7. United Again
Aragorn still held Arwen in his arms, scarcely believing in his good fortune. He had decided to separate from Legolas and Gimli and search this area on his own, even though neither the Elf nor the Dwarf would have it at first. After all, if there was something or someone that ensnared Arwen, there was a high chance that Aragorn could be captured too. The King of Gondor was adamant, though. He wanted to cover as much area as possible in his search for Undómiel and he was still able to defend himself in case of danger. He only accepted their request that, should he come across any trouble, he should immediately use his hunting horn.
He hadn't gone far when he set eyes on the darkly clad form. He immediately understood that before him was the phantom Elf they had also been looking for, because the torn piece of cloth was still in Aragorn's hands and, moreover, he could see the blood-stains on the form's shoulder – certainly where Legolas hit him with his arrow. He put aside his wonder at the strange sight the short-haired Elf proved and stepped forward in the hopes that his questions would be finally answered, only to find Arwen alive and well. Aragorn couldn't thank the Valar enough for answering his silent prayers.
"How came this to be?" he finally asked, once he found the power of his voice again. "When Iorlas told me about your horse and you were nowhere to be seen…"
"I was hurt," answered Arwen, still her arms about her husband. "But I was looked after and nursed to health because of Daurir."
Aragorn smiled, but at the next moment he froze and looked over Arwen's shoulder apprehensively. Arwen turned also to see what was the matter.
Daurir was glaring at them, his body completely rigid. What was worse, he was now stepping away from them.
"No, Daurir! Let me explain!" Arwen cried and rushed at his side. "He is my husband! You have nothing to fear!"
Daurir lunged forward, almost making the Elven-woman flinch again. Grabbing her arm, he snatched his knife from her belt in the blink of an eye and got ready to run off as fast as his feet would carry him.
Aragorn, however, misunderstood the motion. Fearing for Arwen's safety, he unsheathed and hurried between her and Daurir.
That proved a mistake. Daurir, misinterpreting Aragorn's intentions in turn and believing that the Man was attacking him, stepped aside and with another fast move lowered himself so to throw his opponent off balance with a quick swing of his leg.
Aragorn landed with a heavy thud, yet his surprise didn't make him idle. In the next instant, he was on his feet again, swinging Andúril against the Elf. Before he had the chance to hit anything though, Daurir had blocked the attack with his knife and was now aiming the Man's head with the branch he was still holding. Aragorn stopped the branch on time with his free hand, but he didn't have the time to avoid Daurir's kick on his stomach.
"Stop it, both of you!" Arwen cried, watching the fight with distraught.
Neither Daurir nor Aragorn heeded her; the Elf was quickly sinking to battle-frenzy, whereas it took all the king's strength to fight back each relentless attack. All Arwen was left to do was watch on, horrified to see proof of how it was that Daurir had survived in the arena. Once finally snapped out of her numbing shock, she rushed for her sword, which was dropped only a little further away. She would put an end to this madness, one way or another.
Meanwhile, Aragorn was still defending himself, dismayed that his opponent was a far more difficult match than he had expected. Raised among Elves, Aragorn had come to study the Elven way of combat and he had become a master of it himself; but this Elf was fighting unlike any other Firstborn he had encountered in his life. There was cunning in Daurir's movements, accompanied with brutal force and speed. Already it was only Aragorn's quick reaction that saved him when Daurir feigned a couple of attacks to his right side, only to attack on his left. The Man wasn't certain if he could fight back much longer. Injured or not, an Elf always proved a fierce and formidable warrior.
The next events happened so quickly that, by the time Aragorn registered things, it had already been over. An arrow flew between the adversaries, startling them enough to separate them. And before the Man had time to bring himself in a fighting position again, an axe stopped Andúril midway.
"That is enough!" said Gimli, forcing Aragorn away from his opponent.
The Man looked agape at the Dwarf and then at Legolas, who had stepped forward, aiming another arrow at Daurir. Such a precaution was unnecessary, however, for Arwen had already parried Daurir's next attack and pushed him against a tree.
The short-haired Elf's face reflected his pain at the impact his left shoulder suffered. He fell on his knees again, panting for air.
"I told you to stop," said Arwen, looking hard at him.
But Daurir didn't say anything, nor did he try to fight back again. Whatever strength he had been saving due to his bleeding was drained at the clash.
Aragorn turned to Legolas and Gimli, still eyeing them incredulously. "How did you two get here?"
"Well, we figured that we would be of more assistance if we followed you," said Gimli with a broad grin.
That actually made the Man frown.
"I thought we had agreed that we should separate for a while."
"I am afraid, my friend, that it was only you who agreed to that and we had to give in," said Legolas as he now approached with the bow on his shoulder, his eyes shining mirthfully. "But, then again, considering that neither Gimli nor I are soldiers under your service, we have the right to decide whether we should comply to your decisions or not."
Aragorn's frown faded a bit at this. But he still didn't wish to let his friends off so easily.
"I declare: you, Legolas Thranduilion, have a most annoying habit of playing with words to make your point!" he said, his half-smile revealing his tease. He placed his hands on his friends' shoulders gratefully. "Thank you both." Then Aragorn's face grew stern again, and he walked to see the Elf who had dared try to harm him and his wife.
Any feelings of anger he had were soon to be vanished, however. Daurir was flat on the ground, frighteningly white and his eyes closed; whereas Arwen was pressing a piece of cloth, now soaked in blood, against his shoulder.
"Help me, his bleeding has gone to the worse!" she said frantically and pointed close to the abandoned firewood. "The herbs are over there!"
His healer's side taking over, Aragorn instantly grabbed the medicinal plants and knelt beside Arwen, offering his own skill as well.
"Whatever should we help him for?" wondered Gimli, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. "He could have killed Aragorn!"
Legolas rested his hand on Gimli's shoulder, thus making him look up to him.
"He is also hurt, and it is not our place to judge those that need our help. Remember it, Gimli."
"And this one needs every help possible. I only hope it will not come to naught," seconded Aragorn, overhearing them; Daurir's condition was getting worse by the minute. "Legolas, Gimli, make a stretcher. We will have to take him to our camp."
Both Elf and Dwarf nodded their acknowledgement and they rushed on their errand. As soon as they were out of sight, Aragorn leaned close to Arwen.
"You will have to explain matters to me once we are safe to our camp."
"I know," answered Arwen. "And I will, I promise."
The camp was peaceful as the Gondorian soldiers still stood guard, making sure that nothing would attack in the middle of the night. And though they were all relieved to see their Queen alive again, they couldn't help but feel curious about the injured Elf. In fact, some of the soldiers that were close enough kept looking at the strange find that their lord had brought in the stretcher. Only their sense of duty made them remember themselves and thus carry on with their appointed task.
Aragorn pushed back some locks of hair away from Daurir's brow and felt the unconscious Elf's forehead again. Allowing himself a small smile of relief, he covered Daurir with a blanket and joined the rest of the company, who were sitting by a small fire.
"Well, how is he?" asked Gimli, more out of courtesy than actual concern.
"His fever has dropped and the wound, though not healing just yet, has at least stopped bleeding. He is a fighter."
"Except that he has good reasons not to fight this time," noted Arwen in rare grimness. "I should never have allowed this to happen."
"You cannot blame yourself if he chose to react so violently," Aragorn assured her.
"I did not give him enough reasons not to react that way either. Once earning his trust, I should have told him I was married to you, a Man. Putting it off for later was my mistake and I hope it does not prove a fatal one."
"After the story that you told us, Undómiel, I think that he would have reacted harshly anyway, no matter when you would decide to confide in him. Except now we were close enough to come to your aid," said Legolas.
"No, he would not harm me," objected Arwen. "Even though he was forced to live like an animal, he still answers to an infallible instinct, one that exists within all creatures: flee when there is a chance and fight only when cornered. Even a wounded fawn will kick – but only if there is no option left."
"He is no fawn," said Gimli sternly, pointing at the direction of the unconscious Elf. "And kick was not the only thing he tried to do."
"Yet can you claim that you would not do the same if you were in his stead?" asked then Arwen.
Gimli didn't answer for a few moments; then with a sigh he shook his head.
Legolas looked at the direction of Daurir thoughtfully.
"Who could he be if Daurir is not his real name?" he asked.
"I know not," replied Arwen. "He is certainly not from Rivendell, I would have known of an Elf who is so young. Could he be from your homeland, Legolas?"
"His face tells me nothing," answered the Mirkwood prince, looking back at Daurir. "But that means nothing as well. Many Elves live in the Woodland Realm and I do not know them all."
"Not to mention that he does not have any traits that could make him recognisable. Mahal knows how many Elves I have seen and almost everyone is alike the other. Why, if I did not know any better, I would say he is one of your brothers, Lady Arwen!" declared Gimli.
Both Arwen and Legolas laughed at this.
"Do Elves look so identical to a Dwarf's eyes then, Master Gimli?" Evenstar asked with slight tease.
"When it comes to those I do not happen to know well, I fear so," answered Glóin's son, his beard hardly able to conceal his red with embarrassment face. "Although…"
"What?" asked both Elves, intrigued.
Gimli didn't answer at once, clearly hesitating to speak his mind. In the end, however, he decided to address the subject.
"I caught a glimpse of his eyes before and I was surprised to see they were almost black. This is not usual, is it?"
"Yes, it is not usual, but not for the reasons you believe, my good Gimli. Daurir's eyes became black."
Gimli's surprise was such that he remained agape for many long moments.
"The Elves' eyes change colour?" he asked incredulously.
"It is not as simple as that," said then Arwen with a sigh. "The faer, or spirit, is a powerful thing, Master Gimli; especially when it comes to Elves. When the spirit is happy and unburdened, then the shell in which it dwells hums with life as well. But when it is heavy with grief, then the body suffers also. A seemingly healthy person does no longer wish to feed, he lacks any vitality; he fades, until Mandos in his mercy calls him into his halls."
"But the eyes--" started Gimli again.
"The eyes are the mirror of the soul," said Legolas, "and if an Elf lives long enough with his grievances, then the blackness within his heart is reflected in his eyes. Although I must say Daurir is the first Elf I have seen who lived so long in sorrow to acquire such a trait."
Gimli thought about this for a while. "So what you are saying is that Daurir, though still succumbing to grief, he does so more slowly than any other Elf, thus his body is taking more suffers."
Arwen nodded. "That is why he is so cold and loses so much strength after such outbursts of energy like the fight. In fact, I can even say now with certainty that, even though appearances tell otherwise, he does not really wish to die. That would certainly explain why he still lingers on when other Elves would have answered the call of Mandos long before."
"Yet I am not sure how long he is going to last," said then Legolas. "Even though he might not wish to die as you say, Undómiel, his faer still gnaws his body in its attempt to free itself of its burdens. I do not think it will be long before his body will be consumed and his spirit will go to the Halls of Mandos."
"What does that mean?" asked Gimli, not really understanding where was Legolas getting with this.
"It means, my friend Gimli, that Daurir, for the time being, is trapped between two worlds. While his body struggles to remain to the world of the living, his spirit struggles to flee to the world of the dead."
"And both parts are suffering, until the spirit, by nature far more powerful than the body, prevails," completed Arwen, saddened. She still remembered another Elf who was ready to follow the same path long ago and the memory was still painful at times.
Gimli, meanwhile, looked back at Daurir. The shorthaired Elf's face was still wan and his eyes closed. He seemed very much like dead already.
"Unhappy creature. I judged him harshly," the Dwarf finally concluded with a sigh. After all, he felt that anyone dying had no need of his contempt. "What is there to be done?"
Arwen stirred the embers with a small branch, clearly thinking of the situation. "He is not beyond aid. If he finds a new purpose in life, or his spirit regains even part of his former joy, then he will recover."
"The question now is: will he wish to be helped?" wondered Legolas.
"It is worth the try at least," argued Evenstar. "If only we knew his name! That would make a promising start if he is to remember his life before his captivity."
"Perhaps he will tell us when he wakes up," suggested Gimli. The Elves' look, however, made him remember himself. "Well, or write it!"
"If he still wants anything to do with us when he wakes up," noted Legolas grimly. "When do you think he will come around from the sleeping draught you gave him, Aragorn?"
But Aragorn, though still among his companions, had hardly paid them heed. During their conversation, the Man had locked his gaze on Daurir, looking hard at him. The shorthaired Elf's face was still quite pale and worn out, but the lines of care that marked it so deeply had smoothed away and now they betrayed someone Aragorn was certain he should label as familiar.
Elessar's gaze drifted lower and locked on Daurir's shoulders. The Man fleetingly noted within his mind that such body frame was unusually broad for an Elf. And his hair was certainly longer once. His clothing must have been different too. Aragorn could now almost picture Daurir in another time and place, and all he had to do was name that ever-elusive image. He just had to rack his mind a bit more…
As though startled from a dream, the Man turned swiftly. "What is the matter, Gimli?"
"The matter is," said the Dwarf irritably, "that we had to call you three times before you finally snapped out of your thoughts!"
"My apologies," said Aragorn, trying to focus once more. "What did you mean to say?"
"When will the effect of the sleeping draught wear off," Legolas asked again patiently.
Aragorn rubbed his forehead as though trying to think.
"It is hard to tell," he finally said. "Considering that the draught was potent and Daurir quite weak, I would say some time tomorrow. Most probably long after we had all reached Minas Tirith."
"So all we can do for the present is wait," said Gimli.
"Yes." Aragorn looked at everyone, still pondering. "I think we should all go have some rest. Iorlas and his men will stand guard while we get some strength for tomorrow."
Everyone nodded their understanding and started rolling their blankets. After all, their trip back to the White City would be long and difficult, and carrying Daurir would slow them even more.
But, unlike Legolas and Gimli, Arwen didn't lie down at once. She reached and held her husband's hands in hers.
"I noticed your look on Daurir. Do you know him?"
Aragorn hesitated to answer. He stared at Arwen and then at Daurir for many long moments, until finally he replied.
The image his mind was desperate in creating was gone in a flash.
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.