12. A Brief Rest
Except that everything seemed to have a fuzzy edge to it. I couldn’t see the trees clearly and when I turned to look at Telir his whole face was blurry. I blinked, but that did nothing to help. My usually bright eyes still felt oddly out of focus. I sighed and leaned back against Telir, glad to hear the usual beat of the horse's hooves against the dirt.
"I am awake now." I said to him, not wanting to alarm him by telling him of my apparently failing eyesight. He nodded and then continued to guide the horse alone as the path slowly got steeper. I then began to realize that we were crossing the mountains. I must have slept for a long while…
"We are only a days away. I might be able to get us close enough find help within the next morning." He said, rubbing his scruffy cheek with one hand. "Do you still have the message from Lothlorien?" I slowly reached into my cloak pocket, trying to see if I could grasp the smooth envelope. Unfortunately, the only thing that I found in my hand was empty space.
"No, it must have fallen out when the orcs attacked." I could only think of what they might be able to do had they discovered the letter. I didn't know what it contain, only that it was important. Perhaps even fatally important. I shivered, hoping that no harm would come to either one of us when the Lord and his lady discovered that we had lost it.
"It is not important. Not as important as your life." I blushed a little as he said that, then carefully touched my forehead. It did not feel feverish yet, so perhaps the poison had not taken effect yet. I yearned to tell Telir that I might need a bit more help past healing the wound in my chest, but I didn't want to make him worry.
I might not live anyway. Lord Elrond did not have knowledge of all the poisons used by orcs and though his healing skill was great, he could not raise the dead. Another thing was certain- he would know who I am. Either way my fate was sealed. I would die from lack of care, or live and be returned to my parents.
Silence hung in the air for many hours, until darkness fell upon the mountains. The terrain had begun to grow steeper and harder to navigate, though we had already crossed the peak and begun to traverse down the other side. Telir decided upon a small outcropping of rocks as our stopping point.
I again had to be helped down from the stallion, partially due to my chest wound and partially to my eyesight. I would have tripped over a small stone had not Telir been there to help me. I was glad that he chalked my lack of coordination up to my wound and not the poison. Elves had an unusual grace and poise around them most of the time.
Telir set up a small bed of blankets for me, then changed my bandages again. This time he did notice the slightly reddish tinge around the wound's edges, causing him to scrunch up his brow in confusion. I sighed and tried to relax as he smeared some herbs into the wound, then bandaged it back up. It stung horribly, but I didn't complain.
"Did the arrow have poison on it?" He mused, not expecting me to answer it. His hand reached for my brow and then gently brushed across it, trying to feel any heat radiating off it. A smile of relief crossed his face as he found none, then sat back and took out his pipe.
"Thank you." I said, trying to break the silence. Telir had cared for me over many days now, through both high and low. At first I was unsure if I even wanted to live. The wound was so great, so grievous. I knew of the poison and figured that I would die shortly. Now it seemed like the poison was weak and perhaps I had a fighting chance.
"For what?" He questioned, puffing lightly on his pipe and sending the smoke off into the night sky. I smiled, remembering all the times we had sat beside the fire and just talked, him smoking his pipe and me simply sitting there. There were a lot of good memories and a lot of good times along the way.]
"For not just deserting me. You could have and you know it. There was nothing that bound you to helping me." I spoke both simply and truthfully. There really was nothing that forced him to save me. It was dangerous, travelling with someone who was injured. If we were ambushed by orcs again, neither one of us would stand a chance.
"There was something. Love." He replied. I wasn't really as shocked as I should have been. I knew that there was something there, something more than just being friends and travelling buddies. After he kissed me I was just even more certain. For a moment I couldn't think of what to say to him.
My parents would never approve. They had never approved of Haldir, who was the March Warden of Lorien. Telir was a mortal man. The fact that he was Peredhil, or half-elven, would probably make no difference to them. My mother could be a difficult judge of both men and elves. But I had made up my mind, for better or for worse.
"I feel that way as well. I think it has been around us for a long time now." I said, pondering the idea in my mind. It would be much easier to hide once Telir knew the truth. Perhaps someday I would tell him of my heritage. Then we might be able to settle down, to have a home and children as well.
"You are of the elves, Maeve. Would you bear to see me die at a mortal age?" He said, extinguishing his pipe in favor of talking with me. I honestly did not know the answer to his question. His mortality had never been a problem in my eyes, or perhaps I had just pushed it out of my mind for as long as possible.
"I would not long survive." I answered plainly. This grief, the grief of loosing both a loved one and a friend would be too much for me. The ships of the Gray Havens would gladly open to me and I would pass on, perhaps as only a shadow of my old self.
Telir slowly crept over to where I lay, staring up at the stars that danced above the mountain peaks. Instead of lying down next to me, he instead sat directly beside me. A tentative finger reached out to run along my cheek, causing shivers to course down my spine.
"Would you…would you mind?" He asked, his voice cautious. "I promise that I am a far better kisser than I have displayed previously." I nodded, closing my eyes and giving in as he kissed me, long and gently. I completely forgot about the pain, my wound, and the poison. We were the only thing in existence.
His shoulder slowly brushed against mine and my tunic came away with bloodstains upon it. He was apparently still hurt as well, though he had not mentioned it. 'We are so much alike.' I thought to myself as I carefully withdrew my lips from his.
"You're hurt." I said, reaching up to touch the blood coming from his shoulder. He grinned and pushed my fingers away. "You must care for that, lest it get infected and you die an early death." I was only teasing him in a way, though also warning him. There were definitely enough bandages to wrap his shoulder and enough herbs to drive away infection.
"I shall, mi'lady, if you promise to rest." He said, stroking my cheek one last time before returning to his pack. I smiled and blinked, immediately disappointed to note that the world seemed to be growing dimmer. I doubted that it was due to the darkness around me.
Haldir leaned down and brushed his fingertips along the ground, tracing the size and spacing of some rather large bootmarks. The royal couple had been on the road for three days, moving much slower than Telir and Maeve. After a while Haldir stood up and walked a few feet away, dismayed to find the corpses of orcs rotting underneath the full moon.
Yet he did find something of interest. Beside the orc bodies lay a huge puddle of silver blood, tinged with the black blood of orcs. He knew exactly who the blood belonged to- Maeve. A wave of panic almost sent him to his knees as he examined the area closer. An orc arrow with a bit of red poison still lay on the ground next to the blood, and beyond that horse's hooves headed off into the distance.
Haldir sighed. It would not bode well with the Lady when he told them that a poisoned orc arrow had obviously injured their only daughter. As a matter of fact, it would only make them want to reach Rivendell even sooner. That would be the only place that the injured elf could go to receive care.
He returned to the small party after only a few more minutes. Lord Celeborn had ordered him to scout ahead on foot for any sign of orcs while they waited behind and he had probably taken much longer than they had expected. Sighing, he swung back onto his white mare and then turned to the lord and lady.
"I have found orcs, but there is no need to worry. They have been dead for at least two days." He paused, thinking of the best way to put his other piece of news. "I also found a puddle of blood that can only belong to Maeve. There was an arrow lying beside it…laced with poison."
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