In the World of Elves and Men

Pairing: Legolas/Chloe, Haldir/Maiyanna, Eomer/Lothiriel, Boromir/Menelwen

Summary: Shortly before the Ring of Power wakes to find its Master, four noble men face the metamorphosis of their shared destinies.

Part 1

In the deep shadows of Mirkwood, away from the eyes of the Silvan Elves, the evil that had before breathed heavily in the trees abated. For the hundreds of years of the Eye's weakness, as Middle-earth began to rebuilt itself once more, the forces of the Shadow slept it seemed.

The Woodland Elves flourished under the guidance of Celeborn and Galadriel, Lady of the Light, and of Thranduil Elvenking.

Gondor, the noble southern land of the Numenoreans, settled under the rule of the Stewards. Rohan strengthened the full muster of its cavalry, training eored of many men to stay watchful even in the weakness of the Shadow.

Under the care of Lord Elrond, in Rivendell, beyond the knowledge of much of Middle-earth, slept the heir to the kingdom of all Free Peoples.

All these went on in the world of Elves and Men.

And so Dol Guldur, which sat atop the bald mountain at the southwest of Mirkwood, was almost forgotten.

Beyond the keen sight of the Eldar, the Witch-King of Angmar installed his second, the Nazgul Khamul, in the fastness of the Hill of Sorcery.

In his need to reclaim part of his humanity that was slowly awakening while Sauron was still weak, the Witch King of Angmar performed a ritual that would give him a daughter from an Outer Realm. He had one need of the connection to his lost life. The Witch King needed a daughter completely without knowledge of the Nazgul.

With heavy black cloak sweeping the keep's rushes, the Witch King spoke low and fast, chanting the long forgotten language of Numenore, from whence he came. Above him lightning sliced the sky.

Khamul rode into the keep, called by the murky air that thickened around Dol Guldur. The Witch King nodded at his second and raised his hand. Immediately upon the silent command, Khamul dropped his head and waited for the completion of the ritual.

Khamul waited at the doorstep for days and weeks before he heard the silence of the chant's cessation. Slowly, he looked up and saw the Witch King standing over a bed. He approached his leader. Khamul's gaze was riveted on the figure sleeping on the bed. Starkly contrasting to the black robes and dark chamber, the young woman had skin so pale and hair so golden that Khamul had to raise an invisible arm to protect his sight.

The Witch King murmured in approval. He reached cold formless fingers to the young woman's face and held his had to her forehead. Khamul dared not oppose the Witch King's choice. The young woman taken from the outer realm bore strange resemblance to the daughter of the Witch King before she drowned in the sundering of Numenore.

"Lostariel, to the Sea!"

The young woman picked up her long skirts and ran to the stairs. She screamed at the sight of the enemy. She then ran towards the windows and out into the balcony, high above the Sea. Her family waited on small boats below.

"Lostariel!"

Her father saw her lovely golden hair whip across her face as she frantically assessed the rampage behind her and the long drop below. He drew his sword to kill the attackers. The Ring burned inside his pocket, for he knew evil possessed the very thing. He had not slipped it on since a barrage of chilling images screamed before his eyes.

The king saw the panic in the green eyes of his Lostariel, his blooming flower, his only daughter. He slipped on the Ring and fell under the power at the very moment when evil reached for his daughter and she flew, then dropped into the waters below.

Burned away from her brain were the memories of her previous life. To fill the void of her mind, the Witch King instead introduced his own creation of the life his daughter should have lived then. In her he imprinted the firm belief against the Eldar and the light, and all that opposed the Shadows. She stirred in her sleep and opened her eyes. 'Her hair shall grow long,' he decided, after considering the short locks.

"Father?" she breathed.

The low pleasant rumble came deep from the Witch King's chest.

'Chloe,' he said, for in the Outer Realm it was what Lostariel meant. There were no lips to move, yet the sound came to her as if from inside her. 'I must now leave for Angmar. Stay with Khamul and never step foot outside Dol Guldur.'

Sleepily, she nodded. As if from memory she recited her father's concerns. "I know not what fell creatures thrive in the light."

Khamul added, 'Your father and I wandered into the light once. The Elves cursed us and took away our bodies.'

"I understand." Chloe sat up on the bed and embraced what form there was inside the cloaks. "Perhaps soon I can come with you to Angmar. It is our land."

'No. Angmar has been so cursed by the Elves that only we can survive its wretchedness.'

"Then I shall see you upon your return."

Chloe's eyes went to the very small window high up on the wall and wondered about the light.

"Soon," she whispered, "night would come and it will be safe for you to venture out. Soon the wretched Elves will rest, for there is no longer any evil sun."

Not everyone in Middle-earth wanted the sun to set. While in Dol Guldur, the night was a cloak of security, to Gondor it meant more difficulty in searching for a missing princess.

Two lords of Gondor, the brothers Boromir and Faramir stood outside the thriving city of Osgiliath. Prince Imrahil, lord of Dol Amroth, rode with a party of his own men around the territory.

"Have you searched the city?" called Boromir to his brother.

"Aye. A hundred times over and nothing. The princess can be anywhere by now."

"She could not have gone far," Boromir answered. He saw Menelwen, a childhood friend and servant in Osgiliath. "When did you see her last?"

Menelwen looked up at Lord Denethor's eldest. "This early morn, my lord. She had asked to be left alone then."

Prince Imrahil shook his had. "You did not guard her enough," he told Faramir. Then he turned to Menelwen. "It struck you not as odd that Princess Lothiriel had not left her chambers since early morn?"

Boromir saw Menelwen pale at the prince's glower. "Your concern I can well understand," Boromir said gently. "You are rightfully worried and fearful at your daughter's absence. However the fault lies not on Faramir or Menelwen." He turned to his brother and said, "Ride hard in the direction of Ithilien." Boromir jumped onto a horse f his own.

Imrahil shook his head and looked at the far off plains of the land. "It was a cursed day that I allowed a steward to further his ambition with the promise of my daughter's hand."

"You think to blame us?" Boromir exclaimed. In disbelief at this affront, he dismounted and approached the prince. "It was so clear your daughter wanted not to marry a man of Gondor. She ran of her own accord. Could you not have seen this before you contracted her fate to mine?"

Menelwen gasped at Boromir's action. Faramir laid a hand on Menelwen's arm. "Boromir," Faramir called, "time enough for blame when the princess is safely in the keep."

"Speak to your father and him of his plans to install you in a seat that your blood alone cannot grant you," Prince Imrahil advised. "He knew you would never be considered King. Upon marriage to my daughter you shall have the remaining ties to Numenore and thus to the Eldar."

"Lies," Boromir spat. He jumped onto his steed once more and rode towards his brother. "He cannot leave well enough alone," he hissed at Faramir.

The younger man acknowledged his brother's frustration. He had heard the furious conversation and recognized Imrahil's words as truth. Lord Denethor had likely pulled at the strings of fate to grant his favored son the access to the lost kingship of Gondor.

"I serve my country out of love for this city," Boromir continued, "but it is never noble enough for him."

Faramir glanced at the maid Menelwen as she urged her horse nearer to Boromir's. She gave Boromir an understanding smile and reached out a hand. Boromir grasped her hand and squeezed. "You are more noble than any man or king," she assured him.

Faramir looked down at the reins in his hand and kicked his horse's side. "To Ithilien," he commanded into the beast's ear.

Both turned at Faramir's abrupt departure. "Hie to the keep," Boromir murmured. "It is no use for you to wander outside in search of a woman so treasured in her childhood that she cannot fulfill her own responsibilities to her city."

"She was caught in circumstances beyond her control," Menelwen defended. She had served Princess Lothiriel when she arrived. Even when Menelwen's heart rebelled at the thought that the lovely young lady who had had everything since birth was now come to take away Menelwen's most precious treasure, her friend Boromir, Menelwen did her duty to Gondor. "There were many things beautiful about her."

Boromir shook his head and brushed her cheek. "Not all women are like you."

Her face flushed with pleasure and guilt. The love she bore the man before her was cursed from the start. "Go, Boromir. Search the land for your bride." She turned the steed away and cantered back to the city.

Towards far Rivendell, on the opposite side of the land, an Istari rode like wild horses were at his tail.

Aragorn sat on Elrond's table, staring at the beauty of Arwen Undomiel. Suddenly, in walked Gandalf the Grey with his long gray robes.

Lord Elrond rose from his seat, his face serene with no indication that he was concerned by the sudden appearance of the wizard.

"My friend, join us."

Gandalf shook his head and held Elrond's gaze, a silent communication of his dire need. He then turned to the Ranger who had lain down his utensils at his arrival. "If I may speak to Aragorn."

Arwen gasped and looked at Aragorn, then at her father. The Ranger nodded and rose to his feet. He followed Gandalf to one of the few closed chambers in Imladris.

"I would say it's good to see you, Gandalf, were it not for the silent scream in my mind. A cloud of worry envelopes you," Aragorn began.

Gandalf waved his hand to silence the Ranger. He then drew from inside his robe a rolled up parchment that he handed to Aragorn. In turn, Aragorn took the parchment and shook his head at the sight of the old Sindarin writing. He started to return the letter to Gandalf, but the wizard fixed a displeased stare at him. Reluctantly, Aragorn read the words meant only for his eyes.

"I have laid my bonds to Dol Amroth to rest long ago, Gandalf. You know of this," Aragorn said, confused that one he considered a friend would bring to him such plea.

"Prince Imrahil seeks the help not of the King of Gondor," Gandalf clarified. "He seeks the help of a distant cousin. He prays, and so do I, that your heart has not turned to stone against your kin. Lothiriel is in danger."

"I wish only to live in peace, Gandalf. Let me leave the accursed heritage of my forefathers behind!"

Gandalf closed his eyes and sighed. "I had hoped your stay with the Eldar had given you the appreciation for you bloodline. Well," Gandalf opened his eyes and took the letter from Aragorn, "I respect your decision."

"Thank you."

Gandalf turned his back on Aragorn and walked towards th door. "Far be it that you should spend your precious time searching for a young woman who ran away because she abhorred a marriage to the White City for your forced exile. I wish I had told her when I met her as a child that it is her cousin's choice to be forgotten."

"Gandalf!" Aragorn called, stopping the wizard in his tracks. "Young Lothiriel married to the White City?"

Gandalf smiled at Aragorn's words. He wore a somber expression when he turned around. "To young Boromir, to give him the advantage that you had long possessed, had you so chosen to claim it."

"And she ran away?"

"Because of you," Gandalf supplied.

"Why?" Aragorn asked. "She knew me not at all!"

"Faith, Aragorn," Gandalf pointed out. "Tremendous faith she possessed in that invisible tie she had with you. Yet again, perhaps it didn't exist beyond her belief. Did it, Aragorn?"

The Ranger walked towards Gandalf. "I shall look for Lothiriel," he decided, "not as this noble figure of her imagination but as any man concerned for the safety of a lady of Dol Amroth."

"That should be enough for now," said Gandalf with a smile.