36. Chapter Thirty-Six
Boromir moved away from the window, the first signs of the sunrise peeking over the horizon. He knew Aragorn wanted to leave at first light and he was just as anxious to be on their way. They only had a vague idea of where to look for Adariel and Brannon and the sooner they left, the sooner they would find them.
He quickly dressed, grabbing his weapons as he left his room. He would have felt more comfortable with his armor going into Harad, but as discussed, they were all wearing travelling clothes. Sewed into the hems of each of their cloaks were gold and silver pieces, as well as some of the gems from Aragorn's personal treasury. Boromir had several gems as well. Whatever it took to get Adariel and Brannon back, he would pay it.
Boromir tucked his dagger into his belt at his side, a small knife into his boot and had his sword as well. He knew Aragorn would have not only his sword, knife and a dagger, but a bow and arrows as well. Gimli would have his trusty axe and Legolas his Elven blades and the long bow given to him by Galdriel. He almost wished they were taking more men with them, but as Aragorn had pointed out, the fewer the men they had along, the less likely they would draw attention.
He stepped into the courtyard to find Aragorn, Faramir, Legolas and Gimli already assembled. Arwen and Laeriel, as well as Éowyn, were there too. He could see by the look on her face that the Lady Laeriel was arguing with Aragorn. He could hear the raised voices as he got closer.
"She is my daughter too, Aragorn. I am coming with you," Laeriel said, swaying on her feet.
"You can barely stand, Laeriel," he growled.
"It's a good thing that I will be sitting a horse then!" she barked back.
"You are the most stubborn woman! Did you not have time to learn patience living with Círdan?" Aragorn asked, reaching a hand out to steady her.
"As if you have any room to talk about patience! You were raised by Lord Elrond and you are married to Arwen! Elves, both…I am going!"
"Do not make me pull rank, Laeriel," Aragorn whispered, his face inches from hers, his blood boiling. She knew all the right things to say to make him lose his temper, had all those years ago as well.
"You wouldn't dare, not in this," Laeriel said close to tears. "Please…Strider…they are all I have left in this world…"
Aragorn wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to his chest. She felt so right in his arms, the years slipping away. He glanced over her head and caught Arwen's eye. His future was with her, but his heart was still caught in the past. Pulling his gaze from his wife, he kissed Laeriel on the top of her head.
"I will bring them home, I promise you," he said softly. "But I need you to stay here and regain your strength. It cost you a lot, coming to me, but for their sake, as well as your own, I need you to remain here in Gondor."
Laeriel sighed. He was right, she knew that, but it was so hard to abandon them again. "As you will. I will remain here."
"No sneaking off in the middle of the night to follow behind either."
Laeriel chuckled. He knew her all too well, even after all these years. "I promise. But do not tarry. I can take only so much," she said withdrawing from his embrace. She moved away from him as a stable boy brought his horse to him.
"We will take good care of her, Estel," Arwen said, draping her arm over Laeriel's shoulder.
Aragorn smiled and mounted his horse. He had said his goodbyes to Arwen in private, not wanting to flaunt their love in front of Laeriel. She was his past, but he still cared for her. He turned to the others in the rescue party, finding Gimli seated behind Legolas as in the past. Boromir was saying his goodbyes to Éowyn and Faramir.
Laeriel watched as the riders prepared to leave, her gaze resting solely on Aragorn. When Boromir stepped in front of her, taking her slack hand in his, she was slightly startled. She looked from her hand, so warmly held in his, up to his face to his eyes; the eyes that he shared with his son, Brannon.
"My Lady, I promise you, I will return your family to you. I will bring Adariel and Brannon home safely to Gondor, or I shall not return to these lands."
Laeriel smiled, the tears she had been holding back sliding silently down her cheeks. This man, whose life she had helped save so many years ago, loved her daughter, although he had only had such a short time with her. She trusted in his vow to bring them home safely.
"Come home safely, My Lord Captain," Laeriel whispered, leaning forward to kiss his cheek.
Boromir turned and mounted his horse. The group rode off, leaving Laeriel, Arwen and Éowyn to stare at them until they disappeared into the city. When they reappeared at the gates, they watched as the three horses rode out across the Fields of the Pelennor, before turning southward, towards Harad.
Arwen turned Laeriel toward the gardens and led her to a stone bench. "I know your heart goes with Estel. He will bring back your daughter and grandson," she said softly.
"I know he will. He has never failed me. I don't expect him to now either. Besides, Boromir is with him and the words he spoke to me before he left fills my heart with hope."
"If it's not too painful, I would like to hear more of your time with Estel."
Laeriel looked at her folded hands and sighed softly. "I would tell you, but I am afraid that the telling would hurt you deeply."
"He loved you, Laeriel. I think he still does, in some ways. First love is hard to get over."
"Forever love can do it…I see it in his eyes when he speaks of you or looks at you. He may have loved me at one time, but it is you who he loves now. Do not doubt his love for you and do not put yourself through unnecessary pain reliving my days with him. They are over and done, no matter what either of us say. All I want now is my family, so I can return home."
"I do not think you will be going anywhere now that Boromir knows of his son, Laeriel. So we may as well get to know each other while they are gone. Tell me about your family…and how you met Estel. I think we will be very good friends when all is said and done."
Laeriel nodded. If Arwen wanted to hear about her husband with another woman, she could tell her about their time together. It wasn't a long time, but it was filled with love, trials and heartache. Had the times been different, had they been different, their love may have lasted.
"Where do I start?" Laeriel asked.
"The beginning is always a good place, as my Ada would always say. Tell me about your family."
"My father was a descendant of the House of Bëor. He is directly descended from Belen. He was a tall man, nearly as tall as Strider…I mean, Aragorn. He had fiery red hair and brilliant blue eyes. He was full of laughter and mirth and I worshipped the ground he walked on. His name was Brannon. My grandson is named for him."
"And your mother?"
"My mother was elf-kind. Her name was Celuwen. It meant 'maiden of the spring' and she truly embodied that. She had long flowing sun-kissed hair, eyes the color of a summer's day, the smile of a rainbow. She was always smiling."
"Laeriel, do you know the family your mother was descended from? It is rare that an elleth would give up her immortality for a mortal. I know of only one other, besides myself."
"Lúthien, the wife of Beren. I know only so much of my mother's line. Círdan and I have been able to trace her line back as far as an elf lord named Eruannon. He grew up in Ossiriand with the Nandor. According to Círdan, they settled along the shores of Lake Nenuial during the second age. From there back, we couldn't find anything. It mentions a brother, but no other family."
"Do you have any siblings? You know my brothers, Elrohir and Elladan."
"I had a brother. Thurin. He was killed, along with my parents by Orcs that had come out of the Misty Mountains. I was miraculously spared. From that day on, I took on my brother's name and fought the enemy. That was how I came to meet Stri…Aragorn."
"Estel has told me parts of your story. It amazes me that he did not see through your disguise. Nor did my brothers."
"Men, will see only what they want to, whether they are elf-kind or mortal. I think he wanted to see a young man, so he did. They were all wary of me, as they couldn't pinpoint what was different, but they did not guess my secret."
"Éowyn disguised herself and went to battle as a man. She killed the Witch-King. She suffered many weeks for her bravery, but without her heroics, the Witch-King would still be alive to terrorize the people. The men in our lives sometimes forget that beneath the soft skin and womanly curves lies a fierce heart, courage and bravery that is comparable to their own."
"That's true and yet here I sit while my daughter is in danger."
"Laeriel you are too weak in body, if not in spirit, to undertake another grueling journey into the deserts of Harad. I can see this little jaunt into the courtyard and gardens this morning has tired you out. Let's return to your chambers where you can rest for a while."
Laeriel nodded and allowed Arwen to help her back to her chambers in the royal apartments.
Laeriel sat in a chair on the balcony of her room, overlooking the gardens. The sun was high in the sky, its rays of light belying the emotion in her heart. She should be happy on such a beautiful day, and yet the only thing she felt was dread. She should be with Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli, looking for her daughter.
They had only been gone a few hours, not long enough to pick up the trail of the slavers or Adariel and Brannon. There was a soft knock at the door and soon she was joined by Éowyn.
"You haven't touched your breakfast," she scolded lightly, removing the tray from the table beside Laeriel.
"I have no appetite, Lady Éowyn."
"Aragorn will not be pleased when he returns with your family and finds you wasting away from want of food," Éowyn said heading for the door.
Laeriel didn't answer her. She was lost in thought, knowing that she had given up the right for Aragorn to be worried over her well-being long ago. All she wanted now was the safe return of her daughter and grandson.
Aragorn rode his steed hard, the foam lathering up on his neck. He could waste no time in getting to Pelargir. From there, their way was certain, across the River Anduin to Hyarpendë and across the Ithilien county of Alagdor to the city of Tir Ethraid. It would take them nearly a week to get to the last city in Ithilien before they could head south to Imlad Carnen, in the East March of the Harnen Principality.
Once they reached the city of Imlad Carnen, they would have to refresh their supplies before heading into Chelkar and Lower Khand provinces. Hopefully, they would be able to pick up the trail of the slavers by then. If not, they would have to discreetly inquire as to their whereabouts, and pray that they don't arouse too much suspicion.
The forty-two leagues began to pass underfoot, and before he knew it, the four of them had reached Minas Arnach in the Lebennin District of Arnach. They had already come two thirds of the way to Pelargir and as much as he wanted to continue on, Aragorn knew the horses needed to rest.
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