The grey mists settled heavily over the tall, shining palace of Minas Tirith. Silence filled the night, all save an occasional call of a bird or the scuffling of hooves far below. At one of the palace’s many windows, high above the ground on a small balcony, was a young woman. She stood overlooking the city, though there wasn’t much to look at. A sudden soft breeze blew her dark hair back from her small, fair, Elven-looking face. Her ice-blue eyes pierced the mists, but whatever it was she was searching for, she did not see, and she turned away from the balcony. She brushed a long strand of her hair behind her pointed ear-a sign of her half-Elven heritage. Her sharp ears picked up the sound of soft footsteps outside of her door, and a moment later there was a knock. She crossed the room silently, her pale blue dress rustling softly about her. Upon opening the door, she revealed a small boy of about ten years of age.
“Hello, Princess Isilmë,” he greeted shyly, bowing slightly, causing his sandy-brown hair to fall into his eyes.
The girl knelt down. “Hello Dole. How are you tonight?”
The little boy blushed. He was very fond of the princess, for she was like a big sister to him. “I am very well, m’lady. My father said I could run errands for the king again.” He smiled proudly.
Isilmë nodded. Dole’s father was the chief chef in the palace, and he often let Dole be a message-boy for the king.
“He sent me to fetch you,” Dole continued.
The princess nodded. “Just a moment.” She ducked back into her room.
“Dole!” a deep voice echoed down the hallway.
“Coming!” the boy called back, then stuck his head in the room. “I must go, m’lady.” With a quick bow, he skirted off down the hall.
Isilmë waved as she came out of her room, then pulled her light cloak over her shoulders and proceeded down the corridor. It was empty, and rather cold. A sudden, unexplainable uneasiness came over the girl. She didn’t understand why; she had been down these halls thousands of times before, and often she was alone in the emptiness. So why now was she feeling so premonitious?
Suddenly and unexpectedly, the door of a room to her left swung open, and a black-cloaked figure leapt out. He clamped one gloved hand over Isilmë’s mouth and wrapped his other arm around her so that she couldn’t move. She tried in vain to scream, but all sound was muffled by the figure’s hand. He dragged her, struggling madly, into a dark room. She felt his hand momentarily remove from her mouth, and she let out a small cry before his hand was replaced by a gag, which he tied tightly over her mouth. Then a rope was tied roughly around her hands, forcing them behind her back. She struggled helplessly against the ropes, and they cut into her wrists. When he was done, the figure picked the girl up and threw her over his shoulder, but instead of going out the door, he moved to the balcony, where a long coil of rope was tied. He tossed the rope over the side, then slowly began to climb down, carrying the crying, frightened princess with him. When they reached the bottom, he set her upon a waiting horse, then mounted behind her, wrapping his arm securely about her waist. Isilmë struggled against his firm hold, to no avail. The horse cantered off through a back entrance in the courtyard. Once through, the figure stopped the horse and turned to face the window from which they had just climbed. He pulled out his bow and an arrow. Around the arrow, Isilmë saw him tie a small piece of parchment. He shot the arrow into the darkened room, then turned and cantered out of the courtyard and into the night…
“Why you filthy little…!” the man leapt across the table, knocking mugs over as he desperately tried to get a hold of his antagonist. His hands seized the tunic of the other-a young, dark-haired man dressed all in black with a devilish grin on his face. The first man raised his fist to punch the young man, but the other was too quick, and he yanked himself free and dodged the blow that was aimed at his face.
“What, all I said was-” the young man began.
“I know what you said!” the first man yelled. His pale face was tight with anger. He briefly reached up with one massive arm to brush his dirty brown hair out of his face, all the while glaring at the other.
“Well,” the young man shrugged his shoulders, a slight smirk on his face. “I’ve been called an Orc many times before. How much worse is it to be called-“
“Don’t say it again! We heard you the first time!” He had a rather embarrassed look upon his face. Several other men in the tavern snickered.
“Aww, give it up Corin. You deserved it,” one man said with a smile.
“Ha! I will not ‘give it up’. Not after what ‘Mr. Orc’ called me!” Corin’s face was red with rage.
“See now there, you’ve just proven my point,” the young man pointed out. “Now, if you’re allowed to call me that, then I’m allowed to call you-” his words were drowned out as Corin picked up a chair with a howl of anger and heaved it at him. To everyone’s surprise, the young man reached out, caught it, and set it calmly on the ground. He raised his eyebrows at Corin and brushed his black hair out of his face.
“Well fine, I was ready to leave anyway,” he muttered, rolling his eyes. He pulled a few coins out of a pouch and handed them to the bartender wordlessly. “Goodbye everyone,” he called out, a grin on his face.
“Goodbye Aramir!” someone answered.
“Yes, you had better run!” Corin called.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Aramir conceded sarcastically. He turned and walked out of the tavern, shaking his head as he did. There it was again-Orc. Of course, Corin hadn’t known… He brushed the thoughts aside and a shrill whistle escaped from his lips, bringing a black horse from the nearby stables. He swiftly mounted the horse, blessing once again the Elven skills that allowed him to communicate with horses so well that he didn’t need tack. He pulled his black cloak about his shoulders-it smelled like rain. The thought had no sooner entered his mind when he felt a raindrop hit his nose.
“Well, Narmo, we’re going to get wet tonight.” He smiled as he reached down and patted the horse’s silky neck. Narmocarca-named for the fang-shaped mark upon his forehead-shook his head, sending his long black mane flying. Aramir turned the horse and trotted off into the woods. He knew he could have slept in the tavern-any man with any common sense would have, but Aramir never slept at the inns. He preferred the woods, even if he did get wet. Perhaps it had come from his previous training, but more likely it was the almost three hundred years he had spent in Exile.
He had ridden nearly two hours when, amidst the sounds of the now steadily falling rain, he heard another sound. It sounded like- no, it was voices. He slowed Narmo to a walk, brushing his wet, messy hair out of his face. As he did, his fingers brushed the long, thin, black scar that ran across his right cheek. That scar brought back so many memories… His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a sharp curse. Whoever they were, they were close. He swiftly dismounted and drew his cowl about his face. All that could be seen were his sharp black eyes as he followed the sound into a small clearing. A group of about eight Orcs was gathered around a pathetic attempt at a fire. Aramir’s eyebrows raised in surprise as he saw two prisoners-both tied, but not gagged- sitting on a small log outside of the range of the fire’s warmth-if indeed there was any warmth at all. The young Exile was even more surprised after he got a good look at the prisoners-a dark-cloaked, very angry looking man, and an exquisitely beautiful young girl, dressed in a pale blue dress. Or she would have been, had she not been drenched with rain and dirty with mud. She looked to be at least part Elf. She also looked very frightened.
The Orcs moved about, speaking in their harsh tongue. Aramir understood perfectly what they were saying, but he ignored the conversation. The man suddenly turned to the girl.
“This is your fault!” he hissed.
Aramir decided that it was a good thing that the man was tied up-he looked as though he could have strangled the girl.
“My fault? My fault! You kidnap me, drag me for days away form Gondor, hold me your prisoner, let us get captured by Orcs- and you blame me!” She sounded just as angry as the man looked.
“Well, if I hadn’t been hired to kidnap you by Ja-” the man began, then cut himself off as he realized what he was about to say.
Aramir raised his eyebrows again. So the man had been hired to kidnap the girl, only to find them both kidnapped by Orcs. He had to admit, he found this rather funny, but only in the kidnapper’s case. The girl, on the other hand, needed help. An idea immediately entered the young man’s mind. It was something he had always wanted to try, but had never had the chance. He decided that now would be the perfect time. Smiling wickedly, he pulled his cloak about his face and crept back into the woods, calling softly for Narmo.