The Undying Lands - (chapter 86)


Ariengil lay asleep in Harma's arms as the morning broke in. Harma felt depressed, and if it were not for Ariengil then he would not have had any happiness in these lands. The lands that he had once loved now seemed dismal and terrible to him- the birds singing brought no joy to him, for even they appeared to be pronouncing sad tidings.
The beautiful maiden was nestled into the warmth of Harma's chest and he was reluctant to leave her, but he had not slept all night and needed to stretch his legs. He gently lifted himself up and settled Ariengil back down on the bed, then stepped outside. Middle Earth did not seem very different to how it had the night before- cold and dark. Harma wondered how he could have ever wanted to stay here rather than to follow Ariengil to the Undying Lands.
He shook his head slightly, but stopped again immediately for it gave him a headache. Sighing, he shoved his hands into his pockets to keep them warm, and looked over across the sea towards the fog hiding the Undying Lands. They were so far away and he felt completely helpless and lonely. Still, at least Ariengil was with him; but he had a sense of guilt following him around for bringing his wife and putting her in danger. The war was over, yet that didn't make Middle Earth safe- there were still enemies living, and the most dangerous of all was Tarma.
Tarma. There was a time when Tarma had been a true brother and had stood by Harma's side. In one war, Tarma and Harma had fought side by side and killed countless enemies, hence being named as the most worthy men on their side. They had been raised onto their friend's shoulders and were carried around like heroes. That evening, at the feast, they had been given gifts and cloaks and had been treated as kings.
`Hail to the brothers,' cried someone. Everyone in the hall had echoed the call and praised Harma and Tarma. They smiled and laughed with one another joyously, and had then been asked to give a speech. It was Tarma who had volunteered. He stood on the table and, to the whole room, boldly spoke out.
`Hail to the brothers, you say?' asked Tarma. `I say hail to my brother! I could not wish for a better one! But remember, my friends, you are all our brothers too. So I echo your call! Hail to the brothers, hail to us all!' Tarma had never been more popular than that evening- and Harma had shared it with him. But that was long ago.
How had Harma not noticed Tarma turning away from him? Why couldn't he stop the evil taking his dear brother further and further away from him? They had once been such good friends, but now... now that was laughable.
Círdan placed a hand on Harma's shoulder, startling him from his thoughts. `I'm sorry, brother,' began Círdan. He stopped as Harma laughed sadly, obviously not knowing what the younger elf had just been thinking of.
`Sorry, Círdan, please continue,' offered Harma. The wise elf nodded and spoke his thoughts.
`I know how you feel returning here for the first time. I hated it the first time I returned. I had come from a sunny, happy and beautiful place and suddenly all of the sun; all of the happiness and all of the beauty here seemed to have vanished. But try to see beyond the darkness because it is only on the surface and can disappear as easily as it appeared.
`Look after your young love- these lands still aren't safe and will never be as safe as the Havens. She has been through troubled times, I can see it in her, and you must protect her from whatever comes her way- whether physically or emotionally, it will scar her.'
Harma nodded glumly and sighed heavily. He expected that he would never return to the Undying Lands, whether Ariengil did or not. He believed this because he knew that he would fight to the death to protect Ariengil, and that he would do anything for her.
`Círdan,' mumbled Harma, `are we going to return?' In this moment, he'd never felt so young. He felt as though he was eleven years old again and mounting a horse for the first time- it appeared simple on the surface, but when the task was tackled he felt small and helpless.
There was no way that Círdan could know the answer to Harma's question, for he possessed no powers of foresight. However, Harma just needed reassurance and comfort. Círdan was silent for a while, and Harma turned to look at him inquisitively. The old elf was chewing on a small bit of pipe-weed and seemed deep in thought. He snapped out of his trance when Harma cleared his throat gently.
`Oh, I am sorry. You just reminded me of my first battle. I asked my commander, young and naïve as I was, whether I was going to die. I had trained with my weapons for many years and was confident when in practise, but as soon as the day of battle was nearing, my confidence was lacking. Of course, I did not die and actually thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of the battle.
`So in response to your question: Yes you will return. Not only will you return, but also you will enjoy your time whilst in Middle Earth again. Ah,' he cried, turning around, `it seems your maiden has awoken.' With that, he walked away from the hut and into the surrounding forest.
Harma turned to watch Ariengil as she came out of the hut. He smiled broadly, relishing in his happiness at seeing her again. Every time she smiled, his heart would beat twice as fast and he had to resist every urge to run and sweep her into his arms. He wanted to hold her, to kiss her and to never let her go just in case she would leave his sight for a little while. The poor, besotted elf was completely in love and could think of nothing and no one other than Ariengil.
She now came towards him, looking around dismally at the surroundings. When the beautiful woman reached Harma, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him gently. He, in turn, placed his hands on her dainty hips and held her tightly, relishing the moment as he held her small and delicate form.
`Harma, I love you so much, remember that,' she whispered into his ear. He nodded and was about to say something, but she silenced him with a kiss and continued. `There is nothing I can do or say to express my thanks to you for coming with me. But you shouldn't have to be here and you shouldn't have to be looking for your brother to take revenge. You have brought me here, but you may go home and wait for me if you wish, for I don't want to force you to hurt your own family.'
Harma was completely shocked and said nothing for a moment. When he found his voice again he was shaking his head and stroking her hair lovingly. `Ariengil, my love, I couldn't possibly do that, and I wouldn't because I love you too much. I couldn't just turn back now! And it shouldn't be you saying thank you- I chose to come here and you followed. I love you and I am going to repay you for every little thing that you have done for me, by protecting you from everything- even my brother.' Harma leant down to give Ariengil a kiss, but was interrupted by Círdan. The couple pulled back from each other quickly, in embarrassment.
`Don't mind me, young ones,' laughed Círdan. `It's nice to see you enjoy yourselves here! Now who would like breakfast?'
Harma and Ariengil nodded gratefully, still blushing. Not long afterwards, Círdan was cooking fish over an open fire. `It's not really an ideal breakfast,' he said, `but it's the best I can do for now.'
`It looks great, thank you, Círdan,' replied Ariengil graciously. Sure enough, it was delicious and very unlike anything that the elves had eaten for a while, so it was certainly interesting too. Other than ending up with a fishy smell surrounding them, they were perfectly satisfied and full when they had finished.
Círdan was not too keen to stay in Middle Earth for long, as he already missed sailing and the beautiful Havens from where they had come, so he quickly packed his bag with his few belongings. After dousing the fire, he placed his bag in the boat and hugged and kissed Ariengil and Harma goodbye.
`Try and enjoy your time here, Ariengil, as much as you can. This place isn't so rank and disgusting, as it appears when you first return. May Eru bless you and protect you. Farewell,' he plucked a flower from next to the boat and handed it to Ariengil. `See? Not everything is dark and dismal here.' With that, he jumped into the boat and cast off. Ariengil and Harma watched as he left, then, as he vanished into the mist, they turned and surveyed their little camp.
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