Legolas woke instantly, hearing the screaming man’s voice echo loudly in his head as he barked orders to them in Haradaic.
We must be heading to the city soon… He thought to himself, gracefully stretching his slender limbs as he shook off the sleep from his tired body.
Blinking rapidly and scanning his surroundings, he noticed something that made him smile, and he put his hand to his mouth to keep from laughing.
In his sleep, Elboron had rolled from his solitary place away from Morelen closer towards her. Perhaps for the sake of the warmth she inadvertently provided or maybe for other reasons, he had encircled her waist with his arms, as a little girl does with her doll, clutching her tight to him.
She in turn had snuggled into him and placed her head beneath his chin, her nose and mouth gently brushing his neck. Her long black hair spilled across her shoulders and onto the dirt beneath them.
They look so…comfortable.
Legolas fought to keep himself from chuckling; thousands of memories flooded his mind like a torrent of the Great Ocean, filling his thoughts with sweet memories long past. He remembered when they used to sleep in the same crib as infants after a long day of playing out in the sun, exactly as they were doing now, and it made him grin all the more.
Suddenly he watched Elboron blink hard as the bandit outside of their tent began to shout louder, more impatient this time. Elboron groaned lazily and when he reached to rub the sleep from his eyes, he noticed that one of his arms was pinned to the ground. His look of exhausted confusion was
just too funny; Legolas’ control was truly being put to the test.
Suddenly looking down at the sleeping woman in his arms, Elboron’s gaze held an unexpected yet genuine tenderness that quieted Legolas inner hysterics. The man smiled down at her.
…Elbereth… The elf thought incredulously, intrigued by what he saw. He had lived in this marred world too long to remain ignorant of that look’s significance.
All at once the reality of the situation took root, and he wondered why he hadn’t noticed it before, shining about them like the aura of the sun as it lights the droplets of an early morning mist…
Carefully and reluctantly, Elboron moved away, noticing her look of dissent as her source of heat evaporated. She unconsciously reached out for him, trying to catch the warmth and bring it back. Elboron grinned and he, for the first time, became aware of the elf staring at him with a humorous expression. The boy’s cheeks immediately turned a deep red as Legolas remained silent.
Ai, that elf sees through me…
Suddenly the bandit burst in through the tent and shouted at them to get up, motioning vigorously with his hands for them to stand.
Morelen jumped at the sudden loud noise and rose unsteadily to her feet, waking herself up by shoving the heel of her palms into her eyes. She brushed the dirt from her clothes and stood up straight as he walked by.
In strode Haydar, beaming at them with his cold, catlike eyes.
“Well, good morning, friends! I trust you slept well?”
Elboron kept his eyes lowered to the ground as Haydar spoke, his cheeks still somewhat pink, grateful that he had woken before Morelen did.
“Still a little tired? Well, hopefully a little bit of walking will rouse you!” He turned on his heel and stalked off, gesturing for one of his men to bring the captives along.
They were dragged out of the tent and their hands bound, their bodies too tired to struggle against their captors.
“Ugh, I hate these things.” Morelen muttered under her breath.
“Tell me about it! My arms don’t–” The dwarf abruptly stopped, his cheeks reddening with embarrassment. His arms were almost too short to wrap all the way behind his back. He looked terribly awkward, his chest thrust outwards.
Morelen laughed, “It’s alright Gimli! Perhaps if we sang to them, our voices would blend together so beautifully that they would have no choice but to let us go!”
A midnight twinkle flickered in the dwarf’s beady eyes and he grinned.
“Not on your life, kid.”
* * * * * * Several Hours Later — At Dusk * * * * * *
“Why are we going to this dastardly city anyway, Haydar?” Gimli grumbled, clearly exhausted but making a point not to let Haydar know.
The sun began to set in the West; Anar was wreathed in boiling gold and rose and amethyst. The sky’s luminous glory rose into an arch of pale, pure blue, shading in the East to indigo and the silver glint of early stars.
“It’s business dwarf, business. None of which you are entitled to know about, I hate to remind you. But to silence your incessant nagging, we will be staying there for some time; several months, to be exact. Surely you like big bustling cities?”
Gimli looked disgusted.
Gradually the dirt road on which they traveled became larger and more flat, the passer-bys more frequent. Morelen’s wrists and feet began to ache, more than they ever had before and she felt her head begin to droop like lead upon her shoulders.
Suddenly, her eyes widened, her petty problems vanishing.
What she saw before her, before all of them, was enough to make any man gasp.
The air was filled with the smell of pungent spices, blended with the warmth of the late afternoon haze and the hot sand. A continuous wall surrounded the city as a prison. But just above it she could see tall, narrow spires sprouting from many buildings. They seemed to taunt the captives with their magnificence, holding the promise of majesty and splendor.
Her breath caught in her chest, and she didn’t know if she would be able to survive seeing the city.
The guards, dark and threatening, stared at their approaching carts with suspicion. They began to speak to Haydar in the same foreign language, and after much debating and what Morelen thought to be a little exchange of flashing gold coins, they were allowed into the city.
It was larger than life, intimidating in all its ancient and unfamiliar beauty. They were mesmerized by its intense, radiant shine as the sun began to spread a golden carpet along the sand, twinkling as it touched the soft, white marble structures.
Glimpses of a watery shimmer reflected off of the distant sands and Morelen croaked, “Water.” Her lips were cracked and dry, and the vision seemed so alluring, so inviting.
Haydar cackled and said in his deep, oily voice, “No, my dear, that is not water. That is your eyes playing tricks on you. One day, young one, you will learn to understand this land and its ways.”
She flashed him a look of pure loathing, but decided to fasten her gaze once more on that taunting image.
Not water? What does he mean, not water,of course it’s water. First chance I get I’m taking some of it or I think I shall die.
She felt the smooth sand beneath her rumble slightly, and she suddenly became annoyed, if not a little bit frightened.
Elboron whispered to her, “Look, there!” He nodded his head towards the source of the vibrations.
Oliphaunts, large and proud, passed them in large lines from the gates. They were monstrous, terrifying creatures, and Morelen fought to continue breathing. Their riders glanced down upon all of the people crowding the busy streets with arrogance, a regal aloofness. They sauntered, if you could call it a saunter, through the city as though it was their own little sandbox.
Here, alleys seemed to be filled with gold and silver, colorful fabric merchants lining every street. They could hear loud horns and a man’s voice singing, filling the evening air with words none of them could understand. The city looked as if it were carved out of jasper, out of blood and fire.
The people here were of shorter stature than the Gondorians or Rohirrim, but their eyes held an intense twinkle that almost made Morelen stagger backwards, as if struck. She was awed and frightened by these people who looked so much like her.
Morelen looked over and noticed Legolas absorbing his surroundings like a curious child, his keen, silvery eyes scanning every crevice and alleyway for a possible means of escape.
Morelen smiled weakly. Hope fluttered like a dying bird in her chest and she prayed, to whoever would listen, that they would somehow make it out of this city alive…