A Lady's Tale - Part Thirteen
Analsiel slept for days after the battle. Her nights and days were plagued by fitful dreams of dying men and women she could not save. Her friends appeared and even her mother. She tossed and turned with a high fever as those who were cleaning up after her healing watched over her. She never once opened her eyes in the three days they waited for King Thranduil to arrive.
Astianen sat beside her friend. Firnciliath had been there all day and Astianen knew she was tired. The brown-haired mortal knew enough about healing to understand that if Firnciliath was weak and tired enough, she might contract this fever too. But she was also feeling a bit left out. Even when the three girls were packing together, Astianen felt like there was a bond between her two friends where she did not really belong. Still they had always made her part of their friendship, and she was glad of it. She and her twin, Lilanen, had been the wards of King Aragorn since their noble parents had died, ten years ago, when both girls were eight. But Lilanen had not forgiven the world for the cruel death of her parents, and she had left the city for an old house by the sea where Astianen visited her every summer. It was sad seeing her sister this way. Lilanen was the more beautiful of the two, with thick brown hair that always flowed down past her waist and eyes the color of faceted emeralds. Astianen had always looked out for her and had always been the stronger of the two. But when Lilanen had left the court and not even offered to take Astianen with her, she had felt lost and alone with no one to take care of. Then the Queen adopted her and the eight year old girl had found someone to look after in Arwen. Now, separated from her Queen, and alone with her friends, she felt doubly abandoned. Oh, that was selfish. Here sat Analsiel, bedridden with fever and all she could think about was the sadness of her past. She swore never to think about those whom she could no longer watch over as she tended those she could. For they were all she had left.
Analsiel's dreams were simple ones. No visions of the future, no feverish delusions. Mostly she just slept and others watched her fever rise and fall without pattern. Then, when at last the fever seemed gone for good, they proceeded on their way to King Thranduil's hall, with Carandae pulling the carriage that the black-haired girl rode in.
Aragorn could not fail to notice the bad mood that Legolas was in. He was hardly his usual Elven self, as he sulked on his horse next to Analsiel's carriage. The king had guessed Legolas' feelings for the mortal girl, but he did not think it would go anywhere. Analsiel had shown no interest in Legolas, except that she disliked him. Aragorn chuckled over Legolas' silent bouts with himself over the girl, but he knew that the Elf hoped for more, and that it would never come from the lady.
By nightfall, King Thranduil's ancient palace was in sight. The company had long since realized that the attack they had suffered had been but a mere ambush, and that the real battles were yet to come. It was a grim thought, but most felt safer having the Lady of the Silver Light with them, even if she was reeling with fever in a carriage as she was pulled along a bumpy road.
But in one respect, they were wrong. Analsiel was awake. She had only been awake for an hour or two, but she was feeling well enough to sit up and peer out the carriage window. Shadows were lengthening, darkening the already gloomy forest that Legolas called home. But in the distance just over a hill, she could see the lights of a castle. It was cheering to see that there really was humanity besides themselves in these treacherous woods.
The stars came out as the party rode into the palace courtyard. Curious elves crowded around, their pale faces reflecting the moonlight that's hone out from the sky. None came near her carriage, but crowded around the horses of the King of Gondor, and their prince riding at the head of the column. There was no cheering, as it was by now the dead of night, and the Elves still awake did not want to waken others. But smiles were everywhere, and all their horses were shown immediately to warm stalls. Analsiel watched all this through the window of her carriage until the door swung open unexpectedly and Astianen's face appeared at the opening.
"You're...You're awake!" she cried gleefully, staring happily at Analsiel's face.
"I think so," replied the girl shakily, for having the door pulled almost out from under her had knocked her around a bit.
By this time Firnciliath had heard the commotion from the carriage and had come over to inspect. She nearly fell over when she saw Astianen helping the girl who an hour ago had been sick with fever out of the carriage. Then she gathered herself and ran toward her friends, throwing herself onto Analsiel.
"You're well, oh you're well!" she cried. And then she hugged Astianen, who hugged her back, and then they both hugged Analsiel, and then all three women were hugging each other, and then crying. They were still holding onto each other and crying when Legolas and Aragorn joined them.
"I'm not made of glass you know," came the tart voice from behind the bed curtains. Aragorn's company had been comfortable in Thranduil's palace, and had been there for a week.