Second Star to the Right - Chapter Six; Enchanted Sleep
A/N: Whey hey, things are starting to shake up now, let me tell you! This would be the movement the last chapter was preparing for... And thank you sooooo much to everyone whose reviewed - spesh Elfet of course! - because you're all so encouraging!
Earendil: Its inhumane! INHUMANE I TELL YOU! STOP TALKING TO HER!!!
Riiiight.... Anways, enjoy!!!
Chapter Six - Enchanted Sleep
Nesial was roused from a dreary sleep later that evening by the sounds of angry shouting and the muffled noise of thrown objects hitting the thrown floor. She groaned and rolled onto her side, willing the voice to stop so that she could carry one sleeping - not that she was particularly tired, but it was better than being awake in this place. At least she didn't have her conscience to contend with...
Yet, as the vicious yells grew louder, she was forced into waking, and cleared her mind. Her stomach gave a funny jolt when she recognised Káno's voice.
"...PATHETIC LITTLE WORM! YOU DON'T DESERVE THE AIR YOU BREATH, YOU ARE NOTHING, NOTHING BUT A WASTE OF SPACE! I AM YOUR COMMANDER, NONE MAY OVERIDE MY RULE, DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!"
Nesial winced as she heard the crack of a whip and the clear hard thump of a slap, and a heavy thud as someone hit the floor. She didn't have to guess as to who the person was.
"DON'T YOU DARE EVER, EVER DISOBEY MY ORDERS AGAIN, OR YOU WILL NOT BE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO REGRET IT!!!"
With a hefty kick and a snort of contempt, Nesial heard Káno thunder out of the hall in a storm of rage, his ire radiating out from him. She smirked to hear the half-grunt and a dull thud from one of the troll like men as Káno tossed him aside - well, the Commander was good for something at least...
Nesial remained still on her pillow bed, listening intently to any noises behind her curtain barrier. Straining her ears, she could hear the very faintest of sounds; a short, sharp breathing, almost inaudible unless one were looking for it.
Climbing carefully to her feet, Nesial checked her dress and pulled back the hanging. The hall was all but empty save for one figure, half-crouched, half-slumped figure against the far wall. It was topless and shuddering uncontrollably, its ragged gasps piercing the otherwise still air. Knotty, bedraggled hair clung down around its face and streamed down its back, covering most of it. Yet Nesial could still see the ugly red welts rearing their crimson heads, oozing fresh trickles of blood, and she was at once moved to pity. Taking light steps, she crossed the hall towards him, noting the discarded golden chains by his side. That was a small comfort, at least.
"Elrond?" she asked softly, as she crouched down in front of him, "Elrond, can you hear me?"
The young man did not reply or respond in any way. Nesial reached out a gentle hand to his trembling arm.
"Listen to me," she barely whispered, but her voice seemed to carry just as much power as Káno's, "Hear me now, listen to my voice Elrond..."
Very, very slightly, the young man's trembling abated, but only a little.
"Take strength, dear heart," she comforted him, squeezing his arm.
Shakily pulling up his head, the new slave looked at her, confusion and pain etched into his young, mortal features. His pupils were behaving erratically, and Nesial knew only too well it was not the dim light that caused it. Vile purple bruises already coloured and marred his pale skin, and blood trickled down from a torn lip.
Settling herself on front of him on the floor, Nesial finally began to confront the internal struggle she had tried so hard to subdue. Taking both of his hands in hers, she held them in his lap.
"Elrond," she breathed, holding his gaze, "Star-dome, you must be strong now, you must. You cannot fail him, for the Commander does not make idle threats."
At the mention of his Master, Elrond once again began quivering desperately, and uttered soft whimpers of fear.
The sight made Nesial feel as though someone had thrust and twisted a poised blade into her heart, and it was then that something snapped. She had been lying to herself for too long, enough was enough - this was not the way of her people, it never had been, no matter what Káno told her to believe! Surely, if what he said was true, then the sacred bond and agreement between the two races was nothing but a deal for slavery? Surely, that would make her no better than the next thief or vagabond? Others perhaps like Káno, couldn't stand this; but not her. Nesial was not, and never had been a bad person, just misled - and it took Elrond's broken and shattered spirit to show her that.
Closing her eyes, she pushed down tears that threatened to over brim the inky black orbs.
"I am so, so sorry, Elrond," she whispered hopelessly, kissing his bleeding hands lightly, "Please, please forgive me..."
Opening her eyes, she found Elrond staring at her in just the same way. What difference did it make what she decided now anyway? Káno would go ahead with the sacrifice, whether she was a part of it willingly or not. Despair rose from the depths of her soul as she realised that on her own, one woman on her own, Sorceress though she was could never hope to achieve victory over an entire encampment of men - nothing but a traitor's death.
Then a thought struck her, and her head snapped up, her eyes drying and yet clouding over as the threads of a plan began weaving together. On her own, no - but with aid... She glanced at Elrond, who big pale silver eyes were watching her with apprehension (he had started when she moved so suddenly). They were alive though - filled with emotion, bland though it was. She half-smiled; apparently the effects of Darquaril were not permanent on even half elves as they were on mortals. They would give him more soon, to repress what little spirit may begin to shine through, so there wasn't much time; then again, she didn't need much. If she could get the ingredients... She remembered the spell well enough; it was a rather basic charm. Just a name would do, any name. Then the contact would be simple - she was, after all, not a Sorceress for nothing.
Taking Elrond's face in both of her hands, she ignored him when he flinched away from her, holding him firmly to look into his eyes.
"Hear my voice, Half Elven," she commanded, compelling Elrond to listen to her, "I need your aid; I can save you, I can get you away from this place - all I need is a name. Do you understand? I can free you if you give me a name." she spoke each word slowly and deliberately.
Elrond stuttered and stammered for a minute before she tried again.
"Come on, Elrond," she muttered, willing him to speak," Just think... One name of someone you hold dear is all I need."
Elrond strained with all his might to pull a name from the very dregs of his mind, where the last of his hope had died. Even had he wanted to feel suspicious about Nesial's motivation, he did not have the strength of will anymore - he could not help but to obey any direct command he was given.
"E... El..." he attempted, but somehow the words wouldn't form.
"Come on elf-boy," murmured Nesial, staring at him unblinkingly.
"El - El -"
But in dreams
I can hear your name
And in dreams
We will meet again
--- FotR Soundtrack
Eärendil quietly shouldered the door to his home open. The torches were burning low in the sconces on the walls, and in the hall the embers in the grate glowed red, but no flames licked the brickwork. Elros shifted a little in his arms, murmuring something incoherent in his dreams, but other than that, the house was completely silent. The mariner smiled down at his eldest as he ascended the staircase to the bed chambers on the first floor.
Gently, and with all the stealth he possessed, he laid Elros down on the soft feather bed. The young man frowned in his sleep but did not wake as Eärendil skilfully pulled off his boots, and drew the covers up to his son's chin. For a moment, his hand lingered by Elros' cheek, a fatherly smile flitting behind his sea grey eyes. A soft salty gust of wind made him glance up through the open window over the glittering, calmly swaying ocean. The moon still glinted off the rippling, fathomless surface, forever in a timeless dance of silver and sapphire and indigo. Crossing the room, Eärendil paused for another moment, watching the stars keeping the moon company, and his heart was pained as he remembered his son. Out all alone, in a dark, unfriendly world where evil lurked behind every corner, and foes were always in the shadows. Things were dangerous enough lately as it was; but being the son of Elwing... It put him in more danger than most. Eärendil knew only too well that it would only be a matter of time before the remaining sons of Fëanor launched a full scale attack on the Havens to retrieve the Simaril his wife bore.
Shaking his head quietly to himself, Eärendil noiselessly pulled the fluttering curtains to and shut the windows. Then just as silently as he had come he left and sought his own chambers across the corridor. Elwing was asleep on her side, her golden head facing the wall away from him. He smiled to himself; the little lamp she always kept by the bedside was still alight. She always kept it burning, in case he should return during the night. Sighing, he took off his own boots but did not bother to change, and crawled into bed next to her. She turned towards him slightly as he laid his head on her shoulder, his arms wrapped protectively around her body.
"I missed you..." she muttered, reluctant to wake from sleep.
"I know," he replied, and took a deep, unsettled breath as his eyes flickered closed, and sleep took him at last.
Nesial hummed random and meaningless notes to herself as she watched the merrily boiling water in the small cauldron before her. At her side, a wooden platter with different piles of herbs and roots lay grated and finely chopped, ready for use. To some, her light hearted manner might appear...odd; but she had already commended herself for getting this far, and very far it was. The ingredients hadn't been hard at all to come by, as she had thought - besides, she had had the majority of them in her little store previously. The crushed moonflower hadn't been a problem either; the hills surrounding the settlement were littered with the little silver white blossom, and it had been easy to make excuses to get to them.
She glanced around her; while collecting the flower, she had found a little notch on the north western side of the hill furthest from the entrance gate. It was more of a smooth hollow really, hidden by reedy grasses and two large thorny thickets from the prying lights of all below her; perfect for a certain someone needing secrecy to prepare potions and cast charms.
The water came now to the boil, and she tipped a powered blue root and the moon flower in the cauldron. There was a faint venomous hissing and a light, silvery steam rose on the surface, which had turned shocking electric blue. She carried on humming, stirring the pot gently for exactly twenty turns in a clockwise direction. Next, she picked up a handful of thick, rubbery dark green leaves and sprinkled them in too, waiting until the water had become a more subtle blue grey before pouring in the ten drops of honey nectar. Now she stirred the potion vigorously, until it was not so watery and more like a soup, though completely smooth and now a summery peach hue. She pulled the lines of the spell book up from the back of her memory... "When forty times the pot hath churned, lay it still `til potion's cooled; Add the essence of thy choosing, and thy desire thou shalt see in the pool..." At least... Well, it was something like that, she assured herself.
When he reached thirty her arm began to moan in protest, but she kept going, forcing her cramping elbow to keep turning... Thirty eight... thirty nine... forty! Sighing in relief, she abandoned the mixer and allowed her arm to collapse in her lap. With her other arm, she pulled a small lock of auburn brown hair from her pocket; Elrond's hair, the essence of her choosing. She'd snipped it quickly from the back of his head as she'd left. She had hidden behind her curtain barrier, listening as Káno administered more of the Darquaril to his new toy, and Nesial had found her knuckles were white and shaking by the end of it. But it hadn't taken as long this time, and the screams not as loud - but just as haunting... Nesial shuddered, despite the warm of the little fire. As far as she knew, he was back to being the empty slave now. Not for long though, she though; not for long now, either way.
The potion cooled fairly quickly once it had been moved from the heat, and Nesial knelt over it, hovering hesitantly to check it was as it should have been, before dropping the fine hair in. There was a loud hiss this time, and Nesial started and glanced around warily lest it had been heard, but her fears were unfounded. The surface of the brew began to bubbly and froth now, gurgling and spitting so that she had to stand back for safety.
After a few moments though, the potion calmed down and as she stepped forwards, she gasped in surprise. It was like being taken upon the back of an eagle, soaring through the sky; the path led her away from the camp, back through the hills and across the plains, until she could soon see the forest looming in the distance. She leant to the side, almost falling over as the smooth flight of the spell swerved along the forest edge, so close and so real she felt she could reach out and touch it - but of course, she knew better. The landscape flew past her and she have fancied she could even feel the wind on her face as she went. Quite suddenly, the forest dropped away from her left, and she just saw a short green hill before the vision swooped abruptly down the far slope, into a sleeping silent village. The journey began to slow now, but not before jumping swiftly upwards to pause, looking through a large window into a dark room, though the curtains were half shut. The vision moved slowly, stealthily now as it passed through the keyhole of the window lock, and came to rest above the figure of a sleeping boy.
Nesial almost cried out, but caught herself just in time; by all she held dear, she swore that was Elrond she was looking at!!! It had to be - the same, ivory skin and dark braided hair; same height and build down to the very last detail - even the clothes he wore were the same as they had found Elrond in!
"Twins," she murmured," I might have known - well that's very interesting..."
Now was not the time to ponder such thoughts though, and she well knew it; here was where the real magic began. Settling herself cross legged in front of the cauldron, she rest her hand son her knees and half closed her eyes, taking deep, lung filling breaths, but always keeping the image of Elros within her sight. Gradually, she felt herself descending into a state of utter calm, and with her mind, gently began to reach out to the unsuspecting twin...
Elros tossed fitfully in his sleep. He was having the strangest of dreams... He was standing out on a tall green hill in the midday sun, far from anywhere he knew, and yet it seemed familiar. Beside him on the hill was an old tree, weather and worn and twisted with years, and it was so high that it pierced through the clouds over head. In the lower boughs of the tree, Elrond had caught his legs around the thickset branch and was swinging down in front of his brother, laughing and calling for Elros to join him. But Elros couldn't - he couldn't move, there was something keeping him still. Try as he might, his legs simply wouldn't work and he felt himself growing more and more frustrated, until Elrond disappeared up into the leafy canopy.
"Elrond!" he called, "Elrond, come back! I can't go, wait for me!"
Yet Elrond did not listen to him, but chuckled and vanished from sight and sound.
The world around him swirled suddenly, and all at once, Elros found himself sitting on a long, silver sanded beach. The waves lapped the shore gently - and it was night time, though the moon and stars were veiled by a thick cloud covering. Elros shivered, but did not get up. Rather, he sat and waited - but for what, he did not know. He just knew that somehow he had to wait. Somethin would happen.
He wasn't surprised when he heard soft footsteps behind him, but he span on the sand to face the new comer just the same, and his eyes went wide. A woman a few years older than him stood there, her rich copper ringlets falling like a waterfall and her inky eyes dark and keeping all their secrets. She was all in a floaty, translucent dress of pearly blue, and her girdle was wrought of sapphires, though the elegant material fluttered slightly in a non-existent breeze.
"Elros," he said, and her voice was deep and melodious like nothing Elros had heard before. He nodded hastily at her, and she held out a hand for him, helping him up.
Still, he stood there staring, unable to take his eyes off of her, though he admitted he had seen elf maidens far more fair of face.
"Come with me, brother of Elrond," she smiled, and holding his hand she began walking him along the beach.
"How do you know my name?" he asked in bewilderment.
"I know many things," she answered mysteriously, "But do not be fooled, Master Elros; this is no dream you walk in now."
"I didn't think it was," confessed Elros, biting his lip, "It doesn't feel like it somehow..."
"No," she shook her head lightly, "It doesn't."
"Who are you?" he questioned curiously.
"My name is Nesial," she replied, "I am not of your people; though, my fate in entwined with yours." she added, sighing.
Elros nodded silently, though he couldn't be sure he really understood.
"Your brother has been kidnapped, has he not? Come, keep walking," she motioned as Elros froze in shock.
"Yes - yes, four days ago," he told her.
"Four days ago... And you have less than that left before it is too late," she warned him seriously, "I can tell you where your brother is, Master Elros, for I am with him now - and I can tell you what you must do to save him."
"What?" exclaimed Elros, standing fast and whirling round in front of her. "You're with him now? How? Why? Where?!" he cried desperately.
"Hush child, don't interrupt," she scolded him, and pushed him lightly aside. "Anything I tell you, you must, you must - and I cannot stress this enough - you must remember. If you forget, then all is lost for us both. Do you swear? That when you wake, you will not forget?"
"I - I swear," he promised, frantic to know more.
"First, gather as many men as can be found. You must have a well armed and mounted group if you are to do any good. You must follow the trail to the forest eaves - you did so before, but the prints stopped, did they not? That was my doing," she explained.
"Why?" was all he said.
Nesial sighed. "Because then I saw no reason not to," she replied quietly, "Because I was obeying my Master's commands."
"Surely this cannot be the will of your Master"? frowned Elros.
"No," she gave him a small smile, "No, it isn't."
He quirked up an eyebrow.
"Things change," she gave in explanation, but would say no more.
"Follow the trail - it will become visible to you as you travel, but for the most part you must keep to the forest edge for two days, at a gallop. Do not worry about your horses; I can help you there as well."
"What do you mean?"
"Inquisitive aren't we?" she laughed softly, "Just like you're brother... Very well, what I mean is I can keep up the strength of your horses for as long as you ride. You will have need of them when you reach your destination."
"Which is...?" asked Elros, leaving the question open for her.
"When you turn from the forest, go northwards towards a range of distant hills. They are like a maze; but do not be troubled. You will know the way when you reach it, but only you, so you will have to lead them."
Elros nodded gravely. Somehow, he knew this was more than a dream, and he knew she wasn't lying.
Nesial snorted. "I am not a warrior, Master Elros - what happens then is down to you."
The mysterious woman stopped walking and turned to face him.
"You have only three days to reach him, before he is lost forever," she told him sincerely, and Elros got the feeling their little chat was drawing to a close. "Past that, I cannot protect him or you anymore. Do you understand?"
Elros nodded, and Nesial smiled at him.
"Good luck," she whispered, and gently kissed his forehead, sending wafts of scented water lilies over the young man, and he found himself growing sleepy. Feeling him grow drowsy, Nesial carefully lowered him to the sand then drew away.
"Until our next meeting." With that, she vanished into the dunes.
In his bed, Elros woke with a start, just as the first tinges of dawn crawled over the horizon in the east. Most of the townsfolk were still fast asleep, he knew - but he would find no rest. Not now.
Jumping out of bed, he raced into his parents' room to find them both in the realm of dreams.
"Ada!" he shouted, eager to be up and gone, "Ada, wake up, wake up!"
Eärendil opened his eyes groggily to see his son practically bouncing off the walls.
"Elros..." he muttered, "What are you -"
"Ada, you must get up - I know where Elrond is!"