Bittersweet Melodies - The Forgotten Saga of Araviel - Chapter 8

"What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I love goes away in the end.
And you can have it all; my empire of dirt,
I will let you down, I will make you hurt."

**********

Araviel had fallen asleep in one of the soft chairs close to the fire. Elrond stood watching over him; his painfully thin chest rose up and down in a slow, rhythmic pattern. and his vibrant green eyes stared ahead, looking far down the untraceable paths of his elven dreams. Elrond had been surprised that, after three restless weeks of captivity, Araviel had stayed up so late and was not at all insulted when the young elf slipped into sleep while Elrond was telling him what he so far knew about Sauron.

Araviel's thin hand was still clutching at his neck; Elrond made to move it, and then covered the ghastly blemish with his long, pale hair. His wise, ageless face broke into a gentle, fatherly smile as he looked on the young elf sleeping soundly.

"It is long since I tucked in a child," he mused aloud as he pulled off his cloak and began to wrap it around Araviel's narrow shoulders. "He could not be a day older than twenty five; still such a boy, and yet filled with the troubles of a grown man. Bless you Araviel, that you may come to better fortune in the future and be spared the life of sorrow so many of your kindred bear."

He pressed his hand to his lips and then touched Araviel's brow lightly, sealing his hope for the young elf's life. He then moved swiftly about the room, distinguishing the few dimly flickering candles so as to leave the for once careless dreamer in gentle darkness and the serenity of a night of rest.

When all was dusky and quiet, he turned to the door, taking only one look back at the slumbering elf. His feet were tucked up and his head was resting against the plump armrest of the chair, his pale face was marred by bruises, but he looked so peaceful and safe. Elrond lighted quietly from the room, and left a message on the door that the Hall of Fire was not to be disturbed until its occupant awoke.

Within, Araviel slept quietly on, for a blessed moment, unaware of his many troubles.

**********

Elian was so used to getting up at dawn that, even though she had stayed up most of the night, she woke with the sun and found she could not go back to sleep. The first thought in her head was of the night before, and the almost magical moment outside alone with Araviel. As soon as she began thinking of him, she found herself suddenly devoid of hunger and as restless as a caged bear.

It was not the proper time to do anything more than embrace; the fact that he didn't kiss me doesn't mean he didn't want to, she reasoned with herself. He had been nervous, possibly even scared, and she had been melancholy and for the moment lost in her own troubles.

It alarmed her how quickly she had fallen for the rather sullen, lonely elf. He had an alluring charm that had enchanted her from the moment she had removed his blindfold and beheld his dazzling green eyes.

I must be going crazy she thought, I barely even know him.

Trying to keep her mind occupied with more concrete tasks, she pulled off her pale night gown and replaced it with a silky, sky blue dress. The sun was fully risen into the white, dreary sky as she began arranging her deep, dark gold hair. It was very soft from the rainwater and shone as brightly as the valley, dripping with the fresh rain and flickering even in the rather weak sun.

She was thinking of going to find her friend Lydia when she heard a loud rapping on the door of her small room. Wondering who would wish to see her so early in the morning, she glided quickly to the door, opened it and burst into a fresh smile as she saw Elladan standing before her.

"Elian," he said breathlessly, "They told me you had been found, but I had to see for myself."

"Yes," she said, "I've had a rough fortnight, but that's in the past now. It gives me great joy to see you again!" She happily embraced the much older elf who, for her whole life, had been like a brother to her. He caught her smaller shoulders and his grey eyes stared piercingly into her great blue ones.

"What is it?" she asked with a grin.

"I've just been so worried," he said. "I've scarcely slept these past few weeks and have spent most of my time on a horse, looking for you. What could have possibly happened?"

"I was captured," she said in a small voice. "By servants of Sauron."

"What?" Elladan asked as his eyes widened in shock. "You jest."

"I think it no laughing matter," she said in a small voice. "Myself and another elf, Araviel."

"Araviel? What in Middle Earth would they want with him?" Elladan asked. Before she could think of what the gesture might mean, Elian backed instinctively away from Elladan, as if he had struck her.

"I'm sorry Elian," he said. "I didn't mean it like that. I see you are fond of him. I meant only that he seems to me of no value to the Dark Lord. Why would His men come so far north to get only two young elves such as you and Araviel?"

"Araviel seemed of even more importance than I," she replied. "They near got in a brawl over him and one man was killed. They treated him most horribly Elladan, it was frightful to watch."

"Yes, I almost woke him in the Hall of Fire this morn," Elladan replied. "He looked on the verge of death; covered in bruises and thin as a willow. It quite unnerved me to see him like that, he was always so strong in body and spirit."

"How long have you known him?" Elian asked in a light voice.

"Since he came here nigh on ten years ago," Elladan replied. "He was far too young to be journeying alone, but he refused to go back to his home."

"Where is that?" she asked, hoping her voice did not betray her eagerness to learn more about the mysterious elf that had captured her heart.

"Father knows, but he says he will not speak of it unless Araviel does first, and everyone who knows him has learned quickly not to speak of his former life, Araviel will not dwell on it in thought or speech."

There was another knocking on the door, louder and heavier than Elladan's hand had been.

"Come in," Elian said quietly. The door opened to reveal Will standing rather nervously in the corridor outside her room. When he saw that Elian and Elladan were within her chamber, alone, he took on the look of a child who has walked into a serious war council and knows he is not wanted.

"Oh," he said in a surprised voice. "Sorry to disturb you-"

Elian couldn't help but laugh at Will's timid, rustic behavior, and he couldn't help but join in; it was not his way to remain serious when others were mirthful. Elladan alone remained stony faced and he looked accusingly at Will with the air of an older, suspicious brother.

"Who is this?" he asked with raised brows.

"Will," the younger elf said as he too became solemn once more. He held out his hand in greeting, and Elladan took it stiffly.

"I wish to speak to Lady Elian, if that is all right with you, Elladan or Elrohir; I dare not presume which," Will said with a slight tremble as his blue eyes met Elladan's grey ones. As opposed to the strong, willful wanderer he was, he looked more like a stable boy who has suddenly found himself face to face with a king.

Now it was Elladan's turn to laugh. "Why are you so nervous lad?" he chuckled. "My bark is much worse than my bite. And it is Elrohir," he finished with a sly smile. He winked at Elian and then left the pair alone, apparently satisfied that Will was up to his standards as a courtier or flatterer of his adopted sister.

"What is it?" Elian asked as soon as Elladan had left the room. "Is something wrong?" She dearly hoped Will had not come for the purpose of wooing her, as Elladan seemed to firmly believe.

"No," he replied in a small voice, but he looked uneasy nonetheless. "But I need to speak with you."

"Will?" she asked in a slow voice. "Did something happen? Is everything all right?"

Will shifted uneasily, looking as if what he was frightened to say whatever it was he had come to say, "It may sound foolish at first, but Padric noticed a striking resemblance between us and, now that he mentioned it, I begin to see it as well," he finally croaked.

"What do you mean?" Elian asked in an honestly confused voice.

"It's just this; lots of elves have gold hair, but I have never seen another with locks as dark golden as mine, nor eyes my particular shade of blue, that is until I saw you. All my life I have yearned to know my family, and now I am almost certain the opportunity has arisen."

"What are you saying?" she asked slowly, although she knew very well the words he couldn't seem to put into speech; he thought they were related, perhaps even siblings. She had not allowed herself to think on it, supposing it to be too good to be true.

"Okay," he said slowly as he ran his fingers absently through his golden hair. They caught on a small braid and got twisted in a quick tangle. He stiffened and tried vainly to push it flat again, but to no avail. It was all Elian could do not to giggle as she watched him struggle with it, looking as frightened as a baby deer.

"Here," she said as she held out her hands and grasped his golden locks. "Let me help." She deftly unraveled the tangle and pulled out the braid, so that it laid flat, looking out of place and crimped, but not twirled, unruly, on the top of his head.

"Thank you," he said. "It's a habit, I'm not used to wearing braids, I don't bother with appearances in the wild."

"You wanted to make a good impression on Elrond if you saw him, didn't you?" she said with a gentle smile.

"This is what I'm talking about," he said as he gestured eagerly, pointing first at himself, and then her. "We connect. I know you, and you know me."

"But I've never met you," she said slowly.

"Call me a fool, but I sometimes think I half remember being sung to sleep with a warm, living bundle beside me. I lived with my parents until I was two and think I am remembering my life with them, and you as a baby," he said.

"I was a baby, perhaps a few months old when my parents left me here," she said quietly.

"How long ago?" he asked.

"Twenty years."

"Elian I know this is a rather frightening concept, but I think I might actually be right."

Without saying a word, she pulled his arm so that he walked towards the looking glass and she stood beside him; looking at their reflection.

"Were similar enough to be twins," she said breathlessly. He continued to stare adamantly back and forth, switching his gaze on himself, and then her and then back again. It was true that they bore a striking resemblance that was painfully obvious when standing side by side; their dark golden tresses, large blue eyes, pale but not white skin, rather stubborn chins, even the tiny splash of freckles on their cheeks were all but identical.

"You're right," he said.

Elian stared at her reflection and felt a small, trickling tear splash down the bridge of her nose and land with a plop on the floor below her.

"Perhaps we should consult Elrond," she said in a small voice. "It is so unlikely..."

"But it feels so real," he said in a passionate voice. "For once in my life I'm sure of something."

"I guess now we just have to have a little faith," she said with a smile.

"I'll thank Eru for the rest of my life if he's actually blessed me with a sister," Will said with a grin. "I have a family."

When he smiled, Elian no longer doubted herself; standing before her, as unlikely as it seemed, was her brother. With an almost overwhelming feeling of pure joy she reached towards him and pulled him into a tight, weeping embrace.

"Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo," she whispered.

"Aye," he replied, "Elbereth in heaven could not be as happy as I am now."

**********

Araviel awoke to beams of sunlight streaming in through the windows of the Hall of Fire. It felt strange to be warm when for so long he had woken to a rough kick and the cold, hard ground. He surveyed his surroundings as he slowly stretched his limbs and rose to his feet. He had fallen asleep on one of the chairs close to the now dying fire, and someone else's cloak was draped over him. He looked over the finely made, dark blue material and his brows creased in worry as he remembered Elrond wearing the self same garment the night before.

Must have drifted off while he was talking he thought uneasily. What would Elrond think of him? First he was trying to woo Elrond's ward, then he had the mark of Sauron on his skin, then he was swearing vengeance on the Dark Lord, and then he fell asleep while Elrond was speaking to him. All in one night.

"This just keeps getting worse," he moaned.

He walked soundlessly towards the window and looked out on the sparkling valley below him. The sky was still blanketed in clouds, but the grounds, trees and gardens were glimmering from the weak sunlight that was shining on the raindrops left from the previous night's shower.

"Perhaps I should leave before I do yet more damage," he said aloud to himself. Elrond was probably praying that he would leave, and quit upsetting life for the elves at Rivendell.

Wherever I go I wreak havoc he thought to himself. My entire life is a tragedy.

His thoughts strayed towards Elian. She was happy in Imladris, it was her home. Only a few hours before he had actually thought she might share the feelings he had for her, but now he decided that, even if she did return his love, there was no way such a relationship could be. Sauron had marked him as an enemy, and he had now returned that animosity; he couldn't involve Elian in that conflict.

"It will probably end in my murder," he said
grudgingly. He rolled his eyes and groaned angrily, thinking of the mark on his skin; Elian would think it grotesque. No matter how hard he tried, any beginnings of happiness were always wrenched from him.

"No point in mentioning it to her," he said, "She's probably with Will and Padric anyway."

He looked hopelessly around the room, wondering what he ought to do next. I shouldn't burden them with my presence anymore he thought. With that idea in mind, he heaved a heavy sigh and stepped out of the room. He made for the stables once more and met Liera, who whinnied softly, happy to see him.

He drew in a deep, shuddering breath.

"Off into the wild again," he told her. "Valar in heaven this hurts." He bit his lip and squinted his eyes tightly, holding back a fresh flow of tears. More than anything, he wanted to stay there, in the peaceful valley of Imladris, with Elian, Will and Padric. He had hoped that they might become friends, that he might someday even hold Elian's love and affection; but such hopes were dead now. He had no business dragging them down with him to the depths of Mordor and the very soul of evil itself.

He turned, gave one last look to the valley he was so loathe to leave, and bent his knees, ready to spring onto Liera's back.

"Araviel?" a familiar voice asked behind him. He stopped mid jump, tried to catch his balance and stumbled roughly to his feet, before turning to face his visitor. Will and Elian had come to see him, and they both looked exceedingly happy about something; he tried to smile cordially, but it came out very tortured looking.

His heart now thoroughly torn to its usual state of pieces, it was all he could do not to run away.

Author's note - I am sooooo sorry for the long wait, I was out of town and then school started, and let me tell you, there is no greater way to suck out all the creative juices than a pile of Physics and Algebra II. Well, back to homework I go, happy reading! Chapter 9 will be much more prompt if the avalanche of homework ever slows down.

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