All my readers: You can feel happy now because there is no pronunciation guide in this story! (I hope the other ones were helpful, though!)
“What can you say in Black Speech?” said Nori.
“Hmm?” asked Analsiel dreamily. It was three weeks since the two girls had become ladies-in-waiting to Queen Arwen, and on this rainy day they sat in Analsiel’s room, reading quietly in Nori’s case, and playing the beautiful harp that used to be Quelleanon’s in Analsiel’s case.
“I said, what can you say in Black Speech? You told the queen when she interviewed you could speak a little Black Speech. So I just want to know what you can say.” Nori wasn’t impatient, just curious.
Analsiel blushed. “Oh, just some useless token phrases.”
Nori raised her eyebrows. “Such as…”
Analsiel had had enough blushing for a lifetime in the past three weeks, so she merely winced, and looked resignedly at her smiling friend.
“Well…Lovely weather we’re having, Aren’t you a handsome Uruk-hai, Hail Sauron, Lord of the Rings, and, well, I need to use the bathroom.”
Nori laughed out loud. “I didn’t know Orcs needed bathrooms!” she cried hysterically.
Analsiel yelled and hit her with a pillow, then went back to her harp. It didn’t laugh at her. “Stop,” she said her laughing friend. “Stop it. You asked and I answered, so you deserve it.”
Nori smiled, but she did stop laughing. “Come, my dear Orc, let us go see Quelleanon and find out what we are doing today in the rain.”
Quelleanon had been told that the ladies were going to the indoor practice courts. She said they would be doing sword work. The others had all done sword fighting before, but Nori and Analsiel had never even held a blade. So it was with some apprehension that they approached the practice courts.
And it was with dread that they saw who was training the women in sword work.
King Aragorn and Legolas Greenleaf.
“You have to face him sometime,” smirked Nori as she saw Analsiel’s face fall at the sight of Legolas.
“No, I don’t,” muttered Analsiel under her breath.
Thankfully, she was not paired off with Legolas. Quelleanon explained that neither Nori nor Analsiel had ever used a sword before, and the king of Gondor and the prince of Mirkwood had each volunteered to teach one of them. They giggled to each other, and then Nori went straight for Legolas. Aragorn smiled at Analsiel.
“You are stuck with me, lady,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
Analsiel smiled back. “I am sure all my bruises will be proof of that when you are done beating me,” she replied.
First he showed her how to hold the sword in the most efficient way. When she pointed out to him the weakness in that grip, a grip that had been used for centuries, she didn’t know who was more surprised, she or the king. But he just gave her a curious look and readjusted his grip the way she had pointed out. Then he showed her how to position her feet. It was simple enough to her, but Nori seemed to be having extreme difficulty getting it right. Legolas was helping her, but he did look a bit impatient.
By the end of the first hour, Aragorn had given his student a balanced practice sword of a wood that was nearly as heavy as metal. He could see her sweating when he taught her blocks and swings, but it was not much. If he had not been right there sparring with her, and feeling the strength of her blocks and attacks, he would have said she wasn’t trying. But as it was, he knew that she working, and loving every minute of it.
Analsiel was loving every minute of her training. Into the third hour, the other ladies sat down and had fruit drinks, but Analsiel was enjoying herself too much. It seemed the king was too. The sword she held felt as if it was part of her arm, a perfect extension of her body. It felt as if it belonged there, as if she had been missing an arm or a leg up until now. She noticed that the other ladies were watching curiously as she and Aragorn paired off. She brushed them away absently. Then she caught sight of Legolas. He was smiling. Smiling. She hated his smile. She saw Aragorn’s practice sword come down towards her, and using all her venom towards Legolas, blocked and swerved out of the way. Then she felt something overwhelm her. Something that felt like a strange part of her that had lain dormant all her life. And now it was alive. All those watching her saw her eyes take on a sudden glow, and were nervous for the king.
She raised her “blade” in a feint; he didn’t follow it, but struck down at her ankles, hoping to immobilize her. She did not leap aside as her body screamed for her do, but swung her sword down and blocked, sending ripples up his arm when the two swords met. He looked at her oddly, and then attacked in earnest. She knew she couldn’t last long if he went full out against her. He was one of the greatest swordsmen in Middle-earth, but she hoped to scare him before she went down.
His blade came whizzing down and she twirled around him, getting to his back. He disarmed her from behind. She kicked his shins and retrieved her blade, then brought it towards his neck. He twisted away, favoring his left leg. She had kicked him harder on that shin. It was a weakness she could use to her advantage as long as this fight lasted. Her friends on the sidelines disappeared in a blur, and she was seemingly alone with her opponent. She whirled and with a savage yell, lunged for him.
He twisted away, catching her sword on his. He twisted until it hurt her to hold onto the sword, but she would not let go so easily. She had a different idea. She let go for an instant and the king toppled over. She picked up her sword from the ground as the king got up and faced him again, sweat pouring off her forehead.
Then she was on the ground before she could raise her blade in defense. He had thrown his full weight into his blade and had pushed it into hers. Now he stood over her, sweating, with his sword at her throat. But he was smiling, and the other ladies, even Legolas, were calling her name in approval.
Weeks passed in this fashion. It rained for days, and the ladies practiced indoors. Aragorn continued to teach Analsiel, and they continued to have practice bouts for the enjoyment of the other girls. Analsiel never beat him, but each time she got a little closer. She came to hate the clumsy wooden practice swords that had seemed so magical on her first day. But it seemed that Aragorn noticed too, for one day he came to the practice courts with long, wrapped package. He held it out to her.
“You’ve been ready for this for long time,” he said. “So here it is.”
Analsiel’s breath came slowly, and her heart seemed to slow down. Was it…?
A real sword lay in all the wrappings, along with its sheath. The sheath was made of leather as black as her hair, and trimmed with tiny sparks and gold links. In itself, the holder of this sword was a work of art. But the blade itself was so magnificent she forgot the sheath. It was made of steel so fine that blue waves seemed to ripple beneath the metal. The hilt was large, and had a grip of the same black leather as the scabbard. But the pommel was set with a fiery opal that glowed red, orange, and gold and seemed to dance like the fires of the world were inside it. Analsiel realized only then that she had been holding her breath. She looked up at the king.
“Why are you giving this to me?” she asked.
“Because you are worthy of it. Now what will you call her?” he said.
His words warmed Analsiel to the core as she tried to think of a proper name for this fiery blade. Then it came to her. The Sindarin word for flame. Red flame. It was Ruthruin. “Perfect,” she thought. Then she said it aloud.
It was almost a cry. She saw Aragorn smiling at her, and all the other ladies staring in awe, or nodding their heads in approval of the name.
Then Legolas bowed to her. “Lady,” he said. “I would be honored to be the first to oppose your new blade.”
Analsiel nodded, beyond words at the moment. Then she mastered herself, and the fight began.
She remembered very little of actually fighting Legolas. It did not seem like a fight. It felt like heaven. She and the sword were truly one, and they moved as one, bringing her a sense of security and peace such as she had never felt. The blade turned every one of her defenses into an unstoppable assault, and every one of his attacks into a simple maneuver to block. But all she really remembered of fighting him was that after not too long, she had him on the ground, with Ruthruin at his throat.