Paradox of the Fourth Age
11. Chapter 10 ~ Lingering in the Shadows
A/N Rhaps, Vlad, Binka, Minu, Maram, and Elliska thanks for the constant support and encouragement. You guys rock! Thanks also to Haleth, Isil, Viv, Do, LydiaB, SML, and everyone over at LJ with their love and support, as well as Ellie for your PM. Vlad and Rhaps - your advice on this chapter was invaluable. Elliska - your advice and beta'ing is the best. Big hugs and smooches to you all!!!!
Mellon nîn – My friend
Melethrilen – My beloved
5th day of September
Fourth Age, Year 67
Laurëanna played with her braid while she watched Rumil and his friends climbing up the cliff over the pool below. Airemír shook her head with a sigh. She could see in her friend's face that she was considering doing something of questionable logic.
"Laurëanna, I know that look," she said quietly. The other elleth turned to her with wide-eyed innocence in her blue eyes.
"What look?" Laurëanna asked.
"That look of weighing the odds against the rewards," Airemír answered. "And do not look at me like you are not planning something that will most likely get one or both of us in trouble."
The two had been friends for a few years since Rumil had introduced the ellith when Airemír's family had moved to Tirion. She and her mother had been two of the survivors from Lóthlórien and had sailed with Indil, Glorfindel, and Rumil on the first ship to Aman. Rumil had been close friends with Airemír's older brother and sister who had died during the final battle, along with her father. Like the other Lórien elves, they had a strong bond from their shared tragedy. Airemír was a young elleth in Middle Earth, close to Laurëanna's age now when she barely escaped the Golden Wood during the attack.
No one ever discussed the tragedies in Middle Earth when Laurëanna was present at Glorfindel's insistence. Indil did not agree wholeheartedly with her husband's firmness that their daughter should not be told of the events, but he felt so strongly that she did not wish to cause discord with him over the matter. She knew the day would come when they no longer had a choice but to tell Laurëanna. Until that day came, everyone respected Glorfindel's wishes and did not mention Middle Earth. The many times Laurëanna had asked anyone, the subject was changed so quickly that even she was aware that they were hiding something from her. However, seeing the pain in their eyes, she was reluctant to push the matter and stopped asking.
For Rumil and Airemír it was a relief to not be reminded constantly of the past. They enjoyed being around the younger elleth; because Laurëanna's innocence to the world they had lived in made them all feel carefree again. Unlike some of the elves that seemed to linger in the past, Airemír wished be free of the nightmares and find peace in Aman. Each day seemed easier, and being around Laurëanna and her parents, she did not feel guilty for enjoying herself. However, she grew frustrated with her friend's need to test every restriction placed upon her.
Glorfindel had always sheltered Laurëanna throughout her life, a fact that until recent years she had just accepted. As she matured, she tried to test the boundaries placed on her more and more. She was reluctant to blatantly disobey her father, so most often she attempted to do things without his knowledge, hoping that what he did not know would not cause him any stress. However, in most cases, her activities were discovered.
Smiling innocently, Laurëanna said, "I do not know what you mean Airemír. I was merely watching them have such fun and wondering why we cannot do the same."
The two ellith were sitting on the banks of the inlet where the caverns and cliffs were overhanging the cool blue ocean water. The ellyn had been climbing up the cliffs and jumping into the water below, each time climbing higher than the time before. Every time they swam back to the beach, one of them would dare the others to climb to the next ledge. Since none were willing to back down from a challenge, they were all now on a ledge high above the water, not even considering the risks of falling. All of the ellyn had been climbing mallorn trees since they were barely able to walk, so there was little risk to the graceful elves.
Rumil had warned Laurëanna not to even consider joining them, knowing that if anyone were to get injured, she would be the one. Not only did she not have the climbing skills the older elves did, she also had a terrible habit of getting hurt when doing something that Glorfindel would not approve of. And most times, her father held Rumil responsible for her careless actions. Indil knew her daughter well enough to know that she was the one to blame, but her father failed to see her in the same light.
"Laurëanna, you do not know how to climb as well as they do. As it is, we were supposed to have returned to the cottage some time ago and your parents will be waiting for us. Let us go," Airemír rose and began dusting the sand off her leggings. She was hoping that her friend would listen to her and come back without an incident. Airemír and Rumil were staying with Laurëanna and her parents while they were spending a few weeks in Alqualondë. When Laurëanna began taking off her boots instead, she simply sighed. "You are going to follow them, are you not Laurëanna?"
"Airemír, you worry too much. You are worse than my mother sometimes. I am not an elfling anymore and I can climb fairly well. Nothing bad will happen if I merely jump one time. I give you my word, I will only do it once," Laurëanna replied with a grin. "Besides, it is not fair that the ellyn have all the fun while we sit and watch."
"You know that your father does not want you climbing on the cliffs. He has said that for years. And he is right, it is dangerous if you are not used to climbing. If you fall…"
"I will not fall," Laurëanna interrupted her as she rose and began walking towards the cliffs as the ellyn began to dive off the ledge.
"Laurëanna!" Airemír groaned. Torn between following her and waiting for one of the ellon to reach the beach, she watched her with concerned eyes as Laurëanna began climbing the rocks near the bottom.
The ellyn began to swim to the beaches when Rumil noticed Airemír's look of concern. As soon as he reached the sand he ran to her side, asking, "Airemír, what is wrong?"
Not even bothering to answer, the elleth simply nodded towards Laurëanna with a helpless grin. She knew that Rumil was so protective of her for two reasons. He did not want her hurt, but he also did not want to put himself in jeopardy with Glorfindel either.
"That little…" Rumil muttered before running back to the cliff.
Laurëanna already had a good lead on Rumil, but as soon as she heard him calling her name she climbed faster, knowing if he caught up to her, she would be forced to climb down rather than jump. Soon some of his friends joined him and she could not help but giggle at their frustration. Deciding to forgo the upper ledges, knowing she could never reach them in time, she climbed even harder to reach one that was still fairly high. Knowing she only had once chance to do this, she wanted to make sure she at least was not on the lowest ledge.
Rumil began to panic when he saw Laurëanna reach the ledge. He was still not close enough to stop her so he yelled to her, "Laurëanna, if you jump off that ledge and manage not to break your neck, I will break it myself."
"Calm down Rumil. I will see you at the bottom," Laurëanna replied with a laugh. "Do not get too distraught or you will lose your footing and break your own neck."
"Laurëanna, I am warning you…"
"Yes, I can hear that. Do not treat me like a child Rumil. You know I hate that and you might as well accept the fact that whether you like it or not, I will be jumping off this ledge, so save yourself the trouble of rushing. I know you think because I am merely an elleth that I am incapable of doing anything dangerous. But you forget, I am also the daughter of a great warrior, known for his bravery and skill," she boasted.
"You are not your father Laurëanna. However, it is your father's skill with a sword that most concerns me. You know as well as I do that Glorfindel will kill me, not you, if you fall and hurt yourself," Rumil shouted back, growing even angrier at the fact that once again, she was testing him.
Not replying other than rolling her eyes, Laurëanna looked carefully over the edge at the water below and felt the first wave of fear rush over her. She had not realized how far the jump would be. It had not seemed so high from the beach. Feeling slightly dizzy, she did not move for a few moments, giving Rumil a little more time to reach her. As soon as she realized how close he was to her now, she knew she had to jump now or climb down and listen to his lecture the whole way down.
"If I am going to be lectured for doing something dim-witted, I should at least go through with it," she muttered to herself. Glancing nervously back down at the water she swallowed hard. "I will just close my eyes and it will not be so terrifying."
Rumil reached the ledge and as soon as he opened his mouth to call her name, Laurëanna finally closed her eyes and dove into the water below.
The excitement of doing something forbidden as well as terrifying made her heart race when she dove into the water. The entire time she was falling, Laurëanna knew it was worth the risk to feel this free. She could fly. She felt like a gull soaring high above the water. Never in her life had she felt so uninhibited. When she finally hit the water, she plunged into the depths of the sea, the cold water rushing over her with a shock. The Teleri blood in her was strong and she always felt connected to the ocean. She was like a sea born creature blessed by Ulmo, swimming even deeper into the dark waters before finally the need for air forced her to rise to the top.
Rushing over to the edge, Rumil almost fell after her and watched breathlessly as she hit the water. All of the other elves stopped climbing and watched for her to resurface and no one glanced away until she did. Laurëanna came up for air and soon began laughing loudly.
"I want to do that again!" she called to Rumil, totally disregarding the fact that she had frightened everyone.
"Laurëanna, go to the beach. Now." Rumil warned her in a tone that left little question that he was beyond angry.
"Yes, My Lord," Laurëanna retorted, but did as he bid her.
Waiting until she had swam out of his way; Rumil leaped off the ledge and was on the beach soon after her. Before he could reprimand her, he noticed Airemír examining Laurëanna's foot closely.
"What is it?" he asked, and then noticed the stream of blood streaking the blanket beneath her. "Of course, you are hurt," he sighed.
"It is merely a small cut. I must have done it on one of the jagged rocks and not noticed. Do not concern yourself," Laurëanna tried to say quickly.
"Laurëanna, what has happened?" Glorfindel said. Her father had been concerned when the two ellith had not returned to the house when they were supposed to and had come looking for them. Seeing everyone gathered around his daughter, who was soaking wet in her riding clothes, he had rushed over to her.
Rumil cursed under his breath and silently begged Eru to intervene on his behalf. Airemír stood back and let Laurëanna's father look at her foot, glancing at Rumil with a look of sympathy. The other ellyn had already descended the cliffs but were silently watching from afar, not wanting to be in the Elven lord's range when he realized what his daughter had done.
"Laurëanna, how did this happen?" Glorfindel asked, trying to stop the bleeding.
"I must have cut my foot on a rock," Laurëanna shrugged. "I am fine, Ada. The bleeding has almost stopped already."
Glancing around the beach, Glorfindel finally rested his eyes on Rumil before asking, "How did she cut her foot on a rock and get wet while sitting on the beach?"
"Ada, I am fine…"
"Laurëanna, I am speaking to Rumil," Glorfindel said barely glancing at his daughter.
"I…she…" Rumil began stammering before falling silent for a moment. Deciding that deceit had never worked in the past, he knew he should simply tell Glorfindel the truth. "I told her not to climb the cliffs. But she…"
"You let her climb up and jump into the water? How many times have I warned you about this Rumil? You are lucky she only cut her foot, she could have broken her neck," Glorfindel fumed. "Airemír, please help Laurëanna back to the house."
"Ada, this is my fault. Please do not treat me like a child. And Rumil did try to stop me…" Laurëanna began only to be silenced with a wave of her father's hand.
"I said to return to the house. Do not question me. And do not begin to defend him either," Glorfindel warned.
"Yes Ada," Laurëanna nodded, knowing that no matter what she said at this point, it would only make matters worse.
The evening had been uneasy for everyone. Glorfindel had spent the better part of an hour lecturing Rumil about Laurëanna's actions that afternoon. Indil had done the same to Laurëanna. She knew her daughter was to blame for her own actions and intended to talk to her husband after dinner. Laurëanna, Rumil, and Airemír were outside sitting on the beach with their friends when she approached him.
"Glorfindel, it is unfair that you continue blame Rumil for Laurëanna's actions," Indil said quietly glancing over at her husband. "She is no longer a child, incapable of making her own decisions. Laurëanna should be the one punished for her mistakes, not him. She takes after you in some respects. She wishes to be daring and your restrictions on her merely cause her to want to try harder to prove that she is capable of doing something."
"She is…" Glorfindel began but stopped suddenly.
The ocean breeze blew through his hair, obscuring his face. Gently, Indil brushed the golden locks away so she could see his eyes and was concerned when she saw the pain in his expression.
"What is it, Glorfindel?" she asked softly.
With a gentle smile, Glorfindel wrapped his arms around his wife and sighed. He knew he could never hide anything from her. She could see the slightest change in his moods and sensed whenever something was troubling him, sometimes before he even realized it.
"I look at her and I remember another elleth who was daring and mischievous, always wanting to do what her brothers were doing. I remember as if it were yesterday," he replied holding her tightly.
"Laurëanna is not Arwen and this is not Middle Earth. You cannot protect her from every hurt she will ever face. How will she ever learn? She is so daring because she is overprotected by you," Indil playfully admonished, before becoming serious again. "You will not lose her like Elrond lost Arwen. And it is time to stop blaming yourself for Arwen's death."
"I do not…" Glorfindel began, but knew there was no point. He did blame himself for her death, he always had. "I should have been there, I should have gone after her. She may have lived if I could have prevented her from going to Minas Tirith."
"Glorfindel, you could not have stopped her. Unless you had bound her hands and legs and thrown her over your horse, there is no way you could have persuaded her not to follow her heart, despite the danger. And you would have done the same as she," Indil replied, pulling back and cradling his face in her hands. "Arwen's fate was not decided by you, nor could it have been prevented by you."
"Arwen was stubborn and impulsive and I see that in Laurëanna. It frightens me, Indil," he admitted. "I do not want to lose her. I could not bear it."
"You have to have to allow her to spread her wings, my love. She will continue to be bold, she is your daughter after all, but if you have to trust her to find her own way," Indil insisted. "Otherwise, she will continue to do things she should not out of spite. She rebels against your firm rule. Allow her some freedom and she will learn her limitations. This is not Middle Earth; she will not be in as much danger here. But she is nearing her majority, Glorfindel. The time to set her free is close at hand. There may come a day when she binds herself to another. What will you do then?"
Indil laughed at Glorfindel's agonized groan. "My husband, I love you with all my heart, but your daughter is growing up and she is spirited, bold, and headstrong. She takes after you in that respect. But she is also smart. You need to learn to trust her instincts. She may suffer from her decisions, but we all have and you must allow her to experience all of these things to become complete."
Glorfindel kissed Indil, holding her in his warm embrace. When he released her lips, he smiled. "I have a very wise wife. What did I ever do to deserve two such beautiful and wise ellith in my life?"
"Rumil, how many times must I apologize?" Laurëanna said with a slight pout.
"My ears have not healed from your father's lectures yet," Rumil teased. "I do not know why I continue to associate with such a troublesome elleth."
Laurëanna laughed, a joyful sound that always made Rumil smile no matter how angry he was with her. "You associate with me because I keep your life interesting. Or it could be the fact that I follow you around like your shadow, so you have no choice."
"Ah, I think it might be the latter of the two," he smiled and quickly dodged her hand when she tried to playfully slap his arm. The two were walking along the beach alone, having left Airemír with Rumil's friends talking by the campfire. After she was quiet for a long time, Rumil looked sideways at Laurëanna to see her gazing at him strangely. She stopped walking and reached out for his hand. Stopping as well, Rumil asked, "What is Laurëanna?"
"Rumil, if I asked you to…to…do something, would you do it without asking me why?" she questioned nervously. He could feel her hands trembling slightly and grew concerned.
"No. I would ask why. Yet I would do almost anything for you Laurëanna, you know this, unless once again, it will put my life at risk with your father. What is it?" Rumil asked seriously.
"I want you to kiss me," she said quietly.
"Kiss you?" Rumil's laugh rang out over the waves but he stopped when he saw she was serious. "Laurëanna, why do you want me to kiss you?"
"Because I am curious and…I may never fall in love. Oh, just forget it," she said with a blush burning her cheeks. Turning away she tried to walk away from him but he stopped her.
Hugging her tightly, Rumil whispered, "Laurëanna, I want your first kiss to be with the ellon lucky enough to hold your heart, not with someone who loves you like a sister."
"But Rumil, none of the other ellon think of me as anything but Glorfindel's daughter. I will never be kissed or loved by anyone if he has any say in the matter," Laurëanna argued. "Besides, they all still think of me as a child."
"You are still so young, mellon nîn. Do not always be in such a rush to grow up," he said kissing her on her forehead. "You are beautiful and someday, you will steal the heart of another who will not care who your father is."
Laurëanna looked at him doubtfully, then blushed and glanced away. "Forgive me, I should not have asked you to…"
"You have asked me to do far worse, I assure you," Rumil smiled. "I am honored that you asked me. Be patient little one, you will find your heart's desire and we both know that it is not me. Now let us return to the fire before anyone thinks we have gone to the cliffs again."
8th Day of March
Third Age, Year 3019
Paths of the Dead
Elladan's voice startled her and Laurëanna jumped slightly. "What?"
"I have been calling your name for sometime now. Are you well?" Elladan could feel her trembling and her eyes showed her terror as well.
"I am fine," Laurëanna answered then shook her head. "No, I am terrified. I feel them, the dead, all around me. I hear their whispers as if they are screams. And every once in awhile, one will reach out to me, to touch me and I feel like they want to pull me into the darkness and keep me there ever more."
"I feel them too. They are drawn to your fëa, to all of the life inside each of us. The dead covet our spirit and feed on your terror," Elladan whispered in her ear. "Do not allow them to draw you to them." Wrapping his arm around her waist protectively, he continued riding as swiftly as possible.
Laurëanna tried to focus on the men in front of her rather then her fear. They walked for hours, yet it seemed like days to her. She no longer had any concept of time in this place. They had mounted their horses after dark and she rode now with Elladan. She could sense the fear of everyone present, but the Dunedain seemed so stern and brave, she was embarrassed that she was unable to quell her own fear. Pride stiffened her resolve, determined not to let anyone know how afraid she was. Being the only female among them, she did not want to be doubted again. As it was, Legolas, Elrohir, and Elladan had given her concerned looks the whole time they had been walking.
"It is normal to be afraid," Elladan said, his voice soft over the sounds of the hooves of the horses.
Laurëanna's face was a mask of frustration. "Yes, that is what I need-- for these men to think I am afraid. Poor defenseless…"
"I assure you, no one here is without fear," Elladan replied.
"Even you?" she asked.
He grinned slightly at her surprise. "Yes, even I."
'Aragorn does not seem afraid, nor does Elrohir or Legolas. No, you are just a coward,' she thought to herself.
Gimli had been the one who had helped her make it through the earlier parts of the day, surprisingly. His fear had almost overwhelmed him and he had reached out to her in sympathy, but also in comfort. The two had barely mustered the strength and courage to continue in the darkest moments. Laurëanna had held tightly to his hand, reassuring herself that she was not alone, despite feeling utterly full of dread. She had not even felt the tears that fell on her face until later when she had wiped them away. The emptiness and sorrow of the Paths of the Dead was almost her undoing.
Never had Laurëanna faced death before other than in tales. But here, even if she was not a witness to the deaths, she felt them. She felt their anguish, anger, and horror of being bound to walk in the spirit world for all of eternity. Nothing anyone told her could have warned her of this feeling. She wondered if this is what her father had felt while in the Halls of Mandos, a time of which he would never speak. But the fëar bound there were in their rightful place. No, these spirits, the ghosts of the forgotten Men of the Mountain, were stuck in twilight and sleepless death, not at peace. Closing her eyes, Laurëanna recalled a discussion she once had with her father.
"Ada, what does it feel like to die?" she had asked shortly before she had learned about the final days of Middle Earth.
Glorfindel had stiffened at first and Laurëanna almost withdrew the question with an apology, but something in his eyes stopped her. She saw something she had never expected to see: relief. Glorfindel felt relieved although he himself did not realize it at first. He had known that one day she would ask the question that no one else, not even Indil, had ever dared put into words.
"Laurëanna, I am certain that not all deaths feel the same. An elf that fades, chooses to do so, while an elf that dies in battle does not," he had answered, watching her face closely to confirm she understood. "I have seen many things Laurëanna, many evils and torments against elves, that I will never discuss with you. I will not talk of battles or war. But if you wish to know what I felt when I died, I will tell you this."
Rising, he had walked to the edge of the balcony, the setting sun reflecting off his golden hair. It was hard for Laurëanna to see her father as anything other than the kind and wonderful father he was, but now she could also see the great and powerful warrior he had been. Glorfindel turned slowly and she looked into eyes that were almost identical to hers in color and shape, but vastly different due to what he had seen in his life, his wisdom, and his power. Laurëanna and Glorfindel sensed, rather than saw, Indil standing in the doorway listening quietly.
Closing his eyes, Glorfindel thought back through the ages to the day that Gondolin fell. His heart ached when he saw his once beloved home being destroyed. He had seen this vision many times over the years and each time, he felt the same sense of grief. This time was different though-- for the first time he felt his daughter's fëa reaching out to comfort him, as well as Indil's, and was not surprised when Laurëanna took his hand in her own.
"Tell me Ada," she whispered, tears rolling down her face.
"At first there was pain and sorrow, the sense of loss, of failure, of hopelessness. It filled every fiber of my being as I clung to my hroa, afraid to let go. Then when the fear almost drove me mad, I heard the song…" Glorfindel's voice trailed off as he heard the aria fill his memory once again. "It soothed me, called out to me and then I let go of my mortality and felt a sense I cannot explain. I was alone but not lonely, comforted in the notes of the song. I felt all the elves that had gone before me surrounding me, welcoming me and guiding me as I floated weightless and unencumbered. I felt…peace for the first time since the darkening of the trees, yet this was more complete than any peace I had felt before. I had never felt so close to Eru as I did at that moment."
Glorfindel opened his eyes and saw both Indil and Laurëanna beside him. Indil smiled gently, relieved that he was able to share this with them at last. She had always hesitated to ask, but knew when the time was right, he would tell her. He reached out and stroked her cheek with his thumb, the love he felt for her in his eyes. Turning he saw Laurëanna looking away towards the sun and he reached out and gently turned her to face him, wiping away her tears that flowed freely now.
"Ada, I am…forgive me…I…"
"No, Laurëanna, I wanted to share this with you. I was given this second chance and in this lifetime I have found love and blessed with a beautiful daughter, but I was almost gifted with the memory of that feeling. I remember being so close to Eru, and that feeling has guided me through many things. Laurëanna, I do not regret having died before nor do I regret living once more," Glorfindel reassured her.
Throwing her arms around her father's neck, Laurëanna said, "You deserve all the blessings you have been given, Ada. I am more proud to be your daughter than I can ever put into words. You are the bravest and most honorable of us all. There is no one who will ever compare to you in my heart."
Glorfindel chuckled and whispered, "One day, you will find someone who does and then he will win your heart forever."
Tears stinging her eyes, Laurëanna looked at Elrohir who at that moment glanced back at her. Holding her gaze, he felt a tug on his fëa that made his heart tighten. He knew this feeling, he could sense the familiarity of it in the deepest reaches of his mind but it continued to elude him.
Throughout the day, Elrohir had been fighting his own battles with fear and anguish along the haunted paths, but also he had felt an irrational sense of foreboding when it came to Laurëanna being with them. He had continued to check on her as much as he could, but he knew Elladan was mindful of her safety as well as Legolas and Gimli. Needing to make sense of his feelings, he had kept his distance. But now, he had to force himself not to go to her, sensing her sorrow and needing to comfort her.
Laurëanna turned away from Elrohir before she could no longer breathe. Amid all the dread, she felt a spark of hope. He knew her, she realized. Even though he had not loved her in his past, he somehow sensed his love for her, his place with her. Looking down, she could not help but smile. She knew that the only way he would know her fëa now was if Eru had deemed it so. Even in her past it had taken Elrohir a long time to know he loved her, so for him to know it so soon and for her to feel it from him now, was only divine intervention. Silently she thanked Ilúvatar for granting her this gift once more. She felt the strength at last to continue on this journey, to the end of the world if need be.
Elladan caught his brother's eyes and made an unspoken promise to keep her safe, before Elrohir at last turned away. He was not certain what had transpired between the two of them, but Elladan sensed the change between Elrohir and Laurëanna as much as he could always sense his brother's feelings.
"The Valar have entrusted you to protect her, but you must help Elrohir see his fate. Only you can assure that he opens his heart to her," he heard Arwen's words from his dream last night once more and wondered if once again, the Valar had intervened, but he sensed that was not the case. Whether Elrohir knew he loved her or not, their fates were still unknown to them all and Elladan must continue to protect her.
At last they exited the ravine and Laurëanna looked upon Morthlond Vale, gray in the night. She felt exhausted from the emotions she had battled most of the day. A chill ran over her and goose bumps rose on her arms when she heard Aragorn's words called back to them.
"Friends, forget your weariness! Ride now, ride! We must come to the Stone of Erech ere this day passes, and long still is the way."
Elladan followed Legolas and Gimli as the riders all rode swiftly through the fields to a bridge. Crossing the bridge they continued along the rode as the men of the village fled before them in terror.
"The King of the Dead! The King of the Dead is come upon us!"
Laurëanna heard the people call in terror as they locked their doors and windows against the sight of them. But she did not need their cries to assure her the Army of the Dead was still following them. She felt them as well as saw them if she looked back, so she tried to only look forward. Her fear was replaced with a sense of urgency and purpose. Once again, her sole focus was on her mission and the hopes that all would be as foretold now that Aragorn had traveled the Paths of the Dead. Her thoughts raced as the Grey Company rode to the Stone of Erech, trying to recall every word that the Valar and the others had said to her about the visions Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel had. Other than her being here, everything seemed to be as foretold, but she also knew that her presence had altered things as well. Everything was out of her hands now and she reluctantly accepted that her fate was unknown as well.
Legolas heard Gimli grumbling about the pace at which they traveled and smiled slightly. His friend had been quiet for most of the journey through the Paths of the Dead, so even his complaints were a welcome change. Gimli had been mortified by his previous fear but the elf did not doubt the stouthearted dwarf's bravery. Most men would have turned back in the face of that fear, but Gimli had conquered his enough to keep going. Even now, Legolas knew he was still more concerned by the King of the Dead then he was with their 'break-neck speed' as he put it.
"Gimli, I assure you, I know what I am doing. I am an elf and we are naturally blessed with the ability to ride horses faster than a dwarf can find precious gems," Legolas quipped.
"You need to focus more on what is in front of you than trying to prove Elven superiority to me," Gimli shot back, clinging to the elf as his horse veered to avoid the horse before them.
As exhaustion began to overtake the horses and riders as well, they finally reached the Hill of Erech just before midnight. The inky blackness of the night fit the mood of those present as they approached the black Numenorian stone, brought here by Isildur himself. When the company halted before it, Elrohir gave Aragorn a silver horn upon which he blew.
The echo of ghostly horns answered him, the tumultuous wind blowing down from the mountain. All around them, Laurëanna could feel the host of the forgotten men of the mountain and it chilled her to the bone. Elladan held her closer and she welcomed his presence as she heard the whispers among the dead. Her eyes wide, she watched in awe as Aragorn dismounted and stood before the stone. He seemed to have changed since this morning and she saw before her the Heir of Elendil, last hope of the Numenor that remained in these lands.
Aragorn cried out in a great voice, "Oathbreakers, why have ye come?"
And a voice was heard out of the night that answered him, as if from far away: "To fulfill our oath and have peace."
Then Aragorn said, "The hour is come at last. Now I go to Pelargir upon Anduin, and ye shall come after me. And when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled, and ye shall have peace and depart for ever. For I am Elessar, Isildur's heir of Gondor."
Halbarad unfurled the great standard he carried, but in the darkness, Laurëanna could not see the markings. There was no answer from the Army of the Dead, no whispers among them, but she felt them still, as did the others.
Dismounting, Elladan then turned to help Laurëanna down. She felt weak with the events of the day and sighed tiredly. Feeling a hand on her elbow, she did not need to look up to know it was Elrohir. He led her away from Elladan's horse and to where the others were making camp near the stone. Keeping some distance from the men, Elrohir spread out a blanket and pulled her to sit down beside him. She looked at him for a long time and when she appeared about to speak he shook his head.
"Rest Laurëanna," he whispered, urging her to lie down.
Elrohir knew he would not sleep much this night and watched as Legolas, Gimli, and Elladan joined them. Everyone was too tired to even notice the hard ground beneath them. They were merely relieved to have stopped for the night. Legolas nodded to the twins, a silent agreement that he would keep first watch. Elladan, who was on Laurëanna's other side, looked at his brother for a moment before lying facing the other direction, giving the two of them what little privacy he could.
Lying back, Elrohir stared at the sky trying to fall asleep but he was too alert. The weariness in his body was nothing compared to how drained he felt emotionally. The Paths of the Dead had taken a toll on all those present, but the elves felt the restlessness of the spirits more strongly than the men did. Glancing over at Laurëanna, he watched her for a minute thinking she was asleep but soon he felt her fingers intertwine with his as the corners of her mouth turned up slightly. He could not help but feel comforted seeing her beside him. Eventually she was so worn out she fell into a light sleep under his watchful gaze and he was amazed at how peaceful she looked despite the dread in the air.
How was it possible that she was able to be so innocent yet so strong, he wondered. It amazed him how truly naïve and vulnerable she seemed, yet King Thranduil trusted her enough to send her this far from her home. Something was not right about her story. Why would the Mirkwood warriors that escorted her to Rohan leave her alone at Helm's Deep, not even knowing for certain that Legolas was there? From the information he had gathered from the others, it did not seem possible that she was telling them the whole truth yet neither Gandalf nor Legolas seemed to question her. That fact baffled Elrohir even more. And now, Elladan appeared to believe in her without question as well. What had transpired between her and his brother that eased all of Elladan's doubts? Granted, Elrohir was the more suspicious of the two of them, but his brother was no fool. Looking at her now, Elrohir wanted more than anything in Arda to know what secrets this beautiful elleth was hiding.
"Laurëanna, wake up. You have slept far too long," Rumil said with a chuckle.
"Rumil what are you doing here?" Laurëanna said, gazing at him intently.
"Why do you think I am here? Where else would I be? Besides, I knew you would follow me," he laughed and jumped up suddenly. Turning away from her, he began to run down the beach and Laurëanna jumped up to chase after him. Soon she caught up to him and, grabbing his arm, she pulled him to a stop. Gray eyes looked down at her with amusement. "Why can you not see what is right before you?"
"Rumil, stop speaking in riddles. Where is everyone? Where are Elrohir and my parents?" Laurëanna looked around and noticed that the two of them were the only ones anywhere in sight. In fact, all of Alqualondë seemed empty. Suddenly filled with terror, she began to back away from him, expecting him to turn into Sauron or some other evil creature any moment now.
"Silly child, they are waiting for you. You need to pay attention to me now," Rumil said, his face becoming serious. "Things are as they should be now but you cannot interfere in what must happen, even if it is something that you wish would not."
"What do you mean?" she asked confused.
"I mean, there are those who must die and you cannot interfere. Things have changed and are as they should be, but you cannot stop what must happen. Trust in Eru, Laurëanna and remember, all things happen, as they should. You cannot stop death," Rumil said quietly, his eyes sadly watching her.
Laurëanna looked down at her feet as the tide swept over her ankles, thinking about what he was saying. Suddenly she realized he was warning her she would lose someone and said, "No! Not Elrohir!"
When she realized she was alone, she began screaming for Rumil.
Elrohir felt Laurëanna stirring in her sleep and reached out to stroke her forehead. Her eyes flew open and she looked at him in shock. Thinking she was merely disturbed by the shadows, he smiled gently and pulled her closer to him. Resting his forehead on hers, he whispered, "All is well, Laurëanna. You are safe."
"Elrohir, promise me," Laurëanna began, then stopped her eyes drinking in the sight of him. "Promise me, you will not leave me."
Stunned by her brazen comment, he did not answer for a moment, his mind racing. Without realizing his own intent, he whispered back, "I will not leave you willingly."
Not understanding all that had transpired so quickly, Elrohir merely held her and let himself be soothed by her presence. When the danger was over, he would sort through his feelings for her, but now he simply enjoyed the peace she brought him, even if it was only for a brief time. They did not sleep for the rest of the night, she because she feared another nightmare; he because he was too aware of what lingered in the shadows of the night.
Galadriel felt a sense of foreboding wash over her as she rose from her bed. Trying not to disturb Celeborn, she walked out of their room and began to descend the stairs to her mirror. She was uneasy, but these days, that was not unusual. But this threat in her mind felt closer. Someone she cared about was in grave danger, she sensed it; Elrohir and Elladan perhaps or even Arwen, someone very close to her heart. Filling the vessel with water, she then watched the mirror closely for a long time waiting for some image to appear.
After nothing was shown to her for a long time, Galadriel began to grow more concerned. Just as she was about to lose hope, an image of her daughter formed in the water. Surprised, Galadriel watched her daughter for a moment, noticing how happy and at peace she seemed. She was talking to the twins as well as an elleth with long golden hair and after laughing at something the elleth had said, Celebrían hugged the younger elf tightly. For a moment, her daughter's eyes seemed to be looking directly at Galadriel. Pulling away, the elleth looked directly at her as well and smiled.
Before she had long to ponder the meaning of this vision, the mirror began to change again. The images moved swiftly and blended together, one overlapping another, so fast that she could not comprehend all that she was seeing. Then as suddenly as it had begun, the images disappeared and the water rippled lightly, but showed her nothing further. Frustrated she waited for a while before realizing that the mirror would reveal nothing further. This was the first time none of what she had seen made sense to her. Who was the elleth with Celebrían and the twins? They obviously were not in Middle Earth so it was not a vision of the past. The other images were even more disturbing. She had seen a battle at Dol Guldur, but the pieces of this puzzle were unclear to her.
"What is it, Melethrilen?" Celeborn's voice was soft, but it still startled her.
"I am not certain," Galadriel answered honestly. Her husband looked at her for a moment, his head tilted in confusion and concern. Walking to him, she allowed him to draw her into his embrace. Celeborn always helped to calm her mind. Closing her eyes, she mentally replayed the images, trying to make sense of them. Suddenly she looked up at him and said, "Melethen, I think the time has come to make plans to attack Dol Guldur and we need King Thranduil's assistance. The elves of Lóthlórien and Mirkwood need to unite to succeed in its destruction."
"What?" Celeborn asked confused. "Now? Before we know if the One Ring has been destroyed?"
"That is what I saw. The combined attack of Mirkwood and Lóthlórien on Dol Guldur," Galadriel replied. "And once the Ring has been destroyed, some of my power will fade as well so it makes sense now."
Running his fingers through his hair, Celeborn thought of many questions but knew that she had not lead him astray in ages. Finally, he sighed, "Before I alert the captains, can you at least tell me if we will win this battle?" At her laugh, he shook his head, "Of course not, you never know the actual outcome of things."
"My lord, that would take all of the joy and surprise out of our life," Galadriel said with a smile.
At dawn, the Grey Company was awake and preparing to ride. No one had slept much and the tension in the air was thick. Laurëanna watched Elrohir and Elladan talking quietly with Legolas and thought back to her dreams. Surely Rumil did not mean Elrohir would die. Besides, it was merely a nightmare. There was no meaning to it other than that, she tried to reassure herself.
"Are you well, my lady?" Laurëanna jumped when she heard Halbarad's voice from behind her. Smiling gently, the man said, "Forgive me. I did not mean to startle you."
"I am more easily startled today than normal," she grinned. "I think it is the company we are keeping."
"Yes. I do not think anyone feels more comfortable with the Army of the Dead around, no matter which side their weapons are on," Halbarad replied back with a wink. Glancing around, he lowered his voice further, "But do not forget, they are needed to fight this battle against Sauron."
"Yes, I am well aware how important they are," she whispered in reply. If only he knew how critical their aid was, she thought to herself.
"Good morning, Halbarad, Laurëanna," Aragorn nodded to each of them. "Did you rest at all last night, Laurëanna?"
"Yes, I think I was one of the few that did manage to sleep," she nodded. With an impish grin, she said, "It takes more than a few ghosts to keep me awake if I am tired enough."
Aragorn smiled tiredly. "You were blessed with that good fortune then. We should depart soon Halbarad." Nodding once more to Laurëanna, he walked to his horse.
"He is a very strong man to continue on after what he has been through," Laurëanna said watching Aragorn walk away. "I hope that strength continues for I fear today will be another test on his will."
"There is no test that could break his will. Do not fear my lady. Aragorn is strong enough," Halbarad reassured her.
"Yes. He will be a good king, I know," Laurëanna answered without thinking.
"You know? Did you have another vision?" Halbarad asked.
Quickly, Laurëanna smiled and shook her head. "No, merely an observation on the strength of his character."
"Aye. It is time to depart. Stay safe, my lady."
"Yes, Halbarad, you do as well," Laurëanna said. She tried hard to remember what had happened to Halbarad in the past but could not remember his fate after the battle of Minas Tirith.
"What is it Laurëanna?" Legolas asked, seeing her struggling not to panic.
"Legolas," her voice dropping to an anguished whisper. "My memory…something is wrong."
Pulling her away from the horses, hoping that no one would notice, Legolas whispered back, "What do you mean something is wrong?"
"I cannot remember details of what happened in Middle Earth during the battle at Minas Tirith. Things I used to know, I do not remember anymore. I thought it was merely one or two things, but there are many details I do not remember, huge blanks spots in my memory of that battle."
Legolas tried to comprehend what she was saying and calm her at the same time. "Laurëanna, I am certain you are merely tired. You have too much to concern you now and it is affecting your memories."
"No, Legolas. I can remember vivid details of everything I was told about that battle except for certain people's part in it. It is like…I cannot explain it…it is as if they were never there or their part in my memory has been erased," Laurëanna replied, almost hysterically.
Legolas was quiet for a long time before saying, "Perhaps you cannot remember because their part in the battle has changed. The Valar never told you that all of your memories would stay with you, only that you would remember your past in Aman. Those who were there during those battles told you what happened in Middle Earth. It was not something you experienced personally. Perhaps as the events are changed or a person's life is altered enough, you will forget those memories"
Laurëanna looked at him with even more panic in her eyes. "Legolas, I cannot remember all of the details that Elrohir and Elladan told me about that battle specifically. Everything they told me after leaving Rohan…I cannot remember."
Even more Author's Notes: The following were direct quotes from the book Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
~"Friends, forget your weariness! Ride now, ride! We must come to the Stone of Erech ere this day passes, and long still is the way." ROTK, Chapter 11 - The Passing of Grey Company
~"The King of the Dead! The King of the Dead is come upon us!" ROTK, Chapter 11 - The Passing of Grey Company
~Aragorn cried out in a great voice, "Oathbreakers, why have ye come?"
And a voice was heard out of the night that answered him, as if from far away: "To fulfill our oath and have peace."
Then Aragorn said, "The hour is come at last. Now I go to Pelargir upon Anduin, and ye shall come after me. And when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled, and ye shall have peace and depart for ever. For I am Elessar, Isildur's heir of Gondor." ROTK, Chapter 11 - The Passing of Grey Company
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.