A Lady's Tale - Part Sixteen
The King was screaming at Analsiel, pacing around her, swearing in Elvish and snarling at her. He had not believed her when she said that Arwen was dying, but had assumed she wanted to get away from Mirkwood. She had tried to convince him otherwise, but he just screamed at her some more.
"My lord, I would not lie to you, and why would I want to leave Mirkwood?"
Aragorn turned on her, his eyes flashing. "I do not know why you do what you do-"
'Then do not lecture me about it!" Analsiel's voice rose in hysteria as she bit her lip to hold back tears.
"The Queen is not dying, and Thranduil needs us hear!" roared the king.
Analsiel swallowed and let tears run down her cheeks freely. "No, my lord," she said quietly. "King Thranduil needs you hear, not me. I'm going back." Then she ran from the room.
Since she had left so abruptly, she was not there to see Aragorn sink into a chair and bury his face in his hands.
Night is becoming the only time when I'm alive, thought Analsiel as she slipped out of her room in the moonlight. Her back and hands were laden with provisions, her neck with the silver leaf, and her heart with many troubles. She was walking silently toward the stable and her dark hair and black cloak blended well against the darkness of Mirkwood. She did not enjoy the prospect of riding through Mirkwood alone, but for Arwen...well, for Arwen she had to.
Carandae whickered softly when she came to him. She had missed her wonderful horse while she had been ill, and his warmth and kindness was comforting. She stepped into his stall and reached for his saddle.
"Where are you going?" The voice came softly out of the darkness.
Analsiel jumped. "Nori!"
The blond girl stepped out of the shadows of the stall. "You're going home, aren't you? Why didn't you ask me to come with you?" She pulled on the reins of her white stallion, Sunbeam, and revealed that he was already packed and ready for a long journey. Nori had a white cloak around her shoulders, and her smile was mischievous. "You didn't think you could leave me behind, did you?"
Analsiel laughed long and hard, not caring who heard, then hugged her friend. "I did, and I shouldn't have. Mount up and let's go!"
From his darkened room, the king watched the two departing figure, the white horse and gold hair that was Nori and the sheer blackness that was Analsiel as they rode through the castle gate. Tears fell down his cheek, and he whispered something that even he did not understand. Later he would wonder if he even said it.
"Aragorn!" Legolas' frantic cry woke the king much earlier than he would have liked. "Aragorn, she's gone!"
Legolas burst in through the door, his usual composure utterly shattered. Aragorn sighed and swung himself out of bed, revealing nightclothes that were two sizes too small for him. Legolas hardly even noticed. "I know they are gone Legolas," he said heavily.
Legolas stared. "What...they... Aragorn what do you mean?"
"Analsiel had a dream that showed her that Arwen was...that Arwen was dying. She left late last night and Norinel followed her, and then they left together."
Legolas gulped. "Nori went with her? But Aragorn, why didn't you send them with guards, or anything, oh why?"
Aragorn cut sharply into this tirade. "Because I did not believe her! Not until, not until...Not until I had the same dream last night just before they left. Or at least, it showed Arwen being consumed by black fire."
Legolas was almost dancing in rage. "Then we must go after them! I shall get our horses ready, and we will-"
"You would leave your father without any protection at all? Analsiel was one of our best fighters, and we can consider ourselves short ten cavalrymen with the loss of her, and three with the loss of Norinel! Would you have us lose another ten to search for them?"
Legolas cheeks burned with rage, but he knew Aragorn was right. Aragorn saw his friends hurt, and put his hand on his shoulder. In Elvish he said, "Legolas, they will be alright. Analsiel's power will help them and the Queen, and we can help here. Put your mind to other things, and I shall try to follow your example though it be harder than running after them to save them."
The morning was dark. The afternoon was even darker, and the evening was darker still. Nori and Analsiel, trekking through Mirkwood on foot were nervous about what true night would bring. Their horses were well enough, and they had brought plenty of food to feed all four of themselves with, but useless worries seemed to follow them like bees after honey. Nori had thankfully remembered to bring things for herself, so there were no worries of whether they had enough supplies, but every time they stopped they checked over their packs to make sure they had everything.
Finally, when it was too dark to see three feet ahead, the girls stopped walking and spread out their bedrolls. These rolls of blankets and padding were handy, and essential for a trip through rough terrain. Sunbeam was frightened by the darkness, and Nori spent several minutes comforting the poor horse until he calmed down long enough for her to remove her pillow. Nori herself was scared of the dark, though she'd rather die than admit it to Analsiel, for her friend was like a bat in that respect. She loved the darkness, and was not afraid of spreading out her bedroll into an area she couldn't see and then just crawling in. "I'm a night owl," she said. "Besides, once the night has come, everything is quiet and I can hear so much better."
"I know," grumbled Nori. "That's what bothers me. It's also why you're taking the first watch."
Analsiel didn't know what hour of the day it was in Mirkwood when she awoke. The forest was as thick as cloth, and she could only make out the faintest beams of light bursting through the trees. She turned over and saw Nori still sound asleep. "It must still be night," she thought. " So what woke me up?" She picked up her red blade, Ruthruin, and slipped out of her bedroll. The darkness was impenetrable, and she couldn't see anything more than two feet in front of her. Then she looked down and her stomach rolled with terror and nausea.
At her feet lay a rope of sticky spider web.
"Nori," she choked out, her throat sticky with fear. "Nori, spiders."
Her friend had not been as thoroughly asleep as Analsiel had thought. At the mention of the word, the girl was already out of bed, naked sword in hand.
"I can't see them," she whispered. "Can you?"
"No," was the soft reply. "But try to follow that thread. It glows a bit. Maybe we can trace it back to the owner."
Nori shivered at the venom in her friend's voice, and almost worried for the spider. Then she shifted her blade Fuinglin, meaning Dark glimmer, from hand to hand as her nerves hummed, ready for combat.
Analsiel noticed her friend's restlessness and smiled at her to quiet her own nerves as much as Nori's. She was worried that the girl's white cloak and blond hair might reveal in the dark of Mirkwood, but did not think it was necessary to point this out to Nori.
That was when the spider interrupted all thoughts of being noticed.
It leapt out of the trees and flung itself into the campsite. Nori nearly screamed, but didn't lose her head. She had fought in two full battles already, and was not usually one to cower and squeal. Analsiel leaped forward when the thing entered their clearing and thrust her sword right into its enormous side. It felt like piercing armor, but Ruthruin was sharp, and had been made by the Elves, so it cut through the spider's hide, quickly and smoothly. It began to glow red as it always did when she fought with it. Fuinglin soon joined the fray, and between the two of them, the spider didn't have a chance of survival, but it scored a few strikes before it died. Analsiel's sword arm bled heavily, and Nori had a long, thin scratch running across her forehead. Then with a feral yell, Nori stabbed the thing the monster in it's eye, and Analsiel quickly followed with a stroke to the heart. As the spider fell, it let out an anguished, ringing cry that seemed to echo the length of the forest. Then it was still.
Both girls panted for breath as they stared at their lifeless foe. Then Analsiel came to her senses as she realized that the dying cry of the spider would attract more of its kind, and that they would seek revenge on its killer. Voicing her fears to Nori, she pulled her leaf from around her neck. If they had to hurry, then they could not be bleeding and in pain. She dipped the leaf into her water canteen, and then pressed it along the cut in Nori's forehead. Since it had been shallow to begin with, it healed clean, and left no trace of the bloody mess that had been there before. Nori stared at the leaf in amazement. "By Eru," she breathed. "Where did you get that?"
Analsiel grimaced as she applied the ornament to her own wound. It did not heal as smoothly as Nori's and would ache if she over-used it. "Except that I dream about it, and I had a vision while I was dead bout Galadriel, I don't know anymore than you do. But it is the reason I have to go to Arwen. It may help her."
It was not the first time Analsiel was grateful fro her beautiful horse Carandae, for there were not many other horses who could have galloped through Mirkwood at full speed without tripping more than twice. Sunbeam, with Nori on her back, was just as swift and sure of foot. Together, the two girls rode out of the darkness in the dawn of the second day of their run. They had not stopped to eat or sleep, and had only checked their pace to drink and keep the horses from collapsing. They were now on the other side of the ferocious forest, and no spiders would venture out of it to chase them. But they were in no condition to continue their ride. Since Analsiel had not bound her wound, it had reopened and bled sluggishly until she had wrapped it with a scarf. Nori was sick and nearly feverish after all the hard riding, and their horses were foaming at mouth and flanks, and all were dizzy with exhaustion. They had just enough energy to roll out the first blanket that came to hand before they collapsed onto it. The horses followed suit, falling to the ground beside each other, suddenly weak from standing still after running for so many hours. The girls fell into dead sleep just as fast as their horses, and for once Analsiel did not dream. For a soft voice was whispering triumphantly in her sleeping ear, You did it. You are safe now. Sleep.
And anyone watching would have seen a shower of silver leaves blow gently away from the sleeping form towards the woods of Lothlorien. But no one was watching.