It was late the night Arandur went riding. He did this often, to try and clear his head. It was raining tonight, but he barely noticed, he just let his mind wander first down one path and then another, letting Mir choose her own way through the forests of the high northern lands.

He had a lot resting on his mind tonight. Sauron was gathering forces beyond thousands behind his black gate of Mordor. Orcs had been rampant all across the land, having little resistance from peasants. Arandur tried to shake the horrible images that came into his mind, but he could only dwell on them helplessly. The blood, the dark, the hate, it all overwhelmed him.

He now looked up into the dawning grey sky, the moon, still showing from behind a huge dark cloud. A rain drop hit his face and trickled down his cheek. He turned Mir around and headed back for camp. Even a ranger can get tired of rain, he mused to himself. He tugged Mir’s reins gently, but she refused to turn round.

“What’s gotten into you?” Arandur asked softly. He knew Mir well and she rarely disobeyed him. He let her have her head and she sniffed a bit before trotting a bit to the left, near a clump of trees. Then she whinnied three times and stopped. Puzzled, Arandur dismounted and drawing his dagger pushed aside some of the dense foliage. He saw faintly in the moonlight, something dark lying in the grass. Thinking it was just a log, he ignored it, but then from the corner of his eye, he though he saw it move. He looked at it again, this time taking a step or two closer. Then he realized it was a body, lying face down.

Dropping to his knees beside the limp form, he turned it over. It was a girl, bloodied and bruised, and covered with mud. She was covered with numerous cuts, most likely received from a whip, and Arandur noticed a huge gash in her stomach. Arandur felt her neck for a pulse; there was one, but very weak. He quickly took off his cloak and wrapped the girl in it. Her eyes fluttered open for a moment, and she seemed to try and speak to him, but she fainted again before she could speak.

He gently laid her across his saddle and then climbed up behind, holding her as best he could.

“Gently now Mir,” he whispered to the mare as he urged her into a gallop. The horse tossed her head and then took off into the night. Arandur was glad that there was no need to guide her; she knew her own way home as well as he did. Arandur grasped the girl in his arms as tenderly as he could. Her wounds were a few days old, but the gash in her stomach had reopened and the blood pool stain on his cloak was slowly getting bigger. He supported her head on his chest and held the reins with one hand while pressing the folds of his cloak to the wound in an effort to staunch the bleeding, but it did little. He chided himself for riding out too far, and spurred Mir even faster. Through the brown fields the mare galloped, over streams and through the trees, but never slowing her pace. She seemed to know the reason for her master’s rush and she galloped harder when possible, without prompting. Nearly ten minutes later, Arandur’s surroundings became familiar to him and soon the three galloped into the Ranger’s camp. Alyan, the sentry started, but a word from Arandur calmed him.

“Help me.” He motioned to Alyan. The young man came over and helped hold the girl while Arandur dismounted.

“Where did you find her?”

“To the North west around the Downs.”

“That far out?” He was going to ask more, but was interrupted by Durion, their leader.

“What in the name of the Valar is going on?” he asked rather angrily. But then he saw the girl. He asked no questions.

“Bring her to Nestarion. She’s not the only one.”

Next chapter soon

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