The Maids of Mithlond:Shadows Rising - Chapter Eight
Nildarien heard the door slam and glanced up.
"Sweet lady of the stars!" she cried and jumped to her feet, shunting Tirian off her shoulder with a screech and tossing her book across the room.
"Shedheniel! What on earth did you do?"
She ran to her sister, who had begun to tend a bleeding shoulder.
"Shedheniel, tell me right now," Nildarien commanded sternly. Shedheniel looked up at her, frightened tears in her brown eyes.
"I-I almost...I nearly-" she broke off, her voice choked with tears and fright. Nildarien sat down next to her and gave her hand a comforting squeeze.
"Come now! You can tell me. It can't be so horrible," she crooned softly.
Shedheniel drew a deep, shuddering breath.
"I nearly...killed Boromir," she whispered.
"He challenged me! I don't know what happened to me, but I only just stopped myself in time."
"I never thought you'd do anything like this."
"Are you angry with me?"
"No, only shocked. Get some rest, Shedheniel. You look worn out."
Shedheniel nodded miserably and asked to be left alone. Nildarien agreed and slipped quietly through the door, where she found Legolas pacing up and down the hall. He didn't seem to notice her and as he showed no sign of doing so, she reached out and grabbed his arm.
"You're pacing was giving me a headache," she remarked. "Shedheniel will be fine. She's just a bit shaken."
"This worries me," said Legolas. "She warned me to keep and eye on Boromir, and I'm afraid I haven't done so, but I certainly will now."
"Not only that, you must. I too find him untrustworthy, and especially after what he's just done," said Nildarien, moving away from the door.
"This is so unlike her," said Legolas. "I have never heard her speak in such a way before."
Nildarien smiled ruefully.
"It must be my influence on her," she sighed. "What exactly happened?"
"Plainly, it was like watching us, only without the insults and accusations and with swords instead of words."
"All the better that I declined the decision for us to come with you," Nildarien said with another sigh. "It would never do to have four quarrelers. Though we seem to have quit with that pastime."
Legolas scowled at her with feigned anger.
"That doesn't mean we're the best of friends," he said and Nildarien laughed.
"No, by all means!"
* * *
After a while, Shedheniel was back to acting in her normal and effervescent manner. If she was still bothered by the fact that she had almost killed Boromir, she kept it to herself. Though Shedheniel was frequently haunted by nightmares and often woke up screaming this was not unusual, since the dark-eyed elf often had bad dreams.
The most peculiar change in Shedheniel was that she began to disappear to somewhere and reappear hours later. She told no one where she was going, but somehow this recurring vanishing act seemed familiar to Nildarien.
One morning, Shedheniel awoke early because of a dream. She dressed quickly and left her room in search of something to occupy her mind.
Soon, Shedheniel came to a place where many flowers grew. She settled herself in the middle and began to plait flowers into her hair. The sweet perfume of the flowers filled the air, and tugged at her drooping eyelids, lulling her to sleep...
...Clear sky, bright sun, cool wind...and a strange sensation: she was flying. Then darkness swallowed Shedheniel, choking her. It filled her lungs and made her cough until tears flooded her eyes. The darkness disappeared, leaving Shedheniel in the middle of her fight with Boromir. With a quick lunge she stabbed him through the heart, and tugged her bloodstained blade from his chest. Shedheniel looked down and saw the blood on her hands. She promptly wiped her hands on the grass. She checked her palms, but the hideous red liquid was still there. Why wouldn't it wipe off?
She had killed him. Would the blood ever go away? What about her memory?
Shedheniel heard her name being called.
"Oh no!" she thought. "They've seen it all. What happened? How could I have killed him?" The sound of her name grew louder and louder.
"Shedheniel..." it called. "Shedheniel!"
The brown-eyed twin sat up and yelped. Legolas was sitting beside her, hands clutching her shoulders.
"Oh, Legolas!" Shedheniel cried, and buried her face in his shoulder. "I-I didn't mean to! It wasn't my fault! The blood won't wash away! It was all an accident! I never meant to-to-"
"To what? To kill Boromir?"
Shedheniel nodded, her throat to sore from sobbing to speak an answer.
"How long have you been having such nightmares, Shedheniel?" asked Legolas. "You look so worn out."
"I-I have many nightmares," croaked Shedheniel. Her sore throat made her voice crack. Legolas shook his head.
"That is not normal, nor is it good for you. How do you feel? You were moving about as you slept."
"I am fine now," Shedheniel assured him. Legolas held her close for a moment.
"You haven't hurt him of course. You never would have. Why do you worry so? Boromir is in perfect health, though he seems strange at times."
"I don't trust him. A strange darkness seems to surround him and keeps me from him. I don't know how he feels."
"And you know how I feel?" asked Legolas, alarmed.
"Yes, in a way. I feel you. I feel Nildarien. I feel everyone who is very close to me."
"How do I feel?"
Shedheniel looked at him intently. She sighed.
"You are sad. You are always sad, just like Nildarien. You two are so similar. There's something else, but I don't know what it is. It seems sad somehow; it also seems rather joyful," Shedheniel shook her head in frustration. "You-you're uncertain about something and-" she stopped. "That's all."
"You feel everyone's pain. Is that why you seem more quiet of late? Are you always in pain because you friends are?"
"No. I'm in pain because of me. The other feelings are but a shadow in my heart, that-after a time- I learned to read and understand. You know you will be leaving soon. The Fellowship has lingered to long, and is endangering the journey."
Moments after Shedheniel was done speaking, a messenger came, asking Legolas to come with him. Apparently, the Lord and Lady wanted to speak to the Fellowship.
* * *
*"...and it would be folly to throw away-folly to throw away lives I mean," Boromir's voice said clearly. He said something afterwards, but Shedheniel was no longer paying attention. She approached the pavilion quickly.
"What would be folly to throw away, Master Boromir?" asked Shedheniel, her voice dripping with innocence. Why had she asked? She already knew. The pieces to her puzzle finally fit, but the completed picture wasn't pretty. Boromir was after the Ring of Power, and Shedheniel couldn't stop him or accuse him.
"What do you want, wench? You are no warrior! You are a weakling!" Boromir spat. Shedheniel stepped back, alarmed by his harsh words. Her face turned very pale.
"I could have killed you! I nearly did."
"You couldn't hurt me if you tried!" Boromir taunted, causing a fire to alight in Shedheniel's eyes.
"Coward!" she yelled. "Fool! Don't think I don't know what you're after. Yes, Boromir, I know! If you do not gain control of you mind it will be the death of you. Your confidence shall be your downfall!"
Boromir stepped forward and struck Shedheniel hard across the face, sending her crashing to the ground and the Fellowship into an uproar. Legolas bounded in front of Shedheniel, his bow drawn and an arrow set to string.
"If you so much as lay a finger on her again, I'll kill you." He sounded so furious that no one dared to disagree with him. "You look upon the best archer Mirkwood has seen in many years."
"Legolas!" cried Shedheniel, getting on her feet. "Flattery at such a time? I need it not at the moment. Besides, I fight my own battles." She pushed him aside and glared at Boromir.
"Foolish mortal! You hit a woman half you size when you were the first to insult. You really are a coward. Just because Nildarien has the sharper tongue does not mean I am weaker than she. I am never unarmed, though when I dress this way it seems so." Shedheniel motioned to her dress. Then, quick as lightning, she drew out her longknife and set it to his throat.
"I could not kill you, not even if I wanted to. I only wished to say farewell, but I believe I have worn out my welcome," Shedheniel's eyes brimmed with tears. "I'm sorry to have alarmed you all. The b-best of luck on your travels and may you each choose the right path. G-goodnight and goodbye."
She managed to hold back her tears. Then she turned and fled and Legolas followed her, leaving the Fellowship to their thoughts.
"You think wrong of Shedheniel, Boromir. She is much stronger than you believe. Unless you have fought four Nazgûl at once, do not speak ill of her again," Aragorn warned.
Shedheniel made it out of the pavilion and into the woods before she collapsed, allowing Legolas to catch up to her. He knelt next to the weeping girl and clenched his fists.
"What has he done to you? I want to see it."
Shedheniel wiped tears from her eyes and faced Legolas; her left eye and half of her cheek were a swollen purple.
"You-you mustn't fight him, Legolas. He is your comrade, not your enemy," said Shedheniel in between sniffles. "Oh Elbereth! Legolas, what have I done? Everyone must hate me now!" She wept into his shirt until she could cry no more.
"I do not hate you," said Legolas when he knew his voice would be audible above her sobs. "And neither will anyone else. I do not know what has happened to Boromir, but he is not himself."
"I know what's come over him," Shedheniel said darkly. She sighed and finally let go of Legolas' shirt, which she had been gripping that entire time. "I'll miss you while you are gone-and I want you to promise me something."
"Anything," said Legolas.
"Promise me you won't get hurt and that you'll come see me after the wars are over."
"Shedheniel," Legolas started. "I can't-"
"Lie to me if you must! Just promise me you'll be alright!" Shedheniel cut in, her voice desperate.
"Hush! I cannot promise you such a thing, but I will promise you this: I shall do everything in my power to fight on, and-if the wars should end-I will come for you."
Shedheniel wrinkled her nose.
"Come for me? I only asked you to come see me."
"If I come back, we can find some adventures together like...er...friends."
"Y-yes. Like friends." Both elves looked hurt. "Go find you comrades. You depart in the morning, but you won't see me."
Shedheniel felt her heart crack in many places as they said goodbye. Legolas kissed her cheek (the unhurt one of course) and left. Shedheniel went back to her room and cast herself on her bed. She wept until she slipped into bad dreams. The Company would be gone when she awoke.
* * *
The next morning, elves who could speak the Common Tongue came to the Fellowship with supplies for the journey. Among these things were cloaks.
Legolas unwrapped his, and a small envelope fell out. Gimli picked it up and opened it before handing it to Legolas. The note, written in Shedheniel's rather messy characters, read like this:
I wove you a cloak to go with this.
Legolas tipped the envelope and out fell the silver cloak fastening he had given to Shedheniel months ago.
"Ai! She remembered," he exclaimed sadly. He took out the silver-blue handkerchief and stared at it in dismay, knowing not when he could return it.
* * *
The Sun was low in the sky when Shedheniel awoke.
The golden-haired elf slipped away unnoticed by her sister and sat at the riverbank. She gently ran her hand through the water.
Something dropped into the river.
"The world around us is like the surface of the water," said a deep, female voice. "What we do and how we act create ripples in destiny." Shedheniel turned about and gazed at Lady Galadriel in surprise. "There are some, like pebbles, who create larger ripples. They are our warriors and our rulers. Our kings and our queens. Others, like the wind on a calm day, barely make a change, but they are still important." The Lady let one elanor blossom fall from her hand into the water. "Just because you are not as strong does not mean you are not as important."
"What are you saying, Lady of the Wood?"
"I say what I say. Love is a terrible thing to ignore. What shall you do now? You will not remain in Lórien long."
"What should I do? I cannot go anywhere but South; the other ways are blocked. What do you say in this matter?" Shedheniel asked pleadingly.
"Follow your heart, child, and may it lead you to where you hope to be," said Galadriel. The elves were silent for a moment. Finally, the Lady asked: "Will you depart ere the Sun rises on the `morrow?"
Shedheniel turned to look at her.
"Yes. I will follow my heart, and finally chase my dreams."
* * *
That night, Shedheniel packed silently. She hadn't told Nildarien she was going after the Fellowship; she would only have tried to stop her.
Shedheniel quickly slipped into her sister's room and relieved her of five throwing knives, one longknife, and many hairpins. At the door she left a package: the cloak she'd woven as a gift for Nildarien. There was no note with it.
Soon, Shedheniel was at the riverbank, staring at her boat. It was stuffed with necessities for travelling: rope, food, a cloak and other well-needed goods.
With a last parting look at the Golden Wood, Shedheniel pushed her boat off the bank and steered it downstream. She touched her bruised cheek and wondered what were to happen should she meet the Fellowship again...
* * *
Nildarien woke with a jolt and a horrid sense of loss she could not grasp the reason of. It was as though something were missing. Missing from her very being; something that had always been there...
Nildarien jumped to her feet, a sudden fear coursing through her, and one hideous thought circling in her mind. She reached for her pack and tipped it over, the contents crashing to the floor. Sure enough, six of her knives were missing, and she knew who had them.
She wrenched her door open and nearly tripped over the cloak in front of it as she bolted out. She picked it up and tossed it around her shoulders without thinking then sprinted full out for the stable.
Nildarien knew she must be a sight, flying through the woods in a cloak and a nightdress, but she was much too worried to care.
When she reached her destination, she paused only for a moment before dashing back the way she'd come.
"She must have taken a boat,"she thought as she bounded up the many steps of Caras Galadhon. "She would not have left Narúel otherwise."
Nildarien banged through a pair of doors and froze, trying to catch her breath. She heard soft footsteps and glanced up to see the Lady Galadriel standing before her.
"Come, child. We shall talk," she said and Nildarien followed her into a small room.
"So, you have discovered your sister's absence," said the Lady.
"Yes, though I do not-" Nildarien faltered, searching for the right words.
"You may speak freely," Galadriel told her.
"Why did she not tell me?" Nildarien continued her voice barely audible. "She can trust me, and she knows that. I would have understood."
"So you say, but would you have really?"
"Well-I do not know. Still, I worry about her. She is my twin, and my only relative who remains in Middle-earth. She is all I have left."
Galadriel gave Nildarien a deep searching look.
"But what of Telden?" she asked. "Last I heard, he had not deserted these lands."
"What? You know-but how?" Nildarien gasped, and the ghost of a smile crossed Galadriel's face.
"Yes, child, I know him," she said. "He is highly honored here."
"How is this?" Nildarien breathed.
Galadriel's expression changed, a stony, serious look replacing the smile that had been there only a brief moment ago.
"Indeed, when I last saw him, he bade me speak to you of this if I ever chanced to meet you, which I knew I would," she said. "He once performed a great service for a kinsman of mine, though now it seems it was done more for the world."
"I do not understand."
"You will in time, child. There is much I have to tell you, and our days are pressed," said Galadriel. "I know you long to follow your sister, and you shall, but I fear I must detain you for a time. What I have to tell you is of dire importance."
* * *
"Imilin, I told you, I'm only stopping the night here. I ride with the sons of Elrond in the morning."
"Dearest brother, if you would only be quiet I might tell you something important," Imilin said with exasperation. Telden leaned back in his chair and motioned for her to go on.
"As I was about to say, Nildarien is not here."
"Just my luck," Telden mumbled.
"However," Imilin continued. "I thought it just might interest you to know that she is in Lothlórien."
Telden jumped up and might have run off again then and there if a mocking voice from behind hadn't said: "You needn't bother."
Telden turned sharply and found himself facing a boy considerably younger than he was. Imilin recognized this newcomer as one of the last obstinate few who still, even now, believed the ridiculous hearsay about Nildarien. If he mentioned anything, which he was likely to do, it would most definitely cause her brother's long quiescent hostility to ignite.
"Why needn't I bother to search for the woman I love?" Telden asked, a twinge of annoyance noticeable in his voice.
"Oh, so you love her do you?" said the boy with a superior look. "Then I ought to save you the anguish and tell you that she has been involved with and then turned away more lovers than she is able to remember."
"What are you saying?" Telden snarled, the cold, cutting edge in his voice a sure sign that his deep buried temper was taking hold of him.
"I didn't mean any disrespect to you," the boy said, still sounding haughty. "But it is true. She is unfaithful and enjoys being so. You are a lost soul if you have fallen in with her."
Telden lunged for the boy, but Imilin got there first. With a strength Telden hadn't know his little sister possessed, she shoved the now terrified boy into a wall, causing a group to gather around them.
"Now, you listen to me, youngling" she railed. "Nildarien Illisel is no more a wanton than you are a wizard! Don't you try to tell me that my brother doesn't mean anything to her, because he does! Why else do you think she's cried an ocean over him if she doesn't love him? If you can't answer me, fool, then get out and never speak such slanderous lies again!"
With a frightened glance at Imilin, the boy turned and fled as though the armies of Mordor were after him. Needless to say, that was the end of all infuriating rumors concerning Nildarien.
"As for you!" Imilin said, only slightly quieter to her brother. "The sooner you get out of Rivendell and find Nildarien the happier we'll all be! This mess has gone on long enough! And don't you dare believe anything you hear about her unless you hear it from me or Shedheniel or Amriel or-"
"Calm down!" Telden interjected, pushing Imilin back into her chair. "I've never seen you so angry! Don't worry. I will find her. I swear it by Eru himself that I will!"