Mothlin sat, his head in his hands, in Elrohir’s room, muttering expletives under his breath. Why was it taking such a Valar-cursed long time to get a search party together? It was almost a week since Cilyawen had been taken, and still the Elves had not mustered a searching force to get her back. Mothlin was ready to throttle someone, he was so full of anger at their interminable slowness.
One small comfort was that he knew perfectly well that Arwen felt the same way. Elrohir most definitely would, were he awake and able to move about. In fact, if Elrohir were able to walk and ride, Mothlin was sure that he would have ridden out the very night she had been taken, and she would be home safe by now. There was no middle ground when it came to the emotions Cilyawen inspired in people – one either hated her or loved her.
And whoever sent those Orcs after her must have really hated her, Mothlin thought grimly. I wish we knew who it was!
The bedsprings creaked. Mothlin sat up with a jerk to see his adopted father slowly sitting up and shoving away the quilt. Mothlin sprang to his feet and ran to Elrohir, gently but firmly pushing him back down. “None of that,” he scolded. “You need to recover!”
“And she needs to be rescued.” Elrohir’s voice was cracked and dry, but Mothlin could hear clearly the fear in it for Cilyawen’s fate. “Don’t be silly, Mothlin. I need to find her.” He tried valiantly to sit up, but this time he fell down onto the bed. “Please,” he gasped. “Help me up.”
Mothlin swallowed. “I can’t,” he whispered. “Elrohir, you’d die within five minutes! I’m not going to let you die!”
Elrohir tilted his head back to regard Mothlin with eyes dark with grief. “Mothlin, there are some things in this world worth dying for.”
Mothlin ducked his head, ashamed. He could not look back at Elrohir.
“If you will not let me go to save her,” Elrohir said, “will you go in my place?”
“What?” Mothlin found now that he most definitely could look at Elrohir. “What are you saying? I’m sure Elrond will have something ready -“
“Mothlin, you know as well as I that it will take a while for Elrond to gather searchers.” A faint bitter smile crossed Elrohir’s lips. “He cares for her, but not all the Elves here do. Some have never accepted her, even after she’s shown them numerous times that she’s for them now.” He turned his fever-bright eyes on Mothlin and caught his hands. “Give me your word, Mothlin, please. I cannot bear the thought of her in pain, and me knowing I did nothing to save her. Please.“
Mothlin was astounded. His foster-father, the bravest, most reckless, and noblest Elf he knew, was weeping. Tears were coursing freely down Elrohir’s cheeks as he gripped Mothlin’s hands. He bit his lip. If truth be told, he had often entertained thoughts this week of doing exactly what Elrohir was pleading with him to do, and he could not deny that he felt the same way Elrohir did about his helplessness. “I’ll find someone else to look after you,” he muttered. “And I’ll go after her. I swear.”
Elrohir’s bone-crushing grip on his hands relaxed, and a great breath escaped him. Elrohir closed his eyes in relief and sank back again onto his pillows. “Thank you, Mothlin,” he whispered. He allowed Mothlin to help him nestle deeper into the pillows, and soon his chest began to rise and fall in the even breathing of sleep.
Only then did Mothlin allow himself to consider what it was he had agreed to do. He had just promised Elrohir that he would ride out into unknown territory in search of his foster-mother who had been kidnapped by foul Orcs and taken who knew where in all of Middle-earth. Determined to put a positive light on it, he sighed silently to himself, I was getting a little restless here. He forced himself to smile at his horrible joke and slipped quietly out of Elrohir’s room.
And, turning around, bumped squarely into Arwen. “Arwen!” Mothlin gasped, chagrined. “I’m so sorry -“
She smiled to put him at ease, but so near to her brother’s room, it was a tight smile. “Elrohir must be doing a little better,” she said. “That would be the only thing I could think of that would take you from his side for a moment.”
Mothlin ducked his head. He was about to stammer an excuse that yes, her brother was doing remarkably well, when he remembered that Arwen had been the one who brought Cilyawen from wherever she had grown up – she never spoke of her childhood, or indeed of her life before she came to Rivendell. “Arwen,” he ventured, praying that she would speak of what Cilyawen had placed in the past, “I need to talk to you.”
With one serious look at his face, Arwen knew that this was a topic which would require chairs – she had a feeling that she would want to sit down once Mothlin began talking. “Come to my room,” she said, and led him down the hall to her room. She pushed open the door and held it open for Mothlin, then pulled a chair over and sat down. “Speak.”
“Elrohir wanted to go after her,” Mothlin said bluntly. “I wouldn’t let him, but – Arwen, this is more than he can bear, the possibility of losing her! Even I can tell! I don’t – I don’t think he wants to live if he can’t live with her.”
Arwen’s beautiful face was held steady with iron control. “Yes.”
“I stopped him from going, but he made me promise. To go instead of him.”
I was right about the chairs. It was the only coherent thought in Arwen’s mind at the moment. The rest of her brain was screaming in shock and anger. Is he crazy? Mothlin’s only a boy – but he cares about Cilyawen as much as Elrohir – but how can we send him out there – but Elrohir’s right, Mothlin would do a better job than any search party – but – but –
“I’ve made up my mind to go,” Mothlin went on, interrupting Arwen’s scattered thoughts, “but I need to have some idea of where I might start looking. And I need to know about her past, the things she never speaks of. I was hoping you would know.”
Arwen forced her frazzled mind under control. He’s right, she thought. He’s right, and we’ve all been stupid and blind not to realize that this would have to be told sooner or later. “Very well,” she said heavily. “It will take some time to tell.”
“Then we’d best start right away,” Mothlin answered. “Time is what Cilyawen does not have.”
Mothlin was well prepared for his journey that night, as he slipped silently through the sleeping city and made his way to the stables. As she had promised to do, Arwen had left the doors unlocked, and Mothlin pushed them open, careful not to let them creak. He shut the doors, lit the small lamp that hung by them, and opened the door of his favorite horse’s stall. A glossy brown mare took a tentative step forward out of her stall, and Mothlin rubbed her nose. “Hush, Tari,” he whispered as the horse he had named with the word for “queen” fidgeted. “We’re going on a trip, my beauty.”
He would have preferred to ride without a saddle, but if he did, there would be no place to put his pack and weapons. Mothlin chose the light, small saddle that Elrohir had taught him with and laid it over Tari’s back. He held his breath, hoping she wouldn’t balk at the unaccustomed burden – she snorted, tossed her head, and quieted. Mothlin breathed a sigh of relief and tightened the girths, then strapped his pack to one side of the saddle and his bow, quiver, and sword to the other side. He left the small stable lamp burning until he led Tari out of the stables; then he leaned back and blew the flame out. He locked the door – Arwen had slid the key under the stable door – and left the key in the keyhole. No one would get into Rivendell so soon after the Orc assault – the guards would be doubled, maybe even tripled. That would hinder his passage from Rivendell, but Mothlin was confident in Tari’s obedience and his own skills that he didn’t worry too much about the guards.
The front gate of Elrond’s city rose smoothly before him, but Mothlin avoided it, choosing instead one of the secret, smaller ways out of Rivendell that Elrohir, Arwen, and Elladan had found or made long ago. Tari did him proud – she made not a sound beyond the quiet hush of her hooves on fallen leaves. Mothlin himself crept as silent as a shadow through the passage, emerging after a long, dark trek on the far side of Rivendell, with the ford of the Bruinen River not far away. Only then did Mothlin mount up and nudge Tari into a quiet walk. No need to go for speed and alert a guard who might be near. Speed could come later. Speed could come when he drew near to Mirkwood.
Arwen had related her adventures to recover Cilyawen in perfect detail, and Mothlin knew exactly where to go. It was simple, really, when he had taken time to think it out. The only person who could command so many Orcs was the Enemy. Arwen’s tale had convinced Mothlin that the tales of the Enemy’s death long ago were decidedly false. The Enemy was also the only person Mothlin could think of who would go to such outrageous lengths to capture Cilyawen. And he had held Cilyawen against her will in Dol Guldur, his fortress in Mirkwood. Therefore, logic dictated that if he went to Dol Guldur, the Enemy would be there – as would Cilyawen.
He had reached the Ford, and Tari crossed it quickly. Mothlin cast a swift glance around him to make sure no one was there. His keen eyes spotted no one, and he leaned close to Tari’s ear and whispered, “Noro lim!” She passed smoothly from trot to canter, and Mothlin let himself revel in the rush of air through his hair and on his face as he turned Tari’s head to the Misty Mountains.
That voice. She knew that voice, knew it too well from both nightmares and memories that seemed like nightmares. She covered her ears with her hands, willing her mind to block it out, willing herself to wake up in Rivendell to Elrohir and a beautiful sunrise.
“I had quite expected to hate you,” he said almost conversationally. “In fact, I do. You did, after all, rob me of my consort and escape with your filthy little kinswoman. But even after five years of storing up bad feelings against you, I find you still amuse me.”
She remembered a time when, young and crazy and sure of her death, she had stood before him and spat at his voice. He still had no body, no form for her to direct anything of the sort at, but the instinct rose in her again. She choked it down. She must stay alive for now. Other instincts surfaced, instincts she had learned during her youth – instincts that had helped her live back then. She controlled her temper and pulled herself straight. “I’m glad I am not utterly worthless, then.”
“Oh, but you are – almost,” he chuckled. “Do not think I need amusement. No. I had you brought here for an entirely different purpose, Snaga.”
No. Her fragile control over herself snapped. No. She would not be called by that name again. She had changed her name, she had left that other one and all the memories it carried behind. No. “My name,” she hissed, “is Cilyawen.”
“Not anymore,” was his reply. The disembodied voice floated around her, and she did not know where to look to spit. “You were born Snaga, and you will die Snaga.”
“I was born a free Elf!” she shouted, her eyes blazing in fury, “and I have lived the past five years of my life as such, and one so low as you will not take that from me!“
He sent his mind out over the land, still shaken by Snaga’s strength. He had not expected her to withstand the blows he flung at her, but she had. Finally he had left her. He had her captive – that was all that mattered. And despite the brave front she showed him, he knew perfectly well that her memories held fear for him such as no other living creature had. He would put that fear to good use. Already she was remembering – already she was feeling fear again.
Where was his thrall? His thoughts quested the land for the being under his control, the being he could use to trap Snaga. For she was important in his plan, very important. And this time, she would not smash it to pieces. This time he had taken precautions, and he would succeed.
There – he had found the thrall. He entered the being’s mind and planted a thought in its mind. Obey. Come. Obey. He had no doubt of the thrall’s obedience. The thrall would come, and Snaga would fall into his trap.