Chapter Nineteen ~ Resolution unwavering
For the next three days Tae kept up her stubborn isolation, ignoring the elves who tried to mind talk with her and the others who knocked at her door. On the third night she found something she did not expect.
As she slipped into sleep’s unconsciousness she immediately felt something was amiss and reached out with her senses to identify if there was anyone hacking into her thoughts. She could not find any evidence so she passed the feeling off and ignored it. It grew more insistent however and unnerved her to the point that she sought to wake up and relinquish her interrupted slumber.
She opened her eyes yet she was not in her bed.
She stood in a wide glade surrounded by foreboding trees which looked like some deranged mutated form of mellryn. The trees began to sway in a breeze which began and stopped just as soon, parting a way through the forest through which a figure walked towards her.
Not wanting to experience another ‘episode’ she tensed herself and began the words to a protection spell which Talen had taught her to ward off evil spirits. As the figure drew closer Tae recognised the tall slender creature robed in midnight blue.
“If she is hurt then we must go to her Ada.”
“We must trust your Grandparents with her care, she is coming to no harm there that she would not experience here. She is not ‘hurt’ as such, just emotionally unstable. Besides, she will be back soon.”
“I do trust them, I would rather her be here though, among those who know her.”
If anything Elladan missed his playmate like crazy and prayed for return when he could beg her to forgive him for his stupid jealous moods. He dreamt of that moment when she would smile down at him in acceptance and he would take her up in his arms and keep her safe and close for eternity.
“…what makes you think you know her Elladan? None of us do, we have only known her a few weeks. Do not pretend to know her mind when you have known her for so short a time.” replied the Lord of Imladris haltingly; Tae’s words to him still hung fresh in his mind.
Elladan was slightly taken aback at this remark for he knew how his father had begun to dote on the half elf. He figured that he had somehow spoken to her and her words had not been encouraging.
“How is she?” he asked quietly, noting his father’s gloomy look.
Elladan feverently hoped that the female he had hoped to align himself with shortly was still in good health, he had lost hours of sleep fretting over her condition after Glorfindel had last updated and this was the reason for his visit tonight. To seek answers.
“..not good last I heard, I spoke to Galadriel this morning and she says Haldir is still trying to get her to come out of her chambers. She has taken the news very badly-though I do not know how one would take such revelations any other way.”
“I agree.. tis hard on the heart to hear such things, especially after all that has happened.”
Elladan had a sudden vision of Tae poking around in the stream the first day they had properly met, just before the energetic female had doused him with half the contents of the brook. He smiled to himself at her face, her laughing smile and sparkling eyes coupled with a body that would even turn a stone statue weak at the knees; an image he would ever cherish in his heart to whatever end.
“I think sometimes we all forget that she is not one of us. At the moment her heart is still on her world I fear, despite how much I would have it reside here for good.”
“Do you think she will be different when she returns?” asked Elladan, eager not to loose her as a friend even if he did have to give up on her as a potential lover.though not without a fight.
Elrond gazed out of his window at he deep night that had blanketed his land, tonight even the stars seemed nervous, as if things were about to turn. Be it for better or worse this time his foresight could not help him.
“It has already begun.”
She paused as if in suspicion but felt no outward signs of danger. Caution was overridden by Tae’s loneliness and the fact she had not seen her mother, the subject of her current heartache, for many years. She rushed towards her mother as Palermo did likewise, the pair catching each other up in an embrace which held tears of joy intermingled with sadness raked up by memories of their last parting back on earth.
If she felt any anger towards her mother for what had been revealed to her by the elves she hid it well, clinging to her mother with a desperate need which greatly overshadowed her doubts. Palermo brushed the sodden curls from her daughters face as she held back a sob herself, viewing her only child who she thought to be lost forever to her. She surveyed how much the youngster had filled out and grown into adulthood and she also noticed her garb to be familiar, though she knew why. The knowledge that Tae had joined her mothers’ people was both calming and unsettling.
“My daughter.” she said with unhidden pride.
“Mum..I’ve missed you so much..so much has happened and I don’t know where to start.”
“There is no need my dear; I know much of it already. A friend filled me in on all that has become of you in the last few months. He thinks you are a brilliant student.” she smiled.
“T…Talen? How did you…He did not tell me he could speak to you!”
“You were not to know, your tutor and I have always had the ability to speak over far distances, I think it was all those years we spent training to use our minds in such a way. I guess it was second nature.”
“I thought Talen was your tutor?”
“He was but that was not to say I could not teach him a few things.” she joked.
Palermo soon stopped smiling when she noticed the frown and unhappy glimmer in her beloved child’s eyes. She was perceptive enough to discern the root of her thoughts from that one look. That one pleading look that asked Tae’s mother to quash all the vicious rumours that the elves concocted and deny betraying them.
It would never do to lie.
“I know what you want to ask and I will save you the breath by telling you myself, all from start to end. I am sorry it came to this but the roots of evil reach long indeed in days such as these…”
“You will be tired tomorrow if you do not go to your bed now.” admonished Elrohir, the more thoughtful of the twins.
“I do not think I could sleep brother, my thoughts are too loud.”
“We have to be out in the morn or do you forget we are to go to the borders? Glorfindel would have your hide if he thought you had forgotten.”
“Nay I have not forgotten, I just have other things on my mind tis all.”
Elrohir was well aware of whom his brother spoke of for he had been worrying about Tae’s welfare as well. As far as they knew she was holed up in a flet in Lorien after finding out some home truths which would shake anybody’s foundations to the core.
Now Elladan had a strange glint in his eye as if he were planning something and Ro was quite hurt that he hadn’t included him.
“You’re not going to steal her away from Lothlórien and bring her back here are you?”
The look Elrohir received at his comment was one of sarcasm, probably because the older twin had already considered that course of action and drawn a blank. He knew Tae was going through a tough time but he did not think that moving her back to Rivendell prematurely would solve her problems in the least, he had a sneaking suspicion there was more too her ‘illness’ than people were letting on. Why else would they attempt to wrap her up in cotton wool so much if she were perfectly healthy?
The only conclusion he could draw was that something was going on which meant Tae had to be kept safe at all times, Elrohir knew she was part of something big from his brother, who had told him that within her was the key to defeating a great evil which would soon become known.
Did this mean that the evil was already upon them?
“Come my lovesick brother; let us away for there are too few hours till dawn when we are to ride with the patrol. From all reports there may actually be something worth fighting.”
Elrohir took his brother by the arm and led him away to their neighbouring quarters where he said goodnight and retired to his bed.
“He promised me power basically, I thought to outsmart him and I failed. I wanted the ability to protect my people in a way they could not themselves, with the power to drive any foul beast from our lands permanently, magically. Serbitar assured me this would be possible and all I had to do to grasp the opportunity was tell him a few things.
They seemed inconsequential things at the time—–“
“But let me guess, the other elves didn’t find the information you bartered with so meaningless.”
“Exactly, though I would never have told him such things if my plan had worked, I sought to trick him and tell him false secrets but he caught on to my lies and simply read my mind instead. I can remember it all so clearly, he held me in his paralysing gaze and tore through my mind, taking what he wished and discarding the rest.”
“I cant remember what happened after he took my knowledge, all I can remember is waking up by a campfire and not knowing anything, not even how to talk or walk. I just lay there like a mute blob, staring up at the stars, my eyes streaming because I didn’t know I was supposed to blink.”
“Who found you?” asked Tae from her position in the short grass of the glade, the two had sat opposite each other and Tae was listening intently as her mother told her tale.
Perplexed as one might be at this strange meeting place with a mother who one thought resided in Valinor; Tae just ticked this situation off as one of many she had already, and was yet to, experience in this strange and magical world. To say that she was missing her own world would not be far from the truth; she was just determinedly bottling those negative feelings up and concentrating on the problems at hand.
Don’t mistake Tae’s actions for being heartless and unfeeling, she was just quite good at adapting to new things and she hated to dwell on the past, especially since the past she had the clearest memories of was not so positive. Sure, getting deposited in Middle Earth and living with elves was a hard thing to swallow, even harder with the fact her mother turned out to be one, and now she was falling for one..But Tae was ever the realist.
“Talen and Glorfindel found me, two groups of elves from Lorien and Imladris where sent out in search for me, they had learnt the tale from my apprentice who had eavesdropped on most of my communions with the dark lord and read my memoirs. Talen surmised what had befallen me and restored most of my memory to me.”
“When they took me back to Imladris there was a council, I sat there with them staring at me piteously and I felt so stupid! They said the matter was closed but I knew it was still in the forefront of their thoughts as much as it was in mine. After a few days word from Lorien came to us; Talen had banished Serbitar in a hard fought fight and the Dark Lord had ceased to exist.or so we thought.”
“So why did you leave Middle Earth?” asked Tae, the question had been burning her from the moment she had heard of her mothers true ancestry.
“Why did I leave? A fair question. I could not live there anymore, not in Rivendell, not in Lorien or the havens or even Mirkwood. Every elf I met seemed as if they judged me, they did not understand that ultimately I did it for their own good. They just saw it as a betrayal. Eventually it came to a head one night in the Hall of Fire, I had a massive argument with Elrond and I left.”
“Just like that? Elrond said you knew each other but he didn’t mention anything about a disagreement.”
“I did not say he misunderstood me, he agreed with me to some extent. He just wouldn’t understand why I had willingly nearly caused the deaths of so many by making a deal with a dark lord. He thought there were other ways to achieving the same goal, more safer paths.”
“Where did you go?”
“I headed straight to Lothlórien where I said goodbye to Talen, I just couldn’t leave him without saying farewell. Them I invoked a spell I had adapted from some ancient scrolls I had acquired.”
“Which brought you to earth.” Tae finished.
She didn’t doubt her mothers motives for dealing with Serbitar but now she was seeing another side to her parent and she reserved judgement on whether to blame the elves for pushing her from her home. After all who wouldn’t be pissed with someone for jeopardising the safety of their home?
“And glad I am for it.” smiled Palermo as she brought her daughter close once more for an embrace.
“For without it I would never have met your wonderful father and never had the chance to bring such a tremendous daughter into the w—-” Palermo paused as she watched her daughter’s fallen face carefully.
Was it something she had said?
“What is it Tae?”
“You don’t even know do you?”
At the shaking of her mothers blonde head Tae elaborated, her head down to mask the fresh pain that talk of her father elicited.
Celeborn gazed at his sleeping wife, the soft glow of a candle lighting the curves of her sculpted face as he watched her eyelashes flutter in reverie. He traced the arch of her golden brow and the bloom of her lips with a sigh.
He could not sleep tonight. His dreams fled before him everytime he settled down to sleep and he grew frustrated with himself. The Elf Lord thought of the day he had spent in council with Talen and his beloved over the situation on the borders.
Orcs were massing again in the north and there had been sightings of trolls as near as twelve miles from the perimeter of the Golden Wood. If the reports were correct than Serbitar had began to make a move early, before they had all thought it possible to breed an army capable of damage.
As he had grown accustomed to Tae’s energetic existence, Celeborn had felt ever more guilty for seeking to use her to save them all. He saw in her a childlike innocence which was not ready to face the dark of these troubled days and he came to realise why his son-in-law was being so protective over her. For the third time that day he contemplated whether uprooting this half elf from her existence on another world and bringing her to do such a task was not just simply..selfish.
After the tears had subsided Palermo smiled brokenly, admitting to her daughter that she had begun to forget that her husband was mortal though she missed him and hated having to leave the two of them for Valinor. After a longer silence Palermo brushed her despair aside, she would not waste her precious time with her daughter; who knew how long they had together.
Trying to lighten the situation Palermo mentioned an unlikely rumour that she had heard from Talen.
“So what’s this about you and Elrond’s son?”
From the drop of Tae’s jaw and the flush which immediately sprang up in her cheeks her mother knew she had uncovered one of Tae’s little secrets. Talen had gossiped that Elladan was acting up in Imladris and Tae seemed to be the source of his unusual behaviour.
Palermo remembered the first and only time she had met Elrond’s twins, she had left Arda before Arwen was conceived. She recalled the shining grey eyes of the toddlers, two hearts of mischief which utterly worshipped their mother.
Tae’s mother had known and been great friends with Celebrian since childhood; the two could always be found getting up to no good tearing around Caras Galadhon in muddied skirts. Palermo had been horrified and distraught when she had found Elrond’s wife in Valinor when she reached the sacred land. It had been Celebrian; the only elf other than Talen who had comforted Palermo after her dealings with Serbitar.
“There is nothing going on mum.”
“That’s not what I heard; I’ve been told that the two of you make quite the couple when you are not in moods with each other.”
“It is him that gets in moods with me, I can’t understand him sometimes!” Tae cried frustratedly all of a sudden. She glanced down to her bare feet at the outburst and hid her face from her observant mother.
“Aha, so there ‘is’ something going on. I thought as much. I take it things are complicated then.”
Resignedly Tae looked up at the hazy sky which threatened to tell her secret if she admitted then even to her mother. Never had Tae been able to keep anything from her mum, and now she guessed it was her elven heritage which gave her the upper hand in determining all that Tae had sought to hide. From the origins of the tea stains on her favourite scarf to the broken heel of her stilettos and the whereabouts of her daughter at 5 o’clock in the morning when she should have been home hours ago; Palermo had guessed it all.
“I don’t know what’s in my mind with regards to him, sometimes I think to myself that I would do anything to share time with him but then something happens and we’re back to square one. No, not even one, its square minus one.”
“Do you wish for someone to love?”
“No, definitely not. But then yes, in the bitter watches of the night, when loneliness is thick in my lungs I can’t stop thinking about how he might wrap his arms around me and hold me.”
“You want to know what I think daughter?”
Tae nodded glumly as fresh thoughts of Elladan burnt in her mind guiltily. She should have been concentrating on more important issues than her mother’s matchmaking.
“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.”
“But I do not know if I love him, that’s what the problem is. I thought we were just to be friends and God knows I would be fine with that…it’s just that he evokes such feelings in me. He makes me feel like I am the only person in the room and I admit I thirst for his attention.”
“I once knew an elf like that…before my judgement was irrevocably clouded by Serbitar. After what happened he wouldn’t even look at me, let alone acknowledge my greetings. He felt betrayed that he had spent his time and thought on a traitor to the elves.”
Palermo’s shoulders indiscernibly sagged and her gaze held a faraway look as she considered the pain she had felt thrust at her from the various elves in her final months of residence in Middle Earth. It was times like these that Palermo wondered what she would have done, where she would have fled, if she had not known of a spell to take her to another world away from the accusations and whispered comments.
“A traitor? Why do you pick such a word, I am sure none of them thought it.”
The look on Palermo’s ageless face told Tae differently and a seed of anger burst in the pit of her stomach, slowly stretching and feeling its shaky way towards the light.
Before she could comfort her melancholy mother Tae felt a strange sensation brushing her cheek and the sky overhead seemed to lurch and flicker momentarily. Her mother simply nodded as if she were talking to some unseen being and she stood, drawing Tae up in a last embrace.
“I must go now sweetheart, I am called away for it is not normal practise for us elves of Valinor to converse freely with our kin who remain. I will strive to speak to you again before too long.”
Palermo cut off her farewell as she noticed her daughter sway slightly in her embrace.
“What is it child? Are you ill?”
“N…n…no, Galadriel says I will be fine.”
“Says what will be fine Tae?”
Tae slumped more into her mothers embrace as the second wave of agony spread up from her stomach and enclosed around her heart with merciless clutching tendrils of hurt.
..had these.pains, coughing…bloo..blood”
“What?! Show me!”
Tae didn’t really need to show her mother as her hands were at this point clutched at her burning abdomen which seemed to be tearing and churning itself inside out for no good reason other than to cause pain.
Palermo fought back the forces which sought to return her to Valinor and take her away from this plane where she could look to her daughter. Raising a hand over where she perceived the source of anguish to be, her hands radiated blue warmth as she searched around the internal organs and arteries to build up a picture of the reason for hr daughters turmoil.
Her arm recoiled in utter shock as her hand wavered over her daughters lower torso, her palm inches away from the pale nightdress of her sweating child.
“T..Tae listen to me.”
Tae looked into her mother’s eyes, frantic at the unhinged tone that she heard all too apparent in it. Through the tears and pain she sought to concentrate on what her mother was telling her but she could not. She felt herself slipping away into unconsciousness no matter how she fought the pain.
“Tae! You must get Elrond to.
Tae didn’t grasp the last half of the sentence as her head lurched forward, snapping her eyes shut with such force as if she were on a gravity defying rollercoaster. The pain faded to a dull roar and she sensed that she was no longer standing in the glade within her mother’s arms anymore. Exhaustion took her before she could consider any more however and the blackness took her.
Talen cradled the half elf in his arms as she came to, he had forced his way into her room, knowing that she would not let him in otherwise and bored of the game she was playing. In his eyes she had had quite enough isolation and now it was time for her to face her demons.
Not to mention get some fresh air, Tae had been holed up in her flet for four days without food and water and when the mage eyed her limp form on the bed he grimaced at the pallid appearance of her normally lustrous brown skin and the heavy dark circles that hung beneath both eyes.
He watched the rise and fall of her chest gradually strengthen as she slipped out of her obviously unconscious state. He sighed as he considered the source of it this time and hoped that Palermo may be able to shed some light on Tae’s internal obstacles after the mother and daughters’ meeting.
He softly whispered an incantation to deaden some of the pain that she was no doubt feeling and waited patiently for her to open her eyes.
“You found answers to question that you had not thought to ask no doubt.” he stated as he viewed the steeled gaze of his companion sitting at the table opposite tucking into a bowl of oatmeal.
“You could say that.” answered Tae steadily.
Since waking up she had moved around the city only as far as the kitchens, her clenched jaw and narrowed eyes causing all the elves that passed her to stop and Tae note.
“What are you going to teach me today?” she asked levelly of her tutor without even blinking.
Talen arched a slender dark brow at this, sighing to himself as he marked the silent simmering thirst for vengeance which burnt quietly in Tae’s eyes. He had no doubt as to why she was pushing him to train her so soon after emerging from her self imposed exile. He saw the need for revenge as clear as day on her seemingly vacant __expression.
She was after Serbitar, and she would learn all she could to be able to defeat him.
“I swear brother you ride like a human!”
Elladan answered his twin with a muttered string of dwarvish curses which caused all but Glorfindel look round with shock on their elvish faces. Galad was behaving very strangely and no amount of coaxing and soothing would calm the beast. He hoped her actions were not going to be a prelude to trouble as Elladan had no wish to deal with goblin scum on such a fine afternoon.
They were four hours out from Rivendell and as yet they had seen nor heard no sign of any creature but the distant crashing of deer through the thickets. Plenty of time for Elladan to further plan his welcome home for Tae next week.
The sun was high in the sky when Glorfindel at the head of the column of riders halted Asfaloth and held up his hand, the elves behind the blond balrog slayer all stopped as one except for Elladan, as Galad ploughed into the horse in front.
“Are you sure she is not ill?” asked Glorfindel concernedly, he was a great lover of horses and he had a hand in most of the breeding programs for the elves of Middle Earth; his own horse Asfaloth being a prominent figure.
“I thought she was fine but she is becoming more and more agitated, I’m just waiting for the other horses to catch up on it. Perhaps I should ride point, it may calm her if she is alone.”
“Aye, a good idea. Though we shall stop now for a time, Elrond asked me to fetch some herbs that I know I saw growing around here last time I was out.”
Elladan dismounted quickly and bade Galad to take some grass from a nearby tussock while he bent to retrieve an item from his pack which he had brought along for sentimental reasons. Walking a fair distance from his nosy companions he leant against a tree and unfurled his keepsake. Smiling again at the portrayal of himself, Glorfindel and Tae as they were playing Tae’s peculiar drinking game.
That night Tae sat alone by a rocky pool near to the Silverlode, she was totally exhausted after her sleepless night and the day she had spent wearing an unemotional impenetrable mask so now she just lay and relaxed, massaging out the frown lines from her weary face.
She stretched out under a willow tree which paddled in the water with its furthest reaching braches. Looking up at the slowly emerging stars she wondered idly what it would be like to fly over Middle Earth and see the rich variety of landscape rolling out beneath her.
Tae brushed the thought aside and was reminded of her task when she felt a sharp pain in her right hand. The knife had slipped again as she sought to perfect the carving of Onyx she had started some days ago. The pastime was relaxing and the young half elf was once again glad that she knew an elf as thoughtful as Haldir who had pushed his knife and a few blocks of wood under her door yesterday.
Stuffing her thumb into her mouth to stem the bleeding she thought of the time her mother had tried to teach her to paint with watercolours, the end result being a rather wet and colourful Tae and a mildly frustrated Palermo.
After a couple of hours Tae was satisfied with her finished result and set the carving down to be sure she did no more to then ruin it. Flexing her achy fingers she reached into her rapidly growing spell repertoire and summoned a small globe of blue light which banished the lengthening shadows which were becoming deeper in her vicinity. Continuing with her magic practise she pointed to a sycamore leaf which floated gaily out on the rivers silver darkness and spoke a command word which saw it rise out of the water and come soaring to Tae’s now outstretched palm.
Tae grasped the leaf easily and threw it up into the air before it exploded with a flash of green light, leaving a thousand tiny fragments whipping about on the breeze. She sat there for some time, until her magical light flickered out and she was plunged into darkness. Then she rose and turned back to Lothlórien’s city, replacing her mask as she went.