Many Happy Days and Nights by Elaura

I awoke the next morning just as the sky was becoming a pale grey in the east. I lay there in bed for a few minutes, cozy and warm under the covers, thinking about the previous day and enjoying the fact that I'd finally slept in my own bed again.

"Mmmm. Nice." The air in my room was chilly and Macavity was curled up near the foot of the bed. I missed waking up to Legolas sitting near me, but I realized I would have to get used to it.

Eventually, I got up, slipped on my slippers and padded over to the fireplace. I kindled a small fire and the room warmed up nicely.

I put on my cloak and picked up my basket, leaving my ring on the desk as I left for the shower in the healing wing. It was slower going than usual and the warm soapy water stung my hand, but it felt so good to be able to clean myself and get back to my normal routine. I washed the glove too, hoping it wouldn't get stiff as it dried. Legolas had left the lids on the containers loose so I didn't have any problem using them and I remembered to do the same when I closed them.

I brushed my teeth in the shower and dried off. I put my pjs and cloak back on, grabbed the basket and walked back to my room, the rubber soles of my slippers squeaking on the hardwood floors.

I put down the basket by the desk, draped the glove over the hearth and sat by the fire and combed my damp hair. I wasn't looking forward to fighting with my clothes so I sat there, staring into the fire for a little while. I'll have to find a tinder box before I leave. Matches are good, but they get wet and eventually run out.

Soon I had to get going. I pulled a bra and a dark green shirt out of the closet. I fought with the bra for what seemed like forever, but I eventually got it straight. I put on my clothes, each time I got to the laces, I pulled them tight with my left hand and used my right carefully to tie the bows.

I was pleased with how well my hand still functioned and silently thanked the Valar that I didn't lose any more of it. The hardest part was my boots, I powdered my feet and pulled and tugged until they were on.

I put on the belt and adjusted it so that the sword didn't interfere with the hatchet on the right side and vice-versa. Then I switched the wooden axe and the real one again, leaning the real one back up against the fireplace. I found my ponytail holder and pulled back my hair. It wasn't easy doing it with my left hand, but I managed.

Finally, I checked my pack and grabbed my water skin and went to the kitchen to eat breakfast and pack a lunch. I was happy to find that the kitchen had been cleaned and I hoped the party hadn't left it for the kitchen staff. I nibbled some fruit and bread and made a couple of sandwiches, then wrapped them up in a cloth with a few small sweet cakes and put them in the pack. Then I emptied what was left in my skin and refilled it; I slung it over my head.

I walked back to my room and put on my harness and glove, banked the fire and headed out to the training grounds, leaving Macavity sleeping peacefully on my bed. I put on my ring on the way out and flexed my right hand as much as I could. The glove had stiffened a little while it dried, but not too much. I resolved to find some saddle soap for it.

The sun was coming up over the mountaintops and the air was sweet and fresh. Morning Glories climbed the trees and had their pretty little faces open to the sun. I stopped in the middle of the path and closed my eyes, listening to the music of the valley. I heard the sweet song of the birds, the breeze rustling in the trees and the faint bubbling of the Bruinen. After a few moments, I heard a soft crunching in the leaf litter and opened my eyes. To my left I saw a white-tailed doe stepping lightly through the trees. I watched her for a bit and then crept away silently down the path.

When I arrived at the training grounds I found Gimli standing with Aragorn, Legolas and Boromir off to the right and Glorfindel with his elflings taking up a large part of the glade to my left. I stood and watched the children for a moment and their sparring took on the appearance of a dance. They were graceful and deadly.

I walked over to the small group of males and said, "Good morning, my lords."

Legolas smiled and bowed, Aragorn and Boromir nodded their heads and replied, "Good morning, my lady."

Gimli exclaimed, "Good morning lassie! I have something for you."

"Is it what you were making for me? You can't have finished it already!"

"Aye! Dwarves can work very quickly, especially when properly motivated." He pulled out something half-leather, half-metal from his pack, "Here, try this on."

The men and Legolas looked on curiously.

I slid my hand into a stiff leather cuff attached to a flat piece of metal that fit into my palm, extending out between my index finger and what was left of my pinkie, curving into a flat hook at the end. "It's amazing, Gimli," I marveled.

He took my hand and buckled two leather straps connected to the flat piece of metal around the back of my hand.

I lifted my hand and examined the hook. "Can this be sharpened? It could be a useful weapon in and of itself."

Aragorn and Boromir raised their eyebrows and Legolas tilted his head slightly. I imagined they were a little taken aback by my suggestion.

"Aye, lass. That it could. Good thinking. Just don't go around patting people on the back!"

I struggled to pull the training axe out of my harness. It still had all the weights attached and Legolas had to help me. When I had it in my hands, I held it near the head with my left hand and balanced the handle in the cradle of the hook in my right, holding it steady with my thumb and index finger.

"How does it feel?" Gimli asked.

"Backward. Let me try it the other way." I switched hands and found I had a fairly solid grip on the axe. "Hey! This is amazing! Maybe I won't have to start over after all!"

Legolas started to protest, but Gimli cut him off, "No, lass. You shouldn't be using that hand until it's healed. We'll get your left side strengthened and then you can decide which way you like better later." Legolas nodded in approval.

Gimli was busy taking the weights off my axe and I unsheathed my sword. I switched it to my right hand and could grip it as well. "This is going to be great, Gimli! Thank you so much!!!"

I sheathed my sword and pulled out a hatchet. I held it in my right hand. I went through the motions of releasing it and there was a sharp pain in my wrist. I hissed and dropped the hatchet, holding my wrist. Legolas took a step forward and I shook my head; he stopped. "This one is going to take a while," I said through gritted teeth, bending over to pick up the hatchet. "One thing I can see already is that the handles are going to get caught on the hook during the release. Can you carve them down a little, Gimli?"

"Aye. I thought of that. I will take some measurements and then you can give me back the device and the throwing axes and I will shave the handles down. In fact, let me take the axe as well and I will shape the handle in places to give you a better grip, right-handed and left."

"After training today, right?"

"You are as stubborn as a Dwarf!"

"And you are a genius, Gimli."

I reluctantly let Gimli take off my "hook". I put my pack down next to his and put the training axe back in the harness behind me. I took off my ring and pulled off the glove to make sure I hadn't started bleeding again. The stitches were clean and I turned my wrist a little. It hurt and I realized I would have to get used to the fact that the bone structure was different.

I turned my palm to face the males and said, "See; I didn't hurt myself. It's just fine."

Aragorn reached out and took my glove from me. "I see you have gotten this wet, my lady. I have a wax that will keep the leather soft." He reached into his tunic and produced a small wooden jar. He opened it and rubbed the contents into the glove, it smelled like nutmeg.

"Thank you. Yes, it got blood on it yesterday and I washed it this morning." I watched as the leather darkened.

"My lady, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed last evening," Boromir said. "It turned out much better than I had expected when I entered the kitchen."

"Home is where the heart is, my lord," I said and glanced at Legolas, "And the heart of the home is the kitchen. I had a wonderful time myself. I'll tell you a secret if you promise not to repeat it."

Aragorn continued to work the wax into the glove and Gimli was fussing over his pack, but I could tell they were listening.

"There's a woman under all this and she likes to do all that woman stuff. Cooking, cleaning and gardening. She's really quite good at it." I grinned.

"You will make someone a fine bride someday my lady," Boromir replied and looked at Legolas, who was pretending to watch the elflings.

"That's the plan my lord," I said as Aragorn handed me back the glove and I slipped it on. It was much softer. I put the ring back on, "Thank you my lord, it feels much better."

Gimli stood up and spoke, "Enough of this chatter. Time to get to work, lass."

I rolled my eyes, "Yes, Gimli."

We walked away from the others and I began relearning how to take the axe out, assume my backward stance and put it back in. I tried to picture the harness in my mind and Gimli was much more patient with me this time around. I knew what I was doing, but I had to retrain my spastic left hand and arm to act right.

Occasionally I would glance up and see Aragorn, Legolas and Boromir practicing archery. After a while, they switched to swords and Legolas took out his long white knife.

I practiced for three hours without the weights and at the end I was getting it right about seven out of ten times. My hand was beginning to ache just from so much contact with the handle and Gimli called the session to a halt.

"Let me take some measurements now," he said and took out his knotted string. I put the hook back on and held the axe both left-handed and right-handed. He measured and notched it and then measured and notched the hatchets. "I'll fix these and sharpen the metal on the device. I'll bring them back tomorrow."

"Thank you Gimli," I said as I popped the cork off my water skin with my left hand and it went flying. "Crap!" I retrieved it and Gimli took it out of my hand as I drank.

He carved a groove into the wide end of the cork and tied a thin leather string around it. I handed him the skin and he replaced the cork and tied the other end of the string around its mouth and handed it back to me.

"You are definitely a genius Gimli, thank you again. For everything."

"It is the least I can do, lass. After all, if it weren't for me . . ."

"I'll say it one last time," I cut him off, "It's not your fault! It's not anybody's fault, Gimli. She's just mean and a little crazy. She'll be punished and that'll be the end of it."

He grinned, "I'll not argue with you, lass. There may be a woman under those clothes, but there's a stubborn warrior with a sword standing in front of me."

"And don't you forget it, Gimli!" I laughed. "I'll meet you here in the morning. It's time for me to work with Glorfindel, now."

He put my hatchets into his pack and carried my axe, "Work hard, lassie! Bring your other axe tomorrow and I will make adjustments to it as well." he said and walked toward the path out of the field.

"I will," I called to his back, picking up my pack and walking over to where Glorfindel was standing.

"Are you ready to begin or would you like to rest a few moments, Elaura?" he asked as I approached.

"I think I'll rest a minute, my hand is aching a little," I replied and sat on the grass nearby.

The injured elfling was with the group now; I was astonished at how fast he was healing. He still wore the neck brace and the others were careful of it, but he was grinning and seemed to be very glad to be training again.

I had the feeling I wouldn't be allowed to leave without teaching the little ones another song, so I tried to remember one. I was idly making a necklace out of a few late clover flowers and another little ditty came to mind. I smiled and began humming the tune quietly.

After a few moments, I stood up and dusted myself off. "I'm ready to begin, Glorfindel."

He nodded and we commenced my session. A few hours later, I'd improved much and he'd started sparring with me in slow motion, showing me how to counter his strokes with my own.

He stopped and sheathed his sword and I did the same, guiding it with my right hand carefully. "You have done well, Elaura. I am pleased to see that you are more relaxed and patient with yourself today."

"I have hope, Glorfindel. I have joy and I have love. It would be hard to darken my mood. Shall we meet again tomorrow?"

"And every day thereafter. You shall begin working with my other students soon."

"I'd enjoy that!" I replied and sat down by my clover necklace. I opened my pack and dug out my lunch. I leaned back against a tree and watched Legolas and Aragorn locked in a deadly dance of blades.

Glorfindel returned to his students and they broke for a rest. The elflings gathered around me, giggling and pulling out their own lunches. The female and the elfling in the neck brace sat near me.

"Will you sing us another song?" she asked hopefully, picking up the clover necklace and putting it on the boy's head like a crown.

"Yes, then I have to go to work in the healing rooms," I replied taking a drink from my skin.

Several of the children cheered and I saw many of the adults in the field sheathe their weapons and step closer, Legolas, Boromir, Aragorn and Glorfindel among them.

"Ok now, let's see if you can learn it the first time through:"

"I'm looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before.
One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain,
Third is the roses that grow in the lane.
No need explaining, the one remaining
Is somebody I adore.
I'm looking over a four-leaf clover
That I overlooked before."*

The children squealed with delight and the adults were smiling and chuckling to themselves. I sang it again as I packed up my lunch and the children sang along with me. I kept out the sweet cakes and when we finished I said, "You may have these, but you must share."

The elflings took them from me, breaking them apart and sharing so that each child got at least one bite.

"Hannon le, híril nín [S. Thank you, my lady]," said the littlest warrior.

I took his little head in my hands and kissed his forehead, "Glas nín, penneth [S. My pleasure (joy), young one]," I replied.

I picked up my pack and stood up and dusted myself off again. I left the little group; they were singing the song to each other and laughing as they gathered up their things.

I stretched and walked up to Legolas, who was still standing with the men and Glorfindel. "I'm off to work. Is anyone else leaving?"

"I will escort you back to the house, meleth," Legolas replied and offered me his elbow.

"Until we meet again my lords," I said to the others and took Legolas' elbow.

They nodded in response and we left the glade, I did not see Aragorn again until the week before we left and then only in passing.

"I hope you know many more songs, Elaura. They will insist you sing to them from now on," he said as we walked.

"I'm going to have to think hard; I've just about exhausted my store of childhood favorites."

"They are wonderful songs. I should like to have met your lady mother."

"I wish you could meet her," I said and sighed.

"'Meet'? I understood that your people are dead. Is she still alive?"

"I never said they were dead Legolas, I just don't know. I only know that they are not in Middle Earth and that I have no way of getting back to them."

"I do not understand."

"I promise I'll explain as much as I know after this is all over."

"Then it is part of what Mithrandir told you not to discuss?"

"Yes. That is another reason why our union must wait hún nín, I want you to know everything before you commit yourself to me and I can't tell you yet."

"I understand, meleth. I trust in Mithrandir's judgment, but you can not tell me anything that will turn my heart away from you."

We were at the steps again. I leaned up and kissed him quickly. "Thank you, that means everything to me. Will I see you after my lesson with Lord Erestor?"

"Yes, I will meet you at the fountain again," he replied with a smile and I turned and went back to my room to clean up and change.

The healers took me to the gardens that afternoon to show me what the herbs looked like while they were growing. I was amazed to find that the seeds the Mirkwood elves had given them were already poking up through the dirt.

My instructor released me early and I had time to go over the poem before meeting with Erestor. My lesson went well and he gave me another assignment before we parted.

I met Legolas at the fountain afterwards. He was alone that night and had packed us a picnic supper. We went back to the spring where he first brushed my hair and we ate and cuddled for several hours.

My days and nights went on like this for the next several weeks. My hand healed well and the stitches came out within a week. Gimli's adjustments to my weapons made an enormous difference and I wore the hook all the time, learning many other uses for it. Gimli had sharpened the edges and brought the end to a deadly point then gave me a thick leather sleeve to cover it warning me only to take it off in battle. I spent an hour every night working with the device he made to strengthen my left hand and the ball he made for my right.

I also became acquainted with the elves I would be traveling with over many dinners in the Mirkwood compound. They were very friendly and helped my Elvish by only speaking to me in Sindarin. Legolas and I continued to spend all our spare time together, discussing our hopes and dreams for the future.

By the time Aragorn and all of Elrond's scouts returned and the final decisions were made to depart, the trees of Rivendell were naked and a biting wind was blowing down from the mountains.

I was sparring with Gimli both left and right-handed by then and had relearned how to throw the hatchets with both hands. Glorfindel was surprised at how well the hook allowed me to switch hands with my sword.

I felt competent with all my studies, but as Legolas had said, it takes years of practice to become an expert at anything and I'd only had a little over a month.

During the last week of our stay in Rivendell, Legolas introduced me to his horse and told me I would be riding the beautiful dapple grey mare to Mirkwood. She had a black mane and tail (which were plaited) and ivory hooves. He introduced us and he taught me how to ride her without a saddle. Since I couldn't speak to her the way the elves did, she allowed me to use a bridle and reins.

I already knew the basics of caring for a horse; my grandmother had bought me riding lessons when I was thirteen and they taught me how to use a curry comb and maintain a horse's frogs. She was a gentle mare and we became comfortable with one another quickly. It helped that Legolas spoke with her and let her know I was an inexperienced rider.

The hobbits had regained the weight they'd lost on their journey to Rivendell and spent the evenings of that last week together in the Hall of Fire. Frodo and Sam spent their days with Bilbo while Merry and Pippin explored the valley.

I rarely saw Gandalf, Aragorn or Elrond.

* "I'm Looking Over a Four-leaf Clover" by Mort Dixon, music by Harry Woods, 1927