King Theoden brought them back into the hall. “Please, make yourselves comfortable in the dinner hall. I will have a feast prepared and after we will discuss business.” Turning to the wizard he asked, “Gandalf, will you accompany me outside?” Gandalf bowed to his friend and they departed. Aliana followed Aragorn into the next room with Legolas behind her. As they entered the room they found Gimli already seated with a pint in his hands. Aliana was tired from the ride and seated herself in the back of the room. She laid her head in her arms on the table and closed her eyes.
After watching her for a moment, Aragorn said quietly, “My sister sleeps”.
“I had no idea your sister could fight so well! She is a woman after my own heart”, Gimli remarked.
Legolas sat down beside Aragorn and turned to be able to look at her. “She is definitely special. I feel there is much more to her than we know.”
Aragorn watched Legolas as his eyes were on his sister. He smiled to himself. If it had been anyone else beside Legolas he knew he would have found himself on edge. But he had come to trust this elf with every aspect of his life. And he knew if he was not there, Legolas would protect her with his life.
Aliana listened to their words and smiled. For the first time that she could remember she felt acceptance. She drifted off to sleep with the three of them in her mind.
“My lady”, the young woman said as she shook Aliana’s shoulder. Aliana wearily lifted her head and looked up at the woman.
“I am called Eowyn. I thought you might like some company for awhile?”
Aliana smiled and replied, “That would be nice”. She rose to her feet and looked to her companions and her eyes came to rest on her brother. He smiled and nodded softly to her. Aliana followed Eowyn from the room, feeling eyes on her as she disappeared through the door.
Eowyn led her down a long hall into a chamber of rooms, obviously Eowyn’s living quarters. Eowyn sat on the edge of the fireplace hearth and pointed to a chair across from her. As Aliana found her way to the chair she realized that it had been a very long time since she had the company of another woman. And she was very glad for this chance.
“So, you are Lord Aragorn’s sister. How lucky to grow up with such a fine man.” Aliana noticed the far away look in Eowyn’s eyes.
“I did not grow up with him. We have only just found each other. I never knew he existed.”
“But how could that be?” Eowyn was very much intrigued.
Aliana told the woman of how she was raised by elves, how she came to live with Lady Athorn, and the events of the last week that had brought her and her older brother back together. Eowyn hung on every word, amazed that this young woman in front of her had been through so much in her life already.
“Enough about me,” said Aliana. “King Theoden is your uncle? How did you come to live here?”
Eowyn told Aliana about her parents, how they had died when she was young, and how King Theoden took her and her brother in. She told her tales of growing up with her cousin, Theodred. Then she told Aliana of when Grima Wormtongue came to her uncle and all that had transpired since. As Eowyn was nearing the end of her story, Aliana realized that the two of them were very much the same. She looked at Eowyn and could tell that this woman was thinking the same thing. Eowyn rose to her feet and walked into another room. A moment later she reappeared holding a long flowing blue dress with white sheer sleeves.
“Forgive me Lady Aliana, I did not stop to think earlier that you might like to freshen up. If you would like, you can bathe and change into this and I will have your clothes cleaned for you.”
A smile came over Aliana’s face. It had been a week since she had a chance to bathe, and she was sure that she was a terrible sight! She rose to her feet and came to Eowyn’s side.
“Yes, a bath would be very pleasant…..and much needed.”
“Then follow me. By the time you are done, dinner will be served. And while you are bathing, I will see if there is anything your companions need.”
Aliana followed Eowyn thru another door where servants were filling a huge tub with steaming water. Eowyn hung the dress on a rack behind the door and turned to Aliana, curtsied and left the room. Aliana quickly undressed and lowered herself into the inviting water. Instantly she felt the weariness of the last week leave her. She closed her eyes and was thankful for this reprieve.
Only when the water finally turned cold did Aliana bring herself to leave the refuge of the tub. A black onyx handled brush was laying beside the sink and she pulled it through her long brown clean hair. She took her time, wanting to look her best. Once she was dressed, she made her way back down the long hall to the dining room. As she walked through the door Aliana saw Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas sitting at one table, and Gandalf standing by King Theoden’s throne, talking to the king. Eowyn was standing next to the table closest to the king. There were 2 children sitting by Eowyn, eating quickly, as if they had not eaten in days. “But where is my mother?” asked the little girl, looking up from a bowl of stew. Eowyn patted the girl on the head and looked up, being the first to notice Aliana’s arrival. Eowyn gave her an approving smile and started to make her way towards her. As the men realized her presence, the room became quiet. Aliana brought herself to the table to stand in front of her brother. The three seated men stood instantly. Aragorn took her hand, raising her arm. “Look at you. Never before have I seen such beauty”, and he brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it. She instantly blushed and glanced toward Gimli.
“My lady, your brother is right. You must come straight from the Valar themselves.”
With a broad smile, she made her way to sit between Aragorn and Legolas, as that is where her brother led her. She could feel the warmth of Legolas’ body next to her. Eowyn assured Aliana that they would talk more later and made her way back to care for the children.
“Who do the children belong to?” Aliana asked Legolas, trying to strike a conversation but feeling awkward as to what to say.
“Gandalf and King Theoden found them riding into the city. They come from a village 2 days ride from here. They say the city was ravaged by uruk hai. That is what the king and Mithrandir were discussing when you came in.”
Aliana felt a sudden rage grip her heart. After all the orcs had put her through, she couldn’t imagine what they would have put these children through if they had caught them. Legolas must have noticed the change in her mood as he put his hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t worry my lady, we will do all we can to stop this abomination.” He looked into her eyes and finished, “they will have to go thru me if they ever want to touch you again.”
Aliana fought the urge to bring her hand to his smooth, strong featured face. Every part of her wanted to reach out and touch him. Legolas stirred something in her that she had never felt before. But her little voice instantly reminded her that she was only mortal and he was not. Aliana had spent enough time among the first born to know that a mortal/immortal match could only end in catastrophe. She listened as the voice told her that they could never be more than what they were now…..acquaintances. She forced herself to turn away from him before he could see the battle going on inside her. She focused herself on the plates of food that suddenly appeared before her. It had been a long time since she had such a wonderful meal. Roasted turkey, steamed vegetables and a freshly baked loaf of bread lay in front of her. The four of them all at once began to fill their plates and feast as if none of them had eaten in weeks.
Once dinner was done, Gandalf and King Theoden engaged in their unfinished conversation. Aliana had much on her mind and had not noticed most of what was said until Aragorn caught her attention.
“Open war is already upon you. If you do not fight, they will bring the war to you.”
“And who is the king of Rohan? You or I?” asked Theoden, obviously growing outraged.
“You are, my lord. And what is your decision?” replied Aragorn.
“We will empty the city and take refuge in Helm’s Deep. It has protected our people before, it will protect them again.”
The conversation was ended, as Aragorn rose and left the room. Small talk was made between the remaining inhabitants for a short time. Finally Aliana came to her feet and found her way to the door. She walked through the hall that they had entered only hours before and made her way outside. She was relieved to find herself alone. She strode to the edge of the walkway and stared out at the stars. It was a clear night and they shone so brightly that she felt she could reach out and touch them. The North Star twinkled at her as if it was winking. “Oh Elbereth, mother star, my destiny is in your hands. Why I find myself here I do not understand, but I am thankful for your guidance.”
Aliana felt a warm hand on her shoulder and she turned quickly. She found herself face to face with the Elvin prince.
“All is well, my lady?” Legolas asked, a questioning look in his eyes.
“Yes, all is well. I was just thinking.”
“May I ask what is in your thoughts?”
She wanted to tell him everything. Looking at him under the starlight, she wanted to tell him how she had dreamed of him for as long as she could remember. She wanted to tell him how he stirred her heart. She wanted to reach out and touch him, she wanted him to take her into his arms and hold her close. But it would do no good. Again, the little voice was reminding her of what could never be. She drew a deep breath and instead answered, “How can it be that a week ago I was snug in my bed in Lady Athorn’s home, and now I find myself in the middle of a war? How could someone so insignificant find herself surrounded by such greatness?”
Legolas raised his hand to her face, cradling her cheek. As he felt her soft skin, he felt inside him all the heartache she had coursing through her veins. In a split second he saw visions of all she had endured in her life. As he had suspected all along, the prince could also feel something strong and special lying dormant inside her. He now knew that Aragorn’s younger sibling also held a birthright to greatness. Now realizing what laid inside this woman, he simply replied, “Aliana, you are by no means insignificant.”
As he now looked upon her with a new realization, he witnessed a single tear fall from her left eye and felt it as it landed upon his hand. As he pulled his hand away from her face, again he could feel her pain in the single tear that now lay on his palm. Aliana started shivering from the cold of the night. Legolas stepped closer to her and pulled his cloak around the both of them, wanting to shelter her from the world. He now knew in his heart that she had been placed with them to be kept safe until her moment of greatness arrived.
Aliana allowed herself to lay her head on his shoulder as she quietly wept. Aliana knew that Legolas had seen inside her. She had never let anyone close enough to gain that knowledge. For the first time she felt a relief at not having to guard herself. Aliana knew that she could trust this elf. She felt more secure in this moment than she had ever felt before as she let her grief flow through her. The two of them stood there embraced for what felt like eternity. She wanted it to be eternity. Finally footsteps were heard coming thru the door behind them. Legolas felt the wall inside her come back up as Aliana brought herself back to her senses and stepped back. Legolas turned and greeted Aragorn coming towards them.
“And what are the two of you talking about on such a quiet night?” asked Aragorn.
“Forgive me, my brother. Legolas was keeping me company. If you both will excuse me, I shall go find Eowyn and ready myself for the trip tomorrow.” Aliana offered them both a curtsey and made her way back into the great hall.
“Keeping her company?” Aragorn could see the look on both of their faces. Like he had intruded on something important between them.
“Ai. Aliana has many things on her mind. She is trying to figure out how she fits into this new world she has found herself in.” Legolas wanted to tell Aragorn everything he had learned about her, but felt it was important for Aragorn to learn it for himself. Trying to change the subject, Legolas asked, “Are you sure Helm’s Deep is the answer?”
“No. I am afraid we are walking into a trap. But Theoden has made up his mind that this is best for his people.”
“And what does Gandalf say?”
“Gandalf will leave first thing in the morning to find the Rohirim that killed the orcs and try to persuade them to stand with us. I am worried my friend. I am worried about these good people, and even more, I am worried about my sister. I have only just found her after all this time. I do not want to lose her now. How can I take her into what could very well be a trap? But I have no choice.” Aragorn looked up at the stars, hoping to find an answer to his dilemma. Legolas stood beside his friend and also looked up at the stars, noticing that the North Star was blinking, as if winking at him.
“Do not worry. As long as she is with us, we will protect her. I promise you, I will not let any harm come to her.”
Aragorn turned his eyes on Legolas. “If I am not able, I hold you to your promise my friend. Aliana is the most precious thing in the world to me, besides my betrothed. But Arwen is safe from all of this. And you are my dearest friend. If anything happens to me, Aliana will be in your care.”
“I promise, my lord”. Legolas gave Aragorn a smile.
After several moments of silence, Aragorn finally spoke. “Let us go find Gimli and our lodging for the night. We will need as much rest as possible for I fear what tomorrow will bring us.”
They both turned and walked back into the warmth of the great hall.