Mirkwood's Blade - Chapter Twenty-eight - The Preparations
Recap: Legolas and Novarwen had dueled, and since she lost, Legolas assumed that she wouldn't fight in the battle. But we all know Novarwen...
Novarwen brought in a mail shirt and dumped it into an already-growing heap of armor. An old man picked up the shirt she'd brought and began putting it on. His hands shook, not with fear, but with age and unfamiliarity to the mail. It had unquestionably been a long time since he last put on armor. And King Théoden is sending him to fight the Uruk-hai, Novarwen thought bitterly, an old man who can't even remember how to wear mail! She shook her head to clear it and turned away, walking out of the temporary armory, wondering how she was going to be able to steal one of the mail shirts for herself and sneak up onto the wall to fight. The chances were very good that she would be caught and even better that, even if she made it up onto the wall, she would be killed. Novarwen shook her head again, much harder.
All at once, it hit her. Novarwen froze, her body slowly stiffening up, as a vision took hold of her. She was standing on the Deeping Wall, looking down at a field roiling with Uruks. The people on the Wall were ceaselessly shooting arrows at them, but the Uruks were bringing up siege ladders now. The defenders were now engaged in a close-quarters battle. Was Novarwen the only one who saw one of the many Uruks still on the plain run towards the Deeping Wall, carrying a torch that burned a brilliant, terrifying white? She tried to cry out, to warn the others, but they couldn't hear her. Helpless, unable to even draw an arrow to her bow, Novarwen watched as the Uruk raced pell-mell for the Wall and flung his torch into a small drain.
There was a single instant of breathless silence - and then an explosion shook the earth as the Deeping Wall exploded outward, throwing soldiers onto the ground and putting them at the mercy of the Uruks. Novarwen screamed in fury and fear, pounding her fists on the wall in front of her until they bled -
"Novarwen!" Someone caught her wrists and held her hands steady. She looked up at Theryn, holding her hands in his. "Novarwen, what happened?" He looked down at her hands, still clenched into fists, and held them up so she could see them. Novarwen's eyes widened - they were raw and bleeding. She shivered, and leaned in to Theryn, her head on his shoulder, her arms around his neck. He put his arms around her and held her close to him. Novarwen took deep, shaky breaths, clearing her body and mind of the panic that the vision had brought on. Maybe I should have stayed in Lothlorien, she thought, and learned to control these things! She closed her eyes.
"Can you tell me?" Theryn asked gently. "Can you tell me what happened?"
Novarwen shook her head. "Not now," she whispered. "I promise I'll tell you, but not now. Not until I have it under control." She gave him a shaky half-smile. "I promise."
Very gently, Theryn released her. "Will you be all right?" he asked.
She nodded. "I think so." She took one more shaky breath and let it out. "Yes, I'll be all right."
Just as she was getting herself under control, they heard Legolas' voice, louder than usual, coming angrily from the armory. "Natha daged aen!" Novarwen gave a little gasp - her brother had spoken aloud the thought she had had ever since she saw the young boys and old men that would make up Helm's Deep's defending force, the thought that they would all die.
Aragorn's voice, much louder and much angrier, came to their ears. "Then I shall die as one of them!" he cried. Not wanting to eavesdrop any more, Novarwen grabbed Theryn's hand and pulled him away from the armory.
"How are we going to stand a chance against the Uruks if we're all fighting each other?" Novarwen asked angrily under her breath. Theryn heard her, and he squeezed her hand in comfort.
"We are smarter than them," he replied. "We'll solve our own quarrels before we have to fight."
"I hope so," she answered.
They were approaching a corner, but before they could go around it, Éowyn came around the corner and saw Novarwen. She instantly caught the Elf's eyes and beckoned her with a slight jerk of her head. "I think I can make it back to my room from here," Novarwen said quickly to Theryn. He had not failed to see the lightning-quick communication between the two women, and a faint smile tugged at his mouth as he turned around and walked back the way they had come. "What is it?" Novarwen asked Éowyn once Theryn was out of their sight.
"Come here," Éowyn answered. She, too, was smiling, and she reached out an impatient hand and grabbed Novarwen's, pulling her behind as she nearly ran to her own room. "Go in," Éowyn said, pulling the door open and slipping in right after Novarwen. She walked briskly to her bed, reached under it, and pulled something out. "There," she said proudly. "That's what I wanted you to see."
Novarwen stared. Éowyn had extracted from under her bed a set of mail armor. The tiny links in the mail were perfect, and the suit looked as though it could fit either one of them. "I know your brother doesn't want you to fight," Éowyn said, "but if you're just another armored person on the wall, he's not going to recognize you."
Still hardly daring to believe it, Novarwen brushed the mail shirt with her fingers. "But what about you?" she asked.
Éowyn's face darkened. "I could only take the one suit." She looked down for an instant, then added, staring at the floor, "It'll fit you better, anyway."
"Oh, Éowyn!" Novarwen reached out and hugged her friend. "Éowyn, we can probably find another suit -"
"Novarwen, please. I appreciate it, but I have to accept reality some time. Besides, I need to be there to defend the women and children in the Glittering Caves if - if the Uruks get that far." Her voice shook very slightly as she mentioned the very real possibility that the defenders could not hold off the massive army, but she mastered herself. "And - and you're my friend, and I want you to do what you want."
Novarwen bit her lip. What did I ever do to deserve her friendship? she wondered, and held out her arms again. Hesitantly at first, then willingly, Éowyn came into them, and Novarwen held her friend tightly with all the gratitude and heartache she had in her. Finally she let her go. "You'd better get into it," Éowyn said. "I'll help you."
"You would think that I would be able to get myself into armor after all that time in the Taurroch!" Novarwen exclaimed a long while afterwards, finally clad in the mail. "Truth is, I only wore soft leathers in that!"
Éowyn managed to smile as she tugged the mail shirt down to hang properly off Novarwen's shoulders. "Here," she said, handing her friend a belt. "At least a bit of leather in your outfit." Novarwen smiled back and buckled the leather belt, from which a sheathed sword and a pouch dangled, around her waist. Éowyn surveyed her with a critical eye. "Yes," she said, "only one more thing is missing."
"Wha -" Novarwen never finished her sentence before Éowyn produced a helmet and dropped it onto her head. "Éowyn, what is this? I don't need a -"
"Do you want Legolas recognizing you and sending you back to the Caves before the battle begins?" the shieldmaiden interrupted, and smiled in amusement at Novarwen's sudden complete acceptance of the helmet. "That's better. Now -"
Before Éowyn could complete her sentence, there was a horn blast from outside the Deeping Wall. Novarwen gave a muffled curse and pulled the helmet off. "That's it, Éowyn," she announced in a tone that brooked no argument, "I'm not wearing this! Every little thing I hear is magnified about a hundred times inside this...this...this tin can!" Novarwen dropped it on the floor, and smiled happily at the crash it made. Éowyn sighed, rolled her eyes, and picked the helmet up off the floor. "By the way," Novarwen added, "what was that sound?"
"I think it was a horn from outside the Wall," Éowyn told her.
"A horn!" Novarwen gasped. "Are the Uruks here already?" She snatched up bow, quiver, and long knife and raced from Éowyn's room, calling a hasty but heartfelt "Thank you!" over her shoulder. She ran to the Wall as fast as she could - just in time to see a legion of Elven archers coming into the fortress.
Novarwen screeched to a halt, her coordination thrown off by the weight of the mail. What were Elves doing here, and now? And why - she gasped as she recognized their leader - was the Marchwarden of Lothlorien leading them?
Haldir approached Théoden and inclined his head slightly to the king. "I bring word," he said, "from Elrond of Rivendell." Novarwen listened in astonishment as Haldir told Théoden that the archers had come to fight with them. She felt her face break into an incredulous smile.
Aragorn rushed past Théoden to clasp Haldir's shoulder. "Mae govannen, Haldir!" he welcomed. Haldir gave a small smile back. From what Novarwen had seen of the aloof Marchwarden during their stay in Lothlorien, this was a step forward.
Loosing himself from Aragorn's hold, Haldir turned back to Théoden, catching Legolas' eye as well. "I also bring word from Lady Galadriel to her adopted daughter, Novarwen of Mirkwood. The Lady insisted that her words should be delivered as soon as I arrived. Where might Lady Novarwen be, so that I can give her Lady Galadriel's message?"
Novarwen thought fast. If they sent a messenger down to her room, she would never get there and out of the mail in time to beat him. On the other hand, there was barely any time left before the Uruk-hai arrived, and if she revealed herself now, Legolas would have to let her stay - there wasn't time to fight another duel. She stepped forward. "I'm here," she said behind Haldir.
He actually jumped a few inches in the air. Legolas' eyes were wide with shock, Théoden's face was grim, and Aragorn seemed to be wavering between approval and astonishment. Theryn, however, was openly grinning, his eyes shining pride at what she'd done. Novarwen took courage from the look on his face and stood her ground before the incredulous Marchwarden.
Haldir swallowed, then handed Novarwen a round object covered by a sheet of paper. Novarwen pulled the sheet off and gazed in astonishment at the clear crystal of the stone the paper had wrapped. Threads of light chased each other all around the crystal, and there was a foggy mist inside it through which Novarwen could almost see something moving. She held the crystal in one hand and looked at the words on the paper, bringing the sheet close to her face to read in the dark.
Greetings and good fortune, Novarwen. The crystal that this letter holds is something that I think will help you with your visions. I have been watching in the Mirror, and I know that they have been getting harder and harder to control. I cannot tell you how to use the crystal - for to everyone it is a different way - but I can tell you that it is called ainaglin. I hope that it will be useful to you until you can come to Lorien for proper training.
Fare well, my daughter.
Novarwen cradled the crystal in her hands. Ainaglin. Blessed glimmer. She folded Galadriel's letter carefully and slipped it between the mail shirt and her tunic beneath it. The ainaglin she tucked with great care into the pouch at her waist. Then she turned to face the others behind her. Haldir seemed to have regained some of his composure, and was relatively straight-faced. Legolas was still struggling to hide his shock and dismay, and Aragorn was once more the determined king-to-be. Théoden, Novarwen thought, ought to be thanking his lucky stars that Éowyn had met her - otherwise, Novarwen knew that the king's niece would have taken the mail suit for herself and sneaked onto the Wall to fight herself, no matter what her duty was. Theryn's eyes, however, were exactly as they had been when she first met them - shining and proud and happy. He loved her, he approved of what she had done, and he didn't care who knew it. Novarwen felt herself smile back at him, a smile as full of love as his eyes were, and then stood beside Legolas. She was up on the Wall, she was ready to do her part, and she was one of them.