For all their dedication and support, my greatest thanks to all my readers - You're the best!
sunshine - Whew! Glad you liked the chapter. I was worried the battle just wasn't...hm..good enough, I suppose. Happy you liked it! The Mage is coming along slowly, lol. Thanks!
ScottishYem - I like you name, heh! Organized? Wow, that is something no one has ever called me, lol! Thanks! And that is one big compliment. Pushing good Ol' Hal over the bar of Leggy...Whew. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment!
Dazzler420 - Me? Enjoy torture? Why never! Haldir shudders. Jo glares. "Shut up." Lol, at least you won't have to worry about any further cliffies for this story...sorta. Yay! I surprised you with Ana's gifts! Claps in joy Thanks so much for your support on this entire fic. Hugs
tree topper - Eek! Well, I can't tell you at the moment if it is a tragedy or not, but I do hope that everyone will like the ending. I'm mostly pleased with it. I agree. Abandoned fics are worse than sad ones if you ask me. I hate seeing a fic just floundering about after years. Especially one with a good plot! I hate that! I hope you enjoy this last chapter. Thanks so much for your support and encouragement!
Diadora - Oh! I hate it when I do that jumping thing! I always curse myself afterwards for doing that. However, it's good to hear that I made another reader do that too, heh! Yeah, Ashk and Haldir just have crummy luck, really. I almost feel bad for them. I hope you enjoy this chapter! Thanks for everything!
Raider-K - Yes, I almost traded Donavon over to the 'dark side' but decided against it for further use of the boy. Heh! Evil grin I'm glad you liked that chapter so much. I was quite worried about it. Wow! I was put on a C2 list? Thanks!
Arquera - lol! I can't tell you if it's happy or not yet, but I hope you like it. Yes, the kids will provide for a lot of fun little fics after this, hehe. A sequel is a possibility, but for now I am only focusing on the short years with small fics. Haha! We authors can always make bad go to worse, this is true, heh! Umm..If I understand you correctly, no it will not be. Different era, different plot, different Haldir and co. I read your story and left a review. Thanks for your input!
snakefeather - LOL! I really did laugh when I read that first line of your review. People looked at me funny at work. I was like, "Erm..." I am glad you approve of Ana getting Aluna's powers. I'd hoped no one would flip because of that. I have big plans for that little girl - Mwhaha! Thanks so much for all your reviews and comments. They've really helped. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Gah...this is sad...and this music I am listening to has just got to go ("The Village" soundtrack). Thanks again! Oh, and that list of favorite stories will be put on my bio sometime in the near future. I will let you know.
moxie - Yep, Little Ana has some big steps to take. Aww! I'm sorry. When I read that "last update" thing, even I was sad! Yes, Haldir ff will continue from me. The Mage is in progress and small fics spinning from this one are also churning. Thanks so much for that great compliment! I used to think I was such a bad writer, but you guys have helped so much! Thanks again!
Miraen - Bargh! Blinks I can't tell you if I did or did not! Heh, yeah, Meriel was one wacked out guy, no? Feel bad for him in a way, but he creeps me out and I created the freak! Oh, yes. Moriana has some big tasks to take in her lifetime. Mwhhaha! Thanks so much for the comments!
DMH1973 - Aww...That made me feel bad for giving Haldir such a hard time. I'm so mean to that Elf. Haldir looks hopeful for a better round in the next fic. Jo raises a brow. "Don't count on it, buddy." Haldir sighs. I hope you like this last chapter! Thanks for all the reviews!
varda101 - Eep! You guys are all scaring me with the happy ending demands! However, I hope this ending will be good for everyone! Soap opera? Hmm...Lol! Thanks for all your comments - They've been great!
Anonymous - Well, thank you. I hope you will continue to enjoy any further work I put out here. Thanks for your comments!
Pippinsgal011890 - Whew! That chapter didn't disappoint. I'm glad. Yes, that is what happened to Little Ana. Happy to see that it surprised you. She has a big role to play in further fics from this one. It's not so much as sad...it's just..I don't know. Just made me sad at some points. Possibility of tissues needed, you've been warned. Just in case. Ouch, finals. Hope this helps! Thanks for everything!
toratigergirl11 - Blinks in dismay Oh dear...Umm...Did I upset you? I'm sorry! No, no! No hurting the author. That's not good. I have to write! Heh, I'm glad you...Well, I think you did enjoy the last chapter, right? Heh. Thanks for all your comments and encouragement. They've been well used. Thanks again!
Ms. Unknown - Yes, unfortunately I felt the need for another cliffie. Heh. Little Ana was bestowed Aluna's powers if you're confused on that. She's got some big things to do with them too. Heh. Thanks so much for your dedication to the fic - I appreciate it. Thanks!
kati58 - Wow! Thanks! I'm glad you've enjoyed the fic so much. It has been great to write and these characters seem to have developed into my personal favorite so far. Thanks again!
LJP - Ooo, thanks! I was hoping that falling scene was okay. It was a big deal for me - I thought of it from chapter five and on! ...Hmm...Some would call that obsession. Lol! Yeah, Meriel gets the 'Pin the Spear on the Villain' game if he is alive. Bah HA! That was sooo funny! I really did laugh just like that when I read the "noonstar" comment. Felt like an idiot, but it was funny! Thanks for all your comments over this fic. I'm glad I gained you as a reader. Hope to see you next time!
Laer4572 - Sings "She's got the Power!" ...Erm, sorry. Just got done watching Bruce Almighty with cousins and when I read that, it came to mind, heh. Donavon was nearly turned over to the 'darkside' by the author. But, I couldn't do that to him. Yeah, Ashk and Haldir have got some crap for luck. Guess you'll see how they get out of this one...or if they do. Evil laugh. Well, thanks for all the comments you've submitted - I enjoy them. Hugs
pamie884 - Whew! You liked the fight scene. I'm glad. I was worried about it. Heh, I enjoy those cliffhangers every now and then. Lol! Haha! Aw, Ashk. That poor human, I pick on her bad. She might have a chance if she gets out of this mess though. Guess we'll all see what my mind conjures up. Hope you like this chapter - Thanks for the reviews!
sixty-six - heh! That was the sweetest short review I've ever gotten! Hugs Thanks! And thank you for all your other great comments, you're a wonderful reader to have.
AngelicPhyre - Aw, I'm sorry. Heh. I'm just evil like that. Glad you like the story - Hope you like the ending too! Thanks!
Norie Ape1 - Yay, you liked the chapter! I was worried over it. I hope you like this one too. It's the end! Cries Yep, Little Ana has got a lot to do, heh. Thanks for all your reviews and comments, they've helped a lot.
AmberRose - Really? Wow, thank you! Hope you like this chapter too!
courtney - Oh, thank you. Yes, I try to update for my readers as regular as possible. Being an occasional reader, I don't like to wait. Heh, I'm impatient! I hope that you enjoy this ending for the fic. Thanks for your review!
Scarlett Moonchild - Looks amazed Wow, I really get a crown? Woo! Parades around wearing the crown. That's enjoyable, lol! Heh, thanks for all your support for the story. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Hope you like the ending too - Thanks again!
Coolio02 - Yeah, Galadriel is a quick thinker, no? Heh! She knows what she's doing! Yeah, I put Ashk and Haldir over the cliff in my head since chapter five! Can you believe that? It finally got posted, whew. It was like a weight lifted off me! Thanks for all your support. I hope that you like this chapter. Thanks again!
Lady Alariel - Hmm...That review actually scared me a bit, lol! Just kidding - No, it did. However, I'm glad to see that you enjoy the story just that much! Heh. I hope this chapter helps out with those ulcers and all. Grimaces Thanks for the review!
Julia - haha! That is true! Didn't think of that one. Yeah, Donavon almost, originally went to 'the darkside', but I just couldn't do that to the kid. Yes, Onduras is safe,heh. Hope you like this chapter! Thanks for everything! You've been great!
debra3 - Aww, I'm sorry. I really got ticked when died this morning. It's now the evening and I am hurrying to update this at work. Gah! I hope I don't get caught! Heh, speak your mind! Thanks for the reviews!
Ertia - lmao! That's as close to a real cliffie that I can get, lol! Yes, Moriana has some things to do during her life. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Thanks for your comments!
Muddie21 - LOL! Yeah, I've been told that before. I hope you like this chapter - Thanks for everything!
huntress73 - Yep, Donavon never converted to the 'darkside' originally. But, obviously, I decided against that. Eep! I guess you will just have to see how this story turns out, I can't tell you yet! Oo, I surprised you. Pats self on the back Yep, Moriana's got a lot to do in the future - sequels and spin-offs included, heh! I really hope you like this chapter. Thanks for everything - All your comments and thoughts have been great!
Artemis1860 - EEP! You will know during this chapter! I hope it's okay for ya! THANKS!
berrytenshi - Literally, heh. I hope you enjoy this chapter - I'm nervous about it. Thanks for your review!
Lewdeveen - I did? Aww! I'm sorry. Just wait for this chapter. I cried during it, but I think it was just because it was the last one, lol! I'm so weird. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Thanks for your comments!
Skyfire4 - Erm, I'm sorry. It's sad to say 'last'... Anyway, Whew! I'm glad you liked the battle. I was worried over it. I didn't know if I'd done it quite right. Happy you enjoyed it! Ah, very, very true. I may use that quote sometime. It's very 'wise' sounding. And, like I said, very true. Heh! I hope you like this chapter. Thanks so much for all your comments. I hope you like this chapter!
One Last Note: I really do hope that you guys all know how important you were to the story's forming and continuation. Without you it would have never have been finished. So, without further ado - for all my many Muses - the last chapter:
Chapter Twenty-Six: In the End
"It had nearly been a quarter of an hour - They could be several leagues from here now," Ferevellon whispered to me as if I didn't already know this.
I had to have faith that my brother was all right. I had to believe that Haldir and Ashk would have both survived the fall; that they both would have lived past the fast waters, and avoided the rocks they could crash into.
I felt myself swallow as I looked down the churning river we were on the banks of. The walls of the gorge loomed over us and shadowed the deep river. Only blotches of boulders protruding from the bubbling depths and the occasional passing of ice were all we could see.
I looked up to the top of the gorge where I could hear Lord Celeborn speaking with Donavon. Onduras was safe, Donavon had escaped across the bridge before Haldir and Ashk had even tumbled into the river.
The boy had looked sick when I saw him for a brief moment. The reeking death around him had traumatized him.
"Spread out," I ordered, motioning to everyone on the two banks. Twelve Galadhrim were on one side, twelve on the other. I pointed at Kenmar on the opposite bank. "We're finding them!"
Something was brushing against my legs. Something sharp.
No, something hot.
No...Something cold. Freezing. So cold it almost felt hot.
And the ground below me was moving. Surely it was moving.
My eyes slowly opened, the stones under my body were hard and cold. They weren't moving, of course. Instead, it was me who was moving. I was trembling...I was so cold!
My very breath stung my throat and lungs like knives. I shook so hard I felt the rocks under me bruising. I had to get up…I had to move before I fell asleep and didn't wake up. It had been Ana's greatest fear since the winter she met Ryn.
She had nearly died because of the cold.
I tried to take a deep breath and move, but instead I only seemed to suck in knives of ice and I sputtered, gagging and coughing up water that seeped from my mouth and nose. Gagging again water flowed out of my lungs.
I laid there a moment, my tremors continuing.
Finally, I moved, my entire body aching as I pushed myself up onto my hands and knees. I stayed that way a moment until the sudden dizziness faded and I peered around in the darkness.
Only when I felt that my knees and left wrist were aching did I realize that I had tried to get up and had only fallen down again in the process. I'd nearly broken my wrist on the rocks.
It took an eternity, it seemed, for me to finally get to a stand.
I stared around and saw little more than darkness. Clutching my throbbing wrist to my chest, I staggered forward, barely holding my balance until I finally got off the rocks and felt the soft soil of the earth that didn't trip me as the rocks did.
Did I call for help? Was anyone near?
Turning, I looked upstream. I had come from that way and the Elves will be looking for us.
I spun around, looking over the banks frantically. I looked so frantically I could barely focus as a headache throbbed behind my eyes.
"Haldir…" I breathed, a puff of air clouding in front of me. "Haldir. Haldir!" My voice gradually gained strength and my mind cleared of its fogs.
Should I go downstream?
I turned and looked into the darkness where the river coiled and purred further away.
Should I go upstream?
I spun again and looked the way I'd come where the river slid from.
"Ah, Vala, what do I do?" I whispered into the night, panicked tears entering my eyes. Was he dead?
I looked downstream once more before I had the distinct feeling that someone was behind me.
I swallowed before turning slowly. Far in the distance, there was someone standing alone, staring at me. A woman. No. An Elleth with a gentle glow surrounding her. She had chestnut hair and blue eyes that reminded me of someone I knew but I couldn't decide who.
An unseen wind passed her young features, a dark strand of hair passing over her pale face. Delicate lips slowly curved into a smile as she peered at me. She then raised a hand towards me and motioned for me to near.
Lost and cold, I did as she ordered.
The distance closed before I stumbled over some unseen root. Shaking with the cold, I forced myself back up. But, I didn't see the Elleth who had beckoned me.
Was I mad?
But, as I made a few more paces I gasped at what I saw.
His broad body was crumpled into a heap. The water that passed brushed against his body, bumping the figure that looked so much like a corpse that I felt some horrible sickness overtake me. I rushed forward.
I collapsed next to him. My hands numbly took his face, turning it towards me. His eyes were closed...He didn't sleep with his eyes closed.
"Haldir!" I whispered, not realizing that my hands were nearly blue against his pale skin. "Haldir," I repeated softly, suddenly seeing that his right shoulder was nearly completely soaked in blood. "Oh, no…" Horrible grief suddenly came over me before I shook my head. "No. No. Haldir - Wake up!"
He remained still.
"Wake up!" I cried, tears nearly blinding my vision and I felt a sob rise in my throat.
But, then he moved. It was just a bare movement that made me freeze, watching him. Then, finally, his hand shifted twice and he took a deep breath, his eyes fluttering before those brilliant blue orbs looked at me. I felt myself smile and my trembling hands stroked his face.
"Haldir," I whispered softly.
He stared at me a moment as though he could barely see me before his eyes cleared a bit and he tried to say something. His words were choked aside and I released him as he turned his head aside, water gagging him before splattering on the rocks.
A painful shiver coiled my muscles and my headache blared as I looked upstream, hoping to see some sort of light, some sign that help wasn't far.
I saw nothing.
Looking back to Haldir, my hand moved over the wound on his shoulder. I didn't know when he took the blow, but it was deep now and I couldn't tell if the blood that stained my hand was just what had already bled and was wet from the rain and river, or if he was still bleeding.
Haldir jerked when I pushed my palm onto the wound. His opposite hand immediately clenched over my wrist, but I only had to look at him for him to release me.
"You're shivering," he said softly, his voice drawn as though he was tired. That slacked voice frightened me and his eyes almost looked shadowed...but perhaps it was just the darkness of the night.
"I'll be all right," I whispered to him.
He looked as though he was going to say something, but noise stopped him. Somewhere downstream, there was a loud noise. It sounded like cackling…What was that?
I looked at Haldir in question, fearful of that sudden alarm in his own eyes. He shifted suddenly, pain surfacing on his face.
"We need to move. Go upstream," he told me urgently.
I was shocked, but as another echo came from downstream, I nodded and helped him to a stand - as unbalanced as it was. I let him stand on his own for a moment before he teetered dangerously to the left.
"Easy!" I exclaimed, grabbing his arm. Wary of his wounded shoulder, I ducked under his arm, forcing him to lean on me.
"Don't start," I warned, knowing he was going to tell me not to bother.
He swallowed whatever he was going to say and I tried to ignore that I could no longer feel my legs as we stammered further upstream.
I didn't know how far we went, or what it was he was trying to keep me talking about as the rain began once again, but when Haldir had quieted I knew I couldn't keep him walking much longer. He'd lost too much blood.
And I was right. Not but a dozen paces later, he slacked and nearly his entire weight was leaned on me. I held on a few steps before one small dip in the earth buckled my right leg and we toppled forward.
At first I had no idea what had happened or where I was. For a moment I was utterly confused until a grasp that was normally strong weakly clasped over my uninjured wrist.
I rolled over slowly, my left hand pulled against me while I awkwardly shifted my weight enough to move towards Haldir.
There was fresh blood staining his cloak, just where the hinge of his armor parted for his shoulder and I felt despair creeping in.
"Go on," he told me as that hideous laughter east of us echoed once again. Others answered the strange cackling and hooting and it struck fear deep inside me. But when I looked at Haldir, I only shook my head.
"I'm not leaving," I said, my voice breaking with the tremors that overtook me.
"No, Haldir," I interrupted him, my voice sounding as though I was sobbing or was about to, and I didn't know if it was either case. "Don't ask me to leave."
He stared at me a moment and the rain continued to shower down in a steady downpour. No thunder rumbled the clouds, no lightning. It was just a steady, quiet, deadly rain.
Finally, he grasped my hand with some resignation in his eyes.
And as was the end of many tragic stories, I only laid my head on his chest in silence, listening to his heart beat as the cold of the rain and autumn shook through me like convulsions.
And as with the end of so many tragic tales, I closed my eyes while the echo of the creatures in the distance no longer struck fear into my heart. Instead some sort of strange closure came over me as I waited, knowing my fate.
Yet, somewhere in the silence of my mind and the darkness of my closed eyes, I saw something. I heard a tiny voice so distant. Little eyes bright with life and curiosity for everything looked at me. Innocent giggles of youth and the sight of children sleeping soundly in the night taunted me.
My daughter and son would have to live their lives without their parents if I slept now. If I gave up, letting both Haldir and I drift away into a dreamless, unwaking sleep, they would never remember us. They would never know the lessons we were supposed to teach them nor yearn for our voices in the nights when they woke from nightmares.
We would abandon them if we remained this way…
My eyes opened and the rain had slowed slightly. It took a moment, but I shifted and took a breath. "Haldir?"
"I am awake," he told me, but his voice was tired and drifting. His hand brushed by my cheek with an icy touch before he laxed again, his breathing even.
"Haldir - This isn't supposed to end like this," I told him, knowing if I could talk to him and keep him awake, I would stay awake as well. And help would come, eventually...I prayed it would come.
He sighed and coughed. A moment later he shook his head slightly. "No, it wasn't," he told me softly. "Not like this."
Maybe it was the cold or the way my mind seemed so foggy, but I smiled softly as the rain faded away to only a sprinkling dance. "You know how my ending goes?" I asked, my voice sounding like a young child's.
"How?" Haldir asked, the question so distant I felt tears prick my eyes. Could I not save him?
"We're rescued soon," I told him, taking on that tone I had when I told Onduras a story. "And within days we are healed, and we go home." The word home seemed to quench a bit of my shivers and I felt myself smile again. "Ana is happy to see us and she and her brother are just as perfect as ever.
"Days pass and family suddenly doesn't seem so bad to you anymore. Maybe we rebuild the house...Or maybe you let the twins and I live in Lorien - Wouldn't that be beautiful?"
He didn't reply and I felt tears burn in my eyes before streaming down my cheeks, but my fairy tale wasn't complete yet. Not yet.
"I love you," I said softly. "And in my ending, you love me too..." Horrible, choking despair wound around me and my hand clenched in the slack of his cloak. "And we have a wedding, Haldir - A real one. Can't you see it?"
My own voice sounded like a dream. "Little Ana's the flower girl…She walks so well by then. And Onduras," I smiled, "He carries the rings. They're not fancy rings...Woven bands maybe, like my parents..." My voice faded and for a moment, I would swear that I could see it all as plain as day.
"We don't worry about the day I will die and leave you here," I added softly. "Because that doesn't matter. All those days before then, they're all that matter. Our children, they matter. Everything we create, Haldir...All of that will last beyond my days. We'd live on just for tomorrow...I just want tomorrow."
Silence followed, but his chest still rose and fell with each breath of air.
The sky cleared and when I looked above, I felt as though some sort of peace fell over me.
"I'm not cold anymore," I whispered. My shivering had ended some moments before. "I'm not cold."
Light...Flickering light. Fire. Torches maybe?
Loud voices. Faces I knew but couldn't remember.
Hands grabbed me, hauling me up yet I felt nothing.
Something cold ripped away from my grasp and when I looked, I only saw some strange figure strewn on the ground.
Didn't I know that figure?
Pale as snow when she should have been tan...Chestnut hair frosted with ice, one arm lying where I had just been.
I tried to say her name. I tried to gain the air in my lungs to speak out against whoever this was moving me away from her, but I couldn't hear my own voice.
Why were they leaving her! Why did no one take her too!
The voices were loud now. The grip on me was strong and controlling. I felt nothing more than that though. I stared at that frozen body as I was moved away, feeling as though I was being dragged away from the one thing I wanted to stay close to.
Who were these people? Why did I feel as though I should know them?
Then, near that pale corpse, I saw someone familiar kneel down beside her. Slowly, my brother's arms slid around her, lifting her from the ground.
Ashk didn't move. Her head lulled back, her hair dripping what seemed like icicles. That pale blue hand that had been in mine dangled limply even as Orophin shifted her, her tilting head to pillow against his shoulder.
"Haldir - Easy...You will be all right," a distinctly familiar voice told me.
My brother's griefstricken face told me otherwise. He just held her, staring at Ashk with a horrible look of regret and grief in his eyes.
No, I wouldn't be all right. Not if Ashk didn't have her story's end. Not if I didn't have mine...
My thoughts faded away into nightmares as darkness reigned over my eyes once more.
Surely they were both dead, I'd thought. No living person could look like they did and still breathe in life.
It had taken much longer than we thought to find the two. Nearly an hour passed before we spotted them. They had been swept downstream four leagues from their original fall.
When Kenmar had declared he spotted them, relief had come over us all. However, an ominous, dreadful silence had soon followed as we all crossed the river only to see two frosty bodies laid on the banks of the cold river.
They were both were pale and unmoving. I had feared death immediately before I moved close enough to see that Haldir was still breathing.
He'd regained a small sliver of consciousness when we'd moved him...But it was hardly coherent. He looked at us as though he didn't know who we were nor what we were doing there.
And when he realized he was away from Ashk, he called for her as though the end of the world had come. His fight was weak, and it broke me to see him in such a way; pained, weak, desperate, and confused. That was not my brother.
At first, we'd all been so distracted with trying to calm him down that Ashk had momentarily been ignored. But, when I turned to see what it was my brother was trying to reach for, she laid so still, so starkly blue and white that I was nearly certain of her fate.
I forced myself to go to her when no other would. Putting my arms around her had been as though pulling an icicle from the ground itself. She had not moved and I felt an unbearable grief take me over as she was limp and lifeless in my arms.
Vala, how could this happen?
My knees shook, my grief making me tremble.
Then, by some miracle, her eyes opened for just the briefest of moments and I couldn't help myself but to smile at her. Her lips, blue with the cold, curved and smiled at me before she closed her eyes again.
Now, I watched from a short distance as Celeborn and three other Galadhrim struggled to hold Ashk down to the ground. The Lord of the Wood had warned that the cold had soaked into her and it would be painful to heat her body once more. But if they didn't she would surely die...
I hadn't known would be so painful for her. She acted as though the blankets they piled on her were set aflame while the fire they kept her close to scalded her. Neither of which were true, but that didn't mean her cries didn't pain me.
Haldir stirred as his shoulder was being stitched and I looked down at him, kneeling swiftly at his side.
He looked confused and I frowned before Ashk's cries escalated and her son's own wails not far away replied. Haldir's eyes all too quickly cleared and narrowed.
"Easy, brother," I said quietly as he moved to get up, interrupting the Galadhrim who had once been a healer in the middle of stitching his shoulder.
The Elf looked at me and I knew he was telling me to keep him still. Haldir's shoulder would heal within the next two days, but irritating it would only cause trouble. And with the amount of blood lost, Haldir didn't need to be straining himself.
"Stay down," I instructed, my hand pushing against his uninjured shoulder.
"Stay down?" he rasped and I knew his voice would be taut and angry if only he had the energy. "What is…" The obvious shock on his face was not from the noise around him, but from how winded he became just trying to speak.
"Haldir, calm down," I told him. "You're injured - We've made a safe camp until we can ride for Rivendell."
It would take the entire following day to reach Rivendell, but we had better luck getting to that city than back across the mountains without one of the two dying in the process.
My muscles in my back coiled at the thought, but I fought not to shudder.
"Hold her down!" Lord Celeborn's voice was strict and demanding - filled with worry.
I glanced over my shoulder only to see Ashk bucking and pulling against the Galadhrim who only wanted to help. I shook my head.
Many of the Galadhrim among the company had once been trained as healers and they were all optimistic that both Ashk and my brother would live. However, until they were both out of the shadows of their injuries, I would remain as distraught as I was now.
I found some relief that when I looked to back to my brother. He had lost consciousness again. It was probably for the better, I mused. I sighed slightly before glancing up to see dawn peeking over the plains we had reached. I could not wait for this fiasco to be over...For all of us to just go home.
So, in for a long wait, I settled myself beside my unconscious brother and waited for this storm to pass.
It was nearly dawn when a stretching silence finally caught my attention.
Lifting my head from the arms it had apparently fallen on, I glanced around the small camp. A handful of Galadhrim stirred about while most were resting.
Near the now peaceful looking Ashk, Lord Celeborn was obviously struggling to stay awake. I smiled at the sight. Some said the Elven Lord was a bit on the stringent side, but he had his gentle times.
I raised a brow as Donavon moved quietly among the strangers around him. In his arms was my nephew whom he placed gently near his mother. The boy looked at Lord Celeborn, a mutual understanding of guardianship passing between them.
Then the boy simply stood, shifted the pack on his back, and walked away.
I frowned and moved swiftly to stand and follow.
"Leaving so soon?" I asked, peering at his back.
Donavon stopped but did not face me. He finally shook his head. "I can't stay," he told me.
"You are welcome here, Donavon, you know that," I said, nearing him. "You will not be punished for the wrongs of your kin."
He was quiet a moment before his nearly inaudible answer replied to me. "It's not that…It's that some part of me wonders if it was wrong that I should be punished," he said. "And for that, I leave."
"You would never hurt Ashk nor that child," I said firmly as I now stood before him even as he avoided my gaze. "I know that - As do they."
Donavon only shook his head. The boy looked so lost as he glanced around himself. He shifted the pack on his shoulder and when he looked west. His eyes glittered in unshed tears.
"I am sorry for all the problems I caused," he said softly, his eyes sliding to the ground at my feet. "I know..." He stopped as though he was unable to find his words. He then shook his head. "I just can't forgive him, my Lord...I can't. I tried."
My sympathy nearly choked me but I nodded. "I know, Donavon," I told him gently. "Perhaps one day you will be able to."
I knew the boy was still too confused about what to feel towards my brother. Each time I'd seen him look at the unconscious Warden since his rescue, something between sadness and anger entered his eyes.
And I imagined that was what led to this decision to leave and to continue west on his own.
"Perhaps," Donavon echoed me, glancing upward to my eyes. "I don't want to be vengeful...I saw what it does," he said, his voice quivering.
"You're better than that, Donavon," I said, my hand reaching up and squeezing his shoulder. "You've already proved that."
The child seemed unconvinced before I sighed slightly. "You've grown up, Donavon. You will find your path soon," I advised - words my father had said to me on more than one occasion... And words Haldir had repeated many times.
Donavon slowly nodded before he glanced towards Ashk. She was still asleep even as her son had curled himself to her under the numerous blankets she had strewn about. Her breathing no longer stung my ears, and no more tears streamed from her eyes.
"Tell Ashk..." Donavon paused, searching for his words slowly. Finally, he just shook his head. "Tell her thank you," he told me. He tried to add something more before shrugging in frustration.
I smiled. "She will know what you mean," I told him. "Perhaps one day you will see her again."
Donavon smiled just briefly and nodded.
Then, abruptly, he turned west and walked away. I didn't bother to request he take a horse. It was obvious he wanted nothing but himself and a horizon on his trip. So, he only strolled onward with an old pack on his back and the shadows of a fallen moon to walk towards.
I watched him a time, some sort of saddened turmoil filling me. The boy was still confused, and he had the right to be. But, by any grace of the Valar, he'd find his place. I truly hoped the sight of him walking away in some lonely tale would not be the last I would see of that wary boy.
Glancing up at the sun that was slowly rising, I knew it was time to leave this little camp and continue on towards Rivendell.
I woke thinking of chores. What I knew I needed to do before I went to work in the afternoon. Tending the twins, sorting through Black's daily issues, dealing with that stubborn cow and those jittery goats.
But, it didn't take long for me to realize I had no need to worry over such thoughts.
The sound of water - rushing water - was rustling into my ears like leaves crunching together. The crackle of a fire accompanied that steady sound.
And, beside me, I heard pages turning gently.
My eyes opened only to be greeted with a stabbing headache even with the small hint of light in the room.
Peering around with that jolting thumping behind my eyes, I spotted the source of what woke me. It was Orophin, idly flipping through a book that, even from my distance, smelled of dust and age.
I tried to say his name, but it just came out as a raspy croak that surprised him so suddenly that he dropped the book with a resounding thud on the wooden floor.
I laughed, actually coughing before he forced me to down a vile tasting drink. It was so vile that my eyes watered and I sputtered.
"Orophin, that is disgusting," I hissed at him, gagging slightly. He only grinned.
"It brought your voice back though," he said, putting the chalice down and pulling up a chair at my bedside. I frowned as I glanced towards a window, all this seeming so strange. Had I not been under the stars, freezing and dying only a short time ago?
"We're in Rivendell," Orophin told me.
"Rivendell?" I repeated, pieces of stories I'd heard about such a place flashing through my foggy mind. Was this the great city of the falls? The only Elven kingdom west of the Misty Mountains?
"Haldir - this isn't supposed to end like this.."
"No it wasn't," he told me softly. "Not like this."
I jolted with the thought and suddenly that memory under the stars, freezing and dying was accompanied by another presence. Haldir had been with me - his own fate similar to mine.
I gasped at the thought – or tried to. Instead, the air felt like molten rock pitching into the back of my throat and I sputtered to breathe, my hand lashing out and grabbing Orophin's arm with a panicked strength.
"Ashk, what's– "
His eyes were wide, but not nearly as wide as my own.
"Haldir," I managed to wheeze, my own voice causing my panic to rise. "Where is he?"
The look of relief that came over Orophin's face told me silently what I wanted to hear. But, I needed to hear the words that Haldir was all right - that he had not perished like it seemed we were both doomed to.
Orophin's hand covered mine. "He is just fine," he told me. "In the room right across the hall, in fact. Sleeping like you should be. It's late at night, Ashk."
I didn't even bother to listen to anything beyond that.
He was fine.
He was alive - He lived.
"Onduras?" I asked, my voice shaking with exhausted tears that had seemingly come out of no where.
Orophin smiled gently at me, his other hand brushing my cheek. "He is sleeping too," he told me and I closed my eyes for just a brief moment.
Horrors of our captivity streaked back for just a moment before I pushed them aside. Instead, only this warm room and the news my brother-in-law gave me mattered. Nothing else.
"And Ana?" I couldn't help but ask.
Orophin chuckled slightly before nodding. "She probably has Rumil wrapped around her finger by now," he told me.
I somehow smiled and laughed even when I felt far too tired to do so.
"And you?" he asked, his voice and eyes growing somber again as I looked at him in question. It seemed to pain him even to speak his words. "Are you all right? They didn't..." Some strange shadow cast over his eyes and he grimaced just barely before hiding the gesture and swallowing. "They do anything…"
I smiled at the poor Elf that touched my heart with his dreadful eyes.
"No," I whispered softly. "They did nothing that will not fade within a few days."
Relief passed over his face and it was his turn to close his eyes and savor that feeling. Finally, when he looked at me again. "You should sleep," he told me quietly. I couldn't agree with him more as my eyes seemed unbearably heavy.
I nodded and dimly felt him press a kiss to my forehead before sleep came once more.
"If you would sit still, this would be over much sooner." Elrond's voice was amused.
I looked at the Elven Lord, taking my attention off of my giggling son who was squirming under my tickling fingers. I forced myself to sit still.
Upon waking that morning, I immediately pounced on Orophin and Lord Celeborn with questions. Though most of my questions had been answered with the reply I was hoping for, I wanted to see everything for myself.
In fact, I only stopped trying to get out of that bed when Lord Celeborn and Lord Elrond had both ordered me to stay where I was.
I'd wanted to see my son.
And I'd desperately wanted to see my wife.
"My apologies," I replied even as the Elven Lord moved away, obviously finished with his task.
"I understand, Haldir," he replied, giving me a look. He glanced at the child I dragged into my arms and the slightest of a smile pulled at his lips. "He is a good boy."
"Who did he stay with last night?" I asked for the first time.
Elrond laughed. "You do not want to know the whole story, Haldir - But he ended safely before dawn within Arwen's arms."
Celeborn grunted. "Yes, the tale involves a panic-stricken grandson of mine pounding on my door in the middle of the night...You have your hands full with your son, Haldir."
I glanced down at my son, wondering just what had happened.
"Luckily, Arwen was the one to...hm…end the fiasco," Lord Celeborn told me.
I almost started to ask for him to explain, but I wisely decided against it. I had no reason to cut Elrohir and Elladan each in two - I didn't need to gain one any time soon.
Deciding to ignore the subject on behave of my Lord's kin and my long time friends, I glanced at my shoulder. The stabbing wound had been driven right at the hinge of my armor and deep into the muscle found there. However, the blade had been sharp and clean - The wound was straight and had it not been for the bleeding, I would have been fine.
But with the amount of blood lost, Elrond had already chorused about my needed bed rest. The last effects of the wound, he assured, would be gone within two days.
"Pardon me, my Lord," a small voice said, the door to the room opening. A young healer's apprentice eased in, her eyes filled with uncertainty and confusion "The woman is awake and is a bit routy...What do I do?"
Orophin laughed on mistake, gaining a fine glare from the apprentice.
"I will be with her in a moment, Sindya," the Lord of Rivendell replied and the apprentice nodded, leaving the room with a rustle of twirling skirts and long hair.
I shifted anxiously. "May I see her?" I asked, annoyed at the urgent sound in my voice.
Elrond looked at me critically. "Allow me to tend to her first, Haldir, perhaps then you can reunite."
I wanted to see my wife, no more waiting.
I watched Elrond leave the room and stared at the closed door once he was gone.
Just a while longer, I coached myself. She'd waited for me - I could wait for her.
"You grimace," the Elven Lord said as I peered at the mirror.
"With good reason," I replied, staring at the ghastly sight. Ugly bruises marred my face and body. Bruises of fingers had branded themselves on my arms and throat, most of which I didn't remember receiving.
"Cruelty is a way of the world in its darkest form," Elrond told me as I shivered with an unseen cold. His hand reached aside and took another blanket from a chair only to drape it around me.
I murmured my thanks quietly and pulled the heavy blanket around me tightly.
"Do you remember seeing your son this morning?" he asked.
I smiled despite my cracked and aching lips. I remembered Lord Celeborn bringing Onduras to see me.
"Of course I do."
He nodded with a look of pleasant thought on his face. He started to say something, but my attention slipped away as my gaze slid outside two large doors onto a balcony.
The sun had risen fairly high and it looked warm outside. Silently I longed for the warmth of the sun. I felt as if the cold would never leave my body.
And it looked so peaceful outside. Autumn wasn't here yet, but bright greens and calm colors of paint were outside. And that steady rumble of water roaring in the distance was soothing.
Lord Elrond cleared his throat loudly and my eyes jumped back to him in embarrassment.
"I'm sorry," I said sheepishly, my eyes darting back to the doors that seemed to be calling for me.
However, the dark-haired Elven Lord only smiled slightly and moved towards me, offering his hand. "The outdoors will do you good," he told me. I smiled in glee, taking his hand and allowing him to lead me to the doors and outside.
The fragrance of ripe flowers assailed me instantly. Birds were still singing somewhere and I spotted a small wooden day cage down below. We were, after all, two or three stories up in this great house.
I did not face the city, but instead I saw a distant waterfall. Below it laid a jungle of gardens.
"Sit," Lord Elrond instructed, motioning me towards a bench more elegantly carved than even anything I'd ever seen.
I sat gingerly, the blanket I'd kept around me being pulled close. The sun was warm on me and I longed to soak it in.
"Stay here for now," said the Elf in my company. "I will return soon." He turned away gracefully and disappeared back inside.
I didn't mind. Since my waking moment I'd been in the company of someone or another. To be alone to my thoughts was something I needed...and perhaps dreaded.
How close death had lashed by me. By me, both my children – and my husband. How narrowly we'd all escaped that fate.
Surely there was a reason for that.
"Lessons are ever learned, Ashk. When the Teachers become impatient, they give you a shove called fate."
I smiled at the thought. I needed Ryn's old gypsy advice. I knew his calm words would soothe me now. He'd give me an answer for everything, even if the answer only led on to more questions.
I closed my eyes with a gentle sigh, tilting my face towards the sun.
I couldn't wait to go home, and to see my Little Ana again. I wanted to hold her when I thought she'd been lost to me forever.
Of course, what home did I have to go back to? The house I'd lived in burned to ash and soot.
"Maybe we rebuild the house...Or maybe you let the twins and I live in Lorien - Wouldn't that be beautiful?"
The quiet thought shocked me. I had forgotten those words. I'd forgotten all those foolish words. They were words of one too desperate to die; too willing to stay alive. Words that had tumbled from my dreary mind and breaking heart...Oh, Valar! What foolish words…Some dying lover's monologue I was never meant to say.
I sighed at the thought, suddenly feeling so utterly sad when just a moment before I had been happy just to be alive.
What would Haldir say if he too remembered those words? If he was awake when I poured my heart to him, what would he say?
I jumped at the voice that shattered my thoughts.
Haldir looked at me in surprise, obviously unsure why I had reacted so violently merely to my name.
But, when I looked at him something rippled in his eyes. I didn't know what it was. Pain mingled with disgust and shock.
I couldn't manage to say anything as we stayed at a distance for those few moments. However, when I felt my courage to look him in the eye fading, I turned my gaze away.
A moment later, he moved to stand before me only to kneel to my eye level.
"Look at you," he murmured softly.
I turned my head away but he only curled his fingers around my chin and brought my gaze back to his. "Look at you," he repeated himself, his hand leaving my chin and brushing a few stray locks of hair aside.
I felt myself tremble under his eyes and some strange need came over me to ask one question and only receive one answer.
It took a moment, but I finally managed to round up the breath I needed to speak. "...You're all right?" I asked, hating how my voice shook.
Haldir's eyes softened so much so that it was almost as though he winced before he nodded. "Yes," he told me. "I'll heal just fine, Ashk."
I nodded in return, needing to hear those words so desperately from him.
That nod soon turned into only me shaking my head, emotions ranging from one extreme to another. Only when I felt myself shaking against him did I realize that he had drawn me close and held me in his arms.
And there we sat, on the floor of that balcony. I let myself be soothed like a child. I needed it...I craved for my fears to be put aside, to be assured by someone else. Someone like him.
No, not someone like him. By him. Him alone.
Mindless soothing words left him, his hand smoothing through my hair as I curled against him - away from the cold of the stone below us and the chill in my body.
"I was so scared," I heard myself murmur, unaware that I'd even been thinking such a thing.
At first, I was only replied to with silence. Then, after a moment he nodded. "I know," he told me softly, his words rumbling in his chest. His voice was hoarse and unlike anything I'd ever heard from him before when he spoke again. "I was too." It was unguarded, unchecked. "I'm sorry I let this happen to you, Ashk."
"It wasn't your fault," I told him.
He didn't reply and I could only remain silent with the background of Rivendell as the only thing to keep our strange silence company.
"...I nearly lost you," he said suddenly, surprising my drifting mind.
All too fast, I was wide awake and my breath was bated in my lungs.
"I nearly lost you both - Vala, all three of you," he said, something like anger in his voice - but more like resentment.
I could say nothing to match that voice of his - nothing to push aside his anguish. I wanted to touch him, to soothe him as he was soothing me, but I knew better.
"And what would I have to keep of you once you were gone?" he said quietly. "I'd have so many regrets…"
Regrets formed because of mistakes. He'd once called his family a mistake. After all of this, was that all we remained to him?
He tried to shift me to look me in the eye, but I only fisted my hands in his tunic, unwilling to let him look into my eyes and see my every thought. And I didn't want to see what was in his eyes and see nothing but pain.
Instead, I could only manage to nod into his chest, hideous, stupid tears coming to my eyes.
"Ashk, let me look at you," he said quietly, trying to shift me again.
I didn't move.
There was some strange confusion in his voice when he said, "Ashk...Please. Let me look at you."
"Why?" I breathed.
"Do you not remember the story you told me only the night before last?" he whispered, a smile obvious in his voice.
I closed my eyes. "Yes." I smeared untamed tears off my face with the back of my hand.
"Then why should I not look at you?" he asked, taking my moment of weakness and pushing me away from his chest so he could see me. He frowned when he saw me though. "Ashk - You weep."
His blunt, surprised words kicked at my gut and I could only stare at him.
"Why wouldn't I?" I breathed. "Haldir…"
I love you.
I swallowed the words, the coward in me taking over. I couldn't tell him. I couldn't bare to see the shun in his eyes, the slow shake of his head.
"Idril, you have misunderstood," he told me softly.
There are no misunderstandings, Haldir. There have never been any misunderstandings between us. You don't allow misunderstandings - you plot everything in front of me like I shouldn't care. We are what we are, whatever that may be.
...that was what I wanted to tell him. But I just couldn't.
"Do you not see?" he asked.
He smiled. It was just a small smile, but it lifted my drowning heart.
"I want your ending," Haldir told me. "Your ending was perfect."
Something shattered inside me and I froze for a long, drawn out instant.
"My ending?" I echoed, my voice like that of a distant dream to me.
"With the twins, and the home that will so readily be in Lorien now," he said, smiling still.
I frowned, unsure of what to think.
Could it be?
"What about…Our arrangement?"
His hand brushed gently against my face. "If you could forgive me for what I've done, there will be no arrangement…There will be a marriage, and a family, and that's all we'll need."
I felt some crazed smile take over my lips. Some insane laughter bubbled in me and further yet, ridiculous tears burned anew in my eyes.
Then his smile faded and some look of somber sadness took over his eyes. "I'm so sorry, Ashk…For everything I've done. I was a fool."
Even his sad apology did not dim my spirits. I could only smile at him, my hands reaching to hold his face. "Don't…Just…" I shook my head. "Let it go."
He stared at me as if waiting for me to scream at him, to blame him for everything.
But, no matter everything that had happened – the times I wept over him or felt like nothing beside him – I just couldn't.
Love knew no apologies…It knew no grudges, and it knew nothing else than forgiveness.
It took a moment, but that look of guilt faded.
I smiled at him and he smiled at me in a way he never had before.
"I love you," he told me. "I love you, Ashk."
I had dreamed and fantasized about those words from him. I had yearned for them for months and wondered in awe what his love was like; his real love.
And now that I had it, the words and the Warden who claimed them with my heart, I would never put into words to describe what it was I felt.
The story I would tell to my children that would move their lives would be this one. I was not meant to be a great adventurer, nor a hero, nor any myth rogue. No, that was not what fate had chosen for me.
I was to be a mother of two perfect children who would grow into immortality and beauty for all of their many days. Children who would learn not from my lessons of adventures and bravery, but only from me as the woman they called mother.
And I was to be the wife of the Warden of Lorien - the woman who finally claimed his heart with a mortal touch. Though one day I would wither and fade away, it was my love for him that would remain forever.
We had tomorrow now. And every day I would ask for his love just for tomorrow, ever more.
"And I love you, my Warden...My Haldir."
And then, as with all great love stories, he kissed me.
How they'd grown since all those months ago. Over two years had now passed since that night in the cold inn room that brought these two together.
I watched them this warm spring evening. And for some reason this eve, I felt as though I needed to remember what it was that had transformed my dearest Warden into someone who was, at last, happy.
I smiled. The day I knew he had changed was a month after the incident that no one tended to speak of. Late October had come when Haldir came to me with a request.
Ashk had confided in him hopes of a wedding one day. He came to me, asking for help in giving his wife what she wanted.
I smiled thinking of those two weeks he'd recruited others to help.
I would never forget that morning dozens of us had gathered in my largest garden. Under the same etched gazebo his parents were wedded under, Haldir had waited patiently.
I never asked how he'd managed to have her wear that particular pale green dress. Nor did I ask how he coaxed her into meeting him in that garden that morning.
She'd come around the corner and a beautiful shock washed over her face.
Celeborn had asked with a smirk on his face. I'd jabbed him in the ribs.
"...What's going on?"
She'd asked in return, her eyes flickering to the people gathered, waiting for her.
Haldir had smiled at her then, walking to her and offering his hand.
Just as Haldir had requested, Little Ana carried the flowers, and Onduras on his new-found steps carried the rings woven of white gold.
Ashk was not the only one to cry tears of joy. In fact, there was not an Elleth in the area not crying. And, even though he'd tried to hide it, it was Rumil who looked a bit tearful that day as well.
Six months had passed since that wedding, and there they sat among the garden Ashk enjoyed most. The garden in which she was often found under the unseeing eyes of her husband's parents whose grandchildren played amongst their never-moving feet.
I looked to the two children who were now running clumsily after each other. They were good children. Onduras seemed unaffected by the incident with the Western men and for this I was grateful.
And Moriana...She had much to do yet. Both Ashk and Haldir had been hesitant when I had explained to them what Moriana was gifted with. It was understandable, however, it was irreversible. Moriana had powerful gifts and by the age of five, she would begin her lessons as her parents had agreed.
Strange what trials this small family had gone through in such short time. I honestly hoped calmer days were ahead for them all…Days of laughter and smiles.
I hoped days and years would grace my Warden with his blessed family.
And as that Warden told his wife a ridiculous story of a warg who had nearly taken his leg off, she called his bluff with a laugh.
Then, her daughter raced for her in hopes of sanction from her chasing brother. Haldir swooped down on his son as he stood before tossing him over his shoulder. The boy squealed in delight while Haldir grabbed his daughter as well, keeping her under his arm as he proclaimed over their giggles that they would learn to behave.
"Ama!" Moriana giggled, reaching for her mother. Ashk grinned, jumping up and snatching her daughter from Haldir. Laughter and screaming rang out as Ashk ran with her giggling daughter as her husband and son chased them.
"Long will be the days their laughter rings in our courts," said a familiar voice behind me, a gentle arm slipping around my waist.
"Yes," I replied as the parents I watched charged against their children. The children's short legs were no match for that of their parents, but the two gave the toddlers a decent, merciful distance.
"Not without trial," I added with a frown. "As my dreams foretell."
Celeborn made a disapproving noise and a frown deepened his features as well. "Let us hope for the better," he said, looking at me. "All families have their trials and for that they become stronger."
I smiled at my husband. "So true," I replied, glancing into the garden only to see Haldir and his lovely, all-too-mortal wife sneak a kiss while their children were distracted.
"So true," I repeated quietly, turning and walking alongside my husband. We left the garden where the March Warden, ever loyal, had seemed to finally find peace even in the unmoving shadow of his parents.
And who would have said that peace would come from one human?
I smiled at the thought.
Long linger the nights when wistful Elves and Elleths gazed at the sight of Lorien's Warden and his wife dancing upon their balcony to music only they could hear.
Long linger these days of gentle peace for my beloved Warden.
Oh dear! It's over! I...I...I don't know what to do! What am I going to do!
Just kidding. Though I hate to see this fic finally end, I do have plans for the future. Numerous (and I mean numerous) short-fics will be spurred off of Just for Tomorrow. The kids have to grow up (go through all those awkward stages) and other fun family things to drivel in as well as dealing with Ashk's ensuing mortality eventually. But, the good years first, heh.
So, I will be posting occasional short-fics while also writing for The Mage. The Mage debuts on January 28th. I do hope to see you guys reading that fic as well. It takes a slightly different look at Haldir's personalty. Gotta mix it up a bit, you know? Heh.
All right, well, I think that's it. If I could only express how much I appreciate everything that you guys have done for me, I would. However, I'm not that good of a writer. Just know that I love you all and I can't possibly prove how much I want to thank you for everything. So...
Thank you all! Group hug!