Betrayal - Chapter Three
"My name is Niandil. I am an Elf, from Mirkwood," he replied.
"Mirkwood!" Liedral remembered vague tales of the evils of Mirkwood. "Oh, My name is Liedral."
"So I figured. That was the name they were calling."
"Ah, yes." Liedral blushed hotly into the darkness. She gasped. "Holbytla!" she cried.
"What about hobbits?" Niandil asked, quite confused.
"No, that's the name of my cat. She's about as big as a Periannath, so I named her Holbytla," explained Liedral. "I've left her out there...She'll give me a scolding for sure..."
Niandil looked at her, a vague black shape against the darkness. "Your cat will give you a scolding," he repeated blankly.
Liedral winced. She had not been careful; if she were caught she would be given such a punishment! "My cat has been blessed by the Maia Gandalf. She can speak, and is my protector..." confessed Liedral.
"I see. When did you last see Gandalf?"
"I never have. My cat was also blessed with a lifespan of as long as need be, but she can be killed. That's why I'm worried," replied Liedral. After a moment, she asked, "Have you ever met him?"
"Indeed. Once when I was but a child. My family escorted him and the periannath to the Grey Havens before they sailed to Valinor..."
"You've traveled," observed Liedral.
Niandil nodded, and then remembered the darkness. "Yes," he said simply. "Shh. They're close."
Liedral pressed herself as far down as she could manage. A large shape hovered in the entrance to the tree's cavity, and Liedral heard the hiss of a blade being unsheathed.
"Liedral!" hissed the cat, jumping into her mistress's lap. "Why are you in here?"
"Holbytla, you're safe!" said Liedral, hugging her friend tightly.
"Yes, I am. Where did you run off to? How did you get up here?" demanded the cat.
"Shh! I think they've heard us!" whispered Niandil. The cat opened her mouth but the blade hissed again, this time being sheathed. The only sound was that of breath being drawn and exhaled.
"Aragorn!" called a man's voice. "There's a cavity in this tree. Could she be hiding there?"
Aragorn's footsteps rustled closer. "No, Haldìr. There are no branches low enough on that tree."
"But that tree there-It's very close to this one, and has low branches."
"Yes, but Liedral is not graceful. She could never get up there!" Laughter echoed up to their hiding place, and leaves rustled as the party left the area. After several moments, Niandil spoke.
"Right, they're headed west. If we go north, they shouldn't find us. Come," he commanded, easily unfolding out of the tree. He extended a hand to Liedral, who took it tentatively.
"Where are you headed?" asked Liedral as they marched through the woods. Niandil had shown her how to walk silently, leaving no footprints, and through the brush, leaving no path.
"You mean before I found you?" he asked. Liedral nodded, smiling bashfully. "I was looking for my father. He, too, is lost, though I do not know why. My mother was wounded by the Darkness, and soon died of her injuries."
"I'm sorry," said Liedral softly, laying a hand on his shoulder.
"'T'isn't your fault," he replied, his voice taking a harder tone. "If anyone's, it was mine, for not seeing the peril in the Darkness."
"Who brings this Darkness?" asked Holbytla. "Or what?"
"It just comes. Suddenly the day turns to night, or the dawn doesn't come. Then the Uruk-hai come, purging and destroying, burning and killing..." He wiped his face. "If you survive that, the Darkness, which was only as night before, becomes as the fabled Unlight."
"The Unlight?" gasped the cat. "Surely it can't be-"
"I do not know what it is. It is pure evil, a poisonous fume, that burns as it touches. It is like ash, and fire, lighting wood on fire, melting metals..." Niandil stopped, wiping his eyes again. Looking around he saw the cat, but not the girl.
"Liedral!" he called softly, then more loudly. "Liedral! Where are you?!"
"Liedral!" joined in the cat. "Come here! These woods are perilous!" Niandil inhaled sharply as he saw a faint trail crossing their path of only moments ago. He broke into a run to reach it. Looking both ways, it extended farther than his eyes could see, even being a Silvan Elf.
Holbytla was carefully sniffing the brush beside the tracks. "This way!" she cried, leaping off to the left.
Niandil followed anxiously, searching for signs of Liedral, a mark of a struggle, something. He found a small gold chain, very fine, almost invisible among the golden leaves still clinging to the leaves.
"Holbytla!" he cried. "Is this hers?" he asked, holding it up carefully. It held a very small enameled flower, and the center was a beautiful emerald. It showed extraordinary craftsmanship.
"Yes, she got that for her birthday some time ago," said the cat, inspecting it.
"Who gave it to her?" asked Niandil, curiously. It seemed vaguely familiar.
"She doesn't know. It came in an unmarked package, but I think I have figured out who sent it," said the cat. "I'm not telling you, though."
"Oh," said Niandil, still captivated by the perfection of the flower, the intricate detail. He realized it was a mallyrn blossom.