9. Swept Away
The only thing she could sense was water, all around… dim coldness all around…
She struggled with the flow of the river, not knowing at first whether she was directed up or down. The pressure on her lungs was unbearable, the tightness burned…
Until somehow, daylight emerged and she found the water’s surface.
Gasping, Mírra tried to catch air, but coughed and spluttered against the spray of lingering rain. She treaded with her arms, attempting to keep steady, but it was no good. The riverbank flowed quickly past as the water continued to sweep her away. Her dress and cloak were heavily waterlogged, and only seemed to want to pull her down further.
Once again the current dragged her under, and once again she managed to find the surface.
Just float… do anything to keep breathing, she told herself.
She had thought she heard her brother shouting, but not any more. She could not see Brennan either, though he had fallen beside her. There was no one but her.
After a while she was able to observe what was around her, but the riverbank seemed too far away. There were a few low-lying trees that looked promising.
She tried to swim closer to the bank, finding it difficult to move in the deep water. A piece of driftwood came into view, but as she swam to reach out for it, a rush of water pushed her aside, and her arm slammed into the edge of a large rock that jutted out at the water’s edge.
Mírra gave a shout in pain and grabbed at her arm with her free hand, which diminished her ability to manoeuvre in the water. She felt her bruised arm stinging, and she knew it must have been cut against the rock.
Before she could collect herself again, there was an abrupt pull on her cloak… An outlying branch had caught part of the hood.
She reached back awkwardly, trying to release the fabric, but could not catch it. As her cloak held her back, the current tried to bring her forward, nearly choking her.
Since she could not untangle the cloak itself, Mírra instead grasped at the clasp at her neck, and almost as soon as she had been caught, she was released again.
She lay on her back, looking up at the grey sky, too exhausted to fight the river any more. It would carry her where it wished.
Eldarion swam to the place where his sister had surfaced, but found nothing. He fought for a moment, trying to tread water, but soon dove underneath to find her.
He surfaced yet again with nothing but water in sight, the rain and waves obscuring his vision as the wind only worsened the conditions. He swam further ahead, but as soon as he dove under once more, two pairs of hands reached underneath the water and pulled him up.
Two of the other men managed to take the prince to the riverbank. Eldarion caught his breath in surprise, not even realising he was resisting.
“Why have you stopped me?”
“My lord, you will harm yourself, or worse,” came the panicked explanation, “The current is fierce, we could not risk you being pulled under as well.”
Looking back, Eldarion saw that the bridge was now nearly a quarter mile away. The current was indeed strong to have pulled him so far in such a short time.
Feeling his body suddenly heavy over his legs, Eldarion slowly stepped up on the wet grass. His clothes were soaked through, but the cold of the river water was the least of his thoughts.
The three men made their way back to the bridge, where the horses were being gathered. A feeling of shock ran through the whole company, no one knowing exactly what to do or say.
There was one thing to deal with, Eldarion soon saw as he approached the group.
Brennan sat to the side, having been dragged from the water as well. His face was pale, and he cradled his left arm.
“What has happened?” asked Eldarion as he came to the older man’s side.
“I was lucky enough… that I did not fall in the middle of the current…” Brennan replied with strain, “but in landing, my arm struck a rock nearer to the bank.”
Eldarion gingerly examined the forearm. Damage would have been noticeable enough, were it not for the grimace of pain on the man’s face. He tried to hold back from shouting as the prince tried to ascertain the damage.
“I believe it is broken,” he concluded, his voice sounding far away.
One of the men who had helped Brennan out of the water gave assistance as Eldarion tried to bind the arm as best as possible.
After finishing, the prince stood and stepped off to the side, turning away from the others. He pushed slick hair back off face with both hands, and momentarily held them at the back of his neck as he tried to find reason in the rapidly mounting confusion of thoughts.
There was a faint flash of lightning in the distance, and a quiet rumble of thunder. The storm was diminishing.
It had been ten minutes ago. Fifteen at the most.
Having composed himself as best he could, Eldarion returned to the group, turning first to his injured companion.
“My friend, do you think you can sit in the saddle?”
Brennan took a few shallow breaths, and nodded. “I think I can manage it.”
“We lose crucial time already.” Eldarion motioned to three men. “You must ride to Edoras with Brennan, as quick as can be managed, and get help. The rest of us will search the river, as far as we need to.”
“You wish us to go now to Edoras?” Brennan questioned.
“Yes. You require care, and we will need help. My father is there.”
Eldarion turned away again, for a brief moment, contemplating once more their course of action before looking resolutely to the group.
“We must send for the King.”
At some point, Mírra felt her feet touch ground, and she was washed to the side of the bank. It was shallower here, the bottom covered with small stones.
Finding her way to the edge of the water, she coughed violently, spluttering water and shaking.
Finally she was still, anchored at the river’s edge. The cut on her arm still stung, and her cloak was gone. Turning over on her back, she looked up at the sky. Suddenly she realised she no longer felt rain on her face. The clouds were lightening, even beginning to disperse.
It had all happened so quickly, and now she was somewhere unfamiliar, alone. She shivered; her clothes were soaked and cold, her long hair matted wet and heavy.
I will find no safety near the water, that at least is certain.
Raising herself up on hands and knees, then a sitting position, Mírra looked around her. Near the riverside the trees were fairly dense. If any sunlight at all was to reach her, then a shaded would do no good.
She managed to stand and walk, and stepped heavily forward, stopping occasionally to lean on a tree trunk. At length the trees dispersed to reveal a wide open space of grass.
Mírra stopped, feeling exhaustion overtake her. She collapsed on the grass, worn to the core, and hoped for sunlight to take the cold from her body.
“Adair! Come quickly!”
“What is it?”
Mírra felt herself awaken, hearing voices, of two men. Vaguely she could hear then draw near, hushed in alarm.
“A young woman, but I cannot tell…”
“Is she alright, who is she?”
Mírra moved her lips, wanting to answer, but trying to focus on what was happening. She did not know how long she had lain there, but she thought it was still afternoon. Harsh daylight made her wince as she began to blink her eyes open.
“Miss, can you hear me?” He touched her arm, trying to wake her.
Mírra thought it was the first man speaking. His voice was low and even, concern evident.
“She’s alive,” spoke the second man, exhaling in quiet relief.
Mirra managed to voice two words, as her lips trembled from the chill that remained in her body.
It was enough to utter the request, to make her realise how desperately she was in need of help. And there was nothing to do but put her trust in the strangers before her.
“We must take her back with us. If she is sick, Doreth may be able to help.”
“It is still a few miles ride, Doran, can she bear the journey?”
“We cannot leave her here.”
Still blinking against the daylight, Mírra reached out. Thought she did not truly know what she was reaching for, her fingers touched a sleeve, then a hand.
There was a moment’s pause, but she thought to perceive a nod of assent from the man next to her.
She was lifted up off the ground, and carried.
Then somehow she was seated in a saddle, leaning against the rider, a pair of strong arms around her.
The horse began to ride, and she did not know where they were headed, or even care, so long as it was shelter.
Abruptly Mírra awoke, for the second time that day. There was a pillow beneath her cheek, and she was lying in a bed.
Her first thought was to wonder where she was, when a woman spoke to her in a gentle voice.
“Miss? Can you hear me?”
Mírra swallowed, and was able to find her voice through dry lips.
“How… where am I?”
“My husband and my brother found you while they were riding home, and brought you here. It’s alright, you’re alright.”
Mírra fully opened her eyes to look at who was speaking.
“My name is Doreth,” the woman told her.
Doreth had deep brown eyes, and smiled with nervous expectancy at the young woman before her. Mírra saw that her hair was light blond, covered with a plain kerchief.
“I was… I was riding with my brother,” Mírra started, as she tried to sit up, “But we were caught in the middle of the storm.”
She frowned in confusion, trying to recall the events of the middle of the day. Had it truly been only a few hours ago? It all seemed to defy comprehension.
“The storm frightened my horse… I was tossed aside,” She looked up and met Doreth’s eyes, recalling the moment with some confusion. “I fell in the river.”
The blond woman next to her took in a slight breath, the expression in her brown eyes softening.
“You were taken up in the river, separated from your companions?”
Mírra nodded. Looking down she saw her arm had been wrapped in strips of clean cloth. For a moment she brought her free hand to touch the bandage, and she was struck by the full weight of the situation in which she now found herself.
She suddenly brought a hand tightly to her mouth, as she squeezed her eyes shut against sudden tears.
“I could have… I was nearly…” She did not want to think what might have happened.
“Oh, there now,” said Doreth, rushing, to sit facing the younger woman on the bed. She placed her hands lightly on Mírra’s shoulders, in an attempt at comfort. “Please do not worry, you are alright now.”
Mírra drew in a breath and slowly exhaled, blinking against the lingering wetness on her lashes.
“My brother will be looking for me, how worried he must be.”
“I know. Tomorrow we will think on what to do next. But for now, it is late in the evening. You must try to rest, for you have been through quite an ordeal, I can see.”
Mírra nodded. She was right, there was nothing that could be done now, and she felt undeniably weakened. The next day they would send word.
She formed her best attempt at a smile, and extended a hand to the woman next to her.
“My name is Mírra.”
Doreth sat up a little straighter, and raised her eyebrows in slight surprise, but smiled brightly as she extended her own hand to Mírra’s.
“It is good to meet you.”
Doreth left the spare room, pressing her free hand to the door as she shut it as quietly as possible.
Returning to the main room of the house, she found her brother sitting at the table. A small girl of about five or six sat on his lap, but jumped down as soon as she saw Doreth enter.
“You are still up at this hour?” She crouched next to the little girl, who had hair the same colour as her own.
“Mama, who is the stranger?”
“She is our guest, and you may meet her tomorrow, I am sure.” Her daughter seemed to accept this. “Now be off to bed with you.’
With a kiss from her mother, the little blond girl hurried down the hall.
“Is Adair at the barn?”
“Yes, he said he would return soon. My niece asks a good question though,” said Doran, as his sister joined him at the table.
“I know. But I did not want to press her now.”
“How is she?”
“She sleeps,” she said simply. “I am not a healer, Doran, I cannot be sure, but… I think a night of rest will help. I suppose in the morning we will know more.”
“I wonder if we should have brought her here. If she has friends searching for her, perhaps we have only made matters worse.”
“How could it be worse for her to be in a warm bed, instead of in the wet remains of a storm?”
The light-haired man nodded, knowing they were right to offer help. But what would happen next?
“We still do not know who she is.” He half asked the question of himself, not expecting an answer. “And how did we come to find her?”
“All I know now is that her name is Mírra, and that she was caught in the storm. She fell in the river, and was separated from her party.”
“She was carried away by the Morthond?” Doran said with a note of surprise.
“You must have found her near to where she escaped it.”
Doreth’s husband Adair entered then from the outside. He removed his cap, and went to join the other two at the table.
“The sky is clear now, and I can see the stars.” He set a reassuring hand behind his wife’s shoulder, taking a seat beside her. “The storm has passed completely, I think.”
“That bodes well,” Doreth smiled, “for a brighter day tomorrow.”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.