Bittersweet Melodies - The Forgotten Saga of Araviel - Chapter 13
But all songs must someday come to an end.
Life knocks you down, then makes you whole
just to see you broken again."
Saruman lowered his staff and Araviel slumped back against the wall, limp and gasping for breath. He watched through a misty haze of white shadows as two of the guards who weren't holding back Elian and Will lifted Padric's prone form and roughly shook the man awake. Padric groaned.
Araviel tried to stand and help his friend, but on his way to his feet several hands grabbed hold of his arms and held him still. They disarmed him and bound his wrists together before setting the weary elf on his feet. He stilled his struggling, knowing resistance would just land him in more trouble as the guards pushed the four prisoners into a line facing Saruman, who smirked and said, "Well, now that everyone's decided who is on what side, we can get down to -"
He stopped short as a pale, thin lipped, dark haired man walked into the room, bowed shortly and said, "My lord, there is urgent news!"
"What is it Grima?" Saruman asked quietly.
"Might we speak in private for a moment, my lord?" the man asked. He gave a sideways look at the four prisoners and his anxious face slipped into a malicious smile.
Saruman turned to the guards and said, "If they so much as move, it will be your heads," and left the room, Grima slinking behind him, shooting mocking looks at the prisoners.
The chamber was silent, except for Padric's ragged breathing; his guards were inspecting the gash on his head and he was struggling as if in great pain. Will was looking around, probably for an escape route and Elian, right next to Araviel, was trembling. He leaned toward her as unobtrusively as possible and said, "No one will harm you as long as I have a breath left."
She sighed deeply and leaned her head against his shoulder. Araviel's heart skipped a beat and he had to keep himself from trembling; he was made more nervous by her touch than even by the fierce men guarding them.
One of the men shot him a dirty look that told him to be quiet. Deciding to not enrage them any more than he had to, he submissively lowered his eyes. The situation did not favor him; with a sword he could have done serious damage, but unarmed with bound hands, there was little he could do but fall victim to their strength. He felt as helpless as he had the night the men of Mordor had surrounded him and he had thought he was going to die...
"Im melin le Araviel."
Oh, great he thought angrily, Now I've progressed to all out hallucinations. He rolled his eyes, but couldn't resist to just look at her one time, with the fool's hope that she might someday actually say those words to him. He looked down into her ocean blue eyes; they were filled with tears that she would not allow to fall and staring back into his, full of longing and anguish.
"We're not going to escape twice," she said, "And I thought you ought to know." He felt water dripping down his jerkin as tears poured silently down her cheeks, but he couldn't have wept even if he knew he was going to die, not now! It was as if the sun itself had burst into the dank chamber and freed him of all his burdens and pain. His face relaxed into a smile and something deep within his heart felt at ease for the first time.
"Elian, Im-" he began.
"Get off each other!" a man growled harshly, cutting into his soft elvish with the harsh sounds of the common tongue. A hand shoved Araviel away, pushing him to the floor. He turned, but a foot swung out and kicked him clear across the room. He slammed into the wall and lay crumpled against it; his head was beating as loudly as his angrily drumming heart. Perhaps a minute passed in complete stillness, Araviel hovering between reality and an unconscious dream world.
"Not even five minutes and already he is causing trouble again." Saruman's voice was light, even mocking, and he spoke briskly as he once more entered the room, looking satisfied about something. Araviel glared at him from his place on the floor.
"Go on, get him up," Saruman said to the guards with a casual wave of his hand. Araviel once again resisted the urge to struggle and fight as the men grabbed a tight hold of his arms and held him still within their grasp.
"What do you want from us?" he asked in a hard voice. Saruman gave a grim smile, and stepped forward.
"This one's for Barad Dur, Sauron has need of him," he said with a casual air. He walked toward the limp elf and looked him straight in the eyes with a malicious smile. "You'll still be of some use, even if you won't join us. The Dark Lord wishes to ensnare your father," he laughed. Something deep within his heart ripped, but Araviel managed to control himself. "You will be the first of your family to pay for your meddling father's wrongdoings," Saruman continued. "Not that it matters to you; they exiled you, none of them care about you, I bet dear daddy laughs when he hears of your tormented death in the dark tower!" he jeered.
His cruel words rang dully in Araviel's ears, igniting a flame within him that he had long tried to douse. The pain of ten years of wandering alone and unloved suddenly unleashed itself in a torrent of fierce emotion. Anger such as he had never felt before flared within him and his eyes flashed brighter than Elbereth's stars.
"I am not an exile!" Araviel yelled. As if awakening from a drunken dream, he yanked his way out of the guard's grasp and slammed his head against Saruman's with the force of a hurricane. Shocked at Araviel's sudden, violent outburst, the wizard faltered and fell back, arms flailed out to save him from a fall. "You're a liar," Araviel seethed. "You know nothing of love!" he yelled as he kicked out at the stumbling wizard. The guards grabbed hold of Araviel's shoulders and yanked his struggling body away from the old man. Saruman stepped toward him, his eyes glittering angrily. "You know of nothing but pain," Araviel growled through clenched teeth as he tried to wrench himself free of the many hands holding him down.
"Just like you," the wizard said as he punched him roughly in the face. Araviel recoiled as several rings collided with his skin, scraping it and making bloody gashes on his already red cheeks. "You're nothing but an outcast. You mean nothing to your father." He kicked Araviel to his knees. "The only difference between you and I," his face slipped into a mocking smile, "Is that I inflict pain, and you bear it," he finished with a final punch. Araviel groaned and tried to get back to his feet, but the guards held him down. "And now you're off to bear some more." He turned to the guards and said, "Take him to my chamber and make sure he's guarded well. Now!"
Araviel tried to turn and get one last glimpse of Elian before he was pulled from the chamber, but the door slammed shut behind him and he was left alone in a sea of leering guards.
"What are you going to do him?" Elian pleaded in a small voice as Saruman turned once more to face the three remaining prisoners.
"Aw," Saruman said in a mocking voice, "Puppy love, how sweet. But he is far below you Elian, daughter of Ariel, a mere scrap of dust beneath your feet."
"And what gives a dirty traitor like you the right to speak of him that way?" Will broke in angrily.
"It is clear that dear Araviel is keeping some rather horrendous truths from you," Saruman said, "However, his fate means nothing to me, it's Sauron who is concerned with him. My business is to find out where Paladin and Ariel have gone to."
"Who?" Will asked.
"Your parents, Will," Padric said in a low, worried voice.
"Oh, we don't know anything about them," Will told him plainly, as if that meant there was nothing more to be said of the matter. Elian looked apprehensively toward Saruman, whose face was creased in a frown. She felt her heart skipping beats as the wizard said, "Oh I think you do, and I'm going to find out one way or another." He turned to the guards and said, "Take them to an interrogation room."
Elian tried to keep her expression calm as she gently stroked the torn, knotted and bruised welts that covered Will's back. She didn't let her eyes stray toward his right arm, which stuck out from his body at a grotesque angle, but instead focused on her brother's face. His eyes were closed, his hair falling in disheveled, dirty locks over his grimacing countenance. He was alive, his chest still rose and fell slowly, but he was not asleep, as his closed eyes indicated. The final blow one of Saruman's guards dealt him had taken care of knocking the young elf out stone cold and the only thing that gave Elian any ounce of comfort was that her brother was not awake to feel the aftermath of the brutal interrogation.
She raised her head, not wanting to look any more at Will's mangled back, and instead focused her attention on Padric, who was standing with his arms crossed over his chest and his back turned away from his two elven cell-mates. He was unhurt, save for the bloody gash on his forehead. One of the guards had quickly revived him with a dark, nasty looking powder and the strong man was not any worse for it. Elian knew it was no physical wound that ailed him, but the deeper, far more painful ache of guilt. She knew because she felt it too, though perhaps not as strongly as Padric.
No amount of pleading ignorance had swayed the Istari. Saruman knew that both his sister and adopted father cared deeply for Will, and had skewed this love into a horrible punishment that was as equally painful for all three of the beleaguered travelers. Instead of torturing all of them, he had focused his attentions on Will, beating, breaking and mutilating his body until the young elf couldn't bear the pain anymore and, with the last fall of a many-stringed whip, he had collapsed.
Elian and Padric had been forced to watch the dreadful scene in hopes that one of them would release the information, thus saving their beloved friend from further pain. If Elian had known where her parents were, she probably would have broken down and told Saruman everything. Will hadn't moaned or cried or struggled at all, but a sister knows when her brother is in pain; she could see Will's agony in his usually merry blue eyes and it had all but consumed her. Yet he had remained still, and took all of the brutal pain heaped upon him like the strongest and greatest of the warriors of old.
It was Padric who lost control. He had fought against everyone around him, yelled until he was too hoarse to utter a sound, and even wept when they still would not release his son, who was as silent and brave as Padric had always taught him to be. Now the agonized man wouldn't even turn around to face Will's broken body and so Elian was alone, stroking his back with light fingers, and reliving the horror of it all in her head over and over again.
The agonized moment of pure terror when Saruman threw Araviel into the wall, the sense of longing and loss as he was dragged away, the painful feeling of helplessness as her brother was tortured and now the complete and overwhelming emotions of guilt and regret as she sat, gently touching Will's wounds, watching Padric's agony of remorse and hoping Araviel still lived were about to consume her. She couldn't stand knowing the three people who mattered most to her in the world were completely at the mercy of one so cruel as Saruman, not to mention her own fear.
Would that her mother had been there to gently hold her frightened daughter in a tender, loving embrace! Why couldn't her father shelter his little elfling in strong, affectionate arms? Elian was but a child yet, and she needed guidance, but she was alone, alone in a tiny dark cell with a guilt-ridden man and an unconscious elf scarcely two years older than her. She needed someone, someone older, wiser, with knowledge and love in ageless blue eyes, she needed her parents, though she had never met them, to cradle her shivering form, and the broken one of her brother in strong arms, to keep their children safe from those who wished them harm.
"Stop it," Will whispered in a fevered dream, "Don't touch me!" His voice was soft and weak; feeble as a newborn kitten's, and Elian wept to hear it. She crushed her eyelids shut, promising herself that she would be strong, as her brother was, and swiftly brushed away her tears. She scooted closer to Will and, with agile, careful hands, lifted his torso and laid her brother's head in her lap. There was blood caked on his hands, but she held his fingers tightly with her right hand, and with the left, brushed back the beads of sweat on his brow.
There should have been a strong, capable healer to soothe Will's wounds, numb his pain and brave him through this trial. There should have been a singer to lull him into a peaceful sleep, or a storyteller to make him laugh and forget his agony. But there was only Elian, only one small, frightened, barely grown elf who had grown up sheltered and secluded, knowing nothing of the horrors of the world outside Rivendell, knowing nothing of pain and torment and suffering. All she could do was stroke his blood-matted hair gently, and hum a sweet song, trying to get him out of his delirium and into the peace of sleep.
Elian was no poet, and she was no minstrel, she had sung a few times in the halls of Imladris, but never had she been called to compose something herself. She didn't compose anything now, she simply sang a song that worked its way into her heart, a tune as old as the hills, with words sung to her long ago, in a time as distant as the stars themselves, and in a place far away from the cold, rancid cell, in a time of innocent happiness, loving family and of bitter parting...
"Aa' ta na dae' undomegil' nauva cal ampeno' lle,
Aa' ta na iire morin lantea dos oren nauva na anwai
Lle triall da eressea mallea'
Sut hae lle del' tuulo' eska..."
"Naneth sang that to me."
"Will!" Elian shrieked in an ecstatic voice as his dear blue eyes opened halfway, and he stared up at her, completely innocent and happy; a child at rest in caring arms, "Bless you, you're awake!" she breathed happily.
"Don't stop," he said in a slow voice as he lightly closed his eyes once more. She smiled and continued to affectionately stroke her older brother's dark golden hair, her fingers tracing over the tiny braids.
Dura ar' lle nauva utu oren meni
Da annun coiea e' lle naust..."
Her shaky voice faltered and she stopped. "That's all I can remember," she said.
Will smiled, but didn't open his eyes and continued,
"Aa' ta na vell wethil's yel nauva rip' cel
Aa' ta na lle lema no' a' galad vell aurel
Iire vell noste sa nuquerne lle aa' duun a' utu vell anor
Dura ar' lle nauva utu oren meni
Da annun coiea e' lle naust..."
Da annun coiea e' lle naust..."
Elian's heart ached as the lullaby of their mother, her last words to her two young children, floated away into the still, cold air of the windowless, hopeless dungeon.
"I can see your mother singing that to you, Will," Padric, speaking for the first time all day, said. Elian turned, and with a great effort, Will lifted his head; they both stared at Padric, and for a moment all was still.
"Did you know her?" Will finally asked, as if he was just making small talk.
"Not well, but I did see her once." Padric walked over to the two elves and squatted down next to Will. His eyes were sorrowful as he lightly picked up Will's right forearm and heard the young elf wince in pain.
"We need to fix this," he said, carefully steering the conversation to more practical matters.
Elian wished Padric would say more about their parents, but she laid her hand over Will's sweating forehead and said, "Must it be done now? He is already in great pain."
"He'll never be able to string a bow or wield a sword if we don't do it quickly. Hold him down Elian, I know how to make it fast and as painless as possible." He turned to Will, who was looking slightly apprehensive and said, "It will hurt, but it's this or let it heal crooked."
Will took a deep gulp of air and nodded. "Elian doesn't need to hold me down," he said, "I can handle it."
"All the same, if you jerk at all, it could sprain or even break again, weak as it is right now."
Will grudgingly nodded. Elian lifted her cloak from her shoulders and pillowed it under Will's head. Her hands were shaking, but she pressed them down over Will's left shoulder and, to her surprise, he yelped in pain.
"There's a burn there," he said. She bit her lip, crushed back tears of pity that were swimming in her eyes and laid one hand over his chest. With the other, she took a hold of his fingers.
"Just hold still for the next minute, and then it'll be over," Padric said. Will nodded, grimacing and Padric took a hold of his arm.
He didn't yell, gasp or even wince in pain, but Will's free hand was clutching so tightly to Elian's that she almost gasped. Seeing the agonized look on her brother's wan face as he forced a brave silence made Elian want to weep with remorse and sorrow. But Will's eyes were dry.
After the quick procedure, Padric ripped strips of his cloak to wrap the break and then proceeded to bandage some of the other wounds on his son's body. Both he and Elian were on the verge of tears as they saw the many whip slashes, bruises, slashes and even burns on Will's legs, torso, back and face. Elian was immensely relieved when Will slipped his tunic and jerkin back over his head and slid his arm into a makeshift sling Padric had constructed; she hated seeing the damage Saruman had inflicted upon her helpless brother.
"There, now that wasn't so bad, was it?" Will asked with a forced grin as Elian helped him lay back down, "Look, you two are doing more crying than me, and I'm the one who got hurt."
Elian couldn't find it in her to laugh. She just gave a small smile and hugged her brother tightly, thanking the Valar that he was still alive.
"At least we're together," Will said.
"No," Elian replied as tears, so long held back, finally managed to slip down her face, "Araviel's gone."
"Hmmm," Will mumbled as he looked around the chamber,
empty except for the three companions, "Now where did he get off to?"
The guards shoved Araviel through a thick, metal door and slammed it shut behind him. He looked around at the black chamber apprehensively; there was a circular, stone table with a black stone upon it and a high, black chair. Sitting upon this small throne was none other than Saruman, still clad in his pure white robes, his black eyes narrowed in malice.
"What do you want?" Araviel asked scathingly.
He suppressed the urge to take a faltering step backward as Saruman smiled slowly and stood up.
"To show you something," he said in a syrupy, would be kind voice while beckoning toward the stone.
The circle swirled around, tiny lights shimmering dimly inside. Araviel stood watching it, transfixed by some otherworldly power as the ball suddenly glowed bright orange, yellow and red. Flames licked at the sides of it and a great eye appeared in the center of it, an eye that seemed to pierce right through him. The back of his neck began to burn on the spot where the tattoo was imbedded and Araviel trembled. All he knew at that moment was he didn't want to ever get any closer to that flaming, radiant eye; he didn't want it to see him...
"That's a Palantir," he mumbled numbly, before demanding, "How did you get one?"
"That is for me to know," Saruman said.
"You stole from the realm of Gondor! I know one who will make you pay," Araviel replied with a sinister look in his bright green eyes.
"Aragorn lives the life of an exile in the wilds, protecting hobbits and telling stories in pubs," Saruman scoffed, "He cannot help you now."
Araviel stifled a cry as Saruman shoved him toward the Palantir, and stepped back, terrified. Tried as he was in fighting, strong as he was in body, brave as he was in spirit, Araviel cowered fearfully away from the ancient, shining, flaming ball. Saruman's long hands pressured his bruised back and sharp pain shot through him.
"Your master wishes to speak with you. Now." Saruman's voice was curt and commanding as he grabbed Araviel's tied hands, ripped off the bonds and placed them forcefully on the flaming ball. He tried to wrench them off, but couldn't move. The elf had one last glimpse of the stone chamber before blackness covered his eyes, clouding his vision and filling his numb, paralyzed mind with terror...
He slammed to the floor roughly, but it was not the level, cold stone of the chamber high in Orthanc. His head was pounding, but he managed to open his eyes wide enough to see...blackness. There was nothing but a blank, dark void all around him. His whole body was shaking, but he pulled himself to his feet. Booming, cackling evil laughter filled the empty nothingness, and Araviel jumped, startled at the loud, echoing noise. He turned around quickly, but still saw nothing but vague shadows.
"Is this pathetic creature the tribute Saruman the White sends? A spindly, cowardly elf?" a hissing, seething, evil voice boomed. In spite of the situation, Araviel felt anger rising within him. Cowardly? Pathetic? His fear ebbed slightly as it was replaced by rage.
"I am no tribute!" he called.
"Silence!" the voice boomed. Some unseen, powerfully strong force hit Araviel hard in the stomach, and he was thrown roughly to the ground. He landed on his back and cried out at the extreme pain. As if some giant hand was toying with him, he was lifted violently and set on his unstable feet. He swayed, but remained erect.
"Who are you who comes so boldly before the Dark Lord?" the voice called. Araviel's stomach gave a frightened, but at the same time excited lurch. It was Sauron; he was standing before the Dark Lord Sauron. It was he who had so branded him, violated his very flesh. The fear drained out of him; his oath would be fulfilled...
"Show yourself! Only cowards hide in the shadows!" his clear, elven voice rang out against the darkness, small, but strong; a lone, shining star glimmering in an immense black sky.
The void grew hot; fire was licking at the gloom. Araviel stepped back as before him appeared a great eye; lidless, and wreathed in flame. His brave heart faltered; the eye was as piercing as Elrond's, as dark as Saruman's, as keen as Padric's and more evil than anything Araviel had yet to behold or would ever witness again.
"Who are you to challenge the might of Sauron, Lord of the Earth?" the voice echoed angrily.
"Who are you to declare yourself Lord of the Earth?" Araviel retorted. He was treading on very dangerous ground, but a dull burning on the back of his neck reminded him of what was written there. He remembered vividly the night in Rivendell, when Lord Elrond accepted his oath; it seemed so long ago.
"I swore on all that is holy," he whispered to himself, thinking of Elbereth, though unsure if even She could help him now.
He was blown back by another blast of Sauron's anger. He slid to the floor, skidded across it and landed in a heap about a hundred feet away. He grimaced; there was blood on his back and more obscuring his vision. Invisible blows rained down on him; he tried to fight back, but there was no one there, only the great eye watching him as a wolf watches its helpless prey.
"I asked you a question, elf," the voice echoed. Araviel tried to stand up, but was hit on the head. He fell to the ground.
"Answer now! Who are you?" The blows stopped, all was still. Araviel moaned, but got roughly to his feet and looked directly at the eye. His hair was blown back from the power radiating off it. Rage as hot as the flames surrounding him filled Araviel's heart; Sauron had destroyed his family, Sauron had defiled his home, Sauron had marred his skin. Too many had faltered before this evil, too many had quailed under this shadow, too many had fallen beneath his gaze.
He would not back down.
"I am Araviel!" he shouted in a loud, clear voice. "I stand here as an open enemy of you, your works and all those who serve you. To Sauron, Lord of Mordor, I say only this-"
And he spat upon the ground.
The force of anger that hit him was unlike anything he had ever experienced. It was an all consuming, unending, excruciating pain. He was knocked off his feet a third time. Knives were slashing at him, blows hit every inch of his body, invisible whips cracked in the smoke filled air and fires blazed all around him. There was nothing he could do, no way to fight back. His tormenter was the flaming eye that mercilessly watched him and the evil laughter that filled the dark void...
His eyes rolled back in his head; smoke obscured his clear sight, and his mind begged to slip away. He tried to stand, but couldn't. He was slammed into the hard ground, his body limp, his flesh ripped and his spirit torn; helplessly trapped under the wrath of the Lord of the Rings.