Gilraen, Lady Isilmë of the House of Telcontar, was well hidden in the rocky slopes of Emyn Arnen. She huddled beneath an outcrop of stone and wished fervently that the rain would stop. The bad weather had one good feature, however: Any sign of her passage would now be washed away, if she had been so careless as to leave any. This was doubtful. After all, she had been trained in woodcraft by the greatest tracker and hunter in Gondor.
She intended to go back, when she was ready. She was not so childish as to dream of running away. Where—to Thranduil’s kingdom, perhaps? Silliness. No, she would stay hidden for only a few days, just to teach them a lesson. Why had they made her come? She had to sit like a statue in Lord Faramir’s great hall, princess-like, and talk politely to the emissary’s daughter. Mother was “indisposed,” they said. Ridiculous. She was never sick. But now, supposedly, even Lady Éowyn could not help her with entertaining the foreigner: she was too busy looking after mother.
If only it would not rain.
She had been so lonely since granny’s death, for that was the name she had called her great-grandmother Ivorwen, who had died only three weeks earlier at the age of one hundred and fifty-five—an impressive age for a Númenorean woman in these late days, everyone said. Granny, who had sung to her at night and braided her thick, difficult hair. Just like my daughter’s, she would laugh. My little Gilraen.
She saw some movement through the woods down the slope and smiled with satisfaction. Already they were looking for her. They will never find me.
After some moments bent down, examining the ground, the tracker followed her precise trail up the hillside. She watched the hooded and cloaked figure wend its way through the trees. He looks just like papa, she thought, amused. But soon the amusement began to flag. He can’t really be papa, she told herself, unconvinced. The man stopped and turned his head and she recognized, with dismay, that he was indeed the greatest tracker and hunter in Gondor. Within minutes he was standing on the slope beneath her tiny ledge and looking her in the face.
“Well,” said her father.
She stared at him. Behind the relief in his eyes anger sparkled. He raised his arms. “Jump down,” he commanded.
Sheepishly, she gathered her pack and pulled the hood over her head against the rain. She leaped the few feet down into his arms; he caught her with precision and set her on her feet. He looked her in the eyes. “You will never do this again,” he said. “Come now.”
She followed him down the hillside, rage battling with humiliation in her breast. And of all the unfair things, the rain stopped.
A half-mile away two mounted guardsmen stood, one holding her father’s horse. The king mounted, and had the guardsman help his daughter mount before him. They set off to return to Faramir’s hall.
She knew what was coming. He never shouted at her, never even scolded her. Instead, he would talk to her, and somehow he always made her see everything differently. But this time, she didn’t want to see things differently. “You don’t know what it’s like, being eleven,” she cried petulantly.
He chuckled. “You’re right,” he said. “I skipped that year. I went from ten to twelve.”
She had to laugh then. “That’s silly, papa.”
“Yes,” he said. “Therefore, you must admit I had to have been, once upon a time and very long ago, eleven.” He was quiet for a while, as if remembering. Then he said, “Gilraen, it made me happier than I can tell you that granny could live with us for the last years of her life. I didn’t know her as a boy, because, as you know, I was in Rivendell. That you knew her made up for missing that, somehow.”
She began to cry. He kissed the back of her head and lifted a hand from the reins to squeeze her wrist. “Oh, papa,” she said.
“Grief is hard, and we have left you too much alone,” he said. “But there are reasons. Some, perhaps, you will not understand until you are older. Some are easier to explain. I have been trying to resolve through negotiation these differences with the people of Rhun. I fear I have failed, and there will be war.”
She gasped. “I’m sorry, papa. Will you have to go away again?”
“If there is war, I must,” he said. “There is never a good time for war, but this is by far the worst.” He sighed. “You know your mother has been unwell.”
Gilraen made a most unladylike snort. “I know better than to believe that,” she said. “Mother does not get sick, no more than Legolas. And if she was sick, why didn’t she stay home, anyway?”
“She should have stayed,” he said. “I lost that argument. As for the rest, I wish you were right. The truth is, Gilraen, she is with child, and that is very difficult for the Eldar.”
Well, that was a shock. She noted the mix of worry and happiness in her father’s voice. “A little sister?” she said.
“You will have a brother,” her father said. “But don’t tell anyone that we know the child is a son. This is our secret. So, you see, I have much on my mind, because if I must leave for war, she will bear the child without me.”
She thought this over. “But I will be here,” she said.
“Yes, you will,” he answered. “And that will be a very great comfort to all of us.”
“I will be good,” she said. “I promise, papa.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I knew I could count on you.”
Years later, at the time of her father’s death, she finally understood just what he meant.