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Heart of a Warden

Chapter 13: Chapter 13

by aimless

True to his word to Haldir Rúmil did his best to come to terms with his feelings about Dara. He visited her every day during his convalescence and helped her to put up with the rudeness of the senior healer. He had also done some inquiring as to why Ervadhor held Dara in such disdain, what he had found out had surprised him. The healer had once pledged his troth to Dara’s mother and had been politely and firmly rebuked. Ervadhor made no secret of his dislike for Dara’s father and his feelings that Dara’s mother had married beneath her. Since her parents had not long ago sailed for Valinor it was easy to see why he treated Dara as he did. She was a constant reminder of what he had never achieved. It did not excuse his rude behavior but made it easier to understand.

The two wardens had reestablished their companionable camaraderie and to Dara it was as if nothing had changed. For Rúmil he hid his feelings deep and only when by himself did he let his longing for her come to the surface. It was Rúmil who helped Dara keep her sanity and kept her from treating the healers who tended her too disdainfully. To put it mildly she was a very bad tempered patient.

Within a week Dara was getting out of bed for short periods of time under the watchful eye of Rúmil and the other healers. She chafed under the constant supervision but until she regained her full vigor they did not want to chance the return of any infection or fever. She had so overtaxed her system that even now her natural healing ability was somewhat weakened. Rúmil had also, with his façade of friendship to Dara, managed to convince Haldir he was fit for border duty again. So his brother assigned him courier duty till he was positive of Rúmil’s complete recovery. He spent most of his free time with Dara or Orophin and one afternoon both brothers carried Dara to a secluded little forest glade for an impromptu picnic. Even though she had protested being carried about like a sack of grain she had enjoyed the outing and it had brought a smile to her face, something the young warden had not seen grace her features for some time. After that Rúmil and Orophin made it a point to include Dara in many outings as she regained her strength. She insisted in pushing herself in the hope that it would hasten her recovery and she never lost faith that she would recover. It was hard to ignore the pitying glances from the healers though and some doubt began to creep in as the weeks passed.

Ervadhor had at last declared Dara healthy enough to not warrant constant monitoring. She had healed as much as she was able and her body had recovered from the debilitating poison and subsequent fever. Now it was just a matter of time to see how much of her mobility she regained. Dara was encouraged to use her leg as much as possible. The injury slowly improved and eventually she did not need a walking stick any more. She did, however, walk with a pronounced limp and either did not see the sadness in the eyes of her former companions or chose to ignore it. Even at the best of times Dara could not seem to manage all of the steps that led to her talan so she chose to stay in one of the larger convalescent rooms in the healing hall. It was situated at ground level and even though she missed her tree top home her new dwelling was much more practical. Privately Dara hated it with a passion.

Dara pushed herself to exhaustion more often than not and took no heed of Rúmil; Orophin’s or even Haldir’s pleas for her to slow down and give herself the time to slowly get back what she had lost. Her skill with a bow returned quickly once she was up to full strength and not weak from her long illness. Dara was tired of being coddled and pushed from the practice ranges after only a few hours. She could only do so much while practicing her sword work against inanimate targets and needed a live opponent to truly test her skill. It was frustrating that no one would take her challenge. It had been months since she had been injured and everyone still treated her as if she would break. So one afternoon she sought Rúmil out and goaded him into sparring with her.

Dara picked up a practice blade and took up a stance opposite of Rúmil. They saluted each other and the complex dance began.

“Are you sure you are ready to do this? You have not been long released from your sick bed.”

Dara ignored the fierce throbbing in her leg as she put her full weight on it.

“Just be quiet and defend yourself.”

They circled each other carefully. Rúmil watched Dara intently and brought his sword in low trying to get in under her guard. She easily deflected his attempt. Before he could get his sword back up she lunged forward and scored a hit on his upper right arm. He briefly rubbed the stinging welt that the blunted blade had raised on his arm. He noticed that her stance was not balanced and she rested most of her weight on her uninjured leg. I should never have agreed to this, he thought as she attacked once more. Without any effort he brushed aside her attack and ignored a chance to strike a blow as she had left herself wide open. He pressed forward forcing her to retreat out of the reach of his blade. She ducked to get under a sweeping slice and felt her leg crumple under her weight. Unable to regain her balance she landed on her side in the dirt.

He reached out a hand to help her up. She grasped his hand and he pulled Dara to her feet. He waited in the ready position till she regained her balance. Sweat dotted her forehead and he could see her jaw was clenched tight.

“Dara I do not think this is a good idea, why don’t we quit and go back to the healers.”

She looked at him, her eyes blazing.

“I am fine, lets do this. If you do not spar with me I will find someone else who will.”

“Very well but I still do not think it is a good idea.”

With little warning she lunged for him, he had no trouble bringing his sword to bear and deflected her rather clumsy attack. Her balance was way off, why could she not see this? He wondered as he took up a purely defensive posture. He refused to press his advantage and merely kept moving around parrying all of her attacks.

Dara growled in frustration.

“Will you attack I will not break! Fight me!”

“As you wish.” He looked at her pale, sweat-streaked face and decided to end this fiasco.

Rúmil went on the attack this time and within moments Dara was once more on the ground with his sword tip at her throat. She angrily batted his sword aside with her own and struggled to get to her feet. He saw as she stood that she now held her injured leg off of the ground a bit with just her toes just touching the dirt. He stepped back and lowered his blade.

“You have had enough, this has gone on too long. I will not keep torturing you like this. You can barely stand.”

With a frustrated cry she brought the practice blade up in an overhand swing. Rúmil quickly brought his blade up and stopped it before it came anywhere near him. She slid her sword along his with a metallic hiss and readied another strike. With a subtle twist of his wrist he neatly disarmed her and sent her blade winging to the ground a short distance away. She broke away from him and limped to retrieve her sword. Once again her traitorous leg gave way as she leaned over and she fell to the ground. She sat up and stretched her fiercely throbbing leg out in front of her. She panted with the effort not to cry out as the pain in the months healed injury brutally flared up.

Rúmil felt her pain as if it were his own. He crouched down next to her and tentatively touched her shoulder. She pulled away from him and buried her face in her hands and bowed her head. His heart ached as he watched her fall apart. Her shoulders began to shake and a tear filled voice came from behind her hands.

“Please go away…. Leave me. I wish to be alone.”

Rúmil wanted so badly to take her in his arms

“Why? Why do you wish me to leave? I thought I was your friend.”

“I do not want you to see me like this. I do not want to be weak, to be afraid. I am so tired, tired of hurting. Tired of being scared. Please just go.”

She hid her face from him and slumped to the ground. Seeing her like this was more than he could take, he sat beside her and gathered her into his arms. She stiffened in his embrace and tried to pull away. When he did not let go she angrily pushed at him and hit his arms with her fists.

“Let go! Leave me! I do not want your pity! I do not want anyone’s pity!”

“Cease your struggling or you will do yourself harm, I will not let you go. You are my dearest friend. I do not pity you, I just want to help.”

She looked up at him with tears streaming down her face. His look of kind concern was her undoing. She lowered her head once more, turning away from the intensity of his blue-gray eyes.

“I hear what the healers whisper when they think I am asleep. That I will never heal properly, that I will always be weak in my injured leg. Why would you want to be friends with a cripple? I’ll never be a Warden again.”

There she had done it; she had voiced her worst fears. All of the pain she had held in for so long broke free and she began to sob, horrendous gut wrenching sobs that shook her whole body. Rúmil did the only thing he could, he held her while she vented her pain.

Her tears seemed to come from the depths of her very soul; she trembled in his arms and cried out all of her fears. Rúmil rested his cheek atop her head and rocked her back and forth. He did not offer any consoling words for he knew they would not help. Dara just needed to be allowed to grieve for what she had lost. He too shed tears, tears for the pain she was in and tears for the helplessness he felt as he watched her fall apart. Dara cried herself into exhaustion, and utterly spent she went limp in his arms. She needed to rest and she needed some peace away from prying eyes.

Rúmil stood and carried her away from the training grounds to the one place where she would not be questioned or prodded by healers. His Talan. Dara did not readily show her emotions and she needed a place to be allowed pull herself together. His talan was somewhat isolated so he had no trouble getting there without being stopped by the curious. She was totally quiet in his arms and only the occasional sniffle let him know she was not asleep. He climbed the stairs to his dwelling and pushed open the door. He carried her back to his bedroom and gently placed her on the bed. She curled on her side facing him. Her pale blue eyes were red rimmed and unshed tears sparkled on her lashes. She spoke in a very small tired voice.

“Why did you bring me here?”

He reached out and stroked her damp hair off of her forehead and sat beside her on the bed.

“I thought you might like some privacy away from prying eyes. I wanted you to get some undisturbed rest. I know how the healers’ endless questions annoy you. I did not feel you were up to the tongue lashing you would get when they found out you had been sparring.”

She reached out and grasped his hand.

“Thank you.” She simply said and started to drift off to sleep.

He waited a few moments and started to pull her hand from his. He needed to inform the healers of her whereabouts before they sent out someone to search for her. Dara’s eyes regained awareness as he removed his hand. She looked at him and asked plaintively.

“Please stay with me? I do not wish to be alone.”

He smiled at her and once more took her hand. Right before she fell deeply asleep she murmured.

“Don’t leave me.” Reverie claimed her and her hand went limp in his.

He bent down and kissed her forehead.

“I won’t leave you Dara. I will never leave you. I love you….”

Rúmil settled on the edge of the bed; his hand tenderly stroking her cheek content to watch her sleep. His fingertip traced the line of her strong jaw and touched the dimple in her chin. The pad of his thumb gently stroked the fullness of her lower lip. He could feel her warm breath on his hand and he longed to taste her slightly parted lips. He almost gave in to the temptation to place a light kiss on her warm mouth but did not for fear of her waking. He wished he could tell her his true feelings and not just whisper them to her as she slept. He sighed and grasped her limp hand in his as he made himself comfortable against the headboard of the bed and waited for her to awaken.

It was sometime later when he heard someone approach his Talan. Who ever it was did not even bother knocking but came right inside. The loud voice of his brother Orophin called out from the other room.

“Rúmil are you here? Do you know where Dara is because……”

He stopped when he got to the bedroom and halted in mid-sentence as his brother frantically shushed him.

“Phin will you be quiet she just got to sleep!”

“What is she doing here asleep in your bed? Did you finally tell her? So overcome was she that it put her to sleep? I had more faith in you brother.”

Rúmil glared at his brother’s callous statement.

“No I did not tell her! Can’t you see she is exhausted? She realized just this afternoon that the chances of her fully recovering are slim. It destroyed her Phin I watched her fall apart. I think it was the hardest thing I have ever had to witness. I do not know what to do.”

Orophin looked at the abject misery in his brother’s eyes and instantly regretted his teasing comments. He approached Rúmil and hugged him tight.

“I am sorry little brother, I had no idea. I wish I knew what to tell you. It makes me hurt as well. To Dara being a Warden was her whole life, to have that taken away… I cannot even comprehend what she must be going through. I fear my news will not help any. Haldir was looking for her; I think he was going to tell Dara that he was intending to take her permanently off of the duty roster.”

“He cannot! It was the only hope she had left. The fact that her name was still listed among the wardens made her feel as if she might get better. This will crush what little spirit she has left. Please talk to him, ask him to wait.”

“I will ask, I am sure once Haldir knows the situation he will let her name remain on the roster.”

“Thank you, it means a lot to me. She needs that one shred of hope.”

“I must go, I will tell the healers that Dara is here with you. They were beginning to look for her when I left. I will also talk to Haldir. Try and get some rest yourself, you look worn out.”

Orophin placed a light kiss on the crown of his brother’s head and left the room. Rúmil smiled and thanked the Valar that he had his two brothers to love and support him. Dara was all alone here. She had no siblings and her parents had sailed to Valinor just a decade ago. They had sailed because her mother had become weary She had sought solace in the undying lands and Dara’s father, who could not bear to be parted from his wife, had sailed with her. Dara had been extremely saddened by their choice but knew it had been for the best. She would not have wanted her mother to pine away.

She had coped by immersing herself in her work, taking extra patrols and helping to train recruits. Haldir always placed the most egotistical of these recruits under Dara’s tutelage. She had the ability to train even the most stubborn and sometimes all it took was for her to thoroughly defeat them in the sparring ring. Thus proving that their surmises that she did not belong in the wardens or as a teacher were totally false. Rúmil smiled as he thought of several such matches where a surprised recruit found themselves flat on their back with her sword at their throat when they thought they would have an easy match fighting an Elleth. Dara was also an uncanny hand to hand fighter. She was able to size up her opponents weaknesses and use them against her sparring partner. It saddened him greatly to realize that those days were over. Oh she could still teach Rúmil was sure of that, but he knew Dara would not want to instruct those in what she could no longer fully do herself.

Rúmil took some small comfort in lying beside Dara while she rested. He had no idea what he would say to her when she awoke or what state of mind she would be in. But for now she slept peacefully in his arms. What a mess his life had become and he truly did not know how to fix it. He let his mind drift and revisited the many pleasant memories that he and Dara shared during their long friendship. So he did not realize at first that she was now awake till she tried to pull away and sit up.

At first Dara did not recognize where she was or who was holding her and she tried to scoot away. The arms that held her did not let go and the incidents of that afternoon returned in a rush. She was mortally embarrassed to have broken down in front of Rúmil and heartsick at the acknowledgement that her injuries would most likely prevent her from returning to the borders. She felt trapped and wanted to be alone.

Reluctantly he opened his arms and allowed her to put some distance between them. Once she had moved to the far side of the bed she looked at the elf that had been her friend for generations. She did not feel comfortable around him anymore and she did not know why.

Rúmil noted the sadness and confusion so evident on her face and wanted to pull her back in his arms. He knew it was a futile wish as she would not permit it in her current state of mind. “How are you feeling Dara?”

“Can you please help me back to my room?” She hated to ask for the help but the little sparring match had stiffened her leg up to the point she was not sure it would support her weight.

“I though perhaps we could talk, I know you are upset and maybe there is something I can do to help.”

“There is nothing you can do. I just want to be alone for a while.” She levered herself off of the bed and wavered where she stood.

Rúmil got up and steadied her and did not like the fact that she stiffened in his arms. “Dara stay for a while, come we can sit in the other room. We have to talk.”

“If you will not help me back to my room I will make my way on my own. There is nothing more to say!” Dara used the wall to brace herself as she moved away from him.

Rúmil started to get upset by her flare of temper and thought it best if he did help her home. Dara was silent the whole way and did not even say goodnight before closing the door in his face. He returned to his own talan and opened a bottle of wine. He sat and brooded as the level in the bottle lowered with his mood.

Over the next several days Dara refused to see him and he finally gave up in frustration. When a month long border assignment came up he was the first to volunteer and did not even bother saying goodbye to her when he left. Rúmil did ask Orophin to watch over her even if she did not want the company. Also he had decided that upon his return he would keep their relationship to strictly friendship if she even desired that any more. He too looked for the solace the wood that was his home could provide and perhaps the time on the border could help him put his feelings into perspective.

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Chapter name
Chapter 13
Created
07 Aug 2004
Last Edited
07 Aug 2004
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