Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison
XIII


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?”

That was an awful night. Minenil fell at last into a restless sleep, but I lay long awake. There was no course before us that did not lead to greater grief and shame, and turn and turn and turn it about in my mind as I did, I could not see any way out of this trouble.

I did not allow my thoughts to dwell upon what Minenil had told me. She would say no more than she had, and I did not press her. I feared for her, that she might fall indeed into madness and never be her merry self again. I believed what she had said, that Aellin had been slain by her hand. Why? There could be but one reason, and I flinched away even in my thoughts from making that reason plain. The slaying of Aellin was not murder then. Had she not slain him, it would have fallen to my father, or his brothers, to do the deed.

Once it came to me that if such a things must needs happen, it were better that it happened where Minenil was a stranger, and her shame not known over all Doriath. But it was not, seest thou, that I was myself ashamed of my sister.

I lay awake and could hear the wardens moving about the camp, and their low deep voices speaking quietly. Through the opening that was the door of our shelter I saw their bright fire and the sparks that flew into the night. Then I slept, to be wakened some time later by the warden Mablung, who called to us to arise.

Minenil was somewhat better in the morning, and she took some breakfast. She would not speak, however, and kept her eyes turned to the ground. We were treated with courtesy and kindness, yet I wished heartily that we were anywhere but there. Still, we had no choice but to go whither we were taken, and it was not long after breakfast that we set out.

I could see that they kept to a pace that they believed suited Minenil and me. She and I walked hand in hand and I could feel that her hand was very cold, and trembled in mine. Now and again she would look at me and my heart was wrung with pity at the look in her sweet eyes, for she was frightened, both of what was to come, and of the phantom that followed her. I did my best to encourage her, and to give her what strength I could by means of heartening words. “Do not fear,” I said. “All will be plain enough, and these, I deem, are honourable folk who will be sure to deal fairly with thee. Come, sister. I am with thee, and will do all I can to defend thee.”

After a time I began to take notice of the woods we walked through. These were ancient trees, and the forest was dark and the path not easy to walk. Great roots impeded our steps at times, and many times we had to be helped over these obstacles. I felt that we were being watched, and I saw that Minenil’s despair became worse from the same cause. She, poor thing, believed that it was our dead uncle who spied upon us, and she shivered and pressed close to me and whispered that she wished she was dead, that she might be free of his eyes upon her.

The warden Mablung walked with us when the path permitted. “Surely thy sister and thee can see that these woods are no fit place for any to walk unwary? Can you not hear the trees speaking, each to the other? Wert thou alone now, they would seize upon thee, and thou wouldst never leave the forest. They hate us, we who go about on two legs.”

“Are they then servants of the Enemy?” I asked.

“No. They are older than that, lady. They were here before we Quendi awoke, I believe. There are tales that there is a guardian in this forest, a being known as Iarwain Ben-adar, who is known to be Eldest, and if it should happen that he comes upon one who is in peril of the trees he wilt save that one, but then, he cannot be everywhere at once, and these woods are vast.”

“I do not understand,” I said. “How can the trees be a danger to us, who walk upon our legs while they are held fast by their roots?”

“They sing one into being still, and then one is caught, seest thou?”

I confess I did not then believe all that the warden Mablung said, yet I could feel, certainly, the menace of the watchful trees. As for poor Minenil, it really mattered not, whether ‘twas the trees or our dead uncle, she was so worn with fear and worry that it seemed more than she could do, just to walk.

At last we came to where was stationed the Captain of the Wardens. This was more than a sentinel outpost, but was a proper dwelling place of these folk, and was not in the forest itself, but rather built upon the rocky slopes beneath Ered Wethrin. Learning this, I understood how far we had come from our intended path in our flight after Aellin was killed.

Upon our arrival in that place we were given rooms in a guesthouse. Mablung left us there in the charge of his wardens while he went to consult with his Captain. I tended to Minenil, saw that she was able to bathe and dress her hair and put on a clean gown, and did the same for myself. The keeper of the guesthouse brought food and drink to us where we sat upon a porch overlooking pleasure gardens, and they were indeed lovely gardens full of flowers and singing birds.

Then came Mablung with his Captain.

Ages have passed since I first saw Thalion, and O, I can see him yet as he walked up the porch steps beside Mablung. Tall he was, and fair as are all our people. Why it was he and no other who awoke my heart, who can say? Yes, he was beautiful, with his silver-gold hair and eyes as green as the leaves in Spring. Yes, his lithe body moved gracefully, his step light and firm. His voice, when he spoke, was like music in my ears, but do not all our people speak with voices that ring with beauty like silver bells? His expression was grave and calm, and he greeted me courteously in the manner of the folk of those regions, putting out both his hands and clasping mine…..

Here did the Lady Lorinil pause, and Gandalf waited for her to go on. She held out her hands and looked at them with her head to the side, then she shook her head slightly and went on speaking.

…..I do recall that I answered him with the same courtesy while it seemed that some kind of fire flowed from his hands into my very being. It seemed that I could have stood so until the end of Time, my hands clasped in his, my eyes upon his beautiful face. He smiled slightly, and bowed his head and spoke to me.

“Lady Lorinil? I am Thalion, Captain of the Wardens of Eastern Beleriand. I greet thee, lady.”

I must have said somewhat, although I do not remember what. He loosed my hands and turned to Minenil.

She stood, and I could see that she trembled grievously. Yet she looked up at him.

“Lady Minenil? I am Thalion, Captain of Wardens. My lady,” he said gently, “I must take speech with thee regarding the death of thine uncle Aellin. Be sure that I am not here to torment thee, but only to learn what I might of that matter.”

He took her hands briefly, and bowed his head to her.

His manner was such that my poor sister was able to be a little calm, and to seat herself again and look at him as he spoke to her. I stood at the railing and took no part in their conversation. It was enough, somehow, to simply be where he was. Though my heart had pulsed scarce ten score times since he held my hands, I knew that I would wish ever to be near him.

He said to her, “Lady, the warden Mablung has given me this knife. Is it thy knife?”

She nodded, her eyes never leaving his.

“Thou knowest that the hand that slew thy uncle wielded this knife?”

Again she nodded, her haunted dark eyes never leaving his.

“And thou doth understand that I must ask thee: didst thou see this deed?”

Again she nodded, and now there were tears on her face, and the expression in her eyes must have wrung pity from a stone.

“Doth thou know the name of the one who slew thy uncle?” he asked, and his voice was softer and more gentle than it had yet been.

And again she nodded. Her breath was coming quick, and she shook sorely, and clasped her hands hard together.

He looked up, and his eyes met mine. Oddly enough, his expression was a plea. It was as if he was asking me if he needed to go on, if he needed to keep questioning Minenil.

But he did. “Was it thee, lady?” he asked.

She sobbed, and raised her hands and then, rising to her feet, she shrieked, “Yes! Yes, it was I who killed him!”

She crumpled to the floor and Thalion knelt by her and drew her up, lifting her. “Show me to her chamber, lady,” he said to me. “For this poor maiden has borne enough for today, I deem.”

A healer was sent for, and she came quickly, bearing in her hands a bowl of herbs. She called for hot water, and more blankets, as she bent and chafed Minenil’s hands and stroked her pale face. “This child has suffered much,” she murmured. She held Minenil’s wrist and counted her racing pulse. “What she chiefly needs is rest. Art thou her sister?”

I said that I was. “She is so pale,” I said. “And her heart beats so! See, it shakes her, poor Minenil.”

“Though she seems very ill to thee,” the healer said, “her body is strong, and will heal, given rest. But I hear her thoughts, and her dreams, there is great pain there though I cannot read it clearly, and it is there that the danger lies. Still, be comforted. I have great skill in these matters, and will care for thy sister very tenderly. For now, I will give her a sleeping draught, and that will let her body rest.”

I withdrew from the bedchamber and went out into the garden. For some time I wandered hither and thither, unthinking, only whispering Minenil’s name over and over, and wiping the tears from my face. Poor little sister! Thalion had lifted her as easily as if she had been a little child, and she had lain in his arms as if she were already dead.

Then he was before me on the path. “Is she better?” he asked.

“Somewhat. The healer thinks it best if she sleeps for a time. Surely thou art not here to speak to her again!”

“No, no, lady,” he said. “I deem I have learned nearly all I need to know.” He hesitated. “Did she say aught to thee of why she did it?”

“No,” I answered.

“I see,” he said gravely. “I do not know how to speak of this matter, lady. Thou must forgive me, if I cause thee pain. But it is my duty.”

I looked up at his stern face, but though it was stern there was pity in his eyes, and I knew that Minenil need not fear him, nor his law. I bethought me of what was best to do. Who knew how long it would be before Minenil could speak for herself again?

“Though she did not tell me,” I said, “ I think I can guess.” I thought of going on, of maybe saying, after all, that she had told me. But I did not.

“There can be no guessing, lady, in this matter. I deem that thou doth understand that thy sister might not be guilty of murder, though she did kill him?”

“Yes,” I said.

“The question must be asked, Lady Lorinil. But it need not be asked today,” he said. “I have taken thought, lady. Shall I send messages to thy folk, that thy mother and father might know of what has befallen?”

I considered. “I do not know,” I said. “Were it only for my comfort, I would say yes. But I do not know what Minenil would want.”

“Surely she would want thy mother?” he asked.

I did not say that I thought it was best that those at home know as little as might be of what had gone forth, at least for now. What? Send a message to my mother and father saying that their daughter was ill and in danger of her life because she had murdered her uncle, and that because….

I shook my head. “I think we shall wait, sir,” I said. Somehow I could not say what I thought to this stern young Captain, although in my heart I was sure I was right.

I wished most heartily that he and I were conversing for some other cause! Even as it was I could not help but be conscious of his nearness. I longed to touch him, and so walked closer that my gown might brush against him. I saw that he looked at me with kindness.

“Thy sister and thou were traveling to Nargothrond for the Summer Festival?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “She and I are Minstrels, and we were going there to take part in the singing.”

“I can readily believe,” he said, sighing, “that such a sweet voiced maiden must sing like a nightingale….”



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