13. Ch. 12: Passion Play
"Alatar, harken to me." Elrond was leaning against the back of a high-backed chair, sighing as he ruffled through some old maps, yellow and crisp.
The woman looked over at him, glancing at his eyes. She could see the wrinkles and worn down expressions that had happened over time. The desire to sail had been embedded within his soul and he was slowly tearing himself apart staying in Imladris. "My lord?"
"Does Eruain carry your ability?"
"No. I had hoped she had, but no. She has the extended life of an Istari and has deep understanding of her subconscious, but she does not possess my ability to heal. At least not yet. Haraduien possesses the powers of his mother, but not Eruain."
Squeezing his eyes shut as he pressed his middle finger and thumb against the bridge of his nose in an effort to think, he mumbled something. Glorfindel watched him from his seat next to Alatar, noticing his fatigue. "What bothers you?"
"Why did Haraduien come back to life?"
An answer broke through as Elrond opened his eyes and started to skim a section of an old tome. "He didn't." Alatar picked at a scab on her arm in order to distract her from what she was talking about. "Eruain did not kill him."
The looks from the elves urged her to continue. "She knew he was not dead. It is common knowledge in Harad how to cause unconsciousness by strangulation. But to fool Hurin, she forced herself to believe that she had killed Haraduien, so she thought she had killed him. He also did not show that he had awakened mere moments after she had released him." As Glorfindel opened his mouth to ask another question, she explicated the light. "The light you saw was her way of purification of her tainted mind. It was her nightmare and she regained control of it, realizing that it was her dream. That is why she was able to expel Hurin from her dream and to be able to stop sending us images of her dream. It was a victory for us. She is no longer under the spell of Annatar. He has no psychological power over her now."
"How did you know all of this, Alatar?" Glorfindel was surprised. He knew she was an Istari, but she had never really acted as such. She did not present herself as a wise individual as Mithrandir did. It was easy to forget she had deep knowledge.
"I taught Eruain to hold a person's neck in such a way not to cause death or injury to a person. My explanation of the light is logical, although I do not know what truth it holds. Yes, I suppose it could have been Elbereth, but within the subconscious, it is more probable that it was an event made up by Eruain's mind. I am just thankful that she is once again my daughter."
"Yes, that is something to be grateful for," Elrond mumbled. He rose, excusing himself from their company to go ponder on his own. The Gardens is where he found solace.
Lhûn walked quietly over to him, her bare feet squishing through the grass that was wet with dew. "Lord Elrond," she bowed deeply.
"Send word to Lothlórien. My children are to come home."
"How does it feel? To have killed Haraduien?" Annatar pulled the knife away from the fire he had subjected it to. The iron was red hot and as he neared, she whimpered. Screaming against her bonds, she reacted to the searing agony that the knife brought to her back. Cutting and burning, the pair of excruciating pain bore down upon her and she threatened to faint. As she looked around hazily, he drenched her back in water, offering some relief but it was not enough.
"Omi," Habib continued to shriek as he watched his mother be tortured. He watched her flesh crisp and her blood boil. He could do nothing, but faint.
"Father, your patience has lasted far too long," Elladan roared. His mortal blood ran hot through his veins in a deep passion of anger, easily usurping his calm elvish conscious. The laughter and singing and talking ceased in the Dining Hall where a feast was served in celebration for the return of the Lord's children.
"Who are you to judge my patience? Perhaps it is not that mine has lasted too long, it is that yours is short." Elrond would not be troubled with his son. "We are doing the best we can at this moment."
"You do not understand."
Alatar frowned at this display. Speaking softly, she commented, "Elladan, listen to your father for he has foreseen Eruain's fate."
Whipping his head towards his father, he scowled and spit out his words like venom. "You have foreseen it? Tell me, father: do you know how she suffers each day? Do you?!" His voice bellowed through the hall, echoing in the silence of the elves.
"Do you not have the heart to tell them? To tell Alatar? I am brave enough to speak about how my love is tortured every day. Actually allow me to demonstrate." He walked to the fire, drawing his dagger. Placing the tip in the fire, he waited until the end was red hot. Withdrawing it, he rolled his sleeve up. "Annatar takes a knife just like this and heats the end. As he whispers with a serpent tongue, he carves into her skin with the burning knife." He dragged the point over his forearm, hissing with the pain. "He allows her some relief with a splash of water, but it is not enough. The horror of her reality is not that he tortures her. It is that her son is witness to it. He screams as he watches her thrash and writher. Father, your patience astounds me with its longevity. Would it not be wise to act while she suffers? While he suffers? Or is it that you are trying your best without the knowledge or acknowledging that sooner or later her spirit will break and she will die? Speak!"
Arwen stood, moving between her father and brother. Looking to Elladan, she whispered softly, "Brother, that is enough. Await me in the garden." Ignoring his huff, she watched him leave, growing angry at the whispers of the elves. "It is not polite to speak on a subject you know nothing about," she informed the hall. "Father, if you would excuse us, I will talk with Elladan." She bowed and followed Elladan's leave.
"I'm sorry, I must go as well," Alatar choked. She ran from the room. With a look from Glorfindel, Elrond dismissed him as well.
"It seems your homecoming did not go as planned." Elrond mentioned to Elrohir.
"It is because you do not understand their feelings, father. You are deaf to their hearts." He left as well.
"Are you daft?" she whispered into the night with a slight sting in her voice. Who was she to reprimand her elder brother? Who was she to scold him; if Estel's life was in danger, she would act just the same.
"Aye, I am. She, who I love, suffers under the hand of an elf that has stolen her away, driven her insane, raped her brutally, allowed her to kill her children, forced her to kill her best friend, and torture her. That is just a small list of his crimes against us." As soft as he dared, he murmured, "I will leave tonight on the quest to save her."
"Do you even know where she is located, Elladan?" An old, familiar voice hummed as he smoked a pipe; the smoke curling around his gray beard and hat.
"Why have you come now? Why did you not come five years ago?" he replied haughtily.
"I had business in Dol Guldur. And the information you seek was reaped from my investigation. Should I tell you now or should I wait for council with your father and my kin?"
"Now. I leave tonight." Elladan took a step towards Gandalf, meaning to persuade him with force if necessary. He was on edge and his grip on reality was quickly slipping. It was a fool's choice to speak logic and tarry with him now.
Taking another puff of the weed, the wizard turned from the Half-Elven, deciding his course. "Nay, Lord Elladan. With council only will I relay my knowledge." Turning back to him, he eyed him with a commanding look. "You will not leave until I have spoken, for it may lose your beloved her life. Do not be hasty."
Following the wizard into the library, they were not surprised to see their father, Elrohir, Alatar and Glorfindel, the latter two clutching at each other as if they were drowning. Alatar's face was tear-stained and her eyes red and swollen. Elrond still had a fatigued air about him and Elrohir was looking none too pleased with the situation. "My lords, my lady," Gandalf bowed.
In a rage, Alatar launched herself at him, only to be held back by Glorfindel. She struggled against her lover and it almost took his full strength to hold her. "You traitor! You abandoned us in our time of need!" She started to curse him in Haradaic.
After she had quieted, he whispered, "And because I did so, I know where your daughter is. I was not just spending my time idly and abandoning you. I felt as if there was knowledge at Dol Guldur and quite right I was. Eruain is held captive not at Barad-Dûr or in Cirith Gorgor, near Morannon, but at Minas Morgul, the Dead City. Unfortunately, you will find the Nine and Annatar there as well. What you need is a diversion for Annatar and the Nine to leave their palace, so someone is able to retrieve your lover, Elladan, instead of just blindly charging into battle."
"I wasn't going in blindly. I had a plan." Elladan crossed his arms, feeling ostracized by the others.
"Clearly," Elrohir commented. This earned him a dirty look from Elladan, who was losing confidence in rescue plan. He had had no knowledge of where she was, but now that he did, he had no inkling of an idea how he would be able to storm Minas Morgul, even with a diversion. "So what type of diversion are you suggesting?"
"What does Annatar want? What would make them leave? Gollum will not give them the location of the ring, but I will not risk revealing Frodo. Maybe we could plant false information about the location of the ring. No, no, it is completely foolish. It is far too risky and, more likely than not, Annatar will not take the bait. No, I will not support that idea." Gandalf put a hand to his mouth in concentration, rejecting the idea of luring Annatar and the Nazgul out.
"No, you are right. It is a foolish suggestion," Elrond agreed.
The one voice of opposition to their agreement astonished all. Elladan looked in surprise to the corner of the room, watching the flickering shadows of all them mask her surge of utter desperation. "Why not? Why not risk it? What does he have over my daughter? Why can the slight hope of false information not work? Is she not worth it? Is her life no different than the moth's, which only lasts a day? Is life that expendable? What of her children? Should they be forced to watch their mother suffer, suffer themselves? Do they deserve that? And what of Elladan? The one he wishes to make his wife is lying under another elf. I love Suladân, as much as I love Glorfindel. Eruain is his daughter, his only child, his pride, his Sun! The Haradrim love her; she is their Shamsa. Glorfindel loves her as a father. What of me? I am selfish. I would risk the fate of Middle Earth for the safety of my daughter. Does that make me any different from any other mother? How many mothers have had to watch their sons go off to war in oversized helmets? How many mothers have had to see their daughters marry men they do not love, but they do it for the family? How many mothers have lost their child from sickness or starvation? Am I not allowed to feel like them? Am I not entitled to hurt like them? Am I not supposed to risk the world for her?" She did not cry for the passion welling inside her stifled her tears. She wanted them to take her seriously.
No one breathed as to not upset her more. But the first one to speak was Arwen. "I agree." Clarifying, "Maybe not with the method she wishes to save Eruain, but I wholeheartedly agree that we cannot forsake a life. All of us here have no concept of death but it exists. She is dying, albeit the poison that haunts her is not Annatar, it is indecision, abandonment of hope. How can she hope if we do not have a shred?"
"I understand. But that still leaves us to decide what we wish to do," Gandalf retorted. He was not satisfied with the road they were choosing to go down. But the lives of Alatar's daughter and her children were at stake and they had valuable secret council with the enemy. If not just for Alatar, Gandalf wished to have that information. That advantage over the enemy would help ensure Frodo's safety.
"I had a palantír, in Harad. Suladân used it to converse with Sauron. Maybe he could use it to reveal me to Al Mudhlim. What would Sauron give to have an Istari on his side! There are only four of us, and all are elusive. I would give my life for my daughter's."
Glorfindel turned Alatar in his hands, speaking in rough Haradaic, his voice breaking softly, "I would be losing you again? Have you and your daughter not broken my heart enough? You are cruel."
"I am cruel because I seek the safety of my daughter and my grandchildren? Then cruel I must be. As much as Suladân distrusts me, he will aid me for he loves her. I will not say I will return, but if I do not it is not the end. Somehow, someway, I will find you again." Without announcement, she kissed him long and hard. She had loved him, but she was another's wife. What hurt her in having to leave Suladân is that she truly loved both Harad and its Malikun. As much as she deserved to belong to Glorfindel, her heart lusted for the love and protection that Suladân gave. The Haradrim chieftain was her second love, but he was the one to have loved her and to give her the Shams of her heart, Eruain.
"So it is decided? You will be going to Harad?" Elrond, out of courtesy, began speaking in Sindarin instead of Haradaic.
"Yes. As soon as Suladân uses me as bait, hopefully Annatar and the Nine will leave in pursuit of me. You will need a scout to determine when that does happen. If they do not leave within a fortnight, I will rejoin with you on the outskirts of Minas Tirith and we will storm the hold of Minas Morgul with Haraduien, Elladan. I trust that you would wish that to be our second option. I understand your need for her and I will see her back to you even if it costs me my life. Now, we should orchestrate this as soon as possible." She paced, hovering in one spot as she put emphasis on her statements. Anxiousness was overwhelming. She wanted dearly to help Eruain, but she was going to see Suladân again. He was like her drug and she was ready start shaking in withdrawal. "The next new moon, which is in five days, I shall depart from here and head to Harad." She swept the room with her gaze, confirming that everyone agreed with her plan at least somewhat and dismissed herself. Arwen soon followed, troubled and silent, leaving the males to themselves.
"This is foolish," Gandalf whispered as he eased himself into a chair, rubbing his joints. "She is being rash and her passion is blinding her. If she is not careful, Suladân will kill her. You know this, Glorfindel."
The blonde elf leaned stiffly against the window frame gazing at the moon, looking for guidance. "Aye, I do. But I have never been able to stop her before. I do not hold that kind of power over her heart. Why should I exert a power that I do not hold?"
"It is not just her safety I fear for, but for the success of the mission. If it was carefully thought through and was decided after many hours of deliberation, I would have more confidence," Elrond chimed in. "As of late I have had troubling visions and they fatigue me to no end. My soul is weary and my body faint. It is just a nagging feeling I have that we may not succeed in a way we wish to."
Elrohir, who had remained quiet just like Elladan, stood near the table, slouching against the wall in concentration. So fast was their quest decided upon. So quick was Alatar to throw her life away. Just like Elladan. Suicidal. It was curiosity. Of course. Both were immortal. They had nothing to fear from death, for normally they would not experience it, but given the chance, both were passionate for Eruain and would take the opportunity to give their lives because they wished to know what it felt like. Elladan was not weary like Elrond. No, he was longing to be like Eruain so he would not have to watch her die and know he would not be able to follow her. Keeping all of his thoughts to himself, he spoke, "I will follow Elladan to Minas Morgul. We will be the ones to take her from the hold."
"You will not go alone." Glorfindel pledged his sword to the cause. Elrond sighed in hopelessness.
"It may be a folly, but I give you my blessings."