Veiling of the Sun: 17. The Curse of Mortality

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17. The Curse of Mortality

Lórien was quiet this evening. The sky was crisp and clear, the blanket of stars bright and twinkling. To any mortal it would seem a simple night, perhaps a bit chilly, but otherwise serene and unremarkable. For the Galadhrim, the dark was wrought with tension and anxiety. A foul foreboding permeated the woods and the trees radiated it like water did sunlight. It was from the east, and it reeked of Mordor. With its painful presence, the Golden Wood and all of its inhabitants were unusually nervous. Peace would not easily come to it.

Arwen sighed softly and drew her shawl tighter about her shoulders. A cold breeze swept by her, raking icy fingers through her abundant brown hair, and she shuddered. It was more than just the chilly air that disturbed her; the wind spoke of distant turmoil, of trouble growing and anguish unending. It tormented her, stealing her composure and threatening clear eyes with tears. She stood strong against the wind, her gaze directed to the sky. The stars looked upon her affectionately, offering a silent solace, and she quietly requested answers of them. What did they know? Had they seen the source of the pain that had relentlessly troubled her? Did they, in their ancient wisdom as eternal sentinels, understand that which plagued her?

Eärendil sparkled sympathetically against the black velvet of the night sky. Arwen released a slow breath, and subconsciously her fingers found their way to the base of her neck, where for many years her Evenstar necklace had rested. Its absence was at once a comfort and a curse. So many nights prior, before the Nine Walkers had set forth from Rivendell, she had offered the jewel to Aragorn as a token of her love, as a symbol of her immortal gift to him. He had been reluctant to accept such a vow, and she smiled in the memory. He appeared the valiant, strong man, but she knew his heart in ways he kept hidden. His power and security were not infallible, and though they awed her, she knew his limits. Aragorn had always placed friendship and love above duty; it was due to his companionship with the House of Elrond that he had for so long forsaken his birthright. Only she knew his fears. Only she understood his heart, nestled beneath so many titles and masks. For that privilege, she had forfeited her immortality. It had never been a decision for her, really. She loved him so deeply, so completely, that in his mortal death he would break her heart and sunder her will to live onward in his shadow. Binding herself to him had not been so much a sacrifice as it had been a confirmation of her devotion to him.

The cold wind came again, and Arwen lowered her gaze. She had somehow hoped the necklace might protect him or offer him hope in bleak places. The quest to destroy the One Ring would not be an easy one, she had known, but she had done nothing to stop Aragorn from going. He had known his duties and held strong to his valor. She could not fault him for that. She had not been happy at his departure, but it was not hers to question him. Some obligations went above love and friendship, even for Aragorn. The thought seemed familiar and distinctly belonged to another, and again a quiet conversation held atop a terrace of Rivendell returned to her. She had sought Legolas’ company after her father’s council had adjourned and found him star-gazing at the balcony, leaning upon the railing almost childishly. She had seen him assume this innocent pose so many times in the past. For many years they had been each other’s confidants, bound by a common plight: affection for Aragorn. She knew Legolas’ friendship with Aragorn had caused him much strife with his brothers and father. Never had she much cared for the royal family of Mirkwood, for though they were powerful and loyal, they were rather arrogant and bigoted. Legolas was, much to her gratitude, something quite different, and often he had come to Rivendell to, as he claimed, enjoy her company and spar with Aragorn and her brothers. She knew the deeper reason beneath his frequenting of their home, though he never revealed it. It was based directly upon the distance he felt from his own family and the acceptance he found in hers.

Upon that balcony they had shared a brief but poignant conversation. She had not wanted him as well to partake on such a dangerous journey. Though she had not said as much, he had understood her unspoken fears. And as he so often had in the past, he was the one that had eased her heart. Without word or tear, he had known what she was asking of him. His hands were firm upon her shoulders and his eyes were bright and deep as he had held her gaze and spoken softly. "I promise you, Arwen. I will not let Aragorn fall. He is my brother as he is your lover, and I would not allow any fate to destroy such a coveted bond."

"And yourself, my dear prince?" she had questioned quietly.

He had laughed tenderly, but she had heard the grave tone betraying its assurances. "You need not worry about me, my Lady. I know your concern for Aragorn will consume your heart enough no matter what I say to you, so spare yourself from more toil over me!" His strong, slender hands had risen to cup her face. "I will come home, Arwen, and I swear to you that I will bring home with me Aragorn. Then all will be the same. No amount of distance or danger can sever the ties between us." She had nodded slowly, feeling absolved in his words, finding strength to let go in his powerful eyes. He had grinned slowly. Then he had pressed his lips gently upon her forehead, and she had wrapped her arms around his lean form. Their embrace had been quick but telling, and she clung to her friend, his familiar scent of rain and the woods filling her like the sun’s warmth with each breath. Only a moment later he quietly bade her a good night and departed the balcony.

Arwen’s eyes narrowed as she now stood, watching the massive trees stand effortlessly in the face of time and peril. Inside her heart raged in the anguish that her impassive and pale face did not show. So many nights had passed since the Fellowship had left Rivendell. As days stretched to weeks, she had grown weary of her persistent worries, but no amount of logic or reason could vanquish them. She knew of Aragorn’s endurance and the stamina of his heart. She knew of Legolas’ skill with the bow and prowess as a fighter. She knew of Mithrandir’s timeless power and wisdom. Surely, the others as well had their talents and strengths, and together the nine would not falter. Neither of her beloved companions could come to ruin in the company of such fine people. Yet this thought grew weaker as time went on, and, come a few weeks past, she had begun to fret with such urgency and tenacity that sleep slowly became impossible and all joy fled from the violent breaking of her heart. Something horrible had happened. She knew not what it was or what it meant, only that great anguish had come to Aragorn. It was a constant whisper inside her, plaguing her peace and bringing warning to her mind. When the soft murmur had risen to a maddening song, she had sought her father’s counsel. Though Elrond as well seemed perturbed by the aura of darkness that was permeating all Middle Earth, he had simply offered her comfort and empty assurances. He had reminded her of the simple but undeniable fact that they knew nothing for certain, and there was little they could do. With Aragorn’s amazing skills as a ranger and Gandalf’s powerful mind at their disposal, the Fellowship would leave no trail. They could not follow. Elrond’s words, though meant to be solace, only heightened her dismay. Arwen felt with each day spent in Rivendell her lover’s strength fading.

A few weeks passed, and a strange messenger clad in the colors of Lórien arrived upon a winded horse. The cautious song became a blaring chorus of nightmares. The Elf had called himself Orophin, and he had brought with him words of warning from the Lady Galadriel. Elrond had received them with some distress, though on his peaceful, firm face only the smallest of fears registered. He had questioned the young Elf from Lórien diligently on what the Lady had revealed to him, but Orophin knew little more than what he had been told to say, leaving Elrond in a shadow of frustrated ignorance. Orophin had only instructed him in strengthening his borders, for the threat of men had grown great and imminent. Riders had immediately been dispatched to Mirkwood to summon King Thranduil so that Elrond might confer with him on an appropriate course of action. Arwen had been present when the mighty Thranduil had arrived in Rivendell, and upon seeing his weathered and wearied face, she knew that something far worse than anything she had previously imagined had come to her friends. In the dark eyes of Thranduil lingered terror and exhaustion, speaking of the king’s distress where his lips would not. She had not been privy to the hurried conversation between the two lords, knowing only that another messenger from Lórien had come to Mirkwood requesting that aid be sent south to Gondor. When her father again had emerged from his chamber, his face had been pale and troubled, and he quickly and cordially bade the rushed king of Mirkwood a farewell. From thence the Lord of Rivendell had called together a private meeting of his most trusted advisors and sons. Glorfindel, the mighty Elf lord who had for centuries been the vassal of her father and the protector of his children, had insisted that she take rest and not trouble herself with the matters of the council. But she had not been deterred. The gathering had been less of a forum and more a series of orders from her father. Elrond had decided to ride south to Lórien; only from Galadriel herself could this matter be elucidated. In his place he would leaves his sons, Elrohir and Elladan, to rule Rivendell and manage their defense should this prophesized attack occur. Her brothers seemed a bit frightened of such a daunting task, but they were steadfast in their duty to their father and promised they would protect the city of the Elves in Elrond’s absence. King Thranduil, according to Elrond, would immediately dispatch his eldest son with the bulk of Mirkwood’s army south to Lórien, to protect it as it hardly had the resources left to defend itself. As her father had explained this, Arwen had finally understood. She knew little of the workings of the court of Mirkwood, but Thranduil’s eldest son, Vardaithil, was the crown prince; it was unwise to send the heir destined to inherit the throne in a dangerous situation. Surely he would have done well to lay that task upon his middle children, the twin brothers. It made a sick, frightening ounce of sense. The pain on Thranduil’s face, the terror in his eyes… he had already sent his other children south. Something horrible had happened to Legolas.

There had been no doubt in her mind. She had to accompany her father on his journey. If her dearest friends were in peril, it was her place to do what she could to help. Unspoken but pounding in its persistence was now a growing terror for Aragorn. If Legolas was in trouble, what had become of her love? Her father had refused, Glorfindel had pleaded, and her brothers had argued. She knew why they so adamantly wished for her to remain in the safety of Rivendell. Since binding herself to Aragorn and denying her immortality, their worry for her well being had become an ever-present concern that directed all their actions and thoughts regarding her. They meant well, she knew, but she was no child, and the choice had been hers. This she had explained to her father, and after a tense, painful debate, Elrond had finally relented.

The trek had been long and arduous. She knew that they had made amazing time, pressing onward tirelessly and resting rarely, urgent in their worry. Yet the days spent traveling were torturous, and her heart had bled for Legolas and Aragorn. The hunger of her worry would not be satiated by any logical assurances; she knew she would not again find peace until she saw them both alive and well. Under Orophin’s direction they had rode hard, flying south to the gap of Rohan. It was judged to be a risk worth taking to travel so close to Isengard, and they had ventured through the pass thankfully without issue. Only a few hours before the fall of this night had they come to Lórien.

"My Lady." Arwen turned quickly at the voice. Behind her, standing tall and regal, was Glorfindel. He was an impressive Elf with a firm, long face that held chiseled features and deep, wise eyes. Long blonde hair was pulled back in thin braids. The breeze brushed through it, ruffling it like yellow grass on a wide plain. "They are about to begin. Thranduil’s forces have arrived."

She offered her protector a small smile. "Thank you, Glorfindel." Her voice betrayed her worry and trepidation, and she chastised herself for her weakness. Though her soul was riled with nervousness, she wished not to be so blatant about it.

Glorfindel afforded her an understanding look. "You need not be so reserved, Arwen," he reminded her gently. He offered her a long arm clad in a gray tunic. She took it gratefully. "I know you too well, my little star."

She chuckled good-naturedly, but the gesture seemed weak and contrived. "I do not doubt," she said, "but I seek not to burden you with my troubles. The plight of my heart is not yours to bear."

They walked in silence after that. She was grateful for his companionship; he had always been a silent mentor that was graced in ways of magic and swordplay. From him she had learned much in the ways of war and in the ways of thought. Slow to anger and judge, he was an ideal brother, offering support and guidance when her father could not. Never had Glorfindel’s loyalty wavered. Though with him she did not share such a bond as she did with Legolas, he had never asked much of her in terms of her intimacy, satisfied with her silent trust and sisterly affection.

Ahead was Caras Galadhon. It was a magnificent place, and she had seen it many times before, for it was here that her mother, Celebríian, had been borne to Celeborn and Galadriel. Her kin in Lórien had remained a strong ally to the House of Elrond. Since her mother had left for the Undying Lands, she had less often come the glorious Golden Wood, finding more comfort and a greater sense of peace among the forests of Rivendell. Upon meeting Aragorn, she had ceased her visits completely, though not due to any sensation of reproach. She had simply felt more at home in Rivendell, where her brothers still made mischief upon Aragorn, where Legolas was merely a few days away, where Glorfindel laughed and teased, where her father’s wisdom was the law of the land. She felt no anxiety in again being among the Lórien Elves; they were a kind, if not a bit shrewd and conceited, folk. She hoped vehemently that Galadriel might offer some information to ease her suffering heart.

Another council was about to convene. Another meeting to discuss the fate of Middle Earth. She wondered what now would shape it.

After ascending a great winding staircase, Glorfindel led her to a chamber. It was open and wide, with only old trunks for walls and the starry night as the ceiling. Arwen saw many faces assembled around a circular table. The trees above whispered anxiously, filling the void of silence in the room. She quickly glanced about the group, recognizing many, failing to find familiarity in some. Then she lowered her eyes. At the opposite side of the table Celeborn was quietly speaking to a tall, brunette Elf garbed in the royal colors of Mirkwood. She vaguely knew him to be Vardaithil, Thranduil’s oldest son. Only once before had she seen him. He shared little with Legolas aside from a firm jaw and piercing eyes. His face and hair were darker, and he was quite a bit taller than his youngest brother. The strong face seemed troubled and stiff, the eyes tense and guarded. She wondered momentarily as Glorfindel led her to her seat what they might be speaking about, but chastised herself silently. It was not her business.

Gracefully she took her position beside her father, laying her hand briefly over his. Elrond turned slowly to look upon her. Her father was truly a powerful creature. She had always admired his strong stature and ageless eyes. He knew much but his countenance was peaceful and respectful; never did he use his knowledge to belittle or besmirch. It was his understanding that had allowed Aragorn to live in his house during the ranger’s self-inflicted exile. Elrond was nothing else if not compassionate, and he rarely sought to judge based on preconceptions. As wise as he was powerful, her father had seen and done much for the benefit of Middle Earth. Few could deny his great heart.

Elrond squeezed her fingers gently before offering her a reassuring, curt nod. Then she respectfully dropped her hands into her lap. Glorfindel sat beside her, his eyes narrowed and analytical as he scanned the room. Around the table were seated many Elves, some of Lórien, some of Mirkwood. On Elrond’s other side she spotted Orophin. Beside him rested another young Elf of similar looks. Her attention was then drawn by Vardaithil as the crown prince sat gracefully amidst the convoy from Mirkwood. She regarded him thoughtfully a moment, seeking to learn about him from his mannerism or his expressions, but he was still, his eyes dark and clouded. His form seemed erect with anger. This served to only further disrupt Arwen’s calm.

A hush came to the meeting chamber, and Arwen was torn from her thoughts. From the doors behind them descended Galadriel, and all rose in respect. The Lady of the Golden Wood was as beautiful as Arwen remembered. She wore a long gown of sheer white that shimmered when she elegantly stepped. It flowed as flawlessly as her body as she approached. Her ageless face was calm and impassive, pale and comforting, and her eyes seemed to envelope the room and all who resided within it in one sweeping glance. She reached her own chair, and Celeborn silently helped his wife sit. When he was sure she was comfortable, he returned to his former position, and those in attendance sat as well. The meeting began.

"We have come here today to discuss the continuing threat against Middle Earth," Celeborn began firmly. His voice was level, betraying no emotion. "Much has happened since messengers were sent north. I fear we have little time."

Elrond nodded gravely, his expression questioning. "What has become of the One Ring?" he asked simply. "Has the Fellowship truly failed?"

Arwen cringed. She felt tears burning in her eyes, so she bowed her head to hide them. After a moment, Galadriel spoke. "The Fellowship has fallen. Mithrandir is in shadow." A quiet murmur resounded through the delegation from Mirkwood. Vardaithil’s face grew tense with worry. "The man from Gondor fell to the Ring’s call at Amon Hen and brought destruction to the Nine Walkers. I know little more than this."

"The man from Gondor?" Vardaithil repeated. His tone was seething in scantily concealed anger. "He is responsible?"

The inquiry was not answered. Galadriel seemed unfazed by the crown prince’s accusation. "I sent forth an aid to what remained of the Fellowship. He was to seek out the son of Arathorn and direct him in obtaining the allegiance of Gondor."

"What future did the Lady see to require such an action?" asked Elrond.

Galadriel lowered her eyes. For a moment, she did not speak. The tension in the room grew tight and trying, and Arwen found her heart pounding in anticipation. Finally, Galadriel responded. "The Ring fell into obscurity. There was great threat to our kind. Men would turn upon us in a last battle and bring ruin to Mirkwood and Rivendell. To Lórien, itself." Another gasp resounded in the hall. "Sauron repaid the men in kind for their betrayal of the Last Alliance. They were slaughtered at the hands of a legion of demons. This was the vision I once had."

"Once had?" Vardaithil said. "You mean to say it exists no longer?"

"The future has changed." Galadriel looked blankly ahead. She seemed vaguely troubled. Arwen wondered what the powerful Elf knew, what her own ring told her. Though she was kin to Galadriel, she understood very little of her and her ways. "What once was has now been altered, and we walk a different path. Whether it is better or worse, I know not."

"And the nature of this new road?" asked one of the Elves of Mirkwood.

The Lady of the Golden Wood spoke clearly, her voice more a melody than simple words. It seemed misplaced, given the content of her statements. "The threat of men will abate. I cannot say whether or not the heir of Isildur has yet taken his place as their king, but when the final battle is upon us, their allegiance will not waver."

Elrond smiled weakly. Arwen felt Glorfindel release a slow breath in relief. Yet this was not all Galadriel wished to reveal. "Yet, where this threat has disappeared, another has risen in its place. The Eye has shown me much. It has again seen the Ring."

"Where?" asked Elrond urgently.

Her voice was deceptively calm. "I do not know. Frodo Baggins no longer carries it. I believe one of the other Halfings took the Ring to Mordor."

Glorfindel leaned back in his seat, his expression pensive. "Then it is beyond our reach," he surmised simply.

"It is."

Vardaithil’s tone was hot with anger and much emotion. Arwen nearly flinched. "Why then did you request the aid of my father’s kingdom? If there is naught we can do to help the one that bears the Ring, we but waste our time in this council!"

"Keep your peace, son of Thranduil," chastised Celeborn gently. "Your grief is great, but let it not control your tongue."

"I speak not from grief but from duty. I have led my father’s army south to Lórien when it should be guarding our own borders. The shadows of Dol Guldur again rouse, my lords, and without Mirkwood’s primary forces, we are at a serious disadvantage," Vardaithil claimed. Arwen watched the muscles of his face work in a furious dance. Confusion muddled her mind. What had happened to so rile a crown prince? She did not want to consider the answer to her question. "I do not wish to speak ill of your wisdom, but please be frank with me. What would you have me do here in Lórien? Gladly I will leave you a force to augment your own, but you must understand my urgency to return to my father. A dark time has come to him!"

Celeborn spoke gently. His calm voice sought clearly to diffuse the other’s pained anger. "I would not deny you that, Vardaithil. All the same, Mirkwood’s powerful army is needed on the battlefield at Gondor. A great fight is coming. My Lady has seen it night and day, in wake and sleep, and if in it we should lose, all the terror of a second Dark Age will come to Middle Earth. Your father’s plight must wait."

Vardaithil’s face grew dark and rancorous. "I wish not to aid men. They have brought nothing but sorrow to the free peoples of our world. They deserve to drown in the greedy murk they have created!"

Elrond narrowed his eyes. "Those are not that words of a prince of Mirkwood, Vardaithil. The disaster of the One Ring is not the fault of men alone! I once thought as you do, young one. Men are divided, leaderless, lost and hopeless. Yet they would unite and fight bravely if given the chance. I have known the son of Arathorn for many years. He has valor enough to carry the stain of his heritage!" Elrond lowered his voice. "We cannot simply turn our backs to them. Before they were our allies. You do your brother shame, for he is a friend to man."

"And he is dead because of it!" hissed Vardaithil angrily.

Arwen blanched. A thick silence slammed down upon the room, crushing them all, and she could not breathe. Legolas dead? No! Surely she would have felt something, known somehow… The shock sucked the strength from her heart and the air from her lungs. She wanted to scream, to cry, to choke out a denial, but she was numb. As though life had fled her with the cursed knowledge, some part of her soul shriveled. A flood of memories stampeded over her stricken resolve. Legolas sparring with Aragorn, tackling him, wrestling in the grass and laughing. Legolas singing under the moon. Legolas perched atop a tree, lost in the wind and the sun. Legolas’ smile, the one he saved for when she needed uplifting, the secret grin of affection he gave to her and her alone… It could not be true! "You… you lie," she moaned.

Vardaithil’s stony eyes centered upon her. She knew then his rage and his pain. His loss. "I would not, Undómiel. And I mean no disrespect towards you. I am sorry. Surely you can understand my motives!" His last statement was directed to the entire council.

The words came faster and faster, but Arwen could not hear them. Her heart was ripped and bleeding. There was an argument, but she was lost to it. She was lost to everything, numb in the ebb and flow of life. Legolas was so proud and strong… how could he have fallen? And if he was dead, what had happened to Aragorn? They had been so close, so devoted to each other as brothers and friends, that one would never stand for the hurting of the other. Ai, Elbereth, undo this crime against them!

The conversation slammed back to her then. Vardaithil’s enraged voice boomed through the chamber. "You forget, Lord Elrond the Half-Elven, that I was there that day three thousand years ago as well. My people were slaughtered on that battlefield. I saw the strength of men falter. I saw Isildur take the Ring for his own. I saw the failing of the line of kings, the weakening of the blood of Númenor!" The Elf prince’s eyes burned. "On the slopes of Mount Doom man created this fate for himself. We tried once to help them. We died so that they might make better the mistakes of the past, so that they might recover from their ignorant deception! That brought us nothing, and my brother is dead. To aid them again is folly and I will not have it!"

Elrond’s expression was hard. Through her tears, Arwen regarded her father, envying his strength. Surely he as well knew what Legolas’ death implied. Ruin had come to the Fellowship. Aragorn might be lost. But he showed none of his distress on his smooth face. His eyes gleamed in understanding and his voice was soft with sympathy. "I feel your anger and resentment as well, son of Thranduil. I would lie if I said I too do not have my doubts about men. But it is not ours to judge or to condemn. If the Lady’s vision is true, this will be the decisive battle, the moment that will define the course of Middle Earth for ages to come. We cannot in good conscience abandon the fight against Sauron now. The time of our people on these shores may indeed be coming to a close, but we still have a duty to this world."

Vardaithil seemed torn. Numbly Arwen felt compassion for him. The choice he faced was not an easy one. The silence stretched on infinitely, the grief and despair thick and suffocating, and no Elf had the strength to speak. Vardaithil closed his eyes and tiredly rubbed his temples. "Ai, but for the pain of my father would I agree! He is lost in sorrow. When I left Mirkwood, he was bent with sadness. My heart aches for him, and for my brothers. We are divided, and none should have to face such pain alone."

"Of course not," said Celeborn quietly.

"But you would have me leave him to grieve in solitude," said Vardaithil coolly.

Galadriel spoke calmly, undisturbed by the other’s spite. "These are dark times, son of Thranduil. We each must do what we can to keep what peace there is in Middle Earth. Your brother understood this and accepted his fate." The pale face seemed tranquil and sad. "I have no authority to direct your actions. You need not obey me, for I am not your governor. I only ask for your help. The House of Thranduil has always been wise as it is strong."

The words seemed to calm him. Vardaithil lowered his head slowly, closing his eyes. Arwen watched as he clenched and unclenched his hand into a fist. "My father requested that I aid you in any way I see fit," he said softly. "If this will help you, then I shall do it. What do you wish of my forces?"

If Galadriel was at all relieved by his submission, it did not show on her delicate face. "This new future offers another source of danger that I had not previously seen," she finally admitted quietly.

Elrond raised an eyebrow. "What sort of danger?"

"It is not related directly to the plight of the One Ring, but the evil of its base is the same. I have seen the destruction of Lórien had the hands of a man. I do not know who he is or from where he comes, but the taint of Saruman is upon him."

Glorfindel seemed disturbed and contemplative. "Why would Saruman target Lórien?"

"I am uncertain if he himself has directly sent this one to attack us, or if private greed and ambition govern the man’s actions. Regardless, this threat is loud in my mind. The Golden Wood is in danger," Galadriel declared. A gasp of dread and few strangled murmurs went through those of her people that were in attendance. She released a long breath. "This threat, though grave, cannot have our primary attention. Lord Vardaithil, I request you to march your army east to Gondor. There become an ally to the son of Arathorn. I do not ask you to forgive him, but simply accept him. When the dark forces attack, it will be Mirkwood that defines the course of Middle Earth."

It was still a moment, Vardaithil’s dark eyes locked upon Galadriel’s clear gaze. "And if Mirkwood should fall? If Lórien should be attacked?" he questioned, not to challenge, but to simply make the point.

"The Galadhrim may be few, but we are strong and experienced. We will not easily be defeated," Celeborn declared resolutely. Beside him the two Elf messengers nodded with pride. "The trees of Mirkwood have seen much. This you know. Do you believe them strong, fierce in the face of adversity and loving of their people? Worry not; Greenwood the Great will not fall as long as we fight. Your father is a powerful king; he will never surrender."

The words were a consolation, not only to Vardaithil, but to all in the room whose hearts were troubled. Arwen closed her eyes. She was grateful for her grandparents’ equanimity, but, though what they had said was comforting, it did not ease her trouble. Hers was a personal pain that the others, she knew, could not understand. The hurt grew, pulsing like the beat of the heart that thudded so heavily in her chest. In the pit of her stomach her worry festered, growing and swirling until she thought she might be sick. She felt her father’s hand find its way into her own, the strong fingers tightening about hers. He offered her his support, his sympathy. She was grateful for it, but it did little to assuage her pain.

The meeting dispersed quietly and lethargically. Concerns were uttered, condolences shared. She was blind and deaf to it. A quiet breeze that smelled of the woods. A laugh. A smile. Eyes as deep as the bright sky. A tender hand. A chaste kiss of departure. Bleeding hearts, lost souls. "No amount of distance or danger can sever the ties between us."

She looked to the sky and thought of Legolas. It seemed to weep a million drops of stars. A tear escaped dull eyes. It slid down her cheek in a cold trail.

Eärendil glowed gently and she wondered. A little star burning in a sea of dark, magnificent enough to be distinct despite all twinkling lights. Such vitality to always shed its grace upon them! It gave her hope. Aragorn would find his way. Please be safe, my love. Come back to me. Come home.


Finally they found him.

For days they had walked the black forests of Minas Morgul, weeding through the trees upon a trail that was poorly marked and easily lost. There had been little to guide them, for the woods had still relentlessly sung a tale of crushing loss and sorrow, and they themselves had all but lost any faith that had somehow remained. The harsh accusations from the man of Gondor had hurt them both deeply, though neither had had the strength to admit it. To simply give up had suddenly seemed horridly wrong, and with wavering hope they had again set out on the quest appointed to them by their father. Words had not been shared, comforts remained unsaid. Relentlessly they had pursued old and fading tracks, clinging perhaps to some last bit of a dream that the silence in their hearts was more a trick than fact, that the song was a mere nightmare that would fade when they once again came upon their brother. They had traveled for days, fueled on these hopes. Both feared them to be silly and futile, but neither had the courage to dismiss them. Neither had they the will to admit the shame they had placed upon themselves and their father. Thoughts were a trivial thing best left to themselves; they offered no comfort or means to remedy the situation. So in a tense quiet they had run, daring to hope.

What fools they had been!

Aratadarion swallowed heavily and felt himself begin to shake. He did not need to look twice to assure himself that indeed he saw truth; he knew with crushing finality that his eyes played no trick. Astaldogald stiffened beside him. A long, quiet moment passed between them, each paralyzed by uncertainty and terror. Anxiety and shock clashed together to disorient them. So long had they traveled. So long had they searched. This could not be! They could not be too late!

Aratadarion again felt his legs and his hands, the tingling numbness abating with a rush of panic and despair. The sound of his pounding heart and gasping breath boomed in his ears, and without further hesitation, he stumbled forward.

Lying on the ground, curled weakly on his side, was Legolas. Aratadarion skidded to his knees beside his unconscious brother, feeling lost and hopeless. He did not wish to look, but he knew he must. Indeed the form before him rose and fell with breath, though each instance was a mere rasp. With terrified eyes, the Elf glanced along his lost brother’s body. He was a mess of bruises and welts, so much so that Aratadarion wondered for a moment if this truly was his sibling. Legolas’ fair skin was split and lacerated with aged wounds and caked thick with grime. His once soft and beautiful hair, so much the gift of their mother, was tangled with mud and blood. This wrecked shell of a creature bore little resemblance to the proud prince he had once known.

Yet it was not these things that truly drove terror into his heart. Wounds of the flesh were simple enough to cure for an Elf, for the gift of immortality as well granted their kind with great resilience and ease in injury. Aratadarion reached out a shaking hand. His long fingers touched gently his brother’s sweat-coated brow. The Elf screamed and recoiled.

"What?" asked Astaldogald fervently, his eyes wide with angered disbelief. "What is it?!"

Aratadarion was shaking so violently he doubted he could form the words. He tasted hot tears and felt the panic stab at his rapidly crumbling resolve. Desperately he rubbed his hands together, wishing above all else to rid himself of the horrible heat of his brother’s skin. "He is hot. He burns with fever! Ai, Legolas!"

Astaldogald regarded him with a piercing glare a moment. His stony expression wavered as he, too, crouched beside the fallen form huddled beneath the cloak. Aratadarion watched his twin through blurry eyes. The world seemed to shift each time he blinked from reality to nightmare. Astaldogald shook his head and fell backwards. His face was white. "This… this is not possible!" Aratadarion did not know what to say, if there was anything at all that might change this horrible happening. It was so painfully clear that he could not deny for all the want of his heart. Elves do not develop fevers. His brother’s skin burned his cool fingertips. Elves glow with earthly radiance and shine with all the glory of Middle Earth. Legolas was pale and shivering. Somehow Aratadarion found initiative to move, and he crawled closer. His entire form was shuddering with sobs and fear as he again he neared his brother’s limp figure. He dreaded touching the thin body but he could not deny his need to know, to understand. To confirm his worst fear. His long, trembling fingers gently pulled open a closed eyelid.

The blue orbs hidden within were dull. Their light was gone, stolen, replaced by the weight of a dark magic. Aratadarion swallowed the wail building in his throat. He leaned back on his heels. A strange peace of understanding was coming to him, and with it arrived a cold numbness. Saruman had ripped Legolas in half, tearing him from the song of the trees. Aratadarion vacantly stared at the young, bloodied face that was his brother. He was somehow now a stranger wearing a mask of familiarity. This was why Legolas had been silenced. This was why the trees had wept.

His brother had been made mortal.

It was a horrifying conclusion, but his mind would not allow him to ignore it. It explained too much too well. The pitiful creature sleeping before him reeked of the shadow. The curse clung to him like a foul aura and it nauseated Aratadarion. The prince’s mind reeled in despair and anger. How could Saruman have done such a thing? Why had he turned Elf into a mere man? The answer was sickeningly obvious, though Aratadarion did not wish to see it. The evil wizard had sought to bring turmoil unparalleled to Legolas. Wounds of the flesh were but discomforts to the race; they would not have been sufficient to break an Elf, let alone one so proud and strong as Legolas. Aratadarion imagined harsh words and vile taunts, threats of endless night and a lost hope, and he shuddered. What better way to crush a spirit than split it from the blood of its making? What crueler punishment for one meant to live forever in the splendor of nature than to sever him from his destiny? What sicker pleasure could there be in dirtying a pure and powerful light with the torment of such a curse? To turn an Elf into something else, something lesser and tormented… deprived of the song of the trees, of keen senses and greater understanding, of the Valar, of the Undying Lands, of the beauty of all things living… Neither Elf nor man. A creature without place, without purpose. Without hope.

Aratadarion cursed Saruman then. He was not one easily given to rage or hate, but these yearnings he could not deny. Hot tears burned his face as he wept for his younger brother. A thousand worries buzzed through his stricken mind. His heart throbbed and he whimpered. The silence where once Legolas’ vibrant life had sung inside him was so acute it became painful, and he felt overwhelmed by his despair. How could this be fair? How could this be right? How could they have been so late? Aratadarion balled his hand into a fist and choked on his breath. Father, forgive me!

Through the muted pulse of his agony, he heard the ringing of metal upon metal. It was clear and loud, and it sliced through his hazy despair. The shock snapped and he ripped around.

Astaldogald violently ripped away the cloak from Legolas’ limp body. In his hand he clenched his long, silver weapon. He stood over the helpless form upon the ground, the sword raised. The blade was shaking, his hands clenched so tightly about the hilt that his knuckles were white.

Aratadarion felt panic jolt him as he realized what his twin intended. "No!" he cried loudly.

Astaldogald’s facial muscles tensed. His eyes burned in hate and absolute disgust. They gleamed with unshed tears. The sword lingered, poised to strike. "I will end his suffering," declared the Elf quietly, his teeth clenched so that the words were a hiss of enraged loathing. "He is fit for this world no longer!"

Terror stopped Aratadarion’s heart. He scrambled closer to Legolas’ side, raising his hands. He could not allow his twin to make this mistake! Mercy alone could not justify it! The blood would stain his hands forever! "You cannot! Please! Do not take his life!" he cried, his voice wrought with horror and grief.

"His life?" Astaldogald repeated incredulously. The Elf prince gave a twisted laugh that was at once cruel and tortured. "This is not life! Do you not see? He has been stained by the shadow! He is not one of us any longer! He is dead in our hearts! We cannot let this shame come to Father’s house!"

Aratadarion felt his own rage bolster his wavering resolve. He did not want to cross his twin, least of all in such a dire moment. But he could not let Astaldogald to murder Legolas! "No," he said firmly, forcing his tone to be firm despite the quivering of his burdened heart, "this is not yours to end! He is our brother! Our brother! You cannot kill him!"

The sword tip shook with Astaldogald’s rage tantalizingly close to the exposed flesh of Legolas’ breast. One quick thrust would release their younger sibling from his suffering. One short stab would end it all. Its allure was undeniable. Aratadarion watched his twin shake in his anguish, torn visibly between his wrath and his sorrow. An endless moment crawled by, ominous and torturous.

"He disgusts me. I cannot accept this."

Aratadarion grimaced. He felt his anger building stronger and stronger, pressing against his restraint in ways he had never before experienced. If Astaldogald chose to threaten Legolas, he would have the courage to finally defy. He would protect his younger brother. Astaldogald had no right to kill him, regardless of the motive. Aratadarion’s jumbled mind could not make sense of his twin’s expression. He then felt the weight of the sword at his belt. He could use force to prevent his twin from hurting Legolas. The thought stunned him, but after a breath he simply accepted it. There was no reason, no justification that he could understand, and Astaldogald seemed all but unreadable. A murderous rage had claimed his twin; Aratadarion was sure it was ridding him of his sensibilities. Still, it was not right. He was as much a brother to Astaldogald as he was to Legolas. He could not let his twin strike down their helpless and hurt sibling!

"You must," said Aratadarion quietly. "Lay down your sword and calm your rage. This would be no mercy killing, and you know it." The venom in his voice surprised him.

Astaldogald’s face shattered in icy anger, and his eyes flashed. "Do not preach to me!" he shouted, his voice taut in his fury. The sword whistled upward to point at Aratadarion. The other stepped back in shock and abrupt fear. "Could you see him grow old and die? Could you accept that?! Mortality is a curse! There is a reason Elves do not love lesser creatures! Father taught us this for our own good, but Legolas never listened! He never understood what affection for mortals meant!" Astaldogald lowered the sword once more. "I cannot see him grow old. I cannot see him die like a filthy mortal, rotted by age and disease! His love for Isildur’s heir reduced him to a mere shadow! I will not stand to see Father’s blood putrified like this!"

"It does not matter," countered Aratadarion. He was quickly coming to understand, but this realization did not stifle his anger or his pain. "Keep still your heart and think of what you mean to do, I beg of you. You would murder your brother for your own sake!"

"Silence!" roared Astaldogald. "You disgust me as well! I would end his life to spare father the dishonor and the disservice he has done us!"

Aratadarion nearly faltered. Never before had his twin spoke to him in such a harsh tone, and it hurt him deeply to know he had offended the other. The wretched words burned in his ears. His own anger gave him strength, though, and he tumbled on. "Drop the sword and back away," he declared coldly. "I know why you would kill him. I understand. You are afraid."

The other blanched, but then his heated irritation brought again a flush to his cheeks. "I am no coward," Astaldogald hissed.

"You are," insisted Aratadarion, glaring at his twin. The words fled his mouth in a rush. "You are afraid to admit that you love a mortal. You are afraid of what this will mean, of what it will become. You wish to kill him now, before you can again let your heart embrace him. You are afraid of the pain!" Aratadarion narrowed his eyes. "I will not let you hurt him."

"Stand down," growled Astaldogald.

"You are my brother, not my commander!

You stand down!" For a moment after, neither spoke, both breathing heavily in ire. Time halted and waited for a decision to be made. It was slow to come, but the long moments served to diffuse the unbelievable tension. Aratadarion inhaled gently, regretting his harsh words then and feeling the sadness again threaten. He abruptly felt very tired. "Please," he said softly, tears once more burning his eyes. He met his twin’s gaze and saw the same storm of weary emotion swirl in the dark eyes. "Let him live. Father would never forgive you if you took his life. I do not think you would ever be able to forgive yourself, either." Aratadarion reached forward tentatively, opening his hand towards the quivering blade. A tear escaped Astaldogald’s eyes and slowly coursed down his pale countenance. The sword trembled almost violently. "Please."

Finally Astaldogald relented. Instead of giving the blade to his twin, he slid it back into its sheath with cold ring. Relief pounded upon Aratadarion, and he nearly collapsed. The feeble strength he had summoned to protect Legolas fled as quickly as it had formed, leaving him shaken and weak. He wept silently anew, vastly grateful that he had not had to witness the death of one brother at the hands of another.

They were silent, winded from the conflict, tortured by the unrelenting swarm of emotions battering their hearts. Aratadarion gracefully sunk to his knees again beside Legolas’ sleeping form, burying his face in his hands. Astaldogald stepped shakily to the side, folding his arms across his breast. As though unbelieving of what had nearly happened, as though unable to understand the forces that tore at bonds between twins, they lingered in the emptiness. The hungry, guilty void sought to devour them in order to fill itself with meaning.

"He will die anyway if we cannot find help."

Aratadarion raised his head from his wet palms at the words. He wondered if his twin was not simply now being cruel as a retort for his actions in defending Legolas. Astaldogald stood with his back to him, and he directed his imploring gaze from his twin then to Legolas. Their brother whimpered weakly in his sleep. Curiously Aratadarion crept closer, leaning over the bent form. He grabbed the discarded cloak then and drew it up over Legolas’ quivering body. Though the daze of the argument was sluggish in its disappearance, he turned his attention to his fallen brother. "Someone else has seen to him," he stated simply, taking note then of the fresh bandages wrapped about Legolas’ feet.

"The cloak is undeniably of the Galadhrim," declared Astaldogald softly, pivoting to face them again. The tenuous peace between them grew a bit stronger.

Aratadarion narrowed his eyes in thought. Could a Lórien Elf have come upon Legolas somehow? The idea made little sense; the folk of the Golden Wood did not often venture beyond its safe borders, and it seemed ludicrous for one to travel so far into such dangerous land with no obvious cause. However, his twin was right; the cape was of the finest weaving. The brooch was a figure of a leaf. Only Lórien produced such a thing. Could Legolas still have had his since the Fellowship had left the Golden Wood upon the Anduin so many weeks ago? Aratadarion then chastised himself for his slow reckoning. He understood who had found Legolas. "Boromir was here. This is his garment."

"Indeed. The thought does not much console me. If the son of Denethor located Legolas, why did he leave him alone in such a horrible place?" Astaldogald wondered quietly.

Aratadarion shook his head numbly. There was no obvious answer. Boromir had made so clear his intention to help Legolas. If he had come upon their brother in such a sad state, why had he abandoned him to the danger of Minas Morgul? He grew disconcerted at the thought and decided not to consider it. It was not difficult to direct his attention elsewhere.

He looked to his brother. Despite his disgust and sorrow, he forced himself to have mettle. Gingerly he laid a narrow hand upon Legolas’ brow and grimaced when he felt the sickening heat. He was not well versed in the arts of healing and medicine; for an Elf, the science was rather trivial. Never before had he dealt with mortal sickness. He had come across a few books involving treatment of fever during his studies many years prior, but he was unsure how reliable the information might be. He cast aside this worry, for this limited knowledge was all he had at his disposal, and it undeniably was better than nothing at all.

Quickly he picked through his pack for a few herbs and water. One particular sprig he plucked from the bundle and began to shred with shaking fingers. His rushed breath seemed too loud. "We cannot make a fire," said Astaldogald quietly, sensing his twin’s unsaid hope. "I have heard cries in the dark three nights past. There are Black Riders in these woods. The light would attract them."

Aratadarion battled tears, watching his sick little brother shake roughly with chills. You must be strong, his mind chastised. You must not fail! "Come, sit next to him. We shall keep him warm with our own heat."

"Why not take him now and flee?" Astaldogald asked. He was clearly miffed about the idea of sharing his body warmth so intimately. Elves were not generally prone to open displays of concern or affection, and he in particular found such acts less agreeable than most.

"I do not think he would survive it," whispered Aratadarion. The words left his numbed lips of their own accord.

Astaldogald’s eyes flashed again in annoyance. "Treat his fever and we shall be off."

"Nay," the other murmured, mixing the ripped stalk and leaves of the herb into the water. "I do not know enough about mortal sickness. I doubt strenuous travel will be of benefit. We must lessen the fever before it damages him. Please, come rest here. We have precious little time and even fewer options."

Astaldogald glared upon for a moment. Had this been any other day, perhaps even a few hours before, Aratadarion would have immediately regretted his words out of fear of demeaning his twin. Now the same fierce anger that had before guided his tongue in quarrel bolstered his resolution, and he did not look away. Astaldogald huffed finally after a moment. Indignantly he stepped closer and dropped to the ground near them. Aratadarion cast his twin a reproaching look, and it was somehow enough to chastise the other into coming closer.

Steeling himself, Aratadarion laid a hand upon Legolas’ brow once more. "Legolas," he prodded quietly. The huddled form seemed to pull tighter into itself. Aratadarion felt his doubt crowd upon whatever courage he had, but he would not allow himself give up. "Legolas, wake up. Open your eyes." When that failed to rouse his slumbering brother, he patted his flushed cheek firmly. "Come now, Legolas! Wake!"

A heated gasp that was distorted by a hacking cough answered, and long eyelashes fluttered. Aratadarion felt nervousness and fear twist his stomach painfully as his brother’s lifeless eyes opened. They were a sight of loss, of a nightmare, of a devastated soul. He felt his tears again. "Yes, little brother. Come back to this world."

Dry, cracked lips moved weakly, but at first made no sound. Legolas’ glazed blue eyes struggled to focus upon him. They blinked. Once. Twice. A glint of lucidity, of recognition. "Ara… Aratadarion?" His voice was little more than a rasping whisper.

His smiled weakly. "It is I, Legolas, and Astaldogald. We have come to take you home," he assured softly.

Fear and grief passed through Legolas’ gaze, so strong and vivid that they pierced Aratadarion’s resolve. The silence inside him screamed in rage. "Why… why do you cry?"

In embarrassment and worry, Aratadarion quickly wiped away the stream of tears dampening his cheeks. He did not wish to upset his ailing brother with his own distress. "I am merely glad you are safe," answered Aratadarion.

Weakly Legolas lifted his hand. The burning palm, drenched and clammy with sweat, pressed to Aratadarion’s cheek. Clear tears slid from the corners of Legolas’ eyes. "He did this to me," he whimpered. His bruised face fractured into a taut expression of despair.

Astaldogald watched intently, obviously caught between concern and aversion. "Who, Legolas? Tell us!"

Aratadarion shook his head and took the hand from his face into his own. The skin felt sick and searing. Panic churned within him. Seeing Legolas like this terrified him. "He is delirious. He speaks without thought," he quickly declared. Gasping the weak and shaking hand, he grabbed the flask. "Drink this, my brother. It will ease your fever. It will make you better."

But Legolas shrugged away from him, turning weakly to his side and curling protectively into a ball. "Do not lie to me!" he gasped, quivering with frightening intensity. "I see it in your eyes! You hate me!"

Aratadarion throbbed in agony for their plight. He glanced once at the still and hard Astaldogald before clasping his brother’s arm. "Of course not, Legolas! Lie still; you will make yourself worse," he chided gently.

"You would that you never found me," came the whispered response. Aratadarion felt guilt and terror wash him cold. "You would that you never knew what has become of me!"

Astaldogald grunted in aggravation and suddenly grasped Legolas by the shoulders. He pressed his brother to his back and held him steady. Legolas struggled feebily, but he had no strength to fight. Aratadarion opened his mouth to object, but the words would not come. Something wretched and dangerous had crawled into his twin’s sharp glare. "Look at me, little one," snapped Astaldogald harshly, staring relentlessly into Legolas’ bewildered and horrified eyes. "Look at me and speak the truth! A great dishonor has been done to Father in you, Legolas, and you will answer me! Who did this to you?"

Legolas choked on a sob, shuddering with each labored breath, but he did not answer. Aratadarion winced. The quivering body had once been mighty and pure, agelessly beautiful and wise. The dark curse suffocated them all. "Answer me, Legolas!"

"Let him go," ordered Aratadarion, unable to stand to see their brother further tormented. "Please!"

Astaldogald did not comply, leaning closer. His breath was a hiss through clenched teeth. "Was it Aragorn, little one? Did he leave you to the enemy? Did he betray you?"

Legolas whimpered in obvious panic, squeezing his eyes shut. Sobs and coughs shook him; he was fighting to breathe. Aratadarion’s anger burst through his control, and he grabbed his twin’s arm. Quite forcefully he pushed the other side, releasing Legolas. "Enough. Aragorn had naught to do with this! Your hatred of him is unfounded!" Protectively he pulled Legolas into his embrace. The young one collapsed into his arms, gasping and weeping, clinging to him as though Aratadarion was his last link to sanity.

"Equally so is your defense of him!" snapped Astaldogald as he righted himself. A long silent moment then followed, filled with rushed breaths and the stifled sobs of Legolas. Aratadarion said nothing more, knowing sadly that already he had voiced too much. He prayed his twin would not think further on the matter, but he knew it was folly. He cursed himself for his reckless words! Aratadarion did not look to Astaldogald, keeping his gaze fixed upon Legolas’ shaking body wrapped in his arms. His heart felt his twin’s rage when his eyes chose not to see. The Elf shook inside at the waves of anger and betrayal buffeting against him, struggling hard now to hold back the drowning distress and concentrate on other matters. He must act nonchalant and innocent. Still, when the cold question came, he could not stop the shudder from twitching his form. "How would you know such?" Aratadarion could not answer. "How would you know that Aragorn is innocent?"

Aratadarion’s hands shook as he tried to ignore the inquiry. He laid Legolas back down gently, his brother moaning and limp. Astaldogald grabbed his shoulder and forced him to look up. "Why do you defend him? Surely you do not believe the son of Denethor’s lies!"

Aratadarion pulled away gently, feeling his strength flutter. "He did not lie," declared he quietly, pulling again the cloak over Legolas.

"Then how can you explain his guilt, his remorse? Why did he, a man, so fervently search for an Elf? What could have driven him other than shame?" Aratadarion grimaced as his twin thus answered his own questions. He hoped that Astaldogald would not have this epiphany, but he knew that that too was beyond foolish. His twin was a clever Elf. He would not miss such an obvious conclusion!

And Astaldogald sure enough did not. His voice was lost, strangled, as he ended the endless moment. "Boromir… He was the one." Aratadarion sat still as his twin spoke, stiff and frightened of what now this revelation could mean. Silence. He lingered painfully in the instance, struggling to find strength, wishing desperately to somehow simply end this all. He felt rotten to the core. "You knew." The statement was laced with hurt, with betrayal and anger. Tears leaked from Aratadarion’s eyes. He had never meant to harm Astaldogald! "You knew and you did not tell me. Why?"

The accusing tone stabbed into him, and he closed his eyes. Guilt and shame consumed him. "I did not think it wise," he answered softly. The excuse felt lame, but he could voice nothing else.

Astaldogald exploded in fury. "You allowed me to break bread with the demon that made our brother mortal! You let his crimes pass from us without retribution! Why?!"

The anger came again, and Aratadarion did not fight it. "Finding Legolas was more important than doling out death and judgment! Boromir is not ours to blame and certainly not ours to punish! I did not want to see you kill out of revenge!" Surprised by the heat in his tone, Aratadarion turned back to Legolas. For a long moment, neither spoke, each wrought by much conflicting thought and emotion. "Your hatred shames me at times. I did not say this before because it brought me no serious burden. Now I tell you plainly. Would you kill Boromir because he is a traitor that happens to be a man or because he is a man that happens to be a traitor? I did not know. I still do not. Father tells me I am quiet and meek. I am so because your arrogance and hate overshadow me. Nay, Astaldogald, I did not tell you because I had no faith in your control. Now that you know, I trust you even less."

His words were met with a harsh silence. He turned then to regard his brother. Astaldogald was white; whether with fury or guilt, Aratadarion did not know. The twin sons of Thranduil were still, divided now in a way they never had been before, the suffering of their youngest sibling the foundation of the wall growing between them. Aratadarion turned away finally and grabbed again the flask of water. "Let us care for Legolas. It is our duty. He is as much Father’s son as we are, even though this dark stain has been laid upon him."

He did not wait for Astaldogald to respond. Somehow he knew he had shocked his twin into a silent submission. Deep inside him, where thoughts that rarely came to light resided, he was proud and a bit satisfied. For the first time in what seemed to be forever, he had held his ground. Vaguely he was sad that it took such a horrible occurrence to force him to have courage. Still, as he helped the drifting Legolas sit up and drink from the flask, he felt relieved. Perhaps his father had been right to send him after all. Perhaps he indeed did have the bravery and strength as prince and an Elf to do what was needed of him. Thranduil’s parting words again came to him. "Be well, and care for your brothers. The metal of your heart is your greatest virtue." Until then he had doubted the truth of the statement. Now he was beginning to understand.

Aratadarion worked silently, noticing only momentarily his twin’s approach. Astaldogald sat beside Legolas once more, resigned and silent, stiffly offering the aid Aratadarion demanded. Had Aratadarion been more attentive of his twin, surely he would have noticed the foul aura spreading from Astaldogald like smoke from a building fire. Their fight and his betrayal had only added fuel to the blaze growing within him. The murderous rage hardened in dark eyes, drowning out light and truth and replacing vigor with violence. The intent was stark and clear. His body radiated his fury.

As it was, though, Aratadarion did not see this as he drew Legolas, wrapped once more in the cloak, into his embrace for both comfort and warmth. Astaldogald fumed silently. Fire and ice. Anger and peace. Hate and love. These things had once coexisted in two different beings. Now they clashed, splitting blood from blood and heart from heart. The wall between twins, built of terror and spite, would not easily come down. Though neither chose to admit it to each other or themselves, they knew the price for their division would in the end be great.


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.

Story Information

Author: maggie

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/12/02

Original Post: 07/14/02

Go to Veiling of the Sun overview

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