The Maids of Mithlond: From the Sea to the Wood - Chapter Seven
"HALT!" the voice cried again, and this time it was accompanied by a blinding flash. From her place in the second line, Nildarien could see an old man cloaked in grey wielding a staff.
"That is Gandalf," said Telden and Nildarien nodded.
"So I thought from Shedheniel's description of him," she replied. She glanced over her shoulder to look for her sister, who was in the archer line near the back, but she couldn't see her. Just then, someone seized her hand and pulled her forward at a run.
"What's happening?" Nildarien yelled over the roar of the armies that were now speeding towards the Lonely Mountain.
"Goblins are coming from the North!" Telden called back. "This battle has found its point!"
* * *
"What's that?" Shedheniel cried loudly, pointing to a dark cloud that covered the sky and shut out the light.
"Bats," said Legolas. He looked nervous. Both elves listened intently as the wizard told of the goblin army coming for the treasure of Thror. The other elves in the lines wore grave expressions. Shedheniel looked about for Nildarien, but she couldn't see. She was pulled back suddenly as the other archers retreated up the mountain.
"I guess we've found the reason for this battle!" said Legolas, searching for a mark.
"I think I know it too! Survival!" Shedheniel called back as she bent her bow. She let her arrow fly and moments later her mark fell. Shedheniel winced; she'd just killed a living creature. But she didn't have much time to grieve. Her bow was singing as she let arrow after arrow free. The showers of arrows sent the charging line of goblins back. The dwarf army was chopping away, and Shedheniel saw many a goblin head roll. Even with such a short time fighting, she had come to this conclusion: Battle was horrible!
* * *
Nildarien was down in the thick of the battle. Despite her inexperience and the distracting scores of arrows zipping through the air, she was doing quite well. It came as a surprise to her, but she did not mind killing these evil and hideous creatures. She had just saved a young dwarf from having his head lopped off, when a bone-chilling cry for help rang through her mind. The voice was known to her, she'd heard it before, when Smaug had destroyed Laketown. It was the voice of Erebor.
Nildarien glanced up and felt her anger building; the goblins were scaling the mountain. She fought her way to the edge of the battle and crouched low, with her hands on the ground. She could feel a steady vibration that began at the mountain's foot. She closed her eyes and that same sense of control that she'd felt before came back to her. She took a deep breath and began to speak strange words in a voice that grew steadily louder.
"Vido men, Kinlan. Cai feth til hitar. Chanen siti, yen shar! Nellus tellur cahn ti. Caertheni!"
She sprang to her feet with her hands facing the mountain and a storm of boulders careened down the slope, striking the goblins to the their deaths. Nildarien paused in astonishment for a brief moment; had she caused that? Without waiting to think, she leapt back into battle.
She heard a snarl behind her and whirled around to face what had made it, but the long braid she had tried to tie up smacked her face, momentarily blinding her. A Warg took advantage of this and seized her left arm in his jaws, knocking her to the ground. She made a wild slash at the creature's back and it let go with a howl. Nildarien grabbed her braid and sliced of nearly a foot of her hair. The Warg lunged again and she slit its throat with the backstroke of stabbing a goblin. After this, everything was a haze of blood, teeth, and swords.
* * *
Tears carved twin paths down Shedheniel's cheeks. It was really starting to go to her head. All the killing and bloodshed. All the blood... but the worst thing was the faces. The faces of her dead kin; people she knew! Shedheniel shook her head and wiped tears out of her eyes, vowing to save as man lives as she could.
She didn't have to wait long to carry out her vow. In fact she didn't have to wait at all. Shedheniel quickly shot a goblin attacking an elf and ran to his aid. She recognized him immediately as Lindorel's lover, though she didn't know his name. Shedheniel kindly bandaged his wounds, using up her bandages and some of her herbs before retreating to Ravenhill, where the battle was still rather fierce.
It was then that she realized she was out of arrows and drew her sword. Now she would have to confront her enemies and that scared her. A while later hope for victory was waning, but Shedheniel still held true to her vow. She'd saved numerous lives already, but her help was still needed.
To her left a tall elf lord was at the mercy of one of the bigger goblins. The goblin moved in for a killing blow. Shedheniel had no time to lose! The goblin's raised sword went down and Shedheniel slid forward on her knees to block it. With smooth strokes, she managed to get back on her feet and after a few terrifying minutes of fighting, she beheaded the goblin. She then turned her attention to the elf lord and her eyes filled with tears as she knelt next to him.
"Legolas! You're wounded!"
* * *
Swoosh! The goblin's sword cleaved nothing but air; Nildarien had ducked just in time. The goblin wasn't so lucky. It met its death as Nildarien took a second attacking goblin with her smaller knife. Nildarien shook her head sharply; she felt slightly lightheaded. Her wounded arm was still bleeding, and what's more, she had several other less painful wounds.
Suddenly, trumpets sounded from inside the mountain. They had entirely forgotten Thorin and his twelve companions. Hope was rekindled in the weary armies and they fell upon the goblins with a revived strength. But it didn't last. After a while, thoughts of victory began, once again, to slip away.
Nildarien pulled dank strands of hair away from her face and glanced at the sky, which was a horrible yellow-green color that was swiftly darkening. How long had they been fighting? It all seemed endless, like a gruesome vision that you long to end, but can not.
* * *
"Come on! We have to get you out of the battle!" Shedheniel urged, helping Legolas to his feet. "Put your other arm around my shoulder."
"No," said Legolas, but Shedheniel forced his arm from around his waist and immediately let go of it. He had a six-inch gash in his side. Shedheniel pulled him further from the fray and went to work.
"Here," she said. "Chew this up and put it in the wound." Shedheniel handed him the remains of her healing herbs. Then she noticed she was out of bandages. She winced and grabbed her cloak. She bit the edge and ripped the bottom off.
"You could have used mine," Legolas added sourly. Apparently, he wasn't to pleased to be chewing herbs at the moment.
"Are you done?"
"Lift your shirt up. I need to see the wound," said Shedheniel. She blushed as she said this, but Legolas didn't notice. She quickly tied her makeshift bandage tightly around the wound, which stopped the bleeding.
"Any better?" Shedheniel asked. Legolas sat up.
"It's hard to breathe."
"That means it's tight enough," said Shedheniel smiling slightly.
"MOVE!" Legolas hissed. Suddenly, her on top of him and rolled out of the way. Shedheniel realized her mistake and drew her sword. The goblin fell dead in seconds. She sighed sadly and helped Legolas to his feet.
"I hate this senseless killing," she whispered. Legolas nodded.
"I can tell." He wiped the tears off her cheeks.
"You need to be out of here," said Shedheniel and helped him over to the edge of the mountain.
Shedheniel barely had time to react and catch what Legolas tossed her: his quiver. She slung it over her shoulders.
"Look!" he called, pointing. A great bear was lumbering into the battle, crushing goblins left and right. Just then, a cry erupted from right near Shedheniel.
*"The eagles are coming! The eagles are coming!"
"Wasn't that Mr. Baggins?" Shedheniel thought, but she had no time to confirm this.
* * *
Nildarien kicked the dead goblin off the blade of her knife and leaned back against the side of the mountain. She couldn't keep this up much longer. Her arm was still unbandaged and the club of the goblin she'd just killed had torn her right shoulder near her neck.
Weary as she was, Nildarien managed to jog over to where the battle was still raging. She arrived in time to slash off the head of an especially fierce goblin and blinked. It was getting hard to see.
"This is madness," she thought. "Complete madness."
* * *
Shedheniel, with the aid of Legolas's arrows, was back in the thick of the fighting. She kept an eye on Legolas, whose wound was still in bad condition. He kept an eye on her as well, for he knew she had not managed the battle unscathed. Shedheniel did have a nasty gash in her leg from a Warg and a few good sword cuts, but she ignored them.
Suddenly, and with a frightened cry, the remainder of the goblin army retreated. Victory was theirs! Legolas ran over and threw his arms around Shedheniel gleefully, spinning her around once before setting her down, which greatly surprised her. With a worried glance at each other, they went to look for what was left of their own company.
* * *
Nildarien cheered with the rest of the armies when she saw the goblins retreating. She cleaned off her knife and slid it back into its sheath before pressing a hand to her shoulder. Only now had her wounds really begun to hurt. Someone put a hand on her back and said,
"Are you badly hurt?"
Nildarien turned and found herself face to face with Shedheniel.
"Sweet star queen!" she gasped. "Nildarien! Your hair- I didn't know it was you!"
"Of course it's me," Nildarien said, wincing as she pulled her hand away from her shoulder. Shedheniel cringed. Nildarien's head dropped and she stumbled. Shedheniel reached out and grabbed her firmly by the shoulders.
"How long did you fight wounded?" she asked.
"Nearly the whole battle," her sister replied, and Shedheniel shook her head.
"Foolish," she said. "Come on, let's get to the tents. You need these bandaged."
"Shedheniel, go help those who need it more than me. It's not far to the tents; I can make it. Once I get these cleaned up I'll come help you with the others."
"No you won't!"
"Yes, I will!" Nildarien snapped firmly.
Shedheniel knew her sister too well to try talking her out of this; when Nildarien spoke like that there was no dissuading her.
* * *
The next few days went so quickly, Shedheniel could hardly remember them but for the major events.
They buried Thorin, the dwarf who had claimed to be (and was) king-under-the-mountain. Bard laid the Arkenstone of Thrain on his breast and Thranduil placed his sword over the grave. Others were buried and the Mirkwood company was much smaller than before. They had lost nearly two thirds of their army.
Several days later, Shedheniel and Nildarien rode near the head of the company. Shedheniel rode between Nildarien and Legolas so the day wouldn't result in a bloodier battle than the one they'd just finished. Mr. Baggins the hobbit and Gandalf the Grey also rode with them and next to them strode a huge man named Beorn that Shedheniel learned was the great bear she had seen in the battle. This rather puzzled her until Gandalf explained it.
Soon, the company and their guests parted, but before they did Thranduil named Mr. Baggins an elf friend. Shedheniel was quite pleased, for she rather liked the funny little hobbit and wished him well.
Then, at last, their host turned toward Mirkwood.
* * *
Nildarien was very glad to be back in the wood and she really wanted to rest, but this was denied her.
The day after her return, she'd found that people whispered when she passed and often gave her strange looks. It was all rather unnerving, and what made it worse was she didn't know why they acted that way. But it was all about to come clear.
One day as Nildarien was walking down a hall she was stopped by a group of extremely excited elves who immediately attacked her with a multitude of questions and comments.
"What were you saying?"
"How did you do it?"
"We all know, so you'd better just speak up and tell us."
"She's not answering. Are you sure it's her?"
"Coren told me it was, and he saw it happen."
Nildarien was overwhelmed and was trying to figure out who she should answer first, when a new voice cut in:
"Stop, stop! Can't you see she hasn't got any answers?"
Nildarien breathed a sigh of relief; Telden was someone she could talk to. He pulled her away from the inquisitive group and out a side door to the garden.
"Would you mind telling me what that was about?" he asked.
"No, I don't mind, but I don't understand half of it myself," Nildarien said. "All that was about the little rockslide at the battle."
"I have my own questions about that I'm afraid. Just before, I could have sworn I heard you crying to the heavens in some strange language."
"And you are right," Nildarien sighed. "Everyone thinks it was my yelling that caused the avalanche, which it did, but I don't know how."
Telden was obviously bewildered by this.
"I've never heard a stranger statement, but maybe we can work this out. What exactly were you saying? In something I can understand of course."
Nildarien rubbed her forehead, trying to remember.
"I think it was something like... `Hear me Lone One. I feel your pain. Your chains have been broken, yet look! Evil marches against you. Destroy them all. Now Arise!'"
"I have never heard you speak that way, Nildarien," Telden said.
"This all confuses me. I tried to put it out of my head the first time-"
"What? The first time?" Telden exclaimed. "You mean you've done this before?"
"Um... yes. On the way across the Misty Mountains, only I sort of... split the avalanche so it ran around us."
"When you do this, what language do you speak?" Telden asked.
"I'm not really sure," Nildarien replied. "But it's the same as the one I heard in my dream."
They were silent for a moment, then Telden said,
"The only conclusion that I can come to is that you must somehow be speaking with the mountains."
"As strange as that sounds, it does make some sense," Nildarien said thoughtfully. "I still don't completely understand this, but you really have helped to shed some light on it. Thank you."
"You're very welcome," Telden said smiling and walked on. As they walked, Nildarien noticed a slight limp in Telden's step.
"Oh! You were hurt," she said concernedly and stopped.
"Yes, but I'll be fine. It's you that I am still worried about."
"Nildarien, you, too, were injured and according to Shedheniel you lost enough blood to be at risk. I do care about you, and you know that," said Telden, somewhat sadly.
"I might not have been injured if it hadn't been for my hair," Nildarien mumbled.
"Do not let yourself down. There are wounds for every battle," said Telden. "Especially the first. Look."
He pulled his raven hair away from his neck, revealing a long scar down the side.
"Oh!" Nildarien gasped her green eyes wide. "What happened?"
"My first battle was defending my family," Telden said, sounding both sad and a little angry. "Orcs attacked where we lived and it was only myself and my father protecting them."
"Did you have a very large family?"
"No, but they're all gone now. I'm the only one left."
"Just like me and Shedheniel," Nildarien thought. "Only we have each other and he has no one."
Telden looked so sad now, that it nearly made her cry.
"I'm sorry," she said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I had no business in asking such things."
"There is nothing to be sorry for," Telden said and there was another silence. In this silence, Telden remembered Shedheniel's words,
"If you love her so much, than she is worth pursuing."
"By the way, I find nothing wrong with your hair," he said. "It looks wonderful."
"Do you honestly think so or are you just saying it?"
"Would I say it if I didn't believe it? And I could also say that you are the best student that I have ever had."
"Now I know you're lying!" Nildarien laughed, crossing her arms. Telden grinned and flipped a shortened lock of her hair over her shoulder.
"I do not lie, sweet one," he said.
A quick spasm of anxiety shot through Nildarien when he said this and again when she realized that her hand had somehow locked with his.
"'Sweet one'?" she said. "That sounds as though you were courting me."
Telden raised her hand to his lips and gently kissed the back.
"Did you ever consider that to be possible?" he asked quietly.
Nildarien, shocked and taken aback, was at a loss for what to say. Luckily for her she was spared answering, for at that moment Gwindor landed on her unhurt shoulder. She looked at him, puzzled by the note clasped in his beak; he had never brought one before. She took it from him and he flew off.
Nildarien tore the envelope, unfolded the letter, and began to read. As she did, her eyes widened and she sank onto a bench, clapping a hand over her mouth.
"Nildarien, what's happened?" Telden asked worriedly.
"Me and Shedheniel... we're wanted in Rivendell."
* * *
Shedheniel blinked, brought back to reality and her bow dropped from her hands.
"I-I can't do this!" she cried. Legolas grabbed her hand.
"You can. I've seen it. Just shoot again, Shedheniel."
"I can't!" she wailed and burst into tears. "Every time I try I see the battle. I don't want to fight anymore. I don't!"
"You don't have to fight anymore. Just shoot again," Legolas said soothingly. He wiped tears off her cheeks and squeezed her hand. He bent down and handed her the bow.
"Just try again."
Shedheniel aimed again. She closed her eyes and shot... perfectly.
* * *