There was a voice. Low and soft and powerful. She should understand what it was saying, but she couldn't. Then there is was again, not Sindarin, but the common tongue. Westeron.
For all the years she had studied languages, she had never found cause to use them, and it took her a moment to place the words. Realizing finally what was said, she inhaled, and light exploded in her mind. Her eyes snapped open and she tried to take in what was around her. It was quiet, so the battle was over, and the voice was certainly not that of an orc, so they had won. Focusing her vision she saw in front of her the chest of a man.
"Quite a strong chest at that," she thought, laughing at how that had been her first thought in this situation. She must have fallen down.
Looking to gather her legs under her, she concluded that in fact she hadn't fallen and was still propped upright against the commander's platform. She focused her eyes again. The chest was still there.
"That would mean….", the thought ran through her mind as she craned her neck to look up.
He was magnificent!
No…. she meant massive.
He was a massive man, taller by two hands or more than the tallest person she had ever known. He looked down on her with soft eyes that were more blue than she could describe. And his hair, it was sliver. She had never seen this type of silver before. It was not silver like the metal from which her comb was made, but more like moonlight. By the fourteen he was striking!
She shook the thought from her head. She had just been in a pitched battle. She had killed an orc with her own spear, and here she was ogling a man, a human man for that matter, like a dizzy schoolgirl.
Then the voice returned. It was still soft and powerful, and it was his.
Oh by the light! And on top of it all he has a voice like that.
"You have an arrow in your side, my Lady," he said. "We must remove it."
An arrow? What nonsense. She looked down, and indeed there was an arrow lodged several inches into her left side.
"How odd." For some reason she said this aloud bringing a warm smile to the face of the giant.
"Indeed it is, my Lady. Unfortunately it has turned since it struck you. There will be some discomfort as it is removed."
Something was wrong with her mind. She wasn't thinking clearly. Maybe it was whatever she had just inhaled. Or maybe she was distracted by those muscular arms. Why hadn't she noticed those arms before?
The silver haired giant looked at Leindir who, although still on his platform, was not far above his eye level. "I will need your assistance my Lord, if you might?"
It wasn't an order, but there was a firmness and insistence in the tone, and without seeming to think, Leindir climbed from his platform. "What can I do to help?"
"I will re-position the arrow," responded the giant. "Then, when I direct you, withdraw the arrow smoothly and firmly." His blue eyes looked intently into the face of the commander, "Do you understand, my Lord?"
"Let us get her seated first, her back against this post." Gently he guided Galadwen down and sat her against the platform's support. Kneeling next to her, he reached across her body and, lightly grasping the shaft of the arrow, rotated it slightly.
A searing pain such as she had never felt before shot through Galadwen's body and she shoved hard against the giant, trying to jump to her feet. But she didn't move, even the smallest bit. The huge man had his hand pressed into her right side pinning her to the post against which she sat. By the gods he was strong. And that hand was perilously close to her breast. Strange it got there without her noticing.
Damn it all, she couldn't focus. Please let it be whatever she had inhaled that was causing this light headedness.
Reaching into a pouch at his side, her caregiver drew out a small, green leaf. From another pouch he produced light red berry which he placed on the leaf, rolling it all into a ball between his hands. Next he said several words in a language Galadwen did not recognize, and after exhaling deeply onto the ingredients, he placed them in his mouth, chewing for a few moments. Removing the cud, he looked in a gentle way at the young elven girl.
"My lady, we are going to remove the arrow now. It will be painful, but it must be done, and I promise you will suffer only a very brief time."
Galadwen looked nervously to Leindir. The commander was not looking at her but instead at the giant, a look of curiosity seemed to be on the ageless warrior's face. Noticing Galadwen looking at him, Leindir laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"It is alright my dear", he said in Sindarin. "I suspect there is more to this lad than simply his size. I believe you are in good hands."
Galadwen paused for a moment. Lad? What lad? Looking at her medic again, she studied his face more deeply. Maybe it had been the eyes, but how had she failed to see this before? He was little more than a boy, young even by human standards.
The giant looked to Leindir and respectfully dropped his eyes. "Thank you my Lord," he replied in very passable, if oddly accented Sindarin. "You honor me with your trust. Withdraw the arrow when you are ready."
A look of shock crossed Leindir's face. "How did a young human boy come to speak our tongue?"
The giant continued to concentrate fully on Galadwen. "I will happily discuss my education, my Lord, after we remove the arrow."
Leindir shook his head slightly as if clearing his mind. "Of course. I apologize."
Galadwen was stunned. Leindir apologized? Then a blinding pain surged through her side and her thoughts scattered. She struggled to lash out, but the giant had his hand on her and she was further restrained by someone from behind.
"Remove her armor, I must see the wound."
Hands took her from all sides and her helm and coif were discarded, the mail shirt pulled quickly over her head. Her gambison was removed in a few seconds, she assumed the laces had been cut, and she heard her undergarment torn near the wound. Her vision returned somewhat and was consumed by the form of the giant leaning over her. With one finger he pushed the poultice into the hole in her side. The wound was emitting a strange noise, a bubbling, sucking sound, like air in water. A broad leaf, the size of the giants hand appeared from somewhere, and a salve was smeared on it in a rapid, efficient manner. It was placed firmly over the hole.
Then, from another pouch, came a long linen bandage. How many pouches did this boy have? He wrapped this around her twice, fully covering the leaf and a knot was tied sharply down on the injured area. This brought another jolt of pain, and Galadwen inhaled sharply. The hands were back, holding her from behind, but this time she remained still and endured. One more wrap around her body and another knot, this one just below her sternum, and the work was done. The pain of the wound was already subsiding and Galadwen realized the whole affair had taken perhaps half a minute.
She looked up for the face of her benefactor. She was short of breath and still dizzy from the pain, but even if she couldn't speak, she wanted her eyes to reflect the thanks she felt for this enormous man's aid. Surprisingly her savior was not paying her the slightest attention, instead he had stood and was looking in an almost random manner into the night sky to his right. Similarly Leindir seemed distracted, turning to his left and intently looking at the dirt under his fingernails.
A saddle blanket dropped over her left shoulder. "Wrap up dear," it was the voice of Lady Arawel. It had been her hands holding her from behind during her treatment, Galadwen now realized.
"Thank you my lady," Galadwen croaked reaching across with her right hand to pull the blanket about her. The night had been breezy and comfortable, but now the light wind had a chill that settled on her skin and made her shiver.
Then an awful thought sprung to mind. Glancing down she saw her light, linen undershirt had been ripped open from her waist to just under her shoulder exposing her entire upper body. She felt blood rushing to her face and choked back a shocked wail. Snatching the blanket across her sent another stab of pain through her side, but she didn't care about that. She felt Arawel's arms grasp the blanket gently from behind as she helped tie it into place behind her.
"Gently my child," her mistress said softly. "We don't want to aggravate your injury, and both of those two are decent men and will never speak of this." The last part Arawel delivered somewhat more forcefully, and it was answered by grunts of agreement and nods. "We should get her to the aid station."
But lady Arawel needn't have mentioned it. Even as she spoke the giant youth was scooping up Galadwen. Holding her lightly and with no apparent effort, he struck out for the rear of the encampment where the wounded were being treated.
"My Lady," he said to Arawel in the same strong voice he had used with her husband. "The commander has the military situation well in hand. Perhaps I could instruct you as to the care of my patient?"
Galadwen looked up at the powerful, young stranger. His features were framed by his long, silver locks which hung in gentle waves to below his shoulders. His face was angular, his jaw strong, square and clean shaven. She would say he had the face of a warrior, were it not for the eyes. His eyes were blue, and deep, and soft. And sad.
For a split second he glanced down at his charge and their eyes met. And then, just as quickly he looked away again with an almost nervous grimace. He couldn't be that shy, could he? Was he blushing?
Throughout this he was talking in his low, soft voice. "She has suffered a failure of her lung, my Lady."
Arawel must be with them.
"When she rests, she must lie on the wounded side, this will allow her good lung to breath easily. In the morning the poultice will have sealed the hole and we will be able to remove the patch on her side. At that point the lung will regain it's vigor and she will want to rise. Allow her to sit upright, but until I stitch the wound she should not walk."
Galadwen was drifting off, and she turned herself slightly in his powerful arms, pressing her face into his chest, feeling safe. He responded by pulling her just slightly more tightly against him.
"Very familiar of him", she thought as she drifted off. "Very familiar indeed".
She had a very pleasant dream. She was floating gently, looking up at a blue, clear sky. It was a warm, spring day, but the breeze was pleasant and cool, and she could hear water flowing. Galadwen took a deep breath and she smelled grass and wildflowers.
"If you feel strong enough my Lady, you should sit up and drink." She knew that soft voice. It was pleasant too.
A face leaned in blocking her view of the sky. It was the strong, square face of the giant, still framed by his flowing hair which hung down to just inches above her face.
Good. She liked romantic dreams and she let it take her.
Galadwen saw his lips move and the soft voice said something she couldn't quite grasp. She felt a pressure in the small of her back and she was lifted gently.
"Of course. A kiss," she thought as she felt her protector's hair gently slide across her cheek. She rose a little to meet him, her eyes closing, her head tilting backwards to meet his lips.
The voice was not as soft now. Closer to terrified. And there was a girl's giggling coming from somewhere. What was happening to her dream? Galadwen's eyes slowly opened and she focused on the slightly panicked face of the silver haired youth. Her lips were slightly parted and her head tilted back. His mouth was just inches from hers. There was that giggling again.
"Oh by the Valar", she thought. "Not a dream". She averted her eyes quickly and drew back. The large man was holding a water skin in one hand and was propping her up with the other. A distraction. She needed a distraction.
"My neck was a bit sore, My Lord." It was the best she could do on short notice. "I must have slept awkwardly. Thank you for the water."
There was another burst of girlish giggling coming from somewhere behind the giant. Turning to face him, he helped her sit up. Tipping the waterskin slightly so she could drink, she gratefully accepted the offer. Her mouth felt parched and the cool water was a blessing as it ran down her throat. After several deep draws from the skin, she had a chance to take in her surroundings.
She was in a low sided boat. "Like the one I saw adrift on the river", she thought. Seated with her back to the prow, Galadwen saw that it had several benches running it's width, with large packages of folded cloth stored in the bottom between them. She assumed they were tents, and she saw that they had made a bed, laying her feet in the prow with the tents underneath and her head resting on the forward bench.
There were three of them in the boat. Silima was at the tiller standing behind the giant. Her eyes were sparkling with amusement as she looked at her friend. Galadwen felt her face flush as she thought again about what had just happened.
The giant was seated on the middle bench facing her. The small craft was not designed for a man of his size and he looked awkwardly balanced as he stared intently at the small elf girl seated in front of him.
Galadwen looked down at herself. She was in a beautiful silk dress, blue with sliver embroidery, that hung to her feet. It was certainly not hers. She could not afford anything as extravagant as this, and there were soft slippers on her feet. She ran her fingers across her brow and through her hair.
"My hair is combed?" She hadn't intended it, but she said it aloud.
The big man looked a little chagrined. "Yes my lady," he answered, drawing her silver comb from his pocket and handing it to Galadwen. "I ensured you were cared for as you slept."
Behind him, Silima was making an extravagant combing gesture and absolutely beaming with amusement. "He combed your hair," she mouthed silently.
Looking back at the giant she saw him blushing furiously and staring down into the water at a leaf that had just become of great interest. How sweet.
Galadwen reached out and took the silver comb from his large hand. It was about four inches across and had been a gift from her doting father when she was still a small child. It consisted of two beautifully depicted Mallorn leaves, their stems crossing, which formed the backbone, and delicate teeth of a dark, polished wood. It was of exquisite workmanship and was Galadwen's most treasured possession. Seeing it again comforted her immensely.
"Thank you my Lord," she said softly, her fingers sliding across his hand for a moment. "You have been more kind to me than I could expect of someone I do not know."
He still blushed, and a twig in the river had replaced the leaf as the center of his focus, but he seemed to relax. "Thank you, but I am no lord. I help keep bar at my mother's tavern."
That surprised Galadwen. He was shy, yes, but during the battle he had been confident, even commanding. She remembered how both Arawel and Leindir had allowed him to take over her care without even asking his name. What was his name?
"I will stop calling you Lord, good sir, if you would only tell me your name."
Looking up from the river, the giant looked into Galadwen's eyes. "I am Earendil, my lady. Of Dale. I apologize for not introducing myself properly before this." He bowed his head formally.
Galadwen paused, thinking back on her lessons concerning history and language. Earendil was not a Dalish name. Gondorian? Perhaps even more ancient. Numerian?
"I am honored to meet you Earendil. I am a very young woman, and 'my Lady' simply isn't appropriate."
"She's not even old enough to choose a mate," Silima chimed in from behind, resulting in more blushing from both man and elf.
Damn that girl, she was ruining the moment! Galadwen shot Salima the most vicious stare she could muster, garnering only a broad grin and a shoulder shrug in return. Turning her attention back to Earendil, she bowed her head slightly in return. "My name is Galadwen of Lothlorien."
"It is my pleasure to meet you, Galadwen," he responded and looked at her deeply for a moment.
It was Silima again that spoiled things. "If you two are done gazing at each other, it seems we are making camp for the afternoon."
Galadwen looked up startled. She had been so distracted by the introduction that she had not taken the time to determine where she was. Looking about her she saw she was in one of perhaps a dozen similar boats. Each had two or three people aboard, many of whom were lying down. The boats were low in the water, appeared heavily laden and occasionally were towing a second craft behind it, equally weighed down.
The boats in turn had long ropes tied to their bows which led ashore. Here horses were pulling the craft upstream, guided by elves with dozens of men walking along the bank beside them.
Galadwen realized these boats must belong to the men. They had loaded the wounded and supplies into them, releasing the horses to pull them upstream against the current. That meant they were heading north, which made sense, but how long had she slept? The river was wide here, the current slow, and the banks shallow, but she could see little beyond them. The few tree tops she saw were scattered, and the hills they had fought their battle in were nowhere to be seen.
"Earendil. How long have I been asleep?"
"Almost two days, my Lady." Earendil shook his head, angry at himself for the slip, but continued. "I'm afraid the arrow that struck you was poisoned, and in the confusion of the battle I missed the signs. By the time I tended you in the morning, and noticed my oversight, the poison had spread." The large man dropped his eyes, embarrassed by his mistake. "My treatments for the corruption were successful, but your energy was spent and you required much rest. I am sorry. My lapse almost cost you your life."
Galadwen put her hand under the massive man's chin lifting his face and looking into his eyes. "Nonsense. It was night and judging by the number of wounded in the other boats, I'd say you were very busy. I probably owe you my life, good Earandil. I will never be able to repay you."
Silima spoke up again. "Oh Galadwen. We will be with these fine folk for many nights yet. I'm sure you and this strapping young man could find a way for you to repay your debt."
Galadwen blushed furiously yet again at the implication, and avoiding Earendil's eyes, turned to watch as Silima guided her boat into the shore. As soon as it ran aground, the giant stepped awkwardly over the side. Both of the young elves had to find handholds as the boat rocked dangerously due to the shifting weight, but with a strong heave, the craft was drawn several more feet up the bank and made secure with a stake and a length of rope. Once this was done, he reached back over the side and offered to lift Galadwen from her bench.
"The bank is muddy, and your clothes are so fine," he explained, as Galadwen protested that she was able to climb from a boat unaided.
She did have to agree with that line of reasoning, and since the clothes were not hers, she allowed herself to be cradled by the big man and carried gently onto the grassy bank.
Silima now pointedly cleared her throat, and when Earendil looked back to her, fixed him with a meaningful stare. Seeing his error, he stepped back down the bank and leaned in to help the second handmaiden to the shore.
She almost leapt into his arms, forcing Earendil to catch her while maintaining his balance. Draping her left arm around his neck, she sighed dramatically and lay her cheek against the giant's chest. Taking two steps up the bank, he gently placed his burden down, receiving a gentle squeeze on a muscular arm as she backed away.
"Thank you my Lord," Silima said with a small curtsy. "A lady feels so safe in your arms."
Earendil was clearly overwhelmed. Stammering something unintelligible, he nodded to Silima, then again quickly to Galadwen, before hurrying up the low sloping bank to where several other men stood. Here he was stopped by a dark haired man in worn, but well cared for ring mail, and they began talking earnestly.
Silima walked over and stood next to her friend, and together they looked up. Earandil had his back to them, and as he listened to the man in the mail, other soldiers appeared from the far side of the bank. One handed him a dark leather cuirass, which he immediately threw over his shoulders and began to buckle up the side. A second man brought a large pack, which he struggled to carry, dropping it at Earendil's feet. A third brought a long wooden staff, as tall as the lad himself. All the while he was nodding as the man in ring mail spoke forcefully to him.
Silima sighed again. "He may look even better from this angle," she said quietly, jabbing Galadwen lightly in the side with her elbow.
Galadwen had considered that. Broad shoulders, now accentuated by the cuirass, topped a wide, muscular back which tapered into a narrow waist. He was wearing leather breeches, probably of doeskin, which might be a little tight in the backside. That brought a smile to her face. "No. Not too tight at all."
"You're thinking the same thing I am."
Galadwen Glanced sideways at Silima and found an evil smile beaming back at her. Trying to adopt an innocent air she lied.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Silima rolled her eyes dramatically. "Please dear girl, he's gorgeous. Obviously it would be better if he were elven, but look me in the eye and tell me you don't dream of what he's look like in the baths."
Galadwen's eyes widened in shock, to which Silima raised her hands defensively and shrugged. "Well far be it for me to question your taste in men," she said looking back up at Earendil. "Well I'm glad you aren't interested as my hands do ache so from working the tiller all day. I'm sure he has balm he could rub on." Salima was picking absent-mindedly at the laces running down the front of her blouse. "Do you think he'd be so kind as to help with my bodice?"
"Silima!" Galadwen squeeled in shock, and spinning on her friend, punched her solidly in the shoulder. The effect however, wasn't what Galadwen desired, with the other handmaiden collapsing into gales of laughter and the men above on the river bank turning curious eyes their way.
"How could she?" Galadwen thought. "We've both just met this man. No, this boy. No, this human boy." Silima's behavior was most unladylike.
Then a wicked thought darted through Galadwen's mind. "And besides, there's a lot more to interest Earendil inside my bodice than in Silima's." Wicked perhaps, but she smiled anyway.
Looking back up the bank she saw lady Arawel had joined the group bringing Earandil's discussion with the other man to an abrupt end. Her mistress spoke for several moments to the man in the ring mail, and then turned her attention to young Earendil. After a few words, she excused herself and indicated that Earendil should walk with her. Carrying his staff in the crook of his right arm, he swung his pack effortlessly over his far shoulder and set off along the bank walking alongside the elf at a leisurely pace. Lady Arawel was barely visible behind the boy's large frame, but Galadwen could see that he was listening intently to whatever she was saying.
Galadwen desperately wanted to know what was being said, but just as she made up her mind to walk over and see if she could involve herself in the conversation, Earendil stopped and turned to face her mistress directly. He was looking intently down at the diplomat, and Galadwen could imagine the deep, soft voice he used when he was instructing someone. Perhaps her mistress nodded very slightly, perhaps not, but Earendil seemed to have made his point and their conversation paused.
Placing his pack on the ground, he pulled something from a side pouch and handed it to Arawel. Galadwen couldn't see it clearly, but it was about a foot long and narrow. Maybe a tube of some sort. Arawel took it and seemed to be listening as the giant spoke for a few seconds. Then with a formal salute and a bow, he pulled his pack onto his shoulder, looked briefly straight at Galadwen, then turned and walked out of sight beyond the river bank.
Arawel watched him go for some seconds, then turning about, locked eyes with Galadwen. She was thirty paces away, but the handmaiden could feel the intensity of her mistress's gaze even from that distance. Silima too saw the look Arawel was giving her friend, and sensing Galadwen's worry, reassuringly reached over and held her friend's shoulder.
"She's just worried about her dress," Silima assured, although Galadwen didn't hear any confidence in her voice.
After a few seconds a lake man approached. Breaking her gaze, Arawel turned and walked away with the soldier, pointing and apparently issuing orders. Galadwen had no idea what had just transpired, but somehow felt it had been important.
All she really knew was where she had gotten this lovely blue dress.
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