Heart of Earth, Heart of Stone - Chapter 3 - Osse
There was a knock on the door, and Jaessa lifted her head heavily from her pillow in the ship's single cabin.
"Yes?" she said.
"Lady Jaessa, I have brought some food for you." It was Haldir.
"No thank you." she called.
"Jaessa, we've been at sea for three days, you must eat something."
"I have been eating."
"But you've refused everything I've brought," the confusion in Haldir's voice was amusing, despite the wave of nausea that again assailed her.
Her attempts to quell the roiling of her stomach prevented her from answering for some time.
"Jaessa?" the concerned question was followed by a slow opening of the door.
"No don't!" she weakly protested, pulling her pillow over her head. "Just go away Haldir. I promise I'm not starving myself. There are certain herbs and foods that help to lessen my seasickness, I have a supply of those. In a few days I will be well enough to go on deck for a little."
"You should not seclude yourself so," he said gently. She raised her head, and gave a little half smile.
"I prefer it. It is not near so damaging to my dignity to suffer alone."
A sudden violent lurch in the ship drew another wave of nausea, as well as throwing her from the bed into a heap on the ground. Talk about damage to my dignity, she thought.
"Jaessa!" Haldir crouched by her side. She laughed shakily, trying to brush it off, but was instead thrown into his arms by another lurch.
"What's going on?" Haldir muttered, as he scooped her up, and set her back on the bed. "You stay here."
"Haldir!" Legolas was at the door, "We need you, a storm's brewing! It looks bad."
Great, Jaessa thought grumpily, as Haldir rushed out of the door, That's all I need, a storm. She grabbed the post of the bed to keep from being thrown out again.
"Something's not right," she whispered in response to a prickling that suddenly started down her back. Her eyes widened as she recognized the feeling as a foreign power. She tumbled from the bed, struggling to stay upright between the now violent rocking of the ship, and her seasickness. After what seemed like an Age she made it to the door and threw it open in time to see the wave of pelting rain overtake them.
"Captain!" she yelled, spying the lean elf trying to hold the helm steady against the pounding waves. "Captain! We must all get below deck!"
"What!" the Captain shouted, "If we just abandon the sail like it is the wind will rip my ship to shreds!"
"This isn't a natural storm!" she cried, "There is a fell power behind it! Anyone that stays above deck will be lost!"
"We'll all be lost anyway if we don't get that sail down!"
Jaessa looked up into the rigging, seeing the Elves scrambling around trying to draw up the sail. The furious winds lashed it about, defying their efforts. There was no way they'd accomplish it in time.
"Captain, order them down!" she commanded. He looked as though he would instead order her back to her cabin, but a sudden surge in the wind curled around the ship. Everyone grasped anything they could with all their might as the wind seemed to try to pull them all into the grasp of the sea. An Elf Jaessa didn't know gave a sudden shrill cry as his grip failed and he was pulled through the stormy air to be thrown to the dark waters below.
Jaessa fell to her hands and knees as the rocking became too much for her stomach and she was violently sick.
Haldir was by her side, lifting her, she grasped at his sodden clothing. "Haldir, you must convince the Captain to get everyone below deck."
"The Captain's already convinced, we must get you below first!" he said, tugging her in that direction.
"No! I must do what I can to loose the sail!" She could tell he didn't understand, and was going to protest, but thankfully he stopped pulling her. She knelt back down, laying her hands against the warm wood of the Elven ship. Then, through the contact she . . . became the ship. Whatever it felt, she was aware. Each creak and groan were her own. Her own body's weakness was momentarily forgotten. There! At last she found what she wished. At each end of the mast's crossbeam was an iron eyehook. With a little wrench she weakened the metal, so that with the next gust it snapped, and the sail came loose, wrapping momentarily around the mast, before flying to become lost in the darkness.
Dimly she was aware of Haldir crying out to her, as she turned her attention to the rudder. Should she try to secure it? Even as the thought passed she felt a sharp pain on her temple and knew no more.
She awakened to a very unpleasant wave of nausea. She bent over and was yet again sick. It seems as though I have been sick forever, she thought disgustedly. She opened her eyes as a cup was pressed to her lips. She found Haldir looking at her in concern, holding a basin. She drank thirstily, then looked at the window, to find the storm still raging outside.
"How long was I unconscious?" she asked warily.
"Nearly two days," Haldir said. "We were quite worried." He paused, "It seems as though some great power wants you dead, but doesn't want to destroy the whole ship."
"What do you mean?" Jaessa asked in shock.
"Well, . . . it is difficult to explain. Early this morning the storm calmed down a little, and an echoing voice called out to the Captain." He stopped again.
"What did it say?"
"Only that if we would bring you to him that the storm would be stopped."
"But . . . if he wanted me dead, why wouldn't he just destroy the ship?" Jaessa asked, this did not make sense, an evil power would not have any compunction. Haldir shifted uncomfortably.
"That's the problem." He paused, and took a deep breath, "The voice was Osse, Lord of Coastal Waters, one of the Maiar."
"You mean one of the Maiar wants me dead?" There was no reason in this.
"Not only one of the Maiar, for Sauron was also such, but one of the Maiar that serves Ulmo, who is a Valar. Though at one time he was deceived by the Dark One."
"But why would he want me dead? I am on this ship partly because of your Valar. Perhaps he is not as undeceived as was thought?"
"He said that you needed to die because you were an instrument in Melkor's hands." The words seemed brittle and forced.
"Melkor?" none of this made sense. "I truly am sorry to ask so many questions, but who is Melkor?"
"The Dark One, a . . . fallen Valar."
"I see." she thought very quickly, there had to be some sanity in all of this. She just had to puzzle it out. At the moment however she could think of nothing to say but, "Haldir do you think I am evil?"
"No . . ."
"Well then, we'll just have to brave out the storm won't we?" she paused, "There are few ships to rival the craftsmanship of this one, we should be fine."
"Until we get close to land anyway, luckily we are still very far from it, the storm seems to be blowing us towards Arda, " Haldir said, but he seemed to be comforted, and said, "You should get some more sleep. You weren't sick at all whilst you were unconscious."
"I'll try," she promised, and closed her eyes, waiting for Haldir to leave. When the door clicked shut she reached for her bag, fumbled around inside it and pulled out a few iticto leaves, these she crushed and put into the cup of water that Haldir had left. When she had drunk it, her eyes grew heavy and she slept.
Jaessa ran down the dark corridor, the stone in her hand glowing softly, her eyes searched the gloom intently for her little sister. She passed cell after cell in what seemed like an eternity, each cell was occupied by a prisoner more wretched than the last. Mangled and broken bodies lay rotting, the stench nearly unbearable. Jaessa refused to consider that one of these might be Zandra, instead she sped on, her fear bringing tears to sting her eyes, all of her much vaunted composure was gone, the only thing that kept her moving was the conviction that Zandra had to be nearby.
"Jay?" a whisper from the shadows spoke.
"Zandra!" she cried, rushing to the bars, they fell before her like sand, and she flung herself into the cell. She stopped in horror at the sight that lay before her: a figure, matted hair covering more of her body than the tatters that remained of her clothing. Ugly welts licked her sides, hinting at the crisscrosses that surely lined her back. Her arms were manacled, and pulled above her head, that sagged before her, as though her neck no longer had the strength to hold it up.
With a sob Jaessa knelt by her side, raising her hands to brush aside the matted hair, to look into the bleak green gaze of her baby sister.
"Jaessa," she muttered hoarsely, then a slight awareness entered her gaze, "Jaessa, get out of here!" she cried urgently, before falling into a paroxysm of coughing.
"Yes, but you're coming with me!" Jaessa said, focusing for a moment, with the intent of healing the worst of Zandra's wounds.
"No! There isn't time! They'll get you too! They want all of us!" Jaessa stopped, her focus shaken.
"What do you mean all of us? Who wants us?"
Jaessa awoke with a jolt. "No!" she cried in anguish. For weeks now she had the same dream, night after night, as the storm continued, she was never able to heal Zandra, and she never discovered what she meant. Sometimes immediately after the mysterious people came, she found herself chained, Tinania standing before her trying to melt the manacles that her Earth Power was somehow unable to weaken. Those times she woke screaming, sure to find her hands burned stubs. Each time it was only a dream, a dream that made her sleeping hours as miserable as her waking.
"Jaessa!" she heard a muffled voice cry, and there was a crash against her door. What was going on? Why didn't they just come in? The storm still raged out side, but Jaessa suddenly noticed that the roiling of the ship had changed, it creaked and groaned, but remained for the most part stationary, but at something of a tilt. She leaped from the bed, or at least intended to, she more stumbled out, and hurried to the door, only to feel another crash against it, she leaped out of the way as it flew open, and a bedraggled Haldir appeared. Lightning flashed behind him, revealing the twisted and torn planks of the deck, interrupted here and there with sharp rocks.
"Jaessa! Are you all right!" Haldir cried, rushing to her side.
"Yes. What happened?" Jaessa said eyes wide. Haldir did not immediately answer, but scooped her into his arms, and strode out into the rain.
"We hit the rocks, the ship will not remain intact for long. We must abandon it!" He shouted into the torrent.
"My bag!" Jaessa cried, struggling to escape his arms. She couldn't lose that bag!
"There's no time!" Haldir cried, he climbed swiftly over the side into one of the waiting life boats, Jaessa protested all the way, until a flash of lightning struck her cabin, sending splinters flying. A flickering orange glow started, and spread quickly.
Haldir set her down on a low bench, and grabbed an oar. "Luckily we're not far from shore!" he shouted over the torrent, "We'll be fine as long as we can navigate the rocks!" The moved slowly away from the ship. It gave a shudder, as one particularly large wave struck it, and began to slide down into the dark water. Jaessa sat dumbly, only one thought was able to pierce her cloud of shock, I'm stuck here. I can't get home.