Again I was woken way before dawn by the means of rough shaking. I opened my eyes and sneezed. Elrohir was looming in the mist somewhere above me. "Aragorn sends me. He says he wants to speak to you before we set out again."
"Yes. Right. I'll be there in a minute."
I wanted nothing so much than slump back down, curl up in a ball and wait at least until the coffee was ready. Wait. Middle-earth. No coffee. Well, if there was coffee, it was probably in the Shire. Couldn't get much farther away from the Shire than the south-western provinces of Gondor.
Well, apart from Mordor, of course.
I would be just fine without coffee.
I peeled myself out of my sleeping bag and dressed quickly.
It was cold and there was even some hoarfrost in the grass. The hills and valleys around the Stone of Erech were filled with dense white fog. The mountains were barely discernible shadows behind us. There was no water to really wash with. I poured a small amount of water into my cupped hands and tried to clean my face that way. I cannot say if I was any cleaner afterwards, but at least I was awake.
I shuddered with the cold, pulling my cloak closer around me. This close to the mountains the notion of March meaning spring had not yet taken hold. The only thing to show that it was not winter anymore was the grass that had already acquired a reasonably fresh green hue.
I did brush my teeth – without toothpaste, but I figured it was better than doing nothing at all to keep them clean – and gargled with another mouthful of water, startling the men who were busy eating their breakfast around me.
Breakfast was pure bliss. They had made a small fire and cooked a small pot of porridge. This porridge had been made with water and tasted like mud, but it was filling and even better, it was hot. There was even some very strong tea to go with it.
I balanced my porridge bowl and my mug of tea in my hands as I made my way to the boulder where Aragorn was sitting. He had drawn up the hood of his cloak and was smoking his pipe. I sat down next to him.
"Good morning," I said. "How can you smoke that early in the day? Don't you get a belly ache that way?"
Aragorn turned to me and actually smiled, "I cooked the porridge and had some of that before I went looking for some peace and quiet with my pipe. But thank you for your concern."
I started into the porridge. After a few spoonfuls I looked over at Aragorn.
"You cooked this porridge?"
The ranger and future king of Gondor nodded.
I swallowed the next spoon with the hot watery mess.
"You know, your venison stew is much better than this," I offered.
"Éowyn has pampered you," Aragorn commented with raised eyebrows. But when he said the Lady's name, his eyes were dark. "On our way to Moria you would have cried for joy to have such a nice bowl of porridge."
Then Aragorn decided that we had wasted enough time with small talk and quipping.
"I wanted to talk with you about your task. You could ride with us for another two days and depart from us at the bridge of Ethring, turning due south to Tarnost. But I don't think that is wise. Time is running out and Mithril is the fastest horse of the Grey Company. I think you should leave us now and make haste. Ride as swiftly as you possibly can. With Mithril you could reach Tarnost even around midnight tonight or tomorrow morning. The road should be safe and in good condition. Prince Imrahil takes good care of his lands. He will be waiting for the war. But he will need a day or two to get his troops ready. And he has to be at Minas Tirith before the fifteenth."
My heart was beating faster. "Why before the fifteenth?"
Aragorn looked at me for a moment, his eyes piercingly sharp. When he spoke again, his voice had dropped into a low whisper, "Frodo will be in the Black Land by then. If the enemy is not yet ready to strike, we have to devise a distraction, to give him a chance to cross the plains towards Mount Doom."
I stared at Aragorn, my stomach lurching sickly.
Aragorn gave me a grim smile. "But I don't think we will have to come up with any battle strategies. The enemy will do that for us. I am certain that he will strike soon. He will attack Minas Tirith in force. And I have the feeling that this attack will come rather sooner than later. Around the middle of the month. Gondor will need every armed man it can get."
I shuddered. My heart was in my mouth when I asked in a very small voice, "And woman?"
Aragorn laughed at that. It was a friendly, soothing laugh, in a low, dark voice. He reached out for me and gave me a quick, one armed hug.
"No, Lothíriel. You have done enough fighting in this war. Remember what you promised to Gandalf! Take your message safely to Prince Imrahil. See to it that he is in Minas Tirith as soon as may be. Then stay in Tarnost or if Prince Imrahil has another idea where you might go and spend the dark weeks that lie ahead in safety, go there."
He gripped my hands and turned my wrists around. In the grey light of morning I could see that the strain of riding had cracked open the wounds again here and there. There were small brown spots of dry blood on the dirty white of the bandages. Aragorn laid his hand on my hands. His hand was warm and strong.
"No. You have done enough fighting and paid enough blood already."
There was nothing I could say to that. My body certainly felt like that. And I was not the trained shield-maiden Éowyn was. Then Aragorn reached into his cloak and produced a roll of parchment sealed with the familiar elvish rune of 'G'.
"This is the message for Prince Imrahil. Give it only to him, in person, to no one else."
"I will, you can be sure of that. And the message will be in Tarnost today," I promised, squeezing Aragorn's hand gratefully in return.
"Take care, Aragorn."
I paused, in doubt if it was appropriate to say to him what I was thinking. But then I decided to say it anyway.
"Arwen needs you." I smiled at him. "Hell, the world needs you."
Suddenly I remembered about the correct title. "Your majesty?"
Aragorn raised his eyebrows at me. But he did not deny it. And the way he looked, with his dark, wavy hair slightly tangled by the morning breeze coming down from the mountains, his grey eyes silvery bright, his face weathered and chiseled – he did look like a king, tattered and dirty ranger clothes notwithstanding.
"Take care yourself, Lothíriel."
Elrohir appeared suddenly in front of us. I had not seen or heard the elf approaching. But Aragorn did not look surprised. I sighed softly. Even after weeks of travelling I was not up to a fraction of a ranger's faculties of sight and hearing.
"I have readied Mithril. She is eager to leave."
"So am I, I guess," I replied. Or I better had be, I thought.
We did not say good-bye or even farewell this time. The weeks ahead were too dark. Take care. There was really nothing else you could say.
Elrohir led me down to the street. Mithril was on the road. She was saddled and my backpack was fastened securely to the back of the saddle. The stirrups were shortened. I took a look at the stirrups and realized that I would probably need help getting up on her back.
"I have shortened the stirrups to aid your speed. Duck as low as you can to her neck, so that the air will pass over you easily. Mithril will fly for you today," Elrohir said.
Duck against her neck… I blinked. Of course. That was what I had seen jockeys do at some horse races I had watched on TV in another life, long ago.
"I will try," I said. Then I looked from my horse to Elrohir. "But you will have to help me get up there. With stirrups close to my head, I don't think I will manage that on my own."
Elrohir only asked, "Ready?"
When I nodded, he swung me up and into the saddle as if I weighed no more than a feather. I put my feet in the stirrups and found myself crouching low over Mithril's back. Securing the reins before me, I bent forward to embrace Mithril.
"Sí cell, Mithril, sí cell! Now you have to run, Mithril, now you have to run! Erín-othrad nan Ethring ah ab-nan Darnost! On the road to Ethring and then to Tarnost! Ú-vetho em-epin! Don't stop until we are there!"
Mithril snorted softly, eagerly. I felt her powerful muscles ripple under my legs. A heady feeling of exhilaration swept through me. I had to ride as swiftly as the wind.
And I would!
I sat back up and took the reins into my hands the way Éowyn had shown me. I turned to Elrohir and saw that Gimli and Legolas stood next to the younger twin. Elladan was only a few feet behind his brother and Aragorn stood next to him.
"Take care, all of you!" I called out to them. They raised their right arm in a silent gesture of farewell.
As Elrohir had told me to, I crouched low over Mithril's back, tightening my legs around the horse's sides.
"Ego!" I called out to Mithril.
Mithril leapt forth. In a moment she was in full gallop.
I had to narrow my eyes against the wind in my face, so fast did she run.
She raced along the road like a silver flash of lightning. She was so fast that I had the feeling we were not touching the ground anymore, but that we were flying.
Her gallop was smooth, too. I was barely jolted by her strides.
But the enormous speed of the Meara was strenuous for me as an inexperienced rider. I had to keep my body tense and balanced all the time, ducking against the wind, holding on with my legs, but keeping my hands that were holding the reins relaxed.
Soon we left the misty grey of dawn behind us and raced through a pale golden morning of spring. The road was indeed in a good condition. It was fairly dry, no pavement, but tough, bare earth. Perfect for a horse to run on.
I lost all feeling of time. Mithril only had to follow the road; the only time I had to watch out for the way was behind the bridge of Ethring, where we had to turn south to the fortress of Tarnost.
Even with the magical speed of the Meara, we would get there only late at night, possibly only tomorrow. In the afternoon I would have to slow down for a bit, I thought, to preserve Mithril's strength.
But I knew we had to hurry.
I knew we had to reach the fortress tonight.
The war of the ring was about to unleash and the friends that I had here in Middle-earth would be in the thick of it.
I had to get the message to Prince Imrahil. He had to be at Minas Tirith on time.
Suddenly I remembered a part of the description of the Battle of Pelennor. It had been a sortie by Prince Imrahil that had saved Faramir's life. And Faramir would marry Éowyn.
The lives and the happiness of my friends depended on the swiftness of Mithril and me.
I would not disappoint them.
Noon passed into afternoon and still Mithril raced along without any sign of fatigue.
Suddenly I noticed the silvery ribbon of a river ahead of us. That had to be the river Ciril.
I told Mithril to slow down. For a time we trotted along and the bouncing feeling reverberated through my painfully tight muscles.
Then I slowed her down to a walk.
I nudged Mithril towards the river and told her to drink and eat a little, if she felt like it.
I did not dismount, although I would have really liked to. But there were no boulders nearby that I could use to mount again, so I would have to lower the stirrup to mount her again and I wasn't sure if I could adjust the stirrup from up on Mithril's back the way it had been. So I remained where I was, trying to relax my back by rotating both shoulders frequently while Mithril walked along the banks of the river, grazing a little and drinking some water.
I ate the last of the apples Éowyn had given me.
Afterwards I took a look at the sun and decided we should get going again.
I stroked Mithril's neck and offered her a small piece of lembas. She crunched it merrily, then perked her ears up. I felt that she was eager to run again. "Ego," I whispered. "Nan Ethring!"
Now. To Ethring.
Mithril walked back onto the road and sped up, trotting, cantering, galloping, flying!
On we raced, on and on, as the day flew by. Running like that there were no thoughts in my mind at all, no fear, no worries, no hopes. There was only the feeling of connection between Mithril and me and the exhilaration of shared power and speed.
Of the landscape around me I saw nothing.
Green hills and plains blurred around me, the road a brown river flowing away below us. I felt almost removed from the world, from the passage of time, as if Mithril and I had created a separate space for us to fly in, where time and distance had no meaning.
And on we raced, on and on and on.
The afternoon went by. Dusk fell. There were no clouds and I felt more than saw tiny silver pinpoints of stars above us as the day slowly waned.
"Ú-geleg erin Ethring, slow down at Ethring," I called to Mithril as I noticed the dark line of another river at a distance ahead of us. We had almost reached the river Ringló, where we had to turn onto another road leading away to the southwest, to Tarnost.
Mithril snorted wearily. By now I was so in tune with her movements that I knew that the long day's race was finally beginning to tire even the strong Meara.
I slowed her down to a walk.
"It's not far now, Mithril," I whispered, stroking her hot, damp neck.
It was fully dark now. In the sky above us myriads of stars were shining brightly, but in the east there were no stars at all, only a gathering darkness, blacker than the blackest night. A spreading of gloom and evil. I shuddered. War was at hand.
"It's only thirty miles from Ethring to Tarnost, Mithril. We'll make it. Easily. We have covered around 150 miles already today. 30 miles are nothing to that."
It was true, too. I had looked at the maps.
The Meara had covered thrice the distance an ordinary horse could run in a day.
She gasped, her flanks flying, her coat drenched in sweat. But she was still able to run.
Haste was needed. Haste she would make!
It was around nine o' clock in the evening, I guessed.
We would reach Tarnost not long after midnight.
When we came closer to the bridge I realized that there was a small house built next to the bridge. A guard, I thought. Of course.
The house was more like a small tower. Its window slits were brightly lit. On a bench in front of the house two warriors were sitting and playing cards. They wore bright silvery armour and at the wall they had propped up long spears. They also carried long swords and daggers.
The bridge was closed with a thorny fence.
As soon as I came closer they dropped their playing cards. They were on their feet, their spears pointed at me in a blink.
"Stop!" they called out to me in gruff voices with a strange melodic lilt to their use of the Common Tongue. "Who are you? And what is your business abroad so late in the evening?"
"Good evening, sirs," I called out politely. "My name is Lothíriel. I bear a message for Prince Imrahil. Is he still at Tarnost?"
They stared at me in astonishment, only now realizing that I was a woman.
"Yes, " the younger warrior said. "The Prince is there, mustering the army. War is at hand, my lady! You should not ride alone in the night!"
"I know that war is almost upon us," I told him. "Why do you think I have been chosen to carry this message?"
"But who is the message from?" the older guard asked, his eyes full of suspicion.
"Not that it's any of your business," I replied. "But it is a message from Gandalf the White, Mithrandir, the Grey Pilgrim,. So you'd better not hinder my passage."
"The Grey Pilgrim! Isildur's heir!" the men called out and there was awe on their faces.
"Then help is on its way?" they looked at me with eager hope.
"Yes," I said. "It is. That's why I have to get to Prince Imrahil tonight. Can I water my horse somewhere?"
"Of course," the first guard pointed a few feet to the right of the bridge. "Down there. Would you like to eat something, or drink something yourself, my lady?"
"No, thank you. Haste is needed. Just a little respite for my horse and then I will be on my way."
Although I did feel that these men were no danger to me, I did not trust them.
Although every bone in my body hurt and my muscles were knots of pain, I would only dismount at Tarnost and not one mile before it.
The guard showed me to the river but kept his distance. I relaxed slightly.
"What a beautiful horse!" the guard said, his voice filled with admiration.
I smiled and patted Mithril's neck. "She's a Meara of the Royal Stables of Edoras."
"One of Oromë's horses!" astonishment and wonder coloured the young man's voice.
"You will reach Tarnost tonight easily then, my lady."
Mithril had finished drinking and now tossed her head, as if she wanted to say, let's get going, let's get it done.
The young guard escorted me across the bridge to the crossroads.
"This is the road to Tarnost, my lady. It is well maintained and runs fairly straight. Tarnost is a huge walled fortress on a foothill of the Hills of Tarnost. You cannot miss it."
"Thank you," I said. Then I bent down on Mithril's neck. "Ego! Sí cell, Mithril, sí cell, meduí lû! Now you have to run, Mithril, now you have to run, one last time! Erín-othrad nan Darnost! On the road to Tarnost! Ú-vetho em-epin! Don't stop until we are there!"
And off we were again, flying through the darkness.
We were beyond weary and aching, but haste drove us. And Mithril was a true Meara, a queen of horses. She would not slow down or stop until we had reached our destination.
Soon my eyes became accustomed to the darkness of the night again. I could see the road ahead of us easily in the light of the stars. Soon I could discern the dark shapes of small mountains in the distance. The road led straight to those mountains. Those had to be the Hills of Tarnost.
We were almost there.
Only a short time later the fortress of Tarnost became visible before us. Built high on a hill, this was a fortress built to withstand any attack. The road that led up to the battlements was steep and I slowed Mithril down to a walk. Her head drooped wearily, her breath was heavy and painful. My heart ached for my horse's weariness, although I was tired to the marrow of my bones myself.
The vegetation reminded me of the Mediterranean. Scattered woodlands of oaks and pines, gorse bushes as far as I could discern any details in the darkness. We had come far to the south during our long day's ride.
Finally I crossed a drawbridge across a deep dike that opened to my left an almost sheer rock face and to my right went on into the shadows, surrounding the accessible part of the fortress. I had made it.
This was Tarnost.
"Hello!" I called out, my voice hoarse and tired. "Let me in! I have an urgent message for the Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth from Gandalf the White!"
I nudged Mithril to step into a pool of light created by the set of torches way up on the walls.
"Who are you?" a male voice called out to me.
"My name is Lothíriel. I have a message from Gandalf for Prince Imrahil."
Let me in, I thought, my bones hurting from weariness. Let me in.
"Show the message."
I wanted to scream. I was so tired. I wanted to get rid of this message and lie down and sleep.
Sleep! Sleep and never move for days!
I reached into my cloak and pulled the roll of parchment out. Carefully turning the seal into the light I held it out towards the gate.
"That seems to be in order," the voice finally said. "We will open the doors."
I put the message back inside my cloak.
Noiselessly the gates opened before me. I nudged Mithril on and so we entered the fortress of Tarnost around midnight on the ninth of March.
The walls of the battlements were so wide that it seemed to me as if we rode through a long tunnel before we finally entered a wide courtyard. There were stables and barracks and many houses, and a few yards ahead another set of battlements and walls, and only behind this second line of defense there was the castle, a huge castle, with many towers and many windows, most of them still bright with firelight.
Two tall guards stepped up to me. They wore silver armour and over their armour they wore blue tunics lined in silver and on their breasts there was the image of a ship and a silver bird flying up from the ship, stitched in silver. They had long spears and at their sides swords and daggers, like the guards at the river, but their armour and weaponry was of a much finer craftsmanship. So much was evident even to my untrained eye.
Dismount. I had to dismount.
For a dizzying moment my body would not obey me.
Then I slid down from Mithril's back and would have collapsed had the guard standing next to me not caught me in his arms.
"But – you're a woman!" he exclaimed.
My, aren't you smart, I thought grumpily, trying to get my legs back under me with no real success.
"Yes," I said. "I know. They could not spare a warrior."
"But they did spare a kingly horse!" the other guard cried, taking a good look at Mithril. "And look, how tired she is! Where did you come from today, my lady?"
Still leaning heavily on the arm of the first guard, I answered, "I departed from the Stone of Erech way before dawn."
"But that's impossible," the guard called out. "That's leagues and leagues! More than 180 miles as the crow flies and much farther using the road! Normally you need at least three days and six horses for that distance! At least!"
"That's not impossible," I replied. "That's a Meara. Now, could you please take me to the Prince Imrahil now? The message I carry is really urgent!"
I was so tired that I felt close to tears.
"Of course, my lady," the guard who was supporting me said. "At once!"
I turned to the other guard. "Would you look after Mithril? Take special care of her? She is a royal Meara."
The guard bowed to me.
"I will, my lady. Don't worry! Your horse shall be cared for like the Queen she is!" he promised.
"Pado na dírn, go with the guard, Mithril. Tírthon-chen arínann. I will look for you tomorrow morning."
Mithril gave a weary neigh, then tossed her head and allowed herself to be led away to the stables.
"Come, my lady. We have to walk to the castle. But don't worry, it's not far."
The guard offered me his arm to lean on, which I gratefully accepted.
"Thank you – sir?" I said questioningly.
"Marhil, my Lady."
"Marhil, then. I am all stiff and sore, I have been in the saddle all day, and I am not an experienced rider," I explained.
"It's a miracle that you made it here, then," the man told me.
"Not a miracle. Mithril. My horse," I replied honestly.
We walked slowly up to the second set of walls. The guard called a few words in a language that I did not understand and the gates opened before us.
Inside the second ring of walls were many large buildings, a small town had been built up here, safe behind two sets of battlements. Most of the houses were dark and quiet, peacefully asleep. But the castle was not. From somewhere I heard the sound of smithies still hard at work, the hiss of the bellows and the sound of metal under powerful hammer strokes.
"My lord has called all able bodied men to be mustered. Swords and spears and armour are fashioned day and night in our smithies. The enemy will strike soon."
The guard glanced to the blackness of the eastern horizon uneasily.
Then we were at the gate of the castle. Again the guard spoke in that strange language, announcing us and probably giving a password.
The door opened. We entered and found us face to face with four guards in blue liveries.
Marhil nodded at the guards and led me on into the castle. First we entered yet another courtyard. Then through a large door banded with intricately metal fittings and up a broad flight of stairs. When we had reached the landing, we were in front of another set of doors; this time they were made of a very dark wood and had door knobs made of brass.
Marhil knocked. A deep voice called from the inside. "Come!"
Marhil opened the door and stepped inside, bowing deeply.
I followed him a little unsteady on my feet and bowed, too, though not quite as low. Had I tried to bow suitably low, I would have toppled over.
Marhil straightened up and said in a low, respectful voice, "My Lord Prince, the Lady Lothíriel has ridden all day to bring you a message from Gandalf the Wizard."
We were standing in a great hall. The floor was made of large flag stones, smooth with age and covered with red carpets. In the middle of the hall was a long table made of dark wood, well lit by a large chandelier with at least fifty candles that was suspended from the enormous dark beams that supported the ceiling. It was covered with maps and parchment. A tall man had been bent over those maps and was now standing next to the table, looking at us. The Prince Imrahil was an imposing figure. He was very tall and had the litheness of movement that I knew from the elves but the powerful built of a warrior of men. He had white blond hair that was tied into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. His eyes were of such a light silver colour that they seemed to be almost white and they were very keen and piercing. He wore black trousers and high leather boots, a silver-grey shirt and a royal blue tunic. His sword lay on the table, but there was a large, curved dagger at his belt.
Behind the table roared a large log fire in a huge fireplace. In front of the fire I noticed the prone shapes of at least three enormous, shaggy grey dogs.
"A message from Gandalf?" the Prince called out, astonished, but eager. His voice was dark and cool, and he spoke with that strange musical lilt that I had noticed with guards.
Then he looked at me and raised his eyebrows in surprise. He bowed to me lightly.
"Come in, my lady, and sit down! Surprise makes me forget my manners," he gestured to a chair at the end of the table. He nodded to the guard. "You may go, Marhil. But tell Gawin to prepare a room. And have him send up some mulled cider."
Marhil bowed and backed out of the hall, closing the door silently behind him.
I slumped down in the chair. Then I reached into my cloak and took out the roll of parchment.
I offered it to the Prince. My arm was shaking with the effort, and I could see that blood was seeping through the bandage at my wrist.
"My Lord Prince. Your Highness," I said, unsure how to address him. He smiled at me. It was an easy smile, making him years younger than his fifty-something years. "My Lord will be sufficient, my lady," he told me. I nodded weakly.
He took the parchment and examined the seal thoroughly. Then he broke the seal and swiftly scanned the message. He sat down in a large arm chair across from me, letting his hands drop into his lap, still holding the parchment.
He looked into the distance, his eyes unfocused, his thoughts far away.
"Then it begins," he said softly, more to himself than to me.
Silence fell, and for a long moment the only sound was the crackling of the fire and a groaning yawn issued by one of the dogs.
Imrahil sighed and turned his attention to me, "Tell me, Lady Lothíriel, what do you know of this message and how do you come to be here tonight."
I blinked wearily, trying to gather my thoughts.
"The message," I said slowly. "Gandalf the White, I met him at Edoras, and he said that the Steward of Gondor, Lord Denethor, had failed to muster Gondor's army. Gandalf said that you had a large host of great warriors at you command, my lord, and that Minas Tirith would need every man that could be spared. Gandalf thinks that the enemy will strike at Minas Tirith no later than the fifteenth. He told me to ride swiftly as the wind, and tell you to go to Minas Tirith with every warrior you have. And to be there no later than the fourteenth of March."
I sighed and rubbed at my temples. I was dizzy with weariness.
After a soft knock the door opened, and a slender young man with golden curls approached the table. He carried a tray with a steaming pitcher and two beakers. He set the tray down and filled the mugs, serving first the Prince, then me. I gratefully folded my hands around the warm beaker, inhaling the fragrance of apple and spices. I sipped at the hot liquid carefully. The warmth revived my ability to concentrate on my task and my surroundings again.
The young servant bowed and wanted to leave, but Imrahil held up his hand, "That will be all for the moment, Gawin, but come back in half an hour. The Lady is very tired. There are only a few more questions I need answered, then you can escort her to her room."
Gawin inclined his head gracefully, then left the room, closing the door silently behind him.
Imrahil looked back at me, "Where did you come from today, that you arrive so late and are so exhausted? Was there any trouble on the road? For I can see that you are hurt."
I shook my head. "No, there was no trouble. I was kidnapped by orcs in February and the wounds are not fully healed yet. They must have opened again during the ride today. I came with Aragorn, Arathorn's son, Isildur's heir through the Paths of the Dead. I parted from them only this morning, at the Stone of Erech. They are riding for Pelargir with a company of Dúnedain of the North and the sons of Elrond. They have called up the Army of the Dead. They are going to fight the corsairs of Umbar, so that Minas Tirith will not be beset from the east and the south at the same time."
Where the guards gasped and showed excitement, Imrahil only nodded. Only a gleam in his light grey eyes betrayed any emotion. I realized that he knew Aragorn.
Not waiting for the question how I had been able to ride 180 miles, I went on, "I have been given a Meara from the Royal Stables of Edoras, or I would not have been able to be here tonight. But Gandalf said that haste was needed and that time is running out. So Mithril, my horse, and I tried to outrun the wind."
"And you succeeded," Imrahil said. "The message has been heard and will be acted upon. Aragorn will not stand alone against the hosts of Mordor. The troops of the fief of Belfalas are almost ready to march. We will reach Minas Tirith in time. I have to praise your endurance and your courage, my lady. Many men in Minas Tirith will thank you for your swiftness in the dark days that lie ahead. I was tarrying and not sure when to leave. I would have waited too long, had you not come here tonight."
I shivered suddenly. War was at hand. Only now I realized just how vital the message had been that I had carried here today. I was indeed a messenger of war, calling upon forces that were necessary for the very survival of Minas Tirith and its people. I did not realize before what my message really meant. I was glad that I hadn't. I would have been so tense and frightened that I would never have made it here tonight.
"Now go to bed, my lady," Imrahil said kindly. "Sleep and recover your strength. We will have time to speak in the morning, before we leave for Minas Tirith."
"Thank you, my lord," I replied, my voice hoarse with fatigue.
I know that I must have followed Gawin – who had returned to the hall as if on cue – to the room that had been prepared for me, because that is where I woke on the next day, but I cannot remember how I left the hall or how I made it to my room. Even my memories of this first conversation with Prince Imrahil are blurred by weariness to this day.
Mithril, queen of all horses had made it.
She had carried me all the way from the Stone of Erech to Tarnost in one single day. I had delivered my message, and now the troops of Prince Imrahil would reach Minas Tirith in time.
In time for war.
In time for death.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.