The Undying Lands - swords maidens (part 17)

Over the next few days, more warriors from other villages arrived to leave for Middle Earth- there were some from Caranlad, some from Calanarda, some from beyond where Ariengil had travelled, but most were from Menel and had decided to fight. Every man or woman was supplied with a sword or dagger and bows and arrows. If the fighter wished not to carry so much, they could leave it behind. Everyone was given armour if they wished it.
Nárfin and Ariengil could do very little in a quiet place such as Menel, for it was slowly emptying and it was very sad to see. Nárfin worked hard on two sticks and shaped them roughly in sword shapes. One she gave to Ariengil and one she kept herself.
`Ariengil. Would you like to learn to fight?' Ariengil desired to very much and so the training begun. First of all, the two girls had to be fit and so they ran between the lake- Ainalin, and the forest, then up and down the hill until Ariengil collapsed.
Nárfin would not let her friend give up so easily and so they climbed trees, jumped from high heights, swam for hours upon end and only ate food which was healthy. Within three days, Ariengil was ready to start the sword training. The wooden sword was heavy and so she practised swinging it first. Once Ariengil had mastered the sweeping action of the sword, Nárfin made a bag of leaves for Ariengil to hit and stab.
Ariengil worked hard, for she did not want to be the only one who could not fight and had to stay behind- after destroying the dummy, she and Nárfin went through certain moves.
`This is the sweeper manoeuvre,' said Nárfin, stopping Ariengil's forward sweep, then swinging and thrusting her own sword forward.
`Why is it called the sweeper manoeuvre?' panted Ariengil.
`Well, you block, then sweep and then jab. You try- block... and sweep... and jab! You have it perfect on your first try!' They went through many more procedures with Nárfin shouting out instructions. `Lunge and back and jab and sweep and back and sweep and thrust and forward and STOP!' after a short rest, for Nárfin was tired, she looked up. `You are most certainly a brilliant sword maiden.'
`Thank you,' blushed Ariengil.
`I think you know everything important, now what?' asked Nárfin, at a loss of what to do.
`I could teach you to ride and jump on a horse,' suggested Ariengil. Nárfin accepted and the two worked on that for the next few days. It began with Nárfin not being able to even hold a sword while on a horse, but she soon mastered that and was teaching her horse to jump over barriers. Nárfin was a quick learner, and Ariengil a good teacher, so they made good progress and had finished soon.
Very soon the two friends had learnt very good skills in each and were devising a plan to go to Middle Earth- Nárfin wished to fight and secretly wanted to prove to Thaliondil that she was not stupid, and Ariengil wished to see Harma again and somehow acquire forgiveness from Dînhith.
When a whole crowd of warriors approached from Caranlad, the two friends joined the group and posed as warriors themselves. They were given strong swords and armour each and a fine horse. Ariengil requested Silmewesta as her horse and was gratified, however Nárfin chose a chestnut horse called Culanna.
The horses were loaded onto one ship and the warriors stepped onto another. The journey seemed very short compared to the original journey although Melianiel, who was talking to Quesse and Kaltar, was confused for she had never seen the sea before. `I cannot tell where the sea ends and the sky begins,' she said. They all arrived very soon and as they stepped onto land they found that it was raining and felt disgusted- they had had no rain in the Havens and it felt cold and stung their skin.
`Everyone gather around please,' shouted a tall handsome elf, most likely a commander. As the elves approached him, no one noticed two she-elves slipping away. Nárfin and Ariengil hid in a bush as they watched the elves being sorted into squads and receiving their horses. Suddenly the girls were very worried for they would lose their horses. They stepped out of the bushes, praying that they had not been seen. All seemed fine and so they took their horses but as they stepped away, Orudruin, the commander, stopped them.
`I did not sort you into groups did I my Ladys?' he asked calmly.
`Er... Yes, you did. We are in squad four, sir,' replied Nárfin.
`You are not telling the truth. Tell me, Ariengil, why are you here?'
`How do you know my name?' she asked.
`I wished to know it and so I found out. I am Orudruin. You can trust me, just tell me why you are here.'
`We are here to find our friends, if you must know,' replied Ariengil.
`I will pass a blind eye then, just for you, ride away quickly and I will say you have left on an errand for me. We will meet again soon though.'
`Thank you Orudruin, may you fare well and I hope you do not come to any harm. I will see you soon. Thank you again,' said Ariengil as the two cantered off. Orudruin watched them go and sighed, then turned back to his troops.
`Ariengil, how are we supposed to know which way to go?' asked Nárfin.
`I do not know. Do you know where we are?'
`I have know idea. Is that a town I see ahead?' Nárfin pointed to smoke arising, most likely from a chimney. As they approached swiftly, the girls realised that it had once been a town but the smoke was from burnt houses. Many of the remaining people were hugging each other and shaking on the floor, although there were not many alive.
Ariengil stopped Silmewesta and stepped down onto the floor. Looking around, she was devastated. She now remembered this place as a town which Dînhith, Harma and herself had passed through to leave to the Undying Lands. Ariengil looked around to see the house in which she had stayed in for a night. She had stayed with a lovely old woman and had felt very much at home. Suddenly, she gasped. The house was now no more than a pile of rubble with a single door standing upright.
Ariengil ran to the house and shouted for the woman. `Cami? Are you here?' A cry was heard from under a pile of bricks and Ariengil looked towards it. She could see the woman was buried and had not much hope of surviving.
`Cami. Do not worry, I will get you out. Do you remember me? It is Ariengil.' She murmured away, comforting the old lady as she lifted bricks away. Nárfin ran up and helped. Presently they had cleared the majority of the pieces away, all except for a single block lying on the lady's leg.
The two girls were not strong enough to lift it off and they could not see any men around- men could fight and so would definitely be killed or would be pursuing the attackers. Cami cried out as the block moved slightly. `Stop it girls, leave me to die. I am just an old woman, no one wants me. Just let me die.'
`No Cami, we are here to help you,' but as Ariengil said this, she knew that there was no hope- Cami had a crushed stomach, a lot of ribs were broken and she was bleeding freely. Then, of course, there was the leg which was trapped. Nárfin went to sit next to Cami's head and, kneeling, she leant it on her lap.
Ariengil sat in a position where Cami could see her. `You have grown up, haven't you?' said Cami as a caring grandmother would.
`I have, although it was only a few years ago!'
`You came before, do you remember? It was two hundred years ago, I was thirteen and we played in the woods.'
`And you fell into that pond which was sacred and it prolonged your life!'
`Yes, I regret it now. Evil times are upon us again, I would have been dead long before-' she stopped as she thrashed about in pain, then became very still and quiet.
`Cami?' asked Ariengil. She then turned to Nárfin, `Do you think she is dead?'
`I am sorry Arri. I am very sorry.' They both spoke to Eru in their own quiet ways, but as Ariengil leant over to kiss Cami's forehead, with tears in her eyes, the old lady writhed again. She seemed to be in a lot of agony and there was nothing Ariengil or Nárfin could do.
Ariengil stroked her friend's hand and talked to her quietly as she watched her. Cami was no longer shaking, but was murmuring and occasionally saying short sentences loudly. Suddenly there was silence between the three of them and Ariengil knew that her friend had passed on.
`I feel as though I should cry,' whispered Ariengil.
`Cry if you wish, do not hold back,' replied Nárfin.
As a few tears welled in her eyes, Ariengil spoke again. `I do not know if these tears are real. I feel guilty if I do not cry. I should be guilty, but I am not, so these tears must be fake.'
`Do not talk that way, it is a shock. I am sure you will know your feelings soon. Would you like to stay here or move on?'
`Move on, but we can't leave her here. Let us move the rock, it will not hurt her now.' They did so, then buried her and said their prayers to Eru before they progressed sadly. *This is the fault of war. Danger, death and destruction. Why could she not have lived? She did nothing wrong,* thought Ariengil sadly. *Who else is going to die for being innocent? Many people, it is unfair and unjust.*
`Stop, wait. Help me!' Came a voice from a bush as they cantered past. As they turned their horses around, the girls saw a man crawling out of the bush. His leg was badly wounded and muddy. If the man was an elf, he would have been about the same age as them, so in human years, he was around 25 years old.
`What happened?' asked Ariengil as she dismounted. `Nárfin, do we have any cloths which we can bind his leg with?'
`My town was attacked. I... er... followed the orcs and they attacked me.'
Ariengil took the cloth from Nárfin and whispered to her, `I do not think he is telling the whole truth.' Nárfin agreed and they sat down next to the man.
`You are elves, right? Am I going to die?'
`We are elves, but you will only die if we do not tend to you.'
`Right, well get on with it then, I am in agony.'
`We will wait.'
`Wait for what?'
`Until you tell us the truth.'
`The truth, right... Well, I ran away and did not help fight. You cannot blame me though, I was scared. Anyway, an orc followed me and told me I was going to have a slow death and he did this to me!'
`We will try to help you so that you can to make up for your wrong doing and fight again.' Nárfin took the cloth and started to wrap up the man's leg. Suddenly they heard something behind them.
Ariengil turned around and whipped out her sword but there was nothing there. As she turned back to the man, she saw a very strange sight. His leg was healing slowly but surely.
There was a liquid on his leg which faded to be more or less the colour of his skin, and was actually forming skin over the wound. Blood and mud was being pushed upwards. Very soon, the wound was no longer and the man's leg looked perfect, all except for mud and blood lying on top.
The man lifted his hand and slowly wiped the blood and mud off so that his leg was back to normal- perfect, with no mud or blood or deep gash or anything. He couldn't stop staring at it, his mouth was wide open and he was uttering very funny words.
Everyone was staring at where the wound had been. There was silence for a second as nobody breathed.
`Would that happen if we were hurt?' whispered Nárfin.
`I do not know and I do not wish to find out. We need to make sure we don't get hurt!' But no sooner had Ariengil said this than an arrow was shot between the three and Ariengil shouted `Hide.' The two girls jumped behind a boulder and the man ran away, only to be shot down dead straight away.
As Ariengil looked back again, she was sure she saw a lady bending down and picking up the man's sword, but once she blinked again, Ariengil saw nothing and no one.
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