“Ariel?” Mornië stuck her head through the she-elf’s door. She had changed and was now searching for her friend to see if she couldn’t get her trousers back from whatever hostage situation the older woman had placed them in.
“You’re not getting them back.” Ariel looked up from her embroider with a smile. “Don’t even try to wheedle and cajole.”
Mornië sat down in an extra chair with a sigh. “What was wrong with my pants?!”
“They’re not lady like! You certainly don’t see any other she-elves running around Imladris wearing trousers, do you?!” she glanced up from her needlework as she reasoned.
“I suppose not…” Mornië reluctantly admitted, “But-”
“But nothing,” Ariel cut her off, “Besides; trousers do nothing in the way of attracting men.” Ariel winked at her with a little grin.
Mornië immediately thought of Athrun’s kiss and brushed one hand against her lips. The action didn’t go unnoticed by Ariel. “By the way, where is your ‘bodyguard’?”
She blushed involuntarily. “I suppose he’s probably drying off still,” she shrugged. “What happened to him, Ariel?” The question that had burning in her mind for the past few weeks rushed out before she could check it.’
“Whatever do you mean?” Ariel visibly stiffened and looked at Mornië sharply.
“You know what I’m talking about.” Mornië stood and began to pace. “Why does he throw a mask over his emotions whenever someone brings up something he doesn’t want to talk about?”
Ariel sighed. She should have known Mornië would ask eventually. “Athrun will have my head if he finds out I told you,” she warned.
“What could possibly be that bad?”
“Athrun lost someone very close to him, his betrothed. He was protecting her in a battle, but he was swept away in the fighting. When he was finally able to make it back to her hiding place, he saw her fending off an orc.” Ariel stopped. She hadn’t wanted to think about his any more than Athrun. “Athrun watched, frozen, as the orc plunged his sword into her, laughed, and ran off. I think he still hears her screams. He lost a part of him that day; nearly three ages ago in fact. A long time in the mortal eye, but I think he still remembers it like yesterday. He’s kept himself shut off from everyone for so long. Not even his friend Thalion could reach him. If you were to ask me, I would say he’s afraid of losing someone he loves again.” she studied Mornië for a minute. “Until you came along that is. I think he sees something of Airin in you, to tell you the truth.”
Mornië sank slowly back into her chair. Now that she knew, she regretted the knowledge she had asked for. She wished she could turn back time, but it was already too late for that. “I… I’m going to go to the library. I need to think.”
She rose quickly and rushed from the room, nearly knocking over a surprised Athrun in her distraction as she left. “What was that about?” he wondered, puzzled. Looking after Mornië as she disappeared down the hall, he slowly stepped into Ariel’s room. “Anything I should know about?” he questioned in bewilderment.
Ariel raised a tear-stained face to Athrun. “She knows, Athrun.” She wiped away a tear. “She asked me, and I had to tell her.”
Athrun’s face darkened in understanding. “I see,” the two simple words said all Ariel needed to know. Before she could respond, Athrun was gone.
* * * * *
Mornië practically ran through the halls. She was confused. Pushing, open the library doors, she found a pillowed niche in one of the walls and sat down, pulling her knees to her chest. Now that she knew, she didn’t want to know. She felt guilty for having asked. Something that personal should be shared by the person it concerned not someone else.
“What have I done?” she whispered to the surrounding silence.
“Mornië?” Athrun’s voice carried through the library. “Look, I know Ariel told you, and I know you’re in here.”
Mornië shrank back further into the shadows of her niche, not responding. She didn’t want to face him now; couldn’t face him now.
“I should have told you myself,” she could hear him moving around, “I just didn’t want to… well… to be honest I didn’t want to think about it.” There was long pause. “I’m sorry you had to hear it from someone else.” His last words were quiet.
She felt her heart wrench within her chest. She shouldn’t have asked to hear it. She opened her mouth to say something but closed it after a few seconds. There was nothing to say.
Athrun slumped dejectedly and rested his hand on the doorknob. “I guess… I’ll talk to you about it later then.”
Mornië let out a sigh of half relief, half sorrow, as the door shut with a nearly inaudible thump.
* * * * *
Thalion cursed. He had warned Athrun weeks ago not to get involved. Now he had gone and kissed the woman.
A small smirk crossed his face. He was almost glad Ariel had told Mornië about his sister. As painful as it was for him to remember, he hoped it would make the she-elf keep her distance from now on.
Even if his loyalties did not lie in the same place, Thalion had no wish to cause Athrun more pain. But if he had no choice, he would. He had to do it right this time. No more blunders. He would wait until it was absolutely foolproof, and then he would get back at the bloody she-elf for all the trouble and pain she had caused him. No matter what his sympathy for Athrun was, he was going to make her pay.
* * * * *
Athrun wandered aimlessly. Mornië’s reaction had taken him by surprise. What kind of reaction he had expected, he didn’t really know. He ran his hand over his face with a sigh. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. He was mostly sorry that she had heard about it from someone other than him. That fact alone was enough to make him feel heavy with guilt.
“Lord Athrun!” A young elf in a messengers livery ran up. “Lord Elrond would like to see you in the council room.”
“Is it really that urgent?” Athrun asked concerned.
The messenger nodded. “He said it was very important.”
Athrun nodded and rose to go. He would have to remember to talk to Mornië later. The short walk to the council room gave him enough time to mask his emotions. It wouldn’t do to let anyone know that he was having relationship problems.
The council room was filled with generals and other leaders of Imladris’s armed forces. “What’s going on?”
“Have a seat Lord Athrun; we’ve been awaiting you,” Lord Elrond motioned to an empty chair. “Now that we are all here, I suppose you are wondering what this is all about?” He took his seat as well.
“I have just received word from our northern scouts that there is a large contingent of orcs amassing there.” Elrond looked very worried. “The scouts believe there may be an attack pending.” Murmurs arose around the great table. Elrond cleared his throat, demanding attention again. “The reports, however dire, give me some hope. An attack so soon after the Fellowship’s departure can only mean that Sauron is still unaware that the Ringbearer is no longer here.”
Several of the generals nodded in agreement. Athrun simply sat there listening, wondering what it all had to do with him
Elrond waited for the discussion to die down again. “I have met with two of our best generals, and we have decided that we will be sending out a special force of scouts to the north to gather information on these rumours, and if necessary, to retrieve inside information as well.”
Athrun glanced over to where Thalion sat. Surely Lord Elrond would choose him to go. Athrun knew that he himself could not go because of his duties to Mornië. So why was he even here?
As if he could read his thoughts, Elrond looked directly at Athrun. “I’ve decided to put you in charge, Athrun.”
Athrun didn’t let his surprise show, but instead simply nodded. “My lord, what about the Moriquendi she-elf?”
“Thalion,” Elrond nodded to the elf, “Will take over her protective detail.” Athrun nodded. There wasn’t really anyone else he would even think about trusting with her care.
Athrun wasn’t really listening as Lord Elrond listed off the names of the other three elves to be on the scouting detail. He was too busy thinking about Mornië. How soon would he have to leave? As if sensing his question again, Elrond spoke. “You all have two hours to prepare to leave. I trust you will not need that long, but it gives you some leeway none the less.” A few last instructions were given, and the meeting was dismissed.
Athrun nodded to the other elves at the table before taking his leave. He was stopped by a hand on his arm. “Good luck, Athrun.” Thalion followed him out the door.
“Thank you.” Athrun considered his next thought carefully. “Elrond made a good decision about you replacing me; I would have made the same decision.” An odd look passed through Thalion’s eyes but Athrun ignored it. “Don’t let anything happen to her.”
Thalion didn’t respond immediately. Finally he spoke, his voice oddly strained. “I won’t. You of anyone should know that.” He smiled at his friend.
Athrun smiled before turning to walk toward the library. That was the last place he had seen Mornië; he hoped she was still there. A slight pang of disappointment hit him when he heard no sound in the large room. Entering, he glanced around at the empty chairs and tables set at intervals throughout the library.
He was about to leave when the sound of a soft whimper caught his ear. “Wha…” he quietly followed the source of the sound. Much to his surprise, he found Mornië curled up in an alcove. There was a fearful expression on her sleeping face. He felt a slight pang when she whimpered again and shifted slightly. He hesitated, unsure of what to do, and unsure of how she would react if he woke her.
She murmured something quietly, catching Athrun’s attention. She was talking in her sleep? He bent down next to her, carefully slipping one arm under her neck and shoulders.
“… powder… Amarth…” his ears barely caught the words.
“What is she talking about?” He felt her suddenly go rigid against him, crying out slightly. “Shh!” He wasn’t sure if she could hear him. He ran his fingers along the curve of her brow, brushing back the tendrils of hair that fell in her face. He could feel her slowly relaxing again. His fingers traced the contour of her jaw gently, almost reverently.
Mornië’s eyelids fluttered slightly. Half-opening, the dark-brown depths focused. She smiled and opened her mouth as if to say something, but sleep overcame her again.
Athrun slowly, gently, scooped her up in his arms, cradling her head to his chest. She still felt so thin and fragile. She never acted like it though. He felt a sudden un-quelled urge to protect her well up inside of him and loathed the thought of leaving her in Rivendell. He had no choice, thought, except to serve his people through his duties to Lord Elrond, first and foremost. Still, he would more than willingly lay down his life if it meant protecting the fragile flower he held in his arms.
“At least I know Thalion will protect her. I can hold him to that.” The thought helped put his mind to rest.
* * * * *
Mornië rolled over in her bed and opened her eyes. It took her a moment to recognize the familiar surroundings of her room. She sat up, confused. She didn’t remember falling asleep in her bed; the last place she remembered was the library. A stab of guilt ran through her. Athrun must have come back and carried her. She had thought she was dreaming but obviously not.
The crinkle of paper made her look down at her hand. Folded delicately and resting lightly in her hand was a red, paper flower. She picked it up and looked at it for several minutes, smiling. “I need to talk to him,” she thought, pushing the blanket away and slipping out of the bed.
She swung her feet to the floor, feeling for the shoes she knew were there, and then reached for the burning candle. Her hand brushed against the stand, and wandered down the two objects that had captured her gaze. Picking them up, she turned them over in her hands. “These are… Athrun’s knives!” She looked back down at a scrap of parchment that had been placed beneath the two sheathed blades.
Carefully unfolding the paper, Mornië read slowly Athrun’s clear, steady handwriting. It consisted of a few short lines. Mornië, I have been sent to scout in the northern regions. Thalion has been asked to fill my place for the time being. The daggers are for your protection; keep them close until I return. Love, Athrun
Mornië folded set the paper back down slowly. Maybe he hadn’t left yet! She tucked the daggers inside the bodice of her dress and ran from the room as quickly as her skirts would allow her. He couldn’t be gone yet!
“Mornië!” A large, black shape moved toward her from the left. She whirled brandishing one of the daggers, already thanking Athrun for leaving them with her.
“Easy!” Thalion raised his hands in mock surrender, “It’s just me.”
“Thalion!” Mornië, for once, didn’t care that it was him. “Has Athrun already left?! Please tell me he’s still here!”
Thalion frowned. “I’m afraid he left nearly two hours ago.”
She felt as if everything had drained from her. Athrun had done everything that he had been commanded and more, and, the one time he asked for understanding, she had remained silent. “Thank you,” she said almost inaudibly, moving past Thalion in the direction of her room.
“Wait.” Thalion stepped back in front of her.
“What is it?” she asked, not caring in the least.
“Athrun asked me to show you something when you woke up.” Thalion had a pleading look on his face. “If you feel up to it now, I’ll take you there.”
Mornië considered for a moment. Perhaps she could trust Thalion…
“Okay,” she surrendered, turning to follow him.
His face lit up in a huge grin. “This way.” Thalion laughed inside. He had never imagined it would be so easy. He mentally thanked Lord Elrond for sending Athrun away. He couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity if he had planned it this way himself. Of course, a good word put into Lord Elrond’s ear earlier in the day, after the scouts reports had arrived, had helped in the Elf-lord’s decision.
The two walked in silence for several minutes, the only sound the occasional trickle of water reaching them from the water fall and the sound of their own footfalls, which were nearly silent. Mornië didn’t recognize the halls and passages that Thalion was taking; Athrun had never taken her into this part of the city before.
“Where are we going?” He voices sounded small against the cold stone.
“Athrun made me promise to keep it a secret until we arrived.” Thalion shrugged and kept moving. Pools of moonlight lit their path. The night sky was filled with stars as if someone had taken silver dust and flung it over a black blanket.
Mornië followed Thalion in growing discomfort. She didn’t like the feeling of being alone with him. “Are we almost there?”
“Almost.” Thalion’s voice was even. “Here it is,” Thalion finally stopped in front of a dark, vine covered, doorway.
“In there?” Mornië asked uncertainly, peering into the darkness.
“Mhm.” He nodded. “Go ahead!” He grinned from ear to ear. Mornië still wasn’t certain. She took a tentative step forward into the gloom. Warning flags went up in her mind. Too late. White stars danced before her eyes as her mind exploded into pain. And then she knew nothing.
* * * * *
Athrun guided Huisuume over the rough rocks that littered most of the path toward the northern border of the valley. During the entire trip, he had been distracted and edgy. Something his men were not used to from him.
His thoughts were consumed with Mornië. Shaking his head, he chided himself mentally. He was acting like a love-sick little boy pining after his first crush.
He could tell that he would have to leave Huisuume pretty soon. The trees were growing too close together, and the terrain more treacherous. The last thing he wanted was to end up with a horse with a broken leg. The four scouts had split up not more than thirty minutes ago, each taking a different path through the mountain side.
A low rumble of thunder did nothing to improve his mood. Rain would wash away any of the tracks left by the orcs. The only benefit it would provide was a scent mask. The first splattering drops pattered on the leafy coverage before dripping down to the ground. Athrun huddled under a cloak he had brought just in case. The coming spring had forced him to be aware of the weather.
Before long he was forced to dismount Huisuume, leaving the horse to find his own way back. Athrun couldn’t afford to have any accidents with him or his horse. The combination of the terrain and the rain weren’t the best for a horse. He pulled his cloak closer, moving onwards through the trees.
He had met the scouts who had warned Lord Elrond the day before. Not only were their reports accurate, the situation had worsened in the time it had taken them to arrive. Several hundred orcs, bloodthirsty and impatient, had amassed a few miles away from the border. Athrun had immediately sent word back to Lord Elrond to send a large force up the mountain. Now he and his small detail were simply combing the mountain side, looking for anything that could prove to be promising in the way of information.
The sound of voices drifted through the trees and the smell of a recently doused camp fire brought Athrun’s attention back to the task at hand. He knew whoever was up ahead was not one of his scouts, and there was no other reason for a fire to have been lit in this area. His suspicious grew by the minute. Creeping closer, he listened.
“What I wouldn’t give to be out of this bloody rain!” a irritated voice snarled.
“We won’t have to be here much longer. As soon as the girl is dead, and the attack is over we can leave.” A calmer, more cool-headed voice answered.
Athrun crept closer, blending himself into the bows of a tree and positioning himself so that he could see the sources of the voices. “Moriquendi!” The fact that he recognized them as such surprised him, and he found his thoughts flying back to Mornië’s again. Could this have been where she came from? Who was this girl they were trying to kill?
“Very clever of her you know; faking amnesia. It’s the perfect cover for someone who wants protection and also doesn’t want to get caught.” Athrun stiffened. They couldn’t be talking about… no.
“Yeah, but you’d think the elves of Imladris would be a little smarter than to fall for a trick like that?” a voice Athrun hadn’t heard before spoke.
“You have much to learn,” Athrun matched the calm and collected voice to the confident, cruel-faced elf reclining in the midst of the company.
“Dûriel, or as she calls herself, ‘Mornië’, is a very clever and skilful actor. She fooled even me once.”
“No!” Athrun couldn’t think straight. What was happening here?!
The third voice, belonging to a younger elf with a scar across his face broke in again. “From what I hear, she has some elf down there wrapped around her little finger.”
Athrun felt as though someone had stabbed a knife through his chest and twisted it. “No! It’s can’t be true! It isn’t possible…” He tried to keep his breathing steady so he would not be heard.
The irritated voice, now personified by a she-elf who looked like she could boil water with one glance, returned. “Amarth, you shouldn’t have alienated her. She was our best fighter, and you know it.”
“Amarth…” The name echoed through Athrun’s mind. That was the name that Mornië had murmured in her sleep… So she had remembered. She had lied. It had all be a lie. Athrun gritted his teeth in pain and rage.
It took all of the control he had left to move quietly away from the makeshift camp the enemy had erected. When he was out of hearing range, he ran for his horse. Huisuume would wait for a few hours before wandering off. That much of the horses training had stuck. He found the animal in a nearby clearing, nose deep in the grass. Launching himself onto Huisuume’s back, he retraced his footsteps as quickly as was safely possible
He needed to get back to Imladris. He had let the Moriquendi she-elf make a fool of him; she had used him, pretended to need him. He had even kissed her. Athrun blocked away the thought. Mornië… no… ‘Dûriel’ was a spy and an imposter. It was his duty to bring her to justice. He couldn’t let personal feelings get in the way.