Disclaimer: I don't own The Hobbit or any of J. R. R Tolkien's works. Nor do I own the Walking Dead. Everything belongs to whoever owns them, my wishful thinking aside.
Authors Note #1: This is a Caryl crossover with the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit universe (with a bit of the Soul Bond/Soulmate trope thrown in for good measure) for whowhatsitwhich who was feeling unwell and is apparently a masochist and wanted angst on top of it. The prompt was: "wait." I have had the Hobbit and LOTR on the brain lately, so after a quick double check of her blog, I decided to run with it.
Warnings: This is set in the time period just after The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and it set mostly in Mirkwood before the remaining darkness has been fully cast out by the destruction of Sauron and Mordor. Expect canon appropriate violence, mature language, allusions to domestic violence, child abuse, age difference, minor sexual content, angst, angst and also angst.
The Dance of the Mayflies (pity not the love that lasts but a day)
The fires of Mirkwood, once Eryn Galen, the Greenwood, burned low. Smouldering in their grates and braziers as the hour passed from midnight sable to the glowing pink of a fresh dawn.
And like he had every day for an age, the son of man sleeping fast in her embrace, stirred.
She felt his eyes on her as the shadows waned, banished in the face of the strengthening sun as the kingdom awakened, uneasy and restless in their beds as the grief of one of their own built like unseen thunder in the distance.
His eyes, once as blue and fathomless as the sea now saw little, clouded by his great age. But still she did not meet them. She could not. For as it had been foretold by her lord, the Great Elvenking Thranduil, the dawning of this day would mark the breaking of a bond long shared.
"Promise me you'll wait," the old man rasped, shifting in his blankets of thick cotton and embroidered silk. Clearly wanting her to face him as he craned his neck, an undignified frown almost lost amidst the wrinkles as she held him all the tighter. Rocking gently, back and forth on the bed they'd shared since their wedding night many decades before.
She dug her face into the curve of his neck, unashamed and stripped bare as she flooded his aging skin with her tears. As it was with the children of the sun, the passing of the years had softened his sharp features, creasing the skin around his mouth and eyes with past laughter, great love and ill-timed sorrow.
She held him close to her breast, as if by sheer force of will she could keep the life from spilling forth. His time was near. She needed no healer to tell her that. His sickness had been long and had weighed much on them both. For there was no betterment for the ill he bore. Mortality was not so easily cured. And like he had in the past, he bore her weeping with remarkable grace. To a point.
"I would hear you speak, elleth," the old man demanded, voice growing unsteady near the end as he fought to recapture the vehemence and fire of his youth.
"So impatient, muin nín,"she murmured, resting her chin on his thinning, silver-white crown. Unable to quell the tremulous smile that rose in the place of her sorrow as memories from long ago skimmed across the surface of her mind like ripples on an inlet pond.
It was queer, how their first meeting mirrored their last. There was an uncanny likeness that even she could not ignore. Fated in a way she had not given thought to for many years. She had lost her way, wandering and distant even amongst friends after the loss of her daughter to the foul-ones. The death-bringers had taken her before her time, spreading their rot and disease until even her beloved King could not save her.
She had been listless, lonely, nothing but the barest husk of her former self. Uncertain of who she was outside of her role as mother and wife as the echoes of her husband's rage and contempt seeped from the walls of their home like an ill-begotten wound. Her soul still bore the marks of Edditar's open palm and brutal fists, gone as he was from these lands, banished by the King to face judgement from the Valar beyond the sea for raising his hand against her.
But the damage had already been done. She still quavered at the sound of a harsh word or raised voice. Even the kinship of those closest to her could not soothe the holes he and her daughter's death had left in her spirit. She had thought to sail herself, to leave her home and all of Middle Earth behind until-
She had come across him – curled up in a ball in the soft grass - after straying far from the company of her fellows, ghosting down the paths of the Greenwood until the lingering sickness of Mirkwood sunk deep into her bones like a poison. It was a recklessness she hadn't thought herself capable of, what with the wood's many dangers, but given the circumstances, she could not bring herself to regret the actions that had led her to him.
He had been young, no more than a score of years, thin and bruised by hands that should have brought comfort rather than harm. She'd taken him up in her embrace without thought, soul crying for the comfort of small hands and the earnest trust of youthful innocence. Murmuring soothing words into his mortal ears as she let loose her spirit and ran once more through the tall grass, soul wavering out to greet familiar sights as his tired blue eyes had looked up at her in something akin to wonder.
She brought him back with her, ignoring the stares of the others and the careful queries of the sentries and took him directly to the Hall of Healing. She stayed with him throughout, watching the masters ply their trade as days of starvation and years of ill-treatment slowly faded from his skin.
The marks of the whip that had been taken to his back had grown infected, scabbing over more than once before she'd come across him, only to break apart all over again. The healers had spoken much in hushed voices, but she'd only whispered to him that the scars would tell everyone how brave he'd been – how strong.
The King's councillors had seen him adopted into a good house of minor standing on the border lands of Gondor. A father who sought a second son to brighten his halls and be a companion to his eldest after his wife died in childbirth the winter before last. And while it pained her to part with him, the look of hopeful anticipation on Lord Grimeineh's face as she walked the child down the steps of her house and towards the future the Gods had granted him, she knew he would be well-loved and want for remarkably little.
When they met again his youth had erased her memory. But she could still see the boy in the man and after a time, sought to know him like she once had. It took a handful of years, chance meetings and moments spent fighting side by side to discover that while the boy still remained, he was a man grown – dark and sharp - and soon enough what lingering feelings she'd had for the child, evolved.
He was fresh and solemn, young and old in a way she immediately recognized. Slow to smile in a way that only made the expression all the sweeter. He matched her every thought with weighed silence, understanding the scars that existed underneath her skin but sought to lift her sadness with good intention whenever the past plagued her. He returned with her to Mirkwood, war-weary and distant, but just as starved for what he believed he could not have.
It had been impossible not to follow him.
Not to love him.
Her soul's match
It wasn't until the memories faded that she met his eyes. And just as she feared, she found little comfort in the finality she saw there. She had treasured each and every year and yet, they had still passed. As lost to her as the hours of each and every day that had spanned out since her people had first stepped foot on these shores – long before she'd been born.
"Promise me you'll wait?" he asked again, weaker this time, like the words themselves pained him. "I will return for you."
She stroked his hair, thumbing the silver that feathered across his temples as she considered his words. Remembering the laughter that had rung through their home when she'd teased him. Telling him the peppering of grey only made him look more distinguished. Far wiser than anyone had the right to think him of him until he'd snorted and seized her around the waist. Kissing her breathless as he covered her body with his own and sought to teach her a lesson she was sure both of them had forgotten by the time their moans and pleasured cries had ceased to bother their neighbours.
"That my love, I believe every word of," she replied, feeling the spark that burned within her gutter as he summoned his strength and raised a gnarled hand to her face. Tracing the curve of her cheek before thumbing the pointed arch of her ear, sightless eyes warm with a feeling that her lungs knew surer than breathing.
"Fool of an elf," he murmured not above chastising her even now as his heartbeat slowed, long lashes settling into the hollows below his eyes as she clasped his hand in hers, bringing it back to her face as her lips brushed across his calloused palm. "Estelio enni…I will see you hence."
She nodded, the words leaving her in a rush as she sensed their time was at an end. "I will wait. I will not sail. I will await your coming." She affirmed, strong words despite the tears that fell like raindrops, darkening the pale yellow silk of her nightdress. "Quel kaima, meleth e-guilen."
The words of love that aired out in his last breath were unspoken, as was his way, but present all the same. She'd never needed the words to be spoken to know the truth of his heart – what had been so difficult for him to say due to past hurts and the wounds his upbringing had scored across flesh and soul. She'd understood. Long had she courted the words he could not say, capturing each one to treasure later on the rare occasion they were spoken aloud.
That was why she would wait.
Why she would keep her promise.
She would not sail.
She would not fade.
For the sake of that love she would remain.
She would spend the ages of the world alone, long after her kind had left these shores. Long after the time of the Eldar fell into dust and distant memory. She would weather the dying trees and the mountains that turned to ash underneath her feet. Still she would wait, singing her lament to unfamiliar rivers and distant hills as the world changed and new empires rose and fell.
She would bear the burden of the ages – of countless centuries parted from his side – until what had long been foretold came to pass and her lover was restored to her side. For the love they shared was strong. Flawed and mortal as he was, her Daryiel had been the singular soul in all the heavens that'd soothed the spark within her.
Her soul's mate.
"Vanya sulie, meleth nin," she whispered, bowing her head as his soul sprang free. Parted yet never parted, until the stars dimmed in the heavens and the Valar saw fit to mend what fate had broken.
A/N #1: Thank you for reading. I am pretty sure this crossover is the first of its kind so – yeah. Let me know what you think?
Reference: In case anyone missed the cues, in this story Carol is an elf of Mirkwood and Daryl is from the race of men. Hello doomed love, I see you there. I fiddled around with names for a long time before giving up and made my own crappy Middle Earth equivalents for Daryl, Ed, and Rick.
Children of the sun: Sindarin (elvish) name for the race of man.
Elleth: Term for a female elf.
Mell nín, Muin nín - My beloved/dear
Estelio enni – "Trust in me."
Quel kaima, meleth e-guilen – "sleep well, love of my life."
Vanya sulie – "Fair winds, (traditional elvish farewell), my love."
Valar – The Gods.