Chapter 21 – Separation
Aragorn stared at me as if he had never seen me before. My throat constricted; I was losing him and I didn't know if I could take it. Legolas tightened his arms around me, as if he could read my thoughts. I linked my fingers through his, leaning back against his chest. He knew all of this: he was the one that had saved me.
"Why did you never tell me this before?"
Aragorn sounded choked, his words coated with raw emotion.
"If I had told you…would you have honestly been able to see me in the same way?"
Aragorn stepped towards me, his steps faltering. He slowly reached out a hand, tracing my cheekbone. My lip trembled and I clamped down on it. He opened his mouth to say something, but Legolas and I whirled around to face towards Meduseld.
"He is here!"
I shot off at Legolas' words, Legolas and Aragorn close behind me. None of us needed to ask who 'He' was.
I raced through the hall, the ache in my chest getting stronger as I dodged the sleeping men. I veered down the corridor, heading straight to the rooms where I knew Merry and Pippin to be resting. I burst through the door, and almost keeled over in shock.
Pippin was writhing on the floor, Saruman's orb clutched between his hands. Merry looked on in horror as his best friend struggled to release it.
Merry screamed out, terror making his voice shrill. I bounded forward, scooping Merry up as Gandalf awoke.
"Help him! Someone help him!"
Merry twisted in my arms, reaching for Pippin. I hugged him tighter to me; letting him go would spell trouble.The other men in the room had woken up and cries of alarm filled the air as they took in the scene. Aragorn snatched the orb from Pippin, and immediately fell to his knees, his dark eyes wide and glassy, pain and naked fear radiating from him as he stared in to the orb. Legolas held him still, and the orb dropped from his hands, rolling directly to my feet.Gandalf threw a cloth over it, and I gently nudged it away from me.
Merry cried out at the trembling figure of his friend on the floor. I let him go and Merry ran over, dropping down by Pippin.
"Clear the room. Now!"
The men looked at me, and then to the scene behind me. Clearly deciding that following my orders was better than staying the room with this evil was the better order, they left the room, muttering amongst themselves. I quickly turned back to Pippin and kneeled by his head, stroking the sweaty hair from his face. Gandalf had pressed Pippin's hand in between his and was whispering words to him, a faint note of panic about him. Finally, Pippin's eyes fluttered open. Gandalf and I glanced at each other; this was more serious than we had thought.
"Gandalf! Forgive me!"
Pippin's voice was hoarse, and a single tear slipped down his cheek as he stared up at the wizard. I lightly kissed Pippin on the forehead and stood, touching Gandalf on the shoulder. He nodded, but didn't take his eyes off the Hobbit.
"Come. Let us leave them in peace."
I spoke to Legolas and Aragorn, who both turned and headed for the door. With a worried glance back at Pippin, I left, shutting the door quietly behind me.
"There was no lie in Pippin's eyes. A fool…but an honest fool he remains. He told Sauron nothing of Frodo and the Ring. We have been fortunate. Pippin saw in the Palintír a glimpse of the enemy's plan."
Gandalf was telling Théoden of last night's events in the main hall. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were also present, as were Merry and Pippin. I glanced at Pippin. Misery hung over him like a cloud, and he stared at the floor. He looked up quickly and caught my eye. I gave him an encouraging smile, and he gave me a weak one in return. I turned back to Gandalf as he began to speak again.
"Sauron moves to strike the city of Minas Tirith. His defeat at Helm's Deep showed our enemy one thing: He knows the heir of Elendil has come forth."
He looked at Aragorn, who shifted uncomfortably.
"It is nothing to be ashamed of, Aragorn. I think maybe it is time you stepped up to your responsibilities."
My voice was quiet, but it carried in the silent room. Aragorn looked at me, his expression unfathomable. He nodded slightly and dropped his gaze. Gandalf raised an eyebrow, but continued to speak.
"Men are not as weak as He supposed; there is courage still. Strength enough perhaps to challenge Him. Sauron fears this. He will not risk the peoples of Middle-Earth uniting under one banner. He will raze Minis Tirith to the ground before he sees a King return to the throne of Men. If the beacons of Gondor are lit, Rohan must be ready for war."
An ominous silence filled the room after Gandalf's speech. Théoden's eyebrows drew together, and his face twisted. I sensed a bitterness about him and I took a step forward, on edge. Sauron worked in many ways; I would not let him take Théoden again.
"Tell me…why should we ride the aid of those who did not come to ours?"
I stared at Théoden with badly concealed disgust, not believing what he had just said.
"They did not ride to our aid because you did not ask for it. Gondor would have answered, yet you made no move to call them."
Theoden opened his mouth, but closed it again. Legolas nudged my arm, and I looked at him. He tried to look stern, but I could see a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.
"You must come to Minis Tirith by another road. Follow the river and look to the Black Ships."
Gandalf had taken charge again, addressing Aragorn. He did not acknowledge Théoden at all; by the tense lines of his shoulders, he was angry.
"Understand this: things are now in motion that cannot be undone. I ride for Minis Tirith…and I won't be going alone."
Gandalf turned to look at Pippin, who jerked his head up in surprise. Merry said nothing, but a shadow passed across his face. He knew that he could not go with his best friend.
"Seraphina, you go with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli."
Gandalf spoke briefly to me, and started walking out the hall. I closed my eyes, and breathed in sharply. The decision I was about to make was foolish, reckless…and the right thing to do.
"Gandalf. I ride to Minis Tirith with you and Pippin."
I stood at the doors leading in to Theoden's home. The wind caressed my face, but for once, it did not bring me comfort.
Shocked silence had followed my statement, and then chaos had ensued. Aragorn and Legolas both started talking at once, confused and panicked. Gimli ranted on about the dangers of riding to Minis Tirith. Gandalf said nothing, but stared at me, a calculating expression on his face. Finally, he had nodded, and I knew it was decided.
I began to walk towards the stables, my head down. I entered the stables, the smell of horse and hay hitting me in the face. I made my way down to Fëa's stall. She greeted me with a soft wicker, and I stroked her nose. Light footsteps sounded behind me. I did not turn; I knew who it was.
"Seraphina. Please. Think this through!"
Naked panic sounded in his voice and I had to fight back the urge to throw myself in his arms.
"I have thought about this. It is the right thing to do. It is the best thing to do."
He spun me round, and cupped my face in his hands. His fingertips were calloused, and the skin rough, sending pleasant tingles down my spine. He slowly lowered his head, and his lips met mine, soft but demanding. I pushed him away, smiling a little.
"You cannot change my mind by seducing me, Legolas."
He closed his eyes briefly, and then opened them, holding my gaze.
"Why? Why must you leave? I see no reason why you must."
Gently, I stroked his face, memorising the sharp lines and contours.
"Do you forget that I spent time in Minis Tirith when it was called Minis Arnor? When you had to stay in the Greenwood with your father? I promised Elendil, High King of Arnor, that if it was ever threatened by the forces of Mordor, I would come to its aid."
A fleeting look of shock crossed his face, and his eyes hardened, anger making them flash.
"You risk your life to keep a promise made in a different age?"
Fury radiated from his voice, and he fairly hummed with tension.
"I do my utmost to not break my promises. You know that."
Legolas sighed in exasperation, and began to say something, but turned as Merry, Pippin and Gandalf entered the stables.
"How far is Minis Tirith?"
Pippin sounded curious, but fear made his words shaky.
"Three days ride as the Nazgûl flies…and you better hope we don't have one of those on our tails."
Gandalf's reply was sharp as he entered Shadowfax's stall. I caught his gaze, and we looked at each other for a moment. He gave me a pointed look - I had two minutes to say my goodbyes.
I released Fëa from her stall, and led her outside, Legolas stalking along beside me. We stopped by the gates of Rohan, where Aragorn and Gimli stood, by the bottom of the stairs leading up to the battlements. I said nothing for a moment, and the three friends looked at me. I knelt and gathered Gimli in to a hug.
"Don't get yourself injured, lassie. You may be a fierce warrior but you are not a god."
I nodded, and stood, turning to Aragorn. I embraced him tightly. Leaving was starting to look less and less like a good idea.
"Keep yourself safe, Seraphina. Return to us in one piece. And alive."
He kissed me once on each cheek and then on the forehead. I returned the actions, and he smiled, but his eyes were clouded with sadness. Finally, I turned to Legolas. He refused to look at me, staring at Fëa instead.
He did not turn his head as I whispered his name.
"Look at me. Please."
Stiffly, he turned his head, his eyes flashing with fury. I stepped forward, and leant up, pressing my lips against his. Almost as if it was a reflex, his arms wound round my waist, pulling me closer. My lips parted on their own, moulding to fit his. He pulled away, but kept his forehead against mine.
"Boe i 'waen. Gûr nîn níniatha n'i lû n'i a-govenitham."
Legolas did not reply but I knew what he would have said. He kissed me gently again, and pulled away, helping me mount Fëa. I looked down at him, and my heart clenched. Riding away from him was the hardest thing I had ever done.
"Run, Shadowfax! Show us the meaning of haste!"
Gandalf's voice echoed from the stables, and a second later, Shadowfax came galloping out of the stables, shooting past Fëa. She whinnied and pawed the ground. Merry shot past, running up the stairs, and I caught a glance of his tear-streaked face. I swallowed, and looked down at Legolas again. With a last teary smile, I spurred Fëa on, and we galloped forward, after Shadowfax. A sob escaped my mouth, and I clamped down on my lip. I could not fall apart. Now, I had to be focused.
He was pleased. His minions could feel it. Their Master was pleased. The She-elf that the Master so desired was following the path He wanted her to go down. She was separated from her beloved, and her friends. It would not be long before her grief got the better of her. She would turn back to the Master. Especially when she realised the consequences of the night of the celebration at Edoras.
Oh yes. The Master was pleased.
Boe i 'waen.Gûr nîn níniatha n'i lû n'i a-govenitham – I must go. My heart shall weep until it sees you again