"Your concession is greatly appreciated in this matter, Haldir, Orophin. Due to the sobriety of this case, we thought it best to send someone of honor and...sagacity to Imladris." Galadriel's voice was soft and quiet, like her appearance; her words, like starlight, twinkled in the air and hung there for some time. The voice made Haldir feel especially small, strange a feeling as it was, but he couldn't help but think that Galadriel was mocking him. Her slight pause before her intoned 'sagacity', and the slight pitch change struck Haldir as all too familiar. He used the tone often himself, and it was quite the feeling to be on the receieving end of such sarcasm. Then again, the comment could have been directed towards Orophin. The thought was most certainly fitting.
"Of course, My Lady, Lord." Orophin's calm, low voice said from beside Haldir, speaking where Haldir would not. "We shall return promptly with a full report."
"Aa' menle nauva calen ar' ta hwesta e' ale'quenle. Speed be with you," Galadriel touched Orophin's forehead, then Haldir's. Instantly the Marchwarden was warmed with a light that washed over him in waves. It made his already wandering mind drift even farther away, which was exactly the opposite of where he wanted it. He needed his mind here, now. It was important.
Orophin quickly bowed, and after a mildly sluggish hesitation, Haldir did so as well. Once out of earshot of the lord and lady, Orophin gave a sly smile that would terrify an Ent. Haldir frowned and ignored it, as he had learned to do over the years, and waited placidly for the 'cunning' remark that was sure to ensue. Orophin promptly delivered,
"'Honor and' deliberate pause, 'sagacity.' Do you think she was trying to use big words so you wouldn't be offended, brother?" Orophin smiled smugly as he loftily skipped down the spiraling stairs into the early dim of morning.
"Perhaps she was sparing you." Haldir replied mildly as he stalked purposefully towards his talan, trying desperately to keep his mind on track. It took Orophin a moment to reply, and by the time he did, Haldir was already in the branches of his tree, heading towards his talan to gather his things.
"If I were you, I'd be kinder to me. I could lose you in The Gap and leave you to die." Orophin called up in a forceful manner. Haldir rolled his eyes again. He doubted that Orophin could manage to lose him anywhere, and he didn't see The Gap of Rohan as presenting a distinct problem for him, having roamed its east side for several decades. "Or Imladris!" Orophin said loudly, "The halls there are rather spacious!"
Haldir jumped gracefully from one of the lower branches, his satchel flung carefully over his shoulder. He ignored the urge to slap his brother over the head--as would have been appropriate in such a situation--and started forward again, out of Lothlorien.
"Or you may not think it's going to be a problem, but you've no idea what that treach--"
"Haldir! Orophin!" The voice was small and far away, but neither Haldir nor Orophin had a hard time hearing it, their senses being so keen. Both brothers exchanged a slightly guilty look as they halted, looking back some distance as the sound of quick footfalls hastened to their ears. Soon enough, the sight of a silvery head appeared, and a body with that, and a face. Rúmil.
"I believe I made it distinctly clear to you that he was not coming with us, Orophin." Haldir said in a whisper as his youngest brother drew closer,
"I believe I distinctly didn't say that he could, Haldir." Orophin replied out of the side of his mouth, the eldest's face still remaining blank and placid.
"I'm so proud that you've learned how to speak properly after all this time, Orophin. It certainly does wonders for conversation." Haldir said quickly in a mocking tone, just before Rúmil came to a stop directly before them, his forehead creased and his eyes angry.
"You weren't going to say goodbye," Rúmil said, a statement and not a question, Haldir determined, one that didn't require a reply. "You'll be gone for weeks...I'll be on border patrol by myself, I--"
"Rúmil, I think you're old enough to handle border patrol." Orophin said calmly, and Haldir nodded his slight agreement. Rúmil was most decidedly old enough, he just enjoyed the presence of others far too much, and Haldir feared he had come to rely on them due to it.
"I know that, Orophin. Thank you for pointing it out." Rúmil snapped in an aggressive manner, "My point is, I'm going to be bored out of my mind."
Haldir raised his eyebrows at the change of mood in his younger brother. Rúmil was used to changing tactics when he wanted something to go his way, and in this case, he figured that the whining, begging Rúmil wasn't going to work. Haldir frowned slightly. He didn't believe that the aggressive, snippy version was going to work, either. At least this Rúmil was honest.
Orophin, for once, appeared to be at a loss to counter his youngest brother, and opened his mouth once only to shut it again. Haldir however, smiled gracefully, and draped an arm around Rúmil's shoulder. "Find a maiden then, or a male, if it is what you wish. Otherwise I cannot advise you."
Rúmil drew back a bit, but a smile played at his lips and he looked all the better for the suggestion. He walked with Haldir a bit, back towards the interior of Lothlorien before Haldir fell back, and even then, the younger kept walking. Haldir sighed, rolled his eyes, and returned to Orophin.
"Do you feel better now that you've corrupted our younger brother?" Orophin said, looking mildly put out that he had not been the one to think of the solution.
"Oh yes, it was a pleasure, as always." Haldir smiled, but kept his secret knowledge in the back of his mind. He knew Rúmil was no stranger to the touch of another. "On to Rohan's Gap, then?" Haldir said cheerfully, putting a quipping skip into his pace and smiling slightly at his older brother. He was pleased to hear the barely audible murmur, "Twenty five days...how insufferable."
The horses that Haldir and Orophin had acquired suited them both quite well, though day after day it left them barely able to walk, so unused to horses that they were. The horses, one a brown speckled mare and the other a white gelding, aided their journey and cut its length nearly in half, it seemed. On foot, the journey to Imladris would take well into forty days, and more than two alone with Orophin was almost more than Haldir could handle. He loved his brother dearly, but honestly, the elder was insufferable.
Six days after the duo skirted around Fanghorn forest, they reached Rohan. It was an unpleasant place, in Haldir's opinion, but then, he didn't really hold a high opinion for men. The two stayed out of the villages as much as possible, though they did meet a straggler or two, each looking upon them with wide eyes, filled with lust and wonder. Haldir despised them, and paid them little mind. Orophin, sensing his brother's foul mood, kept his mouth shut as well, glad for the silence. The Gap of Rohan was quick in coming that night, and they crossed the River Isen with ease, its shallow waters tepid beneath their horses' feet. It was just past the river that Haldir realized something was quite wrong. He turned to Orophin, but the other elf was silent as well, a long, pale finger drawn to his lips. Near identical sets of deep blue eyes scanned the dark, moonlit countryside as sharp Elvish ears listened for the calling of an owl, the whisper of a cricket...anything. A drum sounded in the distance, northward, not far from them. Haldir breathed out a shuddering breath, "It's coming from Isenguard..."
"Why are there Orcs at Isenguard...?" Orophin whispered, for he smelled them on the wind and heard their rhythm in the beating of the drums. "They couldn't attack the White Istari..."
"Let's get out of here," Haldir said, hearing the drumming come closer and abruptly cut off, "move!"
They corralled the horses into a strong gallop and headed south, again across the River Isen, for there was no cover elsewhere. The mountains here were treeless, save their bases and the small amount of ground between their rising peaks. It was in these that Haldir and Orophin took their leave, leaving the horses under a rocky ledge where they knew they wouldn't be safe. In a high tree, Haldir and Orophin fingered their arrows. They both had thirty each, and neither had any idea how many Orcs pursued them.
They soon found out as more than three dozen torches sped quickly across the Gap and into the mountains, the lights searching in the small forest where Haldir and Orophin had hidden. A sickening scream that could have only issued from an animal rose in the night's sky and was joined by another. Orophin flinched slightly as he registered the horses' deaths, but put it out of his mind as he pulled an arrow from his quiver and notched it deftly onto his bow.
The Orcs themselves suddenly came into view, masses of them. The brothers looked at each other, wondering at the odds, a silent question asked between them. Should they risk firing?
The Orcs made the decision for them. The night was new, and Orcs were impatient creatures. At the far end of the line of trees, the Orcs had begun to set the trees alight. They could not stay in their safe haven for long, and so there was only one choice. Haldir fired first.
Within moments of the first shot, both Haldir and Orophin had let out a string of arrows, all flying true to their intended victims. Before the Orcs knew what was happening, the elves had picked off half a dozen, and were still working on more. Growls and screams emitted from the throng, and when the Orc's arrows failed, they resorted to lighting the tree on fire. Haldir and Orophin were forced to move on, and each jumped to the next tree, firing more, and then to the next, and the next.
A poorly shot arrow nicked Haldir's ankle and he bit back a shout of pain. Arrows rained down upon them, and the tree was again set on fire. The whole forest was ablaze now, burning the corpses of the dead Orcs, which were piling up, twenty five, thirty, thirty five, and finally, the end. The brothers had cut through the mindless throng with a precision almost unfitting any other living creature. They had no time to admire their skill or work, but had to flee the burning forest, its deadly blaze lighting their backs and darkening their clothes.
The elves caught their breaths in a chasm created by one of the smaller peaks. For perhaps the third time in their lives, the brothers held each other as they breathed deeply and shook from exertion and fear. They fell asleep huddled together, and awoke only when full sunlight was against their faces.
Haldir was limping by morning, and despite the fact that his ankle had not swollen or discolored in any way, he was almost certain that he had been poisoned. Ignoring the pain, which he usually did in situations like these, didn't appear to be a intelligent idea, but it was most certainly the only option in the current situation. Haldir bandaged the wound and proceeded to put it out of his mind, and out it most certainly went when the two returned to the burnt forest. Haldir frowned as he crouched painfully by a smoldering mass of wood and orcflesh. He pushed away a smoking helmet and from the depths of the pile, wrenched free a heavy iron shield. Orophin sighed as his eyes fell on the white hand print that graced the blackened iron, pure and clean against the darkening metal.
"The hand of Saruman," Haldir said, throwing the shield down in disgust. "So the White Istari has sided with him, then." He stood up and brushed off his hands, his eyes darting around the distance, into the gap and back again.
"We'll have to warn Lord Elrond," Orophin said, and Haldir nodded. He somehow had a feeling that Elrond already knew this tragedy, but didn't voice his opinion. His outlook on the near future was becoming dimmer by the moment. Without their horses, it would take twice as long as they had previously thought to reach Imladris, and neither Haldir nor Orophin had the slightest idea as to when Elrond's Council was to begin.
"Let's go. Can you walk the way?" Orophin questioned, his eyes not on Haldir, but on the surrounding landscape, his fingers touching his bow testily.
"Of course," Haldir said, glancing down at his ankle for a moment, but returning his eyes to his elder brother. They watered slightly as the wind hit him full in the face; it carried the scent of destruction from Isenguard.
Elrond, Lord of Imladris rubbed his temples in an agitated, worried manner. The sun was setting to the west, and his patience was all but spent. The Ring, now resting with Frodo weighted heavily on his soul, and he knew not what was to be done with it. The ring could not stay in Imladris, nor in any of the other Elven realms of Middle Earth. It could not stay with the Men, the Dwarves, or any other creatures that might wish to use it. The Ring had to be destroyed.
"You must ask someone to carry out this task," Erestor's soft voice said from beside the window, where he was reading by the fading light of the sun. Elrond sighed and watched him for a moment. Long had Erestor given council in times of need, but it seemed at this point, that the councilor was stating the obvious.
"Who would do this? The Ring holds sway over everyone. This deed is impossible."
"The Hobbit seemed quite unswayed by his journey with The Ring, save his unfortunate accident. Perhaps he could..." Erestor's voice seemed to fade from a nonchalant suggestion to nothing at all, and Elrond all but interrupted him.
"I could not ask Frodo," Elrond said turning away, but taking Erestor's words to heart. The Councilor was right, of course, as usual.
"The Ring can not stay in Imladris." Erestor replied, stating the obvious once more. Elrond nodded and stood,
"Of course not, Erestor." He said, somewhat in a daze, "Have Lindir gather the others for the Council. We can not wait on the party from 'Lorien."
The long, passing days in which Haldir and Orophin traveled to Imladris were not amongst the most difficult in Haldir's long life, but they were certainly notable. Despite the pain caused by his small wound, which refused to heal, Haldir remained mobile and able to travel almost at the rate of a healthy, uninjured elf. The thought of missing the council weighted heavily on both Orophin and Haldir's minds, but their thoughts were hoarded mostly by Saruman's betrayal. A pact made with the Elves was not easily cast aside, and both brothers knew that Saruman had made a deadly mistake.
The terrain turned from golden brown to soft green as the long days of travel passed. The Elves were alone on their path, and they enjoyed the scenery as much they could, Haldir finding it harder and harder as each day passed. His ankle continued to pain him, and though the night called, he could no longer sleep. He became plagued by dreams of mystical places and unwanted whispers. Soon, the nightmares became waking dreams, and Haldir's face became pale and his marble-like skin became covered with a light, sweaty sheen.
"We have perhaps one day's journey more," Orophin said, looking at Haldir grimly over the small fire he had kindled on the plains beside the Bruinen, "try to rest this night."
"Sleep is not within my grasp. This wound becomes infected by the vile stuffs of the Yrch."
"Have something to eat, then rest." Orophin said, tossing a large piece of Lembas across the fire. It landed stoutly in Haldir's lap.
"I'm glad you haven't lost your sense of humor." Orophin said with a frown, and with that, faced Haldir with his back and went to sleep.
The Bruinen ran merrily beside the two Silvan Elves as they traveled along it, just hours from Imladris. Both were exhausted, and the feeling of a dark threat grew deeply within their minds. Galadriel had spoken to them only briefly of the subject matter of Elrond's council, but both knew that the matter was dire. As the days had passed, they had grown more and more weary of the threat, and with the passing of the Orcs and the White Hand, both had become more harshly worried.
It was a great relief to the Elves when Imladris finally came into sight, nestled within the forks of the Bruinen, shining with the internal warmth of the Last Homely House. Haldir sighed with mixed relief and awe. In all his long years, he had never traveled closer to Imladris than Mirkwood, and even then, the Misty Mountains had separated him from the river realm. For some reason, he had never felt compelled to travel to Imladris, and neither Galadriel nor Celeborn had ever asked him to. Now, however, he was nearly in shock at the peace of it all.
Imladris was nestled right up against the river, and its architecture seemed to be the essence of the river itself. The buildings seemed to be in movement, though Haldir knew they were still as the air around them. As 'Lorien was modeled after the Mallyrn, Imladris was modeled for the Bruinen, and it shone in every cut and curve of the wood and stone that dwelt there. Haldir smiled and forgot his pain, momentarily caught in the vision.
"The Woodland Realm, the Riddermark, Gondor, all the realms of men and elves you've seen but this sight. Were you saving the best for last?" Orophin said, following Haldir's gaze as it traveled across the scenery and over the river's falls. Haldir smiled, "Perhaps," he said, thinking back to the Mallyrn of 'Lorien. He dared not compare his beloved woodland with Imladris' splendor. The two were at opposite sides of the spectrum, and it was impossible to compare them, for both were beautiful in such different ways. For a moment, Haldir wasn't sure which he loved best, but the thought was completely pushed from his mind when an acute stab of pain seared up his leg. Orophin saw him wince and falter, and quickly grabbed his brother's arm.
"Be still for a moment." He said, looking around for the sentry that had opened the gate. The Elf was nowhere to be found, and Orophin became visibly angry. "I love the hospitality..."
"I'm all right, Orophin." Haldir said, the pain fading slightly. He ignored the wave of heat that washed over him, and managed a small smile in Orophin's direction. As he suspected, Orophin was more than skeptical.
"We are going to see Lord Elrond. Now. Forget the Council; Lord Celeborn would feed me to the Orcs if I let you die." Orophin said, and Haldir shot him a dark look. On the occasion, feeding Orophin to the Orcs did seem like a good idea, especially when he made comments about Haldir's non-existent love life.
Orophin practically carried Haldir to the Last Homely House, where they were both greeted by a mellow looking elf with pale gold hair. He introduced himself as Lindir just before Orophin started in on him, barking about something that Haldir didn't really care much about. Lindir took it all in stride, raised an eyebrow, and led them into the House.
"I will fetch Lord Elrond." Lindir said, bowing and walking away. Haldir had the distinct impression that the other elf was laughing at them, or rather, Orophin, who was still smoldering angrily next to him. Haldir couldn't blame the white haired elf; Orophin was most amusing.
"My Lord, the sentries from Lothlorien have arrived."
Elrond sighed and put down his pen, rising gracefully from his desk. It had been three days since the Council of The Ring, and Elrond had dared to hope that Galadriel had reconsidered sending a 'Lorien representative. He had been worried at first, but a day later, when the sentries had yet to arrive, he became annoyed. Galadriel wasn't usually harebrained enough to send flimsy sentries to him, and late sentries were at the top of Elrond's Flimsy List.
"Did you leave them in the main hall, Lindir?" Elrond questioned, walking forward ever so slowly. He had been waiting three days. The 'Lorien Elves could wait at least three seconds more for him.
"Yes, my Lord. I believe they arrived on foot, and one appears to be injured, Lord Elrond."
"Well, why didn't you say so earlier?" Elrond snapped, angrier that he had jumped to conclusions than Lindir's late confession had made him. He quickly whisked past Lindir and into the hall, following it quickly until he reached the wide openness of the main hall and entry room to his house.
"Please forgive the lack of hospitality." Elrond said upon entering, "We were not expecting..." He looked up into dark green eyes and his words left him for a fraction of a second. Elrond recovered quickly, "...visitors." He cleared his throat and bowed in what he hoped was an apologetic way.
"Well, I can't see--" The tallest, silver haired Elf said as Elrond rose, his eyes flashing menacingly. But he was abruptly cut off by the green-eyed beauty that had stolen Elrond's breath,
"Of course you are forgiven, My Lord." The Elf said as he inconspicuously elbowed the taller, "Forgive Orophin, we have had little rest and are tired, which makes him irritable."
"No apology is necessary," Elrond said, quickly dismissing the Elf's comments with a hand gesture. "Lindir tells me that one of you is hurt."
"It is Haldir, my Lord." Orophin said, his voice sufficiently altered, changing from a harsh accusation to the soft tones of a worried brother. Elrond smiled at that loving tone and looked upon the shorter Elf by the name of Haldir. The name suited him, Elrond mused, his face and stance were so noble Elrond could have mistaken him for an Eldar.
"We fought off Orcs in the Riddermark. Orcs that bore the White Hand." Haldir said, his voice harsh with disgust, "It is why we've come so late."
"Gandalf has told me of Saruman's betrayal, but enough of such talk. Come, let me examine your wound, Haldir."
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A Thousand Tears, A Thousand Kisses by Resident Goddess
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Story notes: Feedback is HAPPILY ACCEPTED.
Chapter notes: In which Orophin and Haldir leave for Imladris and run into a bit of trouble.