She awoke the next morning to find Aramir gone. Not the least bit surprised, she rose and stretched. Instantly, Aramir seemed to appear in front of her. He hurriedly clapped his hand over her mouth.
“No screaming,” he said with a grin, removing his hand.
“Good morning to you too.” She rolled her eyes.
He offered her another odd fruit, this one smaller and sweeter than the last. She ate it quickly, walking around the camp to stretch her sore muscles. Aramir seemed to be in a fine mood, showing no sign of the encounter of the previous night. Isilmë decided there was no point in bringing it up so soon, and pushed it out of her mind. After she was finished, Aramir helped her mount Narmo, though she could have easily done it herself. Something told her not to refuse his help, however; perhaps it was the events of last night.
They rode on from there, trying hard to stay out of the sun, which beat down upon them, causing them to sweat freely. Isilmë was constantly waving her hands above her head, trying in vain to swat at the gnats and flies that seemed to take pleasure in torturing them. The day only got hotter as it went on, and about mid-afternoon, Aramir suddenly brought Narmo to a halt and dismounted. Isilmë followed curiously. They had already stopped for lunch a while ago, so what was he doing? She asked him as much. Aramir didn’t answer; instead, he pulled off first his tunic, then his undershirt and weapons. Finally he reached down and pulled off his boots. Isilmë raised her eyebrows.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
Aramir smiled. “Trying to cool off. Follow me.”
He left Narmo, his weapons, and his clothes in a small clearing and motioned for her to follow him. He led her down a small path as a strange roaring noise began to ring in her ears.
“Aramir?” she began as he led her around a large boulder. Then she stopped as the source of the sound became evident. A small waterfall fell into a crystal-clear pool about 100 yards ahead. The water sparkled in the sunlight and reflected into Isilmë’s eyes, causing her to shade them with her hand. Aramir trotted to the edge of the pool and leapt in gracefully. He remained under for nearly a minute before he popped up in the middle of the pool.
“Come on in!” he invited with a wave of his hand, “Its very nice.”
“It’s freezing!” Isilmë declared, dipping her hand in the water.
“Aww, come on. It’s not that bad.” He swam to the edge of the pool and climbed out, standing next to her, water dripping off of him.
“You stay away from me,” she ordered, backing up with a smile.
“Please come in. Please, please, please.” He gave her his best pleading look.
“No. And even if I did, what would I wear?” She looked down at her dress.
“Are you afraid the fish won’t like your dress?”
“No!” she cried in amusement.
“Then come in. Pleaseee,” he begged, walking forward.
“No. I’m not going in.” She folded her arms over her chest.
“Come on, Isilmë.”
“No, I’m not, no, ARAMIR!!!” she screeched as he wrapped his wet arms around her and pulled her into the water. She came up trying not to laugh.
Aramir, however, was laughing hysterically. “Aren’t you clumsy!” he howled.
“Clumsy! You pulled me in, you little-ahh!” The rest of her comment was lost as Aramir swam under her and pulled on her feet, dragging her under the water. She kicked hard and he let go of her. Bobbing back up, she swam over to him and pushed him under with a cry of glee. He ducked under the water, wrapping his arms around her waist as he went and dragging her down as well. Isilmë kicked furiously, trying to break his hold on her and finally pulled away, rising back to the surface. They fought on for quite a while before Isilmë climbed out, drenched, freezing, and laughing like she was mad. Her dress clung to her and she had no doubt that anyone looking could have seen right through it, but she really didn’t care.
“I’m going to dry off,” she told him.
“So you admit defeat?” he asked triumphantly.
“I do, sir,” she said humbly, bowing to him.
“I accept your surrender, m’lady. Yell if you need me.” He backstroked across the pool, laughing to himself as she walked away. She had not been gone ten minutes when he heard her scream.
“Aramir!” Her voice was frantic. Narmo’s whinny followed as Aramir scrambled out of the pool. He flew back to the clearing, fearing the worst. Upon reaching it, he stopped dead and stared at the scene. Isilmë sat upon Narmo, a look of pure terror on her face. And for a good reason-horse and rider were surrounded by more than a dozen Orcs, spears, bows, and swords pointed at her. Aramir saw that Isilmë had his sword and was swinging it in vain at the advancing Orcs.
“Isilmë!” he called out.
She turned, and so did the Orcs, who immediately gave up on Isilmë for this more vulnerable prey. She threw his sword to him over their heads, and Aramir caught it deftly. Instantly the Orcs were upon him, and he disappeared for a moment under a mass of horrific bodies. Then two Orcs went flying backwards and landed dead upon the ground. Swords clanged as Aramir battled the Orcs back and forth across the clearing. A sudden idea came to Isilmë, and she slipped off of Narmo’s back and seized Aramir’s bow. She fitted and arrow to the string and sent it flying into the nearest Orc, who fell dead with a cry. She hurriedly grabbed another arrow and shot again, blessing her archery instructor as she shot.
The battle raged on. These Orcs were no mere Orcs; they fought more like the long-forgotten Uruk-Hai. But Aramir was more than a match for them, aided by Isilmë’s deadly shots, and within minutes only one remained-the largest and strongest looking of the bunch, who, up until now, had merely watched the fight. Now he stepped forward, sword up and ready, and Aramir leapt for him. Their swords clanged loudly with a great force. Back and forth they fought across the clearing, each trying to gain an advantage on the other. Aramir repeatedly struck the Orc, but his thick chain mail blocked most of the blows. Suddenly Aramir’s bare foot struck a sharp rock hidden in the grass. He threw up his hands momentarily to keep his balance, and in that moment, his adversary struck. His giant broadsword swept across Aramir’s side, cutting deep into his bare skin, leaving nearly an eight-inch cut across the right side of his stomach. Aramir gave a cry and clutched his side in pain. Then he raised his sword and swung hard. Left, right, left, right, back and forth he swung, and the Uruk-Hai blocked him each time. Left, right, left, right, left, right, Right again. It worked. The Orc was unprepared for this change in pattern, and he blocked from the wrong side, leaving Aramir’s sword free to cut across his neck. The Orc fell to the ground, dead. Panting hard, Aramir stood a moment longer, then collapsed.
“Aramir!” Isilmë cried, running to his side. “Aramir, can you hear me?”
“Of course I can. He didn’t cut off my ears.” Aramir grinned weakly.
If the situation hadn’t been so serious, Isilmë probably would have laughed. “Are you alright?” What a stupid question, of course he wasn’t. “I mean, are you-“
“Its ok, its ok, don’t worry. I’ll be fine. Help me up.” His voice was surprisingly calm and reassuring.
She did as instructed, then helped him walk back to the edge of the pool, where she cleaned his cut. He told her where to find some medicine in his pack, and she retrieved it and rubbed the strange-looking cream over the wound. It stank horribly, but it seemed to succeed in reducing Aramir’s bleeding. She said nothing of the jet-black blood that flowed from the wound.
“We need something to wrap it in,” Aramir told her. “Go get my cloak.”
But she shook her head and promptly ripped an entire sleeve off of her dress. Aramir raised his eyebrows but did not comment as she wrapped it around his waist. After she finished wrapping the first piece, she turned and ripped the other sleeve off and proceeded to wrap that around him as well. By the time she was completely done, both sleeves were gone, as well as some of the skirt. The fabric around her waist had been torn while she was fleeing from the Orcs, so she had pulled that off as well.
“Look at you,” Aramir admonished. “You look like, like-” He didn’t seem to want to say whatever it was he was thinking.
Isilmë shrugged. “I don’t care. Now go to sleep, you need to rest.”
Aramir shook his head like a little boy refusing to take a nap. “I’m not going to sleep. I’ll just lie here a while.” He placed his hands behind his head and smiled up at her.
“You could tell me a story while we sit,” she suggested.
“What do you want to hear, dear?” he asked with a smile.
She looked him straight in the eye. “I want to know how a part-Orc, former member of the Itir got to where he is now.”
The smile vanished from Aramir’s face and was replaced by a look of understanding and horror. “You heard that, didn’t you? Last night, with Morag.” He groaned.
She nodded solemnly.
“And you’re not frightened?”
She shook her head. “Should I be?”
He stared at her, opened his mouth, then shut it. He was, for the first time in his life, at a loss of what to say. Finally, he sighed. “Very well, milady. I supposed I owe you the truth anyway.”
Chapter 1: https://www.theonering.com/docs/8940.html
Chapter 2: https://www.theonering.com/docs/8986.html
Chapter 3: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9047.html
Chapter 4: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9079.html
Chapter 5: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9131.html
Chapter 6: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9136.html
Chapter 7: https://www.theonering.com/docs/9198.html