For how long Megiliel knelt may never be known. She wanted nothing more than to simply lie down, and give into the pain. However, she knew that she couldn’t. For the sake of everyone, Megiliel knew that she needed to get back to Gondor with all speed. Again and again the elf felt herself drifting away into unconsciousness, but rallied back, knowing that she might never wake up. Finally, against the unbearable agony of several tendons and muscles being severed, Megiliel regained mastery of her body, and rose unsteadily, swaying with every movement. Cursing her evil fate, she stumbled off in a vague, meandering easterly path. She began to regain hope, as no guards or obstacles rose up in her path.
Yet it was not, as she knew in the back of her mind, to last. Before long, Megiliel heard rustling noises. On edge, she would jump and spin around at every snapped twig. But as blackness began to eat more and more steadily onto the edge of her vision, Megiliel realized that a miracle had to happen, or all would be lost.
Plodding steadily into the woods, wondering how large the compound was, Megiliel felt more and more sure that enemies were closing in on her. The snap! of a broken branch, the crunch! of a leaf, bit by bit she knew that they were getting closer, and closer, and closer. But still the elf realized that her only chance was to hope that the sounds she was hearing were magnified by here paranoid, hunted state, and trudge on. Then suddenly, o so suddenly, she heard the unmistakable sound of the drawing of steel, and then was sure that she heard the sound of swift, slightly concealed steps toward her. Megiliel spun. As her vision swept over her surroundings, she saw nothing.
But, alas, she was stretched too thin. Her concentration waning, placing on the edge of alertness, and indeed the edge of paranoia, for too long, Megiliel’s mind suddenly snapped. Even though her feet stopped moving, her surroundings appeared to be spinning around anyway. And they continued to spin, even after she felt the cool dampness of leaves on the ground under her cheek. Her vision darkened, and then she fell blissfully into unconsciousness. Before she blacked out, Megiliel saw several pairs of booted feet approaching her, and heard several low voices talking.
Merdan, Ariel, and Lintemir stood, all with grim looks upon their faces, none speaking a word. They stood there for many long moments, until Merdan stirred, and spoke.
“It is clear to me that something must be done about this threat. We cannot simply wait for it to come to us. The question now becomes what to do. And on that note, I believe that I have the solution.” He assumed a pensive look, and fell quiet for a few seconds. After a long moment of silence, the questioning glances from the Queen and Lintemir drew him out of his contemplations.
“Ah… yes… my plan. First, straight away, you, Lintemir, must attempt to track or trace your attacker to the location of the Balmet’s stronghold. I suggest starting from the place you were attacked at. If you are successful, then return. From there, we will gather our armies, and circle their bastion. Once we are sure that none can escape, we will tighten our ring, and trap them. Slowly, we will squeeze the live out of their terrible cult.” He paused for a moment, and looked to the queen. “On that note,” he stated, “Send a message to those that remain in Mirkwood. We will need their expertise.” As she nodded, and walked away, Merdan turned back to Lintemir. “However, we must think of the possibility that you will fail. If that is the case, then we must ready all of our cavalry, and prepare to respond quickly to any attack. From there, if we manage to fend that off, you must, again, follow them.” Again, the king paused for a moment, and looked at Lintemir squarely in the eye. “You must not fail.”
Lintemir did not blink, did not flinch, or falter an inch at that statement. With a flame blazing in his eyes, he replied, “I have as much at stake in this as it is possible for me to have. Ever does the safety of the kingdom come first in my thoughts.” And with that encouraging statement, he walked away.
He spoke truthfully, but not completely. While he would gladly give his life, and more, for the kingdom, he had even more at stake in this matter. Lintemir, always considering all of the facts in a situation, and assessing the rapidly, had noticed the correlation between Megiliel’s prolonged absence and the reappearance of the Balmet. And for some reason, that he did not understand, that he could not even begin to contemplate, that correlation worried him more than a bit. Logically, everything made sense to him. They had traveled together, and worked together for more years than many humans lived. Together they had founded the Armegil, and had each personally saved the others’ live uncountable times. It made sense for him to be concerned about her whereabouts, he firmly told himself. `In fact’, Lintemir realized, `it is possible that the only connection between these two events is that she wanted to investigate more thoroughly.’ Admonishing himself for doubting her capability, he tried to shake the matter from his mind.
But no matter how hard he tried, the worry restlessly paced about in the back of his mind. And he did not know why.
Eldarion leaned back in the nook that he was crouched in. He didn’t truly understand what was going on. All that he knew was that Lintemir was about to ride into danger. And he, as the Prince of the Kingdom, had a responsibility to do something about it. From where this sudden realization of what he must do came from, he didn’t know. But it made sense to him, and couldn’t think of any reasons not to, that didn’t seem like weak evasions. So he resolved to follow Lintemir. That night, without bothering to take any practical considerations, he placed a pot, balanced precariously, outside of Lintemir’s door. In the morning, when he rose to leave, Eldarion knew that the pot would make enough noise to wake him in his room, a few doors down. So he went to sleep, secure in the knowledge that he would be fulfilling his duty in a few short hours.