Twilight Thunder - Chapter 1

"We will only be gone a few weeks, Elrond."

"I do not believe this is an appropriate time of year for such travel."

"Elrond, we'll be fine. What could possibly happen?"

The sun was shining brightly through the windows of Lord Elrond's study, illuminating the serious expression on his face as he contemplated the suggestion his wife, Celebrían, was offering. He could not deny anything to his beautiful wife, but not even her radiant smile could dispel the nervous feeling that was growing inside him. He was a wise loremaster, fully aware of the dangers that crept in the shadows outside the Valley. The last thing he wanted was to have his wife and youngest child put in danger.

"We will take an escort," Celebrían continued gently, smiling to show she understood his concern. "As many as you think is appropriate."

"If you want to know my opinion," interrupted Glorfindel, who had been standing quietly near the doorway, "I think Faye is all the protection Celebrían and Arwen will ever need."

Despite his grim mood, Elrond smiled, only barely managing to hold back a chuckle. It had been a long time--around two thousand years in mortal eyes--since the mysterious vampire had come to Rivendell, and after a very rocky beginning she had grown to be a member of Elrond's household, as respected and beloved as any of the Elf lords and ladies. She had become a very different person in that time. Once silent and shy, she was now much more outgoing and friendly, though sometimes she exuded a stance so imposing it rivaled the Lady Galadriel herself. Faye was a member of the small community, to put it simply. She knew everyone and everyone knew her.

"No quarrels there, my friend," Elrond replied. "It is not that I do not want them to go. It is just that I have a strange feeling that they should not, at least not right now."

"And again I say that we will be fine," Celebrían repeated with a small laugh. "It has been years since travelers on the road were troubled. If danger has returned, we would have known about it."

Elrond smiled, finally giving in to the look in his wife's sparkling eyes. He nodded consent.

"Very well, you may go," he said softly. "And give my warmest regards to the Lord and Lady of Lorién."

Celebrían smiled, giving Elrond a kiss before leaving his study to begin preparations for the journey to her homeland. Elrond watched her go, then turned to Glorfindel.

"Are the monthly border patrol reports in yet?"

* * * * *

Arwen crouched in the shadow of a large pine, eyeing her quarry as it ambled by, oblivious to her presence. The deer was a fine specimen, its antlers in their third or fourth year of growth. Slowly, she pulled back the bowstring, readying the arrow for a swift and clean kill. Behind her, her long-time friend and guardian, Faye, watched. Faye had taught her a great deal over the years about how to move silently, and now Arwen was considered to be one of the best hunters in Rivendell, better even than her brothers. When it came to hunting, she was usually the one who put meat on the table.

She let the arrow fly, smiling in satisfaction as it struck the deer, killing it quietly and instantly. Faye clapped quietly as she stood, wiping bits of leaves and dirt off her leggings.

"Well done, my child," Faye said, approaching and brushing bits of leaf off her shoulder. "You have become almost better than me."

"I will never be better than you, Faye," Arwen replied, walking over to examine her kill. "You don't need arrows to kill deer."

"Never doubt your abilities, Arwen," Faye said, moving off to retrieve their horses and swiftly returning. "They may save your life one day."

Effortlessly, Faye lifted the deer carcass over the back of Arwen's mare and tied it in place. Arwen smiled softly as she slid the bow into its holster on the saddle, quietly marveling--as she always did--at Faye's strength. Being a vampire gave Faye some distinct qualities that showed just how different she was from an Elf. For one, her strength rivaled that of three mountain trolls. Secondly, she could run faster than any horse in the Valley--that Arwen knew for certain. She well remembered the day Faye placed a bet with Glorfindel that she could outrun his horse, and had won by a considerable distance. Glorfindel had been forced to parade around Rivendell singing "Oh-tra-la-la-lally" at the top of his lungs.

Mentioning the bet still made Glorfindel's ears go red with embarrassment.

Faye's third talent was one she had spent so long teaching Arwen. When she wanted to, Faye could move so silently that she could walk up to within a foot of an unsuspecting Elf without ever being heard or detected. It was not vampiric ability that allowed her to do this. It was countless years of practicing and hiding in thick jungle underbrush.

Then, of course, there was the fact that she could set things on fire just by waving her hand. Arwen still hadn't figured that one out.

Faye smiled at her, interrupting her line of thought.

"Come, my child," she said, boosting herself up onto her horse's back. "Let us return."

Faye clicked at her horse and started off, Arwen close behind. Arwen chuckled as she watched Faye ride, remembering how difficult it had been for her to learn. Faye had learned how to speak Elvish far faster. Arwen didn't know if it had been Faye's general distrust of horses, or the horses themselves for being so skittish around her, but it had taken over half a decade for Faye to truly accomplish a successful ride--which, by the time she actually succeeded, meant remaining in the saddle for longer than five minutes. Now, she was a pretty fair rider, able to withstand a long day's journey.

These days, she only fell off when she sensed Arwen becoming too tense or frustrated with something, and for that, Arwen adored her.

However, the mood between them was light and worry-free, and the journey back to Rivendell was peaceful. Faye's horse, a dark gelding Arwen had teasingly named Endis--a rewording of "end this!" a phrase Faye had often shouted in her early years of learning to ride--snorted as they rode into the main courtyard. Glorfindel was waiting for them, and he smiled approvingly when he spotted the deer.

"Well done, Arwen," he said. "And here I was beginning to think the deer were rather unsuitable this season."

Arwen smiled at Glorfindel as she dismounted, leaving her horse, Rokka, to be taken back to the stables by her keepers. Endis scraped his hoof against the cobblestones, and was reprimanded with a stern look from Faye as she slid to the ground gracefully. After the horses were taken away, Arwen returned her attention to Glorfindel.

"Lady Celebrían wishes to speak with you," he said. "She is waiting in the rose garden."

Arwen nodded her thanks to Glorfindel, then turned and headed off through the gardens that surrounded the main house. Faye followed quietly, shadowing her like she always did. Arwen glanced back at her.

"What could Naneth want?" Arwen wondered aloud, a question to which Faye could only shake her head, showing that she too had no idea why Celebrían wanted to see them.

It did not take long to find the Lady of Rivendell. She was sitting, peacefully, on a stone bench in the middle of one of Rivendell's most beautiful gardens. Heavily scented blossoms filled the air with rich, spicy smells, and Arwen breathed deeply before approaching. Celebrían turned and smiled at them.

"Was your hunt a success?" she asked.

"Yes, Naneth," Arwen replied, sitting down beside her. "We brought back a fine young buck."

"One I'm sure will hold over for a month or so." Celebrían's eyes sparkled with mirth, and Arwen immediately knew that what she wanted to say was nothing grim. "Unfortunately, we will not be here to partake of your catch."

Faye raised an eyebrow almost immediately, but remained where she stood. Immediately curious, Arwen shifted her gaze from Faye back to her mother.

"Where are we going, Naneth?" she asked.

"To my homeland," Celebrían replied. "We are going to Lorién to see my Naneth and Ada."

Arwen was instantly joyful. The journey to Lorién would be a long one, but the destination was worth the crossing of the Misty Mountains. She had not seen her grandparents, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, for many years, and had only visited the land of her mother's kin once before, when she was very young. To her greater delight, she realized it would be Faye's first time seeing Caras Galadhon. She looked at Faye, who smiled back.

"It will be a long journey, if the maps Lord Elrond showed me are fully accurate," she commented. "And the crossing of the Misty Mountains will undoubtedly be dangerous."

"That's why you're coming, Faye," Arwen said brightly. "There isn't anything existing in Middle-earth that you can't fight."

Arwen was expecting Faye to agree, but was slightly surprised when she frowned and turned away slightly.

"We don't know what else is out there, Arwen," she said quietly. "And I have had no need to fight for many long years. I have lost much of the instinct and endurance that brought me victory over the werewolf." She smiled slightly then, her grim mood dissipating. "Remember what I have taught you, my child. Never believe that my presence is all that will be needed to fend off danger." She turned and gently cupped Arwen's chin. "Always be prepared for the worst."

Faye glanced at Celebrían.

"The lives of those you love may depend it."

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