From her window, Novarwen could see the troop of Gondorians riding back to Osgiliath. Her heart broke for them, doubly so since they had just returned from the death-trap city that very day. Now, they are riding back, back to what they know will be their deaths. She blinked hard to force unbidden tears back, and gripped the Ainaglin, staring into it. Galadriel’s face swam before her blurring vision. Why is the race of Men so foolhardy? she asked. Why is Denethor sending Faramir to die? Has he any sense left?
None, came the sad reply in her head, except the sense of loss. He longs for Boromir to live again, and he doesn’t know what to do.
Novarwen shut her mind to the bitter words she’d thought about Denethor. Is there anything I can do?
Not now. You will have other battles to fight, and soon. Don’t spend your strength trying to change what must be. Can you practice alone?
I think so, Novarwen said hesitantly.
Then try to see something. Whatever the Ainaglin shows you, remember. It may be important. Galadriel withdrew from Novarwen’s mind smoothly, leaving her alone in her own head. She brushed her fingers over the surface of the Ainaglin, cast one last glance out of the window at Faramir and his soldiers, and wiped her mind clean. She had been practicing that – it paid off as her mind went quickly and easily blank.
Novarwen rolled the Ainaglin between her fingers, staring at the wall opposite her, a neutral ivory color. Slowly she felt a picture forming in her mind, but she did not rush it, waiting until it came clear. When it did, her heart gave a painful twang. It was Theryn, sitting with Legolas and Gimli in a tent, talking seriously. Novarwen strained to hear what they were saying, but for once, she could not hear. She felt tears well in her eyes, and heard, as if she had just spoken them, her angry words to Theryn at Edoras. I wonder where this place is? she thought.
As if granting her wish, her vision pulled back out of the tent, and she saw a wide plain, with hundreds of tents camped along it. A flicker of white caught her “eye,” and she glanced down to see a dark-cloaked rider on a white horse making his way to the camp. A metallic gleam shone faintly below his cloak when the wind twitched it aside. Something told her that this rider was a friend, so she didn’t mind when the image changed.
Then she saw what it was, and she minded very much. Faramir’s men were galloping across the field. Each man had drawn his sword, and the thin line of warriors was racing toward Osgiliath. But Orc archers had risen up from the ruins, each armed with a bow and a quiver of sharp arrows, and Novarwen’s physical self cried out as she saw the Orcs open fire on the Men. Take me away, she thought desperately, take me out of this vision! I don’t want to see it!
Then something seized her mind in an iron grasp, twisting her consciousness until she thought she would break into shards. “It’s you,” said a viciously satisfied voice. “I remember you. The Elfling brat. So did you go spying to your friends about me?” A laugh struck her ears with all the pain of a wound, and the voice asked, “Do you even know me, Elfling?”
“No, and I have no wish to!” she spat, struggling to wrench herself free from the grip.
“Then repeat what you said to me some days ago, or I shall make you.” He – she was sure it was a he – shoved deeper into her mind and hissed, “Tell me!”
He wants to know that thing I said, Novarwen realized. About Galadriel, and twice-noble parentage, and –
“Galadriel? The witch of Lothlórien? Do not think to fool me! She could no more compel the lord of Mordor than can a toad! Tell me the truth! Who did you mean?”
Novarwen screamed in pain, and lashed out clumsily with whatever strength she might have left at the thing in possession of her mind. It seemed to be a more steady blow than it had felt – the being released her and disappeared as instantly as it had seized her.
She blinked. She was lying across the bed, clutching the covers and panting with exertion. Was that sweat on her forehead? Novarwen sat up very slowly and rubbed the sweat from her face and neck. What had that been about?
She did not hesitate for an instant. The Ainaglin had rolled from her fist when she came out of the vision – she grabbed it and reached for her contact with Galadriel. Her adopted mother came quickly into her mind. Novarwen? Blessed Valar, my daughter, what happened to you?
That’s what I wanted to ask you about, Novarwen replied grimly. She detailed the account of the attack on her mind, leaving nothing out. Galadriel, who was I talking about? I think I need to know, if you know.
Galadriel’s voice was suddenly much heavier. Be it so, then. Novarwen – you were speaking of yourself.
Novarwen stared at her mother’s image in the Ainaglin. What – what are you – what do you mean? she demanded, suddenly angry. What do you mean?
Novarwen, think! What was it you said? “Have a care to the one of twice-noble parentage, whose eyes are always open and see what they choose to see. That one can hinder your path as she chooses.” Your parentage is twice-noble – Thranduil of Mirkwood is your father, and I am your adopted mother. Through your visions, your eyes are always open. What the second part means is, I believe, that you could see whatever you wished to see. And as for the last part – Novarwen, your part is not yet played out, even if you do no fighting yet. You have some task – some important task – that must be done. Galadriel laughed. There was even a bit of mirth in her laughter. And the Enemy fears you, my daughter. I do not think it was Sauron himself who tried to possess you just now, but I would guess it was the Witch-king, he whom you saw before.
But what does it all mean? Novarwen demanded, blinking tears back again. What have I decreed that I must do?
I do not know. Oh, Novarwen, I wish I did, but I do not know.
Novarwen’s mood did not improve by midday, to the great concern of Pippin, who nearly got his head bitten off when he tried to interest his friend in some soup and bread. “I’m not hungry!” Novarwen snapped. “And when I want to be fussed over like a helpless child, I’ll ask!” Pippin had wisely kept his mouth shut at that point, leaving Novarwen’s portion of lunch for her if she decided she wanted it later.
She did. As soon as Pippin left, she began spooning up the soup, already regretting her harsh words to the hobbit. He had his own load of emotions and fears to carry without needing to worry about her as well.
She did need to tell someone, though. She could hardly keep to herself the fact that she was supposed to do some important deed very soon, and that Sauron knew about it. Not, thank the Valar, who she had meant, but he knew.
The obvious choice was, of course, Gandalf, but he too had enough to do – too much. With Denethor intentionally oblivious to the danger Gondor faced, Novarwen had no illusions as to who would command the men’s loyalty in the coming battle. But who else could she tell? Who could do something about it?
When the answer came to her, she nearly dropped the soup bowl. Could she possibly speak to her brother through the Ainaglin?
Novarwen wasted no time. Leaping to her feet and setting down the bowl, she caught the Ainaglin in her hand and blanked her mind. Let me see my brother, she thought clearly. Let me see Legolas.
But the Ainaglin showed her nothing. Irrational fear rose in her and nearly choked her. Could he have died, somehow? But how? How? She forced herself to be calm, because the darkness of the Ainaglin was flickering out of life as she grew more panicked. Theryn, she thought next. Let me see Theryn.
This time the Ainaglin complied, and Novarwen swallowed tears as his face came into the Ainaglin. He was mounted on horseback, and a great company was around him. The Rohirrim, she thought. They’re riding out. She called out to Theryn, saying his name as loud as she could in her mind, but he was concentrated on the long ride and battle he had before him, and he could not hear her. Again she tried, but he couldn’t hear.
Anyone, she thought desperately. Anyone at all! Valar help me, I must tell someone! She sent her mind out among the whole host, trying to find a mind that would be receptive to her. And, miracle of miracles, she felt one, a frightened, nervous, heartbroken, exhilarated mind that seemed familiar… Novarwen gasped as she realized, with a feeling of shock and jubilation, who it was. Éowyn! she cried. Éowyn, can you hear me? It’s Novarwen!
Éowyn’s face, partially concealed by her helmet, registered shock at hearing Novarwen’s voice inside her head. Novarwen? she gasped, her thoughts wild and scattered. What – how –
I just learned how to speak in minds, Novarwen told her. Listen carefully, Éowyn, because I just found this out and I must tell someone.
It’s not exactly a wonderful time for me! Éowyn protested weakly.
Oh – all right. Tell me quickly.
Éowyn, I am supposed to do something very important soon. I don’t know what it is, but Galadriel thinks it’s important. Do you remember the night when Pippin and I –
Of course I do! Éowyn cut in. So – those words you said – that was about you?
Apparently so, Novarwen answered wryly. I just needed to let someone know. Thank you. She was about to withdraw from Éowyn’s mind, but she added, Good luck, before she pulled out.
She was back in her room, holding the Ainaglin. Shaking, Novarwen wrapped it up and put it away. Outside, a voice called, “Open the gate!” And she heard – Oh, don’t let it be so, please, not now – she heard the heavy tread of thousands of booted feet marching toward Minas Tirith.
Novarwen ran to the balcony, her eyes frantically raking the city. Far, far below, she saw the gate open, and her heart clenched in pain as she saw the single horse, dragging a body behind it, come through the gate and into the city – last of the men who had ridden out only that morning to defend Osgiliath. Tears pricked her eyes. Who was that last man, that solitary survivor of the courageous last stand in the doomed riverside city?
Then her eyes traveled up, past the man being pulled into the city, and in the moments before the gate closed, Novarwen saw the armies. Her heart sank, and she clutched the balcony, weak in the knees with terror. A mass of seething Orcs, trolls pushing huge siege towers, and the terrifying steady pound of their feet. As they drew closer, she could hear their drums. Novarwen sat down carefully on the ground, dropped her head into her hands, and gave in to bitter sobs that racked her whole body with the fear and anguish of the desperate.