Title: Heavy Hearted
Author: Jo Slater
Summary: When the family that exiled Ashk calls for her at her father's deathbed, Ashk is torn between finding vengeance and finding peace where the past lies.
Time: About five months after Nethin - The twins are four.
Chapter One: The Message
I walked slowly from the hall as there was a knock on the door. My hand rubbed into my eyes as I pushed away the bleariness of sleep. I had only awoken a short time ago and the mere fact that it was long after dawn had thrown me off.
I opened the door to see Orophin and Litia standing in it's wake. Litia held a cooing Nethin while the twins stood between them.
Orophin frowned. "Did we wake you?" he questioned even as his eyes twinkled in amusement.
He and Rumil had volunteered to take the children for the previous night. It had been the third official wedding anniversary of Ashk and I. Our three children had not been included in the planning for such celebration.
"No," I replied, slightly hoarse as I squinted in the sunlight. "No, I was awake."
Litia and Orophin shared a brief look before returning their eyes to me.
"Ada, Uncle Rumil let us stay up all night," Ana informed me even as a yawn caught her voice.
I frowned. "He did?" My eyes cut to Orophin and Litia.
"I had no part in that," Orophin told me hastily, his hands raising in a well needed surrender.
I glared a moment before jolting as a cold hand touched my bare back.
"Good morn, Ashk," Orophin greeted, using her to escape from my wrath as I took a swaying Onduras into my arms. He did not even look at me much less say anything. He was exhausted.
"Good– What have you done to my children?" Ashk demanded, looking at Onduras in nothing less than horror.
"We have done nothing. Rumil apparently allowed them to stay awake as long as they wished," Litia told her. "Which happened to be all night."
"That– Oh, Ana, you are so tired." Ashk took our daughter into her arms and immediately looked to Nethin who gave her a toothless grin.
"You look quite tired yourself, my dear," Orophin said with a knowing smirk.
I gave him a look.
"And now we should probably take our leave," my brother added quickly.
"Let me put her to bed and I will take Nethin," Ashk said, a non-too-pleased look on her face as she turned away, muttering to herself or our daughter.
"Where is Rumil?" I asked seriously, wondering where my youngest brother would be in such a time when he knew better than to avoid me.
"...Sleeping," Litia provided as Orophin remained silent. Her blue eyes glanced down at Onduras. "I am sorry, Haldir. I knew we should have stayed with them for the night."
I huffed out a sigh, glancing down at my eldest son who had promptly fallen asleep on my shoulder. I just shook my head and turned away, murmuring for them to enter behind me as I put Onduras to his bedroom.
I returned to the common to see Ashk putting Nethin on the day bed and Orophin and Litia taking their leave. I bid them a brief goodbye before the door closed and the flet was silent once again.
My wife turned and jolted slightly when she found herself between my arms. I smiled down at her.
"Next year we will find more suitable overnight sitters," I told her.
She laughed slightly, resting her head on my chest as she closed her tired eyes.
"We should probably clean up the table," she murmured as I swayed, rocking her slowly back to sleep. "Never did get the chance to do that last night."
I smiled. "No - We were far too busy."
She laughed slightly, hiding her flushing face in my chest and making me laugh. She acted shy, though I knew better.
"We can clean up the table later," I told her, shuffling her towards the sofa. She gave a muted agreement and collapsed on top of me as I fell into the cushions. She shifted momentarily before settling and breathing with deep, tired breaths.
"Are we going back to sleep?" she murmured. "We cannot go to sleep with the baby awake."
I glanced to Nethin only to find him with his fingers in his mouth and his head turned towards me with his eyes closed.
"You can sleep. I will keep an eye on him."
I smiled and let her sleep.
When the door was next knocked upon the twins were stampeding through the hallway, screaming while Ashk was washing the dishes.
"Haldir, can you get the door?" she called as I walked out of the nursery with Nethin chewing on his fist in my grasp.
I walked through the common, depositing my son on his day bed before moving to the door.
I was shocked to see Celenas - a ward of the scout Denethil - standing in my shadow as I opened it.
"March Warden." She curtsied slightly.
I stepped outside, closing the door to a crack behind me as the children squealed and Ashk dropped something in the wash bin.
"I have a message to deliver," Celenas informed me and I glanced at the folded paper in her hands. Yet, when she did not give it to me, I looked at her in question.
She forced a meek smile. "I am afraid it is not for you, my Lord, but for your wife."
My head cocked to the side and a questionable frown washed onto my face. "Ashk?" I glanced at the paper again to attempt to find any sort of seal or brand on it. There was none and I could only frown further.
"Yes, my Lord."
I hesitated before I pushed at the door and peered inside.
I barely saw her shoulder as she turned before leaning around the corner to look at me. I motioned her to join me and she frowned, glancing at the children and wiping her hands against the apron around her waist.
"My Lady," Celenas greeted, curtsying slightly once more. "I have brought with me a message."
She offered the paper and Ashk paused, not taking the message as she glanced at me in uncertainty.
"It is for you, my Lady," Celenas told her gently. "It has come from the eastern most borders. My Guardian Denethil came by it only yesterday. I was appointed to bring it to you."
Ashk's face was dumbstruck for a long moment before she reached out a damp hand and took the paper.
"Thank you," she murmured softly, looking down at wrinkled and weathered charge in her grasp.
"You are most welcome. Should you need to relay anything to the borders, I will be leaving once more at dawn." Celenas curtsied once more before turning and leaving the landing with a quick walk to her step.
Ashk and I exchanged a look before my wife turned inside and shoved the letter into the belt of her apron.
"Are you not going to read it?" I asked, truly curious as to who would know to find Ashk in Lorien and be forced to send word by a messenger. As far as I was aware, her sister Ana and her husband were the only people who truly knew of Ashk's existence in Caras Galadhon to the outside world.
"I have dishes to finish," she replied, her voice a bit distant.
I did not argue, it was not my letter to read, and instead closed the door behind me and narrowly avoided one of Onduras's flying toys as there was a minor war going on in the common.
"What did I say about throwing things?" I demanded and both children immediately stopped.
"Not around Little Brother," Onduras recited.
"Not in the flet either," I added pointing at them both. "To your room."
"Whose?" Ana questioned innocently.
"Either of yours. Last one inside has to deal with the wrath of the beast!"
The twins sprang up with shrieks and dashed down the hall with me - the Elf who could easily transform into the Beast if either of his children did not do as they were supposed to - stomping close behind. I grabbed Onduras before he could run into his room and he squealed with giggles.
I shook my head with a smile as I heard the twins and Haldir in our eldest son's bedroom. I glanced to Nethin who's eyes were wide as he stared down the hall.
"You will not be so wild, will you?" I asked. He looked at me, drawn by his mother's voice, before he cooed and fell back to grab his airborne toes.
I forced myself to finish with the dishes even as the letter in my waist seemed to burn and brand as it waited. I barely dried my hands before I snatched it free and meandered towards the common room, careful to step down as I opened the folded paper that was only sealed with pale wax.
The loopy handwriting inside immediately shocked me.
My Dearest Ashk,
How long it has been since I have last seen you, my dear. I suppose I always expected you to come back for the longest time. Yet, with Ana's assurance, I know you will not. I know you are happy, and that is all that soothes me in the days of your silence and absence.
I have longed to write you, my dearest girl, but I have not known of your home for many years. It is only now I am able to send word and I take my joy in that.
Ashk, I send this message now not only because I can, but because it is my duty. You must know what happens here in Sarubrim .
Your father is dying. He was laid upon his bed only two days ago and Jarhel has confided in me that he doubts he will remain through the month. His ailment sends him deep into fever and there he murmurs your name, Ashk. I know he longs to see you again - One last time before he leaves this world that has torn us all apart.
Ashk, please, come home.
Please, forgive him enough to come to his last wish.
All my love,
Haldir's voice penetrated my mind even as I felt myself fall to the cushions of the sofa. My hand raised to cover my dry mouth and I blinked, trying to see the world beyond the glaring letters on the paper I held in a shaking hand.
I dimly heard Haldir saying something to the twins as my eyes drifted over the page.
Your father is dying.
"Ashk - Idril - What is it?" Haldir's strong hand rested gently on my back as he sat beside me.
Limply I handed over the letter to him. He was silent, reading it to himself, before he looked at me once more. I stared blindly forward, the voice of my mother rereading the words to me once again.
"Forgive him?" Haldir asked softly.
"How can I?" I heard myself murmur softly, replying to my mother and not to my husband.
Haldir's fingers drew against my cheek. "Ashk, look at me." I hesitated before doing so. He frowned slightly. "How long has it been since you last saw your father?" he asked me.
I thought on it a moment before looking away, pushing myself to a stand. "A few days before I came to Lorien that winter. Nearly five years now," I told him, crossing my arms over my fluttering chest.
He looked surprised when I glanced back to him. "Why did you never tell me?" he questioned. "I did not– I thought your parents had died, Ashk. I never knew you had become estranged from them in these years." His voice was full of concern and sympathy.
I wanted neither.
He stood but did not near me and I looked at him to see him gazing at the letter again.
He frowned, looking up at me with swarming eyes. "Why does she ask you to forgive him?" he said softly.
I turned away, closing my eyes only to see my memories once more.
"I did not rear you as a damned whore!"
"Do you know who the father is?"
"What were you thinking?"
"Go on! See to your bastard alone - I will have no fatherless child here in my name. Oh, no. You get and see about that bastard and yourself! And don't you come back!"
I opened my eyes and yet the memories did not fade.
"Lady Shawe can see to this," he growled, grabbing my arm and pulling me towards the door.
"Daddy, no! No!"
"Ashk, you are not having some wild card bastard!"
"Stop calling him that!"
He released me as though I stung, flinging me back into a chair that rocked back in my weight.
"That is what he is!" he shouted at me. "Curse you, Ashk! I did not rear you as a damned whore!"
"Ashk." Haldir's voice was gentle and when he brushed a thumb past my cheek and dried a single tear, I was surprised. "Tell me what is going on," he ordered softly.
I swallowed and took a breath, unable to meet his eyes. "My father exiled me, Haldir. When he discovered my pregnancy, he was furious. First he wanted me to see a woman who would...deal with it." I grimaced at the thought. "When I refused he said I gave him no choice. I was a whore - my child a bastard. We would not live under his name and home."
Haldir blinked when I looked at him. I could not see what he was thinking past the mask upon his face and eyes.
"And your mother?" he asked softly.
"My family was that of honor, Haldir. I had dishonored them both by what I had done; bringing a child without a father to name. She could do nothing. In her eyes, I had betrayed her, too."
"So you left," Haldir said to continue the hideous story.
"I ended up outside of Lorien a day or two later. You came after three, the rest is everything you already know," I said, turning away from him towards the cooing and giggling Nethin.
His hand grabbed my arm gently. "What are you going to do?" he asked.
I looked at him in question.
"Ashk, you mother has asked you to go home. Do you have no longing to see her at all?" His voice was quiet, trying to understand something even I did not.
"And face my father?" I muttered, mostly to myself.
"Settle old demons?" Haldir countered. When I did not reply, his fingers brushed my cheek. "Why did you never tell me your parents were alive? In Sarubrim of all places - A half day's ride from the borders."
"To them, Haldir, I was the daughter of no one." My voice wavered much to my own disgust and when I tried to walk away, Haldir only pulled me to him, embracing me into his chest where I smeared my unwanted tears.
"I do not want to go, Haldir."
"All right. It is all right, Ashk - You do not have to go. Don't cry, Idril. Please."
But, I did cry. I cried for the memories I had locked away and the voices I had left to become foreign to me. And I cried to the five years that had gone on without a single word from my family outside of Ana and her husband.
What loyalty did I owe them?
I owed them nothing.
"So, she is just not going to go?" Orophin said with a deep frown on his face.
I shrugged my shoulders. "She does not want to. I am not going to force her to go," I told him.
I had no intentions on telling anyone of what had happened that afternoon and the message Ashk had gotten. However, when Orophin had dogged me on it for nearly an hour as I was attempting to let my confusion and frustration out on the training fields, I finally found myself giving in.
"I do not blame her," Rumil said suddenly and I spun to glare at him. I had not known he was near, much less listening in on the conversation.
"I have an issue to discuss with you, Little Brother," I growled, grabbing his collar and yanking him towards me. "What are you thinking letting children stay up all night?"
"Haldir, please let him go," Orophin said, wedging himself between us and shoving my hand away. "You can deal with that later. What are you going to do about Ashk?"
With a glare at Rumil, I turned my attention back to Orophin. "I will do nothing. She has made her choice," I replied sternly.
"Haldir, we of all people know very well what it is like to be without parents. Ashk has the chance to settle the rifts that tore her away from her own. Will you not encourage her to do so?"
"If it hurts her, most certainly not!" I replied. "You did not see her, Brother, she was heart broken by those people."
"Her parents," Orophin interjected.
"I do not care who they are," I growled back. "They made the mistake, they can live - and die - with it."
"They made a mistake both they and Ashk have lived with for five years, Haldir," Orophin reminded me. "What if one day she regrets never having one last chance to reclaim her family?"
I turned away from him, my hands bracing on my hips as I took a deep breath. "A family that abandoned her," I muttered.
"It was a hard situation, Brother. You know that. You yourself nearly left her more than once," Orophin told me quietly.
I turned to glare at him.
"The past is the past, but it did happen," Orophin warned me.
I scoffed, looking away from him with a scowl on my face.
"I agree with Haldir," Rumil said then. "This is Ashk's decision and she made it. Why reopen healed wounds?"
"It is obvious they are not healed," Orophin grumbled. "If she wept in the memories of it, it is obvious it still hurts her."
"And I am not forcing her to go to Sarubrim to be hurt again," I told him seriously. "She made her choice - I am in no place to force her to reconsider."
Orophin gave a giant sigh. "Very well, Haldir," he muttered. "If that is what you think is best. I will not bring this up again."
"Good," I said curtly before looking at Rumil. "I will deal with you later," I warned, pointing at him before walking away.
I stalked around Caras Galadhon for some time, soothing my stinging nerves before I would return to my home. In truth, not admitted to my brothers, I was torn between encouraging Ashk to go to her parents - to see if she could not settle what had rifted between them so long ago. But another was telling me to let her be and not push her for fear of the pain she may regain in that small place of Sarubrim.
When I started up the stairs to my home I walked them slowly.
Inside the flet I found the twins sitting at the table, chattering between themselves. Ashk came from the common with Nethin on her hip. She smiled at me, appearing as though nothing had shaken her earlier in the day, and I let that unnerving smile soothe me.
"Daddy, please do not be angry."
"Daddy, stop yelling at her!"
I opened my eyes, frowning into the dark before I rolled over in bed and clung to my husband in his sleep - Willing my dreams away.
"You cannot force me to drink that! I am not killing this child!"
"Drink it, or you leave. Do you understand? You are ruining your life, Ashk! Do not let this mistake become any bigger."
My mother and eldest sister watched me from the stairs and I felt my hand shake as I reached for the tiny bottle. It was red and corked tightly. The glass was cold in my grasp and I felt myself shaking my head, knowing it was wrong.
"Drink it, Ashk."
"No!" I shot to a stand, pitching the vile into the fire where the glass broke and spread the fire blue for only an instant. "I won't!"
I sighed, my heart beating wildly in my ears before I rolled to the edge of the bed and clenched my pillow closely. Slowly, I forced my eyes to close.
"Who was it?" he growled, leaning forward. "Who was it? Do you know who the father is?"
I remained silent. He would not believe me even if I told him.
"Was it Mort?"
I gawked in horror. "No - Daddy! Never!"
"Well, who then!"
I muffled a groan, not entirely awake except to the turning of my head.
"Get out. Leave. Leave and I never want to see you or that bastard! You have betrayed your family's name, Ashk! You have betrayed me!"
I rolled, waking myself as I bumped into Haldir. He sighed, shifting and yet did not wake.
Cold sweat layered me and I felt slightly sick. My father's voice continued to ring in my head and I shook it, rolling away from Haldir and getting out of bed.
The floor was cold under my feet as I moved to the wash room. There, in the mirror, I glanced at myself. I had not changed much. My hair was longer, finer, than it used to be. My face a bit more mature, but I did not look much different than I had five years ago.
I had only been twenty-one then. Now I was twenty five, soon to be twenty six. How different my world was now. Gloriously different.
Why had he been so cruel?
It was a question that had nagged me for so long now. Whenever I caught myself thinking of my father, a man I thought of as loving and wonderful in my youth, I would always wonder why he had been so cruel.
If I went to him, I could ask. I could demand to know. I could show him exactly what I had become since my exile from his family. That I had not raised bastards, but instead beautiful children under the loving gaze of their father. I had not become nothing and I had not given into hopelessness even when I had sometimes wanted to.
I was loved by my husband - the father of my children - and I loved him in return.
And, damn it all, I was happy.
I could show him that - irk him with knowing he was wrong. He had been so wrong.
My eyes focused on the mirror once more.
If I let him, he should have been proud of me. But I would not let him. I wanted him to feel envy and regret.
I wanted to hurt him like he hurt me.
And though it was so unlike me to crave revenge, so unlike Ashkalin daughter of Lucius to be cold with a hardened spirit, I wanted it now.
I would go to Sarubrim, but not to pay my last respects.
I would go for myself and my children. For my husband and the family I found here in Caras Galadhon.
And maybe then, perhaps I would feel the peace I longed for when I thought of my life before my children and Haldir.
Haldir was awake when I walked back into the bedroom and he took my hand as I sat on the bed's edge beside him. I stroked my fingers through his hair as he smiled just dimly.
"I changed my mind," I told him softly, his smile disappearing slowly in my words. I swallowed. "I am going to Sarubrim."
His grasp tightened just barely. "Are you certain?"
I nodded in silence and he brought my hand to his chest. "Then I will go with you."
I slanted a gaze at him. "I am not asking you to," I told him softly.
"You do not have to, Ashk," he replied.
Warmed by his undying loyalty, I could only smile lovingly and lean forward, kissing him in my gratitude.
The baby cried then and the kiss broke with our mutual smiles.
"I will get him," I said, patting his chest as he moved to get up before I stood and walked out of the room.
And as I lifted my son into my arms from his crib, I gave him a sad smile.
"Your Ada is so good to me," I said to him as his crying slowly dwindled. And when he lay content in my arms, the night was quiet even as my mind poured on.
Slowly, I revised every last thing I wanted to say to my father, and to my mother.
Every last word.
- - -
Hmm...Ashk is not very happy, is she? lol. This is an interesting story to write and I've had it in mind for some time. I am glad I finally got around to making it. I hope you all enjoyed. As stated in the front, this is about 4 chapters long. Perhaps 5, I have not decided yet. Anyway... Next updated expected on July 17.
Let me know what you think, everyone! Love all!