A Lady's Tale - Part Nineteen--
Quelleanon leapt from her bed in the palace. It was her turn to tend Arwen, but she would leave Luinduriel on duty a while longer. Her dream, she knew it was true. She ran to Lhunidil's room, not caring that all she wore was her rumpled undergarments. She flung the door open, startling a bleary Lhunidil into action.
"Quelleanon?" she asked, confused.
"She's coming home."
`She' was sitting astride her tired horse as they trotted past woods and fields and meadows, as they had been doing for 4 days. They were near the end of their journey now, and should reach Minas Tirith by nightfall. Nori was holding up as well as she, but Meranyn was a weak thing, an ornament to the Rohirrim court and suited for nothing more challenging than embroidery. It gave both girls a grim pleasure to see this arrogant lady struggling as they waltzed their way through the journey. Still, they tried to be encouraging.
"We should be there by dark," announced Analsiel, and immediately regretted it. Meranyn had been complaining about the "long journey" since the first day, and if they weren't there by dark, then she would probably have a fit. But it seemed to have the opposite effect of giving the road-weary girl new energy, and by evening, they were within the walls of the White City.
"Arwen, Arwen, she's here," whispered Quelleanon, her eyes tearing. The Queen was so pale, so ill. The whole court knew she was dying, and their only hope lay in the Lady of the Silver Light. Quelleanon managed a smile at her friend's new name, but when Arwen's dry lips opened begging for water, she turned her attention back to the dying lady.
Lhunidil met them in the courtyard. Nori hardly recognized her. Her face was tearstained and dirty, her eyes were empty, and her hair was wound into a shapeless knot at the back of her neck. She reached out and took the reins of their horses, then passed them to a hostler. Nori dismounted just a bit behind Analsiel and Meranyn. She saw Analsiel put her hand on the Elf's shoulder. Then Lhunidil lost control. She collapsed onto Analsiel's shoulder and sobbed, wrenching the sound out of her throat. "Analsiel...Arwen, she's dying, everyone knows it! I can't help her!" Her words were broken by the tears and hard to understand through her misery. "I wanted to send for you, but I couldn't! Yes, we know about you, Lady of the Silver Light, and please," here her voice broke with anguish, "Please, save her!" And then she was reduced to silent tears.
Analsiel let her cry for a minute, and then pushed her gently away, looking at her. "Lhunidil, you haven't slept in days." Her voice was soft, and she was gentle, yet firm. "Go back to your room and wash your hair, face, everything. Then sleep for awhile. Then brush your hair and put on a clean dress, then go to the dining hall and have some thick soup. Then come to the library, and we'll all stay there awhile. The same to everyone who has been watching over the Queen. It's alright now."
Suddenly Lhunidil's eyes glowed at the thought of food and a bath, and that the burden of the Queen was out of her hands for at least a little while. Nori could see it.
Brunda was old and useless, but she had served the Queen when she was younger as a maid, and now she would look after her until the Elf girl, Quelleanon, returned. She looked at her Queen, so deathly pale, and sent up a quick prayer to the Valar that someone would come soon to save the Queen.
The door swung open.
The woman framed in the doorway glowed silver. She was tall, and her hair was black as night, her skin white as the Queen's own. But she was taller, thinner, and her dress was ruined. Brunda stared in awe as the woman came closer. She looked at the woman's neck, and was nearly blinded by the intense silver glow that shone out from it. Then the woman held out her hand. "Please, madam, get me a basin of hot water and some clean cloths." Her voice was earthly, but it had something powerful to it, and it was something Brunda could not resist. She fled the room, swearing never to doubt the power of the Valar again.
When she returned, the Queen was moving, rolling around on her bed in fever. But the silver lady had been pressing that light to the Queen's hand, head, and chest. She was pouring the silver glow into the Queen until she was still. Then she reached out and took the hot water and one cloth from Brunda. She wrapped a handful of blue-green leaves around the cloth, then poured a bit of hot water over it. The poultice steamed, releasing a warm, healing smell, like mint and honey. She placed the hot cloth over the Queen' forehead and prepared another one for her eyes. She continued doing this with all of the cloths, and then she made up a drink from the hot water. She asked Brunda to build up a fire, then to open the windows. Then to close them again, and bank the fire. Each action had a different effect on the Queen, and Brunda got a sense that this woman was trying all the different things she could think of. But none of them seemed to be working. She kept looking at that bright glow around her neck, and muttering to herself. Brunda heard things like, "I was so sick last time," and "but she might die." The most upsetting was when she said, "Do I dare to use it? Its power could kill her." Brunda had never seen much magic, and now here she was in the presence of someone whose magic could kill an Elf. But the lady was moving her hand toward her neck, and then she had removed the glow from her neck and it was resting in her hand. The light pooled and swirled in her hand, and she gritted her teeth, closed her eyes, and began to send out the silver glow till it had completely surrounded the Queen. The she spoke, in a voice that was both very young and very old. It wasn't frightening, but soothing. It Brought Brunda back to herhappiest times, and she hoped it did so for the Queen. But now the lady was speaking.
"Arwen, my Queen, it is not your time yet. Come back. Your parents miss you, yes I know, but could you leave us behind so easily? You have had an eternity with them, and you have only so long with your husband...with your children. You cannot leave us yet. Things are just beginning to happen, and the world is changing again. New things are happening. You cannot leave us yet Arwen. It is not your time!" Her last words were slow, clear and yet passionate.
Then Brunda almost cried out in joy when she heard the Queen say, "Yes, I know. I'm coming back."