1. What the Eastern Wind Brings
Arwen tried to talk to her horse and make him stop, but it was of no use. The stallion was closest to where that fateful lightning struck and he was frightened out of his wits. Now he was running as fast as his legs could carry him in a state of panic, barely missing the trees and bushes that were standing on his way. Arwen couldn't tell for how long she had been riding like this, but she knew that she was taken away from the company and there was nothing she could do about it.
At that very moment, disaster came: betrayed by the rain-soaked ground, the poor beast lost his footing and fell down, neighing painfully. Arwen was thrown violently off the horse and she landed heavily on the ground, crying out her own pain as she hit her head hard against a tree stump. She tried to rise but she felt too dizzy and confused, while her stallion's constant neighs kept ringing in her ears, making her head feel even worse.
Then the whinnies ceased altogether, something that sent a chill to Arwen's heart.
Turning slowly her head, she saw a dark form stooping over the stallion; but it wasn't that which changed her fright into dread and horror. Crimson liquid was now streaming out of the horse's neck, and in the black-clothed silhouette's hand was the weapon that had ended the steed's life: a small dagger, its thin and elegant blade glistening brightly despite the blood that stained it. It was also unlike any other dagger Arwen had seen in her life, for it was curved to the point that its shape resembled Ithil at his waxing and its handle was thick and made of iron.* As she tried to figure out who could possibly wield such a weapon, Arwen remembered Faramir and Beregond's tale. Then she knew who was before her.
The Creature had by now arisen from the horse's side and had caught sight of Arwen. Walking cautiously, he now approached her, his dagger still at hand and his face hidden in the shadows. Lightning struck again and both adversaries were able to get a brief glimpse of each other's form for a single instant.
Snapping into action, Arwen quickly arose as well and drew her own means of defence: her sword.
"Stay away!" she warned, mustering all her courage. To her misfortune however, the quick motion nauseated her and she felt faint again. Falling into a swoon, her hand dropped the sword and she felt herself falling. The last thing she registered before she plunged into the darkness of oblivion was that she never hit the ground as she had expected.
When Arwen regained her consciousness, she was surprised to feel warmth surrounding her and, upon opening her eyes, she wondered to find herself in the safety of a room. She tried to push herself into a sitting position, only to let out a small groan at the dizziness that got hold of her again.
"No! You must lie still!"
Arwen turned and saw a young girl rushing toward her and gently prodding her down. The Elven-woman complied and lied down once more, realising that it was the best thing to do to ease her nausea. Yet she still wanted an answer to the question that lingered in her mind.
"Where am I? How did I get here?"
"Daurir found you in the forest. He brought you here so your head-injury would be tended. We both did our best but we're not healers," said the woman. Her eyes locked on Arwen's leaf-shaped ears. "Still, Daurir said there is no need for worry – your kind recovers quickly."
Arwen couldn't help but smile at the last comment. "Yes, it does," she answered, her fingers encountering the pieces of cloth that were tied around her head. Then she caught sight of the girl again.
The Firstborn didn't show it, but she felt intrigued by the young woman who tended her, for her appearance was quite strange. Her small, lithe form and round face made her seem like a girl only a breath away from her coming of age. Sleek, jet-black hair fell behind her back while her complexion had a most unusual hue: it was yellowish, but not because of poor health, as Arwen had witnessed on patients her father tended; her arms, also small and delicate, bore braces, which were decorated with engraved letters that Arwen had never seen before. What struck to the Elven-woman the most, however, was the girl's eyes: they were black and almond-shaped, and the great sadness reflected through them revealed how aged the girl was truly in spirit.
"Daurir also said that he is sorry he had to kill your horse, but it couldn't be helped," she heard the girl's voice say at that moment, cutting her off her train of thought. "Two of its legs were broken and it was suffering too much already."
Arwen's eyes widened when she registered those words, because until then she had believed that Daurir was simply the name of the young woman's husband. Now, however, she realised how wrong she was and whom the girl was actually talking about.
"You know the Creature?" she faltered, stunned.
The girl stared at the Elven-woman for some moments in confusion; then laughed, even though Arwen noticed a sad ring in that mirth.
"I know he has many names, this is the first time I hear this one though," said the young mortal. "Is that how they came to call him in this part of the world?"
"Yes," answered the queen, sitting up once more, this time cautiously. "From which part of the world he has gotten the name of Daurir**?" Though Arwen had recognised the name as foreign, the language was unknown to her.
"From the same parts I have gotten my own," answered the girl. "Rhûn is the region called and Aglarâd I was named by the same people that named him."
Arwen regarded Aglarâd, her words clearly filling her with awe. "I have heard of that realm, where the stars are strange," she finally said, "though this is the first time that I have met someone from there."
Aglarâd shook her head at this. "We indeed come from there, but neither of us ever belonged there and that is why we left. We arrived in these woods after much toil and grief."
"And whose is this house?" asked then Arwen, looking around the room, despite the fact that there wasn't much to see: it was only a small room and scarcely furnished.
"It belongs to the people who welcomed me here in exchange for my services," answered Aglarâd. "The couple is quite old and they needed somebody to tend to them."
"But only you," noted the Elven-woman. "They know not of Daurir, then?"
The girl nodded. "And he would not wish it otherwise."
The Firstborn felt more perplexed than ever now.
"Who would wish to live in the forest alone, forsaking all?"
"Someone who was forsaken by all," answered Aglarâd simply.
Arwen was hardly satisfied with that answer, but before she had the opportunity to ask for any further explanations, an old woman's voice was heard, calling for the girl.
"I must leave," said Aglarâd, agitated. "My lady, the masters of the house don't know you are here, so, please, stay within my quarters and rest in the meantime. I will return as soon as I can." And with that, she walked out of the room, leaving Arwen alone with her thoughts.
The Elven-woman remained still for many long moments, pondering on the conversation she had with the girl. Arwen felt it was frustrating that, though she had finally found some answers concerning the Creature, she was now faced with even more questions: what did Daurir look like? She had quickly dismissed her first thought that he probably resembled Aglarâd in appearance. Despite the fact that her memories of her encounter with him were only a blur, she could recall clearly that his form was quite tall. On the other hand, she didn't have a good look on his face…
Then it was Aglarâd's words to be considered. If Daurir wasn't from Rhûn, what reasons did he have to venture there? And what reasons drove him and his so young companion away from that region? One question, however, tormented Arwen above all else: why did Daurir choose this lonely life and why did Aglarâd say about him that he was forsaken?
Sighing, Arwen rubbed her forehead as her headache was becoming unbearable once more. Feeling that she wouldn't be able to sort out her thoughts in her condition, she decided to follow Aglarâd's suggestion and rest. Her last thought, before sleep finally claimed the injured lady, was of Aragorn and if he would find out what happened to her.
Arwen's eyes focused back to awareness as she was waking up once more. She stirred, relieved to realise that she wasn't feeling so light-headed anymore; then arose to a sitting position carefully. She was truly recovering, that much she understood, for her body was humming with life again.
Even though it was dark in the room and Ithil was covered in clouds, Arwen was still able to see, her Elven eyesight always sharp. So, she was soon on her feet and heading for the door, hoping that she would be able to catch a glimpse of Aglarâd. After all, whether Arwen liked it or not, the girl was the only one she could turn to at this hour, if she wanted to find a way to return to Minas Tirith – and learn more about Daurir.
With that thought in mind, she reached for the door handle; but came to an abrupt stop when she heard Aglarâd speaking.
"She is better. Not fully recovered, but her strength returns. I left her sleeping."
Understanding about whom Aglarâd was talking, Arwen pressed herself against the door, wishing to hear more and, more importantly, to find out to whom the girl was talking; the queen still recalled Aglarâd saying that the masters of this house didn't know of her presence.
"No, I didn't try to find out who she is. I thought it best to let her be for the present; she has been through enough hardships."
Arwen remained still in wonder, trying to understand what was going on. She heard no one else speaking, yet Aglarâd talked as though answering to someone.
"She seems a noble woman though. Her clothing is of good quality and she has a regal air I haven't seen in anyone before."
Finally unable to help her curiosity, Arwen turned the handle, allowing herself a small smile when she saw that she wasn't locked inside; then opened the door just enough to have a peek in the other room.
It was indeed Aglarâd, standing near the window of what appeared to be the kitchen, and she wasn't alone. Arwen could clearly see the form of a man sitting cross-legged by the fireplace, his back turned on her and the girl. The brightness of the flames didn't allow Arwen to see much of him; nevertheless the Elven-woman could still tell that he was tall with broad shoulders and had a strongly-built body frame; as for his hooded cloak, which the man still wore, it was torn and weather-beaten. But it was the same strange knife that had slain her horse in the name of pity, now neatly tied on the man's side, that revealed to her at whom she was looking.
"Daurir, you haven't eaten anything again," said Aglarâd at that moment, her sadness clearly audible.
Indeed, beside the man there was a plate full of food that was barely touched. Daurir, however, merely shrugged, something that made the girl kneel next to him.
"You may not feel hungry, but you have to eat. Every time that you come here I see how much less strength there is left in you. Or do you think that I didn't notice how violently your limbs trembled in weariness after carrying that woman all this way?"
Daurir bowed his head and looked away, but Aglarâd was far from finished. She took hold of the man's hand, and gasped at once in shock.
"You're still so very cold! And you've been sitting by the fire for over an hour!" she exclaimed. "Please, stay here for the night. I don't want you to be out there, not on such a black and freezing night; I can't bear it!"
Daurir clasped Aglarâd by the shoulder, shaking his head emphatically, and pointed first Aglarâd's eyes, then at the door behind which Arwen was.
At first, the queen was afraid that they had found out they were being overheard, but Aglarâd's next words assuaged her fears.
"I understand why you want me to look after her; but how can you ask of me not to be concerned about you?"
Another series of hand signals finally proved to Arwen that Daurir was, for some reason, deprived of his voice. With wonder the Elven-woman watched the cloaked figure speak his thoughts in such an extraordinary way and how well Aglarâd understood him.
Suddenly, Aglarâd's eyes grew wide.
"No!" she cried. "I mourned Torion's passing, I will not mourn yours too!"
Arwen didn't have the luxury to try and understand what Daurir could have possibly said to cause such an answer, for in that very moment the cloaked figure arose and walked slowly towards the door. Aglarâd swiftly arose as well and turned at his direction.
"Go with her! Join her folk and reclaim what was taken from you! Surely you can see this chance for a new life!"
With an abrupt turn, Daurir turned to Aglarâd and, grabbing her hand violently, he uncovered his face to finally reveal his features.
Arwen bit her hand as not to gasp her surprise and fright. Daurir was no Man: he was an Elf, perhaps even a comely one at that not long ago. Now, however, only his leaf-shaped ears proved to anyone his race. His raven-black hair was short, reaching only at the jaw line, his face was lean and sickly pale, his lips bloodless; whereas his eyes, which must have one time shone brilliantly with unburdened life, were now glistening with fatigue and the darkness of frosty indifference, making them seem almost black. And now that he was piercing Aglarâd with a look full of anger, he seemed far more terrible and threatening.
But before Arwen had the chance to rush to the girl's aid, fearing for Aglarâd's safety, Daurir's grip loosened and his expression softened to sadness.
"What life?" he mouthed at his young friend; then he retreated slowly towards the door that led outside, his eyes always locked on Aglarâd, and walked out. He never saw the girl falling on her knees, nor did he allow himself to hear her sobs as he disappeared in the black veil of the wilderness.
Long did Aglarâd weep; until, feeling sympathy for the girl's distress, Arwen came out of her hiding place and knelt beside her. Before she had realised it, the queen even reached and held the mortal woman tightly in a soothing embrace.
"You heard everything?" asked the girl amid her tears after many moments had passed.
"I heard enough," answered the Elven-woman truthfully. As her eyes locked on the door from where Daurir walked out, she couldn't help then but note: "I have never seen anyone of my kind in such bitterness and anger." Nor in such a pitiable state, she added in her mind.
"If you knew, my lady, you wouldn't blame him," said Aglarâd with a sigh, wiping her tears and standing once more.
"You know of his tale, then?" asked Arwen, arising as well.
Aglarâd nodded. "For the most part anyway. But, my lady, if it is all right with you, I do not wish to tell you of it just yet. For it is a tale which reminds me of my own pain."
"Then speak of it whenever you feel comfortable about it," Arwen assured her with a small smile.
Just then, a cock crowed in the distance, making both women turn at the window.
"I suggest we go have some rest, while we can," said Aglarâd. "You haven't fully recovered yet."
"Fair advice. We will not speak of such matters again for the present."
Aglarâd bowed in courtesy, offering in this way her thanks; then showed Arwen to her room before she also rested by the fireplace.
When Arwen awoke again, the sun was already up. Stretching and gladdened to see that whatever discomfort there was left was now gone. She arose and headed again for the door and, after listening intently till she made certain that she didn't hear anything that betrayed a human presence, she walked into the kitchen once again.
Just as Arwen had thought, no one was in the kitchen, though the fire was still burning ever strongly, a large pot with boiling water over it. The only thing that breathed in the room was a short, yet stocky grey dog, sleeping soundly on a rug until the Elven-woman came in. The dog merely opened its eyes, yet without seeming alarmed to see a stranger in the house it was guarding. It even half-closed its eyes dreamily when Arwen petted its head, appreciating the affection.
"Istach ú-im coth,****" murmured Arwen with a smile, fully aware that all kind animals had a natural trust in the Elven race. That also explained why the dog didn't even make a sound when Daurir had brought her here, to Aglarâd's care.
Letting the dog fall into its relaxed slumber again, Arwen then saw on the table a plate filled with fruit and a note beside it. Upon reading the note in her curiosity, she read the following words:
"The breakfast is for you, my lady. Eat and then please return to the room. I will find you soon after the darkness falls to give you answers to all your questions."
Arwen ate gladly, for as her health returned, so did her appetite. As she was still eating, she let her eyes run over the note again, looking at the letters more carefully this time.
Aglarâd – after all, only she could have written that note – apparently knew how to write clearly and correctly; nevertheless the writing was still shaken and uncertain. It was quite evident that it was very late in life that she learned to use the quill. Could it be that Daurir had taught her? That possibility didn't seem all that far-fetched, for the two certainly seemed quite close – at least, Aglarâd seemed attached to Daurir.
It was then that Arwen remembered the other name the girl had mentioned: Torion. What was this person's connection with the two and how had he come to his end? For dead he must be if Aglarâd's words about mourning his passing had to make any sense.
The light sound of the knife as it hit the bottom of the now empty plate cut her off her musings and, without realizing it, her eyes locked on the ring that was circling one of her fingers: a small, yet elegant silver ring with a beautifully carved diamond on it.
Sighing sadly and with her heart filled with longing, she took off the ring and looked at it for many long moments: Aragorn had given her that ring on the day of their marriage. Then her eyes drifted to the window and the woods that could be seen beyond and, though she knew she would get no answer, her heart called out with all its strength to her beloved.
"Where are you?"
Yet she knew that she had to do something as well. The question that still remained however was how and what; and the only answer she could come up with was never lose hope. That, however, only frustrated her the more until, realizing that she could only wait to hear Aglarâd's story, she walked back into her room.
Night had already settled when Aglarâd came into the room Arwen was in. The Elven-woman couldn't help but notice how thoughtful and worried the girl was, nevertheless she didn't speak of it.
"You know why I came," said Aglarâd simply.
All that the queen did was nod in answer. And the Easterling sat down and started telling her tale.
"Like I have already told you, my lady, I wasn't born in Rhûn. My true home is further east, beyond the mountains – or beyond any trees for that matter. For in the world I am coming from there is no green to bring joy to the land. Everything is covered by rock and sand, whereas the water is scarce. If you are unfamiliar with the territory, you have sealed your fate once you set foot on it; doom is the only thing that awaits you. A scorching sun burns your skin and a freezing night makes your blood run cold in your veins; sandstorms can whip your flesh off your very bone or block your lungs and choke you to death, making you feast for the birds of carrion. That, however, is not the worst thing you can encounter in this sea of dunes: were-worms so long that it seems to the human eyes that they can touch the sky - if they put their mind into it - are lurking beneath the ground to swallow you and anything else around to fill their ever-empty stomachs.
"You may think little of the region by the way I'm speaking of it, my lady. Nevertheless people can live there, if only when they are always on the move and skirmishing amongst themselves for the little fertile ground and water they come across. For as the grains of sand shift hither and thither at the wind's whim, we too shifted places constantly in order to survive.
"My tribe was more fortunate than others, that much can be said. We were living at the western outskirts of the Desert, where there was more green and water in comparison to the other territories. Moreover, jagged rocks protected us from the east from any intruders who could have tried to gain our land as their own. Thus it was that we were able to stay there permanently without fear.
"Yet there came a time that our relatively peaceful life was disrupted. I was no more than seven years of age, but I can still recall the hordes that came riding from Rhûn and attacked us with many a war-cry. Though the men tried to fight them back in an attempt to offer the women and children the chance to flee, the raiders proved too fierce and the battle too short. Soon the clash of swords was replaced by another, far more terrible sound: screams of anguish. Everyone was mourning either for the people who died by the Rhûnish blade or for the far worse fate that awaited them, the living."
Aglarâd tensed involuntarily, as images of the destruction pierced her mind. It wasn't so painful to talk about the fate of her tribe and her family; but to replay in her mind's eye all the indescribable mayhem and carnage that she was forced to see at such a tender age made her ill.
Light fingers touching her own made Aglarâd look up. Arwen was gazing her with a calm look, a ghost of a smile brightening slightly her features. It was strange, but this small gesture of encouragement and support was enough to make the girl to get new strength of heart and pick up the thread of her tale once more.
"Whoever survived was taken back to Rhûn to be sold as a slave. I was sold as a servant girl, thus getting separated from my mother and brother forever. Indeed I have not seen them or heard of them again since I was taken away.
"I was soon to discover that the man whom I had to call master made a living out of organising fights on which anyone who had gold coins to spare could place his bets. I was expected to offer food and drink to the spectators and, later on, to entertain them as a dancer between fights."
Arwen barely managed to stop herself from gasping.
"Did he use you as…?" But she didn't finish her sentence, unable to utter something so horrible in her mind.
Aglarâd shook her head, smiling a bit.
"No. My master was a shrewd businessman and he was aware that whatever money he would gain in using me in such a way would be lost once more if something happened and I would be forced not to work for nine months. As a matter of fact, he didn't allow anyone to attempt anything against my person, something that I welcomed with relief.
"Thus the years passed without much trouble. My master favoured me for my obedience and often rewarded me with such finery and jewellery as it would be fit for a dancer so popular with the spectators and the customers. For my name was indeed whispered with admiration among the men… and with jealousy among the women," added Aglarâd with a rare mischievous grin. That, however, quickly changed again to bitterness. "Yet there was an emptiness inside me which couldn't be filled."
"Then the War broke out and my master had to leave to fight. He left behind his son in charge, for a birth defect forbade the boy a military life. Still, his bad leg didn't prevent him from doing as he pleased at his father's absence, earning everyone's resentment within the household. If our master and his guards, men just as cruel and corrupted as the son, hadn't earned our fear, then we would have found the opportunity to escape long ago.
"The tidings from the War weren't good for Rhûn. And soon the soldiers that were returning ashamed and crestfallen confirmed their defeat to the men from the West. But the master had returned with the air of someone managing a small victory of his own, for he had returned with a prize.
"I never had the chance to find out Daurir's real name to tell it to you, my lady, but his dark mood certainly justified the name that my master had given him. The wrath that was reflected in his eyes was enough to make us all nervous close to him, more so when our master warned everyone in the household not to be fooled by his fair appearance – several of the guards that kept him in chains had already paid the price for making that mistake. Everyone got to be so afraid of Daurir, in fact, that in the long run the task of providing him with food and water was handed to me. I can't even recall how many times he frightened me with his abrupt movements and his piercing gaze before finally a grudging tolerance and then a wavering friendship started forming between us. And with Torion's help, he even taught me how to read and write, thus strengthening our connection."
"Who was Torion?" asked Arwen, eager to hear more now that her curiosity was getting quenched.
"Daurir's friend, who was taken captive and brought to Rhûn too. He was the only one Daurir would turn to with love, the only one he trusted before he had also come to terms with my own presence in the cell. Yet that name wasn't real either. It was merely a nickname that Daurir used to call him, clearly in some arrangement between them; after all, Torion never called Daurir by his true name either. If anyone ever heard their names, it was only the walls of their cell."
Arwen nodded slightly, another thought crossing her mind: that Torion meant something more to Daurir, being an Elf. After all, the word torion meant "brother's son" in the Elven-tongue; which could only mean that Daurir was taken captive with his nephew, not merely his friend like Aglarâd was led to believe.
The young Easterling then carried on with her narrative, not noticing Arwen lost in thought.
"Though they were both in chains, Daurir and Torion's pride was not something that could be easily hidden; for indeed they didn't resemble slaves at all. They knew how to strengthen each other's heart and protect themselves against any kind of challenge our master forced them to fight, making themselves in this way unbeatable. The first day that they were placed into the arena they had won a spectacular victory and the audience loved them instantly, thus making our master even richer than he already was. Daurir and Torion, however, hated this situation. They even tried to escape on a number of occasions, but all attempts proved fruitless. They could not hide forever in a region they didn't know and where no one was willing to help them."
"But I believed that there were Elves in Rhûn!" exclaimed Arwen, shocked. "They would help them, surely?"
"Why would they do that, my lady?" asked Aglarâd bitterly. "In Rhûn everyone is taking care of himself alone in order to stay alive. Besides, almost two months after their captivity they couldn't escape even if they wanted to."
"Why? What happened?"
Aglarâd wrung her hands nervously before she answered that question. It was with immense difficulty that she spoke now.
"Like I said, Daurir and Torion made a good team and they always won in the matches that our master set for them. One day, however, a man challenged our master and thus the prizefighters had to face some great striped beasts from the depths of the East, a place where the forests are so thick that it seems they can smother you alive. At that fight, everything went awry: one of the beasts managed to throw down Torion and tear off his arm. At the smell of the blood, all the animals went mad with frenzy and they charged against the fallen warrior. Daurir, however, proved a far better match for the beasts and slew them all before any further harm came to his friend. And before anyone could stop him, he rushed to Torion's aid and looked after his injury. It took many days and all of Daurir's efforts, but in the end he managed to save his friend's life.
"Yet it was to no avail. Our master wasn't willing to let Torion live now that he was useless to him, for it was Torion's right hand that was torn off so savagely. In fact, before Torion even had the time to recover fully, he arrived with guards to execute him. Thus I came to witness a sight I never believed I would see: Daurir falling on his knees and begging for Torion's life.
"For all Daurir's pleading though, our master wouldn't have it. After all, it would cost him far less to dispose of Torion rather than have him alive at his expense. And he would have truly killed Torion hadn't Daurir's next words stopped him.
'"I will do anything you wish, only let him live!'
"Our master's eyes glinted malevolently, seeing the chance that was presented before him.
'"Anything? Do you swear it?' he asked, facing his prisoner.
'"Anything as long as you let him live,' repeated Daurir steadfastly, though it was clear to him, as to all of us present, what the master would ask of him.
"With a sneer that made everyone feel nervous, our master approached the still-kneeling Daurir and towered over him.
'"Bow to me.'
"Daurir complied, inclining his head and locking his gaze on the ground.
'"Lower,' crooned our master, taking pleasure in seeing the immortal being submitting to him.
"Daurir obeyed again, until finally he was flat on the ground. He saw for a moment Torion, who was shaking his head "no" the entire time; then he felt the Man placing his foot on his neck, forcing him in this way to remain down. Daurir's eyes sparked with anger and his hands clenched into fists; yet he knew that he was in no position to react.
'"Do you swear on your gods that I am your lord and master, to offer me whatever services I am to ask of you without so much as an objection from your lips? That you will not try to escape the fate that is bestowed on you by any means your kindred knows?'
'"No! Don't do it!' shouted Torion as much as his lungs permitted him in his weakened state, earning a slap from one of the guards.
"Daurir remained silent for many long moments, swallowing hard as if trying to drown down his pride and finally say softly: 'I swear.'
'"You swear what?' snarled our master, triumph written in all his features.
'"I swear… my lord and master,' added Daurir in a hardly audible voice, his eyes shutting in shame.
"Only then did our master remove his foot from Daurir's neck.
'"Good,' he said simply. And with that he walked away, not paying any more heed to his prizefighter, who had remained where he lay with hardly a muscle moving.
"Torion then found the opportunity to sit up and, using my hand as support, walk with what strength there was in him to his friend.
'"Why did you do it, you fool?' he said; yet there was nothing but sadness ringing in his words. 'Do you realise that you have just condemned yourself?'
"Daurir never answered though. He simply arose and sat quietly in his corner waiting patiently for the guards to chain him up. He never said a word that day, nor the day after. He merely let himself willingly tolerate every whim of our master, for he had accepted that he was defeated.
"If Daurir and Torion's life had been a misery before, after that incident it became a torment. The guards had always been afraid of Daurir, but now that they knew that he wouldn't fight them back, they took all their loathing out on him. Indeed, every guard hurt Daurir and his companion in every possible way, spitting and cursing their race at the command of their chief, a man by the name of Lôkhî and of abhorring ways.
"Three months later, ill news came to our city: a treaty was signed between the Men of the West and the Men of the East, in which all forms of slavery were forbidden. Our master had no intentions whatsoever to comply to the new laws, of course; thus in the end he kept us all under his service with threats and had to organise his fights illegally and with utmost secrecy. Still he wasn't able to make the money he used to, something that filled him with resentment – to everyone's misfortune. For in his foul mood he punished everyone most severely even for the smallest of mistakes.
"This led to the very day that changed Daurir's life forever.
"The particular day had started ill from the start. Our master's son had been involved in some kind of illegal business and the authorities were looking for him. That meant that our master not only had to protect his son, but also to make certain that his own illegal business wasn't discovered as well. He sent his son to some caves outside the city and put the household in the underground cells where Daurir and Torion already were, so their shouts wouldn't be heard if the law-enforcers arrived to search the house. I was to remain free and treat our guests, presenting myself as the son's wife.
"A couple of hours passed, but there was no sign of the law-enforcers. Then Lôkhî arrived and informed the master that there was trouble at Daurir's cell: the Elf, he said, dared to oppose them again when they tried to silence Torion.
"I don't think I need to tell you, my lady, in what violent ways they tried to do that, thus causing Daurir's just exasperation. Our master, however, only huffed impatiently, his mind already troubled by other matters.
'"Well, make sure the Elf stays silent too. Do not disturb me again,' he said and waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal. Had he been facing Lôkhî like I did, he would have noticed a strange glint in the guard's eyes and a peculiar smile forming on his lips. Yet it was no use talking to the master about it – not that time anyway. The law-enforcers had just arrived and I was expected to be in my best behaviour.
"Some more hours passed, and the law-enforcers finally left empty-handed and our master seemed able to breathe once again, so relieved was he to see them gone. But, as we were opening the cells to let the rest of the household out, he noticed one of the youngest of the guards kneeling by the wall, pale as a sheet and the contents of his stomach spilled on the floor.
"What is the meaning of this?' asked the master, angered by such behaviour. His answer, however, came in the form of shouting mingled with malicious laughter. As though stung, our master quickly rushed to Daurir's cell, for it was from there that those disturbing noises were heard.
"Once the door opened and the master entered the room, everything had grown uneasily quiet and I didn't dare go any further. Suddenly the silence was broken by the master's roar of wrath, which was instantly followed by Lôkhî thrown out of the cell with such words that I dare not utter most of them again.
'"Pervert! Disgusting pervert!' the master shouted again and again. 'Is that what I ordered you to do? Get out of my sight and this house, you filth!'
"Lôkhî left, seeming pleased with himself though he was sacked; and my master directed his curses to the rest of the guards. Was that what he was paying them for? That prizefighter had brought in that house the money with which he paid the miserable curs, making him more worthwhile than they ever were. And he didn't intend to show them any mercy if Daurir died because of them.
"At those words and not taking it anymore, I hurried inside to see what happened to Daurir. I screamed as my eyes locked on the floor, now covered with his blood; but somebody swiftly - and probably in shame for what happened - placed a cloak onto Daurir's form before I got a good look at it.
'"Take her out of here, this is not a sight for her to see!' the master ordered his men when he saw me. 'And make yourselves useful and fetch me a healer – now!'
"Two of the guards quickly rushed outside and another prodded me out as well. I fought hard against him, but it was no use, his grip was too tight. All I could do was turn to Torion in my wish that he, at least, could tell me what happened. Yet, at that very moment, I saw him struggling against his own chains; and he shouted at the top of his lungs amid his tears: 'Fiends! Monsters! The only wrong he did was that he tried to protect me! A curse on you! A curse on you all!'
"And that was all I managed to see or hear. The healer arrived and was hurriedly shown into Daurir's cell, but I could get no news from him except that Daurir's life hanged from a thread. He remained by Daurir's side for many days, receiving a handsome fee from the master, who wasn't willing to lose this prizefighter.
"Two weeks had passed when I heard that Daurir was finally out of danger and all that he needed was rest to recover fully. I returned back to my task of handing the two prisoners their share of food and water; but Torion, now freed within the cell so he could watch over Daurir, kept his friend hidden from me in the shadows, allowing him thus to sleep constantly and regain his strength.
"Finally, when several more days had gone by, Daurir opened his eyes and, thanks to his Elven-blood, he was soon healed – yet only in body. For in truth Daurir was now only a mere ghost of who he used to be. The fire of life that was reflected in his eyes had utterly died out and his face betrayed nothing but cold apathy, as if his soul had departed and left its shell behind. And as Torion and I found out later, his soul wasn't the only thing that had left Daurir, because no word came out of his lips ever again.
"Yet when Daurir was set to fight again, everyone else in the arena witnessed another person, whose eyes seemed ablaze with fury and hatred whenever someone was set against him; who killed any of his unfortunate adversaries in the most savage of ways and kept striking him even after he had slain him; who still thrashed wildly against the chains the guards used to drag him away from the arena to the point of bleeding himself. They would see Daurir, the murderer. The irony was that that excited them even more, and even now I wonder who was truly the animal.
"More than a year passed this way and it seemed that Daurir hardly acknowledged anyone or anything anymore; because, whenever he was in the cell, he resembled a dead man, lying on the floor and looking at nothing but empty space. He didn't seem to notice neither my attempts to make him swallow some food or drink, nor indeed Torion's sorrow-filled words addressed to him. For Torion talked to him always, hoping against hope that in this way he was reaching in his friend's heart. Sometimes he told Daurir of stories of old, sometimes he spoke of stories that he clearly remembered with nostalgia and he wished to believe that Daurir did too, and sometimes he would implore his friend not to let the darkness that grew within him consume him whole.
"Yet it proved useless. Daurir became alive only whenever he was dragged out to the arena and found the opportunity to unleash his rage.
"That, however, was about to change. After much arguing and fighting between master and son over matters of money, they drew their knives and killed each other. With no master in the house anymore, the slaves were finally free to go where they would. I grabbed the keys and, since there were no more guards to stop me, I opened the cell where Torion and Daurir resided.
"Each one's reactions to seeing the sun as a free man once more was so different than the other's! Though almost blinded after having been outside for the first time after almost two years, Torion smiled warmly, smelling the air that was deprived from him for so long. Daurir's face, on the other hand, betrayed no emotion. He merely looked at Torion and me briefly as though pondering on something. Then, after making up his mind, went to the weaponry where he picked a knife for himself, for he had become his own master again and he was willing to defend that right. After all, the master was no more and no oath could hold his hand anymore.
"As soon as he came out, he beckoned Torion to follow him. And although I didn't expect it, I was allowed to accompany them as well. I suppose Daurir sensed that I had no home to return to and he took up the responsibility to look after me as well. What I know is that, when I looked into his eyes, I thought I saw reflected there, for the first time in a long time, a flicker of compassion.
"Thus it was that all of us three walked to the direction of the setting sun. I wish I could say that that was the end of our troubles, but that would be a lie.
"We always walked towards the realms of the Western Peoples, but the journey was long and arduous. We trudged on through rocky plains, our feet sometimes bleeding and our sides aching from weariness because of the many miles of walking. At nights and whenever the elements of nature proved for Torion or me too much to handle, we all huddled close to keep ourselves warm. And though Daurir did everything he could to help us by finding food and water, many were the days that we had to go without either.
"I had lost count of the days passing long before we had finally reached the ruined gates of the land of Zigûrun, the Wizard*****. Then, as we left the mountains behind us, we turned south until we reached the ruins of an ancient city. At that moment, we all knew that we had finally passed the borders and we could be counted among the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. And indeed, the very calmness of nature and the gentle swaying of the tree seemed to welcome us under the West's protection.
"It was among those ruins that Torion, overcome by exhaustion, hardship and the wound caused from his missing arm, which was never fully healed, passed away. He simply asked to rest his body against an old stone, and his farewell flowed out with his last breath."
Arwen sighed sadly at this and, at that moment, she felt for Daurir. It seemed so unfair that the Elf had given up so much to safeguard his nephew, only to lose him at their journey's end.
"I will never forget Daurir's face when he watched Torion die," continued Aglarâd. "It was like he was torn between acceptance of his companion's death and disbelief. He kept looking at me, seeing me unable to control my own grief, and biting himself to drown any sob that risked rushing out of his lips; while he was shaking Torion gently, as though prodding him to wake up."
"The sun was setting once more when Daurir finally arose, his eyes now fixed in a dead gaze. Lifting me up as well, he signalled to me that we should make all arrangements necessary for Torion's departure. It took several hours but, by the time the moon had risen, Torion was in the earth's embrace. And over his grave I placed in writing my farewell to a good person now gone.
"Then Daurir wrote his own blessing, which he wrote in a language that I'm not familiar with. Yet it still had the power to undo Daurir, for it was only after he had written it that he allowed his tears to flow down his face. He didn't let spasms of grief wash through his body nor his features distort in sorrow; nor indeed did he beat his chest, as many do in their distress. He simply remained kneeling by Torion's grave, his tears trickling down his cheeks and spilling on the ground endlessly – mourning in the same, silent way that he had taken every blow of fate for the last two years.
"It was with that image of Daurir, resembling a weeping statue under the moonlight, that sleep finally claimed me; though it was a troubled one. Upon waking up, I noticed in my wonder that Daurir was nowhere to be seen. When I found him, he was kneeling at the shore of a nearby river, the knife still in his hands and by his legs his black strands, cut. Already several of the locks had fallen into the water and were carried away by the current, yet Daurir's look clearly said everything that needed to be said: that he cared for nothing anymore."
Arwen felt like her heart missed a beat, for she finally realised what was the meaning of her vision. She wondered momentarily at the un-elven way that Daurir chose to express his pain at his loss, but she quickly reasoned that the Elf was in so much grief that he had acted on impulse. She bowed her head, wishing to hide the tears that had started welling up in her eyes.
Aglarâd, however, didn't notice, overcome by the grief of her memories. And though her voice kept faltering now, she bravely carried on with her narrative.
"From that day on, Daurir became even more withdrawn to himself. He never stopped looking after me, but at nights his mind and gaze always drifted elsewhere as he would lose himself for hours on end in thought.
"This continued on, until finally we came across this house. Daurir had been watching the old couple that still lives here for many days and he decided that I would finally have a decent life. I wouldn't have it at first, at least not without Daurir living in the house as well; for I didn't wish to do what it felt like abandoning him alone, with only his memories." At this, Aglarâd drowned down a sob.
Not quickly enough though. Arwen lifted her head and, looking at the girl carefully, she realised that there was another reason that the Easterling didn't wish to leave Daurir.
"You also came to love him."
Aglarâd nodded solemnly. "And, I think, he came to care deeply for me too. But, when I confessed my affection to him, he merely claimed that that kind of love came out of our understanding each other's pain of slavery; however, in truth, neither of us need someone to understand our pain, but to heal us from it."
"Wise words," noted the Elven-woman.
"And able to cut through my heart more deeply than his knife ever would," completed Aglarâd bitterly. "Thus in the end I accepted his suggestion, though it was with a heavy heart that I did. Now I found my place in this world and I console myself somehow with that. But Daurir still wonders in the woods, living in the shadows and only coming here on occasion to see how I'm faring. Upon each visit though, my heart bleeds to see his face paler and more sunken, while his body becomes thinner and lacks more and more strength.
"Even those visits had become scarce, until a month had passed before he appeared through that door again, carrying you in his arms. And when he comes to take you to your own people, it will be the last time I will ever see him again."
"What are you saying?" asked Arwen in surprise; though a horrifying suspicion had already crept with her mind, for Aglarâd's encounter with Daurir finally made sense as well.
"What he said to me only too clearly last night," answered the girl. "Once he returns you to your home and no other responsibility drags on his existence, he will allow himself to wither away, succumbing to his sorrow."
Arwen immediately shook her head.
"No!" she declared, horrified. "He cannot give up on life in such a way! Not now that he is free!"
"I know, my lady. Oh, how well I know it," sighed Aglarâd. "Yet he isn't willing to listen. Didn't you hear my desperate pleas at him last night? He simply shrugged them off."
"It is his grief that makes him despair, that is understandable," insisted Arwen. "Yet it is clear also that it has been a long time since he has last tasted joy. If he witnesses this other aspect of life again, perhaps he will reclaim his wish to live again also."
"But, lady, how can that be done?" wondered the Easterling. "He has no kin to return to, otherwise he would have gone looking for them long ago; he wants nothing more to do with Men, the race that treated him so cruelly; and the last of his friends passed away in spite of all his efforts to keep him alive. In what can he hope?"
Arwen started pacing the room, trying to find a solution. Aglarâd watched the Elven-woman, waiting to hear any kind of suggestion from her lips and hope that it would help the person she came to love.
Finally the Queen of Gondor stood by the window, her mind made up.
"I will take him with me."
Aglarâd's hopes crushed again as swiftly as they had arisen.
"He won't have it, my lady," she said, downcast. "I have already suggested it to him."
"But this time we will be cunning," argued Arwen, sitting once more close to the girl.
"What do you mean?" asked she, yet her eyes widened instantly with realisation. "You plan to trick him!"
"The Valar know how much I despise deception," said Arwen, "but I fear this is the only way we can help him."
Aglarâd nodded in agreement. "What is in your mind?"
"Had you told me my exact whereabouts at present, I would have easily found my way home without much error. But," and at that Arwen's voice lowered to a tone of confidence, "this is something that only you and I know."
The girl understood. "You will talk him into guiding you through the forest."
"Yes. And while he guides me I will try to gain his trust. We are both of the Elven-kindred, so it should not prove too difficult."
"But what if he understands the trap?"
"Oh, I am certain he will eventually," said Arwen. "Yet I hope in the meantime he will also understand that I only mean well. And, perhaps, if he puts his mind to it, he will learn to trust my husband, too."
"What if he doesn't? He suffered too much to allow himself to get hurt again."
"Then I will have to make sure he does; because if he sees my husband, it will be the only thing that will keep him from giving up on his life."
Aglarâd stared at the Elven-woman incredulously at these words.
"Why?" she asked, though a suspicion was already forming in her mind.
Arwen bowed her head. She had never believed that there would come a time when she would hesitate to speak about Aragorn.
"My husband is of the race of Men," she finally said slowly. "But he is noble and kind! He is the king of this realm!" she quickly added, seeing Aglarâd ready to protest.
"This will hardly make a difference to Daurir, my lady! He will still regard it as another betrayal!"
"I am aware of the risk; but it is the only chance Daurir will have to regain his faith," Arwen argued. "Both my husband and I are healers and we can help him, if he will permit it."
"Or might quicken his death!" argued Aglarâd, distressed. "He might regard himself a prisoner again and so forsake this world anyway."
"Which will mean that he was beyond anyone's aid anymore, as harsh as it may sound."
Aglarâd didn't answer back. She merely bowed her head in defeat. Arwen walked up to her and prodded her to look up at her.
"Believe me, young one; if there was any other option, I would have chosen that one without hesitation. And even if there is one, I fear I cannot see it. Can you?"
The Easterling shook her head.
"Then surely you must understand that we should at least try out the plan I have in mind. If he is so determined to go to the Halls of Mandos, a few days more should not make a difference to him. But he should not be deprived of the chance to change his mind. No one should have such a fate and certainly not him, you know this. That is why you implored him to reconsider his decision, is it not so?"
The girl took with both hands the Elven-woman's and kissed it in respect.
"Then I will help you in any way I can, for I will not have his death in my conscience."
"Your help is most welcome and needed," answered Arwen with a smile, gently pulling her hand away from Aglarâd's grasp. "Do you know when he is to return?"
The young girl's eyes widened at the question and she swiftly looked out of the window.
"What?" asked Arwen, not really understanding.
"He was to come tonight. Before the moon was high up at the sky."
Arwen looked outside the window too, only to see that Ithil was almost at the end of his journey.
"Has he ever been late before?" she asked Aglarâd worriedly.
"No," answered the girl, still looking out nervously.
Arwen still watched a brilliant sun rising as dawn was coming swiftly, while Aglarâd still paced up and down the room nervously. There was still no sign of Daurir.
"Something happened to him," Aglarâd finally declared, the waiting proving too much for her now.
"I begin to fear it, too," said Arwen thoughtfully, turning to the Easterling. "Is there a place where Daurir takes refuge when in hiding from any danger?"
Aglarâd stopped in her tracks and thought hard for many moments.
"There is a small cave, about an hour's walk from here. But I'm not certain if he is seeking refuge there anymore. When I was still with him, we often changed hideouts so as not to be discovered easily."
Arwen nodded her head in understanding and remained silent. Then she turned again to Aglarâd as another thought entered her mind.
"I saw a dog here in the morning. Do you have anything that belonged to Daurir so the dog can smell his trail?"
Aglarâd's face brightened.
"I have a strand of Daurir's hair!" she cried happily. But her eagerness soon wore off as she realised something. "Îbal is a guard dog though, not a hound."
"That will not prove a problem, have faith in me," Arwen assured the girl with a small smile. The Elven-woman knew that the dog would understand what she would ask of it.
Aglarâd answered with a smile of her own and rushed to go outside. Yet the moment she opened the door, she froze and instantly covered her mouth with her hand so as not to cry out her surprise.
Arwen stood up to see what was amiss, though a suspicion had already formed in her mind. Daurir was indeed standing at the threshold, now placing a finger over his mouth in a gesture of silence.
Nodding a bit, Aglarâd backed away from the door, still staring at Daurir in wonder as the cloaked Elf walked slowly into the kitchen.
As Daurir stepped into the light and lifted his hood so he could look at Arwen the better, Arwen clearly saw what had shocked Aglarâd in the first place. If Daurir's face was pale before, now it carried a ghostly hue that made him seem like a spirit of the dead; his dark eyes had a tired, defeated expression that held Arwen under their gaze for many moments. But Arwen didn't feel uncomfortable. She returned the look, hoping that Daurir's eyes would allow her even a glimpse in his soul.
"He says they are looking for you," said then Aglarâd.
"What?" asked Arwen, confused.
"He just told you that there are many men in the woods. They are looking for you," repeated Aglarâd, translating Daurir's signals into words. "He also asks if you know them."
"What did they look like?" asked Arwen with hope.
Daurir signalled again.
"Men with armour," translated Aglarâd. "The image of a tree and seven stars on their chest. An Elf and a Dwarf accompany them."
Arwen's heart leapt with joy at such news.
"Yes, I know them! They are with my husband, who must be looking for me!" said Arwen at once. "Please, take me to them!"
Daurir remained still and rubbed his forehead, as if lost in thought. Arwen understood that Daurir didn't wish for that sort of development. After all, taking her personally to other Elves was one thing, but to Men?
Daurir then turned to Aglarâd. Realising what he would ask of her, Arwen slightly shook her head, hoping that the girl would notice her.
Fortunately, Aglarâd did.
"I'm afraid I cannot help you, Daurir," she replied quickly. "I don't know where to look for the soldiers and, besides, I might be missed."
Daurir's jaw clenched. He clearly didn't expect that kind of answer. He made a motion to fold his arms, but he stopped midway, and started pacing the room instead.
Aglarâd and Arwen exchanged glances as they observed Daurir while he was still thinking. They spoke no words, but both of them shared the same thought. Daurir was holding his left shoulder too stiffly, whereas his clothes were in part covered in brownish stains. They both knew that those were not mud-stains, but Arwen could see even more than that. Her experience as a healer enabled her to see that Daurir's shining eyes and the thin film of sweat that had by now settled on his brow wasn't a good sign. Still, she couldn't try to convince him to tend to his wound before some trust was developed between them.
If Daurir knew that the women never took their eyes off him as he still walked up and down the room in thought, he never showed it. After heaving a sigh, he marched to the door and opened it. Just when Arwen thought that Daurir would walk out and leave, he turned abruptly and beckoned her to come with him. Such was Arwen's surprise at this that Daurir had to beckon her again, this time in an impatient manner, before she went out as well. He certainly wanted to be done with that errand as soon as possible.
As the two Elves started walking away, Aglarâd was standing a little further away, wringing her hands nervously. Finally making up her mind, she called out to Daurir, making him stop in his tracks, and ran toward him. Daurir turned, not really understanding what Aglarâd wanted of him.
Arwen understood perfectly well though. Thus she went a little further ahead to let the two be for a while and waited patiently.
Aglarâd stood in front of Daurir, her small, slender form seeming even smaller compared to the cloaked Elf's tall and broad body frame.
"I merely wanted to say goodbye," Aglarâd finally said after what it seemed a very long time, not daring to look Daurir in the eyes.
It finally dawned on Daurir. This would be the last time they would ever see each other again before he would let himself die. He prodded Aglarâd with the gentlest of touches to look up at him and his bloodshot gaze locked on the girl's sad one; then he placed a chaste kiss on her lips and embraced her in a sign of farewell and comfort.
"I will try to be happy for both of us," said again Aglarâd, once released from Daurir's grasp; and, not taking it anymore, she fled back to the house before the Elf saw the tears that flowed down her cheeks.
Yet, in the long run, Aglarâd found joy in the face of her masters' son, when he came to pay them a visit. He fell in love with her as soon as he caught a glimpse of her face and, soon after, he married her, giving her a chance to finally live happily to the remainder of both their days.
Daurir, however, would not be destined to learn of those things. He simply walked forward once more, leading Arwen through the forest.
*The weapon is, in fact, a khandzar, a weapon widely used in the eastern countries.
** Daurir: Dark One (Adûnaic)
***Aglarâd: Brillian Life (Adûnaic)
**** Istach ú-im coth: You know I'm no enemy. (Sindarin)
*****She speaks of Sauron.
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.