Never Say Never - Part Thirteen

***Imladris, Dining Hall, Last Homely House


As Orophin picked at his food, he watched Haldir and Rían. They barely touched their own breakfast and obviously ignored the other. Something had happened last night; something happened to cause those looks of utter resignation in their eyes.

He had thought they were making progress! He sighed dishearteningly. His brother and Rían had gotten along fairly well after the race, despite both of them being uncomfortable as the focus of attention. While Elladan tried to get them intoxicated last night, he had noticed the warm, curious glances they shared over the game table. And obviously, they had teamed up, again, to braid them all together.

They had been on the right track! He knew it in his heart...but what terrible thing caused this distance?

~*~

After breakfast, the Galadhrim joined Elrond, Erestor, and Glorfindel in the study to go over the messages going back to Lothlórien. Rían had disappeared after the meal and it took Elrohir hours before he finally found her. She was leaning against the paddock, watching the bay filly play, but not truly seeing the horse.

Elrohir observed Rían and noted the sadness that lined her face and the weariness in her eyes. He, too, had wondered what transpired between her and Haldir. Had they fought? No, there was not the usual tension between them, no glaring at the other. All Elrohir sensed was their despair, their hopelessness.

"Did you sleep well?" He asked when Rían finally turned to face him.

"Better than you I wager," she replied, attempting to sound lighthearted.

Elrohir saw through the ploy and refused to let her change the subject.

"Rían, you look weary. Has something upset you?"

"Besides you and your brother?" she snapped and turned away from him. She knew from experience that Elrohir would not leave her be until his curiosity was satisfied.

"It was just a bad dream, caused by the secondager you stole no doubt," she finally answered as she heard him come to a stop beside her.

"What was it about...your nightmare?" Elrohir knew he had no right to ask, but he could not bear to see her hurt like this.

"I did not say it was a nightmare."

"All right," Elrohir changed his tone to one filled with teasing. He knew he would get nowhere with Rían unless he aggravated her enough. "Tell me about your wine-induced visions then."

"I do not remember," Rían whispered, but Elrohir saw how her hands clenched tightly around one of the fence posts.

She was lying and she knew Elrohir knew it but she could NOT tell him about the nightmare! He would no doubt tease her until the end of Arda!

"Well, if it was a bad dream then you must have dreamt you were stuck with the marchwardens forever. However, there is good news as they will be leaving in the morning!" Elrohir joked, trying to put Rían at ease.

He saw her flinch as if struck. "I know, my uncle already informed me."

The tone of her voice gave her away. So, her `bad dream' involved the Lórien elves; or was it just one elf in particular? And what could she have dreamt of that was so horrible he could still see the lingering fear in her expression?

"Maybe once they are gone you, Elladan, and Glorfindel will move on to someone else to amuse yourselves with," Rían said angrily and turned to leave.

She was afraid Elrohir was getting to close to the truth for she saw his eyes soften with compassion and she did not want anyone's pity!

Something more was going on but Elrohir could not pinpoint it! In past matchmaking attempts, Rían would graciously let down the would-be suitor, exact quick revenge on the twins, and then forget the whole event. But now...something had changed.

"Forgive us, Rían," Elrohir ran to catch up to her. "We, I, never meant to hurt you. You have been alone for so long and when we saw the chemistry between you and -"

"I am not alone, Elrohir!" she stopped and spun to face him.

"Except for your uncle, but what -"

"I have Erestor! We understand each other and that is enough!"

When had they started shouting? Elrohir wondered. Why had she grown so defensive?

"It has to be enough," she whispered, her voice choked with unshed tears.

Elrohir felt his heart clench when she looked at him sadly then walked away.

~*~

"I thought she would be here to bid us farewell," Orophin looked about in confusion.

Rúmil was puzzled, too. They had not seen Rían since yesterday morning and they wanted to see her before they left for home.

The horses stamped impatiently in the early morning coolness, eager to be on their way. They were only waiting now on Haldir's arrival and he shortly appeared, the satchel of missives flung over his shoulder, Elrond and Erestor right behind him. There was no sign of Rían.

As Haldir descended the stairs, he immediately noticed his brothers' dismay.

"What is amiss?" he asked them as he secured his saddlebags to his horse.

"Rían is not here," Orophin answered, his grey eyes clearly showing his sadness.

Haldir tried to ignore his own disappointment and at the same time was ashamed of feeling relieved. Part of him wanted to see her again but the other knew it would only make leaving more difficult.

"Erestor, where is Rían?" Elrond questioned his advisor, noticing the elleth's absence. "I would have thought she would be here."

The Chief Advisor observed the Galadhrim and saw that Rúmil and Orophin were truly upset that Rían was absent. Although Haldir had his back to him, Erestor had caught a glimpse of regret in those grey eyes.

"I apologize for her absence," Erestor said. "Rían was called away unexpectedly."

Elrond raised an eyebrow in question. He had not been aware of any duties that would keep Rían away from the Last Homely House. Seeing the look of warning in Erestor's eyes, Elrond let the matter go for the moment.

After bidding them safe journey and accepting their thanks for Imladris' hospitality, Elrond stepped away as Glorfindel rode forward with the small escort. The peredhil smiled at the seneschal's slowly fading dark hair.

Haldir and Rúmil had mounted their horses but Orophin hesitated. He walked up to Erestor, his eyes wide in question.

"Lord Councilor," he began nervously, "would it be appropriate if I wrote to Rían?"

Erestor smiled at the younger elf, seeing the hope on his young face.

"Rían would love to hear from you," he said sincerely. "I will tell her to be expecting your letter."

Orophin broke into a smile, his relief obvious. He bowed briefly to Erestor then practically leapt into the saddle.

"Please tell her to expect mine as well, Lord Councilor," Rúmil added. "There is this `tangled' matter I wish to discuss with her."

Erestor and Rúmil shared a brief smile before Glorfindel led them away, but not before shooting a venomous glare at the advisor.

For a moment, Haldir wanted to say something but instead turned his horse to follow the escort. Erestor returned the younger elves' wave but his mind still saw the despair in Haldir's eyes.

~*~

Rían did not know how long she stared into the distance until her horse shifted beneath her. What was she doing on the hill overlooking the road leaving Imladris?

She had left very early this morning to return the bay filly to the herd, but for some reason found herself here. She looked about and saw the filly stretched out in the grass, enjoying a nap in the morning sunshine. A few moments later Rían could hear riders approaching on the road. It was the Galadhrim and the escort.

Rían's heart thundered madly as her gaze immediately found Haldir. As they rode further away, she felt an unexplainable urge to follow! To be parted, she knew, was to tear out her own heart.

Sweet Elbereth! Rían prayed for strength. If watching them leave from a distance was this painful...she was glad she had not seen them off as planned.

"You will miss them."

Rían did not turn as Erestor brought his horse to a halt beside her.

"Trouble maker Rúmil and sweet Orophin," Rían smiled sadly. "Yes, I will miss them. It was nice to pretend I had younger brothers."

"And Haldir?" Erestor knew he should not push, but he had to know.

He saw her eyes were bright with unshed tears as she absently rubbed her left wrist for a moment. She took a deep, ragged breath and her hand moved to clench her tunic, right above her heart. The words would not come.

//Elrond had been correct,// he sighed.

"Orophin asked about you," he said, changing the focus of the conversation. "He had wanted to say goodbye."

"I wanted to stay and bid them farewell but I found myself avoiding them...I am a coward, Uncle," she said, her voice broken.

"Why do you say that? You have always been so brave, dae-nîn."

Rían paused and tried to sort her jumbled thoughts. She watched as the filly woke, stood and stretched, then walked over to them. Her attention is drawn to the road and her nostrils flared as she searched the wind for a familiar scent. Suddenly she whinnied and the sound carried easily to the travelling party.

Everyone stopped and turned toward the horse's call. Rúmil and Orophin waved when they recognized Rían, their smiles plain to see even at that distance. Her eyes landed on Haldir and their gazes held for several long moments. The marchwarden then laid his right hand over his heart and bowed his head once to Rían. She returned the gesture, her entire being trembled as felt her soul try to answer some silent command.

Erestor watched the exchange, his heart breaking at his niece's pain.

When the Galadhrim were gone from sight, Rían finally answered her uncle. As she spoke, her voice was barely a whisper but the emotion in it brought tears to Erestor's dark eyes.

"I could not bear to look him in the eye and let him go. My soul tells me he is my one...but I am afraid."


TBC

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dae-nîn - my shadow

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