Bittersweet Melodies - The Forgotten Saga of Araviel - Chapter 4
Recap - Araviel has been captured by men along with an elf maiden named Elian.
Day after miserable day passed, leaving nothing but a black hole in Araviel's memory. He spent his time either atop the great horse or bound hand and foot upon the ground. After the first fleeting conversation, he had no chance to speak with Elian. The men made sure they were kept apart, preventing them from "Scheming up trouble in that foul tongue," as one of them put it. Araviel often worried about her, but as he couldn't see or move, there was little he could do.
The humiliating captivity was chipping away at what remained of Araviel's pride. It didn't enter his mind to be fearful, but he was ashamed and angry that he couldn't manage to escape; a feat he was sure any other Ranger could have accomplished. Countless times he tried to break free, but the men kept an unceasing vigil upon him. At one point during the journey, he managed to unbind his hands on a sharp rock, but it had only resulted in the men retying his wrists, this time with wires. He had gritted his teeth and taken the abuse silently.
It was nearing two weeks into the wretched journey when Araviel finally managed to hear some hint as to where they were taking him. He was lying in a patch of hard dirt, twisting his wrists in an effort to free himself (his hands were getting bloody from the wires), when two men approached him. He couldn't see through the blindfold, but their shadows covered his body, telling his keen senses that they were standing very close.
"See for yourself," one of them said. An iron grip seized Araviel's shoulders and yanked him to his knees. Rough hands pushed his head down violently, and pulled his long, flaxen hair up. Thick fingers squeezed the pressure points on either side of his throat and he yelped at the sharp, searing pain.
"Shut up," one of the men said as Araviel felt the
fingers tighten. Someone was touching his neck, pushing in the center of it. He writhed madly, but the hard hands held him down as he heard rough, gleeful laughter. Perhaps thirty slow seconds later, the hands released him and Araviel crumpled to the ground; angry and embarrassed.
The men began to converse in the harsh tongue all his captors used, and it was not one Araviel was familiar with.
"Bar ga juk sha Sauron id pred mor bartuk," one of them said.
Sauron. Araviel's heart dropped, and he heard no more of their talk. For the first time in what seemed forever he felt fear; true, terrifying fear. Sauron was the men's master, it was He who had ordered Araviel and Elian to be captured. His stomach churned nervously; they were en route to Mordor. Questions filled his mind. What could Sauron possibly want with him; an outcasted, wild elf? What made him so important that these men had crossed more than half of Middle Earth to capture him? He added the questions to his growing list, wishing he could find some answers.
He arched his shoulders and rolled his head, trying to get rid of the burning sensation on his sore neck. The men's actions also puzzled him. If it had been an isolated event, he would have thought they were just having their cruel fun, but it was not the first time the men had roughly inspected the back of his neck. He was almost used to feeling the horrible grip on his throat holding his head still so that hard fingers could probe his skin. He had no idea what they were looking at and burned to find out but, his bloody wrists reminded him, there was nothing he could do.
He sighed and rolled onto his back, preparing himself for another fitful, sleepless night in the cold, rugged wilderness.
There was not the slightest noise to alert Araviel's captors of the two intruders as they slipped in among the men, as silent and swift as cats, their light feet making no imprint upon the hard earth. Not even the sharp hearing of the two elven captives picked up their movement. They slunk in together, then separated, each heading towards one of the bound figures; cold weapons in their ready hands.
Snap. A twig cracked and was followed by a short curse.
Araviel was instantly wide awake. He sat upright instinctively and, without warning, felt two hands grab his shoulders and pull him back a few feet. He struggled madly, trying in vain to free himself from the light, but firm grasp.
"Shh!" a man's voice whispered. Araviel, thinking it was one of his captors, continued to writhe.
"Do you want to wake up the whole camp? Just hold still for a few moments!" Araviel thought it may have been one of his original captors trying to steal him back. For a moment, doubt held him; whose side should he take? Neither group seemed very helpful to him. But he remembered the man's livid face as he lunged at him, wanting to kill him rather than give him up. He commenced his writhing and tried to yell.
"Amin naa lle mellon. Amin anta lle. I am a friend, I`m here to help you."
Araviel stopped short at the elvish words and, despite the situation, felt homesickness flood through him. How long it had been since he had heard his native tongue, how many desolate years since... He pushed his mind back to the present, determined not to dwell on dreams; the man was still very close to him and had a hold on his shoulder. Who was he? Was it a trap? Araviel, used to being taken as untrustworthy, was very skeptical of this intruder.
"Just hold on," the man whispered, reverting back to the common tongue. The hands on his shoulders tightened suddenly as Araviel heard a twig snap. He jerked his arm up, and the grip loosened.
"Sorry," the man whispered. The hands let go and Araviel felt them reach for the knot on the back of his head that bound the blindfold. They deftly worked with it until it came loose and fell with a flutter to the ground. For the first time in a fortnight, Araviel opened his eyes and was not met with blackness.
He saw before him a bare land with hardly any trees or life to speak of. Overhead, the stars were blanketed by a heavy cloak of clouds, which made the night darker than it already was. One of his guards grumbled, but when Araviel turned quickly around, he saw that the man was deeply asleep. In fact, all the men were asleep, which was highly unusual. Typically, as many as five kept guard; three of them watching Araviel, but now the whole camp was utterly silent.
He suddenly remembered the man as he felt hands pull off the stifling gag around his mouth. A face appeared in front of him, curtained by black hair; sea grey eyes looked intensly into his own.
"Be silent," he whispered as he bent his head and pulled out a knife. Araviel recoiled, but the stranger put a finger to his lips and motioned that he was here to help. Araviel studied his honest face and bright eyes, and nodded seriously. The man knelt next to him and cut through the wires around his wrists and ankles. Araviel couldn't help smiling as the bonds fell away.
"Can you walk?" the man mouthed. Araviel had lost all feeling in his feet long ago, but he bit his lip and nodded. The man pulled him upward and he stood, a little shaky, but determined not to look weak.
"Where's Elian?" he whispered. The man nodded towards the other side of the camp, where Elian stood beside a tall elf. He beckoned for them to leave the camp, which Araviel and the man did, making for a dark patch that would hide the four from the men.
"We have to leave, now," the elf said; his blue eyes gleamed in the dark. He handed Araviel a long, sharp knife of elvish make and Araviel grinned; it was good to hold a weapon once more.
"Where are we?" he whispered.
"Rhudaur," the man replied.
"Are you allright?" Araviel asked as he looked at Elian's peaked face and big, frightened eyes. She nodded bravely.
He turned to the man and asked "Who are you?"
"Padric, and this is Will," the man said as he gave the elf a pat on the shoulder.
"And you are?" Will asked.
"Well met Araviel. Come, we must put as much distance as possible between us and your captors before morning. That drug won't last any longer," Will said. In spite of the situation, Araviel stifled a laugh.
"You drugged them?" he asked gleefully.
The elf just grinned.