What Was Found in The Barrow-Downs (part 2)

(side note: the previous post’s tense did not seem to fit right, so I will be changing it. Enjoy!)

Eruviel remembers.

Her bones ached from the cold. Her soft, fair skin had faded into a pallid grey over the past days as she remained where she had first lain on the grassy, mist-ringed hill. Her ears had grown accustomed to the groans and wails of the barrow-wights, and on the rare occasion the screams of some creature meeting it’s untimely end.

Eruviel stared south into the mists, her once vibrant green eyes now faded and hollow. This must be what it is like to fade away, she thought. Even her mind seemed void of emotion. The battle with the wight played over and over in her head. And over again she saw herself thrust the knife into Rainion’s corpse. He is not your brother, she had told herself repeatedly, but it had not been long till her care to say it faded.

“I wonder if this is what it is like to die,” she whispered through parched lips.

A cry echoed from a distant barrow to the south, and Eruviel’s grip on the hilt of Rainion’s sword shifted ever so slightly. Though they passed by in the low places, not once had a wight or hound climbed her hill.

The rising sun crested the furthest barrow, shining a cheery bright yellow that in another time would have woken her with delight for a new day. But now, she wished it had risen red as it seemed often to do. Another cry of a wight rung out, closer this time. Her muscles did not tense. She simply laid there, waiting as she observed the land in the direction of the crys with a dispassionate gaze. The bark of a hound no further than fifty yards away ended abruptly, and an awareness crept back into Eruviel’s eyes. Who could possibly be here? More importantly, why did she suddenly care?

The fog below shifted, twisting as if it were somehow attempting to flee. A figure rose out of the mists, features shadowed by the brilliant light behind him. She knew without a doubt that the newcomer to be of her kin, for he was tall and his step unwavering. The sun gleamed off of his golden hair, and for one crazed moment she thought it to be the High Elf Glorfindel. The figure stopped, his etched leather boots inches from her body. She felt his eyes upon her but had not the strength to meet them.

“Oh, oselle,” flowed the sad, yet deep, musical voice of the elf. He moved to retrieve her discarded weapons, then stooped and lifted her in his strong arms, cradling her against his chest. Then they were moving. The elf lord lept from the small hill, sprinting through the Barrow-Downs at a pace few elves could match. He bounded over rocks, dodging all manner of foes, bearing her swiftly down a southern path into Bree-land where the sun finally warmed her skin. Looking up, only then did she see it was her brother Milloth.

He did not stop till they reached a campsite, a fire already burning in a pit. He laid her down on a pallet of bedding he had previously rolled out, and gently unwrapped her fingers from their grip around their older brother’s sword. She did not want to let go of the ancient weapon. Eruviel had not realized just how much it had numbed her mind, and how much of her desire to wield it came from the blade itself till Milloth had taken it away. He did not speak, his movements swift and graceful as he pulled off her damp overcoat and tucked a wool blanket around her. Finally seating himself next to her he untied her braid, letting out her hair so it could dry faster. Taking a wet cloth he moistened her mouth, dripping the warm water past her lips to slowly hydrate her.

She could feel heat beginning to return, slowly trickling through her veins. Milloth paused for a moment, his sea-blue eyes looking sadly down at her. “Sister, why were you in the Barrows? And how is it that you have Rainion’s blade?”

Eruviel looked up, searching his eyes as her own began to clear. “I saw him, Milloth,” the words caught in her throat. “The dark spirit had stolen his body and –” her voice cut out as tears welled in her eyes. Suddenly fear gripped her. Looking to Milloth his face change into Rainion’s. “No, a’mael toror. Please,” she whimpered, pulling away from Rainion’s face and Milloth’s hands.

The face suddenly changed again, the vision of her brother withering, his eyes growing dark with a hungering evil. A panicked scream rose up from deep within her and Eruviel scrambled to escape, even as the hands took hold of her, pinning her down as she thrashed in vain. Weeping, she screamed Rainion’s name, begging for forgiveness. A firm hand struck her, slapping her across the face. All the fight in her vanished as did the haunting vision, and she collapsed against Milloth’s strong chest, shaking and sobbing quietly.

The next two days Eruviel lay beneath the blankets, trembling as Milloth tended to her, giving her water and feeding her small portions regularly. On the third day her shaking stopped. Her mind had revived, her body having regained some of its former strength. She sat up to eat, devouring the food Milloth set before her, then sat quietly, staring into the fire, unable to look at her brother.

It was afternoon when he knelt beside her. “Can you stand, oselle?” he asked kindly. Eruviel nodded, taking the hand he offered her, but standing of her own accord. Straightening up she raised her head to look at him. His handsome face showed nothing but sternness, but his eyes glimmered a little with pride as she stood before him expectantly. “Good. Take up your bow,” he commanded, giving no explanation. She did as she was bid without question, shouldering her quiver and expertly stringing her bow in one smooth motion.

“I am ready,” she said simply. Where could he be taking her?

Turning, she matched his stride as he set out in a jog. Her heart skipped a beat as his path lead them back towards the Barrow-Downs. She moved with the elegance and grace that she always had, her face set in a calm yet determined look, but her eyes belied her body, filling with panic as the brother and sister rounded the corner into the Downs. Milloth took the lead, cutting down any enemy that thought to pursue them without slowing his stride. Further in they ran, one behind the other till they came to the hill he had found her on.

Milloth pulled a sword from his belt — Rainion’s sword — and stabbed it into the earth. “The blade, while powerful, is dangerous. We should not take it with us.” Eruviel nodded slightly in agreement as her eyes darted around their surroundings. Milloth, looking at the sword for a moment longer, moved to stand beside her, more regal than she ever remembered him as he counted the arrows in her quiver. Taking a handful out, that left her with five. The Elf muttered something under his breath, touching each of the arrows then finally the top of her head.

“Now, oselle,” he said, one strong, lean hand on her shoulder, the other pointing to a lesser wight fifty yards away. “Slay it.”

She turned to look up at him, not caring to disguise the fear that saturated her voice. “But toror, I– I do not think I can.” The terrifying vision of Rainion flashed in her mind. She shook her head in attempt to expel the wicked, grinning face.

“You will,” he said matter-of-factly. From the look her gave she had no other option.

Turning to face the wight he had pointed out she took a tentative step forward, then another. The horrifying face flashed in her mind, more dark and terrible the closer she stepped towards her foe. Raising her bow she aimed for the wight’s head. “Orome, steel me,” she muttered under her breath. She loosed her arrow and it struck the wight in the head, flinging the fiend back, though not killing it. Her arms shaking, she rushed at the being, thrusting her daggers into its neck. She let out a frightened cry as it screamed inches from her face. Then the body collapsed, her hands covered with the perished man’s dust. The vision of Rainion vanished. Her chest heaved as she worked to control her breathing.

“Well done,” Milloth said, still watching from the hill. “No, no oselle,” he said softly as she started back towards him. “You will slay four more. We will not leave until you do.”

Eruviel looked up at him, her face stern. She smiled a little at him, understanding what he meant to do. He was forcing her to face her fear, and he meant to drive it out of her. He even had the foresight to deprive her of ammunition in the event she go too far. Something inside of her clicked. It was a subtle change, but in spite of her uncertainty, she knew it could never be reversed. Giving him a curt nod she turned away, disappearing into the mist as she knocked another arrow. She no longer trembled, her eyes no longer showed fear, and the vision did not reappear as she glided more confidently towards her quarry.

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