6. The Kindness of a Queen
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.
The moon disappeared behind the mountains, offering thus the stars the opportunity to shine without covered by its brilliance. However, even that small light that Elbereth's creations shed was soon to disappear, for dawn was rising swiftly. Already the horizon was painted with brighter shades of blue, soon to be replaced by grey.
Aragorn became more alert as he was resting against the trunk of a tree, and smelled the morning dew that reached his nostrils in surprise. He hadn't realised how long he had remained like this, lost in thought.
"Nauthach oh Arwen?*" a familiar voice was heard, cutting into Aragorn's thoughts.
The man turned swiftly, seeing Legolas sitting on a rock only a little further away from him.
"How long have you been here?" he asked wonderingly.
"Long enough to be certain that you would never have heeded my presence had I not spoken," answered Legolas, his eyes twinkling at the tease.
Legolas raised his hand and then signalled the Man to listen. Aragorn did just that, and he indeed heard a distant snore.
"For all the Dwarves' energy, this search proved draining," explained the Elf, smiling a bit. Soon he had sobered once more. "You should rest a while, too. Why do you let the darkness of doubt haunt you?"
"Because for all my hopes for a sign of Arwen, there is only silence instead," answered Aragorn, heaving a sigh.
Legolas stood up and clasped his friend's shoulder in a sign of support.
"Never stop hoping, my friend. Not idly were you named Estel in your days of youth."
"Yet we searched in every part of the forest. We should have found her by now, or at least that mystery Elf who seems to know of her fate. What happens if Arwen is truly…?"
But Legolas stopped him before Aragorn could utter his friend's worst fear.
"What does your heart tell you?" he asked simply.
Aragorn remained silent for a few moments, pondering the question before finally answering.
"That she has to be alive."
"Then she is alive and we will find her. And, perhaps, she might be able to tell us of the other Elf as well."
"Perhaps," echoed Aragorn, forcing a smile on his lips; then looked up at the sky. "Arien has arisen. We should start the search again."
Legolas nodded his acknowledgement. "I will wake up Gimli." And with that parting word he let the Man be, still looking up at the sky and his gaze now fixed on the last flickering stars.
I will find you, Arwen, declared Aragorn in his mind, even if it means looking for you until my dying day.
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.
Both Elves walked for some time, Daurir in the lead, Arwen slightly behind, her eyes always on him and watching his every move. She was dismayed to see that her guide's condition was getting worse, for she could clearly hear his breathing becoming shallower by the minute. What was worse, his gait had become slightly wavering and faltering, the natural grace of the Elves being replaced by the movements of a seemingly drunken man. It was when Daurir started leaning against the bark of every tree they passed by for support and another crimson stain became visible on his clothes, however, that Arwen decided to speak.
"Ú 'erich delio haru lín anuir. Ú-si sereg lín edsiria ad," she said.
Daurir paused and looked at Arwen, his expression unclear; then resumed his walking again.
But Arwen didn't intend to let him off so easily. She had seen the fine drops of sweat on his face and she knew what that meant.
"Your fever is only getting worse, too. I do not know if you realise it, but your wound has probably been infected," she said again, always talking in the Elven-tongue.
This time Daurir didn't stop walking. He simply shrugged off the comment with indifference - at least, as much as his hurt shoulder permitted him to.
"I am a healer. I can help you if you let me. Will you show me where you are injured?"
Arwen earned a very angry glare, thus getting her answer.
"You cannot carry on like this," she insisted.
Still moving, Daurir faced the Elven-woman and with a grim smirk stretched his arms in an evident statement of "Observe me"; then turned his back on her again.
"Why do you treat yourself like this?" asked then Arwen, stopping. "What did your captors do to you?"
Daurir stopped in his tracks as though stung. He turned to her, raising an eyebrow.
"Aglarâd told me of your life. You have suffered too much already to let yourself be tormented like this anymore."
In a few strides, Daurir had covered the distance between him and Arwen. In fact, their faces were so close now that their noses almost touched and strands of Arwen's hair swayed at Daurir's breathing. Yet all he did finally was raise a finger of warning close to her eyes. Not another word from you. And with that, he turned away again.
Arwen, however, was determined now to try and reach Daurir at any cost.
"I understand your exasperation for what they did to you."
Daurir snorted loudly, never stopping. You understand nothing. He looked around, annoyed that he couldn't find any soldiers now that he wasn't avoiding them.
"Then help me understand!" cried Arwen, unable to take it anymore.
Daurir placed his hands on his head as if to pull out the rest of his hair from the roots. He faced Arwen again, his face reddened by more than just his high fever.
How? he clearly mouthed in the Elven-tongue, pointing at his neck furiously. How? he asked in his silent manner again and, unable to take out his anger in any other way, he kicked a nearby stone and sent it flying, making Arwen flinch. Still, that wasn't enough. Trembling, Daurir dug his nails in the bark of the tree in an attempt to brace himself before doing anything worse.
Arwen remained frozen, the violence of that outburst shocking her, even though she had been expecting it. As Daurir didn't say anything, she ventured addressing him again.
"You are right, perhaps I cannot understand. But I still wish to help you."
Daurir faced her again, his breathing more difficult than ever, his hard, feverish gaze piercing her. Suddenly, to Arwen's horror, he opened his mouth in a silent scream and he collapsed on his knees, his hand clutching his chest. Arwen quickly rushed to his side to see what was the matter. Though she found herself only inches away from Daurir's knife, now almost miraculously in his other hand as Daurir tried to keep her away from him, she stopped only momentarily before she started leaning towards him once more. She did not care for the drops of blood that trickled down her neck as the blade broke her skin.
Now it was Daurir's turn to look at the Elven-woman agape, withdrawing the knife before he would harm her further. Such was his surprise, in fact, that he didn't react when she placed one hand on his face and the other on his chest.
Arwen's fingers barely touched the wounded Elf as she tried to feel the heat that radiated from Daurir's face and his injured shoulder. It was to her great sadness to see that her suspicions were true: Daurir was suffering badly. But what truly concerned Arwen was how the other Elf still clutched his chest, for it showed her that it wasn't his shoulder that ached the most at present. It was his heart.
She locked her gaze on Daurir's eyes, which reflected his apprehensiveness and confusion; and she caught herself still staring at him in wonder. For she discovered that, behind the paleness and lines of sorrow, Daurir – or whatever the Elf's name truly was – was quite young. In fact, Arwen could now tell with ease that he was even younger than her and her brothers - so much younger that though he was clearly an adult, he seemed only a child in her eyes.
"Merciful Elbereth!" she said softly, before she could help herself. "How old are you?!"
But Daurir didn't even bother to answer. He pulled himself away and curled into a ball, averting his eyes.
Arwen looked at the pitiable sight of an Elf, tears welling up her eyes. If Daurir was so young and innocent when he was taken captive, she didn't dare think how young Torion, his nephew, must have been. The loss Daurir suffered seemed far more terrible now and she felt for him with all her heart – more so as she realised that he wished to end his life when, in her mind, he didn't even have the chance to taste it!
She reached out again and rested her hand on Daurir's shoulder; but he only bowed his head even lower and hid his face in his hands. Arwen closed his eyes, concentrating hard, trying to offer part of her strength to the injured Elf. She felt him stirring, but she didn't let him go. Only when Daurir grabbed her arm and thus forced the contact to break that Arwen opened her eyes, to see him in her surprise shake his head.
That proved Daurir's mistake. Weakened as he had become, that simple movement clearly made him faint, for Arwen felt his body losing all its tension and he went limp against the tree. Had it not been for her grabbing him at the last minute, he would have certainly crashed to the ground.
"Now will you listen to reason?" she said, exasperated. "To have pride against a foe is indeed admirable; but to let your pride stop you from accepting help offered is foolish! I am not your enemy and you are aware of it, otherwise you would not be here, helping me." She gently prodded Daurir to face her and her tone softened. "Look into my eyes and decide for yourself whether you should place faith in me or not."
Daurir complied and he held her under his gaze for many moments, until finally he nodded his head once and reached for her hand to squeeze it gently. He would accept her offer, though grudgingly, as his deep sigh revealed only too clearly.
Arwen rewarded Daurir with a small smile; then helped him become more comfortable against the bark of the tree. Hesitantly, she took a peek underneath Daurir's shirt in order to see the injury. To her relief, it wasn't bleeding as bad as she had believed first, but she knew it had to be tended.
"We passed by some healing herbs not too long ago. I promise I will return shortly."
Daurir nodded again in understanding. But, before letting Arwen leave, he handed his knife to her.
"You are injured, you need it more than I do," Arwen said, hardly hiding her wonder at the gesture.
The slightest of smirks appeared on Daurir's lips and he urged Arwen again to take his knife. He pointed at himself and picked up a couple of branches that were on the ground, a motion that Arwen didn't understand at first what it could mean. At the next moment, however, realisation dawned on her.
"Try not to make any sudden movements as you look for more firewood," she instructed. "I must tell you though that I only permit it because I do not wish to waste precious time in preparing the herbs. There is still danger of the infection spreading further in the meantime."
Daurir blinked once this time, another sign that he understood; so Arwen hurried off, intending to be as quick as possible.
He watched the Elven-woman go until she was finally out of sight and then resumed with his own task, being careful not to discomfort his shoulder too much. Yet, while he was still gathering firewood, he caught himself thinking about the lady.
She puzzled him; there was no doubt in his mind about that. Why was she so determined to help him? Only because Aglarâd had told her his story? No one could understand by listening to just a part of a tale. Aglarâd could tell some facts to the lady, true; but for all her narrative skill she would not be able to tell how the days after he regained his freedom went by. When, even now, he could still feel the cold steel of the collar and the braces that held him in place; his back burning whenever he recalled the crack of the whip; or his ears ringing with the guards' mocks and jeers; or indeed his boiling blood rushing through his veins whenever he was sent out of his cell for the kill.
He curled his upper lip in distaste when the woman demanded he should make her understand, nevertheless he regretted losing his temper like that. After all, it was not the lady's fault that he couldn't speak. Come to think of it, in a way he was relieved she couldn't know. He felt that she was in this way spared from much horror.
Yet the question remained: Why did she wish to understand? Why did she act as though it mattered to her what he had been through? Out of pity? He looked at himself and raised an eyebrow. She didn't want to be indebted to someone with such a rascally look and she now tried to clear her conscience by offering her help? He snorted. If she really wanted to help she could let him be in his misery until Mandos claimed him.
He sighed. It was when he made that very thought that his by now familiar ache, so much like a cracking, pierced through his heart. He had grown accustomed to it, ever since it started three, maybe four months ago – it had become an almost impossible task to keep track of time anymore. This time, however, he was taken by surprise to feel that the pain was much greater this time, almost numbing him.
Now that brought up the next question: Why did she come to his aid when he collapsed? What did she see in his eyes to make her ask such a strange question about his age? He had quickly averted his eyes in fear she could read his mind, yet he couldn't help but feel intrigued as well; she was not the first Elf to wonder about his age. And to think that he was considered old by the Dwarves! Lóin would have certainly found it amusing.
Ceranos's heart wrenched when he recalled his foster nephew. He had made an oath to himself to protect the members of the family that had raised him, only to see that all his efforts had come to naught. They were dead and he was alone. Why did it have to be this way? Perhaps if he had done things differently or he had said other words…
He shook his head. If… what? Did it really matter now? The past can never be undone.
But why did he have to live? He should have died as well, yet he was alive! What purpose served this injustice?
Then why not go in search of the Halls of Mandos now? It can be so easy for an Elf to let his grief kill him, echoed a small voice within his mind. He knew the answer, of course, and it displeased him to no end. He was afraid to die and see that he would have to linger in the halls of the Elves; to be separated anyway from the ones he had called comrades.
On the other hand, living on seemed such a heavy burden now that there was no more purpose left.
His mind drifted on the woman's touch on his shoulder. Ceranos couldn't understand what kind of sorcery she used on him, but it was staggering to feel such warmth surging through him. At first he tried to pull himself away, startled, only to discover that he didn't wish to move, for he felt that the frost of despair was melting away. It was strange, but for the first time in a long time he had feelings of… hope.
Then feelings of shame overcame him and made him break the contact. He had no right to be happy when people he cared for were dead so unfairly.
Yet the woman still wished to offer her help; so, in the end, he was forced to yield. And now there he was, building a fire. Not that it will help matters, he thought wryly. His body knew nothing but cold now for a reason he couldn't fathom.
The noise of a twig breaking snapped him of his thoughts. His hair stood on end when he sensed somebody approaching him. His fingers gripped more tightly around the branch he was holding, his fever and wound forgotten for the present; then closed his eyes and waited.
"Henio, aníron, ú-'erin ûthaes," he heard a voice say calmly. "Leithio i golf."
Ceranos opened his eyes and looked at the Man before him, recognizing him: he had spied on him and his companions on the previous day; he even held the sword that Ceranos had thrown at them as a diversion. He allowed himself an inward smirk, thinking it ironic that everyone was speaking at him in the Elven-tongue just because he happened to be Elf. Then again, he couldn't expect them to think that he would be more acquainted with the Dwarven speech.
The Man came closer now, making Ceranos tense even more; but he merely presented the sword to the Elf.
"This sword belongs to somebody I care for very much," he said, always in the Elven-tongue. "You found it somewhere, that much I understand. But what I need to know is where did you find it."
Ceranos, however, never found the opportunity to give an answer. A cry of joy and surprise made both Man and Elf turn, and Arwen flung herself in Aragorn's arms.
*Nauthach oh Arwen?: Are you thinking of Arwen? (Sindarin)
**Ú 'erich delio haru lín anuir. Ú-si sereg lín siria ad: You cannot hide your injury forever. Much less now that it has reopened. (Sindarin)
***Henio, aníron, ú-'erich ûthaes: Please, I mean you no harm. (Sindarin)****Leithio i golf: Lower the branch. (Sindarin)
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.