Forever and For Always - Hope

The citadel's silver, glistening peaks shimmered in the morning sunlight as they came into view, surrounded by the towering White Mountains.

"We must ride swift, for the King claims that his need is dire." Legolas warned, his keen eyes hard with concern. The dwarf bounced uncomfortably on his mount as he sat behind Legolas, mumbling as usual about nothing important. Faramir, Prince of Ithilien, nodded his head and signaled to the man riding beside him to speed up. They dug their heels into the sides of their steeds and urged them forward.

"Ai," the man murmured in awe, his dusty, scruffy brown hair rustling in the breeze, "it has been so long I last visited Minas Tirith."

Faramir replied with a grin, "Indeed it has, Elboron. About seven years; you were ten when you attended Eldarion's sixth birthday."

Elboron sniggered at the memory, remembering his last visit to the White City. He had been forced to return to Ithilien early because he and "Elen," (for that was what he used to call her as a child) had upset Eldarion terribly. While he slept, they had set the young prince's room with numerous traps made of honey, feathers, string and water. As the young heir of Gondor and Arnor entered the dining hall for breakfast the next morning, it rather looked as if a stringy, two-legged bird stood before them. He and Morelen had been reduced to a pile of bubbling, hysterical laughter, instantly giving themselves away. They were given the worst lecture of their young lives, but all they could do was stand there and share evil smiles before returning their glances to their feet.

Elboron's mind raced with the thoughts of being in Minas Tirith again, of seeing Eldarion and Morelen. When they were young, they had spent weeks together, for in those days the Steward and his King had much work to do after the destruction of the Ring. He wondered how much they had changed, if they would still get along as well as they once did. Eldarion would now be about thirteen years of age, and Morelen would be sixteen. He was so anxious to see them again! Most of his curiosity was directed towards Morelen, for they were closer in age. Also, against his will, he had recently launched into the troubled waters of adolescence, and Morelen happened to be a female acquaintance. Shivering with excitement, he thought to himself, No longer am I that little rascal, always getting into trouble. I am a man, a grown man.

His thoughts were interrupted by his father's voice, "I expect your mother is still grumbling about not being able to accompany us to the City."

Elboron chuckled and replied, "Oh no, Father, I'm sure she is perfectly content to have us out of the house for a while." Faramir laughed in agreement as they quickly ascended the city's many levels, finally reaching the White Courtyard, its banners limp and lifeless.

The sun reached its climax above the sky, the bright ball of fire hanging lazily above them. It seared through the air and made them feel as if they stood next to its burning surface, the sweat shining on their brows.

Once inside, Elessar greeted them with warm smiles and genuine embraces, although something flickered in his sapphire eyes that worried them deeply.

"Mae Govannen. It has been far too long, Mellon nîn," murmured Legolas, his hand upon the king's shoulder. "What is it that you need?"

"Anything, laddie, you need only ask." Gimli added sincerely, his gruff voice vastly different from Legolas' musical, smooth tones.

They were all offered a seat in Aragorn's study, and they looked up at him, his features full of worry and fear.
He stared at them and said finally, after several moments of silence, "I shall be very straightforward with you, since you are the men closest to my heart. Two days past, I discussed with Morelen her true identity."

Looking surprised, Gimli queried, "But I was under the impression that you did not plan to do that until she was twenty."

"We didn't." He sighed and continued, "The girl has grown so smart; she figured it all out on her own before I had the chance to explain. She stormed out of the citadel and is nowhere to be found." He answered painfully, his hands bunched in a tight knot from anxiety.

Elboron gasped; this was certainly not what he had expected. Indeed, his father had told him about Morelen a few years ago, but he never would have predicted that this was how she would react.

"She is strong, but I fear for her. I fear for her survival." A pool of silver tears fought to free itself from the king's lids.

Legolas said, determined, "Then we shall find her. We will travel to the ends of the earth until she is returned safely."

Aragorn lowered his head in appreciation and then added, "Faramir, I would be much obliged to you if you could stay here as my steward, for I fear that if you leave with them I shall go mad with worry."

Faramir nodded his head solemnly, replying, "As you wish, my friend."

Aragorn turned to Elboron who sat quietly, his eyes distant and unseeing. "Elboron," he said quietly, "what are your thoughts?" The young man blinked several times and stared up at the king.

Eventually he replied, "If it would be acceptable to Legolas and Gimli, as well as you, sire, I wish to follow them and track down your daughter. She is a dear friend, and perhaps I could be of some assistance to them." Faramir looked at his son with admiration, seeing the gleam of determination in his grey eyes that he often noticed in his wife's.

Legolas and Gimli exchanged glances and then Legolas said, "If he is willing, then I believe him adequate. The
Pherian, some years ago, taught me that a true heart is as useful to one as wisdom and experience. "

Aragorn grinned, remembering the four little hobbits they had traveled with years ago and said, "Then waste no time; my daughter is alone in the wilderness, with you her only saviors. Take whatever provisions you need from me, but leave as soon as possible. I will be sending out as many men as can go to accompany you. "

Bowing each in turn, the three hunters left the room, one behind the other.

Aragorn plopped down in the chair; his appearance was that of one who had lived many years and had become exhausted with life, the silver strands flowing through his raven hair. His tired face revealed one who had not slept well over the past few days, and his eyes seemed to be screaming in pain.

Faramir looked down on his friend and tried to encourage him, murmuring, "They are the truest men alive, Aragorn. They will find her no matter what it takes."

Sighing deeply, the king replied, "I know they will. It's just -" his knuckles turned white as his grip on the arms of the chairs tightened. The tone in his voice became strained as he continued, "I never had the chance to tell her exactly what happened before she left, and how much I loved her. How much I still love her, even though my wife did not deliver her."

"Estel," Faramir thought aloud, "does that name not mean, hope?"

Mae Govannen translates into, "Well met" in Sindarin.
Mellon nin means, "My friend."
Pherian is the Sindarin word for, "Hobbits."

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