The Maids of Mithlond: Shadows Rising - Chapter One
~Orodel & Megami~
Synopsis of Book One
In the year 2941 of the Third Age, twin sisters Shedheniel and Nildarien Illisel left Mithlond for the only place they knew would offer them protection: Mirkwood.
During the journey Nildarien discovered she had mysterious powers over the mountains when she split an avalanche in half to save her sister and herself.
Upon arriving in Mirkwood, the elves' horses ran off and left them to continue the journey on foot.
After several days they were captured by wood elves that brought them before the king himself. Thranduil welcomed the twins and gave them leave to wander his realm, for their father had been a Mirkwood guard. Thranduil threw a feast in honor of the twins. Afterwards, his son Legolas remembered the horses they found earlier. He invited the twins to see them. He and Nildarien grew angry at each other and began a feud that would last for years. Meanwhile, Shedheniel was falling in love with Legolas but she didn't know it.
Soon, the twins decided they wanted to learn how to fight. The king consented and gave them teachers. Legolas taught Shedheniel archery, and after she had passed his skills in that field, he taught her of swords. An elf named Telden became Nildarien's knifing teacher.
Soon after the lessons began Telden fell in love with Nildarien. She overheard him talking to Legolas and discovered that her enemy has fallen for Shedheniel. Legolas also insulted Nildarien, hurting her deeply. In turn, when he went to look for her she hurt him in her own way.
After the strange capture (and even stranger escape) of a group of dwarves Shedheniel and Nildarien began to piece together the puzzle Nildarien happened to run into one evening. Her eyes, however, claimed she ran into absolutely nothing.
More trouble began to brew as the dragon Smaug's first appearance painfully affected Nildarien. His second appearance caused more damage to her, rendering her unconscious.
Once news of Smaug's death reached the king's ears he sent a company of soldiers to take the treasure, and Shedheniel and Nildarien were part of it.
The sisters fought bravely in the Battle of Five Armies and returned back to Mirkwood hoping for some peace and quiet. This was denied them, however, as they received an urgent message from their mother's relatives in Rivendell and were called hence.
The sisters departed a day afterward. Shedheniel and Legolas know nothing of each other's feelings, and Telden knows not whether Nildarien loves him.
After residing in the peace and quiet of Imladris for nearly 80 years, our story begins again...
77 years later...
3018, Third Age,
The Moon, a perfect pearl in a sea of blue, glistened and sparkled. Shedheniel knew these paths well. She had used them many times before. Her heart half-feared that this was a dream; that she'd wake up in Rivendell. Those dreams had haunted her often, but she did not wake. This was real. Shedheniel could feel it.
She led her palomino, Narúel, to an empty stall in the stables. After 77 years she was finally back. Back in Mirkwood, the only place where her dreams awaited.
Shedheniel gathered her belongings and left the stables with one thought in mind: Find Legolas.
* * *
Nildarien let her hair, now grown long, fall into the stream, where the current tugged at it playfully. She sighed, wondering if her sister had reached Mirkwood yet. Shedheniel had begged her to come with many times, but she had always refused. Nildarien knew she would have only spoiled the visit, and besides, there was nothing left for her in Mirkwood. Nothing but painful memories.
Nildarien tossed her head skyward and began to sing softly to herself.
"Once, as my heart remembers,
All the stars were fallen embers.
Once, when night seemed forever,
I was with you.
Once, when our hearts were singing..."1
She trailed off, unable to continue.
Nildarien jumped off the rock she'd been sitting on and untied the grey and black stallion that stood nearby.
"Feeling up to a long journey, Alambil?" she asked. Alambil nickered and stamped his front hoof.
Nildarien sprang onto his back and turned away from the mountains and headed farther West.
* * *
Telden swung down off his horse and looked around. He had not been to Rivendell since its founding and he thought it very different. He heard quiet steps behind him and a moment later he was pulled around with such force that he nearly lost balance.
He found himself facing a slender ebony- haired elf girl who was only slightly shorter than he was and with eyes as grey as his. She looked familiar. Telden peered closely at her right cheek; a faint scar, about two inches long, ran across it. Then he knew.
"Imilin?" he gasped, and the girl nodded.
"Yes!" she squealed. "Where have you been? I haven't seen you for ages. Literally."
This was all too true. Telden hadn't seen lively little Imilin since he had gone to Eregion nearly two Ages ago.
"I've been in Mirkwood with a friend," he said and Imilin glared at him suddenly, hands on her hips.
"That is no excuse for not coming to get me," she said. "You have no idea how worried I was when I heard-"
"I don't understand," Telden replied. "I thought I didn't have to get you. They told me you had gone-"
"No, no, no!" Imilin cut in. "Someone must have lied."
Then she smiled suddenly.
"Anyhow, you really must stay for sometime. There's the Midsummer festival coming soon and it's always such fun. You will stay, won't you?"
Telden thought for a moment then glanced up towards the House of Elrond and smiled.
"Yes, perhaps I will," he said.
* * *
Shedheniel wandered about for a long time before walking through the woods to the cliff by the riverside. That's where she found Legolas, sitting on the edge of the Cliff gazing at the Moon. The Moon herself cast a glow about him, making him appear ghostly.
"He looks sad," Shedheniel thought. She walked quietly to where he was and sat down next to him. Legolas didn't seem to notice her. Shedheniel leaned over and kissed his cheek.
"I promised I'd come back," she whispered.
Legolas gave a whoop of joy and threw his arms about Shedheniel, pulling her close. Shedheniel's heart skipped a beat.
"How long have you been here?" he asked, releasing her.
"I've only just arrived. I was looking for you."
"How's Tarva?" he asked.
"It may not seem like a long time since Nildarien and I left, but it's been nearly 80 years."
Shedheniel sighed and continued.
"I'm sorry to hear that. It did seem like a long time though. Things have been dull here since you left. Telden's gone too," Legolas said, rising from his cliff-side seat. He grabbed Shedheniel's hand and helped her up.
"I already knew about Telden," she said. "He left some things for Nildarien in her pack."
"Nildarien's not here is she?" Legolas asked, rather worriedly.
"No. She said she'd only spoil the visit. There's nothing left for her here."
Shedheniel sighed and smiled sadly.
"Truthfully, I think she's gone looking for Telden. That is so romantic."
"I see you haven't changed too much."
"So... is my old room still empty?"
* * *
With much grinding of stones, Alambil skidded to a halt. Nildarien sat rigid in the saddle, glancing around suspiciously. She was sure she had seen a movement under the edge of the trees to her right. Though Nildarien had been in this area before and knew it well, that had been long ago and she wasn't sure of what lived there now. Warily, she dismounted and stepped forward...
In a sudden blaze of light, torches leapt up on either side of the path and Alambil reared, neighing franticly.
As Nildarien tried to calm him, a merry voice cried out, "Hail lady! Whither are you going?"
"I would give you an honest answer, but I do not know one to give, for I am headed nowhere," Nildarien called back.
A peal of laughter ran through the wood and several elves, all of which seemed to be in ridiculously high spirits, leaped out onto the path. One, a tall lord with golden hair, stepped forward and bowed to Nildarien.
"I greet you again, lady," he said. "I see you are of my people, though I know you not. What is your name?"
"I am Nildarien Illisel of Mithlond," she said with a slight bow. "Though I abide now in Rivendell. But what of yourself?"
"I am Gildor Ingolorion of the house of Finrod," the smiling elf lord replied. "And these are my friends and kinfolk. We are leisurely passing West."
As he had been saying this, Tirian, Nildarien's red-tailed hawk, swooped down and alighted on her shoulder.
"I have heard tales of you, and of your sister," Gildor continued. "They are most astonishing."
"And what do these tales speak of?" Nildarien asked somewhat warily.
"Great valor in battle, for the most part. But there are others," Gildor said.
"Others? I fear what those may speak of!" Nildarien laughed. "From who did you hear them?"
"I fear that is a rather long tale to tell. Come, lady, walk with us for a time! I shall tell you my tale as we walk, if you will consent to tell me yours."
"I accept your offer kindly, and will happily speak my account," Nildarien replied. She took Alambil's reins and followed the laughing group.
"I would like to know how an elf of Mithlond came to be in Rivendell," Gildor asked her.
"That, too, is a long story," she sighed. "My parents took the Westward road in the year 2941. Myself and my sister, Shedheniel, traveled to Mirkwood to stay with our father's kin. We did not know then that they, too, had gone by a different route. But, having no where else to go, we stayed. It was there that we learned our skills of battle. Shedheniel displayed a prodigal talent for archery, but I took easier to knives and swords. After several months, there came the Battle of Five Armies, in which we both fought. We were then summoned to Rivendell and that is where we have remained."
"I see," Gildor said, but he did not voice the suspicion that Nildarien had glossed over a very important slice of her tale.
"Now for your own story," Nildarien reminded him. "Who told you of my sister and I?"
"It was many years ago," Gildor said. "Only a year or two after your own tale, I believe. I was visiting my own kin in Lothlórien, when I met the one who told me. I never did find out his true name, but he called himself Dînfaroth. He told me he had spent many years in Mirkwood, and I am assuming he also spoke of you, for he said the lady's eyes were green. And yours are quite so. He also mentioned that this same lady was possessed of a rather...irascible temper. But that assumption I cannot make of you, seeing as we are only briefly aquatinted."
"Feel free to assume, Gildor," Nildarien said ruefully. "For it is so; I am easily enraged. But tell me more of this person. What did he look like?"
"He was like many others of my kindred: dark-haired and grey-eyed. Did you know him?"
With great effort, Nildarien covered the pain that stabbed her upon hearing this.
"Yes," she said. "I knew him quite well."
For she was sure, that the one Gildor spoke of was none other than Telden.
* * *
Shedheniel and Legolas were to busy talking and catching up to notice that they had wandered from their desired direction. It was dark in the forest, but as clouds covered the Moon it got frightfully hard to see; even for elves.
"We're lost, aren't we?" Shedheniel asked, taking her companion's hand.
"No. I know every inch of Mirkwood! We're fine," Legolas protested.
"We're lost aren't we?" the mahogany eyed elf repeated.
"Yes Shedheniel. We're lost," Legolas admitted and the younger elf whimpered with fright.
"What are we going to do?"
Legolas stopped abruptly. Shedheniel could hear it, too. An ominous scampering, clicking noise that could only mean one thing: spiders.
* * *
"Telden, something's happened to you. You're not the way you used to be," Imilin observed with a frown. He was doubtlessly not the same as he had been all those years ago. The Telden that Imilin recalled was more mirthful and less removed with a temperament quite like her own. He had also been very protective of her, especially after the orc attack. He had worried about her for weeks after, though, thanks to him, the arrow had only grazed her cheek.
"You're right. Something has happened," Telden said, gazing up at the inky sky dotted with white stars. "And I wonder if I will ever be as I was."
"I'm afraid I don't understand. Could you explain?" Imilin asked.
Telden sounded confident enough, but his eyes gave him away. A kind and knowing smile spread across Imilin's face.
"Well then, even if you can't explain, I think I could do it for you," she said.
Telden looked down at her sharply.
"What do you mean?"
"I believe you came to Rivendell to look for someone. A certain someone really, though I haven't the slightest idea of who," Imilin grinned.
"What are you getting at?" Telden asked, bewildered, and Imilin's grin widened.
"You're hopelessly in love, Telden," she said. "I know you are."
Telden bowed his head with a heavy sigh.
"I would rather not discuss this," he said sadly.
"Alright, but when you do want to discuss it I am more than ready to listen," Imilin replied, hugging him before she left.
Telden leaned forward on the balcony railing and sighed. He'd seen no sign of Nildarien, and this was his second day in Rivendell. Faintly, the sound of harness bells reached his ears from the courtyard.
"Time to meet another old friend," he thought.
* * *
Shedheniel immediately started shaking and drew close to Legolas, who squeezed her hand
"I-I don't like spiders," she whispered hoarsely. Legolas pulled her closer. Shedheniel was positive that her heartbeat was audible to the entire forest. She also knew, if she was brave, she should find enough courage to kiss Legolas now, but there were a few problems to solve. Firstly, Shedheniel didn't know if Legolas loved her, second she couldn't see anything. Third she had never been kissed herself, and lastly they were surrounded by giant flesh-eating spiders that could attack them at any given moment, so this was a bad time to get romantic.
Shedheniel looked up at Legolas, or tried to. It was too dark to see. She reached up and tentatively put her hand on his cheek.
"I can't see you at all," she said meekly. Legolas gently took her other hand.
"It's alright. I have my bow," he said.
"So do I, but what good is that when you can't see?"
* * *
Shedheniel stiffened, her every sense alert. She and Legolas stood back to back so they wouldn't be surprised if attacked. She stared off into the darkness where, every once and awhile, insect eyes could be seen.
A set of ice blue eyes moved towards Shedheniel. She stood frozen in place, waiting. With a yell she jumped up and smashed the heel of her boot into the eyes. The spider went flying off into the dark with a screech.
A different spider dropped onto the elves from above, causing them to lose each other in the dark. The spider sank its fangs deep into Shedheniel's shoulder. She quickly threw it off and ran it through with and arrow. Using and inside crescent kick she squashed two into a tree and a sharp back kick finished a third creeping up behind her. She could hear the twang of Legolas's bow as he shot aimlessly at the glowing eyes.
Another spider pounced at Shedheniel, knocking her to the ground. It bit her arm and one of its legs cut her cheek. Shedheniel kicked the spider off and pulled her knife out of her boot. She stabbed the glowing eyes of the spider, killing it. Three more spiders fell onto her from the trees above. Shedheniel shrieked in terror. One bit her on the back of the neck as she struggled. She dropped her knife as one of the spiders forced her to the ground, the other two beginning to bind her feet with their web. Shedheniel grabbed an arrow from her quiver and impaled the spider on top of her. It fell dead. One of the spiders bit her wrist and she cried out. Suddenly, her hand touched something cold. She grappled for her knife foolishly and grabbed the blade end, cutting deep into her hand.
Shedheniel fumbled and found the hilt. She slashed blindly at two of the spiders. One managed to escape, but the other was stabbed through the stomach with a sickening squish.
Shedheniel leaned against a tree, gasping for breath. The spiders scattered, much of their number slaughtered. After a moment, she heard her name being called.
"Hello?" she answered.
"Are you hurt much?" Legolas asked breathlessly.
"Just a bit scratched," Shedheniel lied. "Are you alright?"
Shedheniel knew it would be foolish to try and find Legolas in the dark. They would have to wait until dawn.
* * *
Sunlight flittered through the leaves of the trees, and Shedheniel was finally able to see the results of the struggle. Dead spiders littered the forest floor around her feet, but Shedheniel showed no compassion. Instead she took to muttering'
"I hate spiders. I hate spiders."
Legolas found her and they set of out of the woods.
"You are much more than just a little scratched," he grumbled. "You need your hand bandaged at the least."
"I'll live," said Shedheniel tensely, but as she said it the world seemed to swim before her eyes and she stumbled. Shedheniel grabbed onto Legolas for support.
"Were you bitten?" he asked angrily and Shedheniel nodded.
"Why didn't you tell me? Spider bites are poisonous. It makes their prey sick and dizzy."
Shedheniel heard his words, but she was too dizzy to understand them. Legolas grabbed her as she collapsed in a dead faint. He carried her to the palace courtyard where he was confronted by a little girl.
The child had light brown hair and sky blue eyes. She couldn't have been more than eight years old.
"You're the ones who were attacked by spiders," she said. "Come with me. You're expected."
"Expected?" Legolas asked. "How can we be expected if we've only just arrived?"
The child sighed and crossed her arms.
"Never mind that," she said haughtily. "I can see at least two places where your friend has been bitten- her wrist and her arm- but there may be more. My mother knows of this and is expecting you, now come along. And be hasty! I wasn't supposed to come and meet you and I'll get into terrible trouble if I'm away to long."
Legolas had no choice but to follow the small brown haired elf into the palace, carrying Shedheniel in his arms.
They soon arrived at a door in the hall of Shedheniel's old quarters. The young girl rapped on the door and a brunette elf, looking very much like the little girl, answered.
"Laurenai!" she scolded. "Where have you been? I've been so worried, what with your talk of spiders and such!"
"Mother, I've brought them," Laurenai told her and beckoned to Legolas.
Now Legolas recognized the mother. She was one of Shedheniel's good friends.
"Lindorel," he said bowing his head. "I thank you for sending your daughter to fetch us."
"I already told you," Laurenai argued, pulling on Legolas's sleeve to win his attention. "She didn't send me. I-"
"Deliberately disobeyed me!" Lindorel cut in. "You should know better than to go looking for victims of a spider attack!"
"But the girl is really hurt!" Laurenai whined. "She needs medical help!"
"That I can see, child. Now please just calm yourself," said Lindorel.
Legolas lay Shedheniel on the bed and then left to find a doctor. Lindorel didn't know enough of healing to treat the spider bites, but she did clean and bandage her hand.
"Always in trouble of some sort, this one," she thought with a sigh. Then she turned and glared at her daughter.
"As for you young lady..." she began. Laurenai dropped her book and put on what she hoped was a winning expression.
* * *