Twilight Thunder - Chapter 5
She tried to remember where she was. She had dim, hazy memories of looking down and seeing horse feet gallop below her, of hearing the thunderous sound of beating wings, of smelling blood that was not her own. Faye had been with her, screaming something but not talking to her. A shadow had been there, too, a large one in the shape of a bat. . .
Arwen opened her eyes, panic flooding her. She remembered two things quite vividly now. She remembered hearing Faye scream as she was ripped off the horse's back, and seeing empty air below her as the horse leapt out of the shadow of the Redhorn Pass and over a cliff. She could see the horse now. It was lying on its side nearby, its neck clearly broken, body stiff. It was a white horse, a very familiar horse. It was Saiya.
"Naneth!" Arwen cried, forcing herself into a sitting position and screaming when the pain in her arm intensified tenfold. "Naneth! Faye!"
Only the howling wind answered her desperate cries. Clearing her vision with her painless arm, she looked around. She was lying at the foot of a steep, snow-covered drop, and the rocky peaks of the Redhorn Pass towered high above, barely visible. She dimly recognized this place. If not for the blowing snow, she knew she would be able to see the forests of Lorién far below where she lay now. The way she had come had been a rather abrupt method of making it this far down the mountain. It normally took a day of slow travel to make it this far using the path.
Arwen did not know how long she had been here, but she guessed at least more than a day due to the fact that there was no longer any evidence of her fall in the snow on the mountainside. A considerable amount of snow had gathered on Saiya's body as well. But why hadn't the Orcs followed her? Where was everybody? Why was she alone?
"Naneth!!" Arwen screamed again. "Naneth!!"
If Saiya was there, then Celebrían must be nearby, Arwen thought desperately. Perhaps she was unconscious, buried in the snow somewhere. Arwen tried to crawl forward, but screamed and collapsed when she realized that not only her arm, but both her ankles were broken. She rolled onto her back, seeing the sun dimly through the haze of snow and wind.
"Help!!" she cried. "Somebody help me!!"
Again, nothing. Arwen felt tears start to flow down her cheeks, and when she lifted her uninjured hand to wipe them away, she realized her face was coated in frozen blood. She collapsed in the snow, letting her tears come unhindered, frightened for the sake of her mother and for Faye.
Darkness came, bringing deathly cold temperatures. Partially frozen and unable to move, Arwen was forced to suffer the night in agony. The only fact that offered even the slightest bit of comfort was that throughout the night, the only sound she heard was the wind. No Orc or black shadow appeared.
As dawn came, the wind finally settled down, clearing the air of snow and offering a splendid view of the mountains and the lush green lands below. Arwen no longer possessed the strength to lift her head, and as the sun slowly began its ascent into the sky, she closed her eyes. She was going to die here, alone and without ever knowing what had happened to Celebrían or Faye. She. . .
"My lord and lady, there is a dead horse down there."
Arwen knew that voice. She had heard it once in her childhood, on her first visit to Lorién. The Elf that owned it had not been particularly pleasant, but right now it sounded like music in her ears. Desperately, she gathered up what strength she had left.
"Help," she cried weakly. "Please. . ."
The sound of approaching horses ignited a tiny spark of hope. Had they heard her? Was it really who she thought it was, or was her dying mind playing tricks on her?
"By the Valar!!"
Suddenly, someone was standing over her, a gentle face that Arwen knew very well. It was not Celebrían, or Faye. The woman that stood over her now, who took off her flowing white cloak and gently wrapped her in the warm material, was someone she knew and loved, but had seen only once before in person.
"Galadriel. . ."
* * * * *
For the fourth time that night, Elrond stood and looked out the balcony of his study, staring up at the stars. His concern for his wife and daughter had not yet abated; in fact, it had grown worse as time passed. Now he looked out his door every fifteen minutes or so, as if searching for an omen in the stars, something through which he could gain a bit of comfort.
His concern was not unjustified. Celebrían should have reached Lorién by now; he should have gotten a message from Galadriel. But he had received nothing. No word from anyone as to the health and happiness of his beloved Celebrían and their Undomiél.
Elrond turned. Glorfindel was standing at the door, a calm smile on his face. For a moment, Elrond's spirits lifted. Perhaps Glorfindel was relaying a message.
"A visitor for you," Glorfindel said, nodding and stepping aside.
For a moment, Elrond was greatly disappointed, then corrected himself when a gray-cloaked old man came walking into his study. Even in his worst moods, Elrond would never be able to deny a visit from one of his closest friends.
"Gandalf," he said warmly, approaching to greet the old wizard.
"Lord Elrond," Gandalf replied, returning the greeting. "I was in the area, and I decided to stop by."
"Indeed," Elrond said. "Although it is rather late to be calling, my old friend."
Some of Elrond's anxiety eased as he, Gandalf, and Glorfindel sat down in chairs around the fire to catch up on old times. Chances like this were few and far between for him, so Elrond savored the opportunity to relax. For a moment, he wondered why he had been so concerned. Celebrían and Arwen were probably sitting comfortably in Lorién, talking with the Lord and Lady or perhaps listening to one of Faye's stories. Maybe. . .
A loud, ear-splitting screech echoed outside, and immediately Elrond was on his feet and heading to the balcony, Glorfindel and Gandalf by his side. Already, there was activity below, as every eye in Rivendell turned to the skies to locate the source of the horrible sound. For a moment, Elrond could only see sky and stars, but then a black shadow materialized. It swayed back and forth, shrieking again as it swooped towards the ground. For a moment, Elrond was unable to determine what it was. Then, it came in close enough to be illuminated by the firelight of the lampposts scattered about Rivendell, and he realized it was a giant black bat. The bat was clearly injured, for one of its wing membranes was torn, and as it flew overhead foul-smelling black blood rained down on them.
"What is that beast?" Glorfindel asked.
Suddenly, the bat turned in midair, throwing its head back and screaming. The sound was unnatural, and as Elrond winced against the pain in his ears, he almost didn't see the bat drop something. It fell through the air and landed with a wet thud not far from the balcony. It didn't take Elrond long to realize the object was a person. Blood was already staining the grass.
The bat banked and came back, heading for the body, but it suddenly spotted them, and stopped in mid-dive. It glared at them with glowing yellow eyes, then screeched and barreled toward them, maw open to reveal bloody fangs.
"Look out!" Glorfindel shouted.
The bat came within feet of the balcony before Gandalf brought his staff to bear. A bright white light flashed, and with an ear-splitting shriek of pain the bat abandoned its attack, flying out of range of Gandalf's light.
"Away with you, demon!" Gandalf shouted.
The bat turned, and for a moment, it was visible against the stars.
"Beware, Elrond," it hissed. "There will be others."
Then, it was gone, flying off into the night, leaving behind a thick trail of vile black blood. For a moment, Elrond was stunned, unable to do or say anything as Gandalf lowered his staff.
"Come," Gandalf said. "We must find out who that creature left behind."
By the time Elrond, Gandalf, and Glorfindel made it out into the gardens, several others had already gathered around the body, keeping a considerable distance away. For a moment, Elrond couldn't bring himself to believe it was once human. Although still in one piece, gaping wounds showed bone and muscle through marble-white skin. Clothing hung in tattered strips from the limbs and torso, and long matted blood-soaked hair hid the face from view.
"Poor wretched creature," Glorfindel said, shaking his head.
Elrond turned to one of the gathered, meaning to order the body removed, when to his astonishment, it drew back one partially-shredded arm and rolled over onto its side. Now, the face was in full view, and gasps of recognition sounded. Elrond almost shouted out in terror.
The wretched creature was Faye. The right side of her face was split open, and her scalp was torn, but of all her body her face seemed to be the most intact. She stared up at them with milky, glazed eyes, and opened her mouth slightly.
"I. . ." she wheezed. "I. . ."
"Do not speak," Elrond said firmly, kneeling by her side. He looked up. "Glorfindel, fetch a stretcher. We need to get her inside."
"No," Faye whispered. "I. . .I'm sorry. . .I'm sorry. . .Elrond."
"Do not speak," Elrond repeated, feeling the panic rise in his heart. "You need to save your strength."
Faye stared up at him, and after a moment, a single blood tear slid from the corner of her eye.
"I'm sorry," she said again. "I. . .I. . .failed." She hesitated, another tear falling. "Celebrían. . ."
Her eyes slowly slid closed, and with a final rattling sigh she fell silent. All color faded from Elrond's face. He barely heard Gandalf approach, and didn't acknowledge it when the old wizard settled a hand on his shoulder.
"Come, my friend," Gandalf said. "She is gone."
"No," Elrond said dully, standing. "Not yet." He looked up at those standing around him, noticing that Glorfindel had returned. "Move her to my study. I'll be there in a moment."
He then turned and walked deeper into the gardens, Gandalf following. Finding an old stone bench, he sank down onto it and rested his head in his hands, trying to compose himself. Gandalf sat beside him.
"What was that creature?" Elrond asked, after several minutes of tense silence.
"One long believed dead," Gandalf admitted grimly. "It was Thuringwethil, the messenger of Sauron. She must be trying to seek revenge for her master."
"Faye was with my wife and daughter," Elrond said, turning to him. "I believed them safe with her, for she is a powerful and protective creature. If Thuringwethil did that to her. . .what of Celebrían and Arwen?"
"If Celebrían and Arwen were dead, you would know," Gandalf replied. "Where were they going?"
"They were heading to Lorién," Elrond replied, his grief and terror quickly being replaced by fury. "I'm going after them. I will not allow that creature to hurt my wife and daughter!"
Quickly, he stood and headed back. Glorfindel was waiting for him when he arrived.
"Call back my sons and assemble a rescue party," Elrond commanded. "We ride at dawn."
* * * * *
Galadriel, the White Lady of Lorién, had known what was going to happen even before it occurred. Startled awake in the dead hours of the night by a nightmare so vivid it took her breath away, she had immediately rushed to her mirror for an explanation. Her mirror had shown her exactly what she had prayed not to see: her daughter, her beloved Celebrían, in pain at the hands of brutish Orcs, and her granddaughter fighting for her life. She had immediately assembled a search party.
Now, as she stared down at Arwen lying almost dead in the snow, she knew it was too late. Some miracle had given Arwen the chance to escape, but at what cost? How many lay dead in the Redhorn Pass? Surely it couldn't be. . .no, Celebrían was still alive. Galadriel would have known it if her daughter was. . .
Carefully she gathered her granddaughter in her arms, hearing her husband approach. Lord Celeborn had a grim look on his face.
"I'll send Rumil and Orophin back with you," he said, gently taking Arwen and carrying her over to Galadriel's waiting horse. "You'll be able to care for her better at Caras Galadhon."
Galadriel did not protest as her husband helped her up behind Arwen. She could feel the young she-Elf trembling underneath her cloak, and she carefully put an arm around her, securing Arwen's broken arm. Celeborn gently grasped her free hand, and Galadriel looked down at him.
"Find our daughter," she said. "She is still alive."
Celeborn nodded, the gentle look in his eyes sealing his silent promise. Galadriel turned her horse around and began the long ride back, Orophin and Rumil riding close behind. There was no danger for any of them here, but still the three days it took for Galadriel to return to her home were the longest of her life. Arwen had been stranded there for at least two days, and needed more aid than Galadriel could offer her on horseback.
The night following her arrival at Caras Galadhon, Galadriel sat at Arwen's bedside, fighting to keep herself composed. She had seen no stir of life in Arwen since finding her, though her wounds had been expertly tended to. She gently grasped Arwen's hand, rubbing it gently as if hoping that the generated warmth would create some spark of consciousness. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, praying softly. She could sense Celebrían only dimly, but that tiny spark did nothing to reassure her. It did not tell her if Celebrían was suffering.
Suddenly, a messenger appeared in the doorway, and Galadriel glanced at him wearily.
"A message from Lord Celeborn," he said, bowing respectfully. "They have searched the Redhorn Pass and its surrounding areas, but have yet to find anything. He recommends you send a message to Lord Elrond."
Galadriel sat up a little more. In her concern for Arwen and Celebrían, she had completely forgotten to send word to Elrond. Silently scolding herself for the mental lapse, she turned back to the messenger and nodded.
"Thank you," she said softly.
The messenger bowed again and departed. Galadriel sighed and stood, glancing back at Arwen before moving towards the doorway.
She was halfway to the door when, suddenly, she was struck by a wave of horrific pain that started in her shoulder and spread throughout her body. Galadriel cried out and crumpled to the floor, seeing in her mind a towering shadowy figure with glowing yellow eyes, knowing full well she was seeing what Celebrían was seeing. Slowly, the vision faded, and she opened her eyes to see two of her maids and the messenger standing over her. Her maids helped her into a nearby chair, begging her to tell them the source of her pain. She waved them away, looking sharply at the messenger while trying to ignore the agony that still raged within her.
"Send word to my husband immediately," she snapped. "Tell him he's running out of time."
Quickly, the messenger departed. Galadriel stood, bracing herself against the slight disorientation, and looked again to Arwen. The young she-Elf was writhing in mental torment, feeling exactly what she was feeling. Her maids looked panicked, but Galadriel waved to them again to calm them.
"There's nothing we can do," she said wearily, stumbling to Arwen's bedside and leaning against one of the posts. "She feels Celebrían's torment."
"What about Lord Elrond?" one of the maids asked timidly.
Galadriel looked at her maids, seeing the fear in their eyes.
"He knows," she murmured. "He knows now, just as Arwen does."
Then, the strength of Celebrían's suffering overwhelmed Galadriel, and she slowly slid to the floor, blackness engulfing her senses. Before she faded completely, however, she heard one final desperate plea.
"Mother, help me. . . ."