Into the Starless Night

Synopsis: Anária is a Ranger who has survived Helm's Deep, but now she must continue south, to Gondor and war against Mordor. Sequel to "Daughter of Númenor", set during TTT, ROTK. Haldir/OC

A/N: Welcome to the second part of Anária's story! If you have not read "Daughter of Númenor" I suggest you do so, this story will not contain any of the back story provided in it.

Thank you for reading this story, and please leave me a review!

Disclaimer: JRR and New Line own all rights. Please don't take my story down or anything nasty!

Prologue: The Twilight of the Elves

It was before dawn, the pale grey sky still scattered with bright stars, to the east the morning star twinkled brightly. Haldir had risen and washed, his wound was rebound by a silent Anária whose eyes told him that she had been awake most of the night. He requested she take him outside, into the fresh air. As they went through the hall Legolas, the Prince of Mirkwood turned to watch them go, his eyes inscrutable as he surveyed their progress, the way that she held him up with an arm around his waist.

She was small against his side, her arms however were strong and she helped his steps without trouble. He wondered if she took as much comfort from his closeness as he took from her ministrations. The thought caused him the slightest of smiles as they went out of the hall. Without a pause she helped him mount the steps to the height of the wall. The tang of iron and carrion was still upon the air but it was sweeter to him than the scent within the castle. The sky was the deep blue grey of the sky an hour before dawn, beside him her slim form was mantled in silver and red. While she slept one of his wardens had cleaned her armour and robes, like all Elven made garments they did not remained soiled for long, and dried swiftly. Her dark hair she had bound back in the same braid he had worn to the battle and it made him smile. He raised a hand to brush against her dark braid.

Startled she looked up at him, her eyes wide with surprise then she lowered her face, staying very still as he ran his fingers through the dark unbound hair against the nape of her neck, gently he pulled her closer, inhaling the sweet scent of her clean hair. It seemed to him she still smelt of long grass and small flowers. He became aware that her slim shoulders were shaking slightly

"Melethril*, look at me." She obeyed, raising her proud head up to meet his eyes, her grey eyes sparkled with tears. None had yet fallen yet their sorrow was present and it almost broke his own calm. She was going, she was leaving him behind. She was walking into the darkness rising in the east while he returned to the west, to the tall trees and protection of the Lady.

"Do not weep." He said softly, wishing he could wipe all signs of sorrow from her. She shook her head a little and then stepped closer to him, burying her face against his neck, her slim arms winding the way around his neck. Her breaths, almost little sobs were breather against his collar. He wrapped his free arm around her waist, using the other to stroke her dark head. He felt a sort of anger pierce his sorrow, he had lived long ages of the world and like a child he now resented that time wasted before this day. He wished in vain that he had gone to Rivendell in recent years and seen his love there, or that he might have met her sooner, or that somehow he could find more time. She pulled back from him, her back arching so she could look up at him. She was frowning a little and he realised that he was crushing her to him, his arms attempting to keep from losing her. He managed a little smile down at her, and he knew she understood.

She was more Elven than he could ever have guessed when he first saw her, for in the way she smiled at him in return and the hand that brushed against his cheek he felt her understanding. She too wished for those precious extra hours.

But even now the eastern sky began to grow a little lighter and the mist below seemed to be thinning. And if that did not tell him dawn was approaching the sound of men moving around the castle and voices calling to one another did. Sooner than he would like he would have to step back and release her, for nothing that they were doing was entirely appropriate.

For she had not been his only visitor. Aragorn had come to speak with him. Their were customs amongst the Dúnedain; Haldir would have to ask her parents permission to court her formally, and then there would be a proper betrothal. Softly he told Aragorn they were already betrothed in the Elvish fashion. Aragorn had nodded.

"I assure you friend, I can think of no reason why any parent would be distressed to have you as a suitor. But you must understand. To her family and my people she is precious." Aragorn's eyes became distant as he gazed at the wall above Haldir's head. "When I took her from her family it almost destroyed her mother, she was ill for a month with grief. And when Anária and her brother both were on patrol the fear of losing both their children aged her parents terribly…" Aragorn met Haldir's eyes. "They are more than two decades my junior but their hair is streaked with grey and their shoulders bent as though beneath a great burden…" Haldir did not need to speak. He knew the fears that lay upon those whose loved one's went willingly into peril, he felt it even now as Aragorn told him his beloved must go south.

"But hearken to this Haldir. Before she goes south she wishes to speak with you. As her kinsman I give you my permission to act as your heart desires and court her in those few hours you have left together for I fear you will not meet again ere this war ends."

She was shifting in his embrace, he looked down at her, she was eyeing him in an inquisitive, nervous way. He knew what it was she hoped to dare as he saw how her eyes flickered from his lips to his eyes and it made him feel giddy. He lowered his head and brushed his lips against the soft skin of her cheek, he felt her lips upon his own cheek and smiling once more he turned his face and gently kissed her lips in the chestiest and briefest of kisses. When he pulled back her eyes were bright and sparkling. He took a full step away as he heard voices below at the gate remarking on something about a horse. Then came another voice, it was Legolas' and in it Haldir heard the slightest of warnings as the Elf prince spoke loudly his friend and Captain's name.

"Aragorn! Did you sleep well friend?" Haldir smiled and turned back to regard Anária she was smiling in an abashed sort of way, blushing, with sparkling eyes as she pressed her recently kissed lips together. As Aragorn and Legolas talked she fidgeted and looked away from him.

"Haldir – when you return to Lórien will you visit my brother?" She asked softly. "I know you will not be able to send me word of how he fares but it would ease my heart if you might look in on him occasionally."

"Of course." He replied raising an eyebrow. "It would be my duty anyway, but as you have asked I will do it as often as I can." She smiled at him, finally meeting his eyes again.

"Thank you." She stepped a little closer. "Haldir…" she was biting her lip, as though unsure how to continue. He remained quiet to allow her to continue, after a long moment as they sounds of the company gathering below grew she remained quiet.

"Haldir, I will come back. This path, it is into the darkness but I believe that the dawn will come." He looked over at her; silently he nodded, acknowledging her words. After a long moment she continued. "But it may be that the dawn will not come for me." He took an involuntary step towards her, reaching out a hand to grab hers in his own.

"Do not-"

"No Haldir! Let me say this!" she interrupted him. "If that happens do not linger as your kin go west, do not fall into the darkness and doubt that will come, as the twilight of the Elves turns to night." He stayed still and silent. "Will you do that? Will you go?" he looked away briefly before meeting her eyes again, the sky was silvering, she would need to leave soon.

"Anária. You fear my staying but you do not know what you ask when you beg me to leave this land. I am not of the exiles, I never went into Valinor." He shivered at thought of the blessed realm and the terrible catastrophes that had befallen those who had returned over the sea.

"I was born in Doriath, in this Middle Earth, and I have lived hundreds of lifetimes of men in this world, under these trees and never have I truly heard the call of the sea." He looked deeply into her eyes. "I may not ever have left were we never to have met, death is not the end for me, I will never truly die. And whether I linger here or go across the sea I would still fade if you are lost to me now." She shivered, her face briefly showing the depth of grief his words took away her self-control. "You must go now love, but do not think of the darkness ahead of us, think of how the sun will shine on the day you are returned to me." She smiled, a sad little smile that trembled upon her lips. He pulled her close, pressing his lips to her ear.

"Remember my love, twilight will pass and after the stormy night a new dawn will come and as the flowers bloom the darkness shall fade. It has ever been so." She nodded against his neck.

"I know… But I am… I'm afraid Haldir." He grasped her closer for a moment, wishing he could take her out of harm's way and show her peace and rest.

"Everyone is afraid Anária, but you will overcome your fear as you have done before, and do what you must. Your duty is with your people, as mine is with mine." She nodded once more and when he pulled back her momentary sadness had passed.

"Go now, and may Elbereth bless you and guide you." She smiled as he lifted each of her slim, pale hands to his mouth and pressed a kiss to each palm.

"And may she watch over you My Lord, on your journey." He smiled.

"Namarie." He said softly, sensing the presence who had mounted the stairs behind him. He let her pass him before he turned around, Aragorn, his careworn face stern and troubled as he regarded Haldir for a long moment, before finally nodding to the Elven Lord in farewell…

Haldir remained there, watching his beloved disappear until the sun beat down upon him, its early spring warmth seeming to him to reflect the words of Anária, spring was indeed coming. He closed his eyes, allowing the gentle breeze to blow over him as Anária travelled further and further away. Finally he turned away from where she had disappeared into the distant horizon.

He had his own journey to undertake…

~Please Review~