Earwen broke into a jog and caught up with Meneldil.
“My love, you do not have to hide what knowledge you carry. I also know the news Celeborn told you.” Meneldil slowed his brisk pace. He turned and faced her.
“Did he also tell you that the key to the survival of Earth and it’s inhabitants restes in it’s sheath at your side?” Earwen didn’t answer immediatley and instead stood before him and looked into his eyes.
“Yes. I’m not sure I want to believe it, though. Even the 2000 of my mere 5000 year exsistence spent in the Lord’s tower lent me no clue as to what he had planned. Believe me when I say I was as suprised as you were.”
“Then perhaps you should have payed more attention to the things going on around you during your stay.” His tone was natural, but it was strained and pressed. Somehow his words managed to sting. Earwen drew back slightly. She nodded and brushed past Meneldil. He sighed and followed her.
Earwen, Meneldil and their escorts were passing through a glistening patch of forest now. The trees glowed with the anticipation of the rising Sun. Earwen took in a deep breath of the crisp, cool air. She glanced up at the sky. It was a rich, deep purple, almost as if it, too, were in mourning for the loss of the Lady Galadriel. The leader of their party halted.
“This is were we leave you. Celeborn has arranged for one final parting gift. May your journey be a prosperous one.”
He turned towards the trees on their left. He brought two fingers to his lips and blew a shrill yet musical whistle into the still morning air. A few moments later, a deep black mare pranced onto the road, reins flying as she tossed her head. Her hide glistened with early morning dew that traced glittering paths on her muscular haunches. Waves adorned her flowing tail and mane.
“She is called Gilthoniel after the brave Elf that rescued the weary travelers of the Company. May she carry you well.” He bowed to each of them in turn. He and his companions disappeared into the shimmering leaves of a near by tree. Meneldil mounted Gilthoniel and offered his hand to Earwen.
“Quickly, m’lady. Celeborn advised that we take a small mountain path to the southwest of here. It passes through a rather rough patch of the Misty Mountains, but it is swift and will get us to the the plains of Sunland in a matter of days. There, he told me, is where the Tower stands.”
Earwen took his hand and he pulled her onto the broad, bare back of Gilthoniel. He slipped his arms around her waist and took the reins in hand. He clicked his tongue twice. Gilthoniel took off at a brisk trot.
The two broke through the trees of Lorien just as the Sun was setting to the West that same day. Towering, purple mountains now stood before Earwen and Meneldil. The tops were crowned in mist and the many cliffs and peaks were shrouded in snow, ice and mystery.
“We should set up camp here don’t you think, Meneldil?” asked Earwen.
He nodded to her and dismounted. Earwen swong both legs onto one side of Gilthoniel and leaped off to land lightly on the ground next to Meneldil. Beads of sweat shone on the mares hide and froth had begun to form around the corners of her mouth. She was breathing hard. Earwen ran a comforting hand across her arched neck. She brought the reins around her head and lead Gilthoniel to a trickling stream near by.
Meneldil pulled two blankets out of their packs and layed them side by side. Just then, a terrible shriek broke the unusual silence of the growing darkness. Meneldil cursed under his breath for not thinking to accompany Earwen to the stream. He dropped the pack and quickly grabbed his bow and arrows from the ground.
He crashed through the bushes. Twigs and thorns tore at his leggings, threatening to shread his clothes. He finally broke through to a clearing where he found Earwen gasping for breath next to Gilthoniel, who’s ears were flat against her neck. Both shook uncontrollably. Littered around Earwen were several bodies. They all carried pale greyish skin with a waxy appearance. Hiddeous, yet distant, red eyes glared out at Meneldil. Large leathery wings sprouted from the shoulders of all of the beasts.
Long claws protruded from bony fingers. Their limbs were long and had nobbey elbows and knees. Many were beheaded. Meneldil stopped in suprise and sighed as he realized that they were all dead. Earwen was still poised in the guard position with her sword glimmering in the Moonlight. Her eyes cast about nervously and she turned many times to glance behind her.
Earwen finaly lowered her sword and wipped it clean on the grass, which immediatly shriveled beneath a heavy coat of putrid blood. She sheathed her sword.
“Where have you taken us?” Earwen’s voice was hoarse and barely above a whisper. Her eyes were large. Meneldil slowly approached. He took her in a tight embrace. She relaxed.
“I don’t know what I would do if you were to be killed,” said Meneldil.
“You know I am more capable of taking care of myself than most.” Meneldil chuckled and kissed her gently on the forehead.
“Yes I know that well. Now…come with me. You need your rest.”
He wrapped his arm around her side and she rested her head against his shoulder. They both walked silently back to the camp ground with Gilthoniel following obediently, if not over-enthusiastically, behind. They gingerly stepped over and wound their way through the corpses.
Finaly they reached camp to find what little they had set up completly ruined and torn apart. One of the blankets was ripped into small pieces and was fluttering throughout the trees. Their cooking utensils were thrown in the bushes and their packs were ripped open with contents strewn about the entire clearing.
“Looks like those monsters arrived here right after I left.” Meneldil surveyed the mess.
“Ah! Now what?!” exclaimed Earwen. “Our belongings! And what are we to do for food seeing as all of ours has been eaten?”
“We will have to hunt for our meals like I usually do when on patrol around the borders.” said Meneldil.
Earwen slumped to the ground and toyed with a piece of grass. Meneldil sat next to her and put a reasuring arm around her shoulder.
“At least they didn’t get our horse,” he said encouragingly. Earwen nodded. He stood again and began gathering up what could be salvaged. He put them into the one pack that was the least ripped up and could still carry things.
Earwen joined him in gathering miscellaneous items. Night closed out the last sign of light just as the two finished finding and packing what they could. They lay on the ground and huddled close under one of the blankets. The stars shone brightly for there were no clouds this night. Earwen fell asleep almost as soon as she lay down. Meneldil stay awake for some time later.
He lay there, stroking her hair, for many hours. He heard sounds in the night, but there was no further disturbance. He finaly drifted off into a slumber filled with visions of evil.
The first rays of light crept through the trees and snuck onto Meneldil’s hair and face. He awoke to find that Earwen was gone. He panicked for a moment, but then realized that she mustn’t have gone far after what had happened the night before.
He stood and stretched out the nights aches and pains. He walked groggily to where the small stream was and found Earwen bathing in the middle of it. Her clothes were hung on branches near by. She sat with her back to him. He stood in the shadows for and moment, watching her. Earwen cupped her hands and splashed water on her head.
The Sun danced on the water, throwing glimmering stars of light onto her face. She paused, then turned her head to look directly at Meneldil over her shoulder. She smiled, then continued washing. He smiled back then retreated back to camp. Behind a veil of golden hair, Earwen was secretly bright red. The softness of his eyes was one of his traits that made her stomach knot up.
She quickly dressed then ran back to camp. Meneldil had already packed up and was waiting for her. As soon as he saw her, he jumped from where he sat on a boulder. He climbed onto Gilthoniel who waited next to him. Earwen lept infront of Meneldil and they started off again to the heart of the mountains.
They almost looked more pleasant and welcoming in the oncoming of Evening. Now that the light of day was shinning brightly on the mountains, they were black and foreboding despite the Sun. As the two passed through a gorge at the feet of two massive moutains, they heard a loud roar from one of the nearer peaks. It seemed as though the entire mountain side was crashing down on them. Gilthoniel side stepped an enormous rock as it came hurtling past them.
All around them was white. The air was throbbing with the sound of the snow rushing down the mountain side. Large, thick trees were uprooted and cast aside by the forse of the avalanche. Meneldil kicked Gilthoniel into a gallop and they just barely escaped the grasp of an icy death. They watched from a distance as the avalanche came roaring past them. Meneldil let out a sigh of relief and led Gilthoniel swiftly out of the gourge and onto a seldom traveled road.