There was something uncomfortable about the way she was positioned and, only half awake, she tried to figure out what it was. Her body did not feel right and something tickled furiously at her wrists. Fuzzy and annoying. She tried to move position but could not. The pleasant dream she was having began to fade out as she realised her face felt so hot, too hot, and she wondered briefly where she was. She yanked her arms in annoyance before realising they were held in place. Her eyes slowly and unwillingly opened, banishing the last of her dream, and her entire body groaned in a kind of unfamiliar pain as she swivelled and twisted. She was tied up! Her aching arms and sore wrists were pinning her unceremoniously to the trunk of a tree, and as she tried to swallow in reaction and alarm, her throat told her of it’s burning thirst. Her whole self felt wretched, and sun mercilessly beat down upon her unprotected skin. She struggled at first, almost involuntarily, but to no avail. She remembered how she must have wound up here. She remembered the trolls.
Her first thoughts went to the small group of people she had been travelling cross-country with. Were they all right? Since the war in Middle Earth had been over for a year now, many had become bold, and roads between hamlets had begun to open again as the threat of violence had decreased.
Annabelle and some others had thought it okay to travel through their own country. Had it not been a year since the orcs, afraid and beaten in the war, once again masterless, had fled the land, leaving it free for the race of man to go about their business. Apparently all was not as safe as many would believe. Some foul threat still lingered in the once tranquil land of Goldacres, and one thing she knew for sure, trolls were still abroad.
In a world where many learned the art of combat, with sword and knife, Annabelle was as helpless as a newborn kitten. She had no need of fighting and no interest in it. She had always been protected by her many brothers. Although mainly farmers of the land, they knew enough of combat and could protect themselves when needed. With a sinking feeling, Annabelle realised she did not even carry a knife, not even a small one. Suddenly she felt foolish, travelling across the countryside without even the protection of her family, on an errand to visit relatives, as though all were sunny again in the world, and over every hill were candy vendors waiting to hand out sweets! Sweat trickled down her face, bringing her back to the present. She did not clearly know what it was that trolls did to their victims. Did they eat them? Or would they take her to present to some greater evil yet? She could not guess.
She began to tremble as it sunk in that she was all alone. She tried to look around her to take in her surrounds. She was tied to a tree, and not far from it was the remains of a fire, and broken blackened wood lay scattered there as though some giant foot had kicked the fire over, stamping it out in haste.
Large boulders, two of them, were at the edge of the sooty earth. Drag marks behind them showed that they had been recently pulled across the earth, but these rocks were huge! What they must have weighed she didn’t know. Her breath quickened in alarm as her eyes gazed at the stones, moved so effortlessly. Her mind tried to remember what had happened to her, to her party, but for some reason it made her break out in a sweat. There would be time enough for that later. Right now she had to free herself, or end up as a main course with the setting of the sun. She began to struggle vainly, but she was tied tight. Fear began to kick in. She did not know what she could do.
A few timeless minutes passed, just enough for her to overdose on building fear and let despair creep in like a thief in the night. She could hear an approach so clumsy through the dry underbush, that it could only be her captors. They were getting closer and she could only begin to flinch in sorry anticipation of her doom, cowering like the helpless maiden that she was.
The tops of their heads became visible above some tall trees, for these beasts were over ten feet tall. Like a pathetic insect she began to struggle uselessly against her binds, the pain of her wrists momentarily ignored as the thumping giants neared and tears began to find their way out of the sides of her eyes. Furious that her fate would end like this, she stopped struggling as the trolls rounded the last of the trees, entering the clearing, and she thought that this was what it felt like to prepare inwardly to die. Numbly she saw that they had blades tied to their belts. She squeezed her eyes shut as the stinking beasts looked upon her and smiled goofily, but eagerly nonetheless. Trolls were not smart, but what they lacked in brains they made up for in brawn.
“Ahh, the waif awakes,” one of them spoke, the nearer and uglier of them. Bits of drool hung on its lips, which it now turned into a mean smile. “Pretty aren’t we? And young. Weren’t you foolish to be wandering around these lands as though you owned them, eh?”
The second troll caught up and stood with its friend. Its nostrils flared as though it were taking her scent.
Annabelle could not even swallow at this point, although her throat moved convulsively, and she knew that she could not even speak to defend herself or give dignity to her last moments. She prayed they would not toy with her but make it fast. Her eyes were mostly closed.
The nearer of the trolls reached out with its meaty hand, its palm easily as big as her entire head, and she shivered in disgust. But it did not get far. Just then a whistling through the air, which she felt gently as a stirring of air against her face, alerted her to a change. There was a small, dull thud, then another, then another.
At first she had thought that this was the sound of arrows through the air, but there were so many of them in such quick succession that it would take at least five, or more, archers to produce this, and she knew there was not cover for that many. Besides, who was there out here to defend a poor maiden, clearly off the road and out of any reach of safety?
Peeking open one eye to look, she saw in wonder the first troll, followed by the second, fall forward onto the earth, each with at least seven arrows protruding from their backs and neck. This was a miracle, and were it not for the rope holding her upright, she would have fallen on top of the giant bodies before her in pure relief and exhaustion. Instead, she merely sagged heavily, moaning slightly as the rope dug deeper into raw wrists, and nearly passed-out.
Out of the trees stepped one archer then, not five, not ten, only the one tall, slight figure dressed in green leggings and brown tunic. Long blonde hair flowed freely around his pale face and strong shoulders, and a travel cape was thrown carelessly back over his shoulders to reveal the arrows slung on his back. The bow he dropped unnoticed on the ground as he hastened over to the tied maiden, whose head had lulled forward, and low moans were all that she muttered.
“Are you okay?” he asked of her quickly. His hand came up to check her pulse, and satisfied that it was strong, he quickly reached up to her bound hands, knife coming from out of his sheath. He cut the ropes then, gently lowering the girl into his arms and carrying her a small way away from the fallen trolls and their stench.
He noted that she was human, and he wondered briefly where her companions could be. Had they abandoned her when the trolls attacked, he wondered. He had spied the trolls seemingly following a trail along the main road, and then seen them give up and head into the brush. Curious by this odd behaviour, he had surreptitiously followed, and how glad he was that he did. This poor human girl would be dead by now if he did not. She stirred beneath him on the ground. Ah good, she was coming to.
“Would you like some water?” he asked anxiously, holding his waterskin ready for her to quench her thirst.
Her dark blonde head reached up and she took a sip from the skin, and very slowly swallowed, wincing as though it were painful, then she tried to lie down again, as if she just wanted to go to sleep, which she probably did.
“No,” the elf protested softly. “Can you walk? Or shall I carry you, for we must away from here this moment.” He pointed elegantly at the trolls to make his point. Who knew if there were more of the rotten beasts around.
Her eyes fluttered open, liquid blue eyes, and she stared without comprehension into his own blue eyes. “Wha..?” She said. “Mm. Water. Please.” She took another sip and rested back again to gaze at him.
Who was he, and more importantly, was he safe?
He looked a whole lot better than the trolls, but who knew what danger she might still be in. He had such a queer look to him, otherworldly almost, and the expression on his face was one she couldn’t immediately recognise.
He nodded to himself then, and frowned slightly. She spoke the language of men, but not the Standard Tongue. He could speak elvish, dwarvish and some bits of orcish, and of course the Standard Tongue of the men, but her dialogue was unfamiliar to him. This would make things a lot harder if he had to get her home again, or into some kind of safety. And he didn’t particularly wish to be slowed down either. The girl seemed to catch his troubled expression and asked him no doubt what was wrong.
“Do you not speak elvish, my lady?” he asked.
She took longer to realise what was going on. She kept speaking her tongue, regardless. Patiently he waited for the penny to drop.
Fear began to show again on the young woman’s face as she realised they couldn’t communicate properly. “Why do you not understand me?” she asked shakily.
What man did not speak her own language, unless it be someone from the other end of the earth, some heathen perhaps, or a new enemy looking to conquer this land in these uncertain times. She began to cringe away from him again, the waterskin forgotten.
Sighing to himself, the elf leaned forward and moved his blonde hair away from his ears, revealing their pointy tips, and he smiled kindly.
“I am of the elven, my lady, and that is why you cannot understand me. Let me introduce myself, I am Legolas of Mirkwood, at your service.” Pointing to himself he repeated “Legolas” and smiled encouragingly.
But rather than make her comforted, she seemed to grow more alarmed. What was this man with the pointy ears, was it some kind of deformity? What did any of this mean? Suddenly, she felt irresistibly tired. Once today she had already prepared herself to die, she supposed if this Legolas was going to kill her, or spirit her away to a fate of harsh slavery, he had better get on with it then or let her rest, because she just didn’t care any more.
Closing her eyes, she tried to show him she wanted to look at him no more. He whispered some things, but she was unwilling to cooperate, or try to fathom what it was he wanted. She couldn’t help him anyway. Better he just leave her here to die. Since she was already half-dead, to her melodramatic way of reasoning, it wouldn’t take all that long then would it? He could just go if he wanted, she didn’t care.
The young elf was slightly vexed by this problem. The girl needed some medical attention but was unwilling to show him what she needed. Her wrists needed attending to, but was she injured anywhere else? Since there was no blood evident, he supposed she would live. But what to do with her, he wondered.
He doubted he would move her far this day. Perhaps on the morrow she would be alert enough to show him whether north or south along the road she had travelled from. He supposed it was his duty to return her to her own kind, before he must away again on his own errand. It was a bit of a nuisance, all of this, but regardless he set about getting ready to clean and bind her wounds, taking out a small jar of ointment, and knew that they would have to camp in or close to this clearing, at least for now. The poor girl seemed too afraid to cooperate, and in that state he knew there was not much he could do for her until she came to her senses.
When Annabelle woke up in the early evening, it took her a minute before all of the days events came rushing back to her. She still could not remember the original troll attack on her party. Luckily there was no one whom she knew personally, they were merely travelling in numbers for the sake of safety. So much for that. It seemed the rest of them escaped all except for her. Luckily that strange man had come along to save her.
Propping herself up on her elbow, she saw that she was in a newly made camp, without fire, but at least there were no trolls here, and no reminder of her trauma.
The Legolas person was sitting with his back facing her, whittling at something, and did not see her awaken.
He was not really like any other man she had ever known. Firstly, and most notably, he wasn’t hairy. Most men she knew sported facial hair, sometimes a lot of it, but fair he was, there seemed no hint. And there was something else almost inhuman about him, an elegance and grace that usually belonged solely to the fairer sex. Of course there were those strange ears of his. She didn’t know why he had shown them to her or what they were supposed to explain. Some creatures she knew did have pointed ears, like sprites, but a fully grown man….if man he was! She began to wonder, yet knowing at the same time it was impossible! Unless he was a mythical “elven”, but everyone knew those were just fairly tales, the legend of the elves. Had she somehow wandered into an enchanted part of the land, trapped, never to return to the real world?
A more sensible part of her brain realised that she hadn’t introduced herself to him yet. She noticed that he had set her wrist wounds to right with bandages, and of this she was very grateful. She had not expected such kindness all of a sudden out here in the wild. She cleared her throat delicately to catch his attention, and when he turned, she pointed to herself.
“Annabelle. I am Annabelle. Pleased to meet you and… thank you for saving my life.”
He quietly watched her and then smiled. “Annabelle?” he repeated softly. “That is a nice name. In elvish, we have a name like that, it is Aniel.”
She looked at him quizzically.
“Can I call you Aniel?” he asked.
She kind of shrugged and smiled. He supposed that would mean yes.
It seemed a shame that they could not communicate on a basic level. Maybe this Annabelle could teach him a little of her unique dialogue so that they could communicate better, even if it was just for one or two days. He was a very fast learner. But he did not want to push her in any way, unsure was he of her reaction to anything he might do.
And she did still seem afraid of him, he could see a trace of it in her eyes, in her manner, everything about her screamed confusion. He supposed she was a country girl, a human who was unwise and untrained about things in the wider world. This was very different from where Legolas, a battle-hardened warrior, and major player in the destruction of the One Ring, was coming from. Legolas was Prince of Mirkwood, Son of Thandruil, tutored in the ways of royalty and leadership. He thought that they would probably have very little in common. He wanted to put her mind at rest so that she would not make things more difficult than need be. But how to make her trust him, that was the challenge.
He decided it would be best not to leave the girl alone in the camp, considering her state of mind, so he decided not to hunt for dinner that evening, like he usually did when travelling. Instead, he took his sack and brought out a package wrapped in leaves. Lembas, the elvish bread; he had plenty enough for both of them, and enough water too. This would have to all change by the next day, though, because Legolas was not out roving the countryside for kicks. He had an important task to complete, and he was not going to be slowed down. He knew he would have to find this girl’s home, or others of her kind, or else she would have to travel with him. Unwrapping the leaves, he took out a thin slice of the bread and tried to catch Annabelle’s attention so he could pass it to her. She was sitting with her knees propped up and her chin resting on them, her eyes very distant and slightly unfocussed.
“Aniel,” he called to her softly. “Look, I have some food for you. Are you hungry?”
At first she did not respond, but after he waved the bread about for a bit, she seemed to notice the movement and finally her eyes turned in his direction and recognition lighted them.
Legolas made a motion as if he were eating the bread, and then rubbed his stomach. He tried to pass it to her again.
“For me?” Annabelle uttered.
She reached over the small distance between them and took the Lembas and began nibbling on it. No doubt she had never tasted elven fare before, but she didn’t comment or even seem to notice what it was she consumed. Her eyes had taken on the distant cast again and she stared ahead of her somewhere in the middle distance. Legolas only sighed and took out some bread of his own and began to chew.
He knew he would be able to get her home again and all would be all right in the end. He would just have to wait for tomorrow to make it right. He set about making sure his steed Arod was watered and taken care of, and then they settled in for a night together. Annabelle fell asleep on top of Legolas’ own bedroll, and he sat and stared for a long time into the darkness, listening to the telltale noises of the night, pondering what best action he could make on the next day.
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