“Ouch, not there!” Aramir cried, flinching as Isilmë’s hand pressed into his wound.
“Oh, sorry,” she apologized, quickly lowering her hand to her side. She adjusted herself on the horse behind him, then asked, “Better?”
“Yes, thanks. Let’s go, Narmo.” He signaled to the horse for yet another day of travel.
“I don’t know why I even had my hand there,” Isilmë quipped. “You’re all sweaty.”
“So are you,” he shot back.
It was true. The day, though only just beginning, was already terribly hot and humid. Not even the early morning swim Aramir had taken had done anything to cool him down. He rode without his shirt or tunic, mainly to keep it away from his wound. As Isilmë had pointed out to him earlier, he looked rather odd with his black pants and boots, and an icy-blue wrap of material around his waist where his wound was. His only response had been to shove her into the pool.
So they rode on all day, trying in vain to keep out of the sun and heat. Aramir could almost feel his already tan skin getting darker as he rode. Isilmë, on the other hand, desperately hoped her skin wasn’t turning red. She didn’t say anything though, knowing that Aramir would probably tease her in some way or the other. Oddly enough, however, she found she actually liked it when he made fun of her.
Gradually, the landscape became more and more familiar to Isilmë. She could almost feel Aramir tensing up as they got closer, and she supposed he had a good reason. They didn’t say much as they rode, so the only sounds were those of the forest animals, and Narmo’s steady breathing. Isilmë patted the horse, who never made any objection to carrying two riders in the terribly hot and humid weather. Aramir stopped frequently to give the horse water, which he was obviously grateful for. Suddenly there came another sound as they rode, and it sounded suspiciously like men. Aramir brought Narmo to a halt and dismounted, motioning for the Elven girl to stay put. He crept silently into the woods, dagger out just in case. He returned a moment later, an odd, tense look upon his face.
“There is a camp down there,” he explained quietly. “It’s the Royal Guard.”
“The Royal Guard? What in Middle-earth are they doing there?” Isilmë asked, though she had a strange feeling she already knew.
Aramir shrugged tensely and remounted. He quickly cued the horse, and they made their way quietly around the camp. Isilmë couldn’t help but notice the angry expression on the Exile’s face, and she gently squeezed his arm in encouragement. He forced a small smile, then looked away. He knew that he was safe as long as he did not cross into Gondor, but he had not been this close to the city since he had been exiled. Torrents of memories flooded through his mind, and he shook his head to try and clear his head. They rode at a steady pace down into a valley and then back out. Isilmë knew for certain where they were now. Just a little further on and they would reach the ‘boundary’ of Gondor-the line Aramir could not cross. At the same time the Princess was recognizing where she was, Aramir was getting the strangest feeling that they were being followed. He turned around several times to check, but saw nothing more than trees and rock each time. Still the feeling grew stronger, until Aramir was almost certain he was right.
Then they reached the boundary. It was marked by the end of a small forest, the last line of trees providing a natural boundary between Gondor and the wild. After that were fields, and then the city of Minas Tirith. Aramir brought Narmo to a halt just inside of the trees, and the riders dismounted. They stood for a long time next to each other in silence, each knowing that they would probably never see the other again.
“Well, milady, you are home,” Aramir whispered.
“Yes,” Isilmë sighed dejectedly. There was another long, uncomfortable silence. “I-I’m really going to miss you, Aramir.”
“And I you,” Aramir murmured. “You can take Narmo as far as the city, and then let him come back to me. I wouldn’t want…well, it’s a long way to walk,” he finished lamely. He turned, took her hands, and stared into her eyes. He wanted so badly to simply hold her, even kiss her, and tell her exactly how he felt. Looking into her eyes, he could see she wanted to do the same. Aramir’s eyes suddenly brightened a bit. He held something out to her, whispering, “I want you to have this.”
Isilmë looked down at what he had placed in her hand. It was a small charm, in the shape of a crescent moon, hanging from a thin silver chain.
“This is beautiful!” she breathed in awe.
“Just like you,” he murmured.
“But only when I am angry, right?” she asked with a smile.
“No,” he said with a laugh, raising his hand and softly brushing her face. “Always and forever.” He nodded toward the charm. “Its mithril. It is supposed to have some Elven magic in it. It glows blue whenever its brother is near.”
“And where is its brother?” she asked.
“Right here.” Aramir held up a second, identical charm, which he clasped about his neck. Then he gently took the charm from her and clasped it around her neck. Sure enough, the little moons began to glow a bright blue. Isilmë smiled brightly.
“Thank you,” was all she could manage to say.
Suddenly she thought of something. Aramir had told her his secret, and yet she still kept one from him. And his was much darker than hers was. She owed him the truth before she left.
“Aramir, there’s something I need to tell you. I mean, well…” she sighed, not knowing how to say it. Aramir waited patiently, gently holding her hands. Isilmë sighed in defeat. She couldn’t tell him. Her father had exiled him! What would he say if he knew that she was the Princess? Then she remembered something. She bent over and pulled a small leather bag from inside of her shoe. Straightening up, she pressed the bag into Aramir’s hand.
“Don’t open it until I’ve gone,” she whispered, fighting back tears.
“But-” Aramir protested.
“Please Aramir,” she pleaded.
He stared at her for a moment, then nodded and closed his fist gently about the bag. He stared into her eyes again, and then, unable to resist any longer, slid his arms smoothly around her waist and leaned towards her. He could feel her trembling in his arms, but she did not resist as he leaned closer still.
Suddenly a pair of hands seized Aramir’s arms and yanked them roughly behind his back. A cold knife was pressed up against his throat and he felt himself being dragged backwards several steps. Isilmë cried out in anger and surprise as a tall figure stepped into the clearing.
“Well, well, well, isn’t this sweet?” the figure asked nastily, a horribly satisfied smile upon his face. His dark hair fell messily about his shoulders, framing his long, narrow face. His dark eyes sparkled in obvious amusement as he seized Isilmë’s arm. She pulled away, but his grip was too strong for her to break.
“Janst!” Aramir spat in disgust.
“Aramir,” the other returned curtly. “Let him go,” he instructed to the figure holding Aramir.
Aramir felt the grip loosed on his arms, and he jerked them away angrily. Janst began to back up, dragging an angry-looking Isilmë with him. He pulled her out of the forest, past the borderline, and then stopped, still grinning nastily. He watched Aramir’s eyes drift to Isilmë, and his smile got even worse, if indeed it were possible.
“Come and get her if you want her so badly, Orc-boy,” he taunted at Aramir.
Aramir stood where he was, fists clenched in anger, his black eyes narrow slits as he glared in hatred at the Captain of the Guard.
“What’s the matter Exile, scared?” Janst asked. “All you have to do is walk over here and the Princess is yours.”
Aramir started slightly. Princess? Isilmë?
“No?” Janst asked, looking disappointed. “Well then…” he raised his fingers in the air and snapped them loudly.
“Aramir, watch out!” Isilmë cried, and then everything went black.
Isilmë watched as the man who had held Aramir’s arms came up behind him and hit him hard over the head with the pommel of his sword. She cried out, but it was too late. Aramir fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, unconscious. The man disappeared back into the forest.
“NO!” she cried out, tears streaming down her face. She turned to Janst, her face red with rage. “How could you! How dare you even-” she was cut short as his hand smacked her across the face.
“I assure you, it is for your own good, Princess,” he said nastily, dragging her back into the forest.
They walked several hundred yards into the woods, and then suddenly Janst shoved Isilmë roughly up against a tree. He pulled out his dagger and held it at her throat.
“Now m’lady, I think we need to have a little talk about your rescue.”
“I’ll die before I listen to you!” Isilmë spat.
Janst laughed mirthlessly. “No, milady, you will die if you do not listen. And so will he.” He pointed back into the clearing.
Isilmë froze, rigid with fear at the thought of what he would do to Aramir.
Janst noticed this and smirked. “Good.” He reached up and brushed his hand across her face. Isilmë shied away, but he held her tight. “Now perhaps you will listen, my dear…”
Chapter 6: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9136.html
Chapter 7: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9198.html
Chapter 8: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9233.html
Chapter 9: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9273.html