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LOTR 2: Caran Annún: Red Sunset


This is a story of the struggle of heroes, of prophecies fulfilled, and of a love that loses the world, yet gains the heavens…

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Lómea Hendu: Shadowed Eyes

"Caran Annún" (Red Sunset)

Chapter One

Lómea Hendu (Shadowed Eyes)

It was late the next morning before Legolas again saw Mary. He had left Gimli to his long breakfast, to wander the turrets and gaze out at the mountains. As he stood there, with the breeze on his face and his eyes seeing far across the plains, he became aware of a presence beside him, a low and soft humming beginning, and he recognized the tune. It was the song sung to him the morning after the battle at Helm's Deep:

'Once there was a young boy

Of whom I shall tell

He was very fair with dark hair

I knew him very well…'

"Veduí, Héri Mary." He said. Greetings, Lady Mary.

"Veduí, Haryon Legolas." Greetings, Prince Legolas.

There was silence then, as each rested in the others company.

"Manen nalyë?" he asked. How are you?

"Im maer." She replied. I'm well.

Legolas did not speak then, his arms crossing his body to hug himself against a blast of cold wind. She leaned against the stone wall, the wind blowing her surcoat and split under-dress about her legs, revealing the grey leggings and tall, laced boots she wore. Legolas felt the old fears rise up yet again as he watched her, dark hair blowing against her fair face, and he dropped his gaze, leaning his hands against the wall.

"Ah-le?" And you?

For a moment he did not speak. "Where will you ride?" he finally asked quietly.

Dark eyes turned to him in surprise. "What do you mean?" she asked.

Legolas looked at her. "I go with Aragorn and Gimli, and the King. What of you? Will you stay behind, or will you ride forth?"

Mary glanced away, her eyes downcast, her brow furrowed in thought. "I will go where I am needed most." She finally said.

"And where is that?"

Mary looked at him, her brown eyes unusually dark. "Time will tell." She finally whispered.

Legolas felt surprise then, and something else– he could not tell if it was unease, or relief, for he realized that she was uncertain. For once, Mary did not know.

An hour past noon the entire company of Théoden's men were prepared to ride out. It was then that Aragorn arrived with the Dunedain, and announced that he would not travel with them, but rather go by a different route– through the Paths of the Dead. Mary waited in the company astride her horse, Ædelstan, her face a mask, for she had known this would happen. Yet she turned to catch Legolas' eye as he looked to her with a sharp gaze that darkened further with concern. He would not leave Aragorn's side, yet his worry for the young woman grew as it became clear that they would be separated, for while Aragorn would venture down those paths himself, and allow his companions and the Dunedain to follow, he would never let her.

As Théoden bid them farewell Legolas turned Arod and pushed his way through the mass of mounted men, Gimli complaining behind him as they were jostled on all sides. Yet Legolas called her name and continued until he reached Mary's side, pulling his horse beside hers.

"Nai?" he exclaimed, his eyes burning into hers as Arod danced beneath him. "Lothron hi n-vín úmarth, na thand-esse hi mé?" May it be? May this be our fate (bad), to part in this way?

Her eyes were hard with an inner fire, and some strange look of desperation. "É." Indeed.

"Baw! Avon léne le." No! I will not leave you.

"Le-uva! Ben le léne Aragorn ah-Gimli na fuin ah-nienor!" You will! Or you leave Aragorn and Gimli to darkness and sorrow!

Legolas glared at her, and she glared back, their horses dancing around each other as riders thundered past. As quickly as it came Legolas felt his anger melt away, replaced instead by an ache. He could not know it, but it shone in his eyes, and Mary saw it.

"I will see you again, my Prince." She swore, her voice suddenly gentle and her eyes softening. A wetness shone in them, though it did not fall. "One way or another."

Then she was gone, disappearing into the throng of riders that poured through the gates and away from the Keep. Legolas watched after, holding tightly onto her parting words, reminding himself of her prophecy to him days earlier– that he would see the end of the war, and he grasped and held onto the hope that they would again meet.

To Dunharrow did Aragorn and the Dunedain ride, fast and true, and Legolas and Gimli with them. There they rested for the night, in the care of the lady Éowyn, who waited there for her King to bid him farewell. Yet as Aragorn made his way into the quarters set aside for himself and his companions– where Legolas and Gimli already rested– she came to him. Upon learning of his destination she begged him not to go, but to ride with Théoden and go to battle, and when he would not she asked that she might go with him, proclaiming that she feared neither pain nor death.

"What do you fear, lady?" he asked.

Her face became taut. "A cage, to stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."

"And yet you counseled me not to adventure on the road I had chosen," he said in grim bemusement. "Because it is perilous?"

Her chin rose. "So one may counsel another." She said. "Yet I do not bid you flee from peril, but to ride to battle where your sword may win renown and victory. I would not see a thing that is high and excellent cast away needlessly!"

"Nor would I," Aragorn agreed. "Therefore I say to you, lady: Stay! For you have no errand to the South."

"Nether have those others who go with you." Éowyn said, her voice tight. "They go only because they would not be parted from you– because they love you!" So saying she turned and fled from him, disappearing into the night.

Aragorn sighed, lowering his head. A cool breeze stirred around his face, its touch gentle.

"It is strange, is it not?" a quiet voice said beside him. "One who desires to go with all her heart is denied the chance, while another refuses it when it is given her."

Aragorn looked up at his friend, and saw there an intense longing in the far-seeing eyes as they looked out into the endless night sky. "Of what do you speak, mellon nin?" Aragorn asked.

Legolas looked at him, and a ghost of a smile touched his lips. "I speak of our latest companion," he said. "One who has now left us."

Understanding dawned in Aragorn's mind. "She chose not to come, though you offered to her the chance."

"É." Legolas frowned. "Also did I offer to stay by her side, though it meant leaving yours."

Aragorn glanced at him in surprise.

"Yet even that she refused."

"You are frustrated by this." He observed.

"Indeed. Though I do not understand. Surely she is more safe in Théoden's company than if she rode our chosen path!"

"Indeed she is." Aragorn mused for a moment over his friend, bemused. Finally he laid a hand on the elf's arm. "Come, Legolas. The morrow's ride will be long and hard. Let us sleep while we are still able.

Mary traveled with the great company for three full days, and long days they were, the silence broken only a few times by a deep throated Rohan song. Ever she watched the small hobbit riding behind the king, her dark eyes keen. Then men gave her space, for she seemed strange to them, with her fair skin and split under-dress and surcoat, riding astride as a man. They watched her, wondering, for she had been ever in the company of the ranger and the elf and the dwarf, yet now she had left their side and rode silently among them. She spoke of the future, it was whispered, yet only in riddles and rhymes, never plainly; and she had the gift of healing. For that she was respected, as many of the men riding had been cared for by her hand, and many a man's life saved.

At last they reached Dunharrow, and learned of Aragorn's passing through on his way to the Paths of the Dead. Late that night, after Théoden had spoken long with Éomer and Éowyn, Mary wandered the darkened camp, till she found herself at Ædelstan's side. The horse whickered, snuffling her hair affectionately as she rubbed his strong neck.

"He loves you."

Mary turned, and saw the pale shield-maiden standing behind her, face lined with care and worry. Éowyn approached and laid a hand on the horse's side, stroking the dark coat.

Mary rubbed Ædelstan's nose, turning her attention back to her horse. "Do not despair, Éowyn." She said, choosing her words carefully. She felt the hard gaze of the grey-eyed woman as her words captured the lady's attention. "You were not born to a cage, and great deeds are never beyond recall, not even when one is old."

Éowyn stared at her, eyes wide, some of her worry forgotten. "How do you know this?" she whispered.

Mary looked at her, and smiled, Ædelstan sniffing her hair and whickering deep in his throat. "You have great courage," she said. "And great strength. Hold to that. And hold to hope. A time will come when your sword-arm will feel the bite of black teeth, and a wyrm shall seek to devour a golden heart."

Éowyn felt a clutch of fear, and for a moment the thought of battle did not seem so grand. Yet Mary's words confused her, for as it was said in the rumors, she had spoken in a riddle. The lady frowned. "I do not understand."

Mary smiled slightly, seeming almost to smile at some dark irony, and then she turned, and would say no more. Éowyn opened her mouth to ask once more, then paused, realizing that if Mary had meant to speak plain, she would have. Yet she did not. So it was up to Éowyn to find the meaning, if she wished to understand. Contemplating this, Éowyn left, and retired to her own bed.

Mary stayed with Ædelstan, rubbing him and speaking to him with quiet words. Soon after the lady of Rohan had left there was the soft patter of small feet, and Merry appeared at her side. He looked up at her, and at the horse for a moment.

"Can't you sleep?" he asked.

Mary looked down, and offered a reassuring smile when she saw the sadness in his face. "Not yet." She said.

"Me neither." Merry laid a hand on the horse's side, and left it there, letting the warmth of the great beast soak in and travel through his arm. "I have been released from the King's service." He said. "I am not to go along."

She was silent.

"But I want to go!" The hobbit looked up with pleading eyes. "I don't want to be left behind! Not when all my friends have gone! Please, Mary, isn't there anything you can do? You're a prophetess! You could speak to Théoden."

She smiled. "No, I couldn't, Merry. He would not heed my words."

Merry frowned in frustration. "But what am I to do?"

"You have high spirits, Merry." She said, turning her dark eyes on him. "And a brave heart." The hobbit looked unconvinced. "There is a saying where I come from," she continued. "'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.'"

"But I have already taken thousands of steps!" Merry exclaimed.

"And so you shall take a thousand more. And a thousand more. And a thousand more still." Her eyes glowed with warm reassurance. "Do not worry, small friend. Your journey does not end here."

Merry gazed at her a moment longer, then he sighed, and looked to the horse, and nodded. "I suppose that will have to do." He said, looking calmer. "You don't say things that aren't true, anyways. So I suppose I should take comfort in that." He smiled, and scratched the horse's shoulder and leg. "Well, I'm off to bed." He said, and looked up at her. "Goodnight, Mary."

"Goodnight, Merry."

As he walked away, she heard him talking to himself, his voice strong and determined. "I won't be left behind! I won't be left, I won't!"

The next day as the company headed out, a small young soldier who called himself Dernhelm swept Merry onto his horse, and hid him in his cloak. And as the soldier rode hard and fast with the King's company, he saw another young rider pass him, clad all in grey. And as the rider passed he turned his head, and dark eyes pierced into the young soldier, and seemed to crinkle at the corners with a knowing smile, looking first at Dernhelm, then at Merry. Then he was gone. Dernhelm wondered at it, his neck prickling, and Merry wondered at it as well, for he felt that he knew the young rider, though he did not know why.

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