The steady “drip drip drip” of the left over rain from the night before served as a reminder of the furious storm that had passed through, as did the damage it left behind. Mornië stared out he window. The bleak landscape matching her mood. Of all the injuries she sustained, the one that pained her the most was Athrun’s single strike. Not only had it hurt physically, it had crushed her emotionally.
She felt hopelessly confused; thoughts and questions turned over and over in her mind, none of which did she have answers to. Mornië rubbed her jaw where Athrun’s fingers had left their marks, as if trying to erase the memory of what had happened last night. He hated her. She had seen it in his eyes; the unchecked murderous rage. At what, she still couldn’t figure. The pieces of the puzzle that had been her life just wouldn’t fit.
* * * * *
“Have you seen her?” Thalion leaned carelessly against a wall in the stables. The healers were amazed at his quick recovery. It had only taken a few days for him to get out of bed and begin walking around.
Athrun’s jaw tightened. “No.”
Thalion nodded but knew his friend was lieing. Not only did his reaction to the subject of Mornië give him away, he was carrying the very same daggers that Mornië had reclaimed when she had escaped from him.
“I still can’t help but feel this is all my fault,” Athrun muttered apologetically as he ran the curry comb through Huisuume’s coat again.
“Stop beating yourself up over it Athrun. I’m fine now!”
Athrun didn’t even glance at his friend, but stared stonily out towards the courtyard. “I should have killed her when I had the chance.”
“I thought you said you hadn’t seen her?” Thalion commented dryly.
Athrun didn’t reply, but his jaw jumped at he clenched it in pent up anger and frustration.
Thalion read his silence as affirmation. “What happened?”
“Nothing,” Athrun brushed Huisuume’s coat with a vengeance. The horse, unaware of the turmoil going on around him, leaned into the brush. “I saw her the night I brought you back.” He finally broke the silence.
Thalion looked at him with surprise. This was news to him. “What happened?”
“She tried to feed me more lies. I hit her, turned away for a few seconds, and she was gone.” Athrun dropped his grooming supplies in a nearby bucket and stalked out of the stall.
Thalion had gotten used to Athrun’s short clipped manner of speaking over the past week or so since Mornië had disappeared. In a way he was back to his old self. Thalion cursed silently. He had hoped Athrun would do his job for him. Had been almost certain the elf’s rage would overcome the brief emotional connection he had experienced.
“Obviously he’s weaker than you thought,” the little voice in his head taunted. “The witch still has him wrapped around her finger.”
“So what are you going to do about it?” Thalion asked casually.
Athrun gave him a look that would have had anyone else quaking in their shoes, but Thalion was undaunted. He knew his friend too well. Athrun looked away. “I’ll kill her.”
“What?” Thalion wasn’t sure if he had heard him right. “If I meet her again, I said I’ll kill her.”
* * * * *
Mornië listened from a dark corner in a stall across the walkway and a few doors down from Huisuume’s. It was an empty on so no one would have reason to come in. She had followed Athrun around the city for about two weeks, and the elf she had gotten to know was gone. The stranger that now inhabited his body frightened her. Even when she had first met him, he hadn’t been this cold, this heartless.
She adjusted her hood and veil a little. She was glad that both were more common in Rivendell during these darkening days, as it gave her a cover for when she moved around within the city. However, she spent most of her time outside of the city, partially for fear of being caught if she stayed too long. She had discovered an entire network of empty and abandoned tunnels leading from the city to the mountains and had since learned them all like the back of her hand.
It amazed her at times that neither of the men who’s footsteps she haunted never noticed her. At times she felt like a hunter, except it wasn’t her intention to kill. She was merely trying to find out what had happened. What lies Thalion had fed to Athrun.
She didn’t remember being taught to walk silently. Didn’t remember learning to blend with shadows. It came naturally, or so it seemed. There were many things that she never remembered learning, but came to her easily. It was like something from a dream.
Mornië crouched beneath the ledge of the stall silently, gathering her cloak closer to her body as she listened to the stable boy passing by oblivious to her presence. In a single fluid motion, she pulled herself up over the edge of the stall, and swung silently up into the rafters above the stable boy, slipping out of a window at the end of the eves. The boy never heard a thing.
She stopped directly over their heads, hidden in the shadows of the roofs support beams. Kneeling on one knee, she listened. “If I meet her again, I said I’ll kill her.”
Mornië’s face remained stony. She had ceased to feel anything. Not even the pain the last of her injuries gave her. Ariel believed her heart had become a block of ice. But under the veneer, Mornië knew that no matter what he thought she had done, she couldn’t change her feelings for him. She could live without him, but she wouldn’t want to.
* * * * *
Elrond stood, troubled, under the stone arch of the window, watching the two elven warriors as they walked.
“I amar prestar aen… han mathon ne nen, han mathon ne chae a han noston ned ‘wilith.” Galadriel’s voice entered his mind. The power of the enemy is growing. Sauron will use his puppet Saruman to destroy the people of Rohan. Isengard has been unleashed. The eye of Sauron now turns to Gondor, the last free kingdom of men. His war on this country will come swiftly. He senses the Ring is close. The strength of the Ringbearer is failing. In his heart, Frodo begins to understand. The quest will claim his life. You know this. You have foreseen it. It is the risk we all took.
Elrond stepped away from the window, crossing the distance across the room slowly.
Galadriel continued. In the gathering dark, the will of the Ring grows strong. It works hard now to find its way back into the hands of men. Men, who are so easily seduced by its power. The young captain of Gondor has but to extend his hands, take the Ring for his own and the world will fall. It is close now, so close to achieving its goal. For Sauron will have dominion of all life on this Earth, even unto the ending of the world. The time of the Elves is over. Do we leave Middle-earth to its fate? Do we let them stand alone?”
Elrond gazed up at the painting of Isildur, facing the impossible enemy Sauron. No, they would not stand alone.
* * * * *
Amarth scanned the scanned the crowd of elves. Once again, Thalion had failed to kill Dûriel, so he was taking matters in to his own hands. The small group of she-elves in the company had long since lost his interest. His target was not among them. He was looking for someone in disguise.
It was only natural that Dûriel would try to follow with the elvish company; it was an opportunity for her to escape from his watchful eye unnoticed. He knew she would never travel openly with them, especially since the incident Thalion had informed him of; no, she was too smart for that. She would be in disguise. The trick was seeing through her disguise.
The armour he wore allowed him to blend in with the rest of the warriors. He felt no regret for the young elf now lying dead in the woods. Amarth had made no effort to hide the body, but they would be long gone before anyone found it.
He scanned the faces of the soldiers, searching for one that looked familiar. He assumed she would be near Athrun, the elf that she seemed to be so enamoured with. Much to his surprise, she wasn’t there.
* * * * *
Mornië surveyed the hectic yet organized activity going on around her. With much wheedling and cajoling, she had managed to convince Ariel to procure the proper arms and armour that would allow her to travel in disguise with the elven forces travelling to Helm’s Deep. She had even had her hair cut to a more masculine length.
Today, the morning of their departure, was the first time she had mingled with so many of the people of Imladris at one time. Women said their last tearful goodbyes to husbands, fathers, brothers, and lovers. She hung back, blending into the mix of elves. She had no one to bid farewell. She observed the mannerisms of the male elves around her, being sure to remember them so that she could call upon them in the future during this charade.
A command was given and the elves fell into formation; Mornië found a place near the back. They were travelling light. All she had with her was her bow, quiver full of arrows, and a very small pack containing dried fruit and an odd type of bread.
She wasn’t accustom to marching in a formation, or to any of the manoeuvres that the elven soldiers were trained in, but any mistakes she made, she quickly covered up. She would learn quickly. It didn’t take her long to locate Athrun near the front of the column, accompanied by Thalion.
* * * * *
Mornië shook the rain out of her denched. It had rained for weeks. Only stopping once, the company had reached Lothlorien, but two days out from the elven city, the clouds had returned. Not that she minded the rain; it gave her an excuse to keep her hood up.
Though she was sufficiently disguised that none of the other elves would recognize her, she was still wary of Athrun and Thalion. Most of the time she just tried to avoid them; not an easy task when you march and camp in the same unit.
She had had a close brush with being discovered when one of the Lorien elves had, in the spirit of most warriors, challenged her to a contest. She had been able to dissuade the elf from having a knife fight. Instead, she had bested him with the bow.
Afterwards, the other elves seemingly respected her unspoken desire for solitude. She listened to their conversation in the evening; refusing to join in even when baited. Soon, she became undistinguishable from the others. She had learned to march in formation and all the other manoeuvres required in a matter of days. Now, she simply bided her time, waiting for them to reach their destination and the battle they were to fight.
Mornië found it amusing to listen to the male elves speak about matters “at home”, and, even, a few offering advice about women. She took advantage of the many mannerisms she had picked up on, using them whenever she got the chance. Not only did it help her blend with the others, but it amused her at the same time. Men were odd creatures, she decided.
* * * * *
The walls of Helm’s Deep rose from the mountainside slowly as the elves marched over the ridge opposite the Rohirrim fortress. Archers lines the Deeping wall, their bows trained on the advancing company. Someone raised a horn and blew one clear, triumphant note that resounded off the walls.
A shout arose inside the wall, and a few moments later the massive gate swung open on heavy hinges. Mornië couldn’t help but be amused by the looks and stares of awe and wonder that the elven army received as they marched with precision and unity into the stronghold, but she masked it behind a solid stony expression.
They followed the odd circling causeway up to the main courtyard. They were met by an astonished King Theo den. “How is this possible?” The question was underlain with hope.
Haldir, the elf from Lorien who had take command of the army upon their departure from the elven city of the Galadhrim, smiled. ” I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell. An alliance once existed between Elves and men. Long ago we fought and died together.” He was interrupted by Lord Aragorn and Prince Legolas practically running down the stairs. “We come to honour that allegiance.”
“Lord Aragorn?! What is he doing here?” Mornië was mystified. “I thought he had gone with the Hobbits.”
“Mae govannen, Haldir.” Aragorn hugged the elven lord. Haldir, shocked, returned the embrace lightly. “You are most welcome.” Prince Legolas clasped arms with him, a more dignified greeting in Mornië’s eyes.
Haldir returned his gaze to King Theoden. “We are proud to fight alongside men, once more.”
* * * * *
Mornië gazed out into the night across the battlements, into what should have been an absolutely dark world. Instead it was lit by thousands upon thousands of torches, all carried by the advancing Uruk-hai army. The army was massive, stretching out and covering the ground like ants. The light from the torches was so great that it was even reflected by the armour of the elves, and in the eyes of all.
She felt a strange tingling of something akin to fear tickle down her spine. It occurred to her, as it did to many, that death hung over them, and would take many of them before the sun rose again. Her thoughts were interrupted by a grumbling from somewhere below her.
“You could have picked a better spot.” Mornië realized that it was a dwarf, straining to see over the battlement. She quickly recognized him as Gimli, one of the Fellowship. Beside him stood Prince Legolas, smirking amusedly despite the situation.
Lord Aragorn approached the two, coming to stand beside them as they surveyed the swarming army below. “Well lad, whatever luck you live by, let’s hope it lasts the night.” Gimli spoke jestingly.
“Your friends are with you, Aragorn,” Legolas said assuringly.
“Let’s hope they last the night,” Gimli’s voice was less than hopeful.
Aragorn turned from the depressing sight on the field and began walking among the elven archers lined on the wall”A Eruchîn, ú-dano i faelas a hyn an uben tanatha le faelas!” (Show them no mercy! For you shall receive none!)
A loud crack of thunder ripped through the air. A few seconds later, the first cold, sputtering drops of rain bounced off helms and walls. The downpour that ensued did nothing to lift the heavy weight of impending doom. An Uruk climbed to the top of a small outcropping in the middle of the valley. He raised his scimitar over his head and roared. Saruman’s army now waited only a few yards away from the Deeping wall.
Gimli jumped up and down trying to see over the wall. “What’s happening out there.”
“Shall I describe it to you?” Legolas looked down at him grinning, “Or would you like me to find you a box? “
Mornië resisted snickering, knowing it wouldn’t be very “manly”, and certainly wasn’t appropriate for the setting.
Gimli laughed. The joke had lightened his mood considerably. The silence that followed was full of tension. Many of the Rohirrim already had their arrows notched. The wait was too much for one of them. His arrow whined through the air and struck and Uruk in the unprotected area below his throat.
Aragorn’s voice rang out. “Dartho!” The damage was already done however. The Uruk’s grew agitated. They grew agitated, baring their teeth and growling. “Tangado halad!” The elvish command was followed with military precision. The elves reached for arrows as one and notched them to their bow strings. Mornië pulled hers back to her cheek and waited for the command to fire. “Faeg i-varv dîn na lanc a nu ranc. (Their armour is weak at the neck and beneath the arms.)” Legolas issued the instructions as he took aim himself. The information was absorbed silently and put to use.
“Leithio i philinn!” The command was followed with the rushing sound of hundreds of arrows released at once. Equally as many Uruk’s fell to the ground almost instantly, dead. “Did they hit anything?!” Gimli asked anxiously. The order for a volley was given to the Rohirrim, and Mornië could hear the arrows as they whistled overhead. She was thankful that the horse men at least had a decent aim.
Ribed bant!!!” The elves behind the wall released a full volley, killing more of the Uruks on the other side of the wall.
“Send them to me! C’mon!” Gimli brandished his axe impatiently.
“Pendraith!!” Aragorn yelled the warning just as the first ladder began rising up to meet the wall.
“Good!” Gimli grinned, preparing himself to fight.
“Swords! Swords!” The elves drew their swords in unison, the light glinting off of the fine yet deadly weapons. The first ladder made contact with the wall, and the fighting broke loose.
Mornië plunged her sword into the first Uruk that topped the wall, sending the horrid creature tumbling back down. Half realizing what she was doing, she began fighting her way down the wall toward Athrun’s position. “Dûriel!” Her head spun to the left. She recognized the name and the voice, but warning bells began going off in her head. Ignoring whoever it was, she kept fighting.
“Come here, pretty one!” An enormous Uruk wrenched her helmet off from behind. She swung around and slashed at it with her sword.
* * * * *
Amarth grinned wickedly. The Uruk had confirmed for him what he had wanted to know. Dûriel or ‘Mornië’ as she was now called, had disguised herself just as he had thought. Not wanting the disgusting being to take away the glory of killing her, he threw a long knife into the back of the Uruk’s neck, killing it instantly.
The she-elf whirled away from the carcass and continued working her way down the wall. Amarth cursed and followed. He had to get her into the caves and through the pass on the other side of the mountain.
* * * * *
Mornië hacked her way through another Uruk before she came within sight of Athrun. He was fighting to stay alive himself.
“Togo hon dad, Legolas!” She glanced back toward Aragorn. The man was leaning over the wall and pointing at a scantily clad Uruk carrying a torch and running for the culvert. She glanced to wear the culvert opening stood and froze. Sniggering Uruk-hai carried a large, spike covered ball into the opening.
The sight made something in her mind click. All her memories came flooding back at once. Killing Amarth’s brother, and jumping off the cliff to escape her death. It all came back. Along with them came the realization that the containers were filled with a special power made by Saruman. Powder that could explode with enough force to break the wall. “Dago hon! Dago hon!” She yelled to whoever was listening.
* * * * *
Athrun whirled around at the cry. That was Mornië! He spotted her by the wall, yelling and pointing. Just then an explosion rocked the night. Rock and debris shot through the air. The bodies of orcs, elves, and men flew into the air to land scattered over the bloodied landscape.
* * * * *
Amarth took advantage of the ensuing confusion to grab Dûriel. She stiffened and swung around, expecting to see an orc. Her eyes widened when they met his. “You’re coming with me.” The sinister note in his voice and the added encouragement of a dagger silenced any protests. “Thalion is waiting for us.” Amarth pushed her through the advancing throng of elves who were running for either the gates or the now gaping hole in the Deeping Wall. Dûriel was surprisingly submissive.
He had no idea that it was because she was a mix of conflicting emotions inside. She had known about the powder but had been able to warn anyone. That was why she had been trying to get to Imladris in the first place. That was why she had killed her cousin. When Ardin had found out she spying for one of the elven lord in Rivendell, he had threatened to go to Amarth. She had had no other recourse.
A stony faced Thalion met them at the entrance to the caves. “He’s following,” Thalion pointed over Amarth’s shoulder. All three looked down and saw Athrun staring at them quizzically.
“Shoot him.” Amarth ordered coldly. Mornië let nothing show on her face, but she tried to pull away.
“None of that!” Amarth shoved the point of the dagger into her side just enough to nick her. She grimaced and went still.
Thalion slowly raised his bow and fired. His shot swept over Athrun’s shoulder. Too close for anyone’s comfort.
Without a word, he then picked up a torch and began leading them through the winding, glittering passages. Amarth kept the dagger at her back and one hand on her left arm.
Groups of women and children of all ages watching curiously as they passed. None questioned however. “In here,” Thalion opened a door at the very back of the caves. A cold wind blew down the passage from the entrance to the pass, chilling Mornië to the bone.
* * * * *
Athrun was so preoccupied now that he hardly noticed the battle going on around him. Mornië had somehow made it to Helm’s Deep without his knowledge, and, judging by the way she was dressed, he could pretty much assume she had done it right under his nose.
He saw the flashing knife the strange elf held to her back as he led her away. Feelings he thought were buried and gone suddenly welled up inside him. He couldn’t stand the thought of something happening to her despite his promise that he would kill her.
A group of battling elves and Uruk-hai blocked his way momentarily. He fought his way furiously through. When Athrun emerged, they were gone. Several minutes passed as he tried to find some trace of Mornië and the elf. The distinct whine of an arrow overhead caused him to look up.
The arrow flew over his shoulder. It passed so close to his face that he felt the wind of it’s passing. It thudded into the body of a fallen orc behind him. An orc that was already dead. It was distinctly elven. Athrun’s head flew up sharply. Thalion! The elf he had considered his best friend for more that 3 ages of men was standing on a ledge at the entrance of the glittering caves holding a bow. Mornië and the elf who had taken her away from battle were there as well. The look of dread on Mornië’s face went unnoticed by Athrun.
“It must have been a warning.” His attempt at mental reassurance gave only a small amount of hope. Thalion never missed a target.
He couldn’t believe that Thalion had meant to kill him. When the three turned to go into the caves, Athrun dashed toward the entrance. How he would find them in the labyrinth that was the Glittering Caves he didn’t know. Athrun flew into the caves, past the startled women and children.
He grabbed a young boy. “Did you see three elves pass just now?!” The boy looked up at him fearfully. “Did you?!” The boy pointed mutely down one of the many paths through the caves.
* * * * *
Amarth finished tying the she-elf’s hands. He made sure they were uncomfortably tight before backhanding her with enough force to send her stumbling to her knees. “You know what I want to know, Dûriel. Why don’t you make this easier on yourself and just tell me.”
“That’s not my name,” Mornië stared up at him defiantly. She had been in this position once before. Only this time, she would make sure that Amarth died.
Amarth hit her again, harder. “Ever the one to make things difficult.”
* * * * *
Athrun stood listening at the door for only a moment. Having heard all he needed to, he burst in, his hand on his sword. The first thing he saw was Mornië tied against the rough stone, fresh blood trickling from her lip.
“Ah, the gallant prince come to rescue his lover.” Amarth grabbed Mornië by the throat and dragged her to her feet.
Athrun snarled at him. Realizing he had been tricked, he started to come at Amarth with his sword raised, but quickly halted when the elf pressed the razor edge of the dagger to the pulsing vein in Mornië’s throat.
“Move again and she dies.”
Athrun stayed where he was, shooting daggers at Amarth with his eyes. “I’m sorry Mornië,” he didn’t take his eyes off the elf, “I should have believed you.”
“Isn’t that pathetic.” Amarth dropped Mornië. She fell in a heap at his feet, clutching her throat and gasping for air.
“Leave, Athrun.” She finally croaked. “They’ll kill you too.”
Athrun looked at Mornië with pain in his eyes, longing to go to her and help her, but he knew Amarth would kill her first. “Let her go Amarth!”
Amarth snorted. “Why? What is she to you?” The elf stepped toward Athrun, keeping his attention focused on him alone. Thalion emerged from the shadows, unnoticed by Athrun or Mornië.
Mornië began struggling to her feet. She couldn’t let Athrun get involved. A movement in the shadows behind the two elves caught her eye. Thalion stepped into the torch light, his sword raised for a stroke. “No!”
Amarth whirled on her, striking her hard enough to send her crashing back into the stone wall. The back of her head struck the rock, and she sank slowly to the floor, unconscious.