might be interested though." She waved her hand through the air at the Elves gathered as she spoke to Auros. "These are some of our more,... ambitious soldiers. Some grew up with my sons, some grew up with me, some with Meneltir, and some are still pretty young. Ranwë here is one of my husband's friends. They fought side by side before my husband fell in the war. Perhaps they can offer a challenge fitting for you?"
Ranwë scoffed. "So he's looking for a challenge. Is he any good?"
"What's the current wager?" Erenriel asked.
Ranwë looked Auros up and down. "Three," he finally declared. Auros was too amused to be insulted that the bar was set low. "We want to keep it friendly."
"Put me down for five," Erenriel responded with a confidence that surprised Auros. Five was reasonable all considered, but stories or not, Auros deemed she couldn't know if he was good enough to go above the current wager.
"Put me down for five as well," Melëar chimed in as he walked up. Auros looked at him questioningly. "Just showing my support. I knew if I followed you and Rillin I'd find the real party."
Ranwë hesitated. "I don't know, Rillin. It's been a while. I don't want to have to take your money right off the bat. This guy doesn't look all that tough to me."
Auros knew Ranwë was goading him, but he answered the challenge anyway. Walking over to the table where lay a set of five knives of different shapes, Auros looked at the knives, then met Ranwë's glare. Ranwë had taken a place across the table from Auros, his face a stone. Auros picked up each knife in turn with his right hand, turning them and feeling their heft in different grips. After testing them all, he picked up the fourth. Ranwë remained unreadable. Auros spun to the swinging target and threw the knife, striking true.
Ranwë snorted. "Fine, let's put him to the real test."
Grinning, Erenriel said, "Raise my bet to seven." After Ranwë walked away, she spoke quietly. "So be honest, was that luck or skill?"
"If you must know," Auros answered, "that was luck. Every knife on the table was properly balanced except one. The uninitiated think hitting the target is the key. It's not. Anyone should be able to hit the target with the other knives, but you have to be able to account for the difference in the weight distribution of the unbalanced knife to hit the target. Still, neither choosing the right knife nor hitting the target is good enough on its own to win and had I missed I'd have looked like a fool. That's all part of the game." Looking Erenriel in the eye, he added, "But then, you knew that already."
Melëar also spoke quietly. "The real gamble was that Auros is not right-handed."
Erenriel grinned as she said, "And Ranwë doesn't know that yet."
The grin Auros returned to Erenriel would've given a troll pause about challenging him. "Of course not. I have to keep something up my sleeve in case this gets interesting. You wanted me to have fun, right? Still feel good about raising your bet when I'm willing to take chances like that?"
Erenriel didn't even pause to think about it. "I should've gone to nine."
Though he did not show it, Auros was surprised by the unwavering confidence she showed, in her own decision if not in Auros himself. Still, he thought to himself, she is a Noldo. She's not going to back down now, even if she thinks she should.
Considering her task complete, she took in the scene as Ranwë and the others prepared more challenges, then decided to depart. "Well, I shall leave you to it."
Melëar turned to her. "You're not going to stay and watch?"
Erenriel gave Melëar a grin and a wink. "I think I know how this is going to end, and Ranwë's good for the money. Have fun!"
Auros spent the morning in a secluded grove practicing his sword forms as was his wont, doing his best to not be too aggravated. Erenriel had been proven right: Auros and Melëar were not leaving while the celebration was ongoing. Whatever Amroth was writing, apparently he was giving it careful consideration... or he determined the reply was not so urgent as the missive and was enjoying the festivities. After finishing with his sword forms, Auros carelessly trudged across the festival grounds lost in his own concerns, remembering his peril only when he caught sight of Erenriel standing near a ring marked off for dancers of all types: solo performers, duos, even group dances. He immediately lowered his eyes and increased his stride. She doesn't see you. Trudge faster.
As Auros put distance between himself and the dancing, Erenriel spotted him hastily crossing the field, and laughing ran to catch up with him and fell into step. "Come now! I like to have my fun, but I'm not so cruel a hostess as to rope you or Melëar into something you've made quite clear you have no interest in."
Auros' mood lightened. He felt like he should have some retort, but nothing came to him except, "So you're our hostess?"
"Indeed!" Erenriel replied. "For Meneltir or any of his otornor who happen to be passing through the Golden Wood, at least. It can be comforting to know you have refuge on both sides of the Mountains." The silence from Auros was deafening. "Don't you agree?"
Auros spoke carefully. "I suppose it can be."
Auros halted and hesitated. He did not want his words to be taken poorly. "I have no desire to be a burden to anyone, least of all the family of my otornor."
"Is that why you've avoided coming here for so long?"
Auros' words came slowly. "I haven't avoided the Golden Wood that I'm aware, nor have I made any particular effort to journey here. My goals are all west of the Hithaeglir, and so I have no reason to come here except if sent by Lord Elrond."
Erenriel shrugged. "Suit yourself." Her seeming indifference gave way to a smirk. "You may find yourself welcome here whether you like it or not." Picking up the pace again, she called back to him. "Come on, we're almost there. Melëar is already saving us seats."
Somehow, this was the second time Auros found himself following Erenriel without knowing where they were going. That was twice more than he could stand. And when did his tone become less formal? "Where are we headed?"
Erenriel made no effort to keep it a secret. "Today is the best day for the bards and troubadors. The early afternoon is spent on the new. Some like to try brand new songs, others try new arrangements of old songs. A break is called in the mid-afternoon for refreshment, when the lore-masters present are challenged to present various pieces of history in their own verse, or even song if they dare. I might be trying my hand at that." The look in her eye and air of confidence she exuded said she expected to do quite a bit better than simply "try". "The late afternoon into the evening is given to the songs and tales of the Elder Days, from Noldor, Sindar, and Nandor."
Thus was the third day spent.
It was approaching noon, and there was no sign yet of Auros' and Melëar's "hostess." Over the last few days Auros had noticed a handful of people call Erenriel "Rillin," including Melëar, and by the introductions he gathered these people were close friends of hers, or of family, if she held any distinction between the two. "Rillin" was used too freely and openly to be her chosen name, or so Auros deemed, but it certainly seemed to be some favored name or nickname.
As the noonday meal was served, Erenriel found them and brought them to join her and some others of her circle. She spoke to them in that same tone: always an underlying current of joviality mixed with something else familiar but not quite identifiable. "I've brought you to the meal this time! I hope you haven't missed me overmuch, but I thought you two might want the morning to yourselves, that perhaps you had heard enough of my voice yesterday."
"On the contrary," Melëar reassured her, "I found your musical recital of the entire lineage of the Noldorin kings quite entertaining. That you managed to find something about each to rhyme with their name was equally impressive."
Auros had heard the conversation, but he was too far in his own thought to respond. After a moment of silence, Melëar nudged Auros. "I also was impressed," Auros said.
Erenriel laughed. "High praise indeed!" After a moment she continued. "Moreover, I needed some time to choose the best events for today, since we are now in the extra days, and there will be events that occur only within this time." The grin that formed now reflected her unique penchant for mischief. "I wanted to be sure to take into account your personal dislikes." There was no doubt she was teasing Auros about his decided disinterest in dancing.
Melëar motioned towards Erenriel as he finished a bite from his plate. "I've been meaning to ask how you made out on the wager the other day."
"Well enough, it seems." Erenriel again flashed that mischievous smile. "Once Auros switched hands. Don't expect that to work again." By the tone and the grin, it was evident she had heard about the reaction when Auros got serious.
"I'm just glad the knife challenge was the first one," Auros said before taking a sip from his cup.
Melëar laughed softly. "Yeah, it wasn't Auros' idea to raise the bet again. Ranwë tried to warn those younger guys too. I guess Auros just brings the hubris out in some people."
With a glimmer of humor reflecting in his eyes, Auros simply said, "It's a talent."
After finishing their meal, the trio were off to partake in what events Erenriel suggested for the day. As the day progressed, Auros realized that tone he couldn't place was reminiscent of the tone of banter between him and Farothel, or of Curulin and Melëar with their sister Fingalrien, or Aldawë and his sister Dinmir when she visited from Lindon. Auros kept this curious observation to himself.
It was the height of the day, and Auros and Melëar were in fairly high spirits. They were discussing the finer points of the offerings of two of the chefs when they came to a low hedge with a single opening. As they were about to cross through, an Elf barred the way with a wooden sword and proclaimed, "None may pass without first besting me!" Auros' expression became stone. He looked to both ends of the hedge, and determining he could get around sooner at the left turned that way and started walking.
"You're not going to test your mettle?" Erenriel had come up from the other side, and was waiting for them now. "It's the tiëtulcar. It's an old contest, usually for the younger Elves these days. The nissi can choose to leave a token for one of the brave neri to recover in combat then return to them before the end of the festival. Of course, in this version, we use wooden swords." She had the face of one who looked back on pleasant times as she described the game for them.
Auros remained unreadable. "I'm familiar with it." Melëar stood nearby, sensing Auros' hesitation. He signalled to Auros that they could just go around. Erenriel stood on the other side waiting. Auros' mood grew cold. He strode to the rack where a wooden sword rested for the challenger to combat the champion. Taking it into his hand, he waited for the Guardian of the Gate to begin, and in only a handful of moves aggressively disarmed the Guardian, put the wooden sword back on the rack, and walked through the hedge silently, then past Erenriel without stopping.
Leaving the stunned Guardian with a sympathy shrug, Melëar followed Auros through. "Well, that was a decisive victory," he declared as he caught up to the other two. "I'll find us a drink to celebrate. Try not to go too far." With that, he went in search of refreshments.
Auros stood staring into the forest in quiet contemplation, his hand on his swordhilt. Erenriel was a few paces away. Finally, after some hesitation, he spoke. "It seems you have fond memories of this contest. What are they?"
Erenriel had a warm smile as she reminisced. "It's how I met Farothaur, my husband. It was a bridge. Meneltir was the Guardian and made Farothaur win three rounds before he would surrender the favor I left."
Auros nodded and chuckled. "I can believe that." Auros took a deep breath as he began a story of his own. "It was Lindon, not too much before the War ending the Second Age. My cousin Farothel and another person also came to a bridge blocked by a knight. The other person, still fairly young and eager to test his skills, took the challenge, and was victorious. He recognized one of the favors as a glove left by a maiden with whom he was once acquainted. Claiming the priviledge of returning said glove, I --- he soon learned that the maiden had actually left it there in hopes Farothel would claim it and return it to her."
"I'm sorry," Erenriel replied softly. He'd heard that tone before, when Dinmir consoled Aldawë over some perceived loss or failure.
Auros shrugged. "I'm not. I'm more bothered that I didn't realize it sooner, that I was blind to something that should've been obvious. My cousin was a good man and a good match for her. Once that was worked out, Farothel was much more successful. I even suggested she should see him off in Imladris, where we were ourselves heading soon to muster for battle."
"But that's not how the story ends, is it?"
"No. Farothel fell in the battle,..." There was a pause as Auros sifted through his thoughts. "The rest of us survived the war. Then I had to deliver the message that I could not bring Farothel back to her."
"I'm sorry. Had I known ---"
"It's not your fault, and it's not the contest's fault. I just couldn't help but be reminded of my cousin because of it."
Erenriel tried to reassure him. "It's not your fault either, you know."
"Gee, thanks sis," Auros replied, smiling weakly to himself. After the words escaped his lips, he realized what he had said, and turned towards Erenriel. His face bore a brief look of shock before he was closed again. "You certainly are the disarming type, aren't you?"
Erenriel's smile somehow walked a line between teasing and comforting. "It's a talent."
"Well, that story is known to very few. I suppose you're now one of them."
"Have no fear. I won't tell anyone..." She bore an earnest look, but now it blended with a sense of levity as she tried to reassure him. "... that you called me 'sis'."
Auros remained stoic for several seconds, until he relented and chuckled. Melëar returned with three mugs, and they decided to see about joining in the contests of arms.
Erenriel met them early in the day, not long after first watch began. Auros had just returned from practicing his sword forms when he found her waiting for him and Melëar outside their quarters. "Come on!" she exclaimed. "This is the last day, and I won't have you missing the best part!"
Melëar grinned as he feigned a warning. "Better hurry, Auros. She won't let you rest until she's staked out her spot."
"I've already staked out our spot." Erenriel's scowl was far from serious. "But there's other things to be seen before we settle in for the final show."
Auros splashed water in his face and drew about himself some fresh attire, hoping to be ready for whatever she was about to get them into. After Erenriel ushered them by a small kitchen for a quick meal, they crossed the field in front of a group of performers who were stretching and readying their instruments before a stage. From the stage itself, a song emanated that caused Auros to stop in his tracks. He couldn't see who was playing it, but the song took him back to Lindon in the days of his youth. He settled into a rest stance. Erenriel came up to urge him on until she realized he was listening. Melëar stood by, waiting patiently as well.
"That song still feels new to me." Auros bore a solemn look. "My apologies for stopping."
"There's no need for that," Erenriel told him, grinning because she could tell he was enjoying himself.
Onward the trio marched, until they reached an arena marked off for horses. Apparently there was a joust this day, and Erenriel found a good view from above. Ranwë and some of the others Auros had met earlier were participating, and so the three of them cheered those participants on. Ranwë won.
Evening drew on, and it was time to take up the spot Erenriel had reserved for the final event. A bonfire was made with a wide ring around it, and within that ring there was room for musicians, singers, minstrels and troubadors. Erenriel's spot for them was close enough to get a good view. They settled in as the performers entered the center ring and began their final tuning.
Erenriel whispered to Auros and Melëar, "Finnareth hopes to be part of this performance one of these years. She's a singer."
"Is she that good?" Auros asked.
Erenriel answered with a smile, "You'll have to come back sometime and find out."
The crowd hushed as the performance began. The first sounds were as the droplets of rain. The tempo picked up, and soon it was like the sound of water boiling away. Vision was granted, and the earth was open before the crowd, young and full of flame. Magma oozed from cracks in the ground, glowing red, the only light to be seen. Rain fell from the sky, and the magma cooled as it sizzled, sending the steam back into the clouds to repeat the process. The ground was broken again and magma once again reached the surface. Mountains were thrown up and thrown down, some exploded into volcanos. Clouds formed, rain fell, snow fell, fog covered the ground. The battles of the Valar against Morgoth to form Arda. Valleys were cut, lands were broken, waters rushed into the gaps, seas were formed, seas dried up, rain fell again.
Finally a land appeared in the center, an island, a home, vegetation, life, light. Two Pillars, two Lamps, placed north and south, lit the island. Iluin and Ormal. In the midst where both Lights mingled, the Valar rested, celebrated. The Pillars were broken, the Lamps cast down by Morgoth. Fire and flame scorched the land. The Valar hunted, but did not find him. They settled Aman, and light grew again behind tall mountains, alternating between gold and silver, but all else was bathed in darkness.
The vision moved from Aman in the west, shifting eastward over the Sea, over mountains, into the forests. Now the sound of water came to the ears, of waves. Another sea came into view. The vision drew closer to the waters, and it became clearer, until reflections could be seen. Blurs of light, pins of light. Stars and constellations. Valacirca hanging in the air reflected in the waters. The sound of water lapping the shore. The vision panned upward from the water. On land, the first Elves awoke and beheld the stars. The vision faded as the sound of water softened, reducing once more to droplets of rain. The sound was gone, and the performance was over.
Auros and Melëar stood by their horses, securing their packs. Not long after the enderi had passed, Amroth completed his response to Lord Elrond, and so it was time to depart. Melëar checked his pocket for the letters he was now charged to carry. Before they mounted up, Erenriel came to meet them with a parcel.
Melëar grinned at seeing her. "Come to see us off? Didn't want us to go away without a present?"
It seemed Erenriel never went anywhere without a grin that declared to the world she found her amusement wheresoever she pleased. "I had to make sure Meneltir knew what he missed." She handed the bundle to Auros. "A couple of the best bottles of Dorwinion. Make sure he shares them with you all." Auros nodded, then placed them securely in one of his saddlebags. Then she drew a pair of envelopes from a pocket and handed them to Auros. With a wink she said, "I hope you don't mind if I ask you to act as a courier, though we've only just met."
With only the hints of a smile but a gleam in his eye that betrayed his sense of humor, Auros replied, "I suppose I can make an exception just this once."
"Such magnanimity!" She laughed. "One is for my dear brother, and one for his dear wife. Hirilaur and I have been good friends for a long time." Auros took the letters and tucked them away safely. "And what about you? Was your visit worth trekking over the mountains, or do you wish you had stayed in Imladris?"
Auros' showed no hesitation in answering. "I have no regrets." Erenriel smiled and nodded.
Erenriel took a step back as Auros mounted his horse. Melëar was already mounted and his horse was champing at the bit. Erenriel waved to him as he waved back, and off he went. Auros nodded to her. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Erenriel."
Erenriel gave him a warm smile. "I'd say you can call me Rillin, but you're the type who wouldn't do it, aren't you? Not yet, at least."
Grinning back, Auros gave a bow and a wave, then turned his horse and rode for home.