Analsiel sat quietly in her room, fingering her pendant. It was simple, hung only on a black cord, but the pendant itself was a silver leaf. It was so remarkable, that when the girl had taken it to the jeweler’s for a proper cord and a loop to hang it with, the elf had kept for a quarter of an hour just to examine it. When the man had asked her where she got it, she had had to say that she truly didn’t know.
So now she sat fingering the leaf as she puzzled over its origin. It had come to her in a dream. She had been riding her horse, Carandae, and they seemed to float away form the ground and they had soared in the trees, where leaves exactly like the one she wore around her neck showered down upon them. She smiled at the memory.
She was jerked abruptly out of her reverie by a knock on her door. She had expected everyone to be at lunch, but she got it anyway.
It was the Queen.
“Analsiel,” she said, as she stepped into the room. “I need to talk to you about something.”
Analsiel curtsied. “Of course, your majesty,” she replied.
Arwen took a deep breath before she began. “I have seen you ladies much at all lately. I am sure you have noticed, but it could not be helped. I have been too busy with many things to deal with your lessons, and I’m sorry for it. I have missed you all.” Here the Queen smiled.
“But enough delaying. The point is that what it is that has been consuming my attention is a matter of Orcs in Mirkwood Forest. They have been attacking the elves who remain, and the Men in the area. King Thranduil has sent out a plea for help, as they outnumber his people, and seem to hide whenever they are caught. He has asked for help from my husband. Aragorn is leaving with a dispatch of warriors for Mirkwood in two weeks time. He will not…” the Queen trailed off.
“Yes, Your majesty?” said Analsiel by way of encouragement.
The Queen gave her a weak smile. “He will not allow me to go, but I have asked if I may send a few of my ladies to represent me at his side. He agreed, and specially asked for you.”
Analsiel stared. The King had asked for her to go with the company? He had taught her to use a sword, and given her her first sword. She did not truly want to go, but certainly she owed this man something. “Majesty, I would do anything for you or the king, and will be honored to go on this mission.”
Arwen’s miserable expression lifted. “Thank you,” she said. “Firnciliath will also go with you, and Astianen.” Noting Analsiel hopeful expression, she shook her head. “Norinel will not be going. She was asked, but did not wish to go.”
`Come, it is no so bad,” said the queen, hoping to cheer up the girl in front of her. “You will have a chance to acquaint yourself better with the others. Come to the riding enclosure early tomorrow morning, and we will work on your fighting on horseback. Start thinking about what you’ll need so that we can order it from the tailors. I will pay for everything. Oh, and by the way…Legolas will of course be going, as he is prince of Mirkwood.”
Then, in her usual fashion, she was gone.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Analsiel, Astianen, and Firnciliath bonded in the next two weeks. They were busy all the time perfecting their fighting skills or packing their bags. Analsiel often wondered what Nori thought of it, but she seemed genuinely glad not to be going, and glad that Analsiel was getting closer with the other ladies. So the black-haired girl simply enjoyed herself a she got ready for her first adventure.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was raining lightly the day the company left. King Aragorn rode at the front, with Legolas just beside him. They did not have the flag out, as it would be ruined by the miserable weather, so their exit from the city was not as exciting as they had all hoped. Arwen had come down with a cold, and lay abed, sleeping and reading and writing letters. She had wanted to come say goodbye, but Aragorn didn’t want her to get a worse cold. She had not fought him very hard. Still, Analsiel missed her.
Astianen rode up next to her. “Ready, then?” she asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” was the smooth reply. In truth, Analsiel was not worried. It would be a four-day journey till they reached the dangerous lands, and most of it would be through Rohan, a land she knew like the back of her hand. But lurking somewhere inside her was a fear that things would not be as easy as they appeared.
* * * * * * * * * * *
It rained all that day, and the company stopped at a convenient overhang of cliff to spend the night. It was cold, but completely dry, and there was plenty of firewood. Aragorn and Legolas had a tent that was quite nice, especially as it was waterproof. The ladies settled down to sleep on the ground like the foot soldiers, but were shaken awake by a soldier who told them that the king wanted to see them. Curious, they got up, and stepped into the tent.
Aragorn and Legolas sat at a long table, drinking cups of something hot. Aragorn beckoned the three wet maidens to sit down.
“Ladies, you are all valuable members of this expedition and Legolas desire to keep you up with what we are doing and where we are going. We will have a meeting every time we stop, and we will check our progress. We wanted to start tonight. Please sit down and have something to drink.”
“Now, Aragorn,” aid Legolas as they pulled out the maps. “I still think we should stop in Osgiliath before we continue…”
The women smiled grimly at each other. It was going to be a long night.
In the end, Firnciliath was given a tent for the ladies to sleep in, and they all fell into it immediately, with the gentle patter of rain outside.
At last it was decided that they would not stop in Osgiliath, but would continue around the fearsome Emyn Muil, and the Dead Marshes. Legolas was sulky about it, but he knew it was the best route. The rain continued, as did the company, but their spirits were subdued, and worried.
The women were given bows to use on their journey. Analsiel could not help but let out a groan when she saw her bow. She was not good at archery. Legolas offered to show her some tricks, but she declined after seeing the smile on his face.
The group was wet and dreary by midday, for the rain had started again, and was coming down harder then ever. Carandae did not fade into the misty rain as Astianen’s gray horse, Mornen, did. Neither did Morrhun, the black stallion belonging to Firnciliath. They seemed to shine like powerful beacons to all who observed the procession. Not that anyone did.
Analsiel sat astride her horse, wrapped in a hooded black cloak that was finest Arwen could find. She had specifically asked for black, so as to not be visible in the dark foliage of Mirkwood. She fingered her leaf as she rode, humming to herself a journeying song that had originated she believed in the Shire.
“The road goes ever on and on…”
And it truly did.