The Undying Lands - (chapter 44)

Ariengil looked around in shock. How had she not noticed where they were before? It was a simple answer- she had been thinking of Harma. Nimtheryn was smiling as he announced where they were; he was smiling at the astounded look on Ariengil's face.
`I know where we are,' snapped Ariengil a little too crossly. `Of course we are at Helm's Deep, so don't tell me in that voice.'
`What voice?' asked Nimtheryn innocently.
`The voice you use when you are talking to elflings.' With that Ariengil walked off, not caring in which direction she was going, but she headed towards the sun, setting in the West.
`Ariengil,' called Nimtheryn.
`What?' she shouted at the top of her voice, the sound resounding around the cliffs.
`You are going the wrong way,' he sniggered. Ariengil turned about very quickly, the dust flying from beneath her feet, and she walked straight past her friends, looking away from them in embarrassment.
Nieninque looked uneasily at Nimtheryn, worried about Ariengil. She was given a reassuring smile and ran to catch up with the other elf. Nimtheryn sighed and picked up the girls' bags that they had brought. Peering inside, he scorned at their inappropriate belongings- two dresses, two loaves of bread, two hairbrushes and two daggers. These would not last them long, thought Nimtheryn, but at least they bothered bringing food. Looking up, he saw the two girls walking arm in arm and he ran to catch up. Maybe he could find somewhere to rest on the way.
The three elves made progress steadily, but not at an efficient enough pace for Nimtheryn's liking. As the strongest elf, the only male, and the one in charge, Nimtheryn was constantly worried for the girls' safety. But their safety was not the only thing on Nimtheryn's mind. He was concerned too, that Ariengil would resort to a period of depression over Harma's death. He was upset, of course, of losing a friend, and the death causing Ariengil pain, but he now hoped that he would have a chance with Ariengil again. There were so many regrets in Nimtheryn's heart and he wished to make them all up to Ariengil and never let her suffer again.
Ariengil heard footsteps behind her and Nieninque, but she did not bother to turn around. When she heard Nimtheryn speak she sighed noticeably to annoy him, but he did no more than flinch slightly.
`Do you wish to rest? I could find somewhere around here, if you would wish,' he declared.
`Well I am content to leave Tarma far behind, but you obviously are not. Do you actually wish to betray us and join his forces, capture us and take us prisoner? Oh, sorry, I forgot- you have done that already,' fumed Ariengil.
Nimtheryn grabbed Ariengil's arm and stopped, turning her to face him fiercely. `You know nothing of what happened to me, and you never care either, do you? Leave me be and I will leave you be then.' Tears welled in his eyes as Nimtheryn's pride and hope was broken. He dropped Ariengil's arm and turned to leave.
`No, Nimtheryn, I did not mean it, I'm sorry,' cried Ariengil, grabbing her friend's arm and trying to stop him. He shook it off and continued walking, wiping tears away as he went.
A little further on, with Ariengil and Nieninque a slight way behind him, Nimtheryn called out, `We will rest here for the night.' They were in a small surrounding, and rocks and boulders sheltered them there, causing no wind to reach them, and, hopefully, no animals or warriors to reach them either. Nimtheryn began to light a fire, then sat down crossly by it.
Nieninque and Ariengil lay down by each other and began whispering. They occasionally looked over at Nimtheryn, who sat by the fire, his arms and legs crossed and his face set in a glum expression. Nimtheryn stared at the centre of the fire and the glowing, flickering and dangerous flames. He continued to sit alone, deep in thought, or in sadness, until after the girls settled down and tried to rest.
Deep in thought, Nimtheryn did not notice Ariengil approach him a lot later, and her hand on his shoulder shocked him considerably. `Nimtheryn,' began Ariengil, but her companion stopped her with a curt shake of his head. Ariengil faltered and a little sob escaped her. `Please Nimtheryn,' she begged. Again Nimtheryn shook his head, but this time he nodded towards Nieninque who was murmuring in her sleep.
Ariengil nodded and sat down by Nimtheryn. This time she whispered. `Nimtheryn, please forgive me, I had no right to say those things.'
The presence of Ariengil's warm and slender body made Nimtheryn uncomfortable, yet he smiled as he thought of her comforting arms holding him. `And I had no right to speak to you like an elfling, forgive me my Arri,' he pleaded.
Ariengil ignored the fact that he had called her `his' and smiled at him instead. `Of course you are forgiven, if I am too,' she joked.
`I could not stay cross at you, with your fine eyes, lovely lips, gorgeous smile, friendly presence and amazing being. You are too perfect Ariengil.' Turning to face her finally, Nimtheryn smiled and looked into Ariengil's eyes. She blushed at his embarrassing words, but felt flattered and pleased.
`I don't know what to say Nimtheryn,' began Ariengil.
`You need not say a thing,' replied Nimtheryn as he leant towards Ariengil. Taking her carefully in his arms, he held her and hugged her for all his life was worth. Ariengil felt comforted again, for the first time since Harma's death, and she needed Nimtheryn to stay with her forever, she felt, for if she lost him too, she would have a lesser family of friends than before.
Ariengil leant back and pulled away from Nimtheryn, looking at him in the eyes. `Nimtheryn,' she began, `I am so sorry for the way I have treated you before, please forgive me.'
`You are always forgiven, my dear, for I love you and could not hold hate in my heart for the one I love.' Nimtheryn reached up and brushed away a few strands of hair from Ariengil's cheek. His fingertips were wet as he withdrew and he looked up in astonishment. `Why do you cry, Ariengil, my darling?' he asked.
`I cry for you, Nimtheryn.'
`There is no need to cry for me. What have I done to deserve this torture of your sadness?'
`Nothing, Nimtheryn, that is the problem- you have done nothing but loved me, and I have disliked you for this, when all you mean is good. I am so sorry. What can I do to gain your forgiveness?'
`Ariengil,' murmured Nimtheryn, `you are always forgiven, always in my heart. But the one thing that would make me truly happy would be to have your love again.' Ariengil looked up slowly and their eyes met. `To have your love again would make me happy for eternity. Please answer me this, do you love me?'
`Nimtheryn, I-' Nieninque coughed behind the two elves and she rubbed her eyes. Ariengil quickly stopped talking and moved away from Nimtheryn slightly, as they were so very close, and turned to Nieninque. `Nieninque,' said Ariengil in a strained voice, `you are awake. Yet you have not been asleep long, why not sleep a little longer.'
`Oh, I think I could not when I am so cold,' replied Nieninque, `perhaps I could sleep by your fire?' She picked herself up and walked to where the two were sitting, promptly lay down and shut her eyes. Ariengil sighed quietly, but obviously not quietly enough as Nieninque opened one eye and peered at her friends. `I am not disturbing you, am I?' she asked innocently.
Nimtheryn opened his mouth to answer, and it was clear that he was about to answer `yes', so Ariengil interrupted. `No, not at all Nieninque, do not worry.' Nimtheryn scowled at Nieninque, but did not contradict Ariengil. He watched sadly as Ariengil lay down near her friend, and he was left to himself again. He too lay down, but nearer Ariengil, so that he could watch her as she slept.
The rise and fall of Ariengil's chest, her gentle eyelids fluttering, and her hair, tenderly protecting her cheeks and lips from the wind, all comforted Nimtheryn as he rested, and he felt content when he woke to the sun rising.
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