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The young Elf awoke with a start, sat up in bed and for a moment he remained still as a stone as he blinked his light green eyes and tried to listen very carefully for any voices or sounds of any movement from the trees surrounding his talan. Then he launched himself out of bed with a burst of speed and started fumbling about in a pile of clothing lying on the floor of the flet. His pale gold hair tumbled down over his face as he searched, obscuring his view. He pushed it back impatiently and pulled at a likely looking sleeve, but the hair cascaded forward again, covering his face. Exasperated, he threw down the shirt and stomped over to a shelf nailed to the tree where he snatched up a scraggly length of tan leather with which to tie back his errant locks. As he stretched his arms upwards to bunch and fasten his hair, Rmil caught sight of himself in a mirror comprised of a shallow dish of water similar to Lady Galadriel’s. “Hmmm – “he thought as he turned one way and then the other in order to survey his naked body. He was filling out fairly well, he thought, from the gangly, skinny little stick figure that his older brothers had loved to taunt and tease all of his life, to a slender but strong young Elf.

After his hair was tied back, Rmil returned to his pile of clothes. Drawing out the shirt that he had selected by the colour of its sleeve, he held it up for inspection. “Awfully wrinkled”, he thought as he scrutinized the green silk garment. “So Haldir will kill me unless I wear a vest over top to hide these creases”. He held the shirt to his nose and sniffed deeply. It smelled vaguely of the food he had eaten four days ago: fishy lobster, rancid butter and sour milk. As he tried to determine whether or not anyone else would notice the smell if he covered the shirt with a vest, a voice interrupted his reverie.

“RMIL!” it yelled loudly, and then again: “RMIL!”

Quickly, Rmil crossed to the edge of the talan and flung aside the privacy curtain suspended from an upper branch. “WHAT IS IT?” Then he saw Haldir and Orophin on horseback. “DON’T WORRY! I’M COMING!” he shouted down to his brothers who were waiting impatiently on the lawns below.

“You’ve slept in and now you’ve made us all late!” Haldir cried, his tone angry.

Rmil grumbled to himself as he yanked on a pair of pale tan leggings and the green shirt, then searched the clothes pile again until he found a dark brown vest and pulled it on hastily without doing up the shirt’s buttons. Under his bed he located his dark brown boots and pulled them on over his bare feet. He hadn’t noticed any of his stockings lying about on the floor and he wasn’t about to search for them now.

Then, grasping his bow and the quiver of arrows lying propped up against the tree trunk, he swiftly clambered down the tree and plopped lightly to the ground with an exuberant flourish, smiling radiantly up at his two brothers, Orophin holding Rmil’s horse’s reins in one elegantly gloved hand.

“Rmil”, Orophin said quietly but in a very serious tone, “what do you think you are wearing?”

“Never mind that now”, said Haldir, looking at Rmil who stood shifting his light weight from one foot to the other nervously, his hair only half held back by the hastily knotted tie, the other half spilling over one slim shoulder. His shirt was open in front, exposing his pale, slender chest, and his leggings, undone at the front, managed to stay up only by virtue of the fact that he had grown out of them and they were much too tight for him now, verging upon indecency.

“Rmil, you can’t go about in those pants”, Haldir admonished him.

“Why not?” was the pert question as the youngest of the brothers quickly began to button up his shirt.

“Eru on high, I cannot believe how much you have grown lately, and you now look too big for those leggings”, Haldir said.

“Huh!” snorted Orophin. “In more ways than one, by the looks of it! Can you even get them fastened?” he pointed at the undone laces which revealed about two inches of Rmil’s golden pubic hair.

“Yes, I can!” Rmil shouted as he pulled up the leggings, jumping as he did so to ensure a better fit. Then he tied the laces as tightly as he could, wincing as the top edge of the pants dug into his hipbone. “There!”

Haldir and Orophin regarded him quizzically. “I will repeat: you cannot prance about like that!” Haldir said again, shaking his head. “You may as well be naked, for I can clearly see the outline of everything you’ve got packed into those pants!”

“You cannot!” said Rmil, adjusting himself to lie flatter. “Anyway, once my vest is buttoned it will cover all of that!”

“All of that?” Orophin snorted. “All of what? You’ve got a long way to go until you grow to be our size, little brother!”

Rmil snorted back as he leapt sprightly onto his horse’s back. “Come on!” he shouted. “Now you and your quibbling are going to make us even later!” and he nudged his horse into a slow trot.

“Lord Elrond is expecting us to meet his party in twelve hours”, said Haldir, making clicking noises to his horse to get it to stay focused on the road ahead. “We really have to move along now, and will have to forego our first rest stop”.

“What is so important about this meeting?” asked Rmil.

“Lord Elrond is returning from Dol Amroth with an important message for Lord Celeborn and the Lord and Lady have asked us to go and meet him to receive it”, said Orophin. “Apparently Lord Elrond is not able to stop here on his way back to Imladris to deliver it himself. We are to meet him where the Nimrodel flows into the Celebrant, pick up the message and return it as quickly as possible to Lord Celeborn. With luck, if we have safe passage and Elrond does also, we should be able to meet up with him in twelve hours’ time. If we are not there when he reaches the place where the rivers meet then he will follow along the south bank of the Nimrodel until he sees us. If we are late, we will pass him on the banks, but it will be somewhat embarrassing if that happens, as it will mean that we have caused him to be delayed in returning home. Then Lord Celeborn will lose face with him”.

A look of guilt passed over Rmil’s fair young features. “I am sorry I slept in”, he said apologetically, a pink flush spreading across his cheeks. “I had a restless night”.

“You?” asked Orophin derisively. “What have you got to be restless about?”

Rmil blushed hotly, expecting merciless teasing from his brothers about his nocturnal habits of late. “Were you two ever young?” he shot back at Orophin.

The three Elves galloped onwards, pausing only once because Haldir thought he heard rustling noises to the north of their path, coming from across the river. “Yrch?” Orophin asked, all his senses alert as he brought his horse to a smooth halt.

“Could be”, Haldir replied. “Split up – now!” The three brothers then parted, urging their horses to go quietly in three separate directions, but staying close enough together within shooting distance to protect each other.

Haldir went to the west, Orophin to the east and Rmil south, melting into the darkness of the closely-knit trees as if they were shadows, all three whispering soothing words into their horses’ ears to make them stay quiet. Presently the rustling grew louder and gruff voices could be heard, then the splash of several bodies entering the river water. Orophin suddenly, on foot, came bounding toward Rmil through the trees. “It’s a party of ten of the foul creatures – Yrch!” he added. “Get your bow and arrows ready, quickly. I’ll whistle to warn Haldir”, and he let out a low birdsong that to anyone’s ears but the Elves’ would sound just like a wood thrush, but Haldir would know exactly what it meant. All three brothers emerged from their cover at the same time, Haldir joining the other two from their left side, and with quiet precision, the brothers took out their arrows and took up their stances on the South side of the river as the Orcs approached them from the North, yelling and brandishing their crude swords. None of these Orcs were archers. The water was shallow here, but the Orcs hesitated to enter it, fearing it. Instead, they had thrown several large rocks into it, which had caused the sounds the brothers had heard. Their hesitation cost them dearly, for the three Elven bowmen on the other bank each nocked three arrows one after the other, and let them fly with deadly precision.

Haldir liked to aim for their necks where the arrows would impale the black flesh that was softer in that area. His Orcs all fell with his arrows piercing their throats. Orophin preferred to aim for the heart, and after felling the first two with his distinctive arrows rising from their chests where they lay on their backs, the yellow feathers of the arrows’ flights ruffling in the breeze, his aim was slightly off on the last one, and the arrow only pierced the creature’s shoulder. Roaring like an injured animal, this Orc crashed into the water, disregarding any previous fear of its abhorred wetness and came straight for Orophin. Without any show of nerves, the Elf stood his ground, nocked another yellow-feathered arrow and let it fly towards his prey. This time the arrow found its mark and the Orc whirled once emitting a ghastly shriek and then fell face-first into the water.

Rmil’s preferred target was whatever body part most efficiently presented itself to him first. Blessed with the gift of quickness of not only action but perception, he was able to quickly dispense with the remaining four Orcs, two with arrows shot through their skulls and the others shot through their hearts.

“Well”, said Haldir, hooking his bow back over his quiver, “I hope there aren’t too many more parties of the creatures about. Hurry and find your horses. We shall have to leave the arrows. We haven’t time to wade into the water to retrieve them. We must be on our way immediately”.

The three Elves did not delay then and soon were galloping westward again as the noon sun beat down warmly upon their backs. As they reached the outskirts of the deep woods, they relaxed a bit as they could see somewhat farther round about them, yet they were aware they could be seen as well. The thing they were most worried about was the sudden appearance of a scouting party of Orcs riding Wargs. In the open their horses would be no match for these huge wolf-like animals and their sharp fangs and claws. The brothers pressed onward through the lighter woods until they reached the joining of the Nimrodel and the Celebrant in the pools among the tree roots at the base of the waterfall. They knew they had not passed Lord Elrond’s party. They had not stopped at all for a rest since coming across the Orcs in the river, and thus were aware that they had reached the Celebrant before Elrond did.

“Here we shall rest”, announced Haldir, “while we await the Lord of Imladris and his party”.

They sat down beneath the overhanging boughs of the Mellyrn that grew along the Nimrodel’s banks, near the waterfall whose voice mingled with that of the Elven-maid for whom the river was named, and they leaned their backs against the smooth roots that grew down into the water, creating the dark pools below the falls and floating full of yellow blossoms that came to rest there, twirling about in the pools after tumbling down there from the river.

“What are you dreaming about, Rmil?” Haldir asked, breaking a twig in two and throwing half of it at his young brother who was lying prone on the bank, his head tilted back against the grass, his eyes closed and his hands folded across his belly. He had kicked off his boots and his bare feet shone like two pale toadstools sticking up from the ground at acute angles. The twig glanced off of Rmil’s chest and he caught it on its upward trajectory without opening his eyes.

“Oh, would you look at that, Orophin!” cried Haldir. “Rmil is showing off his hand-to-eye coordination skills!”

“Except that my eyes were closed when I caught the branch”, Rmil said smugly, keeping them closed, his position unchanged.

“Oh, that deserves a good dunking”, said Orophin, rising to his feet and moving down the slope towards Rmil.

Rmil, anticipating a wrestling match, waited until he felt Orophin’s hands upon his arms, when he intended to flip his older brother over top of him onto his back. But Orophin surprised him by grasping his younger brother under the armpits and hoisting him to his feet. Then Orophin ran him down to the river and easily threw him in, clothes and all.

“Hai-up! Here comes Lord Elrond’s party”, Haldir called out as Rmil stood up gasping from the coldness of the river water.

“I shall not forget this, Orophin!” he cried as he peeled his wet hair away from his eyes so he could see the Elves from Imladris approaching. He got out of the water as quickly as possible, shook himself and then put his boots back on, his shirt and trousers dripping water.

“Well met, Galadhrim”, said Elrond as he drew close to the three brothers. They all bowed their heads in unison and placed their right hands over their hearts. “Mae Govannen”, they chimed in return.

When Rmil raised his head and saw the Lord of Imladris for the first time, he was struck dumb by the vision that the Elf-lord presented. Striking of face and regal in bearing, he sat astride a magnificent white stallion with reins of black and silver. Elrond’s blue-black hair was heavily braided for traveling and swept back from his face, revealing a darkly exotic, handsomely sculpted visage, looking not exactly like that of an Elf yet possessing all the beauty of one. In his countenance was also a look of great wisdom and ancient character yet without appearing elderly. His piercing silvery-grey eyes glanced from one blond brother to the other, and when his gaze landed upon Rmil, the young Elf could not withhold a gasp, as the loremaster’s magnetism struck him almost as if it were a blow. He tried to catch his breath as Haldir spoke to the Elf-lord.

“Greetings, Master Elrond. Have you eaten recently? We would be pleased to share our provisions with you if you desire to rest here for a while”.

“Thank you, archer of Lorien, for your kind offer”, said Elrond as he dismounted from his horse. Rmil noticed his splendid figure when his cloak fell open as he stepped gracefully from the stirrups. The Elf-lord stood tall and stately in his riding gear of black leggings, short silver tunic and long grey cloak trimmed with black and silver embroidery. His grey eyes flashed with the light of the stars as he smiled at Haldir, and Rmil thought that in Elrond’s smile was a deep love of all Elven and Human-kind, so warm and inviting it was.

There were three other Elves in Elrond’s party, but none of the three were his twin sons, nor the warrior named Glorfindel of whom the three brothers had heard many tales. Elrond and his companions sat down with the three Galadhrim and shared food, drink and conversation for about an hour. Rmil was glad to be the youngest and most ignored Elf in the group, for he was so in awe of Elrond that he feared he would have trouble speaking and feel a fool. He felt foolish enough being wet from the river, and was glad that no one had appeared to have noticed him.

Presently it was time for the Elves of Imladris to depart, and Elrond took a rolled-up piece of parchment tied with a silver ribbon from his saddlebag and presented it to Haldir.
“Guard this well, Haldir”, he said, “for it must reach Lord Celeborn safely. These lands may be running with Orcs as we speak”.

“Do not worry, Lord Elrond, we are aware of the dangers”, Haldir replied. “We disposed of a party of the creatures on our way here. My Lord Celeborn chose us for this mission because of our prowess with bow and arrow”.

“That is as may be”, said Elrond, “but one must go about carefully in these lands these days regardless of one’s skill”.

Haldir nodded solemnly and turned to place the parchment in his own horse’s saddlebag as Orophin had walked their steeds to where the three stood. The brothers then mounted and made their farewells to Elrond and his escort. Then the Galadhrim turned and trotted off single file back eastward through the woods.

Elrond’s party prepared to leave, his three companions mounting their horses and moving off in a westerly direction past the waterfall toward the Dimrill Stair and the mountain pass. Elrond had just crossed the Nimrodel when he thought his horse felt a bit lame as it was stumbling slightly. He dismounted to inspect its feet and sure enough, one of its shoes was loose.

“Hai!” he called out to his companions; however, they had gone too far ahead thinking that he was close behind them, and did not hear his voice as it was drowned out also by the gurgling of the falls. Suddenly he heard a noise coming from the north and turned to see a party of Orcs bearing down upon him. Like his friends, he did not hear them until they were very close, the sound of the water muting their shouts and grunts.

He was in a predicament. His horse was lame and the waterfall blocked his escape route back across the river. If he turned to run either to the west or the east, the Orcs would catch him. He drew his sword and gathered his wits and his strength, wondering how many of them he could kill before he himself would be slain. The Orcs, targeting him now, bore down upon him. They were many in number, although smallish and clumsy. They had seen him and issued their battle cry, then lunged towards him, their crude swords held high, but they were slow. He quickly determined that there were fourteen of them and planned his battle strategy as he stood his ground.

From his right he heard a cry. “My Lord!” the clear, musical voice rang out. He turned to see the youngest of the Galadhrim brothers – Rmil, was it? – charging towards him flat out upon his swift horse. He was at least one hundred yards away. How did the young archer mean to help him? Elrond’s mind swiftly worked out what Rmil wanted him to do. The young Elf was heading for a huge Mallorn tree with overhanging branches that stood upon the edge of the Nimrodel about halfway between himself and Elrond. Suddenly Elrond understood the young Elf’s intention. Quickly he turned and began running east towards Rmil’s charging horse. This action flummoxed the Orcs, as they did not expect Elrond to suddenly change direction from his battle stance and run away. The Elf-lord’s horse turned and stumbled back southward, splashing into the river water and making a great noise of neighing and stamping to try to further distract the Orcs.

Elrond tried to determine how long it would take him to run fifty yards – less now, because Rmil was bearing down upon him at tremendous speed. He realized that he had to reach the Mallorn tree. Rmil reached it first and guided his horse to pass beneath the overhanging limb. As it did so, Rmil reached up and grasped the large branch with both hands, lifting himself up from the horse’s back and hoisting himself up into the tree, sending his horse onward to meet Elrond.

Rmil then climbed to a standing position on top of the branch, pulled his bow from his back and nocked an arrow. He noticed Elrond’s impressive speed and grace as the Elf-lord raced toward Rmil’s horse, the Orcs in pursuit although the closest one to him was twenty yards or more behind him. With a tremendous leap, perfectly timed and placed, Elrond launched himself onto Rmil’s horse’s back and expertly turned the horse around to gallop east again.

From his vantage point atop the tree limb, Rmil nocked an arrow and let it fly at the Orc closest to Elrond. The beast fell to the ground and managed to trip up its fellow creature directly behind, who fell on top of it. Rmil then shot the next two Orcs through their foreheads. Elrond turned to take a quick glance behind him and noticed that three Orcs in the back of the pack were readying their own bows and arrows. He bent down low over the horse’s neck and dug his heels into its sides to speed up the animal, even though it was swift. “They have arrows!” he cried out to Rmil as a crude black shaft whizzed past his head.

Rmil then adjusted his sight and aimed for the three archers. He had nocked three arrows together into his bow, and he pulled them back as tightly and as quickly as they would go and then let them shoot forward, hoping that all three would reach their targets. Another black Orc arrow nearly missed Elrond in the meantime, but he was almost out of range of it and it fell to the ground beside him. Rmil paused for a moment and watched as all three of the arrows that he had shot simultaneously found their marks. All three Orc archers fell to the ground, each with one of Rmil’s arrows through its forehead. He resisted giving a triumphant leap into the air as he still had seven Orcs to kill, by his accounting, yet he could see only six. Elrond, now out of arrow range, turned the horse around to watch the Orcs’ progress. The six visible were thirty or forty yards behind him now, and he watched as Rmil felled one after the other with quick precision. “Where is the last one?” the young Elf called down to Elrond.

“There are no more. You have killed them all”, cried the Elf-lord with much admiration in his voice.

“No! I counted one more!” Rmil shouted. “It was hiding behind the first Orc’s dead body!” Just then the last Orc attacked Elrond from his right side, coming out of the trees, and whacking him across the back with its filthy, rusty weapon. It shrieked at him, baring its sharp brown teeth, and he looked into its yellow, hate-filled eyes. It let out a terrible shriek of triumph. He cried out and reached for his own sword. But Rmil quickly shot the Orc through the top of its head, and it fell, the tip of his light-coloured arrow emerging from under its chin, black blood dripping down its chest. With a blood-curdling howl of pain, it died.

Then Rmil jumped lightly down from the tree and sauntered towards Elrond with a shy smile on his fair face, as if the feat he had just accomplished were nothing but a small chore. As Elrond stared back at him in astonishment, he noticed the young Elf in a different light. He saw a radiant youngster, not quite in his prime but with the confidence of youth in his demeanor. He was slender, long and lithe of limb, with glorious pale blond hair and a beautiful face that looked like it was cast from porcelain. His rumpled dark green shirt and skin-tight leggings gave him the appearance of a woodland creature, wild and untamed.

Elrond climbed onto the horse and then reached down to the young Elf. Rmil reached up to him and reveled in the touch of the older Elf’s warm, strong hand as he made ready to leap up onto the horse behind the Elf-lord. But Elrond did a surprising thing. He bent down low first and kissed the back of Rmil’s hand. Rmil had never before felt lips upon his skin as soft as these, and he looked up shyly into the deep, dark eyes of the loremaster from Imladris that shone now at him with keen interest.

“You saved my life”, Elrond said simply in hushed tones as he considered Rmil carefully, looking intently into his innocent blue eyes. The young Elf could only stammer something unintelligible in return. Then with great strength, Elrond lifted Rmil up onto the horse’s back to sit behind him. As they cantered back toward where Elrond’s horse waited by the waterfall, Rmil held the back of his hand against his cheek, the sensation of Elrond’s kiss still tingling the skin there.

*This chapter title is a line from the untitled poem that Tolkien wrote about Nimrodel that appears in “The Fellowship of the Ring”, when Legolas sings it to the fellowship when they stop for a rest before entering the golden woods of Lothlorien.
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