The Maids of Mithlond: From the Sea to the Wood - Chapter One
2941, Third Age
A tall gold haired maiden strained her mahogany far-seeing eyes against the rising sun. The dark shape of a hawk flew out of the East. It gave a sharp cry of welcome and soared over the maiden's head. It alighted on the leather gauntlet on her twin sister's outstretched arm. Shedheniel, for that was the maid's name, turned to her sister, who, unlike herself, had eyes of a deep emerald green.
"What news does Gwindor bring, Nildarien?" she said. Nildarien transferred Gwindor to her shoulder and mounted her horse.
"All is well ahead sister," said Nildarien. "We can make good time and reach the foot of the Misty Mountains by nightfall."
She looked into her sister's brown eyes.
"Don't worry," she said. "We will be safe with Thranduil in Mirkwood." Shedheniel frowned.
"How can you be sure?" she said. "They live in that dark forest and are not kind to strangers in their realm." Nildarien sighed in exasperation. Shedheniel always had second thoughts about things.
"What choice do we have?" she asked. "We do not know the way to Rivendell, and besides our father was from Mirkwood."
"All right." said Shedheniel. "Let's go on."
Nildarien smiled. Shedheniel mounted Tarva, the black and silver mare she had received before the journey. Tarva rubbed her pink muzzle against the bronze neck of Rahar, Nildarien's powerful stallion from the plains of Rohan. Rahar tossed his head as if to say, "I quite agree, my lady. Let us GO!" With that, Rahar gave a mighty neigh and plunged ahead down the road, with Tarva following like a shadow.
* * *
Evening was falling and still they rode on. The warm summer wind whipped against their faces and tossed their golden braids behind them like banners. Nildarien pulled back on Rahar's bridle and he slowed to a halt. She heard a grinding of stones behind her as Shedheniel did the same. Nildarien looked ahead.
"Shedheniel," she called, "there's a place we can camp right up next to the mountains. It doesn't look far."
"Then let's get there and quickly!" said Shedheniel. "I'm as tired as you can believe."
It was about a half-hours ride to the place Nildarien had seen, and by the time they reached it night had truly fallen. The sisters set camp and ate their dinner without bothering to make a fire.
"I'll take the first watch, Nildarien," said Shedheniel. As tired as she was, her sister was more so; she had become mysteriously weary when they had come close to the mountains, and that was strange, for Nildarien was hardly ever tired.
Nildarien cast herself on the ground with the steep foot of a mountain at her back. Sleep claimed her instantly, but strange dreams came upon her. She could hear a great rumbling and strong, deep voices calling. Calling in a tongue unknown to elf or mortal. A tongue unheard since the eve of time it was, yet it seemed to Nildarien that she had heard it before. She understood and the voices grew louder. Louder and louder until she shook with the intensity and power of the words. Then, a different voice called,
"Nildarien! Awake sister."
Nildarien sat bolt upright; her hands clutching Shedheniel's and her green eyes wide and shining. Shedheniel grabbed her sister by the shoulders and looked at her.
"What is wrong, Nildarien?" she said softly.
"N-nothing," Nildarien said slowly. "Just a nightmare."
Nildarien took the watch for the rest of the night, for though she had been weary before, she knew she could not sleep now.
The morning dawned cool and grey. The sisters packed up their things and began to ascend the mountains. The first few days passed slowly and without much danger. The horses were sure footed and Nildarien often sent Gwindor ahead to scout for safe paths. However, on the sixth day, when they were nearing the end of the mountains, something completely unexpected happened.
It was a clear, warm day around noon, and the sun beat down on them. The travelers were rounding a bend when the ground began to tremble. From above they heard a crashing and rumbling of many stones and boulders. They were caught in an avalanche. Shedheniel pulled the horses close to the side of the mountain and held their heads to keep them calm. Shedheniel was safe, but Nildarien stood on the ledge and did not move. She felt a sense of control coursing through her. The sound grew louder as the avalanche came nearer. Without knowing why or what it would achieve, Nildarien raised her hands with the palms facing the mountain. She closed her eyes and words came to her, in the same tongue as those from her dream, only she was speaking them.
"Met cahn aun hirlen minthei!"
When she spoke the word `minthei' she drew her hands apart. The mad torrent of stone that fell split and ran wide around them. The last rock fell and Nildarien sank to her knees with her hands covering her face and gasped for breath. Shedheniel knelt down next to her sister.
"H-how did you do that?" she said, her voice as shaky as her sister's.
"I- I don't know." Nildarien whispered. "It just seemed like the natural thing to do."
Shedheniel helped her sister to he feet and, as quickly as they could, descended from the mountains. They did not cross them again for some time.