The orcs moved past them like a shadow host, revelling in the night and bearing sharp, potent weapons.
“They are heading for the camp,” Írissë said, the fire could be seen dancing through the trees in the distance and it was an easy mark to aim for.
“The others will have heard them,” Elladan said, “do not fear. We must wait for them to pass before we make our own escape.” Almost the entire orc-host had gone past them when, by chance, one happened to look into the mouth of the cave. He caught sight of the elves and leapt at them, leering horribly and his black scimitar drawn. Elladan wasted no time, his blades were back at the camp but he threw a fallen bough at the orc and as it pushed it off he caught its head in his hands and wrenched it violently until he felt its neck snap. Írissë could see another orc in the shadows, creeping up to them.
“Írissë!” Elladan cried as she reached down and plucked the orc blade from its owner’s dead hand. She darted forward and sparred with the foul creature with a vengeance as Elladan leapt across to aid her she beheaded it, her arms drenched to the elbows in the dark, rancid blood.
“We must go,” she said breathlessly, “they will have reached the camp by now.” Elladan armed himself wincingly with the unclean goblin swords and he and Írissë made after the host.
The scene that greeted them back at the camp was not a hopeful one. There were many orcs to the small company of elves but the elves seemed to be holding their own. Calimmacil brandished a flaming branch and set three alight before plunging the blazing stake into a fourth’s heart. The cries of the dying creatures were frightful to hear and their screams pierced the night air, rending it and causing birds to scatter from their roosts. There was a great deal of noise, the battle cries of the orcs were mingled with the calls of the elves as they fought and hacked their way through. Írissë ran to the tent she had erected for herself, inside she strapped her sheathed swords to her side and drew her bow and arrow. She loosed six arrows and all found their fatal mark, killing the targets who dropped dead to the ground. The brethren Elladan and Elrohir fought side by side, wielding their swords as one and felling their enemies with a fey delight for the joy of battle was on them and they were formidable in their fury. All the others were fighting as hard as they could but they were outnumbered and suffered many minor injuries.
When all her arrows were spent Írissë slashed her way through with her sword, her clothes were stained with blood as were those around her. Her corslet turned many a blade but her neck and arms were unprotected and she held a shield in front of her, the device bearing a sea blue back with the stars of Menelvagor sparkling on it, the emblem of the kindred of the Havens. Elladan danced back quickly as his latest victim fell dead at his feet and Írissë could see one of its fellows hurling a jagged blade towards Elladan’s chest, attempting to smite him where he stood. He looked up just in time to see Írissë leap in front and send the blade astray with a clash of her own sword. Elladan watched in surprise as Írissë went on to brutally slay the orc. She had saved his life. She looked up and smiled,
“You saved my life,” he said breathlessly and her smile widened.
“And I suppose that leaves you in my debt.” she said jovially and they both returned to their fight. She herself turned to a large, gruesome faced orc who stood behind her, one of his hands had been chopped off and the arm was clearly broken by the way it stuck out from its body at a fearful angle. He grimaced at her but as she raised her sword to kill he struck her above her eye and she fell to the floor, Írissë knew no more.
Elladan had seen Írissë fall and let out a strangled cry. The orc went to take a second stroke but Elladan felled it with a single arrow and ran to where Írissë lay. Her beautiful golden hair was streaked with mud and blood and for a horrible moment Elladan thought she was not breathing. He held a burnished helm to her lips and only a faint mist could be seen on it. But it was enough, she lived and he was determined to avenge her. The remaining orcs were few, their fellows having been cast down before them and the ones who were left tried to fly from the campsite.
“Leave none alive!” Elrohir yelled and gladly was his bidding done. Enraged with the pure disgust the elves had for the orcs they beat and slashed their enemies down, felling them like young trees. Several obtained injuries, the knowledge of which were lost in their passions. Another, like Írissë, was beaten into insentience but swept carefully aside, still living, so they would encounter no more harm. Elrohir flicked a large chunk of orc flesh from his latest opponent before he himself was thrown backwards against the sheer rocky wall, two black thumbs on his windpipe. Elrohir was slowly suffocating, the orc was brutally strong and try as he might he could not dislodge him. His brain grew dull with lack of air but with his waning strength he lashed out with his foot at his foe.
“Bid farewell you filthy elf!” growled the orc, raising its sword.
Elrohir smiled weakly,”Farewell,” he said and cleanly sliced him in half, trying to ignore the way the orcs hands still convulsed even when dead. It was not long before every orc was slain, their corpses littered the ground and covered it with blood. The smell was awful, the carcasses reeked and everywhere they looked scowling faces would stare back at them. A deadly silence fell on the campsite and everyone looked around to make sure there were no twitching bodies or signs of life. Then they tended to the fallen,
“Írissë!” Elladan knelt beside her, he had stood over her, fighting to protect her.
“Is she alright?” Arciryas asked, he was holding his hand to his arm which was bleeding heavily and hanging limp at his side.
“She is just unconscious,” Elladan said, trying to ease his own worry, “I am sure she will be fine.” He looked around, Elrohir had cuts and bruises and was wrapping a strip of material around a nasty gash in his arm. Arciryas was nursing the most serious wound, he could barely move his arm and his face was contorted in pain. There were only two tents left unshredded by orc knives,
“Put the wounded into the larger tent.” Elladan brooked no contradiction, his thoughts were in tumult with anxiety. He took Írissë as gently as possible into his arms and carried her into the small tent. She began to stir as he laid her tenderly on her blanket and her eyes flickered open.
“Elladan?” she asked dizzily, her head was swimming and there was a thudding pain in her brow. Elladan smiled at her and caressed her bloodstained hair which was lying around her face,
“What happened to me?” she asked and touched her head gingerly, “I fell?”
“An orc knocked you to the ground,” he said, “but you are alright and they are defeated, nobody has been seriously hurt.”
“Thank Elbereth.” she replied, “I am fine, my head does not pain me too much. You are the most experienced healer you must attend to the others. Írissë tried to sit up but she felt her mind fogging again and closed her eyes to steady herself.
Elladan caught the back of her head,
“Lie down,” he said softly, “you will hurt yourself.” Írissë did as she was bid,
“Please go to the others,” she replied, “you must care for them, I cannot be the most gravely hurt.”
“Perhaps not,” Elladan said, refusing to leave her, “but you are injured and there are others who are skilled in healing, I must look after you.”
“I am well,” Írissë said, “I do not need any care, just rest.”
“Will you leave the decision as what you need to me?” he asked with a wry grin, “You are injured and you need my care and attention if you are to mend.” Elladan pulled to him a worn leather which contained a store of herbs and poultices. The cut on Írissë’s cheek was bleeding and her pale skin was pitted with other deep scratches. Írissë tried to move away from him when she saw he was not going to help the others but Elladan caught her and held her down so he could treat her.
“It is not as grave as it appears, will you unhand me!” Elladan moistened a white cloth and dabbed gently at the cut that was streaming down her cheek. His hands ran swiftly over her skin and he marvelled at the softness of it, Írissë did not give up her selfless struggle.
“Írissë it is bleeding heavily and such might cause you to lose consciousness if it is not remedied.” Elladan said patiently, “Would you rather my brother tend your wound? He is not so gentle as me.” and Írissë frowned, Elladan was wasting his time by caring for her alone, there were others in the next tent more deserving of his attention. She did not know the seriousness of her own injury, Elladan was hoping fervently that her vein was not severed for the blood showed no signs of slowing for a while and he was growing nervous.
“I would rather it not be done at all for it is needless!” she tried to get up but Elladan caught her wrists and pulled her back down again.
“For the sake of Manwë sit still!” he said but Írissë still struggled against him. Elladan sat astride her to stop her from moving and pinned her to the ground. One arm was tight on her shoulder and he knelt forward and leaned close over her face, carefully he cleaned the cut and bathed the long gash that ran across her shoulder. Írissë gave up on moving for she was held down fast.
“Is it quite proper to treat ladies of Imladris in such a way?” she asked and relished in the way he blushed immediately. A delicate rose colour flew to Elladan’s cheeks. He concentrated on stemming the flow of blood from her wounds but she smiled up at him,
“You are blushing,” she said softly.
“Only because you are speaking so licentiously.” he retorted dryly. Írissë stopped resisting and fell still, the silence in her ears was deafening. Elladan placed a cool poultice on the large purple bruise that was blossoming over Írissë’s temple. As he did so he looked at her, she was staring avidly at him, a slight smile playing on her lips.
“What?” he asked,
“Nothing,” she replied but did not turn away. Her sparkling brown eyes held him mesmerized and Elladan let the poultice drop from his hands. He suddenly took her chin in his hands and their lips met in a kiss he had long desired and finally plucked up the courage to take. The energy he had spent fighting these feelings coursed through him and he was exhilarated by the outcome of the days they had passed in idle flirtation. Their lips drew apart for a moment and Írissë wound her fingers through his hair, the pain in her head had vanished for an instant but it was starting to return. Írissë ignored it, Elladan was filling her mind and he was all she could think about for those precious few minutes.
“You are so beautiful,” Elladan said, “you walk ever in my dreams.” she nestled her face next to his and their hands entwined together. Elladan’s heart was pounding heavily, he hoped with all his being that she felt the same way, he did not know how he would cope if she scorned him now. Írissë saw his misgivings, the way his lip flicked nervously as he looked at her, praying she would not slight him. Írissë pulled him to her and captured his lips in a soft but insistent kiss.
“Never doubt my feelings for you,” she said sincerely, then touched her head. The bruise where she had been hit was throbbing and she felt like passing out again.
Elladan sensed her aching head,
“I should go,” he said, “you need rest and I am only tiring you.” he was most reluctant to leave her and did but nudge closer.
“Please stay with me,” Írissë said,
“Now you wish me to stay with you?” Elladan asked laughingly, “A minute ago you could not wait to be rid of me.”
“Things change,” said Írissë, “let Elrohir tend the other wounded.”
Elladan grinned at her,
“I am sure they will be glad to know that,” he said and stroked her cheek, “my Lissë.” The nickname was of the high Quenyan tongue and it meant `sweet’. Írissë smiled at Elladan and closed her eyes. It was a long time before Írissë fell asleep, she was so beautiful as she lay there, peace having taken her. Elladan slumbered through the night by her side, the grief and the toil of the day having taken a toll on them.
The morning broke cold and fresh, birds called and a cold sunlight shone of the pale world below. Írissë peeled a bloodstained bandage off the cut at her shoulder and examined it as best she could. Every time she thought of Elladan her heart skipped a beat and it was often that she thought of him considering he still lay on the thin blanket she had fashioned into a bed. She woke him with a kiss and he roused with a sleepy unwillingness.
“Good morning,” she said and he groaned. “It is time we were up, Elrohir’s suspicions will be inflamed enough already.” Elladan got up and stumbled blearily into the sunlight. There was a small fire already burning, a little way from the foul orc corpses and the aroma of cooking meats wafted enticingly towards the waking elves. Elrohir watched his brother emerge from the lady’s tent with an open mouth. Elladan and Írissë exchanged a brief smile before attending to their duties.
“How do you fare this morning?” he asked Írissë graciously, indicating her bruises and the long gashes across her cheek and shoulder.
“I am well thank you,” she replied, “what of yourself?”
Elrohir looked down at his arm, it had been ripped by an orc brandishing a thick bladed knife who had lived just long enough to strike at the lord before Elrohir cleaved its helm with his own sword.
“I am fine,” Elrohir looked intently at his wound, it was healing, if slowly. Arciryas came and sat with them, his face was more pallid than usual and he seemed to be having trouble using his arm.
“What is wrong?” Elladan asked as he joined them.
“My arm,” Arciryas said simply with the air of one who speaks through a great suppression of pain. He motioned to the crook of his elbow where an orc had slashed downwards. The dressing was spattered in blood which had seeped through and even though it did not look too serious Írissë could see how much pain Arciryas was in by the expression on his face.
“You are suffering,” she observed and knelt beside him, “I have a salve of herbs that might ease some of the pain.” Arciryas nodded indistinctly, sweat was beaded upon his brow and his hands were shaking. Írissë hurried to her tent and fetched a slim vessel containing a pale green ointment she had concocted herself from all manner of healing herbs. It had great numbing properties and was very effective at deadening pain for a few hours. With tender, gentle fingers she unwrapped Arciryas’ bandage and smoothed a little of the silky balm over the wound. It was cut deep, almost to the bone and the nerves were slashed, making it difficult for him to use his muscles.
He gave a soft cry,
“It will be alright now,” she said and smiled, in a moment the pain would be gone and Arciryas would forget what it was that made his lip tremble so. Nearly every member of the party was wounded in some small way but there were no very serious injuries which needed a period of recuperation. The fire was quenched with a pot of water and a slender stream of smoke spiralled towards the sky. Írissë watched it curl and move upon the breeze with a blank expression. The night had brought her so much pain, fear and delight that she could hardly process it, her thoughts were in turmoil and she did not think she could face going with the scouts to see if they could recover the horses which had fled during the attack.
She was one of three who stayed at the camp, rolling the canvas tents and stowing them in the packs. Arciryas and Elladan remained with her, Arciryas’ arm was weak even if it did not cause him any hurt and Elladan stayed to be alone with Írissë. Did she regret what had passed after the orcs had attacked? Elladan felt a little wanton for taking advantage of Írissë when she was clearly weary and distressed, having just woken from her unconsciousness. He approached her uneasily, she was cleaning her knives and sheathing them about her person. Her hand slipped as she attached it around her waist and the leather scabbard looked as if it would drop to the ground as she struggled to fasten the clasp. Elladan slowly reached his arms around her waist from behind and caught it. Írissë smiled happily and attached the knife back to her belt.
“I am glad you stayed behind,” she said, glancing slyly at Arciryas whose back was to both of them. He sat on an upturned log and brooded endlessly in his own darkness of thought.
“So am I,” Elladan replied, “but I wanted to be sure you are not sorry for what has happened between us.”
“How could I be sorry?” Írissë asked with sincerity in her eyes, “When my heart pounds whenever you come near me.” Elladan blushed and looked at his feet, Írissë raised his chin and noticed the delicate line of freckles on his skin.
“Three freckles,” Írissë said quietly, “never had I noticed those.”
“Never had you been close enough to notice them, I was convinced it has always been your dearest wish to keep me at arm’s length.” he replied and put his arms round her. His grey-blue eyes were fathomlessly deep and Írissë gazed within them. Their lips met again and she lost herself in his taste and in his touch. Tingling with pleasure they parted and Elladan affectionately twisted a lock of her wavy hair back into the silver clasp. Their loving moment was ended unexpectedly when the party gone to seek the horses returned and the two sweethearts sprang apart so as not to awaken suspicion.
“We found them!” Elrohir exclaimed happily and both Elladan and Írissë looked most alarmed until he gestured to a couple of raggedy looking horses which followed them, all who remained of those they had brought from Imladris.
Gáiala reined the horse in forcefully and Vanimeldë was jolted forward with the unsteady motion. They had come at last to Mithlond. Vanimeldë looked around, taking in the air of the place that had been her long home and despite of everything she felt twinges of delight at seeing her old dwelling again. She had lived very near to Gáiala in times gone by, they had almost been neighbours and they had resided very close to where they were now standing, a little way from the water side. There were colonies of both elves and men, the two kindreds lived side by side and even though they were very unconnected to each other it was one of the rare places in Middle Earth where they lived so. The lord of the elves was Círdan the shipwright and he dwelt in a great house that overlooked the rocky cliff face. Gulls cried ceaselessly and Vanimeldë breathed the sea air thankfully, it was comforting and her heart reached out for it joyfully. Her light was dulled, however, when Gáiala dismounted and pulled her with him to keep her from taking the horse. His lip was curled back into a sneer.
“Mithlond holds no cheer for me,” he growled, “the sea is no friend and I will be glad when we are welcomed back to the darkness of the forest.” Vanimeldë sighed and lowered her eyes, her brief moment of happiness gone.
“Where are you taking me?” Vanimeldë asked despairingly but Gáiala did not answer, he was searching the coast with his eyes. He was looking at an alcove in the rocky wall which was deserted and his lip was twitching convulsively.
“I gave orders for the orc captain to report back here before the onset of the dusk.” he said to himself,
“Orc captain?” Vanimeldë’s insides gave a funny lurch.
Gáiala half turned,
“Yes,” he said, “I have reason to believe we are being followed.” For an instant Vanimeldë’s heart leaped but she said nothing.
“Do not worry my sweet,” he said, “I shall have this taken care of.”
“What do you mean?” Vanimeldë snapped,
“I mean that this rabble that valiantly deigns to trail us should have been eliminated by now,” Gáiala’s voice was triumphant, “I await my captain to give me tidings, their orders were to have their task completed by this day and he will soon be here to inform me of their victory.”
Vanimeldë gave a little sob, she could not bear to think of her brave friends becoming overpowered by a troop of foul orcs and left for dead. Her thoughts immediately contemplated the worst and she held her hand to the horse to steady herself in her distress.
“How could you do that?” she asked, beating her fist roughly against Gáiala’s chest.
He looked surprised that she had hit him and threw her arm away in displeasure,
“I will not have our future jeopardised!” he exclaimed and Vanimeldë felt the now familiar shudder of disgust as he took her hand possessively in his. She tensed her hand but he did not let go.
“He should have been here some hours ago,” Gáiala mused, oblivious to Vanimeldë’s evident anger, sorrow and revulsion.
“I will never forgive you, Gáiala,” Vanimeldë breathed, “the love I have for my friends surpasses any I ever held for you.” Gáiala did not appear to have heard her even though the instant knitting of his brow proved the contrary.
“You will never have me,” Vanimeldë went on jadedly, “this is all in vain for you know that my heart will live always in Imladris and you will never be able to wrench it from there.”
“Vanimeldë,” Gáiala’s tone was harsh, “I know that once you loved me and you can love me again, your life will be a good one and none of this is in vain.” he looked dangerous in his irritation and she said nothing more.
An uneven tread sounded behind and both Vanimeldë and Gáiala turned to see a single orc walking towards them. His face was torn into shreds and he was barely recognisable for the dark blood and ooze that was so thickly encrusted on his body. A large chunk of flesh had been hacked from his arm and his body was scored with deep, gangrenous lacerations. His helm was dinted and his shield cloven, all in all he looked in quite a sorry state. Gáiala scowled at him, his appearance was not at all favourable,
“You are late,” he barked and the orc captain bowed.
“I am sorry, lord.” he said in his hideously mutated voice,
“How many were there?” Gáiala asked, “How many elves were on our trail?”
“There were twelve,” the orc replied, “eleven men and one woman.”
“A woman?” he was mildly surprised,
“Aye sir,” the orc grunted, “of golden head and pale skin, she was clad as a man and wielded blade at their sides.”
Vanimeldë almost fainted. Her knees suddenly succumbed to a great weakness and the scene unfolding began to blur uncontrollably. Írissë, it must have been Írissë, only she would have had the courage to ride to her aid. And now she was dead.
No longer did Vanimeldë hold back the salty tears, she wept wretchedly. Her beloved little sister was dead and it was all her fault, Vanimeldë would never forgive herself and she vowed to avenge Írissë’s death. A flash of the purest, wildest hatred imbued her and she looked upon Gáiala with eyes of a furious burning loathing. Her legs gave way beneath her and she fell on the hard, cold stones. Gáiala made little move to aid her, his attention was focused on the war-weary orc who stood shakily before him.
“Twelve against forty,” he said with a satisfied smile, “I take it the rest of your company achieved the task they were given?” The orc’s face fell and Gáiala’s contorted, “You did not?” he asked through clenched jaw, “You failed?!”
“They were skilled beyond any we have yet encountered,” the captain reasoned, his grisly face twisted into a pleading expression, “they were armed with fire and we were slaughtered.”
“How many are left?” Gáiala’s voice was almost silent but Vanimeldë felt a scrap of hope alight upon her,
“They all lived when I left,” the orc said, “but we did not, I have reason to believe they massacred us with no loss.”
The look on Gáiala’s face was positively alarming. A tense spasm in his cheek caused it to twitch convulsively and stark white spots appeared in his vividly red face. A fleck of spit was at the corner of his mouth and he ground his teeth in narrowly reined fury. The orc flinched back as Gáiala beat it savagely about the head with his staff. The captain yelped and covered his face with his hands,
“Lord, please!” he cried, “Blame me not! Ill luck and fate have conspired against us to bring about out ruin!” His eyes were wild with desperation but Gáiala hardened to stone and glassy black sleets glared from his hollow sockets. A silence fell and everything hung on that moment, doom awaited its stroke to fall. With an abrupt ferocity Gáiala took his knife and beheaded the orc where he stood. Both body and head landed on the floor, a dead tongue lolling from an open mouth and the whites of his eyes were gleaming sickeningly.
The orc host had failed. The last surviving member of the fight was now dead and Gáiala was livid with fury. He took the ragged orc cloak from its dead owner and ripped it into tatters, screaming with rage. Vanimeldë flinched but said nothing, her hands writhed fearfully in her lap. The expression on Gáiala’s face and the wild glint in his eye convinced her that he was more than a little mad and in this fey temper she knew not what he might do. Gáiala did not seem to see her though, he was intent on venting his wrath on the fallen orc captain at his feet. He kicked and hacked brutally at the corpse in his ire and was blind to almost everything else. Vanimeldë eyed the distant houses thoughtfully, if she could flee from Gáiala she could outrun him to those houses where there would surely be someone who could help her. She cast a watchful glance at Gáiala, his back was turned and her heart fluttered as she realised it was her first real chance of escape. She stirred as quietly as she could, easing herself from the ground and making ready to run.
Gáiala was making too much noise to hear her and Vanimeldë harnessed as much courage as she had left and darted away as fast as her legs could carry her. Gáiala saw the immensity of his folly in leaving her unguarded and made after her, his face paling as Vanimeldë escaped. She was swifter than he, her light shoes ran lightly over the rocky ground as she went past the water’s edge. The sea gleamed alluringly to her left but she did not turn her eyes to it, so afraid was she that Gáiala would catch her. She could hear him behind her, shouting loudly but she did not dare look round. Her breath caught sharply in her throat and Vanimeldë gasped, the houses were in sight if she could just make it there then all would be well but fate had another cruel trick to play. A jutting stone leaned from the harbour into the road and Vanimeldë, looking frantically towards the buildings she aimed for, caught herself on it and doubled over in pain, her leg throbbing unbearably. She gave up her flight and collapsed to the ground. Gáiala drew near to her and hauled her to her feet. Vanimeldë was prepared to accept the fact she was not going to make it and did not protest when Gáiala started yelling,
“How dare you!” he screamed, the rings around his nostrils were turning white and his eyes were becoming bloodshot. He panted hard after his chase, “How dare you!” he cried again, “To think you could escape from me!” he lashed out and struck her around the face. Vanimeldë whimpered unhappily but said nothing and rubbed her thigh where a nasty bruise would soon blossom. Gáiala raised her chin roughly to look at her,
“You will never break away from me,” he said gruffly, “the sooner you accept that the better!”
“Take your hands off me!” Vanimeldë exclaimed in repugnance and shoved Gáiala away from her. She made no move to flee though so Gáiala let her be.
“I must devise a new plan,” he said, “The orcs have failed to fulfil their task so I must find something new to stop our pursuers, they grow ever closer.” Gáiala’s face darkened heavily and he looked over the ocean. Vanimeldë was filled with panic, she had been relieved for a moment when she heard Írissë had escaped the nets of the orcs but now Gáiala was sending something else to kill her.
“Please leave her be,” Vanimeldë said, “if you let her and the others go free I will come willingly.” Gáiala observed her suspiciously, Vanimeldë continued, “Let my sister live!” she pleaded.
“An interesting proposal,” he said, “but I cannot risk them coming after us.” Vanimeldë closed her eyes, tears brimming.
“Please do not hurt Írissë,” her voice was faint and weak.
“If Írissë gets hurt then it is her own fault,” Gáiala said with a slightly twisted smile, “I do not send obstructions to kill her in particular,” then added under his breath, “it is the whole rag-tag band that I would like to see dead.” he looked at Vanimeldë with hard eyes but she did not bother to return his glower,
“I will never forgive you if you take my sister from me,” she said icily, leaning over her bruised leg.
Gáiala sighed and threw up his hands,
“Whatever you say my beloved,” he said with a cold tone, “but if she gets trapped in the cross fire then there is no knowing what might happen.”
Vanimeldë glared at Gáiala,
“I love her,” she said, “and were you capable of that true feeling you would understand and pity me.”
“I love you,” he said sullenly,
“No you do not!” Vanimeldë erupted, “You took me to gratify an emotion born of desire, not love! If you truly loved me you would let me go where and with whom my heart bid.”
Gáiala clenched his fists into tight balls at his side,
“The thought of you with that, that… thaurer” words seemed inadequate to express the real vehemence of his feelings, “burns my heart,” he said.
“It is good to hear you have one.” she replied haughtily, “I must say the presence of it had gone without my noticing.” Gáiala growled incoherently but Vanimeldë took no notice, she was aflame with anger about his attempts to kill her sister and friends.
Gáiala chose to ignore her cutting words and said nothing, pondering what he was to do next. Vanimeldë was losing all hope, even if it was true the company was heading for Mithlond she knew Gáiala would have made sure they were long gone by then.
There was no way she could let any of them know where they were going considering she did not even know herself. Frowning unhappily she noticed, in the array of boats a few metres away, a sailor sat beneath the rocks, cleaning his fish knife. He was an old grizzled man with a long white beard and ancient pitted skin, several of his teeth were missing. He was clad in old, worn clothes which were stiff with salt from the spray of the water, his hat kept blowing from his head and he kept one hand firmly clamped on the brim, holding the knife between his knees. He was dirty, he was poor and he was dishevelled but he was Vanimeldë’s last ray of hope. He was easily within earshot and thankfully Gáiala had not noticed him. The sailor was certainly hearkening to their conversation which seemed more interesting than any he had heard in the inn all day. He knew very little of elves, there were many living at Mithlond with Círdan’s kindred but they kept themselves to themselves and the sailor was very wary of them. Elves were a mystery to all the simple shipping folk who steered well clear of the beautiful race and their strange ways. Vanimeldë thought that if she could impress upon him where they were going then perhaps Írissë would find him and he would be able to tell her in turn. She shifted slightly and faced Gáiala, making sure his back was to the sailor.
“Tell me,” she said a little louder, making sure the sailor was listening, “where are you taking me when you have finished with Mithlond?” He looked at her distrustfully before relenting,
“We are going south to Harlindon,” he said, “I have a dwelling in the woods to the West of the Blue mountains.” Vanimeldë nodded, “It is a very fine house,” Gáiala went on with a touch of pride, “you will like it. Nobody will find us there, it is in the forest.” Vanimeldë’s eyes flicked to the sailor, his sharp ears heard it all,
“How long will it take to get there?” she asked,
“No more than a few days,” Gáiala replied. Vanimeldë was glad, she was sure the sailor was listening and it made her more at ease to know somebody knew of their whereabouts. Gáiala suddenly looked around as if sensing another’s presence. Fate chose to mollify her by inducing the sailor to bend for a moment and thus be impervious to Gáiala’s gaze. Gáiala saw nothing and assumed they were alone. He paced the water’s edge, trying to concoct a plan that would buy them more time to escape and with any luck kill their seekers. A sudden flicker of inspiration lit Gáiala’s face.
“What?” Vanimeldë asked nervously and looked to where his eyes were turned with that odd glazed expression. He was looking towards the ocean which glittered and sparkled in all its cerulean glory behind her. Gáiala did not answer, he walked to the water’s edge, standing at the harbour with the tall white sails before him and the gentle knocking of the boats in the water. Gáiala began to chant, slowly and rhythmically, the ancient words left his tongue and manifested themselves in the air as a living presence. Vanimeldë shivered, the sun had shot swiftly behind a cloud and without warning Gáiala was swathed in shadow.
“What are you doing?!” Vanimeldë cried and tried to move but Gáiala flung out a hand and even though he did not touch her she felt her will crumbling as an unseen force pressed against her and crushed her painfully to the floor. She could not even blink, her entire body went rigid and all her muscles seized into a cold stony state. Gáiala kept chanting, his voice growing deeper and more booming as the words were loosed. Vanimeldë wondered what speech he was talking, she had never heard anything like this but her temporary paralysis had sent shivers of panic through her heart and she felt like a little bird, trembling frantically to get out. The sunlight was dimmed and clouds rolled swifter than was natural across the greying sky. They massed to the West and formed a gigantic grey wall which rumbled threateningly. Gáiala’s face was furrowed in concentration, beads of sweat formed on his forehead and he chewed his lip anxiously as he focused on the storm he was calling.
He poured all his energy into summoning the storm and keeping Vanimeldë bound at his feet but it was preying heavily on him and his skin was losing any colour it had had and he was as white as death. Vanimeldë felt icy cold, her skin was turning blue but she could not move to warm it, Gáiala’s hold on her was so strong and his power showed no signs of lessening. His chanting had reached a deep throated manic song and he cried the words to the heavens drawing the powers of the wind and skies towards him. Waves crashed against the shore and washed over the countless boats which were moored there, soaking the decks and pushing the boats heavily against the stone wall of the harbour. The wind grew stronger and whipped around Gáiala’s face blowing his black hair from its braid and unsteadying him from his feet. In a dank, dark crevice beneath the very rocks on which Gáiala stood the lone sailor who hunkered down tight in his cave with his eyes shut and prayed, terrified, for the wind to cease and for this fear to end. He could not tell what was going on above him but hoped he would not be seen by the dark elf above. After a few agonizing minutes for Vanimeldë who felt as if she were suffocating with fear Gáiala stopped as suddenly as he had began and everything fell deadly silent. The wind did not howl any longer and the thundering waves which had risen to almost head height quietened. Gáiala swayed shakily and his knees almost gave way but he supported himself and the power over Vanimeldë weakened and faded. She coughed and gasped, unable to move even now that she could. She wondered why the noise of the wind and the knocking boats had not brought anyone out from the houses even if they were quite far away. All time for musing was spent, however, when Gáiala spoke in a high, weak voice,
“We must leave,” he said, “a great storm will befall this place in the next few days, hopefully waylaying our hunters until we are far from here.” He pulled Vanimeldë up and whistled piercingly, his large black horse came galloping immediately up and Gáiala swung himself into the saddle, every moment looking as if he was going to faint. Vanimeldë was dragged up behind him and Gáiala spurred his horse away with the greatest of haste. As they left Vanimeldë looked down at the place where the sailor had concealed himself. He had heard their conversation, he alone knew where they were heading and Vanimeldë hoped that when the company arrived at Mithlond he would be there and they would be led to where she was being taken.
When they had gone the sailor crept slowly from his hiding place and climbed the rocky steps to the road. His eyes were wide with alarm and his old heart flitting, he held his hand to his chest and breathed deeply. His impressions of elves had just been confirmed, they were a dangerous race, perilously fair like that pretty maiden but dark and powerful like Gáiala. The sailor went uneasily back to his hut, mulling over every single word that had been said.