Twilight Thunder - Chapter 10
A single tear was slowly sliding from the corner of her eye, and she wiped it away. Three days had passed since the night of Celebrían's rescue, and Arwen still had not recovered from the final mental shock that had shattered even her barrier. Galadriel remembered having been walking towards Arwen's bedchamber when it came. It had felt like she had been struck in the back of the head, for she had fallen to the floor and cried out before she could block it out again.
But Galadriel had been guarding against such occurrences. Arwen had been unprotected, and the shriek she had uttered startled every Elf in Caras Galadhon. It had taken a few minutes for Galadriel to recover enough to rise to her feet and rush into the bedchamber, but Arwen had still been screaming. The nurses tending her had been frightened out of their wits, especially when Arwen had grasped her throat with her free hand and, for several heart-stopping moments, ceased to breathe. Galadriel had pressed a hand to her granddaughter's forehead, focusing all of her power into barricading the psychic cries.
In that moment, Galadriel had seen everything. She saw the yellow-eyed woman with blood trickling from the corners of her mouth stand up and face a charging shadowy figure. She saw the two clash in instantly bloody combat, and felt Celebrían recognize the new arrival, and caught a name: Faye. Faye quickly positioned herself between Celebrían and the woman, and the woman backed off, turning and fleeing from sight. Faye turned to Celebrían and knelt over her, pressing her bloody hand against the bite wound on Celebrían's throat. As Galadriel watched, the skin underneath Faye's hand turned black, and Faye pulled away immediately. The bite wounds were gone, and the blackness quickly stopped spreading. Faye moaned slightly, clearly mourning that she could not help the ailing she-Elf. Then, the look on her face abruptly transformed into fury, and with a deep and terrible growl, she stood and ran off after the shadowy woman. Once the vision vanished, Arwen had started breathing again, almost instantly sinking into a deep sleep from which she had not yet stirred.
Galadriel did not know whether to scream in frustration or cry for joy. Nothing she was doing seemed to be helping her granddaughter, and yet Celebrían was finally safe. Even now, she was on her way to Rivendell, safe in Celeborn's arms and accompanied by her sons. Galadriel had witnessed the rest of the rescue from her mirror. She had made sure that Elrond was aware of the events that had transcended that evening, sensing that the Elf-lord wasn't much better off than his daughter at the time.
Suddenly, there was a low, firm knock on the door.
"Milady?" It was one of her maids. "Milady, I am very sorry to disturb you, but Lord Haldir has returned. He has brought a woman with him, and she appears to be very ill."
Very few events would have made Galadriel leave her bed at that moment, but this was one of them. Slowly she arose, wrapping a cloak around her shoulders and drawing the hood over her head to hide her unkempt hair. Following her maid, the two arrived just as Haldir rode up. The rider that followed him was limp in the saddle, arms grasping the horse's neck for balance. The horse had no bridle, and when a stable-boy tried to slip a rope around the beast's neck, it reared up slightly and stumbled backward, snorting angrily. Haldir dismounted and bowed slightly.
"Celebrían is safe, Lady Galadriel," he said.
"I know," Galadriel replied calmly, her gaze still on his companion. "Who is she?"
"That is Lady Faye," Haldir replied. "She was stabbed by a poisoned blade, and I fear she is growing worse."
Galadriel nodded, seeing the discolored skin around the ailing woman's torso quite clearly. She approached the horse, and it snorted again, pressing its ears back. She could feel the tension in the air as the animal made its hostility known. Suddenly, the woman sat up, and although her skin was the palest pallor Galadriel had ever seen, she dismounted gracefully and remained standing even as she broke the leather girth strap and pushed the saddle off the horse's back. The skin on the horse's back was rubbed bare of fur in several large patches, and there were angry sores along the backbone. The horse sighed deeply, and did not move as the woman took the rope from the stable-boy and slipped it onto its neck.
"Go," the woman said.
Once the horses had been led away, the woman turned to Galadriel and nodded. Galadriel gazed at her curiously, surprised that she seemed to be handling the pain so well.
"I am Faye," the woman began, "the guardian of Lady Celebrían and her family."
"I have heard of you," Galadriel replied. "Our kin in Mirkwood speak very highly and very often of you. But your guardianship seems to have faltered in this case."
Faye bowed her head, clearly catching the meaning of the words despite Galadriel's attempt to keep a straight face and an even tone.
"I will tell you everything you wish to know," Faye replied, wincing slightly and involuntarily putting a hand over her belly. "But I need to see Arwen first."
Galadriel studied the woman she had heard about only in rumor and tall-tales. She could sense Faye's undying love for Celebrían and Arwen, as well as the shame and guilt. After a moment, she let her expression soften.
"Come, Elf-friend," she said, offering a hand. "You need help. I will take you to Arwen as soon as I take care of your wounds."
"No, great Lady," Faye replied, backing away slightly. "I'm sorry, but I cannot wait any longer." She closed her eyes, clenching her teeth. "She needs me."
Galadriel could sense that Faye was not going to be convinced otherwise, and for a moment marveled at the woman's dedication. She smiled.
"Very well," she said. "I will take you to her."
Galadriel guided Faye to Arwen's bedchamber, and upon entering the room and seeing her, Faye started crying.
"Ai, Valar, why did I not listen?" she whispered.
Faye approached Arwen's bedside and lay down next to her, gathering her in her arms and cradling her like she was an Elfling. Although still unconscious, Arwen seemed to relax at that moment, and Galadriel smiled. She knew then that her granddaughter would have no more nightmares.
"You have done well," she told Haldir, who had followed them. "Go now and rest. When Arwen is healed, I will ride to Rivendell, and I will have you accompany us."
"As you wish, Milady," Haldir replied.
He bowed solemnly and departed, and once he was gone Galadriel turned and made her way back to her own chambers. Somehow, she knew she was going to rest very well that night.
* * * * *
A clap of thunder startled Arwen awake, and she quickly sat up in bed, reaching for her nearest stuffed animal and grasping it. A storm had come to the Valley, and she had never liked storms. Rain pounded the glass, and vivid lightning lit up her bedchamber. She winced and whimpered when the second clap of thunder sounded, impossibly close to the lightning that had created it. The storm was right over Rivendell.
Trembling, Arwen slowly slid off her bed, walking quietly into the corridor. She was scared, and for a moment she was tempted to seek out her mother and father, but stopped outside their bedroom door. She didn't know what they'd do, and she didn't want to risk them simply telling her it would be okay and send her back to bed. But her only other option was on the other side of the house, and she didn't want to wander the corridors in the dark.
The next clap of thunder echoed loudly in the corridor, making her jump and start running. She was afraid of the darkness, but she was even more afraid of the storm. She climbed down a flight of stairs, ran around a bend, and arrived at the doorway to a once seldom-used bedchamber. It was smaller than the ones she, her brothers, and her parents used, but the balcony looked out over the gardens and the waterfalls beyond. A single occupant lay sleeping when Arwen entered, and she slowly approached the bed.
"Faye?" she whispered. "Faye?"
Her beloved friend and guardian was awake instantly, sitting up and gazing at her in concern.
"What is it, my child?" she asked.
Lighting flashed, thunder crackled, and realization dawned on Faye's face. She smiled, moving over and pulling back the bedcovers.
"Come on, Arwen," she said, reaching out for her. "There's nothing to be afraid of."
Arwen sighed in relief and climbed into bed, snuggling into Faye's protective embrace. Slowly, the fear melted away, and she relaxed. Faye hummed softly as she ran her fingers through Arwen's hair, and the Elfling sighed.
"Why are you afraid of storms, my child?" Faye asked suddenly.
"They're loud and scary," Arwen replied. "This is the worst one ever."
Faye chuckled, and Arwen looked up at her, seeing the mirth twinkling in her eyes.
"I have seen worse," Faye said. "In the jungle, there were storms that lasted for weeks. They flooded the river and turned my home into a big pond. I had to swing from tree to tree like a monkey just to get around."
Arwen laughed, then frowned, swallowing sudden fear.
"Could our river overflow and turn Rivendell into a pond?" she asked.
"Never, my child," Faye replied with a smile. "My people called the flooding rains `naricse-anethne,' the waters of life. When the rains ended and the water receded back into the river, there were good things left in the soil to nourish the crops. Good hard storms meant a season of plenty afterwards."
"But naricse-anethne won't come here, right?" Arwen pressed, so engrossed in Faye's tale that she had ceased to notice the storm outside.
"Right," Faye replied. "This is the worst that can happen here, and it's almost over now."
Sure enough, the thunder was starting lessen in volume, and the lightning was no longer quite so vivid. The storm was moving off. Arwen sighed and let her eyes slide closed, feeling Faye tuck the blankets around them. In the arms of her powerful guardian, there was no need to fear. She knew Faye was strong enough to protect her from all dangers.
"I love you, Faye," she whispered, snuggling against her.
"I love you, too, my child," Faye replied.
Arwen slowly opened her eyes. It was dark, the air cool and still, but she felt warm and safe. For a moment, she thought she was back in Rivendell, a small child seeking protection against a nasty summer storm. She soon realized that her arm and legs were still tightly splinted, and the rich scent of mallorn blossoms perfuming the air told her she was in Lórien, and she had been having a dream. No nightmares, but a sweet, peaceful dream of an event that had occurred long ago, when she was still a child. Someone lay next to her, holding her protectively, and she recognized the embrace all too well. She smiled, tears forming in her eyes as she looked up and saw Faye.
Faye was fast asleep, breathing so softly that for a moment, Arwen wasn't sure if she was breathing at all. Her hair was unkempt and tangled, her skin the color of bone save for a small purplish patch on her belly, which was visible through a tear in her dress. Dark scars stood out all over her body, evidence of massive injuries sustained only days before. Despite all of this, she slept peacefully, and her touch was warm. Arwen didn't know what happened to her, or how she had suddenly appeared by her side, but she was grateful for her presence all the same. She needed a mother's love, and Faye had been like a second mother to her almost all of Arwen's life. Arwen could barely remember the years before Faye's arrival.
"Ananyé?" she whispered, using the word that meant `mother' in Faye's ancient language.
Like she had expected, Faye was awake immediately, meeting her gaze with a warm smile.
"You've never called me that before," Faye replied, "though many others have believed you did."
"I think you deserve it now," Arwen said, smiling back and grasping Faye with her good arm. "Where did you come from?"
"That is a long story, my child," Faye replied. "One I beg of you to not make me repeat right now. You need your rest, and I need this time to heal."
Arwen knew immediately that Faye was hurting. She knew her well enough to see through the gentle tone of her voice. The tears started to fall harder, and Faye tightened her grip.
"Don't cry for me, my child," she whispered. "I will be fine. You are all the medicine I need."
"But Naneth. . ." Arwen began, then silenced when Faye gently pressed a finger to her lips.
"Celebrían is going to be okay," Faye said firmly. "She's safe now."
Arwen forced herself to relax, closing her eyes. She felt Faye kiss her forehead softly.
"Sleep, my child," Faye whispered. "Dream not of the evils in the world tonight. Everything is as it should be."
Normally, Arwen would not appreciate being spoken to like she was still an Elfling that needed reassurance that the monster under the bed did not exist, but she was too tired to protest. Safe in Faye's embrace, she surrendered herself to sleep.
And that night, she dreamed of the life she once had. A life that, deep down, she knew she would never have again.