Arwen awoke slowly, more uncomfortable than she had ever been before in her life. Maida lay next to her, still asleep, but shivering badly. Dawn was barely visible, so the greatest source of light and warmth was the small fire Faye had magically lit. Faye herself was crouched nearby, her eyes on the mountains that loomed above them. Her skin was gray from the chill, but she showed no sign of noticing.
Arwen was scared and confused. What had once been fear for Faye’s life had become fear for her own, and for that of Maida. Her brothers had often told her stories of the monsters of the Misty Mountains, and the desolate wastes of the lands south of Rivendell. Since the sun was rising over the mountains, Arwen had decided that Faye had taken them south.
There was danger in the air. Arwen had sensed that immediately. Something with malicious intent was stalking them. Arwen took a deep breath and moved closer to Faye.
“Warmth won’t come until sun,” Faye said softly. “You should be near fire.”
“I’m okay,” Arwen replied. “But I don’t think Maida is. She’s very scared.” She sniffled, trying to hold back tears. “We want to go home.”
Faye bowed her head, sighing before turning her soft gaze to Arwen. Arwen felt a wet, hot tear slide down her face as she stared at Faye’s sorrowful expression.
“I am sorry, Arwen,” Faye said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I never want to hurt you. You remind me much of my children. . .” Faye sighed again, and Arwen saw a tear of blood slide over her cheek, leaving a clear trail. “I left clear trail. Your family will find us very soon.” She paused, turning her gaze to the rising sun. “I will not fight this time.”
It took a moment for Faye’s words to completely sink in, but once they did, Arwen gasped. She abruptly remembered the fear she had felt for Faye when Legolas had shot her. Arwen had lifted herself over the balcony railing, dropping lightly to the ground like she had done so many times in the past–a stunt that had been the cause of more than one sprained ankle and bruised knee–and running over to Faye to stop her from lashing back at Legolas. But then Faye had. . . .
“It was an accident,” Arwen said meekly, rubbing her sore and possibly bruised throat.
“I had no control,” Faye said, her gaze becoming harder. “You not know how close I came to killing you.” She glanced at Maida. “Killing you both.”
“But you didn’t,” Arwen said quietly.
This seemed to cause Faye to pause momentarily, the sadness returning to her features. She turned away, her gaze shifting to the rapidly brightening sky.
“I used to fear dawn,” she said, changing the subject. “Sun meant death.” She paused. “I haven’t seen sunrise in thousands years.”
Arwen frowned, confused at the pain Faye was clearly suffering. She slowly approached, summoning up all her courage and grasping Faye’s pale, cold hand.
“What happened to you, Faye?” she asked. “How did you become a vampire?”
Faye flinched, her eyes widening as she stared at her. Arwen stood firm, and after a moment Faye sighed heavily.
“I live in small village deep in jungle,” she said. “One day, I walking in jungle and the Mother come. She bite, I bite back. I fell asleep. So hungry when I woke. . .” She paused again, gritting her teeth. “I return to village. My children come, put arms around me. So happy. But hunger. . .”
Faye bowed her head, more tears sliding down her cheeks. Arwen’s eyes were wide, and she released Faye’s hand, retreating slightly.
“You killed your children?” she gasped.
Faye slowly picked up a small stone, holding it for several moments before throwing it aside. It cracked against a larger rock and promptly shattered to dust. Arwen winced.
“Killed them all,” Faye growled. “For blood. . .” She abruptly calmed, looking down at her pale, trembling hand. “I alone. Descendants maybe, but lost in time.”
Arwen was in tears. Now she understood why Faye suffered. At that moment, all fear she possessed faded, and she practically threw her arms around Faye’s waist. Faye growled in surprise, staring down at her with wide eyes.
“Not alone,” Arwen murmured through her tears. “You’re not alone, Faye. You have me.” She turned to where Maida was, and was slightly surprised to see her watching and listening to everything. “I think you have Maida, too.”
Faye turned to Maida, studying her gently. After a moment, and to Arwen’s growing surprise, Maida stood. Limping badly on her wounded leg, she approached them, joining Arwen in grasping Faye. Arwen watched as Faye’s expression melted into a warm smile. Gently, she lifted them into her arms and embraced them.
“My children,” she whispered. “No more will hand of evil touch you while I walk earth.”
For the first time in her life, Arwen truly appreciated everything she had. A home, a loving family, and now close friends. Maida was trying to hold back tears, and when they released Faye, she was the first to speak.
“Let’s go home now,” she said, hope shining in her eyes. “All of us.” She sniffled again, wrapping her arms around herself. “I don’t feel so good.”
Arwen studied Maida closely. The little Elfling was pale, and she was trembling worse than she had been the night before. The wound on her leg, though no longer bleeding, was angry and inflamed. Although Maida was clearly trying to be brave, Arwen could tell the wound was causing her friend a great deal of pain. Arwen reached over and grasped her friend’s hand.
“To fire,” Faye said suddenly. “Warm yourselves. We go when sun has breached mountaintops.”
Maida attempted to stand and walk back to the fire, but her leg would no longer hold her weight, and with a pained cry she fell to the ground. Arwen rushed to her friend’s side, deeply worried.
“Maida, are you okay?” she asked.
“It hurts, Arwen,” Maida replied, tears sliding freely down her cheeks. “It hurts really bad.”
Arwen held her friend, unsure of what to do to help her. Suddenly, Faye leaned down and gently gathered Maida into her arms, carrying her to the fire and setting her down as close to the flames as possible. Arwen followed, sitting next to Maida and allowing her to rest her head on her lap. Maida was still crying, but her sobs were quiet. Faye put some more wood on the fire to build up the flames, then crouched down next to them.
“Will Maida be okay, Faye?” Arwen asked worriedly.
Faye frowned and gently touched Maida’s shoulder. She opened her mouth to speak, but suddenly froze, slowly standing and looking around nervously. Arwen listened. Very dimly, she could make out the sound of galloping horses, echoing in the still, silent air.
It was the silence that was unnerving. Up until a few moments ago, the sound of birdsong had echoed softly. Now, the birds were silent, allowing the previously inaudible sound of approaching horses to permeate. Faye growled, agitated.
“Ada’s coming,” Arwen said, knowing the approaching horses were Elrond and the others.
“No,” Faye replied, jerking her head around, turning to face the mountains. A low ridge of rocks stood not too far off, and it was at the ridge that Faye stared. “Horses too far.”
She inhaled abruptly, and it took a moment for Arwen to realize Faye was sniffing the air. She sniffed, too, and gave a squeak of terror when she smelled a foul, goatish scent. Maida smelled it, too, and she quickly sat up, whimpering in fear.
“Oh, no,” she whispered harshly. “Wolves.”
Faye snarled loudly, and both Arwen and Maida screamed. The ridge, once deserted, now revealed nine dark, hulking forms. Faye reached down into the fire and pulled out a burning branch, positioning herself protectively before them. The wolves snarled and slowly started approaching, thick drool dripping from between dagger-sharp teeth. Their eyes glittered hungrily. Faye snarled again, then threw back her head and unleashed a deafening shriek that rattled Arwen’s teeth and forced both her and Maida to scream and cover their ears. The wolves hesitated, and Arwen could see the confusion on their horrible faces. For a moment, she hoped that the wolves would be too afraid of Faye to attack.
Then the biggest of the wolves appeared. Unlike its companions, this new wolf was clearly intelligent. It had a long, tapered snout, a lean body, long legs, and a thick tail. It was bigger than the others, and its fur was an ashen-black. It leapt upon a low boulder, glaring down at them mockingly. When it bared its teeth, all Arwen saw was the fangs. She had seen a creature like this before. Elladan had showed the picture of it to her out of an old book. This was no common wolf–Wargs, rest of them were.
“Maida, it’s a werewolf!” Arwen whispered frantically. “A werewolf of Angband!”
* * * * *
“Steady,” Garunthor commanded his pack, moving forward.
“What is it?” Mur asked, growling uncertainly. “It looks like Man, but roars like a beast.”
“Fear neither it nor its Man-fire!” Garunthor snarled. “My brothers and sisters, there is your prey. What kind of whelps are you, to fear a single Man? You outnumber it, my brothers and sisters!”
Again, he did not tell his pack that the Man was a death-bringer. He glowered at it, daring it to attack him.
“Come, my brothers and sisters!” he roared. “Man-flesh, Elf-flesh, think of the nice sweet meats!”
The thought of sweet meat quickly rekindled the courage of his pack, and slowly they began snarling challenges at the death-bringer. The Elf-cubs cried out in fright, and Garunthor growled as he drank in their terror.
“Now, my brothers and sisters!” he snapped. “Take the Man! Tear it limb from limb!”
He lifted his head, howling loudly.