The mare's hooves kicked up the stream. When Arwen looked down, peering over Haldarocco's withers or past her flanks, she saw startled fish dashing out their path. The river had a gentle current, flowing to meet the Bruinen, and Arwen and Haldarocco moved against it. They were going home.
Arwen did not range as long or as far as her brothers. Sometimes she stayed away for days, reacquainting herself with the lands surrounding Imladris. It was important she not forget the shape of the ever-changing lands around them, or forget that Imladris and Lothlorien were not two bubbles existing separately from the rest of Middle-Earth. Such was the tranquility of both homes that Arwen could lose track of the years she spent in each; perhaps only the comings and goings of Elladan and Elrohir reminded her.
She had not been far this time. Arwen had gone out with the rising of the sun and returned as now it fell, sleeping behind the mountain. The sky was a dazzling spectacle of colour: reds, oranges, pinks and yellows streaked together, a last hurrah before the coming of the night. Arwen's attention alternated between it and the stream at Haldarocco's hooves, her keen eyes still able to pick out the smallest of fish even as the light became less.
The sun was a fat and lazy orange orb in the sky when she closed in on Imladris. Techincally, she had not strayed from its borders, but she felt she had returned when she saw the roof tops peaking up from behind trees. Arwen clucked her tongue and laid her hand upon Haldarocco's wither, directing him to pull out of the stream. She leaned slightly forward to keep her seat. She was looking forward to changing out of her grey-green riding leathers, slipping into a cool bath and washing away the country ...
Arwen straightened in her seat. Haldarocco, not her horse but attuned to her after today's travels and other such excursions, halted. There was no danger here, not within the borders of her father's lands ... but Arwen could see nobody. It made her cautious. She had heard something, a sound, someone was there ...
She waited. They would make themselves known, or she would outlast them.
((I realize now that I made a math mistake, but this still works. Just so you know though, my numbers went sideways somewhere in there. I think I dropped a zero.))
Halhigil was no longer guarded, nor watched every minute. Yet she still kept herself at a distance from the Imladrim (she was not one of them, and perhaps would never be). She'd made a few friends among the guards, though that was more by virtue of them having been obliged to spend a lot of time around her and deciding to make the best of it than from any real effort to reach out on her part. (Caleneth, when told that, had rolled her eyes and said accepting the overtures had been effort. Halhigil wasn't sure if she believed her.) It was pleasant to spend time with them, but sometimes she wanted the solitude she'd had in her five years of wandering.
So this morning she'd come here, to where the Bruinen joined one of its tributaries. The walk had been long, but pleasant. Exactly what she needed to quiet her mind. Halhigil passed the day in and out of the river, something she'd not done since she was a child. At another time, perhaps, she would invite Alenquelo along. Time spent with him was something infinitely precious to her, and still somewhat new. Maybe things would always be that way between them.
At last, the sun dipped low, and she began to prepare to return to Imladris proper. Her hair she left down, curling around her shoulders--though it was annoying that way, it was better that it dry faster. She set off. As she walked, she heard someone approaching. A rider, alone. Acting on instinct, she slipped into the undergrowth, silent as a shadow, and waited. Her hand flexed, dropping the hilt of the knife in her wrist sheath into her palm. It could be anyone. It could be--
It was the Lady Arwen. No orc, no Moringothonna, only the gracious daughter of Lord Elrond. Halhigil relaxed the tiniest bit and re-sheathed her knife. She rose from her crouch and stepped into plain sight, deliberately making noise so as not to sneak up on her. Around the peredhel house, she was always most careful--best and most polite not to surprise them in any way, after what she had had a hand in.
"Lady Arwen," Halhigil said, inclining her head. "I beg your pardon. I thought you were..." An attacker. One of my old comrades, come to slit my throat. "Someone else. I hope I did not startle you overmuch." Her voice was quiet, without much inflection, but was not completely flat as it had been so many years before. She sounded almost like an ordinary elleth.