An Uninvited Guest

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An Uninvited Guest

Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

03 Aug 2014, 01:51 #1

In the forest near Imladris, Halhigil sat astride her gelding (stolen five years ago from a pack of recruiters who had tried to kill her) and hesitated. Fear sat coiled heavily in her stomach. From this point on, there was no going back. There would be no chance to change her mind and fly, no chance to leave and go to the king of the Greenwood or the witch-ruler of Lothlorien instead. They might kill her. They certainly had the right. They will do it faster than the Moringothonna, and more kindly, she told herself sternly. If they do it at all. And, in the end, she had an obligation. Lord Glorfindel would be a target forever. The Moringothonna's strikes would continue, and the collateral damage would be high. She had to give them what she knew. Any other choice was just cowardice. She nudged Rochal forward, towards Imladris proper.

It was easy to pass without suspicion. Halhigil had adopted the slightly slouched, easy posture of someone who spent most of their day sitting and bending over work, bought a proper rinse that dyed her hair a dark brown, and put on a high-collared blue dress that hid the parts of the scar her hair did not. (It was horribly uncomfortable to do anything in skirts, but she wasn't here to fight, so she would, for the moment, deal with it.) All in all, she looked the part of a mildly well-to-do working elleth of Lindon, and sounded it as well, having practiced Lindon pronunciations and turns of phrase until they became habit again. Perhaps it was a little strange that she was traveling alone, but it wasn't as if news of the kidnappings had reached Lindon. A stablehand took Rochal from her. She patted his shoulder and told the ellon to be gentle with him, for his old masters had been unkind. It gave her a pang of anxiety to watch him go--not because she feared for his safety, but because she'd left all but two of her knives with him, rolled up neatly in the blanket strapped to the back of the saddle (not the most secret hiding place, but it was only meant to be short-term). Her bow she'd sold. It was too large to smuggle in. Either she'd be able to get another one, or she'd be dead, so it didn't matter.

Now it was time for the truly risky part. Speaking to Lord Elrond alone would be seen as a threat, and rightly so. Yet neither could she simply tell him in public or burst in on a council meeting. So she'd resolved to catch him while he was in transit, where he could easily call for help if he needed it, and offer her trade in the broadest terms possible. After that, they would arrange to speak further with more protection for him, or so she hoped. She could also be locked up, but she could carry on a conversation through a set of bars just as well as she could normally. Walking purposefully--people rarely stopped someone who looked like she knew where she was going--she headed towards Lord Elrond's office. This had to be done quickly, before someone realized that no one actually knew the elleth who was "visiting family" or, worse, recognized her. Despite all she'd done to disguise herself, that was a real possibility. After all, no amount of cosmetic changes would make the shape of her face different or erase her scars.

As if her ill thoughts had summoned the problem, she heard someone turn into the corridor behind her. Whoever it was, they were on her left, and soon they would be beside her. Fifteen paces, maybe less. Attempting to look as casual as possible, Halhigil looked upwards and away, as if she were admiring the architecture of the hallway. The movement pulled her hair to the side, momentarily exposing her ruined earlobe. She cursed silently and reached up to tuck her hair back over it. If there was one thing she could absolutely not afford, it was for someone to mark her as abnormal. Abnormal was remembered.

The person at last drew level with her. Discreetly, Halhigil allowed her eyes to flick to them, and she felt her heart nearly stop. It was Elladan, son of Elrond, who of all people here was the most likely to know her and raise the alarm. She slowed her steps, hoping for him to go on his way without looking too closely at her. If he did--if he realized that it was her--then all might be lost.

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Joined: 13 Mar 2014, 18:37

06 Aug 2014, 17:11 #2

Five years had gone by. Five years since he'd left Imladris, five years since he'd gone more than a league west of the Bruinen, since he'd seen snow on the peaks of the Hithaeglir. Sometimes he wondered if the descendants of Westernesse would remember him when he returned to ride with them once more. Whenever that would be. Sometimes he wondered if they missed him, as he did them, and he considered packing Belan's saddle bags and he got so far as pulling them out of their place in the bottom of his wardrobe before he lost the nerve and shoved them back in even deeper.

Elrohir had gotten fed up waiting in the Valley. He supposed his father was happy with the change though, or at least partially. He was probably on the fence about the whole issue. On one hand, Lord Elrond was probably pleased to have one of his sons close by for such an extended period of time, but on the other, Elladan could tell he was not exactly pleased with the snail's pace of his recovery. No doubt embarrassed by the disappointment that was the less-than-laudable hardiness of the product of the union of three races.

Elladan tried hard to ignore these thoughts when he got into a dour mood. He'd discovered years ago that if he stayed in his rooms too long on days Muinder left before him, someone - whether it was Muinder, Legolas, Alenquelo, Erestor, Glorfindel, Lindir, or his own father - someone would always note his absence and hunt him down, drag him from his bed and force him into a bath or some other activity to 'lift his spirits'. After several months of that he'd learned it was better to do what he could to avoid it, and forced himself up and into clothes and doing things without their prodding. Muinder did help, but he wasn't Elladan's nursemaid and couldn't spend all his waking hours with him, nor did Elladan want him to.

One good thing that had come of his reluctance to leave his father's home was a greater opportunity to study, when he had the mind, with either his father or Glorfindel or another healer. Today was meant for his father. He'd spent the better part of the early morning while the dew was still drying on the grass in the stables, giving his lord father ample time to finish morning councils and affairs of state before chancing the bustling halls, where brushing shoulders with too many workers always filled him with a buzzing agitation he disliked.

The halls were emptier when he slipped into the kitchen after bathing away the smell of horse and putting on a fresh tunic. He could have requested a meal be brought up, but of late he found completing these small tasks himself made him feel more secure and capable. With a tray laden down with fresh fruit and a plate of scones, a small pitcher of fresh milk, and a tea set, he set off to his father's office, in a better mood than he had awoken in. Down the hall from the kitchens, up the long stair, right at the next turn, he wasn't in any real hurry, the porcelain cups tinkling against their saucers subtly as he walked, his stride measured and even with his eyes fixed on the milk as it rippled in its container gently with his steps.

He glanced upward each time he passed by someone, a small flash of a smile or a nod given to those he recognized. Not many stopped to chat, which he was frankly thankful for. He was tired of all the inquiries into his wellbeing and his constant companion's (Elrohir's - or Muinder's - he wasn't really sure) whereabouts. As he came up on an unfamiliar girl heading the same direction he was, he looked up just as he turned her head and a scarred ear was exposed to his sight for a brief moment. Elladan blinked, a sense of pity twinging in his heart for her, but he thought little of it, knowing from experience how unpleasant it was to have people stare or ask questions, so he looked away and kept walking.

Passing by her, he felt eyes on his back and a cold chill ran down his spine, a familiar feeling that made his knees lock up after another six paces forward. A flash of images came back to him, the slick, sticky feeling of blood drying on his skin making goosebumps rise in his arms. He'd seen a ruined ear like that before. Elladan felt his throat tighten in fear. It couldn't be. It was a coincidence. He should keep walking. Imladris was safe.

Instead he slowly turned around, and the only thing he heard as his eyes met a set that was too, too familiar, that'd he'd seen too many times in the dark, when he was curled up on a flat pallet with a thin moth eaten blanket as protection, shivering and near delirious from the pain of a flayed back, was the crash and shatter of glass and porcelain as the tray slipped from numb fingers, frozen in place as he stared in blank horror. They were here.
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Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

08 Aug 2014, 21:54 #3

Elladan walked past her, and she allowed herself relief. Guilt followed hard on its heels, unbidden. She had not done enough for him. No matter the danger, no matter the hardship, she should have freed him herself, before they began to hurt him. If she'd done it while he was still strong enough to attempt to kill his guards, it would have worked. Instead, she'd allowed--

No. What was done was done, and agonizing would not reach into the past and change it. There was exactly nothing to be accomplished by letting the guilt swallow her. It was right, it was needful, but if it mastered her she'd never do anything. Actions mattered more than feelings. After all, she had spent nearly four thousand years feeling trapped and horrified and furious, and only now managed to escape.

He stopped. An ordinary visitor would have said something, perhaps inquired if he was alright or if he needed assistance. Halhigil only stopped walking herself so as not to run right into his back. (The accent wouldn't keep him from knowing her voice.) Should she run? No, that would only invite suspicion. Though she had long ago learned to expect the worst, the fact remained that he could have any number of reasons for stopping. Giving him cause to look at her would be very stupid.

Then he turned. And he recognized her. Shit. Thrice curse it, four times curse it, shit!

For a moment, she stayed frozen, heedless of the milk soaking her hem. Then, slowly so as not to spook him further (treating him like a frightened horse was not the right way to do this, probably, but she knew no other method) she raised her hands and stepped back, putting more distance between them. "I promise you," Halhigil said, "I am not here to hurt anyone. I swear it. I come bringing--" Not a gift; gift implied that nothing was expected in return, and while she would give what she had for nothing, she wanted Lord Elrond to at least listen to her terms "--information. For your lord father." She'd been attempting to sound gentle and nonthreatening. Instead, her tone was simply flat, though her voice was quiet. "Please." What she was asking him for, she didn't know. Please believe me, perhaps. Please don't be afraid, which was absurd in the highest degree. Please, don't attack, though he didn't yet look likely to. All of that. None of it.

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Joined: 13 Mar 2014, 18:37

11 Aug 2014, 03:12 #4

No one in Imladris had ever been stupid enough to divulge how Glorfindel had come to posses the tinctures he was to consume during Elladan's week of imprisonment. He'd always assumed it had come by messenger, a clueless deliveryman carrying a seemingly innocuous package along with others on his weekly runs. There had never truly been any doubt in his mind that Imladris was as safe as Lothlorien itself, the power of the great rings able to weed out the ill intentioned from the good. What had befallen Lindir when he'd ventured beyond its boundaries was proof enough of that. For a moment he just stood there, the foundation of stability he'd created based on his own faith in his father's ability to keep the city secure, and the countless nights he'd woken up convinced they were in his very room only to find they were just figments of his imagination leading him to think in her stillness that she was also that - a nightmare ahead of schedule. It would vanish like a broken spell the moment someone came drawn by the crash to pick up the shattered glass around his feet. Her face would become a stranger's once more.

He sucked in a sharp breath, a soft squeak of alarm escaping as his throat tightened and closed with fear. His dreams only moved when he was asleep. Suddenly the solid foundation he'd rebuilt of confidence and security in his father's house crumbled beneath him like so many dead leaves. Through the roar of blood in his ears he heard her voice, and it sound sharp and dull at the same time, grating across his nerves and sending a tremor through his limbs. He'd heard that voice in the cave, telling him to eat, just as the rest had, in the same empty tone then as now. Some of them had made promises too, the more colorful of them. 'Once we start taking limbs, we'll leave your cock for last, I promise,' one had said with a smile.

His first instinct was to bolt, to run as fast as he could as far as he could until he collapsed. Somehow he knew if he turned his back she'd strike, and he couldn't bring himself to move, transfixed by the horror of nightmare turned reality he was experiencing. It was the mention of his father that stirred him in the end. "Ada...?" he breathed, the sound that came from his throat was closer to a death rattle than any real word, the gut wrenching understanding that they were coming for his father now instead of him making his voice crack with pain as if he were already dead. He took a half-step back, intending to turn and run maybe, or else to get a better running start before attacking her with his bare hands; either way, his plans went up in smoke as his foot came down on the broken remains of the milk pitcher, the jagged shard of what was left of the base sliding straight through the butter-soft leather of his shoe and into the sole of his foot.

He let out a half-choked cry as the glass lodged between muscle and tendon, tipping and hitting the floor in a pathetic display (or lack) of elven grace. Elladan scrambled backward as panic took over, the sudden burst of pain switching all the receptors in his brain from fight to flight mode. He edged along the wall once he ran into it, but could go no further when he came against an indoor sculpture, excessed from the wall just enough to make it impossible to get around it without moving in her direction again. Trapped - or so he believed - Elladan wedged himself into the corner and screamed for his father - if he was going to die, his ada would at least get enough warning to run.
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Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

13 Aug 2014, 21:35 #5

Halhigil had not expected a good reaction, but neither had she expected this. She had no experience with terror such as this--or rather, she had great experience with it, the horrible unreasoning fear that what had happened once would happen again, but not with this reaction to it. The Moringothonna quashed any sign of trauma ruthlessly. Anyone who wanted to survive learned quickly to bury anything of the sort and pretend to wellness until it took. Elladan had no such limitations. And she had no idea what to do to make him calm down. Likely there was nothing she could do, since she was the cause of it.

He stumbled backwards and fell, though it took her a moment to realize why. Her first instinct was to reach for him, to aid him--she stopped herself halfway there, turning a fluid movement into an ungainly, abortive lurch. Courtesy of her blasted skirts, she nearly joined him on the floor. Quickly, she recovered her balance and backed away again. Touching him would make things exponentially worse. Even getting too close would frighten him more.

His screams would bring someone--Lord Elrond, the guards, perhaps even Lord Glorfindel. When they came, she could not be armed. He would likely panic further when he saw her weapons, but that couldn't be helped. "I have two knives, and now I am going to put them down." Slowly, with great care, Halhigil released one knife from its wrist sheathe, flipping it so that the blade pointed towards herself. She knelt and placed the weapon on the floor, hilt towards Elladan, then set its twin beside it. Rising, she stepped back further. There were now almost two yards between them.

"Listen to me, I beg of you," she said, though she did not sound much she was begging. "I am alone and now unarmed. I do not come in the service of the Moringothonna, and I will not harm you, or your father, or anyone within Imladris." It seemed to bear repeating, both because he didn't seem to have understood her the first time and because she had no idea what else to say.

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Joined: 03 Mar 2014, 08:21

17 Oct 2014, 08:07 #6

// Arrives at the party six months late with Starbucks >_> //

Things in Imladris carried on as they always had, provided one carefully ignored the cracks in her ruling family. With centuries of familiarity with the break in Lord Elrond’s family since the sailing of Celebrían, that came perhaps too easily for the people of the Last Homely House. Yet for Lord Elrond himself, this was something of a blessing. It meant that Elladan was not constantly under watch by any other than those he was used to consistently riding on him for something or other, providing for him a sense of normalcy in at least some facet of his life since he had been kidnapped. It also likely kept Elrohir from getting more antsy than he already was after so long in the relative proximity of his father; if the whole of Imladris carried on as it always did, it was easier to focus on a single point of annoyance as opposed to feeling oppressed by far too many.

As for the lord himself, beyond the occasional stare at his head it seemed as though all was the same for him as well. In truth, if he thought he could get away with it, Elrond would have kept shaving his pate down rather than deal with the frustration of itch as it came back in tiny nubs that reminded him almost painfully of the dotting that had taken over Elros’ face before forming into a full beard. Later it had been a maddening state of unruly blackness upon his head that could not be tamed down in any form, resulting in a rather hilarious overall look of constant scruffiness he could have gone without as well. In truth, Elrond had enjoyed the two summers with such painfully short hair - they had been the coolest he had ever known. The last two had been cool as well, with the nape of his neck still visible, but they had hinted at the coming heat he would soon be returning to. It truly was a pity short hair was so woefully out of fashion for Elves.

It was due to the odd length of his hair currently - too short to pull back into a proper tail, and too long to train without it flopping constantly into his face - that Elrond was once again lamenting this. Ultimately speaking, having no hair certainly lessened the amount of risk during a fight, but that was neither here nor there at the present moment as he ignored his opponent’s amused snicker as once again the lord’s unruly hair broke free of its pinning and flashed into his face, serving as a consistent distraction as he fielded blow after blow until Amathion yielded and told him to do something with his hair lest he fall dead - of laughter.

Rolling his eyes at the other, Elrond reached to pin the lock back and realized that the pin itself was missing. It must have shown on his face, the reluctance to even speak the problem, for Amathion burst into laughter once more. “Let us find the maiden’s pin shall we?” The Imladrim dared comment, causing Elrond to petulantly swat him upside the head as though he were little more than one of his own sons before setting to finding the errant pin. A bit of searching later and they found it, though there was little time to continue sparring by the time it was located. Snorting derisively, Elrond pinned his hair back and commented, “If I could keep fighting, you should have been able to as well. Valar forbid you ever fight a true shield maiden if hair is so distracting to you, Amathion.”

The guard laughed at that, “Ah, but a shield maiden ought to look like a maiden. It is far more entertaining when it is you.” Elrond couldn’t even argue that point, so he simply shook his head and followed Amathion inside. “Perhaps a different style would work better,” The other suggested, his tone thick with laughter despite the serious expression on his face. Elrond nodded with some amusement, “Perhaps. I shall have to surrender myself to the young ladies of Imladris and see what they can come up with.” Amathion didn’t even bother to hide his amusement with that, though his laugh cut off midway as a cry reached his ears.

Elrond’s blood ran cold as he recognized the voice immediately, his son’s abject terror filling him with a matching panic. “Amathion,” He started, but the guard needed no more encouragement to join him in a full sprint towards Elladan’s screams. Their strides were nearly matched, but not enough to disguise the fact that more than one person was rushing to the scene. Within moments, Elrond and Amathion burst around a corner, their hands on their swords. Seeing only a woman and Elladan in a corner, Elrond forsook the stranger for his son, leaving Amathion to deal with her as he swiftly knelt before the boy.

“Elladan!” Reaching out carefully, uncertain of where his son’s mind was, Elrond gently touched his cheek in the hopes of drawing him back to reality. “Ionin,” His focus was intent on Elladan, which made it all the more a thing of luck that Amathion was with him at the time and able to assess the rest of the situation. The blades on the floor, the distance of the woman to Elladan, the state of panic in the young prince himself. Not taking his hand from his sword, Amathion addressed the stranger herself, a suspicion already forming in his mind. “How does he know you?” The question was direct and clear; it was plain to Amathion that she was the trigger that drew forth Elladan’s panicked state of mind, but the fact she had unarmed herself and clearly moved back seemed to indicate she had not meant to do so. Which stood to mean that she was tied to the events of five years ago somehow, though by what measure he did not know.
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Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

18 Oct 2014, 22:26 #7

Halhigil spun as she heard people racing down the corridor towards them. Lord Elrond and someone else. Automatically, she assessed them both. Both warriors of skill. Both experienced, older than she. Individually, armed, dressed properly, she could have taken them. Weaponless and hobbled as she was now, they had a good chance of killing her. A good thing, then, that she wasn't going to attack them. The Lord Elrond went to his son (jealousy shot through her, brief and swiftly quashed, so much so that she barely noticed it). The other one kept his eyes on her. Smart. For her part, Halhigil kept her eyes on his sword. Then he spoke. Though she betrayed no outward sign, her blood chilled.

"I..." There was no good way to say this, no words that could frame it in a way that didn't damn her. Or at least, no words for her. She would have to let her actions speak for her, and hope that it was enough. It was a small hope to rest her life on--but then, she had known they might kill her when she came here, and come anyway. She had chosen this. "I was in the guard when he was taken. He saw my face. That is how he knows me. I am here--I am here to offer you information. Everything I know about the Moringothonna." Briefly, she considered adding this is not what I meant to happen, or perhaps I did not intend to frighten him, but did not,

It was irrelevant, after all, what she'd meant to do. There was only what she had done. And what would now happen because of it.

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Joined: 13 Mar 2014, 18:37

20 Oct 2014, 14:30 #8

He found himself unable to keep up the alarm, his throat closing up and cutting off his cries soon after they'd begun in favor of trying to force air into his lungs. It was hard to breath, and no matter how much air he sucked in it didn't seem to make a difference. His vision dimmed at the edges, and all he could see was her, and though her mouth was moving all he could hear was the rush of blood in his ears. But he remembered her voice, as he lay in the darkness on a thin mattress in the corner of a cell, pain radiating from his back and half a dozen other place, including his empty stomach. The sudden appearance of steel made him jerk backward and press himself even harder into the wall, a thin whine of fear escaping his lips.

There was no escape. There was no fighting. He'd tried half a dozen times in his cage; without a weapon he was already dead. His eyes followed the blades' movement, staring at them in a sort of dazed stupor when they were left on the floor amid the ruins of the breakfast tray he'd been taking to his father. The last mess he'd leave for him. Elladan swallowed and sucked down another painful breath, his hands pressing into the wall behind him. Confusion made the panic lessen just enough to hear the tail end of her words.

It had to be a trick. The words themselves and the tone in her voice sounded so fake he couldn't even consider believing them, but the knives… could he reach them before she did? Fear and the pain in his foot told him no. She was playing with him, just as she had that day in the cave. Almost sounding as if she were trying to help, but then they'd come. His head tipped back against the wall, feeling his teeth chattering in his skull as another wave of memory induced fear sprang up. If she wanted to kill him why couldn't she just do it? Why did they have to stretch it out?

Elladan's eyes widened to almost comic proportions as the sound of footsteps drifted toward him, and found to his terror that his father had come toward the danger rather than away. "No," the protest came out half a sob, "Run…" He reached out instinctively to ward him off, but found his fingers curling into the cloth of his tunic as he came near. "They're here. She's one of them," he pushed against his father's chest, trying to urge him to move, to get away, but the push turned into a pull as he slumped forward against him, shuddering in face of the inevitable and his own weakness. He couldn't bear to be left alone again. They were all going to die and it was his fault for not letting them go.
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Joined: 03 Mar 2014, 08:21

24 Nov 2014, 10:21 #9

Every instinct within him was howling with a protective war cry as Elrond all but crushed his son to him, his eyes at last leaving his boy long enough to check the corridor for other assailants. Pulling Elladan’s head against his chest and laying his hand over the other ear, Elrond filled his lungs and shouted as though he were once again upon the battlefields, calling the Imladrim - several of whom were already on their way thanks to Elladan’s screaming alarm.

Once the pounding march of footsteps was close, Elrond ran his hand through Elladan’s hair and hummed soothingly, his gaze cold and sharp upon the woman who had caused his son such distress. Amathion remained on guard, hand upon his sword and prepared to strike at the slightest provocation as she confessed her ties to the Moringothonna and her reason for being within the halls of Imladris. Elrond narrowed his eyes considerably, calculating this, but he could not and would not allow for bloodshed in these halls if it could be avoided.

With the Imladrim filling every possible exit unless she planned to jump to her death - which, Elrond conceded, she very well may from what experiences he had had with this group in the past - the Lord of Imladris made his orders from the floor wrapped around his son like a protective cat with as much ferocity as he was known to exhibit from horseback.

“Amathion, arrest her. Make sure she causes no trouble,” He ordered of the rest, before locking eyes with the woman herself and - for a moment - going still. Her face, her brown hair - she looked a great deal like a songbird that had fled the Moringothonna long ago and become an integral part of Imladris. Alenquelo had made it clear they would try and come for him - was this to be their ploy?

“I will speak with you in good time,” He stated flatly, his arms tight around Elladan, “If your intentions are what you claim them to be, then I am sure I will find you precisely where Amathion leaves you.” It was the most Elrond was willing to offer anyone in the Moringothonna presently, and was more than was deserved, certainly. He would need to speak with Glorfindel, and after Elladan was settled they would begin interviewing this woman. Elrond was too focused on Elladan’s wellbeing to think beyond that, to considering Alenquelo and how this matter ought to be addressed with their resident expert on these people, but his mind would register the questions in good time.

“Elladan,” Elrond turned away from the guards and the captive then, to focus solely on his son, “Can you hear me, ionen?” It may have seemed a foolish question to ask with his arms wrapped so tightly around the young elf, but Elrond knew it was entirely possible his son’s mind was far, far gone from the bright halls of Imladris, to someplace dark and terrible his father’s voice may not yet penetrate.
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