THREE DAYS OF DARKNESS
For three endless days that were as long as years, night covered the land of Rohan. The dark was so thick it could almost be felt. The villagers could do no work, for they had no light to see by. The people were isolated in their homes, for only the boldest dared venture forth to ask a neighbor for any food or supplies they needed. Then they would creep out of their houses, heavily cloaked, clutching a candle in a trembling hand and gripping the clammy hilt of a sword in the other.
Everyone wondered what was going on in the East. Many whispered that Mordor must have conquered and wondered what doom was close at hand.
Miriel and Rolande huddled together in the darkness, their faces pale and drawn. They spoke little and ate almost nothing; Miriel would not have eaten anything except for Rolande constantly forcing small meals on her although he could hardly bring himself to pick at a little stew. They paced the floor in the weak light humbly offered by a weary yellow candle. They gave away all they could spare to anyone who showed up at their door, and offered brave but empty words of encouragement.
Miriel slept very little. Rolande ordered her to try and rest while he kept watch, but Miriel would wake with a sudden start out of some evil dream and spend the night sitting wrapped in her cloak and trembling by the eastern window.
Silent prayers barely escaped her lips. Days and nights melted together. Miriel lost all track of time. Her heart forgot that daylight had ever existed. The darkness seemed to blot out hope, clutching at the throats of Men and stealing their breath away.
Suddenly a shaft of light pierced the endless twilight. Miriel leapt to her feet and wrenched open the door. The sun shore aside the thick black clouds, and brilliant orange and golden rays streamed down upon the land. People were slowly coming out into the daylight, shading their eyes and giving exclamations of wonder and cautious delight, as if they had never before beheld the dawn.
In a single bound Miriel was off the threshold and running up the path. Rolande dashed to the doorway.
“Miriel!” he shouted, but Miriel did not heed him. She raced ever upward, her gray cloak fluttering and snapping behind her, and Rolande followed in her wake, trying to catch up.
At last Miriel reached the hilltop and looked out, and nearly lost her balance as the ground shook violently from the force of another earthquake. Miriel gasped as she stared toward Mordor.
Lightning split the skies that were red with fire and black with smoke. Thunder rolled across the plains. Explosions shattered the horizon with blazing yellow light. Miriel’s eyes went wide with horror as she watched.
“Something terrible is happening!” Miriel cried above the tumult as Rolande came up puffing.
“Yes, but what?” panted Rolande, seeing the terrible spectacle for himself.
Miriel turned and ran blindly down the hill. She was heading for the stables.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out!”
“Wait! Where are you going?” Rolande shouted, plunging after her. But Miriel was already far ahead, and by the time he burst into the barn, Miriel had thrown a saddle over Kaspir’s back and was tightening the girth.
“Are you crazy?” cried Rolande, at her side in an instant. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’ve got to go to him,” Miriel muttered without looking at Rolande.
“You’re insane,” exclaimed Rolande. He grabbed Kaspir’s bridled head and gripped it firmly. “You can’t go out there! I won’t let you!”
Instantly Miriel spun and faced Rolande. An angry light shone in her steel gray eyes.
“Why not?” she snapped. “Legolas is out there. He needs me!”
“What can you possibly do to help him?” Rolande shot back.
“More than I can staying here!” Miriel retorted. Then she sighed and made an effort to control herself, and she continued in a quieter, more diplomatic tone. “I’ve been away from him too long, Rolande. I’ve been sick with worry and I can’t wait any more. I should have gone to him sooner. I have to leave, now.”
Rolande looked desperate.
“What about the people?” he cried, waving a hand vaguely in the direction of the village. “What about the rebuilding of Rohan?”
Miriel smiled at him gently and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“You take over for me, Rolande.”
Fury flamed in Rolande’s face.
“I won’t leave you!” he returned hotly, tearing away from her grasp.
“You must!” argued Miriel. “Someone needs to stay and protect them!”
“Someone needs to protect you!”
Miriel lost her composure. “I don’t need protecting! I can take care of myself!” Miriel shouted back.
Rolande bowed his head and glared holes in the floor. He was silent for a long moment. At last he sighed, and when he spoke again, his voice was fell and determined.
“I won’t leave you, Miriel, and that’s final. If you are set on leaving, I’m going with you. Give me ten minutes and I’ll be right behind you.”
Miriel stood still as stone, staring at him without emotion. Finally she nodded.
“Very well,” agreed Rolande, and he sounded greatly relieved. “That’s settled. We’ll go together.”
And with that he shot out of the barn. Miriel stood alone in the sudden quiet and turned to Kaspir.
“I guess we’ll be having company,” Miriel said as she stroked her horse. Kaspir nickered and nuzzled her, and a smile passed over Miriel’s face.
By the time Rolande returned, lugging two heavy brown sacks on his shoulders, Miriel had Rolande’s gray horse saddled and waiting. Rolande threw a sack over Kaspir and another over his own mount.
“I’ve got food and other supplies,” he explained as he secured the bundles. “It will be a three- or four-day trip to Gondor, so I brought enough to last us that long. I placed a village elder in your stead in our absence and issued orders to the guards. Everyone should be fine.”
Miriel smiled gratefully as Rolande helped her onto Kaspir’s back.
“Thanks, Rolande. You’ve thought of everything. I couldn’t have done this without you.”
Rolande shot her a wry glance. “I can’t believe you were going to,” he retorted.
Rolande mounted his horse and they rode out of the stable and into the daylight. Several people ran after them to see them off. Soon Miriel and Rolande reached the edge of town and were on their way. The village and the crowds that had come out to bid them farewell faded into the distance.
The horses cantered freely over the golden grasses and the soft breeze blew away the last remaining shreds of the ugly black clouds from the sky. Miriel’s spirits lifted and she looked back at Rolande.
“I feel lighthearted, as if all is well,” she commented.
Rolande nodded. “If the Shadow has prevailed, it sure doesn’t seem like it at this moment,” he replied.
Miriel’s face went grim as she turned and stared straight ahead.
“Only time will tell,” said Miriel quietly.
If you’re in a great hurry to know what happens next, you don’t have to wait. The entire 30-chapter ebook entitled Miriel: Princess of Rohan can be downloaded at www(dot)talesofmiddleearth(dot)com.
Chapter One: A QUIET EVENING
Chapter Two: RED SUNSET
Chapter Three: THE GLITTERING CAVES OF AGLAROND
Chapter Four: THE BATTLE OF HELM’S DEEP
Chapter Five: FATE’S ARROW
Chapter Six: LEGOLAS
Chapter Seven: ON THE CAUSEWAY
Chapter Eight: A RING AND A PROMISE
Chapter Nine: ROLANDE
Chapter Ten: TROUBLED HEARTS
Chapter Eleven: THE PELENNOR FIELDS