A Maiden of Faith 27
Katrina turned and looked at the Elf. “I have been marked, as I was chosen.” A tear swelled in her eye as he examined the white hands. “It will fade, they told me.”
“Oh, Earelen… What have they done to you?” Legolas spread his hand over the print, and her face pressed into his hand.
“They did much more than this trifle of a thing.” Deladan spoke up at this, his eyes cold. He shifted the boy in his arms. “And they would have done more, had we not arranged for me to take her away. She would have had to marry Aradae and join his throng of wives, and would have been the mother to his children. Trust me, this alternative was better.”
She bit the inside of her lip and closed her eyes, feeling Legolas’ reasureing touch.
“Katrina?” Aragorn asked as he stepped forward. Concern furrowed his brow. Eldarion came around to examine the scars for himself. Gimli was the only one to stay back and keep his eyes on the entire situation.
“It is as he says.” Her words were hoarse and shaky. “This is Deladan and his nephew Thindae. And this is Aragorn, king of Gondor, Eldarion, his son, Legolas of the Woodland Realm, and Gimli, son of Gloin.” She let a convulsive tremor shake her as Eldarion’s hand came to rest on her back, between the shoulder blades.
“Katrina!” Eldarion started as he drew his hand away instinctively. “Aren’t you well?”
“They flogged her.” Deladan stated matter of factly. “She denied Aradae.”
“It was horrible…” Thindae spoke up in a small voice. “She’s so nice, and they still whipped her… Like poor Malla had been.”
Aragorn stilled at the name. “Malla?”
“She was the only one whose name was not changed.” Deladan confirmed. “A Dunedain woman.”
“I know her well…” Aragorn took a deep breath. “Is she well?”
“She’s a mother. How well could she be?” Deladan set his nephew down. A stern look of pain crossed his face. “To watch her children of a man she hates grow into his warriors, soon to destroy all she once knew and loved? How much pain is that? You don’t know, you could never know.” He looked at the little boy, a smile spreading on his face. “Laurewen would have loved to see her little boy grow strong and true, away from the pain of that place. This is what she wanted for him, I have given it to him… Thindae…”
“Oh, Deladan…” Katrina moved towards him and rested a hand on his shoulder. “She would be proud, of both of you. I’m sure her love for her son was strong, as it was for her brother…” Her arms circled him in an embrace. “God loves you, too.”
Gimli took this oppurtunity to speak up. “I think we can trust them, Aragorn, he weeps. He has a heart.”
Eldarion turned away from the sight of Katrina comforting the sobbing man. At first he had been envious of him, to have her touch and warmth, but it was clear he had gone through more than Eldarion could have carried. If his sister had been taken and he had followed and, by the sounds of it, watched her die and lived to see her son, by a man unworthy of her, he would have broken. Broken into a million tiny pieces and not have been able to care for her son, instead he would have been useless. Maybe he would even seek out his own death.
“I think Gimli’s right, father. This man has passed through much more than a little valley of shadow. He is breaking.” He whispered the last and his father nodded at this.
Aragorn turned to get Legolas’ opinion. The Elf was kneeling, talking to the little boy, very enthralled by the conversation. Thindae’s little face was lighting with expression and excitement, telling a tale of sorts. He smiled, but then it faded to a frown and a small tear escaped one eye. Little arms reached out to the Elf, who easily wrapped the child in a warm hug. “Hush, little one… Hush…” Thindae nodded into his shoulder. “All is well now. You’re safe with us.” The boy pulled away and wiped his tears away.
“Thank you, mister.” His bleak little eyes echoed a pain Eldarion could see in his uncle, who was now pulling way from Katrina’s hold.
Eldarion felt helpless so turned to take care of the horses. There were four, and they were now seven. The man and boy could have the spare they brought for Katrina. Gimli would double up with Legolas, as usual. And… Katrina could ride behind him. It would all work out.
The man was odd, no, different. But so would he be, if he had lived in what Katrina had descriped as a horrid place.
“Eldarion?” Her vioce was so soft from behind him. “Aragorn says we’ll stay here for the night. We’re far enough away from the valley, they won’t see us. What’s wrong? You’ve hardly said a word.” Katrina rested her hand on the small of his back as she came to stand beside him.
“It’s nothing of importance.” He put a smile of his face, for her sake. The hands on her cheeks were a bitter reminder of how long it had taken them to find her.
Katrina nodded, her hand slipped into his as she looked up at the stars twinkling in the night sky. She leaned against his shoulder then, concern on her face, said, “It wasn’t your fault. These scars, any of them. Look at me!” Her hand released his and she stepped in front of him as he began to look away. She caught his face and forced him to look at the white stains. “I got this one, because I was strong.” She pointed to one of the scars. “This, because of courage.” The other was indicated. “If these things are faults, then perhaps I fail. But not you. Not you.” Her eyes searched his and flicked over his shoulder and back to him.
“Katrina, I-” He felt horrible.
“No. Don’t blame this on yourself. Things are as they were meant to be. This has happened for a reason.”
“I should have left that night. I should have brought you back!” He began to look away, but her soft hands caught his face again.
“I told you, I’m fine. No looking back, not right now. Later. I’ll bet I’ll have to tell you eventually.” Her laughter was silvery.
“Alright. Later.” He smiled as he began to duck his head to her’s.
The others weren’t there, they weren’t even watching. The two of them had their privacy, for a moment anyway, and he fully intended to greet her properly. With kisses to her sweet mouth…
His lips met her’s in a gentle caress. As the time crawled by, it deepened, grew. He was placing his love for her on the line, and somehow knew she felt the same. Eldarion fully embraced her as her hands moved to his hips, her hand hesitated over his sword, as if it was unsure of what it was. It was like a thunderclap of warmth that shivered up his body. The time it took her lips to fully part from his was painfully slow, and even when they were seperated they were but a breath apart. He could feel her lips near his and wanted to kiss them again. They whispered across the corner of his mouth.
“I missed you, Katrina.” His words were quiet as she feathered the corner of his lips with her’s. She pulled away and smiled. The scar that covered the corner of her lip, stained a pale pink, was stretched and the whiteness around that bunched. None the less, her smile was enchanting.
“I missed you, too, hon.” She burried her face in his neck as she let out a small sob. All he did was hold her, and it felt right. “It hurt…”
“Katrina…” He held her close, wishing she would just tell him what it was like.
“No, I can’t think about it, talk about it. I can’t,” she choked.
“Fine, then don’t, just, just…. calm your nerves, love. You’re safe now.” He rocked her back and forth, working his way around so he could see the others.
Legolas looked up from the fire they had set and the small meal prepared. His eyes glinted in the yellow light and he looked to be ablaze himself. He looked back down, avoiding Eldarion’s eyes. There was pain in everyone’s eyes, but the hurt in Katrina pulsated off her like it did Deladan and Thindae. The pain was flowing into the rest of them, like wine into a goblet.
Katrina lay awake for many hours, thinking about home, about God, about life, but the memories of her not so distant past were most dominant. They invaded every thought, every muse. They’re pain swallowing her and making a tear or more slip down the scars. Pain and sorrow followed her. Had she done what was right? Or had she been mistaken with the correct path to take?
When sleep finally did find her it was woken far to quickly when the sun rose. She was the first to waken and began packing up camp. Her bedroll was quickly fastened to Eldarion’s saddle. The small amount of bread they had left, she cut into pieces for everyone. They would make it to Minas Tirith today, and by the night it would only be six days until Aradae would attack the White City with all he had. She would meet him with her own army, well, Aragorn’s army that is.
Eldarion woke to see Katrina clothed only in the sleevless white gown. The back of it was near nonexistant and her hair was so short.- The slashes were still scabbed over, healing, but very visible. Everytime she bent over he saw her cringe, and shivered with her. Standing, he drew his chain mail and jerkin on over his blue tunic.
The sun was rising in glorious radiance and color. It’s golden beams bouncing off the river Anduin and the clouds above them. Bright yellows and golds and a pale pink lit on the underbellies of the white bodies of the airy clouds. The day was going to be lovely, in every way possible.
“Good morning, Earannawen, did you sleep well?” He packed away his bedroll and laid it across his mounts back. When Eldarion looked to her after no answer, he saw a pale woman, a ghost of a woman, her body shaking with startlment. “Are you feeling alright?”
“Oh, I’m- fine, just fine.” Her voice tremored he noticed, it quaked with a strain.
“Did you sleep well?”
“I didn’t sleep much at all.” Katrina lifted one of the slices of bread to him. “Here, breakfast. It’ll be enough until we get to Minas Tirith.”
He frowned but didn’t comment on her sleeping. “There will be a whole party waiting for us. Eomer will be there with his family, the Elves will still be there, and of course some of the people of the city. Everyone will be glad to have you back, safe.” His smile was genuine, but she couldn’t help but notice the darkness that reached his eyes.
“Oh, well, I’ll be glad to see them, too.”
“What are you two doing?” Deladan sat up straight, his eyes alert to all that moved. He looked like a hunter seeking it’s prey, the edginess of living in the Valley of Shadow had not yet worn off.
“Here, Deladan, I was just getting a small breakfast ready.” Katrina handed him a slice of the bread.
“Thank you.” He sat back and nibbled on the piece, his eyes resting on his nephew that slept beside him on the cloaks he had arranged, Katrina’s among them. His little body was curled into a ball, his hands tucked under his cheek.
“He looks like an angel.” Her comment was sweet and very kind. The gaze of her eyes was loving as she looked at the boy. “Like my little brother did when he was little…” A tear gathered in her eye and then she turned away to finish packing some of the supplies.
Legolas sprang to life like a wild fire, his lithe body carrying him up into a standing position quickly. “Morning.” His voice was alive with infliction as he took a piece of bread from Katrina’s hand. “How are you all fairing?” He poured himself a bit of the sweet wine left, taking the amount in a sip. Then passed the wineskin to Eldarion, who took his own share before passing it to Deladan.
“I’m much better now, thank you.” Katrina smiled, “The night was rough, but the morning is very pleasant.”
“I’m pleased to hear it!” He grinned and then tapped his foot against Gimli’s arm. “Wake up, friend, the day is new!”
“It’s far to early.” Gimli pulled the blanket up over his head. “Go rest your pretty Elf eyes, boy.”
Legolas laughed at this and turned to Aragorn, whose eyes were watching him. He had woken at the Elf’s command of the Dwarf. “I don’t think he is ready,” he muttered in a tired voice.
“I think you are right, my friend…” Gimli rolled over so he didn’t have to look at the too cheery Elf, who was a morning person Katrina decided.
“Come now, gentlemen!” She knelt beside the Dwarf after throwing the other’s an amused glance. “Master Gimli, I am very anxious to be returning to the White City. If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to be on the way as soon as possible.”
“Ai, lady…” Gimli thrust himself up and accepted a swig of the wine before handing it to Aragorn. “I think you’re right, I’m ready to return as well! Just keep the pretty Elf from me!”
“Okay… Legolas, give the grump his space…” Katrina grinned up at Legolas, who understood her intentions.
The Dwarf gave a huff and shoved a piece of bread into his mouth that Katrina handed him. “I’m not that grumpy…”
Deladan knelt beside Thindae. He reached out to wake the boy.
“No. Let me do it.” Katrina was by his side so quickly it shocked him. “Please. Oh, Gimli, I want you bearable for the rest of the day.” She nudged Deladan out of her way and then dropped to her knees beside the boy. At first the others watched in amusement as she brushed the hair away from his small brow. Then, they noticed her hand shaking and her lips trembling. “Thindae? Wake up sweety.”
A small yawn passed between his lips. “Mama?” He opened up huge saphire eyes that were so round and youthful. A mist of memory covered them, that and emotion. His little hands reached out to her, as if he really thought she was his mother. The small arms wrapped around her neck and his little mouth kissed her cheek as she pulled his body to her chest.
“No, honey, this is Katrina.” She stroked the back of his head and the others had fallen silent at his single word. Tears were welling in her eyes, the pain she saw in his eyes and the joy that she had seen fill him at the thought of his mother waking him shook her. Perhaps she should have let Deladan do it. Surely the child wouldn’t get his uncle and mother confused.
“Oh.” His voice was so small and weak she pulled him into a tighter hug. Tears soaked into the thin strap of her gown as he began to cry. Salty drops of water moistened her shoulder and seeped into the tender flesh.
“Hush love, it’s gonna be okay. Shh.” Katrina rubbed his back with her hands and kissed his cheek. “The day will be bright and beautiful. Will you be happy with me?” She smiled into his little face.
“Okay.” He gave a weak grin and stood up, followed by her.
“Yes. It will indeed be a lovely day…”Aragorn muttered under his breath, but Legolas heard it.
“And all will rejoice in our return.” The Elf picked up the statement. He smiled over at the little child. Thindae grinned back, his little smile genuine as he mounted up with Deladan. Legolas helped Gimli up behind himself on Arod.
Katrina slid up behind Eldarion, her arms slipped around his waist. “I just hope we get there soon,” her voice was strained with longing for a home, a real place to live, at least for a time. He could feel her forehead rest between his shoulder blades, and her shaking told him more than words could. Something horrible had happened, and all he wanted was to have her safe in the walls of Minas Tirith. Though…it hadn’t helped when she was taken. But that would never happen again. Ever.