"I am here."
The icy voice near his ear made Neithan jump out of his reverie, as he had been completely absorbed in contemplating the exquisite craftsmanship of the Elven sword he had been given that day.
The massive black steed that had been lazily grazing next to him began a frantic pull away from the branch he'd tied it to, and oddly enough, the horse did not emit one sound as it struggled to break free, as if it was strangled by fear.
"Master!" Neithan nearly squealed, leaping from the log he'd been sitting on, and backing a few steps away from the Dark Elf.
"You are not pleased to see me," the Dark One said, coming so near the young man that he could feel the elf's shadows creeping into his skin.
Neithan struggled not to inch away, not to show how much his "father's" presence appalled him. He had a strong, resolute mind; and so he was able to keep a steady stance and a straight face; but deep inside he knew that the one before him could read his mind like an open book.
"You thought I was gone from your newly found life," said the elf, lifting a pale, long hand to caress Neithan's cheek. "You thought you could avoid me, escape me; and yet I've been watching you all along, how you seek solitude, always wandering away from your… new friends."
The lean fingers reached the young man's scalp, grasping the black tresses and pulling his face back.
"You can't escape me, Agarwaen, simply because you can't escape yourself and who you are. That is why you turn away from these men you wish you could join. You are not like them; you cannot be a mere soldier of Gondor, a devotee to this ranger turned king. Your destiny is far greater than his."
Neithan tried to ignore the voices and indistinct memories sparked inside of him upon been called by this new name… Agarwaen; it was hurtfully familiar to his ears, and terribly confusing to his mind. He finally pushed them back inside, and mustered enough courage to talk back to the elf that had raised him to be what he'd become.
"Your plans failed," he managed to mutter, unable to say another word.
The hand holding on to his scalp pulled further back, and the Dark Elf's bitter, hollow laughter filled the air around him.
"It would seem that way to you, yes. After all, you betrayed the hand that tended to your birth, for the enticing eyes of an Elven maiden, thus standing in the way of your own fate. But what's been set in motion cannot be stopped now; my vengeance cannot be prevented!"
Neithan cringed as the last words were spat on his face, and wished he could reach out for his slender Elven blade and sever his master's head off. He thought of Aramarth, and how if he were there with him, the mere brightness of his presence would give him the courage to do so.
The Dark Elf peered into the youth's eyes and released his hair, slapping Neithan hard across the face; and at that moment, Maur-agar finally succeeded in tearing off the branch he was tied to, leaving Neithan utterly alone.
The young man fell to his knees, slumping before his master like he had done so many times before, since he had the curse of the use of memory. For Aramarth was not there to encourage him, and so he went back to be the submissive boy he'd always been whenever his lord tested his authority.
"How dare you compare me to that boastful wood elf? How dare you love him more than me?"
Neithan curled into a tight fetal position, wishing he could close his mind to the insidious scrutiny of his master; but no matter how hard he tried, he could not resist the brutal, forceful invasion of his most private thoughts.
"You wretched, covetous fool! Do you not think I've seen your eyes longing for his strength, his glory? Not only that I've seen but your mind, wanting only to live under the shadow of his name, to serve that forged brilliance he so struggles to carry.
"You would settle for the crumbs from his table when you could seize his crown and wear it!" The Dark Elf started pacing agitatedly around the diminished young man, spitting down hasty, yet sharp words to him.
"You are the one who failed; you've failed to see that your name is to be far greater than that of any king, man or elf that walks this earth. You are to snatch the wood elf's kingdom along with Elessar's…" The dark one paused, choosing his next words with great care.
"You could seize Aragorn's kingdom, along with every one of his possessions… even that pale queen of his would be yours."
Neithan's head rose slowly; and the Dark Elf was pleased to see his words were hitting the mark. He continued talking, his voice now soft and beguiling. "Yes, Agarwaen, you would finally have the queen you were always denied, and she would love you, for you will be powerful and magnificent, more so than the two kings that now fascinate her shifting heart."
The young man stood up straight, his eyes focusing on nothing in particular, and yet the eye of his mind had been caught by the words of the Dark Elf, and was beginning to look upon things he had not yet dared to dream of.
It was so different to walk among those she still called her people. She was almost used to walk among the sons and daughters of the mortal folk, feeling their shy, uneasy stares full of awe but also a strange mix of fear, wonder, doubt, and envy.
Here, walking in the midst of the Elven encampment, she felt no such confusing thoughts directed at her slowly moving form. The elves of Ithilien dedicated her their long, open stares, full of warm regard and love that mixed only with a soft hint of sadness upon looking at her, nodding graciously as she made her way to the core of the camp.
She felt at home and safe, feelings she had not indulged in for a very long time while dwelling among men. And she had desperately missed the silken sound of Eldar songs, which now seemed to come from every corner of the Elven encampment, as songs were used to calm and soothe the wounded soldiers.
"My lady Evenstar," came the greeting from Rumil the Galadhrim that had come to meet her.
"Rumil," she barely whispered, still relishing the beautiful sound of dozens of her kin around her.
"You have come to see him," he said, offering her his arm so they could walk together.
"Yes, I will have you take me to his side, if he'd receive me," said the queen, walking arm in arm with her kinsman, content to follow him wherever he should lead.
"He was away praying deep into the forest for what was left of the day and until twilight descended, and came into his tent when the first stars greeted Arda, saying none should come into his presence until morning come," Rumil said, his gaze directed straight forward.
Arwen made a small attempt to stop, somewhat disappointed by Rumil's words; but the Elven official nudged her to walk forward, smiling almost impishly. "I honestly don't believe he meant you though," he said, while still leading the way.
The queen noticed how there were less and less elves as they advanced, until there were only the two of them walking through the moss-colored tents; she also noticed how the air seemed to hum softly, knowing then that Rumil was taking her straight to his lord's presence.
"I don't recall Legolas being the type that prays too much," she said, trying to make some small talk to break from the slight euphoria the air around her was driving her into.
Rumil stopped his march, turning to look upon her face. "He was taught never to forget gratitude. In the battlefield he was aided by the gods, the Powers above placed everything in place and allowed him to excel in his every effort, even beyond what his physical capabilities allow. This is why, when the sun goes down, he kneels and gives thanks for the protective cloak that covers him."
"Why, Rumil? Why would the Lords and Valar favor him so much?"
"I do not know", he said, with little pause. "I do not know what he is, or why. All I know is that he IS, and I can only follow."
"He has become so…" She began to say, but was at a loss for words.
"Devastating, I know," finished Rumil, holding her hand comfortingly. "I've tried to understand this as well, my lady; the serenity of his peace and the wreck of his wrath, and I have come to this poetic conclusion, if you'd allow me to share it with you."
The Elven official sighed slowly, breathing in the pulsating air around them.
"He's a rock," he said with certainty, his eyes looking up to the stars for inspiration.
"While the world around him was in harmony, he was leveled on the ground, his might was stable. But his world has been shaken, and now he has been placed on steep terrain, the things around him show no respect, so his strength has been revealed, rolling towards this enemy that threatened his peace. As you have seen, he becomes devastating in these moments, and none can stop him."
Arwen opened her mouth to comment on the elf's musings, but found herself unable to say anything yet again.
"If you could see him fight from a short distance as I have, if you could really contemplate it all as I have… Centuries of wisdom and dedication in every swing of his sword. The strength and skill of great warriors of the past, honoring the movements of the past generations that gave him life…"
The elven official let go of the slender hand he'd been holding, walking away from her slowly. "Let us not talk on something you can behold and muse on yourself. My words are insipid and silly. I will do well and announce you to the king."
Arwen stood very still, like a solitary watchtower before the entrance of the larger tent of the king of elves, as Rumil disappeared behind it. She had been so entranced by the Galadhrim's discourse that she had failed to see they had been standing before it all along.
Not a minute had passed, and yet the time that Rumil took to come back out seemed eternal to the silent queen. He came to her, and whispered her to go inside. "He awaits you," he said, bowing and kissing her brow before leaving hastily.
She walked in in a soft hush, her eyes seeking him in the dim light of the tent. She found him seated upon a dust-colored linen bed, clad in a black tunic. His eyes were cast down; his body was bent as if very tired or in pain.
She was instantly worried and upset by his stance, so much that she failed to notice the thick smell of blood inside the tent.
"Legolas?" she called, walking towards him.
He straightened up slowly, until his bearing was that of an undefeatable king again. His eyes found hers, bidding her to stop her worried approach. She complied.
It was a call; it was a plea, a greeting and a farewell; a lament and praise, a sweet welcome and an aching warning not to come too near; an agonizing moan, an elated sigh. The queen could not begin to define the feelings elicited by hearing her name whispered by him in such a way. All she knew was the longing to hear him say it again, and again.
Silence fell between them, silence that seemed to scream at them both to say something, say anything. For the longest minutes silence was victorious, but it was the king who broke its spell.
"You shouldn't be here," he said. His voice had lost the turmoil it had when he had called her name. It was now calm, serene, and safe.
"And yet here I am," she replied, without a second thought.
"Yes you are, most likely against the wishes of Aragorn, or perhaps without his consent or knowledge?"
Her cobalt eyes held his gaze, sparking and slightly amused but also annoyed. This time he was the one to look away from her intensity. "I am not one to skulk away like a mischievous child; Aragorn knows I am here. And yes, he was not pleased to have me come to you; the poor thing even attempted to forbid me to come."
His eyes turned to her, surprised and inquiring.
She turned from him, with the small victory of having him wondering and confused, and began to examine the tent, noticing the water basin and towels all crimson with blood. Flinching, she then noticed the bloody armor next to it, and assumed the blood was all from the Easterling victims of the king's wrath.
"You challenged Elessar?" he asked, still curious. She disguised the grimace of disgust as she turned to face him, succeeding in hiding it from the king.
"He is my husband, and I am his wife; I'm not a belonging of his, or a vassal. I still have a will of my own."
"Indeed you do, and I'm pleased to find out it is true. I was afraid you'd become as submissive and yielding as the mortal wives."
"Never, such is not my nature. Nor is it to wait forever until you have the decency to offer me a seat," she laughed merrily, boldly coming to sit right next to him.
"You mystify me, Evenstar," Aramarth said softly, his voice like a breeze playing among the vineyards of Rivendell. "It has been a long time since someone baffled me so... It is quite pleasing."
Her laughter dimmed to a soft hum that was unique to her voice. "And may I ask how, my lord, do I bewilder you so?"
"I never expected you to come to me tonight, nor could I imagine that your bearing would be so joyful and pleasant, especially after Aragorn's tirade."
"He doesn't understand, that's all," she said, searching for the comfort of his eyes.
"And you do?" he asked, allowing her to bask in that which she was seeking.
"I like to think I do understand you. I like to think I'm the only one who is beginning to understand what you are."
Their words came out in barely audible whispers, meant only for the other to hear.
"You don't resent my actions today? Do you not fear me for them?"
His face inched closer to hers, his eyes searching for answers in the deepest parts of her soul. "What do you feel then?"
She was prompted by his closeness to speak exactly what was on her mind. "I saw you today in the battlefield, Legolas… Aramarth; I saw the dark side of you, and found you in it, shining the brightest."
"You enjoyed what you saw?"
Arwen tried to look away, only to find out she was unable to. All she could do was answer…
"Do you know why I did it? Do you think you are ready to know?"
Any possible word in all the languages she knew deserted the queen; her thoughts seemed to stray into an iridescent doorway to his mind. She struggled to cross the threshold, to see the deeper, concealed side of him; but it appeared as if a wall had been built around his thoughts. Still, standing on the edge she was able to glimpse a familiar shape, a memory that stood as more intense than the rest. The thought became clearer, and recognition overwhelmed her like a hailstorm.
Words returned to her, and her voice, quivering, stated what she'd seen. "My Ada… my father?"
He pulled back, recoiling from her eyes. How could she see? How could she tear down the ramparts he had struggled so much to build?
She reached out to him, unwilling to be left out of this intimacy he had unknowingly shared with her. "Please, tell me!"
But he stood up, taking two long strides away from her.
He tried to calm his agitated breathing. "You should not be able to do that."
Just some notes:
This story is meant to be about the complexity of different personalities, how feelings are never really defined, how thoughts shift and change. So what I'm saying here is: don't classify / judge a character based on a though or an action. They are supposed to be complex, their thoughts may differ form their actions, their feelings may be different from what they really want.
Why? You could ask, Why are they contradictory? Well because they are supposed to be that way, they are supposed to surprise you, sometimes pleasantly; sometimes they will disappoint you, or even scandalize you.
Again, why? It's because that's how real people is. Real people are not monochromatic. Our thoughts, our feelings are not black or white. There is a vast range of color in our personalities, and that's what makes life beautiful and interesting.
I'm trying to flesh out these characters, to make them colorful, unique, so be advised… they will surprise you, geez! Sometimes they even surprise me, I have this outline of what's going to happen, of what they are going to think, do or say when facing a situation I create, and sometimes I end up writing a completely different reaction, just because I feel, at the moment, that the character would react that way.
And it's funny … at the moment I struggle with it, because it feels wrong; because it's not perfect. But then again, life is not perfect, sometimes bad and wrong things happen… it's life.
I hope you'll understand what I'm saying, and join me in this journey. I feel that it's going to be a wild ride!
Wow! Sorry for the ramble.
I also want to thank Precious Jewelle for her precious proofreading. Couldn't do it without you!
And OK, so… I really would like to know what you thought of this, probably as much as you would like to know what happens next… so please review!