The Maids of Mithlond: End of an Age - Chapter One
Note from the Authors: We know you're none to happy with us right now because of the crueler than cruel Book Three cliffhanger, so we've decided to make it up to you! Yes, here it is at last, the long awaited Book Four! There are just a few things we ought to tell you first, like...this Book contains "severe mental discomfort". (To quote our fine swimmer friend!) It's definitely much darker than the three previous Books. Also, these chapters will be extremely slow in coming out. (Can't say we didn't warn you, Nylorac's posse!) Very, very little of Book Four is actually written. On the other hand, there's a lot to look forward to: answered questions, reconciliation, dangerous secrets, deadly situations, new characters and old enemies...the list goes on. So, with out further ado, we present Book Four: End of an Age!
Cuio Mae, mellyn!
~Orodel & Megami~
Synopsis of Book Three
The Fellowship is broken.
Shedheniel, keeping her promise to Boromir, trails the Three Hunters. Mere hours after her departure, Nildarien comes upon the scene of the battle and receives some startling information.
Shedheniel encounters Éomer and, after he lends her a horse and gives directions, she sets out for Fangorn.
That night, Nildarien, too, chances to meet the Riders of Rohan, but in a highly wary atmosphere. She conceals her identity and is quickly drawn into a duel with a suspicious Éomer. She easily defeats him and, once she gives him some pointers on swordplay, continues on after her twin.
Meanwhile, many miles from Rohan, the ever-wandering Telden keeps company with the Dúnedain. His dreams of Nildarien wax tormenting and his thoughts turn dark as the ghosts of his past rise to haunt him-again.
Shedheniel comes to Fangorn (to the great surprise of all present) and, after a talk with Aragorn and Gimli, Legolas finally admits his love for her.
Morning finds Nildarien in Fangorn. She joins up with her sister and the others and the five of them search for Merry and Pippin.
Of course, instead of hobbits, they find the re-incarnated Gandalf, and the group sets out for Edoras with all speed.
Once they arrive at the Golden Hall and Gandalf heals King Théoden, the sisters promptly join Rohan's army. Shedheniel begins to notice a sense of false happiness in Nildarien, but dismisses the thought as imagination.
Nildarien, meanwhile, is having her world turned upside-down, as an early morning sparring match with Legolas delivers the deathblow to their quarrel.
The battle of Helm's Deep soon ensues. Shedheniel is separated from both her lover and her sister when she retreats to the caves and they to inside of the fortress.
Barricaded in the stronghold, Legolas notices Nildarien's emotional fragility. Knowing that without help she may resort to something drastic, he offers his support and the distraught woman breaks down. A session of tears and talk prompts the former enemies to swear kinship, something they would have scoffed at months before.
With the battle over and won, the sisters travel to Isengard. The destruction and murder of trees at Nan Curunir sends Nildarien over the edge and her power completely out of control. Worn and weary from her ordeal, she rests in the guardhouse. The Vala Yavanna, whose dominion is over the earth and growing things, pays Nildarien a dream visit to explain her gift to her and teach her much needed control.
Legolas, worried about Nildarien, warns Shedheniel to keep a close eye on her. When Shedheniel returns to the guardhouse she finds her twin very awake and about to slit her own throat. She stops her just in time and the whole story comes out.
The group soon leaves Isengard, and while on the road Nildarien explains her power to Legolas. That night a strange dream from her childhood returns, and she identifies the source as a palantír.
During the mad night ride towards Edoras, Nildarien informs Aragorn that they are being followed, despite the fact that there is no one in sight. Sure enough, they are over taken by the Grey Company.
When they halt for the night, Nildarien is plagued by a dream of a long ago confrontation with her uptight lady mother, Illis. After this, comes her usual torturing dream of leaving Mirkwood.
She wakes with tears in her eyes, feeling torn to shreds and vanishes to a secluded corner....
* * *
...She was so caught up in her emotions that she didn't heed the gentle throbbing warmth in her forehead that signaled the approach of a friend.
"I would give everything to see him again," she whispered to herself. "Everything."
"You needn't give anything," said a warm voice from behind her.
Nildarien could have sworn her heart stopped. She drew a deep, shuddering breath and turned, hardly daring to hope...
...And there was Telden, just as she remembered him. Nildarien stood frozen, tears still trickling down her cheeks. Telden reached out and brushed them from her face.
"I am sorry for this, Nildarien," he whispered, and she remembered him saying those same words to her, one long ago moonlit night. A sharp lance of pain ripped through her heart, but it was a healing pain that she had long needed.
"No," she managed to choke through the tight knot in her throat. "I should be sorry and I am. I-I hurt you, Telden, though I never meant to. I am at fault. None of this would have happened if I hadn't been such a coward."
The words had barely passed her lips before she collapsed into his arms, new tears streaming from her eyes. Telden held her close and let her cry.
"Hush, melda," he said after a moment. "You are no coward. Why do you name yourself as one?"
"Because I was afraid," Nildarien whispered. "Afraid of myself."
"Then in that respect I, too, am a coward," Telden said. Nildarien looked up at him. "My own insecurity was the greater cause of our pain," he continued. "I wanted to tell you so many times in Mirkwood; I came close once or twice. And I had all those years to come to Rivendell. All I had to do was say three little words, but every time I considered it I would think, "What if she doesn't love me back?" I spent so much time wondering that I let you get away."
Telden paused and, looking down, his eyes fell on the pendant. He smiled.
"I see you did not forget," he said.
"No. I could not forget the one I love," Nildarien said, and she, too, was smiling. Telden drew her close; so close she could feel his heartbeat.
"Nor could I," he murmured and then his lips were pressed to hers. The kiss was gentle, but it shocked Nildarien nonetheless. She felt herself go weak and was certain that if Telden were not holding her as tightly as he was she would be on her knees.
They pulled away slowly and Nildarien glanced up at Telden. Her green eyes met his grey and at that moment their hearts both whispered, "I am yours."
Nildarien sighed and lay her head on his shoulder. It was good to feel so safe; so protected. They stood silently for sometime, glad to be holding each other at last.
"Nildarien, we ought to get back to camp," Telden said after a long while. Then he laughed softly. "You can let go, love. I won't vanish."
"I know," Nildarien said, looking up at him with a smile. "And Shedheniel is probably worried and looking for me."
"Go and find her, then. I'll come along after."
Nildarien kissed him swiftly and sprinted back to camp, feeling happy enough to burst.
* * *
"Did you find her?"
"No!" Shedheniel answered, worried. "I have no idea where she-"
Shedheniel turned to see Nildarien come tearing towards her; something was...different.
"Nildarien, where have you been?" she asked, as her grinning twin skidded to a halt. Legolas eyed her strangely.
"Oh, what does it matter where I was, where I am, or where I will be?" Nildarien sang, her eyes sparkling-wait.
Shedheniel gasped. That was it! That's what was different! Her eyes! That lively, vivacious fire that had been so long absent was back.
"Are you...ah...feeling alright, Nildarien?" Legolas asked, clearly rather worried.
Nildarien raised her eyebrows at him.
"Well, you're acting oddly. Don't you think she's acting oddly?" he asked Shedheniel. "It's like she's gone delirious!"
With that, Nildarien burst into near-hysterical laughter. Shedheniel had only just begun to worry when more laughter joined hers.
"I think, just perhaps, that I can claim responsibility for this," said a laughing voice.
As one, Legolas and Shedheniel spun, identical expressions of shock on their faces.
"Come now! Should you really be this amazed?" Telden asked, smiling.
"I should have known you'd turn up in the middle of this, you wayward brigand!" Legolas laughed, embracing his old friend. "Where have you been all these years?"
"In due time, my friend. It is a long tale to tell, so it would be wise if we were all comfortable."
"Ever the voice of reason," Legolas mumbled as they all sat down.
"Not exactly," Telden said. "I just want to get off my feet and sit on something other than the back of a horse."
"Didn't you sleep last night?" Nildarien asked.
Telden shook his head. "No, I took watch for Elrohir. I've been doing that for a lot of people lately."
"Wish I could have," Nildarien said quietly.
"Dreams?" Telden asked and she nodded. He smiled and kissed her forehead. "I understand."
He sighed suddenly and looked back and forth between Nildarien and Shedheniel.
"Well, I've been to Rivendell recently," he said. "And while it wasn't turned entirely upside-down, as I expected, the folk were all in an uproar. What did you two do?"
"What did you hear?" the sisters both asked, alarmed.
"All manner of things and a great deal about the two of you," Telden said, looking at Legolas and Shedheniel. "Does your father know about this, Legolas, or did you "forget" to tell him?"
"I haven't the slightest idea of what you're talking about," Legolas said, bewildered.
Telden looked skeptical. "Don't tell me your memory is so bad as to forget your own wedding!"
There was a speechless moment in which three pairs of puzzled eyes gazed at Telden. Then Shedheniel began to laugh, and was suddenly joined by Legolas and Nildarien.
"I think someone owes me an explanation," said Telden, thoroughly confused.
"Yes, yes we do," Shedheniel said. "You've been misled by the gossips of Rivendell, which is how it all started. People had been saying that I would never accept a suitor. When Legolas came to Rivendell for the Council they teased him, saying he shouldn't bother to court me, despite that he wasn't at the time, because I'd never have him. So I put Nildarien's ring on my left hand and told them we were getting married. They were shocked to say the least."
"Most ingenious. You even had Imilin fooled, then!" Telden said with a laugh. Then he paused and looked thoughtful. "You mentioned a Council," he said. "When I spoke with Elrond he said he wished I could have been there because my "knowledge would have proved useful". What was discussed?"
"In short...the Rings," Legolas said with some trepidation.
A stony look fell over Telden's face. "A subject I know too well," he said and looked at Nildarien apologetically. "It's the reason I didn't come back to Rivendell. Saruman was after me."
"What?" Nildarien gasped and Shedheniel stifled a small scream. Even Legolas looked frightened. "What could he possibly have wanted with you?"
"Knowledge," Telden said gravely. "Knowledge and aid. What I got from my would-be abductor was that he wanted me for something I had. I think I can assume that meant my knowledge of the Rings."
"How does he know about that?" Legolas asked.
Telden shrugged. "He knows what I am."
"But you can't be the only one," Shedheniel said. "So why you?"
Silence. Telden looked at each of them closely, a slight frown on his face.
"Saruman wanted me because of the few remaining smiths, I am the most...adept at Ring-craft," he said. "And because of who I am." He frowned again. "This isn't something I like to disclose," he told them. "It's nearly gotten me killed on...several occasions, so..." he stopped, searching for the right words. After a moment he gave up and got to his feet.
Nildarien glanced at Shedheniel with raised eyebrows. Her sister only shrugged and they both turned to Legolas, who was watching his friend with an odd expression.
Telden unbuckled his sword belt and tossed both it and the sword to Nildarien. She caught it and looked it over. Etched near the top of the sheath was a familiar, many-pointed star; the belt buckle was the same shape.
She was struck nearly speechless. "But this-this is-"
"The Star of the House of Fëanor," Telden said with a nod. "I was apprentice to Celebrimbor. That fact is widely known, though not many connect it with me. What I do not openly proclaim is that I was also his adopted son."
"You never cease to amaze me," Nildarien said after a long silence. "Have you any more shocking secrets?"
Telden closed his eyes for a moment, then looked at her with a sad smile. "Too many, love," he said. "Too many."
Nildarien didn't press the subject. Instead, she handed the sword back to him.
"Wait!" she gasped suddenly, standing very quickly. "I've seen these marks before!"
"Which ones?" Telden asked.
"These here," Nildarien said, pointing to the Tengwar letters for `T' and `C' under the star on the sheath. Between them was a hawk shaped symbol. She drew her own sword and looked closely at the place where the blade met the hilt.
"Yes!" she exclaimed. "They're here, too."
Telden slowly took the sword from her hands, an awed look on his face.
"Where did you get this?" he asked, running a hand down the blade.
"Lady Galadriel gave it to me. Why?"
Telden didn't answer.
"Galadriel," he said to himself. "Of course."
"Telden, what are you talking about?" Legolas asked.
"If there was one thing I was known for in Eregion, it was the mithril-blades," Telden said, turning the sword in his hands. "I only ever made four. One is kept in Rivendell and the rest are right here."
"Mithril-blades?" Shedheniel wondered.
Telden handed the sword back to Nildarien. "Yes. The blades are solid mithril-and you can tell. Listen."
He drew his own sword, twirled it once, and brought it down against Nildarien's. The sound was amazing; like bells, with no more than a barely perceptible metallic clang.
"How did I not notice this?" Nildarien breathed. "It's beautiful."
"Thank you," Telden smiled. "Each one has a different pitch. I'd forgotten how two sound together; it's not that noticeable against a regular blade."
"How did you get them to sound like that?" Shedheniel asked.
"Mithril has some natural musical quality, but as to what I did-that's a secret."
"Since you made this," Nildarien said, handing the sword back to him. "Can you tell me about it?"
"Indeed I can, meleth nîn," Telden said. "What do you want to know?"
"Whatever you want to tell me."
"Well, let me see. This was the second one I made, I think. Yes, it has the hawk mark-"
"What do those mean anyhow?"
"The hawk is because falconry used to be a hobby of mine, back when I had the time for it-and when I wasn't chasing a certain green-eyed beauty," Telden said with a wink. "The `T' is for my first name, and the `C' is for my title: Celebdan."
"Anyhow, I don't remember much about the actual making of it," Telden continued. "It was strange; the idea just grabbed me one day and wouldn't let go until I finished it. That had never happened before and it hasn't again since. I've always felt that someone was working through me when I made this. Especially in regard to the inscription and the title."
Nildarien smiled. She knew his suspicion was true, but she hadn't told anyone about her divine vision yet and planned to explain it in private.
"What is the title?" she asked as he placed the sword back in her hands.
"Gevenacharn," he said. "Earth's vengeance."
"Oh!" Legolas exclaimed suddenly. "I get it! So that's what-"
Nildarien clapped a hand over his mouth. "Yes, O'-observant one, now be quiet," she snapped, and was instantly drawn into a sibling-like disagreement.
"Judging by the fact that I haven't seen them go for each other's throats yet, I've missed a great deal," Telden laughed.
"Indeed you have," Shedheniel said. "Their quarrel is over."
Telden smiled. "I knew it would end eventually. No matter how much you initially dislike Legolas, the feeling disappears. He has a knack for showing up when you need him and knowing just what to say."
"I've noticed," Shedheniel said, and she had a faint suspicion that Telden spoke from the voice of experience.
"Interesting," she thought. "How very interesting. I think there's a great deal more to him than he's willing to say." She watched him for a moment. His eyes were on Nildarien and he was smiling.
"He really and truly loves her," Shedheniel thought. "I've never seen him look so content. He'll be a good husband. They're perfect for each other-" she smirked as a sudden thought hit her. "-and probably dying to be alone together."
With that, she snatched Legolas and marched off, pleading that she'd `just remembered something very, very important.' She glanced back to see Nildarien's smile of gratitude, which she returned with a roguish wink.
"She read my mind," Telden grinned, wrapping his arms around Nildarien's waist.
"Mine, too," she said and kissed him. She smiled. "I missed you."
Telden laughed. "To say that I missed you would be the understatement of the Age! I love you too much just to miss you."
Nildarien smiled again then asked the question that had been at the top of her very long list.
"So, where were you all these years?"
"I was waiting for that," Telden said. "Come. I want you to meet my travel companion first."
He took her hand and led her towards the opposite side of the camp where the horses were being kept. He nodded at the one nearest them and Nildarien gasped.
It was the most beautiful horse she had ever seen-and the biggest; he was an easy match for Shadowfax. From nose to tail he was a glossy jet, unbroken by any marking. In form he was very like the Elf horses of Rivendell, but he was built for strength and stamina where they were for speed and agility.
"I take it you like him?" Telden asked; Nildarien was speechless. The horse came forward several paces and stopped before her. The intelligence in his black eyes was rather eerie, and Nildarien had the distinct feeling that she was being judged. Then, much to her surprise, the horse lowered his head in what was unmistakably a gesture of respect. She glanced at Telden, who frowned.
"Strange," he said. "I've never seen him so that before."
Nildarien giggled as the horse nosed at her hair.
" So, Morgil my friend," Telden said to the horse. "What do you think of her?"
Suddenly, Morgil put his head against Nildarien's back and shoved her-hard-towards his master.
Caught off guard and surprised by Morgil's response, Nildarien tripped. Telden caught her and the stallion whickered happily.
"Well, he definitely thinks we belong together," Telden said. Nildarien looked at Morgil.
"Thank you for your most...vehement approval, my lord," she said with a nod. Morgil tossed his head and looked pleased with himself. (Which, of course, he was. After all, he knew what was best for his master.)
"He likes you, meleth," Telden said with a smile. "He merely tolerates me."
"He's amazing. Where did you get him?"
"From a very good friend. I was told he came from Eressëa, but was foaled in Valinor. I believe it."
"So do I. His intelligence alone would support that. How long have you had him?"
"I've lost count of the years, but for the greater part of my life," Telden said. "He's a good companion and very patient to put up with all my ridiculous complaints. It's good having someone to talk to when I'm travelling. Even though he can't talk back, he responds in his own way."
"Oh, you poor man," Nildarien crooned, impersonating the most frivolous lady she'd ever met. "Wandering the Wild with no one but a horse for company!"
"Alas, but `tis true," Telden sighed, catching on to her game. "I have spent these long years in loneliness and suffering, longing ever for you. Pity me, fair maiden, pity me!"
Nildarien feigned a lady-like embarrassment. "Oh, my lord, you flatter me," she said and Telden laughed.
"You know, you could almost pass for a foolish court dame," he said. "Did Imilin teach you? She was always very good at imitation; it often got her in trouble."
"Of course," Nildarien grinned. "Now, please, darling, tell me where you were?"
"Not easily distracted, are you?" Telden said. "Very well. This will take some time..."