9. Second Encounter
Ceranos finally drank the last draught of the milk Ioreth was kind enough to bring him and placed it on the nightstand next to him. Yet he couldn't follow the advice the woman had given him and rest some more. How ironic that he had longed for a warm, cosy bed these past two years, only to see that he now needed the stiffness of the floor in order for sleep to claim him!
There was nothing for it though. He was too weak to get out of bed for the present and, even if he weren't, anyone coming in and seeing him sleeping on the floor would consider him mad. Not knowing what else to do and having already seen whatever there was to be seen on the walls of his room, he pricked his ears to pick any sound that might be heard outside the door.
"Yes, Sire, he was taken care of, just as you requested. No, indeed, he didn't cause any trouble whatsoever, he was as meek as a lamb."
Ioreth, thought Ceranos, recognising the voice. And he understood quite well to whom she was talking: Lord Elessar, the King of Gondor.
He had better not come in here. Ceranos didn't wish to see him, not after what happened between the two of them. He was certain that the Man was angry with him – probably as much as he was with him, in fact.
"Of course you can see him, Sire. I am sure he would like to see you and thank you for the hospitality you offered him!"
Oh, no, thought the Elf with an inward groan. What am I to do now?
The sound of the doorknob turning quickly snapped Ceranos into action. He closed his eyes and held perfectly still, pretending to be asleep. Too late did he realise that, though he had made it a habit to close his eyes before sleeping, the other Elves simply unfocused their gaze. He opened his eyelids in the hopes of correcting his blunder before being noticed, but it was not meant to be. The Man was already at his side, looking at him curiously.
"Is something the matter?" Aragorn noticed what the Elf did, and he couldn't help thinking that Daurir's behaviour was quite strange.
Daurir shook his head, but the Man saw the Elf's hands balled into fists. Something was wrong.
"Am I making you feel uncomfortable?"
Daurir didn't reply this time, but even his silence was enough answer to Aragorn.
"I do not blame you. Our first meeting was dreadful," noted Aragorn with a small chuckle. He quickly cleared his throat, however, when he saw that Daurir wasn't sharing the humour of the situation.
"Look," he attempted again with a sigh, "I came here for two things. Firstly, to say that it was wrong of me to think you were about to hurt my wife when you went through such pains to help her. I hope that you will find it in your heart to give me a chance to prove myself to you. Who knows, perhaps even forgive me in time?"
Daurir's face revealed no emotion, but Aragorn noticed how the dark gaze was locked on him. Considering it as a sign for him to go on, the Man ventured to speak again.
"The other thing I wanted to tell you is: Thank you for looking after Arwen. I wish there were enough words to tell you what service you have done not only to this realm, but also to me. That is why I wish to ask something of you."
Daurir's expression hardened at Aragorn's last words. It was evident that the Elf had been expecting a catch in such fine talk and now he believed that it was finally coming up. The Man wondered how afraid and uncertain Daurir must truly feel inside his heart to act in such a way, even though the Firstborn was certainly aware that he was among the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.
"Arwen told me of your unhappy life. How you lost your kin and the life you knew because of the War. Just listen to what I have to say!" the Man quickly said when Daurir turned his head in clear protest.
The Elf, however, did not heed him. He made a motion as if to get out of bed, while his hands reached for his bandages on his shoulder, ready to shred them to pieces.
"Do not let your pride make you think I am showing you pity!" Aragorn exclaimed, understanding what that motion meant. Rushing to the other side of the bed, he placed his hands over Daurir's to stop him. "What I say might interest you. If not, well, you are free to go where you like. Just stay your angry heart for a few moments to hear what I wish to tell you, that is all I ask."
Daurir froze, clearly in turmoil. What made Aragorn wonder the most however, was the look that the Elf had as he stared at the Man's hands covering his own. Valar, he started trembling as well! Aragorn quickly withdrew his hands and held them upwards as a sign to Daurir that he was offering him back his personal space. He inwardly berated himself for grabbing the Elf like that when he knew how much Daurir had suffered in the hands of other Men, and he dearly hoped that he hadn't destroyed all chances of the creature learning to trust him.
The instant Aragorn pulled his hands away, Daurir's body lost some of its tension and his breathing became more relaxed. It was true that his eyes still carried their frightened expression but the Man concluded that it was still better than nothing. If anything, he could now finish what he had to say without worrying about the Elf's fury.
"What I wanted to say all along was that you are free to stay here for as long as it takes for your wounds to heal. However, I would very much like that you stayed longer than that and even start a new life here. The Men here are good and honourable as you will find out, and there are also other Elves here that you can befriend, my wife included. But even if staying here is not in your heart's desire, I still hope that you can consider this place as your home where you can turn to whenever you are in need. It is the least I can offer for someone who brought me back the dearest person in my heart."
It took several moments, but Aragorn was finally rewarded with an answer. Daurir bowed slightly his head and settled himself again on the bed. Aragorn, however, couldn't help noticing that the Elf had saddened.
"Do not force yourself on anything yet," he said, remembering Elrond's words. "I merely suggested an option to consider as soon as you are fully healed. The rest is up to you."
Another quick nod from Daurir gave Aragorn the sign that he understood; too quick a nod. The Elf clearly wanted this conversation to end.
"Well, I will let you be," Aragorn said with a sigh. "Try to get some rest. If you need anything, the healers will be more than happy to help you. I have quite a busy day tomorrow, but I will try to come by at some point of the day, all right?"
Daurir made no attempt to answer. His gaze was now locked stubbornly downwards, while his hands were nervously fumbling the end of his sheet.
Aragorn caught himself staring at the Elf. That sight seemed familiar for some reason, but why? He shook his head. Of course it was familiar, it was the typical posture of one feeling uncomfortable, he had seen it plenty of times!
"I am sorry," he apologised quickly, rising. "Have a good night."
And with that, Aragorn walked out.
Only when he heard the sound of the door closing did Ceranos feel he could breathe again. Yet he still couldn't rid the burden that had settled in his heart. Mahal, what did the Man ask of him? Stay here?
But why? What am I to do here?! He was seriously considering leaving the moment he was strong enough to walk!
He winced at the stinging sensation that still lingered on his shoulder, reminding him of another painful truth he had to face: if he left, where would he go? It was true that he meant to let himself answer the call of Mandos. He could be afraid he would not see his family all he wanted, but he had nobody in this world either; so what difference would it make?
Sighing, Ceranos finally decided he couldn't deny it to himself any longer. He felt tired. Tired of merely accepting anything that fate brought him on his path, thus forcing him to drag on his existence for another day. He wanted to let go and put an end to everything.
Yet Ceranos caught now himself trying to answer a far more important question: how should it end?
Before he could help it, he recalled the time when he was still running from the soldiers, immediately after the Elven archer had wounded him on the shoulder. He had run all day and night, until he had finally collapsed on the ground, overcome by exhaustion. He hadn't minded the puddle of mud in which he landed, nor indeed his blood flowing out of his injury, turning the unclean water into a sickening brown and crimson blend. He had merely shut his eyes and listened to his heartbeat, sighing a bit as the fast, rhythmic sound was lulling him seductively. And as he still lay there, he had fleetingly wondered if he would be able to dream if he allowed himself to fall asleep there and then. After all, he couldn't even recall the last time that he had any dreams.
Then the same thought that had cut through his very core at that moment pierced his mind again. Falling dead on the ground as an outcast, bereft of friends and kin; falling prey to all scavenging animals or, worse, rotting under the relentless elements of nature; forgotten by everything and everyone.
A sob escaped his lips and he bit himself for it, struggling to remain quiet and hoping that no one heard. He did not want to die like that! Even Lóin didn't die alone; he was with him.
It does not have to be that way.
Wondering at that small voice of courage that echoed within him, he caught sight of the night-cloaked city through the window in his room. No, it did not have to be that way. He had gotten himself an identity here, even if it was the Elf that helped the Queen. He wouldn't be forgotten so easily.
At least, I will get a proper burial when the time comes.
With that last thought, he curled himself on his uninjured side, throwing away the pillows that had been bending his back out of shape all this time, and closed his eyes. In a matter of moments, his emotional weariness had caught up with him and had drifted him off to a dreamless slumber.
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.