Mirkwood's Blade - Chapter Thirty-five - The Training

As early as Novarwen rose the next morning, Gandalf was already up and clothed. She lifted her head from the cloak that had served as a pillow - she and Pippin had insisted that Gandalf take the one bed - and whispered, "What are you doing awake so early?"

He glanced, surprised, at her, and smiled. "I might ask the same of you, Novarwen, but I won't. Is Pippin still in bed?"

"I think so," Novarwen answered, shoving off her blanket and, fully dressed, getting to her feet. "He's probably accustomed to sleeping late. Shall I wake him?"

"Please." Gandalf walked out to the balcony and craned his neck up to look at something Novarwen could not see from inside the room.

She walked quietly over to the place where Pippin had made a bed out of the fur rug and his cloak. Kneeling beside the slumbering hobbit, she gently brushed his hair off his forehead and called his name softly. Pippin stirred and opened his eyes. "Novarwen?" he asked sleepily. "What time is it?"

"Early," she replied, sitting back on her heels, "and Gandalf wants you awake."

"For what?" Pippin asked with the air of a long-suffering martyr. He rolled off the rug and took the hand she offered to help him stand.

"He didn't say, but I think you'd best do as he asks," Novarwen counseled, stepping away and rolling her neck to loosen her muscles, stiff from sleeping on a stone floor. Mentally she muttered things that were likely untrue about Denethor's parentage, breeding, and manly capabilities, but her sense of fact was overridden by her sense of acute discomfort, and it eased the aches and sore spots in her body to impugn the Steward's lack of hospitality.

Pippin had made his way over to where Gandalf stood on the balcony, and now both of them were heading for the door. "Good luck with whatever it is you plan to do," Novarwen called after them. Pippin turned and gave her a quick smile before he followed the trail of Gandalf's white robe. Only when the door was shut did Novarwen abandon her exercises and retrieve the Ainaglin from its hiding place in her drawer. Cupping the cool stone in her hands, she filled her mind with thoughts and memories of Galadriel. When she looked deeply into it, she saw Galadriel's face looking back at her. I'm ready, she said.

Good, came the reply in her head. Do as I tell you. Remember what you do. Now, breathe. Do nothing else for now - just breathe, slowly and deeply. Keep your eyes open, but look only at the Ainaglin. Breathe.

Once Galadriel was confident that Novarwen had mastered the breathing, she murmured more instructions softly into her daughter's mind. Look deeper into the Ainaglin. It will show you what you ask it to in time, but for now, let it choose what to show you. Open yourself to it - mind, soul, body, everything. Take a deep breath - and let it out. Open yourself. Novarwen's world had become the mist and the faint outline of Galadriel's face in the Ainaglin. She released another breath, feeling herself become open, as Galadriel had said, with every puff of air that escaped her. Her chest felt like a door that had been unlocked and left to swing wide. Her breathing was deeper now, fuller and larger and louder. Good. Now feel your mind, keeping it open to the Ainaglin. Become as aware of your mind as you are of the Ainaglin. Make a path between the two. Allow something to pass from the Ainaglin to your mind. Breathe...

Novarwen obeyed, delicately touching her mind and bringing consciousness of it to her fog-filled world. She felt the link between the two as a strand of gossamer thread - present, but thin and unsteady. She kept breathing, and thought that the link strengthened with every breath.

And then, something passed along the link, and entered her head.

Daybreak. A riverbank city in ruins. The pale light of morning colored the white stone of the city's remains an icy blue-white. From the river, masses of Orcs seethed into the city while dark-clad figures hurried out of it, shrieking and crying in fear. Along with the evacuating citizens of the city, there were men in silver-colored armor, their swords reflecting the early morning light as they desperately tried to hold the city against the Orcs. But it was a losing battle. The brave defenders were hopelessly outnumbered. The garrison had been too few in the first place. The city could never have hoped to have held against any force larger than an expeditionary one.

Her vision centered in on one man, a tree carefully embroidered in silver thread on his surcoat. It was not obvious, but he bore a resemblance to Boromir. Denethor's younger son fought well and courageously, but his eyes were already heavy with the knowledge of his men's defeat. He had known from the start that they could never hold the city, she realized, but he had not fled from the field and lost the battle without even an attempt to win. From the Orc bodies scattered in profusion around the city ruins, she knew that the men had acquitted themselves well. But sheer numbers were overwhelming them.

As she watched, the Steward's son shouted a command she could not hear, but his lips formed the words "Minas Tirith." Her heart ached for his choice that was no choice - to leave the city to the Orcs who would take it anyway, or to stay and condemn his valiant men to death. But his choice was the one she would have made. Gondor would need all her soldiers, and there was no point in throwing lives away needlessly. But it was not a choice he should have had to make.

The image faded from her mind and lost its clarity, and once again she was kneeling on the stone floor, the Ainaglin between her palms. What is his name? she asked Galadriel. What was that city?

It was Osgiliath, once the finest city of the kingdom of Gondor, Galadriel answered sadly. And the man you saw was Faramir, son of Denethor.

Why would the Ainaglin not show me the rest? Novarwen demanded. She was suddenly desperate to know the fate of Faramir of the unhappy choice.

Not all that you saw has happened, Galadriel told her. Faramir's fate is yet to be played out, and it can take many different paths. You are not yet at such a stage where you can command visions of the future.

But they came to me before!

They did, but you did not request to see them. It was needful that your gift be revealed then, so they came. But you must be trained to see any more visions of those things that have not come to pass.

I see. Novarwen was secretly glad that visions would not throw themselves into her everyday life anymore. She had been glad of their warnings, but the experience had been disconcerting to say the least. But then she remembered the last vision to have manifested itself in her mind, and her fingers tightened around the Ainaglin. Galadriel - I must tell you of something. She related the plan of the Enemy in detail, and added the words she had cried out. Do they mean you?

They might well, was the reply. Certainly my parents were noble - Finarfin, son of Finwe and the lady Indis, and Earwen, a princess of Alqualonde. The mind voice was cautious. Novarwen could tell that her adopted mother was holding something back, but something warned her that she would be better off not asking what it was Galadriel would rather not tell her. Instead she suggested, Shall I try again?

Yes - yes, try again. But I must leave you now. Galadriel was now definitely distracted. Practice, Novarwen. Practice what I taught you. Try to see anything you can.

I will, she pledged, and Galadriel withdrew instantly from the Ainaglin.

Both wondering why her mother was so upset and knowing she should not think of it, Novarwen began to breathe again.


Gandalf and Pippin returned to the room to find Novarwen still sitting on the floor, staring into the Ainaglin. "Gandalf?" Pippin asked tentatively - Novarwen was rigid, her back frozen still. "What's she doing?"

"Scrying," Gandalf replied softly. "She is a seer, Pippin." The hobbit's eyes widened - he had not known that. "We must be quiet, and not disturb her concentration -"

Suddenly Novarwen's head shot up, away from the Ainaglin, and her body moved from its frozen state. Pippin gave a sigh of relief that she was back to normal, but Gandalf saw the panic in her eyes. "Novarwen?" he asked quickly. He stepped over to her and took her by the arms, lifting her to her feet. "Novarwen, what is it?"

Novarwen stared at Gandalf with terror in her eyes. "The garrison of the ruined city - Osgiliath - they're being routed, Gandalf. They're retreating. The Orc foes are too many." She dug her fingers into his arms, fighting to keep a rein on her fear. "Faramir just gave the order to retreat - but Gandalf, the Nazgul are there! They're coming, they're going to pick off the soldiers from the air! They're all doomed!" She lost the battle and broke down into frightened sobs. "Can't you do anything?" she pleaded.

Gandalf gently lowered her onto the room's solitary bed. "Yes," he assured her soothingly. "Yes. But you must lie down and relax." He squeezed her shoulder in comfort. "You did all Middle-earth a service with your news, Novarwen. Now let others take care of it." She blinked tears out of her eyes and nodded.

"I want to come!" Pippin said plaintively as Gandalf turned to leave. "Can't I?"

"You have done enough for one day, Peregrin Took," Gandalf answered.

"Gandalf?" whispered Novarwen from the bed. "Gandalf - let him go. He's not a child."

At her words, Gandalf turned, surprised, to stare at the Elf girl on the bed. She lifted her head and gave him stare for stare until he nodded his head. "So be it," he replied. "Come, Pippin." The hobbit threw Novarwen a grateful look and hurried to catch up as Gandalf left the room.

Left alone, Novarwen found she was clutching the blanket on the bed in her fists. She made herself breathe, and slowly let go of the sheets, trying to banish the images that the Ainaglin had shown her. Gandalf had heard her message. He would take care of everything. "So be it," she whispered, echoing the wizard, and closed her eyes. He was right, as usual. She should sleep.

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