Building Ithilien

The Deadliest Weapon

Author's note: Okay, I originally only posted the first page of this chapter as a teaser... This is the new completed chapter (about 15 pages!) So if you start reading and think, Hey! I've already read this-yeah, you have! but KEEP READING!

A big thanks goes out to TheHobbitIvy and Mermaid Sushi for all their great feedback on the story! Your comments were definitely inspiration for this next chapter! ;) Love you guys! and Legolas wishes they had pretzel salad in Middle Earth...

Building Ithilien

Chapter 48: The Deadliest Weapon

On the fourth day of their journey back to Minas Tirith, Miredhel woke once again in the early hours of dawn to find herself wrapped in Legolas' protective embrace. Her head rested against his chest, and both his arms held her close, and for a minute, she was content to listen to his heartbeat, strong and steady, under her ear. Strong and steady. Legolas. And without thinking about it, a smile curved her lips. He was so warm.

She hesitantly lifted her head off his chest and met his eyes.

Legolas had watched her wake up. He had seen that unbidden smile light her face. He felt like rejoicing, like tearing out of the tent and shouting praises to the early dawn, the Valar, and anyone else who would listen. Miredhel had smiled for the first time since her brother's death. A small part of him still feared to keep her by his side, feared that she would suffer too dearly in her grief. But not this morning! She had slept peacefully the entire night, without any of the dark dreams, the nightmares that had been tormenting her from the previous nights.

And then to see her smile? To have her turn in his arms and look at him so? Legolas was completely undone. He did not shout any praises, however much he might have wished to, nor did he race across the prairie dawn; instead, he slid his hand lovingly up her back to her shoulder, and pulled her even closer.

"You are not cold this morning," the prince observed, with a strange catch in his voice. He ran his hand back down her arm in disbelief and brought her fingers to his lips. Her hand was warm in his, and Miredhel marveled at the truth of his words. Legolas was right. She did not feel chilled, as she should have for one suffering from Grief. Grief was, in a word, coldness—it was to feel the life stealing out of you in agonizing degrees.

"I don't feel cold right now. All I feel is your warmth," Miredhel confessed. "You give me strength, just being near you." She pulled her hand from his broad shoulder all the way down his perfectly toned arm until she laced her fingers with his.

"It has to be our bond, Miredhel," he answered softly. "I feel it keenly when you are near as well." He looked down for a moment, his long eyelashes fanning across his cheek.

"My heart yearns for you," he murmured, meeting her gaze, his eyes full of longing. "I have never felt the force of anything like it, not even the call of the sea—Miredhel, take my strength, my love, anything and all that I am—because I know that I must from you. I crave being near you, with you."

Legolas lifted her hand to his lips once more and kissed her fingertips, and Miredhel then covered his lips with her own. Softly she kissed him, thinking only of him, his scent, his touch, the feel of his hands across her skin. Everything else was forgotten.

Much later that morning, when the sun began to sneak over the brow of the farthest eastern hill, Legolas and Miredhel burrowed deeper under their blanket, both feeling quite reluctant to leave each other.

"I hear the men stirring outside," Legolas said gently and kissed her. "We should get ready."

Miredhel half-heartedly groaned, more loath to leave Legolas' warmth than anything, but she stretched and reached for her shirtwaist.

"We will be in Minas Tirith before sunset," Legolas reminded her. "I am most eager to see my sister, for I imagined she has been quite worried since we took our leave."

"Did your father give his permission for Celeril to go to Ithilien with us?" Miredhel asked sleepily, pushing an errant curl away from her eyes. She knew how much Legolas had wished for his younger sister to accompany them.

Legolas sat up and stretched. "Yes, but not without complaint," he answered mid-yawn and began quickly redressing the braids in his hair. "I am certain he would have never allowed it, save his current concern for my well-being. No doubt he intends her to keep him informed of all my doings."

"Would she?" Miredhel inquired, her surprise evident. She had befriended Legolas' sister during their flight to Minas Tirith to find aid for Farothin, and Miredhel would not have pegged Celeril for lackey to anyone, not even to her father the king. She always seemed much the independent spirit.

"No," Legolas laughed. "Celeril can snoop with the best of them, but a teller of tales she is not. Did I tell you that she had already figured out that we had spent the night together before we left Minas Tirith? She told me so when I stopped by to say goodbye before we left."

Miredhel colored slightly at the thought, and Legolas cheerily took note of this. Her complexion was better; she was feeling warmer—all good signs for her recovery. He could not wait to share the news with Aragorn and hear his opinion of it.

Both elves quickly finished dressing, and then Legolas spent a few minutes fussing over Miredhel's tangled curls, as elven lovers are apt to take great pleasure in doing. He took as much satisfaction in braiding her hair as the knowledge that he had contributed greatly to its current state of disarray earlier that morning.

Finally when they left their tent, hand in hand, it seemed that the entire Gondorian army was most eager to find their sup in Minas Tirith that evening. Aragorn hailed the elven couple from the front of the vanguard, their mounts held and ready. The sun was bright and peerless in the east, and the king of Gondor smiled to see his friend approaching with lady in hand, both sharing a quiet laugh at something Legolas had said.

The other elves were waiting there as well, including all of the ones who had stayed with the men and women at the fort at Calenfen, and many of them, Belegil and Sulindal included, exchanged smiles to see their lord and lady so at ease.

Miredhel noticed Lady Limaer basking in the admiration of some of the king's marshals and reflected that some things never do change, no matter the circumstances. For some reason the sight was a comfort to her, the familiarity of it, she supposed, and when Limaer gave Miredhel an eager little wave, Miredhel returned it with a knowing glance at Legolas and a grin.

Bright clear notes sounded across the plains, and the army began to move. The elves formed their own easy procession in a column next to the king's men. The dragon was dead, their foes vanquished, and both men and elves traveled lightly on this last day of their journey home. Miredhel and Legolas rode alongside Aragorn for the first part of that morning, the latter two discussing plans for the elven colony in Ithilien and then some grand design for a new garden for Arwen. Their plans for a hanging shrubbery, to which Miredhel had utterly no idea what that entailed, were interrupted by a wildly gesturing Lady Limaer, a few yards away. She pointed at her saddlebag and then flapped her arm like a flag.

"Ah," said Legolas with a knowing smile and he nodded his head in permission.

Only seconds later, a long elven banner, green and gold with a large leaf emblazoned upon it, fluttered in the breeze. On the very first day of their journey when the elves had just left Lothlorien, Limaer had proudly unfurled it for Prince Legolas, only to be instructed to put the banner away, as it might draw unwanted attention to their traveling party.

But with their enemies long gone and in the company of the army of Gondor, Legolas felt secure enough to let Limaer's banner fly, and he noticed for the first time that she had embroidered the name of Ithilien along the opposite side, with a message: Aa' menealle nauva calen ar' malta (May your ways be green and golden). Legolas almost groaned from the sad irony of Limaer's well-intended phrase, for their journey had offered very little of either. Then he turned to catch Miredhel peering at the message on Limaer's banner, and she rolled her eyes.

Legolas suppressed a chuckle. Green and golden.

If the journey had not been so, then at least he could wish it for Ithilien, for the colony he would build there, for the restoring of the woods, for goodwill between elves and men, and for the maiden riding beside him who turned and met his gaze. He wished it for her sake, that she would find peace there.

Legolas knew for himself, that if she were by his side, then Ithilien would be golden enough to please him.

The great city of Minas Tirith gleamed in the sun's dying light, and the soldiers of Gondor let out a mighty hurrah. Somehow, to see their home preserved, unscathed by dragon's fire, made right everything they had endured; the long journey, the hardship, and the sacrifice were sweetened by their victorious return to the pride of Gondor. Then the trumpets began to sound from the white watchtowers, and many who were on horseback broke into a spirited gallop, so eager were they to reunite with their loved ones.

The great gates opened to their king and warriors, and many overjoyed subjects crowded the streets to greet them and watch for their beloved's return.

As the bright horns trumpeted from all the towers, noisy, joyous, triumphant, Celeril, Legolas' young sister peered out the low windowsill from Farothin's room in the Houses of Healing, and then warmly brushed a strand of hair from the patient's cheek.

"Farothin…" she called softly. "Farothin, please wake up! King Aragorn has returned! I see Legolas and Miredhel, and all the other elves from Mirkwood and Lothlorien are with them! And all the people are shouting and singing, 'The great dragon is dead!' It is over, Farothin…"

But Farothin did not stir at these glad tidings, nor did he open his eyes, the very same that were once so swollen and bruised from his captor's cruelty. Instead, his long fair eyelashes fanned across his almost perfect cheeks that only showed traces now of the gashes that once marred them. Would she ever even know the color of his eyes?

Celeril knew how much he had endured, how lucky he was to still be alive—but she refused to believe that he might never wake up, as she had heard the healers debate in solemn tones down the hallway. For why indeed would the Valar let his body heal, if they did not mean for him to live?

She straightened his coverlet again, not that it needed straightening in the slightest, and then picked up his hand. The healers had told her that gentle contact would be soothing, even if he were unconscious.

"Farothin…" she tried again. "The dragon is dead. You are safe. Please wake up—please…"

She squeezed his hand. Glancing at the window, she saw the procession of the king and army was making its way up to the fourth level of the city. As much as she welcomed her brother's return, a small part of her knew she would miss the solitude of the last few days. Just her and Farothin.

"Please wake up," she whispered as she leaned over him and tentatively brushed her lips against his.

His eyelashes fluttered and then opened.

His eyes were gray.

"I knew it! Oh, they're gorgeous!" she crowed and then caught herself—not to mention caught the way Farothin stared at her, wide-eyed and confused. She noticed that she still held his hand, and carefully placed it down upon his bed.

She blushed and then added quietly, "I am Celeril, and do not worry—you are with friends."

"Celeril," Farothin croakily tried out her name. "Thank you—for staying with me." And he looked down the bed at his hand, the one that she usually held, and curled his fingers and then stretched them, turning his soft gray eyes to her.

He did not have to ask. She understood and picked his hand back up from the blanket. Warm. Alive.

And this time when she tenderly squeezed his hand?

He returned the gesture.

Thus Legolas found his sister situated, still holding Farothin's hand and speaking to him quietly, telling him mostly stories about herself, Legolas surmised, but Farothin did not seem to mind in the slightest.

"Celeril!" he announced sternly, leaning one hand on the doorframe, "I had at least thought my return would merit a delighted reunion from my own sister—but alas—no one was there to greet me…" Legolas frowned, but his eyes twinkled merrily.

"Legolas!" his sister exclaimed and bounced up to throw her arms around his neck. "Thank goodness you have returned." She held him tightly for a minute, as if she were afraid that he might disappear if she let go too soon, and when she finally let go, she met his gaze, and spoke in earnest. "I am sorry that I could not meet you at the city gates, Legolas. You know that I would have been there if I could."

"Yes, Celeril, I know," Legolas admitted gently and tousled her hair, a gesture he knew she despised, but he always did it anyway. "You were always the first to find me when I came home in Mirkwood; even from the War of the Ring, there you were, sitting on the steps, waiting up for me."

"I know…" Celeril beamed at Legolas, "but this time I could not, brother, for behold! Farothin has only just woken up!" and she gave the wounded elf beside her a look of pure adoration that Legolas did not fail to miss.

"Farothin? He's awake?" called another musical voice from the hallway, and Miredhel squeezed past Legolas in the doorframe to join Farothin's side.

"It is good to see you, Celeril," Miredhel warmly said, "and I am so glad that you were here to watch over Farothin." She then attempted to give Farothin a very severe look—"and you! You cannot know how…" Miredhel's eyes misted, and she just ended up embracing him instead. "You cannot know how much seeing you awake eases my heart."

Celeril concernedly studied Miredhel's reaction, noting her poor complexion. She did not look well at all. She shifted her eyes to Legolas, intending to berate him for not taking better care of her, but his appearance made her doubly pause. She supposed she had been so busy with Farothin, she had not noticed, but— "You look simply dreadful, Legolas. What happened?"

Legolas cleared his throat. "I was in a battle, Celeril. It happens." He had yet to see a mirror, but he knew what his face felt like, and the Valar only knew what it must appear to others. From that one night in the orcs' hospitality, he sported a healing gash on his upper cheek, now scabbed over—it only hurt when he smiled—not to mention the swelling and tenderness around his right eye. Miredhel had told him it was fading, which most likely meant the bruises were only a brackish green by now.

Celeril pursed her lips. "Those do NOT look like battle wounds. It looks like someone beat you senseless, like you were tor—" she checked herself suddenly with a fierce stab of self-loathing for her predilection toward what her father called 'incessant chatter.' She glanced back to see Farothin's hand drift to his own neck, which bore an eerily identical pattern of bruising to Legolas'.

Farothin's eyes squeezed shut, and he grimaced.

Horrified, Celeril quickly changed the subject. "Miredhel, Farothin, did you know that l like to sketch, make drawings?"

Farothin opened his eyes again, drawn out of whatever terrible place his memories had pulled him, and he tentatively reached for her hand.

"I would like to see them, my lady. I bet they're wonderful," the Lorien elf murmured, light entering his eyes again as he gazed at the princess.

Legolas shifted uneasily in the doorway. "Sketching seems too small a word to convey what Celeril's drawings are," he said generously.

"While you've been away, and I've been keeping Farothin company, I've been working on something, Legolas. A present, I had hoped it to be an engagement present, for you and Miredhel," Celeril added cheekily.

"It can be, Celeril. Your brother has asked me to marry him," Miredhel confessed. Across the room, she met Legolas' eyes, so intense and full of love; she thought she might just melt out of the chair beside Farothin's bed.

Celeril was ecstatic. She sprung from her chair to hug Legolas and then Miredhel and then Legolas again. "Oh, this is the best news!"

"Yes, congratulations to you both," Farothin added with a weak, but genuine smile.

"I'm so glad that I worked on your picture yesterday and finished it! I would love to show you what I've done." She reached behind her—then paused. "Oh, seems that I left my sketch book in my room." She sighed at the inconvenience, hating to leave Farothin's side.

Miredhel stood up. "I'll go get it for you, Celeril. Some fresh air would do me good," she offered, simultaneously pleased and surprised at this new development. When she and Legolas had left Farothin in Celeril's care in Minas Tirith, neither imagined this as the result! For it seemed that Legolas' sister was well on her way to falling in love with her patient.

Legolas crossed his arms by the door. "I believe I'll just stay here," he said, eyeing his sister.

"I have the same room as before, Miredhel. My sketchbook is in my bag on the ottoman," Celeril told her.

Miredhel paused by the door on her way out. "Are you sure you do not wish to accompany me, my prince?" she asked archly, hoping to give her friends some time alone.

Legolas only shook his head. "No, you go ahead and go. My sister and I have some catching up to do…"

After only briefly losing her way from the House of Healing to the guest quarters on the next level—all those corridors and stairs could be so confusing—Miredhel strode through Celeril's door and briefly wondered at the room's neat appearance. The maids must have already visited, she guessed. The last time she had stopped by Celeril's room when she had first arrived in Minas Tirith, she had to watch her step, for there had been innumerous articles scattered across the floor. She saw her friend's satchel, not on the ottoman as Celeril had said, but rather stuffed behind an armchair. She quickly snatched it up by its long strap and loosened the drawstrings at the top. Feeling impatient, Miredhel pulled out the top layer of clothing, various tunics in green and brown. Not a single dress! Miredhel tsk-ed to herself.

Then her breath stopped in her chest, smothered by the wild frenzy of her heartbeat.

Legolas' mithril arrows gleamed brightly from the bottom of the bag.

Her eyes blurred at what she saw there as a hoard of memories assaulted her—plunged her from one memory into another in a violent rapid succession with every beat of her heart… She saw Legolas receiving the mithril arrows in Lothlorien from Lady Galadriel, to the moment at the Great Bridge where she traced the silver runes of one before she took aim at the dragon and fell him from the sky. She saw Legolas' face drawn white as he realized the arrows had disappeared after his being held at the orcs' camp, and Aragorn's eyes shining with hope after he and Miredhel had found the one remaining arrow in the dust. And then—her heart seemed to slow to one painful squeeze in her chest—her brother Eledhel sinking to his knees before her amidst the dust and trampled grass of the battlefield. Eledhel, true and strong, her brother had fallen with three of those very same arrows piercing the chest plate of his elvish armor.

She reached with trembling hands into the satchel and pulled the arrows in question out from the bag, spreading them across the seat, her eyes clouding as she remembered everything that had come to pass. There was no doubt in her mind that these were Legolas' mithril arrows. She fingered the frayed embroidery across the hem of the satchel, and a tiny frisson of fear bloomed in her heart—orcs had never taken those arrows that fateful night when they had dragged Legolas to their camp. No, the arrows had been left in the dust, abandoned by force and then claimed by another.

Her ears pricked at footsteps down the hall, and Miredhel stiffened. She quickly shoved all the contents back into the sack, stowed it hastily under the chair, and then flew to the door.

Only to have it swing open to reveal Adrendil, Captain of the Mirkwood Guard, standing in the hallway, his sandy blonde hair swept gleaming against his dark tunic and his face bemused at the sight of Miredhel so flustered before him.

"Now here is a sight I have long desired," he jested, "the Lady Miredhel waiting for me in my chambers." His smile deepened his dimples, and Miredhel fought the urge to snarl at him. It was detestable that scum this vile should have dimples. It was just wrong.

Instead Miredhel flushed at his meaning. "Captain, you surprise me. I had thought this Celeril's room. I see that clearly I am mistaken."

Adrendil casually leaned up against the doorframe, blocking her way. "The princess's room is across the hall," he told her, appraising her carefully. He reached for her hand and covered it with his own. "And shall I see you tonight at King Aragorn's banquet? I hear rumor that our very own Prince is the guest of honor." He smiled warmly as though this thought gave him great pleasure.

He was all easy manner and charm, his handsome face, warm brown eyes, and those cursed dimples. And Miredhel might have believed him, had she not handled the evidence of his deceit only moments ago. She very deliberately withdrew her hand from his, loathing to touch the very same hands that must have brought her brother's death.

"Why, Miredhel, you are shaking," the captain observed. "Is everything all right? Is it the grief?"

Miredhel numbly nodded, so eager she was to remove herself from his presence.

"It is obvious you are unwell," he said his voice low. "Rest for a minute," he coaxed and gently guided her by the elbow to the armchair where she had just discovered his treachery.

He sank down onto the ottoman across from her and took her hands in his again. Miredhel looked down, willing herself to be calm in his presence.

"Have you given any more consideration to my offer to escort you to the Havens, my lady?" he asked tenderly. "I would not have you linger here among men and the spoilings of war to suffer needlessly in your grief." His eyes searched her own, and she looked away.

"I care too much," he whispered, hoping that she would choose him over that insufferable prince.

Miredhel bit her tongue, wishing against everything for Legolas to appear. That she was scared and angry beyond belief, she tried not to think about. She just wanted Legolas. When she was certain she could qualifiedly answer him without giving her true thoughts away, she met his sympathetic brown eyes with her own.

"I have decided to stay here with the Prince," Miredhel said carefully.

"But—but your grief, my lady!" Adrendil exclaimed. "Surely you will fade if you do not leave," he protested, disbelief written on his face. "And then what of the Prince?"

Miredhel only arched a delicate eyebrow at the captain, but inwardly marveled. Only now was she beginning to understand his motives.

"Captain," she said, "I will never cease to mourn what was taken from me so cruelly, but I will not fade. I have bonded in love with Legolas, and his strength is now my own. And," she added—she could not help herself—, "he is so very strong."

"I just think you are making a mistake," Adrendil countered, and his voice was ever pleasant, but a tic worked in his jaw.

"I really should be going," Miredhel announced. "I could not impose on you any further."

She rose from the chair, and as she did so, her eyes darted down to the satchel, only for a moment, but Adrendil heeded it. His eyes darkened, and he stood as well.

"No, I think you should stay," Adrendil insisted, and gone was the congeniality of only moments before.

He stepped forward, and Miredhel attempted to move past him to the door.

"You saw the arrows," he surmised.

Adrendil caught her by the upper arm with one very strong hand and pulled her toward him. Miredhel dared not struggle. Not yet. She knew now what he was capable of, and with him being a trained warrior, she could hardly overpower him. If there were any chance of escape, she would have to wait for it.

"You killed my brother," Miredhel leveled at him, the time for pretence over.

"I did," Adrendil said unapologetically. "I wish you had not been so…inquisitive, Miredhel. It does complicate matters."

Adrendil led her away from the door, still with the firm grip on her arm. Miredhel's mind raced, how long had she been away from the healers? Was there any chance that someone might come looking for her? Even if they did, she was not in Celeril's room! She was not even in the right place for them to find her. As independent as she always thought she was and wished to be, she knew those ideas had their own time and place. Right now, all she wanted was her prince.

But Adrendil interrupted her thoughts with a tug on her arm and a pleasant smile. "I cannot have you running back to tell Legolas about this, now can I? It is disappointing really. I had so hoped that your grief would cause you to leave the prince and go to the havens with me. I am sure I could have been very comforting, had that been the case." Adrendil said regretfully and shook his head.

"Why?" Miredhel asked brokenly.

"Legolas doesn't deserve you—he doesn't deserve half of what he's been given," Adrendil hissed. His composure was slipping, and Miredhel feared her time was running out.

"Legolas is your prince. Where is your loyalty, Adrendil?" Miredhel shot back.

Adrendil's eyes flashed, and his grip tightened painfully on Miredhel's arm.

"What of the prince's loyalty?

Where was it when he received the commendation of the king for bravery, when it was I who kept his home and people safe while he went off gallivanting on a glory-seeking quest?

I am sick of his self-entitled arrogance." Adrendil finished with a huff, and pulled Miredhel closer to him. "It's simple really—I hurt you, I hurt the prince. If he were to lose you now, and if you've bonded with him as you claim…" Adrendil grinned evilly. "The loss would destroy him."

"My disappearance will hardly go unnoticed, Adrendil," Miredhel pointed out, her mind reeling from the captain's bitter diatribe.

"Oh, I will think of something," Adrendil assured her. "Random attack in the city, robbery gone amiss, or—" his face brightened, "the lovely Miredhel, unable to cope with her grief, plunges to her death from the high city walls. What a tragedy…"

"Your jealousy has poisoned your mind!" Miredhel accused and jerked her arm as hard as she could to free herself. For a half moment, she was free.

Then faster than a snake striking its prey, Adrendil lunged at her. Miredhel darted past him, but not quickly enough, for his powerful archer's hands caught a fistful of her long hair, yanking her back into a murderous embrace.

He cupped one hand over her mouth, and the other arm snaked tightly around her chest and arms. Miredhel could not move, and she could not cry for help.

"There, there," Adrendil's velvet voice purred in her ear, "no use fighting me. I am much stronger than you."

Miredhel ground her heel into his instep, but Adrendil only tightened his hold.

"Oh, you are a little feisty one, aren't you? It's no wonder that the prince—ai!" the captain broke off.

For in that moment, Miredhel had slammed her head back against Adrendil's mouth while he whispered in her ear, and in that split second when the captain had loosened his hold, she was gone—out the door, only glancing back to see Adrendil five steps behind her, wiping the blood from his lower lip.

Miredhel raced down the corridor, furiously pumping her legs and pulling her full skirt up to her knees, lest she trip over it. She flew as though the full force of Sauron's fury might have chased her, and indeed, the elven warrior on her heels was no less deadly at that moment.

When she wheeled past a corner and saw a flight of stairs going down, she quickly turned and leapt down them. She ducked behind a column at the bottom, waiting, listening. She could no longer hear Adrendil. Had he raced past the stairs?

Just then a young man turned the corner, sporting the livery of the city.

"A guard of the citadel!" Miredhel gasped and rushed toward him, pulling him hard toward the wall.

"My lady!" he exclaimed, his face mottling red.

"You must help me," Miredhel pleaded. "I've been attacked—he's chasing me…"

Concern filled his young brown eyes. This was no ordinary lady—she was elf-kind and most wondrous fair. Certainly she was one of the king and queen's newly arrived visitors, and she was frightened, very much so.

"Roren, at your service, ma'am," he said and bowed. "You're in no danger now. Allow me to escort you back to your room, or—"

"No!" Miredhel's voice echoed down the hall. "I have to warn Legolas!"

"The elven prince?" the young guard asked, admiration filling his voice.

"Yes, but there's no time to explain. He is at the healer's!" Miredhel looked anxiously both ways and then took off down the hall.

Roren shrugged and then raced to catch up to her. Surely there was no harm in helping the lady, and he would dearly love to see one of the famed Nine Walkers up close.

They turned another corner, the guard having to sprint through the shadows of the long, dark hall just to keep up with Miredhel. She remembered that the next turn opened to the outside and a long courtyard that ran the length of the upper city walls and the king's residence.

They wheeled past the final turn.

"We'll soon be out of these halls," Roren told her excitedly. "And there will be more guards posted along the outer walls. You'll be well protected then."

Only Adrendil stepped forward from a shadowy corner into the pool of light at the end of the hall.

"Miredhel," he said and smiled warmly. "You had me worried. I've been looking everywhere for you!"

She skidded to a halt. "Adrendil," she hissed to the guard, Roren. "Do not believe anything he says. We must get around him."

Roren looked to Adrendil, who continued to smile, even though he surely must have heard what Lady Miredhel's desperate plea.

"I am Captain Adrendil of Prince Legolas Thranduillion's own company, and I mean the lady no harm, I assure you," Adrendil said smoothly, raising his hand like an oath. "She is very ill, and under my care. She left her room just now while she was supposed to be resting."

"I see no harm in the lady leaving her room," Roren replied.

"Please," Adrendil's voice dropped to a confidential whisper, and he inched forward. "Her brother died only days ago, and she was so distraught over his passing, we feared that she might do herself harm.

"Lies!" bristled Miredhel to Roren. "He killed my brother. I found proof in his room." She tugged on Roren's arm. "Please. We must tell Legolas!"

Roren eyed Adrendil again, and his hand drifted up to his scabbard.

But Miredhel's proclaimed villain remained calm, his manner easy. He merely shrugged his shoulders at her accusation, and with saddened eyes answered, "Her grief has poisoned her mind, young sir. She really should be resting, and I promise you that my prince will not look kindly to having his direct orders disobeyed."

Roren shifted uneasily beside Miredhel, studied her countenance and then looked back at Adrendil.

"I will not go with him," Miredhel told the guard in a low voice. She entreatingly held his gaze, and he gave her a quick, almost imperceptible nod.

"I do not see the harm in fulfilling the lady's request," he called to Adrendil. "Her claim is a most serious one, one I cannot in good conscience overlook."

Adrendil folded his arms, his reply haughty, "The prince will be most upset to see her up—and in her condition—"

"She was under your care, Captain," Roren pointed out. "If the prince should become angry, you have only yourself to blame." Roren looked to Miredhel once more and offered his arm.

"Thank you," she mouthed. "Be ready. I cannot think he will let me go so easily…" she whispered.

He nodded and kept his hand on his sword hilt as they approached the entrance to the courtyard where Adrendil waited.

"I believe I'll accompany you and the lady to see the prince," Adrendil announced brightly.

Miredhel stilled.

"That will not be necessary," Roren objected.

"She is supposed to be under my care. I will be going with you," Adrendil insisted.

Roren swept his arm forward. "Lead the way, then."

"Of course," agreed Adrendil, but his eyes darkened.

Miredhel only had seconds to shout a warning. "Roren, watch out!"

Adrendil spun and lunged, slashing an arc through the air with a long wicked knife that was met with a sharp clang by Roren's sword.

"Run, my lady!" the man gasped under the awesome force of Adrendil's knife bearing against his blade.

The young guard pushed off with his sword, stepping back, and then feinted with a fast follow through to Adrendil's left. The elf was too quick for him. He deflected Roren's blow and then knocked the sword from his hand.

Miredhel stopped in the courtyard, when she heard Roren's sword clatter to the ground. Turning, she saw Adrendil spin his knife in his hand as he stepped between the man and his blade.

"I regret having to do this, but you left me no choice," Adrendil said almost sadly as he moved in for the kill.

Miredhel dove into Adrendil from the side, pulling his arm down as he swung his knife across Roren's lithe frame. Sure, Roren had told her to run, and she probably should have, but she was not about to let Adrendil steal another innocent young life.

"You little fool," cursed Adrendil. He jerked his arm loose from her grip and sent her sprawling to the ground.

She had hit the stonework hard, but not so much that she failed to see her young protector crumple to the ground beside her.

"Roren," she gasped. She had not been quick or strong enough to save him; Adrendil's knife had still found its mark. Red blossomed across his proud citadel guard's tunic, and Miredhel knelt at his side. "I'm so sorry, Roren, so sorry."

Roren wrapped one arm tightly across his waist, and Miredhel thought it was as if he were trying to hold himself together, but then his hand came away with something from his belt, dark and wet. A short handled dagger. He slipped it into her palm quickly, and Miredhel looked up to see if Adrendil had seen.

The elf captain had not. He had leaned over to recover Roren's sword. Now with the long Gondorian blade in one hand and his curved elven knife in the other, all semblance of kindness had long fled his face, and his eyes gleamed darkly, cold and calculating.

"Can your grief handle this, Miredhel? Another young life stricken down before your eyes?" Adrendil cruelly inquired as he came for her.

Miredhel stood defiantly, though she kept the hand that gripped the dagger hidden behind the folds of her skirt.

Adrendil stopped an arm's length away from her. "A pity," he said, glancing down at Roren's silent figure behind her. He then ran his knife down the edge of the sword in a dreadful peal.

"This too will also be a pity," he added sadly. "Let's leave something really tragic for that perfect memory of the prince's—like wounding that lovely face of yours, perhaps."

"Perhaps not," Miredhel shot back and darted left just enough to barely miss Adrendil's first swing. There was absolutely no way she could hope to best him at blades, even if they were evenly armed, and especially not in a situation where she was armed with a tiny dagger, and he had an elven knife and a sword. She knew she had to make a tactical decision, and soon!

Miredhel took off running. She bore down with everything she had left, praying in the meantime that the Valar would grant her speed and safety. She pushed herself out of the dark hall and into the bright, sunny courtyard. "Help! Anyone!" she shouted into the wind whipping down from the city walls. Her feet flew across the grass, but in the next moment, Adrendil was there. He matched strides with her and then plowed into her with a sharp shove from his shoulder.

She slammed into the ground, so hard that she actually skidded across the turf, and then Adrendil was crouched above her, knife held aloft, with a cruel grin playing across his face.

"It is over, Miredhel," he said, and pressed the wet blade against the soft column of her throat…

Thank you for reading! Please review and post comments! I know some of you have very strong opinions about Adrendil...

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