chapter 50

Elmarie gazed sadly out of her misted window. The weather had become cold and dull, with an icy wind sweeping the pallid sky. Five days it had been since Elmarie had returned home, and greatly did she rue it. Her kin were glad to see her safe, and yet most of them held her to blame for causing them so much grief, and they bombarded her with an endless tirade of questions concerning her departure from Doriath. For fear of telling them falsehood, she resolved to tell them nothing at all, and whenever she was asked of her wanderings she immediately fell silent. This did nothing to improve the tempers of those who were furious with her, yet she endured their wrath, for the anger of her kin was not a matter foremost in her mind. Other sorrows there were, which cut far deeper into her broken heart, for the marriage of Elmarie and Culdir was once more being arranged. Even after her deeds, Culdir still wished to wed her, which was a heavy blow indeed to Elmarie.
Her father showed no remorse for his treatment of her, indeed he did not acknowledge it at all. Yet this was no great surprise to Elmarie, for it became evident that none knew of the events which took place on the night of her departure, save Imcair her brother, who was away upon an errand. Elmarie missed him terribly, and she dwelt in aching loneliness. In sorrow, she drew herself shakily to her feet.
The house of her father was a grand place indeed. It was built of grey stone, and set upon a clearing amid the trees, not distant from Menegroth. In this land the trees grew exceedingly tall, and Elmarie’s chamber which was upon the very highest storey of the great house, was amid the treetops. Though the trees did not seem so fair in Winter, and the grey, twisted branches of the trees reminded her of a writhing serpant, ready to spring, and kill. She shivered as she turned and swept from her chamber. Elmarie lithely descended the many flights of wide stone stairs, her blue mantle rippling about her like sunlit water, as through reflecting the azure gleam of her beautiful eyes. On her way, she passed her mother, who slowly climbed the cold steps with her head bowed.
‘Good morning, mother.’ Elmarie called. Amarwen looked up at her daughter, her blue eyes wide with shock, as though she had been disturbed from a deep dream. Amarwen smiled weakly, yet said nothing and hurriedly began once more to climb, passing her daughter as she went. She was a fair lady, tall and slender, whose pale skin shimmered softly like starlit mist. Her sleek golden hair was pulled back from her face, and fell in glistening curls down her back. Elmarie turned and watched Amarwen ascend the stairs swiftly as though she could not bear to be close to her daughter. Tears stung Elmarie’s eyes. She knew that Amarwen had been heartbroken when she had feared her daughter dead. Though Elmarie had now been restored to her, Amarwen was not the same. Sorrow danced within her profound blue eyes, and her gentle light seemed somehow dimmed. She was no longer lively or merry, smiling seldom, and her shoulders drooped slightly as she walked. Elmarie remained upon the stairs, as though frozen by her mother’s cold grief. Surely Amarwen would forgive her, if she knew of what had befallen? The desire to betray her father’s secret had never been so strong. It would be just to reveal the truth, she thought, and Imcair when he returned would surely aid her. Yet would it not grieve her mother even further? Elmarie knew in her heart that it would. Tears welled up in her tempestuous eyes. Not since her returning home had she wept, for she had vowed to be strong, and yet a single unexpected tear found its way from her eye, and spilled upon her cheek. The emotions Elmarie had tried so furiously to bury, and had kept frozen within herself were beginning to melt, and pour forth as desolate tears. With an affort that shook her to her very soul, she forced herself to descend the stairs once more, though this time at a slow, funereal pace, for her legs seemed stiff and reluctant to move. When she reachd the foot of the stairs, she made her way through the echoing hall, her footfalls tapping frantically upon the hard ground as she broke suddenly into a run, such was her desperation to be gone. The walls of the passages and halls passed by like dull clouds of dour grey, for they were bare and unadorned. No carvings, tapestries or anything else which her father deemed frivolous were to disturb the sleeping, unbroken mass of harsh grey. Elmarie sped like a flash of blue lightning past Nevalda, her young sister, and a number of astonished servants, pushing one or two aside in her haste.
‘There is to be no running in the hallway, mistress Elmarie!’ Cried the housekeeper indignatly, ‘Your father would not be pleased to learn of this!’
Elmarie paid no heed, as she tore down the stairs which led to the front entrance, her hair streaming like a shadow behind her in dark disarray. She paused only to haul open the large stone door, which she slammed heavily behind her. Much to her satisfaction, she heard the crash echo and resound throughout the bare halls of her house. No doubt all would be displeased with her when she at last returned, yet she gave no thought to such things, and rushed swiftly into the grey forest, tears streaming once more like melting ice down her delicate cheeks. Not until she was far from home did she stop, by which time she was breathless and weary. Elmarie sat slumped upon the ground beside the banks of the Esgalduin gazing sadly into the shimmering water, and listening to its gentle, poignant music. She longed to depart from this land, as swiftly as did the foaming water, yet she had tried once before, and it had simply increased her difficulties. She could not leave again, and must tread the path which had been set before her feet. That path held nothing but misery, stretching on forever even unto the ending of the world. Her bitter tears fell softly into the river, her anguish at one with that of the grey, rolling water. Her grief was as fathomless as the river itself, of which her own tears were now part. The pale morning drew on, and Elmarie became cold and silent, gazing into the clear water as it mirrored the overcast depths of the frozen sky, whilst her sparkling tears made their melancholic way to the pathless sea.

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