Nellas meets the River-daughter.
Written for Silmladylove's Tolkien Femslash Week Sappho prompt
]to last all night long
1. dewy riverbanks by StarSpray
2. messenger of spring by StarSpray
Nellas darted through the trees, laughing for the sheer joy of running, and of clear skies and cool shady forests, until she heard the lazy sound of flowing water ahead. She slowed, but only a little. The river was not large, and she was sure she could make it across in one flying leap, if she timed it right.
But at the last moment she set her foot on a branch slick with that evening's dew, and instead of flying across the water Nellas tumbled down into it with a shriek that startled a handful of birds into flight. The water was cool rather than cold, and it was not deep, but the current was stronger than Nellas had thought, and she tumbled along the muddy bottom for a time before the water slowed and allowed her to regain her bearings.
She surfaced to a face-full of lily pads and laughter like rain on the river water. Nellas twisted around as she coughed and spluttered, trying to find the laughter's source while she caught her breath. She caught a glimpse of something yellow as it slid into the water, and a moment later something grabbed her ankle, tugging her down among the lily roots. Nellas kicked free, and found herself face to face with a lady, with sun kissed skin and golden hair that floated about her head like a feathery cloud. She flashed a toothy grin before vanishing into the deeper shadows of the pool.
Nellas swam back to the surface, and then to the grassy bank, clambering out of the pool before she could be pulled back in. As she pulled off her sodden shoes and tried to wring out her hair, Nellas watched the water. She had met old Iarwain, of course, but he had not mentioned any lady who dwelt by one of the river's pools. Yet as she looked around she saw no house, no sign of encampment, nothing save a delicately carved brush lying abandoned on the grass.
The woman emerged from the pool as Nellas started to get to her feet. She laughed and splashed onto the bank. "I thought at first you were an unusually large fish," she said, "and then perhaps Iarwain playing at one of his games, but I see now you are neither! What makes an Elf maid go swimming all clad in dusty leathers in my lily pool?"
Nellas couldn't help but join her laughter. "I fell in," she said. "I beg your pardon, lady, I did not mean to disturb your lily pool."
"You are certainly pardoned, of you shall be if you tell me your name, and sit with me a while in the sunshine to tell me of your travels."
Nellas sat down again, as the lady took up her comb and ran it smoothly through her long golden hair. "I am Nellas," she said. "I came from Doriath, west of the Ered Luin. What is your name, lady?"
"My name?" The lady laughed. "I am the River-daughter, and rivers don't give names, but receive them. Iarwain calls me Goldberry, and I like that well enough." She looked at Nellas with eyes clear as the water in the lily pool, growing dark with the coming twilight. "Will you stay a while with me by my lily pool, Nellas of Doriath?"
About them dew gathered on the soft grass, the drops glinting gently like tiny stars, and a nightingale sang sweetly in the trees. The wind whispered in the willow branches, and the smell of lilies wafted lazily over them from the pool. It was a peaceful place, a place of joy and bright laughter and light on the water—and of course there was Goldberry herself, lovely as springtime with a smile bright as the moon. "I would like that very much," Nellas said.
for Silmladylove's Sappho prompt:
messenger of spring
nightingale with a voice of longing
Summer and autumn had passed in blissful indolence by Goldberry’s lily pool. Nellas had learned the lay of the land and had become acquainted with the various creatures that called this part of the forest their home; she had floated with Goldberry down the little river to where it met a much larger one, and there they had hidden in the reeds and watched a party of travelers wander by, oblivious to any watchers. Iarwain had joined them often by the pool, singing songs that sounded like nonsense at first, but which Nellas came to believe were in a language older than any she knew—older, maybe, than the first tentative words spoken by Cuiviénen so long ago.
Certainly Goldberry was old enough to remember the first Elves to pass by, Vanyar on the Great Journey to Valinor. She told Nellas about those ancient Elves as she deftly braided late summer blossoms into her hair. The Vanyar had passed by swiftly, too eager to see the Sea and Laurelin and Telperion to care much for the trees and streams and rivers that they passed by. The Noldor had followed more slowly, but it was the Teleri that lingered longest, greeting the trees, speaking to them, first rousing them to thought and speech, which delighted Goldberry. Nellas was not the first elf maid she had befriended, and to those long-ago travelers she had taught songs of flowing water and of growing things, as she now taught them to Nellas, between kisses and caresses.
But as autumn went on, Nellas saw Goldberry less and less, and by the time the last leaf drifted to the ground, brown and dry, Goldberry was gone from her lily pool, leaving even less of at race than the water lilies themselves. Nellas wandered up and down the river calling for her, but only the last nightingales replied, before they too disappeared, taking wing and flying south to spend the winter in warmer climes. Those lovely autumn days with frosty mornings and sun-warmed afternoons were gone, and ice was forming at the edges of the river, and Goldberry was gone.
Iarwain, however, was not. “Oh, don’t you be a-worrying, Nellas!” he said, finding her sitting forlornly by the barren pool. “Goldberry’s just gone for her winter sleep, is all. She’s a lady for the spring and summer, for flowers and running water, not frost and snow!”
“Oh!” Nellas rose to her feet. That made sense, and she wondered now why she had never wondered before what Goldberry did when it was too cold to sit beside her pool, and her lilies were all gone.
“You come along with me, now, and we’ll spend a merry winter together!” Iarwain laughed and took her hand, leading her along the path to a little cottage atop a hill, a little grassy island in a sea of trees. Iarwain welcomed Nellas warmly, and before long it almost felt as though she had lived there all her life, singing and laughing with him. But as the winter dragged on—it was warmer than usual, and so there was more rain than snow, and what snow there was quickly turned to muddy slush—she grew bored, and a little despondent. She missed winters in Doriath, behind Melian’s Girdle where there was always just enough snow for fun, but never so much that they were hindered, and there were games to play on the lawns by the Esgalduin, and skating on the frozen water, and bright bonfires to chase away the chill, and always many voices singing.
But Doriath was gone, Elu Thingol dead and Melian passed beyond the Sea, and Dior and Nimloth and their little ones slain in the dead of a far worse winter than this one. Nellas had turned her feet east after that, not daring to seek out any other survivors, or daring to cross war-torn Beleriand by herself to reach Círdan’s folk on Balar. Winter was no longer a time of happiness for her, and it was made worse by missing Goldberry. Iarwain, for all his kindness and his cheerfulness, just wasn’t the same. But he seemed to sense her mood, and did not trouble her unduly; he seemed to know when she wanted to be left alone and when she did not mind cheering up, and acted accordingly.
Then the days grew warmer, and the ice melted away, leaving muddy puddles behind, and the spring rains came to swell the little river. And on one warm day beneath clear skies Nellas heard a familiar voice, and found Goldberry clad in green and silver dancing through the trees, her song full of welcome to the returning nightingales and robins and of warmth and growth and new life. Nellas laughed for sheer joy, and Goldberry took her hands so they could dance together down the river back to the lily pool.
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