Naira floated as though dead, the dark water holding her in its arms. She had never heard of an elf drowning, and she wondered if it was possible. She stretched out her limbs; the water soothing her troubled soul. Her mind was blank. Naira didn’t know, or care, how long she had been under the water. All that mattered was the peace ebbing through her.
Suddenly, something grabbed her forcefully from above and hauled her out of the darkness. Her eyes flew open, the water was full of light now. The visibility was poor, and Naira couldn’t see what had her. She thrashed and fought, her hands tearing at her captor. Her leg must have hit a vulnerable point, she heard a grunt distorted through the water. She broke the surface, arms waving wildly. It had her left arm, then her right, and she was pulled close to it. She looked for the first time at her captor, and realized that it was no orc or foul creature.
It was a male elf! He was young, his face had a look of genuine concern. “Stop fighting, you’ll only drown us both.” He was speaking common speech, maybe he just hadn’t realized she was an elf as well. He looked at her in a way that did not make Naira very comfortable, and then placed his arm calmly around her waist. He swam with strong, confident strokes, pulling them back to the shore.
How long had she been under the water? The sun was rising, and the water glimmered with the new light. She was puzzled at the sudden appearance of the shore, she had been certain that they were far from their destination still when she had fallen. How had he seen her? Her mind filled with questions, but she was too tired to ask them now. The wind was cold against her wet skin, and she suddenly wanted to be in dry clothing.
They were near the shore now, and he paused. An arm slid under her knees and he pulled her up to his chest like an invalid. He walked slowly, careful not to drop her. As soon as they cleared the water, she felt embarrassed that he was carrying her. “I can walk,” she said. He set her down gently. Naira looked at him for the first time. He pulled his wet hair behind his ears, and Naira was shocked.
He wasn’t an elf after all, but a man! The most oddly dressed man she had ever seen, at that. He was wearing a blue shirt with short sleeves and writing that she couldn’t read on the chest. He wore baggy pants that stopped at his knees, exposing the rest of his legs like a hobbit. There was a woven necklace around his neck, and his hair was slightly curled but shorter than normal men’s were, only about his ears. An odd bracelet was around his wrist with what appeared to be a large piece of glass in the middle. He was taller than any other person she had ever met, he had to be six-foot five.
She looked at his face, which had an expression of shock that must be very similar to her own. He was looking at her gown and hair in a way that made her want to blush. However, Naira stood straighter and looked back coolly, her chin tilting up. “Are you a theatre person or something? Playing Ophelia in the school play? ‘Cuz you’d have to be nuts to pull a stunt like that.” Maybe he was speaking a different language, because she hadn’t understood anything he said. Naira was dumbfounded. Where was she?
He sighed, and his hands rested on his hips. He looked at the lake, and combed his hand through his dark hair again. “Sorry, that wasn’t very nice, I suppose,” he said after a pause. He looked at her again and continued, “You scared me. I was just walking along the beach and heard you screaming and thrashing. Then you went under. How was I to know you were just practicing? I am sorry.”
“I wasn’t practicing,” she retorted, feeling flustered. “I was knocked off my ship by accident. We were sailing into the West from the Grey Havens. It was an accident, and I appreciate your assistance.” Now he looked like she was speaking the foreign language. “If you will kindly direct me to your thane or king, I’ll be on my way.”
“Either you’re really into method acting, or you’re touched in the head. But you’re welcome, however, we don’t have thanes in Michigan.” He looked at her warily again, and then Naira really felt herself getting agitated. He laughed, and she felt herself flinch.
“Where?” she demanded. She wanted to cry, and suddenly wanted to be back on the ship more than anything. The man’s brow wrinkled, and his eyes focused on her narrowly.
“This is the state of Michigan…”he paused. Obviously, she was really upset about something. He decided to try and be more tactful. “By the way, my name is James. What is yours?” His voice was gentle, and she could tell that he wanted to help her.
“I’m Naira Cemendur, daughter of Corinturion of Lothlórien.” James’s eyes twinkled, and he burst out laughing. She couldn’t see what was funny about her name and rank. “What is so amusing about my name and family? Or are you so ignorant you do not know what an Elf is? Or of the Golden Wood?” Her cheeks were crimson and her green eyes were on fire. He let out one final laugh, and then sighed contentedly.
“If my roommate could hear you, you’d make his decade!” He laughed again. Her temper flared, hating him for insulting her. “Of course I know what an Elf is, I just want to know how many times you’ve read Lord of the Rings! You might even be more obsessed than Eli!” His laughter ripped a whole in her heart, and her patience.
“Obsessed? I don’t understand! I am an Elf, I have a very important family and I am lost! How dare you laugh at me!” A tear slid down her cheek and she stormed down the beach away from him. How dare he! It was true what her sisters, Oricon and Ainon, had said about men. They truly were rude and ill-mannered. She had only met Aragorn and Boromir of Gondor when they had traveled through Lórien with the Fellowship, and they had been perfect gentleman. However, she thought bitterly, they had also been of the highest houses in Middle-earth. This lowly James was rude, and was obviously not in his right mind to go around talking such rubbish.
James Varden stared after her as she tore the beach apart in her fury. This girl, Naira, was clearly crazy. Either that, he thought, or practicing her Oscar acceptance speech at that moment. She had to be faking, she had to be! Girls from Middle-earth just didn’t drop into Lake Michigan. After all, it was a fantasy world in a book. His favorite book…
James looked at her again, and realized that if he had to picture an Elf-maiden in his head, this girl fit his ideal perfectly. Long honey-colored hair that hung down to her waist, the top part pulled back from her face with three intricate braids on each side. She wore no jewelry, but her gown was beautiful. It was a soft gray, and long flowing skirts. It looked terribly expensive. She had stopped, and was sitting on a boulder about a hundred yards away. She was crying, it seemed, rather hard.
Part of him just wanted to leave her, and laugh about it with Eli back at the cottage later. He turned to go, and walked a few yards. Suddenly her eyes flashed across his mind. Her gorgeous eyes, a green that would rival emeralds. Her face was pretty too, and different at the same time. She looked totally different than his girlfriend, Lena, though. She had dark features, and was more compact and athletic looking. He loved Lena, she enchanted him.
“Idiot,” he remembered suddenly, “she dumped you for the law major, remember? Who wants the honest journalist-to-be, when you can have a lying scumbag?” That’s why you’re hear, he thought, to get away for awhile, he thought to himself, you’re here to have an adventure…Without thinking, he turned and started running to Naira. His long strides were smooth, like all his movements. He could now see that her knees were drawn up to her chest, and her sobs shaking her slender frame.
He slowed as he neared her, the sand muting his steps. But she was clearly aware of his presence, and stood up, turning to stone. Her long hand wiped the tears from her face, and she stepped back. He looked at her again, her face so smooth and flawless. The wind was playing with her hair, and blew it over her shoulders, revealing her ears, which were capped with graceful points.
He caught his breath. She couldn’t be an elf, could she? She sobbed again, and he lost his train of thought when he saw a tear slide down her face. She’s just a girl, really, he thought. What is if it was your sister? He thought of sweet little Clara, and knew he would want someone to take care of her for him. His gray eyes softened, and Naira noticed.
“Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. What did you say your name was?” His voice was soft, and his manner genuine. Naira hesitated, should she trust him? He was odd, without a doubt, but he knew where she was. At least he will lead me to civilization. Well, she thought, I don’t have a choice. She took a deep breath before speaking.
“My name is Naira Cemendur. Please call me Naira. I am the daughter of Corinturion of Lothlórien. And you are… James?” Her voice was melodic, and she was visibly calmer. She said his name awkwardly, elongating the syllables. Following her lead, he gave his full name.
“I am James Frederick Varden, milady, son of Charles and Carolyn of West Carlisle, Michigan.” She smiled at him, a thin smile, but it was enough. “My friends and I are staying at my family’s summer home. It is just through those trees.” He pointed to a glad of evergreens. The faint gleam of the windows reflected the morning sun. He took a step closer, and said kindly, “You could change into some of my sister’s clothes. She is shorter than you are, but at least you’d be dry.”
She nodded, and said quietly, “Hantale” He looked at her quizzically, and assumed she had said thank you. “You’re welcome.” James started walking down the beach, and Naira followed him.