Thoughtfully, the Elf removed her maid's cap that had denoted her profession for the last months.
She folded it neatly and was about to put it away when she hesitated and put it in her bag instead. It was a little extra weight, but why not? She liked the memory it brought her... perhaps it would aid her, where she was going.
Her few other belongings were quickly packed. She would have to fetch her staff from the homestead in Falathlorn, as she had not brought it to Imladris - it was just a training staff, made of light white oak wood and unadorned, but it would have to serve until she had gained the muscles to wield a heavier and longer staff.
Looking over the neatly made bed in the corner of the guest room, she sighed. One thing left to do...
Well, nothing to it. She sat down at the desk and took out a sheaf of paper and a feather from it. It was already sharpened - good, for she was very inexperienced in sharpening and as prone to destroy the quill as to sharpen it.
Unscrewing the ink well, she pondered again the lines she wished to write. Yes:
"Dear Lord Andarne,"
She pondered. "Dear?" Hm. Well, it was written down now, and she should not waste paper. She shrugged and continued writing laboriously, wishing her Tengwar were not so uneven and round. The Elven Lords all had such neat and small letters!
"Dear Lord Andarne,
Now that Lady Malliel is safe, I shall have to take a leave of absence for a few weeks.
I believe I am in my rights to ask for leave time in your service, as I have never needed any before.
I shall leave you instructions on how to care for Nemben for the time that Malliel is still healing."
Considering for a bit, she added another line:
"Please do not think ill of me for leaving your service, even if I should not return."
There, that was all she needed to say, right? The Lady Malliel had already given her permission, so it was a mere formality. She signed the letter and put it to the side to dry while she noted down the instructions on a new sheaf of paper. Feeling somewhat more secure in this, the task was quickly finished. She dried both notes and put them into an envelope, addressing it to Lord Andarne and leaving it on the desk so he would find it as soon as he returned.
Looking back one more time, she exited the room and took the stairs towards the upstairs guest rooms. She knocked on the second door to the left, then opened it timidly. It was unlocked.
"I am ready now..."
The room was empty. She looked around, seeing the staff and pack missing.
"Oh... he went on ahead..."
She turned and ran down to the bridge, the appointed meeting place. But the bridge was empty, not even a gardener working at this early hour of the morning.
Her heart started to beat a little faster as she made her way to the stables. Surely he would not have gone alone, without her? She closed her eyes, wishing the thoughts away. No, he would be there at the stables, him and his dapple horse, Fuin. She smiled, imagining him seeing her running up to him.
But there was no elf at the stables. Her own mare, Moonlight, whinnied as she walked up to her. She gently patted the nose of the mare, rummaging in her pockets for a piece of bread or sugar that she always pocketed for her when she got the occasion. But a glance in the neighbouring box confirmed her fears.
Fuin was gone, and so was his master.
Feeling a cold lump growing in her stomach, she quickly untied the mare and walked her out of the stables. The horse danced uneasily, feeling her rider's worry.
She rode back to the bridge as quickly as she dared, hoping she had simply missed him. But no one was there.
"He wouldn't, would he..."
Turning the horse, she made her way up the slope to the pass overlooking the Ford. A sentinel waited by the side of the road, frowning at the visitor disturbing the peace of the early morning. She halted for a moment, inquiring if the watcher had seen another traveller pass.
Not too long ago, a dark-clothed Elf and a dark grey horse.
She exhaled sharply, her face pained. Without a word, she urged Moonlight forward once more. She had not originally planned to take the horse, it was a loan from her homeland that she did not wish to put into danger... but speed was more important now. Quickly the road passed under her hooves, the path vanishing suddenly at the edge of the steep incline that led down to the Ford of Bruinen.
She stopped, looked out for a horse and its rider.
Her sharp Elven eyes spied movement in the distance. There, far down, was a grey horse, picking its way on the bank of the Bruinen.
He could not hear her from here. The wind caught her voice, shattered it against the stones and boulders, erased it from the air.
She would not be able to catch up with him, picking her way down the pass. And even if she could... he had made his choice, that much was clear. He had gone, and left her behind.
Her strength left her, and she slid down the side of the horse, falling to her knees on the dusty road.
The sun was rising over the pass, but the elf did not feel it as she lay on the ground, unable to contain her sorrow. She buried her face in her arms and cried for a long time.