Berior, Faron, and Aralorn rode at a slow, but steady pace across the yellow plains. Ithil’s spook the night before had put all three on a heavier guard. The afternoon was rolling away, and still nothing had been seen or heard. Aralorn was careful to keep an eye on her steed, and the other two, for she knew that a horse’s senses were stronger than her’s.
Suddenly, Faron’s grey horse snorted and turned his head east. His nostrils were flared, absorbing a scent of some sort. Ithil turned her head in the same direction, but she didn’t seem frightened. She wasn’t standing on her toes and tossing her head as she did as a result of fear. The ground began to shake. Aralorn looked to Berior who stood closest to her.
“It is the Riders of Rohan,” Berior said to Aralorn. “There is no use in outrunning them. And I feel it would be good to listen for news of the South and of the Darkness.” He spoke softly to his horse and he slowed. Aralorn pulled Ithil to a walk and followed Faron and Berior. Then she saw the riders come into view. They were just as she had remembered. All looked strong and fit, as were their horses. Their hair was yellow, and their steed of many different colors, but mostly brown. The leader was tall, and rode a horse of grey color and sturdiness. Aralorn knew they had been spotted, and the Riders began to form a ring around them. Her escorts remained calm, and stood still but alert. Aralorn’s eyes darted around, surveying the Riders. All at one time the riders froze, with their spears in hand, although they were not pointed at them.
“What errand would two Elves and a Lady have in the land of the Horse Lords?” The Leader asked, his gaze hard upon them. Aralorn looked to Ithil’s neck, wishing Berior and Faron to talk for her.
“This Lady is visiting her home country,” Faron said, his eyes narrowed.
“And what is her name? What are all of you called?” The same Rider asked, his eyes glazing over all of them, and then coming to rest on Aralorn. Berior, she could tell, was finding their being treated barbarically quite rude.
“I am Berior and this is Faron – both of us hail from Rivendell, in the House of Elrond. The Lady whom we escort is named Evelird.” Aralorn sighed quietly, her eyes still not brave enough to look up.
“You are merely her escorts?”
“Yes,” said Faron. “To ensure her safety on the visit to her homeland.” Aralorn did not remember the Rohirim being so stiff and unwelcoming. Must he know all of their doings? The Rider next to the leader whispered something in his ear, which he answered.
“I am Eomer son of Eomund,” he began, “and called Third Marshal of the Mark. Please forgive my distrust and questioning, but no one can ever be sure of who is friend and ally – or who is spy and foe.” His eyes narrowed slightly, and his voice darkened.
“What has caused Rohan to not know these things for sure?” Berior asked.
“Saruman, once a friend of our Kingdom, has poisoned the mind of King Theoden. And now my Uncle can no longer recognize even his own kin. Saruman’s orcs have only been multiplying in these lands,” Eomer looked to the sky, and all around before returning his eyes to Berior and the others. “And the King will do nothing.” Aralorn shot a glance at Eomer. His face had the signs of one who had spent many days on the yellow plains. He was indeed tall, and broad shouldered. He carried a spear in his right hand, and a sword lay against his left hip. Indeed, he had the looks of a fierce warrior, but Aralorn could not say she had taken a liking to him.
“Have you spotted any orc parties near by?” Faron asked.
“No, but we have seen some signs and tracks of them close, indeed,” Eomer answered. A twinge of fear poked at Aralorn, and she closed her jaw tightly. Berior nodded, thinking, and there were a few moments of silence. “We shall let you continue,” said Eomer, catching Aralorn’s eyes. “Farewell.” Aralorn watched as, in very little time, they began to gallop away.
They decided to rest for a short time and have something to eat. Aralorn took of Ithil’s saddle and bridle, and let her graze for a while. Aralorn sat a short distance away, slowly eating some lembas bread. She was feeling the need to be alone, and think over memories that had long been forgotten. Ithil stood next to her, and Aralorn was glad to have some company. After she finished the lembas she looked around – absorbing every detail. She didn’t know how long it had been, but Faron was walking swiftly but silently toward her now.
“It is nearly dusk, but we are going to go a little further before making camp for the night,” he informed, lending her hand. Aralorn took it and stood. He smiled when she was silent, and asked, “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” Aralorn said, gently tucking her dark, long hair behind her ear that the wind had pulled forward. She usually found it an annoyance when the wind played with her hair, but she didn’t mind it this time. “It’s just the old memories returning that I had forgotten about un,- until now.” Most I would be better off not remembering, she said to herself. She spoke softly to Ithil, beckoning her to follow.
Only minutes later the three of them were cantering on into the dusk. Aralorn felt that Ithil was tense…even through the leather between them. Her strides grew choppy, and her head tossed about.
“Easy, girl,” Aralorn soothed, and Berior and Faron looked at her. “Steady, calm down.” She rubbed her neck, but it was no use. Ithil only calmed for a moment before whatever was bothering her got worse. Berior and Faron looked as if they had heard or seen something. Now Aralorn began to tremble: it was now night, and the moon was only a small crescent, providing little light. She heard a twig snap in the trees no more than 5 yards away. Ithil reared as the elves drew their bows, and surrounded Aralorn from the outside. Aralorn was far too close to turning around galloping away, but she didn’t even know where she would gallop off to. The elves’ eyes were still searching. Suddenly Berior released an arrow into the trees, and a screech was heard, to Aralorn’s horror. Another arrow swept into the forest, and Aralorn found herself defenseless. Quickly, she drew her sword. Three black arrows came from the trees: one just missing Ithil’s leg, and with a cry, the horse reared again. Aralorn was too frightened to do anything.
“Go, Aralorn!” Cried Berior, “Off now, we must flee!” And that was all Aralorn needed before wielding Ithil around and urging her on into the darkness. Soon Faron came up from behind her, and Berior, too. Then an arrow whistled straight past her cheek, but sadly struck true. Faron fell forward, the arrow sticking out from his back. Aralorn cried out, but it was no use. His horse managed to keep him upon his faithful back, and bear him away with a greater speed. Aralorn managed to look back at Berior, but he was no more. Another arrow came all to close to Ithil’s fair face and she lurched to the side, and the rider could not maintain balance. Aralorn fell to the ground. Trying to reorganize her lost breath, she searched in the dark grass for her sword. She finally found it, and tried to stand, wobbling this way and that. The orcs had come after them, and they were close now. Ithil was near by, fighting all of her instincts not to leave her rider, but it looked like a tough battle. Aralorn tried to re-mount her again, but it was too late. A rough hand grabbed her hair and pulled her back down. With a scream she hit the grass again, only to be looking into hideous, yellow eyes. She glanced around in a fraction of a second, and although her sword was sill in her hand, Ithil was gone. Another orc, taller than the rest grabbed her wrist, and with the other hand, raising his weapon. This is it, Aralorn thought. She shut her eyes, and wrinkled her face, waiting for the stroke to come. Any moment now, then, – everything seemed to get quiet. She opened her eyes, and just about fainted at the sight. Most of the orcs were staring at her with hate and confusion. But the one still holding her wrist was staring at her hand.
“No, I said!” He shouted furiously. “What is this?” Her wrist was yanked up further.
“It’s a ring,” another orc said, in a higher voice than the taller orc. “Why should we care?”
“It’s not just any ring, maggot,” the tall orc said, glaring harshly at the smaller orc, which seemed to be enough to make him even smaller.
“It looks like, -“
“Yes! I know.”
“Why can’t we just forget about it and have our way with her?” Another orc said, licking his lips and raising a sword.
“No!” the tall orc said, pushing away the other. “I’m showing this to Ugluk.” And with a growl, he wrenched Aralorn up and dragged her away. The others followed looking quite eager to get their hands on her. Aralorn had never been more frightened in her life. She wondered if her heart was even beating, for she could hardly breath. They’re wondering about my ring!, Aralorn thought to herself. She feared that they would find out her true identity. Then what?
“Ugluk,” he called.
“What? What is this?” The voice must have been Ugluk’s. It was even more gruff and demanding. Aralorn was dropped to the ground.
“She bears a ring.” At this Aralorn was grabbed by her wrist once again. She tried to keep her head down to hide her tears. Ugluk’s grip was like iron.
“I do recognize it,” Ugluk mused. “Or, I’ve been told of this ring – if it is what I think – it’s the ring of Aralorn, the sister of Aragorn son of Arathorn.” Aralorn choked at this. He knew. Her days were numbered now. “But how can it be possible?” With a growl, he grabbed Aralorn by the jaw, and looked her in the face. She cringed at his sight. His face was hideous. Ugluk laughed at this. “She looks no more than a peasant girl!” He released her face.
“Then…we can do what we want with her?” A new, sly voice said from behind her.
“Do what you want. She is of no matter,” Ugluk said, beginning to stride away. Now Aralorn understood. Her only way of survival was for them to know the truth. Just as an orc on her left raised his sword to strike, she spoke:
“Wait!” Aralorn cried out, her voice stronger than she thought it would be. “I am who you think I am. I am Aralorn the daughter of Arathorn. The sister of Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor.” All of the orcs froze. “My ring proves it. I’ve had it since birth. Yes, your master thought I was dead but I survived. He thinks I’m dead.” She paused and looked around, some of the orcs were whispering to each other, and now Ugluk was striding back, heavily. “Would your master not reward you for bringing him the sister of the one he is hunting?”
“If our master wanted you dead, then we’ll do the job!” The same small orc said with a grin. Aralorn’s mind raced desperately
“But I know things you don’t,- things your master may want to know,” Aralorn finally said with a last effort, praying that it would work. Ugluk paused and thought for a moment.
“Put her with the other prisoners!” He ordered sharply.
“But,-” another orc protested.
“That was an order,” Ugluk thundered. “The same rules apply to her! No spoiling. The master will want to question her.”