Mandy turned slightly, her eyes closed. She was dreaming again, but her lips smiled slightly, parting as if she was laughing.
She saw Eldarion sitting up, taking his first tentative crawls. She laughed out loud as Aragorn scooped him up, tossing him up into the air. She saw Arwen laughing with them, sitting on the grass. Then the dream turned, and Mandy saw her real parents. They were even more careworn and weary. She watched as her dad came home from work, his eyes tired. Her mom had more gray hairs than Mandy remembered, and they both looked far older than their ages.
Mandy rolled over, moaning a bit. Her face was wincing, as if in pain.
Mandy limped up to her house, someone helping her along. She couldn’t see his face and didn’t know who it was. Her parents raced out and hugged her joyfully, her mom crying. The person with her stayed back until she motioned for him to come up. She watched as her parents talked with him and situated him in the guest room. Mandy walked up the stairs of her house with her dad helping her and entered her room. She saw it just as she had left it that morning she went running. Her bed was still unmade, her brush on the floor where she dropped it. She saw the posters of all her favourite actors, bands, and movies; her row of DVDs on the top shelf of her bookcase, her many books on the other shelves. Mandy turned to her desk and saw the college applications, the top one being to Oxford. She turned to the small shelf that sat gently nudged into the corner. In it were her many stories and poems she had written over the years for the school papers and friends. She smiled as she saw the disheveled mess of it, all of her stories and poems scattered everywhere but carefully bound together so they wouldn’t mix.
Mandy suddenly saw the painting her friend had done for her birthday. She peered closer at it and saw a man in shining gold armour with a sword drawn. On His head was a crown of thorns and on His hands and feet were scars: He was bathed in sunlight. It was a drawing of her Lord. Mandy gently put out a hand and traced his face, her eyes brimming in tears. She glanced over at her Bible, which was open to a passage. She leaned close and read this verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Mandy jumped awake, her face soaked in tears. She shook slightly, glancing around the room. She breathed deeply, wiping her eyes. She got up, pulled on a light robe, and walked out of her room. Mandy breathed in the crisp autumn air of Lorien. She walked down the stairs, her eyes gazing about the many Mallorns lit with light. She wandered into the clearing which still had lanterns hanging from the trees, softly lit. Mandy sat down in the midst of the roots of one large Mallorn, her arms hugging her knees.
“Lord,” she murmured, “why did I dream that? Are you ever going to take me home again? I don’t know what to do. I love everyone here and just being here…Lord it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The Elves, Father…I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to go back…I know that’s a wrong thing to say, but I’ve grown to love it here. The places, the people…” Mandy struggled to hold back the tears, “but I can barely remember what my parents look like. I…I can’t picture my mom’s face very well…it’s faded, like a dream. I’ve been in Arda for two years, Father. How long has that been on earth?” Mandy held her face in her hands, “God…how long have I been gone?! Why did you bring me here? Why am I here? Why did I have to meet Legolas and fall in love with him! Father! If I go back I will never…never see him again. God…help me. Help me remember.” Her heart cried out to God in anguish as she struggled to remember her parents and friends. Mandy sobbed, her whole body shaking with them.
Lord Celeborn walked the path towards the clearing, his eyes taking in the stars. Suddenly he heard crying. He walked softly and saw a lone figure in the clearing. He knew immediately that it was Mandy. He saw her shaking with sobs, her lips moving silently. Celeborn wondered whether or not to approach her, and seemed to hear a still voice urging him to approach her. He walked silently towards her.
“Lady Aarien?” he asked quietly.
Mandy’s head came up sharply, and he knew he had startled her.
“Lord Celeborn,” she rose to her feet, wiping at the tears on her face, “I did not expect to see–“
“I did not expect to see you here either,” Celeborn said, his mouth tipping slightly, “why are you not in bed asleep?”
“I couldn’t–” Mandy stopped and swallowed hard, “I couldn’t sleep, M’lord.”
“I see,” Celeborn smiled sadly, “was it your dreams again?”
Mandy looked at him in surprise and then nodded. “I dreamed about my real parents…” she muttered half to herself, “and I can’t remember what they look like anymore…I don’t know if I want to go home or not. I feel so at home here…”
“Aarien,” Celeborn placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, “you have a Protector. He is the One. He has never abandoned you.” He looked at her, “Do not think that He has lost control over what happens to you. He has not. He has never left you, nor will He. Do not lose hope.”
“Thank you, M’lord,” Mandy said, crying softly. She felt at rest, as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders, “Thank you, Father.” She murmured quietly.
Celeborn led her down the path. “To bed, m’lady,” he laughed, “you have a new journey to begin tomorrow.”
“Mirkwood…” she said softly, her heart filling with a sadness she could not explain. She stood and gazed out at Caras Galadhron, hearing light laughter and voices. Mandy suddenly felt a longing for her home and parents; and she instantly knew that she could never be truly at home in Middle-earth, that she would always have a longing for her real home and parents. She sighed and crawled beneath the sheets, thinking of Mirkwood. As Mandy pictured what she knew of Mirkwood in her mind, she felt a sharp pang of unease, as if she had left and would not be returning. “A new journey,” she mused thoughtfully, “or the end of one?”
Mandy saddled Ilma quietly, her motions mechanical as her mind wandered. Suddenly she was aware of Elwen waving her hand in front of her eyes.
“Wake up, Aarien,” Elwen laughed, “where were you?”
“Nowhere,” Mandy’s lips curved upward in a slight smile, “just thinking.”
“Well we have to get going,” Ohtarwen grinned at her.
“Very well,” Mandy rolled her eyes, “just let me say farewell to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel.”
“Of course,” Tethcelebel nodded, “we will be waiting.”
Mandy felt oddly sad as she walked up to the Lord and Lady. Lord Celeborn smiled at her, grasping her hand.
“I am glad you came to the festival, and I hope you had a good time,” he told her, “And I hope you have thought on what we talked about.”
“Yes, m’lord,” Mandy smiled, “I am in your debt.”
“Think nothing of it,” he brushed her cheek with his hand, his eyes strangely sad, “Go with the grace and protection of the Valar.”
“Hanta lle,” Mandy murmured and turned to Lady Galadriel. Mandy said nothing, only clasped her hand, knowing that Galadriel could see her thoughts.
“Thank you, m’lady,” Mandy thought, “Your words brought great comfort and help to me.”
“I have a few more, Mandy Elen Scott,” Galadriel placed her hand on Mandy’s face. Mandy shook at hearing her real name after two years of not hearing it.
“You will be going back soon. I have seen it. Do not think He has forsaken you, Child. He has His hand on you more than any other person I have known for many ages. Trust in Him and all will be well.” Galadriel kissed her brow in farewell, “I do not know if I will see you again. It is not for me to say. Farwell, Daughter of the King. May the grace of Illuvitar protect you.”
“Thank you, Lady Galadriel,” Mandy said tearfully, embracing her, “I will miss you.”
“Go in peace,” Galadriel said softly.
Mandy turned and mounted her horse. She followed after the others slowly, turning to watch Caras Galadhron fade into the distance. She suddenly knew she would never come to Lorien again. Her heart ached as she watched the City disappear. All of a sudden Mandy was aware of the other girls’ laughter and chatter. She paused on Cerin Amroth, giving one last farewell and longing look at the heart of Elvendom on earth, and then hurried to catch up with the others.
“What is wrong, Aarien?” Tethcelebel asked frankly, “You have been downhearted this whole journey.”
“Hm…” Mandy glanced up at her, “nothing is wrong. I…I am just thinking on different things.”
“I see,” Tethcelebel did not press the matter and tactfully changed the subject, “we are no more than two days journey from Mirkwood.”
“Mirkwood,” Mandy said almost with hate, “I do not know if I will ever return there after this.”
“Peace,” Elwen interjected, “you have not been to my father’s house. We will see how you like Mirkwood after the feast!”
“I am sorry, mellonnin,” Mandy smiled wearily, “I do not have fond memories of your home. I hope to change that soon.”
“Don’t worry, you will,” Ohtarwen smiled, “Mirkwood is no Lorien (and I do not mean that in a bad way!) but it is a home of the Elves nonetheless. You will enjoy it, I think.”
“I hope so,” Mandy answered vaguely.
“I’ll make sure you will like Mirkwood by the time we leave,” Elwen said vehemently, then smiled, “After all, I promised to practice with you if you ever came,” her grin turned mischievous, “Besides, what happens if you decide to live there?”
“Why would I decide to live there?” Mandy asked, an eyebrow raised.
“Well, if you ever were to marry her brother…” Ohtarwen joined in the teasing.
“What?!” Mandy glanced at her in shock.
Elwen burst into laughter, “You walked right into that one, Aarien,” she teased.
Mandy rolled her eyes. “Alright, so I did,” she conceded.
“Come, let’s get some rest before we continue on,” Tethcelebel calmed the group, “Ohtarwen you get first watch.”
Ohtarwen nodded and pulled her cloak around her as the others stretched out in various areas around the fire and fell asleep.
“Wake up, sleepies!” Ohtarwen laughed, nudging Elwen with her foot, “The stars are shining and it is time to go to visit Mirkwood.”
Mandy groaned, rolling over. She leaped awake as water came down on her. She jumped up, shaking water out of her eyes. She saw Tethcelebel laughing, a dripping bucket in her hand.
“Celebel!” Mandy yelled, glaring at her from under soaked tendrils of red hair.
“What? You weren’t awake,” Tethcelebel chuckled.
“Hm…” Mandy looked at her, her eyes twinkling, “well in that case.” She suddenly shoved Tethcelebel into the river, “you need to go for a swim.”
Tethcelebel spluttered as she came out of the river, “I do not!” she growled, shaking hair out of her eyes.
“Really?” Mandy grinned, “I got you back.” She rolled up her blanket laughing. Tethcelebel rolled her eyes and continued getting her things together.
“Come on,” Elwen said, her eyes alight with the thought of being home soon, “let’s hurry. The feast starts tomorrow!”
They mounted their horses. The girls allowed their horses to pick a path through the river as they chattered softly. Mostly they told Mandy of the times they had stayed at Mirkwood and the different ways they, along with Legolas, had gotten into trouble. Mandy listened half-heartedly: her eyes grew worried as they approached the forest. She urged Ilma closer to Elwen as they passed into the forest.
“Are you afraid?” Elwen asked as Mandy suddenly appeared beside her.
“No.” Mandy said, and then glanced quickly around as she heard scratching sounds from the trees.
“If you are not afraid,” Elwen started when Mandy jumped as Ilma sidestepped a hole, “then why are you so jumpy?” Elwen eased Roch by murmuring soft words to him as she glanced at Mandy, her gaze piercing.
“Can I help it if I dislike spiders?” Mandy almost spat back, but then her face softened, “I am sorry. Yes, I am afraid….a little. I have no peace in Mirkwood. I cannot but help thinking about…” she stopped, her eyes growing dark.
“We will not speak of it,” Elwen placed a hand on her arm, “and do not worry, no spiders will attack you while we can help it.” suddenly she grinned, “besides, you have your bow and sword now.”
“You are right,” Mandy grinned back, giving Elwen a friendly punch on the arm, “Hurry. I want to see your home.”
hi all!! did you like it?? it is a more relaxing chapter…and kinda just letting you know how Mandy’s feeling at the moment. hope you enjoyed it!!
thanks to everyone who is reading this! you guys are really awesome!