A/N –This isnot part of any "official" story. It may never be.
"Leithian" is the Sindarin word for 'release.'
Elandra is also known as Elawen, star-maiden.
It had been several years since Elandra and Rian had seen each other. Rian had been sent up north to serve with Halbarad, Elandra's old mentor, and she had proven herself well. Elandra had not been surprised at all to find out that her heart-sister had excelled in her training, even though it took her a while to get there.
When Halbarad brought Rian to her, Elandra's smile was big and the emotion welled up in her eyes. Rian smiled and ran to the older woman, hugging her as if they had been apart longer than they had. Halbarad bowed slightly and left the two women alone.
"It's so good to see you again, Elan!"
"It is good to see you too, little sister," Elan said quietly. "I have brought you another surprise as well," Elan said as she pulled away.
As if on cue, Melannen came from the shadows, as did Octavian. Rian let out a little yip of surprise, mingled with happiness. Hugging Elan quickly in thanks, she ran first to her uncle and he gathered her up in a great embrace, swinging her around. Tears were now flowing freely from Rian's eyes as she greeted her sister's man in a more calm manner.
"We are not here for long, Rian," Elan started to say. "But our stay will be longer than just today, do not fret, sister," she finished quickly when she saw Rian's face fall with disappointment. 'She still wears her heart on her sleeve,' Elan thought to herself. Even as she made the silent statement to herself, she noticed Rian take a quick scan of faces, and the of their surroundings. 'She looks for another. One who has stolen her heart, though she might not be aware of it yet.'
Smiling, Elan came over and put her hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Come, we have a little camp set up in a clearing not far from here. There is food to be shared, and much to catch up on," she said. Rian nodded and the four rangers set off for the camp.
After they had eaten their fill, Melannen and Octavian left to go speak with Halbarad, as well as his lieutenants, of their findings on enemy movements. Rian sat looking into the fire with a soft smile on her face, and to Elan, her eyes were distant as if remembering something.
"How have you been, little sister?" Elan asked, breaking the silence.
"I have been well, big sister," Rian answered with a laugh. The two had been calling each other by the endearments since Mirkwood. "Lord Halbarad says that I will be given an award for my diligence and improvement, though he hasn't said what. Kaldan and Barandir will be getting one too. And Melannen. Oh, Elan! It's been tough going up here, but I'm very glad you sent me."
"Halbarad tells me that you've proven yourself well, indeed," she replied. Elan knew that Rian would be receiving the Star of the Dunedain, and it seemed very fitting that her little sister should have one.
They sat talking a little while longer, when the crunch of a twig belied the presence of at least one other. Both women went silent as they quickly retrieved their weapons that were concealed, but not far from reach. Sitting up straighter, they waited, knowing that whoever came would make their presence known.
Neither expected to see the woman who emerged from the trees. She carried her silver staff set with amber colored jewels, and her hair was coming loose from the plait she normally wore. For some reason, Palantra had come to see them both, but she was not alone. Landros came to stand behind her, his hand on the shaft of his spear. The light of the fire glinted off his sword, which was already drawn. Elan and Rian stood slowly and politely acknowledged the pair. Palantra and Landros returned the politeness to Elan, but were unable to keep the contempt for Rian on their faces. Something was terribly wrong, and neither Elan nor Rian knew what it was.
"Palantra, Landros. It is good to see you again after so long..." Elan started, but was cut off by Palantra's silencing gesture.
"We have come to bring you back to Minas Tirith, Elawen," the woman said in a rather sad tone. "The nature of your departure, plus your actions afterward, has created much worry for us as well as your family. We are concerned about your sanity," she said, convinced in her opinion. Again, the woman shot Rian a look of barely concealed hatred.
'They are not here for me,' Elan thought as she caught the look thrown at Rian. 'They think she drew me away from them. They think she is the reason I left.' Disbelief, then pity washed over Elan. 'They assume to know me when they never really did.'
"I will not," Elan said firmly. When the hostiles began to object, she held her hand up to silence them. "My mind has always been as it ever was. My sanity remains intact. I left because it was my will to do so."
Palantra shook her head, denial in her expression. She seemed so convinced in her diagnosis of the situation, that she would hear nothing to contradict it. Landros came forward, the same expression on his face.
"Elandra, why are you doing this? You have so many people that love you and wish to see you return and be who you always were. This is not at all like you to act this way!" Frustration had pushed Landros to shout the last statement. Rian barely nodded, and Elan caught the movement. 'She knows they blame her, and she is not surprised. What has she ever done to deserve this?'
"I have never acted any different from what you think is normal, Landros," Elan said. The tension had grown to such a pitch that one could slice it with a spoon. "My choices have always been my own, and no one else's. At one time, I thought you understood that, but it seems that you both have decided that is not the case."
"I see she has turned you against us, heart-sister," Palantra said, finally looking full upon Rian, not bothering to conceal her emotions. Landros' frustration turned to anger. "She will not even speak to deny it, will you, Rian?"
"I have no need to deny anything," Rian said quietly. "I have done nothing wrong. Except be a friend to Elandra when she had none."
Elan was proud of her little sister. To show such courage in the face of such hostility was commendable. Now she knew Rian deserved the Star.
"Do you work for the Dark Lord, Rian? Do you think to control Elawen and steer her to the path of darkness? We accepted you into our company, and now you betray us, showing your true colors. Do not think to deny what we know to be truth!"
"It is not truth, except maybe for you," Rian shot back, and Elan could see the fire in her little sister's eyes. "You may have accepted me, but you never showed any amount of friendship. To be truthful, I never expected such. But after several days on the road, the unfriendliness turned to hostility. I knew then that I would never become part of your company. Lalia was the only one to show me any sort of friendship at all," Rian looked beyond the still hostile pair. "I see she is not with you. Did you leave her back in Minas Tirith, her mind full of your lies?"
"How dare you say we lied to her!" Landros yelled, his anger pushing him into insensibility. He reached for his spear and threw it, but Rian was quick and the spear missed, striking a nearby tree like a javelin.
"Just like at Pinneth Gelin," Elan heard Rian mutter as the young woman took out her daggers. Her defensive stance did not change much, but Elan had seen Rian fight and knew she was ready to pounce like a tiger being released from her cell. She also knew that Rian's sword was still concealed, but within reach. 'She will have her fun first,' Elan thought as Landros began to strike at Rian with his sword.
In the ensuing battle, Palantra approached Elan. "Heart-sister, I have seen and felt your pain over the loss of Elladan. Do you not see that this... this... child seeks to keep you apart from him? I have sent you hope and given you the cards from your reading. All is not lost. You can still return to us and be welcome again."
"From what I understand of it," Elandra began, "You had ample time to get to know Rian, to find out all about her. But neither you, nor Landros did that. I have known her for years and she is more a sister to me than you ever were. Rian is no more evil than Gandalf, or even Galadriel. Do you think that if she really did work for Sauron that Galadriel would not know it? No, Palantra, it is you and Landros who are wrong. And if I returned, I would not be welcome, as you say, and you would try to brainwash me against Rian as you have done to Lalia. I will not return to the White City until I deem it necessary."
Palantra's disbelief was palpable, and anger also flashed in her eyes. "What of Elladan? Will you abandon him as well?"
"I have not abandoned him, Palantra. It was his decision to turn away from what we had. I know he is out there looking for me, but he will not find me until I decide to be found."
Reaching into a pocket, Elan withdrew the cards that the seeress had given to her in Mirkwood, long ago. Holding her hand out, she showed Palantra the cards. They were cut into many pieces.
"You would turn away from love? Elandra, what has happened to you? You are not the woman I know."
"How much do you really know me, Palantra? How much is your own opinion of me, and how much is truly me? I have not turned away from love. In fact, when I was not seeking it, love found me."
Palantra's mouth fell open in shock. Elan read it well that the seeress still did not believe her. Sadness filled her mind and she slowly let go of the woman who had once been a close friend. Her hand tipped and she let the card pieces flutter down into the fire. Suddenly, her attention was drawn to a small yelp of pain, and she saw Rian grasp at her upper arm. Drawing her sword, Elandra cursed and went in to protect her wounded friend. Shock registered on Landros' face for a moment, before he continued to fight against his former friend.
Sounds of twigs breaking and branches being shoved out of the way came to Elan's ears. Rian had just managed to pick herself back up and, as she re-joined the fight, Melannen and Octavian came rushing into the clearing, their bows nocked and ready. Kaldan and Barandir had also appeard, their swords drawn and ready. Octavian's bow was trained on Landros, and Melannen had trained his on Palantra.
"We meet again, Lady," Melannen said, anger and scorn evident in his voice.
"Melannen. I see you have come back from parts unknown," Palantra replied coldly.
"You didn't think I'd miss meeting my niece, did you?"
"You left Lorien and your sister to fend for herself, joining with that brigand Octavian. Traversing Arda and creating trouble wherever you land. Now I understand everything!"
"You understand nothing, lady! I had been sent by Orome to find and destroy the enemies of Middle-earth. I came across Octavian at Poros, barely alive. I took him to Ithilien for healing. There, he met Elawen. The rest, I think, is rather obvious."
A gasp left Palantra's stunned features. Melannen could see that what was actual truth and what was the lady's truth war with each other in the expressions crossing her face. But, in the end, the lady could not conceive of anything other than her own contrived truth. She trained her staff on him, and he could feel a gathering of power surging through it. The lady took aim at Melannen, but then froze, as did he. Even the combatants had been stilled, and an awful silence filled the clearing.
"HOLD!!" A great voice came over them. A blinding light flashed into the clearing and before them all stood two enormous figures. One was taller than the other, but both wore expressions on their faces that said they would brook no opposition.
"You will stop this fighting, immediately!" The voice came from the shorter of the two beings. "I will not have my servants attacked over false accusations!"
Elbereth went to Rian and healed her wound. Then she let all except Palantra and Landros go. "Leave us, please. It seems that Lord Orome and I have to speak directly to these two. They have managed to anger us as well as disappoint us, and we mean to see that they are reprimanded for it." The last statement was directed at Palantra and Landros, and Elan saw that they even managed to look ashamed. Placing an arm around Rian's shoulders, she led her little sister from the clearing, and they were followed closely by Octavian, Melannen, barandir and Kaldan.
"Let me see your arm," Elan said when they reached the hide-out of Halbarad.
"I'm fine, Elan. The Lady Elbereth healed it."
"I know, but I would look at it myself. Hold still."
Rian smiled as her sister went over her arm, looking for anything the Vala may have missed. But Rian knew that when Elbereth had touched her arm, any trace of a wound had been removed. There wasn't even the memory of pain to linger. When Elan was satisfied, she breathed a sigh of relief.
"I do not know why they think I am insane, and I do not understand why they are angry at you, Rian. You have done nothing to incur their wrath." Elan's hand lingered where Rian's wound had been.
"I don't understand either, big sister. I would've thought they both understand why we left. I think they've also conveniently overlooked the fact that we hadn't even met when you left Minas Tirith and when I left them in Lebennin."
"I do not think we will ever understand them. Not anymore. Not like I used to..."
"What I'm really trying to understand is why Lalia believes them. They gave her nothing but lies, and she seems to believe them. Lalia may have just turned her back on what friendship we had, and that is so unlike her."
Elan nodded, then took Rian in her arms in comfort. "I think the time has come to let them go. We must move on from our past from them. If they are content to build lies about us, then so be it. There are others who know the truth beside us. What tales they spin will not hold anywhere but in their minds."
"But they came for you, and attacked me, as if I were at fault for everything. I know I'm not, and will never be, but what irritates me more than anything is that they're willing to wipe me from existence, from memory. I may not have been with them long, but I was with them long enough to leave an impression. Even poor Lalia is willing to forget about me."
"Hush, little sister. You still have me, and Octavian and Melannen. As well as those friends here among the rangers. We will never forget you. You are near and dear to us all, including those in Lorien and Mirkwood who also hold you dear to their hearts. Should Palantra or Landros ever try to spread their lies in either realm, they will be seen as untrustworthy and hostile. Those that know the truth will hold firm. Remember that."
Rian nodded into Elan's shoulder. They held each other a little while longer, then Octavian and Melannen offered their support to them both. The four friends talked quietly as they waited for the signal to return to their camp. Although Octavian and Melannen had already decided to relocate to another clearing and start fresh.
"You have disappointed me, Landros of Anfalas. You let your anger rule and you attacked an innocent woman."
"She is not innocent, Lord Orome! She has taken Elawen away from us and turned her against us.."
"What proof do you have of these lies?!" Orome interrupted the elf. "Answer me! What proof do you have?"
"None but the words of Lady Palantra, my Lord," Landros said contritely. "But I have known the Lady to speak only the truth!"
"You would seek only answers from one side and not seek answers from the other? Have you not learned anything from your foster-family? Did you even try to befriend Rian when she came to your camp? No, you were too caught up in your obsession with Elawen that you showed open hostility to Rian. When she was sent away by the Lady Elbereth to fulfill her Quest, you willingly accepted untruths about her, and you willingly erased her from your mind. Had you even tried to find out anything about Rian, you would have known she is not the servant of Sauron you think she is. Even before she came into your life, Elandra's destiny was also part of hers. Rian's Quest was to bring them together. And now, you and Palantra seek to rip it assunder. You have disappointed me greatly, Landros."
Landros looked stunned and then ashamed. He found himself finally able to lift his arms to his face and crumple to the ground. As he did this, he saw his sword, given to him by Orome long ago, slowly fade from sight. Looking up at the Vala before him, he saw the disappointment and knew this would be his punishment.
"Your sword has been reclaimed until you prove yourself worthy of it again. I have also limited your elven senses, and they will also be given back should you prove yourself worthy of them. This punishment was agreed upon by all the Valar, as you are a citizen of Arda and a servant of mine."
Landros' head sunk low as the reality of his punishment hit home. He knew Lord Orome was right. He knew he'd have to work hard to regain that which had been taken away. Tears began to roll down his face and he cried openly. He did not even want to think of the punishment Palantra would receive.
"Release me," Palantra managed to say. She was still held frozen in the stance she was in before the Valar appeared.
"You forget yourself, Palantra. You do not have the right to order me around, and quite frankly, you are not in the position to either."
Palantra fell silent. Confusion entered her mind as she tried to fight the spell over her. 'Why are they against us? We have only served them with honor and gratitude.'
"You have not served us with honor, Palantra, and you know it," Elbereth said calmly, reading the seeress' thoughts easily. "I do not know what has come over you since your meeting with Gandalf, but it seems your mind is still reeling from Sauron's influence."
"It has not been reeling. It has been years since then."
"But not enough. You have maligned Rian Ithilmir by spreading untruths about her. You have used these lies to subvert others to your way of thinking. Does this sound like something a seeress in Vaire's service would do? You seem to have turned in the same way as Saruman, using your abilities to convince others of your own truths. Making them believe in your out-right lies. And you know it." Palantra was about to object again, but found her voice had been muted by Elbereth.
"You remember well that I did the same thing to you and Landros back in Lebennin when I explained that Rian needed to leave. I explained that her destiny lies with the Archer. With Elawen. Yet, you seemed to have ignored that. You have even gone so far as to turn her leaving into something else to suit your hurt pride. Do not deny that you wish you had been the one sent to help Elawen. You even went against Gandalf's orderswhen you blundered in to save her and Ellandan against Sauron. You have been punished by the dis-ownment your parents, and with these recent actions of yours, you will receive another punishment. This was agreed upon by the Valar."
In her still frozen state, Palantra's eyes widened as she felt the staff within her hands lose its hardness. Slowly, the metal which had been warm in her grasp was replaced with the coolness of the air. Palantra tried to cry out but found she still could not. Then, she felt a curious tingling sensation wash over her, from her head to her toes. An empty feeling was left behind, and Palantra could not imagine what had been taken from her. In the next moment, she was released from the spell that held her, and she fell to the ground. Palantra fumbled for a moment, then surged to her feet, trying once again to say something, anything to the being in front of her.
"Your staff has been reclaimed by Vaire. Her disappointment in you and your actions is much greater than that of the rest of the Valar, Palantra. If, at some time in the future, you should become worthy of it again, she will have it returned to you. But know that it may not be returned at all. As for the second part of the punishment, the Valar have agreed to take away your ability to foresee for others. This is absolute."
Palantra could feel her tears fall down her face. Hanging her head, she let them fall. When she looked up again, she saw Lord Orome and Lady Elbereth standing together. She caught clips of conversation in a language she did not understand. Then, Lady Elbereth left in a flash of starry brilliance to work on reversing the brainwashing of Lalia, leaving Lord Orome to stand over Palantra and Landros.
"You are to leave from here," he addressed them both. "Go back the way you came. You are to return to Minas Tirith, and from there, you must stay on the path to fulfill your own destinies. I believe you have already been told to do so before. Know that this time, I will be watching, as will Lady Elbereth. The choice to leave your paths and not fulfill your destinies is up to you. You know the consequences of doing so. If you so much as malign either Rian or Elawen, more punishments will be added to those you have already received. Do not incur our wrath. Now, collect yourselves and leave."
Orome went to a nearby fallen tree and sat upon it, watching Landros collect his spear from the tree he had thrown it into. The Vala turned his eyes upon Palantra and watched how she went to Landros' side and held out her hand to him. He took it and they went from the clearing, and didn't look back. From his seat, Orome waited a while longer before he too faded from view.
Elandra, Octavian, Rian and Melannen were gathered around another fire in another clearing, closer to Halbarad's hide-out. They sat quietly talking, when another sound caught their attention. All went silent and waited for the newcomer. With Rian's attention drawn and fixed in the direction of the fast approaching person, Elan exchanged amused glances with Octavian and Melannen. 'The last surprise for our dear Rian has finally arrived,' Elan thought to herself.
"I come bearing strawberries!" Said the newcomer, and into the clearing stepped Legolas with a grand smile on his face. Rian was up and running to him instantly while the others took their time to rise. Legolas gathered Rian in his embrace and held her for a while. He missed her greatly from the time he watched them leave Mirkwood, and things had not been the same since. When they parted from the embrace, he held onto her hand as he greeted her three smiling friends.
"So, where are these strawberries you speak of?" Octavian asked Legolas. He even managed to keep a straight face. Legolas took his pack from his back and held it out to Octavian, who took it and waited. The Elf-Prince laughed and took a smaller bag from within the larger one.
"The rest are yours, my friends. I will take these, and Rian, and we are going to go catch up with each other. That is, if you don't mind me breaking up this family reunion."
"Oh, of course not, your highness," Elan said. "I dare say that she has missed you as much as you missed her."
Laughter filled the clearing as they watched Rian blush prettily. Legolas brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it, then led her away from the trio. Still laughing, they sat back down and enjoyed many of the finest strawberries they had ever tasted.
"You knew he'd come, didn't you, Elawen?" Melannen asked her.
"I did, indeed, Melannen. I did indeed."
"Love works in mysterious ways, my friend," she said as she moved closer to Octavian. Melannen watched as they wrapped their arms around each other and Elan snuggled into Octavian's chest.
"It does indeed," Melannen said quietly. He smiled at them and them popped another strawberry into his mouth. From somewhere distant, and yet not distant, the sound of laughter came back to them. Rian and Legolas were definitely enjoying their 'catching up'.