Happy for the reprieve, and dying to speak to their old friend, Aldariel and Deliphy dragged Layiwen away at the first opportunity.
” What are you thinking?!” Deliphy yelled. Aldariel’s heart echoed her sister’s sentiment.
” Well, this is a fine greeting.” Layiwen shot back. Deliphy backed down.
” I’m sorry, Layiwen, I just…” her voice trailed off. Aldariel stepped in.
” Layiwen, tell us what has happened since we last saw you.” Layiwen described her coming home to Lorien with Farand and his army after Deliphy and Aldariel had departed from the Golden Wood. She had come across him and his men at the edge of the great forest of Lothlorien. Farand had been struck by a stray arrow. As she passed by, his men, perceiving she was an elf, pleaded with her to heal him. She immediately set out to do so. Over a month’s time, she diligently cared for the Captain and at the same time, they fell in love. Farand told Layiwen of his mission, so she led him to Lorien. The Lorien elves would not help Rohan.
Discovering that Aldariel and Deliphy had already left Lorien, she opted to help the Captain find the Leafer Kingdom and seek help. When Layiwen finished her tale, there was a long silence before Aldariel asked,
” Are you so sure of the choice you have made Layiwen? To marry him would mean to lose your immortality” Layiwen answered softly, ” I have nothing but thanks that I am descended from Dior, and I can make this choice, the choice of the half-elven. I would count my life for naught if I denied this love.”
” Then we will support you.” Deliphy said with tears in her eyes.
” It would be selfish of us to ask you to give this up,” Aldariel said, voice quavering, “We will be there for you no matter what befalls you.”
“Thank you. You don’t know what it means to have the support of my closest friends,” Layiwen said, trembling. The three of them embraced.
Legolas thought he had looked for Aldariel everywhere when he finally saw her walking toward the palace gardens.
He called as he rushed to catch up. She hesitated and half-turned as he drew nearer. Legolas noted her tear-stained face and it filled him with concern and protectiveness. That in itself bothered him. I have known her but a few hours. Why do I already feel these emotions? He pushed his thoughts away.
“What has happened?” He inquired, ” You just took off after the visitors came, and I can see that you’ve been crying.”
She raised those dark eyes to him and he could sense an inward struggle taking place. And when Aldariel finally decided to tell him, it sounded as though the words were wrenched out of her.
“They are tears of both sadness and mirth.” She said quietly.” It seems that my dear friend has finally found someone she deems worthy of her love. This fills me with joy. But she has fallen for a mortal, and this fills my heart with grief, although I would be selfish by asking her to give up true happiness.”
“You speak of Captain Farand and the elf from Lorien, do you not?” Legolas asked. Aldariel nodded. ” You and your sister seem to be very good friends with this maiden.” Legolas said.
Aldariel looked at him with surprise at the tone he had used. He had almost sounded wistful.
” But it seems to me that this is not the only thing that bothers you.” Shock made itself evident on Aldariel’s smooth features. The sound of the courtyard bells saved her from having to give him a response.
“That is the bell. Father has summoned a council meeting!” she exclaimed, suddenly conscious that she had been gazing into Legolas’ bright blue eyes. She took off at a run toward the palace courtyard. After a moment of confused hesitation, Legolas followed.
As Aldariel reached the sunlit clearing, she noticed that only people of importance were gathered there. Ornately carved wooden chairs sat in a semicircle around a silver throne. She picked out Layiwen and Deliphy. The former was sitting next to Farand. Aldariel took a seat next to her sister. Legolas sat on Aldariel’s other side. She was of a mixed mind about that. Legolas was fun to be with, but she was upset at herself and a little disturbed because of her earlier actions. Her thoughts were interrupted as her father took his seat. Silence fell on the council.
” I have thought about Captain Farand’s request for help.” Maliphy said, weighing his words carefully. ” I have considered many factors in the making of my decision.”
Aldariel got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“I have decided that we cannot help you, Captain of Rohan.”
Farand visibly slumped in his seat. Layiwen leaned in to comfort him. Aldariel made up her mind; she had to speak out. She stood up.
” This is not a fair decision.” She said boldly. The crowd began to murmur. Maliphy’s face darkened.
“You are in enough trouble already, young lady. It is not your place to question my authority!”
” It is my place to question your moral judgment however, Father.” Aldariel said, standing tall. Even more murmuring was heard. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Deliphy and Layiwen come to stand beside her. ” Father,” Aldariel continued pleadingly, ” Just because these are the Secondborn asking for help does not mean that you should turn your back on them.” Maliphy glared at the threesome.
“Fine.” He said, ” I will give leave for any volunteers to join the Captain and his army. Whoever wishes to join, they may step forward now.”
Aldariel, Deliphy, and Layiwen remained standing. Farand and the officers who had come to the council also stood up. Farand clasped hands with Layiwen and smiled supportively at her. Aldariel once again felt a lump in her throat, but attempted to ignore it. When they saw that their Princesses supported the Men, a dozen elves stood up. Last of all, Legolas deliberately stood up and walked to Aldariel’s side. Deliphy nudged Layiwen and grinned. Aldariel tentatively smiled at the handsome Prince. He returned it with a dazzling one of his own, leaving her with a funny feeling in her chest.
Maliphy gazed at the volunteers and swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat at the thought of his precious daughters going into danger again. He lifted his head with what he hoped was an expression of passiveness.
” Supplies will be given to you shortly. May the Valar be with you and protect you.” As they were leaving, Deliphy and Aldariel both turned back and met his eyes, their gazes telling him that they hadn’t been fooled by his false bravado. Their eyes were filled with understanding and love as they faded into the trees.
Layiwen brushed a strand of hair away from her face as she finished tethering Arahir. She was turning to gather some forage when she bumped smack into Farand. He smiled at her.
“Camp is almost set, so I decided to see what you were up to.”
” I was just spending time with the man in my life.” She teased, and just for good measure, she patted the stallion’s neck. Farand reached up and covered her hand with his.
“Don’t forget who gave you the man in your life.” His eyes twinkled. Layiwen became serious,
” I never could.” She said softly. They held each other’s gaze until the moment was broken by an impatient snort from Arahir.
” All right boy,” Layiwen laughed, “I’ll go get you some food.”
Aldariel and Deliphy were busy setting up their tent. Deliphy straightened up after tying the last knot. Looking around, she noticed they were the first ones done. Following her sister’s train of thought, Aldariel commented dryly,
“Well, we have lived in a forest our whole lives.” Their conversation was interrupted as Legolas suddenly appeared at Deliphy’s side.
” Would you quit that!?” Aldariel exclaimed.
“Hey he’s even better at doing that than you are, Aldariel.” Deliphy commented.
” Me?” Aldariel asked with mock indignation.
” I hate to interrupt,” Legolas intervened, ” But I came to ask Deliphy for some help gathering firewood. I need to talk to her.” Aldariel felt an unwanted pang of jealousy, but smiled and said with false cheerfulness,
” Sure, we’re pretty much finished here.”
“Thanks,” Legolas said and graced her with another smile. Deliphy’s gaze was doubtful as she was leaving. Why can she always see right through me? Aldariel wondered somewhat bitterly as the two all but disappeared from sight. A hand touched her shoulder and she turned to meet Layiwen’s concerned eyes.
“Well, I guess I’ll go hunting.” Aldariel said brusquely. Layiwen nodded as if she expected Aldariel to do just that. Aldariel walked in the opposite direction Legolas and Deliphy had taken, leaving Layiwen silently watching her.
When they had walked a half-mile from camp, Deliphy decided to set the arrogant elf in his place.
” Look,” she started, stopping in her tracks ” I’m already taken.” Legolas turned to see if she was actually serious, seeing she was, he burst out laughing.
“I don’t see what’s so funny about this.” Deliphy glared, crossing her arms.
” You actually think that’s what I wanted to talk to you about? Why I brought you here?” Legolas asked, still highly amused.
” Why else would you have?” Deliphy asked, becoming more and more confused. Legolas’ smile transformed into a slight frown.
” I have brought you out here so I could ask about your sister,” He said, looking back toward camp. ” I wanted to know why she doesn’t trust me.” Deliphy stared.
” Why don’t you ask her?” She inquired. Legolas shifted uncomfortably,
” Well, I more or less did, but we were interrupted, so she had no chance to answer.” He looked thoughtful. ” But truth be told, I don’t think she would have answered me anyway.” Deliphy nodded and said,
” That’s a pretty good observation.”
“Please tell me what happened,” Legolas pleaded urgently, “I want to be her friend, to help her, but I must know what caused her to act this way.” Deliphy looked in, no through his eyes.
” All right,” she said finally ” I trust you.” She took a deep breath and continued, ” When Aldariel and I lived in Lorien, we both fell in love. Aldariel was blissfully happy, but the one she loved didn’t feel the same way, and betrayed her. He led her on, while at the same time, he was involved with someone else. Aldariel found out, so she confronted him. He said a lot of hurtful things. Aldariel was completely crushed.” Deliphy paused.
” So that is why she does not trust me,” Legolas said, clenching his fists.
” She feels that if the one she loved above herself betrayed her, who can she trust?” Deliphy said sadly. ” Don’t take it personally. I think the only people Aldariel really trusts are Layiwen, Father, and myself.”
Legolas looked as if he wanted to say something, but a crashing noise redirected his attention. Layiwen burst into the clearing.
” We’re under attack!” She said, wild-eyed and breathless.
“What?” Deliphy asked incredulously as hoof beats announced that Layiwen’s departure hadn’t gone unnoticed. She barely had time to draw her sword before a group of Wildmen and orcs rode in on horses and wolves. There’s way too many of them. Legolas thought desperately. Looking to his left, he saw Deliphy and Layiwen fighting valiantly, but they were completely surrounded by orcs. Using his knives, he slashed through a couple of Wildmen to get into a position where he might aid the maidens. Unfortunately, dispatching his immediate foes only brought more to take their place, and Legolas soon found himself in a similar predicament to Deliphy and Layiwen.
Legolas ducked and a heavy sword swung over his head, barely missing. Turning, Legolas slashed open the man’s throat. As he turned back, something dawned on him. They’re trying to keep me away from Layiwen and Deliphy, he thought in alarm. He shouted a warning to the elves. Layiwen turned, and in that instant, everything went horribly wrong. An orc closed in and swung his sword down on Layiwen. Out of nowhere, Deliphy leaped in and blocked it, but, in the process, she tripped and fell to the ground. The Wildmen on horses galloped toward her as she attempted to right herself. Layiwen flung one of her knives in an attempt to protect Deliphy. It buried itself in the closest man’s eye, knocking him off his horse. As he fell dead, another came from behind and grabbed Deliphy, pulling her up onto the horse.. In a whirl of skirts, Layiwen ran after her, stopping momentarily to retrieve her knife. She never saw the blow coming, but suddenly something heavy hit her in the back of the head, and the world faded to black.
Legolas watched in horror as first Deliphy, then Layiwen, were captured by the bandits. He had tried his best to get to them, but there were too many orcs and Wildmen surrounding him. With his attention diverted, several had made quick use of their swords, slashing deep wounds on his arms and back. Then. Just as suddenly as the fight had begun, the bandits pulled back, taking off into the woods, leaving Legolas dazed and horrified. He had not known Layiwen and Deliphy for long, but he already considered them friends. And Aldariel…what would she say? And what about Farand? If anyone in camp is still alive, Legolas thought with a lump in his throat.
“Aldariel…” He said weakly. Heedless of his wounds, he blindly stumbled in what he thought was the direction of camp.