Thud, thud, thud. The noise rang in Aramir’s ears as he banged his head up against the wall in the Great Hall in exasperation.
“Don’t do that, you’ll dent the wall,” a voice said from next to him.
“Hello Sil,” he said, then looked up and smiled apologetically. “Sorry Rhee. I thought you were your mother.”
Teleri grinned at her father. “No, she went to find someone to fix the wall.”
Aramir laughed, relieving the last of his stress over the council with Sinnadar. Not that it had gone badly, but Sinnadar always did that to him. “What about someone to cheer me up?” he asked.
Teleri gave her father a sympathetic look. “Was it really that bad?” she asked.
Aramir shook his head and looped his arm around his daughter’s shoulders. “No, actually, it went fairly well. It’s just Sinnadar. I’m like you, Teleri, I’d rather be out sword fighting than stuck in the palace.” He smiled ruefully.
Teleri smiled back. “How about a fight?” she asked.
Aramir’s face brightened visibly. “Alright.” He drew his sword, and Teleri drew hers, for she had just come from a lesson with Kellian.
“I’ll beat you one of these days. Kellian says I’m doing really well, considering who I have for a father.”
Aramir snorted. “Tell him…no, never mind, I’ll tell him.” He grinned mischievously.
“Later,” Teleri said, raising her sword. “Let’s dance.”
Aramir smiled, blessing Eru once again that his daughter was the way she was. He brought up his sword, paused, then struck. The sound echoed throughout the hall as the swords clashed. Aramir raised his sword high, using his height as an advantage over his daughter. Teleri, however, used her height to her advantage as well, and ducked under his arm as he brought the sword down. She spun around, swinging her sword with her as she did, letting the weapons crash together again. Aramir grinned at her and struck so hard that it was all she could do to keep from toppling over backwards from the force of the impact. He struck left and then right, backing her towards the corner of the room in which stood several impressive, tall trees, providing a natural look to the room. Suddenly the king’s head snapped up.
“Hello Kellian,” he said.
Teleri spun around to see the Elf, realizing a second too late that he would not be there. It was a trick. Sure enough, she felt her sword knocked out of her hand and heard it crash to the ground.
“Darn!” she cried as her father began to laugh.
“Hasn’t Kell taught you that yet? Never pay any attention to distractions.”
Teleri sighed good-naturedly. “Yes, he has. I just keep forgetting.”
Aramir smiled at her. “You’re doing wonderfully Rhee, but you always have to be ready. You will never know when someone will use that on you, or try to distract you some other way, or sneak up on you. You have to be ready for anything.”
Suddenly, in a movement so quick that Teleri couldn’t even follow it, Aramir’s hand shot into the tree in the corner. There was a startled cry, and then he withdrew, dragging something with him.
“Like this,” he said, and Teleri gasped. Standing next to her father, the front of his tunic clutched in Aramir’s fist, was a very frightened young man.
Aramir and Teleri were almost as surprised as Lindar at his suddenly being dragged out from his latest hiding place. Not that Aramir hadn’t known that someone was there, but he had been expecting Kellian, or even Isilmë. He did not recognize the startled young man that he had pulled out from behind the tree. His long, chestnut-brown hair was tied in a loose ponytail at his neck, and his blue eyes stared in complete terror at the man who held the front of his tunic. His fair complexion and pointed ears told Aramir that he was at least half Elf. After several moments of staring at him, the king could not think of anywhere that he had ever met this man. He raised his eyebrows.
“I trust my tree was comfortable?” he asked with a small smirk, releasing the young man’s tunic from his grip.
Lindar was completely unprepared for the joke. He continued to stare at Aramir in fear, trying in desperation to mask the contempt he felt towards the king. He was brought out of his trance by the soft, musical laughter of Lady Teleri, who stood a few feet off, staring at him interestedly. Lindar tried desperately to think of a response, but Aramir didn’t seem to want one.
“What is your name?” he asked. Funny, Lindar thought, he didn’t sound angry or suspicious, just…amused.
“Uhh, Lindar, my Lord” Lindar said, bowing, before he realized that perhaps it was not such a good idea to give the king his real name. Too late now.
“Well Lindar,” King Aramir said thoughtfully, “I should very much like to know what you were doing behind the tree.” This time, Lindar noted, his voice was laced with suspicion.
“Well, I, umm,” Lindar’s mind raced as he tried to come up with a good reason. He couldn’t think of any, so he said the first thing that came to his mind. “My friend, he -well, he dared me to do it, my Lord.”
“Really?” Aramir mused.
Lindar nodded slowly. “Actually, it was more of a bet. He bet me I wouldn’t spend an entire day hiding out in the palace. So I did. At least I tried,” he added, trying hard to look sheepish.
He must have done a good job of it, because Aramir chuckled softly. “I think you lost,” he said amidst his laughter.
Lindar shrugged, grinning slightly. Just play along, he thought to himself, even as the other half of his mind screamed Kill Him! His eyes narrowed again as he thought of what Aramir had done to his family.
The King glanced at the huge windows lining the room, seeing the moonlight stream in. “Its very late,” he commented. “You should be getting home; your family will undoubtedly be worried.”
Lindar lowered his head sadly. “No,” he murmured. “I have no family, Milord.” What did I say that for? he thought, for it had been the first thing to come to his mind.
“You don’t?” Aramir asked, sounding at genuinely concerned. “Whom do you live with?”
As though he cares, Lindar thought bitterly. “No,” he repeated. “My parents were killed in an Orc attack when I was very young. I lived with another family for a while, but I have been on my own for the most part.”
“Oh Lindar, I’m so sorry,” the King said sympathetically, the mention of an Orc attack saddening him further. His black eyes brightened suddenly. “Stay with us for a while,” he offered. “I’m certain I can find somewhere in this place to fit you.”
Teleri laughed, and Lindar felt a stab of jealousy run through him, for she and her father seemed so close. Why are you jealous of her? he admonished himself. Her father is Aramir. She won’t even have a father when I am done. She won’t even be alive.
“Well Lindar?” Aramir asked, returning him to his more immediate problem.
“Oh, I-I couldn’t…couldn’t impose upon you, my Lord.”
“Not at all,” Aramir countered. “I would be honored, Lindar.” He smiled.
“Well, I-I mean, if it isn’t too much trouble…”
“It is no trouble at all. Come with me, I’ll find you a room.” With that, he turned and led the way out of the Hall. Lindar stared after him. What had he gotten himself into?
Lindar sat frozen in his bed long after the king and Princess had bid him good night. He was in complete shock at what had just happened to him. He had tried to convince himself that this was all just a terrible dream, but it hadn’t worked. Somehow, in some way, he had gone from being a kidnapper to being a guest in the palace, and he wasn’t entirely sure what to do about it. Actually, he had no idea at all. He felt exceptionally hopeless, and the only good thing he could think of about this whole thing was that he was still alive, and come to think of it, maybe he would rather not be. Lindar had grow up being told about Aramir-about how terrible he was, that he was a cruel, evil-hearted man whom the people feared, and Lindar had never been given any reason to believe otherwise. Living in exile with his father, he had never known anything about Gondor beyond what Janst had told him, and that was enough for him. Now he was stuck in one of the magnificent rooms of the palace, in a soft, warm bed, because the king had felt sorry for him. Something wasn’t right, that was certain. There was, of course, the possibility that this was all an act, and that he hadn’t even seen the real Aramir. Unfortunately, there was also the possibility that his father had been wrong about the king, and that was something Lindar did not want to face. He had been trained to hate this man and his family, knowing full well what that hate would eventually lead to.
After several hours of sitting in the bed thinking, Lindar had gotten no where, so he finally lay down and fell into a deep, uneasy sleep.
“Lindar,” he heard a voice call in his sleep.
He sat up, startled, only to find himself no longer in the palace, but the woods where he had grown up. He walked slowly down a path, following the sound of the cry he had heard. All around him, the trees were a blur, and the sky was an odd grey-ish colour, unlike anything he had ever seen. He came to a clearing, and knew what he would see even before he saw it. A man, dressed all in black, with a huge sword, stood over the body of a woman in the middle of the field.
“No!” Lindar cried as the figure leapt up and ran form the field.
Lindar ran over to the woman and knelt next to her. He placed one hand under her head and stared into her eyes. “Mother,” he whispered.
“Lindar,” she whispered slowly, raising her hand to his face. Then her hand fell back to her side, and she was dead.
“No, no, no,” Lindar repeated. “Mother.”
“She is dead, Lindar,” a voice said form behind him, and he spun around to see a black-cloaked figure, hood drawn over his face so Lindar could not tell who or what he was.
“Who did this?” Lindar demanded of the figure, drawing his sword. “I will find him and kill him! I swear on my honour, I will kill him!”
The figure raised one hand. “You know who did it, Lindar. Look into your heart, cannot you see it?”
He did know, but he would not believe it. “NO!”
“Yes Lindar. Your heart does not lie to you.” Slowly, the figure reached up and drew back his hood. Lindar gasped and stepped backwards. It was Aramir, his black eyes fixed on Lindar, his face even and calm.
“Come back to the light, Lindar. You are not bound to him.”
Suddenly there was the sound of an arrow being released from a bowstring, and an arrow flew out of the forest. It struck the king in the chest, but he barely even flinched. Instead he reached down and pulled the arrow from his chest, and where the arrow had been in his hand there was suddenly a great silver sword. The dark figure leapt from the woods, and he and the king crossed swords with a clash. Lindar stood, frozen by something he could not name as he watched the king and the other battle across the field. The fight seemed to take forever, as if some other force was slowing them down. Then the figure’s sword pierced Aramir’s chest, and he fell to the ground.
“No!” Lindar cried out.
The figure turned and advanced on Lindar, and he was powerless to do anything. He could not move, and he had no weapons, for his sword had vanished. He could only stand and watch as the figure got closer and closer. And then he was on top of Lindar, sword raised, ready to strike. The entire world suddenly went black, and the figure plunged his sword into Lindar’s heart.
Lindar sat up abruptly, panting heavily. Sweat ran down his face and chest, and his hands were sore from being clenched in tight fists. He breathed loudly, listening to the sound fill the room as the memories of the dream slowly left him. But they would not leave him fully, and he could still see his mother’s fair Elven face as she lay dying. And Aramir, and…and the one who had murdered his mother. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and then he heard the sound. His head snapped up and he looked over towards door, seeing for the first time the figure who stood there. Seeing him watching, the figure made its way over to his bed. It was Princess Teleri.
“Are you alright Lindar?” she asked. “You were crying out in your sleep. You look awful,” she added as she timidly sat down on the edge of his bed.
Thanks, Lindar wanted to say, but he didn’t. “I’m alright, milady,” he assured her. “I was just, just dreaming, I guess. I’m sorry I woke you.”
“You didn’t,” she told him hurriedly. “I couldn’t sleep, so I was just walking around the halls, and I heard you. Are you sure you’re alright?”
He nodded, then self-consciously reached up and ran his hand through his hair. “What was I saying?” he asked suddenly, fear in his voice as he realized what he might have said.
” ‘No!’, mostly. You cried out like something terrible was happening, and you could not stop it. And you, well, you called for your mother, once.” Teleri gave him a sympathetic look.
Lindar bit his lip and nodded slowly, for he had suddenly realized how easy it would be for him to simply seize Teleri and run. They were all alone, in his room, in the middle of the night. How simple it would be. So what was preventing him from acting?
“Lindar, you’re shaking,” she whispered, placing one hand on his shoulder.
Lindar shuddered at her touch, recoiling like he had been struck. Teleri lifted her hand, then put it back again. Her intense blue eyes stared into his own for a moment, and then Lindar muttered, “I’m fine, really, milady. Don’t trouble yourself over me.”
Teleri looked as though she did not believe him, but she shrugged and nodded. “If you say so,” she said, and rose slowly. “Goodnight Lindar,” she whispered when she had reached the door.
“Goodnight, milady,” he answered.
He watched her leave his room and gently close the door, then sighed. Well, his opportunity was gone. Now he must wait for another. Suddenly, for some strange reason, he felt very calm, and very tired. He lay back down, closed his eyes, and was asleep instantly.
While Lindar lay, finally sleeping, in his bed, Aramir lay in his own, but he was not asleep. His black eyes, which sparkled even in the darkness, were filled with love as he watched Isilmë, sleeping quietly next to him. A small smile rested on the king’s face as he stared at her, beautiful even in her sleep. He wondered, for the millionth time it seemed, how he had ended up where he was. The King of Gondor, come out of exile, and so lucky to be with Isilmë. He shifted slightly and ran his hand through his hair, then gently reached out and stroked Isilmë’s face. The result was startling.
“Leave me alone!” she cried, jerking into a sitting position, eyes wild with fear. Her hands flew out in Aramir’s direction and she narrowly missed his face.
“Isilmë!” he called softly, seizing her arms.
Isilmë’s eyes lost their wild, fearful look, but it was replaced almost immediately with tears.
“Sil, are you alright?” Aramir asked anxiously, scooting close to her and gathering her in his arms.
She cried softly into his chest, letting him hold her tightly. “Oh Aramir,” she murmured. “Its you. My Aramir.”
“Of course its me,” he whispered softly, running his hand through her dark hair. “What happened? Did you have a nightmare?”
She continued to cry quietly for a moment, then whispered, “I was dreaming about, about when I was kidnapped, and I was at the Orc fire again, and I was waiting, because I knew that you would come. But-” she burst into fresh tears. Aramir let her cry, arms wrapped tightly about her, comforting her. “But you didn’t come, and Janst did, and he dragged me back to Gondor and forced me to marry him. And it was horrible, and then he tried to…oh Aramir.”
“Shh,” Aramir soothed. “Its alright Isilmë. I’m here, you’re all right. It was only a dream. Just a dream… Shh.” He softly kissed her forehead as he held her against him.
She hugged him back tightly, her tears dying into soft sobs as he stroked her hair, whispering gentle words of comfort. Finally she looked up into Aramir’s shining eyes and smiled almost shyly. He gently leaned forward and kissed her tenderly.
“Better?” he asked.
She nodded. “I think so. But it was so horrible. It thought that I would never see you again.”
“And then you woke up, and did see me, and wished you hadn’t, right?” he teased, lying back down as he spoke and pulling her close.
Isilmë laughed quietly and pressed against him, smiling. That night when she had first met Aramir, she had never imagined that he would be her husband one day. He had just been an outlaw, an over-confident, teasing outlaw that she could not wait to be rid of. How lucky she was that she had been wrong about him. She brushed his dark hair out of his face, then twirled it between her fingers.
Aramir’s eyes watched her fingers in his hair. “Honestly,” he muttered in mock annoyance. “Some day I am going to wake up with curly hair, and it will be your fault.”
Isilmë burst into laughter and Aramir grinned. “Oh Ar,” she murmured, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. “What would I do without you?”
“Oh, you would be married to some handsome, brave, honourable young nobleman,” Aramir told her, a slight grimace on his face at the picture his description had brought to mind, despite the seemingly good qualities he had mentioned. He ran his hands across her shoulders and down her back, feeling her smooth, soft skin.
“Yes,” Isilmë agreed with a smile, shivers running down her spine at his soft, gentle touch. “What a disappointment he would have been compared to you.”
Aramir blushed slightly and ran his hands through her hair once more. He sighed softly as he felt the long, silken strands run through his fingers. “Thanks,” he whispered finally.
“I love you,” Isilmë whispered back as he pulled her even closer.
“You know, I don’t think you’ve told me that since…since right before we got in bed.” Aramir’s black eyes danced in amusement.
“Sorry it took me so long to say it again,” she apologized, trying to look serious.
He reached down and cupped her chin in his hand, gently raising her face to meet his, then leaned over and kissed her again, longer this time. Isilmë smiled, even as he kissed her. For all of the time that she had know him, loved him, been his wife, it always felt as though he was kissing her for the first time. Aramir held her close, kissing her as though he would never stop. His hands gently caressed her face, then slid slowly down to her waist.
Aramir gently pulled away and smiled. “You’re forgiven.”
Her smile filled with love, Isilmë closed her eyes, nestled into his arms, and was asleep almost instantly.