Areniel slowly stepped down the stairs and crept to the door. But she jumped suddenly when she heard a voice.
“Who’s there?” she recognized Grubel.
“You frightened me. I thought you were Valamarias.”
He eyed the Princess. “So where might you be off to?”
She shifted her weight awkwardly.
“Don’t tell him please. He wont understand.”
“I don’t want him to take me back. But I don’t want him to lose his honor either.”
“You know he loves you.”
She looked up in surprise. She watched the dwarf sip a mug of ale.
“Is that so?”
“Would you like to ask him?” the dwarf said smiling. “I’m sure he could clear things up.”
“No! I don’t want him to know what I know. And you better not say a word unless you wish a dagger sticking out of your throat in the morning.”
“You must forgive me. You must now wonder what ladies of court are like. You will not tell him?”
“I cannot hold to that.”
“At least do not tell him where I have gone.”
“That I will not tell.”
“Thank you. I do not want him to find me.”
He smiled as she opened the door.
“Namarie. I do thank you. Perhaps we shall meet again.”
“Aye, goodbye my lady.”
Areniel rode swiftly away into the forest not caring that she was running away once again.
Valmarias yawned coming down the stairs. He took a seat beside Grubel at the table but then noticed something. The Princess was gone. He woke up Grubel instantly.
“What, what?!” Grubel demanded unpleasantly being awakened from his sleep.
“Where is she?”
“Oh Vally. I don’t know. She left last night I suppose.”
“You know something short one. I know you.”
“I honestly do not know where she has gone.”
“Why did she leave?”
“She did not want to go back to Minas Tirith.”
“I was afraid of this. I must go after immediately. Thank you for all your hospitality my friend,” he said laying a bag of coins on the table.
“You are very welcome,” he said taking the bag fingering the coins.
“Don’t get too drunk tonight. Don’t want to have to come all the way back here just because you’re feeling the stomach pangs.”
“Heh,” Grubel smiled.
“Goodbye my friend.”
Valmarias saw the horse’s tracks. He knew he could find her. She hadn’t been gone long. He pursued her trail all the way until at last he found her. She looked so peaceful as she rested underneath the tree her long dark silver hair flung about her clinging to dried leaves. Valmarias dismounted and approached her. He sat down beside her, but she still did not awake. He stared at the Princess admiring her for her courage. He traced the lines of her face with his fingers gently.
“Areniel,” he called.
She aroused and her eyes fluttered open. She stared up at him.
“What are you doing here?”
“I am sorry. How did you find me?”
“I followed your tracks.”
“Should have thought about that. You don’t need to be my guard, Captain. I can take care of myself.”
“Is that so?”
“Well yes. I don’t want to return to Minas Tirith. I never did.”
“Why?” he sounded surprised.
“You know why. If I return, my father will want me to marry.”
“I can’t go back. I am going to Rivendell. Then who knows where? I am sorry, Captain. I know it meant much to you to return me safely. But….”
“I will talk with my father. Somehow I will send a letter and tell him of all you have done for me. Then he will abolish your banishment.”
“I hope he will.”
“Is that what you want?”
She looked at him questioningly. He drifted into thought. She stared at him for a long moment.
“What are you thinking about?”
He seemed startled at her voice.
“Oh its nothing.”
“You can tell me.”
“No its not important.”
“The sun is climbing,” she said looking at the sky. “I should press on.”
She stood up wiping leaves off of her green dress.
“May I accompany you?”
“No thank you. You have already done enough for me.”
“Are you sure?”
She looked at his eyes.
“No.but..” she tried to make the decision. “All right,” she agreed. “You may come with me. But I want not one word of Minas Tirith.”
“Thank you for caring.”
She stood up and mounted her horse. He did his as well.
She was struck with this man. He had helped her and remained by her side all this time. She wondered what would happen next.