Elrond had been busy treating a wounded elf and making him more comfortable when he felt Glorfindel lay his hand on his shoulder. When the Elf Lord straightened and looked at his friend, all the blonde elf did was nod his head in the direction of the road behind the healer. Deep in his heart Elrond knew what he would see when he turned ... what wanted to see when he turned. One last time he looked at the Gondolin elf for reassurance and when he saw his friend smile, he knew in his heart that when he did finally turn around and looked behind him, everything would be all right.
He took a deep breath, gathering himself lest his father's heart betray him and let him shed the tears that were trying so hard to escape his eyes. Finally, it was done and he had turned to face the road that led to this tent that served as temporary House of Healing.
He gasped quietly at the sight that met his eyes. Five riders ... yes, five riders were approaching the tent in whose entrance he now stood. When he noted that all five rode their own horses which meant they were well enough to ride by themselves, he sent a silent prayer of thanks to Ilúvatar, not only for their safe return but also because they were relatively in one piece. In silent tribute, those who had been gathered outside the tent stood out, of respect, and moved aside to make a path for the returning warriors.
The five, with Anayah in front, stopped a horse-length in front of him. Taking her sword from the saddle scabbard, she raised it in front of her in a salute, as a token of respect for the victorious Battle Commander as well as a sign that the battle was finally over. It was only Glorfindel's steadying hand on his shoulder that kept him from breaking down when the other four riders did the same.
Every warrior who could, Kings, Lords, Elves, Men and Wizards clapped their hands to show their support and appreciation for the job he had done, and in turn, Elrond spread his arms wide indicating, and rightfully so, that the victory and honors belonged to them all.
Finally, the riders dismounted and Anayah ran to her foster-father and threw her arms around his neck, her own wounds forgotten for the moment. The Noldor Lord hugged her fiercely, so very thankful that she, her three brothers and her friend had returned to him safely. Holding his arms out to the others he somehow managed to pull them all to him.
After some moments, Glorfindel got the attention of the three brothers and the Mirkwood Prince and led them into the tent so that the healers could begin treating their wounds. They were happy just to be drawing breath but now that the conflict was over, the four of them were beginning to feel their pain as the adrenaline that had been keeping them going for some time slowly receded.
Elrond finally held his foster-daughter away from him so that he could get a good look at her. There were tears in his eyes when he saw then tenderly touched the darkening bruises on her face. He hugged her to him one last time before the healer inside of him finally took over and he put an arm around her shoulders and helped her inside so that he could begin tending to her.
It had been a very long day for everyone but the time had finally come for the healing process to begin.
Later that evening, still unable to rest, Anayah took a walk and soon found herself sitting on a rocky outcropping about half of a mile above the battle site. She had a clear view of the valley and for some time she just sat and watched as those elves and men who could, began packing up the supplies and equipment to take back to Imladris. During the time she sat there watching the activity taking place, the sun had begun to set.
She heard the sounds of soft elvish footsteps behind her but though she did not turn to greet the elf, she nevertheless knew who it was that approached. She smiled. Legolas stood quietly for some moments, waiting for permission to join her. Finally, without looking at him, she patted the rock beside her, signaling for him to sit.
They sat silently for a time in companionable silence, just watching the sun and letting the natural healing energy of the surrounding forest wash over them. After some time, she sighed and though he looked in her direction as she did so, Legolas remained silent, knowing she would speak when she was ready.
"Many good beings lost their lives today." Her words were filled with the sadness that her heart was feeling.
"They died with honor." Legolas replied quietly. "They were noble beings fighting and dying for a noble cause."
She looked at him frowning.
"Was it really such a noble cause, Legolas? Tell me what is so noble about a father not coming home to his wife and children. What is so noble about stealing the life of an immortal, a tiny bird or a horse, for Eru's sake!" She found herself getting angry at everything and had to wipe the tears of anger and frustration from her eyes.
Legolas put a comforting arm around her and she leaned her head against his shoulder.
"I'm already tired of it all and it has only started."
Legolas nodded but did not speak.
"I don't know if I can do this, Legolas. It hurts too much."
He laid his chin on the top of her head and thought carefully about what to say that might be of comfort to her. Finally, sighing, he spoke.
"If I said that it will all get better, I would be lying. I have been a warrior for a very long time and I can honestly tell you that the pain you are feeling at this moment is a good thing."
She looked at her friend as if he had lost his mind but otherwise remained silent. He continued.
"Pain lets you know you are alive and keeps you from losing your perspective, from losing sight of the values that you hold most dear. If, in 1,000 years you can still feel this kind of pain after a battle, and you can still find yourself capable of mourning the passing of a life, then it means that you still value life. So, by that reasoning, to feel pain like this can never be a bad thing."
She smiled sadly at her friend then, tapping him lightly on the chest with a forefinger to emphasize her words, she said, "You are a very wise 'old' elf. I hope you know that Legolas Greanleaf!"
He smiled and was about to reply when arms came around the two of them from behind. Elladan kissed Anayah on top of the head then sat down beside her. Legolas raised an eyebrow and glared at Elrohir who raised his hands in surrender then sat down on the elf's right.
"I am not even considering it."
"I hope not," was Legolas's stony reply.
"But I am!" A kiss was planted on the top of Legolas's head by Aragorn who shouldered Elrohir to one side so he could sit by his friend.
"Ada is about ready to leave and he sent us to get you two. Anayah, Ada wants you to go home and get some rest." Elladan squeezed her shoulder lightly.
"Someone's getting sent to her room." Aragorn teased. He was rewarded for his efforts when his sister reached around Legolas's back and playfully punched him in the arm.
The playful banter was followed by several moments of silence as the five of them watched the sun slide gracefully behind the mountains. Then they all rose, getting ready to walk back to the camp to retrieve their grazing horses and begin the ride back to Imladris.
It seemed like a year since they had left, though it had been but predawn of this day when they had ridden out from their home, full of energy and nervous anticipation. Now, they were all tired, physically and emotionally and all wanted nothing more than to eat a hot meal, soak in a hot bath and go to sleep in a warm bed. By mutual consent, they all rose and turned to leave.
Anayah turned to look over her shoulder one last time at the sunset, then, with a sad smile said, "It is over."
When an old woman and her granddaughter arrive in Rivendell, it is the start of a bizarre adventure that will truly test the boundaries of reality. Reality itself will split and everything will be mired in chaos. The duality of the natural world will split. And what does an arrogant white wizard have to do with any of it?
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