Bittersweet Melodies - The Forgotten Saga of Araviel - Chapter 2

"You will fly and you will crawl,
God knows even angels fall."

**********

The next morning dawned cloudy and overcast. The wind had blown itself out, giving the whole world a stale, musty feeling. The grass was a dead brown, the sky was a dark grey, and the two dour shades mixed together to create the gloomy, wintry day Araviel awoke to.

An hour after sunrise he was on his way West. Liera made her own course through the woods and Araviel sat atop her, lost in his own thoughts. His camp was about a days ride from the Shire in fair weather. His plan was to go silently and unnoticed through the Shire and then on the Elvish road towards the Grey Havens. He would reach them in perhaps four days. The only regret he would allow himself to feel was that he hadn't bid farewell to Elrond, the closest he had ever come to having a father, before crossing over and leaving Middle Earth forever.

A few hours after noon the purple clouds, that had been threatening rain all day, let loose their fury in a torrent of falling water. Araviel, used to being out in all kinds of weather, simply pulled his cloak up over his head and pushed on.

The rain was still pouring down at sunset when Araviel stopped to make camp. He was in the open lands North of the East - West Road, making his way towards the Baranduin River. They were mainly rolling, rocky plains, but there were a few trees. It was under one of these, a great Oak, that he stopped for the night. The thick branches hung over him, making a ramshackle shelter.

The night was humid with the thick falling rain, but Araviel shivered. His cloak, although sturdy, was soaked, as was the rest of his body. Try as he might, he couldn't get the slightest fire going; the whole world, it seemed, was drowning.

Liera stood motionless beside him, sheltering his slight body from the rain as best she could. Araviel, curled underneath his cloak, looked up into the soft brown eyes of his sweet and gentle horse.

"I am sorry I couldn't find a better spot to camp. The storm will pass by morning." Liera whinnied softly. Araviel shivered and closed his eyes, trying to sleep.

**********

The rain ended around eleven, leaving in its wake a cool, peaceful night. The clouds cleared and the elvish stars appeared, twinkling down brightly on Araviel's quietly sleeping form. Nothing moved except his thin chest, which rose up and down so slightly it was almost unseen. His green eyes were open, but Araviel was deep within his dreams. The night was utterly still; there was not the slightest breath of wind nor rustle of leaves. The sleeping world was bathed in soft moonlight and friendly stars glistened overhead.

A twig snapped.

Quicker than even elvish eyes could have seen, Araviel was on his feet, a knife lodged in his upraised hand. His bright eyes glowed fiercely in the moonlight as they swept quickly over his camp, his wide awake horse and the peaceful night. Nothing stirred. He backed against the lone tree, ready to defend himself against whatever was lurking silently in the shadows.

A less vigilant elf might not have noticed, but with eyes trained by years with the Rangers to spot danger even in the blackest night, Araviel's gaze latched on a tiny flicker against the darkness. The moonlight was shining on a sword.

"Show yourself!" he called. He had faced enemies alone before, and had no qualms about doing so again. Out of the shadows several men appeared. Araviel surveyed them with a quick, piercing sweep of his glittering eyes. They hadn't the squat cheeriness of the Breelanders, nor the wild saunter of the Rangers. Their clothing and armor was dark and well made; their weapons glistened in the darkness. There were at least forty of them, all fully armed and looking venomous.

Araviel knew very well the hopelessness of his situation, but he was never one to take a beating quietly. He murmured a quick prayer, took a deep breath and, with a fierce cry, charged into the murderous looking group.

The first man he hit was a good fighter, but he felled him with a well placed stroke to the throat. The next few were a little harder, but they were soon down as well. Araviel was hopeful. Surely the racket they were causing would alert a Ranger somewhere, who would come to his aid. Alone, he had almost no hope, but with just one more man, he was sure he could make it out alive. With this thought, he yelled all the louder, raising his sword above his head and bringing it down upon a huge man in front of him.

But no one came.

For perhaps ten minutes, he fought fiercely, the strength of an agile elf and a tried man visible in his movements. The men were a little taken aback by his aggression, but after the first initial shock, they too fought with great strength and skill. Soon Araviel was completely surrounded. A hand grabbed him from behind and placed a knife dangerously close to his throat. He flipped the man over his shoulder but, while bent half over, another hand wrenched his sword from his grasp.

He fought on, using his bare fists, but within seconds they overpowered him. It took four men to hold his arms, pinning him, immobile, to the ground. The hands held his limbs, leaving his vulnerable chest and stomach open for the final blow. Hot rage boiled within him, but he didn't know if it was directed at his captors, himself, or his family; they all blurred together in a black haze of enemies. A tall, dark man stepped in front of him; sword upraised. Araviel closed his eyes.

"Bind his hands," the man ordered through a thick accent. Araviel's eyes shot open in surprise. He felt ropes being twisted around his wrists, and fought madly, but another two or three men helped to hold him down. He yelled fiercely, but was thrown to the ground. More ropes were tied tightly around his feet and a stifling black cloth was bound over his mouth and eyes, suppressing his cries.

"Move out!" a rough voice called. An iron shod boot slammed into his head. He tried to stay awake as he was lifted onto a broad shoulder but white fog clouded his vision and the world slowly slipped away...

**********

"I don't care if you captured him, there's more of us and if you don't hand him over, we'll take him by force!" Araviel slowly spun back into reality. Angry voices were yelling, but he didn't bother to listen. His head was swimming, and his eyes were only seeing darkness. Where was he?

A small, thin hand nudged his shoulder. He flinched at the touch.

"Pst," a clear voice whispered.

"Mmmm?" Araviel sat up and looked around blindly for the source of the obviously elvish voice.

"Who are you?" It was a young woman's voice, and it was trembling slightly. He tried to ask her the same question, but it was muffled by the cloth.

"I'm going to take off your blindfold, be silent," the voice said. The same thin hands worked quickly with the knot behind Araviel's head and the cloth fell away. Araviel turned to thank the elf, but was startled out of speech. He beheld not at another rough elf like himself, but a delicate, pretty maiden; her dark gold hair shimmered even in the dim light and her sparkling blue eyes looked at him fearfully from under long, thick eyelashes. Araviel fought hard not to smile; in the harsh environment he had been thrown into, women were seldom seen.

Still a little shocked, he stammered "Who are you?"

"I'm Elian, of Imladris," she said quietly.

"Araviel, of nowhere."

"Where are we?" he asked. She looked towards two men, one of whom was the leader of Araviel's captors, the other was a darker and taller man, who was scowling.

"They've been arguing since they met about an hour ago," she whispered.

"Over what?"

"You." The statement was ominous, and it angered Araviel deeply; he was no man's property. He scowled, his eyes narrowing in rage and shame.

"What have they been saying?" he asked.

"They both want both of us, but neither is willing to give in," she said.

"What do they need us for?" Elian shrugged.

"Neither will say where they are from, or whom they serve. I fear we have fallen into very evil hands, Araviel." Her voice was quivering. Araviel, to his surprise, saw it not as weakness, but as a sweet gentleness that made him feel very harsh and wild.

"Don't worry, if a fight breaks out we can probably make a run for it," he said, hoping he spoke the truth. She sighed deeply and her bright eyes filled with tears.

"I am sorry," she said as a breath caught in her throat. Araviel longed to wrap his arm around her; to comfort her.

"There is nothing to be sorry for," he said, hoping his voice was gentle. "Surely someone will rescue us. Won't Elrond notice if you go missing?" Her face was still shining as she nodded slowly and forced a small smile.

"What about you? Where is your family?" she asked. Araviel's face fell.

He was trying to form an answer to the seemingly simple question when a hand grabbed the back of his shirt and dragged him, writhing, towards the leaders. The darker, taller of the two lifted him to a standing position and shoved his head down. Araviel struggled, but an iron grip held him still as hard fingers probed the back of his neck, sending sharp pains down his spine. He yelled and the hand let go. He fell to the ground.

"We must have him. It is utterly important," the tall man said. The other leader scowled.

"Not for all the gold in Middle Earth," he replied.

"In exchange for your life then? You are sorely outnumbered," the tall man said threateningly. For a moment there was silence as the two leaders glared angrily and greedily at each other.

Suddenly, Araviel's captor drew a knife and lunged at him. "If I can't have him, neither will you!" he yelled. But Araviel was quicker than the man had bargained for. He rolled over swiftly, out of harm's way and the stroke went wide. Araviel kicked out with his tied feet and the man stumbled and fell to the ground. The other leader raised his sword. There was a loud thump and the man cried out violently, but was dead not five seconds later.

Hands grabbed the back of Araviel's shirt and pulled him upright again. He saw all the men from both groups looking towards him and the leader.

"Give him to us and you will not share your comrade's fate," he bellowed. The men who captured Araviel for the most part nodded their heads, scowls on their faces, and turned to leave. The leader let him loose and he fell once more to the ground.

"You two," the man pointed to some men. "Put them on your horses. Move out!"

Although Araviel was strong, he still retained the light thinness of his race and the man was able to lift him easily with one arm. He struggled, but was hoisted onto a huge, jet black horse. The man tied his wrists very tightly to the saddle horn and put a blindfold over his eyes. When the man walked away, Araviel leaned forward towards the horse's ears.

"Noro lim," he said in his native tongue. Unlike Liera, who would take off like a bolt of lightning when he spoke those words, the horse whinnied angrily and tossed its head, knocking Araviel's jaw painfully. He heard harsh laughter.

"Don't bother trying to speak your foul words to him. This horse is smarter than that," a voice very near him spoke. Araviel scowled and leaned back in the hard saddle, thinking about riding bareback atop gentle Liera and wondering where she was now.

A few moments later a man mounted behind him, shoving Araviel's torso uncomfortably next to the horse's neck. He tried to move back, but was hit hard on the shoulders.

"Stay still elf," a rough voice ordered. The man kicked the horse and it started forward at an uneven trot, Araviel being thrust limply up and down upon it.

Prologue - http://www.theonering.com/docs/12161.html

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