Amren's Warning

When Merewen woke the fire had died down to simmering coals, and a beautiful voice sang out by a balcony veiled from the room by silver-blue curtains. Beyond the curtains a shadowed figure stood, leaning away from the room against a rail.

Dawn Is Empty, Again I Call

Mother Return Home

Together Empty, Alone I Wait

Come Back To Me, Before Day's End

Let The Wind Take Me

Let It Bring Me Home

Back Into Your Love And Arms.

Merewen peaked around the veil, there stood a striking man. He had shoulder length dark brown hair that would certainly be mistaken for black without sunlight's presence, and deep piercing green eyes.

"Mella, ae mella Elvine senis." Merewen whispered through the curtain, in the language of Men she had said "Beautiful, a beautiful Elven song."

The man stood slowly and turned to face Merewen, he was tall, lean, and his face was touched with unshaven stubble. "Ae mella talnas senis." He replied softly, saying in Men's language saying "A beautiful orphan's song."

"What is your name?" She asked softly, feeling a deep emotional attachment to this man, who sang the same song she had, with the same emotion that she had.

"I am Aranuir, now tell me if you will, what is your name?"

"My name is Merewen of Taranil." She replied all the while staring intently into Aranuir's piercing green eyes.

"Of Taranil you say, but I see you are not of Elven kind, so you must be one of the adopted daughters of Amren." He stated more than he had asked which Merewen could not help but notice.

"I am no daughter of Amren; I am more of a student, for I will always be my Father's daughter." She replied, because although she loved Amren dearly she would never be his daughter. That title she gave to her unknown parents, who had loved her enough to trust her to the Elves.

"I am sorry, my words were misguided, I only meant that Amren would see you as a daughter, and speaks of you as one." Aranuir replied graciously, going so far as to bow his head.

Merewen blushed, her pale cheeks were now taking on a pink glow. Aranuir rose again, this time taking steps towards Merewen, now they stood face to face. Aranuir reached out and took Merewen's left hand into his own, "If I may?" He asked, and Merewen remained frozen, believing him to be courting her.

He took a beautiful white lace cloth from his belt with his right hand and began wrapping it around Merewen's hand which suddenly stung. She flinched, realizing that he wasn't courting her but instead had noticed that her hand was injured.

"How did this happen to you?" He asked as he wrapped it more slowly.

"I did not even feel or notice it until now, but I suspect I sustained it when I was traveling through the forest." She replied, a sinking feeling in her stomach growing as she recalled what had made them so desperately race through the rough trails.

"Your face is pale, am I hurting you?" Aranuir asked as he tied a knot in the lace and gently let her hand go.

"No not at all, I have always been quite pale." Merewen replied nervously, glancing in amongst the trees below the balcony.

"Merewen!" Nienna called out, childishly peeking around the curtains. She smiled at Aranuir, before motioning Merewen to follow. "Amren has sent Elven maidens to prepare us for a feast this evening! We have slept most of the day away, come quickly they are waiting!"

Merewen turned to Aranuir, thanking him and bidding him goodbye in Elvish, and then turned her attention to Nienna. Together they met with five beautiful Elven maidens who led them to a dressing room, where they beautified every aspect of each sister.

Nienna wore a periwinkle gown of silk, the romantic gown had a small train, and long Elven sleeves. Around the neckline it was embroidered with golden leaves and flowers, and around her waist a golden belt was tied into intricate knots that fell to the floor.

Merewen wore an identical romantic Elven dress, hers was spring green, and around her neckline silver leaves and flowers were embroidered, her belt was also identical to Nienna's but instead it was silver. One of the Elves asked if she would like a new wrap for her hand, but Merewen politely declined, remembering Aranuir's kindness and was silently wondering if he would be attending the festivities.

Hand in hand they traveled to the great dining hall, and were welcomed by a crowd of at least fifty Elves, there for the first time in many years they saw Amren, whose looks hadn't changed with an exception to his silver hair which had grown much longer and was now tied back in several braids and knots.

They sat on either side of him, where he asked them of their health and journeys since they had been left in the village, his grey eyes glistened with wonder. Although they tried to hide their bitterness it still was apparent that they had a great distaste for the place where they had briefly lived.

Baelis, Borwin, and Tariel sat several chairs down from the sisters, but managed to exchange greetings and the occasional smile and nod. "One would think that you were Elven maidens!" Laughed Borwin, "Tonight your beauty shines much brighter than in the dim, harsh, and muddy forest. If you were only taller I would think you were both Elven maidens, for you are kind and fair!" Baelis added, and both twins patted each other on the back.

Nienna and Merewen both laughed and blushed, and Amren called for the feasting to begin. Many Elves came in, all carrying different dishes. Merewen feasted upon a delicious plate of fried potatoes, mushrooms (the very same that Nienna had gathered), and onions. Afterwards she ate a small bowl of an Elven version of leek soup, which carried hidden herbs and spices no man could gather or even hope to name.

Nienna ate a hardier platter, filled with spiced and fried potatoes, goose, vegetables, and toasted buns with butter. Afterwards she helped herself to a slice of apple pie which to her dismay, was put to shame by Mrs. Belunla's creations of pie making perfection.

"They are not the pies of Birkbank are they?" Amren laughed as Nienna bowed her head into further dismay.

"Not so long ago I was graced with the baking of a young and beautiful Mrs. Belunla, and I see now her touch has not faded with age." Amren teased, while Merewen began to imagine a young Mrs. Belunla. It felt impossible and soon she confounded herself and accepted its impossibility.

Beyond the laughs and happiness of the moment, Nienna couldn't help but wonder what had happened to Mirethil's people whom she fought so valiantly for, realizing that she had never felt so much compassion for a story's character, and quickly came to the conclusion that if Mokuruz was real, then Mirethil was too.

Suddenly Aranuir approached the seats where Merewen and Nienna sat, and although he nodded to Merewen and smiled she had an impending feeling of darkness. He passed them by and knelt beside Amren, before cupping his hand and whispering a short message to him. Aranuir then left without another word, leaving a now grimacing Amren behind.

"Ill tidings indeed, I am sorry to pester you with our affairs already, but tomorrow evening I would have you come to my study." Amren spoke quietly, and the sisters agreed without hesitation, both eager to hear the end of the story, and to tell Amren of Morkurz's minion who had followed them so closely.

The feast ended, and music and dancing began. Nienna and Merewen watched in awe at the grace of the Elven dancers.

Baelis and Borwin took turns dancing with a stunning Tariel; she wore a midnight green dress which had long elven sleeves. The dress made her brilliant green eyes shine, it elongated her body, and her skin seemed palest amongst all the dancing Elves. The dance itself was one where the Elves danced with their partner, occasionally almost touching them but never making contact.

When Tariel finished dancing Baelis and Borwin took Nienna and Merewen by their sides, pressuring them until they agreed to dance. "We do not know Elven dances!" Nienna hissed at Baelis, who dragged her to the dancers.

"Do you not know the dance of Kuabela's hall?" Borwin asked as he also dragged Merewen beside him.

"We knew it once, but no longer as that was many years ago!" Nienna retorted, becoming quite angry with Borwin and Baelis.

"Then you shall learn it once more!" Laughed the twins, speaking as one as they so often did.

Merewen was shaking and constantly tripping over her dress with anxiety, but Borwin always caught her. Soon the dance once again became familiar, and in this dance you were expected to be held close to your partner, which saved her from many stumbles and bruises.

Nienna never faltered, floating gracefully through the steps as if she had danced it the night before. Baelis was smiling, as he made his steps more intricate all the while attempting to have her falter.

The downfall was that she never once did.

Night began to age and the sisters became very tired, their feet ached terribly from dancing so heartily. Without so much as another word they sat away from and unnoticed by the dancing and singing crowd, curling into their dining chairs where they fell into deep slumbers.

When the party slowly diminished Baelis and Borwin wished to carry the sisters to the lounge room where they had slept comfortably the previous night, but Amren bid them not to, saying that they would only disturb their sleep.

During the darkest part of the night Aranuir entered the cold and empty halls, where he gently lifted Merewen from her chair and began carrying her to the warm longue room. He then returned for Nienna, whom he also carried without disturbing her sleep. After he had laid Nienna down gently he began to take his leave.

Suddenly he felt a tug on his sleeve and he stopped, turning to see a sleepy Merewen. "What ill tidings have you brought to Amren on such a brilliant night?" She whispered sleepily.

"None that you should trouble yourself over, it is an Elven matter which cannot affect you. Now sleep, for soon dawn shall arrive and you shall be woken." He replied, taking her hand in his and gently laying it down beside her.

"I cannot dream with wonder in my mind, so please answer this, why do you sing the Orphan's Lament?" She whispered, her eyes barely open.

"Na mera ae talnas." He whispered, in Men's tongue saying "I am an orphan."

Merewen smiled sadly, "So am I, and now I can rest easily, for I wonder no longer." She laid her head down and stretched out onto her side, facing the warm fire that burned brightly before closing her weary eyes.

"Mella Talnad Senenis." He whispered as he left the room, watching Nienna and Merewen's pale figures glisten in the glow of the flame, before setting off down the empty and dark halls once again.

In the morning Nienna awoke unsure of her surrounding, unable to recall how she had gotten to where she was. "Periwinkle suits you, it makes your skin appear softer and your eyes brighter." Baelis said, he was smiling boldly while leaning casually in the doorway.

"Did you bring me here?" She asked, feeling rather annoyed with herself, and how she could not remember the end of her night.

"That I did not, Borwin and I tried to but Amren forbade us, saying that we would only disturb you. Whoever did certainly managed not to wake you, seeing as you cannot remember who did." He replied.

Nienna sat up and stretched, her dress was wrinkleless, perfect forever like the Elves had crafted it. Baelis smiled and said "Would you care for some breakfast? The halls of Kuabela are filled once more with Elves, whom are already enjoying pastries and Maeoka melons."

Nienna turned and saw Merewen who still laid deep in sleep. Not daring to wake her she turned away and joined Baelis, who chivalrously escorted her to the hall as was Elven custom.

As she was filling her stomach with Elven delights of all sorts Merewen was sleeping soundly, but as the fire died down and morning became afternoon she stirred from her sleep. Unsure of what to do or where to go, she sat up and began to daydream.

"Amren wishes for us to enter his study tonight, will he tell us more of Mokuruz and Mirethil? And how am I to tell him that a dark servant of Mokuruz is following Nienna and I?" She asked herself repeatedly, but never once could she run through the conversation, and have it end in a logical way. He would ask why it was following them, and they would have no answer. Nothing good would come of it, unless Amren himself knew why it followed them.

"An ill heart often carries ill tiding; will you tell me what troubles you?" Borwin asked, suddenly appearing in the doorway.

"The creature that follows us, how do I tell Amren of it when I hardly understand what it is?" She replied.

"I cannot say much, I can only tell you is that you need not worry yourself. Amren is a wise Elf, he already knows of its presence. It has been hiding in wait ever since we have arrived, though I tried to shake it off our trail it was too good a tracker." Borwin said, his voice hinted with shame.

"Do not falter Borwin, you are a strong and wise Elf. Place blame where it belongs, you would have never needed to avoid it if Nienna and I had not traveled with you. I ask you to not blame yourself for my sake and my sister's."

Borwin smiled, "You are kind and fair, but I fear that with all your knowledge it can offer you little protection from the evil of our world. There is almost nothing that can." He turned suddenly and left.

Merewen remained where she sat for some time contemplating his words, "Has he just predicted my doom?" She asked herself several thousands of times, as she could find no other answer. Merewen sighed with confusion and frustration, feeling that she could not accept that her doom was looming in wait outside Taranil.

"Merewen, finally awake are we?" Nienna laughed as she entered the longue, "I had thought you were planning on sleeping till dinner!"

"I would not ignore Amren's request so easily, we still must meet him in his study tonight." She replied.

"That gives us all the more reason to prepare, the Elven maidens have prepared a private bath for each of us. We may go to them when we wish, although I believe now is better than later." Nienna laughed, pulling at a strand of her curled and tangled hair.

Merewen flew to the bath, ridding her hair of the tangled curls and waves it had developed from a long night and morning of sleep. The Elven baths were warm, and smelled very lightly of lilac, Merewen breathed in a deep sigh of relaxation. The usual bathing basin from the village was put to shame, as the Elven baths were crafted of an unnamed white stone which was pleasantly warm to the touch, and carved with intricate patterns of leaves, flowers, and trees. For a brief moment her hand stung, and then all the pain was washed away.

Nienna laid in her bath for some time, lulled into a drifting mind by the warm water, soft aroma, and the beauty of everything within Taranil's borders. Her long jet black hair fell into the water, and the dirt of everything the journey had stained her with was washed away. She sat for some time before forcing herself from the water, for she knew that she would lay there for many hours if given the opportunity.

Once they had both dressed into new and clean tunics, leggings, and soft boots, the sisters met once again in the longue room that had become their part time bedroom. Nienna and Merewen sat together talking for a time about nothing in particular, when Aranuir entered the room.

"Amren has asked me to take you to his study, but he insists that both of you are to now sleep in the guest rooms, for he feels uncouth having you sleep in a sitting room." He said.

"Then we shall if we can walk to our bedrooms at night, for the dancing was too much for us, and I am afraid that someone was kind enough to carry us to this room." Nienna replied, grinning at Aranuir.

Aranuir grinned back, unable to restrain himself.

"So it was you, I was so sure that Borwin and Baelis were responsible for it, but when they denied it I was so confused!" Nienna exclaimed.

Merewen blushed, for she never had the chance to tell Nienna that he had carried them, but Aranuir only smiled and bade them to follow him to Amren's study. As they walked through the great white carven halls Nienna found herself in awe, recalling the dullness of the village where they had lived.

Now in Taranil her world was once again filled with light and when she took a breath, she felt alive. The doors of Amren's study were carved from a very deep red wood, which Nienna could not place, and its carvings were of a great forest scene. It included Elven maidens, flowers, falling leaves, nesting animals, and in the clouds above the forest, a long haired she-elf whose long locks of hair became the trees and eventually their roots.

Upon entering the study they spotted Amren, who sat before a great fire in a large golden throne. All around them were books and parchment, scattered in an indiscernible order of colour, title, and age. "Welcome my girls, please come and sit with me!" He said, motioning towards a chaise longue.

The girls shared the couch, comfortably seated and eager to speak with Amren. Nienna occasionally felt herself unnerved by the beauty of everything around her, but only when she contrasted it to the dullness of their old village.

"Tonight we must discuss the great nature of the evil which has followed you, and what we all must do to protect you, and the people of Taranil." Amren said. Nienna and Merewen felt relieved and anxious, unsure if they would be sent away from their Elven home.

"This dark servant of Mokuruz is a great tracker and a cunning opponent, which few could hope to survive an encounter of. I do not know why it follows you, and I see few options that can protect both of you, and Taranil."

Merewen started to panic, beginning to feel uncertainty creep into her mind.

"Would you have us return to the village where we were left so many years ago?" She asked, her voice was hoarse, and she held back the tears which began to flow into her eyes.

"Certainly not," Merewen and Nienna sighed with relief. "I will have you study under us as you once did, but the lessons will not be as they were. I have already deliberated with other Elves, and they gave me great counsel along with their blessing. You are to train for five days in the field beyond Taranil, you will then spend five days studying many trades within the halls of Taranil. You will rest for three, and then repeat your studies. I do not know how long they will last, I can say only that it will continue until you two are ready for journeys beyond these walls."

Nienna was elated, her blood rushed through her veins and her heart hammered in her chest. She would live in Taranil as she had before. Merewen noticed Amren's pause and took it to her advantage.

"Did Tariel tell you of our wish to hear more of Mokuruz, and of the fate of Mirethil's people?" She asked, trying to keep her tone respective of Amren.

"Yes, a subject I have also discussed with those whom I have taken counsel. And we decided that you shall know, for you deserve to realize what follows you. But you shall not know now, tonight you shall rest, and tomorrow your training in the field begins." He replied.

"But what of the creature? Training in fields will leave us wide open to attack, be it beast or man!" Nienna cried out, recalling the dread of the forest as she had headed for camp in the days before reaching Taranil.

"This creature cannot follow you to the fields, it is trapped in wait on the southern side of Taranil. The fields are to the north, and it would be caught and overwhelmed by many Elven guards if it attempted to follow."

Merewen nodded, still feeling unsure of herself and what lay ahead. Amren saw the anxiety written across her face and reached out to her, placing his hand on her shoulder. "We will defeat this monstrosity, that I promise you. But only after it is gone will you be told what it once was, for if I told you now I fear you would not take it well."

"That is barely reassuring, for I cannot help but still fear this creature." Nienna scoffed, and Amren nodded, understanding her fears as best he could.

"Who shall be our mentor?" Merewen asked, for her curiosity was brimming at the idea of a new teacher.

"You will have more than one, and it has not officially been decided who, although you shall know by tomorrow." He added as Nienna's face was riddled with confusion. "I believe it is time for dinner now, and another great feast has been prepared for the maidens of Taranil insisted that you were starved, they believe you to be too thin and weary, so prepare for a hearty plate of food and warming drink."

Nienna and Merewen were satisfied with their meeting, and Amren quickly bade them to leave when Borwin and Baelis appeared in the doorway. "Pity is it not, Borwin? That such young maidens should be stuffed as the dwarves once were?" Baelis laughed.

"Indeed brother, for they will be plump and unable to drag themselves to lessons by morning! Perhaps you should consider rolling to the fields instead?" Borwin suggested, before ducking as Nienna went to hit him upside the head.

Baelis laughed at his brother momentarily, but in doing so took no notice of Merewen's forceful closed hand. Which connected quite loudly with his jaw, he fell back onto the floor stunned, but began suddenly laughing.

"You should choose to use that strength during our lessons, and not on your mentors!" He chuckled.

"You are our mentors?" Nienna asked, both astonished and grateful towards Amren, he had chosen mentors who would keep their interest.

"Only in combat, we will lead you to the field at sunrise so sleep while you can, 'poor starved beauties' as the maidens would say." Borwin sneered, he then turned to help his brother off the floor outside the doors of Amren's study.

Together the four set off to the dining halls of Kuabela, and soon found themselves seated at a great table where the feasting had already began before their arrival.

"You take too long my brothers, is escorting these girls really such a tremendous task?" Tariel teased from across the table.

"Actually, when you consider the casualty rates I'd see fit to deem it a 'quest'. A task is too simple compared to the damages these two can inflict." Borwin laughed, flinching away from Nienna who's glare was menacing.

Baelis chuckled as he massaged where Merewen had punched him, it was only red from his massaging and not swollen at all, giving no signs of bruising or that she had hit him at all. "Was my hit not thorough enough? For I will guarantee another shall come someday soon, and much more effort will be extended." Merewen said sarcastically.

Tariel clapped her hands together, "Maybe now someone shall teach them manners! You girls have my utmost encouragement and enthusiasm, teach them however you will see fit! The manner of their return matters not to I, or any Elves at this table."

Nienna laughed and said, "I will try with my greatest of efforts, but I cannot guarantee their repair of manners, they are a stubborn set."

Merewen began to indulge in the great Elven feast, once again helping herself to servings of leek soup, although she decided to also try the Goose, which was never served or cooked properly in the village. To her delight it was a tasteful explosion of light meat and stuffing, seasoned into its prime by herbs and spices the Elves had grown to love atop any platter.

Nienna helped herself to the soup that her twin loved so dearly, and to her surprise it was very filling and hardy despite its light ingredients. She then ate what she had the night before, but dared not disappoint herself with the Elven pies when she dreamed of Mrs. Belunla's baking.

Soon the feast had finished and the music had begun, but Nienna and Merewen dared not tire themselves in fear of what their morning beheld. They spectated and to their delight every dance was new to them, but regardless the Elven qualities remained consistent within each step.

Baelis and Borwin then approached the sisters, with almost sinister intentions written across their faces. "Would you share this dance with me milady?" Borwin asked Nienna, with a pathetic attempt at hiding his fiendish grin.

"Not tonight, we shall go to our new bed chambers if you would escort us, for we know not where they lie." Nienna replied sourly.

"So cruel, how you break my heart!" Borwin moped dramatically.

"Would you share this dance with me milady?" Baelis asked Merewen, going so far as to get down on one knee as he asked.

"My answer is the same as my sister's, tonight we will rest as you so kindly encouraged earlier." Merewen said, trying her best to not allow a smile to slip thanks to Baelis' dramatic gestures.

"I will show you to your room, only if you allow me this one dance!" Baelis snickered, but Nienna jumped to her feet and he flinched away, to his surprise she was extending her hand.

"Then I shall have it, and save Merewen the trouble of striking you again!" She said fiercely, with a determined fire ablaze in her eyes. Baelis took her hand without another word and together they floated onto the dance floor, twirling and leaping with lithe in their every step.

"May I have this dance milady?" A voice asked from beside Merewen, she turned to see Aranuir smiling down at her as she sat comfortably at the dining table. He wore a mid-thigh length blue tunic which had gores from the waist down and almost Elven like sleeves with black trousers. The tunic was another worldly colour similar to baby blue, but it shimmered so strangely in the lights of the festivities that Merewen felt pulled into another world.

Around his waist was a silver belt that shone brightly yet appeared leather like, and was shaped like a vine of winding leaves. Attached to it was a sheathed sword, the hilt was that of a two handed blade, and the scabbard consisted of wood wrapped in leather, quite bland compared to everything else he wore.

"Yes of course you may." Merewen said smiling until her cheeks glistened to a pale pink.

Aranuir took her hand in his and escorted her onto the dance floor, where they began the same dance she had done the night before with Borwin. The steps were slower tonight, and the music changed to a slow yet flowing dance of the same steps. Merewen felt as if her heart should be pounding, but it was slow and steady like the pace of the dance.

Aranuir never faltered, only looking deep into Merewen's violet eyes when she allowed it, but for almost all the while she carefully watched her feet. The dance was short lived, and when it ended Baelis agreed to show them to their chambers.

Quietly Aranuir bid Merewen goodnight, and left the hall without another word. While Baelis escorted Merewen, Borwin raced to take his opportunity to escort Nienna.

As they walked Borwin continued to joke with Nienna and almost drove her to the point of striking him, or at least attempting to again. Meanwhile Merewen and Baelis could not help themselves as they laughed at Nienna and Borwin, but along the way through the ever twisting halls they crossed paths with an ill looking Tariel.

She stopped before them, and Borwin and Baelis stepped forward with utter horror written on their faces. Her face was no longer palely illuminated with Elven beauty, in its stead was a grey-white tone and fear riddled in her dimmed eyes.

"Til winae?" Baelis gasped, absent mindedly believing Merewen and Nienna could not understand the language of men he had said, "It has begun?"

Tariel became flustered and her tears began to brim, she gasped suddenly, and without an answer ran off down the hall. Her dresses train and sleeves fluttered behind her, and both Nienna and Merewen saw that she was wearing a black velvet dress.

"Was that a mourning gown?" Nienna asked.

"It is not, now if you would please follow us to your chambers, as we wish to visit and comfort our sister." Baelis replied.

They walked hurriedly to their bed chambers, asking all the way if Tariel was hurt or anyone else that they knew, but to their disappointment they were thoroughly ignored and brushed aside by the twins. "Will you not tell us what has happened?" Merewen shouted as Borwin turned to follow Baelis down the hall, leaving them at the doors to their room.

"I would tell you if I knew." He replied, his voice was stained with fear and anger, and with that they had left. Merewen and Nienna thought it best to put the thoughts and fears behind them if only for the night, so together they slept in the largest, softest, and most beautiful bed they had ever had the pleasure of sleeping in.

The sheets and veil around the bed were silky lavender, and the room was carved of white wood as all of Taranil had been. That night they should have slept peacefully, without a hint of discomfort of awakening till dawn.

In her dreams Merewen saw a Lone Mountain that was encircled by black wisps of cloud, each swirl that passed her by on its way to the mountain felt as if it was made of the darkness that is evil's essence. A storm suddenly blew in, and her hair lashed at her face like a cracking whip. Lightning flashed, illuminating the base of the mountain where a shadowy figure stood brandishing a sword of true beauty.

Leaves blew in the increasingly violent winds, tearing her hair before her eyes. Suddenly she felt herself falling back unable to catch herself on the edge of the earth, and although the chasm that she had entered was black as night she knew that the bottom was near. With every pounding second she could feel fear consume her, and just as the end was meeting her she thought very suddenly to herself, without any conscious decision of doing so.

"I'm going to die."

Merewen felt herself thrown from the twisted world of her dreams back into the heavenly world of Taranil, but as she bolted upright Nienna did not stir. She could feel the cold sweat covering her body, and her hands were shaking uncontrollably. For the next hour she laid restless in the once peaceful bed, until she could lie no more.

Their room had a balcony that was veiled by white curtains which shimmered in the piercing bright of the moonlight. When Merewen stood on the balcony she stared off into the perfect night sky, questioning how her dreams could harbour such malice when she slept under such a beautiful veil of silver and blue. The moon was nigh full as it shone down cold ivory light onto Merewen, and the stars were silver slivers in the blanket of the night sky.

Wherever she wandered in or outside the room she could not escape the feeling of dread that overcame her during her dream, soon she found herself sitting on the floor atop the balcony, wrapping her arms around herself and rocking gently. Trying everything she could to calm herself, but her fears were only reawakened. Her hand began to sting, and when she held it before her eyes the faded cut was reopened and bleeding.

"Even Elven water will leave your wound frail, it has qualities beyond that of a regular scratch." Merewen stifled a scream with her good hand, knowing who had spoken to her but yet was still unable to stop the fear from overcoming her.

Aranuir was hanging from the edge of the balcony's rail, with only his arms that were wrapped along the columns keeping him from a long and deadly fall. His face was distorted with worry, "Come now, let me look and see what I can do."

He glided over the railing effortlessly and landed without a noise, then crouched down taking Merewen's hand in his own with the creases of worry growing upon his forehead. "This is a dark wound, and though Elven water can supress it I am afraid that only time may see it healed. But do not fear, the darkness in this wound has almost passed, now we are only to question how you came across it?"

Aranuir's eyes glistened green in the moonlight and his dark hair fell before his eyes, while Merewen sat in wonder. Completely lost in the memory of her short journey to Taranil, which was filled with fear and felt ages long and seemed to have taken place even longer ago.

"I fell countless times and cut myself on tree branches, rocks, and all assortments of sharp roots and thorns. I cannot say where this particular wound came from, only that the others have healed long ago." Merewen gasped in pain, as Aranuir began to wrap her hand with a new lace cloth.

"This wound is very dark, the Elven water cannot heal it." Aranuir sighed, before letting her hand go. He wrapped his hand around his left index finger, and then held out his closed fist for Merewen to catch the content.

She felt a cold metal land in the palm of her hand, and as she peeked into her cupped hand she gasped. There in her hand, glistening in the moonlight was a beautiful ring. It was a large silver ring, with a diamond shaped sapphire inlaid upon the band.

"It was given to me by my Mother, it was a gift to her from the Elves of Taranil. It has the power to supress evil from within the body, but in the hands of an Elf it is a powerful weapon capable of much more than suppression. Use it wisely for it is yours now Merewen, I need it not." Aranuir said, closing her hand with his own.

"Thank you Aranuir, I will not forget it." Merewen replied, smiling faintly as her hand continued to bleed. She quickly slipped the ring over her left thumb where it barely stayed without slipping. Almost immediately the pain began to fade.

"Your training begins in mere hours, you should rest. Baelis and Borwin will not hesitate to push you beyond your limits if you cannot keep up. Goodnight Merewen, until we meet again." Aranuir whispered, he flashed a brief smile and then was gone over the rail again.

"Goodnight." She whispered back, still curled on the balcony floor.