Puppet Strings - Chapter 17

***Just thought I would warn you all that there is some material of a more mature nature (nudity) in this one. It's nothing to worry about, I'm sure you all can handle it. I just wanted to cover my bases. Enjoy ***

Arahad had attempted to rest after he sent Laurelin away, but there was no use. After a few hours of staring out his windows he rose, dressed, and began wandering through the sleeping palace. Everyone had fallen asleep in their respective beds long ago so the massive halls and corridors were completely abandoned save for a few touches still lit. Arahad found a small, dark corner in one of the numerous rooms he walked through. He leaned against the cold, marble wall and slumped down ungracefully until he was seated on the equally cold floor.

He had not been sitting long with someone also came wandering through the shadows towards the very same corner. Arahad did not have to look up to know who was approaching him. Slowly a tall, elven frame emerged from the darkness. Elladan looked down at Arahad, who had yet to raise his head to look at him. When it was obvious Arahad was not going to speak, Elladan took a seat next to Arahad on the marble floor. The two sat in the dark silence for a few moments until Elladan breathed a sigh and spoke in a whisper to Arahad.

"I heard about the cat." Elladan whispered, looking down at his hands resting in his lap. Arahad did not make any reply to him. He simply remained still and quiet, slumped over and staring at his own feet in front of him.

"What are you thinking Arahad?" Elladan said after a few more moments, this time somewhat more urgently. He looked over at Arahad's form beside, which had yet to move. Elladan had only half-expected a reply to his query, therefore he was half-surprised to receive one.

"I am thinking that most things in this world never change, and that the few things that do never last." Arahad answered bitterly. He then took a resigned breath and continued without ever looking up at his companion.

"The first moment I saw Laurelin, everything I thought I knew just seemed to melt away. Even now I cannot find words to describe her. She was so kind and sweet; she looked at me as if I were no different than any other man she had laid eyes upon. She looked at me as if I was a man, and I actually felt like one when I was with her."

Arahad took paused and took a painful sigh as he briefly held his head in his hands. He slowly ran his black fingers through his ragged, raven hair. Then he stopped and just stared at his hands, they were almost completely black.

"It's a lie though, I am not a man. I will never be anything more than a monster. This morning only presented proof of what I have been trying so hard to forget. Something I had forgot when I looked in her eyes. She was terrified of me, appalled and disgusted. I could see it in her eyes this evening and I cannot remember ever feeling so much pain."

Elladan sat quietly listening to Arahad. When he had finished Elladan didn't have an answer to his confession. He knew that Arahad was fond of Laurelin, but never suspected he felt so strongly for her. He must know nothing would ever come of it, nothing ever could. His thoughts were interrupted by Arahad speaking once again.

"I was a fool to think I was anything but a murderous demon. It is what I was made for, the voices were right. I'll never be able to escape it."

Arahad turned his head and looked up at Elladan. The dim torches reflected in his eyes, it was somewhat off-putting for the elf. Arahad just stared at him a moment and spoke in a low, rumbling voice.

"I could kill you now before your eyes could even blink. You would be reduced to a few mere specks of dust; no one would know what became of you."

Elladan could not help but feel slightly nervous at his seething statement. Still he held fast and his face remained un-phased.

"You would know." Elladan whispered. Arahad broke his gaze with Elladan and nodded slightly.

"Yes, but do you still believe it is wise to sit here?" Arahad asked. He once again met eyes with the elf and waited for an answer. Elladan ran his fair hand through his dark locks and sighed.

"I do not know if it is wise or not. I ask you though, if you were of a mind to kill me would it make any difference where I was?"

Somewhere up countless stairs and down countless hallways, the king of Gondor lay restless in his bed. He and his counsel had discussed the matter of Arahad for days on end and still had yet to stumble upon anything remotely resembling a solution. The news of a small rebel group of Southrons out to wreak havoc on his household only added to his frustrations. No matter what precautions he took they still seemed to evade his guards. Nothing was going as it should.

"Sleep my love, you must get some rest." Aragorn heard his wife whisper as he felt her soft hand rub his shoulder. He had not been sleeping well since they had arrived home, and she had definitely noticed.

"I wish I could Arwen, but my mind is reeling about Arahad and now I have the Southrons to deal with. Something must be done but for the life of me I cannot think what."

Arwen leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Aragorn's forehead and then laid her head on his shoulder. She shared in his concerns, more than once had she paused during her day to think about what would become of Arahad. She worried for his safety and the safety of her family.

"Try to forget about that for a few hours, you need to sleep." She whispered as she laid her hand on his chest. His only reply to her was a heavy sigh. There was no hope for him to fall asleep when he had so much to think about. Arwen looked up and studied his face for a moment. He was deep in thought and was not paying attention to her.

"Very well, if you refuse to sleep then I will give you something else to concentrate your efforts on." As she spoke she smiled sweetly at him and gave him a deep kiss. Almost instantly Aragorn was out of his personal reverie and was paying his wife much more attention than he previously had.

The following morning people moved about the city as if it was any other day, and it was such to them. One person tried extremely hard to let the day pass by him, though it refused his biddings all the same. Arahad remained in his room, in his bed with the sheets pulled up over his face. He lay there, in his self-made cocoon of blankets, trying to shut out the daylight. He would not move no matter what Eldarion or the twins said to him. Gradually he refused to answer them, they did not know if he had finally fallen asleep or if he merely had nothing to say to them. Elladan suspected it was most likely the latter of the two.

When nothing seemed to stir him from his room, Eldarion went and fetched his sister from her own chambers. When she learned that he would not speak nor open his door, Laurelin grew concerned and swiftly followed her older brother to Arahad. When she reached his door she saw Elladan mulling around just outside Arahad's door while Elrohir continued to knock. The door had not been locked but none of them felt it was wise to walk in uninvited. Laurelin sighed as she glanced around to her brother and uncles before she slowly open the door to Arahad's room.

When she stepped inside she saw the room was in a shambles. Things had been thrown from one side of the chamber to the other. In the middle of the bed there sat a stationary lump of sheets and blankets twisted together. She nodded back to her brother before she quietly closed he door behind her. Eldarion was nervous to let her go in there alone, but she had insisted upon it.

"Arahad?" Laurelin whispered into the heavy stillness of the room. As she spoke she slowly walked away from the door towards the bed. She saw the pile on the bed move slightly, and then saw the man inside unwrapped himself from it. Arahad turned on his side and looked at her. Then he unwrapped himself further, slid to the edge of his bed and stood up. A jolt of shock ran through her when he stood up. He had yet to dress that day, the only thing he had was the blanket that he clutched to his wait as he stood up. He stared at her for a moment before he breathed a few low words.

"You should not be here princess, it is too dangerous." His voice deep and low, it seemed like a soft growl. He stood perfectly still, staring at Laurelin intently. At first she could not think of any words to say to him, all her thought was focused on his penetrating gaze.

"Perhaps." She choked out. Arahad watched her as her eyes traveled over his face and then down to his chest and arms. All his flesh was spattered with black; he understood it must have been quite a sight for her.

"Yes, this is what I look like. It is not on my face and hands alone. Repulsive is it not?" Arahad sneered at her. Deep down he hated himself for speaking to her in such a manner, he did not know what had come over him. He expected her to turn away or run from the room any moment. When she moved forward it surprised him.

"Let me look at you." She whispered to him, never taking her eyes off his skin. She slowly and steadily walked forward until she was no more than a few feet away from him.

"No..." Arahad said urgently. The sight of him was too much for the both of them; shame did not begin to describe what he felt with her standing before him, looking at his gruesome form.

"Let me see what you are. Please Arahad." She said softly to him. Ever after he would never be able to tell what made him do what he did, a brief moment of insanity perhaps. Or maybe it was that he could not deny her anything. Reluctantly and full of shame, Arahad let his trembling hand release the sheet he held at his waist. It dropped to the floor as did his head drop, looking away from Laurelin.

Laurelin's eyes traveled over Arahad's body. He was right, it was not just on his hands and face, it covered him. Splotches and gashes of black flesh were spread across every plane of his body. While she saw that the untouched flesh was extremely pale, she found herself thinking he looked muscular and strong. And it was true; though he was slim his frame was strong. Her gaze went from his feet on the floor to the hair hanging in his dark eyes.

He stood there, under her burning eyes, afraid and ashamed. He still hung his head, scared to look Laurelin in the face. His eyes began to dampen and then he sighed painfully.

"Now you see what I am; a monster. Now turn away princess, do not look at me any longer." Arahad urged in a painful tone. After a few moment of silence he looked up to find Laurelin's eyes looking into his own. He saw she has tears running down her face.

"So beautiful and so very sad." He heard pain in her sweet voice and it caused him to flinch. She wiped a tear away that rolled down her cheek. Arahad was taken aback at her comment He was confused and bewildered beyond belief. While he tried to think of what possibly could have made her tell him he was beautiful, Arahad felt his heart begin to pound once more. His heart seemed like it was going to beat itself right out of his chest. Arahad's whole body began to tremble even harder than it had been.

Without a word, Laurelin gracefully shrugged off her shawl from her delicate shoulders. She took a step forward and held it out to him. Arahad looked at the shawl in her hand, raised his face to meet hers and then looked back down at the cloth hanging in her hand. A shaking hand reached out and took the proffered garment and used it to cover him once more.

She gave him a smile as she handed her shawl over to him. She looked deep into his eyes for a few moments. He looked at her and saw more than the beautiful maiden than he had always seen. Now he saw goodness that he had never been witness to before. She had truly seen him and his nature and still she looked on him with kindness and affection. Laurelin turned to go and in the second Arahad decided to bare himself more than he already had been.

"Whenever I look at you it makes my heart pound in my chest so hard I think that it is trying to free itself from my body." Arahad called out to her just as she reached the door. When Laurelin heard his words she turned back around and looked at him with an innocently questioning look.

"Whenever I see you I am certain that there was never anything that walked this earth as beautiful as you." Arahad paused and looked down at his feet, trying to compose himself. He struggled for breath to speak to her.

"I am not confident I know what that means, I have never felt anything like this before. I don't know but I think that it means that I am in love with you, Laurelin."

To be continued...

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