Forever and For Always - She is Fiercer


-It has been four months since the three riders set out to find the missing princess-

**A tavern somewhere in Lebennin**


"Aye, Bartender, I'll take a pint of your finest ale!" Barked the dwarf, his head just barely grazing the top of the bar and his arm lifted to gain the bartender's attention. Legolas and Elboron sat next to him, though the elf seemed altogether displeased at the prospects of spending the night in such a "respectable" (as Gimli called it) place. Smoke floated through the air and the boisterous, friendly banter of men, young and old, rang throughout the room. Elboron sat, brooding, his elbows on the bar, head in his hands. A soldier in their company strode by with a mug in his hand and accidentally hit Elboron with his elbow, nearly spilling his drink. The man mumbled an apology and continued on to greet his fellow soldiers.


"Will you have nothing, man? You're not so young as to refuse a mug of the tasty gold drink, eh Elboron? If you are in any way related to your father, which I believe you to be, then you will down this in one swig." Grunted Gimli, his beard white with the foam from the top of the drink, a merry twinkle in his beady black eyes.


Elboron rubbed his forehead wearily and replied, "No, Gimli, I am simply not interested, for the moment. I think I shall go upstairs; I am weary from the day's ride." He left the stool by the table and stalked upstairs to their room.


Legolas looked curiously after him as Gimli muttered in his ear, "Yeah, sure, that's what all the young`uns say! `Not interested...' Bah!"


Gimli returned to his drink with an obnoxious gulp and Legolas replied, sighing, "Ai. Dwarves, you are so imperceptive at times. I will retire to the room. Do not drink too much, master dwarf, for we ride at daybreak. Do not forget our true purpose here."


Gimli gave a forced laugh and, after a particularly loud belch, shouted to the Elf as he walked away, "Well thank you for your concern, master elf, but you shall not fear me becoming intoxicated, for dwarves can outlast -" His voice was drowned out by the drunken laughter of the other men and Legolas quickly found his way to the wooden staircase, nimbly dodging a soldier who, being struck, fell backwards onto the floor.


He entered the quiet, dark room to find Elboron seated by the fire, staring entranced into its leaping flames. The boy's gray eyes reminded Legolas so much of his mother's, for they possessed the same indestructible willpower, the same spirit of unflinching stone.


He considered saying something witty about Gimli's vulgar behavior to make the boy laugh, but decided against it. Instead he closed the door behind him, trying to muffle at least some of the noise from the bar, and sat next to him by the fireplace.


Legolas let the heat from the hearth warm his skin and allowed his gaze to rest on the dancing brilliance of each burning tentacle.


"Does something trouble you, Elboron?" Legolas finally murmured after several minutes of silence.


Elboron looked startled at the sudden sound, but replied quietly, "Im mae, Legolas. Achas not an nîn." (I am fine, Legolas. Don't worry about me.) He grinned slightly as he saw Legolas' wide smile. Elboron learned the Elvish language both from his scholarly father and Legolas himself, who apparently proved to have both succeeded in their teachings.


The elf laughed, a clear, ringing sound, "Though you may speak our tongue, Elvellon, this does not change the fact that you are a man. And as such, you are quite an unconvincing liar."


Elboron shrugged, as if to convey that it was not of his choosing to be born human. Staring back into the fire he mumbled, "Indeed, I am but a human. A man."

He faltered, deciding whether or not to lay bare his heart to the elf. Legolas' encouraging expression compelled Elboron to continue, "I am afraid."

He finally said huskily, "We have no tracks to follow; we do not even know which direction she took from the White City. It has been only four months, indeed, but still my heart fears for her. What happens if she does not survive on her own? I think that it would tear my heart into pieces if I saw her dead somewhere. I admit that I am not one who has experienced much of the world, but I do know some of the dangers that exist and her situation haunts me."


Legolas face became grave as he listened to Elboron's words. After a moment of silence, the elf said, "I know she is alive. Come now, you know her, Elboron. She is more stubborn than even Gimli can claim to be, and her will is strong. This time of insecurity certainly weakens her, but I have watched her grow to womanhood, and she is fiercer than the obstacles of this world." His eyes lowered to the floor when he finished, but Elboron's remained locked on the flames.


"As to the girl's whereabouts, that may take some thought on our part, to discover where she might have headed. Have you any thoughts?" Legolas queried.


Elboron looked at him and seemed to be thinking hard, deep in contemplation. "If you, at one point in your life, discovered that you were raised in a land other than the one your true ancestors inhabited, where would you go first?" He said, thinking aloud.


"I am sure Morelen, at first, did not know where she was running to, only that she was running." Pondered Legolas.


"Indeed," Elboron agreed. "Would she go to the place of her true origin, then? Or would she go in the exact opposite direction?"


The two stared at each other, brows furrowed with thought.

Something in Legolas' eyes lit up and they twinkled like they hadn't before. His expression illuminated hope and he said carefully, "Aragorn told us that she stormed out of the citadel in a hurry, and that she pushed him hard when he tried to console her."

"So?" Elboron blurted impatiently.


Legolas ignored the question and continued eagerly, "Since she has not returned yet, I doubt that she intends to do so of her own free will. Now Elboron, if you were Morelen, where is the first place you would hide, if you figured someone was after you? For certainly Morelen knows that Aragorn will not sit patiently in his halls and wait for her to return: his first action would be to send out someone, perhaps even ride out himself, to find her. She will want to hide somewhere where she is inconspicuous."

Elboron, trying to follow Legolas' train of thought, attempted to continue his words, "Where is the one place she does not stand out? Most of Arda is colonized by people of pale complexion! Where does she blend in so well that if anyone attempted to locate her, they would have incredible difficulty?"


Finally the sparks caught and Elboron gasped. In unison, they murmured, "Harad."

"We must head south. But where? How far?"

"I know not." Admitted Legolas. "But it is a step in the right direction."

"Aye, it is," Elboron smiled, saying, "Now I could use that drink!"

"I am sure Gimli would be exceedingly appreciative if you went down there to join him."

"I believe I shall, now that a weight is lifted from my shoulders. Will you not join me, Mellon nîn?"

"Indeed, I will accompany you, but I will not drink. They have no mirúvor here, and with good reason. But I fear that Gimli has gotten himself into trouble down there."

Elboron nodded while laughing, "Better go check up on him, then."

They left the peace of their room, allowing the fire to burn unattended, and entered the noisy tavern where the loud calls of a dwarf could be heard beckoning to them....


*Mellon nîn=My friend.*
*Elvellon= Elf friend*
*Miruvor=An elvish wine*

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