Miriel: Princess of Rohan - 24: AMBUSH
Eight horses and nine riders set out from Edoras on a bright, cloudless day. Six guards accompanied Miriel, who rode beside Legolas together with Gimli on Arod. A twelve-day journey lay ahead of them, and Miriel and Legolas seemed content for it to last long and perhaps never end, but Gimli was constantly shifting uncomfortably in the saddle as he sat behind Legolas.
"I hope you two aren't gonna talk all lovey and mushy this whole trip," Gimli muttered.
"We were planning on it," Legolas instantly replied, grinning mischievously at Gimli, who rolled his eyes. "But if it would make you happier, we'll stick to lessons in Sindarin as much as possible."
"Great." Gimli twisted around and looked at Miriel. "Lady Miriel, while you're being dragged throughout Middle-earth with this immortal pain-in-the-neck and nothing else to do, allow me to present for your entertainment: `Learn to speak Elvish in twelve days with your host, Legolas Greenleaf'," grumbled the Dwarf. "`With mild commentary by Gimli son of Gloin, who was forced to listen.' "
Miriel laughed, and Legolas raised his eyebrows. He craned around and glanced back at the grumpy Dwarf.
"Would you like to speak Sindarin also?" he asked.
"Me? Of course not!" Gimli scoffed. "You wouldn't catch me talking in Elvish! Although," he paused thoughtfully, "It could be of some advantage if I knew what you wood folk were saying."
Legolas winked at Miriel.
The days passed swiftly, and as Legolas had predicted Miriel picked up the language almost immediately. By the time they reached the borders of Rohan and could see the dark eaves of Fangorn Forest like a cloud of shadow in the distance, Legolas was speaking to Miriel in Sindarin and testing her with the Westron translations.
"Tolo, hiril nin, noro go nin," said Legolas.
"Come, my lady, ride with me," answered Miriel.
"Pedich i lam Edhellen?"
"Do you speak Elvish?"
"Renich i beth i pennen?"
"Do you remember what I told you?"
"Le bain, Miriel," declared Legolas with a grin.
Miriel blushed, but her eyes were shining.
"You are beautiful, Sparkling Like Jewels."
"Gwerich faer vara."
"You have a fiery spirit."
"Le en meleth o cuil nin."
"You are the love of my life."
Gimli sighed loudly.
"Will this never end?"
Miriel flashed a smile at the Dwarf.
"Ava-han daro?" Miriel echoed his question in halting Sindarin with a laugh.
"Oh brother," grouched Gimli under his breath, but before he turned away Miriel could see him grinning beneath his mustache.
"He's just jealous of your new language capabilities," Legolas declared. "I gave you the chance to learn, Gimli, when we started. Remember? But you didn't want to, and now Miriel and I will be able to talk to each other and you won't have a clue what we're saying. But look on the bright side! When Miriel gets Sindarin down, you won't have to put up with any more love talk!"
"Le-ab dollen," Gimli replied solemnly.
Legolas's eyes popped.
"Wha- what did you say?"
"Henion man le pedo," replied the Dwarf quietly, struggling with the foreign accent. "Pedo Edhellen nin."
Miriel gasped, and Legolas was speechless. Gimli looked at the gaping pair and a twinkle appeared in his eye.
"I'm the only living Dwarf in Middle-earth who can," he added with a grin.
Legolas laughed softly.
"I give you too little credit, as always, Gimli," Legolas said, and the warm glow in his voice shone through. "Now we won't be able to-"
Suddenly he cut off his sentence and stiffened in the saddle. He stared intently into the distance, and his fair face was tight with concentration and distress.
"What is it?" asked Miriel.
"No dinen!" barked Legolas. He clipped Arod's sides and sent the white horse ahead of the group at a quick canter. They stopped on a rise, and Legolas gazed into the distance. Then he jumped to the ground, leaving Gimli to mind the reins, and fell flat with his ear pressed hard to the earth. He seemed to be listening for something. Miriel spurred Kaspir after them and waited at the bottom of the hill.
Finally Legolas stood up. He glanced in every direction, then he gripped Arod by the reins and ran toward Miriel leading the horse and the Dwarf behind him. When he reached Miriel, it was obvious something was wrong.
"I hear approaching riders," he told her, looking anxiously over his shoulder. "But the hooves of their mounts fall too softly upon the grass to be horses. My ears tell me they are Wargs."
"Wargs!" she cried. "I thought they were gone!" She looked around at the wide land in horror. Rolande's words came back to her: "The downfall of Sauron does not mean the immediate end of all evils," he had said.
How right Rolande had been! Now they were neatly caught out in the open, and there was nowhere to run and hide, not even a rocky outcropping where they could take a stand and be partially protected from the arrows of the enemy.
"Avo `osto, hiril nin," replied Legolas softly as he looked into her frightened gray eyes. "Estelio nin." He squeezed her hand briefly, and with that he swept past her, shouting orders to the Rohirrim, who were aware that something was going on.
"Draw your swords!" Legolas commanded. "Prepare for battle!"
Miriel was frightened. She reached down and groped for her own sword which lay hidden in a sheath on her saddle. Her trembling fingers found it and drew it forth with a metallic ring, and it shone like a silver fire in the dying sunlight. She drove Kaspir toward the Rohirrim, gripping her weapon and trying to breathe normally.
Legolas was back on his horse. He had arranged the guards three abreast and two deep, and he set Miriel behind them.
"It will be safer for you here, meleth nin," he explained, and Miriel knew there would be no arguing with him. Legolas himself took his place at the front. Miriel waited nervously and swallowed hard as sweat dripped from her brow.
"Put me on the ground, Laddie!" Gimli was shouting. "I can fight better on my own feet!"
Suddenly Miriel heard grunting and roaring and the clash of cold steel clearly in the golden twilight, and a flood of Wargs appeared and poured over the horizon, snarling and snapping like evil wolves as they galloped toward them. The foremost Warg fell instantly with a feathered arrow in his throat, and Legolas fitted a second shaft to the string as Gimli slid to the ground.
"Let `em come! Let `em come!" the Dwarf yelled gleefully, drawing his axe from his belt and nearly jumping up and down in excitement. "Leave some for me, Legolas!"
"There's plenty for us both," answered Legolas grimly as he set loose his second arrow and reached for another. "The whole herd is nearly upon us."
"How many are there?" asked one of the Rohirrim.
"Thirty-seven," Legolas replied absently, never taking his eyes from the oncoming black wave. He fired and a third Warg toppled head over heels down the hillside.
"That's eighteen for you, and nineteen for me," roared Gimli. He glanced sidelong at the Elf and gave Legolas a warning look. "And I'll let you have some of the Wargs, but don't you try takin' more than your share! Let's get `em!"
"Charge!" cried Legolas at the same moment, and the riders leapt forward shouting as one. Miriel shouted with them, and the surging tide of Orcs slammed into them.
Miriel fought with all her might, slashing wildly at leering Orcs and at their evil mounts from Kaspir's back. Amid the turmoil she caught brief glimpses of Legolas.
The Elf freed a final arrow and swept out his long knives. He galloped fearlessly among the enemy, blazing golden and terrible against the setting sun, cutting a wide swath of destruction among their ranks. Above all the noise Miriel could hear the deep throaty voice of the Dwarf shouting as Gimli wielded his axe and felled Wargs like so many young trees.
"Five! Six! Sev-ven! And eight!" counted Gimli.
Miriel could not help noticing that her own tale was only two.
The swords of the Riders of Rohan rose and fell, but not swiftly enough. They were well outnumbered and outmatched in strength by the foe. One soldier screamed and fell from his horse, and blood streamed from the leg wound of another.
"Miriel! Watch out!" yelled Legolas, and instinctively Miriel ducked a swordstroke from behind. She twisted in the saddle, and with a roar and a blow she laid the Orc at her feet. She raised her sword again and beheaded the Warg beneath it.
"Behind you, Legolas!" Miriel shouted as another Warg rider bore down on the Elf. Arod leapt deftly aside and Legolas took down both foes.
Two Orcs attacked Miriel. Miriel lifted her sword and fought off one attacker, but she screamed as the second blade sliced into her side. She spurred Kaspir into a gallop and ran away until she was no longer crunched helplessly between two foes, and then she spun her horse and charged the first rider, using him as a protective shield against the other Warg rider. She would fight them one at a time.
But the first Orc was a strong warrior. Again and again his sword fell on Miriel. Kaspir danced in terror under her, and Miriel fought to hold onto him with one hand and keep him from bolting while frantically blocking her enemy's blows.
Miriel parried wildly and out of the corner of her eye she saw the second Warg slipping around behind them, but she had her hands full defending herself from the thick rain of blows and staying on Kaspir's back, and there was nothing she could do about it.
The Orc recoiled and drew back his sword, and as he struck at her Miriel threw herself forward and out of the way. The Orc missed and lost his balance, and Miriel brought her sword down on his head with all her might.
She didn't have a moment to lose. She whirled around, expecting to find the second Orc ready to pounce on her. But he wasn't there. Instead Miriel heard two swift blows whistling through the air and a gruff voice.
"Fourteen and fifteen!" shouted Gimli in satisfaction. Both Orc and Warg fell beneath his axe.
Miriel grimaced a smile at him as the Dwarf turned toward her.
"Bless you, Gimli," she muttered.
"You're welcome, my lady!" Gimli replied with a roguish grin, and he dashed away.
Miriel turned Kaspir and looked up to continue fighting.
Suddenly her eyes widened in horror and her blood froze. An approaching black cloud of doom descended upon her.
Time seemed to slow down. Another Orc was galloping toward Miriel, shouting orders to the Warg riders, for he was their leader. He was tall and dark, a menacing shadow against the orange skies. His Warg was a thick, burly, ill-tempered beast, and it roared savagely at Men, Orcs and Wargs alike.
Miriel took it all in at a single glance, for the Orc's stare had fallen on Miriel and his red eyes narrowed with evil intent. He was holding a mighty bow with an arrow fitted to the string and drawn back to his ear. He was aiming for Miriel. The Orc grinned, revealing a mouthful of ugly yellow fangs gleaming in triumph. There was nowhere Miriel could hide. She was trapped, and the Orc knew it.
Miriel screamed in terror as the Orc freed the arrow. A swift twang sliced through the air. Miriel's cry was cut short as the arrow hit her with tremendous force. She stiffened and choked. Sputtering, she painfully craned her head downward to find the shaft buried deep in her heart. Her next thought was for her ring; why had it not protected her? She lifted her hand to find that it was gone. She had lost it in battle; it had slipped off quietly without her notice and was lost somewhere in the trampled grass.
"Mirieeeeeeeeeeel!" came a long cry from Legolas. "Nooooooooooooooo!"
Miriel saw the Orc fall to a single vicious stroke from the Elf. Legolas glanced back at her as he fought. He was distracted, and Miriel, through all her agony, was terrified for him. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She tried again and again until she forced a word past her choking throat.
"Fight," she whispered. Desperation shone in her stone gray eyes. "Fight."
Legolas stared back at her and looked as if he were going to turn Arod in her direction. Miriel knew that if he left the battle, it was over. Miriel clung to Kaspir's mane and swayed, but she held on. She had to make him understand.
"Fight," she begged. "Fight."
Still Legolas hesitated. Miriel gazed at him with tears sparkling in her eyes.
"Go," Miriel cried, her voice high and shrill. Then it fell. "Please."
At last the Elf nodded.
As Legolas turned Arod away and plunged into battle, whirling both blades fiercely over his head, Miriel slipped silently from her horse and fell with a muffled thud to the ground.
If you're in a great hurry to know what happens next, you don't have to wait. The entire 30-chapter ebook entitled Miriel: Princess of Rohan can be downloaded at www(dot)talesofmiddleearth(dot)com.
Chapter Twenty: A LONG-AWAITED WEDDING
Chapter Twenty-One: A BETROTHAL AND A FUNERAL
Chapter Twenty-Two: MIRIEL'S VILLAGE
Chapter Twenty-Three: RETURN TO EDORAS