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The Shadow Hunter

Chapter Text

Third Age, Year 241

Glorfindel hummed cheerfully as he made his way through the green trees of Imladris. His golden hair glimmered reflecting the spring sunlight that radiated the valley as he rode his horse across a clearing. The day was well and beautiful, and Glorfindel was rather impatient to reach the home of his friend Elrond the peredhil. After such long years venturing among the people of Middle Earth he had finally decided to visit the Elf once more, hoping to share some of his knowledge about the outer world. His journey was by far safe and sound, and he hoped it would still be until he reached the gates of Rivendell. He didn't want to unsheathe his sword after so much peace he had enjoyed ever since Sauron had fallen.

Slowly he passed the denser part of the forest and closed in to Bruinen, the river flowing deep in the valley, and stopped to let his horse drink from its clear waters. As he waited he looked around and enjoyed the tranquility of the valley, undisturbed under Elrond's protection. He hummed again as he brushed his horse's mane to ease his boredom.

His horse suddenly stopped its drinking and looked up to the direction they had travelled earlier. Glorfindel was surprised of his horse's behavior and followed its gaze as well. His horse became restless after a few moment and Glorfindel wondered what had happened to his ride. His keen ears suddenly caught screeches belonging not to beasts nor animals, but to the creatures of Orcs or goblins.

Orcs?, Glorfindel thought as he took his bow from his horse's saddle and notched an arrow on its bowstring. Judging from their sound Glorfindel assumed their numbers were not many, and he drew his bow once he saw figures running from the distance. Now my hopes of finding peace here is in vain.

"Help!" suddenly a woman's voice came from among the black figures. Glorfindel shuddered at her voice and lowered his bow. He suspected if the voice he had heard was only his pure imagination, but his suspicions he knew were wrong when he caught the sight of a woman riding a black horse. She was carrying a bundle within her hands and her face were full of grazes. Behind her were the Orcs Glorfindel had heard before, running wildly with drawn black bows in their hands

Without further ado Glorfindel released his arrow to the Orc almost outrunning the woman. His arrow flew past the woman's ears and hit the Orc's skull accurately, killing it instantly. Glorfindel had hoped that the evil creatures would stop chasing the woman once they saw him, but he was wrong, and the Orcs continued to run over the corpse of their comrade. Glorfindel frowned at his enemies' stubbornness and fired another arrow to the Orc wielding a sword.

"Come, this way!" Glorfindel shouted to the woman. There was a slight flash of hope appearing on her face when she heard the Elf's voice and a relieved smile crooked from her lips, but they all vanished when the horse she was riding fell to its knees and threw her to the solid earth. Glorfindel immediately ran to the woman to protect her from the closing in chasers, but he stopped when an arrow whizzed past his ear.

Another arrow flew over his shoulder. Glorfindel couldn't continue his pace and decided to take care of the enemies first. The woman, to his relief, rose to her feet and ran towards him as she clutched the bundle in her arms. "Hurry!" Glorfindel urged her when he saw that she was finally getting closer.

The woman continued to limp desperately towards him and Glorfindel extended his hand to reach her. However, before the woman could take his hand, a cruel black arrow impaled her right shoulder. The woman stopped running and looked at Glorfindel in horror as blood flowed from the hole in her shoulder. She fell to her knees, but her arms still protected the bundle in her arms.

Glorfindel gritted his teeth in anger and released more arrows to the impending enemies and their numbers dwindle in the fury of his attacks. The strength he used to muster returned to his veins and he took down what was left of the Orcs swiftly, like a hurricane striking frail buildings to their destruction.

The last Orc screeched loudly as an arrow impaled its chest as it fell to the ground. Glorfindel didn't spend a second to congratulate his victory and rushed to the fallen woman. He knelt beside the woman and rested her in his arms. Blood was flowing profusely from her wound and her breathing was heavy and slowing each second she passed.

"Stay with me, My Lady," Glorfindel pleaded to her, despite knowing that she had little time left. The woman looked to his eyes and, to his surprise, smiled weakly at him.

"It is too late, My Lord. My wound is too grief and I will shortly leave this world," she coughed with her dying voice, but there was no fear in her face nor her voice. Glorfindel looked at her in pity and disappointment to himself, for he could have saved the woman if he was keener and faster.

"Please do not give in My Lady. You can still be saved by Lord Elrond," Glorfindel tried to assure her. The woman only smiled in response and then looked at the bundle she had been protecting from the Orcs. Slowly she unveiled the cloth enclosing the bundle, revealing an infant elleth sleeping soundly and unharmed. Glorfindel gaped at what the woman was showing and was more surprised when she gave the baby to him.

"Please, protect her," she said as she handed the beautiful child. Glorfindel took her hesitantly and then looked back at the dying woman.

"Who are you? What happened?" Glorfindel tried to ask her, but he saw that her eyes were losing their light and her soul fading.

"It is not… not important now," the woman whispered, not having strength left to talk aloud. "Varilerin… Please take care of her, My Lord."

A single drop of tear flowed from her dark brown eyes as she gazed far to the sky. Her soul had finally escaped the despair she had been enduring for the child now in Glorfindel's arms. Glorfindel grimaced sadly and closed the woman's eyes with his bloodied hand.

"May peace find you in the Halls of Mandos," Glorfindel chanted in Elvish. The child in his arms wriggled and woke from her dreams. Glorfindel looked at her beautiful eyes, silver like a jewel unlike her dark raven hair. She didn't cry nor move as her silver eyes shifted to the soulless body beside her. Glorfindel brushed her head gently as he hushed her before she could cry.

"Don't worry child," he whispered. "You're safe now."


 

After long years of travelling Glorfindel returned to the village Rivendell with a child in his arms and a corpse at the back of his horse; and Elrond couldn't decide which one surprised him more. He arrived in haste, as if he was being chased by an evil spirit of Morgoth.

"What has happened?" Elrond questioned the Elf hastily once he had unmounted his horse. Elrond frowned when he saw his friend's poor bloodied appearance, and desperately wondered what had happened in his journey.

"A pack of Orcs chased this child's mother," Glorfindel explained with short breaths. He paused as he regained his calmness and looked at the corpse of the child's mother sadly, her face cold and soulless. "She sacrificed herself for this child. Now, she has nowhere to go."

Celebrian, Elrond's beloved wife arrived just then, having heard of Glorfindel's surprising arrival. Her eyes were quickly directed to the infant carried by Glorfindel and she looked at him questioningly. "Glorfindel found this child when he was travelling here. Now she has no home nor family. Will take care of her for now?" Elrond said when he saw his love's arrival. His sons were spying from the balcony above, their eyes watchful and curious of what had just happened, for it had been long years since they last saw Glorfindel.

Celebrian smiled as she nodded, and took the elleth carefully from Glorfindel's arms, preventing her from awaking. She studied the child's appearance and found her raven hair odd and interesting. "She's just as old as Arwen, poor her," Celebrian said when she saw that the child was no longer than a year old, still frail and innocent of the dangers of the world. "And she's malnourished, but luckily she is unharmed."

"Yes, such a fate indeed," Elrond said. "Please take care of her."

"I will, My Lord," Celebrian said as she excused herself from Elrond and Glorfindel's presence. Elrond then instructed the nearby Elves to move the mother's body to one of the empty chambers and with Glorfindel he investigated to which race the woman belonged to.

"She's an elf, I suppose," Elrond observed when he saw her pointed ears, but her face was not of their kind. Her cheekbones were strong and her face stern, her eyes dark brown like an old tree bark and her hair dark as the night sky, just like her child.

"She's a peredhil," Glorfindel realized. "Of Noldor ancestry."

"It is strange for a mere peredhil to be chased by a pack of Orcs. Our borders have been peaceful for a long time and a few of those evil creatures were bold enough to enter the valley, and yet she's chased by a whole pack?" Elrond asked Glorfindel.

"And I believe the Orcs are, judging by their weaponry, not from those dwelling around the river. They must have chased her from afar," Glorfindel added. "She didn't say no more of the reason she was being hunted. She only told me the name of the child, Varilerin."

"Then the child holds an importance to her. I am afraid an importance more than we can imagine," Elrond deduced. His eyes then caught a small brooch clasping the woman's cloak together, of significant shape not strange to his eyes. He unclasped the brooch and observed it carefully. It was made of silver he supposed, but what intrigued him was not its material. It was shaped as a six-pointed star, an ornament only possibly found among the people of the Numenor.

"I believe we know where she came from," Elrond told Glorfindel. "The Dunedain."

"The Dunedain you say?" Glorfindel asked in surprise. "Their land is far from here and yet the woman managed to come here battered in wounds! I cannot imagine what pain she has endured for this child," Glorfindel said in horror. "Such a poor fate!"

Elrond remained silent as he tried to imagine the dangers this woman had made through in order to ensure the safety of her child. Such an honorable woman, he thought, and his heart couldn't help respecting the woman's valiant courage. "A poor fate indeed," he muttered.

"We must bury her properly, for this woman is more valiant than even the bravest warriors," Glorfindel suggested. Elrond agreed and he arranged for the elves to bury her near a tree in the forest, where they hoped her body would remain undisturbed and in peace. Once they prayed for her soul in the Halls of Mandos, they went to the nursery, where Arwen and the infant lay.

Celebrian was singing to both infants in their cradles gently with her beautiful voice, only stopping when Elrond and Glorfindel arrived in the room.

"The woman is of the Dunedain," Elrond informed her. "And a peredhil."

"She's a Dunedain you say?" Celebrian asked in surprise. Elrond nodded to reconfirm his point and looked at Varilerin, who was once more sleeping peacefully in her blanket. Her face was peacefully as if she had not experienced any event in that day and Elrond pitied her, for he knew that she would grow without having her true mother or father by her side. As he thought about this, his keen eyes caught a glimmer from her neck, and he stepped closer to her cradle.

Carefully, Elrond shoved some folds of her blanket to investigate what produced the glimmer, and he found a small pendant dangling on her neck. Elrond narrowed his eyes and took the pendant carefully, observing its carvings and craftsmanship. It was of Elven craft, with a single elongated white gem that was embedded between swirling vines, and a pair of wings above it enclosing the gem. It was a rather unusual craft for a Noldor Elf.

"Her father is an elf," Elrond said so suddenly that Celebrian and Glorfindel turned at him with gaped eyes. Elrond showed the brooch to Celebrian, who in turn studied the jewellery keenly. "Though it is possible that her father is a peredhil, or a human with special ties with the Northern Elves."

Celebrian acknowledged Elrond's deduction, for jewelries were often used to propose to someone in Elven tradition, and not rare did these jewelries were given to a couple's children. Celebrian then put the jewel back to Varilerin's neck, and then turned to Elrond and Glorfindel with a sigh.

"We need to ask your mother, Celebrian, for I fear that this child is more important than one can imagine," Elrond told her. "She is more knowledgeable than many and I believe she might know the answer."

"But what will be of the child until that answer has come, My Lord? I am afraid that the answer will never come," Celebrian said hopelessly.

"The only choice for her…. Is that she stays here, raised as an Elf of Rivendell, as one of our kin, until the time comes when she learns her heritage," Elrond said without any hesitance.

"I believe that's for the best then," Celebrian said as she looked at the two infants. A smile appeared on her fair face. "Furthermore, I believe that Arwen would be delighted to have a friend of her age. They will both grow into beautiful maidens," she added.

"They will, I am sure," Glorfindel remarked, his eyes not leaving the baby's innocent face. Something about her somehow really intrigued him unlike anything in the world, and it caused him to take a pity on her poor fate. As he thought about this, a realization came to his mind, and he smiled at the brilliant idea he had just thought.

"Elrond, if you allow, may I take this child as my own?" Glorfindel asked to the two. Elrond and Celebrian looked at him in surprise and doubtfully, for Glorfindel had never taken care of a child before. Glorfindel only smiled as a response to their suspecting looks. "I have always wanted a child of my own."

Elrond and Celebrian looked at each other doubtfully, but then Celebrian smiled and assured Elrond that everything would be fine, just by looking at him. She then picked up Varilerin from her cradle, handing her to Glorfindel. "I am sure that you'll be a good guardian for her. After all, you are the one who saved her."

Glorfindel smiled and received the infant gently. Varilerin instantly opened her eyes and looked at him with her silver eyes. She touched his fair face with her frail hands and though she was not smiling, he could see joy decorating her face. Something about her was different from other infants he had seen, and it made him happy and sad at the same time.

"Don't worry, little one," he whispered. "From now on, I'll protect you."

Chapter Text

T.A. 253, 12 years later

Arwen’s clear blue eyes caught a flash of arrow flying among the trees. She blinked curiously and then smiled. She quietly but swiftly walked between the towering barks of the woods, knowing that the archer who had shot the arrow was none other than her quiet friend Varilerin. When she saw a black-haired head from between the leaves, she quickened her pace and dragged her grey dress in an effort to increase her speed.

Varilerin didn’t seem to notice Arwen’s arrival, for when her friend suddenly emerged from among the bushes she immediately jolted as if she was struck by a thunder.

“You’ve gone more skillful than I, Varilerin,” Arwen said before her friend could speak. Her eyes caught the target at which Varilerin had been shooting, full of arrows striking dead in its centre. Arwen gaped at this sight and looked at Varilerin in amazement and wonder. Varilerin withdrew the bow she had been holding to hide it and tapped her boots as she looked to the ground to hide her embarrassment.

“Thank- thank you for your praise, My Lady,” Varilerin stammered, brushing her grey tunic nervously to turn her attention away. Arwen watched her friend’s behavior amusedly and smiled gleefully.

“You will make a great warrior, my friend. You should try join the ranger next time they go to the borders!” Arwen suggested sincerely.

“I… am still such a young archer My Lady. I will be more of a burden than help,” Varilerin muttered and turned her back. She didn’t say anything further and, like her usual response whenever she lost control of her emotions, ran away from her friend and disappeared into the woods. Arwen laughed gleefully and chased after the shy girl, but found herself unable to catch her speed because of her elegant long dress. Varilerin of course had the upper hand as she was wearing a tunic and leggings, but Arwen didn’t give in and continued to run after her.

“Varilerin!” Arwen shouted as she searched her friend among the trees. It was not difficult to find streaks of black hair between the leaves and soon Arwen had found Varilerin once more. They continued to play cats and mice until they reached the buildings of Rivendell, where the resident Elves jolted when they saw two elleths chasing after each other like wild animals. Varilerin found a large pillar and hid behind it, hoping to hide herself from Arwen, but she had not yet mastered the ability of concealment and soon Arwen found her. Arwen stopped to regain her breathing, but it did not cause her to stop laughing at her friend.

“You’ve gotten better at running away as well!” Arwen remarked before she encircled the pillar to catch Varilerin. Varilerin was, like Arwen had said, agile and dodged Arwen’s every attempts in taking hold of her. They continued to run circling the pillar, over and over until all the surrounding Elves were now watching them with amusement.

“Please, Lady Arwen, we need to stop this, please stop chasing me!” Varilerin pleaded without stopping her feet. Arwen smirked as a response and switched direction, finally meeting Varilerin’s silver eyes and grasping tight her arms to prevent her from escaping.

“Finally you have stopped!” Arwen said in satisfaction. Varilerin tried to wriggle free, but found that her friend was stronger than she looked. They were locked in such a position for several minutes, not noticing that the Elves were starting to laugh at their battle.

“What is happening here?” a deep voice echoed from the corridors. Arwen and Varilerin stopped their squabble immediately when they recognized the voice, belonging to Arwen’s father, Elrond. Arwen released her grasp from Varilerin and distanced herself, standing as if she had not done anything. Varilerin meanwhile lowered her head upon the possibility that they would be scolded by the Elven lord.

Elrond approached the two with glowering eyes and frowned at them. “I’ve told you two so many times not to cause trouble, and yet here you are chasing each other wildly, disturbing the peace I’ve tried to maintain in this valley!”

“Varilerin keeps running away whenever I approach her, Father. It is, though, my responsibility to keep her within safety, or else she might travel into the most dangerous parts of the forest!” Arwen excused herself. Varilerin lifted her head and looked at Arwen accusingly, her silver eyes blazing in annoyance.

“I merely trained, My Lord, and I have no intention to run away. I am just escaping from Lady Arwen’s disruption,” Varilerin reasoned quietly.

“I can no longer believe the words coming from the both of you,” Elrond said to stop them from glaring at each other. Deep inside, Elrond was actually amused seeing the two’s behaviors, and was pleased that Arwen had a good friend of her age. “Now, I believe I should separate you two to ensure peace is maintained.”

“Please, Father, I am only preventing Varilerin from training too much!” Arwen pleaded.

“I am not training too much, it is just something that will please Master Glorfindel,” Varilerin defended hesitantly.

“And I have, you should know that,” Glorfindel’s voice suddenly came out of nowhere. Varilerin shuddered and saw Glorfindel coming from the shadows of the corridors, well concealed despite his radiating appearance.

“Master Glorfindel,” Varilerin stammered as she gave her respects to her guardian.

“You don’t call me that, My Child,” Glorfindel said to her as he stood next to Elrond. Although he had always thought of her as his own daughter, Varilerin couldn’t stop calling him her master or teacher, though the title seemed fitting because Glorfindel was the mentor for Varilerin, both in battle or in knowledge. However, the fact that he had groomed a warrior elleth (or ellon, some with less keen observation called) skilled in the arts of bows, blades, riding, and tracking disappointed him truly. The result was inevitable, so the only actions he could do was to prevent her from straining herself in rigorous trainings she always did every day. “And I would like you to rest as well. You’ve exceeded the skills of those of your age, shouldn’t you be taking a break and enjoy the day?”

“I… certainly cannot,” Varilerin answered slowly, letting her raven bangs hide her face as she looked down. Glorfindel frowned in disbelief and slightly sadly. He saw that Varilerin had not changed despite becoming older as the year passed by. She had grown physically, yes, and it was undeniable that her beauty was flourishing in some ways and another. Little did she know that, despite her solitary attitude, she was quite known throughout Rivendell for her fair face and silver eyes. Her dark night hair was braided behind her ears and fell to her back. With the blood of Men flowing through her veins, her facial features were stronger and sterner compared to the fairer Elves, but she was still enchanting and mysterious.

However, her isolated behavior worried Glorfindel dearly. He couldn’t understand why she liked isolating herself from the others, even her kin, and often chose to remain in the shadows. She avoided the crowd and the buildings of Rivendell, preferring the tranquil and secluded woods, even sleeping on tree branches whenever night came. Her queer behavior intrigued many, but none knew her too well.

“You must rest, Varilerin, not that I have a vacant time, not when a gathering of our kin is held tomorrow,” Glorfindel told her, his eyes glancing at Elrond. Varilerin and Arwen seemed surprised at this information, which indicated that Elrond had not told them anything about it.

“Glorfindel is correct. Tomorrow our kin from Lothlorien and Greenwood will come to discuss some matters concerning the condition in these lands,” Elrond explained as he sighed. “I hope that you will attend, both of you, without making troubles of course.”

“And why should we, Lord Elrond?” Varilerin asked in fear. She, as many knew, disliked so much crowd and noise, and now Elrond was instructing her to attend such a large gathering!

“Our kin will also bring the younglings, not experienced and knowledgeable, to this gathering. They hope that this will build friendship among the younglings, which will be a good thing if in the future help is needed,” Elrond explained again, looking at Arwen. “And you should attend, of course my daughter, along with Varilerin-“

Elrond was utterly surprised when Varilerin was no longer by Arwen’s side. He glanced to his surroundings to search for the elleth, but found none of her presence. “How in the world?” he muttered when he realized that Varilerin had slipped past his watchful eyes, right under his nose.

“She’s really good at running away,” Arwen remarked, seeing her friend’s not surprising disappearance. “She has planned for this when she heard the news of the gathering.”

“Which she won’t attend, I am sure,” Glorfindel said confidently. “Not in a million years. She would flee again to ‘play’ with her ranger friends,” he continued with a small chuckle. “Just like what she’s doing now, I believe.”

Elrond sighed loudly and shook his head in disbelief. “Speaking of that child, I am afraid that there’s nothing we can further discover about her heritage, Glorfindel,” Elrond informed his friend disappointingly. “Lady Galadriel has tried to reach our kin in other woods, but none gave her a satisfying answer.”

“Then it is such a shame,” Glorfindel said. “For us, the most knowledgeable in Middle Earth to know so little…. Truly, Varilerin’s fate is a mysterious and sad one.”

“But not all hope is lost,” Elrond said to him. “Maybe it is not for us to discover her heritage, but herself; and for that we must wait.”


 

Varilerin walked silently through the shining trees of Imladris, her bow clutched safely in her hand. Her face was still warm red from the numerous events that had happened before, and she tried her hardest to shake the embarrassment off her head. She had never liked praises, not as much as normal elves do. They made her uncomfortable and caused her to lower her guard down, a thing she couldn’t let happen with her warrior discipline. Letting one’s guard down meant instant death for her, something that she disliked the most.

She had been told the story about her mother during her younger years from Glorfindel, slowly but complete. Only a single tear dropped from her eyes, the first time she ever cried, and she hoped the last. She may smile and laugh less than the other elves, but she had never cried, a thing she couldn’t comprehend even as she got older and wiser. Her face had always shown tranquility, calmness, and no excessive emotions. However, the moment she heard her mother’s tale, her heart ached more painfully than any she had experienced. She remembered that that day was the first time she started wandering in the woods alone and started sleeping on trees. The woods had offered her protection and comfort ever since then, just like what how they calmed her now.

Varilerin stopped beneath a large tree and looked to its thick branches. The leaves immediately rustled when she did so, and two figures fell from the trees, both faces concealed with brown hoods and their hands carrying a bow. “My friend, it’s a surprise to see you at this time!” one of the figure said as she patted her tunic and pulled her hood down. An elleth with wavy oak hair smiled at Varilerin cheerfully. “Tell me, what has happened?”

“She must have dealings socially,” the other said as he too pulled his cloak, revealing a fair masculine face and brown straight hair that fell to his shoulders.

“No, Ellain, Ruindoldir, I am merely wandering around,” Varilerin lied to her friends, though they knew Varilerin too well.

“Oh, the gathering,” Ellain guessed accurately. She then chuckled and rummaged Varilerin’s head, causing a mess to her locks. “I see you’ve been asked to join the ‘society’ once more?” Ellain continued, a glee smile curving from her lips.

“Do not tease her, Ellain, she has gone through much,” Ruindoldir told her. Ellain obeyed his command and pulled her hand away. Varilerin was clearly annoyed by her action, treating her like a child and all, but didn’t show it in her face, or had no reason to show it to her closest friends. Ellain and Ruindoldir were rangers of Rivendell, pledging themselves to protect the valley from harm. Her meeting with them was very unlikely in the woods, but Varilerin found herself more comfortable with them than the other Elves of her age, except for Arwen of course.

“You should probably try going, Varilerin,” Ellain suggested. “I’ve been there once and it’s very fun actually. Now I am eager to join once more, but cannot because of my duties. Such as shame.” Ellain sighed dreamily as she said so, causing raised brows to Varilerin and Ruindoldir.

“Well, Ellain is correct, Varilerin. This gathering is held not often, last time when Elladan and Elrohir were still a child. You need to attend it because the next time it happens, you might be like us, busy with our duties,”

“I am not slightly interest in attending,” Varilerin retorted quietly. “And I like duties more than social interactions,” she continued.

“You’re hopeless aren’t you?” Ellain sighed. Varilerin gave the two of them a small ridiculing smile, slightly proud that she had annoyed her friends. “And here we thought that we can change you,” Ellain continued. “I guess you’ll stay the same forever….”

“Some things cannot be changed, Ellain,” Varilerin added. Secretly she didn’t want to change her nature, not that it had become one with her. She unlike many liked the loneliness, the feeling of privacy when she was away from the others. None could change that, she knew, and she preferred to stay that way.

“Enough with this useless argument,” Ruindoldir finally said. “Soon the Greenwood Elves will be coming, and we’re here quarreling. Lord Elrond will be furious if he sees us.”

“Do you want to join us, Varilerin?” Ellain offered without asking for agreement from Ruindoldir. “The more the merrier!”

Varilerin thought about the idea for a moment and after deep consideration, she nodded. Ellain grinned widely, glancing happily to Ruindoldir’s disagreeing stare. “She’ll be fine, Ruin, she’s even more skillful than you if I should say!”

Ruindoldir scowled, but finally nodded reluctantly. “Farewell then. Don’t get lost, however, for we’re getting farther than you’ve ever been in Imladris.”

Ruindoldir turned his back from Varilerin and began leaping on the tree branches. Ellain sent her friend a last small smile, before following Ruindoldir’s agile movements. Varilerin stared in amazement at the two, before she jumped to the trees, and journeyed to the borders of Imladris.

Chapter Text

They had waited for hours on the trees, yet none of the Greenwood Elves were sighted. Varilerin threw a menacing glance to Ellain and Ruindoldir, accusing them for lying to her that they would arrive today.

“Patience, Varilerin. They will come sooner or later,” Ellain persuaded her nervously, not lifting her eyes from the road beneath them. “If they have arrived, we will sight them.”

“Though I suppose you’re just going to escort them from the shadows?” Ruindoldir added. Varilerin didn’t answer and instead played with her bowstring as if it was a musical instrument. Ruindoldir sighed once he knew that the elleth wouldn’t be stepping farther from the branch she was perching on due to her nature, and shifted his eyes back to the ground.

“They don’t need to see me,” Varilerin said after a while, “for I will not see them either.” Varilerin suddenly stopped moving her finger on the string and looked down, stopping Ellain from protesting her words. From afar came two identical dark-haired ellon riding horses, their faces eerily similar to Arwen’s “It’s Lord Elladan and Elrohir,” Varilerin informed them quietly, and then paused when she saw figures of green not far

Behind them Varilerin saw a line of Elves cloaked in green and carrying bows. Their hairs were brown and golden, reflecting the color of the woods and the earth. In front of them, directly behind the two Elves, was a golden-haired ellon wearing a circlet and radiating power more than the others. His cloak was silver and shining, and his eyes were full of wisdom. Beside him also rode another with a face resembling his, though Varilerin could saw that he was younger.

“Here they are, the people you’ve waited for,” Ellain said and looked directly at Varilerin,” and Lord Elrond’s sons as well, maybe meeting them on road.”

“We should greet them,” Ruindoldir told the two. “We do not want the Greenwood Elves to think us as wandering Orcs, don’t we?” Ruindoldir raised his brows at Varilerin, who gave him a look that convinced his deductions of her answer.

“I’ll be watching from above,” she told him, though in her heart she wished not to escort them. She was afraid that one of them would discover her presence, especially the ones walking in front of the line. Ellain looked unconvinced by her words, her face filled with worries and doubts. “I promise you, I will only help guard the road. No harm will come to me,” Varilerin continued again with a sigh.

“I find your words hardly believable,” Ruindoldir said honestly, considering that Varilerin was still young and unwise. “But then again, you are more capable of the others….” he said again, this time hesitantly.

“I believe in our friend’s abilities, Ruindoldir. Now, shall we greet them?” Ellain interrupted as she rose to her feet. Ruindoldir nodded and threw a last glance to their quiet friend. “Be safe,” Ellain said before they both leapt from the tree like the wind. Varilerin watched as they landed softly on the ground, slightly surprising though not shocking the visitors. She moved closer to observe them, but still keeping her presence cloaked among the shadows of the trees.

“Ruindoldir, Ellain, it is such a surprise to see you greeting us!” one of Elrond’s sons greeted. The other smiled and patted Ruindoldir’s broad shoulder.

“It is unexpected for you to arrive along with the Greenwood Elves as well!” Ellain said as she looked over their shoulders.

“Has there any news while we’re away?”

“None other than your sister keeps quarreling with our quiet friend,” Ruindoldir answered plainly.

“Ah, Varilerin is such an intriguing child, isn’t she, Elladan?” Elrohir said to his brother gleefully. “Father must have had a hard time while we’re gone!”

“Varilerin, you’ve never mentioned her before,” the younger blonde ellon behind them said suddenly. Varilerin narrowed her eyes, afraid that Elladan and Elrohir had spoken too much about her to those she didn’t know.

“And sadly you won’t be seeing her, Legolas,” Elladan said to the ellon,” For she is shy, shyer than the deer of the woods.” Legolas chuckled upon hearing his friend’s remark and was the more curious to see the elleth.

“Come, honored guests, we shall escort you to Rivendell safely,” Ruindoldir said, interrupting their discussion about his friend. Varilerin smiled at his friendly gesture and watched as Ruindoldir greeted the nobler elf riding beside Legolas. The others nodded silently and followed the two rangers through the road, which was guarded by more rangers among the trees and on the branches.

Varilerin watched as the company moved through the forest, vaguely hearing Elladan and Elrohir mentioning her name. She slowly regretted her decision of not appearing in front of the company, for she was sure they would be quieter if she was to watch over them with her menacing silver eyes. Then again, all had already been too late, and all she could do was to guard them from the shadows.

I care not. They will not see me anyway, she thought as she turned around to scout the area.

Kill them.

Varilerin shuddered and stopped moving. Her eyes cautiously scanned for her surroundings, wondering what sound was that she had heard. As a half-Elven she inherited keen senses yes, but she was sure that the sound just before was not of the physical realm. She was sure her ears didn’t catch anything strange among the branches nor below.

Is it just my imagination? She thought, narrowing her eyes to increase her vision.

Kill them softly.

She heard the voice again, this time clearer and coarser than before. Her eyes unconsciously were directed to a direction in the forest and her heart beat quickly.

Is it just in my mind? she thought, but her heart seemed to tell her another. Her heart thumped faster and heavier, as if something heavy was burdening her both in mind and body. Her breathing was unstable and uncontrollable. Varilerin grabbed her chest to calm herself down, but found herself unable to. What is happening to me?

She looked up towards the direction again. But, instead of seeing trees and branches, she saw an ellon instead. His back was turned away from her and he didn’t move. His hair was dark and he carried a quiver. Varilerin glanced around, wondering how the ellon had managed to slip past her watch.

“Who are you?” she asked him as she regained her footing. The ellon didn’t answer. “What are you doing here?’ she asked again.

He remained quiet, eerily quiet. It was as if he could not hear despite his undeniable keen senses. Varilerin moved her feet slowly, afraid that he was someone unwanted in the valley. “Who are you?” she asked again.

Her question was answered. The ellon turned to face Varilerin slowly and inaudibly. His eyes were the first to meet hers and she could see only one thing: horror and fear. She shuddered, before her heart was more surprised by his chest. It was impaled by a black, menacing blade not belonging to the Elven kind. From the blade came his blood, profuse and bright.

Please help us,” the ellon said. Varilerin widened her eyes in horror and leapt from her tree to help the dying ellon, but suddenly a fierce wind blew through the branches and blinded her vision. She closed her eyes as she braced from the wind. When she opened them once more, she saw the ellon no more, not even traces of blood on the tree trunks.

Illusion? Varilerin thought, but her heart told her it was more than an illusion. Her eyes were again directed towards the direction before and she was now sure that something was wrong there beyond. It seemed tranquil at first, but Varilerin saw invisibly darkness dwelling among the shadows. The darkness loomed over her mind and body, as if it was threatening her by its invisible presence.

Varilerin swallowed a hand of anxiety and began leaping nimbly above branches. Her right hand clutched her bow tightly, letting it absorb her fears of what would lie where she would be travelling.

Is it a vision? She thought as she swung from a branch. No, it cannot be. If it was a vision then I would have had received the ability long ago, when I was younger; and it is such a rare gift-

Her ears then caught rustles from the clearing beyond, but she couldn’t stop her feet in her speed to observe the situation. In fact, she didn’t need to, for a mere split second later a scream came from the clearing. It was a scream of agony, a voice of a dying ellon. The vision from before came to her conscience and she trembled.

No, she thought as she jumped to the ground below. Unconsciously she pulled out an arrow and pulled her bow as she made her way to the bushes. I shouldn’t be doing this, she mused, but found that her body had moved on its own. The ellon was dying, she knew, and her body knew it as well. Disregarding her mind and thoughts, she emerged from the bushes and aimed her bow at the ellon’s assaulter.

An Orc screeched at her menacingly, baring its sharp nasty teeth to her face. An ellon was lying beneath it, a blade plunging deep into his chest. Varilerin gaped for a second when she saw that the black blade was similar, no, exactly the same as the one she has seen before. The ellon’s was the same one she had seen as well, but this time he seemed to be closer to death than before.

Varilerin didn’t spare another second to wonder and released her arrow to the Orc’s head with a flick of her hand. The Orc screeched and fell down to the earth instantly. Varilerin didn’t move as she saw the Orc falling, her body still tense from the adrenaline she had just experienced. She was not even allowed to venture in the woods alone, and yet here she was with her first kill, clean and accurate.

Her ears caught dying screams of her kin and screeches of the same disgusting creatures from afar. She flinched when she realized that more would be coming once they heard their comrade’s dying scream, and she quickly knelt beside the dying ellon on the ground.

“You need to run…. Warn-warn the others!” the ellon rasped, coughing blood from his gentle mouth.

“What has happened?” she asked him, her voice trembling with fear. The ellon didn’t respond, his blue eyes reflecting the sun from above. Varilerin grimaced sadly and closed the ellon’s eyes with her shivering hand.

“May you find your way to the Halls of Mandos,” she prayed. She placed her hand on his chest before opening her silver eyes, now alarmed and cautious. The screams of her kin had stopped, but not the silent screeches of her enemies. She stood and drew her bow just in time to fire at an emerging Orc from the bushes and killed it. The Orc fell, revealing a pack of its kind behind him, angry of Varilerin’s action. Their faces were covered with the blood of the Elven rangers, who Varilerin knew was lying dead not far in the woods.

Without thinking, Varilerin leapt away from the clearing and ran as fast as she could through the forest. Her body was still trembling and her feet swaying uncontrollably, but she tried her hardest to force her way through the bushes. She could hear the Orcs chasing her with immense speed, but not screaming battle cries to warn other rangers.

How in the world did they get here unnoticed, in such a number? Varilerin mused. She glanced to her enemies just in time to dodge an arrow flying to her head. She tilted her head instantly, barely evading the flying weapon, which inevitably grazed her left cheek. She brushed her cheek quickly, knowing that poison was embedded on the tips of the weapon.

Varilerin glanced around in panic whilst she tried her hardest to dodge the aimed arrows. Where are the other rangers? She thought out loud, her heart confused of the action she must take, for she couldn’t find any of the rangers along the path she had past, nor the path beyond. There was only one way now, to run to warn Ellain and Ruindoldir’s company before the Orcs arrived to slaughter them.

Her thoughts diverted her attention from the fired arrows, something she realized too late. Without her knowing an arrow was fired towards her thighs, piercing deep and painful. Varilerin swallowed a scream when the arrow hit her, falling harshly to the bushes. She glanced at her deep wound, spurting blood and poisoned by whatever substance her enemies had mixed in their weapons.

The pain was outstanding for her, like shards of glass piercing her simultaneously. She wanted to stop, really stop and let herself die, but she knew she couldn’t. The safety of the others were on her shoulders, she couldn’t die now. She would fail her master if she did, and inevitably those she had always wanted to protect.

Oh Valar, please let me endure,” she chanted. Gathering the last drops of her strength, she lifted her feet from the ground and ignored the profuse blood falling to the grass. She fixed her eyes to the path leading to the Elven road and she took a deep breath. ”Please let me endure.”

Filled with determination, the pain in her leg seemed to disappear as she made her way through the woods. She could hear no sound around her, not even the swishing arrows or the movements of the Orcs, only her beating heart and heavy breath. She continued to run, running for her life and for others, until she finally saw the light coming from between the trees.

With a last, high jump, she exited the deep woods and arrived at the said Elven road, filled with surprised Elves that shuddered upon her arrival. Her leapt caused her to fall to earth with a loud thump and the Elves drawing their bows at this surprising stranger. The Greenwood Elves were the first to point their arrows at her, frightful of what dangers this being could bring to them.

“Who is this?” an Elf, which she recognized before as Legolas, said to her as he threatened her with his weapon. Varilerin scowled and brushed his arrow away from her, towards the forest.

“It is not the time to ask such question!” she said angrily. “Orcs are coming, from the woods!” Varilerin glanced to the direction she had come from as she drew her arrow. Ellain and Ruindoldir ran to their friend, but stopped when they realized that her words were true. Several packs of Orcs suddenly emerged from the shadows of the trees and started assaulting the Elves gaping in surprise.

Varilerin watched as the rangers and several Greenwood Elves fired their arrows to the enemies. She grasped for her bow to help them, for she could not stay idle and watch her kin fight for their lives, but the strength in her body was suddenly dwindling. She lost control of her hand and her body. Her head fell to the ground and her silver eyes stared into the blue sky.

Then it was only darkness, emptiness, and abyss.

Chapter Text

For years Glorfindel had walked amongst the peoples of Middle Earth. He had seen many deaths and passings, changes and tides, ends and beginnings. However, he had never been so terrified, so frightened, to see blood flowing from an arrow wound Varilerin bore. Her pale face shattered his happiness over the book he was holding, as if a beast had gnawed on his life. Hastily, he dropped his book to the floor and ran to meet the Rivendell rangers and the arriving Greenwood Elves. He pushed his way through the gathering Elves, who was curious and horrified by the state of the arriving company. Their fair complexions were covered in black blood, Orcs’ Glorfindel knew, and their clothes were dirtied with dust and soil.

“What has happened?” Glorfindel asked Ruindoldir as he helped the Elf to unmount Varilerin carefully from a white horse. Glorfindel looked at the face of his daughter, unmarred but weak and motionless. Ruindoldir didn’t answer Glorfindel and brushed past the ellon in an incredible haste, his face full serious and anxious. Ruindoldir skipped towards the healing chambers, his figure dishevelled but still full of strength to run a thousand miles.

Elrond arrived with Arwen on the scene, their familiar eyes confused of the situation. Elrond saw Ruindoldir carrying Varilerin to the healing chambers, and without sparing a glance to his battered guests, followed Ruindoldir. Arwen scampered behind Elrond, ignoring her dress over the worry of her dear friend.

Knowing that Elrond wouldn’t be interrogating his sons for a while, Glorfindel took the liberty to question what had happened.

“Ellain, please lead the guests to the rooms,” Elladan told Ellain. Ellain nodded reluctantly and turned to the Greenwood Elves, clearly impatient to change their clothes after such an event.

“Please follow me,” she directed them. All of them followed her, except Legolas who seemed to be insistent in telling the details of the event.

“You should be going as well, my friend,” Elrohir told him. Legolas gave him a scowl and brushed his thumb to clean off a speckle of blood on his face.

“No, I should probably the one explaining, and questioning in fact, because I am the closest to the enemies when the attack began,” Legolas said surely as he folded his hands. Elrohir sighed and shifted his attention to Glorfindel, who was folding his hands in a same manner.

“Shall we start from the beginning then?” Elladan started. “We met the Greenwood Elves on road after our errand and so we decided to travel with them-“

“That’s really the beginning isn’t it?” Glorfindel interrupted with a sigh, disbelieving Elladan and Elrohir’s occasional illogical explanations. “No, start from the even today.”

“We arrived in Imladris this morning,” Legolas explained before Elladan could speak. “We were greeted by the two rangers, as well as several others. We were then escorted on the Elven road with the rangers, though my eyes caught movement from the trees-“

“Which was Varilerin, for your knowledge. Definitely Varilerin,” Elrohir intervened. “Anyway, our journey remains undisturbed, until after a long while Varilerin emerged from the trees like a wild boar. An arrow had been impaled on her thigh and she was bleeding, limping in pain.”

 “At first I thought her as an enemy, and I pointed my arrow towards her head,” Legolas continued, his tone slightly regretful. “But she warned me, warned me of the enemies’ coming. Not a second later, we were greeted with several packs of Orcs emerging from the forest. The rangers as well as my people clashed in a battle with them, something I couldn’t remember clearly, but I remember she fainted as soon as the battle started.”

“We managed to defeat them without losing our lives of course,” Elladan added hesitantly. “Though not unharmed…”

There was a long silence among them, with Glorfindel assessing their stories and the other three gulping anxiously, reimagining the scene unfolding during their previous battle. They had managed to kill all the Orcs yes, but they had suffered as well. None had a mortal injury, but their souls were still stunned by the arrival of the creatures.

“How can several packs of Orcs pass through the borders of Imladris?” Glorfindel wondered. “Imladris is always well protected, guarded, safe-“

Glorfindel paused when he realized something vital in the incident. For decades after Sauron’s fall had the valley been in peace, not disturbed by any evil creatures bred by the Dark Lord.

Until Varilerin arrived in Rivendell as a recently orphaned infant.

“Varilerin might know the answer,” Glorfindel said after a while, though in his voice lay hesitance. “Answers to the many questions I have for her right now, though I don’t know for sure whether she can answer them.”

“Father will cure her surely,” Elrohir assured Glorfindel, who seemed to lose his faith once he said Varilerin’s name.

“Orc’s poisons are heavy and often deadly, but Lord Elrond’s healing is better than the evil they carry,” Legolas remarked. Glorfindel didn’t seem to light up even after hearing their words of reassurance, but he smiled weakly.

“In time, we shall know,” Glorfindel muttered, staring down to the cold earth. Even with the gift of vision he wouldn’t be able to know the future, not now.


 

Varilerin was surprised that her arrow wound did not hurt as much as she expected. When she opened her eyes she was no longer staring into the blue sky, but the wooden ceilings of Rivendell she rarely saw throughout her life.

I am alive, she thought, thinking that she must had died back in the forest. Slowly she rose from the bed and glanced around. There was no one in the room who greeted her, only a tray of food lying on the desk next to her. She didn’t spare a second to look at her food and left the bed, grimacing slightly from the pain of her wound. Are they alive? She thought worriedly.

“Varilerin, are you awake?” a familiar voice came as the door was slowly pushed opened. From it came Glorfindel, his face surprised to see her standing strong on the floor. “Thank the Valar you’re fine,” Glorfindel said as he embraced Varilerin lightly. Varilerin couldn’t react to Glorfindel’s gesture, only smiling secretly as he did so.

Glorfindel finally pulled away from Varilerin. “Are the others safe?” Varilerin asked before Glorfindel could speak. Glorfindel nodded hesitantly.

“Yes, they are. Many of them are wounded, but without your efforts of warning us we might suffer worse.”

“I should have followed your advice, Master. I should not have ventured in the woods alone,” Varilerin said regretfully. She was ashamed of her own actions, because she had always followed his instructions until that day.

“Do not mind those things, Varilerin, it is only in the past. Now, you should tell me what has happened, because I might be cornered by Lord Elrond and the guests if I have no plausible explanation,” Glorfindel suggested, urging Varilerin to sit back on the bed. Varilerin stayed silent, remembering the horrifying vision she had seen in the forest, and how terrible it was when it became a reality. She found her mouth transfixed, as if her frequent silence had become permanent for her.

“I was watching the Greenwood Elves from the branches,” she started hesitantly. “And the next thing that happened…. I cannot believe it, nor will you,” she said, turning to look at Glorfindel.

“Do not worry, I have all ears,” Glorfindel assured her. Varilerin nodded and drew a long breath.

“I heard voices, Master. Evil voices coming from nowhere. They said, ‘Kill them!’,” she explained in a whisper. “At first I thought it was only my imagination, or illusion, but the voice came again, this time louder. My mind was shaken and my heart beat faster. And as if my body knew where the voice came from, I turned to face the darker parts of the forest…”

Varilerin paused and held her breath in agitation, her eyes wide with horror as if she was seeing the Dark Lord himself. Glorfindel brushed her back gently to calm her, though he knew that he could do little to his own daughter.

“Then I saw something beyond my imagination. I saw an elf ranger dying. A dark sword impaled his chest. It all seemed real, but suddenly the sight disappeared. Curious, or frightful I think, I followed the darker paths of the forest. Then I encountered several pack of Orcs slaughtering the rangers. I ran to warn Ellain and Ruindoldir-“ Varilerin stopped and heaved. Unconsciously she had been breathing faster each time a word was uttered from her mouth.

“I didn’t realize that I was actually bringing them to you, endangering you,” Varilerin muttered in disbelief. “Forgive me, Master. My reckless actions have endangered our kin-“

“Varilerin, it is not your fault,” Glorfindel intervened before Varilerin could continue and possibly lost her mind. “You have done what you could, and you’ve saved us from greater dangers. What matters are the good you have done!”

Varilerin didn’t move and stared blankly to the wooden floor. Glorfindel had never seen Varilerin so frightened as this and he frowned. Deep inside he regretted his action to interrogate a traumatized youngling and now he couldn’t withdrew his words.

However, to his surprise, Varilerin finally relaxed and looked at him. “I understand, Master, but it is still such a shame that I cannot fight them myself. Maybe the aftermath would be much better if I have been stronger….”

“In time, you will, Child,” Glorfindel said gently. Her eyes were still sad, but a flicker of determination burnt deep inside them. Glorfindel smiled, knowing that Varilerin had returned to her usual state. “But for now, you should rest. I should be reporting to Lord Elrond as well.”

Varilerin nodded slowly. Glorfindel patted her back and then left her alone in the room, ready with answers to questions he would be receiving from their guests.


 

The night was falling, but not the anxious hearts of the Elves in Rivendell. The event that had occurred in the morning was still bewildering them, and frightening them. None of the guests, particularly the Greenwood Elves, were enjoying their meals in the dining hall. Celeborn and the Lothlorien Elves, who had just arrived in the evening, didn’t stop throwing the peredhil questions regarding the matter. Thranduil continued to frown as well. They remained quiet in their tension however, waiting for Glorfindel to attend the dinner with presumably, answers.

The said Elf arrived in the hall not a minute later, his usual cheerful face frowning in worry. Elrond rose from his seat once he saw his friend. Celeborn and Thranduil also followed.

“Thranduil, Celeborn. It’s nice to meet you once more, my friends,” Glorfindel firstly greeted.

“Indeed it is, though the situation says another,” Celeborn responded seriously. “Now, tell me, how in the Valar did several packs of Orcs penetrate the barriers of Imladris?”

Silence conquered them for a brief moment, giving Glorfindel time to answer properly. He told them all he had learnt from his child, slowly and hesitantly. The others listened attentively, their reactions the same and terrible.

“Vision you said?” Elrond wondered after Glorfindel had finished telling her story. “I’ve never heard such gift being wielded by other than my family.”

“I think it’s brief, though it was enough for her to be convinced that danger was coming. It wonders me as well why she has just received it today,” Glorfindel added. “It is possible that this vision only comes when danger is at bay….”

“That is a plausible answer,” Elrond said.

“Varilerin…. Is this the child that is unknown even to Lady Galadriel?” Celeborn asked. Elrond nodded. “The child that arrived with the presence of Orcs are the one that has warned us of their presence.”

“This child… Her mother is a peredhil, yes?” Thranduil suddenly asked, surprising the others. “I have heard the shadows covering this child’s past and I’ve heard as well that her mother is a half-elven of Noldor ancestry. Regarding her father I cannot tell, but regarding her mother’s identity….”

“You’re saying that you know who her mother was?” Glorfindel asked.

“Yes, though it is very unlikely… One of my servants knew a peredhil that fits her description, and she is here with us.” Thranduil stopped and looked to the sitting Elves. One of them instantly stood up, a blonde elleth wearing a green dress. “Ara.”

“Yes, My Lord,” she said as she approached them. “My name is Ara. Years ago a female peredhil came to my house. She was carrying a baby and was about to give birth, as such I pitied her and gave her a place to stay. I learnt that her name was Caladin and that her husband had disappeared, though she didn’t say anything more than that. I didn’t tell anyone because she requested me to,” Ara explained. “She also showed me her necklace. It was beautiful, a single jewel clasped in vines and wings. I have never seen such craftsmanship from our kin before. If the description you have given about the necklace the child wields are true, then she is without doubt the daughter of Caladin.”

“And you haven’t receive any news of her once she had left?” Elrond asked. Ara nodded and pursed her lips.

“She was a good woman, yet strong. She must have sacrificed so much to protect her daughter from evil,” Ara said again, holding back sadness from her heart. They stood quiet for a long moment, trying to swallow the new information she had just given.

“Why would Orcs chase such random child in her infant years?” Thranduil wondered after a while. “And they came from far lands, didn’t they?”

“Unless that she’s actually important to them,” Celeborn said, drawing a long breath. “They have grown bolder despite Sauron now losing his power. The wind bears news that evil stirring in the lands of Men, slowly but steadily.”

“Sauron has fallen, Celeborn,” Thranduil responded. “His servants haven’t made a move, not in these two centuries.”

“But the Ring still exists,” Elrond added. “They will keep moving until the Ring is found. It is forgotten, but not lost.”

“But for the servants to move this far!” Glorfindel said. “They’ve grown too bold, Elrond. It is a matter we cannot ignore.”

‘Yes, and we will not ignore it,” Elrond said. “Come now, we should not stand here and keep this matter to ourselves. I am afraid that again this matter must be discussed in our gathering, just like many before.”

Elrond turned to face his guests, who had been staring curiously at them for a long time. “Farewell, shall we start then?”

Chapter Text

Varilerin’s eyes remained wide open, the image of the horrifying event in the morning still looming over her mind. She could feel tremendous pain vibrating in her body, either from her wound or the sense of her uselessness, she didn’t know. The night was quiet and the gathering had ended not long ago. Her feet, despite with a terrible wound, were restless and demanding some movement.

When she sensed that no more elves were walking past her room, she finally rose from her bed and opened the door. Carefully, she investigated her surroundings, for she didn’t want to encounter someone and introduce herself in a strange manner. After she was sure that she was ‘save’, she finally sneaked out of her room and closed the door as silent as the night. The cold night wind brushed her loose hair gently and she searched the corridors for her master. Though she wanted to go to the forest to kill her boredom, she knew that Glorfindel would be furious of her if he found her wandering in the woods once more.

She silently stepped on the cold stone floor as she walked in the corridors. She curiously observed the paintings and carvings inside the building, which she rarely ventured in. Since she would not be staying in the building long, she thought she might take the opportunity to explore ever corners of Rivendell just once. She came upon a hall with larger paintings than before and a garden in its centre. Her eyes caught a larger painting with a flat-topped stone standing before it.

She walked closer to the unknown painting and observed it in curiosity. It was a painting of a man fighting a dark figure hidden in the background. The knight was wielding a broken sword, shining as if it was the star. She turned around to see the sword lying on top of the stone, broken just like depicted by the painting, but somehow still bearing power.

“It is the shards of Narsil, the sword that cut the Ring off Sauron’s hands,” abruptly a deep voice came from the shadows. Varilerin turned around immediately and cautiously backed away unconsciously.

“It is me, Varilerin, there is nothing for you to fear of,” Elrond said as he emerged from among the shadows. Varilerin slowly but cautiously lowered her guard when she completely saw Elrond’s figure. Elrond frowned, knowing that the youngling was still impacted by her first battle. Her eyes were still blazing with vigilance, as if she would be attacking at any moment.

“What are you doing out your room at this time?” Elrond questioned her carefully.

“I cannot sleep My Lord, not at my current state,” she answered bluntly, slightly avoiding Elrond’s gaze. Elrond frowned, understanding how affected the elleth was to experience such horror in such a young age.

“I’ve heard about your vision,” Elrond said to her. “Have you ever received it previously?”

“No, My Lord. Not a single second of my life,” she answered honestly. “Do you have any knowledge of what it is?”

Elrond couldn’t give her a plausible answer. Gifts of vision were only received by high Elves such as him and Lady Galadriel. He had never heard such random youngling receiving a vision, yet alone a vision of danger.

“No, I am afraid not, my child. It is strange for you to receive such a brief one as well,” Elrond told her regretfully. She didn’t look disappointed nor surprised, only nodding in understanding as if she was expecting that answer. Elrond pitied on her and how she had so many unanswered questions about herself.

“But I believe it is a precious gift,” Elrond said to her after a while. “If it is indeed a gift you have whenever you sense dangers, I believe it will be useful for you in the future.”

“Then what happens when I am unable to face the evil coming?” Varilerin retorted, her voice hopeless and diminishing. “I have trained for many years and yet I am unable to do more than wounding myself!”

“Tell me, child, will you return to battle after so much has happened?” Elrond intervened. Varilerin stopped moving. She turned to stare at Elrond’s wise eyes, her soul being delved by them. Silence was her immediate answer, though deep in her heart she had spoken. Fear, it was the feeling that bothered her from sleep, and the one preventing her from speaking.

Did she have the courage to enter the battlefield once more?

But if she didn’t, what should she do?

I would transmute myself into a useless being.

“If it is a step towards greater strength for me in the future, then I shall return to the battlefield,” Varilerin finally answered. “I will turn into a useless being if I don’t, such a dishonour for my master after all the sacrifice he has made.”

“I will not stay still and let evil terrorize Middle Earth, My Lord. I will protect your family and all dear to me, whatever the cost.”

Silence and amazement engulfed the Elven Lord when he heard her vow. The moon and the trees watched her standing, determined yet still young. Elrond smiled after a long moment and tapped her shoulders.

“Then you shall be a great warrior, Varilerin, Daughter of Glorfindel, and I believe in every word you have said. May your protection be with us,” Elrond said. For the first time in his life, he saw her smiling. It was not a fake smile, but a genuine and pure one. Elrond realized that deep inside her isolated soul, she was not different than most of her kin.

But little did he know that her vow meant more than both, and all close to her, could imagine.


 

The next morning Varilerin was gone once more, just like Glorfindel had expected from his apprentice.

She should not even be walking, he protested quietly as he traced her footsteps towards the woods. When he saw Elrond walking in the corridors, smiling on his own, at night before, he suspected something had happened between the two. All the peredhil said was, “Your child will make a great warrior.”

He intended to find her as fast as possible, because there was some news for her to receive, and Arwen as well. After walking for several minutes, he heard a loud thwang coming from the woods, a sign of the presence of his apprentice.

“Did I hit it?” Arwen asked Varilerin, not noticing Glorfindel approaching them. He saw Varilerin nodding quietly as she pulled an arrow from the tree trunk next to her.

“You are getting better, Lady Arwen-“ Varilerin paused when she saw her master emerging from the bushes. “Master Glorfindel, what brings you here?”

“The fact that my injured pupil is walking in the forest and training archery with Lord Elrond’s daughter,” Glorfindel answered gleefully to scold the elleth lightly. Varilerin didn’t say anything, only giving the arrow back to Arwen and staring at him suspiciously.

“There is another matter you must explain to me, or us,” Varilerin guessed sharply.

“Yes,” Glorfindel replied with a smile. “There has been news.”

“What news?” Arwen asked excitedly. Clearly it was the product of the gathering the night before, which she didn’t attend fully because she wasn’t interested in her father’s and the others’ heavy discussion, yet.

“It is not from the gathering, I should tell you, but a private discussion between me, your father, and Lord Celeborn,” Glorfindel continued. Arwen lost her excitement, but this time Varilerin was lit up with curiosity. The meeting with Elrond last night, she knew, was not a mere coincidence.

“First of all, Varilerin. You are going to join the rangers soon enough after the other Elves leave,” Glorfindel told her.

Silence among the three of them. Arwen was the first one to react.

“What?” she exclaimed almost too loudly. Varilerin raised her brows in turn, doubting her master not affected by any wine offered in the dinner last night.

“I don’t know you have such low tolerance in alcohol, Master,” Varilerin said bluntly. Arwen chuckled.

“No, it is not a joke, nor am I drunk!” Glorfindel assured them. “Listen, Lord Elrond and I, as well as his sons and your friends, have deemed you worthy to enter the battlefield. After such an event you managed to cope with, it is undeniable that your skills must be put to use.”

“But she’s too young, Lord Glorfindel!” Arwen protested.

“We have discussed thoroughly. She can cope with it, we are sure. Furthermore, she won’t be alone, not yet. She will work with Ellain and Ruindoldir, in case something happens…”

Glorfindel looked back to Varilerin, who remained quiet like the night. She pondered the reason Elrond encountered her at night and asking such questions. All of them were directly answered right now, clearing all her suspicions regarding the conversation last night.

“That is good to hear, Master,” Varilerin said plainly. “Though a sad thing to hear as well. It means I might spend no time with Lady Arwen.”

Glorfindel nodded reluctantly. Arwen’s face darkened slightly with sadness. “And for the second news,” Glorfindel said, breaking the awkward silence between them. He took a long breath before continuing, very anxious of the two younglings’ stares.

“Lady Arwen will be studying with Lady Galadriel when the time comes. She will be leaving Rivendell,” Glorfindel said. Arwen stood agape, whilst Varilerin showed a significant reaction unusual for her.

“When?” Varilerin asked calmly.

“It will not be too soon, I assure both of you, but it will happen.”

“Then I shall be separated from Varilerin by the time comes?” Arwen asked in panic. She looked at Varilerin, who looked eerily composed and calm. It was not that she didn’t have any other friends, but somehow she liked Varilerin more than the others. She had been friends with Varilerin, who was the same age as her, ever since they could speak. Even though her friend was quiet, their conversations would pleasure her.

“It is unavoidable,” Varilerin told Arwen instead of Glorfindel. “Furthermore, I shall not be seeing you too much either when my duty as a ranger starts.”

“You should be studying as well, My Lady. Clearly this is a sign that you will be learning more from your father and your brothers, for your age is now proper,” Glorfindel continued.

Arwen sighed, knowing that she could not avoid such fate. Varilerin tapped Arwen’s shoulder lightly and gave her a small smile.

“Do not worry, My Lady. If we are to be separated, I will still send messages for you,” Varilerin told her.

“You are saying as if tomorrow we’re going to be separated!” Arwen protested. Varilerin smirked gleefully.

“We should be prepared anytime, should we not?”

The Elves were leaving. Their paths were now guarded tightly by the rangers from Rivendell. Arwen watched as one by one the archers walked behind the guests like shadows, and among the trees they perched silently like an owl. 

She watched her father bidding farewell to her grandfather and King Thranduil along with his son. The gathering had lasted for a week and every night the three, along with several councillors, gathered in the hall to discuss matters she wouldn’t understand. Meanwhile, Varilerin, having her wound healing, went to the forest with Ellain and Ruindoldir to train for her new occupation. Arwen did not expect for them to be separated the next day after the news had arrived.

From afar Arwen saw Varilerin approaching, dressed in her usual dark garments with the addition of the brown cloak of the rangers. With her was a quiver of arrows and the same training bow she had always used.

“My Lady,” Varilerin greeted Arwen with a bow.

“I don’t expect you to start today!” Arwen remarked as she observed her friend, still in the same physical form but somehow more fitting with the battle gears.

“After so much trouble the guests had during the first day, Ellain and Ruindoldir decided to take extra precautions,” she told her plainly. “It is such a pity to not be seeing you for several days.”

“Several days?”

“Yes. The rangers are also going outside the borders to investigate the Orcs attacking. We suspect that they have a hideout in the mountains around Imladris,” Varilerin explained.

“Isn’t it too dangerous for you to enter such a dangerous mission?” Arwen asked, slightly pleading. She didn’t like the horror she experienced when she saw Varilerin arriving pale with an arrow wound a week ago.

“It will be a good experience for me,” Varilerin said, tilting her head. “I have trained for a long time for this. If it is an opportunity for me to improve in strength, I shall take it.”

“Regarding the chance to improve….” Arwen said hesitantly. “Father has told me when I shall depart to Lothlorien.”

“Well, that’s sooner than you expected,” Varilerin said as she raised a brow. Arwen smiled gleefully.

“No, I asked him in truth. He said that I shall be departing in a year,” Arwen said.

“In a year?” Varilerin exclaimed quietly. “Why, that’s really soon!”

“In fact, I am the one who requested it,” Arwen continued with an awkward smile. Varilerin tilted her head sideways, not understanding her friend’s purpose.

“You have moved forward, Varilerin,” Arwen said. “I cannot stay idle either. If my path is not through the battlefield, then I shall improve in wisdom. I don’t want myself being overshadowed by your own shadow, My Friend.”

Varilerin smirked, satisfied of her friend’s resolve. “We are not so different at all, aren’t we, Arwen?”

Arwen shook her head. “No, not at all.”

Ellain and Ruindoldir secretly sneaked behind Varilerin, not wanting to disturb their precious moment. “Varilerin,” Ruindoldir said when he saw that they should be departing.

Varilerin looked over shoulder to see Ellain and Ruindoldir standing awkwardly behind. She nodded in understanding and then turned to Arwen.

“I’ll see you again, My Friend,” Arwen said as she leapt to hug Varilerin. Varilerin smirked and patted her back gently, enjoying the last seconds before their short yet long separation.

“And I as well, My Friend.”

Arwen watched as Varilerin’s smaller shadow followed Ellain and Ruindoldir quietly, their backs facing her and protecting the Elves. The morning sun had just risen, shining the valley with glimmers of hope and future. Arwen smiled sadly, for deep in her heart she knew they wouldn’t be meeting just like they used to be for the next few years.

But little did she know that her sense was utterly true.

Chapter Text

T.A.1000

Gandalf continuously wondered why he liked inhaling the pipe he was holding, and blowing the air with a smoke ship he conjured from his mouth. It delighted him he supposed, though Saruman found it very strange and disgusting. However, the habit proved satisfying when he was venturing deep in the woods of Imladris. He had just arrived in Middle Earth along with the other Istaris a few months back and the wizards started to disperse not long ago. Saruman, Allatar, and Pallando ventured to the east, whilst he himself decided to follow Cirdan’s suggestion to go to Rivendell. He would find great knowledge there, he was told, but he didn’t expect to find the beauty of the forest so endearing. The forest was quieter than he had expected, knowing that evil must had threatened the valley continuously after Sauron had fallen,

The tranquillity of the forest was disturbed immediately when suddenly, three figures leapt from the trees with a loud rustle and vague thump. Gandalf stepped back, slightly threatened by the new presence of these mysterious beings. Despite their forms not of the Orc kind, Gandalf was still suspicious, and raised his staff in defence. They were wearing brown cloaks with quivers slung over their shoulders. One of them wore darker clothing compared to the others.

“What is an old man doing in these parts of the forest?” one of them asked. Gandalf observed them carefully. Though they didn’t raise their weapons to him, they were clearly cautious of his staff.

“I am one of the Istari, Gandalf the Grey. I have travelled here to seek the wisdom of Lord Elrond,” Gandalf explained honestly. “I believe he has received a message from Cirdan the Shipwright?”

The rangers looked at each other with their invisible eyes. They seemed doubtful of the old man’s words.

“He might be lying,” the one with the darker clothing said. “But an old man with a pointy hat is already strange enough. I have heard that the wizards are strange as well.”

“Well, he seems honest to me,” another said. The three of them then looked at Gandalf, up and down simultaneously.

“I am a wizard, and a queer one I should tell you. Who else walks with a staff as a walking stick?” Gandalf remarked, slightly amused by the method of their identification. The three stood quiet after his comment.

After a long moment of silence, one of them pulled their hood down, revealing a fair face of Elven signature. “Farewell then, Gandalf the Grey. We shall escort you to Rivendell. However, if your words are false, you shall suffer your own consequences.”

He directed the others to reveal their faces as well. Slowly the rangers revealed their appearances. They were long-haired elleths, one with a waxy oak hair and another with a straight black hair. Gandalf flinched when he saw the eyes of the dark-haired elleth, silver like the moon and sharp like a blade. The wizard swallowed his anxiety, nervous at how the elleth’s gaze seemed to peer into the depths of his soul.

“Follow us, Master Wizard,” she told him as she turned her back. Gandalf hesitantly followed her steps, being flanked by the other rangers. His eyes were still observing the silver-eyed elleth, somehow fearing that she might attack him in any moment.

“So, if you really are a wizard, can you do magic?” the male asked. Gandalf saw the other ranger throwing a threatening glance at the male, but decided to answer honestly.

“You shall see when your time comes, Master Elf,” Gandalf replied.

“For your information, Gandalf, Lord Elrond has indeed received message from Cirdan,” the other said. “And he told us to watch the borders in case some random old man with a staff enters. We, of course, need to make sure you are really one of the Istari. Years back even this safest Valley has been penetrated by unlikely creatures.”

“I see. You are wise then. I have encountered some on my journey here as well,” Gandalf said. He put out his pipe and put it inside the pocket of his robes. He wondered how the evil creatures could penetrate the watchful eyes of the guards there. Carelessness perhaps, though he doubted such attitude coming from wise races such as the Elves.

“We are here,” the leading elleth said after they had walked for a long time through the forest. They had finally entered Rivendell that shone majestically under the spring sun. Gandalf admired the sight of the golden forests and the waterfall for a moment, pulling off his hat to get a better picture.

“Magnificent isn’t it?” the ellon said as they made their way through a bridge with running water below. “I have lived many years and yet it still fascinates me.”

They finally arrived at the main gate, where a tall, dark-haired ellon was waiting for their arrival.

“Welcome, Gandalf the Grey, to Rivendell,” he greeted with his deep voice. Gandalf bowed to the ellon, realizing from his magnificent presence that he was Lord Elrond the peredhil.

“Lord Elrond, is it not?” Gandalf guessed. Elrond nodded.

“I hope your journey here is well, Gandalf?” Elrond asked him. “Surely your escorts treat you well?”

“Ah, yes, they did, though the lack of speech by this silver-eyed lady is somehow disturbing,” Gandalf remarked whilst he glanced at the said elleth.

“Varilerin is a quiet one,” Elrond explained, “but she, along with Ellain and Ruindoldir, is capable of protecting you even to the deepest abyss.”

“It seems our doubts regarding his identity are false then,” Varilerin said quietly. “Forgive for our harshness, Gandalf.”

“And it is forgiven,” said Gandalf. “Now, Lord Elrond, since I have just arrived in Middle Earth I have so many questions needed answering.”

“And they shall be answered,” Elrond said as he turned to Varilerin. “Varilerin, Ellain, and Ruindoldir, I have another task for you to be done. You shall report to Elladan and Elrohir immediately.”

“Yes, My Lord,” Varilerin answered definitely. “If you’ll excuse me, Gandalf.”

Gandalf watched her turning her back from him and walk away to the corridors. His mind was filled mostly with questions of wisdom, though some space was occupied by the questions regarding the elleth.

“She is quite different from most Elves I’ve seen in the Grey Havens,” Gandalf remarked to Elrond.

“She is quite intriguing, I should tell you. Anything you want to ask me regarding herself, however, should be answered by herself alone.”

Gandalf nodded in understanding, seeing that the mystery of the elleth would remain secretive as long as the said person remained quiet. The said person, however, had acquired many impressions regarding the wizard. Varilerin saw that deep within the old’s man fragile appearance lay a strong power and wisdom, something to be expected from wizards sent from Valinor.

“So, how is your first observations?” Ellain asked the still silent Varilerin. “Surely, your keen wise eyes have caught something. You have the talent to feel something many do not, don’t you?”

“It is not my eyes that are wise first of all,” Varilerin responded in a rather not interested voice, “But I can tell that he is excellent in hiding his true powers. I’ve heard rumours of however they can be, but I cannot see authority and strength from his humble appearance. However, I can feel that his presence is stronger than mere Men. There is an inner strength emanating from his soul.”

“That’s very meaningful,” Ruindoldir remarked. “Though I wonder why he comes alone and without the accompaniment of the other four…”

“Maybe they are just more interested in other places besides Rivendell,” Ellain added. “Lothlorien is another choice.”

“Speaking of Lothlorien…..” Ruindoldir muttered to Ellain quietly, glancing briefly to Varilerin. Varilerin didn’t respond, only focusing on the path they must take to reach the courtyard where Elladan and Elrohir were, presumably, training with each other like usual. She quietly sent a threatening aura to her friends, warning them not to talk about her separation with Arwen, something that had occurred for hundreds of years.

Varilerin in fact, had not met Arwen properly ever since she departed to Lothlorien. In the same year, after a full year working as a ranger guarding the boarders, Varilerin’s skills had been deemed excellent by Glorfindel and Elrond. She was immediately sent to farther areas around the valley shortly after Arwen’s departure. She followed orders as instructed, but didn’t realize that the burdening tasks would cause her to miss Arwen’s rare visits to Rivendell. It slightly disappointed her, but hearing the rumours that Arwen had grown into the Undomiel, the Evenstar of their people, was already enough joy for Varilerin.

“I hope Arwen is well, that’s all,” Varilerin said shortly. “Ah, there they are.”

They finally entered a stone courtyard with trees growing lushly at the sides. In its centre were the two identical sons of Elrond, sparring together with their swords under the sun.

“My Lords, we have come to report to you,” Ruindoldir said, breaking their combat in surprise. One of them jolted so badly that he threw his sword to the tree, barely missing the shoulder of his brother.

“Elladan!” Elrohir exclaimed in horror when he saw that a sword had just flew past his shoulder.

“Why should you people arrive unnoticed?” Elrohir protested to the rangers once he realized what he had done. “I could have killed my own brother!”

“But you didn’t,” Varilerin said plainly. Ruindoldir chuckled alongside Ellain, amused at how their friendship with the stealthy elleth had caused them to become silent in ever action they made, and surprise many in every way.

Elrohir scowled as he pulled his weapon from the tree with a swift pull. “I should have sent you to a deadly mission next time.”

But this time, you are going to be an escort,” Elladan interrupted, trying to calm his brother’s annoyance despite himself almost dying from the flying sword. “We need to go to Greenwood, or Mirkwood as it is recently called, as an ambassador. We have some matters to discuss there with King Thranduil…”

“You’re asking us to escort you there?” Ellain guessed, however, judging from their faces she realized her deduction was incorrect.

“This ought to excite Varilerin,” Elrohir said with a naughty smile brewing on his face. “Arwen is returning to Rivendell.”

The two brothers enjoyed how Varilerin reacted to the information. Her eyes widened in a split second. “Lady Arwen is returning to Rivendell and we’re going to be her escort?” Varilerin asked, trying to hide her excitement.

Elladan and Elrohir nodded simultaneously. “You three will lead a squad of rangers to guard her home. You will be departing tomorrow morning, when the sun rises.”

“It is a good news then!” Ellain remarked in Varilerin’s stead. “We have not seen her for decades and now she’s returning! What’s the occasion?”

“Well, nothing particular. Maybe she’s bored, we don’t know. We haven’t seen her for years either,” Elladan explained. “Well, will you accept this mission?”

“Of course, My Lord,” Varilerin responded calmly with a small smile. “We shall escort Lady Arwen safely home.”

“Good. She’ll be happy to see you as well,” Elrohir informed her, revealing their true intentions of sending Varilerin as their sister’s guards.

“Yes, I believe she will,” Elladan said as he watched Varilerin blossoming with anticipation. “Now, I think we should be greeting the wizard guest, shouldn’t we, Elrohir?”

“Yes, brother!” Elladan said as he stormed away with his brother. Varilerin felt the hidden stares of Ellain and Elrohir directed her.

“Should we go back to the forest now?” Varilerin asked the two, who were more superior than her. They immediately shook their heads as they smirked gleefully.

“No, My Friend. Since tomorrow we’ll be departing I think we should get some rest, shouldn’t we?” Ellain said. “Now, we also have a wizard to welcome.”

“See you later,” Ruindoldir said, knowing that Varilerin wouldn’t follow them to the hall. She nodded in agreement and watched her friends disappearing into the corridors. She was alone once more, but now her heart was not as cold as it had been for hundreds of years.

oOo

Gandalf still fascinated how Elves’ minds work. Every single question he had in mind was answered by Elrond surely and accurately, all in just a mere day. It seemed that his journey to Rivendell was not in vain after all, and he wondered what Saruman would say about his newly-gained knowledge when they meet once more.

Elrond allowed the wizard to use his library as he wished and, although he was tired after long hours of gaining knowledge, he couldn’t stop himself from entering the gigantic book-filled room.

It appears he was not alone.

A dark figure loomed in the corner of the room, alarming Gandalf immediately when he entered the library. The light of the moon seeped from the windows, allowing a better view of the figure standing in front of him.

“Gandalf, it is surprising to find you here at this time,” the figure said as light revealed her face. Varilerin looked at him with the same silver eyes that shone under the moon. As if Gandalf had never seen her before, he was amazed at how mystical she looked under the night. Her tall figure seemed to overshadow Gandalf’s body. He could not see her black hair under the darkness, though it was clear that it fell down to her waist.

“Lady Varilerin,” Gandalf greeted with a heave of air. Varilerin closed the book she was holding and put it on a desk nearby.

“Do not call me Lady, Gandalf, for I am far from one,” she said, directing her eyes to her garment. Gandalf nodded and smiled.

“I understand then, Varilerin. I am here to search for more wisdom,” Gandalf told her honestly as he brushed the covers of the books. “Though I think a guide would be useful, judging by the parameters of this library.”

“Then you have found quite a suitable guide,” Varilerin said as he approached Gandalf.

“Are you?” Gandalf asked with a chuckle. “I have heard many things about you from Lord Elrond, though I doubt he mentioned that you love books.”

“But I love this library. It is one of the few rooms in Rivendell I would visit,” Varilerin explained with a flat tone. “Forests are more of my thing after all, but I think I will be enough to guide you here.”

“The rumours say that you are quite not social person…. But I guess they are wrong,” Gandalf remarked, causing the elleth to smirk. Gandalf took a random book from the cupboard and pretended to read it to avoid her eyes. She observed him carefully, seeing deep wisdom within his frail physical form.

“Tell me, Gandalf, do wizards sleep?” she asked.

“Well, we do sleep, though with our eyes open and not quite often…” Gandalf mumbled as he flipped the pages of the book with sudden interest. “I assume you have troubles in gaining rest as well?”

“I am known to be hard working,” Varilerin answered honestly. “I sometimes… forget how to sleep. Night seems to become an alarming time in which my sight cannot be closed. Maybe I have delved in the forest too long…”

Gandalf noticed her smiling sadly as she stared through the window, to the trees blocking the light of the moon. With a single expression, Gandalf’s wisdom could comprehend the mysteries revolving the elleth. He had seen such eyes before, the eyes that craved for companionship, yet somehow avoiding it.

“Are you lonely, Varilerin?” Gandalf asked her. She didn’t answer, her face still straight and remained unchanged because the Elven blood flowing through her.

“No, not at all,” Varilerin answered hesitantly as she took a deep breath. She closed her eyes as if the next words she would utter were like arrows striking her heart. “You see, Gandalf, through this years I have regarded my loneliness… as something benefitting for the people around me. Too many have suffered when I am around them for too long.”

“Why should you think of such?” Gandalf asked with pity.

“You have known so little about me, Gandalf,” Varilerin said to him as she walked past him. “Maybe you’ll understand me deeper as the time goes.”

“How can one understand you when one is not a friend?” Gandalf asked. “Unless I am now a friend to you?”

Varilerin turned to look at him. She pondered for a moment for an answer. “I think you are quiet close to be my friend. Farewell, Gandalf, until our next meeting.”

Varilerin bowed respectfully to Gandalf before she disappeared to the shadows of the forest.

“Interesting indeed,” Gandalf muttered as he watched the sun rose from the depths of the horizon. A new day was beginning for the wizard in Middle Earth, and so for Varilerin.

Little did she know that her journey would change everything in her world.

Chapter Text

The rangers embarked on their journey as the sun rose, travelling with their horses. Varilerin pulled her hood up as they made their way to the deeper and farther woods in Imladris. They were not many, but skilful enough to eliminate a pack of Orcs if necessary. Their senses were cautious, particularly hers for she feared the incident hundreds of years ago would repeat itself. She cautiously clutched her bow and readied her other hand to grab one of her dual short swords, gifts from Elladan and Elrohir during her coming of age, in case they would be facing enemies out of nowhere.

Ruindoldir was the one leading the company, for he was familiar with the lands and mountains outside Imladris. Ellain followed, being second in command and the most experienced. Varilerin followed behind them, because of her gift she had understood over the years. She had discovered that her gift was not a mere vision, but warnings whenever evil would endanger her and those around her. It caused her to sense evil before it came, a double-edged sword for her. Her gift somehow made evil gathering around her and, though she had managed to stop them in most occasions, endanger those she swore to protect. It caused her to wonder whether it was the right choice to escort Arwen, though she knew that Elladan and Elrohir would force her if she resisted.

After two days of travelling in speed, they finally moved to the foot of the Misty Mountains. Varilerin gazed at the magnificent peaks of the mountains, never before seeing them.

“Have you seen dwarves before, Varilerin?” Ruindoldir asked her out of curiosity as they encircled the base of a mountain. Varilerin raised her brow, wondering what motives Ruindoldir had behind such simple questions. Dwarves and Elves were known to be rivals, if softly said, and tend to quarrel whenever they meet. She had heard a lot of them, how their brashness managed to anger her kin anytime, but she had never seen one directly.

“No, I am afraid not,” Varilerin answered coldly. “Though I am curious to meet one.”

“Oh, you will wish you haven’t meet them when you do,” Ruindoldir snorted, scanning the higher grounds as if someone was watching them. “They are nasty beings indeed. I cannot stand them.”

“They must be better than you expect, mustn’t they?” Varilerin retorted, regarding Ruindoldir’s opinion as something rather absurd.

“Wait until you see one…. Though I suppose we won’t meet one in this journey,” Ruindoldir added. The night fell once more and the rangers rested near an empty cave under the mountain. Although her friends had told her to rest, she couldn’t even close her eyes. Her gaze was constantly directed to the shadows lying around them, possible hiding places for hateful creatures that wished to kill them quietly. She didn’t fear them, not a single bit of their existence, but she feared for the fate of the others. The images of the event many years ago were still engraved in her mind, something that she was sure would never be forgotten.

“You should really sleep, Varilerin,” Ellain suggested to her. “I’ll take the watch.”

“No, I can handle myself,” Varilerin told her sincerely. Ellain sighed and sat next to her, playing with the dagger she was holding as if it was a fork.

“You know, Varilerin, I am always fascinated of how your parents gave you your name,” Ellain whispered. “Queen of protection… It suits you really well.”

“Does it?” Varilerin asked back, wondering herself. “All I bring to those close to me is danger, evil. It is not suitable, not in a million years.”

“You shouldn’t say such things. In this dark world, evil and danger are prominent in the lands. I doubt that we can pass a single day without a threat,” Ellain assured her. “Remember, Varilerin, the ones that cause suffering are not us, but the shadows lying beyond. We are merely suffering from them, but not forever. I believe there is an ending in all sufferings.”

“An ending of all suffering?” Varilerin wondered. “Well, that is a good dream.”

“A good truth, really,” Ellain said lastly, before they were out of words to speak. They gazed the stars above, hoping an ending to whatever sufferings the Shadow was giving them now.

The sun rose quickly, as quick as they had been resting, and the rangers began marching towards Lorien once more. The road beyond was unusually undisturbed and peaceful, a thing they thanked the Valar because of the rarity of peace in recent days. They finally escaped the mountain range and entered the wooden parts of the land.

“Lothlorien is near,” Ruindoldir told the other rangers as they moved deeper into the forest. The Golden forests of Lorien was, like Imladris’, beautiful, but with certain golden touches that improved the forests’ magnificence. The Elves who had never been inside the forest marvelled over its beauty as they moved past shrubs and tall trees. Varilerin stopped admiring when her eyes caught movement among the tree branches.

“There are figures in the trees,” she told Ellain as she tightened the string of her bow with an arrow. Ellain chuckled at her information, lowering Varilerin’s bow to the ground.

“They are Haldir’s and his brothers’ men,” Ellain informed Varilerin. “They are here to greet us.”

Soon enough, blonde Elves started to fall from the canopies. Their grey cloaks fluttered as they landed on the ground elegantly, creating only a vague sound of leaves tearing. Ruindoldir and Ellain moved forward, greeting the rangers in the manner of their kind, and were returned generously by all of their hosts.

“Welcome, rangers of Rivendell,” one of them greeted as he pulled down his cloak, revealing a fair face of an ellon. “My name is Haldir, for those of you who haven’t known me. These are my brother, Rumil and Orophin,” Haldir said as he moved his hand to introduce two other Elves beside him. They too, revealed their faces, which were really similar to Haldir’s.

“Well, I think we are honourable guests, having the three loyal brothers greeting us at once!” Ellain remarked.

“You haven’t changed at all, Ellain,” Orophin said with a chuckle. “We are doing this as told by Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. We fear that you might have encountered trouble in your way here. Things are not quite peaceful in the mountains.”

“Fortunately, our journey remained undisturbed,” Ruindoldir informed them.

“Good then. We also don’t want to see you battered and wounded,” said Haldir as he observed them one by one. His eyes stopped on Varilerin, slightly widening and curious, but he didn’t speak further. “Come, you need rest, for tomorrow you should depart once more.”


 

“They have come,” were all the words that convinced Arwen that the Elves from Rivendell had arrived. Elladan and Elrohir would be the ones escorting her, quite pleasant for her because she had not seen them for a long time. She skipped to the gate, where she assumed her kin would be arriving. She met Orophin halfway, directing several Elves with instructions to escort the visitors.

“Orophin. Are my brothers safe?” she asked the ellon hastily. Orophin turned to look at her, his face seemingly confused of her question. Varilerin’s smile slowly faded when she observed his unusual reaction. “Orophin, where are my brothers?” she asked in increasing worry.

“Your brothers are not among the rangers, My Lady,” Orophin informed her. “There are only Ellain and Ruindoldir, along with several other Elves unknown to me.”

“Oh,” Arwen muttered when she heard his new information. “Where are they then?”

“Heading here soon,” said Orophin as he looked towards the gate. Arwen followed his gaze, seeing the familiar faces of Ellain and Ruindoldir. They seemed unharmed to her, not noticing her observing from behind the trees. The other Elves followed them in an orderly manner. She sighed, knowing that it would be some time before she could see her brothers once more.

Then she saw another familiar face and silver eyes. She was tall like the other Elves and equally graceful, though her face hinted the blood of Men flowing through her veins. Her hair was dark like the night and quite long, reaching the back of her body, tied and braided simply yet elegantly. Her figure was lean and strong, emphasized by the bow she carried and the swords sheathed on her back.

“Varilerin?” she gasped when she finally recognized who the elleth was. Varilerin instantly turned to see Arwen, who finally emerged from behind the trees. Both of them were hesitant of whatever they were seeing, believing it to be an illusion.

“Lady Arwen?” Varilerin muttered as she approached Arwen. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing, for beneath the glittering trees Arwen seemed unrecognizable. The glee elleth she once knew was not as beautiful and graceful as the one she was seeing. “You are Lady Arwen Undomiel?”

“Yes, I am,” Arwen answered with a smile as she embraced her long forgotten friend into her arms. Varilerin flinched when she did the gesture, but managed to receive it with a small smile. “I have missed you for so many years.”

“So do I, My Lady,” Varilerin added as she released her embrace and observed Arwen. “It is true that the grace of Undomiel is flourishing under the trees of Lothlorien.”

Arwen blushed as a result of her friend’s praise. “And you as well, Varilerin. Have you noticed it?”

“No, not really,” Varilerin answered innocently. Arwen chuckled when she heard her friend’s plain remark. “Though Master Glorfindel told me that I have changed much since he last saw me.”

“In a beautiful way, yes, though I see that your attitude has not changed much.”

“Some things don’t ever change, My Lady,” Varilerin told her.

“Except for the fact that you have become one of Rivendell’s strongest,” Arwen added when she saw Ellain and Ruindoldir eyeing their reunion. Varilerin narrowed her eyes and glanced sharply at her two friends, who, she suspected, had sent messages in secret to Arwen regarding her duties.

“Yes, they told me about your achievements. Elladan and Elrohir are to blame as well of course.” Arwen smirked, satisfied that her friend was annoyed by Ellain and Ruindoldir’s secret quests.

“I see. They deserve some taste of my strength soon then,” Varilerin muttered bitterly as she threatened her friends through her mere gaze. Ellain and Ruindoldir chuckled from the distance and then disappeared with the other rangers.

“Now, don’t let your heart be heated by such small things. Come, you must rest after such a long journey,” Arwen said as she grabbed Varilerin’s hands and pulled her from her spot. Varilerin was overwhelmed by Arwen’s surprisingly great strength and stuttered as she struggled to follow her pace. However, she didn’t plead Arwen to slow her pace, and enjoyed every second Arwen drag her across the woods, towards what seemingly the heart of Lorien.

 Arwen stopped abruptly when they saw the heart of the forest finally revealed to them. “Caras Galadhon, the home of my grandfather and grandmother,” Arwen told her as she pulled Varilerin forth. Varilerin admired the golden woodland with wide eyes, never have seen such city covered in forests before. Arwen smiled when she saw Varilerin’s reactions and loosened her grip from Varilerin’s hands.

“It is beautiful, My Lady,” Varilerin told her.

“Yes. I have lived so long here and yet it still wonders me-“ Arwen paused suddenly as she remembered something important. “Speaking of my grandmother…. She wishes to see you.”

“Lady Galadriel wants to see me?” Varilerin wondered. Elrond had told her that he had also sought the help of Galadriel for her family identity, something that proved to be in vain over time. Varilerin had also forgotten the importance of knowing her family over the years, satisfied with the background of her family alone. The name of the great elleth seemed to echo in her mind and cast an unknown fear to her heart.

“Well, she doesn’t want to see you directly. She talks about you many times,” Arwen continued. “But hopefully you will be seeing each other tonight, before we embark tomorrow, for she has so many questions for you.”

“I see,” Varilerin muttered.

“Come!” Arwen said again. Varilerin nodded and tailed Arwen deeper into the forest, which seemed to be frightening unlike before. When she entered deeper into the city, she was finally reunited with Ellain and Ruindoldir, who seemed pleased when they saw her friend’s annoyed expression when she saw them.

“I should really shoot both of you right now, if we are not guests in Lothlorien,” Varilerin threatened them. Ellain brushed her threat like the air and patted Varilerin’s back.

“Haldir and his brothers told us that we will be meeting Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn before we rest,” Ruindoldir informed her. “They want to know what we meet in our journey.”

“Which is, nothing,” Varilerin said with no interest. She had heard the abilities or magic Galadriel wielded that allowed her to look into the minds of strangers and she was sure that the lady would had known what had happened in the instant they entered the forest. Might be a mere propriety, Varilerin thought as they finally entered the heart of the city. Unlike the other parts of the city, it was lit brightly with white light, and the trees seemed to be non-existent with the presence of the elegantly carved buildings. Varilerin felt her feet getting heavier as they lined in front of a descending staircase. Two figures emerged from the building above, both fair and beautiful. One was a blonde ellon with wisdom carved on his face, whilst the other was a beautiful elleth whose golden wavy hair almost touched the ground. Their faces were cladded with light, as if they were mighty spirits descending to Arda.

“Welcome, rangers of Rivendell,” the male, who by the time Varilerin presumed as Celeborn, greeted. “It is an honour to host you as the protectors of our granddaughter.”

“Please make yourself at home,” Galadriel said as she looked into each of their eyes. She stopped on Varilerin, who was bracing for any telepathic words from the lady. “We have prepared food and beddings for you. Now, rest well,” Galadriel said without uttering words in Varilerin’s mind, much to her surprise, though she knew that the lady had something in mind about her.

The rangers bowed to their hosts and followed the three brothers to a clearing with beds. They were given clothes to change with their dirty ones, and gracious amount of food. They were left soon by the Elves of Lothlorien, which was a good thing because Varilerin was uncomfortable with the constant glances Haldir and his brothers stole from her. She could understand their anxiety of her presence of course, for she seemed to more likely kill someone in a blink than the other Elves of Rivendell. It was after all, the few things that made her comfortable.

The night soon grew older and the rangers began taking their rest. Not long it was only Ellain, Ruindoldir, and Varilerin with their eyes awake.

“Why are you not sleeping?” Ellain asked the other two as she cleaned her already clean knife with a fabric. They didn’t seem to be entertained by her poorly asked question.

“And why are you not sleeping?” Ruindoldir retorted, he himself playing with the string of his bow like a musical instrument. Varilerin snorted as she cut some herb stalks she had been collecting throughout the journey.

“Well, I am as you can see, cleaning my precious weapon,” Ellain answered surely. “And what are you doing Varilerin?”

“Preparing some herbs,” Varilerin said without looking at them. “Lord Elrond has always advised me to bring some…. In case something happens.”

“And I am composing a tune with my bowstring, if you want to know,” Ruindoldir said, igniting a small laughter from Ellain.

“I bet it will be a melodious tune,” Ellain remarked as she wiped her knife lastly with a swift slide. Varilerin smirked as she watched Ellain sheathing back her weapon to its elegant scabbard.

“You both should really be partners in marriage,” Varilerin teased them.

“No, not in a million years. She is more like a bothersome sister to me,” Ruindoldir explained.

“Oh yes, annoying brother,” Ellain defended. “Come on then, dear brother, we must sleep, or tomorrow I am afraid I must carry you down to Rivendell!”

“Fine then. You should sleep as well, Varilerin,” Ruindoldir told her as he slumped to his bunk. Varilerin merely nodded in understanding, though in her heart she intended not to sleep. Ellain glanced at her suspiciously one last time, before she herself disappeared beneath the blankets. With them asleep the forest became utterly quiet and tranquil, just like Varilerin preferred. She put her knife back to its scabbard, having finished with her duty, and rose from her bunk, intending to find some walk in the woods. Having difficulties in sleeping had never left her ever since she could remember. Letting one’s guard down was one of the many things that defied her principle, and endanger her life in many ways, even though Lothlorien was undeniably safe enough.

She was about to leave the clearing when her eyes suddenly caught a woman cladded in white gliding among the trees. She flinched and stopped, observing the woman carefully. Her figure was ethereal, like a ghost walking in the night, yet somehow not of the evil kind.

“Who are you?” she whispered, not daring to approach the figure. The woman didn’t answer and instead turned her head to indicate her to follow.

Lady Galadriel? Varilerin thought, somehow knowing that the woman was her.

Follow me child.

Varilerin swallowed a suspicion before she followed the woman cautiously. The woman didn’t speak as she brought her deeper and to the lower floors of the enchanting forest. Varilerin remained careful, her hand ready with her knife if she happened to mean any harm to her. She could not be less cautious, for the days were dark, and any fair beings could be foul.

She stopped when she saw where the woman was bringing her to: a clearing with a small waterfall and a strange basin standing in the middle of it. She looked down to the woman, who unveiled the fabric hiding her face, revealing the face of Lady Galadriel.

“My Lady,” Varilerin said as she bowed, realizing that indeed she was correct.

“I can understand that you suspect my intentions, but I can assure you that I mean no harm,” Lady Galadriel said softly.

“Forgive me,” Varilerin apologized, not moving from her position. “And what importance do I have to follow you here?”

“I have long wanted to look upon your eyes directly, to understand you from afar, but it seemed I have to patient. Now, however, the time has come,” Galadriel answered. She smiled and then moved to the small fountain, carrying a small jug and collected some water from it. She then turned to the wondering Varilerin, her face decorated with an unbeatable smile that made Varilerin anxious.

“Will you look into the mirror?” Galadriel said as she poured the water into the strange basin.

Varilerin narrowed her eyes as she slowly and cautiously descended the roots of the large trees. “What can I see there?”

Galadriel smiled. “Things that were, things that are, and things that are yet to come. None can know what it will show, only when one sees into it.”

Galadriel gestured Varilerin to look into the waters, and she obliged her instructions. Varilerin stepped closer and faced the mirror, glinting under the moonlight and undisturbed. She stared at it, still distrustful with what it could show her.

And will it show my heritage? She thought as she leaned closer. Or will it show my future?

The mirror stared back at her, beginning to ripple and showing her an image. It seemed unclear at first, only splotches of colour, but soon Varilerin could discern an image from it.

An elleth above a pool of blood.

Varilerin felt her body stopped moving and her heart stopped beating. She froze and she immediately pulled back from the mirror, leaping away from it. Her eyes blinked widely and she panted. She looked at Lady Galadriel, who seemed surprised with her reaction.

“Why are you afraid to look into the mirror, child?” Galadriel asked her.

“Didn’t you see or search my mind?” Varilerin asked her, rather not sure with her abilities.

“I cannot read your thoughts like the others, though I know that fear has taken grip of you,” Galadriel explained calmly. Varilerin stared at the ground, unable to look into such knowing eyes with ease. “You have the gift to see danger, and yet you fear a simple mirror that can even only show you the past? Your heritage?”

“My gift is a double edged sword, My Lady,” Varilerin told her. “If one is able to know danger, then danger will surround her. A simple mirror can be a double edged sword as well.”

Varilerin stopped, searching for the words to be uttered. “I have suffered much with my gift, in many ways you may not imagine…. If this mirror shows me the future I have been seeing, then I shall not see it. I fear it so.”

“And what if it can show you your past, or present? There are infinite possibilities that you cannot imagine, My Child.”

“Then my heart is not prepared, not yet,” she answered. “If with a simple glimpse I am unable to continue, then my time has not come.”

Galadriel smiled kindly when she heard her thoughtful answer and nodded in understanding. “You are wise, Child, wiser than many of your age. However, you must know this: one day you shall see into this mirror, whatever the circumstances, and you shall discover what’s hidden within your soul.”

“Then I shall wait until that time comes,” Varilerin replied surely. She would wait then, wait until her destiny would be revealed to her, for she was patient, more patient than many.

But even the truest patience could be broken.

Chapter Text

“Varilerin, is something bothering you?” Varilerin looked up at Ellain, looking at her terribly worried. She stopped sharpening her swords and raised her brow.

“No, I am fine,” Varilerin answered as she slung her quiver and sheathed her weapons. Ellain didn’t see any truth in her words and sighed, wondering what had happened last night when she and Ruindoldir were asleep. She had been quiet throughout the morning, busying herself in her already sharpened swords and arrows. Ruindoldir stood beside Ellain, folding his hands as if he was angry with his younger friend.

“I know you’re not fine, and you better be finer because we need all the attentions we need in order to get Lady Arwen to safety,” Ruindoldir added.

“Trust me, My Friends. Whatever matters that occupied my mind shall not disturb our mission,” Varilerin said as she pulled her hood up. Ellain and Ruindoldir didn’t look convinced and frowned. Varilerin shot their eyes with her sharp glance, pleaded them not to ask further uncomfortable questions.“Now, let us go.”

Ignoring her friends’ concerns, she marched ahead with the other rangers towards the gates, where Arwen and her grandparents had been waiting for them. Varilerin slightly felt uncomfortable of leaving the safe haven, knowing that she must enter the rocky mountain terrains once more, yet didn’t speak of it to her friends. Her mind, like what they had suggested, was occupied by the confusion over the fear she had last night, and the mirror. A single image from the mirror could shatter her composure in a split second, something she still couldn’t comprehend even after a whole night of pondering.

The company found Arwen bidding farewell with Celeborn and Galadriel. Under the morning sun their faces looked ethereal and far wiser than the surrounding Elves. There was a vague resemblance between Arwen and Galadriel, Varilerin noticed, both in beauty and the charm they emanated.

“Farewell, My Child, may your journey be safe and sound,” Celeborn said lastly after he embraced his granddaughter. Arwen smiled gently as she received him, not noticing the arrival of the rangers.

“And may we meet again in better circumstances,” Galadriel added. Arwen didn’t notice Galadriel glancing at Varilerin from the corner of her eyes, smiling in secret as she sent thoughts to her mind. Varilerin shuddered when she did so, glancing away from the Elven Lady hastily.

And I will be waiting for our next meeting as well, Daughter of Glorfindel.

“My Lady, it is time,” Ellain politely informed Arwen. Arwen nodded in understanding and pulled up her hood. Varilerin approached her as she mounted her horse.

“She will return safe, My Lady, My Lord,” Varilerin assured the both of them. Celeborn and Galadriel nodded, and the rangers bowed to them to thank them for their hospitality. They mounted their own horses and marched out of Lothlorien, down the path they had previously taken, quietly and carefully. Varilerin rode beside Arwen, flanking her along with Ellain and Ruindoldir.

“We will bring you home now, My Lady,” Varilerin told Arwen when they finally reached the borders of Lorien.

“I know you will,” Arwen said with a smile. Varilerin gave her the largest smile she could muster to her friend, who was finally returning home. Arwen’s presence seemed to erase all her concerns regarding the mirror, and she spent the rest of the journey talking with her old friend. Not surprised, Arwen had grown in wisdom as well, a successful result of being mentored by the wisest beings on Arda. They saw in each other that they had grown in many ways, one being wiser and one being stronger. Sisters they seemed to the observing rangers, completing each other’s flaws whenever they needed to. Ellain and Ruindoldir had not seen Varilerin so happy in a hundred years, and they were grateful for such cause.

In the afternoon they stopped briefly for a rest and food. Though they could have travelled further without resting, the rangers couldn’t take dangerous risks in advancing without scouting the area first. Varilerin waited with Arwen as her comrades departed to watch the road ahead.

“So tell me, Varilerin, have you decided which race will you choose?” Arwen asked as she tended to her horse while keenly observing Varilerin preparing some herbs she had just picked up.

“No, not yet, though I think I will choose my closest kin,” Varilerin answered. “But I will not decide until the time is dire, until I have seen the purpose of my life.”

“You wait too much, aren’t you?” Arwen said. Arwen suddenly stopped and smiled suspiciously, approaching the seating Varilerin and leaning down to whisper to her.“Are you waiting to find love as well?”

Varilerin stopped moving and narrowed her eyes to Arwen. Not to Arwen’s surprise, Varilerin remained calm and composed, although the subject was surely sensitive for all elleth. “Why are you asking that?” Varilerin accused Arwen.

“Because you’ve come of age, Varilerin. Isn’t it general for you to find the soul that completes your heart?” Arwen asked gleefully when she realised it was also a sensitive matter for Varilerin. Varilerin glared at Arwen whilst her hand kept cutting some athelas.

“No, I have not even thought about it,” she answered calmly. She was not lying, for she had not even thought about it before Arwen mentioned the matter. Several ellon back home must had taken interest in her whenever they saw glimpses of her figure among the rangers no doubt, but she cared not much. Several of the rangers must had noticed her as well, though she managed to announce indirectly that she didn’t care for any matters of marital love or whatsoever. She was known as a warrior, not a lady who sought love. She would not let love disrupt her duties as a protector, not when it was one of the few things that kept her alive.

“What about you then? Any Lothlorien ellon that particularly interests you?” Varilerin asked sharply. Arwen merely let out a small laughter at her.

“Well, there are Haldir and his brothers,” suddenly a voice came from behind Arwen before she could answer, revealed to be Ellain folding her arms together. She was smiling suspiciously, her eyes shining with joy. “Well, what about your answer, Lady Arwen?”

“No, none of them,” Arwen answered surprisingly calmly. “Well, what about you Ellain? Any interest in Ruindoldir?”

Varilerin smirked along with Arwen, causing Ellain to snort out of annoyance. “Why, he is only an annoying brother to me, that’s all. He troubles me too much to become a protective spouse…”

“I heard that!” Ruindoldir shouted from the distance. Arwen and Ellain laughed freely, annoying the ellon glaring sharply at them. Finally, Ellain coughed loudly to stop their laughters, having seen the other rangers returning from their watch.  

“We are going to be leaving in a minute now, so prepare yourselves,” Ellain told them. Varilerin nodded and put back all the herbs into her pouch. “We’ll be stopping when the night descends, probably near a forest around the mountain.”

“Come then, onto the horse you go,” Varilerin instructed Arwen, who in turn didn’t seem to be pleased at how Varilerin treated her like a child. She however, didn’t speak further, and followed Varilerin’s instructions accordingly. They travelled further with Arwen on her horse and the rangers on foot. Varilerin and Ellain constantly walked by Arwen’s side, while the others scoured the area for any potential dangers.

“Should we take the same path?” Ellain asked Varilerin.

“It is safe so it will not be a matter,” Varilerin said plainly. “Ah, a forest.”

From afar they saw clusters of trees growing sparsely close to the mountain, like a shrub in a vast plain. Varilerin looked at the sky and saw that it was darkening, the sun descending to the horizon slowly and steadily. “We should rest here,” she told Ellain. “I am going to scout the forest with Ruindoldir. Stay here with the rangers.”

Ellain nodded in understanding and watched as Varilerin, Ruindoldir, and several other rangers entered the small forest. They scattered in the area and quietly observed the woods with their bows constantly drawn. Even the safest forest could bring unlimited dangers to them.

After confirming that the forest would be suitable for the night, Varilerin emerged and called the rest of the company over. The night had finally arrived, and the company settled in a clearing surrounded by tall, old trees. A fire was set in the middle, and rangers encircled the clearing like the trees that protected it.

“Sleep, My Lady, we will protect you,” Arwen heard Varilerin muttering beside her.

“Are you not resting?” Arwen asked Varilerin when she saw that she was preparing herself for the watch. “I have heard from Ellain that you have not rested since last night.”

“Well, she has quite the mouth, isn’t she? Do not worry, My Lady, I have not rested for longer than this. My eyes and ears will be needed, especially in this estranged land.”

“Then be careful,” Arwen said to her. Varilerin bowed gratefully and then left Arwen safely in the clearing, approaching Ruindoldir who was standing cautiously not far.

“We are going to need some scouting outside the forest,” Ruindoldir told her. “Can you do that?”

“Certainly,” Varilerin answered surely as she observed the surroundings. “The night is quiet, too quiet I suppose.” Ruindoldir nodded, having the same opinion about her. Forests were always quiet for them, but they had always met Orcs and other filthy creatures they needed to defeat. Undisturbed silence was strange for them, even though it was preferable when they were escorting someone.

“Not living in dangers is disturbing for you, isn’t it?” Ruindoldir asked. “We rangers are all the same, but tonight such situation is preferable for Lady Arwen.”

“I know. Farewell then, I will meet you in the morning,” Varilerin said lastly before she left Ruindoldir to watch around the forest. She felt the warm presences of her comrades dissipating as she travelled farther to the borders, where she felt some rangers also standing guard. The night was quiet like they had discussed, though there was a certain uneasiness in the air. Varilerin constantly rubbed her bow, a gift from her master when she came of age, and constantly glanced into the shadows. Everything however, seemed calm and undisturbed.

Then a cold wind brushed her skin and she shuddered. Varilerin grabbed her bow and arrow, looking cautiously into the dark.

There was another presence, cold and dark.

What is it?  Varilerin mused and looked around in panic. Her heart thumped loudly and her skin shivered. It is happening again, the vision.

She stopped moving when she saw ethereal Orcs killing her comrades in front of her. They screamed, yet their voices could not be heard on the physical plane. The evil creatures’ evil blades pierced through the bodies of her kin, mercilessly and gleefully. Among them were Ruindoldir and Ellain, fighting off the enemies with all their might. Ellain shouted a battle cry to the Orcs, swinging her blade wildly whilst she protected Arwen behind her.

Kill them! The Orcs screamed to her.

Varilerin widened her eyes and, without watching her vision any longer, she turned back to the forest. The screams and painful screeches of the Orcs continued to pain her ears as she ran back to the encampment.

Why now, of all times? Why now when Arwen is with us?

Varilerin began hearing screams of her kin coming from the clearing where Arwen was waiting, and screeches of Orcs, exactly like the ones she had heard in her vision. Varilerin quickened her pace and pushed through the thorny bushes, ignoring her skin that was grazed by its spiny leaves. The screams became louder.

Please let me arrive in time!

A last scream was released to the air before Varilerin emerged to the clearing. A blade seemed to strike her heart when she saw Ellain standing in front of an Orc, her abdomen pierced by its evil sword mercilessly. Ellain coughed as she tried to push the Orc away, failing to do so with her depleting strength.

“Ellain!” Varilerin screamed when she arrived at the battlefield, and unleashed an arrow straight to the Orc’s head, killing it immediately. Without glancing at her other fallen comrades and the bloodied ground, she leapt to Ellain’s falling body and caught her.

“Ellain, endure Ellain!” Varilerin pleaded to her friend when she saw that her wound was bleeding more profusely than she had ever seen. Ellain didn’t respond, her empty eyes staring far into the stars, and her body cold like the winter wind. Varilerin grimaced and closed Ellain’s eyes, holding back the pain that was striking her as she turned to search for Arwen.

Arwen was fighting an Orc desperately with the small sword she was wielding. Without grieving further Varilerin released a deadly arrow to the Orc’s neck and leapt in front of Arwen to protect her.

“Arwen, are you injured?” Varilerin stammered to Arwen, whose face had been marred by black blood of the enemies. Arwen nodded and felt Varilerin’s hand pulling her towards her white steed not far. “We need to get you out now.”

Not far from Arwen’s steed was Ruindoldir, fighting alone against several Orcs. “Get on the horse!” Varilerin instructed Arwen as she fired another arrow to support Ruindoldir. Ruindoldir glanced at Varilerin, gaining Varilerin’s support, and defeated the last of his enemies with the wild slashes of his blades.

“Ruindoldir!” Varilerin shouted to him when she saw that the enemies had dissipated. Ruindoldir nodded in understanding and ran towards Varilerin, who quickly leapt to any horse that still remained. Suddenly Ruindoldir stopped, hearing loud howls coming from the distance. Ruindoldir’s face was filled with horror, and so were the remaining elleths.

“Wargs,” Varilerin muttered fearfully. “Ruindoldir! We must get away now!”

Ruindoldir didn’t respond to her plead and instead drew on of his arrows, turning his back away from Varilerin and Arwen. Varilerin gaped in realization that his friend had come to a horrifying decision.

“Ruindoldir!” Varilerin shouted, trying to prevent her friend from sacrificing himself.

“Go! I will cover you!” Ruindoldir shouted surely and unmoving. He looked back at Varilerin, his eyes filled with fear and sadness. Varilerin felt her heart being stabbed by hundreds of swords, and the time seemed to freeze under the grief she was experiencing.

“No,” she muttered reluctantly.

Ruindoldir smiled at her, a smile so genuine that she knew she would never see it once more. “Who will accompany Lady Arwen when you die?”

“You cannot sacrifice yourself for my lowly soul!”

“YOU MUST GO OR THE LADY WILL DIE!” Ruindoldir shouted harshly. Varilerin shuddered, never before heard Ruindoldir screaming with his gentle voice. Ruindoldir didn’t speak further and turned his face away from her. Varilerin closed her eyes and turned away from Ruindoldir, facing the incoming wargs that would certainly be his last battle.

“Go!” Varilerin told Arwen with a rigid voice. Arwen didn’t dare to disobey her orders and paced her horse away from the battlefield. Varilerin drew an arrow and tried to deafen her ears from the growls of wargs assaulting her true friend behind her.

Farewell, My Friends, may your souls find their way to the Halls of Mandos.

Not long after, her ears couldn’t catch any more sound, and she prayed for the loyal sacrifice of her friend. “Go, faster!” she urged Arwen. Arwen was a skilled rider, but in the night the evil beasts were faster than their steeds. Varilerin slowly heard the bushes rustling loudly behind her that signified the coming of the enemies.

Varilerin immediately turned her body and shot an arrow to a warg rider emerging from the bushes, striking the beast right on its head. Arwen glanced over her shoulder, seeing Varilerin drawing another arrow. Another warg rider tried to lunge on Varilerin, only to be taken down by her arrows.

“Varilerin!” Arwen shouted when she saw another emerging behind the warg rider she had just defeated. Unable to react in time, the warg struck Varilerin’s horse hard and merciless. The Orc riding it tried to decapitate her head using his sword, only failing to do so as Varilerin jumped from her steed. She was thrown to the trees, her head hitting so hard that she felt her head splitting to pieces. For a moment she lost the sight of the world, but forced herself to wake once more and threw her arrow to the warg that had struck her ride. She leapt to the Orc riding it and decapitated her head with her dual swords.

She glanced at Arwen, who to her surprise and anger had stopped her horse. “Fool! Why do you stop? Go now! More are coming!” Varilerin scolded the elleth.

“I cannot leave you, Varilerin!” Arwen said. Varilerin didn’t pay head to her pleads and heard the Orcs closing in.

“LEAVE ME! MY VOW WILL BE BROKEN IF YOU ARE TO DIE!” Varilerin shouted desperately. “LEAVE ME ARWEN, THIS IS MY LAST REQUEST!”

Arwen grimaced, not wanting to leave her long lost friend, but she reluctantly pulled the reigns and paced away from Varilerin. Arrows were now of no use, her quivers now empty, and she must rely on her blades alone to meet these beasts.

Several Orcs emerged from among the trees at once, growling and snickering at the lone elleth. Varilerin looked into their eyes sharply, her grip over her swords tight and without fear.

“You are overpowered, Elf. You shall die!” one of them growled in their disgusting speech. Varilerin merely smirked, surprising her enemies with her confidence, or desperation if correctly said.

“I do not fear you, nor I fear the power of numbers,” she said before she leapt to one of the warg riders. Swiftly she decapitated its head with her sword and stabbed the other warg with the other. Its comrades tried to shoot an arrow to her head, only to fail miserably as Varilerin deflected the projectile. She jumped to the other and stabbed its chest with both of her swords. Before she could pull her weapons, the warg beneath her ran towards the trees in an effort to throw her to a tree trunk once more. Varilerin wouldn’t repeat the same mistake and stabbed the warg powerfully with her medical knife, before jumping off from the beast.

“Die, filth!” the last Orc screamed, riding towards her. Varilerin lost the speed to react after she had struck the trees, letting the warg crash her back and threw her to the bushes. She lost her vision and when she opened her eyes, she saw the last enemy drawing its bow towards her. Varilerin couldn’t move her body, only hearing the sound of the bowstring being pulled and the Orc breathing. The time slowed down, just like when she saw her friends dying.

If this is the end, so be it, she thought, closing her eyes and remembering Ellain and Ruindoldir. If this is how I will die, then it will be an honourable one.

She heard the arrow being unleashed and its tip splitting the air. She breathed slowly, reminiscing her painful life and the wonderful memories she had been spending with Arwen, who would be save because of her sacrifice.

But the arrow never hit her.

For it found not her body, but a presence in front of her.

Varilerin knew the presence too well, too well that her heart stopped beating when she opened her eyes.

Arwen Undomiel was standing tall before her, with an ar

Chapter Text

He saw a ranger wandering around the borders of Imladris. Their face was concealed with the dark hood shadowing their figure. There were no stars above, only the cold wind of the silent night. They were walking away from Rivendell quietly, undisturbed by the lack of guards around. The image diminished, dissipating into ash and fog.

Then he saw tears, trickling from the ranger’s face.

“Elrond?” Elrond heard Glorfindel whispering from beside him. Elrond jolted from his seat and looked at Glorfindel as if something bad had happened, the latter looking at him equally confused. Elrond rubbed his eyes and blinked several times, adjusting his vision to the reality. “What has happened, My Friend? It is rare for you to be asleep, yet alone surprised,” Glorfindel continued.

“No, I just have a vision…. That’s all,” Elrond answered with a shook of his head. Glorfindel watched Elrond covering his eyes in distress.

“The vision… It bothers you. What did you see?” Glorfindel asked slowly.

“It is not important.... But I have a poor premonition from it,” Elrond whispered terrifyingly.“My visions recently are not well, Glorfindel. I am seeing deaths and darkness, the stars dissipating. I am afraid that something unwanted shall happen.”

The horns of Rivendell were sounded just as Elrond finished his sentence. Glorfindel and Elrond flinched, for the horns had disturbed the silence of the night in the valley.

“Has Arwen and Varilerin arrived?” Glorfindel deduced.

“No… It is too soon. Their journey must at least take another day-“

Elrond stopped moving. His eyes were widening with a realization. Glorfindel reacted similarly and they both rushed to the gates faster than the wind of the night. The Elves were gathering near the gates and outside their chambers as well, wondering what had happened that the horns were sounded. They could see Gandalf as well, watching from the second floor in confusion.

What Glorfindel and Elrond saw terrified them, terrified them more than anything they had seen. Glorfindel tried to convince himself that what he was seeing was a mere illusion of the night, but he knew that he could not veil the cruel image revealed to his eyes.

Varilerin was arriving on a horse with a battered body. Her face was utterly tired, dirty, and marred with blood and dust. Her body was covered in bruises and grazes, whilst her clothes were torn and dusted. What Elrond saw terrified him more, for the body was none other than his own daughter. Even from a distance he could see that her face was pale like the moonlight, and her body was injured with a deep arrow wound on her back.

Varilerin didn’t speak a single word as she unmounted her horse and carried Arwen on her back. Elrond approached Varilerin, his face filled with worry, or anger, she didn’t know. Varilerin couldn’t bring courage to look into his eyes, knowing that he must be furious of the sight he was seeing. She could only glance at him, pleading that Arwen be treated, ignoring her own painful body.

“Prepare the healing chambers, quick!” Elrond ordered the surrounding Elves with his wavering voice. Varilerin nodded and, as if her appearance didn’t signify her fatigue, she rushed to the healing chambers. Elrond entered the room and instructed several Elves to pick some herbs, whilst Varilerin laid Arwen down on the bed.

“The wound is poisoned. I have managed to slow down the poison using athelas,” Varilerin told Elrond hesitantly. Elrond didn’t look at her, observing Arwen’s wounds intently and worriedly. Varilerin clasped her hands together, praying silently for her dying friend. She felt helpless like a rabbit, not knowing that to do despite her long experience as a ranger.

“You must leave now,” Elrond told her after a momentary silence. Varilerin merely nodded and left the room slowly. Outside, Glorfindel was waiting for her, his eyes filled with questions and worry that could not be described. Varilerin looked at him, before suddenly she fell to the ground and covered her face with her soiled hands.

“Orcs…. They ambushed and outnumbered us… Ellain and Ruindoldir fell and I ran with Arwen…. But I couldn’t protect her,” she muttered in horror, repeatedly as if she was chanting an evil spell. Glorfindel knelt in front of her and tried to comfort her. His heart was pained enough by her appearance, yet alone her words.

“Child, it is not your fault. You have done your best,” Glorfindel whispered.

Varilerin looked up instantly. She looked at him with dimmed silver eyes that dammed a well of tears.

“It is all my fault… I shouldn’t have chosen that road… I shouldn’t have left her….. I should have fought better!” she muttered again. Invisible tears wetted her dry eyes like a fog of white mist. Glorfindel shuddered, for he saw a darkness within her eyes that he had never seen before. It seemed to reach his heart, and feared him more than the beasts that he had taken down.

“Varilerin, I have told you, it is not your fault. Whatever caused your poor fate is the darkness that Sauron had been spreading. You are only a victim of his devilry!” Glorfindel repeated.

“Yet I am the place where his devilry loves and covets,” Varilerin said.

“No… Do not say that My Child,” Glorfindel muttered hastily. “You are tired, battered, your wisdom cannot take over your mind. Do not think such evil things. You are not a harbinger of evil, only a warrior of light.”

Varilerin grimaced and faced away from Glorfindel, biting her lip until it bled. “Forgive me, Master, but I do not know what is right for me anymore,” Varilerin whimpered. “I have arrived here, unscathed, whilst Arwen is dying-“

“Stop this nonsense, Varilerin. You have done what you should have done. Arwen will not die, for Lord Elrond is a master of healing. Now your duty is not to meddle with your guilt, but to rest. You have suffered much in a short time,” Glorfindel told her gently. Varilerin didn’t respond, drinking the blood from her lips. Glorfindel forced Varilerin to face him, telling her with his gentle eyes the thought he had been trying to tell her repeatedly. Her master’s assurance forced Varilerin to give up, and she finally nodded with reluctance.

“I understand, Master,” Varilerin muttered and bowed, before leaving Glorfindel alone in the corridor. Glorfindel looked at her as she disappeared to the shadows, his world as if shattering slowly. He had never seen his daughter as battered and broken as this.

“It is easier to say than to do,” Glorfindel heard Gandalf muttering behind him. The wizard approached him, having heard and seen all the bitter events that had unfolded in a short time. “I have never seen such guilt overcoming someone, Master Glorfindel, and I am afraid that it will result not fairly for young Varilerin.”

“I am anxious as well, Gandalf,” Glorfindel said. “But what should I do?”

“I am but a mere guest. Actions you must take by yourself, Master Glorfindel,” Gandalf told him. Glorfindel stayed silent, for it was the first time he was utterly confused to take action.

oOo

When Varilerin had been treated from her wounds that could not be compared to those suffered by Arwen, she escaped to the dark woods. There, she wept without tears, letting her heart being pierced by thousands of arrows of guilt. She could not meet Elladan and Elrohir, who must had been surprised of their sister’s condition, and Elrond who was still treating Arwen silently. Varilerin had bathed and exchanged her clothes with new ones, but the scent of blood still lingered on her body. Her clean hands were still covered in blood in her eyes, a reminder of her failure and guilt that would not escape her soul.

Ellain and Ruindoldir were gone, their bodies still haunting her mind. She wouldn’t see them nor talk with them again regarding the simplest things. She would spend the rest of her days alone and silent. Arwen might had died and Varilerin was sure that she would never forget the pain inflicting her that day.

Why do I leave them? Why can’t I keep my own vow? Why do everyone come to harm when I am around them, loving them, swearing to protect them?

Her name was supposed to be the queen of protection, but she was instead a harbinger of evil, a bad omen for all who met her. Her gift was supposed to protect everyone, yet dangers would come to those known to her. It was not a gift, but a curse, and she herself was a curse.

“Varilerin?” Glorfindel’s voice came from afar. Apparently Glorfindel had learnt her favorite hiding places, yet he had never dared to visit her during her hiding. But now it was dire, for he didn’t want to lose his beloved daughter to guilt. Varilerin didn’t dare to turn and meet her master, for the guilt she was experiencing was too heavy to bear.

“Yes, Master?” she asked, trying to remain calm in her condition.

“Arwen has been cured. She’s safe, though it would take her days before waking up because the poison is deep,” Glorfindel informed her. He could hear Varilerin breathing out a sigh of relief.

“Thank the Valar,” Glorfindel heard her muttering to the sky.

“Varilerin, it is once more, not your fault. You should not burden your tired body with guilt,” Glorfindel said again in hopes to lift the spirits. Varilerin didn’t speak and stared into the woods. There was a long silence between them, only the wind of the night brushing against their skin.

“I need to take my leave and rest,” Varilerin told Glorfindel said finally, before bowing and leaving the ellon alone in the woods. She walked quietly among the trees and suddenly stopped, looking up to the moon with her silver eyes. It glared back at her, as if she was just a lowly being. She was, a lowly being, and she accepted whatever will the Valar was planning for her.

But there was something strange in the light of the moon. It resonated with her heart, moving her soul from the darkest depths she was currently experiencing. Varilerin’s eyes fluttered and she finally moved again. There was only one thing left to do now, something she must do. For the first time she would completely disobey Glorfindel, and all the hopes everyone had put on her. It would be the only way to redeem herself, and hopefully save others.

“I know what I should do now.”

oOo

Elrond brushed Arwen’s forehead gently with a cloth, wiping the sweat she produced in her fever. The poison from her wounds had been taken care of, and she would be awaking in a few days, but as a father Elrond still worried for his child. He had heard everything from Elladan and Elrohir, who were in turn told by Glorfindel in Varilerin’s stead, and realized that the one most impacted by the incident was not Arwen or him, but Varilerin. Elrond feared her future actions would be affected from now on. The elleth seemed strong and firm from the outside, but he knew that she was also sensitive in ways none could understand. It made him protective over her, although he knew he shouldn’t have.

A gust of wind rushed into the chambers and Elrond felt a presence approaching into the room. He rose to his feet and turned to face weary silver eyes looking at him. Varilerin was standing like a statue in front of the door, cladded in black cloak and carrying her battle equipments. Elrond was surprised of her appearance, particularly regarding her hair. She had cut it short, too short for the Elvish standards, and tied it into a low ponytail.

“My Lord,” Varilerin bowed to him. “Forgive for my failure,” she spoke before Elrond could respond to her greeting. Elrond frowned.

“I have, Child, but I am afraid that you’ve not to yourself,” he told her.

“Indeed, and I might never be,” she replied. Her expression was straight and indiscernible, which caused Elrond slightly uneasy to look straight into her silver eyes. “I have failed to protect her, yet I arrived here unscathed. It is an unforgivable failure and unforgettable.”

“Times are dark, Varilerin, and for that you should not blame yourself. Fate has chosen this path for you, not because of your own decision. I am angered, yes, but saddened to see you losing so much of yourself as well.”

“And I appreciate your forgiveness, but forgive me once more for not being able to accept my own fate,” she told him as she looked at Arwen. “I cannot rest, My Lord and thus I am going to do my duties to protect you and Arwen. Please tell me I am truly sorry if I am not here when she awakes.”

“I understand, Varilerin,” Elrond nodded as she watched her bowing down. He knew his words would be in vain for her stone heart, but still hoped that she would forgive herself nevertheless. Varilerin slowly closed the door of the room and faced the dark corridors. She felt a presence hiding among the shadows, someone powerful and wise.

“Gandalf,” she said. The old wizard silently emerged from his hiding place and looked at Varilerin sadly. Varilerin frowned and turned her face away from the wizard. He knows, she thought.

“You are really leaving, Dear?” Gandalf asked pitifully. Varilerin nodded hesitantly and looked at the floor.

“I cannot stay here, not when all these poor events have happened. I have lived long enough to realize that… I cannot protect those I want to protect by standing next to them. No, it is not possible. It only create poor fates for those around me,” Varilerin explained. “And nor should I stay here, idly waiting the enemies to come and hurt my friends once more.”

“Then it is a pity,” she heard Gandalf saying as he leaned to his staff. “We have just met and befriend each other, and now you are leaving me. I am slightly hurt.”

Varilerin forced a faint smile when she heard the wizard’s remark. “I am grateful to befriend you, Gandalf, for you are a sincere being, but I must leave for exile, never to return. I might live up to my name better if I were to watch you all from the shadows and unnoticed. I will, however, give aid whenever my friends need me, anytime and anywhere I am.”

She paused, looking utterly saddened after saying such words. “Then how can we find you when you are hiding among the shadows, Dear?” asked Gandalf slowly.

“The birds are quite fond of me,” Varilerin said. Gandalf looked as confused as she had expected and she merely smirked. “You are truly a strange folk, Gandalf. Never have I known someone that I trust in such a short time. I hope our friendship will last longer than the trees in Rivendell.”

“And may our next meeting be in a better circumstance than this,” Gandalf told her. She nodded in agreement and rummaged something from her pocket.

“Please give this to Lord Elrond,” she said as she handed Gandalf a small envelope. Gandalf received it and observed it in curiosity. “It is a farewell message I cannot utter directly.”

“I will give it to him surely.”

“Farewell, Gandalf, may the stars bless our own paths,” she said as she pulled her hood. She bowed lastly to Gandalf before she walked slowly to the woods, never to return again to Rivendell.

“The Valar will surely bless you, Dear,” Gandalf muttered as her turned to the healing chamber. He opened the door slowly, not wanting to surprise Elrond whose anxiety was enough to make his heart stop beating. Elrond questioned Gandalf through his mere gaze. Gandalf coughed and handed Elrond Varilerin’s message without speaking.

Elrond received the message, cladded in a clean white envelope, and observed it suspiciously. “Who sends this message?”

“Open it and you shall see by yourself, Master Elrond,” Gandalf suggested. Elrond glanced briefly at Gandalf before opening the envelope carefully. He took the single brown paper folded inside it and opened it gently. His questions were soon answered when he saw the handwriting engraved on the paper, and the message inside it.

My Lord Elrond,

It is my deepest apology to tell you this not directly. For years I’ve dwelled in Rivendell under your care and protection, and for years have I protected it with my soul, but circumstances seemed to enlighten me about the true meaning of my presence here. Dangers have always loved and encircled me, bringing harm to those whom I have sworn to protect. It was after the recent events did I realize that my efforts in protecting Rivendell side by side with its people have caused nothing but harm. My ignorance for this have caused Arwen to be left in the brink of death, and deaths of those close to me.

Therefore, I shall not remain in Rivendell any longer. I will never withstand seeing Lady Arwen once more, for the guilt is for mine to bear alone. I have chosen to protect you all from the shadows of the falling world. Please utter my deepest apologies to Lady Arwen, for now I will never have the worth to stand in front of them again.

If, by any means you attempted to search for me, don’t. You shall never find me nor will I find you for help, as shadow won’t reveal itself to the day. Forget me, if possible, but I shall never forget my kin, and will help when help is dire. However, I shall not come as Varilerin of Rivendell, but an exiled ranger. If the Valar declares, I shall meet you once more, and I hope that by that time my sins would have been atoned.

Varilerin.

The letter dropped from Elrond’s hands. He looked at Gandalf with his widened eyes, not believing what he had just read. Gandalf only nodded sadly as an answer.

“I cannot believe this,” Elrond said. He noticed Glorfindel arriving at the doorstep, holding a similar letter in his hand. His breathing was heavy and irregular, and he looked at Elrond with the same look the Elven Lord was giving.

“She’s left us,” Elrond said to reconfirm Glorfindel’s suspicions. Glorfindel looked disheartened and took Elrond’s message from the floor.

“One of the greatest warriors of Rivendell has left us, to atone for sins that she doesn’t commit,” Gandalf spoke. “It is the path she has chosen and we cannot prevent her. She must walk her path alone.”

“Varilerin…. She has taken too much guilt to bear by herself… I have told her that it is not her fault,” Glorfindel said sadly. “I should have known her…. After so many years, where have I gone?”

“It is her decision, Master Elrond and Master Glorfindel. You cannot prevent her from leaving,” Gandalf said. “But it might be the best for her, for it is the path that the Valar provided for her. I believe that this will not be in vain, for us and for Varilerin.”

Deafening silence took over the three as they tried to accept the cruel truth Varilerin was presenting them. Glorfindel huffed in disbelief, for he had lost his only star in Rivendell.

“The only thing we can do is to pray for her now,” Gandalf told them. “I believe that we will meet her again, though maybe not for long.”

May she be safe in her journeys from now on,” Glorfindel prayed quietly to the stars. They watched over the elleth passing the borders of Imladris, unnoticed and slowly forgotten throughout the years that would come to pass.

Chapter Text

T.A. 2941

The seasons came and passed. The world of Arda changed and was slowly destroyed under Sauron's mad influence. There was no time for peace among the Elves, Men, and Dwarves. Evil constantly loomed over them, threatening to destroy them completely, or rule over them in darkness. Races struggled to maintain their freedom, but some had their wills failing. Arda was facing another brink of destruction, this time being threatened by the possible resurrection of Sauron if the One Ring was to be found. Many fought to prevent this from happening, Men, Elves, and Dwarves alike. Among these figures hid the shadowy protectors, silently battling evil and protecting others.

One of them had decided to take action, or rather, been forced to emerge from the shadows when he heard rumours of Dwarves travelling towards the Misty Mountains. It was late at night when he arrived at Laketown, his face concealed by a black scarf and his body covered with a dark cloak. He glanced around warily, trying to confirm to fears he had held ever since he heard about a wizard travelling with a company of Dwarves.

"Stop," the guards said when the figure tried to enter the town. The guards observed him head to toe, readying their weapons in case the intruder dared to push his way.

"Let me pass or you'll regret it," the stranger threatened the guards with his deep, menacing voice. The guards flinched when they saw a sharp glare beneath the hood that hid the stranger's face. Fear was instantly casted to the two guards, causing them to shiver slightly, though they didn't allow him to pass just yet.

"Tell me your name and I'll let you pass," one of the guard stammered. The stranger walked past the guards without answering and the guards didn't have the courage to repeat their question as well.

"Daefaroth," the stranger finally told him as he disappeared into the town. The guards looked at each other confusedly, having heard the name before in the dark inns of the town. Legends had it that a mysterious figure had been walking amongst Men for hundreds of years, fighting evil from the shadows and disappearing whenever one searches for him. He was known as the Shadow Hunter in the tongues of Men, but most of the wiser and cleverer folks called him Daefaroth. They knew and saw little of the warrior, even after hundreds of years since he emerged to Arda.

Unbeknownst to her yet known to us, however, under the scarf that hid his face and the hood that shadowed his eyes, was the not-aging face of an exile. Varilerin, Daughter of Glorfindel, had wandered for many years and it would be the first time for her to visit such place with a purpose.

The purpose was none other than to investigate Thorin Oakenshild's strange company and their curious wizard, Gandalf the Grey. She, however, didn't receive this information from mere rumours, but from Gandalf himself. From the beginning of his journey Gandalf had been sending her messages, telling her not to interrupt with his quest with the Dwarves. She as his good friend obediently followed, though she was confused at Gandalf's questionable action. Several days before however, she had received a letter from the wizard, carried by a raven which had been their friendly messenger for hundreds of years.

Go to Esgaroth.

There is darkness that dwells in the mountain. I am afraid that my quest will be ill fated.

People there will be danger and I need your help to protect them when I am unable to.

Of course Varilerin knew what danger it was. Smaug had been dwelling in the mountain ever since she last visited Esgaroth 50 years before. Esgaroth hadn't changed despite of the dragon that threatened them from the mountain. Its buildings nevertheless got older in addition to the city becoming more solemn and fouler. However, one thing that didn't change from the town was its eerie quietness, and the everlasting silence of its people whenever they came upon a stranger like her, especially when she was fully equipped with her weapons and cladded fully in black.

The tranquillity she had expected ended sooner than she thought. As she was looking around she saw two men leaping over nearby boats, the younger one carrying a strange, long object in his arm. They soon disappeared behind the houses, only to be chased by several town guards who seemed overwhelmed by their uncanny speed.

Suspicious of the object the boy carried, Varilerin followed their chase secretly from the roof tops. She leapt lightly on one of the roofs and began scouting the action from above. With her keen eyes she saw the boy breaking away from his partner with the object, whilst the man diverted the town guards' attention from the boy. The boy then hid the object beneath a boat, carefully and stealthily, before walking away cautiously.

He thought that he had escaped from dangers, until a stranger leapt in front of him.

"What is in that object, young man?" Varilerin asked with a deepened voice. The boy looked frightened of her, a thing she had expected from all that encountered her. The boy didn't answer her question and she decided to investigate herself. In a flash she uncovered the object the boy had hastily hidden, revealing a large black arrow. Varilerin widened her eyes, suspicious of the boy's cause of owning the arrow.

"What are you doing with a black arrow, young man?" Varilerin asked him. She didn't want to bother with the inner matters of the town, but considering that the weapon was the only object that could stop the dragon and save the people there, she must involve herself in even the tiniest troubles.

"Da told me not to speak with strangers," the boy hesitantly answered as he tried to push his way. Varilerin didn't let him and instead towered him with her height.

"You are going to tell me what happened in this town, or you'll end up like your old man," she threatened him. The boy gulped anxiously, questioning repeatedly in his mind of whether he should tell the ranger. The ranger flashed silver eyes beneath his hood, finally defeating his persistent silence.

"Dwarves came here a day ago, along with a Halfling called Bilbo. They stayed in our house, but escaped at night. The townsmen captured them, but they boasted about entering the mountain. My father knows that their intentions will cause harm to our town and decided to take out the last arrow of his father. The town master and his men aren't impressed," the boy explained in whispers.

"Then where are these Dwarves?" she asked again.

"Some of them stayed in town, having wounded, but the rest…They…. They have left for the mountain. They left in the morning and now the sky's darkened…."

"They've entered the mountain," she muttered in horror. "The dragon is going to be awakened…"

Varilerin glanced to Erebor, towering high to the skies and quiet like the night, yet she knew soon would erupt with fires and roars of the dragon.

"Why don't you stop them?"

"We've tried, but the town insists on helping them. They said that they would give the town a portion of their riches if they do-"

"They've brought upon themselves and yours doom!" she hissed. "You need to find your father. Tell the other townsmen to escape from this place," she said as she grabbed his collar. Suddenly she felt foul presences approaching the town. Her heart thumped faster and her senses were cautious. She glanced around to see where the new evils were coming from, ignoring the boy's confusion of the matter.

"They won't believe us, not after the Dwarves humiliated us with their arrogance," the boy muttered.

"You need to try to save your people whatever the cost. Do not give up when you haven't tried!" she said lastly before she released him. To his surprise, the ranger drew an arrow from his quiver and marched away from him.

"Where are you going then?" the boy retorted. She didn't respond and returned to the roofs, following the foul presence that had been bothering her heart and ignoring the boy, who decided to find his father as per her suggestions.

They were faint, but she could hear evil whispers not far, in a language that she had long despised. In the darkness of the night, her silver eyes caught movements from the top of the roofs. Black figures crawling silently with weapons wielded.

Orcs, she observed. There are many of them. I might not be able to handle this-

The Orcs moved about, as if following something or someone, and began dispersing into two groups. One of them followed someone, and the other scouting a building. The person she saw, was none other than a lone Dwarf, rummaging the food for pigs.

I have no time for this, she thought as she pulled her bowstring. Before the single Orc could leap at the Dwarf, her arrow had struck his head first, killing it. The Dwarf instantly turned around once he heard the sound of the Orc screeching, only seeing a shadow moving in the dark. The other Orcs heard the dying scream of their comrades and began moving quickly. Varilerin saw them leaping off the roofs and trying to enter one house, whilst the others growled at her.

What have you involved me in, Gandalf? She mused as she drew another arrow. Before she could fire it however, another struck the enemies' heart instead. Another came, as fast as the wind, and killed another. Varilerin felt another presence that lurked behind her and, after shooting her arrow to the last assaulting Orc, she turned to face the figure. She was greeted by an arrow pointed towards her head, just like hers pointing at him. His fair face was not veiled by the darkness around him and Varilerin easily identified the significant face she had seen two millennia ago.

"Who are you and what importance do you have here?" Legolas Greenleaf asked her.

"I am a friend of the wizard and I am here with the same reason as yours," she told him. Legolas narrowed his eyes in suspicions. "Shall we continue then?" she said again before she released her arrow to the sneaking Orc behind him. Legolas shuddered when the arrow passed over his shoulder, only to be startled again when he heard screams coming from the house below.

"Take care of them," she told Legolas without further thought and leapt to the house below. Another elleth was there, piercing the Orcs assaulting the house with her knives. Varilerin threw a knife to the Orc across the room, freeing a little girl from danger. Varilerin finally discovered the Dwarves she was searching for, noticing one of them being injured. She quickly finished off the Orc that emerged from the balcony with a swift strike of her sword, and then kicked it to the river below.

"Who are you?" the elleth asked her, not sheathing the knives in her hand.

"We need to get out of this town. The dragon will be awakened soon," Varilerin incorrectly answered. She approached the three Dwarves lying on the floor and overshadowed them with her figure. "Are you the company of Gandalf the Grey?"

"Yes," the injured one said. Moved with pity, she knelt close to him and examined his injury. When she touched his leg, her heart stopped.

The vision, she thought as she clumsily stood up and closed her eyes, trying to prevent the vision from being seen although she knew it was useless. Images began emerging in her mind, of war and battle, of death and sadness. She then saw Esgaroth burning in dragon fire, and the townsmen crying for help.

"It is coming..." Varilerin whispered once the vision stopped.

"What is coming?" Tauriel asked, but was interrupted with Legolas entering the house with the lone Dwarf from before. They both looked surprised at the sight.

"There are others, Tauriel, we must hurry," Legolas told her and quickly strode away from the house. Tauriel seemed reluctant to leave the house, her eyes constantly glancing to the injured Dwarf. She began walking away, but stopped when the Dwarf grunted in agony.

"The wound is poisoned. He won't last long," Varilerin explained. She would be healing him if she had the necessary herbs, but for long she had travelled in bare wastelands where even the sparest bushes couldn't be found.

"I've found Kingsfoil," the newly coming Dwarf said hastily as he handed the plant to the elleth. Tauriel grabbed the plant slowly and examined the plant. Her face seemed to brighten up with hope and she looked at the injured Dwarf. "I can save him," she said. The other Dwarves looked particularly hopeful of her statement, but doubtful as well.

"Lay him on the table," Varilerin instructed, not wanting to see the Dwarf die in front of her, although she knew that he would eventually be in the same fate as in her vision. Her vision rarely informed her the false events, and rarely showed her the good ones. The other Dwarves followed and laid him slowly on the table. Tauriel washed and tore apart the Athelas as she began chanting.

"Hold him," Tauriel instructed as she approached the Dwarf. Varilerin helped the other Dwarves holding him down and watched as Tauriel began applying the Athelas to his wounds. The Dwarf screamed and thrashed in pain, but Varilerin's strength kept him down for good. She quietly chanted with Tauriel and observed as the Dwarf began to calm down. Tauriel lifted her hands and breathed heavily.

"I've heard tell of wonders of elvish medicine. That was a privilege to witness," the other Dwarf said.

"It is indeed," Varilerin said, not having seen her kin performing such feat for hundreds of years. "He is safe now." Varilerin walked to the balcony to look upon the mountain. She could feel darkness emanating from the vacant Dwarven kingdom and her heart glowered in worry. To her relief, she discovered Bard and his son approaching the house. Bard was carrying the black arrow with him and his face seemed wary of her presence, and the corpses of Orcs scattering around the house.

"What in the world happened?" he muttered when he entered his house, seeing it wrecked in pieces. "Dwarves…"

"He is save," Tauriel informed the others with a slightly flushed expression. Varilerin raised a brow, wondering what had happened while she was not looking. One of the dwarf whispered 'love' to her and she finally understood when she saw how the injured Dwarf looked at Tauriel.

"I must go now," Tauriel said.

"It is now too late to follow him," Varilerin told her. "And the dragon will be awakened soon. It is more fitting for you to help us."

Tauriel pondered in silence. Bard, who was reuniting with his children, observed the two.

"Who are you actually?" Bard asked Varilerin.

"I am a friend of Gandalf the Grey. People tend to call me Daefaroth," she answered.

"Daefaroth? What in the world are you doing here meddling with matters of a small town?" the Dwarves asked.

"Because your company is about to wake a sleepless beast with you recklessness!" she scolded all of them. A roar from the skies continued her sentence, shaking the very buildings of Esgaroth with fear. Their eyes were widened and their bodies trembled in horror.

"It has started," Varilerin muttered.

"Get him up! We must leave this place instantly!" Tauriel instructed.

She went out of the house and peered to the skies close to the mountain. Vague but clear, she could see the dragon approaching the town in an amazing speed. "Get a boat!" she told Bard's son. The unmoved townsmen had started moving in panic, shouting in fear and scrambling their belongings like wild men.

"Da, where are you going?" Bain shouted to Bard, who, instead of following them, ran away to the heart of the city with the black arrow. Varilerin couldn't stop Bain from following his father and decided that the outmost importance was to save the more people close to her. She instructed them to get in the boat and she took the oar.

"Help me," Tauriel said as she gave the other oars to the Dwarves. Her ears could hear the dragon getting closer, catching its very wings flapping in the air. "Paddle the boat, quickly!"

Smaug had finally entered the city by the time they did so. He scorched the buildings of Esgaroth with fire, merciless to anyone that came upon his path. People screamed in agony as the dragon burnt through their skin, before they lost their souls to pain. The dragon continued to destroy the town as people tried to save their lives and their belongings. Varilerin's eyes were struck with pain as she watched the scene from her vision occurring in the real life.

Then suddenly, the dragon stopped flying above them. In the middle of destruction happening in the town, he landed. The dragon's eyes were transfixed to the tower standing in the middle of the town, as if the tower interested him.

"What is happening?" Bard's daughters asked. Varilerin squinted at the tower, seeing two figures standing on top of it.

"It's Bard and your brother," she gasped as she continued to move the boat through the river.

"Bain? What are they doing there?" the elder sister asked in horror. Varilerin didn't speak as she observed the amazing feat that unveiled between the dragon and the two Men.

"Who are you that would stand against me?" She could hear Smaug hissing at the two, particularly Bard. "Now that is a pity. What will you do now, bowman? You are forsaken. No help will come!"

"He has run out of arrows," Tauriel observed.

"But he still has an arrow left," Varilerin added. Tauriel looked confused, only to understand once she saw the black arrow Bard was holding.

"Is that your child? You cannot save him from the fire. He will burn!" Smaug growled again. Varilerin's heart beat with anticipation and anxiety as she watched Bard pulling the black arrow.

"Use the arrow, Bowman," she prayed silently in Elvish. Tauriel noticed Varilerin speaking her tongue, but decided not to question her in such dire situation. Bard aimed the black arrow at the dragon, whilst using his son as a bow. The Dwarves and Bard's daughters watched in fear. The tower had started crumbling from the fire and Smaug slowly closed in to finish the two.

"Da!" the girls screamed hopelessly.

"He won't make it!" the injured Dwarf said, but Varilerin saw that Bard was none like other archers. She could feel a strong aura coming from him, and hope emanating from his very hands.

He was destined to kill the dragon.

"Fire," Varilerin muttered.

In an instant, Bard fired the black arrow from the tower. The arrow pierced through the heating air and pierced deep into the skin of Smaug, dead on the unscaled body of the dragon. Smaug yelled in agony as the arrow started to kill him and flew to the sky, trying to escape his death. The Dwarves in Varilerin's boat cheered as they watched the dragon falling from the sky, hitting the buildings below and meeting his death.

"He impossibly did it!" the Dwarves exclaimed. The girls cried in relief and embraced each other.

"He did," Varilerin muttered under her scarf. "We need to get to him! Turn the boat."

The paddlers complied and they directed their boat beneath the tower. Bard and his son were waiting for them, unscathed but seemingly battered. The tower was crumbling from fire and the couple swayed as their ground started to fall down. "Jump!" Varilerin shouted. Bard grabbed his son and jumped from the tower just before it crumbled, landing hard on the platform beside the boat. With difficult effort he dodged the falling tower and entered the boat, pushing his son just before he did so.

"Da!" the girls said as they embraced their father and brother. Tauriel secretly smiled when she saw the family reuniting once more.

"You did well," Varilerin praised him as she paddled the boat away from the burning city. Bard nodded sadly, scanning the surrounding buildings with worry. The dragon now defeated, the townspeople began paddling and swimming away safely from the town. "The town is now lost. Its people will need to find a refuge. In this cold winter however, I am afraid they won't survive long."

"Yes, they won't," Bard said in disappointment. He then turned to the mountain, where Smaug had come and the Dwarves were now currently settling. Varilerin saw a glimmer of hope in his eyes. "But with the help of the Dwarves, we might."

"Bard, the Dwarves are strange a strange race. I am afraid Thorin Oakenshield have been lost before we plead for help," Varilerin told him honestly, without paying attention to the Dwarves' sombre expressions when she mentioned their leader.

"You are telling us that Thorin will refuse you?" the injured Dwarf protested. "My uncle will never do that, not when he upholds high honor."

"Your uncle? You are Kili then, brother to Fili. Then, let me tell you this, young man, the greed of gold has taken over your grandfather and many other Dwarves. I have lived long and saw them fall, and Thorin is not excluded. However honourable he is, he can fall. Even the strongest warriors can be defeated."

"The Dwarf was quite stubborn when he visited my king," Tauriel told them. "He angered him quickly."

"Still we need not lose hope," Bard said lastly. Varilerin snorted and continued paddling. She had lived for hundreds of years and had lost so much hope she couldn't believe in it anymore.


Death seemed to be more fitting for the now dying townsmen. Having escaped their burning town, they now must survive the long harsh winter with whatever they had managed to scavenge. Bard and his company arrived on shore and landed on the wet ground.

"You should be joining your company now," Varilerin told the Dwarves. "I will inform Gandalf of what I have seen. Hopefully you all will be safe from his anger."

"Gandalf has told us about you in his stories," the one called Bofur said as he squeezed his wet hat. "About Daefaroth his old friend who will come to his aid if he calls him. I didn't think that I will be meeting you directly."

"I didn't think that I would be meeting a Dwarf either," Varilerin replied. Her eyes caught Kili approaching Tauriel, limping but still struggling to meet her.

"Tauriel," Kili whispered.

"Kili, come on. We're leaving," Fili told Kili. Kili seemed deafened and instead looked hopefully at Tauriel.

"Come with me. I know how I feel, I'm not afraid," Kili told her as he clutched her gentle hands. "You make me feel alive, even when I am dying."

Tauriel's face seemed indiscernible as she swallowed the Dwarf's words. It was a face of reluctance and surprise, yet acceptance and sadness. "I can't," Tauriel stammered, trying to turn away from the Dwarf. Kili stopped her powerfully and grabbed her tighter.

"Tauriel. Amralime," Kili told her. Varilerin, who had travelled among various races for hundreds of years, knew what those simple words meant; and so was Tauriel.

"I don't know what that means," Tauriel lied. Kili merely smiled on her reaction. "I think you do," he said. Varilerin watched the two strangely bonded, whilst her eyes caught a presence coming quickly from afar. She knew him and his intentions immediately, and blocked his path. Legolas looked at her menacingly, questioning what rights she had to stop him.

"Give her a time to rejoice, My Lord," Varilerin told him, "for it will not last long, not when the future is dark."

"The present is dark itself, and what rights do you have?" Legolas shot back.

"You have no idea of what is coming, Prince of Mirkwood," she answered, reimagining the terrifying vision she had for the company and for the people refuging under the mountain. "And this time it cannot be prevented, not when all have started to move."

"My Lord Legolas," Tauriel gasped when she saw Legolas lurking behind her, along with Varilerin. Legolas lifted his eyes from Varilerin and glanced at Tauriel in a slight anger.

"Take your leave of the Dwarf. You are needed elsewhere," Legolas told her. Tauriel nodded and reluctantly turned away from Kili, her right hand clutching an object Varilerin had not noticed. Legolas glanced sharply at Varilerin one last time, before he walked away with Tauriel. Kili seemed disheartened as well, and left the Men to join their kin in the mountain.

"It is a strange thing to see," remarked Bard once he saw the queer company dispersing. Varilerin was still mesmerized as well, for the scene she had seen a while before was love blossoming between two different races, and it was genuine, not mere fascination. Never she had seen a Dwarf and an Elf bonding in such a short time, yet alone falling in love. "Love is a strange thing," Bard continued.

"Love?" she muttered unconsciously. She let the word confuse her mind, for she had never understood such emotion before.

"It was Bard! He killed the dragon!" a woman said when she saw the man standing idly on the shore. "You've saved us all, bless you," the people added.

"Where is the master then?" Bard asked the townspeople.

"Half way down the Anduin, with all our coin, I don't doubt," a woman answered. "What should we do now, Bard? Long winter awaits us, and yet we have nothing!"

"Then act. Those who can stand, tend to the wounded, and those who have strength left, follow me. We must salvage what we can," Bard instructed the townspeople. They nodded in agreement and began moving about, helping those injured and weak. Varilerin approached Bard, who was collecting able men to his aid.

"We need to find shelter," Bard told her.

"The City of Dale is upon you. We can get there before the day grows dark," Varilerin suggested. Bard agreed with her and began moving the people to the abandoned city. Varilerin advanced further to scout the area, in case she discovered several enemies or even Gandalf wandering alone, waiting to be scolded by her annoyance. The sun was high on the sky when all of the people finally arrived. The buildings of Dale were covered in dust and snow of the winter, wreckages laying on stone roads and on white snow. Varilerin watched as they took shelter in the city, pitying them for the city had once been so glorious in its golden days; until a certain greed took over and destroyed its people.

She noticed Bard ordering the townsmen to gather the remaining supplies they had and distribute them to the women and children. She walked to him with a struggle to break through the crowds, now all homeless and starving.

"You're still going to negotiate with the Dwarves?" she asked him.

"If it's only the way for us to get food, so be it," he said determinedly. Varilerin was less impressed with his determination, fearing that the Dwarves would have been taken over by the greed that had once brought doom upon them. The sun finally settled down and the cold night greeted them. Varilerin took the night watch with Bard's men and spent the night watching the people sleeping in pain. The mountain was silent, just as she had expected, and it seemed that the Dwarves didn't pity on their sufferings.

Morning came longer than people had expected. Bard again ordered the men to tend the wounded and distribute the scarce supplies.

"The night is quiet," she informed Bard.

"Thank you for your help, Daefaroth," Bard said to her. She accepted his thanks sincerely, knowing that even though she didn't like getting in trouble, her help was needed by the dying people. Just then there was a horn sounded from afar, ringing loud and clear in the air. She knew the sound too well.

"Elves," she informed Bard, who quickly rushed to the direction where the sound came from. Varilerin didn't follow him, instead climbing a broken watchtower to watch from far. She didn't want to be discovered by her kin, not after she had failed her vow and disgrace her friends. She had expected to see mere Wood Elves carrying supplies for them, which turned out to be true, but not Elven archers fully equipped with arrows and armours.

"What in the world-" She caught a familiar figure riding in front of the lines of the Elves. Thranduil led his people gracefully on his ride, fully armoured as well, and was talking to Bard, who seemed surprised of the sight. Bard and the other townsmen discussed something with Thranduil, about terms of agreement she guessed, and then Thranduil called forth the supplies he brought. Bard let the Elves distribute the food to the townspeople and followed Thranduil to the abandoned city hall as if the two were already comrades. Varilerin climbed down the tower and approached Bain.

"What did the Elven king told your father?" she asked the young man while helping him distributing the supplies.

"He said that he don't come here on our behalf. He came here to reclaim something," Bain informed her plainly.

"Reclaim something?" Varilerin looked towards the town hall, not guarded by Elven guards, and gulped in horror as she slowly understood Thranduil's intentions. Not long later, Bard and Thranduil emerged from the broken doors of the hall. The Elven King immediately left him along with his army, passing the grateful people who didn't understand a glimpse of his intentions.

"We're going to reclaim our claims from the Dwarves," Bard told the people. "After midday, we shall ride to Erebor, and demand our share."

"The Elves are demanding their share as well, aren't they?" Varilerin guessed accurately. "The Dwarves won't give a single coin in this circumstance. Something tells me that it is the reason they have not yet returned from the mountain."

"Then we are going to take them by force," said he.

"You want to risk war and the death of your people?"

"Promises broken are heavier than deaths, Daefaroth, and people need food. I cannot stand idly here as I watch them die. If it is war they want, so be it," Bard said lastly before he left Varilerin. Varilerin stood alone among the people, disheartened with disappointment and disbelief. She stepped back from the fray, leaving the town slowly as she cursed their decisions in her heart.

I wouldn't take any part of this blasphemy, she thought. Gandalf, you have made such a poor decision this time that I should throw you to Mount Doom when you return.

However, when she Bard and Thranduil returned from the mountain and bearing orders that they would wage war with the Dwarves, Varilerin finally knew why Gandalf had sent her to Esgaroth. Gandalf, you are really paying me a visit when all this ends, she mused as she approached the Elven camps. She couldn't stand being ignorant, not when she could actually prevent her horrifying vision from happening. With furious steps she sneaked into the encampments of the Elven army under the starry night, and barged without permission into Thranduil's tent.

The Elven King was standing beside Bard and gaped when they saw a dark figure emerging from the tent flaps. Before Thranduil could call his guards, the stranger had stood and inch from his face. He couldn't see the stranger's face, for it was veiled with a black scarf. A Haradrim? Thranduil thought as he tried to draw his sword. He cautiously studied the stranger glaring at him.

"Daefaroth?" Bard exclaimed.

"You need to stop all this madness, Your Highness," Varilerin told him furiously. "Your meddling with Dwarves are useless! Darkness is growing stronger outside these lands, waiting to engulf you in death, and yet you are here fighting over gold and jewels?"

"You don't know anything about our concerns. Years the Dwarves have broken their promises, promises that should result greater than death!" Thranduil retorted.

"Don't you understand? The evil is growing! I have seen it with my own eyes, not yours. Do not destroy yourselves just like Sauron wants you to!"

"Sauron has fallen-"

"The Ring still exists. Sauron will return when the Ring returned to him and you will be undefended!"

"And who are you to judge me, stranger?" Thranduil shot back, his eyes burning with anger and annoyance. Varilerin didn't shudder or cower under those cold blue eyes, flashing her silver eyes in response.

"One who's seen the world more than you for the past millennia, Thranduil!" she hissed back.

"I shall not take any words from a random, lowly ranger that defies propriety when he's talking to a King!" Thranduil reasoned.

"But he's no lowly ranger, Thranduil, Elven King of Mirkwood Realm!" a coarse, wise voice came out of nowhere. Varilerin knew the voice too well and instantly smiled under her cover. From the flaps of the tent emerged a bearded old man cladded in grey. He was wearing the same pointy hat he had used a thousand years ago. His face was dirtied by dust and sweat, a clear evidence of him travelling haste.

"Gandalf!" she exclaimed in relief. The wizard spared a small smile for her, before looking at Thranduil as if he was a spoiled son. "This is Daefaroth, the Shadow Hunter, the walker of Middle Earth. His experience has made his words worthy to be heard even to an Elven king."

"And what is a wizard doing here? Truly, he still wants to meddle with the problems of the Dwarves that he himself caused?" Thranduil said sharply.

"I do not deny that this quest is ill-fated, but it is not the Dwarves that are causing such fate! You must aside your petty grievances with the Dwarves, all of you! War is coming. The cesspits of Dol Guldur have been emptied. You are all in mortal danger!" Varilerin finally understood Gandalf's intentions of sending her, though it proved to be useless as observed.

"What are you talking about?" asked Bard, who, until that point, had never been involved in the evil matters of the world.

"I can see you know nothing of wizards. They are like winter thunder on a wild wind, rolling in from a distance breaking hard in alarm, but sometimes a storm is just a storm," Thranduil remarked.

"Not this time! I have seen them, armies of Orc fighters moving swiftly towards the mountain in full strength. We forced him to do so when the Company of Thorin set out to reclaim their homeland, for the enemy wants Erebor and all its treasures!"

"The enemy? Do you mean Sauron the Deceiver?" asked Varilerin. Gandalf nodded reluctantly, pulling his hat off and swept his forehead from sweat.

"And then leads to my final question," Thranduil said in mockery. "Where are they?"

"A wizard rarely lies. They will come, in stealth. I've seen them and you've seen it too. They move quietly, waiting the time to strike, and attack us. All we have to do by then is to die, or survive."

"However convincing your words are, both of you, your words are not with proof," Thranduil said firmly. Varilerin sighed as she watched the king ending their negotiations, and Gandalf followed her actions as well. "We'll attack at dawn," Thranduil continued, turning his attention to Bard. Gandalf looked at Varilerin with the same look she was giving to him, and grunted in disappointment as he took his leave from the tent.

Just when Gandalf lifted the tent flaps, a wind gusted in, and Varilerin knew it was not an ordinary wind. She felt a presence coming past Gandalf, small yet strong. In a flash, she unsheathed one of her swords and thrusted it towards the hiding figure approaching them.

"Reveal yourself, spy!" she hissed. The others observed the strange scene unfold.

"No, I am no spy!" a voice came from nowhere. Suddenly, a small man appeared from the air, and lifted his arms high. Gandalf lowered Varilerin's arm and helped the Halfling get to his feet.

"What are you doing here, Master Baggins?" Gandalf scolded the Hobbit.

"You are Bilbo?" Varilerin guessed. Bilbo brokenly nodded, frightened by the blade that had almost cut his neck. Varilerin sheathed her weapon and bowed to the Halfling. "Forgive me, little one, for your arrival is truly unexpected."

"Bilbo Baggins? If I am not mistaken, this is the Halfling who stole the keys to my dungeons from under the nose of my guards," Thranduil accused the Halfling.

"Yes, sorry about that," Bilbo replied shortly. "Anyway, I came…. To give you this," she said, unravelling a bundle of cloth from his pocket. From the folds of fabric came a light Varilerin had never seen before, a stone shimmering under the darkness.

"The Arkenstone!" Gandalf gasped. "Bilbo Baggins… What are you planning?"

"First of all, this will be my fourteenth share," Bilbo said.

"The Arkenstone worths more than all the gold there, Master Baggins," Varilerin intervened. "You stole it, didn't you?"

"I said, it's my fourteenth share. Well, anyway, I'm giving this to you and in exchange, Thorin would give your ransoms. That way, there will be no need for war."

The other four looked at each other with the same thought. The Hobbit seemed suspicious enough with the Arkenstone, yet alone offering them freely like this. Bilbo was sure that they would hardly believe his words, of course, but he would do anything to avoid unnecessary deaths of his friends.

"Farewell then," Thranduil said, taking the Arkenstone from the Hobbit's hands. "But remember this. If the Dwarves are to retaliate once more, war will still be the result."

The Elven King's words caused indescribably fear to Bilbo and he quickly bowed so he could leave the tent as soon as possible. However, it seemed Gandalf didn't want him to leave just yet and grabbed him outside the tent. Varilerin followed behind the wizard, watching the Hobbit with her silvery eyes.

"You need to leave, Bilbo," Gandalf said in whispers. "Get as far away from here as possible. There is no more company. Imagine what Thorin will do when he finds out what you've done."

"What do you mean?" Bilbo chirped.

"The dragon gold corrupts all, Master Baggins," Varlierin answered in Gandalf's stead. "I would follow Gandalf if I were you."

"I don't want to be rude, but who is he actually?" Bilbo asked Gandalf.

"He is an old friend of mine. You can call him Daefaroth," Gandalf told Bilbo.

"Nice to meet you," Bilbo said awkwardly. Varilerin merely nodded in reply. "Well, I will follow your suggestion then, Gandalf. Until we meet again."

"Until we meet again, Bilbo," Gandalf said lastly before the Hobbit left the two. Gandalf sighed and turned to Varilerin, who was folding her arms and tapping the ground with her left foot.

"Where have you been?" she asked him furiously. The wizard sighed once more and took out his pipe weed.

"I've been investigating the evils that I am afraid now have reemerged. Sauron as you may know, has returned. The White Council managed to drive him out of Dol Guldur, but now armies of Orcs are coming. Things are getting more complicated, I am afraid. Their battle tomorrow will be their doom."

"Let's pray that they will come to their senses before the evil comes," she said to him.

"Will you aid your kin in their battle?"

"No," she answered shortly and surely. "I have done what I can, but I will not help them enter doom itself. Even though they may be my kin and I have chosen to become them, I am wise enough Gandalf. If they're fighting the wrong side of truth, I shall become their enemy."

"You haven't changed ever since I met you hundreds of years ago, haven't you?" remarked Gandalf. Varilerin merely scoffed at his words.

"I haven't and so have you. Now, the only thing I can do is to warn these people if the army comes," Varilerin said.

"It is for the best then," Gandalf said. Varilerin nodded and strolled away from the encampments, facing the dark shadows that would soon be striking them.


She could hear the Dwarves and her kin clashing in battle; shields clashing with swords and arrows hitting armours. The battle cries of the Dwarves filled her ear drums and aching them, but she kept running. Years of travelling had caused her feet to be lighter than the wind and she climbed the hill that faced the Dwarves' battlefield like a deer running from a hunter. She emerged from the hill and panted heavily. The battle unfolding before her was terrifying, but she was about to bring a more terrifying news.

She drew an arrow and fired it at the ground close to Gandalf, just next to his right foot, to catch the wizard's attention.

"They are coming!" she warned the wizard as she ran down the hill.

"Orcs!" Gandalf shouted to the top of his lungs, catching the quarrelling armies' attention. They turned towards the hill, watching as Varilerin's black figure rolled down and dropped right in front of them. "Orcs! They are coming! Brace yourselves!"

At first the Dwarves and the Elves didn't understand what the wizard was saying, until legions of armoured Orcs emerged from the hill. Their leader rode a dreadful warg in front, his face pale and menacing. Azog the Defiler and his soldiers growled at them, greeting them with their menacing teeth and dangerous weapons.

"By the Valar," Thranduil muttered in disbelief when he saw the evil creatures. The Dwarves and Men of Esgaroth reacted the same. Their bodies trembled in fear as they watched the enemies closing in. Dain and Bard came forth with their rides, standing beside Thranduil to greet whatever doom was awaiting them. Varilerin skipped lastly before she stood beside Gandalf, panting heavily as a result of her hasty journey.

"I believe they have come to their senses?" Varilerin said to Gandalf. Gandalf merely nodded as he drew his sword, eyes narrowed and flaring in fury. "Good then," she added, drawing an arrow and notching it on her bowstring. She stood still as she watched Thranduil and the Dwarves preparing their defences against the enemy. She had journeyed for long years among Men and not little did she encounter bloody battles and wars. She would not be cowered by the legions, nor the doom that would be threatening her, for she had seen much worse, much more than anyone could imagine.

"Let us see how you've progressed over the years," Gandalf said to her with a smile that seemingly illogical to be created. Varilerin nodded and raised her bow. She breathed deeply and closed her eyes, letting peace flow through her veins and strength accumulate in her muscles.

When she heard the shields of the Dwarves hitting the enemies, Varilerin finally opened her eyes and released her arrow. The battle had started, horrifying to all yet not to her. She moved quickly, following the flow of the fight, releasing arrows whenever she saw targets and dodging whenever she saw swords charging towards her. The battle seemed silent to her. She saw only moving targets, piercing them with her arrows and eventually twin swords as she moved among other soldiers. However fast the enemy, she always managed to evade, and return its strike with a merciless slash of her blade.

Blood suddenly trickled from her forehead, dropping to her scarf. She wiped her skin with her bloody hand and observed it. She had only realized that her head was grazed lightly by her enemy's blade, frowning when she couldn't feel the pain that should have been stinging her.

"Daefaroth!" she heard Gandalf shouting from a distance, pulling his sword from his opponent. Varilerin snapped back to reality and turned to Gandalf, approaching her with broken steps. "We cannot hold them much longer. They are retreating to the city." The Orcs had flanked the good army from both sides with their sheer number, almost cornering them to death but leaving a slight space for their escape. The soldiers slipped through the ever-narrowing gap of the legions, escaping but not losing the strength to fight.

"It seems that they realized the evil too late," Varilerin muttered. "Come, we should be following." Varilerin and Gandalf jogged towards the city, pushing themselves past the escaping soldiers. The Orcs chased them mercilessly, shooting arrows blindly. Varilerin managed to dodge the incoming arrows until she finally arrived in the city, where the battle continued once more. In the city the enemies seemed to grow wilder and faster, slipping past broken buildings and attacking the men without warning. Varilerin and Gandalf fought side by side, defending each other if their opponents dared to strike them.

"Daefaroth!" she heard Bard shouting. Bard emerged from his small army, holding a sword and covered in blood. "They are breaking through the defences. We cannot hold much longer."

There was a commotion from the entrance of Dale, a sound of horse galloping fiercely. Legolas and Tauriel arrived hastily at the battlefield, both leaping off their ride once they arrived.

"Legolas Greenleaf!" Gandalf said. Legolas approached Gandalf quickly, his eyes wary and terrified of the battlefield.

"There is a second army. Bold leads a force of Gundabad Orcs. They are almost upon us," Legolas informed them.

"By the Valar," Varilerin muttered in disbelief.

"This was their plan all along. Azog engages our forces, then Bolg sweeps from the north," Gandalf said, too distressed of the situation that he didn't realize the Hobbit lurking beside him.

"What? The north?" Bilbo Baggins said so suddenly that Gandalf almost hit him with his staff. Bilbo managed to dodge the stick swiftly, glaring angrily at Gandalf when he did so. "Which north exactly?" Bilbo asked again.

"Ravenhill," Gandalf answered. Bilbo looked surprised.

"Thorin is up there. And Fili and Kili! They're all up there!" Bilbo exclaimed. "We need to help them!"

"We make way through the legions," Varilerin said. "Furthermore, this city needs defending. The Men are staking their lives."

"Then don't leave this place, Daefaroth," Gandalf told her, grabbing her shoulder and looking her deep into her eyes. "Protect the women and children. You have done enough. Leave the Dwarves to me, the one that have triggered this quest."

Varilerin was reluctant to obey Gandalf's instructions, but nodded nevertheless. Gandalf nodded in return, letting her go. He watched as Varilerin disappeared from his sight with Bard, catching the last glimpse of her black clothing among the soldiers. Gandalf then turned to Bilbo, who was waiting expectantly for his action.

"Come on then," Gandalf said. "It is time to finish what I've started."


There were sharp screeches of bird coming from the skies. The Eagles flew across the battlefield and dived to strike the enemies, sweeping them with the wind of death. Varilerin glanced up, panting with short breaths as she watched their new allies finishing the battle. Her skin shivered terribly when the Eagles cried once more, for she didn't only hear the sound of the great beings. She heard a scream, quiet yet clear, silent yet painful. Her head unconsciously moved to the Ravenhill, where she assumed Bilbo and Gandalf had gone. Something had happened there, something terrible enough to give her an auditory vision and aching her heart.

Thorin Oakenshield has fallen, she heard a voice coming from her inner mind. Varilerin frowned and closed her eyes. The battle cries of Orcs started dissipating around her, marking the end of the great battle. She knew however, that sadness would continue to engulf the Company of Thorin for long years, and the loss would not be forgotten for them.

May his soul find his way, she prayed silently. The world became ever quieter, though the people cheered wildly when they saw that the battle had come to an end. The enemies had started to retreat, having overrun by the Great Eagles, and disappeared from the lands slowly. The sun was descending to the horizon, sending silvery blaze to Varilerin's eyes as she walked towards Ravenhill, to pay respect for an undeniably great leader. Thousands of bodies of her kin and Dwarves scattered on the ground. Sadness she hid from her eyes as she continued her stroll towards the peak of the hill.

The Dwarves were kneeling around Thorin when she came, weeping in silence over his honourable death. Horns were sounded from Dale to honour the great warrior, masking the great grief that was dominating the Dwarves. Varilerin sneaked towards Gandalf and Biilbo, who were sitting, unmoved, as they watched the surviving Dwarves honouring their King.

"You don't seem surprised?" Gandalf muttered as he smoked his pipe. Gandalf studied her expression carefully and raised his head in understanding. "You've received visions once more, haven't you?"

"Visions? What do you mean visions?" Bilbo asked, breaking his record of silence.

"I would rather call them warnings," Varilerin answered directly. She found it quite strange to talk openly to a stranger, but decided not to stop her explanation. "They come in many forms, or so I thought. Sometimes I see visions, sometimes I hear voices from the future. Sometimes, it comes only in pain, expressions, and the fastening beat of my heart."

Varilerin paused and glanced at the mourning company. "Thorin Oakenshiled is a great Dwarf. Little did deaths trigger an effect on me, unless he is a powerful figure…"

"He is, truly," Bilbo added with a nod. They no longer spoke afterwards, returning to the city of Dale where they met the wounded soldiers being tended. The dead bodies were piled up and burnt when the sun had set, igniting a tremendous bonfire in the middle of the land. The Mirkwood Elves were nowhere to be seen, having returning to their homeland after such tragedy. The Elves had suffered numerous losses, though according to Gandalf, Thranduil had finally gained what he was searching for.

"Because it is all the time, by his side," Gandalf explained to her when they were walking around the city of Dale. The people had gone asleep, tired of whatever sufferings they had experienced earlier that day. The city had amazingly survived despite the countless corpses of Orcs covering the streets, and still remained a shelter for the townspeople.

"I wonder, Gandalf, why my curse remerges after long years it stays hidden," Varilerin whispered.

"I thought you are wise enough to answer that, My Friend," Gandalf retorted. Varilerin scoffed, thinking herself not worthy of such praise. "But I believe it is a sign. A sign that you are to return to the light from the shadows."

"What need does light have for me? I am but a mere exile, wandering aimlessly across Middle Earth," she said sadly. "I am not worthy."

"In this darkening age, all must return to their battlefields, Varilerin," Gandalf whispered lowly, not wanting to reveal his friend's true name to curious passers-by. "So is the King of Gondor."

"The King of Gondor? I thought the line is broken," Varilerin said. Gandalf shook his head and smiled gently. "It has been restored then?"

"The last descendant of Isildur is now in Rivendell, under the meticulous care of Lord Elrond and his children. He is called Estel, but his name is Aragorn."

Varilerin smiled faintly when she listened to his news. The wizard and the ranger had been spending long years searching for the remaining descendants of Numenor, asking everywhere and anywhere they went. Varilerin, having found the ability to identify powerful people by merely feeling their presence, had tried to even search to the lands of Harad, but it proved to be pointless. Gandalf smiled when he saw her face slightly brightening with hope.

"Hope has returned to Men," Varilerin muttered.

"Lord Elrond will ensure that he knows his heritage when he comes of age. I have seen him. He will be a great king," Gandalf continued. Varilerin nodded, remembering Rivendell once Gandalf had uttered Elrond's name. Glorfindel's face flashed before her, so were the mischievous ones of Elladan and Elrohir. She gritted her teeth and brushed the past memories away from her mind, focusing herself to the staring Gandalf.

"And now the king under the mountain is returning to his homeland," Gandalf continued. "The Elves are moving, and so is the enemy. The turning point of this age is coming, My Dear, and I am afraid you cannot hide much longer."

"We'll eventually see," Varilerin said brokenly. It was, however hard she tried to deny it, unescapable for her to remain in the shadows any longer. Even without a vision, Varilerin knew.

The quiet night passed slowly. The new day had come, a mourning one. People from Dale mourned for their fallen ones, watching them being cremated under the lightening sky. Bard, having just crowned as the new king of Dale, stood beside his son and daughters to pay respect to their fallen warriors. Gandalf and Varilerin didn't stay long for the funeral, and instead paid a visit to Erebor with Bard. They walked up the mountain, now slightly cleaner from the scattering corpses. Birds, like the great prophecy, was starting to return to Erebor. Gandalf smiled when a bird landed on his shoulder, a dark raven that was transfixed on his shoulder.

"You haven't sent me a message for a long time, My Friend," Gandalf told Varilerin. Varilerin turned to Gandalf, who let the bird go after he gave it a piece of bread.

"And besides this scarf, the only message you've sent me recently is a dire one," Varilerin retorted.

"But you like that scarf, don't you?" Gandalf said. Varilerin didn't speak further and turned her back away. They continued their hike in silence, until finally they reached Erebor. The company was greeted by Balin, standing awkwardly in front of the doorstep.

"Balin," Gandalf greeted, pulling off his hat. Balin nodded in acknowledgement, though he didn't speak in his mourning hours. "Lead us, if you may."

Balin led the company into the halls of Erebor. The just revived kingdom was still full of darkness. Remnants from the battle between the Dwarves and Smaug were still scattering all over the floor and still paved on the magnificent yet broken pillars. Bard gaped at the sight of the Dwarf kingdom and stared up high.

"It is a pity that this kingdom was lost over mere gold," Bard remarked. "They do not understand that this kingdom itself is the most valuable treasure… Not the Arkenstone nor the mountains of gold."

"Each races have different values of treasures, Your Highness," Varilerin told him. "Elves tend to value knowledge and beauty, Dwarves valuing treasure, and Men often value power…. But sometimes some value other more than gold or treasures…."

"What do you value then?" Bard asked. Varilerin didn't answer him, as they had arrived at the funeral. Thorin's surviving company was standing around the coffins of the three fallen warriors. They did not speak with each other nor did they cry. They only stood there like a statue, only moving when the three arrived in the room. In the middle of the hall was Dain, wearing the crown of Erebor as its new king.

"Gandalf," Dain rasped.

"It is an honour to see a king under the mountain once more," Gandalf said to Dain. Dain shook his head in disagreement.

"It is Thorin Oakenshield. He is the king under the mountain," Dain told him surely. Gandalf nodded sadly and approached Thorin's body. Varilerin and Bard followed quietly behind him. Varilerin could see Thorin's cold body from afar, lying with his sword Orcrist, Beside his coffin were Kili's and Fili's. It was to her surprise to see Kili and she instantly remembered Tauriel, the elleth that had shared a strange bond with the Dwarf. Her heart ached slightly, having known similar pain before.

"May your souls find your way," Varilerin prayed in her tongue. Gandalf uttered a similar prayer in Dwarvish as a respect for the honourable Dwarves. Once the three had finished paying their respects to the dead, the Dwarves proceeded by closing each coffins with a cold stone. As heave as it was, the stone covered the coffins completely with a loud thump that echoed repeatedly in the hall. Varilerin caught a Hobbit standing lonely in the corner as he watched the ritual and approached him.

"Why do you stand alone?" Varilerin asked him. Bilbo shuddered when he noticed her shadowy arrival.

"Just want some privacy, that's all," Bilbo said to Varilerin. He looked down at the floor for a moment and then lifted his head to look at Varilerin directly. "Gandalf has told me about your adventures…. Does it really pain like this?"

Varilerin was startled when she heard the Hobbit's unclear question, though she knew what he meant clearly. "What do you mean, Master Baggins?" she asked him after a moment. Bilbo seemed hesitant to continue, playing with his fingers in anxiety.

"Does it really pain you to lose someone dear to you?" Bilbo asked again, this time quite sure of his question. Varilerin shuddered and looked at Gandalf, suspicious that the wizard had told the Hobbit too much. Then again, Gandalf had never broken his promise, and he would certainly this time. The wizard had kept her secret safe for thousands of years, and so did she kept Gandalf's secret in the shadows. He would not betray her over silly purposes, she finally realized. She turned back to Bilbo, who waited nervously for her answer.

"I don't know what you've heard from the wizard, Master Baggins, but I can assure you that I have felt the same as well," Varilerin answered. She paused for a long moment. "Even after a thousand years the pain cannot pass from my heart. Losing someone dear, it is the greatest fear in my life."

"But you are strong, Daefaroth. You are capable of protecting your friends more than I," Bilbo added. Varilerin froze and widened her eyes. Bilbo saw her expression changing drastically and felt his figure being threatened by her long shadow, fearing that he had angered her in some ways.

"Strength does not mean anything, Master Hobbit," Varilerin muttered slowly. "Even the strongest can fall by the littlest things." She stopped again and turned her face away from the Hobbit. "Will you return to a journey after such event?"

"I don't know, Daefaroth," Bilbo said to end their conversation. The Dwarves finally buried Thorin and his kins, singing a song as the warriors entered their graves. Bilbo stood beside Varilerin as they watched their coffins disappearing into the tomb. The Dwarves finally shut the tomb, ending the journey of the warriors in the living world.

"Thorin is a great Dwarf," Varilerin told Bilbo, who seemed restless once Thorin was buried. "You are a good Hobbit as well, Bilbo Baggins, and I can assure you that whatever matters you have with Thorin have been settled before his death."

Bilbo merely nodded as an answer. Gandalf approached the two, finally taking out a pipe weed from his pocket and lighting it with a magical fire. "It seemed that you two have an unlikely friendship," Gandalf remarked. "More closer than I have been when I am travelling with this Hobbit."

"Friendship is found in unlikely places indeed," Varilerin said. She noticed Balin walking towards them with short steps, his face still sad but slightly enlightened after Thorin was buried properly.

"There will be a feast tonight," Balin told the three. "Will you join us?"

"I am afraid I not," Bilbo told Balin. Gandalf and Varilerin instantly glared at him, causing him to shudder as if thunder had struck him. "But then again, I think I'll stay longer." Gandalf smiled when the Hobbit said so, blowing a ship of smoke to the air in satisfaction. "The battle has ended. We shall enjoy tonight with celebration. It might be your last as well, hmm?" Gandalf said to the Hobbit. Bilbo forced an awkward smile and nodded, following the Dwarves to the dining hall.

The feast was quite enjoyable, at least to Varilerin's level. She had never attended a feast before, not even a single day in her life. She had always eaten whatever there was in the forest, only visiting Rivendell's kitchen if food was really scarce. Being her first feast, the dinner held by the Dwarves was incredibly to her eyes. She had never seen so much food and drink before, and songs and dances. It delighted her, though she still couldn't blend with the celebrating Dwarves and constantly dwelling herself in the corners of the room, along with Bilbo, who seemed to take her habit in stealth. Varilerin spent the whole feast talking with the Hobbit, telling him some of her journeys freely despite having only known him for several days. Bilbo seemed delighted to hear her stories, sipping some ale from time to time. Gandalf joined their conversation not long after the party had started, bringing only a cup of wine with him and a handful of tobacco.

"So, Daefaroth, how's your relationship with the Hobbit?" Gandalf constantly asked between conversations. Varilerin had always answered with the same answer, that they were merely acquaintances. However, Gandalf had finally forced her to make a permanent friend after her tenth time of answering him in the same way.

"You see, Bilbo, Daefaroth has a quite queer way of sending messages," Gandalf told Varilerin. Varilerin couldn't stop the wizard from saying, "Through birds!"

"Really? How do you do that?" Bilbo asked immediately. Varilerin scowled at Gandalf. "Can I try sending a message to you in the future?"

"You want to send a message to me?" Varilerin asked out of surprise.

'Well, I hope to hear more of your story," Bilbo trailer off, rubbing his curly hair wildly. "Look, if you are uncomfortable about that you can just say-"

"I accept this friendly proposition, Master Baggins," Varilerin finally said, smiling small under her scarf. Bilbo's face brightened with joy and he nodded hastily. "Then you have to have a bird, Master Baggins, preferably a raven, because it has a certain fondness for me."

"Right, thank you, Daefaroth," Bilbo stammered in happiness. Varilerin nodded as well, whilst Gandalf smiled for her new friendship with the Hobbit. It was such a strange fate for her, really, to befriend a strange creature such as a Hobbit. She couldn't understand how Bilbo managed to open her long-closed heart in a short time. She had never felt the warmth she had always had with Gandalf and her old friends with anyone, but this Hobbit managed to make her heart lighter than before.

Perhaps Gandalf's words were true. Her fate was slowly changing as the dusk of the age was nearing. It seemed that her world would be growing brighter, yet she still feared for the worst. The fear she knew, would constantly haunt her, possibly for the rest of her life.


"The sun is rising," Bilbo said to Varilerin as he inhaled his pipe weed slowly. Varilerin nodded, watching as the golden sun started to wake from its sleep. Bilbo's face was filled with sadness. The time for his departure had come, and so had Gandalf's and Varilerin's. Beside him laid his bag, full of clothes and food for the journey, and a small chest of treasure for his share as the 14th member of Thorin's company. They were waiting for Gandalf now, who was still bidding farewell from the Dwarves and giving last counsel for the new king under the mountain. The wizard wouldn't want Dain to repeat the same mistakes his predecessor had done, nor did he want to meddle with their troubles.

Once the Wizard returned to their company, they began their journey back to Hobbiton. Along the way Bilbo asked many questions to dig out Daefaroth's true identity, but Varilerin managed to skilfully answer each one to prevent her true self from being discovered. Nevertheless, she still told him stories of her journeys whenever he asked—all of them pleasing the Hobbit greatly. Varilerin became closer to the Halfling and by the time she noticed, she had become a good friend with him. Gandalf would sneak into their conversation if he felt bored, enlightening the journey slightly. It made their journey home short and, by the time they realized it, they were already in Shire.

Bilbo's eyes glimmered in excitement as he leapt from the cartwheel they had been riding, carrying his small chest of share, and some remnants from the journey he had decided to keep. Varilerin and Gandalf walked down the vehicle as they prepared themselves goodbyes for their friend.

"Truly, Master Baggins, I've never seen a Hobbit like you," Varilerin started. "I will make sure we remain in contact."

"I feel the same as well, for both of you," Bilbo gratefully said. "You are welcome in my house, and don't bother knocking."

"Yes, My Friend… Something bothers me though," Gandalf said in return "Keep that ring well. Magic rings are not to be taken lightly."

"Umm…. Don't worry about the Ring," Bilbo told them. "I've lost it in battle. It is not valuable anyway." Gandalf and Varilerin knew the Hobbit was lying, but did not say a thing regarding of his attitude. He had seen and done so much, and he deserved a little credit and indulgence. Gandalf chuckled and tapped the Hobbit's shoulder friendly. Bilbo smiled awkwardly and anxiously, knowing he was a bad liar.

"Ah, so that's how it is," Varilerin muttered, clearing his anxiety. "Farewell then, Bilbo Baggins. I am awaiting greatly for our next meeting."

Bilbo nodded at the two of them, before walking away towards Bag End. Varilerin sighed as she watch him leave, a slight sadness washing her. "He's finally home," she remarked. "It is good for him."

Gandalf gave her meaningful look before he coughed. "So where are you going now, My Dear? Surely you will not wander aimlessly again?"

Varilerin stayed silent, pondering over the question as she gazed at Shire with enormous attention. She sighed and turned to Gandalf, patting his shoulder lightly. "I do not know, My Friend, though… I think I know where should I return to if I need rest." Varilerin curved a small smile beneath her scarf, bowing to Gandalf. "Farewell, Gandalf. Until we meet again."

"Goodbye, Varilerin," the Wizard replied. She lifted her head before she walked away from him, entering her dark wor

Chapter Text

T.A.3001

Bilbo Baggins was busy with his hands. With his grand birthday coming in just a few months, he had so many things to do: ordering food, setting up attractions, seeking out tents, readying tables, and sending invitations. Day and night had he spent his time to prepare for his 111th birthday, which every single Hobbit in Shire had been waiting for. They had been expecting it to be magnificent of course, and expected gifts to be given by the humble Hobbit. However, they wouldn’t expect Bilbo to invite queer guests to the party.

He was now writing numerous invitation letters, from the simplest to the most extravagant ones, and sealed each one of them meticulously. The invitation for Hobbits had been delivered a week ago, and what’s left to be sent were the special ones: for several Elves, a wizard, and a particular ranger. He leaned back to his chair to rest for a few minutes and finally picked out a single parchment, smaller than the others, and started dipping an ink to his quill. He pondered for a moment before he started writing the letter and rolling it into a small scroll that was the size of his palm.

Frodo approached Bilbo with a pot of tea and refilled his uncle’s empty cup. Bilbo didn’t notice his nephew coming as he tied the scroll tight with a string, avoiding Frodo’s curious gaze at the small object. “Who is that for?” Frodo asked.

“For a quite queer friend of mind,” Bilbo answered.

“Oh…. Do you think he’ll come?” Frodo asked again, finally understanding to whom the letter was addressed to.

“Ah, of course he’ll come! That lad will be delighted, in fact, and to see you under towered by his shadows would be an amusement to me!” Bilbo chuckled, taking the letter and rising from his old chair. “Come on! You’ve always wondered how I send messages to him, correct?”

Bilbo walked out of the room, Frodo following him curiously. For years Frodo had seen Bilbo sending these small parchments to someone, and sometimes he would see him reading another. He followed Bilbo to the garden, where a single raven was perching on their wooden mailbox. He had never seen the bird before, or maybe it was different than before, he didn’t know. Bilbo approached the bird and tucked the scroll to the bird’s neck.

“You’re sending a bird?” Frodo asked curiously. “But I thought that your friend is a traveller. How can it find him then?”

“That, my lad, is a secret I must not utter to you. My friend will be angry if I do so,” Bilbo said. Then, Bilbo did something very weird, for he whispered something to the bird, and the bird nodded as if it understood what the old man was saying. The bird then flapped to the sky and disappeared from their vicinity.

“Still confused aren’t you?” Bilbo said. “Your further questions must be answered by the man himself, for I have no right to do so. Shall we go back then? I’ve still too many to do.”


 

A few months later, Shire welcomed the queer guests that for long Bilbo had kept secret. Elves and Dwarves came into the land, carrying gifts and talking something the Hobbits didn’t understand. They arrived in small groups, but their numbers were many, particularly on the day of Bilbo’s birthday. However, a stranger queerer than any other guest came in the morning. He was an old man wearing a grey pointy head, riding a carriage that carries bundles of firework as he smoked from his pipe weed.

Gandalf the Grey hummed cheerfully as he followed the twisted path down the hills of Hobbiton, his eyes ignoring all curious stares the Hobbits gave him, and instead mumbled a song that none there knew. Apparently, one Hobbit in the area knew this song well, and emerged from his hiding place to welcome the wizard. Frodo Baggins skipped towards the road and waited Gandalf to pass him as he folded his hands.

“You’re late,” Frodo protested once Gandalf had taken notice of his presence. Gandalf looked up innocently, stopping his carriage in the process.

“A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins, nor is he early! He arrives precisely when he wants to!” Gandalf retorted definitely. There was silence among them, before both started laughing at their own questionable words.

“It’s wonderful to see you, Gandalf!” Frodo shouted as he leapt to hug the wizard. Gandalf managed to catch Frodo just precisely to prevent his fall and laughed when he fell to his embrace. “You didn’t think I’d miss your Uncle Bilbo’s birthday? Gandalf said, advancing his carriage once more. “How’s Bilbo? I am sure he has prepared long for this party!”

“You know Bilbo. He’s got the whole place in an uproar and has invited anyone he has known. Half of the Shire is invited, the rest of them turning up soon or later, and he’s also invited several Elves, I noticed…. He did strange things just to invite them, you know, including sending a raven to whoever his old friend is,” Frodo explained to Gandalf. Gandalf merely mumbled as he listened to Frodo’s story. “He sent this small parchment…. The size of my hand…. He said I have met his old friend, though I cannot even vaguely remember.”

“Because this friend Bilbo’s referring is not a quite sociable one,” Gandalf explained. “Hmmm, he’s also inviting him… They indeed have sent more messages than I have expected…”

“Who is he actually?” Frodo asked curiously. Gandalf merely blew a puff of smoke to the air with his pipe. “Gandalf?”

“He is a good friend of mine and Bilbo. He is by the name Daefaroth, the Shadow Hunter and the walker of Middle Earth. We had some adventure in the Misty Mountains. I am sure you’re going to like him, Frodo, despite his strange upbringings,” Gandalf said. “Now, enough of this strange folk. Tell me, how’s the old rascal lately?”

Frodo seemed disappointed at Gandalf’s unclear explanation, though he didn’t say so. “He’s been acting strange, seeing old maps and all. Of course I know that you have something to do with it. Whatever you did with this strange friend and Bilbo back there, has caused you to be labelled as a disturber of peace.”

“Well, this strange friend has told me that alias many times before,” Gandalf said. Behind the carriage children were shouting to him, begging for fireworks to be lit and stopping their conversation. Gandalf sighed, knowing that his reputation had turned from a disturbed of peace to a firework maker now in the eyes of the children. Frodo looked at him expectantly when the wizard didn’t do anything despite their requests. Gandalf, however, smirked, and from his pile of fireworks launched several small ones that exploded in the air and brightening the road slightly with light. The children cheered wildly as they watched the fireworks that sent joy to their innocent hearts. Gandalf chuckled with Frodo and smiled with him.

“I am glad you’re back,” Frodo said finally.

“So I am, dear boy,” Gandalf replied, seeing the Hobbit leaping from his ride and bidding him farewell. Gandalf nodded and saw the Hobbit running away like a deer, smiling to himself when he saw that things hadn’t changed since he last visited. He continued to drive his ride towards Bag End, where things remained green and beautiful, just like the last time he had visited.

Arriving in front of Bilbo’s house, Gandalf walked down from his ride, slightly tired after the long journey he had taken. He observed his friend’s house intently, noticing that it too hadn’t changed, except for the ‘no admittance’ sign on the fence gates. It seemed to Gandalf that the Hobbit was enjoying privacy in his elder days. Gandalf walked up the steps towards Bilbo’s doorsteps and knocked the door with his staff. He caught a glimpse of the symbol he had drawn for Thorin’s company decades ago, still engraved on the wood. It flooded the wizard with memories and made him more eager to meet Bilbo.

“No thank you! We don’t want any more visitors, well-wishers, or distant relations! A familiar voice came from inside the hole. Gandalf sighed and leaned closer to the door. “And what about very old friends?” Gandalf retorted. There was a loud thump coming from, perhaps from the dining room if judging from the clatter, and the sounds of hasty steps that closed in the door. Gandalf leaned away, allowing the Hobbit to look at his face clearly once he had opened the door. Bilbo Baggins’ eyes widened in joy and he jumped like a rabbit.

“My dear Gandalf!” Bilbo exclaimed, hugging his old friend. “Come on! Welcome!” Bilbo continued, taking Gandalf’s hat and staff, putting them aside on the wall. Gandalf entered his comfortable home, ducking a wooden arc that almost hit his head. “Tea, or maybe something a little stronger? I wasn’t expecting you to come this early, so I haven’t prepared anything- Ah! Sponge cake will do, won’t it?”

“Just tea, thank you,” Gandalf answered as he followed Bilbo to a well-furnished room with a short table and a blazing fire that warmed up a small kettle. Gandalf took a seat on one of the chairs, lighting his pipe weed once more and enjoying the warmth of the house. Bilbo handed him a slice of sponge cake and Gandalf was forced to accept it, along with the tea. “I, in fact, haven’t expected for myself to come this early. Fate has chosen a small yet safe path for me to travel and I managed to arrive without any disturbances, except for your nephew, of course!”

“Frodo? That lad, always seeking curiosities,” Bilbo said as he poured Gandalf a cup of tea. A loud knock from the door almost caused the Hobbit to drop the teapot. Bilbo and Gandalf shared a look with each other and looked towards the door. Another knock came and Bilbo hid behind the table, as if he had seen a dragon once more. “That must be the Sackville Bagginses!” Frodo told the bemused Gandalf.

“Not a Baggins nor a Hobbit, but a ranger if I may correct you!” a deep yet familiar voice came from the door. Bilbo instantly recognised the voice and stood up, hitting the table in process. Bilbo didn’t pay attention to his painful forehead bruise and instead skipped towards the door. Gandalf stood from his chair, watching the old man opening the door in the same excitement as before. From the door emerged a black-cloaked figure, a scarf veiling his lower face. He was wielding a bow and quiver, along with two short swords sheathed behind his back. His dark-grey tunic and darker pants were dusty from the road, his dark-brown boots and bracers covered with mud and soil.

“Daefaroth! Why, both of you are early birds, aren’t you?” Bilbo exclaimed excitedly, hugging the ranger with joy. Varilerin jolted as he received the Hobbit, who looked ever younger despite his old age. “It’s been too long, My Friend!”

“I have to come early since your message is very exquisite. I am guilty if I don’t come now,” Varilerin explained, pulling down her hood to reveal a tied, raven hair. “Though I must apologize for not returning your bird.” Just then a raven flew towards her shoulder and perched on it. She let the bird move onto her arm and gave it to Bilbo, who seemed fascinated at her skill in handling the animal.

“I cannot seem to understand why birds like you, My Friend,” Bilbo said in amazement, receiving the bird carefully and frightfully. He put the raven into the cage in his garden, before turning back to welcome his old friends. “Come, Daefaroth, make yourself at hom!” Bilbo told her. Varilerin nodded and entered the house, seeing Gandalf standing lonely by the hearth.

“It’s good to see you, Gandalf,” Varilerin greeted him as she unclasped her cloak. After putting her dark cloak beside Gandalf’s hat, she joined Bilbo and the wizard in a reunion tea time.

“You do not have to hide yourself here, Daefaroth,” Gandalf said to the ranger. Varilerin seemed reluctant, even though Bilbo was her good, or best friend. Bilbo had many Elf friends and she didn’t want her existence to be exposed, at least not when she’s not ready. “Bilbo won’t tell a single soul, you know that. Your identity is safe within this room,” Gandalf assured her. Bilbo seemed curious as well, not glancing away as he poured tea for her. Varilerin sighed, knowing that she had lost from the two’s insistence, and pulled her dark scarf down, revealing a fair face she had long hidden. Bilbo almost overflowed Varilerin’s cup when he saw her face, only prevented from doing so when Varilerin lifted the teapot personally.

“By the love of food!” Bilbo exclaimed once he regained his consciousness. “I have never thought you are a fair lady, Daefaroth!” Varilerin remained composed as she took her cup, glaring at Gandalf after the result he had produced by telling her to reveal her face. “Then you are an Elf? Well, I have long not doubted it, but to be really a fair Elf!”

“I am a peredhil, Bilbo, not a pure Elf. Many are fairer than me. You have just seen an elleth before, so I suggest that your reaction is acceptable,” Varilerion reasoned, sipping from her cup. Bilbo shook his head and took a seat. “I have been to Rivendell before, with the Company, and yet I haven’t seen such a fair-“

“Stop, please, Bilbo Baggins. You have enough words to be uttered,” Varilerin scolded the Hobbit. The Hobbit stopped immediately, but still giggling in fascination. Gandalf was staring at her as if he was daydreaming while he smoked unconsciously. “What are you looking at, Gandalf the Grey?”

“No… No, just wondering. Ehm,” Gandalf stammered. “Have you chosen between your kin, Daefaroth?” Varilerin scowled at him, admiring his skill in avoiding undesirably topics.

“I will continue to live as an Elf,” she told Gandalf cautiously. Gandalf nodded in understanding, putting off his pipe and cleaning it aimlessly. “Gandalf, do you have anything to say on my decision?”

“No, not at all. It’s just that, Arwen has chosen to live as a Man,” Gandalf told her. Seeing Varilerin’s immediate surprise, Gandalf decided to continue his explanation. “Arwen has found her purpose of life and she has chosen morality. Love is a strange thing, Daefaroth, and it has changed the strangest individuals…”

“Arwen has fallen in love with Aragorn,” Varilerin deduced. She understood well that the look Gandalf was giving her meant that she was correct. “It is good for then. She deserves nothing less than an honourable man.” Varilerin and the other two stayed silent, not wanting to say anything that could possibly hurt the ranger’s feelings. After a while Varilerin finally moved, rummaging her pocket and taking out an object from it.

“Enough of the gloom talk. I have a gift for you, Master Baggins,” Varilerin said as she showed what she was holding. It was a small knife, barely larger than her hand, and made of pure white metal. There were intricate carvings engraved on it, of leaves and of trees. “I made this during the journey, though I am not quite the crafter I can assure you that it can kill someone.”

“My, Daefaroth!” Bilbo exclaimed happily as he received his gift, forgetting all the uncomfortable topics he had just talked with the other two. He observed it keenly, seeing that although it was small, it might be stronger than any weapon he had encountered. His face was suddenly saddened when Varilerin gave him a sheath for the weapon. “Thank you, My Friend… It truly is beautiful… And it reminds me of my journeys.”

Bilbo sighed, sheathing the blade and putting it slowly on the table. He looked at the two sadly. “You two haven’t changed, yet look at this old Hobbit. Unable to travel any longer, yet desiring to go.”

“So you’re still going with your plan?” Varilerin asked Bilbo. “He’s told you also?” Gandalf asked her. Bilbo and Varilerin nodded simultaneously in response. Bilbo had, to the two’s knowledge, planned to travel once more after his birthday, without the accompaniment of anyone. He had not told anyone besides the two, even his loved nephew Frodo.

“Frodo suspects something, Bilbo,” Gandalf informed him. “If he is to know, he might come with you as well. You need to tell him sooner or later.”

“Yes. Yes. I know he’s very fond of me. I think though, his heart is still in love with the Shire, the woods, the fields, and the little rivers. He is young, yet I am old. I feel thin, sor of stretched like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday, a very long one, and I don’t expect to return. In fact, I mean not to.”

“Everyone needs rest,” Varilerin remarked, having stayed around Shire for some time as per Gandalf’s suggestion. A life without battle or caution was strange for her, but it at least gave some peace to her restless heart. Shire was like Rivendell in some ways, giving warmth and tranquillity whenever she visited it. It was just that she couldn’t be living forever like the Hobbits, spending days with laughter and conversations. She was a warrior at heart, and would remain a warrior for eternity.

“An adventurer will always be an adventurer,” Bilbo sighed. He smiled at her and she nodded in agreement. “More tea? For the sake of old friendship?” he asked the two.

“Yes, I will gladly accept it,” Varilerin said, letting herself enjoy whatever peace she had left before she enter the perilous world once more.


 

Varilerin closed the fence gates of Bag End slowly, not wanting to disturb the now sleeping Bilbo. “Enjoying yourself, My Dear?” Gandalf asked Varilerin, who replied with a short nod. Bilbo and the two had spent several good hours only chatting and telling stories, reminiscing older days and hoping for the future. However enjoyable it was, Varilerin, Gandalf saw, was still gloomy and restless after the awkward conversation they had regarding her choice. Varilerin pulled her hood and stared far into the stars, covered slightly by the lush forests of Shire. She narrowed her eyes as if she had seen something. This intrigued Gandalf, who saw nothing beyond the horizon.

“There is something you don’t want to tell during our tea time,” Gandalf deduced. Varilerin didn’t take her eyes off the forests. “What news you have for me?”

“I am sure you have known, My Friend. Poor news have come from the north, of the armies of Mordor moving. I can feel the darkness growing in my heart. It burdens me as each day passes. You are correct, Gandalf. The turning point of this era has come. Sauron will move his forces harsher than before, whilst Men and Elves are in their brink of destruction….”

Varilerin paused and turned to Gandalf. Her silver eyes were wary and cautious. “In my travels these recent months I have heard and seen strange things. Black riders riding in the night, searching for something. They do not know their path, but they are drawn by something…. The servants of Sauron have travelled far, and they are searching for the Ring. Their heading closer to these lands.” Gandalf immediately understood what Varilerin was indicating to, narrowing his eyes as well. “I doubt that Bilbo lost his ring decades ago. He is hiding it, a fact I am afraid for because it might endanger his life.”

“You think that the ring Bilbo has is more than is seen?” Gandalf asked. Varilerin gave him a ‘what do you think?’ look, convincing the wizard that his suspicions had been true all the time.

“But I think if the ring is indeed more powerful than we can imagine,it will be safe as long Bilbo has it. It seems that Bilbo hasn’t used it for any much purpose,” Varilerin continued. “I have been watching him from afar… It is one of the reasons I choose to stay around Shire.”

“You are wiser and keener than I then,” Gandalf remarked. “Now that my suspicions are confirmed, I am afraid I have to disappoint Bilbo’s happiness in his birthday…”

“Surely you ought to,” Varilerin said. “Come, I believe you deserve a tour of Shire. I have lived long enough around here to discover what you haven’t.”

“I accept your offer then,” Gandalf said. They walked away from the Hobbit’s house, leaving the old man to his probably last sleep in his home.

Chapter Text

Fireworks burst in the night sky above, sending bright flickers that blended with the small stars. The Hobbits cheered as Gandalf released another, a flower blooming in the sky with crackles and sparks. Bilbo’s birthday was as magnificent as anyone could expect. People danced continuously with the music, whilst the others drank and ate enough food to last for weeks. They shared stories to each other and sent congratulations to the old Hobbit walking among them. Bilbo received their congratulatory words sincerely, often handing small gifts to the guests that had expected them.

Meanwhile, silently watching the guests from the dark corner of the party, sat a cloaked Varilerin, content with only a mug of ale. None had noticed her sitting there ever since the festivities had started, even the Elves and several Dwarves that constantly passed her. Watching the joy that engulfed people was amusing enough for her. It seemed, however, that one particular Hobbit noticed her sitting lonely in the shadows. He left the crowd of dancing people and skipped towards Varilerin, surprising her with his sudden arrival.

“So you’re the Daefaroth that Bilbo has long talked about?” Frodo immediately guessed when he saw her appearance. Varilerin wasn’t responsive, but Frodo didn’t stay idle and instead dragged a chair not far to sit beside her. “I have heard you from Bilbo’s stories, how you slay Orcs and fight in the shadows.”

“Bilbo has quite a mouth then,” Varilerin remarked plainly, watching Bilbo telling stories to little children not far. She smirked a little when the children gasped as Bilbo told a terrifying part of his story, which was nevertheless true to some degree. “Yes, I am Daefaroth. I have seen you many times as well, Frodo Baggins. You may not remember it, but you’re such a cute one back when you’re young,” she continued emotionlessly. Frodo blushed and looked down to the grass, playing with his hairy feet to distract his attention.

There was suddenly a loud explosion coming from the firework tent, before a firework dragon emerged from it. Varilerin saw Gandalf gaping from afar, knowing that he was not the one that triggered the firework. People cheered when the dragon spread its wings high above, but they immediately screamed in panic when the dragon descended towards them. Frodo immediately stood up and ran to Bilbo, who was failing to catch the pace of the running guests. The dragon however, didn’t engulf them with its wings, and instead flew above them towards the lake. Not a second later the lake was decorated with bright lights from the bursting dragon, glinting the waters with sparkles that spread all over the surface. When the people saw the magnificent firework and clapped their hands, forgetting all the panic that they had experienced.

“Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took! I might have known!” Varilerin heard Gandalf scolding two young Hobbits, grabbing their ears and dragging them towards him. “You will pay for all your ‘deeds’ in the dishwasher, gentlemen.” Varilerin scoffed when she saw Gandalf forcing them to wash the numerous plates one by one, whilst their blackened face remained uncleaned. Gandalf winked at her as he blew his pipe.

“Speech Bilbo!” the crowd said finally after all the commotion had settled down. Bilbo followed their requests and walked towards the podium in the middle of the field. Bilbo laughed when he finally stood higher than the guests.

 “My dear Bagginses and Boffins, Tooks and Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bulgers, Bracegirdles, and Proudfoots!” Bilbo started, igniting cheers from the crowd. “Today is my 111th birthday!”

“Happy Birthday, Bilbo!” the crowd shouted simultaneously.

“Alas, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable Hobbits. I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like and I like less than half of you, hals as well as you deserve!” There was a confused silence in the crowd, whilst Gandalf and Varilerin smirked in amusement. Bilbo looked confused himself, sweating cold sweat as he slowly rummaged his pocket out of anxiety. “I… I have things to do,” Bilbo trailer off. Varilerin loosened her smirk and stood up, wondering what the Hobbit was intending as he fumbled with his pocket. She glanced at Gandalf, who seemed suspicious of the Hobbit’s action.

“I’ve put this off for far too long,” Bilbo continued. “I regret to announce that this is the end. I am going now. I bid you all a very fond farewell!” Bilbo then looked at Frodo, smiling gently as he drew in a deep breath. “Goodbye,” Bilbo said before suddenly, he took a ring from his pocket and wore it in a flash. Within a split second Bilbo disappeared into the thin air. The crowd gasped loudly together and Gandalf stopped smoking. Varilerin widened her eyes. It didn’t took long for her to run towards Bag End and Gandalf moving from his own position. Varilern ran through the lush forests of Shire, completely convinced that the Ring was the one that Bilbo had just used. There was a darkness that loomed over her heart just a second after Bilbo took out the ring, convincing her that it was no mere magic ring.

She leapt across the trees, taking a shortcut before finally arriving at Bilbo’s doorsteps. She arrived together with Gandalf, who seemed to have an increased agility despite his frail appearance. Gandalf advanced first, opening the door without knocking first, and Varilerin shadowed him cautiously. They found Bilbo packing things onto his bag while humming cheerfully.

“I suppose you think that was terribly clever,” Gandalf said, slightly angered with the Hobbit’s actions.

“Come on Gandalf. Did you see their faces?” Bilbo retorted, not even glancing at his friends. Varilerin rolled her eyes at Gandalf, who sighed loudly when he realized that he should be saying what should be said long ago.

“There are many magic rings in this world Bilbo Baggins and none of them should be used lightly!” Gandalf advised the Hobbit. Bilbo finally turned to Gandalf and Varilerin, holding a ring in his right hand. “It was just a bit of fun!” Bilbo tried to defend himself. However, it seemed he couldn’t fight the two glaring figures that were clearly disappointed by his childish actions.

“Oh, you’re probably right as usual!” Bilbo sighed in annoyance as he fetched his pipe on the table. “You will keep an eye on Frodo, won’t you? I am leaving everything to him, this house and all the furnitures….”

“What about this ring of yours?” Varilerin asked so suddenly, causing the Hobbit to jolt. Bilbo was hesitant to answer her question, she knew. “Bilbo?”

“Yes, yes. It’s in an envelope over there on the mantelpiece…” Bilbo said, busying himself with the rest of his travelling gears. Gandalf nodded and approached the mantelpiece, but Varilerin stopped the wizard from walking away. “Bilbo, the ring is in your hand, remember?” Varilerin asked slowly, sure that the Hobbit had not forgotten the object within his body. Bilbo stopped moving and opened the palm of his hand. Varilerin observed the Hobbit carefully as he looked at the ring with widened and hungry eyes. “Bilbo. I think you should leave the ring behind.”

“Well… Now that you mention it… No… and yes,” Bilbo muttered as he played with his ring. Gandalf stepped forward and so did Varilerin. “Now it comes to it, I don’t feel like parting with it. It’s mine, I found it! It came to me!” Bilbo said in an increasing angered tone.

“There’s no need to get angry,” Gandalf said. Bilbo turned to him angrily. “Well, If I’m angry it’s your fault! It’s mine. My only… My precious…” Gandalf and Varilerin widened their eyes, having heard such phrase before.

“Precious? It’s been called that before, but not by you. I think you’ve had that ring long enough, Bilbo Baggins,” Gandalf suggested hastily.

“You want it for yourself don’t you?” Bilbo accused Gandalf, pulling the ring away from his vicinity. Varilerin couldn’t stop Gandalf from looming over Bilbo with furious eyes, even with her fast nature, and hopelessly watched the Hobbit being scolded harshly by the wizard.

“BILBO BAGGINS!” boomed Gandalf. “Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks! I am not trying to rob you!” Gandalf continued as he casted increasing fear to the Hobbit. Varilerin grabbed Gandalf’s hand and whispered the wizard’s name slowly to stop him. Gandalf’s shadow seemed to die out instantly, his face now calmer than before after he realized his fury had cast an undesirable fear on the Hobbit. “I am trying to help you, old friend,” Gandalf finally said gently. Bilbo whimpered quietly and ran to hug the wizard. Gandalf sighed, and so was Varilerin.

“All the long years we’ve been friends. Trust me as you once did. Let it go,” Gandalf said again after he let the Hobbit go.

“You’re right, Gandalf. The ring must go to Frodo after all,” Bilbo said as he picked up his bag.

“Bilbo, the ring is still in your pocket,” Varilerin reminded the Hobbit immediately. Bilbo reacted as if he had forgotten his words, but then finally took out the ring and stared at it for a while. He then slowly tipped his hand and dropped the object to the ground, whilst his eyes constantly observed the object obsessively.

“The journey is long,” Bilbo said finally, regaining the innocent expression he had always have. He took his walking stick and all his luggage, facing Gandalf and Varilerin lastly before his departure. “I’ve thought of an ending for my book: And he lives happily ever after to the end of his days.”

“I’m sure you will, dear friend,” Varilerin told Bilbo. She let Bilbo hug her gently, bidding him farewell. “Goodbye, Gandalf, Daefaroth,” Bilbo said to them.

“Goodbye, Dear Bilbo,” both of them said together. Bilbo nodded and opened the door of Bag End, humming as he walked away from his house, towards his last journey. Varilerin watched her old friend disappear into the night, before turning to Gandalf, who was reaching for the ring that lay on the floor. Upon touching the object, Gandalf jolted, and instantly backed away with eyes widened. Confused, she approached the object as well and knelt beside it. She dared not touch it, feeling darkness emanating from the simple jewellery, as if a shadow was dwelling inside its gold. She shuddered when she heard whispers from the ring, faint but clear enough for her to recognize the foul Black Speech that whispered.

“I may not know what kind of magic ring this is, Gandalf, but it hides evil within it. It is something more powerful than we’ve expected,” Varilerin told him. “We need to know what it is.”

“I know, My Dear,” Gandalf said. “But you’re not telling me this is Sauron’s ring, do you?”

“I am afraid it is more convincing to say so,” Varilerin answered. Gandalf mumbled in agreement and slumped into a small chair behind him, his face seeming so exhausted. Varilerin stood still beside the wizard, eyeing the small object without a split second of glancing away. Not long after, Frodo entered the house, panicked and panting after what seemed a long run from the party. Frodo took notice of the ring lying on the floor and picked it up without a sign of being affected, to Varilerin and Gandalf’s surprise.

“He’s gone, hasn’t he?” Frodo asked, though he knew the answer to the question himself.

“Yes, he’s gone to stay with the Elves. He’s left you Bag End,” Gandalf told the Hobbit and rose from his seat. He took an envelope that incidentally was on the table. “Along with all his possessions. The Ring is yours now.” Gandalf handed the envelope and Frodo dropped the ring inside it. Varilerin sighed in relief once the envelope was sealed by Gandalf, though she was still cautious of its ominous presence. “Now, I must leave,” Gandalf said after he handed the envelope. Frodo became more confused about the situation, for Gandalf seemed really wary, and so was Varilerin.

“Where are you going?” Frodo asked as he followed the wizard with his tiny footsteps. “Are you going to follow Bilbo?”

“No, Frodo. Bilbo is in his own journey now. I have other things to attend to, questions that need answering,” Gandalf said before he stopped his pace and turned to the Hobbit, whose figure was shadowed by Varilerin’s towering body. He gulped as he took his hat from Varilerin and put it on. “Keep the ring secret. Keep it hidden from any eyes that try to see it.”

“Why?” Frodo asked confusedly. Gandalf didn’t answer and instead turned to Varilerin, leaning closer to whisper. “I don’t know how long I should journey. Until I arrive, I entrust you with the safety of this Hobbit, Shadow Hunter,” Gandalf whispered to her.

“And in the shadows I shall protect him. Go,” Varilerin answered surely. The wizard smiled and nodded, and with a last glance to both of them, took his staff and disappeared into the night. Frodo was still standing awkwardly beside Varilerin, demanding answers quietly to the ranger. “I know you have questions, Frodo, but it is not the time. In time your questions will be answered,” Varilerin said. She then pulled her hood forth and walked to the doorsteps. Without glancing, she said, “Goodbye, Frodo Baggins. Until we meet again,” before taking her leave from him.

Without looking back, Varilerin paced down the hills of Bag End, leaving the still confused Hobbit alone at the edge of the door. Her restless heart continued to pace even though she was getting farther from the ring. Deep inside her heart, she wished Gandalf to return in that same moment.


 

Months had passed in Shire and yet Varilerin had not heard anything from her wizard friend. She had spent those months watching Bag End from the forests and scouting the borders of Shire for any unwanted visitors. In inns rumours had been spreading that the black riders were ever closing into the land of Hobbits, a significant sign that Gandalf better be arriving soon. With the aid of several Dunedain rangers in the land she had also heard news from the farther lands, of Orcs and evil Men terrorizing the free people. Like Gandalf had said, the turning point of the era had begun, and their their actions might decide whatever would Arda be in the future.

She was now perching on one of the taller trees, watching silently the road below as she sharpened her dull swords. In that silence the memories of several months ago flashed before her mind, and she again wondered whether their suspicions regarding Bilbo’s ring was correct. She was, however doubtful Gandalf was, sure that it was the One Ring being searched by the black riders. The darkness that emanated from the ring was unusual enough to burden her heart.

And then the darkness returned to her soul.

She shuddered and stopped moving, feeling the cold wind brushing her cautious skin. She glanced around and prepared her swords, cautious of what would be arriving. It was the same feeling she had felt in the ring, foul and evil enough to perish weaker souls. She grabbed her chest when she felt her heart beating like thunder, widening her eyes when she finally saw what she had been waiting for. The mass of leaves before her soon changed into a moving image of black-cloaked riders, pacing furiously on a narrow surrounded by trees. She could even hear painful screeching sounds that the riders created, aching her ears and snapping her back to reality.

Something’s wrong, she mused. She quickly rose from the branch and leapt through the trees, making her way to Bag End like a bird flying in the air. If it was her gift that had shown the vision, it meant that the black riders were approaching Shire faster than she had expected. Her feet became faster in panic, and soon she found herself at the doorsteps of the homely Hobbit home.

She felt a powerful presence inside the house and she readied her swords for the worst. However, it came to her that the presence was actually familiar to her. The warmth she felt slowly loosened her grip from her weapons. Without sheathing her weapons, she barged into the house, and thrusted her knife for any incoming attacks. A staff was directed at her head like a lightning, but when the assaulter’s gentle eyes met her sharp one, it stopped.

“Gandalf,” she sighed in relief, scanning the Grey Wizard from head to toe. His clothing was torn from long travels and his robes dirty. His face was wary and cautious, looking older with whatever worry he was experiencing. “Gandalf, what took you so long?”

“You are correct about the ring, Daefaroth,” Gandalf told her hastily as he pulled away his staff, ignoring the frightened Frodo behind him. Varilerin sheathed her knife as well and directed Gandalf to a nearby seat, seeing that he was terribly exhausted. “The ring is indeed the One Ring. It has been proven by the words of flame.”

“Then my feeling explains all of it,” Varilerin also told him. “I’ve just seen a vision, Gandalf. Black riders are approaching, entering Shire unnoticed by everyone, except me. If it is the One Ring in Frodo’s hands, they will surely come here.”

“And for that Frodo must leave,” Gandalf explained, staring deep into Frodo’s bright blue eyes. “Pack yourself, Frodo. You’ll be leaving as soon as possible.” Frodo nodded and disappeared to pack for whatever needed in his possibly long journey. Gandalf now turned to Varilerin, who saw him standing again despite his exhaustion. “He cannot go alone, Varilerin. You must come with him.”

“You want me to protect him? Gandalf, you know that bad things happen whenever I try to-“

“Listen, Varilerin. The tide has changed, and so has your fate. You cannot hide from your fears any longer. You are the only one that can protect him, for now, and the fate of Middle Earth might be as well in your hands,” Gandalf explained hastily. Varilerin couldn’t be convinced instantly, remembering the bad memories that could never be forgotten.

“Gandalf. Where do I go?” Frodo asked when he arrived in their conversation, completely packed with his small bag and walking stick. “Are you coming with me?”

“No, I am afraid not, Frodo. I have to counsel with the head of my order. The situation is more dire than I have expected. However, I shall meet you again,” Gandalf said. “Make for the village of Bree.”

“The Prancing Pony,” Varilerin told Gandalf. The wizard smiled, for Varilerin finally accepted his plead. “We’ll meet at the Prancing Pony, but promise me you have to be there,” she continued with a scowl and a terrifying glare.

“A wizard will never be late nor early. I will meet you on time,” Gandalf assure her. She hesitantly acknowledged his promise, though she couldn’t believe the wizard definitely. “Travel by day and stay off the night, Frodo. Daefaroth will lead you. He’ll know what to do-“

There was suddenly a noise outside the window, from the bushes below it. Gandalf looked at Varilerin, who in turned unsheathed one of her short swords and slowly sneaked towards the window. In a flash, she grabbed the spying being from the bushes, and placed her blade close to his neck. She observed the intruder, another Hobbit with light brown hair and large build.

“Confound you Samwise Gamgee! Have you been eavesdropping?” Gandalf interrogated him angrily. The pinned down Hobbit shook his head hastily and raised his hand to surrender himself.

“I haven’t been dropping no eaves, Sir. Honest! I was just cutting the grass under the window there, if you follow me. I heard raised voice, nothing important, that is. Although, I heard a good deal about a ring and a dark lord and black riders and…”

Sam stopped, seeing Varilerin glancing at Gandalf suspiciously. “What should we do now?” she mused to the wizard, who sighed and gestured her to release the Hobbit. She obeyed and released the Hobbit, but then the wizard grasped the Hobbit’s collars and pulled him closer.

“You might be dropping no eaves, Mr. Gamgee, but you’ve heard what you should not have heard. Now, instead of turning you into a frog, I think I have more use of you,” Gandalf said to the Hobbit, then glancing to the other two. Samwise Gamgee looked at them in confusion, before in a matter of seconds he found himself following Frodo, Gandalf, and Varilerin away from Shire. He didn’t dare to ask any more questions, for each time Varilerin would look at him menacingly with her silver eyes.

“Be careful, the three of you. The enemy has many spies in his service. Never put the ring on, Frodo, for it will always yearn to return to its master,” Gandalf warned the company. The Hobbits nodded surely, whilst Varilerin stepped in closer to Gandalf.

“May your journey be safe,” Varilerin prayed for the wizard. Gandalf nodded, before he left the company on his horse and galloping away from Shire. Varilerin stood with the other two awkwardly, noticing that they had a certain amount of fear for her. She sighed, knowing that the Hobbits would inevitably ask unwanted question to her.

“Follow me. I expect you to do so fast, or in consequence be left behind. Second, do not ask me unnecessary questions, or you’ll fall behind. Third, don’t look for trouble,” she instructed the Hobbits.

“Umm, pardon me to be rude, but who are you actually?” Sam asked hesitantly. Daefaroth raised a brow at him and turned her back away.

“My name is Daefaroth. Come, we must make haste, for a long perilous journey is upon us.”

Chapter Text

Sam watched the fire beneath the pan flickering as it cooked their dinner. Sam smiled in satisfaction as the meat of the sausages turned brown-red. He inhaled his weed as he turned the food over skilfully, humming a tune Varilerin had never heard before. He glanced at Frodo, who was sitting not far beneath a tree, and at Varilerin who was standing not far with arms folding. She was looking far into the horizon, observing the setting sun as silent as she had ever been in the journey. Sam couldn’t understand the third member of the company, so quiet and yet when speaking, all would be forced to follow. Not that he was suspicious about Varilerin or anything, but he couldn’t help the feeling of anxiety whenever the ranger was close to him.

Frodo jolted upright when he heard an ethereal music coming from a distance. Varilerin, to his relief, didn’t sheathe her bow like when they encountered some flocks of bats the night before. Frodo searched for the source of the music and found some lights glowing among the trees not far.

“It’s the Elves,” Varilerin whispered to them, stepping back closer to the fire. Sam stopped cooking and joined Frodo in observing the lines of Elves. Varilerin lowered her body to the Hobbits’ height and hid beneath the grass, watching her kin passing elegantly.

“Wood Elves, aren’t they?” Frodo deduced. “I think they’re going to the harbour beyond the white shores, towards the Grey Havens.” Frodo turned to Varilerin and she in turn raised her brows. Varilerin instantly knew that Bilbo must had told Frodo as well that she had Elf blood flowing in her veins.

“Yes, they’re leaving Middle Earth,” Varilerin answered his curiosity. “Towards the Undying Lands where there is no pain or death. They will never return,” she continued without any slight interest, much to Frodo’s surprise.

“I’ve heard you’re an Elf, from Bilbo,” Frodo said. “Why are you not leaving then?” Varilerin stayed silent, pondering for a suitable, or existing answer. When she chose to be an Elf, she was in turn given the chance to sail with her people from Middle Earth, but an exile remained an exile. How could she leave Middle Earth when she had so much to be atoned for? She would never forgive herself if she dared to cross the seas and leave all her debts behind.

“I still have things to do here,” Varilerin answered shortly. “Which includes guiding you to safety. Now, let us eat. Or you prefer sleeping without having dinner at all? I can suffice eating such a large meal.”

Frodo and Sam shook their heads at the same time and returned to the campfire, where apparently their meals had started burning. They ate their dinner silently, whilst Varilerin took her share and left to watch the surrounding area. When she returned she discovered the Hobbits had taken their sleep, covering themselves with still-comfortable blankets. Varilerin sighed, knowing that she would not be able to take a rest as long as they were still in the wild. Back when she was still a ranger, she had Ellain and Ruindoldir covering her watch. Now they were no longer there, and travelling together with other people seemed nostalgic for her. She scanned the surrounding forests repeatedly, not wanting the same tragedy to happen to these two Hobbits.

“Don’t Elves get sleep?” Sam whispered suddenly, apparently not sleeping. Sam was, not surprisingly, not used to sleeping in the wild, much like Frodo beside him. “Or are you not comfortable with sleeping outside? I am, in fact, and so is Mr. Frodo.”

“We Elves have high degree of strength, Master Gamgee. We need less sleep than you do, but I should tell you that hundreds of years of travelling can cause a mere Man to become stronger than Elves. To tell you the truth, I am in fact not a pure Elf, so part of my endurance is a result of my long travels.”

“Sleep, Sam,” Frodo groaned without looking at him. “Just shut your eyes and imagine you’re back in your own bed, with a soft mattress and a lovely feather pillow…”

“Which places you have travelled to, Daefaroth?” Sam asked again, ignoring Frodo’s pleas. Frodo rolled away from Sam and pulled his sheets tighter, clearly disturbed by Sam’s curiosity. Varilerin smirked when she saw this, but decided to answer Sam’s question.

“Almost every corner Middle Earth, Master Gamgee,” she said.

“Which places do you like the most then?” Sam asked again. This time it took her a moment to think. She had deemed all places the same throughout the years: full of dangers and evil that always liked her presence. However, there was a particular engraved place in her mind.

Rivendell, she mused. However terrifying her memories were in the past, she had longed to return to the heavenly village. She, nevertheless, realized that it was not possible, not now. Returning to her home would only bring pain to her heart, and to those she cared about. She could not return when the world around it threatened its safety and people, but she hadn’t thought about returning once Middle Earth found peace either. She didn’t think that the Undying Lands would be suitable either.

“Shire, I think. It’s very pleasant there,” she partially lied to the Hobbit. It was not a true lie, because for years she had found peace and comfort in the land. She and Bilbo had formed a strong friendship and companionship, causing her to feel home whenever she visited his doorsteps. Such home was now gone, for the next years to come, or for forever.

Sam smiled at her answer and wriggled himself to sleep, as if he had heard a pleasant bedtime story. Varilerin looked emptily at the campfire, pondering over the future that would be awaiting them soon. The night seemed tranquil and undisturbed, but Varilerin knew that in the land far away, evil was brewing and getting stronger.  

The Hobbits managed to sleep through the night and wake in the morning by Varilerin’s insistence. She woke them in the break of dawn, ignoring their pleas for sleeping longer. She threw them some ‘breakfast’ she found in the forest last night and ordered them to eat quickly. They did so reluctantly, having never eaten an unseasoned grilled pheasant before. Once they had finished and packed their belongings, Varilerin led them to a maize field. It was the shortest way to Bree, as far as she had known, and apparently the safest.

“Don’t get separated. Despite this being Shire, you can still lose your way,” she told them, walking into the vast yellow fields beyond. She walked quickly, almost causing the Hobbit to lose her among the crops.

“Have you lost your way before, Daefaroth?” Frodo asked with short breaths.

“We rangers have a special way of not getting lost, Master Baggins. Speaking of which, you don’t, so stop asking questions for now and follow me-“ Varilerin stopped pacing and gestured the Hobbits to step back. Sam and Frodo glanced at each other in confusion, whilst Varilerin lifted her hand towards one of her swords. “I heard something,” she told the Hobbits.

Before she could draw her sword, two Hobbits suddenly emerged from the fields. They rushed onto the Hobbits behind her, pushing them to the ground. In response she drew both of her swords and pointed them at the two intruder’s heads. “Who are you?” she demanded, but the Hobbits didn’t pay heed to her question and instead observed the bodies they had taken down.

“Frodo! Merry! It’s Frodo Baggins!” Pippin said.

“Hello Frodo!” Merry greeted. “Well, what are you doing here? Stealing some crops, aren’t you?”

“Get off him!” Sam ordered, pushing them away from Frodo. Merry and Pippin merely laughed at his reaction, dusting their coats away with their soiled hands. “For Fool’s sake, don’t you two realize swords pointing at you?”

“Oh!” the two exclaimed when they lifted her heads. Varilerin raised her brows, surprised at how carefree the Hobbits were. “What’s the meaning of this?” she asked the two. “A Took and Brandybuck. I have heard both of you from Gandalf, or should I say, see you making trouble?” Pippin and Merry were taken aback, remembering the night of Bilbo’s birthday as clear as the sky.

“Because they are troublemakers indeed! And now you’ve been into Farmer Maggot’s crop, aren’t you?” Sam said angrily. Merry and Pippin ignored Sam’s accusations and instead picked up the vegetables they had been carrying. Pippin gave some carrots to the confused Sam, and added a pumpkin to his luggage. “What are you-“

“Got to go now!” Merry said when dog barks came from not far. The group immediately looked over the somehow moving plants. Pippin and Merry chuckled, seemingly delightful of Maggot’s imminent arrival. “Hoi! You get back here! Wait till I get this through you!” another voice came from across the field. “Get out of my fields! You’ll know the devil if I catch up with you!”

“Run!” Frodo told them and soon the Hobbits were already running away from Varilerin. She was still utterly confused at what’s happening, particularly how come they came across two most wanted Hobbits. She sighed and put her blades back, before chasing the Hobbits with her light feet. The Hobbits seemed to gain lightning speeds at the current situation, forcing her to study the markings left on the soil to gain their directions.

However, when she was away from the fields, she found no sign of the Hobbits. She stopped before a sharp hill with traces of pulled grasses and several dropped carrots. She sighed and slid down the hill, finding the Hobbits bickering at the bottom of it.

“Trust a Brandybuck and a TOOK!” Sam exclaimed, throwing the carrots back to Pippin. Pippin received his carrot gratefully, muttering a ‘thank you’ to Sam.

“It was just a detour, A shortcut,” Merry retorted, picking up some onions. “A shortcut to mushrooms!” Before Varilerin could stop him, Merry had run towards several growing stools. To her confusion, Sam and Pippin jumped to Merry and brawled over the small mushrooms. Frodo shared the same look as her, watching the Hobbits bickering with themselves.

She glanced around, finding a way out of the uncomfortable place. Her eyes suddenly stopped at the road beyond, empty, but somehow strange. A wind blew past her, howling like a ghost, and she shuddered. There were whispers coming from the road, and darkness. She had felt it before, back when the black riders approached Bag End. Frodo approached Varilerin, looking at the road as well. He could feel it, she knew, and with the Ring it seemed the whispers grew louder.

“Get off the road! Hide!” she ordered, pushing the Hobbits away from the road’s vicinity. “What is happening?” Merry asked, only to be pushed beneath a tree root. Varilerin received their questioning glances, but she didn’t answer, and instead leapt to the tree above them. She could hear the shrieks of the black riders getting closer and closer, and the light among the trees disappearing as the shadows approached them.

She climbed the tree trunks lightly and perched on the stronger branch of the tree. She instructed the Hobbits below to stay quiet, whilst her eyes observed the road. Not long after, black riders passed the road. They were wearing black cloaks like her, but their faces were completely hidden in the shadows. They whispered to each other in shrieks as they passed. One of them stopped and unmounted its black horse, and knelt close to the hiding place of the Hobbits. Her heart felt again the darkness of the Ring, and silently prayed for Frodo to not wear it. Fear once more grasped her heart, of losing someone she had sworn to protect because of her inadequate actions.

But the black rider didn’t continue further and instead, switched its gaze suddenly to the road. A sudden sound from the road distracted its attention, reverting it back to its path. It released a hiss and mounted its horse once more, leaving the road and joining his comrades. Varilerin heard the Hobbits sighing in relief as they emerged from their hiding place. Varilerin leapt from the branches and landed lightly beside them, cautiously scouting the road if the riders dared to return.

“What was that?” Merry asked Varilerin. “Ringwraiths. They are hunting us. Servants of Sauron searching for Frodo. He has what the Dark Lord wants,” Varilerin explained quickly. The Hobbits immediately looked at Frodo, demanding further explanations, for apparently their distant cousins owned something that had almost caused their deaths. “They will return if we stay here. We need to go to Bree as soon as possible,” Varilerin added again to defend Frodo from his siblings’ gaze.

“We can go to Buckleberry Ferry,” Merry suggested after a while. “I’ll show you where!” Varilerin nodded in agreement and let Merry lead the way. The day was darkening and the sun began to disappear behind the trees. With the fear of the riders, their feet paced fast like the wind, pushing through trees and trailing narrow roads. They were now running towards a lake not far, but their journey was not undisturbed. The black riders chased after them on their ominous horses, screeching menacingly as they raised their swords at them.

“Faster!” Varilerin urged the Hobbits, who tried to quicken the pace of their little legs. Varilerin could feel the riders closing in behind them without looking back. She knew she couldn’t kill them, but she was ready to fight for the Hobbits if she must. Frodo looked more tired than the others, almost stumbling to the ground, but Varilerin managed to catch him and pushed him forwards to follow the others. She readied her bow as they approached the lake, whilst the riders behind got closer and closer as the seconds passed by.

They finally reached the lake, reflecting the light of the moon under the starry sky. A wooden ferry was tugged at one of the wooden posts of the port. “Go!” she ordered the Hobbits. Merry proceeded first, jumping to the ferry lightly and took the oar. Pippin and Sam followed next, whilst they pulled Frodo into the ferry. Varilerin stopped at the edge of the lake, letting the Hobbits leap onto the ferry first as she notched her arrow. Her eyes caught movements in the dark, shadowy figures that whispered to her in a language she despised, yet understood.

“Give the Halfling,” she heard one of them whispering.

Never,” she replied in Elvish. They hissed as they quickened their pace, but ultimately they didn’t manage to catch Varilerin, who leapt immediately after their short conversation. After flipping in the air, she landed lightly on the escaping ferry and looked back at the riders. They hunters watched their prey escaping their grasp, but they would never stop chasing them, she knew. The black riders immediately pulled their horses away and took another path away from them.

“They are still chasing us, taking the way around. Their horses are fast and for that we must hurry. How far to the nearest crossing?” Varilerin said.

“The Brandywine Bridge, twenty miles,” Merry informed, rowing the boat away slowly.

“Let me take the oar, it will be faster,” Varilerin told the Hobbit, who implied as quickly as she had said the instructions. “Lead the way, Meriadoc,” she told him again once she had received the control over the ferry. Using any strength she had left, she rowed the ferry towards their destination, hoping that Gandalf would be waiting for them in the inn, and for her strength to last until the Hobbits were safe.

Chapter Text

The sky cried when they arrived in Bree, washing the small figures of the Hobbits with continuous torrents of water. It was night, or the result of the dark clouds, Varilerin didn't know, and quiet for Bree. No lights came from the sky, only the dim ones of candles from the buildings of Bree. The Hobbits and Varilerin walked cautiously towards the city gates, where no guards could be seen. The Hobbits had never been to Bree before, having stayed in their homeland for most of their lives, but Varilerin had visited the place countless of times. She knew the secrets of the town, including how to get past troublesome night watchers.

Varilerin knocked the wooden gate of the town, and was greeted by the eyes of old man peering through a small window. "What do you want?" the man asked with such an unfriendly tone.

"We are heading for the Prancing Pony," Varilerin told him sharply. "And don't bother to ask us any more questions. Let us in now," she continued, casting fear to the heart of the old gatekeeper. The gatekeeper swallowed a handful of fear and slowly quickly opened the gates. "Alright strangers," he stammered, letting them enter the town. Without looking back at the man, Varilerin walked past him, and led the Hobbits into the heart of the town. The land was generally the same as the last time she had visited, but the air seemed to become fouler, and the buildings that had been rotten was starting to break down from the rain. The people in the city glared at them when they saw the strange company, whispering to others particularly about her suspicious appearance. She couldn't blame them, for the times were dark and all things could be evil to ordinary eyes.

Following the road, they finally arrived at the inn of Prancing Pony. People chattering could be heard even from the outside, convincing Varilerin that it was a safe place to meet and to seek refuge. Crowder places were the safest places in such times, for evil could not find them easily among many bodies. "Here we are. Get in," she told them. The Hobbits obeyed willingly, for they had been shivering under the rain and cold was beginning to strike their bones. After glancing around for any suspicious figures, Varilerin followed them inside. The inn was full of drunkards and travellers that sung and chatted with each other. Some of the guests there she noted, were rangers from afar, though none she could recognize. She walked to the innkeeper, who was cleaning several tankards in the bar. At first he didn't notice her, but after she coughed, her presence was finally acknowledged.

"Good evening. How may I help you?" the innkeeper asked hastily, seeing that she had an unfriendly glare carved in her eyes.

"We're friends of Gandalf the Grey. Where is he?" she asked. The innkeeper looked surprised at what she had just said, and suddenly an uneasy feeling struck her heart. "Have you seen him? Surely he has met you several months before."

"Gandalf? Oh, yes I remember! The wizard…. Well, I'm sorry lads, but I've not seen him for six months," the innkeeper said. The Hobbits looked at each other, surprised and worried about the circumstances. Varilerin thanked the innkeeper and turned to the Hobbits, unveiling her extreme worry with her frowned face.

"What should we do now?" Frodo asked desperately. "I don't know, Frodo. Late is not a forgivable attitude of his," she muttered slowly, scanning the crowds. There seemed no one suspicious, except that all of the people in the room were suspicious for her. She leaned down to whisper to Frodo. "Stay here. I need to ask around the town. Do not engage with anyone here."

Frodo nodded brokenly and urged the others to follow his action. After being slightly convinced by the Hobbits, Varilerin straightened her back and walked out of the inn. Her eyes caught a ranger sitting in the corner of the room, cloaked in black and suspicious, but she believed that the Hobbits would obey her accordingly. The Hobbits meanwhile, took seats not far and began relaxing after a painstaking journey.

Outside the rain still poured heavily. She paced anxiously around town, trying to ask the whereabouts of her old friend to anyone she saw. They all gave her answers out of fear of her existence, but none were satisfying enough for her. Something told her that Gandalf had suffered an unfortunate event on his journey, but oddly it didn't cause her any vision or show any significant sign. Perhaps she had been disturbed with the darkness of the black riders, or she couldn't sense him in such dark times, she didn't know. Nothing was certain, but she was now certain that the wizard could no longer join them for the journey. The question left was, where should they go?

Rivendell is the only safe haven for the Hobbits…. And the Ring, she mused as she returned to the inn. In her heart she was ashamed of returning and planned to leave the Hobbits once they had arrived, but she doubt that Arwen would not see her and let her go easily. I care not.

Before she could enter the inn once more, she felt the darkness of the Ring engulfing her heart. It was more powerful than before, unlike the one she felt in Bag End, but she knew it well. "Do not use the Ring," Gandalf had warned, but she knew that the Hobbit had inevitably used it. She barged into the inn and peered into the crowd of people. She could not see any of her little friends and she panicked, knowing that once the Ring had emitted its call for distress, the black riders will come. She pushed her way through the countless people, trying to search for the Halflings, only to find three of them standing with widened eyes.

"Where is Frodo?" she asked hastily, noticing that Frodo was missing from the company.

"He suddenly disappeared, Daefaroth!" Sam told her. "Now he's nowhere to be found!" She glanced around hastily, searching for any suspicious figures with a Halfling next to them. Then she noticed that the ranger that had sat on the corner, had disappeared. She pushed to the corner of the room, finding soiled footsteps beneath the table, leading to the stairs.

"Stay behind me," she told them as she followed the track. She grabbed her bow and walked up the stairs, walking as stealthily as the Hobbits were with their feet. The corridor was empty, but not the rooms. Her senses became alert and she carefully observed the rooms, searching for any presence in one of them. She stopped in front of a room, feeling a strong presence from inside it. She had felt it before, but it was not Gandalf. It was something entirely different.

When she heard a thump from inside, she immediately kicked the door open and pointed an arrow towards the cloaked ranger standing beside Frodo. Frodo jolted upon her arrival, whilst the stranger couldn't move under her threat. "What are you doing with the Halfling?" she questioned him as she closed her distance. The ranger raised his hand to surrender and pulled his hood down, revealing the face of Man, the face of a wild ranger. "Who are you?" she asked him.

"My name is Strider. I am also a friend of the Wizard," the stranger told her. She was, of course, not convinced, because he had just kidnapped her companion. The stranger sighed and lifted his hand towards her. She remained alert as she noticed a ring, a significant ring Gandalf had showed her. The Ring of Barahir was being pointed at her face and she finally lowered her weapon.

"You are Estel?" she asked. The Hobbits looked confused of the name, except for Frodo who knew some Elven words, though he didn't know clearly who he was. But Varilerin certainly recognized the name and the ring well. He was Aragorn, the only heir of Isildur Gandalf had been telling her. He should have been in exile in the north, Varilerin thought. "What are you doing here?"

"The same reason as you. Gandalf can no longer come for you. They're coming," Strider warned them as he observed Varilerin. "You must be Daefaroth then. It's a pleasure to meet you," he said again.

"If it is a dire situation then proprieties can wait. We must now protect the Hobbits," Varilerin said. "What has Gandalf told you, Strider?"

"All concerning two Hobbits being chased by servants of Sauron. He told me to come here, to help you in case Gandalf cannot come," Aragorn explained as he glanced warily through the window.

"The black riders are the ones sent by Sauron. They indeed have been chasing us for days now, though we manage to outrun them. But now they know our location. They are alerted by something, and are coming fast. We must move the Hobbits to safety."

"Watch over the town. I believe your eyes will be keener than I. I'll take care of the Hobbits," Strider continued. The Hobbit looked doubtfully at him and he could understand why. None would ever trust a ranger appearing out of nowhere, but they didn't seem to trust Daefaroth fully yet as well.

"Can he be trusted?" Frodo finally asked. Varilerin stopped at the edge of the door and smirked, before leaving the Hobbits to Aragorn's hands. "Trust me, Master Hobbits, you're safe in his hands as you're in mind," Varilerin answered shortly. The Hobbits stood awkwardly in the room with Strider, who looked at them as if they were mere children. Frodo cowered silently under the man's gaze, only moving when the man said, "Follow me."

Slowly the darkness crept into Bree. The townspeople had taken their rests, except for the restless servants of the Dark Lord. Under her watch, Varilerin saw the black riders barging into the Prancing Pony with their swords clasped in their hands. She could literally hear their breathing under their hoods, and cursed at the fear they sent her even though she didn't face them directly. They entered the room where the Hobbits previously were silently. She could see their blades glinting under the moonlight, before they plunged deep into the empty beds. Their blades didn't hit any Hobbits, causing the riders to shriek in disappointment. As fast as they had swung their blades, they left the inn and rode on their horses away from Bree. Varilerin exhaled a relieved sigh, realizing that a danger had passed, and returned to the rooms where the Hobbits were truly staying.

Entering the room, she saw Aragorn standing beside the small window. The Hobbits were awake because of the terrifying screams, and they demanded some information from Varilerin. "We cannot stay here. We must leave at dawn," Varilerin told the lone ranger and the Hobbits. "For now, all of you shall rest. Tomorrow is going to be a tiring journey."

"You should rest as well, Daefaroth," Aragorn advised her. He knew that, despite of her youthful appearance, Varilerin had not rested for a long time. He knew because all rangers had the same bad habit, and however strong an Elf's body was, exhaustion could still harm everyone. Varilerin quickly shook her head, taking a seat next to the window.

"I cannot rest, not when danger is still looming over us," Varilerin whispered. "I cannot rest whilst I am being endangered. It is a poor illness that has inflicted me a hundred years ago."

"Then rest your mind, at least. You'll need the strength tomorrow," Aragorn repeated. Varilerin nodded without understanding and gazed at the moon, waiting for the morning to arrive quickly.


 

"Where are you both taking us?" Frodo asked impatiently, walking side by side with the Hobbits and Bill, a sick pony newly bought by the Hobbits back in Bree. Frodo stuttered, trying to gain the pace of the two rangers leading them. The sun was still blinding their sleepy eyes, but it seemed that the two rangers were not bothered by the sunlight. Frodo simply couldn't understand how not sleeping the whole night could be endured by these two, particularly Varilerin, but he knew he had not the place to question.

"Into the wild," Aragorn simply answered, though his heart actually knew their true destination. That morning Strider and Varilerin had decided that they would be taking the Halflings to Rivendell, where they hoped the Ring would be safe temporarily. Of course, Varilerin was extremely reluctant to return to Imladris, having seen so much in her younger years, but she didn't have any choice. She couldn't abandon the fate of Middle Earth for her own reasons, though she would be leaving as soon as the Ring was safe.

"Where are they leading us?" Sam whispered secretly to Frodo, who didn't know the answer either.

"To Rivendell, Master Gamgee," Varilerin answered, hearing his soft voice with her keen ears. "I know you doubt your safety in the hands of us, but trust us that Rivendell is the safest place for all of you… For now. And, please mind that walking without talking will prove faster, which means faster journey from harm and to safety."

Sam lowered his head, immediately silenced and slightly ashamed after being reprimanded by the ranger. Aragorn smiled to himself as he led the company past the woodlands, passing trees that gave Varilerin less comfort than they should have been. In the older days the forest was the only place she could find absolute peace, but now as the darkness slowly engulfed the land, it had turned into one of the dangerous places in existence. Fortunately, their journey in the greeneries was brief and soon they had reached the snowy white hills. The sun was still creeping to the top of the sky when Varilerin and Aragorn heard the pace of the Hobbits stopping behind them.

"Gentlemen! We do not stop until nightfall!" Aragorn reminded when he found the Hobbits resting.

"What about breakfast?" Pippin blurted innocently. Aragorn and Varilerin shared a confused look.

"You've already had it," Varilerin answered, wondering if the Hobbits had a poor memory.

"We've had one yes. What about second breakfast?" Pippin continued.

"You're going to have second breakfast? This is not Shire, Master Took," Varilerin explained sharply. "No, this is the wild, full of dangers you might not see. A single second of idleness can bring doom to us all. Haven't you learnt this several days ago?"

Pippin tried to defend himself, but decided not to, when he saw that he couldn't counter Varilerin's arguments. Merry whispered, "Let's fast for the moment, Pip," to assure his friend that it was the best for them to remain quiet and follow their leaders. Varilerin acknowledged their obedience with a nod and continued to walk with Aragorn, who seemed bemused by her strict behaviour. Apparently, the Dunedain didn't agree completely with her actions, for not long after he took two apples from his keeping and threw them towards the Hobbits. Pippin and Merry caught them skilfully, surprised that after such scolding they still received their requested food.

"Hobbits have larger stomach than us," Aragorn cleared when he saw Varilerin's reprimanding look. She sighed as a response and forced a small smile to match his grin. It was one of the few things she couldn't understand about Hobbits: how they could take so much with their small body.

Their journey continued under the sun. Apparently, the filled Hobbits managed to walk faster and quickened their journey, much to Varilerin's relief. They managed to reach a marshland enclosed by woods—enough to provide protection for the night—and stopped their journey. The Hobbits and the rangers had a silent dinner, and the former went to bed as soon as they had finished their fill. Aragorn and Varilerin took turns in watch, though the latter couldn't find any sleep and instead scouted the area for any possible threats. She secretly studied Aragorn, who was smoking his pipe as he sung Elvish songs she had long not heard. One of them was about Beren and Luthien, mortal and immortal, and their tale of love. It was undeniable that Aragorn had missed Arwen, though his expression told him something else. Something sadder. It seemed that the man had some matters that prevented him from returning to Rivendell freely as well.

The next day Varilerin woke the Hobbits in the same manner she had awaken Sam and Frodo before, only harsher with the two troublemakers of the group. Once they had a brief breakfast they walked once more, finally reaching an open field with hills and grasses spouting everywhere in vicinity. Varilerin knew the land well, for she had passed it numerous times. She knew where Aragorn was leading them by the time the sun started going down.

"Amon Sul," Varilerin told the Hobbits. "It is a magnificent watchtower of old. Strider, you have chosen a suitable place."

"It has proven safe for most times," Aragorn said. "Most times. I believe this time it will protect us as well. We shall rest here tonight," he further explained. The Hobbits, tired of their long journey, nodded happily when he said those words. Aragorn led them to the side of the watchtower, under a ledge that provided enough shelter for them and let them rest themselves. The Halflings immediately dropped to the ground and sprawled with a sigh, letting exhaustion took them over. Strider left to the watchtower briefly, returning with several rusty swords and handed them to the Hobbits. They looked unconvinced as they studied the worn out weapons.

"It is not as good but still usable," Aragorn assured them. "It will protect you in dangerous times. You cannot be protected by us all times." Aragorn glanced around warily, smelling the uneasy air coming from the place. He winced, having not felt this eerie feeling from the debris before. "I'll scout the area for any disturbances. Daefaroth will stay with you."

"Aragorn, I am keener in this—"

"I know you haven't rested last night, and the nights before. I want you to sleep, watch the Hobbits. Your eye will prove more useful here."

Aragorn tried to convince her with his unnaturally kind eyes, and she reluctantly obliged. Aragorn smiled at her acceptance and went away with his bow, leaving Varilerin alone with the Hobbits. She glared at them threateningly, taking a seat on a fallen statue nearby.

"Do not do anything ridiculous," Varilerin started. "Do not light the fire. It will give a sign of our presence to the enemies. Understood?" The Hobbits nodded nervously under her gaze. Her eyes, they saw, showed clearly the effects of not resting for nights before. It made them pity the ranger slightly. "Good. Now go rest."

"You too, Daefaroth," Frodo said to the ranger. Varilerin widened her eyes, surprised that Frodo actually cared about her. She nodded, receiving Frodo's awkward smile, before she let them cuddle together. She slumped to the cold surface of the statue, leaning against a pillar that might topple with a slight touch. She watched as the Hobbits gathered together into a circle and talked with each other, whispering as if what they were speaking was meant for secret. Varilerin didn't mind their conversation and instead watched the sun disappearing behind the mountains and the moon emerging from the darkness. Still shadowed under her hood, she observed the Hobbits' seemingly joyful conversation. The sight only brought a painful nostalgia for her. She knew she couldn't return her life like it used to be, but she missed her old life dearly. She missed walking with Arwen and training with her master. She missed Elladan's and Elrohir's dry sarcasms. She missed her old self, still innocent in her difficult times.

I can never return things to the way they are, she mused. She gazed to the starry sky, which seemingly sympathized her condition, glinting dimly in the darkening days. She silently wondered if the Valar was truly watching them from afar. Varilerin, raised by the Elves since an infant, had been taught to believe primordial beings such as the Valar. She had learnt to believe in them, but her faith was not a strong one. She trusted that the Valar helped creating the world and the stars, but sometimes she couldn't help but doubt if they cared for the smaller creatures they created. But she clung on them nonetheless, for she needed someone to believe in in her depression.

For the first time in months, she felt her body aching under the tremendous exhaustion. She had always tried to ignore any pain she experienced, either large or small, for her own sake, but it seemed that she was too tired. The motivation of keeping her promise with Gandalf had caused her to brush all pain and tiredness she had been experiencing. She had done it for many times, but it was the first time she felt the effects of exhaustion took over her body almost completely. Possibly it was because the the watchtower above them provided protection which soothed her mind slightly. The watchtower and its safety became a haven for her to rest, at least briefly. She knew she must stay awake in order to ensure the Halfling's safety.

But her eyes became heavier as the night went on. She shook her head to wake herself. She couldn't rest, not now, not when Gandalf was struggling somewhere. You have given enough, haven't you? Her mind spoke to her. Surely a rest is not so evil. Varilerin tried to shake the thought off, but she found herself drowsing slowly into sleep.

"Daefaroth?" Frodo's voice came out of nowhere. She snapped herself awake to see the Hobbits looking at her warily. "Don't mind resting. You need it," Frodo suggested with a worried look on his face. Varilerin nodded and patted Frodo's shoulder, urging him to return to his own gathering. Frodo twitched a smile and left her alone once more. She sighed, realizing how true her mind and Frodo were, and let herself sleep in a dream she hadn't experienced for years. She didn't like dreams, for they showed horrible things to her.

And for one more time, her fears were true.

Chapter Text

In the dark she saw a fire flickering, small but bright. There was no sound in her dream, only the sound of her breathing and heartbeat. Whispers, she could hear whispers reaching her ears. Whispers of a language she didn’t comprehend, but foul and evil. Then she heard screams, and shrieks. She knew the owners of those voices, but couldn’t find them in the dark abyss. Her body trembled as she ran aimlessly, searching for those voices.

“Put it out you fools! Put it out!” shouted Frodo in the real life. Varilerin was instantly forced awake and leapt at the Hobbits, drawing her bow in alarm. She only caught glimpses of Frodo putting a small campfire out by stepping on it with his hairy feet, while the other Hobbits watched in horror and confusion.

“I thought I told you not to light a fire!” Varilerin immediately scolded them. The Hobbits stayed silent as the fire diminished into mere ashes, not understanding her intentions. Varilerin let out an angry sigh as she walked towards the edge of the watchtower, returning her arrow as it would be useless to face their imminent enemies. She knew her dream was no ordinary dream. It was a terrifying premonition of what to come, and she knew the owners of those shrieks too well. In an instant she caught five Nazguls riding towards the tower and encircling it. She grunted before she returned to the bemused Hobbits. “The Ringwraiths are coming. We cannot run now. Go to the watchtower, now!”

The Halflings obeyed her orders almost immediately and climbed to the top of the watchtower. Varilerin followed behind them, fearfully watched as the Ringwraiths chased them and slowly disappeared in the dark of the night. They reached the watchtower to find it empty, for the time being, and she instructed them to unsheathe their weapons, The Hobbits anxiously drew their rusty swords, while Varilerin unsheathe her own. She had not used it for a long time, but her hands were still swift and skilful. She silently hoped that her skills were enough to protect the Hobbits from the outnumbering enemies. She knew she couldn’t defeat the undead warriors, but at least she could defend them until Aragorn returned. She tried to calm her mind and body, but found herself unable to. The occurrence was too familiar for her. She knew what was going to happen next.

The next few seconds were complete silence, until five hooded figures emerged from the edges of the watchtower, encircling the group as they raised their horrifying swords, ready to slaughter them. The group backed off to the centre of the watchtower, cornered and seemingly unable to escape their fates.

“Give the Halfling, she-Elf!” one of the Ringwraiths hissed. “Your fate is now sealed. Death cannot escape you!”

“I care not about death,” Varilerin simply replied as she readied to receive their blows.

“But you do not fear your own death, Daughter of Shadows,” another hissed. The name struck her mind with fear. She could literally hear inaudible chuckles coming from her enemies. With a last hiss, the five Ringwraiths charged at her simultaneously. Varilerin didn’t tremble nor shaken despite her mingling fear and instead leapt at the nearest Ringwraith. She landed her sword on her enemy’s, pushing him to the floor as she dropped her body on it. She turned just in time to block another’s strike, backing off as the enemy tried to push her with its brute strength. She immediately ducked once she deemed suitable and let her enemy’s sword slash the empty air above her. Quickly she swiped its legs with hers, forcing it to drop to the cold stone surface. She stood to her feet and immediately charged at the remaining two in her vicinity.

Wait, two? She mused as she counted her remaining enemies. The Hobbits looked horrified in a sudden, trying to warn her of what’s coming but ultimately failed to do so. Varilerin reacted too late to realize a Ringwraith looming behind her, raising its sword high. In a last moment effort, she rolled forward to dodge the wind-dividing strike. She survived its attack, but ultimately suffered a painful graze on her back. With a painful grimace she evaded the two Ringwraiths’ attacks, rolling herself harshly on the ground. The swords didn’t find their target and clanged the cold stone loudly. Varilerin returned to her feet, ignoring the blood flowing from her back wound. She studied her odds against the enemy. The three were still targeting her, whilst the other two were again standing. To her horror, she saw the two Ringwraiths standing at the other end of the watchtower, just a few feet from the cowering Hobbits.

“RUN!” she screamed desperately as her opponents started striking her again. She blocked their attacks as she tried to push her way to the Hobbits. Like shadows, she saw the Ringwraiths assaulting the Hobbits. Merry and Pippin tried to defend Frodo, but were shoved aside by the more powerful Ringwraith. Sam tried to defend Frodo from the other enemy, giving his outmost efforts only to fail miserably. Frodo trembled and was defeated by his fear, dropping his sword and scrambling away from the Ringwraiths.

“Frodo!” Varilerin shouted, now ignoring the battle she was engaged in. Her body moved on its own as she focused herself on the Halfling, who was now cowering under the shadows of the enemies. He was inevitably cornered and useless, unable to run away. Much to Varilerin’s horror, Frodo desperately reached for his pocket. As if she could read his intentions, she immediately warned, “FRODO DON’T!”

But Frodo was too clouded by his fear and he took out the Ring. Without further thought he inserted the ring into his finger, immediately disappearing into the thin air. Varilerin’s felt as if her heart stopped beating in an instant. She fell to her knees as she continued to defend herself, now unable to make it past her enemies. She could sense the darkness and the whispers of the Ringwraiths close to Frodo, before an agonizing scream followed. From the corners of her widened eyes, she saw one of the Ringwraith stabbing Frodo’s hidden figure with its sword. She swallowed a scream as she found a newfound strength of anger.

“YOU FILTH!” she hissed as she pushed her opponents away. She dashed towards Frodo and his enemy, the latter had taken its sword from Frodo’s body. She quickly disarmed the Ringwraith with her dual swords and kicked it mercilessly to the ground. Panting, she moved to the other and quickly disarmed him as well. Frodo was groaning behind her, snapping her battle fury and causing her to shift her attention to the Halfling. Sam was kneeling next to him, revealing to Varilerin his deep stand wound on his shoulder.

“Take him away! Now is the time!” Varilerin hastily ordered as she raised her swords towards the three others, though she doubted they would succeed in their current state. Out of nowhere, as if answering her prayers, came Aragorn. In his hand was a bright torch that casted fear to the Ringwraiths, and in the other was his sword. Aragorn didn’t spare a glance to study his comrades’ situation and instantly engaged the Ringwraiths.

“Take them out of here!” Aragorn ordered as he ignited a Ringwraith on fire with his torch. The evil creature screamed in pain as it scampered away. “I will follow you!”

Varilerin agreed his suggestion without a second thought and carried Frodo on her shoulders. With her remaining strength she carried him to the nearby forests. The Hobbits followed her desperately, and so was Bill, which seemed aware of its masters’ desperate condition. Not long after Aragorn was tailing them, his torch as if giving hope and protection to them. “Lie him down,” Aragorn suggested once they were deep enough in the forest. As gently as she could, she laid Frodo on the wet forest floor. Aragorn stood alarmed as Varilerin checked Frodo’s stab wound.

“He’s been stabbed by a morgul blade,” she muttered, widening her eyes when she realized what would happen to the Halfling if the wound lingered. She took out a shard of the morgul blade that had injured Frodo. It dissipated into dust under the moonlight, but the pain didn’t escape Frodo.

“Can you heal him?” Aragorn asked. He knew that in Varilerin was more skilful than him in healing, having lived for longer years than him. She intently examined the wound, ignoring the screeches coming from the Ringwraiths.

“I can only prevent the poison from spreading,” Varilerin said darkly as she rummaged her pocket. From it she took out a small amount of dry leaves and, upon seeing their small amount, she frowned. “Strider, I need you to find fresh Athelas. It will slow down the poison.”

Aragorn nodded instantly and disappeared to the Forest. “What do you mean slow down?” Sam asked hastily. “I thought you are a healer!”

“I have no higher skill to treat him. He needs Lord Elrond’s help,” she answered as she applied the dry Athelas quickly. She regretted her idleness in collecting herbs in her journey, having known its importance way before. She mocked herself as Frodo groaned in pain again.

“Rivendell is six days away! He’ll never make it!” Sam protested. Varilerin ignored him and covered Frodo with a blanket which she hoped would warm him in his worsening state. Frodo’s breath was rasping heavily, and his gaze slowly turned emptier. “Daefaroth, what’s happening? Why is his eye—“

“Silence,” Varilerin hissed as she pulled Frodo closer to her. Frodo’s eyes slowly turned white as he faded into the shadow world. Varilerin bit her lips, knowing that she must do something to prevent his fading. “Stay with me Frodo!”

Frodo didn’t respond, merely breathing heavily and gazing to the starry night. Varilerin sighed and pulled her hood down. After closing her eyes for a moment, she opened them and looked deep into Frodo’s eyes. Valar, help me, she prayed as she pulled her scarf down, revealing slightly her Elven face to the Hobbits. She cared not about their surprised reaction. There was only one thing she could do now, and it was to protect Frodo from fading.

Frodo, follow my voice,” she whispered in a language the Hobbits didn’t understand. Her voice became ethereal, as if magic flowed through her throat. “Look at my eyes, follow the light. Do not give into the darkness.”

What Varilerin was hoping to happen occurred. Frodo’s breathing slowed and calmed down, and his eyes were moving towards her. Frodo’s eyes glinted silver under hers, which filled his with light. As if he was enchanted, Frodo slowly saw her face glowing in the dark, like the moon above her. “Who are you?” Frodo muttered in disbelief.

I am your friend, Frodo Baggins,” Varilerin whispered softly, holding back the pain that was torturing her body. “Stay with me, Frodo.” Frodo remained calm in her grasp, his gaze fixed on her face until Varilerin heard rustles coming from the bushes. She turned and laid Frodo to the ground, pulling her hood and scarf once more. “Someone’s coming,” she warned the other Hobbits as she drew her bow. She couldn’t be sure that the presence approaching them was Aragorn, for the wound on her back seemed to blind her senses. Fortunately, the figure emerging from the bushes was familiar to her.

And so was the other following behind him.

An elleth tailed Aragorn, her face radiating light as she emerged from the darkness. The Hobbits were mesmerized by her beauty. Varilerin recognised the dark hair well, and her face that always glowed like the starlight. Arwen.

Arwen pulled her horse hastily closer to the group and immediately approached the laying Frodo. Varilerin in an instant backed away, unable to face her old friend and past, and let her study Frodo. Aragorn knelt beside her, applying the fresh Athelas on Frodo’s wound.

“He’s fading, but slower than I thought,” Arwen told Aragorn before she glanced at Varilerin, who was standing cautiously not far. She looked at her in confusion, but immediately shook the thousand questions she wanted to ask to the ranger. “I need to bring him to my father.”

Aragorn nodded and mounted Frodo on Arwen’s horse. “I have been looking for you for two days. There are five wraiths behind you, where the other four I do not know.”

Stay with the Hobbits. I will send horses back for you,” Aragorn pleaded, for he didn’t want her to risk her life when he could replace her.

 “I’m the faster rider. I’ll take him. Frodo’s dying. If I can get across the river the power of my people will protect him,” Arwen assured him. Aragorn didn’t even looked slightly convinced, but Arwen gripped his hands to give him trust. “I do not fear them,” she whispered meaningfully, her eyes digging deep into the ranger’s.

Aragorn, knowing that he could not further argue with her, let her mount her horse. “As you wish, but be safe. Ride hard, don’t look back,” he said lastly. Arwen gave him a bitter smile before she paced her horse, Asfaloth, and disappeared into the darkness.

“What are you doing? Those wraiths are still out there!” Sam protested after Arwen left them.

“No, Master Gamgee. It’s the only hope he can get,” Varilerin assured him doubtfully. The creatures were stronger than she had expected, causing her to worry about their decision of leaving Arwen alone with Frodo. “He will die if he stays with us. Do not worry, I believe that she can get him to safety,” Varilerin said again to calm Sam down, knowing that they could only hope for the best.

Yes, in Arwen’s arms, Frodo would be much safer from harm, much safer compared to her protecting him.

oOo

The Hobbits remained quiet as they continued to walk the night, having feared the Ringwraiths pursuing them from behind. To their relief they saw no more of the evil creatures, and to their horror they realized that the creatures would be pursuing their friend instead. Varilerin managed to hide her wound from Aragorn and the rest of the worrying Hobbits. With the use of Athelas she ensured that whatever poison or effects the blade had on her would be minimized. Her body had been immune to such poisons after a long time of travelling. She had suffered much worse.

Despite the ongoing peace in their trip, they were constantly dreaded by the dangers that could attack them any time. The Hobbits, having learnt how perilous their adventure was, always put their hands close to their sheathed swords and walked side by side. The rangers escorting them didn’t lower their guards either. Even though they were no longer chased by the Ringwraiths, their comrades and allies would be targeting them whenever possible. Aragorn and Varilerin took greater precaution in their watch, the latter insisting to scout the area instead of Aragorn. Aragorn knew she was exhausted and wounded somewhere, but was defeated by her fearful insistence. She should have known that she was better in protecting them from afar. She mocked herself, failing to fulfil her promise with Gandalf by letting herself drown in her prophetic dreams. Otherwise, Frodo may have not been wounded.

It was three days after the incident were they greeted by a messenger from Rivendell, along with him several strong horses and ponies. Aragorn and Varilerin sighed in relief, receiving the rides that would at least quicken their dreading journey. The escort was unfamiliar to Varilerin, but she remained hidden under her guise as she help mount her friends on their rides.

Aragorn,” the escort greeted in the tongue of his people.

How is Arwen and the Halfling?” Aragorn asked the ellon.

They are alright. She arrived just in time to prevent him from completely fading. Lord Elrond has mended him. He is now out of danger,” the ellon answered with his melodious voice. At this Aragorn sighed in relief.

“What are they talking about?” Sam asked Varilerin.

“Your friend is safe, Master Gamgee. He is now mended and healed,” Varilerin informed Sam without glancing at him the slightest. She silently thanked the Valar for the success of Arwen and Frodo in reaching Rivendell, hoping in turn for their own journey to pass undisturbed.

The Hobbits simultaneously let out a relieved sigh, now their hearts no longer burdened with worry. Now with mounts, the company travelled faster under the day and night. The woods thickened as they went closer to Imladris, but the company didn’t feel dread no more. Varilerin had assured them that the woods they were about to enter were properly protected, preventing them from making any unnecessary remarks regarding their safety. When they had reached the borders of the valley, they encountered several rangers who showed them the path to Rivendell. Seeing the cloaked rangers, she was immediately reminded of her past and what would be waiting for her in Rivendell. The closer she got, the more painful her heart was beating. She remembered the forest too well, the branches and the green leaves. Ghosts of her and her friends leaping on the branches appeared. She stopped as she let the ghosts play with each other, reminding her of the better days which had once been her life, until all perished due to her own actions. She grimaced, shaking the ghosts away from her thoughts.

I shouldn’t have been here, she thought as she summoned the strength to pace her horse closer to the gates of Rivendell. I don’t deserve to be here. I should leave once the Hobbits and Aragorn are in safety.

But as the gates were now in vicinity, she couldn’t stop herself. Under the light of the rising sun, somehow the village called for her—to repent her faults or calling her home she didn’t know. She gripped the reigns tight, trying to unmount from her horse and return to her exile. However, her body stopped following her orders and remained unmoved. She winced once more before she finally arrived in front of Rivendell, where she would reunite with her painful past once more. She could not escape her memories now. The only path to take was to face them.

Chapter Text

Aragorn and his company were greeted by several guards standing cautious near the gates. They immediately recognized Aragorn’s identity, but questioned the other tailing him with sharp gazes.

Aragorn, we have expected you,” one of them said. “But not the others. We have been informed that the Halfling has friends with him, friends of his kind, but not the dark-cloaked ranger.”

“He is my and Gandalf’s friend. Surely, you would allow him to pass?” Aragorn replied. “He has been my comrade for days.”

“To let him pass is to let him show his identity,” the other guard said. Aragorn slightly glared at them to defend his ranger friend. He might have just been friends with him for only a week, but he could understand how the ranger respected privacy and his identity. He had once been like him as well, being an exile and keeping his true name secret. “Forgive us, Aragorn, but the time is dark. We cannot let a masked man, or hooded in this one, pass these gates.”

“Do not worry, Aragorn,” the ranger intervened. “I cannot hide myself forever,” he said again with his true voice. She stepped forward and pulled her hood and her scarf down to show her true appearance. The Hobbits and Aragorn almost immediately gasp when they saw the face of a beautiful elleth hiding behind her guise. At first the guards and the company were not convinced whether she was truly an Elf or not, for her skin was incredibly pale, pale like the moonlight. Her hair was dark like the night, short for Elves, and was tied into a loose ponytail with a single braid running down her left cheek. Her silver eyes were sharp and glimmering under the rising sun and her face was strong like Man. “Will you let a kin pass through?” she asked again with her real voice.

The guards were still taken aback by her striking appearance as they nodded, making way for their guests anxiously. Varilerin sighed and let the Hobbits, who were still looking at her in awe, into the safe haven. Strider followed the Halflings, stealing glances as he did so. Varilerin lastly followed behind them, trying to calm her trembling mind down as she got deeper into the place full of memories.

Rivendell had not changed much ever since she left it over a thousand years ago. Its gardens and buildings were still beautiful and magnificent, despite the looming darkness in the outer world. The pillars where she once played with Arwen were still standing tall, and the trees were still strong and protected the village from unwanted eyes. Memories she had been trying to suppress nevertheless flashed in her mind, brief but painful enough to pierce her heart. The place brought sadness to her heart. She had once been an elleth in Rivendell, and the place had been her home. She couldn’t deny that she longed to return to its shelter, but now that she was there, she hoped that she had left it before they entered the gates.

“Aragorn!” a familiar, gentle voice came from afar. Varilerin immediately recognised the voice and saw Arwen running towards them in a hurry. Varilerin tried her hardest not to be noticed by the elleth, only to fail miserably when Arwen stopped midway. Varilerin looked away as Arwen gaped at what she was seeing. Her eyes were not on Aragorn, not the Hobbits, but to the elleth standing in front of her.

“Varilerin?” Arwen muttered. The name pierced its owner’s heart, for she had not heard it coming from the maiden for so long. Arwen fluttered her eyes, thinking that they were deceiving her, for her old friend standing in front of her was like an illusion. She couldn’t believe that she was even alive, after so many years disappearing from her life. But there she was, transfixed to the ground as she tried to meet Arwen’s gaze. Her heart faltered, for Varilerin looked so different. Her hair was so short and her face dusty and rough. Her clothing was torn and ragged from long travels, and her face dark and gloomy. Nevertheless, Arwen knew who she was seeing. Those eyes were the same she had always admired, silver and pure like the starlight. “Varilerin!”

“I am sorry, I need to leave,” Varilerin said as she quickly turned away, but Arwen’s grip prevented her from walking further. She trembled terribly when her warm hands touched her cold ones. Varilerin merely stared at the ground as Arwen forced her body to face her. Varilerin couldn’t bring, or think of any words to say. In front of her stood her once best friend, who she had hurt because of her own foolishness. Directly facing her was the eyes of a person she had almost killed, and for which she forced herself to exile. Varilerin frightfully lifted her head to look at Arwen, her heart stopped beating when suddenly Arwen embraced her.

“Varilerin, where have you been?” Arwen cried. “I thought you’ve passed to the Halls of Mandos!” Arwen released her embrace, showing teary eyes to Varilerin which made her heart ache more. “Why don’t you bid me farewell? Why did you leave in the first place?”

“I’ve caused you too much pain, My Lady. I failed to protect you, almost causing your death. I am no longer worthy to stay in Rivendell,” Varilerin answered bitterly. Sadness overwhelmed her, but she had no more tears to shed. “I deserve my exile. I should not have returned to Rivendell either.

“Do not say that, my friend,” Arwen retorted gently, gripping Varilerin’s hands tight. “Your leaving me is enough to cause me pain. Loneliness is more aching for me than thousands of wounds.”

“Even if you want me to, My Lady, I cannot. My presence here is danger to you all. You have seen it—“

“No, my friend,” cut Arwen. “Your presence here is a gift to me, to all of us.”

A gift? Varilerin would confidently call herself a curse, a curse that would bring doom to them all. She might have been a gift once, until she shattered her own world and Arwen’s and Glorfindel’s with her own carelessness and failure. “I carry guilt that cannot disappear. I have no right to live in Rivendell again, yet alone stay with you,” Varilerin defended darkly.

Varilerin…”

That name is long gone, My Lady. I have changed. I am not the same elleth I used to be,” Varilerin continued.

You are still my friend, Varilerin!” Arwen insisted. “You are a gift to all of us here! Have you not wondered how bitter my life and Lord Glorfindel’s is without you?” The name of her master and guardian shook Varilerin. She remained silent. “You are his only daughter, Varilerin, and a sister to me. We do not care about the things you have done, things that should not have been your burden. All we want is for you to return to us.” Arwen desperately pleaded for her friend to stay, through eyes that now dropped tears. She wouldn’t let her friend go, not one more time. To her Varilerin was like a sister, a lifelong friend. When Arwen woke awake to see Varilerin gone because of a crime she didn’t commit, a suffocating emptiness filled her heart. For years she had believed that her friend would return, despite horrifying rumours that she was dead. Arwen had waited too patiently. She would not let her friend slip from her grasp anymore.

“And what if you are hurt once more?” Varilerin snapped, her voice trembling. “I do not want to see you like Ellain and Ruindoldir, Arwen. I do not want to see anyone suffer because of my curse.”

“If this curse is what caused you suffering and guilt, then I shall bear it with you,” Arwen said surely. Varilerin’s hard face faltered, emotion started to pour into her expression. Guilt washed her mind once more, but this time because of her decision of leaving Arwen. She knew when she left that her decision would hurt Arwen in many ways, but she did it for her own wellbeing. But Arwen still stood for her, waited for her to come how and believed that she was still alive. Arwen didn’t falter despite Varilerin’s disappearance caused her to lose so much hope. “Rivendell will always be your home, Varilerin,” Arwen said lastly. Varilerin was finally defeated as Arwen lastly embraced her. “If you change, then we will accept you once more. You are our kin, and will always be.”

Varilerin would definitely cry if she her heart was not as cold as it was now. Years of bitter travelling and surviving in the darkening world had dimmed the light in her heart. There were no tears nor sadness to utter, or gratefulness to say to her faithful friend. Varilerin had lost all the ability to speak her heart. But Arwen’s last embrace changed all of it. Somehow she provided her with purpose again, brushing gently all the harshness that had forged Varilerin into what she had become. She was gentler than the breeze and kinder than the sun. Finally all the stone in her heart loosened, shattering into pieces, and Varilerin smiled sadly and gratefully to Arwen, embracing her back. Warmth and kindness filled her sorrowful heart. Slowly she felt herself being home again. She could now comprehend the familiar smell of trees and wood. She could feel the warm air and the graceful wind. She remembered it all, her slightly happier past and the present.

Yes. Rivendell had always been her home all along.

Thank you,” Varilerin whispered, “for waiting this sorrowful friend.”

“You have no thanks to give to me,” Arwen immediately said, brushing her hair gently.

Arwen let her go when she heard footsteps coming. She brushed her tearful eyes and smiled back at Varilerin, whose rigid face softened as she eased from the tenseness of her journey. Varilerin turned to face the people approaching them, knowing too well the pattern of steps of one of their greeters, and drew a deep breath. Her heart was still not ready to face her guardian, for she had possibly dismayed him terribly when she left years ago.

Elrond and Glorfindel stopped immediately when they saw the elleth standing beside Arwen. They widened their eyes in disbelief. They must had been tricked by some witchery, they thought, but Varilerin’s eyes couldn’t deceive them. They were the same ones that had always watched over them for hundreds of years. Glorfindel knew too well. They were the same ones that had always searched him for protection and guidance. He froze to the ground.

Varilerin met the eyes of her master. She didn’t speak, nor did he. Words couldn’t describe the feeling that was overwhelming them both. They conversed in silence, and through a meaningful gaze. Varilerin finally realized how terrible she had missed the presence of her master and his smile; and Glorfindel had also longed to see his daughter once more.

Varilerin, My Daughter?” Glorfindel muttered in disbelief, stepping closer to her.

Yes Master. It’s I,” Varilerin muttered back. As he swallowed her words, Glorfindel’s lips slowly curved into a smile Varilerin had long not seen. It was too good to be true. The elleth he had been searching for years, whose name had strengthened him when he fought in the battles, was now in front of his own eyes. He skipped towards her without further thought and pulled her into his arms, smiling with joy and trying to hold back tears he had been keeping for hundreds of years.

Welcome home, My Child,” Glorfindel whispered. Varilerin couldn’t help but smile in his arms. She had never felt warmer before.

I am home, everyone.”


 

“So she is an Elf,” muttered Pippin as he sucked his pipe weed, eyes gazing aimlessly to a magnificent courtyard in Rivendell. “To tell you the truth, I am still suspicious if it is true.”

“Because she does not act like an Elf?” Merry asked. “Should I tell you that Bilbo is also different from ordinary Bagginses?”

“Our world is getting stranger every minute,” continued Sam. They were now sitting idly, smoking pipe weed blissfully as they waited for Varilerin to appear in the corridors. They had visited Frodo—who was seemingly alright—rested, and changed their clothes. Not knowing what they should do, they had decided to search for Aragorn to ask so many questions left unanswered. After the touching reunion they had seen, however, Aragorn had somehow disappeared from their vicinity, and so was Varilerin. It was peaceful and strange at the same time, not having a sharp and cold ranger constantly by their side. They didn’t exactly know the reason they were waiting for her, either missing her scolding or wanting to see her fair face once more. The Hobbits had been shocked to death when they saw her true appearance, having thought she was a man previously, and now they had a desire to study her beautiful face one more time.

Their prayer was answered when Varilerin appeared in the corridors with Arwen by her side. From afar the Hobbits could see that she had… somehow changed, though not as clear as the dawn. Beside the well-dressed Arwen, she stood like a warrior, but an elegant one at that. She was no longer wearing her worn out coat and cloak, but a silver tunic and grey leggings. She had switched her ragged boots with a new, smooth brown one that almost reached her knees. Her hair was now worn down, reaching just past her shoulders, with braids not feminine enough to show that she was actually an elleth. She didn’t laugh nor smile when she talked with Arwen, but they could see that she was slightly happier than before. It was proven by how unaware she was of them watching her, for she was usually acute and cautious of her surroundings.

“I wonder if in the past she had a better life,” Sam remarked. As if his words were heard by Varilerin, the elleth stopped conversing with Arwen and glanced to the Hobbits. They immediately jolted and directed their eyes away from her, but only rendered her suspicious of their intentions sitting idly in the courtyard. She immediately rushed to the Hobbits with a dimmed expression, with Arwen tailing behind her.

“I wonder, what are you all looking at?” Varilerin asked once she stood in front of the spies. Now that the Hobbits were seeing her up close, they saw that she had not changed really much. There was a shadow behind her eyes which was not caused by her lack of sleep the recent days; it had always been there ever since they first encountered her.

It seems she has not truly forgiven herself, the Hobbits silently thought as they tried to escape from her deadly glare.Arwen chuckled as she stood beside Varilerin. To the Hobbits’ surprise, Arwen and Varilerin looked similar with each other, the latter only differing slightly in her more rigid facial features. The fact made the Hobbits tense awkwardly under their gaze, unable to find the answer to her question.

“We are only wondering what you are talking about,” Pippin stammered. “You seem quite happy when you talk with each other.”

“Of course we are, Master Hobbit. She is my old friend, very old friend,” Arwen explained.

“And one of the very few I have,” Varilerin added emotionlessly.  “Including Gandalf, which reminds me and worries me at the same time. He should have been waiting us at Bree and, as far as I know, he should have been here by the time we arrived. Something is terribly wrong.” Varilerin’s eyes widened upon a horrifying realization.

“Gandalf went to counsel with the head of his order!” Varilerin muttered, her eyes terrified. “If something has gone wrong, it will be with Saruman the White, the head of the Istari. I should have known!”

“Saruman the Wise? He would do nothing to harm his own friend!” Arwen retorted. “Saruman has been our friend for many years, and is a member of the White Council. He would do no such thing!”

“Arwen—“

Suddenly she heard noise coming from the village gates, stealing all of their attention. Even from afar, she could feel the familiar strong presence that came through the arched gates. Her body moved on its own, her feet running towards the entrance of Rivendell.

Upon arriving, eyes full of wisdom and exhaustion glanced back at her. Varilerin felt a surge of happiness and terror at the same time. He looked very different than the last time she had seen him. His body was full of bruises and wounds. He stumbled as he made it past the gates, ignoring the helping hands the guards were offering for him.

“My Dear?” Gandalf whispered with a rasped voice. Varilerin froze to the ground, horrified of her friend’s appearance. The wizard stumbled to the ground, but Varilerin managed to catch his limping body just in time. “Varilerin. You have made it safe,” Gandalf said again, grateful.

“Gandalf,” Varilerin gasped in disbelief as she supported him to his feet. The wizard coughed as she did so, barely standing with his little strength. Varilerin could not imagine what he had gone through. She could only question him. “What happened to you?”

“That, I will explained later,” stammered the old man. “But first, we need to meet Lord Elrond. There is something important needed to be discussed, with you as well.”


 

“Saruman has sided with Sauron you say?” Elrond gasped in disbelief. Gandalf, sitting in front of him in the library of Rivendell, merely nodded. Varilerin gave Gandalf a cup of tea to soothe himself after the perilous journey. Glorfindel was leaning against a pillar not far. The audience waited for Gandalf to drink first and relax himself, having just survived Saruman’s torture by miraculously riding a giant eagle. Varilerin pitied him dearly, for his wounds had not been tended nor had he rested, but this meeting was more urgent. Apparently, both of them had equally dangerous trips to Rivendell.

“Yes, and he has for a long time,” Gandalf said weakly. “We have been blinded. Saruman has built a force on his own, enough to support, or to match Sauron’s soldiers. By foul craft Saruman has crossed Orcs with Goblin men, he is breeding an army that can move in sunlight and gather great distance at speed. Now he seeks to find the Ring as well,” Gandalf continued.

“Then the more hope is lost then,” Elrond said, his dark eyes filled with grief and disappointment. Saruman was a wise and a powerful ally for the free peoples of Middle Earth, but even the wisest could be possessed by the greed of power. Elrond shook his head. He had seen Saruman acting strangely in the recent years, but did nothing out of doubt. Now that Saruman was against them, it was too late. Not even Rivendell could protect the people now, with Saruman and Sauron joining forces to destroy them. “Our list of allies are growing thin. The odds are against us.”

“The Ring cannot stay here,” Glorfindel explained in Elrond’s stead, understanding the meaning in his eyes. “Rivendell is no longer safe. This evil cannot be concealed by the Elves.”

“This peril belongs to all in Middle Earth. They must decide now how to end,” Elrond continued. “The time of the Elves is over. My people are leaving these shores. Who will you look to when we’ve gone?”

“It is in men we must place our hope,” Gandalf answered surely, though in his voice was a hint of fear and doubt.

“Men! Men are weak!” Elrond exclaimed, standing up. “The race of men is failing. The blood of Numenor is all but spent, its pride and dignity all but forgotten. It is because of Men the Ring survives! It should have ended a thousand of years ago, this war, but Isildur allowed it to continue. Now look what we must endure!”

Elrond paused, catching his breath. Varilerin watched as calmness returned to his mind, but not his heart. Elrond had lived thousands of years, watching Men do unnecessary things that brought doom to themselves. It was reasonable for him to be hopeless to the mortals. “The line of Kings is broken. There’s no strength left in the world of Men. They’re scattered, divided, leaderless.”

“But the heir of Isildur still lives,” interrupted Varilerin. She surprised all of them, for she had rarely talked, even in an open discussion such as this. Varilerin paused when she saw their reactions, but continued, “Aragorn can unite them and reclaim the throne.”

“He turned from that path a long time ago. He has chosen exile,” Elrond retorted darkly. From his voice it was clear that he had lost hope on Aragorn, who had chosen to wander as a ranger rather than become a king of Gondor.

“But he has not forgotten the path,” Varilerin said. “I know it too well, Lord Elrond. I have turned from my home for a thousand years, walking aimlessly in Middle Earth, until fate brought me back here.” Varilerin paused, glancing at each of her the person in the library. They were clearly surprised of her answer, for she had never tried to convey her opinions before, yet alone speak freely. But Varilerin knew in this dire situation she must muster all strength she had, or else more would suffer from their poor decisions.

“I believe in Aragorn, and the world of Men,” Varilerin continued. “For I have the blood of Man as well. But they cannot do it alone.”

Elrond was bemused by her speech. For a moment she seemed far wiser than he, making himself ashamed of his words. Varilerin felt a surge of guilt climbing in her body and stepped back. “Forgive me if my words are improper,” she stammered slowly, thinking that she had spoken too much. Elrond shook his head almost instantly.

“No, My Child. I am truly wrong,” Elrond sighed, seemingly very tired by just speaking about the matter of the Ring alone. “For years I have spoken as if I am with wisdom, giving advices that would provide hope for those who counsel with me… But I myself have no hope in the world, in the smallest things that could change the tide of this war.”

“My Lord Elrond, if it is hope now that strengthens us, then we must gather all races to fight this war together,” Gandalf suggested, standing up as well. “We must end this together, and decide the fate of the Ring. If it is unsafe in even the safest haven in Middle Earth, it must be destroyed.”

“Yes, Gandalf, I understand,” Elrond said. “And for that I have summoned people representing each race. We are going to hold a council when all of them arrive.” Elrond smiled slightly, his face showing a hint of faith. “For this I want all of you to attend, Aragorn included.”

“All of us?” Varilerin muttered, shifting from her position. Her face clearly showed that she didn’t want to join the council. Glorfindel scoffed at her reaction, knowing too well that the elleth despite gatherings like a council meeting.

“Varilerin, you’ve travelled across Middle Earth in these recent years. You wield the knowledge of the lands and their conditions. Your wisdom would be of outmost importance for our cause,” Elrond explained. Elrond’s arguments were as accurate as her aim, breaking her defence almost immediately.

“Varilerin, you have to let go for this one,” Glorfindel advised with a grin. “And it will be a good opportunity as your first time in conversing with many people.” Varilerin threw a sharp glance to her mentor, understanding his intentions completely. Probably he was more interested in her sitting with a circle of people than her providing wisdom in the meeting. Glorfindel had always tried to push her into the proper manners of social society, though so far the efforts had mostly failed. Now that she was cornered by his gleeful intentions and the dire situation, Varilerin knew she could not escape.

“I’ll try,” Varilerin said reluctantly. Elrond and Glorfindel smiled together in response. Gandalf chuckled, happy that his friend had slightly changed. Varilerin scowled and left the floor where she had previously standing. As she tried to escape from whatever the three others now enjoying themselves, the arrival of Arwen in the room surprised her.

“Varilerin, where are you going?” Arwen asked, gaping. A grin curved from her lips when she saw her father’s expression. “Escaping to the woods again?”

“Varilerin cannot escape this time, Lady Arwen,” Glorfindel informed. “I have taken her weapons and told the guards to prevent her from passing the gates. She is now confined in this village, unable to disappear into the woods.”

“Good then. I now have a friend to greet the imminent guests,” Arwen said cheerfully. Varilerin instantly looked dismayed, seeking Gandalf for protection. The wizard at first ignored her pleading eyes, but then decided that after burdening her with protecting the Hobbits and the Ring, he should give her some credit.

“I believe it is more suitable for her to accompany me to visit Frodo,” Gandalf said. “I want to know in details what happened in their journey, and I also have forgotten this place slightly.”

“Liar,” Varilerin mouthed, but she nodded. “Farewell Gandalf, if it is your wish, I shall accompany you.” The wizard was merely playing with her, she knew, but to follow him was better than giving greetings to the guests. She would only be able to glare at them, not smiling at them. It would prove not well if she was to do that. “But first, you need to rest. I will help you heal your wounds.”

“Thank you, My Dear,” Gandalf said with a smile. Varilerin sighed and walked with him to the healing chambers. For the first time in months, her mind became slightly clearer and more peaceful.

Chapter Text

Frodo slowly awoke from his deep and painful sleep. His eyes brokenly fluttered as he tried to remember the events before he lost his consciousness. He remembered one of the Ringwraith stabbing him near his shoulder, and Daefaroth trying to push his way past his opponents. After regaining his memory of the events before, he glanced at his surroundings, surprised that he was inside a magnificent room. He at first doubted that he was in Rivendell, yet alone in the living world. Is this the afterlife? Frodo mused again when he saw Gandalf sitting by his side. Vaguely he saw a figure leaning against a post not far, both watching him as he tried to sit straight.

“Gandalf?” asked Frodo dreamily. “Gandalf is that you?”

“I see that you are confused,” Gandalf muttered. “Maybe you think that this is the land of the dead, but I assure you that you are still alive and well. You are in the House of Elrond and it is ten o’clock in the morning on October the 24th, if you want to know.”

Frodo heard a snort from the person leaning against the post. Fluttering his eyes again, he finally had a better view of the person eyeing him. He could not discern whether they are a female or male, but he knew they were fair, really fair. “Who is that?”

“Another thing I should explain to you,” Gandalf answered. The person walked closer, letting Frodo see her face clearly. It was rigid and cold, like the blade that had stabbed him, but somehow not hostile as it looked. “This is Daefaroth, the ranger who has watched over you throughout your journey.”

Frodo lost words to say. He clearly didn’t expect the stern ranger who had fought the Ringwraiths to be a female. “My true name is Varilerin,” Varilerin told the surprised Hobbits in amusement. “You are fortunate to be alive, Frodo Baggins. Morgul blade is a dangerous weapon, even to us the Elven kind, but Lord Elrond managed to save you. You should thank him later when you see him.”

“Speaking of the Morgul blade, I’ve heard that you’re wounded by one as well?” Gandalf instantly asked. “Aragorn told me. He said that it is no small scratch either.”

“Compared to Frodo’s wound, it is nothing,” Varilerin said, shrugging her shoulders.

“What happened Gandalf?” Frodo asked. “Why didn’t you meet us?”

“I was delayed,” Gandalf slowly explained. “Saruman, the head of my order, has turned against us. He held me captive in his tower, torturing me for information, for my cooperation. I managed to escape by the help of several friends, and find you here.” Gandalf paused, a smile crooked from his lips. “I have heard you have an amazing journey as well—“

Just as he ended his explanation, Sam barged into the room. Sam instantly smiled when he saw Frodo healthy and alive. “Frodo! Bless you, you’re awake!” Sam said, rushing and lunging at Frodo. Frodo received Sam’s embrace with a bright laughter, whilst Gandalf chuckled as he watched the touching reunion.

“Sam has hardly left your side,” Gandalf said. “And he is not the only one.” Frodo looked bemused, for Gandalf meant someone else other than the Hobbits that had travelled with him. He grinned when he realised who it was, leaping off his bed in excitement.

“Easy there,” Varilerin said, her tone still plain and cold like the usual, but with a hint of warmth. Frodo didn’t understand what had happened to her, but she seemed happier. It made him slightly comforted to see her well as well, after watching her brawling with several gruesome creatures at once. “Follow me,” she said as she touched Frodo’s shoulder, leading him out of his resting room. Sam and Gandalf joyfully followed the little Hobbits to the place where his family was waiting. A pair of familiar eyes stared back at him. Bilbo gave Frodo a smile he had not seen for a long time, one he missed dearly.

“Hello Frodo my lad,” Bilbo greeted, standing from his seat and stopped his writing. “Come here!”

“Bilbo!” Frodo shouted as he threw himself into Bilbo’s arms. Bilbo chuckled and tapped his back with kindness and love. “I miss you!”

“I as well,” Bilbo said lovingly. Varilerin and her friend watched the reunion from afar. “Daefaroth! It’s good to see you as well! You have gone in some adventures, haven’t you?”

“Indeed. It’s good to see you as well, Bilbo,” Varilerin said as she approached him. Bilbo insisted on embracing her despite her resistance, but she accepted his warm greeting not long after. His face seemed far older than the last time she had seen him. It was possibly the effects of not having the One Ring, she thought; but other than that the Hobbits seemed satisfied of his own travels. Letting the old man go, she noticed a book laying on the table nearby.

“You’ve finished your book,” Varilerin noted, opening the pages carefully. She marvelled over the Hobbit’s creation, revealing detailed accounts of the events that occurred in the Misty Mountains and maps as accurately drawn as the ones in Rivendell library. “There and back again, a Hobbit’s Tale,” she muttered sadly, for somehow the title touched a certain part of her heart.

“It’s wonderful,” said Frodo, who joined her. “Bilbo, you’ve made such a great work.”

“Thank you,” Bilbo chuckled, turning a significant page and showing it to her. “I’ve not forgotten to include you as well.” Bilbo pointed at Varilerin’s alias. She leaned down and read the page carefully. It recorded in detail everything that happened when she first encountered Bilbo, including her threatening him with her weapons when the Hobbit sneaked into Thranduil’s tent using his Ring. Varilerin smirked, reminiscing the strange way she had met the man. “I meant to go back,” Bilbo continued when he saw his drawing of Erebor. “Wander the paths of Mirkwood, visit Laketown, see the Lonely Mountain again. But age it seems, has finally caught up with me.”

Frodo’s bright smile slowly faded, feeling similar like his uncle. “I miss the Shire as well, Uncle. I spent all my childhood pretending I was off somewhere else… off with you on one of your adventures. But my own adventure turned out to be quite different,” Frodo said. He turned to Varilerin when he finished his sentence, giving her a meaningful look.

“Alas! You’re still young,” Bilbo sighed as he turned to Varilerin as well. “If I can be like you, Daefaroth, living long until my heart misses death, journeying whenever you wanted to.”

“And I envy you as well,” Varilerin said. “You are free to wander, whereas I cannot. Shadow always waited for me, trailing me like death.” Varilering glanced at Gandalf, who clearly showed his concern towards her. He knew that, despite having returned to her home, the elleth still had her dark past haunting her. She was the Shadow Hunter, and the shadow remained by her side. She might be changing towards her brighter life, but a single flick could also bring her back to her exile days.

“You are no longer Daefaroth, Varilerin,” Gandalf assured her, grabbing her shoulders lightly. “We must let go eventually. Do not let darkness control you forever.” Varilerin merely nodded, worrying the Wizard more, though she found it hard to follow his suggestion.  Gandalf forced a smile to encourage her, still hoping that his words would motivate her to leave her past and walk towards her brighter future.

“Speaking of old friends,” Bilbo exclaimed to break the glooming atmosphere. “I have learnt from Lord Elrond that several of ours are being invited. Guess who it is!”

“Judging from your face, it must be a member of Thorin’s Company,” Varilerin plainly guessed, raising her brows. “Balin maybe?”

“Oh, not Balin. He’s growing too old to get out from his own house. Gloin is coming! With his son Gimli!” Bilbo explained, eyes glimmering. “They come to represent Erebor, I’ve heard, along with several of the less friendly Mirkwood Elves… But it’s a great news, isn’t it?”

“Indeed it is,” Gandalf agreed. “It has been decades since we last saw those wee lads. I wonder how Gloin is doing.”

“That, you will immediately know, because they should have arrived by now—“ Bilbo stopped when he heard a commotion from the gate. Snickering now, he jumped from where he stood and rushed towards the entrance of Rivendell. Frodo couldn’t prevent Bilbo from running with his elderly body, barely keeping up with his pace as well. Varilerin and Gandalf tailed them, the latter interested with the guests Elrond had invited. She had expected several Dwarfs to attend, yes, but she had not expected a member of Thorin’s Company. She might not interact with Gloin too much back in Erebor, but the Dwarf was noisy enough to talk with her. She had made him an accidental acquaintance, one who would not be forgotten for decades.

“Gloin!” came Bilbo’s welcoming shout when she arrived at the gate. Varilerin smirked vaguely when she saw the Hobbits hugging the buff Dwarf as they chuckled madly.

“Little Burglar!” Gloin greeted, lifting the Hobbit high with his brute strength. Behind him his son, Gimli, watched in horror and marvel at the same time. Surely he had heard the stories about Bilbo from his father. Gloin immediately put Bilbo to the ground after his back suddenly sounded painfully. With a grimace Gloin chuckled once more. “Age has taken toll of me, lad.”

“And so have I,” Bilbo chuckled again, peering over Gloin’s short shoulder. Gloin fluttered his eyes when he saw Varilerin standing behind Bilbo. Bilbo immediately understood Gloin’s confusion. “This, my lad,” Bilbo said as he dragged Varilerin closer to Gloin. Gloin shuddered when he saw Varilerin’s face, fair but menacing. “Is Daefaroth, whose true name is Varilerin.”

“Da-Daefaroth?!!” exclaimed Gloin, his jaws open as if they were ready to fall from his head. Gimli also gaped once Bilbo stated her alias, much to her amusement. “You are the lad that helped us back there?”

“You’re welcome,” Varilerin said as she produced a small smirk. “Don’t expect me to be an elleth? I suppose it does not sever our strange friendship, does it?”

“No-no, not at all,” Gloin stammered, his cheeks flushing terribly red. If Varilerin was capable of laughing, she would do it now, for it was rare to see a Dwarf blushing when he saw an elleth. Elves and Dwarfs had an intense rivalry between them, thus it was rare to find a Dwarf so relaxed when facing an Elf. What surprised Varilerin more was Gimli’s reaction, for he was flustered and flushed a brighter shade of red than his father. Gandalf chuckled at the sight, and so was Bilbo.

“You two coming alone this far?” Bilbo asked, seeing an empty expanse laying behind the two Dwarf. Gloin instantly snorted, his eyes narrowing menacingly. “Oh, you don’t,” Bilbo said upon realizing that the Dwarfs had indeed not travelling alone. “Let me guess—“

“Enough of the guessing!” Gloin snapped, his cheeks still flustered with embarrassment. “I am tired lad. I need rest,” he said, as if he was in a hurry. Chased, perhaps, but Varilerin knew too well that would be chaos from the forest. Ignoring her accusing glare, Gloin continued, “Now, I need to hurry to rest, or I’ll—“

Suddenly came from the forest a group of cloaked figures, walking calmly and patiently. It seemed that he is not chased by anyone after all, Varilerin grimly thought as the approaching groups closed in. She studied them carefully, recognizing the authentic style of the cloaks worn by the travellers. “Mirkwood Elves,” Varilerin mumbled in understanding. “It seems you have quite a trouble in travelling with them, yes? Considering you have an unhealthy relationship with them in the past.

“Peace has come to us, but I will never forget how they lock us in their cages,” Gloin hissed. Gimli shared the same look as his father, almost replicating his features entirely with his frowning face. “And to make it worse, that Elven Prince who captured us is the one sent by that Elven King.”

“Legolas Greenleaf?” Gandalf guessed. “Well, it is not unusual for Thranduil to send his son as a delegate…” Varilerin shuddered, scanning the group for the said person. She and Legolas had unwanted and uncomfortable confrontations back in Erebor, and though she was now Daefaroth no longer, she still felt wary of Legolas’ presence. She stepped close to Gandalf to seek his protection when the Mirkwood Elves had entered Rivendell, being greeted by the guards politely. All of them immediately pulled back their hoods once they stepped their feet in the village.

“Gandalf,” was the first word Legolas uttered when he revealed his face, unchanged and still full of strength. He did not look tired, but his face was full of dread when he looked at Gandalf.

“Legolas Greenleaf,” Gandalf greeted. “I hope your journey is well? For my own is not as well as I hoped.”

“We did not encounter any obstacles, other than—“ Legolas paused when he received two menacing glares from the Dwarfs he had been travelling with. “Other than tiredness,” Legolas corrected himself, not wanting to brew a war with Gloin although he was very tempted to.

Varilerin raised her brow, and so did Frodo and Bilbo, wondering about the poor choice the Elves or the Dwarfs had made by travelling with their rivalling race. It was inconvenient enough for them to stand side by side, yet alone spending a long road together. Varilerin, too focused on the silent war Legolas and Gloin was waging, did not notice Arwen sneaking behind her.

“Ah, our guests have come,” Arwen noted, surprising and jolting Varilerin in process. She glanced at her accusingly, thinking that the elleth had a secret plan untold of, but Arwen merely smiled. “You must be Lord Gloin and Lord Gimli. Welcome to Rivendell,” Arwen greeted the two Dwarfs, who were once more mesmerized by the beauty of the Elves. Legolas sneered when he saw this, causing the two stout men to bow their heads quickly in return of Arwen’s elegant welcome.

“Thank you for your kindness, Lady Arwen,” Gloin said as politely as he was allowed to with his gruff voice. Arwen nodded and turned to the Mirkwood Elves. “And I welcome you and your company as well, My Friend,” Arwen said, turning to Legolas and greeting him in the manner of their kin. Legolas returned the gesture, erasing his previous sneer as fast as the wind.

“It is good to see you once more, Lady Arwen,” Legolas said, smiling. “Forgive me with the lack of proprieties, but I need to speak with your father immediately, concerning an urgent matter. I need Gandalf and Aragorn’s presence as well.”

“He is in the library, as usual,” Arwen told him. “Though I should apologize, for I need to escort the guests to their rooms. Gandalf, if you may?”

“I am sure I can escort you there,” Gandalf said to Legolas. “In the meantime, Varilerin, I need you to keep an eye on the Hobbits… You know what will happen when our eyes are not on them.”

“Building a campfire without permission. Yes, I will,” Varilerin said plainly. She stole a glance from Legolas, who was fortunately unaware of her identity as the Shadow Hunter, though Varilerin knew sooner or later Gandalf would tell him. He though, eyed her suspiciously and she immediately glanced away when she noticed him doing so. Nodding to Gandalf, she shepherd the Hobbits away and disappeared with Arwen, who with outmost propriety, escorted the guests to their rooms.

“I have visited this place many times and I haven’t ever seen her,” Legolas said to Gandalf as they walked to the library. Gandalf chuckled from under his beard, making Legolas confused. “What is it you’re hiding from me?”

“No, nothing,” Gandalf answered gleefully. “Except that she’s the Daefaroth who pointed an arrow to you and scolded your father.”

Legolas was bemused by Gandalf’s answer, his mind stirring into confusion. “What do you mean?”

To this Gandalf merely laughed.


 

“Relax Pippin. Peaceful mind is the key to win your battle.”

“How can I be peaceful when I am fight—“

With a single, careless step Pippin slipped to the stony ground, with Merry’s sword hanging close to his neck. Pippin screamed and immediately crawled away like a terrified animal and Merry merely laughed to the top of his lungs. Sam and Frodo joined his laughter once Pippin stopped in front of Varilerin and she hit him with her mighty hand.

“I thought you want to learn how to wield a sword,” Varilerin sighed, pulling Pippin up to his cowering feet. “And yet you cannot even not panic.”

“Come on Pip! Be a man!” Merry teased him joyfully. Pippin scowled and patted his pants from dust while Varilerin picked Pippin’s forgotten sword lying on the ground next to him, sighing again. It had been several hours since Pippin and Merry requested her to train them the way of the sword, reasoning that they wanted to protect themselves in case dangers happened again. She didn’t refuse, for she knew that it was the only way to keep the two troublemakers in her vicinity. Frodo and Sam had decided to stand watch, laughing whenever Pippin was defeated by his cousin. 

“Tired?” Varilerin asked as she handed the sword. Pippin, despite the waterfall of sweat that poured from his forehead, shook his head confidently. “Good. Now repeat again with patience and peaceful mind, or I will switch with Merry to be your opponent,” she continued sharply.

Pippin instantly nodded, frightened of sparring with her again. She was his first opponent and it didn’t end well. Pippin and Merry resumed their training, this time the former gaining slight control of his mind and body. Varilerin glanced towards the direction of the library, where Legolas had been having a meeting with the wise men since he had arrived in the village. Whatever they were discussing, it must hold a high degree of importance.

“I don’t know you like teaching,” Varilerin heard Glorfindel’s voice coming from beside her and she jolted. “It seems your senses are numbed when you returned home.”

“Which is why I need to go to the forest right now,” Varilerin hissed, her straight face filled with signs of annoyance. She turned to Glorfindel, studying his always joyful face. “What happened?” she asked, knowing that he had always had intentions whenever he came to her out of nowhere.

“Once Frodo awoke from his sleep, Erestor immediately arranged a feast for the night,” Glorfindel hummed cheerfully. “He noticed that all of the council attenders have arrived today, so he prepared a grand dinner for all the guests…” Glorfindel winked at her and Varilerin finally understood his intentions.

“No, not in a million years,” Varilerin told Glorfindel.

“Consider it as a welcoming party for you as well,” Glorfindel persuaded with his sweetest tone. “And it is an obligation, since you are also part of the council.”

“You have never said it as an obligation,” Varilerin retorted, scowling.

“Well… It is important to build friendship within the council members,” Glorfindel explained. “Furthermore, even if you refuse this request of mine, Lady Arwen will also urged you. Force you maybe and I am sure she is more difficult to resist. It will be better if you accept the invitation now.”

Varilerin stayed silent, pondering over Glorfindel’s request. She had attended a feast with the Dwarfs decades ago, but she was not surrounded by many people at once. She talked with only Gandalf and Bilbo, a little with anyone else perhaps, but she didn’t converse together with all of them. What made Rivendell’s feast worse was the fact that they would be sitting together in a large table, so closely to each other. Varilerin doubted she could survive even a single minute.

“You’ll sit beside me, Gandalf, or Arwen,” Glorfindel assured her. “Just once Varilerin, then I will not ask more of you,” Glorfindel pretended. Varilerin narrowed her eyes suspiciously, igniting anxiety in Glorfindel’s vessel. “Please?” Varilerin winced when her master said the last word with cat eyes.

After a long moment, Glorfindel was relieved that Varilerin said, “Fine,” shortly. Glorfindel’s smile grew wider, for he saw that his daughter was different than when she first returned to Rivendell. “Good, very good. I will meet you here once the sun has set, properly dressed of course.”

“Do not expect me to come dressed like Arwen,” Varilerin said. “It is only a feast, not a party. I will come as proper as I deem to.”

“Fine, fine,” Glorfindel said, tapping her shoulder lightly. “Continue your training then. Oh, dear Halflings, you are invited to the feast at night as well,” Glorfindel said, careful not to mention the council meeting to them. Merry and Pippin instantly stopped their training and looked at Glorfindel enthusiastically, causing him to laugh more. “It is a gift after your long travels. See you then!” Glorfindel finally said, skipping away from the group. Frodo glanced at Varilerin, who seemed grumpier than usual.

Finally the doors of the library were opened, with Gandalf first stepping out of it. Behind him followed Legolas, Aragorn, and then Elrond the last. Varilerin moved from where she had been standing and approached the wizard, who looked distressed like the other people following him.

It is a poor news Legolas has brought then, Varilerin thought as she confronted the wizard. “Gandalf, what has happened?” Gandalf drew a deep breath, giving Legolas a look to assure the ellon that Varilerin ought to know what they had been discussing. Legolas turned away, choosing to talk further with his friend Aragorn, though he stole glances from the elleth. Gandalf had told him that she was Daefaroth, doubting him slightly, but now that he had seen her, he was assured that those silver eyes were the same ones that glared at him back in Erebor. He shuddered slightly when her silver eyes flashed towards him.

“Gollum has escaped the custody of the Silvan Elves,” Gandalf whispered to her. “Aragorn captured him some time ago and I interrogated him for information regarding our enemy or the Ring to no avail. Legolas informed me that two months ago Gollum escaped, leaving no traces. He feared that he was captured by Orcs.”

“Which was why the Ringwraiths know the Ring is in Shire,” realized Varilerin. “What else?”

“He brought us news from Lothlorien as well, which in turn received words from Rohan. It says of evil growing in the Land of Horse Lords. Saruman’s influence, I am afraid. If we do not act quickly, Sauron and Saruman’s power will surely grow.”

“Then it is imperative for the council to decide the fate of the Ring tomorrow,” Varilerin sighed. “This is worse than I thought.”

“Indeed it is,” Gandalf said again. “Though it is worse to hear Glorfindel laughing when we were discussing important matters.” Varilerin scowled when Gandalf chuckled. “I will see you in the feast tonight, Dear.”

“How did you—“ She could not ask him further as Gandalf had disappeared with Elrond into the corridors, leaving her with the Hobbits. Frowning, she turned her attention back to the now brawling Merry and Pippin. Cunning wizard.

Chapter Text

Glorfindel merely smiled when he saw Varilerin, grateful that she fulfilled her promise, though he was slightly disappointed with her appearance. Roughly said, she did not change anything from her appearance back in the afternoon. Glorfindel even suspected that she even changed her silver tunic.

“Surely you can do better for your first feast in Rivendell,” Glorfindel remarked as Varilerin arrived in front of him. Varilerin frowned, directing her eyes to her tunic, which Glorfindel had just realized was more extravagant than he had expected. Judging from the vine pattern that embedded the silk and the way Varilerin’s hair was meticulously braided, Glorfindel knew that Varilerin was not the one who chose the outfit. “Let me guess… Lady Arwen helped you prepare yourself?”

“I have told her it is unnecessary,” Varilerin informed him, scowling. “But Arwen is too persistent. I hope that she is here so that I can punish her.”

“However, she has done well. You look magnificent,” Glorfindel said. Varilerin looked unimpressed. With a last grin Glorfindel and the frowning Varilerin began to walk towards the dining hall. Varilerin was careful to let Glorfindel walk in front of her, for she didn’t want to gain too much attention from the guests. Her efforts bore fruit, for when they arrived in the dining hall, none of the estranged guests seemed to observe her or even notice her. Glorfindel, apparently, was kind enough to help her by diverting the guests’ gazes and offering Varilerin a chance to take a seat beside Gandalf.

“I didn’t know you dress, My Dear,” Gandalf chuckled. “But I should say that you look fitting in your outfit. An Elf should not look like a deserter.”

“Funny,” Varilerin said, noticing Glorfindel taking a seat beside hers. He was grinning suspiciously, causing Varilerin to shudder out of anxiety. She couldn’t ask him the reason, for Elrond interrupted her by starting the feast. The peredhil opened the dinner by raising his cup of wine high, and the others followed properly. Everyone drank along with Elrond, while Varilerin followed slightly later. She winced when she tasted the drink, for she had never drunken alcoholic drinks before. Alcohol was forbidden for rangers as it caused them to lose their sight and cautiousness.

After a painstaking effort finishing her wine, she put down the cup and glanced around. The feast had begun, which in turn ignited conversations among the guests. The hall became noisier as the night got older, the Dwarfs and Bilbo particularly the noisiest of all of them. Varilerin remained quiet as she ate her meal, constantly noticing people stealing glances from her. Arwen was sitting across her, sending her a smile and a look that urged her to converse with others. Varilerin avoided her gaze and pretended to drink from her empty cup.

“Why are you not talking with the others?” Gandalf asked after a while. He studied her sombre expression, slightly changed from the cold one she had but still hard and rigid. She shook her head, merely watching Arwen laughing from afar with sad eyes. Her face darkened again, returning to the same state before she returned to Rivendell. “You have not forgiven yourself fully, haven’t you?”

Varilerin was not surprised by his question, though she still diverted her eyes from his. “Some things are meant to stay forever,” Varilerin answered, closing her eyes. “And to me, guilt is one of them. It cannot leave my heart and soul, and I am afraid it will linger for the rest of my life.”

“Dwelling in the past is not a good thing, Varilerin,” Gandalf advised her. “The shadow of guilt can only slow you from the future. You may not be able to see it, but I see a brighter future awaiting you, My Friend.”

“Yet I have not seen a promising future in my life,” Varilerin said with a mocking smile. “With my gift I can only see terrible things…” Varilerin stopped and looked at Gandalf. “I suppose after knowing my past, you must have thought that I should have faded long ago?”

Gandalf was taken aback by her question. It was true that Elves were considered immortal, but they could in fact fade to sadness and grief. Arwen’s mother, Lady Celebrian, had almost faded completely after the torture she experienced hundreds of years ago. But Celebrian had sailed to the Undying Lands and therefore had survived from the evil that threatened her heart. However, despite the tremendous guilt and shadow that dominated her heart and soul, Varilerin did not fade like most of her kin. It might account to the fact that she was not pure Elf, though Gandalf knew a better reason. “Because you have vowed to protect Lady Arwen at all cost,” Gandalf answered slowly, eyeing the said elleth from afar. Varilerin nodded, returning her eyes to the table. “But My Dear, what if Lady Arwen has found peace? She has chosen Men over Elves, you know this, so what would happen if she was to die?”

“I don’t know,” Varilerin silently answered. “I have not thought about it. I would probably fade into darkness; and I cannot join the Elves to the Undying Lands, for many reasons.”

“Oh, Varilerin, fading is not the best path to take,” Gandalf said sadly. “Do you think Lady Arwen would be pleased for you to die? You deserve better, My Dear.”

“I wonder,” Varilerin whispered. “As long as Arwen finds happiness, I am contented.”

“I am sure you will find your own happiness, Varilerin,” Gandalf assured her, desperately. “And it is not fading, I assure you. You deserve better after all your hard work.” Varilerin forced her faintest smile, before she stood from her seat. “Leaving so soon? Is it because of our conversation?”

“Not really,” Varilerin answered. “It is just that I am not really used to this… noisy situation; and I am tired. I should get some rest.”

“To think that the renowned Daefaroth can even suffer from exhaustion,” Gandalf said rather too loudly, causing a pair of unwanted eyes to be drawn towards them. The wizard chuckled when he saw Legolas throwing them a glance, while Varilerin glared at Gandalf, unimpressed. “But it is fitting, for you have travelled far. Though, it is disappointing for you not to join us in the Hall of Fire. The others would surely tell interesting stories.”

“I have heard and seen enough from my journeys. Furthermore, I would only be a nuisance in the Hall of Fire,” Varilerin answered surely. She pushed her seat before she bowed to Gandalf and Elrond, who had been eyeing their conversation from the side. “Goodnight, Gandalf. I wish you enjoy your stories.”

“Goodnight as well, dear friend,” Gandalf said as he watched her disappear into the darkness, like a shadow in the night.


 

Varilerin had no nightmares or dreams that night, much to her delight and surprise, but she woke before the sun even rose from the horizon. She had taken her rest on the branch of a tree at the back of her room. It was the best rest she had so far, though it did not erase her exhaustion completely. Unlike pureblood Elves, she was required to rest in the form of sleep, though less than Men in general. She fluttered her eyes, before she lightly leapt off the tree. As far as she observed, none had awoken from their sleep. Gandalf and the Hobbits would probably still be sleeping, as were Arwen and Glorfindel. It was too early for them rise, for the sky was still dark and quiet.

Varilerin wandered in the corridors of Rivendell, which had not changed in its beauty and glory ever since she left them. She did not remember most of them clearly, except for one. The hall where Narsil laid remained the same like the others, but Varilerin found the hall still more interesting than the others. The difference it held was a statue standing on the garden in its centre, of a beautiful woman carved in stone. Varilerin studied the statue, feeling a strange significance in it. Something about it pulled her interest dearly.

“Who’s there?” a voice came from behind her. Varilerin was immediately alarmed and turned towards the figure lurking behind her, cautious and ready for whatever dangers the person posed. Varilerin first thought he was her mentor, until she saw his face clearly. It was fair, like Glorfindel’s, but more stern and serious.

“Le-“ Varilerin paused and drew a calm breath. “Lord Legolas, “she corrected, “it is strange to find a person other than me awake at this time.” Legolas seemed surprised when he heard her calm answer, and the cautious stare from her eyes. He remembered those silver marbles clearly.

Forgive me for interrupting you,” Legolas answered as politely as he could, now remembering what the harsh scolding she had uttered to his father in the most improper manner. “But back in Mirkwood, no, Greenwood I am also a ranger. It is not strange for me to be awake in this hour.”

“I see,” Varilerin muttered. Varilerin could not find any more words to say and returned her attention to the statue. She looked transfixed like the monument, Why out of all times should I encounter this man? I would rather be pointed an arrow-

“She is Gilraen,” Legolas said suddenly. “She was Aragorn’s mother. I have seen her before. She is a kind and strong woman.”

I see,” Varilerin plainly said, halting their conversation once more. Legolas’ information brought a strange thought to her mind and Varilerin rubbed her necklace. I wonder if mother is also a kind and strong woman. I wonder if her sacrifice for me was worth her life. She deserved better. “I assume that you are in the Council as well?” Varilerin asked without facing him, though she knew too well that the prince would be there surely.

“Yes,” Legolas shortly answered before he paused. “I have a question for you….Are you really the Daefaroth that I encountered in the mountains?” he asked, a hint of hesitation in his voice. The unmoved elleth slowly turned to look at him, only to surprise him with a menacing grin carved on her fair face.

“What do you think, Son of Thranduil?” Varilerin said in the tongue of Men, adding a sharp tone in her reply. “I will see you in the Council, Lord Legolas.” Varilerin was utterly satisfied by his confused face, walking past him like a shadow which had never been there. It took Legolas several seconds to realize she was no longer there. He stood frozen to the ground, trying to comprehend what he had just experienced, while the elleth who had been conversing with him wandered silently in the corridors once more.

The sun finally greeted Rivendell, and the time for the Council finally arrived. Once a communal breakfast had been held, all the council members went to the hall where they had been told to gather. Elrond had been waiting for them, sitting in the seat of honour, accompanied by Glorfindel and Gandalf by his sides. Varilerin took a seat beside her trusted friend, across Aragorn in the corners, and next to Frodo and his uncle Bilbo. She was one of the first to arrive, seeking refuge beside Gandalf as she studied the arriving councillors. There were Dwarfs, Elves, Men, and Hobbits in a single circle. One of them caught her attention, for she did not see him in the feast the night before.

“He is Boromir of Gondor, son of its steward Denethor,” Gandalf told her. Varilerin nodded as she continued to eye the man. “He arrived here in the middle of the night, exhausted and burdened with a prophecy that dominated his and his brother’s dreams lately.”

“I know his brother Faramir from my last visit to Gondor decades ago, but I have not seen him before,” Varilerin told the wizard, frowning. “Something about the man bothers me. He is honourable like Aragorn, but a great shadow lies in his eyes. His presence is disturbing my conscious mind.”

“Your judgement might be true or wrong,” Gandalf said, himself studying the warrior. “But your feelings are rarely wrong.”

Varilerin nodded, finally watching Boromir taking a seat along with the others. She twitched her feet nervously, anxious of the people gathering around her. Almost all of the strangers looked at her curiously and suspiciously, for she stood out from the others as a female. It was rare to see a female joining an important council. Arwen, perhaps, would be fitting, but for a stranger like her it was strange and uncomfortable. Varilerin could see fear and suspicions in their eyes when she stared back at them.

Elrond rose from his seat when he saw that all the members had taken their seats. His eyes were serious and depressed, knowing that what they would discuss that morning would likely determine the fate of Middle Earth. All attentions were drawn to his figure, standing tall and graceful in the circle.

“Strangers from distant lands, friends of old,” Elrond started, his voice deep like the mountains. “You have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Each race is bound to this fate, this one doom,” Elrond continued, his eyes now scanning the council gravely. After a momentary pause that tensed all the members, he turned to Frodo. “Bring forth the Ring, Frodo.”

Upon the peredhil’s order, the Hobbit rose to his feet. He swallowed a handful of anxiety as he fumbled his pocket. Slowly he took the One Ring out and put it on the stone plinth in the middle of the circle. Instantly the council eyed the object intently, all except Varilerin. She diverted her eyes away, struggling not to wince as she sensed the darkness emanating from the Ring. It was too close, so close such that she could hear whispers coming from it. Gandalf and Elrond noticed this, but they could not do a single thing for her. The Ring must be shown to the council.

“So it is true,” Boromir said, snapping Varilerin from her struggle. Varilerin widened her eyes, for she saw in him a growing darkness. She tensed her body, cautioning her senses and muscles, suspecting his intentions. Boromir stood up, calmly looking around the circle. “In a dream,” Boromir started. “I saw the Eastern sky grow dark. In the West a pale light lingered. A voice was crying, ‘your doom is near at hand’.” As Boromir told this, he slowly walked closer to the stone plinth. Varilerin was now alarmed, and so was Gandalf and Aragorn. Gandalf tensed and clutched his staff tightly, waiting for the man’s next move. “Isildur’s Bane is found,” Boromir muttered as he unconsciously continued his steps. His hands were now reaching out to take it, and the council froze to the depths of the earth. “Isildur’s Bane….”

Varilerin suddenly felt the darkness in Boromir’s heart blooming, and her body moved on its own. It ignored the harsh warning Elrond gave as he stood up, and Gandalf rising from his seat with his staff. With the speed of a warrior she prevented Boromir’s fingers from touching the Ring. Varilerin shuddered when she realized what she had done, only to tremble when Gandalf walked towards Boromir as he chanted deeply and furiously.

Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gibatul, ash nazg thrakutuluk, agh burzum-ishi kripatul!” Gandalf chanted. A shadow seemed to grow behind him and his dire voice shook the circle. The Elves closed their eyes as the words echoed, but Varilerin stood still with Boromir’s hand in her grasp. Her silver eyes met his, warning him with her deadly glare.

Do not dare,” she told him in Elvish. Boromir was immediately snapped from his trance and pulled himself away, looking horrified. Varilerin remained on her ground, whilst Gandalf’s voice stopped echoing in the hall. His darkened heart returned to its innocent state, but Varilerin still glared at him coldly. She did not care for the eyes that were now watching her, for the Man had proven that he was hiding a shadow indeed. She slowly stepped away from the Ring, not sparing it a glance, before she returned to her seat. Gandalf was breathing heavily as he sat once more, giving her a thankful glance.

“Never before has anyone uttered words of that tongue here in Imladris,” Elrond said as he looked at Gandalf.

“I do not ask your pardon, Master Elrond, for the Black Speech of Mordor may yet be heard in every corner of the West!” Gandalf responded sharply. “The Ring is altogether evil.”

“It is a gift!” retorted Boromir, who was still under the influence of the Ring. Varilerin twitched her feet, warning her not to take any step closer to the plinth again. “Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe. Give Gondor the weapon of the enemy, let us use it against him!”

“You cannot wield it,” Aragorn intervened. Boromir turned to face Aragorn, mocking him with a scowl that ruined his fair face. “The One Ring answers to Sauron alone. It has no other master. It has brought to us only dangers and doom. The Hobbits have experienced it, so have Daefaroth and I,” Aragorn continued, glancing at Varilerin.

“And what would a ranger know of this matter?” Boromir shot back.

“He is no mere ranger,” Legolas said as he stood from his seat. “He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the heir of Isildur.” Boromir was taken aback by this information, but he scoffed.

“The heir to the throne of Gondor? Hah, Gondor has no King. Gondor needs no king,” spat Boromir. Legolas looked unamused, so was Varilerin and Gandalf, though the former said nothing about it.

Sit down, Legolas,” Aragorn suggested, calming the urge in the ellon’s blood to shoot Boromir. Legolas obeyed and stepped back from the battlefield, giving Elrond a chance to speak his mind.

“Aragorn is right. We cannot use it,” Elrond said. “You have only one choice. The Ring must be destroyed.”

Silence engulfed the council, because of the previous events and Elrond’s words. Elrond knew in their heart they wanted to take advantage of the Ring’s powers, and in his heart he had the slightest intentions to, but he had seen enough. The cursed weapon must perish from the world once and for all.

“What are we waiting for?” exclaimed Gimli as he came forth with his axe. Elrond tried to stop him, but failed when Gimli swung his weapon to the Ring. The weapon ultimately broke to pieces and the Dwarf himself thrown several feet away. The Council gasped in horror as the Ring remained unmarred, much to what Elrond had expected.

“The Ring cannot be destroyed, Gimli son of Gloin, by any craft that we here possess,” Elrond explained calmly. “The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom. Only there it can be unmade. It must be taken deep into Mordor and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came.”

He paused, looking at the frozen council members. They all knew what Elrond was going to say next.  “One of you must do this.”

“One does not simply walk into Mordor,” Boromir said, breaking the brief silence ensuing in the council. “Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep and the great eye is ever watchful. Tis a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust. The very air you breathe is poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly.” Varilerin didn’t dare to interrupt Boromir’s speech, for she knew that his words were true. She had walked along the borders of Mordor several times in her life, and without Sauron declaring his return as the Eye she could feel darkness lingering in the land. It was the same feeling she had with the Ring, and the Ringwraiths.

Legolas stood up, his face angered and furious. “Have you heard nothing Lord Elrond has said?” he exclaimed, pronouncing the thought Varilerin had had. “The Ring must be destroyed!”

“And I suppose you think you’re the one to do it?” Gimli retorted harshly.

“And if we fail what then?” Boromir added, standing from his seat. “What happens when Sauron takes back what is his?”

“I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an ELF!” Gimli shouted, jumping to his feet. Immediately the Mirkwood Elves stood beside Legolas, aiding their kin, while Boromir joined their debate with Gimli. Gandalf shook his head before standing up to end their argument, or so it seemed, for the argument got worse.

“Do you not understand that while we bicker amongst ourselves, Sauron’s power grows?” None can escape it! You’ll all be destroyed!” Gandalf said angrily. Varilerin shuddered when Gandalf joined the argument, but remained in her seat. If Gandalf could not do anything to stop the men from debating, Varilerin had the more reason to stand down. Not far, she could see Aragorn and Elrond sighing. She frowned, wondering if the council was indeed comprised by the wisest of the races. As she watched the others bickering, she noticed Frodo acting strangely beside her. His blue eyes lookedas if they were in pain, both directed towards the Ring lying idly in the centre.

“Frodo?” she asked him. The noise must be causing her voice to fade, but she knew that Frodo not hearing her was not because of the noisy crowd. Frodo slowly stood from his seat and suddenly stepped closer to the debating men. Varilerin could not move, nor prevent the Hobbits from saying words she didn’t want him to say.

“I will take it!” Frodo said, his voice sure and stern. “I will take the Ring to Mordor!” he repeated, this time louder and clearer. The crowd instantly died down, turning to the Hobbit. Varilerin winced and Gandalf closed his eyes in sorrow, knowing that those words would now put the Hobbit into an inescapable fate. Bilbo widened his eyes, but could not do a single thing to prevent his nephew. “Though,” Frodo continued in the terrifying silence,” I do not know the way.”

Gandalf slowly opened his eyes, and looked at Bilbo. The inevitable remains inevitable, he said through his gaze. “I will help you…. Bear this burden Frodo Baggins, as long as it is yours to bear,” Gandalf slowly said, walking towards the Hobbit and standing behind him. Everyone remained bemused by Gandalf and Frodo’s actions, until Aragorn moved from his seat and knelt in front of Frodo.

“If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword.” Aragorn stood up and joined Gandalf, giving him a confident smile that gave a strange hope to the council.

“And you have my bow,” Legolas added, joining the fray. Gimli was surprised by the ellon’s declaration and snorted.

“And my axe!” Gimli said as he skipped to Frodo’s back, beside Legolas who looked at him lowly. Boromir eyed the small company with dark eyes, before he stepped in the circle.

“You carry the fate of us little one,” Boromir spoke grimly. He looked at all the members of the council. “If this is indeed the will of the Council, then Gondor will see it done.”

Varilerin watched as the captain joined the company. There was a strange feeling vibrating through her body when she saw the company, a strong urge beating in her heart. Slowly she stepped closer to the company, and then her silver eyes met theirs. They looked at her, their gaze questioning her intentions. She stood still for a moment, trying to find words. She knew her master, Lord Elrond, and possibly Arwen were watching her from afar. She felt as if Arwen was talking to her mind, telling her not to go.

“If this journey can free Middle Earth from the evil of Sauron… and release me from the guilt of my failure in the past, I shall help you,” Varilerin said as she bowed to Frodo. “You have my shadow as your protection, Frodo Baggins.”

Frodo was startled by her words, but somehow found the courage to smile. Varilerin nodded and joined the company beside Gandalf, who was giving her a smile of pride. She met the eyes of Glorfindel, deep and sad of her decision I care not, Varilerin assured herself. This is the only path left to take. I know I am fated to take this path, she told her master as their eyes locked with each other. Glorfindel closed her eyes and finally smiled, acknowledging her decision. Then it is the best for you, My Child.

Mr. Frodo’s not going anywhere without me!” suddenly Sam’s face boomed, startling all of them. Out of the shadows ran Sam, leaping to the circle. He stood awkwardly beside Frodo, who gave him a confused look.

“No indeed it is hardly possible to separate you, even when he is summoned to a secret council and you are not!” Elrond sternly said, causing the Hobbit to stare the floor in embarrassment.

“Wait! We’re coming too!” Merry shouted, emerging from his hiding place with Pippin. They ran past Elrond like wild boars before they joined Sam in the company. “You’d have to send us home tied up in a sack to stop us.”

“Anyway, you need people of intelligence on this sort of mission…. Quest…. Thing!” Pippin added with a wavering voice.

“Well, that rules you out Pip,” Merry teased him. Pippin shoved Merry’s ribs, causing him to chuckle.

Elrond gazed at the strange company with fascination and wonder. A group of unimaginable individuals had lined in front of him: Four little Hobbits, an heir to Isildur, a son of a Gondorian Steward, an Istari, an Elf, a Dwarf, and a peredhil. Elrond sensed a strange doubt coming from his heart, but seeing them altogether somehow gave him enough hope to smile. “Ten companions….” Elrond’s smile grew wider as he stood to his feet. “So be it! You shall be the Fellowship of the Ring!”

The name echoed in the hall, giving each race a new hope for the future. They studied the queer company tentatively, sensing that they could be entrusted with the fate of Middle Earth. All of them nodded in agreement, and let the Fellowship be truly formed under their acknowledgement.

“Great!” Pippin exclaimed when he noticed this. “Where are we going?”

The next thing the Hobbit remembered was a fist smacking his head.

Chapter Text

The Fellowship was to set out at dusk. Until then, the members were to prepare themselves well. At noon Gandalf, Varilerin, and Aragorn had discussed the best route to take, for they were the travellers of the company. Gandalf was to lead the Fellowship, with Aragorn as second in command. Varilerin had no say in this decision, for she did not want to become a leader despite being far more experienced than Aragorn.

Varilerin was now struggling in finding her master, for her weapons and equipment had all been apprehended by the Elf. She could not find them in the barracks, thus it was only possible that Glorfindel was hiding it somewhere in the rooms. When she finally saw him in the Hall of Fire, she swore she had a killing intent running in her veins.

“Varilerin!” Glorfindel greeted cheerfully as he waved his hands. The gesture merely boiled Varilerin’s blood and she pulled her own master from his seat to his feet. She glared at him and extended her hand.

“Forgive my impoliteness, Master, but I am afraid I have lost my weapons. Surely you know their place?” she said as calm as she could, forming a deadly glare with her eyes. Glorfindel merely chuckled and pushed her hand away. “Master, I should be leaving in a mere several hours and thus I need my weapons.”

“Surely you can use anything else?” Glorfindel retorted, only to be frightened by Varilerin deadly scowl. “Fine, I am just teasing you. You haven’t change, have you?” Glorfindel gestured for her to sit and wait, before he disappeared to the corridors. Varilerin sat alone in the hall, trying to comprehend how her master could be so relaxed about the matter.

Not long after, Glorfindel returned with a bundle covered in cloth in his hands. Her weapons, she presumed, had not been ‘harmed’ by her master. “There you go,” Glorfindel said as he laid the bundle on the floor. Varilerin knelt beside it and carefully uncovered the folds, revealing her blades, the same gifts Elladan and Elrohir had given her for her coming of age. She missed the brothers, though unfortunately they had been sent to the Dunedain rangers for an errand. Her knives and quiver were still there as well, much to her relieve-

“Master, where is my bow?” Varilerin asked sharply. She turned to her master for answers, but the ellon merely whistled in ignorance. “This is not the time for jokes, Master Glorfindel. Where is my bow”

“I am not joking,” Glorfindel said. “Your bow has disappeared, that I sure know. You no longer need it.”

“What do you mean?” Varilerin asked, knowing a hidden intention behind his voice. Glorfindel smiled when he saw she understood. To her surprise, Varilerin had not noticed him holding something behind his back.

“The bow is no longer worthy for you,” Glorfindel said. “You have grown into a wise elleth, wiser than many, and thus I have decided to give you this.”

Glorfindel revealed to her a bow which blinded her eyes. It was truly beautiful, long and carved from silver wood which glowed like the moon. Flowers and birds were engraved on the bow and its string glinted like the stars. Varilerin was mesmerized, for she had never seen a weapon so beautiful.

“I made this specially for you,” he said, handing the bow to her hands. She received it as if she was receiving a fragile glass, her eye studying it in fascination. It was so light, yet strong. “Its string is made from Elven hair,” Glorfindel added. “Mine, specifically. Just to remind you that I am always there for you.”

“Master, I—“ Varilerin was interrupted when suddenly Glorfindel pulled her into his embrace. She froze, but Glorfindel’s warmth melted her.

“I cannot believe I need to see you off again,” Glorfindel said. “But I am proud of your decision. Be safe, for your journey is full of danger.”

“I will,” Varilerin whispered, her voice faltering with inexplicable emotion. “Thank you, Ada.”

“You have always been my daughter, Varilerin,” Glorfindel said. “This quest will bring you many changes, I know this. One of which I wish for your heritage to be discovered.”

Varilerin pulled herself slowly from Glorfindel. “I care no more about my heritage, Ada, for you are my father.”

Glorfindel smiled sadly, brushing her single braid which fell to her cheek. “I pray for your safety return, Varilerin. You have my blessings.”

“Thank you for your blessings, Ada.”


 

Varilerin was second to arrive at the village gate, only to be preceded by Gandalf. She wore the same attire she had been wearing in her travels, though this time it was newer and more comfortable. Arwen had taken the pleasure to dress her as she pleased, a simple farewell gift from the lady. Varilerin was given a grey tunic which was covered by another black tunic, as well as black leggings, leather bracers, and a belt with pouches filled with herbs. She was given a new, black cloak by Glorfindel to accompany her new bow and old weapons. Her hair was once more tied into a ponytail, with a braid hanging loosely on her left cheek. She had chosen to keep using Gandalf’s scarf, which hid her mother’s necklace safely beneath it.

Return safe,” Arwen said to her curtly, before she embraced her friend one last time. Arwen obviously was reluctant to let Varilerin go, for she had been away from her grasp for too long. However, Varilerin had no choice. She had chosen the path for her future, unless this time she won’t be alone.

“I will eventually return to my travelling appearance, I assure you,” she said to the wizard when she saw him studying her new look, before she pulled up her hood to shadow her face. Arwen laughed faintly before she excused herself, returning to Elrond, who was bidding farewell with Aragorn. Perhaps Arwen was saddened more than the others, for she was to let go 2 of her most precious friends. Varilerin could not find any elleth with much stronger heart and soul.

Not long after the others began arriving, all ready and equipped with their weapons. The Hobbits also wielded their own swords, smaller and certainly in better quality than the ones Aragorn had given to them. Once all of them had gathered, the Elves of Rivendell as well as other guests stood in front of them to bid farewell. Varilerin noticed Arwen beside Elrond, while Glorfindel and Bilbo stood far behind. She nodded lastly at Glorfindel before she shifted her attention to the peredhil.

“The Ring bearer is setting out on the quest of Mount Doom,” Elrond started. “And you who travel with him, no oath nor bond is laid to go further than you will. Hold to your purpose and may the blessings of Elves, Men, and all free folk go with you.” Elrond raised his hand and gestures for them to leave. Varilerin bowed to the Elven Lord before she turned to Frodo, waiting for his move.

“The Fellowship awaits the Ring bearer,” Gandalf explained. Frodo glanced at the other members anxiously as he drew a long breath. He then began his step away from the gates, accompanied by Gandalf walking behind him. He strengthened his own resolve as he took his first steps in the journey, assuring himself that he could do his task until its end,

The Fellowship thus began their journey out of Rivendell, towards the dark depths of Mount Doom. Gandalf led the company to the South, towards the Misty Mountains, where he and the rangers in the company had hoped that their journey remained secret. Legolas took the role as the scout, walking in front of Gandalf, while the Hobbits walked in the centre with the protection of Gimli and Aragorn. Varilerin walked behind Boromir, acting as the back eye of the group. At first this decision was clearly objected by the Hobbits, but Varilerin had managed to assure them that she could be as keen as Legolas.

As the day passed and the journeyed farther, a certain trust developed among the Fellowship. Habit, might be the correct word to describe their strange trust. Meals were to be cooked by the Hobbits, while the warriors would be taking watches. Varilerin and Legolas, who had Elven blood running through their veins, took the longest watch when the others were resting. At this time Aragorn and Boromir would teach the Halflings how to fight, a role Varilerin gratefully handed to the warriors after her bitter experience with Merry and Pippin back in Rivendell. Gandalf would sometimes discuss their routes and paths with Varilerin or Aragorn, who had a wide knowledge of the lands in Middle Earth. Gimli the Dwarf, meanwhile, had taken the liberty to erase the boredom ensuing during their rests by bickering constantly about their exhausting journey. It did not bother the only female too much, but it certainly seemed to irritate the ellon.

It took them several days before they finally walk below the Misty Mountains, among the vast plains of glittering grass. After the tremendously painful walking for the Hobbits, they finally stopped for a rest close to large stony ruins. Sam immediately did his job and cooked their meals, while Merry and Pippin trained with Boromir, under the watchful eyes of Aragorn. Gandalf once again found himself being complained by Gimli, but didn’t pay too much attention and instead smoked with ease. Meanwhile, Varilerin secluded herself on top of a single rock, sitting idly as she watched the horizon with her sharp eyes. She had maintained her quiet behaviour in the Fellowship, but found herself frequently forced to join conversations with Gandalf and Gimli. The others joined their struggles to make her talk, though she had mostly managed to end all of their efforts with a death glare.

Even as she tried to daydream away from the noise Merry and Pippin’s swords was creating, she still noticed Legolas lurking behind her.

“I wonder what you are doing,” Varilerin muttered, sure that Legolas was surprised behind her. She turned to face him. “Well, are you going to say something, Legolas?”

“No, it is something trivial,” Legolas stammered. “I come here to utter my deepest gratitude.”

“For what cause?” Varilerin asked, her face plain and straight like an arrow. “I don’t remember owing you a thanks.”

“For saving my kin a hundred years ago,” Legolas continued, his voice now calmer. Varilerin tilted her head, finally remembering the horrifying event in the past. She winced away, trying to brush the memories from her mind, but they only lingered and gave her the images of Ellain and Ruindoldir. “Are you alright?” Legolas asked.

“It is my pleasure to help you,” Varilerin replied calmly. “Though I request for you not discuss my past anymore. What has passed is a memory, it should not linger in the present.”

Legolas was bemused, for he saw that she lost her composure when she talked about her past. He was urged with curiosity, but refrained himself to respect her. “Forgive me. I shall not do it again.”

“Thank you,” Varilerin said. She nodded gratefully and turned her attention to the training Hobbits. The Hobbits were so far so good at their swordplay, she noticed, but their small stature was not suitable for swords. Daggers would perhaps be more suitable, she thought as she continued to watch them with folded arms. Daggers, why do the weapons poke my mind?

“Tauriel,” Varilerin blurted unconsciously. She realized too late to silent her lips, for Legolas was now standing beside her, marred with suspicions. “Tauriel,” Varilerin continued, stammering. “How is Tauriel?”

“You worry about her?” Legolas asked, his tone suspecting and accusing. His action was not questionable, for Varilerin had no specific connections with Tauriel. As far as the ellon knew, Varilerin merely fought with Tauriel decades ago, and only for a brief time. But using her judging skills, it was enough for Varilerin to learn Tauriel’s overall behaviour and skills, including her pains and struggles as a Silvan Elf.

“She fought with me and suffered… a deep pain after the battle in Erebor. The thought passed by.” Varilerin coughed to ease her anxiety, but failed to when the ellon instead studied her with his freezing blue eyes.

“She is well,” Legolas answered briefly. “But the pain never disappeared. She could not stay in the forest with the scar in her heart. She has chosen to sail from Middle Earth.”

Varilerin was surprised by this information. Tauriel was a strong elleth, as far as she had seen, both in body and soul. But it seemed a broken heart could not be healed so easily. “It is for her best, for she is a kind elleth,” Varilerin muttered under her scarf. She focused her attention back to Pippin, who was now engaged in a skilful fight with Boromir.

“Yes,” Legolas said. “Tell me, Varilerin, Will you sail to the Undying Lands when all of this ends?”

“What an interesting question. Where did you get the idea to ask this? Surely you don’t really mind a random peredhil’s decisions.”

“I am just asking for an opinion, since I myself have not come to a decision,” Legolas defended. “But judging from your response, I see that you have not decided yet.”

“There you have it, the answer,” Varilerin stated. “I do not have yet the solid reason to leave Middle Earth. This is the place where I was born and grow. There are sufferings and pain, yes, but they make this place beautiful.” She paused, realizing she had just talked too much. “I believe you haven’t chosen as well?”

Legolas nodded and joined her eyes in watching the Hobbits’ training, feeling himself satisfied with the brief conversation. It was a strange conversation, but somehow the ellon felt comforted with it. Most times, whenever they scouted or took watches together, she would not talk. Even when she talked, it would be because Legolas was the one asking. He did not like such a quiet atmosphere and had always tried to make her speak her mind and heart, but found himself failing most of the times. Fortunately, this time he had succeeded. He smiled at this achievement and amused himself with Pippin’s battle performance.

“Move your feet,” Aragorn said. Pippin finished his sparring with a single strike, before Boromir stepped back to take a breath.

“You look good Pippin,” Merry remarked.

“Thanks,” Pippin said, before Merry clashed with Boromir. Varilerin continued to watch them, until suddenly a strange feeling trembled through her body. She immediately stood up and glanced around cautiously.

“What’s wrong?” Legolas asked, garnering the attention of the company to her. Varilerin did not answer and instead continued to search he surroundings.

“Found something, Lass?” Gimli asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered unsurely. There was no other movement on the ground, so she shifted her attention to the sky. For a moment she doubted if the strange feeling was a premonition of an unfortunate event, but it was for the best for her to be sure. Then, she caught a wisp of black cloud closing their distance.

“Argh!” Pippin shouted when Boromir accidentally hurt his hands.

“Sorry!” Boromir said, trying to look at Pippin’s hands. The Hobbit turned to Merry for defence, but found his friend’s attention somewhere else. He stayed silent, much to Boromir’s surprise, so the Man himself studied the others.

“What is that?” Sam finally asked, now seeing the wisp clearly.

“Nothing, it’s just a wisp of cloud,” Gimli guessed without further thought.

“That’s not a cloud,” Varilerin said as she scrutinized the objects. The uncomfortable feeling bugging her grew stronger.

“It’s flying here fast,” Boromir observed. “Against the wind.”

“Crebain from Dunland!” Legolas warned. Varilerin widened her eyes when she saw the same as Legolas and turned to the others.

“Hide! Now!” she ordered, leaping from the rock where she had been standing and helping Sam turn off the fire. The others scampered immediately, taking the bags to their possession and herding Bill away from the open plain. Varilerin stamped the fire off before she lastly led Sam under the rocks, waiting for the birds to pass by. Above them flocks of black crows flew in circles, their eyes she knew were searching for them. Despite their hiding, Varilerin knew that they had been found by the spies. They were spies of Saruman, birds trained to see more than ordinary men could see.

The birds circled the ruins for a long moment, before they finally left the company slowly. When Gandalf saw that all the birds had flown far enough, he emerged from his hiding place, sighing. “Spies of Saruman,” Gandalf said. “The passage south is being watched.” Gandalf turned and laid his eyes on the snowy mountain range beyond.

“Caradhras,” Varilerin muttered. “Gandalf, it is too risky.”

“We have no choice,” Gandalf said to her as he turned to the rest of the company. “We must take the pass of Caradhras!” he told them. Varilerin remained silent as the wizard led them to the snowy mountain, caging a soundless worry in her heart.


 

The great white slopes of Caradhras extended beyond them. The snow was deep and cold, freezing the Hobbits to their bones. They had been travelling several days towards the mountain. The path to the mountain was terribly harsh for the Halflings and Gimli, for they were often sunken into the deep snow. They would then look at Varilerin and Legolas in envy, whose feet allowed them to walk lightly on top of the snow. The sight delighted Varilerin slightly, though she was still concern by the more dangerous path lying before them. Caradhras had been known to be treacherous to its passers, mainly to Dwarfs and Elves, and Varilerin was sure the Fellowship was no exception.

The Fellowship finally reached the base of the pass of Caradhras and white was all they could see. The Hobbits walked with their maximum struggles on the snow, their large hairy feet now not an advantage to their pace.

“At this pace we will never reach Mordor,” Boromir told Varilerin. She snorted as she watched the Hobbits’ efforts. Frodo was in particular more exhausted than his kin, for he was bringing the Ring. Without the others’ knowledge, the Ring was burdening the Hobbit dearly. Varilerin knew this too well, for even without getting close to it she could feel it disturbing her mind and soul.

Frodo’s exhaustion finally took him out, and he stumbled to the snow. The Hobbit rolled downhill like a ball, but Varilerin managed to catch him before he rolled out of their sight. “Frodo, are you alright?” Frodo asked him quietly as she patted his head from snow. He nodded weakly and lifted his hand to check for the Ring. His eyes widened, for he discovered it was not there.

“The Ring!” he exclaimed in panic. He looked around the snow to search for the small object, then found it several feet away, close to Boromir. Varilerin tensed and moved her hand to one of her knives, watching Boromir kneeling down to the Ring and picking its chain up. He lifted it close to his face, staring at it with fascination.

“It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over a small thing,” he muttered as he raised his other hand to touch the Ring. “Such a little thing….”

“Boromir!” Aragorn reminded with his deep voice. Boromir immediately snapped to reality, shuddering slightly. He looked at Aragorn, and then to Frodo, as if he was utterly confused.

“Return the Ring, Boromir,” Varilerin told him sternly. Boromir’s gaze was empty for a second, then he scoffed.

“As you wish!” he said as he walked to Frodo and gave the Ring to him. Frodo snatched the object as fast as he cold and put its chains around his neck once more. Boromir was still eyeing Frodo as if nothing had happened. The Man rubbed Frodo’s curly black hair. “I care not,” he said again with a grin, before turning back from the Hobbit to follow the others.

“Thank you,” Frodo whispered to Varilerin, before he let himself go from her and joined the line of other Hobbits. Varilerin sighed and tailed Boromir, her eyes constantly watching his movements. She pondered over her action just earlier, how she quickly searched for her weapon although Boromir was not an enemy. Back there, she felt him as a threat, not an enemy. She had felt a darkness growing in his heart, again. She feared that the man would harm Frodo, so her body moved on its own.

He is a comrade and an honourable man, Varilerin reminded herself, but decided to keep a cautious eye on him. A day later they started climbing the mountain, towards the pass of Caradhras, where unfortunately they were constantly hit by strong storms. At nights they would find shelter, or anything that could shelter them, and made a small campfire with outmost efforts. The snow storm that occurred each night worsened as they further travelled. The Hobbits froze to the cold, slowing down their pace further. The wine Elrond gave them managed to warm up the Hobbits, but it soon dwindled into a few drops.

This is not looking good, she mused as they continued their journey. The snow had run so deep that Frodo and his friends could not continue further. Aragorn and Boromir was forced to make a path from the snow, while Legolas and Varilerin scouted the area with their keen eyes. The snow storm was worsening, making Boromir’s and Aragorn’s efforts worthless.

“Cuiva nwalca Carnirasse.” The voice was faint, but enough to twitch the two Elves’ ears.

“There’s a fell voice in the air!” Legolas told Gandalf as they both looked up. The chanting continued, getting louder and stronger. “Gandalf!” he shouted.

“It’s Saruman!” Gandalf answered. The storm grew wilder and stronger with the chanting. Suddenly a crack was heard above them. Gandalf looked up to see chunks of rocks falling in front of them, threatening the scouting ellon. He managed to dodge in the nick of time, tumbling back.

“He’s trying to bring down the mountain!” Varilerin heard Aragorn shouting. “Gandalf! We must turn back!”

“No!” Gandalf retorted as he raised his staff to fight Saruman. “Losto Caradhras, sedho, hodo, nuitho I’ruith!” Varilerin grunted

“Gandalf! We cannot sta—“ Varilerin widened her eyes in horror when she saw a great streak of lightning hitting the top of the mountain above them, sending an avalanche of snow on top of the Fellowship. Varilerin quickly ran towards Gimli, who was exposed openly to the avalanche, pulling him back just in time. She shielded the Dwarf with her back as more snow fell on top of them, drowsing her into darkness. The others suffered the same fate and were buried under the heavy snow.

Varilerin exerted force to her muscles and wriggled herself free from the caging snow. Her head emerged to the top first, before the others’ joined her head. She immediately looked down and lifted the almost buried Gimli up to his feet, before she stepped out of the sea of snow.

“Thanks, Lass,” Gimli grumbled, letting her know that he was fine. Varilerin nodded and skipped to the Hobbits, helping them escape the cold tragedy.

“We must get off the mountain!” Boromir shouted as he struggled to free Merry and Pippin. “Make for the Gap of Rohan and take west road to my city!”

“The Gap of Rohan takes us too close to Isengard!” Aragorn retorted, helping Frodo up.

“If we cannot pass over the mountain, let us go under it! Let us go through the Mines of Moria!” Gimli advised. Gandalf was intricately confused with their suggestions as Varilerin helped him up.

“Gandalf,” Varilerin muttered. “As much as I hate this, there are only two choices left. The mountain is too treacherous.” Gandalf stood silent for a moment, his brows burrowing. There were indeed only two choices left: one to take them closer to the Sauron’s Istari, and the other taking them into the darkness.

“Let the Ring bearer decide,” Gandalf declared. All the members turned to Frodo, still shivering under Aragorn’s protection. He pondered for a second, before he looked back at all of them weakly.

“We’ll go through the mines,” he decided. The decision struck the warriors of the group like lightning, but Gandalf remained calm in the terrifying condition.

“So be it,” Gandalf said curtly. “We shall go to Moria.”

Chapter Text

Varilerin had spent countless years in darkness, as a ranger and an exile, yet the darkness awaiting the Fellowship feared her like a looming death. She had never felt fear gripping her soul before, for not even her own death terrified her. But the mines they were approaching emanated a strange shadow from afar, even when she could not see them. Long had the people from Moria were heard in the ears of travellers, which signified an unfortunate thing occurring in the caves. Varilerin was not the only one wary of this, though she was the wariest one.

“Varilerin?” Aragorn asked as they made their way to the doors of Moria. “You seem disturbed. What is wrong?”

“Ask that to Legolas and Gandalf,” Varilerin answered briefly, her hands constantly rubbing her weapons. “Something about those mines frightens us, probably you and Boromir as well. It is not like the Black Riders or the Ring, the feeling I get, but something else. It is dark and malevolent, but similar.”

“As far as I have seen, everyone seem frightened enough with this idea,” Legolas added, now walking beside them. “Except for one…”

“I hear that!” Gimli grumbled from afar. Legolas smirked and so was Aragorn. Varilerin sighed. Indeed, the Dwarf was the only one excited in entering Moria.

“There is evil there,” she ended shortly, quickening her pace so she would walk beside Gandalf. The old wizard was talking to Frodo quietly, though she could hear what they were speaking. Gandalf seemed to notice her arrival and slowed down his pace so she could hear him clearly. When she closed their distance, Gandalf glanced at Boromir.

You feel it as well, I see,” Varilerin said in Elven tongue. “But he has been calm. Do not worry, I am constantly watching him.” Boromir shifted slightly, as if he felt them talking about him. Varilerin and Gandalf had been wary of the Man ever since their first encounter in Rivendell, for he had shadows and faint malice behind his eyes whenever he got close to the Ring. Varilerin had taken the liberty to watch him, in case he dared to do things without their consent, but so far he had been idle.

“I have the feeling you come to me not to talk about the captain,” Gandalf guessed. “You worry about the cave we are about to enter.”

“There are shadows in Moria, Gandalf. It disturbs my mind,” Varilerin told him. “You know my feeling is rarely false.”

“I know, but we can no longer turn back, My Dear,” Gandalf said calmly, hiding any worry in his mind. The path they were walking became darker as the sun was setting, seemingly supporting her idea. He studied her face, which was weary and dimmer than the one in Rivendell. It was clear Varilerin had regained her strength and herself when she returned to her home, though currently she looked similar to the state she had in her exile. It worried the Wizard, especially since the current journey was more difficult and painstaking. “You seem tired?”

Varilerin shook her head, but winced slightly. “I might be an Elf for several hundred years, but the human blood in me gives me less strength than my kin; furthermore, this darkness is threatening.”

“Then why do you stay in it?” Frodo asked, overhearing their strange conversation. Varilerin tilted her head, not understanding his question, and so Frodo continued. “Why do you refer yourself as the Shadow Hunter and travel in darkness?”

“I hid in it, but I do not like it,” she answered curtly. “There is a saying that to defeat an enemy is to know one. It is what I have been doing in my exile. Though, now that Sauron’s malice is growing, I cannot assure the success of this method.”

“But you managed to protect us,” Frodo said gratefully, forming a sincere smile.

“You were stabbed,” Varilerin retorted grimly Frodo smiled and shrug his shoulders lightly. “And it was mostly because of me lowering my defences.”

“At least I am alive,” Frodo said without further thought. His carefreeness shook Varilerin terribly with surprise and disbelief. “And for that I must say thank you.”

Before she could respond, the base of the mountain was finally visible to their naked eyes. “The walls of Moria!” Gimli muttered, pointing towards the sheer flat cliff face before them. The Hobbits were slightly amazed, though the others were less than impressed. The Dwarf skipped his way past Varilerin and Gandalf, arriving first at the bottom. Varilerin followed silently behind, eyeing the lake which encircled the walls.

“Dwarf doors are invisible when closed,” Gimli said, tapping his axe to the wall.

“Yes Gimli! Their own masters cannot find them, if their secrets are forgotten!” Gandalf added, scrutinizing the wall to find their entrance,

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” teased Legolas, unimpressed. Gimli grumbled under his beard, but remained silent to his remark and continued to search the door. Varilerin and the others arrived as Gandalf rubbed a part of the wall covered in vines and moss.

“Ah, now…. Let me see… Ithildin,” Gandalf muttered, brushing away the dirt which covered it. The Fellowship was amazed when they saw a pattern carved onto the stone, faint but clear enough to their eyes. “It mirrors only starlight and moonlight.”

The moon, as if bidding Gandalf’s words, revealed itself from the covers of the clouds. A soft light shone upon the patterns. Slowly they glowed under the moonlight, revealing further words carved delicately on the arch of the door. The sight took all of them amazed, and even the lone female was mesmerized by the craft of the entrance.

“It reads the door of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak Friend and enter,” Gandalf read.

“What do you suppose that means?” Merry wondered.

“Oh, it’s quite simple,” scoffed Gandalf. “If you are a friend, you speak the password and the doors will open,” he explained, raising his staff to the doors. “Annon edhellen, edro hi ammen!”

To everyone’s dismay, the door didn’t flinch. It stood still and cold, glowering at them proudly. Gandalf stepped back and huffed, wondering where he had gone wrong. “Well, there is always another,” Gandalf said when he saw the others’ disappointed looks. He chanted another spell in the tongue of the Dwarfs, as loud and clear as before. But the door didn’t move, still towering them like an arrogant guard.

“Nothing’s happening,” Pippin whispered to Varilerin. She raised her brows to convey the same thought. Her old friend rarely failed in chanting spells, or opening doors, which meant that Gandalf had not the slightest idea on how to open the Dwarfish door. But she did not say a word, for she saw that Gandalf would only explode in his distress.

“I once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves, Men, and Orcs….” Gandalf grumbled to himself.

“What are you going to do then?” Pippin asked bluntly.

“Knock your head against these doors Peregrin Took and if that does not shatter them, then I am allowed a little peace from foolish questions!” Gandalf shot back furiously, causing the Hobbit to be silenced in an instant. “I will try to find the opening words,” Gandalf grumbled weakly, continuing his effort in chanting spells of language Varilerin no longer recognized. She smirked at Gandalf’s reactions and turned away, letting the wizard busy himself with the unmoving wall. Her eyes laid on the tranquil lake, dark under the night. Not far Aragorn was letting Bill go, for caves were not pleasant places for ponies. Sam was not pleased by this, though he could not prevent the ranger from releasing the steed.

“Tell me, should we refrain from going to the nasty mine, or should we go into it faster?” Boromir asked her, his face full of worry and tiredness. Varilerin faced him, questioning his intentions to suddenly talk to her. He was, so far, the only one who had not dared to converse with her. Possibly because she herself threatened him with her presence, or that he was born quiet. “The lake is disturbing me,” he explained hesitantly.

“There is always something hidden behind tranquillity. Literally or figuratively,” Legolas remarked as he too observed the waters. Varilerin flinched, understanding well his last words, which referred to her own self. “Varilerin, what do you think?” Legolas asked.

“Now I am the advisor?” she asked, not believing that she was now conversing like normal people with the two. Glorfindel might be right about the quest bringing forth changes to her, though she did not expect herself being noisier as a part of them. But the lake was indeed disturbing her mind. It was not an objective thought now, for she had been feeling uncomfortable as they started their journey to Moria. Nevertheless, the two men seemed to force her to convey her thoughts however ridiculous or subjective they were.

Before she could even speak, however, she heard rocks splashing the surface of the water, sending ripples all over the lake. Narrowing her eyes, she looked at the direction where the rock was thrown, finding Merry throwing another pebble.

“Do not disturb the water,” Aragorn advised, holding the Hobbit’s hand. Merry immediately nodded and put down the stone he was holding, joining Pippin in his scolded state. Aragorn sighed and joined the warriors’ watch, his eyes glancing warily at the water.

“Right, I should tell you that the water is not undisturbed now,” Varilerin finally explained. “Something is there, something malicious. I hope Gandalf opens the door quickly.”

Frodo, as if he was inspired by Varilerin’s words, suddenly stood up. He studied the writings on the door before he approached Gandalf, who had given up with a loud grunt. “It is a riddle,” Frodo told him. “It is not a spell all along. Gandalf, what is the Elvish word for ‘friend?” he hastily asked. Gandalf was confused, but a bright realization immediately came upon his head.

Mellon,” he muttered. The door immediately creaked, jolting the other Hobbits and members. Varilerin and the watchers instantly turned to see the large stone door opening, showing an endless darkness of the mines. Gandalf chuckled and patted Frodo’s shoulders, awarding him with his achievement, before he took his staff and approached the entrance.

“Your prayer has come true, My Friend,” Legolas whispered to Varilerin. She rolled her eyes and tailed them to the mine, just behind Frodo and Sam. She had not prayed the door to be opened, but it was better than being threatened by a silent lake. Even with her keen eyes and her usual life in the dark, she could not see anything within vicinity. The thought of entering the eternal darkness shook her, and poked her with a critical question.

Where are the lights? Where are the people?

In front of them Gandalf put a crystal on top of his staff and blew it to a soft glow. “Soon, Mr. Elf, you will enjoy the fabelled hospitality of the Dwarfs!” Gimli boasted to the ellon. “Roaring fires! Malt beer! Red meat off the bone!” Gandalf ignored the Dwarf’s useless speech and continued to blow his staff alit. When he deemed the brightness enough, he lifted it high to clear the road. He narrowed his eyes, trying to catch any path, but found himself unable to. He urged Legolas to stand beside him, before he took another step into the mines.

“This, My Friend,” Gimli said now to Varilerin, who was equally uninterested with his stories, “is the home of my cousin Blin! And they call it a mine! A mine!” Gimli suddenly stopped when he heard a crackle from his feet. He widened his eyes as he lifted his boots, revealing a glowing skull of a Dwarf. Varilerin alerted her senses and immediately scanned her surroundings, only to find more skulls and rotting corpse encircling them.

“This isn’t a mine!” Boromir warned. “It is a tomb!”

“NO!” Gimli howled as he knelt beside a corpse. “NO!”

Legolas ignored the Dwarf’s grief and instead pulled out an arrow from one of the corpse. “Goblins!” he cursed, throwing the arrow away and strung his own. The Fellowship began moving backwards in panic, fearing what might welcome them from the infinite darkness would treat them the same as the dead Dwarfs. Varilerin drew her bow as well and pushed the Hobbits backwards, sharpening her sense for any impending danger.

“We make for the gap of Rohan,” Boromir muttered furiously. “We should never have come here!”

“Get out. Get out!” Varilerin ordered, pushing the Halflings away from the entrance. They shivered in terror, finding their legs disobeying their commands. Frodo’s suddenly left the ground, lifted high to the air by something powerful and unseen. It was too late for him to grab the others, and soon his body too was in the air. He screamed in horror as his wee figure was swung freely in the sky.

“Varilerin! Boromir!” Merry shouted for help, unable to act as he watched his cousin helpless and afloat. Varilerin instantly turned, watching in horror as Frodo’s body was controlled by a tentacle spouting from the water. She caught Frodo’s pleading eyes before she ran towards the lake, ignoring the numerous limbs now threatening the Fellowship. Legolas and Aragorn drew their bows and shot at the tentacles, whilst Boromir struggled in protecting the other Halflings and Varilerin dashed to save Frodo.

With her nimble feet she dodged every single limb, drawing one of her swords to cut open one which targeted her. She looked up, trying to think of a way to save the Halfling, now drawn farther from the shore. Gritting her teeth, she assembled all of her courage and strength to save the Hobbit with only one possible choice left.

Valar, help me,” she prayed before she leapt to one of the swinging tentacles. She caught it with her hand and held on to it as if her life and Frodo’s depended on it. She was almost dropped when, from the waters, emerged a horrifying creature with a mouth large enough to swallow a Troll. Frodo’s screams grew louder, and time grew short. Varilerin forced herself to swing from the tentacle and onto the next, trying to reach Frodo with all her might. But the limb holding Frodo was too nimble, and hers was trying to shake her off. With her last bet and courage, she swung herself to Frodo and raised her sword. Her body moved on its own and she landed onto Frodo hard, gripping his body to prevent her own fall. Without further thought she slashed the limb off from its main body, dropping her and Frodo down to the shallower waters. She shielded him and let her back hit the hard ground, grunting painfully as she tried to regain her vision.

“Varilerin!” Aragorn said, extending his hand and helping her afoot. She limped to stand and quickly dragged Frodo away from the merciless beast, which was suffering from the arrows Legolas had been shooting.

Legolas! Aim on the head!”  Varilerin rasped when she was close enough. Legolas did not need her to repeat and immediately fired his arrow directly to the creature’s skull, igniting a growl of agony from it. He was not spared a moment of victory, for his strike merely sparked the creature’s anger and causing it to approach the entrance in a great speed.

“Into the mines!” Gandalf ordered, leading the Fellowship into Moria. Vailerin pushed Frodo in first before she joined him. The beast, still pursuing them, was now on the doorstep of Moria. Varilerin, seeing the ellon still fighting the creature, rushed to pull him in. He was yanked to the floor hard, but was ultimately saved when the beast broke down the entrance with its mighty strength. The Fellowship was unable to move when the stones fell before them, shaking the mines with a terrible force, until only darkness accompanied the place.

The momentary silence among them was broken by the flicker of glow coming from Gandalf’s staff. “We now have but one choice,” Gandalf muttered. “We must face the long dark of Moria. Be on your guard, there are older and fouler creatures than Orcs in the deep places of the world. Quietly now, it’s a four day journey to the other side. Let us hope our presence may go unnoticed.”

The Fellowship’s warriors did not need Gandalf to remind them twice, after what they had seen—though, they were unconvinced whether their presence would remain unnoticed. Frodo knew better, for he had suffered two frightening experiences ever since he got the Ring, and so far he had found little rest because of his anxiety. “I’m fine,” Frodo assured Varilerin, who had been looking at him with concern. She nodded hesitantly.

“Are you?” Legolas asked her in turn, his brows curved in a worried state. “That was a harsh fall. Your bones might be broken.”

“I am fine,” Varilerin repeated sternly. “I am not a fragile treasure, My Friend. For now, do not worry for me. Worry for the Fellowship, for your eyes are better than mine. Go to the front, I will be watching from behind.”

Legolas, although unconvinced by her words, decided to obey her and left her alone behind Boromir. Once they were in line, they started walking deeper in the mines, past the corpses of Dwarfs and sometimes goblins. Their journey was unusually silent, despite the fact that four Hobbits and a Dwarf were with them. No words were exchanged between them as they walked, occasionally only when they were resting or eating. Rests and meals could not return them the strength they needed, for the eternal darkness seemed to siphon them like a hungry beast. Time couldn’t be perceived in the endless darkness, though Varilerin guessed it was only a day that had passed since their entrance. Varilerin remained calm without the presence of sunlight, though such could not be applied to the other members, excluding Gimli. The Dwarf now lost all his energetic remarks and instead was rendered to a grieving state.

“The wealth of Moria is not in gold, or jewels,” she heard Gandalf explaining one day—intending to lighten the atmosphere—and found the company slowing their pace. “But Mithril.” Gandalf stopped in front of a cliff and let his staff shone the deep abyss below. The Fellowship looked down, discovering hundreds of abandoned mining equipments. Numerous Mithril veins glinted under the light, lying untouched. The Fellowship widened their eyes in awe, for each had heart about the precious metal and its remarkable strength.

“Bilbo had a shirt of Mithril rings that Thorin gave him,” Gandalf added, resuming their pace as they trailed the ledge facing the mines.

“That was a kingly gift!” Gimli exclaimed, trying to sound as excited as possible. “Not many are given the opportunity to even wear one!”

“Yes Gimli,” Gandalf continued. “I have never told him, but it is worth greater than the Shire.” None noticed Frodo’s widening eyes. “Have you, Varilerin?”

“Never,” Varilerin curtly answered, her voice fading due to her position in the line. . “I was tempted, though I have never brought the subject whenever I visited Bilbo.” Varilerin looked down again, something poking her keen mind. “Gimli, you said that this is the home of Balin, yes?”

“Well, he went to an expedition some time ago,” Gimli mumbled. “I have received messages from him. He have managed to take over several halls, despite having to fight some Orcs, but he did get inside. However, it has been a while since his last message. It worries me, but that Lad is stronger than most Dwarfs. He is definitely fine… What of it?”

“No, I am just asking,” Varilerin ended, still eyeing the Mithril veins.

“You have something else in your mind,” Boromir whispered, turning his head to look at her. Varilerin frowned, her mind still processing all the information she had taken. She glared at him, trying to signal that she wanted to remain silent, but the Man was insistent.  

“Moria has always been occupied by evil,” Varilerin finally explained. “Orcs managed to take this kingdom a long time ago, and I am afraid they are still here. Their numbers are great and they are strong. Even the Dwarfs in the past could not retake this kingdom without tragic sacrifices…I fear what awaits us is not Balin or his friends,” she whispered carefully, not wanting Gimli to hear their conversation. “Furthermore, judging from the corpses and the abandoned equipment, the attack on the Dwarfs occurred not recently. Probably a decade, at least. It worries me.”

“Which means the higher the chance enemies are eyeing us,” Legolas suddenly interrupted. Varilerin should have known that whispers were now silent enough for his ears to miss their conversation. “But it is a logical thought. Should I tell Gandalf?”

“He knows already,” Varilerin sighed. “All we have to do is now watch for anything. In this place, our skills are far more needed, considering we are tasked to protect the Ring Bearer.” The other two nodded, turning their eyes on the road again. They trailed up broken stone steps, on which Pippin almost fell. Aragorn caught him immediately, reprimanding him to be careful, for any slightest sound could alert the hidden enemies. Pippin nodded, intending to continue his walk when he unfortunately bumped with Merry’s back.

“Why are you stopping?” demanded Pippin as quietly as possible, slapping Merry’s back in his annoyance.

“Because Gandalf’s stopping,” snapped Merry. The others behind the Hobbits stopped as well, lifting their heads to see where they were. The Company reached a junction with three separate doorways, each leading into an endless darkness. Gandalf stood still and glanced at each doorways, not speaking nor informing the others of the circumstances they were in.

“Gandalf?” he heard Frodo say. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine Frodo,” Gandalf said hesitantly. “It’s just that…. I have no memory of this place.”

Chapter Text

“Say, Varilerin, are we lost?” Pippin asked, his eyes fixated on Gandalf. They were desperate, yet somehow still cheerful and mischievous as usual. Varilerin sent a ‘what do you think?’ look to the Hobbit, her attention instead directed to the path they had past. Gandalf had, unfortunately, forgotten the routes in Moria, and now they were sitting and waiting for him to remember. The Wizard was left alone in his pondering, whilst the others talked and rested while they could.

“Can’t you help or something?” Merry also added. “You said you have travelled for hundreds of years. You must have ventured these halls before!”

“Elves and Dwarfs did not meddle with each other in the past,” she explained. “I as well, and I despise caves and mines like these the most, thus I have not dared entering them over the past thousand years. Moria is also known for its foul creatures, having dwelled by them long time ago. None wise has taken the choice to live here, though Dwarfs have tried to, but so far they failed.”

“I see,” Pippin said, then his thought blanked upon a sudden realization. “A thousand years?” he exclaimed. Varilein raised a brow, wondering the wrong in her words. But, like most people, she could not understand why the Hobbits were surprised. “I know you are an Elf or a Half-Elf, but I do not expect that old!”

Legolas immediately let out a small laughter, lightening the atmosphere slightly. Varilerin threw a threatening glance to Legolas, trying to silence his laughter, but only received another chuckle. She sighed, for she realized that, to silence the Hobbits, one must answer their endless questions however briefly. “Lord Elrond is diligent enough to keep the counting of the years in Middle Earth and he has told me that I was brought to Rivendell in the year 241 after the Third Age began. That makes me 2778 years this year, as old as Lady Arwen is.” Varilerin paused, studying the Hobbits’ surprised reactions, feeling satisfied herself. “But I am not the oldest here,” she continued, turning to Legolas.

Legolas chuckled again, covering his grinning mouth with his right hand. “Lord Elrond is a good friend of my father, fortunately, and my birth date was also recorded by him. I was born in the year 87, Third Age,” he gleefully explained and sent Varilerin a look of annoyance. She merely shrugged her shoulders as she watched the Hobbits gaping.

“That means you are…” Pippin said as he lifted his fingers. “Two thousand nine hundred and thirty-two years old!” he exclaimed almost too loudly, igniting a shush from Gandalf. Pippin immediately looked down, embarrassed.

“Varilerin, what do you mean taken to Rivendell?” Frodo, who had been enjoying the scene with Sam, inquired. “You were not born there?”

Varilerin’ face immediately darkened, frightening Frodo. “I was brought there, by my mother,” she nevertheless answered. “But I was not born there. Unfortunate circumstances forced her to escape from her homeland, I believe.”

“I see,” Frodo said, his expression showing he understood what she implied. Varilerin let out a relieved sigh, for Frodo decided not to question her past further. It seemed, however, that his choice to remain silent was not his decision. Rather, his attentions were diverted towards the dark cliffs they were facing. Varilerin caught a creature moving on their walls, nimbly and carefully.

“There’s something down there,” Frodo observed, his tone frightened. Varilerin walked to the ledge and scouted the being, which in turn disappeared to one of the small caves below. It was not a Man or Dwarf, more like a goblin perhaps, but it didn’t seem threatening.

“It’s Gollum,” Legolas informed them, folding his arms. “He’s been following us for quite some time.”

“And you are not telling us?” Boromir demanded, himself wary of the creature’s presence. Legolas shook his head lightly.

“He spares us little trouble and more waste of time,” Legolas said. “My kin managed to capture him, but were attacked by Orcs in the woods when we took him out for a walk. He escaped, but was unfortunately taken to Barad-dur. Our search became vain then, and we decided not to pursue him. He was… tortured, I am afraid, and he gave away much information about the Ring.”

“Gollum was the main reason we were tracked,” Varilerin told Frodo. “Though, I do not blame you, Legolas. It is an unfortunate fate.”

“Should we kill it then?” Boromir asked. Legolas shook his head, glancing at Gandalf afar.

“Gandalf won’t advise us and it will attract unwanted attention in this place. A slightest scream from the creature can warn the enemy,” Legolas said, though he seemed doubtful himself. Varilerin didn’t completely agree with the ellon, for she had heard Gollum’s story with Bilbo in the cave. The creature might be harmless, but smart enough to use whatever advantages he had to steal the Ring. Nevertheless, they should not focus their attentions to the creature, not when they were trapped in the place.

“Oh! It’s that way!” Gandalf suddenly said. All of them turned towards Gandalf, who was now standing up with his staff alit.

“He’s remembered!” Merry said, jumping to his feet and skipping to Gandalf.

“No, but the air doesn’t smell so foul down there,” Gandalf chuckled, pointing at one of the doorways. “If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose.”

Varilerin smirked at the Wizard’s dry joke, before she tailed the others into the doorway. The Fellowship followed the Wizard through the stone tunnel, extending hundreds of metres before it reached an open all made of cold stone. There was nothing to be seen there, only darkness enveloping what seemed to be pillars as far as Varilerin could see. Then Gandaf risked more light to his staff, allowing a better view of the halls they were walking in. What they saw amazed them truly. Countless enormous white pillars stood high above them, towering to the ceiling made of strong carved stone. The pillars formed an endless pattern extending to the horizon, filling the great hall with magnificence and beauty. “Behold, the great realm and Dwarf city of Dwarrowdelf!” Gandalf presented, his voice proud. Varilerin had no words to describe the sight. She had travelled for long years and yet she had not seen such great realm, made from pure artwork and craftsmanship.

“I must say, Gimli, your people are amazing in one way or another,” she muttered next to the Dwarf, who was bemused himself. He then chuckled in satisfaction, feeling proud of his kin, but was silenced when his eyes caught a faint ray of light not far. Gandalf noticed this as well and led the group closer to it with caution. As the got closer, they noticed it was not a mere light, but a light coming from glassless windows of a large room. Gimli widened his eyes and immediately ran from the group when he saw this, hopeful of what waited in the room.

“Gimli!” Gandalf warned, but found the Dwarf too fast to stop. He sighed and tried his best to follow Gimli with a jog, whilst the others followed behind in confusion. They arrived in a room made of stones and corpses. A light shone past a window carved above it, shining a single tomb lying in its centre. Gimli knelt in front of the tomb and suddenly howled in grief.

“No, no!” he moaned sadly. Gandalf, still panting from the exhausting run, approached the tomb. He did not stop the Dwarf from weeping loudly, and instead brushed away the dust hiding a carved writing on the tomb.

“Here lies Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria,” Gandalf slowly read as he removed his head. “He is dead then. It is as I feared.”

“It is,” Varilerin muttered as she walked in the room. She studied the corpses which, judging by their condition, were of the same age as the others close to the entrance of the mines. “The battle has ended long ago. We are years too late—“ She stopped when she noticed a significant corpse lying near the tomb, clutching a book in its arms. She knelt beside it and gently pulled the book from the skeleton. Slowly she opened it and, with a gentle breeze from her mouth, removed the writings from dust and dirt. The book was written in the runes of the Dwarfs, its writings beautifully brushed. “Gandalf,” she said, reading the book briefly before she took the book to Gandalf. Gandalf handed his staff and hat to Pippin, receiving the book from the elleth.

“It is written by Ori, I suppose,” Gandalf observed. “I recognise the writing well. Several pages are not readable and torn away.” Gandalf frowned whenever he found an unreadable part of the book, but tried his best to comprehend what Ori was writing. “They have taken the bridge and the second hall,” he read hesitantly. “We have barred the gates, but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes….. Drums.”

Gandalf paused and turned his attention to his surroundings. Varilerin shook her head to signify no sound was heard, so he continued his reading. “Drums in the deep….” Gandalf flipped to the last written page, where the writing ended abruptly with messy strokes.

“We cannot get out…” he continued anxiously. He looked up to the other members, horrified by the next words Ori said. Varilerin stepped next to Gandalf and scrutinized the writings. Seeing that the Wizard seemed reluctant to continue, she took the liberty to read the book with her limited knowledge in the language.

“A shadow moves in the dark,” she said. “We cannot get out….”

“They are coming,” Gandalf ended.

Suddenly a loud sound snapped the tensing silence, echoing throughout the hall. Varilerin immediately turned to see where it came from, only to discover Pippin standing awkwardly beside a well. Oh no, she mused as the sound of the falling object continued, rustling and crackling beneath before it ended with a loud fall. Pippin winced when the sound ended, opening his eyes slowly to meet Gandalf’ furious face. The Wizard closed his book and quickly walked to Pippin, snatching his hat and staff in process.

“Fool of a Took!” he reprimanded angrily. “Throw yourself next time and rid of us your stupidity!” Pippin looked forlorn after the scolding, avoiding Gandalf’s eyes with his last courage.

“We should leave,” Varilerin suggested, taking the book from Gandalf and putting it on the floor. “We might have alerted the—“ She flinched when her sharp ears caught a sound, from below.

Drums, the sound of drums. Faint but enough to shook their hopes. Another came, beating deep in the darkness, echoing in the mines. Another and another, faster and louder than before. All widened their eyes, letting the drums vibrate through their ears. Screeches then greeted them, of Orcs and goblins.

“Orcs!” Legolas warned, rushing to the gate. Varilerin grunted as she joined him, closing the doors together and barring them with its remaining wood. An arrow came towards her head, only to miss just an inch to the wall. It was not the one making her shudder, but the loud roar coming from the halls.

“They have a cave troll!” Boromir said as he threw weapons to Varilerin and Legolas. She caught them quickly and barred the gates with them. Once the two saw the barricade strong enough, they moved back and drew their arrows.

“Get back! Stay close to Gandalf!” Aragorn told the Hobbits as he drew his own bow, pointing it at the door with his wavering hands. Boromir waited anxiously behind with his sword and shield, together with Gimli who climbed up the tomb and unsheathed his mighty axes. He growled as the Orcs arrived on their doorstep and began pounding on it.

“Let them come!” Gimli growled. “There’s one Dwarf yet in Moria who still draws breath!”

I pray this ends well,” Varilerin whispered to Legolas. He nodded his head in agreement as they were greeted with the Orcs finally creating a small gap on the door. Legolas answered with a single arrow shot into one of the Orcs’ head and Varilerin followed his gesture, taking down another Orc behind it. The doors continued to be smashed, but it did not shook the elleth. The only thing which mattered was to protect Frodo and the Hobbits. Valar, help me.

Finally their defense fell. The doors blew open, revealing Orcs in endless numbers waiting them. They screeched a battle cry and quickly lunged at the warriors. Varilerin fired another arrow before she put back her bow and pulled out her short swords. Gritting her teeth, she met her opponents head on, slashing their abdomens with a swift spin of her body. She stopped to observe the others, who each managed to hold the Orcs flooding the room at once. She glanced briefly to Gandalf and the Hobbits, making sure her eyes would catch any dangerous enemies looming over them, before she returned to her own battle. She might not be the best in arrows—Legolas was the best without doubt—but she was a master in close-range fighting. She was more trained in blades than Aragorn and Boromir, perhaps even Glorfindel, and it made her the most dangerous in this situation. It seemed strange to her, the current battle. She found no fear like when she was facing the Ringwraiths, or the constant depression shivering her skin. Perhaps Glorfindel was right, her return and role in the Fellowship had changed her, even slightly.

“Troll is coming!” Boromir warned as he ended the life of another enemy. The walls around the door were broken by a large club, of a hideous cave troll which rushed out the sea of Orcs. It roared wildly as it swung his weapon towards Gimli, who dodged fearlessly as he fought another Orc. “Take it down—“ Boromir gasped when the troll targeted him, swinging its club and throwing the Man across the room. Varilerin stopped her fight to help him, but was ultimately relieved when the Man stood to his with once more. Although she was sure he had sustained serious injuries, broken ribs perhaps, but she left him be. Trust was needed with the unfortunate circumstances and the least she wanted was to be backstabbed when she pulled him up from the ground.

Legolas answered Boromir’s orders by firing an arrow to the troll’s chest. It moaned in agony, but remained firm on the ground and instead swung its mace wilder. The warriors were forced to retreat back, finding little opportunity to subdue the creature. Varilerin herself was distracted by the numerous Orcs somehow taking a liking of her. Frowning, she quickly ended their lives and glanced at the Hobbits once more. They were now dispersed, away from Gandalf’s protections, but they seemed to be able to hold on their own. Her eyes found the Wizard himself being surrounded by Orcs, one of which lurked behind him.

“Gandalf!” she shouted as she ran to the Wizard and pushed him out of the Orc’s way. Its sword caught Varilerin’s left arm instead, grazing it deep enough to pain her durable muscles. She grimaced, but did not spare any second for the Orc to breathe and decapitated its head from its foul body.

“Varilerin!” Gandalf gasped, helping her to stand. “My Dear, are you alright?”

“It’s only a cut, not a mortal wound,” she assured him, though the blooding flowing from the wound said another. “Though forgive me, I need to use the scarf.” Gandalf had no say as she pulled his scarf from her neck and bound it tightly to her wound. “Duck!” she suddenly warned. Gandalf managed to obey her just in time to evade a horizontal swing from an Orc. The Wizard hit his opponent with his staff, before stabbing it with Glamdring.

“Thank you again,” Gandalf panted, looking at her in concern.

“We need to get out of here,” Varilerin said, searching for the Hobbits. Pippin, Merry, she counted, not finding Sam and Frodo. She found the former in the corner of the room, threatened by the troll. Where’s Frodo? Varilerin eyes widened with a horrifying realization and she immediately moved her feet towards Sam, killing Orcs without further thought. But she knew she was too late when she heard a scream of agony coming from the corner of the room. She recognized the voice too well.

“Frodo!” she shouted, quickening her pace. Trying to keep her composure with now her boiling blood, she sheathed one of her blades and lightly leapt to the troll’s back. The creature flinched when she landed on its body, instantly trying to fling her off its body, but Varilerin remained firm. Aragorn, below her, was furious himself and stabbed the troll’s chest with a spear. With a swift movement of her hand, she plunged her sword into the creature’s skull. It growled in pain as its movement became more erratic. Varilerin held tight on her hilt as her body was swung freely in the air. “Legolas!” she pleaded when she saw the ellon drawing his bow towards the troll. ”The mouth!”

Legolas narrowed his eyes, focusing his mind to the troll’s mouth, as he released two arrows at once. The arrows struck true and defeated the troll’s will to stand its ground. The rest of the Fellowship watched in anxiety as the troll began swaying without its conscience, letting out a pitiful moan before it dropped to the earth.  Its fall ended the battle in the room, for no more enemies were in the room. Varilerin pulled her sword from its skull and immediately rushed to Frodo. She forced the other Hobbits to get out of her way, for she could be the last resort in healing the Hobbit. It truly surprised her when Frodo, previously lying breathless on the ground, suddenly gasped for air and breathed happily. All the audience sighed relief, seeing that the Hobbit was miraculously unharmed.

“I’m alright. I am not hurt,” Frodo assured them, his breath still short and heavy.

“You should be dead,” Aragorn remarked in amazement. “That spear would have skewered a wild boar!”

“I think there’s more to this Hobbit than meets the eye,” Gandalf suspected as he approached Frodo. Frodo answered the Fellowship’s questioning stare by opening his shirt, revealing a shining mail which enclosed his body.

“Mithril…” Gimli muttered in awe. “You are full of surprises, Master Baggins!”

“I should have known,” Varilerin said. “Bilbo is a cunning old Hobbit—“ Their short while relief was forced to a halt when they heard more screeches from afar. Gandalf widened his eyes and pulled Frodo up.

“To the bridge of Khazad-dum!” Gandalf instructed, escaping the room and running to the bridge with his glowing staff. Varilerin let the others ran after her, before she followed them as swift as possible with her wound. They exited the room and found themselves in the great Dwarfish halls once more, but this time they could spare no time for sightseeing. Behind them countless goblins and Orcs followed, more flanking them from their sides. “Faster!” she urged the others, who seemed seemed aware too with the newfound enemies. As they continued to run, the enemies grew in number and speed, now also looming on the ceilings. Finally their path was blocked by countless enemies, growling menacingly with their weapons raised. Varilerin stood back to back with Boromir, nocking four arrows to her bow at once. The Orcs did not engage them because of Gandalf’s light, though they would sure enough kill them with their arrows.

“I have no vision about this,” Varilerin muttered furiously, catching the attention of Legolas’ ears. He said nothing about it and focused on the dreadful matter at hand.

Before the enemies could fire their weapons, the hall shook. It was like an earthquake, but different. The force was a single, powerful tremor which shook the Dwarfish realm. The Orcs cowered under the shaking. They stopped their battle cries and shifted their attention to the other side of the hall. Shadows disappeared, replaced by a glowing menace of red. Then came a roar, so loud it pained their ears. Next arrived darkness, so heavy it shook Varilerin’s mind and soul and tumbled her to the ground.

“Varilerin?” Boromir asked.

“Something is coming,” she panted, trying to be on her knees. “Gandalf!” warned her as she noticed the enemies dissipating from vicinity.

“What is this new devilry?” Boromir hissed, helping Varilerin stand. Gandalf closed his eyes and pondered. When another roar came, he opened his eyes, realizing what he head feared was true.

“A Balrog of Morgoth,” he answered, his voice trembling with fear. “A demon of the ancient world… This foe is beyond any of you! RUN!”

The Fellowship instantly sprung to their feet and ran towards the direction Gandalf was sprinting. They flee like preys chased by beasts. The ground shook beneath them, the demon was stepping closer. Gandalf turned to right and they followed, running down steps hastily without looking down. The air was burning with heat and arrows flew past them. Luck was the only thing they had in dodging the flying projectiles, perhaps even surviving the Balrog.

Before them now was a gap in the stairs, below an infinite abyss. Legolas promptly jumped the gap nimbly, before turning to the rest of the Fellowship to offer his help. “Gandalf!” Legolas beckoned the Wizard to jump. Gandalf nodded and leapt over the gap, Legolas ensuring his safe landing. Arrows began raining down at them once more, and Varilerin shifted his attention to the invisible archers.

“Varilerin!” Gandalf said. Varilerin nodded and grabbed Pippin, forcing her wounded arm to carry the Hobbit across. She landed softly on the platform and quickly drew her remaining arrows to deflect the enemies’ projectiles. It was Boromir’s turn and he took Merry and Sam with him, successfully jumping over but in doing so he broke off a large chunk of the stairs, leaving Aragorn and Gimli with a larger gap.

“Nobody tosses a Dwarf!” Gimli said, refusing Aragorn’s help, before he braced himself for his jump. He threw his body to the air, almost falling at the edge of the other platform, only to be caught by Legolas on his beard. Despite the Dwarf’s protests, Legolas pulled the Dwarf up with his sheer force.

“Aragorn! Quick!” Varilerin shouted to the last man and Hobbit. Aragorn quickly jumped from the ledge, carrying Frodo with him, before he was caught by Boromir. The ground shook again, this time breaking off the stairs where they had previously stood. Aragorn’s eyes widened in horror as he saw the ledge falling to the darkness.

“Come on now! Over the bridge!” Gandalf instructed them, continuing their pace. Not long after they found a narrow bridge lying before their path. They constantly glanced back, seeing the fiery red light growing stronger and fiercer. The enemy was closing their distance. “Quick!” urged Gandalf. He pushed the Hobbits to go first, before the warriors moved past him. He, however, stopped Aragorn and Varilerin midway.

“Lead them,” he said, each words pressured with his wavering voice. His eyes bore deep into theirs, pleading hope to come. Varilerin froze to the ground, for she did not know what to do. For the first time in her life she could not deduce what would happen. There was no vision or dreams or logical thought. She could only nod and follow the Wizard’s will. She ran with Aragorn, constantly kept her eyes on Gandalf. “Go,” Gandalf calmly assured her as he stopped midway. He turned away from her, seeking no reply, and silently unsheathed his sword.

Shadows and smoke emerged from the doorway across the bridge. Fire blazed from it, hiding a monster of flames and shadows. As it walked closer to the Company, its eyes and mouths glowed with fiery blazes. Wings spread on its back, looming over them ominously. The Balrog wielded a sword made from fire, like a sharp thunder ready to strike them.

“Varilerin,” Aragorn said as he pulled her transfixed body away from the battlefield. “We need to get out of here.” Varilerin did not reply, her mind blank, and she merely obeyed his pull. Afar, Gandalf raised his staff and sword at the Balrog. His weapon shone with white light, revealing clearer the demon he was facing.

“You cannot pass!” Gandalf shouted.

“Gandalf!” Frodo screamed, trying to push his way through Boromir and Legolas. They remained firm, yet they could not escape either. They were rooted to the earth, unable to leave Gandalf fighting alone.

“I am the servant of the secret fire,” Gandalf chanted, his staff glowing brighter. “The wielder of the fire of Anor! The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun!” The Balrog raised its sword high, but the strength of Gandalf’s light prevailed and shattered the weapon into dust. Roaring, the creature stepped closer to Gandalf. It unsheathed a whip made of fiery tongue, flicking it in the air. Gandalf stood on his ground, his determination now overpowering his exhaustion and fear.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Gandalf boomed, hitting his staff to the bridge and shaking the mines. The Durin’s Bane did not cower, until it took another step. The ground beneath it immediately crumbled, breaking into pieces and taking him down to the deep abyss below. The Balrog growled in horror as it disappeared into the shadows, carrying with him all the dread the Fellowship had been watching.

Varilerin was freed from her fear, for now Gandalf was turning towards them, smiling and panting. She moved from her ground and rushed to Gandalf, who met the eyes of his old friend. It has ended, she said through her gaze.

But it had not.

A fiery tongue snatched Gandalf’s leg, pulling him down to the edge of the broken bridge. The world was rendered silent and motionless. For her, there were only the sound of Gandalf’s breath and her footsteps.

No, Varilerin prayed repeatedly. Endure! Don’t let go!

Gandalf’s face dimmed, his hands now loosing from the bridge. “Fly, you fools,” he rasped. Varilerin screamed in her mind, extending her hand to his as she slid her body on the ground.

Light slipped through her fingers, breaking the hope which remained between their hands. Gandalf’s hands left the bridge, erasing him from her vision. Only then Varilerin could hear herself and Frodo screaming.

Gandalf the Grey had fallen to darkness.

Chapter Text

She had ever felt this feeling before, once or twice, but she could not remember. Perhaps it was when Ellain and Ruindoldir fell. Perhaps it was when Arwen fell. She could know, but it certainly felt the same. The world stopped moving. Everything became soundless, even her own voice. Gandalf had fallen, just like Ellain and Ruindoldir. His fate could be prevented by her hands.

Where had she gone wrong?

“Varilerin!” Legolas shouted as he pulled her up. “We need to get out of here!” His voice snapped her to wake for a moment, enough for her to stand with her cowering feet. Her world slowly returned audible. She could hear Frodo’s screams, arrows whistling in the air, Legolas repeatedly saying her name.

“Let’s go,” she finally said. Her feet were heavy, but she forced them to move. Gandalf’s sacrifice should not be vain. They should finish what they had started. “Get out!” she muttered coldly to Frodo, pushing him and the others towards the exit. Aragorn ran behind her, deflecting arrows targeting them. They ran through a series of dark stone tunnels and corridors, now no longer chased by the enemies, before they could see the light coming from the outside world.

Scorching sun greeted them mercilessly as they exited the dreadful minds, almost blinding them after days of dark journey. The Hobbits immediately fell to their knees, unable to continue after what had just occurred. They wept in pain on the ground. Legolas and Gimli fell grief stricken, and so was Boromir. Varilerin panted as she arrived in the scene, trying to calm herself down. Her mind was blank and she could not think anything. She glanced at Aragorn, both knowing they could not stay there, not when Orcs were possibly chasing behind.

“We need to move,” Varilerin muttered loudly enough for all the grieving members to hear her. Biting her lip, she turned to Aragorn. “We need to get them up,” she told him bitterly, herself not willing to disturb their grief, for she was crying at heart as well.

“Get them up!” Aragorn ordered reluctantly.

“Give them a moment for pity’s sake!” Boromir pleaded, frowning.

“We cannot stay here,” Varilerin explained. “When night comes, Orcs will dominate this place. We cannot let that happen, not when our quest still continues.”

“A moment of grief won’t hurt, will it?” Boromir retorted impatiently. He huffed when he saw Varilerin did not show a slightest bit of emotion. “Look at them. They cannot even stand! Have you no loss for Gandalf?” he snapped.

“Do not even speak about loss in before me,” Varilerin hissed with a trembling voice, standing just an inch before him. She raised her hand as if she wanted to hit him, but merely gripped her own fingers as she held back her emotions. Boromir widened his eyes as her hand lowered down. “You have never, ever, known the pain of losing someone most treasured in your life, in front of your eyes,” Varilerin rasped,” And… And Knowing…. That the fault is in you!”

Her last words were desperate and bitter. Her breath trembled and irregular. She cared not if Boromir or the Fellowship was looking at her in such a way. Her heart was broken. Gandalf was no longer there to comfort her broken self, or prevent her from being broken. He had fallen and she was now falling.

“Gandalf won’t want us dead after his sacrifice,” Varilerin continued, her voice calmer it sounded horrifying. Boromir could not believe her impossible control of emotions, but he knew she had reached her limit.

“Forgi—“ Boromir was interrupted when Varilerin placed her left arm on his shoulder, revealing a bounded gash.

“Help them get up,” Varilerin muttered silently, before she left his vicinity. “We are going to Lothlorien,” she announced, walking to Frodo. The Hobbit was no longer looking emptily to the horizon, but was now sharing the same eyes as her. Varilerin winced as she said, “Let’s go,” with the outmost burden. The Fellowship did not dare to say any objection, merely now following Aragorn as he led them to the woods. With their remaining strength they sprinted to Lothlorien, where they did not know if a warm welcome or arrows would greet them. Varilerin ran behind them, tightening her bandage as they entered the forest. She immediately regretted the decision to touch Gandalf’s scarf, wincing as she remembered his eyes. 

The sun was starting to descend when they finally reached the deep forest. By then they had lost all their strength and their sprint was reduced to a stroll. “Stay close, young Hobbits,” Gimli whispered, finding courage to speak after the dreadful silence among them. “They say there’s a great sorceress living in these woods,” he explained, trying to lift their spirits. He had been spent with the loss of Balin, and Gandalf’s was saddening but still lighter than his cousin’s death. “An Elf witch of terrible power…”

Gimli stopped when he received a glare from Varilerin. At this mood she could not tolerate the Dwarf’s protests; moreover if they were about Lady Galadriel, who had been kind enough to offer her numerous helps in the past. She shifted her attention to their path. Aragorn seemed to know the forest well and they were following the correct stone path, but something among the trees were unsettling her. The forest had changed since she last visited. Shadows tried to seep past the leaves, dulling their golden colours and withering them.

The forest has suffered,” a voice spoke in her head, gentle and elegant. Varilerin was not surprised like Frodo, who seemed to be hearing Galadriel’s voice as well, and continued her walk. She did not prevent the lady from speaking in her mind. She had no more reason not to. “And so have you. You are in the verge of fading. We need to speak.”

“Yes…” she answered weakly. Galadriel stopped speaking. Now the only voice she could hear was Gimli’s.

“All who look upon her fall under her spell,” Gimli continued with his comedic voice to scare the Hobbits. “And are never seen again. But well, here’s one Dwarf she won’t ensnare so easily! I have the eyes of a hawk and ears of a fox—“

In a sudden dozen of arrows appeared from the dark, pointing themselves at the company. All but Varilerin and Aragorn shuddered, drawing their weapons to no avail. The assaulters stepped closer and revealed themselves as Elves wearing grey cloaks, all fair and glowering at them. “The Dwarf breathes so loud, we could have shot him in the dark,” a voice came from among them. Emerged a blonde Elf with a face familiar to both Varilerin and Aragorn. Haldir looked at the Dwarf coldly, before he shifted his attention to Aragorn and Varilerin, and then to Legolas. He nodded when he recognized them and lifted his hand to let the rangers lower their weapons.

“You’ve brought a strange company here, Aragorn,” Haldir told him.

“It is a strange company in need of your protection, Haldir of Lorien,” Aragorn said.

“I need to inspect all of you,” Haldir responded, glancing to his surroundings. “But not here. Follow me.” Haldir gestured the other members to follow him and Aragorn. The Fellowship lined up anxiously and followed their footsteps deeper into the forest. The sun was descending from the top sky when they were brought to an Elven outpost established on a large malorn tree. Several rangers eyed them from atop the branches, while Haldir instructed for a ladder to be set down. Aragorn and Legolas climbed first, followed by Varilerin and the rest. Above, they lined up so the Elves could inspect them. Haldir came forth, greeting Legolas with his open palm.

Welcome Legolas, son of Thranduil,” he greeted the Mirkwood prince with their tongue.

Our fellowship stands in your debt, Haldir of Lorien,” Legolas replied. Haldir nodded and moved to Aragorn.

Aragorn of the Dunedain, you are also known to us.”

“Haldir,” Aragorn responded. Haldir nodded again and then stood before Varilerin. They looked at each other unlike friends, but as comrades and warriors.

The Lady has awaited for your return for a long time,” Haldir started. “Your arrival is truly welcomed, Varilerin, the Shadow Hunter.”

“Forgive me, but courtesy can wait now, Haldir,” she whispered. “We need your protection, if you allow us.”

“Patience, Varilerin. I cannot let just anyone enter my Lady’s realm,” Haldir said as cold as ice. Varilerin frowned, knowing that she could not fight his will.

“So much for the legendary courtesy of the Elves! Speak words we can also understand!” they heard Gimli protesting. Haldir turned to the Dwarf as fast as the wind and glowered at him, using his height to his advantage.

“We have not had dealings with the Dwarfs since the dark days,” Haldir reasoned.

“And do you know what this Dwarf says to that?” Gimli shot back. Before he could even continue, Varilerin gripped his stout shoulder tight with her wounded hand and squeezed it. Gimli shuddered and immediately stopped all his intentions to curse the Elf, much to Haldir’s satisfaction. When Varilerin saw that Gimli had calmed down, she released him from her grasp. Haldir saw her wound when she lowered her arm.

“You’re wounded,” Haldir remarked.

“It is small. Please continue quickly,” Varilerin suggested. Haldir nodded and stepped to the other companions. He stopped abruptly in front of Frodo and Sam. Blue eyes widened in horror and he snapped to Aragorn, his composure all lost to fear.

“You bring great evil with you. You can go no further!” Haldir curtly said as he walked away. Legolas and Aragorn widened their eyes and instantly tailed Haldir, blocking his path. Varilerin merely sighed as she fell to the ground lightly, losing all the strength to even stand the possibility of them travelling at the dangerous night.

We need your protection. The road is fell!” Aragorn pleaded.

All are allowed except for the Halfling,” Haldir said.

Please, Haldir. A shelter at least,” Legolas added. ”We carry a heavy burden. Please do not make us suffer when we have suffered enough.” Legolas paused, glancing at his company, before he returned to Haldir. “Gandalf has fallen. Without him, we cannot go further tonight.”

Haldir was bemused by Legolas’ information and was rendered silent. He glanced at the Fellowship as he thought about the odds. Aragorn and Legolas waited patiently, praying at heart that the man would allow them protection. “Farewell,” Haldir said finally, his voice hesitant. “We will help you. The Lady has deemed it well. Tell your friends to stand up and follow me,” Haldir said. Varilerin stood up, her face unchanging, before she told the others to join them.

“Thank you, mello-nin,” she thanked the ranger. Haldir nodded and instructed the other rangers to escort them.

The Fellowship was led deeper into the forest, which darkened as the sun set. The last rays of the day shone on the leaves, glinting it golden in colour and red in glow. The place had not changed really much, except for the darkness which silently crept inside the woods. The forest revived many memories, all unpleasant. Flashes of Ellain and Ruindoldir’s lifeless body came to her mind. It was as if she was seeing the scene all over again. Varilerin shook her head, trying to discard or at least supress the thoughts with Gandalf’s death. It is all the same, anyway.

The Company continued to walk until their feet now sore. As if hope finally arrived for them, light greeted, and they were brought to a cliff showing vast expanse of the golden wood. Lying not far was a dense forest growing on a highland, with shining golden trees which touched the sky. They stood still, mesmerized, for they had never seen anything like it before.

“Caras Caladhron,” Haldir introduced them. “Homes of Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel,” he said as he continued their journey. Once they entered the settlement, the view changed tremendously. Now that the sun had sunken, they were greeted by glowing houses perching on massive white trees. Each of the trees seemed endless, with stairs winding around the wooden barks beautifully. All over white light glowed faintly, shining the place with ethereal warmth and comfort.

“My,” Gimli silently muttered. Haldir smirked, taking them farther into the city. A larger Elven building lay in its centre, towering the smaller others with its magnificence. Haldir gestured the Fellowship to line up below the stairs which led inside the building, relieving them from their exhaustion slightly. Varilerin sighed and waited as two figures greeted them from above. They glided the stairs gracefully, their faces covered in light. Once they arrived before the Fellowship, their fair faces were revealed. One was an ellon, mighty and wise. Long, silver hair trailed down from his head and deep blue eyes decorated his face. In his hand was an Elven maiden, her face radiating with light and beauty. Her hair was gold, long and wavy strands reaching to the ground. Her eyes were, unlike the ellon, calm and gentle. Celeborn and Galadriel studied the Company intently, without voice or movement.

“Nine there are, yet ten there were set out from Rivendell,” Celeborn began, hopelessly looking at the Fellowship. “Tell me, where is Gandalf, for I much desire to speak with him.”

“He has fallen to shadow,” Galadriel intervened, her eyes glinting like stars. She scanned the strange individuals standing there, before her eyes fell to Legolas.

“He has fallen to a Balrog of Morgoth, for we have wandered needlessly to the darkness of Moria,” Legolas explained sadly. Gimli merely stared at his feet, feeling guilty.

“The quest stands upon the edge of a knife,” Galadriel continued. “Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all…”

Varilerin closed her eyes and reminisced the events which had unfolded the day before. Indeed, now that Gandalf was no longer there, they had little chance.

“Yet hope remains while the Company is true,” Galadriel added, smile appearing on her ageless face as she moved her eyes to the Hobbits. She then turned to Varilerin, looking grim with her wound. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Go now and rest for you are weary with sorrow and much toil.” Her gaze then settled on Frodo, who flinched in anxiety of her eyes. “Tonight, you will sleep in peace and recover,” Galadriel ended curtly. Celeborn then nodded at several other Elves standing close to the Company. Haldir came forth with an ellon similar to his appearance beside him.

“Please follow me,” Haldir said. “Those who have injuries needed mending shall follow my brother Orophin,” he continued as he directed his eyes to the ellon. Varilerin glanced at the others, realizing she was the only one needed healing. She stepped forth and waited for any others with a change of mind.

“Is she the only one?” Orophin asked, receiving a short nod from each member. “Farewell. Varilerin, if you will follow me.”

Varilerin didn’t spare a glance and quickly tailed Orophin. She diverted paths with the rest, brought to the healing chambers by Haldir’s brother. There, upon her insistence, she was left alone to mend the wounds. She opened her scarf, now reeking of blood and death, and put it on the table in the chamber. She covered the cut with some ointments to prevent infection and hasten the healing. The wound needed stitching, so she sat on the provided bed and took the equipment Orophin had given her. She pointed the needle at the cut, but she could not insert it to her body. Her hand trembled greatly, unlike anything she had done before. She dropped the needle immediately and grabbed her trembling hand, trying to calm its erratic tremors.

What’s wrong with me? she thought desperately. Her hand slowly calmed down, but her mind did not. She frowned and stared silently at her hand. It was the same hand which failed to save Gandalf and perhaps the same hand failing to save her friends. What is this feeling? She thought as she picked the needle up again.

Guilt.

How tempted she was to stick the needle into her own throat and slit her neck open. However, Gandalf’s sacrifice would be vain. She could not die, at least not now. The fate of Middle Earth was in the Fellowship’s hands, and her support might increase the chance of the quest succeeding. Might was the correct word. It was strange, she thought, this quest. For the first time in her life she could not judge any situation or her surroundings. Everything became random pieces of puzzle. Her ability to discern circumstances and feel people was numbed. Perhaps, returning to Rivendell had lowered all her guards.

I should have not stayed so long, she mused as she finished her stitches. Just then, the door to the room was opened, revealing Orophin with a stack of garment in his arms.

“Varilerin? I’ve brought new clothes for you,” Orophin said as he entered the room. He handed her the new clothing, which revealed a simple white dress reaching her ankles. “Forgive me. The Lady didn’t give you any choice of clothing,” he said again when he saw her grim expression.

“Well, thank you,” she muttered quietly.

“The bath is just next to the healing chambers. You can have a rinse if you need it. I must leave you, but someone will come here to take your dirty clothes and give your meal,” Orophin continued. Varilerin nodded and placed the dress on the bed.

“Oh,” Varilerin said before Orophin could make it out of the door. He turned and raised his brows. “Can you also wash this scarf?” she asked, taking her bloodied scarf and showing it to him. Orophin studied it intently, his face looking doubtful.

“Perhaps, I have seen my own cleaned fully. Don’t worry, I am sure they will find a way,” Orophin said, twitching a smile.

“Thank you,” she said as she let him leave. Varilerin stared at the scarf for a while before she put it next to her new dress. She sat silently on the bed for a moment, sighing. It was only then she felt all the pain of her smaller wounds and bruises raining down on her, more like arrows than rain. The room was silent and centred her like a lonesome wolf. A pained wolf, seeking warmth in the darkening night. A wolf who had left its friend astray.

Meet me at the Mirror after your rest, Child,” she heard Galadriel’s voice echoing in the empty room, “for we have matters left to be discussed.”

Once Galadriel’s voice left her mind, she closed her eyes out of exhaustion and rubbed her nose’s bones. Drawing a deep breath, she once again remembered how comforting it was for her to be alone. The thought only brought her back to Gandalf, who had ended her days of loneliness by her side. She would certainly cry as she thought about their younger days, though she found herself unable to.

“For what is to be discussed when horrifying truth only lies before you?” Varilerin muttered. Nothing answered, other than the echoes of her own voice. She scoffed.

Perhaps, she was better to be left alone after all.


 

“To be honest, I am now really worried,” Merry said to the rest, resting on their own bunk beds. “Not like she’s not used to disappearing or anything… But this time I am really worried.”

“She’s only tending her injuries, Merry,” Aragorn assured the Hobbit as he sharpened his sword.

“But she didn’t join us for dinner!” Pippin defended. “And she should be done by now. I mean, look at her! Have you ever seen her behaving like that back in the exit?”

None said a word regarding his argument. Apparently they all agreed with his concerns. Throughout their journey, Varilerin had been the quietest among them. She might talk, but only in rare occasions. She had been careful to keep her emotions behind, focusing on whatever task at hand. But back in the mountain, they knew that the cold ranger had reached her limit. Perhaps she had calmed down, but inside they knew she was still too broken.

“I should have not said those words,” Boromir said regretfully. He covered his face with his hand in distress, trying to think of a way to apologize to the elleth. The others remained silent, for they did not know what action they must take. Merry rose from his seat and walked back and forth, folding his arms in worry as an ethereal song flowed in the air. The song took all their attentions and they glanced up at the trees.

“A lament for Gandalf,” Legolas bitterly explained, as if he was answering the inaudible questions coming from the Hobbits. He was holding a silver pitcher in his hands, and just like the other members of the Fellowship, had changed his clothing to a new, silver tunig.

“What do they say about him?” Merry asked.

“I have not the heart to tell you,” Legolas said again, his eyes looking onwards in sadness. “For me the grief is still too near.” But perhaps, Varilerin’s grief is worse, Legolas mused as he continued his walk.

“Where are you going?” Pippin asked out of curiosity. Legolas turned and wrinkled a small smile.

“I have something to do,” he simply answered, despite his intentions more than the Hobbit was expecting. Something inside him instructed him to look to the Mirror near the fountain. He knew what he could see, yet he had never dared to see into the waters. Perhaps the mirror would show wisdom in the dire times, or memories forgotten. He didn’t know, but he knew his heart was pulling him there.

Legolas left the Company and followed the white path winding around the base of the trees. The lament continued, the forest now empty under the night. The ellon finally arrived in a clearing, a fountain lying in it. The place was decorated with white, carved statues which gave the place a sense of secrecy and magic. And magic indeed ruled the place, for the Mirror showed things even the visionary ones could not see. He approached the fountain and filled his pitcher with the clear water. Once finished, he walked to the Mirror, lying undisturbed in the centre of the clearing.

“For people who inherited the gift of vision, they live a life of suffering,” his father once said. “We see things, but rarely succeed in preventing them. We succumb to our own guilt.”

“I have no vision about this,” Varilerin said back in Moria. Does she have the gift of vision? If then, she surely suffers from it. The thought of Varilerin’s broken soul because of her visions frightened him. But he could not stop now. There was something he meant to see in the mirror, whether he wanted it or not.

Slowly Legolas poured the water into the basin, rippling the surface with small waves. He leaned down and waited for any mirage to form, drawing a deep breath as he did so. The first image he saw startled him. It was his father, Thranduil, his eyes bearing sadness Legolas had not seen for more than two thousand years. He was kneeling beside an opened wooden coffin, his face buried on his arms. Legolas finally remembered where he had seen it before.

The wooden coffin was his mother’s.

Legolas returned to his 20-year-old self, still not reaching his maturity, watching as his father wept her mother’s lifeless body day and night. His hands trembled as the image continued, his father finally standing up and now closing the coffin. Legolas’ hands trembled as the scene shifted, afraid of the next image it would show him, for he saw the mirage had not ended.

He saw himself, sitting on a set of stone stairs. Startled by the view, he studied himself, who clutched a necklace in his hands. He leaned on his knees and prayed for something. He could not see his own face, but he was confident it was himself. He had not seen the place nor the sight before. Perhaps it was from the future, but in his shaken mind he could not think clearly.

The image moved on, this time swirling into a shapeless ripple for a long moment. Legolas drew a deep breath, hoping for the next to be the last. The water began revealing its image, slowly turning into a young Elf maiden dressed in white. Her face was unclear at first, but her night-coloured hair was familiar. She was standing in the middle of a clearing, with the surroundings blurred. She was weeping, without even moving. Legolas widened his eyes when the image became clearer under the moonlight.

She was Varilerin.

“Legolas?” a bitter voice abruptly came from behind him. Legolas immediately turned away from the Mirror, which rippled back to its undisturbed state, and was stunned by the presence of Varilerin in the clearing. Either he was surprised she could sneak behind him or how she appeared currently, he did not know. Perhaps the latter was more probable, for he had never seen her like this. But one thing the ellon knew for sure: She was beautiful.

 Possibly it was an effect of her wearing a dress, but Legolas knew her entirety was radiating something which struck his heart. Her raven hair was now loose, reaching her back, contrasting with her dress like night and day. Her face became more graceful under the light of the stars, which glimmered in her silver eyes and in her necklace he had never seen before.

But all of her beauty was in vain, for her face was grief-stricken and sorrowful. It was pale like the moonlight, bleak like the shadows. For the first time in their journey, Legolas saw how tired she was. He could see the shadow beneath her eyes, invisible yet visible at the same time. The way she looked at him terrified him, for she seemed as if she was caging a demon beneath her gaze.

“Varilerin,” Legolas muttered slowly, trying to hide his captivated and horrified state. Varilerin tilted her head, looking grim with her unchanging emotion.

“What are you doing here?” she said, her eyes grim. They dimmed as if shadows hid inside her soul, eating her heart slowly. “You looked into the mirror?” she continued, her voice cold and painful. Legolas was rooted with her strength to keep away her sadness and tried to muster the strength to speak in his pitying her.

“It is nothing important,” Legolas stammered. “You will not be interested in it.”

“Humour me,” Varilerin said curtly. “I will not tell anyone… Besides, it seems really fitting right now. If any, I really need it. Ghosts keep haunting me.”

“Ghosts?” Legolas said, but did not continue. Somehow he knew what she meant, vague but clear. He swallowed his words down and breathed out. “I saw my father, mourning over a death long ago,” he started, careful with his choice of words. He did not want to touch any sensitive matters in Varilerin’s heart, for he knew she was extremely fragile right now. “And I saw myself, mourning someone, holding a necklace… At least it is what I can discern for the image…”

Legolas stopped, widening his eyes. He looked at Varilerin and studied her. She was wearing a white dress, just like in the vision. Legolas was sparked with a sad realization. He opened his mouth to tell her, but found his voice wavering. “And… And I saw you,” he said hesitantly as his face pitied her. He did not intend to tell her, but his mouth did not follow his bidding. “I saw you crying, weeping, in this clearing.”

Varilerin stared at him blankly. She was taken aback by his statement and fluttered her eyes in disbelief. “M—Me? Crying?” she stammered, her voice trembling. She scoffed and turned away, seemingly amused by the idea, but Legolas could see her eyes saying another. “It is impossible… for me to cry…” Varilerin mumbled as she covered her mouth with her left hand. “What should I cry about?” she rasped, blinking her eyes in confusion, for somehow the resolve in her heart seemingly weakened.

Legolas was rendered bemused, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. Varilerin remained silent as she tried to calm herself, but Legolas saw she could not. The grief in her heart was too hard to bear by herself alone, for he saw she was in the brink of letting her tears flow. It was painful to see her holding herself back, more aching than being stabbed by a blade. “We are all grieving, Varilerin,” Legolas said slowly and bitterly as he pursed his lips, “of Gandalf’s death.”

“And his death is mostly my fault,” Varilerin muttered. “I should not have left him alone before the demon… He could have been saved—“ She stopped when she realised tears welling in her eyes. She rubbed them away, but they won’t escape her eyes. “Curses,” Varilerin muttered, turning to Legolas. She forced a smile to assure him she was alright, but she could not hide anything in her grief. 

“Forgive me,” she said brokenly, wiping more tears as her breathing became erratic. She turned away to hide from him, but there was nowhere to hide. She could not think to control her emotions nor to understand why. All she knew was her painful heart. All the fights and tragedies distracted her from noticing how wounded her soul had been—and only now had she realized it.  “Why are there… so much tears? I do… know… what is happening—“

“Varilerin!” Legolas said, his voice like a warning and sharp. Varilerin looked up to meet his eyes, blue and clear like the skies. It just dawned to her that he was standing close to her now, gripping her arms gently as he shook her in the last seconds. He saw hers glassy and grim, full of sadness he knew she had dammed for hundreds of years. She was struggling to dam them even now. He could not imagine the pain she had endured. There was a long moment of silence between them, enough for Varilerin to trust his next words.

“It is not wrong to weep,” Legolas simply said.

Varilerin did not speak nor move. The only thing which moved were the warm waters flowing from her eyes. She looked down to see the tears touching the ground. The elleth was utterly confused, for she had never felt like this before. For once in her life, her heart felt relieved. Not because of their safety or anything else, but because of letting her emotions took the better of her. And for the first time in her life, she did not have the courage to stop.

“I am sorry,” she whispered, now covering her face with her palms, not wanting the ellon to see her in such a state. She wondered, however, whether she wanted someone to comfort her or not. Her heart was in disarray and her mind was utterly confused. She could not think clearly, for the tears seemed to prevent her doing so. “Forgive me, Gandalf….” She sniffed, trying to control her erratic breathing.

“It is alright… I am sure Gandalf will forgive you,” Legolas whispered back as he pulled her slowly to a comforting embrace. Varilerin did not retaliate, for somehow his presence soothed her—she had never felt such a thing before in her life. He brushed her back gently as she wept, noticing the coldness from her heart radiating to his body. “All is fine,” he chanted repeatedly, knowing it was the only thing he could do at the moment. At least at the moment, she did not embrace the bitterness of grief alone.

Varilerin forced herself to nod, letting his warmth move to her heart. Now she knew. Perhaps she did not want to be left alone after all.

Chapter Text

Perhaps it was the fact that she had never let her emotions overwhelm her. Maybe it was the words of reassurance and comfort Legolas uttered to her as he sat beside her. She did not know, but she knew her heart lost a burden she had endured for hundreds of years. As she wept, her heart was relieved, despite Gandalf’s lost being a constant reminder of the bleak future awaiting them. She could not understand why she cried. She had managed to dam the sadness as long as she could remember, but somehow currently it was the right time for her to let the dam open.

Legolas and Varilerin were now sitting on a stone in the clearing. She could not remember the events occurring as she wept and how they were now sitting, but she knew she felt slightly better. The tears did not stop though, and Legolas continued to pat her back like a friend closer than before.

“I think I should tell you about my father,” Legolas said slowly when he saw her calming down, pulling his hand away from her back. He kept his palms close together, putting them beneath his chin, pondering about something. Varilerin lifted her head just high enough to look at his eyes. Somehow she found no fear or hesitance as she gazed at him, unlike before. Legolas flinched faintly as he glanced away, perhaps still anxious of her state. “You remind me of him, after I lost my mother in Gundabad.”

“I am sorry,” Varilerin muttered with her wavering voice. Legolas was struck with remorse of his words, for he did not want to make her sadden or pity over unnecessary things in her state.

“There is nothing to apologize for. It is already in the past,” Legolas continued. “My father… is very similar with you in many ways… He always take the fault of my mother’s death to himself. He was like you, overcome with guilt for long years…. It torn him, but he tried to cage it in.”

“He… continues to live and stay here for something… someone,” Varilerin added. “He lives here for you.”

“Yes… I was foolish. I could not understand him until the battle in Erebor. Only then did I saw him as a father,” Legolas explained. “Perhaps I am like my father. Once I saw Tauriel’s grief, I was overwhelmed with guilt. I could have prevented his death, but instead I—“ Legolas drew a deep breath and looked to the trees. “This world is beautiful and cruel at the same time. We are all the same, children left in this bitter world, seeking light in darkness.”

Legolas turned to her, his eyes glinting. “For it we must endure. You must endure, for the pain will never end. You cannot let your ghosts haunt you forever, Varilerin, for more will soon to come. Gandalf will not advise you to mourn his death forever either. He will not advise you to fade.” Legolas paused as he studied her expression, still ripe from tears yet looking slightly comforted. She did not show her surprise, but merely gazed at him questioningly.

“How?” Varilerin simply asked, her face showing no further emotion.

“Because I have thought about it as well,” Legolas answered. “It was not only my father who was grief stricken by my mother’s death. I almost fell to sadness, unwilling to live anymore in the treacherous world. But I knew I can’t. Not when everyone is depending on me.”

“Everyone depend on me and I mostly failed them,” scoffed the elleth. “Even with my gift I cannot help them.”

“Varilerin, perhaps your visions are not meant for prevention,” Legolas cut her, his voice as sharp as a knife, as if reminding her of her place. She was slightly startled by his reaction, though she merely widened her eyes to listen to his opinion. Legolas drew a deep breath as he thought about his answer. “Perhaps…. They help you prepare yourself to endure the future,” he said slowly, making sure she understood his thoughts.

Varilerin did not speak, her gaze still fixed on him, as if he was assuring her. The words echoed slowly in her mind, enlightening her bleak soul “Is it?” she mumbled under her rasping breath. For the first time in her life she finally understood something about her own self. Her life had been painful, because of her visions, or so she thought. Her gift was, deceivingly, the only path for her to endure it. She had thought she could prevent the tragedies from happening, but she was terribly wrong, for thought was the one damaging her life. “They will all happen,” Varilerin muttered as she came upon the realization. “And Gandalf’s tragedy enlightened me… from all my wrong perceptions.”

The elleth closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, exhaling it. “Oh Valar, forgive me, for I was wrong to death.” Opening her eyes, she looked to the stars hidden by the branches of trees. Regret was the only thing she could thing of next, how different her life would be if she was wiser like the ellon. “Legolas.”

“Yes?” Legolas asked, relieved that she had returned to his composed self. Varilerin shifted his gaze from the skies to the ellon, shuddering him, for she looked at him unlike before. She twitched a small smile from her lips and stood up, graceful like a swallow.

“Thank you,” she whispered, “for your wisdom and for comforting me. I have never been so wrong.”

“There is nothing to thank for,” Legolas said as he too stood up, “for I saw us similar in many ways, and it is the duty of a companion to stand by each other’s side.” He smiled, replying hers, as he studied her face. “You seem better, thankfully. Though, I am surprised you are able to be convinced by my words alone.”

“I am,” Varilerin admitted, glancing to the floor to avoid further eye contact with him. “And yes, it is strange for me to be convinced by words alone… I am quite stubborn,” she continued, twitching a smile.

Legolas tilted his head, for he saw a glimpse of shadow still hidden behind her eyes.“But you have not forgiven yourself,” Legolas muttered disappointingly, cancelling his plan to smile.

“Some things may not ever change,” Varilerin responded hopelessly. “My guilt is one of those things, but your words have enlightened me slightly.” She looked up and pursed her lips. “At least I will now be prepared for what to come, for now I am ready.”  Varilerin stopped and turned to the stairs leading to the clearing, where an elleth had been standing watch all this time. Legolas had just realized the Lady’s presence, and bowed together with Varilerin. Galadriel studied both of them strangely as she grinned, standing gracefully with her figure emerging from the trees.

“It seems, that you are ready to look into the Mirror,” Galadriel spoke with her ethereal voice. “Legolas, you may stay here,” she added when he saw the ellon looking down uncomfortably, “ for I have a strange feeling…. That what she is seeing will be important.” Galadriel glanced to her back, revealing to the two Elves the presence of Celeborn, as far as they could guess. Varilerin was turned anxious, for it seemed the couple knew something she did not. “Shall we take a look to the mirror?” Galadriel continued.

Varilerin nodded and took the silver pitcher, drowning it to the fountain. She took a deep breath as she approached the Mirror and glanced at the others, before she poured the entirety of the water into the basin. Galadriel urged Legolas took a step closer as she too closed her distance to the Mirror as Varilerin put the pitcher aside.

“It is time,” Galadriel convinced her.

“I know,” Varilerin said as she looked down, watching the water shifting and revealing what she had never seen before. The Mirror, its water shifting and moving, would, unbeknownst to her, reveal things she had long hoped for.

oOo

Before Varilerin was a village, lying in a mountain covered with woods. The villagers were rangers, each wielding a bow with them. On their cloaks were brooches shaped as six-pointed stars, the mark of the Dunedain. The Mirror showed her scenes as if she were watching them with her own eyes, moving from people to people, house to another. The Mirror stopped in front of a larger house, made of wood like the others, but grander.

There were two people, an ellon and an elleth. The ellon was silver haired like Celeborn, but his face was gentler and more familiar, for his eyes were silver like hers and the starlight. The elleth was tall and graceful, cloaked in the same garment as the Dunedain. Dark was her hair, like the night, and her face showed strength and sadness. The ellon comforted the elleth, as if she was grieving of something. Sound emerged from the Mirror not long after the image appeared, as if it had mouth of its own.

“Now that mother has passed to Mandos, I do not know what to do,” the elleth said, wiping her eyes from tears.

“She was a strong woman, Caladin,” the ellon said. Caladin, her mother, merely nodded. “I could not think of any greater sacrifice than to give her brother the throne.”

“I used to see it as a meaningless sacrifice,” Caladin said, “but now I see it as honour. Even with her life as an exile, she was still an honourable daughter of Isildur.”

“And you are still his honourable granddaughter,” the ellon said. “And my wife as well,” he added, smiling. Caladin smiled as her husband kissed her forehead gently.

“Caldir, I will follow you wherever you go,” Caladin whispered, “for now I have nowhere to go.”

“My path is perilous,” Caldir said.

“If it is the only path I have left, I shall walk it. I am not weak, Caldir,” she retorted,“ for I am the daughter of a ranger, a guardian of the Throne. The blood of warriors flow through me, and the Gift of Vision.”

“You sure are persistent,” Caldir said.

“Of course I am,” Caladin chuckled. “You are the only one I have left.”

The Mirror rippled, blurring away the image of Varilerin’s father and mother. It did not spare a moment for the elleth to ponder of the things she saw, for the next thing it revealed to her was screams and screeches of Orcs and dark creatures.

“Listen to me, Caladin. You need to go,” Caldir said as his face appeared on the waters. Caladin shook her head, holding a grey bundle of cloth in her arms. Her face was terrified and grazed with wounds, so was Caldir. The ellon frowned as he turned and fired several arrows to the unseen enemy. “Caladin, you need to listen to me—“

“Caldir, please don’t. I cannot lose you!” Caladin pleaded, warm tears flowing on her cheek. Caldir gave her a weak smile and brushed her hair.

“Caladin, My Love. You need to stay save. She needs to stay safe.” Caldir looked down and unveiled the cloth, revealing a small infant, sleeping safely in her arms. He formed a sad smile before he rummaged his pocket, taking out a pendant shining like the starlight. It had white wings enclosing a cylindrical jewel, carved with silver vines. “You need to go, for Varilerin’s sake,” Caldir said lastly before he wore the pendant around the baby’s neck.

Caladin winced, accepting the hard truth presented before them. “Farewell, My Love,” she whispered, embracing him one last time. “May the Valar protect you,” Caldir responded. He released her and glanced at her one last time, before he disappeared from vicinity. Caladin turned around painfully, leaving Caldir to his harsh death, as she faced what she knew was her own death sentence.

“Varilerin, My Child, do not worry,” she whispered to the quiet infant. “You shall live, for I have promised your father…. You shall live.”

The Mirror rippled abruptly, shaking the basin with tremoring water, before it returned to its undisturbed state. She remained transfixed to the ground, her gaze locked to the surface of the Mirror. Slowly she glanced to Galadriel, to Celeborn lurking not far, and to Legolas. Her lips quivered, trying to search courage to speak after what she had seen. Words could not describe her feelings and her emotions.

“What did I see?” Varilerin curtly asked, staring at Galadriel intently. Galadriel narrowed her eyes and quirked her mouth into a bizarre smile.

“Your past,” Galadriel answered,” your present, and your future. It is fortunate to meet you, Heir to Gondor.”

“Forgive me,” Varilerin cut immediately,” but Isildur did not have a daughter. He had four sons, yes, but there was no daughter. It is impossible for me to be his heir. My mother is a Dunedain, yes, but it does not prove anything.”

“It is where most people are wrong,” Celeborn explained calmly as he closed their distance,” for it is a secret we, the Elves, have promised to keep. It seems now all secrets must be unveiled.” Celeborn looked at his wife, who nodded in elegance. Varilerin narrowed her eyes out of suspicions and so did Legolas, for they had never heard Isildur’s daughter. All of his sons except his successor died in battle, but a daughter? It might be a myth to their ears, or a truth artfully hidden within the memories of the wisest ones.

“Elwen was a quiet child,” Galadriel started, her voice deep and tranquil like the forest. “She, just like you, preferred to distance herself from the others. But she was wise, wiser than most men of her age, and she was a warrior. She cared not what the others said of her, but she refused to stand behind the lines idling and watched her brothers fight. She chose the rangers over the knights, being one of the founders of what we would call today the Dunedain Rangers of the North.”

“The Dunedain Rangers were initially people swearing to protect the throne, from the shadows of the forests,” Celeborn continued. “They were both comprised of the Dunedain and protected the Dunedain. Elwen had once been unnoticed by even us Elves, until she was forced to protect her younger brother Valandil as their father went to war.”

“Isildur fell in the Gladden Fields,” Legolas intervened, turning to the bemused Varilerin,” leaving her and Valandil as heirs to the throne.”

“Correct. At this time, Elwen had become a powerful ranger, gaining trust of many who believed she was suitable to usurp the throne of Arnor. Nevertheless, she refused, for she had no interest in gaining power over many,” Galadriel continued, her eyes flashing a curious light to Varilerin. “Still, people viewed her as the most suitable heiress, claiming Valandil—a weak child in his younger years—was not worthy to be the ruler of the kingdom.”

“So she fled, disappeared to the forests,” Celeborn said. “She was never heard since then, disappearing from even our Eyes…” The Lord stopped to study Varilerin’s reactions, vague but still convincing for him to learn her surprise.

“She married an Elf, I suppose,” Galadriel guessed. “And Caladin remained in the shadows, not known to us.” She paused and chuckled lightly, igniting nothing from Varilerin’s emotions. “Perhaps, this power to unveil your presence from our eyes, runs in your family.”

“So it is true then?” Varilerin asked doubtfully. “I am one of the last heirs of Isildur?”

“Yes, you are,” Celeborn calmly assured her. “And now, with the truth revealed to you, will you accept your fate and responsibilities as Daughter of Numenor?”

“What do you mean?” Varilerin asked, her face griming, for she suspected and feared what they would ask of her.

“Varilerin, Aragorn has chosen exile. He has refused the throne—“

“No,” Varilerin shortly interrupted the Lady, her voice stern and composed. Galadriel was not taken aback by her answer, but merely raised her head to further study the elleth’s expressions. Varilerin drew a deep breath as she glanced the people around her, who silently demanded an excusable reason for her answer. It was indeed a hard time for Men, for they had only two heirs left. It might be more of an obligation than a choice for her, but Varilerin knew better. “I will not, as long as I am breathing, take the throne of Gondor. Aragorn is more worthy for this.”

“It is not a matter of worth, Varilerin,” Celeborn retorted. “It is a matter of responsibility. You two are equal in worth, equal in wisdom. Perhaps you are far wiser than Aragorn, perhaps more suitable, yet why you refuse? Is it because of your dark past?”

“Your past does not define you,” Legolas added, clearly supporting the idea. Varilerin glared at him for a split second, but it did not take him down. He remained on his ground under her sharp gaze, for after he comforted her, he saw a side he had not seen in the elleth. She was and would always be a being with vulnerabilities, but he saw how truly strong she was, both physically and mentally. She had a determination he knew not many could have, and the will to protect others. Legolas drew a long breath as he continued, this time clearing his voice with surety.  “It is what you are doing, your current decisions.”

“And my decision is to leave the throne to Aragorn,” Varilerin repeated confidently. Somehow, unbeknownst to herself, she had found a courage to speak so daringly in front of perhaps the wisest Elves in Middle Earth. “My Lady, Lord, and Friend, you need to know this. Aragorn is a King by his upbringings and his blood. He is born to be, and will be. He has chosen exile, yes, but he is no longer one. He is now a member of the Fellowship, people who carry the fate Middle Earth. This journey is changing all of us, including Aragorn.”

Varilerin stopped and judged their looks, gazing at her wondrously. She remained firm and stern, unwilling to move by their pleading stares. “I can see it in his eyes. He has realized the inevitable fate Men are facing. He will, he must wear the crown, for the sake of his people.”

“How can you be so sure?” Celeborn shot her. “Men are known to be… weak in their will.”

“Because I have the blood of Numenor in my veins,” Varilerin said ultimately, her voice unchanging without her own notice,” and I know, that Men of the West are stronger than you think. Aragorn, Son of Arathorn shall be king.”

“And what if he fail?” Galadriel asked, her expression unchanged. “What if Aragorn fell before he could retake the throne?”

Varilerin was rendered silent by this question, her will wavering under the pressure of the thought. Legolas looked at her anxiously, for he had never seen her speaking openly like this. It reminded him of Aragorn himself, except for her darker behaviour and expression—

“He will not,” Varlierin answered surely,” for I will protect him, like my grandmother before me. I shall be his guardian from afar, pushing him to the sky. I am Daefaroth, the Shadow Hunter, and I will remain a hunter in shadows.”

 Silence engulfed the four as Varilerin ended her words, sure and firm. It was not a terrified silence which overwhelmed them, but of awe and wonder, for the elleth seemed to be a different one than before. And for the first time in their journey, Legolas saw that Varilerin indeed had an air of nobility around her, faint but strong enough to convince him that she was truly Daughter of Men.

“It is indeed a strange fate the Valar is giving all of us,” Celeborn remarked. “Farewell, Varilerin, if it is your choice so be it, for we have no say in your destiny either.”

“The Heirs of Isildur are indeed feared by Sauron,” Galadriel added,” they hold strength in many forms… But know this, Varilerin, there must be a thing to be done before you can protect the others….” Galadriel glanced at Celeborn as she smiled. “It is to forgive yourself.”

Forgive myself? After all I’ve done?” Varilerin muttered in disbelief. “You are asking the impossible—My Lady, I…”

“If you cannot forgive yourself and forget your failures, you cannot even protect yourself, yet alone the others, from the darkness coming,” Galadriel retorted sharply. “You thought of yourself as a curse, and curse is what you will become. What you think of yourself is what defines you. A curse cannot help the others, Varilerin, and neither will your guilt help you. Let go.”

Galadriel walked to Varilerin and took her calloused hands with her gentle ones. She clasped them tight and radiated warmth to Varilerin’s cold skin, with a smile which had never aged. “Forgive yourself and live, Varilerin. Do not make your parents’ and friends’ sacrifice be in vain, Child, for they desire you to continue this fight.”

Varilerin desired to speak her mind, but found herself restrained under the Lady’s gaze. Her starlight eyes forced the elleth to stare down and ponder of her decisions. Guilt was her true friend for many years, accompanying her in her days and struggles, but what did it bring for her? Deaths and pain she had always tried to endure by herself. But now, as she broke the dam of sadness she had kept for thousands of years, her heart was more open to the wise words given to her.

Forgiveness was a small word, yet weighing more than the mountains. For Varilerin, it was a difficult thing to accomplish, to accept her failures and let go. A strange rope in her heart prevented her from letting go of her past, because for long years her past had been her motivation, the one pushing her forward in her dark life. However, all had changed in those years. Evil continued to grow, but she did not. She remained weak under the chains of her failures, and the weakness caused pain to many.

It is difficult, Varilerin mused as she looked to Legolas. The man gave her a look of assurance, trying to convince her to accept this. Varilerin pondered about the ellon. He had been struck with failures before, yet he continued to move forward. Perhaps it was the distinguishing difference between her and him. He was a man of the future and she was a woman of the past.

The shadow of guilt can only slow you from the future. You may not be able to see it, but I see a brighter future awaiting you, My Friend,” Gandalf’s words echoed in her mind space. The name struck her with pain, but somehow it was less than before. Forgiveness was the wish Gandalf and many of her friends had had for her. And for long I have struggled to deny their precious wishes, thought Varilerin, now regretting her all her past decisions. She winced as memories played again before her. All the pain she had endured because of her stubbornness and selfishness as a single being.

It was that moment her heart was truly enlightened. She must stop this. She should not, would not look back anymore. She could not afford looking back anymore.

As the night continued to feed the company with silence, Varilerin slowly raised her head and nodded hesitantly. There was a light in her eyes the others had never seen before. “If it is the only path presented to me, I shall take it,” she said. “It is very strange for me to be convinced by words alone…. But the wisdom from all of you truly enlightened me and struck myself with a reprimand…. I will try to forgive myself, My Lady. It is truly difficult, but for the sake of the others, I will try.”

A smile blossomed on Galadriel’s face, of pure happiness and satisfaction, for she saw honesty and determination in the elleth. It would take her some time, but the Lady was sure that she would accomplish her vows. She would let her failures go, for now the shadows behind her eyes were starting to take leave of her. “Light has returned to you, Daughter of Light,” Galadriel said, unclasping Varilerin’s hands. Varilerin nodded, her face radiating a warm light which somehow made Legolas and Celeborn smile. “Tonight, the stars are witnesses to your newfound revelation. It is now your duty to fulfil your promise and responsibilities as a warrior, who has embraced hope for the future.”

“And I shall fulfil my vows,” Varilerin promised, herself somehow reassuring her. “I shall help accomplish this quest and protect the future of Men.”

oOo

The night was soundless except for the faint lament for Gandalf chanted above the trees. Varilerin looked up, not noticing it before, and was washed with silent sadness. Gandalf had been her true friend, always. He had always been the one who comforted her and advised her, nevertheless the circumstances. But now, he was gone, perished in the darkness. If given the opportunity, she would drown herself with guilt once more, but she could not. She had a vow to keep, one all wished for her to accomplish.

Quietly, Varilerin walked to her bunk bed, where her equipment and a new set of clothes were waiting. She glanced at the other bunk beds, each with a single member of the Fellowship—Legolas included. She returned later to ensure all had been asleep, for she did not want them to see her messed face after her weeping. Gently, she unfolded the unexpected set of clothes, only to see a tunic and pants accompanied with boots and wristbands.

“The Lady has given you a good choice of clothing, though I know better,” Haldir whispered, emerging from the trees. He greeted her with a small bow and his cold smile.  

“Thank you,” Varilerin whispered in return. “It is convenient for you to give this to me, for I do not intend sleeping on trees with a dress.”

“I’ve heard from Lady Arwen,” Haldir remarked as he watched her taking her belongings and leaving the clearing. “I have a suitable place for you to sleep…” Haldir paused when Varilerin tilted her head questioningly. “Rangers are similar in some ways….”

“I see. Thank you then,” Varilerin said curtly,” though I have a feeling that your presence here is not to merely show me a tree for my rest.”

To her surprise, Haldir scoffed. Varilerin smirked, knowing that her suspicions were true and walked closer to Haldir. They began his walk, whilst Varilerin waited for his explanation. “True,” Haldir began, his voice deep yet clear like water. “I have heard of you from My Lord. I come here because I know your father, Caldir.”

“You know of my father?”

“Yes, he was a friend,” Haldir answered. “And you are his daughter, so I have the responsibility to tell you this. Your father, Caldir, was a good Elf, a descendant of the last Light Elves dwelling in Middle Earth. When his kin decided to leave for Valinor, he remained, trying to protect this beautiful land. He was also a traveller, wandering from place to another for hundreds of years, until he finally decided to settle in Lothlorien. He was mysterious at first, unwilling to talk with others willingly. He isolated himself from the people here, busying himself in the forgery.”

“It seems I now know where my personality comes from,” Varilerin teased, following his story intently.

“Indeed, you are similar in many ways. He was a good smith and he created many weapons, one of which was my sword. It was how I come to know the man. We were both quiet and found each other compatible, so we became good friends. He was unlike his kin. He did not sing, much to my surprise, and he loved weapons more than songs. He had no Gift of Vision, so I assume it came from your maternal side. Our friendship continued, until he decided to resume his travels. Clearly, the man was not a domestic one.” Haldir paused, fluttering his eyes as if remembering something. “Before he left, he forged his last weapon. It was a dagger, though I could not remember which one. He strangely left it here, saying nothing about it. He then disappeared from our sight and visions, for his light we could not follow. It was when we heard of his death did we discover him, but his body was lost. It was a terrible loss.”

“I see…” Varilerin muttered sadly. “It is indeed strange for someone to tell me my own heritage.”

“His sacrifice is not vain, I can see that,” Haldir reasoned, for he saw her in deep sadness. “It is good to see the daughter of my friend standing before me. It is like seeing him on my own.” Varilerin twitched a small smile as a response, giving the ellon the relief he needed after seeing her depression. “Perhaps it is better for the dagger to be passed on to you. I think I remember where I put it. I hope I can find it before your departure… Ah! Here we are.”

Haldir stopped beneath a larger malorn tree without bunks on its branches. Varilerin looked up, seeing no occupant above, only a lone ladder hanging from one of the branch. “It is magnificent. I shall find solitude here,” Varilerin said.

“I am pleased it is suitable for you,” Haldir said, tapping the trunk lightly. “I used to rest here along with Caldir, though now the time is too dire for me to rest. Speaking of which, would you like to join the scouting party in the morning? I see that you are uncomfortable with idleness.”

“That will be pleasant,” Varilerin said, bowing to him.

“I shall see you when the sun rises then,” Haldir said. “Good night, My Friend.”

“Good night, Haldir,” returned Varilerin. Haldir bowed himself before he quietly walked deeper to the forest, disappearing like a mist of shadow. Varilerin sighed and climbed the malorn tree, reaching the branch in mere seconds. She watched the road beneath for a while, reminiscing the comfort she had when she slept on trees of Imladris.

“The lament has stopped,” Varilerin noticed, resting herself on the trunk. She formed a small smile and closed her eyes. Good then, she mused, sadness cannot bring me to sleep.

Chapter Text

Aragorn once again found Varilerin’s bunk completely empty early in the morning. All of her weapons were gone and no trace of her sleeping beneath the blankets were found. He was utterly confused and dismayed by this, for he had hoped to speak to her once morning arrived, in each day they were staying in Lorien. The night of their arrival, Varilerin and Legolas disappeared long enough to worry the other members of the Fellowship. It was only Legolas who returned, with a news which struck Aragorn like lightning.

Varilerin is an Heir to Isildur, Aragorn pondered as he left his own bunk. The information left Aragorn speechless and Legolas refused to give him further explanation, other than Varilerin had strictly refused any position as a ruler. It was not her refusal which bemused him dearly, but the fact that Legolas’ different attitude when speaking her name. He spoke of her with a sense of familiarity, not suspicion or hesitance. There was something happening between them, clearly, though Aragorn had no chance to ask, as Legolas immediately disappeared as well. He would appear sometimes, though only to eat together with the Fellowship. Varilerin, however, had not been seen since then.

Aragorn had heard much of Varilerin from Arwen. She had told him that Varilerin was such a sweet child back then, even capable of getting embarrassed at times. He had also been informed by the tragedy befalling the two of them, which caused Varilerin’s current state. He could not imagine how hard it was for her. It explained clearly how she became Daefaroth, the renowned immortal ranger in the ears of the Dunedain. He could not help but wonder, how different Varilerin would be if the events of her past did not occur.

The morning light broke his thoughts, glimmering between the leaves of the trees. The sun woke the Hobbits up, making them realize the time for their departure had come. Aragorn took the liberty to wake Pippin, before he dressed himself with his renewed garments. Apparently, their clothes were more magnificent than before. Gimli was rather disgusted, or amazed if Aragorn would say, of his clean clothing. He grunted when he smelled the fragrance of the cloth, but wore all of them pleasantly. One by one they left their bunk beds, heading to the dining hall for their last meal in Lothlorien.

The presence of Varilerin in the table surprised them dearly, so was Legolas’. She was clearly in the same appearance as before, they knew—with her black scarf not clean from blood and her hair tied knotted together—but there was something bothering them. Her clothing was different, that they knew, for she was now wearing a tunic with a lighter shade of black, and grey leggings. However, what struck them was her face. It radiated a glow they had never seen before. Her eyes were still staring at them coldly, but a glimmer of light shone from them, as if starlight hid behind her eyelids.

“Good morning,” she plainly greeted, judging their expressions. The Fellowship almost gasped when she did the gesture. Varilerin in turn tilted her head, looking as unimpressed as usual. “I see that you are confused and awed at the same time. Perhaps you are wondering about the changes in me, which will be explained by Legolas.”

“I will not,” Legolas immediately said, snickering faintly. “Though you deserve explaining your disappearance, Varilerin.”

“I merely joined Haldir in his scouting missions,” Varilerin coolly explained. “Legolas here, joined us as well. It was pleasant to fight after all.” All gaze diverted to Legolas, questioning him of what had happened, though he merely shrugged calmly. “I know you have many questions, but it is important for us to eat now, or we won’t be leaving soon.”

Her words of scolding snapped them to their senses, and they quickly burrowed themselves on the food on the table. Varilerin silently watched them eat their meals in anxiety, urging them to do so faster with her terrifying glare. Once they had finished, they picked up their equipment and weapons from the bunk beds, before assembling before Haldir and his men near the gates. Haldir and his brothers led them to the riverbanks of Anduin, bundles of objects in their hands. Galadriel and Celeborn were waiting for them, along with several other Elves. Haldir instructed them to line up in front of the waiting Elves, sending a smile briefly to Varilerin as he did so. The Fellowship obeyed Haldir’s instructions, anxiously standing before the graceful Elves.

“It is time for you to depart,” Celeborn began. “The road beyond is perilous. It is why we have decided to give you protection for your journey.” Slowly the Elves approached each member, holding cloaks on their hands. Carefully they wore the cloaks to each members, clasping them with a brooch of the shape of leaves. “Never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people,” Celeborn told them as he clasped Aragorn’s cloak. “May these cloaks help shield you from unfriendly eyes.”

Celeborn looked at Galadriel, who nodded upon his gesture. Elegantly, as the other Elves of Lorien stepped back, the Lady came forth with an elleth beside her. She brought objects within her hand, giving the first to Galadriel. “For you, Legolas, is the bow of the Galadhrim. Worthy of the skill of our woodland kin,” Galadriel began, handing Legolas a silver wooden bow. It had an Elven hair as its string and the intricate carvings on the weapon made it as if it was not a tool for fighting. Legolas received the bow carefully, as if it was something fragile, and marvelled it with wondering blue eyes.

Galadriel then moved, not giving a chance for the ellon to say a proper gratitude. She took out daggers and approached Merry and Pippin, who blushed under her radiant smile. “These are the daggers of Noldorin. They have already seen service in war,” she whispered, giving the two Hobbits a dagger each. They unsheathed them, and Pippin was particularly dismayed with the gift. “Do not fear, young Peregrin Took. You will find courage.”

The Lady then walked to Sam, giving him a roll of silver rope. “And for you, Samwise Gamgee, Elven rope made of Hithlain.”

Sam received it gratefully, but he looked at it with slight dissatisfaction. “Thank you, My Lady, but… Have you run out of those shiny daggers?” he asked hesitantly. Galadriel merely smiled in response, causing the Hobbit to stare down in embarrassment.

“And what gift would a Dwarf ask of the Elves?” Galadriel asked gently as she arrived in front of the lone Dwarf. Gimli stared at the ground, clearly ashamed of his first words regarding the Lady.

“Nothing…” he answered hesitantly,” except to look upon the Lady of Galadhrim one last time, for she is fairer than all the jewels beneath the earth.” Galadriel laughed upon Gimli’s queer request, causing the Dwarf to avoid looking at her with his reddened face. However, he then lifted his face slowly and gazed her in hope. “Actually, there was one thing… But no. No, I couldn’t. It’s quite impossible. Stupid to ask…”

“If it is within my capabilities, I shall try, Gimli Son of Gloin,” Galadriel kindly replied.

“I would be very thankful for a gift of a single strand of your hair, for I fear that I shall not see you once more,” Gimli said brokenly. Celeborn widened his eyes behind Galadriel, though she merely grinned in amusement. She took a small knife from the elleth nearby and carefully cut three strands from her locks. Gimli was utterly happy when he received the long awaited gift, and Galadriel let him dwell in his happiness.

“For you, Frodo Baggins, I give you the light of Earendil, our most beloved star,” Galadriel said as she gave Frodo a phial filled with glinting water. “May this be your light in the darkest places.”

“Thank you, My Lady,” Frodo said weakly. Galadriel smiled sadly as she moved to Boromir, to which she gave a golden belt, crafted by the skills of the Elves.

“I have nothing greater to give than the gift you already bear,” Galadriel said to Aragorn, looking at Aragorn’s necklace. “For her love, I fear the grace of Arwen Evenstar will diminish.”

“I would have her leave these shores and be with her people. I would have her take the ship to Valinor,” Aragorn said surely.

“That choice is yet before her. You have your own choice to make, Aragorn: to rise above the height of all your fathers since the days of Elendil, or to fall into darkness with all that is left of your kin…” Galadriel paused as she glanced to Varilerin, who remained unmoved by her words to Aragorn. “However, if you choose the former, you shall not be alone. She has chosen a different path, for her grace is not with Men, but with the Elves. Her role will come in time, but it is you who must decide.”

Aragorn remained silent, and silent Galadriel left him be. “For you Varilerin, I give you this,” Galadriel said as she stood in front of the last companion. She pulled out a slim dagger and handed it to Varilerin. Varilerin unsheathed it, revealing a double-edged blade made of silver metal, with beautiful flower carvings for its hils and guard. An Elven scripture was engraved along the blade.

My Protection is with you, and with you eternally,” read Varilerin. She looked up at Galadriel in confusion.

“It is made by your father. Haldir fortunately found it in the storage. It is one of the last weapon surviving the darker days. Keep it, for we know that Caldir would want you to wield it,” Galadriel told her.

“Thank you, My Lady,” Varilerin said as she sheathed her new weapon. “I shall put it to good use.” Galadriel nodded and stepped back, scanning the Fellowship in its entirety.

“It is time,” she said.


 

With their supplies and equipment already in the boats, the Fellowship finally bid farewell with the Lorien Elves and followed the currents of Anduin towards Mordor. Legolas, Boromir, and Aragorn held the paddle of each boat, for they knew the streams of the river well. Varilerin remained in Legolas’ boat, along Gimli, and with her watchful eyes she carefully scanned their surroundings.

“So what was her gift?” Legolas asked Gimli, who was unusually quiet. Gimli did not immediately answer him, his eyes still dazing into someplace the two Elves did not know.

“I ask for one hair from her golden head. She gave me three,” Gimli muttered quietly, clearly still captivated by Galadriel’s beauty.

“Elven hair is precious, Gimli, especially those of elleths,” Varilerin explained to the Dwarf. “You should keep it safe and sound, Gimli, for Lady Galadriel has never given such a gift to strangers, yet alone a Dwarf.”

“Aye,” Gimli stammered, rubbing the pocket in which he kept the hair safe. Legolas smiled amusingly, whilst Varilerin merely smirked. Legolas noted that the elleth had been slightly more open than before, and he was grateful for that. Elves tended to find comfort among their kin, but Varilerin’s cold attitude had caused him to feel more discomfort in the start of their journey. At least now she was more open to the company, and now he finally found a relief whenever he was around her. Nevertheless, he was still anxious about her condition after viewing the Mirror.

Varilerin suddenly flinched and straightened her back, tensing her senses as she moved her eyes to the banks of the river. She narrowed her eyes and peered deep into the green woods surrounding the river, as if she was seeing something ood from the tranquil forest.

“Something is following us,” she informed the three boats.

“If you are talking about Gollum, he’s tracked us since Moria. I have hoped we would lose him on the river, but he’s too clever a waterman,” Aragorn replied, his eyes also searching for the forest, but found nothing in his sight.

“It’s not Gollum,” she told them restlessly. “Something is moving among the trees, not close but soon to come. We need to move faster.” Aragorn and the other helmsmen of the boats agreed, paddling their boats faster on the waters. Her attention was unmoved as they moved faster, continuously placing her hands safely around her quiver, as if awaiting an attack. Years of travelling had taught her many, one told her defence and alert being the most important thing in survival. She did not know what was or were lurking behind the shades of the trees, but she knew they were evil, and they’re moving fast. It seemed Legolas slowly noticed this as well, sharing the same worry as her.

Night came rather quickly for the Fellowship. It was tranquil yet terrifying at the same time. They docked on the river bank to rest for the night, for the Hobbits had already been tired. Varilerin told the Hobbits not to create any fire—this time assuring none had any objects capable of lighting a fire—for their safety. The lembas breads given by the Elves were really handy at the current situation, for no fire was needed to cook meals.

“The shadows have not stopped,” Varilerin told Legolas, who came to hand her a small piece of the waybread. “We need to move as soon as the sun rises. The enemies will never stop to let us rest longer. Whatever they are, they are not Orcs. Something gives this evil strength to move in daylight.”

“You should rest yourself, Varilerin,” Legolas advised her, knowing she had found little sleep even in Lorien. Her face, nevertheless, did not show any sign of weariness, a thing Legolas must admire. “I can take over the watch.”

“You are right,” she said, much to his surprise. “But I shall wake earlier. Good night.” Legolas was left bemused as Varilerin took a rest against a rock, for she used to be so persistent. However, his thoughts about this new change were wrong, for Varilerin did not find any sleep. She pretended to be sleeping, though Legolas knew better. Her consciousness remained awake until the sun rose and the others woke. She was the first one to rise, waking up the Hobbits with her usual harsh style, before preparing the boats for their journey.

The Fellowship drifted on the Anduin once more. Varilerin remained restless as their journey continued, continuously pondering over something as her eyes watched the moving forests. “You did not find any sleep,” Legolas said.

“Something is bothering me,” Varilerin curtly answered.

“The Argonath!” she heard Aragorn exclaiming, before shifting her eyes to glance up on the massive cliff carvings lying before them. “Long have I desired to look upon the kings of old… my kin,” Aragorn continued. She had never seen the Argonath up close. It was impressive, even to her, the statues towering them like the tower in Isengard. The statues’ left hands were raised aloft as if warning them to not pass. They were Men of the West, as noble as they were once in when they were alive. For a long moment the Fellowship looked at the monuments in awe, before finally passing them with the swift currents of the river.

After a long time in the waters, the Fellowship finally reached the foot of Amon Hen, the Hill of Sight. They paddled the boats towards the shores, taking another rest. “We’ll make a camp here, cross the lake by nightfall,” Aragorn informed them. “Hide the boats and continue on foot. We approach Mordor from the north.

“Oh yes?” Gimli finally spoke after his long, bizarre silence on the boat. Aragorn and the others stopped moving and turned to the Dwarf in curiosity. “It’s just a simple matter of finding our way through Emyn Muil? An impassable labyrinth of razo-sharp rocks! And after that, it gets even better! Festering, stinking marshlands far as the eye can see!”

“That, Gimli, is our path,” Aragorn replied. “So I suggest you prepare yourselves, and rest.”

“Rest?” Gimli exclaimed in disagreement with him, but decided to stay quiet afterwards.

“Tonight will be cold, so we should make a fire,” Aragorn said, much to Varilerin’s dismay. Sam and the Hobbits jumped with joy and quickly created a campfire to cook real food. Varilerin was finally able to persuade Legolas to rest instead of her, taking the role as the watched as she stood by the river. Legolas sighed, though he in turn did not intend to follow her instructions. He stole glances to the trees, an action which made him realize what Varilerin was saying was true.

“Varilerin is correct,” Legolas said as he approached Aragorn hastily. “We must leave now.”

“No. Orcs patrol the eastern shore. We must wait for cover of darkness,” Aragorn bluntly retorted.

“It is not the eastern shore that worries me and Varilerin. A shadow and a threat has been growing in our minds. Something draws near, we can feel it,” Legolas reasoned. Aragorn did not respond, showing his strong decision, and Legolas sighed in dismay. He glanced around, expecting something to happen, only to find Boromir’s shield lying masterless on the rocky ground.

“Where’s Boromir?” realized Merry on Legolas’ behald. Varilerin immediately turned and found the masterless shield, glancing hastily around. Frodo was not in vicinity as well.

“Frodo is gone. Oh no,” Varilerin muttered. The Man has fallen to the Ring. “We need to find them! Now!”

“Let’s separate. Varilerin and the Hobbits will go separately from us,” Aragorn instructed restlessly. Varilerin nodded and immediately scampered with the Halflings. The Fellowship dispersed like wolves hunting for preys, running swiftly among the trees. Varilerin leapt faster than the Halflings following her, her body blurring with her pace. Her heart throbbed in anxiety, fearing what Boromir would cause to Frodo, and depended on the feeling to lead her to Boromir. She had long suspected the man for the darkness of his heart, but she had decided to see him as a man who could keep his temptations away. It seemed she was ultimately wrong, and now her decision was bearing harsh results. If she had talked to him earlier about his temptations, this would not happen.

Another evil came, coming from the direction where Aragorn and the others were searching. Her ears caught screeches of Orcs, but heavier in tone and power. The shadows which were chasing them along the river were different than Orcs, and she worried about the fate of Aragorn. But he was a strong warrior, and she had one task at hand: to find Boromir and stop him from whatever he intended to do.

Dark splotches began appearing on the hill lying before them. Varilerin could see clearly the white hand of Saruman on each of them, under the scorching sun. She widened her eyes as the shadows revealed themselves to her vision. They were Uruk-hais, running wildly with swords in their hands and heavy armours protecting their nasty body.

“Get back!” she told Merry and Pippin—unable to find Sam in vicinity—as she notched an arrow on her bowstring. With a single flick she started firing the enemies down, as swift as the wind brushing her skin. Merry and Pippin hid themselves behind one of the rocks and watched as Varilerin took down the enemies one by one as if they were mere preys. Across them, behind a tree bark, a figure shifted and caught their attentions. Merry glanced at Pippin, drawing his sword cautiously, as he approached the bark. He stopped abruptly, however, when he saw Frodo breathing heavily as he leaned on the tree trunk.

“Frodo!” Merry exclaimed. Frodo looked back frightfully, clenching the ring around his neck tight.  He did not answer and instead shifted his interests to the fighting Varilerin, who was now switching her weapons to her dual swords. Quickly she sent dark blood to the forest floor with savage slices, her body continuing to flow like the river as she moved from one enemy to another.

“Frodo! Hide here!” urged Pippin hastily, his eyes constantly switching from the battlefield to his friend. Frodo gazed at them with his shiny blue eyes, for a moment hesitation passing them, but he ultimately shook his head. Merry and Pippin gasped in disbelief as Frodo suddenly left his post, running alone in the enemy-infested forest. “What he’s doing?!”

“He’s leaving!” Merry rapped. Pippin recklessly left their hiding place and pursued Frodo, unwilling to leave his friend alone. Merry chased after him, but several Uruk-hai noticed them and rushed towards them.

“Pippin!” shouted Merry. “We need to buy some time for Frodo!” Merry turned and picked up several stones from the ground, throwing them at the enemies. “Hey! Hey you! Over here!”

The enemies caught their attention and began to rally on them. “It’s working!” Pippin said as he continued to divert their attentions.

“Yes, I know! Now run!” Merry ordered after realizing the dire situation they caught themselves in. Pippin and Merry scampered on the forest floor, leaving Varilerin alone in her bloodied battlefield. It was only a moment later did the elleth realize their disappearance.

“Merry! Pippin!” Varilerin shouted when she noticed the said Halflings being chased by the evil creatures at the other side of the forest. She threw a deadly strike to the last Uruk-hai near, before rushing to meet the others chasing her friends. She had heard faint shouts of Frodo’s name from the two, though she could not find him anywhere within her vicinity. Varilerin threw herself before the chasing enemies, glowering at them with her sharp eyes. She spun her swords and began her battle again, trying to hold off the opponents as Merry and Pippin rushed away. She managed to hold her ground, dancing with a rhythm which could not be stopped, but more came from behind her. Even with a skill honed for thousands of years, numbers would always win. This time as well, she found herself in a dire situation, Sooner or later, if she could not finish the enemies quickly, she would be devoured by their large numbers.

But that time would not come, for suddenly Boromir appeared from among the trees. He lunghed himself and met the incoming Uruk-hais, pushing them away with his courage and recklessness. His sword found the head of an opponent, before his knife flew to another’s head. Varilerin stopped her fight briefly to greet him with a look of fear and amazement, and of suspicions.

“Where have you been?” Varilerin asked immediately, immersing herself with the battle once more. “What have you done to Frodo?”

“I will explain later!” Boromir shouted, slashing his way through the Uruks. “There’s too many of them! We need some help!”

Boromir took his horn and blew it loudly. The sound of the instrument echoed throughout the forest, sending fear to the enemies and calling help to the others. Varilerin was sure that the signal was caught by Aragorn and the others, though she was not sure if they could survive before their aide come.

Boromir fought back to back with Varilerin, each protecting the other. The forest had started to reek of evil blood as they killed more and more enemies with their unquestionable skills. Each was amazed by the other’s skills, not shifting their attention to admire one another. Varilerin lived to her name as the Daefaroth, and so did Boromir. They were unstoppable in the current battle, but the enemies continued to come. It would be not long before they were outnumbered.

“Varilerin! Boromir!” came Pippin’s shout from afar. Varilerin and Boromir instantly turned, greeted by Merry and Pippin running towards them, five Uruk-hai on their tails.

“Run! Run!” Boromir shouted at them, leaving Varilerin’s back to meet the chasing Uruks. They roared at him, but he did not falter and met them bravely. The enemies seemed to be neverending, and unfortunately Aragorn had not come yet. After striking another enemy down, Boromir glanced at Varilerin, her back facing him. She seemed so strong from behind, as if she was a queen of the battlefield.

Suddenly, from the corner of his eyes, Boromir caught a shadow—an Uruk bearing the white mark of Saruman, drawing its bow and directed its arrow to Varilerin. Varilerin turned too late to realize this, and the arrow was released towards her. Boromir had no time to think nor shout at her. All he could do was to throw himself to save her, and he did. He leapt at Varilerin, tackling her to the ground to escape the deadly arrow. A flash came upon Varilerin, like a Vision, brief but enough to terrify her. She saw a ghostly figure of Boromir, punctured with numerous arrows, standing alone in the forest.

“NO!” shouted Varilerin too late. The black arrow purposed for her found its target, right on the middle of Boromir’s chest. Boromir gasped and Varilerin widened her eyes. Varilerin grabbed an arrow in fury and fired it at the Uruk, killing it instantly. She turned to Boromir, mortally wounded on the ground, and knelt beside him. Boromir wheezed, blood spurting from his mouth, as he tried to look at Varilerin.

“I am glad you are safe….” He whispered, his voice dying away. He broke his gaze from her and looked over her shoulder. “Behind you!”

Varilerin’s body moved slower than she ordered it to, unable to evade an impending Uruk. But its attack failed, for suddenly Merry and Pippin appeared and jumped on the opponent, bringing it to the ground. Merry and Pippin killed the Uruk with their swords and tried to reach the wounded Boromir, but more enemies flooded in. To her outmost horrors, the Uruks suddenly swept the Hobbits up instead of killing them, and took them away from her vicinity. Varilerin could feel herself screaming inaudibly as she reached for her quiver, but found it empty. Varilerin could not say another word about her and the Hobbits’ fate, and instead chased after them with her fastest pace.

Give them back!” Varilerin hissed as she drew her swords and leapt at one of the Uruks. The others blocked her path, raising their swords at her, whilst the others prepared to fire her head. “Move!” she warned, recklessly pushing her way without paying heed on the possibility of killing herself to arrows. She only realized the possibility when an arrow grazed her skin—poisoned, no doubt—which snapped her to her senses. At least, it made her realize the awry condition her circumstances and mind were in. She could not chase Merry and Pippin nor save herself nor save Boromir.

All was hopeless now.

“Varilerin!” came a voice which sparked hope in her heart. She turned to see Legolas uphill, striking her opponents down one by one with swift flicks of his bowstring. A Dwarf’s battle cry came next, followed by Aragorn’s, as they entered the bloody battlefield and swept the opponents like a flood. Aragorn leapt to the arrow wielding Uruk and decapitated its head with his broadsword. Their arrival brought utter relief to her, but it was only for a momentary second.

“Boromir!” she cried as she returned to the dying Man, leaving her comrades in finishing the Uruks. Boromir was pale and bleeding profusely. Varilerin checked his wounds, but found herself helpless, for the arrow had struck a part of his heart and lungs. “Boromir, for—“

“Forgive me,” Boromir rasped before she could speak. Varilerin widened her eyes, Boromir touching her bloodied cheek gently. “For… the words I’ve uttered to you and letting Frodo go.”

“Why did you save me?” Varilerin asked, instead of the many questions pounding her head. Aragorn and the other two had finished their fight, only to be greeted by the sight of dying Boromir.

“Because I am in debt with you, and you are worthy to be saved,” Boromir said brokenly. Varilerin’s face sank with remorse and Boromir held her hands.  “It is not your fault, for I have fallen to the Ring, and this is my redemption.”

“Boromir…” Aragorn muttered sadly as he knelt beside the Man. Boromir looked at Aragorn, his gaze now unfocused and lost, for his passing was near.

“The world of Men will fall….” Boromir groaned,” but with the two of you, I should be calm…” Varilerin was dazed by his words, so he continued. “You are a great woman Varilerin. You are noble and worthy of the throne…”

Varilerin did not even think of asking how he knew about her heritage, for she was now overwhelmed with sadness. Boromir was now beyond their help. He would pass from the world, but nobly as a member of the Fellowship and a Man of Gondor.  “I do not know what strength is in our blood, but I swear to you we will not let the White City fall,” swore Aragorn as he gripped Boromir’s cold hands. “Nor our people fail.”

Boromir smiled, locking eyes with his King one last time. “Our people?” he wondered as his voice died down, his soul preparing its departure from his body. “Our people.”

“May the Valar guide you, Son of Gondor,” Varilerin painfully blessed him. Boromir smiled weakly before he exhaled his last breath. His eyes looked at the sky, before light disappeared from them. The world around him stopped moving, and Varilerin’s as well. She closed her eyes and kissed his forehead gently, before closing his lifeless eyes with her hands. “Here passes Boromir, Warrior of Men, a Walker of Middle Earth. May his path be blessed and may his soul be freed,” Varilerin prayed quietly.

A moment of silence was given to them to pray for Boromir. Once the moment passed, Aragorn rose up and looked at the members left. “We need to bury him,” he said, trying to be as composed as possible.

“What about Frodo?” Gimli asked.

“He is out of our reach now, but I believe Sam has gone with him. He is a loyal friend and he won’t leave him with a burden on his own,” Varilerin told them. “It is vain to chase him. For now, we should bury Boromir.”

They all agreed. As per Aragorn’s instructions, they collected Boromir’s horn and weapons. They laid his body on one of the boats, putting his belongings on top of his body. Aragorn prayed for the Man one last time, before he drifted the boat on Anduin, towards the plunging waterfall below.

May his journey to the Halls of Mandos be full of light,” Legolas chanted as he disappeared from their sight. Aragorn and Legolas lamented Boromir’s death with songs, until they felt themselves unable to speak. Gimli on the other hand stood quiet, but muttered something in the tongue of his people.

“It has all been in vain,” Gimli said finally once their mourning had ended. “The Fellowship has failed.”

“Not if we hold true to each other,” Aragorn retorted surely, determined after the loss of their comrade. “I won’t let Merry and Pippin die to death, not while we still have the strength to fight.” Aragorn scanned the wrecked forest floor and the remnants of their terrifying battle. “Leave all that can be spared behind,” he instructed as he picked his dagger from the ground. The others obliged and quickly picked whatever left of their weapons and arrows. Varilerin and Legolas collected the lembas they had left, before assembling with Aragorn and Gimli.

Varilerin drew a deep breath as she reunited with her comrades. The Fellowship of the Ring was not whole anymore, but their hearts were connected. Boromir’s death did not burden her heart with fear nor guilt, but more of anger and desire to pay the evil for what he had done. She had forgiven herself for Boromir’s cause, but Sauron? He would never receive such thing as forgiveness.

“What are we waiting for?” Gimli exclaimed excitedly. Aragorn smirked as he looked to the path they would take, his soul burning with fury and spirit, just like the remaining warriors.

“Let’s hunt some Orc.”

Chapter Text

The Fellowship had broken, but remained connected still with their purpose and soul. They left the last remnant of their unity in a forest bathed with the blood of Uruk and Man. The trees remained muted as the Four Hunters left the battlefield, embarking for another journey to save their friends. The forest stood quiet for many days—none came to know of the battle ensuing there—until a man visited. His dark cloak hid his forgotten face as he trailed the bloodied forest floor. His hidden eyes intently scanned the remnants of battle, his fingers constantly rubbing his daggers.  

The man stopped at the place where the forest floor was no longer visible—covered with blood and corpses of Uruks. He knelt beside a significant body of an Uruk, studying how its death occurred. The man smirked.

“It seems Saruman has failed in such a light task,” he muttered to himself, turning over the body of Lurtz. He shifted his gaze to a bloodied grass, a small knife lying on top of it. He picked the weapon and studied it, before he smirked again. “Though, it seems one member has fallen. It is quite an accomplishment… A Man of Gondor… The Captain and Son of the Steward. He deserves his death. Men are weak indeed. They cannot even resist such temptations—“

My Lord Vrasari,” came a gruff voice from behind him, uttered in Black Speech of Mordor. The man turned around to be greeted by a pack of Orcs, one bowing to him with outmost respect.

Why are you here?” Vrasari hissed, feeling them unworthy to converse with him. He took a step closer to the Orc, igniting fear in their fallen hearts with his power and glare.

The Dark Lord has ordered us to go to Rohan, to kill the son of the king. You must kill him, but he is guarded with many. Our Lord has told us to accompany you,” the Orc responded carefully, struggling to hide its fear. It would be perilous to show fear in front of such a frightening figure. Vrasari would not tolerate cowardly underlings under his command for such an important mission.

“Kill the son of the king?” asked Vrasari. The Orc nodded, cowering under his terrifying bloodshot eyes. Vrasari smirked again, this time his grin wider than before. “If it is his will, I shall obey. I shall not fail him like Saruman did.”

Vrasari turned around to the previous dead Uruk—Lutz, Saruman had called him—and stepped on its body despicably. “Perhaps, I shall pay a visit to that useless Maia as well.”


She could hear rumbles, tremors of the earth echoing. They were quick, but not as fast as before. The tremors slowly dissipated, until nothing could be heard by her ears. She frowned and then lifted her head from the ground, quickly returning to her feet.

“They are pacing faster, but they are not far,” Varilerin reported to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. “They are still in our reach,” Varilerin continued, patting her tunic from dust and grass.

“They must have caught our scent. Hurry!” Aragorn instructed as he continued running once more. Legolas and Varilerin nimbly followed behind, leaving the slower Dwarf on his own. Gimli grunted not far, struggling to keep his own body moving.

“Come on Gimli! We are gaining them!” Legolas encouraged him. Gimli panted as he pushed his feet to move, sweat trickling from his brows down to his auburn beard.

“Three days and nights pursuit,” Gimli panted as he continued jogging as fast as he could. “No food, no rest, and no sign of our quarry, but what bare rock can tell!”

Legolas chuckled as he ran overran Aragorn, taking the lead in scouting for their Hobbits. Varilerin merely smirked as Gimli’s breaths rasped loudly in her ears. They had been travelling without stopping since they had left Anduin in pursuit of the Hobbits, still hoping that they remained alive. The restless pursuit had been squeezing Gimli’s strength the most, though Aragorn and Varilerin were affected as well. Being a peredhil, she inherited the tremendous amount of speed and endurance, and a thousand years of trained her well. The exhausting journey for Gimli was nothing more than a jog for her, though she found herself tiring slightly now. It made her envious with Legolas, who seemed not bothered at all.

They were now trailing the rocky plains, with Legolas continuously gazing to the distance. Aragorn suddenly stopped as they ran along the mountains, kneeling on the ground. He picked up an object from the grassy earth, observing it intently with the eyes of a ranger. Varilerin stopped with Aragorn, noticing that the grass around where Aragorn was kneeling had been trampeled by footsteps. They were heavy and many, still fresh and muddy from boots of travellers.

“Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall,” Aragorn observed, showing the cloak clasp to the others. It was the same exact brooch they were all wearing, except for its bent curvatures.

“They may yet be alive,” Legolas hoped. Aragorn returned to his feet and put the brooch in his pocket.

“Less than a day ahead of us!” he informed them. “Come, Gimli!”

Aragorn ran again—this time hope pushing himself faster—without noticing Gimli rolling downhill behind them. “I’m wasted on cross-country!” Gimli protested weakly as he stood up, breathing heavily under his beard. “We Dwarfs are natural sprinters. Very dangerous at short distances!”

“Then shorten your distance to us,” Varilerin teased loud enough so the Dwarf could hear. Gimli grunted in annoyance as he rolled his eyes. He started running closer to them as his annoyance to Varilerin grew. She had changed, no doubt, but he did not know exactly how. She had gone terribly noisy for her own level, and sarcastic. It was better than having a companion who constantly glared at you nonetheless.

The scenery slowly changed, from the hilly and rocky plains to grassy yellow carpets. The sun scorched the Four Hunters, merciless and watchful. Despite the heat, the air became idle no more, for winds generously blew across the wide yellow carpets, spreading towards where the land meets the sky. Aragorn stopped on a hill as he observed the vast plains standing before them.

“Rohan, Home of the Horse-lords,” Aragorn informed them. “There’s something strange at work here. Evil gives speed to these creatures, sets its will against us…”

“Rohan is falling to darkness, I can sense it… but there is something different in this shadow,” Varilerin remarked, setting her eyes towards the direction where Isengard was lying. She could feel the evil the previously sacred place was now emanating, disgusted by the fact that one of the Wise had decided something so wrong. “This is Saruman’s treachery, no doubt—“ She stopped as she moved her gaze from Isengard towards the Fords of Isen. She was confused with her action herself, but she felt an uneasy feeling coming from the place.

“What’s wrong?” Aragorn asked, following her gaze, though he found nothing.

“I do not know,” Varilerin said, shaking the uneasy thought from her mind, at least for now. She had learnt not to forget any simple things poking her mind, but the current quest was more imperative. “Legolas, what do you see?” she asked the ellon, who undeniably had better sight than her. Legolas squinted his eyes, tracking small moving splotches on the plains.

“The Uruks turn northeast!” Legolas shouted. “They are taking the Hobbits to Isengard!”

“They’re going to Saruman!” Gimli grunted. “He must have thought Merry and Pippin have the Ring!”

“Having the Ring or not, they are in danger. We need to hurry,” Varilerin suggested, leaping downhill to get closer to the moving Uruk pack. Aragorn and Legolas followed, far behind them Gimli struggling to match their pace. They moved like wolves across Rohan, fast against the fierce wind. The sun continuously rose and descend as their journey continued. Time seemed to have no meaning to them, for their minds were occupied by the safety of Merry and Pippin. Saruman might be a Wizard once, but he was now the servant of Sauron. Wise and powerful, he had once been, but even the strongest could fall. He was equally merciless, perhaps even more heartless if he know that Merry and Pippin did not have the Ring.

“Varilerin!” Legolas shouted as he threw a piece of lembas to her. She caught it skilfully, surprised by his action, though she accepted it gratefully with a glance over her shoulder. Legolas nodded as he smiled back at her. Varilerin’s stomach tremored with a strange feeling, something she had not felt before.

Perhaps it is because of the hunger, Varilerin reasoned—swallowing the bread in a single bite—though she knew it was only an excuse. She could not find out how, but Legolas had become her only close friend ever since Gandalf disappeared from her world. He was not like Aragorn or Gimli—they were allies, nothing more and nothing less—which confused her. It was a strange friendship they were having. It made her overlook any tense encounters they had in the past, in which she always thought him as an emotional royalty. However, she learnt he was similar with her in many ways. His freedom of expressions was similar to of Ruindoldir’s, but he was gentler inside.

Varilerin saw Legolas throwing another piece at Gimli, who caught it as if he was holding a hot charcoal. The Dwarf ultimately fell the ground to prevent the bread from touching the earth, stopping Aragorn’s run with his loud tumble. Varilerin scoffed as she watched his dirtied face lifting from the ground, clearly unamused by Legolas’ action. “You could at least tell!” grumbled the Dwarf, eating the bread in a flash. Aragorn sighed, shaking his head, before he continued their pursuit.

The night slowly arrived, veiling them with darkness and malice. Under the darkness, Varilerin ran faster than both Aragorn and Legolas. She remained unnoticed, until the flash of her scarf flagged past Aragorn. Aragorn finally understood why Daefaroth was her name, and how it fitted her so well. He first heard her name and skill from passing travellers and fellow Dunedain rangers. They feared her like they feared the shadows, as if she was a vicious beast hunting for lives. He had not seen her fighting an open battle directly—all opportunities were missed because of his lack of attention—though he could see from the numerous Uruks she had taken down in Anduin she lived up to her reputation. It made the Man wonder if she was more dangerous in the cover of darkness like this.

Despite her name, nevertheless, she now feared the darkness which loomed over them. The darkness had always been threatening, especially with Sauron’s growing power. She knew she should take the lead, for her eyes were keener under the veil of night—a result of endless years travelling in shadows. It was not only her keener sight which made her push forwards, but also the frightening memories taking place in the dark. That event would always be a constant reminder for her how dangerous the night could be.

“The sun is rising,” Legolas said after long hours of running. They looked up to the sky to see the stars slowly fading and the moon disappearing. The black veil slowly turned pearly grey to red, the latter colour striking the group with terribly premonition. The sky became red, blood red, bright and clear. “A red sun rises,” Legolas observed. “Blood has been spilt tonight. A vicious battle has taken many lives…”

“Let us hope it is not the Hobbits,” Varilerin prayed, watching the said sun rising to the sky and lighting the day. Varilerin moved her attention to the road before them, noticing something bothering her eyes. She squinted, observing black splotches moving across the plain. “Legolas!”

“I see it,” he responded. “They are horsemen, in large numbers. They bear the flag of Rohan, each of them wielding a spear and equipped with armour. Their leader is tall. It is the Rohirrim,” he reported.

“They are closing in,” Aragorn muttered hopefully, as if he was in joy. He trailed down the hill they had been running and ran towards them. The riders did not notice him, until he shouted at them. “Riders of Rohan! What news from the Mark?” Aragorn shouted as loud as he could, trying to gain their attention. Attention was gained and the riders shifted their directions, now running towards them with great speed. However, through her eyes Varilerin could see that they would not be greeting them too kindly.

Her thought was true, for soon after the riders were in their distance, they circled them. They pointed their spears at the Four Hunters as they enclosed them in a defensive circle. Legolas in response immediately reached for his arrow, but stopped when Aragorn abruptly raised his hand. Aragorn remained calm despite the danger of the spears and instead bowed to the riders respectfully.

“I am Aragorn, Son of Arathorn. This is Varilerin—the Daefaroth—Gimli Son of Gloin, and Legolas of the Woodland Realm. We are friends of Rohan and of Theoden, your king,” Aragorn told them to ease their suspicions.

“Daefaroth?” a deep voice came from among the riders. A rider unmounted his horse and then approached them. He studied them intently before he took off his helmet, revealing a Man with a fair face full of dignity.

“Eomer, Son of Eomund,” Varilerin spoke with her true voice, startling him slightly. “I see you have grown into a brave and honourable man. It is good to meet you again.” She heart mutters coming from the riders. They clearly suspected her identity as Daefaroth, but she had no further reason to prove herself. Despite his men’s doubtful thoughts however, Eomer seemed to be convinced by her clarification.

“I remember now,” Eomer said. “You helped us when I was a child, preventing an Orc attack in Edoras.” Varilerin nodded, gaining the acknowledgement of the others. He then turned to Aragorn and the others, who were waiting for his answer anxiously. “Thengel had also told stories about you, Aragorn, to my uncle, King Theoden. Unfortunately, Theoden now no longer recognizes friend from foe,” he explained in dismay, lifting his hand so that the other riders lower their spears.

“What do you mean?” asked Gimli.

“Saruman has poisoned the mind of the King and claimed lordship over his lands,” Eomer informed, confirming their suspicions. “My company are those loyal to Rohan and for that we are banished. The White Wizard is cunning. He walks here and there they say—as an old man, hooded and cloaked—and everywhere his spies slip past our nets…” Eomer paused as he turned his gaze towards Isengard. More likely, however, he was gazing at the Fords of Isen. “The incident in the Ford is probably his doing as well.”

“What happened?” Varilerin asked. Eomer sighed and shook his head in grief.

“Theodred, Son of the King, was attacked there. By Orcs, we observed, though I doubt that the one who attacked him was an Orc. The stab wound he suffered was unlike an Orc’s doing. It was only a single stab which took his poor soul, towards the stomach. Whoever did this, he was skilful a warrior, and is aided with many. No doubt Saruman sent spies to track down my cousin. ”

“We are no spies,” Aragorn assured them with their limited time. “We track a party of Uruk-hai westward across the plain. They have taken two of our friends captive.”

Eomer frowned upon hearing the information. “The Uruks are destroyed. We slaughtered them during the night.”

“There were two Hobbits,” Gimli added desperately.

“A size of a child, did you see them?” Legolas further inquired.

“We left none alive,” the ellon heard Eomer answer shortly, trying to avoid their accusing eyes. “We piled the carcass and burned them. I am sorry.” Eomer looked at the Hunters with disappointment and remorse. Legolas put a hand on Varilerin’s shoulder, assuring her that none was her fault. She brushed it gently from her shoulder, still in disbelief of Eomer’s report.

“We burn them there,” Eomer added, pointing towards a direction. “But it is quite far. You’ll need rides.” Eomer then whistled and from among the horses came two steeds, one dark brown and the other white. He took their reins and gave them to the grief-stricken Aragorn. “This is Hasufel and Arod. May these horses bear you to better fortune than their former masters… Farewell.”

Aragorn nodded silently as he watched Eomer leaping to his horse. Eomer gazed far to the horizon, his eyes full of anxiety as he studied Rohan, a place he might not be able to return to and where his loyalty remained. “Look for your friends, but do not trust to hope. It has forsaken these lands… We ride north!”

With his order the riders started pacing away from the hunters, leaving clouds of dust and smoke behind them. They soon disappeared from the Hunters’ vicinity. Aragorn gave one horse to Legolas and Gimli, before mounting the brown one swiftly. Varilerin rode behind Aragorn, whose silence caused an uneasiness for her. They began their journey once more, travelling across the plain to where Eomer had directed the, as fast as the horses could take them. Exhaustion seemed to be forgotten, replaced by the hopelessness which washed over them. They were of course hoping for the survival of the Hobbits, in some ways or another, but Eomer’s news casted grief quicker than they had hoped for. But Varilerin refused to believe her friends were dead. If they did, she should have felt it. She did not know if her senses had become numb since Gandalf’s death, but she somehow was sure they were alive.

From afar Legolas caught a smoke rising to the air, dark and foul-smelling. As they closed their distance, piles of burnt carcasses were visible to their eyes. They piled up like small black hills on the yellow grass, tinging the plain with a disgusting stain of evil. When Aragorn saw them, he frowned terribly he looked older, for the sight caused him to cling less to hope.

Aragorn finally stopped his horse after they reached the location. He leapt hastily from his horse and ran towards the pile of corpses. Varilerin followed his action, slowly scanning the destroyed battlefield with curiosity and confusion. There were no longer weapons lying on the ground, but she could see the terrible which had ensure there. Blood reeked in the air despite the sharp smell of smoke. She studied the remnants of the battle, still not believing Merry and Pippin’s demise, whilst the others searched the piles for any evidence of their fate.

Gimli walked to one of the piles, rummaging them with his axe. His eyes caught a significant object in his memory and quietly picked it up. It was one of the Lothlorien given to the Hobbits. He stared at it in disbelief, before he walked to Aragorn to show it. “It’s their wee belts,” Gimli muttered to Aragorn carefully. Aragorn received it brokenly, his expressions incomprehensible to Legolas and Gimli. Now terribly burnt, the equipment struck all of their hearts with a terribly remorse.

“AAAAH!!!” Aragorn screamed in anger and disappointment, kicking one of the helmets lying on the ground furiously and catching Varilerin’s attention. She ran to his side, only to receive the proof of their friends’ demise. Aragorn shook his head as he wept without a sound. Legolas stared at the burnt corpses, muttering prayers for their poor souls. But Varilerin did not follow his action, a detail tingling her eyes. She scanned again the grass across the battlefield, before her eyes led her to the one close to Aragorn. She knelt beside him and studied the ground, her ranger’s senses lighting up.

“Aragorn,” she said. “Look. A man, a Halfling, lay here.” The ranger lifted his head, not believing what she had just said. He watched her move forward, touching the ground as her keen eyes investigated the battlefield. “Another, about the same height. They crawled.” Varilerin looked back at Aragorn, whose face brighten with hope when she said those words. He immediately understood and joined her, following the tracks on the ground. He moved his hand along the flattened grasses, brushing them gently as his eyes traced the ground. His hands then caught a tangle not belonging to plants, lifting it instantly.

“Their bounds were cut,” he reported as he lifted damaged, severed ropes. “They were being followed,” he continued, now trailing the trails faster as adrenaline pushed his spirits. “But they escaped! And they ran, towards—“

Varilerin and the others felt a shot of hope in their heart and quickly followed the now scampering towards the forest. Aragorn abruptly stopped when he realized where the Hobbits had escaped, and so did the others. The forest loomed over them like shadow and darkness. Its trees were tall and broad, their leaves dark and rotten. A heavy wind blew from the woods, as if unwelcoming them. They stepped back as unwelcomed guests, and studied the trees towering them.

“Towards the Fangorn forest,” she muttered, staring the trees in disbelief. She did not realize it, but slowly she smiled. Fangorn… the home of the Tree Herder.

“Fangorn?!” exclaimed Gimli at what she had just said. “What madness drove them here?”

“The will to live,” Varilerin rapped as she ran towards the forest. “They are here, I can feel it and…. Something else is inside this forest.” Varilerin paused as she studied the strange power dwelling inside the woods. It was indescribable, but enough to convince her. “It is unknown—I have never felt a presence like this before—but powerful. We must hurry!” she said lastly before she leapt to the woods.

Varilerin led them deeper into the forest, for she knew the place better than the rest. She had frequently walked into Fangorn in the past, a perfect for her to travel secretly, and she was not frightened by the lingering shadow as a result. Fangorn had become darker ever since she last visited, igniting anxiety and fear to Aragorn, Gimli, and even Legolas. Blood reeked in the air, as if the true battle occurred in the forest. Perhaps, as Saruman’s malice grew, the forest had been affected as well. No doubt battles occurred in the clearings and Orcs roamed there, enhancing the grim and frightening air emanated by the trees. The trees were quiet and there seemed to be no distinct path the Hobbits left, but somehow Varilerin knew where the Hobbits had gone. She did not even look at the ground once, instead depending on her feelings alone.

“Uh! Orc Blood!” Gimli said as he tasted a blood-soaked leaf. “They must have been followed deep into this forest!” What Gimli had said alerted them and they quickly grabbed their weapons, all except for Varilerin. Aragorn glanced at Legolas for the worry they both had regarding the woman, who did not pay attention to Gimli’s words and instead paced faster undefended. “The air is so close here!” Gimli protested.

“This forest is old,” Legolas explained, scanning their surroundings. “Full of memory… and anger.”

“It used to be not, until Saruman usurped the position as Sauron’s right-hand man. It is the homeland of the Tree Herders and their leaders, Treebeard,” Varilerin added, narrowing her eyes. Around them suddenly came voices of moaning and groaning, howling and growling. They jolted the Hunters with surprise and stopped their pace. “The trees are talking to each other,” Varilerin continued calmly as she resumed her walk, deeper into the darkening forest. Gimli raised his weapon in response, his eyes fluttering in horror as the trees’ voice continued to echo in his mind.

“Gimli, lower your weapon,” urged Aragorn to the Dwarf. Gimli hesitantly lowered his axe as his eyes cautiously scanned the trees. Their speeches were dimmed in return, but their voices were still alarmed and painful.

“The Elves began it,” Legolas informed them sadly. “Waking up the trees, teaching them to speak.”

“Talking trees… What do trees have to talk about? Except for the inconsistency of squirrel dropings!” Gimli mocked, replied by furious groans from the trees and Varilerin’s sharp glance. Gimli was rendered silent once more. Varilerin turned to Legolas, who must have known more Entish than her. Legolas frowned in return.

“The White Wizard approaches,” Legolas whispered as a warning, his hands grasping for his bow. Varilerin narrowed her eyes and peered into the shadows. The powerful presence was getting closer, but she did not expect it to be Saruman. She gestured the others to get their weapons ready, as she her own bow.

“We must be quick,” Aragorn instructed them, keeping his deep voice as low as possible. “Do not let him speak, or he’ll put a spell on us.”

Silence engulfed them as they waited, whilst the trees’ speech got louder. They stopped moving as they listened to the grass and any movement caught with their ears, their other senses sharpened and their muscles tensed. Varilerin’s eyes shifted constantly, trying to find the source of the immense power she had been feeling.

A rustle suddenly came from behind and snapped them to life. Varilerin turned with the others, drawing her bow as fast as the wind, directing it to the unknown figure awaiting before them. But somehow she stopped, letting her heart skip a heavy beat. The world around her stopped as she recognized the presence. It was familiar.

Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas turned around and attacked the incoming figure with their weapons, but all of them were deflected with ease. Aragorn’s sword was heated red until he dropped it to the ground, not believing what he had just seen. Varilerin turned around slowly, lowering down her bow as her eyes widen upon the wondrous sight. It is impossible, Varilerin mused, He fell.

They all looked up to see a figure covered in white light, standing aloft with a white staff alit. “You are tracking the footsteps of two young Hobbits,” the man said, its voice heavy and overwhelming. The Hunters remained silent, waiting for their demise in horror. But Varilerin did not cower under the overwhelming presence, for she knew the person standing before them was known to her. Yes, he was too familiar for her to miss.

“Who are you?” Aragorn demanded, covering his eyes with his arm from the powerful light. “Show yourself!”

The light slowly faded in answer, letting the dark forest be covered by phantoms once more. Gently a person was unveiled. He was tall with white hair and long beard, wearing robes made of pure white silk and a grey cloak with a leaf of Lorien clasping it together. A white staff, carved beautifully, was in his hand. His blue eyes looked back at the Hunters gently as he stepped forward. They could not believe their eyes, but Varilerin sure could trust her own feelings.

“Gandalf….” She muttered as she lowered her scarf in disbelief. “Gandalf the Grey.”

“Yes... it is me,” the Wizard slowly clarified with a soft smile. “I am Gandalf, your old friend.”

Chapter Text

“It cannot be.”

Aragorn’s words were enough to describe all of their feelings as they saw Gandalf walked towards them. The Four Hunters were left speechless as Gandalf revealed himself, alive and seemingly more powerful than before. Gandalf looked at each of them with a smile carved on his face. His smile cast a glimmer of hope to their bitter hearts, as if their poor fates had been overturned.

“Forgive me,” Legolas said, bowing in apology of his actions. Gimli followed his action as well, but Varilerin remained transfixed like a statue. “I mistook you as Saruman.”

“I am Saruman, or rather, Saruman as he should have been,” Gandalf answered, his voice wiser and deeper than before. His face remained the same, they all could see, but somehow his presence was more powerful than before.

“You fell, I saw you! I let you!” Varilerin finally spoke in disbelief, her voice filled with guilt she thought she had forgotten.

“You did not, My Friend,” assured Gandalf as he touched her shoulder,” but I did fell. It is my fate to destroy the Durin’s Bane, through fire and water.” The Wizard took a deep breath, before he continued,” From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth, until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountainside…. Darkness took me and I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead and every day was as long as a life age of the Earth…. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again.”

“I’ve been sent back until my task is done,” Gandalf ended his story as he smiled to Varilerin. Varilerin merely gaped, still mesmerized by his return to their lives. She slowly opened her mouth to say something, but found herself unable to. Instead, she opened her arms and threw herself to Gandalf. She embraced him with all the strength she had, and with that she formed a smile dedicated to her old friend.

Her smile shook the hearts of all of them, for it was not a forged one she had always formed, but a genuine smile. It was the first time for Aragorn and Gimli to see her as her truly beautiful self and as a result they were bemused by the sight—but Legolas received this sight twice in this journey and truly, he could not think of words to describe her grace. With her true smile she radiated a warmth she had never had and, for the first time, she seemed truly happy.

It is good to see you, Gandal!” Varilerin whispered as she pulled herself away. Gandalf chuckled and patted her like a child, grateful that the elleth had changed.

“Lady Galadriel has told me everything,” Gandalf said. His eyes bore deep into her with a fatherly warmth. “I should have known. Indeed, you have the upbringings of a leader.”

“No matter, Gandalf, for now the only importance is that you are alive,” Varilerin said as she continued her smile.

“Gandalf….” Aragorn muttered as he approached his old friend. Gandalf narrowed his eyes, for the first time since his return he fully listened to the name.

“Gandalf the Grey, I am no more. I am now Gandalf the White, and I come back to you now…. At the turn of the tide.”

oOo

It took Saruman all of his patience to prevent himself from wrecking his own tower. His plans in taking the Ring from the Fellowship had utterly failed, all because of the incompetence of the army he bred himself. He had thought he could seize the Ring for himself with his own efforts, but it seemed the object was insistent on returning to its own master.

No matter, he thought furiously as he looked over the new army he was breeding below. Perhaps the Halflings did not have the Ring as well. Below the tower, the new Uruks emerged to life, growling and howling wildly as they trained to become his best warriors for his campaign towards Rohan. Now that he had Theoden under his control, it would only be a matter of time before his people perish under his wrath. The king would not be able to save his own people.

Saruman turned around to see a hooded figure awaiting him. He was immediately alarmed and raised his staff in defence, but he slowly recognized the man. His presence there merely groomed his anger, but he maintained his overwhelming patience. The Wizard knew it would be dangerous to harm Sauron’s favourite servant.

“Vrasari,” Saruman greeted calmly. “It is strange to have your presence here, when your allegiance and home is fully at Mordor.”

“Saruman the Wise…” Vrasari said, taking a step forward,” or should I say… Saruman the Blind?”

“What are you doing here?” Saruman hissed, keeping his distance from Vrasari. “I thought Sauron has a better purpose for you. I thought Saruman has left all the matter of Rohan to me.”

“He has. Have you received his gift yet?” Vrasari replied with a cold voice. A smile twitched on his pale face, endangering Saruman’s composure. The Wizard carefully rearranged his motions, for the man had been known for his devilish tongue. He was more dangerous than Grima in his play of words. Grima might be skilful in persuading people and guiding them to the wrong path, but this man twisted with people’s minds without even trying to. It was one of the main reasons Sauron favoured him over Saruman, something which irritated the Wizard all the more.

“A dead son is nothing but means to ignite the people of Rohan’s anger,” Saruman snapped. “It took me a great struggle to prevent the Marshal’s rebellion alone. He is now gone though, a gift for My Lord Sauron as well.”

“Unfortunately, the Dark Lord is not satisfied with your work,” Vrasari retorted, causing Saruman to darken his expressions. “He wants the king dead.”

“I am capable of controlling him,” Saruman said, trying to suppress his annoyance. “The Dark Lord must trust me. Soon Rohan will fall and until then, I need its people to follow the swayed king… To stay in Edoras, until horror and death greet them. ”

Vrasari tilted his head as he closed his distance with Saruman, unafraid of the dangerous weapon he was wielding, for he was a man with no more fear. “Lord Sauron has given this matter to me,” Vrasari said with a gleeful smirk. “Theoden shall die and you have no say in it.”

 “YOU!” Saruman grumbled as he took a step forward and raised his staff. Vrasari remained unmoved, glowering him with pitiful eyes. “Don’t you dare think highly of yourself, fallen one. You are merely a puppet without the will to control your own soul” Saruman thundered, threatening the man with his staff.

“But I am able to satisfy the Dark Lord,” Vrasari reasoned, stepping back from Saruman’s angry grasp. “I will fulfil the Dark Lord’s wish and also take care of your annoying marshal… If you want to earn your trust back, you should act now, Saruman.”

With a last smile Vrasari disappeared from Saruman’s vicinity. Saruman stood still as he tried to control his emotions. He could not believe what Vrasari had just said. How dare he question my capabilities! He thought as he returned to the balcony, viewing the sight of his growing army. I will show you, fallen one. I will show you what I am capable of.

000

“One stage of your journey is over. Another begins. We must travel to Edoras with all speed,” Gandalf rapped as he quickly stepped on the forest floor. Varilerin secretly smirked under her scarf, now pulled to conceal the lower part of face which had attracted too much attention when they encountered Gandalf. She could not describe how happy she was when she found her old friend. The guilt over his death seemed to wash away, as well as several others she had struggled to forget. It seemed now that Gandalf was by their side, it would be easier for her to forgive herself.

“Edoras? That is no short distance!” Gimli protested as he followed backmost, his axe still being raised cautiously over the fear towards the dangerous trees of Fangorn.

“Theoden is being corrupted, by Saruman, I am afraid,” Varilerin told Gandalf. “Eomer has left his side as a result, a work of one of Saruman’s puppets I believe. Rohan is in a direr situation than expected.”

“Yes, and he will not be easily cured,” Gandalf responded. “I have also heard about Theodred’s death. It was too coincidental. Saruman must have been planning something.” Gandalf’s words poked Varilerin with Eomer’s words from before. If it was true, then Saruman had more than just Orcs or Uruks under his sleeves.

“Then we have run all this way for nothing?” Gimli said hopelessly. “Are we to leave those poor Hobbits in this horrid, dark, dank, infested—“

The trees groaned immediately to silence the loud Dwarf, and they succeeded in doing so. “I mean, charming, quite charming forest,” Gimli corrected, lowering his weapon.

“It was more than mere chance that brought Merry and Pippin to Fangorn. A great power has been sleeping here for long years. The coming of Merry and Pippin will be like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains.”

“In one thing you have not changed, dear Friend,” Aragorn whispered. “You still speak in riddles.” Gandalf chuckled and then continued to move towards the borders of the forest.

“A thing is about to happen that has not happened since the Elder Days. The Ents are going to wake up and find themselves strong,” Gandalf continued. “So stop fretting, Master Dwarf! Merry and Pippin are quite safe. In fact, they are safer than you’re going to be!” he in turn scolded the Dwarf, who had been protesting all day long.

“This Gandalf’s grumpier than the old one,” Gimli whispered to Varilerin.

“I like him,” Varilerin said curtly, causing Legolas to share the same smirk. They finally found the light of the sun and out of the dark old forest. Gimli sighed in relief as he met light once more, even though he was used to delve in dark underground. Legolas also seemed happier under the warm light compared to the woods. The horses were still waiting loyally for them, particularly because Varilerin and Legolas had told them to do so.

“Bring the horses, for I must meet mine,” Gandalf instructed them. Varilerin took both reins as they followed Gandalf towards a more open field, where the grasses grew taller and more golden in colour. Gandalf stopped midway and whistled gently, but loud enough to send echoes of melody throughout the plain.

Legolas narrowed his eyes to understand what he was doing, only to widen them when he caught a white steed running towards them in sheer speed. Its hair was like a white river and the stars, its feet pacing like the wind and its sound melodious like a flute. “It’s one of the Mearas, unless my eyes are cheated by some spell!” Legolas observed in awe. Gandalf merely smiled as he greeted his horse and brushed its mane.

“Shadowfax,” introduced Gandalf,” He has been my friend through many dangers.” Gandalf mounted lightly on the horse and gazed to the horizon. “With this, we shall have short distance.”

And so Gandalf led them towards Edoras. Their journey was quick, for the mere presence of Shadowfax alone boosted the strengths of Hasufel and Arod. The two horses ran faster than Varilerin could imagine for ordinary steeds. They were like soldiers gaining a new hope under the rule of their one king.

Gandalf brought the hunters across the plain throughout the day, only stopping for rest when night settled. Gimli and Legolas built a camp fire at the place Gandalf had designated, while Aragorn talked to the Wizard as Varilerin kept watch over the dark plains lurking around them.

“The veiling shadow that glowers in the east takes shape,” Gandalf told Aragorn, loud enough so Varilerin could hear from afar. “Sauron will suffer no rival. From the summit of Barad-dur, his Eye watches ceaselessly, but he is not mighty yet that he is above fear. Doubt ever gnaws at him. The rumor has reached him. The heir of Numenor still lives….” Gandalf glanced at Varilerin, who had been listening with curiosity. “But not the other one. Sauron fears you, Aragorn, and perhaps he will of Varilerin soon enough. Nevertheless, he should fear what the two of you may become, and so he’ll strike hard and fast at the world of Men. He will use his puppet Saruman to destroy Rohan. War is coming, Rohan must defend itself, and therein lies our first challenge. For, Rohan is weak and read to fall. The king’s mind is enslaved, it’s an old device of Saruman’s.”

“But he has not realized you return either,” Varilerin added, closing their distance. “Nor has he realized the greater power you wield now.”

“Yes, he hasn’t, and you are very excellent in your senses. However, his hold over King Theoden is now very strong. Sauron and Saruman are tightening the noose. But for all their cunning, we have one advantage.”

Gandalf then turned to Legolas and Gimli as well, the campfire they had been building already alight. “The Ring remains hidden and that we should see to destroy it, has not entered their darkest dreams. And so, the weapon of the enemy is moving towards Mordor, in the hands of a Hobbit. Each day brings it closer to the fires of Mount Doom. We must trust now in Frodo, everything depends on speed, and the secrecy of his quest.”

“He is not alone,” Aragorn said. “Sam’s with him.”

“Did he?” Gandalf wondered. “Good, yes… Very good.”

Varilerin smirked and then watched as the Wizard and Aragorn walk towards the fire to seek warmth. She remained outside the warm circle, watching the darkness from afar, as her mind was disturbed with what Eomer had said. She was snapped out of her ponder when a hand suddenly grabbed her shoulder. She turned hastily, only to see Legolas looking at her in worry.

“Let me take the watch,” Legolas said. “You have run for days and for that you must be tired.”

“I am fine, My Friend,” Varilerin assured him, brushing his hand away gently.

“You have found no sleep for the past week,” Legolas reasoned.

“No, I still can—“

“Sleep, Varilerin,” Legolas cut her, this time his voice insistent. Varilerin was taken aback by his response, for he, despite being insistent several times, had never been so persistent like this. She was a warrior, he should know that, but he seemed as if he was treating her like someone to protect. It disturbed her mind, but she was indeed slightly tired. Sometimes the ellon would be terribly correct about certain things.

“Fine, if that’s what you ask,” she said calmly as she glanced sharply at him. With a loud sigh she walked away from Legolas, who did not understand the reason for her response, or the fact he was too worried for her. Nevertheless, he smiled when he found he succeeded in forcing her to rest.

“An overprotective ellon has made me rest,” Legolas suddenly heard Varilerin speaking from afar, before Gandalf chuckled loudly. He turned to them, eyes widened, but they immediately returned to silence. Legolas shifted his gaze to Varilerin, who had in fact slept under her hood—though he knew she had only slept when he did so.

Legolas raised a brow to Aragorn, who shrugged his shoulder lightly. He turned away from them, still confused, but then he smiled.

000

“Edoras and the Golden Hall of Meduseld,” Gandalf informed the Hunters as they finally caught the sight of a city standing on top of a hill, with a large hall in its centre. “There Theoden, the King of Rohan whose mind is controlled, dwells. Saruman’s hold over him is now very strong and he will not give him away so easily.”

“He will not, but we will force him to,” Varilerin said. Gandalf nodded and they paced their horses inside the city. The buildings were made of wood engraced with horses and bronze ornaments. Stables lay everywhere they could see, in each of them horses stronger than any breed. The citizens immediately turned their attentions towards the newcomers, their eyes watchful and suspicious. Varilerin looked away from their dreadful gaze and instead tried to focus on their imminent task.

“You’ll find more cheer in the graveyard,” Gimli commented, noticing how quiet and grim the citizens were. Legolas nodded in agreement.

When they arrived at the entrance and unmounted their horses, they were greeted with several men wearing full armours with horse patterns and chain mails. They were fully armed and welcomed them with an unfriendly stare. One of them came forth and studied the company, arms reaching for his weapons as if they dared to barge forcefully through the doors.

“I cannot allow you before Theoden King so armed, Gandalf Greyhame,” the man said hesitantly. “By order of Grima Wormtongue.”

Gandalf raised a brow to question his orders and the name he had uttered, but nodded obediently nevertheless and told the others to follow his orders. Varilerin and the others obliged and unwillingly began handing out their weapons to the rest of the guards. They were all surprised by the amount of arsenals the Hunters possessed, particularly Varilerin’s. Overall, she had most weapons: her short swords, bow and quiver, her medical knife, her father’s dagger, and several smaller knives and shivs hidden in her pockets and bracers. She did not give her smaller weapons to the guards though, for emergency sakes.

“Your staff,” the man said when he noticed the Wizard clutching it tight. Gandalf gaped as if he was innocent for the matter and gave him a look of pleading.

“You would not part an old man from his walking stick,” Gandalf simply said. The man shuddered in embarrassment when he heard the statement, nodding at the others to allow them to pass. Gimli had to resist the urge to laugh when they walked past the guards, whilst Legolas emotionlessly took Gandalf’s arm and acted an impression of guiding a weak old man to the hall. Varilerin and Aragorn followed quietly behind as the doors behind them closed.

Varilerin immediately felt a strong, evil presence residing in the man sitting on the throne. His appearance was of an old man of a hundred years old, but she knew Theoden was merely in Elf’s maturity age. Next to him sat a pale man with a black robe, which had the same foul air hovering around him. The man, upon the Company’s arrival, whispered something to Theoden, before he rose to his feet. The man glowered at them with disgust and arrogance, as if they were mere animals looking upon a king.

“Late is the hour… in which this conjurer chooses to appear,” Grima greeted them coldly with his malicious tongue. Legolas and the others immediately noticed the other soldiers cornering them from behind and the rear, but did nothing in response. Instead they focused on Gandalf’s actions, none for the moment. “Lathspell I name him. Ill news is an ill guest.”

“Be silent!” Gandalf ordered as he pulled himself away from Legolas and walked closer to the throne. “Kep your tongue behind your teeth! I have not passed through fire and death to handle crooked words with a witless worm!” he continued as he raised his staff to Grima. Upon the object’s emergence, a thunder of shock struck the pale man and turned him into a horrified statue.

“His staff…. I told you to take the Wizard’s staff!” Grima yelled, pointing at Gandalf as he stepped back. The men immediately started to move, but Varilerin and her comrades were far swifter. Like a shadow living up to its name, she flashed behind the nearest man and threw him across the room with a single kick. The Hunters each met the other guards and faced them with pure strength alone. Varilerin greeted a man raising his sword at her by taking his hand and throwing him to the table, terrifying the others initially targeting her. From the corners of her eyes she could see Gandalf approaching Theoden, dealing with his own task, and Gimli taking care of Grima by locking him to the ground.

The battle swiftly ended, all the guards lying hopeless on the ground. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Varilerin now waited motionlessly for Gandalf to accomplish his task. “Hearken to me! I release you, from the spell!” chanted Gandalf as he raised his hand. Silence engulfed them as they waited, but Theoden remained untouched and unchanged. Instead, he chuckled menacingly, his laughter echoing throughout the room. A fair maiden suddenly stepped inside the hall and gasped, immediately running when she saw the horrifying state of the guards. Aragorn managed to catch her from intervening the process, though he himself doubtful of the current situation.

“You have no power here… Gandalf the Grey!” Theoden mocked him. Gandalf scowled and pulled off his grey robes, sending light to the pale eyes of the corrupted king. The hall was filled with blinding light for a moment, before Gandalf threw Theoden back to his throne with his staff. Theoden remained chuckling, now Saruman dominating his voice.

“I will draw you, Saruman, as poison is drawn from a wound!” Gandalf said.

“Rohan is mine!” Saruman declared. Gandalf thrusted his staff once more, unafraid of the Wizard’s threats.

“Be gone!” Gandalf insisted. Theoden frowned and, without further thought, lunged towards Gandalf. Gandalf thrusted his staff quickly and powerfully just in time to throw the king back to his thrown. Saruman let out his last scream in the body, before his control left the body of the king. Gandalf stepped back, sighing in relief as the evil presence left Theoden. Theoden’s form began to change, returning from an old ruined man to a youthful wise king.

Theoden gasped for air once he regained his mind, his eyes wide with surprise and freedom. Not far, the maiden in Aragorn’s grasp managed to escape and ran to the king, catching him just in time to prevent his fall. Theoden slowly lifted his face with the little strength he had just regained, meeting the eyes of the maiden.

“I know your face,” Theoden muttered. “Eowyn…. Eowyn…” Eowyn smiled as she dropped tears of joy, nodding in response. Theoden gradually rose from his seat and looked at everyone in the room. His eyes landed on Gandalf, waiting patiently for the king. “Gandalf?”

“Breathe the free air again, My Friend,” Gandalf told him, smiling gratefully. Theoden was still in awe as he tried to remember what he could remember before he lost his mind.

“Dark have been my dreams of late,” Theoden muttered, lifting his hand and studied it.

“Your fingers would remember their old strength better, if they grasped your sword,” Gandalf suggested. Upon his words, the man who had awaited in front of the gates came forth, carrying a sword in his hand. He handed it to Theoden and bowed deeply. The king moved his hand towards the sword’s hilt. Hesitantly, he pulled out the sword from its scabbard, revealing a magnificent blade which glinted under the hall’s light. He raised it upwards and wondered over it. He then looked at Grima, still crouching weak under Gimli’s body, and his face grimaced in disgust.

“Throw him out!” Theoden ordered furiously, slightly shocking Varilerin and her comrades. The guards did so immediately and threw the traitor to the stairs leading to the city. Grima rolled down like a hopeless ball, groaning as he hit the bottom of stairs. He struggled to stand once more, but found the pain from falling too hard to bear.

“I’ve only ever served you My Lord!” Grima pleaded, crawling backwards to distance himself from the furious king.

“Your leechcraft would have had me crawling on all fours like a beast!” Theoden shouted madly.

“Send me not from your sight,” Grima pleaded once more. Theoden had enough and raised his sword to end the traitor’s life, but suddenly Aragorn appeared before him and held the sword from decapitating Grima’s head.

“No, My Lord! Let him go. Enough blood has been spilt on his account!” Aragorn told Theoden, trying his hardest to hold back the king’s fury. Theoden’s anger died down, for he understood Aragorn’s words. He lowered his sword reluctantly, eyeing Grima cautiously. Aragorn sighed and went to Grima, giving him a hand so he could stand to his feet. Grima scowled and returned his gracious act with a spit on Aragorn’s hand, before running madly towards the city gates.

“He’s going to tell Saruman all he knows about Rohan, though he might have done in long ago,” Varilerin said in dismay. Theoden did not further speak regarding Grima, instead scanning the crown of citizens—now bowing to him, finally grateful of what had just returned to their kingdom. Varilerin finally realized who he was searching for and shared the same grief Theoden would be experiencing.

“Where is Theodred? Where is my son?”

Chapter Text

It took only a second for Theoden’s world to be crushed into pieces. It seemed fate was cruel to him and his son, now lying before him cold and soulless. Theoden looked at his child, brushing his hair one last time before he finally let the soldiers carry his coffin into the tomb. Hope which had greeted the people of Rohan just before immediately turned into painful grief. It cast a dark shadow upon the kingdom just as another had left them.

Eowyn grimaced as she took a look upon her cousin’s corpse, unable to find the strength to do her responsibility. But she had to, in honour for his soul, and so she opened her mouth and let out her sad voice echo throughout the funeral.

An evil death has set forth the noble warrior.

A song shall sing sorrowing minstrels

In Meduseld he is no more.

To his lord dearest and kinsmen most beloved.

An evil death.

With her last chant, the tomb of her cousin was fully closed. The people of Edoras bowed lastly to the tomb, before they slowly dispersed from the graveyard. From afar the Company watched pitifully as Theoden lingered in front of his son, unmoved and silent.

May the Valar guide his soul to the halls of his fathers,” Varilerin simply prayed, watching Gandalf approaching the King. Her mind had been occupied by Theodred’s bizarre murder throughout the funeral that she did not notice Aragorn and the others leaving her side. She took an opportunity to glimpse Theodred’s body just before he was taken  

Theoden knelt in front of the tomb, taking a white flower growing on top of it. “Simbelmyne,” the king muttered. “Ever has it grown in the tombs of my forebearers. Now it shall cover the grave of my son. Alas that these evil days should be mine. The young perish and the old linger. That I should live… to see the last days of my house.”

“Theodred’s death was not of your making,” Gandalf tried to assure him, just like he had always convinced Varilerin to forgive herself.

“No parent should have bury their child,” Theodred continued, his dignified voice now wavering. He slowly gave into his sadness and buried his face into the palm of his hand. He quietly wept as the sun gradually set on the horizon, losing his sense of time. Varilerin and Gandalf remained quiet, giving him the room to weep. Briefly Gandalf stole a glance from Varilerin, seemingly calm about the matter, and inevitably he thought how bitter she was when he fell to darkness. It was an action he truly regretted, but the Valar seemed to have another plan for her. It was unexpected for the elleth to take a turn like this. He had heard pieces of the matter from Galadriel, but he was not convinced by her words alone.

Varilerin is a strong elleth, but sometimes the strongest can break, Mithrandir,” Galadriel had told him. ”But she has been mended, a small stitch capable of closing her largest wound.  She has found her own path now, and I believe someone whom she would protect.”

It seemed she is right, thought Gandalf doubtfully. Varilerin had changed considerably, he could see it. Her genuine smile was enough as a solid proof for the Wizard and now, as he spent more time with her in his new for, he could see an air of dignity protecting her. She was no longer the same elleth befriending Gandalf the Grey nor the Daefaroth seeking shadow as her friend. Her progress made him proud as friend and astounded, though his heart was still worrying for her deeply complicated soul. He feared she might lose herself to grief once more and the journey they were taking was increasing the risk of it happening. Nevertheless, he could only place hope in her soul, for he could not do anything further.

“He was strong in life,” Gandalf finally said to Theoden, escaping his deep thoughts about his old friend. “He will find his way to the halls of your fathers.”

Theoden nodded brokenly, slowly stopping his weeping. “Thank you, Gandalf, Daefaroth for your help,” Theoden said to the Wizard once he realized he had not thanked him properly.

“It is an honour,” Gandalf responded. Varilerin nodded nonchalantly, as her eyes suddenly caught a movement from the hills, and the sound of a horse galloping not far. She looked towards the hill and ran to the direction, surprising Gandalf and Theoden simultaneously. From afar she saw two horse-riding children, both exhausted and looked battered. She rushed quickly towards them, like a shadow in the sun set. She caught the boy just in time to prevent his body from touching the ground, catching his hips with her definite strength and stopping the horse in process. The little girl shifted her empty gaze to Varilerin, before she too fell unconscious on top of her mount.

“Gandalf!” Varilerin shouted as she embraced the boy in her arms. Without further thought she mounted the horse and paced it to the city. Gandalf and Theoden rushed closer to her as she led the horse.

“What has happened?” the king questioned her as he studied the boy she was holding and the girl sleeping in front of her. “Who are these children?”

“We do not know just yet,” Varilerin answered. “But first, they need help.”


 

“They had no warning. They were unarmed. Now the Wild Men are moving through Westfold, burning as they go,” Eowyn told them as she comforted the eating children.

“Where is Mama?” Freda asked Eowyn. Her heart sank, for she did not know the answer. All she could do was to calm down the children as she waited for her uncle’s decision. After finding the children on the horse, Varilerin and Gandalf immediately brought them to the Hall of Meduseld to be fed and cleaned. Varilerin had checked the children for any serious wounds and fortunately she found none. However, she feared that the children would suffer more than just physical wound. The sudden attack in Westfold must have shaken them dearly. It was unfortunate enough for the children to witness the burning and pillaging, but she knew they had seen more. She understood the fear of seeing deaths early in their years well. The event would surely scar their hearts forever.

Aragorn, Varilerin, and Legolas turned to Gandalf, waiting for a word—whilst Gimli merely ate on his own. “This is but a taste of the terror that Saruman will unleash. All the more potent for he is driven now by fear of Sauron,” Gandalf finally spoke to Theoden. “Ride out and meet him head on. Draw him away from your women and children. You must fight.”

“You have 2000 good men riding north as we speak,” Aragorn said, holding his smoking pipe. “Eomer is loyal to you, his men will return and fight for their king.”

Theoden, previously sitting on his throne, got up and then looked at the others hopelessly. “They will be 300 leagues from here by now. Eomer cannot help us. I know what it is you want of me… But I will not bring further death to my people. I will not risk open war.”

“Open war is upon you, whether you risk it or not,” Aragorn insisted. Theoden turned to Aragorn, his eyes in complete dismay over his words.

“When last I looked… Theoden, not Aragorn, was King of Rohan,” Theoden answered sternly. Gimli, who had been eating and drinking not far, burped and shattered the momentary tenseness dominating the hall. Varilerin threw a sharp glance to Gimli and the Dwarf immediately lowered his head.

“Then what is the king’s decision?” Gandalf asked impatiently. Theoden was rendered silent, though he knew there was only one last choice for them.

“We’ll make for the refuge of Helm’s Deep,” Theoden answered surely, hiding the fear inside his heart. “Hama, Gamling, tell the citizens. We’ll move by sunrise.”

Hama and Gamling bowed in accordance, before they walked with other men to announce Theoden’s decision. The Company stood still as the King watched his men leave the great hall. His face was covered with confidence, but there were hopelessness and hesitance behind that charade. Theoden himself knew the risk of driving his people to Helm’s Deep, but it was his best choice, or his only choice. Theoden winced as he reminisced his past actions. If he had not trust Saruman too much and relied on Gandalf as advised by his father, he would not have plunged to darkness and let his people die. Now he must bear the punishment of his foolishness; the world seemingly delightful in giving it in such dire times.

“My Lord,” Eowyn, who had been observing her uncle for some time, spoke. She tilted her head as Theoden rubbed his eyes and sighed an air of exhaustion. “My Lord, I believe you should rest for now. You have been burdened for long and the journey to come is tiring.”

Theoden looked back at his niece with reluctance carved on his face. “Rest, Theoden King. You have made the right decision,” Gandalf suggested. “Tomorrow your people will need you.”

“I think it is for the best,” Theoden muttered slowly as he sighed again. “Good night, everyone. I will be seeing you tomorrow,” he ended firmly, before he strolled away to the darker corridors. The audience silently let him disappear to the shadows, before they shifted from their tense position.

As the Company barged out of the hall, Varilerin could finally let the urge to speak out take her over. “Theoden knows he has no other choice.  But it is a sad choice, for Helm’s Deep is both a stronghold and a cage. Once they are attacked, they are doomed.”

“We need Eomer’s help, Gandalf,” Aragorn insisted.

“I know and for that I must ride,” Gandalf muttered as he paced towards the stable where Shadowfax was waiting faithfully for him. Around them the darkened houses became alit as the soldiers woke the citizens from their peaceful peace, only to bring dark news for tomorrow. The city was awake once more after such momentary tranquillity from evil.

“They flee to the mountains when they should stand and fight! Who will defend them if not their king?” Gimli protested as they finally reached the stables.

“He’s only doing what he thinks is best for his people. Helm’s has saved them in the past,” Aragorn reasoned doubtfully. Gandalf did not say a word until he reached his steed, standing watchful even in the dark night. Shadowfax neighed when its rider was in vicinity, expecting another journey to follow excitedly despite it barely resting in the stables.

“But this time it may not,” Varilerin retorted.

“There is no way out of that ravine. He thinks he’s leading them to safety. What they will get is a massacre. Theoden has a strong will, but I fear for him, for the survival of Rohan,” Gandalf said, turning to the Company. “He will need all of you before the end. The people of Rohan will need you. The defences have to hold.”

“It will hold,” Aragorn spoke for the Company and the others responded with a hesitant nod. They were unsure for themselves, for the only chance of winning might be Eomer’s forces alone. As far as they could see, they had the lower hand in this battle, especially with the new Uruks Saruman had been breeding and Grima’s cunning moves. Again, it was only hope they could cling on.

Gandalf shared the same thought with them, fear clouding his gentle eyes. He reached for his steed and brushed its mane, drowned in deep thoughts. “The Grey Pilgrim. That’s what they used to call me. Three hundred lives of Men I’ve walked this earth and now I have no time. With luck, my search will not be in vain,” he said as he mounted Shadowfax.

“The night is perilous. Are you sure you will be fine travelling in the dark?” asked Varilerin. “Orcs might be your least concern, but Wargs are quick and cunning. Saruman must have heard your return and send you some of his underlings.”

“As I said, there is no more time,” Gandalf replied with a sad smile. “But I will return, alive and with help. Look to my coming at first light of the fifth day. At dawn, look to the east.”

They reluctantly nodded. Gandalf swallowed a mustered courage before he paced away from the stables. For a moment Varilerin heard hundreds of horses galloping past her instead of one, like the wind rushing into the valley. She blinked and looked around, only to find no other steeds moving.

“He will return,” Varilerin assured Aragorn as Gandalf quickly disappeared into the darkness with his horse, carrying a promise to return with hope for Rohan, and leaving the Hunters alone in their journey once more. Aragorn did not look convinced, though Varilerin’s words of assurance seemed to impact him more than ordinary people would say.

 “The night is young,” Aragorn finally said, breaking the ensuing silence among them. “We should rest, for our strengths are needed tomorrow. The Elves counted.” Aragorn turned to Varilerin and gave her a look which made her feel like a child to him.

“Fine,” she responded as she rolled her eyes and walked away from the company, seeking solitude she had not had since she left the Rivendell as a member of the Fellowship.

“Where are you going, Lass?” asked Gimli, who had been quite silent for some time now.

Varilerin in return stopped midway and turned around, facing them with cool and cold eyes. “Try to search for me if you want, but I can assure you that this time not even Legolas can find me. I will meet you here before the sunrise.” She bowed to them lastly before she returned to her escape route, which the others did not know merely led to the backyard of the Hall of Meduseld. For a while in her journey she liked the company of the others, though for tonight she mysteriously had chosen the opposite. Solitude was the breath of her life and she could never imagine living without it.

“We should leave her alone,” Aragorn suggested when he saw Legolas and Gimli seemingly impatient to search for her. “She deserves it after so much we have gone through. Come on now.”

The other two reluctantly agreed, for they saw Varilerin was in much need of her usual silence. After pondering for a moment they followed Aragorn back to the Hall, now alit with business and sounds of soldiers preparing for their departure. Edoras was fully awakened as the warnings for war roamed in the dark air, casting fear upon each of the people’s hearts. The shadow which clouded their minds henceforth hid the presence of a man moving in the dark.

The man, cloaked by the darkness and the bitter fear among the people, swiftly moved towards the Hall. No one noticed and would never notice him. Without anyone’s knowledge he carried with him a dagger and a forgotten past. He had only one purpose, one which brought him to the heart of Rohan: to behead the King from his shameful body.


 

There were horses, running downhill, thousands of them. She did not know whether she should be confused by the fact it was only a dream or a vision, but she knew it was a strange sight. She had never seen a vision other than an unfortunate one, or clear ones. But this time it was like seeing something abstract flooding her mind; the horses galloping with riders on them, wearing and bearing something she could not see even with her keen eyes. The sun was rising, and then setting as if the concept of time had been overturned. Darkness filled her eyes as she lost the sight of her surroundings. It was not the end of her dream, much to her dismay, for she glimpsed a cliff facing down a river. An ellon—Legolas—was standing on it with Theoden by his side. His face looked grim and sad, indescribable even.

“Leave the dead,” Theoden’s voice echoed within her mind space. As Legolas turned away from the cliff, the scene abruptly blacked out. For moments she could not see anything, until her eyes caught a movement in the dark. A man, cloaked and moving swiftly, clutching something in his hand: a dagger. He moved straight and quiet as if in stealth, in a place Varilerin deduced as a corridor. Slowly he took out his weapon as he opened a door leading to a darkened room. Nevertheless, her eyes could still see the inside of the room and the person inhabiting it:

Theoden.  

Varilerin’s imaginary world shattered as her consciousness snapped her awake. She almost tumbled off the tree branch she was sleeping on before she regained the vision of her reality. Widening her eyes as her senses were lighting alive, she shifted her attention to the Hall of Meduseld. The Hall had been rendered to its previous tranquil state, but she sensed danger emanating from its inside. Evil had entered the hall behind her back, and it was not ordinary evil. Something about it was truly bitter, purely made from hatred, and dangerous.

The dream was not merely a dream. Someone was targeting Rohan’s king.

Valar!” she cursed as she jumped off from her tree, landing lightly enough on the ground to not disturb a sleeping dog. She lifted her head to search for guards protecting the gate leading to the Hall, only to find none in vicinity. She rushed towards the gate quickly as the question over the guards and Theoden’s life haunted her mind. The former was answered rather quickly with the dead bodies of Rohan soldiers, cleanly slit on their throats.

Without even checking whether they were still alive or not—she was sure their souls had been forsaken—she barged into the hall. She did not remember the prospect of shouting for help—her attention merely focused on Theoden’s soul alone. She dashed through the corridors like shadow, noticing no one in her vicinity other than those lying dead on the ground; guards cleanly killed with a single blow.

Whoever was doing this attempt was skilful, perhaps equally skilful as her.

She relied merely on her feelings to search for Theoden’s room as she scoured the hall with incredible speed. The evil this assassin radiated began to grow stronger as she dashed deeper into the compound, hoping for someone to notice this malicious intruder.

“My Lady?” suddenly Eowyn’s voice came past. Varilerin glanced briefly to see Eowyn standing awkwardly on the corridor. Varilerin ignored her question as she unsheathed one of her blades and ran past the confused maiden. Eowyn was startled by her action, though her sixth sense told her that something had happened. Something terribly wrong had ignited the ranger’s caution. Without further thought she dragged herself to follow Varilerin, trying to figure what had happened. It was only when they entered the King’s chambers did she realize the dangerous circumstance Varilerin was involved in.

Varilerin arrived in the King’s compound only to be greeted by numerous doors lining the walls of the corridor. Gritting her teeth, she ran quickly to the nearest door and opened it with a single powerful kick. She was welcomed with an empty room and she immediately turned to the other door.

“The King’s room is at the end!” Eowyn informed her hastily when Varilerin discovered another empty room.

“Call the guards!” Varilerin ordered as she sprinted to the designated room. As a sound of a blade unsheathing emanated from the room, she opened the door with a kick which could push a grown men five metres away. Darkness greeted her like a loyal companion, but she knew the space was not empty. Two presences lingered in the room, one which was alarmed by her arrival.

 “Whoever you are, stop what you are doing!” Varilerin shouted to wake the slumbering Theoden. A gasp came from the corner of the room—possibly Theoden’s voice—and bloodshot eyes flashed back at her. For a moment Varilerin was caught by a fearful breeze, for the gaze those eyes gave her was hateful and bitter. The assaulter hissed when he saw her figure standing on the doorstep, before throwing a sharp knife towards her head. Varilerin glimpsed the blade’s metal just in time to turn her head away, receiving a painful graze in return.

“This way!” Eowyn’s voice echoed in the main hall as she brought reinforcements. Theoden’s consciousness immediately woke when he heard his niece’s clear voice and he drew a knife he had kept under his pillow. He swung the weapon at the intruder and inflicted a small wound on what he presumed his arms. Hissing, the intruder jumped away from Theoden and shifted his attention to the impending guards. Realizing he had no means longer to stay and slay the king, he turned towards the opened door; only to be welcomed by the armed Varilerin.

Varilerin gritted her teeth as the assassin tried to land blows on her through swift stabs of his dagger. She dodged each attack painstakingly, trying to strike him herself, but she was rendered defenceless when suddenly her opponent kicked her abdomen hard and accurate. She fell down to the floor as the assassin flew past her. “Wait!” she shouted in Elvish as she returned to her feet and chased the intruder.

The assassin ran towards in the corridors like a dreadful shadow, making his way back to the backyard of the hall. Varilerin tried her hardest to pursue him, but he was way faster than her. From her graze came a sting which signified poison applied on his weapons, but it did not disturb her quickening pace. When she could finally discern the shadow’s figure with the lighting up candles brought by the guards, she drew her bow and nocked her arrow to its string. She fired the projectile with accurate precision, but the escapee miraculously dodge it with incredibly reflexes and instead increased his speed.

Varilerin could not reach her target even with her inherited speed. The assassin reached the backyard of Meduseld seconds before she did, clouding his presence with the engulfing darkness of the night. Varilerin took the chance to fire him another arrow when she saw his figure under the moonlight, stopping at the gate to target her opponent. Drawing her breath, she released her last hope in the arrow and watched as it flew towards the intruder’s back.

Pathetic,” the intruder whispered with such a cold voice. It was vague but clear and hateful such that Varilerin’s ears caught the word completely. With a swift rotation the stranger threw a knife towards Varilerin’s arrow, like the wind piercing one’s skin. The knife horrifyingly found Varilerin’s arrow and split it perfectly into two, not stopping its journey to Varilerin’s head. Varilerin was transfixed to the ground as the weapon closed her defenceless dead, petrified by the evil voice echoing from the intruder’s mouth. Her life flashed before her, only to return when suddenly a dagger swung in front of her and deflected the knife far from her body.

Varilerin turned to see Legolas standing beside her, his hand holding his dagger in her defense. “Who is that?” Legolas asked her as the assassin, hissing again, disappeared into the shadows. Varilerin was dazed for a moment before she shook her head slowly, her eyes still fixed on the weapon which would take her life if it wasn’t for Legolas’ effort. “Varilerin, are you alright?”

Yes, I am fine,” Varilerin muttered as she lowered Legolas’ dagger. She turned around to see Aragorn and Gimli also raising their weapons, their faces alarmed and clearly tired after a short slumber. The small graze on her cheek stung her again and she touched it. “The wound might be poisoned, but I still have herbs in store. More importantly, how is the king?”

Her question was answered with Theoden’s appearance on the gates. His face showed signs of exhaustion and fear—it was not unusual, considering he had just been attempted assassination on—but other than that he was completely fine. He instead looked terrified of the dead bodies of his guards, perhaps killed painlessly and swiftly like the assassin intended to kill the king.

“Forgive me, the assassin escaped,” Varilerin panted, catching her breath as she too observed the corpses. “He is no Orc for sure, perhaps a Man. He is skilful, too skilful for an ordinary Man, however. Haradrim is a possibility, though it is strange to find them this far from home. They usually roam in Gondor…”

“No matter, Daefaroth,” Theoden said, raising his hand so she stopped speaking. “What matters is now I am indebted with you. Without your efforts I might have been disposed of.”

“But I could have done better. I literally slept in your backyard,” Varilerin bluntly retorted.

“Some things are inevitable for many reasons. Death of my men is one, but it is not accounted to your faults,” Theoden reasoned as he looked up the changing sky. “Dawn is approaching and so is the sunrise. I believe we have enough troubles and rest for tonight. That is for sure. We must prepare ourselves for our journey.”

Varilerin was about to say another word, but the king had turned his back from her. Maybe he was too tired, for things rained down at him like stones after he woke from his painful controlled state. She did not dare say another word, merely letting him go to lead his people after the sun rose. But she would certainly not let anyone who had done this go.

“Varilerin, are you fine?” asked Gimli. Varilerin nodded silently as she picked up the knife previously intended for her. “Good. We’ll meet you at the stables,” he said as he patted her arm, convincing himself she was strong enough to suffer from the terrifying night.

And Varilerin let her friends leave her, for she had a curiosity begging for attention. She turned to the hall and paced quickly inside, heading towards one of the bodies which took her attention during her pursuit. The guards were getting rid of the body, fortunately for her, and she blocked their path so they would stop.

“Please allow me to inspect him,” Varilerin said to the guards. They looked at each other before they hesitantly nodded, putting the body down so she could get a better view. She knelt down and searched for his neck, apparently clean from any slit of a knife. This man gives him quite a fight, Varilerin assumed as her attention moved down to his abdomen. What she saw quite struck her dear, for a stab wound lied in his stomach. It was clean and brutal, hitting the major blood vessel lying in his stomach. Squinted her eyes, she stood up and took note of what she had just seen, dismissing the guards. Her suspicions were confirmed; the assassin also killed Theoden’s son, Theodred.

Chapter Text

The assassin also killed Theodred you say?” asked Legolas. Varilerin softly nodded as she walked around the stables, searching for Hasufel to no avail. The stables had been emptied for the upcoming journey and she could not find Hasufel, which should have been waiting for her. For this purpose Aragorn went to another stable looking for the steed, while Legolas stayed with Varilerin with Arod next to him. “And why are you telling me this?” he asked again.

Because I know you have also noticed,” Varilerin answered. ”For a thousand-year-old ranger you have better observations than anyone. You must have known from the stab wound alone.”

“From bare eye observation, you are correct, but we cannot be so sure,” Legolas retorted. “Though this confirms our suspicions that Saruman has more than fighting Uruks under his command.”

“Or Sauron,” Varilerin responded when a movement from the corner of the stable. It was a grey horse moving erratically, being locked at the corner alone. It was strange to find one left behind, for the stable boys must have been ordered to take all available horses. The horse looked fierce and mighty, unlike the others she had seen in Rohan, and it sent her a sharp gaze. Its eyes bore deep into her as if it was studying her soul.

That’s strange,” said Legolas as Varilerin closed her distance with the horse. She took her steps carefully, expecting to be greeted by a furious neigh—horses liked Elves fondly—but instead it merely raised its head. It neighed quietly when Varilerin arrived at its cage and stopped its wild movement. Varilerin smiled gently and brushed the horse’s mane.

Who are you?” asked Varilerin in Elvish as she unlocked the cage. Upon closer look, its hair was not completely grey like its skin, but with silvery locks glinting under the coming sunrise. The horse reminded herself of another significant one, though she could not discern which one.

“Ah, you should be careful with that one!” a stable boy warned as it walked past the stable. “She is wilder than the others and terrifying. But, it is intriguing how you managed to tame her.”

“Is she anyone’s ride?” asked Varilerin back. The boy shook his head hastily.

“She has been alone ever since she came here, injured and battered. If you want to you can take her though.”

“Thank you,” Varilerin said to the disappearing boy. The horse in turned neighed and lowered her head. “Do you want me to ride you?” Varilerin asked, responded by a stomp of the horse’s foot. Varilerin nodded and smiled under her scarf as she patted the horse lovingly. She quickly untied her reigns and led her away from the cage which might have locked her for a long time. Outside she was greeted by Aragorn, holding Hasufel in his control.

“Well, that’s fascinating,” Aragorn remarked when he saw the horse. “I assume you are not riding with me again? Is my back that bad?”

“This horse is lonely and without a master, that’s all,” Varilerin told him. “Without name as well, it seems.”

“Well, good! You are going to be naming it then, Lass!” Gimli said excitedly. “Say, what is its name again?”

Varilerin narrowed her eyes as she came in contact with her steed once more. “Elen,” she whispered shortly. Aragorn and Legolas raised their brows before they smiled simultaneously. Gimli merely tilted his head in confusion.

“The star,” Aragorn “That is suitable for her.”

“Indeed it will be,” Varilerin said, smiling, before she tied Elen around the stable’s wooden post. “I should look for a saddle while there is time. I can ride without one, just like other Elves do, though it might be safer to take one. I am going to the Hall to see if they still have several left.”

“We’ll wait for you here at sunrise,” Legolas said. Varilerin nodded and sprinted towards the Hall, where the night before a murder almost happened. Now she reviewed the incident once more, she noticed that the assassin might not be a Haradrim after all. The poison he embellished on his weapon was not the one often found in the desert, where the Haradrims resided. She could identify it well because its components could only be found in forests and mountains. A pack of Orc had used one before and it had a similar smell with the one the assassin used. It did not result in anything perilous in the amount she had taken, but would certainly kill the King if the assassin had managed to even stab him on the leg. Nevertheless her speculations, she now surely knew the assassin was no mere assassin.

The Hall of Meduseld was clean from the bodies which had littered its floors previously, though the air still reeked of rusty blood. People rushed to and fro quickly as the sunrise slowly approached the day, signifying their impending departure from Edoras. It might be improper for her to disturb their business, so Varilerin decided she would search for the saddle herself. At least, it was what she thought, until she saw Eowyn in the middle of the hall. Eowyn did not notice her shadowy arrival as she opened a chest before her. The maiden pulled a sword from the box, lifting it high to the air. Her eyes were different than the ones Varilerin saw when Theoden was bewitched. They were bold and courageous, unlike ordinary women found in Rohan. Eowyn studied the sword for a moment before she started swinging it with outmost precision and skills, much to Varilerin’s surprise.

“You play the sword?” asked Varilerin so suddenly Eown almost dropped her weapon. The maiden turned around and saw Varilerin with wide eyes, apparently only realizing she was there. Eowyn stuttered back as she glanced away, sheathing her sword back with trembling hands.

“Women of this country learnt long ago: those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain,” Eowyn answered sternly.

“Then what do you fear?” Varilerin asked back.

“A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.”

“Valor?” Varilerin wondered. “You are the Shieldmaiden of Rohan. Valor is out of question, for you are born with one.”

“And I am born with the fate of standing behind the lines,” Eowyn retorted. “I do not want that, not a single bite of it.”

Varilerin remained silent as Eowyn took several objects from the chest. She stepped closer to Eowyn, who stopped moving when she did so. “You decide your own fate, My Lady. Your time will surely come, if it is your hope to join the battle. However….” Varilerin paused as she lowered her scarf, revealing her face better. Apparently Eowyn had not noticed she was truly a woman, though her surprise might be more accounted to the fact that Varilerin looked so bitter and cold. “However, you must know this, Eowyn. The battlefield is perilous and merciless. It tears your soul apart. Once you enter it, you cannot return.”

“It is better than waiting for our men to die,” Eowyn said brokenly. 

“Then I advise you have a better purpose of fighting than valor, Eowyn,” Varilerin said as she walked towards where she assumed her saddle was located. “For a weak will might cost you your soul and life,” she continued, before she disappeared from the maiden’s vision.


“Gandalf the White! Gandalf the Fool! Does he seek to humble me with his newfound piety?” Saruman cursed aloud as he walked round his room. Grima stood not far, patching the blood on his lower lip as he observed Saruman’s anger took the better of him. He had just informed the Wizard of the events unfolding in Edoras, disappointing him terribly and shaking the tower with fury when he discovered Gandalf returning with a newfound wisdom and strength. Saruman could not even place the blame of his failure on Grima. Failure became one of his trademarks now, just like Vrasari had said. Thinking of the man only made Saruman explode more.

“There were four who followed the Wizard. An Elf, an elleth, a Dwarf, and a Man,” informed Grima as he stepped closer.

“You stink of horse,” protested the Wizard, his voice surprising calm despite the state he was in. “The Man… Was he from Gondor?”

“No, from the North, One of the Dunedain rangers, I thought he was. His cloth was poor and yet he bore a strange ring. Two serpents with emerald eyes, one devouring and the other crowned with olden flowers.”

Saruman widened his eyes when he heard the new information and took a book from his dusty shelves. He flicked through the pages of the book and taps his finger on one page with a large picture engraved on it. “The Ring of Barahir… So Gandalf Greyhame thinks he has found Isildur’s heir. The lost king of Gondor. He is a fool. The line was broken years ago.”

“But what intriguing was not the ranger alone,” Grima continued, igniting Saruman’s curiosity. “It was the elleth travelling with them.”

“What of her?”

“She was more of a Haradrim than an Elf. All of her attire was black, except for her green Elvish cloak. And her eyes, My Lord, they were menacing and deep. Silver they were, like the starlight, and when I saw them they quickly bore into the depths of my soul.”

“Silver eyes?” Saruman asked as he closed his book. He had also once seen those eyes before, many years ago. Gandalf had mentioned once having a friend with silver eyes. “Daefaroth…. The Shadow Hunter,” mentioned Saruman. “She’s notorious for emerging here and there, changing the tides of events with her uncanny skills.”

“Is she a threat?” Grima asked hesitantly. Saruman immediately scoffed and slammed his book hard.

“A threat? Bah! She is merely an exile with a shameful past! She cannot do anything, not even help her comrades. She is not their aide, but their bearer of misfortune. The world of Men will still fall even without her sticking her head into their matters. Yes, it will begin in Edoras—“

Saruman paused when a crow suddenly perched on his balcony, bearing a small scroll attached to its feet. “Grima, what is this?” asked Saruman, for he did not remember having a bird as a messenger.

“Oh, the spies we have inside Edoras has some news,” Grima explained as he took the bird. Carefully he received the scroll from the messenger and opened it. Saruman snatched the letter and scrutinized the written words carefully. What he read delighted and disappointed him at the same time.

Last night a stranger tried to kill the king to no avail. Guards said a woman helped them. They are going to Helm’s Deep.

“Hah, it seems Vrasari is only full of lies and arrogance,” Saruman said as he threw the message away.

“Vrasari? Who is he, My Lord?” asked Grima as he picked up the message.

“He is one of Sauron’s underlings, a skilled assassin who has killed many important figures in Gondor and Rohan. Though, it seems he is not as skilled as before.”

“This woman they mentioned, she must be Daefaroth,” Grima suggested. “It seems she might not be as not important as we previously thought.”

“Indeed,” Saruman remarked. “And now, they are going to Helm’s Deep, the great fortress of Rohan.”

“Theoden is smart. He has expected an attack on the city. Helm’s Deep might make them invulnerable, but the road to take through is dangerous. They will be slow and have woman and children with them.”

“Good,” Saruman said before he walked down the tower. Grima hastily pursued behind him, wondering what he was planning. He only understood when they arrived in one of Isengard’s dreaded pits. Giant wolves growled back at the Man, seeking his flesh in hunger. Saruman greeted an Orc feeding one of the wolves with fresh meat.

“Send out your warg-riders.”


Once the sun emerged to the sky and the night dissipated beneath the mountains, Theoden and his people embarked towards Helm’s Deep in hopes they would find safety. The riders rode out as vanguards and following behind them were the citizens, still wary and frightened of whatever danger threatening them. Varilerin, now with Elen, rode with the other members of the Company close to Theoden. She rode right next to him, still disturbed by the prospect of him being targeted once more. She had no further reason to do this other than for the people of Rohan, who now only had their kind to depend on. Apparently Theoden was pleased with her company though, which might seem strange to Varilerin since people rarely liked her company—so far only Legolas liked it.

“I’ve heard about you from my father, Thengel,” Theoden told Varilerin as they continued to ride. “He said that ‘she’ was a ‘he’”

“I did conceal my identity that time, though I found that it is now unnecessary,” Varilerin answered quietly, her eyes and senses still focusing on the vast road beyond.

“It is a wonder to find an elleth wandering beyond her realms.”

“Except that I am not fully an elleth. I am a peredhil, but I choose to live as an Elf,” Varilerin answered surely. “I need to protect this earth as long as I could. It is a vow I took so long ago.”

“I can see a strong chivalry in you, despite your upbringings,” Theoden remarked. “It is really fascinating to find such qualities within mere rangers like you and Aragorn. You appear as if you are just a traveller with ragged and dirty clothes. Many would see you as ordinary wanderers, but I see more than just a wanderer.”

Theoden’s words reminded Varilerin of her own heritage. Leadership would surely not be passed through bloodlines, which confused her dearly. “You must have been mistaken, My Lord. I have not led anyone and always travel alone.”

“Leadership is often a natural talent waiting to be discovered,” Theoden lastly said, ending their conversation. Behind them Eowyn laughed without control, her voice echoing in the grim air. Varilerin turned around to see Gimli rushing off towards the front with his wild horse, the Dwarf widening his eyes in horror as he dropped to the grown.

“It’s alright. Nobody panic. That was deliberate. It was deliberate,” Gimli assured everyone, but failed to do so when the others chuckled in response. Eowyn continued to laugh as she helped Gimli to his feet. Theoden observed his niece with nostalgic and sad eyes.

“I haven’t seen my niece smile for a long time,” Theoden said. “She was a girl when they brought her father back dead, cut down by Orcs. She watched her mother succumb to grief. She was then left alone, to tend her king in growing fear. Doomed to wait upon an old man who should have loved her as a father.”

Varilerin had nothing to say other than to listen. She understood Eowyn well, for she knew too familiar the pain of loss and suffering. She pitied the maiden and saluted her at the same time, for her courage in living his far. “She is fortunate enough to have you as an uncle. What has past is past,” Varilerin said.

Theoden nodded and turned to Hama. “We’ll stop and rest here,” he informed him. Hama obeyed and instructed the people to rest for the journey, receiving relieved sighs especially from the women. The women stopped and prepared for the others meals to regain their strength. Eowyn was not an exception and she cooked bowls of soup for the Fellowship.

Varilerin stood by Elen, tending the lonesome steed as she enjoyed the soft breeze of the plains. It was faint, but she could observe that Elen was not an ordinary horse. With her keen eyes and senses, Varilerin knew that Elen was not tired the slightest after their long journey.

“She really likes you,” Gimli said, smoking from his pipe.

“Indeed. It is true that a steed is linked in fate with its future master. No wonder she waited loyally in the stables,” Legolas remarked.

“She has waited too long, I think,” Eowyn said as she closed into the circle, carrying with her bowls of soup. Gimli widened his eyes when he saw Eowyn bringing them food, instantly signalling Varilerin to refuse the food. “She is not a horse bred in Edoras, nor in any place in Rohan. A mighty wild horse, long ago she came to our stables battered and wounded. We tended her until she recovered, but strangely she did not want to leave the cage despite us releasing her.”

“You let this lass stay for free?” Gimli asked, clearly in disbelief of the idea.

“For us the people of Rohan, horses are families, comrades. It was the best decision to leave her be after all, for we discovered later that she is indeed no ordinary steed… She is one of the Mearas.”

“The Mearas?” Legolas gasped. Varilerin did not remark, but her eyes were as wide and as bright as the sun. “Varilerin, My Friend, you have gotten yourself quite a horse!”

“No wonder she is really distant from the others,” Eowyn said. “Ah, you must be hungry. Here, have a soup.”

“Thank you,” Varilerin said as she received the food.” Eowyn looked at Legolas and Gimli, asking the same question, but they shook their heads as quick as the wind. Eowyn smiled and walked away, apparently joyful Varilerin had accepted her gift.

“You should not really eat that, Lass,” Gimli said with a disgusted face. “Even I can cook better”

“Still, it is a gift I must accept,” Varilerin reasoned curtly before she drank the soup. To Gimli’s and Legolas’ surprise and horror, Varilerin didn’t even flinch and instead gobble it until it was empty. Once finished, she looked back at them with a straight face. “It is not bad.”

“I am so horrified to have you as a friend now. It is not even edible!” Gimli said.

“If you’ve travelled for hundreds of years you’ll understand,” Varilerin told Gimli shortly before giving the bowl to a nearby woman. She noticed Eowyn giving Aragorn her dish as well and when the maiden had left him, Aragorn began spilling his bowl’s contents slowly to the grass.

“That’s not courteous,” she told Aragorn, towering him like a shadow. For once in his life he was shocked that he almost sprayed his soup towards Varilerin.

“My tongue is not as strong as yours,” he reasoned as he laid the bowl next to him. “Besides, I’ve just eaten this morning. I can cope with the hunger.” Varilerin merely scoffed at his ridiculous answer. Despite him being a ranger, he could not able to withstand a food as bad as this. Perhaps she was the one too numb to taste anything.

“Fine reasoning,” Varilerin said as she kicked the bowl, pretending as if it was an accident,” but still disrespectful for an honourable man like you.”

“Honourable in which context?” Aragorn asked. Varilerin only realized the true meaning of the inquiry when Aragorn gave her a meaningful gaze.

“As a warrior and a leader,” Varilerin answered.

“Varilerin, I do not want the throne,” Aragorn retorted.

“But you need it,” Varilerin insisted. “You require it. Do you think Lord Elrond will freely marry his daughter with a mere ranger?” For the first time in his life Aragorn could not argue with someone. Varilerin’s point was terribly correct and brilliant.

“What if I die?” Aragorn asked back. “Who will lead Gondor and its people? Who will lead the Men?”

“I will not let you,” Varilerin responded sternly. “I’ve vowed to protect you, so that Men will find hope in these dark days. Aragorn, you do not take the throne because you do not want it; it is because you fear power, frightened that it would control you like it did to Isildur. You might be his successor by flesh, but you are not him by soul.”

Aragorn was rendered speechless as Varilerin ended their conversation and walked away. Her words echoed in his mind, like continuous song waiting to be sung. As the lines moved once more and the horses began pacing, he continued to ponder over what she had just said. He had never heard such convincing wisdom before. He had never wanted power, not even once in his life, but somehow she managed to trust him with one. He looked around him as their journey continued, seeing women and children journeying in hopes they could find safety from the dangerous world. Would this happen if he had taken his right as Isildur’s heir?

“You doubt yourself.”

Aragorn turned to see Legolas walking beside him, leading his horse instead of riding it. “You doubt your capabilities as a king. I overheard her saying those words.”

“Maybe you are correct, My Friend,” Aragorn replied.

“Fear and doubt are two similar things, both obscuring your path. But I do not believe they will prevent you from helping your people, Aragorn,” Legolas reasoned. “I think you should believe in yourself. It is not often to find Varilerin putting such trust in an individual.”

“She also trust you,” Aragorn retorted without looking at him. “Which intrigues me…” Legolas was no longer beside him, only Gimli and his horse.

“Speak with human language, will you?!” Gimli protested, whilst the Man merely shook his head. Elves were indeed cunning, but not unpredictable. Aragorn knew he had hit a sensitive spot within the ellon running to the front line.

Legolas indeed escaped from Aragorn just in time. He could not understand the reason for this, for all he knew was he could not answer Aragorn’s further questions. He had never felt so defenceless before, especially regarding a single person he cared as a friend. The friend he spoke about was currently speaking with Eowyn, apparently forming a strange friendship with the maiden. Legolas suppressed an urge to glance at Varilerin as he ran to scout the path beyond, another questionable behaviour just emerging recently.

“Wait,” Varilerin suddenly said when she saw Legolas flashing before her. Eowyn immediately stopped when Varilerin blocked her path.

“Varilerin, what is wrong?” Eowyn asked, utterly confused. Varilerin hastily scouted her surroundings, grabbing her bow with an arrow ready.

“I can see something,” Varilerin said as her eyes caught ghostly shadows descending from the hill before then; They were shadows of large wolves sprinting at them, with Orc riders mounting their backs. “Something is wrong, something is coming!” she warned as she pushed Eowyn back.

Her suspicions were confirmed when she heard a scream coming from the direction where Hama and Gamling had gone. She rushed towards them and saw Legolas ending the life of a warg with his knives. Aragorn pursued her from behind. “A scout!” Legolas shouted, kicking the corpse back. Aragorn hurried back down the hill to the people, Varilerin staying behind with Legolas to draw arrows.

“What is it?” Theoden asked in confusion.

“Warg! We’re under attack!” Aragorn warned them, mounting his horse. The crowd panicked in an instant, transforming Eowyn to a horrified state. Aragorn turned to Eowyn, still bemused and transfixed to the ground. “Get them out of here!”

Eowyn showed signs of refusal, for she wanted to fight alongside her comrades. But Varilerin’s words and warnings emerged in her head, producing hesitance in her soul and convincing her to stay behind. “All riders to the head of the column!” Theoden ordered. The riders immediately formed lines, raising their weapons against the impending enemy. Eowyn proceeded away from Theoden, knowing it would be best for her to lead the women and children away.

Hearing the panic behind her, Varilerin didn’t shift her attention for her steed, and instead notched an arrow to her bowstring. From afar splotches of black appeared, moving quickly like the river as their figures slowly enlarged and formed fully the bodies of Orcs and wargs. There were many of them, almost dozens, and they were thirsty of blood.

May this end well,” Legolas prayed. Varilerin nodded surely—she had bitter experiences with wargs before, she would make sure this ends well—before she fired her weapon to an incoming warg. Legolas followed her action, continuing to stand side by side with his friend until the riders aid them. When Varilerin saw Elen, running swifter than the others, she leapt onto her back immediately as she fired an arrow mid-air to another beast. The empty hill which once stood before them immediately turned into a fierce battlefield filled with shouts of Men and howls of wargs. In a short moment Men clashed with Orcs and beasts, trembling the air with echoes of weapons contacting each other.

Elen brought Varilerin among the enemies like a beast, dodging any warg to let her rider end their enemies with a single hit. She ran not like a retired steed, but one seemingly used to view of raging war. The warg pack increased the number as the battle ensued, as if it was unlimited. They were vicious and wild, their moves unpredictable, and the Rohan soldiers encountered terribly difficulty in fighting them. Varilerin continued to fight mercilessly and without fear, her dark memories being constant reminders for her not to let her guard down.

Apparently she was not the one to worry about. From the corners of her eyes she saw Aragorn fighting alongside Theoden, while Legolas continued to defeat his opponents with his bow and Gimli stayed on ground with his axe. Her fast eyes caught Aragorn off guard and a warg-rider looming behind him, ready to strike. “Aragorn!” she shouted as she shot the warg with two arrows at once. Aragorn turned around to see a dead warg and its rider lying on the ground. He widened his eyes, realizing Varilerin had kept her vow, before he turned towards her.

His relieved expressions suddenly changed into a horrified one. “Varilerin!” he shouted to the top of his lungs. Varilerin could not perceive what Aragorn warned her, until she felt her body flying to the air and hitting the ground. Varilerin grunted as her head was conquered with drowsiness and she searched for her bow, lying several feet from her. Her mind had just returned to absolute consciousness when the same warg-rider took a turn and charged at her. Without further thought Varilerin grabbed the warg’s saddlery and tried to reach for her sword, only to fail in doing so. The warg’s movements were erratic enough to shake her uncanny balance and control over her own body, rendering her useless.

The Orc riding above her screeched when it realized a new man on board. It drew its sword and swung it dead towards her neck, but Varilerin unsheathed her medical knife just in time to save her head. The Orc switched from skills to the use of brute force, pushing Varilerin down and tried grinding her head with the friction of the warg’s motion. Gritting her teeth, Varilerin in turn mustered all of her strength to her small knife and with a single flick disarming the Orc from its ruthless sword.

Varilerin struggled to gain seating or footing to end the Orc properly, but the warg continued to move without her permission. The dismayed Orc immediately grabbed her neck when it saw an opening and squeezed her hard, attempting to break her narrow neck. Varilerin frowned and stabbed the Orc with her knife. The Orc did not fall and instead pushed her harder, so she applied all her strength left with another stab enough to pierce a man’s skull. The Orc finally lost its upper hand and seating on the saddle, but it was still persistent. With its last effort it pulled Varilerin down with him, but she retained her will to stay on the warg.

Varilerin pulled herself up to kick the Orc down and she succeeded, but the Orc grabbed her neck again, this time clinging on the chains of her necklace. Flashes of thoughts and possibilities ran through her mind, but she none of them concerned of her necklace. With her life as her only concern, she pulled her body lastly and punched the Orc away from its ride. The Orc ultimately fell to its death and left Varilerin alone with her life.

Her heart pacing like a roaring river, she could finally let a sigh of relief as she reached for her other hand to release her from the beast. Before she did so, her eyes caught a menacing cliff lying just a few feet before her. Widening her eyes in horror, she immediately reached for the warg’s strapping and struggled herself free. She did so to no avail.

Oh Valar.”

In a mere second the warg leapt from the cliff with its uninvited rider. Varilerin saw a glimpse of water rushing beneath her as her body flew to the air, before her darkness filled her vision and she lost sight of the world.

Chapter Text

There was a shatter in his ears when it happened. Legolas did not comprehend what it was until the battle had ended. In their defence against the warg-riders, they slowly gained the upper hand. Towards the end of their battle, the riders finally regrouped to kill the remaining enemies. Many had died, no doubt, but they succeeded in protecting the people of Edoras. Under the leadership of Eowyn the people of Rohan should have closed in Helm’s Deep by now.

Gimli ended the last of the enemies by decapitating an Orc, finally ending their battle with his kill. He panted, tired of being under corpses, before he ran to Legolas. Legolas scanned the field and found Aragorn walking towards them, his face smeared with blood and dirt. None of them were wounded, much to Legolas’ relieve, though the battle had exhausted them slightly.

“Glad we make it,” Gimli said as he patted Aragorn’s shoulder. “But where is Varilerin?”

“Varilerin!” Legolas immediately shouted, his heart suddenly throbbing with fear. No response nor reply came, the battlefield silent like the night. For the first time in his life the ranger was struck with incredible fear; fear enough to cower him to his death. He quickly scoured the battlefield for his friend, Aragorn and Gimli tailing behind. There were bodies everywhere, of Rohan soldiers and Orcs, but he could not find any wearing a dark scarf. Legolas’ heart throbbed faster as possible consequences flashed within his mind, of which all he tried to not believe.

A wind brought him towards the cliff, lying cold and windless despite the upcoming storm. He turned to its direction, only to see Varilerin’s bow lying cold under the sun. He picked it up as he looked towards the cliff, hearing river crashing below. He brokenly walked to it, fearing the most of his friend, until a chuckling shattered his anxiety. He looked down to see a dying Orc cackling with its broken voice. Gimli walked next to him with his weapon ready, while Aragorn observed behind.

“Tell me what happened and I will ease your passing!” Gimli threatened it with its axe. The Orc merely coughed blood in return.

“She’s dead…. She took a little tumble off the cliff,” the Orc whispered gleefully. His answer sparked an unknown anger in Legolas’ consciousness. He instantly knelt down and grabbed the Orc, piercing him with his freezing blue eyes.

“You lie,” Legolas insisted bitterly. “Tell me what happened!”

But the Orc did not respond, his eyes now gazing to the skies. Legolas breathed heavily as he looked down, seeing the Orc clasping an object. He slowly unclasped his fingers, only to see Varilerin’s necklace, its pendant still enclosed within beautiful white wings. Legolas’ face paled in as he took it, his hand trembling in disbelief. “No,” Legolas muttered, sprinting to the ledge. He was greeted with a deep plunge below, ending with a rushing river enough to drown a horse. Deep in his heart he hoped truly for Varilerin to cling on one of the rocks of the cliff, but his eyes found none of her presence. “No…. Oh Valar.”

None could survive such fall, even the strongest of their company. Aragorn and Gimli joined beside him, their hearts broken with grief. Varilerin, their lone female companion, had passed from their lives. The Daefaroth was no more, lost in the abyss she had always feared. Aragorn stepped back in horror. She had sworn to protect her and she accomplished her vow, trusting him with his own life. She trusted his doubtful self with the fate of Men and her own life, and now her life was lost to ensure he survived.

What have I done?” Aragorn whispered to the air, regretting his behaviour thoroughly. Unknown to him, Legolas was struck with an even deeper grief. A voice in his heart sang a calm lament for Varilerin, but another whispered strange things he had never showed to her. It was upon her death had he just realized she was not a mere friend or companion. He had only realized he had been seeing her differently than a friend would, acted differently for her sake. She was not only a comrade. To Legolas, she was—

“Leave the dead,” Legolas heard Theoden ordering the Men. The three of them turned to the king with bitter eyes, giving him a scornful look. Theoden however, was unmoved despite the fact Varilerin’s loss was terribly for him. “I am sorry for her death, but this is battle. Come.”

Theoden turned away from them, hiding the grief over his own men. Legolas closed his eyes as he prayed for Varilerin’s soul, remorse conquering his soul. He looked once more at her jewel—glinting under the sunlight—and her bow, before he turned away from the river. Varilerin would not want him to grief for her forever, he knew. For now, all he could do to honour her was to finish their bloody quest, and take back Middle Earth.


 

She might be truly dead, for Caladin and Caldir were standing before her. A vast white hall covered her vicinity, an ethereal light coming from above. She looked back at her parents, finally accepting her fate.

“I am dead,” Varilerin said. “Finally dead.”

“No, My Child,” Caldir said, his voice deeper than she thought. He was fair like shown in the Mirror, but up close his face radiated a kindness Varilerin felt in Glorfindel. “You are just awaiting to be awakened from your slumber. One step of it has passed, another is waiting. Your time is yet to come, for you still have a long road ahead.”

“Is it not enough for me to endure all this suffering?” asked Varilerin in disappointment.

“Every being lives to a purpose,” Caladin said. “Your purpose is yet to be fulfilled. You cannot see it yet, but you have more than just suffering waiting for you: friendship, peace, and love.”

“Peace? Love? For me?” asked Varilerin. “It is such a blasphemy—“

“Your soul is clueless now, for you have never felt any of the two. You will understand soon, My Child. For now, you shall return, and you shall save the souls of many from their terribly demise,” Caladin further explained. Varilerin found herself unable to speak further, for her voice started dissipated in thin air, just like the white hall.

“The world of Men and Middle Earth will need you till the very end. Go.”

With those words, her parents and the white hall completely disappeared. She spun among the stars until she felt a cold sensation touching her skin, and the sound of rushing water. Varilerin slowly fluttered her eyes, her consciousness switching from the real world to what she guessed as visions. Blurredly she saw armies bearing the white hand of Saruman, marching down the hill in large numbers, and cliffs enclosing a river. Pain shuddered across her bones and muscles, a single shift causing her to grimace in pain. She slowly regained her grasp of the reality and caught a movement beside her. In response she grabbed for her weapons, anticipating an Orc raising its sword, but she only saw a horse neighing. Elen sniffled her hands and warmed her skin with its breath, relieving Varilerin of the momentary coldness. Elen brushed her raven hair gently, which she noticed had loosened by the fast currents.

Elen, thank you,” Varilerin whispered weakly, grasping for her manes and pulling herself to her feet. Once she gained a footing, she scanned for mortal injuries within her body. Fortunately, due to her enduring body, she had none other than countless bruises and grazes. Perhaps she had several cracked bones, but she could still move. Her weapons were still intact and her garments were still well. Knowing she was still capable of travelling, she mounted Elen and paced the horse away from the river.

She rode up the hill and returned to the vast plains of Rohan. Varilerin drew a deep breath as she directed Elen towards Helm’s Deep. Elen thankfully knew how to reach the Deep without Varilerin’s instructions at all times, thus she could find some slumber to regain her strength. She laid her head on her mane, feeling the wind brush her skin as they travelled farther. Quietly she thought of her friends, which hopefully arrived at the refuge safe and sound, unlike her.

Suddenly she heard stomps coming from afar, heavy and orderly, along with the sounds of metal clanging. Immediately her consciousness woke and she lifted her head, searching for the source of the sounds. Elen herself snapped cautious and seemingly knew the source of the sounds. She quickly paced towards a direction and Varilerin let her steed lead her. The sounds became louder and louder in her ears, which signified something unpleasant and unwelcomed.

Varilerin saw dark squares marching downhill and her previously droopy eyes were awakened in a flash. Legions of Uruk-hai were marching towards where Helm’s Deep stood. Each of the warriors wore heavy black armour and equipped themselves with spears, swords, and crossbows. The white hand of Saruman was engraved clearly on their helmets, flashing Varilerin with fear of what would soon come to Rohan.

Oh Valar, she thought out loud as she rubbed her eyes, hoping to find her them deceitful, but the view remained true. Varilerin exhaustion brushed away immediately, as she turned Elen to the other path leading to Helm’s Deep. Ignoring the pain stabbing her body and bones, she paced her sword as fast as the wind. The sun had reached the sky and would lower down soon enough; she had so little time and the army would soon reach the refuge. Gritting her teeth, she prayed hard for the Valar to speed up her ride and make her journey quick so she could at least give chance for those people to live.

Valar, please let me come in time.


 

Legolas sat alone in Helm’s Deep, his mind occupied by things he could not understand; his feet could not find the strength to stand straight. He was a trained warrior and warriors were trained to not let their emotions cloud their judgements or lower their defences, but something about Varilerin’s death shook his mental entirely. For once in his life he felt a grief greater than anything he had ever felt. He silently reminisced the memories he had with her, wondering what made him grief for her so much. She had been his comrade, like Aragorn and Gimli were, but something about her presence was different. She was a quiet yet a wise woman, filled with dark past which haunted herself and terrified the others, but she understood him. Legolas and Varilerin were polar opposites starting as rivals or enemies even, but soon the former found they were more than just comrades; they were similar in ways they could not comprehend and understood each other more than they understood themselves.

He could only wish he had told her all these things before, but everything’s too late. The only remnant Legolas had of her were his memories, her bow, and her necklace. Legolas closed his eyes and clasped her pendant tight, praying for her soul to finally reach the Halls of Mandos and find more happiness there. Slowly his consciousness drifted along with his prayer, pulling him from the ravines of reality and towards a plane unknown to him. He did not order his body to enter a meditative state, but it seemed he could not control his consciousness in this sadness. There was a white plain before him, lying cold and still, before images started to form out of the emptiness. Pillars emerge from the white round and colours splashed on the white screen, shaping corridors Legolas was familiar with.

Rivendell? he thought as he tried to discern the strange sight. It was certainly not an ordinary meditative vision, for he could hear a sound so real his ears might be deceiving him. It was the sound of a woman singing, her ethereal voice echoing among the halls of Rivendell. Legolas found his ‘body’ walking towards the woman, still bemused of what he experienced. This has to be a vision, but it is impossible. I have no gifts of vision.

Legolas arrived at the Hall of Fire, with its eternal flame flickering at its centre. The woman singing sat on one of the chairs there, seemingly not noticing his arrival. Now he was standing close to her, he could hear her magnificent voice clearly. She must have been a light Elf, though her long dark night hair said she was a Noldor. Nevertheless, he knew he must have heard such voice before; it was sad and meaningful, wise like the trees and clear like the stars.

The elleth stopped singing, standing up from her seat and patting her long dress. Legolas strangely tensed when she walked away from her seat, her back still turned away from him. He wanted to ask her name, but he could not speak in this vision. It was only the elleth who could speak, and she finally turned around as a wind blew into the hall. Silver eyes flashed from the blazing fire. Varilerin looked back at him, her face as radiant as the stars.

She is alive.

Legolas jolted awake—at least, if he was sleeping at all, for Elves do not sleep—as if he had been struck by lightning. He looked around to see Rivendell no more, only Rohan Men walking back and forth restlessly. He fluttered his eyes and searched for his surroundings, finding no sight of Aragorn nor Gimli. He was sitting near the same position where he was told to, near the gates of the hall to inform Aragorn and the others whenever the King had come to a decision.

From afar the gates of Helm’s Deep was suddenly opened, despite the King’s strict order not to. His ears twitched sharply when the people below started muttering loudly and he stood up to see what had happened. Legolas walked to the edge of the second floor, confused of what had happened below.

“She’s alive!” he heard vaguely. His blue eyes widened and his feet immediately ran towards the first level. It was entirely crowded and Legolas found himself unable to force past the swarming refugees. He stood restlessly like a fool, only hoping what he dreamt was true, that Varilerin was indeed alive. Unconsciously he clasped the jewel tighter, praying for his prayer to be answered.

It was answered when a black-haired figure pushed past the crowd. Legolas froze instantly to the ground, his golden hair losing its glow when he saw the familiar raven hair emerging from the sea of Men. Exhausted silver eyes looked back at him and instantly all his world stopped. Varilerin stood before him, with Aragorn and Gimli looming behind her. Varilerin did not move as well as Legolas studied her. Her clothing had been torn and dusted, with wounds and bruises appearing where her pale skin touched the air. Her hair fell to her shoulders—unattended and recently drenched in water—and her black scarf did not cover any of her terribly grazed face.

Legolas parted his lips and shook his head, unable to say any word of her condition. She looked half-dead as far as he could see, but something about her remained intact: the fierce determination in her eyes and her composed breathing. She neither spoke nor frown, the only sign of her existence being her deep eyes which shone with terror and anticipation.

Legolas finally moved from his ground, rushing past the refugees. He stopped just an inch before her and did not even realize it, for her survival was all which mattered now. Varilerin fluttered when he arrived before her, his arms extended as if he would catch her. “What happened?” Legolas began with his wavering voice as he once again examined her situation. “You look terrible, Varilerin! You fell!”

I have fallen to death, but called back to finish my mission,” she said shortly,” to give you all a chance of survival with what is coming. I need to speak with the king, now.” Varilerin, with a strength Legolas swore should not have existed in her condition, rushed through the sea of people and climbed the levels of the Deep with her uncanny speed. Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli followed behind her hastily, trying to catch up her unusual pace. Varilerin immediately found herself in front of the gates of the great hall, panting. Legolas stood before her and opened the doors in her stead, receiving a grateful nod as Varilerin entered the hall and announced her living soul.

Varilerin was greeted with Theoden, staggered back when he saw her shadowy figure standing before him. Gamling and his Men gasped, for they could not believe what they saw. “Daefaroth?” asked Theoden as Varilerin marched closer. The king studied her from head to toe, and his expression immediately changed.

“My Lord, Rohan is in utter danger,” Varilerin started with her wavering voice. She dashed to the table before she leaned on the surface, catching her heavy breath. She coughed lastly before she lifted her face, showing Theoden a glimpse of what had happened to her. “A great host ismarching towards Helm’s Deep. Saruman’s Uruk-hai they are, fully cladded with armour and equipped with weapons.

“A great host?” Theoden exclaimed in horror. Theoden would certainly not believe ordinary people reporting this, but Varilerin was too exceptional for him to not trust. “How—how many?”

“Ten thousand, at least,” Varilerin panted. “They brought ladders with them, crossbows, spears, shields, and swords. They are trained, no doubt.” The whole hall stoned into statues, bewildered by Varilerin’s news. Her words were difficult to cope with, especially by the fact that she had just survived a deadly fall. Deep down Legolas and her comrades also had hesitation towards her because she was inexplicably tired, but Varilerin would not lie after she had just died once. “It is an army bred for a purpose, to destroy the world of Men. They will be here by nightfall,” she continued to clear their hesitation. Varilerin looked at Theoden, then at Aragorn—who covered his mouth in terror.

Silence engulfed them as they accepted the gruesome fact that all of them might meet their demises tonight. But Theoden would not let this end, neither would Varilerin and her comrades. “Let them come,” Theoden said surely, but with fear hinted in his voice. He walked away from the hall with confidence and fear embedded on his steps. His eyes fell on the walls of Helm’s Deep—as strong as they were when the Deep was first built. However sure he was of the Deep’s stone defences, they would not prevail without the strength of their men. “I want every man and strong lad able to bear arms to be ready for battle by nightfall,” Theoden ordered Gamling. Gamling nodded reluctantly and left Theoden.

Theoden sighed as he scanned his people, still unaware of what would greet them once the sun fell. As a leader he did not want to involve his innocent people, but he had no choice. In fact, he might need more than just the involvement of people of Rohan.

“Aragorn,” Theoden said as he turned to the ranger. Aragorn tensed and straightened his figure, as if awaiting a reprimand, which he received none. “You have helped my people before I even entered this world and we truly appreciate it. You have served my father and remained loyal despite us not being your true people. Now, in this dire time, I must humble myself to ask for your help once more. Will you come to my aid?”

“I will, My Lord,” Aragorn immediately answered. “I will lend you my power. We will lend you our strength and all our capabilities, to protect the people of Rohan.”

“Thank you,” Theoden responded tiredly. Below him, the refugees had been alarmed with the King’s announcement. Theoden frowned, for he felt he failed as a leader for his people; he should have protected them, but what they get was another fearsome battle. Only one choice left for him: to defend until all their lives perish. “Come,” Theoden finally said.

Theoden walked to the ramp outside the gate, his fearful eyes scanning the panicking crowd. “We will cover the causeway and the gate from above,” Theoden instructed his gathered men. “No army has ever breached the Deeping Wall or set foot inside the Hornburg!”

Aragorn stepped forward to protest, only to be preceded by Varilerin. “My Lord, your determination is remarkable, but this time it might bring ruin to you and your people. Grima must have told Saruman about the weakness of this fortress—if there is any—and it is a great disadvantage for us. Furthermore, this is Uruk-hai we are speaking about. They are skilful and well-prepared. I’ve seen it take one of my friends, one of the greatest warriors—“

“I’ve fought many wars, Lady Varilerin. I know how to defend my own keep,” Theoden bluntly replied. Varilerin, for the first time in her life, appeared emotional and angered. It was her endurance which impressed Aragorn and his companions, for they were sure she might be in the brink of losing consciousness.

“My Lord, nothing will stand forever. Saruman is cunning and clever and he will seek any way to destroy our defences. I dared not say this, but I am afraid this time the keep might not hold.”

“Are you doubting this fortress?” snapped Theoden, feeling insulted.

“No, her words are plausible, My Lord. We are far outnumbered,” Aragorn defended.

“They will break upon this fortress like water on rock. Saruman’s hordes will pillage and burn. We’ve seen it before. Crops can be resown, homes rebuilt. Within these walls we will outlast them!” retorted Theoden.

“They do not come to destroy Rohan’s crops or villages, but the people of Rohan!” Varilerin exclaimed. Her voice shuddered all within her vicinity, including her friends. She breathed heavily as she realized what she had done, staring to the ground to compose herself.

“What would you have me do?” asked Theoden, his voice wavering. Varilerin lifted her face and met Theoden’s hopeless eyes. “Look at my men. Their courage hangs by a thread. If this it to be our end, then I would have them make such an end as to be worthy of remembrance.”

Silence was Varilerin’s only answer. Her body and mind was incredibly tired and she had not thought about their way out of this ravine. She again looked at the ground and clenched her fists, forcing her mind to think in her dishevelled state. “Send out riders, My Lord. You must call for aid,” Aragorn pleaded, standing between Varilerin and Theoden.

“And who will come? Elves? Dwarves? We are not so lucky in our friends as you. The old alliances are dead,” Theoden responded. Legolas and Gimli twitched, feeling slightly offended, but they could no longer protest. All Theoden said was utterly true and they could not change their tide.

“Gondor will answer,” Aragorn answered with a determined voice. At this Theoden immediately snapped, taking a step forward closer to Aragorn.

“Gondor?! Where was Gondor when the Westfold fell? Where was Gondor when our enemies closed in around us?! Where was Gon—“ Theoden paused when he saw the expressions of Aragorn and his comrades. He breathed deeply and acted similar to Varilerin, tryin to regain his calm thinking. “No, My Lord Aragorn… We are alone,” he ended as he looked at the other soldiers. They had been watching him, no doubt, and he was disappointed with himself as a result. Everyone depended on him, yet he could not think clearly or use their trust.

Theoden turned to Aragorn and his comrades, lying his eyes on the battered Varilerin. There was a look of hope and trust reflected on her eyes such that the king could not look back. She had just brought the news from the dead to save his people, to give them a chance to survive, but all her efforts failed when they reached him. Her sacrifice might as well be in vain and he, Theoden of Rohan, might as well be blamed.

“Get the women and children into the caves,” Theoden ordered his men. “And tell the archers to report to Aragorn once they are equipped…” Aragorn was still waiting for his change of mind, but Theoden’s resolve was as cold as stone. “I depend on you in this, Lord Aragorn. Do not wish for something impossible and too late.”

With those words he walked away from the company, leaving them to wonder what fate would be awaiting them that night.

Chapter Text

“The Uruks have improved; they are unlike the ones we saw back. Their plates and helmets are stronger, completely covering their critical points, but they still have weakness. Their armour are weak at the neck and beneath the arm,” Varilerin said to Aragorn as they walked along the walls. “Make sure the archers, sharpshooters in particular, know this.”

Aragorn nodded. “We’ll place reserves along the wall, they’ll support the archers from above they’ll support the archers from above the gate,” Aragorn suggested.

“The Uruks will come like the waves, washing all past as they destroy the land. We cannot let them inside the walls, not even a single step past the stones. If we are unfortunately breached, the archers should have reinforcements behind them—swordsmen who might save them to join the volleys.”

“Varilerin, you must rest!” Legolas repeatedly urged her. Varilerin seemed deaf once she talked to Aragorn regarding their battle strategy. The elleth had not rested ever since she brought the frightening news to Helm’s Deep. In spite of her great endurance which might last to hundreds of Uruks, Legolas knew deep inside she was just brushing the great pain beneath her skin. The fall was high, even for an Elf, and her wounds had not been tended at all. Varilerin, again, did not answer Legolas’ suggestion and instead focused on her conversation with the equally-worried Aragorn. Silently Aragorn also shot glances to Legolas, urging him to take further action for her.

Finally, Legolas decided to step forward. Before she could take another step, Legolas had laid his hand on her weak shoulder and pulled her so she turned around. He could feel her body tensing upon the touch. She immediately looked back at the ellon and glowered at him with her exhausted eyes. “Varilerin, you need to rest. You cannot make yourself useful with such condition.”

“By night this place will be horded by Saruman’s underlings,” Varilerin reasoned as she brushed Legolas’ hand away. “I am the only one who have looked upon them directly. I know their weaknesses, their weaponry and their strength. These men might stand more chance if I inform them my knowledge.” Legolas fluttered his eyes in disbelief and Varilerin assumed their conversation had ended—turning away from him—but apparently it had not.

“Please Varilerin! You’re clearly hurt!” Legolas insisted, grabbing her wrist to prevent her from escaping. This time Varilerin was persistent, not turning to answer him.

“I’m fine, Legolas Greenleaf, for I’ve suffered worse!” she replied.

“Worse or not, it was a harsh fall. No ordinary creature can survive—“

Have you a reason to worry so much of me?” Varilerin snapped, gritting her teeth. “Do you see me as a mere lady? Am I not an equal warrior like all of you?” she continued, this time directing her question to Aragorn, who looked upon her with pity. Varilerin frowned and turned to Legolas, who kept clutching her tightly. “Am I not equal with all of you? Have you not suffered worse?” she asked once more.

 Silence. There was more than just a confusion running in Legolas and his friends’ heads. To the ellon, he saw her standing at the same cliff she had fallen. There were thousands of words he wanted to say, as if she was in the brink of her apparent death. A woman she may be, but indeed equal to them she was. She was a warrior, a soldier, a member of the Fellowship; she deserved herself an acknowledgement of her strength. But now was not a matter of strength, not anymore. Before, he might as well stay silent at her stubborn act, but not now. They had come this far and suffered many hardships together—perhaps more than he experienced together with the other members—and he had deemed her more than just a companion. He could not afford losing her again.

I cannot see you fall once more,” Legolas responded. “Nor can I see you drown yourself, for Varilerin… you are more than a friend to me.”

Varilerin widened her eyes and Legolas gaped at his own words. He did not let go, for he did not want to, and so did Varilerin. Their whole world shrunk into just the two of them. In her eyes, all colours vanished, leaving only the clear blue tint of Legolas’ pupils. She froze to the ground, a winter breeze brushing her skin. There was something in his eyes which confused her truly; never had she observed something so clear and beautiful. Her whole world had been filled with shadow and emptiness, but the azure seemed to brighten the abyss filling her soul. Again, she was reminded that she had been seeing him so different after they left Lothlorien; but this time, when he saw him, her heart did not beat for a second. It was not from the imminent darkness or vision of what to come, but something different; something incomprehensible. Deep in her heart, a voice tried to speak out; speak out to tell her she in fact knew what he had meant.

“They need me,” she whispered, returning the world full of motion and colours. She quietly pulled her wrist and glanced at all of the standing men, her eyes filled with an emotion none could explain. “They need us.”

She drew a deep breath and turned her back away from Legolas and her comrades. She pulled her scarf and covered her face, trying to conceal the inexplicable expression she was producing. She had no purpose or destination as she walked away from the three. Perhaps the only purpose of her leaving was to escape him.

And Legolas stood there, rooted and puzzled at what should be done. His hand had forgotten the touch of all things in Middle Earth: his bow and its string, air and the trees, and the single brooch lying in his pocket.

For at that moment, he saw only her and her alone.


 

Varilerin grimaced as she patched up the last of her wounds. With a sigh she tied the bandage around her hips and put on her torn clothing. Most of her garments had survived the fall luckily, though she knew there were several ruthless mending needed for it to be wearable once more. She glanced around, seeing man no more in the healing room. Many of the injured had been moved to the caves an hour ago, so she was the only person left.

She was the only person left, until Eowyn barged to the healing chamber. Varilerin lifted her head to see the maiden, eyes widened, before she nodded at her. “Varilerin! I am so relieved you are alive!” Eowyn gasped as she approached Varilerin.

“It is a miracle indeed,” Varilerin responded. Eowyn looked terribly worried, though she was sure the girl did not enter the healing chamber only to thank her survival. “Eowyn, I believe you are instructed to protect the caves.”

“Yes, indeed I am,” Eowyn sighed, handing Varilerin a hair band to tie her locks. “However, I want to stand by you, stand by my men and fight our enemies. I do not want to sit in the caves with cowering women…” Eowyn paused, playing with her fingers and staring at the floor. “It is what I swore to do when I arrived here, but when I heard of your fall…. I know I am not ready. It is not my time to fight this evil. I admit there is fear in my heart….” Eowyn stopped and lifted her head, her eyes full of determination. “I will willingly go to the caves and protect my people. I will assure that, if the worst is to come, people of Rohan will still survive and remember all your valour.”

“You are wise in your choice,” Varilerin said, standing up. “Eowyn, I pray your sacrifice today will leave you more chance of valour than mine.” Varilerin paused as she looked through the narrow window, showing the setting sun. “The battle is nearing its start. You must go now, to protect the women and children. May we, women of Middle Earth, find strength and courage in this darkening day.”

“And may we survive to remember it,” Eowyn said, nodding. “We shall meet again after the battle, Varilerin.”

Varilerin nodded and let Eowyn join her forces, to the caves. Varilerin narrowed her eyes as she watched the sun slowly losing its glow, signifying their closing battle. Quickly, she marched out of the healing room to the armory to find a simple chain mail. She wouldn’t need a heavy one, for speed was her greatest defence. The armory was crowded by the time she arrived, full of farmers ans stable boys waiting to find any weapon to defend themselves. The crowd were muttering heavily in the air, and they did not notice Varilerin’s arrival. She looked around to search for her friends, regretting it quickly when she saw a golden blonde hair among the crowd. She stopped her feet and let hesitation take over her mind, remembering the events hours prior. Even with her calmed head she could not understand what had happened.

“Then I shall die as one of them!” Aragorn suddenly shouted, snapping Varilerin awake. The noise died down and all their attentions were drawn to Aragorn and Legolas, facing each other as if they were battling. Varilerin tiptoed to look over the numerous heads as she closed in her friends, wondering what in the world had caused Aragorn’s anger. Aragorn sighed and then stepped away from Gimli and Legolas, walking to Varilerin’s direction. She met his eyes, furious and hopeless, and moved away from his path. He did not speak a word, tapping her shoulder before he left the armoury.

Varilerin turned to her two friends, clearly dazed by Aragorn’s action. She raised her brows, questioning the duo, though she did not dare to look at Legolas in the eye. With another look, she could guess what had occurred. “Here we are awaiting doom and you are arguing among yourselves,” she reprimanded them quietly, brushing past them to the armoury. Quickly she found a small mail, snatching it and walked past the crowd. She stopped before Legolas, who jolted when he found her emotionless despite her previous reprimand. “If we are going to survive through this night, we need to believe in all our strengths,” she said surely and loud enough for the quiet Men to hear her.

Her gaze lingered for another second before she stepped away, avoiding the curious stares of the Men. She found Aragorn sitting outside next to a standing boy. In the growing darkness he smiled, giving the boy some hope, and handed the sword he was holding. He spoke a word she didn’t grasp, but it sparked a light of faith in the boy’s eyes. The young man nodded and left Aragorn alone once more. Varilerin approached him and joined him on the stairs, gazing at the moving men.

“Tell me, My Friend. You have the gift of vision. Do you think we can live through the night?” asked Aragorn quietly.

“I have nothing to see,” Varilerin answered softly. “However…. I believe we will survive the night, as well as you do.”

Aragorn smirked. “You’ve changed. It is not like to cling on hope alone, without measuring the odds,” he remarked.

“Not that I have never believed in faith,” Varilerin reasoned,” but I have learnt that it has power to change things….” She faced Aragorn and patted his shoulder lightly. “In dark times like these, it makes us strong.” She did not know what had Aragorn argued with Legolas, but her words certainly reassured him. She would not let her king die without a struggle, not today. She would fight for Men tonight, her kin.

Without more words to say, she walked away from the ranger to clad herself with her new chain mail. It was slightly heavier than she had expected, but she could manage the weight. In one of the vacant rooms she wore her chain mail and clasped her Lothlorian cloak over it. It was only then was she reminded she had lost Glorfindel’s bow when she fell. It was a dismay for her, but perhaps it was not for her to keep forever. She took her remaining weapons and headed for the armoury once more for a new bow. The armoury was now slightly emptier, the Men already stationed on the walls, but not completely empty. Aragorn was there, equipping himself with a mail. It was not his presence which surprised the elleth, but Legolas’ and Gimli’s.

Aragorn stopped his activity when he saw his three friends coming, wondering what they were doing. A tenseness hung in the air when Legolas faced Aragorn. The ellon offered Aragorn his sword, intending to speak. “We have trusted you this far. You have not led us astray. Forgive me, for I was wrong to despair,” Legolas said.

There is nothing to forgive, Legolas,” Aragorn advertently replied. Legolas smiled and turned to Varilerin, who stood awkwardly in the reunion. He surprised her further by taking out a bundle from his back.

“I believe this is yours,” Legolas said. Varilerin raised a brow as she received the bundle. She unfolded its clothing and widened her eyes when she saw her own bow and necklace imbedded.

“You kept it in such a chaos,” Varilerin said as she lifted her head, almost not believing his action. She smiled faintly and she received one in return. “Thank you, My Friend,” she continued as she clasped her necklace and strung her bow. Legolas did not say any word, only nodding as a response. It seemed the discomfort they had from their previous encounter had dissipated, which was a relief for both Varilerin and Legolas. Distraction of the mind was the least they needed for the impending battle.

The night descended to the skies of Rohan. Varilerin and her friends walked out of the armoury, fully equipped and protected. She narrowed her eyes as she scanned the darkening horizon beyond, awaiting for flickers of torches coming from the enemy lines. According to her calculations, the enemies should arrive soon, but fortunately she could see nothing. Instead, she caught movements in the plains. Varilerin walked to the wall and squinted her eyes at the moving figures, orderly and stealthily marching.

“We have company,” she told the soldiers warily, despite her heart telling her they were not to harm Men. The untrained soldiers responded like panicked rabbits and pulled their arrows clumsily at anyone coming towards the walls. Before even one could be released out of mere accident, a horn sounded in the air. It rang in the air like music to both Varilerin and Legolas, familiar and loud, soft and elegant. She immediately scampered to the gates with disbelief, for she knew too well the sound of the instrument. “Open the gates!” she shouted then. “Send word for the king!”

The soldiers seemed bemused by her instructions, but then nodded in understanding when the scouts caught sight of hundreds of Elven warriors, cloaked under the night, marching towards the gates. She waited with anticipation as the wooden gates were opened, slowly providing her a better view of their guests. Questions of their arrival swirled in her head as the gates brushed aside, revealing an ellon with outmost familiarity leading the Elven archers. Haldir, the Marchwarden of Lothlorien, led his soldiers with full armour and weapons. Varilerin swallowed a gasp as she pulled down her hood, skipping to Haldir, who greeted her with a smile of warmth.

Haldir,” she rasped, greeting him in her kin’s manner. She glanced to the farthest Elf, counting hundreds of her kin. “Haldir, your arrival here is a gift for us, My Friend.”

“It is an honour to fight alongside you,” he told her, returning her greetings. “And I would never let the daughter of my friend die in a hopeless battle, not when there is still hope left.” Haldir then looked past her shoulders, seeing the king arriving with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. The Dunadan seemed bewildered at the sight of the Elven warriors, and a smile curved in his lips when he saw Haldir in the front line. Theoden halted before his reinforcements, disbelieving what was presented before his eyes.

“How… is this possible?” asked Theoden. Haldir walked up to Theoden and then bowed to the King of Rohan with outmost respect.

“I bring word from Elrond of Rivendell. An alliance once existed between Elves and Men. Long ago we fought and died together,” Haldir said, noticing Aragorn walking towards him, and smiled. “We come to honour that allegiance.”

Aragorn ran down the steps and without further thought embraced Haldir in joy. Surprise filled Haldir’s face as he did the gesture, though he received it with open arms. “You are most welcome,” Aragorn said as he pulled himself away. He let Legolas greet his kin as well, allowing the people of Rohan to glimpse their allies. Once the greetings had been properly exchanged, Haldir finally turned to the bemused Theoden and produced a determined expression.

“We are proud to fight alongside Men once more,” the ellon declared.

Theoden did not smile, but bowed in respect of their efforts. “And I thank you, all of you, for coming to our aid.” Varilerin smiled under her scarf, for the arrival of the Elves seemed to awaken so much hope for the people. Haldir nodded as a response before he approached the Hunters.

“Aragorn, Varilerin, they are yours to brief,” Haldir told them. Aragorn nodded and stepped in front of the Elves, drawing a deep breath. Before he spoke, however, he turned to Varilerin.

“You have the outmost liberty to do this,” Aragorn said, pulling her to his side. She staggered, questioning his intentions with a sharp glance, but ultimately did not protest when she saw the expectation carved on the eyes of her kin. Aragorn reassured her with a nod, so she found courage to speak—at least, what she called being forced to.

“Their armours are thick and strong, but weakness still prevails,” she started, glancing at the others. “Aim at the neck and beneath the arm. Courage and the will to live is your power, and the one which will bring you victory tonight.”

Varilerin paused, locking eyes with her audience. She could feel it, the fear carved within their eyes. Her words were not assurance for them, for the night coming would be either their demises or their worst battlefield. She drew another deep breath as she lowered her scarf, revealing her face to all of the soldiers. “I can see that you are afraid, afraid of what is coming,” she shouted, her voice echoing across the fortress. “We all are! But these times are evil and we cannot afford going down into fear and darkness! We are all bound with a single purpose, to protect those without protections, and that purpose shall bind us together. Tonight, we fight until our last breath. We shall not let them prevail!”

Her speech was responded with the Elves stamping their feet once and straightening their backs. Silence engulfed the soldiers as Varilerin stepped back, observing their reactions. She needed no shouts or battle cries, for they would nothing. But she could see it, the transformed looks in their eyes. Fear still lingered, but it was brushed by the hope empowering them. She turned to Aragorn and her comrades, mesmerized by the sight of the woman.

Thunder shook above them, denoting the approaching battle. Varilerin lifted her head, gazing to the clouded skies as trickles of rain dropped to her cheek. She fluttered her eyes as she pulled her hood, returning her attention to the Elven warriors and the watching Rohan men. “May we last the night.”


 

Varilerin could see now, torches of death approaching Helm’s Deep. The soldiers and archers had been lined up on the walls and below, awaiting for their enemies’ arrival. They stood still, frightened by their own inescapable fate, but they remained stern. If they were to die tonight, they would die with honour.

Varilerin tensed as another thunder shook the skies, giving her a glimpse of their imminent enemy. She shifted from her position and walked past Haldir’s soldiers, walking to her Company. She found them gazing far to the horizon, and joined their fray. The Uruk-hais, as Varilerin had informed them, were armed with spears and thick armours. They had indeed been improved, though this fact did not strike the Company with fear anymore. She stood beside Legolas, pulling out her bow as she scrutinized the battlefield.

“Your friends are with you, Aragorn, Varilerin,” Legolas told them, though her name produced an unusual effect on himself. “Do not die,” Legolas added to Varilerin in a whisper. His voice shuddered her skin, though she managed to hide her indescribable reaction from him and nodded. Yes, she would survive the night, for she had so many questions left unanswered: this inexplicable feeling, for one, and the other being the identity of the mysterious assassin. It would be a small chance for him to appear in this battle, but nevertheless she was still anticipating his appearance from the legions of Uruk-hais.

Rain continued to clang on their armours, which were unpolished and unsuitable for them. Farmers and stable boys trembled once they saw their true enemy: fear. However, Varilerin’s speech echoed in their minds, strengthening their resolves. Below, the Uruk captain stood on a ledge of rock and howled its battle cry to the air, confidence filling its voice.

“Show them no mercy! For you shall receive none!” Aragorn shouted with his deep voice. Once his words ended, the Men started drawing their bows and aimed below anxiously. The Uruks had lined up not far from the walls, pounding their spears to the ground and sending battle cries to the defenders of the Deep. Varilerin and Legolas drew their arrows, sharpening their senses on the tips of their arrows. They waited patiently, waited for the defining moment in which the Uruks charged at them.

However, suddenly an arrow flew from the lines of Men, penetrating deep into an Uruk’s chest and taking it down instantly. All Men shifted their attention and scrutinized a flabbergasted old man. “Hold!” Aragorn reminded to whoever fired such shot, though he knew it was too late to say so.

As a consequence, the Uruks lost their patience and howled with madness. They pounded their chests lastly before they charged at the wall, their footsteps echoing in the air. The Men gasped in horror, realising the start of battle.

“Fire!” Varilerin ordered immediately. The Men instantly obeyed and released their arrows at the army. Hundreds of arrows flew to the air, before they fell inaccurately below. Arrows belonging to Haldir’s men struck true to the neck of the Uruks and killed hundreds instantly, just like the messy rain of arrows. Varilerin drew another arrow and fired once more, above her the torrent of arrows continuing.

Aragorn stepped back, turning to the lines of archers below. “Full volley!” ordered Theoden. Arrows from the archers below joined the others above, hitting more of the enemies. The Uruks did not receive the attack without response. They drew their numerous crossbows and fired at the Men above, slaying many at once. The rest of them ran towards the base of the walls with incredible speed, carrying tall ladders on their shoulders.

“Ladders! Ladders!” Varilerin warned. “Archers! Aim at the ladders!”

Obedient to her orders, her kin fired at the ladder-carrying Uruks, slowing down their pace towards the wall. Nevertheless, in such outnumbered battle, their efforts were futile and they continued to march forward. They placed the ladders against the wall and began their campaign on retaking the wall. Varilerin ran towards the wall, cautious of the arrows threatening her life, and observed the ladders. When she saw the ladders clinging on the walls with notches, she quickly drew one of her swords and crushed the notches with two separate swings. Immediately the stairs swayed and fell backwards, touching the ground and crashing the Uruks beneath. “Hit the notches!” she further ordered, moving to another ladder.

The Elves heard her instructions clearly and released arrows at the notches, hitting them accurately. One by one the ladders fell, but soon enough more came to replace them. One ladder managed to connect with the walls long enough for the Uruks to assault the men facing them. Promptly, the defenders’ attentions were diverted to the deadly Uruks. “Swords!” Aragorn screamed when he saw the flooding enemies.

The Uruks arrived like waves against the sand, igniting chaos within the walls and giving chances for more ladders to provide path for the enemies. Screams started reverberating in the rain, of Men and Elves, as the Uruks roared without mercy and pain. Varilerin gritted her teeth, understanding the changing circumstances, and put her bow aside. She shifted her stances and drew both of her swords, glinting under the light of the moon. Quickly, she sprinted to one of the ladders to greet the arriving Uruk with a swift slash to the head. Dark blood spurted to her skin as she ended its life, before another leapt after it. She received her enemy with grace and ended it with the same fate.

“Legolas! Two already!” she vaguely heard Gimli boasting from afar, despite the loud screams throughout the battlefield. She glanced back, noticing Gimli’s stout stature moving among the men.

“I’m on seventeen!” Legolas responded.

“Twenty!” she added, kicking her enemy to the wet earth. She smirked and turned to Gimli, who was clearly unamused by her achievements.

“I’ll have no pointy ears outscoring me!” Gimli screamed, decapitating another Uruk. Varilerin smirked, returning to her own battle, at how they were so casual at the prospect of risking their lives in this battle. They might be too underestimating their unfortunate situations, though it provided her another support to continue, other than hope and fear. She was vaguely reminded with her battle back in Erebor, her first major war encounter. She was different back there, not powerful enough to turn the minds of the wrong side. This time the outcome would possibly be similar, but it would be different. This time, she would not fight with guilt as her strength, but with her vow as a warrior.

Varilerin spun her blades and killed two other Uruks which almost lunged at her. The wounds she had suffered did not affect her, as if her body had been renewed with the adrenaline of battle. She pulled her blades and breathed, before she scanned the battlefield once more. She looked over the walls, noticing lines of Uruks with shielded heads walking towards the gates. “Causeway!” she shouted to the remaining Elves, who shifted their direction of projectiles to the Uruks. Many were taken down, but they did not stop their march.

The elleth shifted her gaze as she pursed her lips. A strange occurrence below caught her eyes. The Uruks were forming a path below, as if providing a way for something. She leaned closer to the wall, seeing another Uruk with a torch running towards the wall. It took her a few, terrifying moments before she realised what it was intending. He’s aiming for the gutters.

Legolas! Take him down!” immediately she screamed, unable to take it down by herself with the endless Uruks hunting her, as if they had none other to kill. Legolas gritted her teeth and responded immediately. Like the wind he took his arrow and nocked it onto his bowstring, before releasing it to the Uruk’s shoulder. It did not stop running closer to the walls, limping with outmost determination. Legolas widened his eyes and took another arrow, Aragorn shouting to him desperately to kill the Uruk. His ears deafened as he released another arrow, this time striking its feet and tumbling him down. Legolas was not spared victory, for the Uruk threw the torch upon its fall, tossing it to the gutter.

The fortress shook as an explosion broke the defences of the Deep, sending a dozen of soldiers to the air and to their deaths—one of them being Varilerin. She lost her vision for a moment as she felt her body falling once more. Her back struck directly the wet ground, the mud cushioning her fall slightly. Grimacing, she struggled to maintain her consciousness in the now screaming battlefield. She rummaged for her blades, lying not far, before strong hands pulled her shoulders up. Her vision still hazy, she turned around to see Haldir supporting her limping body.

Thank you, My Friend,” she said, receiving a nod. The defending walls had been breached and the Uruk were flooding in like a coastal wave. Haldir drew his sword and stood beside Varilerin as they faced the countless enemies, unable to run with the time given.

“Varilerin!” they suddenly heard a voice from above. She looked up to see Gimli’s stout figure leaping off from the wall and crashing the poor heads of Uruks before her. She staggered back when Gimli emerged triumphantly from the enemies, swinging his axe like a wild man. Varilerin thought the surprising acts had ended, until a streak of gold flashed before her. Legolas glided down the stairs of the walls on top of a shield, killing off Uruks with his arrows. With a swift jump he let the shield plunge deeply into an Uruk’s chest waiting below, and he ran towards Varilerin and Haldir.

“What did I miss?” Legolas asked once he joined them. His gaze was immediately drawn to Gimli, rampaging on his own among the Uruks. Varilerin smirked, watching him draw another arrow. “Shall we linger here?”

“No, of course not,” Varilerin surely answered, charging on her own. Legolas and Haldir followed, striking their enemy with the immense skill of an Elf. Behind them Aragorn joined the remaining soldiers and lifted his sword. “Charge!” Aragorn loudly ordered the infantry, tailing Varilerin and his comrades’ tails. The soldiers released a battle cry as they ran, letting the courage of their leaders fuel them.

 The two forces finally clashed as the storm stopped. There was no longer the sound of thunder or rain which rang their eardrums, only their own voices and battle cries. Under the support of hope and rage, the forces of Rohan fought their enemies. The defences did not hold, but the walls of their souls remained strong and brave. The night had just begun, and they would not end it with only their blood drenching the ground.

Chapter Text

The long battle ensued and the remaining soldiers struggled to live through the night. Enemies continue to charge at them, but they did not die without fruitless efforts. Blood reeked in the air, of their comrades and their enemies, but they fuelled their courage and strength to continue. The Uruks had broken in too deep, but they did not care. To them, their lives were now only a senseless word, and the survival of their people were their gifts if they managed to triumph.

“Aragorn!” Theoden shouted, in the midst of the raging battle before him. Aragorn turned around to search for the king, in front of him his friends still fighting with all their rampage. “Fall back to the keep! Get your Men out there!” Theoden continued.

“Fall back!” Aragorn relayed, pushing away from the chaotic battlefield. “Haldir, get your men off the walls!”

Haldir responded with a loud whistle, dedicated to his kin. “Fall back!” he shouted to the top of his lungs, retreating from the ongoing battle as well. “Varilerin!”

Varilerin nodded and broke away from her battle, slowly followed by the other infantrymen. The soldiers, what’s remained of them, began shuffling away into the Keep with the strength they had left. The Uruks did not stood idle when they saw their actions and they quickly pursued, still burning with fury and madness. “Archers!” Varilerin shouted to the remaining archers above. They took heed of her words and fired painstakingly at the chasing Uruks, taking several but not many enough to save their escaping comrades.

She halted midway to slow down the enemies. Panting, she fought them off as she continuously searched for her friends. None were in vicinity, anxiety cast onto her heart. They should have followed her when they broke away from the walls, but now they were beyond her sight. Coincidentally, she found Legolas fighting not far with his knives. “Legolas! Where are the others?” she shouted as she joined his fray.

“They are holding the gates,” Legolas calmly answered. “Soon we need to help them escape—Your left!”

Varilerin acted accordingly with his warning and she evaded an incoming sword from her left, swift like the wind, and countered it with two stabs of her swords. “We need to get to the walls!”

Legolas nodded and followed Varilerin to return to the top of the walls. On her way she grabbed a roll of rope, uncurling it as she glanced down. She caught it clearly, two figures of Aragorn and Gimli rummaging behind the enemy lines. “Aragorn!” Legolas shouted as Varilerin dropped the rope downwards. Aragorn caught the rope swiftly and held Gimli in his grasp. Legolas clutched the rope and Varilerin helped behind his back. Together they pulled their comrades back to the top of the walls with their remaining vigour, and managed to lift them back into the fortress.

Aragorn released Gimli, panting as he dropped to the ground. “Thank you,” Aragorn said gratefully. He would be hugging them both now, for saving their lives in the disorienting condition, but there was no time for linger. More ladders were coming up to the walls, sending more Uruks into the deep. Varilerin immediately slashed the rope, throwing away any chance for her enemies to climb the walls. Beside her another ladder was taken down by Legolas’ arrow, sending enemies falling to the abyss and providing chance for the remaining warriors on top of the walls to retreat.

“Fall back! Fall back!” Gamling shouted to the air.

“They have broken through! The castle is breached! Retreat!” Theoden added desperately. Varilerin looked at her friends and followed them towards the castle with haste. Legolas tailed behind, covering them with his last arrows, as they entered the castle—the last remaining defence they had before the enemies enter the glittering caves and slaughter them all. The Uruks had filled Helm’s Deep, like a black sea flooding the darkness.

Varilerin entered the castle with broken steps, vaguely recognising throbbing pains across her body. They were from the wounds of her fall, which she managed to suppress throughout the battle, but now they were striking her like thunder over waters. She stumbled, almost tumbling, but Legolas managed to catch her and pull her into the castle with him. She nodded a thanks, drawing a deep breath and pulling herself together. Behind her the last gates were shut and barricaded, having Haldir and the last of his men slip past. Aragorn and the other surviving men rummaged the hall for objects to barricade the entrance, whatever they were. Soon enough, the Uruks had arrived before the entrance and started striking the wooden barrier with their rams, sending the defending men back and forth as the force from the doors shook them.

“The fortress is taken. It is over,” Theoden said hopelessly as his men continued to retaliate. Aragorn and the others instantly place their gaze to Theoden, who looked at his soldiers absently. Aragorn slammed the table he was holding and immediately walked to Theoden, flashing burning flames within his eyes.

“You said this fortress would never fall while your men defend it. They still defend it. They have died defending it!” Aragorn said, shaking the king’s shoulders.

“We cannot let this over, not when so many have sacrificed so much for the sakes of our lives,” Varilerin whispered. “Gamling, there is a pass over the mountains. Get the women and children through it, and barricade the entrance. It will buy them time,” she told Gamling.

“So much death,” Theoden interrupted. Gamling stopped moving and so did Varilerin. “What can Men do against such reckless hate?” Aragon and Varilerin were reverted into silence once more. They could not condemn him for losing hope, for it was almost certain they had none at the moment. Varilerin turned to Gamling, convincing him to still carry out her instructions, before she glanced to the windows. She had forgotten the prospect of time as the battle ensued, but now she was reminded. She was, inadvertently, reminded of the promise her friend had given to her. A promise which, instantly, reawakened her previously slumbered mind.

“The sun,” she murmured, eyes widening. “The sky is pearl grey… Aragorn, the sky is pearl grey.”

Aragorn heard her, struck by an enlightening light. He instantly turned to Theoden, meeting him in the eye with conviction. “Ride out with me,” he said. “Ride out and meet them.”

Theoden was taken aback by his statement, but those words slowly burnt his spirit and courage. His eyes were brimmed with light and fiery determination. “For death and glory,” he muttered.

“For Rohan, your people,” Aragorn repeated.

“The sun is rising,” Gimli informed them. Varilerin took an inaudible breath and looked at Legolas and Gimli, a smile curved on her face. Sunlight slowly seeped into the room through the small windows, shining their dark world with hope.

“Yes… Yes… The horn of Helm Hammerhand… Shall sound in the Deep… One last time!” Theoden shouted surely, his voice shaking the chaotic hall. He turned to his men, his face furious and determined. “Get your horses ready!”

The Men was immediately thrown aback by the force of Theoden’s words alone. Gloomed faces turned into those filled with rage. All of the men immediately mounted their horses and wore their torn helmets. Varilerin joined them, leaping to Elen which had waited for her rider impatiently. Beside her Haldir rode a steed, nodding at her with surety. Gimli disappeared from their vicinity to blow the horn of Hammerhand, strengthening the resolve engraved in his comrades.

“Let this be the hour when we draw swords together. Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin, and a red dawn!” Theoden declared. With a swift move he wore his helmet and unsheathed his sword, followed by the others behind him. The horn of Hammerhand blew, shaking the air with ringing vibration and sending courage to all of the riders.

“FORTH EORLINGAS!” Theoden shouted as he paced his steed through the rammed gates, rallying on the enemies with the hooves of his mighty horse. His soldiers screamed battle cries as they crashed the enemy lines, shocking the Uruks with their newfound spirits. Like a storm, the riders of Rohan slaughtered the Uruks obstructing their path with their swords and blades. The battlefield was swallowed by the sound of the men’s screams and their clashing swords. Theoden led his men down the hill and to the underlying ground, unrelenting and unforgiving to his enemies. They had survived so far and they would not fall without a final, glorious fight.

Beyond the horizon the sun rose, golden light smearing the sky as its rays travelled to Helm’s Deep and shone its dark stones. Varilerin and Aragorn turned their attentions away from the battle, to the East hill where the sun awakened from its slumber. She prayed and chanted for the appearance of her old friend, believing him with all her might.

And her prayers were answered. A single, majestic white horse emerged from the hill, carrying a rider in white. His figure was blurred by the blinding sun, but his face could not deceive her. “Mithrandir!” she exclaimed in joy.

Gandalf smiled at her, scanning the battlefield with concerns. “Theoden king stands alone,” he muttered, lifting his staff for battle.

“Not alone,” Eomer corrected, riding beside the wizard. “ROHIRRIM!”

From behind him greeted thousands of Rohan riders, fully cladded in armours and equipped with spears. The horses covered the hill’s blinding sun and gained the attention of all the Rohan riders fighting desperately below. “Eomer!” Theoden gasped.

“TO THE KING!” Theoden shouted. Like a raging wave, the riders moved downhill with crying rages. They rode as fast as the wind and crushed the lining Uruks with all their might, purging them from their night-lasting power. The remaining defenders shouted screams of triumph as the Rohirrim joined the battle, ending the lives of those killing their kin. The Uruks were immediately swept with a wrenching loss, forced to retreat from their grounds and away from the fortress. Their comrades inside the castle immediately heard the chaos landing on the ones outside and they snapped into disarray. They escaped the fortress which they almost overtake and scattered like sheep chased by wolfs, towards the forests of Fangorn.

“Victory!” cheered Theoden upon the sight, raising his sword hight. The remaining men followed, not stopping their pursuit on the enemies. Varilerin noticed clearly she held her breath as the Rohirrim swept the enemies like ants. The sight was endearing and inexplicable at the same time. It was a beautiful sight she was watching, despite the horrors they had endured the night before. And that battle, she could not belief, would soon end.

“Stay away from the forest!” Eomer warned as they neared the borders of Fangorn. His men skidded to a halt and stepped back, questions raised in their heads. The Uruks took advantage of their withdrawal and fully disappeared into the trees. What happened next surprised them more than anything they had ever seen. The trees started moving on their own and released loud howls to the air, branches twitching and crashing with the invisible figures of the Uruks. The men of Rohan watched in fascination and horrors the strength of nature erased the presence of the Uruk-hai army completely from the lands.

Silence finally engulfed the battlefield. The men stood still, letting peace of tranquillity return to their realm. “It has ended,” Varilerin murmured, her eyes landing on the forest. The battle had ended, her fall was not in vain. She had managed to warn the men of what was coming and she had undeniably, saved the lives of many. It was a thought which she had never had before, her saving others. Slowly she smiled and looked to their others, still awed by the prospect of them winning the losing battle.

Varilerin shifted her gaze to the rising sun. She had never thought she would be touched by the sight of rising sun, golden and signifying the start of another day. A small laughter slipped her lips, enough to attract the attentions of her fellow comrades, for never in their life had they heard her laughing.

However, her laughter died out suddenly. As if the time slowed before them, they saw Varilerin’s body swaying from the horse and falling to the dry earth. It was only when she crashed to the ground did they realise their eyes were not deceiving them.

“Varilerin!”


 

Legolas leaned against the wall, folding his hands with his gaze drawn to the floor. Beside him stood Aragorn and Gimli, remaining silent until the door close to them was opened. Gandalf’s figure emerged from the room, followed by the shorter Haldir.

“How is she?” immediately Legolas asked. Haldir raised a hand to stop Legolas from further asking.

“Do not worry. She is merely exhausted. However, it is a wonder, for she has travelled for long years. One night’s battle should have not taken so much toll on her body, though I suspect the wounds she received were all from the battle,” Haldir calmly explained. “They are completely mended, of course, and thus nothing to worry.”

Gandalf remained silent, eyeing the three Hunters. When Varilerin fell from her steed, Haldir and Gandalf immediately took her and the former inspected her with his superior healing skills. Upon examining her, they were struck with confusion and bewilderment. The sight reawakened pieces of memories within Haldir’s soul and he informed the wizard that, before the battle, Varilerin had appeared battered and tired. Thus, Gandalf was left to question of what occurrence happened between the events of their departure from Edoras and the battle of Helm’s Deep. “You need to explain much to me, fellow warriors,” Gandalf demanded with a frown.

“She… tumbled from the cliff when we encountered wargs on our journey here,” Aragorn hesitantly explained, wincing when he remembered the sight of her upon arrival. “And then she returned with Elen, bringing the news of the enemies’ arrival.”

“The lass is strong and she didn’t even bother a tiny bit of rest afterwards!” Gimli added gruffly.

“We could not stop her from fighting the night,” Legolas bitterly added, furrowing his brows in worry. “It is our fault… We should have forced her to rest.”

Gandalf sighed and rested his hands on his hips. “I have known Varilerin for long years and it is by her nature to do so, for she cannot afford losing another battle, not when everything is now at risk.” Gandalf stopped and examined their reactions one by one before his eyes landed on Legolas. “I think you should leave her for the time being, to rest. I doubt she will be awake soon, nevertheless. Help the other men clean the battlefield, I will watch over her.”

Aragorn and Gimli nodded in agreement, consecutively glancing at Legolas, who seemed reluctant to leave. “Come,” Aragorn said as he pulled Gimli away. He sent a glance to Haldir, who in turn bid Gandalf parting and joined the two. Legolas remained, not once thinking of joining the others, and stood awkwardly before the Wizard.

“I believe you have something to tell me, Son of Thranduil?” Gandalf finally asked after a long silence. The ellon flinched and lifted his head, hesitant. “Do not worry, Legolas, I will not speak a word to the others.”

“Mithrandir, I had a vision,” Legolas started,” or so I thought, for I have never had visions.”

“Your father has gift of sight, like Lord Elrond, thus it is not strange to find you inheriting it. Vision or dreams, nevertheless, I care not, for some things are meant to be shown. Now, tell me, what did you see?” Gandalf assured him, his eyes gleaming with interest. Legolas glanced around and to his feet, clearly anxious because of the Wizard’s attention. He finally drew a breath and looked at him eye to eye.

“Back before Varilerin returned from her apparent death, I had a dream,” Legolas explained. “In my dream, I saw Rivendell and the Hall of Fire. There sat Varilerin, singing alone. She looked happy, the happiest possible for her… It truly struck my heart.”

“Why?” Gandalf curtly asked. Legolas parted his lips, wanting to answer, but reverted back to silence. He furtively glanced at the closed door, behind which Varilerin laid asleep. “It is not a mere dream you saw, I believe, but a glimpse of a possible future in which she survives all these ordeal.”

A faint smile appeared on the ellon’s face. “Yes, I believe,” he briefly answered, a sadness looming behind his blue eyes. “I do not want to see her live in grief anymore, Mithrandir. She has suffered so much, too much I cannot bear to hear any of her sufferings. I wish such fate for everyone in this Company, but… I truly want her to find happiness, peace, unclouded by her dark past, more than any others.”

“Because she meant more to you.” Legolas’ eyes widened and Gandalf smiled. “Tell me, Legolas, what is Varilerin to you?”

Legolas stammered inaudibly, struggling to find words, but he found none. The prideful Mirkwood Prince found none, the first time he could not answer such a trivial question. Deep inside him he wanted to answer ‘a friend’ to the Wizard, but another reminded him that such answer would be a denial. The inquiry continued to reverberate within his mind, like an endless song awaiting for an ending. “I… Don’t know, Mithrandir,” Legolas stammered quietly, covering his mouth as he did so. “It is truly confusing, incomprehensible. It is like being tangled in countless vines, unable to find a path out.”

Gandalf’s smiled only widened further and he took a step closer to the ellon, clasping his right hand on his left shoulder. “No, Legolas, you are terribly wrong. You have known the answer for a long time, it is only waiting to be discovered,” he whispered. “Our quest is nearing its end, but none, not even Varilerin, can see our future and fate. I advise you find courage to utter the answers soon, Legolas.”

Gandalf gave him a last smile before he left him, strolling towards the main hall. Legolas merely stared at his back, contemplating the Wizard’s words. The vines tangling him had been cut and he could now see the exit, towards the brighter blue skies. He understood now, conviction running in him. He turned and reached for the door leading to Varilerin’s room, but suddenly he halted. A force prevented him from opening the door despite the surety he now upheld.

Legolas smiled, pulling his hand away from the doorknob. The time would soon come for him, but for now, he would let her rest and enjoy the momentary peace all of them were given.


 

In her dream, she saw herself, standing before her and studying herself. Varilerin fluttered her eyes, wondering if it was someone else. The elleth before her shared the same features as her, but something about her was different. There was joy and warmth carved on her face and her presence glowed with a faint light. Her straight black hair flowed down her shoulders and a circled decorated her hair like stars under the night sky, along with a silver dress glinting like the starlight.

“Who are you?” Varilerin asked herself. The elleth, or her, merely smiled back. She meant to say several words, only to be prevented by a sudden emerging figure behind her. They wore a dark cloak the colour of blood and loomed behind her figure like a shadow. At first Varilerin recognised the figure as herself, the Daefaroth, until red eyes flashed at hers.

The man suddenly smiled and slashed her duplicate with a knife, swift like the wind. A gust blew to Varilerin as the man charged at her. She could not retaliate, for she had no control of her body, and suddenly a painful sting pierced her abdomen. She gasped, trying to discern her assaulter, only to find the dream dissipating into ashes.

The same pain greeted her, jolting her awake from her bizarre dream. She panted, sensing pain throbbing throughout her body, as she tried to grasp the meaning of her slumber. It was abnormal, as if conveying nothing consistent of the reality. It took her a few seconds before she realised herself in a secluded room, with herself lying on a bed and her weapons plus scarf on a desk next to her. There was none else in the room, only her sitting in confusion.

She tried to recall the events before she started dreaming, which only reached the Uruks being driven to the forest, and endless screams of those creatures. There was no more sound now, for the battle had ended, and she entertained herself with the long-forgotten solitude. They had won and it was the only thing mattered, nothing else, not including her strange dream. Once she gathered her usual composure, she left her bed and reached for her scarf. She wore it around her neck, but not too tight, for her wounds were aching all over. She then walked to the door and peered to the corridor, empty without her friend at sight.

Not questioning where they were, she exited her room fully and crept out of the corridor, towards the main hall. The main hall had been transformed into an infirmary, brimming with countless wounded yet surviving soldiers. She scanned the moving people for her comrades, only to find Haldir standing among the wounded. He immediately noticed her presence, extending his hand to greet her.

Haldir,” she said, her eyes and attention drawn to his injured men. She counted, painfully counted, and only found not more than two dozen left. “I’m sorry, for your loss in helping us.”

We are warriors, Varilerin. We all know the inevitable,” Haldir responded, his gaze unchanged by his grief. “We have won the battle and as a result many more are saved. It is a worthy sacrifice.”

“Truly, I cannot express any more gratefulness than a thank you,” Varilerin said. “And another thank you for mending me.”

“I cannot question how you notice, but you’re welcome,” Haldir replied, returning his gaze to his soldiers. “Tomorrow I shall depart to Lothlorien, for my task here is done. You must search for your friends, for they are preparing for another trip to Isengard. However, I doubt there will be a fight once you arrive there. The trees have awakened and they have spoken of victories, certainly from the White Wizard’s domain.”

“Thank you for the information, Haldir,” Varilerin lastly said before she left him. She walked across the hall and finally saw the brightening skies, greeting her with its welcoming light which reminded her once more that the painful battle had ended. She studied her surroundings, searching for her comrades. The surviving men and several women were now cleaning up the battlefield, piling corpses and carrying them to a burning circle outside the walls. The air reeked of blood, which would linger for days, but it did not disturb the triumphant atmosphere conquering the place.

Aside from the business brimming her ears, she heard cries of grief coming from among the corpses. Women and children mourned for their lost ones, spending their remaining strength by grieving and weeping. Varilerin’s heart sank, again reminded that the battle had cost the people too much. This battle shall be remembered as Rohan’s greatest stand and greatest failures. No doubt, this tragedy would scar each of their hearts with pain and suffering for many years to follow.

“Varilerin!” came Eownyn’s clear voice. Varilerin saw the maiden sprinting towards her, the sleeves of her clothing rolled up and her hair braided clean. “Varilerin, thank goodness you are alive!” Eowyn gasped as she unexpectedly embraced Varilerin.

“I am proud of you, Eowyn,” Varilerin responded, pulling herself away. “You have protected the women, I see.”

“Yes, I have, this time,” Eowyn said,” for the children and women need me, in their fears. However, I shall not stay idle when another battle comes. When it comes, I shall take up my sword and ride with you.”

“That is an honourable resolve,” Varilerin said,” though your uncle will not agree to it.”

“Of course he will not,” Eowyn retorted. “But I will find a way… Ah, your friends are on the first level, talking with Gandalf and the King regarding further plans for Isengard. You should perhaps join them, after you feel better.”

“Thank you,” Varilerin said. Eowyn nodded with a smile before she entered the hall, tending to one of the wounded. Varilerin sighed, considering the chance to return to her room, but decided to not to. She did not want her friends to think her as one of the wounded, possibly leaving her from the next battle afterwards. For the very least, she intended to ask the White Wizard lastly about the assassin which had been bothering her mind before they finished him off—which was low in possibility, considering Gandalf’s and Aragorn’s mercy nature.

She slowly descended the steps and met her comrades and the king, watching the Men doing their work. Legolas was the first to notice, obviously, and he notified the others of her awakening. Worry was carved on every one of their faces, though Gandalf’s expressions were strange and indescribable.

“Varilerin,” Gandalf firstly said. “You look better… Good.”

“Forgive me, for being the subject of your worries,” Varilerin said. “Though I plead not to be left out of the future battle.”

“It is your choice and we cannot prevent you from not going,” Gandalf said, turning his attention to the group of soldiers forming a circle before him. Eomer was now present in the company, not looking exhausted despite his long journey and the thrilling battle.  Varilerin stepped closer, standing next to Legolas. He sent a smile to her, tingling her senses with an inexplicable feeling.

“Tomorrow we shall depart to Isengard with Eomer’s forces,” Theoden announced. “Eowyn and a force of capable soldiers will return to Edoras. Hopefully fate doesn’t give the women, children, and the injured any more suffering.”

“I doubt Saruman will give us any resistance,” Gandalf said confidently. “The Ents have awakened and with that, their buried wrath toward Saruman. I am almost sure they have done their work.”

“Haldir and his company shall leave tonight,” Legolas informed. “We do not have enough thanks to give them.”

Chapter Text

Elen neighed restlessly as the company of Rohan made their way through the deep Fangorn Forest towards Isengard, despite the fact her Lord, Shadowfax, was leading the lines. “Sssh, it’s alright,” Varilerin calmed the steed, though she could not blame it for being so frightened, for they would be soon approaching the dwelling of the White Wizard Saruman. Despite the assurance of Gandalf that he would not give any significant resistance, it was still a horrifying fact that they would be facing the previously strongest Wizard.

The army marching behind them shifted forward to the indescribable woods with anxiety as well, nevertheless the victory they had achieved ensuring them that their arrival would be without obstructions as there were no more enemies disturbing their journey. Haldir and his company had returned to Lothlorien, receiving the greatest gratitude they could imagine from Theoden. With the absence of the Elves, the men were left without numerous keen eyes and ears, though they could not prevent them from going home.

“We are almost there,” she heard Gandalf announcing, causing the soldiers to cover their frightened faces with false courage; at least, they were being led by fearless warriors who would face the Wizard first before they risked themselves cursed or casted a spell on. “Do not worry, I will be the one greeting him,” Gandalf continued.

The woods slowly dissipated to barren wasteland of chopped trunks and leafless trees. Varilerin gaped at Saruman’s consistency in his cruelty, completely changing the borders of Fangorn without mercy. She could not imagine the wrath of Treebeard and his Ents when they discovered this, though such thought was immediately answered by the sight of Isengard in its centre. It was, bluntly speaking, in ruins, and flooded as well. The soldiers shuddered now, shifting their fears from the Wizard to the possibility of raging trees encountering them.

As they rode closer to the tower of the White Wizard, stomping on muddy soil, two distant laughter were heard, light and cheerful like a child’s. Varilerin instantly recognised to whom the laughter belong to, smirking in response and sharing an amused look with Aragorn.

Pippin and Merry were sitting on one of the rubbles of Isengard, inhaling their pipe weed and drinking as they laughed once more. When they discovered the guests arriving, they promptly stood to their feet and raised their hands and tankards proudly.

“Welcome, My Lords and Lady, to Isengard!” Merry shouted, hiccupping in his drunken state. Gandalf and the rest of the company were rendered bemused by the presence of the Two Hobbits. At such sight, the men could not help but assume that the Halflings were the ones responsible of Isengard’s destruction. The Hobbits laughed once more when they saw their guests’ expressions, clanging their tankards against each other in a sound of triumph.

“You young rascals. A merry hunt you’ve led us on and now we find you feasting and… and smoking!” Gimli immediately protested. The Hobbit merely chuckled in response and Pippin raised his tankard. The two looked back at the Dwarf with droopy eyes, enhancing the fact that they were truly drunk.

“We are sitting on a field of victory enjoying a few well-earned comforts. The salted pork is particularly good!” Pippin retorted gleefully as he bit a salted pork inside his sandwich. Gimli swallowed a handful of his saliva as he suppressed his undeniable hunger and craving for good food after the gruesome battle of Helm’s Deep.

“Salted pork,” Gimli murmured. Gandalf rolled his eyes and galloped Shadowfax closer to speak with common sense.

“Hobbits!” Gandalf reminded them, snapping them away from their drunken frenzy. Merry almost fell back when the Wizard’s deep voice struck them, merely saved by Pippin’s quick hands.

“We’re under orders from Treebeard who’s taken over management of Isengard,” Merry informed them, hiccupping without restraint. Gandalf shook his head incredulously and instructed the two Hobbits to ride behind his and Aragorn’s backs. Merry and Pippin reluctantly obeyed, leaping off from their comfort and joining the company. Gandalf led the rest of the company towards Orthanc, its base now submerged under the flood from the damn which Varilerin deduced had been broken by the Ents’ wrath. Treebeard was standing guard in front of the entrance, its tall figure shadowing the arriving company. The soldiers shuddered when discovered its presence, though its gentle oak eyes soothed their anxiety almost immediately.

“Young master Gandalf,” Treebeard boomed as a greeting, startling all the other Men. Its ember eyes studied the company intently as if one of them would be a goblin or Orc, but then they landed on Varilerin’s comparatively small figure. “Ah, Daefaorth! It has been such a long time since your last visit to Fangorn. I almost thought you have disappeared from Middle Earth,” he continued, finally realising who she was.

“It has been a long time indeed, Treebeard. I see you have changed slightly,” Varilerin replied as she bowed briefly. She had made the Tree Herder her acquaintance when she first met him and they instantly trusted each other. In the hands of the Ent, her identity as an elleth remained secret and safe, and Treebeard’s location remained hidden from unwanted eyes.

“Older I am, but young you are still,” Treebeard answered with a slow, groaning chuckle. “Good, I am glade you’ve come. Wood and water, stock and stone I can master, but there is a Wizard to manage here locked in his tower.” Treebeard looked up to the top of the tower after he said those words and the others followed his action. It was faint, but Varilerin could sense two presences atop the tower—one so strong yet diminishing and another vague as the morning light.

“Show yourself!” demanded Aragorn without hesitation.

“Be careful. Even in defeat, Saruman is dangerous,” Gandalf warned them as they waited for the White Wizard to appear from his hideout. “Well then, let’s just have his head and be done with it,” Gimli suggested, out of his dwindling patience.

“We need him alive, to talk,” Varilerin told the Dwarf, calming the building anger inside him within an instant. Gimli grunted with impatience as they painstakingly waited before finally a white figure emerged on top of the tower, along with a smaller one wearing black robes behind him. Saruman and Grima glowered down, the former looking as proud as he had once been. She narrowed her eyes cautiously, her hand brushing Elen’s mane.

“You have fought many wars and slain many men, Theoden King!” Saruman started with his outstandingly deep voice, gripping his staff in a defensive stance. “Made peace afterwards, you did. Can we not take counsel together as we once did, my old friend? Can we not have peace you and I?”

“We shall have peace,” Theoden shot and paused, his eyes clearly burning with anger and hate. “We shall have peace when you answer for the burning of the Westfold and the children that lie dead there! We shall have peace when the lives of the soldiers whose bodies were hewn even as they lay dead against the gates of Hornburg are avenged! When you hang from a gibbet for the sport of your own crows we shall have peace!”

“Gibbets and crows! Dotard!” Saruman spat, glaring at Gandalf instead. “What do you want, Gandalf Greyhame? Let me guess, the key to Orthanc? Or perhaps the keys of Barad Dur itself? Along with the crowns of the seven Kings and the rods of the Five Wizards!” he continued harshly. Grima only stayed silent and watched as the wizard argued with the company below, though fear was clearly carved onto his eyes and pale skin. He did not want to side with Saruman, Varilerin knew, though it might be too late to escape the Wizard’s control.

“Your treachery has already cost many lives. Thousands more are now at risk, but you could save them, Saruman. You were deep in the enemy’s counsel!” Gandalf pleaded to no avail, for his opponent merely scoffed and fumbled for something in his robes.

“You have come here for information. I have some for you!” Saruman hissed as he unveiled the object beneath his white cloth. In his hand he held up a palantir high and mighty, sending shivers down the spine of the soldiers. Varilerin widened her eyes and flinched, her heart started beating quick as a darkness escaped from the seeing stone.

“Varilerin?” Legolas asked in worry. Varilerin did not directly answer and instead calmed her breathing from fear which was casted by the glowing dark sphere the Wizard was holding. Sauron was far in Mordor, but the palantir had made it as if he was directly in front of her. She could hear whispers of black speech from the sphere, as clear as the sound of the horn. She could not understand the words, but their voices alone were too much.

“What is this?” Saruman said in a mocking manner when he saw Varilerin’s response. He then glanced at the palantir, the Eye glowing bright within it. The Wizard smiled maliciously as he returned his gaze to her, who glared back with burning eyes. “So Lord Sauron has taken interest in you, Daefaroth. He is talking to you.”

“Silent your mouth!” she hissed, breathing deep and out. Do not let him into your heart, she mused as she drew a deep breath. The black speech of Mordor did not dissipate, but instead growing louder in her mind.

“Something festers in Middle Earth. Something you have failed to see, but the great eye has seen it! Even now he presses his advantage. His awakening will soon come!” Saruman announced with a great amount of satisfaction.

“We have suffered his malice and we shall not back again,” Varilerin sharply retorted. “The alliance have returned, Saruman, and because of your attack on the Deep. Sauron will suffer more resistance—“

“YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!” Saruman thundered without losing his composure. “But you know this don’t you, Gandalf? You cannot think that this ranger will ever sit upon the throne of Gondor! This exile, crept from the shadows, will never be crowned king!”

Aragorn flinched minutely as Saruman’s voice reached him. Varilerin could clearly see doubt clouding his dignity and she saw Saruman grinning from the corners of her eyes. “Gandalf does not hesitate to sacrifice those who are closest to him, those he professes to love!” the White Wizard continued. “Tell me, what words of comfort did you give the Halfling before you sent him to his doom? The path that you have set him on can only lead to death.”

Gandalf’s face immediately darkened and he was rendered speechless, trying to find words to say for a long moment. Guilt washed over him as he remembered what senseless burden he had given to Frodo: the most dangerous weapon throughout Middle Earth on his small shoulders. The Wizard held a breath as he was reminded that Frodo could have escaped all the wounds and pain he endured if he had not visited him back at Bag End, if he had entrusted the Ring to someone else. Frodo would have been only a nameless Hobbit if a Wizard did not come to him and beg him carry the One Ring.

“It is his choice,” Varilerin suddenly said, breaking Gandalf’s train of remorse in a mere second. Gandalf looked at her, but she did not gaze back, only her eyes reassuring him that it was Frodo’s decision to uphold such burden. Gandalf pondered for a moment and received the same look from Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas. Memories of their first encounter as a Fellowship passed his mind, and he was again reminded that they were no ordinary warriors. They had changed, experiencing pain and grief together. They were now different warriors, not the ones he met in Rivendell. “It is our choice as well. We are bound in more than an alliance or friendship. We are the Fellowship and none of us shall betray one another.”

Her words echoed like a song and her comrades in journey formed an acknowledgement on their faces. Saruman found no words to counter her attack, bewildered by the fact she was not the Daefaroth he had been observing for so long. He, the wisest of the Order, had been outwitted by a simple elleth in both wisdom and play of words.

“Bah!” Saruman spat. “To think you still believe those impossible lies! Have you not learnt anything from your past, Daefaroth? Tell me, how many had fallen before you and yet you were not able to save them? Tell me, how many had failed to be saved by your vanity and fell into the hands of Sauron?”

Varilerin widened her eyes, the last of his speech striking her conscience. “What do you mean by falling into Sauron?” she demanded, her voice cold and sure. Saruman chuckled, igniting a fiery annoyance within her heart. “Speak, Saruman!”

“It is a pity that you, having travelled so long, know so little,” he spoke with outmost distaste. “I am really tempted to tell you, though I shall not, for I am more interested in seeing you fall into depravity once more rather than Sauron punishing me.”

“Then tell me who is the assassin targeting Theoden King!” Varilerin shouted back, losing her composure and patience.

“Oh, he is also the same man,” Saruman muttered. “Vrasari, he is called. You must have thought he is serving under me but, no, I am not such a man to kill someone secretly. He is the servant of Sauron, the greatest of his warriors, perhaps greatest than yours! He is the man who killed your beloved son, Theoden King. He is the man who killed Theodred, heir to Rohan!”

Theoden’s rage instantly burnt and he immediately reached for his sword, despite knowing it would not reach the Wizard. “Who is this Vrasari?!” Varilerin continued hastily, for the Wizard had managed to start a wave of anger in not even Theoden but also in Eomer and his men. Saruman merely laughed out loud, giving her a definite answer of his silence.

“I’ve heard enough!” Gimli grunted angrily. “Shoot him Legolas! Stick an arrow in his gob!”

Legolas accepted the instructions with pleasure and obedience, for the insult towards one of his friend was equal to an insult directed to him; furthermore, Varilerin was more than a friend to him. However, Gandalf halted his intentions and came forth with his staff ready, his free hand signalling the ellon to stay put.

“Come down Saruman and your life will be spared!” Gandalf declared with conviction. Nevertheless the Wizard’s current affiliation, he knew more than they did—perhaps too much for himself to be not spared.

“Save your pity and your mercy! I have no use for it!” Saruman retorted furiously as he raised his staff. A blaze of fireball fired from the edge of his black staff towards Gandalf, engulfing him with flames. The people stepped back from Orthanc, afraid that Saruman would add another to his list of victims. However, Gandalf remained unscathed once the fire had died out, his white hair still clean without any trace of ashes. Instead, he emanated power and radiance greater than before.

“Saruman… Your staff is broken!” Gandalf declared. Saruman’s staff instantly cracked and burst asunder, causing Saruman to stagger back incredulously. Grim prevented Saruman from tumbling, his shrunken figure finally visible to Theoden and his men. Saruman immediately pulled his hand away from Grima, who stuttered back in fear and disdain.

Theoden, already gathering his calm and composure, finally spoke. “Grima! You need not follow him! You were not always as you are now! You were once a man of Rohan. Come down!” Theoden urged to Grima. The Man gazed back without hope and Saruman, noticing the man’s growing determination to rejoin his kin, glared at him.

“A man of Rohan? What is the house of Rohan but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek and their brats roll on the floor with the dogs?” Saruman argued. “The victory at Helm’s Deep does not belong to you, Theoden Horse Master. You are a lesser son of greater sires!” he continued his insult without further thought and mercy.

“No, such victory belongs to all people of Rohan,” Theoden retorted. “And you are still a Man of Rohan, Grima. Come down! Be free of him!”

“Free? He will never be free!” Saruman said again. This time Grima refused his loyal silence and finally spoke his wavering mind.

“No!” Grima responded curtly. Saruman turned around to Grima and glowered at him with burning eyes. “Get down, cur!” Saruman demanded as he slapped Grima to the ground like thunder. Grima yelped with pain as his face crashed the cold surface of the tower, pain silencing his retaliation almost immediately. Theoden winced, now understanding the torture Grima had endured under Saruman. He might have swayed him from being a good king, but he still cared for his people and refused to act further to directly endanger their lives.

“Saruman! You were deep in the enemy’s counsel. Tell us what you know!” Gandalf pleaded again, this time almost losing his patience after the sight of Grima’s agony. Saruman turned again to Gandalf, seeing him in the same arrogant manner as before, but did not notice Grima’s burning eyes and the hidden knife within the Man’s sleeve.

“You withdraw your guard and I will tell you where your doom will be decided! I will not be held prisoner here!” Saruman said, but then Grima stopped the Wizard’s endless retaliation and stabbed his back with his knife, plunging it deep into his bones with the little strength he had. Instantly, Legolas drew his previously drawn arrow and aimed at Grima. With a flick of his hand, he released his arrow and struck Grima’s chest with a hunter’s precision. Grima gasped, his heart stopping almost immediately, and coughed in agony. He took several steps back before he ultimately fell to his death.

Once Grima breathed his last breath, the company of Rohan shifted their attentions to the tumbling Saruman. Gandalf held back a breath, hoping Saruman to remain alive despite the mortal wound Grima had given him. However, their hope was in vain, for Saruman slowly lost his footing and fell from the top of Orthanc down to the sharp waterwheel below. Almost everyone closed their eyes when his body met the acute wood, impaled by the spike like a skewered animal. Slowly his figure drowned into the water as the wheel moved, finally ending his life.

“That’s quite a deliberation,” Gimli remarked, not slightly disgusted by the sight.

 “If Grima did not act as such, Saruman might be willing to surrender,” Varilerin suggested in disdain, the thought of Vrasari’s true identity almost revealed to them continuously angering her. No, to be exactly explained, she was frightened by this person’s true identity, if considering Saruman’s words were nothing but honesty.

“Send word to all our allies and to every corner of Middle Earth that still stands free. The enemy moves against use and we need to know where he will strike,” Gandalf said finally after a long moment of terrifying silence. Theoden nodded in agreement and instructed several riders to bring this message, whereas the rest of them searched the tower and Isengard for any useful information possible to be used against their enemy.

Varilerin moved her eyes across the submerged land, looking for the object which had struck her fear, with her and Saruman’s previous conversation dangling on her head. Was the revelation connected to her latest nightmare, of this assassin slicing her image into two? She was not sure nor could find any plausible reason to think he was one of her fallen friends; she had seen too many deaths to count.

Her attention was drawn away when she noticed Pippin eyeing something in the waters. The Hobbit suddenly hopped from Gandalf’s horse and splashed into the water. His eyes were reflecting a senseless curiosity as he dug into the murky water with his wee hands. Varilerin narrowed her eyes in suspicions and directed Elen to approach the Hobbit’s position. Pippin took out a black sphere from the water, startling her to the roots of her heart when she glimpsed the object. She winced as Pippin looked at the palantir intently, remembering the terribly evil which had entered the sphere.

“Bless my bark!” Treebeard cursed when he saw too what Pippin held.

“Pippin, I suggest you give it to Gandalf,” Varilerin quickly rapped. Treebeard’s cursing and Varilerin’s haste warning took Gandalf’s preoccupied attention. Gandalf almost immediately paced his horse when he saw what the Hobbit held.

“Peregrin Took. I’ll take that, My Lad! Quickly now!” Gandalf advised the Hobbit. Pippin studied Gandalf reluctantly for a split second, but decided to surrender the palantir nevertheless. Gandalf snatched the spherical object with incredibly speed and took out a cloth, covering it with outmost skill and put it inside his robes. Varilerin sighed with relief once the stone was out of her vision.

“We move to Edoras!” Theoden finally ordered, breaking the moment of tension between the Wizard, elleth, and Hobbit. Pippin leapt onto Shadowfax once more, avoiding Gandalf’s gaze, and they followed the king back to the Golden Hals of Meduseld.


 

Vrasari quietly entered the domain of his lord, fear looming over his heart as he closed the doors quietly. He had failed his mission and thus Sauron would no doubt punish him. He had never failed in his whole life, at least in the life Sauron had given him, the life filled with hatred and will to serve him and him alone. The Dark Lord was the one who saved him from his dying state. When none, not even a single creature, pitied his fading existence, Sauron arrived with his hand offering revenge. He took it graciously and became one of his most loyal servants, outranking all those serving before him. Sauron had entrusted him with the highest trust a servant could be given, such that he was the only one beside the Mouth who was allowed to see his true state and form.

And Sauron’s current weakened physical form did not look less terrifying than his spirit embodiment in the form of the Great Eye. Vrasari swallowed a fear he rarely felt and knelt in front of his master, who sat on his throne without making a remark of his entrance or failure—yet.

Vrasari,” his master said with the foul Black Speech, his face hidden under the dark cloak which concealed his shadowy figure. “I see you have failed to accomplish your mission, and now as a consequence Theoden King remains the leader of Rohan and his kingdom still intact.”

“I deserve no forgiveness, My Lord,” Vrasari responded without any hesitance. “If I have succeeded, the loss in Helm’s Deep could have been prevented. It is my greatest failure. I am awaiting your punishment.”

“No, there is no need for punishment,” Sauron retorted calmly. “The loss of Helm’s Deep is not your failure, for Saruman is an arrogant fool. He wished to overpower me with his puny strength, such a blind Maia. Nevertheless, his stupidity has taken toll on him. He is now dead.”

Vrasari stayed silent, for the news was unknown to him. The Wizard must have suffered at the hands of the Ents, he mused, breathing in relief. “However,” Sauron suddenly said. Vrasari flinched, but remained in his composed state. “For such a skilful warrior like you to fail in a simple mission… Explain it to me.”

Vrasari pursed his lips, the image of the ranger flashing in his vision. “I was obstructed,” Vrasari answered. “My journey inside remained undisturbed, but when I intended to finish my mission, someone interrupted. I could not see her face in the darkness, but there was only one ranger with such skill. Daefaroth, she was, and she had the skill to track me in the dark—it was uncanny, for never have anyone noticed my presence before.”

“Daefaroth? Ah, the fallen elleth,” Sauron whispered. “So she has chosen to escape the darkness… It is a fool’s hope to escape such dark past. Forget about her, for she will soon die in the upcoming tragedy. I have something more important for you to do than care for her.”

“I shall do anything you instructed, My Lord,” Vrasari said with a relief. It would be a gruesome task if Daefaroth was to be his next mission; she was not easy to kill like the others.

Soon, when my forces are ready, I shall siege the city of Minas Tirith. I shall place command of the army to you and Gothmog.”

Vrasari despised the prospect of leading an army with another leader, especially and Orc, but he nevertheless nodded. Soon Middle Earth would fall to his master’s hands and they were all which mattered for him. He would watch the lands which gave him pain and hatred burn, nonetheless the way taken. “Farewell, My Lord. If it is your will, then I shall obey with pleasure.”

Chapter Text

Cheers of victory and joy greeted them as they returned once more to Edoras, now crowded with people without grief or disdain decorating their face despite the recent tragedy at Helm’s Deep. Many had died in the battle, but victorious they were still, and it was a single small cause for them to be joyous in such dark times; furthermore, it showed the evil forces that Men were not to be taken lightly of. Theoden led the company through the welcoming crowd and towards the Halls of Meduseld, smiling himself despite the unfortunate circumstances they had back in Isengard.

The Hall had been decorated with flowers and ornaments, brimming the atmosphere with festivity along with the tables and chairs scattered to every corners of the main hall. Theoden fluttered his eyes, for he had instructed preparations for a party but had not expected a magnificent décor. Eowyn welcomed them with open arms, explaining the reason for such extravagance. Of course the maiden would be the one in charge of the preparations, for her skills in beauty was more noted than her skills in cooking. The maiden curtseyed in front of the lines of soldiers and warriors, sending them a refreshing smile for their days of exhausting journey.

Varilerin was still taken aback by the sight by the time she unmounted Elen, who neighed in relief as she realized her time for rest had come. She had not been informed of any of this, as far as she could remember, and so she turned to Eowyn when all the men had disappeared into the halls.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I always know that my skills are in arts and not in the kitchen…Tonight there shall be a celebration,” Eowyn informed her with another smile. “There will be feasts, drinks, songs, music, and dances. You, as a soldier back in the refuge, are obliged to join.”

Varilerin cleared her throat and raised a brow with confusion twitching her muscles. “And… why have I not been informed of this before?

“Well, we planned this when you’re asleep so it might be one of the reasons… Though I am curious why none of your comrades told you.”

“I see,” Varilerin responded with outmost composure to hide her true annoyance. Of course her friends had been playing secrets, for they must have been desperate for her to attend a party. Gandalf would be the mastermind, though Varilerin was confident enough to point Legolas for being the main commander. Ever since she had awoken from her loss of consciousness, Legolas had been bizarrely quiet, which explained the current predicament she was caught in. She had no choice, however, for it would be rude not to attend. At the very least, she would assume her previous name as Daefaroth and disappear into the shadows of the room—which she guessed would be scarce, with all the decorations and the lightings given to the room.

“Oh, please, do not think of not attending,” Eowyn pleaded. “Your presence is a must in this celebration. You are the hero, or heroine of Helm’s Deep, in my opinion.”

“Thank you for the flattery,” Varilerin whispered,” though, I am not used to his….” Varilerin paused to see Eowyn furrowing her brows. “However, I will try… if it is your wish.”

“Good! Farewell, I shall see you tonight, dressed properly and clean as well!” Eowyn remarked in joy before she left Varilerin alone with Elen. She sighed and heard her horse whinnying as if she was mocking her master, so she slapped her mane gently to silence the disrespectful steed.

“It is not funny, Elen,” Varilerin scolded as she pulled her towards the stables. The stable boys noticed her arrival immediately and bowed with respect, knowing she was one of the defenders back in Helm’s Deep. Varilerin twitched, for she did not like being respected as a hero—she was not one. She dismissed the gesture quickly with uneasiness and returned Elen to her long-time home in the corner of the stable.

The sun was descending to behind the mountains when Varilerin exited the stables and returned to her room. The main hall of Meduseld was now crowded by people, men and women alike, preparing for the party to be held that evening. She laid down all her equipment and unclasped her cloak, reminded that the party—one of the things she had always evaded—would be started in not more than an hour. She peered through the door of her room, wondering whether she could survive the night.

“Well, this is going to be a long night,” she whispered to herself, unconsciously forgetting Saruman’s discouraging revelation.


 

“Say, Lad, do you get drunk?” Gimli asked Legolas. They were now standing near several barrels of ale, watching with boredom as they waited the Men to set the tables and present the food and drinks. The preparations were nearing completion, and many had started to come: soldiers, women, and even the stable boys, ready to celebrate the victory with songs and laughter throughout the night. “I bet they will have a plenty of ale to serve tonight! What do you say about drinking with me?”

“I do not see why not,” Legolas answered curtly, not looking back. Gimli chuckled cunningly, for he knew Legolas did not realise his master plan yet. In fact, he did not seem to pay heed on what Gimli said, for his attentions were drawn to somewhere else—or rather, someone else. Legolas constantly shifted his gaze, searching for Aragorn and the rest of his company. Several of the women, he noticed, were eyeing him with interest. Legolas folded his hands and tried to avoid any eye contact them, rubbing the sleeves of his silver tunic to distract himself. He admitted, with outmost embarrassment, he was not searching for Aragorn or Gandalf, but for Varilerin. He had several reasons for his action: for one, Gandalf had told him Varilerin did not like crowded parties like this, and such it was a high chance for her to stay away tonight.

“Looking for someone?” Aragorn suddenly appeared next to him, startling the ellon with both embarrassment and surprise. Legolas fluttered his eyes as he looked back at the Man, who grinned suspiciously as if he could read right through him.

“Varilerin, she’s not here,” Legolas answered honestly and calmly, pretending he had no further interest. Aragorn shook his head in disbelief, sharing the same look with Gimli. They had long known the ellon saw Varilerin not only as a warrior or friend, and his denial over this truly fuelled their impatience. Gimli sighed and placed a hand on Legolas’ shoulder, while Aragorn did so on the other. They gave him a look which shredded all his composure and efforts to hide his true nature. “Gandalf is also nowhere—“

“She will be here soon,” Gimli and Aragorn said almost simultaneously. Aragorn gave the ellon a last smirk before he joined Gamling and the other Men in a meaningful conversation. Beside Legolas, Gimli smirked and subsequently chuckled with satisfaction. The Dwarf continued his silence as he took his smoking pipe, lighting it up without glancing at Legolas.  

Eowyn had entered the room, he observed, but there was no sight of Varilerin yet—he had thought the maiden would be accompanying his friend. Legolas furrowed his brows, worried that she would indeed not attend the celebration. It seemed she was quite startled after their encounter with Saruman, which provided enough reason for her to take a moment of solitude and ponder over the White Wizard’s words. Legolas was intrigued and frightened as well, for if one of her damned comrades was still alive, she might drown in guilt once more.

However, he was spared the fear when he saw a raven-haired woman entering the hall from one of the corridors. His faced eased from tension and a smile blossomed on his face, for she was none other than Varilerin.

“This night is your chance, Son of Thranduil,” Gandalf’ voice suddenly appeared beside him. Legolas jumped out of surprise once more, igniting another laughter from Gimli. Gandalf merely smiled, calming the ellon down. He asked a question with only his blue eyes, so Gandalf continued. “If you have something to say to her, you need to say it tonight, for after this I am afraid you won’t have another chance.”

Gandalf turned away from Legolas and greeted the arriving elleth with open arms. Legolas staggered back when he completely saw her, blinking his eyes several times. She was still donning her trousers and usual garments, excluding her black tunic, scarf, and bracers. Her hair fell down past like a raven silk, far longer than Legolas had remembered, but what attracted Legolas’ attention was her face. He remembered well her fair, unobstructed face back in Lothlorien, but somehow he was seeing a completely different person now. Back then, who he saw was a broken woman, but now he only saw a lady carrying herself with elegance and dignity. Starlight shone in her eyes, glittering under the light of the hall.

His judgement might be flawed by his feelings towards her, but to him she was the loveliest woman he had ever encountered, for the entirety of his existence.

Varilerin nodded at Gandalf and Gimli, before she gave the same gentle smile to Legolas. “You look wonderful,” Varilerin greeted, exposing any of the ellon’s efforts to conceal his fascination towards her. He managed to respond with a straight face, however, and gave her his usual beam.

“You look beautiful as well, Varilerin,” Legolas retorted gently. Varilerin twitched a brow and felt her heart skipping a beat. Gandalf silently laughed when he saw Varilerin thanking the ellon in a whispered sentence.

“Thank you for the flattery,” Varilerin replied brokenly.

“That is not a flattery,” Legolas instantly shot back. Varilerin hastily turned from the ellon, pretending to watch Theoden entering the hall.

“I shall talk to Eowyn,” Varilerin excused herself, politely leaving the company.  Legolas furtively smiled behind her back, his heart never somehow fluttering. He could not take his eyes off her, despite the Men starting to obstruct his vision with their broad backs and golden hairs. Gandalf patted his frozen shoulder before he left the Elf alone with the Dwarf, the former unable to stop snickering ever since Varilerin’s appearance.

Theoden slowly climbed to his throne and scanned the waiting crowd. Each of the Men and women held a cup in their hands, eyeing Theoden as he took one from Gamling. “Tonight, we remember those who gave their blood to defend this country,” Theoden said, raising his cup to the air. “Hail the victorious dead!”

“Hail!” all the attenders, men and women alike, cheered with triumph. They drank their respective cups, bursting to laughter and chatters once their cups were empty. The servants started distributing more drinks and food to the guests, themselves singing merrily with the joyous music flowing in the background. Their party over their victory was soon enlivened by Merry and Pippin, who danced and sang on top of tables as they continued to drink.

Gandalf found Varilerin drinking alone, leaning against a wooden post with eyes spying on the others. The Wizard approached her, his eyes thought continued to land on the Hobbits.

“Not joining the others, Varilerin?” asked Gandalf, who glanced towards the Hobbits’ location. Varilerin scoffed and shook her head, playing with her tankard as if it was her knife. She eyed Merry and Pippin, now singing songs familiar to her.

“I am afraid I will not prevail this trial,” she said with disinterest. “Parties… I can never understand people’s fondness of them.”

“It is the happiness and companionship they enjoy, not the party,” Gandalf explained. “Here we have Men who have suffered much in this war. All they need is a night of joy so they can endure further.” Gandalf paused and changed his gaze to Legolas and Gimli, who were playing a drinking game with Eomer not far. Varilerin stared absently at the match, her eyes landing on Legolas. “Enjoy this night, dear, for there might be none more. The darkness of the world is growing. This might be the only time for you to learn more about yourself, and the others.”

“What do you mean?” Varilerin asked, but received no answer, for Gandalf had disappeared from her sight. Despite Gandalf’s attempt of explaining the significance of the gathering, she could not understand how she could be happy like the people around her. For hundreds of years she had spent her journeys mostly alone and not a single day had passed with something worth of happiness. Indeed, in this journey she had found several pleasant moments, but she could not find anything enough to brim her heart with bliss.

 From afar she saw Eowyn handing Aragorn a tankard of ale, smiling with pleasure as the Man received her drink. Silently she pitied Eowyn, for Aragorn had fallen to Arwen and would leave her only heart broken. She had not told Eowyn, for it was not for her to tell. The sight only reminded the elleth of one of the greatest thing she could not understand: romantic love.

“Heeeh heeh heh heh!” suddenly Gimli grumbled, shattering her train of thoughts. Varilerin turned to her friends’ match, which somehow just attracted her interests. She quietly moved through the drunken Men and arrived at her friends’ table with ease, almost startling Eomer. Meanwhile, Legolas and Gimli continued to drink in turns without noticing Varilerin’s arrival, much to her relief—she did not want to be greeted by a drunken Dwarf.

“Ah, Daefaroth,” Eomer said, intending to hide his tankard as if he was guilty of holding it. Varilerin raised her brow to demand explanation from him, for he seemed to be the mastermind of this match. “It is a drinking competition, the Dwarf started it. The last man standing wins,” he explained and gave another tankard to Legolas. The ellon widened his eyes and paused when his eyes met Varilerin’s.

“What are you doing? Go on,” Varilerin ordered, taking a seat next to Gimli. Legolas hesitated for a few moment, but decided to continue his drinking game with the Dwarf. Of course the ellon would win this, for Elves had high tolerance to alcohol and ale was nothing but mere water for them. She doubted Legolas too had not the habit of drinking in Mirkwood, for Thranduil was notorious for his daily intake of wine. Nevertheless, she also doubted the reason he entered this match was to settle a score with Gimli.

“It is the Dwarves that dance with tiny little hairy women,” Gimli remarked without thinking, his breath reeking with alcohol.

“I feel something,” Legolas suddenly said, drawing Eomer’s attention. “A slight tingle in my fingers. I think it’s affecting me!”

Varilerin snorted, audibly, and turned to Gimli. “What did I say?” the Dwarf barked. “He can’t hold his liquor—“ Gimli’s speech halted, his eyes rolling upwards in such a manner it was terrifying, and in a matter of seconds he was on the floor. His impact with the ground was so loud it startled all Men surrounding them, dragging all attention to the snoring Dwarf.

“Game over,” Legolas declared proudly and innocently, putting his tankard back to the table. The other Men laughed at the amusing sight and cheered for Legolas’ victory. Varilerin twitched a smile as Eomer and his followers lifted the Dwarf away from the halls, clearing the area for the other drunks. Legolas patted his tunic in a victorious manner and approached Varilerin, who only eyed the dancing Hobbits with nostalgic eyes.

“Tonight is for celebration, so why is it that you stay here, lingering?” Legolas asked. Varilerin rested her cheek on her palm and did not answer his question. Her gaze was random and he could not follow, though she stared longer at Aragorn and Eowyn. “It is a pity for the lady, to fall in love with a man whose heart is with someone else.”

“I pity her, though I doubt she will stay alone forever,” Varilerin remarked. “A fair and courageous maiden like her surely attracts many men. It is a wonder she is still not wed.”

“Perhaps she is waiting for someone,” Legolas muttered unconsciously. He only realised his words when Varilerin gave him a look of bemusement. He coughed and shifted his concentration to the moving Men—at least, the ones not drunk. They cleared the tables, which had been empty after the drunken ones moved away, lying before the thrones and carried them away. The musicians which had stopped for a moment now lined up next to the throne as the centre of the hall became empty of tables and chairs. The women cheered and started dragging men from the tables, igniting confusion and laughter within each of them. 

“They are holding a dance,” Legolas deduced once the women and men paired up. Varilerin tilted her head as the musicians started the tune once more, this time more melodic yet spirited. The men and women, now in pairs, swung and swayed from side to side, following the rhythm of the music. The instruments were now richer, with drums and trumpets adding to the song. People moved about with elegance and energy, singing along as they scoured the room. The watching audience cheered and clapped their hands before they joined the fray. Varilerin could even see the Hobbits joining the circle, hopping drunkenly like rabbits among the gigantic figures of Men.

Legolas noticed Varilerin’s eyes glinting with excitement and fascination. “I have never seen anything like this before,” Varilerin muttered, her eyes moving from Merry, Pippin, to even a kicking Gamling. Legolas smiled and stepped in front of her, holding out a hand and bowing slightly.

“Would you like to dance?” Legolas asked gently with a smile. Varilerin staggered back, widening her eyes as she stared at his calloused hand. She slowly shook her head, holding out her hand as a sign of refusal.

“I am afraid I must refuse. I am not skilful in such things,” Varilerin reasoned, adding pressure to her words. Legolas shot her a grin before he pulled her hand and, as if she was only a child, pulled her with ease to the centre of the circle. Varilerin stuttered forward, almost tumbling with the immense force Legolas had applied, but was fortunately caught by Legolas’ other hand. She lifted her head, sending him numerous questions with a single glare. “I have said I do not want—“

“Tonight is a celebration,” Legolas intervened, intertwining his fingers with hers. Varilerin shuddered and tensed, staring to the floor to hide her flustered face. For the first time in her life, she lost all her composure with something so simple like this. She spun her mind, trying to comprehend the reason, but ultimately found none. “Tonight we must celebrate, nevertheless the circumstances, and you must as well. Consider this a gift from me.”

Legolas looked up to observe the dancing people. The patterns were foreign to him, but he had too much set of skills that one of them was mastering dance moves in a single second. He turned to Varilerin again, who still gazed at the floor with outmost concentration.

“You have sacrificed many in your life, do not sacrifice this night,” Legolas whispered before he led her to follow the dance the others were doing. Varilerin looked up with surprise when her body was pulled by his hands, strong yet gentle, and she stuttered. She cursed internally, for she was not a person of party, moreover dance. Nevertheless her performance, Legolas continued to carry her as they moved among partners, like a flower carried by the wind. “Do not worry, just follow my lead,” Legolas whispered again.

Varilerin returned her eyes to the ground again, her heart thumping uncontrollably as Legolas somehow guided her so well she started to find the rhythm of the music and dance. She focused on her feet, slowly pacing in the same pattern as his. When all the women spun she spun as well, in a graceful manner of the Elves which shocked Legolas dearly, for it was merely minutes after her first trial.

His partner returned to his grasp again, her speed and elegance still fascinating him. Her face no longer fixed to the floor, she landed her eyes on Legolas. He was taken aback by the light of her face, brimming with excitement and exhilaration. It was genuine, not excellently disguised, and it truly struck him with contentment.

The music abruptly changed and the people started switching partners. Varilerin released her hands from Legolas’ grasp and left him with a smirk. Legolas received a Rohan woman in disappointment, for he wanted to remark on her newfound amusement, but didn’t show it directly and instead sent a charming smile to his new partner.

“My Lady!” Merry greeted Varilerin when she arrived before him. Varilerin received his hands with a gentle smile and danced with him in a rhythm progressing faster, which she now had mastered. Merry apparently followed the speed with difficulty, stumbling numerous times and almost falling if Varilerin had not caught his hand. “A Hobbit can take care of himself!” Merry protested when Varilerin returned him to his footing—what’s left of it, considering his state of drunkenness. “And this rhythm is nothing! I used to dance with Pippin like this, waltzes and all!”

“You’re drunk, Meriador Brandybuck,” Varilerin said as she let out a chuckle. Merry responded her opinion with a drunken, droopy face, and amusement surged in Varilerin when the Hobbit let out a loud hiccup. Her gentle smile gradually curved into a small grin, and then she laughed. It was quiet and brief, but enough to awaken something which brightened her heart.

“My Lady, you are smiling,” Merry noticed, still struggling not to stumble. Varilerin snorted as she moved, suppressing a rare laughter.

“You are drunk, Master Hobbit, terribly drunk. You need to exit once the music ends,” Varilerin suggested. The music changed again and she left the drunken Halfling, who in turn crashed the floor, taken over by the effects of alcohol. Varilerin was greeted with her new partner, Eomer of Rohirrim.

“Well, this is quite a sight!” Eomer said as he pulled her. “To think Daefaroth is such a good dancer!”

“I am a quick learner, apparently,” she told him. Eomer was a good dancer as well, despite his appearance and role in Rohan, and both of them performed a quite pleasant dance. “You are a good dancer as well.”

“Eowyn taught me,” he said jokingly. Before he could continue, however, the music had changed once more and the crowd started switching partners. The Man bowed lastly before he released her hand. Varilerin drew a deep breath, admitting that such activity was more tiring than expected. She moved among the sea of people once more, not even glancing slightly to her next partner. Coincidentally, her next partner was Legolas, and he welcomed her with the same warm hands.

When he pulled her to his side again, he swallowed a breath. He did not know the words to describe her current condition, because for the first time in his knowing her, she genuinely looked happy. A smile lingered on her face, like a light which lit up his world. She did not realise this as she arrived before him, who could only create an astonished expression.

“What is wrong, Legolas?” she asked. The music was now slower and solemn, most of the people dancing with respective partners in a gentler pace and pattern. Tranquillity now brimmed the room, shifting the atmosphere to a comforting silence.

Legolas merely smiled when Varilerin landed her silver eyes on his. “Varilerin, you are smiling,” Legolas whispered in awe. She tilted her head in confusion, though she did not release her smile. Legolas slowly leaned to her ear, startling her without sparing a moment to pause their movement. “Varilerin, you are truly beautiful tonight.”

Varilerin’s eyes unconsciously stopped moving as Legolas drew back, still smiling kindly to her. The music slowly died down in her ears as she looked up to him, his words becoming the song in her hearing. Her heart pulsed slowly as she locked eyes with him, somehow comforted by the fact he was holding her right now. Seeing him truly settled down her always wary heart, and now she her mind was calmed and so peaceful. He was the one who brushed all her grief after Gandalf’s disappearance, a man who could understand all the flaws and beauty within her.

For almost three thousand years she walked Middle Earth, enduring the dust of pain and the gusts of sadness over her cruel fate. She had endured many emotions: sadness, anger disappointment, guilt; but she had never felt like this before. For the first time in a long time, she saw Legolas again as more than a comrade. Before, she could not even barely stare into his blue eyes, but now she did not intend to look at any other, nor hear anything other than the sound of his breath and their steps. He too, saw her the same, radiating a warmth she had long received.

Is this what happiness is?

She could remember now, the smallest glimpses of happiness from her past. She used to understand is, with Arwen when they were still younglings. She used to endure it together with Ellain and Ruindodir—

Tell me, how many had failed to be saved by your vanity and fell into the hands of Sauron?

Varilerin froze and stopped, transfixed like an unmoving statue upon the remembrance. While she stood there, one of her surviving comrades was suffering under the hands of Sauron, one who could be saved. Her heart ached once more and she held a breath. A silent voice struggled in her heart, trying to whisper the identity of Vrasari—a man whose identity, her heart somehow convinced her, she knew.

“Varilerin, what’s wrong?” Legolas asked when suddenly Varilerin stepped back, pulling herself away from his grasp. Her eyes were still wide and clouded with an unknown shadow.

“I am sorry,” she whispered. “I cannot… I do not deserve this joy. While I stand here marrying with pleasure and temporary delight, one of my…. I am sorry, please forgive me.”

“Varilerin—“ Legolas halted when Varilerin rushed away from the hall like a shadow, leaving him alone and cold. Legolas furrowed his brows with worry and grief. The music continued to flow in the air, but it was not joyous. All he could hear were laments, sadness brimming his heart, for once more she was out of his reach. In his eyes he saw her falling again, to the cliff and dark abyss of isolation and loneliness.

But this time he would not leave her alone, not once more after she almost escaped his grasp. With a breath of conviction, he lifted his feet and walked away from the hall, stepping into her dark world with a lantern in his heart.


Varilerin stood alone outside, facing the dark sky of Rohan as if she was seeing her own. Like a lonely nightingale on a dying tree she perched on her own worries, relying solely on solitude to find peace—of which, she could find none. He knew she noticed his presence from his mere breath alone, but Legolas no longer hesitated and took her wrist. She turned around, her expression incomprehensible and somewhat accusing.

“Why do you fear?” Legolas immediately asked as he stepped closer. “Why do I see guilt overwhelming you when you’ve made a vow to let go of the past?”

“Can you let go of the past when one of your comrades survives and he’s under the evil of Sauron?” Varilerin retorted, trying to shake his hand away to no avail. Legolas remained determined to hear from her, something she truly demanded or refuse right now. “Don’t you understand? He could have escaped the Dark Lord’s puppetry if I had saved him! He could have escaped such cruel fate if my senses took heed of the people around me!”

“Don’t you pay heed on your people now?” Legolas rebutted. “Have you not risked your life to protect even those unknown to you?”

“It is not that which matters!” Varilerin snapped, smothering a scream. “It does not concern the dead, it no longer concerns the lost ones! This man is living, and is living with hatred and evil which has crushed his soul. I fear not for his skills o—or dangers he pose to Aragorn and our people—I am fearful for what I shall see in his eyes, I fear that I shall see someone deep in my past, someone more than just a mere comrade in battle.”

“Then let me endure such fear with you, Varilerin,” Legolas reasoned reaching for her other hand so she would see him in the eye.

“You should not, must not,” Varilerin muttered, pain hinted in her wavering voice. “Have you not learnt? Those willing to share their burden with me shall receive more pain. Arwen, Ellain, and Ruindoldir; they have suffered more than I have. I cannot let you endure the same pain, Legolas, I cannot—“

I cared not!” Legolas interrupted, startling Varilerin. “I cannot, not ever, see you weeping and aching alone anymore, Varilerin. I’ve seen Tauriel going through so much like you and I shall not regret my decision to leave someone alone in darkness again.”

“Why? I am merely an elleth, whose name has been forgotten by many,” Varilerin reasoned bitterly. “I am not worthy for your help nor your companion. You deserve better than standing beside me and facing the dark future my life is fated with!”

“You are more than deserving, Varilerin. To me, you are more deserving than anyone in this world,” Legolas muttered, so soft it was nearly a whisper. Varilerin’s anger over herself immediately died down, like a flame extinguished by a gentle breeze. 

“I don’t understand,” Varilerin murmured, her head stirring her dizzy with emotions and unanswered questions,” Why do I deserve so much, when I have done so little?”

“Because I cared not for anything you have done,” Legolas confessed. “I cared not for your past nor your fears. I see you as who you truly are, only a pained elleth whose kindness and love hide behind a veil of shadow. But I have seen them, back in Lothlorien, and truly I have never seen something so beautiful before.”

Legolas locked his blue eyes with her, his gaze piercing into her very soul and his voice trembling her world. Why, when he looked at her, she felt her soul being brimmed with warmed and longing? Why, when he stood beside her, all the pain she had endured seemed to disappear?

“Varilerin, do not let yourself journey such path alone, for I do not want to lose you. To me, you mean more than my world. If you intend to continue a journey in darkness, let me be your light.”

And Varilerin’s spirit was truly shaken, for she had never heard such words in her life. Rather, she had never heard and seen such beautiful thing in her world. He had been the one who lit up her dark world when she almost faded, he was the one who truly understand her. His voice brushed away all the grief and shadow clinging on her, like a cure to a poison decaying her soul. She had encountered so many people in her life, yet she had never seen someone like him, someone so full of life and kindness he drove her to joy and tears.

He stood in front of her, something endearing carved on his face, and seemed to radiate a strange light; a light which, inexplicably, lit up her dark world. Varilerin blinked, convinced her teary eyes were deceiving her, but she could not bring herself to believe it was only a dream or illusion. For, all she saw now was real, and she saw that Legolas truly wished to protect her.

“Why?” she asked brokenly with tears trickling from her eyes. “Why, out of everything beautiful in the world?”

Legolas did not answer, for he instead pulled her gently into his arms. Varilerin landed without a sound on his chest, wetting his tunic with warm tears. She could feel his breath brushing her hair, but she did not dare to pull herself away. He was like a home she did not want to separate from. “I find nothing more fair than you, Varilerin, for I love you,” he whispered, almost inaudible yet so clear.

Varilerin did not move. Again, she had never heard such beautiful words, and she had nothing to say about them. She had so many reasons to question why she was not surprised by his confession, but she chose not to. His words were sincere like the starlight and gentle like the wind. She had no suitable answers to retort his sentence, for she was in a loss of her emotions and revelations. Her head was ringing with confusion, a silent voice urging her to say the same to him, but she was still tangled in vines of turmoil.

Legolas, forgive me,” Varilerin whispered, her tears stopping, as she pulled herself away from him. The action casted Legolas with terrible worry, worry that she would deny his love again, but he found his thoughts wrong when Varilerin gave him a heartfelt smile. “I cannot form the right reply for your love… for I have never encountered this feeling before.”

“I know I have startled you,” Legolas said hesitantly,” It might as well not be the right time—“

“Thank you,” Varilerin curtly continued, intereferring his excuses. “There is not yet an answer I can give you, but for your love I must say thank you. Thank you for loving me, Legolas Thranduillion.”

Legolas was somehow not taken aback by her answer, but was bemused by her gratitude. He smiled back, uniting her hands into a one bond. “You have no reason to thank me, for you deserve it,” Legolas said as he clasped his palms on top of her own. “And if you have not yet the answer, then I shall wait. However long it is, Varilerin, I shall wait, and my love for you shall never change… Never.”

Chapter Text

Suspicions took over Aragorn when he found no more sight of Legolas or Varilerin dancing in the hall. They had disappeared before the dance ended, and now the celebration was nearing its end. Aragorn strolled inside the quiet halls, still thrown upside down with bemusement. Seeing Varilerin in the party alone was quite a sight, but seeing her dancing? He would be surprised if the world was not ending if Legolas had not been by her side; clearly, the ellon was the one responsible for the impossible occurrence. Now they both had disappeared, though he doubted they were up to no good.

As he pondered his two friends, people around him slowly retired for the night and rendered the hall into an empty, silent place. Aragorn finally sought for Legolas or Varilerin outside the halls, for he could find none of them resting with the others.  He found the former standing on the terrace, his figure veiled with his Lorien cloak as he gazed the sky. Legolas noticed immediately Aragorn approaching him, turning around and facing him with the same composure of the Elves.

“The night is old,” Legolas started. “Why haven’t you found sleep like the others?”

“I can say the same for you,” Aragorn retorted, standing beside the ellon. Legolas returned his attention to the sky, his eyes clouded with wariness and cautions. “Where is Varilerin?”

Legolas flinched minutely, though his expressions remained the same. “She has gone to rest,” he simply whispered, though his voice stated he had more to say. Aragorn smiled, folding his arms.

“What happened?” the Man asked without further ado. He noticed Legolas shifting his feet, though he did not further move. Legolas remained quiet for a long moment, though Aragorn knew that his silence was because of a turmoil inside.

“I… told her everything,” Legolas slowly muttered, his voice full of hesitant and reluctance. Aragorn immediately understood what his friend meant, not asking any more question. “She had not given me an answer…. Perhaps it was all too much for her.”

“You fear she cannot accept your love, I understand,” Aragorn remarked. “You have all the reason to. However, know this, My Friend… Deep inside she truly loves you.”

“Do you think so?” Legolas asked with a small solemn laughter.

“Anyone who sees how you look at each other knows, Legolas,” Aragorn joked. “We all know.”

Legolas let out a louder laughter, this time turning away so Aragorn would not be amused by his action. He only realised this fact after Aragorn had uttered it—to be more precise, he had been mindfully ignorant over the prospect of Varilerin loving him. She was so artful in her act such that he could not see whether she indeed was infatuated by him, and he could only guess with random hunches. Over the course of their journey, Legolas did not really pay heed on how she thought of him; he only wanted the best for her, and he only knew he had fallen in love with her longer than he could remember. He had not expected, however, for his friends—particularly all of them—to notice their feelings sooner than he had.

“She has not understood her feelings yet,” Aragorn continued. “She delved in darkness too long that she forgot the meaning of love. I am sure she will give you an answer in time… And that time shall soon come.”

Legolas smiled with Aragorn, conviction empowering their souls. “As long as there is time, I shall wait,” the former said, gazing back to the stars. His eyes narrowed, as if recognising something familiar among the glinting lights. “The stars are veiled… Something stirs in the east. A sleepless malice.” He suddenly turned to Aragorn, giving him an almost ethereal look, as if he was seeing a prophetic vision. “The Eye of the Enemy is moving…. Away from Gondor…” He continued.

“Something is drawing his attention away,” Aragorn deduced, walking towards the edge of the terrace. Suddenly a shout came from inside the halls, the owner of the voice very familiar to Aragorn and Legolas.

“He is here!”


 

Varilerin lay still on her mattress, her eyes fixed absently on the ceiling as she played with the pendant of her necklace. She had been urged to take a rest by Legolas, though obviously she could find none in her current bemused state. She repeatedly played the events which had just occurred in her head, continuously trying to comprehend what drew her to this confused and flustered state.

Legolas loved her, and he was truly honest and sincere with every feelings he confessed. She saw no ploy behind his eyes, for he was not a man of tricks in the beginning; he was not the same man like the others either. Now he had told her what he saw her as, she was left with only one choice: to contemplate what he really meant for her. She had always viewed him as more than a friend, who could easily comfort her in her most broken state. He was not like a brother either, but someone else.

Love, it was a strange and almost incomprehensible thing for her. Had she loved Legolas, like he had with her? He was someone who, she now acknowledged, was fairer and gentler than anything she had encountered. If he was willing to give anything for her, would she do the same? She surely could not, for she had greater responsibilities, and in them sacrifices must sometimes be made.

Would she sacrifice his feelings for the greater good?

She could not. For the first time, she could not let such trivial thing go, like all the emotions and attachments before her. Why was she so attached and selfish when it comes to Legolas? It would certainly pain her heart back in the past, but she was no longer the same person. She was now a person who, was willing to see the future, and no longer the past.

She was now a person who would reach Legolas, who had given all his love and salvation for her. She was now a person who could truly understand what love is.

Varilerin suddenly shifted, her skin feeling a menacing gust of wind. She woke up, sitting on her bed and peering into the dark corridors. There was no one lurking in the shadows, not a physical presence disrupting her senses, but something more. Something unseen snapped her from her deep thoughts and forced her to leave her bed.

Quietly, Varilerin took her father’s dagger and went out of her room. She turned her mind upside down, trying to search for whatever presence was disturbing her mental state.  Vrasari could never possibly be here right now; it was the other reason for Varilerin remaining awake and cautious.

Varilerin suddenly turned when she sensed an evil menace radiating from one of the rooms where the men were sleeping. When she heard whispers in the Black Speech, her hesitance over the identity of this evil presence disappeared, and she promptly lifted her feet. A shout and scream followed as she scampered faster through the corridors, her mind running hundreds of possibilities of what had happened. From afar she heard running footsteps, possibly Aragorn’s and Legolas’, but she did not stop so they could join her.

He’s here!  she mused as she slid into Gandalf’s and the Hobbits’ room. She found Pippin wriggling with agony as he clutched the Palantir in his hands, screaming in pain and continuously rolling back and forth. Merry stood in horror as he watched the scene unfolding, not moving until Varilerin shoved him away from her path.

Without further thought, Varilerin grabbed the sphere in Pippin’s hands and snatched it from him. She remained unaffected for a second, until a pain like lightning struck her soul and body. The ache trembled down her spines and weakened her life force, forcing her to her knees. The screaming voices of Merry and Pippin died down, only to be replaced by her own internal curses. There was another voice in her head, terrible and cold like ice.

Daefaroth,” Sauron whispered to her. She grimaced when she heard his voice, closing her eyes to suppress his next words to no avail. “I have waited so long to meet you.”

Be gone, Dark Lord!” Varilerin hissed in her kin’s tongue. A silent chuckle, before her eyes were somehow snapped open and the halls disappeared from her vision. The only thing she saw was the Eye of the Enemy, burning bright and ominous, piercing into her soul as if searching for something lost. Varilerin squirmed, trying to release the sphere, but found it attached to her hand like skin.

You will die…. Your friends will die, just like before,” Sauron continued, trying to dig into her soul and mind. Varilerin brutally resisted, feeling his advances getting stronger. She could not, not ever shall be defeated by only his weakened, auditory presence. Varilerin mentally ordered her mind to push back, and the vision of Sauron’s Eye slowly morphed into something else. She heard a hiss from her enemy as she pushed into his own mind space, playing his weapon against his own. The burning fire was still visible, but it now enveloped a single white tree growing in a lone white courtyard.

Minas Tirith, Varilerin mused as the vision thickened. She caught a figure standing behind the flames, cloaked with the same dark red hood and holding the same blood-shot eyes. Vrasari.

“Die from your comrade’s blades, Daefaroth,” Sauron screeched. The vision of the White City disappeared and was replaced by the bodies of all of her friends. Varilerin froze at the sight of so much blood, almost as if she was smelling the rusty reek of it. Sauron laughed, defeating all her resolve and strength with a single strike of pain and fear. This time Varilerin let out a small yet deafening scream, scrunching her body as she held back the pain.

“Gandalf! Help!” Merry pleaded, finally waking the Wizard from his dreamless slumber. Legolas and Aragorn arrived, utterly terrified by Varilerin’s kneeling on the floor, Palantir in her hand.

“Take it from her!” Gandalf barked as he stood from his resting place. Legolas immediately leapt beside Varilerin and pulled her back straight once more. He snatched her hand, trying to break the Palantir away, but her hands were insistent. Legolas gritted his teeth and without further thought kicked the sphere from her hands. Varilerin immediately loosened, dropping to the ground cold. Gandalf grabbed his white cloth and fired it towards the sphere. The Palantir glowed bright red before it was extinguished by Gandalf’s fabric, finally ending its terror among the Company. Gandalf turned to its victims, not decisive in whether he should approach and reprimand Pippin or care for Varilerin—he could not even decide who was in a worse state.

Legolas reached for Varilerin’s body and grabbed her hands. They were cold like the marble floor, but shaking terribly. “Varilerin,” Legolas whispered. She gazed into emptiness and did not breathe for a long moment, enough to convince the rest that she has been lost, until her hand finally twitched. Gradually her eyes moved and her breath returned, shallow and faint, yet enough to reassure them of her survival.

“Pippin?” she whispered, turning her head to the still Hobbit. She looked at Gandalf, convincing him through her gaze to go to the Hobbit instead of her. Gandalf furrowed his brows in worry before he knelt beside the Hobbit. He grabbed his tiny hands and chanted under his breath, awakening the Hobbit from his slumber.

Varilerin slowly regained control over her body and her calm respiration. Still weak, she looked at Legolas in the eye, assuring him she was fine. “What did he do to you?” Legolas asked, brushing her single braid aside.

“He tortured me with my deepest memories,” she murmured with an unwavering voice. “He showed me all of my fallen comrades… and threaten me with future calamities.”

“All he has uttered are blatant lies,” Legolas assured her. “All has passed.”

Varilerin drew a deep breath of admittance and gradually rose from the floor, eyes now averted to Pippin. “Look at me, what did you see?” Gandalf gently asked the Hobbit, who was still overcome with fear.

“A tree,” Pippin stammered. “There was a white tree… In a courtyard of stone. It was dead…. The city was burning.”

“Minas Tirith,” Varilerin explained, struggling to stand up with Legolas’ support. Gandalf widened his eyes without shifting his attention from Pippin. The Hobbit continued to tremble in silence, an effect the Wizard could not deny after such terrifying vision. It was a wonder how Varilerin could recover so quickly from an indirect encounter with Sauron—then again, she was no ordinary elleth, and it would take more than just words to break her.

“I… I saw him!” Pippin continued brokenly. “I can hear his voice in my head!”

“And what did you tell him? Speak!” Gandalf demanded.

“He asked me my name. I didn’t answer,” Pippin answered. “He… hurt me.”

“What did you tell him about Frodo and the Ring?” Gandalf barked. Pippin was rendered silent by the inquiry, merely studying Gandalf’s expressions with confusion. Gandalf blinked, confused of whether the Hobbit had told Sauron about Frodo or not, though he ultimately decided to leave the Hobbit to recover. He promptly loosened his grip on Pippin and left the Hobbit with his friend. He knew Pippin could not be asked further questions, for he had seen none. The remaining choice of witness was Varilerin, who stood like a statue just coming alive.

“What did you see, dear?” Gandalf asked calmly with wariness carved on his face.

“The same vision Pippin has seen. I saw the white tree of Gondor, burning,” she answered with outmost tranquillity. “And the assassin, Vrasari, standing behind the flames. Sauron will, I am afraid, attack Gondor, and he is using the best of warriors in this campaign.”

Gandalf glanced at Pippin, who slowly regained his awareness with the help of Merry. “Pippin did not tell Frodo or the Ring, but Sauron thinks he is the one wielding it,” Gandalf informed them. “This is a matter beyond this Company. We need to hold a meeting with the King.”


 

“There was no lie in Pippin’s eyes. A fool, but an honest fool her remains.”

Theoden silently listened, sitting still on his throne attentively. He look at the others attending the meeting, one of which had also seen the Eye beside the Hobbit. So far he was still struggling to swallow the events which occurred when he was in his slumber, mainly because Varilerin did not look slightly affected by the incident. Instead, she stood straight beside Legolas, her gaze as sharp as usual and her stance always ready for an enemy. “He told nothing of Frodo and the Ring. We’ve been strangely fortunate,” Gandalf continued. “Pippin and Varilerin saw in the Palantir a glimpse of the enemy’s plan. Sauron moves to strike the city of Minas Tirith… His defeat at Helm’s Deep showed our enemy one thing… He knows the Heir of Elendil has come forth.”

Gandalf looked at Aragorn and then to Varilerin. He was dedicating the statement to Aragorn, though the Wizard was sure Sauron had not realised Varilerin’s imperative existence and heritage. It was an advantage for them, he thought at least. “Men are not as weak as he supposed. There is courage still. Strength enough perhaps to challenge him. Sauron fears this. He will not risk the peoples of Middle Earth uniting under one banner, though unbeknownst to him this unity has started… He will raze Minas Tirith to the ground before he sees a King return to the throne of Men. If the beacons of Gondor are lit Rohan must be ready for war.”

Silence. Gandalf twitched, seeing annoyance and disagreement clouding Theoden’s judgements. “Tell me,” Theoden murmured. “Why should we ride to the aid of those who did not come to ours?”

“Because they are occupied themselves,” Varilerin answered in Gandalf’s stead. “If Sauron wishes to attack the White City, he must first defeat the defences in Osgiliath. Surely, he has not been idle with Saruman attacking Helm’s Deep; he must have busied the garrison and rangers with Osgiliath… Furthermore, word said Denethor is no longer a reasonable steward.”

Theoden was not particularly surprised by the news of the steward, for he was more bemused with Varilerin’s reasoning. He was as if enlightened from his gruesome dislike towards the idle Gondor. He had not thought for once of Gondor’s current circumstances, for his mind was preoccupied for his people only. “But even if what you said is correct,” Theoden retorted,” Denethor would surely not call for aid.”

“At least they must be warned,” Aragorn said. “I will go.”

“No!” Gandalf interrupted,” You need to stay here. They will be warned, I promise you.” Gandalf approached Aragorn, demanding his ears. “But you must aid from another road. Follow the river. Look to the black ships… Sauron will certainly make use of the sea men, for they only seek lucrative battles.”

“Then you will ride to Minas Tirith?” asked Varilerin, whose gaze was suddenly diverted by a ghostly imagery next to Aragorn. A soldier of the dead, a crown on top of his head and a sword in his hand. Varilerin flinched as the image slowly disappeared, hearing other whispers in the tongue of Men.

“Yes, I will… Things are now in motion that cannot be undone and for this speed is imperative…” Gandalf answered as he turned to Pippin and Varilerin, the latter understanding his intentions directly. “And I won’t be going alone. Varilerin and Pippin shall come with me.”

“Why should they follow you?” Merry asked, terribly confused. Legolas also shared the same look with the Hobbit, for Varilerin might as well be needed by their side when they encounter the sea men. Gandalf hovered his hands, trying to prevent them from making needless assumptions.

“Sauron thinks Pippin has the Ring and thus he is not safe here… I am going to need him when the time comes,” Gandalf carefully explained. “And Varilerin shall be needed as well… She saw another premonition from the Palantir, of the assassin Vrasari partaking the siege on the White City. If this man dares to slip past the defences once more, Varilerin will surely be able to sense him, and prevent any of his evil deeds.”

Varilerin parted her lips to speak, only halting her intentions when she saw the plead in Legolas’ eyes. Her heart sank, sensing an attachment with Legolas which persuaded her not to accept the Wizard’s instructions. “I shall join you,” Varilerin confirmed without a slight hesitance, despite her heart aching now for leaving the ellon. “If this Vrasari is truly a comrade from the past, then I am the only one who can confront him.”

“Good,” Gandalf muttered. “Prepare yourself. We shall depart as soon as possible.” Gandalf turned to Pippin, who was still bemused by the prospect of parting with Merry. “Pack your some food and weapons, Peregrin Took. We will need them.”

Pippin reluctantly nodded, pondering a moment before he scampered away to the kitchen. Varilerin immediately left afterwards, not saying a words just like her usual demeanour. She walked quickly and she had more reason other than the time limit Gandalf has given. She knew she would be followed, but she did not want to lose him; she needed some private space.

As she arrived in front of her room, she stopped, and immediately turned around. Legolas stood, his golden brows furrowed as he met her eyes. She curved a solemn smile, knowing what words he wanted to utter too well. “Forgive me, but I have no choice, Legolas,” Varilerin started. “What Gandalf said is right. They need me, my kin… and I shall not evade Vrasari any longer, not when I realise I am the one meant to discover his true past.”

“Please, don’t leave me,” Legolas pleaded, taking another step closer.

“Do you worry for me or yourself?” Varilerin asked calmly.

“Both,” Legolas answered without hesitance. Varilerin was not slightly surprised. “I do not want to see you endure such burden anymore, Varilerin, not alone. You are now too dear to me such I cannot let you escape my sight. Please, at least let me come with you.”

“You are needed by Aragorn’s side,” Varilerin said. “Especially when I cannot protect him from behind. Aragorn will be forced to take the path of the Dead, for the sea men are outnumbering us. Not even Rohan’s greatest can defeat such expansive legions, Legolas. He must take the path of the Dead, I have seen it with my gift.”

Legolas did not speak more words, merely gazing into her silver irises, gloom and fear shadowing his blue ones. Varilerin’s heart sank, rediscovering the feelings she had pondered the previous night. He truly loved her, that she could see, and she could now reach it. She could now understand it, feel it with her heart and soul. In her heart, a silent voice told her that after their parting they might not meet anymore. The shadow of Vrasari lurked behind Legolas, haunting her with her possibly demise in battle, or Legolas’—the latter of which was improbable.

But inexplicably, for the first time in her life, she was not willing to die. Because Legolas would be waiting for her; because she had found someone who had loved her, who she did not want to see grieving forever over her death. She could not deny her attachment to him, for something had bloomed inside her heart. A flower which had waited for long years to be awakened by the warm sun, to finally see its world of long darkness dissipating into a radiant one.

“We will meet again, I promise,” Varilerin said. She paused momentarily before she reached for her necklace, unclasping it slowly and taking Legolas’ hand with her free hand. She put in in his palm, curling his fingers inside and pushing his hand away. Legolas blinked in confusion. “Take it. Let this be a reminder of me when you cannot see me.”

 Varilerin gave him one last glance before she barged into her room, taking her equipment as swift as the wind, and escaped from Legolas’ sight. The ellon, still dazed by her action and the object in his hand, followed late. There were numerous questions running his mind, but he could not speak as he pursued her. She became so distant yet close at the same time, her tied hair flickering like ink on water.

Gandalf and Pippin had waited in the stables, the latter carrying a small satchel of food with him. “Forgive me for my lateness,” Varilerin barked as she dashed to Elen’s cage in the corner. She noticed Legolas arriving just as she mounted her steed, his face smeared with sweat and adrenaline.

“Varilerin!” Legolas exclaimed, skidding before her.

“Wait for me,” Varilerin said. “When this all ends, we can walk our path together.”

Legolas staggered back, taken aback by her statement. “How far is Minas Tirith?” Pippin chirped as Gandalf lifted him onto the saddle.

“Three days ride as the Nazgul flies. And you’d better hope we don’t have one of those on our tail,” Gandalf answered, climbing behind Pippin.

“If they are tailing us I will know,” Varilerin added. “Do not worry, Pippin. Unlike their masters, the fell beasts are capable of dying from an arrow.”

Pippin gulped, reminded that Varilerin was not only a fierce close combatant but also a dangerous archer. Varilerin paced first out of the stables, letting Merry some privacy in bidding his friend farewell. Legolas had not left her side, grasping for Elen’s reigns to make her stop.

Varilerin,” Legolas panted, grasping her hand. He gazed at her, sending her inaudible thoughts of how he truly worried and believed in her. Varilerin gave him a smile, a gently and beautiful one, which assured him completely. He stepped back as Gandalf’ horse ran past him, treading as fast as his hooves could take him.

Gi Melin, Legolas,” Varilerin whispered. “Na lû e-govaned vîn.”

Legolas released his grasp from her reign, her farewell words filling his ears. Elen followed Shadowfax like the wind, bringing her master away from his sight. Legolas’ feet suddenly moved on their own, bringing him to one of the watchtowers facing the vast plane. He skidded to a halt and watched Varilerin’s and Gandalf’s horses pacing through the land, like two pieces of leaves brought by the wind. Aragorn and Merry joined behind him, watching as they disappeared from their vision.

“He’s always followed me, everywhere I went, since before we were tweens,” Merry thought out loud. “I would get him into the worst sort of trouble, but I was always there to get him out. Now he’s gone, with Varilerin who has kept more eyes on us than our own. Just like Frodo and Sam.”

“They will be safe, I am sure of it,” Aragorn said, stealing a glance from Legolas. Legolas stared far into the field, letting the last dot of Varilerin’s figure entirely disappear. He smiled, knowing she would be fine with her own, and looked to his hand. Varilerin’s jewel glinted under the sunlight, reflecting the promise she had given.

Legolas formed a small smile, wearing her necklace over his neck. He rubbed the pendant gently, breathing prayers for his love.

Chapter Text

The sound of Elen’s hooves continued to throb in her ears—almost painful really, though it did not disturb her concentration on the road upon, and to the skies. In front of her Shadowfax ran like the wind, seemingly incapable of halting its hooves. The winds continued to blast them mercilessly, torturing especially the exhausted Hobbit riding in front of her. They had been travelling for as long as Gandalf had predicted; three days of endless riding with no rest and only a small amount of conversation. It was no wonder that Pippin drooped like a weak child, more exhausted than the horses himself.

But the Hobbit had managed to find some sleep, albeit very little. Gandalf and Varilerin meanwhile remained awake all the time, the latter always searching the dark for enemies or even fell beasts roaming the skies. She had never encountered a fell beast before and, despite her capable skills in archery, she doubted if she could ever take one down. Her mind shifted to Frodo who, according to her calculations, should have neared Mordor if he used the correct road. It was highly probable he travelled in a different road though, considering his limited knowledge in the maps, but she was sure he could make it. The question was, would she, Gandalf, and Pippin survive the future siege in Minas Tirith or not.

There were mountains in vicinity now, the plains growing sparser compared to the ones in Rohan. “We have just passed into the realm of Gondor,” Gandalf announced. “It will not be long now.”

Gandalf was true to his words, for not long while later a white city was seen in Varilerin’s keen eyes; a city she had last seen decades ago, when she travelled inside as Daefaroth to help the rangers fend off Orcs of Mordor. It was when she allied with Faramir, Boromir’s humbler brother, whom she hoped would remain safe in such dire circumstances.

The white city remained just a dot in the plains, until they closed in. The expansive structure leaned against a large cliff, facing the plain like an eternal watcher. It had not changed since she last visited it, though this time a shadow in its once-clear skies. Varilerin narrowed her eyes, observing the darkening clouds behind the mountains afar. Mordor has spread its darkness… The battle shall arrive sooner than we hoped. “Minas Tirith, City of Kings,” Gandalf said as he halted his horse.

The gate of city was immediately pried open when the guards witness the White Wizard. Gandalf and Varilerin entered Minas Tirith without looking at the bystanders, each of them bearing suspicions and an unfriendly gaze. If it wasn’t for the rangers’ efforts in upholding the city’s laws and safety, Minas Tirith would have surely turned into Edoras, when Saruman controlled the mind of the king. This time, however, the one controlling its leader was not a force of evil, but the power of grief.

They finally stopped in the courtyard of the palace, where the same white tree in Pippin’s and Varilerin’s vision was growing—or dying, if to be exact. “It’s the white tree,” Pippin remarked, leaping off Shadowfax. The tree glowered at him, crying invisible tears as it slowly waited for its death.

“Yes… The white tree of Gondor,” Gandalf said, approaching Pippin. “The tree of the King. Lord Denethor, however, is not the king. He is a steward only, a caretaker of the throne.”

Pippin tilted his head sideways, confused. “Denethor used to be a mindful steward once, ruling Gondor so it won’t fall into the growing darkness of Mordor…. However, grief has taken him, the grief over his deceased wife… And now his son has passed, his body not honoured before his father.” Varilerin stepped closer to the edge of the courtyard, gazing to Mordor, hidden behind the mountains. “Now I am afraid people cannot depend on him.”

“Which is why you need to listen, Peregrin Took,” Gandalf continued. “Lord Denethor is Boromir’s father, as Varilerin has informed you. To give him news of his beloved son’s death would be most unwise.”

“He must have known,” Varilerin interrupted.

“Even if he knows this, you must stay silent, Peregrin Took,” Gandalf said. “Varilerin will be as quiet as a fox and you should be. I do not know what you both saw before Boromir’s death, but it is wiser to keep it as secretive as it has been…” Gandalf paused, a thought emerging in his mind. “And do not mention about Aragorn or Varilerin, or Frodo or the Ring—“

“Why Varilerin?” Pippin chirped. Gandalf immediately realised his mistake and Varilerin sighed in dismay. Pippin’s innocence apparently had driven him to utter things he should not be speaking, although she knew her heritage would soon be discovered anyway.

“I’ll tell you later,” Gandalf trailed off. “And do not mention Frodo or the Ring either… In fact, it’s better if you do not speak at all, Peregrin Took.”

Pippin pursed his lips, looking at Gandalf with antagonising eyes. “Shall we?” Varilerin offered, opening the doors of the palace with her strong arms. They were greeted with the sight of a vast hall, carved entirely in white stone with statues of kings linings its sides. At its centre lay an elevated pure white throne, empty and cold without its master. Beside it a small chair crouched, a man sitting idly with his hands holding something. A horn, broken and significant to Varilerin’s memory.

Varilerin glanced at Gandalf, who stepped before her to greet the Steward in their stead. “Hail Denethor, son of Ecthelion, Lord and Steward of Gondor,” the Wizard greeted without bowing. Varilerin tilted her head slightly to show enough courtesy, her eyes keen on Boromir’s broken horn. Flashes of Boromir’s last moments ran her mind, almost tearing her apart again with guilt. Denethor slowly looked up at the guests, his eyes brimming with hatred or misunderstood grief. “I come with tidings in this dark hour and with counsel,” Gandalf continued.

“Perhaps you come to explain this,” Denethor retorted bitterly as he revealed clearer Boromir’s broken horn. Pippin’s eyes widened in horror and sadness, Boromir’s death also haunting his mind. Varilerin pursed her lips, telling him not to move despite all the urge inside him. However, the Hobbit retaliated, and to Gandalf’s outmost disappointment he came forth.

“Boromir died to save us, my kinsman and me. He fell defending us from many foes,” Pippin explained. Gandalf would knock him with his staff if not for the tension they were in. To the Wizard’s worse horrors, Pippin knelt before Denethor and looked upon him like his lord. “I offer you my service, such as it is in payment of this debt.”

“Then this is my first command to you,” Denethor declared before Varilerin could return Pippin to his feet. “How did you escape and my son did not? So mighty as man as he was!” 

“The Mightiest man may be slain by one arrow and Boromir was pierced by many,” Pippin answered hesitantly. Denethor’s face sank, gloom lurking behind his gaze, which fell as he wept for his son. Varilerin closed her eyes. Pippin certainly did not tell the whole truth, how Boromir died protecting her.

Gandalf immediately shifted and whacked Pippin with his staff, urging him to stand once more. “My Lord, there will be a time to grieve for Boromir, but it is not now. War is coming. The enemy is on your doorstep. As steward, you are charged with the defence of this city. Where are Gondor’s armies? You still have friends. You are not alone in this fight. Send word to Theoden of Rohan. Light the beacons.”

Denethor snarled, leaving his seat. “You think you are wise Mithrandir. Yet, for all your subtleties, you have no wisdom. Do you think the eyes of the White Tower are blind? I have seen more than you know. With your left hand you use me as a shield against Mordor and with your right you would seek to supplant me. I know who rides with Theoden of Rohan.” Varilerin furrowed her brows; the man should not have known. “Oh yes, word has reached my ears of this Aragorn, son of Arathorn. And I tell you now; I will not bow to this Ranger from the North. Last of a ragged house long bereft of Lordship.”

“Authority is not given you to deny the return of the King, Steward,” Gandalf retorted. Denethor grumbled, blasted with anger as he took another step to Gandalf.

“The rule of Gondor is mine, and no other’s!” Denethor snapped, his voice echoing like thunder.

“Then you are a fool,” Varilerin suddenly spoke, announcing him of her long-presence. Denethor glared at her, though she gave him a more terrifying one. “Even with such authority, your rule is falling as a result of your grief.”

“Do not tell me what to do, ranger,” Denethor hissed. “I have endured this alone, and you do not know the burden of ruling a king’s kingdom. Blame that Aragorn for his cowardice as an heir! Blame the preceding kings who failed to see what I could!”

“But you are blind,” Varilerin argued with a cold, clear voice. “You cannot see that while you grieve here for Boromir, who was willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of your people, you still have someone who stills sees you as a father nevertheless your circumstances!”

Varilerin stopped, her voice reverberating in the vast hall as she pondered how she could utter such words. Gandalf and Pippin gaped, transfixed to the ground as if watching a duel. Denethor was defeated, stuttering back as he regained from the momentary paralysis Varilerin had struck him. “If you truly love your sons, then uphold your duties as a steward,” Varilerin said lastly before she turned around, pacing towards the doors like a mad woman. Gandalf and Pippin tailed her, exiting the hall with incredible haste. Varilerin stopped, gathering her breath, not knowing to say.

“He will not make a move,” Varilerin sighed hopelessly. “I can see it in his eyes, Gandalf. Grief has broken him, and I am afraid he won’t recover soon enough to help us.”

“All had turned to vain ambition,” Gandalf added. “He is using his grief as a cloak. A thousand years this city has stood and now at the whim of a blind man it will fall…. And the white tree, the tree of the King will never bloom again.” Gandalf eyed the withering white tree grimly.

“Why are they still guarding it?” Pippin asked.

“They guard it because they still have hope. A faint and fading hope that one day it will flower,” Gandalf answered. “That a king will come and this city will be as it once was, before it fell into decay. The old wisdom borne out of the West was forsaken. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living, and counted the old names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons… Childless lords sat in aged halls, musing on heraldry or in high, cold towers, asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin. The line of kings failed. The White Tree withered. The rule of Gondor was given over to lesser men.”

“Not anymore,” Varilerin remarked as she walked to the edge of the courtyard. “At least, soon. Until this ends, I am afraid, Gondor shall not recover. The darkness of Mordor is ever-threatening, and with it dangers Gondor. Before Aragorn can usurp the throne as the rightful heir, this battle must first be won.”

“Are you also an heir to Isildur, Varilerin?” Pippin finally inquired. Varilerin did not expect less from the intuitive Halfling, so she ceded.

“I am his heir by blood, but not by the throne,” Varilerin explained. “My line roots from the Rangers of the North, and I will remain one. If one needs a king, they will search for Aragorn. If the king needs an aide, he should search for me.”

“Why haven’t you told the others yet?” Pippin continued. “Surely it might help us in certain circumstances—“ A tremor shaking the air drew the Hobbit’s attention, as well as the others. “A storm is coming.”

“This is not the weather of the world. This is a device of Sauron’s making. A broil of fume he sends ahead of his host. The Orcs of Mordor have no love of daylight, so he covers the face of the sun to ease their passage along the road of war. When the Shadow of Mordor reaches this city, it will begin,” Gandalf explained.

“We should thank the Valar for the extinction of Saruman’s Uruks,” Varilerin blurted.

“Well, Minast Tirth… very impressive. So where are we off to next?” Pippin chirped, not slightly worried with their dire condition. Gandalf shook his head, clutching his staff tight as the Shadow slowly crept towards them.

“Oh, it’s too late for that, Peregrin. There’s no leaving this city. Help must come to us,” Gandalf corrected. Pippin widened his eyes incredulously, whilst Varilerin narrowed hers.

“But there is something we can do,” Varilerin said as she turned around, having noticed one of the citadel guards approaching them. He was wearing a more intricate armour which signified a higher position than the others—the captain of the guards he was, and he carried with him a small set of armour.

“Forgive my sudden intrusion,” the guard said politely. “My Lord Denethor has informed me that a new member of the guard has arrived, a Halfling he said.” Pippin tiptoed, signalling the said Halfling’s presence. “Ah, so you are my new guard. My name is Beregond, the captain of the guards, whom you will report to.”

“Nice to meet you, Beregond,” Pippin replied. Beregond nodded and handed Pippin his armour, bearing the same white tree emblem on its chest plate. Pippin eyed it with interest and disappointment, the latter caused by his remorse over his recklessness in words.

“Beregond,” Varilerin suddenly said. “May inquire you something?” Beregond nodded, so she continued,” I want to know the state of Osgiliath.”

“My Lord Faramir and his men are still defending it,” Beregond answered. “Several days ago they were assaulted by Nazguls, at the edge of the city. However, a message came this dawn telling us that no further attacks occurred.”

“Good,” Varilerin muttered unconsciously. “Then there is still time. Thank you, Beregond.”

Beregond did not ask further and excused himself, returning to his post with the march of a soldier. Pippin turned to Varilerin, questions on his eyes. “What do you mean there is still time?” he asked.

‘The enemies won’t arrive until they have defeated Osgiliath,” Varilerin explained, walking towards Elen. “Thus, if we can protect it for as long as we can, we might buy ourselves time, until Rohan’s aid come to us.” Varilerin leapt onto her steed, looking back at Pippin and Gandalf.

“Where are you going?” Pippin demanded.

“To Osgiliath,” Varilerin answered. “An elleth’s eyes are useful in the dark. They might withstand better with my help. Judging from the geographical conditions, the enemies shall assault from the river—a fact the rangers might not know.” Varilerin paused and turned to Gandalf. “I will return with Men to protect the city, not corpses, that you shall know. Gandalf….Nevertheless what Denethor said, the beacon must be lit. You have a good resource here, My Friend. Do not waste him.”

“Wait, what resource?” Pippin asked innocently. Varilerin gave him a smirk as she pulled Elen away, her gaze fixed upon the city of Osgiliath.  

“Be careful, Peregrin Took, for this Wizard is as cunning as necessary needed,” Varilerin remarked before she paced away from the two. Peregrin parted his lips, left speechless, and turned to Gandalf for questions.


 

Varilerin sighted Osgiliath when the night had blanketed the sky. She held Elen’s reigns tight, an uneasy feeling sharpening her senses. No sound was heard in the empty plain, except for Elen’s hooves beating on the ground and Varilerin’s faint breathing.She constantly glanced the sky, questioning the reason of her discomfort. The tranquillity of the evening was subsequently shattered when a beam of green energy pillared to the sky, brimming the clouds with light Varilerin somehow despised. She stopped Elen, narrowing her eyes of the premonition the beam held.

“It has started,” she whispered to herself. She knew well where the light came from—the Witch King’s kingdom, Minas Morgul. The legions had been unleashed, starting the countdown to their inevitable confrontation. Varilerin pursed her lips, reciting an internal prayer to the Valar before she resumed her journey. Numerous prospects of their enemies ran in her mind. Orcs would make the most of the legions, but there would be more. Armies of Haradrims and their Mumakils from the South would likely arrive not long after the Orcs, as well as mercenaries from the coast if Aragorn were to fail his task in reconciling the dead.

It was an old tale, almost a legend even in the records of the Elves, but Varilerin believed the traitors of Numenor did exist. She had seen too many to consider the living dead unreal, for the vows taken in the old age were stronger than sorcery or spells. She believed in Aragorn as well, that he would be able to restore their oaths with his honour, and he would save Gondor from whatever calamity it had been in. There were other forces helping him, she also believed, and those forces would soon aid him and them altogether.

Her flow of thoughts ended with Legolas, the man who had given all his love to her. For the first time in her life, the separation of a comrade really ached her. She closed her eyes, painting his figure and blue eyes in her imaginary canvas. His gaze became the light in the darkness, a lantern leading her and strengthening her for the upcoming horrors. She would survive, at least for his sake, and she would do so with aiding Osgiliath.

Elen’s speed immediately overwhelmed their distance to Osgiliath and Varilerin swiftly found herself arriving at its gates. Two guards aimed their arrows at her, the shorter one stepping forward. “Tell us who are you and we shall let you pass!” the man declared unwaveringly.

Varilerin let down her hood and unmounted her steed. “I am Daefaroth, the messenger and friend of Gandalf the Grey—the White Wizard now he’s called. I am also an acquaintance of your Lord Faramir. I come to aid you in the battle.”

“There is yet a battle,” the soldier retorted.

“Have you seen the pillar reaching the sky? That is the sign of death, a sign that Sauron has unleashed his forces towards Minas Tirith. You know it will soon arrive and you are here, the last of the defenders of the city,” Varilerin argued, dragging Elen close. “For that I must speak to Lord Faramir, immediately.”

“Who is that?” Faramir demanded from the top of the wall, leaning to see closer the stranger arriving. Varilerin bowed at Faramir, her dark clothing bearing significance within his memory. “That person is no harm. Let her through,” Faramir instructed as he walked down the stairs. The guards promptly lowered their weapons and let Varilerin through the gates, their gazes fixated on the floor as her heavy presence passed them.

“Greetings, Faramir,” Varilerin said as the man skidded to a halt. “I believe we have met before. I am Daefaroth, the Shadow Hunter.”

Faramir did not respond, his eyes moving from her hair to her boots. “I have thought Daefaroth as a man, thus please mind for my behaviour,” Faramir apologized. “It is an honour to meet you again, Daefaroth. What is the urgent matter which brought you here in the middle of the night?”

“I have come to Gondor with Gandalf the White to aid your Men in battle,” Varilerin explained, her eyes scanning the city. A magnificent city once, Osgiliath now protected them with its remaining ruins and debris as a result of its fall from Sauron’s Forces. Word had reached her of the city retaken by Gondor, though it seemed such effort was useless considering the state the city was left in. She doubted it would last long with such forces threatening them. It was in the men she could place her hopes; the walls of the city had long been shattered. However, the rubbles shown in her vision indicated the place being raided recently. “The city was attacked not long ago. What happened?”

“It is true that Elves’ eyes are keener than an eagle’s,” Faramir remarked. “We were attacked by Orcs, led by a Nazgul riding a fell beast. I did not know the details of the early siege, for I had been occupied by matters in Ithilien. When I arrived here, the city had been burning.”

“What matters?” Varilerin asked out of curiosity. Faramir looked at her grimly, something running behind his eyes. His eyes landed on her cloak clasp, his eyes widening as if he had seen a ghost.  Varilerin looked down, reaching her cloak clasp and finally understood. “You have seen this before.”

“Back in Ithilien, I met two Halflings,” Faramir immediately explained. “One blonde and the other raven-haired. They were travelling with a creature who walked in all fours—a guide, the raven-haired said. And… the same Halfling wielded a strange ring. The ring drew my senses towards it, as if it was a temptation I have never seen before. ”

“The Ring of Power,” Varilerin realised. “These Halflings… Are they by the name Frodo and Sam?” Varilerin received a nod and she sighed with relief. Frodo and Sam were safe, now walking towards Mordor with the quest still at hand. And this creature Faramir spoke of was no doubt Gollum, who was drawn by possessing the Ring rather than destroying it. The creature’s presence bothered her, though she was sure if anything were to happen, Sam would be the first to save Frodo.

“At first I was tempted to keep them in custody, though I eventually saw the horrors the object brought to the Halflings, subsequently to my men in Osgiliath when it drew the attention of the Nazgul,” Faramir continued.

“Then you have done the right thing, Faramir,” Varilerin said. “They are my friends and they are taking the Ring to Mordor. Your decision has given all of us hope.” Once she had relieved herself from the worries of her little friend, she finally could begin what she had aimed when she arrived there. “It is enough for the talk of my friends. I come here to offer you my aid, and advice regarding our future battle. I do not come only to offer my eyes.”

 “Well, I doubt nothing of your wisdom, Daefaroth,” Faramir said, escorting Varilerin deeper into the city, where more men awaited with their swords and bows ready. “Or Varilerin, perhaps? I have heard the Halflings talking about you.”

“They did?” Varilerin wondered, for there was no reason for them to converse about her. “They still remembered me. I am certainly touched.”

“One thing about Halflings I am certain of… They never forget anyone they consider a company,” Faramir remarked with a sad smile. He sighed, realising his unconscious feet taking Varilerin to the top of the walls—what’s left of them—overlooking the whole city. He looked grimmer than he was before, this time a memory shadowing his gaze.

“I am sorry for your brother,” Varilerin murmured without hesitance, guilt at the tip of her tongue. Faramir did not even flinch, the news had been brought to him with his brother’s broken horn, and he remained stern as a warrior who had seen many deaths. He bemused her by his resolve, for he seemed stronger than she who was nothing but a comrade to Boromir. “He died as an honourable man,” Varilerin continued, unable to pronounce further about Boromir’s death.

 “And he lived as an honourable one,” Faramir added. “He was the one who retook this city, a knight of honour and courage. And he was my brother to the very end, protecting me nevertheless how my father sees me.” Faramir paused, taking a deep burdened breath. “Boromir is more than a company to me, and I shall not let him leave my heart… Nor shall I let what he worked so hard to accomplish vanish within days time.”

“You cannot sacrifice all your forces to protect this city forever,” Varilerin argued. “You need to retreat once the time comes, save the men for the defences of Minas Tirith.”

“Father will not consent to such action,” Faramir retorted. “He does not forgive cowardice. He shall consider me as a fool, though he has deemed me such for years.”

“A wise fool, perhaps,” Varilerin corrected, giving Faramir a reassuring smile. Faramir twitched his brows, taken aback by her view of him. “Forgive me for my bluntness, Faramir, but your father is now blind. You cannot depend on him for his decisions, not when today might be your last day.”

“Today will not be our last day,” Faramir corrected, a small smile decorating his face. “I have seen my father making wrong decisions, but I love him. Yet, even with my greatest love, I cannot let his biased judgements alter the fate of my people.”

“And I am here to aid you in making better judgements,” Varilerin declared. “Today shall not be our last day. Today we fight for Gondor and its people, against the threat Sauron believed would end our lives. However, we shall not give him an easy fight, and that fight starts tonight.”

Chapter Text

The darkness Sauron spread had reached Osgiliath, veiling the stars and the moon. Varilerin would not know if it was night or day if it wasn’t for the thick mist engulfing the riverbanks, and the eerie cold air stinging her bones. So far since her arrival and conversation with Faramir, there had been no disturbances, her eyes told her. She scrutinised past the walls, peering into the mist with her vision and inner senses, whilst Faramir stood frozen beside her. The Man, as Varilerin had expected, was the polar opposite of his brother. He was quiet and melancholic, barely speaking after their discussion before, and waited for Varilerin to further speak—either it was because of his lack of insight of their current situation or his other-worldly patience she did not know.

“Are there men stationed close to the river?” Varilerin inquired, giving Faramir the speech he had been waiting for.

“Yes, several of them,” Faramir answered with a nod,” I did not assign many for the river has remained undisturbed. The Orcs are lying low.”

“We’ve also sent scouts to Cair Andros,” Madril added, taking position beside Faramir above the walls. He was, according to her judgements, Faramir’s right-hand man. “If the Orcs attack from the North, we’ll have some warning.”

Varilerin narrowed her eyes, returning to the river. “I do not believe they will come from the North, Faramir.”

Faramir did not speak, yet his face hinted curiosity. It was his comrade who spoke, almost accusingly. “And why is that?” Madril, instead of Faramir, asked. Faramir remained silent, all ears open to Varilerin’s words.

“To unleash the greatest damages to your forces, the enemies must strike with stealth and surprise,” Varilerin reasoned. “From the North they shall not gain any. There are no obstruction to our visions, for even without sending scouts we can see them coming,” she explained as she pointed towards the river. “If I were our enemy, I would take the path from the river. The mist provides cover and therefore, surprise.”

“But you are not an Orc,” Madril retorted with a scoff, clearly underwhelming their enemies’ intelligence.

“An Orc is cleverer than you thought,” Varilerin argued grimly. “And stealth is one of their greatest weapons. I have suffered to their stealth once—“ Varilerin paused, recounting her failure in noticing Orcs’ cunning and dirty tricks hundreds of years ago. It had cost many of her comrades, and she certainly would not allow it to occur. “And I shall not let that happen again. Furthermore, the one leading this army might not be only an Orc. The Witch King is their true commander, along with perhaps another I fear might come.”

“Who is this other figure?” Madril asked, receiving a frown from Varilerin.

“A man who calls himself Vrasari,” Varilerin hesitantly said. “He is a formidable warrior equalling my skills. He alone can slay twenty of you in minutes. I can only hope he is not leading the army, a reckless hope nevertheless, and for that we must be prepared. Faramir, what say you?”

Varilerin turned to Faramir, who had pondered her suggestion deeply. He glanced at her face, which showed conviction of her words. She could not have given an empty suggestion, considering she was renowned for her name. “Farewell,” Faramir finally said. “Madril, concentrate our forces near the river banks, but keep several in the North. I do not want any risks taken.”

“And place archers on the wall, if you have enough,” Varilerin added. “If we see movement in the river, we better take down the enemies by range. Orcs are wilder under the darkness.”

Madril looked at Faramir, questioning whether she was of authority or not, and Faramir gave him a look which convinced him to do as she told him. Madril left with their orders, clearly not in agreement with the strange woman. Varilerin cared not for his disagreement, for what mattered was the trust from Faramir. “Come, we should not stand here,” Faramir said.

Varilerin nodded and followed him towards the river, her bow ready in her hand and her eyes sharpened. As she ventured deeper into the city, she noted the buildings crumbling worse than the ones near the gates. Clearly, the recent siege the garrison suffered was not a light one, though it did not inflict greater damage to the men. Faramir instructed the idle men to move as they walked past and he did so as if enemies had arrived. Those resting immediately took their weapons and marched towards the river, those with bows to the top of the walls. Faramir indeed had trained these men well, and with outmost discipline they followed his orders and lined up. She wondered if this had been the way the rangers carried out their tasks since her grandmother’s leadership.

She leapt up the stairs and landed on top of the wall, her eyes not leaving the river. The fog had thickened so that ordinary eyes could only see white mist, but her keener ones saw more, and her sharp senses as well. Whenever an Orc approached, she could almost certainly feel its foul presence disturbing her soul, and it was what she felt as she aimed her gaze across the river. Faramir stationed himself directly below her, readying his sword with outmost cautions. He waited, waited for Daefaroth to make words of what she saw, and to signal them of action.

“It is very quiet across the river,” Faramir said to her, his voice almost a whisper but loud enough to enter her ears.

“Quiet, but not without a sound,” Varilerin retorted, squinting her eyes. “There are shadows behind the mist, not far. Shadows of the enemy.”

Faramir widened his eyes, subsequently drawing his sword slowly. His men followed his action, scattering behind the existing pillars with Faramir’s signal. Varilerin saw the shadowy movement in the mist growing erratic, as well as faint lights glinting. Her pointed ears caught sound other than the Men’s breathing, splotches of water being paddled with outmost stealth. She slowly drew her arrow and gestured the other archers to lie low, she herself ducking—though with her manner of clothing she was sure to be invisible in the cover of darkness.

“Wait for my signal,” she told Faramir through mere eye contact. She drew a breath and peered through the fog, catching more torchlights flickering in the river. She counted, with her imagination making shapes of boats floating towards them. There were many, as she had expected, but just too many.

Sauron indeed did not take any risk in plunging Men to their demise.

Varilerin’s breath hitched as she prayed the enemy not knowing their plans, before she caught the sound of the boats docking on the shore. She closed her eyes before she promptly rose to her feet, firing at the first visible Orc. Her arrow sang in the air, followed by a screech of a drying Orc and the sound of other arrows thwanging.

Many followed the first Orc’s fate as arrows hit their chests. They growled in panic, searching for their enemies in the dark as more arrows defeated their comrades. “Move!” an Orc ordered in black speech. The Orcs quitted their ramblings and landed on the shores, those wielding bows and arrows aiming at the archers above. The element of surprise did not end, however, for Faramir swiftly leapt before the Orcs and thrusted his sword to the nearest enemy. The enemy archers once dedicated to the shooters above were soon occupied by the rangers skidding in front of them. With the distraction below, the archers continued to fire the enemies down without mercy. Varilerin released her weapons while she continued to observe the arriving army, scattering her gaze in search for a misplaced figure.

An arrow to a soldier beside her answered her concerns, shot with outmost accuracy, piercing into his skull. It was not even seconds before another arrived, this time taking down the other man by her side. It could be an Orc which had shot them, but her common sense said otherwise. No Orc could be that skilful archer, in such chaotic situation.

Varilerin glared towards the river, her hopes shattered when she discovered a dark-cloaked man aiming at her. She acted without further thought and drew her dagger, swinging it just in time to save herself from an arrow. Her eyes could never deceive her. It was Vrasari, the man bathed in blood.

“Vrasari, he has arrived,” Varilerin murmured in horror. Bloodshot eyes flashed at her, hatred and bloodthirst brimming in each of the orbs. Varilerin shuddered and turned to the men, who relentlessly glanced at their dead comrades. “We cannot stay here. Move to the other side of the wall! NOW!”

Her shout echoed in the air, almost like a desperate scream, and urged the men to shuffle quickly out of Vrasari’s side. Varilerin retreated without taking her eyes off Vrasari, who had landed on the shore with a terrifying grin on his face. He drew another arrow, aiming it at the lingering Varilerin, and she shifted just in time to prevent her death.

Below, the swordsmen left their grounds with the flooding enemy and retreated deeper into the city. His men were falling as well, succumbing to the brutal force of the Orcs. Varilerin grunted, realising that they could never defend the city long despite their planning ahead. To make it worse, the one whom she feared indeed led the army, and he stood in the frontlines.

“Faramir!” Varilerin shouted as she leapt to the ground beside him. She fired her arrow at a charging Orc before she drew her swords. She desperately searched for the blood cloak of Vrasari as she helped clean Faramir’s men of the threatening Orcs. Faramir took down an Orc before he turned to her for questions. “Vrasari is here,” Varilerin informed.

“Then this man is truly terrifying,” Faramir remarked while he held the ground with Varilerin. “I did not expect Daefaroth to be frightened by anything.”

“I appreciate the flattery, but this man is indeed very terrifying,” Varilerin retorted with a grunt. She slashed the head of an Orc and kicked its corpse away from her before she continued. “It is rare to find a man with such stealth at night, easily escaping an Elf’s watch. If this man is here, the chance of your men’s survival is almost none.”

“It is almost none when those Orcs come flooding in,” Faramir said. Around him his men started panicking, the ruthless Orcs charging at them with growls and roars. Above the archers started falling down, each one defeated by a single arrow to the head. Faramir gaped when one of them fell beside him, an arrow piercing through its eye. He felt his body paralysing for a moment, until Varilerin’s hand pulled him away from a stray arrow. Faramir landed behind a pillar, panting heavily next to the elleth.

“This is no time for spacing out, Faramir,” Varilerin rasped, hitting a passing Orc with her blade before she ran back.

“Whoever this Vrasari is, Varilerin, he is no man!” Faramir shouted as he tailed her. “His aim is uncanny. Only one race is capable of such aim!”

“He is an Elf,” Varilerin responded without hesitation, her mind still focused on the battlefield. She glanced over her shoulder, searching for the said enemy to no avail. She furrowed her brows, her mind wary that Vrasari was actually lurking in a place she could not see—a chance for him to take down Faramir and her from darkness. “None of my dead comrades are men, except your brother.”

Faramir gawked, trying to comprehend her statement. Varilerin’s sharp glance silenced his further questions, commanding him to concentrate on the current battle. And he did, for he had no choice after the enemies truly entered the city. The rangers were still firing arrows above them, though their numbers had dwindled considerably after such a short time. The Orcs had climbed the walls and started chasing the archers, who had been targeted by an unknown figure Faramir could only guess to be the bloody assassin.

“To the other side of the city!” Faramir screamed. “Draw your swords! To the lower ground!” he added to the escaping archers. They obeyed almost immediately, having Orcs tailing behind their backs like hunters seeking their preys. Faramir scanned around the battlefield, searching for any of his comrades who had not retreated. He found none, and he found none of Varilerin’s dark figure either. “Varilerin!”

“Go!” a shout came somewhere behind him. Faramir glanced over his shoulder, seeing Varilerin ravaging on her own to protect several soldiers. “I’ll be behind you!” she shouted. Faramir could only obey reluctantly, himself being aimed at by numerous Orc archers. As a warrior he had been educated to bury any fear cast upon him in the battlefield, but the sight of his men hopelessly massacred by his enemies could only resurface a dread he once had as a kid. He appeared as child when he saw Varilerin, marring her fair face with Orc blood. He wanted to stand by her side, but he could do so much with his abilities. All he could do was to trust her of whatever she was planning, and lead his remaining men back to the city.

But just before he sprinted away from her, he saw a blood hood roaming in the sea of Orcs, swimming closer to Varilerin. Faramir turned around and unconsciously ran back to the horde. His lungs burnt before he screamed one definitive warning.  “VRASARI!”

Varilerin frozed minutely before she realised the meaning of his warning. She immediately turned around from her dying enemy and met two blades with her own. The same bloodshot eyes back in Edoras met hers, purging silver orbs with hatred and menace she had never seen—felt before. His strength was otherworldly, almost pinning her to her knees with only two short swords. The resemblance was uncanny for her, though what attracted her out of focus was his visage. She had indeed seen him before, and she knew him.

“Who are you?” Varilerin demanded as she gritted her teeth. Vrasari’s smile was shadowed by a mask covering his mouth, preventing Varilerin to get a better insight of his identity. He continued to push her with his strength, her arms trembling once she came upon her knees. She was only saved by Faramir’s sword, swinging towards Vrasari’s head only to miss terribly. Vrasari leapt back lightly, preparing for another attack if it was not for Faramir throwing him a dagger, which again was evaded by the warrior.

Faramir pulled Varilerin with an unbelievable strength and escaped from Vrasari with inhumane speed—one could only possess at such a dire time. Varilerin did not pull her gaze away from Vrasari, who had drawn his arrow and targeted them. “Right!” Varilerin muttered as she now pulled Faramir out of Vrasari’s line of sight, joining with the remaining rangers.

Half of the city was now covered with Orcs, with more to come. Varilerin skidded to a halt before Madril, who had taken a large gash on his hips but still stood fast and armed with courage. Varilerin gazed at her hands, tremoring after her confrontation with Vrasari, and could only muse incredulously. It was only then she realised so much Orc blood on her hands, reminded how much time had passed since the start of the defence.

“We can’t hold them. The city is lost,” Madril said to Faramir, pain hiding behind his voice. He intended to speak once more, but deafening screeches cancelled his intentions. He looked up, catching the sight of fell beasts approaching the city. “If we do not move now, men will also be lost.”

“Tell the men to break cover,” Faramir ordered without further ado. “We ride for Minas Tirith!” Faramir ordered the surrounding men. Varilerin shook her head, compelling her senses to do as they were told before she sheathed her swords. Behind them the rest of the men had escaped the horde, allowing Varilerin to leave for Elen without further hesitance. The screeches came closer, inaudible shrieks of Nazgul penetrating her mind like swords. She drew her bow again, counted her remaining arrows, and skipped to her steed.

“Nazgul!” the people screamed as the fell beasts dived into the city and grabbed the running men as if they were mere hares, throwing them to the air and letting their bones crushed by the fall. Varilerin ran without direction, evading the fell beasts with all her effort before she leapt onto Elen. Elen immediately lifted its hooves and paced away from the forsaken city, following its kin who had embarked first.

Varilerin let out a hopeless sigh of relief despite the situation at hand, for at least she had escaped Vrasari temporarily. Now the danger was not the assassin, but the Nazguls preying them like eagles. “Retreat! Retreat for your lives!” Faramir shouted from afar. Varilerin gripped her bow and reached for her remaining arrows, counting three of them as she drew them altogether. She released her grip on Elen’s reigns and turned her body, knocking three arrows at once as she scrutinised the closest fell beast.

It was an impossible shot, but she had lived too long to not believe the impossible.

Between her heartbeats she fired her arrows at the creature’s neck, hitting dead on and jolting it at the sky. A screech followed, both from the beast and the Nazgul, before the former ultimately fell from the sky. It crashed the ground not far, allowing more men to escape from its ferocity, however small their numbers were. With no more arrows to shoot, she shifted her focus to making it alive to the city, whilst more enemies tailed their paths.

As if answering their pleads of survival, the city gates of Minas Tirith slowly opened. From it came a white rider wielding a staff in his hand. Varilerin’s eyes brightened with hope as Gandalf rode towards them, lifting his weapon to the skies.

“Mithrandir!” she shouted triumphantly. Gandalf replied with a shine of light emanated from his staff, so bright it blinded the men and paralysed the Nazguls. Their pursuers were blasted with the wave of light and retreated without further ado. Gandalf paced faster with Shadowfax, ensuring the safety of the other riders as he escorted them to the White City. Men who had faltered directions united in a single line, protected by Gandalf’s power. They swiftly made through the city gates without further obstructions, each of them sighing relief and thankfulness once they came to a halt.

Gandalf unmounted Shadowfax and approached Varilerin, who still recollected herself after the gruesome fight. “They are too many, Gandalf,” Varilerin told him as she slowly left Elen. “They broke through the defences despite our precautions. Their forces are, I am afraid, larger than the ones in Helm’s Deep.”

“It is as the Lord Denethor predicted! Long has he foreseen this doom!” a man called Irolas said.

“Foreseen and done nothing!” Gandalf scolded the overseeing man. He turned again to Varilerin and Faramir, who looked at Pippin—standing behind the Wizard—with incomprehensible visages. Gandalf’s brows flew up, and Varilerin was the one who decided to speak.

“Frodo and Sam. Faramir told me that they passed by,” Varilerin informed him quietly.

“In Ithilien, not two days ago,” Faramir added with short breaths. “They’re taking the road to Morgul Vale.”

Varilerin gaped, surprised of this new information, and turned to Gandalf. “They’re going to pass Cirith Ungol,” she deduced, knowing she was correct just by seeing Faramir’s expression. Pippin moved from his hideout, exhilarated by the news and confused at the same time. “It’s Gollum, Gandalf. Gollum is guiding them to Mordor, either for good or worse.”

“Faramir, tell me everything. Tell me all you know,” Gandalf pleaded. Faramir nodded and followed Gandalf towards the citadel, leaving the bemused Pippin alone with Varilerin.

“What does that mean? What’s wrong?” Pippin asked Varilerin warily.

“It means they are getting closer to Mordor, through a shortcut everyone barely knows,” Varilerin murmured. “Though it is very unlikely they get any closer.”


 

Varilerin refrained herself from meeting Denethor once more with Faramir, Pippin, and Gandalf. Instead she busied herself by tending the wounded rangers, several of whom suffered poisoned gashes and stab wounds. With the impending battle at hand, Varilerin taught all the healers of the cures to the poisons used by the Orcs, at least those within her knowledge. They learnt as swift as she had educated them, though the matter landed on the insufficient herbs in the city. Denethor indeed had not been ruling well, ignoring the important aspects of defence including the availability of medical materials. Varilerin pressured the importance of Athelas to solve this problem, though she knew it would only do so little in the upcoming battle.

Once all the injured had been tended, Varilerin took a brief rest and gazed to the skies. Day and night could not be discerned now, only the action to be taken. She could not spare a smile now, even though Pippin had accomplished his role by lighting the beacons. Theoden and his men certainly would come to their aid, no doubt, but it would take time. And their forces would still be outnumbered, considering the addition of Haradrims and the mercenaries from the coast. The latter reminded her of Aragorn’s obligation as the Heir, and his capability to turn the tide of the battle if he could draw forces from the undead.

Now she thought of it, she had missed the company of her friends. Her heart sank as she realised the Fellowship had passed and endured so much. They had embarked as a whole company of ten, swearing the vow to protect Middle Earth, but now there were only pieces scattered like puzzles. The journey had their fates overturned, washing them like aimless boats dragged by the waves. They could not discern their way in the endless sea, and could only hope to the stars that they survive the way. Yet it was that hope which bound them stronger than anything, hope which convinced them all sufferings bear fruit.

She shifted her gaze and found Gandalf waiting before the door of the healing chamber, standing still like a statue as he joined her gazing the horizon. “What did Faramir say?” she quietly asked.

“Nothing more important other than the fact Frodo and Sam are alive and taking the horrifying pass,” Gandalf answered.

“And what did Denethor say?”

Gandalf parted his lips, but rendered them shut. Varilerin drew a deep breath in understanding and played with her hands, knowing nothing further to say. It was Gandalf who spoke next, his voice emanating a fatherly warmth long he had not revealed. “You miss the others,” he curtly remarked.

Varilerin twitched a half smirk, still looking at her hands. “I miss them, indeed, but I do not worry for them. Trust has been developed among us while you’re gone, My Friend, and it will not be shaken by mere separation alone.”

“And what of love?” Gandalf smiled when Varilerin looked at him, almost a glare. In the past she would certainly reprimand him with harsh words, but now she could only stare with bemusement. With those simple words she realised the Wizard’s greater involvement in her personal journey, as well as the other’s.

“I know you have spoken with him,” Varilerin simply responded, maintaining a disinterested tone.

“No, it is the other way around,” Gandalf retorted nonchalantly, almost surprising her with his answer. He took a step closer before he settled beside her, forming a solemn smile. “He had a vision after you fell from the cliff. He saw you singing in the Hall of Fire, alive and well. He described yourself as peaceful and contented.” Varilerin did not move nor speak, only widening her eyes. Legolas had never told her, perhaps for her own good, and now she wondered why the Wizard inform her of this. But she could not perceive any hidden intentions from the Wizard.

“Legolas wishes for you no more grief and suffering, dear,” Gandalf whispered, Varilerin not moving. “He truly loves you, all of us can see that. Do not let his hopes down because of this blood assassin—another shadow of your yet insignificant past.”

“I know, Gandalf,” Varilerin whispered back emotionlessly. “I know you are afraid Vrasari shall cast me back to the abyss, but I shall not—not when I have someone whose hands will always reach me.”

At her assurance Gandalf merely smiled, this time genuinely. “And here I thought I was the one changed the most after our separation.”

Varilerin scoffed as she noticed a figure running towards the chamber. She had expected him to be Pippin, dressed with the citadel uniform, only to be surprised when she discovered he was none other than Beregond. Varilerin immediately stood up, receiving the man with a gape. “Beregond, what is wrong?” Gandalf demanded as the man skidded to a halt.

“Lord Denethor has ordered Lord Faramir and his men to retake Osgiliath,” Beregond rapped. Varilerin glanced at Gandalf, who shared the same expression. Beregond swallowed before he continued. “They are departing now.”

Without further ado Varilerin rushed from the healing chamber and towards the gate, the slower Wizard tailing her from behind. He can only meet doom in such battle! she screamed internally. She stopped behind a crowd of people lining along the road of the city, waiting to bid farewell to the rangers. Their visages were decorated with grief and loss as they waited. Gandalf arrived behind her, panting as he searched for Faramir and his men. They arrived not long after, riding their horses and cladded with battle armour.

Gandalf pushed his way through the crowd, approaching Faramir. “Faramir! Your father’s will has turned to madness. Do not thow away your life so rashly!”

“Where does my allegiance lie if not here?” Faramir responded plainly. “This is the city of the men of Numenor. I will gladly give my life to defend her beauty, her memory, her wisdom.”

“Who will defend the city if all of you die in a reckless siege?” Varilerin argued as she stepped before him, forcing the entire line to a halt. “Your father has been blinded by grief, Faramir! I thought you have realised this back in Osgiliath!”

“Yet there was no order back there,” Faramir retorted. “A captain is given authority in battle to decide, but here in the city the Steward’s orders are absolute.”

“The city cannot lose another great warrior.”

“This city has lost him not long ago.”

His words struck Varilerin like thunder and forced her out of the way. She wished she could knock him out to save his soul, but the man’s resolve truly defeated her. He became the mountain, unbent by the harsh winds and storms; a lonely mountain in the plain. “I cannot lose you like I lost Boromir,” Varilerin whispered lastly.

“Protect the city, Varilerin. I am sure it will be safe under your watch,” Faramir said lastly before he walked away with his men. Varilerin and Gandalf stood still as they watched them meeting their own demise, slow yet fast.

“Your father loves you, Faramir,” Gandalf spoke to himself. “He will remember it before the end.”

“It will be too late by then,” Varilerin whispered as the men disappeared from the city. Her morals were swayed, for she had never seen a man so loyal and loving to his father that he risked his life for the greater survival of his people. And she had never encountered a man so engulfed with grief that he lost his way, so lost he could not be recovered. And she would always be rendered useless when she confronted such things, things she understood but could not accept. She could only pray, pray, and pray.

Oh Valar, spare this son of Man from the impending doom. Spare his father from unrelenting grief. Spare his people from never-ending danger. Spare us the light promised to us after this darkness.

Sounds answered her prayers, inaudible to the ears of men but as clear as day in hers. The sound of arrows, and the dead.

Chapter Text

“Men are fools.” The Witch King’s remark drew Vrasari’s attention, which had been previously drawn to the men who hopelessly charged at their legions. “They have realised their vain hope in this battle, yet they still sent men to regain this city. Only heads without bodies shall return to their homes, earning them the lesson they needed.”

“One of the riders escaped, unfortunately,” Vrasari added grimly. If he was given the chance to shoot down the riders, none should have survived. Yet, the Witch King had chosen to entrust killing them to Gothmog and his low-lives, remarking snidely that Vrasari was ‘too honourable’ to slay foot soldiers. “The man called Faramir. His horse is clever.”

“One man cannot change the tide of battle,” the Witch King argued. “Not even a skilled ranger like Daefaroth nor the White Wizard can change their fates. They all shall die in their vanity and ignorance.”

“Of course they will,” Vrasari added with a frown, now gazing at the defenceless White City. “It is time we strike. We cannot give them the time for reinforcements. The beacons are lit and at least Rohan will come to their aid. We should destroy the city before then.”

“Send forth all the legions,” the Witch King ordered Gothmog and Vrasari. “Do not stop the attack until the city is taken.” The Witch King paused and turned to Vrasari, who immediately bowed in waiting. “I want you to be the commander of the forces infiltrating the city, leaving Gothmog here to raid them with stones and arrows.”

“Yes, My Lord,” Vrasari said.

“And while you’re there, find this Daefaroth as swiftly as you can,” the Witch King added. “Word has it that she played a part in Helm’s Deep. We do not want any ranger commanding the city along with a Wizard.” Vrasari nodded in understanding, his blood boiling to seek Daefaroth’s soul. He had never encountered a warrior equalling her skills, and one who could respond his dreaded eyes with equal determination and conviction. If he was to end their rivalry, a battle spanning from Edoras, it would be the appropriate time.

“And what about the Wizard?” Gothmog asked. Vrasari stole a glance from the Witch King, who was filled with the same thirst as him.

I will break him.”


 

It was when the gate opened did Varilerin stop praying, for the gates should not have been opened after Gandalf ordered the guards to lock the city. It had almost been an hour since then, since Faramir rode out with the remaining garrison to meet their inevitable demise. She and Pippin moved from the walls to the ground level, pushing through endless crowd of citizens and soldiers. It was only when people shouted his name did she realise what was happening.

Varilerin and Pippin were greeted with the sight of a wounded Faramir, paralysed by several arrows hitting his abdomen, pulled by his surviving horse. “Faramir,” she whispered as she knelt beside the man, unmounting him from his steed and lying him on the floor. He was cold like ice and pale as the moon, yet still breathing. “He is still alive but not for long. We must get him to the healing houses,” she told the nearest guard. She swiftly lifted Faramir and placed him on his horse before she disappeared to the higher levels without asking the consent of the others. Pippin and Irolas followed behind.

Before she reached the Houses of Healing, however, she was confronted by Denethor. Her steed immediately halted upon the sight and Denethor could only do so much when he saw Faramir within her grasp. “Faramir! Say not that he has fallen!”

Before Varilerin could answer suddenly exclamations came from the people below. She glanced down to see dozens of heads flying over the walls, one landing on the level below them. Denethor whimpered as he took a step back, losing the control over his own mind. “My sons are spent! My line has ended!” he stammered.

“Denethor, your son is still alive—“

“Rohan has deserted us!” Theoden screamed, rendering Varilerin silent and startled. More ruckus came from the city below, this time a response to large stones crashing the walls of Minas Tirith. The buildings crumbled and the citizens shouted in panic, leaving their houses almost immediately as another round of stones flew towards them. “Theoden betrayed me!” Denethor continued, walking to the edge of the level. Varilerin could not prevent what happened next, the dying Faramir breathing heavily in her arms. Denethor grumbled angrily as he screamed to the rest of his men.  “ABANDON YOUR POSTS! FLEE! FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!”

Gandalf suddenly appeared behind him, smacking his maddened mind with his white staff and forcing him to a slumber. Beside him awaited Pippin, Irolas, and tailing soldiers. Varilerin looked at Gandalf incredulously and gratefully. “Prepare for battle,” Gandalf rapped as he nodded at her. He turned around and left her to tend Faramir, for he had direr matters to be attended to. “Hurry men! To the wall! Defend the wall! Return to your posts!”

Varilerin drew a deep breath before she unmounted her steed. “Healers! Give me a hand!” she shouted as she carried Faramir inside the building. The healers greeted her with bemused looks when they saw the dying Faramir on the bed. Varilerin pulled down her scarf and immediately opened the man’s armour and tunic, seeing blood all over his skin. “Get me water, cloth, and the herbs! Get the antidotes as well! Quick!” she ordered, turning to an elder healer, the most skilful of all available. “Ioreth, help me.”

They instantly obeyed, scattering like mice and leaving her alone with the elderly Ioreth. Varilerin studied the arrows piercing Faramir—fortunately hitting him clean and evading the organs, though still causing him to bleed profusely. His breathing was faint, but still enduring. His wound was certainly not created by Vrasari, for that man would certainly kill him instantly. “Help me pressure the wounds after I remove the arrow,” Varilerin told the healer as she placed her hand on one of the weapons. With trained precision and caution she pulled the arrows free so that the man would not lose more blood. By the time she did, the healers had returned with herbs and medicines she had prepared with them just hours earlier.

“Stop his bleeding and apply the antidote to the wound while I remove other arrows. Bind it when you’re finished,” she further instructed Ioreth, whom she had trusted after she witnessed her tending the wounds of the rangers of Osgiliath.  Varilerin could only hope the antidote could cure the poison inflicting Faramir. “The rest of you, boil the antidote and force Faramir to drink it. It will help fight the poison internally,” she added without leaving her eyes from the arrows.

Varilerin noticed the healers disappearing from the corners of her eyes as she pulled out another arrow. Unconsciously she muttered Elvish prayers to Faramir, to numb his pain or to ask help from the Vala she did not know. Her mind was quickly drowned by her concentration over his treatment, the sounds of rocks hitting the White City and the soldiers shouting dissipating from her ears. Ioreth worked faster than her age should have allowed her, now binding Faramir’s first wound before she applied herbs on the second. Her experience was really evident with her unmatched calm, her hands not even affected by elderly weakness.

Faramir’s brows twitched in pain when Varilerin removed the last arrow, a good sign if the supposed. She aided Ioreth in treating the last wound, her eyes careful for any shrapnel left inside his flesh before she bound the wound tight. The bleeding stopped quickly as a result of the remedy, only smearing the bandages with small red splotches.

After Ioreth finished with her own, she finally stepped back and drew a deep breath, examining Faramir. “Thank the Valar,” she muttered to herself when she saw Faramir, although still pale, breathing calmer than before—her breaths were even way more erratic than his. She silently chanted gratitude for Lord Elrond, who had taught her everything which saved Faramir now. She looked at Ioreth, who shared the same look of fascination with her. “Thank you,” Varilerin murmured to her. “You are a great healer.”

“I can say the same as you, dear,” Ioreth remarked before the other healers arrived with the boiled herbs. Ioreth forced the liquid into Faramir’s mouth, and jolted him slightly with the remedy. Outside drums could be heard, alongside with walls constantly being crushed by the raiding boulders.

“I must go now,” Varilerin said, taking her bow which she had put aside. It was only then did Ioreth remember that Varilerin was also a warrior, not a mere healer. “Please take care of Faramir whilst I defend the city…” She trailed off and took a step closer to Ioreth. Placing her hand on Ioreth’s shoulder, she leant to one of her ear and whispered, “Do not let anyone pass this door, not even the Lord Steward.”

Ioreth shuddered, glaring at her questioningly. Varilerin did not speak further and rushed out of the healing chambers, leaving Faramir to the lady’s care. She was greeted with the sight of boulders being thrown to and from the city. Large catapults were stationed along the walls with men operating it with incredible discipline, using city rubbles as their projectiles and arrows to accompany them. Varilerin scurried down the levels, eyes up ahead for any incoming boulders and voice constantly alerting the citizens to take refuge to the upper levels. The walls had not been broken through, that’s a relief, but the enemies had taken considerable amount of men with their mere artilleries alone.

Varilerin finally found Gandalf commanding the soldiers at the walls, his voice booming with courage and wisdom as he directed the forces of Gondor. “Gandalf!” she shouted, climbing the stairs to the top. Gandalf turned around, his eyes glittering with hope when he saw her figure moving amongst the Men. She arrived before him, panting, before she studied the enemies’ forces. There were numerous columns lining to the horizon, consisting of armed Orcs and Trolls, machineries which should have not been within the enemies’ knowledge, and a handful of Nazguls capable of destroying the defences on the walls entirely. Varilerin drew a deep breath, never seeing such amount of opponents before—not considering Vrasari somewhere leading the legions along with the Witch King.

“How is Faramir?” Gandalf immediately asked.

“He is alive, barely,” Varilerin murmured,” though considering our circumstances, he might as well die anyway…” She pursed her lips and looked at Gandalf hopelessly. “We can only hope Aragorn and the others arrive in time.”

“They will,” Gandalf assured her grimly before he heard screams coming from below. Varilerin skipped to the edge of the wall and peered past the legions, noticing the fell beasts and their riders taking flight. There were many of them, ready to prey on the Men, and coming to city with great speed. Gandalf widened his eyes in horror and so did Varilerin. Even with the full force of Rohirrims, they would not stand a chance against such foes. Furthermore, there were the Haradrims to count, with their oliphaunts and archers as precise as the Elves. If Aragorn were to arrive with the forces of the undead, he better did it quickly. “Take care of this level,” Gandalf commanded to Varilerin.

“You can trust me,” Varilerin muttered before Gandalf left her. She drew a deep breath of assurance and snatched three arrows from her quiver. There were not many soldiers on her level to begin with, which gave her the chance to direct the forces for killing the fell beasts. “Soldiers on this level, hear my orders!” she boomed, her voice almost echoing throughout the city. The soldiers immediately realised the change of command and dared not question it, for her voice had stated that she would not tolerate any disobedience. “Look to the skies! Aim your arrows at the fell beasts! Aim at their wings! Do not stop for your lives!”

“How can we aim such agile beings?” a nearby soldier asked. “We are no master archer like you, Daefaroth. They will prey on us like eagles hunting rabbits.”

Varilerin narrowed her eyes. Back in the plains, her aim at a fell beast was mostly coincidental, but still true. Even then, she had the sight of the Elves and the skill of a hundred-year bowman. These Men deserved their worries and doubts, but their circumstances required none of the two. “You need not the greatest eyes to aim an enemy… and you are Men, not coward rabbits,” Varilerin explained sharply, nocking three arrows to her bowstring. “READY YOUR ARROWS! DO NOT LET FEAR DEFEAT YOU! FIGHT FOR YOUR LIVES AND FOR YOUR PEOPLE!”

The Men were only spared a second to swallow her encouragement before they drew their weapons. Screeches from the Nazguls grew louder and closer, bursting their ears with ringing pain. Varilerin suffered worse, hearing deadly whispers from beneath their hoods, of curses against the race of Men. Yet she did not waver as she took her aim at the closest Nazgul, awaiting it to get close. The Nazgul took notice of her distinguishing appearance and chose her as its first victim. The beast threw its mouth wide open as it descended to Varilerin, who remained firm on her ground as she greeted her enemy… with a wry smile.

Varilerin shifted her footing and evaded the beast just in time to avoid its fangs gashing her flesh, allowing its head to pass her line of sight before she switched her bow’s direction. Instantly she released her arrows, piercing the creature’s neck as it flew past the walls. It screeched in agony, blood flowing from its wounds, but it still maintained its dominance in the air. “Aim the others!” she ordered as she sprinted along the walls following the direction where the fell beast had decided to turn. She drew another three arrows in a single breath, her eyes following the beast which decided to run to her once more. This time its manoeuvres were unpredictable, giving Varilerin difficulty in aiming its head. It moved faster than before and now its rider readied its sword to decapitate its enemies as they rallied them.

Varilerin bit her lip when suddenly the beast swayed in the air and swept the soldiers from the side, causing her to miss her line of fire. She ducked to avoid the beast’s claws, yet she did not cower under its threat. She rolled her body so her visage would face the beast passing over her, and she shot arrows altogether to its stomach. Instantly it lowered down, almost grazing her chest with its claws if it wasn’t for her protecting it with her bracers—an act which produced two scratches on her lower arm. She grimaced and smile when she saw the fell beast finally giving in to its wounds and crashing the ground just outside the city. She panted, her mind realising she had just taken a second fell beast in the same day, before she returned to her wobbly feet.

On the other parts of the wall, the fell beasts continued to rally on the soldiers and constantly threw several of them at once to the ground. There had been none taken down by the Men, and perhaps it would remain so in the current chaos. Despite whatever training they had—which, considering Denethor’s rule, must have been minute—the defences were thrown panic with the never-before-seen enemies raging them. At this point perhaps only Varilerin, Pippin, and Gandalf who could come against the enemies.

Just when she thought of the Hobbit, Varilerin noticed a small figure running amongst the crowd. Certainly, no child would run amok in this current circumstance. “Peregrin Took! What are you doing?” Varilerin demanded as she leapt off the wall, landing just before Pippin. Pippin did not answer, his eyes fixed to the fell beasts around. Varilerin took his shoulders and shook them with outmost strength. “Pippin!”

“The-they call us out to fight!” Pippin stammered, receiving an incredulous glare from her. “De-Denethor ordered us to do so.”

“You cannot help us here, Pippin,” Varilerin said surely. “You might, if we fight together as the Fellowship, but we don’t. Staying here might as well mark you as a pleasant prey for the fell beasts—“ Varilerin was interrupted by a deafening shriek coming from above, more deadly than the others. She lifted her head and caught a Nazgul with its visage emblazoned by a steel mask, passing them just then. She immediately recognised the Nazgul as the Witch King once she felt the heavier presence it wielded.

“Return to the Citadel,” Varilerin murmured without looking at the Hobbit. “You’ll be of more use there. Go!”

Pippin nodded brokenly before he ran uphill, leaving Varilerin again in the dreaded battlefield. The Nazguls continued to strike, their powers unyielding. They smashed the catapults to pieces and threw Men off the walls mercilessly. The soldiers could not stay on their ground now. “Soldiers! Move to the lower level!” Varilerin ordered to the ones surviving the beasts’ attacks as she herself ran downhill, towards where Gandalf was stationed. Above, the Nazguls had started retreating, now proving that their attacks were only to divert their attentions and to destroy the catapults.

Varilerin skidded to a halt behind Gandalf and huffed. “The catapults are down. We can only depend of the Men,” Varilerin rasped. She looked down, seeing siege engines travelling towards the wall. Large trolls operated each, with numerous Orcs readying on top of it. They functioned as ladders, clearly, though it required a hard effort to take those trolls down. It took almost all the Fellowship to take down a cave troll back in Moria, and this time it was not only a cave troll. “Towers! Towers!” Varilerin screamed, rushing along the walls. “Aim for the trolls! Aim the mouths!”

Varilerin moved to the front column and drew her arrows, convincing herself mentally. If in darkness it required several trained warriors to take down a cave troll, in the daylight it would only take on Elf archer. She swiftly released her arrows to a cave troll and struck its head dead on, igniting a shriek which shook the enemies with surprise. The Men joined her action, firing the other trolls with imperfect yet still inflicting precision. Varilerin shifted her aim to the next troll of the same tower, killing it instantly by firing at its mouth. The tower instantly halted not too close, but the others were still moving. Varilerin just wished she had the aid of Legolas and the Elves right now. If they were here, the trolls would not be their greatest worries.

Varilerin’s concentration shattered when she caught movement near the gates. Lines of Orcs sneaked in the midst of chaos, carrying with them a battering ram large enough to take down the gates of Helm’s Deep. “Gandalf! The gates!” Varilerin informed when the Wizard sprinted past her. He nodded and she returned her eyes on the towers, ever-going closer to the walls despite many of its trolls taken down, for the enemies apparently brought reserves of such creatures with them. The Orcs on top of the siege machines also sieged on the soldiers with their arrows, further pushing the tower’s speed.

At last the enemies reached the top of the walls, the doors of the towers landing on the city and smashing the stones. “Move back! Draw your swords! Leave the trolls!” the elleth commanded as she too draw her swords. Never had she clutched their hilt so tightly, and never had she seen opponents so many. She and the Men were given several seconds to pray before Orcs emerged from the towers, baring teeth and snares at them.

“FIGHT TILL THE LAST MAN!” she boomed, responded with the soldiers’ battle cries. They confronted the enemies head on, not hesitating a single second as they put their lives on the line. Soon the air was filled with cries and screams of both Men and Orcs clashing. It was Helm’s Deep all over once more, and again this time they merely needed more time. Unbeknownst to her, however, her presence became a fuel to the other soldiers. Her dark figure, dancing among the enemies, became their motivation to survive through the battle. And with every relentless slash she made, every move she made, the soldiers looked upon her. They fought behind her, a warrior who unbeknownst to them had gone so far and had experienced so much pain. A warrior who did not cower to fear and instead struck fear to the foul creatures behind her.

And one more time Varilerin’s mind drowned in the heat of battle. Her body carried her like water moving amongst stones in the mountain, her movements connected one another. Time passed like it was nothing, and only the enemies which mattered. She might even think herself as nothing more than a weapon right now, which was rather accurate. She was Daefaroth, the Shadow Hunter, yet she was no longer a frightened child dwelling in the shadow. No, she now had something which waited her in the light. Someone who, at the other side of the battle, was coming towards her.

Varilerin finished an Orc’s head before she truly looked at her enemies in the eye. She just realised she had been fighting alone in the frontlines, dark blood marring her face and her swords. She drew a deep breath and for the first time since the battle had started looked at her enemies. They staggered back upon her gaze, even whimpering. The Men behind her almost thought of her as an enemy.

The elleth merely smirked as she raised her sword to challenge her opponents. She was now the Hunter of Shadows, and she would survive the night to see her love once more.

Come at me, beasts.”


 

There were now strangely more screeches of Orcs than the cries of Men. Vrasari looked up and narrowed his keen eyes. The battle had dragged until after the shadow of Mordor veiled fully the city, much to his dismay and bemusement. With the amount of force they had, it should not have been long for them to breach the city, especially with the siege towers in their advantage. Yet, somehow the Orcs breaching the walls could not get past it further. Something was burning the Men’s spirits and obstructing the Orcs’ rage.

A dark figure moved among the Men, light and swift like the wind and clear despite the darkness. Vrasari immediately recognised the stranger by her moves, flowing like water and relentless.

“Daefaroth,” he hissed. Clearly, he and Sauron had underestimated the elleth’s capabilities. Whatever Sauron had said turned out false. She was not a mere ranger nor a follower of the King. Truly, they had underwhelmed her skills. She was a leader, and such skill had been concealed from Sauron’s eye for hundreds of ears because of her hiding in the shadows. Vrasari gritted his teeth. The elleth sure knew the best time to emerge from the shadows and use her powers.

Vrasari turned to the Orcs under his command, who continued to struggle against the reinforced gates of the City. He frowned, seeing their efforts bearing no fruit. Minas Tirith indeed had been built by better architects of Men, and they took upon the liberty to reinforce the gates well for battles like this. Vrasari growled as he walked to his second-in-command, who—like all Orcs serving under him—seemed amused by the others’ difficulty in penetrating the entrance.

“The door cannot be taken down by mere, filthy rams,” Vrasari hissed. “Take out the Hammer of the Underworld. You shall take command of the breaching of the gates.”

The Orc was flustered as the assassin ended his orders, walking away from it. “And what of you? Where are you going?”

“I’m going to climb a wall,” Vrasari grumbled under his breath before leapt to one of the siege towers, the door of which he saw Daefaroth fighting at. He would certainly accomplish his mission this time, for the battle had just begun, and the blood of an elleth shall soon be spilt on the ground.

Chapter Text

Time had always been a petty thing for Varilerin. Under many circumstances she had decided to ignore the spinning wheel of time, preferring to concentrate on whatever was at hand. But the never-ending enemies seemed to blind her perception of time itself completely. She could only know that it had been hours since the first Nazgul rallied on the walls, which were now ruined to rubbles because of the hostile projectiles and with chaotic soldiers fighting for their lives. Now such projectiles were replaced by flaming stones mercilessly crashing the city, accompanied with endless Orcs sieging the top of the walls.

And Varilerin had never seen darkness lingering for so long, nevertheless her consistency in staying in the shadows for countless years. There were no stars which could give her the assurance that Varda was watching over them, nor the hopes that the sun would rise soon. Rohan would not come to their aid so soon, she did not doubt it, and there were no signs of Aragorn coming from the shores. As much as Varilerin wanted to place all hopes on her comrades, the screaming soldiers around her prevented her from doing so.

Screams of Orcs coming from the gates only worsened the thought. Varilerin inhaled deeply of the blood-reeking air, feeling tiredness hinting her breath, before she shifted her attention from the siege towers to the gates—where Gandalf, she presumed, was stationed. She retreated back from the lines attacking the siege tower to get a better view over the walls. Her eyes caught a large, perhaps the largest and most terrifying, battering ram she had ever seen. It was the shape of a wolf, flames sparking from its mouth, and it approached the gates with slow yet consistent pace.

Varilerin’s eyes widened, now scurrying across the battlefield to measure their odds, and finally came upon a decision. “Retreat! Retreat to the gates!” she ordered to her remaining men, sprinting along the walls to relay the message evenly. The men, who had been blocking the path of the raiding Orcs with the stakes of their lives, immediately heard her command. Their numbers had been reduced considerably and it would only waste their strengths if they continued to defend the wall, which should have been lost by this time. They should buy the city more time if they now place their priorities to the entrance.

And Varilerin, as she ran along the walls with immense speed, truly noticed the glances the soldiers took from her as they ran past. Several of them were directed to her swords—already decapitating countless Orc heads and now losing its flourish as Elven swords as a result of the dark blood drenching it—yet most of them landed on her visage. She could judge her appearance right now just by looking at her dangling braid, marred dull with Orc blood, and she doubted her face to be far different. She had not sustained any injuries, except for small grazes here and there, fortunately. At this rate, she might last a night of battle before exhaustion finally take over her focus.

The elleth finally ran back to the gates, where her archers had stationed themselves above them. Varilerin finally had a proper view of the battering ram, pulled by several beasts and operated by trolls cladded in armour. She bit her lip. A ram as large as that should shatter the gates in seconds, all the while throwing the Men struggling to bar the doors like lumps of cottons. Gandalf was on top of Shadowfax, endlessly spouting words of encouragement as they men rooted themselves on their grounds. Varilerin joined the archers, eyeing the battering ram with distaste, for it had arrived just before the gates.

She drew her bow, aiming her arrows at the trolls. “Aim at the trolls!” Varilerin ordered as she shot arrows on one of them. It did not budge, stronger than the others, truly bred specifically for such siege. “Kill the trolls!” she repeated as she fired more arrows, joined by the Men’s. Yet, the trolls did not waver, instead raging all their strength to one powerful swing of the battering ram. The wall above the gates shook terribly and so did the gates below. The Men tumbled to their feet, expecting a loud shatter from the doors, but it did not come. The gates had not been defeated.

“The trolls! Kill them!” Varilerin screamed, leaping to her feet and now, with no more arrows to fire, ran down the stairs to join Gandalf. The wood of the gates had been cracked, the men now holding them, and another hit was all required for the entrance to be pried open. Varilerin unsheathed her swords again, placing herself beside Gandalf.

“The wall has been breached. It will not be long for the first level to be lost,” Varilerin reported, catching her breath and catching glimpses of screams coming from the wall. She glanced up, viewing the Orcs from the siege towers flooding in, led by a single hooded figure she could never mistake for anyone else. “Once the gates have been taken down, we need to retreat to the city. Vrasari is leading the legion raiding inside.”

“Should I fear for that single man or should I fear for what lies beyond this gate?” Gandalf muttered grimly, clutching his staff in anxiety.

“Both,” Varilerin murmured with a scoff. “Either way, our lives are on the line. Fortunately the citizens have fully been evacuated to the upper levels. Rohan should come by now, we do not have all the time in the world.”

“Indeed, we do not,” Gandalf remarked, furrowing his brows so his wrinkles deepen. He noticed Varilerin continuously glancing upwards, to the horde of Orcs closing their distance. “Vrasari is hunting you, you know this. If you want a better chance to survive, you should separate yourself from the soldiers, confront him personally. If he is indeed such a great threat, you need to end this fruitless chase once and for all.”

“I will, with my head still intact, of course,” Varilerin said, hesitance hinting her voice. “He is skilful a warrior and no doubt he shall give me a gruesome fight, but I should survive. I have come too far just to die.” Varilerin closed her eyes, firmly believing that somewhere along the shores he was sailing on the black ships. He will come, she assured herself as she gripped her swords tight, and I will not fall. “When that gate opens, I shall fight off the horde before I disappear. The soldiers shall be then in your hands.”

Gandalf nodded, his attention returning to the impending fall of the gates. “May the Valar bless us all. May we live the battle,” he whispered, the last word he had with his old friend in the battle. Gandalf stepped forward, interspersing the soldiers. “You are soldiers of Gondor. No matter what comes through that gate you will stand your ground!” Gandalf bellowed before the gates broke upon, the mouth of the Wolf protruding from the resulted cracks.

“May we last the battle,” Varilerin prayed as the gates pried open. Battle trolls, cladded in thick armours, greeted them and roared. Gandalf and the other soldiers stepped back, alarmed by the sight.

“Volley! Fire!” Gandalf shouted, followed by a rain of arrows hitting the arriving enemies. They killed many of the Orcs, yet the trolls stood still with their armours as protection. Varilerin twirled her weapons and took care of the trolls before the Orcs could advance. She leapt at one of the creature and pierced her blades deep into its exposed mouth, receiving an agonising moan in return. She leapt before the other of its kind landed its mace on her body. As strong as they were, the Trolls, their armours limited their vision entirely, giving Varilerin the undeniable advantage to sneak around their legs and killing another.

With the Orc threatening her position, Varilerin retreated back to the lines of soldiers. Their clash now began, Orcs and Men fighting for their lives. Nevertheless how persistent they were in holding their grounds, the sheer number of enemies slowly and relentlessly pushed them back. And they finally moved from the gates, for the enemies above the walls were threatening their position as well. “To the second level! Fight! Fight to the last man! Fight for your lives!” Gandalf ordered. The Wizard searched for Varilerin, assuring if she had disappeared or not. Yet, he found her still among the sea of men, protecting the others to ensure their escape. “Varilerin! Hurry!” Gandalf reminded, just before she retreated further and approached him.

“It is difficult to escape in this chaotic situation,” Varilerin reasoned, running beside Shadowfax. “We need to reach the second floor first—“

“Gandalf!” It was a familiar voice, though it was out of place. Varilerin moved her eyes to the hill, expecting well a Hobbit sneaking among the taller figures.

‘What is he doing here?” Varilerin wondered with a frown as the Hobbit closed his distance. “What are you doing here? I’ve told you to stay in the citadel!”

“Denethor has lost his mind!” Pippin shouted, almost tumbling when he came to a halt. Varilerin gaped and so did Gandalf, seeing that the Halfling did not utter any lies from his lips. “He’s burning Faramir alive!” Pippin continued.

“Up! Quickly!” Gandalf ordered, pulling Pippin to Shadowfax. Pippin tried to climb the saddle, but the forced sprint he just had weakened his legs. Varilerin immediately lifted him like a child, placing him safely on the saddle. Gandalf looked at Varilerin, two orbs filled with deepest fear—over her or Faramir or their battle, she did not know.

“Do not worry, the soldiers can take care of themselves,” Varilerin said, though she knew Gandalf wanted a reassurance of her wellbeing. She smirked, something inappropriate in this dire situation, and patted Shadowfax. “Go.”

With a last nod Gandalf left Varilerin in the chaos. She stood still, watching her comrades disappearing uphill. If she were allowed to, she would be the one riding to the citadel, but she had another score to settle. She turned around, her eyes landing on the numerous enemies in search for their commander, Vrasari. She did not find him, though she knew he was lurking somewhere beyond her vision. She would confront him, but now she had one more matter to take care of before she leapt on a battle of life and death.

She shifted her legs, rushing uphill to the second level. “To the second level! Slow the enemies down! Prevent them from reaching your women and children! Do not let them destroy your People!” she boomed. To encourage them to drive the enemies out of the city would be worthless, for they had no chance once they had been breached. The only chance they had was to obstruct them from entering further, the very least to provide time until Rohan came—a thought which now faltered within Varilerin’s hopes as the battle progressed.

Fireballs, which Varilerin just remembered existed in their battle, continued to rain down the city. They were one of the few lights provided in the dark day. She continuously glanced to the horizon where she could still see the stars, to the hill where Rohan would arrive. The unobstructed sky had turned pearl grey, a hopeful sign back in Helm’s Deep but nothing less than a refreshing sight in this dark battle.

Varilerin finally reached the second floor, requiring a longer time than she had expected. She drew a deep breath and stopped, standing so still she became a statue among the moving Men. This is where the crucial battle starts, Varilerin mused meditatively, swallowing all the sound and movements surrounding her. One man’s presence suddenly stopped as she did so. She could feel his eyes piercing through her as he too stand still. Without doubt he tried to discern her weak points, but Varilerin was too experienced of a warrior to show any—there was a reason why she maintained her composure all times.

When the Orcs entered the second level, Varilerin finally shifted her leg and ran to her left. Her opponent immediately followed, gaining the same speed as her. Swiftly she moved into the small alleys of the city, the sounds of battle dissipating from her ears as she did so. She had not stayed too long to remember the layout of the roads and buildings, but throughout the battle she had grasped blur positions of certain locations she delved in for solitude—one which allowed her to be alone and to gaze to the horizon. There, they would have their battle, and none shall interrupt.

Varilerin finally halted before a small open yard facing the horizon. It was empty, deserted, and provided her a broad view of the current battle. Afar she heard the Orcs streaming into the second level of the city, soldiers shouting battle cries and vaguely women and children screaming. Advertently she drew a deep breath and closed her eyes, meditating in the split second before her opponent arrived. As the sound of light footsteps stopped behind her, she slowly turned on her heels and faced the cloaked assassin. He stood as still as her, one observing the other intently without grasping for their weapons. Varilerin carefully examined her opponent, not an Orc or any kind of Sauron’s making no doubt. His footing was that of a warrior, without doubt, and light like an Elf’s. He carried a longbow and a quiver, both the colour of dark wood, and two swords which he had used to assault her back in Osgiliath. The similarity was uncanny for both, though when one finally decided to speak they did not mention it.

“Here I finally confront the notorious Daefaroth—the Shadow Hunter,” Vrasari said first, his voice cold and ominous. Varilerin did not move, merely glaring at his bloodshot eyes with the same manner. “I believe this is where our mindless chase ends.”

“It is strange and unnerving for myself to face my own kin,” Varilerin responded. “Tell me, why does an Elf reside his loyalty to a Dark Lord who, as a matter of fact, has done nothing to our race other than inflict us with pain?”

“Pain?” Vrasari snapped, almost startling Varilerin if it was not for her unwavering composure. “You do not know pain, not at all. Do you think you losing your friends equals the pain I felt? I was left in the woods, left to succumb from my wounds. And who came? Your kin? No, the Dark Lord himself reached for my pitiful soul, and took me in as one of his loyal servants.”

“Sauron never respects you as a servant,” Varilerin retorted sharply. “All of you are mere tools for him to achieve his goals. Once he’s finished, you are to be disposed, like a broken sword never meant to be re-forged.”

“And a tool I have been,” Vrasari hissed. “I owe him my life and my allegiance. He gives me purpose to live, a path to pour my hatred to those who decides to turn away from helpless people like us.”

“That’s it? Hatred is your fuel? You are such a pathetic warrior,” Varilerin mocked him in disgust.

“And what is your purpose then?” Vrasari asked. “Protecting your friends? Protecting that Evenstar everyone places highly in their world? Protect those Elven Lords who cast you to this hopeless quest? And what do they give you? Promise to restore the world back to its always pitiful state?”

“And what does Sauron give you?” Varilerin asked back, her tone as hard as stone. “Power? A place beside him?”

“Revenge,” Vrasari said simply, his voice almost carefree. “Never mind my past, but I know that those Lords who place themselves so highly above the others do not deserve all the power they have. The Elves, they believe that they are wiser yet they are not more than a fool, ignoring the truth for centuries which bring themselves their doom. The Men, they are weak and do not deserve all the land they rule. And the Dwarf? They can only think of gold and prosperity, never mind the undeniable truth that wealth is not everything.”

“Then power is everything?” Varilerin spat.

“In this cruel world, power is everything,” Vrasari answered without hesitance, drawing his two swords. “Sauron knows this well, yet all the others are blind. And that blindness casts upon them their inescapable doom.”

“Such doom shall not be brought by you nor Sauron,” Varilerin declared as she unsheathed her short swords, eyeing Vrasari not with hate but with determination. “There will come a day when this world disappears, but it is not this day. This day I shall bring you down, and Minas Tirith shall stand with its people welcoming their returning King.”

“We will see if your prophecy comes true,” Vrasari hissed as he shifted to his stance. Varilerin followed his gesture, careful not to show any weaknesses to her deadly opponent. Their eyes burnt with the fury of battle, one pair trying to extinguish the other. Just before they were about to dash their feet, a ringing sound brought their gazes to the hills. It was the sound of a horn, echoing throughout the battlefield as a song which filled Varilerin’s senses.

From the hills rode a single horse, its rider cladded with glorious armour and equipped with a sword. Followed behind him was a single line of horse riders expanding across the hill, banners of Rohan purposefully waving in the air. Theoden advanced forward, his eyes landing on the unbelievable battle ensuing. Yet, even from a distance, Varilerin could see that there was no such thing as fear in the king’s eyes. There was no fear in the riders either, as all rode under the banner of their King and the leadership of their King.

Varilerin and Vrasari stood transfixed as the columns of Orcs began to move, forming rows of spears and archers ready to receive the incoming army. Theoden rode across the hill, barking orders to his men before he raised his sword. His horse galloped back, bringing its rider before the soldiers as his sword touches those of his men. Behind the ranks of riders Varilerin could see the light, so bright it warmed her eyes. And Theoden shouted, his voice booming like thunder and brimming with valour.

“Arise! Arise riders of Theoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered. A sword day, a red day ere the sun rises!” Theoden roared. “Ride now. Ride now! Ride! Ride for ruin and the world’s ending! DEATH!”

“DEATH!” the soldiers shouted, reverberating the air with unmatched courage. Vrasari widened his eyes, his clever mind not expecting so many reinforcements to arrive. He scowled before he turned to Varilerin, who now faced him with a fierce visage. The battle cries of Rohan riders continued to sound, clearly fueling his opponent with surety and hope more than before.

Varilerin formed a small smile, enough to convince Vrasari that she would not give him an easy fight. She could see from his eyes that his thoughts on the strength of Men were false. Men were not as weak as he thought, and Rohan riders were not even close to being weak. They were warriors, the greatest riders of Middle Earth, and they shall not be defeated without spilling the blood of their enemies.

From the hill the sound of the horn of Rohan echoed once more, followed by relentless galloping of the horses. “CHAAARGE!” Theoden boomed as the riders rode to meet their enemies. 

Death,” Varilerin muttered before she leapt to meet her nemesis.


 

Their weapons clashed in a deafening clang, bringing them face to face once more. Their equal speed brought their blades against each other once more, both relying solely on their agility rather than strength. His swords were thin and longer than hers, meant for stabbing and slitting with its sharp point. It was now clear why his strike at Theodred was true, and deadly.

As Varilerin saw this, she immediately retreated back to create a safer distance, giving her enough time to receive Vrasari’s next assault. True to her predictions, her opponent shifted his stance and thrusted like lightning, aiming for her abdomen. She dodged sideways, letting the blade pierce the empty air before she dodged the other. His movement was precisely calculated, and he did not waste any time to linger as he tried to land another blow at Varilerin.

The elleth spun, evading the strike almost gracefully before she seized her turn to attack. She skittered past his thrusted sword before she swung her weapon at his head. He ducked immediately, pulling his weapon and countering her attack with brief stabs which found not her body but her sword. She spun her body and aimed at the man’s exposed back, but her sword clashed with cold metal and her target rolled forward.

Vrasari scowled as he returned to his feet, vindictively grabbing his stored arrow and flung it to Varilerin. She widened her eyes and shifted her head, the arrow grazing her cheek before it hit a stone pillar behind her. She glanced at the halting weapon incredulously, for judging from the capability of the arrow sticking at the pillar, her opponent was not all about speed. And he was not a warrior who depended on a single weapon alone.

The arrow was, as she had expected, a mere distraction for Vrasari, and he charged again at her. His sword moved past her as she turned on her heels, flowing like water and blocking the sword with a single sword before she struck the back of Vrasari’s head with her elbow. He staggered forward, though he did not lose his footing. Instead he used his momentum to twist his body and kick her hip sideways, throwing her across the yard in a series of rolls.

This time Varilerin returned his gesture, this time throwing her minute shiv at her opponent and successfully scratched his cheek. She did not smirk with satisfaction, for her hip was now throbbing in pain as a result of Vrasari’s powerful kick—as expected from the strength of Elf’s bones. It didn’t seem he broke any bones though, so Varilerin finally brought a smug smile when she saw that her opponent was also affected by her attack earlier. Although insignificant, she could see him losing a pinch of concentration and balance. It should have knocked out an ordinary person, yet it only tipped his focus slightly.

She had expected Vrasari to be as skilful as this, yet she was still surprised. Never had she encountered a warrior as strong as him, minus perhaps Legolas. But Legolas was not a person trained for close combat. He was perhaps the greatest archer in existence, but not the greatest swordsman. Perhaps in this circumstance Vrasari would even give Legolas a difficult fight.

Varilerin shook her head of such thoughts, never wanting to show her enemy that her focus could falter. Over such short confrontations she had discerned his fighting style well, and from such judgement she confessed internally that Vrasari had the upper hand in this one. The battle had drained her strength considerably, despite her fighting in her best condition, and it was an undeniable disadvantage for her part. Yet she could still hold her ground for Vrasari showed a fighting style somehow similar to her. Before she encountered him in this journey, she had faced a man with this style of swordsmanship. It was fierce, never sparing the opponent a second to breath, and consisted of brutal stabs aiming at the large blood vessels of the body such that he would die from profuse bleeding.

She pursed her lips, trying to recount who this man was, as she received Vrasari once more. This time his blows were faster and fiercer than before, perhaps because he had studied her moves as well. Varilerin’s focus returned back to her opponent, who now seemingly switched his style to one which aimed to disarm the enemy. It was a change too fast for her, and his attacks ended up disarming her from one of her short swords. She gasped when the weapon was separated from her grasp, thrown to the air like a feather. It landed on the ground just as another sound of a horn shook the air, distracting both from their battle momentarily.

Rohan riders had managed to drive most of the Orc armies away from the city, leaving still a huge number threatening the city. Their success proved nothing more when Varilerin saw a line of Oliphaunts marching against the Men. Haradrims hid above their beasts, sounding horns to deride the Rohan riders which reformed their ranks against the impending army. Varilerin’s breath hitched—to think Sauron would go this far in ensuring his victory.

“It seems Sauron the Deceiver has never failed his task in blinding people,” Varilerin spat, returning her gaze to Vrasari. He was smiling contently, clearly pleased by the arrival of his reinforcements. This time Varilerin stole a second of his pride to steal sprint to his blind spot. She didn’t waver as she entered his range of attack—a manner which could cost her own head—and she decapitated her opponent from one of his sword. Vrasari instantly answered by thrusting his other weapon to her stomach, merely creating a small slit as Varilerin threw herself back. She landed on the ground harshly, compelling her body to roll to reduce the impact. She grunted, though without a sense of victory, for she now saw herself in an equal ground with him. They now had only a single sword, the other beyond their vicinity to be reached. “It seems we are now equal,” she teased coldly.

“That was a clever trick,” Vrasari mocked.

“Intelligence outweighs power,” Varilerin replied, receiving a scornful scowl from her opponent. “Whatever cards you have, whether Haradrims or Orcs or even dragons… Men shall not be defeated today.”

“You will,” Vrasari retorted with a grin,” for I have enough games. Pray lastly.”

Mental preparation was not enough to prepare her for Vrasari’s next attack. Under a ludicrous speed Vrasari lunged at her, almost pinning her down with his sword if it wasn’t for her quick retreat. He struck again, his movement imperceptible despite Varilerin’s trained eyes. His attacks became uncanny and unnerving, like relentless blasts of wind against a lone tree. It dawned to her that he indeed had been playing games since they started their battle. Now he showed his true skills, Varilerin was entirely overwhelmed by his ferocity and ultimately succumbed to inevitable slashes continuously grazing her skin.

Varilerin stuttered back, gathering her breath as she wiped a small blood marring her cheek, Vrasari’s strikes taking toll of her movements. She gritted her teeth, cursing herself for being overwhelmed by such a man. She had trained for hundreds of years and yet she could only do so little against the man now twirling his sword gleefully. It was a small chance that his blade was not poisoned as well, the pain of her injuries aching heavier as a result. Panting, she punched the largest injury to ease the pain and clutched her sword, struggling to keep it in a strong clutch.

She stole a glance at the battlefield, watching the Rohan riders confronting the Oliphaunts and met their fates like ants threatened by giants. In a short time her battle had become one-sided, just like the one below. Gritting her teeth, Varilerin readied her sword once more, believing that like those riders she had equal determination to oppose her enemy. Exhaustion finally crept down her spines, weighing her already sore feet with pain and tiredness. She shook her head, sharpening her senses and convincing her body to endure before she charged at her enemy once more.

Vrasari moved as fluently as he had been, receiving her strikes almost playfully and with ease. Varilerin compelled her body to move faster, this time switching her slashes into stabs Vrasari had used on her. She succeeded in catching him with surprise, though she could only leave a small slash along his upper arm. Vrasari cursed in Black Speech and burnt with rage—clearly not accepting the small wound he had received—and she pushed her with his own sword. His weapon locked with hers, and they glared at each other with equally steadfast spirit.

Varilerin cursed internally, feeling her body being pushed back by his menacing tenacity. It was clear he would win in brute force, though Varilerin found herself unable to escape their lock. Vrasari would certainly defeat her if she were to release herself, for now her injuries had started to numb her nerves and would subsequently prevent her from dodging his next attack.

Yet a small voice in her heart persuaded her to release her force on him and let the risk threaten her life. Varilerin closed her eyes, questioning that voice for reasons, though she herself was the one who answered. She drew a deep breath and loosened her sword from Vrasari’s, retreating only a stutter of steps before Vrasari entered her blind spot and disarmed her from her only weapon. Her opponent smirked with joy as the short sword flung from her hands, enabling him to defeat her once and for all. But Varilerin did not falter, a grin forming on her face.

He was a fool of a warrior to think her swords were her only weapon in close combat.

Purposefully Varilerin let his right sword graze her right shoulder before she drew her last blade. In a flash she unsheathed her father’s dagger, which glinted under the light of the eyes, and she swung it against her opponent’s face. Her ears caught the sound of clothing torn with her blade. A painful scream followed, with blood trickling from the scar Varilerin had just made for the man’s face. She grimaced, holding her own bleeding shoulder, and paced back. Her eyes wide observed the man’s reaction as he grabbed his face, writhing in pain.

Varilerin’s heart throbbed in anticipation, for she knew her ears could not trick her. The sound before his scream was of his mask torn apart, the only veil concealing his true visage.

This is it, Varilerin thought brokenly. This is where I shall see the face of the man I have failed in the past. This is when I should face my dark past once more.

Vrasari slowly returned to his composure, slowly lifting his face to confront the gaze of his opponent once more. First Varilerin saw bloodshot eyes, a slit running down between them towards his right cheek. Varilerin’s breath hitched when finally Vrasari uncovered his face, the man wiping off the blood on his palm to his sword. Next she saw was his pale skin, and the complexion of a fair ellon. Varilerin froze, eyes focused on his face and desperately studying it along with its details. Brown strands of hair which she had just noticed and the shadow of his hood obstructed his features, yet Varilerin’s eyes could not deceive her.

Yes, her eyes could not be deceived by such familiar face.

Do not tease her, Ellain. She has gone through much.

Varilerin’s breathing stopped, her hands trembling. She screamed without her voice, pleading to the Valar so that what she was seeing was not true.

Have you seen dwarves before, Varilerin?

Her muscles stopped moving entirely, rendering her paralysed with horror and shock.

No, not in a million years. She is more like a bothersome sister to me.

She pursed her lips, tears flowing from her eyes. Memories flooded her soul like poison, tearing her heart apart.

Who will accompany Lady Arwen when you die?

No, Varilerin chanted repeatedly internally. She wanted to look away, but she could not. She wanted to deny all she was seeing, yet she did not deserve such thing. And when he looked back at her, the warm eyes now cold and full of hatred, she finally dropped her weapon. She shook her head, her throat swelling with words she would soon compel to say. A name which she wanted to forget, the only brother she had ever had.

“Ruindoldir?”

Chapter Text

Varilerin skittered among the trees, two small swords clasped in her hands as her eyes searched the branches of the woods. Her friends had promised her that they would teach her combat beyond what Glorfindel had taught her, and they would do so only if she managed to find the tree where they had last met. It was a difficult task, considering all the trees looking the same, but Varilerin was willing to spend a whole day to find it. Glorfindel had taught her well, no doubt, but he feared teaching her the way of the sword because of her age. She did not despise him for that, but she wanted more. And it was not a mere coincidence for her to find two random Rivendell rangers offering her the opportunity to advance.

She skidded to a halt when she found this particular tree—although appearing ordinary to her eyes, held a certain significance in her soul. She collected her breath as she stopped beside its trunk, leaning on her knees and careful so that the two swords she had ‘stolen’ from the weaponry would not hurt her legs. When her calm returned, she gazed to the branches, and waited.

Not long after a hooded figure dropped from above, landing lightly on the grass-covered ground behind her. Varilerin turned around, hiding her excitement as she bowed to the ranger who was without doubt her friend. However, it intrigued her why there was only one standing before her.

Her friend pulled back his hood, a smile carved on his fair face as he bowed back. Brown locks swung when he did so, amusing Varilerin of how the messy braids made him look ridiculous.

“Ruindoldir, where is Ellain?” asked Varilerin quietly. Ruindoldir straightened his posture, his bangs obstructing his vision before he blew them away. She snickered inaudibly, though the ellon merely smiled at her reaction.

“She is assigned in an unprecedented task, I am afraid,” Ruindoldir explained, huffing. “She won’t return soon, so you have to be patient with me being your teacher.”

“Are you more skilful than her or the other way around?” Varilerin asked, almost innocently—though Ruindoldir knew she was never the innocent child. He grinned to his eyes and patted her head affectionately, causing her to scowl. Yet even with her scowl Varilerin internally smiled. Ruindoldir was unlike any other ellon she had met. He had seen her as a sister from the first time he had encountered her, and he had maintained his view of her ever since.

“I cannot say,” Ruindoldir shamelessly said. “We have never fought before, but I assure you that you wouldn’t want to see such sight. However….” Ruindoldir smirked slyly as he drew one of his dual swords, piercing it randomly against the falling leaves. Varilerin was left in awe when Ruindoldir lifted his sword at her, showing her the pierced leaf at the blade’s end. “What I am going to teach you, is beyond what Ellain is capable of. And Lord Glorfindel will surely not consent it.”

“He has never consented with anything according to my wishes,” Varilerin corrected with a shrug of her shoulders. Ruindoldir grinned once more, unsheathing his sword.

“Well, I believe what we are going to do must be kept between us alone,” Ruindoldir whispered as he walked away from Varilerin. Varilerin knew better than to stare dumbly, and thus she tailed him without a sound. She stopped when Ruindoldir turned around, his face suggesting he had just remembered something crucial. “Oh, I almost forgot. Congratulations on finding me, Varilerin. From now on, you shall call me your master. And in turn, starting today you are my first and foremost pupil.”

“Yes, Master,” Varilerin said snidely. Ruindoldir beamed once more, before he grabbed her small hands and led her to a place only two of them knew, and none shall ever know.


 

“Ruindoldir?”

Varilerin’s voice echoed in her silenced world, piercing her heart with countless memories. Her eyes could not deceive her. Before her stood Ruindoldir, with the same masculine and smug expression he had always held, but now he was no longer the brother she knew. Shadows clouded his gaze, his brown eyes drowned in blood as he stared at her with intense hatred. The scar running down his face emphasized the cruel fate she had given him, and her world shook terribly when he did not show the slightest remembrance of his own name, nor show any slightest intention to move in the occurring tension.

Slowly tears trickled from her eyes and she bit her lip to bleed, ignorant of the countless weaknesses she was showing. “Ruindoldir?” she repeated once more, her voice calmer yet still hesitant. She had so many questions in mind, so many thoughts streaming like rushing river. Why was he against the free people of Middle Earth? Was what Saruman had said indeed caused her friend to become like this? She refused to believe it, but all the impossible had happened in her life such she dared not hesitate over the implausible. “Is it true? Are you Ruindoldir?” she asked once more.

When the man standing before her flinched minutely, yet enough to be caught by her eyes, a glimmer of hope emerged in Varilerin’s heart. He was indeed Ruindoldir. He held the same face she had known for too many years. It was undeniably possible for a servant of Sauron to guise himself as her lost comrade, yet Varilerin knew none could mimic Ruindoldir’s swordsmanship. He was the one who brought her to the world of close combat. Her hands which held her sword were the result of Ruindoldir’s forging. But Ruindoldir would not turn to the Dark Lord for no reason—and Varilerin desperately hoped for his conscience to return as she renounced his true name.

 But she immediately understood her false assumption when Vrasari suddenly charged at her, his sword dangerously aiming at her heart. Varilerin’s mind awakened too late, though fortunately her body reacted enough to redirect the blade to her hips, creating a painful wound immediately trickling blood. She reached out for her dagger, but when she saw his face once more her hand abruptly stopped. It was a wrong turn of action, for she did not remember that whoever she was facing was Vrasari, the right-hand of Sauron and a merciless warrior.

And so he kicked her to the ground, rendering her useless as she crashed harshly. She grunted, trying to crawl away from her assaulter, but he pinned her to the ground with his foot. His foot pressed her chest and pushed her to the ground hard, allowing only a small chance to breathe.

“Ruindoldir—“ Varilerin gasped, her free hand which did not hold his foot reaching her medical knife. “S-stop this. I-I know you- are Ruindoldir—“

“Then I must disappoint you,” Vrasari hissed, pinning the edge of his sword just at her neck and increasing the force on his foot. “I am not and have never heard a man named Ruindoldir.” Varilerin widened her eyes, not breaking her eye contact with her opponent as he raised his sword to pierce her neck. “Die, Daefaroth.”

“No!” suddenly a scream came not far. A flying stone followed, landing precisely at Vrasari’s temples and knocking his head to the side. He switched his attention momentarily to his attacker, revealed to be none other than a terrified Pippin. Vrasari’s hold over her loosened and immediately she unsheathed her small knife, plunging it deep into his thigh. Vrasari cursed before Varilerin rose and punched his abdomen, throwing him away from her body. He staggered back, Varilerin struggling to sit with the gash on her hip.

Vrasari switched his glare to Pippin, who scampered away once he realised the circumstance he was caught in. The assassin did not hesitate, grabbing the knife Varilerin had struck him and threw it at Pippin’s thighs, halting his escapade in an instant. The Hobbit screamed as he fell, glancing at Varilerin desperately. “Filthy beings!” Vrasari cursed as he returned to Varilerin, who no longer had capable weapons other than her shiv. She crawled back despite knowing she could do nothing to escape her fate.

But when Vrasari’s blade almost decapitate her head, a mighty sword blocked its path and pushed the warrior back with a courageous swing. Varilerin widened her eyes when she saw hooves attacking her opponent, who instantly moved back in defence. She lifted her face to see Shadowfax and its rider, who raised his sword without fear at Vrasari. “Gandalf!” she rejoiced, watching the Wizard cornering the man with only his sword.

Gandalf glanced at her, anxiety marking his face. He frowned when he saw fully the ranger’s scarred face, for he had seen him long ago. He remembered the ranger he had first met, who accompanied Varilerin and the other. Even with his fading memory he remembered how that ellon’s eyes had been completely different than the ones he was seeing. “What are you doing here?” Varilerin demanded.

“I escaped, if bluntly said, for I saw you at the edge of the cliff, losing your battle,” Gandalf explained grimly. “Faramir is alright, if you ask.”

“You have a city to defend!” Varilerin retorted. “The Orcs have reached the upper levels and you’re here defending me?”

“Do not worry, dear,” Gandalf assured her with an unbelievable composure. “The soldiers can manage on their own, for now the battle is nearing its end.”

“What do you mean—“ Varilerin slowly landed her gaze on the battlefield below, her vision catching a large mass of green figures approaching from the coast. Soon the figures transformed into countless undead soldiers, pacing at a high speed towards the remaining Orc armies and Haradrims. Varilerin’s world immediately brightened with hope, for she saw three familiar figures amongst the ethereal soldiers.

“Aragorn has arrived!” she gasped. She fluttered her eyes when she saw other figures running behind them. Rangers consisting of roughly thirty people followed, two of the front-most she recognised dearly. “Bless the Valar! It’s Elladan and Elrohir, along with the Grey Company!”

And Vrasari joined her with the surprise discovery, terror clear on his face when he found the oath breakers defeating the Orcs easily with their numbers. “Your battle has ended, Vrasari,” Gandalf said finally. “Aragorn’s reinforcements shall not leave any survivor of your army. Surrender now and you’ll be spared, for you have much to answer.”

Vrasari turned at the Wizard and stared with disbelief. Varilerin pursed her lips, standing up and hoping that the man would yield. But Vrasari continued to grip his sword, his eyes unwavering as they moved from Gandalf to Varilerin to Pippin, as if choosing which he should kill first. Varilerin tensed when he charged once more, towards the unarmed Varilerin. Gandalf immediately readied his sword, Shadowfax galloping in front of Varilerin to protect her.

Yet Vrasari suddenly stopped, his eyes widening as if in surprise—he should not have been surprised by Gandalf’s action in protecting Varilerin. His sword still raised, he closed his eyes, pondering hard despite Gandalf’s prospect of killing him in his idle state. “I understand,” Vrasari whispered in Black Speech, as if he was answering someone. Varilerin caught faint whispers in the air, and she glanced at Gandalf warily.

“Shall you accept surrender?” Gandalf repeated. To this Vrasari merely smiled, almost smugly despite his odds. Instead of answering the Wizard he turned to Varilerin, sneering scornfully.

You are fortunate this time, Daefaroth,” Vrasari whispered before he turned around and dashed towards the ledge.

“Wait!” Varilerin demanded, following him as fast as she could. To her outmost bemusement Vrasari leapt off the ledge of the level, disappearing from their vicinity as he dropped a height a creature should not have survived. Varilerin stopped just at the edge of the cliff, facing down to search for his dark figure to no avail. She panted, her gaze continued to lock to the battlefield below. The undead and Aragorn’s army swarmed across the plain with incredible speed and force, purging the lands from the foul Orcs in a strong sweep. In a distance an Oliphaunt crashed the ground, taken down by a single archer none other than Legolas.

The battle was nearing its end, yet there was no sense of relief in Varilerin’s heart.

Vrasari is Ruindoldir, she mused as she turned to Gandalf, her expression incomprehensible. I have left Ruindoldir to his death, and now he faces us as an enemy. Varilerin slowly fell to her knees, staring at her bloodied hands; hands which once had been tutored by Ruindoldir, an ellon of no foul intentions whose smile could always brighten up anyone’s world. Now he was no more, only Vrasari in his stead, with only hatred fuelling his purpose. The pain of her injuries were overpowered by the ones in her heart, and slowly her hands trembled.

There were shouts of victory from above, for the battle had finally ended, and now the King had returned to Gondor. The Orcs had been driven out of the city by the undead army, whilst the rest were cleansed fully from the world—except for their last leader. And so the Men cried with joy, and the women rejoicing as they embraced their children.

Yet Varilerin did not join them. Instead, she brought her hands to her face, and screamed.


 

The battle of Minas Tirith had ended, yet there were no shouts of victory in the fields. The plain was rendered quiet when the last of the Orcs were killed, engulfing the battlefield with silence and grief. The oath breakers gathered before Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. From afar Gandalf and Pippin approached the company, and Legolas frowned when he found Varilerin not with them. But Gandalf assured the ellon that she was alright, and so he switched his focus to Aragorn and the undead army.

“Release us,” the King of the Dead demanded.

“Bad idea! Very handy in a tight spot these lads, despite the fact they’re dead,” Gimli whispered furtively to Aragorn.

“You gave us your word!” the King of the Dead reminded angrily. Aragorn eyed him and his soldier for a moment before he ultimately nodded.

“I hold your oath fulfilled. Go. Be at peace,” Aragorn said. When he heard this, the King of the Dead smiled, and a gentle wind blew against them. The gust slowly blew the Army of the Dead like dust, and they quietly disappeared from the field. Aragorn hence turned to Gandalf, who still looked grim despite his generous smile.

“Where is Varilerin?” Aragorn immediately asked, his tone hinting exhaustion. Gandalf sighed, glancing at Legolas. Without even the Wizard speaking, the three knew that she had experienced worse than them.

“Much has happened while the three of you were gone,” Gandalf explained. “That, can follow. For now, we shall treat the wounded. Bring them to the Houses of Healing, where Varilerin is waiting. ”

And so the three of them searched for the survivors and injured, despite their relentless worry over their female comrade. The battle had taken many of them, Rohan riders and Gondor soldiers alike. And to their horrors they found Eowyn lying cold not far from Theoden, now passing to the halls of his father. Pippin found Merry several feet from Eowyn, who was grieved by her brother Eomer. The company decided to take the two immediately to the Houses of Healing, leaving the rest of the injured to the Grey Company and Elrond’s sons.

Gandalf retold Varilerin’s tragedy to her comrades, his voice almost a whisper as he did so. And the company was left confounded by Vrasari’s true identity, particularly Legolas. Gandalf did not dare to make assumptions other than the facts he had seen and heard from Varilerin, who he informed had been working on the injured ever since her fight had ended.

And in the Houses of Healings they would find her. The place itself was overly crowded when they entered, full of countless injured soldiers and several desperate healers clearly lacking help. Thus Elladan and Elrohir, along with several Dunedain rangers, dropped their weapons and aided the healers. An elderly lady greeted Aragorn and the others, carrying with her a handful of bandages. Her eyes immediately landed at Eowyn and Merry, judging their conditions thoroughly. “The Halfling you can trust on our healers. He is suffering from Black Breath, but we have been told how to treat it,” the woman said,” but the maiden’s wounds are too grief. You should seek the help of the ranger there.”

The old lady pointed to corner-most of the place, where a person cladded in dark clothing was tending an injured. Aragorn and the others immediately realised who she was, and Eomer rushed quickly with Eowyn in his arms. She was none other than Varilerin, her weapons not in vicinity and her bracers stripped off, leaving her arms with only rolled bloodied sleeves. At first she did not notice them, much to their surprise and worry, but she finally looked up when Eomer knelt beside her with Eowyn.

“Place her there,” she said, returning her focus to her current patient who suffered from a severe gash on his chest. Eomer nodded and placed Eowyn on a mat next to Varilerin, Aragorn helping him to lay her gently. To their fascination, Varilerin finished her treatment to her patient’s mortal injury swiftly and she turned around to mend Eowyn. Her composure when she examined Eowyn’s injuries almost terrified her comrades, for after the unfortunate truth she had witnessed she should have lost her calm. But there lay grief behind her gaze and unfazed face.

Varilerin frowned relentlessly her eyes finally found Eowyn’s severe arm. “Aragorn, I need you to fetch some Athelas from the healers, and more water,” she requested without looking at him. Aragorn frowned as he did so, leaving them.

Eowyn, stay with me,” Varilerin whispered in Elvish as she placed a wet cloth on Eowyn’s forehead. “Valar, give her strength,” she chanted before she turned to Eomer and the others. They could now clearly see the exhaustion and blood marring her face, though they did not say anything about it. “You all best leave now, give some space for the wounded. Help gather the injured, if you wish.”

“Will she survive?” Eomer asked sadly. Varilerin grabbed his shoulder and squeezed it.

“She has suffered the Black Breath, but she is strong. Do not worry, Eomer, for your sister shall live,” she assure him with a tired smile. “Rest now, leave the injured to us.”

Eomer nodded hesitantly and slowly took his leave, pushing past Legolas and Gimli. Varilerin stared at Legolas, her expression unchanged. He pursed his lips, seeing too well the grief in her eyes, and finally took his leave with the Dwarf. Varilerin watched their figures disappearing from her sight before Aragorn arrived with the Athelas. She received them and carefully tended to Eowyn’s wounds, continuously chanting in Elvish until she could feel her breath returning to life. When it did, she sent the worried Aragorn to tend the other, leaving her alone with the maiden.

Varilerin quietly bound Eowyn’s almost-broken arm with bandages, pondering the fierce battle she surely had had with the Witch King himself. She had proven herself with valour beyond any man could carry, and for that she was proud for her. The elleth struggled in keeping her mind from Vrasari—or Ruindoldir, she supposed—but all her efforts were to no avail. She turned her mind upside down to find answers of how Ruindoldir could turn into Vrasari. Sauron might have twisted his mind or made him forget his past, but strangely Varilerin convinced herself that it was his hatred which drove him to this state. Hatred which, undeniably, was caused by her leaving him to his demise.

But Arwen shall