One Afternoon

Dedicated to LeCastor, who inspired me with the idea. I have chosen to make Celegorm and Aredhel closer in age. Here they're somewhere in their adolescent years. Enjoy, and feedback is welcomed!

oOo

Two small children, running carefree through the trees – a girl with dark hair, dressed in silver and white, pursued by a boy with hair of gold.

That was the image that flashed across his mind as he ran, recalled from days spent playing in the gardens. All he could see presently however was a flicker of silver as she disappeared into the trees. She was always ahead of him.

"Ireth!"

She turned around, the wind tossing her black hair from her face. But she kept running, always ahead of him, and he pursuing her relentlessly. They had played hide-and-seek like this when they were smaller and always his cousin proved hard to find. He rushed into the familiar clearing breathlessly, and looked up at the tall trees surrounding him. There was no wind today, and indeed not a sound came from the trees that guarded where he stood like silent sentinels.

Of course, they were far too old for playing games now – but it was summer again and now he could look forward to the thrill of the chase once more. That alone would give any sane person a reason for allowing a bit of immaturity, he thought. He leaned against a large oak tree and took in the heavily scented summer air, of flowers that he couldn't for the life of him name, and the scent that told him it would rain soon. He looked upwards at the clouds and noted that this afternoon would probably bring quite a downpour. He breathed inwards again and a smile crossed his lips. Ah, glorious summer! No more books, no more loremasters. Indeed, it was a very good reason to smile. And those who saw the third son of Fëanáro then would not have recognised him without his characteristically arrogant smirk.

As he slouched thus his mind's eye saw the small black-haired girl vanish into the shadows cast by the noonday light, with the young boy chasing after her.

oOo

Little Tyelko had to stop at the clearing, because that's where she always hid. She had to be there somewhere, though there was nothing as yet that gave away her presence. She was a very good hider, and lately he had been feeling as though he wasn't being a very good seeker. What was it that his grandfather had told him about hunting? Ah, that's right – he had to be very quiet, very still. So he stopped moving, and stood as still as a little garden statue with golden hair. Alright, he was being quiet and still. Now what? Perhaps he was supposed to smell out his quarry, just like Oromë's hounds did.

So he stuck his little nose into the air and sniffed. He could smell lots of different flowers, the smell of damp leaves. He thought if he sniffed hard enough he might even be able to smell the rays of light coming from the Trees, because the light itself seemed so alive. But he could not smell his cousin. Frustrated, he furrowed his brow in thought and dropping himself unceremoniously onto the grass he tried to think. Where could that girl be? There were only so many places to hide, after all. It really was rather puzzling. He gave a loud sigh of exasperation.

So, while he was sitting quietly and thinking, he thought he could hear some rustling in the trees. His head snapped up quickly. Not a sound. It was quiet again. But he knew for sure that she was somewhere around here – exactly where he didn't know, but she was definitely there. He leaned back against that same tree, which was a large one even back then, and waited. He closed his eyes and listened to the humming of bees, to the innumerable voices blended in the song of waters. And waited.

Suddenly he heard the loud crack! of a branch being snapped in two, and a shower of leaves and bark rained down upon him, along with his elusive cousin. Quickly Tyelko put his arms out to catch the dark-haired girl, who squealed, and he announced triumphantly, "Gotcha!"

Irissë laughed and proceeded to pull twigs and leaves out of her curling hair, saying in rueful tones,

"That wasn't supposed to happen!"

"But still," solemnly quoth the little golden-haired sage (and with his little companion still sitting in his lap), "that's exactly what happens when you climb onto branches that won't hold you up."

She laughed and squirmed a little so he released her, and let her sit next to him.

"Tell me a story," she commanded imperiously.

"Who do you think I am, your Ammë?" he laughed.

"No – but I like stories. Maitimo never has the time to tell me any because he's big now, and Macalaurë is too busy having music lessons to sing to me anymore." At twelve years of age Maitimo with his flame-red hair was revered by his younger brothers and cousins as being older and wiser than the rest of them, and Macalaurë the musician, only a little younger than his brother, was scarce less respected.

"But I'm no good at telling stories," protested Tyelkormo. The dark head of hair upon which his gaze rested moved and from between some messy stray curls wide eyes looked up at him pleadingly.

"Turco? Please?"

He couldn't refuse that look. Thrown into this position without warning, he slowly took a deep breath and thought up a story from off the top of his head.

"Alright. Back when Grandfather was still at Cuiviénen—" (because that was the oldest time Tyelko could think of) "—and the skies were covered in stars, there was an Elda."

"What did she look like?" asked Irissë eagerly, immediately assuming of course that this Elda was a girl.

"Well, she was really pretty. She had black hair, much like yours," he replied, beginning to get into the story despite himself, "and she dressed in white and silver a lot, so you could see her even though the only light was the stars in the sky (because there weren't any Trees there, you see). And her name was—Eldarien," he finished lamely, unable to think up another name. His young audience did not mind in the least.

"But there are always problems in stories," she said. "So what was wrong with Eldarien?"

"Er, well—" Tyelkormo racked his brains to find something that could possibly be wrong with perfect Eldarien's world. "Um, she was in love, I suppose."

"I thought that was supposed to be a good thing," mused Irissë, puzzled.

"But it wasn't a good thing. She loved her cousin, see."

"Oh."

The two of them fell silent, listening to the winds rustle through the leaves that crowned the tallest of the trees in the garden. The voices of the hidden stream nearby continued to murmur endlessly. A long time elapsed before either of them spoke.

"What happened to Eldarien?" asked Irissë eventually.

"To be honest, I don't know," replied Tyelkormo, giving up. He had been making up the whole story, after all, and felt that all of his imaginative energy had been expended.

"Why can't you marry your cousin?" persisted the insatiable Irissë. She lifted up her head and searched Tyelkormo's face for an answer. He had to think long and hard – he had never actually thought about it before.

"I don't know," he said again, feeling that he was supposed to be a pillar of wisdom and that he was failing miserably at his task. But she was not at all concerned by this, and sighing happily she laid her head against his shoulder.

"I love you, Turco," she said cheerfully. "You're my favouritest cousin ever." He was quite touched by this profession and smiled at her.

"You're my favouritest cousin too," he answered. And the two little figures sitting beneath the shade of the old tree fell asleep.

oOo

The older Tyelkormo remembered all this with a grin and continued to lean against the tall tree, in that very same clearing where he had been 'hunting' down his cousin years before. Shouldn't be long now. He would find Irissë pretty soon, especially as his skills at the hunt would have improved much since then.

But apparently so had hers, for no matter how still he stood he could not see her, and no matter how quiet he was he could not hear her. Looking upwards at the sky he noticed that the clouds had become darker. Tyelko certainly did not mind summer storms, rejoicing amid the rain, but his mother did not appreciate having to wash the muddy clothes. He now began to wonder how long it would be before he would find the girl. At this rate they would get caught up in an absolute deluge, he thought.

The quiet snapping of a small twig brought him out of his thoughts rather suddenly and he was on guard. Silence reigned once again. Only his own breathing could be heard on the still air. He backed up against the tree, his hands resting behind him upon the bark. It surprised him greatly when he felt someone's hands there instead of tree.

Irissë was out in a flash, and tried to race past him. But he was prepared and quickly he caught her around her waist and they both fell to the ground laughing.

Still breathless they sat together under the tree, just as they used to. Tyelkormo glanced down at his companion, who was busy removing some grass from her hair. Nothing had changed, curls dark as shadows still framing her ivory face. The same wild, untameable spirit shone in her eyes now as it did then. He admired the strength he saw in her.

She noticed him watching her and laid her head to rest upon his shoulder. Tyelkormo was delighted – they had not done this for years. Orome had promised to take him out hunting and he was allowed to invite someone with him, so after much deliberation he decided he was going to bring Ireth. Yes, he would be looking forward to this summer very much.

A single drop of rain fell and hung like a crystal upon Irissë's dark hair. There was something different in the air today – Tyelkormo couldn't quite figure out what it was, but he didn't think it was bad. There was something different in the way he felt that he needed to pull his cousin closer to him, something different about the way she spoke.

"Turco?"

He lazily opened his eyes. "Mm?"

"I love you."

Now, there was definitely something different about the way she said it. Still, he hadn't expected to find himself slowly tilting her chin upwards and lightly kissing her just as the grey clouds opened themselves upon the earth. What's more, he certainly hadn't expected her to sit up and kiss him back.

Was it wrong to be in love with your cousin? He didn't know, and at the moment, he didn't really care as the rain fell heavily and soaked into his clothing. When he finally let go she gave him a smile and nestled into his shoulder again. Neither of them spoke for a long time, until the rain stopped. Irissë stood up and looked at Tyelkormo.

"Amil will be wondering where I am," she said. "Coming?"

He got to his feet and squeezed out the water from his hair. "Sure." He was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to spend the rest of the afternoon with her, but judging by the way she smiled and held his hand as they walked back, he was sure there would be many more afternoons to come.