Continued from Leaving Thargelion Pt III
It had been a long day at the forge, and Estarfin savoured the warm water on his skin. He washed away the soot and sweat from his face, arms and chest. The silver basin of water swiftly grew darker with the dirt of the forge, and Estarfin dried himself with a clean swathe of cloth. He flexed his hands to ease the familiar ache and moved his head from side to side, stretching his neck.
“You are as tired as I am then?” Forodhir looked up at Estarfin from his chair, smiling but looking weary.
“Idhrenian is demanding, yet she works as hard as we do I think, perhaps harder. She insists on working the bellows, fetching tools, grinding edges…. She is a marvel.”
Forodhir smiled to himself. “Indeed. You have told me several times in the past months of your admiration.”
Estarfin tossed the cloth aside, pulling a plain robe over his head. “You seek to mock me brother?” He looked at his friend in confusion.
Forodhir held up his hands. “No, forgive me. I merely notice that you speak often of her, and I wondered if your admiration went beyond simply her smithing.”
Estarfin sat in the other chair, thinking for a moment. “She is proud and fair, and I would be a fool to not admire her. But there is no more to it than that.”
Forodhir watched his friend, then poured them both a glass of wine. “Indeed. And what of her thoughts towards you, do you know of her heart and mind on this matter?”
Estarfin shook his head. “I do not think she has such feelings for me.” His voice sounded uncertain as he spoke.
“You have not spoken to me of her, and she speaks with us not at all, so I must instead listen to the rumours that run about this place. Do not think that I am the only one to notice the closeness between you.
“If you are wrong about her feelings towards you, it would be unseemly to allow any hope to continue. I spoke with Elarenë, do you wish me to speak with Idhrenian also?”
Estarfin shook his head. “No, I should speak with her myself. I suppose there is no harm in doing so now. If you are right, it is best to speak of it swiftly. And if you are wrong… Well, I suppose it matters not, and I will simply apologise?”
Forodhir nodded. “Go then, she is likely still in the forges.”
Estarfin felt strangely nervous as he walked through the mostly-silent forges of Maenasroth, dressed in a plain robe with neither weapon nor tools upon him. “Idhrenian?” he called softly, seeing her tidying away tools and half-finished pieces from the day’s work.
She turned, looking surprised by his presence, but smiled and turned fully to face him. “I do not often see you in the forges when Rána wanders the skies.”
Estarfin smiled briefly. “No. The King's wine usually provides enough activity of an evening. Though I did not know you tidy away the day's work yourself, I would have thought the mistress of the forge above such things. Vása still roams the skies though it seems, unwilling for this day to end.”
Idhrenian shrugged slightly and looked at the orange light coming through the high crystal windows in the roof of the hall. “I like to be useful. Wine is a fine thing for feasts and celebration, but I do not wish for the taste of it every night.”
“As you wish. Yet if ever you change your mind you are free to join Forodhir and myself.”
Idhrenian watched Estarfin quizzically. “Why are you here Estarfin? Speak plainly, for my patience does have a limit.”
“Very well. We have worked well together for the past few months, learning what we can from each other. The smiths of Thargelion have taught their steelcraft to both Elf and Man alike. Once winter passes, we shall depart, but I did not wish to do so without first making myself clear. Although we have worked together well, and I have greatly enjoyed your company, fair and proud as you are; if your heart has turned towards me I cannot return that love. I am sorry.” Estarfin spoke quickly, but as kindly as he could.
Idhrenian said nothing for a moment, so Estarfin tried to fill the silence. “I did not know that rumours and gossip about this were flowing around these halls; indeed I did not see it myself until…”
“You dare?” Idhrenian spoke quietly, her voice cold with anger. “I had thought you the least despicable of your kind, yet I see the pride and foolishness of your people in you at last. You wonder why I spoke with you the most, and not Forodhir, your superior in skill and knowledge?” She advanced on Estarfin, anger and hatred written across her once-fair face. “You were innocent I thought. You did not take the ships and burn them, leaving us to cross the ice that claimed so many of us. That claimed my love, my betrothed.” There were tears in her eyes. “Prince Fingon commanded me to work with one of you, that is all. You are young and foolish, else I would cast you from this place at once.”
“I..” began Estarfin, but he was interrupted by first the ringing of a bell, and then the sound of trumpets. The orange light in the windows above was growing brighter, and was turning red. “What is it?”
Idhrenian looked unsure for a moment, then wiped a hand across her eyes and grabbed a sword from the rack next to them. “That is the signal of an attack, to gather arms at once and move to the gates or walls. You think?...”
“The Siege is broken?” Estarfin finished the sentence. “It cannot be.” Looking at the rack swiftly he took a long spear and a wide shield, then ran after Idhrenian to face the battle to come.