In An Age Before – Part 75
Now on the morrow Helluin and Beinvír took their leave of Captain Galdor and the Ring of Angrenost, and they made their way east through Calenardhon, fording the Onodló after a march of seven days, ere they turned their steps north. To their west the dark and forbidding shadow of Fangorn Forest lay at the feet of the southern Hithaeglir. They passed it by amidst the rolling downs of the Wold, until they came to the River Limlight upon 18 Urui, (August 18th).
"I wonder if Oldbark and his folk came safely thither after quitting Calenglad,"Beinvír mused on the 14th as she looked off 'cross fifteen miles of low hills sheathed in short grass to the verge of Fangorn.
"Greatly I doth hope 'twas so, meldanya,"Helluin answered as she followed her lover's glance with her own eyes. The Lord of the Onodrim had been one of the first new friends she had made during her initial wanderings in Rhovanion, back in the 2nd century of the Second Age. He had been a friend for o'er three millennia.
"Save the single Onod thou saw meet his fate on thy way to Dól Gúldúr, no others did thou find stricken or slain in the Greenwood?" Beinvír asked, just to be sure.
"Aye. 'Twas only he.”
Helluin sighed. She couldn't even guess how populous Fangorn had been. Neither had she any certainty as to how many Enyd had called Calenglad i'Dhaer home, but many had come to Oldbark's moot in 3410 of the Second Age. Surely if they had all migrated hence to Fangorn, that forest was't now thick with Tree Shepherds. Then she wondered, would that folk find comfort or consternation in numbers? Would they feel hemmed in, o'ercrowded, or would they revel in their company as did trees in grove and wood? And what of their legions of Huorns? These too had been reported abandoning Greenwood by Mayor Bobo Fallohide. Perhaps that forest was't now rife with walking 'trees'. Yet the olvar had different concerns than did the kelvar. 'Twas perhaps a waste of time to ponder such questions and so she put them from her mind.
"Perhaps someday we shalt learn the truth of it,"Helluin said at last, "but t'will not be this day.”
Beinvír nodded in agreement and turned again to the journey north.
Now after crossing Limlight they came to that land named for the River that ran yet further north and formed the southern boundary of the Golden Wood. This was't the Field of Celebrant which had long spread its grasses south, following the retreat of Fangorn Forest.
The land was't fair and quiet, and wider hither whereat Anduin looped east ere it bent back west to the mouths of the Silverlode. Some few birds flitted swift in their enterprise of snagging bugs awing, darting as they called sharply to each other through a gentle breeze. Anor shone down warm and yellow-bright, and in the distance, some twenty leagues hence, a haze of gold marked the mellyrn realm of King Amroth.
Thither the two ellith entered upon the 23rd of Urui, Beinvír with uncertainty and Helluin with foreboding. They had not set foot thither since ere the War of the Last Alliance, when they had reported their findings on Khazad-dûm and King Durin IV's Ring. If Helluin blamed herself for the decimation of the people of Greenwood and the loss of King Oropher, she felt no less guilt at the fate of the Lórinandrim, for King Amdír too had fallen and his people had endured great losses in the war. Thus 'twas with great trepidation that she stood amidst the outlying trees and called out to the march wardens of the southern border.
"Hail and well met! Hither art Helluin of the Host of Finwe and Beinvír Laiquende, come again after many long years. We journey north and would hath leave to pass thy lands in peace.”
Shortly they were answered by a familiar voice from above.
"Mae govannen, mildis nín gim, and han noant ir methen mín govannen,¹"called out Haldir's brother Rúmil as he dropped lightly from a low talan in a tree some half-dozen fathoms ahead. ¹(Mae govannen, mildis nín gim, and han noant ir methen mín govannen. Well met, my (female) friends of old, long it has been since last we met. = mae(well) + govannen(met), + mildis(f.friends, pl)+ nín(1st pers poss pro, my) + gim(old(of things), pl, + and(long) + han(3rd pers sing dir obj pro, it) + noant(no(be) + -ant(past v suff), has been) + ir(when, ver. since) + methen(last) + mín(1st pers pl pro, we) + govannen(met).
Helluin groaned to herself at the sight of him, recalling his frequent longing glances at her beloved upon their last visit. At least he had survived the war, she thought charitably, and perhaps he hast found a mate. I should hate to think he hast failed upon that score for the last thousand years.
But indeed it seemed 'twas just so, for hardly had he approached ere his eyes fixed upon the Green Elf with a look so smitten as to be comical. Helluin rolled her eyes and Beinvír gritted her teeth 'neath an innocent smile of greeting. Behind him, another five border guards approached from their posts in other trees.
"'Tis good to see thee well, Rúmil,"Helluin offered for the sake of being civil, "and I hath similar hopes for thy brothers. How fare Haldir and Orophin, pray tell?”
The march warden of Lórinand tore his eyes from Beinvír with obvious effort and he blinked and shook his head as if to clear it of sleep ere he answered.
"Haldir and Orophin, thou say? Indeed they art well, Helluin. Haldir now leads the company upon the northern borders while'st Orophin keeps watch upon the river." Rúmil sighed and then continued more grimly. "We art spread more thinly and hath been so for many years, for our numbers art less following the war.”
Helluin and Beinvír nodded solemnly. 'Twas apparent that the depopulation from the war's casualties was't still felt. After several moments of silence, Rúmil spoke.
"Whither doth thy journeys take thee now, O lovely wanderers?" He asked Beinvír. "Art thou to stay with us in Lórinand a while, or must thou continue upon thy way?”
"Indeed upon our way we art bound,"Helluin quickly answered, noting that Beinvír had raised her left hand to scratch a nose that no doubt didn't itch, the better to display her joining ring. "We art doing a favor for a friend,"she huffed.
The warrior was't vexed to see that Rúmil hadn't even looked at her, but rather his eyes still doted upon her beloved. Sheeesh, what a horny hound, she thought. His buffoonery lacks only a trail of drool upon his chin! Were it not for his kinship with my friend Haldir, I should be sorely tempted to put out one of his eyes, leaving the other only so he could gauge my displeasure. She crossed her arms o'er her chest and commenced tapping her foot in irritation.
"Surely thou can'st tarry a day or two,"he asked with blatantly obvious hope, "if for no reason other than to greet our lord, King Amroth."About them other border guardians nodded in agreement.
Here Helluin actually gritted her teeth and groaned. Amroth was't the very last person in Lórinand that she desired to see. After coaxing his father, the late King Amdír, to join the Host of the Last Alliance, she imagined that he would greet her with displeasure no less than Thranduil. Indeed she was't sure of it. Hither ruled another son of a father slain in the war she had promoted. No desire had she to visit sorrowful memories upon him with her presence. She was't about to repeat her declaration of their intent to travel swiftly through the Golden Wood when the Green Elf shocked her to silence.
"Indeed there is one in this land with whom we would speak, O noble march warden. I should wager that for a day or two we shalt tarry indeed.”
Luckily Rúmil was't still so closely focused upon Beinvír that he failed to notice the expression on Helluin's face. If a glance could slay then he would hath perished straight away from the fire in the Noldo's eyes. Instead, a wide grin spread 'cross his face and he gestured them hence with a flourish. With a groan of exasperation Helluin moved to follow Rúmil and Beinvír's path while'st the rest of the company filed in behind.
Now after a march of some three hours they came to Caras Galadon whereat they stopped upon the encircling road 'nigh the great hedge. Within stood the great mellyrn with the many telain of the Galadhrim hidden amongst the boughs. Softly came Elvish voices upon the breeze amidst the whispers of leaves and song. Rúmil sought to lead them into the city straightaway, but the Green Elf stayed him, for she had marked how grim her lover had become. Indeed had she not known better, she would hath wagered that Helluin was't marching to her own gallows.
"Rúmil, we seek one who may not be within the city. Perhaps thou know and would grace us with haste in our errand. Whither lives the lady named Nimrodel? Her sister was't known to us when last we came to Calenglad i'Dhaer. We hath some tidings to share with her, but 'naught else to stay us hither…" She trailed off at the look of dismay upon the march warden's face. "…what?”
Rúmil was't shaking his head now, an expression well 'nigh of loathing shaping his features. The Green Elf canted her head in curiosity. Whyfore did Inthuiril's sister wring such a reaction from him? For all her impetuosity and ill-considered behavior, Beinvír thought the young hunter of Greenwood a good spirit at heart. Behind her Helluin regarded the march warden of Lórinand with critical scrutiny. She was't yet the more convinced that this excursion was't a poor idea, but as ever she would endure much to indulge her lover's wishes.
"Nimrodel's sister I know not,"Rúmil began, though as if with relief, "nor any of her kin." After a pause during which he weighed carefully his words, he offered only impartial commentary. "She came hither in great disquiet, flying from the darkening of the Greenwood, well 'nigh soon as rumor of the Sorcerer reached our ears. She hast dwelt hither ever since.”
"And…?" Helluin prompted, hands set upon her hips. 'Twas obvious that he thought more than he had said.
Rúmil chanced only a quick glance at her. He seemed genuinely uncomfortable at the prospect of voicing his impressions.
"She comes of a noble family…"he said ere trailing off and grinding his teeth. "Ahhh well, for thyselves thou shalt see,"he finally said, ere turning from the city with a sigh. To the company, he pointed at a path and ordered, "Come, we go thither.”
Helluin marked that the guards gazed at the city with longing ere they followed their captain. Beinvír marked that 'twas now the guards rather than Helluin who looked like they were being led hence to the gibbet. She found her curiosity outpacing that of a cat, or at least those of cat-kind she had known. She caught Beinvír's eye but received only a shrug in answer to her questioning glance.
What in Udûn? Helluin silently asked. Aye, Inthuiril was't naive and given to leaping ere she looked, yet she was't committed to her realm and her king…if a bit misguided. Whyfore is Rúmil so reticent to speak of Nimrodel? Be she crazed? Uncivil? Perhaps she bathes not? Ah well, the tale shalt be told in its own time, I wager.
Rather to the lair of an Urulóki than the home of a maiden one would think them bound, the Green Elf mused. Huh.
They made their way west and somewhatnorth, taking a path that led towards the Hithaeglir and the realm of Khazad-dûm. For the most part they marched in a grim silence.
"T'will be a full day's march and we shalt come there not ere the morrow,"Rúmil stated after an hour. At the surprised looks on the faces of the two ellith he added hopefully, "Art thou sure thou can'st spare the time from thy errand?”
Helluin replied, "Nay,"at the very same moment that Beinvír answered, "Yea." They looked at each other and Helluin capitulated with a shrug. Rúmil sighed again and nodded, then resumed his pace.
So it went for the remainder of that day and the morning of the next. Even the presence of his guests now seemed to cheer Rúmil not during the intervening evening. Indeed barely did he evince an appetite at supper and no songs were sung that night. Ere they came to a small, neat hut 'nigh the western tributary of Celebrant early the next afternoon, Rúmil was't well 'nigh morose. Even the Green Elf was't questioning her wisdom in coming hither.
Now the talan of Nimrodel was't perched about a fathom off the ground upon two bent and hewn trunks that acted as pillars while'st giving the impression of a fowl's legs. 'Twas more hut than talan and stood at the very edge of a steep bank. Indeed one wall o'erhung the cascading water below. Before the door a small porch barely large enough for a single person to stand upon looked down upon a garden of wildflowers. A path of river stones led visitors through it, past a wrought iron table and chairs, to the front of the hut. The whole premises was't manicured more carefully than a king's palace, wherein not a single blade of grass nor a single leaf had lacked for the horticulturist's touch. It struck Helluin as wholly obsessive and well 'nigh as strange and artificial as the traveling house of Iarwain Ben-adar. Thither went Rúmil with his two guests, while'st the rest of the company hung back in the garden with obvious relief. Their respite 'twas short-lived indeed.
From within the hut came a crash and then a screech. Rúmil recoiled as if struck, while'st Helluin reached swiftly for Anguirél's hilt and Beinvír stared upward towards the door in shock. Thither after a few moments appeared a fair Elven maiden in distress. She marked them not at first, but stood upon the tiny porch wringing her hands and staring upwards at the sky. Then, in a voice fraught with trauma, she made her plea to the heavens.
"Oh great Ilúvatar and all the Powers of Arda in the Blessed West, however could thou vex me so? Howsoever could thou visit me such heartache so undeserved? Wherefore hast thy justice fled?”
And then she broke down in tears.
While'st Rúmil and Helluin momentarily stood petrified in surprise, Beinvír asked, "Art thou indeed the Lady Nimrodel, and whyfore art thou so distraught?”
'Twas only slowly that the figure upon the balcony deigned to notice the Green Elf. Slowly she raised her bowed head and her sobs abated. She peeked from 'neath her cascades of lustrous dark hair and looked down at her guests, first with shock and then in a surprisingly rapid recovery. Indeed after a few moments she smiled and dried her eyes with the sleeve of her flowing dress. Then, after a final sniffle, she addressed them.
"Pray excuse my outburst,"she said in a melodic voice that to Helluin's ear sounded quite contrived, "I am not oft so afflicted." She then fixed her gaze upon Beinvír and answered, "Indeed I am Nimrodel. Pray tell me, art thou royalty from afar? A princess perhaps, traveling in disguise for to forestall the unwanted attentions of such as yonder knave?"
With that she shifted her attention to Rúmil and scowled. Helluin glanced at him and raised a questioning eyebrow. Nimrodel marked the dark Noldo then, appraising her stature and her armor and her weapons, but again she addressed Beinvír.
"'Tis wise of thee, m'Lady, to travel thus with a stout and well-armed bodyguard. Thy lord hast provided for thee prudently indeed, for danger lurks everywhere in this dimming wood. Alas, how the days darken!" She paused for a theatrical sigh, but then continued as a gracious hostess.
"I would offer thee tea and cakes, for proper hospitality one lady should provide to another for civility's sake. Pray hath thy servant and these sluggards prepare my table for entertaining,"she said while'st gesturing first to the company of border guards and thence to the table and chairs amidst the garden. "I shalt set a kettle upon the fire straightaway and bring down a pot and cups. Excuse my lack of proper etiquette, I beseech thee. 'Tis but a backwoods hovel I am relegated to in these dark days, and alas, I am deprived of proper servants.”
With that she disappeared back into her hut and shortly there came the sound of pots and china being moved about. While'st Rúmil groaned and made his way back to his company, Beinvír and Helluin traded glances.
Stout bodyguard indeed! I deem she hast lost her mind, or whatsoever wits she was't possessed of aforetime, Helluin said silently to her partner.
She doth seem a bit…dramatic, Beinvír allowed. 'Tis hard indeed to believe that she is truly Inthuiril's sister.
Aye, they art nothing alike save somewhat in their appearance.
Such could be said of half the population…dark-haired and dark-eyed, Beinvír noted. Now I wonder about their childhood. Howsoever could two siblings end up so different?
To this the Helluin could only shrug.
Behind them they could hear the guards grumbling as they dusted off the table and chairs and set them in order for the guests. Shortly Nimrodel returned to her porch bearing a tea pot and balancing a stack of cups and saucers, a sugar bowl and creamer, silverware and jam pot, and a basket of seeded cakes. They wondered how she would descend, for there were no stairs. Surprisingly, she leapt the fathom's drop without hesitation and landed lightly with scarcely a clatter of the china. 'Twas an impressive feat indeed. She then approached them smiling.
"Come, let us sit, m'Lady. Thy bodyguard may attend thee,"she said to Beinvír, casually handing off a stack of place-settings and accessories to Helluin as she passed by. She hardly even glanced at the Noldo.
The dark warrior lunged forward and barely grasped the stacked china ere Nimrodel let it drop. 'Twas quite obvious that she had no question whatsoever in her expectations that Helluin would take them. Helluin stood holding the wares in amazement. Nimrodel was't leading the Green Elf to the table while'st Rúmil stifled a snicker. When Helluin looked daggers at him he merely shifted his head to indicate that she should move to the table with her burden. By then, Nimrodel and Beinvír were taking their seats.
"Come now, whatever detains thee in the discharge of thy duties?"the lady flung o'er her shoulder at Helluin. "Pray mind my china and set our places ere the tea cools.”
To Beinvír she whispered in a clearly audible aside, "'Tis a dismal thing, the failing of attentiveness amongst servants these days. Still, I can understand that thy bodyguard mayhaps lacks polish in the more genteel arts." She clucked and offered the Green Elf a sympathetic expression.
Beinvír looked past Nimrodel to her mate and read the rising wrath in her eyes. She gave a barely perceptible shake of her head as if to say, Behead her not, meldanya, I pray thee, or at least refrain 'till after I hath held converse with her? Yet her own ire was't raised at Nimrodel's disregard for her beloved.
Helluin shrugged and exhaled her anger, while'st a tick animated her right brow and a hint of blue fire flickered in her eyes. She set down the china and arranged it in place settings before the two ladies. Then she bowed with a flourish so o'erly embellished that t'would hath been proper in the court of Gil-galad in an Age before.
"M'ladies, thy tea is served,"she grated out, "shalt I pour?”
"Indeed so and about time,"Nimrodel said without so much as a glance at her. For a moment only, a dark look crossed the Green Elf's face.
"I shalt hath off her head at thy whim…m'Lady,"Anguirél offered from her scabbard, waxing cynical. The Sarchram chuckled in agreement and Helluin groaned. Rúmil's eyes bulged, marking the sword's voice. If Nimrodel heard, she paid no attention to the threat, fixing wholly upon Beinvír, whom she deemed the only other person present to be worthy of her attention.
"So from whence hath thou come to offer thy fair companionship, hither in my exile?”
"Indeed we hath come from Eriador to the west of the Misty Mountains, m'Lady,"Beinvír answered, "yet we hath journeyed far, even unto the Greenwood.”
Nimrodel regarded her a moment with a pitying expression.
"I feel for thee greatly then, to hath endured so long amidst the barbaric wastes beyond the mountains,"she said, "yet even the Greenwood is now well 'nigh a wilderland. How thou must be starved for genteel company and acceptable fare. Thou hast, no doubt, stooped to accept the hospitality of roadside inns and village taverns, if such can'st be rightly called hospitality. Why, to think of it. Such suffering! Thou do me honor indeed to come so far, and yet I understand thee. Hither, alone in all these wretched lands, is there a vestige of civility preserved. Alas.”
Beinvír resolved to say 'naught of their hunting and fishing, their open cook fires, or the nights passed in the open 'neath the stars. Helluin rolled her eyes at Nimrodel's claims while'st Beinvír humored her with a smile of gratitude despite the defamation of her homeland.
"Indeed 'tis as thou say for the most part, for the lands art wild. Yet the darkness of Greenwood hast been lifted of late. Hath thou heard?”
"Nay,"said Nimrodel, "and t'would be but a matter of degree only, I wager, for even aforetime was't the realm of Calenglad but a poor backwater.”
Changing her tact, Beinvír offered, "I hath it to understand that thou art from Calenglad i'Dhaer thyself, m'Lady. Surely 'twas not so bad upon a time?”
Here Nimrodel fairly shivered, and she leant forward to speak confidentially to the Green Elf, though all heard her clearly.
"Indeed I hailed from Calenglad in better times, though 'tis all a relative thing, I deem, and I distance myself from that claim now, for none could but think the less of me in these latter days. I pray thee mention it not hereafter. Yet thou hast journeyed thither. Surely thou understand?”
"I would understand thy concerns if they arise from the establishment of Dól Gúldúr and the evils of the Sorcerer,"Beinvír said. She was't about to continue, but she stopped, marking the shivering and the ill expression upon Nimrodel's face. Instead she asked with concern, "Art thou well, m'Lady?”
"Indeed I am not,"Nimrodel exclaimed. "Ever was't that horrid forest beset with evil, even long ere the Sorcerer darkened the wood. 'Twas the abode of foul spiders so plentiful as to drape all the trees with their webs and fill all the air with their stench. 'Twas ever so, or so I hath heard. Worse yet, 'twas the home of those insolent Tree Shepherds! No proper wood would hath countenanced them. No proper forest would hath needed them. 'Twas only because the trees of Greenwood knew not their rightful place. Indeed even from the First Days they went walking about, talking, and behaving unlike proper trees. They skulked about the forest…they and all their fellow creatures, all far too forward in their conduct! Mind you, I hath 'naught against sharing the forest with those of other kinds, but only so long as they keep well enough to themselves.”
Here she huffed in irritation while'st Helluin gritted her teeth and Beinvír rolled her eyes. Nimrodel continued her rant thus.
"I abode thither 'nigh on four hundred years and it seemed an Age. So I left that darkling wood for some peace of mind, indeed for some measure of sanity, and good riddance to it! I deem even King Thranduil hast not his wits about him. Indeed 'tis said he took counsel with the Treeherds and honored them. How appalling! I pity those of Elven kind still forced to endure in that feeble realm. Little better than the Avari is their lot. And so I journeyed west as did our folk in days of old. Hopeful was't I then. Alas, I found 'tis barely better hither. No Tree Shepherds slouch about this wood, nor doth spiders make Lórinand their home, but 'tis 'nigh a realm of Dwarves! And if that weren't ill enough, there art bears and Men and all those hideous little hairy-footed animals tromping past the borders of late! How upsetting!”
She wrung her hands and turned to Beinvír with a look of one wholly at their wits' end. The Green Elf forced herself not to roll her eyes. Nimrodel was't not even a princess of a royal house, yet she was't a drama queen sure enough and a whiner of the very first order who expected all things to conform to her wishes. Rather than berating her, the naturally optimistic Beinvír changed the subject.
"Lady Nimrodel, of late did my partner and I travel to Calenglad, and thither came to know thy sister, Inthuiril. Trials and tribulations did she endure, yet her future seems bright. Woulds't thou hear of her?”
For a moment surprise showed upon the elleth's face.
"My baby sister? Why, I hath heard 'naught from Inthuiril since I left the Greenwood. Aye! Indeed I would hear thy tidings of her. Of all those in that horrid wood, she was't ever my favorite.”
Beinvír nodded and began her rede.
"First, I found thy sister a hunter and march warden of Calenglad, and an esteemed counselor of the king. He holds her in honor and she attends him at court.”
Here Nimrodel smiled indulgently, as at the antics of a babe.
"She was't ever one to seek adventure, and even as a child, reveled in traipsing about the forest. Oft times she came home covered in filth; dirt, leaves, and mud, or brought home bugs and frogs and salamanders. Our naneth was't sorely vexed."
Nimrodel chuckled, an appealing sound like silvery water skipping o'er glistening stones amidst a swift-running freshet, as she recalled her little sister's childhood antics.
"T'would seem she found her place indeed…though not as a proper lady, of course,"Nimrodel said, "yet she is esteemed by King Thranduil, thou say? Still, a march warden and hunter? 'Tis a more fitting enterprise for youth, and a youthful ellon at that. Well, she is still young and I can only hope she shalt grow out of it in time."
The Green Elf nodded as if agreeing, but then resumed.
"Amongst other tales, she told me that she had seen an Onod amidst the wood and that he spoke with her apace ere taking his leave. Thence, following suspicions of her own, she journeyed hence to the Sorcerer's tower to learn the truth. Thither she was't taken prisoner and held captive.”
At Nimrodel's gasp Helluin well 'nigh chuckled, and she nodded approvingly to Beinvír from behind Nimrodel's back. The lady was't hugging herself and rocking back and forth in despair. Like all her other expressions, this one too seemed o'erly theatrical.
"O woe! So she has't met her end then indeed? Say thou that she was't taken and tormented by that monster? Alas, her wild ways hath betrayed her to her doom. Would that she had minded better in her youth and grown up to be a lady. Alas!”
For a moment Beinvír regarded her askance. Nimrodel had broken down, moaning and shaking her head, and muttering of heartbroken loss and judgmental recrimination. What a performance, she thought, one would think her sister a wayward child of a dozen years.
"Lady Nimrodel, despair not,"Beinvír said, "for thy sister was't rescued from the clutches of the Sorcerer. She was't returned to her own realm in good health, indeed somewhat the wiser, and her king rejoiced greatly in her safety.”
Nimrodel ceased her sobbing and peeked at Beinvír with teary eyes from 'neath the fall of her hair. She then sat up straighter and looked at the Green Elf with obvious relief.
"Indeed? Truly? Oh, I am so relieved!" After a moment's pause she continued with curiosity. "Howsoever came this to be, that she was't rescued from that horrid place? All feared the Sorcerer and certainly none in this realm would hath ever dared approach Dól Gúldúr."
She cast an accusatory glance at Rúmil and his company. For their part, the guards of Lórinand ignored her, edging in closer, eager to hear such tidings, for in truth, none of them would hath dared approach Dól Gúldúr for any reason.
"A great hero is her savior, I deem,"Nimrodel continued. "Like unto a fair prince of the hosts of old, this warrior; a shining knight fell and courageous, bound by honor and the codes of chivalry. He is a fine lord no doubt, perchance a handsome scion of some noble house riding upon errantry? Indeed such a one I would hold in the highest esteem for his bravery! Come, name him, I pray thee.”
Here Beinvír rolled her eyes and Helluin stifled a bark of laughter.
"'Twas neither prince nor knight m'Lady,"Beinvír replied, "but rather she whom thy folk name the Mórgolodh. She drove hence the Sorcerer from his tower and slew all his foul minions within ere she freed thy sister.”
The look of shock and disbelief upon Nimrodel's face was't well 'nigh comical. At first she could but sputter in amazement. The Green Elf nodded 'yea' to reinforce her words. Finally Nimrodel found her voice.
"The Mórgolodh? The warmongering Black Exile of the Noldor? She who led Oropher and Amdír to their dooms a thousand years past? Truly? I know not what to say! I thought her dead in Mordor ere the war's end, as do most who know their lore. Died in single combat with the Dark Lord himself, they say, and a fitting end that. A scourge upon the Tawarwaith she was't. Yet thou say she saved my sister and defeated the Sorcerer?”
"Indeed so, m'Lady,"Beinvír assured her, "and never did she drive hence the kings of Lórinand and Calenglad to their deaths. Rather she tried to aid them both as she could. Nor did she fall in the war against Sauron Gorthaur, but rather survived it to this day.”
To Nimrodel's stupefied silence, Beinvír added, "Though a commoner born, no other of Eru's Children doth the Dark Lord fear more. She is noble, m'Lady, in deed if not by birth, and many hold her in esteem 'cross this Middle Earth.”
"Well, I never,"Nimrodel huffed in astonishment as she grudgingly accepted Beinvír's assertions. "I suppose I owe her my thanks for her deeds on behalf of my gwathel tithen¹. Pray extend her my gratitude then if thou should see her, though such a chance I deem slight. In all my years I hath heard no tell of her in these parts or any other. Still, 'tis good to know such an enemy of the Dark One lives."¹(gwathel tithen, little sister Sindarin)
"Thy thanks thou may offer on thy own behalf, Lady Nimrodel, and soon"Beinvír said.
"Indeed? How so?"the lady asked in surprise.
"She stands not a fathom behind thee and hast served thee tea,"Beinvír told her while'st gesturing to Helluin o'er the lady's shoulder.
Nimrodel jerked around in disbelief and for one frozen moment stared at Helluin who was't glowering down at her, her eyes crackling with blue fire.
"I…I...w-why…I am m-mortified…"she stuttered ere her eyes rolled up in her head and she swooned straight away like a proper lady in distress.
Ere her head lolled o'er the back of her chair, Rúmil was't doubled up in hysterics. Helluin stood shaking her head. 'Twas left for Beinvír to dab cool water upon a cloth and lave the lady's forehead 'til she regained her wits. She recovered consciousness but slowly and with obvious disorientation.
"Whither? Whence?" I find am stricken light-headed, I fear,"she mumbled at first. Then belatedly, recalling somewhat of her conversation with the Green Elf, she uttered, "Say thou that my sister is safe indeed?”
Rúmil was't still chuckling and Helluin stifling her mirth.
"Aye, that she is,"Beinvír replied, "and soon to marry King Thranduil, I wager.”
This time Nimrodel's face struck the tabletop in her swoon and Rúmil fell silent in shock.
Beinvír gave her lover an innocent look which fooled Helluin not a moment. The warrior nodded her thanks and then cocked an ear to the south. Shortly later Rúmil and the guards roused themselves from their amazement and stood fast upon the path. The footsteps of a larger company could now be heard coming softly through the forest.
Nimrodel was't still out cold when Haldir and two dozen archers of Lórinand came 'nigh, and amidst them strode King Amroth. Rúmil and his company snapped to attention and bowed to their king. Amroth nodded to acknowledge them ere he stopped short in surprise. Then he hastened forward in alarm.
"What has't befallen the lady? Answer me!" The king demanded, pinning in turn all who stood by with his glare.
'Twas Helluin rather than Rúmil who answered.
"She hast taken shock at certain of our tidings, O King,"she reported nervously as she looked quickly to Beinvír.
What abysmal timing, meldanya! I scarce believe it! Now not only the fall of his father shalt he hold against me, but the trauma of his noble guest as well, I wager. Ahhh well.
Mayhaps t'will not be so bad, my love, the Green Elf said silently to her, his concern shalt outweigh his wrath, I wager…for a time, at least.
'Tis hardly a comforting thought.
At that moment, Nimrodel began to rouse herself at last. King Amroth had rushed to her side and now supported her upon his arm, his manner solicitous in the extreme.
"M'Lady, it fairly tears my heart to see thee so afflicted,"he said as he patted her hand.
Beinvír offered him the wet cloth and he took up laving her brow, hardly noticing the Green Elf at all. Beinvír met Helluin's eyes again and they spoke silently together.
I believe thy head is safe from the king's wrath at present, meldanya. See how he conducts himself like a love-struck ellon of a scant few decades? Indeed he makes Thranduil seem a cold-hearted knave by comparison. She giggled softly and Helluin rolled her eyes.
'Tis a thing amazing that these two sisters, so unlike unto one another, hath bewitched so completely these two neighboring kings. Perhaps I shalt be spared for a time after all. I wonder if we could now take our leave unnoticed?
But at that moment, King Amroth's glance fell upon Beinvír and then shifted to Helluin.
"Yesternoon I heard tell of thy visit and then of thy destination. I deemed 'twas good fortune. Therefore I set out hence at once for to greet thee and the lady together at one pass. T'would seem I hath come in the nick of time. What hast come to pass, pray tell?”
'Twas obvious to Helluin and Beinvír that their presence had given Amroth a reasonable excuse to visit Lady Nimrodel.
"We hath shared somewhat of our adventures,"the Green Elf began, "but our tidings hath taken the lady unprepared. 'Twas good tidings, yet indeed I deem the gravity of our words hath wrought this ill. 'Twas wholly unlooked for, O King.”
Amroth regarded her in confusion and then returned to Nimrodel.
"M'Lady, whyfore art thou so? What hast come to pass?" He asked while'st holding her hands and staring deeply into her eyes.
"Why 'twas good tidings indeed, my king, yet greatly unexpected. I fear I hath taken a shock at their tale, but I am alright, I assure thee." Here Nimrodel struggled to sit up straight, and though Amroth was't loath to release her, she gently freed herself and lifted her chin proudly. "I hath learnt of the captivity and liberation of my sister from the Sorcerer of Dól Gúldúr, and if that was't insufficient, I hath learnt too of her impending joining with King Thranduil!”
Now 'twas Amroth's turn to stare in open-mouthed shock. He looked from Nimrodel to Beinvír.
"Sooth? 'Tis so indeed?”
"Aye, 'tis just so, O King,"Beinvír assured him.
"How came this to pass? To the Greenwood messages we send and messages receive, yet they hath been few of late what with the darkening of Calenglad, and of these things I hath heard 'naught. Tell me thy tale, I pray thee,"he commanded.
So Helluin and Beinvír told their tale in full at the king's prompting, while'st Rúmil and Haldir and their companies stood by in amazement and Nimrodel wavered 'twixt swooning and rejoicing. In full, they harkened for o'er two hours and two more pots of tea. When the story was't done, Amroth turned to Nimrodel.
"Shalt thou go hence to Greenwood to attend thy sister?"
He seemed loath to let her go from his realm, indeed from his sight, now that he was't in her company. For her part, Helluin felt like gagging.
"Perhaps if a proper invitation is received I shalt consider it,"she said with uncertainty, "yet I am in no hurry to travel that ill-favored wood again for any reason. 'Tis well enough that Inthuiril wed King Thranduil, I suppose,"she said with noticeable hesitation, "if indeed such comes to pass at all, yet she is wild and he much too old for her." She was't shaking her head, having convinced herself that the relationship was't doomed.
She is jealous, Helluin said to Beinvír in silence, eye to eye.
So t'would seem indeed, meldis nín, Beinvír replied, for Nimrodel hast been leapfrogged in marriage by her unladylike little sister, and to a king, no less. How horrible for her…
The Green Elf suppressed a chuckle at the irony while'st Helluin shook her head. The Noldo would hath been only too happy to hear of her own sister, Elvearille, taking the hand of whosoever she would, be he king or commoner, so long as she found thither her bliss. And now I wonder how fares my gwathel tithen in the Blessed Realm? I hath not thought of her in a very long time, she realized.
In the end, rather than demanding her head upon a pike, King Amroth gave Helluin his thanks.
"For thy valiant defeat of the Sorcerer and the emptying of Dól Gúldúr thou hast my gratitude and the gratitude of my realm. As my father did, I welcome thee. Yet the more, I doth thank thee for bringing a cause of joy to the lady. Indeed Nimrodel hast become dear to me and her joy is as my own.”
Helluin bowed her head to honor his words, while'st breathing a sigh of relief.
See thou? No hard feelings doth Amroth hold against thee for the past, meldanya, Beinvír said silently. Indeed were thou to go thither, Thranduil would say 'aught alike, for he blames thee not. I hope that someday thou shalt allow him the chance to absolve thee in thy own eyes.
Helluin sighed. Mayhaps that day shalt come, yet for now I feel he needs my presence less than I need his absolution. To the court of Calenglad I shalt not willingly go.
The Green Elf nodded in understanding. Her beloved was't not ready to dispose of her guilt, for it grew more deeply from her own heart than that of King Thranduil.
Perhaps if an invitation should come to us for the wedding of Thranduil and Inthuiril, thou shalt hath to lay aside thy guilt to celebrate that happy day, Beinvír said.
Helluin could only blanch at the possibility.
To Be Continued
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