Lalaith Elerrina--Ward of Rivendell - Chapter 19
Eolyn forced herself to remain calm as she tucked the baby close, hoping she would meet no orcs. They would surely suspect something if they did, and saw her with the baby. Ahead of her, around a curve in the corridor, lit with smoking torches on either side, was a wooden doorway, and the horses of the Nazgul were kept in stables beyond it. She could here their angry, wild snorts, similar to the angry shrieks of their Nazgul masters. Like the Nazgul, any good that had once been in them, was gone, as if their bodies no longer contained the free souls which they had been born with, and the poor creatures were possessed entirely by the evil of Sauron's making.
"My Lord, I saw her do it." A sniveling, whining voice of what sounded like one of the smaller, trodden down orcs of Mordor came into her ears, echoing from around a bend in the corridor. Eolyn stopped in her tracks. The sound of sliding, shuffling feet, accompanied by thick armor clanking as a pair of heavy feet marched along, echoed about her. "The snaga went in, and then she came back out. She was holding the little monster that was supposed to be thrown in the fire. And when I went in, I found them both, dead. One burnt half to ashes."
"Oh," Eolyn gasped, and cursed herself. She had forgotten about the orc she had passed in the corridor. It must be the one speaking now.
"Indeed." Said a deeper voice, probably one of the lieutenants of Sauron. "She will die, then, and the snaga brat, as well."
Eolyn paused, her breath heaving in her chest, and shrank against the wall near the door. The shuffling steps of an orc were coming at her in the direction from which she had come as well, and soon, both groups would come into her view and meet, exactly where she stood.
With a groan of fear, Eolyn clutched the baby close, and pushed on the heavy wooden door. Whether she wanted it or not, it was now her only route. The door was heavy, and hard to budge, but fear gave her strength as it had when she killed the orcs, and she managed to shove it open enough for her and the baby to squeeze inside. Once inside, she shrank down in a corner, and clutched the baby close as she listened to the approaching steps of the orcs. There were no torches in here, and very little light, but over the centuries her eyes had grown accustomed to darkness, and she could see the horses snorting in their pens. She closed her eyes tightly, and murmured a prayer to the Valar into the gold of the baby's sweet smelling hair as the loud clomp of armor drew closer, and paused just outside the doorway.
"You!" Shouted the deep voice of Sauron's lieutenant, speaking now to the orc whose footsteps she had heard coming from behind her. Her muscles jerked at the voice, harsh and close. "Where is the human woman?"
"I don't know, my Lord. I haven't seen her." The sniveling, fearful voice sounded strained, and Eolyn risked a glance out the slightly ajar door just enough to see a gauntleted arm holding an orc against the wall by its throat as another smaller orc stood near, bobbing at the knees, ever eager to see death, even of its own kind.
"She came this way!" The angry voice roared. "Tell us where she is!"
The pinned orc could do nothing but whine weazily, and Eolyn turned her eyes away in shock as she heard the nauseating crunch as bones were crushed beneath the larger orc's fist, and the heavy thump as a lifeless body hit the floor.
"Argh!" Groaned the angry voice. "Clear out this mess, and then find that snaga, and the brat!"
"Yes, my Lord." Chortled the smaller orc, and the sound of a body being dragged slowly away scraped down one length of the corridor as the pounding steps of armor echoed down the other.
Eolyn drew in a tentative breath of relief, and stood slowly, shakily to her feet.
As luck would have it, the stable was empty of orcs, but for ten horses, in their pens. Nine of the ten, all turned, as one, to glare hauntingly red eyes at the intruders.
The tenth and nearest horse, black as a moonless night, its eyes bleary and red, but not dark crimson as the eyes of the other nine, leered at them from over its stall. It must have only recently been stolen from the lands of Men, for it was pawing at the hard stone beneath its feet, and shaking its head viciously as if it were still trying to battle whatever evil was fighting to gain control of its body. The poor, tortured beast shook its head in fright, and would have reared back, but the baby, to Eolyn's shock, nearly jumped out of her arms at the horse, and clapped her two tiny pink hands onto its black nose.
To Eolyn's even greater shock, this simple touch seemed to calm the beast completely, as if the violent evil that was fighting within the beast's body was suddenly purged. The horse settled, hanging its head, almost wearily, over the side of its pen, letting the baby caress its velvet soft nose
"Roch." The baby gurgled in a burbling infant voice, patting its nose gently, and again, Eolyn was amazed. She had never learned the tongue of the Elves in its entirety, but she had, from her husband, learned a few words, and if she remembered correctly, the word the baby had burbled, was the word for horse, in the tongue of the Elves.
"Good, my little one!" Eolyn said, and laughed in spite of herself, forgetting their peril for the moment, as she indulged the baby, letting her run her hands along the animal's nose, and tug gently at its black mane. The baby smiled eagerly at the second horse, and moved as if to reach for it, but the animal reared back, angrily, kicking furiously at them, and Eolyn had to shelter the baby beneath her arm and duck swiftly in order to avoid its flailing hooves as it shrieked with the fury of a Nazgul, its voice echoing through all the darkened corridors of Barad-Dur.
"No! Quiet!" Eolyn moaned, but the horse only shrieked again, this time joined by the other eight their eyes red with hate and fury, and they kicked and clawed furiously at the air and screamed wildly, as if determined to alert all the host of Mordor to Eolyn's presence.
From outside, in the corridor, and far away, came the warbling blood cry of orcs, and the clanking approached of the running feet of armored creatures. She would be found, and she and the baby would both be slaughtered. She glanced around helplessly, and noticed in the half darkness, a long ragged cloak hanging on a hook from the wall near the tenth horse's pen, and razor edged gauntlets on a shelf beside it, much like the cloak and gauntlets worn by the Nazgul when they rode over the mountains of Ephel Duath into the lands of the west.
A thought borne of desperation, entered her mind, and as Eolyn uttered another quick prayer, she snatched the cloak from its hook, and the gauntlets from their shelf.
A moment later, the door beside her was flung open, and a crowd of orcs, their weapons held at the ready, burst in, only to stop in surprise, and stare at the robed and hooded Ringwraith that stood before them, ever silent and forbidding.
"You." The single wraith hissed in the fierce breathless whisper in which the Nazgul spoke, pointing out one of the smaller orcs. "Do you wait for the return of Lord Sauron, to saddle and bridle my mount?"
A single gauntleted hand appeared from beneath the wraith's cloak, and indicated to the pen holding the nearest horse.
The small orc stood, struck numb for a moment, glancing between the wraith, and the ten horses, nine of which were nearly going mad with fury, as if they were trying to break down the doors of their pens, their red eyes glowering hatefully at the single wraith. The other orcs, however, growing fearful of the wraith's displeasure, shoved him roughly, and he was shaken from his stupor.
"Yes, my Lord." The orc, with bent head, scurried into the tenth horse's stall, and with shaking fingers, struggled to slip its bridle over its head and secure the saddle as quickly as it could, knowing the impatience of the Nazgul, and the cruelty of which they were capable of.
"My Lord." The orc snorted, when it had finished, leading the horse from its pen.
Without speaking a word, the Ringwraith swung up into the saddle, its face, ever shrouded beneath its hood, glared down on the group of silent orcs. "Move aside." It ordered in a hideous, whisper. As one body, the ax wielding, armored orcs moved out of the wraith's path. The smallest orc tipped its head slightly to the right, curious, as it caught a glimpse of a small bare foot in the stirrup that the wraith quickly flung its cloak over to cover. But the orc gulped, and did not speak.
Eolyn struggled to keep her pounding heart under control as with one hand she clutched the baby close beneath the wraith cloak, grateful that the child was remaining silent and still, and with the other hand guided her mount through the door of the stable, down the dark corridor, and out into the open beneath the gate of Barad-Dur. The dim, murky light that managed to filter down through the black clouds ever shrouding the land of Mordor, rested upon her, and Eolyn prayed that it was not enough light to expose her face beneath her hood. Orcish warriors were all about her, and the clomp of her horse's hooves was loud upon blackened stone as she urged her mount over the bridge, forcing herself not to give into her fear. A band of orcs marched past, forcing her mount to the edge of the bridge. The horse's hooves scraped the edge, sending bits of black rock tumbling down into the fiery pit below. She shuddered at the depths beneath the bridge, and the glowing river of lava that rolled at the bottom of the vast chasm.
A blast of hot wind rose up from the lava below, and a portion of Eolyn's cloak whipped aside, revealing for a moment, the tiny, golden head of the baby. Eolyn gasped, and flung the cloak back over, but not before the baby glanced over the edge of the bridge and saw in the black chasm below, the boiling river of lava. Releasing a frightened squeal, the baby buried her head against Eolyn's shoulder, clinging more tightly than before.
Lalaith gulped, seeing the image in her own eyes, feeling the memory of terror, and lethargy at the dizzying depths she as a baby had felt, seeing the vast emptiness plunging into the lava below her. The sight had imprinted itself forever on her little brain. Often she had wondered why, as an Elf, heights seemed to frighten her so. This was her answer. She breathed a sigh as she felt Osse's hand tightened about her own, reminding her that this was but a vision of the past. She was safe with him.
"Out of my way." Eolyn had bravely demanded, as her skittish mount had stumbled and slid near the edge of the precipice, as she jerked on the reins, turning her horse and shoving back to the middle of the bridge through the midst of the marching orcs, who, seeing the wraith's aggression, more than willingly gave way to her.
"My Lord." A voice demanded as she reached the other side of the bridge, and she looked down, suddenly frightened, to see an orcish guard move to block her path, holding out a clawed paw, stopping her.
Oh no, she thought despairingly. It's seen the baby.
"Why is it that but one of the Nazgul rides out alone?" Demanded the orc, its eyes lifted to the shadowed hood of the wraith cloak, its eyes, to Eolyn's relief, missing the slight movement of the baby beneath the gray, ragged cloth.
Eolyn hissed through her throat, hoping, that as before, she could sound like an angry wraith. "Lord Sauron demands that I go on a mission of great importance. It is not for you to question me."
"Yes, my Lord." The guard murmured, and bowed, properly humbled, and allowed Eolyn to pass. She could see the fire of Mount Doom in the distance, and the glow of fire spewing from cracks and fissures in the broken and cracked landscape about her, and fear gripped her heart as the weight of what she had just accomplished settled on her mind. She had gotten across the bridge from Barad-Dur. Could she make it across the ragged, unfriendly mountains she could see in the distant west? Doubts clawed at her heart, but then she felt the touch of the baby's gentle little hand against her neck, soothing her fears, perhaps in much the same way the child had been able to sooth the poor, tormented horse upon which they rode.
A gentle wind, relatively cool, something she had almost forgotten, caressed her face and her hair, but to her gratitude, did not whip her cloak back again, and Eolyn began to feel even light of heart. "Rorin, I shall call you." She said out loud, almost cheerfully to the horse as she urged it into an unhurried trot.
"And what, my sweet little one, shall I call you?" Eolyn asked, giggling like a girl as the baby's soft little fingers tickled her throat, and the infant gazed up at her from beneath the gray cloak with a smile, and a small happy gurgle of her own.
The baby's laughter gave her an idea, and Eolyn smiled. "I will give you a well-fitting name, for you have given me something I have not had, since my husband was killed. Laughter. But your name will be Lalaith." Eolyn added. "For that is your word for laughter."
The baby smiled as if pleased with the name, and offered her another happy gurgle.
Eolyn risked a glance over her shoulder, and felt a rush of elation as she saw the tower behind her, already in the distance. She smiled, and turned forward once again as she urged Ronin into a gallop, hope surging within her that she would find safe crossing, and passage into the land of Gondor, as the black tower of Barad-Dur, and the smoking fire of Mount Doom flanked about in black clouds, grew smaller in the distance behind her.