The Circles - Book Three - Chapter 24

The Circles - Book Three - To Escape a Dark Destiny
Chapter Twenty-four
Olórë Hwárin Mallë
The Path of Twisted Dreams

Written by Elfhild

Elffled had awakened before the first light of dawn touched the sleeping land. The return to consciousness left her feeling disappointed, for she had been in the midst of a romantic dream about one of the imaginary lovers who kept her company in her sleeping hours. She recalled a moonlit stroll along a meandering path through a fragrant flower garden. A tall, handsome man walked beside her, his powerful arm wrapped around her waist as his playful tongue tickled her ear. Oh, how she had squealed in delight! Then he had turned her to face him and bent his face down to hers. The moonlight bathing them in a magical silver glow, they had shared a kiss, tender at first and then turning more passionate... Sadly, though, the dream had ended before she could discover what might have happened next.

Sighing, Elffled closed her eyes, hoping that she would soon find herself back in the comforting arms of sleep, her mind lost to the blissful dream. But sleep would not return. Sitting up, she glanced over to where her sister had been sleeping, but Elfhild was not there!

A pang of terror shot through Elffled. Where was her sister? Had something horrible happened to Elfhild while Elffled slept the hours away? She tried to think about this calmly. Perhaps Elfhild had gone into the woods to relieve herself and would be returning at any moment. Yes, that seemed logical – Elffled needed to heed the call of nature herself. Rising to her feet, she walked to the edge of the small clearing and softly called out her sister's name. She was afraid to speak too loudly, lest she be overheard by any enemy scouts lurking close by. When her calls were met only by the sound of the breeze rustling through the branches of the surrounding trees, she could no longer ignore her growing panic.

She was uncertain what to do. Should she go looking for Elfhild? What if Elfhild came back to the place where they had been sleeping and found her gone? Anorien was an unfamiliar country, and the only landmark they had to give them a sense of direction was the Anduin. Elffled worried that she might become lost if she veered away from the river to search for her twin in the surrounding countryside.

Without the constant chatter of her sister to keep her mind occupied, Elffled began to feel an oppressive sense of loneliness and isolation, a feeling which was magnified tenfold by the desolate landscape around her. Though she was trying her best to think calmly and clearly, she could not control the gloomy and fretful direction her thoughts were taking. What if Elfhild had been caught by one of the slaver's search parties? In order to protect her sister, Elfhild might have tried to lead the slavers away from Elffled so that only one of them would be captured. That sounded like something Elfhild would do. Well, if Elfhild had been silly enough to get herself captured, there was only one course for Elffled to take: she would go back to Minas Tirith and turn herself in. Though it would mean going back to being a slave, she was not about to starve out here by herself. And, besides, she thought brightly, perhaps she would receive better treatment if she willingly surrendered.

In the meantime, though, she would search for Elfhild and pray that she had not gotten herself into too much trouble. She took a good look at her surroundings, memorizing every leafless tree and withered bush. She needed to know where to return should her search for Elfhild prove unfruitful. Then, with dread in her heart, she gathered her things and began to look for her missing twin.


Elffled spent an hour of desperate searching and agonized worrying before she at last found her sister wandering through the woods as though in a trance. “Elfhild!” she called out, but Elfhild did not respond. Rushing to her in alarm, Elffled was horrified when her sister stared mutely back at her with a dazed expression upon her face.

“Elfhild, please wake up! You are walking in your sleep!” Elffled seized her sister's shoulders and shook her roughly.

"Do not leave me in the darkness," Elfhild whispered, her eyes still staring blankly into space. “Please come back, I beg you!”

"Oh, you silly thing!" Elffled exclaimed, her eyes filling with tears of pity. "I will never leave you, not ever!" Then she threw her arms about her sister, hugging her and showering her with kisses. "Oh, Hild, where have you been? I have been almost out of my mind with worry! I have been searching for you since before dawn. Now that I have found you, please do not ever do anything like that again!" She squeezed her tighter.

"What am I doing here?" Elfhild mumbled as she blinked her eyes back into focus. “Where did that strange man go?” She looked around in confusion, uncertain of her surroundings.

"Elfhild, what are you talking about?" Elffled asked in alarm. "You are not making any sense!"

Elfhild passed a tremulous hand over her brow. “Was… was it all a dream? But it felt so real…”

“You have been sleepwalking again, just as you did when you were a child,” Elffled assured her sister. “You are lucky that you did not sleepwalk across the path of one of the slaver’s search parties.” She shook her head in dismay. “What must I do with you? Tie you to a tree?" Elffled herself had been afflicted by sleepwalking and sleep-talking from time to time, but the malady never plagued her as it did her sister during their childhood.

“I was sleepwalking?” Elfhild whispered. “But I have not done that for years… It seems so strange that I would return to such an old habit, especially after having such a vivid dream.”

"Come, let us sit down." Wrapping her arm around the other girl's shoulder, Elffled led her to a fallen log nearby. "You were dreaming, but you are awake now. Everything is all right. Look around you; the sun is shining. Her bright rays will chase away the fears of the night."

Elfhild sank down to the log, her senses still benumbed by the disconcerting experience of waking from bizarre dreams to find herself in an unfamiliar place. She stared absently into the distance, remembering the tall, mysterious man from her dream. His face hidden beneath a hood of midnight black, he was a man who was strong enough to lift her slender body with only one hand… a man who radiated such power from his being that she felt like swooning in his presence… a man who could make her fall in love with a single kiss from his lips… who filled her with such pleasure and delight that she wondered if she had died in his arms and now roamed the earth as a ghost, lonely and bereft without his touch.

Elffled raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "What exactly did you dream about that has caused you to become so agitated?”

“Oh, Elffled, where do I start?” Elfhild turned to look at her sister, her eyes dazed and her mind reeling. Shaking her head to clear her senses, she tried to compose her thoughts.

“In my dream, we had made camp along the riverbank, just as we did last night. Then we saw a strange man leaning against a tree, and we tried to steal away and hide in the woods before he espied us. He saw us, though, and began following us, searching the forest floor for our trail. We cringed upon the ground, barely daring to breathe. A bat swooped down and became entangled in my hair, and I could not help but scream. We were found out! The accursed creature gave us away! Then the man was quickly upon us and bade us rise to our feet. He was very peculiar, speaking in strange riddles, and asked us what we wanted of him. You asked him for a kiss, and he kissed you with such passion that you fainted dead away.”

“That was most definitely a dream, for I am not the type of girl who asks random men to kiss me,” Elffled giggled. “But he certainly does sound like quite a lover!” With a mischievous grin and a wiggle of her eyebrows, she fanned her blushing cheeks with both hands.

“Oh, he was,” Elfhild remarked, remembering the steamy kisses and torrid embraces she shared with the mysterious man from her dreams. “But he was also very frightening! I think he was some sort of sorcerer, and he used his magic to bewitch us both.” Yes, a sorcerer… she did not want to think of the possibility that the darkly clad, hooded man was really some sort of fell spirit or demon… a dwimmerlaik of legend.

“A sorcerer, huh? How very dangerous… and exciting!” Elffled squealed. “Maybe he cast a love spell upon you, and now you are doomed to spend all your waking moments pining for him.”

“I certainly hope not!” Elfhild huffed, shifting uncomfortably in her seat upon the log.

She wondered why her sleeping mind had created such a strange dream. She seldom dreamed about witches or wizards or the strange arts of magic. When she was a little girl, her sleep had occasionally been tormented by nightmares in which she was being chased by a hideous old crone who threatened to turn her into a toad. Fortunately, as she grew older, the visions which came to her in her sleep became much more peaceful. Most of the time, her dreams were about mundane things: talking with her family, visiting friends, shopping at the village market. After being taken captive by the orcs, her dreams often mirrored her daily reality – depressing scenes of endless marching, the war-torn wasteland, and half-remembered conversations shared in furtive whispers with fellow captives. And, of course, the nightmares in which she saw her mother being murdered before her eyes again and again.

Perhaps all her talk of elf circles last night had caused her sleeping mind to conjure up a dream involving a mysterious sorcerer upon a moonlit night. A wry smile touched her face: though she had intended her talk of elf magic to torment her sister, it seemed that Elffled had gotten the last laugh because of this dream. Perhaps her Aunt Leofgifu had been right; maybe she really did listen to too many tales of ghosts and wights and other creatures which lurk in the night.

“What a marvelous dream,” Elffled sighed wistfully. “I, too, had a dream about a fantasy lover. We were walking hand in hand through a moonlit garden and shared a kiss beneath the stars.” She smiled to herself, recalling the images of that romantic scene.

“The man in my dreams kissed me as well, but it was along the banks of the Anduin, and I only allowed him to kiss me because I hoped it would make him leave me alone. But then when I felt his arms around me and his lips upon mine, I decided that I did not want him to leave after all.” Elfhild looked down, blushing furiously. She gingerly touched her lips, remembering the ardent kisses of her mysterious lover.

“So that is why you were begging him to stay,” Elffled remarked, remembering what her sister had said in her sleep when she had found her wandering through the woods. “You missed him so much that you were walking in your sleep to try to find him again.”

“It seems that way,” Elfhild mumbled, embarrassed by the strange vision that had come to her in her sleep and her unexpected return to somnambulance. “But it was only a silly dream!” she added defensively.

“Oh! Oh!” Elffled exclaimed, her voice filled with excitement, her eyes filled with sparkles and stars and girlish fantasies. “Perhaps these dreams are omens which foretell that we shall both find true love in the days to come!”

“We certainly could use a pair of strong, brawny men to protect us and help us escape,” Elfhild agreed, smiling. “But enough of this!” She rose to her feet and brushed dust and crumpled leaves from her skirt. "We have talked about this silliness for far too long. It is past time that we eat breakfast and resume our journey."

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