Author's Note: Ok, guys, here's the introduction. I strongly suggest you read The Fall of Night, or you won't be able to understand why Naurë is as she is, and the dynamic between her and Elrond, her and Haldir, her and Lalaith, Lalaith and Rúmil, or even the other elves that went with them during that story's journey and who accompany them this time as well.
Please note that when I mention any love between Naurë and Elrond, it is a platonic/fraternal love, and not romantic in any way. He is her mentor and friend, and that's it. Friendship is a huge theme in this story.
Not Fire, Not Ice – Prologue
Sometimes, Elrond caught Naurë in a contemplative mood.
In her first youth that frame of mind was rare and far between for her, as combined with the typical arrogance of the young she had possessed a good sense and wisdom uncommon in most of the children of Man. Rarely did she feel the need to ponder overmuch her thoughts and actions.
But as his friend had aged and suffered the arrows of pain and loss that life had slung at her, Naurë had slowly developed the cynicism and bitterness that deep and repeated disappointment could engender in one's heart. Watching this, his own heart had ached for her, and his hands-- for all their ability to heal--had felt useless as they hung at his sides, empty and impotent.
Naurë had, before her extraordinary rebirth, begun to not only accept death as her fate, but to anticipate it, even to welcome it. As an elf, and therefore immortal, Elrond had trouble comprehending this mentality. As a healer, and one who pursued all possibilities in order to preserve life, he viewed it as anathema. After millennia of experiencing life and observing the constant yet ever-changing cycles of existence, he knew that all things waned and yet waxed once more: all that was broken would mend, and all that was whole would rend.
This knowledge was, he supposed, a curse as well as a blessing for the Eldar, for it made one unable to view much with any urgency.
Men, however, had little life allotted to them. Each of them was such a tiny speck of stardust in the immense heavens stretching overhead that it was a wonder any of them managed to accomplish anything-- Elrond regarded with no little amazement his foster-son Estel, his forebear Isildur, and the myriad other Men of note he had known in his long existence. Truly a formidable people, if a rash one.
Elrond continued to muse as he walked the gardens of Imladris to where Naure awaited him. She was every inch a daughter of Man, for all her innate common sense and hard-won wisdom; rash, yes, and with a passion to match Fëanor's, Elrond suspected with a faint smile. And that was why it could surprise him still after over three score and ten years of her acquaintance to find her sitting alone, mouth not speaking, hands not busy with some chore, eyes not flashing with the fire of her being.
It was in moments such as these, when her face was calm and her eyes were soft, that he loved her the most, and it pained him greatly to see that it was this Naurë that he would have to send away.
"Meldisamin," Elrond addressed her so she would not be surprised by his silent approach. "I beg pardon for my lateness."
Seated on a carved wooden bench by the river, Naurë turned up to him the brown eyes that were so foreign to his kin, and smiled. "I forgive you," she replied, and he marveled at the strength of the voice, reedy and thin no longer, that spilled from her unwithered pink lips. "Do you have another dose for me?"
For the medicament that had brought about this cataclysmic reverse of Naurë's aging, the remedy she had designed with her own mind and created with her own hands, Elrond had used to cure her before she could become too young and revert to childhood. When she had first awoken from the coma into which the remedy had sent her, her appearance had been that of a woman at the midpoint of her life; whilst Elrond worked feverishly to construct the antidote, she had continued to shed years and now looked even younger than her own granddaughter.
That granddaughter had been the cause of said cataclysm, but through travail and trial had redeemed herself, and earned the love of an elf besides. Lalaith ever seemed surprised that Rúmil could harbour any of the gentler emotions for her, and indeed Elrond was somewhat nonplussed that the two had found in each other kindred hearts, but love would always find its own way, no matter how unrealistic the situation…
"No," he replied, and sat beside her. "It has been a fortnight since you began to take the antidote and you have not changed again." It seemed that a year would drop from Naurë with every day that passed, and by this point if the antidote had not been successful she would have been in the first years of her life, a mere child barely able to walk, but there she was-- an adult, if young, woman. "I think you are healed."
Naurë nodded thoughtfully, and pressed her hand over his in gratitude. There were many gaps in her memory, some of them significant; she had little recall of her old friend Haldir of Lórien, for example, and had been terribly shocked to learn that she had borne children, but one fact had never deserted her: that Elrond Peredhil was her closest friend and mentor, and to him owed life and livelihood. She paid her debt with a devotion that was startling to those who met her; any who dared criticize the lord of Imladris would receive the sharp edge of her tongue.
"I am glad," she said, "but now what do I do?"
"Do?" Elrond was puzzled by her question, and it showed in his noble face.
"I had gotten used to the idea of dying, Sir Elf," Naurë told him, the spark starting in her eyes again, and he knew her moment of quietude was nearing its end. "And so had made no great plans. I ask you now: what shall I do with myself, as I am young and hale once more?"
He frowned while he thought; she had all but given up her healing practice in Bree when she had come to Imladris last year to while the rest of her days in comfort and ease with her old friends. Lalaith might have returned to that city had she not fallen in love with Rúmil, but now that she and the Lórien elf were inseparable it was clear that she would no longer call Bree her home. "Once your memories are fully restored, you shall live here and study with me once more," he said at last. "Your work with antidotes to orcish poison is extraordinary, and will serve us well in the upcoming troubles."
Naurë nodded again. "And until my memories decide to make their appearance once more?" she quipped. "Shall I sit and twiddle my thumbs by the river, as I have indulged all this morning?"
"Indeed not," he said archly, delighting in her laugh at his mock haughtiness. "You shall go on a journey to one who will help you to brighten all that is dark to you now."
She saw immediately that, in spite of his light words, he was not jesting with her. "And who is this one?"
"My wife's mother, the Lady of Lórien," Elrond replied. "I can but heal the body; Galadriel is better versed in the wounds of the mind."
Naurë sighed. "It is for the best," she conceded. "For the longer there are blanks in my head, the greater my frustration… I find my patience thinner that I would like when I cannot remember things I ought." Gazing out over the prisms of light thrown by the waterfall's fine spray, she asked, "When shall I go? And with whom?"
"In a sen'night, I think," he said. "And you shall have Rúmil and Lalaith, of course, for he is eager to be home and she is eager to see it. Those elves that accompanied them on their wild ride, too: Thalion, Erêgmorn, Aras, Brethil, Aglar. They have worked well together and shall once more."
"A single week?" Naurë exclaimed, feigning outrage. "If there is but a week to prepare, then there is much I need to do before we depart!"
"Such as?" he asked lazily, leaning back on the bench and watching with amusement as she became more animated.
"I have not yet climbed any of these trees," she said. "Nor have I bathed in the river, and there is a path in the woods that I have not fully explored—"
"In due time," Elrond cut her off, laughing, "for you now have all of it you shall ever need." He sobered then. "Do you see, Naurë, how you have created immortality in this remedy? And do you see how dangerous a thing it can be in the wrong hands, if one were to render themselves impermeable to all dangers?"
She did see; indeed, the issue had been much cause for contemplation in the latter days. "We must keep the recipe a secret, Elrond," she told him urgently.
He nodded. "And it must stay that way."
"It will," Naurë vowed, eyes alight with determination. "It will."
Naurë was delighted, when the day of departure arrived, at the opportunity to travel easily after so many years of infirmity had forced her to sit in a cart rather than in a saddle.
"My joy is boundless," she informed Elrond with a fierce hug from atop her horse, then pulled back to cup his face and stare into his grey eyes. "Ever have you been my brother, and I shall count the days until we are together once more." Never stingy with her affection, was Naurë, and with a hearty buss to his cheek, finally released him to spur her horse to an energetic trot out of Imladris' courtyard toward the road east.
Elrond exchanged an amused glance with Rúmil. "She is very pleased indeed to regain her youth," he said unnecessarily. "You will try to contain her?"
"Try, yes," Rúmil agreed with a smile. "Succeed?" His azure gaze rested a moment on Lalaith, who had followed her grandmother's example and now rode hell-for-leather out of the valley, eager to begin their journey. "I have yet to succeed once against the females in her family." He wheeled his mount about, signaled to the elven guard, and set off after the women.
Elrond stood watching their departure until their figures could no longer be seen. "Everything will result as it should," said a voice to his left, and he turned to find his advisor, Erestor, standing at his side. "Ever it has been such, peredhil, and ever it shall be."
"Indeed," Elrond agreed with a sigh, and clapped his hand to Erestor's shoulder. "Indeed."
Naurë had, until her last years, been a woman who loved life, who loved living, and she had keenly felt the strictures of her enfeebled body as she grew older. As a healer, she accepted the inescapable nature of death, and toward her own had even come to embrace it, but now…
Now death had been cheated; Naurë's life had been snatched back from its greedy hands, and she had no intention of wasting this magnificent new opportunity, this delightful second chance at youth. "Oh, they are lovely," she cried to her granddaughter after a day's travel, pointing to the mist-shrouded mountains that rose steeply before them to the east. "And we shall cross over them?"
Rúmil smiled at her exuberance. "We shall follow the Old East Road to the bridge south of the Carrock, and then follow the Anduin south to fair Lórien."
Naurë's mouth puckered as it always did when she was straining to retrieve a memory. "I have done that before," she said, and both Rúmil and Lalaith leaned forward eagerly, for the trip of which she spoke had been taken with Haldir. "With elves, and… dwarves, I seem to recall; and one was quite amorous, but not for me, thank Eru… no, he fancied an elf." Her eyes flew up to meet Rúmil's. "He refused to believe that one of such beauty could be male, and I had to show him the error of his ways."
One of Lalaith's rare smiles emerged at that point, for it was clear that her grandmother had regained recollection of exactly how she had shown the persistent dwarf his error. "Do you remember Haldir now?" she asked tentatively.
"Not much," Naurë admitted. "And I am not sure if he is the same elf you have mentioned to me, but clearly I have this image of him in my mind…" She closed her eyes. "He is tall and fair, with the visage of Manwë I think, so beautiful is he… he rises from the bath, and there is no doubt in anyone's mind as to his gender… oh, Eru," she finished stiltedly. "Is Haldir truly thus?"
"Never have I seen him undressed, Nana," Lalaith began as Rúmil turned away, scandalized at such a description of his brother, "but were I to hazard a guess, yes, indeed." Then her smile widened as Naurë began to fan herself with a fluttering hand and Rúmil made a choked sound in his throat. "Behave yourself," she admonished her love, lashes fluttering over green eyes at him. "You are no innocent, and it is not fitting for you to feign such."
"Shameless," he murmured, and kicked his horse to a faster pace so as to catch up with Thalion, who as eldest elf in their party rode at the forefront. "You are shameless."
His place was swiftly taken by Erêgmorn, who neatly insinuated himself between the two women and bestowed a brilliant smile on them. "His loss is my gain," Erêgmorn said, and shot a smoky glance at Lalaith before turning to her grandmother. Ever had he tried to flirt with Lalaith on their previous journey together, but it was as clear as day to anyone with eyes in their head that her heart ever belonged to Rúmil, so Eregmorn had swiftly turned his attentions to Naurë.
An incorrigible coquet, Naurë thought with amusement. For all his smoldering looks and lingering kisses pressed to the back of her hand, there was naught to back up his teasing, as she had learned with much amusement. Thinking to put him in his place, she had followed and pinned Eregmorn in one of Imladris' many corners, pretending to be in love with him and wanting desperately to have his elflings.
Horrified, he'd actually begun to stutter that he only jested before wrenching himself free and running from her. Elrond and Erestor had found her an hour later, still laughing. They had not shared her amusement at the joke, but then they were very old indeed and much of their sense of humour had evaporated over the millennia, she thought sometimes.
Since then, they had enjoyed a comfortable truce, and it was thus with great sadness that, a fortnight later, she closed his eyes after an orcish arrow took his life.
They had navigated the last of the infamous Gladden Fields five days earlier and had been approaching the last week of their journey to Lothlórien. Rúmil's spirits were high, as he was anticipating his long-awaited return to his home, especially to see the faces of his brothers when he revealed he had given his love to a mortal woman.
Lalaith, for her part, was nervous; she knew very well how Haldir could be about certain things, and she was sure this would be one of them. As for Orophin, the third brother: she had heard he was even haughtier and colder than Haldir, and was frankly scared to death of the coming confrontation.
When the first arrows whizzed through the air toward them, Lalaith continued to sit on her horse, rather shocked by the attack, but Erêgmorn pushed first her, then Naurë to the ground, firing his bow in the direction of their attackers in an attempt to protect the women.
Naurë yanked her granddaughter down beside her. "Get the packs," Naurë hissed as arrows punctured the ground all around them, "and stay out of the elves' way—they will be more effective if they need not worry about us. Remove the remedy and keep it close to you, it cannot be taken, do you hear?"
Lalaith nodded and obediently stuffed the bottles into her tunic, cold glass chilling her skin where it touched. "Eru," she whispered in horror at the second wave of orcs crossing the Anduin toward them; there were scores of them, possibly a hundred or more, and the elves only an even dozen... "We are doomed," she breathed to Naurë.
But her grandmother did not reply, for she was busy reaching out toward Erêgmorn, fingertips dragging lightly on eyelids that would never open again. "Stupid, brave elf," Naurë murmured in sorrow before taking a deep, calming breath, for the orcs that assailed them were now near enough for close combat, and with a deadly hiss each elf freed the twin daggers he wore on his back. She removed Erêgmorn's blades and handed one to Lalaith, keeping the other for herself.
"The remedy cannot be taken," Naurë repeated softly, eyes burning with meaning. "Smash the bottles if you must, do whatever it takes."
Terrified, Lalaith could only nod, and then the line of elves had pressed back against them. The horses had long since been sent away, so there was little the women could do beside offer quick swigs of remedy to the injured and keep back.
Then, a fearsome bellow from behind them made her spin around to find a host of orcs there, too. A grimy hand came to grasp her arm, and though she hacked at it with Erêgmorn's knife, she was quickly disarmed and hauled against a fetid body. Her cry of dismay alerted not only Rúmil, but Naurë as well, and her grandmother launched herself at the orc who held Lalaith.
"There is the one we seek," rumbled a low, cruel voice, and Lalaith could only watch in horror as Naurë was snatched back. She fought like a wild thing, but all too soon her weapon was taken and she was flung to the ground, surrounded by rancid orcs. "Come with us, or we will kill them all."
The women looked around and found that any elves still alive, Rúmil among them, had been subdued and disarmed, and the orcs were busily tying them up. "No," Lalaith whispered, but she saw the determination in her grandmother's eyes and knew her protest would be in vain.
"Do you ask me to come willingly?" Naurë demanded, eyes wide in disbelief.
"I do," the creature confirmed. It seemed somewhat less stupid than the usual orcs, and certainly more erudite, being able to string together nearly-complete sentences. "You are not to be harmed. Those are my orders, and I shall do what I am bid."
"Release them," Naurë said immediately. "Release them, and I will come willingly."
The orc-leader seemed to think a moment, and then nodded. "The elves shall remain tied, and the woman shall be left free." He motioned to his soldiers to let go of the elves before turning to Lalaith. "We shall train our bows on you, and you may not cut their bonds until we are gone from sight. If you do not do this, we shall kill you all."
Trembling, Lalaith nodded vigorously. The leader grabbed Naurë around her waist and hoisted her onto his shoulder, then strode away. He did not look back, only stepped into one of the shallow boats they had used to cross the Anduin and dumped her roughly onto its floor. Night was beginning to fall over them like a coarse blanket, and as the light failed and the orcs paddled them swiftly to the far shore, Naurë's gaze was locked on the diminished band that watched them go; Lalaith clung to Rúmil's side, ready to sever the ropes that bound him.
Rúmil himself looked furious; he had been slightly injured but doubtless would soon recover, especially with the aid of the remedy Naurë had made Lalaith conceal. In spite of her dire situation, Naure grinned, and hoped the deepening dusk concealed her sudden glee. Doubtless these orcs had learned of her remedy, and wanted it for themselves, but they would not get it, for Elrond alone of all those in Middle-Earth knew its recipe; among the other things she had forgotten, the recipe to Naurë's own potion was foremost of them.
They would not learn it from her.
meldisamin = my friend
Peredhil = Halfelven