Aldariel slowly wrung out her long brown hair, and threw it over her shoulder. She then proceeded to wash her clothes. Just because she was living outdoors didn’t mean she had to smell like she was. When their temporary camp was set up, Aldariel had announced that she needed to bathe and had taken herself about a mile upriver. Now she reluctantly drew herself away from the cool water. Aldariel hung her clothes up to dry, then laid down on a smooth rock. Basking in the sun, she wondered how Layiwen and Deliphy were faring. Her thoughts soon dissipated as the warmth of the sun chased them into the realm of dreams.
When Aldariel came back to reality, she had no idea how much time had passed, though the sun was far lower than it had been when she had last seen it. Oh great, she thought, They’ll probably be sending someone to find me by now. I’d best spare them the trouble. Aldariel slipped back into her clothing, and, bow in hand, headed back. About a half-mile in, she heard light footsteps trailing her. She neatly spun, drawing an arrow at the same time. Her eyes met another’s, dark brown to blue.
“Whoa!” Legolas held his hands up. “I was just coming to find you.” Aldariel lowered her bow.
“You really shouldn’t sneak up on a Leafer like that,” she said, taking perverse pleasure in the fact that she had heard him coming this time.
“I’ll remember that for next time,” Legolas remarked with a wry smile. Aldariel replaced her bow and arrow.
“So why did you come out here?” Aldariel asked, her tone turning suspicious. Legolas missed the hint.
“Well, you were gone for a…”
“No,” Aldariel said, interrupting, “I mean why did YOU come?” Legolas stared at her blankly.
“You are my friend, are you not? Is there some reason I shouldn’t have?”
she waved his question away. “Of course not. Ignore what I just said,” and Aldariel was back to her old self.
Legolas sighed. She had been like this all day. One second she would be herself, and the next she would act slightly hurt and suspicious. I know she doesn’t trust me, Legolas thought, but she seems even more cautious than she did before the raid. Maybe it’s because the only two people in this party she deems trustworthy are gone.
Legolas thought this a perfectly acceptable explanation for Aldariel’s behavior, so he didn’t bring it up, instead switching to a new topic of discussion.
“So, I had an idea that I think might keep you safe,” he said, clearing his throat. Aldariel turned her soul-searching eyes up to meet his.
“Really?” She asked.
“This is what I figured,” Legolas said, looking for a comfortable place to sit. Finally deciding on a tree stump, he continued.
“The orcs will be looking for a female elf, right?”
Aldariel nodded, “Right.”
“So what if we dress you up to look like a man?”
Aldariel gave one of her rare, slow smiles. “I think that might work!” She exclaimed.
Deliphy was in an uncomfortable position.
“Uh, Layiwen? Could you hurry it up a bit? You’re starting to get kind of heavy,” she gasped out.
“Just a little further,” Layiwen called back down. She was standing precariously on Deliphy’s shoulders, trying to reach the elusive opening.
Privately, Deliphy felt she had the harder job. Just as Deliphy felt her knees start to buckle, she heard Layiwen exclaim, “Got it!”
Almost sighing in relief, Deliphy asked, “So what’s the situation?”
Layiwen gave the vent a once-over before answering. “Well, there are metal bars covering the opening. I’m going to see if they’ll give.”
The bars appeared to be very rusty and not very strong. Apparently Durndil hadn’t thought his captives intelligent enough or strong enough to escape. He’s wrong on both accounts, Layiwen thought as she started tugging on a bar and immediately felt it move. Just then the door slid open, revealing a very angry Durndil. Deliphy felt the breath knocked out of her as she was hit in the back by a raw surge of power. She started to fall, unable to control herself. Layiwen was flung to the unforgiving floor where she lay, unable to move, seeing stars.
“What do you think you’re doing.” Durndil growled.
It was not a question. Deliphy recovered her senses and ran to Layiwen’s side. She turned to face Durndil, defiance in every fiber of her being.
“What do you think we were doing?” She asked rhetorically. “You have locked us in this disgusting cell with no food, water, light, or a proper place to relieve ourselves. You have treated us worse than you would a beast headed for slaughter!” Deliphy spat.
Durndil smiled. “I have come to change all of that.”
He then whistled softly, and two orcs appeared at his side.
“You two, carry her and follow me,” he said, gesturing at Layiwen.
He then spun on his heels and left, the orcs with Layiwen following him. Deliphy had no choice but to follow.
When Aldariel and Legolas arrived back in camp they found an unexpected, but very welcome guest awaiting them. A tall blond elf was waving his arms and shouting. The soldiers who were the object of his wrath were cowering in fear.
Aldariel allowed herself a small smile. Haldir rarely got angry, but when he did it was a sight to see.
“Mae Govannen, Haldir o Lorien!” Legolas called.
Aldariel started, surprised at first that Legolas knew the March Warden of Lorien. Then she supposed it made sense. Haldir often acted as an emissary to the Lady of the Golden Wood, and no doubt had visited the Woodland Realm. Haldir turned and looked extremely relieved to see someone he knew.
“Legolas!” He said breathlessly when he reached them. “Finally someone who knows what’s going on!”
He waved in the direction of the terrified soldiers “Those idiots don’t have a clue where anyone is or what’s been happening.”
Legolas grinned. “You probably scared them speechless,” he said.
Haldir looked contrite for a moment, then he was once again all business. “Legolas, can you tell me where Princess Aldariel is?”
Aldariel felt another tremor of surprise before realization hit her. “I’m right here,” she said.
Haldir was taken aback. “Aldariel, forgive me, but you looked like a…”
“A man?” she interrupted, smiling.
Haldir blushed. “Well, yes.”
“It’s okay,” Aldariel said, highly amused. “Legolas suggested that I disguise myself as a male so the bad guy’s goons won’t recognize me.”
Haldir nodded. They had done a spectacular job transforming her. Aldariel’s long dark hair was tied up and hidden under a hood. Her face was smudged and greasy and she had traded her feminine attire for more masculine armor.
“So, did you hear what happened?” Aldariel asked, all traces of humor gone.
“Lady Galadriel told me that some ill had befallen you,” Haldir answered. “She didn’t specifically tell me to go find you, but I think she knew I would. Anyway, I tracked you until I came upon your camp that had been attacked. I feared the worst, then the officer left in charge told me that Layiwen and…” here Haldir paused and gulped, “…Deliphy had been taken by some dark Prince, though he did not know the name. The officer then told me that you had headed southwest and that the Captain had left him in charge. That was all he knew.”
Legolas sighed. “Then there is much to tell you. Come,” he said, leading Haldir away. Aldariel watched them for a while, and then went to feed Aranor, Arahir, and Arpenya. Luckily none of the horses had been stolen in the raid, and Aldariel had persuaded Farand to let her bring Arahir and Arpenya.
“Because,” she had said forcefully, “Layiwen and Deliphy will need them when they escape.”
When, not if, she told herself now as she walked to where the horses were tethered.