A/N: I’ll be away when this comes up. I’ll try to answer comments, but don’t count on it. I’ll also try to submit chapter 10 when I get back next week. And obviously I do not own Middle Earth.
Recap: Morien just told her story. She believes that, after what she has done, she cannot go home.
“Over the mountains
Of the moon,
Throught the valley of the shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied,
“If you seek Eldorado.”
—Edgar Allen Poe
“You cannot go home because you have changed?” Taurion asked. “I do not see your reasoning.”
“It is not a change to myself, really,” I said. “It’s because I am not the myself they knew. I am a different person.”
“That wouldn’t matter,” he said. “If my sister had been taken, do you think that I would care so long as she came back?”
“You can’t know that,” I countered sharply. “If your sister had done what I have, could you just say ‘Welcome home, we’ve missed you,’ and ignore the scars and the darkness? Maybe you could, but they would still be there. Wouldn’t it hurt more to know what had happened to her than just to think that she died well? And I am not what they remember. They knew a healer. I am a murderer.”
“It wouldn’t matter,” he repeated. “You’re still their child and sister, even if you’re beaten and scarred. It wasn’t you who really killed. It was Gorthuar.”
“But I could not stop him., ” I snapped. “That is just as bad.”
“It is not,” he said fiercely. “You’re just torturing yourself and them, Morien. You say you want to spare them pain by hidng what happened and what you are – “
“Which is an escaped thrall of Morgoth! Or didn’t you understand this?” I pulled up my sleeve and continued, slightly calmer. “It is the Iron Crown, Taurion. The mark of all those in Morgoth’s service.”
“I know that! But you are not any more. You broke free. You are free, to be who you were before he took you!”
“But I am not.” My voice shook with frusterated anger. “You’re telling me to go back as if nothing ever happened. As if I was the same. But it did, and I’m not. I can’t erase the changes. They’re there, and always will be.”
“Perhaps,” Taurion said, suddenly very calm. “You can’t be who you were before, but you can be more than a fugitive from Gorthaur. You said that you are changed, and without doubt you are. But you are still a child of Eru, one of the people of the stars. You still have life, and now you are free. You said that you are a creature of the darkness. You could – you can – accept the changes, and let the darkness go.”
I turned away. What he had said was true, but I couldn’t face it yet. Though I hated it, the darkness was a shield. It defined me – beyond it I did not know myself, as I was. “It’s easy to say,” I said softly. “Easy to say, and true. But I can’t do it, Taurion. Not yet.”
“I understand,” he answered quietly. “But Morien – Indil – please, go home. Your family deserves to know that you are alive.”
I bit my lip. I wanted to belive him so much, but – “Even as I am?”
He nodded. “Even so. I said it doesn’t matter if you’re scarred. And perhaps you have not changed as much as you think.”
I smiled sadly. “You didn’t know me then.” He suddenly grinned, and I looked at him, confused. “What is it.?”
“You smiled,” he laughed. “I’ve never seen you do that. Things are looking up already.”
I didn’t know how to react. It was, I realized, many, many years before meeting Taurion that I had last smiled. So I simply stared at the fire. “Maybe they are. I don’t know.”
Taurion quickly sobered. “Indil……….are you going home?”
I shut my eyes for a moment. He’d almost convinced me, but inside a part of my mind was saying no, no, it can’t be as it was, don’t lose your memories by going back to ruin it……………But in my heart there was a longing ache for home. I took a deep breath. “Yes. I – I will.”
As the sun rose the next morning I prepared to set out north, backtracking toward Gondolin. I was only a swift days travel from home.
As I filled my waterskin from a small stream my hands were shaking slightly from suppressed excitement, though I still had misgivings. But all the same, I would be home.
Lifting my pack, I saw that Taurion’s expression was once again inscrutable, recovered from last night’s debate. I realized suddenly that he was dear to me; the only Elf whom I had met in friendship for many years. He’d carried me from Tol-en-Gaurhoth, he hadn’t cared about the bloodstains on my past; and he had convinced me to go home. Though I was not sure if I should be grateful for the last I was indebted to him all else he had done. I extended a hand, not quite knowing how to say farewell. “Thank you, Taurion. I owe you a great deal.”
He took my hand. “Not really more than I do you. I’d still be in Gorthaur’s dungeons – “
“If I hadn’t been thrown into your cell,” I finished.
He looked at me rather oddly. “You nearly smiled again.”
At that I did. The delirious joy of returning home from exile was welling up inside me, and it broke out into my first true smile in far too long.
He smiled back, then broke into a grin and hugged me tightly. “I shall miss you, Morien. I do not think we will meet again.”
I gave him a quick, hard squeeze and pulled away. “I will miss you also. May the stars of Elbereth shine on your path.”
“May the winds of Sulimo be at your back,” he answered. “Farewell.”
I turned away, and set out north, toward Gondolin.
I reached the Dry River in the late afternoon. Following it I found the long tunnel that led beneath the mountains. It was hidden, a narrow crevasse between two boulders. The moss on them looked oddly new, not the old dark green, but I barely noticed.
The way was narrow and completely dark, but I remembered it perfectly: a single straight corridor with, as I drew nearer to the end, guardrooms on either side. But they were empty. There were no torches lit, and all was silent except for the soft echoes of my quiet footfall.
I pushed away the faint uneasiness growing on my mind. It’s probably just a feast day, I reassured myself. I’ve been gone so long I’d probably forgotten. No one wants to stand guard, that’s all. But that quiet sensible voice added, It isn’t like King Turgon to leave the city undefended.
Ignoring that thought I went on, quickening my pace. I was nearly home. Some of them might not believe that I was truly Indil, who had disappeared so many years ago. I just prayed that my family would know me. But all the same, to be home………..
Light began to show at the end of the tunnel. I knew exactly where I would emerge, in a clearing at the mountain’s foot, and across the valley Gondolin would be gleaming in the sunset, its white stone taking on delicate hues of rose and gold. I broke onto a run, and an instant later reached the doorway. The vale of Tumladen lay before me.
“No,” I whispered. “Oh Eru, no.”
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