2. Meeting Upon A Storm
Arien hadn't yet started her journey in the sky when Arwen woke up. However, she was aware that she had to rise and prepare her things if she was to leave the time she intended. As soon as she changed to her travelling clothes, she opened the door and, after catching sight of the servant who always stood close by in case she needed anything, she bade him to inform her escort that they should be ready to set off soon enough. Then she started packing her belongings, a task that wouldn't take up too much of her time, since she didn't usually carry many things with her, especially not when her outing was not even two days' ride from Minas Tirith and lasted a mere two weeks.
A great rumbling sound made her turn and look outside the window. Grey clouds could be seen covering the sky and the Elven-woman sensed the delicate smell of humidity in the air.
Not the best of days to start a journey, she thought. Yet it wasn't that that mattered to her so much, since her ride would be a short one. For some unknown reason, an unsettling feeling that she didn't have the words to name had started gnawing in her heart ever since she had woken up. All she could tell was that the conversation she had with Faramir last night had left her with a far deeper impression than she had wanted to admit. Now a torturous thought and a threat had been growing in her mind, warning her that she should be wary on her journey. But was it a feeling she should take heed, or had she become merely uneasy because of what she had heard? She simply couldn't be sure anymore.
She shook her head out of such ominous musings. After all, what she should be thinking now was how much she missed Aragorn and how much she wanted to return to him as quickly as possible; and how glad she would be once back by his side and in his arms.
Ready at last and putting on her travelling cloak, she opened the door and walked out. To her pleasant surprise, she came across Faramir and Éowyn, who wished to say their parting greetings to Arwen when she would ride away, and so all three of them walked towards the courtyard.
Arwen's escort was already in the courtyard, waiting for the queen to appear. The only two horses that were still without a rider on them were Arwen's, standing proud and erect nearby, and the commander's, who was now conversing with Beregond.
"It was good to see you again, Second Captain of the Citadel," remarked Beregond, uttering the title in a good-natured tease. "I missed you, and so did Bergil."
"It was good to see you too, my brother," answered Iorlas, placing his arm over his younger sibling's shoulders. "Minas Tirith simply is not the same with you away."
"Will you give the rest of the fellows my regards? Especially Maldir?"
"Of course! I will even meet Meneldor and Rían to make sure she gets her compliments for those sweet cakes she sent you," Iorlas assured him, laughing. "I declare, that woman your friend married thinks you are starving here!"
"She only means well," remarked Beregond.
"I know, I know," consented Iorlas, raising his hand in peace. Just then, Arwen's stallion neighed loudly. "That can only mean the Queen is coming. I should go."
Beregond nodded his understanding, but it was still difficult for him to say goodbye. Before Iorlas could react, he had grabbed his older brother in a tight embrace and held him close for many long moments. Startled, yet touched as well, Iorlas returned the embrace, realising how important this was to Beregond. After all, this was their first meeting in a long time and neither of them knew when they would be fortunate enough to see each other again.
"You too, little brother; though I know somebody who will make sure no harm will come to you," said Iorlas, winking and making Beregond smile; he knew of the strong friendship that the Prince of Ithilien and his brother shared.
"Captain Iorlas?" The voice of the servant made both captains turn. "They are waiting for you."
"Lead the way, my good man," said Iorlas and, after one last farewell to Beregond, he hurried towards his horse and mounted it. In a matter of moments, Arwen had also settled on her stallion; and the company set off with many blessings and kind words from the people of Emyn Arnen.
Arwen and the soldiers had been riding for some time before it was decided that they should stop for a while. They let the horses rest and graze on some blades of grass nearby, while the riders stretched their legs and backs. One of the soldiers even discovered a small river nearby, so everyone was able to refresh himself.
While the men were starting a fire and brewing some stew for luncheon, Arwen found the opportunity to wash her face and hands as well. She had hardly finished drying herself however, when she discovered that she was being watched. There, in the reflection of the water, she could see the form of a man, kneeling by the bank.
Arwen instantly lifted her head, but to her utter surprise and puzzlement, she saw no one. She opened her mouth to call to Iorlas, but then she caught sight of the water again. A gasp of astonishment escaped her lips at what she saw: locks of black hair, flowing by her at the whim of the current. She watched the strange vision frozen, trying to comprehend what was happening; then a gust of wind carried to her ears the sound of crying.
The voice of the Captain plunged her back into reality.
"My Queen, the men are ready to set off again."
"Very well, I am coming," faltered Undómiel, forcing herself to straighten her thoughts.
Iorlas noticed how shaken Arwen was though.
"My Queen? Is something amiss?"
Arwen immediately shook her head no. "Go ahead, I will follow."
Iorlas nodded a bit in obedience and walked away, although he felt certain that something was indeed troubling the Queen of Gondor.
Meanwhile, Arwen looked back at the river to see everything was, in fact, unchanged but for one thing: the clouds had become far darker and lightning could even be seen in the distance now. The storm that she had expected was finally coming and it would prove a terrible one. There was no time to wonder at the vision; they should leave at once.
Arwen hurried to where her escort was waiting and swiftly climbed on her own horse. Upon giving the signal, the company left off once more in a fast gallop. No matter how fast the travellers rode though, they didn't manage to escape the terrible tempest: in less than a half hour, big drops of rain started pouring on them and their cloaks did little to keep them dry for long. Darkness surrounded them now and everyone tried hard to look beyond the torrent that seemed to whip them mercilessly. Booming thunders nearly deafened them, while it was only their mastery that kept their steeds on their course instead of bolting.
"It is as though the Valar's wrath broke out against us!" cried Iorlas over the neighs of his frightened horse.
"Yet we must move on!" answered Arwen, who was forging on beside him. "There is no cover nearby we can use!"
If Iorlas ever meant to answer, he never had the chance. A lightning bolt struck quite close to the company and though the riders protected their eyes on time, the horses were less fortunate. Blinded by the sudden flash of light, the poor creatures reared and neighed terrified and their masters could control them no more. It was only after much coaxing and calm talk that the steeds had regained part of their composure.
Patting his mare's neck encouragingly, Iorlas turned to see how the rest of the troops fared and started calling out the soldiers' names.
"Here!" called back one by one the riders.
But when Iorlas called for his queen, there was no answer.
"My Lady?" cried out the captain again, only to receive the crack of another thunder as answer. It was then that a new wave of lightning lighted the area and all the soldiers saw with their own eyes the horrible truth that they feared: the Queen of Gondor wasn't amongst them and she was nowhere else to be seen either.
Arwen tried to talk to her horse and make him stop, but it was of no use. The stallion was closest to where that fateful lightning struck and he was frightened out of his wits. Now he was running as fast as his legs could carry him in a state of panic, barely missing the trees and bushes that were standing on his way. Arwen couldn't tell for how long she had been riding like this, but she knew that she was taken away from the company and there was nothing she could do about it.
At that very moment, disaster came: betrayed by the rain-soaked ground, the poor beast lost his footing and fell down, neighing painfully. Arwen was thrown violently off the horse and she landed heavily on the ground, crying out her own pain as she hit her head hard against a tree stump. She tried to rise but she felt too dizzy and confused, while her stallion's constant neighs kept ringing in her ears, making her head feel even worse.
Then the whinnies ceased altogether, something that sent a chill to Arwen's heart.
Turning slowly her head, she saw a dark form stooping over the stallion; but it wasn't that which changed her fright into dread and horror. Crimson liquid was now streaming out of the horse's neck, and in the black-clothed silhouette's hand was the weapon that had ended the steed's life: a small dagger, its thin and elegant blade glistening brightly despite the blood that stained it. It was also unlike any other dagger Arwen had seen in her life, for it was curved to the point that its shape resembled Ithil at his waxing and its handle was thick and made of iron. As she tried to figure out who could possibly wield such a weapon, Arwen remembered Faramir and Beregond's tale. Then she knew who was before her.
The Creature had by now arisen from the horse's side and had caught sight of Arwen. Walking cautiously, he now approached her, his dagger still at hand and his face hidden in the shadows. Lightning struck again and both adversaries were able to get a brief glimpse of each other's form for a single instant.
Snapping into action, Arwen quickly arose as well and drew her own means of defence: her sword.
"Stay away!" she warned, mustering all her courage. To her misfortune however, the quick motion nauseated her and she felt faint again. Falling into a swoon, her hand dropped the sword and she felt herself falling. The last thing she registered before she plunged into the darkness of oblivion was that she never hit the ground as she had expected.
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.