10. Chapter Nine: Starlight
Though it was called the Last Homely House East of the Sea, Imladris was in actual fact a city. It was not in the manner, which one would consider Minas Tirith, Edoras or even Pelargir a city, but it was a city nonetheless. Even though there were no bazaars for peddlers to hawk their wares, no lodgings for travelers and inns where drink could be imbibed, it was nevertheless a refuge for many in Middle earth and those that came were always greeted with open arms. Elrond had fostered Imladris as a place of learning, where wisdom was a skill to be acquired under the tutelage of those who had lived through great times and were not above imparting their experiences to others who craved understanding.
In its day, Imladris had been the jewel that Sauron was never able to conquer. Elrond’s power had protected his people from the outside world for centuries since leading them here from the ruins of Eregion following Sauron’s war. Before Arwen had grown up and gone into the world to see that there were other places of beauty, she had been quite content to believe that Imladris was the center of the universe and her father was undisputed master of it. In her youth, it was a place of dreams, where her mother would take her through the glens and the forested hills that surrounded Imladris and show her the beauty of that was her father’s realm.
No matter where her heart led her in the future, Arwen Evenstar would always be a daughter of Imladris; she would carry it in her soul as Elrond carried it in his heart even if he was in the Western Lands. Her devotion to her people did not change now that she was Queen of Gondor. Estel’s wife and queen she may be but she was still Elrond’s daughter and would always answer the call of her people in their time of need.
And at this moment, as she walked the darkened street of Imladris, seeking to learn what had become of her people, Arwen knew instinctively that they had never needed her more.
In truth, she was almost afraid of what she would find after Morfiniel led her away from Elrond’s former residence into the rest of Imladris. Earlier on, she had looked up the city and was struck by how haunted it appeared because it was so devoid of people. However it was nothing in comparison to how it felt when she was forced to wander the paths herself to discern what had become of them. The eerie silence that pursued them as they made their way through the familiar walks meandering through the buildings, sent shivers of fear down Arwen’s spine.
As Morfiniel guided her, Arwen also felt herself seething in anger at how frightened the lady was of Eol despite being compelled to help Arwen save their people. What had the dark elf done to engender such fear? Arwen was determined to find out. Arwen knew, that in the scheme of things as it stood, she was alone and vulnerable. Even if Estel was presently trying to reach her, he was still far away and she was no match for Eol’s magic or the Hunter’s strength. The Hunter had swept both Eowyn and Melia aside without difficulty; Arwen did not think that in her present condition she would give it much of challenge.
Walking past the homes with the windows radiating darkness instead of light, Arwen could feel most profoundly the evil that had staked its claim upon her father’s beloved city. They did not speak as Morfiniel led her to one of the homes Arwen knew once belonged to Glorifindel. Although the elven lord no longer remained in Imladris and had elected to journey west at her father’s side, she knew that some of his kinsmen had opted to remain behind.
"Come my lady," Morfiniel said as she descended the steps that led into the residence. Like all of elvish architecture, the home was ornate and appeared more like a great sculpture than it did an abode. Ornate banisters flanked them on either side as they slipped under the awning and came upon the main entrance. Doors were seldom locked in Imladris for no elf would be unworthy enough to steal.
They slipped into the empty hallways of the house, with Morfiniel leading Arwen, completely aware of where she was going. Like the rest of Imladris, the house was equally devoid of people and it did not take long for Morfiniel to find a lamp and give them some light in which to continue their visit. Her mother’s old friend led her up the stairs, away from the halls and parlors where Glorifindel had no doubt received guests when he was still in occupation here. Arwen’s curiosity as well as her growing anxiety at what was waiting for her at the end of this road began to mount.
Morfiniel led her upstairs, the dim light of the lamp lighting their way through the corridors of the upstairs chambers. Arwen could not understand where they were going until Morfiniel paused at one of the doors along the passage and gazed at the Evenstar once more. That fearful look had disappeared from her face but it was now replaced with an expression of sorrow and helplessness.
"In here Evenstar," Morfiniel said softly as she twisted the door handle and entered the room. "In here, you will find your answers."
Arwen swallowed thickly and followed her inside, not bothering to ask what it was she would find when it was obvious she would soon be seeing it for herself. The faint light of Morfiniel’s lamp illuminated the inside of the room. There was nothing before her that was shocking or surprising. It was someone’s private chambers but there was nothing in it that distinguished it from any room of the same kind. At first she was confused as to why Morfiniel had brought her here until she ventured further into the suite and saw the faint outline of a body lying on top of the mattress.
Arwen looked at Morfiniel long enough for the lady to see the question in her eyes before she was hurrying to the side of the bed. Lying upon the silken sheets was a young boy. In Gondorian years he might have been a teenager, no more than sixteen if she hazarded a guess. However, by elven standards he was hundred of years old but by her reckoning, a child nonetheless. His expression was peaceful as if he were in a deep slumber from which he could not escape. Arwen tried to awakening him but to no avail. The boy remained still and unresponsive to her efforts.
Behind her, Morfiniel had risked a little more light to the room by lighting one of the larger lamps within it. The room flooded with light and Arwen was able to see the boy’s features more clearly. For a moment, she was uncertain by what she was looking at until she reminded herself to stop thinking like the Queen of Gondor and start thinking like the daughter of Elrond Peredhil. Upon doing that, she saw quickly what Morfiniel needed him to see.
They say that the elves were born when the first glimmer of starlight shone upon the world following Varda’s kindling of the stars. The elves themselves believed that when this new light entered their eyes for the first time, some part of it remained and forever shone from their gazes. It was the starlight that made the elves what they were, though it was a truth that remained unspoken for they all knew it. It was this luminescence that made them all they were, the fairest and the wisest race that was known to all.
Arwen stared at the face before her and understood at last what Eol had been doing. Her heart clenched like a fist in her chest as the horror of it impacted upon her senses with such revulsion that there were soon tears in her eyes. She saw the boy and knew that his life span was shortening even as she stood here watching him. Immortality was being drained away because Eol was stealing their life force from their unconscious bodies.
He was stealing the starlight from their eyes.
"Oh Iluvutar!" She gasped out loud, tears spilling down her cheeks, as she understood that this boy was one of many. That all the remaining people of Imladris were lying in beds not unlike this one, their life force draining for them to give Eol the power to do his will in darkness throughout Middle earth. She swung around and faced Morfiniel, whose eyes were also glistening in tears.
"All of them?" She demanded. "They are all like this?"
Morfiniel nodded slowly, unable to keep herself from sobbing as she answered, "all of them my lady! He kept me alive to tend to his needs while he lingered in Imladris."
"How did he do this?" Arwen asked as Morfiniel slid to her knees, her body shaking as she wept in despair, probably for the first time since this ordeal had begun for she had no one to confide her wretched tale. "How was he allowed into Imladris to carry out such an obscenity upon our people?"
"He came to us as in the guise of a traveler and we took him in not realizing what he was," Morfiniel looked up and Arwen and explained. "He did not show his true colors until he entered your father’s house and saw your portrait. At first we thought nothing of it that he would stare at it for hours and ask all that we knew of you. You were married and in Gondor, we saw no harm in telling him. But the idea that you had married to a mortal, who would pass out of this world in a flicker of time and take you with him, seemed to enflame Eol. By the time we understood what he was capable of - it was too late. He had cast this enchantment over us and then brought forth the beast to aid him in your abduction."
"Really Arwen if you wanted to know all this, you might have just asked."
Morfiniel let out a strangled gasp as her eyes widened in terror as she looked over Arwen’s shoulder. Arwen did not need to see him to know that Eol was standing right behind her. She turned around and marched up to the dark elf who was standing at the door, having heard Morfiniel’s revelation.
"How could you?" Arwen demanded beyond fury. "You are an elf! How could you do something so terrible?" Her fists were held to her sides but she was still shaking in outrage at what he had done here.
"They serve a purpose," Eol said unperturbed, his hand moving to caress her cheek when Arwen flinched in revulsion, unwilling to let him touch her. He was worse than orcs for at least orcs had reason to behave as they did. Eol was one of them, an elf of Doriath, possibly kinsmen to her grandfather Celeborn. It was beyond her understanding that he could behave in such a manner.
"You’re killing them!" She cried out. "Stop it immediately. Release them!"
"Or what?" He retorted, bored by her demand for she had no power to move him unless he chose to be moved. "You cannot even stop yourself from becoming my whore, how do you propose to stop me?"
Arwen swallowed hard, she was her father’s daughter. They were her people and she could not allow this to happen. No matter what the consequences to herself, she could not let them all die like this. It was unconscionable and she could bear knowing that she had allowed it to happen when there was power in her to stop it, to save them. She drew in a deep breath, for she would need strength to make the sacrifice she was about to make. She prayed that Estel and Eldarion understood the choice she was about to make because she had no other alternative but to give Eol the one thing he wanted to save them all.
"By being your wife."
"My lady no!" Morfiniel cried out in horror.
"You would come to me?" Eol stared at her, feeling his own eagerness at the possibility of her acceptance of him overwhelming his ruthless and calculating demeanor. "Willingly?"
"Yes," Arwen nodded, tear wetting her cheeks as she gave her soul crushing decision. "I will come to you willing. I will remain at your side for as long as you desire, just release them and let them leave Imladris in safety."
He did not answer for a long while and Arwen thought those minutes were the longest of her life. She now knew what it felt like for a condemned man to take the walk from his cell to his execution, how interminably long those dwindling minutes of life could be. Inwardly, she prayed that Estel would come, that he would save her from this nightmare she had willing allowed herself to dream in order to save her people. She prayed very hard that he would save her because despite her willingness to sacrifice herself, she was still terrified of what that would entail.
"No I do not think so," Eol said finally.
"What?" Arwen exclaimed, unable to believe that he had refused her.
"If I were to release them, I have no doubt that they would bring about my ears the wrath of the entire elven world still remaining in Middle earth for what I have done to them and what I will do to you. They will remain as my protection against the hosts of elves and men that will no doubt attempt to retrieve you. I require the power they give me to maintain our happy little kingdom and as for you coming to me willingly, I will have a long time with you to ensure that happens anyway."
"You animal!" She swore and raised her hand to strike him.
Eol caught her hand and shoved her backwards a little. Arwen stumbled but did not fall but her heart was plunging into the depths with despair. She was weeping openly now, gripped with anger and frustration at her helplessness.
"Take Arwen to her room," Eol turned to Morfiniel. "And if you disobey me ever again lady, I will see to it that you die a good deal faster than that boy lying there. Do you understand me?"
Morfiniel nodded quickly as she helped the distraught Evenstar out of the room, desiring to escape the penetrating eyes of the monster before them. Secretly she prayed that the King of Gondor would soon deliver them from the nightmare they faced because the only thing worse then being forced to be Eol’s unwilling bride, was to helplessly be forced to watch it happen.
The company moved fast despite their injuries.
Once Elrohir’s arm was tended to as best that could be done with what was at hand with the time allotted to them, they mounted their horses and rode quickly towards House of Elrond. The sun had already begun to dip beneath the horizon, drawing with it the curtain of night. Of the Hunter they saw nothing even though their eyes searched for the beast behind every shadow they happened by on their journey towards the heart of Imladris. For the first time since this had all began, they began to see some measure of conclusion approaching the entire affair, though they were uncertain yet what the outcome would be. There was still the matter of what had happened to inhabitant of Imladris, a question that hung heavily upon their minds, particularly upon that of the twin brothers who were the rightful lords of this land.
Their thoughts were also fixed upon the fate of Aragorn and Pallando who were now in the distant past. Secretly, they were somewhat overwhelmed by the entire notion of being able to move through time like one steps into another room but in the face of Eol and the Hunter’s presence in Middle Earth, it was the only answer that explained everything. Still knowing the truth did not alleviate their worries for Aragorn who had been sent to a place that could not have been worse even if it were conceived in a nightmare.
None of the elves present had lived long enough to remember Angband though they were certain that Celeborn could tell them stories of those dark times when Melkor roamed the earth. They knew the beasts the dark lord had spawned, including the faithful servant that would plague Middle earth even after its master had been vanquished into the void. Now Aragorn was there amongst all these terrible creations and none of them could help him save Pallando. The lack of word so far from both inspired their worst fears and increased their determination to make Eol pay for what he had done by fulfilling Aragorn’s determination to retrieve Arwen and free Imladris.
In Aragorn’s absence, the company had been following Elladan’s lead because he was a Prince of Imladris and he more than any of them, were terribly aware of what the Hunter was capable of. The beast had pursued him to the banks of the Anduin and Elladan had more than a personal interest in destroying the creature once and for all. He had already proved himself worthy to lead the company after driving away the Hunter and his rage against the creature had provided him with a worthy edge to combat it. Elrohir remained cautious however, keeping his brother under close scrutiny to ensure that his need to destroy the Hunter did not overwhelm him when the time came for them to face the beast again.
Nothing hindered their journey as they rode through the forests within the valley where Imladris lay though they were certain at some point, Eol or the Hunter would appear to stop them, if not both. With the night sky overhead, it did not take the company very long to place Imladris within their sights. Even from a distance, they could see the pall of shadow that rested over Elrond’s city and it was not because of the twilight. There was darkness there deeper than night and as they approached it, steeled themselves for another confrontation with the dark elf who most likely cast it.
They rode up the silent paths of Mirkwood, noticing what Arwen had noticed upon first arriving within the former realm of Elrond Peredhil, that Imladris appeared devoid of life. Save for the few lights peeking through some windows, they were rightly forgiven for thinking that Imladris might have been deserted. Of course they knew this could not be but the truth was even more frightening to imagine. Elladan did not want to think that Eol could have murdered the entire population of his father’s city. With the Hunter as his servant, this was entirely possible and seeing how Orophin had been brutally cut down to protect his secret, highly likely. He gazed briefly at Elladan’s eyes as they rode to Elrond’s house, the largest structure in city, and saw that his brother held similar fears.
"Where is everyone?" Gimli asked uneasily as they dismounted their horses.
The dwarf remembered briefly the first time he had seen Imladris, when he had been summoned with the rest of the dwarf elders to the Council meeting that precipitated the Quest of the Ring. It had always been a magical place, even to the dwarves despite their sociological enmity towards the elves.
"I saw lights," Faramir remarked, his eyes searching their surroundings for more than what they had so far seen of Imlardis’ inhabitants. Inwardly, Faramir wished he had seen Imladris or Rivendell as it was better known, at the height of its day.
"But nothing stirs," Legolas declared, his brows furrowing as he listened closely for sounds of life and heard nothing conducive to a community this size. "Except there," his eyes shifted towards the House of Elrond.
"Yes," Elladan nodded in agreement, his hand a fist around the handle of his sword as he proceeded towards the steps of the house he had grown up in.
"Elladan, wait," Elrohir called out. "He is not a fool, he may hurt her if we rush in blindly."
"He knows we here already," Elladan declared, not listening as he continued to ascend the steps to the main doors, expecting the others to follow but caring little if they did not. While the Hunter had carried out the deed, it was Eol who was truly responsible for Orophin’s death and perhaps Aragorn’s as well. The Prince of Imladris would let nothing keep him from his vengeance.
"Elladan!" Elrohir barked again and this time there was enough force in his brother’s voice to give the elf pause to face his brother.
"Our sister is in there!" Elladan exclaimed.
"In the company of a sorcerer who has the power to send us all to Angband," Elrohir marched right up to Elladan on the steps of their father’s house and looked him in the eye. "You will hold back."
Elladan stiffened preparing to speak in turn when suddenly, something captured his attention that made the entire discussion a moot point. Elladan and Elrohir turned to the door at the same time as a figure emerged from it. Swords were unsheathed, daggers and axe produced for the battle to come, arrows slipped in place within drawn bows. Eol swept his gaze across the faces assembled before him, the curious gathering of elves, men and dwarf who had come to take his Evenstar away from him. As much as they wished to leap into attack as they had earlier, the outcome of their battle with Eol, not the Hunter made them pause.
"I suppose it was too much to expect that without the King of Gondor you would leave," Eol looked upon them, Anglachel was in his hand though whether he would use it when he had such formidable powers at his discretion was a quesiton that none of them could answer.
"We came for our sister, we will not leave without her," Elladan said sharply, his eyes fixed upon Eol in readiness to attack. His body felt like a coiled serpent, ready to spring. Only the distant voice of Elrohir’s words of caution held him back.
However, another sensation soon pressed up against his awareness, almost forgotten in his hatred for Eol and he turned his gaze away from the dark elf and saw Legolas and Haldir already reacting to what he was only now discovering.
The Hunter was here.
The horses had also sensed the presence and were panicked into fleeing. They scattered in all directions; their hooves impacting against the ground like a burst of thunder as they fled away from the beast that was made to inspire terror. He saw Legolas swept away, brushed aside like a child, his lithe body thrown aside in a split second as the company descended into chaos. Elladan saw Gimli crying out for his friend before a powerful arm knocked him off his feet again. Haldir had sense enough to get out of his way and as the beast approached, Elladan knew exactly where it was heading.
It was coming straight for him.
"I do believe my servant would like a word with you," Eol said smugly as he stood back and prepared to watch the carnage unfold.
"Call him off!" Elrohir reacted swiftly, crossing the space between himself and Eol in as much time as it was taking for the Hunter to reach his twin. His sword making the journey a split second ahead of him as he stabbed the blade at Eol
Anglachel was there to meet Elrohir’s sword and with proof that his reputation as a master swordsman was no idle boast, Eol blocked the younger elf’s attempt to have him at a disadvantage, returning a thrust in kind. Elrohir did not speak it but he knew he was too injured to do battle with the elf in a lengthy fight. His arm, though momentarily tended, still ached from its dislocation and he was certain Eol knew of his injury and was taking full advantage of it. All without even using his dark powers yet.
In no condition to aid his brother, Elladan saw the Hunter materialize in front of him, the cloak of the shadow world slipping away from it as it stood before Elladan, its yellow eyes gleaming with bald rage. The dark flesh that covered the Hunter was no longer unmarked but blistered with heat. Through its dark skin, Elladan could see raw exposed flesh. Wounds received not merely from it earlier battle with the company but also from being set alight by Elladan. What hair that was on the creature was burned away and it reeked of the unmistakable stench of burning meat. In its hand, it held its great sword and Elladan stared into its face and knew that this time, there would be no walking away.
One of them would not see the morning. He had a feeling that it was going to be him.
Arwen hurried out of her room.
She was running through the empty hallways because she could sense the familiar presence of her brothers and prayed that if Elladan and Elrohir were here, then so would Estel. She had been praying for this moment since the beast and she did not mean the Hunter, had taken her away from Minas Tirith. Arwen could not wait in her room to find out what became of her siblings and her husband. She did not care what Eol did to her. She had to know. She moved through the silent halls of her father’s house and heard the commotion that was taking place as she drew nearer to the doors that led into the courtyard where visitors often rode to make their presence known to Elrond.
After what she had seen earlier that night, Arwen knew that killing Eol was the only way out of her predicament and saving the people of Imladris. She had almost resolved to do the deed herself and knew that she was quite capable of killing a creature that would behave so abominably. She had been sitting in her suite, contemplating how she might do this when suddenly she felt her brothers near. The feeling of them upon her consciousness was unmistakable and she knew it like no other.
It was the same when she was a child and they returned from one of their adventures abroad, how her heart would quicken at knowing they were home. Elladan would always console her at not being able to allow her to join them, explaining that she was to be a great lady of Imladris and had to fill her mind with knowledge by remaining at Elrond’s side. Elrohir on the other hand, would attempt to soothe her disappointment with little gifts from the places they had visited. The idea of Eol harming them both was more than she could stand, almost as much as she could not endure him hurting Aragorn.
"My lady," Morfiniel caught up with her at a juncture of corridor. "What is happening?"
Morfiniel had heard the noises of clanging sword and excited voices from her room in Elrond’s house and had immediately sought Arwen, her own heart filling with hope that salvation might have come for them at last.
"Elladan and Elrohir are here!" Arwen exclaimed, her voice was filled with hope and fear at the same time. Her words spoken left her breathless.
"Oh thank Eru," Morfiniel gushed with just as much happiness. Morfiniel had been at Celebrian’s side when all three of her children had been born and she knew that the twins had grown up to be fierce and formidable warriors. "Do you think they can defeat Eol?"
"I do not know," Arwen answered honestly, "but I will be at their side nonetheless, no matter how it ends."
"I will go with you," Morfiniel stated boldly. "I do not care what he does to me any longer. There must be an end to this."
"I am glad to have your company," Arwen said clutching her hand tight, glad to see Morfiniel’s spirit returning.
Morfiniel did not answer, her eyes were staring past Arwen. They were not filled with fear, merely bewilderment and Arwen followed her gaze and saw that Morfiniel was staring at a man, one that she did not recognize who had dark skin and wore clothes of russet and hide, not unlike those worn by some of the Corsairs. However, he did not look upon them with the expression of an enemy and certainly Arwen did not feel that he was a threat to them but she could sense a familiarity she could not place.
"Evenstar," he bowed his head slightly before her.
"Who are you?" She managed to ask noting Morfiniel’s hand clench around her own.
"My name is Pallando."
"Pallando!" Arwen exclaimed, recognising the name of the wizard who had aided Legolas and Melia in the mountains of Ered Mithrin. No wonder he seemed so familiar, he cast the same presence as Gandalf the White. "You are Istar!"
"Yes," he nodded. "I am glad to see you well. I was sent to find you at the request of your husband."
Arwen thought she might faint from happiness at knowing that Aragorn had finally come, even though she knew in her heart that he would do nothing else since her abduction but search relentlessly for her no matter what obstacles Eol might put in his way.
"Is he alive? Eol has done nothing to harm her?" She demanded, needing to hear it to be assured that Aragorn was alive and well.
"He is well," Pallando answered and saw why it was Aragorn was determined to find his queen. Their love for each other was as bright at the sun and just as powerful. One could not be in the presence of it and not be awed. How foolishly Eol had underestimated the bond between Arwen and Aragorn to think that mere separation was enough to sever it. "I am to bring you away from here to safety."
"No!" Arwen burst out, surprising Pallando by the vehemence of her refusal. Now that an Istar was here, he could do what she could not, he could break the spell. "You must help my people! They are here, trapped under some spell that has Eol draining them of their life!"
"Draining them?" Pallando stared at her for a moment, absorbing her words.
Arwen waited for him to speak but he did not for many seconds and but his silence over what he had been told gave Arwen hope. She realized that she had unlocked a mystery for him, a mystery that he had been pondering for some time. No doubt Pallando had been giving considerable though to how Eol had suddenly acquired the power to command the Hunter and hide Imladris from the rest of Middle earth.
"So, that is how he has done it," Pallando mused. "He is stealing the power of the elves for his own use."
"Can you help them wizard?" Morfiniel broke her silence and asked.
Pallando raised his eyes to both women, "show me where they are and we will do what we can."
Eol was toying with him.
As he glanced anxiously at Elladan facing the demon before him while Elrohir struggled against the mastery of Eol, he knew the dark elf was not even exerting the full measure of his skill. Eol had sized him up as an enemy and found him lacking because of injury and because Elrohir was better with daggers then he was with broadswords and at the moment, he was too injured to use either. Eol’s face showed his self-assurance and his triumph that this contest would soon be over. Elrohir blocked his relentless blow as best he could and felt some measure of comfort seeing the company hurrying to aid Elladan in his battle with the Hunter.
"Do you fight as weakly when you are well?" Eol taunted as he brought down Anglachel against Elrohir’s blade and the prince had barely enough time to keep it from slicing through his body.
"You would know otherwise if I were," Elrohir hissed and pushed back but it was not enough to even make Eol stumble.
"I suppose we will never know," Eol smiled, seeing the exhaustion in the prince's eyes and knew that he was no match for Eol’s own skills, if he ever was. Deciding not to prolong his prey’s inevitable demise, he swung Anglachel in a powerful arch and knew that Elrohir did not have strength or speed enough to keep the blade from cleaving his skull in two. He was in readiness to hear the splitting of bone and flesh when suddenly, his sword was halted abruptly by an obstruction that might as well have been a wall of mithril.
"I beg to differ," Aragorn Elessar responded coolly before shoving Eol back with the strength that Elrohir lacked.
Aragorn stood before Elrohir and spoke without looking at his brother in law, "withdraw. This is my battle."
Eol was shocked by Aragorn’s sudden appearance but he recovered quickly, his eyes narrowing in hatred as he faced the King of Gondor.
"You seemed to have survived Angband quite admirably," Eol remarked as the two men circled each other like wolves battling for supremacy of the pack. "I am impressed."
"The journey was interesting if nothing else," Aragorn replied, aware that they were skirting civility as a prelude to the battle that had been building between them from the instant that Eol had stolen Arwen away from him. "I thank you for the experience."
"I trust that I have the Istar to thank for your return?" Eol asked, cursing Pallando wherever he was and swearing an oath to destroy him once he was done with the King of Gondor once and for all.
"You might say that," Aragorn answered, seeing the hatred for the wizard surface briefly in the elf’s cold eyes. "We both owe him thanks it appears."
"Do you think you can defeat me?" Eol asked, moving the conversation to its inevitable climax. "I sent you to Angband, I could you send you to the bottom of the sea the next time."
"You could," Aragorn agreed with that, feeling no more fear because he knew his enemy and Eol’s arrogance made him as easily to manipulate as Aragorn’s deep compassion. "However, I thought we might settle this as warriors or do you intend to hide behind a wizard’s skirt when fighting all your battles?"
"You call me a coward?" Eol’s eyes blazed in anger. "I could kill you without the use of any magic."
"Is talk all that you are capable of?" Aragorn taunted. "Prove it."
"It would be my pleasure," Eol declared and held up Anglachel to show Aragorn that he had the right to the Evenstar, not because he desired her but because Eol was better than he was.
Both men continued to encircle each other thought they were barely aware of it. All they saw was each other and the woman they would do and had done everything to acquire.
Aragorn watched Eol closely, Anduril held in readiness to parry any sudden thrust the elf made because he watched briefly how Eol had fought Elrohir before his emergence and knew that he was too confident for his own good. Such traits when battling an opponent who knew how to handle a sword could be fatal and Aragorn was more than happy to teach Eol this lesson. Thus he waited for Eol to make the opening move, his own skills telling him that it was best to assume a defensive posture. There would be no impulsive attack for Aragorn in this duel; there would careful movements laced with deliberation.
Eol lunged forward first as Aragorn expected he would. The King of Gondor sidestepped the thrust easily, blocking it and forcing the blade away as Eol stumbled back again, surprised by the skill in the execution of this most basic maneuver. Aragorn waited once again as Eol reassessed how he should come at his opponent. Calculation etched in the elf’s face as he began to realize that Aragorn’s youth should not allow Eol to underestimate him. After all, this was the king that had defeated the armies of Melkor’s agent and reunited his people. The elves of Imladris spoke of him as if he were a great hero and by their reckoning, Eol supposed he was. However, that still did not give a man the right to something as magnificent as the Evenstar.
"Your reputation as a swordsman is not unjustified I see," Eol commented as they circled once more.
"You do talk to much." Aragorn drawled, not interested in engaging in any form of small talk with this elf, not after what he had done, not simply to Aragorn personally, but to so many others, including Arwen.
"Only because I want to be the last thing you hear in this life," Eol hissed before renewing his attack once again with a further series of thrusts.
Aragorn blocked these just as effectively refusing to attack just yet, he was holding back until the time was right. Keeping pace with Eol was work enough however, the elf was fast and Aragorn found that it required all his skill to keep Eol from striking blows that might give him the advantage. The clanging of swords followed every parry he made to deflect the blows and eventually, he was in a position to riposte with the same intensity.
Throughout the bout, Aragorn never took his eyes of Eol when their swords met with murderous intensity. Very soon the king was able to make some valuable observations about the elf’s skill. Aragorn noted that Eol preferred to swing wide and forcefully, using a good deal of physical strength each time he did so. No doubt, it was his preference to put the enemy down quickly instead of engaging prolonged combat.
In an experimental move to test how vulnerable Eol left himself in the face of such strategy, Aragorn ducked Eol’ latest swipe and dropped down low enough to kick the man’s knee out from under him. Eol hit the tiled floor awkwardly and Aragorn brought the blade down over his head. The elf looked up in time to see Anduril’s gleam in the moonlight, with barely enough time to roll away as the edge of its blade swooshed part the space his skull would have occupied. Rolling onto his knees, Eol blocked the swift blow that Aragorn delivered following his escape, holding the king’s blade pressed against his own as he threw a punch into Aragorn’s rib. Aragorn staggered backwards but did not lose grip of his weapon.
Eol came at him again, burning with rage that he had been placed in a defensive position for the first time since they had battled. As his aggression mounted, it had started to dawn upon Eol that Arwen’s husband might actually possess the skill to win this battle. Realising now that he could be very well fighting for his life had made Eol reconsider the notion of battling Aragorn in this manner. He was no longer as secure in his skills to defeat the king and he was not prepared to risk his life when the solution to his quandary was so simple. Yet his pride and belief in his elven superiority kept him resorting to the use of his power just yet, not until he was absolutely certain that he could not defeat this human.
This understanding forced Eol to take the offensive again and Aragorn settled back into the opposite, blocking all the thrusts that came in his direction, feeling a certain measure of satisfaction at the a tinge of desperation nestled in the midst this ferocious attack. He parried against them easily, never allowing his passion to take control of him because unlike Eol, Aragorn knew how to beat him. He would not have challenged Eol if Aragorn did not believe he could win.
And to win, Aragorn had only to wear him down .
When Aragorn stepped out of the shadows to deliver Elrohir from certain death at Eol’s hand, they had all been stunned by the sudden appearance of the king whom they had almost believed they would never see again. Even the Hunter seemed a little surprised by the turn of events and while Elladan knew that he could not hope to defeat the beast in a single combat, he also knew that he was not alone. Taking advantage of the distraction, Elladan ran straight for the beast, his sudden advance taking it by surprise since it was accustomed to its prey fleeing not the opposite. Elladan however, had decided he was done doing any of those things.
"This is for Orophin!" He screamed as he plunged his sword into the creature’s stomach.
The Hunter barely flinched at being impaled by the sword and it reacted by its massive fist against Elladan’s back, forcing the prince to his knees and then his hands, his body crumpling in pain. The Hunter wasted no time attempting to remove the blade that had speared its innards, choosing instead to return the favor as it raised its own sword to split the prince in half as it had done to his companion at the Golden Wood. It never had the chance to deliver that fatal blow for another cutting pain course through his body and this time, it did not have the luxury of enduring the agony stoically. The beast threw its head back and groaned in pain as the axe buried itself deep within the flesh of its back. It clawed at the offending weapon, spinning around on its haunches and turning its eyes upon the dwarf who had flung it.
"You have harmed me one time to many with your blade Aule spawn!" The Hunter growled before snatching the axe’s handle and tore it from his back in one powerful movement. However, the swiftness of the extraction did not lessen the agony and it cried out as the steel slipped from its skin. If the company thought the pain might slow it down, they were wrong for no sooner than the bloody handle was in its grip, he flung the heavy weapon at Gimli.
Gimli saw his axe cutting a swathe through the air and immediately threw himself to the ground, ensuring that the blade passed over his head as it surged forward. He could feel the sweep of air above his head as it moved over him and embedded itself harmlessly into the ground. The Hunter was coming towards him when suddenly, Legolas skidded to the ground in front of Gimli and fired his bow directly at the beast. The arrow met its mark with deadly accuracy. The resounding scream of pain that came from the creature filled the Prince of Mirkwood with brief satisfaction as he stared at the shaft that was protruding from one of the Hunter’s eyes.
An injury like this would have killed a lesser creature but unfortunately, the Hunter was too large and powerful for that. The agony however enraged him and Legolas had enough time to turn on his heels and drag Gimli to the safety as the Hunter stumbled forward, trying to dislodge the arrow from his ruined eye. As Legolas and Gimli hurried out of its path, Haldir covered their retreat with his own bow, firing a rapid succession of arrows, each striking the beast’s massive body. The Hunter was like rabid bear being brought down by a party of hunters. It was enraged and in agony, swinging about its massive blade, hoping to strike at its enemies.
Haldir knew it would not be long before it attempted to slip into shadow again, using the advantage that its invisibility would give it to gain the edge it needed to attack his enemies. It was for this reason that Haldir was using every arrow he had at his disposal to ensure that even if the Hunter disappeared into the shadow realm, they would still be able to see it. As Haldir’s stores of arrows began to dwindle, Faramir was soon taking his place, shooting arrows at the beast with just as much determination. The Hunter was trying to fend off the arrows but the company was determined that it received no respite from the deadly barrage, not until it was dead.
In the meantime, Elrohir had reached his brother’s side. Elladan had been knocked unconscious by the Hunter’s massive fist and though he had struggled valiantly against the tide of black, he had eventually succumbed. Dragging his brother out of harm’s way, he glanced over his shoulder at the life and death struggle between Aragorn and Eol. He was relieved to see that the king was well though he wondered where Pallando was at this moment. They could certainly use his help battling the Hunter. However, there was little time to ponder the whereabouts of the wizard when he was needed to join the battle that Gimli, Legolas and Haldir were fighting so valiantly.
"Elladan," Elrohir shook his brother awake. "Elladan, you must awake!"
Elladan’s eyes fluttered a little as he struggled to surface from the limbo his mind was presently languishing. As much as Elrohir wanted to give him the time to recover, he could not and he shook Elladan again. "Brother, you must awake!"
Elladan opened his eyes at the desperation in that voice, his connection to his brother too strong to tolerate the anxiety in his voice. He opened his eyes slowly, allowing consciousness to flood back into his mind.
"I am awake," Elladan answered weakly and started to sit up.
"Rest a moment," Elrohir said gently even though he knew that they could not afford to waste the time. However, Elladan was his brother, he could do nothing else in the face of his brother’s condition.
"No," Elladan shook his head, still a little dazed, "I must be on my feet."
He gazed briefly at the battle raging around him and met his brother’s eyes, "we must finish this now."
As Elladan sought out his sword, Elrohir knew he was right. It was time to take back their home and their sister.
Morfiniel and Arwen wasted no time in leading Pallando from the House of Elrond, taking an alternate route that would see them lead away from the heart of the battle raging between Eol and the company at this very moment. Arwen fought her desire to see Aragorn despite herself, knowing that she would be of more use to him and to her people by leading this wizard to the boy caught under Eol’s terrible spell. Pallando was Istar and according to Legolas, a powerful one. She had to hope that he was capable of reversing the enchantment that gave Eol his strength to commit so many dark deeds. She knew that if Mithrandir were here, she could be assured of his ability to circumvent Eol’s enchantments but Pallando was an unknown to her.
It did not take them long to reach the home of Glorifindel once again and when Pallando flooded the house with the light from his staff, she began to have greater hope that he was capable of freeing Imladris. She also realized that he was in the position to tell him what had happened to Aragorn and her friends after she had been stolen from Minas Tirith.
"Is Melia and Eowyn still alive?" Arwen asked as they hurried up the stairs. She remembered how the Hunter had hurt them and she had lived every day since with the terrible fear that they might have died at his hands.
"They live, Evenstar," Pallando answered quickly, understanding her need to know because she had been virtually cut off from everything she had known since Eol’s abduction. "Melia was hurt badly but I am told she recovers well and Eowyn keeps watch over your son."
Arwen closed her eyes in gratitude at the news, not merely at the good tidings of their welfare but also at the knowledge that Eldarion could have no better guardian then the Lady of Rohan.
"I am glad to hear that," Arwen said softly, her gratitude showing clearly in her face. "I worried so much for them and my son."
"You will see them soon enough," the wizard smiled comfortingly before his expression changed and he felt silent, sensing the enchantment that Eol was using drawing close. He brushed past Morfiniel and Arwen, leaving them behind as he strode towards the room where the boy lay, having no need of guidance any longer.
He entered the room and found his way to the bed where Eol’s victim lay against his bed, still very much trapped in his limbo state of neither death nor life. Pallando shuddered at the cold pressing up against his spine as he approached the boy, the potency of Eol’s magic radiated throughout the place like a beacon. The youth was caught in the same web as the rest of Imladris, Pallando discovered as looked upon the face before him. All that this boy would ever be, the long life that was promised him because of his elven heritage was being slowly drained away. Eol’s parasitic spell would kill them in a matter of years, when they should have lived to the end of the world. The horror of it was beyond Pallando’s ability to fathom.
When his misguided brother Alatar had foolishly thrown his lot in with Sauron to create a new form of life, at least there were some good intentions behind it. Alatar had believed that he was using the dark lord to create a superior form of life, one that would be immune to corruption and evil, possessing the beauty of the elves and the passion of men. What he created was nothing but an abomination of life almost as foul as the turning of elves into orcs by Melkor. However, what was done, was done in the spirit of the mission for which they sent to Middle earth, to fight evil.
This however, that Pallando found himself staring at, this was intentional.
There were no noble intentions behind it, merely self-serving purpose. It disgusted Pallando to no end. With the fire of outrage in his eyes, he placed his hands upon the boy’s cold cheek and felt the essence of the spell surrounding the youth. Pallando could feel the eyes of Arwen and Morfiniel burning into his back as they waited in anticipation for him to do something and he was not about to disappoint them. Eol had gone too far in this action, if his earlier ones had not been bad enough already. It was time to cut the strength beneath this sorcerer who would use innocents in this manner.
Holding his staff above his head as if he was about to use it to physically smash the spell into a thousand pieces, the orb perched upon it that that had been giving off its light became so brilliant that Arwen and Morfiniel had to turn away. He chanted words that neither Arwen nor Morfiniel could understand and his voice seemed to grow in tempo as the illumination pushed against the walls and escaped through the windows and corridors, seeming to fill the world. It occurred to Arwen that it seemed to be sneaking its way through the whole of Imladris, finding those who were also trapped under this heinous spell.
"Children of the Starlight, buried deep in the dark, find your way back to the stars!" The wizard exclaimed loudly and lowered his staff upon the boy.
It appeared suddenly as if there was secret barrier around the youth for as the staff lowered, something like lightning sparked over his. Tendrils of red energy cackled around him and the effect left the scent of burning in the air. Pallando’s staff forced its way against this strange power, until the spidery lattice began to waver, even though in its final gasp sparked and sputtered with desperation. Finally it burst forth in an earsplitting noise, before dissipating forever. The wizard staggered backwards in exhaustion as if all his strength had suddenly drained in countering Eol’s enchantment with Arwen and Morfiniel running to help him before he could fall.
"Is it done?" Arwen asked.
"Yes," Pallando nodded weakly. "It is done. They are free."
And across Imladris, though she could not see it, people began to awake.
Eol was in the midst of bringing down Anglachel against the Aragorn’s blade when suddenly, an expression of distress crossed the dark elf’s face. He appeared startled by something, though what that was Aragorn could not be certain. However, Eol’s reaction gave Aragorn the opening he needed to swing at the elf with a savage and powerful blow. Eol recovered his senses enough to keep himself from becoming mortally injured as he blocked the Anduril just in time. However, Aragorn’s strike was still enough to make him stumble, almost to the point of falling.
"A child’s mistake, Master Eol," Aragorn indulged himself as he noticed that Eol’s troubled expression did not leave his face even when the king moved in to strike again, maintaining the momentum of his aggressive attack.
"A child!" Eol glared at him furiously, a shadow of hatred crossed his face as he stared at Aragorn with eyes that could have burned if they had the power. "I’ll show you a mistake!"
He lowered his sword and stared at Aragorn with a smug expression on his face, anticipating his power to finish the king off once and for all. Aragorn braced himself for whatever dark magic Eol was intending to visit upon him and hoped he would be equal to the task of surviving it. However, seconds passed and nothing happened. He waited in anticipation of Eol’s attack, accepting that it was only a matter of time before the sorcerer resorted to using his powers, if he could not defeat Aragorn fairly. Eol had already proven how much without honor he was when he was willing to destroy Edoras just to rid himself of the company and Aragorn did not expect him to behave any better now.
However when nothing happened, Eol’s eyes widened as both he and Aragorn came to the same conclusion; his powers were gone.
"HUNTER!" Eol shouted to his servant as he felt for the first time fear. "I require you!"
Unfortunately, his beast had far greater things to concern itself with as the Hunter battled the savage onslaught of Elladan and the company. Arrow, sword and axe were assailing the beast mercilessly. Its body was covered with a multitude of wounds and gaining more with each passing second. It was doubtful that the beast had even heard its master’s call. Eol cried out again but his voice was lost in the sound of clanging steel, of the beast roaring in pain and the commotion of the assault it was fighting against its numerous enemies.
Aragorn did nothing but observe Eol’s mounting desperation as the elf found himself for the first time without the advantage of his dark powers or his creature. When it was clear that neither was coming to his aid and that he now he faced Aragorn on what truly equal ground, Aragorn finally gave himself leave to unleash the fury that had been restrained for so long. He crossed the narrow gap between Eol in his hand, Anduril having dropped to his side as he grabbed Eol by his tunic and yanked him forward. Eol barely had time to retaliate out as Aragorn slammed his head against the elf’s skull sending him reeling before Aragorn went after Eol with every ounce of strength he possessed.
"It seems that the mistake is yours ," Aragorn replied, his eyes hardening like flints being struck in the dark as approached Eol like a wolf about to pounce a helpless prey. "Are you as arrogant when it is your own skin you risk? Now that you face me without magic or the aid of some ancient beast?"
"I can still defeat you," Eol hissed angrily, bristling against Aragorn’s taunt as he saw the blood on his fingers from where Aragorn had struck him and split skin. However, his voice was devoid of its smug confidence. "Powers or not, I am still better than you."
"Do you talk to convince me or yourself?" Aragorn returned smoothly, a cruel smile upon his lips. "Your words are many but you prove nothing," Aragorn taunted, almost smiling.
Eol let out a low growl of anger at the jibe before lunging at Aragorn. However, the man was ready for him. This time, Aragorn would hold back nothing. When they had battled earlier, he had been mindful of Eol’s powers, aware that if the elf believed for one instant that he could lose their duel, he would resort to magic to tip the balance in his favor. However, it appeared that something had disrupted Eol’s magic and Aragorn was almost certain that something was the Istar Pallando. Whatever the cause, Aragorn intended to take full advantage of it while it lasted to finish Eol once and for all.
A fire soon ignited Aragorn’s blood and he was slamming blade after blade against Eol’s sword, forcing the elf to retreat against the full vent of his aggression, Aragorn could scarcely remember being as outraged and vengeful as he was at this instant. He was ruthless in his determination would be satisfied with nothing less then Eol’s utter defeat or death, whichever came first. Lashing out again, his anger gained momentum, until he was consumed with waves upon waves of self-righteous outrage that sharpened every blow he hurtled against Eol. So intent was he at defeating the enemy, he was hardly aware that he was forcing Eol into retreat across the steps of Elrond’s house or that the dark elf was having real difficulty staving off his forceful strikes.
The king of Gondor’s savage attack caught Eol by surprise because the man had been measured and controlled in his behavior until now. Eol tried desperately to exert himself in this battle but he found that he could not even draw breath as Aragorn maintained his devastating and brutal attack. Each time he fended off one powerful swing, the king would riposte and deliver another, wearing him down with each meeting of steel. Eol could not understand what had happened to his dark powers but he could feel its loss. He could no longer feel the people of Imladris and knew that the enchantment that bound them to him was broken. He was drained of power to summon any spell and what he did have was not enough in the wake of his exertions would take time to replenish.
Unfortunately, time was something he did not have a great deal of.
The king’s attack was so savage that Eol found that his strength was waning under the relentless and skillful assault. Each impact of blade against blade was bringing to home just how close to the end Eol was nearing. In his rage, his opponent had become very fast and very strong. Aragorn’s anger was making him more agile then clumsy. Eol could feel his grip upon Anglachel weaken with each resounding impact of Anduril against it. In desperation, he was forced to sweep Aragorn off his feet just to get a brief respite.
Aragorn fell down on his rear as Eol lunged his sword at Aragorn to deliver what would have been a fatal wound through the chest if Aragorn was not fast enough to roll onto his knees and defend himself against the tactic. He shoved Eol back in sheer strength alone and spoke quickly as Eol tried to regain his footing while Aragorn got to his feet again and was ready to counter the elf’s next maneuver.
"Concede and I will not take your head, though you deserve it for you have done." Aragorn offered suddenly.
"I do not require your mercy!" Eol shouted and lunged again but Aragorn was ready for him and protected himself adequately.
"I do not offer your mercy," Aragorn replied as both men paused briefly in their battle. "Your fate is not mine to decide. If you yield, I will turn you over to the elves of Imladris so that they can decide what is adequate punishment for what you have done here. I am only wish the safe return of my queen."
"Never!" Eol hissed, unable to stomach the Evenstar in the hands of this mortal.
Aragorn shook his head, realizing that there was no reasoning with Eol. "I did not wish it to come to this but if you will not yield then you will be defeated."
"If I am defeated, so be it," Eol glared at Aragorn malevolently, determined to have one final victory before this battle reached its conclusion. "However, know that your queen offered herself to me willingly. She was willing to pledge herself to me and whatever I desired of her. Think upon that when you make love to her and wonder if it is not me, that she craves."
Aragorn met the elf’s eyes and uttered a single word before he swung Anduril in a final stroke that would decide Eol’s fate once and for all.
The blade sliced through the air in a clean stroke.
Eol’s hands dropped to his sides, hanging limply though Anglachel still remained in his grip. The elf’s face drained of color and his eyes fell abruptly vacant. His look of surprise soon descended into a blank stare. However, Aragorn was certain his eyes were capable of seeing nothing. The former Ranger slowly lowered this sword before taking a deliberate step away from Eol as the first drops of blood began to seep through the cracks of ruined skin created by Aragorn’s blade. The droops soon began to flow freely as the body stumbled forward with Eol’s head coming away from his neck and landing on polished stone of the steps.
Aragorn stared dispassionately at the elf’s collapsed body, cleaning his sword of Eol’s blood as if he did not wish the evil of its master to taint the steel of Anduril. A long breath escaped the king of Gondor as he saw the death of the enemy that had caused so much destruction in Middle earth since his arrival. Not merely to him personally but to Arwen and the friends who fought bravely at his side. And finally, he thought of all those dead bodies on the field of Edoras and the men he had been forced to lead against Uruk Hai in the same battle and thought that death was the least that Eol deserved but for the Aragorn’s purposes, it would do.
It would do very nicely.
When Eol’s life ended with the stroke of a king’s blade, the Hunter knew immediately that his master had fallen. The beast who was suffering more peril then it had ever experienced in its entire existence, turned a single, unscathed eye towards the scene unfolding on top of the steps. It saw the king standing over its master’s body, the Gondorian’s sword glistening with blood as Eol’s decapitated head came to rest on the steps. A white-hot rage filled Melkor’s creation as it realized that once again, it was a servant without a master. Bellowing its outrage for all to hear, its swung its blade at the elf named Elladan, forcing him and all out of his path as he forced his way through their weapons to reach the his dead master and avenge itself upon the one who had stolen Eol’s life.
"Aragorn!" Legolas shouted as he saw the beast heading straight for the king. Legolas had no more arrows to shoot at the creature’s massive bulk as moved away from them and could do nothing to halt is advance towards Aragorn.
Hearing Legolas cry of warning, Aragorn looked up at the approaching creature and immediately retrieved Anglachel from Eol’s dead fingers to meet the Hunter when it arrived.
"You will join him in death!" The Hunter roared as he brought down his sword upon Aragorn who raised both swords to block the powerful blow. He was driven to his knees as the force behind the Hunter’s sword but both Anduril and Anglachel withstood. When the beast raised his sword to strike again, Aragorn moved swiftly and plunged both swords deep into its belly.
The Hunter cried out in agony as behind him, the rest of the company moved with their swords and daggers drawn and enclosed the beast in a ring of steel. All at once, they rushed the creature in the throes of its pain, sword, dagger and axe met flesh in an orchestra of carnage. Haldir and Elladan struck the deepest wounds, their blades fired with the desire for revenge. Gimli swung his axe high and the mighty blade cracked upon the back of the Hunter’s skull. The Hunter screamed in agony once more, the night air become colder with its pain. Blood splattered across some of them as the steel tore through flesh and suddenly, the blade fell from its fingers. The mighty sword landed on the ground with a resonating thud. The Hunter dropped to its knees, a look of understanding on its face as the life bled out of it in a widening pool of dark blood.
Staring at Elladan with eyes filled with malice, its blistered lips cracked a final sneer before it spoke, "you have won nothing and become what you’ve killed."
With those parting words, the Hunter fell face forward against the ground and died.
There was only silence after the beast had fallen. The Hunter’s words taunted them with its truth but it was a truth they could endure. For the elves, it was vindication for the nightmare their ancestors suffered at the hands of this beast and the mutilating branch of orcs that was created by their torture. For Haldir and Elladan it was more personal but as always in the case of vengeance, their victory a was hollow one. The Hunter’s death did not bring back Orophin. Their friend and their brother were still dead. Elrohir could see this discovery dawning upon his twin and knew that he would be there for Elladan in the days to come. After all, grief and guilt was nowhere as easy to salve as vengeance. No doubt, Haldir would endure his own sorrows but he would do so as he did everything in his long life, alone and without the scrutiny of others.
"Aragorn," Faramir broke the silence first, walking towards the king and greeting him with a friendly embrace upon reaching him. "It is good to see you. We had feared the worst."
"Eol said that he sent you to Angband," Legolas asked as he too approached his old friend. "Is that true?"
Aragorn thought of that terrible place and knew that the memory of it would be burned into his mind for all time. He thought of the great spiders and of the Iron Prison and knew that he was lucky to be alive and surrounded by his friends again. The fear that had gripped him in Angband would stay with Aragorn far longer than he would like to admit but he as alive and he was grateful for that.
"It is true," Aragorn nodded. "If it were not for Pallando, I would have perished there in the belly of a Great Spider."
Legolas did not ask him to elaborate because his words were clear enough and wondered if Aragorn would ever be ready to speak of his experiences in Angband. In any case, Legolas would not broach the subject until this crisis was over and they had some time to draw their breath.
"Where is the wizard?" Gimli asked. The abrupt end of their enemies had finally allowed time enough for the dwarf to note the absence of the Istar who had been so instrumental in their quest to find Arwen.
"Right here," Pallando announced himself as he stepped out of the shadows behind them, obviously arriving from somewhere else other than Elrond’s house. The crystal perched on his staff illuminated the darkness about him and revealed to all the company that he was not alone.
For Aragorn, all the darkness of Angband would not have kept him from seeing Arwen next to Pallando.
His feet was carrying him towards her before he even knew that he was running. Through the glimmer of Pallando’s staff, she radiated starlight that filled his world with the power of her happy smile when her eyes touched his. Looking upon Arwen always had the power to melt his heart in ways he could not describe and upon seeing her, knew that every thing he had fought and suffered was worth the reward of being with his beloved Undomiel again. They met each other in a middle of the courtyard, with Aragorn sweeping her off her feet as his arms encircled her waist and captured her lips with a kiss of passion.
There was no one else present for either of them when Aragorn held Arwen against him, feeling her heart pounding against his own, beating in tandem as it was meant to be. He breathed her in like air, feeling the emotions swelling his soul as the scent of her hair in his lungs and the feel of her lips against his, nourished him. Being king of Gondor could never ever compare to being the beloved of the Evenstar. In this at least, he understood why Eol had been so desperate to possess her, who would not? Aragorn considered it a privilege he was grateful for every day of his life, that she had chosen him to love.
No man could have been more fortunate.
"Oh Estel," Arwen whispered in his ear when they broke their kiss and held each other in a tight embrace that neither would be able to let go for a good while, "I knew you would come for me. In my heart I never doubted it."
"I would rather die before I let him hurt you," Aragorn returned, his voice choked with emotion as his soul suffused with gratitude at having her in his arms again. "Or leave you to such a terrible fate."
"He only hurt me by keeping from you and Eldarion," Arwen replied, pulling back far enough so that she could meet his eyes and see that she meant it with all her heart.
"He will never hurt you again," Aragorn answered with just enough edge to his voice for Arwen to know what that meant. She did not have to be told to know that Eol no longer breathed. "I promise you that," he replied firmly.
"The only promise I wish from you my husband, is that you will take me home to our son," Arwen whispered, her eyes glistening with happiness.
"I would be glad to oblige, wife," Aragorn spoke softly before becoming lost again in her sapphire colored eyes as he drew Arwen to him again.
Tasting her lips in another kiss of heart stopping passion, the King of Gondor was at last filled with content knowing that everything in his world was right again now that he was reunited with his beloved wife, his Undomiel.
Thanks to Tammy for her help with polishing some aspects of this segment.
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.