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Thread: Another Story: The Quest for the Straight Road

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"AmariŽ! You are back!" Elladan welcomed her in his arms. "I am glad to see you, but it means you are hurt."
"I am tired. It is hard, and it hurts. My heart seeks for safety and home. And this is where my dreams take me. They take me home to heal." The familiar woods of Rivendell surrounded them and the beloved sound of the river Bruinen sang in her heart.

Elrohir was there too. He took her hands and smiled crookedly. "The Valar are playing tricks on us. It used to be the two of us who came home to you to heal."

Her eyes went over to Elladan, he had moved away a bit to let them speak. Both brothers looked tired, but Elladan looked the most troubled.

Elrohir sighed. "It should never have been like this. I know my brother. He worries for you. His feelings haven't changed, though he keeps them to himself."
AmariŽ felt her heart lighten. "Thank you, my dear Elrohir."

She let go if him and turned towards Elladan.
She smiled softly. "Now it is your turn to sit at home waiting, while I am away with my friends, fighting orcs."
He looked down. "I never understood how hard it was to do that. Even if I know you can take care of yourself, when you were at home I knew you were safe."
He raised his hand and touched her face. "Be careful, my Valaranna, gift from the Valar."

Arkantos sat next to Aragorn and opposite Drogba. He saw a blush and a soft smile on Amaries face and he felt jealousy burn.
A cold drop of water fell on Drogbas face and woke him up. He frowned as the coldness of the cave pushed his pleasant dreams away. He looked at AmariŽ resting peacefully on his chest, her eyes open but looking at something far away, a soft smile, her breathing calm. He didn't dare to move in case he woke her. He closed his eyes and felt her warmth. Yes, this was nice.

Vaeltira stepped carefully passed the sleeping bodies over to AmariŽ. She saw AmariŽ resting on Drogbas chest, Drogba with his arm around her, Arkantos grinding his teeth in his sleep. She sighed to herself and kneeled down by AmariŽ and thouched her shoulder and whispered. "AmariŽ, it is your turn to sit watch." AmariŽ didn't seem to notice. She gave her shoulder a little shake, thus waking Drogba too. "AmariŽ?" she repeated. Finally she stirred and stretched a little. "I am sorry, I was far away."

Silently Vaeltira took Amaries place and pulled her cloak closer around her. AmariŽ smiled softly to Drogba and Vaeltira, feeling a little bad about having used Drogba as a pillow while thinking about someone else. Vaeltira saw Drogbas eyes following AmariŽ as she walked away. "Drogba, what are you doing?"
"My Lady?"

"It was nothing, Drogba. Please forget I said anything." There were too many onlookers. She would have to speak to Drogba when he was alone.

"She was singing...... I wondered.... it was so sad. Who was she singing for?"

"I don't know. Let us leave it alone for now... I need to rest."

Amarie took up her post, pulling her cloak around her. The dream lingered and unbidden the song came to her lips......

"I have sung for him once
Where the creek ran swiftly
Over polished rocks
And over naked toes..."
The song floated softly trough the caves, the cold, damp walls added to the sadness and loneliness. Drogba lifted his head. "Listen my lady!" Arkantos turned towards where the song came from, he recognized his own pain among the notes.

"...
I have sung for him once
Between tall proud trees
And only one truly knew
And saw the light in our eyes

I have sung for him once
When our souls reached out
Filling in the missing pieces
Of our hearts"

Aragorn woke up as the song snuck into his heart. He had heard parts of it before, but he had thought it was just like any other love song. Somehow he knew he had to listen, it was important.

"I have sung for him once
Before cold winds from the mountains
Brought a winter upon us
And left our beating hearts on ice

I have sung for him often
When he is far away
In lonely shadows by the creek
In my dreams I hear his voice

I sing for him now
About summers lost
About years passed by
About souls still connected under ice

I sing for us now
Because his voice is silenced
But never did I hear him better
The creek will run free once again"

Arkantos swallowed as the song ended and spoke into the air, tonelessly, almost without knowing it. Her song had ended with hope, he felt he had lost the little hope he was holding on to. "She loves someone else..." Drogba thought Arkantos was talking to him. He curled up again, the song still echoing in his heart. Aragorn was lost in thoughts.
...a wide gully strewn with fallen scree-like rocks and barbed vegetation made an almost impenetrable barrier ahead of them. The intended path was toward an inlet which presented more difficulties for those travelling on foot, but it was Aelric's belief that he had to make the course they pretended to take toward the gem as credible as possible. In spite of the hardships for his companions he must not risk Melvorion becoming suspicious, the bait was dangling before the warlock, and the trap would soon be set. Aelric privately feared that the elf maiden would not fair well, but his fears were allayed as he observed her beat a path through the dense wiry plants ahead of her with little assistance from Etharion. A grim smile played upon his lips, if Melvorion was scrying their progress the rate of Nilgaerien's recovery would give him cause for alarm, and he would no doubt be forced to play his hand in haste. Aelric was acutely aware that this could be the key to defeating him.

He pondered his next move, if Melvorion was to act the way he foresaw then Aelric could choose his ground for the inevitable confrontation, this could prove to be decisive. He had to cramp the spell-weaver, afford him as little room as possible and put him immediately on the defensive. Stealth and deception were key to unravelling the sorcerer's designs. Aelric still reckoned on Melvorion's overconfidence, and the fact that both he and Nilgaerien, for all intents and purposes, seemed injured or impaired played still further to their advantage. Aelric knew that from the moment that the Vampire Thuringwethil was forced from his body that his substantial reserves of endurance and regeneration would be needed to overcome the next challenge.

Roland and the two dwarves brought up the rear, the young Gondorian wore an anxious grimace upon his face, he nurtured private misgivings about being led by the Black Numenorean into battle, "what was to prevent him from delivering all of them into the clutches of this damnable Sorcerer" he thought. It seemed that nobody gave it a second thought that this Aelric fellow and Melvorion may be in league with one-another. Roland sighed inwardly and trudged on.

"Whats wrong boyo?" said Moori, "You look like a vein o silver with a spike o fool's gold riven through it, all mixed up like" Moori winked toward Dorin.
Roland ignored the dwarf's enquiry, and sullenly glared at the back of Lord Aelric. "He's leading us all to our deaths I'm sure, and yet i meekly go on like a lamb to the slaughter" he muttered.
A while later AmariŽ returned to the others. She woke them up gently, it was time to move on. They walked on in silence and Daria was rushing them along. "Soon there. Soon there."

Finally daylight could be seen ahead. As they pushed through the small and overgrown cave opening they found themselves up on a wide ledge up in the mountain. Here they were just above the mist, but the whole island was covered in the smoke from the volcano.

The creek skipped down the rocks above them, ran across the ledge and threw itself of.

AmariŽ hurried over to the creek. She dipped her hands in the water and washed her face and arms, smiling. The water was pure and refreshing. Everybody drank and filled their water bottles. AmariŽ stood up, took a few steps away from the creek and looked out over the grey, dead island. She longed for proud, green woods and a sky cowered with bright twinkling stars. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to get rid of the cold she felt inside, trying to hold on to the warmth in her dreams.

Valruin sat thoughtful at the creek. Aragorn walked over to him. "My friend, do you know in what direction we must go?Ē Valruin nodded. "Further up, your majesty, I believe we must climb, unless Daria knows another route up."
Daria shook her head. So upwards they went, keeping close the the stream until it flattened out into a small pool above which the water fell in steps down into the pool, each step a silver curtain of pure water. As they looked the light caught each droplet of water and filled them with rainbows, sparkling and dancing.

"Safe within the tears from the Two Trees.... the light of Yavanna protects it." Aragorn remembers Nilgaerien's words. Surely here were the tears and the light.

"Search behind each waterfall and may Yavanna guide us!"

"Aelric," Nilgaerien said in a near-whisper. He stopped his climb and turned to her. "He's much closer now." She looked past him, staring at nothing, pretending she was still blind for Melvorion's sake. She frowned. "There is an urgency in him. He...he feels as if the time for caution is over. Aah!" The elf bent, clawing at her head. "No! Stop it!" she screamed. "I won't...I won't go back!" Etharion jumped forward as Aelric scanned the rocks and trees.

"Here, lass, no one's taking you back! Be still!" cried Dorin, running up and grabbing at her flailing arms. She tried to fight him but Moori, too, helped and they soon had her contained. Moori clapped a hand over the elf's mouth. "Quiet now! You'll bring him down upon us! Calm yourself, Nilgaerien!" She continued to struggle against them, however and Moori turned to Etharion. "Well don't just stand there! Get over here and help!"
"No fairer sight could I have imagined to see in these dead mountains!" exclaimed AmariŽ. "This surly is a worthy place for the Gem to dwell."

Valruin consentrated. He felt the Gem nearby. He waded into the pool the falls had dug out. "It is not behind the falls anymore. It is in here...

The others stood silent as he dived into the cold water, some caught themselves holding their breath as if to help him hold his. The falls stirred the water and made it hard to see through even for elven eyes and the stream was strong. AmariŽ whispered a prayer to the maia Uinen, whos hair is said to flow in all the water under the sky.
For some minutes there was not even a ripple to disturb the once again calm water. All stood watching and praying. Suddenly Valruin's head broke the surface. His face was bright and smiling, the elven light shining from his eyes as one who has seen beauty beyond words.

"It is there!" He cried with joy. "I have seen it!"

Raising his hand in a salute he dived again.
Arkantos looked at AmariŽ. Daria was clinging to Amaries arm in a way that was bound to be quite uncomfortable, but AmariŽ barly noticed. Her eyes shone with hope and it was like the sadness and shadow that had weighed her spirit down were gone. "Home" he heard her whisper. She was so beautiful that his heart ached. Then he noticed Drogba was giving her secret but awestrucken glances. He cursed on the inside. "It can never be for any of us. Why can't I let go?"

The surgeon watched from a few steps away with a little frown. Why Aelric wanted to help these.. people was beyond him, but he rarely interfered in the business of the leaders. He had been been on the ship longer than Aelric. Captains came and went but he had stayed. He had adjusted and moved on, but he had kept his position safe. But adjusting to be friendly to elves and elf-friends was quite a task. If nothing else it would be a uniqe glance into the lives of the enemy. Travel so far to go diving for... some treasure. He had to admit he was curious.
Meanwhile.......

"I don't know what I can do to help her." Etharion's voice showed the strain they all felt and the fear. "You're an elf, aren't you?" hissed Moori. "Then get over here and do what elves do for each other. Give her strength."

Etharion moved to take Nilgaerian's cold hands. She was almost certainly fading as they watched but the touch of another elf brought a brief colour to her ashen face.

The moment of respite for the weary party was over swiftly. Nilgearian flinched and tried to pull away from Etharion. Aelrick stood ready, sword in hand scanning the shadows. A foul stench engulfed them.

"No!" Dorin pointed to the shadow moving towards them. A twisted, crippled creature slowly reached thin arms towards them, fingers grasping at the air. Blood matted its hair and stained its mouth. The pale eyes had once been those of Roth, their companion lost to Melvorion the Necromancer and Sorcerer of Sauron.

"Manwe have pity!" Screamed Aelrick. "You shall not take her!" He flung himself towards the creature, careless of his own life. His sword fell but did not bite flesh. The creature had raised his hand and an opaque mist covered him. "Not so easily will you kill me, wormfood," it croaked. "Give her to me or die in pain."

"Not while I draw breathe !"Roland snatched a dagger from Etharion's belt and rushed towards Melvorion. The creature that had been Roth hissed and pointed his finger at the man sending a rush of foul venom towards him. Roland flung the dagger at the creature's chest as the venom hit him, invading his mouth, nose and eyes.

As the dagger plunged into his heart, Melvorion staggered back, a look of surprise and fear on his face. The elven blade had pierced his black heart. But a necromancer has many skills and weakened though he was he poised again to strike but Aelrick's sword also found its mark and with the elven blade absorbing enough of Melvorion's power to render him vulnerable, the sword severed the creature's neck. The corpse writhed with unnatural life but it was fast failing and soon only the emaciated and headless body of Roth remained still and lifeless; the head rolling into the shadows. Aelrick kicked the body aside and took up the head, ready to slash it should any sign of life remain but there was no life left. Roth's face stared at them, a look of peace in his dead eyes.

"Roland, lad..." They had all been watching Melvorion's defeat and death and no one had noticed Roland falling to his knees clutching his throat as he fought for breath. He face had a green pallor and his eyes bulged.

Both dwarves rushed to his side but it was too late. With a final gasp Roland fell and did not move again.

Nilgaerian sobbed. "For me, they died for me! I am not worth it. Roth!" she sobbed louder, hysteria taking over. "Roth! ... Please don't.... I love...." Her words were lost in her tears and weeping.

"Yes, they died for you and for this Quest." Aelrick spoke slowly, restraining the emotion that welled up in him. "They knew the price we might all be asked to pay. For you and for the Gem.... now get up and stop snivelling. We are not off this island yet. "

"Can we take them back with us?" Queried Moori. "It seems such a shame to leave them here alone in this evil place. I would rather send their bodies to Ulmo than leave them to rot here."

Aelrick sighed. Looking at the others he saw they agreed with the dwarf. "Someone has to carry them . We head for the beach."

Aelrick took Nilgaerian's arms and swung her over his shoulder. She was light and unresponsive. Etharion took Roth's head and wrapped it carefully in his cloak. Moori and Dori joined their own cloaks together and placed the two bodies in them, each taking an end and walked with the hammock singing gently between them.

"To the beach."

The beach was empty, the only sound the waves rolling gently over the sand and pebbles. Aelrick gently lowered Nilgaerien to the ground, brushing her hair from her face as he did so. "Poor thing," he muttered, "Such a burden you have borne."

Her eyes flickered open. At that moment Etharion shouted and pointed skywards. A flaming arrow flared its way across the sky.

"The Gem", he shouted, "They have the Gem. Eru be praised!"

"It's going to be alright, Nilgaerian. It is over. They have the Gem. See?" Aelrick lifted her up so she could see the arrow. "We can go home now."

She looked into the eyes of the Black Numenorean she had once hated and smiled. "I have no home here. I... I would have liked to touch it once more before....." her words trailed off and her head lolled to one side.

"No!" Aelrick's voice pierced the air. "I will not allow it! I cannot!"





Suddenly Valruin burst through the water surface, his face beaming and his hand raised in triumph, clutching the Gem. It reflected the light in a way that made it hard to see its true shape, but still the light didn't hurt the eyes. A small blessed star. The crowd cheered of joy and reliefe as Valruin climbed out of the water and all gathered around him to see.

Then the earth shook and AmariŽ was torn out of her joy of finding the Gem. With a sudden movement that surpriced them all, she placed both palms on the ground. She gasped and looked at Aragorn. "Estel! He is gone! I can no longer feel him, he was moving away from us but now.. and there is something else.." He saw in her heart the same fear that he felt. "Quickly, prepare the arrow. We must make haste!"

A hideous scream was heard far away. Valruin paled. "The flying shadows... they have returned."
Arkantos set fire to the arrow they had prepared and used Valruins bow to send it flying. The burning arrow lit up the sky. "I hope they are keeping watch on the boat..." Aragorn said.

Valruin hurried into his dry clothes, and realised that despite of the wet pants, the cold water and the chilling wind, he didn't feel cold at all. Why would the Gem protect him unless... "Lord Aragorn, the Gem is choosing a new Guardian. Something is really wrong with Nilgaerien.. "
Someone was walking towards her through the mists. She squinted and waited until the greyness parted and there. there stood...

"Atar? Father?" she asked.

His smooth face cleared and smiled at her. "My beautiful daughter...how I have missed you..."

"Oh Father!" she tried to run to him but something held her back. She looked down at herself and saw a terrible blackness instead of her body. She looked back up at her father. "What...what is this? Father, what is wrong with me?"

The smile remained but it became sad. "My child, you have done well, even through all your hardships. You have conquered all the wrongs against you - your friends have captured the Gem!"

She smiled in happiness. "Then...than what is wrong with me? Where am I?"

"You are dying, my dear one. You are at the turning of your life. The evils that have befallen you are now over. You are allowed rest." He waved a hand. "Come, my child."

She wanted to. She even reached for his hand, could feel her body releasing...no. Wait. She had to do something first, as she remembered. "Wait for me, Atar...wait..."

"Wait." Nilgaerien opened her eyes to the sound of her whispered voice, looking up into Aelric's anguished eyes. After all this time, he was finally a friend and ally to her.

"I won't let you go," he insisted.

She smiled gently. "The choice is not yours. I...I am tired. So tired, Aelric. Am I not to be given...my reward...for my sorrows?" He blinked and did not answer.

"Etharion...I need Etharion..."

The elf stepped into her view then knelt down to hear her frail voice. "Listen to me...I need...I need you to carry...carry a message..."

"Anything."

She held out her hand to him and he took it. His hand felt so warm...was hers very cold? With the last waning power of the Gem, she used Etharion's strength to imbed her last words to Aragorn, to Amarie, and dear Valruin into the Gem. She gasped when the last of her strength and the Gem's power fled and collapsed back into Aelric's arms. The Gem would naturally choose Valruin as its new guardian - he would be able to find her parting words in it. A little piece of each guardian was always left in the Gem, anyway. She had chosen her piece to be farewells. "Thank you, Etharion..." With tears in his eyes, he let go and her hand plopped into the sand.

"Now just rest - "

"Aelric," she interrupted him. He paused. "I'm...dying. It has to...be accepted. Mel-Melvorion took too much, especially in those last...moments. And do you know..." she looked into the Numenorean's dark eyes and smiled. "Roth fought back at the last? He...he tried, for...one last...effort. I loved...him..." A tear rolled away from her eye. She struggled to take a breath. Her chest suddenly seemed so tight. She laid her head against his chest and stopped fighting. "Tell...the dwarves," she said in a whisper, "they...have been...dear friends..."

"I...will."

"And...Aelric?" Her voice was so faint now that she felt Aelric leaning towards her. "Thank...you. Take...care...of...the...the...others..." She gasped, felt her hand losing its grasp on her dagger. "Give...give this...to...to..." Give what? To whom? She couldn't remember.

She allowed her eyelids to fall closed and let go of the struggle to make her chest rise and fall. She felt peace and...and that grey fog was back. Father...father was coming for her again...no. No, that wasn't Father...

"Roth?" she asked.

Smiling, he stepped out of the fog. "Couldn't allow me all the fun, eh?"

Her heart swelled. "Of course not. I had to make sure you wouldn't get into any trouble on your own."

He stepped forward and held out his hand. She reached for it, hesitating when she thought she heard Amarie's voice, begging her to come back. But her eyes met Roth's. She put her hand in his and he pulled her out of that blackness. All the evil slipped away and she felt as she once had, before guardianship was even a possibilty.

"I'm glad Melvorion didn't conquer you...at the last."

"So am I."

She still hesitated. "I never got the chance...I wanted to tell you...I...l-love..."

He smiled again, with humor this time. "Ya worry too much. I knew." She blinked in surprise and Roth winked at her. "Come - ya'll love what's ahead."

She kept her hand tightly clenched in his and followed him through the fog. Then a silver shore and the lovely sound of crashing waves greeted her and a sunrise over the distant hills. She grinned her delight to Roth and did not look back, even when a distant cry sounded behind.
AmariŽ buried her hands deep into the layer of ash and her fingers scraped against cold rock, she closed her eyes and her heart sang with worry. "Nilgaerien, do not leave me..."

She reached out, she could vaguely sense her friend, but she could not find her way like she could find the twins. There was however a feeling of peace before she lost contact. She opened her eyes slowly and met Valruins eyes. He was holding his hand over his hearth and she knew that he was clutching the Gem, which was tucked safely in a pocket beneath the layers of clothes. "She is gone." He said breathlessly. "She is at peace." said AmariŽ. "She went home. Where we will also go when our time comes." He nodded and helped her up on her feet.

Another hideous cry sent chills through their souls. No orders were needed, all hurried the best they could back into the caves. The elves could see well enough and Daria ran almost on instinct. The surgeon cursed as he once again nearly fell on the slippery rocks. All this for a shiny piece of... whatever it was.

It seems Daria led them on a new path, thought they could not be quite sure. Nor did they have much time to think about it until there finally was time to rest.

Drogba rubbed his bruised feet and arms and glancing at the elves he mumbled something about someone being able to ignore the laws of nature.

Arkantos was sitting nearby. "Well they can walk on snow, I am sure some slippery rocks aren't too much trouble." he said. Drogba laughed. "Hehe, walk on snow, good one." Then he saw Arkantos' raised eyebrows. "Surly you must be joking?" Arkantos shook his head and tried to hide his amusement as Drogba replied with a sigh. "And I who just thought they had better shoes..."

AmariŽ made her way to Aragorn. He was sitting quietly a bit away from the others, apparently only resting but she knew he was in pain. The others could throw out their arms to regain balance if they slipped, it is one of those things you do without thinking, but every movement in Aragorns shattered arm sent waves of pain though him.

"My lord, you must take more care." She gently touched his arm and a he let out a silent sigh of relief as the soothing warmth flowed from her hand. "You know me well." She smiled softly. "I know pain." He was silent for a while and stared up in the rocky ceiling and then said quietly. "I heard your song." AmariŽ blushed slightly and looked down. "I didn't mean to wake you. I should not have sung it." " Aragorn smiled softly.
"I am glad you did. I know how it feels to keep love hidden."
"True, but I did not do a very good job." Aragorn leaned a bit closer. "That is the beauty of travelling alone; there is no one to hear what you can no longer be silent about." AmariŽ grinned. "Well I have found trees, rocks and water to be excellent listeners."
"Will you not tell me who it is?" She looked up at him with a teasing sparkle in her eyes. "Will you not guess, my lord? I am sure you can narrow it down to one or two, or else I am sure we wouldn't have this conversation..." She saw by his grin that she was right. From the song and her special connection with the twins he had been able to put two and two together. ...and ended up with two answers.

AmariŽ cast a glimps towards the others who were getting a bit curious to what the two were talking about so quietly. She adjusted his bandages and said in a normal voice: "Well this should keep your arm in order untill we get to the ship. And we will talk there and see what we will do." She paused a little. "We should make haste and meet up with lord Aelrics groupe... who ever is left of it..."
Daria approached Aragorn. She saw Amarie adjusting his bandages. The King looked tired and worn but she, Daria, would lead him to safety.

"This way to the beach, not far now. We must hurry." She added quickly in a whisper, "My Lord."

The group followed her along a faint pathway that led through trees and finally out onto the beach. Amarie could see Aelric, his back to her, kneeling over something. Near him the dwarves sat with a bundle between them and Etharion stood beside Aelric watching as the others approached.

"Oh Nilgerien," she thought, "Be at peace." Then she realised... "Roland? I can't see Roland." She urged the others on.

Five small boats could be seen ploughing through the swelling seas, each one carrying oarsmen and archers.
Etharion raised his hand to greet them. The dwarves raised both their arms, and Dorin ran to meet them. "Ay, what a wonderful sight to see! You are all alright!" Dorin lowered his voice. "Unfortunatly, we weren't as fortunate..." AmariŽ gasped with grief as her eyes found Roland, and she ran to his side. Vaeltira ran to her husbands side, but she had to turn away at the sight of Roth's decapitated head. The memories were so strong now that the pendant no longer protected her. Daria didn't mind too much to look at it. She would have have left the head and taken the scalp, but this head was at least better too look at than an orcs head. Strange people... The sorrow in people's eyes, as they looked at their dead friends, was harder to vitness. It made her sad and uncomfortable, and she pulled away.

But this was not the time for sorrow and tears, nor for enjoying the sight of friends you feared were gone. The boats scraped against the rocky beach, and all hurried to bring the dead and the living away from this cursed island. AmariŽ whiped her tears as they carried Roland away, and found Daria a bit away from the others. She went over and gently took her hand to lead her to the waiting boat.

Daria pulled her hand out of Amarie's gentle grasp. Here eyes where fixed at the ship floating out there. The boat... she didn't want to go back to the boat. Nothing good had ever happend to her on a boat. Voices were calling them to hurry, the other boats where on the water ready to leave. AmariŽ did her best to persuade her to come. "We won't be alone this time, Daria. Aragorn will be there. Arkantos wil be there." She listed all who were, more or less, on their side. Even the young man who had been kind to them on the boat. "Please come, Daria! I can't leave you here alone. Please come home with us!"

AmariŽ's kept on talking, but Daria didn't hear them. Her eyes let go of the ship and met AmariŽ's. A memory of her father came to her. A terrified man who tried to make his beloved daughter cling to a hope he himself had lost. "One day we'll go home, my sweet child. And you will be safe there." A new horror hit her as she realised she had almost chosen this horrible, but familiar, place here over her father's stories of home. Here she was, face to face with the wonderful creatures from her mother's tale, and she almost turned her back to it all... becuase she was afraid? Afraid of what? Some dumb men on the boat? Hah! If the shadows couldn't get her, neither could they!

She grabbed AmariŽ's arm and started running towards the small boat which waited for them. AmariŽ twirled around from the the sudden movement and had a hard time standing on her feet. Daria entered the boat swiftly, as she had done nothing but entering boats her whole life, and curled up in the bottom of it. Etharion helped AmariŽ on board and whispered: "What made her change her mind?" AmariŽ shrugged. "I don't know, I am just glad she did."

AmariŽ and Etharion talked quietly about their experiences, as did the others in their boats. Daria didn't move, but threw a few hidden glances at Roth's head, which peeked out from Etharions cloak. She chewed on her lower lip, thinking. The island grew smaller, and fear of the new unknown grew in side her. But AmariŽ was here, and right now AmariŽ was her home.
Vaeltira took her place opposite Aelric, her eyes searching his face for signs of what had happened to him. He sat silent for a while watching the island as the crew hurried to push the boats out into the swelling sea.

"Well, My Lady, are you pleased to see me back?" There was a note of teasing in his voice.

"I would answer that question more easily if I knew which Aelric was back." She met his eyes unflinchingly but with caution. Who was this man in front of her and what of their bond now?

He reached out and stroked her neck, his fingers resting briefly where the pendant once hung. "I forgot... so much has happened. Is it difficult for you, my love, to lose it's powers and protection after so many years?"

"Yes, it is difficult. And painful. But I will survive and I will be stronger. Many things are now hidden from me," she paused, "including you, My Lord."

"And you wonder what will happen now we have nothing left to tie us to the Dark Lord's will? Your pendant is gone as is my sword. The curse that linked us is broken and you wonder if there is anything left to keep us together. Ah, my lovely Vaeltira... "

"My Lord Aelric, Look!" The shout distracted him. He stared beyond Vaeltira, sitting pale and drawn, to the island. Fireballs were shooting from the volcano, steaking across the sky and dark ash fell. The island heaved and the sea around it frothed.

"Death throes," muttered Aelric. "Make haste men, there is more on that island than you would wish to meet." As he spoke dark shapes sped towards them. "I said make haste, damn you, or it will be your flesh they feed on first." The men, surprisingly, grinned and pulled faster, signaling to their companions in the other boats to do the same. The children of Thuringwethil screeched their anger at seeing their prey elude them once more. The distance was now too far and the wheeling shadow beasts turned back.

"My Lady, we shall finish this conversation when we are warm and safe aboard ship." There was no arguing with him when he used that tone so Vaeltira merely sighed and nodded. Some things, she thought, never change.



The crew cheered as their captain returned to the ship and helpful hands helped them all safely onboard. Roland, Nilgaerien and Roth's head was taken away to be prepared for a burrial at sea. AmariŽ was glad to see that at least a part of Roth would put to rest with honour, and she hoped that seing him being swallowed by the deep, dark sea would help Vaeltira to find some peace as well.

She looked at herself and her friends. They were all covered with a layer of thin, grey, dead ashes. AmariŽ felt grey and thin on the inside too. Oh how she longed to lie on the green grass with her eyes closed,listening to the songs and stories coming from the Last Homely House. The others felt about the same as her. After days of living on the island with death breathing down their necks, the safety of the boat felt like a warm blanket.

Still AmariŽ didn't feel too safe. The last stay here had revieled the tention among the crew and even though she had known it was there, it is a whole other thing to actually vitness and feel it.

She spotted some faces that had been respectful and kind towards her and Daria, some who had been diectly hostile and some who seemed to not have any interest in them at all. Then she glanced at her friends. She should talk to Daria and comfort her, she should see to the king's arm, Arkantos looked a bit green, she really should take another look at his back, the medicine would be wearing out soon. And how was Aelric's arm? Did Vaeltira need a friend to talk to? And poor, poor Nilgaerien who now may finally have found peace and dear Roland whom she would never meet again... So much to think about. But she was so very tired.

While Aelric started commanding his crew to find land where they could get new supplies and water, mostly to show them that he was still the boss, Urdon lead the others down below to their rooms and promised to bring food and drinks shortly.

(Note: Not spellchecked at all. Barely even read through.)

They all gathered in their common room. Their equipment and bags were simply left in a pile on the floor. They were all tired, but the thought of their cabins also reminded them of the three who could no longer be found there. Daria curled up besides AmariŽ and put her arms around her, resting her head on her chest. "Everybody is sad." she said. AmariŽ stroke her hair. "Yes, Daria. We are sad."

Nothing was said for a while, untill Urdon came in with warm food and drinks. Hunger would no longer be silenced by fear and worry, and they eagerly and thankfully accepted to food.
"I was asked to tell you that we are headed for an island not far from here to stock up with supplies, mainly water. We should be there by tomorrow morning if the winds are with us. And... lord Aelric wishes to have the funeral before then. If the King has no objections." He glanced at them one by one, not sure how the reaction would be. The chewing slowed down and they glanced at eachother, not knowing if they should speak or not. So soon?

Aragorn thoughtfully stroked his beard. "The sea is an honarable resting place. But I ask that we are given more time to prepare our goodbyes according to our customs."
Urdon bowed and moved backwards trough the door. "I shall bring your words to my lord, my lord." Aragorn masterly hid an humourus grin, and felt as a sad sting in his heart. He missed his wife, who used to share his amusements of little things like that. He wondered how she was and hoped she didn't worry too much. His eyes moved over his friends who were silently eating their food. "We have good men here, my dear queen." he thought. "And good women." His eyes paused on AmariŽ who were calmly instructing Daria in the mysterious art of using a fork. "This one you already know, but not as well as you thought. I will bring good news home, my love. We will bring good news." He turned his thoughts and knife to the fish on his plate.

Again it was Urdon who broke the silence a while later. He knocked, entered and bowed to Aragorn. "Lord Aelric says the funeral will take place some time after we have gotten the supplies." Aragorn nodded in reply. Urdon quickly gathered the plates and left with a polite bow. He had other chores to do, and all these... emotions made him uncomfortable. It made him feel... It made him feel! Very strange indeed.

It was Dorin who first started to talk. "Hehrm... so I suppose.. this gives us time to get some sleep and.." he clapped his beard and a cloud of grey ashes flew into the air and made him cough. "... well that speaks for itself, doesn't it. We can't say our goodbyes looking like this. Also.." He gesticulated with his hand in the air in a desperate circular motion, as it would somehow drag the words out of him. "...I think it would be a good idea if Daria moves in with the ladies and we lads take the other room and we leave the third room... for the memories. A-and the king gets his cabin, naturally." He bit his lip. There was a silent concentious for this, and a few nods. People started to rise from their seats.

Etharion felt a bit left out in all this. He had not know Nilgaerien, Roth and Roland for long, but he had lost friends and family before. He was glad to see them wake from the gloomy silence, life had to go on. Hopefully they would all feel a little better after a wash and a good, safe night of sleep.
Moori glared. Dorin could feel it even though he refused to look at her. He sighed. "What have I done?"

"A perfectly good room going to waste and I am to be stuck with the women for how long? Did it occur to you that we could have that other room? No offence Mistress Amarie, but I'm not one for female company you understand."

Dorin sighed again. "Please forgive me my sweet meadow flower, I am tired and was not thinking. If it is alright with the others we will take the room and be comfortable for a change." He looked around.

Aragorn nodded. "The memories we have of our friends were not made here on this ship. I see no reason why the room should be left unused. Take it, but keep the noise down. " He smiled at Moori who slapped Dorin on the back and all but dragged him out of the common room.

In there rooms they found hot baths waiting for them with soaps and towels set beside. Urdan had been busy. Aragorn wondered if the man could be tempted away from Aelric's service. He doubted it. The man's loyalty to Aelric was unquestionable. Oh well... the bath looked inviting, the steam warmed the room and Aragorn had not the strength to worry about anything or anyone until he had washed and slept. Then he would give thought to saying goodbye to their dear friends.




On deck Aelric was shouting orders at sailors who already knew what had to be done. It made him feel better to be in control but, he thought, he would soon have to leave the men and get some sleep. It had been a long time since he had slept properly and much pain had been suffered since. His dear wife needed reassurance, he knew that, but he was loathe to think or talk about all that had happened. Later, he thought, he would talk later.

When finally he dragged his aching body back to his cabin, Vaeltira was already sleeping soundly. "My poor love," he thought, "What have I put you through?" She smelt fresh and clean, hair long dark hair was still damp and a spreading patch of damp showed on the pillow. He was tempted to slide into bed beside her and forget washing but the thought of the horror in her eyes at his bedraggled, bloodstained and filthy appearance forbade that. Instead he diligently soaked in the now lukewarm bathwater and rubbed soap over those bits of his body that could be reached without effort. Tomorrow he would get Urdan to shave him. And cut his hair. It was time his men, his companions and, most of all, his wife, saw him as the Lord he was and not some ragged n'ere-do-well. He dried himself as best he could and climbed in next to his sleeping wife. Tomorrow he would talk to Vaelira. Tomorrow he would....


With a heavy heart, AmariŽ sat on the floor in the cabin with Nilgaerian's things scattered around her. Daria sat on the bed with her feet curled up under her, humming softly to herself. The idea had been to let Daria have Nilgaerien's clothes, at least those which could be fitted. AmariŽ couldn't see that Nilgaerien would mind. But every item in the bag reminded of her, and she missed her. She got up with a sigh and found some night clothes to wear after the bath. On the chair she put a pair of pants and a shirt for Daria to wear tomorrow, and the Numenorian dress she had worn before for herself. She reached her hand out for Daria. "Come now, before the water gets cold."

Later Daria would curl up with AmariŽ, refusing to sleep anywhere else. And Nilgaerien's bed looked very empty.
The ship sailed through the turbid waters. As the sun began to rise, more and more people were up and about. The last of the sailors that were on duty through the night, went to their hammock's to rest.
Etharion jumped down from his resting place in a folded sail. After he washed himself, he wandered over to get something to eat. But then he suddenly stoped in his tracks. Seagulls. It was a seagull he heard cry. And where there were seagulls, there was land. Still heading towards the mess room, he bumped into Lord Aelric. "Ah, good morning megiltura. I hope you feel better now that you have rested." Aelrics face strained for a second as the events of the days past streamed through his mind. "Better..yes. But ther's no time to dwell on things past." When he left the bedroom, Vaelira was still sleeping, and he still had not talked to her about everything... He couldnt but to worry, how would everything be between them now. But disscus this they must.
Etharion looked at the face of the captain. He tried to change the subject by saying "You do hear the seagulls? Land is close. With any luck, we should be able to replenish our supplies....and be over with the funeral." he stopped, for he brought the conversation back to a still fresh pain. But he went on "Could you tell me..after we restock and everything.. where are we headed next? What are your plans?" he asked, ducking a rope hanging low. The sea foam rose high here, next to the prow, and it sprayed their faces as they walked.

O.C.C. Its a long time since i wrote here...I hope all i wrote was ok....if not, just tell me and ill edit my post.
"What are your plans?"
A farily innocent question, not too long ago it might have been a quite daring question. But today the words tingled in Aelric's mind. His plans.. His plans. His plans. He was Lord Aelric, this was his ship, and any plans he made would be his and his alone. He was free, and could serve whom he wished. He felt a desire to burst out in a deep laughter, but this could only be seen as a slight twitch in his cheek.

"My plans are as they were. I will take the king where he wishes. Later on we will all have to prepare for war." That was about as detailed as he wished to get with this elf. He was not too clear on the details himself. The king had now enjoyed his hospitality and generosity, and Aelric had begun to wonder how it would feel to sit by the king's table in the White City as an ally and a friend. A change of scenery couldn't hurt?

Etharion saw that he would get no more out of Aelric, and decided to leave while he was still on his good side. The seagulls called and their song of the West filled Etharion's heart and followed him down below to the common room where he could smell the food Urdon had prepared.
The room was empty, except for Aragorn who sat thoughtfull on a chair and Urdon who were cleaning up after them. "Ah, there you are! We've been wondering where you were!" said Urdon. "I shall get your food right away. The others finished early, not much of an appetite today. I s'pose it's the funeral that.. well that is none of my business, now is it. Do sit down, I'll be right back."

Etharion hesitated. The others were surely off to prepare for the funeral, he knew from his friendship with Valruin that their customs were fairly simmular to the customs of his people. Aragorn were probably doing the same thing. Urdon came with the food and Etharion thanked and thought about where he should go to eat it.

Aragorn looked up to se why Etharion still stood. He gestured to a chair. "Do sit down, my friend." "Oh, sire, I do not wish to intrude."

"You are not intruding. You knew her too." Etharion sat down a bit reluctantly. "Not as well as you, sire. I feel I have little right to share in the memories and love of those who truly knew her."

"Please, Etharion, tell me what your heart knows about her." Etharion hesitated, but did as Aragorn asked.
"She was troubled, very troubled. She had a good, but scarred heart. Impulsive, as one is when one is young. Brave, strong and lonely."

Aragorn smiled. "See, you did know her. There is no reason why you shouldn't take part in the songs. I will leave you now before your food gets cold, but I do hope you will join us when you are done."

As Aragorn left, Etharion felt better. He now understood that Aragorn had stayed behind to talk to him. They allowed him to grieve with them. They really did feel he belonged, and that was a good feeling.
i have herd sever things about this once great story and its creators if something so magnivicent is to just lay here and waste waya i request premishion to continue the story my self or with newly revived help pleaz let me know something my thred is "the story you write" asap and thank you for your time may your sword stay sharp.
Pst, go to this link: Notes for the Quest
That is where we share ideas and talk about the story, so that we can keep this thread free from notes and such. Smile Smilie
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