Twilight Thunder - Chapter 7
She dreamed she was lying in a cold, wet cave, chained at the wrists and naked save for a bloody pelt draped over her. Dazed, nauseated, and suffering from starvation, she barely acknowledged the approaching shadowy figure until she was suddenly unchained and dragged to her feet. The pelt fell to one side, and the shadowy figure pushed her forward before she could reclaim the only source of covering she had.
Arwen had been through this kind of dream before, when she was a child. It was her mother's eyes she was seeing through. She was feeling her mother's agony as the shadowy figure slashed her across the back with claws made of iron. She felt the pain and the hot blood as it trickled from the shallow, stinging wounds. Celebrían stumbled forward and fell to the cold rocky floor of the cave. The figure kicked her viciously, and all air was banished from her lungs.
"Crawl," the figure snarled.
Arwen started to sob as she felt her mother crawl forward on wounded hands and trembling knees. The figure drove her out of the cave and into the frigid night air. Orcs were gathered around her, jeering and shouting maniacally as she slowly crawled past them, her arms and legs sinking into soil soaked with Orc blood and waste. Celebrían was crying as she crawled, and Arwen cried with her. Her cheeks were damp with silent tears.
Finally, Celebrían collapsed, and a nearby Orc grabbed a handful of her long silvery hair and lifted her off the ground. Several locks tore free of the scalp from the force of the pull, and she screamed. The Orcs howled with laughter.
"Little she-Elf doesn't want her hair messed with," the one holding her declared.
"Why don't we just cut it off, then?" another jeered, unsheathing a dagger.
Fear gripped Arwen's heart as the Orc approached. What was it going to do to her mother? She couldn't bring herself to believe that hair was the only thing it wanted to cut.
A thunderous growl stayed the approaching Orc. Nervousness crept into its features, and it quickly retreated. The shadowy figure appeared, and Arwen immediately recognized the woman from the Redhorn Pass. Her cloak hung heavy from her shoulders, and her eyes were smoldering. Celebrían was abruptly released, and she dropped limply to the filthy ground. Arwen stiffened, wondering why her mother did not attempt to get up. The soil was putrid, the filth leeching into open wounds, but Celebrían did not move.
"Naneth, get up," Arwen moaned. "Please get up. Don't let them hurt you."
A sword appeared in the woman's hands, a long silvery blade with blood on the tip. Celebrían shifted her gaze slightly, and finally Arwen felt a hint of resistance as her mother attempted to sit up. She had little energy left, and Arwen reached out to her, calling for her. For a third time, she felt the sword pass through her shoulder, but this time the pain was far worse. This time, Arwen felt the poison lance through her. The Orcs kept laughing, but the sound was drowned out by Celebrían's desperate shriek of pain.
Arwen awoke screaming. Something tight and firm was binding her broken arm to her torso, and she could not move her legs, but that did not keep her from forcing herself to a sitting position, struggling against the bonds in a blind panic. When she felt a hand settle firmly on her shoulder, she swung out with her unbroken arm. She felt her fist strike soft flesh, and heard a muffled yelp of pain.
The yelp drew Arwen out of her nightmare-induced panic, and slowly the fuzziness faded from her mind and eyes. She looked up to see her grandmother, Galadriel, standing a few steps away. The Lady of Lórien was rubbing her left arm, but the look on her face was one of pure sadness. Arwen stared at her grandmother in disbelief, abashed that she had struck her. She wanted to calm down, to start thinking logically, but the still-fresh shadows of the nightmare sent her spiraling out of control, and she abruptly started sobbing. If there had been any way she could have curled into a ball, Arwen would have done that as well. Her movement restricted by the firm bandages and splints on her arm and legs, all she could do was hang her head and cry.
"Do not be frightened, Arwen," Galadriel said gently, sitting on the bed by her side and gently embracing her as the sobs came harder. "Celebrían is going to be okay."
"She's giving up," Arwen cried between sobs. "She can't hang on." She paused to gasp for breath, clutching Galadriel with her uninjured arm. "They're torturing her to death!"
Galadriel hugged her harder, and when she spoke her tone was almost desperate.
"Celeborn will find her." Arwen felt soothing warmth start to radiate from Galadriel's fingertips. "Elrond has sent your brothers to assist in the search. She will not have to wait much longer."
Finally, Arwen started to calm down. Her sobs subsided into soft whimpers, and a part of her mind that wasn't still in pain or panicked informed her that Galadriel would have never shown her this much tenderness under any other circumstance. Being the only source of comfort she had, Arwen clung to her grandmother. Galadriel did not move away, even after Arwen stopped crying, seemingly trying to quell her own pain and fear. It was a moment of peace Arwen desperately needed.
The moment was shattered almost instantly. A messenger had appeared at the doorway, a young guard Arwen did not recognize. He had a grim look on his face, and in his hands he clutched a bloody, tattered garment. Although she did not know the messenger, Arwen recognized the garment immediately, and before he could get a word out of his mouth she screamed.
It was Celebrían's travel cloak.
"Leave at once!" Galadriel commanded, giving the messenger a seething look that could bring down a charging bull. "I will be with you in a minute."
"But M'lady, Celeborn sends grave news," the messenger replied, clearly terrified of Galadriel's wrath. "A black shadow dropped this upon us not three days hence. He. . ." The messenger hesitated, glancing at Arwen. She had regained a slight amount of composure, but now she felt like she was going to be sick. "He is starting to fear the worst."
Arwen's head pounded from stress, but this time, she forced herself to remain silent. She knew Celebrían was not dead--her nightmare confirmed that--but what she had seen and felt made her realize that her mother had very little time left. Celebrían was on the verge of giving up all hope of rescue.
"No, she is alive," Arwen said, drawing the attention of Galadriel and the messenger. "I. . .I saw her. She's in an Orc camp. It was so cold, and dark. There's a cave there, too."
"The mountains are full of caves," the messenger said.
"The camp must be near the Pass, on the western side of the mountains," Galadriel said firmly. "Do not let the shadow creature stop the search. Go, and tell my husband that Elrond's sons are coming to assist him, and should be there within a few days."
The messenger nodded and departed, taking the bloody cloak with him. Arwen fell back against her pillows, starting to feel her own pain. Galadriel grasped her hand.
"Can you feel her, Grandmother?" Arwen asked wearily.
"I am blocking her cries," Galadriel admitted sadly. "As much as it hurts, I cannot allow it to distract me." She sighed. "Though I wish it were not so, she is not my only priority. I must depend on Celeborn to find her, for Lórien still needs a steady ruler." She gently touched Arwen's forehead. "I can ease your dreams as well, if you wish me to."
"No," Arwen said, biting her lip and shaking her head. "I don't want Naneth to be alone. I want to be with her."
Galadriel frowned again, and for a moment appeared weak and vulnerable in Arwen's eyes. She appeared to have experienced far too many sleepless nights.
"Until we find her, Arwen," she began, slowly standing, "she is alone."
* * * * *
Elrond's hands trembled as he tried to scrawl notes on a piece of parchment, making for handwriting almost impossible to decipher. Finally, he gave up, setting the pen aside and leaning back in his chair. His body still ached dully from the nasty fall from his horse he had taken four days prior, as did his shoulder. He knew Celebrían was in danger, for he had felt her agony on that night. Elladan and Elrohir, his twin sons, had not felt their mother's pain, but they had realized what was happening. They had forcefully convinced Elrond that he would be better off returning to Rivendell and watching over Faye. The rescue party would be halfway to the Pass by now, and Elrond continued to pray that they would find Celebrían in time.
Sitting up, he turned to look at his patient. Faye was healing rapidly, her already inherent regeneration ability assisted by Elrond's skill and large amounts of fresh deer blood. However, she had not yet stirred from her comatose state. Elrond did not appreciate waiting, for it sparked a rage of emotions ranging from fury to blind panic within him. Faye had the answers. How long would it take her to wake up enough to answer his questions?
Suddenly, there was a low rustle at the balcony doorway, and Elrond turned to see an eagle perched on the rail of the low bed upon which Faye lay. For a moment, the Elf-lord was too stunned to speak. He had seen the eagle once before, many years ago, when Faye had first come to Rivendell. It was a messenger of Manwë, a servant of the Valar. The eagle gazed back serenely, then turned to look down at Faye. It squawked softly, rustling its wings. Almost immediately, Faye's eyes opened, and for a long moment, she and the eagle stared at one another.
Then, Faye did something that caught Elrond by complete surprise. She let out a furious roar, lurched to her feet, and swiped at the eagle. The magnificent bird screeched in surprise and took flight, just barely escaping Faye as she gave chase. It flew out of the room and out into the early morning, disappearing from sight. Faye stood silent upon the balcony, the strength of her grip on the rail starting to crack the polished marble. Half-healed wounds were seeping blood, but she did not notice the injuries, nor acknowledged Elrond when he approached her and grasped her shoulders.
"Curse you, Valar!" she screamed, her voice echoing through the Valley and stirring every sleeping being into a rude awakening. "I curse you! How dare you bring that terror down upon us? You gave us no warning! You. . ." Her voice cracked, and she abruptly silenced. Elrond stared at her, mortified by her screams. "Warning. . ."
The eagle suddenly reappeared, landing on the branch of a nearby tree and staring fiercely at Faye. Faye and the eagle looked at one another for a long silent moment, then the eagle screeched and flew off again. Elrond knew that this time, the bird would not return. Faye suddenly gasped and collapsed. For a moment, Elrond feared she had injured herself again, but was shocked when he realized that the powerful woman was sobbing.
"My fault," she whispered hoarsely. "It's my fault."
"Faye, what happened?" Elrond asked, kneeling down beside her and watching her flinch away from him. "What happened in the Pass?"
"I heard the warning," Faye continued, ignoring him. "I heard twilight thunder. Arwen heard it, too." She sat up, still refusing to turn her gaze to him. "Why didn't I listen? Turn back, turn back, why didn't I have them turn back?" She suddenly leapt to her feet, her brow furrowed in fury. "Celebrían is dead because of me!!"
She swung her fist around, shattering a full section of the marble rail into oblivion. The few that had gathered below the balcony to witness the tirade had to jump aside to avoid the falling pieces. Faye faltered, and almost fell through the gap she had just created, but Elrond grabbed her shoulders and dragged her away from the edge. Her fist was torn and bleeding, but she seemed not to notice the new injury. Elrond turned her around, clutching her shoulders fiercely to keep her from running away.
"Calm yourself, Faye!" he shouted angrily, for the woman was still struggling. "This is no time for baseless blame-setting or hysterics. If you think it's your fault, tell me why." He forced Faye down to her knees, kneeling with her and staring directly into her bloodshot eyes. "What happened to Celebrían and Arwen?"
"We were crossing through the Pass," Faye began, her voice whisper-soft. "I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't tell what. Celedon rode by us. He wanted to show everyone that there was nothing there, but he. . ." She closed her eyes, all emotion melting from her face and tone. "The beast came down upon him. He was dead instantly. I told everyone to run, but there were Orcs blocking the way. Dozens and dozens of Orcs. The others started fighting, but there were too many. They were all killed."
Elrond sighed grimly. Several of his best scouts had accompanied his wife and daughter, and Celedon had been second only to Glorfindel in his skills as a warrior. Their deaths were heavy losses.
"The beast came for them," Faye said suddenly. "I jumped it before it could attack Arwen. I drove the creature away, but the Orcs came. There were too many. Arwen was struck unconscious. Celebrían. . ." She faltered again, gritting her teeth. "She was impaled into the rock by a silver blade. I tried to pull it out, but the Orcs were still coming. She told me to take Arwen and run. I didn't want to run. I wanted to help her. But there was no way. . .I couldn't save them both." She looked up. "I took Arwen and left Celebrían to the Orcs."
Elrond released Faye. Was that the pain he had felt? No, it couldn't have been. The attack had occurred days before. That meant that Celebrían was being tortured. . .
"Saiya didn't run fast enough," Faye continued. "The beast followed us. I tried to drive it away again, but it grabbed me. It lifted me into the air. The last thing I saw, the last thing I remember. . .Arwen escaped the beast, but fell over a cliff."
Only now did Faye seem to realize her hand was bleeding. She picked at the torn skin, seemingly trying to keep from looking Elrond in the eye again, as if expecting punishment for her actions. However, all anger that Elrond had even thought of having against Faye melted away instantly. His heart wept with worry for his wife and daughter, but realized that Faye could have done nothing more than she did.
"They are still alive, Faye," he said gently, trying to ease the trembling woman's anxiety. "I know they are. Elladan, Elrohir, and Glorfindel are searching for them now."
"It will not be enough," Faye said harshly. "It will never be enough. An army couldn't bring down the beast."
"The beast was Thuringwethil, a messenger of Sauron," Elrond said. "A vampire, like you."
"I am no kin to a demon!!" Faye shrieked, fury burning in her eyes as she scrambled to her feet. "My blood is pure. The Mother made it so! I am not a monster! I. . ." She rapidly jerked to one side, then froze when she noticed her reflection in the pane of glass of an open window.
Elrond knew he had struck a dangerous nerve. Faye never mentioned her "mother" unless she was raging with fury or wild with bloodlust. He knew she was seeing what he saw now, her skin pale and bruise-mottled, her hair unkempt, her eyes wild and her fangs protruding from between thin lips. In this state, she looked like a monster. She knew it, too. She had been through these kinds of epiphanies before. However, her reaction this time was far different than normal, and caught Elrond by complete surprise.
"I am a monster," she whispered, touching a fang with a finger from her bloodied hand. "Countless creatures have died by my hands." She knelt, picking up a small chunk of marble and holding it in the palm of her injured hand. "I have vanquished great evils. I have stared down the maw of death itself without faltering. Why could I not conquer the beast?" She stared at the chunk of marble, as if it could tell her the answers she sought. Elrond could do nothing more than stare in confusion.
"It takes a beast to conquer a beast, Lady Faye."
Elrond turned to the balcony doorway, seeing Faye do the same. Gandalf was standing there, studying Faye with a cool, calculated glance. Faye dropped the piece of marble and approached the old wizard.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"What happens to a wild wolf when it is accepted into a home?" Gandalf replied. "It becomes domesticated. It forgets what it means to be a real wolf."
Elrond watched the exchange silently. He had quickly realized what Gandalf was trying to say, and although he kept a straight face, realization of what needed to be done was flooding his senses.
"You know exactly why you could not defeat Thuringwethil, Faye," he said. "You said it yourself before you left."
Faye growled softly, shock now very clear on her face. Elrond approached her, grasping her shoulder again. Faye turned to him, uncertainty in her gaze as she met his.
"Gandalf is right, Faye," he said, nodding slightly to his old friend. "Thuringwethil is no different an enemy than the werewolf. You brought down the werewolf, and you can bring down this beast as well."
Faye growled again, looking towards the road that led southwards out of the Valley. Elrond could feel her muscles tensing underneath his hand, and after a minute, she pulled away from him.
"You are not fully healed, but that did not stop you before," Elrond continued quietly.
"Yes, Lady Faye," Gandalf added, approaching. "Celebrían does not need the guardian and friend you have been to them for so long." He lowered his voice, and Elrond caught the smile that was hidden underneath the folds of the old wizard's beard. "They need a warrior, someone who has stared death in the eye and conquered it. They need the creature that lives within you."
For a moment, the world was silent. The Elves gathered on the lawn below looked up expectantly, having heard everything. Elrond kept his eyes on Faye, hope starting to burn within him again. If Faye could do it, if she could unleash the creature that had first come to Rivendell, then Thuringwethil did not stand a chance.
Suddenly, there she was. When Elrond looked into Faye's glittering golden eyes, he saw the creature. He recognized the wild wraith that had almost slain his wife for blood, protected his daughter against the worst of evil creatures, and performed the miracle that had saved the life of Arwen's young friend Maida. Before his eyes, bruises faded, wounds sealed, and muscles flexed in preparation for the battle that was sure to be far greater than the one that brought down the Dark Lord Sauron.
"Go now," Gandalf said, waving his staff in the direction of the mountains. "The lives of those whom you love depend upon you."
Faye glanced once at the wizard, then turned and let out a deafening roar that rattled the windows and sent every Elf standing below stumbling backwards. Before Elrond could say anything to echo Gandalf, Faye was gone. Elves dived out of her way as she quickly disappeared from sight. Gandalf came up behind him and chuckled softly. Elrond turned to him.
"Hope is rekindled, my old friend," Gandalf said. "The only thing we can do now is pray that Celebrían has the strength to last a few more days."
"But what of Arwen?" Elrond asked.
"I have no doubt that the Lord and Lady of Lórien have found her by now," Gandalf replied. "Arwen, at least, is safe."
"If Arwen is safe, then why has Lady Galadriel not contacted me?" Elrond asked, an eyebrow raised.
Gandalf glanced at him, but did not say anything more. Elrond sighed. That, it appeared, was one question for which there was no easy answer.