Second Star to the Right - Chapter Nine; The Silent Ones
A/N: Weell.... Erm, feeling as if I should have a lot to say and I don't... Mmmn... Well, this chapter isn't that bad by all angst accounts I don't think. But hey, I could be wrong; its setting up the action for the next chapter, which is going to be a pig's ear to write, I can just see it coming... Ah well, there you go! Oh, I know this doesn't really affect you a as much, but I had thought that I would only have another three chapters or so to this fic; however, a very cute little plot bunny just hopped up to me, and he's too cute to cast aside. But it's only little, honest! ,_, So anyways, enough of me rambles... But I would like to say, yet again, what amazing reviewers you all are, especially for the last chapter; Tuima, daughterofpaladin, Ennordil (made me laugh so much, thank you!!) and most of all Elfet, who is quite possibly one of the most encouraging people in the world. Oh, and to everyone reading... THIS IS NOT ABOUT PETER PAN. I AM SIMPLY A THIEF. There... ,_,
Chapter Nine - The Silent Ones
Ages past have told our woe;
Slavery, grief and worn sorrow,
From ethereal flight
To eternal night
Dark in Morgoth's fortress of shadow...
...Still they will stand till all is gone,
Never more to breath, but turned to stone;
Their taken life
To end our strife;
Our final lament for the silent ones.
--Therethal Lament for the ages
Nesial lay listening to the sounds of the men, shifting and moving ceaselessly through the night. Well, if that was what you could call it; unholy hour of the morning more like. Dawn was barely an inkling in the thought of the eastern sky, and the swirling pearlescent mists still surrounded them, warding off evil eyes. But they were there; watching, always watching, silent on the hill tops... She shuddered, mentally scolding herself as the slight movement caught the eye of the man guarding her - guard indeed. He had come over and assured her she was safe, but she knew he had been sent by Eärendil to spy over her. Men... if she was so safe, why did they watch her? No, she was safe from them; they, on the other hand, weren't necessarily safe from her. So in the end, the man was either stupid or lying blatantly - not that there was much difference between the two.
She remained silent and still for a moment, until she was sure the guard thought she was asleep. Not exactly the brightest star in the sky, she thought mockingly of him, but then again, as he didn't know her race rarely needed sleep, perhaps he could be forgiven.
She couldn't shake the feeling that they were being... monitored though. That eerie, watchful feeling that made the hairs at the base of her neck stand up to attention. She knew exactly what it was, and why - but the thought still revolted her; but maybe she was being too superstitious. By all accounts, she seemed to be the only person who was affected by their lingering presence. Perhaps she was over reacting; but she was still disgusted - and so she should be. For though all the ages of the world lay behind her, she was still of the Therethal, was she not?
It was then that a thought struck her; not a shocking, sudden jolt that she had never before considered; rather, the dawn of true comprehension rose over her shadow-enshrouded mind. Yes, she was of the Therethal - but to save Elrond's life, she had given up her only hope of ever returning to her people. So what now? Where now did she stand in the great scheme of things, wrought long ago by Ilúvatar? Would she be doomed to the life of a mortal, prone to sickness and disease, and eventually incurable old age? Or would the years now pass her by like ripples in the ever flowing stream, leaving her far behind in time as one of the First Born? Or perhaps she would fade... fade into the shadows of long toppled mountains, to become no more than a memory. But in the end, even memories must fade away. And then she would be forgotten. Lost, and alone, and forgotten...
She blinked furiously at the tears swelling up in her raven dark eyes. She wasn't going to think about it, she refused to let this get the better of her, she could rise above this! Yet the harder she tried, the harder it became to fight the flood of emotions threatening to unleash themselves, and soon tears streamed unchecked down her cheeks like silver blue rivulets, flowing into the dusty, dry, unrelenting earth. She felt ashamed and disgraced - never, in her entire existence as this woman had she ever once let her emotions overcome her. Always, she had remained strong and in control, her unceasing vigil determined to maintain its stony, sometimes harsh surface. Even cold... But she had good reason, good reason to be cold! What had the world ever done for her, that it deserved so much as a kind word?! Why shouldn't she steel herself against an even steelier earth?! Bone dry, harder than mithril, icy and barren and cruel it had been to her, and they wondered why she was closed to it?!
A gentle hand on her shoulder made her jump and a half-sob escaped her throat.
"Nesial?" she heard Elros' concerned voice ask, but she ignored him, turning away and squeezing her eyes tightly shut, trying to bury herself in the darkness.
"Nesial, what is it?" he asked anxiously, unsure of whether he should fetch his father. "What is wrong?"
It was a few moments before Nesial could trust herself to speak.
"I give up my life for your brother," she rasped, "and you ask me what is wrong?"
Elros sat gaping at her at a complete loss, his hand still resting in her shoulder.
"There is nothing you can do or say, Master Elros," she whispered anguished, "Go back to your father."
"I would that I could help you," he said sadly after a few seconds, his tones soft enough that Nesial almost let herself believe it. "Do you wish to talk?"
Nesial let out a long, drawn-out sigh, rattling her tight chest, and rolled a little so he could see her face.
"And of what should we talk, Master Elros?" she asked quietly, she eyes shining with fresh tears and her pale skin glistening wit the old. "Your brother's fate perhaps is sealed; you and your father and your men, you too have your paths. You have your ends - but mine is lost to me. Where now will I go? What will become of me?" she asked forlornly, her breathing hitched.
"I - I don't understand," replied Elros truthfully.
"You wouldn't," she snapped venomously, and Elros pulled back.
"If you do not wish to elaborate," he said coolly, rising to his feet, "Then I'll be on my way."
"No - wait!" panicked Nesial, suddenly desperate for company, afraid of being left alone with her thoughts; Elros paused. "Please - don't go. Stay here."
Elros still didn't understand the woman, and was rapidly beginning to think he never really would. It seemed she changed her mind as swiftly as a change in wind.
"Please stay," she repeated, and he did not fail to notice the pleading tone in her voice. He could not help but to think it strange that one who had appeared to stubborn and proud and sure of herself could be reduced to this; yet, he was reminded of the lost look he had seen in his father's eyes mere hours ago, and he thought perhaps he could begin to understand after all.
Nodding once, he settled himself down beside her - a swift nod dismissed the guard, who though uneasy, could see no real threat and eagerly went to rest. Nesial smiled at his retreating back.
"Your men are weary," she stated.
"Aye; they have ridden long and hard," complied Elros; "Even the hardiest of men must rest, though many of them would be loathe to admit it."
"Yet still they follow you unwavering," she pointed out, lying now on her back, trying to pick out stars in the sky.
For a fleeting moment, Elros was reminded of that early morning only a few days ago, though had seemed like a life age to think of it. All the unbelieving and sceptical faces when he had rushed shouting desperately into the village... Oh Valar, it had torn him apart that they could not see he told the truth. And when he had told his father of his visit from Nesial in his dream, although he had no doubt his father would trust him, he could not have said the same for the rest of the village. Yet they had come, and so Elros replied simply.
"They are loyal men."
"And you trust them all?" she queried, one eyebrow hitched up.
For a moment, Elros feared she had read his thoughts. "With my life," he shot back quickly.
"I meant no offence..."
"I know," sighed Elros heavily, "I just - I've had a lot on my mind. Please forgive me."
Nesial paused before speaking again.
"I'll think on it. But it's not a very good excuse is it, Master Elros?"
He frowned at her.
"If you were to take a look around, you might chance to find that you are not the only one with a lot to think on of late."
"Of course," Elros realised too late, "Again, forgive me."
"Seems that I'll be doing a lot of forgiving tonight," she pondered out loud, "How ironic."
There was silence between them - not an uncomfortable one, but a natural quietness.
"They must have a mountain of faith in your father," she said suddenly, causing Elros to stare at her bewildered, "The men. They must have faith in your father."
"Oh - well, yes, I suppose they do," Elros admitted. "Most of them have been friends of his for a long time; some of them aided my Grandparents after the sack of Gondolin. A few are mariners like, but none are famed warriors. We are a community; my father may be their leader, but they follow him willingly into the unknown and rarely question his word. For the most part, he is their friend I think - countless times he has helped various people in their plights. This is their way of payment."
Nesial half laughed bitterly. "Though I get the feeling that mending a broken cart is not in the same league as being part of an armed assault in a rescue mission."
Elros shrugged, but did not say anything, and Nesial nodded.
"You are very lucky," she said almost longingly, "Despite the situation... You are a very lucky person Elros. Don't ever forget that."
"I know," he told her, "And I won't."
A second, comfortable silence descended over them. Nesial squinted at the sky and blew slightly, the small action causing a slight opening to form in the mists directly above her, showing the indigo sky and strewn stars through the little peephole. Elros watched around them subconsciously for his father, but had no luck.
"You're very young you know," commented Nesial, as she caught a jewel-like star between her fingers. Elros jerked around to look at her.
"What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I said," she answered coyly, "You're not even twenty yet, Master Elros."
"What of it?" said Elros stiffly.
"I was just thinking - how are young you are to be getting caught up in all of this," she explained, but seeing the stubborn glint in his eye added, "Well - in the grand scheme of things, I mean."
Elros dismissed the comment and rolled his eyes.
At that moment a group of men led by his father emerged from beyond the mists just across the camp. Straightening up, Elros saw they were making for him, and climbed to his feet. Nesial raised her eyebrows and sat up, her arms wrapped about the one leg pulled to her chest, while the other lay flat.
Eärendil paused by his son's shoulder, his men hovering back a few paces.
"Nesial," he greeted, dipping his head ever so slightly, "I trust you have had some rest?"
Nesial responded with a single nod, gazing at him through narrowed scrutinising eyes.
"Good," he said somewhat more briskly. Elros looked at him expectantly; something was up, he could tell.
"Not you, my son," said Eärendil, sparing his eldest child a weary smile.
"Me?" questioned Nesial.
"Aye; I think perhaps we need your knowledge to fully unravel a mystery," he answered rather cryptically, earning himself a confused glance from his son, and a sigh of realisation from Nesial.
"Oslarn," said Eärendil, turning to the Captain, "I will take a few men to the hill top; yet dawn is now approaching. Start to prepare the men for the last march - we leave as soon as the sun is fully risen."
Oslarn half bowed and hurried off to fulfil his orders. Eärendil's attention now turned back to Nesial.
"If you would come with us, Nesial," said the mariner, offering her a hand. Slightly begrudgingly, Nesial took it and pulled herself to her feet.
"Ada?" repeated Elros, a tad annoyed at being left in the dark.
"You will get some more rest my son," Eärendil's tone was warm, but there was a definite commanding note to it.
"Ada, I don't -" he began to protest, but his father silenced him with a look.
"No, Elros. I will not lead you to battle half alive for lack of sleep. It's too risky - and I just can't afford that right now. Besides," he added squeezing Elros' shoulder gently, "If something happened to you, your mother would kill me, battle or no..."
Elros snorted mirthlessly, but surrendered his case and took his pack from his pack from his back as the group of four or five men and Nesial moved off a bit, leaving father and son alone. Elros threw out the blanket then knelt down, adjusting his pack for a pillow.
"Thank you, my son," smiled Eärendil gratefully as Elros laid his head down, "I know this must be frustrating, but be thankful for the reprieve - I only wish it was I who was resting." With another gentle squeeze to his sons shoulder, Eärendil spring away after his men as Elros drifted into an uneasy sleep.
"I'm feeling weak and weary walking through this world alone
Everything you say, every word of it, cuts me to the bone
I've got something to say, but now I've got no where to turn
It feels like I've been buried underneath the weight of the world..."
--Three Doors Down
Káno stood on the hilltop, watching his men work below him in the settlement like tiny, insignificant ants. They scurried around at his bidding, heedless of their Commander surveying them from above and dawn broke over the eastern horizon. Káno smirked too himself; soon, all this would be over - soon he would be free of this ***ed mortal body! Free of this pathetic plane of existence, and back with his own kind... The Dakah, part of their power once more. Ah, he could almost feel them now, swimming around him, calling him to them! He could hear them on the winds, in the waters, in the silence of the night. Pressing in, urging him on, pulling him closer... Yes, soon.
"And you will save me, my little half-bred brat," he sneered, kicking Elrond's shivering form at his feet savagely. Elrond was sent sprawling across the ground, a soft moan escaping his lips as his ruthlessly shredded back screamed in protest at the treatment. Everything about him ached and pained in a way that he had never even thought possible, and thought was hard and sluggish as the Darquaril, now losing all effects as his body built up natural defences made his head pound mercilessly, throbbing like the steady beat of dwarven drums.
"Oh yes," cackled Káno, looking back over the encampment once more, "Savour every last moment that you can, Elrond dear. This night, your blood will be all I need. All that I ever needed..."
Elrond coughed and spluttered as he choked on an intake of air, but he did not reply. A small part of his heart did a leap of joy at the Commander's words; death. It was coming for him tonight. All this pain and fear grief would come to an end, tonight. Elrond could almost feel relief washing over him.
"Not that I'm sure just how I'll get that blood from you yet," snorted Káno, kicking Elrond again to flip him over onto his back. A muffled cry escaped Elrond as yet again his body screamed for a stop to the harsh treatment. "Of course, I could make it swift and painless for you... But why on earth would I want to do that?" he laughed evilly, his top lip curling into a sneer. "I am not gifted with foresight, my little brat; but I foresee a very long, very painful and humiliating death waiting you tonight..."
Elrond shuddered at the malice in his words, and the thought of what lay in waiting for him; yet as Káno mentioned foresight, Elrond suddenly had a vision. A bright and starry sky over a battle field; swords swung and danced in the heat of the fight, the bodies of the slain and wounded littering the floor as they swam in their own pools of blood - and his brother was there - and his father too! But - wait - no! Elros was bleeding badly - his side was slashed and blood stained his cloak as the life giving substance flowed out of his body, onto the sorrow-stricken form of his father, who held his eldest's lifeless body in his arms, rocking him backwards and forwards as his wept. Yet as soon as the vision came, it was gone.
"Elros..." whispered Elrond, tears forming in his eyes as he registered what he had seen. He had never experience anything like that before, ever in his life, for being yet young the ancient bloodline in his elven heritage had not yet fully showed itself, and he didn't understand what he saw.
"What did you say?" snarled Káno, grabbing Elrond roughly by the neck and yanking him half up, but positioning his knee directly into the young half elf's chest. When Elrond did not reply, he pushed down hard, pulling a strangled cry from his slave. "Speak!"
"El - Elros," gasped Elrond, struggling to find the breath to speak with.
"Elros?" snorted the white haired man, throwing Elrond back to the floor as he rose. "Your brother is probably dead already, elf brat."
"No - no!" coughed Elrond, refusing to believe the words, yet drowning in the icy cold waves that swept over him at the statement. He began shaking and trembling, his mind and body in a state to weak to fight when he was hearing. He had simply been through too much to be able to throw something like off. He didn't have the strength any more.
"Oh yes, brat!" laughed Káno wickedly, seeing the intense pain this was causing his victim, "I sent another contingent down to that pathetic village of yours. All your people are dead and broken, their bodies scattered to the Orcs and Wargs!"
"You - you lie!" croaked Elrond, but his voice was small and as insignificant as the worker ants.
Káno swiftly backhanded him, reopening the cuts on his lips. "You will not address me like that!" he spat in the young man's face. "Your father and brother were slain without mercy on the foaming shores I am told, their limbs hewn from their bodies and tossed asunder - leaving your mother to face the raiders alone," Káno leant in dangerously, breathing down the side of Elrond's neck, "I hear she put up a good fight before they took her; but she was subdued. Such soft, soft skin she had..." Káno traced the line of Elrond's jaw with his finger. "She was truly a beauty..."
"NO!" screamed Elrond, thrashing wildly and kicking out with all the waning strength he had left; but the days of torture had taken their toll, and Káno merely straddled him, chuckling insanely as he held Elrond's wrists down.
"Don't you see, Elrond? You're all alone now! There is nothing and no one who can ever save you!"
Elrond tried to pull away from Káno's grip but to no avail; his strength was sapped and the commander's hold was too great. A frustrated sob broke from his chest as he realised how helpless he was, and that Káno must surely speak the truth; for that was what he had seen, was it not? His brother dying, moments before his father must have been killed...
As Elrond surrendered and ceased to thrash, Káno stepped up from him, a victorious smirk over his face. Of course he had never even assembled a second contingent, let alone sent them out, but if it gave this brat one more thing to drive him to nothingness, then all the more fun it was!
"You see those?" said Káno suddenly, turning Elrond's head harshly with his foot in the direction he wanted him to look. On the brow of the hill beside them, seven carved statues of men were stood. Elrond gasped at the extreme skill with which they had been hewn; everything about them was perfect, as though they were real men, cast in rock to stand upon the hill top forever more.
"You see them, elf brat?" whispered Káno, a strange glint in his eye. "They are those that went before you. Those who were sacrificed for the greater cause before you were even born."
Elrond recognized them vaguely as the statues he had seen as they had ridden into the hills, such a long, long time ago... No! This is what lay in store for him? But their faces - their faces were contorted images of pure terror, lacing every line on their skins. They were writhing in pain, their mouths open wide in a never ending, silent scream, as though they had suddenly been frozen in time. And as if through a dream, he began to hear those ghostly voices he remembered hearing in his sleep by the forest...
"Come to us..."
No, he though numbly, I can't, I must stay...
"No... Your time is almost come... You will join us Peredhil..."
I can't... My brother and father, my mother...
"No Peredhil... They are no more... Darkness is all that is now..."
No, it isn't, it isn't...
"Stop resisting... Embrace the gloom..."
Unable to fight it any more, Elrond felt himself drifting into the eerie level between waking and unconsciousness, the ghostly voices echoing in his ears all the time.
Káno watched him curiously. He could not hear what Elrond could, but when the half elf passed out at his feet, a cruel smile broke across his lips. Tonight could not come soon enough... With a shrill whistle, he called two of the trollish men up the hill to him, and satisfied Elrond would not move, descended into the valley to seek out a certain red haired witch...
"The Silent Ones they are called," Nesial finished sadly. Eärendil nodded; he had dreaded as much, but now his fears had been confirmed. He sighed and passed a hand over his eyes, even as in the east the sun peeped up over the jagged mountains.
"My lord?" said a golden haired man beside him, "The men are making ready to depart. We need to go down to them."
"We will not get far without the horses," he murmured, glancing at Nesial, who shrugged.
"In my defence, I did send my own horse out after them."
"So now none of us have horses."
"No - Hythel will not fail me. She will bring your steeds back to you. This I promise." Nesial assured him as they began to leave the statues of the three stricken elves behind them on the hill top and take the path down to the camp.
"Well she has half an hour left at the most," replied Eärendil as they reached the base, but for now I suggest you gather all you can carry. My orders stand, and we march, horses or no as soon as the sun is fully risen." With that, the leader turned and hurried off to make his own final arrangements.
Nesial nodded and breathed heavily. So this was it. The last day of the journey had finally come.
Yes, the last stage indeed! But we shall see... Oh, I would just like to clarify before people start noticing this and questioning it -
1) Yes, in Chapter Seven I did accidentally call Elros the youngest; in this fic, he's the oldest. Sorry about that!
2) Yes, in Chapter Three Nesial was lying through her teeth to Elrond.
Sorry, I was just reading it all through and noticed that could have caused some confusion!!!
Also, I have here some links to previous chapters - actually, all of the chapters, but hey!
Chapter One: http://www.theonering.com/docs/14658.html
Chapter Two: http://www.theonering.com/docs/14950.html
Chapter Three: http://www.theonering.com/docs/15124.html
Chapter Four: http://www.theonering.com/docs/15321.html
Chapter Five: http://www.theonering.com/docs/15613.html
Chapter Six: http://www.theonering.com/docs/15703.html
Chapter Seven: http://www.theonering.com/docs/15903.html
Chapter Eight: http://www.theonering.com/docs/16061.html
Right, well, I reckon that's all - love ya!
Loadsa love, Estel xxx