Update as of July 17, 2012:
As most of you know, it has been quite a long time since I have updated this story. In the beginning, I promised that I would complete this story, and I have come back to honor that promise. I will attempt once again to share this story and complete it for those of you who have been so devoted and loyal in reading and/or reviewing. Within the next few weeks, I will begin working on it once again by first republishing each chapter after heavily revising them.
Please be patient with me as I have a lot going on in my life.
I initially had to quit my writing because of personal issues and my lack of time to continue my passion. I have changed as have circumstances in my life, but I am at a point where I want to pick up my writing once again and continue with my tale.
I have completed the revision of the first chapter and have decided that I am changing quite a few things but nothing too major. Additionally, I would like for it to be known that although I adore Tolkien's work, I have taken the liberty to create a couple of new races for the purpose of this story. Other than that, I will try my best to stay true to the world he has created.
Additionally, I started writing this when I was 15 or so and my writing has drastically improved over the years and hopefully it will begin to show.
Since I am trying to get back into the writing business, please be patient with me. For this reason, negative reviews/comments will not be tolerated. :D
Thank you for those who have waited eagerly and patiently for my updates. I hope that I will not disappoint you in my future writings.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or places (except for my own people of course.)
Chapter 1: Fallen
"Noro, Koto, noro (Run, Koto, run)!"
One simple command was all it took for the midnight black horse to race away in an attempt to flee from the scene of pure chaos and destruction. The rider squinted her eyes hoping to clear her vision enough to steer through the smoky atmosphere before realizing she would have to place her faith in Koto and his abilities. The village had become eerily quiet, a swift change from the happy voices and tinkling laughs issuing forth earlier that day. The sound of Koto's hooves clomping seemed to echo all around her, yet they could not drown out the sound of flames licking up the sides of homes before devouring them entirely, causing wood to splinter and crumble. Whoever was responsible for extinguishing the life of the small village had come and gone quickly, as if acknowledging that a minor duty had been completed and it was on to the next. A powerful force that had now vacated her home had carelessly snuffed out precious lives that had been cultivating for years in a quiet and peaceful corner of Rhovanion. She forced herself to focus on escaping lest the devils should reappear as quickly as they had come and gone. As if sensing that there was still one small flickering flame of life left, her ears picked up the sound of vicious growling from the burning debris.
Before she could turn around completely to spot the source, her body pitched forward sharply and her vision exploded briefly. Gasping loudly, her hands barely grasped Koto's mane in time to keep from falling off as the arrow embedded itself into her small body. Expelling a feeble cry, she could feel Koto slowing his pace in concern for his rider. Knowing if they were to stop they would both be joining the rest of the village's inhabitants, she weakly urged him to continue.
Koto's pace immediately quickened once more, exceeding his original speed across the open field, carrying him and his rider away from the present peril. With her body slumped forward against her dear friend, she turned her head to see that her attacker had disappeared once more perhaps satisfied with the knowledge that she would perish as well in the coming moments. Turning forward again, she allowed Koto to thunder across the grounds as the smoke cleared and the flames were now nothing but a light wave of heat from behind, bringing forth memories of when she would lie facedown on the cool stones surrounding the nearby waterfall and allow the sun to warm her back. That memory was now tarnished as she remembered riding by moments ago and seeing a handful of bodies strewn about the rocks or floating in the water with blood pooling around them.
Shaking her head to clear the horrifying images, she eventually slowed Koto with a gentle tug. His pace lessened to a trot, now hearing only the small gasps of pain from the woman. She sat up as best as she could, barely noticing the feel of the wind as it gently blew through the horse's mane and her own hair, before slowly reaching her hand to her back. After fumbling around for a moment, she was able to locate the point of entry. With a quick movement and a sharp intake of breath, the arrow was wrenched through her flesh and into the fresh air. She pulled it around, hoping that the head was still not lodged in her back. She was satisfied to see that the arrow was still somehow intact even though it had been pretty deep and was now saturated with her blood.
Reaching down to the bottom of her modest riding dress, she began ripping off a large section of fabric. Once she was satisfied with the length of the strip, she made an attempt to crudely wrap it around her torso and stem the flow of blood. It was no easy feat as she was weak and her shaking hands slipped a few times while trying to tie the knot, as the blood on her hands had not yet dried.
With nothing else to treat her wounds and no time to waste, she urged Koto onward with a clear destination in mind. With a firm but gentle squeeze of her legs, the horse took off once more as her mind flashed back to what had just occurred not too long ago.
Flinging opening the door, the young female flew into her home, heart racing and eyes darting around the environment. She had just returned from her morning ride and was pleased to be returning with ripe fruit for her family, expecting to be met with smiling faces of her mother and father and teasing comments from her brothers. The fruit had been haphazardly discarded as soon as she reached the burning village. On the floor of her childhood home she observed pools of dark blood. The shade was so surreal but the cruelty of the situation was that it was no artist's paint. This had come from the bodies of her dying or dead loved ones.
"Adar? Naneth? (Father? Mother?)", she desperately called out, her voice breaking.
She continued on through the living area, frightened at what she would find next. As she rounded the corner, she discovered a limp figure on one side of the bed.
Turning the body over, she immediately turned to the side and closed her mismatched eyes, placing her hand over her mouth holding back the urge to wretch. Her dear mother's throat had been slit open, and blood stained her beautiful light blue dress. There was so much blood. How could there be so much blood? Her hands hovered over her mother's body, unsure of what to do. A feeling of absolute helplessness coursed through her body. She could not heal something that no longer had life. She could not care for her mother's wounds as she had done for her when she was a young child. Her trembling hands drifted to her mother's cooling right hand. Grasping it with both of hers, the tears came suddenly and she lowered her head and rested it on their clasped hands. Her chest wracked with sobs as she slightly rocked back and forth on her knees. As she tried to catch her breath, she sat up and kissed her mother's forehead and continued to weep heavily against her muttering apologies that she was not there to protect her or die trying. Moments later, a faint sound could be heard from nearby. Standing up, she followed the sound noticing more blood covering the floor. As she pushed open the door, she let out a gasp. Her father lay on the floor, his eyes still open, his breathing inconsistent and quick. His eyes caught hers and she crossed over to him quickly before falling to her knees heavily.
Grabbing her father's hand as she had done to her mother, she looked into his eyes.
"W-who did this to you? To our family? Where's Ludo and Caritan?"
He shook his head at the mention of her lively and often insufferable brothers. What she would not give to be the brunt of their jests or watch as they planned something devious for a village-dweller before suffering the wrath of said villager after they executed some trick.
"It was a quick end. They did not see it coming. Do not worry, my child, for they are in a better place."
"This can't be happening," she muttered to herself in disbelief, her eyes searching for a way to save her father whose life was ebbing from his body slowly but surely.
"Lehlina," he softly spoke which earned her attention once more. "I know I have never allowed you to venture far from our home, but your safety now depends on it. Go to Mirkwood. I know you remember the path. You were always so eager to pour over maps of the land with me, my bright and inquisitive daughter. I had hoped to one day take you myself, but now you must go alone."
Lehlina angrily shook her head.
"No, father, we shall go together!"
"I cannot my child. You must flee before they find you, for they will surely end you as well."
He reached his bloody hand to the small wooden cabinet next to him. He opened the door, and began pawing at a loose section at the bottom under soft fabrics. Leaning over, she began to help him and together they pried off a section and she stared in disbelief at an item wrapped up in a light grey cloth. Wide eyes turning to him, he nodded at her and coughed weakly.
Quickly unwrapping the cloth, she held her breath as she pulled out a beautiful necklace. It was a thick silver chain and in the middle of it, was a crystal heart. Her eyes glossed over the item but confusion ruled her thoughts. She knew she had never seen her mother wear this, but was startled as to why as it was so lovely. Could it have belonged to someone else? How was this first time she had seen it?
"This was your mother's," he began though his eyes did not completely meet hers as if the truth he spoke was only a half-truth. " It will bring you good luck. We were waiting for the right moment to give it to you but I believe that sadly now is the time. Do not wear it openly, however, my young one. There are so many things you do not know or understand yet. My only regret is that I will not be here to help you with your journey. We should have told you sooner."
The girl continued to shake her head in confusion and anger. Nothing he said was making any sense to her. Were these words just deluded thoughts and ramblings of a dying man?
"I do not understand," she trailed off lamely.
"There will be those who know your tale. Some will aid you while others will seek to destroy you and take what is rightfully yours. You must cling to those who would lead you home. They can help you assemble the truth. Be careful with who you trust. Follow your heart, as you always do, and your course will remain true." His eyes began to close and panic surged through her body.
"Father, please no. You cannot leave!" She spoke hastily at the sight of him leaning his head back.
"Follow your heart, little one. I love you so much. At the end of all of this, please remember that we did love you."
And with that, he breathed his last breath and his body relaxed. Painfully, Lehlina placed her fingers on her father's eyes and closed them.
Lehlina now sat uncomfortably on Koto. Her breathing had become ragged, and her skin had become drenched in sweat. Nearly a day had passed and they still had not stopped. Lehlina leaned down and whispered to Koto to stop at the next stream and drink for he had deserved it. Koto grudgingly accepted knowing that he would need it in order to continue, but Lehlina could not force herself to move off of the horse. Koto understood and only drank for a little while, eager to continue on the journey for her sake.
Thinking back to her home, the only place she had known, a tear slipped down her cheek. Her father and mother loved to travel and explore the many realms, but when she was born they decided to make a home in the small village she had just left behind. Her father never wanted her to leave their beautiful village, for he worried of her safety. It had begun to bore her staying in one place, but she listened to her father's commands and pleas. If he only would have known of what the future held for them there. Another tear escaped her eye and mournfully traveled down her cheek once more. Her thoughts were interrupted when the pain began to inevitably worsen. She had lost a lot of blood and was gradually growing cold. Hours later, she began trembling and kept coughing up blood. The arrow must have been poisoned for she was obtaining a fever as well.
Prepared to give up hope, Lehlina closed her eyes.
"Awake sweet child, do not slumber now," whispered a soft and unfamiliar voice through the wind and rustle of the leaves. The girl's eyes opened and she saw what she had assumed was Mirkwood. The descriptions her father had given her did no justice to the wood realm. Letting out a pant of relief the girl sighed and another tear rolled down her dirty cheek; however, black dots began to form in front of her eyes before she could even begin to appreciate the true beauty of the land looming before her eyes.
Oh no, not now, not when I'm so close, she thought. She continued to fight but her body had become too weak. Her body tilted to the side and she fell onto the ground as Koto halted completely and whinnied in alarm. Her eyes swirling with sorrow, she looked up at the beautiful sky as the sun shone down upon her face through the treetops. Lehlina knew that that was the last time she would ever see it again and finally, reluctantly, shut her eyes as her mind tried to conjure up images of happier times.
A tall, lithe elf clad in green and brown sat in a tree looking out at the open field. His piercing blue eyes swept the land slowly as he was deeply immersed in thought. Usually acutely aware of his surroundings, he let his minder wander to the talk he had experienced earlier that morning with his father. They could sense the impending dark days ahead of all Middle Earth. His eyes began to finally drink in the sights as if it would be his last time. How long until the land became scarred with the remnants of war? Would it reach Mirkwood, or rather, when? There was a council to be held soon in Rivendell and an agreement had been reached that he should attend as a representative of Mirkwood.
Before he had a chance to dwell further on the future event, he snapped his head up when he heard faint hoof beats, his eyes narrowing in immediately to the source. Remaining in the tree, he watched as a figure mounted on a horse came into view. He prepared to quietly draw his bow and aim at them when he realized that the form was slumping over. Lowering the bow, he gazed as the body tumbled off of the horse and onto the earth.
Immediately, the elf hopped out of the tree swiftly and soundlessly. Running toward the figure, he listened as the magnificent horse let forth a panicked cry and had stopped and turned around to look at his rider. He lifted his hands to attempt to quell the restless horse that kept rising on its back legs and pounding the earth between the woman and the stranger. Clearly he was protecting the fallen figure and the presence of a new individual was unwelcome to the horse.
"Avo 'osto (fear not)," he spoke calmly and smoothly. The horse began to immediately settle sensing that this man meant no harm though he was still wary of him. The horse stood firmly near his rider, but finally allowed the elf to come closer.
As he neared the prone body, he lowered his hands and slowly knelt down before carefully examining the figure. His eyes took in the blood seeping through the fabric that had roughly been tied around a gaping wound on the back. His well-trained eyes immediately deduced that an arrow had pierced the pale and sweaty flesh. His hands ghosted across the fabric and caught slightly in the long tangled mess of hair that was caked with blood and dirt.
Slowly but gently, he rolled the still body over careful not to let her back touch the ground completely. His eyes swept across her face and noticed that cuts adorned it, possibly from branches whipping at her during her journey. He noticed that although her ears were pointed, she seemed mostly human. Her skin was not in perfect condition and she had a few spots that were marred with small scars she must have earned during her childhood and adolescence. Her face was covered with light freckles and her slightly plump lips were parched and cracked. He noticed that her chest was rising just barely and that she was making a valiant effort to hang on to life.
Realizing that he was wasting time trying to place where she could have come from or of what race she truly belonged to, he picked up her limp form and made to climb onto the horse. Understanding his attention, he grudgingly allowed the stranger onto his back and began to immediately trot towards Mirkwood once they were settled. The movement jostled the young woman in his arms into consciousness yet again.
Lehlina slowly blinked her eyes open and looked up to see a male carrying her upon the back of a horse, which she assumed was Koto. At first, through her confusion, she had hoped it was her oldest brother.
"Ludo?" she whispered.
His eyes drifted down to her with a look of slight concern mixed with a hint of curiosity as to her identity.
No, she thought hopelessly as her world came crashing down once more, not Ludo. Before she surrendered to the darkness once again, she noticed that he had the most extravagant blue eyes she had ever seen.
Moments later, the elf sailed off of the horse and ran to the gates. The fact that she had woken, if only for a little bit, brought him a faint glimmer of hope. To be honest, he was quite startled when he saw that the girl who was near death's door was obviously fighting so hard to stay in this life. He wondered about the one word she spoke when she gazed upon him. Ludo. A name most likely, but of what relation was she to her? It was someone close with the tender way she spoke the name. Shaking his head, he continued on with haste.
"Edro in ennyn (open the gates)!" He shouted as he ran towards the gates. The guards immediately did so and looked perplexed as they watched him run by carrying the prone form. Moments later, he burst through the doors of the healing chambers and startled the elves working within. Walking to one bed, he gently set the woman down on it.
"Her back has been pierced with an arrow, and I believe it to have been poisoned. I know not how long she has been this way, but you must hurry."
Arodeth listened patiently as he breathed out this information. Her blonde hair was pinned up, and her somewhat aged face held a kindness that many experienced and weary healers lacked. Once he finished, she instructed one of the healers to summon the king for she could see that his son would not make any attempt to leave just yet. She turned around and began to examine her patient as the room remained quiet after the healer walked hurriedly from the room to call upon Thranduil.
"This poor child," she said to herself softly. "We need to get her on her stomach," she spoke firmly to those working around her.
Legolas intercepted those who made to help her and strode forward before gently rolling her onto her stomach. Without thinking, he pushed the hair from her face and had the decency to turn away as his cheeks colored when he noticed Arodeth look at him and smile in slight confusion. He stepped back and cleared his throat, embarrassed.
"I'm afraid I will be needing to open the back of her dress. If you will, hîr nín (my lord), excuse yourself. I will inform you and the King as soon as I am finished," she addressed him as she motioned for those around to prepare to begin their duties to heal the young woman brought to them.
He nodded, and with one last look at the mysterious woman, he left the chambers. He padded down the empty hall softly and awaited the arrival of his father as questions whirled through his mind. Was the woman a traveler who had been ambushed on her journey, or was there a nearby attack? What could this mean for Mirkwood? Realizing the selfish turn his thoughts had taken, he returned to questioning who she could possibly be and what horrors she could have experienced. If she made it through, would she be pleased at the fact or would she drift through her days in a fog? Who would have attacked an unarmed and unimposing woman and why? His mind whirled continuously with questions he would not discover the answer to for some time, if at all.
With a sigh, he turned at the sound of his father approaching and all questions ceased for the moment.
"Legolas," he stated as he briskly closed the distance between them. "What is the meaning of all this? Who is this woman of whom they speak?" he asked roughly, but not unkindly.
"She arrived alone, unarmed and severely wounded. I know not who she is or even what race she may belong to, but all questions will have to wait until she is healed though she may not be very forthcoming."
His father faced the door and stood proudly with his hands clasped behind his back and looked to be pondering something.
"Why do you question her race?"
This snapped Legolas out of his own reverie as he crossed his arms over his chest and considered the question. He did not expect this to his father's first concern, but he always had a strange way about him. A king had to be careful of who he trusted. After all, this woman could very well be an enemy who they just willingly invited into their home and were in the process of aiding. Whatever she was or would become to them, they could not leave her to die.
"Most of her qualities are human, but her ears are pointed and her eyes are like nothing I have ever seen."
His father turned his head to him and he tensed up immediately. Legolas noticed this and he slid his eyes over to him curiously. This statement seemed to stir some sort of internal conflict within his father.
"What of them?" he asked, attempting to keep a neutral tone and stance but Legolas was not fooled.
"They are a light brown," he began but paused as he remembered briefly staring into the wild eyes of the woman he carried not too long ago. How very strange they were, he thought to himself.
"Indeed that must have been shocking to see something other than the grey or blue ones of the elves," his father interrupted with a hint of teasing.
Clearing his throat, he continued on with a singular detail that immediately caught his father's interest – "her right eye had a miniscule patch of violet." His father could no longer hold his composure as his hands came unclasped and swung to his sides limply and his eyes widened considerably.
"It cannot be," he said quietly before lifting his right hand and rubbing his chin in contemplation. "Perhaps it is just a coincidence," he spoke to himself, seemingly forgetting his son stood in his presence. Before Legolas could pose his next question, his father straightened and passed him.
"Forgive me, my son, but I must leave you for now."
And with that, he swept down the hall from where he came, leaving a perplexed elf in his wake.