Chapter 12 – The Messenger
I nervously straightened my blades. Legolas had helped me to get dressed and had lead me to the throne room. We stood waiting outside the double doors. I brushed invisible dirt off of my tunic, looking for faults to try and distract myself.
"Stop, Seraphina. You look beautiful."
Legolas reassured me and I sighed.
"You are required to say that. You are my husband!"
I grumbled at him, not convinced. He laughed and laced his fingers through my own.
"I say it because it is the truth. Now, stop it."
Legolas looked pointedly at me. I sighed again and stood still, impatience making me frustrated. At last, the double doors opened, and we walked in to the throne room.
It was a long room. Tall, stone pillars stretched up to the arched ceiling. Tapestries hung on the wall, their colours muted golds and browns. A throne was positioned at the far end, and a cluster of people gathered before it.
Théoden sat in the throne, watching my progress. I kept my eyes focused on Aragorn, Gimli and Gandalf, who stood to the right of the throne. A young woman stood to the left, her arms crossed. Something about her was familiar but I could not put my finger on it.
After what seemed like an age, I stood before the throne. Releasing Legolas' hand, I knelt down on one knee, head down. A memory surfaced: I had been in this position many times before, but in completely different circumstances.
"Rise, my dear lady."
Théoden sounded amused. I stood, and looked at him. His hair was shoulder length, and wavy. He was dressed in a simple tunic, and leggings, but gold piping singled him out as royalty. Lines etched his face, making him appear older than he actually was, but his eyes sparkled with boyish enthusiasm. He had changed much over the years, save for a few more lines that came with the passage of time.
"I came to thank you for your hospitality, Sire…"
I began to say the speech I had prepared in my head, but he cut me off.
"You know me well enough, my dear, to be able to call me Théoden. As for your expressions of gratitude, you need have none. You have done much for Rohan these past years. To help in your time of need was nothing."
Théoden inclined his head towards me. I smiled, and nodded.
"You are looking well, my lady."
The woman spoke up. She wore a long burgundy dress, nipped in at the waist. Her chestnut hair flowed free, rippling down her back. Her features were well proportioned, giving her a fresh-faced beauty.
"Yes, I am feeling quite well."
I gave her smile, which she did not return.
"Your voice sounds familiar, so I surmise that you were the woman that healed me alongside Legolas and Aragorn."
Her eyes widened slightly before she schooled her expression in to a mask of neutrality.
"You could hear us?"
She sounded a little surprised, and I nodded before speaking again.
"Sometimes, yes. It gave me the strength to keep fighting."
I answered her, glancing at Legolas. He grinned at me, and I blushed slightly, causing Aragorn and Gimli to chuckle.
"What is your name, my lady?"
I turned back to the woman, studying her face.
"My name is Éowyn."
My eyes widened as I realised who she was.
"Forgive my lapse in memory, my lady. I remember you and your brother Éomer. I notice he is not here. I would very much like to speak with him. It has been too long since our last meeting."
I looked at the others, who all looked uncomfortable. At last, Théoden spoke.
"You have missed much. I think it time you were informed of the events that have gone on."
I sat back, stunned. With the help of Théoden, Gandalf had explained the events that had gone on just before I had arrived, and while I had been unconscious. He also explained how he had come to be reunited with the others. Grief also lingered in the Hall, for Théoden had informed me of his son's death. I saw the pain in his eyes and offered nothing more than my heartfelt condolences, for he did not need to hear empty words.
Chairs had been brought in to the throne room, along with a table, and we were all spread out. I was sitting on the floor, leaning against a pillar.
"I am sorry I did not get here sooner."
I looked at Théoden, who was still on his throne.
"I doubt it would have made much difference, my dear. Saruman's hold was strong."
Gandalf spoke, his voice brooding. I still couldn't believe he was alive. I had watched him fall with the Balrog. How was it even possible? Even with his explanation, I found it hard to accept.
"Grima banished Éomer?"
I asked about that part again, voice disbelieving.
"Yes. He claimed he was acting under my Uncle's orders. No-one believed him, but no-one could do anything about it. If they stood up to him, they would have been put to death."
Éowyn's voice was quiet, but furious.
"So yet more evil is appearing in Middle Earth."
I whispered to myself, staring at the floor. The others remained silent. I turned inwards, searching through my thoughts, when Éowyn addressed me.
"You appear to know my Uncle well. What is your history with him?"
I looked up at Théoden, smiling.
"I am a fairly restless Elf and I travel a lot. I knew Théoden from when he was merely a child. Rohan has long been one of my favourite kingdoms. I visited often, and so formed a strong friendship with him and his family. I did not visit for a good long while and when I once again returned, there were three new additions to his family. I do not claim to know your parents, for they passed before I met you for the first time. As the years passed, I visited less frequently, drawn away by events and issues amongst my own kin. Whenever I did visit, I spent time with Théoden and by extension, Théodred and Éomer. Éomer is an honourable man – a good man."
I finished, and looked at Éowyn. She looked a little stunned as she took in the information. Théoden was smiling, lost in thought, while the others just listened to the story.
A sharp pain made me sit up suddenly. Legolas immediately appeared by my side, pressing his hand to my back. He held me close, rubbing my back in gentle circles, waiting until I relaxed. The pain disappeared and I slumped against Legolas in relief.
"I thought you had healed, lassie?"
Gimli looked anxious.
"Not completely, but it is only a passing pain. Nothing to worry about."
The words were more to convince myself than him. In truth, it was worrying me. The wound should have stopped paining me when I woke up. It was healing a lot slower than the other wounds. Legolas had not yet found a reason why. I could only wait for the wound to heal; there was not much we could do.
The sounds of the doors banging open made us all look up. A single soldier ran in, fear registering on his face.
"Sire, the watch has spotted a Black Rider."
The solider sounded scared. I suddenly looked up as I noticed the use of the single plural.
"Just the one?"
I asked him sharply. He nodded.
"BY THE LIGHT OF EÄRENDIL!"
I yelled out, my voice echoing around the throne room. Everyone jumped and stared at me.
"Will he never let me be?"
I sprang up, and tore off my blades, handing them to Legolas. I ran out of the room, leaving a stunned silence behind me. I ran down the steps, and followed the path leading to the entrance gates. I looked up at the watch towers, and saw that archers were lining up.
I shouted up at them and they looked at me in bewilderment.
I repeated my shouted command and, one by one, they lowered their bows, still staring at me. Satisfied, I whistled sharply. After a moment, hoof beats pounded along towards me. Fëa stood beside me. Without a word, she knelt and I mounted her. She stood up, snorting. She knew what I wanted to do. We trotted towards the entrance gates. With a look at the soldiers, they opened the gates allowing us out. As soon as we were clear, we galloped towards the black shape in the distance that was steadily coming closer.
Legolas stood holding Seraphina's blades, listening as she shouted to the archers to stand down. He began to calmly rearrange the blades so they would fit on his back, along with his bow and arrows.
"Why are we still standing here? We must go after her!"
Aragorn stated his feelings and he began to move forward but stopped as Legolas spoke.
"No. She knows what she is doing. Besides, I have not seen her in such a rage for a good long while. It would not be wise to try and stop her."
The bewilderment and fear on his friend's face had Legolas giving him a comforting smile, but it seemed to do nothing.
"So you are just going to stand her and watch as she goes to confront a Nazgûl, unarmed and alone!?"
Aragorn all but shouted at Legolas, body shaking with fury.
"I will observe from the watchtower. I have trust in Seraphina's abilities. She has more experience with Nazgûl than any other being in Middle Earth. You should believe in her more, Aragorn."
Legolas explained her actions, his tone neutral but with a hard edge.
"She is not yet fully healed! She is too weak to face it alone!"
Legolas could see his friend's distress, and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"She is not young and inexperienced any more, mellon. She has faced Nazgûl before. Have faith."
Aragorn nodded, but his eyes betrayed the fear he felt. Legolas turned and walked out of the throne room, leading the others. They reached the watchtower, and climbed up, spreading themselves out on the battlements. Legolas watched as Seraphina galloped towards the Black Rider. On the outside, he looked calm, and in control. In the inside, he was in turmoil. He had had no choice but to let her go. He had to believe in her abilities; he had to believe that she would return unharmed. He could not bear to lose her again. He watched as the two riders came closer and closer, until they stopped a little way from each other. Everyone tensed as Seraphina dismounted and walked forwards towards the Nazgûl.
Fëa skidded to a halt, a little ways from the other horse. She shifted nervously from foot to foot, throwing her head up, and snorting. I dismounted, and stroked her nose, attempting to calm her. She quieted down, but backed up a little, creating more space between her and the Nazgûl.
It had dismounted as well, and was standing silently, the wind blowing its robes out. I strode forward, anger surging within me. I stopped just a few paces in front of it.
"I am unarmed, and I know you come to deliver a message. Speak."
My voice was commanding.
"I come on my own grounds, She-Elf."
My eyes widened a little in surprise but I said nothing.
"You turned down my Master's offer. Foolish Elf."
I rolled my eyes.
"If you came here to inform me that I made a mistake, do not bother. I am angry enough as it is, without being given a lecture."
The cloaked figure paused for a moment, the wind making its cloak flap in the breeze. I merely waited for it to continue, not wanting to speak more than necessary.
"The servant of Saruman has returned to Isengard. He has given away valuable information."
The blood froze in my veins. Grima had extensive knowledge of Rohan. Anything he said to Saruman would be an advantage.
"He knows that Rohan is too hard to defend from an army. He knows that the people will go to Helm's Deep. Saruman intends to send an army, thousands strong, to Helm's Deep, and crush it, until all that is left is rubble and blood."
I stared hard at the creature, my mind whirling with the information. One thing was nagging at me and I spoke, voice accusing.
"Why are you telling me this? I no longer serve Sauron. By all rights, you should have killed me by now."
The Nazgûl stayed silent for several tense beats, and I was slightly concerned that he was going to act out my words. Instead, he turned away and walked towards his mount. He turned his head and spoke over his shoulder.
"There are those among us who harbour thoughts that you may yet return to us. Do what you will with the information. Be warned: you have little time."
The Nazgûl finished, and mounted his horse. Without another word, it turned it's horse around and galloped off the way it had come. I stood there, staring after it. Fëa nudged my back, nickering. I absently turned to her, and mounted her. She cantered back to the gates of Rohan, trotting through the open doors. I slid off of her, patting her neck. She whinnied and trotted off towards the stables. Before I had time to think, I was enveloped in to a hug. Legolas clutched me to him, his chest heaving. I hugged him back, and then gently prised his arms open.
"I am not hurt. It simply came to deliver a message. Where is Théoden?"
I talked quickly, looking around.
"He and Gandalf went to pay his respects to his son."
I bowed my head, saying a silent prayer, the shock still existing within me. Suddenly, I whipped my head round towards the entrance gates. I could feel the faint tremors of hoof beats in the ground and Legolas perked up, feeling them too. I ran towards the gates, yelling for them to be open. They swung open and I slipped through, searching the horizon. There. A horse appeared, trotting slowly. It looked exhausted, its head hanging low. Two small shapes huddled on top of the horse. As the horse came closer, I saw that they were children.
A change came over me suddenly. Before I knew it, I was sprinting towards them. I didn't pay attention to Gandalf calling my name. All I knew was that I had to get to the children. I watched as one of them slipped off and landed on the ground with a thud. I pushed myself faster, breath coming in gasps. I had to get to these children: I would take care of them no matter what.
I reached the horse. It simply stood there, foamy sweat dripping from its mouth and covering its chest. I crouched down and examined the child on the floor. It was a young boy. He was thin, and looked exhausted. A mop of curly brown hair highlighted his dark brown eyes.
"Will you help us?"
A small voice came from above me. I looked up, and saw a tiny girl, her eyes wide and frightened.
"Of course, henig. Do not be afraid. You are safe now."
I made my voice calm, and gentle, wanting the girl to feel at ease. I gently lifted the boy off the ground, and cradled him to my chest. I was surprised by how light he was, but his weight still sent a shock of pain through my back. I patted the horse's neck and started walking back to Rohan. The horse followed, breathing hard. The girl whimpered slightly and hung on to the horse's mane. I looked back at her and gave her a reassuring smile. I shifted the boy closer to my chest. They were my charges now, and I would make absolutely certain they would come to no harm.
A child's laughter sounded in my head. A high voice. A flash of silvery hair. Legolas holding a baby girl in his arms, his eyes alight with adoration.
Then, a funeral. Weeping Elves. Watching as a small coffin is lowered in to the ground.
I shook my head. No. That was in the past. These children were here now, and they needed my attention. I could not dwell on the past. I could not dwell on my own daughter.
Okay. Wow. I did not really have any idea where all of that came from but I hope you guys like it.
Don't worry. The story will start moving on a bit more after this chapter (I hope).I have an idea forming in my head about a confrontation between Sera and Eowyn maybe? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. And again, thank you for your continued support.
Henig – my child
Mellon - Friend