Mirkwood's Blade - Chapter Sixteen - The Arrival in Lothlorien

"Novarwen. Come."

Novarwen looked blankly at Aragorn. "I can't leave," she said dully.

"Novarwen, we have to go. The Orcs will be here by night. We have to reach Lothlorien before that - didn't you hear me say that just a moment ago?" She shook her head. Aragorn's look softened in pity and shared sorrow, and he touched her arm. "Novarwen, I am sorry, but there was nothing you could have -"

Novarwen jerked away from him. "You don't know what you're saying!" she yelled, her voice anguished. "I could have done something! I saw what was going to happen. I saw it! And I didn't say a thing, just let it happen! It's my fault he's dead, it's my fault!" How had she started out yelling and ended up sobbing like a child? Angry and embarrassed, she turned away from Aragorn.

The Ranger tentatively put out a hand and touched Novarwen's shoulder. "Novarwen, it was not your fault. None of us know what life has in store for us. Even if you had told him, Gandalf still might have chosen to fall." At least she wasn't shoving him away. That was something. "And even if you see something that may be a vision of the future, remember - choices can be made to change that. Visions are not written in stone. Don't blame yourself for not telling anyone. The choice was Gandalf's alone."

Novarwen whirled around and hugged Aragorn. He soothed her as she cried into his shoulder, feeling as though she was the little sister he had never had. Little, Aragorn? he asked himself, amused in spite of himself. She's at least a thousand years older than you. Finally the Elf let go of the Ranger. Tear tracks chased each other down her face, but she looked all right. "Thank you," she said, her voice clogged with tears, and turned to go back to the others. Aragorn followed her.

***

Dulled as her senses were by grief, Novarwen could not help but notice how beautiful Lothlorien was. The trees, the great mallorns of Lorien, were beyond description, and a golden light seemed to permeate the wood. She felt herself smile.

"You are troubled, are you not?" asked Boromir's voice from behind her. Novarwen felt even guiltier at the concern in the man of Gondor's voice. She nodded, but made no reply.

Boromir drew level with her and walked beside her. "I am troubled as well," he told her. "I fear for the fate of my people, and of all Middle-earth, if the Ring cannot be destroyed."

"Have some faith in Frodo," Novarwen said, more snappishly than she had wanted to. "The Council would not have appointed him Ringbearer if they did not believe he could do it."

"I do not doubt his bravery or his determination," Boromir said quickly. "All I say is that the challenges he will face are greater than stealing a hobbit-farmer's cabbages." There was a hint of disdain in Boromir's voice, and it put Novarwen's teeth on edge. "He may not know what he is getting into."

"If he did not, he would not have offered to bear the Ring."

Boromir turned away, but Novarwen thought she heard him mutter, "And he is only the Ringbearer because he could not wait to make his voice heard at the Council." Then he shook his head angrily and moved ahead quickly. She watched his back as it moved farther away from her. What did that last sentence he'd said mean? All too clearly, she recalled the incident on Caradhras with the Ring, and his words at the Council. I'll have to keep an eye on him, she thought.

Suddenly she cast a furtive glance around her. There was no rustle of the leaves, no faint whisper of a voice, yet Novarwen knew that they were being watched, and that the watchers were close. She pulled an arrow from her quiver and found a silver-tipped one pointing straight at her nose. Novarwen froze, her blue eyes wide, as she took in the company of patrolling Elves that had emerged so suddenly and so silently from the trees. Looking at the others, she saw that, besides her, only Legolas had a weapon ready.

A tall Elf with silvery-blond hair came towards them. "That Dwarf breathes so loud, we could have shot him in the dark," he said coolly. Novarwen bit back a grin of agreement - with the furious Gimli growling beside her, it might not be such a good idea to side with the Elf right now.

Aragorn inclined his head to the Elf. "Haldir o Lórien. Henio, aníron, boe ammen i dulu lîn. Boe ammen veriad lîn." The hobbits, Boromir, and Gimli fidgeted. They did not speak Elvish and so had no idea that Aragorn had just asked the Marchwarden of Lothlorien for help. Novarwen was very glad that she was an Elf - she would not have liked to not understand a word that her leader had just said.

"Aragorn!" Gimli warned. "These woods are perilous." He glanced behind him, away from the Elf-arrow pointing at him, then added, a slight tremor in his voice, "We should go back."

Haldir glanced at the Dwarf scornfully. "You have entered the realm of the Lady of the Wood. You cannot go back." Novarwen caught her breath. She had never seen the Lady Galadriel, but she had longed to for most of her life. "Come," Haldir told them. "She is waiting."

***

The Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood were bathed in a bright silver light as they descended from their seats to greet the Fellowship of the Ring. Novarwen wanted to shield her eyes from the exquisite brilliance, but she could not tear her eyes away from Galadriel. The Lady was as beautiful as she had heard, but somehow uplifted from the rest of them. Her eyes were gentle as they rested on the nine remaining members of the Fellowship.

Galadriel's husband, Celeborn, voiced the thought that was on everyone's mind. "Nine that are here, yet ten there were set out from Rivendell." Novarwen's guilt surged again at Celeborn's words. "Tell me, where is Gandalf," the Lord of Lothlorien asked, "for I much desire to speak with him."

Novarwen saw Galadriel's eyes meet Aragorn's in a question. Then the Lady answered her husband's question for the rest of them. "He has fallen into Shadow," she murmured.

She faced them all. "The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all." The Elven queen locked eyes with Boromir, and Novarwen was troubled to see the Man's eyes fall quickly away from Galadriel's.

Then a voice spoke, and somehow Novarwen knew that only she could hear it. "Novarwen, warrior Princess of Mirkwood, you have traveled far in search of who you are. For you it is not enough to be of a royal line. You wish to know who you are, beyond your noble blood. For this desire, you are worthy to take part in this quest. Have no fear of that.

Novarwen attempted to speak back, thinking the words carefully in her head. "Will we succeed?"

There was a light ripple that gave Novarwen the sense of laughter. "All of your company wish to know that, but it is as Aragorn said to you outside Moria. The future cannot be known for sure, for the choices of the people who live it can change it for better or for worse. My mirror shows me many things, but how can I see which is the right future? And so I can no more answer this question than you can." The voice withdrew, leaving only Novarwen's own thoughts in her head. The Lady's eyes were now on Frodo's, and Novarwen looked away. She could not listen to the pleasantries Galadriel was mouthing as she truly spoke in the minds of everyone. Novarwen was glad when each member of the Fellowship was released from the presence of the Lord and Lady, and could roll out their cloaks and fall asleep beneath the towering mallorns.

Novarwen did not know at what time of night she awoke, but she knew without a doubt where to go. She slipped out from under her cloak, careful to make no noise and wake no one, and let her feet guide her. They seemed to have minds of their own as they led her down a stone staircase and into a small clearing where a little waterfall emptied into a pool. A silvery basin stood in the middle of a carved stone platform, and standing by the pool, looking majestic and relieved and beautiful, was Galadriel.

"I have been wondering how long it would take you," the Lady of the Wood said softly. "Come. You must look into the Mirror."

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