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Summary: When Buffy falls into her catatonic state after Dawn is snatched by Glory, she finds herself thrust back in time, into the body of a former Slayer, that of Miriel, daughter of Denethor II of Gondor.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Buffy-CenteredLaurelinFR1838350,47988228,9463 Nov 103 Mar 14No

Chapter Thirty: Debates

As Miriel plodded along with Aragorn and Elladan, she found herself conflicted by the Mayor’s judgment. A part of her felt sad to leave Bree-land. Sure, she had been quite eager to leave Archet for some time now, to join her fellow Rangers in fighting the good fight, but perhaps it was the manner of her departure that brought about her mixed emotions. She had always envisioned herself walking through one of the gates of Bree, willingly, as she had done upon her arrival. To be told that you’re banished from a place, never to return again, was more than a bit disheartening.

Her thoughts then turned to Halbarad and his little cottage in Archet. Knowing that she’d never be able to set foot in the place that she had learned to call home (even if only for a little while) brought tears to her eyes. Was that odd? she wondered. Is it odd to feel this way? It seemed that in the blink of an eye, everything had been ripped from her, yet again. What semblance of a normal life she had had was gone. And it was her fault. In a few minutes time, because she was blinded by rage, her entire future had changed. There would be no going back to Archet. No trips to the village well. No scolding her Watcher when he didn’t clean the dirt from the bottom of his shoes properly when he entered the house after she had cleaned the floors. There would be no more sitting in front of the fireplace, sipping tea, listening to Hal’s stories of the Rangers’ past adventures.

Miriel forced herself to swallow her tears. Dread replaced her sorrow. She couldn’t help but think that Hal would be wroth with her over what she had done. True, he hadn’t seemed that way when she saw him after being released from her prison cell, but then again, Halbarad hadn’t said a word to her. One thing she had learned about her Watcher was that he had mastered the art of hiding his true feelings.

Her heart grew heavy. Miriel feared that her friendship with Hal had been utterly destroyed, that all the time and effort devoted to building their relationship was for naught. How would she have felt if someone else’s actions had gotten her banished from her home? She wouldn’t have been too happy about it, that’s for sure.

Strangely, those thoughts brought her back to the present, to the trek down the Great West Road. Blinking her tears away, she glanced at her companions on either side of her. She noticed that the others – Halbarad, Elrohir and Gúron were not with them. How could she possibly have overlooked the fact that half of their group was missing?

“Where are the others?” she croaked. Her throat felt sore, her mouth dry.

“They went to the cottage, to get our things,” replied a solemn Aragorn. “We’ll be meeting them soon.”

“Oh,” she answered dismally, licking her parched lips.

“How are you feeling, Miriel?” asked Elladan, studying her with his keen, elvish eyes. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” she uttered. “Thirsty, but fine.”

“I’m afraid we have no water to quench your thirst,” replied the Half-elf.

“I’m sure the others will bring some with them,” said the Ranger Chieftain.

“Where are we meeting them?” Miriel asked.

“At the western border of Archet,” answered Aragorn.

“By the forest?”

“Yes,” he replied.

That puzzled Miriel. If they were going to meet the others at the western edge of Archet, then why were they walking west when they should be heading north?

“Then why are we going in the wrong direction?” she couldn’t help but ask.

She could hear Aragorn sigh heavily. He looked over his shoulder. The town of Bree was gradually dwindling from sight. He then fixed his gaze on Miriel. “It is my hope that none follow us. Once we’re out of sight of Bree, we’ll turn north.”

“You think someone will follow us?” she asked in surprise.

“One never knows,” he replied, shifting his gaze back to the road.

“The Thornberrys are a very influential family,” chimed in Elladan.

“So I’ve heard,” mumbled Miriel.

“There’s a possibility that they may seek… retribution against the one they hold responsible for their… loss,” added Elladan, speaking hesitantly as he chose his words carefully.

“You mean they’ll come after me,” remarked the Slayer gloomily.

“We won’t let that happen,” assured Aragorn, his hand instinctively grasping the hilt of his sword. “Not if I can help it.”

“I’m sorry,” Miriel apologized, her eyes beginning to well with tears again. She had no remorse when it came to what she had done to Reed Thornberry, her “crime”, that is. She regretted that she had caused so much trouble for the others. That was never her intention.

“Let us speak no more about it,” the Ranger Chieftain declared. “The light of a new day will be a better time to discuss such matters.” Aragorn himself was unsure what to do next. Was Miriel mentally fit to travel with them, or, would they be better served if they took her back to Rivendell and left her under the care and watchful eyes of the Elves? He felt it was best to get Hal’s input before making a final decision. At least, the journey to Archet would allow the watcher time to mull things over.

Miriel’s thoughts turned to the Thornberrys. While the rapist Thornberry had gotten what he had deserved, was his family’s eviction from Bree warranted? She thought of her own situation. If Ecthelion, her grandfather, had been alive, should he have been banished from Gondor over the misdeeds of his son? That didn’t seem right to Miriel. She thought the townspeople had acted rashly, in the heat of the moment. They should have waited, thought things through, before making such a hasty judgment.

She heard a snickering voice in the back of her mind, snidely saying, Is that not the pot calling the kettle black? It was the “bad” voice as she called it. Could not everything you’ve just thought be applied to yourself and your actions?

“Stop!” cried out Miriel, clamping her hands over her ears. The last thing she wanted to hear was that voice, mocking her.

Immediately, her companions halted. Though quite concerned for the Slayer, their eyes automatically searched the shadows surrounding them for some unseen enemy.

“What is it? What is it, Miriel?” both men cried out in unison.

Miriel had actually walked a couple of paces further before she stopped. She hadn’t realized that she had spoken her thought aloud and that she had her hands over her ears. She quickly dropped her arms to her side and turned, facing her friends. “I’m sorry.” Noticing the men’s eyes darting to every tree and bush in the vicinity, she quickly added, “There’s no one lurking in the shadows.” She took a deep breath, hoping the others wouldn’t think she was insane by what she would say next. “It’s my mind, actually. It will not shut down. I’m tired and I don’t want to think any more.” The Slayer left it at that, saying no more. She continued walking; now leading the way.

Aragorn and Elladan exchanged a look before following Miriel. They had much to discuss, but would wait until the others returned.

They marched about fifty yards or so beyond The Greenway before veering due north. Aragorn thought it best to stay off the actual road, though they did walk within sight of it. Miriel thought that that seemed rather pointless. The road was much smoother, and easier to walk on than the uneven terrain that ran along either side of the roadway. But, who was she to argue with the Ranger Chieftain?

Thankfully, her mind went hazy again, blurring her thoughts. With her head hung low, she stared at the ground but maintained the same pace as her companions. When they had passed the intersection of The Greenway and the road that led to the North Gate of Bree, they crossed the roadway, and continued walking on a northeasterly course. Glancing up, the Slayer could see the shadowy form of Bree-hill to her right. Looming up ahead stood the eaves of Chetwood, looking blacker than pitch, even under the light of the moon.

Shortly afterward, the Slayer finally broke the silence by announcing, “I’ve got to pee.” Aragorn and Elladan stopped as Miriel strolled behind a thicket several yards away. It wasn’t until she was squatted, doing her business, that she noticed the huge tear running up the side of her beautiful gown. She couldn’t believe that she hadn’t noticed it before. The dress must have torn during her clash with Reed Thornberry. Her heart felt as if it had dropped to the pit of her stomach. The gown had been a gift – a lovely gift from Halbarad, and was something that she had come to cherish. Once she rose, she smoothed out the pale blue fabric of her gown with loving hands. She could feel the blood of her enemy caked onto the soft material, undoubtedly, permanently staining the beautiful garment. It suddenly occurred to Miriel that the dress was ruined beyond repair.

“Let’s get a move on, Miriel,” Aragorn called, eager to resume their trek.

Feeling horribly, she pulled Elladan’s cloak about her more tightly, doing her best to conceal her soiled clothing. With a heavy heart, she rejoined her companions, and together they set off to their appointed meeting place. Since Aragorn had decided to take the long way, it was nearly three miles to their destination.

As they drew closer to the forest, Elladan whistled, imitating some type of birdcall. His unexpected signal caused Miriel to jump with a start. She turned to the Half-elf, who had halted. With his head cocked, he listened intently for an answering call. There was none.

“They must not be there yet,” he surmised, shifting his gaze to Aragorn.

“We’ve made good time,” replied the Ranger Chieftain, seemingly unconcerned. His eyes scanned the forest’s edge. “The visibility in the woods is poor even with a full moon. We’ll wait.”

Elladan gave a quick nod of his head before returning his gaze to the woods, searching the border for three man- shaped silhouettes.

Aragorn looked at Miriel, who was probably his greatest concern at the moment. “You can rest here, if you’d like,” he suggested.

Miriel plopped down onto the earth, more than happy to heed the Ranger Chieftain’s advice. She, like her companions, surveyed the wood line for few moments before she again turned her attention to the tear in her gown. As she more closely examined the rip, she could she that the edges were not frayed; giving her hope that she might be able to sew the fabric back together.

And what about the blood? she thought. How am I supposed to get that out?

Even if she scrubbed the gown with all the soap in Middle-earth, there would be no way she could get all the blood out. Why o’ why was she allowing this to torment her? It was only a dress, right?

Stretching out her legs, the Slayer leaned back on her arms and looked up at the moon shining above. She closed her eyes and deeply inhaled the cool, fresh, night air.

It wasn’t just a dress, she thought.

She sighed heavily, wanting to push thoughts of the gown out of her mind. She sat upright, shifting her gaze to Aragorn and Elladan, who stood motionless, several feet away, their eyes fixed on the eaves of the woods.

“You don’t think they’re lost, do you?” she said to the others.

“No,” answered Aragon, glancing over his shoulder at her. “They’re Rangers. They know their way.”

Miriel leaned back on her arms again. She closed her eyes, savoring the cool air against her skin. Her weariness had returned full force. The normal nightly sounds became muted to the point where she heard only her breathing. Her breaths were slow and steady, and with each one she took, she found herself relaxing a bit more, sleep gradually overcoming her.

Maybe ten or fifteen minutes had passed when a high-pitched whistle came from the forest.

“It’s them,” said Elladan, immediately taking off to the edge of the woods.

Miriel’s eyes popped open. Her heart now thumped madly in her chest at the unexpectedness of the call. She watched Aragorn follow Elladan as she clambered to her feet, rubbing the twig free that had become stuck to her palm. Reluctant to follow her companions, she stayed put, waiting expectantly for the three shadowy forms of her friends to emerge from the forest.

She heard the others’ voices before she actually saw them. Then, one by one, the men popped out of the wood, each warrior encumbered with everyone’s baggage and weaponry. Once they had exited Chetwood, they handed off some of the gear to Aragorn and Elladan, happy to be relieved of their burdens. They quickly formed a group, making their way toward Miriel.

Halbarad approached the Slayer first. “I’ve brought your things, Miriel,” he said, dropping the bags to the ground. “I’m afraid that I had to leave some things behind. I do, however, have both of your swords.” He offered her the weapons.

“Thanks,” she answered, taking the swords from her Watcher.

“How are you holding up?” he asked, his eyes searching hers, concerned for her well-being.

“I’m tired.”

Hal looked at the others. “Perhaps we should camp here tonight so Miriel can rest.”

The others agreed.

Elladan came over, carrying a water skin in one hand. “Here, Miriel,” he said, offering her the container. “You can quench that thirst of yours now.”

The Slayer accepted the proffered flask and took a long drink. She could’ve drunk the entire contents, but stopped herself from doing so. She had no idea when they’d come upon another potable water source and thought it best to be prudent with their limited supply.

“I don’t think we need a fire,” said Elrohir, as he dropped his bags to the ground.

After handing the water skin back to Elladan, Miriel began to dig through her own bags. She returned the Half-elf’s cloak now that she had her own, and dug out a couple of blankets, which would act as her bed. She lay down, closed her eyes, and fell asleep nearly instantly…

The sun shone brightly in the cloudless sky. Miriel could taste the hint of salt carried on the westerly breeze. The warm, foamy waves crashed against her bare legs, her feet sinking a bit deeper into the wet sand. Even though the legs of her tan breeches had been folded above her knees, the frothy water still managed to soak the bottommost portion.

“It’s been a while since we’ve last been here,” she heard Buffy say from behind. “Gotta admit, I’m kinda surprised. They way you’ve been thinking, I figured you’d go to Hal’s place. I mean, you have been thinking that that place is home, haven’t you?”

There was an underlying tone to Buffy’s voice that Miriel found irritating. She turned, facing her mentor. Her hair was wildly swirling in the breeze, the long, dark strands beating against her face, feeling like miniature whips. Through the wisps of hair, she scrutinized Buffy. Despite being dressed from head-to-toe in leather, the elder slayer stood in ankle deep water with her arms folded across her chest, wearing a look of disapproval on her face.

Miriel knew that look all too well. And right now, she was in no mood for one of Buffy’s self-righteous lectures.

“Your point being?” she responded sharply.

Buffy gave her a faux smile. “Just making an observation. That’s all.”

“I can only wish,” mumbled Miriel. Wanting peace, she decided to take a stroll along the shoreline, hoping that her mentor would take the hint and either remain where she was or follow quietly. She had only taken a step when she felt Buffy’s hand gripping her arm, forcibly stopping her. “What?” Miriel barked, refusing to turn around.

“We need to talk.”

“I have nothing to say.”

Buffy spun her protégé around, keeping a firm grip on her arm. “Nothing to say?” she repeated incredulously. “How can you stand there and act like nothing happened? You brutally killed a man. A mortal man. In cold blood.”

“That’s where we have a difference of opinion,” Miriel retorted, pulling her arm free from Buffy’s hold. “He was not a man, but a monster.”

Buffy’s mouth was agape as she shook her head in disbelief. She was afraid for Miriel, afraid that she was about to tread down the same path as Faith, unable to distinguish right from wrong, or, not caring to. “Being a Slayer doesn’t give you the right to kill people. We’re designed to slay monsters, to slay creatures that regular people don’t have the strength to. No one appointed us judge, jury and executioner. That Reed guy should’ve been judged by his peers. Not by you. You don’t have that right.”

Miriel stepped closer to Buffy, towering over her much smaller mentor. “That’s where you’re wrong! I do have that authority. It was my duty to stop him, to do what I – ”

“ – Stop him, yes,” interjected Buffy, not intimidated at all by Miriel’s height advantage, “Cut him to pieces, no. For God’s sake, Miriel, you cut his dick off and shoved it down his throat… then beheaded him. That’s not normal. That’s just not… right.”

“So you say. Not everyone agrees with you or your sense of moral superiority,” hissed Miriel, narrowing her eyes in anger. “What I did, was just. What you fail to notice, Buffy, is that not all monsters have scaly hides and razor-sharp fangs. Some resemble men, and to assume that men are incapable of being monsters is truly ignorant on your part.”

“I’m not saying what that man did was not wrong. It was,” Buffy argued. “All I’m saying is that you acted… recklessly, that all you needed to do was stop the crime, not dole out what you consider a suitable punishment.”

Miriel let out a derisive snort. “I would happily do it again if faced with similar circumstances. Maybe if you experienced firsthand what it’s like to be raped, to be violated so, you’d think differently. Until then, your… opinion… matters… not.” Miriel enunciated her last sentence slowly, wanting her words to sting her mentor.

She turned, wading toward the shore in hopes of leaving Buffy behind. At this rate, their conversation would likely end up leading to blows. As far as Miriel was concerned, she was in the right and nobody would be able to convince her otherwise.

When Miriel stepped onto the dry sand, her garments immediately changed. Instead of wearing her green tunic and tan breeches, she was dressed in her blue, blood-stained gown.

“Why the change of clothing then?” Buffy shouted from the water. “Could it be that that dress of yours makes you feel guilty, makes you feel remorseful?”

Miriel looked down at her gown. The stains looked much worse in sunlight and were more extensive than she had realized. Her dress looked less blue than it did deep red. And there was now an odor that lingered around her that she hadn’t noticed before. A putrid odor. An odor she had smelled before, back in the House of Horrors, as she always referred to it.

The stench brought horrific images to her mind. Her hands, which hung at her side, automatically balled into fists at the reminder of her past torments. “You have no idea what this means to me,” she said, tugging on her gown. “If I had been wearing my slaying clothes, I would be proud of the blood-stains. It would symbolize another successful kill.”

Miriel paused, feeling her heart ache over the damage to her clothing. As she fixed her eyes on Buffy, her tone changed, becoming sorrowful. “What you don’t seem to understand is that this dress was a gift from Hal. And I do not believe I need to remind you that he’s not the generous type. This meant something to him,” she continued, pulling on the garment again. “This belonged to someone that he loved deeply. And to know that he felt that I was worthy enough to receive it… ” Miriel felt herself becoming overwhelmed with emotion to the point where her voice was beginning to crack. She bit her lip, looking away from Buffy. She stared at the sea that stretched endlessly behind her mentor.

“It’s just a dress,” Buffy said weakly, not wholly believing her own comment.

Miriel’s demeanor instantly changed. She fixed her wrath-filled eyes on the elder Slayer. “That’s where you’re wrong. You’re wrong about the dress and you’re wrong about Reed Thornberry.”

Buffy had taken a breath, as if to speak, but her protégé continued with her rant before she could utter a single word.

“This isn’t your world. Things work differently here. You feel that I should’ve just stopped a crime – and then what? Reed Thornberry would buy his way out of it as he had a number of other times. Then another innocent girl would suffer at his hands, perhaps more.

“I remember you telling me that people in your world lock up criminals in those houses.” Miriel paused, trying to recall the specific name of those structures, which, unfortunately happened to escape her at the moment.

“Prisons,” Buffy informed her.

“That’s it – prisons. Why people in your world would go through the expense of feeding and clothing criminals in beyond me. Have you noticed any prisons in Middle-earth, Buffy?” Miriel asked with a sarcastic glint in her eye. “We don’t lock up rabid animals, we kill them, especially when caught in the act.”

“We give people a second chance,” said Buffy, defending her position. “People can change.”

Miriel laughed at the absurdity of her comment. “You think locking someone up behind bars will change them?” she queried, her eyes widening in disbelief. “That’s delusional. You can’t lock up a wild animal and expect it to change. In the end, you release a feral beast into the world to prey upon the innocent. How fair is that?”

“So you would kill someone for stealing a loaf of bread?” asked Buffy, feeling her blood pressure rising. “Is that just in this world?”

“We’re not talking about thievery. We’re talking about rape, an act of violence for which there is no cure. Once a rapist, always a rapist.”

Buffy was beginning to think there was no getting through to Miriel. At least, there was no argument she could make that would change her protégé’s view on the matter.

Miriel’s demeanor reverted back to a solemn calmness. “I think you fail to see that those with wealth and influence can do whatever they want,” she went on, her tone and face riddled with sadness. “Do you remember asking me about my Uncle, Imrahil, asking if he could help stop my father from… ” Even now, she loathed saying the words, especially where Denethor was concerned. “If he could help me,” she finally settled upon saying.

The elder Slayer slowly nodded her head.

“My father is the highest authority in Gondor, the most powerful man in Middle-earth. There was no one that could help me, that could stop him, except me. I had a choice, to leave or kill him.”

“Then why didn’t you?” asked Buffy, slowly walking closer to Miriel. “Why didn’t you kill him?”

The younger Slayer watched her mentor approach. Feeling the tears forming in her eyes, she softly replied, “Because I love him.” She swallowed the knot forming in her throat and struggled to keep her tears at bay. “And I hate him.”

Buffy couldn’t help but feel pity for her protégé. “Sometimes, I forget how much shit you’ve been though, and how that’s gotta mess with your head.”

The two Slayers reached a stalemate. There would be no victor in this argument. They started to walk along the beach. Buffy found herself saying, almost amusedly, “You really didn’t need to cut his dick off and shove it down his throat.”

Miriel smiled. With a shrug, she replied, “It’s seemed befitting at the time.”

Buffy shook her head, linking arms with her protégé. “My poor, insane Miriel. I’m amazed that you don’t hate all men after what you’ve been through.”

“It’s a matter of trust, Buffy,” she answered. “I don’t trust men as easily as I used to, or women for that matter. Not after what that old hag did to me.” She found herself glancing down at her chest, glad that the scar remained covered. “After talking with Juniper, I can’t get that woman out of my head.” A scowl came to her face. “I know, deep down, that we’ll meet again some day. And woe unto her when we do.”

“Well,” began Buffy, trying to keep the mood light, “she should be grateful that she doesn’t have a penis.”

Miriel chuckled, relieved that she and her mentor had settled their differences, for now, any way. Changing the subject somewhat, the young Slayer glanced down at her dress, asking, “Do you think I can get all this blood out?”

Buffy eyed the gown skeptically. “If you guys had dry cleaners here, you probably could. Since you don’t, I’m afraid it’s ruined.”

“Damn. I didn’t want to hear that.” Despite Buffy’s conclusion, Miriel tried to remain hopeful. “Maybe if I scrub it really good with soap and soak it in hot water… ” The younger Slayer rambled on about her dress. Buffy offered possible suggestions, but didn’t believe any of them would work in Middle-earth…

While Miriel and Buffy strolled along the coast of Dol Amroth, the Rangers sat grouped together, out of earshot of the sleeping Slayer, discussing her current frame of mind.

“You have spent a great deal of time with Miriel,” began Aragorn, fixing his gaze on Halbarad, “Have you not talked about… her past?”

“No,” replied the Watcher with a shake of his head. “We’ve mainly talked about the present, and the future. Miriel does not bring up her past much, if at all.”

“Father said that we were not to press the issue of Dagnir’s past,” said Elladan, referring to the council shortly after the Slayer’s arrival in Imladris.

“Truly,” said Elrohir, nodding in agreement. “I deem that Father has seen what misfortune befell the Slayer before we encountered her on Amon Sûl.”

“Do you think it was…” Gúron paused, giving a quick glance at a sleeping form of Miriel. Then, shifting his gaze back to the others, he asked in a mere whisper, “Do you think she was abused, sexually?”

No one immediately answered that question. It was too horrid a thought. However, after having witnessed the aftermath of Miriel’s attack and the mutilation of her victim, one could not easily dismiss that notion. In fact, it seemed highly likely that she had reacted so violently because something similar had happened to her.

The topic of conversation discomforted all the Rangers, though, perhaps Gúron least of all. Following his question, his companions bowed their heads, looking as if in deep thought. The golden-haired Dúnadan felt that it was imperative to know Miriel’s state of mind, especially if she was going to continue the trek with them. The Ranger feared that if he were to say the wrong thing to the Slayer, she might retaliate by severing his manhood. And that was an appendage that he was not about to live without!

But as he watched his fellow Rangers in the dim light, he noticed how troubled each man looked. Unlike Gúron (at the moment, anyway), the others were replaying the scenes in their minds when they had first met Miriel on Weathertop, thanks in part to Elrohir’s remarks. She was violent, feral-like; however, she was under attack at the time. The hill was teeming with Orcs.

Soon, Gúron’s own thoughts drifted back to that moment in time. The Rangers had a tendency to pick up on each other’s thoughts and that was now happening with the golden-haired Dúnadan. He could remember seeing the goblins swarming around the Slayer, unsure now, whether they were trying to kill her or capture her. He supposed they’d never know as the timely arrival of the Rangers saved Miriel from whatever fate the enemy had had in store for her.

It had been Elladan that first noticed the scars on Miriel’s wrists, an obvious sign she had been bound. Back then, they concluded that she had escaped the Orcs and that they had sought to recapture her. As Gúron attempted to link the night’s events to the attack on Miriel the previous year, a terrible notion entered his mind.

“Was Miriel raped by Orcs?” he said, uttering his thoughts aloud.

“How could you say such a thing!” growled Elrohir, his elvish eyes inflamed with a sudden rage. His response was so sudden and so sharp that Gúron shrank away from the Elf. “Never speak such words again!”

Elladan placed his hand on Elrohir’s arm. “Calm down, Brother.”

Aragorn and Halbarad quickly looked at Miriel, afraid that Elrohir’s outburst had awakened her. The last thing they wanted was for her to overhear such a remark. Thankfully, she appeared to be sleeping soundly.

“I-I was just… um,” stammered Gúron uncomfortably, “Sorry.”

Near silence returned, except for the sound of Elrohir’s heavy breathing.

“Please, keep your voices down,” cautioned Aragorn, motioning the others to lower their voices. He then turned his eyes to the golden-headed Dúnadan. “What would make you suggest such a thing, Gúron?”

The Ranger cast an anxious glance at Elrohir. After having seen the son of Elrond’s reaction to his question, one that he now regretted speaking aloud, he was hesitant to say more.

“Say your piece,” prodded the Ranger Chieftain, who then quickly turned to Elrohir and added, “Without interruptions.”

The younger son of Elrond pursed his lips together, making no other comment or gesture.

Gúron remained hesitant. He had no idea why Elrohir had lashed out at him and feared that if he voiced his opinion, he might get a fist to the mouth.

“Speak freely,” said Aragorn, his tone more insistent.

The golden-haired Ranger took a deep breath and quickly exhaled. “I was thinking about the first time we met Miriel on Weathertop, and the number of Orcs that were after her. Do you not find it strange that such a great number had been sent after her?”

“She’s the Slayer,” chimed in Halbarad. “I do not doubt that the enemy realized that.”

“That’s probably true,” answered Gúron. “And if you remember, it was Elladan that noticed the scars on her wrists first,” he continued, shifting his eyes to the eldest son of Elrond. “A tell tale sign that she had been held captive if ever I saw one.”

Elladan nodded.

“Well, it was Miriel’s attack on Aragorn, in particular, that makes me think that some type of sexual abuse had taken place. How often has anyone here seen a maiden kick a man in the nether regions?”

No one answered.

“Surely, that is indicative of some type of sexual abuse, no?”

“Why would you think that it was Orcs?” asked Aragorn calmly.

“Did you see any men, mortal men in the area? Other than Orcs, there were only wargs in the region,” explained Gúron. “By reason of deduction, one must assume it was Orcs, I deem.”

“I do not believe that,” said an adamant Halbarad. “Miriel’s attack on Aragorn was out of desperation. She knew it was… a vulnerable spot, and thus, reacted accordingly.”

Gúron shook his head. “You’re wrong. How can you be so blind, Hal? Have you already forgotten what Miriel did tonight? Don’t tell me that was her reacting accordingly. She unleashed an unbridled rage on that Thornberry fellow, that is indicative of a woman that has been sexually assaulted.”

“I see it differently,” spoke up Elladan. “If anything, your own comments imply that Miriel was assaulted by a man, a mortal man, not Orcs.”

“But there were no men in the area, other than us Rangers,” said a defensive Gúron. He was sure that his theory was right.

“It is a long road from Minas Tirith. Who can truly say what had happened to Miriel along the way?” asked Aragorn. “Has she not spoken of the travails that plagued her along the way?” The Ranger chieftain’s eyes darted from Halbarad to the twins, who, out of everyone there, knew the Slayer best.

They all shook their heads. “Aside from battling Uruks and Orcs, she hasn’t revealed much to us,” replied Elrohir.

“And trolls,” interjected Elladan. “She did tell us about battling a couple of trolls.”

“Yes, and trolls,” said Elrohir, nodding in agreement. “Yet, I still hold to the belief that Miriel was assaulted by a man, not a vile and foul Orc.” He glared at Gúron at the mere suggestion.

The golden-hair Ranger was displeased that his theory was so easily dismissed. “Who’s to say that it wasn’t an Elf?” Gúron challenged. “Not all of your kindred have the same disposition as you.”

Elrohir snickered. “Miriel had never met an Elf until she met us. She told us that herself.”

“Let us not make this into some race war,” said Aragorn with an air of finality to his tone. “We’re all in agreement that some type of sexual assault happened to Miriel. And chances are that it was a mortal, one of our kindred, that was responsible.” He made a point to look directly at Gúron as he spoke his last words. “What is open for debate is whether Miriel is capable of continuing on the journey with us, if the events of tonight have opened a wound for which she can find no healing.”

There was a pause in the conversation for a few moments. Then, Hal said, “I see no reason for Miriel to abandon the hunt. She has lived with me for many months and has proven to be trustworthy and dependable. I have no reason to believe that any here are in danger, of her, that is.”

“I agree,” chimed in Elladan.

“As do I,” voiced Elrohir.

Aragorn nodded in agreement.

All eyes then turned to Gúron, the only member of the party that had not yet responded.

“Well?” questioned Halbarad, slightly annoyed by his fellow Ranger’s unwillingness to immediately answer. “What say you, Gúron?”

Doubt still plagued the golden-haired Dúnadan’s mind. Maybe if he hadn’t seen the mutilated corpse of the man in Bree, he’d be quick to agree with his fellow Rangers. But, he had seen it. And it wasn’t easy for him to dismiss the fact that there was something terribly wrong with Miriel, and the possibility that she might snap in an instant was very plausible. That thought alone sent shivers down his spine.

“How can you have so little faith in Miriel?” asked Hal, his tone riddled with disgust. A mischievous grin came to the Watcher’s face. “As long as you keep your penis in your breeches, you need not fear it being chopped off.”

The others attempted to hide their amusement by snickering into their hands.

“My penis is not the issue here,” Gúron replied snidely. “I have spent less time around her than all of you and she has not yet earned my trust.”

“I trust Miriel with my life,” replied the Watcher firmly. “And if you find that difficult to do, then so be it. Only time will change your mind.”
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