A quick heads up, some of chapter 6 has been altered. I suggest going back to re-read if you haven't already. The change was made to the balcony scene.
Don't Wake Me Up
Light Up The Night
My eyes open and I take a gasping breath, panicked. Above me there are a few tree branches contrasting the bright blue sky. I sit up quickly, not sure of what has happened. I feel the blood rush to my head and my vision becomes spotty for a moment before slowly clearing. I hold my head in my hands, trying to calm down. Aragorn is kneeling beside me and I see him relax at seeing me awake. He reaches out, touching my shoulder gently.
"Relax, it's over." He says soothingly. I take a few deep breaths, trying to steady myself. I feel my heart rate slow, approaching its normal cadence once more. Memories of what occurred come rushing back and I remember watching Boromir die. The vivid imagery makes my stomach turn and I try to push the horrid images from my head. I try to remember what happened after he…. died, and I find I can't remember anything at all.
I look around, desperate for answers or reassurance of some kind but I see only Gimli and Legolas. My heart seems to skip a beat as my stomach drops. Where is everyone else?
"The others, are they… dead?" I ask, terrified of the answer. What would we do? Aragorn shakes his head, expression serious.
"No, Frodo and Sam are taking their own path. They're alive. As for Merry and Pippin, I truly do not know." His tone is as solemn as one might expect as he delivers the news. The pit of dread in my stomach is somewhat soothed, though the knowledge that both Merry and Pippin are gone make me feel sick. The risks suddenly feel far more real than they ever did before.
"Elsira, I need you to tell me what happened back there." Aragorn says in a hushed tone. I tilt my head slightly as I try to figure out what he is talking about. What could I know that he doesn't already know? I gather my thoughts, going through what happened in my head to get it all straight.
"Boromir tried to take the ring from Frodo and then the orcs attacked. I climbed a tree to escape, and then realized I had left Boromir. I got back to him just as..." I fall silent, distressed by what I'd seen. I remember the overwhelming hate and rage I felt when he died. I stare off, not knowing what to say. A line creases Aragorn's brow as his eyes narrow in a perplexed way.
"Elsira, I need to know everything you know about your magic, and I need to know it now." His tone worries me and I have a growing fear that I have done something wrong. I think back to everything I know, trying to figure out what is useful and what isn't in terms of what I should tell him.
"I know it can kill me. I don't know how I got it, but I know it's dangerous. I don't really know how to use it, and I don't think I was supposed to get it. Past that, I don't really know anything about it." I tell him the truth. I trust him, though I truly know very little about the odd magic I have acquired. It sounds cryptic and I pray that he believes me. I don't think I could handle his mistrust right now. Aragorn is one of my only friends in this world.
Aragorn sighs. That was clearly not the answer he wanted. He stands before helping me to my feet. I'm a bit wobbly, unsteady after passing out. He holds me still and Gimli and Legolas' eyes focus on the two of us.
"Gimli, Legolas, it's time." Aragorn says, his voice soft and and full of unspoken sadness. Aragorn supports me as I walk, trying to get feeling back down to my leg. Halfway down to the shore I regain the feeling I so sought and Aragorn hesitantly lets me go that I might finish the walk on my own.
Boromir's body lies in a boat at the edge of the river, his expression peaceful. His skin is a shade too pale and I know that his skin would be cold to the touch. I feel an ache in my heart as I realize how few of us remain. What are we going to do now that our numbers have dwindled so? Without the Ring, what becomes of our quest?
In a single week I have seen more death than I ever have before. I have had to kill to survive and all of this hits me at once. The horrors of this world are real. They aren't in a book or through a tv screen and I find that the longer I am here the more profoundly I am affected by the chaos here. It feels as though it is suffocating me.
I watch silently as Aragorn's weathered hands, covered in dirt and callouses, push the boat out onto the river. Perhaps they are speaking but I am not listening. I'm staring at the boat, lost in my own thoughts as I try to understand once more what it is I am doing here. I feel very lost in this new world and I find that it's getting harder and harder to keep hold of the person I was before. Who I was before wouldn't survive in Middle Earth.
I shut my eyes, trying to banish my fears. I focus instead on how we might proceed. We've lost most of the Fellowship and are in a rather precarious situation. Frodo and Sam have gone off alone to take a powerful Ring to the most dangerous place in the world, and Merry and Pippin have been kidnapped by the creatures that threaten the cities of man. Both have grim times ahead and I realize quickly that we can only go after one pair.
"Where are you going?" Aragorn's voice draws me from my reverie. I refocus on my surroundings and see Legolas heading towards the remaining boat. Legolas turns to look at Aragorn incredulously, as if expecting the man to understand.
"I'm going after Frodo." Legolas says firmly. Aragorn shakes his head, and I watch Legolas's expression change. I can see there is less hope and self-assurance in his eyes than before and I wonder if maybe I am not so alone in my doubts.
"It's up to Frodo now. Pippin and Merry need us at the moment and we cannot let the little ones down." Aragorn says evenly, but I know that's not why. Aragorn would not save Merry and Pippin over ensuring the Ring is destroyed. The end goal must be the priority, so I suspect he does not trust either himself or others to be around the ring.
"Then why are we still standing here? Let's go save us some hobbits!" Gimli says boisterously. I cannot help the slight cringe at his overdone happiness. He is trying to stay positive and I understand that but it does not help my lack of confidence in our cause. I feel that we're all going to die.
I can see smoke rising up in the distance, curling into the sky like a massive snake which looms over the horizon. The rest of the sky is fairly blue with only a few clouds marking it. In this moment, I find myself reminded of my home.
Home, I can barely remember the place I come from. It's like all the memories I had of that place were left behind when I came here. I can barely remember my home where I grew up. I can remember only vague, hazy images of my friends from back home and nothing of my family, if I even had one. Maybe I was an orphan, I wouldn't know.
"Are you alright Elsira? You seem lost." I look up at the speaker, seeing Aragorn. It's who I expected, as Aragorn tends to be the one to worry about me. That doesn't do much to diminish the blush that colours my cheeks. Aragorn has a rugged attractiveness about him which I cannot help but like.
"I'm fine Aragorn. I'm just thinking of my home, or, trying to. I can't remember much to be honest and that bothers me. I want to remember my family, but I can't. I can't remember anything at all and that fact is maddening simply because I barely seem to know who I am." I sound every bit as flustered as I feel. It's a stupid distraction but it's one I can't shake off.
"It doesn't matter who you were back then. Who you are now is what's important. What happened before is what led up to this point, and it doesn't matter to tell you the truth. What matters is who you are now." He sounds so sure of himself and I find myself wishing I had such faith in my words.
"The person I am now is Elsira, but I am not sure what that means. Who am I? I come from another world, but it isn't one I can speak of. I can't even remember the place I'm from. I don't know my parents, my home, or my world. It is not easy to be so confident when you don't even know who you are." He looks ponderous as I say this and I know he is trying to find a way to help. I sigh sadly, fully knowing that there is nothing I can do. I turn away, signaling that I'm done talking about it.
The sun is setting and we are closing in on the orcs. We decide to make camp, not wanting to fight them in the dark of night unless they are unaware, which they are not. They fully expect us and so we have decided to wait until morning to attack, after they have been on the run all night.
Legolas takes first watch and Aragorn and Gimli fall asleep quickly. I lie awake, unable to sleep. I sit up, and feel Legolas' eyes on me. I sigh heavily, not wanting to talk to him right now. I don't know what I would even say to him after what happened that night on the balcony.
"You should be asleep. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow, and precious few hours to spend on sleep." I nod mechanically at his words, knowing that I should be asleep. Knowing and doing are two different things though. I sigh and sit up. I don't want to talk to him, but at the same time I really do. I just won't talk about what happened.
"You should sleep too. You always take first watch and you always prolong your watch. You must be tired. Why not let someone else take over?" I shiver a bit but due to the close proximity of the orcs, it wouldn't be very smart to light a fire. The night air is chilly but not cold enough to be a problem. I pull my blanket closer, wrapping it around myself as I try to get warm. Legolas walks over and sits down beside me.
"I have spent years of my life sleeping for nearly half the day. A few missed hours will not kill me." He jests lightly, making me smile as I recall hating getting up in the morning. I never liked getting up, it was often cold outside of the blankets and I am the kind of person who favors warmth. I remember sitting, curled up in blankets and drinking hot tea in the morning, loathe to leave the warmth. I smile softly, lost in one of the few memories I have.
"What do you remember about the place you're from?" He asks. My mind drifts further, delving into the nuances that I recall. The little things I can remember that seemed so important vanish as soon as he asks the question and, when put on the spot, I draw quite a few blanks.
"There were no elves or dwarves there. Only humans. We didn't have magic, but we did have technology you wouldn't believe. It was amazing the things we could make back home... I don't remember much else though." I feel a twinge of despair at my lack of memory. Why must everything be so complicated? Every time I try to remember something it slips through my fingers. Anything specific is pointless to consider because of how little I can remember. Such things defy logic; there should be some sort of reason! I didn't develop a serious case of long term memory loss or amnesia suddenly and nothing else makes sense. Nothing in this world seems to make sense.
"My whole life back there is like a dream. Except now I've woken up and I can't remember the dream. Everything I grew up with and knew is just… gone. All my friends, family, and experiences."
"I cannot imagine how frustrating that must be." He replies, his tone genuine.
"Will you tell me about your home?" I ask, my eyes meeting his. He smiles a bit before looking off into the distance.
"I am from Mirkwood. Our city is very different from Imladris, as we are far more serious and guarded. The forest is dangerous, and we never let our guard down. Giant spiders and other beasts inhabit Mirkwood and we must maintain a constant vigilance if we are to survive, and with that vigilance comes a certain inescapable severity. Living there can be enjoyable though, and our celebration of the Vernal Equinox is the grandest in the realms. One day, after all this is over, I want to take you with me to Mirkwood. It is beautiful there, and in my opinion, it is even more beautiful than Imladris." As he speaks I imagine a city built into the forest, as though it were a part of it. I imagine homes and structures built into the trees and deeply entwined with nature in an intimate and breathtaking way, almost as if I had been there myself. I cannot contain my smile, closing my eyes to picture it better.
"Maybe one day I will, if we survive this." The idea of not surviving it wipes the smile from my face. I look away, scenarios passing through my mind. I might not make it or worse, he may not. We could die any day, this is a war we're fighting and two of us have already died. Everything is falling apart and I can't help but wonder if perhaps it's my fault. I am inexperienced; I've never fought, never been in a war. While I want to help, I know nothing of how to. I will not, however, let anyone die for me.
"I'm sorry, Legolas, but I need a moment alone." I stand, turning towards my bedroll and grabbing my sword before walking into the night.
As I walk I realize how well I can see in the dark. I am amazed, my elven eyes piercing the shadows. My mind jumps from topic to topic, always circling back to Boromir. Those eyes haunt me, because I saw that he had no fear. He accepted his fate but he didn't have to die. He was the fighter, not me. I ran, I hid up in the trees. I should be the one that died, not him. Boromir deserved better than that.
I sit by a large oak tree, leaning against it and losing myself in my thoughts. I try to focus on Mirkwood, or anything that isn't how I let him die. I picture the city with a precision that surprises me. I can see elven faces, some smiling and some heartbroken, gathered before a grand structure which must be the heart of the city. A blonde elf wearing a crown of branches and orange leaves woven together to make spires stands before his people, and the vision consumes me.
"We have lost much. Not just one of us, but all of us!" His words bring a wail from many of the people and I can see quite clearly the pain in his eyes.
"We stood together in war beside dwarves and humans, when we were all threatened. We made alliances and yet where are they? Where are they when we are trying to rebuild?" These words bring a chorus of angry shouts, and I hear my own voice in the mix.
"Yes, my brothers and sisters of the Mirkwood, we have lost much. But do not fear, or doubt, because we have gained even more. We do not need them beside us, because we will rebuild! We will stand on our own! We, the immortal people, whose culture nor name shall ever die, will live and we will prosper without them all!" Screams ring out again, though this time in joy and passion. A sea of elven faces roar their approval.
"And when they come to us again, begging for help. We will ask them where they were were when we needed the help, and they will understand what it is to be alone." His words are cold, his expression colder. The people unite, cheering a single name: Thranduil.
A hand touches my shoulder and I turn to see a familiar face. Brown eyes are the defining feature on his face, drawing my undivided attention. He takes my hand, leading me from the crowd and I follow without question. As soon as we are free from the crowd he turns to me, hands on my shoulders and eyes on mine.
"We have to leave. Now." His words are sharp and I feel a pang in my chest. Why would I want to leave? I can't remember why I wanted to leave… Despite my confusion I feel myself nodding without hesitation and he turns, running down a side street. I follow him, bolting down a staircase and following him through a gate. He leads me down to a training area and I see our way out. The eastern gate is usually bustling but right now, the only guards are the ones on the wall and their job is to keep people out, not in. They're facing the wrong way to stop us.
He pulls on the crank and the gates open just enough to let us out. The guards snap to attention, yelling for us to stop but we're already gone, dashing through the gate and out into the forest. We run as fast as we can through the forest, him leading the way because he knows where we're going.
We slow down and he guides me, showing me the way through the woods. He takes my hand and I tug lightly, a silent plea for him to look at me. He does, turning so that his eyes meet mine. His dark brows are arched and his lips are quirked in amusement. His smirk turns into a full blown smile and he pulls me close.
"No more fighting, nin meleth. No more, war. We will live as we want to, with no king to tell us otherwise." He speaks, but I'm studying every part of his face as though for the first time. His high cheekbones and strong jaw, the scar that crosses his left eyebrow, just missing his eye. His eyes…. I study his almond-shaped eyes intently and brush a strand of hair from his forehead. His brown hair is braided, falling down his back just past his broad shoulders.
"Nin meleth…" I whisper, "my love." He touches his forehead to mine, holding me close.
The vision fades and I am left reeling, sitting alone once more beneath the oak tree. I look around anxiously, trying to determine if it was, perhaps, just a dream. It felt so real, and I stand, unsure of what I just saw means. What if it doesn't mean anything at all?
I make my way back to camp, full of questions and full of uncertainty. I walk quickly, deeply unnerved for reasons I cannot explain.
"Legolas!" I call to him softly, as not to wake the others. I look to him nervously and he turns, sitting just where he was when I left. I make my way to him and sit beside him, all out of sorts.
"I have a question and it might sound odd but does the name Thranduil mean anything to you?" I ask quietly. He looks surprised and mildly confused, eyes searching mine for answers in a way similar to the way mine search his.
"That is the name of my father, the king of Mirkwood." His words make me feel unsteady and faint. That couldn't have been a dream, so what could it have been? I stare at him, unsure of what to say or if I should say anything at all. How could I even begin to explain? I put my head in my hands, incredibly frustrated. Nothing makes sense.
"Elsira, how do you know that name?" He asks the question I was dreading. I bite my lip, looking at him with my nerves evident from my eyes.
"I don't know. I took a walk, stayed pretty close to camp, sat by an oak tree and I had this vision. I thought it was a dream but it seemed like a memory. I have no idea what's going on, Legolas…" I trail off, telling him everything. I'm nervous and he knows it. He takes my hand, looking at me with eyes full of understanding.
"Do not be afraid, Elsira. Right now, we have much more realistic things to fear than visions." His words make sense and I nod, feeling childish for letting my fears control me.
"Good. Now go get some rest." His words are more of a command than a suggestion and I nod once more, returning to my small bedroll and lying down, shutting my eyes tightly and praying I don't see anything that I cannot explain.
"I take it you want answers." Alessia stands before me and I quickly realize that I'm dreaming.
"Yes, and I would like them presented to me straight. No riddles, no alluding to things, just tell me the truth." I cannot keep the edge out of my tone, frustration and nerves getting to me. She looks almost guilty, and I suspect that I am not going to like what she is about to say.
"Well, I don't speak elvish. Nor did I use a bow." Her words surprise me, and I tilt my head as I shoot her a confused look. I wait for her to explain how I know both, not understanding how I could know it the way I do without her help.
"When you came to Middle Earth, you needed a body. We found you one." Her words make something click in my mind, and it all makes sense very suddenly. I cannot hide my look of horror, realizing that someone died for me. That vision was her memory. I spoke the language she learned and I have been using the skills she honed through years of practice. I am hardly even me. I am my thoughts with her body, skills, and now memories.
"Before you panic, don't. She was a willing host, and a volunteer. She was a nomadic elf who lost her lover and we offered her a noble way out. Her soul has moved on and you are here in her place." Despite her words of reassurance I am nauseated. I'm living in someone else's skin. My memories are fading because it isn't my brain but hers. I feel a deep horror well up within me and I look to Alessia in terror.
"Will I become her? Will my memories be replaced by hers? Will I even know that I'm me?" The questions spill forth, followed by tears. I feel numb and there is a bitter taste in my mouth as I consider what her words mean.
"No, nothing like that. What will happen is that you will slowly remember more and more of who she was over time, but you will never forget that you are not her. It is like watching her live her life, and then starting a new one after she is done." Alessia tries to explain but her words do nothing to calm me. I drop to all fours, feeling the contents of my stomach trying to empty themselves onto the ground. Can one even throw up in a dream? I suppose this isn't like normal dreams…
A few dry heaves later I find myself awake, lying under the stars with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli around me. Aragorn and Legolas are asleep, and Gimli is taking last watch. He is sitting on a log, eyes scouring the forest for signs of trouble. I curl up, trying to remain calm despite what I have learned.
I don't know how I am supposed to feel. On one hand, she volunteered and is at peace. On the other, I am inhabiting a body that is not mine. I am overwhelmed by conflicting nature of my thoughts, which refuse to let me sleep.
I shut my eyes tightly, hating every moment that I am awake because I know I should be asleep. I push the thoughts out of my mind, trying to force myself to fall asleep so that I might be of some value tomorrow. After all exhaustion is the enemy of both progress and usefulness.
This time when sleep claims me it is without visions or dreams. This time, I sleep like the dead. Only, as I wake up the sky is the colour of blood.