Tindomerel led the way, Brono’s hooves pounding over the muddy plains. Marthelen came next, strangely silent as she pondered events that lay deep in her past. Lastly came Lerina, her eyes darting over the darkness that enveloped them, looking for any signs of strange movement.
The tall mountains loomed up in front of them, black against the sky, their tall peaks scraping the dark grey rain clouds. “There’s a cave just over there,” Tindomerel called back to the others, and she changed her direction mildly so they headed for the side of the mountains. It didn’t take them long to reach their destination, and soon, all three of them were standing outside the entrance to the cave, cleverly hidden by an assortment of bushes and brambles. “Here we are,” said Tindomerel, getting off Brono and pulling the branches apart. Marthelen led her horse in, followed by Brono. “Coming, Lerina?” asked Tindomerel, smirking.
But Lerina wasn’t listening. She was looking at something about a hundred metres away. “I’ll be back in a minute,” Lerina said, turning Thunder around, and she galloped straight along the large hedge that ran from the mountains onwards. She had seen something glowing, dim and faint, but definitely there. Now it had disappeared. She stopped at the place where she thought she’d seen it, which turned out to be right up close to the hedge. She eyed the place suspiciously. It was so dark here that even her Elven eyes could not penetrate it; the darkness was empty, like a vault robbing the day of its light.
Lerina saw a flash of movement beside her, and she turned Thunder around, but no one was there. She walked him a few paces away from the ever darkening spot. She summoned a fireball, and held it aloof, letting its light guide her. All of a sudden she heard a soft, high chanting fill the air around her, and she saw a soft, thin mist make its way slowly towards her hand, entwining itself around the fireball until the light of the fire was smothered by it. Just as suddenly as it had started, the chanting stopped, the mist solidified, and the fire ball which sat in Lerina’s palm turned to ice, falling with a thud in her hand. Lerina’s hand dropped to her side with the sudden weight, and she watched the ball crack up the centre. Thunder started side-stepping, an action Lerina knew to be one of fear. But the elf didn’t blame him; she felt the same. She panicked and drew her sword.
“You have a wise horse there, my young friend, for he is afraid of what he knows nothing about. Though I don’t doubt that if you were a horse, you would be the same, no?” said an icy voice behind her.
Thunder whirled around, and Lerina came face to face with a woman who looked around twenty years of age. She wore an olive green tunic over some black leggings, with black middle shin boots to match. Around her waist was a silver belt with two long knives attached. She had a long-sleeved white top on underneath the tunic, and black gloves. Over the top of this she wore a black cloak, which would have dragged a few inches if she had been on the ground. But she sat upon a steed of which Lerina could not see, as it seemed to be standing right in the darkened spot. The woman’s hood was thrown back, revealing blonde hair cascaded halfway down her back, framing her thin face and high cheekbones. Her eyes were a cold grey, hard and steel-like.
“Who are you?” Lerina snapped, gripping her sword tightly and pointing its keen point at the stranger.
The lady’s mouth curled in a triumphant smile, although this did nothing to give her a warm appearance. “Well, it is oft said that the stranger would state their name first; however, my name is Sianna.” But Lerina wasn’t sure she trusted her. Sianna’s beauty was great; enough to make anyone stare in wonder, but there was something about her grey eyes that appealed to Lerina, something that made Sianna look dangerous and foreboding. When Sianna noticed that Lerina had only stiffened slightly more, her smile faded, and her eyes grew colder than Lerina had yet seen them. “Of course, I could kill you now if I wanted,” she whispered dangerously, and, pulling out her two long Elven knives, she managed to grip the sword with them and twist it so it flew from Lerina’s inexperienced grasp, landing with a soft thud standing upright in the ground, the blade dug deep into the dirt. What surprised Lerina was that she did this with surpassing excellence; her hands caressed the hilt of her knives gracefully, and she swung her blades with such swift danger as was warrant with only the most experienced Elven warrior.
Lerina backed Thunder up swiftly, attempting to get out of any immediate danger, but Sianna held out her hand, long slender fingers pointing towards the sky. At once Thunder stopped moving, rooted to the ground, putting his ears back in anger and fear. Lerina panicked; she had once again managed to get herself into deep trouble, but this time, Largolian, Imrahil and Haldir weren’t there to save her.
But to her surprise, Sianna was smirking again. “Come, in these dark times we must not make enemies, but come together as friends, for if we’re scattered and divided, we have no chance against The Dark Lord.”
“My name is Lerina,” she said unwillingly, as if it were not her own voice.
“That’s interesting,” Sianna said slowly, a quizzical look replacing her smirk.
“What’s interesting?” Lerina asked, jumping off Thunder and grabbing her sword out of the ground.
“Nothing, only that is an elvish name, and you are not elvish,” Sianna said, her grey eyes following Lerina’s every movement. Lerina stopped, narrowing her eyes at Sianna for a moment.
“How do you know that?” she said sharply, gripping her sword again, though she did not feel any lack of trust.
“Merely that I sense you are not an elf. The elves I know are excellent fighters, and, quite frankly, you seem rather inexperienced for one. Your speech, also, differs from that of an elf. Yet you have elvish features, that I cannot deny, and you are wearing elvish garb. A riddle, it seems, I cannot solve,” she seemed to be saying this to herself.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Of course I’m an elf. Just because I’m not the best fighter doesn’t mean I’m not an elf!” Lerina said, mounting Thunder with one swift, graceful movement.
Sianna gave a silvery laugh, and it reminded Lerina of water splashing, tinkling over small pebbles in a stream bed. “Come, solid friendships are not built on lies. You are not from these parts, nor from anywhere in Middle Earth. You are from somewhere far away, am I right?”
“Yes,” Lerina said quietly.
“Hm, let me see; you most certainly seem to be elvish, young perhaps, too keen for what you know nothing of, and a lot of human folly runs in your blood. In fact, it almost seems you are from a different world altogether, no?” a twinkle lit up Sianna’s cold eyes, making them seem genuinely warm for but a fraction of a second.
“You seem to know a lot about me,” Lerina said, commanding Thunder to walk back towards the cave as Sianna followed.
“Yes, well, I know a lot more about you than you think. Like, I know that you come from a land called Australia, and I know that you are on an important quest, although I will not speak of it here, as there are many spies of the enemy watching, listening and waiting for the right time to attack. Come, let us move more swiftly,” and she put her horse into a fast canter, whilst Lerina followed behind, marveling at the horse’s speed. Sianna seemed to know where to go, but Lerina thought nothing of it at the moment. For some reason, she felt much safer when she was with Sianna like this, felt as if no enemy could attack her as long as they were together.
“Lerina,” Tindomerel called, galloping on Brono towards her, Marthelen following close behind. “Where did you get to?”
“It’s okay, I have a friend with me,” she replied as they met. Marthelen eyed Sianna with every sign of great dislike etched on her face, yet Sianna merely laughed, letting herself inside the cave. The others followed, and Lerina had to blink and let her eyes grow accustomed to the brightness of the cave, for, though dimly lit, it seemed a great contrast to the heavy darkness outside.
They pulled the tack off their horses and left them at the front of the cave, and moved to the back where it was more sheltered from the cold. Only now in the light of the flickering and dancing flames of the fire, did Lerina see how beautiful Sianna’s horse was. It was around 16 hands high, and it was a silver grey, which reminded Lerina strongly of Sianna’s eyes. She could tell this horse was of pure blood, for its muscles could clearly be seen rippling across its body, and its coat was shiny, as if it had been kept well. It had long legs and a slender build, and Lerina thought that it must be good at sprinting long distances, as it had just proved outside. The only thing that looked out of place were its eyes; they were ebony black, as black as black could be, with no other colour whatsoever. Never had she seen such strange, nor beautiful eyes on a horse before.
“Your horse is stunning,” she whispered, unable to take her eyes off it.
Once again, Sianna’s beautiful laugh sprang forth from her lips. “His name is Celebsilvre, and he is of rare decent. He catches the eyes of many, and I fell in love with him at once.”
“So, who are you exactly?” asked Tindomerel, glancing at Celebsilvre for a few seconds.
“My name is Sianna, although you may not know me, as I travel a lot. However, I travel these lands mostly, and know them as I know the back of my hand. You are the guardian of these lands, are you not?”
“Yes, how did you know?” Tindomerel asked, looking wary.
“I often see you from afar, though you may not see me. I perceive many things that not even most Elven eyes can find.” Her eyes narrowed slightly.
“You look familiar, have I seen you before?” Marthelen asked, glaring at Sianna.
Sianna let fall a silvery little laugh and answered, “You may have met me, but it was in another place and another time, for I have not traveled so far north for an Age and a day,” she glanced sidelong at Lerina, who didn’t notice, only munched away on some deer meat.
“So, what brings you so far north, if I may ask?” Marthelen asked, still wary.
“Ah, that is my business, for my ears only. For all you know, I could be an assassin,” her cold eyes glittered dangerously, something which only increased Marthelen’s distrust. But then she smirked. “Relax,” she said quietly. “I’m not here to murder you. In fact, if I had wanted to murder any of you, I could already have done so, for I have had many chances when you have been unguarded.”
“Hey, Sianna, can I ask a question?” Lerina asked, packing up her provisions so they were ready for tomorrow. “How did you make that-?” she stopped short when Sianna’s eyes widened in what looked like fear. Her eyes became cold once again, and she gave a barely perceptible shake of her head. Lerina noticed however, and changed her question. “Uh, that is, how did you control your horse like that? I mean, it did what you wanted, yet you said or did nothing to let it know.”
“Ah, another Elven quality I’m sure you’ll learn in due course,” laughed Sianna, and she showed no signs of her earlier discomfort. Tindomerel had decided that she wasn’t dangerous to them; Marthelen was rather the contrary, but did not voice her opinion. She knew she would be sorely contradicted if she did.
“We’d best get some rest, we have a long way to journey tomorrow, and we will rise early,” Tindomerel stated, spreading her blanket out. “You can travel with us if you like, Sianna. After all, I suspect you are going the same way as we are?”
“But of course,” Sianna’s eyes twinkled.
“Right. Who will keep first watch, then?” Tindomerel asked.
“I will,” Sianna volunteered. She walked to the front of the cave and settled herself as comfortably as she could. She could feel Marthelen’s scowling eyes on her, and smiled grimly to herself. “She’ll come around eventually,” she thought to herself.
“Lerina,” Marthelen whispered, shaking her slightly.
“What?” she snapped, her usual morning grumpiness coming over her as she tried to see through her sleep-ridden eyes.
“Time to go,” Marthelen smiled, then continued brushing her horse.
“But it’s so early,” Lerina groaned, and looked at her wrist. When she remembered she didn’t have her watch anymore, she decided to get up and look at the sun. It was barely up in the sky; the air was heavy with fog, and what she could see of the sky was covered in ominous clouds, threatening to let fall their wrath. She walked back inside the cave, and, grabbing her brushes, groomed her horse. After a while, she asked, “Where’s Tindomerel and Sianna?”
Marthelen’s eyes clouded over when she heard Sianna’s name, but she turned away, and spoke quickly. “They’ve gone to scout the lands. They thought it best if we had a rough idea of what the land looked like. They also wanted to check that we didn’t have enemies on our tail,” she buckled up Sarshelly’s girth, and checked her saddle bags were on securely, before she mounted. “We’re meeting them around the other side.”
“The other side of where?” Lerina asked as she fastened Thunder’s bridle, then hopped up into the saddle.
“The mountain. And I’d get an extra cloak if I were you. It’s very cold outside.”
“So I noticed,” Lerina shivered as a chill wind blew through the cave, blowing out their small fire. She looked down at her clothes, still unused to their look. She was mildly surprised to see that she hadn’t gotten them dirty yet. “Hm,” she said thoughtfully, pulling out her long-sleeved tunic and putting that on under her long cloak. “I should be alright. Come on, let’s go,” she urged Thunder forward, and he trotted out of the cave.
“I’ll lead,” Marthelen galloped past her, and Lerina cantered to keep up.
They rode for an hour straight, then stopped to stretch and let their horses rest. “Shouldn’t we have met them by now?” Lerina asked, taking a small sip of her water.
“Yes, we should have,” Marthelen pulled out her sword and fingered the blade thoughtfully. “Something isn’t right.”
“Well, that’s alright, we’ll just wait for them,” Lerina said, putting her drink back and flopping down onto the ground.
“No,” Marthelen said slowly, “They wouldn’t leave when they knew we weren’t aware of it. Either something’s happened to them, or,” Marthelen lowered her voice considerably, “something has made them flee.” Lerina was about to protest, but Marthelen put a finger to her mouth, signaling for her to follow. “I sense a presence not far off, but it is not them,” she said, whilst getting onto her horse. “It is something evil.”
“There’s nothing here,” Lerina scolded, although she couldn’t help noticing the tingling sensation she felt. “If there was, Sianna and Tindomerel would have ridden back to warn us.”
“Not if they thought there was a chance of being followed,” Marthelen said uncertainly, as if she didn’t quite believe it herself. “They wouldn’t bring the enemy to the cave; there is an extremely high chance we’d be outnumbered. And with two of us who know nothing about fighting,” she stared at the sword lying in her hand, “They’d have to fight for us. It would be safer to flee.”
“But surely they would be coming back for us?” Lerina said, drawing her own sword.
“Perhaps,” Marthelen began, but stopped as harsh cries reached their ears. “Follow me,” she said calmly, and galloped straight into the trees just near them. Lerina galloped right after her, holding her sword tightly and once again forgetting everything that Rebethian had taught her.
“Where are we going?” Lerina called, urging Thunder to go faster.
“Away from this place,” Marthelen called back, gripping her sword ever tighter. Lerina just silently prayed, looking behind her constantly.
“Something’s not right,” Sianna stated, shading her eyes from the briskly rising sun. “I sense a near presence; very near. Cannot you feel it?”
“I can,” Tindomerel unsheathed her sword, holding it in one hand whilst she turned Brono around. “We must get back to the cave.”
“No! No, the enemy will follow us. We mustn’t put the others in danger,” Sianna whirled around as she heard an arrow whizzing past. “They are here too early!” she hissed.
“Much too early,” Tindomerel agreed hastily, before jumping off her horse.
“Watch out!” Sianna yelled, but before she could do anything Brono had run in front of Tindomerel. Arrows bombarded the place, and Sianna ducked for cover behind a large tree. Orcs streamed over the hills, screeching loudly and letting their arrows bombard the two elves. Sianna’s eyes were steely grey with malice, and she patted her horse on the neck before galloping straight through the Orcs. Her sword was flying so fast it was a blur as she cleaved a path through the enemy, making her way to where Tindomerel struggled to fight off the hundreds of Orcs that surrounded her.
Tindomerel cried out in anguish; Brono whinnied loudly and collapsed on the ground, his back leg bloody and wounded. In one swift movement, Sianna had swept past Tindomerel and pulled her onto Celebsilvre. Tindomerel protested greatly -she wanted to stay with her horse -but Sianna galloped on as fast and as hard as her horse could carry her.