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The night's sleep and morning didn't bring the relief that Halldis was hoping for – in a good part because she didn't sleep well. After she lay down, she was awake for a long time, occasionally wiping away tears she hid in the darkness. Even after she finally fell asleep, she often woke up and turned from side to side, and each time it took her a lot to fall asleep again. So she felt tired and sleep deprived in the morning, and she also had a strong headache.
And apart from being tired, she felt even worse because of what she did to Darri; in that last second before she turned around and left him, she could see that her words had hurt him. And so, on the top of yesterday's anxiety, panic and worry, there came guilt. Confusion, sorrow and despair too. She wanted the way out, but she didn't see it. She wanted to protect herself from suffering; she didn't know how. She thought she had found the way; she hurt another person in doing it.
And herself too, she discovered. Her feelings for Darri didn't magically disappear because she decided to stay away from him; the thought of not seeing him anymore hurt.
She noticed that Glorrim observed her while they had breakfast, but he didn't ask anything and she was grateful for that. But soon after they set off, Tyra stood next to her and, thanks to some pushing through crowd and pulling her sleeve, directed their steps so that they had found themselves somewhat further from their friends and cousins.
"There. Now we'll be able to talk in peace," said Tyra, obviously satisfied with the achieved. Then she looked at her carefully, but unlike Glorrim, she didn't hold back. "You look terrible."
The statement was followed by laughter and, despite her bad mood, Halldis couldn't prevent smiling too.
"Long live the sincerity of best friends," she replied. In any case, she felt terrible, and obviously her appearance mirrored it.
"You didn't really think that I'd keep my mouth shut, did you?" Tyra kept on laughing.
Halldis turned her head and for a few moments she observed Tyra while they were walking. Then she lowered her gaze to her right arm, the one with the bracelet that had adorned Tyra's wrist until yesterday. Sister. The one who had always been there for her, no matter what.
"I am scared," she said simply. And then her wall broke. "I knew we were going to war, but for the whole time until yesterday, that fact had been only abstract. It was something that would happen in the future. As long as we were far from Khazad-dûm, we were far from war." She spoke in one breath; now that her emotions broke free, she just couldn't stop talking. "And then, yesterday morning, we heard the King's newest announcement... and that was the moment when comprehension finally dawned... the moment when I realized I could lose my own kin. My brother." She stopped and looked at her friend. "And then you came to me, and told me your decision... and that was the moment when my whole world had crushed down. I couldn't bear the thought of losing all of you."
They walked in silence for a few moments.
"I understand you," said Tyra gently. "I am frightened for my father and brothers, too. And for all of our friends. And I can only say that I hope that not many of our people will die. Please, try to think positively and do not let yourself despair, because nothing good will come out of it."
Well, my behaviour last night is a genuine proof for that, isn't it?, she thought bitterly. Tyra probably said those words in a simple attempt to encourage her, not knowing what happened yesterday night. But she hit right in the middle.
"You know, besides panicking that I'll lose Glorrim and you, I also got very scared that I'd lose Darri," confessed Halldis. "And then I thought I'd suffer less if I estranged from him..."
She told her friend how her thoughts had unfolded, step by step, and finally described the last encounter with Darri. Tyra rolled her eyes, but smiled afterwards.
"You silly! Ah well, yes, I understand why you acted the way you did. But you are wrong." She tilted her head and looked at her. "Let's say that Darri is killed in war, just for argument's sake, and that you never see him again. Yes, I know it would hurt. But tell me honestly, would you prefer that you have never met him? Yes, it would mean that you wouldn't suffer, but at the same time, it would mean not having some wonderful moments with him. And in case of his death, you wouldn't have wonderful memories of him. So... if you could go back in time and choose your way – one variant or another – what would you choose?"
Halldis immediately realized that her answer hadn't sounded intelligent at all, but it was all she was able to say in that first moment. She repeated Tyra's words in her head, and again and again, considering them from all possible angles. Well, if we put it like that... She suddenly got the impulse to slap herself. It was only now that she finally understood things.
"Yes. You're right. It's better to experience something beautiful, to have something precious, even at the cost of losing it, than to raise a wall and never experience anything..." She frowned, feeling very stupid. "What I fool I am! Why didn't I see what you explained to me? Why couldn't I be wise as you?"
Tyra smiled to her.
"First of all, I am not especially wise, and second, you are not a fool," she responded and waved her hand. "I am sure that soon you would have come to the correct conclusion yourself. I think that the explanation for your behaviour is that it is much easier for us who will fight than for you who will stay. We will be in action and we won't have any time for thinking, and you can do nothing but wait and worry, and that is why your fear grew so much.
Halldis looked at her friend.
"Do you know how much I'll worry for you?" she asked despondently.
"I think I do. Just as much as I would worry for you," Tyra nodded with a sympathetic smile. "But I felt I had to go. I want to and I have to contribute to our goal. After all, I didn't train and participate in the tournaments through all those years for nothing. Now I have to apply my skills."
Halldis nodded, slowly coming to comprehension of Tyra's standpoint. She didn't feel any better for it, but she finally accepted it. Then she thought of another thing and bitterly smiled.
"Darri. I should try to correct what I did yesterday... if he'll want to talk to me at all."
"Oh, I'm sure he will," said Tyra and nodded briskly. "I think you didn't do anything irreparable. Besides, from what I was able to see, I think that he fell in love with you and that he'll understand and forgive."
"Darri and I are only in the beginning and we still have a lot to discover about each other..." said Halldis pensively. "But what I've seen so far... you know, I like him very, very much." Her lips curved into a smile at the thought of him. "And I think I'm falling in love. I think about him a lot, and I feel butterflies in my stomach all the time."
"Sounds great," said Tyra warmly. "You just resolve that misunderstanding from yesterday and go on. And let's hope that the war will end well for all of us."
Halldis nodded, suddenly intensely impatient. She wanted to go searching for Darri this very moment. But she knew that it was impossible during the march, and that she had to wait for a break. She cast a quick glance towards the sun, judging its height, although she was aware that it wasn't much time since they started today's journey. At least three hours more... She sighed. She could do nothing but wait.
It seemed to her that the time was passing at least twice as slowly as usual. While walking, she watched around herself, and most often her gaze rose to the three magnificent peaks of the Mountains of Khazad-dûm. Of course, she was not the only one; everyone admired them and watched them with yearning, knowing what lay beneath them.
Further south, she could now see a green line on the horizon; it was Lothlorien. She wondered if there were magical streams and special beings in it, like in The Wood of Greenleaves. Who knew, maybe one day she'd have the opportunity to visit it? However, unlike The Wood in which the elves still lived, she knew that rumours were that Lorien had been deserted for a long time.
When they finally stopped for their lunch-break, Halldis just put down her backpack and decided to go searching for Darri immediately. I can easily eat my sandwich later, on the way, she thought; right now she wasn't hungry at all. Glorrim gave her a questioning look, just like the previous night when she left with Darri without a word. Last night she didn't say anything to him; when she returned, she wasn't in the mood for talking. Now she thought she could mention that she had met someone very special, and she told him that they'd talk later.
While she walked, her heart beat very quickly – out of excitement, as well as tension. And fear. How would he react upon seeing her? Was he angry? Did he want to speak with her at all?
When she saw him, at first still from afar, she stopped and observed him. Her heart fluttered, and the butterflies she had mentioned to Tyra suddenly grew to the size of dragons. How is it possible?, she wondered. How someone can cause so many reactions? So many emotions? So much happiness? All this was new to her. Nobody had ever elicited so many feelings in her. She was confused, she felt weird... but also wonderful.
Darri sat with his brother, and very near them she saw an older dwarf whom she had already seen with Darri once, and an older dwarfess whose blond hair and beard, otherwise rare for their people, were identical to Darri's; it wasn't difficult to guess who they were. A little further away sat Bemir and Mami.
She made a few more steps and stopped again, insecure. But then he lifted his head and – as if sensing her gaze – looked in her direction. They watched each other for a few long and tense moments, and then she made another step. Not taking her eyes off him, she gave him a smile – a shy, most timid one – and after what seemed like an eternity to her, he put down his food and moved towards her.
Maybe not everything is lost, she dared to hope; it seemed that he was at least willing to talk, if nothing else. He stopped some two yards from her and crossed his arms at his chest, while she absorbed his appearance and scrutinized his face, trying to figure out how he felt. He was serious, and she wasn't certain what was on his mind. With a mix of hope and fear, she slowly nodded.
"I want to apologize for the words I said last night... and I hope that you can forgive..." said Halldis tentatively. "Yesterday was a very bad day for me. Yesterday morning was the moment in which I became aware that the war would start in only two days... and I got terribly scared." She paused, squeezing her fists nervously. Darri's face was still unchanged and unreadable. "I got scared for my brother, cousins, friends, Tyra... and for you. I become frightened that I'd lose all of you. I was terrified of loss and pain. And I thought... if I stop seeing you... if I estranged from you... that the eventual loss would hurt less."
She stopped again, although she still didn't say all that lay on her heart. It wasn't easy to open up completely; this was the first time for her. But you mustn't stop now, Halldis. If you don't tell him everything, you didn't do anything. She took a deep breath and continued.
"But I was wrong. When I left last night, I felt bad – both because of what I did to you, and because I missed you. My yesterday's thoughts were wrong. I'd like to be with you... if you can forgive me," she finished.
He watched her silently for a long time and she already thought to turn around and run away, not being able to bear what seemed to be a rejection. But then he nodded, and his expression softened.
"Well... I guess I understand," he said.
"Please don't be mad... I was really very scared. Now I recognize my mistake... but yesterday I didn't think clearly. Forgive me." She watched him, her heart still frightened.
He then smiled softly, and the light-brown eyes she loved filled with warmth.
"It is all right."
His gazed told her that he really meant that, and she wanted to hug and kiss him that very moment. But it wasn't the right time or the place. So she just quickly outstretched her arm and grasped his, and then pulled it back equally fast.
"See you tonight?"
"Count on it."
He smiled and winked, and while watching him going back to his place, her heart sang. All was well, all was saved.
They spent the evening in each other's arms.
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