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Between Freedom and Loyalty

By Jay

Action / Drama

A Sound in the Woods

Dark, stormy blue eyes snapped into focus as pointed ears picked up sounds of distress in the distance. The young elleth closed her eyes and felt for the minds of those around her. Filtering quickly through the muddled thoughts of insects and smaller creatures, she narrowed her search towards the woods to the north, away from Imladris.

Panicked thoughts came rushing to her mind as five mortals crashed through the underbrush. It took only moments for the elf to sense what was following. Orcs.

She quickly wove her way down through the branches, notched an arrow in her bow, and ran toward the sounds.

Brutal, bloodthirsty thoughts overpowered those of the five mortals, whose minds were focused on the task of fighting off the hoard of creatures. One among them, however, was different. The elf concentrated hard, following the light, melodious mind that, even when frightened, contained a brightness. Blocking out the horror of the orcs' thoughts, the elf focused on this mind, determined now to find the owner.

The sudden loss of several pairs of thoughts alerted the elf to their dire situation, as two of the five were lost. She quickened her pace. At last, she entered a clearing and paused to take in the sight, for it was an awful one to behold.

Hoards of orcs were upon a tall man with long, wavy brown hair and bright, steely eyes. He had a regal bearing even clothed in dark, patched clothing, and stood proudly against the evil creatures. Next to him stood a larger man with a warrior stature and cold brown eyes. Finally, a small woman with soft brown hair stood behind the first man. She did not shrink from the fear, but instead, stood firm, clutching a small bundle in one arm and a short knife in the other.

"Go!" shouted the warrior, not sparing a glance at the other two, swinging his sword towards the beasts.

"Go, I can hold them off! We are not far now."

"I will stay! I won't leave you here alone while I run," the taller man shouted, lunging forward to assist him.

"But the lady –"

"She will go."

"I will not!" the woman said, tightening her grip on the knife. "I won't go without you." Her voice was strong, but her mind whirled in fear.

Just as the men were going to respond, an Orc slipped past the warrior's defense, striking him hard on the side, spilling blood rapidly at his feet. The man was strong, and did not utter a cry as he was dealt a deadly blow.

The elf could watch no more, and released two arrows quickly, killing two creatures swiftly. The heads of the two mortals whipped around and watched as the elleth notched another arrow and fired into the neck of an approaching orc. She felt the minds of orcs coming from her side, and quickly pulled out her knives, countering their attacks, knowing where the blow would land before it did.

Between the elf and the man, the orcs were quickly falling, but more were coming. Surrounded, the elf could not get closer to the couple as the man was showing signs of fatigue, his blows coming slower and his breath quicker as he battled on.

Just as the elf beheaded the last orc in her path she heard a desperate wail. She raised her eyes from her prey to see the man struggling on his knees before a tall orc, an arrow in his chest, but sword in hand. He slashed the orc, and made to stand, but fell again to his knees.

The elf rushed to his side, battling off the orcs closest to them. She moved to staunch the flow of blood, until she heard another cry behind her. In a flash, she spun around, slicing through the orc's upper half, and caught the woman before she could fall. The elleth noted warm, sticky blood beneath her fingers and a small groan.

"Go!" the man yelled. "Take her away. Please!" he cried, looking desperately at the elf. In his mind the elf could feel painfully the worry and guilt heavy on the man's thoughts.

She could feel his desperation; his hopelessness as he held his hand to his breast near the arrow. In the split second she held his gaze, she could see his thoughts spinning through moments of love, passion, and hope, remembering the moments he shared with this woman, his wife. And mother of their child. The elf quickly turned toward the bundle, realizing belatedly then that it was an infant.

That decided it for her. She turned back toward the man, fired two more shots at the ever-increasing flow of orcs coming through the trees, bent down on one knee, and locked gazes with the man.

"I will take your wife and son and, by my own life, I will protect them."

The man looked deeply into her eyes, seeing the steel and reserve in her face.

"Do not fail," he said softly, meeting her gaze with a fiery passion. "They are more precious than any gold, more dear than anything to me."

"No harm will come to them while I live," she promised, desperately seeking to assure the man whose eyes held such strength and love.

"My name is Arathorn," he said, pausing to cough, blood tumbling down his chin. "Chieftain of the Dunedain," he continued, voice gruff and pained. He recovered quickly and caught her eye again. "My son and heir, Aragorn, must go to Rivendell to the house of Elrond. Please help me."

"It will be done," she said softly, standing again to fire at the orcs. She swiftly stepped before Arathorn, catching an Orc with her knife and slashing his throat, before turning again to slice the chest of another.

"Your name, fair elf?" coughed out Arathorn.

The elf turned and held the women to her, pressing a hand to her side to staunch the blood flow.

She looked upon the man one last time, holding his gaze and offering her strength.

"My name is Lainien."

She turned on her heel, hoisting the woman and her child into her arm, and ran off into the trees towards the border of Imladris, listening as the sounds of the man's shouts and the clang of steel slowly receded into the distance.

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