Rage - Chapter 8

So many things had almost gone wrong.

Maida stood at the broken doorway of the throne room, staring in at the rubble and wreckage of what had once been the roof. Late afternoon sunlight streamed in, illuminating the dust that still hung in the air, even though the collapse had occurred hours before. The plan had come together so fast, the work done to prepare the trap so swift, and yet the end result had been achieved. But still, so many things had almost gone wrong.

First had been the roof itself. Though the carpenters had done an astonishing job with rigging the system that brought it down at Legolas’ signal, the main section would not have given way completely had the Lady Galadriel not unleashed the power of Nenya. At the last minute, the lady had sensed that something was wrong, and had turned and gone back. The sound of her power leaping forth to shatter the remaining supports had echoed like a mighty clap of thunder. And the creature had been crushed.

But the creature had almost not reached the throne room. The plan set up between Thendril and Legolas had been to have Thendril be the one to attract the creature’s attention, and to have Legolas intercept the chase halfway between the wrecked bedchamber and the throne room and lure the creature the rest of the way. And though Thendril had successfully initiated the chase, he had almost been caught. Maida, who had been forced to evacuate to the forest with the rest of her people, had tried to maintain a link between herself and them. She had sensed the Marchwarden’s rising fear and doubt, a moment of absolute relief when Legolas had wounded the creature and turned its attention away, and then another bolt of fear as the creature gashed his arm. Thendril had slipped back down the corridor when Legolas ran, going back to the destroyed bedchamber to rescue Aliana as planned.

Legolas had done his part very well. He had succeeded in getting the creature to just the right place. But he had barely made it out before the collapse. The creature had grabbed him, and very nearly had trapped him. But the chandelier had fallen directly upon it, and the impact had forced it to release him. And Legolas had run for his life. He was covered in dust, and the wounds on his arm cut nearly to the bone, but by the grace of the Valar he had avoided further injury.

However, something Legolas had seen during the confrontation was putting him on edge. Though everyone was tired and drained from the events of the past days, he had insisted the creature be uncovered and examined. Maida could see him now, his arm wrapped in a sling, pointing out to a small group of workers where the creature lay buried. She did not understand his desire to make sure the monster was dead.

A sudden pressure on her shoulder made her turn. Thendril was standing behind her, a soft smile on his handsome face. She smiled back at him.

“How is Aliana?” she asked.

Thendril’s smile faded.

“Gone,” he said grimly. “Her mind has been shattered. There is no spirit left in her now.” He sighed. “Lady Galadriel does not believe she will survive the night.”

Maida frowned sorrowfully, stepping towards him and resting her head upon his shoulder. Thendril wrapped his arms around her. For a few minutes, they simply stood there. Maida felt some level of comfort in his embrace. There was so much about him that she was drawn to. . .it was easy to forget he was a Marchwarden of Lórien.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

“For what?” he asked.

“Everything.” Maida stepped back, looking into his gentle eyes. “Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for helping to save my home and the ones I love. Thank you. . .for being so wonderful.”

And then she kissed him. For a moment, he seemed surprised, but then he relaxed and responded in kind. For a few precious moments, all of Maida’s worries and concerns melted away. She would never forget how he had shielded her when the wine barrels had fallen on them, or how he had supported her when the creature had assaulted her mind. How startling, how amazing it was, in the midst of such tragedy and fear, that Maida would find someone to make her heart burn with such joy and warmth.

“Master Thendril?”

The moment was broken. Maida and Thendril separated, turning towards the source of the voice. Haldir was approaching them. Though he was noticeably pale, he was steady on his feet. Thendril’s face was flushing slightly red, but Maida was smiling.

“Lord Haldir, praise the Valar you are well,” she said, approaching him and gripping his hand. “How are you feeling?”

“Better, Milady,” Haldir replied, but there was no smile on his face. He turned to Thendril. “Aliana has passed.”

Maida gasped, and Thendril approached them, placing a steady hand on her shoulder.

“Is the Lady still with the wounded?” he asked.

“She has retired to her bedchamber to rest,” Haldir replied.

Thendril nodded, then turned to face Maida.

“Maida, could you please attend to Lady Galadriel? She loved Aliana and Lilídae, and I know their deaths are upsetting her more than she is willing to admit.”

Maida nodded, leaving Thendril and Haldir and heading off towards Galadriel’s bedchamber. At long last, there was life in the corridors of the palace once more. Inhabitants were walking down through the corridors, surveying the mess and damage left by the creature. Many had changed into darker colors of mourning. Maida would soon do the same. A ceremony to honor the dead was to be held at sunset. At moonrise, the bodies would be laid to rest in the forest.

Maida knocked softly when she reached the door to Galadriel’s chambers, but received no reply. For a moment, she was confused. But before she could knock again, she was interrupted.

You may enter, Maida.

Maida blinked. Galadriel’s soft voice had echoed inside her head. She was familiar with this method of communication, but never before had she experienced it, or been able to perform it herself. Slowly she opened the door and stepped inside. Galadriel lay upon the bed, her eyes half-closed and unfocused. Had Maida not known better, she would have thought the Lady was asleep. Still, she was hesitant to approach.

“Nenya weakened me more than I had anticipated,” Galadriel said suddenly, causing Maida to jump. Her eyes were still unfocused, but her voice was clear. “Celeborn has been asking what is wrong. He sensed my pain, and is concerned for me. What do I tell him?”

Maida was completely taken aback by the question. Never would she have expected the Lady to ask her something so personal. She was at a loss for words for several moments. Finally, though, she sighed and approached the bed.

“I would tell Lord Celeborn that King Thranduil and his people have been attacked,” she said nervously. “Attacked by a creature unleashed upon us. . .by a Nazgul.”

In all of the terror of the past days, Maida had forgotten that a Nazgul had recently been in their lands. How much more horrible the creature seemed when even one of the Black Riders was considered less significant. A cold chill ran down her spine, and Maida shivered. Galadriel suddenly blinked and turned to gaze at her.

“Amalindë is coming,” she said. “She may enter as well.”

Maida blinked in surprise, but before she could turn towards the door, there was a soft knock. She approached and opened the door. Amalindë entered, the expression on her face instantly drawing Maida to her side. The Elf-queen seemed to be very upset.

“Milady,” she said, foregoing any greeting save for a nod of the head. “Do you sense anything in the palace?”

“No,” Galadriel replied, her voice betraying her exhaustion.

Amalindë turned to Maida.

“And what of you, my dear?”

“No,” Maida echoed, her eyes growing wider. “Why. . .is Legolas. . .?”

“The digging is not yet complete, but the actions of my son are worrying me,” Amalindë explained. She pressed the fingers of her right hand to her forehead, sighing deeply. Maida quickly retrieved a chair for her, and gripped her aunt’s shoulders as she sank down onto it. She was frightened to feel her aunt trembling underneath her fingers.

“It seems you are in more need of rest than I am, Amalindë,” Galadriel said, rising from her bed and approaching. “Do not let your emotions overtax you. You need to be strong for your people. There will be many tears shed tonight.”

Amalindë sighed again.

“Many of our people are returning to the forest,” she said. “They are becoming disheartened by Legolas’ behavior. They do not want to come back until it is without doubt that the beast is dead.”

“They cannot be blamed for that,” Maida said. “Legolas is making me nervous as well.”

“Then perhaps it is best to speak of a lighter topic for a little while,” Galadriel said. She glanced at Maida, who quickly took the hint and retrieved another chair. When the Lady was settled, she gave a slight smile. “My Marchwarden Thendril has been rather distracted as of late.”

“I can imagine,” Amalindë replied. Maida blinked, feeling her cheeks start to flush. “He has done so much for us, I do believe Thranduil is not looking forward to seeing him leave. . .” She suddenly paused. “Oh.” She turned to gaze at Maida. “Have I been overlooking something, Maida?”

Maida blushed more deeply and grinned bashfully. She was very happy to see a smile form on her aunt’s face. Amalindë turned back to Galadriel.

“Do you approve, Lady Galadriel?” she asked, to which Maida felt a momentary twinge of worry.

“I think that if you and King Thranduil can part with your niece, then I would be delighted to bless their union.”

“Part?” Maida asked, confused.

“Of course,” Galadriel replied calmly. “If you wish to remain with Thendril, you must dwell with him in Lórien.”

Maida gazed down at Amalindë, a mix of emotions running through her. Amalindë gripped her hand reassuringly.

“We will speak more on this later,” she said. “But know that if it is Thendril to whom you have given your heart. . .then I am proud and delighted to see you choosing such a fine gentleman.” She beckoned Maida to lean down, and gently kissed her cheek. “Now, my dear, if you could do me a favor?”

“Of course,” Maida said.

“Please go to my chambers and draw me a bath. I would like to speak to Lady Galadriel alone for a moment.”

Maida nodded and left the room, her mind racing with a multitude of thoughts as she headed off down the corridor. Although she was very relieved and glad to know that Amalindë approved of her love for Thendril, the thought of leaving her home, even for the Golden Wood, frightened her. She loved Thranduil’s palace, and the forest of Mirkwood. She had declined the opportunity to dwell in the Grey Havens with her parents because of it. But she loved and adored Thendril more than any other she had ever known. Leaving her home was a prospect easier to think about when the reward was never having to part from his warm and loving company.

Some of the shadows had lifted from Maida’s spirit by the time she reached the royal bedchamber. It was not far from the throne room, and across the hall from the main stairway leading to the lower level. It was no longer under guard, and the corridor around it was empty. Maida entered the bedchamber, crossing the lavishly furnished outer chamber to reach the bathing room. In here, the sounds from the throne room were muted, even with the door to the corridor standing open. She lit a few lanterns and started drawing the bath for Amalindë.

Maida was almost finished when she heard a thump echo from the outer chamber. She paused and turned.

“Amalindë?” she called.

There was no response. Maida shook her head and turned back to her task. And then gave a cry when a sudden surge of surprise and terror flooded her mind. Now she could hear commotion coming from the direction of the throne room, echoing in the outer chamber. Shouts and screams. And, a few moments later, a voice echoing in her head.

Maida! Get out of the palace! Stop whatever you are doing and run!

“What?” Maida cried, panicked as she leapt to her feet. Galadriel sounded frightened, but she had no earthly idea why. Breathless, she ran into the outer chamber. “What is going. . .”

Maida stopped dead in her tracks. She had entered the chamber to find she could go no further. Her way was blocked. She whimpered in terror, cowering backward against the wall.

“Valar help me. . .”

* * * * * *

Once Haldir and Thendril arrived to help, digging started progressing much more quickly. Legolas did what he could with his good arm, clearing the lighter pieces of rubble as the workers pushed them aside. Thendril was right in the middle of the digging, while Haldir stood to one side, keeping watch for any unwanted shifting of the heavier beams.

Legolas was well aware that his actions were giving his people little cause for comfort. But he could not forget the drop of blood that had fallen from the creature, burning into the floor like acid. The creature would have bled profusely underneath the weight of the collapse. It seemed inconceivable, and yet his doubt was piercing his heart like a knife. Was the blood of the beast corrosive enough to burn a hole straight through the floor? Allow it to escape the crushing weight of the debris?

Legolas did not want to consider the possibility that the monster was still alive. But his doubt would not allow him to relax. He had stopped trying to explain what was causing his concerns, for too many were asking questions he did not want to yet answer.

A sudden exclamation of pain immediately turned his attention. One of the workers had extricated himself, and was clutching his hand. Legolas quickly approached, seeing scalding burns across his fingers.

“We are uncovering a very strange sort of damage, my Lord,” the worker said, wincing. “I think I understand what you were describing about the creature’s blood.”

Legolas nodded, and Thendril, who had been watching the exchange, turned back to the other diggers.

“Be careful,” he said. “Do not touch anything that looks like it is melting. Just. . .get back! Get back!”

A sudden crash echoed, a cloud of dust rising from the center of the wreckage as the workers frantically scrambled backwards. The debris was shifting and collapsing violently, and Legolas watched in astonishment as one particularly large support beam seemed to vanish into the floor. Thendril was cursing.

“Sweet Eru!” he cried, coughing. “There is a hole!”

“A what?” Legolas demanded, struggling to approach him through the shifting debris.

“A hole!” Thendril repeated. His eyes were wide. “Straight through the floor! I can see the chandelier down there.”

“Do you see the beast?!” Legolas shouted.

For one heart-stopping moment, there was silence as Thendril peered downward. Finally, he jumped backward, all color draining from his face.

“I do not see it!” he cried. “By the Valar. . .the beast is gone!”

Legolas felt a darkness settle upon him. For a moment, he stood stunned at the realization that his fears had proven true. Then, he gritted his teeth as a mixture of absolute determination and anger flooded him.

“Get everyone out!” he shouted to the onlookers. “Back into the forest! The creature is still alive!”

Legolas ignored the resultant cries of surprise and fear that echoed following his declaration, moving forward to grab Thendril by the arm. He helped the Marchwarden out of the debris. But before he could take another step, his thoughts were interrupted.

What is going on, Prince Legolas?

Galadriel’s tone was firm and commanding, but having never experienced this way of communication before, Legolas had no idea how to respond. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder.

“If the Lady is speaking to you now, just answer her,” Thendril said. “She can hear you.”

“The creature is still alive, Milady,” Legolas said, nodding to Thendril. “Please, spread the word.”

I shall.

Once Legolas was sure the Lady had nothing more to say, Legolas beckoned Haldir and Thendril to follow him. He led the Marchwardens out into the corridor.

“This has gone far enough,” Legolas said darkly once he was sure he had their undivided attention. “The creature has to be destroyed, and now is the best time. It is weakened and badly wounded. And with the blood trail it is leaving, it cannot hide anymore.”

“I agree,” Haldir said, to which Thendril nodded. “Rumil is still with the wounded. He should have the best idea of how many we can assemble for another hunt. If. . .”

The Marchwarden would have said more, but before any further words could be spoken, a piercing, terrible scream echoed from further down the corridor. Legolas twisted around, his heart pounding against his ribs. He recognized that scream.

“Maida?” he shouted. “Maida!!”

Legolas was instantly running down the corridor, racing towards his frantically screaming cousin. Thendril and Haldir were right behind him. He unsheathed his sword, his gut instinct telling him what he feared to see. Not Maida. . .not Maida. . .

The screams were coming from near the royal bedchamber. Legolas was sprinting as fast as his legs could carry him, but still he only caught the barest glimpse of a massive black shadow disappearing down the main stairway. Maida’s screams started growing fainter, and were barely audible by the time Legolas reached the top of the stairs. He stared down into the darkness, all color gone from his face.

“It took Maida. . .” he heard Thendril gasp. “It took Maida!”

“Oh no. . .”

It was Haldir’s desperate tone that turned Legolas away from where Maida had disappeared. The door to the royal bedchamber was wide open, and just within the threshold sprawled a figure dressed in white.

Haldir, Thendril, and Legolas were instantly by the Lady Galadriel’s side. She was dazed, blood dripping from a wound on the back of her head. The scent of blood was strong in the room, but was too strong to be coming from the Lady alone. Legolas was starting to fear Maida was injured worse than the strength of her screams had let on.

Until he looked towards the bed. And stared into Amalindë’s lifeless, glassy eyes. And saw the blood pooling around her from the gaping wound in her belly.
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