Nildarien finished dressing and laced up her boots. She stepped outside the tent and waited, not bothering to tie her hair back. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot; her narrowed eyes focused on the back of the returning troop. Shedheniel spotted her and began twirling a strand of her hair in a nervous manner.
“Um… good morning, Nildarien,” she said timidly.
“So, you did it again.”
“Come now! I can’t help but be curious,” Shedheniel whined, still twirling her hair.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” Nildarien replied stiffly.
“I am a kitten in reckoning, and if you feel that way, kill me,” Shedheniel taunted.
Nildarien smiled at her sister and Shedheniel laughed.
“I have beaten you sister. I know you do not kill needlessly, nor would you kill a kitten such as me,” Shedheniel cooed.
Nildarien shook her head and threw up her hands.
“Fine, fine! You win!” she said. “I have surrendered to the all knowing one!”
Now both twins were giggling, the object of their quarrel forgotten. Suddenly, Nildarien snapped her mouth shut, a stony look in her eyes. Shedheniel turned around, knowing who would be there. Sure enough, Legolas stood there staring at Nildarien with pure hatred. Shedheniel ducked out from between them; this was not the time to test her peacemaking skills. She glanced from her sister to the handsome elf lord. Their eyes blazed with loathing; a green flame set against a blue. Legolas broke the tense silence.
“I wonder if there is something wrong with you, Nildarien. I believed you to be incapable of such laughter.”
Shedheniel grabbed Nildarien’s arm as she lunged at Legolas, who took a step back.
“Do not say such things, Legolas. She is as incapable of laughter as I am of dancing,” said Shedheniel, releasing Nildarien’s arm by twirling beneath it. Nildarien gave her a look that said “Thanks,” and stormed off. Shedheniel sighed.
“Why do you speak to her like that? It does nothing but harm.”
“The lord of disdain speaks justly to the lady of insolence,” Legolas replied in an icy tone. Shedheniel was getting fed up with all this.
“Look, you are as wrong about Nildarien as she is about you. There’s a side to her that nobody-um- a select few get to see,” she said.
“And I am not of that select few,” said Legolas. “Yet the same is true with me, and Nildarien is not among my number.”
Shedheniel gave him a sly smile.
“Might I know who is of that number?” she asked.
Now Legolas smiled as well.
“It is a small amount, but among it I count the Moon.”
He left before Shedheniel caught the full meaning of his words.
* * *
Nildarien ran her fingers through her hair and tugged at it in frustration. She glanced around for something to vent her anger on; it came in the form of the trunk of a fallen tree. Quicker than blinking, she drew her knife and hurled it at the tree. She sighed when it hit; that had been strangely satisfying. A very welcome voice spoke from behind her.
“I’m not even going to try. If it goes deep when you are calm, I shudder to think how deep it goes when you are angry.”
Nildarien looked at Telden with raised eyebrows.
“I think you’re going to have to try. I don’t think I can get it out alone,” she said.
Telden followed her to the tree her knife was embedded in, and shook his head with a kind smile. Nildarien grabbed the hilt and Telden put his hands over hers; a gesture that made her heart skip.
It was a repeat of what had happened before. The knife slipped from the wood without warning and both elves were flung to the ground. Nildarien noticed how close together they had landed and her face turned scarlet.
“Legolas is at it again is he?” Telden asked.
Nildarien dropped onto her back with a sigh.
“Oh, who else would it be?” she said with exasperation.
“Do not let him bother you,” Telden said.
“That is near impossible with a temper such as mine.”
“Nildarien, you dwell too much on your flaws and too little on your qualities.”
“I have very few of what could be called qualities.”
“I’m afraid I must contradict that statement,” Telden said, smiling.
“Oh? And how will you do that?” said Nildarien, now feeling more cheerful.
“First by saying that you are the most sensible lady I have ever met.”
Nildarien sat up and looked at Telden skeptically. He pulled a leaf out of her hair and combed the long golden strands with his fingers.
“And secondly that I find you enchanting,” he said, seemingly to himself.
The tone of his voice and smoldering glint in his eyes slightly alarmed Nildarien.
“Telden… don’t look at me like that,” she said timidly.
“Does it upset you?”
“Yes, and- and no. I- I can’t talk about this,” Nildarien stammered. She stood, rather quickly, and left, unaware that Telden’s eyes trailed after her.
* * *
Shedheniel saw her sister run off in a hurry, but decided not to follow. Instead, she headed for the place Nildarien had run from. There she found Telden, staring at nothing, a sad look in his grey eyes. She sat down beside him.
“Something wrong, Telden?” she asked innocently.
“No,” was his quick reply.
“You’re lying. This has something to do with Nildarien, doesn’t it?”
“…Yes,” he said with a sigh.
“Well, why don’t you tell me about it?”
“If you don’t talk about it, it will keep bothering you.”
“How is it that you can read me so well, Shedheniel? With one look at someone you know exactly how they are feeling,” Telden said suddenly.
“I pay attention to expressions, but we’re getting off the subject,” Shedheniel replied.
“Do I frighten her?”
“Do I frighten Nildarien?”
“No! Why would you think such a thing?” Shedheniel exclaimed.
“It’s just that, well, I-“
“You love her…” Shedheniel murmured and Telden reddened.
“Yes. I love her, and I’m starting to think she won’t ever return my love.”
“You need not worry about that, Telden. I don’t think Nildarien is afraid of you. Perhaps she is afraid of her own feelings.”
Telden remained silent.
“Just don’t let her get away from you,” Shedheniel continued. “If you love her so much, then she is worth pursuing.”
“Then what of you and Legolas? Would you pursue your feelings for him?” he asked.
Shedheniel turned red and stood up.
“I will follow my dreams when I feel it is time to chase them,” she said before turning back towards camp.
* * *
Nearly a day later, Shedheniel watched the people of Laketown sadly. Smaug had destroyed their town and slaughtered many of their number. Those that had managed to survive the dragon’s assault were dying of illness, hunger, or grief. Where Shedheniel was perched (about a half-hour’s march from their camp) she could see many a widow with children that were starving. The elderly men and women were not much better.
Slowly, a smile spread across Shedheniel’s face. She ran as quickly as she could back to her tent. She gathered as much food as she could spare, all of her firewood, and two travel worn cloaks that she never wore, and left her tent in high spirits. A few minutes later, as she was trotting back to where she had been, she bumped into Legolas.
“What are you doing Shedheniel? You’re not leaving are you?”
He looked rather alarmed when he said this despite her comical appearance. Shedheniel just laughed.
“If you help me carry these things you can find out!” she giggled. So, together they marched, both carrying the things Shedheniel had brought, down to where the people of Laketown were camped.
Shedheniel smiled and laughed as some of the children came to greet her and Legolas. She and Legolas went all over the camp giving away food and firewood. Shedheniel gave her cloaks to some cold looking children of the edge of camp. Legolas couldn’t help but notice that Shedheniel looked happier than ever giving away her own to others. By the evening he was blissfully happy as well as they walked up towards their own camp.
“I want to know what you will be eating for the next few days,” he said to her with a smile that Shedheniel returned.
“Don’t worry Legolas,” she said. “I didn’t give them all my food. And if I run short I don’t think Nildarien will notice if a thing or two goes missing.”
“You will me cold too,” he said with a sigh. “You gave them much of your firewood.”
“I gave them [I]all[/I] of my firewood,” Shedheniel replied with a smile and a happy sigh.
“I could not be happier if I had an entire banquet to feast upon.”
“If you had a feast I expect you would give it all to the Lake people!” Legolas laughed. “If you get cold or hungry I will give you something.”
This made Shedheniel laugh harder than she had for a long time.
“I may be nieve, Legolas, but you are foolish! If you gave me anything it would certainly end up where we just were, though I thank you for your kind thoughts.”
They reached their camp as night was falling.
“I need to speak to Nildarien about the condition of my food stores,” Shedeniel giggled.
“I guess this is goodnight then,” said Legolas, but he lingered for a moment as if deciding something. Suddenly, he leaned down and kissed her cheek, before excusing himself quickly.
Shedheniel touched her cheek and watched him go. His actions left her wondering if she should pursue her dreams. She would ask Nildarien for her opinion; after the food issue of course.
* * *
Nildarien hugged her sister; she completely understood the help she had given to the people of Laketown. Shedheniel suddenly frowned slightly.
“Nildarien, I need to talk to you about something.”
“What?” said Nildarien cheerily, plopping down on the ground.
Shedheniel dropped down next to her.
“Two things really,” she said. “Don’t get mad, but one has to do with Legolas.”
As Shedheniel expected, Nildarien scowled.
“I think I am the wrong person to ask about that,” she said.
“Please, Nildarien. I need your honest opinion.”
“Alright,” she said hesitantly.
“Should I pursue the way I feel about him?”
“Of course you should,” she said. “Nothing should hold you back from that.”
Shedheniel looked at her sister; despite her smile Shedheniel could tell that she was not truly happy.
“But something holds you back from it,” she said quietly.
Nildarien started; Shedheniel had caught her.
“What do you mean?” she asked stiffly.
“I mean you and Telden! Why did you walk away? You should reach for what you want.”
“Shedheniel, I left because I don’t know what I want and I can’t understand anyone. Especially Telden. I just don’t know what to make of him.”
Shedheniel opened her mouth to reply, but she was cut short. At that moment a cry ran through the camp. Nildarien grabbed Shedheniel’s wrist and pulled her out of tent. Torches were being lit and everyone was gathering weapons.
“Oh, I don’t like the look of this,” Shedheniel whimpered.
Nildarien stopped one of the Lakemen soldiers who was passing.
“What’s happening?” she asked.
“A dwarf army has come to the aid of those fools on the mountain. We are going to war!” he called and ran off.
“Did you hear that?” said Nildarien in a dazed but unfrightened voice. “We are going to war.”
Shedheniel’s face blanched.
“I knew I wouldn’t like this!” she wailed.
* * *
Shedheniel reached up to run her hands through her hair and stopped. Earlier, she had plaited it into one long braid and pinned it into a bun for fear it would bother her in battle.
Now she was standing nervously in the line of archers, trying to recall any forms of fighting she knew. During her fidgeting, her hand fell on the new addition to her belt. Lately, she’d been interested in the healing arts, and before she had left her tent, she had prepared a small bag of bandages and herbs in case of an emergency. Shedheniel worriedly called up memories of her friends and Nildarien, who she’d been afraid to leave for fear it would be the last time she would see her.
“Huh? Yes?” said Shedheniel, blinking and turning to face her caller.
“Are you going to be alright?” asked Legolas nervously. Shedheniel had almost forgotten he was beside her.
“I think so. It’s just, well, all this fighting seems like nonsense. And I fear killing.
“It seems useless to me too. Do not worry. There is honor and glory in battle.”
“That’s just it Legolas! I do not think I will find glory in killing, no matter who or what,” Shedheniel sighed.
* * *
Nildarien’s waist length braid fell out of the ties with which she’d been attempting to pull it up for about the hundredth time, and she tossed them over her shoulder in exasperation.
“I believe these are yours are they not?”
“Yes, Telden. They are mine, and regrettably so, because they aren’t working!”
“You might have tried pins,” Telden said.
“I might have, but for the fact that I lost them all.”
“You seem to lose many things,” he said.
Nildarien tried, unsuccessfully, to keep from smiling.
“You have got a point, but I do not lose things that are important, and hair pins are certainly not important. Oh, we’re moving forward.”
It was true; the two armies had begun to advance slowly towards each other.
“This battle is pointless,” Nildarien said sadly.
“I agree,” said Telden. “And though I am not over fond of dwarves, I have no desire to kill them. I knew many when there was still friendship between Khazad-dûm and Ost-in-Edhil.”
Nildarien would have asked Telden about this, but there was no time; the space between the legions was growing lesser. She resolved, instead, to inquire about it later. If she made it through the battle. Just then, a mighty and thunderous voice cried out, “HALT!”
* * *