Mornië a Estel (Darkness and Hope) by Ithilin Palandiriel

Rating: R (Birth in the prologue, some implied sex and rape and torture.) Nothing graphic but if you are one of those squeamish sorts, please don't bother reading this.

Summary: Set during The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sequel to Of Quarrels and Women. Ithilin goes with the fellowship at the insistence of Gandalf. While protecting her from one of their own they neglect an even stronger foe.

Disclaimer: Though I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, Tolkien, I am very much indebted to him for his masterful creation of the races of Middle Earth. Middle Earth will be returned to him with all its contents, perhaps a little the worse for wear, but nonetheless exactly as he put it on paper and said "Ner!"

Nain aiyale Valinor, May it be I shall behold thee in Valinor.

Author's Note: None of my stories connect to each other in any way. I just like seeing how our friends react to the situations I put them in. However these two stories are the exception to this rule. The Young woman in this story is named Ithilin. She is not me, but by the Valar I wish I was her. Story Characters get to have all the fun.

Mornië a Estel (Darkness and Hope)

Prologue: Blessing and Dishonor

Night still cast her starry veil over Rivendell when something woke Aragorn from a sound sleep. He sat up in bed and listened intently, straining his ears for what woke him. A soft moaning cry broke the stillness of the night. Ithilin! Pulling on a tunic in the darkness, he raced out of his room to the she-elf's bed chamber.

The sight that met his eyes, upon opening the door, distressed him slightly. Trembling, Ithilin stood clinging to the bed post for support. Her night shift was wet and stained with blood.

"Aragorn," she whimpered, her voice on the edge of panic.

"Hush, little sister," he whispered. "I'm here."

"The babe-" She bit back a cry as a contraction ripped through her slender frame.

Aragorn understood what was happening. He had assisted his father in many births, human and elf, but it had never been this close to home before. He took a deep breath as he moved toward her. He could not help her if he was not calm. Legolas' child would be born this night and Ithilin needed Aragorn to remain cool headed.

"It's going to be all right, Ithilin." He said pulling her to him. Holding her was a little awkward because of her pregnant belly, but he knew that she needed that touch. "I've helped Ada many times. Your body knows what to do. Just listen to it."

The little she-elf nodded, stifiling another moan. The contractions were close together. How long had she been like this, he had no way of knowing. But past experience told him that it wouldn't be much longer.

"I can't do this."

"Yes, hên, you can. Think of Legolas and how proud he will be."

"He has Lady Yavisûl." She panted as pain coursed through her again. "He can not think of me now."

Aragorn chuckled. "I think not. That vain prince, whose heart you captured, would not have allowed his hair to be cut if you had meant so little to him."

Ithilin laughed breathlessly, "You are right, Estel. He is a rather vain creature."

"He is that. And never doubt his love for you."

"I . . .OH!" Another contraction made her knees buckle and she fell against Aragorn's chest. Instinctively, he tightened his hold on her before she slipped from his arms.

"Breathe through the pain, little sister."

"It hurts."

"I know it does. But you need to breathe."

"Ilúvatar, tua-nîn!" she gasped, her dark eyes wide with pain and fear. "OH!"

"Come. Let's get you back on the bed. You'll be a little more comfortable there." He said brushing sweat damp hair from her flushed face and arranging the pillows so her laboring body was supported. "It won't be long now."

"I want Legolas." She sobbed, her breathing fast and ragged.

"I know, Ithilin. I'm sure he's wishing he could be with you, too."

"OH, Valar! Aragorn I have to . . . " her words were cut off by the sudden irresistible urge to push.

"It's all right. Just follow you instincts."

"Aragorn . . . Legolas. . . white silk . . ." She panted as the contraction ebbed, "in the wardrobe."

Aragorn went to the wardrobe and took out a much wrinkled white tunic. Green and gold leaves curled over the shoulder seams meeting at the gold leaf shaped clasps that bore the royal seal of the Prince of Mirkwood. Legolas had given it to her nine months ago, just before he was forced to return home.

"Here it is, little one. Still smells like him, too."

"Good." She grunted over another push. "Aragorn, something is straining."

Aragorn smiled as he lifted her shift up over her knees, "Your little one wants to meet you. Hold on. The head is almost out." He looked into her anxious pain filled eyes. She was exhausted. He knew she would probably pass out as soon as the child was born. "Ithilin, I need you to listen to me. Once the head is out, I need you to not push for a little bit. OK?"

Ithilin nodded and swallowed. He could see how frightened she was.

"I promised him that I would take care of you, Ithilin. Everything is going to be all right. Do you trust me?"

Again she nodded, biting her lip against the pain.

"Good. Now one more big push and you can rest a bit."

Pain assaulted her as the baby's head emerged. Then a sort of strained peace while Aragorn cleared the baby's nose and mouth.

"You're doing well, little one. You're almost there. Push hard and this little royal will be in your arms." He saw her hesitate slightly, "You can do this, Ithilin. I promise."

Another nod. "Ai! Ilúvatar!" she cried as the child slid out of her. Then she sank back onto the pillows, utterly spent.

Aragorn quickly tied off the cord and severed it with his knife. Then he wrapped the infant in a thick towel.

"Your young prince, my lady." He said as he laid the swaddled infant in her arms.

"Aragorn?" came Elrond's voice from the door. "Why did you not wake me?"

"Legolas would have wanted it this way, Ada."

Elrond smiled tenderly at his human son. The ranger had gone from dislike of the little she-elf to companion in the blink of an eye the day Legolas had been forced to leave Rivendell. He looked at the young woman and the babe in her weary arms. Her eyes drooped in happy sleepiness. Exhaustion would soon take over and she would not wake until the child needed her milk.

"What will you name the young prince, Ithilin?" Aragorn asked her as Elrond took over and cleaned her up.

"I hadn't thought about it." She whispered. She gazed out the window as the gray light of dawn hinted at a hue of pink. "Ararûn."

Aragorn saw the tunic still clutched in her hand. "Here, little prince." He said, tucking the silk shirt around the sleeping child. "This belonged to your Ada. Perhaps you will wear it someday."

Ithilin's eyes had closed and Aragorn wrapped the blankets around her still form. He smiled sadly at the thought of his friend missing the birth of his first child. Still, Legolas may yet experience this sense of wonder if Yavisûl bore him a child. He hoped that it would be so, for Legolas' sake.

Elrond stroked the infant's feathery blond hair, "I will send to Legolas with news of his son's birth."

Aragorn nodded as he collapsed into the chair by the hearth. "I'll stay with her, Ada."

"Nay, Estel. You've worked hard. Go get some rest. I'll stay."

* * *

"Drink it!" Thranduil ordered.

Legolas clamped his lips shut against the foul liquid. This had become a nightly ritual in the last nine months that he was forced to drink this horrid concoction that made him act like a stag in rut.

"Drink it, or I'll force it down your ungrateful throat."

The prince glared at his father. Not long ago he use to love and respect the elf king. But since his forced marriage to Lady Yavisûl and subsequent coerced mating sessions, Legolas hated his father more than Sauron.

"Legolas, I don't like having to do this to you. Just drink it and get it over with."

The younger elf shook his cropped blond head vehemently. He shivered slightly as the cold air of early spring bit his bare skin.

"Then you leave me no choice. Hold him down."

It took six of his father's personal guards to hold the young prince down while Thranduil pried open Legolas' mouth and poured the fiery potion down his throat. Legolas fought with all his strength but it was never enough. Why did it have to be this way? Why couldn't his father accept his bond with Ithilin? He was, after all the youngest of many sons. He shouldn't have to be put through this torture.

"I hate you!" the prince spat when they finally let him up. He was trembling now with the effects of the drug. "I hate what you have done to me. If I didn't have a reason for living, I would have killed myself long ago."

His mind was reeling. His body was on fire with blind lust. No matter how hard he fought against the drug, it still took a firm hold of his senses leaving him incapable of rational thought.

Yavisûl waited for him on the bed. He stumbled into her arms. His body seeking time and again a release that would not come. He could feel Yavisûl's body shudder beneath him. He could hear her moan. Yet he could not find satisfaction or pleasure in her, because she could not give him what he craved most of all. Unconditional love. The rest was a blur, as it always was. Yet in the back of his mind he knew with horrible certainty that what he had done, was doing, he would continue to do as long as he was given Echuir Root.

When dawn broke, Legolas' reasoning returned. He rushed to the bath chamber, sinking to his knees beside the basin retching and sobbing uncontrollably. Hot tears of shame slid silently down his fair cheeks. He had been made a whore for his family line and nothing he could do would change that. He wanted to die, but if he took his life then he'd be ending Ithilin's life and that of their unborn child as well.

He turned on the hot water tap, filling the tub. All he wanted, at this moment, was to scrub away the filth of his shame. He wondered absently as he slid into the scalding water if he would ever feel clean again.