Mornië stiffened but stopped struggling. A hooded and cloaked figure rounded the tree, carrying an unsheathed dagger. Kneeling next to her, he slowly removed his hand from her mouth before cutting her bonds. “Thalion?” Mornië whispered hoarsely. The figure looked up, their features undistinguishable in the dark beneath the hood.
“No,” they said quietly and simply, making quick work of her bonds. As always, Amarth had tied them too tight, and Mornië found that her legs couldn’t support her. The stranger pulled her to her feet, but her knees immediately buckled. Falling against him, she thought she heard him grind his teeth together angrily. He scooped her up in his arms, holding her close, and started walking into the surrounding darkness.
Just at the moment a green pillar of light split the dark night, lighting up the sky to the east; Mordor. She heard the cloaked stranger suck in his breath and drop to the ground beneath the brush, none to gently, rolling his body to cover hers in the darkness, his cloak blending them into the night. Mornië could feel and hear his ragged breathing by her ear, and his arms held her still.
The air tingled as the green light lit the world eerily. An odd fear gripped Mornië. She turned her head toward the camp site. She could hear scuffling and cursing.
“Where is she?!” Amarth’s voice tore through the darkness. Thalion’s reply was muffled. “Find her!” Amarth headed in one direction, while Thalion went in another. Neither of them believed she could’ve gone far.
Her mysterious saviour rolled back over, and pulled them both to their feet, supporting her full weight. He pulled her behind a tree, pulling his cloak around her and effectively hiding them as Thalion passed by.
They waited a few moments after he had passed, and Mornië waited for him to move again, but he didn’t. She raised her face from his chest and found him staring at her. “Who are you?” she whispered. A moment of silence prevailed. The stranger tilted her chin gently with his hand and kissed her softly on the lips. Mornië’s eyes flew wide open in shock. “Athrun!”
He covered her mouth with his hand before the cry escaped. “Shh.” He pressed his forehead against hers and smiled. “We have to run for it. I’m going to have to carry you.” He lifted her into his arms again, keeping his cloak around her. Mornië wrapped her arms around Athrun’s neck and buried her face in his shoulder. She had briefly forgotten how much pain she was in, but it all came flooding back as soon as Athrun picked her up.
Athrun held her closer if that was at all possible. Rounding the tree, he came face to face with Thalion. The elf stared at him for a few minutes in shock before moving away. “Go quickly1”
Athrun turned away from Thalion only to see Amarth rounding a tree a few yards away. There was no way he could outrun the elf while carrying Mornië, and she couldn’t run on her own. He carefully and gently set Mornië down, still supporting her by the arm she had wrapped around his neck.
“You’re supposed to be dead.” Amarth drew his sword. “Why can’t I ever be rid of you?!?”
“Oh, but I am dead,” Athrun gave him a cold smile that would have frozen over Mordor on a summer day, “I stand before you a phantom, come back to haunt you for your sins.” Amarth paled for a moment, but quickly recovered. Athrun spoke quietly in Mornië’s ear. “Go as fast as you can from this place, don’t worry about me.”
Mornië wanted to protect, but Athrun gave her a very gentle push forward. “I’ll find you.” She steeled herself and stumbled into a nearby tree. The ring of steel being drawn almost made her look back. Closing her eyes, she kept going. Once she knew she couldn’t be seen, she began circling back around. It was slow work, and she had to rely on logs and trees for support. The circulation was slowly returning to her legs.
* * * * *
Athrun stared at Amarth coldly, his steel blue eyes picking up flecks of eerie green from the sky. His gaze would have had any normal man or elf cowering, but Amarth simply stood with his sword drawn, looking at him amusedly.
“You two make quite a pair,” Amarth drew his own sword. “You’re both very difficult to get rid of. Not for long though.” he lunged forward, intending to catch Athrun off guard.
Athrun blocked the blow with ease. He had long ago learned to expect the unexpected when dealing with someone who wanted to kill you. “I’m not going to give you the chance to kill either of us.” He swung his sword around, the two weapons clashing together at the hilt.
“Thalion! Help me take him you fool!” Amarth shouted to the elf who stood watching passively. He didn’t respond, and Athrun took Amarth’s moment of distraction to angle a strike towards his legs.
Amarth jumped. Cursing at Thalion, he focused all his attention on the elf before him. With a flick of his wrist and dagger slid free of its wrist sheath and into his hand. He flung it at Athrun. The dagger flew through the air and cut into Athrun’s hand before burying itself in a tree.
Athrun paid no heed to the bleeding cut on his hand, and advanced upon Amarth, switching his sword to his other hand. A deep rumble of thunder broke the stillness of the night, quickly followed by a bright flash. As the first few drops fell, their swords clashed again.
Athrun drove his blade against Amarth’s with incredible force, driving the elf back into the ground. Athrun’s eyes burned with a dangerous light as the two faced off, their swords hopelessly locked. It was a matter of who’s strength gave out first.
Amarth produced an other dagger from nowhere and stabbed Athrun’s hands where they gripped the sword. The elf hissed in pain, dropped his sword, and took a few steps back. Amarth smirked at Athrun. “You’re just as pathetic as the girl.” he wiped his sword off on the hem of his cloak and sheathed it. He looked at the bloody dagger in his hand. Stepping close her weighed the weapon in his hand. “You’ll make a fine meal for the crows.”
Flinging the dagger with as much force as he could, he watched it sail through the air toward it’s target.
Time slowed for an instant as the blade flashed in a deadly arc through the air. Then Thalion appeared out of nowhere in front of Athrun, shoving his friend to the side. “No!” Athrun stared in shock as the blade came to rest hilt deep in Thalion’s chest. He scrambled to catch him as he fell to the cold earth. “Always was too stupid for his own good,” Amarth muttered before disappearing after
Thalion gasped for breath. Athrun reached for the dagger to pull it out but Thalion stopped him. “I’m sorry,” he choked. Athrun shook his head.
Thalion grinned slightly. “Find her, Athrun. Find her and marry her.”
“You’re supposed to stand with me.” Athrun grasped Thalion’s hand. He could see his friend’s eyes begin to glaze over.
A trickle of blood appeared from Thalion’s mouth, and Athrun could hear him struggling for breath. He fought back tears of fury directed at Amarth, and sorrow as he held his friends hand tightly. “I… I’m sorry Athrun…” Thalion managed to choke out again, his breath short.
“I forgive you Thalion, just stay with me here. You’re going to be fine!” Even as Athrun spoke the words he knew that they weren’t true.
A small smile curled around the edges of Thalion’s mouth as he breathed his last strangled breath, his eyes glazing over and staring blankly into space. Athrun fought back a cry of rage. This was not supposed to be the fate of an elf; to die. He brushed his hand over his friend’s eyes gently, closing them. “Rest in the halls of Mandos, my friend,” he said quietly. He rose to his feet and picked up his sword from where it had fallen on the now muddy ground.
The rain continued to pour down relentlessly, and it ran down his face in tiny rivulets. Amarth would pay. Amarth! Athrun suddenly realized that both he and Mornië were missing, and a sliver of dread ran through him. He could not lose two of the people closest to him in one night. He would not.
* * * * *
Mornië stumbled against another tree and glanced around it’s round expanse in time to see Amarth fling the dagger at Athrun. She just barely held in a scream of warning. She closed her eyes. When she opened them again Amarth was gone and Thalion, not Athrun, had a dagger embedded in his chest.
She looked around frantically, trying to find where Amarth had gone to. “He must be nearby,” she muttered to herself.
“How very observant,” His voice hissed in her ear, making her jump and recoil from him. He grabbed her roughly, clamping a hand over her mouth hard. She kicked and struggled against him as he dragged her back into the trees, farther away from Athrun and Thalion, but she quickly expended what little energy she had left.
Lapsing into unconsciousness because of the pain, she didn’t hear Athrun get up to come look for her. Nor did she feel anything when Amarth dropped her to the forest floor. He kicked her roughly in the side, causing her to emit an involuntary groan. The ring of steel being drawn caused her to open her eyes.
She struggled to rise as Amarth advanced on her with his long knife drawn. A strangled cry escaped her lips as he yanked her to her feet and slammed her against a tree, white sparks dancing across her vision.
“If I can’t kill him, I’m going to make him suffer as much as possible. Maybe he’ll fade away and leave me in peace.” He pressed the point of the knife to her stomach. “I want him to hear you scream.”
Mornië groaned, struggling in his grasp. “Pity; if I had more time, I’d make you suffer even more,” Amarth shrugged and drove the blade into her flesh, almost to the hilt. Mornië gasped. It felt like a fire had been lit in her middle. Nothing he had done so far had caused this much pain. He let go of the knife and watched with a satisfied glint in his eye as she sank slowly to the ground.
“No!!!” Athrun’s cry rang out above her own agonized cry. He lunged wildly at Amarth.
The elf barely had enough to doge the fatal blow. He backed away from Athrun when he saw the crazed anger in his eyes. Feeling for a dagger, he continued to retreat slowly into the trees.
Athrun advanced. Anger unlike anything he had ever felt burned through him. He now understood what ‘seeing red’ meant. Amarth, not looking where he was going, backed into a tree and froze. Athrun, seeing his chance, lunged once more. His sword sinking into Amarth’s left shoulder, pinning him to the tree. He wrenched the sword out. Leaving a jagged cut behind.
Amarth fell forward into the dirt as the light faded from his eyes. Blood pooled around him, pouring profusely from the shoulder wound.
Athrun kicked the elf viciously, sending him tumbling down a short embankment, stopping just a few yards from the sheer drop off on the side of the mountain. Athrun advanced down the slop towards him as Amarth managed to rise to his feet, searching for a weapon. The realization that he had none came quickly, and he backed away from the raging elf before him.
Amarth scrambled back, teetering on the edge of the drop off. He glanced over his shoulder at the raging water below, and then back at Athrun.
Athrun raised his sword to strike again as Amarth lost his balance and started to fall. The elf’s strike was cut short by a mental cry; “Mornië!” His sword grazed Amarth’s shoulder as the elf tumbled back with a cry into the empty air, grabbing at nothing but rain and air. Athrun watched as the body struck the rocks, and disappeared beneath the waters. “Define irony,” he muttered, throwing down his sword.
Athrun turned and ran back up the embankment. Dashing through the trees, he dropped to his knees beside Mornië. Much to his relief, she was still breathing but just barely. She opened her eyes when put a trembling hand to her cheek. “Stay with me, please.” she whispered.
“I will. I will,” Athrun murmured frantically, tearing off his tunic and pressing the material against the wound. Mornië’s skin was pale and ashen, her lips beginning to turn an ugly shade of blue.
“Don’t leave me!” he practically yelled in desperation, cradling her limp form to himself. Her blood mingled with the rain on the ground, staining it a crimson red. Athrun’s tears fell on her face, undistinguishable from the rain.
His hand rested on the hilt of the blade still embedded deeply in her stomach. Mornië’s weak hand brushed against his, and he took it, squeezing it. “Athrun… I…” Her breathing was ragged and laboured as she gasped for each pained breath.
“Don’t talk,” he tried to hush her.
Shaking her head in weak protest, Mornië was determined to tell him. “I… love you.” she murmured just before her eyes closed and she went completely limp in his arms.
“No… NO!!! You can’t die on me Mornië!” Tears flowed unchecked as he yelled. “Please! Please don’t go! I love you! Do you hear me?! I love you!” He clutched her limp body to his chest, sobbing. “Please…” He murmured his quiet plea desperately, pressing his lips to her forehead. Her skin was cold. “No!!!” He screamed in rage and pain, his face lifted to the cold uncaring sky.
“Lord Athrun!” The sound of familiar voices reached Athrun through the rain. He was so immersed in his own grief that he didn’t even wonder why they had followed him. A group of six elves ran into the small clearing but stopped dead when they saw their captain sitting in the mud holding a presumably dead she-elf.
One of the elves motioned for the rest of his companions to wait while he slowly advanced. Nestadbor knelt down beside Athrun. The elf didn’t even look at him. He just stared at the woman in his arms. Nestadbor thought he noticed very faint breathing. It was possible that the she-elf was not yet dead. Carefully, he pressed a finger to her throat. A very faint, sporadic pulse could be felt.
“Leave us in peace,” Athrun finally muttered, noticing the elf for the first time.
“My lord, she’s not in Mandos’ halls yet.”
“What?” Athrun looked up at him with uncomprehending eyes.
“She yet lives my lord.”