Mist & Shadow - Chapter 10 - Despair
Darkness had covered the world in her star studded cloak. Slow, lazy fog drifted across the ground as dew drops sparkled in the moonlight. All was silent save for a small fire crackling nearby. No moon was visible in the night sky. With what little strength she could muster, the she-elf pushed herself to her hands and knees.
"Well, if it isn't sleeping beauty," Mornië knew the taunting voice all too well. She glared at the elf who sat beside the small fire, examining something in his hands. Thalion sat nearby, silent and brooding.
"Where is Athrun?" she demanded, her voice low.
"What, that stupid whelp? Why should you care?"
Mornië glared at him with hatred, but Amarth saw a flicker of apprehension in her eyes, and it amused him. Mornië looked to Thalion. "What did you do, Thalion?!" Thalion raised his eyes from the fire and glanced at her. Without a word, he suddenly stood and turned on his heel, moving away from the fire into the forest.
Amarth chuckled in amusement. "Evidently killing childhood friends doesn't sit well with him," he explained to Mornië with a malicious smile.
"No!" Mornië dropped her head to hide the anguish in her eyes. "It's not true! It can't be!" She struggled to maintain control. "Oh Valar." she whispered. She raised her eyes and looked at Amarth. "You snake; you lie!" She lunged at him, but was held back by her bonds.
"O do I?" Amarth's smirk grew as he held up what he had been handling, "Then what is this?" In his hand Amarth held up a bedraggled and bloodstained cloak. Hanging by a thread from a sleeve was a small, circular emblem Mornië knew well. The tunic belonged to Athrun.
Mornië's darkened and glazed slightly. Mentally, she tried to steal herself against the flood emotions that converged on her at once. A single tear escaped and carved a path through the dirt that caked her face. "I'll kill you, Amarth."
He laughed, the sound sliding down her spine like ice. "I'd like to see you try."
* * * * *
Thalion gave Mornië another shove up the narrow trail they were following. One side of which dropped off into a deep gulley. The she-elf stumbled and fell to her knees. Amarth pushed Thalion aside and grabbed his captive by the back of the neck. Tilting her head back, he shoved a canteen into her face. "Drink." The liquid in the canteen was definitely not water. It was a very strong liquor Amarth gave his followers before a battle. "I'm not quite ready to kill you yet." he muttered before pushing her forward.
The liquor sent a false warmth through her body. Amarth had given her just enough to keep her going. A drop more and she would've been teetering on the edge of drunk. Straightening her back, she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, silently wishing that Amarth would just push her over the cliff and be done with her.
She didn't know how long they had been walking like this; never stopping except to rest for a few minutes at a time or for Thalion and Amarth to eat. The stead pace was only interrupted from time to time by an occasional blow from one of her captors. Her body was wracked with pain, and she burned with a strange fever, but she didn't care; Athrun was dead. He was really dead. She moved like one in a dream, hoping, praying that at any moment they would wake up. Her silent acceptance only seemed to infuriate Amarth even more.
"What's wrong Dûriel?" he asked at one of their brief rests. He was chewing on some dried fruit and the sight and smell of food had driven her almost to distraction. "You've become weak." he circled wear she sat. She said nothing, did nothing. She didn't even look at him. Her gaze remained focused on the ground in front of her. Snarling, he grabbed a handful of her dirty, blood-matted hair, wrenching her head backwards.
The lack of fight in her caught him slightly off guard. Her eyes met his involuntarily. They were empty. No emotion or life could be seen in them. He had seen that blank gaze many times, but only in those he had killed. It was the emptiness of death. He released her head and gave her a sharp blow that sent her tumbling to the ground. "
Tell me, why do I even keep you alive?" he spat at her, kicking her in the ribs.
Mornië sat up, her breathing pained and laboured. "I was hoping you could tell me," she said quietly.
Amarth's eyes sparked, and he flew at her again, kicking her fiercely. Mornië simply curled up into a ball and took the abuse. "In that case, maybe I should just kill you now!!!" He practically screamed, the blows raining down unceasingly.
"Stop Amarth," Thalion finally spoke, watching broodingly from where he sat on a fallen tree.
"Who are you to tell me what to do with my captive?!?" Amarth snarled at him.
"First off, she's just as much my captive as yours, and secondly, you don't want her dead just yet," Thalion shrugged, "What's the point of hurting her when she's unconscious? She can't feel it. You'd only be doing her a favour." The excuse formulated out of nowhere, but Amarth evidently saw some truth in it. He kicked Mornië one last time before heading off down the trail again.
"Lets move," he growled, "get the she-elf." '
Thalion stepped forward and looked down at the huddled, battered form on the ground. "Come on," he said quietly, lifting her by the arm. "I'm sorry about Athrun," he said quietly, before sending her on ahead of him.
Mornië stumbled ahead, then, stopped glancing back at him. "Then why are you still here?" There was an accusatory glint in her eyes.
Thalion didn't meet her gaze. "Just walk," he muttered, pushing her a little, but not hard as Amarth usually did.
* * * * *
Amarth led them on his chosen track for several weeks. Giving Mornië only enough food, water, and rest to keep her alive. She thought she recognized the forest around her but couldn't be sure. Thalion, she knew, was completely lost.
Mornië had receded further and further into herself throughout the entire time. She only moved when she had to, and had ceased speaking all together. If not for Thalion's watchful eye, she would've thrown herself off some convenient cliff at the first chance she was given.
At night, Amarth would bind her securely to a tree, making sure there was no way she could escape even if she had wanted to. Often times the bonds had caused her arms and legs to go stiff and numb long before morning came, and when she was untied, she would collapse to the ground; an event that Amarth found amusing.
Amarth had stripped her of her elven armour many days past, including her boots, and the sharp rocks on the crude path cut into her feet and made them bleed profusely. After a few days, they left the path, and headed in an uneven course through the forest. Many times Mornië thought she was lost, but then she would see something that look vaguely familiar.
The Agarwaen had never had a permanent home. The closest thing they had to such was a large cavern in the mountains bordering Far Harad. In the last few years she had travelled with them, they had been there only once. It had been then, that she had killed his brother. The realization that Amarth wanted to kill her there came as no surprise. He wanted vengeance and nothing more.
* * * * *
Thalion marched noisily through the woods away from the camp site. He could no longer bring himself to watch Amarth abusing the she-elf he had helped to capture. Yes, he had once promised to kill her himself, but killing Athrun hadn't been part of that bargain. All his resolve had drained out of him when he had seen his best friend's lifeless body lieing on the cold stone of the Glittering Caves. But he was too far into it all to back out.
Several more days passed in the same manor. Amarth leading them through the woods, stopping only when he thought it necessary, and beating Mornië each time. Thalion didn't know how much longer the she-elf could keep the pace in her condition. He was amazed she was still able to move. Her breathing was always heavy and laboured. More than once, he had seen her double over and cough up blood.
"How much farther Amarth," he asked. He had no idea where they were, or even where Amarth was taking them.
"About a day or less," the elf replied. "Why, are you getting tired?" he added with a sneer. Thalion didn't deign to reply.
Mornië felt a faint surge of relief when she heard they were almost at their destination. Amarth would end her misery soon. A smile almost made it to her face. Amarth might be getting his vengeance, but, in the process, he would send her to Mandos and Athrun.
After what seemed like an eternity and many miles later, Amarth motioned for them to stop. It was impossible to tell what time of day it was, as a dark unnatural cloud hung over the sky, pressing down and smothering the land.
He turned to Mornië, a cruel, bitter sneer curling his lips. "Do you know where we are?"
Mornië looked around with slightly glazed, empty eyes, and then turned them to her cousin, no feeling showing whatsoever. "Yes," she said finally. This was where she had killed his brother.
Amarth smirked and threw a rope at Thalion's feet. "Stay here." He spun and walked quickly into the surrounding woods without any explanation. Thalion kicked the rope aside. Tired, he sat down on a nearby log with his back to Mornië.
The she-elf leaned shakily against a tree and slid to the ground. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Her entire body throbbed, screaming with pain. When she had rested for several minutes, she lifted her head and pulled a piece of cloth out of her shirt where she had hidden it. The green, bloody tunic still carried his scent. Burying her face in it's bedraggled folds, she finally let loose the dam of emotion she had kept locked up inside.
Her practically silent sobs didn't go unnoticed by Thalion, but the elf tried to ignore it and the stab of guilt that the sound brought. Mornië clutched at the bloody and torn tunic with white, scraped and raw knuckles, holding onto it as if trying to grasp something that was long gone. She breathed in Athrun's scent, trying to remember the times they had spent together in Imladris, happy.
But the only memories that came to her mind were his angry face. He had thought she had betrayed him. She never got to tell him the truth herself. Was never able to tell him how much she loved him. Mornië's shoulders shook with silent sobs, her grief spending the last of her energy. She had nothing left to spend it on; Amarth was welcome to kill her now for all it mattered.
* * * * *
Amarth returned several hours later. He didn't say anything to Thalion about leaving Mornië unbound. He simply shook his head, and battered her about some more as he did the task himself. The darkness hid her red, puffy eyes from him, for which Mornië was grateful. No one knew when the sun had set because of the dark cloud cover.
Amarth and Thalion both slept next to the fire several yards away. Close enough to watch her, but not close enough for her to benefit from the flames warmth.
Mornië dozed for several minutes. Her short nap was interrupted by Thalion getting up from his sleeping place and walking off into the woods. Mornië couldn't help but wonder where he was going. He always slept by the fire, even though he was in the habit of walking off a lot. The thought didn't rest in her mind for very long as she slipped back into the small relief of sleep. Her body still screamed in pain, and even as she dozed, her fevered body wouldn't let her rest much.
She started awake suddenly as something, a hand, snaked around the tree from behind her and clamped over her mouth. Her first instinct was to struggle, but a gruff "Shh." stopped her. Thalion?