Beyond the Mists - Chapter Eight
A/N - Sorry this has taken so long. I have actually nearly finished writing the story, but as for typing it up... well, i don't find that quite as enjoyable. But I will make more effort in the future!
"My Lord, I'm very sorry, but I can't tell you what I don't know!" the exasperated maid repeated for the umpteenth time. Captain Lerron glared suspiciously at her.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, yes, yes! Now go and find something more productive to do with your time than pester old women!" and Marigold bustled him out of Nessa's room. Closing the wooden door and locking, she sighed heavily and carried on cleaning.
Lady Nessa had been missing for almost two days now, since the last time she had been seen was by her father on the morning that news of the travelers had reached the castle. Now night had closed in around them, but in the night sky shone no star - a great storm cloud had covered the peaceful lands of Leithen, casting deep shadow over all. The King himself had not spoken a word, for it seemed the shadow lay upon his heart the heaviest of all.
As Marigold opened Nessa's drawers to fold away clean clothes, the gasped - all of the Lady's old traveling gear was gone! A thought at once sprang into the maids head - but not wanting to simply make unjustifiable assumptions, she quickly remembered one item that would prove her wrong, or right. She checked the third draw down, frowning slightly and mumbling as she searched. After a few minutes of frantic rummaging through the Lady's various belongings, her face grew solemn and she straightened up. It was gone. The one thing that the Lady would never be parted from for too long; the silver pendant of a rearing horse, once her mothers.
Marigold's worst fears at once came into play. She knew that Nessa would never part from it, so there was only one possible answer; that she had somehow escaped, past the guarded walls of her home, beyond the misty forest, and on out into the wild... Yet ahead of that, Marigold could hazard no guess. Where was she headed? Where was she now? Was she alone? Then Marigold remembered how Nessa's horse Elformen had been reported missing on the day the Captains went to meet the strangers - wait. Wait, wait, wait, thought Marigold, the strangers, of course! The Lady had so wanted to meet them, to find out of their own lands and stories, was it just mere coincidence that she had disappeared on the day they had arrived? Something told her it was not...
But where had they themselves been headed? Were they with her now? And were they keeping her safe? So many questions... yet Marigold knew she mustn't tell the Captains of her idea, not yet at least. For now, the Lady could have her adventure. And so the confused maid gazed with searching eyes out across the eerie mountains, pondering where on Middle Earth the Lady was right now...
Nessa sat down gingerly; resting against what she presumed to be a large boulder, though in this blackness next to nothing was visible. Since being trapped in the mines, they had walked on into the darkness for what seemed like an eternity. None of them had spoken, and the silence seemed so tense it could have been slit open with a knife. In the flickering and faint light from Gandalf's staff, the shadows danced and moved like creeping figures in the night.
They were now far into the Mines, or so Nessa reckoned, for it must have been midnight at least, though glimpse of the world outside could she see to prove her right. At the moment, all she knew as that they had stumbled wearily on for hours, and Nessa's feet were practically screaming in agony.
As she laid her back and closed her eyes, Gandalf spoke quietly to the group.
"We now face a four-day journey to the East Gate. Each night, though it may seem eternal night to us, two will pair up in watch, that they may keep each other company - we will swap the pairs every two hours. This silence can do funny things to a lone mind..." he warned, and cast a wary look about him.
That night, it was decided that Aragorn and Gandalf should watch first, then Gimli and Merry, then Boromir and Sam, and lastly Legolas and Nessa. They had all silently agreed that it would be best if Frodo got as much sleep as he could. This arrangement was fine with Nessa, as it meant she could sleep without interruption, but first they each took a drought of the Miruvor of Rivendell. The others received it gratefully, though at first Nessa eyed it with suspicion.
"It's elvish," Gandalf told her, "a refreshing drink from Imladris - a gift from Lord Elrond."
Nessa shrugged and sipped a little, and immediately a warm sensation spread all through her aching body, soothing her tired limbs. The drink was like nothing she had ever tasted before; sweet, like honey and fruit, yet cool and clear like a mountain stream. Appreciatively, she handed it back to Gandalf as he and Aragorn settled themselves down for their watch. All around her, the Fellowship lay out their blankets; the hobbits looked as if they could have slept anywhere (which was lucky); Gimli, like Nessa, was resting against a rock, snoring softly already; Boromir cast her a nervous glance, then laid down with his back to her supposedly asleep, though it was long before his breathing fell into a rhythmic pattern; Legolas lay with his hands folded by his chest, eyes unclosed, blending living night and deep dreams, as is the way of the fair folk. As Nessa looked upon each of them, she smiled in spite of herself; what a strange company we are, she thought to herself, then weariness over came her, and she slipped into a deep and dreamless sleep, of shadows and light.