The Undying Lands - (chapter 64)

As the sun wrapped her arms around everything in the morning, Ariengil looked across the lands. She was dreading another day's journey, but she hoped that as they rode further from Minas Tirith, she would come to realise that there was no going back.
The company travelled all day again- past the battlefield, where they had fought only about three weeks previously, across the River Entwash, past the Emyn Muil, and they stopped in the East Emnet at night. As the evening was warm, they decided that there was no need to set up canvases, and they slept in the open without disturbance.
In the morning, Ariengil realised that she had no idea where they were going. She went to find Mereth, who seemed to be leading the group. `Mereth, mellon nîn, I was wondering where we are going, for I have not heard yet. It does not seem to me that we are heading directly back to the Grey Havens, so I was just wondering,' she said.
`Well, we are actually going to see your kindred at present. We are headed towards Lorien. Then we will pass over the mountains, do not fear, I have a safe route, and then we return to the Undying Lands.'
`We are going to Lorien? Thank you, Mereth,' cried Ariengil joyously. `How I have longed to see that beautiful land again.' She lapsed into a silence and Mereth left her to her thoughts.
That day they rode past Fangorn as the sun began to set. Ariengil longed to talk to the trees, but Mereth urged them on. As night set, they set up camp near a small river. Fangorn was still in sight, but far enough away so that nothing that lived there could disturb them.
Soon a campfire was roaring, and the company sat around it, laughing and singing. Ariengil relaxed and enjoyed herself that evening. Nieninque asked Ariengil to help her collect firewood, so she obliged- leaving the others who were beginning a new song.
`Are you alright, Arri?' asked Nieninque when they were alone and away from the company. `I know it has been hard on you, but are you coping?'
`I'm coping far better than I thought I would, Nieninque. In fact, I'm almost not missing him. I feel terribly guilty for that, but there is nothing I can do about it. I think I know why it is though. It is because I'm spending more time with all of my friends, which I have not done recently, so I am realising what I have missed.
`Also, and I don't know how to explain this very well, I feel more alive. I feel as alive as I did when Harma was still with us. I almost feel him here. I don't know how or why, but I do. I loved him, Nieninque. I really, really loved him as I have never loved another. I hope he knew that,' she whispered.
`I'm sure he did, Arri. He loved you so very much too. I'm glad you are alright about leaving Eldarion-' She started, but Ariengil stopped her.
`I'm not all right about it. I'm far from that. I think I'll always miss Eldarion, but not as much as I miss and love Harma. Please don't think of me badly for loving Eldarion, and now not missing him. I can't help it; it isn't my fault. I don't even know if I loved him- I felt terribly guilty when I was with him, and I feel guilty now.'
`Arri, I'm not saying it is your fault. I'm sorry for upsetting you. In future I'll just listen to you. I should think before I speak, shouldn't I?' she joked.
`You are unbelievable,' said Ariengil sweetly. `You are such an amazing friend and you are unbelievingly lovely. Mereth is lucky to have you.' Nieninque blushed and they hugged tightly.
`Oh dear,' said Nieninque, `we had better find some wood or the others will think we are incompetent,' she joked. Laughing, the two friends set to work and took back armfuls of wood. As they returned, Thaliondil and Mereth jumped up to took the wood from the girls, and then sat down. Everyone was singing and laughing. They were having a great time.
The company cooked rabbit, which Mereth had swiftly caught when the girls had left, and they shared bread from Minas Tirith. They told stories and sung late into the night, and when they lay down to sleep, Ariengil felt happy and safe. She was looking forward to going to Lorien and settled down with affectionate dreams in her head.
Ariengil was woken sooner than she expected, as she was shook violently awake. Someone immediately put their hand over her mouth and held her tightly, with a dagger at her throat. Ariengil was dragged onto her feet, and she looked around at her friends- they were all in a similar position, and Ariengil realised that they were being held captive by elves.
`Tarma's elves,' she thought to herself silently. The elf holding her was most likely the leader, as he seemed very confident and was giving out instructions to the others. Occasionally he took the dagger away from Ariengil's pale throat and pointed somewhere with it. He spoke in an unknown language, and Ariengil looked around in confusion.
The dagger was moved away from her neck again, and Ariengil quickly bit down onto her captor's finger and elbowed him in the stomach in one swift movement. He dropped his blade in surprise, and Ariengil grabbed it and switched positions with him, so that he was under her blade.
`Stand still,' she shouted to the other elves. They all stopped what they were doing and faced her, still holding her friends. `Let my friends go or I'll slit his throat.'
`No,' exclaimed one elf. `If you slit his throat, we'll slit theirs and then yours. You are trespassing in our lands, filth. You and your dark elves will suffer. Tarma,' he spat, `is filth, and you are filth.'
`You're wrong,' cried Ariengil happily. `We are against Tarma. He has murdered many of my friends and has held me captive several times. We,' she motioned to the other elves and her friends, `are friends.'
`You are lying,' shouted another elf. `You are trying to trick us. Prove that you are not one of his evil gang.'
`Very well,' replied Ariengil. She stepped back from the elf and handed back his dagger. He accepted it graciously and bowed to her. In return, she curtsied and turned to her friends. They were now all released and were shaking hands with the elves, relieved that they were safe.
`Forgive me, my lady,' said the elf near Ariengil. `Allow me to introduce myself. I am Elrohir of Lorien.'
`Elrohir,' said Ariengil quietly, thinking to herself. `Are you Elrohir, son of Lord Elrond?' she asked. The elf smiled as he heard the question that many asked him.
`No, I am not of his family. Though I have met him; do you know him?'
`I have heard of him from a friend who fought alongside him.' She sighed, thinking of Harma, then continued. `I am Ariengil, of nowhere,' she laughed. Elrohir looked puzzled, so she explained. `I have lived in Rivendell with my adopted family, and also in Ithilien, yet I feel as though I do not belong properly there. I have lived in Lorien at times too. Therefore, I belong nowhere.'
`It sounds to me as though you belong everywhere, not nowhere. Where are you headed to?' he asked as one of his friends came and stood by him.
`We are actually on the way to Lorien, to the Golden Wood. I am hoping that some of my family will be there,' replied Ariengil.
`Well we shall accompany you. What are the names of your family, may I ask?'
`My adopted parents are Kiemen, son of Káno; and Amarther, daughter of Aina. Do you know of them?' she asked. Elrohir looked sideways at his friend and they exchanged a glance. Ariengil mistook the look and asked again. `You do know them, don't you?' she smiled warmly.
`Ariengil, I knew them. But I am very sorry to tell you that your father died, protecting your mother. She then was attacked again and she, with the rest of her company, passed away. I am sorry.'
Ariengil gasped and stepped back as though she had been hit with an arrow. She grasped her chest and stepped back again. Her friends looked up and ran to her; Thaliondil took her in his arms and held her tightly. There she cried and cried.
`Both of them?' she asked as she looked out from under Thaliondil's arms. Elrohir nodded sadly and Ariengil shook her head in disbelief. `What of my sister? What of my brother? Their son, is he alive?' she asked. Elrohir bit his lip and looked at the floor. `Is he alive?' shouted Ariengil. She ran at the elf and pushed him. `Tell me,' she screamed.
`No he is not,' replied Elrohir miserably and stepped away from Ariengil. She threw herself on the floor and lay, sobbing, in a heap. Elrohir walked slowly up to her and knelt beside her. He placed his hand on her shoulder and spoke again. `Your sister is alive.'
Ariengil took in a deep breath and looked up. `She is? I must see her.' She stood, but as she took one step, she swayed and almost fell. Standing more confidently, she tried to walk again, but she saw the floor moving and fell again. Thaliondil caught her and swept her into his arms.
When Ariengil woke, she was on horseback, lying on the horse's neck. She sat up suddenly and started struggling, trying to get down. `Get off me,' she screamed when Thaliondil tried to restrain her.
`Ariengil, calm down,' shouted Thaliondil. She turned around with a fire in her eyes and glared at Thaliondil, trying to scratch his face. Suddenly the sharp light vanished and she stopped, looking at her friend through tears in her eyes.
`Thaliondil,' she whispered as though she had only just seen him. `I thought you were Tarma, I'm sorry.' She turned around again and lay on the horse's neck, crying.
Thaliondil leant down and hugged her gently. `Don't worry, you are safe,' he whispered. Ariengil immediately fell asleep again and didn't wake until the company were safely in Lorien. Elrohir allowed them to enter the wood without being stopped, and Ariengil was presently lying comfortably on a bed of moss.
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