Like a Friendly Touch Among the Crowd by Himring

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Story Notes:

Written for Independence1776 for Fandom Stocking 2015.

 

Technically, this is a gap filler in my story "The West Wind Quartet" (it also features my OFC Emlinn from that story).
But I think that, as it is told entirely from Elrond's POV, who has no prior knowledge of those events, it can also be read as a stand-alone.


He was crossing a room full of chattering people milling about, all by himself, when a sound came and touched him on the shoulder. He felt the touch and its friendliness before he could identify the sound. He stopped to listen for it.

Voices, many voices--some he knew and some he did not--but it was not the sound of a voice he had heard, he thought. There, again, in a short interval, a lull between many conversations: the sound of harp strings, a familiar phrase...

***

Maglor.

It was Maglor he had heard play that tune, one evening in spring when Maglor's mood seemed to have lifted and lightened as if with the white blossom on the trees.

'I have not heard this one before,' he had said, when the hand rested on the harp strings. 'Is it new?'

'Ah, no,' Maglor had replied, smiling a little wistfully, 'I wrote that quite a while ago--before you were born, even. In happier times...'

***

Elrond's gaze sought the harpist, among and behind the chattering guests. Discreetly in a corner, an ensemble of court musicians had been arranged in order to provide a musical backdrop. But the musician who held the harp was a stranger, someone who he might or might not have glimpsed before, but who he had never spoken to, he was sure: a Sindarin woman, a little on the short and dumpy side, dressed in shades of brown. The only bright thing about her seemed to be the yellow ribbon in her hair--and the notes that flowed quick from under her fingers, without emphasis, as if trying to worm themselves into the consciousness of the audience without drawing attention to themselves...

***

'Emlinn,' said Gil-galad. 'I think that's the one you mean. From Brithombar--well, at any rate, that's where she was from, before.'

'One of Cirdan's people?' said Elrond, surprised. 'I thought she might hail from further east.'

'They were wanderers, she and her husband, even before,' said Gil-galad. 'There are rumours, unconfirmed--I've heard it said she studied with Maglor for a time.' He shrugged, casual and unconcerned. 'As far as I know, Maglor never ran a school...'

His royal cousin, Elrond had learned, seemed so straightforward, almost blunt at times, that it was easy to overlook his evasions. He did not doubt that Gil-galad had deliberately refrained from enquiring further into those rumours.

'Don't worry, Gil,' he said. 'I won't rock any boats, if I can avoid it.'

Gil-galad nodded, a brief smile acknowledging his promise.

 

***

He waylaid her in a shadowy corridor, like a conspirator or a lover seeking an assignation. It was perhaps not surprising that her eyes widened with alarm.

'Lord Elrond,' she gasped, hastily sinking into a curtsy.

'You are Emlinn of Brithombar?' he asked.

'Yes,' she responded warily.

'That song you played the other night...'

She seemed to know instantly which one he meant. Her alarm intensified.

'Oh please, Lord Elrond, please don't stop me playing! I'm sorry, very sorry if the memories are unwelcome, but I need to... I promised...!'

She barely refrained from wringing her hands. He feared she might be about to burst into tears. She had already been on edge; there were too many who regarded the Sons of Feanor as a nightmare they wished to forget. He had not handled the matter well.

'No,' he said quickly, 'no! Quite the opposite. What I was going to say--please go on playing, do. And if anyone gives you any trouble over it, come to me.'

She caught her breath in surprise and relief.

'Thank you, Lord! Thank you...'

***

He was crossing a room full of chattering people, when a sound came and touched him on the shoulder--a little friendly touch among the crowd: another song that he had not heard for far too long. He glanced across at the musicians just as the harpist raised her head. It was the most fleeting of exchanges that passed between them--as if between co-conspirators. Elrond smiled to himself and moved on.




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