This is the sequel to Two Paths, hopefully it comes quicker than the previous one.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Lord of the Ring related (if I did I wouldn't owe so much in college loans), except for the story idea and all original characters.
Please read, relax, review, and enjoy.
Shards of Friendship:
As Aragorn looked at Arwen's face he recognized something familiar about it, yet he couldn't place it. Her eyes were full of sadness as they gazed at him, but that was not what her expression spoke for that showed a lack of sympathy for what, however, he was unsure. She lifted her hands up and he prepared himself for her warm embrace, as he thought to ask her what was troubling her. Her hands came up higher than he anticipated, but that was fine; once they were around his neck, they would begin to spread their soothing warmth to his body allowing him to sink into a state of bliss. But that moment didn't come when he thought it to, still he waited patiently. It didn't come as she lowered her hands, nor did it come as she smiled at him.
'My love,' his voice cracked in questioning wonder. Wordlessly, she slapped him, her expression changing to disgust.
'Do not call me such,' her soft, airy voice angrily forced the words out. Aragorn made to respond, but she moved closer until her head was next to his, opening her own mouth to speak. Unexpectedly, the voice changed, becoming deeper as she spoke. 'You are a mere mortal, pathetic and helpless,' the voice drew farther away from him allowing him to recognize the speaker as Elrond.
'Ada,' he pleaded, 'what is happening.' He questioned the eleven lord and again felt the sting of the hand.
'Insolent human,' Elrond spat. 'Do you think that right is granted to you simply because you were reared in the House of Elrond? It was only the sight of your pitiful mother burdened with the weight which your father passed onto you that convinced me to allow you in this house. And now I see that I made a great mistake thinking a human child could ever learn the elven ways.'
Aragorn was dumbfounded, left speechless by Elrond's harsh words against him and his family. This was not the Elrond he had know throughout his childhood, this was not the kind man that tended to his scraped knees when he fell in the garden or that had patiently re-explained his lessons to him when he was too antsy to pay attention the first time. Once again he made to speak, but Elrond was no longer before him, rather he was standing on the ground. At last Aragorn realized where he stood: atop a wooden platform, a coarse loop of rope draped around his neck.
'For your crime,' Elrond spoke, 'you shall be hanged until dead.' Yet again shock overtook Aragorn, as he tried quickly to comprehend what was happening around him. His thoughts were interrupted, by Elrond calling to the guards, who immediately obeyed their lord's command and Aragorn felt himself drop.
Aragorn woke quickly as he rolled over, catching himself quickly for he did not wish to plummet to the ground lest he die.
'Finally my love,' a sweet voice called to him. He moved back in shock, sitting up slightly. Blinking, he forced his still sleepy eyes to focus on the person before him, afraid to see who it was, but it was just Arwen. Nevertheless, it sent a tremble of fear through him.
'Arwen,' he nervously asked.
'It is I,' she answered softly. 'What troubles you, Aragorn?'
'Tis nothing,' he tried to hide the relief that it was truly her for by now he surely would have appeared if it was not. 'What calls you here?' he asked, sitting up straighter.
'Elrohir and Elladan are enjoying your absence at the morning meal.'
Aragorn relaxed slightly at the mirthful tone of her voice.
'Let them,' he spoke softly as he slowly moved closer to Arwen, 'for I have something far sweeter than Annael's muffins.' He finished as he kissed her.
'And while that may be true, my beloved,' she backed away slightly, 'if you have not eaten, Ada will not allow you to leave on your journey today.'
He sank back into his pillow; he was defeated for he knew that was more than true. Even though he was, by human standards, an adult, Ada never stopped looking after him as though he were a young child.
'Nénimë has already drawn the water for your bath,' Arwen informed him as she stood, making her way to the door. 'And I will tell Elladan and Elrohir to save some food for you.'
'Those two would delight in you telling them that and they shall leave me with an apple, saying they did as you asked,' Aragorn spoke, moving himself until his feet hit the floor. 'Nay, if I am going to eat this morning, you shall have to make sure that they actually leave something.'
'That is true,' she conceded. 'I shall then go make sure that they leave you more than just an apple, perhaps you would like a muffin as well?' she teased as she left Aragorn's room. Shaking his head, Aragorn chuckled; they were all jesters.
Sighing, Aragorn forced himself to get out of bed. Once standing, he stretched and walked over to a table which held a bowl of water that he used to wash his face. After bathing, he dressed and went down stairs to the dining room where he found Ellandan and Elrohir sitting at the table, eating their meal quickly. To his dismay, he did not see Arwen as he expected.
'Mára arin, tornnya,' (Good morning, my brother) Elrohir somehow managed to say clearly between mouthfuls of a muffin.
'Mára arin,' Aragorn answered, taking a seat next to Elrohir. 'How are the muffins?' he asked Elrohir, taking a muffin for himself.
'Excellent,' he swallowed quickly, finishing the last bit of the muffin he was eating. As his two brothers finished eating, Aragorn ate in silence.
'What are you planning on doing today,' Elrohir asked his human brother.
'I must begin preparing for my quest to find the rangers or what remains of them.'
'Have you had any luck with your contacts?' Ellandan inquired.
'Some. I have been told that a group stopped in Caugha for supplies and headed east towards the Misty Mountains.'
'When do you plan on leaving?'
'Today, if my luck holds out and I can gather the supplies I need before the daylight disappears.' Aragorn answered.
'Well, do not forget, young brother, that Ada wishes to see you today,' Elrohir reminded the human.
'Forget,' Aragorn's voice rose slightly in shock, 'I do not believe I was ever told that he wished to see me today.' The two elves looked at one another from across the table.
'I thought you were going to tell him last night.'
'If I remember correctly, it was Ada who told you to tell him, not I,' Ellandan reminded his twin. 'And I believe it was you who told me about it.'
'No, I believe that it was you who were supposed to tell him,' Elrohir retorted.
'Nay, dear brother,' Ellandan tried to keep his voice calm, 'I believe it was you.'
'Enough,' Aragorn spoke firmly from the side. He could see where this was headed and did not wish to hear such a conversation this morning. In a much calmer voice he spoke, 'It is alright. I now know that I am expected to see Ada today. It does not matter who was to tell me, you got the message to me. I will go see him after I finish eating.'
'Sorry,' Elrohir apologized.
'Ion nin, do not worry,' Aragorn said.
'Well, brother, I believe we should be going,' Ellandan pushed himself away from the table. 'If you remember we are set to go hunting with Haldir today.'
'I remember,' Elrohir said sarcastically as he too pushed himself from the table. Standing, he looked at Aragorn, 'If you should leave before we return, I hope your quest goes well. May the Valar keep you safe.'
'Lets go Elrohir, we should not keep Haldir waiting any longer,' Ellandan picked up a stray muffin from the table. 'Good day, dear brother,' he called leaving the room, Elrohir not far behind him.
Not long after his brothers left, Aragorn arose from his seat and left the dining hall.
'Aragorn,' a soft, familiar voice called to him as he prepared to walk up the steps to Elrond's study.
'Arwen,' he turned to face her. 'You were not in the dining hall as I expected. I'm very lucky that I still had some food to eat.'
'Forgive me,' crossing the short distance between them and placing her hands on his chest, she whispered, 'my love.'
'Quiet,' he replied sharply, taking a hold of her hands and moving them down. 'We must be careful. No one yet knows.'
'Fine,' she replied cheerily, 'let us go then somewhere where we can be alone and not worry about intruders.' She pulled on his arm as she moved to go down the hallway, but when he did not move, she stopped, turning to face him.
'I can't Arwen,' Aragorn allowed his shoulders to sink a bit. He envied Arwen for her youthfulness and cheeriness. He wished to join her, be ever since he returned to Imladris from his time with the rangers he had felt weighted down. 'I must see Ada; he is expecting me.'
'I too know of the meeting that Ellandan and Elrohir we supposed to tell you about last night and Ada did not specify a time. In fact, he is probably busy working and will not appreciate the disturbance.'
'But,' he started.
'Do not worry,' she pulled on him again, this time getting a slight movement from him. 'Ada will not know. Come,' she finished, this time succeeding in getting him going, after yet another tug. About halfway through the hallway, Aragorn stopped.
'Where are we going Arwen,' he asked impatiently.
'You will see,' she came close to him. In a whisper she spoke, 'A place where we can be alone.'
'My love,' he whispered, entrapped by her beauty and intoxicated by the scent of her body, Aragorn made to move closer, until Arwen pulled away from him. Surprised, he did not turn until he heard Arwen greet a servant. He tried to keep from blushing as he mumbled a greeting, nodding his head. The servant nodded her head, receiving the greeting as a person of her status was to and continued walking. Not until they were sure that she was gone and that there was no one else in the hallway, did they draw close again.
'See,' she spoke in soft, confident tone, 'we must go someplace where we can be alone.'
'Yes,' he agreed as she pulled on his arm once again, forcing him to move with her. After several minutes, they finally stopped. Arwen led him through a door, which took them outside into a garden. If he had not been with Arwen, he doubted that he would have been able to find the stone path for it was so overgrown with plants. Everywhere he looked it seemed there were flowers of the most rich, vibrant colors he could recall casting his gaze on. Stumblingly on the path, he looked down, seeing the weeds growing up in the path. This had once been a path of elvish perfection and beauty, made of stones interlocking in such a way that they seemed as though they had been destined for one another, he realized. It had long gone unattended to, however, and now weeds had forced themselves into the small cracks, making them larger and shifting some stones upwards, causing tripping dangers.
As he followed Arwen, who easily placed her feet on the stones as if she had been here often, even more of the garden came into his view. Though it had obviously not been tended to in years, the overgrowth was welcome and comforting. Beside them, Aragorn heard the trickling of water. Ahead of them, he could see an end to the plants, as the path emptied into a meadow of sorts. When at last they reached this, he saw the source of the water; there was a small stream into which flowed a waterfall no more than a meter and a half tall.
Pulling him into the clearing, she stopped, moved close to him and whispered, 'Here, my love. Here is where we can be alone.'
'I did not know this place existed,' he said, still in awe of the beauty.
'Not many do, but I often come here when I wish to be alone,' she turned her back to him, looking at the water gently crashing into the water as it fell from the rock. 'No one comes here anymore.'
'Anymore?' he asked, intrigued by her statement. Arwen paused for a minute before answering him.
'Bad memories,' she said, a twinge of sadness in her voice. 'Have you told ada yet?' she quickly changed the subject. This time it was his turn to pause before speaking.
'No,' he told her.
'Why,' her voice rose a touch as she whirled around to confront him.
'I don't know,' he sighed. 'Perhaps I am afraid of his answer, after all we still are not on the best of terms.'
'And yet he allows you to remain here as long as you wish,' she pointed out. 'He is a good man Aragorn, why can you not see that. He will understand.'
'I know he is a good man, but I still fear his answer. And how can I tell him that I love you? We are almost brother and sister, Arwen.'
'Does that bother you?' she asked firmly.
'No,' he sighed.
'True we are both part of this family, raised by the same father, but we are not blood relatives Aragorn. We did not even grow up together. There is nothing wrong with our love for one another. Ada will understand that and he will accept the love we have for one another.'
'And what of your brothers? Do you really believe they will accept it as easily as Ada?'
'They love you deeply as they love me. I am sure that they would be joyed to know that you will be staying in the family.' She moved towards him, 'But they matter naught, Aragorn,' she spoke softly, taking his hands in hers. 'What truly matters is that we love one another. Our love is not false and cannot be doubted. This they shall have to accept.'
'Aye, Arwen,' he gently took her hands, lifting them to kiss the fingertips. 'This they shall have to accept,' he agreed, peering over her hands to gaze at her eyes. Instantly, he was enraptured by the beauty they beheld. He felt as though they could read one another's minds for as soon as he moved to kiss her, she moved to kiss him. Then the beauty and passion he held for her, ignited all the more and he found himself unable to draw away from her.
At last, however, he forced himself to, for he knew that they could not remain this way forever.
'Arwen,' he breathed her name, his lips still dangerously close to hers. 'My love,' he forced himself to move a little farther back, 'I must go. I have to talk to Ada.'
'Yes,' she whispered so soft that despite their closeness only her elven ears could hear it. She was distracted, saddened that the moment was over, but also frightened for him and his safety. She knew he was not quite healed, he still suffered headaches from whatever torture he had endured. Sometimes they were so terrible, he could not even rise from his bed; rather he would stay there, keeping his room cloaked in darkness trying to work through the pain. Ada always tried to help him, giving him a potion that would ease the pain, but Ada feared giving it too often for Aragorn might become reliant on it.
'Arwen,' he called again, slightly louder than before. She looked at him, 'I must go,' he repeated his earlier statement. 'I have to talk to Ada.'
'Of course,' she tried not to look disappointed, but her voice betrayed her.
'Arwen,' he touched her chin with his hand, 'I will not be gone for long. Once I find the rangers, I will return to see you.'
'And I shall be waiting,' she lowered her head.
'Come, we should go,' now it was Aragorn's turn to take her hand, leading her back through the overgrown path. They walked slower than when they had come, both knowing that this was their last moment for some time that they would be able to spend alone together. Once outside the door, they would have to hide their love for one another, showing rather the love that one shows to a sibling. The masquerade was difficult. She was not sure how much longer she could pretend; she knew however that she would have to continue until Aragorn told Ada.
As they approached the door, Arwen noticed the door was slightly ajar. She knew she had fully shut it so as to make sure that no one would hear them or think that someone was in the garden. The door, she told herself, must have slipped open a little. It was the wind that did it, she tried to assuage the feelings of uneasiness settling in her mind. She looked to Aragorn; he did not seem to notice.
But he had take note; he knew that Arwen would have been careful to shut it fully so they would not be caught. He too tried to tell himself, however that it was the wind, but in his heart he knew that someone had been in the garden; someone had seen them. The two questions that remained were: who was it and how much had they seen.