Heart of Rivendell by Lydwina Marie
It was early dawn, the clouds transcendent against the glow of the fading stars, but the sun had not risen yet. A faint dew lay upon the emerald sward, caressing the yet-closed flowers and shining on the green leaves as they swayed in the gentle wind. The faintest echo of a song strove to pierce the silence, lilting, carried on the wind and melding with the cheerful tweeting of the birds.
A giggle, soft in the morning silence but challenging nonetheless, pealed through the air. Another answered it, and footsteps crunched lightly over the new fallen leaves. Two figures slipped through the underbrush, one dark-haired and tall, the other crowned with flowing chestnut tresses. Again they laughed together, heedless of all else about them, while high in the branches of a mighty oak, a squirrel watched them pass with beady eyes.
The ellon stopped quite suddenly, drawing his companion to a halt as well. “Here, Calassë!” he said laughingly. “I dare you, do it here!”
The maiden turned a devilish face upwards, her eyes sparkling with the competition. “You are trying to make it easier for yourself, are you not, Elrohir?”
Elrohir grinned. “Not at all. I am going easy on you, for I know you cannot do it.”
She cocked her head. “Oh, indeed? What do you wager?”
Elrohir thought a moment. “Elladan’s honey cakes at dessert tonight.”
She reached out a hand. “I will hold you to this, my lord.”
The two Elves stood now upon a ledge of overhanging stone, looking out over the valley of Imladris spread at their feet. Sparkling waterfalls fell with a crash and a roar upon the mossy stones below, sending up a misty spray to coat the low-hanging branches of the budding trees. In the midst of the valley, set against the high cliff itself, lay the Last Homely House, breathtaking in its exquisite architecture and many elaborately carved balconies. Even now, despite having dwelt in Imladris for over two millenia, the Elves could not quite believe the ethereal beauty of the home they had always known.
Noticing the drawn-out pause, Elrohir smirked. “There is still time to back out, you know.”
She glared balefully. “And cede the game to you? Never!”
As if to assert her intentions of carrying out the dare, she crouched down and set her boot-clad foot on the first foothold she could find. The sun’s rays glinted on her deep brown hair, and captured the glint in her eyes as she returned her best friend’s smile. “See?”
“I do,” Elrohir replied, not fazed in the least. “And I will be waiting for you at the House.”
With a merry wave of his hand, he turned and sauntered back down the cliff path. Calassë grinned after his retreating figure. He thought she could not do it – she knew it!
She spared a glance downwards, and discovered that not to be a good idea. The valley floor seemed so far away… such a long fall, she cogitated, but pushed the thought out of her head before it could take root.
She lowered herself to another rock, gripping the firm stone firmly between strong fingers. Daughter of High Elves as she was, what terrors could a mere cliff hold for her? She snorted. Her parents would not agree, of this she was certain. They treated her like a porcelain vase, for Valar’s sake!
Calassë had dwelt in Imladris for all the years of her life, and had shown a tendency towards mischief and pranks from the start. Her childhood companions had been the twins, and with them she had sat for hours, concealed in the masking shadow of some secluded bushes, plotting sadistic plots that would make Maeglin himself blush for shame. Even as she grew up, Elladan and Elrohir had been her constant companions, for she enjoyed their presence over that of a dozen prattling ellyth. Her head rang at the mere thought.
She continued to make her way precariously downwards, clinging to the rock projections as though they were her one hope of survival – which was not really so far from the truth. The spray of the cascading waterfalls blew around her, like the crescents of dancing waves upon the sea. The sun shone brightly, reflected through the transcendent face of the tumbling waters, catching her in its embrace and warming her as she continued to descend towards the valley far below.
An hour later Calassë set foot upon the ground, her lips curving upwards in a pleased grin. Despite being sweaty, hot, and tired, she could not beat down the feeling of utter glee that pervaded her entire being. This had been Elrohir’s biggest challenge so far, and the thought that it had taken so little of her normal buoyancy was strangely exhilarating. Already her mind was turning over ideas for her dare, each one more evil than the last.
“Calassë!” A familiar voice floated about the edge of the cliff and Calassë whirled just as Elrohir strode up to her.
“Oh!” he stammered uncertainly. “I did not… well, that is…”
“Yes?” she replied, a little too sweetly. “What did you expect, Elrohir? To find me dashed to bloody pieces upon the rocks? Clinging to my handhold in a quivering ball of terror? Hmm?”
“Not at all!” the Peredhel defended himself. “I have the utmost faith in your climbing abilities. If I did not, I would not have challenged you thus.”
Calassë raised a single, expressive eyebrow. “Really, Elrohir? Sometimes I think you live to see me hurt.”
“You are a feather-brained elleth then,” Elrohir teased, taking a suggestive step towards the House. “Shall we go in?”
“Why, certainly.” Calassë followed him triumphantly. “Oh, and Elrohir, remember the honey cakes.”
Elrohir stifled a sigh. “Of course.”
“You did what?” Calassë’s mother gazed incredulously at her daughter. “And with whom?”
“I went climbing – rock climbing, Naneth,” Calassë explained, for the fifth time, in a placating tone. Then her eyes narrowed. “Actually, I suppose it was more cliff climbing, seeing as it was a cliff. But never mind.”
The older elleth heaved a sigh. “Calassë, how many times have I told you not to run around with the Peredhil twins? You have grown up, child! You should be spending your time educating yourself and cultivating lasting friendships with sensible…”
Calassë’s gentle sigh went unheard by her indignant mother, and the young elleth tuned out the reprimands. If she had heard them once, she had heard them a thousand times.
“… unseemly… raising rumours…”
Calassë’s stomach grumbled. Her mother’s head jerked up, and Calassë swiftly met her gaze with a pathetic smile.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Forgive me, Naneth,” Calassë murmured. “I have not eaten since the morning, tis all.”
The older elleth sighed and waved her hand dismissively. “Go then, iell-nín. But think on what I have said, I beg you.”
Calassë inclined her head in relief. “Hannon le!”
Backing quickly out of the room, she broke into a trot once she was well out of her mother’s hearing, making her way unconcernedly towards the dining hall. Faint voices echoed through the silent hallway, and she grinned as she recognised Elrohir’s pleading tone intermixed with Elladan’s insistent tenor. Pushing the door open, she walked nonchalantly in, ignoring the twins as they sat alone at one end of the dais.
“But El, please…”
“No!” Elladan sounded horrified and certainly unaccommodating. “Why on earth would I give you my honey cakes?”
Calassë smirked to herself, raising her eyes innocently to find Elrohir glaring at her. “What are you two arguing about?” she asked sweetly.
Elrohir sighed heavily. “As though you didn’t know,” he muttered, leaning back in his chair. Then his eyes lit up with a light Calassë had seen many times before. “I can steal Glorfindel’s!”
“Elrohir!” Elladan and Calassë exclaimed simultaneously. The seneschal was rather overprotective of his honey cakes – giving birth to the notion that he treasured them tenderly in his chambers – and Elrohir was sure to be found out. “You will be killed!” Elladan added unnecessarily.
“Aye, I know,” Elrohir said heavily, fixing Calassë with a glare. “I hope your nights are haunted by guilt-filled nightmares, for I thought you were my friend.”