This most definitely was not her brightest moment. They had been safe. Daran’s burns were healing, and Arathier and her had stopped in Tinnundir to rest their own wounds when news had reached them that Teryn, Arathier’s childhood friend that Eruviel had met only a week earlier, had been captured. Eruviel glared defiantly up at the Angmarim captain, bracing herself as his foot slammed into her abdomen. She glanced over to Teryn who was chained to the wall next to her through a haze of red, giving him a reassuring nod as he protected his face with his forearms from his own torturers blows.
Looking back she could not see a way around it, but she had been caught sneaking into the dungeon to free the man. While saving Daran she had been stabbed in the side with a dirk while Arathier had taken a bolt to the leg. There was no way she would have let him try to go after Teryn with such a handicap. The fast healing and high pain tolerance helped her out, but it wasn’t enough, and they had trapped her. The ache of dread in her gut did not come only from the Angmarim’s practiced kicks.
Teryn’s ruggedly handsome face had lost it’s color, but he smiled wickedly up at his captor and make a jest at the Angmarim’s expense. He got the reaction he wanted, but the beating only increased. Eruviel laughed numbly at the joke — it really was quite humorous — before the Angmarim slammed his fist across her face. Arathier said he would come, she told herself. If — NO! When she got back to Bree Anya would be sure to have her own lashings readied for her.
Spitting a mouthful of blood to the side an idea came to her. It was a bad one, she knew it, but they had to try something before they were carted away to Carn Dum. She would not go back there. Not again. Not like this. Dodging the second punch, her tormentor flew into a rage as his fist collided with the cold stone behind her. Teryn grinned over at Eruviel, even as his head was slammed against the wall. Spitting blood into the Anmarim’s face only made things worse for him and the twisted man drew out his knife, carving it through the muscle on Teryn’s shoulder. Teryn could no longer hold back a cry of pain.
Eruviel grunted, gritting her teeth as she took another kick to the gut. “Does this thrilling conversation have a purpose,” she asked hoarsely. She knew the beating had a purpose, but the silent, senseless torture grated on her nerves like fingernails on slate.
Teryn’s face darkened as blood trickled down his arm. “Well?!” he shouted as best he could, backing up her question. The Angmarim raised his knife to strike at him again and Eruviel could feel the panic rise. We BOTH have to survive, she told herself. In the blink of an eye Eruviel mustered what strength she had left and pulled herself up with her chains, sweeping her feet out. Tripping her captor, she brought the heels of her boots down with all her might onto the Angmarim’s face at the moment his head cracked against the stone floor.
Teryn watched in horror as his torturer and another from outside the cell rushed at her and pinned her down. Chaining her feet, they then proceeded to both whale on her. Everything began to dim. The excruciating pain filled her body and a harrowing cry clawed it’s way up her throat. Through the gap between her arms she could see that Teryn was being spared, but her relief was short lived when two more Angmarim entered and rushed at the man. She did not know how much longer it lasted, seconds — minutes, but a strange stillness settled over the room even as her body worked to numb the pain.
Blinking out of a bloody haze, Eruviel looked up at Teryn. Two new Angmarim sat next to them, quietly gazing towards the bars of the filthy cell. Teryn did not look as bad as she felt . . . and she hoped he was better off. They exchanged looks, both wondering how many days it would take till they could find a way to escape, if in fact they were not killed first. Then there was an echo of pounding feet making a mad dash down the hall. Teryn’s eyes widened as he looked over and Eruviel shifted her head to follow his gaze.
Arathier stood in the hall, panting for breath as his hands reached back for his knives. His eyes widened and Eruviel’s stomach sank, knowing he only found one. She felt like she would be sick when he did not look at her.
The Angmarim started from their day dreams and quickly moved to hold knives to the prisoner’s throats as Arathier and Teryn exchanged looks. “It’s all right, Arathier,” said Teryn quietly as his captors blade pressed against his throat.
Orome, Eruviel thought miserably, I know that look. Don’t you two make this decision! She ordered her throat to function; raged at her lungs when they struggled to do her bidding. She could not feel it, but her arms struggled against the chains that bound her none-the-less. “No,” she rasped, her voice finally reviving, “NO! Arathier — Teryn, I’ve lived far more than my share! You have hardly begun –” Her words were cut off as the cold bade pressed against her neck drew blood. Hot tears blinded her and she squeezed her eyes shut. Was this not what she was here for? To, if worst came to worst, take someone’s place? In the furthest corners of her mind she wondered if it was what she really wanted. Death. A noble one, a death that meant something, but death just the same.
Then it happened. As Eruviel’s eyes opened Arathier’s blade sailed over her head to sink into her captor’s face. The Angmarim’s knife fell free and she kicked it across the room and under the bars to Arathier even as the blade against Teryn’s neck did it’s work. Arathier’s face twisted in anguish as he dropped to his knees.
“We are not done!” she managed to yell as she fell over, unable to hold herself up. Her words snapped Arathier out of his sorrow long enough to pick up the knife she had kicked him, dropping the last Angmarim as he charged across the cell towards Eruviel. Tears stained the red painted floor beneath her face. Breathing became a chore as she watched Arathier break down the wooden cell door in a rage and crumple down beside Teryn’s now lifeless body.
“You — you have to burn his body,” she managed to rasp as her consciousness began to slip. The closer she drew to the darkness the suddenly more aware she became. She could sense somewhere in the massive citadel above them the presence of wights . . . and of something– no, someone far worse. “They wi-ill take it i-if you d-don’t.”
Arathier’s wide, sorrowful gaze finally turned and he began to move towards her. She felt his hand on her forehead as her lids drew closed. So heavy, she thought numbly. She wanted to apologize . . . to say something, but it escaped her, and she forgot everything else.
_ _ _ _ _ _
She could feel it, every ounce of pain, every splintered and broken bone. Something else inside of her had broken as well. She could not tell what it was, but it’s shattered presence was beyond repair — a concept she had never been confronted with before, and it terrified her. In the darkness, lit with red flames she opened her eyes and instantly regretted it. A vast wall stretched out before her, hung with the corpses of her friends. This was worse than the dream she had had months earlier. Far worse. Eirikr, and Anyatka; Cwen and Threz hung in a line, followed by Adrovorn, Nillariel, Forthogar, and Rainion. Every face in Bree she respected followed. The Watchers of Bree decorated a row, followed by Wyllawen and her troop of friends, a dozen lines of Rangers, then halflings. A lifetime and more of friends and acquaintances filled the empty spaces as her eyes searched frantically for hope.
A tall, robed figure materialized from the shadows. She knew those eyes, and that wicked smile. Alagos stood before her, his head tilted like a viper waiting to strike. Then a wave of terror assaulted her. The massive, overwhelming presence approached her from behind and a scream of pain and fear was seemingly pulled from her lungs as the sudden sensation of her skin being torn from her body burned through her nerves.
The presence looked down upon her as she continued to scream against her will. Alagos dropped to a knee then prostrated himself before whoever it was that broke past her wall of defenses as if merely opening a garden gate. “My Lord, please receive my offering,” the Black Numenorian spoke, his voice filled with reverence and a foreign tone of humility. The gigantic presence bore down on her, drowning her in it’s rage and wicked pride.
But he couldn’t touch her. Suddenly something outside of her hell shook her. The call of her name, distant and filled with concern. And then she was falling. The hold they had on her slipped and it all faded away along with the wall of horrors and searing pain.
A cool breeze hit her. The sweet smell of the sea filled her nostrils and Eruviel suddenly realized that her eyes were clenched shut. Trembling, she forced them open and a whole new scene met her empty gaze. She was surrounded by the summer waves of a blue ocean, hovering several feet above the surface. Looking at her arms to see her fair skin whole and gleaming in the warm sunlight she felt where all her scars should have been. They were gone. The skirt of a white dress swirled around her feet as she sped forward through the air, her long hair whipping about her. The beauty and relief that quenched her soul brought fresh tears to her eyes.
In the distance through the blue haze and wisps of clouds a white shore shone on the horizon. Could it really be? Anticipation swelled in her chest even as doubt sat in her mind, it’s arms folded. Should she really be here? Her progression slowed and she alighted on the gleaming sands even as a crystal blue wave of water tumbled over her feet. In spite of the peace that lightened her heart, in a way it was wrong, feeling the warm sand beneath her bare feet.
Miles away down the beach the silhouette of a massive pillared forum rose from the shore in swirled spires. She felt a pull to walk towards it, but after a moment’s hesitation she turned only to be greeted by the last face she expected.
“It is cruel, really, that I was the one sent to see you,” spoke Adrovorn in his rich, deep voice as he pushed off of the rock he’d been leaning against with a shrug of his broad shoulders. His voice rolled over her like the blue waves that tumbled up the white sand. He walked towards her with his ever-confidant stride and she hugged her arms around herself, fighting the heart-wrenching urge to fly into his embrace. They stood facing each other, hardly a foot apart, a thousand words and wishes silently passing between them.
“Walk with me,” he said quietly, tucking his hands into his pockets. A slight smile curved up the corners of her petal-pink lips at the gesture, realizing she had picked up that little human quirk from him.
They walked side by side down the beach, listening to the other’s footsteps, neither one touching the other. “What are you doing here?” she finally asked.
“You could say I’m in between destinations,” he replied thoughtfully. Looking down at her his dark blue eyes shone sadly. “The question is, what are you doing here?”
Eruviel pursed her lips. “I was killed, I suppose,” she said quietly.
“Yes and no,” Adrovorn said as he chuckled. After another moment he sighed. “You know you have to go back.”
She knew it. That was what felt wrong. As much as she longed to stay she was not quite dead on the other side, and it was not yet her time. Stopping, she looked out to sea for a minute before turning her gaze back to him as he stood a pace in front of her. She had lost the meaning of her purpose amidst the veil of grief since his death. A part of her had withered away when he had not returned, and it had perished in the flames that had consumed the letter informing her of his death in battle. “Forgive me,” she said softly, her brows furrowing. “I let myself despair after you left.”
“I know,” Adrovorn nodded, moving to stand beside her and gaze out over the waters. “You shouldn’t have. You are strong, and I’d rather you live happily in honor of my memory.” The man let out a long sigh. “You were right,” he said slowly, “I should never have left you behind. My regret grew worse with every step I took away from you.”
“You were only trying to protect me, and for the most part, you did,” she said. A bitterness lifted from her as she spoke those words, and she wondered if it had not been Milloth’s idea for Adrovorn to meet her here. “It will take a long time still. A fear has sunk it’s claws into me.”
Adrovorn bobbed his head. “I take the blame for that as well, but you are going to have to work past it.” A playful smile then lit his face. “I see you have found someone to fill the gap I left behind.”
Eruviel could not keep back the soft, merry laugh that trickled past her lips. “No, he has not filled the gap. As intrusive as he is, I have learned that I can feel such warmth again, though not for him, as he so ardently hopes.”
“Good,” Adrovorn said with a satisfied nod. “Be prepared, my love. He is going to cause you a lot more heart ache in the months to come.”
“I have feared that . . . Now I am reaping the consequences of loosing myself, I suppose,” she said with a sigh.
Adrovorn looked down at her with a warm smile. “He’s not good enough for you. At least you dodged his advances.” His eyes searched hers, and like it was before, she sensed that he could see right through her. “You are fond of him, aren’t you?”
Eruviel hesitated, then nodded, understanding that he spoke of another. “I think I am. It is . . . unexpected . . . refreshing,” she said quietly. Softly biting the corner of her mouth, she raised a hand to put it on his arm, but stopped. “Might I . . . .”
He shook his head with a sad smile. “I could touch you, but we both know that if you touch me you won’t go back.”
Her mouth quirked with a smirk as she nodded, lowering her hand. “It is tempting, believe me, but the others might not forgive me. And if I really am able to return, then I suspect they are waiting with waning hope that I will wake up.”
Both of their eyes turned upwards as the light breeze picked up, tugging her towards the water. Swallowing hard, Adrovorn suddenly stepped closer and cupped her face with both of his hands, planting a lingering, tender kiss upon her lips. “I should have given that to you before I rode away that day,” he said quietly. Hovering, he then pressed a second kiss on her forehead before stepping back. “Things will get better. Just don’t keep trying to do it all on your own, if you can manage it.” Giving her a bittersweet smile, Adrovorn bowed his head, tucked his hands into his pockets, and turned to walk down the white shore as the sweet ocean wind lifted her up and carried her away.
(first half edited from chat logs for tense and exposition))