Annuil yawned, staring out into the night. Long hours of guard duty lay before him until the sun would rise again.
Rolling his shoulders he winced, and the movement caused his healing ribs to ache. With a rueful grin he remembered how he used to loathe the unpopular guard duty. Nothing ever happened, and at night, it was hard to stay awake. How much more exciting it was to go on patrol and walk the forest on the ground or up in the trees. He loved discovering their secrets and hidden treasures, and getting some quarry or the occasional orc in the line of his arrows was not to be scoffed at either.
But after that escort trip last winter, when he had nearly been killed by a rockslide in the Hithaeglir, the pain of newly-healed bones was as welcome as the boredom of routine. A dead man felt no pain, and a bored man was not fighting for his life.
The memory of that seemingly endless night was still fresh, of voices and gentle hands tending to him, and of a concerned face floating disembodied above him. He also often dreamed of the path suddenly crumbling away under him, and he tumbling and falling and sliding, while his whole being was engulfed in whooshing white masses taking him downwards. He did not know what of this was true memory, what the tale of others, and what nightmare; but he did know that back then, when the snow and rocks and everything had settled down, he had known with certainty that this was the end, and he was going to die there.
But he lived, saved by the good people of Imladris who had first found him and brought him to the valley, and then nursed him back to health. Now he served as one of their guards for a year as a token of his gratitude, and to find out if the shy smiles of a certain auburn-haired healer might lead to more. Life was bright with promise and more precious to him than ever.