Late one afternoon, Laurel drew her sword. After giving it a few experimental swipes, she went to put it back in its magnificent scabbard. As she did so, she noted with fright that the gold tip seemed torqued. Laurel tried to straighten it and was alarmed when it came off in her hands! A folded piece of paper was in the false tip. Laurel unfolded it and read:
Wenda-an-Mithiel, (Daughter of Mithiel)
Sometimes Fate will call us to the most unlikely place, but there in the heart of danger we find who we truly are. When you face what you fear, may you find sanctuary. Seek the Haven of the Faithful in Horbaroth; they await you there. Remember your name, Laurelindolonorina: the Raennalaerynn.
Laurel stared at the note in amazement. “Grandfather,” she whispered. She looked out the entrance of the cave. Horbaroth’s ominous peak loomed in the distance. Were there really Andaru hiding there? Surely they weren’t all waiting for her! Laurel shook her head.
Moraenor sat down hard. He could not believe what he had just heard. “You’re sure you want to go into Horbaroth?”
Laurel nodded, her mouth firmly set.
“Why?” Moraenor demanded. “You know that place is overrun with Hiromorni and lombrels! There are even some who say that wraiths now lurk in the shadows.”
Laurel gave him a queer smile. “Well,” she said, “you know those are only fables, at best.”
Moraenor raised his eyebrows. “You’ll get yourself killed,” he objected.
Laurel boldly stood before him. “Mori, I am twenty-one djenu old, thank you, and fully fifteen of those have been devoted to the study of swordsmanship. As you are my teacher, the appraisal is yours. Am I skilled enough to defend myself against a Hiromorn, should we encounter one?”
“Perhaps,” Moraenor conceded slowly, “but I doubt, young maid, that this the only reason you would dare enter a place like Mt. Horbaroth is to kill Hiromorni. What is the other reason?”
Laurel hesitated. “I’m… looking for something, searching for a secret.”
Moraenor folded his arms and looked at her, clearly unconvinced by this excuse. “And I may not know what it is?” he said.
Laurel sighed. “Well, all right; Moraenor, do you know of any Andaru still remaining in Glastor?”
Moraenor blinked, “There aren’t any—wait, you think they are hiding in Mt. Horbaroth, and that’s why you want to go?”
Laurel nodded, producing the note from Grandfather. “It could be they are waiting for me, though I cannot imagine why. You said yourself I am ready.”
Moraenor read the note carefully and looked up at his young ward. “I said your skills are adequate, but skills alone do not determine survival. Are you ready to do this, Laurel?”
Laurel took a deep breath and gripped the hilt of her sword.
“Let the battles begin,” she said.
Laurel was steadying her half-fainting companion when they heard the screams and yowls of the Hiromorni picking up their scent.
The Elves looked at each other in panic. “Run!” they cried in unison. Urgency brought strength to their battered limbs.
They darted down a side tunnel and started running. The two groups ran on in this manner, with Laurel and Moraenor perpetually stopping and changing directions. In spite of all their efforts, the troop of Hiromorni never seemed to get any further away. After an hour of running, the pair found themselves back in the cavern where the whole adventure started. They could hear the voices behind them getting fainter; Laurel paused for breath.
Moraenor collapsed. Panic seized Laurel. “Mori!” she cried. As if to answer her, the voices of the Hiromorni gradually began to get louder. Laurel struggled to lift Moraenor. He opened his eyes. “No,” he gasped. “Laurel, just leave me! Save yourself!”
“No! I can’t do this to you!” Laurel bit back the tears. “You’re all I have left,” she said brokenly. She gave one final heave, and both Elves rose unsteadily to their feet. Laurel flung his arm over her shoulder, and, half-dragging him, she made her way slowly up the path. As she labored up a slight incline, she raised her eyes to see what was at the top, and gasped. There were two Elvish guards standing in the shadows! Spurred on my hope, Laurel shifted Moraenor’s weight, and forged on. Two yards from the Elves, and definitely within hearing distance, Laurel gasped out, “Shelter! Shelter!” She reached the guards and was confronted by crossed spears. She repeated her plea.
“NO ONE SHALL PASS!”
The Elf on the left spoke in a dead tone of voice. Laurel heard more growls and howls behind her. She looked back and -- oh horrors! The Hiromorni had sighted her!
“Please!” she begged the Elf, “My friend is wounded, and we are being pursued! Let us through!”
“NO ONE SHALL PASS!”
The Hiromorni were getting closer by the minute. Then Laurel remembered Grandfather’s note. Seek the haven in Mt. Horbaroth. Remember your name, “LAURELINDOLONORINA-OY-RAENNALAERYNN!” she screamed.
The Elf turned his head and looked at her for the first time. Realization swept across his face. He shouted something up the tunnel, then turned back to Laurel. “Right this way, Milady.” The other Elf supported Moraenor on the other side and they made their way up the corridor. Laurel was surprised to see many pairs of Elvish guards stationed two yards apart through all the length of the tunnel. As they entered the cave at the end of the corridor, two more Elves came and accepted the now unconscious Moraenor. Laurel, her mind fogged with fatigue, allowed herself to be led by two Elf-maidens to a crude, but soft, bed. She lay down, and slept as she had not slept for many days. This was a sleep of healing.