Disclaimer: Does doggie want a biscuit? Does cute little doggie woggy want a bickie? Oh come on¡­come here¡­oh no! Oh my gosh help! Stay away. Here you can have the biscuit. Nooooo. Help me! Somebody! AHHH ARRRGHHHHHH!!! *Meanwhile Spirit Star watches in amusement as her imaginary dog Hoom beats the crap out of her imaginary friend. Oh and she would also like to mention that characters Adariel and her father and a few minor unheard of places and characters belong to her and if you mistreat them she will send Hoom after you. Everything else is Tolkien¡¯s*

Echoes of the Narbeleth

Spirit Star

Chapter 21: In which there is great haste

¡°Wilt thou stay or wilt thou go?¡± Éowyn asked hollowly when Adariel came to see her the next day, and looked about to the north with some reflection. Suddenly Adariel felt pity for this proud lady and for her clipped wings. It was with some difficulty that she asked for a horse.

¡°Th¨¦oden King has taken some, and what good steeds we had left we lent to the Lord Aragorn.¡± Éowyn replied a little bitterly. ¡°You must check with the stables. But this is not our hold in Edoras, and many great horses were lost as you well know.¡±

¡°Then I will stay,¡± Adariel said, ¡°as long as you may need me.¡±

¡°But I do not need you.¡± Éowyn said. ¡°Therefore I give you leave to go as you came.¡±

At that moment there came shouts from below them, and there was great excitement. Éowyn stood quickly and pressed to the northern wall. Starkhorn echoed with the pounding of tired hooves. No news came to her, yet she knew. ¡°I must meet them,¡± Éowyn cried and with great urgency made for the stables. ¡°They are at the Firienfeld!¡±

Following, Adariel made her way with most of the camp past the king¡¯s pavilion and the small newly erected tent beside it and stood silently as out of the horses¡¯ shelter rode not the White Lady of Rohan but a Rider of the Mark, or so it appeared. The Rohirrim turned off the road to meet the rider. Back they rode, without great haste, and the people scattered with glad hearts to welcome back their king.

She watched as they passed through the short heath and upland grass without speaking until they came to the king¡¯s pavilion. Éowyn looked slightly startled to see her standing there, and as one awoken from a deep sleep or heavy thought she said, ¡°Come my lords and rest. You are not the only ones to shelter here tonight.¡±

Th¨¦oden looked up and surprise lit his face but in Éomer¡¯s eyes there was recognition. Beyond him Adariel saw a small figure the size of a mortal boy grimly adjusting his helm. One Halfling she saw, but could not find the other.

¡°An elf?¡± the King asked Éowyn. ¡°There was an elf with Lord Aragorn. Has the north sent a woman to our aid?¡±

¡°Nay, my lord,¡± Éomer spoke, ¡°for we have met. She entered these lands as one of Aragorn¡¯s company.¡± Turning to Adariel, he said: ¡°We find you alone for Éowyn tells us of Aragorn¡¯s road. He is lost but you have not gone with him. Why?¡±

Having heard Aragorn¡¯s name, the Halfling looked up. Adariel did not doubt that this was either Merry or Pippin. Looking back up at Éomer Adariel replied, ¡°I have other errands to run to the south. To ride to that end was not for me to choose.¡±

¡°There were two other of her kind. They were sons of Elrond from the forgotten valley of Rivendell in the north gone to ride with Lord Aragorn into shadow.¡± Éowyn suddenly said.

¡°You look familiar,¡± a voice said. ¡°I cannot place your face. Who are you? Have we met before?¡±

Adariel turned to the hobbit, who was looking at her with narrowed eyes. ¡°Forgive me my lords,¡± she shook her head. ¡°I have not named myself. I am known as Adariel of the elves who once lived in the Fangorn woods. You know of our people well, yet we have seldom met.¡±

¡°We do not stay into Fangorn on whim Adariel of the Woodland. Long have we two peoples been estranged. Yet if you come as a friend those days are ended.¡± Th¨¦oden said steadily.

¡°Those days have indeed ended and they shall never be seen again in this Age, nor the next, nor for as long as the line of Men holds in this land.¡± Adariel answered cryptically and it seemed to those who heard her that her face was bittersweet.

¡°I do not know that name,¡± the hobbit said. ¡°but Meriadoc ¨C Merry ¨C is what I am called and I am very pleased to meet you.¡±

¡°Well met Master Meriadoc,¡± Adariel replied.

Th¨¦oden laughed. ¡°Ever polite are the Shirefolk. Come king¡¯s esquire. There is a tent for you beside mine where you shall rest for now.¡± With a nod at Adariel he disappeared into the pavilion with Éomer and several other men. Éowyn remained to escort Merry to the small tent beside the king¡¯s lodging. Returning, assured Adariel her freedom to roam the camp before leaving on an errand.

¡°Lady Éowyn!¡± Adariel called after her. Éowyn turned questioningly.

¡°I must leave before nightfall,¡± Adariel said. ¡°I¡­I cannot explain but my heart forbids me to stay.¡±

¡°Whither will you go?¡± Éowyn asked, an echo of the question asked not so long ago. Yet this time there came an answer.

¡°I ride to the south,¡± Adariel answered to her own surprise. ¡°I was told that¡­¡±

Then Éowyn was still and cold. Her face showed no emotion and when she spoke her voice was chilled. ¡°You must ask the Lord of the Mark. I no longer rule these lands for the King has returned and for the while I am Éowyn Éomund¡¯s daughter and I am but sister-daughter to Th¨¦oden of the Mark no more yet no less.¡± So saying, she turned and strode away.

Adariel sighed and watched at a distance the passing of Men to and from the king¡¯s lodgings bringing and taking counsel. To intrude would be discourteous but night was coming fast. It was not long before night did fall yet men kept vigil by the pavilion. However, Éowyn appeared once more and seeing Adariel sitting alone nearby invited her inside.

In the inner part of the pavilion was a small space, curtained off with broidered hangings and strewn with skins; and there at a small table sat Th¨¦oden, Éomer and a stranger who was D¨²nhere, lord of Harrowdale. They rose to meet Éowyn and Adariel. Presently they sat and a trumpet was sounded for others to join them.

¡°O Th¨¦oden King,¡± Adariel said immediately. ¡°I do not sit to join your meal for I must leave, and I fear that I must go soon.¡±

¡°Who art thou to speak so at the King¡¯s table?¡± D¨²nhere said angrily

¡°Peace, but I am in great haste and I beg you to forgive my discourtesy. I must beseech you for the service of one of your horses for my own was lost.¡±

¡°What is your errand?¡± Th¨¦oden asked, serenely lifting a hand to cut off D¨²nhere¡¯s sharp reply. Unwillingly, Adariel explained as best she could her urgency into Gondor and Minas Tirith.

¡°It is the better part of 306 miles from here to Minas Tirith past the great beacons,¡± Th¨¦oden said when she had finished. ¡°The ride will take at least five nights on a riding horse.¡±

¡°Yet go I must,¡± Adariel said firmly. Behind them Merry quietly slipped in and looked about.

¡°We cannot spare any of our riders to accompany you,¡± Th¨¦oden shook his head. ¡°We are riding that way tomorrow, yet we are men who ride to war and we have no place for a lady amongst us.¡±

¡°I will go alone.¡±

¡°Understand that if you follow the Great West Road past the Amon Din you are heading to the shadow. Mordor is there, and so the creatures of that dark land must also lie there. Minas Morgul may yet spring from the crossroads. That is no road for a woman to ride.¡±

He paused, for at that moment there was a noise outside, a man¡¯s voice crying the name of Th¨¦oden, and the challenge of the guard.

Presently the captain of the Guard thrust aside the curtain. ¡°A man is here, lord,¡± he said, ¡°an errand rider of Gondor. He wishes to come before you at once.¡±

¡°Let him come!¡± said Th¨¦oden.

A tall man entered and there was a choked cry from Merry. Adariel looked at him and knew why. Here was one who at a glance was Boromir¡¯s image. To Merry, Boromir was dead and to Adariel he might as well have died. She knew not what powers lay on the Path of the Dead yet she knew that Boromir was dead once and perhaps would die once again if he ever met with others who neither Live nor have fled to the Halls. She too had been of the dead, yet her blood was not that of Man. Should she have arrived at the Halls she would have been reborn to a new memory in the West.

The stranger was clad as a rider with a cloak of dark green. On the front of his helm was wrought a small silver star. In his hand he bore a single arrow, black feathered and barbed with steel, but the point was painted red. Sinking to one knee, he presented the arrow to Th¨¦oden.

¡°Hail, Lord of the Rohirrim, friend of Gondor,¡± said he. ¡°Hirgon I am, errand-rider of Denethor who brings you this token of war. Gondor is in great need. Often the Rohirrim have aided us, but now the Lord Denethor asks for all your strength and all your speed lest Gondor fall at last.¡±

Th¨¦oden was pale as he received the arrow, holding it as one who receives an expected but long dreaded summons. His hand trembled. ¡°The Red Arrow has not been seen in the Mark in all my years! Has it come to that? What does the Lord Denethor reckon that all my strength and all my speed may be?¡±

¡°That you know best yourself, lord,¡± Hirgon said. ¡°But before long it may well be that Minas Tirith is surrounded. Lord Denethor calls you within his walls for he has great need for the strong arms of the Rohirrim.¡±

¡°Your Lord knows that we are a people who fight rather upon horseback and in the open. We are a scattered people and time is needed to gather our Riders. He must know that we are already at war; we are not unprepared. The one you call Mithrandir has been among us and even now we are mustering for battle in the East.¡±

¡°We are desperate. My lord does not issue any command but begs you to remember old friendship and oaths long spoken. From the North to the field of Dagorlad there is unrest and whispers of war. The Haradrim are moving in the South. It has been reported that many kings from the East have ridden to the service of Mordor. Little help will come to us yet when the tide sweeps it will flow over all the fair fields of Rohan too. You have no refuge.¡±

¡°Dark tidings yet we have long suspected that the Black Land has been gathering. We would come to your aid even if Rohan itself were not in peril, yet we have suffered much loss in our battles with Saruman. We will come but we will not leave our strongholds unguarded. Six thousands at least shall ride behind me though maybe I shall not come back. A week it may be from tomorrow morning before you hear the cry of the Sons of Eorl coming from the North.¡±

¡°A week!¡± Hirgon cried. ¡°Then we will look to you in a week if we have not all perished. Still, you may at least chase the Orcs and Swarthy men from the skeletons of the White Tower.¡±

¡°If that is how we find Minas Tirith, then chase them away we will. But I myself have just come from battle and long journey and I will now rest. Tarry here this night and be at peace.¡±

Th¨¦oden stood and they all rose. ¡°Go now each to your rest,¡± he said, ¡°and sleep well. As for you Master Meriadoc, I do not need you tonight. But be ready to come as the Sun is risen. I will call for you.¡±

¡°Wait!¡± Adariel called to Hirgon as they left the pavilion. ¡°I must talk with you, Rider of Gondor.¡±

Surprise was on his face when he turned to meet her. ¡°Why,¡± he said, ¡°what is one of the fair Elven folk of the north doing in Rohan?¡±

¡°Your horse,¡± Adariel said, ignoring his question. ¡°Lend me your horse.¡±

Hirgon laughed. ¡°An errand-rider does not part with his horse lest the end is come for what is an errand-rider without a steed? Surely you do not ask that of me!¡±

¡°No,¡± Adariel said bitterly, yet resignedly. ¡°No, I do not.¡±

¡°Then good-night Lady,¡± Hirgon shook his head. ¡°I have many things to do to-morrow. Dark are the days coming and I must head to Minas Tirith for the braking of the tide. Stay, or go with your people who are whispered to be leaving these shores.¡± And turning, he walked away with one of the guards to his tent.

As one who watches disaster drowns slowly on his sorry, Adariel stood alone amongst the silent camp save the mumbles of the guards. Far away came the sounds the wind caressing the grass, yet cold was its touch; for it was the East Wind come from the shadow to breath upon the enduring land.

She was at a loss, and felt it more on that ever-darkening night. War was breaking in the East, yet she would not be able to meet it. A heavy restlessness fell upon her and she felt the sting of bitter, despairing tears. Yet still the East Wind blew and still the land endured.

¡°You are not unlike me, I think,¡± Éowyn¡¯s voice rose behind her.

¡°Why do you not leave?¡± Adariel asked, but she knew the answer before it left Éowyn¡¯s lips.

¡°I am kept here,¡± Éowyn said, walking forward softly, ¡°by my love for the King who is like a father to me and my love for my brother. Though the blood of kings flows through me I am but an ornament in their grand halls. I would curse this body yet I fear to do so, and no poison shall leave my mouth as long as the Lord of the Mark and my blood brother walk this earth still. Yet like a trapped bird watching a soaring gull I watch you.¡±

¡°You say that no poison shall leave your lips,¡± Adariel sighed, ¡°yet you keep it still inside you. Beware Éowyn daughter of Éomund: your end may be dealt by your own hands.¡±

¡°Then I die free,¡± Éowyn answered simply.

¡°Is that how you would live? You think you are caged by your people or by your love for your people, yet it is you who throws away the key and not they. You live in hope of death. Then I say to you Éowyn of the house of Eorl that you are not truly living.¡±

¡°Strong words you speak,¡± Éowyn cried, ¡°yet I cannot live by your counsel. You forget that you were never caged. Like the free songbird puzzles over the captured lark you speak to me. Your riddles laugh at me.¡±

¡°Find your key,¡± Adariel said simply. ¡°Mine I have found, yet I have let it go away from me.¡± She listened to Éowyn¡¯s retreating footsteps. Soon they were replaced by the quiet clipping of uneven hooves upon the hard ground. The sound was familiar, memories of the past sparking and spreading like wildfire. Adariel hardly dared to hope.

¡°We found her many days ago,¡± Éowyn said. ¡°Great she once was but now she is broken. She will not go with the Riders tomorrow and she is all that we can spare. I will go with you to the end of the guard.¡±

Slowly, Adariel turned and her heart ached at what she saw. A great mare stood pawing the hard earth. Its ragged mane clung to her neck and her blind eyes rolled fearfully as she trembled. What were once bloody gashes lined her sides and she bit out violently at every little movement.

¡°Starliss?¡± Adariel breathed.

¡°She is blind,¡± Éowyn said steadily. ¡°We have nursed her back to health. One of her legs was nearly broken. She walks with a limp. People of the Horses we are, but we have no memory of this beast. One of the stable boys has named her Onodl¨® (the Entwash) for that is where we found her and that is the name she answers to. She lets no man saddle her, but your folk do need saddles.¡±

¡°Onodl¨®?¡± Adariel called softly, reaching her hand to stroke the matted mane. Immediately, the large head jerked around and teeth bit sharply down on the night air.

¡°She does not know you.¡±

Onodl¨®? Adariel whispered with her mind. The horse¡¯s ears twitched and she looked about blankly with unseeing eyes. Speak to me¡­

Then suddenly the mare gave way and a flood jumbled thought screamed into Adariel¡¯s mind. Frightened, angry mumblings and the smell of burning was everywhere. Like great jaws the smoke closed in on everything and the dying of many living things could be felt in the air.

Gasping, Adariel pulled away. Onodl¨®, formerly Starliss, stood serenely by Éowyn¡¯s side.

¡°It has long been said that the Elves are friends of horses,¡± Éowyn breathed. ¡°And now I see it for myself.¡±

¡°No,¡± Adariel said. ¡°I knew this animal once for she has lived with my people. She was fast once but I trust that she may bear me once more south. If fast she once was, then like a normal horse she now is.¡±

Do you remember me? Adariel asked Onodl¨®.

Fire. Death. Smoke. Searching, searching for somebody. Black smoke. No air. Rotting flesh.

Do you remember me? Adariel delved deeper.


¡°She does not remember¡­¡± Adariel looked away to still her fears. ¡°Perhaps she will not trust me.¡±

Far away there was a call. Éowyn turned sharply and looked back toward the rows of tents. ¡°I am being called,¡± said she. ¡°I will take you past the guards but then I must return.¡± Tugging on the rope, Éowyn pulled the white mare forward. One of the guards came over but Éowyn waved him away.

¡°There is an errand to be run. Let her pass,¡± Éowyn said. They walked out a little way and stopped. ¡°You must mount. Haste is biting at your heel.¡±

Do you trust me? Adariel gingerly reached out to touch her hand to Onodl¨®¡¯s back.

Smoke. Sweat. Blood. No dawn, no light. No stars. Can¡¯t see. Can¡¯t feel. Can¡¯t breath¡­

Do you trust me?


Do you trust me?


Mellon Nin.

There was some hesitation and in that moment Adariel quickly jumped on. Onodl¨® screamed in protest and tossed and turned trying to see through her blindness at her assailant. Adariel held on tightly until Onodl¨® grew resigned, and was still.

Turning the mare¡¯s neck, she wheeled the horse around to the right direction then gently nudged its heaving sides. Frightened, the horse bolted as best it could on limping legs. Turning back, Adariel saw that Éowyn had already disappeared amongst the litter of torch lights and slumbering tents.

It was not until high noon the next day that Onodl¨® finally stopped, breath gasping and panting and nostrils flaring. Sweat soaked the mare¡¯s body as she shook weakly on her legs. But they had achieved great distance, as much land as perhaps she would have covered had she not the horrific injuries, yet Adariel knew that this would be the fastest that Onodl¨® would go for the rest of her days. Her speed was driven by her fear. Throughout the night Adariel had nervously guided the blind horse past some Fenmarch and the Firien wood along the Great West Road. They were just in sight of Calenhad, one of the Seven Great Beacons*.

Tough they had covered more than a third of their journey in a little under a day, it would be many nights on Onodl¨® before they would finally arrive at Minas Tirith. The horse was spent, and what strength she had left in her once-nimble body had been used in that wild ride. By day they walked in the shade of the mountains and passed through the edge of the wooded lands and by night, the great but desperate light of the great beacons lit their path to the west.

Through the Druadan Forest they rode, watched by secret wild eyes and guided by the light of Eilenach until on the fourth night of their journey they rounded Amon Dîn and emerged from the outskirts of Grey Wood and gazed southward toward south Ithilien.. To the sound of the rushing Anduin, Mt. Mindolluin loomed. In the distance and in its shadow was the seven-tiered citadel of the Kings of Gondor, once known as Minas Anor yet renamed Minas Tirith ¨C the Tower of Guard.

Something was amiss. Foul winds blew from Cair Andros as if a dark host had come near. All was dark, yet darker than night. Touched by the frost, Onodl¨® shivered under her. The wind changed and swiftly the south wind came. Adariel peered into the distance¡­there were lights. Red lights in the darkness. Suddenly, Onodl¨® screamed a terrible scream and shook.

Fire. There is fire. Flames and burning and death.

Dread filled her heart. Through the blanket of dark she could finally see and what she saw made her weep. As she watched, the horsemen of the enemy swept up. The lines of fire became flowing torrents, file upon file of Orcs bearing flames and wild Southron men and red banners shouting. They were overtaking a retreat and men were breaking away, falling to the ground or flying wildly. Nazgûl stooped out of the dim sky and death was with them when next they flew up again.

At last a trumpet rang and out sprang mounted men charging forward with a shout. The blue banner of Dol Amroth waved high. Like a light they came and flowing and burning like white flame before their enemies. Screeching, the Nazgûl swept away and the hosts of Morgul scattered. A second trumpet sounded and the onslaught halted. Men proudly marched back to the city to the safety and praise inside. Minas Tirith was safe ¨C for the night. All that was left outside were the dead, the dying and fires flickering to a shadow.

Tears were in her eyes as slowly Adariel slid off the mare. She was too late. Like a river running, there was no stopping it. The fight for Gondor had already begun.**

End of Chapter 21

*If you are curious and haven¡¯t read the books (tsk!) the seven beacons are Halifirien, Calenhad, Minrimmon, Erelas, Nardol, Eilenach and Amon Dîn.

**The first wave soon to come. Beware the siege of Minas Tirith! ^^

Happy NY everbody! I¡¯ve just come back from Christmas/New Year at the beach so couldn¡¯t update for Xmas but I hope this makes up for it. I can honestly say that that was the hardest chapter to write so far because of timing and everything. Hopefully I have got it right. I get so confused going through Tolkien¡¯s brilliant work marking off which days are which and on what days what happened especially now that there¡¯s war so it¡¯s bloody murder (no pun intended) figuring it all out.

On a more topical note, if you find anything weird with the formatting in this chapter ie. a chunk of the story is missing or the like please inform me immediately. This is because I have finally cured the double spacing HTML type gaps between the paragraphs. Personally I think I like the wider gaps but I wasn¡¯t sure if you guys were used to it. However I, er, seemed to have ¡®misplaced¡¯ 500 words (or so says the wordcount) somewhere during my editing process (eek!) but scanning over it I can¡¯t find anything weird but maybe it¡¯s because my brain¡¯s too familiar with the text. I¡¯ll be in the process of editing out the huge gaps in Chapter 20. That reminds me. Any formatting requests you guys have can you clue me in please? Thanks!