Another Winter, A Different Choice

The rich, warm soil parted as her hands worked through them. In the numerous holes she had made, there rested single seeds and saplings. Some of these she recognized from previous ages of gardening when passage into the Greenwood was easier. Others were products of change in time and land, unknown potentials waiting to bud. In Eliriael's eyes shined the full extent of the hope she had for these young plants. Under the golden light of the mellyrn and the restorative presence of Lorien, she had seen failing plants grow healthy again and even reveal a greater strength in their healing properties.

The rustle of fabric behind her caught Eliriael's attention.

"You brought some plants from the Greenwood?" Eithelmîr inquired with some astonishment in her features.

"I did tell you I would try, did I not?" Eliriael smiled before glancing over her shoulder at the fresh earth. "Will you tend them when I am gone and tell me what comes forth? Some I did not recognize."

Eithelmîr's lips thinned. "You do not intend to stay."

"There are injured elves who await my return in Imladris, and you know that I have duties to my House now," Eliriael responded apologetically.

Her friend's disappointment did not fade from her expression. "Did you not see for yourself at the borders that there are newly injured elves here everyday? Your home needs you! I said nothing the last time you left for your Lord, but surely you saw the destruction taking place in Mirkwood this time."

*          *          *

Eithelmîr's words repeated themselves in Eliriael's mind as she paced beside the windows in her wing of the healing halls. Aeralin and Eleanias were resting peacefully in their separate chambers and all was quiet indoors. Outside, snow had begun to fall and carpet the valley. 

The crisp chill in the air, the scent of fresh snow, and the sun streaming through the window took Eliriael momentarily to a different time in her memories. Estarfin lay resting in his bed behind her...water droplets from icicles dripped onto the back of her hand...her gaze lay on the road that winded up and out of the valley - and her heart had yearned for the wilderness beyond. She had been thinking of Belegos then, but now she was thinking of her home in Lorien and all the elves in the Greenwood who were facing new dangers every day.

Eliriael blinked, her memories of the previous winter vanishing. In that brief moment, her still form stood at the window in the healing hall but her heart was already beyond the hidden vale. Over the years in her House, she thought she had changed - resisting her desires to wander off, remembering to inform her lords on her whereabouts and actions...things she had never done in all the ages of her life; not in Gondolin, Sirion, Lindon, or Lorien.

A fresh breeze blew in then. A different kind of smile passed across Eliriael's features and a thoughtful but decisive look flashed in her eyes. She raised her arms and her delicate fingers found the jeweled pins embedded in her hair. As the glittering pieces of metal fell away, her long tresses tumbled freely past her shoulders and down her back, leaving only the star-petaled flowers at the crown of her head.