Bang! The door burst open and Shedheniel bounded in, all smiles.
“Oh, Nildarien you’ll never guess what’s…oh.”
Nildarien was staring out the window. Her hair was down and she had the strangest look on her face: A look that was somewhere between sheer joy and indescribable anger.
“Nildarien, what’s wrong?” said Shedheniel quietly.
Nildarien looked at her sister; her face was red from crying.
“I do not know what to do anymore, Shedheniel, and-and, I am sorry.” At this she burst into tears and dropped onto the window seat.
“Oh dear,” said Shedheniel sitting down next to her distraught sister. Something must be seriously wrong; Nildarien rarely cried.
“Start from the beginning,” said Shedheniel.
“Why? That doesn’t matter.” She looked angrier now. “I admit that I am willful, but I am not heartless,” she said.
Slowly, Shedheniel began to understand.
“Oh no, what did you do?” she said, standing up.
“Go see for yourself!” said Nildarien, “I’m going riding or something.”
Nildarien tossed a cloak around her shoulders and headed out to the stables.
She saddled Rahar and cantered him around the edge of the trees. Suddenly, Rahar stood still, his ears twitching. Nildarien listened. She thought she heard strangled cries out in the woods. They were strange, but there was something the slightest bit familiar about them. Yet, she wasn’t sure if they were really there. She shook her head and rode on.
* * *
Shedheniel stood shocked as her sister went out the door. She shook her head, things couldn’t be worse.
[I]”Go see for yourself!”[/I]
The words still rang in her mind. They sounded harsh and full of remorse. What had her beloved sister done? She was afraid to find out. Still, she had to find a way to work this out and heal the damage done. After a moments hesitation she bolted out the door.
Shedheniel’s heart was in her throat. What [I]had[/I] her sister done? This side of Nildarien had never come out before, and it scared her. It obviously scared Nildarien too or she wouldn’t have been so upset. And what of the mixed look in her sister’s eyes? There was incredible sorrow mixed with joy. Shedheniel headed for the practice areas, and ran into Telden first.
“Where’s Legolas?” she gasped, half out of breath.
“He’s practicing over there,” said Telden, pointing. “Are you sure you want to see him? He’s not a pretty sight.”
Telden hesitated a moment, then grabbed Shedheniel’s wrist as she started to run.
“How is she?” he asked, releasing her hand.
“I’m not sure. She went riding. Why don’t you check the stables for her?” said Shedheniel softly. She could see the worry in Telden’s face. Then she sprinted off across the field. Forgetting herself, she charged right into the archery field.
An arrow hit the tree behind her, inches from her head.
“Go away Shedheniel. You don’t want to know,” said Legolas, his back turned.
“I’m staying and you’ll show me, even if I have to pin you down,” she said as she ran to him.
“Please turn around Legolas.”
What she saw nearly made her heart break. A welt about palm size ran across his cheek.
“What did she do to you?” Shedheniel whispered. Slowly, she ran her finger down his cheek. Legolas winced.
“Legolas, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” he said. “It will heal.”
“What did you say? I’ve never seen her so upset,” said Shedheniel. She longed to tell him everything; her fears and worries. She couldn’t and she knew it. Legolas turned away
“I do not wish to tell you,” he said.
“In truth I did not wish to know,” said Shedheniel. “Why this quarrel between you? Can you not mend it?”
“No. I don’t think it can be mended.”
“Forgiveness is easily given and easily taken. I do not understand it,” said Shedheniel sadly.
“Wise words are those that you speak. I shall not forget them,” said Legolas.
“You never cease to flatter me. Those are not words of wisdom. They are of misunderstanding,” she said, running her fingers through her hair.
Legolas noticed the ring on her finger for the first time. Catching her hand, he bent forward for a closer look. It was an eight pointed silver star with a small green stone in the center.
“Why do you wear Nildarien’s ring?” he asked, puzzled because his enemy’s name was engraved on the band. Shedheniel got a faraway look in her eyes. She sighed and pulled Legolas to a bench and sat down.
“It’s rather confusing,” she said.
“Our father made them for us. They are wedding rings. If one of us had a suitor who wished to marry, he would need our father’s agreement. If he won our father’s agreement, he received the ring,” said Shedheniel.
“You have not answered my question,” said Legolas.
“I am coming to that,” she said. “Our father gave them to us before he sailed away. Nildarien and I agreed to carry on with his idea. I wear her ring on my right hand so it does not symbolize my marriage, and Nildarien wears mine. If either of us had a suitor, he would need the other sister’s consent before he got the ring.”
“That is ill news for your suitor.”
Shedheniel smiled ruefully, then faltered,
“Do I have a suitor?” she asked.
Legolas turned crimson.
“I do not know,”
He looked around and noticed how dark it was.
“It’s late,” he said.
Shedheniel shivered and nodded.
“I need to find Nildarien.”
Legolas unfastened his cloak and draped it around Shedheniel.
“You’re cold,” he said.
“And you will be cold.”
“I do not mind; Go find your sister. You can return it later.”
“I cannot take it but I thank you. It will be a bother when I run, which I should do now.”
And with that, Shedheniel sprinted toward the palace.
* * *
Shedheniel was tired when she reached her room. She opened the door that joined it with her sister’s and stormed in.
“How could you do that to him?” she asked angrily.
“He deserved it,” Nildarien snapped. Her face and nose were red from cold.
“He did not deserve that! He didn’t try to hurt you physically!” Shedheniel yelled.
“He still hurt me!” was her sister’s harsh reply.
“I know but-“
“You don’t know!” Nildarien shrieked.
“You don’t feel the same way about him that I do!”
“And what way is that?” Nildarien asked, her voice shaking with anger.
“I love him!” Shedheniel screamed.
Any anger left in Nildarien for her sister melted away because of the look of pure terror and shock on Shedheniel’s face. Her sister burst into tears on the spot. Nildarien hugged her.
“I didn’t know,” Shedheniel whispered between sobs, “I didn’t know.”
* * *
Nildarien returned Rahar to his stable and continued her walk. She came down to the river that ran through the forest. In it’s water she could see to cold shivering reflection of the moon. She looked up at its counterpart and smiled despite her sadness. A wind came up out of the south and tossed her hair.
Thus it was that Telden found her: all clad in green with her hair waving wildly about her, gazing at the sky. So happy she looked that he dared not disturb her, but then she dropped her gaze from the heavens and her expression changed. She drew her cloak tighter and bowed her head.
[I]”What is wrong with me?”[/I] she thought.
She heard a sound behind her and turned, a hot remark ready on her tongue, but it cooled when she saw Telden.
“I have been looking for you,” he said. “I was greatly alarmed by what your sister told me and… other things.”
“You mean what I did to Legolas?” she asked, already sure of his answer.
“Um, yes, that,” he said, not looking at her.
“How bad is it?” said Nildarien. There was a hint of concern in her voice.
“It will heal won’t it?”
“Oh, yes. But his pride won’t.”
Nildarien turned away.
“Is he right, Telden? Am I really…”
“No. You could not be if you tried,” said Telden, taking her hand. Nildarien looked at him. Tears rolled silently down her face.
“I am sorry for this Nildarien,” he said quietly.
“Why? You had no part in it.”
“No, but I cannot stand to see you like this.”
He reached up and brushed away one of her tears. Nildarien shivered.
“Come on, you need to be inside,” said Telden. He put his arm around her and they walked back toward the palace. As they neared it, the strange cries rang out again. Telden grabbed her wrist and ran.
“What was that?” Nildarien panted when they were inside the doors.
“I’m not sure,” he said.
* * *
“By the way,” said Shedheniel, “there’s a tournament two days from now. I’m competing in it.”
“Oh! You’ll win for sure!” said Nildarien.
“I’ll be lucky to. I’m against the best archers.”
“You’ll do just fine.”
“I hope so,” said Shedheniel, “We really should go to sleep now.”
As Shedheniel rose to leave, Nildarien said,
“I truly am sorry sister.”
“I know. Think no more about it.”
Shedheniel left and Nildarien collapsed onto her bed.
[I]”I believe I will never know what to make of this day,”[/I] she thought.
* * *
Shedheniel’s bow twanged as she made another perfect shot. Scraps of sliced arrows littered the ground near her target.
“Shedheniel! Come quickly!”
It was Telden. His call was followed by another.
“Telden! Wait up!” That was Nildarien. Shedheniel slung her bow over her shoulder and ran to meet them.
“No time, let’s go,” called Telden as he turned and dashed back the way he’d come. Shedheniel grabbed her sister’s arm and chased after him. The twins followed Telden down to the main hall of the palace.
He stopped suddenly and the sisters ran right into him. Telden managed to grab Nildarien and steady her, but Shedheniel hit the floor with a smack. She peeled herself off the floor and realized what was happening as she looked into the angry face of a dwarf. She yelped and jumped back. After listening to the dwarves being questioned (they had captured twelve) she headed back to continue practicing.
* * *
“What was the rush for?” asked Nildarien.
She and Telden were walking out to the practice field.
“We were called for witness, but I don’t really know why. They could have been questioned just as easily without us.”
They had reached the field and on the ground was a box. Telden opened it and took out two knives. He tossed one to Nildarien who caught it easily.
“These are throwing knives,” said Telden. “You can use the technique I’m going to teach you with any blade except a sword, but it’s easiest to learn with these.”
He stepped away from Nildarien and flung the knife. It spun through the air and wedged itself in the wooden post several meters away. He looked at Nildarien.
“That is one of the most useful moves you can ever learn. It’s important to be good at it. Try.”
He stepped aside so she could throw. Nildarien cast her knife at the post; it hit with a loud thud. Telden ran over and looked at it. He grasped the hilt and pulled hard. It gave way suddenly and Telden was hurled to the ground. Nildarien looked at Telden then at the knife and they both burst out laughing. After several minutes Telden got up and walked back.
“I think you’ve got it,” he said, handing the knife to Nildarien.
She looked down and noticed that Telden’s hands were trembling, but then again, so were hers.
“Um, Nildarien, about what you heard in the garden…”
* * *
Shedheniel stepped back and shot again. She was startled by a sound from behind her.
“You are too good for your own good,” said Legolas.
“You’re competing tomorrow aren’t you?”
“Well, yes, but my guess is that you’ll win.”
“But…” Shedheniel couldn’t think of anything to say. Legolas aimed and shot, slicing her arrow. Shedheniel sighed, stepped back two paces and sliced his arrow. They repeated this pattern until Legolas missed and Shedheniel said it was too dark to see.
“I need to go see Nildarien,” Shedheniel stated.
“Get some rest, you’ll want it for tomorrow.”
“I’ll walk you to your room,”
* * *
Nildarien’s heart beat faster and she could tell that her face was burning red.
“Yes?” she said slowly.
For a moment, Telden struggled to find words, then shook his head.
“Forgive me, Nildarien,” he said, “I cannot-“
“You do not need to be forgiven. I hold nothing against you,” she said.
Telden looked at her. He seemed to want to say something else, something important, but he refrained.
* * *
“This seems familiar,” Shedheniel muttered. She and Legolas were outside her room again.
“I need to go,” said Legolas, an apologetic look in his eyes.
“I know. Thanks again.”
“You’re welcome,” he said.
Shedheniel opened her door.
She turned and met his gaze.
“Good luck tomorrow,” he said.
“You too,” with that Shedheniel went into her room and closed the door.
* * *
Telden pressed the knife into her hands.
“It’s late, we should go in,” he said.
Nildarien nodded and looked up. The light was fading and the first stars were appearing.
A small dark shape crossed the sky. Nildarien started, then put her hands to her mouth and gave a clear call. The shape wheeled around and plummeted through the trees; crying out as it came. With much flapping of his wings, Gwindor landed on Nildarien’s arm.
“And where have you been all this time?” she said.
Gwindor tipped his head and screeched softly.
“That’s what I thought,” said Nildarien laughing. She turned to Telden.
“Meet Gwindor,” she said.
Telden reached out and Gwindor nipped his finger softly.
“You amaze me Nildarien,” he said. “Not only do you learn easily, but you tame hawks and wild horses. Is there anything else you do?”
A spasm of fear crossed Nildarien’s face.
[I]”I can command mountains, if that means anything,”[/I] she thought with a shudder.
Telden was looking at her with a concerned expression.
“What’s…” he began, but Nildarien cut him off.
“Nothing, nothing,” she said quickly. She whispered something to Gwindor and he took flight.
“I’m going in now.”
“I’ll walk you,” said Telden.
* * *
Shedheniel was up before dawn. She couldn’t sleep. Silently, she dressed, grabbed her bow, and picked her best arrows. Then, she slipped down to where the tournament would be held. There she sat and watched the Moon set and the Sun rise. Shedheniel sighed as the last stars disappeared into the morning light.
“Well, you’re certainly up early Shedheniel.”
Shedheniel glanced over her shoulder.
“So are you Telden.”
“I get up early every morning,” he said.
“I couldn’t sleep,” said Shedheniel. “Telden, can I ask you something?”
“You already did.”
“Please be serious.”
“Fine. Ask away,” said Telden with a wave of his hand.
“You were there… and-well… I was wondering about what was said when… Nildarien…,” she stopped.
“Alas! You ask me what I do not… will not say. Why do you wish to know?”
“It’s just that,” Shedheniel paused trying to find words to explain, “she had the strangest look I’ve ever seen! A mix of sheer joy and pure hatred was in her eyes.”
“I know the reason for that. The news you have given me makes my heart grieve and sing.”
They were quiet a moment. Shedheniel broke the silence.
“I worry about her, Telden. We are so different Nildarien and I. She has so many different qualities that I do not.”
“You have qualities that she does not, too. Only a fool would judge one twin by the other. You are much more… peaceful, Shedheniel. If you have a temper I do not know of it. You have forgiveness. Do not judge yourself by Nildarien.”
“Nildarien is more serious I think. People tend to listen to her and follow her lead. She is a tamer of animals and… other things. I could not match her if I tried,” sighed Shedheniel.
“Would you want to if you could?” This question came from behind them.
“How long have you been standing there Legolas?” asked Telden. A glisten in his grey eyes hinted that he knew the answer.
“Long enough to get interested.”
Legolas came and sat down on Shedheniel’s other side.
“Listen,” he said, “you and Nildarien are like the Sun and the Moon. Very different, yet somehow viewed together and compared. The Sun is important but fiery. She will burn you if you are not careful. The Moon is serene and calm. She does not burn and has few enemies. She can symbolize romance and dreams. Both the Sun and the Moon are beautiful, both give light, but they are different. Do you really want to be like Nildarien?”
Shedheniel glanced from side to side at her companions.
“I suppose I am the Moon then,” she said. “That makes me happy. You are both right. Nildarien and I are different and I like it that way. She and I and everyone else are meant to be what they are. Thank you.” She grinned.
“Oh! Telden, if you see Nildarien tell her I’m already at the tournament.”
Telden nodded and walked off toward the palace.
“If it means anything to you,” whispered Legolas, “I prefer moonlight. Come, the tournament will start soon.”
* * *
The sweet sound of whistling arrows was music to Shedheniel’s ears. The tournament had been going for about an hour now. She had been very surprised to learn that she was the youngest and the only female competitor.
She had done very well, hitting the target perfectly with each shot. The remaining competitors, now reduced to five, were commanded to take two steps backward (to the next line) and shoot again.
Shedheniel lined up her shot and released her arrow. It flew perfectly straight and hit the bullseye, slicing her previous arrow.
A judge came and inspected the targets. Three competitors, one of them Legolas, were pulled out of the tournament. Shedheniel and the returning winner were the last ones left!
The two elves shot perfectly each time. Finally, it got to a point where new lines had to be drawn out. A few more shots, maybe and Shedheniel would win. Her eyes began to droop and her technique wasn’t as good.
“Please step back to the next line.”
“No,” said Shedheniel, “I do not wish to shoot again.”
“I will not shoot either,” said her competitor.
“We shall call it a tie,” he said extending his hand. Shedheniel shook it happily; they had tied!
* * *