A Daughter of the King - Chapter Twenty-Five

"Elwen!" Tethcelebel yelled to her cousin as she bent down, examining some of the tracks, "They are heading east!"

Elwen raced over to her, "East?? But that is towards..." she stopped, and they both looked at each other. Tethcelebel swung up on her horse and went to find Gandalf.

"Mithrandir," Tethcelebel pulled her horse to a stop beside him, "They are taking Aarien eastwards."

"East... that leads to Mirkwood." Gandalf mused, eyes growing worried, "We must ride hard now."

"Get up!" Grishna snarled.

Mandy groaned, struggling up, "Has it really only been a week? Seems much longer than that..." Mandy thought, hurriedly trying to pull her boots on. She had taken them off for the rest stop, for she missed being barefoot, and they were getting into grassy country. The laces refused to cooperate as she fumbled awkwardly with them, desperately trying to tie them up.

Grishna lost all patience with her, "No time for that!!" he growled, tearing the boots off, "If you can't get them on, then just leave them!"

"But I can," Mandy protested, lunging at the boots only to be wrenched back by the rope.

"Leave them." Grishna snarled with a jeering grin, "Elves love having no shoes on, let's see how you keep up." So saying, he jerked her up. The rest of the company was already getting ready to move out. The head orc glanced around, feeling restless.

"Grishna," he yelled, "Can you smell anything?"

Grishna paused, sniffing the air slightly. His face (if you could call it that) jerked back with a grimace of hatred, "Elf flesh."

"Legolas..." Mandy breathed hopefully, offering up a prayer that it was.

"Naraka!" Grishna snarled at the head man, "We must leave now!"

Naraka nodded. They raced away, doubling their pace. Mandy ran swiftly, trying to keep up. She winced as her feet struck rocks, cutting them open.

"Lord," she prayed, "help me...save me, Shepherd." She glanced back and saw a thin red streak going behind her. "Oh great," she flinched, "I am leaving a blood trail for them to follow." She continued running, knowing that she couldn't stop even if she wanted to.

By the end of the day, the bottoms of her feet, from heel to toe, were raw, and they wouldn't heal because she had to keep running. Her steps grew more and more feeble, her face grimacing as each foot struck the ground. Suddenly, her legs gave way, and she fell. She lay there in pain, the blood from her feet running freely. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to stop the tears that were welling up. Some escaped and trickled down her cheeks.

"Stand up!" Grishna kicked her.

Mandy glared up at him and attempted to. She cried out in
pain as she put pressure on her feet and fell back down. "I can't!" Mandy screamed angrily at him, "Cause you took my boots!"

"You little..." Grishna grabbed her hair and twisted it back, "I oughta break your neck for talking to me like that." Mandy's eyes went wide, but she showed no fear.

"That's enough." Naraka ordered, walking over to them. He shoved Grishna out of the way and bent down till he was level with Mandy. He grasped her ankle and brought her foot up, muttering a curse in his language as he saw it.

"We cannot stop now." he said, "They are tracking us." He glared down at her for a few seconds and then waved his arm in defeat, "We will have to carry her."

"Why not make her run?!" Grishna snarled, smiling cruelly at her.

"Because that will slow us down even more," Naraka hissed angrily at him, "Would you like to be the one caught with her when the rescuers catch up to us? Cause that is what will happen if we listen to you." Grishna growled a curse but backed off. "I thought not," Naraka smiled a thin smile, "Now, since you so wanted her to run, you get to be the first to carry her."

Grishna's head whipped around angrily, and Mandy groaned inwardly. Grishna roughly jerked her up and threw her over his shoulder. Mandy gasped as he situated her on his shoulder.

"Thank you," Mandy snapped, eyes flashing angrily, "you placed me right above your pack."

"Serves you right, Erusen," Grishna growled, "Now shut up or I will make you run."

Mandy shook her head crossly, attempting to adjust herself so the pack was not jabbing her in the ribs.

"Quit moving!" Grishna shook her and started running.

"Oh, lovely scenery," she thought, "I get to watch all of the other orcs and men running behind us. And I wish he wouldn't grip me like that..." Mandy couldn't lay her head down, otherwise it would hit the pack, nor could she sit up. She ended up propping her head up by a hand, making sure to drive her elbow into his shoulder on each bounce.

The deer meandered the forest, grazing. The bag hung from its neck, seemingly forgotten by it. The deer had wandered, following the orcs and men. It could see where they were going, so it bounded swiftly through the trees, towards Mirkwood.

Gandalf and the others were resting their horses. They had made good time and were close enough that the elves could just see the orcs and men. Elwen and Tethcelebel fought, trying to keep their minds off of Mandy.

"Why are they taking her to Mirkwood?" Tethcelebel asked between breaths, blocking a stroke from Elwen.

"How should I...know..." Elwen grunted as Tethcelebel gave her a blow to the stomach, "There are many dark secrets in Mirkwood that even the wood-elves do not know." Elwen smiled cheerily at Tethcelebel as she brought both knives down. Tethcelebel whipped to one side, blocking one knife and ducking the other.

"Ah..." Tethcelebel smiled back, "I see."

The other elves were amusedly watching them fight together. There was some cheering as one struck a good blow and cries of disbelief at some other blows. Some shouted out encouragement, while others just observed them. Tethcelebel and Elwen rolled their eyes at one another, used to getting this kind of treatment. They had always drawn a crowd when they fought together for they both had the reputation of lightening quickness and exceptional sword skill, not to mention that Elwen was taught by Thranduil, a master swordsman himself; and Tethcelebel had been taught by Haldir, the Marchwarden of Lorien. So, as they grew older and fought against each other, they got their reputation.

"Guard, Cousin," Elwen teased Tethcelebel, "You are as easy as an Elfling."

"An Elfling?" Tethcelebel raised an eyebrow, "Alright then." She picked up her speed considerably, and Elwen just grinned, a fiery light in her eyes, and matched Tethcelebel pace for pace, blow for blow. Tethcelebel leaped back as Elwen swiped at her legs. Tethcelebel returned the favor by striking out at Elwen's arm. They twisted and turned, keeping their blows coming. The other elves whistled and cheered. Elwen moved closer to Tethcelebel, forcing her back. Tethcelebel knew that she was trying to trap her and tried to swing away. Elwen blocked her exits, grinning. Tethcelebel shook her head, knowing that Elwen had her trapped.

"What are you going to do now, Cousin?" Elwen spun her knives expertly, "I would suggest surrender."

"Surrender?" Tethcelebel looked at her in shock, "Why Elwen. Elves don't surrender." So saying, Tethcelebel whipped around, fighting fiercely. Elwen spun with her, blocking the blows. Tethcelebel ducked and stabbed, trying to fight her way out. Suddenly, Elwen ducked and drop-kicked Tethcelebel. She landed with a thud, looking up at Elwen with a knife at her throat.

"Good match, Cousin." Elwen gave her a hand up.

"Thank you," Tethcelebel got up and sheathed her sword. The crowd watching them cheered and clapped, coming over to talk with them.

Gandalf watched them as well, thinking about Mandy. He glanced up at the sun, seeing it nearly to the mountains.

"Mount up," Gandalf ordered, "We are leaving now." He leaned over to Glorfindel and said quietly, "I would like to try to get as close as we can to them before we camp for the night." Glorfindel nodded, looking out onto the plains. He could see them as they ran, almost into the forest.

Mandy managed to figure out a way to sleep while getting carried, which was one plus. She didn't mind getting carried by the orcs as much as she did the men. She hated being thrown over the men's shoulders, their hand holding her on. It bothered her, and she would almost have rather to run, almost. Later that same day, she woke when the man carrying her threw her to the ground. She rolled slightly, shaking her head. She now had a headache and her neck had a major kink in it from sleeping with her head hanging down. She glanced around, noticing how dark it was. Then she realized they were in Mirkwood.

"Mirkwood..." Mandy mused, sitting up, "I always thought I'd come here with Legolas, not with..." she trailed off, shivering slightly. She wasn't cold: it was more of a warning of some sort, like there was evil nearby.

"Cold, Erusen?" Grishna sneered, coming near her, "Well, don't expect to get warm here."

Mandy didn't answer, just gazed at him, an angry light in her eyes. Grishna snarled at her and walked back to the fire. Mandy shifted uneasily. Something was wrong, dead wrong. She was farthest away from the fire, and occasionally, a man or orc would glance over at her. She strained at the ropes binding her when she heard an odd sound from behind her. Turning, she looked into a pair of eyes, four pairs to be exact. Mandy screamed loudly, shoving away from it. It was a spider, an ugly and enlarged one, much like its ancestor Shelob. It scrambled at her; its eight legs scratching. Mandy knew she was at a disadvantage on the ground, especially tied up, and she couldn't get up. She brought her legs up, so it appeared she was kneeling on air. Then, as the spider drew close, she brought her feet as hard as she could into its face, driving her heels into it. It hissed angrily, eyes blinking, and backed away.

"Naraka!" Mandy shrieked, watching the spider. Its fangs seemed to drip as it came at her again, this time from an angle she couldn't get at. She frantically tried to turn around.

After the first scream, Naraka just rolled his eyes, ignoring her. When she yelled his name, he sighed.

"Moka," Naraka snapped angrily, "Go see what she wants."

Moka, a man, walked over to her. He saw the spider and swiftly threw a dagger into it.

Mandy screamed again as the spider rose above her head, starting to come down. Suddenly, the spider screeched and fell to the side, a knife sticking out of it. Moka came over and cut the rope from Mandy. He lifted her, brought her over to the fire, and set her down.

"Naraka," Moka said grimly, "There are still spiders about." He cleaned his dagger, glancing at Mandy.

"Spiders?" Naraka glanced around warily, "Well, can't have her become spider food. Keep her near the fire from now on."

Mandy drew in a few ragged breaths. She had handled being kidnapped, slapped, carried by orcs, but if there was one thing that terrified her to death, it was spiders, especially big as a St. Bernard spiders. She finally got her breath under control, trembling slightly. She kept glancing around, knowing she would get no sleep tonight.

***Author's Note****
*goes and hides in the Mines of Moria* *yells from a hiding place* Hi! i'm in hiding right now until things look better....spiders!! yikes, i hate spiders. *shivers* don't like them!! hope you enjoyed this chapter!!

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