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.
Night had settled over the White City and the bustling sounds that could be heard all day were finally dying down. Most of the citizens had been working vigorously for the preparations of the celebrations that would take place in less than a week, and at the palace especially there was hardly any chance for rest. The king was expecting several quite honourable guests and everything had to be perfect for the occasion.
"Make sure that the servants are spread throughout the banquet hall," instructed Aragorn to his head servant, who was listening carefully. "I wish our guests to feel well tended."
"It will be done as you say, Sire."
"Good," said the king approvingly. "That will be all for the present, you may go."
The head servant bowed low and walked out, greeting courteously to both Elf and Dwarf who were now entering the room. Aragorn smiled upon seeing Legolas and Gimli and quickly went up to them and greet them, too.
"Welcome back, my friends! Did you take that walk around Minas Tirith?"
"We have," answered Legolas with a broad smile. "The trees have been flourishing quite well."
"And the stonework is still sturdy – though I had no doubts about that," added Gimli with a tinge of pride, for it was the Dwarves that had rebuilt the city after Sauron's fall.
"I am glad to hear it," said Aragorn. "And I have already arranged that all of us will dine together, so I can hear more about any tidings you have to say."
That chance, however, never came to be. In that very moment the doors burst open and a soldier rushed in, followed by a couple of dismayed servants.
"Sire, we tried to stop him, but…" started one of them; yet the soldier proved faster, as he quickly knelt down and kissed the ring on Aragorn's hand.
"Forgive me, my lord, but this could not wait. I rode hard for many miles, without giving me or my horse a moment of rest."
"Arise and speak," said Aragorn, exchanging a brief glance with Legolas and Gimli. All three knew that the soldier's upset state meant only ill news.
Though the soldier obeyed, he didn't dare look his lord in the eyes as he told his tale.
"I was with Captain Iorlas's men as the Queen's escort. We were riding back to Minas Tirith when a terrible storm broke out on our way. Then a lightning bolt struck amongst us, driving our horses out of control; and we lost sight of Lady Arwen: her horse had run off with her."
Silence reigned in the hall for many long moments as such news left everyone dumbfounded.
"You did not try to find her?" asked Aragorn, still feeling as though his heartbeat had come to a halt.
"We did. We found her horse lying dead in a clearing, both its front legs broken; yet it wasn't that that killed it: someone had slit its throat open. The Queen, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen. This is all we discovered of her." The soldier handed to the king Arwen's royal circlet.
Aragorn nodded slightly his understanding.
"Take some rest. I will gather some men and you will take me where Captain Iorlas and the others are." Then he turned to the servants that were still standing close by. "Summon the third company, and make sure that they all have torches with them."
The servants bowed low and rushed out of the room, followed by the soldier. Aragorn, meanwhile, seemed to have frozen in his place, his gaze locked on his beloved's coronet. Still, both Elf and Dwarf watched their friend closely and they both saw how Aragorn's fingers gripped the head ornament tightly, his arms trembling. After exchanging a brief look, Legolas and Gimli approached the Man.
"We will find her and you will give it back to her," said Legolas, resting a hand on Elessar's shoulder.
Aragorn met Legolas's look with a jolt, as though he woke up from a nightmare.
"You said we?"
"Such a surprise makes me think that you actually did not expect that," noted Gimli with a broad grin. "We will not remain idle when you need every help you can get."
Aragorn stared incredulously first at the Dwarf, then at the Elf, for many moments; but soon his face brightened with a full-of-gratitude smile.
"Thank you, my friends."
"The Three Hunters shall set forth again," said Legolas, his eyes brightening. "I will tell someone to have Arod ready."
"I will come with you, so I can get our weapons from our quarters," declared Gimli. "We will wait for you in the courtyard, Aragorn."
"And I will join you shortly," said the Man. "As soon as I inform the men that will accompany us."
Thus everyone went to prepare their departure, not knowing what they would come across, but determined to find the Queen.
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 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.
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.