Puppet Strings - Chapter 21
"Arahad..." Laurelin whispered too softly she thought for anyone top hear her, but Arahad did. As evidence he did, his head slowly rose up and he cast his eyes to her. Then his eyes wondered around the room, taking in all the people who were staring at him in utter bewilderment. Though Arahad was also overwhelmed by what he had just done, he also felt a wave of relieve wash over him. His eyes had become watery with tears but he could still see clearly the people he had saved with his sacrifice. Arahad pulled his attention away from the crowd around him and focused on his injury. He was a strong man; he knew that he may be able to last a while regardless of the fatal wound.
"It will take too long." Arahad muttered to himself. Eldarion could hear him speak but could not make out what his words were. In that moment Eldarion had an idea what they were as he watched Arahad, with a pained face, pull the sword from his body. Arahad knew exactly what he was doing, he would bleed to death. With the last of his strength, he unsheathed the blade from his own flesh. His grip on the hilt failed and it hit the stone floor. Immediately following the sword was Arahad's body after his legs buckled beneath him.
Now he lay on the cold floor. Though his aim was to bleed, instinct pressed one of his hands to the wound. That had been the last straw for Laurelin; she broke away from her brother's hold and rushed to Arahad's side. His eyes had been closed but when he felt movement beside him he opened them and was met with Laurelin's blue eyes freshly dampened with tears.
"I'm sorry." He whispered in a weary voice. He watched as her hands wiped tears from her cheeks only for more to fall.
"What have you done Arahad?" Laurelin spoke as best she could through her weeping. She ached to reach out and touch him, to help him in some way, but she knew that it was impossible.
"I told you I would never hurt you Laurelin. I would gladly die for you... and I will." Arahad spoke to only her in a soft and caring tone, ignoring the pain he felt. Laurelin's eyes closed as she heard him speak. She remembered the very moment in his room when he told her that. All she could do was shake her head, inside begging anyone or anything that would listen for his life. When she opened her eyes once again her breath halted in her lungs, all Laurelin or anyone else could do was stare at him and the change they were witnessing.
He could not see it but Arahad felt it. His skin had begun to change. The burned, blackened skin was slowly receding. It gave way to the rest of his flesh, the flesh of a man. Arahad's hair exhibited change as well. Its raven color faded, revealing the light brown it once was before he had been corrupted for the service of Morgoth. He had been bleeding black, just as his tears were black. Slowly all of that changed as well. A tint of red now poured from his body while clear, salty tears gathered in his eyes. Laurelin watched these changes creep over the man that lay before her. She was in awe at what she saw but was taken even more aback when she looked at him and saw the greenest pair of eyes she had ever seen looking back at her. At this she cried out, filled with wonder. She had seen the blackness of his skin; eyes and hair fade and disappear. Now what remained looked to be a young, mortal man, a man that was no different then any other in the room.
Eldarion had walked over but still said nothing, he only could watch. Arahad brought the hand not pressed to his bleeding wound up into his line of vision. He expected to see what he always saw but that was not the case. He saw no rough, black skin, only ivory colored flesh. No one else did, but Arahad understood what had happened. All the darkness and evil that had been within him had died, and he himself would soon follow.
"This was the only thing I ever wished for myself. To be able to touch you without..." Arahad sighed and whispered to the woman kneeling at his side. His words drifted off before he finished, he couldn't bring himself to say what her fate would be if he had touched her.
Then, without giving it a thought, Laurelin reached out and gently placed her hand on his cheek. The people watching them seemed to disappear in that moment; it was merely the two of them together. Skin touched skin, and nothing happened. When Arahad felt her skin on his and saw she was still safe, all the pain and emotion he had held within him broke free. Arahad sobbed openly, tears rolling down his face. He wept with joy because he could feel the woman he loved so dearly and so much touch her hand to his cheek. Arahad brought his hand up and placed it on Laurelin's, which still lingered tenderly at his cheek. He turned his head and pressed an urgent kiss to the palm of her hand. Laurelin sighed breathless and closed her eyes, feeling more tears welling up in her own eyes. She felt Arahad's hot breath and tears against the skin of her hand. Laurelin also felt him remove his hand from hers, her eyes only opened when Arahad's hand found its way to her cheek.
"I love you so much. You were all I thought about, all I ever wanted Laurelin." Arahad whispered lovingly. As he spoke the pad of his thumb ran softly across her lips and then up to gently wipe away the tears. He looked deep into the princess' eyes. Laurelin's eyes returned the piercing gaze, her lip quivering at all the emotion running through her being. She breathed deeply and attempted to tell Arahad all she could.
"I love you Arahad, I love you. I wanted to tell you that day in your chamber but my courage failed me." If she had wanted to say anymore, Arahad would not allow it. With what strength was left he pulled her to him and she went willingly. He pulled Laurelin into a kiss that showed one another everything that could not be spoken. It was a first kiss for the both of them, one that would never meet its match from then to the ending of the world. It was incredibly passionate and tenderly chaste all at once. Arahad's hand went from her tear-stained cheek to cup her chin gently. Laurelin's hand went from its place on his cheek to the back of his neck, fingers tangled in his chestnut colored hair. Both of their eyes' were firmly closed. The kiss lasted an eternity and at the same time was only as long as a blink of the eye.
When their lips parted, Laurelin's hand wiped the tears that had collected on Arahad's cheek. She looked down and saw her dress had been stained with blood. His hand was still pressed against his wound, though now he could not hold it as firmly as he was. He was bleeding heavily; any other man would have been dead by then.
"I am frightened, Laurelin." Arahad said faintly. He was quickly becoming weary. She could see the fear in his eyes and he could see the pain in hers but she stayed silent.
"What happens when a man dies?" He asked, his voice shaking. He looked at her, wondering if she had an answer for her. Laurelin's reply was only more tears and she began to sob. She griped his hand tightly as she all but fell forward onto him.
"Please don't leave me, you can't! Stay with me Arahad, please stay!" Laurelin sobbed into Arahad's chest. He brought his hand away from his wounded stomach and enveloped her in his arms, trying his best to comfort her. Her pleading through her tears only filled Arahad with more sadness and pain. He didn't want to leave her, he ached to stay and hold her. He wanted to hold her forever. As he had kissed her, Arahad allowed himself to imagine what it would be like if his dreams were realized. To be her companion, partner, best friend, and lover. He imagined marrying her and being her husband. When their kiss had ended he was brought back to the hurtful reality that he would never know any of it.
"Shhhhh...It will be alright. You will always have my love with you." He whispered gently in her ear. Arahad then placed a tender kiss on her forehead. Laurelin pressed herself further into his embrace. She felt intense warmth spread and knew her garments were being soaked in his blood. Life was seeping from him but he only drew her closer to him, tightening his arms around her.
Then Arahad felt it. It was like wandering and then finally finding the eye of the storm. All the pain that was in him was being carefully wash away by peace. As the feeling spread through him, Arahad let his eyelids gently fall into place.
"Always..." He said so softly Laurelin could barely understand him. It was then she felt the rise and fall of his chest slow to a stop. His head, which had been resting on hers, fell off to the side. Laurelin slowly became aware of all the people around her. Eldarion had come to her side but still did not touch her. All of these things were only further signs of his death. Arahad was dead. Though still his arms held her closely in his embrace.
"Illuvatar take him into Your hands and may he find peace there."
He was placed, unmarked, in the tomb with the past kings of Gondor. As they laid him there, Aragorn called him Arahad. He had sworn never to call the man by the honored name of one of his ancestors. That oath was forgotten that day, the King of Gondor named him Arahad. Only the royal family, the twins included, was present. The women laid flowers with him and wept softly. The men stood strong and tall, trying to hold back the tears.
Elladan and Elrohir claimed to have lost a dear comrade.
Eldarion mourned for a brother.
Arwen said farewell to who she called a son.
Laurelin wept for the man she loved and
Aragorn honored a warrior and savior.
And he was all that they named him he was. Nothing was said then or ever about the men and women who were lost at his hand, only those he had saved through his sacrifice. Eldarion said that it was not only those people in the throne room he saved, or even those in the kingdom of Gondor. The prince said that it was all living things in Middle-earth that he saved. For if Morgoth had gotten a true hold on him there would have been no hope.
There was hope now though. The Dark Lord had been forced back into the Void. All were safe now. From then until the knowledge of him died, they always spoke of him as a good man. They did not speak of a monster for they knew none. Forever he was known as the man who was strong enough not to be made a puppet.
*I hope you all enjoyed it, as I enjoyed writing it.*