Daughter of the Black Star - Chapter 4 - It's a hard world.

Author's Note: Thanks in advance to the readers of this tale, and for your convenience, I have included the links to the other chapters, in case you missed one of them and are wondering, "What in the world-?" A special thanks to PrincessIlarian and Perhael, for their advice whenever I needed it!

[L]http://www.theonering.com/docs/11712.html[/L] - Prologue
[L]http://www.theonering.com/docs/11911.html[/L] - Chapter 1
[L]http://www.theonering.com/docs/12574.html[/L] - Chapter 2
[L[http://www.theonering.com/docs/12927.html[/L] - Chapter 3

After a prolonged hush had fallen over the three Elves, Anorien heaved a characteristic sigh.

"If I went with you to Imladris, what would happen to me if your father knew nothing?" Anorien quizzed, eyebrows raised.

Elrohir found this habitual expression to be quite fetching, but he kept his mind to his business.

"My father always knows, but if this be an exception, then if you wish to leave, we will send you wherever you wish to go with food and protection. If you wished to stay in the Refuge, then you will be given rooms and a place at our table until such time as you desire to leave us," Elrohir rattled off, almost like a memorized lesson before a teacher.

"But I would be free, even in your city?"

"Of course. You are not our slave, to be held against your will," Elladan exclaimed. What sort of life must this girl have had? She is suspicious of everything and everyone, no matter how well they mean.

"I see. Allow me some time, please. I must think," Anorien said, not by way of request, and not intending to have an answer offered to her.

She breezed past the brothers, disappearing down a nearly invisible trail.

* * * * *

Reappearing in an hour's time, by the reckoning of the sun, Anorien looked more confident and very damp. She smelled sweet, but not like flowers, Elrohir determined after a whiff.

Her shirt clung to her flat stomach and made the overall length of the 'dress' that much shorter.

Hair hanging in snarls and tangles, Anorien struggled mightily with her cinnamon-brown ringlets to no success. She plopped heavily down beside what she took to be Elladan at first glance and laid down her sword and belt, commanding, "Tell me about your Imladris."

"Elladan? Would you do Anorien the honor?" requested the Elf she sat by, evidently Elrohir. Anorien involuntarily recoiled a few inches at this discovery.

As Elladan began to recount tales of the founding of the Refuge and of the Elves within the ornate walls and melodious waterfalls, Elrohir produced a comb from his belt.

Since Anorien's face was turned attentively toward his brother, Elrohir took the opportunity of tugging the comb gently through Anorien's tresses.

Whatever response he had expected was not the one he received.

Anorien shied away, emitting a piercing shriek that deafened them momentarily. "Ai! Curses! What have you done?"

Elrohir sheepishly held up the offending comb, and Anorien took it cautiously. "What-" she began.

"It is called a comb," Elladan offered, ever the peacemaker. "It will make your hair straight and smooth, like this." He took the comb from Anorien and held up a handful of his own black hair that bore more than a few tangles. He raked the comb through it, leaving it smooth and straight, as promised.

Anorien raised an eyebrow and nodded. "Very well."

Elladan surrendered the comb to Elrohir and proceeded with his tales.

Anorien sat stiff-backed, allowing Elrohir to work the snarls out of her damp hair. He ran his fingers through her curls over and over, watching amusedly as she gradually grew limp and eventually sank down with her head resting in his lap, fast asleep.

"Ah, 'Rohir. Always the same. Charmer of women, breaker of their hearts. How do you manage it?" Elladan commented jovially, gesturing toward Anorien.

"'Adan, 'tis a curse. For once I unwittingly charm them, they break their own hearths and then hate me for having no part in a tragedy of their own making. Women are complex beings," Elrohir sighed dejectedly.

"I suppose so brother. But then, I have no wish to understand one."

"Unless it was Mërìan, eh?"

Elladan choked. "NO! You can have that.." he pursed his lips in an attempt to stifle the comment that snapped to his mind. "Thing."

"It would seem that she agrees with you, my brother, but I think she should be doomed to eternal maidenhood. Let her never marry a son of Elrond!"

Elladan nodded his head fervently.

Elrohir looked down at Anorien as she snored quietly, her mouth forming a pout. "I suppose that before I-" he sighed dramatically, "-break the poor thing's heart, we should at least keep her well-fed. Take your bow and see what these woods hold."

"By the looks of the girl, the woods hold not much, or she knows not how to catch what they do hold, but I will try to be back before the sun reaches the sky's highest peak."

* * * * *

Elladan did eventually materialize with two thin, starved rabbits slung over his shoulder.

When the three had eaten, the twins again pressed Anorien for a decision. "The hour grows late!" they insister, for all the good it did.

As reluctant as she was to go, she was equally conflicted about remaining behind.

She was young and alone. Though relatively inexperienced, Anorien wasn't naïeve enough to suppose that she would survive long on her own, away from the cave and a fire, with only a sword. Her Naneth had taught her that much.

Elrohir's existence chafed her, but she knew there was no other way. "Let us be off, then!" she chirped, rising and looking at them expectantly.

The brothers had no packs, just their weapons and a canteen of water each, but the sudden announcement, like everything Anorien did, had surprised them. They stood mutely as Anorien fastened her belt and sword around her waist.

Elrohir led them down the path that he and Elladan had come by. His brother followed him, and Anorien came last, pausing at the bend in the trail to look back at the only home she had ever known. She felt her eyes stinging, but she forced the tears away and turned away from the little clearing that had known birth and death.

It was the last time she ever saw it.

* * * * *

Many days later...

Anorien couldn't admit her exhaustion and pain, not even to herself. She kept walking on bloody feet and burning legs, trying to ignore the fact that each step was agony, each ragged breath labored and shallow.

But she couldn't ask to stop. She'd fall dead where she stood before she would admit her weakness to the brothers. She knew the twins well enough by now. They would stop progress and nearly trip over each other in their eagerness to help. They would almost come to blows over who got to carry her, and then they wouldn't budge for days. She didn't want that, even to stop her pain. She wanted to be there.

She plodded on behind the twins who walked side-by-side, joking and laughing loudly. Her sword bumped heavily against her legs. She felt the hours fly by, and everything became blurred. She knew the sun was changing overhead. Vaguely, she registered their surroundings going from a rocky wilderness to to flatter, shady land.

Her skin began to burn and freeze in turn, and her eyelids grew heavy, forcing her to blink furiously to keep them open. Everything was numb.. She couldn't feel the pain in her feet and legs. She was so tired.. Why try to fight the weariness?

* * * * *

Elrohir glanced over his shoulder as he had been doing all day, but this time, Anorien wasn't there. He turned around and he saw her. Crumpled in a heap on the grassy plain, she wasn't moving.

Elrohir grabbed Elladan's arm to stop him and started trotting back to the girl, 'Adan at his side. His eyes widened as he reached her and looked back where they had come from. Bloody footprints marked the trail and ended where Anorien had collapsed, but her feet still oozed blood from the cuts and scratches. Why had he never noticed that she didn't have shoes?

He knelt down and felt her white face. "Eru, she's burning up." He unbuckled her sword belt and tossed it to Elladan. "Come on, Lorien isn't far. We can be there by sundown." He scooped up the fragile form of the girl and started running, cradling her head in the crook of his arm to keep from jostling it.

Eru, let her live..

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