A beautiful young Elf maiden strayed through the tall trees. The soft breeze blew through her long blonde hair, brushing it back from her fair face. She paused by the side of one tree and stooped over to pick a flower. She raised it to her nose and inhaled the sweet scent of the blossom, smiling.
All of the sudden, without any warning, a band of Orcs charged through the trees. A dozen or more of the horrid creatures surrounded the young woman, who backed against the tree with a cry of fear. But no one came to answer her cry. One of the Orcs charged forward and seized her around the waist, lifting her over his shoulder. The Orcs moved on through the trees, carrying the crying, frightened Elf with them. They ran on and on. Darkness fell to the Elf’s eyes, and still they ran. Finally they reached a dark cave system, wet with mold and dirty with grime. The Orc threw the young woman to the ground of one of the small caves. She cowered back against the wall, crying for anyone who would come for her. But again no one came. The same Orc who had carried her over his shoulder smiled wickedly, if indeed it could even be called a smile. He slowly came forward, eyeing the Elf woman hungrily. She screamed out as he reached out and dragged her forward. The Orc leaned towards the woman and her cries were drowned out by his horrible laughter
Aramir Nárëgond sat bolt upright in his bed, panting hard. He stared around the room as if to ensure that there was nothing there, then looked down at his hands, panting still, trying to calm himself.
“The dream,” he whispered to himself. “The same dream, again.”
He stared around his room once more, and then, certain that everything was as it should be, he lay back down. He knew what would come next-it was always the same, first one dream, then the other.
He saw two young children running across a small yard towards a house- his house, before his family had moved to the outskirts of Minas Tirith. He and his sister, Sicil, ran to the house at the call of their parents. Young though they looked in the eyes of men, they had already lived beyond what a mortal man would survive. Aramir saw the look on his parents’ face, the look that, as a child, he had missed. The sadness, the doubt, the hurt. Young Aramir and Sicil ran into the house to answer their parent’s call. They sat at the small table in the kitchen, listening, waiting to hear the ‘secret’. Aramir stood and watched as his parents quietly explained to him and his sister about their heritage. The same story he had just witnessed in his dream, his parents now told them in words. He saw his own face and hers widen in horror as they heard the tale of the Elf maiden, kidnapped and tormented by the Orcs. But then came the worst- that same Elf maiden was their great-grandmother. He saw himself open his mouth, and a stream of silent questions flowed out. His father held up his hand, and though no sound escaped his mouth, Aramir saw him form the words: ‘You must tell no one. At risk of death, never tell another!’ Then everything went black, and Aramir awoke again.
He was not at all startled by the end of this dream. It was the same every time- he saw the Elven maiden, her torment, and then awoke. This first dream was always followed by the second, and then usually a night lacking of sleep. But it was early morning now, and Aramir rose silently from his bed and went to peer out the window.
“At least the weather is nice,” he muttered to himself. The weather, however, did little to remove the dark shadow that hung over his head. He sat back down on his bed and raked his hand through his black hair, thinking. The dream always reminded him of what he was, but it wasn’t the only thing that did so. When he cut himself during practice and had to worry about his black blood being seen, he remembered. And when he opened his mouth to cry out and words of the Black Tongue involuntarily came out, he remembered. He was the descendant of an Orc, and life never let him forget it.
“Aramir?” His mother Ryal stuck her face in their door and smiled. “Of course you are awake before me,” she said with a smile and a shake of her head.
“I’d rather not be,” he muttered.
She gave him a sympathetic smile and crossed the room to place her arm around his shoulders. She didn’t have to ask-she knew what troubled her son. “Don’t think about it Aramir,” she soothed, brushing his hair out of his face and staring into his night-black eyes.
He shrugged and rose. “I’ll work on it,” he promised with a sad, wry smile. He pulled on a pair of knee-high leather boots and a loose tunic, then grabbed his sword and strapped it to his side. A series of daggers came next, one in his boot, one in his tunic, and a whole brace around his waist as well. Last was his bow. He studied the weapon for a moment before placing it over his back. His best weapon was certainly his sword, but his favorite had to be his bow, because he had made it himself. Fashioned from a dark, nearly black wood, it was as tall as he was, with tiny runes carved into it, identifying it as his own. His several dozen arrows and quiver- also hand made- went with it. He peered down and gave himself a once-over, then nodded. He was set.
“Honestly,” his mother said as Aramir turned around. “I don’t know who I worry about more, you or your sister.”
Aramir chuckled. “Worry about her.” Sicil preferred the wild to the city, and she was constantly roaming around Middle-earth, seeking vengeance, in Aramir’s opinion. He peered out the window again. “I’ve got to go. Practice starts soon.”
‘Practice’ was a group of young men and women who trained together, hoping to become guards of Gondor, or, in their dreams, Itir. Aramir was by far the most skilled of all of them, though he never compared himself to the others, but in his opinion, he would never be good enough to become an Itir. The elite group of twelve were protectors of the royal family, silent, stealthy, living weapons. They trained in all aspects of combat- mainly dagger, sword, bow, and hand-to-hand. Aramir had seen a few Itir in his life, mostly in royal processions, where the black-garbed elite were shadows of the king and his family. Never had he seen them fight, but the legends were enough. Still, he could dream, and he and all of the others did so constantly.
His dark dream was only a distant memory by the time he arrived at the practice field. He glanced around and was glad to see that he was the first to arrive. He was usually the first, so he wasn’t surprised. He set to work setting up targets on the far side of the field. By the time everything was set, the others had arrived. Most rode their horses, although some, like Aramir, had walked. He watched in envy as Galdaron rode up on his chestnut stallion. Aramir would not have denied that he was not fond of Galdaron, the son of a noble who had the nicest weapons, clothes, and horse that money could buy. All of that, however, had done nothing to make the young man a better fighter, Aramir often noted with satisfaction. He himself may be the son of a peasant, and the descendant of an Orc, but he was a better fighter than most of the nobles.
He gave the targets a last check, adjusted one, and then crossed the field to where the group usually met, twirling his sword in his hand as he went. The rest of the group stood waiting, talking amongst themselves. They were all warrior hopefuls, young men and women like himself, though most were mortal and therefore much younger than Aramir. All, however, bore the appearance of young men and women not even into their twenties, whether they were mortal or not.
“There you are Aramir!” greeted Rin, the son of a sword smith. “We’ve been waiting for you!” He put his hands on his hips and gave Aramir a mock glare.
“For me?” Aramir asked, grinning back. “I feel so honoured.” He bowed to the group and they laughed.
“You shouldn’t,” muttered Galdaron, but no one heard him.
They passed the entire morning and a good portion of the afternoon training in all styles of combat. As was usual, they started with archery, shooting through things, at moving targets, from atop horses, and any other odd ways of shooting they could think of. They made up relay races with two teams, riding back and forth across the field to shoot the target in turn. Aramir’s Elven eyes aided him immensely for archery, although his eyes were so preoccupied by shooting that he did not notice the black-garbed figure on the black horse that rode silently around the clearing, watching.
When they had had enough of archery, they went on to daggers, practicing throwing them at the targets as well as knife fighting. Aramir fought several of the others, using two long, Elven knives that Sicil had given him. He spun left and right, twirling both knives in his hands a striking out where his opponent was most vulnerable. Suddenly his adversary, a young woman called Arine, dodged left and then right with remarkable speed, catching Aramir’s arm with her dagger.
“Oh, sorry Aramir,” she apologized, then pulled back, as was custom, to make sure he was ok.
Aramir hurriedly reached into his tunic and pulled out a small bottle. He uncorked it, poured some of the liquid onto his palm, and then rubbed it over the cut. Instantly the black blood that was beginning to seep out of the wound turned a deep scarlet. Satisfied, Aramir stuck the bottle back into his tunic. Arine watched with only mild interest, not taking any notice of the colour of the blood before Aramir had put the liquid on it. Everyone knew, or thought they did, that the ointment was simply a medicine that caused cuts to heal more quickly, an ointment that Sicil had brought for her brother from one of her travels. And why wouldn’t they believe it, for Aramir had told them as much. He knew that if they truly took the time to notice, his secret would be out, would have been many years ago, in fact. But no one ever did, and Aramir was careful to always bring his little bottle whenever he went anywhere.
When the knife-fight was over- Aramir won despite his cut-, they went on to throwing daggers. Aramir reached into his boot and pulled out his favorite dagger, a small, completely black knife that Rin had made for him. He twirled it loosely between his deft fingers, then sent it flying at the target. It smacked the centre and stuck. It was followed by a volley of other knives, some Aramir’s, some belonging to others. Aramir smiled and went to pull his out.
“Enough of this,” Galdaron muttered in annoyance as he pulled his own knives from various places on the target. “You want to dance, Aramir?” He said it as a challenge, not a question.
The young man slipped the dagger back into his boot as a smile crossed his fair face. For all anyone could tell, Aramir was half-Elf, half-mortal. Neither he nor Sicil showed any signs of their secret heritage, praise Eru. “Certainly,” he said, drawing his broadsword.
The rest of the group paused, watching, then went back to their own practicing. Some continued throwing daggers, others drew their swords and spread out across the field to practice. Aramir raised his sword in salute to Galdaron, once again not noticing the black figure watching him with interest. Galdaron raised his sword with little enthusiasm. It was well known that he disliked Aramir, because the other was immortal, and because he was a much better fighter. Aramir, who was as used to being disliked as he was to being liked, paid him no heed. He paused for a brief moment, then struck hard. Galdaron raised his sword to block Aramir’s strike. He held it for a moment, then struck low, but too soon. His sword swung off course, still ringing with energy from the last blow. He stumbled to one side, and Aramir struck again. It was all Galdaron could do to prevent himself from being sliced in half, had Aramir decided to actually to it. He rolled to one side and leapt to his feet, then dove for his adversary. Aramir sidestepped the attack with silent grace, blessing his Elven heritage. Galdaron leapt at him again, and this time Aramir did not move, but met his blow head on. The force of his blow sent the young noble crashing to the ground. Aramir stepped over him, sword pointed down to his chest.
“Do you yield?” he asked, trying to mask a smirk at the anger on the other’s face.
“Yes,” Galdaron muttered irritably.
Aramir reached down to help him rise, but he ignored the hand and stalked off to find someone else to challenge.
“Hey Ar!” Rin called from behind him.
Aramir spun around and smiled at the young man. “Yes?” Rin had always been close to him, looking to Aramir as a mentor and teacher.
“Could you show me that parry that you used the other day, you know, the one where you swing up and then” Rin swung his sword lightly and awkwardly, trying to demonstrate what he meant.
Aramir nodded, understanding. “Yes, of course. Ok, here” He raised his sword for the beginning of the move. Step by step he showed Rin what he had done. It was a complicated and intricate parry, one that had taken Aramir weeks to master. “And left, right, now swing, and-” he spun around and was greeted by a loud clang! His eyes widened in shock and he nearly fell over at the sight that greeted him. Standing in front of him, her sword up to block his, was a woman. She looked to be about 35 and certainly mortal. She had fiery red hair and shining green eyes that stared into Aramir’s. But it was neither her hair nor her eyes that shocked Aramir, and Rin as well. The woman was dressed entirely in black, all save a white insignia on her tunic- a seven pointed star with two arrows crossed in the centre. The Itir insignia.
She smiled at him. “Are you going to finish?” she asked with amusement.
Aramir continued to stare at her. Finish what? With a start, he realized that she wanted him to end the parry he had been showing Rin. He raised his eyebrows, then lowered his sword. “I don’t think so,” he said, embarrassed. There was no way he was going to embarrass himself in front of- His thought was cut off as the woman leapt forward, sword up and ready to strike. Without thinking, Aramir raised his own sword and blocked her attack using the parry he had just shown Rin. Left, right, swing, down and left again! The entire attack was over within seconds, faster than anyone had ever struck him before. Aramir’s eyes widened.
The Itir smiled and sheathed her sword. “I’m impressed, young man,” she said. “What is your name?”
For a moment Aramir’s memory simply disappeared, and then he answered, “Uh, Aramir. Aramir Nárëgond.” He reached up and ran a hand through his hair, thoroughly confused and embarrassed.
She nodded slowly. “I have been watching you. You are very talented, Aramir Nárëgond,” she told him, then turned and whistled. A tall black stallion cantered across the field. By now, all of the young fighters had stopped practicing and were watching Aramir and the Itir with undisguised interest. The woman patted the horse as he skidded to a halt in front of her, then swung onto his back. She gathered his reins in her hands and patted him again, then looked down at Aramir. “I hope to see you again, young man.” Then she turned and cantered away.