The smell of dinner wafted down the hall and made it into Aliana’s room. She was feeling much better and decided that she would dine with her company in the hall, instead of them coming to her. She readied herself and left the room, grateful for the long walk down the hall. She was feeling a little depressed about leaving the company, but she commanded herself to put on her best smile for tonight. There was no sense in throwing a gloom over everyone just because she knew what she had to do. As she opened the door to the dining hall, she came face to face with her brother.
“And what are you doing out of bed?” he seemed almost angry at her.
“Do not be mad, brother. I couldn’t stand one more minute in that room. It felt good to stretch my legs.”
Aragorn’s face softened and he offered her his arm. “May I?”
She gladly accepted and they made their way to the table at the other end of the room. Gimli, Legolas, Theoden and Eowyn were already seated. They were all glad to see her. A great meal was laid before them, which they all ate heartily. After the meal was finished, they all enjoyed each other’s company for awhile longer. Aliana was relieved that no one had noticed her gloom mood.
Gimli was the first to rise. “Forgive my leave, but I am in need of rest. He bowed to both ladies and found his way to the door.
Aliana was feeling very tired and decided it was time for her to retire, also. As she stood she felt Legolas’ eyes upon her. She felt herself blush and turned away quickly.
“I too am ready to retire. I will be ready in the morning.”
Aragorn rose and took her hand. “Do you want me to escort you back?” She shook her head.
“I am capable. Stay and enjoy the night.” She curtsied and turned toward the door. As she walked down the aisle she could still feel Legolas’ eyes upon her. She didn’t want to ignore him, but she felt it was best. She couldn’t fool herself any longer. Reluctantly she made her way back to her room and threw herself on the bed, sobbing.
The night was long and she was glad to see the sunrise. Even though she had not gotten much sleep, she rose early and readied herself for the long ride. She left her room with her belongings and made her way to the stables. There she found Farion. She had been afraid that he would not be there, as the last time she laid eyes on her horse was when she had jumped from his back. Farion was as happy to see her as she was him and he called to her as soon as his eyes found her. Aliana found a brush and took the extra time she had to groom her faithful friend, talking to him about the decision she had made. She knew Farion would understand, even if he could not answer her. Maybe that was the reason she always talked to him of important things. Maybe she did not want an answer. Aliana knew that she would tell Farion the affairs of her heart during their long ride back to wherever she decided to go from Rohan. She did not dare voice it now. She led Farion out of the stables and into the courtyard, letting him feed on what little grass was left after the battle.
It did not take long before squires came to fetch the other horses. A tall dark haired boy spotted her across the courtyard and made his way to her. “My lady, your company has been searching for you.”
“Please let them know I am alright and that I am ready.”
“Yes, my lady.” The boy ran off back in the direction he had come from. Shortly after, she spied Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli entering the courtyard. Their horses were brought up behind her.
“Good morning, my lady. I pray you had a peaceful night’s rest?” questioned Gimli, glad to see her bright smile.
“Good morning to you, master Gimli. I slept fine…..and you?”
“I have to say, I slept like a rock! It felt like I hadn’t slept in a week. Come to think of it, I think it was the first night’s sleep in a week!”
“I think you could have used a bath more than rest,” Legolas teased his friend, waving his hand in front of his face as he walked past Gimli. Aragorn and Aliana chuckled as Gimli let out a muffled “Hmmmpf” as an answer.
“Aliana, there has been a change of plans. A visit to Isengard is needed and Mithrandir has asked us to accompany him on his task.” Aragorn readied himself for her reaction.
“When do we leave, my brother?”
“We leave as soon as Gandalf is ready.” He lowered his voice as he finished, “You leave with Lady Eowyn.”
She looked at Gimli, but he quickly turned to his horse, pretending it needed tending to. Aliana then turned to Legolas. He shrugged his shoulders with a disappointed look, then found himself also turning from her stare. She walked up to Aragorn and stood in front of him. This obviously was between her and her brother. She did not want to be left with the rest of the women again. Had she not proven herself by now? The danger was past them. How could he think of leaving her behind? Aragorn’s words cut into her like a knife. She had spent all night coming to terms with the fact that this would be her last journey with her brother on his quest. If he knew this, would he still make this decision? Aliana knew she could not tell him her plans. He would never understand.
“Brother please! Do not make me leave your side! Have I not proven myself to you? Please let me stay!”
Aragorn did not let her say another word. He pulled her to him and wrapped his arms protectively around her. Her words were breaking his heart. After a moment, he calmingly explained himself.
“My dear sweet sister, I do not want this either, but I have to think of what is best for you. Mithrandir has to see with his own eyes that Saruman is defeated. There is no fight left in him from what we can tell, but I don’t want him anywhere near you. Please understand Aliana, I must do what is best……for all of us.”
He took a step back, taking her hands into his. He looked into her eyes hoping to see understanding, but only found disappointment. No longer being able to take her heartbreak, he kissed her forehead and led his horse towards the main gate.
Gimli walked up to her with as much of a smile as he could muster. “Do not worry my lady, you will not be parted long. This I promise you.” As he led his horse to follow Aragorn, Aliana turned to Legolas.
“Why does he feel he must do this?”
“Aragorn is starting to feel his destiny. He knows his decisions affect everyone. Know that his decision hurts him as much as it has hurt you, Aliana. He will not let himself be parted from you for long. We will do what needs to be done and no more.”
“I will see you all back safe tonight, then. I will do what he wishes.” Aliana dropped her gaze to the ground, not wanting him to see how deep her disappointment went. Legolas reached out and gently lifted her head with the palm of his hand.
“Aliana, tell me you will listen to him this time.”
Seeing his worry somewhat healed the wound that Aragorn had inflicted on her heart. “I promise, my lord. I will do as he says.” She could not bring herself to say anymore on the subject.
Legolas turned and quickly mounted his horse. “Take care on the journey back. I am sorry that I cannot be your escort today. We will meet you tonight in the halls of Edoras.”
“I will save you a place at the feast tonight, my lord.”
Before he reigned his horse toward the main gate, she heard his words in her head, “Save a dance for me.”