Exile - Chapter 6: A journey and a royal invitation
After the sun set, nocturnal predators roamed the forest in search of prey. At the edge of the forest a bonfire (which had been fueled by broken branches on the forest floor) blazed merrily. Men walked around the small camp, some were taking up their posts as sentries, while others got ready to sleep, but most spared a many nervous glance for where a particular large tree like figure silently stood.
Ty'lana had already tried to assure most of the men that the ent was only sleeping but she could see they found it hard to believe. The elf princess sat alone on the smooth grassy floor, she had refused a tent telling the kind rangers that it was unnecessary. After they had left, Ty'lana stared into space reflecting on Lorandil's words. They had been cold and hurtful but also right. What she did was stupid; running off like that because she had discovered something interesting. Her tutors would have been scandalized at her recklessness. The last time she had seen Lorandil he was walking round the camp checking the perimeter, she decided that it would be prudent to keep out of his way for the remainder of the trip.
Ivorhen stood up from checking Elver's horse shoe and stretched.
"Well Elver there's nothing to worry about, get a good night sleep."
The horse neighed softly as the ranger patted it and walked away, he made a beeline for the bonfire where the evening meal was been dished out. As usual, Ivorhen looked at his surroundings and saw Ty'lana was alone. She looked very forlorn sitting there on the grass. The other rangers greeted him as he neared the cooking pot.
"Has anyone given the Lady something to eat?"
Tharwin, a ranger Ivorhen recognized stood up. "I tried, but she said she wasn't hungry."
Ivorhen's eyes narrowed, Lorandil could be very hard when he wanted to be, he hadn't heard what the half elf had said to Ty'lana, but the Dunedain suspected it must have been harsh. Ivorhen collected his own meal, thanked the elected cook and turned to Tharwin.
"I'm sure the Lady must be a little famished by now, let's say we try again."
The Dunedain waited for the young man to collect a small bowl of the delicious smelling soup, then they both walked towards the elf maiden.
Ty'lana heard footsteps coming her way, but refused to acknowledge them, hoping they would walk by. That was not to be.
"Mind if I sit here?" Ty'lana looked up at the dark haired ranger, beside him stood an anxious Tharwin with a hot bowl of soup in his hands.
"I don't mind," answered Ty'lana. Ivorhen sat down in a lotus position and glanced at Tharwin. The young ranger finally decided to speak.
"M..my Lady, I brought some ..... food, I thought you would...." His voice trailed off, he was obviously embarrassed. Ivorhen hid a smile as he pretended to be engrossed in his meal; the poor young man was half way in love with the elf maiden that he could hardly speak. Ty'lana had pity on the ranger and reached out for the bowl as she replied.
"Thank you Tharwin," his face brightened like the sun when he realized she knew his name, "I appreciate your concern." Tharwin nodded happily and walked away.
"You sure made his day," remarked Ivorhen wryly.
Ty'lana said nothing and toyed with her food. The Dunedain allowed a few seconds of silence to pass before speaking again.
"Enjoying your meal?" asked Ivorhen.
"It's... very delicious," replied Ty'lana
"Hmmm, must be since you've hardly taken a bite," said the ranger gently. He saw her cheeks redden at his words.
"I'm sorry," apologized the elf "I'm not really good company at the moment.....I have a lot on my mind."
That's pretty obvious, thought Ivorhen. "Lady Ty'lana," began the ranger "if you don't mind my asking, what's on your mind?"
His question made her look at him. Ivorhen barely knew her but yet was bold enough to ask her such a question, staring at him she could only see sincerity in his hazel coloured eyes. Lorandil's eyes had been filled with suspicion at first which gradually became a reluctant acceptance, but Ivorhen had refused to judge her from the first moment they met. She heard herself speaking.
"I did something very stupid today."
"Such as?" asked Ivorhen. His gentle inquiry made her continue.
"I put everyone in danger because I was curious."
"You didn't mean to, so stop beating yourself up about it," said Ivorhen simply "besides you are not likely to repeat such again, are you?"
"No, but....," answered Ty'lana.
"Then all's right with the world, now let's change the subject. What's Lightbeam up to? He's just standing there."
The ranger's abrupt but rather effective way of reassuring Ty'lana had her smiling a little.
"He's sleeping," answered the elf princess. Ivorhen looked skeptical at her reply.
"Sleeping? Are you sure?" Ty'lana nodded.
"Yes, I'm sure. He told me he needed to rest because he has been traveling for days."
"Nice of him to sleep in front of the whole camp, I doubt there would be any need for sentries tonight."
Ty'lana was puzzled by his words. "Why do you say that?"
"Most of these lads including myself have never seen an Ent which we thought only existed in legends, now there's one sleeping at the edge of our camp, how do you expect them to sleep?" He asked cheerfully. Ty'lana nodded, agreeing with the Dunedain, then she remembered something that had occurred earlier.
"Ranger Ivorhen, today when we met Lightbeam you spoke to him in flawless Sindarin, I find that a bit odd because I thought most of the elves have left."
"The Dunedain are the descendants of the Númenoreans, most of my ancestors have had relations with the elves, especially those of Rivendell so naturally we grew up learning the language. Though the elves have departed from these shores it is still being taught to the young ones. I doubt it will ever cease to be spoken."
"That is good to hear,' said Ty'lana. Ivorhen gave her a curious look.
"If you don't mind my asking where are you from exactly?"
He saw a tenseness enter her shoulders and her captivating gray green eyes narrowed as she steadily stared at him.
"I thought Captain Romer told you," she said carefully.
Ivorhen returned the look with a sincere smile. "Yes he did, he said it was Firlaya, now I'm sorry if I have offended you but I just wanted to know about your home, the Captain said your reason for coming is between you and King Andaran."
Ty'lana said nothing, simply stared at him as if searching for something then relaxed as if satisfied with what she discovered.
"There is no need for apologizing..... my home is very far away, it took the ship a year to get here."
"A year?" asked Ivorhen in surprise "and you're the only one that got off?"
That cautious look almost returned. "Yes," she replied.
"My, my, it must have been quite a journey," he said in amazement.
"You have no idea," agreed Ty'lana with feeling as she remembered the tension filled trip that almost brought Lord Erlon and Lord Clithar to blows. Ivorhen looked thoughtfully at her and decided to change the topic; it was obvious that talking about her home land might cause problems.
"Would you believe that 7 decades ago, it was considered suicide traveling through Gatelin forest without at least 300 men?" Ty'lana seemed relieved at the change of topic.
"Why was it so?" asked Ty'lana. It was Ivorhen's turn to look stunned.
"Because of the war," he answered simply.
Ty'lana sighed. "It appears Captain Romer didn't tell you that my people have not been in touch with the elves of this land for the past 4000 years."
"I didn't know that, how come?" Her answering smile was bitter.
"We had a war of our own which resulted in the loss of our palantir."
"Oh, I see. Well about 7 to 8 decades ago Gondor was at war with Sauron and his forces of orcs, goblins, uruk-hai ,Haradrim and Easterling allies. This forest was practically overrun with his forces; it didn't take long before Rohan, Lothlorien and Rivendell were involved. It took a lot of brave souls and sacrifices before Sauron was defeated. Recovery took some time but it would have been longer if the elves and dwarves hadn't helped."
"I would like to hear more about this war," said Ty'lana clearly interested.
"And believe me you shall, there are countless poems and ballads about it."
"I'm sure there are, but please could you tell me about it now? It's essential I know your history." For a few seconds Ivorhen was at loss for words.
"Well..... you see, maybe I should call Tharwin...... I might not remember all the dates."
"I think Tharwin is busy, and right now you're not," she waited expectantly.
Ivorhen finally decided to give in and started telling her about the War of the Ring.
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Ivorhen yawned; he never knew talking could get him this exhausted. A few minutes ago, Ty'lana sensing his fatigue had bade him good night and turned in. The Dunedain decided at that moment to check up on Lorandil. While he was giving Ty'lana a history lesson the half elf had passed them twice. Both times, it looked like he wanted to join them but decided against it.
Ivorhen set out for the last direction he had seen Lorandil taking. Soon enough he found the half elf standing at the edge of the camp staring into the darkness.
"Finished your little lesson?" asked Lorandil without turning. Ivorhen didn't answer until he was standing beside him.
"Not really, how did you know what we were talking about?" Ivorhen asked idly.
"A few words like `the battle of the Pelennor fields,' `the siege of Helm's Deep,' and my personal favourite `the ring to rule all rings and in the darkness bind them," replied Lorandil dryly.
"So, you were listening, why didn't you join in? That was supposed to be you sitting there."
"Pardon me, it seemed like you were enjoying yourself, which brings me to the question of wondering why you are here." Lorandil looked at his friend, awaiting his answer.
"I was bored."
"Hah!" exclaimed Lorandil in surprise "you expect me to believe that?"
"Precisely." Lorandil glared at his friend. Ivorhen sighed.
"Okay, I'll say it once more. I was bored and I feel strongly that wherever she's going, momentous events will certainly take place. I'd rather experience them first hand."
Lorandil shook his head. "Ivorhen, haven't you ever heard of the warning that says be careful what you wish for?"
"Maybe and another reason I'm here is to keep an eye on you."
"Finally! The truth comes out!"
"And I must say that Ranger Lorandil, you have been behaving badly."
Lorandil's jaw almost dropped. "Me?" Ivorhen nodded.
"Yes, you have been unnecessarily stern with our guest."
"But, I only........." Ivorhen continued as if he didn't hear him.
"I know you are concerned with her welfare, but can you not show it in a gentler manner? As I said before she means no harm and you and I know she just needs a friend."
"Yes, but....." started Lorandil.
"Good," Ivorhen smiled and clapped him on the shoulder "I know in the morning you'll be nicer to her, I'm so glad we had this conversation. Sleep well my friend." Without another word the Dunedain left him. Lorandil stared open mouthed at his departing friend, once again as Ivorhen was fond of doing he had dominated the discussion and neatly ended it with Lorandil hardly speaking. The half elf laughed softly.
"This is going to be an interesting trip." He walked back into the camp.
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Lorandil was right; it was turning out to be an interesting trip. Ty'lana had approached him in the morning to apologise for her behaviour and promised to obey his orders.
Lorandil had felt awkward and abruptly told her that he accepted her apology and turned to go when she made her request. He was so stunned he heard himself asking her to repeat it. Now staring upwards, he wondered why he had been worried in the first place.
Ty'lana was riding on Lightbeam's shoulders much to the amazement of the soldiers below. Lorandil's heart had beat rapidly when the Ent's large hand gently plucked Ty'lana from the forest floor and settled her on his shoulders. Many of the soldiers had their hands moving involuntarily to their weapons. Even Lorandil had been surprised to find his hand on the hilt of his sword, but he had relaxed when his sharp elven eyes saw the excitement on her face. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.
The scene made him remember the story of the ride that Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregin Took, two members of the legendary Fellowship had on the shoulders of Treebeard. Lorandil wondered what Ty'lana was discussing with the ent.
* * * * *
"Comfortable?" asked Lightbeam as he strode forward ahead of the mounted horses.
"Very," said Ty'lana happily. This last time she had a ride on an ent was when she was 54 years old, it had been with her brother and that was the only time they had so much fun that they actually forgot they were supposed to be adversaries. She realized that Lightbeam was asking her a question.
"Where are you from Ty'lana, you are clearly not from these parts."
"I'm from Firlaya, many, many a days journey from here. Have you heard of it?"
"Hmmm," sighed Lightbeam "perhaps when once I sat at Elder Treebeard's roots as he passed on tales of the past to us younger ents."
"You've heard of Firlaya?" asked Ty'lana amazed and hopeful at the same time.
"Yes, the home of the elves that wished to explore the other regions of this fair world we all inhabit. We have heard of them, but one would have taught your people would have left for Valinor by now." Ty'lana shook her heard sadly.
"Not yet but hopefully in the future."
"I see," said Lightbeam.
"Are their many more of you?" asked Ty'lana wishing to talk of something else less painful. It was the ent's turn to sigh deeply.
"As many as they can be and yet not enough, many have passed away over the centuries and many in the last war that ravaged this country and other regions of the land. The time will come when none of us will remain," he paused "You recognized what I am Ty'lana of Firlaya, are there ents in your homeland?"
"Yes, there are but only on a certain guarded island."
"Guarded?" Lightbeam sounded alarmed. "Why?"
"So that none might harm them, very few humans are allowed on the island. The Entwives need...."
"Entwives!?" Lightbeam was so startled that he stopped suddenly; thankfully Lorandil and his men were some distance behind so they didn't run into them.
"Yes, Entwives," said Ty'lana, she was puzzled by Lightbeam's behaviour but not alarmed. "Don't you have them here?"
"Lightbeam started walking again, but Ty'lana could tell his steps were livelier.
"Our Entwives disappeared many, many years ago, they are the main reason I started this journey, hoping to hear something about them. How did they get to Firlaya?"
"I'm not sure, if they are the same ones. The entwives of Firlaya were there before my ancestors even settled there 10,000 years ago."
"Hmm," mused Lightbeam "this requires a lot of thought and I must not act too hasty or else mistakes will be made." Ty'lana looked behind them and saw the huge distance he had unknowingly put between himself and Lorandil's men.
"Eh.. Lightbeam, could you slow down a bit, so my friends can catch up?"
The Ent stopped and apologized for his haste. Ty'lana shook her heard.
"That's alright, no harm done."
"I'm glad to hear that, please if you can, tell me more of the Entwives."
Ty'lana began to tell him all she knew.
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Faerla laid her hand on the little boy's forehead. She smiled at him.
"Your fever has broken Calmen, you will soon up and about." The boy grinned back.
"Thank you my lady," his mother who carried him looked at Faerla with gratitude.
"I thank you also, I was so scared. Is his majesty nearby? I have to thank him."
Faerla smiled and shook her heard. "He was here earlier, but did not want to wake you, he left strict instructions that you should rest. Now here's some food," she brought a covered tray of food nearer to the mother "eat as much as you can and rest."
Amidst the woman's grateful tears, Faerla left. Calmen and his mother had come to Minas Tirith to look for work, along the way the boy fell ill and was brought to the House of Healing. Calmen had been so sick that Faerla was afraid he would die, but Andaran had refused to give up and eventually the sickness was beaten.
Now that he was better, his mother would need to find work, Faerla decided to ask the head cook if there was a space for her in the royal kitchens. Faerla pushed back the strands of dark hair that always escaped from her bun and picked up dirty bed linen from nearby empty beds. She felt so tired that she refused to think of the tons of works she needed to do before midday. She turned a corner and nearly collided with a young beautiful blonde woman.
"Watch, where you're going you clumsy maid!" snapped Catrena.
The apology that rose to Faerla's lips died instantly. "Catrena? What are you doing here?"
"How dare...," started Catrena, then she recognized Faerla, her lips curled.
"Why Faerla," she said smoothly "I barely recognized you, underneath all that dirty linen, you looked exactly like another maid." Faerla felt her blood boil, Catrena never failed to look down on her and make snide cutting remarks that always made her look plain and awkward beside the blonde beauty.
"As I asked earlier Catrena, what brings you here?" Faerla barely managed to keep her voice civil. Catrena twirled a strand of gold hair round her finger and smiled at Faerla.
"It's really none of your business, but since you insist I came looking for his majesty, King Andaran."
"He isn't here, I believe he's at a meeting." Faerla expected her to leave at this point.
Catrena stayed. "Really?" She walked round Faerla, looking at her.
"Tell me does the king come here every day?"
"You and all of Gondor know he does, why are you asking me that?" replied an irritated Faerla. Catrena continued to smile smugly.
"Now tell me Faerla, what it feels like to work with him everyday and know that each time he looks at you, he sees right through you? Just considers you a little helper who will always be there to pick up the dirty linen after the sick patients get better?"
Faerla had thought she had withstood the worst attacks from Catrena, but nothing prepared her for this. Because deep down in her heart she believed it was true, Andaran did see right through her. Catrena's delighted laugh told Faerla she knew that she had hurt the Chief Steward's daughter terribly. Catrena hadn't finished.
"Rest assured my dear, I will never experience that fate, for any man that looks my way will definitely see me." Faerla stormed away as Catrena laughed again.
Faerla felt like running, but the linen prevented that, eventually she reached the laundry room and angrily dumped the linen in a huge basket. She tiredly leaned against the wall and covered her face with one hand. She tried to take calming breaths, she had to think clearly. Catrena could not hurt her and if she ignored her words those would cease to upset her. Faerla silently thanked Eru that Catrena was not Andaran's partner for the festivities.
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Halmed , startled by his daughter's vehement question put down the papers he had been reading.
"I said I sent an invitation on Andaran's behalf to Lady Catrena."
Faerla sat down heavily. "To Lady Catrena, father do you know what you have done?!"
Halmed looked puzzled. "I just sent an invitation, she's never been his partner and it's just for a short time, there's no need to panic..."
"Panic is a mild way of saying it father that `lady' is one of the nastiest I know and you paired her with Andaran?"
Now Halmed seemed a bit upset with his daughter. "Yes I did pair her up with the king and if I recall he `asked' you but you refused; besides I know as children you and her didn't get on but she must be different by now."
"Oh, she is different father; in fact she's worse than before."
Halmed frowned at Faerla. "You are overreacting." He returned to his papers.
Faerla threw up her hands in frustration and left the study.
She walked to one of the small libraries in the house and opened the huge windows so she could lean out and look around. It was evening in Minas Tirith and the streets were gradually emptying. The population of Minas Tirith had swelled in the last few days because of the upcoming festivities and more people from Rohan were expected to arrive. The cool evening breeze did a lot in calming Faerla. She shook her head in annoyance. She loved her father a lot, but he was blind to the kind of person Catrena was. She just hoped that the king had more sense.
"Aunt Faerla?" She turned round at the voice of her seven year old nephew.
"Balian, shouldn't you be in bed?" The boy walked up to his aunt.
"I guess so, but I couldn't sleep. What are you looking at?" He leaned on the window sill.
"The lights of Minas Tirith which are lit as night approaches," she paused "Balian you should asleep by now."
He sighed. "I know, it's just that I wish father was home." Faerla smiled sadly at her nephew.
"I know you miss him, but he has work to do, don't worry just know that the more time he spends away from home, the sooner he'll return."
Balian thought hard about her words and frowned at his aunt. "What did that mean exactly?" She laughed and ruffled his hair.
"Don't worry, you'll understand someday, now let's get you to sleep before your mother comes home and sees you are still awake." Balian allowed Faerla to take him out of the library.
"Please will you tell me a story?" he asked as they reached his room.
"So that's the real reason you got out of bed," teased Faerla "Which one do you want to hear?"
"Please tell me how Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin escaped from the Nazgul in the Shire."
"I've read that one so much I can tell it without the book. Alright a long time ago in a far, far land called the Shire..."began Faerla.
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Elsewhere, several miles away another bonfire was lit as men gathered round it.
Ty'lana rubbed Maethor down and checked his hooves as he scolded her. He was more than a little upset and jealous that she had a ride on Lightbeam when she knew she had a perfectly good horse waiting for her. Ty'lana tried to reassure the mearas.
"He wanted to talk, how could I refuse him? Besides it was exciting." Maethor laid his ears flat against his skull and glared at her.
Exciting? He asked, now very upset. He refused the delicious apples she offered him, turning up his nose at them.
"Maethor, you're my best friend, please take the apples." He answered by walking away.
Ty'lana sighed. "Alright, have it your way."
"Where's he going to?" asked a familiar voice behind her. She turned to face Ivorhen.
"Maethor is a little...upset right now and needs some time to calm down." An angry neigh told her that wouldn't happen anytime soon.
"He sounded very angry to me,' said Ivorhen.
"Just give him time, what's for supper?" asked Ty'lana. The two moved towards the bonfire. After collecting their meals, they walked towards a little mound and sat down to eat.
"Isn't that the same ranger that cooked yesterday?" asked Ty'lana.
"Yes, it is. He's cooking is pretty good so I guess his turn came around faster than normal." Ivorhen looked up and saw Lorandil trying to sneak past them.
"Lorandil! Maybe, you would like to join us?" suggested Ivorhen with a broad smile. Ty'lana turned to face the half elf. Lorandil knew if he refused it would look odd.
"That is, if you would have me?" asked Lorandil. Ty'lana said nothing.
"Definitely," gushed Ivorhen. The half elf for a moment pictured his hands round the Dunedain's neck. He sat down beside Ty'lana.
The three ate their supper in silence which was only broken by well meaning jokes from Ivorhen. The Dunedain decided it was time to change tactics.
"If you're excuse me, there's a ranger I have to see," he stood up bade them good night and left. Lorandil glared after his departing friend, then glanced uncertainly at Ty'lana.. The elf maiden was concentrating on her meal, she didn't know what to say to Lorandil. When they had left Captain Romer's camp the day before, she thought it would be easier speaking to Lorandil, but ever since the incident with the ent; it just got harder.
"How's Lightbeam?" asked Lorandil.
"He's asleep at the moment," answered Ty'lana.
"I see," simply replied the half elf. This was followed by another awkward silence.
"Will he.....?" started Lorandil as Ty'lana said "He....." Silence reigned as each person waited for the other to speak.
"Please, continue," urged Lorandil "Ladies first." Ty'lana nodded
"He said he will travel with us till we reach the edge of Gatelin forest, and then make his way to Fangorn forest to see Treebeard. What did you want to say?"
"I just wanted to ask if he was traveling with us to Minas Tirith. Very few have seen an Ent, even fewer believe they exist, the sight of him would scare them."
"He understands; Lightbeam will be careful." There was silence once more. Finally Lorandil stood up. "I better see to the sentries. Good night Lady Ty'lana."
"Good night," said Ty'lana as well, relieved the conversation was over.
Lorandil walked away; glad he had something to do. When he spoke to her, it seemed so hard to find the words, he didn't know why and wasn't sure he wanted to.
Lorandil's attention was drawn to the figure that had appeared beside him.
"Not a single word from you Ivorhen," he threatened.
"I wasn't going to say anything but since you insist....." Lorandil waited for his friend's usual teasing.
"Have pleasant dreams," he left, failing to see how startled the half elf was at those 3 words. For the first time in 2 days, Lorandil thought of the Valar. She had told him to help Ty'lana. Had he done that at all?
Lorandil looked at the stars. "I can only do the best I can, please accept that."
There was no forth coming answer from the twinkling lights.
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