To Dream - Ch31: A Fateful Decision

Names/Pronunciations/Translations/etc. will come at the end of each chapter.

`*' signals a footnote

Chapter 31.) A Fateful Decision

***

Over the land there lies a great shadow,
Westward reaching wings of darkness.
The Tower trembles; to the tombs of kings
Doom approaches. The Dead Awaken...

- J.R.R. Tolkien

***

Recap: Elladan and Oloriel finally met! After their fainting spell, they woke up next to each other in a small room at Helm's Deep. It is just after sunrise. In the last chapter, we left Elladan kissing Oloriel rather, um... purposefully... ,_~

Elladan drew away from the kiss reluctantly. He felt rather light-headed, and from what he could tell, it wasn't from the lack of air. Resting his forehead against Oloriel's, he closed his eyes and gave himself a few moments to just soak in the moment.

"Do you feel it as well?" Oloriel broke the silence gently.

"I feel something, though I don't understand it." Elladan opened his eyes and gave her an endearingly confused look. "Have you any wisdom to impart?"

Oloriel shook her head in the negative. //I would that I knew what was going on, but I feel rather tossed about, like a small leaf in a thunderstorm.//

Elladan smiled wryly and was about to reply when it struck him that her lips hadn't moved. `That's odd,' he mused, `I didn't feel her linking with me.'

"What did you just say?" Oloriel questioned, "I didn't hear it well for some reason."

Cocking his head to the side, Elladan gazed at her for a moment. "I didn't say anything... I barely thought it."

Just as he finished speaking, Oloriel let out a little involuntary laugh. In answer to his quizzical expression, she leaned up to kiss the corner of his mouth and replied. "You never told me that you found my ears so fascinating."

Elladan looked taken aback from a moment, then blushed ever so slightly as he shrugged and replied. "Well... that's true... they're somewhat more pointed than is usual, and I... well, never mind that. But how did you know?"

Oloriel cocked her head to the side as if she were in thought. "I didn't hear the words, but I assumed you revealed it to me. I... it just slipped into my mind, that's all."

Elladan sat up abruptly, and drew Oloriel with him. Sitting directly in front of her, he placed his hands on her shoulders and searched her eyes with his own. Unsure of what he was doing, Oloriel made to question him, but she stopped herself as a slow smile began to dawn on Elladan's face.

"Your head still aches slightly from last night, you hope that you can find some thread to mend the torn elbow of your tunic, for it is the only one you have, and... you think that I look incredibly adorable when I'm confused."

This time is was Oloriel's turn to blush. "How...?"

Elladan chuckled softly. "Something has definitely changed here. It's as though there's only a thin veil between our minds. Can't you feel it? Your thoughts are just a hairs-breadth away from mine."

As Oloriel met his gaze, she was aware of a gentle pressure at the edges of her consciousness. It was like the sporadic caress of the wind on a blustery day - coming in spurts, and sometimes getting through the cracks and crevices around the doors and windows. Elladan's consciousness was somehow being held at bay along a hazy boundary, and just like the wayward wind, his thoughts and feelings would occasionally slip unbidden into her mind. Timidly, Oloriel attempted to push back. For one brief, astounding moment she was engulfed by a surging cascade of his emotions, but she drew her mind back quickly, the breathtaking wave walled up again behind the mental barrier. Both she and Elladan jerked backward, startled by the contact.

"I do not mean to accuse you, `Riel," Elladan spoke breathlessly, "But would you mind warning me before you attempt such a thing again?"

Oloriel nodded her agreement dazedly. "Aye... I shall have to warn myself before I do so, for the experience was rather... disconcerting."

As soon as she spoke a flare of embarrassed contrition pulsed out of her. Elladan did his best to interpret the feeling.

"Do not fret, mela {love}," he comforted, "I take not offense. If I weren't myself, I doubt I'd want to take a stroll around my mind either."

"It wasn't that... it's just, I felt like such an intruder. I didn't intend to probe so far, it is not my place."

Elladan smiled as he leaned over to peck her on the cheek. "You already have my heart. How could I possibly be angry with you for taking a glimpse into my mind? ...Now I certainly wouldn't want you taking up permanent residence," he added facetiously, "But I cannot censure you for one look."

Oloriel looked wonderingly at her Elf. He always said the most wonderful things, and always seemed to know how to make her heart melt.

"I think you must be too perfect, my lord," she said coyly, draping her arms around his neck. "You are compassionate, intelligent, strong, romantic, dutiful, understanding..." //...is there any flaw in your character?//

Elladan smiled crookedly and furrowed his brows. Of course there were flaws - many of them. But they just all seemed to disappear when he was with her. It was the first flush of love and everything was daylight and champagne. He hoped he hadn't deceived her with false expectations.

Oloriel's face began to take on a rather sober aspect. She could feel his anxiety. Shaking off his misapprehension for her sake, Elladan wrapped his arms around her waist and looked straight into her eyes.

"You should see me in the mornings," he replied ominously, "I am an absolute terror."

Oloriel's merry laughter was cut short by a playful kiss.

"I am so glad you are finally here," Oloriel whispered softly several moments later.

Elladan leaned back slightly and his face took on a more serious aspect. "Which reminds me," he murmured thoughtfully. "As much as I am filled with joy to finally be near you, and as much as you have made me forget absolutely everything else for these last minutes... `Riel, how have you come to be here? And just where do you think you're going to?"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Nessúlë paced back and forth restlessly. Many of the Rohirrim guards were casting worried, and sometimes even suspicious, glances her way, but she ignored them. After much contention, she had been persuaded to leave Oloriel's side. She still did not understand why Elrohir had urged her to do so, but she had acquiesced to his and Aragorn's urging, assuming that they perhaps knew something more of the issue than she did.

Aside from that, she and Elrohir had only exchanged a few hurried words before Elrohir departed to council with Aragorn and Halbarad. All she knew at this point was that Elladan, the elf lying unconscious next to Oloriel, was indeed the elf from her friend's dreams. All Nessúlë could imagine at this point was that their rather unusual symptoms had something to do with their connection, although, at this point, she didn't believe that this connection was doing either of them any good. They had yet to wake up, and no one knew when, if ever, they would.

Casting her glance out over the valley, Nessúlë's mind drifted to other matters. Newly dug graves could be clearly distinguished from the foot-worn earth around them. The scent of blood still hung in the air. Nessúlë shivered as she imagined what the battle must have been like. As far as she could gather, the sacking of Isengard could only compare to a fraction of what had taken place here. Her mind cowed at the thought. She had seen battle before, but her experience was all in the way of skirmishes, not wars. Trying to imagine the valley swarming with orcs, teeming with such undaunted evil, she wondered how she would have reacted. Could she have faced the onslaught bravely? Would she have sought refuge in the caves with the other women?

She did not know, and she earnestly prayed the Valar that she would never have to find out. But she knew that this was a slim hope.

Down below, within the walls, she could see preparations being made for departure. Théoden King and his company were making ready to depart for Dunharrow and the muster of Rohan. She did not know what Aragorn planned. She had wanted to attend his council, but had felt the desire to be rather presumptuous. Neither she nor Oloriel had yet earned the right to be heard in council. She was just grateful that Aragorn and his companions had not looked down upon their desire to follow them in battle, and it was best not to push their luck.

For a brief moment she wondered how Elrohir would react to their plans. Obviously he knew they were here, but he had yet to be informed the she and Oloriel had determined to follow Aragorn. Of course, now that Oloriel had found Elladan, then perhaps the plans would change.

With her mind resting once again on Oloriel, Nessúlë turned impatiently and went to check on the unconscious maiden. Elrohir may have strongly suggested that she leave Elladan and Oloriel be, but in her mind it was still a suggestion, one which she had duly considered. But now she was done with waiting, and even more determined to attend Oloriel and find out what in all of Arda was going on.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Oloriel's jaw tensed nervously as she waited for Elladan's response. After recounting the events of the past couple weeks to him, he had informed her that he needed a few moments to think, and it seemed as though he was going to take his precious time doing it. Being full of anxious energy, this was sorely taxing for Oloriel.

She had spied a loose braid at Elladan's temples several moments before and her fingers itched to set it right while she waited. But this would have been deemed inappropriate in Elven culture - even more daring than a prolonged kiss. The braids of an elf were often used as signs of status, achievement, or allegiance and for anyone other than an elf's parents or bonded to touch them was very taboo.

As Oloriel sat there trying to suppress her brimming curiosity and pent up energy, Elladan was dealing with his own set of problems. He felt like he needed to tread very carefully. Should he be angry with her or blissfully happy? Should he try and force her to a place of safety or let her choose her own path? The answer was not an easy one to find.

Oloriel began to worry the hem of her tunic, rolling it and unrolling it to keep her hands occupied. She glanced up at him quickly and caught sight of the errant braid once again. She shook her head and looked back down at her travel-worn tunic. For a brief moment she wondered what it would be like to be able to braid his hair for him every day, as his wife, but then she banished the thought. She did not want Elladan picking up on her musings. Somehow that just didn't seem like the right way to approach the subject.

Finally, Elladan broke the silence. "I cannot be truly happy with your choice, mela. I have a good idea of where I will be going with Aragorn, and I do not want you there with me."

As he spoke Oloriel picked up on his feelings of anxiety, and was startled as a few elusive, shadowy images escaped Elladan's and invaded her own. They were unsettling at best, but she still felt determined.

"But Elladan, I... I know this is where I'm supposed to be - with you! You can't send me back!"

"I don't have the power to send you back," Elladan replied honestly, "But I wish I did." He scooted closer to her and took her face between his two hands. //Please, I beg of you, do not come with me. It is too dangerous. I could not bear it if you were hurt.//

"And what if you are hurt?" Oloriel asked levelly. "I could not bear that either."

Elladan sighed. "I know that it is always a possibility, but at least I am proved in battle and have centuries of experience. You may be capable, but you have yet to develop your skill."

"I am aware of that," Oloriel said. "But this is not about what is practical. This is about what is right. I swore to myself that I would do everything within my power to fight this evil, instead of ignoring the world and it's troubles. And do you not remember the duty which Lady Galadriel entrusted you with: to protect me as we fulfilled our destiny together? Is this not what she was speaking of? How can I turn my back on such a call when I know that I have a purpose to play? You cannot ask it of me, it is out of my hands. I must do this."

Elladan made to reply, but the entrance of Nessúlë interrupted him.

"Oloriel, you are well!" she cried, as she hurried over to them with a broad smile. "No one knew what happened to you both, and whether or not you would ever come back to us. What strange doings these are. Do you both feel alright?"

Oloriel had continued to gaze at Elladan during her friend's inquiries and ejaculations.

"Yes, thank you," Oloriel replied, finally turning to her friend, "We are fine now." In her mind she whispered to Elladan, //We will speak of this later.//

Elladan's mouth formed a thin line. //Aye, that we shall.//

Nessúlë looked back and forth between their somber expressions. "Did I interrupt something?" She arched an eyebrow and placed her hands on her hips. If they had already gotten into a lover's quarrel, then she didn't know what she would do with them.

Oloriel smiled wryly. "Your interruption was most opportune, actually - it allowed me to have the last word." She threw Elladan a placating glance along with a bewitching smile, trying to lighten his mood.

Elladan couldn't help returning her smile. He may not want her to follow them into peril, but that didn't mean that she had even for one moment ceased to be the most adorable creature this side of the Hithaelgir* in his mind.

"You only had the last word because you possess eavesdropping allies, while I, on the other hand, am alone and unsupported," reasoned Elladan, entering into her light banter. "How do you expect me to stand up against two women? It's never been done before."

Oloriel's soft laughter was cut short once again as Elladan leaned over and unabashedly kissed her.

"Give me an even playing field, lady, and we shall see who has the last word."

Nessúlë rolled her eyes. "Well then, since you both appear to be quite recovered and since you are not, in actuality, absorbed in a lovers spat, will someone please disentangle themselves from this painfully saccharine banter and tell me what exactly happened last night?"

Elladan and Oloriel looked at one another helplessly then returned their gazes to Nessúlë.

"Well, in all truthfulness, we're not completely sure," Oloriel shrugged helplessly.

"But our mental connection has strengthened since the incident," Elladan added, "And I can only assume that the strain of it must have taxed our minds too greatly. That, or it was our sudden proximity to each other."

Oloriel's eyebrows raised up slightly. "That sounds like a very plausible deduction, my elf. Well done."

Elladan eyed her quizzically. A mischievous smile spread across Oloriel's face. //Yes, you heard me correctly... my elf.//

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Elrohir followed Aragorn out of the darkened hallways into the bleary sunshine. They had been called out to wish Théoden and his company a farewell. And Elrohir could not even pretend that he did not welcome the interruption. It had not been a pleasant council, and to see his foster brother taxed so in spirit and mind had not made the ordeal any more bearable.

It was settled. They would make for the road into the mountains. They would seek out the Paths of the Dead.

Coming out into the open air, Elrohir spied his brother and the two elleths some ways on another section of the parapet. He broke into a wide grin. In his heart, he had not felt that the malady which Elladan and Oloriel had suffered was harmful to them, but it was still good to know that they were well.

His smile faded away moments later as the sound of Nessúlë's laughter wafted toward him. He was still somewhat in shock over having met her here so suddenly. His mind burned to know the tale of how they had come to be here. And his heart yearned to understand how it should feel about her arrival: happy? depressed? resigned? hopeless?

Shaking of these thoughts, Elrohir called over to his brother, informing him that farewells were to be made. With a nod and a smile, Elladan started making his way down from the walls. He had yet to actually meet Théoden, or any of the Rohirrim, but it would be well for him to observe those pleasantries which one of his station was generally called on to act out.

Nessúlë followed shortly after, wanting to get another up close glimpse of the human company. She was very curious about those sorts of things. Oloriel remained behind, watching all of the proceedings below from her lofty vantage point.

As she waited for her companions to return, Oloriel scrutinized the men below her. Her eyes were quickly draw to Aragorn, for he seemed to emanate with a sort of aura. This is not to say that there was anything radiant about him, for in this case, it was a solemn and dark air, as of one who has seen much sorrow. Indeed, he looked worn and weary with care. Oloriel wondered what ill tidings had come with the new day that she weigh down upon him so.

It made her sad to see such a spirit brought so low. Her first meeting with Aragorn had been beneath the trees of Lothlórien, and then he had still been ready to smile and tease. Certainly he had carried a sense of sorrow and duty with him then, but it was as if the air of Lórien had allowed him to breathe easier for a time, to remember beauty and peace. But now that time was over. He was a man with a grave purpose, and a man who had the strength of will to carry it out. Or die in the effort.

Trying to turn away from such morbid thoughts, Oloriel began pacing along the high walkway, humming aimlessly to herself. A few moments passed before she stopped dead in her tracks and whipped her head around quickly as if looking for something.

`I have been here before,' she thought, `Or... no, not been here... but seen it.'

She racked her brain for a few moments before coming to a startling realization. The Mirror of Galadriel: that is where she had seen it, that is where she saw herself pacing along a wall such as this one in the garb of a warrior.

Once her mind had started down this path is couldn't stop. What else had she seen? The valley of Imladris, a strange company, and... Kallindo, she had seen Kallindo! The realization hit her hard in the stomach. She had seen Kallindo and the Orcs; had known something was amiss. And it had happened - Kallindo had fallen under the blade of an Orc.

`What else? What else?' her spirit taunted her. `You have to remember!'

It was at this point that her frenzied musings were interrupted.

//What is it? What is the matter?// Elladan reached out to her with his mind. He had felt her emotions, even from several hundred yards away.

Oloriel tried to stuff everything down. //I am well, Elladan, nothing is wrong. I am merely... thinking.//

Elladan was not very convinced, and he looked up toward the fortress to seek her out. He found her standing tall and looking down on him. To the eye, she appeared just fine. With this small assurance, Elladan reluctantly turned back to the company at hand, not knowing what else he could do at the moment.

As soon as Elladan had turned his back to her, another memory resurfaced in Oloriel's mind. She had seen Elladan. He had been holding her, and she was injured, although try as she might, Oloriel couldn't remember where. Then there was a battle and.... and....

Oloriel looked down into the valley with horror. The White Tree. A man with the White Tree emblazoned on his jerkin, dying in her arms. The White Tree - the tree of the king.

Aragorn.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Elladan rubbed a tired hand across his face. This was not going to be easy.

Oloriel placed her hands on her hips and met his pleading gaze head on.

Silence hung in the air. Around them, bustling noises could be heard. After a rather dramatic departure from the Deeping-coomb*, their company had made for Edoras, where they were currently making a short stop. Soon they would ride out again, for Dunharrow and the paths beyond.

"Oloriel, you know where we are going. We will make for the Dead Road, and none alive know what we shall find there."

"But you have faith that Aragorn may command the dead. What is there to fear?" Oloriel questioned him.

"I do not know!" Elladan cried petulantly. "All I know is that I do not want you there."

"But I must be there!" Oloriel shot back with equal vehemence. "Though it may be hard to accept that a novice like myself could be of any importance, I need to be there - lives depend on it."

Elladan searched her eyes carefully. "What do you mean? ...What do you know, `Riel?"

Oloriel bowed her head. "I glimpsed into Lady Galadriel's Mirror." Just be speaking those words she knew that she had caught Elladan's attention.

"And...?" he questioned

"And I saw Aragorn... dying. And I saw many other things. I saw myself, with you in battle." Oloriel knew that this wasn't completely true, but she did not want to tell him that she had seen them together after that battle, and that she had been wounded.

Elladan looked at her thoughtfully. He loved Aragorn as a brother, and would grieve for his death. But he also knew that Aragorn was an integral part of this whole puzzle. He was the healing force: the one man that could unite the world of men, the only man who had the right to.

He suddenly comprehended what Oloriel had been trying to tell him this whole time. It was not about practicality, but about doing the right thing. It was about seeing that this evil was put away, once and for all. He did not want to believe that Oloriel would have to spend herself on this endeavor, but when faced with the possibility of Aragorn's death, the problem suddenly became more concrete and more discernable. He and Oloriel were somehow part of this grand dance, and their steps could significantly alter the outcome.

Was the outcome worth risking Oloriel for? His heart screamed no. It told him that nothing was worth that. But his mind said otherwise. And more importantly, so did Oloriel.

He sighed heavily. "You must promise to stay with me at all times."

The elleth before him fairly beamed with happiness.

"Hannon le {thank you}," she whispered, throwing her arms around his neck, "hannon le." Elladan held her close as if he was truly about to loose her. He knew it wasn't completely rational, but it was how he felt. He wanted to imprint this memory on his mind, in case she was ever taken from him.

Leaning her head back, Oloriel looked up at him with devotion. "I would have come anyway, you know that. But it would have hurt me sorely to have to disappoint you."

Elladan flashed a lopsided grin. "Well, I suppose that's something."

Oloriel's soft chuckle was cut off by a gentle kiss.

That was getting to be a habit between them.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"What? No." Elrohir was emphatic. "We cannot allow them to come with us."

Nessúlë's mouth dropped open.

"Oloriel and I have already made our decision," Elladan replied. "And if Oloriel comes, we cannot keep Nessúlë from following. Do not waste your breath, bother, you will not be able to dissuade them."

Elrohir's brows furrowed deeply. As his brother felt toward Oloriel, he felt toward Nessúlë, and he was finding it just as difficult to accept the possibility of harm befalling her.

"This is... it's ludicrous. You cannot do this. What of your brother, Nessúlë, he would certainly not approve of this."

"Than it is well he is not here," Nessúlë replied matter-of-factly. "Besides, he does not have the authority to command my actions. And may I remind you, friend, that neither do you."

Elrohir took half a step backward as she said this. Her tone had been steadfast and imperious, and with mounting dread he realized that she would not be moved. Neither did he have the right to move her, as she had so firmly reminded him.

Nessúlë turned away and led her horse toward the gates. Elrohir looked despondently after her. As he watched he felt a gently hand placed on his shoulder.

"I know it is not easy, brother, but only the Valar can keep them safe for us now. We must have faith."

Elrohir met his brother's gaze and held it. Then, nodding his head slowly, he led his own horse away.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The next morning found Elladan and Oloriel looking warily at a gaping entrance in the mountainside. Putrid air wafted out of the cavernous depths, and the forest around them, standing stark and black against the pale sky, did nothing to sweeten the air.

The riders before them were cautiously leading their horses into the darkness. Legolas' steed, Arod, was having the most difficulty, but the Elf's natural skill with animals won out in the end. Soon it was Oloriel's turn to enter. She had wanted to walk with Elladan, but the way was too narrow. He would go behind her with a torch.

Standing at the dark threshold she knew that she would not be able to turn back once her foot crossed it. This was the moment, to face fate or to retreat to safety. With an unsteady heart Oloriel looked back at her beloved. He smiled sadly.

Facing back toward the darkness, Oloriel attempted to conjure up all that she knew of goodness and beauty. She thought about the people she loved, and the people she had never met, who loved just as she did.

This was for them. She only hoped that there would be something left for her in the end.

Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the doorway, her slim figure being swallowed up by the murky shadows. Elladan followed swiftly behind her.

***

1. Misty Mountains

2. A fancy way of denoting the valley/niche in which Helm's Deep was nestled.


Things to Know:

Oloriel: "dream daughter"

Nessúlë: "young spirit"

mela: "love", noun

hannon le: "thank you"

~Iluvien~

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