The Tale of Minuial - Chapter 7 - Ride to uncertainty
"Minuial, my cousin."
She turned her head to see Arwen approaching, "Hello cousin, I see the evening finds you well."
Arwen smiled kindly, "Do not waste your days in sadness cousin, you will see things fairer with a new sunrise."
Minuial shook her head in disagreement, "Arwen, your words always seem to stir the heart, and afford one hope when all seems lost. However, this time I am afraid the sword of reality has pierced a deeper wound than your words may reach."
Arwen looked at her cousin with compassion in her eyes. She saw in her the need to escape for a while, "Well then...., perhaps a little adventure will help heal your spirit. At the very least it will unburden your mind for awhile."
"What ever do you mean?" Minuial asked.
Arwen approached closer and lowered her voice, "I have need to leave Rivendell this night and search for Lord Aragorn. He is on the threshold of danger with his company of four and outnumbered by the nine. He could benefit greatly from our assistance. He guides the ring bearer to Rivendell, but trouble has hindered their road." Arwen's words were ominous in what she conveyed.
Minuial replied, "Cousin, you confound me with the riddles that work your mind. However it just so happens I am in need of some fresh surroundings."
Arwen picked up her cousins cloak and handed it to her, "Let us make haste, before we are discovered. I have readied Aeglos with your sword and bow and a quiver full of arrows."
Minuial put on her cloak and followed her cousin to the stables. She could not help but feel a little bit of excitement at facing the challenges to come. This time she would be ready for a fight and would be prepared to wield her sword. Arwen ran ahead of her. As Minuial reached the stables, her cousin was already leading the horses out.
"You are well enough to ride my lady?" her cousin asked.
"Yes Lady Arwen, I believe I am." she replied.
"Good, then mount your horse and conceal yourself in your cloak. We will ride west towards Amun Sul. Stay with me, it is a perilous road once we leave Imladris and stealth will be our greatest ally against the nine."
Minuial climbed onto Aeglos' back. It felt good to be back atop her steed. "My quiver is full, my bow strung and my blade cold, let us go find your friends," she smiled at Arwen slyly with glimmer of excitement twinkling in her eye, "Alas, Let us ride like the wind and deliver death quickly to those who dare stand in our way."
Arwen laughed, "You surprise me cousin, I did not know the heart of a warrior dwelled within you, but I am glad to find it now."
"Asfaloth, Aeglos Noro Lim!!!"
The two elves charged out of the gates on their horses with the speed of a rushing river.
Legolas heard two horses gallop away from the stables as he stood before the mirror adjusting his tunic. He wondered if something was spotted lurking in the woods near the border. There has been so much coming and going through Rivendell these days, that he thought nothing more of the two riders who just left. He was concentrating on the night ahead of him. He dressed in his finest formal satin tunic. It was made for him by the ladies of Mirkwood. The threads were woven in such away that the tunic resembled the color of moonlight. He placed a silver circlet upon his head. He ever felt strange wearing it, but as an Elven Prince from Mirkwood, he was expected to adorn it during formal events. He picked up the small box wrapped elegantly with silver and white ribbon from the dressing table and placed it in the velvet satchel that hung from his belt. He had decided to go down to Elrond's garden before going to meet Minuial in the court yard. He wanted to present her with some fresh white roses when they met. Boromir was going to bring her down to the courtyard in about a half an hour. The plan was to bring her to the courtyard balcony that over looked the river, where Boromir would ask her to close her eyes while he retrieved a special gift. When she opened her eyes, Legolas would be standing before her with the roses and his apologies. He preyed she would forgive him. He did not know what he would do if she refused his apology.
Legolas left his room and went to the garden. He selected about twenty of the finest roses and clipped them one by one from their stalks. He retrieved a length of silver ribbon from the pocket of his tunic and bound the stems together. He thought how beautiful these roses would look in her arms. He felt the longing to hold her in his arms again and kiss her tenderly under the star lit sky. He gathered the roses and made his way to a shadowed corner in the court yard, still dreaming of the feel of her lips on his.
He was there for several minutes when Boromir startled him, "My Lord.....Legolas....where are you?"
Legolas took note of panic in his voice, "I am here Boromir."
Boromir seeing Legolas emerge from the darkened corner went running towards him. "She is gone my Lord, She has left Rivendell." Boromir exclaimed.
Legolas was stunned, "What do you mean she is gone, where did she go?"
Boromir was breathing heavily, apparently he had run a great distance, "I....I do not know. When I went to collect her, she was not in her chambers.....I asked one of the elves in the hall if he knew where she went......He said she and Lady Arwen were headed towards the stables about three quarters of an hour ago."
"Did you check the stables?" Legolas asked impatiently.
"Yes....Yes I did, and I found her horse was gone......I asked the elf stationed there if he had seen them....and to my horror he told me that she and Lady Arwen left cloaked and armed."
"What!" Legolas cried, " Did he say where they were going?"
Boromir was catching his breath now, "I nearly shook his head off his shoulders trying to find that out, but he did not know, all he had overheard was something about finding friends, the nine, and Lady Minuial speak of delivering death to those who stood in their way."
Legolas was enraged. "What was she thinking? The nine you say? Did she not lay ill just yesterday and now she is going in search of the Nazgul?"
Horror struck Boromir, "The Nazgul?.....We have to stop her!"
"Boromir, go and collect your weaponry and meet me at the stable, we will leave immediately. Do not speak of this to anyone."
The elf ran back to his chambers. Legolas put his riding tunic over his fine dress tossed the circlet to the bed, grabbed his cloak and fastened it quickly at his neck. He belted on his quiver and placed his swords in their sheathes, grabbed his bow and was off. By the time Boromir reached the stables, Legolas had the horses readied.
" There is no time to waste. The tracks are still fresh, we will follow their trail." Legolas commanded.
They mounted their horses and at full speed departed.
Arwen and Minuial had rode for nearly fourteen hours as they finally reached Amun Sul.
Arwen dismounted her horse and examined the tracks on the ground. "They were here not more than an hour ago.....They were not alone."
Minuial from atop her horse scanned their surroundings with her keen elvish sight. "Arwen we should not linger here, I sense an unseen danger."
Arwen was following the tracks with her eyes, trying to gain some perspective of which way the tracks led away from where they stood.
She spotted something about fifty yards away, "Minuial look, over there." Arwen started running towards where she had found what she was looking for.
Minuial followed behind her slowly with Aeglos. She noticed a sudden uneasy silence all about them like the calm before a great storm.
Arwen looked up with fright in her eyes, "Your sense of danger is keen cousin, the dark nine were here." She leaned over and picked up what looked like a broken blade and held it up to show Minuial, "And one of them has tasted their blade."
Minuial could not shake the unease of the quiet dark. She felt unfriendly eyes stalking them, watching and calculating their every move. "We must move on, we are vulnerable in the open....Which way do the tracks lead?"
Arwen was searching frantically for an answer, "I am not yet certain, but I think it is back towards the river banks.... about a league or so that way."
"Let us head in that direction then, if one of them has been hurt, we will need to get them to..." Minuial's words halted suddenly.
The unease of the silence had been broken. She heard many footfalls heading towards them from the distance.
"What is it?" Arwen whispered.
Minuial focused her elf eyes on the distant darkness in the direction she heard the footsteps. "Arwen, mount your horse!! We have been discovered."
Arwen called Asfaloth to her as Minuial drew back her bow. Asfaloth reached them quickly.
As Arwen climbed upon his back she asked, "How many cousin?"
Minuial stayed motionless, keeping her eye on her target, "Thirty-three by my count.... We could try and outrun them but I fear that by doing so we may lead them to your friends."
Arwen drew an arrow from her quiver and readied it for fire. "I fear you are right cousin, we must remain and better Aragorn's chances."
Minuial turned to her cousin with a devilish grin, "Thirty-two!" she said as she released an arrow. The arrow sailed through the neck of the lead orc with deadly accuracy.
"So it is sport you seek by accompanying me on this mission. I must say cousin, you are full of surprises."
Arwen fired her bow taking down a very large orc, "Thirty-one!"
Arrows whirred through the night as they fired relentlessly upon their enemy. By the time the company of orcs closed enough distance between them for swordplay, the two elves narrowed their number to twelve. Minuial leaped off Aeglos with her sword drawn from its scabbard. She whirled the sword over her head and laid a heavy blow down upon the first orc to reach her, opening a gaping would across his chest. Before he could fall to the ground she had turned and thrust her blade through the gut of another. A third came from behind and tried to grab her, but she ducked from his clenching arms dropping down to her knees and lunging her sword upwards through his stomach. Blood gurgled in his throat as she withdrew her weapon. As he fell to the ground a fourth was behind him. She lifted her sword above her head, spun toward him and laid its edge into his neck nearly severing it from his head. She looked to her cousin who had slain three already, and making quick work of her fourth as another charged her from behind. Minuial withdrew a dagger from her belt and hurled it at him embedding it in his chest before he could reach her. She heard horses approaching as she skewered another through his chest. Arrows came flying from the approaching riders at the two remaining and the fell to the ground with a loud thud.
Minuial pulled her blade out of her last victim as the two riders came to a halt. She looked up, much to her surprise, to see Legolas staring down at her.
"You fight with the skill of a warrior my lady. From where did you acquire such skills?"
Minuial furrowed her brow and looked up at him, "I am sad to say my lord, I can not recall."
He dismounted his steed and came to her side. He ran his hand through her hair and rested it upon her shoulder tenderly, " Well then, seeing how you rival the sword of any warrior I have ever known, what hope do I have in restoring my valor as your protector?" Although he looked in her eyes with love and warmth, she still felt the sting of their earlier encounter.
She shrugged his hand off her shoulder met his gaze, anger in her eyes and plainly told him "None!"
As she took a step past him to take her leave, he grabbed her by the arm and swung her around to face him again.
"Take your hands off me!" she demanded.
"My lady, please listen to what I have to say!" he pleaded. She tried to pull away from his hold only for him to tighten his grip.
Frustrated she gave up her struggle and coldly replied, " Well then my lord, since you insist so strongly, say what you will and be done with it, for I have neither time nor desire to engage in your painful games of the heart."
Legolas felt deeply the stab of her sharp words regretting everything that unfolded earlier that day. He loosened his grip on her arms, and took her hand in his own. "Fair enough my lady. I can not blame you for your anger with me. My behavior earlier was selfish and cruel and if you decided never to speak words to me again, then I must accept my fate." He paused for a moment to look longingly into her eyes. He brought his hand up to her face and lightly caressed her cheek. "My heart has anguished since we last spoke, but it has brought me to realize that I have grown to love you with all of it in the short time I have known you. I must ask you to understand that the speed of which I fell for you had frightened me terribly and gave cause to my rash behavior. Yet, all I fear now is the damage which I have done to our love."
Minuial's anger diminished quickly as she listened to his heart felt words. "I believe your regret for your actions, but what assurance do I have that you will not give in to such fears again?"
"The only assurance I can offer is that which is already yours, my heart, if you will have it."
The sincerity of his words broke away whatever resistance that had remained in her except one.
"I am sorry my lord, I am afraid now is not the time for such decisions. As much as my heart longs for you, it would be unfair to take yours until the memory of my life as it was, returns. I know not who I am, nor who comes for me from Lorien. I may already be wed. If that is in fact true, it will thrust my heart into the deepest despair, for I will be torn between two for eternity, but my obligation would be clear."
Legolas' head hung low with sadness, but he knew what she said was true. It was a nagging pain that had troubled his heart from the beginning.
She lifted his head with her hand to draw his eyes to hers. "Take solace in knowing that should I be free to make such a choice my love, I will without hesitation choose you."
She laid a tender kiss upon his cheek. Legolas was tormented by her words, but within those words, hope still remained.
"My dear lady, I understand the quandary in which you find yourself and I will honor and respect whatever you must do." He squeezed her hand affectionately.
"My dear cousin, I fear it is time to move on with our journey."
"Arwen is right, we should not tarry any longer. Orcs do not often travel in such small numbers." Boromir reminded as he approached Legolas and Minuial. "May I say my lady, I am much impressed with the skill of you blade. I hope never to cross the path of your anger."
She smiled at Boromir, "Oh my lord, you need never worry about that. If it were not for you and Legolas, I would not be here to wield it so. I told you upon your arrival in Rivendell, I shall never forget your valor and kindness, and to that I hold."
They exchanged friendly smiles as she turned to look upon Legolas lovingly one more time before mounting Aeglos.
Legolas watched Minuial ride off as Boromir put his hand on Legolas' shoulder in a show of support, "Worry not my friend, I can see in her eyes that she is already yours."
Bormomir mounted his horse as Legolas stood motionless, still watching her riding ahead. "Come Legolas, it is far too dangerous a road to get lost in your thoughts." Boromir warned.
As if awakened from a dream Legolas climbed onto his horse, "Thank you Boromir, you are a good friend indeed. Let us ride."
They rode on to the river bank and Arwen's instincts proved to be right. She noted that one of the halflings had been gravely injured because only the tracks of four went on from that point. With three pairs of elvish eyes following the tracks, they were able to continue their search at a fast pace and gain significant ground.
They had traveled about an hour since they first reached the river bank when Legolas shouted to the others over the relentless thud of the horses galloping hooves, "We must be drawing near, I can hear the screech of the nine all around us!"
Arwen shouted back, "We are near. Look!"
Boromir, without the benefit of elvish eyes couldn't see anything in this darkness, he called to Arwen, "What is it?...What can you see?"
"I see Glorfindel...My father must have sent him." Arwen shouted behind her, "Im riding ahead." she lowered her head commanding her horse to charge further, "Noro Lim!"
Legolas looked to Minuial for a moment as they rode on. He looked back to where Glorfindel stood waiting for them far into the distance as he thought to himself that if Glorfindel was here, the party from Lorien would be waiting for them in Rivendell. He would know at last if she would be his and if they could nurture the love already growing between them. Legolas wondered what she was thinking as his eyes turned to her again. If she even knew that Glorfindel was the messenger dispatched to Lorien. Her long hair was dancing in the wind of their charge. Even in the darkness of night, it's golden color shined as if the sun twisted it's very own rays into the long elegant strands that flowed from atop her head. Her face was the fairest he had ever seen. Her skin was smooth and flawless and glowed with a pale light like the face of the moon itself. Strange that she was named for the twilight that greeted the latest dark with the glittering of first light, that moment between night and day. She turned her head and looked to him with a warm smile. He could feel his heart leap at her glance.
"I will be glad to take rest again in Rivendell soon. Perhaps that stroll I promised you when we return." she said.
They slowed their horses as they approached Glorfindel and the others.
Glorfindel greeted them happily. "I am glad to find you all well." he said. He turned to Legolas, "My Lord, I will need your assistance. We have need to share your horses as we have four in need of quick transport to Rivendell. Arwen has already taken the one in most need, but four still remain."
Minuial spoke up, "Aeglos is young and strong, he can carry the heaviest load."
Glorfindel turned his attention to her, "My lady Minuial I presume." She bowed her head in response as he continued, "My Lord Haldir's anguished heart will swell with joy to find his lady so well."
A look of confusion and sadness washed over her face as she tried to recall the name, but Legolas winced as despair enveloped his heart with an iron grip. Glorfindel was confused by the sadness that seemed to over take the two elves. Boromir recognizing the torment in the eyes of his companions spoke to Glorfindel hoping to buy his friends a few moments to recover.
"Glorfindel my friend, let us gather our passengers and prepare for our journey back to Rivendell."
Glorfindel's eyes reluctantly left the two elves but finally turned to Boromir, "Yes my lord, there are three halflings and a man a few yards this way... I think we can..." his voice trailed off as he led Boromir away.
Legolas and Minuial found themselves alone amidst an uncomfortable silence. Tears welled in Minuials eyes and spilled down her cheeks as she looked up at Legolas who had moved closer to her. He reached out to her and enfolded her in his arms tenderly. She nestled her head in the warmth of his lean chest.
"Oh Legolas!" she sobbed, "I never thought that we would be parted, I...I believed in my heart that there was no other and now... now that I find that there is, I can not bare it."
Legolas stroked her hair as he tried to console her. "My lady..." he whispered, "...Although you may belong to another, my heart still belongs to you. We are bound my love." He gently lifted her head from his chest so that he could look deep into her sparkling green-blue eyes. The pain of her breaking heart was pouring out from them. "Even though we can not be together, we are bound by our love until the ending of time." He laid a tender kiss upon her forehead.
She shook her head, "No my love. I can not bare it..." she cried out desperately, "I can not return to a lord I do not know, let alone love. I will not return."
Legolas drew her close to him again, "Hush my love, do not cry anymore. Let us make the most of the time we have left together. Even if only a secret between you and I, we will make the most of it, and remain ever close friends to noticing eyes." He paused as he heard the others approaching them, he whispered softly, "You will ride with me on Curonhast back to Rivendell." He stepped away from her holding onto only her hand.
Glorfindel appeared with three hobbits following closely behind him and introduced them. "May I present to you Master Hobbits, my Lord Legolas, son of Thranduil, and Prince of Mirkwood and the Lady Minuial of Lorien."
The three hobbits bowed gracefully as Glorfindel continued the introductions, "This is Samwise Gamgee,.." a small stout fellow with an angelic face hidden behind his sandy brown locks, "...Meriadoc Brandybuck..." taller than the others, thinner than Sam, but kind of face, "... and Perruguin Took of the shire realm."
Perruguin was mild and fair with the face of young boy and dark brown hair. "Pippin if ye don't mind my lord and lady."
Boromir emerged from the darkness of the thicket behind them with a man. The man looked tired and haggard. He was dressed in dark clothing and was wearing a ranger's cloak. He was fair of face behind all the dirt that covered it, and seemed very noble some how.
Boromir took over the introductions, "Do not mind this ragged man here, he has been in the wild for some time. He is Aragorn, son of Arathorn."
The man approached them, "Legolas my old friend, I am surprised to see you so far from Mirkwood." Aragorn smiled and turned to Minuial. "My Lady Minuial of Lorien, your beauty surpasses its reputation." he took her hand and kissed it gently.
"Forgive me my lord, I was not aware that you knew of me. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." she said bashfully.
He certainly acted with far more grace and etiquette than one would expect from a Ranger. "Ah my lady, I am a Ranger, it is my duty to know of such things." he smiled.
He turned to the others and said, "Alas, we shall leave for Rivendell immediately."
Legolas snapped to attention and took command of the matter. "I will take Lady Minuial on Curonhast with me. Aragorn you may ride Aeglos with one of the halflings. Boromir and Glorfindel will take the others. Glorfindel will take the lead as he knows the paths better than any of us, Boromir and Aragorn, you ride behind him with the other halflings and I will ride as rear guard with Lady Minuial."
The change from his ordinarily soft spoken demeanor to that of a commanding leader surprised those in this small company who knew him. "Well then my lord if that is how you wish to travel than so it shall be." said Aragorn regarding his friend suspiciously.
They mounted their horses. Legolas took Minuial by the waist and hoisted her atop Curonhast. He then climbed up behind her, slid his arm around her waist and pulled her near.
He whispered into her ear, "At least this way we shall have some time to talk privately and be together as close as we desire, perhaps for the last time side by side."
He kissed her ear softly and tightened his grip around her waste. Desire burned in him like a raging inferno. He wanted to take off and disappear into the wilderness with her, but he knew he could not. Something inside his soul told him that they would be together again, he had to hold onto the hope. As Curonhast began to walk the long path home, she leaned her back against him, resting her head where his neck met the curve of his strong shoulder. Her hair was brushing softly against his face.
"What I would not give to stay here in this moment with you forever my beloved." she said wistfully.
He leaned his face into hers so that their cheeks were touching one another. "I know." he whispered solemnly, "I know."