Aramir and Kellian flew out of the city gates at a full gallop. They raced across a great field towards the boundary of Gondor. Lightening flashed and thunder rolled, and although neither horse spooked in the least, they were both tense, sensing the feelings of their riders. The rain continued to fall in torrents, never letting up for the two young men desperately in search of the missing Princess. Neither noticed the lonely dark figure that followed them as they streaked towards the forest. As they neared it, Kellian rode close to Aramir. His voice was barely audible in the great storm.
“You go that way; I’ll go this way!” he cried as he gestured first left, then right.
Aramir nodded and Narmo promptly veered off to the left. They rode on into the trees. An immediate sense of relief and safety flooded through Aramir, like he was returning home. Which was ridiculous, because the wild had never felt like home to him.
A great rumble of thunder echoed through the air, ringing in the Exile’s ears. But on top of the thunder, he heard another sound. It was a scream.
“Aramir!” Isilmë called again and again. She sat atop her horse in the middle of a clearing, frozen with such fear that all she could do was cry out in terror. The great Warg circled around her, its teeth barred. The Warg that had stalked her from the very moment she had left Gondor’s safe boundaries had chosen now to bring down its prey. It snarled angrily at her, an almost hungry sound. Isilmë’s horse pinned his ears back in fear and backed up towards the edge of the clearing. And still the Warg advanced. It was huge, the size of a small horse, with red glowing eyes that reflected the bright lightening. It gave another cry and its fangs could be seen in the light of the storm. That was enough for the horse. Frightened beyond reason, he reared high into the air. Isilmë, completely unready, was sent flying backwards. She crashed into the nearest tree with an anguished cry. Tears filled her eyes as she clutched her arm, pain searing through it. Her horse reared again, then took off back towards Gondor. The Warg didn’t give it a second glance as it advanced towards the injured girl. She was his now. Crying in fear and pain, Isilmë scooted back against the tree, too fearful to try and stand and fight, or even run. She knew she would fail.
“Aramir!” she screamed again, knowing even then that he would not come. He was gone, or dead somewhere, or perhaps he didn’t even care about her.
The Warg howled one more time, then leapt at the girl.
Something huge and black collided with the animal in midair, and both figures landed with a crash on the ground. The dark thing that had crashed into the Warg stood up, and Isilmë cried out in relief.
The young man did not even look at her. His black eyes were fixed on the evil creature, which had picked itself up from the ground and was circling around him. Aramir didn’t even blink as he watched the Warg move first left, then right, looking for a breach in his defense. It found none, but it struck anyway. A howl escaped from inside of it as it threw itself on this new adversary. Aramir met its attack head on, only his bare hands out to stop it. They crashed to the ground, the Warg on top of the man. It bent forward, viciously biting at Aramir’s neck, but the Exile gave it a hard kick in the stomach that sent it flying backwards.
It was only then that Aramir remembered the sword at his side. Blessing his friend, he drew the weapon. Its bright blade flashed in the light of the storm, and for a moment, his attacker paused, sensing the turn of the tide of battle. Aramir saw it pause and his eyes flashed angrily. This thing had thought it could attack the one he loved and it had been sadly mistaken. He waited for the Warg to make its move, sword spinning loosely in his hand. The creature watched for a moment, then leapt again, howl mixing with the now howling wind. Aramir leapt forward as well, and the two adversaries crashed in midair. They fell to the ground, and for a moment Isilmë could not tell what was happening. She cried out in fear for Aramir, and even as she did, the Warg howled in pain. Then the howl ceased suddenly, and the only remaining sound was that of the storm.
Aramir rose to his feet, sword in one hand. He bent over, swiped the sword through the grass to clean off the blood, sheathed it, and then bolted across the clearing to Isilmë. He fell to his knees by her side and hugged her close.
“Isilmë,” he whispered, kissing her face over and over. “Oh Isilmë.” He kissed her again and again, then let his mouth stray to her neck and softly kissed her there as well.
“Aramir,” she murmured back, wrapping her arms around his neck despite the pain in her left arm.
After a long moment, Aramir pulled away, wiping tears of relief from his shining black eyes. “Princess,” he murmured with a teasing smile, running his hand through her hair.
Isilmë’s face filled with guilt. “Oh Aramir,” she whispered, “I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you. I though, well, I thought if you knew, then, well…”
Aramir gently put a finger over her lips and stared straight into her eyes. “I understand,” he said softy. He stared at her a moment longer, then asked anxiously, “Are you alright? You got thrown pretty badly.”
Isilmë grimaced. “You saw that?” He nodded. “I’m alright. It’s just my arm. It hurts a lot.”
She held it out to him, and he gently pushed her tunic sleeve up. Only then did he realize what she was wearing-a tunic, pants, and a small sword at her side. “Sil, what are you wearing?” he asked as he examined her arm.
“Sil?” she smiled.
“Can I call you Sil?”
“You can call me anything you want,” she told him. A spasm of pain crossed her face as Aramir gently wiggled her wrist.
“Don’t worry, its just sprained,” he informed her. “You’ll be fine.” He promptly ripped a long piece of fabric off of his shirt and gently wrapped it about her wrist. “You’ll be fine,” he repeated.
He helped her to her feet and she threw her arms around his neck again. “I’m already perfect.”
He hugged her back, hands clasped about her waist. After a moment, he backed up and asked again, “What are you wearing?”
“The clothes of one who is going to live in the wild the rest of her life,” she told him, a hint of defiance in her voice.
“No,” he responded immediately. “Isilmë, you can’t do that.”
“Why not?” she asked, looking crushed. “I thought you would be happy. Don’t you want me with you?”
“I want you with me more than anything else in the world,” he murmured, bringing his face so close to hers that they almost touched. “But you can’t just run away from it. Think about it. All your life, they would chase after you, hunt you down, the lost Princess of Gondor, kidnapped by that terrible Exile. And what would happen to you if something happened to me? Then where would you go? There is no place in the wild for a princess.” His words were soft and gentle, but there was firmness in his voice also. “Besides,” he muttered, looking away, “There’s something you don’t know.”
She caught an almost guilty tone in his voice. “Aramir?” she whispered, already fearing what he was about to say. “Aramir, you didn’t…?”
He nodded and sighed loudly. All around them the storm raged. “I did.”
“Aramir! How could you break your exile?”
“I wanted to see you again,” he told her, pulling her close and brushing her wet hair out of her eyes. “I missed you so much. I’m sorry, Isilmë.”
She let him hold her, allowing her head to come to rest on his chest. “At least you weren’t caught. I shouldn’t be worried if no one knows you were there.”
Aramir bit his lip. He wished he could just go along with what she had said, but he could not lie.
His silence told her everything. “You were caught? But Aramir, you’re here, I mean…” she stopped as he held up his hand. Quietly he explained everything that had happened, his breaking of exile, being caught and thrown into prison, meeting Kell, and then his going to find her. Isilmë’s eyes widened in amazement as she listened.
“There’s more,” he said quietly when he was done. “You won’t like it though. I’m going back.”
Her head snapped up from where it had fallen back on his chest. Her icy-blue eyes stared at him in shock and horror. “Go-going back? Aramir, you just got through telling me all of the horrible things they did to you. And now you say you’re going back!!?”
He nodded calmly. He reached out to touch her face, but she backed up several steps, anger and worry in her eyes.
“Aramir, are you crazy? Don’t you realize what will happen to you if you go back? They’ll throw you in back prison. They might even kill you. You can not do this!”
Aramir sighed. He had expected this, but his mind was made up. “I know the risks I take. But this is something I should have done long ago. I need to make them see that they were wrong about me. I want to show them that I have honor; that I will not run away; that I am not the Orc they think I am- with no feelings and no honor. You have no idea what that is like. And they need to know about Janst. He can’t just use you like he is.”
“It won’t matter,” Isilmë declared, turning her back on Aramir. “He will see you killed, and then he will have won anyway. No matter what happens, he will win. There is nothing you can do.”
“You don’t think I can do anything? Sil?” He reached out and put his hand on her shoulder, but she brushed it away.
“Please, Isilmë, listen to me,” Aramir pleaded, placing his hand on her shoulder again.
She shied away as though she had been struck. “No!” she cried angrily. “Why should I listen to you? You’re just a filthy-” the rest of her accusation was drowned out by a sudden crack of thunder. But Aramir had heard enough. He hung his head, a deep sadness coming over him.
“I suppose that is true, your Highness,” he whispered, but she heard him clearly.
“Don’t call me that,” she ordered.
“Why not? It is what you are. A true Princess of Gondor, your father’s daughter,” he muttered bitterly, his eyes piercing her own.
Isilmë’s eyes widened as his words hit her. Then she fell to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. Aramir stood over her, the anger seeping out of him as quickly as it had come. He knelt beside her and gently cupped her chin in his hand.
“Oh Isilmë. I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “I should not have said that. Can you forgive me?”
She paused, tears falling freely down her face. “Only if you’ll forgive me,” she said finally in a barely audible voice.
Aramir smiled in relief and stuck out his hand. “Deal.”
Isilmë stared at the hand offered to her for a moment, as though afraid it would disappear. Then she took Aramir’s hand and pulled him towards her, kissing him firmly on the lips.
Aramir knelt frozen in shock for several seconds before he could react. Then he smoothly put his arms around the girl’s waist and hugged her tight, kissing her back softly. Suddenly the entire storm seemed to die away. The thunder stopped, the lightening ceased, and the rain was no more. The trees and forest melted away, and all that was left were Aramir and Isilmë, kneeling in the middle of the clearing. Isilmë clung to Aramir as though he would vanish at any moment, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. Aramir’s feeling returned to him, the feeling that nothing would ever trouble him again, not pain, not fear, not doubt, nothing at all. He leaned into her, but instead of pressing back against him, she let him push her backwards, lowering herself to the ground, arms still wrapped about him. Aramir leaned over her still, until he was nearly on top of her, kissing her deeply. Realizing what was happening, he released his grip about her and sat back, looking almost embarrassed, but still smiling in pleasure. The storm suddenly returned in all its fury.
Aramir smiled. “You should forgive me more often,” he told her playfully.
Isilmë sat up and laughed. She reached up to brush his hair out of his face, and her fingers momentarily swept past the crescent-moon necklace he wore. Aramir’s eyes followed her fingers and came to rest on his necklace before they drifted to her neck. He gave a small start when he realized she was not wearing her necklace. He tried to mask the hurt he felt, but Isilmë saw it.
“Oh Aramir, I’m sorry,” she whispered, caressing his face in her hands. “Janst took it, and I don’t know what he did with it. Please don’t be upset.”
Aramir’s eyes filled with understanding. “Oh Sil, it’s all right. I’m not angry at you, just Janst. Don’t worry.”
He embraced her gently for a moment, then stood up slowly. “We should be going now,” he muttered.
He helped the Princess to her feet and carefully inspected her injured hand, seeming satisfied that it was all right. She blushed softly as he pulled his black cloak off and draped it across her shoulders.
“Am I honorary Itir for the day?” she asked with a grin.
He nodded and smiled, rather sadly. “Either that or honorary Exile. Not that it will do you much good since its all wet.”
Isilmë smiled. “It alright,” she assured him.
Aramir turned suddenly and whistled sharply. Narmo trotted out of the woods up to his master. He playfully but gently butted Isilmë with his head, and she stroked him softly, praising his courage and his devotion to his master. He whickered in pleasure.
Aramir smiled at his horse. “He missed you,” he told Isilmë as he gently picked her up and set her on the horse. He swung on behind her and put his hands around her waist. She leaned back against him, sighing softly. She tried to suppress a yawn, but failed miserably.
“Aramir,” she muttered sleepily as Narmo walked out of the clearing, “Are you sure everything will be all right?”
He reached down and stroked her hair. “I’m sure.” He paused a moment, then leaned over slightly and put his lips to her ear. “I love you Isilmë.”
Isilmë pressed herself even closer to him, then whispered, “I love you too Aramir.”
They rode silently out of the clearing and back towards Gondor. Neither noticed the dark figure that followed behind them from a distance.
Chapter 8: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9233.html
Chapter 9: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9273.html
Chapter 10: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9304.html
Chapter 11: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9357.html
Chapter 12: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9374.html