When Arwen awoke again, the world around her was a haze of light and blistering cold. A sharp wind had started to blow down from the mountains, making her limbs stiff and painful. For a moment, she was dazed, but when she remembered everything that had happened, she quickly sat up and rubbed her eyes.
She was lying where she had fallen, mere inches away from the steep drop. The plain was empty, the Wargs gone, save for the three bodies. Maida was still there, but she was unconscious. The heavy smell of blood and death hung in the air.
Arwen crawled over to Maida, gathering her friend in her arms. She was limp and her body was cold. Her eyes were closed, and Arwen knew only all too well that Elves did not sleep with their eyes closed. She shook Maida, desperately trying to feel for a pulse, like Elrond had shown her. She couldn’t find one. Her fingers were too cold. Or. . . .
“Help!” Arwen cried. “Somebody help me!” She shook Maida again, fresh tears sliding down her face. “Maida, don’t be dead. Please don’t be dead!”
Suddenly, a voice echoed out, distant but all too familiar.
“Arwen?” the voice called. “Arwen!”
“Ada!!” Arwen screamed.
Suddenly the pounding of hooves became as sharp as thunder, and Arwen knew her father had arrived.
“Ada!!” she screamed again. “Ada!!”
“Arwen?” His voice was so close. “Arwen, hang on.”
The time between uttering those words and appearing from the ridge felt like an eternity for Arwen, though in reality it was only a few minutes. When Elrond finally lifted himself into view, his riding leathers dusty from the hasty climb, Arwen started sobbing, wanting to run to him but refusing to let go of Maida. He was by her side in seconds, holding her protectively and whispering soft reassurances.
“She’s not waking up, Ada,” Arwen sobbed. “I tried and tried but she’s not waking up.”
Elrond, genuine fear on his wisened features, quickly checked Maida’s pulse. By then, others had shown up, but Arwen ignored them. After a moment, Elrond sighed in relief.
“She’s alive, my Evenstar, but barely,” he said. “Let’s get you both home.”
Arwen stifled her tears, looking around at everyone else. Erestor was there, and Thranduil. Legolas was standing a bit further back, and Elladan and Elrohir were with him. There were others, but Arwen could not place names. She was too tired.
She felt someone take Maida away, then felt Elrond wrap his heavy vest around her and lift her up. She gripped her father tightly.
“I’m here, my Undomiel,” he whispered, rocking her gently. “You’re safe.”
“What happened here, Arwen?” Thranduil asked.
Arwen sniffled, looking up. She saw only love and concern on the faces around her.
“It was a werewolf,” she whispered, shivering as she remembered the creature’s howl. “Elladan and Elrohir told me stories, but you told me not to believe them. You said they were all dead.” She grasped Elrond harder, feeling herself become frantic. “It was a werewolf, Ada. It hurt Maida. It hurt Faye. It. . .” Arwen froze. “Faye! Faye! Where’s Faye?”
“There’s no trace of the vampire,” Erestor said solemnly.
“No! No, she’s down there!” Arwen cried, struggling in Elrond’s grip. “She fell with the werewolf, so she has to be!”
Elladan and Elrohir walked back to the ridge and looked down. For a minute, they spoke with the Elves below, then Elladan returned. Elrohir disappeared down the ridge.
“There are Warg tracks leading away from the burned carcass,” Elladan reported. “Glorfindel thinks the beasts that left them were dragging something.”
Arwen gripped Elrond, fear flooding her all over again. The feeling was doubled when she saw the looks on the faces around her, especially Thranduil, who was holding Maida. Nobody seemed to care that Faye was missing.
“No,” Arwen protested. “No, we can’t just leave her here.”
But they were ignoring her, starting to head back to the horses. She tried again, but still the others did not listen.
“No!” she shouted, struggling as hard as she could. “Faye’s in trouble! We have to find her! We have to find her!”
Elrond quickly set her down, grasping her shoulders firmly. Arwen stared desperately into her father’s eyes, trying to make him understand. Make them all understand.
“We can’t leave her, Ada,” she begged.
“Faye brought you here, Arwen,” Elrond said firmly. “She put you both in danger after hurting your mother and stealing you from Imladris.” He gently touched her throat, and Arwen winced. There was definitely a bruise there. “You could have been killed today.”
“But it was an accident,” Arwen squeaked. “She couldn’t control herself.”
“That is exactly my point, Arwen,” Elrond snapped sternly. “Faye is a vampire. She cannot control herself when blood is shed. Imladris is a place where the wounded come to be healed. There will be blood again. I will not allow that much of a risk anywhere in the Valley.” He motioned to the others. “I do not want to be blunt with you, but I must make you see reason.”
He lifted Arwen up again, carrying her to the ridge. The strongest of Elrond’s warriors were down there, fully armed. Several were examining the smoldering werewolf carcass. Angry tears started trickling down Arwen’s cheeks.
“You came to kill Faye,” she said harshly.
“I came to save you and eliminate the threat to our home and family,” Elrond replied.
“The werewolf was the threat!” Arwen cried. “Faye killed it! Faye saved us! She saved us!!”
“Arwen, that is enough!” Elrond snapped.
Arwen froze. Her father had never used so harsh a tone with her before. For a moment, there was anger on his face. Then, his expression softened slightly. Slowly, he settled his hand on her forehead. Arwen was so upset and confused, she did not realize what he was doing until it was too late.
“Sleep, my Evenstar,” he said softly. “Everything will be okay soon.”
Arwen immediately sank into a deep daze. She barely felt it when Elrond descended the slope and mounted his horse. She did, however, manage to hear his words to Glorfindel before she fully succumbed to sleep.
“Track the wolves and slaughter them. Make sure the vampire is dead.”
* * * * *
Mur dropped the carcass he had dragged from the hallowed spot of his leader’s fall. Three others supported the two with broken jaws, tolerating their moans of pain. It had been a disaster for the pack, for losing Garunthor meant that if something wasn’t done quickly, strife would soon develop among the pack-members. For the moment, he was the temporary leader, and Mur wasn’t going to let his chance to shine go to waste.
“Be brave, my brothers and sisters,” he said proudly. “Garunthor may be dead, but his teachings will not be forgotten. We are strong, and we can only grow stronger through our losses.” He placed his heavy paw on the carcass. “We have food. Though it is not sweet Elf-flesh, it will strengthen us. One day, we will find the Elf-cubs again.”
The rest of the pack growled softly in agreement, and Mur beamed with pride. If he kept this up, he may be able to cement his role as the new leader. He leaned down and rolled the carcass over with his snout, beckoning the others to join him.
“Yes, my brothers and sisters. Come join me,” Mur offered. “Come see what your leader has provided.”
At that moment, Mur knew he was successful. None, not even the two other males, combated his claim. They simply growled their acceptance and started approaching the carcass. Finally, he was the pack leader. He glanced over at one of the females, one of the unlucky two with broken jaws, and puffed himself up. The female glanced back, growling deeply and flicking her stubby tail. She had always been his favorite, and now she had accepted him. Her jaw would heal in time, and by next season, there would be new pups in the pack.
Suddenly, he heard a rustling of feathers, and he turned to see a large eagle perched on a rock above them, studying them with a firm, unwavering gaze. Mur growled at it. He didn’t care much for birds–not enough meat on their bones–and this one seemed to be mocking him. The bird turned its gaze from him to the other pack-members, then down at the carcass. A moment later, it opened its wings and took flight, soaring out of sight. Mur growled again and shook his head. He had never seen a bird act like that before.
Mur turned. His fellow pack-members nearest to the carcass had frozen in shock, and one, the youngest, was looking at him.
“What is it?” Mur asked.
“Do Man carcasses usually move?”
Mur looked down at the carcass, and shock filled him as the carcass opened its eyes and stared right back at him. For a moment, he silently protested the irony. He had only been leader for a few minutes! This wasn’t supposed to happen. Burning pain started filling every inch of his body, and he reared back his head and shrieked.
Then, he felt nothing at all.
* * * * *
When Glorfindel and the others finally caught up with the pack, they were stunned at what they found. The six Wargs they had been tracking lay dead. One was burned out, like the werewolf carcass had been. Three had their throats ripped open and were drained of all blood. The other two were torn to shreds.
The vampire Faye was nowhere to be found.