The Undying Lands - (part 26)

As the sun began to set, the four horses slowed to a halt and the riders dismounted. Mereth laid Nieninque on a bed of moss and hurried to start a fire. The three men left Ariengil to tend Nieninque and set of in different directions into the wood, which still ran beside them. Harma headed to the centre, Mereth to the left and Nimtheryn to the right.
Ariengil looked through her pack and found a bottle of water and an old skirt. She ripped a strip of cloth off the skirt and soaked it in water. With this, she then dabbed Nieninque's forehead, as she was very hot, she perhaps had a fever.
Then Ariengil wet her friend's lips so that she could drink subconsciously in her stupor. Nieninque shivered slightly, although she was hot, and Ariengil held her hand carefully.
As Ariengil lay Nieninque's hand down again, she felt something on the underside. Slowly Ariengil turned Nieninque's hand to show a red scar at the base. It was small and would have been perfectly normal, had it not been in the shape of a swirl.
Mereth burst back out of the forest with the others close behind. Ariengil immediately let go of Nieninque's hand and stood up.
`Orcs... coming... soon,' panted Mereth as he bent over double. Ariengil looked around for her sword, but realised she must have left it where they had had their last battle. Disappointed, she looked around for her bow and picked it up. She also unsheathed Nieninque's sword and placed it in her scabbard just in case.
But as Ariengil took Nieninque's sword, she saw the scar once more, but now it was black. Had she just seen wrongly before or was it a different colour now? Ariengil was fairly sure that it had not been black previously. But she had no time to dwell on this and turned around again.
Stringing her bow, Ariengil awaited the orcs. Nimtheryn was by her side with his bow strung and the other two were waiting a little forward. As two orcs crashed through, they received two arrows in their chests each and collapsed to the floor.
Only six more orcs came, and each died quickly, all but one, who Harma hit so that he sunk to the floor. Harma quickly threw aside his bow and held his sword instead; this, he placed at the vile creature's neck.
`Who is your master?' he asked brutally.
`Bruminor... the Black,' stuttered the orc.
`Where is he now?'
The orc cackled then replied, `On the way to Gondor to kill the King with ten thousand of us and five thousand Harschnaks.' The orc's laughter died on his lips as Harma cut its throat.
`We move camp now- we can't let the ladies suffer the smell of orcs in the night,' said Harma although Ariengil protested that it was fine. Ariengil walked back to her pack and bent down to pick it up, but a strong, brown hand was holding it.
Ariengil looked up into Nimtheryn's striking blue eyes. He handed her bag back and as their hands touched, Ariengil felt a shiver run up her body. Nimtheryn just smiled his breathtaking smile and walked off, his dark blonde hair blowing slightly in the wind.
Mereth had lifted Nieninque onto a horse again when Ariengil returned to the horses and Harma insisted that Ariengil rode too, much to her disgust at being treated as a less able person. Still, she walked to Silmewesta and put her hands on his back. As she was about to jump up, she saw Nimtheryn out of the corner of her eye. He came close and put one hand on the horse and one on Ariengil's hip.
`Yes, Nimtheryn?' she asked, bothered by him.
`I came to help you,' came the reply in his soft, charming voice. Ariengil's heart melted as he spoke.
`I... I don't need help, thank you,' she stuttered back.
`Very well,' he murmured and turned to go. Ariengil, defiantly jumped up onto Silmewesta, but promptly fell off again, for the first time in her life. She was so humiliated as Nimtheryn ran to her side and helped her to stand.
`Thank you,' she grumbled as her cheeks flushed red and she dusted her clothes off. *Nimtheryn must have known that I would fall, but how?* she asked herself moodily.
Once more, she prepared herself to mount, but again, Nimtheryn was by her side with one hand on her hip. Ariengil decided to ignore him and hopped up as he helped to lift her. With his hand steady on her knee, she did not fall, but trembled with the thought of him so close.
As Harma turned around, Nimtheryn moved his hand away and Harma saw nothing of the look that Nimtheryn gave Ariengil- his lush blue eyes sparkled and his lips formed the words, `With love.' Once more, he stepped away, leaving Ariengil on her own to contemplate what he meant.
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