Forever and For Always - Long Gone

She ran. She heard him call her name, but for the first time in sixteen years, she willfully ignored the king's voice. Not knowing where her feet were going, she eventually found herself standing in her chambers, grabbing her sword, bow and horse-back attire. She shoved it all in a bag and sprinted through the halls as the tears continued to stream down her face.

Once in the stables, she found her beloved horse, Sûlroch. He whinnied and stomped his hooves eagerly, tossing his mane as he sensed his rider's apprehension. Just as Morelen unclamped the lock on the stall, the mare pushed open the door and waited patiently for her to mount. Leaping up onto its back, she stroked his neck and then urged him forward with a sharp kick of her heels.

For all of her young life she had followed orders, obeyed commands, but now she was as the raging sea, and nothing could stand in her way. A fleeting moment of guilt entered her mind but she easily brushed it aside, concentrating on nothing but escaping this place of lies. Galloping full stride, they broke free of all bonds as the wind chilled her to her very core.

She did not know for how long she rode, but it seemed like an eternity; her eyes remained ever-focused on the land ahead of them. She tried desperately to flee from of the knowledge she had so recently gained, but no matter how far she fled, the feeling of utter isolation did not disappear. They raced deep into the mountains until she finally collapsed, wetting the soft grass with her flowing tears. Her steed laid himself beside her and eventually, the soft song of the breeze lulled her into a deep, dreamless sleep.

* * *

Aragorn stared at the sun as it hung lazily above the horizon, shooting red beams of light onto his kingdom. Dinner would be served soon, and he knew he had to face his daughter again. Here he had stood for the past three hours, pondering his fate and the fate of his foster child, Morelen. His eyes were swollen from the tears shed over their dispute.

He did not hear her coming, for her Elvish feet were quiet on the stone floor of the balcony. Sensing a deep and welling pain within him, she made her way to the railing and put a slim hand on his shoulder. He turned to her, his eyes red with tears, and mumbled "She knows."

A flash of pain flew across Arwen's face, but it was so fleeting that Aragorn wondered if it he had truly seen it. Arwen removed her hand from his shoulder and gently caressed his cheek, drying the tears that ran rampant down his face.

"You knew this day would come," she murmured, "and now we must explain to her all that took place sixteen years ago. Does she not deserve the truth?" The elf woman's bright blue eyes pierced through him, as though he was nothing more than smoke and shadow.

He nodded reluctantly and she held his hand as they went into the house and ascended the spiral staircase, walking towards their daughter's rooms.

Arwen knocked on the door lightly, saying, "Morelen, please open the door. We only wish to talk with you, Sellath." She took a chance by using the elvish word for, "daughter," hoping that the door would open, but to no avail.

Aragorn put his ear against the wooden door.

His eyes widened and Arwen murmured, "What do you hear?"

His ear still pressed to the wood, he replied, "I hear nothing."

He slowly turned the knob and pushed, opening the door to her chambers. The sun was merely a sliver of radiant light as dusk's glow poured in through the window. The sky darkened and the stars became faint, casting a pale light on Morelen's possessions. As Aragorn and Arwen explored her room, they noticed two things. First, Morelen was nowhere to be found. Second, her horse-back riding garments, Elven bow and sword were missing.

This information seemed enough to confirm their suspicions, and Arwen hissed, panic straining her normally ethereal voice, "Where has she gone?"

Aragorn stared numbly at her and replied, "She is long gone. I can almost promise you that Súlroch is not in his stall, in which case she will have traveled far within the three hours since she left my presence in the courtyard. She is a swift rider."

Aragorn recognized the flicker of dread in the elf's crystal eyes, and he continued with determination, "I am going to find her." He strode towards the door, but was immediately blocked by Arwen as she filled the doorway, her arms outstretched to bar his passage.

"No, Aragorn, you are needed here, in the city."

"Morelen needs me!"

"Your people need you," she added firmly but with kindness, for the same eagerness to ride out and find her daughter burned in her own blood.

"Call for Legolas and Gimli; they can track her easily enough, which would allow you to remain in Minas Tirith and explain to Eldarion why his older sister is missing."

Staring him down, she murmured, "Saes, meleth nîn. Do not abandon your halls."

"I have taught her how to avoid trackers myself, Arwen," he argued, "one who lived in the wild for too many years. She is intelligent, and -"

"Do you honestly think me ignorant of her intelligence, or of your history as a ranger? I am not. Legolas is an elf -- I am fully confident in his abilities to find Morelen. I miss her just as much as you, Estel," A single tear trickled down her ivory cheek, "but now is not the time for you to ride out."

She was adamant, and the king was forced to see the logic of it, though it did not ease the burden of the loss he felt in his heart.

"They are staying with Faramir and Eowyn in Ithilien." He answered. "It won't take me long to relay a message to them, especially considering it is urgent. I will ask that Faramir accompany them here, and I am sure Elboron will wish to follow. He and Morelen have been friends since they were children."

Arwen nodded in agreement and stepped aside, taking a different corridor than her husband as he stalked out of the room, his fingers curled into two square, formidable fists...

*Saes, meleth nîn. = Please, my love*

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