The Undying Lands - to Gondor (part 25)

Quietly Nárfin crept down from the tree and left the forest. She had contemplated confronting Thaliondil but had decided against it- he should speak to her first. Humming happily to herself, she skipped back to the elves and met with Dînhith and Tiuka.

Presently Thaliondil came back into the clearing, looked at Nárfin unhappily, and then headed towards Beleg. Nárfin smiled to herself, happy that she knew of Thaliondil's feelings- she could wind him up a little first. It would be funny to see, she thought.

Slowly Nárfin's thoughts slipped back to reality and she listened to the conversation. As usual, Tiuka was complaining. This time it was about walking.

`Why do I have to walk? It's not fair. I don't want to, I'm not used to walking. Why did Ariengil and Nieninque get to ride? Why couldn't I?' she continued in this way, always asking questions which Dînhith rarely answered, she just smiled and nodded in a bemused way. Once more, Nárfin found her thoughts drifting.

She daydreamed of Thaliondil and her together properly, even at a wedding. Nárfin sighed deeply and snapped out of her dreams only to find that she was staring directly at Thaliondil. Blushing bright red, she turned to Tiuka and pretended to be suddenly interested in the conversation- now about how annoying the heat was.

Thaliondil and Beleg walked towards the girls. Tiuka was abruptly quiet as she saw Beleg and she stared at him with wishful eyes. He, however, ignored her and took Dînhith's hand.

Leaning close to Dînhith, Beleg murmured something meant for only her to hear. She giggled and looked into his eyes. They kissed gently, to Tiuka's utter disgust and regret, and then walked off, hand in hand to sit down by a tree.

Thaliondil turned to Nárfin. `Nárfin can we talk, please?' he asked softly. The very words made Nárfin's heart tremble with excitement, but she held her head up high.

`Of course. Is there a certain topic you wish to talk about? Tiuka is a very good talker,' she replied.

`The matter is a little more private,' he whispered back as his eyes flicked between Nárfin and Tiuka. Tiuka knew she was not wanted and walked off with a sigh. Nárfin looked after her distractedly, worried that she would actually have to talk about her feelings to Thaliondil.

`Nárfin-' Thaliondil was cut off by a tall elf talking to everyone.

`Gentlemen, and ladies,' he added, `we will set off now, to arrive in Gondor as soon as possible. We have found that we have a shortage of food... unless some of you are willing to eat what a Harschnak eats- salted, raw meat...' Many groans and complaints were heard, so he continued. `I thought as much. So... We have enough lembas to feed the army for about a week, but very little water.

`We will find berries and, hopefully, streams along the way. Please march at a steady pace, so as not to tire yourselves, and never wander alone.

`Gentlemen, I will be expecting you to court the ladies- three women between around sixty men won't be hard, so look after them well.' With that, many men cheered, turned to the three ladies and bowed. Tiuka blushed red; although Dînhith hadn't noticed- she was busy talking to Beleg. Nárfin nodded in thanks, but Thaliondil drew himself up tall as though he was Nárfin's protector.

Nárfin smiled at Thaliondil as the elves turned around again and busied themselves with clearing the forest. Nárfin, too, grabbed her pack and scurried around, trying to look busy by picking up anything that had fallen on the floor.

Thaliondil, upset that Nárfin had left so quickly, followed her and helped pick up objects. They both stopped where Nieninque had fallen, for they had both seen something on the floor.

Both elves leant down to pick up the object, seemingly a necklace, and hit their heads on each other's. Laughing slightly, but rubbing their heads, they stood up again and apologised. Then, once more, they leant down again.

Nárfin reached the necklace first and put her hand around it. The two stood up slowly, but halfway there, their noses knocked and they stopped again. Slowly Thaliondil inclined his head and placed his lips on Nárfin's. They kissed romantically before standing up and glancing around to see whether anyone had noticed.

Thaliondil immediately looked towards his sister, but saw that she was busy talking to Beleg. Dînhith and Beleg were lying together on the floor, by a tree, talking in inaudible whispers and every now and again a giggle would be heard from Dînhith, or a deep laugh from Beleg.

Dînhith giggled now and Thaliondil turned to Nárfin, raised his eyebrows and laughed. Nárfin joined in and their laughter echoed across the forest, joy to all those who heard it.

Slowly, all the elves gathered at the forest border and prepared to leave. When everyone was there, they set off towards Gondor. Nárfin and Thaliondil walked together, Dînhith and Beleg walked together, and Tiuka was walking with a nice elf. The company progressed nicely.

Meanwhile, Harma, Ariengil, Nimtheryn, Mereth and Nieninque rode on. Mereth was exceedingly worried about Nieninque- she had not stirred since she had collapsed. He was pretty sure that she was not dead, but could not be sure. Evil thoughts crept into his mind and he thought of life without Nieninque; although he had not known her for long, he had grown to like, perhaps even love, her and did not want her to die.

Harma was concentrating on the view of the splendid country and was wondering which way to ride. He did not notice Ariengil staring at Nimtheryn for ages on end. Each time, though, that Nimtheryn looked back at Ariengil, she would look past him as though she was looking at the forest to his left, or the lake in the distance.

Thoughts troubled Ariengil's mind. *Why is he here? Why has he volunteered to come with us to Gondor? Will anything happen like it did last time I saw him?* But there was another voice in her head, Dînhith's voice, speaking against Ariengil. *It was all in the past. Nothing will happen. Forget it Arri!*

Content that Nimtheryn was the past and he could not trouble her, Ariengil thought of the land to which they were riding. Gondor.

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