The joyful cry erupted from Analsiel’s lips as she ran toward them. Her running was not altogether graceful, and her dress didn’t even have a chance. But she didn’t care. When she reached the high table where her friends sat, Nori was already up and running towards her. The two girls flung themselves at each other. Nori was unprepared for Analsiel’s weakness and they both fell over right onto the polished floor, laughing and choking.
“Nori, how did you get here? What are you doing here? What is either of you doing here?” Analsiel said with a happy glance at Firndil. “Tell me everything.”
“Slowly now,” laughed Nori as she helped to pick up her weak friend. “We came on horseback, and we’re both here with reinforcements for the king’s troops. And actually that is everything!”
The guests all took their seats. Firnciliath and Firndil, as was to be expected from a brother and sister, were so happy to see each other it was almost painful to watch. But Nori and Firnciliath had missed each other too, and Firndil seemed to want to stay with Analsiel. That was fine with her, but what was not fine were the sulky glares that Legolas sent in the direction of their whole group, especially Firndil. Still, Analsiel was the only one to notice, so she didn’t let it worry her.
The queen of Mirkwood was a pale woman with pale hair, pale eyes, and pale skin. Even her dress was white. But her hospitality was genuine, as was the speech she made before the beginning of the meal. She welcomed them officially to Mirkwood, since their earlier entrance had been anything but dignified.
“Welcome to you all. Especially to our royal cousin, King Elessar of Gondor, and to the Ladies of his Queen, Arwen of Rivendell. Also to our own prince, who has returned to us at last. We thank you with our utmost gratitude for your help in our time of danger. And may your stay in Mirkwood be long and happy.”
There was applause after this statement, and then king Thranduil stood. “Welcome again to you all. My lady and I both are forever in your debt for your aid at this time. We would also thank Queen Arwen for sending the extra guard to assist in our battles. This will be a long and difficult fight, but feel that we shall win, if Iluvitar smiles upon our kingdoms. May he bless our endeavors until we are no longer here to see their glory.” Then he sat and called for the feast to begin.
It all went much too quickly for Analsiel. She was taking everything in faster than she ate her food, and still she did not see all that she wanted to see or meet all whom she wanted to meet. Still, it was not that bad, because mostly she talked with her friends from home, asking them about everything she could pry from their minds. She did not feel really homesick until the dinner was over, and all the guests left to return to their respective chambers.
She did not feel like sleeping just yet though. She wandered aimlessly around the palace until she came upon a small balcony that overlooked the gardens and stepped out. It was good to have the wind on her face and feel the warm air. It occurred to her only then that she might never have felt them again if she had not healed so well after the battle with the Orcs. She might have…died. Might never have seen Nori, or Firnciliath, or Astianen or Firndil again. Never felt the sun again. Never felt anything again. Then she thought about home. What about all her other friends? Quelleanon, and Luinduriel, and Vanadar and Arwen. Or Firndil and Nori if they had not come. She could have lost so much so quickly. And at the pit of her stomach she felt a large ache when she thought of never seeing Firndil again. She had not thought about him much since they had left Minas Tirith, because Astianen was not much good when it came to sharing your feelings, and she could hardly talk about Firndil to Firnciliath, as she was his sister. But she remembered the image of him that she had seen in Galadriel’s mirror. He had been writing her name on the mist outside his window. And she had dreamed about him quite a bit while she was unconscious. Strangely, she could remember all of the dreams she had had while she was ill. And he was in almost all of them. Then she was brought back by her thoughts to when she was sick from the healing she had done after the battle. Unbidden, tears began to fall down her pale cheeks until they blurred her vision. Her quiet tears turned to miserable sobs and she sank to the floor of the balcony, exhaustion and sadness taking over her.
Then she heard footsteps behind her. She leapt to her feet, and whirled around, wiping tears from her eyes to see who it was.
He was silhouetted in the light seeping out from the Great Hall and Analsiel couldn’t see his face. Then he stepped towards her and she could see that he was worried about something.
“Analsiel?” he asked quietly as he came towards her. “Are you alright?”
She tried a smile. It seemed to fit onto her face so she kept it there. “I think I am.”
“I…Nori and I know a little about what you did after the Orcs ambushed your party. You know, about healing all the men…” He trailed off.
“Yes, if you are wondering, that really was me.” Analsiel’s smile felt genuine now.
“Oh,” said Firndil. “They also told us about how you were sick for days afterward.”
Analsiel nodded. “I was.”
“Oh,” Firndil said again.
“Well, why were wondering about it?’ asked Analsiel. Her voice was a little bit slow around him, and she was nervous.
“I’m not sure.”
“Would you have been worried?” asked Analsiel, trying to keep the quiver out of her voice.
Firndil was silent for a moment. Then, “Yes, by Eru, of course I would have been worried!”
Then he had walked across the balcony to her and was holding her in his arms. “Don’t ever scare me like that again,” he said, and with that, his mouth was on hers.
Analsiel was pleasantly surprised at his actions. His kiss was sweet and gentle, and she was happy in his hold. Then he let her go. They looked at each other for a moment. The he said, “Goodnight,” and was gone.
Analsiel was quiet for a long time after. She didn’t move, just kept her eyes closed and body still. Then a breeze stirred her hair, and she moved. She opened her eyes, and looked down at the pool in the gardens that was just below the balcony. Her face stared dreamily back at her in a rippling reflection. Her eyes were on fire. Then she looked up at the stars. They were burning too, and it seemed they were brighter than ever before. But at that moment, Analsiel felt more beautiful than all the stars and the moon and the sun.