A Lady's Tale - Part Ten
It rained through the entire journey. For all the five days it took to reach the sheltering canopy of Mirkwood, it was storming or drizzling, without ever a moments warmth or dryness. The Elves were alright, being used to this sort of weather and not being bothered by it anyway, but Analsiel and Astianen and even the king were wet and miserble and snappish when the tall trees of King Thranduil's realm came into view.
"Do you see it, Lady?" said Legolas to Analsiel as they crested a hill. "That is Mirkwood." Lately he had been agreeing with her a lot, and talking to her even more. She disliked his attentions. At seventeen, it was not as if men had never looked at her that way before, but she didn't care for it from Legolas. In truth, she disliked the smiling Elf.
"I don't care if it's Moria or Barad Dur," she said snappishly. "If we can light a fire and get warm, it may not even bother me so much that you lived there."
It didn't bother her much. The wood they found on the forest floor was dry and in large supply. A general cheer went up from the company when the rain stoped outside their canopy of leaves and tree branches. Then all set about cooking their first warm meal in a week.
Analsiel sat quietly with her friends by the embers of their fire. It cast a glow on the faces of the three women, making them all seem unreal. Firnciliath's golden-brown hair reflected the firelight as if the sun shone in her eyes, and Astianen's hair seemed to glow from the warmth, just like the rest of her. If Analsiel could have seen herself, she would have noticed that her hair did not take on a red glow like the other ladies, but that it shown with the silver light radiating from the leaf at her throat.
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Firnciliath rose first that morning. She was awake when the first rays of a misty morning shown upon the dew-drenched grass of the dark forest. She paced, worried for no reason she could understand. She had been seeing Mirkwood in dreams for all the nights after she had agreed to go. The forest was soaked in blood, but a silvery light shown out from the south, where Gondor lay. The light healed everything it toched, making all that was dead alive again. She was troubled intensely by this dream. She had never told anyone, not even her brother, that she had dreams that were always true. So she always worried alone. But she had noticed the silver shine that had surrounded Analsiel at the fire last night, and remembering the healing light in her dream, she grew worried for her friend.
Analsiel woke an hour later, as the sun rose fully. Firnciliath had stopped pacing, and had started breakfast. Analsiel smiled at the Elf.
"You know, Firnciliath," she said in mock puzzled tone, "I think it really is the smell of Elvish cooking that makes me get up in the morning."
Firncilath laughed, and beckoned the mortal to help herself to the toast she was making.
By midday, the party had left the borders of Mirkwood, and trudged hopefully and lazily through it's dark interior. The king and Legolas rode as ususal in the front, with teh ladies just behind. Then the rest of teh foot soldiers and cavalry behind them.
But today, Analsiel rode with the cavalry commander, Carnewath. He was a hardened warrior, and a gruff man, but Analsiel enjoyed his company. They would debate a subject she knew nothing about, but through his fierce competition he had taught her many things. Most were on useless laws or military tactics that had been abandoned centuries ago, but mostly he taught her diplomacy. When they had first met at a banquet they had begun arguing about laws in Rohan, and Analsiel ad taken great offense, gotten worked up, and lost the argument dreadfully. But she didn't give up. Every thing he said was cause fro debate, and he had taught agreat deal since their first meeting. Though neither would ever admit it, they were fast friends.
But so engrossed were they in talk, that they did not notice the first arrow soar out of the bushes until a footsoldier fell down screaming as he died.
"ORCS!" cried the king. "Gather to your commander's! Ladies of Arwen, to me!"
With a look at Carnewath's grim expression, Analsiel spurred her horse to the king, as her first real battle began.
"Ana!' cried a voice to her left. "Ana, where are you?" It was Firnciliath, spurring through the confusion with all her might, her sword unsheathed. Analsiel drew her own, and flashed it's ruby hilt in the sunlight. "Here," she called. "Here!"
The two women rode easily to the king. The noise was deafening, full of men's screams and horses cries, the pounding of hooves, and the clang of metal on metal, along with the whirring of bowstrings. But the soldiers made space even in their fear to let the ladies by, and no Orc made it's way toward them without being killed.
Legolas held his horse by the King's side, and the two had expressions on their faces like the one Carnewath had worn. When Astianen joined tehm, Aragorn spared the three women only a glance before he raised his great sword and brought his men down with crashing force on the mass of Orcs.
It was all Analsiel could do to keep from screaming when the first Orc approached her. He was stoop-shouldered, with gray mottled skin that made him look dead already. The open running wound that ran teh length of his face astounded. Not a blow had been struck yet. That was simply how he looked all the time. She saw the metal loop pierced through his eyelid and almost wretched. But then he raised his sword at her head, and Ruthruin seemed to come up of it's own will, to block the swing and behead the beast before he made a sound.
After that, she was but a machine. She moved back and forth, guiding Carandae with her knees as the carnage of her foes fell beneath her. Carandae was a dream. He never shied or bucked, but always plunged with a vengeance where she told him to go. He kicked and killed with hooves and teeth until his mouth and legs were covered in blood. Analsiel's hands and arms were the same way. With blood coursing down their down their sides, they looked the very picture of death.
And then Analsiel let her guard slip. The Orc's short sword got past her and gored her side. For the first time, the blood that ran along her body was hers. She cried out as the world went red and gripped the side he had stabbed. Then with a feral scream, she chopped off his head.
She would have fallen off had Carandae not held her in her seat. He twisted this way and that, pushing her body and hands until they met at her neck, at her pendant.
Then the red was gone. Everything was gone. She stood alone on a plain where a single magnificent tree grew. On the top of the tree there was a palace where a silver light beckoned to her. She walked after it, surprised to find herself dressed in clean white shift. Her feet were shod in flimsy slippers that despite the long walk to the tree never gave out. She knew they wouldn't, but as the battle raged on outside her life, she was not sure of anything. All she knew to do was to walk toward that tree.