Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison
XII

So we fled. But we were lost, and so we fled from nowhere to nowhere. Long days passed, and longer nights. Oft would she stop and listen. “Hark!” she would whisper. “Hark! Dost thou not hear them? The footsteps……”

There came a day when we could run no more. My poor sister would have kept on, crawling, for terror lent her strength, but I could scarce put one foot before the other, and determined that we would stand and face that which pursued us.

Both Minenil and I bore knives, and we both had been taught some blade exercise. I thought that we could perhaps give a good account of ourselves, if we were pursued by only one. And she told of only one. That was the thing, she would go on and on, until I confess I was weary of it, and bade her be still. “I know,” I said to her, “that we are being pursued! What boots it for thee to harp constantly on it? Save thy breath to defend thyself, sister. Come, draw thy knife and we will set ourselves here near this rock. Thus we need not fear that he will come upon us from the back..”

She looked away from me, and said, “I have lost my knife, sister.”

Then was I angry in earnest. “Lost thy knife! How couldst thou be so careless, and us fleeing for our lives!”

She turned to me, and said, “Let be, Lorinil! Hast thou never been careless? Why must I submit myself to thy correction?” Then she began to weep again. “I am sorry, sister. But why must thou shout at me so? Thy anger frightens me.”

I took her by the shoulders and shook her. Maybe I was wrong to do it, but betwixt fear and anger I was not myself. “My anger frightens thee? Do not be such a fool, sister! Ever has it been so, that I must think for two, and take care of thee, and now thou canst not even keep thy knife in the scabbard!”

I pushed her away from me and she fell weeping to the ground and my heart was moved by love and remorse, that I had been so severe with her. For she was my little sister, and not as strong as I.

But then, all such thoughts were driven away. For not one set of footsteps did I hear, but many, and suddenly a party of hunters came upon us.

They were of Elven kind, but not like any I had seen. They were clad all in rusty black, and wore masks over their eyes. Five of them there were, and all armed, all with drawn swords.

“What have we here?” the leader said. He came near, and stared at me, and at Minenil, who was now on her feet and clinging to me. “Not a Hart, nor a Roe Deer, but maidens, and lovely maidens, too.” He looked about. “All alone, art thou?”

“Hasten from us,” I said, as boldly as I might. “For should our father and brothers return to find thee annoying us, they wilt slay thee in their wrath.”

The leader laughed. “Thy father and brothers? But, lady, we have been at thy heels for days and have seen naught of any father or brothers.”

“I thought that it was Deer thou sought,” I answered. “If so, why hast thou pursued us?”

“These are perilous woods, lady,” he said. “Two maidens wandering about might come to great harm.” Then he spoke to the others. “Leave us. I would speak to these maidens in private.”

The others withdrew. Turning to us he pulled off the mask that he wore. He was fair, and his countenance noble. “Lady,” he said to me, “we are Wardens of these woods, and truly we mean thee no harm. But harm has come to someone, for we found the body of an Elf some way from here. I know that he was your companion, for we had news of your party as soon as you passed our sentinels. Indeed, this Elf was known to us, he was Aellin, and kin to a great house of Nargothrond. How came it about that thou wert in his company? And how did he meet his death?”

“He was our uncle, and was taking us from our home in Doriath to our mother’s people in Nargothrond for the Summer festival,” I answered him. “But he was set upon and slain, and we fled in terror. My poor sister saw him slain, and she has been overset since, ill with fear and grief.”

“Set upon? By whom?” he asked, his bright eyes on Minenil’s pale face. “Didst thou see this deed, didst thou see the villain that slew thy uncle?”

She trembled and looked away.

“Answer me, lady,” he urged. “Such a foul murder must not go unpunished! Do not fear to name him, if his name be known to thee. We have his knife, at least, and by its markings we see that he came from the Kingdom of Doriath. Maybe he followed thee hence? Here, this is the weapon.”

He held out the knife and I saw that it was Minenil’s blade.

His eyes met mine, and I saw that in his that made my heart sink. Fair he was, and noble of aspect, but stern withal. He would deal out justice, but no mercy.

“It is my sister’s knife,” I said. “She lost it, and we were speaking of it just now!”

He touched her arm. “Lady,” he said, his voice very gentle and soft, “Lady. It is my duty to learn what I may of this matter. Be sure that it is a sorrow to me, to have to speak so to thee when I can see that thou art ill, and heartsore. Is this thy knife indeed?”

She looked at it, trembling, then nodded.

“And is it true, lady, that thou hath lost this knife?” he asked.

She looked away, and spoke not.

He sighed. “Lady,” he said to me. “This is the blade that killed thy uncle Aellin.”

“I do not doubt it,” I answered, making my voice calm. “It is as I said, my sister lost her knife. It was found, and the finder murdered my uncle.”

“I must tell thee, Lady,” he said, “that we found no sign of anyone other than thee and thy sister. We are skilled trackers, know thou, and would have seen the marks of other feet.”

“Maybe,” I said, “maybe the murderer was of unnatural kind, and came upon my uncle by means of magical stealth. For are not many servants of the Enemy about in the land, in these days?”

“That thought was in my mind, too,” he said, “but the servants of the Enemy ever despoil their victims, and hew the bodies, so as to cause as much horror and grief as they may. Thy uncle was murdered, yes, he was stabbed more than once, but then he was left, dead but untouched otherwise.”

“Yes,” I answered shortly. “I saw him.” I considered what was best next to say. I saw where this Warden’s thoughts were taking him. “But can we be sure that the servants of the Enemy will always act by rule? Maybe this is yet another vileness on His part, to create doubt and malice in our people?”

He was quiet for some moments. “It may be as thou sayest, Lady. For who can say for certain what the Enemy and his minions might or might not do? Be that as it may, I must take thee and thy sister now in charge. Thou canst not wander where thou wilt in these parts for it is as I said, a perilous place. And our law forbids it, besides.”

“Take us in charge? Surely thou wilt merely escort us to our home?”

“It is not quite that simple, Lady. I have my duty, and my duty requires that thou be brought first to my Captain.” He beckoned to his companions, and they came forward.
“We must lie here tonight,” he said to one of them. “Let a shelter be made for these maidens, and a goodly fire.”

In a short space of time there was a sort of hut made for our use. The wardens brought soft boughs to make us a bed, and they were generous with their food and drink. Yet I saw that Minenil ate naught, nor did she drink. She sat silent, and her eyes held that unseeing look that at once moved me to compassion and to anger. “You must eat,” I insisted. “We shall need all our strength to face what might come on the morrow.”

Still she did not answer me, but only closed her eyes and bit her lip.

“Minenil! You must tell this warden all that you saw! I know, my darling, that thou wouldst as soon ban all this horror from thy mind, but thou must speak! Canst thou not see that he thinks it was thy hand that felled our uncle? His death is to be laid against thee! And here we are, who knows how far from our father, and from our King who might defend us?”

“There is naught to defend you against,” she whispered at last. “Thou art not guilty.”

“Minenil! Minenil, sister!” My blood ran thick with dread, and I sat by her and took her cold hands in mine. “My darling. What is it that thou wouldst say? Please, please, do not tell me….”

She forestalled me, putting her fingers against my lips. “It was I, Lorinil. It was I who slew Aellin.” Then she went on to say that which truly froze me with terror. “It is he, it is he who pursues us! O, sister, can you not hear his footsteps?”………


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