Author’s Note: Sorry this next chapter has taken so long! I’ve been away almost all summer, and then.. TORC has been rather temperamental. Hope you enjoy it!
Anorien wandered the twisting paths of her home in the black of night, following wherever her feet led her. Only the brightest of Elbereth’s stars were visible, twinkling merrily in the night sky.
An Elf, Anorien naturally loved the stars, but tonight.. Tonight she gave them no more than a glance. Tonight, she only wanted to be alone with the questions, the hurt, the doubts that plagued her mind.
Is it truly what I want? To see my father dead? What if he does not deserve to die, and his blood is on my hands? Must I then pay that price with my own life? What would happen to Naneth if I left her? How will I even begin to search for my father?
All these things repeated themselves over and over in her mind, all screaming for answers, but Anorien had none to give.
Stopping her leisurely walk, she bent and grasped a moss-covered chunk of wood, adding it to the meager stack already in her arms. Sighing deeply, she straightened and looked at the sky, as if seeking assurance from the darkness.
Seeing the moon full-risen overhead, she began walking again, more determinedly now. It is late, Naneth will be worried.
Then she heard it. The fear that had been growing in her heart became voiced in a terrified scream. “Naneth,” Anorien gasped, throwing the wood down on the path, streaking down darkthe path, trusting her senses to guide her.
Breaking into the clearing, she could see at a distance that Naneth was crumpled on the ground against the cave wall, and from her heart protruded a crooked, black-feathered arrow, blood streaming from the wound.
Stopping where she stood, Anorien turned her eyes from Naneth and saw in the shadows a stooped creature, lowering its black bow. Silently drawing the heavy sword, Anorien darted at the creature and brought the blade upon its neck even as it began to laugh in its horrid, dry, cracking voice.
One gasp of surprise, and it was over. The creature fell headless at her feet, its body limp and lifeless.
Tears streaming down her pale face, Anorien jabbed her sword deep into the creature’s breast and ran the rest of the way to her mother.
“Naneth!” she sobbed, trying to pull the arrow out, trying anything to save her mother. “You can’t! You can’t leave me!”
But Naneth shook her head, and weakly gripped Anorien’s shaking hand, a tear rolling down her cheek. “No, daughter. It is best this way. Let Fate take its course and have its will. None can resist it.
Anorien squeezed her mother’s white hand tightly. “But you can’t… Stay with me!” But even as she said the words, Anorien knew there was nothing anyone could do. Her mother was passing into Shadow, and the mere feeling of helplessness Anorien felt was sickening.
“Anorien… if you ever pass into Lórien, tell them.. tell them all, that you are the child of Firithwen.” Anorien nodded, her brown eyes filled to the brim with tears. “I love you, daughter. I love you.”
Naneth went still, and the hand that Anorien held was limp, and no longer responsive, and then Anorien knew. Her mother was dead. She screamed, releasing all of her pain and grief before losing consciousness and becoming numb to her hurt.
“‘Rohir? Did you hear that?” Elladan, youngest son of Lord Elrond of Rivendell, turned his face toward his twin brother, his Elven eyes straining to see through the darkness.
They were returning from Gondor, traveling to Imladris. Gondor’s borders were constantly encroached upon by Mordor’s rogue Orcs, the ones that had survived the fall of Sauron and lived to breed more of their filthy kind. Scattered and divided, they were rapidly being exterminated.
“Well?” Elladan asked as he always did, looking to his brother for decisions.
Elrohir stood up and strapped on his sword, knives, and quiver, taking his bow in hand. “Come. We will see what this madness is about.”
They heard no more screams, but walking swiftly and quietly, as trained warriors, they came into a small clearing. But the puzzle that greeted their eyes was a strange one, for the sun, barely shining through the thick darkness, shed only enough light for them to see that an Orc lay headless at the side of the clearing, near to the trees, a sword in its chest. Looking away from that, they saw the cave, a tiny rock opening, barely Man-high. The brothers walked toward it, each drawing his knives.
As they drew nearer, nothing moved, or was heard. Elrohir raised an eyebrow and stepped inside the cave, reaching into his pocket. Drawing out a small glass orb, he held it aloft, allowing its light to illuminate the cave.
Elladan stepped in behind his brother, the sight that awaited him tearing his heart.
For on the hard rock lay a girl, no more than five centuries old at best, her fists tightly clenched. Mingled tears and black blood stained her face, and the black robe she wore appeared to Elladan to be a male’s shirt, for it stopped less than halfway to her knees and her slight form was lost in it. Around her waist was a thick black belt with an empty sword’s sheath on it.
Beside her, hand still in the girl’s, lay a dead Elf-woman, dressed in similar fashion, though instead of tan like the girl’s, her skin was a pale white. Dried blood was visible at the corner of her mouth, and a black arrow still protruded from her chest. The arm that did not touch the girl was limp on the rock, the hand halfway open.
Elladan turned away, aching for the girl. Elrohir walked forward and touched the girl’s shoulder, but the girl didn’t move, aside from curling up and letting a ragged sigh escape her mouth.
Elrohir bent and lifted the girl easily into his arms, carrying her away from the cave, out into the risen sun’s light. Elladan followed, picking up his brother’s discarded bow as he went.
* * * *
When Anorien awoke, she remembered instantly what had happened. She felt unusually warm and comfortable, so she remained still, choosing to just lie there. It seemed to her that to move would bring the pain and the hurt back again, and she didn’t want them to ever return.
She felt empty, as if all the tears she could ever cry were already shed last night. She felt like nothing would ever surprise or wound her again; the worst was already done. She only felt tired.. exhausted.
She sat up and looked around her blankly. A strange weight was around her neck, but she was more distracted by the fine cloak covering her. Her own had long since been torn beyond repair, but this one bore no resemblance to hers, or Naneth’s. This one was silky and smooth to the touch, though to the eye, it was dirty and weather-stained. What magic is this? she wondered.
Putting her hand to her neck, she felt there a cold, heavy chain. Following it down with her fingers and bleary eyes, she saw it to be silver, and that the weight she had felt was a silver medallion, shaped as a star with twelve rays. At the center of the star was a circular black stone that glittered coldly in the sunlight. The same star as Morélen bears.. she mused. Yet I have never seen this before.
Her sword, clean and shining, lay beside her on the ground. She took it in her hand and glanced around warily.
Her skin felt soft and clean, as it did when Naneth had taken her to find the roots of the aspen trees and bathed her. The root of aspen, when beaten into a paste, made a sweet-smelling soap and Anorien still remembered it. Her hair was damp, and beginning to curl into its ringlets again.
Shaking her head at these mysteries, Anorien jabbed Morélen into the ground and used her as a crutch to stand. Allowing the cloak to simply fall to the ground, Anorien rose and stretched sleepily. She heard quiet whispers behind her, and whirled, Morélen raised high, to meet whatever it was face-to-face.
Author’s Note: Here are the links to Chapter 1 and the Prologue, which may help to answer some questions.
Chapter 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/11911.html