"… yet fëa and hrondo (> hröa) are not the same things; and though the fëa cannot be broken or desingtegrated by any violence without, the hrondo (> hröa) can be hurt and may be utterly destroyed."
- Morgoth's Ring, HoME

… for Song of Sun

It was dark, and the air was stale and musty. He was just coherent enough to register that he was considerably less comfortable now than he had been an hour before. The surface beneath him was hard and unsmooth against his protesting back. He was tightly swaddled in layers of blanket, made of a rough material which made his sweaty skin itch. He was glad for it, though, for what little skin he had exposed to the open air felt icy cold. The constant movement of the world caused his head to throb. A bitter after-taste of the potion that had been forced into him reminded him of why he could not slip back into much yearned-for sleep. He would have felt resentful of the situation if he were capable of feeling anything; he thought it only odd that he had to be given the potion in the first place.

Most of the time, sleep brings healing,the words floated by. But in some situations, it eases the journey to Mandos.

Well, that explains everything, then. Strange that he could not even remember who had said it.

After a while, his vision slowly sharpened, and he became increasingly more aware of his surroundings. At first he could focus only on his discomfort, but eventually his senses picked up other things, and the discomfort was shunted to the side by the new sensations. The roar of water. The sharp scent of rain. The movement that he could now recognise as the rocking of a carefully driven cart rolling across soaked, uneven ground. A tarp had been draped over the presumed cart, though it was weighed down now in the middle by the rainwater that had collected on it. Distantly, he thought he could detect the presence of trees, but that sense seemed to have been obscured, remaining in his grasp for only a few minutes at a time before slipping away to hover just beyond his reach.

Once he had taken in as much of his present external environment as he could, he turned inwards, once more deigning to contemplate his situation and the events that had led to it. The latter in particular was quite difficult to ascertain, as it felt like the brother of the raincloud that was currently unleashing its vengeance above him had moved into his head. He tried piecing together what fragments of memory he could find in his befuddled mind, though did so with a growing feeling of dread and fear. The fear nearly made him hesitate in his mental efforts, but his pride pushed him to continue before that hesitation turned to fear. Youngest son of Thranduil, one of the Nine Walkers- he was no stranger to horrors, and felt that nothing could be worse than being afraid of discovering why he was afraid. A fear of almost anything could be overcome, if one had a strong enough will and a good enough reason, but he had seen a fear of fear undo the stoutest of warriors.

He regretted these thoughts as soon as he got a glimpse of the source of his fear, but the small chink in the barrier his mind had built to protect him caused the whole thing to collapse with a metaphorical sigh of 'I told you so'.

Bile rose up his throat, and he would have started retching if his body hadn't been occupied with more important things like shivering violently and attempting to turn itself inside out. His flesh itched beneath his skin; he thought the sound of breaking glass echoed still in his ears. His breathing quickened into panicked gasps as his hands began vigorously scratching at the naked skin of his arms.

"Legolas!" Distantly he heard a heartfelt curse, followed by the sound of something heavy hitting a muddy puddle. Strong hands seized his wrists and forced them away. He struggled, but his muscles didn't seem to have the strength he remembered them to have.

"I cenedril!" he moaned, thrashing against the bulk of the person holding him down. "I naeg en heledh!"

His captor said something, but he was beyond all hearing. He fought despite the growing pain from his limbs, the spots of red that had begun appearing on his clothes. At a particularly forceful spasm, the other person was nearly thrown off, and something flew out from underneath his captor's shirt.

Legolas froze, his eyes honing in on the object. Mortal eyes would have difficulty seeing it at all, but to his Elven senses the object seemed to shine with a light of its own. And deep in his mind Legolas knew he had seen it many times before, for he had been present when the token was given to Gimli.

All the tension left his muscles, and he suddenly slumped, blinking when his head bounced slightly on the wooden surface he was lying on. He felt… something… leave him, fleeing in a burst of terror and hatred. He wanted to laugh in relief.

"Gimli," he said wonderingly, gazing blearily up at the concerned brown eyes. Brown the colour ofgood, dark, fertile soil."The Dwarf who came to love the Elves. What a legend we might have been, five hundred years from now."

"Legolas?" One hand warily left his wrist to rest against his forehead, as if testing his temperature.

"You chased him away," Legolas mumbled, vision blurring. "You chased him away when I could not. I am sorry… you were always the stronger one…"

"I will not tolerate such talk from you, Elfling," his friend grumbled, the hand moving to tap him lightly on one cheek. "Neither of us is dead, yet, And I swear to you, I will find a way to make you better. You would have done better to keep company with another Elf- I daresay you would not be in this mess if you had- but you chose me. It's about time I did something to earn it!"

The son of Thranduil frowned, and he slowly raised one hand to press a finger lightly on the Dwarf's wrinkled brow. "I never understood why Dwarves do not like to be seen weeping outside of a battlefield or a burial." He opened his mouth to say something further, but a scent caught his nose that sent his stomach rolling again. "Gimli, there is something out there."

To his surprise, Gimli nodded and quickly wiped his face with a dirty sleeve. Confusion rising, it was only then that Legolas thought to ask, "Why are we outside?"

The Dwarf refused to meet his eyes. "Something was happening to you, my friend. I feared you were dying. I was told that the only way to save you was to bring you to the source of all this." Some of his usual grumpiness returned. "Now I wonder if I had done the right thing," he said darkly.

For once, it was Legolas who felt puzzled, and looked to Gimli for further explanation. "The source? And who told you?"

Before Gimli could answer, a figure materialized out of the night. Another time, Legolas might have taken a while to identify the Elf, even though the shining golden hair and the bright light of Aman in his eyes narrowed down the possibilities considerably. But the nightmares, the crystal glinting like a tiny star next to Gimli's heart, and the fact that the raindrops appeared to be passing right through the figure conjured up a single, unbelievable name.

"This is utter madness!"

From the oversized chair he was currently resting in, Elladan opened one eye to glance at the eldest son of Thranduil. Derinsul occupied a slightly smaller chair, but unlike Elladan his shoulders were ungracefully slumped, and he had buried his face in his hands.

Though he did not say anything, the Lord of Rivendell empathized completely with Derinsul. He himself felt quite adrift in a sea of strange events and even stranger explanations, and that coupled with the strange hole he could feel inside of him gave him a very disturbing sense of disorientation. He determinedly prevented his thoughts from focusing on it. Fortunately, his hale hroa recovered quickly from the brief loss of fea, and what weariness he felt now was that of the mind and spirit.

Returning his attention to Derinsul, Elladan couldn't help feeling astonished still that the Wood-Elf had returned after discovering Legolas and Gimli gone. For all that he trusted the Dwarf, Elladan concurred that Gimli must have moved Legolas, for despite his unnaturally quick recovery- something which, to the warrior within Elladan, hinted that there was something else wrong with the prince- the youngest son of Thranduil could not possibly have been able to leave on his own power yet. Elladan had sent a servant to check on Arod, but something told him that the horse would be reported missing from the stables.

"Thank you for coming back, Derinsul," he said quietly. "I know it must have been hard."

Derinsul nodded, eyes gazing distantly at the warm fire in front of them. "It would have been foolish, in any case, to go haring after them when I have not a clue as to which direction they would be heading. And Legolas had always wanted me to trust him." No need to ask who he meant. Derinsul looked at Elladan. "How are you faring?"

"As well as I can be," Elladan replied truthfully, shifting positions a little in his chair. "And, aye, this is madness. But my father always said that even when the Shadow triumphs, when sun and moon and stars disappear, when the world as we know it is broken and changed, the final defeat is to surrender ourselves. We must hold to our oaths and our duties, even to the very end." He would give up everything he possessed to hear his father's comforting voice and sage advice now! "And at this moment, the only thing I know for certain is that my duty is here, to guard the Kingdom that Estel fought so hard to earn the right to rule."

"Can you imagine our fathers' faces?" said Derinsul dryly. "Their eldest sons and heirs, secretly ruling a Kingdom of Men. I wager your grandsire, at least, must be doubled over in mirth somewhere above us."

The image made Elladan laugh. "It does make one wonder if the Valar have a rather convoluted sense of humour," he chuckled, and surprised himself by laughing further. It sounded too much like the desperate laughter of soldiers who knew that they marched to their deaths, but it empowered him a little, and chased the dark depression back.

Suddenly the door to the private sitting room crashed open, admitting in a soaked and wild-looking Éomer. Derinsul and Elladan launched to their feet in alarm.

Together they managed to get him into a chair and sipping hot spiced wine, though at the last it took a bit of manhandling after gentle, coaxing words didn't produce any results. Once seated, his ramblings took on a semblance of coherency. Eventually they ascertained that he had managed to find his errant sister and the Queen of Gondor, and had followed after them, until…

"A dark shape took off with Lady Arwen," Derinsul repeated incredulously. "Lady Éowyn followed, but was suddenly swallowed up by the ground?"

Éomer flushed. "It is difficult to believe, but by my honour that is what I saw!"

"Peace, King of the Mark," said Elladan soothingly, refilling his wine cup and casting a pointed look at Derinsul. "It is not that we doubt your word or your honour, but… you must understand why we are finding it difficult to envision this?"

Éomer shook his head, wild eyes darting around the room. "I followed Éowyn to the very spot where she disappeared. The men of my eored saw it, also, and I had them search out the area. But we found nothing, save some small shards of glass. I did all I could!" Downing the wine, he slammed the cup down and would have gotten up if it weren't for Derinsul's hands holding him down by the shoulders. "I must go back out there! I must find her!"

Elladan firmly placed his hands on either side of Éomer's head, and bent down to gaze searchingly into the Man's eyes. He saw a great deal of fear, understandably, and shock, but behind that Éomer's mind seemed whole and alert, albeit a little overwhelmed. "We will find your sister," he said, exerting more calm and determination than he himself felt. "No power on Middle-Earth or beyond it can stop us. But you are in shock, and your body is in need of rest. You will be worse than useless to her if you get yourself and your men killed in the rain out there." He would have reminded the Rohirric King of what had happened to Aragorn's guard, but didn't want to antagonize Éomer further by introducing the possibility that his sister might already be dead.

Ai, but this was truly madness!

Fortunately, and to the Half-Elf's continuing surprise, Derinsul seemed to have shared his line of thought, and pitted the legendary stubbornness of Thranduil against the mule-headedness of the men of Rohan. With the advantage of centuries of practice, Derinsul eventually steered Éomer out of the door and towards his rooms, where he would undoubtedly set a couple of guards to make sure that the man would not try to escape.

Elladan was gazing out the window when he heard Derinsul return. "At least one of us will be of the Race of Men," he commented.

Derinsul gave a humorless chuckle. "Aye, what a merry band of rulers we will be. The King of Rohan, a Wood-Elf, and a Half-Elf, ruling Elendil's City of the Sun. Was there ever a stranger jest made by Maia or Valar?"

Something was circling them, somewhere within the curtain of rain.

"You have done well to have trusted me this far, Master Dwarf." The Elf's voice held a note of urgency now, which did nothing at all to sooth Gimli's increasing nerves. "Listen carefully now. My guiding of you is as much interference as the Lords of the West will permit themselves. The world is changing, and whether for better or for worse must be entirely in the hands of Men. But the Mirrors are a creation of the First Age, from He of whom Sauron was only a Lieutenant. It cannot be allowed to continue existing, for its presence alone will tip the world towards the Shadow."

Gimli felt a comforting hand come to rest on his shoulder, though his eyes saw nothing but a faint mist. "You, a child of the Third Age, cannot hope to withstand the power that has been put into the Mirrors."

Potential danger to Gimli seemed to draw Legolas out of his state of shock. "And yet you would have him face it?" he demanded from where he lay in the stolen cart, then looked embarrassed for his outburst.

"I would, for the children of Aulë are said to be hardier than all the other Races," said the Elf kindly. "But he will be safer than the rest of you. In my houseless form I cannot pass through the outer barrier, so he shall bring me inside."

A growl sounded not too far away, sending a shiver of primal fear up Gimli's spine. He saw Legolas pale further, so that he was almost stark white in the darkness. "I remember…" that normally melodious voice whispered hoarsely. "I heard it, just before… the blood, the pain… how could I have forgotten the very sound of fear…"

A dark shape materialized out of the night for a single frozen moment. The insubstantial hand that had been resting on his shoulder plunged into him, so that he was enclosed in golden warmth. He heard the sound of birds singing in the distance. Ice-cold fingers closed about his arm, and he turned his suddenly heavy head to gaze helplessly at the expression of horror on Legolas' face. He thought he could smell the metallic tint of blood, and wanted to shout to Legolas, Lie back down, you are re-opening your wounds.

A grey mist descended between them. He absently heard Arod's terrified whinny, but it felt like it was coming from a dream, from which he was now slowly awakening.

The last thing he heard before he left the dream was his dearest friend's scream.

"Gimli! Lord Felagund!"


Author's Note:

I guess at this rate, we'll finish this story in about twenty years blushes My sincere, heartfelt thanks to everyone who's stayed, you're the reason I'm still writing. If you want to give me an extra prod, don't hesitate to stop by my LiveJournal.

Incidentally, 'To Follow an Elf' tends to be more up-to-date on Stories of Arda. I'm considering putting this up on the Open Scrolls Archive, and if I do, I'll probably update it more often there. Formatting on gives me a headache.

This is probably of little consolation to those who've waited so long for an update, but I think that this is one of those stories that grow with the story-teller. When I first began MitM, I had no clear plan beyond the first handful of chapters. Even at my last update, I still wasn't sure how I was going to end it. But time brings experience, and I think I know how this needs to end now. Just bear with me until then.

Once again, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Reviewer Responses

Wow, there's been quite a build-up! Nevertheless I shall endeavor to answer all of them J

kiss316-Thank you! And interesting that you used the analogy of 'chess pieces', because I was trying to convey a feeling of there being stronger forces at work. Plus, it's the only way to keep one's sanity with so many characters to think about.

edeyle-I'm prone to lurking, myself, so I am very flattered that you liked my story enough to come out and comment. I can only hope it continues to meet your expectations!

Thundera Tiger-I think my ego burst about half-way through reading your review and killed me Thank you ever so much, as your very kind and flattering words always boost my rather reedy sense of self-esteem. I know I'll be walking around with a silly grin for days, now. Actually, I still can't believe that a talented and acclaimed author such as yourself bows to the Queen of Complicated Politics likes my giant knot of a story. My main worry is that I make everything too supernatural and angsty- after all, there are only so many voices a person can take- but your words have assured me that I haven't lost the thread completely. Interesting that you noticed a similarity between Eowyn and Derinsul. I must confess that that wasn't on purpose, but I'm not really in control of the narrative half the time. Oh, the rain has another purpose, which will be seen when we next go to Faramir, Aragorn and Merry. I'm quite terrified now of making a big mess of this monster of a story, but the plot has a mind of its own, so I guess we'll see where it takes us.

And the fact that you like how I portray Gimli does me great honour, for it was thee who made me see him as more than "the Dwarf in the Fellowship". I love him to bits now huggles

Cosmic Castaway-Thank you, I hope you're still out there somewhere! This time it was less of writer's block and more of getting caught up in a host of other matters (a new fic being the least pressing of them) but I still find it difficult to write this unless I am in the right frame of mind.

GreyWolfEyes-Wow, your two reviews really blew me away! And yay for a fellow Thundera Tiger obsessive! Your views concerning Arwen are interesting, and I do agree to some extent with your frustration. I believe that she's a potentially stronger character than the movies and books made her out to be, and even now I'm still trying to flesh her out. But I think that she should be more than just the love of Aragorn, and fortunately the scenario I've created in this story gives her an opportunity to act for herself. And you can tell that I love Gimli because I've just given him a pivotal role in the whole thing. Concerning Elladan with the advisors, what happens is that Arwen earlier tells them that Aragorn is missing. Later on, Elladan explains that the reason Aragorn is missing is that he's decided to go on a holiday, and that Arwen's gone with him (this explains her absence). Thank you very, very much for your wonderful reviews!

AM-It's still continuing! Just very, very slowly. Thank you for dropping by. No, though there will be plenty of hallucinations later. Well, how can you tell a hallucination, really? And in case you didn't figure it out in this chapter, Arwen and Eowyn have gone to join our merry men underground.

Jordy-I'm still alive! And I hope you're not too sad, as the year still hasn't ended! runs in case any rotten vegetables are forthcoming Thank you for taking the time to comment! The fate of Elrohir will be shown in the next chapter, which is another Interlude.

Purduegirl-blushes like a sunburnt turnip Thank you so very much, sweets! I think I'm a bit young to consider professional writing, though it's an option for the future since I love it so much. I hope you're still around and liking this J

ArWen of sMirkwood-Thanks, that's good! I can't wait to see how it goes, either

Nightwing6-I hope you're still around and with a working computer! Thank you very much, yes, I just turned 18 this June. It's a relief to hear that my bouts of silliness and fangurl-ism haven't slithered into my writing. Take care, nice to hear from you again!

Alisha B.-Your review left me speechless for a good five minutes! I feel extremely flattered and honoured to have received such a long and thorough response from someone who clearly has strong (book-based?) sense of Tolkien's characters. Thank you for taking the time to write such an articulate review! Similarly, this must be one of the best reviews I've ever received, even more so because you also pointed out some concerns. The most important of which, I believe, is more development for Eomer's character. Looking back, I realize that I have not been giving as much page-time as the other characters. I hope you do not mind too much that I've brought him back into the City, but rest assured he'll be fighting for attention as much as Elladan and Derinsul. And thanks for mentioning the formatting, the introduction of horizontal rules was a bit of a headache, and I suspect I might update faster if FF was less problematic.

Suffice to say that I hope you're still around here reading, and you continue to like what you read! Please do continue to be honest in your reviews, as it gives me a clearer idea on what to work on instead of continuing to flounder in the dark and hope everyone's happy.

siege-Thank you! I try, really I do, but sometimes life sets the pace for you. If you hang in there, though, everything will be explained in due time.

Deana-LOL, thanks, maybe another one?

huggeroftrees-I'm still writing, it's just going very slowly. Thanks for coming by, I hope you continue to like it.

bogumil- Thanks! Sorry, here it is now, guess your poke did it, eh? And my boo-boo about the title, I meant to write "Lord of Northern Ithilien". Thanks for pointing it out to me, I'll fix it as soon as lets me!