Fellowship Of The Ring
"Aaah, I'm beat!" Pippin exclaimed and slumped down on the ground.
The fellowship had walked a very long path of half a day and the little Hobbits were starting to tire up. But Pippin turned out to be the first to dare to speak of his tiredness out loud. After all, both Aragorn and Gandalf had insisted on keeping on walking till the dark, but eventually the smallest of Hobbits met his boundary. Pippin threw his backpack away and his three comrades of same kin followed his example by sitting, as well tired out due the march of several long hours.
"Right, we're walking not one step more before we get something to eat. Even if a herd of thousand Orcs were coming right after us, we won't!" Merry exclaimed too and looked at the other three, who just nodded in unison.
Aragorn and Gandalf exchanged a look and Legolas did nothing to comment. Just a small smile twitching his lips took off his weapons and put them standing against a trunk of a tree, where they were easy and quick enough to put to use if needed. Gimli also said nothing, but let out a breath of relief himself. He wasn't that tired, but hungry he was. And so in his mind he agreed with the two young Hobbits about a break.
"I guess there's no helping it!" Gandalf mused, but laughed a little while examined the four Hobbits sitting on the grass. "We have already taken away many meals from your four today, so I guess we have to give you a chance to refresh yourselves!"
Aragorn smirked amused and also put down his weapons, except his sword which he left hanging from his belt. Following his companions' example by placing his backpack on the ground too, until then glanced around the wilderness around them.
They had decided to pass through this small forest as a shortcut along their journey, which would save them a lot of trouble and time. And it seemed to have been a good decision because the forest's trees grew sparsely, and there had been a clear, wide path starting at the beginning of the forest which was easy to follow. The landscape was very easy to cross altogether, and there didn't seem to be anything dangerous or threatening in the air. It was just a simple, pleasant forest. Birds were singing above their heads and the light from the sun dribbled through the branches and leaves. Yes, that would be ideal place to rest awhile.
"Do you have the bacon, Sam?" Merry's voice now asked, cutting the silence and he turned to look at his friend questionably. Sam looked thoughtful.
"I'm not sure. If I remember correctly I…" There was a realization in the Hobbit's eyes then and he turned to look at his backpack with horror striken eyes, digging its contents. "Oh no! I had put it in a neat package and placed it on my table to wait to be packed with the rest of the food, but I think I forgot it in Rivendell!"
"What?!" Pippin exclaimed once more and rushed to Sam to stare at him, next also looking worried. "How can you forget bacon? Now what do we eat then?"
"I have some mushrooms if you like…" Frodo offered then and started to unpack them from his bag. He handed the package to Sam who took it, all Hobbit eyes following the exchange. And without a complaint Sam was going to take his share, but Pippin only gave them next one sharp glance.
"NO way!" he said and crossed his arms over his chest. "I've had enough of that stuff for a lifetime!"
"Pippin, you love mushrooms!" Merry stated and lifted his brows. "Like any Hobbit does!"
"Not me! Not anymore! We haven't eaten anything else than those for an eternity! At Rivendell they also fed us with mushrooms almost every evening…"
"A good decision master Hobbit!" Gimli then remarked, who had been a little disappointed for the loss of a crispy bacon too, but smirked at Pippin. "That kind of sustenance only rots your brain! Makes you go a little soft in the head. It is a good thing if you keep on avoiding things like that, which Elves sure seem to like nevertheless…"
Legolas directed a quick annoyed glance at the Dwarf, but said nothing this time either. Just sat on a fallen trunk and started to stare at the trees above like Aragorn, but only he didn't even move a single muscle for a very long time. Elves could be very still while lost in thoughts.
The next half an hour was spent by the Hobbits for preparing somewhat light meal for themselves and their companions, even the lack of different kinds of ingredients made their cooking not so creative. And now everyone were sitting on their own seats eating, enjoying the most of the great day upon them. Hobbits together in a small circle talking, and Gandalf sitting a couple of feet away smoking his pipe, already finished with his food.
Boromir was leaning against a tree next to the Hobbits, while Aragorn and Legolas sat on the trunk. Aragorn eating, but Legolas was still staring or listening at the trees. He had politely declined for the meal. Gimli in the other hand was of course eating too, sitting at the opposite side of the Elf and the ranger on a different trunk. But all four shared the silence, which was broken indeed only by the voices of the loud Hobbits who were discussing, or debating, about the length of their following journey.
The atmosphere was nice and calm and the singing of the birds sounded comfortable in the fellowship's ears. At those kind of moments one could easily forget what mission they were on, and what evil awaited them up ahead. But right now none of them remembered such things. That moment was them to get away from the dark and ominous thoughts, even if just for an hour or so.
But then all of a sudden when Pippin stood up from his spot to get a new portion of the stew they had made, a loud call of an owl broke the almost silent atmosphere. And when all of their attention was directed on that sudden animal call, they were caught by surprise by the arrows which started to fly to their camp like from thin air, without a warning.
Legolas was snapped out from his thoughts the quickest. And in a blink of an eye he had grabbed his bow laying beside him and stood. Starting to eye at the trees and the surrounding wild the attacks were coming from, an arrow notched. But he saw nothing. Even his so sharp Elven eyes saw nothing or he sensed nothing either for that matter, which pretty much confused him. One arrow had crazed his arm and one his leg so fast that he hadn't had the time to even notice there was someone watching them.
Arrows had flown around their small campsite, one sticking out of the tree right above Gimli's helmet, crazing it too, and Aragorn had been pinned to the ground. His shirt being pierced by one bolt and another being shot between his legs after he had fallen down for shelter. Boromir was next to him, on his knees an arrow crazing his cheek and both shoulders, completely stiff and frozen on his spot.
The Hobbits had gotten frightened by the sudden attack and ran to each other, but the arrows shot toward them had forced them to retreat against another tree. And now there were arrows sticking out of the wood right above their curly heads and right by their toes, preventing them to move by the fear of getting shot at again. But the whole scene had lasted only that quick moment when those few, unfamiliar looking brown arrows had been shot from obviously many different sources. There was not only one, but many possible enemies close to them.
Legolas scrutinized the grayish green forest and squinted. Why hadn't he felt those unfamiliar auras close by, especially if they were hostile? He couldn't understand how there hadn't been even one crack of a dry branch or a soft rustle of the grass to warn of this threat, which had probably prowled them ever since they had stopped. Aragorn now yanked the arrow holding him down off and slowly stood up, looking at his Elven friend his sword rising to his side. Gimli stood up also, holding his fighting axe.
"Where are they, Legolas?" Aragorn asked in Elvish, possibly so that the enemies wouldn't understand his words. Legolas squinted again.
"I don't know", he answered, using his mother tongue too. "I didn't sense any other presences than ours in the forest. Not even now…"
"Put down your weapons and do not move!" suddenly unfamiliar, commanding voice then shouted from somewhere of the forest, as well in Elvish , making all nine freeze. And there was surprise on the Fellowships' faces.
The voice had been woman's, but the Elvish it had spoken hadn't been quite perfect. It was a little… different in a weird way. But even so, Aragorn and Legolas now looked at each other in unitive surprise. Were there Elves in these woods? If so, then why would they attack them and be so far away from Elven realms?
It didn't take long when suddenly the nine companions started to see slim and slender figures appear on the tree branches, and between the trunks from the forest around them. Like ghosts, coming out from nowhere as had the arrows a moment ago. They had been hidden very close to the men, watching and observing them, and it surprised the members of the fellowship that they had been as silent as a thought even being so close.
But as the figures emerged from the light shadows of the trees, even bigger surprise spread on the nine persons' faces. As they now realized that not only the speaker but also rest of those ten to fifteen people were all women, judging by the curves of their bodies and lighter builts than men's. Their faces however were covered in masks so the body language and their more graceful way of walking were to tell their gender. But what surprised the fellowship most, was the way the women looked.
They wore no traditional dresses or wardrobe of a normal person of Middle-Earth. They wore quite meager, tight tops and skirts made out of leather and feathers hold in place by straps, as were their masks to cover their more tanned skin than the common Men's or Elves'. But some of them did wear pants, tight as well, as if working like a second skin. They had no shoes on and they had decorated their arms and legs with strange jewelry made from some unfamiliar material, reminding of bone. In their bound hair they had more feathers, as did in their ears. All different color and texture, being taken what it seemed from birds the nine companions had never seen before.
Those women looked as wild as the nature itself. They were like a primitive tribe of wild women living only in the books and stories told by different races to their children. Their bodies as said were feminine but muscular, as a sign of a strict training and fighting skills, their strong builts being only highlighted by the meager clothing. But their movements were as an opposite graceful and flexible, as that of an Elf too and not a common warrior's. And the ears of those women were more surprisingly pointy at the ends. Like Elven ears, even they were not Elves, clearly. And so as the travelers stared at those weird looking women, they could be nothing more than amazed. They had never known such a race would exist in Middle-Earth, but there they were. In the forest that in common knowledge should've been empty and unoccupied. The nine companions surrounded by these masked mystery women, not knowing were they enemies or friends.
All of the women had a bow in their hands, but they were pretty peculiar looking too compared to the other bows the fellowship had ever seen. The fellowship followed as those ten to fifteen women came to sight, all of them pointing their bows and fresh notched arrows toward the nine strangers. Then one of them walked forward, pointing straight at Legolas with her weapon, who had lifted his own immediately after seeing the figures coming out of the forest. She started to speak again now in common tongue. It was the woman who had spoken to them from the trees.
"Gather to the center!" she shouted and kept her bow steady, not letting it drop even an inch as eyed at the men with hard eyes which revealed nothing.
Legolas squinted at her, not even trying to lower his bow either. Neither did Aragorn lower his sword, but he directed a glance toward the Hobbits and nodded his head. All of the nine now quickly gathering into a group in middle of the clearing as commanded. Those strange women were now centering them from all the sides and there was no way of escaping, as all of them had a weapon of some sort in their hands. Mostly those strange bows. Then the woman spoke once more after scrutinizing them with her poignant gaze.
"What is your business going through our lands without a notice, bearing weapons?" she asked. "What have you come here for? Speak, or we'll show you not even such hospitality that we usually would to strangers who lurk in our forest!"
Aragorn squinted in turn. "Your forest? This forest does not belong to anyone, if the common knowledge is correct! We are just travelers passing through to continue our journey toward the mountains of Caradhras! Who are you, and why did you attack us?"
The woman didn't answer at first, but kept on examining those nine strangers suspicious. Nine men, which four of them were quite peculiar looking, being so short and different built and altogether different than normal people. They could be mistaken as children, but the woman knew better. Even small, those little men were old enough looking to be adults. Her almost black eyes next swept often over that blonde haired man she was holding her bow against, and saw he was an Elf. From the forest of Mirkwood judging by his brown and green colored clothes, not to mention by that bow he was holding. The Elf was staring at her tensely, squinting and sent glances at her blood-sisters. Clearly trying to figure what she and the other women were about to do.
The man who had spoken against her was middle-aged and dark haired, and even under that untidy demeanor she could clearly see a touch of the Elves in him. The immortal glow surrounded him, even though she was sure he wasn't one himself. He must've spent a lot of time with her tribe's immortal cousins.
One of the men was tall and old, wrapped in the grey cloak and wore a big pointy hat, deep blue attentive eyes looking curiously under its brim. The old man had a staff in his hands, and his grey beard covered lips were now curved into interested smile. He must've been a Wizard.
Moving her examining eyes away from the Wizard, she let them sweep through from that one tall Gondorian warrior finally to the Dwarf among them. The woman squinted in amazement as lifted her other brow. There hadn't been a true Dwarf seen in these woods for quite a long time now. And all in all, those nine were pretty weird bunch to travel together, if that Human man's words were to believe.
"We'll prefer you to answer!" the Dwarf exclaimed then and hold his axe higher. "Or this will turn out something more unpleasant, lasses!"
The eyes of the woman who had spoken moved to stare at Gimli briefly, until she returned them to the brown haired man and to the Elf.
"We speak nothing until you strangers have indentified yourselves, and given us a reason to trust you with our intentions!" she answered, not even a least bit threatened. "Tell us who you are!"
None of the nine companions spoke and Legolas, Boromir, Gandalf and Aragorn only stared at the women. Legolas as suspiciously as the woman looked upon them, Boromir uneasy, but Gandalf still only interested and Aragorn tried to look frank while meeting that woman's gaze. The Hobbits and Gimli were glancing around the women also wary.
But then the speaker woman gestured with her head and all of the women let their bows lower, but they kept them prepared to shoot. Only the spoken one lowered hers completely and walked closer to Aragorn and stopped in front of him, just looking deep into his eyes, actually making him feel quite uncomfortable under her exploratory gaze. Until then a rustle of leaves informed that someone else was coming from the tree behind the woman.
Hers and the eyes of the fellowship turned to look at the direction of the sudden sound. So did all the women, and especially the Hobbits now looked in awe as another thin bodied woman jumped down as gracefully from the tree. Landing perfectly balanced on her feet. Like the four meter drop had been nothing to her. That movement made them again think Elves, who were able to move in such way with such easiness, as to the normal mortals doing things like that would be very physically demanding.
But this woman looked different from the others as her long dark red hair was hanging free down to her chest and back, as the other women had their hair tightened up to their heads. Its color reminded of ripe wine. She also wore a mask to hide her face, but her outfit was slightly different too compared to the rest of her gender present.
She had a short dress also made out of leather which complimented her curves very well being extremely short from the left side, revealing her bare leg almost completely. But what was really different was that small hem starting from her hips at the right side, and her right thigh was covered by colorful feathers of many. And what was the most peculiar was a bracelet on her left arm, which as well differed from the other jewelry these women wore. A silvery serpent was curled around it, starting from her elbow and it hold a red, pearl looking jewel in its jaw, its eyes being of the same material. She looked even more wild and unreal than the others. And somehow more impressive by her presence and the way she just stood there for a moment before started to walk.
She went straight to the woman who had spoken, also examining the fellowship in interest. The Hobbits, who were now looking at the last arrived woman in much greater interest themselves, only saw a pair of attentive brown eyes looking back at them behind the mask. And then soft, younger sounding voice started to speak to the woman standing next to Aragorn in a strange language to the nine, which still in some way reminded Elvish in Legolas' opinion. He studied the woman who suddenly seemed to be honored by the other fifteen females in the clearing by their looks and movements.
"Who are these nine strangers, Yánná?" the younger sounding woman questioned from the one standing next to Aragorn, and let her eyes meet the ranger's for a fleeting moment, until the examining gaze was gone again.
"We don't know, my honored Lady", the woman called Yánná answered, looking at her blood-sister seriously. "They have not yet identified themselves, or told what is their true business in these woods."
Legolas examined the two. Had that woman Yánná called the other my Lady or something as respected as that? The word had sounded the Elvish word of same kind, but Legolas couldn't be sure. Then he met the other woman's gaze and was surprised by the depths of her irises, deepened by many seen lifetimes, as they took in the features of the Elven prince in turn.
Then all of them followed as she removed her mask, shaking her open hair free from its strings. The fellowship was dazed by the suddenly hypnotizing look of those brown eyes painted black, and the beauty of that unexpectedly young woman. She truly looked like an Elf, even she wasn't one either.
She then waved her both arms as a signal. And the rest of the women obeyed, also removing their masks and lowering their weapons.
"There's no need to draw our weapons against them are they trespassers or not, when we are so strong in number against them", the young woman said and the others bowed their heads in respect. It was obvious that that woman was someone very important.
She then returned her gaze back to the nine, and this time let it sweep over the faces of the strangers. Then Aragorn took a small step closer.
"May I ask who you are, my Lady?" he asked, respecting tone in his voice, as he had guessed this woman to be someone of great importance by the women's behavior. The young woman looked at him once more, examining him a bit again, until smiled politely and lowered her head as a greeting. The easiness and friendliness in it amazed the nine after her kinwomen had shot arrows at them earlier.
"You may", she answered now in common tongue and stepped away a little. "But I'd very much like to hear your names before giving mine. My apologies for the rudeness of our actions, but we have been on our toes for the possible enemies passing through the forest lately, as you have…"
She looked all the nine politely, smiling wider at the Hobbits who jolted at first, but then returned her sideways smile a bit unsurely. She then looked at Legolas.
"Would you care to lower you bow, Firstborn child of Ilúvatar?" she asked, in now totally pure Elvish this time, and gestured with her hand the Elf to put down the bow. She placed her fingers on the arrow's head as Legolas then answered her gaze a bit hesitant, but eventually let the tightness of the bow loose and lowered it. The woman smiled again briefly, looking thankful.
"Why should we give our names to those who attacked us?" Boromir said then and stepped forward, closer to the young woman maybe a little too threateningly because Yánná, who was still standing next to her blood-sister, prepared to stop him reaching her. But she was stopped by the risen hand of the young woman as she met the Gondorian's light eyes.
"My deepest apologies", she repeated, but then turned more serious and squinted a little. "We do not wish to harm you. But I have to ask you to come with us, before we let you leave this forest. All of the trespassers are they friendly or not, are to be brought to our queen before leaving our lands. I'm afraid it is the law, as you have wandered so close to our village. But it won't take much of your time."
"Nonesense!" Gimli exclaimed and uttered a snort, the woman's eyes flickering to him unreadable. "Aragorn, we should leave these wild women and get out of the forest as quickly as we can!"
"I agree with the Dwarf, Aragorn", Legolas said, but not so surely as he was going to because he was a bit taken by the appearance of this high status young woman of this strange race he had never come across before. He once again met her gaze and saw nothing more than sorry expression in them under her strict exterior. Not a single cause for worry or mistrust, the least cause for suspicion.
"Forgive me, but I cannot allow you to cross our lands before being shown to our queen", she continued, now wrinkling slightly her dark brows. "If you wish not to be truly attacked by our bow-women, I suggest you come with us to our village and meet our queen. Then you are safe to pass the forest to your destination without being bothered by my kin, as long as you're out of these parts of the woods. It is for your own protection."
"Who are you, my Lady?" Aragorn inquired again, taking another step closer. "Who is this queen of yours we have never heard of?"
All of the nine companions waited the young woman to answer. And finally after a minute of observing the ranger ahead of her she smiled and closer her eyes.
"My mother is the queen and the ruler of these lands, and this forest of Úthulien", she then answered, opening her eyes which now glowed for the sudden emotion and the little Hobbits were dazzled by her appearance. She truly was as beautiful as the Elven maidens and her true smile while expressed was sweet, even her outer appearance could've frightened some people. But still she didn't scare them.
"You have entered our kingdom maybe by mistake or as your true intention, but in either way I must ask you to come and tell your means to my mother. Come now, and we'll let you leave in peace, if only you come in peace!" she continued. "But first your names, please!"
She lowered her head in respect and smiled once again politely to all of the members of the fellowship. The force of her gaze felt as hard to meet as Elf's would, but still all of them were drawn to look in them either for curiosity or for fascination. The Hobbits were the first to introduce themselves.
"My name is Merry. Meryadoc Rankkibuk, but you may call me shortly Merry, my Lady", Merry started, bowing deeply to the young woman who nodded back. "I am pleased to meet you, my Lady."
"And I thank you master Meryadoc, shortly Merry, for your braveness and polite words!" she said and moved her gaze forward in the row of Hobbits. Merry grinned. And then rest of the three did the same, stating their names in same kind of polite manner and bowing to this woman they believed to be a princess. And she answered in every greeting with as polite words as to Merry. But then even Gimli walked closer to her and leant to his axe.
"I am Gimli son of Glóin, your majesty", the Dwarf said and nodded his head in turn, in spite of the politeness still a bit irritated expression on his face to be attacked by bunch of women. But the princess only smiled slightly and put her right hand over her heart.
"Welcome, master Gimli", she said politely and bent her head too. The Dwarf was as startled for her gesture as Legolas and Aragorn were. That kind of greeting was what the Elves used! But she didn't remark their surprise and only turned to look at Aragorn.
"And you ranger?" she asked. Aragorn shook his surprise away and smiled, also bowing a bit.
"I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn", Aragorn answered. "I am too very pleased to meet you, my Lady."
The princess' eyes widened and there was surprise on many faces of the other women too. But as quickly as it had appeared it was gone again, and she just smiled now to Boromir who flinched hardly noticeably due her gaze.
"Boromir, son of Denethor", Boromir said automatically before she could ask. She nodded.
"The warm welcome to you too, my Lord."
Then she directed her attention to the fair Elven prince and examined him curiously for a second before starting to talk. "And what is your name, Elf of the great Greenwood?" she asked, the polite smile still covering her lips.
Legolas met her gaze and felt all that suspicion vanish from his heart, as he now shared that look with the princess. He saw nothing bad in her eyes and they only looked back curious and friendly, though she could've seemed harsh from outside he observed. So he dared to smile back while he greeted her like other Elves in his kingdom.
"Legolas of Mirkwood, my Lady", he answered. "Son of Thranduil."
Legolas saw even bigger flicker of surprise in those brown irises, as they probably recognized the name of his father the king. But she didn't comment either that time, but only nodded once more.
"My sisters and I bear all of you welcome to my mother's kingdom", she said, looking at Legolas as answered his greeting in Elven style as did many other women behind her, and now glanced at the all nine strangers. "But now we must leave without a delay."
"We should do as the dear Lady says", Gandalf cut in then, and the princess noticed him for the first time as the Wizard walked forward to her, glancing at his companions. "If you wish not to be pierced by these women's sharply aimed arrows later on, it would be wise to listen to this young Lady here. Do not worry, women of the tribe Athélèrn are not our enemies if you won't make them as such."
"You know this tribe?" Boromir queried, getting a knowing look from the Wizard. But the princess was the one to give the answer.
"Isn't it Mithrandir?" she exclaimed in her own language, then happy, genuine smile forming on her lips and she rushed to the Wizard. And for the shock to everyone else than to the women she hugged Gandalf like he would be very old friend of hers. Well maybe he was, because as much as the princess seemed to know Gandalf he seemed to know her too, being as delighted due this sudden meeting as she was.
"It's been a long time, my princess", the Wizard replied in that same strange tongue, and bent his head smiling. "You have grown into a woman since my last visit!"
The princess smiled thankful. "But what on earth are you doing here now, Mithrandir?" she asked, glancing briefly at the Wizard's companions. Gandalf wrinkled his brows.
"To tell you the truth, just as Aragorn suspected we might've made a wrong turn in the paths of the forest judging by you appearance, which can only mean we have accidentally come across you mother's lands like Yánná told us earlier", Gandalf answered and nodded to the woman called Yánná, who nodded back. A small smile on her lips too now, when she had realized who this Wizard was.
"We weren't supposed to come by this part of the forest, but here we are!"
"You knew there were these wild women in this forest, Gandalf?" now Gimli asked, not meaning to be so rude his words might've made him sound. The Wizard looked at the Dwarf.
"Yes, I knew. But I thought we would pass the forest far away from lands of Athélèrn, so I didn't see a reason to tell you about them. They like to stay out of further knowledge of the outside world…"
"But how is it possible we have walked astray from our route?" Frodo wondered, earning many glances around him including Yánná and the princess of the Athélèrn. "Didn't you say we would come out of this forest very easily and quickly by following the trail, Strider?"
"I did", Aragorn admitted, looking thoughtful. "That's why I don't understand how we could've lost our way…"
"This forest is much harder to cross than many think", princess said then, looking at Aragorn straight into eyes. "It easily makes the lone travelers go lost and be trapped in these woods, even if it's not that big as the forest of Lothlórien or Mirkwood…" She directed one amused glance toward Legolas before looking at Aragorn and the rest again. "Now we must be on our way to our village. Our queen is expecting us, and we need to find out how you can continue your journey safely…"
Safely? Legolas thought and squinted. What does she mean by that?
But then she turned around and started to walk toward the forest, not waiting any specific acceptance from the fellowship. But as the women started to follow too after their princess to the mids of the trees, so did the nine members of the fellowship without any protests, led by Gandalf.
Like in a strange daze they now too walked after the princess and her sisters of this Athélèrn tribe, somehow forgetting most of their doubts and fears toward them. Gandalf´s words had calmed them, even only the princess' peaceful words had made an impact too due the honesty in them. But before any of them entered into the actual forest again, Legolas started to speak. And directed his talk to this mysterious princess.
"What is your name my Lady, princess of Athélèrn tribe?" he inquired as well, half not aware of the words coming through his lips. But this time the princess gave an answer after stopping and turning to the Elf, a friendly smile on her lips.
"Shakiiya", she replied, finally revealing her name. And then she turned with nothing more to say, and started to lead the nine strangers through the trees toward their village.