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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 16: Captured

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XV: Captured

It was the angry neighing of their horses that woke them in the end. Unfortunately by then it was already too late, much too late.

Lothiriel sat up with a start, trying to get her bearings. She did not usually sleep in the afternoon and felt thoroughly disorientated for a moment. Somebody is trying to steal the horses! was her first thought and she scrambled to her feet only to cry out in alarm when she was suddenly grabbed from behind. Without thinking she kicked her assailant’s shin, but although she wore heavy riding boots he didn’t let go but only gripped her harder. There was a strange choking sound beside them and when she looked over, Éowyn was calmly removing a knife from another man’s chest as he was crumbling to the ground, his eyes glazing over already.

Everything seemed to slow down and the sounds around her receded. She’s just killed a man. That’s the cheese knife, Lothiriel thought inconsequentially, standing rooted to the spot. With deadly grace Éowyn pivoted and aimed a slash at the man still holding Lothiriel. With an angry oath he let go of her and jumped back, holding his arm where she had grazed him. Blood spurted between his fingers and turned his sleeve red.

“To the horses!” Éowyn shouted, seizing Lothiriel by the hand and propelling her forward. The world speeded up again and Lothiriel found herself galvanised into action. They ran across the grass towards where Nightwind was rearing up and neighing furiously. Some of the men had thrown a rope around her neck and were trying to pull her down. Over on one side a limp form lay trampled on the grass and Lothiriel felt her gorge rise. Later, she told herself, you can be sick to your heart’s content when everything’s over.

They never really had a chance.

Suddenly the place was swarming with armed men and Lothiriel was tackled from behind and thrown to the ground. The weight of her attacker landing on her knocked the breath right out of her and her vision went blank for a moment. Next to her Éowyn went still as somebody pointed a naked blade at her throat.

They were unceremoniously hauled to their feet and Lothiriel could not help exclaiming in pain as her arm was cruelly twisted behind her back. The man holding her gave an evil chuckle and she could feel his foul breath on her neck, making her shudder. As she looked on helplessly another rope was thrown over her mare’s neck.

Then a cold voice said behind her. “Shoot the nag. It’s not worth the bother.”

“No!” Lothiriel exclaimed, starting to struggle again. She more felt than saw an archer taking aim and did the only thing she could think of.

“Run Nightwind!” she shouted at the top of her voice, somehow finding the right Rohirric words, “Find Éomer!”

Her gallant horse, bred to fight and trained to obey took off without hesitation. One of the men tried to hang on to his rope, but had to let go after being dragged along the ground and hitting his head on a tree stump. Two arrows whizzed after the mare, but although she gave an angry neigh she kept on going. Windfola, too, took off after her friend and soon the sound of their hooves faded away.

Unbidden the thought entered Lothiriel’s mind that she might just have jettisoned their only hope of escape and she felt her heart plummeting.

She got her first good look at her attackers now. They were not as many as Lothiriel had thought at first, maybe a dozen men altogether, but of course that was more than enough to capture two unarmed women.

All of them were dark haired and dark skinned, rough looking men clad in an ill-fitting assortment of tattered and much patched clothes. Most of them wore chain mail under this and their weapons looked well cared for. Their leader was tall and powerfully built and might even have been considered handsome if there hadn’t been a certain streak of cruelty in his black eyes.

A man better not to be crossed shot through Lothiriel’s mind. She felt numb and the seriousness of their predicament was only slowly starting to sink in. This can’t be happening to me, went round and round in her head. It was like a bad dream, only the pain in her arm left her no doubt as to the reality of it.

I will need Éomer’s ointment again when this is over, Lothiriel thought. When or if? asked a treacherous voice in her mind, but she banished the thought firmly. Now was not a good time to panic, she told herself sternly, she would do so later.

The man pinioning her arm behind her back shifted his grip and she could not help drawing her breath in sharply in pain. That was a mistake, for the bandit leader turned his attention her way from where he was kneeling at the fallen man’s side. He got up slowly and mustered her coldly. Something inside her wanted to make her run away and hide in a dark place until everything was over.

Suddenly she thought of her father. At this time of the day Prince Imrahil would be in his study overlooking the sea, discussing the running of his lands with his advisors, completely unaware of the dangers his only daughter was facing. As for Erchirion and Amrothos, they were probably out sailing. Why had her father ever let her come to Emyn Arnen and what was the use of having the best swordsman of Dol Amroth for a brother if he wasn’t there when you needed him? All her life she had been surrounded by warriors, yet here she was in her hour of need all alone. Lothiriel knew she was being unreasonable, but she started cursing them all in her mind. For good measure she threw in Faramir and Éomer as well, who were no doubt enjoying their midday meal when really they should be up here coming to their rescue.

The women would not be missed for hours yet, unless Nightwind’s return alerted them, and even then Éomer and Faramir would have not idea where to start looking for them. Lothiriel felt perilously close to despair, her only solace being Éowyn’s presence.

The leader had stepped up to them now and Lothiriel noticed he was wearing some sort of surcoat over his heavy armour depicting a black serpent upon scarlet.

“Cursed Southrons!” Éowyn spat and he turned towards her. She looked not at all cowed; on the contrary, she was plainly furious. Lothiriel’s admiration for her cousin’s wife rose another notch and she felt heartened. After all this was the slayer of the Witch King, surely she would think of something.

“You and your filthy band are trespassing,” Éowyn hissed, her eyes blazing with anger, and the man looked taken aback for a moment.

Then he laughed. “Looks like we have bagged ourselves a wildcat!” he mocked her. His glance moved dismissively over Lothiriel. “A wildcat and a scared rabbit.”

The Princess of Dol Amroth stiffened and drew herself up as the men around her laughed at their leader’s joke. They had formed a loose circle around them and were plainly enjoying the sight of the two women held at their mercy. None of them ventured to touch them, but Lothiriel suddenly felt rather underdressed in her loose shirt and close fitting leggings.

Éowyn was not at all impressed. “If you let us go and leave Ithilien at once we will let you live,” she stated.

The man looked amused. “That’s very kind of you,” he purred, “unfortunately for you, I know an empty threat when I hear one.” He took off one of his iron gauntlets and reached out to slowly stroke across Éowyn’s cheek.

She never flinched but only gave him a steely look. “My companion here is the Princess of Dol Amroth. If anything happens to her, you will be hunted down and killed like the rabid dog you are.”

Lothiriel couldn’t blame her friend for keeping quiet the fact that she was the White Lady of Rohan. The Southrons’ fanatical hate for the Rohirrim, who had killed their king at the battle of the Pelennor Fields, was well known.

The man holding her gave a guffaw. “I’ve never seen a princess wearing trousers and riding out all on her own before,” he jeered. “Hey Razmir!” he shouted at their leader, “may I take this wench if you’re having the blonde one?”

The leader frowned. “I haven’t decided yet which one I want,” he growled, “anyway, there’s my brother and his men to consider as well.” The men standing around them started to grumble, but he silenced them with a single look.

There are more of them? Lothiriel thought with something closely resembling panic. She felt like a juicy piece of meat thrown to a pack of dogs and with about as much control over her fate.

She had a choice then, although she didn’t realize it at the time. She could have broken down and begged for her life, useless though this would have been or she could just have fainted. Instead she chose to fight.

“I am Princess Lothiriel, daughter of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, the descendant in direct line of Imrazor and Mithrellas, “ she declared in a firm voice, “if you harm either of us in the slightest bit you will be eternally sorry for it.”

She had Razmir’s attention now and for a moment wished she had held her peace.

“A real Swan Princess?” he smirked and gave her an exaggerated bow, much to the amusement of his men. At a nod from him the man holding her reluctantly let go of her and Razmir slowly walked round her, surveying her from every side. Lothiriel resisted the urge to rub her aching arm and gave him her haughtiest stare.

For the first time he looked just the slightest bit uncertain and Éowyn was quick to try and take advantage of this. “The Princess’ father would pay you a large ransom to get us back unharmed,” she said in a more reasonable voice, “you could all return home as rich men.”

Some of the brigands surrounding them shifted at that and cast each other questioning looks.

“Just think of it,” she went on persuasively, “gold enough to spend the rest of your lives in luxury. You could buy yourselves a house and some land and as many women as you wanted to.”

She seemed to have hit a nerve, for the men started to mutter amongst each other and some of them lowered their swords. Razmir had watched in growing anger and now he cut in sharply. “You fools! Can’t you see she’s stringing you along? You know perfectly well we can’t go home. Our king is dead, we failed him, and we would receive nothing but a knife across the throat if we returned.”

The muttering died down and the men nodded grimly. If anything they looked more desperate than before. Razmir gave Éowyn a sour look. “I fail to see why anybody would want you back anyway, with a sharp tongue like that.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You will pay for that remark!”

Lothiriel could only marvel at her belligerent attitude and even Razmir seemed nonplussed by it, but he soon recovered. “You will change your tune before I’m finished with you,” he snarled, “and as for this one…”

Lothiriel flinched involuntarily when he turned towards her and he smiled cruelly, “I like them gently bred. They are so deliciously…unready…for what can be done to them.”

He let his fingers trail across her cheek and lips, down to her throat and then to the lacings of her shirt.

***


“They left about midmorning, my lord king,” the guard said respectfully.

Éomer looked frustrated. “And you just let them go?” he asked.

The guard shifted his weight uneasily, “Lady Éowyn didn’t want anybody accompanying her, “ he explained diffidently, “I’m sorry if we did something wrong.”

Faramir sighed. “It’s all right. You only did your duty. Of course Lady Éowyn is free to go where she wishes.”

“Did you see where they went?” Éomer cut in sharply.

“They went down the hill and then crossed the stream at the ford at the bottom of it.”

Faramir frowned. “There are several paths leading on from there,” he explained, “did you see which one they took?”

But the guard only shook his head unhappily.

Éomer cursed violently in Rohirric, making the poor man jump. “I’ve got a bad feeling,” he said to Faramir who nodded grimly. “Let’s send out search parties.”

So it happened that they already had their horses saddled and were ready to go when one of the men at the gates shouted in surprise as Nightwind came galloping riderless up the path, Windfola following close behind her.

Faramir went white and Éomer felt as if an icy hand was squeezing his heart when he saw the ropes she was trailing. It was nothing short of a miracle they hadn’t got tangled in the underbrush along the trail. Nightwind’s coat was flecked with foam and her eyes were rolling wildly, but she let Éomer approach her and calmed down when he stroked her neck and talked to her soothingly. It was then he saw the black-feathered arrow protruding from her left haunch and knew for certain that the women were in trouble.

“Did you see which way the horse came?” he asked the men guarding the gates and they took a step back at his tone. After a short hesitation one of them ventured, “I think she came down the narrow path leading up the opposite side of the valley.”

His companion nodded cautiously and Éomer turned to Faramir. “What lies up there?”

His brother-in-law looked thoughtful. “Nothing much, unless…”

“Unless?” Éomer snapped.

“There is a forest pool we’ve gone to a couple of times. It’s quite hidden away in the woods.”

Unnoticed by them Melian had joined them and now she spoke up timidly. “They said they wanted to find a cool spot for their midday meal.”

Éomer rounded on her. “Are you sure?”

She looked ready to faint at the fierce look he gave her, but managed a brief nod.

Wordlessly the two men exchanged a glance, for they both knew what happened to women captured by the enemy. Then Éomer shouted. “To the horses, Éorlingas!”

“I’ll lead the way,” said Faramir as he mounted his stallion.

Before they galloped down the path at breakneck speed the King of Rohan picked up his horn and blew it mightily.

Just hold on, he thought, I’m coming.

***


Lothiriel briefly considered fainting when Razmir started to undo the first lacing of her shirt. While it would not change anything, it would still be nice not to have to witness what was about to happen to her. She was under no illusion as to what lay in store for her. During the Ring War the ladies of Dol Amroth had discussed at length what to do in case the worst came to pass and the castle fell to the forces of Sauron. The consensus had been clear; it was far better to end one’s own life than to be taken captive.

Only it didn’t look as if she had that option now.

Razmir stepped closer still and she could feel his hot breath on her neck when she turned her face away. He smelt of sweat and unwashed man and involuntarily she wrinkled her nose.

“You think you’re too good for me, don’t you?” he hissed and taking her chin in his fingers forced her to look at him. His black eyes glittered malevolently. “You won’t feel so high and mighty when I’m through with you, Princess. By the time I’m finished with you, you will yield to me completely, body and soul. Oh yes, you will do anything I tell you to, no matter how degrading, and do so gladly and beg for more.”

He gave a sharp laugh. “I will clip your wings, my little swan, and you might even come to like it. There’s a thin line between pleasure and pain and soon you won’t know anymore where one ends and the other begins, for I am a master at both.”

He bent down to kiss her brutally and deliberately bit her on the lip, causing her to wince. At his chuckle Lothiriel felt something savage awaken deep within her. It took her a moment to recognise it as not fear but fury. Why do all the men I dislike have to compare me to a swan? She thought angrily.

Razmir pleasurably licked her blood from his lips and moved down towards her breasts. Fooled by her passivity he did not notice the sudden fire in those green eyes.

Without thinking Lothiriel brought up her knee between his legs and he doubled over at the sudden pain. Before any of the men around them could react she kicked him in the face and he fell over backwards. Then, however, she was grabbed by two of his men who again pinioned her arms behind her mercilessly. Beside her Éowyn struggled uselessly against her captors and cursed them loudly.

Razmir slowly picked himself up from the ground and wiped the blood from his face where she had caught him across the cheek with her boot.

“We’ll start with lessons in pain, then,” he growled and took hold of the front of her shirt. His eyes were burning with anger now and she should probably have been frightened, but Lothiriel was past caring, welcoming the fury that swept through her.

Her body was her own and she would sooner die than let him touch her. Unfortunately for her, there was really no way she could stop him.

She did not have to.

“What is happening here?” a cold voice demanded just as Razmir was about to tear her clothes from her and he halted abruptly. “Mashrak?” he faltered.

“Whom else were you expecting, brother?” the newcomer asked sarcastically. He was clad much as the other men, but he exuded an air of command and looked every inch the seasoned warrior. Behind him more men were filling into the clearing.

Now he frowned at his brother. “What are you doing here? I told you to scout the way north.”

Razmir shrugged sullenly. “We heard laughter and found these wenches here. I was only having a little sport with them.”

Mashrak’s glance swept the area, coming to rest on the two bodies lying on the grass. “Who killed your men?” he demanded curtly.

Razmir pointed at Éowyn. “She killed one of them and the other was trampled by their horses.”

“And where are the horses now?” Mashrak sounded as if he was rapidly loosing his patience.

“They ran away,” Razmir replied ill temperedly.

“You fool!” his brother exclaimed, “can’t you see she’s one of the cursed horselovers? No doubt she sent them for help. We have to get going at once.”

“Nonsense,” Razmir replied, only to be interrupted by the sound of a horn blowing loudly down in the valley.

Éowyn’s eyes lit up. “That’s Éomer,” she whispered, “they are coming!”

Lothiriel felt as if the sound freed her. Both the fear and the mindless fury were swept away and she finally started thinking again. Éomer might be coming, but he had no idea where they were and would never find them once they disappeared into the forest. She had to delay the brigands in some way to give Éomer the chance to catch up with them.

Then Lothiriel had an idea.

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Chapter name
Captured
Created
10 Dec 2005
Last Edited
10 Dec 2005
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3363