Betrayal

Liedral stared in horror at the scene: Niandil, lying sprawled on his back, blood seeping, spreading, flowing everywhere. Her scream broke the silence which was nearly stifling the small clearing.

That scream shattered the vision from her mind's eye, and she saw Niandil, alive, his shadow creeping through the trees, silent as a shadow. Haldìr noticed it too, for his head snapped with eerie precision in the direction Liedral was looking.

"Who's there?" Haldìr demanded harshly. "Come out now and maybe I shall torture you a little less."

"'Tis nothing," said Liedral, trying desperately to hide the panic and hope in her demeanor and tone from her captor. "A squirrel, perhaps."

"That's no squirrel, child," growled Haldìr. "You know who approaches." He strode to where Liedral, hands bound, leaned against a tree trunk and shook her violently. "Tell me!" he cried, the evil in his eyes terrible. Liedral gave a cry of pain and fear.

Without warning Niandil leapt into the clearing and tackled Haldìr. As the two were scuffling, Liedral noticed that Haldìr's knife, with which he had been skinning a rabbit, was lying inches from his grasp, and it was a losing struggle for Niandil to keep Haldìr's hand from it.

Unthinkingly Liedral stumbled forward and kicked the knife away from Haldìr. Niandil took the opportunity to throw a sickening punch to just below Haldìr's ribs. The older Elf let out a surprised grunt and Liedral fell to the ground, grabbing the knife with her hand. After cutting her bonds, she helped Niandil off of a spluttering, gasping Haldìr. They started towards the clearing.

"Leave the knife," said Niandil with difficulty. His lower lip had split and his nose was bleeding profusely. Liedral looked at it. "He needs to hunt, Liedral. Would you leave him--" His sentence was cut off, for Haldìr had recovered and jumped him from behind.

"The knife! The knife!" he cried, staggering under Haldìr's weight.

Liedral watched carefully, waiting for Haldìr to expose a weakness. She saw her chance when Niandil collapsed to the earth, his back and head being smashed, punched and bitten by Haldìr, who had bent Niandil's arms nearly to the point of breaking behind his back.

With a furious yell, she leapt upon Haldìr's back and wrapped his long hair around her hand, thus gaining control over him. She lifted him up enough to allow Niandil to roll painfully away and pressed her knees into the small of her stepfather's back. She slammed his head into the ground as hard as she could. She pulled his head back up, bending his back into an almost unnatural position.

"Liedral!" Niandil cried weakly after she had done this several times. "He's unconscious! That's quite enough!"

Liedral looked up at him, a wild look in her eyes. Niandil recoiled at the sight.

The young she-Elf gave a sheepish smile. "Sorry," she replied quietly, releasing Haldìr and standing, carefully brushing herself off. "I guess I got a little carried away." She gazed at Niandil fondly.

After several long moments, Liedral shook herself. "Look at you," she said briskly. "We've got to get you cleaned up." She gazed around the clearing as though searching for something.

"What about Haldìr?" asked Niandil pointedly.

"Oh." Liedral hesitated, clearly torn. She mistakenly looked into Niandil's bright eyes and sighed irritably. "Fine. We shall clean him up too. But we have to tie him up."

Niandil readily agreed. "Tie him up now, because we don't know how long he'll stay unconscious," he suggested.

"Though if and when he does, he'll have quite a headache." Liedral smiled and Niandil chuckled and began coughing violently. Liedral reached into one of Haldìr's provision packs, extracted a leather pouch of cool water and passed it to him. Niandil accepted it gratefully and sipped it.

While he was recovering, Liedral rummaged around and found some rope. She tied Haldìr's hands behind his back and entwined his fingers with her bonds, making it nigh impossible for him to move them. She also ties his ankles together, ran several lengths of rope from his wrists to his ankles, and tightened them so that his knees were bent at a 45-degree angle from his thighs. She would have hung him from a tree, but Niandil intervened on Haldìr's behalf.

Liedral left to find the source of a gurgling sound, which grew steadily louder as she approached. Before long, she found the river and bathed herself in its icy flow. When she had finished, she refilled the other two canteens with its clean, fresh water, also bathing several strips of cloth. She made haste back to camp, softly humming the Lay of Lethien to herself as she walked.

When she came upon the clearing that housed their camp, she stopped short. Near the center of the break in trees lay Niandil, his head next to a rather large rock, which had his drying blood upon it. At first, she though he was dead, but as she rushed to his side, she noticed his shallow breathing, which was a silent testament that he was alive...

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