Arandel could feel herself rocking gently back and forth. He shoulder burned, but no longer was cold and numb. She slowly opened her eyes. Night had fallen, and the silvery moonbeams cast shifting patterns on the forest floor. The horse plodded slowly now, as one does when they are exhausted. Arandel looked up at Heron. His face was almost completely obscured by his hood, but She could see the glitter of his sharp eyes, that were constantly shifting, missing nothing about the forest surrounding them. “Heron?” He looked down at her, flashing her a thin smile. “What is it, princess?”
“Where are we? Should we not be home by now?” Heron peered into the trees for a moment before answering. “We would be, but I thought it would be best if we stayed off of the main road. But still we are surrounded by dangers.” Arandel stared into the shadows. She shivered at the thought of what could be creeping among those dark trees. Thank Elbereth she was not alone!
They went on for what seemed like an eternity to Arandel. Just when the slightest pink flush appeared on the horizon, the horse perked up his ears. Arandel strained her ears to catch whatever it was that had alarmed the horse. She was half elvish, and heard it before Heron did; the cracking of brush under heavy feet. “Orcs!” Heron said under his breath, and spurred the horse on.
But the load of two riders was too much for the horse to carry. Heron dismounted, and handed the reins to Arandel. “Ride that way,” he told her pointing to the left hand fork in the trail, “There lies the dwelling place of the elves, your kin. They will care for you till you are sent for.” Before letting go of he reins, he pressed the hilt of a small dagger into her hand. “You might need it.” With that he slapped the horse on the rump and set off running down the right hand fork.
Arandel gripped the horse with her knees, for the stirrups were too long for her short legs. She leaned forward into the horse’s mane. She looked back, but could no longer see Heron. Arandel dug her heels into the horse’s sides, causing the horse to go faster. She clung to the horse till her legs ached. She turned to look behind her again, and saw that the path was empty. She turned forward again, only to see a low branch hanging over the path. She ducked, but not soon enough. *THUMP* . The branch scraped her off of her mount, and she tumbled to the ground. “Oof!” She said, rolling over a couple of times. She quickly got up and ran after the horse. “Hey horse! Wait!” She cried running after it waving her arms. She let her arms fall to her sides, and stood silently in the middle of the path. “Oh, great!” she said kicking the dirt, “My day just keeps getting better and better!”
She stopped, and tilted her head slightly. A bird chirped insistently on the offending branch. “What do you want?!?” She asked irritably. The bird fluttered a little ways, and then returned to the same spot. “Oh. I see you want me to follow you. Is that it?” She asked sarcastically. The bird again chirped insistently, and fluttered back and forth. Arandel looked at the bird skeptically, and then followed it. “Am I going crazy?” she asked herself.