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Heart of a Warden

Chapter 16: Chapter 16

by aimless

After a very long absence I have found my muse and have finally written chapter 16. Sorry for the extremely long hiatus. Due to a few really kind e-mails I decided I owed it to them and myself to finish this.

AN: Be kind I self beta'd this. The girl I had reading over my stuff probably thought I'd died.

Heart of a Warden Chapter 16



Haldir stood waiting for an explanation. A fierce scowl decorated his handsome face and Dara approached him hesitantly. Orophin scrambled to his feet and wiped the blood off of his chin with the back of his hand. He looked as if he were about to burst into tears. Never had Rúmil spoken that way to him not even during some of their worst fights. Orophin glanced into the woods where his youngest brother had disappeared and longed to go after him. He knew that would be a disaster, Rúmil was too angry to be reasoned with. He looked beseechingly at his eldest brother.

“Rúmil caught me kissing Orophin. He attacked him and then said some awful things. Oh Haldir I ruined everything. Rúmil hit Phin because of me. I do not know what to do.” Dara fisted her hands in his tunic frantic for him to tell her what to do. If she could take a step back and look at herself she would be appalled. For this Dara was a clingy, emotional, confused wreck.

Ever since her accident they all treated her differently. She wished that things could go back to the way they had been before. Although a part of Dara wondered if she could have more and what she had missed in her life. Now she feared she would never know. Rúmil hated her and Haldir did not look too pleased either.

“Why did you kiss Phin? Do you care for him?” Haldir scowled. He hated that his family was in such turmoil and that Dara was in the middle of it.

“Haldir I meant no harm. I wanted to see if it felt the same as when Rúmil kissed me. I was so confused. I do not know what I feel anymore. It was so much simpler when we were just friends. I love Phin like a brother and Rúmil showed up unexpectedly and jumped to the wrong conclusion. He left before I could explain anything.” Dara lowered her head and wondered when she had become one of those weak and weepy elleth she despised so much.

“You are not going to ask me to kiss you now are you?” Haldir asked suspiciously.

“No, never.” Dara stammered.

“Are you saying that I am not kissable?” Haldir smirked as he looked down at his flustered former warden.

“I… what has this got to do with anything? It is Rúmil I want to kiss again not you, or Orophin.” Dara blurted out.

“So you are saying that you feel strongly enough about Rúmil to want to kiss him again?” Haldir questioned with a slight smile.

“I am… Wait! You tricked me! I did not mean to say… that is I had not made up my mind.” Dara at this point was at a complete loss. She let go of Haldir’s tunic and wandered over to a fallen log to sit down. Her leg ached terribly and she had the beginnings of a major headache.

“It seems to me that you have made up your mind to explore the possibility of pursuing any feelings for Rúmil. That is why you tried experimenting on Orophin. It was unfortunate that my youngest brother came upon your little tryst. Now you are upset, Phin is upset and Rúmil is most assuredly upset. What do you intend to do about it?” This was not the voice of her friend and mentor but of her commanding officer.

Dara sighed as she rubbed at the thick scar on her leg. She had overtaxed herself badly and would need to use the muscle relaxing salves the healers had left for her. Everything was such a mess.

“I need to go after him and tell Rúmil that it was a mistake.” Dara was not looking forward to that approach but her only other option was to head home and sulk.

“My brother is stubborn and when angered difficult to deal with. Do you think you can handle him?” Come on Dara take the bait. Where is the fiery elleth I trained? The one who would never even think of giving up if there was something she wanted.

Haldir watched as his protégé sunk her face in her hands. He sighed and shook his head. It was not like Dara to give up so easily but her injuries had placed a heavy burden on her spirit. Truly he did not know if she would even try. Dara clenched her hands into fists and raised her head.
“I will go after Rúmil and explain what happened.” Dara replied adamantly. Ah… there was the determination Haldir expected from someone he’d trained.


Haldir raised one finely arched brow. “And if he will not listen?”

“Then I will pound his head into the nearest tree repeatedly until I knock some sense into him and he is willing to listen to reason.” Dara groaned a bit in pain as she awkwardly got to her feet.

“Try the pool near the falls. It is his favorite place when he wishes to be alone. The large tree that overhangs the water is where he likes to perch. Don’t disappoint me Dara I do not like to see my family in such turmoil.” Despite his gruff tone Haldir lent her a steadying hand and then pointed Dara in the right direction. He then turned to Orophin to soothe his middle brother’s hurt feelings.

Dara also paused to look at one of her dearest friends. It hurt her to see Phin so despondent. She really needed to go after Rúmil but she also had to mend things with Phin first.

“I’m so sorry that I used you to try and figure out my jumbled up feelings Phin. Can you forgive me?” Dara bit her lip and waited for a reply.

Orophin took a deep breath. Even though his youngest brother’s words had hurt him he knew that Rúmil would not hold a grudge for long. At least not against him. He truly wished the whole incident had never happened but he really could not fault Dara for being curious. She had missed out on the romantic games the other elleth played when looking for a mate. Instead she had been protecting the borders against danger. In fact his friend was really quite socially inept and bound to make mistakes.

“It’s all right Dara I don’t blame you for being curious even though kissing you was like kissing my sister. Well if I had one that is. Plus if it helped you to figure out where your affections truly lay well then the punch in the jaw was worth it. Go to him Dara. He really loves you and it hurt him deeply to think you did not care for him.” Orophin walked up to his friend and wrapped her in a warm hug.

“I am still not sure what I am going to do Phin. I’ve never loved someone before. I’m not sure what it is supposed to feel like. How am I supposed to act. What if I screw it all up? What if I hurt him again?” Dara rested her head on the elf’s broad chest soaking in the comfort he offered.

“Dara just give him a chance. Give yourself a chance too. Let him show you how much he cares.” Orophin stepped back a bit and held Dara at arms length.

“I’m afraid Phin.” Dara’s confidence waned the longer she hesitated in going after her would be suitor.

“You afraid? I’ve seen you take on a half dozen orcs with nary a tremble. Now you balk at facing someone you’ve known most of your life? Go to him. Fix this before it is too late. The longer Rúmil has to sit and brood the less forgiving he will be. Now scoot.” Dara yelped when Orophin’s hand came down on her behind with a sharp smack. He grinned at her unashamedly.

Dara glared at him for a moment then limped off into the woods to make amends.

Haldir approached his brother and examined his bloody lip.

“I thought I taught you how to duck.” Haldir remarked as he slung an arm around Orophin’s shoulder.

“Will they work this out? I hate the thought of Dara and Rúmil being so miserable.” Orophin was truly worried about the future of his best friend and his brother.

“It has to Phin. I simply will not put up with the both of them moping for the next century. I’m not above locking them in a room together until they get it all sorted out either. Valar willing the two stubborn idiots will have it all squared away before the end of the week. Rúmil is one of my best archers and this distraction is impairing his ability.

“Hey what about my shooting ability?” Orophin replied indignantly.

“Well you could stand some improvement.” Haldir smirked at his brother’s incensed glare.

“Care for a little contest brother dear?” Orophin’s pride had been pricked and he was not about to let his older brother get too insufferably smug.

“Only if you’d care to wager that bottle of wine I know you have stashed under your bed.” It was a vintage that the elder elf quite coveted ever since his middle brother had managed to “acquire” it from Celeborn’s private stash.

“Wait how did you know….” Orophin’s tirade was cut short by a hand over his mouth.

“I have my sources so do we have a wager or not. Or is your skill with a bow not your only shortcoming? Must we add overweening pride in your miniscule skill too?” Haldir hissed and pulled back his hand when it was unexpectedly bitten. “I see we can also add vicious to your list of failings as well.”

“Shut up brother and we have a deal. Although If I win you have to confess to Galadriel that it was you who thoroughly ruined her favorite rose bed when you rode through it on a horse you had appropriated from the stable master without his knowledge.” Revenge would be sweet Orophin thought when he bested his brother at the archery range.

“I was an elfling when that happened! You are delusional if you think I will confess at this late date.” Haldir rolled his eyes at the audacity of his sibling.

“Now who is afraid? I see your protests must mean you find your own skill with a bow sorely lacking.” Heh…if that would not get him nothing would. Orophin thought with a grin.

“Lacking? I’ll show you lacking. You have a deal!” Haldir almost dragged his brother along in his haste to prove him wrong on the ranges.

~*~

Each bit of uneven ground and tangle of underbrush seemed to go out of its way to trip Dara as she made her way through the woods to find Rúmil. The walking stick she was supposed to use lay forgotten back at the training ground. She didn’t care though and grit her teeth against the stabbing pains radiating from her hip all the way down to her ankle. She was a Warden, even though not on active duty, and as such was trained to endure hardship. It was something she’d forgotten during her convalescence. To be brutally honest she was not sure she’d ever be fit for duty again. It was a realization that Dara had tried to avoid thinking about. If this short hike was beyond her abilities then how was she supposed to defend Lorien’s borders?

She shook her head to try and get rid of this line of thought. It was not important any more. Being a Warden was once the focus of her whole life but now that goal seemed hollow and bleak without Rúmil to share it with. Either as a friend or a lover. Dara just needed time to sort out how she felt and to do that she had to find the elf that seemed intent in tying her emotions into knots.

It seemed as if Rúmil had decided to trek clear across the wood to find solace. Just when Dara thought she could not take another step, despite her determination, she heard the sound of rushing water. She breathed a sigh of relief and mopped her sweat dotted forehead with her sleeve. The dress she’d put on this morning was ruined so it hardly mattered. It was snagged, torn in several places and stained with dirt from the fall she’d taken while trying to scramble down a weedy slope. The plait she’d confined her hair to this morning also had its fair share of leaves and twigs snarled within its honey colored tresses. It would be a miracle if her appearance did not frighten Rúmil right out of his romantic thoughts in her direction.

The clearing that her friend used as his own private spot to brood was just as Haldir described. There was a small waterfall cascading over jumble of rocks ending in a good sized pool. A massive oak grew right at the water’s edge and dominated the whole space. The area was beautiful and Dara could understand why Rúmil sought peace here.

Trying to fight down the urge to flee back to the safety of the healing house Dara called out to her friend.

“Rúmil? Can I talk to you?” For the space of a few minutes there came no answer. Maybe he wasn’t here after all.

“Go Away!” A voice drifted down from somewhere over her head.

Dara looked up and could barely make out the object of her search perched high in the tree on one of the huge branches.

“Are you going to come down here so I can talk to you?” Dara was getting a crick in her neck staring up into the tree.

“No. Leave me alone.” Rúmil sounded like a petulant elfling and Dara started to get angry.

“Look I did something foolish but you have me so confused. You were the only one to ever kiss me like that. Well… at least that I did not want to punch. I needed to know if someone else that I trusted kissed me if I would feel the same way. Orophin did not want to kiss me but I asked him and so he did.” Dara felt like she was talking to the tree for all the response she got. “Rúmil come down and talk to me damn it!”

“I’m not coming down and I do not feel like talking.” If possible his tone was even more insulting.

“All right if you will not come down to me I’ll climb up to you. I swear you are acting like a spoiled brat.” Dara did not expect a response so she grabbed the lowest branch and swung herself onto it.

So far so good Dara thought as she reached for the next branch. I can do this…ignore the pain. Even though her leg refused to support her weight the elleth ascended with the grim determination of a former student of Haldir’s. Now she could clearly see Rúmil as he sat with his back to the trunk of the oak. His arms were crossed over his chest and he was determinedly not looking her direction.

Dara knew she had screwed up but that was no excuse for him to treat her so callously. Her first instinct was to punch him right in the face when she got close enough…if she got close enough. Her arms were trembling with fatigue, her leg was one pulsing fire of stabbing pain and her fingers were raw and sore from pulling a bow string all afternoon. Really it should not have been a big surprise when Dara reached for the next branch a horrid cramp seized her leg and she lost her grip. An undignified shriek was torn from her lips as she plummeted downward.

Rúmil looked down in horror as the elleth he professed to love fell from her tenuous perch and landed with a loud splash in the pool below. By some miracle she landed in the water and had not hit any of the larger branches on her way down.

“Dara! Oh Valar! Dara!” His heart seized in his chest as Rúmil climbed down as fast as he could unmindful of his own safety. He looked into the water and the only sign of Dara’s fall was a widening series of ripples. She had not surfaced. Panicking he dove into the pool and tried to catch some glimpse of her.

Eventually Rúmil had to surface or risk drowning himself and still there was no sign of her. Now frantic with worry he called her name over and over. The elf was on the verge of hysteria when he felt something grasp his ankle and he was pulled under. Totally unprepared for such an assault Rúmil sucked in a lungful of water. He rose spluttering and coughing to see the person who had made him lose control treading water right in front of him.

Her long hair was plastered to her head and she was scowling at him. With no thought to the consequences Rúmil grabbed Dara and pulled her into a tight embrace.

“Don’t ever do that to me again! You nearly scared the life from me. I thought you’d drowned.” He spent a moment just savoring the feel of her in his arms before drawing back a little and shaking Dara. “What were you thinking? You never should have climbed that tree. What if you had broken your neck?!”

Dara knew that it had been a rotten trick she’d played on the stricken elf in front of her. He’d made her angry and she was not above a little petty retaliation. But now the look on Rúmil’s face made her see just how upset the elf was.

“I’m sorry but it made me so mad when you would not even listen to me. It’s so frustrating to not be able to do anything. Not climb a tree that even a small elfling would have no trouble with. What am I supposed to do?” Dara, feeling sorry for herself, pushed out of Rúmil’s grip. She swam away and started to get out of the water.

Every muscle protested and her leg simply refused to support her weight. Dara sat on the muddy shore and cursed. Rúmil was quite astonished to hear her creative use of the language. He could not bear to see her in such distress though and joined her on the shore.

“Do you need any help?” The frustration on Dara’s face was a difficult thing to witness. Rúmil wished there was more he could do.

“I’m fine. I can get up myself.” Her sullen tone was totally inappropriate considering he was only trying to help.

Dara tried to prove it by getting her good leg underneath and trying to get to her feet without any help. Stubbornness did nothing to aid her rather clumsy attempt. It was only Rúmil’s arms around her that stopped Dara from going face first into the mud. So without even asking for permission the elf scooped her up in his arms and started to walk back towards home.

“Hey! What are you doing? Put me down!” Dara struggled and Rúmil only held her tighter.

“I will not. You have done too much today and could not even walk if you tried. Haldir would have my head if I let your stubborn streak injure you further. Now be a good elleth and accept my help.” Rúmil could not help but enjoy feeling her in his arms and he also could not resist glancing at the way the wet fabric of her dress clung to every curve.

Dara subsided with a huff crossing her arms under her breasts which only served to push them against the wet fabric. Rúmil could not help looking again and nearly walked into a tree.

“What is your problem? I might be safer on my own. What has gotten you so distracted?” Dara noticed what he was looking at and resisted the urge to cover herself. Her bodice was almost transparent and she berated herself for acting ridiculous. They had seen each other naked before. It was inevitable while on the borders especially if a comrade was injured. Privacy was a precious commodity and modesty had no place in such close quarters. But this was different. Rúmil was looking at her with such intensity that a flush crept up her cheeks, she felt warm all over and had a weird sort of fluttering in her stomach.

“Dara… you are beautiful.” Rúmil could not help commenting as the blush painted her cheeks pink as she looked up at him.

“What? Don’t be ridiculous. I am wet, covered in mud and my hair is a mass of snarls and leaves.” He was still looking at her and Dara was at a total loss as to what to do.

“I mean it Dara. You are the most beautiful elleth I have ever laid my eyes on.” Rúmil knew he was making her terribly uncomfortable but he was tired of hiding his feelings.

Now she knew he was lying. All the other perfumed, fluttery, vapid she elves with their filmy gowns and coy smiles were so much more appealing than one scarred, half drowned former warden. “I’m nothing like the other elleth. How can you possibly find me attractive?”

Rúmil thought for a moment and smiled. “I was drawn to you from the first time I saw you. The determination you had to not let anyone stop you from reaching your goals was admirable. You are strong, witty and patient when dealing with new recruits. Your smile can light up a room and your laugh is heartfelt and genuine. It is not at all like the silly twittering that the other elleth think is fashionable. You are not afraid to speak your mind and to stand up for what you believe in. You are a fierce fighter and will not hesitate to defend your comrades. You are as attractive as any other female, even more so because you are a genuine person who does not hide behind the artifice of propriety. I want you Dara. No one else and will not give up until I’ve convinced you of that fact.”

She looked at Rúmil in amazement. To actually hear how he felt about her put into words was almost overwhelming and altogether frightening. “I… I don’t know what to say.”

“Then don’t say anything right now. Let me show you how I feel. I want to protect and take care of you.” He stopped at the stairs of a familiar talan.

“Why are we at your home Rúmil? Why not take me back to my room at the healing hall?” Dara felt more than a little apprehensive at his choice of locations.

“Because I am selfish, because I missed you. Dara I want to pamper you and let you rest somewhere with no interruptions.” Rúmil sensed her unease and hastened to reassure her. “You are still my dearest friend and I would do nothing to hurt you. Nothing you did not want to happen. Do you trust me?”

Rúmil’s entreaty was sincere and after all she had practically grown up with this elf. There was hardly anyone else on Arda she trusted more.

“I trust you Rúmil. I really do and I know you will not try and do anything I am not comfortable with. I’ve missed you too.” It was the complete truth. Dara realized she had nothing to fear from him.

He could not resist. Rúmil lowered his head and claimed her lips in a soft kiss. He did not try and deepen the contact or touch her in any way. It was the simple pressure of his mouth on hers. He was overjoyed that she did not stop him. Rúmil kept the contact brief and when he ended the sweet kiss Dara looked up at him more than a bit stunned.

“Are you all right? Did you like it?” Rúmil chuckled at the wide eyed look she gave him.

“I think so…I mean I’m all right. I mean it was nice.” It had been more than nice and that fluttering feeling was back in her stomach. The emotion present in his eyes when he looked at her made Dara feel safe, secure and eased the loneliness that had been present since her parents sailed west. She took a chance, guided partly by instinct and partly by what she had seen other elleth do, brushed her knuckles along his cheek and cupped his face in her hand. Her first spontaneous gesture of affection made Rúmil’s heart beat a little faster and had him believing that she cared for him after all.

Rúmil turned his head and kissed the palm of her hand and smiled. That smile and the feel of his mouth on her hand made Dara tingle all the way to her toes. As he carried her up to his talan she wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his chest. Dara found she liked being held and did not want the moment to end.

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Chapter 16
Created
15 May 2006
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15 May 2006
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