My fault! Isilmë thought indignantly. She sat next to her kidnapper by the Orc-fire, completely unaware of the young man who watched her. She shivered suddenly in the cold, her light, wet cloak providing no warmth. The past several days had been very much the same as now-wet, cold, alone, and hungry. So far, all she knew was that her kidnapper was one of the Royal Guard, a man called Sirk, and she had just learned that he had been hired to kidnap her. Hired by whom, she wondered, but thinking about that made her even more upset that she already was. Other than that, she knew nothing, for Sirk had spoken little to her. She knew not where they were going, nor what they would do when they got there. They had just kept riding on and on until early that morning, when they had been attacked by Orcs and taken as prisoners. Isilmë’s eyes suddenly filled with tears. What was to happen to her now? Certainly, they would have found her missing and begun to search, but…
All of the sudden, the Orc nearest to her seized her and dragged her towards the fire. A filthy piece of cloth was quickly tied around her mouth, and a blindfold placed over her eyes. She noticed before she was blindfolded that the same thing was being done to Sirk. She heard footsteps fade away in the direction of the edge of the clearing, and then she understood. Someone was out there. Sure enough, moments later she heard a horse nicker and the sound of hoof beats. The Orcs gave a cry, and even without seeing she was sure they were attacking this unsuspecting newcomer.
“Urúdzach!” a voice cried, sending a chill down the princess’ spine. All movement stopped suddenly. She heard the Orcs muttering amongst themselves. A harsh voice began to cry out horrible words that the girl did not understand. Then one of the Orcs said something, and the Orc and the newcomer began to converse. Isilmë shuddered at the sound of their voices- harsh and low in the Black Tongue. Abruptly the Orc who had been holding her shoved her forward, and she nearly fell. She knew instinctively that she was being brought to the newcomer, for what reason she did not want to know. They walked several yards and then stopped. There was the sound of someone dismounting, and footsteps walking towards her. Isilmë felt a hand brush across her face, then across her shoulder and slowly down her arm. She squirmed uncomfortably and backed up, only to bump into the Orc guard, who promptly shoved her forward again. The newcomer said something, and another conversation began. Then she felt a pair of arms lift her into the air, and she was abruptly set upon a horse’s broad back. For a moment she was confused- Orcs did not ride horses, did they? Someone mounted behind her and put their arm around her waist. He said something else to the Orcs, then she felt the horse begin to walk, then canter away. Isilmë sat, frozen in her new kidnapper’s grip. What was to happen to her now? What was this Orc going to do to her?
They rode on into the woods, and soon Isilmë had lost track of all time. Suddenly she heard a low chuckle, and then a voice– “That should be far enough.” Abruptly the horse came to a halt, and the figure dismounted. He pulled Isilmë down after him. She stood stiffly, unable to see and frozen in fear. The sound of a dagger being drawn echoed in her ears, and she swallowed nervously. Then she felt a pair of hands take a hold of her own hands, and the ropes that had held them tied behind her back were cut. The gag at her mouth was gently untied and pulled off. What was going on? Suddenly the blindfold fell away from her eyes, and she found herself face to face with her ‘Orc’ kidnapper. He was not an Orc at all! A very attractive young man stood facing her. He couldn’t have been much older than 22, unless he was part Elf. He was several inches taller than she, with messy black hair that fell slightly past his shoulders and a thin black scar that ran along his right cheek. His sharp black eyes swirled like pools of ink as he looked at her. He was dressed all in black- his tunic, pants, undershirt, cloak, boots, and gloves. His bow, quiver, arrows, sheath, and even his horse were black. Isilmë was immediately reminded of the Itir- elite guards of Gondor. The young man raised his eyebrows.
“Why do you stare at me?” he asked in a kind, soft voice, not at all the voice he had used with the Orcs.
Isilmë immediately lowered her eyes and hung her head. “I-I…” she stammered, not wanting to say anything to anger him. Despite his kindness, she was not ready to trust him. No one that bartered with the Orcs was worthy of trust.
“You were expecting an Orc?” he offered, not really asking her, just stating it as a fact.
“Well, well yes, I was,” she admitted.
He smiled and shook his head. “Terribly sorry to disappoint you. I am Aramir. Aramir Nárëgond.”
“Isilmë. Lady Isilmë,” she offered, deciding it best to leave out the ‘Princess’ part. She extended her hand, expecting him to shake it, or even kiss it. What she was not expecting, though, was for him to seize her hand and pull her towards him. He encircled his arm around her waist and smiled down at her, a slow, mocking smile she did not like at all.
“Charmed, my Lady.” He grinned.
Shocked, Isilmë jerked herself out of his arms and drew the small dagger she carried at her waist. She pointed it at him and glared. “What do you think you’re doing?!” she demanded. “If you think even for a minute that-“
He laughed and held his hands up. “I was only teasing.” He smiled and walked towards her.
“Stay away from me!” She backed up, dagger still extended.
“My Lady, I was only-” he walked forward as he spoke.
“I told you, keep away from me!” Isilmë tried in vain to mask the fear that she felt. She decided that she definitely did not trust this Orc-friend Aramir.
He shrugged. “Fine, whatever you say. Gratitude has certainly changed since I was last in your city.” He bowed slightly, then vaulted onto his horse’s back. After turning the horse, he leaned over and looked down at her. “Gondor is that way.” He pointed. “It should take you about, mmm, seven or eight days on foot, as long as you avoid the Orcs.” With that he turned and rode slowly away.
“Wait!” cried Isilmë. “You’re just going to leave me here?” She certainly did not like him, but she felt she’d rather be with Aramir than with those Orcs.
“You said to keep away. I’m doing the best I can,” he called flippantly over his shoulder.
“Halt! I order you to halt!” Isilmë shouted angrily at his retreating back.
Aramir’s soft, amused laughter floated back to her. “Who gave you the right to order me around?”
Isilmë paused. She didn’t have any right, but she desperately needed to get back to Gondor. And a week, by herself, with no food, no horse… Then she felt his arms around her and saw his teasing smile and shook her head. She’d be better off far away from him. She turned and started walking in the direction he had pointed. After only several minutes she was startled to hear hoof beats behind her. Spinning around, she saw Aramir following several dozen paces behind her. She placed her hands on her hips.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
He halted his horse and cocked his head to one side. “I feel bad leaving you out here all alone. I think I’ll…how did you put it- stay away from you, and make sure you get back in one piece.”
She folded her arms over her chest and glared at him. Inside, however, she was startled by the genuine concern she heard in his soft voice. “I don’t need your help,” she scoffed.
“You look very beautiful when you are angry,” he said suddenly, smiling.
She stared at him for a moment, then shot back, “And not when I am not angry?”
“Did I say that?” he asked with a smirk. “Are you sure you don’t want to ride?”
Isilmë started when she realized he had somehow ridden right next to her without her noticing. She glanced up at him. Whoever he was, he was no Orc, that was certain. And while he seemed to be somehow in league with them, he also seemed to be truly concerned about her. She sighed loudly. “Alright,” she acquiesced.
He leaned over and stuck his hand out to her. She took it, and he pulled her onto the horse behind him. She put her hands at her sides, solemnly swearing to herself that she would not put her hands anywhere near his waist.
“You might want to hold on,” he suggested. “Narmo’s starts can be a bit…unseating.”
She snorted. Nice try, but I’m not falling for that, she thought. Aramir shrugged and cued the horse, who promptly reared high into the air. Isilmë, caught completely off guard, threw her hands forward and wrapped them around the young man’s waist. All she could hear as the horse touched back to the ground was Aramir’s satisfied laughter ringing in her ears.