3. Chapter 3
"A woman, there."
His kinsmen turned to follow his gaze. The hazy afternoon was growing swiftly darker, but not yet enough to defeat the keen-sighted elves.
"It's their captain," Finrod said. "We noticed about fifteen years ago, that there were suddenly many more women among the Enemy's Men. They've had them before, especially among the Easterling horse-archers, but never in these numbers. We think they're desperate enough now to be throwing all their able-bodied adults into the fight, male or female, even at the risk of losing their future offspring. Which is, I suppose, a good sign for our side. So far as we can tell, about a third of the warriors in this garrison seems to be female, including the commander and at least one of her lieutenants."
"She is holding an odd device..."
"A long-glass. A new thing of theirs. It lets them see clearly at a distance, almost as far as we can."
"So she can see us as we see her?"
Maedhros lifted his left arm and waved at the distant walls.
"That she may know that I know that she's there."
The High King looked at him with cool thoughtfulness.
"You speak, sir, as if you are on terms with this enemy mortal."The guards, both the Companions and the King's own, were alert and listening. After Doriath, after Sirion, any enormity might be believed of the Sons of Fëanor. Maedhros moved his shoulders in a minimal shrug, as untouched by the imputation of treason as by anything else.The raven tightened its grip and muttered to itself.
"Himring is mine. I but remind this usurper of that fact."
"Sirs," Edrahil interrupted, "She has a bow!""We are far out of range," Vanamirë began.
The raven shrieked and flew up, its claws tearing cloth and grating off the mail beneath. The elves flung themselves flat. Something black whined overhead and thumped into a tree, shaking the spindly trunk with its force. Maedhros looked up from the detritus of rotting leaves that covered the ground; a long, black-fletched arrow was buried deeply in the wood, precisely level with where his heart had been.
The Companions were between the Kings and Himring, shields up, though no further attack came. In their lee, the High King and his son picked themselves up and withdrew in good order into the shelter of the trees. Maglor was already there, having leapt for cover at the raven's warning. Maedhros paused to drag the arrow from the tree, and followed at his leisure. The group reassembled on the other side of the hill, where the High King's tent had been pitched on a natural terrace of level grass supported by a large outcrop of boulders.
"Surely there was sorcery in the flight of that dart," Finarfin said, to all appearances unruffled. "We were far beyond the proper range of any bow wielded by flesh and blood."
Maedhros looked at the arrow in his hand. Then he pinned the shaft to a convenient boulder with his maimed arm, and ran a fingertip lightly over the stained arrowhead. Finrod and the High King peered at the shaft. It looked like a normal arrow of the Easterlings, except that the leaf-shaped head appeared to have been dipped in blood.
"I have heard, and seen, that these followers of the Enemy believe often that blood in some manner may be a source of Power," Finarfin said, "but I had thought it merely some vile superstition of these Men of Darkness."
Maedhros licked his finger.
"It depends on the blood," he said.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.