The Maids of Mithlond: Shadows Rising - Chapter Seven
Shedheniel heard the Company trudging through the woods before she saw them.
"What a dreadful racket. I could shoot them blindfolded!" she whispered to Falendir, who chuckled. "If Legolas comes up here, you mustn't tell him what you know, Falendir! Please."
Falendir rolled his eyes and Shedheniel gave him a stern look.
"As you wish," he sighed. "I'll not tell him anything."
Shedheniel smiled and winked at him as she pulled her hood up.
"I've always loved pranks," she said with a glint in her eye.
She and Falendir watched as the elves in the other tree spoke to Frodo, Sam, and Legolas. Soon, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and Boromir climbed up the rope ladder and onto the flet.
Falendir spoke haltingly to the others in Common tongue while Shedheniel snickered.
"Lerthach cared anvaer?" he asked angrily, and Shedheniel grinned.
"Lim anvaer," she replied, and Legolas, who had been staring off into the night turned and gazed at her.
"Man eneth lîn?" Aragorn asked, drawing her attention away from Legolas. She pulled down her hood.
"My name is Shedheniel Illisel," she said. "I was one of the messengers from Rivendell."
Legolas's eyes lit up.
"Shedheniel!" he cried, and ran to her and spun her about. Falendir watched with interest as did Gimli, Aragorn, and Boromir.
"Ah!" said Gimli. "You are the silly elf who spoke to my father."
"Glorfindel's partner!" said Aragorn at the same time, and Shedheniel laughed.
"Yes, yes! I am all of those things, and I am also sure that you are weary. Do not stand about! Rest if you wish; I shall envy you," she said, sitting down. Boromir gave her a suspicious look, which she returned.
"Alas!" she sighed, eyeing all the Company on the flet. "I watched to confirm my suspicions, and they are true. Nine of you left Rivendell, yet eight have made it to Lórien." Aragorn opened his mouth to speak. "Nay! Do not tell me what happened, Master Aragorn. I already know. Gandalf the Grey has fallen into the shadows of Moria in Khazad-dûm."
"How did you know this?" asked Legolas, his beautiful blue eyes wide. Shedheniel shuddered.
"It is a long, confusing story to which I do not know the answer," she said softly. "You shall hear it in full in due time."
Soon, the Company drifted off to sleep, (save Legolas) and the elves sat watching silently.
Legolas glanced at her forehead again and Shedheniel shook her head.
"Why do you keep doing that?"
"What is on your forehead? I have never seen your hair like that before. It is Nildarien's hair that is usually braided in that fashion."
Shedheniel unpinned the braids and left them unravel and fall, leaving her hair flying free. Falendir and Legolas gaped at her.
"How did you get such a wound?" Falendir asked. Legolas shook his head and ran a finger over the cut. Shedheniel flinched.
"That is frightening," Legolas said. "Did I not know better, I would say this was Sam's wound!"
"It is," Shedheniel whispered.
"I don't understand," Legolas said softly.
"You will know soon enough," Shedheniel said, shivering. Legolas put his arm about her shoulders and Shedheniel lay her head beside his. Falendir whispered to them that he would watch below the flet and left.
Shedheniel fell asleep somehow and woke awhile later, wrapped in blankets. Legolas was sitting beside her.
"I missed you," she whispered to him and he smiled.
"As did I. A fine guard you make; you fall asleep quickly."
"Hush! Had you been through what I have, you would be tired, too."
Legolas was about to reply, when loud laughter sounded, followed by the noise of many feet. Falendir came flying onto the flet.
"Orcs," he gasped. "Orophin has gone to warn our people."
Shedheniel thought she saw a blue light coming from the other flet, but it faded slowly. She heard a distant hiss and gasped.
"I heard something. I shall be back shortly," she called as she swung out of the tree. Peering into the dark, she saw a shadowy creature slowly climbing up the hobbits' tree.
"Haldir!" she cried, hoping the elf was on the flet, but he answered from behind her. "The halflings' tree! Quickly!"
As soon as Haldir touched the tree, the creature ran off, and Shedheniel followed behind silently. She had identified the creature by now, having seen him many times on her visit to Mirkwood. It was Gollum.
He ran swiftly through the forest, unaware of her presence. Shedheniel pounced and grabbed him from behind. Gollum cried out in rage, and with surprising strength, threw her into a tree.
Shedheniel bit her tongue to keep from screaming. She had nearly forgotten her bruises. The ones on her back were her own from the tree she'd hit during her vision and were still fresh. Shedheniel struggled into the branches of a tree and chased after Gollum.
* * *
Nildarien opened her eyes and groaned. Was she really awake? She pushed herself into a sitting position and saw with a jolt that it was night. There was a loud screech from above her, and a moment later Tirian had dove down and cuffed her on the head with his wing.
"Leave off, Tirian! Foolish bird!" Nildarien mumbled, and he settled on her arm. "It is good to see you, too, but go and torment someone else for awhile. I'm not awake yet."
Tirian had been with Nildarien long enough to know that she was ordering, not asking, him to do this, and he immediately flew off.
When he'd gone, Nildarien kicked back the blankets and stumbled out of bed, noticing with a surge of relief that the pain in her hands had subsided. She changed into a white dress and turned to the mirror. Nildarien dipped her hands into the basin of water on the chest of drawers and splashed it on her face. It was refreshingly cool. She dried her face and looked back into the mirror.
"My Elbereth! What a tangled mess!" she said to herself, looking at her hair. She laughed out loud and began to search for her hairbrush, which she seemed to have misplaced.
She upended her pack onto her bed and sorted through the contents. Her brush was not among them, but something else caught her eye: a small envelope.
Somewhat suspicious, she slit it open and a light silver chain slivered out. A short note was also inside, written in a flowing hand Nildarien did not recognize:
I would that I could get along with you, for her sake. Our quarrel has deeply hurt her, in many ways, and it is a grief to the both of us. To you as her sister and to me for the love she knows nothing of.
I do not try to lay the blame on you alone, for I know that I am also at fault. I have reflected much on past events, and am sorry for what I did, both long ago and recently. I beg you to accept this to replace the other.
The note was unsigned, but Nildarien needed no signature to tell her whom it was from. She smiled and slipped the note into her pocket, secretly glad that her tedious contention with Legolas was at last coming to its end.
* * *
The next morning, after much disagreement, the Fellowship was led blindfolded through Lothlórien. Shedheniel was on her way to see them when she ran into a host of elves going to guard the Northern border. She tagged along behind them until she found the Fellowship. She burst into laughter when she saw them.
"Come, come, Haldir!" she said when she had calmed herself. "Take these blindfolds off. The Lord and Lady knew and consented their arrival."
Shedheniel untied Frodo, Sam, and Pippin's blindfolds. She could have helped Boromir, but she deliberately skipped him.
"Strong men of Gondor need no help with such little things," she murmured as she passed him by. Legolas came and gave her a cross look.
"Why didn't you come back last night? Do you have any idea how worried I was?"
"Legolas, calm down! I can take care of myself."
"Can you?" he asked softly. "You seem like you need to be taken care of, what with you falling off cliffs, into rivers, and out of trees."
"Who is going to take care of me, then? If Nildarien and Telden ever marry, then I am on my own."
"I'll take care of you," said Legolas, stroking her cheek.
"You always have," she said with a smile.
"Shedheniel, what scratched your face?"
Legolas pushed her hair back (for she hadn't put it up yet) and pointed to a small, crescent shaped scratch on her cheek.
"Oh! That reminds me of why I came," said Shedheniel. She looked about and sought out Aragorn, who seemed to be lost in found memories. Legolas tapped him on the shoulder and he blinked.
"I know what the strange creature was that the other elves spoke of," Shedheniel murmured. "It was Gollum. He was after the Ring. I tried to capture him and-"
"You tried to capture him?" asked Aragorn.
"Yes. He's very strong and I-I'm not unhurt at the present," she sighed. "I need to go now. I will see you all soon." Shedheniel kissed Legolas on the cheek and sprinted off before anyone could stop her.
"You fancy her, do you not?" said Gimli, who had come up from behind.
"No, Gimli," said Legolas, touching his cheek. "I love her."
* * *
Shedheniel closed her door with a slam and leaned her back against it. She held her hands out in front of her. She was sure she'd been glittering silver. Shedheniel changed quickly and braided her hair back.
Then, she flew out the door and bounded up the many steps to where the Lord and Lady were speaking to the Fellowship. Shedheniel trotted in unnoticed with her skirts pulled up to her knees. She dropped the hem of her dress and smoothed the wrinkles hastily.
"Shedheniel Illisel, I hear you have important information for us," said Celeborn, and the others were now aware of her presence.
"It is similar to what you just heard, and I believe you were there, at least ere I fell unconscious," Shedheniel said softly, wringing her hands.
She found it hard not to cry while retelling what she'd seen, felt, and heard during her vision, and she was shaking when she finished.
Lady Galadriel sent the Fellowship to rest, and Nildarien surprised Shedheniel as she was leaving.
"Much has happened while I was asleep," she said and Shedheniel sighed.
"Far too much."
* * *
The sisters had gone someway down the stairs before Nildarien spoke.
"What is all this I've been hearing about Gandalf?" she asked, and Shedheniel sighed unhappily.
"He fell to a Balrog in Moria."
Nildarien stopped dead and grabbed Shedheniel's shoulder.
"That can't be!" she gasped. "It's impossible."
"I know. It seems like that. Everyone's upset-"
"No. I'm not upset, I'm confused!" Nildarien said, dragging her fingers through her hair. "How could he be dead if I can still sense him?"
"What under the stars are you talking about?" Shedheniel asked.
"Remember on Caradhras when I told you I felt a darkness? It's the same with others. I feel them through the earth, and I can tell them apart. Their presences reflect who they are. I assure you, if Gandalf were dead, his presence would be gone."
Shedheniel could only stare. When Nildarien spoke like this she always seemed distant, and it bothered her.
"You don't believe me, do you?" said Nildarien, seeing her frown.
"Yes, I do. Just... just don't say anything about it to the Fellowship. It would only further upset them."
"Alright. I'll say nothing," Nildarien agreed and continued down the stairs.
"Have you come up with any new theories about your...umm...gift, Nildarien?" Shedheniel asked as they walked.
"No, I haven't. And it keeps expanding. That scroll in Rivendell that said it pertained to trees must have been right. I'm hearing them now, too, but I'm not sure what they say."
Shedheniel looked at Nildarien quizzically, but decided not to ask.
"Another thing I've been hearing quite a bit about is you!" Nildarien laughed suddenly. "So, tell me, what have you been up to these last six days?"
* * *
Later in the evening, Nildarien met with the Fellowship. All were heavy hearted with the loss of Gandalf, and she longed to tell them what she knew, but she held true to her word and remained silent. As she spoke with different members of the Company, Nildarien noticed that Boromir seemed rather detached from things. She quietly excused herself and went to talk to him.
"Why look you so grim, Lord Boromir?" she asked. "Are you not content?"
At the sound of her voice, Boromir jumped and stepped back as if afraid of her.
"Content?" he said. "I will be content when I am free of this wood."
"Nay, say not so!" Nildarien said sternly. "Lothlórien is joyful and a place of rest for those weary in spirit and body. Speak no ill of it."
"Nevertheless, I will be glad when it is behind me," Boromir replied. He looked hard at Nildarien, meeting her gaze, and when he did she felt a dull pain throb in her forehead.
"If I am correct," he said. "You are the sister of that clumsy elf who so dislikes me."
"Shedheniel dislikes you, does she?" Nildarien said with a tricky grin. "You have nothing to fear. She is a novice in such things and her tongue is still in the whetting for a battle of wit. If it were I who was so pitted against you, it would be wise to be afraid, but you spoke true. I am her sister and my name is Nildarien."
"Nildarien and Shedheniel are both familiar names. Perhaps I have heard them before," said Boromir.
"You very well may have," said Nildarien, turning to leave.
"Be light of heart, lord of Gondor," she said before leaving. "I fear your stay here will be short."
Then she left, trying not to walk to quickly. When she was out of sight, she stopped and pressed a hand to her forehead. The pain had vanished, but she didn't like the fact that it had so suddenly come when Boromir had met her gaze. It gave her a very bad feeling.
"Shedheniel was right about him," she thought. "He is not to be trusted."
* * *
Soon, the sight of the twin sisters became usual to the Fellowship, for they visited often. Shedheniel, with her seemingly unquenchable happiness, occasional bouts of clumsiness, and hidden strength, and Nildarien with her keen glance, strong presence and lesser, but plentiful, cheerfulness, helped the Fellowship become accustomed to Lothlórien. Legolas also seemed different and happier and the Company noted this with pleasure and wonder.
"Calm yourself, Shedheniel! You're so energetic today!" Legolas laughed one fine morning.
"I'm sorry," she apologized, but moments later her face lit up. "I've just had the most wonderful idea!"
Shedheniel quickly picked out a clearing where the ground was soft while Legolas watched, confused.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"You're going to fight me."
"Please, Legolas? I promise I won't hurt you to badly."
Legolas gave her an odd look and sighed. He took out his knife.
"No, no, no!" called Shedheniel. "We're not going to use weapons."
"No," said Shedheniel, standing in front of him. "Listen carefully. I want you to grab me from behind and I'll try to escape."
"Fine," Legolas gave in. He grabbed her loosely about the waist.
"Not like that!" Shedheniel giggled, unclasping his hands and peeling his arms from around her waist. She walked behind him.
"Like this," she cried, grabbing Legolas tightly so he couldn't use his arms. The elf prince struggled for awhile before giving in.
"Now it's my turn to grab you," he said after a moments rest.
Shedheniel grinned. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I think," Legolas replied, standing. Shedheniel's grin widened as she stood.
"As you wish," she sighed.
Legolas grabbed her tightly, but Shedheniel already had a plan. She threw her elbow into his, loosening his grip and quickly pulled his foot from under him. Legolas gave a yell as he fell back and Shedheniel giggled.
"I don't find this very funny," he mumbled and Shedheniel dropped to her knees shaking with laughter.
"Would you like to try that again?" she asked once she had caught her breath.
"First, I would like to know where you learned such things," Legolas told her, a look of interest in his eyes.
"I learned," Shedheniel began, trying to sort out memories. "From anyone who was willing to teach me. I learned from men and elves alike and I never thought to care who was my teacher as long as I learned all I could."
"You are so amazing sometimes," Legolas breathed. Shedheniel grinned wickedly.
"Might I fight you again?" she asked, the sly look in her eyes betraying her innocent voice.
"I will fight you," said a voice from behind them. Shedheniel felt her blood freeze in her veins. She whirled around.
"And with what shall we fight, Master Boromir?" she said icily, using a tone that had never passed her lips before.
"We shall fight with swords and we shall begin now. -If you wish," he added with a sneer. Shedheniel scowled at him and drew her sword. Legolas looked vaguely worried and had flown to the edge of the area to watch.
Shedheniel eyed Boromir suspiciously. She did not like the hungry look in his eyes, nor that the odds of winning were very much against her. Boromir held out his sword and stood before her. Shedheniel nodded respectively and held out her sword. Then the battle began.
At first, things were simple, and Shedheniel used this time to observe her opponent. Boromir was much larger and stronger than she was, but that ought to make him slow. Since Shedheniel's skill was mainly in her accuracy and speed she could use this to her advantage.
Boromir swung his blade up high to attack and Shedheniel easily blocked it; a foolish move the man had obviously predicted she would use. He bore down on his blade with all his strength, trying to force Shedheniel to the ground. Shedheniel knew he would win if they fought like that.
She feigned a move to the right and slid her blade out from beneath Boromir's, swinging her sword up and slashing at his chest. Boromir hopped back and began to realize how skilled a warrior she was. He lunged forward and Shedheniel grabbed his wrist and flung him over her hip. Shedheniel barely ducked in time to avoid the blow at her head and locked swords with him again. Boromir slashed at Shedheniel's heart, bringing a question to her mind: was she fighting for her life?
Her wasted time thinking was her downfall as the large man's blade pierced her shoulder, drawing blood. Shedheniel ducked beneath another well-aimed blow and shoved her knee into his stomach. Enraged, Boromir threw her to the ground. He pounced and Shedheniel helped him over her head with her feet. She used the force of her kick to roll backwards and help her stand.
She had little time to plan her next movement as she escaped another attack.
"How did you get so swift?" she snarled through clenched teeth. Boromir just sneered. He aimed a blow up high and Shedheniel shoved her blade towards his unprotected chest.
Suddenly, she screamed and dropped her sword, only just realizing what she might have done. Her serious expression dissolved into one of hideous fright and she fled.
Legolas stopped her some ways away from where her fight had been.
"I nearly killed him," she shuddered. "What was that awful feeling? It was almost as if I wanted to."
"That feeling is called rage. Most normal elves experience it at times. Some more that others," Legolas said softly.
"I nearly killed him. I saw the opening and I-" Shedheniel stopped. "What if I had? I could never live with that; knowing I killed someone. And he is part of the Fellowship! He is helping to protect Frodo!"
Shedheniel put her head in her hands. Legolas hugged her.
"Hush," he said quietly. "No one was killed and the only blood drawn was yours. I suggest we go and fix your shoulder."
"Yes-good idea," Shedheniel said weakly, grabbing his hand and following him towards the city.
* * *
Notes: The Elvish dialouge roughly translates to :
Falendir: Can you do better?
Shedheniel: Much better.
Aragorn: What is your name?