~Istanneniel's Story~ - Part Two
Fealor struggled to grab hold of the words washing over him; hollow sounds floating in the sea of throbbing pain that lapped at the edges of his consciousness.
<"Faelor? "Can you rise?"> He knew the voice, but could not place it with a name. He felt as if he was spinning, though he was dimly aware that he lay on the floor; the stone was cold against his body. He wanted to speak, but the words felt like clumps of burning sand in his throat.
<"Can you hear me? Answer me!">
<"I can,"> he croaked. Through one eye, he saw the face; his other eye was swollen shut.
A hint of tears glinted in the deep, slate-colored eyes that met his wavering gaze.
<"Do not joke with me like that, brother,"> Ernil said, trying to conceal the tremor in his voice.
Faelor endeavored to sit, but a stab of pain halted his movements. He bit down hard on his lip, too late to stifle the cry.
<"Lay still,"> said Ernil, easing his brother's body back to the ground. <"I will get the Healer.">
Faelor wanted to tell him... "The woman--" he wanted to say. But the words refused to come.
<"Don't worry,"> said Ernil-- It was as though he had heard him clearly. <"I will see that you are not blamed for the actions of this foolish daughter of Men.">
With that, the raven-haired Elf turned to the long corridor, and started to run.
* * *
The rich smell of herbs and medicinal plants filled the air within the small room. Glass vials and jars of every color substance imaginable lined the rows of shelves mounted along one wall. On the far side of the room sat a long table of carved stone. Here, the nimble fingers of an Elvish woman worked carefully at the delicate task of brewing a tonic. Her hair, glistening gold, was pulled back in one long braid. Her sharp, green eyes focused on a single drop that teetered on the lip of the vial.
<"Bronwe!"> the door burst open.
...The glass shattered on the floor.
<"Ernil,"> she began, hurrying to wipe the fizzling liquid as it spread across the stone. <"How many times-">
<"Bronwe,"> he interrupted, jerking her up by the arm. <"Faelor is injured... badly, I think. He looks like a corpse!">
<"Oh, Eru..."> Bronwe gasped. <"What happened?">
* * *
The dagger slid easily through the fabric of Istanneniel's dress as she cut a wide strip from the hem. She peeled off the bandages, sticky with old blood, and dropped them in a heap behind one of the wooden boxes. The bleeding seemed to have stopped, but she thought it best to keep them wrapped.
She stared at the sleeve of her dress that was now stiff and crusted with blood. She had never thought of Elves as anything but wise and good... How could they mean her any harm?
"Oh, what have I done?" she thought. She had attacked that Elf, who was probably a healer, rather than a soldier.
...Now, he would die. She was certain of that.
"You are certain of nothing, Istanneniel!" her mind screamed. She had done too much without thinking, lately.
"I miss you, father..." She saw the scene again, as so many times before, numbing her heart to the pain.
Darwain (she had always called her adopted father by his first name) leaned on the balcony rail.
"Istanneniel," he sighed, "You cannot go."
"But I must!" she said, "Don't you understand? My betrothed may yet be alive. ...I have to know."
"It is too dangerous," was Darwain's stern reply. "You will not go."
"I am going."
"No, you are not."
"I will go."
"I will not allow it."
"You cannot prevent it."
"You are in my charge, and you will do as I bid!" He pounded a fist against the stone.
"Let me go, Darwain." She was not asking it, so much as ordering it.
"Will you just trust me and do as you are told? I know what is best for you!"
"You know nothing about me!" she exclaimed. "In case you have not noticed, I am no longer a child."
"Then, perhaps, your actions might give some indication of it," Darwain said, his voice quivering with agitation. "Honestly, Istanneniel, sometimes you can be too much to endure."
Istanneniel tried to swallow the mass in her throat. It felt as though a hand had clamped down on her heart.
...She could not speak, so she turned, leaving her father on the balcony.
She flung herself down on her bed, sobbing. Darwain's words still stung in her ears. She was a burden... a weight.
"Mama..." she whispered. "Mama, I wish you were here." She would never see her again, she knew that, but it did not ease the aching in her heart.
"What's wrong, dear?" came a sneering voice. Istanneniel pressed her body into the bed; she wanted to disappear.
The young man stood in the doorway, half covered in shadow. She knew the voice... Darwain's son.
"I overheard your conversation..." he said. "Didn't you know? Didn't you sense it?" He snorted. "So much for your little 'gift'."
"Go away, Belegwain," Istanneniel whispered.
"What's that?" he asked, mockingly.
"Go away!" she shouted.
"Shh..." said Belegwain. "No need to be angry with me. You have no one to blame but yourself."
"Leave me alone, slime."
Belegwain laughed, his voice oozing with malice. "But, dear sister, you are alone."
"I am not your sister," said Istanneniel, disdainful.
"Ah, yes... you are correct. You are not my sister."
"What do you want?" she asked.
"To give you some advice," Belegwain's face twisted in that... thing he called a smile.
"I do not want your advice."
"First you kill your own mother, now you will be the death of my father. What you want is irrelevant."
Istanneniel wanted to die... to utterly cease to exist.
"Why do you trouble an old man with your twaddle?" Belegwain was relentless. "He has been ill, you know. He might recover, if not for your constant vexation." He leaned in close, his breath hot on her cheek.
"Leave, Istanneniel... Relieve us all from the agony of your presence."