37. Cracks Splinter
Cracks: A break that mars a solid surface, causing what is unseen below, to be exposed. Sometimes these cracks can be detrimental to the safety and well being of those around the solid surface, so inflicted. Once a crack has begun, repairs are nearly ineffectual in stopping the crack from reopening and spreading. The breaking open of a wounded and cracked heart can be the most terrible sight to behold. A flood of grief, anger and hateful violence can be unnerving, to those who can not see below, to that has been closeted away, for too long. When a wounded heart splinters into more cracks then it can hold, a choice is made to paste the cracks again or to open it up freely and begin anew. Those that survive and flourish always know, an open heart can be remade many, many times.
Haldir spied Briar perched precariously in a tree at a strategic point on the Northern border. She had been in the same cramped position for the last four hours, watching for stragglers from the fell beasts of Moria, which sometimes tried to penetrate the Golden Woods. The sentinel was very, very good at her job. It was one of the reasons that Haldir had taken her into his patrol unit and later took her as his line partner. In every patrol, line partners were chosen to compliment their strengths, and to offset their partner's lack. The two strongest teams were Orophin and Rumil, who as brothers fought side by side as if they were one entity, with Briar and Haldir beating them out by a slim margin.
When Briar first had been found by Haldir and his brothers just inside the borders of Lothlorien, there was little hope she would survive. She had been beaten and raped, so badly, that it had taken her nearly two months of healing, just to be able to get up for short periods. After a full year, Briar had demanded to be allowed to train in weapons, along side the wardens in training. It had taken an act of Eru, in the form of a severe dressing down by Lord Celeborn, before Haldir allowed her on the training fields. She excelled in archery right away. Within the first year of her weapons training, she had surpassed elves, in archery, that had been training for many centuries, yet, her close combat knife work left much to be desired. At Celeborn's insistence, Haldir took over her training personally. She was a stubborn and serious student, which pleased the March warden, once he got over his initial irritation of being an elfling sitter. Haldir worked her harder then any of the others, but was still a mite disappointed in her close combat skills. Finally in exasperation, Briar had thrown her dagger to the ground and stormed off to a nearby tree.
When Haldir clambered gracefully up the tree to sit next to her, Briar sighed and told the March warden, if he wanted someone that good with hand to hand and close quarters combat, he needed to find her sister! They spent the day in the tree, as she talked freely about certain things, but not all topics would she speak about. All she would say about her family was her Nanneth was dead, her Ada was missing from her life and she had a sister that was only half decent with archery, but had no equal in hand to hand fighting and could use any sharp edged weapon the March warden could come up with! Axes and battle hammers still gave her sister trouble on the down swing sometimes, but she was deadly with them none the less. As the sun fell that night, arrogant Haldir and quiet, serious Briar became actual friends, not just student and teacher.
When she had passed her warden training, Haldir offered her a spot on his patrol. Then five years into her warden duties, Haldir's partner took a poisoned arrow to the chest and was lost to the Halls of Mandos. Briar's own partner had fallen in a skirmish the month before and had yet to get a new partner. So the March warden took Briar on as his new partner, to the shock of the other wardens, except, of course, for those in their tightly bound unit. Her skills, with the long bow, overshadowed even Haldir. The March warden thought his partner, could possible match his famed cousin, the Mirkwood prince, arrow for arrow. Briar's sword skills matched his perfectly. He was strength and experience, while she was speed and agility. Whenever they sparred on the training field, it took hours for them to either win, or, more often then not, to declare a draw. The March warden's close combat knife skills were far superior to Briar's own, but her speed, agility and sometimes spectacular hand to hand moves, counteracted her lack of dagger skills. On the border, they spent many nights speaking of old legends, books and training strategies. They had developed an easy working rhythm. It showed, in how quickly they shifted in and out, as one unit, moving and adapting, almost simultaneously, to a given situation. Now the rhythm had changed, but Haldir was not happy about it in the least.
Two riders burst into view some leagues in the distance. Briar tensed, as she watched their ragged approach. Following close behind them were a pack of Orcs. It took Briar only a moment to peruse the scene, before she turned to her silent, evasive partner. "Haldir, there are riders to the Northwest coming hard looks like the Twins, but something is wrong with one of them. He rides slightly slumped and you know they would not race for safety among the woods with such a small band of Orcs to play with." Haldir straighten further to spy the riders more closely. Indeed it was the twin sons of Elrond, heading for the Golden Woods border at a breakneck pace. Whistling to the other wardens, Haldir made ready to exterminate the foul smelling beasts of Mordor.
Glancing to the side, Haldir caught sight of Briar's blazing eyes and anticipative grin. She truly loved the Golden Woods, as much as the March warden and fiercely defended its borders from all harm. She turned her head, just enough, that her gaze locked with Haldir's. With a cheeky grin spreading rapidly across her features, Briar gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, before blowing Haldir an unexpected kiss, from her place in the Mallorn tree. Turning back to the matter at hand, Briar nearly missed the shocked look the March warden gave her. The small pleased smirk that flitted briefly on his lips a moment later was completely missed by Briar, but not by his amused brothers. They were gratified to see a small crack in his usually cold manner and had hopes that the sentinel could breach the high, stone wall that Haldir had built around his wounded heart. The brothers nodded to each other, in utter agreement. They would do all they could to bring together the March warden and the sentinel, even if Haldir might not be truly appreciative, until his temper cooled.
Elladan twisted swiftly towards his younger twin. An arrow protruded from his shoulder, and the poison upon its tip was slowly seeping into Elrohir's system. Elladan worried for his twin, but knew the wardens of the Golden Woods would have long seen their abrupt arrival upon their border. The warriors' legendary skill in protecting their home, would give Elladan a chance to heal his twin. **Hold on Ro, we are almost to the Sentinels. Once they have engaged the Orcs, I will see to your wound.**, Elladan said in their peculiar mind to mind twin-speak. **I know Adan. I will last, worry not! The poison is effecting me, but it is a slow type with little burning. We have the herbs to counteract this poison in your pack.** Came the weary reply.
The Twins flashed past the sentinels at full speed. They were well familiar with the Golden Wood and its well kept secrets. Making straight for the nearest talan, Elladan jumped off his mounts back, grabbed his pack and hurried over, to his twin, who slid off the horse unsteadily. He could see, by the flushed face and over bright grey eyes that the poison had progressed faster then Elrohir had let on. Frowning in agitated worry, Elladan scooped up his younger twin in a shoulder carry and made his way up the Mallorn tree, to the talan secreted in the branches. Gathering some fresh water in a pot, Elladan threw a combination of herbs in and set the pot aside to let the herbs steep over the miniscule fire burning in the talan.
Gently probing the wound around the arrow, Elladan winced at the strangled hiss that passed his twin's lips. Closing his eyes briefly in preparation, Elladan took a deep cleansing breath and looked in the pain filled eyes that were a mirror of his own. "Hold on Ro, I need to pull this loose. Scream if you must, but no hitting!" A ghost of a smile flashed briefly, from the younger, at the standing joke between the pair. Ever since Legolas had knocked Elladan nearly unconscious when the older twin removed an arrow from the Mirkwood elf's side, they teased each other about the incident to quiet the pain and guilt they felt in hurting the other. A nod from the younger, the older grasped the arrow's shaft, pulled hard to free the tip and threw the arrow to the side away from them. Cleaning the wound that now bled profusely, Elladan began talking to Ro to distract him from the pain. "I wonder if the Fellowship is still here. I know they were to soon set out again, but I have hope we may yet see them in Lothlorien. I would that we see our family once more, before they must walk the darkened path again. I wonder if our unsociable ranger has driven them absolutely insane yet?"
A snort from Ro made Elladan raise an eyebrow at his twin, reminiscent of their Ada, Lord Elrond. "Adan, you as always, underestimate our dear Fire. She is resourceful and cunning! By now, the Fellowship must wish that we had kept her caged in Imlandris" Laughing lightly, Elladan packed the steeped healing herbs into the open wound and wound a long strip of cloth around Ro's shoulder. "Aye Ro I fear you are correct. By the time the Fellowship was leaving home, Aragorn was snarling about Fire being rude, uncooperative and unfriendly. Legolas, on the other hand, was positive she was in the same evil, vile league as Sauron, and hated the ranger passionately! After the stunt she pulled, at the council, and her rude behavior towards Legolas, I would be surprised if they have not tried to kill each other a time or two."
Nodding sagely, the younger twin cautiously moved his wounded shoulder, before replying with a smirk. "You are quite correct. They are both hot headed, stubborn and opinionated! By the Valar! One would think Fire would have learned to be more diplomatic, after all Ada's lectures, but I fear that is not the case. I must say I admire her fortitude, in dealing with both Ada and Erestor." Tilting his head marginally, Adan studied the younger twin for a brief moment, before commenting, on a fact he had just realized. "Elrohir, you did not tell me you had developed feelings for Fire! I knew you were both extremely close over the last few years, but you hid your feelings well, have you spoken to her as of yet?" Releasing a low sigh, Ro looked at the floor. "Aye, I spoke to her before she left for the ranger camps last time. We talked in my room, for most of the night, but came to the conclusion; we will only be friends, as she harbors no romantic interest in me. I am content, with that, for I would have her whole heart or nothing at all. She will continue to be one of my best friends, but I envy and pity the ellon that finally captures that wild ranger's soul. He will be in for an exhilarating, passionate and unpredictable mate! I hope the poor ellon can handle her." Both twins burst out laughing, at the thought of, some poor elf trying to settle Fire down, to a quiet life of the Eldar, instead of the reckless ranger ways she loved.
Fire's head snapped up as Galadriel's voice wafted through her mind, ""Child, there is a surprise awaiting you at the northern border. If you hurry you can catch them, before they journey to the city. I am sure Legolas and Aragorn would not mind showing you the way there. Just remember that you will have a long day tomorrow, going over the ceremony, but I think a relaxing night at the border would do you good. You will find Legolas, with Aragorn, at the archery field. If it helps to calm your own nerves over the coming ceremony, child, I will tell you our famed archer is having difficulty hitting the center of his targets. "" The Lady of the Light's tinkling laugh and the thought of Legolas actually missing his targets, indeed, made Fire a tad less nervous. She gathered her weapons and headed for the training fields to collect Aragorn and Legolas for the trek to the border.
"Legolas, please refrain from doing bodily harm to me, while I am gathering arrows! My friend, I have never seen you miss the center of the target before, yet, you have not even come close, with at least four of your six arrows. Tell me you are not nervous about binding to Fire and I will call you an ORC!" Flashing blue eyes pierced the man to his soul, as his companion snarled in denial, "I am not nervous about binding to Fire, Human! I am fine!!" Chuckling merrily at the elf's demeanor and snarky reply, Aragorn decided to get to the bottom of his friends obvious distress. "Well Elf, if you are fine, then why did I nearly need a healer to remove one of your arrows from my posterior?" Dropping his bow, Legolas stalked to the nearest Mallorn tree and climbed it in a huff.
Grinning in sympathy of the wood elf's serious, yet utterly amusing plight, Aragorn put his bow next to Legolas' and joined his frazzled friend on the high branch. "Alright Elf, I have know you all my life and never have I seen you act in such a way! Do you regret that you must bind to our ranger or is it something else?" The man asked bluntly. Silence reigned for several long moments before the man heard a soft reply. He smiled gently as his friend's thoughts fell upon the air like a driving rain. "Aragorn, what do I do? She did not wish to be bound and most especially, not so soon. We should have had a full year to grow comfortable in each others company. Now, because of the blood rites, we must proceed with the binding in mere days instead. Fire is still so skittish around me and I fear to make her more leery of my presence. I had hoped to woo her slowly, but Eru has taken the time that I wished and set in motion, activities I am not sure she is ready to begin. For all her courage and strength in battle, she is still so innocent in the ways of males." This last was said on a soft worried sigh.
Reaching out a comforting hand, Aragorn clasped the elf's shoulder tight, "Do not worry so. You need only to take these things extremely slow and gentle. She may indeed be skittish, at first, but with your encouragement and excellent care, she will soon see the delights of bonded life. I know you are more then ready to start enjoying the physical aspects of bonded life, for I see how you watch her when she does not notice. Temper your own need for her and you will be greatly rewarded, I am sure. You will find a way to alleviate her fears, of this I am certain! Dwell not in worry, but think of the joy of having her as mate for all eternity. Come my friend, let us now return to our practice, but this time try to find the target!!" With that the man clambered down the tree and awaited his best friend by their weapons.
Fire skirted the last giant Mallorn tree to find both, Aragorn and Legolas, shooting at a target quite a ways out. That the man could see let alone hit, the target spoke of the diluted Elvish in his ancestry. Smiling evilly, Fire unslung her bow and drew an arrow from her quiver. As soon as Legolas fired his arrow, the ranger loosed her own. Hitting the elf's arrow, mid way to the target, she had the satisfaction of seeing them both jump. "I believe you missed Elf," came Fire's cheeky reply, as she took in their astonished manner. Recovering first, Legolas strode over to the ranger with narrowed eyes.
"It is apparent that you are misbehaving again, little one! It is not wise to curry such ill favor with a seasoned archer in such a way, for he may demand compensation for the offense." The elf purred as he got ever closer to the ranger.
"And what demand would an archer ask for, when it is but a small insult, my lord?" came her slightly brazen, yet, shaky reply.
"Hmm, I wonder, mayhap incarceration in the lowest dungeons or perhaps public flogging?" The elf teased, in mock seriousness.
Fighting back a small shy smile, Fire moved in, to close the distance between herself and her mate. "I believe that would be excessive punishment, but mayhap a kiss will suffice, to turn the insult to honor once more? What say you?" The ranger rasped out, through a throat that was beginning to close up, around a knot of nervous tension.
"Aye, a kiss freely given, would most definitely suffice and wipe such a grievous offense of honor, from an archer's mind, forthwith."
Waiting patiently for Fire to make the first gesture, Legolas watched his mate's internal struggle. She hesitantly breeched the final distance between them and bestowed a sweet, gentle, yet chaste kiss upon the elf's waiting lips. Leaning into the ranger, the Mirkwood elf slowly drew her deeper into the kiss until she opened to him, like a flower to the sun. Slowly Fire reached her hands, to steady herself, against the muscled chest of her mate. Taking heart from the unlooked for encouragement, Legolas slipped his arms around the ranger and held her tightly to him. Head swimming, alarmingly, Legolas reluctantly released Fire's softly parted lips and rested his chin upon her head, while trying to relearn how to breathe.
With her world slightly blurry, Fire rested her cheek upon his chest and was content to listen to the elf's heart beating. A peaceful happy contentment radiated from the elf and through the ranger's system making her smile despite her best effort not to. Now that she knew what was happening between them, Fire allowed herself to bask in the sweet feelings of her mate. It was still strange to her, but she was slowly getting used to having these emotions come over her at random times. A clearing of a throat reminded the cuddling couple that Aragorn was still there. Blushing, the two broke apart.
"I will leave you two alone so you can enjoy some quiet time together. I hope to see you at the evening meal.", the man said with a slight bow. As the man turned, Fire reached out and grabbed his sleeve. "Aragorn I actually came to see if you and Legolas could take me to the Northern border. The Lady informed me I had a surprise awaiting me, but I do not know the way to the warden talans." With a wide smile, Aragorn looked to the elf to gage his reaction. At the elf's nod of agreement, Aragorn smiled again and returned the nod with one of his own. "It has been long since I have enjoyed the company of Haldir's sentinels. We would be delighted to accompany you, little one.", Legolas said offering her his arm in a courtly gesture.
The bark of laughter at the elf's action, was quickly followed by a flash of brown leather as Fire snatched her bow up and headed for the trees. Standing high on a thick branch, Fire turned twinkling emerald eyes on her mate. "Catch me if you can!", she called back in a challenging sing song voice that floated wildly through the trees as she turned North towards the border, flitting from tree to tree like a wood elf. Grinning at the retreating form of the ranger, Legolas commented happily to the now hysterically laughing man standing next to him, "My life will always be full of challenges, excitement and laughter with that unusual elleth. I am truly blessed by the Valar!"
Nodding his head and wiping tears from his sparkling grey eyes, Aragorn clasped his best friend's shoulder in a brotherly show of affection, looking in the direction of where the ranger had disappeared. "Aye Legolas, your mate will indeed pose an interesting challenge for all eternity. You will most certainly not be bored my friend! I wonder how your Ada will react to the news of his heir and only beloved son getting bound without him being present? Do you think King Thranduil will be exceedingly happy your bond mate is half Istari, half Feline and a ranger of the North, who despises female attire, cusses like a Dwarf and has a worse temper then either you or Haldir?", the man queried in a deceptively mild tone.
Grinning at the now very still, very, very pale Prince of Mirkwood, Aragorn quickly followed after the ranger wondering how long it would be, before his best friend begin breathing again. King Thranduil in a temper fit was worse then Fire!
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.