The Hands of a Healer - Part 6

The door opened to reveal a tall dark haired elf with exquisite grey eyes. He smiled and said "You must be Lauren, please come in," as he stepped away from the door, allowing Lauren entrance. "I am Elladan, and this is my brother, Elrohir," he said pointing to an elf identical to himself, sitting at a table in the middle of the room, pouring over a letter. At the sound of his name, Elrohir glanced away from the letter, caught sight of Lauren and walked over to his brother.

"Our father has left us this letter, explaining everything about you. Aside from wanting to meet our newest guest, we called you here to create a story for you. We do not think it a good idea for everyone to know of your true origin, for the obvious reason that they won't believe you," Elrohir told Lauren.

Lauren nodded, "Where do I look like I am from?" she asked.

The elves thought for moment, then Elladan answered, "My first choice would have been one of the elven cities, but since you do not have the pointed ears of our kin, that is out of the question. To tell the truth, your appearance is somewhat of a collage of all the races of Middle Earth, but my second choice would be that of Gondor." Elrohir nodded his agreement and thus they began to weave the tale of Lauren's origin. They spent hours going over the story that was to become her past, making sure she knew every detail, and was able to respond to any question the two elves could think of. When they had finished, they were left with a marvellous work of fiction so believable that no one would be able to tell it from the truth. It contained every detail of her life from the city she was born in, to how she came to Rivendell

With the story complete, she was filled in on everything a real person of her impersonated status and origin would know, such as etiquette and history. Once Elladan and Elrohir were satisfied with her knowledge, and had quizzed her on everything they had taught her, they let her go.

As she was leaving, Elladan called after her, "We'll be leaving for Lothlorien tomorrow. Would you like to come with us? Perhaps Lady Galadriel would be able to help you better understand how or why you came to be here," he suggested.

"I'd love to," she smiled, and continued on her way.

Lauren walked down the hallway towards her room, longing to slip under the warm covers of her bed. Though she had momentarily recovered from the effects of the attack on her soul, it had drained a considerable amount of her strength. Just as she was about to enter her room, she heard Dorminel call her name, for she had appeared on the other side of the hallway.

"Lauren! I need to have a word with you," she said with an air of importance as she crossed the distance between them with elven grace.

"Dorminel, can't it wait? I'm very tired," she tried to explain.

"I need answers, right now," Dorminel continued with determination.

"All right, all right what it is?" Lauren sighed, giving in, she was exhausted and not in a mood to argue. This way she'd probably be free of her sooner.

"What did you do to Elphir?" Dorminel asked, not wasting breath on approaching her subject in a polite and patient way.

"What are you talking about? I called him back, just like you said I should," Lauren answered wearily.

"So you didn't do anything?"

"No, why are you asking me this? What happened?" Lauren asked, now curious.

Dorminel looked away, "His wounds are healed, where there were deep gashes now only healthy skin remains. I was sure you had done something, wounds do not simply disappear."

Lauren was about to say something, but stopped as she remembered what had happened in the garden. She remembered the wounds on her shoulder and in her stomach, and how they had healed before her eyes. She then realized what must have happened. Somehow, she must have transferred Elphir's wounds onto herself. The question was how? An expression of fear and puzzlement appeared on her face, how had she done it?

Dorminel noticed the change in her causing her to ask, "Lauren? What is it?"

Lauren glanced back to Dorminel. She could not tell her yet, not until she better understood what had happened, but she could not bring herself to lie to one of her few friends. "If I did something I don't know what it is. I'm not feeling well, I must be off," she said as she quickly brushed past her into her room.

Dorminel let her go. Though Lauren had not told her anything of great value, she had read a great deal from her face. Whatever she was, whatever power she possessed, she did not know what it was, and was not ready to share her doubts with her. Now that Dorminel understood a little more of what was happening to Lauren, she regretted confronting her. She had somewhat panicked at Elphir's sudden healing, a thousand evil thoughts racing through her mind, causing her to loose her patience and seek a swift answer. She sighed, would she ever learn the patience and understanding of her kind? She shook her doubts off, and headed to the dining hall to ease her mind.

The next morning came all too quickly for Lauren. As usual Thialfir awakened her. He had been more polite this time, knocking softy on her door as opposed to thrusting it open as he usually did. He had informed her that the company leaving for Lothlorien would depart in two hours, and had left a list of things she should pack for the trip. As she dressed, she thought back to the events of yesterday evening. After her confrontation with Dorminel, she had racked her brain, trying to come up with an explanation for what she had done, but found none. She had soon drifted off to sleep and had only awakened this morning. She remembered that she had had a dream, but try as she might, she could not bring herself to recall it. Only one image played in her mind, green smoke, a suffocating sickly green smoke. The dream carried with it a sense of importance, but Lauren could not decipher why.

Once she had packed the items on the list and had dressed, she took the pack that had been provided for her and went down to the dining hall in full traveling gear. She soon found her would-be travelling companions, all gathered at a table, clad in gear akin to hers, talking merrily.

Lauren noticed, with relief, that both Dorminel and Thialfir were part of the party. The latter caught sight of her, called out in welcome and introduced her to the rest of the travellers. There were nine travellers in all, two humans, herself and Elphir, and seven elves, four of which where Thialfir, Dorminel, Elladan and Elrohir. The other three elves were Legolas of the woodland realm, Sabrelin of Rivendell and Carasel also of the woodland realm. Sabrelin, a childhood friend of Elladan and Elrohir, was an elf maiden with raven black hair, and gleaming blue eyes. Carasel had light brown hair, with waves of gold coursing through it, and bright green eyes. Her hair was the result of her father having dark hair and her mother having the gold of the elves of Lothlorien. Legolas looked exactly the way Lauren had pictured him, silver hair surrounding a face with greyish blue eyes.

After the introductions Sabrelin and Carasel invited Lauren to sit between them. She immediately bonded with the two elf maidens, who drew her into an animated conversation of their pasts and experiences, with added humour where necessary. By the time breakfast had finished, the three felt as though they had known each other for all of their lives; a considerable amount of time for the elves.

Once everyone had finished eating, the travellers set out in the general direction of the stables. It wasn't until they actually stepped through the door that Lauren grew agitated, for she had never ridden before. As Elladan was the last one in, she inched over to him and was about to ask him whether they would ride. He noticed her and answered her unspoken question as soon as she came up to him, in a whisper, so as not to draw attention to himself, "Do not worry, we'll be taking five horses in case of an emergency, we'll be on foot otherwise."

Lauren nodded, relieved. Once each of the men had found a horse to suit them, the company set out. As soon as they passed out of the gates of Rivendell, the warmth of the air around them evaporated. It was evident from the snow on the ground that it was still very much winter. The weather was merciful, and the light of the sun shone on them, warming their backs as they travelled across the hills surrounding Rivendell.

They travelled at a light speed, not in much of a hurry anywhere. Amicable chatter surrounded the group. Over the course of the day, Lauren became fast friends with those of the travelling party she had previously not known as well and had carried on animated discussions with each of her companions.

As the sun began to set, they left the snow-covered hills behind and entered one of the many forests of Middle Earth. The companions made camp in the first relatively dry clearing they came upon. Once the fire was lit, Lauren borrowed Thialfir's sword, and took it to the next clearing. She held the sword out in front of her for a few moments, recalling all she had learned, then sprang forward, swinging left and right, jabbing, thrusting, slicing, twirling this way and that, never breaking concentration. She indulged herself in the battle with her invisible opponent. So much so that she did not hear Elphir come up behind her. She swung her sword around only to meet Elphir's with a loud clang. She stared at him for an instant, fire evident in her eyes. She swiftly disengaged her sword from his, and just as swiftly pointed it to his throat.

"I see you are skilled with a blade," he commented, with a smile on his face.

"You wouldn't expect me to go out into the wild without even an inkling of self-defensive knowledge?" She returned, a bit sarcastically.

" I would suppose not," he answered, still smiling.

With that, he swung his sword to her left, giving her plenty of time to escape if she so wished. However, she did not, and met his sword half way with her own. He swung at her again, with more force this time, and again she met it, without so much as a flinch. This time, she did not wait for him to attack again, but struck at his left side, then his right, then up. As their swords came together, with his on top, and hers below, she twisted her blade away, and with lightning reflexes, delivered a blow to his hand with the hilt of her sword, then quickly swung her sword down on top of his, wrenching it from his grasp. She brought her blade up, resting it inches from his throat, with a smile on her face at his shocked expression. At that, loud applause erupted, and Lauren noticed for the first time, that all of her companions had gathered to watch two of their number spar. She lowered her sword, and handed Elphir his from the ground.

"Well done Lauren!" said Legolas, congratulating her.

"Now if we could just get her skill with a bow to that level," grinned Thialfir, then proceeded to recount their first archery lesson for all those present as they made their way back to their camp. As he finished, no one could hold back the huge grins they carried on their faces at Lauren's misadventure.

As they entered the clearing, Elphir took Lauren aside.

"If you'd like me to help you with your archery, I'd be more than happy to," he offered.

Lauren, becoming a bit vary, replied "I already have a teacher, but thanks anyway." She brushed past him and sat down in front of the fire, between Thialfir and Sabrelin.

"What did he want?" she asked.

"He just offered to give me archery lessons," Lauren answered.

At that Thialfir noticeably tensed, and listened more intently to their conversation.

"But isn't Thialfir teaching you?" she questioned.

"Yes, he is."

Before either elf or human could say anything more, Elladan had started the elvish custom of storytelling. First came the lay of Gil-Galad the Elven-King, then the story of Elendil, and lastly the tale of Beren and Luthien. The tales entranced Lauren, even though she had read them before, they came to life with Elladan's voice. The only thing that diverted her attention was the feeling of being watched. She searched the faces of her companions and found Elphir's eyes on her, unwavering. Thialfir also noticed, and as he was sitting beside Lauren, unconsciously moved closer to her. To avoid his gaze, Lauren focused her eyes deep into the lapping flames of the small fire.

As she stared, a memory played itself in her mind's eye, triggered by the flames. Her companions dimmed and a sickening green smoke enveloped her, bringing with it the unbearable cold. She turned, seeing nothing but green. When she had done a full revolution, the smoke parted for an instant, revealing a still, lifeless hand. Then it was gone, the memory, the smoke, the hand, everything. She was back, sitting in front of the fire between Thialfir and Sabrelin. Everything had returned to as it was, except for the cold, which refused to vanish as quickly. She thought of nothing, staring up at the stars, occasionally trying in vain to push away the cold. Finally, the cold disappeared entirely, and she turned in for the night, preparing the uncomfortable floor for her weary body.

In the next two weeks, much the same thing occurred everyday. Walking by day, camping by night. Each day at dusk, Lauren would spar with one of her companions, gaining valuable experience, and learning to use daggers. Thialfir had given up trying to teach her archery. He had said she needed professional help, at which she had remarked that he needed professional help in teaching. Thus the weeks passed, enjoying the company of others, and evading the hypnotic glare of the flames, threatening to bring back the cold memory of the green smoke.

One morning, when the company was but two days away from Lothlorien, Lauren woke to a feeling of uneasiness that was attributed to more than just the usual stiffness of the ground. She stretched her aching muscles, then gathered her pack and joined the others for breakfast. As she ate, she noticed that the horses were stamping their feet, neighing discontentedly. The others appeared one edge as well, but it seemed that no one knew the reason for their odd behaviour. Silence accompanied the morning meal, in place of the usual chatter and laughter.

As soon as the horses were untied to begin the day's journey, they bolted. The elves stilled, and tuned their ears to hear what the humans could not.

"Orcs. They are heading right for us, we have no time to flee," muttered Elrohir, confirming what the other elves had also noticed.

Lauren's stomach tightened as she saw the elves and Elphir draw their bows from their backs. Fear gripped her; she had never faced an opponent who would actually harm her. Her mind went into hysterics of what ifs as her body rooted itself to the spot. Thialfir quickly shoved one of his long swords into her hand. The smooth hilt of the sword quieted her nerves, and with it came self-confidence. She ran over all she had learned, and forced herself to believe that she could fight against these monsters and live to tell the tale.

Just as she was about to comment on Thialfir's lack of faith in her archery skills, a lone orc strode into the clearing, with a malicious sneer on his ugly face. Behind him came his soldiers, orcs of all races and sizes, each relishing the scent of their newest captives. As if on a silent cue, the entire battalion raced forward, emitting war cries in all the variations of Black Speech. The first dozen or so fell by the arrows of the elves, but soon, arrows were of no use, for the orcs had closed the gap between themselves and the nine companions.

Lauren felt as though in a dream, how could this be happening? She should not be here, she should be back home, facing the trials of high school life, not life and death situations. She did not have much time to dwell on her disposition, for one of the larger orcs had found her and was preparing to drive his sword straight through her. She blocked his stroke, only millimetres from her stomach. The orc swung at her again, with a powerful blow, sending shockwaves through her arm. She finally realized that to stay alive, she'd have to be more aggressive. Recalling on her lessons with Thialfir, and sparing matches each night, she moved, with inhuman speed, swinging the elven blade from side to side, driving the orc back. She feigned a downward attack, then quickly changed direction before the orc had time to respond, cleanly ridding him of his head.

Lauren stepped back in shock, she had never killed anything before, anything that could talk to her or tell her that it had a right to live. She felt sick as the word murderer floated through her head, filling her with self-loathing and guilt at what she had done. She would have most likely vomited were it not for the vague outline of something white, floating up from the dead orc, a sense of joy emanating from it. She looked around and saw the same thing happening by each dead orc. She then remembered something she had read; that orcs were once elves. It appeared as though the spirits of the elves were trapped in the orc bodies, having no control over their hosts, and now that their bodies were dead, they were able to leave them, and be free of their prison and torment. This realization consoled Lauren in the fact that she was obligated to kill to survive.

She did not have time to puzzle over the orcs any longer, for she noticed two heading towards her. She knew she wouldn't have time to wait and give a fair fight; they would certainly have no such consideration for her. Thus she ran to meet them, blocking both of their attacks with lightning speed, then dispatched them in much the same way she had her first opponent. And so it continued, orc after orc after orc. She occasionally caught sight of one of her companions, relieved that they were still alive. Though not all were unharmed, she noticed a gaping wound on Thialfir's side as he fought with six orcs at once. Lauren, having just felled her orc, rushed to his aide, and fought with him, receiving a smile of thanks.

Though the company of travellers was putting forth a valiant effort, they were clearly outnumbered, giving the orcs command of the situation. The orcs seemed to be driving the group into the centre of the clearing, which they achieved without much difficulty. The reason for this soon presented itself as reserve orcs came in, and surrounded them. Lauren saw the anger and hatred on the faces of her companions, noble elves and man, each realizing that soon they'd be forced to surrender. Lauren burned with their anger.

The anger released a new wave of ferocity in her, causing her to drive the orcs back a step as she charged them, decapitating as she went. The orcs soon regained their former position, and had encircled each elf and human. As Lauren was about to strike out at one of the orcs surrounding her, she heard a faint whooshing sound behind her, as though something was flying through the air. Before she had time to turn, she found out exactly what had made that sound. Pain erupted through her back, as a dagger embedded itself deep into her spine. She fell to the ground and let out a sharp breath as the dagger shifted inside her, renewing the surge of blood already staining her back. With the searing pain came the freezing cold, and the darkness to her mind. The iced hand took hold of her soul, and wrenched it, crying and screaming, depleted of all strength to resist, into the world of shadow.

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