Pride and Prejudice: A Hobbit's Tale Part XI
by Lillian C.
Chapter 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
Elizabeth was surprised to find how soon their party reached Mithlond after having left the Shire, and when she expressed her surprise to Georgianiel, she only nodded and smiled wanly. As they had drawn nearer to their destination, Elizabeth noticed that her friend, as well as the rest of the elves, became more silent and contemplative, particularly those who had known no other home than Middle Earth.
When they ascended the final hill and beheld at last the shining field of blue and gold, a sudden stillness swept through the company. Elizabeth felt she must have been the only person to notice the change, and she somehow sensed from looking into the face of each elf that all the hopes and dreams they had ever cherished throughout their immeasurably long lives were embodied in those infinite waters.
As for herself, she was not so profoundly affected by the sight of the sea. Oddly the scene seemed as familiar to her as the view outside her bedroom window at Longbourn. She was aware of such a strong feeling of home as she took in the white beaches and the strange music of the waves that she wondered if she would ever be able to leave it.
"It is just as I dreamed it would be," Georgianiel said as she moved to Elizabeth's side. "Do you see that ship there?" Elizabeth looked in the direction Georgianiel indicated and saw a beautiful white ship waiting in the harbor. "That ship will bear me into the West."
"Forgive me, but you do not seem as old as those who will take the journey with you," Elizabeth observed, "and neither do you seem as weary of Middle Earth. Why do you choose to go with them?"
Georgianiel looked away for a moment, as a tear slid down her slender cheek. Elizabeth almost regretted her question until Georgianiel raised her eyes to Elizabeth's and her smile returned.
"I was a small child when I lost my family, but I have always known they would be waiting for me whenever I come to Tol Eressëa. This knowledge has always been a hope and a comfort in my loneliness."
She turned once more towards the ship, and an expression of resignation quickly replaced the veil of sadness that had fallen across her face. She took Elizabeth's hand in her own and said, "All has been made ready, and my time has come."
Elizabeth's eyes widened as she watched the other elves make their way to the white ship that waited below. "The ship is to leave today?" Elizabeth gasped as Georgianiel moved to follow their party. "But I thought-"
Georgianiel squeezed her hand reassuringly. "Yes, I am afraid we must bid farewell at last. Would that we could have the assurance of meeting again, but our respective fates will not allow it!"
The reality of Georgianiel's words fell upon Elizabeth's consciousness like the sudden onslaught of cold rain that had assailed their party days previous. She was unable to speak through the tears that threatened to spill. Of course she had known that their parting was inevitable, but her mind always pushed the event forward somewhere in the future. She was not prepared to part from her friend that day and certainly not that very hour.
As they drew near the dock, Georgianiel suddenly gasped and cried aloud. Elizabeth looked in alarm after the elf maid who had sped forward to the elves that waited by the ship. She would have immediately followed her friend had not the sight of a tall, raven-haired elf lord waiting among the others froze her steps. It was into this elf's arms that Georgianiel ran, and her tears now fell freely as she threw her arms about his neck.
But even as Georgianiel embraced Darcë, she felt him stiffen; and when she pulled away in confusion to gaze at her kinsman, she saw that the sudden change was affected by the presence of Elizabeth just a few feet from them. Darcë's face appeared hard and cold at first, but his eyes told a different tale, one of sorrow and regret with perhaps a twinge of hope. Georgianiel was familiar enough with her kinsman to know he was exerting an enormous amount of effort to conceal the emotions that brewed within.
"Elizabeth," he whispered just loud enough for Georgianiel to hear.
"Miss Bennet," he said in a clearer voice as he crossed the distance between them. He offered her his hand, and Elizabeth accepted it, actions that greatly surprised Georgianiel. "Thank you for your kindness to Georgianiel in accompanying her hither. I doubt not you have made enjoyable a journey that otherwise would have been difficult."
"You are very welcome, my lord," Elizabeth replied blushing at the audible tremor in her voice. "It was my pleasure to do so."
"I trust your family is in health?" Darcë inquired. If Elizabeth had been less nervous, she might have detected a tremor in his voice as well.
"Yes, I thank you, my lord."
"Had you a pleasant journey hither?"
"Very pleasant indeed, save for the violent tempest that hindered us two nights ago."
"Yes, I was fortunate to have arrived ahead of it." Darcë paused and looked uncertainly at Elizabeth, wishing to say so much more than such trivial pleasantries.
Georgianiel discreetly smothered a smile as she observed the pair, being particularly amused that Darcë had yet to relinquish Elizabeth's hand. Ages hence, living in peace on the Lonely Isle, Georgianiel would often look back and fondly remember them as they were at that time, standing close together, uncertain of each other and not yet ready to acknowledge the ties that had already irrevocably bound them together. However, at that moment, Georgianiel was suddenly overcome with the feeling that she would be making more than one eternal farewell that day.
Looking down and seeing that her hand was still clasped in Darcë's, Elizabeth's blush deepened. Darcë noticed her discomfort and recollected himself. He released Elizabeth's hand and, turning once more to Georgianiel, embraced her for the last time.
"Be happy, sister of my heart," Darcë murmured into her hair. "Be happy, and do not wait for me."
Georgianiel nodded, but could find nothing to say. Further words were unnecessary for them, for they had long foreseen this day. After exchanging a final, tearful farewell with Elizabeth, she joined the others on the ship.
As the ship was steered from the havens into the Gulf of Lhûn, Elizabeth had the strange sensation that a small part of herself was standing there beside Georgianiel and drifting away to a place she could not follow. Her hand unconsciously sought Darcë's, and the ache in her heart was eased by the contact. Together Darcë and Elizabeth watched the sun and the ship recede into the distance until they met in a golden haze and disappeared.
A soft but deep voice broke the silence. "Elizabeth Bennet?" it said.
Elizabeth turned to see a strange, ancient elf standing before her. He was clad entirely in gray, a sharp contrast to his white beard and shockingly blue eyes. She had never seen such an elf, whose features bore such prominent evidence of a life long beyond human comprehension.
"I am Elizabeth Bennet," she replied with a slight but respectful bow.
Darcë smiled at the elf lord and said, "Miss Bennet, I present to you Círdan the Shipwright, Lord of the Havens."
"It is an honor to meet you, my lord," Elizabeth said, not a little in awe of the great elf lord.
"It is an honor to meet you as well. You are your father's daughter, Miss Bennet," Círdan said with a smile. "You are very welcome here and are free to remain as long as you wish. My people have prepared lodgings for you, and a company of Lord Elrond's people are ready to be your escort whenever you desire to return to your home."
Elizabeth was pleasantly surprised at Círdan's generosity and even more so at the mention of her father. Her travels in the last year had proven more than once that her father possessed a great many secrets unshared.
That evening, Elizabeth was shown to some spacious rooms in Círdan's own home. Elizabeth was delighted with them, for they were not only well suited to her taste, being light and cheerful, but also had windows that overlooked the sea. During her stay, she kept them always open that she might relish the sounds of the waves and the sea birds and the songs of the mariners.
Elizabeth kept mostly to herself in the days that followed, preferring to mourn the loss of Georgianiel in solitude. When the initial pangs of grief began to lose their intensity, her thoughts began to wander to cares closer at hand, namely Darcë's behavior to her since her arrival.
She had not expected that Darcë would even deign to speak to her again, much less welcome her with such warmth. She learned from the elf maids who served her that he inquired everyday after her but would not press to see her. If it were not for her remembering his interference with Binglorn and Jane, she would have gladly sought to meet him.
Often she took long walks along the shoreline while she puzzled over his behavior. She never found outdoor excursions more pleasing than at that time. The sun and air seemed so much cleaner than farther inland, and she delighted in the lively dance of the waves upon the sand and around her often-bare feet. Every once in a while the sea would yield from its depths some small treasure that she would wrap in her handkerchief and save for Jane, who she knew would treasure it.
On one such excursion three days from her arrival, Darcë crossed her path, and she found that she welcomed his company and minded not at all his joining her. Darcë himself was relieved to find that his presence no longer seemed entirely irksome to her.
He eyed the small bundle she was carrying with curiosity. Elizabeth followed his eyes and laughed self-consciously.
"Gifts for Jane," she explained as she uncovered the shells. "I did not think I would be able to do justice to these on paper."
Darcë held one aloft and chuckled softly. "Perhaps not, but I doubt she would welcome such gifts, Miss Bennet."
Elizabeth frowned. "What do you mean? They are lovely."
"Indeed, but they are not yet unoccupied."
Darcë laughed at the bewildered expression on Elizabeth's face, and taking the rest of the shells from her, tossed them back into the sea.
"Come," he said taking her arm. "I have many such at home whose tenants have long since abandoned them. You may take as many as you wish to your sister."
Elizabeth laughed in her turn and said, "I never imagined you would be a collector of seashells, my lord."
His smile turned melancholy, and he replied, "I kept them for Georgianiel. Any tokens from the sea fascinate her to no end."
Elizabeth became more somber as well. The pair continued in silence until they drew near Darcë's home. Half a mile from the shore, partially hidden by a grove of trees stood his abode: a large, stately house cunningly built with gray stone. Elizabeth observed it with an appreciative eye. She knew little of architecture, but she could see it had been well constructed and mingled well with its natural surroundings.
"Welcome to Pemberlë," Darcë said. He studied her face intently, searching for signs of approval or disapproval, as her eyes took in his home.
"Pemberlë? I like that. The name suits very well. It is a very handsome building," Elizabeth said with sincerity.
Darcë smiled warmly at her praise. "I had some assistance in its construction from the dwarves of the Blue Mountains," he said as he guided her to the entrance. "Only dwarves work stone so well, no matter what my kindred may say."
Elizabeth did not understand this remark but resolved to ask her father about it when she saw him again. When she entered the house, her favorable opinion of Pemberlë did not waver. The furnishings reflected a simple but elegant taste. Windows were numerous and situated so as to admit the greatest amount of light and the fairest prospects. Elizabeth was very much impressed and briefly wondered if it was Darcë alone who arranged the rooms in such a way.
Darcë guided her to a pleasant sitting room and left her to seek the aforementioned shells. He was not absent five minutes when a servant entered bearing refreshments of which Elizabeth eagerly partook, having not taken anything since early that morning.
When Darcë did not soon return, Elizabeth took to wandering about the room, gazing with idle curiosity at various objects. Her interest suddenly peaked when she came upon a beautiful, glittering object set within a small wooden box. It was a large medallion in the shape of a star with many points, a symbol that seemed oddly familiar to her. A bright, blue stone set in its center shone with a strange light that held her in awe. Elizabeth jumped at the sound of Darcë's voice just behind her.
"I received this from my lord Maedhros as an award for bravery on the battle field many years ago," he said as he reached around her and picked up the medallion. "It has long ceased to be a symbol of pride."
"It is very beautiful," Elizabeth said softly, choosing not to inquire about his latter statement. "I have never seen such a stone. It must have been a great deed that merited such a gift."
Darcë sighed and returned the medallion to its case. "I assisted Maedhros and his brothers in rescuing their father Fëanor in the Dagor-nuin-Giliath. We were too late though. It was not long before he perished from his wounds." He paused and shook his head. "Forgive me, it was not my intention to depress you with tales of a dead age."
"Tales do not depress me, my lord. My father inspired in me a love of history when I was but a girl, and it is my firm belief that history is not to be forgotten so that we may learn from our errors," Elizabeth said, her eyes revealing to Darcë more than the words spoken.
Darcë smiled and said, "Many of the greatest of my people lived long and accomplished many things but perished without achieving the wisdom your few years has granted you."
Elizabeth colored at his praise and turned her head away from Darcë's gaze to the wooden case he held in one hand. "This holds the collection you spoke of, I presume?"
Darcë nodded and offered her the case. She accepted it, grateful for the change of subject, and spread the contents on the table. She gasped at the sight of the rainbow assortment of seashells and began to examine each one with a childlike wonder that elicited Darcë's laughter.
"If they please you so, you had better take them all with you." Elizabeth opened her mouth to protest, but Darcë raised a hand and said, "Nay, they are rightfully yours now. I shall take more pleasure in them knowing they are in your possession."
Elizabeth smiled in gratitude and gently placed the shells in their case. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Darcë draw near and heard an intake of breath as if he were going to speak.
In a rush of fear for she knew not what, she turned sharply towards the window and exclaimed, "Oh dear! The sun will set soon, and I have a long walk ahead of me. You have been very kind, my lord, but I feel I must return now, else people will be sent to look for me."
Darcë froze and a pained expression passed quickly over his features. He nodded solemnly and said, "Allow me to escort you back then, Miss Bennet."