3 An unexpected meeting

Year 2954 of the Third Era, Middle Earth

It was a warm summer afternoon, a breath of wind messed up Arya's long brown hair, who was wandering through the southernmost territories of Rhudaur on the back of her trusty steed Andoras. She had offered to patrol the northern borders of the valley to get away from the monotony of King Elrond's palace. Not that it was bad there, far from it, she was grateful to the Lord of Rivendell for having saved her and her brother from a terrible fate, she couldn't even imagine what would have happened if they hadn't made it to the Valley of Imladris. Sometimes, however, she liked to unleash her fantasy, inventing adventures, recreating in her mind places and people known only through books.

Feeling something or someone behind her back, Arya suddenly turned and found a person totally unexpected.

"Gandalf!"

The girl smiled heading towards the grey wizard. They had met many years earlier, shortly after she and her brother had arrived in Rivendell, when Gandalf had come to King Elrond searching for some informations. The sorcerer was kind and very nice, soon a deep friendship was born between them, a friendship that would last a lifetime.

"My Lady, I didn't mean to frighten you."

The wizard politely told her.

"It's all right, Gandalf, I'm not dead."

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She gently answered, showing him one of her charming smiles.

"If I may ask, what's a young woman doing alone in the wilderness?"

"I am never alone, Gandalf."

The girl answered seriously. The warlock was one of the few who knew about her three children, as she liked to call them.

"Ah, I see."

"What about you? What brings you here?"

"I came to ask for your help."

"Anything for a friend, tell me everything."

"You see, my dear, I have a very bad feeling. I stopped for the night not too far from here with a company of thirteen dwarfs and a halfling, and I'm afraid they may be in trouble. The sun's falling and the night often has some nasty surprises."

"Thirteen dwarves and a halfling, very strange fellows. What can I do?"

"I wish you'd anticipate me, I'm sure they could use a skilled warrior like you. Retrace my steps to the west, they should be near an abandoned hut. Be careful, Arya."

With a nod the girl left the wizard behind, riding fast in the direction indicated by him.

Late at night Arya arrived near the abandoned hut Gandalf had told her about, but there was no trace of the dwarves. She was about to turn around and come back when she heard screams coming from the forest. Thus the girl got off her horse and entered the thicket, trying to make as little noise as possible. She saw a light in front of her and moved towards it but, after a few steps, she had to hide behind the bushes to avoid being spotted by three huge trolls. But the beasts were not alone, they were in the company of thirteen dwarfs and a halfling! Gandalf was right, they had gotten into a lot of trouble, and now it was up to her to fix it. She decided to climb a tree to get a better view of the situation. She easily reached the top of an oak tree, from where she was able to see one of the trolls lifting a dwarf with long red hair.

"Nice and crunchy..."

The disgusting creature said, with the mouth watering. After hearing those words Arya didn't think twice, took an arrow from the quiver and shot it towards the troll's arm, who, bewildered, dropped the dwarf. Then the girl jumped off the oak and, after taking her two trusty swords, which she usually held behind her back with the quiver, started to keep the beasts occupied, waiting for the arrival of Gandalf.

The dwarves were amazed by the agility, the strength and, above all, by the courage of the young woman, who was facing alone three trolls to protect someone she didn't even know.

While slaughtering the legs of those filthy creatures with her swords, Arya noticed the sorcerer sneaking behind the hedges. Then she looked up and saw the first rays of light illuminate the sky. Sensing Gandalf's plan, she walked away a few feet from her enemies and put her swords back in their sheaths, thus attracting the questioning gaze of all.

"What do we do now? We take her?"

One of the trolls asked, while he watched her curious.

"Dawn will take you all!"

At those words the three beasts turned, just in time to be petrified by the first sun's rays. Gandalf was on the top of a large broken rock and, seeing Arya, smiled at her grateful. Together, the wizard and the girl helped the dwarves out of the sacks where the trolls had put them and freed those tied up on the fire. Everyone thanked her warmly for saving their lives, only one suspected of her: Thorin. The young Dwarf King, in fact, had always been reluctant to trust strangers, and Arya, despite having helped them with those monsters, did not convince him completely.

"Since when do mountain trolls venture this far south?"

The dwarf asked, approaching Gandalf.

"Not since an era, not since a darker power ruled these lands."

The wizard answered.

"There's no way they have moved in the sunlight. There must be a cave nearby."

The girl, who was following the conversation while staying a bit at a distance, stepped in.

Arya was right, not too far from there was a cave with a vast Troll's booty. The dwarves explored it and, among the various riches and broken bones, found some swords not forged by any blacksmith. They were elf blades, made by the high elves of the first era. Gandalf and Thorin took one each and Arya did the same. Coming out of the cave, however, she noticed another sword, shorter and thinner. She picked it up and headed towards the hobbit. The girl had noticed that the halfling was the only member of the company to be unarmed, which didn't surprised her very much, after all you would never expect to see a sword or an axe in the hand of a hobbit! Rather, Arya wondered what sorts of businesses someone from the shire could possibly have with the dwarves.

"Take it, you might need it. It's not very wise to go around the wilds unarmed."

She told him softly, handing him the weapon and deciding to put those thoughts aside. He bowed his head and looked at the sword. Bilbo had never taken up a weapon, not to fight at least, the idea terrified him, but, moved by the kindness and the conviction of Arya, he eventually took it.

Behind them, a dwarf was watching her movements closely. Fili, in fact, was totally enraptured by the beauty and tenderness of Arya, and was also grateful to her for having saved his life and that of his companions. The dwarf immediately recovered from his thoughts by hearing a noise coming from beyond the bushes, so he joined the girl and the hobbit, ready to spring into action: something was coming from the forest.

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