Stranger In A Strange Land – Ch. 1 – Fallen Hope

by Jan 20, 2008Stories

Here’s the next installment of this story! Note to all: it’s a flashback in time, so don’t be confused. If you liked it, again, please comment!

Ithilien, Third Age

The trees near the City of Ithilien were burning madly as Súliën wrapped her baby in an intricately woven grey blanket. The baby stared up at her mother, and those large, verdant eyes made her mother melt inside. They were sparkling, lively, curious – just like her own.

She again regretted the fact that she had not previously wanted the baby. But now she realized that the entire ordeal she had gone through couldn’t be compared with her child’s innocent smiles, her sweet eyes, her loving gazes. Yes, it had definitely been worth it.

Picking up the child, Súliën ran out through the stone door and into the fray. Women, men, and little children were flailing about the hilly streets, screaming, and looking for cover. Behind them, out of the choking black smoke and fierce fire, came the raiders on trumpeting oliphaunts. As the conquering creatures swung their great broad trunks, some townspeople, caught in their path, went flying away, lost in the dense smoke.

Soon the raiders slid down the gray backs of the oliphaunts with evil-looking scimitars and torches in hand, and cut down anything moving as they raced ahead. The night air was thick with chaos.

Sneaking her way toward the nearby woods, Súliën saw the raiders breaking down doors and plundering her neighbours’ houses. They brought the loot back to their lofty caravans, stuffing valuables, jewellery, and food into black baskets and loading them on. Their painted faces smirked with a cruel satisfaction.

Shuddering, she hid behind a huge boulder of what appeared to be somebody’s door. The baby began to cry. "Shhhh…" Súliën whispered, but even her soothing voice was hardly a comfort amidst the terrified shrieks and harsh laughter.

Suddenly, an oliphaunt pounded its trunk on a stone house nearby. Súliën jumped with fright and horror as she saw a wall of her humble home cave in and crumble into pieces. The baby wailed. Desperate to calm the baby, Súliën reached around her neck and pulled off her necklace, dangling it within the baby’s grasp. The baby quickly took hold of it, marvelling as she always had at the shining diamond center, the pure mithril wrought in the twisting shape of a heart around the jewel, and the crystal-set arrow piercing through it. The engraven insignia on the back filled the baby’s eyes with an ever-growing wonder. Carefully, Súliën took the necklace from her little hands, gently placed it around her daughter’s neck, and kissed the necklace. It was then that Súliën realized that she must run and hide – again – in order to save herself and her daughter from the other townspeople’s horrid fate. It was the only way.

Slowly rising from her shelter, Súliën lifted the baby, hiding her in the folds of her sky-blue gown. Her dark brown hair flew frantically in the wind as she continued to search in the herb gardens for a something to hide her daughter in. Turning around, she stopped suddenly, nearly running into her fleeing house-maid. "Laurelina! Why are you still here? The city is being laid to waste!"

Laurelina, her golden locks messily sticking to her face, looked at her mistress plainly. "Begging your pardon, miss, but I should ask you the same question." The baby, wriggling beside her mother, screamed. "And the little one! She is still here! The woods are not completely overrun. You both must take your chances there!" declared Laurelina.

Súliën sighed. "Even if I did head that way, my baby would make too much noise, and if they heard…that would be a death sentence for the both of us."

"Then let’s try altogether! We’ll put her into a basket and we’ll carry it into the woods – and get away. But where will we go? Surely not…Riv-"

"No," interrupted Súliën. "I have no intention of going back. I vowed to him I wouldn’t – I can’t show my face there." For a second she paused in thought and memory. "Yes, let’s hide her and run."

Laurelina took Súliën’s quivering hand, and together they searched in the rubble for a basket. The sharp eyes of Laurelina quickly scanned through the mess. Soon she let go of Súliën’s hand. "Look! Over there!" Running to the spot, she hastily dug under a boulder and pulled at a brown basket handle. Grunting with the effort, she freed it and ran back to the struggling Súliën.

Súliën used her free hand to pry off the cover.

"Bread?" said Laurelina.

"It will be of good use later. Come, my love," Súliën carefully placed her baby amidst the soft bread, half-covering her tiny body in it.

Laurelina looked toward the trees. "There is still time." Taking one handle of the basket and Súliën the other, they ran as fast as they could, into the burning forest. The branches overhead made a glowing canopy above them, while hot embers fell like rain around them. They heard evil laughter following behind them. Still, they ran onwards, steadily westward toward the river Anduin.

All of a sudden, a loud splitting sound filled the air. A flaming branch came crashing down widthwise on top of Súliën, trapping her underneath. She cried out in pain and dropped her end of the basket. Laurelina put down the basket and ran to Súliën.

The fire illuminated Súliën’s pained face, tears glowing on her cheeks. "Run, Laurelina," she gasped. "While you still have time…take her away. Please."

Laurelina, not used to this kind of order, stumbled backwards and doubtfully picked up the basket. She walked slowly back to Súliën. "I can’t just leave you here, miss," she said, choking back tears.

"Laurelina, you have been my help and my friend through thick and thin. Now do me one last favor and get out of this place. It’s no longer home."

"I can’t…"

Súliën, using all her strength, dragged her bloody arm out from under the tree and pushed Laurelina away. "GO!" she screamed.

Tears streamed down Laurelina’s face. "Goodbye, miss." She lifted off the basket cover and brought the basket to Súliën, and for the last time, Súliën kissed her child. Her feeble hand fell on the necklace around her daughter’s neck.

"Take care of her," Súliën said weakly, and her green eyes slowly closed shut.

Laurelina, saddened and doubtful, carried the delicate bread basket under her arms and made off, deeper into the forest. Every step she took was hidden in black smoke.

Presently, out of the haze, she saw a bent figure running quickly toward her. Stepping away from the runner’s path, Laurelina hid behind a tree. The baby began to cry again. No, not now, Laurelina thought. Wait a minute. Where did he go? The runner was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, a twig snapped nearby. Laurelina turned around. A black-and-red painted face grinned cruelly. "I’ll take that!" he snarled, and snatched the basket from under Laurelina’s quivering arm.

"No! Give it back!" she shrieked, and grabbed a handle of the basket. The man slapped her across the face, then turned and ran. Laurelina quickly recovered, although her face was stinging, and ran after him. "Sülwen! Sülwen! You can’t take her!"

"We are." Laurelina turned around, face-to-face with another raider. With one hard swing of his hand, he knocked Laurelina to the ground, senseless.

The two raiders carried the basket to the oliphaunts and loaded it on. "Where’s all the loot going?" one asked.

With a fell smile, his partner climbed onto the caravan and pulled him up. "To the Serpent Lord," the raider cackled, and blowing his horn, they rode off into the forest, toward the south.


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