The Maids of Mithlond: Shadows Rising - Chapter Six
The sisters swiftly crossed and gladly left the mountain pass. If they had been behind in their travelling, they were now many days ahead. They crossed the Nimrodel, and came to the border of Lothlórien.
Shedheniel smiled slightly. This reminded her of their first time seeing Mirkwood.
"Make way for the glorious messengers!" she laughed, and Nildarien smiled. For the first time in days.
"Well, we're where we are supposed to be, but how do we find the city?"
"There's a city?" Shedheniel asked innocently.
"Of course there is a city!" Nildarien cried. "Or perhaps they sleep in birds' nests in the trees!" she added sarcastically.
"That is quite likely, Nildarien. You have forgotten your history. Nimrodel's folk were the Galadhrim, the Tree People. And they did sleep in the trees," said Shedheniel with a grin.
A sudden rustling in the trees startled the sisters, and Shedheniel whipped out her bow.
"What business do our kin from the North have in Lothlórien?" asked an elf from the trees above. He was clad in silver-grey and other colors that blended well with the trees. He had an odd accent.
"We bear a message from Rivendell," Nildarien answered. "We must speak with the Lord and Lady."
The strange elf spoke briefly to the others in the tree, and dropped to the ground.
"I am Haldir," he said. "What news do you bring to the Lord and Lady?"
"A Company of nine walkers departed from Rivendell several days after us," replied Shedheniel. "They carry a great burden with them. This quest must be made know to your leaders."
Haldir gave them an odd look and Shedheniel was certain he knew she'd left something out.
"Come with me," he said. "I will lead you to the city."
* * *
Several days later, with their message delivered, Nildarien and Shedheniel began to settle in to their new surroundings.
Despite the peaceful atmosphere of Lothlórien, Nildarien was restless. She was plagued by nightmares from which she would wake shaking and biting back screams. But what most unnerved her were the wounds on her hands. Not only had they healed at an unnaturally quick rate, leaving a pale scar across each palm, but they continued to throb and burn. To make all this better, the sense of foreboding had not disbanded.
One morning, Nildarien woke feeling more uneasy than usual, with her hands paining her more than ever. She paced nervously in her room for awhile before searching for Shedheniel. She found her near the edge of the forest.
"Your so pale, Nildarien," the brown-eyed elf said with a worried frown.
"I wonder why that is," Nildarien said shortly, rubbing her hands to no avail. Suddenly, she gasped and her eyes grew wide with a sudden fear.
"No!" she wailed. "The fools! They've done it!"
Before Shedheniel could stop her, Nildarien charged away from the clearing. She tore through the trees, stumbling on the uneven ground until she burst into full daylight. Straight ahead stood Caradhras, its summit shrouded in a storm cloud. The anger pouring from it was so intense, that it nearly beat Nildarien to the ground. She could not let it happen. She would not let Caradhras take the Company; it would have to deal with her first.
Nildarien focused all the power of her being on reining in the mountain's fury. Deaf to all sound save the voice of the mountain, she was unaware of how loud she herself was railing. Nor did she see the strong green light building around her. Her mind was so bent on the mountain that she did not notice that passage of time. For Nildarien, it was endless. She could feel them-all nine of them, on the slopes of the raging Caradhras. She could feel them so well she could tell them apart. She noted that most of the anger was directed to one presence: a rather small, but hardy presence, that she assumed was Gimli. Slightly less was meant for Legolas, whose presence was strong, but faint. Nildarien could barely sense the hobbits, and the mountain seemed to have over looked them all together. The mountain seemed only agitated by Aragorn and Boromir, whose semblances were defying. Caradhras didn't seem to know what to do about Gandalf. His presence was so strong and powerful that it was almost bright.
Time wore on, and still Nildarien strove against the wrath of the mountain. As its fury mounted, her strength lessened. Finally, at long last, all semblance of the Company vanished from Caradhras. Slowly, Nildarien's vision returned, though she did not remember when it had gone. She sank to her knees as she felt weariness overcome her. Holding back the fury of Caradhras had sapped all her strength.
Nildarien collapsed to the ground and moments later felt a cool hand on her forehead. She struggled to open her eyes and when she did, she saw Shedheniel leaning over her.
"Why, Nildarien?" she whispered. "Why did you do this?"
Nildarien, too fatigued to speak, simply shook her head before she slipped into a timeless void.
* * *
Shedheniel shivered and picked up her twin. She managed to stumble into the city with Nildarien on her back before calling for help.
Some other elves came and helped carry Nildarien to her quarters. Shedheniel, worried sick, collapsed into her own room. She lit a fire and sat as close as she dared.
It wasn't any help!
Shedheniel had been able to hide her strange condition from Nildarien, luckily, but now it was slowly ebbing away.
Even though they had been in Lothlórien for days, Shedheniel still felt the stinging cold of the mountains. Recently, she had even been able to see her breath when she spoke. The cold was beginning to disappear now.
Shedheniel sighed and closed her eyes, wondering where Legolas was. After awhile, she drifted into sleep.
* * *
The fire flickered in the chill night. A loud howling was heard in the distance. It grew louder and louder.
Twang! An arrow zipped through the night. There was a bright flash and the tree branches above caught fire and fell. There was burning pain. Heat. Scalding heat...
Shedheniel awoke with a yell and realized the hem of her dress had caught fire. She quickly ripped it off and stamped out the fire. Amazingly enough, she had not been burned. Shedheniel put out the fire and sunk back into her chair.
"Strange. That dream seemed so real," she thought. She rose and went to see Nildarien who was still unconscious.
The next few days were torture for Shedheniel. Nildarien showed no sign of waking up, and whispers followed her wherever she went. An ominous feeling also plagued her. Like she was being followed.
Shedheniel's worry grew to such intensity, that whenever someone spoke to her from behind, she screamed.
On the fourth day since her dream, Shedheniel felt terrified beyond compare of the other days. Every shadow, every snap of every twig frightened her, and she had not the slightest idea why.
Shedheniel, too frightened to do anything, went back to the city. She was nearing her quarters when she stopped suddenly. Shedheniel was sure she'd heard a loud, clear drum beat. Where had it come from?
There it was again! She tried to pinpoint the sound that troubled her ears.
Doom, Boom, Doom!
Shedheniel whirled about and screamed.
Though she herself was in Lothlórien, her eyes saw otherwise. She had been quite suddenly drawn into battle.
To those near Shedheniel, she seemed to see what was not there. They all gasped as a steady silver glow engulfed her.
Everything was so blurry. Shedheniel could hear the shouts and cries perfectly, but her sight was muddled, like water on a window. Things were moving so fast...
She heard a bow twang and an orc fell. Many more fell as Shedheniel tried to grasp reality.
Suddenly, an orc loomed in front of her. When had she gotten so short? The orc sliced and she ducked feeling a red-hot pain in her forehead. Hands holding a sword that was not hers slashed out and killed the orc.
Shedheniel was whisked to another side of the room. Through her murky sight, she saw a spear heading for her. She screamed as it hit her in the chest and hurled her against a wall.
The onlooking elves watched in horror as a cut opened in Shedheniel's forehead. Even more worried were they when she was flung into a tree by absolutely nothing. Her strange silver glow shown brightly as ever...
Everything went dark for a moment. Soon, Shedheniel saw she was running and carrying someone in her arms.
*"I am all right. I can walk. Put me down!" said a voice she recognized as Frodo's. Shedheniel suddenly realized part of what was happening. This was not her of course. She was with the Fellowship. How or why she was there she did not know, but she could hear their voices clearly.
It seemed somehow that she was looking through someone else's eyes. Whoever she happened to be set Frodo down.
Whoosh! Another change.
Shedheniel looked back to see eight blurry forms disappear from sight. There was a large door before her and judging by the staff in her host's hand, she was Gandalf.
She watched in awe as he did something to the door. There was a muddy darkness followed by a white flash and a falling feeling. The wave of exhaustion that hit Shedheniel moments after was awful.
Everything was enveloped in darkness. Shedheniel managed to catch bits and pieces of conversation in the dark. Soon, a red light was visible.
Shedheniel was running again. Things were going by so swiftly she had no time to recognize them.
She turned and set an arrow to the string. She was looking through Legolas's eyes! The arrow he held slipped away and he gave a yell. Shedheniel screamed with terror.
*"Ai, ai!" she heard Legolas wail. "A Balrog! A Balrog is come!"
She turned and saw a thin strip of bridge.
Whoosh! Things changed again. Who was she now? She was standing in the middle of the narrow bridge. The sword in her host's hand gleamed white and he leaned on a staff. Gandalf was going to face the Balrog, and Shedheniel watched in terror.
*"You cannot pass!" said Gandalf. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn! Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass."
Shedheniel screamed again as the fire demon leapt onto the bridge.
"Move you fool!" she thought frantically. "Move or we'll be killed!"
A red sword fell upon Gandalf and Glamdring met it with a clash. The wizard swayed and stepped back.
*"You cannot pass!" he cried as the Balrog came nearer. It's whip cracked loudly.
Shedheniel could hear the rest of the Fellowship calling to Gandalf. The wizard raised his staff and broke the narrow bridge before him. The Balrog fell forward into the darkness, but it's whip wrapped around Gandalf's knee. He slipped and clutched the edge of the bridge, and Shedheniel saw the Fellowship watching in despair.
*"Fly, you fools!" cried Gandalf as he slipped into the abyss.
Shedheniel was falling...falling...
She blinked and for the first time noticed her silver fire. A crowd of elves had gathered around her and Shedheniel saw the Lord and Lady were there.
Something trickled into her eyes and Shedheniel wiped it away. Then she saw it was blood.
"I must have made a fuss," she murmured as darkness and pain overcame her, and she knew no more.
* * *
Darkness...she was drowning in darkness... What was this? Was she dreaming or awake? Nildarien struggled to pull her mind from the unconscious void in which it was trapped, but something held her back. It seemed to be a blacker darkness. It leaped forward and wrapped itself around her, pressing in from all sides, choking her. Invisible flames scorched her, and hot stabs of pain ripped through her.
What was that distant sound? Was it her own scream? Then, in a sudden terrifying flash, she knew. The identity of the shadow became clear, and Nildarien knew that she screamed. It was a Balrog. Nildarien could hear her screams of pain and terror; this was the horrific presence that had drawn her blood. The pain mounted. Nildarien felt as if a burning brand were cutting deep into her. Piercing not only her body, but her spirit.
Suddenly, she felt a new presence, countering the evil darkness of the Balrog. It was one of extreme strength and ancient power so great that it seemed to shine bright. It drove back the dark and fire, casting it down, but the bright power, too, fell. Nildarien felt something like an icy wind biting through her and she was thrown back into the darkness of her mind.
* * *
Pain. Reams of pain and darkness...
Shedheniel sat up, breathing hard. Her hands were shaking and she was drenched in a cold sweat.
"It must have been a dream," she sighed.
Shedheniel reached up to push her hair back and touched a bandage. She rushed to the mirror.
The bandage had been hastily (not to mention poorly) done. So the strange vision hadn't been a dream.
Shedheniel glanced outside. The Sun was low in the sky. It seemed she'd only been asleep a few hours, but was it still today?
Shedheniel unwrapped the bandage around her forehead and quickly braided her hair, crossing the braids over her cut. She changed into her travel clothes and grabbed her bow and quiver. She pulled the hood of her cloak down over her eyes and left the city.
Most of her wounds were healing rapidly. She could see the bruises on her arms fading swiftly and the major wounds looked as if they'd had a week's healing time.
Shedheniel soon came to the edge of the forest. She wanted to see the Fellowship when they arrived.
Shedheniel looked about and soon spotted a group of elves in the trees. One came and spoke to her.
"What business do you have here?" he asked gruffly.
"I have come to relieve you of duty if you'd like," said Shedheniel, trying to disguise her voice.
"Falendir! I'm being relieved-" he paused. "What is your name?"
"Umm...Shedheniel," she said, pulling down her hood.
"Shedheniel will be-" he stopped and looked at her again. "A woman?"
He seemed about to refuse when a cheerful looking elf clambered out of a tree to their left.
"Oh. Aren't you one of the lady messengers from Rivendell? You'd better not refuse her then, Arithil. I have heard she has quite a temper."
Shedheniel opened her mouth to protest. He thought she was Nildarien! She held her tongue, deciding it was better to play along for the moment.
Arithil gave her a frightened look and left. The cheerful elf smiled at her.
"My name is Falendir," he said. "You must excuse my friend's rudeness for we do not see lady warriors often. And you must also excuse me. I have seen you and your sister before, and I believe I am right in saying you are the gentler of the two."
"Not gentler, but perhaps softer spoken and with not so sharp a tongue," she sighed. "So Nildarien is already known for her temper here."
She swung into the tree and sat cross-legged on the flet.
"I'll return swiftly," said Falendir. "I must tell the others of your coming."
He hopped into a nearby tree and disappeared completely.
Shedheniel hugged her knees. What if the Fellowship hadn't made it out of Moria? Soon, Falendir returned with three other elves. He introduced them as Haldir, Rúmil, and Orophin. Shedheniel already knew Haldir.
They left soon after, leaving Shedheniel and Falendir to watch on their own. Falendir watched as Shedheniel sighed sadly and rocked back and forth, holding her knees. He came and sat next to her
"Why are you so sad?" he asked softly. Shedheniel looked at him.
"I'm always sad," she said. "It's been a long time since I was truly happy."
"Why though? What awful thing could cause you such pain?"
"No, no Falendir! My pain is melancholic, for it is from something meant to bring joy."
"What joyful pain, then, ails you?"
"The malady of the heart-love. I often think I am cursed and being punished for some awful crime I do not remember committing. Cursed to love someone who will never love me in return. And I'm not sure I'll ever hear his voice again."
"Those words bring little hope to those who wish to fall in love," said Falendir. Shedheniel smiled sadly.
"Nay, I hope you shall have better luck than I in such business."
They fell silent and Shedheniel grew worried once more.
She soon heard voices across the river. There was one in particular that startled her so much she fell from the flet.
Falendir caught her by the wrist and hauled her back up amid his stifled laughter.
"What is wrong now?" he asked, exasperated. "You look as if you could sing."
"I might. The Company has finally arrived! I'm going to tell the others not to harm them."
When Shedheniel returned moments later, Falendir was leaning against a tree, a thoughtful look on his face.
"So your lover is with this company, then?" he asked when she came back.
"Lover? I wish that were so, but I have no lover. Yes, though. He that I have pledged my heart to walks among them."
Shedheniel listened as the Company drew nearer. Soon, very softly, she could hear Legolas singing of Nimrodel. Shedheniel closed her eyes and sang along with him.
* * *