Elrond himself met them at the gates to his house. “Is this her?” he asked by way of greeting. Aragorn nodded and pulled her from the animal’s back while Gandalf gave a quick account of what happened. Elrond gave her a long look, touching her forehead lightly with his long fingers and shook his head, face grimmer than aragorn ever recalled seeing it. “See to your animal Saeros,” he ordered when the young Elf would have followed them inside. Elrond led them into a guest room that had already been prepared. “Arwen!” he called. “Lay her out Estel, thank you. Arwen! I need your help!” Aragorn heard light feet in the hall and into the room dashed his love, dark hair flying. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek as she halted and came to the bed side, kneeling beside her father. Elrond sat back and watched as she gently took Amaril’s hand in hers and laid another on her brow.
“Orcs,” Elrond said grimly. “Two nights ago.”
“She’s young,” Arwen murmured, “and strong. She should not have fallen so far so quickly. Estel, did you give her anything at all?”
“All that I could Lady,” he replied, and listed the ingredients of the broth. “She escaped the attacks in High Pass unscratched, but she did take a fell wound in Rhovanion this winter, and when it fevered that is what Healer Indis in Mirkwood gave her. I was instructed to do the same should she fall sick again, and anyways, the herbs seemed like sensible things to give.” Arwen nodded, standing aside so her father could take a closer look.
“They are indeed,” Elrond said, slowly. “Where was this wound?”
“Upper left arm,” Aragorn replied. “It was an Easterling dart. She drew it forth herself, and bled out the wound, and I found the arrow in the grass some time later.”
“Did you bring it with you perchance?”
“Yes.” He pulled the pieces from under his cloak. “I was going to tell you about it even if she hadn’t fevered in High Pass.”
“Hmmm.” Elrond stood up, holding the arrowhead in the sunlight that slanted through the windows. “Well, I suppose Indis is too young to remember the Last Alliance,” he said, more to himself than anyone else.
“It is a fouler poison than we first thought, is it not?” Gandalf asked, guessing the Half-elf’s mind. Elrond nodded.
“Fouler? I will not say, for all these venoms are evil in their own way. It is different though, from what Indis must have thought, and it lies at the cause of her fever now.”
“I was afraid of such,” the Wizard sighed.
“Can you cure her?” Aragorn asked, not quite comprehending the situation.
“I will try,” Elrond said, “but I can make no promises. It is a slow venom, but she’s borne it for months now.” He glanced at Arwen, who was washing Amaril’s face with an infusion of herbs they kept on hand for fevers like these. His daughter met his eyes.
“The usual?” she asked. He nodded.
“Bring some of your maids as well. A good bath would do her much good, I believe.” With a curtsy to Gandalf and another kiss for Aragorn Arwen left. Elrond watched with a mix of humor and disapproval on his face. “She missed you greatly,” he commented when she was out of hearing. “She always does.” Aragorn nodded, but said nothing. There was nothing to say. He made his journeys to secure himself a future with her in it, and if that meant sacrifices in the present than so be it. Arwen understood. At least, he hoped she did.
They watched Amrail sleep while Arwen fetched whatever “the usual” was. She seemed empty, hollow somehow, lying there in the great bed. “She never sleeps so quietly,” Aragorn murmured to himself, but his foster father heard, and demanded an explanation. “She usually thrashes about more, has dreams, nightmares sometimes.”
“Hmm, yes, I’ve heard her call out from time to time,” Gandalf muttered in agreement. Elrond set his jaw, not liking what he was hearing, and then took Amaril’s left-hand in his own and placed his right hand on her face. He stayed there for a few minutes, silent and staring at Amaril’s pale thin face.
“She’s in great pain, and she’s withdrawing herself from the world,” he finally said, shaking his head. “She’s gone so far it will be hard to call her back.” Arwen came in just then, and Elrond dismissed them both, bidding them rest and return as they may. Gandalf wandered off but Aragorn went straight for the baths. He had blood on his hands and face, and in the clean halls of Imladris he was beginning to notice how much he smelled. Then a nice hot meal would be in order. It wasn’t a real mealtime, but he knew the cook.
“What can you tell me of her?” Elrond asked later when a cleaned and fed Aragorn came to check on her progress. Arwen was also there, holding Amaril’s hand and talking to her, though the girl was still asleep.
“What do you wish to know?”
“Her story. All I have found in her is great fear and loathing of all that is evil, and great sorrow and regret for the past as well. I can not break through it, and though Arwen is trying she is having no luck either.”
“I can’t say I know her whole story, for there is much I have not asked and she has not shared, but I will tell what I know if it might help.”
“She is the daughter of Hador, Chieftain of the Harachin, and she comes from Rhûn,” Aragorn began, and Elrond nodded. He’d already heard, either from Thranduil’s runners or Gandalf, but Arwen’s shoulders stiffened slightly with surprise. Evidently he hadn’t told his daughter, and though she was concentrating on calling Amaril back to life, she was listening. He was just glad that he wasn’t the one to be receiving the tongue-lashing Elrond had coming. “Her people live in the mountains by the Inland Sea. They hide there, avoiding wars and being hunted by the Easterlings, who would press them into their armies. They know the Darkness rises, and that they can no longer run as they have since the first rising of the Sun. So they sent Amaril, and she ventured West, crossing Rhovanion alone where she was attacked the first time, possibly by troops assigned to tracking her, and passing into Mirkwood, where she came upon Dol Guldur. There she met Orcs, a Troll, and a Ringwraith. She stood against the Wraith the first time, wounded the Troll, and escaped the Orcs, but the fell wound she took on the plains was already sickening her, and it betrayed her in the end. Just as she would have been over-taken she stumbled upon a patrol of Elves. They finished off the Troll and captured her. I met her when I brought Gollum to Thranduil, and saw her in a cell under the King’s halls. She speaks Westron, and though she seemed to trust me on sight she is very wary of Elves and other Men. Crossing the Vales of Anduin and coming through the High Pass Gandalf and I also found that she has a Ranger’s skill with the wilderness and a keen sense for all that is evil. She felt the Black Rider that came upon us before even Gandalf did; she was very conscious of the dangers of the Misty Mountains. She also led our descent a while before her wound and fever took her – she ran over the snow like an Elf, and she chose the correct path without faltering.” Elrond looked thoughtful.
“Gandalf has already told me much the same,” he said after a moment. “He thinks that the Wraith you fought in High Pass was the same one she stood against at Dol Guldur.”
“I shall let you be the judge. I can not tell the Nine apart.”
“Few can bear to look on them long enough to learn. Tell me of her family. Do you know of them?”
“She has a father and an older brother, Amlach. She had a younger brother too, but he died in childhood. Her mother was killed two years ago. Her family calls her Sun-child, for her hair. She is betrothed to a man named Imlach, who she left behind when she went to seek the West. When she disguised herself as a man she took his name.”
“I see. Aragorn, do you understand what my daughter and I have been trying to do?”
“You’re calling her back.” There was really no other way to describe it. Wounds and fevers had an impact on more than just the body. Spirits could also sicken and fail, or flee into darkness when the pain of living became too great. Such was the case with Amaril, and it was too her fortune taht she was among the Elves, who alone among the races of Midle Earth had the power to call a lost soul home.
“Yes, and though she suffers greatly she is not so far gone we can not bring her back, should she hearken to us. But she will not, and now that you have told me she does not trust Elves I understand why. I am only half a Man, and I have chosen to live as one of the Eldar. My daughter is even less human than I. You and Bilbo Baggins are the only mortals in Imladris right now, and you she already trusts. Will you try calling to her?”
“I am not sure I can.”
“I have seen you do it before, for a fellow Ranger.”
“That man was a kinsman and close friend. I barely know Amaril. I’m not even sure what I did that time.”
“Aragorn,” Elrond said sharply, “the same power that is in my veins runs in yours. Diluted yes, but it is there and it is in your birthright to use it. If you care at all for Amaril you must try, for she will let neither my daughter nor I reach her.” Aragorn nodded. Put like that, he had a duty to perform. “Very good.”
Elrond led him to the bedside and lightly touched Arwen’s shoulder. She turned, smiled slightly, and moved gracefully aside to let her lover take her place. Aragorn took a position similar to the one Arwen had been in. The Elf-maid stayed beside him, a supportive hand on his shoulder and whispering hints into his ear as he struggled to summon his power. He hadn’t been lying when he told Elrond he didn’t know what he’d done for Halbarad. He hadn’t even known he’d inherited such an Elvish ability until he’d been forced to use it. It was a success, yes, but a success born of desperation, and this time the desperation wasn’t there, or, at least, not there yet. Still, with Arwen to guide him he struggled on, concentrating as he rarely had before, summoning the will to connect with the girl’s fevered mind, to break through Amaril’s fear and pain and bring her spirit back to her.
In the connection he felt her pain and walked the nightmarish paths her own spirit walked. It had been similar with Halbarad, but different, for Halbarad trusted him more than Amaril did. Nevertheless, her fate and his had been tangled for a little while, and they both knew that she could not complete her quest without him. So he struggled on, fending off the torment that enveloped her, coaxing her back to consciousness and finally he made the contact he needed to bring her all the way back to the land of the living. The touch was tentative but there, and once the contact was made he called her name softly and her eyes opened. She smiled fleetingly, then grimaced. “It sill hurts,” she grunted, shifting position to look around. “You said it wouldn’t.”
“I said it wouldn’t hurt as much,” Aragorn said, leaning back and relaxing. These efforts never failed to leave him exhausted both emotionally and mentally. He was just glad to succeed. Over his shoulder he felt Arwen was beaming at him in approval.
“Well, maybe you’re right about that,” Amaril said after a moment of thought. “What is this…” the question died on her lips as she looked around and saw Arwen and Elrond. Her eyes widened in unforgotten terror. “Did you take me back to Mirkwood?”
“Nay, you did not sleep that long,” Aragorn answered, bemused at her reaction. Pure good seemed to frighten her as much as pure evil. “You are in Rivendell, in the House of Elrond Half-elven.”
“You didn’t tell me you were taking me back to Elves!”
“I told you there were Elves in Rivendell and it was safe place to learn about the West,” Aragorn replied mildly, trying to turn her from the panic he saw setting in. She bit her lip, looking around. “Amaril, listen. The Elf beside me is Lady Arwen, Elrond’s daughter. Behind her is Master Elrond himself. They already know who you are, where you came from and what you did to come this far. They know all this and they still welcome you to stay. We’ve spent the better part of a night calling you back to yourself. Can you at least trust them as you have trusted Gandalf and I so far?” She chewed her lip again, and then nodded. “Good.” He glanced back at Elrond. “Do you still need me here?”
“Stand by for a moment,” the Half-elf said, “she is easier in your presence.” Aragorn nodded.
“Amaril, Elrond’s going to tend you now, but I’ll be near. Sit back and rest.” He stood then, and stepped aside to let the Master through. Arwen also rose and stood beside him.
“You do good work,” she said. `I do not think you will need much help next time.”
“I hope there isn’t a next time.”
“The Darkness is still rising, Aragorn, and my heart tells me you will once again ride out to meet it before the year is out. There will be others, sicker than Amaril, for you to tend when that happens.”
“What do you think her chances are?”
“There is much fear in her. She has walked to long under the Shadow in Rhûn, and Gandalf discovered the nature of the poison too late. My father will do what he can for her, but do not trust too much to hope.”
“What of her quest then?”
“She has made a brave and noble effort. Her people will not be abandoned.”