Bittersweet: Grasp of Darkness

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After falling victim to the trap before the door to the tower, Eruviel woke in another building entirely. Her armor and weapons had been stripped from her, and her wrists chained. At the center of the room lay bodies of slaves, dead from a variety of causes and injuries. Around them, children toiled to clear the bodies away, tossing them into a great forge on the opposite wall. None paid much attention to Eruviel, but Ûrîzîr was there, wrists chained, too, and he glanced briefly to the Elf.

Frowning as she came to, a bit of misery mixed into her expression as she watched the children work. Where am I? Taking a minute to feel herself for all her weapons, her shoulders sunk a little at finding them all gone.

Turning her gaze to Ûrîzîr, her eyes quickly searched him for injury. “Are you all right, Uri?”

The child bled in several places, some of his injuries looking to be from a whip. For the most part, he, too, ignored Eruviel, answering with only a slight nod. He then made to dislodge a body from the pile with one of the other children.

Watching him with a sorrowful ache growing within her, Eruviel slowly rose to her feet. Taking her eyes from the boy, she looked around the room. “Where are we?” she wondered aloud to no one in particular.

Another boy, this one looking to be of Easterling descent, shrugged to Eruviel.

“The red haired man was looking for you,” Ûrîzîr mumbled to her as he struggled with the corpse.

Eruviel’s shoulders sank, and the motion reminded her of the few ribs cracked by the warg-woman. Taking in a deep breath, she stretched to one side till a faint pop sounded, and she let out the breath in relief. I have to get out and find him. “Is . . . is he all right?”

Ûrîzîr hesitated. He looked down, shifting the chains on his wrists so he could pull the body free. “He was. The orcs . . . came and hurt him.”

A pained look crossed over Eruviel’s face, and she turned away so the boy would not see. The orcs had better be gone by the time she found him, or they would wish they had been. Eirik . . . and the others. Where were they? Turning her gaze to her chains she shifted them around her wrists to see if she could manage to get them off. Just as quickly as she started, she stopped, for even the slightest movement of the sturdy chains cut into her wrists. How she hated chains.

Somewhere, on the other side of the bodies, another child screamed in fright, followed by the sound of a cracking whip.

Eruviel turned quickly, her eyes narrowed, and she moved around the pile of bodies to find the source of both sounds.

The children scattered in the opposite direction that she hurried. As she rounded the pile of bodies, she came across Taja on the other side, on his knees. The whip struck him soundly across the face, and he fell down on the pile of corpses.

Eyes wide, Eruviel lept forward to stand between Taja and the whip.

The Uruk that bore the whip gave Eruviel a scowl, and pointed her towards the bodies. “You have a job. Unless you want to end up like him,” he said, nodding to Taja who lay unmoving.

Eruviel leveled a dangerous glare at the Uruk. Strike me with that whip and I swear I will tear — “I will work, but you will not touch him, nor the children.”

The Uruk chuffed a laugh at her. “He’s already dead.”

Though the man’s blood still oozed from fresh wounds, his chest did not rise with a single breath. One of the children came over to start dragging him away.

Eruviel turned quickly to stop the child. “No, no, no dear. This one is not for the fire,” she said gently as she took hold of Taja. The child gave her an odd look, but he stepped away, allowing Eruviel to take the man. The Uruk looked on at the scene, saying nothing. His lips curled in dark amusement as he allowed her to take Taja’s body.

Milking the pain from her cracked ribs, Eruviel grimaced as she took Taja to the side. Sparing a glance back at the Uruk for any other weapons, but seeing only the whip, she carefully lay the man down. Tearing off the bottom hem of her shirt she bound his worst wound, and brushed her fingers across his forehead, sending in trickles of calm and alertness. “Stay with us, my friend,” she muttered.

Taja did not respond to her words, or even in response to being dragged. Without movement or breath, it was clear that he was dead, and the warmth of his body began to slowly fade.

From the other side, the Uruk laughed cruelly.

Panic gripped her. No! You just joined us! You’re needed here and home! Eruviel pressed one hand against his cooling forehead, and pounded her other fist against his chest over his heart once . . . twice . . . . “Dammit! The spirits aren’t that far, nor the Valar. Breathe!”

Nothing happened. Some of the children glanced to Eruviel, but none stopped their work, avoiding the overseer’s ire.

After a minute Eruviel ceased her efforts and, letting out a heavy breath of defeat, crossed Taja’s hands over his chest. Slowly rising to her feet she shifted to face the room once more when a young girl with messy blonde hair pulled another body out from beneath the others. The Elf froze as she caught sight of the pallid face and lifeless eyes. Feygil.

“What is this?”

No one answered her.

As she watched, more of the Wayfarers are dragged from the pile: Scield, Cwendlwyn, some of Langafel’s men. None moved, and none breathed. The racing of her hear pounded in her ears. Not again . . . By the Valar, I can’t loose them all again . . . . Then another thought struck her, and her panic turned to fury.

“This isn’t them . . . It cannot be . . . It is not!” Fists clenched, she pivoted to face the Uruk’s wicked grin. “Where are they?!” They were more stubborn than she. This was not them . . . This was not how the end for her company would come. She could not — no, she would not accept it.

“Where are who?” the Uruk asked, albeit mockingly. “Your men who thought they could steal away in here? They’re dead. All except the red-haired man, and you.”

Eruviel strode over to feel for Cwendlwyn’s pulse. “This can’t be . . . Why?” Looking around her, she did not care to hide her struggle with what she saw. Then her eyes darted around, looking for a way out. “Where is he?”

“In the dungeons, being taught a lesson. One I think you need, too.”

The Uruk drew back his whip, but then froze. Everything around Eruviel froze in place. The scene flickered, the room fading into where they fell to the trap. It lasted for only a moment before everything returned to as it was, and the Uruk swung a mighty blow of his whip at her.

Her eyes growing wide at the scene, and Eruviel knew. Bracing her feet she did not dodge the blow. Grab, pull, slide, jump, strangle . . . White-hot pain shot through her body as the whip connected. As she grabbed for it, however, it simply passed through her fingers, as if she were made of nothing but air.

Everything around her changed again. For the briefest moment, the sleeping bodies of all of her companions came into view around her. Eirikr’s arms, too, still held her.

Then it was gone once more.

Gritting her teeth against the pain that summoned unbidden tears, Eruviel staggered back a step. She had to snap out of it. She had to wake so she could try and pull him out of whatever nightmare he was held in. Ignoring the cold bite against her flesh, she tugged at the metal that bound her wrists, and slunk back to get behind the pile of bodies. The whip might not work now, but the chains would fit around the Uruk’s neck . . . .

The bodies flickered in Eruviel’s sight, her surroundings uncertain. As they took form again, her bow appeared on top of Cwen’s chest, waiting for her.

Thank you! I like this plan much better. Wiping moisture from her eyes, she hurried over to Cwendlwyn to take up her bow. Keeping an eye out for the Uruk, she looked around for an arrow. As if someone responded to her very thoughts, an arrow appeared just in front of her eyes, suspended in the air.

Whip at the ready, the Uruk followed her around the pile of bodies, having grown irritated. “Get back to work, slave.”

Snatching the arrow out of the air, Eruviel nocked it and drew, aiming for the Uruks head.

“I’m no one’s slave.” She fired.

The arrow found it’s target, and sunk right into the Uruk. He didn’t bleed, and he didn’t react. Everything around her went still when he was hit, however, then began to fade away. Her surroundings melded into a voided black, as did her consciousness.

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