Arwen was glad her father was semiconscious; otherwise, the process of cleaning the wound would have been excruciatingly painful. As it was, Elrond seemed to be unaware of much around him, though she did notice he held his arm quite still-much more so than she could expect of any semiconscious patient. On some level, perhaps, Elrond remembered his own struggles to hold still those he tried to help. Even now, those healer's instincts stayed with him.
She finished cleaning the dirt and dead tissue away from the wound, and began wrapping a bandage, previously impregnated with healing salves, around it. If all went well, the wound would heal; though, as deep as it was and ignored as long as it had been, it might take a while-strong elven constitiution or not.
The others, Arwen saw, had already been tended by Elrond. Legolas did not look well, but she worried most for Elrohir: Around her brother, she could feel the same lingering evil she had felt on the corpse of the dark-haired elven woman. For now, Elrohir slept; and she allowed him to continue sleeping; but his closed eyes and uneasy aura worried her.
"Elladan," Arwen called. "Who was this?" She pointed to what she thought must be a dead fisherman who lay on the deck nearby, a long chain wound around him.
Elladan looked back at her. "That's the son of an orc that tried to kill us," he said. "Think he'll be out for a while yet. If he ever wakes up." Elladan, usually quite conscientious about preserving life, was at the end of his rope and had absolutely no pity for the traitorous sailor.
Arwen looked more closely at the fisherman and realized-yes, he :was: alive, though he hadn't looked it at first glance. That cut in his forehead, though... if he didn't die from the blow to his head, the blood loss would eventually kill him. Already, the man's head lay in a puddle of blood.
She didn't blame Elladan for his anger; but her conscience demanded the man be given the care he needed. Beyond that, she had no plans; her father would bring the man to justice.
Kneeling down again, Arwen re-opened her satchel of bandages and began none-too-gently cleaning and stitching the man's forehead. "So you've gotten yourself into trouble yet again, my brother," she said. "Before you do anything else, let's hear the whole story."
Elladan complied, with Aragorn offering comments and filling in his part of the story. Before long, Arwen looked as though she was trying to decide just how to kill the slavers who had caused so much harm to those so dear to her. That would have to wait, though; they were in no condition to go chasing after anyone-especially a well-armed slave ship-now.
"I think," she said to them, "that our first priority will be to get to a safe place, where we can hide. Legolas is in no condition to travel, and I don't like the way that leg of yours is healing-no, don't try to deceive me, Estel." Aragorn sighed. He had been trying to hide that.
"They'll be looking for us, and there's not much we can do about it," said Elladan. "We can't hide forever on the open sea, not when they're so much faster than we are, and possibly, if they've gone in the right direction, not far behind us."
"But there's no reason we should try to hide on the open sea," Aragorn pointed out.
Arwen had been thinking the same thing. "Exactly. We don't have to. I don't like this country-" she swept her hand out to indicate the desertlike landscape- "but it can't go on forever."
"It doesn't," said a voice. The group looked back; there was Elrond, looking pale and tired, but standing. "Not too many leagues ahead, there is a forest, and quite possibly some human settlements, if they have not moved or been abandoned since I last saw this land."
"Then our problems are solved," Elladan said. "We can hide forever in the trees, if we need to; and the forest will provide at least some of the herbs we'll need."
Elrond nodded, smiling slightly, as though he were a teacher whose pupil had finally happened upon the right answer. "Indeed," he said.
Most of the rest of the day was taken up with sailing along the shore; Arwen and Elladan were now doing most of the work, while Elrond and Aragorn took up the care of their two still-unconscious patients. Legolas seemed to be holding steady; a bit of color had come into his formerly pale cheeks, an indication that whatever bleeding he had been suffering had stopped; but Elrohir remained unchanged. His injuries, Elrond thought worriedly, were not severe enough to keep him out this long; but as the sleep seemed natural, he did not attempt to wake his son.
Unseen by anyone, the little boat's unconscious captain woke. His head hurt terribly; and he found himself unable to move due to the chains which bound him; but he was a shrewd man and did not let anyone know that he was awake. Carefully testing his bonds, he found them secure. He was lying in a sticky, slippery substance that had the coppery smell of blood; from this, he deduced that he had been injured. But the blood, alarming as it was, also gave him an idea. From his travels with the pirate captain, he remembered the story of the attempted escape of a very resourceful slave: The man had used blood from an injury to wet the ropes that bound him, making them slippery and easier to slip out of. Mailik, of course, had caught the man before he had gotten very far; but the slave's ingenuity gave the wily fisherman an idea. Dipping his bound wrists into the pool of blood beneath his head, he began twisting them back and forth; and presently, the chains loosened just enough for him to slip one hand out.
From there, it was just a matter of slow, silent work, careful not to rattle the chains, to free himself.
When he stood up, he :did: rattle them; but Elladan, who had been trimming the sail and could not immediately come to see what was wrong, only assumed their bound prisoner had woken, not escaped. As it was, a full two minutes passed before the elf checked on the erstwhile captain; and that was plenty of time for the man, a strong swimmer despite his injury, to make his escape. As he swam swiftly away from the boat, his thoughts were of the bounty Mailik had promised for capturing her runaway slaves, and whether he could salvage any of it in exchange for the information he now possessed.
In early evening, they sighted what looked, at first, like a gray patch of shoreline, but then resolved itself into the outline of a forest that came up to the beach. They made for it, and arrived just as the sun was setting.
The trees were mostly young; but some grand old oaks and walnuts towered over the rest. It was in one of these-a big oak that Aragorn, had his leg not been injured, would have loved to climb-that Arwen built them a shelter. Aragorn watched with fascination as the beautiful maiden swung herself up into the tree and crafted a platform constructed of tree branches. It was, he knew, a skill she must have learned in Lorien, where the guard often used such shelters to sleep in the trees. When it was finished and properly camouflaged, the flet was almost invisible from the ground, even to elven eyes.
It was night, and the stars had come out, when Arwen finished. Netting from the boat made good stretchers; with these and the ropes, they carefully hoisted Elrohir and Legolas up into the tree. Aragorn, with an injured leg and arm, was in no shape to climb anything; but if it had not been for Arwen's warning look (so much like her father's!), he would have attempted the climb anyhow. As it was, he submitted to being hauled up on the end of a loop of rope.
That done, they stripped the little boat of all its supplies and set it adrift, its sails full and rudder tied fast, for the slavers to find (and, they hoped, fruitlessly chase).
The next few days were spent resting; and during that time, Aragorn came to appreciate Arwen more than he ever had. She tended their wounds, brought back food scavenged from the forest, and, when that failed, even made her way into the nearby human settlements (she had happened upon these while hunting game) to buy what they needed from her little store of coins. Those of the group with lesser injuries-Aragorn, Elrond, and Elladan-quickly found themselves recovering thanks to Arwen's competent skills.
Elrohir awoke soon after their first sunrise in the little hideaway, and seemed to be recovering; but he ate little and said even less. And, though he could tell the woods comforted his brother; though he had told Elrohir many times that he had done nothing wrong; Elladan still worried for his twin.
Even after he recovered completely, Elrohir still seemed morose and downhearted, though they all tried their best to support him. He refused to talk to anyone-even Elladan, with whom he usually shared all secrets-about his memories of Moririme. And, at night, Elrond could see that Elrohir's light was noticeably dimmer than usual. Not wanting to worry anyone, Elrond kept this to himself.
Legolas was much more light-hearted; but for him, the physical recovery took much longer. It was a week before he could sit up, and another before he managed to stand. His spirit, however, seemed unaffected; two days after Aragorn had supported him for a few shaky steps, they woke up to find him sitting comfortably at the base of the tree, singing softly to himself and watching the sun rise.
"You climbed down here by yourself, didn't you?" Aragorn scolded.
Legolas smiled. "No, I flew down," he kidded. "Elvish magical powers, you know."
Aragorn grunted something that sounded suspiciously like "reckless elf". Legolas only grinned broadly, obviously glad to finally be getting better.
In not much time at all, Legolas was ready to travel; and the little group set off to take the journey back to Rivendell. They kept off the roads and away from the towns, in case Mailik and her crew might still be looking for them. Elrond privately doubted it; but you could never be too sure.
It was a long journey, but, for the most part, an uneventful one; and they returned to Rivendell safely.
Mailik was annoyed. The fisherman's boat had been found; but the ones she sought were not in it, and the fisherman himself had been of little help. She was not angry, she told herself; no, anger was for those who could not plan, would not think, and ultimately, would not succeed.
No; Mailik thought of herself simply as a businesswoman; and the escape of two valuable pieces of property was simply not good business. Slaves were stubborn creatures, she thought to herself; anything could stir them up, and nothing did so quite as quickly or thoroughly as the knowledge of an escape.
Already, the slaves had killed one sailor, and wounded another. Any slave who had struck a blow had, of course, been killed; but now that she had lost the money they represented, Mailik would be hard-pressed to make much of a profit from this voyage at all.
None of her slaves had ever escaped before; and she was not about to give up that record. If she could re-capture these two, and make an example of them... yes, then the slaves would behave. Word would spread-it always did, among slaves-and none would ever dare to cross her again.
Yes, she thought, that would be a good plan. With a bit of luck, she might never have to deal with troublesome rebellions again. In fact, if things went right, Mailik could turn this to her advantage; her name would strike fear into any slave who heard it, and losses such as those she had recently suffered might never happen again.
Now :that: would be good business.
THE END (or is it?)
Responses to Reviewers
Aranna Undomiel – Too bad Arwen only has a small role although she's the one who saved the day :D
Ok, last chapter. :)
Tazz – Everyone's got some boo boo except for Arwen. But I think they are safe for the time being :)
Wanderer – Ahh… Arwen thanks you for your kind offer. How
about some food now:D
Slayer3 – Girl power indeed! She has to take care of three elves and one human. Imagine that! And she does it with ease!
HarryEstel – If not for Arwen, they'll all be dead meat! LOL! Too bad the evil captain got away. Wonder what he'll be up to next. :g: