An Aussie in King Aragorn’s Court ~ Part 36
Warning: This story contains strong images of violence. It is not suitable for underage children or people with weak stomach’s.
“She is gone, then.” Celeborn’s voice held the note of finality as he stood solemnly with Galadriel in front of their March-Warden who gazed up at them in turn with the shadow of grief haunting his features.
“Yes,” he croaked hoarsely in reply. “This past week, we have searched both sides of the river down as far as where the Anduin meets the Limlight, but there was no sign of her, only this.” Haldir stepped forward and handed Coralie’s scarf to Celeborn. The Elf Lord’s eyes held the sheen of sorrow, as his fingers wound themselves about the smooth scarf he now held in his hands.
“She is hidden from my sight. I cannot see her. It would seem indeed that i titheniel has met her doom,” spoke Galadriel sadly, before drawing the gaze of her March-Warden again. “I shall tell Mithrandir myself, Haldir. This news will go sore with him. He had hoped that a ground search might have proven more fruitful, as even Gwaihir, the great eagle has not been able to find any trace of her.”
“I’m sorry,” he choked in reply. “Calentaeg and I did all we could, but …”
Galadriel stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. “There is no need to blame yourself, Haldir. My Lord and I are satisfied that you did all that you could to save i titheniel. This was something beyond your power to prevent. None of us foresaw it, and if I knew anything of the Lady Coralie’s heart, I am certain that she would not want you, or any of the others to blame yourselves for her death.”
“Go rest now, Haldir. There is nothing more to be done,” said Celeborn with mournful softness.
Bowing low, Haldir made to make a reply of sorts, but found instead that his voice caught in his throat. He turned away with the deep shadow of sorrow haunting his footsteps.
Coralie slowly opened her eyes as the water flicked about her body in the shallows. The bright light of day called her to awakening, just as the urge to cough water out of her lungs forced her to roll over to her side and retch. She lay there a moment longer, trying to gather her wits as the water rippled gently onto the shore. Unable to marshal her thoughts immediately, she tried to focus on her fingers spread out before her in the sand. Gone was the watery darkness of the riverbed. All was bright; too bright, for the sun cast tiny reflections from the quartz grains into her eyes. Coralie closed them and listened to the gentle words of the river whisper of endless journeys to the sea. Gradually, she remembered the events of the day, turning them over in her mind, recalling the terrible flood that had swept her down the river. She could see the desperate faces of Haldir and Calentaeg as they tried to rescue her to no avail. Were they safe?
A heavy footstep caused her eyes to open in surprise.
“So Little Fish, we ‘ave thee at last!” Coralie gasped as a heavy black arm swept down from above to clutch her own, dragging her to her feet with merciless care. She looked into the grotesque face of an Uruk as he held her up roughly by the arm. She sagged limply, in his grasp, unable to fight back both from exhaustion and shock.
“Me master’s bin lookin’ fer thee!” he spat into her face.
Coralie could not speak, but instead looked wildly around at the sea of gruesome faces that came into view on all sides.
“Thar be no Elves ter save thee. Our master’s seen ter that!” spat another with a laugh.
Shock and fear drove themselves like a mighty fist into Coralie’s stomach at the implication that Haldir and Calentaeg, and any others who might have tried to come to her aid, may now be dead.
“No!” she cried weakly.
“So Little Fish ‘as found ‘er voice eh?” sneered the Uruk. “Well tha bettah fin’ thy feet, fer we are tekin’ thee ter our master now.” The evil brute flung her forward, laughing cruelly as she stumbled and fell to her knees. Before she could get up, another grabbed her by her hair, dragging her to her feet.
“Tha got no excuse ter stumble like that. Tha was in no danger of drownin’,” he spat.
Coralie felt a sharp push between her shoulder blades. “Yes our master kept thee safe underwater, tha ungrateful wretch. Don’tcha remembah?”
She stumbled again and found cruel nails digging into her arm, before she was flung forward into the arms of another Uruk.
“Move wench! Or I’ll make thee sorry tha were ever born,” he leered down at her with unreserved malice, before pushing her on. Coralie looked at him as he fingered the crude blade at his waist. Suddenly she felt the snap of a whip at her heels and jumped.
“Ha! Lookee she c’n dance as well as swim!” cackled another Uruk with glee as the whip snaked out towards her feet again. Coralie jumped both from pain, and terror. A small trickle of blood from where the whip had caught her on her calf, trickled down her ankle.
“Run wench, before we make thee bleed sum more. Our master wants thee unspoiled, but smell o’ blood might make us forget our orders, an’ this lot ‘asn’t ‘ad any meat fer a while now. We bin promised man flesh,” The Uruk dug his nails cruelly into her arms as he drew her up with sinister relish, so that she was but inches away from his ruinous mouth, “but woman flesh ‘ud be a rare treat fer likes o’ us, so tha bettah do as Ah say.”
A shudder ran through her as she looked around at the rows of grinning teeth that loomed overhead. One of the Uruk’s licked his lips with his black tongue as he eyed her greedily. Clearly the one that held her in its grisly hold was their leader. She gulped as she nodded in reply.
“Move it,” he barked spinning her around with a shove. The Uruk looked over at one of the others in his company before he followed, ordering him to erase all trace of their presence on the beach. With a shrug, the brute walked a little into the forest and picked up a broken branch. Returning to the sandy shore, he swept it with the leaves, until finally satisfied that their footprints had indeed been covered, he stepped back onto the grass sward behind and cast the branch into the river, before turning to join the others.
Coralie ran. The Uruks saw to that. Whenever she stumbled the biting whip held by a cunning hand would lash out at her, driving her forward with impassioned cruelty. She would then be forced to rise to their ruthless jeers, to run yet again until weariness would cause her to misplace a step and fall. Always at hand was the whip and a vice like grip dragging her to feet. On and on throughout what remained of the day, the Uruk’s drove her forward, as cattle to the whip. Ever mindful of the need to put as much distance behind them, they pressed her mercilessly forward. Blinded by pain and torment Coralie strove to keep up. Her lungs burned as breathing became a chore in itself, until eventually worn down by exhaustion and despair, she stumbled and found that she could not get up.
“Ger up!” The Uruk dug a wicked boot into her side. Coralie groaned as she climbed to all fours. One of the other brutes came over and knelt beside her, pulling her head back by her hair.
“Tha’ll get up if tha know’s wot’s good fer thee, wench!” he snapped. The sun had but lately set, and now the cool twilight of the February evening closed in about them as the leader walked deliberately over.
“Ger up!” he barked as the other Uruk threw her from his grasp. Coralie landed on the ground with a thud. The leader came over and drew a small flask out and held it at her lips, as he raised her up by her hair. “Drink!” Coralie closed her lips, not sure of what the flask contained. The Uruk yanked on her hair until her lips parted to cry out, then forced the liquid down her throat with a hoarse laugh. “That’ll make thee run!” He laughed again as she gagged and pulled her to her feet.
“Thar be no time fer rest. Tha’ll run fer tha ‘as no choice. Our master be waitin’ fer us. Gu!” The Uruk spun Coralie around by her shoulders and pushed her on.
Her throat burned from the memory of the liquid that she had been forced to drink. There was a burning sensation within her now, and she found that her energy was renewed as a result. Fire seemed to spread throughout her limbs as it coursed about her being. The Uruk’s merely laughed all the more as she ran, until the night melted into grotesque images of evil faces running towards her out of the darkness, smacking their lips with evil intent. Unable to contend with the hideous images that now assaulted her throughout that evil night, her mind wandered back to the familiar paths that she had travelled so often in the past, and all she could manage from the very depths of her being, was to call upon God to save her.
The pale light of an expectant dawn revealed the open plain of the northern border of The Wold as they ran on the opposite side of the Limlight River. Here and there it passed over small rapids as it gurgled merrily along. Coralie had heard the sound of water through the long night. She licked her parched lips as she gazed upon the clear stream that they now ran beside. Desperate for water, she suddenly veered to the left and dived into the stream before any could stop her. With a shout one of the Uruk’s dove in after her, quickly catching the exhausted woman with cruel fingers.
“Please! Water” croaked Coralie.
“Water?” questioned the Uruk. “Ah’ll give thee all the water tha wants Little Fish!” It was the evil Uruk that had first spoken to Coralie upon her capture. With a wicked hoot he grabbed her hair and held her head under water. “Drink! Drink!” he sniggered. Coralie thrashed around in his grasp, trying futilely to stand and catch her breath. He drove his knee into her back, as he pinned her to the spot.
A large hand from behind, suddenly rent his shoulder with sharp nails. Pulled backwards as he was, he was forced to loosen his grip on Coralie.
“Stop tha chuff! Master wants ‘er aleeve!” said the leader.
Pulling a knife from his belt, he held the Uruk’s head back and slit his throat. Black blood sprayed forward for a moment, before he let the lifeless form slide from his grasp to sink below the water. For a moment Coralie thought she was free and would have made to swim away as soon as she were able but another Uruk reached for her, and hauled her unceremoniously out of the water. She was thrown onto the riverbank as another came forward and kicked her cruelly where she lay.
“No more tricks from thee!”
The Uruk leader looked around grimly at the others who shuffled nervously about the riverbank.
“The same’ll ‘appen ter any of thee ‘oo canno’ follow orders!”
He then grinned wickedly at Coralie as he waded out of the water and upon reaching her, pulled her head back by her hair, forcing her to open her mouth as he did so.
“Now wench, since we canno’ drink thy blood, tha shall drink ours and be as one o’ us!”
Raising his knife to her lips, he smeared the black greasy substance along them and quickly signaling to one of the others, took the flask that was handed to him, pouring the contents down her throat. Coralie thought she would gag as the oily blood mingled with the fiery liquid that now burned its way down her gullet. The Uruk’s only laughed the more as their leader dragged her to her feet to kick her down again.
“Ah tol’ thee ter ger up!” Coralie gasped as the iron like grip of the Uruk dug his nails into her shoulder. He shoved her again and Coralie fell into the arms of one of the other Uruk’s who flicked his long black tongue up the side of her throat.
“Aw! Canno’ we ‘ave a bit o’ fun before we deliver ‘er ter master? Never tasted a woman afore.”
The Leader walked over and slapped the Uruk across the face with the back of his hand, catching Coralie with one claw like hand as he let go to rub his chin.
“When master says ‘e wants ‘er unspoiled, ‘e means it.” He then leered at Coralie as he dug his nails cruelly into her arms. “Tha be too skinny for ma likin’, but sum o’ these others ‘ere ain’t so fussy. Still, beggars canno’ be choosers. Ma guess is after master be finished wi’ thee, ‘e’ll give tha to us anyway as a reward.”
Spinning her around he pushed her forward before him. “Git a move on afore Ah change me mind.”
How far she was made to run that day she could not tell. At some point they had crossed the river at a shallow ford, and were now striking southwest across the plains. Whenever she would stumble and fall, an iron hand would grab her by the arm and drag her along for a while, until it became apparent that the effects of the liquid they had made her drink had truly worn off. Then another flask would be held to her lips and more of the awful drink forced down.
By nightfall Coralie had been half dragged and pushed across the plain until they reached the shelter of a great forest. The brooding silence of the trees, closed in about them, and Coralie dimly fancied that she could hear the leaves whispering curses above as the Uruk’s pushed her on
Grumbling that they were weary, the Uruk’s finally halted late into the night. The moon had long since set, during the hour shortly after midnight and Coralie, finding she could go no farther, sank exhausted to her knees beneath the branches of an ancient oak. The leader of the band came over and began tying her hands and feet cruelly with coarse rope.
“Jest in case tha gets any ideas,” he sneered, and then roughly pulled on her hair as he spat into her face. “Thar be no escape!” He marched away to join the others a little distance away, confident that she would remain where he had left her.
Her head sank to the earth with utter despair.
“Leggy, Azza,” she whispered as the darkness of haunted dreams presented the faces of all those she loved to her whilst she slept.
A well aimed kick to the ribs brought her sharply awake and Coralie’s groan was quickly cut off by the greasy black hand of an Uruk, as it clamped itself across her mouth. Dawn had not yet come, and she looked wildly up to see the leering grin of the Uruk who had licked her throat the previous day, peering down at her through the dark. Letting go of her mouth briefly with one hand, he smashed the fist of his other into the side of her jaw, knocking her out with one blow. He quickly looked over at the others of his party to make sure they had not awoken, before he hauled her up over his shoulder and made off with his booty into the woods.
The pale, grim light of the early dawn, and the uncomfortable position Coralie now found herself in, drove her eyes to open. Her hands were now suspended in the air, as the rope that had bound them both was now strung over the limb of a tree. She dangled there with her feet barely brushing the ground.
“So fin’ly tha awake,” spat the Uruk as he approached her with drawn blade.
“Good! It makes me sport so much more fun!”
Coralie watched the blade with fear as he drew it up to the side of her face.
“Setch pretty eyes you ‘ave. Should Ah start thar first?” he held the point of his blade to the outer corner of her left eye.
“Ah wonder wot they taste like? Maybe Ah should carve jest one eye out o’ your ‘ead first an’ eyt it, leavin’ the other one so tha can watch wot Ah will do wi’ the rest o’ thy body before thee die.”
He held her face still cruelly with one hand as he traced the curve of her cheek with his blade.
“Or ‘ud it be bettah ter slice the skin off thy face first? Ah am rather partial ter skin.”
Coralie dared not speak. Inwardly she prayed with all her might that someone would save her. Even the Uruk leader they had managed to elude would do. Deciding she was not fussy, she closed her eyes for a moment with her desperate prayer unspoken on her lips.
“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: My God; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver me from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence,” she recited silently, as she prayed within her trembling heart.
Suddenly her eyes opened with a gasp as the brute pinched the full curve of her bodice.
“But maybe, Ah should begin wi’ one o’ these. It’s bin a long time since Ah’ve ‘ad any meat in me belly, an’ Ah’ve never tasted woman flesh afore. Since tha art a woman, it makes perfect sense ter start ‘ere now dun’t it?” throwing back his head, he gave a wicked laugh that revealed the cavernous ruin of his mouth as he brought his crude sword up to strike.
Suddenly a black arrow hummed through the air and struck the Uruk through the neck. Black oily blood spurted out as he fell to the ground trying to suck air through his broken throat. Coralie screamed as the Uruk leader decapitated his fallen comrade with one blow.
“Squeamish are we?” he sneered as he brought his sword up and cut Coralie down from the tree. She fell directly beside the staring eyes of the lifeless head of her former captor and screamed again. The Uruk grabbed her hair in his cruel grip.
“Shut up! Or tha will end up like ‘im.” He unbound her feet before dragging her up. The other Uruk’s had arrived now, drawn by the screams. They had secretly hoped that their leader had decided to disobey their master’s orders, and find him in the process of devouring the wench with morbid delight.
“Any of thee try to disobey me, and tha will end up like ‘im!” The Uruk’s made no reply except for one who stepped forward and shoved Coralie forward with the palm of his greasy hand.
Coralie ran with the Uruks again. Now they raced through the forest with its uneven ground and great roots snaking out from the trees at every twist and turn along the way. Her hands remained bound, and all too often, for lack of being able to balance herself properly in her weakened state, she would catch her foot and crash to the ground. A black hand would drag her roughly up and push her along again, before she could catch her breath.
It was now the third day since her capture, and Coralie found her strength giving out. She had fallen again, and one of the Uruk’s had grasped her viciously by the length of rope that bound her hands and was now dragging her behind him with deliberate malice. He laughed as she cried out in pain as the forest floor grazed her back and legs with sharp twigs and branches hidden amongst the leaf litter.
His laughter came to an abrupt halt as a volley of arrows pierced his hide, and he fell face down into the dirt. The others cried out in alarm, as another volley of arrows felled them before they could draw their weapons. Coralie looked up through the grim veil of pain and exhaustion to see a host of men, advance upon the remaining Uruk leader with arrows strung to their bows. Then from amongst their midst, stepped an old man with a long flowing beard and white cloak.
“Master,” began the Uruk leader, before a volley of arrows struck him down as well.
The old man, quickly strode over to where Coralie lay amongst the roots of a great tree, that her malevolent captor had been in the process of dragging her over, before he was slain. Gently he placed his arms about her and lifted her up with ease. Coralie gazed up into his eyes which gleamed with distant kindness as he first cut the bonds that held her wrists, before bearing her away.
“There, there my Dear. You are safe now.”
Coralie winced with pain as the old man eased her into the arms of one of the armed men that had accompanied him. He gently turned her shoulder to look upon the multitude of cuts and scrapes that ran across her back through her torn clothing. A quick inspection told him all he needed to know, as his gaze followed the length of her body. He then placed his hand across her eyes, as he soothed gently into her ear.
“Sleep now, little maiden. Go to sleep,” he repeated softly. His liquid voice caressed her as Coralie felt the terror of the past few days recede into the sweet dreamless sleep of exhaustion, as the world about her began to fade into black.
“Come,” he commanded the men who in turn, followed his brisk form out of the forest.