Shadows of Twilight - Chapter 1

A warm breeze blew across the March Warden of Lorien's face, carrying the crisp scent of autumn. The surrounding trees that bordered his patrol were changing. Their leaves were turning from olive green to soft gold. As he breathed in the new smell, another scent came with it. He filled his nostrils with the air. He raised his hand, signaling his companions to stop.

"What is it?" asked one of the men.

"I'm not sure," the March Warden answered. His gaze was slowly drawn to the sky as he spotted a group of birds suddenly fly away in an uproar. With a flick of his wrist, he pointed Southwest.

His party resumed the pace that they had been travelling, prior to their leader's distraction.

'Something's out there. Too close to the borders,' thought the March Warden.

One of the men noticed the irritated look on the captain's face and chuckled. "If you are angry, Haldir, please give me enough warning to spare myself of the unpleasantries that roll on the tip of your tongue!"

Haldir smiled at the man, who was his brother, Rumil. "Aye, I will give thee warning."

The men arrived at the edge of the wood, and Haldir noticed that the repugnant smell had heightened. He ordered his scouts to secure sections that he assigned. When they had parted to go their separate ways, Haldir waited impatiently as he gaze across the barren field that lay before him. To his right, he could see the threatening, snow-capped peaks of the Misty Mountains.

After a few minutes, Haldir heard a lark's shrill. First a long chirp and three short trills. It was the warning that his other brother, Orophin, used when they were tracking. Other elves had silently rallied to Haldir, and headed towards the call.

Haldir stopped abruptly when he saw his brother hidden in the shadows of a tree. With his signal, some elves climbed limbs of nearby trees while others remained on the ground. The elves nocked their arrows silently and waited.

Haldir quietly crept towards some dense brush when his brother pointed to it. He knelt down and moved a few branches so he was able to see, but remain concealed.

His fierce eyes gazed upon a clearing. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Corpses of orcs. Many were decapitated and others were matted in dark blood and grass. No flies had gathered over the dead flesh. The death was fresh.

Rumil came beside his brother.

"This skirmish was recent,' Haldir whispered. "Send a scout to check the perimeter."

Rumil quietly left him and Haldir was about to rise when he heard a faint moan. Was one of the presumed dead still living? Was it a trap?

Haldir anxiously tightened his grip on a branch. Orcs carried great evil and they would soil the pureness of Lorien. It was his duty to keep the land cleansed. Sweat trickled down his forehead while he remained hidden.

The scout returned and informed him that no orcs lay poised for attack.

Haldir sighed in relief and warily stepped into the glade. Nothing stirred. He kicked over each form to confirm their fate.

As he neared the last being, he noticed that it was peculiar. It was not clad in thick armour as the creatures around it were. He kneeled beside it and rolled it over.

A lady robed in black garments. An arrow was protruding from her side. Haldir saw that it was orc made, for it had a thick shaft and shabby feathering. He noticed that a bloodied sword lay beneath her. He looked back at the woman, his fingers nimbly moved the stray hairs from her eyes and placed them behind her ear. His brow rose when he discovered delicately pointed ears. A she-elf. He laid his own ear on her chest and held a wavering hand over her parted lips. Faint thumps and shallow breaths emerged. Alive?

Quickly, he broke the shaft of the arrow in two. He did not dare try to remove it in one piece because he knew that orc arrows were usually barbed and it would hurt the maid immensly if he tried to pull. He gumbled for his small daggar and cut through the layers of her clothing so he could see the wound completely: It was deep and the skin around the puncture was a shade of blackish-purple. The tip was poisoned and she needed care.

Gently, Haldir placed a hand on the small of her back and crokked his other arm under her knees. He slowly hoisted her up in his arms.

"With all haste to the Lord and Lady!" he bellowed. He did not know how long the maiden would last before the poison reached her heart.

"Valar, wach over her," he pleaded as he began running swiftly through the trees, his heart beating rapidly in his chest.

When the group had reformed and had travelled deep into the wood, the woman shuddered. Haldir looked down at her with concern. Suddenly, her eyes snapped open. They were glassy and stared blankly into his face. Haldir increased his speed. She was fading.

"Hold on," he whispered in a subdued tone, restraining the fear in his voice. Ahead were the gates of Lorien. When he had passed the ancient bars, large gasps came from the lady. Haldir slowed his pace and set her down. The maiden's eyes began to close.

"No! Don't give in!" he cried out to her. He pulled her head under his chin and silent tears fell onto her head. "I am sorry. I have failed you...I have failed my own kin."

He looked up, and saw a woman approach him. The lady in white. She rested her hand on the maiden's face.

"Telin le thaed. Lasto beth nin, tolo dan na galad."

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