It was not easy for Novarwen to take orders from Firith the next morning. For appearance’s sake, she had decided to act as though she were still part of the Taurroch. Elves avoided her, shocked that she had been discharged and unsure what to say to her. This silence made it easier to conceal from her father, King Thranduil, that she had been discharged, at least for the morning.
At midday, the court gathered to say farewell to Legolas and the messenger. Novarwen was there, imitating her own disappointed-and-trying-to-be-happy look. When Legolas leaped up onto his horse and rode away with the messenger, Novarwen slowly faded into the back of the crowd. Once clear of the Elves, she raced headlong for the Taurroch’s stables. Her favorite horse, Brethil, whickered at the sight of her.
“We’re going on a trip, boy,” she whispered, saddling him up quickly and strapping her bag and some food onto the saddle. She mounted him and urged him quickly to a fast trot which jostled her considerably, but at least no spectator would see anything unusual in Princess Novarwen’s riding out into the forest. As luck would have it, there were no chance spectators, so Novarwen’s ride was unobserved.
About half an hour after she left the city, Novarwen picked up Legolas’ trail. She smiled and slowed Brethil down. Now that she knew where her brother was going, there was less need for speed than stealth. He was, after all, an Elf, and if she wasn’t careful enough, he would find her and send her back to Mirkwood before she could say namarie.She therefore moved as quietly as she could, camping only when she was far enough from Legolas’ own camp that he wouldn’t see her, sometimes walking on foot when she was too close to him. She was glad that Mirkwood was a forest – until they left it, hiding herself was quite easy. Brethil, always a calm horse before, seemed to sense her need for quiet and moved more carefully than any horse she’d ridden before.
About a week after they left the city, Novarwen was starting to worry. They would leave the forest soon, and then it would be flat plain until they reached the Hithaeglir, the mountains where Rivendell was nestled. She had no idea how she was to conceal herself and Brethil then. An interesting problem to puzzle over, she thought to herself as she took a bite of lembas. The waybread was certainly nourishing, and the Valar knew she had needed it often during the trip, but it got less and less appetizing the more she ate it.
Suddenly her Elf senses picked up something on the boundaries of the circle of the fire she’d risked building. Something dark, something creeping quietly, but not quietly enough to elude an Elf. With a start, Novarwen realized where the creepers were going – in the direction of Legolas’ camp. He had not built a fire, she saw, which was probably why the creatures – from the sound of them, Mirkwood spiders – were going toward him and not her. Let this be a note, Novarwen, she told herself as she unsheathed her sword and crept after the spiders. Always, always, always build fires.
The spiders seemed to have no notion of her presence. Novarwen intended to keep it that way, until she had to attack them. Right now they seemed quite preoccupied with surrounding their prospective kill. Novarwen took a deep breath and was about to yell to alert Legolas and drive into the midst of the spiders when a hand grabbed her shoulder, spun her around, and made her look into a pair of eyes she had thought never to see again. “Theryn?” she asked incredulously, hardly daring to believe it.