Jo and Ceinwen each woke into a dreamy, still twilight world. It was too early yet for the blackbird to sing his morning song, yet a steadily growing glow was covering the land. They lay there for a while, momentarily confused at waking up surrounded by trees, but the memories of the day before soon came flooding back to them. Over by the horses, Elladan and Elrohir were hastily preparing to leave, speaking again in their own tongue as they did so. Ceinwen groaned, rolled over and tried to catch a few more minutes of sleep, while Jo slowly proped herself up on one elbow trying to focus her bleary eyes at them.
“Whats the rush?” she asked, rubbing her eyes of sleepy-dust. Ceinwen had usually laughed at her for naming it that, but it was what her mother had always called it.
Elrohir span swiftly round, alarmed, but relaxed a little when he saw it was her. Still, she could sense that something was wrong.
“What is it?” she questioned, sitting up with a now focused gaze, “Whats the matter?”
Elrohir glanced nervously at his brother, who shook his head. “There is no problem, as such – but we must leave this place as soon as possible.”
“Are we in danger then?” Ceinwen rose to her feet now, and joined the conversation. Again, Elrohir loked to Elladan for help, but he answered her question well enough without words.
“What is it then? What are we in danger from?” Jo accompanied her, standing up and frowning.
“Ladies, please, there will be time for questions later but we really need to leave, and sooner rather than later!” pleaded Elladan.
The girls immediately noted the urgency in his voice and quickly rolled up the blankets, which were then attached to the saddles. Nimbly, the elves leapt astride their steeds, closely followed by the slightly more clumsy girls, and then they were off, cantering down the road.
“So what is the emergency then?” queried Ceinwen,”What is the worry?”
For a second, Elladan hesitated. “Ceinwen,” he began,” this world is not as innocent as it seems. There may indeed have been a time when we could have passed these woods unhindered, but thse are not those times. Now they are home to robbers and murderers, and though elvish crafts fetch a pretty price, two slave girls could leave some one very rich.”
“Oh!” gasped Ceinwen, eyes wide with shock,”Well why are we going so slow then? Come on, put your foot do-” but from behind her came a high-pitch screaming. Skillfully, Elladan whipped Atherin around instantly, to face the horrible scene behind them. Elrohirs horse appeared to have stumbled, so that both he and Jo were flung from the saddle and sprawled across the road.
“Jo!” cried Ceinwen.
“Vagabonds!” shouted Elladan and drew his sword, “Look!” and she saw that the horses legs had been bound together as he ran. Suddenly, a shower of arrows rained forth form the trees and many voices could be heard gloating and sneering. Ceinwen screamed as she saw a poison tipped arrow pierce Jo’s leg, who moaned in pain. Surely, they had no hope – who was going to save them?
Elrohir’s horse was thrashing violently, unable to get up. Her silver mane was stained with blood and her eyes rolled with terror. Jo cried out as the mare loomed over her, then crashed down on its side, an arrow in its throat. Elrohir seemed to be unconscious, a trickle of blood on his forehead. Elladan was about to start towards them, with Ceinwen just behind, when men leaped out from the trees and surrounded them. They were ugly, brown-skinned and pot-bellied. Their clothes were of rough leather, and their eyes glinted greedily. Their voices were rough and noisy, and they spoke a language neither Ceinwen or Elladan understood.
Ceinwen’s breath broke out in a noisy half-sob, half-hiccup, and she ran to Jo, who was very pale. Elrohir, who had awoken, half got up, and his hand whipped to the bow at his side.
“Umehroa tule sinome! (Nobody come near!)” said Elladan quickly, as the men’s expressions darkened.
One stepped forward, and spoke in broken Quenya. “You…come,” he told them. “No use fight. You come, or dead.”
“No!” exploded Elrohir. “We’re not going with you. You will kill us anyway.”
“Live longer if come soon,” said the man threateningly.
“NO!” “Then you die and we take,” the man said, and barked something in his own language. Three men sprang forward, one grabbed at Ceinwen’s arm and dragged her to her feet, the other two pulled Jo up roughly. She swayed between them, looking only half conscious. They began to pull the girls towards the forest…then everything stopped. The men stood still, and poor Jo slid slowly to the ground, finishing on her knees.
The twins stood in the centre of the circle. Elrohir’s bow had an arrow set to the string, Elladan’s sword was drawn. There was a cold flame in their eyes, which stunned and terrified the men…but only for a moment. Then a knife was hurled, and though Elladan deflected it with a cunning slash of his sword, it was obvious two could not stand against so many. Things began to look very bad as the men closed in like wolves, forgetting the girls.
Ceinwen may have had her First Aid certificate, though nothing she had discussed was anything like an arrow wound, still she knew something had to be done for Jo. So she crouched and, gritting her teeth, pulled at the arrow. It was hard to do without tearing the muscle, so she had to manoeuvre it gently towards her.
“C’mon,” she muttered, eyes watering with the effort. “Easy, easy…”
The next moment was a complicated one. As the arrow slid out of Jo’s leg and broke on the floor, a pale Ceinwen started to tear her jacket to make a bandage; the blood from Elrohir’s collision with the floor trickled into his eyes stopping him seeing too well; Elladan sliced off the head of a bandit, and another bandit stabbed at Elrohir, but missed as he fell to his knees; his eyes were stinging with his own blood.
All was confusion. So its not surprising that when a tall golden stallion leaped over the ring of growling brigands – and no one knew who it was, or where it came from. Elladan and Elrohir were too confused to recognise a face well known to them, and Elladan cried aloud in the Elvish tongue, his face terrible to behold. Then came the realisation the vagabonds were gone! Three lay dead, one with an arrow in his head, but the rest had seemingly fled.
“They will soon return,” said a silken voice. “We have to leave this place;” and the twins were pulled onto the golden stallion.
“What about Ceinwen and Jo?” said Elrohir, blinking furiously to try and clear his eyes.
“They are safe, Atherin has them,” informed the rider, and Elladan grinned proudly. They began to ride, building up speed until the wind was in their hair. Atherin’s hoofbeats weren’t far ahead.
“Who are you, our saviour?” asked Elladan, and looked round. He had to clutch the horses mane, else he would have fallen with surprise….