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Disclaimer: All characters are J.R.R. Tolkien’s, well; I’m playing with their feelings a bit :) I’m not writing to make any profit but for writing’s sake, and because I love the world of Middle-Earth.

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Prologue

The tall elf of Lórien was moving like lightning, felling orcs with every stroke of his sword. His mind pondering on one thought, ‘What devilry had brought down the wall? What new device had Saruman the traitor thought up?’ Orcs surrounded the remains of the elvish archers; too many had already fallen to their foul weapons. Haldir looked down into the valley below him for a moment. Orcs were swarming through the hole in the wall, barely stopped by the small force of elves and men down there. Aragorn was there, and Legolas and the dwarf Gimli. They fought bravely, but they would not be able to hold their position for much longer. He was called back to where he stood by an orc who only narrowly missed him. And then he heard Aragorn’s voice, “Retreat to the keep.” The elf nodded, ordering his soldiers to make for the safety of the Hornburg. Then he felt pain beyond anything in his side and he gasped. Turning around, he moved his sword and brought it down upon the orc. And another flash of agony, in his back this time. He barely heard Aragorn’s cry from below. This was the end, he thought. His eyes falling upon the dead bodies of those he had led to Helm’s Deep. ‘Forgive me, my brothers.’ He sank to his knees; Haldir, whom no one could ever force down, an orc had broken him. An arm holding him as he fell back, the eyes of the ranger filled with sorrow. And then darkness.


Chapter 1 - The Aftermath of the Battle

…owyn was running towards the door to the outer wall, tears streaming from her eyes. They had won the battle, but at what cost? So many were dead, so few had survived. But he had, Aragorn was still with her, and not. He had suddenly stood before her and she had lost control over herself. She had touched his cheek and then thrown her arms around his neck, feeling his arms close around her, feeling his body react to the closeness of hers. For one glorious moment she had believed that he would be hers, hers completely. But then he had broken the embrace, had almost fled from her. He walked up to the elf of Mirkwood, Legolas, taking his hand into his own. Eyes begging for forgiveness. She could not believe it at first, but there was no doubt. The elf and the ranger were a couple, were lovers. She had run, unable to bear this view any longer. She had almost felled her brother, who looked at her not in puzzlement, but grief. So he knew. But at that moment she couldn’t confront him. She just had to get away.

She almost stumbled over the dead body of an elf, the one who had been their leader. The one whom Aragorn had embraced, how she had envied him then. Now he was dead and gone, forever. One elf less to break the hearts of others. She looked down upon his face, yes; the faces of the elves were beautiful, even in death. But, no dead elf was drawing breath. This one did. “This one still lives,” she screamed at the top of her voice. “Somebody come and help me!” And someone came, the one person she had least wanted to see, Legolas. His features contorted when he saw Haldir’s broken body. “He lives? But Aragorn said...” – “Well, the ranger doesn’t know everything then, does he? Will you carry him?” She was surprised when Legolas picked the limp body up in one swift movement. “Very well, follow me!”

They took the High Warden of Lórien into the keep, tending his wounds, the elf assisting the woman as well as he could. Feeling her eyes pierce him whenever she looked into his direction. Suddenly he reached out for her hand, gripping it tight. “Forgive him. He did not know he longed for you, until this morning. But he is bound to another.” He looked away from her, his eyes staring at his feet. Suddenly she understood, and could no longer hold it against the one before her. “To you ... you know him for much longer than I do, he belongs to you.” – “If it weren’t for the bond between us, I would willingly step aside, for he does love you as well. More then he’ll ever know.” She saw the sadness in the elf’s eyes and, giving in to an impulse, reached out to touch his cheek. “No, he has chosen you, he would not have done that if he was destined...” Her voice broke. “If he was intended for you,” Legolas finished the sentence for her. “But I think you were meant to meet him, fair …owyn. And through this find your true love.” With that he turned and walked away from her.

She hated the elf after all. Only an elf could speak of ‘seeing the future’ or ‘finding the true love’ in such a way. And now she was stuck with yet another elf. Her heart was aching for freedom, but here she was, nursing one who might still die. With a deep sigh she sat down beside Haldir’s bedstead.

After a few hours the door opened again and her brother entered. “Sister, we have to move out. The dead have been buried; most of the wounded can be moved on horses. What of this one?” He pointed at Haldir. “The King will not allow you to stay behind, alone, with a half-dead elf as your only company.” He smiled as he said those last words, but his face fell when he looked into …owyn’s eyes. “You knew it all along.” …owyn jumped and closed the space between her and her brother with two steps. “You knew, didn’t you? You realised it before me and you didn’t tell me? You must have realised my feelings for him! You must...” her fists hitting her brother’s chest. Tears started falling from her eyes, “Why didn’t you tell me?” He caught her hands in his. “Would you have believed me? At least now you know the truth, you won’t waste away for want to have him.” He was right, she knew, but still she felt as if he had betrayed her. …omer’s arms were closing around her, holding her tightly. “Forgive me if I hurt you,” he whispered. “You’re right, I wouldn’t have believed you. I had to see it with my own eyes.” Her hands whipped away the tears.

She turned back to Haldir. “He will have to be put in a wagon, he can’t be put on a horse. He has two wounds, but the one in his back has almost killed him. It is a miracle that he’s still alive. What will the King do?” she added, looking into her brother’s eyes once again. “The wounded are to return to Edoras right away. You will go with them, as will I,” he quickly said as he saw her eyes fill with anger. “Aragorn and those who follow him will journey with us. They will later turn towards the Paths...” – “The Paths of the Dead? He must be mad if he considers taking this road!” …omer nodded. “Yes, but unfortunately there’s no talking him out of it. His mind is set.” She sighed. Losing the chance to be with him was one thing, but losing him entirely ... “And the King?” – “He will lead the gross of the troops to Isengard, to finish off every orc that might be there still. And Gandalf wishes to have a word with his old ‘friend’.”

"Saruman," …owyn said with sudden fury in her voice, "How could he betray us like that?" …omer took her hand and squeezed it. "He's weak, he must think that we have no change of ever defeating Sauron ... And then there's something Gandalf has said. Something about Sauron's mightiest weapon. That it has been found again. Maybe Saruman desires it, and this greed darkened his vision..." Impatiently …owyn cut him short, "Are you trying to defend him? He's responsible for the death of so many Rohirrim, including Theódred." Her eyes filled with tears when she mentioned her cousin, now dead and gone. "There's no excuse for that, and there can never be forgiveness. Had they not come," she pointed at the wounded elf behind her, "we might all be dead by now." …omer nodded, "Yes, we owe them much. They came in the hour of desperation and filled our hearts with new hope." Reluctantly he let go of his sister’s hand again. "I will have everything prepared for the elf’s transportation."

And so he did. Pillows and blankets were put on a wagon, together with everything …owyn might need to tend the wounds of the elf. Once a bed had been prepared, Haldir was carried out of the Keep, still unconscious. 'And he's lucky he's not awake,' …owyn thought to herself. 'The wounds will torment him enough when he comes to himself eventually.'

They set off around mid-day, and only slowly did they put space between them and the Hornburg; too many wounded were among them. Once again …owyn felt trapped. She yearned to be out in the open air with her people, but here she was, in a wagon ... a cage. She had see Aragorn and Legolas riding side by side, the air around them evidence of their bond. They looked happy, even in this dreadful situation, with the prospect of death, terrible death, they were happy together. Their love gave them strength to face every peril it seemed. How she longed for the same kind of bond, how she had longed for this with Aragorn. But it was not to be. Legolas had destroyed all her hopes, and still she couldn't hate him. They were destined for each other; nothing could ever change that, not even her love for the ranger. But still, the elf had hurt her deeply, and now she was stuck with yet another. She almost loathed the beautiful face that was now as pale as death itself. His breathing became heavy, his head rolled from one side to the other. He was having a nightmare. She touched his forehead; he was burning with fever. Taking a wet piece of cloth from a bowl of water, she tried to cool him a bit. His hands grasped the blankets, his face a mask of sorrow and pain. Slowly she took one of his hands into hers, stroking it softly. Suddenly she felt his hand grip hers tightly, his eyes opening, staring at her. Deep blue eyes filled with grief and fear. “You’re alive,” she whispered. “You’re safe.” She retrieved a bottle of water from behind her. “Drink this, you need to drink.”

He had seen his dead comrades, friends of old, now lying dead before him. The pain he felt was unbearable. But he felt that he would join with them, follow them to Mandos. The piercing pain in his back must be of a mortal wound. Darkness was consuming him. But then suddenly warmth, the warmth of two small hands holding his. He gripped them; they were his anchor in the darkness. Bringing him back to the light. Slowly he opened his eyes, staring at that golden-haired creature that leaned over him. Blue eyes looking down at him. She must be one of those gentle spirits of Mandos. But then he felt the pain again; his side and back were in agony. He heard her whisper to him, “You’re alive, you’re save.” So he was not dead after all, but who was she? She had put a bottle to his lips and told him to drink. He obeyed, but still he couldn’t take his eyes off her. Slowly recognition came over him. She was no gentle being after all; he even doubted that there was anything gentle about her. She was …owyn, Théoden’s niece. The one who had stared at Aragorn as if he was some kind of god. “What happened,” he inquired.

…owyn was surprised to hear his voice this strong and steady. ‘Elves heal fast, why not men?’ she thought. “You were wounded, twice. One wound is in your left side. It’s not severe and it should heal well. The other,” she added with a long sigh, “has been to your back. It almost severed your backbone. It’s deep and you’ve lost much blood. It’s a miracle that you live still.” He was shocked to see loathing in her eyes. As if she hated him for being alive. “Would you rather see me dead?” She tried to move away from him, but he still held one of her hands. Her eyes were sparkling when she said, ”Rather you than a Rohirrim. Rather you than my cousin! He took a wound less grievous than yours, but he died and you live!” With these words she freed herself from his grasp. “Try to sleep. I wouldn’t want you to be in more agony than need be.” He could read in the tone of her voice that in fact she wanted him to feel the pain, as much as possible. She hated him, or was it elves in general? Then it dawned on him. ‘She must know of Aragorn and Legolas, at last she realised it.’ His mind was still pondering on this thought, when he fell asleep again. In his dreams he saw her eyes again, her light blue eyes that reminded him of the waters of the Nimrodel, reminded him of Lórien, of home.
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