Chapter 8

I made to move towards my sister, to stop her, but little did I know, Gandalf was beside me and he held me back. "This is her story to tell as well, perhaps more so than yours, in some ways. Let her tell the tale, for I know you cannot."

I sunk back and kept my head down. I could not quite understand my feelings, for there was nothing shameful about my past actions, yet I felt scared for the first time in a long while.

"It began long ago. In a world quite different than what you live in. It was a relatively hopeless place. The wild had been destroyed by men and there was little magic left, not that many believed in magic anyway. Our existence there, though grim, did not leave us wanting. Our family was considerably well- off, though not overly-so. It allowed Branwen and I to live the lives we wanted. Mine, a life of social activity and enjoyment; I never left behind my own security. During that time I was too preoccupied with petty things. Branwen… She was different." Alane paused, and looked at her feet. "She was never home. We were separated by four years and from the time I was fourteen until I was eighteen, I never saw her for more than a few days at a time, scattered throughout the year. When she was not in school, she was off, working in different countries, trekking the entire world, crossing seas, sleeping in woods, climbing mountains, and making deeper connections with people than me, despite my social tendencies. She traveled, working and living more thoroughly than myself. Her home was the whole world, her kin everyone she met. Then there was me, jealous and resentful of her. She would come home briefly, always bearing small gifts from where she had been. They were rare things and I pretended I hated them and that I hated her. I did not realize until later that it was because I knew she was living and I was not.

"It was almost my nineteenth birthday when it happened. I was intoxicated and on my friend's boat, which was hosting another party. I remember falling and slowly drowning. All I could think was I cannot die… I haven't seen anything, done anything, as all the life faded from me." My sister grew quiet again. "I was made an offer upon my death. I was offered life again. If I chose it, an immortal life in a different world. But, it meant never being reunited with my kin. I would have purpose in this world. That is what the Valar told me. Yet, I refused, for the small promise of reuniting when death sought them out. Perhaps not the wisest, for the Valar seemed to have other plans.

"From what I understand, They found Branwen, and told her of the offer they made me and of my refusal. She was then offered a place beside me, a chance to see me living again, instead of cold and dead, on a table in the morgue. She accepted the offer, sacrificing her life, so that I could have a second chance to live mine. I will never be able to repay her. That world, full of the connections and relationships she had built, the world that had everything; she just gave it up for me. I never knew how much she loved me until then." A slight tear formed in Alane's eye and she looked towards me as I stepped out of the shadows, my own eyes were dark and tearing, my body numb from her words.

"It's true." I whispered, as I looked at the company and to Thorin. "Our whole world was my home and I had nearly traveled every inch of it. It had everything… but, in the end, it did not have you, little sister." I embraced her lightly. "I will never regret that decision." And we all fell silent for a long while.

I lay in my chambers, unable to sleep, thinking of my sister and of my youth. Frustrated, I rose from my chambers and in nothing but my bed clothes and bare foot, I ran to the gardens. The stars were different here, but I could still rely on the sun rising in the east. I rested upon the grass and waited for the sun to rise over the valley.

I had heard him following me through the halls, but paid no mind. Dwarves were not the quietest of folk. It was not long before he was before me.

"That is hardly modest." Thorin's tone was dark as he gestured at my night gown.

I rolled my eyes. "I highly doubt you came out here to question my modesty, not that it is any of your concern. Besides, you have seen me in worse." I said, reminding him of the time he had found me fixing up the injuries he had caused me.

His eyes grew darker, "You were right. You are no lady."

I let out a bark of dark laughter. "Often, you are quite right. I am only a lady when I want to be. Dressed and elaborate hair styles are hardly fit for travel, though I do enjoy them on occasion." His figure towered over me as he stood. If I were to stand beside him, I would only stand an inch or so higher. Where my sister was tall, I was short, inheriting opposite traits from our parents. I studied him. "What is it that you want, Oakenshield?"

"Gandalf said your story was true, that you are of another world. You gave up your home, and now you are fighting to win our home back. Why?" He questioned, the need to understand in his eyes.

"You make it sound as though I faithlessly abandoned it, as though it were nothing." I was furious.

"You made it seem so on our journey, as though you resented your home, yet your sister claims otherwise. Which is the truth?"

"Both." I stared at the stars. "Our world was run, was owned, was controlled by greedy people. Children in one place starved so that the people of my nation could grow fat and be comfortable. I saw the damage of greed. I often worked when I travelled, collecting records and sketching what I saw. While I lived there, I connected and tried to give what I could to the world. With a population of seven billion, one alone can only change little things. But those little things brought me close to many people. People I love and people I miss. My heart often breaks to think of them, but I could not abandon my sister, not when a chance for her to draw breath again and for me to see light in her eyes was in front of me. Even then, I did not carelessly abandon my home. There were others like me who would continue to make those small differences. It was my fate to be here, Thorin. I miss my world, but it was no longer home without my sister."

Thorin inclined his head in an apologetic manner. "I understand. I lost my brother in battle when I was young." There was a deep sorrow in his eyes.

"At Azanulbizar?" I questioned.

"Yes." He sat down beside me.

"I am sorry." I did not know what else to say.

Thorin remained silent, his face still, but his eyes full of lingering grief. We stared at each other in understanding for a long while. I placed my hand over his, in a small offering of comfort. To my surprise he did not pull away, and we watched, as the hidden valley flooded with light and the dawn came.