Part Twenty Three
Messages and Meanings
“Legolas?” she asked. “Can we talk?”
Legolas looked surprised. “Of course, Analsiel. Come in.”
Analsiel stepped in to the room and looked nervously. These were certainly the dwellings of a prince. The bed was solid ebony, and every surface had something gold, silver, or diamond on it. The room as a whole positively sparkled, but Legolas hardly noticed. Analsiel supposed that living here every day made you…What? Immune to it? Impossible. But now he was looking at her, and she had to say something.
“Legolas, I-” she said. But she choked on her words when he held up his hand. “Legolas?”
“Analsiel, I know you heard me the other day, and I’m sorry if I upset you, but I honestly thought you knew. Everyone else does.” He sounded a bit apologetic, but very patronizing.
“Well, I’m not everyone else, so I don’t know,” she replied, somewhat indignant.
Legolas sighed heavily. “Analsiel, I’m not insulting you. I’m trying to tell you that…I love you.”
Now it was Analsiel’s turn to sigh. “I know, and I am sorry. But Legolas, I…I don’t think I love you!” By now Analsiel was close to tears. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I just don’t love you!”
Legolas looked taken aback. “Oh,” he said blankly. “Oh, I see.”
Analsiel sat up. “You do?” she asked, and even to herself she sounded like a hopeless child.
Legolas nodded. “You love someone else. Firndil, right?”
Analsiel groaned. “No, you don’t understand! I just don’t love anyone! Please, don’t make a fuss about it. I don’t hate you, I just don’t love you. And as for Firndil…nothing more is between us than between me and Elladan or Elrohir. Please understand.”
Legolas nodded again. “Yes, I think I do. But could you please go?”
Two days later found three patrol squads on the march. Mena headed one, Analsiel another and a man named Reliand was in charge of the last one. They were to each ride a separate border of Ithilien, the land bordering Gondor that had been laid waste before the War of the Ring. There had been sightings of Orcs and other foul creatures in the last month or so. So the king had sent out a few parties to deal with them and keep Ithilien safe. Within three days of riding out, the three groups had spilt and gone their different ways.
It had been a hard trek so far. Analsiel’s troop had only a few veterans and all of Arwen’s ladies. Lhunidil was a good hunter, but useless at anything else. Vanadar meant well, but never got things right. Luinduriel was really useless, because she felt too noble to ever help with anything at all, and mostly stayed either on her horse or in her tent. Only Quelleanon, her Elf-friend form long before, and Nori, Astianen, and Firnciliath were of any use at all. But none of them had the discipline Analsiel was used to in the army, and she was worried that she was working them too hard. But there was nothing to be done. They all needed training.
“Firnciliath?” asked Analsiel quietly, as she moved up next to the Elf beside the embers of the fire. “What does Firndil think of me?”
She was shocked that she was asking this question. But after what Legolas had said, she had to know, and she would do well to be prepared by Firndil’s sister before she asked him.
“What does he think of you?” she said in a tone that was meant to absent-minded, but was bordering on the edge of laughter. “He thinks…I don’t know. I believe he loves you, but I can’t be sure-”
She was interrupted by Analsiel’s playful laughter. “Don’t tease me like that. It isn’t fair.”
Firnciliath smiled. “Of course it isn’t fair. But it’s true. He really loves you, he’s just afraid to show it.” Firnciliath’s voice was filled with bitterness, and she seemed almost angry.
Analsiel frowned. “Have I upset you?” she asked.
Firnciliath shook her head. “No, it’s not you. Not really. It’s just that…well, you’re mortal, and he is Elven. There could never be anything between you and him.”
“But look at Arwen and Aragorn,” protested Analsiel. “They love each other, and they’re happy!”
Now tears filled Firnciliath’s eyes. “I know,” she said thickly. “And Arwen gave up everything she had for him! Her home, her immortality, her…her family!”
Suddenly Analsiel saw it all as if she wasn’t herself and only an observer on her life. Firndil loved her, was courting her, and she liked him very much. Maybe even loved him. But Firnciliath, his sister, saw that if he married her, he would have to give up everything he had, including her.
Analsiel was horrified. “No, Firnciliath, please no! Nothing is serious between us, not really. And anyway, do you really think just because he loves me he loves you less? No, you are his sister, and no woman can ever take your place for him! Please…” She trailed off.
Firnciliath looked at her. “I know, but it hurts. He talks about you often, and he always seems so caught up with you and just feel alone. But I know you are right.” The girl’s eyes were full of pain.
Analsiel hugged her friend around the shoulders. “But he still loves you, and so do I. So don’t dwell on the hurt.”
Firnciliath nodded and the two girls sat next to each other, arms around each other’s shoulders as the sun rose.
It had rained on Analsiel’s first command for every day of the two weeks they had been on the border. Her squad’s location was between Reliand and Mena, right in the middle of Ithilien. She had been put here so she would be in the least danger, as she was as amateur, and before she had been glad of it, but now, stuck in this infernal rain, she hated every inch of the safe countryside.
She was doing well with her group though. They all listened to her, all that is, except the ladies. Most of them complained all the way, and would only join in the weapons training if they were doing it in a dry spot. Even Nori refused to come out of her tent on the eighth day of rain. So Analsiel often trudged through the mud alone.
But she didn’t really mind. It gave her a chance to think. She had a lot of things to think about.
But the biggest worry in her camp was that she never saw any fighting, not even a single creature of Mordor. All the soldiers grumbled about it, and they almost seemed to be hoping to have a battle. Analsiel had died in her last battle, so she wasn’t keen to rush into another one. So she told her men all kinds of gruesome stories about war. A few were some she knew from her own experience, a few from the soldiers she knew had known when she fought in Mirkwood, and a few she made up herself. Through all this bloody storytelling, the men became less eager to go to battle, and Analsiel was pleased and calm.
That was why everyone was surprised when a messenger rode in from Reliand’s camp.
He was bleeding, and wheezing, and his horse was dizzy with exhaustion. Analsiel had one of her men bring water and wine, and a healer for the messenger, and had another bring the horse to good hay and a soft stall. Then she took the man into her own tent, called her officers to her, and sat on the chair next to the man.
“What happened?” she asked, as soon as he had drunk all the water. “Tell me!”
His face went blank. “We were attacked. From behind. It was a complete surprise. Not even our scouts noticed.”
Analsiel’s second-in-command, an Elf named Herdil, nodded silently, then spoke. “Was it Orcs?”
The messenger’s face drooped. “No,” he said. “M’lord Reliand thought they was hybrids, of some sort. Blinkin’ fools we was, not to have noticed `em.”
Analsiel stifled a grin. Now that he wasn’t so tired, he had reverted back to his usual way of speaking, without trying to force the words out.
“Go on,” she said.
“Them hybrids,” he said. “They was quiet as mice, and as big as oliphaunts! Kinda’ like Orcs, `cept nastier. M’lord thinks maybe they bred themselves out of them filthy Uruk-hai,” here the man spat on the floor, as if to cleanse his mouth of the taste of `Uruk-hai’, then continued. “And wild beasts.”
The prospect of fighting such creatures sent a collective shiver down the backs of all present. But Analsiel knew she had to alert Mena, who was farthest from Reliand right away. She turned to an old officer named Eoryn.
“Eoryn, you take a man with you and ride like the wind to Mena. She will need to know of this.”
The messenger tried to break in. “Lady, I’m quite capable-“
But Analsiel cut him off. “You are not capable of doing anything more than dragging a mouse at the moment. You will ride easy to the old castle two miles from here. Rest there, and prepare for the return of many wounded. Beds, bandages, medicine…You must see to all these. I will leave behind as many people as I can spare to help you. Now get a fresh horse and go. Be careful.”
The messenger left, mercifully not arguing anymore.
Analsiel turned to her officers. “Gather your units, and meet me back here in 20 minutes. I will take the ladies into my squad. Make sure you have at least two healers in each group, and leave behind one healer for each of you, and one man, to help prepare the castle. Now go, and we shall prepare to ride.”