All was quiet for a time. The shadows still made everyone uneasy, but nothing more of interest was learned about the dwarves.
I had spent the afternoon working in my garden, wondering where Nefrūniel was. Never before had she failed to keep a meeting with me.
I was on my way back to the Halls, walking over the cobbled paths that ran through high hedges, when I heard hushed voices arguing. I stood silent, and through the hedge could tell it was my two dearest friends who were disagreeing.
"What good was there in telling her the shortness of her life?"
"With respect, Highness," came Nefrūniel's whisper, "Avarfanawen is not your pet. She is a person, and she has a right to know what time will do to her. Humans may not be like us, my prince, but neither are they dumb animals."
"No, of course she is not my pet." I had never heard his soft voice turn so sharp.
"She is disturbed, for she does not know how to relate to you."
Through the leaves, I saw him shake his head and sigh.
"There are reasons why we have always lived apart from them, my lord, and this shows why. It is not only for her I worry. You are still quite young. I do not think you understand how it will be in three thousand years when she has long since died and you still cannot forget her."
"You're beginning to sound like my father. Do you also think I should not have kept her? What else could I have done? Should I have given her to the folk of Lake-town, as my father wished, though they never could have understood her?"
"Assuming we are right in our suspicions minding that we are very likely wrong Elrond perhaps could have better prepared her for what she is," Nefrūniel said slowly. "Your pardon, my lord, I do not mean to imply that you have not raised her well. I know you love her; I love her, too, and would not now happily give up her bold company. But we cannot pretend to understand her."
My "bold" company. That was Nefrūniel's kind way of noting that I was both brash and loud.
Though I was upset at hearing my friends quarrel, I was more troubled by their cryptic words. What was I, then, that neither human nor elf should understand me?
Elrond, I knew, was the lord of the Rivendell elves. I had met him once. He was very old, even among elves, and though the weight of years showed in his dark eyes, he was nearly as well-favored as Legolas. His long hair was like night, though no elf maids would dare ever laugh at him as they did at me. I remembered mostly, however, that he was the only visitor to Mirkwood I had ever met who did not seem unsettled at the presence of a human. His stern countenance disguised a kind demeanor. Furthermore, I had heard that Elrond was not fully elven.
"Do you remember exactly what Mithrandir said?" Nefrūniel asked.
Legolas looked off into the sky and nodded. "`When darkness next falls over Mirkwood, you will find a small light that the darkness has dropped,'" he recited. "`It will be up to you, Legolas, to keep that light safe.' He said that to me in the morning. By afternoon, he had left. The shadow returned within a week, and the next day was when we found Avarfanawen."
Nefrūniel sighed. "Why must the Grey Wanderer speak in such riddles that even we cannot decipher? We assume Avarfanawen is the small light of which he spoke. But how is she a light? What is her purpose for being here? And why did he charge you with her safety?"
He shook his head. "It grows late. They will be wanting us at dinner."
I crouched, still as I could, and waited until they were far down the
path until I dared breathe. Then I followed, or I, too, would be
missed at dinner. But their words troubled me much.
| Part V |
| Index |