Mist & Shadow - Chapter 5

Athrun cast a glance around the room, coming to rest on the sleeping form in the large bed. He had slept curled up in the doorway all night. He wasn't surprised in the least that Mornië still slept. There were no outward signs of her ordeal of the night before, but the fear he had seen in her eyes told him she would not son forget.

He watched her sleeping face. "She looks just like Airin. he mused silently. Mornië's scream still echoed in his mind, the sound seeming all to familiar. It was a scream that had haunted him for nigh three ages... and continued to still. He forced the memory down, trying to will it away. She looked so peaceful laying there; the gentle sun rays playing across her face.

Mornië opened her eyes slowly and blinked a few times before focusing on her surroundings. The first thing her eyes fell on was a large black shape standing in the doorway. She sat bolt upright, terror written all over her face.

"Whoa! Easy!" Athrun stepped out of the light so that she could see him, realizing that she must have remembered the night before. "It's okay. It's just me."

Mornië sighed and flopped back on the bed. "What? Like you're not enough to terrify a person?" she asked in jest.

Athrun smirked. "If that's the case, I'll just leave then."

"You have to!" Mornië threw a pillow at him. "It's well past time for me to get out of bed, and I need to change."

Athrun gave a mock bow, and backed out of the room. "As you wish milady," he slowly closed the door behind him.

Mornië climbed out of bed and surveyed herself in the mirror. She had forgotten to take her hair down before she had gone to bed and it looked like several small animals had made a nest of her head. "Gah! I'm surprised I didn't scare him," she muttered as she began untangling the braids and ribbons. "But then why should I even care?" she countered to herself, "It's not as if I need to impress him."

It was several minutes before she tamed her mane enough to drag a brush through it. "There had better be something besides dress in there," she surveyed the dresser like it was a monster. She carefully opened one drawer and immediately slammed it shut with an expression of horror. "Oh Valar, no! No way!" She tried the next one, and sighed with relief as she fished out a pair of loose black trousers and loose white tunic. Tossing them over one arm, she investigated the rest of the drawers. Finally she managed to compile what she thought was a decent outfit for the day; the trousers, the tunic, a loose dark blue over tunic that would drape to her knees, with two slits up the sides and silver trim, and a pair of soft dear-skin shoes. "This should do just fine."

She dressed quickly, then rummaged through her room again trying to find something to tie her hair with. She brushed it again and began braiding it. Putting her leather tie in her mouth, she opened the door as she twisted the last few inches together.

"Took you long enough," Athrun said dryly from where he leaned against the door frame lazily, "Sounded more like an epic battle in there than a woman getting dressed. Do you always talk to yourself?"

"Yes!" She looked over her shoulder at the disaster she had left behind her and cringed. "Someone will clean that up, right?" she asked hopefully.

"It looked like a wind storm went through there! What were you doing?" Athrun was trying very hard to hide his amusement.

"Finding something other than dressed to wear!" she defended herself.

"What's so wrong with dresses?"

"Have you ever worn one?" she raised an eyebrow at him. To her utter shock and surprise, he began coughing and blushing profusely.

"WHAT?!?" he regained his composure, "It was a bet! I lost." he crossed his arms defensively. "I was young then after all. You really can't blame me for getting in the situation. It was all Thalion's doing."

Mornië doubled over with laughter. She leaned against the wall next to her as tears rolled down her face. "Ow!" She held her side and tried to regain control.

"Careful," Athrun grinned, and helped her up, "We don't need you back in the house of healing any time soon.

She giggled at the slightly pink tinge to his face. "How did you ever manage to live that down?"

"I didn't," he turned red again, "Thalion still brings it up to this day. It was almost over 3 ages ago! We were both barely past adolescence at that point."

"What was the bet this Thalion made with you?"

"Uh... Oh look! Speak of the devil!" Athrun conveniently changed the subject as Thalion joined them in the the hall. "I believe you two met last night?"

"We did?" Mornië looked slightly confused. "Oh, you were with Athrun when he found me."

That would be correct milady," Thalion bowed politely.

She tilted her head slightly to get a better look at him. She saw his bruised nose and immediately thought of how she had thrown back her head into her attackers face the night before. She assumed she had broken the man's nose from the sickening crunches she had heard. "How did that happen?" Mornië asked without thinking.

"That would be my fault," Athrun spoke up, "I'm afraid I mistook Thalion for your attacker last night, and he did likewise. By the time we each realized who the other was we had pretty well pummelled each other, and the attacker had gotten away."

Thalion ran a hand through his hair, a gesture that struck the she-elf as one of nervousness. "Lord Athrun!" her thoughts were interrupted by a voice from behind them. "Yes? What is it?" Athrun turned to face the messenger. "Lord Elrond wishes to see you immediately." Athrun nodded, and turned back to Mornië and Thalion. "Excuse me; I'm afraid we must part ways for a while. Thalion, would you be a friend and escort this lovely lady to the banquet hall for breakfast."

Thalion smiled and nodded as Athrun turned to follow the messenger. For a moment, Mornië and Thalion stood there looking after him. "Well," Thalion finally broke the silence cheerfully, "Shall we?"

She nodded and turned to walk away pretending she hadn't seen him offer his arm. There was something about him that set her on edge. It wasn't something she could put her finger on, but it was there in the back of her mind. A warning flag, maybe. she thought.

* * * * *

Elrond looked up from a book he was perusing though when he heard the polite knock on the door. "Enter." He smiled at Athrun when the elf stuck his head through the door.

"You sent for me?"

"Yes, I heard about some commotion in the garden last night that involved you. What happened?" The inquiring tone in Lord Elrond's voice and the expression on his face told Athrun that the Lord of Imladris was not angry and simply wanted to know about the disturbance in his keep.

Athrun stood before Elrond respectfully. "It was concerning the Moriquendi she-elf that I recently pulled from the flood waters of the Bruinen," He explained. "She was attacked deliberately in the dark by an unknown assailant. Lord Thalion and myself happened to be in the vicinity, and responded to her cries for help, but by the time we had sorted things out, he was gone."

"Deliberate attack? You mean to say it was planned?" Lord Elrond looked concerned, "Why do you believe it was deliberate?" Elrond trusted Athrun's judgement, but he was curious to know why he had come to this conclusion.

"When I left the lady in the garden, there were several torches lit. I didn't fear leaving her there, even though she is new to the city because it would've been very easy for her to find her way back to the banquet hall." Athrun paused for a breath. "When I found her, all the torches had been extinguished and there was a slight smell of smoke in the air."

"Very observant," Elrond commended, "Anything else?"

"Instinct, my lord," Athrun wasn't afraid to admit that he had little hard evidence, "Something tells me it was planned, and not a random strike at the Moriquendi."

Lord Elrond sighed and set his book on a nearby table. "Very well then. I don't want her left alone for any reason until we found out who and why. Because you have already somewhat befriended the maid, I want you to watch her." Athrun nodded. "You may go now," Elrond dismissed him.

"Yes milord." Athrun turned on his heel and left the room.

* * * * *

"Athrun's been awfully cheerful of late," Thalion commented as he and Mornië made their way through the long open halls.

Mornië was incredulous, "You call that cheerful? I'd hate to see what he's like normally."

Thalion chuckled, and became semi serious again. "My dear, I haven't seen him laugh or smile this much in over an age; not until you came along."

Despite her distrust of the elf beside her, she was curious. "Why is that?"

Thalion frowned, and looked as though he had said something he shouldn't have. "Perhaps," he paused, "Perhaps that is something you should ask Athrun himself."

Mornië bit back another question and accepted his answer. She stayed in the banquet hall for only a few minutes. Excusing herself, she grabbed some kind of pastry and an apple and began wandering the halls. She stopped to look at one of the wall murals, many of which depicted scenes from stories she thought seemed vaguely familiar. One in particular caught her eye. It depicted a man with a broken blade challenging an armoured giant.

"Mornië!" The four Hobbits converged on her from nowhere all at once.

She groaned inwardly. "Mea govannen." She smiled at them. Pippin stole her apple as they dragged her down the hall.

"We have something we want to show you. It's..."

Merry was cut short by Sam clamping a hand over his mouth. "It's a surprise."

"Oh, surprises," Mornië was less than thrilled, but grinned for the Hobbits sakes, "I love surprises."

All four grinned triumphantly. Mornië let herself be led down a set of stairs, through a courtyard, and into, judging by the smell, the stable yard. "It's probably a pile of manure." she thought with disgust.

"Close your eyes," Frodo stopped and turned to look at her.

"Do I have to?" As much as she like the Hobbits, she didn't trust their mischievous natures.

"Yes."

She finally gave in and shut her eyes.... partially. Even she knew better than to trust the Hobbits to pay attention to where they were leading her; especially since she was considerably taller than they were. Finally, after a few stubbed toes, and much giggling on Merry and Pippin's part, they came to a stop, in what Mornië presumed to be a pile of hay. "Open your eyes!" the Hobbits practically shouted in unison.

She opened her eyes and was rewarded with the sight of four gambolling puppies about six weeks old. "Oh, they're cute." She sat down in the hay and immediately had all four of the animals in her lap. "And... hungry?" she moaned as one of the puppies promptly devoured her pastry before she could stop it. "There goes my breakfast."

"Don't worry!" Pippin piped up. "There's always second breakfast!"

The smallest of the puppies tried to settle down for a nap on her left leg while two others began washing her face. The fourth, having no room, jumped up on her shoulder from behind and began chewing on her ear.

"Well well, what's this?" She jumped up at the sound of Athrun's voice, causing the puppy in her lap to tumble into the hay, from which she promptly scooped it up and cuddled it.

"Aren't they adorable?" she held one up to him.

"Oh yes," he offered a less than enthusiastic grin, "Absolutely... adorable." He just stood there as two of the puppies began to climb up his leg, while the last attempted to make a chew toy out of his boot.

The four Hobbits cast sly glances at each other, and slowly crept out of the stall, leaving the two alone, and then ran as fast as their short legs could carry them. Their work there was done.

Mornië kissed the puppy she was holding on his furry, golden head before setting him down and pulling another away from Athrun's boot. "Where did the Hobbit's go?"

"Probably to find food." Athrun sat down beside her.

"Pippin and one of these ate my breakfast," Mornië tried to ignore her rumbling stomach but it was a losing battle. She chuckled. "I was then informed that I could always wait for second breakfast."

Athrun laughed. "Hobbits are like that. I hear they have up to eight meals a day."

"No wonder they're so chubby. I think I'd explode."

Athrun chuckled in agreement, scratching behind the ear of a puppy that had made itself at home in his lap.

"So," Mornië changed the subject after a moment of silence, "What did Lord Elrond want with you?"

"He wanted to know about last night." Athrun tried to evade her question.

"And?" The smile faded from Mornië's face. "What did you tell him?"

"The truth; what else," Athrun picked at a piece of straw.

"What did he say?" Mornië could tell that he was dodging her questions.

"Well," Athrun tossed the broken straw as far as he could, "I've been reassigned."

Mornië was confused. "What to?" Athrun appeared to be completely absorbed with examining a piece of hay. "Well?!"

He finally looked at her and attempted a grin. "I've been assigned as your body guard."

"What?" She stared at him. "Why? I can take care of myself."

"You know that's not what its about. You of all people should realize that," he reasoned with her, obviously not wanting to argue."It's about the fact that someone in Imladris tried to kill you, and until we know who, you aren't safe."

"I can take care of myself!" Mornië insisted again. "

Oh? You certainly took great care of yourself in the garden last night!" Athrun instantly regretted his sharp words.

"I'm still here, aren't I?"

"Yes, thanks to Thalion!"

"I don't trust Thalion!"

"That's besides the point Mornië!"

She stiffened visibly. "Thalion didn't do anything to help me last night."

"He scared away your attacker! Did that knock on the head really addle your brains that badly?!" Athrun could feel himself becoming edgy. "

What if he was my attacker?!" Mornië challenged, finally voicing her suspicions. She saw something in Athrun's jaw jump, and knew that once again she had crossed a line.

"I have known Thalion for over 3 ages of men, Mornië. I trust him," Athrun's voice held an icy tone that practically cut Mornië to the core. "The Thalion I know is not a murderer, and he certainly did not attack you last night." She didn't trust herself to speak.

Athrun looked away from Mornië, unable to stand the hurt in her eyes, caused by his harsh words. Neither spoke for several minutes, and the only sound was of the puppies playing about them; oblivious to the conflict going on.

"Look," Athrun finally broke the silence, "I'm sorry Mornië. I just... I don't know what came over me. I don't want to fight with you." He covered her tightly clenched hand in his. "Forgive me?" His eyes pleaded with her. Mornië finally unclenched her hand and raised her head.

"No, it's not your fault," she said quietly, "I didn't have any right to accuse you're friend that way. But I still don't trust him..." she muttered with a little grin.

Athrun smiled with relief. "Don't worry about it. He takes some warming up to, but he's really a great guy. Tell you what," He added after a moment, lifting a sleeping puppy gently off his lap, "Why don't I take you for a private tour of the city?"

"Is this the same private tour you offered yesterday?" Mornië began brushing the straw out of her lap.

"Yeah," Athrun laughed sheepishly, "But I promise this time you get the whole thing."

* * * * *

Thalion listened carefully, and he didn't like what he heard. Amarth would be none to please that he had failed to kill the girl the first time. The fact that she suspected him didn't things any easier.

"But at least Athrun has no suspicions," he thought to himself. As long as Athrun had no inkling of his involvement, he was fine. No one would believe an amnesiac Moriquendi elf over himself anyway. His reputation was spotless, and anyone would simply brush her off as a liar. He only wished Athrun hadn't become as involved with the wench as he had. What he had told Mornië earlier was true. He hadn't seen him smile this much since before Airin was killed.

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