Silently a grey horse and a rider plodded along the path. The rider’s eyes pierced through the fog that began to dissipate, seeing in confusion nothing was as it had been when the fog rose up around them.
The soft beat of hooves sounded behind them, and the rider turned to see an old man wearing a pointy hat come up beside them.
“Good afternoon, my lady. Where do you go to?”
“Anywhere my fine friend wishes to take me,” she returned, patting the horse’s sleek neck. “And yourself?” she asked, somehow not finding it odd to meet another rider in such times. Maybe because this whole day had been so surreal already.
“I am headed down this road, to meet with an old friend of mine.”
“Known him long?” she asked softly, looking up at the woods that loomed before them.
“Ages, it seems,” the man agreed. “Tell me child, have you a name?”
“Not of any importance,” she countered, her voice still soft as she looked around. “I’ve no doubt you have earned one, though.”
“Indeed?” he asked, chuckling softly, his old blue eyes twinkling beneath bushy brows. “I am known as Gandalf.”
“Really?” she asked, twisting her head. “Istari,” she breathed. She continued when he nodded. “Then Gram was right. You should never sing such songs when walking through the fog.” She turned forward once again and shrugged. “Oh well. It was bound to happen sometime.” Silence filled the small space between them for a while. “Gandalf?”
“Was what she told me true?” she asked, greeting the man as a friend now.
“Yes. Every word.”
She nodded and looked up at the trees again. They were dark, but darkness did not scare her. “Then I am glad to be here.”
Gandalf chuckled softly and remained silent as they rode through the woods. As they got closer to his destination, he shifted slightly. “I should warn you, though we will be welcomed by my friend, those who will escort us will not be so… friendly.”
She laughed softly. “I have no fear in this place.” Her eyes pierced the darkness, the blackness of the world about her.
Gandalf smiled again. Indeed? He thought softly. Yes, this was a very good thing.
Soon they were surrounded by horses which made not a sound, their riders drawing around them with bows drawn. The girl’s eyes flashed, but when Gandalf made no move to protest as they were led along, she said nothing as well.
The cloaked beings led them to a mountain, where a large gate moved aside to allow them entrance to a city built into the heart of the mountain, passing silently there without as much as a call from the others about. There were no others about. There obviously were, but they kept out of sight, except for a few children running here and there. Once they spotted the group, they ceased playing and fell silent, their eyes wary, their hair wild as they seemed to grow up in that instant, becoming silent, condemning old men. They backed into the shadows.
The girl said nothing, not even really caring what these people did or didn’t like about her. She was here on her own, and would leave if she wished. It was as simple as that. She would find a way.
They were led into another gate, with large stone walls, and more silent archers stationed around its top. She shook her head, her eyes dark green in slow annoyance. Being treated as prisoners! Really!
By the time they were led to the gates of what appeared to be a palace, her anger was nearly at the boiling point. When they made her dismount, at sword, arrow and spear point, then give up her bag and bound her hands, she went over the edge. Silently seething, she forced a calm to her face, promising herself she would attack someone for this before the day was done. Gandalf looked to be a good candidate, for he was walking along with his staff, much more deadly than her pack, without a guard near him nor with his hands bound.
She lifted her chin, silently daring anyone in the large room they entered to think her captured. They could bind her, but she would be free. She would find a way.
“Welcome Gandalf. I see you bring…company.”
“Indeed,” the old wizard murmured. “You need not take such precautions. She is but a child.”
“A child?” the King asked, motioning for her to be brought forward to where he sat on a beautiful throne. He tilted his head at her, frankly studying her beneath her travel cloak. “Not so much a child, Gandalf.” He continued studying her, his eyes lingering on her face as if he could look into her. “Her eyes shoot flames.”
“She has been bound, stripped of her belongings and taken off the path without so much as a word being spoken to her. I would be much more worried if she was not angry.”
She, on the other hand, slowly tried to cool those flames, irritated the elven king could see them. No one at home had. Still, being watched as if she had come here as an assassin…
“What is your name, child?”
“I have no name of importance.”
It was quite obvious she had not followed protocol in some way when the room, which had been buzzing with soft, pleasant voices, went silent. “You will answer,” a voice to the side declared. A younger elf stepped forward from his previously unnoticed place beside the king, his eyes blazing in brightest blue.
“And what would you have me answer?” she retorted, not in the least intimidated.
“Tell us your name,” he demanded, stalking closer to her so fluidly it seemed he hadn’t moved.
“It is of no importance,” she declared once more, tilting her head up a little so she could glare better when he came closer.
“Why do you refuse to answer?” he spat, his hand closing over her arm.
She looked down at the hand, feeling the bruising strength barely controlled on her flesh. Her gram had said elves were strong beyond the strength of humans, but this she had not expected. Still, it made no difference. “If you do not let go of me at once, you may find yourself embarrassed.”
“Not until you answer,” he hissed, his eyes narrowing in fury.
“There is no answer for you!” she exclaimed, before jerking her hand free and using her released elbow to jab into his midsection, making him double over just long enough for her to follow the blow with one to the back of the neck. Her hands grabbed the dagger at his waist before he fell, and she had her hands released in an instant.
The guards around her moved as if to skewer her alive, but Gandalf held up a hand, and slowly the king uneasily called for the guards to back off. She snorted softly and flipped the blade expertly around her hand. It was of fine craft. She threw it at the floor by Gandalf’s feet, ignoring the way he and the king sat closely, Gandalf ready to give his council. “Some friends you have, Gandalf.”
“Gandalf, why have you brought such a—“
“Thranduil, if we could speak privately….” He trailed off as they took in the enraged elf getting to his feet, shaking off the guards who would have helped him up and ushered him away.
“What are we to do with them, in the meantime?” Thranduil asked with some slight humor.
Gandalf looked between the pair, dark green flames meeting blue ice, and smiled slowly. “Disarm them, put them in a room with two chairs, and tie them to the chairs far enough from each other they can’t harm one another.”