Bittersweet Melodies - The Forgotten Saga of Araviel - Chapter 5

"Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences and open the gate.
It may be raining, but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you before it's too late."

**********

Araviel felt refreshed and glad to be moving once more. It was as if his body had been in a trance and he was now awakening to the glorious, real world; his senses were revived and his spirit and bravery renewed. He had been nearing the land of the dead, but Padric had reached out, grabbed his hand and pulled him safely back to the world of the living; he couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

They wasted no breath on talk, Padric told him their horses were tethered about a mile away and the four ran the whole distance. Araviel, used to going much farther distances on foot, welcomed the chance to stretch his limbs, but Elian was somewhat weakened from her ordeal and lagged behind. Padric stopped a few times as well, owing to a sprained ankle he said he got in Fangorn Forest; despite Araviel's questioning stare, he didn't elaborate.

They reached the top of a steep hill less than twenty minutes later and Will, who looked fresh as a daisy, grinned and pointed to three dark forms standing still in the gloom. To his delight, Araviel saw the familiar brown coat of Liera, his beloved horse, safe, and standing near the two tethered horses.

"Liera!" he called, running towards her. He was swiftly down the hill and next to his sweet, loyal horse. She nuzzled up against him and he smiled as he stroked her smooth fur.

"How did you find her?" he asked, his eyes as bright and happy as a young child's.

"I didn't. She wasn't there before," Will said, shrugging his shoulders.

"That's a smart horse you've got there," Padric said. Araviel nodded.

"Yes," he said. "She's a good horse."

"Well, let's go, it's still a long ride," Will said as he swung up lightly onto a speckled white horse. Araviel stopped.

"Before we go any further, I just have to know, where are we going?" he asked.

"We have a secret place not too far from here where you can stay the night. Undoubtedly the Lady will need an escort back to her home," Will said as he glanced sideways at Elian. She raised her eyebrows.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Like we said before, Will and -"

"No, I mean, who are you? I was sure I knew every elf in these parts, yet I have never seen your face. As for men, you have the look of Gondor, why are you so far north?" Her voice was smooth and not demanding at all, despite her blunt words. Will smiled.

"Were wanderers right now. We used to live in Eregion, but times changed and we left. Padric's not of Gondor-" he paused as Padric gave him a long look.

"Sorry, Padric is of Gondor, just not right now. We were seeking Elrond's house when we saw the men with you two in tow. I don't let my own kind get hurt if I can help it," he said.

"If you are seeking Imladris, what are you doing so far west?" she asked. To Araviel's surprise, Will lowered his eyes.

"We," he began. Araviel felt a fleeting spasm of mistrust, but Will continued. "We don't know where it is my Lady."

Araviel's apprehension dropped as quickly as it had risen, he chuckled softly. Elian gave a small, gentle smile.

"That is my home, I can show you the way," she said.

"That's settled then, we will journey to Imladris, and
Lady Elian shall be our guide," Padric said as he leapt lightly onto his jet black steed.

Araviel patted Liera's back, but remained despondently on the ground. He was not looking forward to the long, lonely ride to the Grey Havens, but he had no reason to go to Imladris, and thought he shouldn't trouble his rescuers further. His high spirits plummeted as he remembered his original plan to leave Middle Earth and he looked longingly at Elian who, in spite of the dirt and grime of captivity, was as radiant and elegant as the stars themselves. She was laughing at something Will was saying, she had a pleasant laugh that reminded Araviel of birds. He noticed that, when Will joined in, his chuckle matched hers exactly.

He looked down at his dirt caked clothes and bruised arms; he couldn't see it, but he knew his face looked if anything, worse. Next to Will, who was fresh, clean, energetic and Elian's rescuer, he felt very unworthy of her company. He stood still for a moment and let his spirits sink lower and lower; his heart fairly leapt straight into his throat when she turned to him with a smile.

"You are coming with us, aren't you?" she asked lightly. His mouth went very dry and he cleared his throat, buying himself some time.

"I really should be heading home," he said; some part of him laughed to hear himself using that word.

"Where is that?" she asked. He looked down so that
she couldn't see his face reddening. After a tense moment of silence, in which he was very aware that Padric and Will were now listening too, he looked up and sighed.

"I wouldn't be wanted in Imladris," he said lamely, knowing what he said wasn't true.

"Why not? I am certain Lord Elrond might have something to tell us about those men. Perhaps he knows whom they serve or what they wanted with us," she said.

"They serve Sauron," he said; his statement was met by three very audible gasps.

"Well we better get out of here, lest they find us," Padric said quickly.

"Come Araviel, what if they caught you alone again? And don't forget, the first group is still out there somewhere," Elian implored. Araviel couldn't help smiling again; for the first time in what felt like forever, he was actually wanted, and not dead or alive.

"Do you want to ride with me?" he asked her, his heart jumped even higher as she nodded. He held out his hands to help her onto Liera's back, but she jumped up with no trouble. He hopped lightly up behind her.

"Which way my Lady?" Padric asked. She leaned down to tell Liera, but the horse stayed completely still. Araviel laughed.

"She's a friend Liera," he said. The horse whinnied and started forward at a quick trot, headed south.

"That's a smart horse," Elian said. Araviel nodded.

"And a nice one. Those from Mordor would knock my head if I spoke a word even remotely resembling elvish," he said. Elian laughed.

"Me too," she said.

"You tried to escape?" he asked disbelievingly; he had thought she would be too afraid.

"Of course, though I never got very far," she said. Araviel leaned down and noticed that her wrists were bloody too.

"It feels good to be without a saddle," he said.

"Yes," she agreed. "I'll never understand why men must use them, they make riding so difficult."

"Because not all of us have elven skills," Padric said from beside them. The two elves jumped; they were not aware he had been listening.

"But it's not difficult Padric," Will said. Araviel laughed; they were having the same conversation.

"For you maybe," the man grumbled. Araviel looked at Padric's mount; a fine, jet black stallion that seemed to fairly dance as he galloped.

"That horse is elvish unless my eyes are cheated," he said. Padric looked at him.

"Then your eyes are cheated," he said shortly. "He is
of Rohan."

"Are you of Rohan?" he asked. Padric shook his head. Will grinned and leaned towards them; his ocean blue eyes were playful.

"Don't ask him where he got Elren; he won't even tell me," he said. He gave Padric a long look that the man didn't return.

"If you're thinking I stole him," he said with a smirk to Araviel, who was eyeing him warily. "Wrong again."

Will's laughter rang out clear and pure as bells; Araviel and Elian couldn't help but join in. Soon all four riders were laughing, for no reason other than simple joy; it was a concept fairly new to Araviel, and one he was glad to learn.

The miles slipped quickly under them as the three horses raced off into the deepening night, bound for Imladris. Araviel felt the cold air whipping his face and smiled; it was good to be free.

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