12 Surrounded, again!

Soon enough each member of the company found himself at the mercy of those hideous creatures and, as they fell into a deep and tormented sleep, the dwarves and the young woman began to be wrapped in thick spider webs.

Arya was a child once again, alone and terrified in the midst of the ruins of a burning city, while her people were being slaughtered by the orcs. Before her, the corpse of her mother, the woman who had given her life, who had raised her, was now laying at her feet, dead at the hands of Azog. Her eyes filled with tears while the color of the flames surrounding her changed from deep red to pitch black, and her mother's lifeless body turned into her brother's. No, not again. Not that nightmare.

"Arya, wake up. Wake up."

A voice in her mind made those terrible images begin to fade.

"Arya, wake up. Be strong. Open your eyes"

That voice...Saphira! Arya opened her eyes and began to struggle to tear out the cobweb that enveloped her. When she finally succeeded, she began to fall downward: the spiders must have hung the cocoons containing her and her companions from the branches of the trees. Once on the ground, Arya quickly composed herself, getting rid of the last webs, and started freeing her friends. It was then that she noticed she wasn't the only one awake.

"Bilbo!"

She exclaimed to him. The hobbit was only a few branches above her and, just like her, was cutting the cobwebs that kept the cocoons hanging from the trees.

"Arya! I'm here! Give me a hand!"

He replied, relieved that he was no longer alone. One by one, with the help of the young woman and the halfling, all the dwarves came out of the cocoons. Some of them were already conscious, while the others had to recover quickly, for soon the spiders realized that their preys were awake. Thus a fierce clash began, the dwarves and the girl fought bravely with sword blows and arrows while the creatures, in turn, hurled at them with fangs and stings. It didn't take Arya long to understand that the fastest and most effective way to beat those monsters was to hit them in the legs. When she saw Fili and Gloin grappling with the claws of a spider not far from her, the young woman ran and slipped under the beast, cutting off its eight legs with her swords, and then rose up again behind it and thrust the right blade into its back. The two dwarves looked at her in amazement while, satisfied, she looked around in search of her next victim. Anger and resentment boiled in her veins, she had suffered because of those monsters, remembering images that were more painful to her than a dagger in her chest. She dared not even imagine how long those nightmares would have lasted if it hadn't been for had Saphira, just as she dared not ask her fellows if they had had a similar experience.

The company was doing pretty well against the spiders, but they soon realized those beasts weren't the only enemies they had to deal with.

They were surrounded, again, by the elves this time. The dwarves and the girl lowered their weapons when a young blond elf aimed the blade of his arrow at Thorin's throat.

"Do not think I won't kill you, Dwarf. It would be my pleasure."

The Dwarf King, as well as his companions, decided it was time to do as requested. Arya took a closer look at the elf who was still holding the bow bent in Thorin's direction. Blond, light eyes, defined cheekbones, regal posture, he must have been Legolas, the son of King Thranduil, and prince of Mirkwood. Arya had studied the family trees of the most important families of dwarves, elves, and men while in Rivendell.

"Aaah!"

A scream behind them interrupted her thoughts. Kili.

"Kili!"

Fili shouted in turn, worried about his brother. Everyone turned in the direction from which the young dwarf's cry had come and saw a female elf nimbly running to his rescue. With quick and precise movements, the elf knocked out two of those hideous beasts, saving Kili's life. When the last spider also fell dead to the ground, Legolas ordered his guards to search the company, and then check himself what Gloin was bringing with him.

"Hey, give it back! That's private!"

The dwarf immediately protested when, from his jacket pocket, the elf took a small metal box, which contained the portraits of his family. Legolas looked at them seriously and then turned back to Gloin.

"Who is this? Your brother?"

He asked sarcastically.

"That is my wife!"

Gloin exclaimed firmly.

"And what is this horrid creature? A goblin mutant?"

The blond added as a grin was forming on his lips.

"That's my wee lad, Gimli!"

The dwarf replied, outraged. The elf stared at Gloin coldly, sighing, then looked into the middle of the group and noticed the presence of a young woman, so he headed in her direction, Arya thought to search her.

"Gyrth in yngyl bain?" *

The girl asked, turning to the prince. Legolas was a little surprised to hear her speak Sindarin, but he answered anyway, while he began to commandeer her bow and swords.

"Ennorner gwanod in yngyl nan yrn" **.

He said, a thread of ill-concealed concern could be heard in his voice.

"Egain nar" *

Added female elf who had saved Kili's life earlier, having approached them to hear the conversation. Legolas turned in her direction for a moment, thus giving Arya the opportunity to better hide the Ring of Barahir under her corset: if she had studied the most important dynasties of Middle Earth, probably the prince had done it too, and could therefore being capable of recognising her.

"Avam maetha or dagro nan nai gwaith, hîr nin Legolas." **

The young woman then continued, drawing the elf's attention back to herself, an attention that was soon recalled by a guard who was holding Thorin's sword. Legolas took it and looked at it carefully.

"Echannen i vegil hen vin Gondolin. Magannen nan Gelydh." ***

He asserted with pride.

"Where did you get this?"

He then asked the Dwarf King.

"It was given to me."

Thorin answered firmly. Legolas stared at him sternly before pointing the blade at his throat.

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"Not just a thief, but a liar as well."

He said in a serious tone. At that point there wasn't much Arya could do to improve the situation.

"Enwenno hain!"

The prince then commanded loudly, addressing his guards, who began to take the dwarves to escort them to the palace dungeon. The female elf, who had remained close to Arya, took her by the arm, but did so gently, as if trying to make her understand that she was simply following orders. The girl offered no resistance and let herself be led inside the majestic wooden building that represented the heart of Mirkwood.

The she-elf led her into a cell next to Fili's, then escorted Kili into the later one.

"Aren't you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers?"

The young dwarf suddenly asked the her.

"Or nothing."

She answered firmly, before shoving him into the cell and locking it. Arya smiled at that exchange of words, she suspected her friend fancied the guard and hoped that, after all, one day she could've returned those feelings.

Once all the dwarves were locked up in the cells, they began to hurl themselves with all their might towards the bars, but there was no hope of breaking down the metal of those gates. Arya knew their only chance to get out of those dungeons was a deal with Thranduil, but she was also aware that Thorin wouldn't accept any conditions. It was then that you remember that not all members of the company had been taken prisoner by the elves: Bilbo was still out there somewhere, so there was still hope. The young woman then reflected on the fact that even if they managed to escape from the palace, which wasn't exactly an easy task, they would need a quick ride to leave Mirkwood and ...

"My father wants to see you."

The young woman was so absorbed in her thoughts that she had not heard the lock of her cell snap. When she looked up at the source of those words, she found Legolas waiting for her.

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* Are the spiders dead?

** Yes, but more will come.

*** They're growing bolder.

** We do not want to fight or attack your people, my lord Legolas.

*** This is an ancient Elvish blade. Forged by my kin.

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