Thalion slung Mornië’s limp form over the horse he had waiting nearby. She had played directly into his hands. All he had to do now was deliver her head to Amarth, and he would be finished.
But still… He studied her unconscious body while fingering the knives he had taken off of her. It would still be so much more satisfying to personally make her pay for all the trouble she put him through. Amarth wouldn’t care either way. Thalion mounted his own horse, while leading the other, and set off down a narrow hidden path up the side of the mountain.
If he timed things correctly, he would be back in Imladris before Athrun even began the return journey. His simple story of how Mornië had disappeared in the middle of the night would hardly be seen as unbelievable after everything that had been happening around Rivendell in the past few weeks.
* * * * *
Mornië fought her way to the surface of sleep. Her head pounded worse that it had when she had first awaken in Imladris. Unlike then, she remembered everything that had happened since her accident in the river.
“Where am I?” she muttered aloud, not trying to sit up.
“Take a wild guess.” She stiffened at the sound of Thalion’s voice.
Not deigning to respond, she assessed her physical condition. Her hands and feet were tied. This realization didn’t come as much of a shock as it should have. Turning her head carefully, Mornië glared at Thalion. “I don’t know how you hid your treachery from Athrun for this long.” She felt an odd sort of anger well up inside her. It felt familiar, like something from a past life.
Thalion snorted. “Airin was my sister, and Athrun and I grew up together. It wasn’t very hard.”
“You use the memory of your sister to justify what you’re doing?” The she-elf fumed.
“Who said that?” Thalion defended himself. “All I said was that it wasn’t very hard to deceive the elves of Imladris.” He leaned forward so that he could see straight into her eyes. “To tell you the truth, I don’t want to cause Athrun any more pain than he has already suffered. But you…” He studied the blade in his hand, “But you I would very much like to see suffer, a great deal of pain.” His last words practically turned into a snarl.
Mornië had never seen such hate in anyone’s eyes. “Amarth won’t mind if you come back to him a little worse for wear.”
“Who’s Amarth? What does he have to do with me?”
Thalion gave her a look that clearly said he didn’t believe her. “You know very well who he is. Cut the amnesia act. It doesn’t work on me.”
Mornië practically growled in frustration. “I don’t understand anyone around here! I know nothing about this Amarth, nothing about the Moriquendi, and nothing about some fake amnesia act! Why do you people want me dead so badly?!”
“You pose a threat. A very dangerous threat to some.” Thalion began sharpening the blade on his dagger to a deadly edge. “To Athrun you were simply a pleasant distraction.”
Mornië fought the urge to spit in Thalion’s face. Lapsing into angry silence, the she-elf tried to focus on how she was going to escape. Her mind, however, insisted on going back to what Thalion had said. She couldn’t believe she was just a distraction to Athrun. But then… he hadn’t even willingly shared his past with her. He only talked about it to her because Ariel told her first. Mornië fought back the pain and fear that threatened to overwhelm her.
She had to stay calm. She had to escape. “Athrun will come for me,” she murmured.
“My dear,” Thalion’s voice sent a sliver of fear through her, “Athrun will think you have betrayed him. And even if he did come, you will be long dead before he gets here.” The razor age of the blade glinted in the moonlight.
* * * * *
Thalion kicked Mornië once more for good measure. All the frustration and anger he had harboured against her was finally being let out. Once he was sure she was unconscious, he threw her roughly over the back of the horse and began leading it farther up the mountain. He knew it was unwise to stay in one place for very long, and he had kept her at the first site for a day or so. There was a cave a few miles away that would suit his purposes perfectly.
Amarth was more than welcome to what was left of her once he was done. Thalion led the horse up the slope of the mountain at a steady pace, walking on foot himself as it was easier to be sure no one was around. Horses were disgusting noisy creatures in his opinion, but they were still necessary from time to time.
Thalion mumbled to himself as he walked. He could’ve left the horse below if Mornië had been conscious. She could’ve walked on her own. She was already causing him trouble again. Thankfully, the walk wasn’t to far. Still mumbling ill-temperedly, Thalion tossed Mornië’s limp form to the hard, rocky floor of the cave, going back out to hobble and tether the horse.
Mornië stifled a groan of pain. She was going to make Thalion pay for all he had done to her. She had been conscious for half of the trip up the mountain. The fool had been stupid enough to leave her hands and feet untied.
Moving silently, she picked up a pointed rock that fit comfortably in her clenched fist. Thalion was still occupied with the horse when she crept up behind him. She purposely scuffed one foot against the ground, making him turn around to see what had made the noise. She swung her clenched first still holding the rock into the side of his head. Not checking to see whether or not she had killed him, she dropped the bloody rock and wiped her hand off on his tunic.
* * * * *
Athrun dismounted Huisuume almost before the animal even stopped completely. “Quesse!” Athrun handed the reins of his horse to a stable boy and dashed up the carved marble steps. “Quesse, where is Lord Thalion and Mornië?”
Quesse shrugged. “You’re asking the same question everyone else is.” She regarded him coolly. “No one has seen either of them for about a day and a half.”
Athrun cursed, to Quesse’s surprise. “Is something the matter Lord Athrun?”
“Yes… well… no. No, nothing is the matter.” He moved past the startled elf, his long strides carrying him through the halls quickly. He didn’t want Lord Elrond to know about his discovery just yet. True, he could get into serious trouble for withholding information, but it couldn’t be seen as withholding information if Elrond didn’t even know he was there yet.
He barged into the store room, glad to find it was empty. He would need weapons and fresh supplies. He would go after them. He only prayed to the Valar that Thalion was alright. If he wasn’t he would never forgive himself. He had let his personal feelings get in the way of his judgement.
* * * * *
Thalion slowly put a hand to his head when he woke. He was lieing on the ground with one of his horses standing over him. He pulled his hand away and found his fingertips covered in blood. “Bloody Moriquendi!” he hissed as he struggled to rise to his feet. He wasn’t exactly sure what Mornië had done to him. Unsteady on his feet, he leaned against the horses shoulder for support. The forest around him danced and spun before his eyes.
“She must not escape!” Thalion attempted to get his thoughts into some semblance of order. If Dûriel got away, it was likely that both Amarth and the elves of Rivendell would have his head.
* * * * *
Mornië followed the path back down the mountain as quickly as she could. Thalion had done his work well. Every step was painful. Her only hope was that she had hit him hard enough to keep him out for several hours. Every silent footfall was painful. The rocks cut her bare feet adding to her extreme discomfort. What seemed like days later, she saw thought she saw the door Thalion had led her to before he had knocked her out.
If it was, she would be able to find her way back. She would be able to get help. She ducked through the door. Yes, she knew where she was now. Thalion had not been able to lose her through all the turns he had taken before. She stumbled down the hall, tripping on the remnants of what had been her dress. It hung in muddy tatters, stained with dirt and blood; most of it her own.
Footsteps sounded down the long marble hall, echoing and carrying down the stone expanse. Her first instinct was to call out, but a sixth sense in the back of her mind prompted her to duck into an empty room out of sight, waiting for the footsteps to pass. Hazarding a glance into the hall, Mornië cautiously stuck her head out. “Ariel,” she gasped in relief and pain.
“Mornië?” Ariel began walking toward her but Mornië disappeared.
“No, don’t come in here. Go back to your room, I’ll meet you there.”
The other she-elf nodded, not really understanding. There was something in Mornië’s voice, though. Something that said there all was not right. Mornië waited for Ariel’s footsteps to fade away. A few minutes later, she stepped out into the moon-lit hallway. She made sure her feet did not leave a blood trail by wrapping them in scraps torn from the bottom of her dress before following her friend.
“Whatever has happened child?!” Ariel pulled her into the room and shut the door.
“Water, Ariel, water.” Mornië’s throat was dry, and the taste of blood lingered in her mouth.
Ariel pushed the younger she-elf gently into a chair and filled a glass with water from a pitcher she always had sitting on her bedside table. The candle-light cast it’s golden glow over Mornië’s bruised face as she leaned her head back against the chair’s headrest.
“Ariel, you must not tell anyone that I am here,” she managed at last.
“Why child? Tell me what has happened!”
Mornië shook her head. “I can’t tell you, not yet anyway.” She ran a hand through her grimy hair. “Just don’t tell anyone I”m here. That’s all I ask.”
“Mornië, if you’re in some kind of trouble, I must know,” Ariel was concerned, “No one has heard or seen you or Thalion for over a day!”
Mornië paled slightly at the mention of Thalion’s name. “He’s not here is he?” She stiffened and stood. Limping to the door, she locked it.
“What has he done? Did he do this to you?”
Mornië leaned heavily against the closed door. Her body felt ready to give in. “Anything I tell you could put you in danger, Ariel. Please, it is for your own sake i don’t tell you. I just ask that you trust me… just trust me…” Mornië slumped slowly to the floor, slipping in and out of awareness.
“Oh Valar, child!” Ariel managed to push and pull the she-elf to the bed before she totally lost conciousness again. She would do what she could for her. She only hoped that Mornië knew what she was doing.
* * * * *
Athrun road Huisuume back and forth through the mountains that surrounded the valley of Imladris. His search for Thalion had proved fruitless so far. He worried that he might be too late. The path, if it could be called that, led him high into the range. How close he was to the southern border, he wasn’t sure.
Athrun continued on his chosen track for several more hours, before coming upon anything. The sound of faint hoof beats reached his ears, carried on the wind. Turning in their direction, he readied his sword. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but what he found made his heart sink.
“Thalion!” he dismounted, running to his friend’s mount. Thalion lay slumped over in the saddle, his bloodied hands clinging to the horse’s tangled main. “Thalion!” he caught the reins and stopped the horse, disentangling his friend from the saddle. Thalion looked like he was barely conscious. Small cuts covered his hands, and he was bleeding from a head wound. Athrun managed to lower Thalion to the ground. “Can you hear me?”
Had Mornië… no… Dûriel done this? “Thalion, answer me!” he felt for his pulse, finding it much to his relief.
“Who Thalion?!” Rage seethed in Athrun’s veins at the person who had done this. They would surely pay.
Thalion finally spoke, his voice weak. “Mornië… it was…. it was Mornië.” Thalion closed his eyes again. “Be… be careful of her Athrun… I think she… that she plans to… plans to kill you..” Thalion’s voice trailed off as he fell back into unconsciousness. Athrun’s blood ran cold.
As gently as he could, Athrun lifted Thalion back up onto his horse. With some rope he found tied to the horses saddle, he made sure his friend wouldn’t be falling out of the saddle. Mounting Huisuume, he fumed all the way back down the mountain.
“I’ll kill her for this, he could never remember feeling so angry. Not even after Airin had died. “She fooled me.” the realization was still sinking in. The thread of hope he had been holding onto was now severed completely. “Never again,” he muttered to himself. “No one will ever get that close again.”
Thalion, faking his unconsciousness, smiled as he listened. Everything he had worked for was coming about. All he had to do now was wait for Mornië to show her face. He wouldn’t have to worry about killing her. Athrun would do it for him.
* * * * *
Ariel gently bathed the dirt and blood away from the cuts and gashes on Mornië’s head and face. It was a shame; some of them were bound to leave scars. But what she was more worried about was how she had received them. There was still no sign of Thalion, and rumour had reached her that Athrun was back in the city, but had then run off again. The studied the unconscious she-elf in the bed.
She had said not to tell anyone, but surely she didn’t mean Athrun as well. After all, he was her sworn protector. “No,” she reminded herself, “She said not to tell anyone. That means not even Athrun.”
Ariel continued sponging the blood away. The once pail skin of the she-elf was now spotted with purple and blue splotches. How Mornië had sustained such a beating, she would never know. “Just through the night and morning. It’s early afternoon now.”
Mornië moaned. “I feel like I got tossed off a cliff and trampled by a herd of stampeding horses.”
“You look like it too,” Ariel added dryly. She didn’t bother asking her again what had happened. “If you think you can stand to move, there’s a bath waiting for you in the next room. It should still be warm now.”
“No one knows I’m here right?”
“I haven’t told a soul,” Ariel helped Mornië sit up and slowly, painfully make her way the short distance to the tub.
The water was pleasantly warm. “I should be dead, shouldn’t I?” Mornië carefully washed the dirt and blood from her body.
“All I can say is you’ve certainly surprised me with your resilience my dear.” Ariel could now see the full extent of her wounds, and it shocked her that the she-elf could even begin to move. Her entire body seemed to be black and blue with bruises and welts, and several wounds were swollen and red. She shook her head in wonderment. “You never cease to amaze me child.”
“It brought something back,” Mornië said after a moment. “A small insignificant thing.”
Ariel looked at her strangely. “What is that?”
“One small memory that doesn’t do me any good. I’m sitting in a woman’s lap, and she’s rubbing some kind of ointment on my arm. I think it’s my mother,” a far away look entered Mornië’s eyes. “She called me a ‘concrete angel’.”
Ariel didn’t know what to make of it. “Well,” she said at last, “At least you’re remembering something.”
Mornië didn’t say anything, but instead extracted a small crumpled piece of paper from the remnants of her dress that lay on the floor.
Mornië stared at it sadly. “A lost dream,” she murmured, setting it back down so that Ariel could see it; a paper flower.
“Oh.” Ariel could think of nothing else to say. Turning away, she grabbed a blanket and held it out to the she-elf. “I’ll go find some clothes for you.”
Mornië carefully climbed out of the tub and wrapped herself in the blanket. Limping across the floor, half leaning against the wall, she sank weakly into a chair. She needed to know the truth. The truth about everything; about herself, her past, about Athrun and Airin, and about this Amarth character. She was tired of playing a game she knew nothing about. It was like trying to find one’s way out of a labyrinth blindfolded and with her hands tied; impossible.
Ariel returned a few minutes later with an armful of black and grey cloth. “I… um… brought pants. I thought it would help hide everything better than a dress would.”
Mornië nodded her thanks and accepted the clothes, wincing as she did. Ariel left the room so that she could get dressed by herself. On top of the pile was a black veil. Brushing it aside, she put on the rest of the clothing before looking at it again. She hadn’t had the chance to see herself in a mirror, and she didn’t want to. The veil, as much as she despised having to wear it, would be useful for when she confronted Athrun.
It surprised her that she already planned on confronting him. What Thalion had said, about her being just a pleasant distraction to Athrun, had cut her to the core. Was any of what he had said true? He had said that Athrun would think she had betrayed him. How could he know all this for certain?
Ariel knocked softly before re-entering. “You don’t have to stay,” Mornië stared at the floor as she spoke.
Ariel put a hand to her mouth. “Nothing will ever be the same, will it?” she asked finally. “What has he done to you?” The last question came out unexpectedly. She regretted having voiced it again.
* * * * *
The heavy rain clouds that had hung ominously in the sky during the day finally gave way with the coming of night. Thunder and lighting lit up the dark rain soaked night occasionally, giving anyone around a quick glimpse of the world around them, illuminated for a split second of blinding white light. The dampness seemed to have latched onto everyone’s souls as well; especially Lord Athrun. He stood in the dark shelter of an empty pavilion in a side courtyard, his troubled steel blue eyes probing the night, searching for answers…
He had gotten Thalion back to the city late that afternoon, and he had immediately been rushed away by the healers. The rage and stinging sense of betrayal he felt towards Dûriel had only continued to grow inside of him, festering like a wound that refused to close or heal.
He whirled. A flash of lighting illuminated the world for a single heart beat. A veil covered her face, but he knew it was her. The rage that had boiled inside him bubbled to the surface. Snarling, he took a step toward her.
“Athrun please!” Mornië flinched and stepped away from him. Her reaction caused him to stop for a moment. Her being afraid of anything wasn’t something he would ever have expected. “Please let me explain! I don’t know what he told you…”
Athrun didn’t hear any more. “Don’t listen to her! She’ll tell you naught but lies!” He cut her off. “Enough! Enough lies; Mornië! Or is it Dûriel?!!” He spat the last words bitterly, as if the very sound of them was poison.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, or who ‘Dûriel’ is!” Mornië cried in confusion.
“No more lies!!” Athrun cursed and lashed out at her in rage, the back of his hand catching her across the face, causing her to stumble and fall. Lightning illuminated the empty courtyard again, sparks seeming to catch and light up his icy cold eyes. Her silence further infuriated him. How long would she keep up this act?!? “The game is over Dûriel! I know all about you!” She still didn’t move. He grabbed her arm and wrenched her up in a sharp motion, causing her to cry out in pain.
“Don’t! Please don’t!” she tried to twist away when he reached for the veil.
Ignoring her, he ripped the thin material away. Another bolt of lightning lit the sky. Athrun froze. Her tear-streaked face was bruised. Not just the one from where he had hit her, but many.
‘She fooled even me once before,’ Amarth’s words echoed in his head. “It’s another one of her tricks,” His anger pushed him beyond reasoning.
He grabbed her jaw with his left hand, forcing her to look up at him. “Why?! Why did you do it?!” his eyes pierced through her unmercifully. “I already have my suspicions, but i want to hear it from you!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know what anyone is talking about!” Mornië insisted, fiercely fighting back tears of pain. She saw her fate in his eyes. A murderous hate burned deep in the blue depths. Steeling herself slightly, she met his gaze. “If you really believe what you’ve just said, end it now. I don’t want to live if I’m really that evil.”
Lightning flashed again, followed by the low rumble of thunder. Athrun didn’t move for several moments. Mornië met his gaze and held it. She could see the conflict going on in his mind. Finally, with a snarl, he shoved her away from him roughly with a strangled curse. Mornië’s body screamed in protest to the rough treatment, but she didn’t try to move. Athrun paced away from her, his shoulders tense, his fist clenching and unclenching.
“Get out of here.” The cold words stung, but she knew he was giving her a final chance.
* * * * *
Staring out into the rain, Athrun saw without seeing. Blind rage at his inability to do as he had sworn he would coursed through him. Time passed slowly. Hearing no sound behind him, he turned. There was no sign of her. Athrun didn’t know if he should feel relieved or not. A slight movement on the floor caught his eye.
A cool breeze had blow through the pavilion, catching a loose edge of the veil he had ripped away from Mornië. His breath caught in his throat. Resting on top was a pair of daggers and a paper flower.