Night came and went, and Aramir awoke the next morning not quite sure where he was. It only took a few seconds before he remembered, and his first thought was that sleeping in this bed had surely been a mistake, since they were just going to throw him back in prison. Then he saw King Arodan’s smile, and remembered the necklace, and a flicker of hope passed through him. Be positive. That was what Kellian had said. All right, he thought, I’ll try.
He stretched lazily, not quite ready to get up. His head rested on a soft pillow, instead of the usual hard ground, and his blankets were soft and warm and comforting. If only he hadn’t gotten himself exiled… No! a voice in his mind cried. Janst did that, not you. The thought of Janst and what he had done to Aramir was enough to make the Exile sit up in anger and annoyance. His eyes drifted around the room, then came to rest upon the sleeping figure in the bed next to his. Isilmë, completely unaware that he was even there, slept soundly, breathing softly.
Smiling now, Aramir rose quietly. He walked silently through the pair of open doors that led to the balcony overlooking the city. The early morning sun beat down upon his bare chest, warming him, even as the soft, cool breeze tried to chill him. He shook his head gently, letting his dark hair blow in the wind. He leaned on the balcony rail and stared up at the sun, closing his eyes and letting it warm his face. He sighed contentedly. This was where he belonged, here in Gondor, as an Itir. Not out in the wild, where every day was another fight to stay alive. Not that it wasn’t the same here, he mused, thinking again of Janst.
Suddenly a movement in the gardens below caught his ears. His eyes snapped open and he look down curiously. A man was walking through the garden. He had long brown hair, which was tied in a loose ponytail at his neck, but other than that he was clean-shaven. He was neither young nor old, but somewhere in between. His black clothing identified him as an Itir, if the white insignia on his tunic did not. His walk was purposeful, not lazy and meandering, but nor was it rushed. He seemed to have somewhere to go, but he wasn’t in a hurry to get there. Aramir’s black eyes sparkled in silent laughter as he dashed across the room and hurriedly swept up his cloak. He carried it back over to the balcony and peered over cautiously, waiting for the man to get just a bit closer. Closer, closer, then the man was right under the balcony. Aramir stood up and dropped the cloak over the edge, then crouched back behind the rail. The man’s startled cry told him he had hit his mark. He peered over again to seen the man furiously swatting at the cloak that had fallen on his head like it was an attacker. Unable to contain it any longer, Aramir began to laugh. The man finished separating himself from the cloak and looked up at Aramir in annoyance.
“Good morning to you too, Aramir,” he called, amusement clear in his voice. Then he stopped and did a complete double take. “Aramir!?”
Aramir grinned down at the man. “Good morning Lee.”
“It is you! My gosh, I don’t believe it!” Lee cried loudly.
“Be quiet, you want to wake everyone up with news that I’m here? They don’t need that first thing in the morning.” Grinning, he looked down to the gardens, judging the distance. It wasn’t that far.
“Aramir, Aramir NO!” Lee yelled, but it was no use. Aramir leapt nimbly over the railing, crying out in excitement, and landed with a soft thud next to the Captain of the Itir. He straightened up and grinned again.
Lee shook his head. “Still crazy,” he admonished, trying to sound stern, but his broad smile gave him away. He gave the young man a quick once-over before steeping forward to embrace him. Aramir hugged him back enthusiastically, ignoring the pain in his side. After a moment, Lee backed away. “Well, I’m sure there’s a story here somewhere. What brings you back out of exile?”
“A very long story,” Aramir assured him. “Would you like to hear it?”
Lee opened his mouth to answer, but he was cut off by an annoyed cry from the balcony above.
“Young man, get back up here right this instant! I’m sure whatever you have to say to the Captain can wait until I’ve checked you wounds.” Irian’s face peered down at the two men, twisted in annoyance.
Aramir grimaced and Lee laughed. “Ahh, so you’ve met the Healer of Doom,” Lee whispered, speaking the words like they were a title.
“I heard that Captain!” Irian called from above, sounding both amused and annoyed.
Aramir and Lee dissolved into laughter.
“Well, I’d better heed her command,” Aramir muttered. “How am I supposed to get back up there?”
“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” Lee laughed as he continued on. “You always do. I’ll talk to you later, if I can find you.”
“Check the dungeon,” Aramir called, only half-joking.
Lee shook his head with a smile and walked on, leaving Aramir to stare up at the balcony. He studied it for a moment before noticing the intricate ivy and other plants that were growing up the wall. He nodded to himself and walked over to the plants. A minute later he had reached the balcony. He pulled himself over the railing and lay on the balcony, only to find himself staring up at a stern-looking Irian.
He gave her a huge, innocent smile. “Heh heh,” he grinned, shrugging.
Her only response was to walk back into the room, leaving Aramir lying on the ground. He picked himself up off of the floor and followed her in. She made him sit back on the bed while she checked his wounds and then changed his bandage. When she was done she left, leaving Aramir alone again.
He wasn’t alone for very long, however, because only moments after Irian had left, Isilmë stirred and slowly sat up. She shook her head sleepily. Where was she? She looked around curiously, then recognized her surroundings. She must be in the healing room in the palace. Or the Houses of Healing. No, she was right the first time; she was still in the palace. She wiggled her wrist, testing it. It hurt only a little and she smiled, remembering that Aramir had wrapped it the night before. Aramir! Where was he? Her first thought seemed the most logical-he was probably back in prison. Anxiously she rose from her bed, not caring that she was wearing only a small, flimsy nightgown. She crossed the room to the door and opened it. She was about to go out when a familiar voice stopped her.
“Where are you going?”
Isilmë spun around in shock. Aramir stood in the middle of the room, a grin on his handsome face. “Aramir!” she cried. She ran across the room and flew into his open arms. “Aramir, what are you doing here?” she asked in relief. She didn’t give him a chance to answer, however. Instead she leaned forward and kissed him hard on the mouth. Aramir started in surprise and backed up.
“Goodness, Sil,” he teased. “Missed me?”
“Of course I missed you. I didn’t think I would ever see you again! What are you doing here?” She stared into his depthless eyes, running her hands through his hair.
“Well, there was no point in letting me die from an infection, so your father made me come here,” Aramir said in a kidding manner.
Isilmë, completely missing the joke, hugged him even more tightly. “Oh Aramir, I’m so sorry.”
Aramir smiled secretly, but before Isilmë could ask why he looked happy, he leaned forward and softly kissed her lips. Surprised, Isilmë gently kissed him back. Irian chose that moment to reenter the room. She stood in the doorframe, staring in shock at the young man and the Princess, then admonished sternly, “Princess Isilmë!”
Isilmë pulled away from Aramir in embarrassment and turned to Irian. “Good morning,” she greeted.
The Healer woman simply stared at her for a moment as though she had gone mad, then quickly regained her composure. “Your bath is ready, m’lady,” she said stiffly.
Isilmë nodded and followed Irian into the next room, leaving Aramir in the middle of the room, looking amused. Moments later Irian reappeared, her sharp eyes watching Aramir like a hawk. “I have a bath drawn for you as well,” she muttered reluctantly. “Goodness knows you need it.”
Aramir only raised his eyebrows and followed the woman into a small room, where a steaming hot bath of water waited. He knew Irian was right, he was filthy as a result of last night’s adventure…as a result of his entire life, actually. It was odd, but neither the rain nor the swim in the lake had done anything to make him any cleaner. He waited only until Irian had left before pulling off his clothes and climbing into the water. Ducking under the surface, he let the water warm him as it washed away all of the dirt and blood he had accumulated as of late. After nearly a minute, he popped back up above the water, taking a deep breath. He ran his hands through his messy hair, feeling truly clean for the first time in a long, long time.
When he was finished, he climbed out of the water to find a small pile of clothes set on a chair. He put them on, feeling rather odd as he did. Already he missed his old clothes, not that there was anything to miss anymore except shreds of fabric. It wasn’t until he was fully dressed that he realized something-Irian had given him an Itir’s uniform. The white insignia on the tunic clearly identified the wearer as an Itir, as did the black sash that he left on the chair. Aramir bit his lip nervously. Now what was he supposed to do? The sash was easy enough to simply forget, but he couldn’t take the symbol off- the intricate stitching was far too complicated. He could simply not wear it, but something told him Irian wouldn’t stand for that. He pulled the garment off and looked at it curiously. Slowly he turned it inside out, studying it. He put it back on, inside out, then looked at himself in the full length mirror. It wasn’t too obvious…maybe he could get away with it until he got a different tunic. Satisfied, he pulled it off again and went back into the main healing room, where Irian re-wrapped his wound. When that was finished, he pulled the tunic on and sat upon his bed, waiting for Isilmë. Irian, who now stood across the room, mixing healing herbs, glanced up at him as he sat down. He smiled at her, but she only stared coolly back at him.
“You tunic is inside out,” she declared as she continued to mix the herbs.
So much for that idea. But inside out was better than wearing an Itir’s uniform, considering he had already broken enough rules. He ran his hand through his wet, but clean hair, thinking how long it had been since he felt this way. Several minutes later, Isilmë came back from the little room, dressed in a pale blue dress, much like the one she had worn when Aramir had first met her. Her long, wet hair hung down her back, but she didn’t seem to mind.
She crossed the room and sat down next to him with a smile. “You’re clean,” she declared.
“Don’t sound so surprised,” Aramir retorted.
She tried to smile, but was unsuccessful. Gently she rested her head on his shoulder, then picked it back up and stared at him oddly. “Aramir, your tunic is inside out.”
Aramir rolled his eyes and snorted. “I know that,” he muttered. Perhaps this wasn’t going to work. “Don’t ask.”
Isilmë shook her head. “You’re crazy, do you know that?” she asked affectionately as she played with his hair.
“Yes, I know,” he said, giving her a half-smile.
She smiled sadly at him and he put his arm around her waist as she leaned up against him. Aramir opened his mouth to tell her what had happened to him last night, but suddenly the door to the healing room swung open and Kellian walked in.
“Good morning Princess, Aramir,” he greeted each with a smile.
“Good morning Kellian,” they answered together.
“Aramir, you’re clean!” Kellian exclaimed in mock amazement, placing his hands on his face, mouth open in surprise.
Isilmë snorted, and Aramir crossed his arms over his chest in a mock pout. “I know. First they made me sleep in a bed, and then they made me take a bath. Can you believe it?”
He and Kellian cracked up, and Isilmë stared at them in surprise.
“How can you two be so calm and cheerful?” she asked.
“Sorry,” Aramir apologized with a small smile. “I’m just trying to make the best of a bad situation. I can be serious if you want.”
“No he can’t” Kellian muttered under his breath.
Isilmë giggled, forcing herself to smile. “You are right. I should do the same. It’s just, I don’t know how.”
There was a brief pause, then Aramir suggested, “You could start by looking down.”
Confused, the Princess did as he requested. She immediately saw the moon charm dangling about her neck.
“Where did this come from?” she cried.
“From your father,” he told her.
Kellian rose suddenly. “You know what, I think I have heard this story before, so if you will excuse me, I shall be right back.” He bowed quickly to Isilmë and left the room.
Aramir watched him go, then turned to an extremely eager, anxious-looking Isilmë. Slowly he began to tell her the events of the previous night. Isilmë listened quietly, eyes wide in amazement. Aramir was about to tell her about Irian when the door to the healing room flew open and smashed into the wall with a bang! A very familiar figure stood in the entrance, rage painted in his face.
“Ah-ha!” Janst cried in triumph, glaring horribly at Aramir.
Both Aramir and Isilmë leapt to their feet in surprise at the intrusion. Isilmë backed around the bed, safely out of reach of the man. Aramir stood where he was, staring calmly at Janst.
“Good morning, Captain,” he greeted, trying to sound friendly.
“Good for me, perhaps, but not for you, Exile!” Janst spat. He drew his sword angrily, ready to strike.
“I don’t want to fight you, Janst,” Aramir declared softly, holding his hands up.
“You don’t want to fight me! Ha! You have no choice. You don’t want to fight me because you know you will loose.” Janst moved forward several steps, but Aramir held his ground.
“I mean it,” Aramir announced. “I will not fight you.”
“Then you will die!” Janst cried. With a howl of hatred he leapt for Aramir. But he never made it. Someone seized him from behind and pulled him to the ground. Kellian leapt on top of the Captain and grabbed his hands, forcing them behind his back and seizing the sword. But Janst would not give up without a fight. He struggled madly, spun, and forced his boot into the Elf’s stomach. Kellian barely even flinched, and he jammed his own boot into Janst’s lower abdomen. The Captain howled in pain. The Itir kicked him again, and then seized his hands again and yanked them behind his back. Janst may have been strong, but he was no match for Kellian. The entire thing was over within seconds.
“I told you I’d be right back,” Kellian greeted Aramir with a smile.
Aramir raised his eyebrows. “Thanks Kell.”
“No problem,” his friend returned, still holding a struggling Janst. “Want to do me a favor? See if you can find some rope.”
Aramir glanced around the room, not sure where he would find rope in a room like this. Irian appeared at his side, holding several long rolls of bandages.
“Will this work?” she asked, offering them to Aramir.
He took them from her with a thankful smile. “Perfect.”
Making his way over to Kellian and Janst, Aramir unwrapped the bandage. While the Elf held Jasnt’s hands, he wrapped them tightly with the material.
“Thanks,” Kellian said. “By the way, Aramir, your tunic is inside out.”
“I know!” Aramir cried, throwing his hands into the air. He banged his head up against the wall in exasperation. Isilmë dissolved into laughter.
Suddenly another figure appeared in the doorway. “Kellian, what was the meaning of…oh.” King Arodan stood in the entrance to the room, looking slightly out of breath.
“I am terribly sorry, your Highness,” Kellian apologized, bowing slightly. “I was-“
“It is quite alright,” the King assured him with a nod.
“My Lord!” Janst cried in desperation. “Look at what this…this Orc is doing to me!”
“His name is Aramir!” Isilmë spat angrily.
“I don’t care!” Janst retorted. “He doesn’t deserve to be called anything except what he is!”
“How dare you speak to my daughter like that!” the King cried in fury. Janst recoiled in fear, but he did not look the least bit sorry for his outburst.
The King turned to face Aramir, then Kellian, and then his daughter. “There is to be a trial today,” he announced quietly, but they all head him clearly.
“A trial?” Isilmë gasped, taking Aramir’s hand.
“Yes,” the King nodded. “A trial for you-” he looked at Aramir. “And for you.” He looked at Janst.
“ME!?” Janst cried in horror.
“Yes, you.” The King glared at him. “In one hour. Kellian, you know the procedure. I have notified Captain Lee, and he wishes to see you as soon as you are available. Actually,” Arodan paused, thinking. “Actually, if you will all go down to the dining hall, Lee and the other Itir are waiting there. Isilmë, you must come with me.”
“But I-” Isilmë objected, pressing closer to Aramir.
“No buts,” her father said sternly, but then his face softened. “Don’t worry, Isilmë,” he said kindly, gently pulling her away from Aramir. She held the Exile’s hand as long as she was able before following her father to the door. Upon reaching it, the King turned.
“Oh yes, by the way. Aramir, your-“
“-tunic is inside out, I know!” Aramir cried.
“That’s not what I was going to say, but now that you mention it…”
“AAAAHHHHHH!!” Aramir screamed, flopping over on the nearest bed.
Arodan raised his eyebrows. “Obviously I’m not the first to tell you that. Why don’t you fix it?”
“Because it is an Itir tunic,” Aramir muttered, staring up at the ceiling.
“Oh,” the King said, but before he could say anything else, something black landed on Aramir’s head. Startled, he sat up, pulling it off, only to discover that it was a black tunic-with no insignia.
“Better?” Irian asked from the foot of the bed.
“Yes, thank you,” Aramir mumbled, pulling the Itir tunic off.
The Healer’s only response was a smile that suggested she knew much more about the situation than she was letting on.
“What I was going to say,” Arodan announced, “Was that your weapons are in the dining hall with the Itir.”
Aramir perked up at the mention of his weapons and smiled thankfully at the King.
“Well then, we shall see you in an hour.” The King and Isilmë turned to leave, but suddenly Aramir jumped up with a cry.
“Princess Isilmë!” he cried.
She turned to him in surprise. He walked up to her, reaching into his new tunic as he did. He produced a small leather bag and handed it to her. “I believe this is yours, my lady,” he said, bowing slightly.
“But Aramir,” she protested, pushing the bag away from her.
“Take it,” he insisted. “You may need it.”
She sighed in defeat and took the little bag. She stepped forward and quickly kissed his cheek. “Don’t call me Princess,” she whispered as she backed up, then turned and followed her father out of the room. Suddenly Arodan turned.
“One more thing. Kellian- he may be your best friend, but for the time being, he is simply you prisoner. Remember that.” Then he and Isilmë were gone.
“Right,” Kellian said to no one in particular. “Which means…”
“Which means you have to tie me up too,” Aramir said lightly, not sounding the least bit bothered by the fact.
“Yes,” Kellian agreed with a sigh. “Sorry, Ar.”
Aramir shrugged his indifference. “It’s alright.”
Kellian left Janst in the corner, under the watchful eyes of Irian. He loosely tied Aramir’s hands behind his back, so loosely that Aramir could have easily gotten out of the ties. When the Elf was finished he drew his sword out and gestured to the door with his free hand.
“Alright, lets go.”
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
Chapter 13: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9424.html
Chapter 14: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9494.html