Puppet Strings - Chapter 5
The group walked all day long, stopping only to water their horses and to take a brief rest. They walked as such: Eldarion with the newly-named Arahad walked nearly side by side. Closely behind them walked Aragorn, keeping a constant, watchful eye on his son. Behind Aragorn followed Elrohir and Elladan, they remained alert to all their surroundings as well as their new traveling companion. Most of the day was spent in awkward silence.
They had come to the end of the forest road by mid-day, and were now traversing across a large, open meadow. Arahad had begun to gain a rhythm in walking when he suddenly let out a wrenching, piercing cry. He immediately collapsed to the ground clutching at his chest in pain, his eyes squeezed shut. Aragorn and Eldarion only stood their in panic as the elves rushed up behind them. Even if they had known what was happing or why, they could not touch him to help him. Arahad was writhing and started to scream two words over and over, "Please no!!! Please no!!!"
As he rolled and clawed at the ground, gasping for air, his eyes shot open up towards the sky. What the other four did not know was that it was not the sky that he saw.
***Hands soaked in blood, men and women and children screaming. The hem of a robe dragging over corpses. Homes burning, innocents being slaughtered.
And laughing...sadistic, merciless laughing. Always laughing...***
As quickly as it had come upon him it left, and Arahad was left lying on the grass, trembling. The onlookers noticed that the terrible patches of skin had grown slightly. They witnessed it spread like a black cancer, crawling over his body. He attempted to stand up, but his weakness sent him crumbling back to the ground. "What happened???" Eldarion repeated until finally Arahad chokingly replied, "What I feared would happen." They all looked questioningly at him as he struggled to sit up. "I think perhaps you should all return to your homes now, our little journey together has come to an end." Seeing that he had somewhat recovered from his episode, Elladan dropped his gear and plainly replied, "I think I will stay. I would have you tell me what you feared would happen. I will not return to my home without knowing what this is."
Elrohir and Eldarion nodded in agreement while Aragorn spoke, "I wish to know as well, let us set up camp." Arahad knew there would be no dissuading them, so he offered no objection, merely nodded. Eldarion reached into his pack and pulled out a long black coat. This coat had been given to him by his father; it had belonged to him years before Eldarion was born. The prince walked over to Arahad and lightly dropped the coat beside him. The weak and weary man looked up at Eldarion and then down to the garment beside. He nodded as if in thanks to the young man's offer. Arahad picked up the coat and held it out in front of him, then slowly slid his arms in the sleeves.
Aragorn had been slightly taken aback when he saw that his son gave the man his coat, much as he had been when he had given the same man the name of one of his ancestors on the road that day. He had told Elrohir and Elladan that he refused to call this abomination by that name, a name of honor. The brothers had agreed with him. Why was his son paying such kindness to this...monster? Aragorn did not understand. While he observed the man put on the coat he took more notice of the man's appearance. Despite the haunting eyes and the unholy blackness partially covering him, Aragorn saw youth. What was left of his face was that of a young man's. He noted that what skin on his body that remained was without age, pale and ghostly yet young. He was of the same built as his son Eldarion.
Arahad noticed Aragorn looking at him, and startled him by asking, "What do you know of the Dark Lord?" The elven twins and the king's son turned to look at Aragorn as he contemplated the question put to him. "He created the One Ring but it was cast back..." Suddenly Arahad began to laugh softly, his laugh growing louder. He looked into Aragorn's eyes with his own flashing, onyx ones.
"Sauron, hehehe. I was not speaking of that drone. Hehehe. I see you know nothing of Morgoth."
"What do you mean?" Aragorn demanded.
Arahad's laughing grew quiet and faded. His searing glare rested on Aragorn as he spoke, quietly at first but with growing strength. "Morgoth is Melkor, Melkor is Ainur. He is one of the Valar, one of the most powerful and the Valar do not die. Death will not visit one such as him, cast in the Void or no. Sauron was his servant, he did his biding, and when Morgoth had gone he became is puppet. You think you were battling Sauron, you were battling a doll!" Eldarion felt overwhelmed listening to what this man was saying; trying to take the pieces he had thrown at them and assemble them into a whole. They could understand, though Arahad, but they refuse. It was too much for them. Regardless, he continued, "Sauron was his servant, I was his slave, I was never anything else but a puppet. Thousands of years ago the Black Hand plagued this earth, but it was not me. When I killed it was because I was filled with a sadistic rage that was not my own, I carried it out because I was mindless and without will. This is the first time in my existence that I am aware of myself, the first time I have thought my own thoughts!"
Elrohir and Elladan simultaneously shifted where they sat, not wanting to hear a word this man was saying. Hearing this frightened them, but it also made sense. Aragorn, on the other hand, became angry. He had received much information, but still not the answers he wanted. "Why are you telling us this? Why are you here?!?" shouted Aragorn angrily. Eldarion kept silent, he had no words for any of it. Aragorn's words had set loose Arahad's temper. "Think!! Think, my lord Aragorn!!" he said nothing though, truth be told he was in no state of mind for rational thought.
Regaining his composure, Arahad's expression became calm once more. He then, in a softer tone, began speaking again. "When a puppet is broken, what does the master do? He finds another puppet to amuse himself with, does he not? You defeated Sauron, and now my strings are once more being pulled."
The five sat in silence, only the crackling of the fire could be heard. Arahad knew what was running through all their minds, he could hear it. He also knew that it was right that they be thinking such thoughts. They thought he was a demon, a devil, a monster. They had thoughts of shock, of fear and of anger. Of defense and of escape. They feared for themselves and for the ones they loved. For their children and for their children's children. All of their fears were deafening to him, fears that could not be quelled. Arahad's head dropped into his hands while they sat there, not moving. Some time past when Eldarion shifted and stood up noisily, causing Arahad to look up at him. Eldarion looked down at him and noticed immediately there was something on his face. It was not the patches of darkness that were ever present. It looked to Eldarion that black ink was running down his face. Arahad was weeping.
To be continued...