Morelen awoke suddenly and went to rub her aching head with her hands, only to find that they were bound together and she was lying in the grass beside her three companions. From outside the tent she could hear the loud banter of men speaking in a foreign language, though it seemed so familiar, like a distant memory of a song long forgotten. She looked to her right and noticed that Legolas and Gimli had been awake, but for how long she did not know. They stared up to the roof of the tent with unblinking eyes, dirt covering their faces and clothes. She attempted to alleviate some of the pain in her neck by rolling it back and forth, though this did little but to succeed in sending more shooting pain to the base of her neck.
“How do you feel?” Legolas asked her once he noticed she was awake. His normally clean face was dirty and he looked more ragged than she had ever seen him. The sight startled and unsettled her, to see the elf look so worn.
She sighed, exhausted, and replied coarsely, “I am alright. But where are we?” She asked, suddenly remembering the events of the previous day.
“I know not, but Morelen, I have already told the others; you must be submissive with these people. Do not speak out of line or answer back, as much as you may wish to. If we are to survive this, we must remain obedient, understand me?”
She nodded, as best she could from her position.
She lay on her back again and she noticed Elboron lying on the other side of her, his eyes closed, his chest gently rising and falling with each raspy breath.
She stared upon her sleeping friend with wonder and interest, curious as to why all of a sudden she enjoyed gazing upon him so. Why was she rapidly coming to discover how…how beautiful her friend was?
His arm lay strewn above his head and the other across his stomach. There was a small scratch on his neck where the sword had been and the strong line of his jaw was covered with dark brown stubble. His features were rough and masculine yet gentler than those of his father, softened by the blood of his mother. His disheveled, chestnut brown hair lay about him and his head was moving sporadically to the left and right, as though he was having a nightmare of some sort. His brow was furrowed and his skin was shining with cold sweat, his expression one of fear and terrible agony.
Morelen felt an overwhelming desire to wake him, to show him that none of it was real, so she gently brushed his shoulder with her tethered hands. He awoke with a panicked gasp and he jolted up, ready to defend himself against the attackers in his dream.
Morelen shoved her hands to his mouth and hissed, “Shhh!! Do you want the whole camp to hear you!?” He looked around and then saw her and his expression softened, his misty grey eyes warm.
“Forgive me.” He murmured, gently lying down beside her again, staring at the ceiling, his hands shaking slightly.
“What did you dream?” She asked him, ignoring his apology.
He slowly turned to face her and a flash of dark terror flickered in his eyes. He wanted to tell her, really he did. But he couldn’t; her face was so tragic, her expression one of such beautiful, unconquered hope. He could not relay to her the devastating horror of his dreams. He had seen in it her corpse sprawled in the desert sand, her blood staining its gentle contour, and one of these dark men standing above her with the dripping weapon. These people were evil, he could feel it, and they needed to figure out a plan of escape as soon as possible.
Their thoughts were interrupted as one of the men threw back the tent flap and entered, staring down at them condescendingly. He removed the small piece of fabric that covered his mouth and he said to them, an indistinct trill in his voice, “The Lion wishes to speak to you.” They looked quizzically at each other, but without question prepared to follow the man. Elboron was able to jump to his feet but Morelen was too sore, so he held out his hands to her and she grabbed them, feeling the jolt of lightning flicker through them at his touch. She tried not to tremble at the warmth of his hands and looked far ahead, trying to distract herself by thinking on the bleakness of their situation.
“It will be alright.” He whispered to her so that the guard would not hear. He saw the faint traces of a smile light her face for a moment, and then evaporate as they were lead out of the tent.
They were shown into a greater, larger hut. A warm light glowed within and as they walked through the entrance, they could see beautifully colored, elaborate rugs all around, incense burning, giving the room a misty, foreign quality. The scent was terribly strong and acrid, and Morelen fought to keep from wrinkling her nose.
The man stared at them, his head scarf now lying on the desk in front of him. He had a short beard of jet black and it was in tiny curls that bunched together, as was the hair on the top of his head.
“Welcome, welcome, come in please.” He said to them sarcastically as they were shoved in the doorway and left alone with the Lion. He was a lion of a man; he towered over them, even Legolas, and his shoulders were broad. He loomed over them like a beast of prey and left a monstrous shadow, as though he was no man but a Vala or Maia. Jewels of every color sparkled from his fingers and his ears, and his honey colored eyes were deep, infinite. Morelen found him peculiarly striking, as of one who has never seen a wild cat before and is enthralled by its animal grace and cunning.
“In case you were curious,” he paused and stared at them with interest, “my name, Haydar, means Lion in Haradaic.”
None of them spoke, their faces stoic and unyielding.
“Here, please be seated.” , shade and hue, soft to the touch and breath-taking to behold. He showed them to the floor, which was covered with rugs of ever color
Almost as lovely as the tapestries at h–of Minas Tirith. Morelen thought to herself.
“You’re probably wondering,” he paused as he sat down in the chair, nonchalantly pouring himself a drink into the golden chalice, “Why you have been brought here.”
Morelen looked over and noticed the dwarf ready to spit out an angry retort but Legolas silenced him by placing one hand on Gimli’s boot, pleading with him to keep his mouth shut; for once.
This did not go unnoticed by Haydar, and he smiled. “How is your head, Dwarf? That’s a nasty wound you have there.”
Gimli’s face turned deep red and the veins in his neck began to pop out. “I’m fine.” He managed to growl, though it looked as if any minute his head would explode.
“And you,” Haydar turned to Elboron, “you’ll forgive me for the scratch. It is a petty price for the lives of my men you took the other day.” He motioned to the cut on Elboron’s neck.
Elboron did not reply, only returned the hard stare as best he could.
Haydar’s hazel gaze shifted to Morelen’s exhausted form, her head lowered as it rested on her chest.
“You, maiden; who are you?” His gaze was piercing as it held her in its cold grip, trying to pierce the cloud of mystery with which she had hid herself.
She remained silent and Haydar leaned back in his chair, relaxed, poised, as a spider awaiting the opportune moment.
“Come now, I have told you my name; why will you not give me yours? I promise not to tell anyone.” His tone was playful, mocking, and Morelen wanted nothing less than to stride up to him and punch him square in the face. Still, she remained calm, hoping her icy silence would stop the endless flow of questions.
He leapt from his chair and stormed over to her, reaching for her slim neck with his two gigantic hands, shadowing her from the lamplight.
“Tell me who you are, wench.” She gasped as he tightened his hold on her, fighting for air, trying to struggle free of him but only succeeding in bruising her neck.
Legolas sat beside her and instantly pulled the knife from Morelen’s ankle to cut his ropes, then placed the dagger up to Haydar’s neck before the man could even blink. Elboron and Gimli jumped up and prepared to fight the man, if he attacked either Legolas or Morelen. Haydar smiled sardonically and released the girl, shoving her back onto the ground, listening to her loud wheezing and coughing.
“It seems you have loyal friends, my lady. Allow me to say, elf, dwarf and man; it is because of your friend that you are here.”