-- Ailen has no parents. No family. What she does have is Ringwraiths and Orcs on her heels, and a Fellowship of friends at her back. A Tenth Walker story. Movie-verse, mostly.
Third Age, August 27th, Year 2978, Eriador
Bardan hurriedly stuffed provisions into his leather pack as he spoke, his deep voice tainted with urgency and worry. "There have been reports of Orcs moving in from the southeast. I must go with the scouts to ensure they haven't crossed our borders." Turning to the woman behind him, he added, "Look after Ailen, won't you?"
She nodded. "Of course, Bardan. We all love her. She'll be fine."
"Thank you," Bardan said, relief evident in his tone. Placing his hand briefly on her cheek, the dark-haired man added, "You're a good neighbor, Priscilla." Shouldering his pack, he turned and left the small house. Priscilla watched him as he went.
"Good luck," she whispered.
The five year old girl stirred sleepily in her bed as the sun's light teased across her small face. Rolling over, she got out of bed, dragging the covers to the floor and wandered over to the windowsill that overlooked the front path leading up to the house. She gasped as she saw a tall figure making his way to the stables one building over. A moment later she disappeared from the window, small feet pattering downstairs with urgency.
Bardan tightened the girth of his saddle and swung up onto his mount, a dark bay. Turning away from the house, he began trotting up the lane where his comrades would be waiting.
Ailen burst out of the front door, running through the tall grass by the edge of the lane, desperate to catch up with her father. "Ada! Ada, wait!"
Bardan looked back as his young daughter ran just beside and behind the cantering horses, the grasses in the ditch up to her waist. "I'll be back soon, Ailen! Be good for Priscilla!" he called. "I love you!"
Ailen slowed and stopped, climbing to the center of the road as the horses rode on, cresting the hill, and vanishing from sight. A pair of gentle hands lowered onto her shoulders from behind. "Don't worry," Priscilla murmured. "He'll be fine. He's a good man."
Ailen nodded, her eyes still fixed after the riders' paths. Priscilla murmured something quietly as she kissed the child's dark hair, so like her father's. Silently, the two linked hands, and turned back up the lane to the house.
To be continued