Naira, Heart of Flame - Parts 19 and 20: The (very belated) End...

I apologize a hundred times for keeping you waiting. I thought my submission went through months ago, but it appears I was wrong! Please forgive a hardworking theatre major, my life is crazy. Here are the last two parts of the story!

Parts 19 and 20:

As her brother slid into darkness, Clara tried to run after him. But Grant shot out his arm and grabbed her fiercely. Pulling her back close to him, he hissed, "Are you trying to get yourself killed?" His fear was evident in the cold gleam in his eyes. All of his features seemed to be made of stone, he was almost inhuman. Clara felt her stomach tighten, and she wished he would let her go.
Behind them, Eli was quietly talking on his cell phone. Words drifted from the conversation into Clara's anxiously straining ears. Gunshots.... kidnapped.... hurry... may be injured.... She wanted to run after James with every ounce of her being, but her legs felt funny, distant, not her own.
"Grant," she whispered, "I don't feel well." The look on her face was pained, and he noticed how pale she had become. He started to gently lead her away, but she stopped.
"No.... not yet..." she said in what sounded like someone else's voice. Grant looked nervously at Eli, who was watching Clara with concern. Let them be safe, Eli was praying to himself, just let him find her....

They deadly entourage had reached the polluted glen in the woods. Naira was struggling to blot out the nausea that had swept through her as the approached, trying to keep herself alert for a chance to escape. She doubted it would come, the two men holding her wouldn't risk failing, not now.
Ahead of them, the two men hauling Chief Staub dropped him, stepping back towards the rim of withered trees. The one carrying the bag stopped and after putting on leather gloves went to work pulling out pieces of rope. Lena was still being held close to her father's side. Shadows fell across his face, blacking out his eyes. Lena was obviously afraid of what would happen, and what her father was capable of doing. The third man, who had been carrying the bag, stood up walked over to the body. He bound his wrists, and then stood up again.
"It does not matter what you do to me," Naira said. "James will find you out. You cannot hide this forever. He will be your undoing." Naira's voice was steady and sure, almost unworldly. Dominic looked at her wearily, thinking a second before saying, "No, I will be his undoing. I will have taken from him the two people he loves most. Now," said Dominic gruffly, "take her over by Staub." Naira fought as best she could, dragging her feet into the ground, but to no avail. Their iron grips only increased. She could see the dead man's face leering up at her, and she tried not to think of him living and breathing a few minutes before. Think of James, she told herself, think of James. A thick cord of rope slid around her wrists and a dirty piece of cloth was jammed into her mouth. Dominic and Lena walked closer, and stopped at a shirt distance as the third man went to join the other two on their guard patrol.
"You know.... it's funny. I never thought I would get to use this gun..." Dominic devilishly crooned. "Especially like this. It's been quite a day for me, my little girl and James Varden. Using the gun that killed his father to kill his girlfriend. I should have known it would come to this...."
"What!!" Lena said in utter shock, her eyes wide with horror. "You killed James's father... You?"
"Oh, I forgot you didn't know that... well, it isn't going to change anything now is it? Now if you'll excuse me Lena, I have your mess to clean up. Jennings - " he said, and one of the guards ran over, "take Lena a little further away, if you'd be so kind."
Lena looked as though she had eaten a handful of arsenic. Naira looked at the man in front of her with contempt. James's clear gray eyes flashed in her mind, his father's eyes. He had died for the truth, he had died doing what he thought was right. Charles Varden was such a huge part of his son, his mortal son, and Naira loved him. Dominic raised the gun, and aimed. He expected to see fear, tears, or rage in her eyes. Not the defiant splendor of their beauty. He hesitated to pull the trigger, and in that second an arrow logged in his right hand, causing him to drop the gun. A moment later, another pierced his leg.
Her guards let her go in order to pull out their guns and search for their attacker. She stood still, letting them think she was scared of this new threat, but she knew who it was. He had come, he had come to save her. The five men looked around desperately, unsure of where to look. Night had settled in, and in the growing darkness it was impossible to see into the trees. Lena was screaming as she tried to aid her father, who was bleeding heavily. His moans of pain and Lena's screams set the guards on edge.
Two more arrows flew through the air, hitting two of the guards simultaneously in their chests. They fell down, apparently dead. The others started to shoot in the direction of the last attack, and Naira seized her moment and ran into the nearest clump of trees. She sank down , trying to find a way to get out of her bonds. From the distance, she could hear sirens coming. She heard another loud scream of fresh pain, and then another, and knew James had almost taken them out. She turned to look back at the clearing. She strained her eyes to see to the best of her ability, and made out a tall figure heading towards on the far side of the trees. It stopped and fired an arrow at the last guard. She headed slowly towards him, her ears detecting footsteps quickly approaching.
The lithe figure was silent, almost elf-like as he came around the curve. She gave a muffled cry, her mouth bound. James froze and looked around, an arrow drawn in the bow. She moved towards him, letting herself be slightly visible in the pale moonlight. A wave of relief spread over his face, and he pulled her to him and sank to the ground where the wouldn't be seen. For a moment, there was no one else, no danger or grief. She ignored the razor sharp pain in her side. James was holding her, he had rescued her, she was safe with him.
His strong hands undid her bonds and smoothly untied her gag. His mouth crashed down on top of hers hungrily, needing her touch. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. Tears were running down his face, and met with her own. She pulled back to wipe his face dry.
" You're hurt.... this is all my fault... Oh God, I thought I'd lost you," he whispered, his voice breaking with emotion.
"You could never lose me, " she said.
"Naira, I love you."
"As I love you." She kissed him sweetly on the lips, then he whispered, "We have to get you out of here. The police won't be able to find a record for you. And that, my fair elf, could be disastrous."
As the two lovers slipped away, the police raided the clearing, finding a collection of bleeding and dead bodies. They instantly recognized their dead Chief of Police, and Dominic Florien was babbling, "I did it, I killed him.... I killed him.... I killed Charles...."
Only they didn't realize that there was a girl missing.

James and Naira fled as quickly as possible towards the front of the park, where they hoped to find the others. As they got close to the stables, a voice hissed, "James, Naira, over here!" It was Eli, and they ran over to him. They were on the edge of a pond, but well protected by thick trees. Clara threw herself into James's arms, and Grant looked Naira up and down, taking in her wounds. Eli hugged her gently, and turned to James.
"I told them I had heard gunshots and a scream, and had heard some people talking about someone being kidnapped. I realized that... well, we'd have a little explaining to do about Naira. I figured we could come up with something later. I am just so glad you two are alive!"
James slid his arm around Naira's waist and she leaned against him. She closed her eyes and exhaled peacefully. A crack of thunder broke the silence and James lurched. A red spot was spreading down his back, as he took a few steps into the water. He fell forward, into the pond. The water around him was turning black. Naira ran into the water, reaching for him desperately, Eli right behind her. Clara was sobbing in the shallows, but there was another female voice screaming.
Lena suddenly appeared and ran down the shore, waving a gun. Grant grabbed her and tried to pull the gun from her hands. She fought him, and his hand got tangled in the long chain around her neck. He pulled his hand away, snapping it, and causing the stone to fly into the water. He wrestled the gun out of her fingers, as Lena collapsed into a heap, a lifeless mass . "No," she cried, " I wasn't aiming for him...." Grant chucked the gun back to shore and headed into the water to help the others.
Eli and Naira were frantically searching for James, but he seemed to have disappeared. A faint red glow was emulating from deep within the water, and Naira dove to it, her hands outstretched. The water was red, vibrant with color, but it didn't seem like blood. James had to be near, and she reached further. A large hand grasped hers, and she pulled with all her might.

The red faded away, revealing a darkness. There were many stars, but those stars soon became clearer. They were eyes, and they belong to strangely beautiful faces above her. She knew them, but how....
"Naira," said a deep voice, "welcome back to Middle-earth." She turned her head suddenly to see that her hand was being held by an elderly man in white robes. "You gave us quite a scare, hiding down here. You're lucky, you know, if that trunk had been any heavier you might have missed the voyage!"
Naira stared into the wise face, into Gandalf's face, because she suddenly remembered where she was, and who these people were. It was her parents, and her brother Encaitar and his sisters Oricon and Ainon. A bit further back, her father's uncle, Celeborn stood gravely.
"You've had a bump on the head, but that will heal. Also, I think you may have broken a rib," Gandalf continued, "but you'll be alright." He smiled at her, and with the his right eye, gave her a wink.
"Didn't we already start the voyage?" she asked, trying to piece together what was going on.
"Not yet, Naira," said Encaitar kindly. "We wanted to make sure you were alright first. I followed you down here, to make sure you were alright. I couldn't find your hiding place, so I turned to leave. The next thing I knew a trunk fell, and you screamed. I almost thought I 'd lost you."
Tears welled in her emerald eyes, and Gandalf squeezed her hand harder. "Why don't we let Naira have some time to gather her wits, and then we'll get underway." The others nodded, smiling anxiously at Naira, Encaitar lingering a bit behind the others before reluctantly going back to the deck.
Naira turned to Gandalf and cried, "You sent me away! I know you did! Send me back, I need to help him!"
Gandalf looked at her for a moment, and said calmly, "Yes, I sent you away. It was all true. And I brought you back here, just a little bit before your fall. But Naira, I cannot send you back to Earth."
"No, no you have to! You have to.... I love him!" She collapsed against his shoulder, burying her face in his robes.
"Naira, a few events occurred on your adventure I did not intend. But you have to forget Earth, and you have to put your feelings for James aside. You see, you aren't the only one who came back."
"What?" she asked, pulling away again.
"Anyone else that was standing in that pool of water when Narya brought you home was also transported to Middle-earth. But where... I cannot say."
"James? James is here?"
"I do not know if he... survived. But his friend and his siblings came back."
"What about Lena, the girl?"
"No. She remained. However, those that returned are in great peril. You remembered who you were, and remained yourself because of the reality you were faced with. However, the Earth mortals will forget who they are the longer they are here. They are surrounded by all types of creatures that they can only imagine."
"Because we aren't real! We're in a book, a book!"
"No, we live and breathe as long as someone wishes is. And your friends will want to belong to our world if they forget their own. The could become a hobbit, an ent, a goblin, anything, if they forget."
"Well, I have to find them, I have to save them!"
She stood up, and went over to the trunk that she had packed earlier. She rummaged through it and found her bow and arrows, as well as more suitable attire than a gown to travel in. She threw some extra clothes into a case that Encaitar had given her for her travels, as well as a comb and a knife. I'll change later, she told herself, I just have to get off this ship before it sails.
"Naira, this is not an easy quest to undertake."
"I understand," she said proudly.
"You will need help, from those you can trust." Gandalf gave her a long, piercing look, as Encaitar came back down the stairs. He looked at his sister, then Gandalf and back to Naira.
"What are you doing?" he asked, concernedly. She looked at her brother, wanting desperately for him to join her, but she knew that it was too much to ask.
"I have to... I have to..." her words failed her.
"Naira is going to rescue her friends." said Gandalf.
"Friends? Who are you talking about, all your friends are on this ship. Going into the West leaving these shores. I don't understand! You can't leave now!" he pleaded.
"But I have to! Don't ask me to explain. Tenn' enomentielva (until we meet again)." She walked by him and up the stairs, catching her breath as the pain in her side reminded her she was hurt. I need to heal that later, she told herself. As she strode across the deck to her family, all the Elves turned their eyes to her in shock. She saw the group of hobbits still on the shore, glancing nervously for someone to tell them to make their final good-byes.
Her father looked at her gravely. "Naira Cemendur, what is the meaning if this?"
Part of her wanted to run away and hide, but something stronger was guiding her now.
"I have made my choice to stay in Middle-Earth, for there are ties that bind me here. I do not have the time to explain to you what they are, but Gandalf does. I am needed elsewhere."
"That is a decision you are not old enough to make, Naira. I forbid you to leave." There was a tone in her father's voice she had never heard before. It was a panic, a fear, but also a deep love.
"Father.... I swear to you that I will join you all as soon as possible. I cannot go now... I never wanted to leave Lórien at all. I love you all, and I know you love me. Let me do this."
"How are you supposed to reach us all? You can't build a boat by yourself." Her mother spoke calmly, knowing she spoke reasonably.
"No, she can't but I will find a way for her to join you, for I will protect her." Naira turned to see her brother, his bow in hand, carrying a pack like her own. She smiled at him, her love for him greater at that moment than it had ever been. "Besides," said Encaitar jokingly, "we have all the time in the world to get back to you."
Their parents exchanged a doubtful look, but then nodded. They knew their children, and knew when they were beaten. After saying their quick good-byes, Naira and Encaitar walked down the plank, followed by Gandalf. He walked to the hobbits, and whispered to Samwise, Merry and Pippin briefly. They nodded, and looked at the two elves in understanding.
Gandalf turned to Naira, and said, "Follow Master Samwise home. He will aid you in your quest, as will these." He slid into her hand the necklace she had worn in Earth, her own Narya. But then he added a bracelet with four red stones just like the necklace. They were all dark, except for one that was slightly lighter than the others.
"Each stone represents someone you are trying to find. They will glow stronger as you get closer to finding them. However, I fear the first one will glow faintly, because you carry part of him in your heart." Naira nodded silently, and hugged the old wizard briefly. He chuckled, and turned back to the hobbits.
"Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are evil."
As Sam, Merry, Pippin, Encaitar and Naira watched Frodo's light that Galadriel had given him fade away, she ran her fingertips over the bracelet on her wrist. She thought of James, and a piece of her favorite poetry from Earth drifted into her mind:
It will not change now
After so many years;
Life has not broken it
With parting or tears;
Death will not alter it,
It will live on
In all my songs for you
When I am gone.
His love was strong enough to find her, and hers would be strong enough to find him, dead or alive.

To be continued....

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