The Undying Lands - (chapter 41)

Tarma requested to see Ariengil for, in the morning when he had visited his chamber, she had not been there. He seemed to believe her tale of taking a tour of the maze, but when she declined his offer of a meal together in the evening, he was somewhat puzzled.
`Yesterday you enjoyed yourself, did you not?' asked Tarma sullenly.
`I did, thank you, sir,' replied Ariengil with a curtsy.
`And yet, you do not wish to join me tonight?'
`Nay sir, I decline your kind offer,' smiled Ariengil.
Tarma's anger was beginning to show. `Why?' he fumed as his eyes lit up.
`I feel... ill, sir,' answered Ariengil, looking for an excuse.
`Ill?' asked Tarma. `How are you ill? What is wrong? What do you need?'
`I feel enclosed here, trapped. I wish for a walk outside, in the fresh air. I wish to hear the birds sing, I wish to feel the wind wrap her arms around me, and I wish to see the sunlight.
`I have missed all of this while I have been with you, in your brilliant home, but please let me see, hear and feel nature again.'
`Of course, my dear. I will accompany you there. I will also bring my new guard, just to... look after you,' he sneered. Then, smiling again, he continued. `Would your friend like to come? I have not seen her yet today either.'
`I'm sure she would love to, thank you Lord.'
`You are excused, Nimtheryn will take you to your friend.'
Ariengil opened the door and spotted Nimtheryn standing by the wall. He looked very calm, but Ariengil guessed he had been listening to the conversation. Stepping forward, he bowed and asked Ariengil to lead the way. Tarma smiled contentedly at his new guard, pleased at his chivalry and discipline.
The two elves walked to the dungeons, barely glancing at each other, and not speaking a word between them. When they reached the first door with a number on, Ariengil stopped Nimtheryn and walked forwards to the hidden door. Softly she called.
`Nieninque, come out, Nimtheryn is here and we are to leave now, forever.'
The pretty elf crept out of the hall, holding the veil to the side and motioned to someone to follow. Eala stepped out and bowed to Ariengil. He glanced uneasily at Nimtheryn, in a guard's uniform, but looked at the girls with trust.
`Eala,' exclaimed Ariengil. `I'm so glad you are here. This,' she motioned to Nimtheryn, `is Nimtheryn, my good friend, do not let the guard's uniform deceive you, he is our friend,' she turned to Nimtheryn. `Are you not?'
`I am. I followed you here in the hope to find you. That I have done, and now I wish to help you leave here- I, and presumably Eala, now know every passageway, route and secret place possible. Except this one, it is really ingenious, how does it work?'
`Well,' began Nieninque, `you use this stone... which I have right... here... somewhere... I've lost it. Oh no!' she exclaimed. `I left it in there. We will not be able to use it again, I'm so sorry.' She threw herself against the black wall, clawing at it with her fingers, trying to find a gap that could be the entrance. Only when Eala stepped forward, did she stop.
`Do not worry,' he said, `I picked it up. But if you forget in future, there is nothing that can be done.' With that, he handed Ariengil the black stone and looked around worriedly. `We had better move, come on.'
He dragged them along the corridor, looking left and right and went to open the door with the number five on it, and began to open it. A shout came from towards the beginning of the corridor and they all looked to their left, to see Tarma running along.
`Go, I will stop him,' shouted Eala. He pushed Ariengil and Nieninque through, pushed past Nimtheryn and ran towards Tarma, his sword drawn. Nimtheryn paused for a few seconds, ready to help, but realised Tarma thought he was still a guard.
`Stop,' he cried to the girls, but ran after them, shutting the door after him. `Keep running,' he whispered. The three elves ran as fast as they could, for what seemed like miles. The two girls were slacking and Nimtheryn could do nothing to speed them up, so they stopped for a minute or two.
Footsteps were heard running towards them and Nimtheryn urged the girls on. They ran on, but their feet were sore, their hearts were pounding and their breathing was hard now. Nieninque tripped and Ariengil caught her as she ran. Ariengil breathed in suddenly and felt one hundred times better- Nieninque seemed to have healed her, making her breathing better, her feet less painful and her heart more relaxed
`Nieninque,' she whispered, `you healed me. Heal yourself too.' Nieninque smiled and did so, and so the journey progressed much quicker until they reached the next turning.
Nimtheryn stopped and looked from side to side- there were four options of directions to take, and he was unsure of which one to take. Looking back, he saw a dark figure running towards them.
`Nimtheryn,' shouted the figure. It was Tarma. `I have killed Eala, stop the girls.'
The two girls ran on, taking a different route each- Ariengil went to the left, and Nieninque to the right. They didn't look back as Tarma arrived by Nimtheryn's side, yet they heard him shouting at Nimtheryn.
`Why did you not stop them?'
`I am sorry, sir,' came Nimtheryn's reply, `I did not know whether I was allowed- you never allowed them to be touched before.'
`Very well,' sighed Tarma. `You can touch them now. You go to the right and catch up with Nieninque, I will follow Ariengil.'
Ariengil heard him and spurred herself on, scared of the consequences if they stopped. Somewhere a little further on, Ariengil knew there would be an exit to this vile place, but she could not see it yet and had to find it.
Suddenly, two paths joined and Nieninque ran in front of Ariengil, the two girls nearly colliding. Running on, they spotted a crevice, just big enough for a few people to hide. The only problem was, it was quite high up.
Looking behind them, the girls could not see anyone approaching yet, but they could hear Nimtheryn approaching. That would mean Tarma was not far behind. Ariengil, the stronger elf of the two, cupped her hands together, as a step, and allowed Nieninque to place her foot on her hands and jump up.
The thin elf quickly hopped up and leant down to help Ariengil. Nieninque extended her arm towards Ariengil, who reached upwards to grasp her hand. The ledge was too high, and their fingers were only just touching- not near enough to clasp their hands well.
Ariengil looked around in fear and saw Nimtheryn approaching. He ran up to her and looked at the situation. Quicker than Ariengil thought possible, he picked her up and lifted her slightly. She gripped the stone step and pulled herself upwards. Nieninque helped pull her, as Nimtheryn paused to breath deeply.
The second that Ariengil was standing, Tarma came around the corner. He bumped into Nimtheryn and scowled. `What are you doing?' he shouted, his voice resounding down the corridor.
`Sorry sir,' began Nimtheryn, and then he leant over and coughed badly. `I feel... faint,' and with that, he fell to the floor. Tarma looked down in disgust and looked up the corridor, in the direction he thought the girls had run. Kicking Nimtheryn violently, he ran off into the darkness.
Nimtheryn lay still for another few minutes, then slowly stood, groaning. He clutched his side, where he had been kicked, and looked up. Ariengil was starting to climb down, her hands and feet balanced on the side of the wall as she slithered down slightly, struggling to jump down. Ariengil's feet suddenly lost all grip and she slipped, only staying up by her fingertips clutching the ledge. Nimtheryn reached up and held her by her waist, gently placing her down. Forgetting Nieninque, who was still above them, he leant towards Ariengil, meaning to kiss her.
With a loud cough, and a glance upwards, Ariengil avoided Nimtheryn as she helped Nieninque down. When they were all on the floor, they set off back towards the dungeons, looking for Eala. They found him, leaning against the wall, holding his chest outside the dungeons.
`Eala,' cried Ariengil happily, and ran towards him. She flung her arms around him and hugged him tightly, but stepped back in shock as she felt something warm and wet against her chest. She looked down, to see blood on her dress, and blood on Eala's hand.
Inquisitively, Ariengil looked into Eala's eyes; they were dull and had lost their shine, his face was pale and his lips were almost white. Worriedly, Ariengil called Nieninque over.
The young, magical elf stepped forward and lifted her hand to Eala's chest, but he pushed her hand away and looked at Ariengil sadly. Still holding his wound, over his heart, he leant towards Ariengil with tears in his eyes.
Nimtheryn strode forwards defensively, as though protecting his territory, but with one look from Ariengil, he stopped and looked away. Ariengil stood her ground as Eala came closer, but he made no move to kiss her, to her relief. He leant forward and rested his head on her shoulder miserably. Ariengil was shocked, but lifted her arms up and wrapped them around him, hugging him closely. She stroked his cheek and smiled at his sudden weakness.
`Eala?' she asked. He looked up, into her eyes, and seemed to give her permission to continue. `Let Nieninque help you, let her heal you.'
`No,' he said defiantly, speaking for the first time with a strong, but broken, voice. `It is my time to go, but I lived a bad life, Ariengil, I should have helped you sooner. I am sorry.'
`No,' smiled Ariengil, `you do not need to apologise, you are a brilliant person, Eala, and you helped us as much as you could. And for that, I love you as a dear friend.'
Eala's eyes lit for perhaps the last time, and he looked happily into Ariengil's eyes. Stroking her cheek, he let go of his wound, and watched Ariengil until all light had faded from his eyes.
The tall elf collapsed in front of Ariengil with a smile on his face. No more was said, for no more was needed to be said, as Ariengil leant down and kissed Eala's cheek. She cried as they left him; she cried for his life, for her hatred for Tarma, for Harma and for every evil in Middle Earth.
`Maybe, just maybe,' she murmured, `there will be a time when we meet again, Eala, when this Middle Earth is good again, when this Earth is safe and we are free to do as we wish. There will be a time, Eala, there will.'
Nimtheryn rested his hand on her shoulder, urging her on, and the three left the corridor sadly. They exited the maze through the passage with a number one painted on it, and Ariengil thought again of Eala- the one who had paid for their survival with his life.
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