Darkness. Confusion. A sneaking fear swept through Morelen’s dreams like a swarm of locusts, like swirling thunder clouds before a tempest. The sand was warm and accommodating beneath her slight frame but although Morelen felt safe for perhaps the first time in months, her dreams would allow her no respite. Dark hands, dark faces, and terrible dark, twinkling eyes filled her head until she shot up with a gasp, her chest heaving and sweat forming a thin sheen on her face.
She looked around her, remembering in an instant where she was and that she was free. She was free. The words soothed her broken soul like a healing balm, bringing a small smile to her cracked lips. Morelen’s greatest fear in life, whether she cared to admit it or not, was to be in a cage. To feel trapped.
She looked over and noticed that the only other awake was Legolas. Dear Legolas, she sighed, how could I have done this to him?
She proceeded to stand up, but her legs felt unstable and she waited a moment to steady herself. It had taken a while for her to accustom herself to this new type of animal, this camel. It swayed like a reed in the afternoon breeze and its stride was longer, vastly different from that of a horse. The inside of her legs were sore, and she knew they would be for quite some time.
“Man mathach?” (How do you feel?) Legolas lilting voice was undisturbed, pure as it had ever been. She followed his gaze out to where the sunlight was fading fast, as they had spent the entire day sleeping in the desert.
“Im mae, mellon nín.” (I am well, friend) She replied wearily, her voice coarse and weak. Honestly, she did not know if she was well, only that she was alive. Alive and free. The two words sent a spark of delight through her veins.
Sitting silently beside the elf, she sighed. If only I hadn’t run away… the thought once again crept unbidden into her thoughts. Early on she had been able to brush it aside, and instead embrace her anger, but as their journey continued the ever-increasing sense of guilt gnawed at her heart. How foolish she had been. How utterly juvenile and childish. She looked at her hands with an expression of disgust on her dark face, fooling around with the sand beneath her fingers.
If not for me and my rash actions, none of this would have happened. If not for me and my utter stupidity, my dear friends would be back at home, living happily. Instead they’re here, following me, risking their lives needlessly for mine and…Ai! Although I do not regret making this journey; I need to know of my family, like I have never needed anything in my life.
She could not yet admit to herself that she was a fool for making the journey on her own, but she did feel responsible for the actions of her group. She also felt guilty for the pain she had caused her fa– the royal family in Gondor. Whether or not she belonged with them was debatable, but now that she thought about it she could begin to fathom the sacrifice they made for her. She, a mere Harad girl, was taken in by the royal family. She could have easily been killed, to rid themselves of her presence. Her birth must have been naught but a nuisance to the new King and his wife, yet it was they who kept her, and cared for her as though she were their own. They had taken her in when it was likely that no one else would.
She had spurned their love, instead of calmly approaching them and at least giving them notice before she left.
She had been selfish, terribly selfish, and now her loved ones and dearest friends were reaping the benefits.
“Well, lovely job getting us out of there, Morelen.” Gimli grunted, seeing her forlorn look and hoping to perhaps lighten it a bit.
She bit her tongue, wanting to reply, except I was the one who got you kidnapped in the first place.
She did not answer him with a, “thank you,” but rather offered him a weak smile and returned her gaze to the ground.
Legolas turned his head to her and looked into her eyes. Those icy blue eyes of his made her, at times, feel very uncomfortable and vulnerable, as if he could easily discern her thoughts through her eyes. Aragorn had often told her that she was never able to keep her emotions hidden; always, he would say, he could read her through those dark brown eyes. She wondered if her foster father spoke truly, and if Legolas could see her thoughts that very moment. Could he see her pain, her remorse?
“What’s done is done, Morelen. Do not dwell on what might have been, for it will destroy you.”
Well,she thought, I guess that answers that question.
“You are not alone, tithen pen. (Little one) Never make the mistake of believing that you are.” He gave her an enigmatic smile and gently brushed his hand on her shoulder in a gesture of comfort and encouragement. Sighing, she returned his smile as best she could and nearly jumped when the Dwarf spoke none too quietly.
“Well,” grumbled Gimli, “I have to admit I’m pretty well sick of sand. There’s far too much of it out here, if you ask me.”
Elboron, having finally woken up, rubbed his eyes lazily and mumbled, “Gimli, must your dastardly voice be so loud? Did your mother never teach you to whisper?”
Gimli grunted and replied gruffly, gesturing to Legolas, “If I have a mind to, I can be as soft as the elf over here.”
At this, Legolas grinned, clearly disagreeing with his friend but choosing to remain silent.
“Of that I have…no doubt.” Elboron caught the elf’s grin and he answered the dwarf grumpily.
He turned and caught Morelen’s eye, and held it for a moment. She could tell by his expression that he wanted to ask her about what had gone on the night before, about how she had managed to lose Haydar. She still wore the remnants of the escapade, that elaborate outfit Haydar had insisted she don, and she desperately wished she had her riding clothes back. She knew he would not bring it up, and neither would she.
An uncomfortable silence passed between them and she turned her back to him again, sighing. She tried to rouse herself fully, for she knew that this day would be long and unforgiving.