As the stranger ran across the vast plain, the grass reached her knees. As she continued towards the distant tree-line, she was watched by the Guardians of the Golden Wood. Some watched from the trees while others were amongst the trunks, all of them hidden from even the keenest eyes. It appeared as if she were running for her life. They saw the fear on her face and she tightly clutched a small bundle in her arms.

'Not too much further. Don't let me fall; please gods, let me make it. Too tired, not much further; just keep moving, it will be alright,' she told herself, over and over, as she tried to bolster her determination.

The wardens in the trees had their arrows notched, ready for Haldir's orders, as Rumil walked up to the hardened March Warden.

"We are ready and await your orders March Warden. Haldir, you know that is a female, don't you?" Rumil asked.

"I am not blind Rumil," Haldir answered him.

"Would you really shoot a female?" Rumil asked, fearing the answer.

"Only if I had to brother," Haldir answered cooly. "You know none are allowed entry in the Golden Wood...especially mortals."

They both turned back to watch the stranger. Rumil hoped she would not venture too close; they were prepared to protect their land. Finally as no danger was sensed, the March Warden sent the guardians back to their posts. No sooner had they started to leave, when a warning cry went up.

"March Warden! LOOK!" a guardian shouted as he pointed towards the stranger. Now they saw the orcs behind her. The ground rumbled and they heard the grunts and snarls of the orcs as they pursued the woman.

The stranger, nearing exhaustion, continued to run as fast as she could, clutching the bundle tighter to her body. As her legs start to fail her, the orcs gained on their quarry in relentless pursuit.

"Elbereth have mercy!" the March Warden shouted. "Prepare for a fight! Archers fire; the rest follow me!"

The archers in the trees took aim and loosed their arrows. Haldir and the other wardens ran towards the woman and orcs. They, too fired in rapid succession, their faces and bodies looking fierce as they went into battle.

No completely spent, the stranger staggered and fell. Unable to get to her feet again, she prepared herself for what she knew would come...she prepared for death.

As Haldir and the wardens came nearer, their arrows became ineffective and were abandoned. Haldir reached over his shoulder and unsheathed his sword; the others did as well and continued their attack.

The woman looked up, watching the battle around her before she turned her attention back to the bundle in her arms, sensing something was wrong, she gently shook it...nothing. She frantically removed the covering and shook it a little harder–still nothing. 'Oh gods, he's not breathing,' her mind screamed. She never realized when the sound of the battle had ceased.

When the last orc was slain the wardens piled the distorted, black carcasses together, setting them to burn. Haldir turned towards the young woman, he saw the pain in her face. No sooner had the March Warden stepped towards her in concern, she cried out.

"NO!" she screamed in horror.

She got to her knees causing the hood to fall from the young woman, displaying vibrant red hair, curls framing a beautiful but tired face. She still clutched the bundle tightly to her chest roching back and forth, crying uncontrollably.

"No please! Wake up little one; don't leave me!" she cried in desperation, pain in her voice. Caught up in her grief, she was unaware she had been surrounded with arrows aimed at her...elven arrows, for these were no men. As Haldir approached, he motioned for his wardens to lower their weapons.

She had removed the covering from the bundle she clutched, the wardens realized it was a child; unfortunately it was clear that the poor boy was dead.

She was both physically and emotionally exhausted. She'd been fleeing from her captors for what, six, seven, eight days now? Her body couldn't take anymore, she started to raise her eyes to the surrounding elves as she collapsed. Haldir reached her before she hit the ground.

Orophin approached his elder brother, Haldir. He gently took the body of the child, handing him to another warden, then turned his attention back to his brother and young woman.

"Will she make it?" he asked with concern.

"She is alive, Orophin. I still need to check for any wounds. You and Rumil see to the child's burial," Haldir told him.

Orophin took the child's body from the other warden, then found Rumil. As he carried the child his heart constricted in sorrow, an innocent life cut short. As Rumil and Orophin bathed his small body, they saw many scars and bruises, some fading, some fresh; they looked at one another in shock and anger. Who could have, would have put any child through this kind of torture, for torture it was. They couldn't understand how anyone could be so cruel. When they finished cleaning the child, they wrapped his small body in a cloak, laid him in the grave that had been dug and sang a lament for the child that tore at the hearts of the other elves. When everything had been seen to, they returned to Haldir.

"All has been taken care of as you instructed March Warden," Orophin informed him, sorrow in his voice.

Haldir had seen to the young woman and found some serious wounds, they were not made by orc blades. They had festered, became infected. The gash in her thigh would have made it difficult to run, but the most surprising injury...was the knife wound in her side, how she could have run as she did puzzled him. The infection alone should have killed her, the infection was too fare advanced. He cleansed as much as he dared then bandaged them, her exhaustion would not help her situation.

"How is she?" Rumil choked out, still reeling from the child's burial.

"It is bad. She may be past our ability to save her; I've done all I can for her. If she is to have any chance of survival, we need to get her to Caras Galadhon, to the Master Healer," Haldir told them. "Rumil, run ahead to the city and take a message to the Lord and Lady. Tell them I am bringing an injured woman there; let them know it is 'dire'. When you finish with that, gather rested wardens–no less than twenty–and send them to strengthen our borders."

"Haldir, if her injuries are as serious as you say, how could she have made it as far as she did?"

"Only the Valar know, Orophin," Haldir stated in wonderment. "I was surprised myself when I found her injuries."

On swift feet, Rumil set out to deliver the message, for if she were to survive, time was of the essence. Although it was true that strangers were rarely allowed inside of the city, surely she would not be sent away.

'Please Elbereth, let her make it,' Haldir thought. He gently lifted her up and settled her in a position that would, hopefully, cause her the least amount of pain. Then he spoke to Orophin.

"You handle things during my absence; Rumil will arrange for extra wardens. I will return as quickly as I can," Haldir told him.

"A swift and safe journey, brother," Orophin replied, worry clearly seen on his face as Haldir turned and left.