They had ridden nearly two hours when Isilmë noticed lights up ahead, which gradually became a small inn. She heaved a sigh or relief. About an hour into their ride, the storm had turned suddenly vicious, sending torrents of rain down upon them. Lightening cracked and thunder boomed. The princess had been very glad that the young man’s horse was so well trained-he hadn’t spooked once. And although the storm had subsided, it was still raining like mad, and both riders and the horse were soaked through. Of course, that wasn’t the main reason she was relieved- riding for two hours behind Aramir had been torture. Having no reins to preoccupy his hands, he had held hers firmly around his waist the entire time, entwining his fingers in her own in a way that, had they been in different circumstances, might have sent shivers down her spine. It did not, however, and no matter how hard she had pulled, or ordered, or screamed, it had proved useless. Concern or no, Isilmë had decided that she did not like Aramir at all, with his confident, very forward manner and his constant teasing. And on top of that, there was the whole Orc ordeal, which she had chosen not to think about.
The horse halted in front of the inn, and the young man dismounted. Isilmë followed, ignoring the hand that he offered her. He said something inaudible to the horse, who promptly turned and trotted off towards the stables. Isilmë was rather impressed. If there was anything she liked about Aramir, it was his horse.
“This way,” Aramir instructed, leading the girl up a small flight of stairs and into the building.
It took Isilmë’s eyes a moment to adjust to the dimness, and when they did, she saw several of the men seated at the bar staring at her in obvious lust. She glanced down at herself, seeing her dress soaking wet and clinging to her, and gritted her teeth. If any of them, especially Aramir, got anywhere near her, they would regret it. Trying to ignore the discomfort she felt, she followed Aramir over to where the bartender was pouring someone a tankard of ale.
“Back so soon, Aramir?” the man asked casually, sounding slightly surprised.
“Mmm-hmm,” was all Aramir said. “And we need a room,” he added, nodding his head in the princess’ direction.
The bartender’s eyes shot up. “You want a room, Aramir? I thought I knew you well enough…” he trailed off as he consulted a stained piece of parchment on the counter. “Well, well, we are full tonight.” He looked up. “I have only one room left, and it only has one bed.”
Aramir shrugged casually. “That’s fine.”
Isilmë drew back sharply. That was certainly not fine!
If the bartender noticed the look on Isilmë’s face, he didn’t say anything. Instead, he simply pulled a small key out from under the bar and gave Aramir directions to the room. Aramir took it and motioned the girl to follow him, which she did, very reluctantly. They walked up another flight of stairs and down a dim hallway. Upon reaching the door, Aramir unlocked it and waked in, leaving the girl in the hall. Well, she thought as she followed him in, he certainly doesn’t have very nice manners.
Aramir motioned to the bed dramatically. “Your bed, My Lady,” he said with an elaborate bow. Isilmë only stared at him, unwilling to move. Aramir shrugged his shoulders and turned away from her. He pulled his shirt off and shook his head, sending beads of water flying across the room. Isilmë’s eyes widened as she saw several large scars across his back, but she said nothing, only backed up nervously and clutched at her dagger. Aramir, however, made no move from where he was standing. Instead, he pulled another shirt out of the leather bag that he had carried and pulled it over his head, then turned to face her. “Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to feed Narmo.” With that he swiftly exited the room, closing the door behind him.
Isilmë flopped down ungracefully on the bed. She sat stiffly, trying to think and refusing to get comfortable. But the bed felt so nice, and she hadn’t slept in a bed in nearly a week…NO! she yelled at herself. If she went to sleep, there was no telling what Aramir would do to her.
She sat for nearly fifteen minutes before he came back. He saw her, still sitting on the bed, soaking wet, and looked surprised.
“Aren’t you going to change?” he asked her.
She glared at him. “Change into what?” she retorted.
Aramir shrugged. “Good point. I’d offer you some of my clothes, but I don’t think they would fit. Besides, you look nice in that colour.” He grinned. “I can get you a new dress if you want.”
Isilmë shook her head. “No thank you,” she said evenly. “I’m fine.”
Aramir shrugged. “As you wish, milady. Are you going to sleep?”
“Why not?” His slow, mocking smile spread over his face again. “Don’t you trust me?”
“No, I don’t,” she snapped, loosing patience with him.
“I suppose I don’t blame you,” he told her. “Not many people do.” For the first time since she had met him, he actually looked serious. “Honestly though, Isilmë, you can trust me.” He walked over to where she sat on the bed, and she leapt up.
“Ha! I can trust you! You, who are friends with the Orcs, who speak their language, who make deals with them, who-”
She was cut short as Aramir leapt up angrily. She backed up against the wall, but Aramir kept advancing on her until he was nearly on top of her, his face only inches from hers and filled with anger.
“How dare you!” he hissed. “How dare you say such things about me. Now hear me, girl. True, I speak the language of the Orcs, true, I rescued you by a deal, and not by force, but I am no more allied with them than you are.”
“Oh? Then how is it you know the language, if they did not teach you? How is it you seem to get along so well with them? You didn’t have any trouble getting them to hand me over to you, did you?” Isilmë knew she was pushing it, but now that she had begun, she couldn’t stop.
Aramir’s eyes narrowed into slits. “I believe you were blindfolded when I came in,” he reminded her. “As for the language, I speak it for reasons of my own. You would be wise to learn the truth before making wild accusations.” With that he turned and stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Isilmë stood for several moments, rooted to the ground in shock at what had just happened. Had he truly just done that? She knew she had gone too far, but what was she supposed to think about him? It wasn’t like he had given her any answers; in fact, it seemed to her that he was hiding something. But what? After several minutes she still had no idea, so she pulled off her wet cloak and slowly left the room, walking silently down the hall and down into the main room.
How dare she! Aramir thought angrily, trying desperately to get control of his feelings. It wasn’t easy. She had no right to say any of that. Still, he had to reason with himself, he hadn’t exactly given a good impression of himself, teasing her and otherwise. And then there was the whole rescue from the Orcs. He didn’t even want to think about that, although inwardly he was pleased by how well it had worked. Dejectedly, he hung his head. …”trial of Aramir Nárëgond of the Itir, charged with being of Orcin descent and a danger to our city”…
“What’s the matter, Orc-boy?” a smug, drunken sounding voice broke into Aramir’s thoughts. He didn’t even have to look up to know who it was.
“Nothing, Corin. I’m just fine.”
“You’re pretty stupid to come back so soon, but since you brought her with you, I think I’ll forgive you.”
Aramir looked up and saw Isilmë sitting across the room, ignoring his gaze. What was she doing?
Corin rose from his seat, swaying slightly. “I think I’ll go introduce myself,” he said, then turned and stumbled drunkenly over to Isilmë.
Aramir shrugged and went back to his sulking. …”you have kept if from us. Why?” “I did not think it would matter. I always thought that it was what is inside that mattered.” “It is! And what is inside of you is filthy black Orc blood!”…
“Let go of me!” Aramir’s head jerked up and he immediately spotted Isilmë, pinned in the corner of the inn by Corin, who had his hands around her waist and was looking at her like…Aramir did not let the thought finish. He leapt out of his seat and flew over to where Corin and the girl stood.
“Let her go.” Aramir demanded angrily.
Corin smirked at the Exile, then turned back to Isilmë. He leaned towards her, as though to kiss her, but he was stopped abruptly as Aramir’s dagger met his throat.
“Perhaps you did not hear me the first time. I told you to let the girl go.” Aramir’s voice was low and dangerous, and Isilmë felt a chill run down her spine. Whoever he was, there was no doubt left in her mind that Aramir was not someone a man would want as his enemy.
Corin’s hands dropped from Isilmë’s waist, and she fled out of the room and back up the stairs, not bothering to glance behind her.
Aramir lowered his dagger. “Thank you,” he growled.
“You’re welcome,” Corin muttered, turning. Then, with amazing speed for someone as drunk as he, Corin swung back around, fist up. He struck Aramir across the face, but the young Exile seemed unaffected, save that black blood dripped from his lip. With astonishing speed, he seized Corin’s arm, twisted it, locked his leg behind the other’s knees, and sent Corin crashing to the ground. Aramir turned away with a roll of his eyes, leaving Corin lying on the ground.
He turned to the bartender, looking apologetic. “Sorry about that,” he began, but the other cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“Forget about it, Corins been causing trouble all day. Well, I guess you knew that. Anyway, never mind it, we’ll take care of him. That was quite impressive, by the way. Were you an Itir in another life?” The man chuckled and turned away.
Aramir flinched slightly, memories flooding back to him, then turned and trotted back up the stairs. He reached the door to the room, only to find it locked. “Isilmë, are you in there?” There was no response, but he knew she was there. He hoped she was. “Isilmë?”