EPILOGUE IV, 44 - Pelargir In the bright sunlight, Naiore pushed back her cowl, turned her back and spread her arms. A trick, Hanasian wondered, and if so how might she accomplish it? ”Hold!” Hanasian barked, eyes locked on the Elf that stood upon the docks, ”She must answer for her crimes and for that we need her-“ The first arrow was launched before he even finished his command and he knew, without needing to look, who was responsible for it. Videgavia’s arrow was the pebble before the avalanche and soon the air was thick with them. There was no shortage of men in the Black Company that wanted Naiore Dannan dead. Few, though, had a seam of vengeance that ran as deep and dark as Videgavia’s. He’d been a broken man since the day they’d found Freja and Berendil, dead. Naiore Dannan was malicious and cruel but even so, Hanasian felt uneasy at attacking her whilst her back was turned. Freja, he could guess, would not have any such compunction but he knew Berendil would be equally hesitant. Despite the fact that they’d have no measure of honour from the Elf now on her knees. Arrows spent at last, many of them littered the docks or floated in the waters of the Anduin. As for Naiore Dannan, she bristled with them and yet somehow she was still on her knees. Her arms had fallen to her sides and she was otherwise still. Cautiously, Hanasian issued a second order to his now shamefaced men. They remained concealed as he broke cover and cautiously approached the Elf. As he neared, he was struck at how fair she was despite her treacherous heart. It was impossible not to notice, even though she was grievously wounded. He could see she felt pain. The bloody red tips of arrows protruded, here and there, from her chest and stomach. How, Hanasian wondered, was the Elf still alive? Some sort of foul trickery on her part? And why did she look so…relieved? ”Ware,” she whispered and he did not understand until the first wave hit him like a blow to the stomach. Emotion as strong as any flooding sea spilled out of her, like a wall that had been breached. Oceans of torment, pain, sorrow, despair, loneliness and, unbelievably, love. By the time Hanasian’s head cleared, he was lying on the ground. So too were men and the Elf. By the third such wave, he had learned how to withstand it. Hanasian understood, then, for each and every act Naiore Dannan had committed, she had paid a vicious price which she had locked within her across the centuries of her life. The walls she had built to hold it all in and retain her sanity failed as she died. There was an image of an Elf lodged in his head and Hanasian did not know who it was. Without understanding why, he asked Naiore as he tried to pull himself together. ”Celebrimbor,” she whispered, weakening fast as she lost blood. She did not beg nor whimper and at the last, there on the sun-drenched docks of Pelargir, Naiore smiled at the very last. Once her spirit had fled her body, he found it surprisingly difficult to believe she had been responsible for so much suffering. Even in death, pierced and bloodied, she was beautiful. It was done…the Company’s primary purpose fulfilled and so many avenged. Berendil and Freja sprang to his mind’s eye. He saw them seated together in the corner of the Prancing Pony Inn, eyes only for each other in a secret exchange that had the both of them smiling. Berendil whispered something into Freja’s ear, her brows climbed and then she tipped back her head to issue a throaty laugh that Berendil seemed to lap up…and then his eyes drifted past to where Hanasian stood at the bar, caught his attention and nodded, quiet and certain, before he returned his gaze to the woman at his side. And then that image was gone, replaced by the sight of their lifeless bodies. Over forty years had passed since that awful discovery and yet Hanasian recalled it as if it had only been yesterday. He heard a boot scuff behind him and turned his head to see Videgavia approach. ”It’s not enough,” Videgavia declared, voice gaunt and haunted, dark eyes locked on the dead Elf. ”If you look to death to avenge Freja, it never will be.” Videgavia brought his despairing black eyes to Hanasian, ”What then?” “Celebrate her in life,” Hanasian answered, for Freja had always been full of that until suddenly, jarringly, she wasn’t. Videgavia stared at him and then turned away. Still a broken man Videgavia remained and Hanasian thought he always would be until he forgave himself. He did not know what had passed between Videgavia and Freja before her death, but whatever it was gnawed at the Daleman. Hanasian returned to his study of the fallen Elf. She would have to be buried, unmarked and unnamed, for he did not wish to create a place that would draw darkness nor a beacon for those who would despoil her remains. He kneeled to relieve Naiore of the most beautiful sword he had ever seen. It would serve as proof when it came time to make his report. He turned the sword over in his hands and sure enough, there was Celebrimbor’s mark. It was a masterpiece, a rare and incredibly valuable artefact. She had born it throughout her life, from the moment Celebrimbor had given it to her through the Second Age, the Siege of Mordor, through the War of the Ring and now here it was in his hands. He shivered as he stared at it, recalling Freja’s chilling description of it, and decided that he would keep it if he were permitted even if he was not sure why. For Hanasian had no way of knowing that in just a year’s time he would encounter someone that would take this sword and his heart as her own. Rosmarin she would be called then, but he had looked for her before many years ago when she had been but a child named Erían of Cardolan. The sort of woman that Berendil, were he alive still, would have been proud to serve.