In Times Like These - 4: The Coming Darkness
Disclaimer: All characters are Tolkien other than my "OC."
4: The Coming Darkness (February 9, 2003 to February 10, 2003)
A hundred years had passed since the Council of Eldar and what Galadriel had seen had come to pass. The darkness that she had envisioned in Mirkwood had encroached on its lovely borders, slowly spreading like a sickness that knew only to contaminate and to destroy all that it touched. By the end of the hundred years of waiting, nearly half of Mirkwood was covered by the shadowy gloom, some elves even adjusting to the darkness such that the light now hurt them.
The only possible good that came from this blight across their lands were that they were the toughest elves in all Middle Earth. Not a few days would pass before another group of orcs that still had not learn of the strength of Mirkwood elves met their timely demise. Their Prince Legolas of Mirkwood, famed for being the best archers of all elves, had proved his mettle scores of time with his undeniable skill and grace. For none in his patrol were ever lost in their guard of Mirkwood.
Everyone in the group immediately stopped at the same time, their keen elven hearing picking up on precisely the same sound, a noise they were quite familiar with. It was the grating thud of orc feet on their Mirkwood soil, they were not that near yet for their foul stench had yet to suffocate their sensitive nostrils. But it was not long before that overbearing odor caused the beautiful faces of the elves to wrinkle with disgust and revulsion.
Holding his hand up, Legolas commanded those under him to be ready. They all strung their bows with their arrows, facing the exact direction the orcs were sure to charge at them. Though, this had been the same ritual every time, they never allowed themselves to get too comfortable because that was how other elves had gotten lost. Once the beady eyes of the orcs were seen, the archers released their arrows and with lightening speed restrung their bows and waited for their Prince's signal.
He lowered his hand and those under his guidance let lose their arrows again, slicing through the group of orcs. Those at the forefront of the group leapt off of their horses, withdrawing their swords and long knives to do away with the rest of the rank creatures. Never lacking in bravery or courage, Legolas was at the very front of his elves, slaying orc after orc with his proficiency of movement and expertise. Unlike other elves, he did not use a sword or a long knives, content to using his arrows at close range proximity, taking an arrow and thrusting it forcefully into an orc head that got too close for aim.
Few elves were better at that propinquity with their blades as he was with his bow and arrow. For Legolas's weapon was an extension of his being, he used it as he would a part of his body. Wiping away the blood from his face, he reached back to grab another arrow, only to discover that his quiver was empty. He truly disliked that when that happened for there was nothing to do but to withdraw the long knife he kept to his side in case of circumstances like these.
Being distracted for a second, two orcs jumped on him immediately with him barely having enough time to lift his knife up to block the twin blows. The orcs, however, had not thought his reaction would be fast enough to hinder their attacks that they had left themselves open to a return assault, which Legolas played on with full force, cutting them down with the blade in his left hand. Despite how easy he had gotten rid of those two orcs, his heart was pounding because that was the closest he had gotten in many years to being in danger. That meant one thing, he needed to intensify his training.
He was furious with himself for not being more prepare, sharper on his feet because the danger of Mordor was coming, he knew that better than any elf in Mirkwood. If he was going to protect his home, he had to be always prepared, which is why over the past years he had trained himself to do what was necessary to be the most venerated archer in all Mirkwood. It mattered if he could sleep while walking, it mattered that he could run for days on end. All that he had trained into himself, all that was the reason when the time of need came, he was ready.
"Elrond wants Arwen to be sent back to Rivendell permanently after the visit you two shall make," Galadriel stated calmly. "He does not believe that Lothlorien is as safe as his Imladris against attack of the dark forces of Mordor when the time comes. What have you to say about that, tithen min?" (little one)
The more years that passed by, the more her adopted daughter managed to shed the darkness that had trapped and suffocated her pure spirit. When something was asked, when something needed a response, she now spoke, albeit in mind speech. //Have you taught her all that you need to teach her, amme?// (mother)
Galadriel shook her head. "For me to give her all the knowledge within me, no time would ever be enough. Her gifts are not as strong as Celebrian's, but still she has the ability to learn, to use what I can teach her. You are the one I place my hope in, Anaire, you are the one that can see into the Mirror."
The first time, she had gazed upon the Mirror, she had seen the desolation of the lands of Middle Earth by the hand of Sauron and how the free folk became enslaved. It was then that Galadriel named her the name that was suited to her, Anaire, the holiest one. Since then, she only looked into the Mirror when it was necessary to hone her ability, but still the Mirror gave what was sought more freely to Galadriel. Anaire's true gift laid in the ability to read minds, and it was in this gift that she perhaps even surpassed her teacher and mother.
"Soon," Galadriel spoke, "Arwen will return to Imladris, for I understand Lord Elrond's concern. Times grow more dangerous, soon the road to Rivendell will be even more hazardous. Yet the time is not right quite yet. There is more that she must be taught as you still have to be taught, tithen min."
She bowed her head to the Lady of Lothlorien with acknowledgement that the words she spoke were true. There was much Galadriel still had to tutor her in the ways of the world, in the methods of enchantment. One day when the coming darkness was no longer a danger, she hoped that the books on lore and tales she might read and lose herself in so that she did not have to think of the terrible nightmare that still haunted her in times of weakness.
"You are not paying attention, Anaire," reprimanded Haldir sharply, after disarming her of both of her long knives. "How do you expect to be allowed to accompany the Guard when you are not able to suitably defend yourself?" he asked harsher than he meant to, but when it came to her protection that was the concern that was primary to him. Ever since that day, a hundred years prior, remembering how the orc leader had rushed at her, ready to slice her to pieces had struck a fear into him, him who feared naught.
//My apologies,// she answered simply in a voice that was even more beautiful to hear than she was to look on, //Haldir.// She bent down to pick up her knives and after cleaning the blade, she readied herself for the next onslaught of Haldir's, entirely focused now on what was before her. Still, she was not faster than Haldir. Still, she was not more skilled than he. His skill and his strength far outmaneuvered her, but it was her ability to predict what move he'd make next that allowed them to match aptitude to aptitude when her mind was there.
"Better," he complimented, "much better." He was not able to disarm him, he was not able to back her up into a corner. He and she matched blow to blow, their actions synchronizing so perfectly that it didn't seem like they were practicing combat together, but acting an intriguing dance with twin long knives. "I will speak to Celeborn of allowing you to ride with the Guard tomorrow if that is your wish, Anaire."
There was the barest smile on her pale pink lips, but a smile nonetheless for her. It did his heart good to see her have a lightness on her face when it nearly always covered with the darkness of what had tormented her long ago. If he was able to rid her of her turmoil, he would, but he wasn't. At least in this, he was able to do for her. "Now, it's time for the sword," he declared, "you still wield it like you are afraid to lose it, do not be scared to lose it and then your movements will be sleeker, swifter."
Without further warning, he withdrew his sword and lunged at her just as she pulled her sword out of its scabbard to meet him in a clashing of silver music. She concentrated harder than she had been earlier for the sword was her weakest weapon, she knew it was not going to be long before he either backed her up into a corner or flung the sword from her hand.
Stepping backwards, she avoided his blade and tried in a desperate charge to take him by surprise, but he reacted faster than she had predicted. She barely managed to move fast enough to block the blow to the left that was coming when she ran into the wall of exhaustion, not able to escape the onslaughts that she saw were coming. She lasted longer than she thought she would when he finally had his sword under her chin. "Not bad," he commented, "but it is still by far your weakest."
//Thanks, Haldir,// she responded, her mental voice slightly bemused. To others, a show of emotion was a cause to be entirely astonished, but to him it was normal almost. It still was not quite an everyday occurrence to him for she had gone without expression for so long for him to treat it as nothing, it was indeed something. //Tomorrow?//
He nodded and smiled at her, a truly rare thing for him to do to any elf but for her smiles were abundant. "When has that ever changed?" he inquired back with dry humor that was customary for him. "Tomorrow it will be." Mockingly, he bowed low before taking the cloak that he had placed on the table and wrapped it around her. It still bothered him to watch her hide beneath, that still had not changed. She was still as mysterious to those that did not know her. Even to him, she was still a mystery.
The myth of the unnatural appearance of the Silver Lady of Lothlorien continued to spread by word of mouth slowly over the years until she became nearly as renown as the Lady of Light. Stories said of her ethereal beauty. Tales told of her terrible features. The only thing they agreed on was that she was powerful and caution should be taken around her. No longer did they even agree if her hair was silver. Some said it was grey, others white, but most silver. Despite the uncertainties, maybe because of them, she was the one elves discussed and pondered the most, for she was secretive.
Eventually these stories reached the ears of Elrond, and he was amused by them because he knew Anaire as well as she'd let him know her. It was true she was a secret to most; it was not true that she was hideous to look upon. He understood when he'd seen her for the first time, when Arwen had brought her home for a short visit why his young Elrohir heavily defended her name like a sister. There was something entirely fragile about her that made one want to protect her from any harm of whatever kind.
How frustrating Anaire must find it for she was like Arwen in strength and independence, without doubt the beauty. It had taken time for Arwen to coerce Anaire into opening up to her. When she had, the two girls had forged a true bond of sisterhood. Arwen was the more forceful, while Anaire was passive. But both had strong minds and faithful hearts. Both believed that the elves were needed to stay no matter the doom that waited.
Soon his Arwen would return to Imladris with Anaire to perform the ritual that would tie them together as sister and make Elrond as much a father Anaire as Celeborn. The first part had already been conducted in Lothlorien, it had been decided the last part would be done at Rivendell with Elrond presiding over it. The Lord of Imladris smiled because his Arwen was right. Even in the darkest of times, there must be hope for hope was the only light strong enough to banish the darkness from whence it came.
In such a time of doom, his heart was listed in that a lost and frightened and terrorized child over a hundred years later had found a family, even if it was not blood bound. In such a time of darkness, his heart was lightened that despite the fall of shadows, there was still goodness that grew and thrived in its midst. In such a time as this, that there were still smiles made him believe that even though the strength of others had failed, there was still the hearts to elves to continue on.
The trip to Rivendell had been surprisingly uneventful with the increased orc activity outside of the Golden Woods. It was fortunate for the trip was done with haste for Galadriel had already commanded both Arwen and Anaire back to Lothlorien as soon as the ritual was done. Time was invaluable as the doom of Mordor continued to spread its evil dominion over Middle Earth. She had also converse with Elrond into allowing her to continue to instruct Arwen for as long as she thought necessary.
When they arrived at Imladris, Elrond and his twin sons were on hand to welcome Arwen and Anaire back. It had been many years since they had last come, though Elladan and Elrohir often journeyed to Lothlorien to visit their sister and their grandparents. Their visits also covered the missives that were sent back and forth for the seeing rooms were used seldom as it was not as safe as it had once been.
"Your return to Imladris," Elrond declared from where he stood atop the stairs looking like the Lord of Rivendell, "has been eagerly sought and anticipated, Arwen Undomiel and Anaire Istelile."
Elladan and Elrohir were not as reserved as their father was, grabbing their sister and soon to be sister into their arms with a joyful greeting. It was when Elrohir had Anaire in his embrace that caused Elrond to cough to remind them that the hold had gone on for far longer than was necessary. Elrohir finally loosened his grip on Anaire, though his eyes never left her face. His father watched them carefully to make sure that there was no emotion other than that of an overwhelming happiness to see her, for once this ceremony was completed Anaire would be as much of a sister as Arwen in the eyes of elves.
"In your rooms," Elrond continued to address Arwen and Anaire after a pause, "everything has been prepared. The Ceremony will begin very soon, it is as Galadriel requested that you two journey back to Lothlorien after staying the night over. You all are dismissed to prepare." All started to head to their rooms to get ready for the ritual when Elrond called out specifically, "Elrohir, I want to speak to you private. Come with me."
Following his father to his study, Elrohir had a guess what his father wished to speak to him about, though he felt it was late in the asking now that things had come this far. Then again, his thoughts could be wrong, so he asked in a way that said he didn't know why he'd been called to speak to his father private, "What is it that you with to speak to me about, father?"
Elrond gazed at his younger son carefully, Elrohir was perceptive more so than Elladan when it came to matters of the mind. He found it hard not to believe that Elrohir hadn't guessed. Though he did not have the gift to read minds, he did know his son like every parent knew their child's mind. "Anaire," Elrond stated, "do you have feelings for her that I should be made aware of?"
His son's eyes avoided his father's piercing gaze while he responded with a question of his own, "Why do you ask?"
"Because I am concern. Once this is done, it cannot be reversed or erased," Elrond said gravely. "Answer me truthfully, do you have feelings for her, Elrohir?"
He lifted his face up to meet his father's intense gaze, eye to eye. "I do not know what feelings I have for her," he replied honestly. "My feelings for her are unlike any I have encountered before: I want to protect her, guard her more than that I do not know."
Elrond sighed with relief. His concerns were perhaps unfounded. If the feelings were not more than that, then it was how a brother felt for a sister, a father for a daughter of a warrior to an innocent. Placing his hands on Elrohir's shoulders, he asked to erase all doubt, "Have you ever felt like there was a possibility she could be more? How do you feel that she will be as much a sister after this ritual as Arwen?"
"It is what Arwen wants," Elrohir responded, "and it is what Anaire needs, a family that is full and complete. For Arwen, this is necessary as well for Anaire is like the sister that Arwen never had. As her brother, I have seen how close she has gotten to Anaire, and how good it has been for her since she lacks a true mother figure. Until Anaire, it was assumed she was Galadriel's successor and thus was isolated from other elves. In that both are under Galadriel's guidance has brought the two together as sisters and this will only tie them more."
"Well spoken," Elrond remarked, "so that is your answer?" Elrohir nodded. "Since that is your answer, then the ceremony will go on."
At the top of the path, Arwen was dressed in a pale twilight blue gown that mirror the same design of Anaire's yellow-tinged gown. Arwen smiled at Anaire, holding out her hand to her, asking, "Are you ready?"
//I am ready.// Anaire took the hand that Arwen offered to her and together the Evenstar and Silverstar moved down the path that the elves of Imladris and those that had accompanied Anaire from Lothlorien made for them to work down. All the elves watched with wonder as the rumors and the stories and the tales became reality as they saw the glorious beauty of the two fairest elven maidens of the Third Age. One, whose magnificence was dark and exotic; one, whose splendor was light and fragile. Together their beauty was blinding. It was an overwhelming light in a time of impending darkness.
From where Haldir stood to the front of the line, his eyes were glowing with his pride in his Istelile, Silverstar, a name he had gifted her one night when sky had been filled with darkness and she was the only star that shone. He had asked to be the representative to Rivendell since the day she had arrived at Lothlorien, they had never gone a day without seeing each other. That request had amused both the Lord and Lady of Lothlorien for Haldir was impossible to get to leave the Golden Woods unless it was asked of him as a favor to them. Even then, he was notorious reluctant and made it plain he disliked it, for his love of his home was well known. But anywhere Anaire went, he followed, even if it meant to the ends of time.
On the other side, Elladan and Elrohir stood, watching the two girls approach their father and bow low before turning to face each other. They stared into each other's eyes as Elrond began the ritual, "Across the time, across the space, for nothing can ever separate two hearts that wish to be bound. These two hearts, two fair hearts wish to be linked not by blood of bond but by bond of souls, of hearts. Elbereth, our Elentari, bless this union of sisterhood, bless all elves everywhere."
Once Elrond was done speaking, Arwen took a twin necklace to the one that Galadriel had given to her many years before that had once been Celebrian's and placed it around Anaire's neck. The replica was faithful and carefully crafted by the best of all elven craftsmen, thus it had taken time, which had delayed the ceremony a few years. Nonetheless, the necklace had arrived and it was identical in every fashion to the one that Arwen bore on her own neck. "We may not have been born sisters," she murmured, "but we are sisters of the same heart."
Anaire placed her hand on the necklace and then placed her hand on Arwen's necklace. //Sisters eternally.//
With joined hands they faced the crowd of elves that had gathered for this joining of sisterhood, the bonds never to be broken. As the elves from Rivendell and Lothlorien witnessed the two fairest elven maidens deepen their bond of friendship into an everlasting bond, the elves wondered if these two stars, these two lights would be able to fend off the growing darkness in the world around them. For it seemed hopeful, for their light, their very beauty was a comfort in the midst of all the danger looming.
Author's Note: Feedback is nice!
Chapter 1 was released on 2/8/2003
Chapter 2 was released on 2/13/2003
Chapter 3 was released on 2/15/2003