Lauren woke to the scent of fresh grass, the warmth of the darkness rushing away from her. She would have fallen back into blissful unconsciousness, but her hearing returned, and with it, came the gruff voices of the orcs. She then realized that her hands and feet were bound, and that she lay face down on the ground. She tried to move, but the dagger, still embedded in her back, sent a wave of pain and cold through her.
“Lauren?,” came a voice anxiously from her side.
“Hmm?,” she groaned, recognizing Carasel’s voice.
She heard a sigh of relief from Carasel, obviously glad that her companion was alive. Lauren slowly got up onto her knees, trying her best not to shift the blade wedged inside of her. She saw Carasel, Dorminel and Sabrelin seated beside her, also tied. Though they were not unharmed, it appeared as though they didn’t have any serious injuries. Dorminel and Carasel were obviously fatigued, and she could see despair forming in their eyes. When Lauren turned her gaze to Sabrelin, she expected much the same thing from her. She was shocked at the fury in Sabrelin’s eyes. She sat, with hands and feet tied, glaring at the orcs a few paces away, like a caged beast, wanting nothing more than to rip them apart. Before Lauren could ask anything of her companions, she heard the annoyed voice of one of the orcs nearby.
“We will make sport of the men, but you say we cannot touch the women?!” he yelled at one of his band, obviously the leader.
“We bring them back unspoiled, those are my orders, and that is what we will do. If you have a problem with it, I can rid you of it, as well as your head,” growled the larger orc. The smaller one cast a longing glance at the group of women but said nothing more.
Lauren’s mind raced, make sport of the men. What could these monsters have done with the rest of her companions? She did not have to wait long to find out. A roar of laughter rose from the orcs as Thialfir and Elphir were pulled forth, hands tied, whip marks fresh on their backs. The orc leading them fastened both men to a wheel. Thialfir did not flinch, even though the orc cruelly jabbed at the wound on his side. Her heart wrenched as she saw his cold eyes, retaining all of his pride, even at this humiliation. Elphir struggled to free himself of the bonds, but Thialfir did not move, determined not to show any fear to these, these vermin, and accepted whatever torture they had devised for him. One of the larger orcs came forward with whip and knives in hand. Horror coursed through Lauren as she finally realized what they were about to do. She held in the tears threatening to spill from her eyes, and bowed her head as she saw the orc raise one of his knives, preparing to slash at Thialfir as he spun him round on the wooden wheel.
A picture of all the innocent people she had seen slowly killed in the world of shadow flashed through her mind, adding to the fear, helplessness, and pain of her current situation. She found herself doing exactly what she had done back in the shadow world. She gathered her emotions and will inside of her, unable to witness any more terror. She formed it into a blade, long and thin within her, and fashioned it to harm only those of orc blood. Her hold was breaking on her creation as the orc brought down his knife, slicing open Thialfir’s shoulder. She could hold the blade no longer; it was like a slippery fire with a will of its own, wrenching itself from her grasp. Thus she let go, and with a last burst of will, pushed the blade of burning will forward, emptying herself of all emotion. She heard a whoosh as she released it, and felt the blade begin to disintegrated before it touched anything, then strengthen as some new power, unlike anything Lauren had witnessed before, combined with it.
She looked up from the ground only to find all of the orcs dead, as though slain by an invisible force from the sky. She saw the blood slowly trickle from Thialfir’s shoulder, dripping onto the knife of the dead orc. Her eyes then trailed up to his face, noticing his expression turn into one of shock, the shock that no doubt was on all of her companions’ faces. She stayed where she was, motionless, emotionless. She ached, partly from the dagger in her back and partly from having her emotions and part of her will torn so violently from her. Her numb brain couldn’t even register the fact that she had played a part in the massacre of all these orcs. All she could allow herself to do was stare, to notice the world around her. It was not the orcs she permitted herself to see, but the sun, peeping through the large clouds and shining into the large clearing they were in, the drops of dew caught on the grass, the brilliant green of a lone tree in the middle of the clearing.
Though Lauren could not move, neither Sabrelin, Dorminel nor Carasel were in this state. They had already cut their bonds with one of the weapons lying about. Sabrelin was racing towards Elphir and Thialfir, and Dorminel headed towards the forest to find the other three elves, while Carasel cut Lauren’s bonds.
“Lauren? Lauren! ,” Carasel cried, concerned, for Lauren had not moved after she had freed her.
She shook her, at which the glazed look in her eyes disappeared and she appeared to be back to normal.
Lauren woke from her dream-like state, and saw in full the world around her, the twisted bodies of the orcs, and the confused face of Carasel, staring down at her. She stood up and immediately regretted it as the dagger cut into her again, sending a trickle of fresh blood down her back, and a slight chill through her soul. Nevertheless, it didn’t cut her anymore as she walked with Carasel to join the others, being careful not to step on any dead orcs.
“What happened?” asked Sabrelin once Dorminel had returned with Legolas, Elladan and Elrohir.
It was obvious from everyone’s expression that no one knew. Though she knew she had done something, Lauren did not know how, or what had strengthened her attack. In fact, her attempt had been quite feeble. It would have come apart before it even reached the orcs had it not been for that foreign power.
” Perhaps this was done by some will of the Valar. Whatever has happened, we must move on, we cannot be far from Lorien,” Elladan said, breaking the silence.
“We cannot just leave these bodies,” argued Thialfir.
” I do not like this place, the wind carries a foul stench. I wish to arrive in Lorien as soon as possible, there is much here that Lady Galadriel and my father should hear of immediately.”
“But what of the earth? These carrion are poison to this wood,” Thialfir pointed out.
“And some of us aren’t in any shape to travel,” added Legolas, with a glance at Thialfir, Elphir, and Lauren.
Elladan sighed and shook his head. “Very well, you are correct, but I do not like it. We aren’t safe here. We stay for one night, then we move on.”
With that everyone set about the task of gathering the bodies in a pile for burning. Lauren could already smell the decaying flesh of the orc she was carrying, and tried with all her might not to wretch and drop the body. After their first orc, Elrohir directed the more seriously injured aside, not letting them work anymore until they had been treated. He pulled Lauren aside and put her in charge of tending to the injured, to which Lauren gratefully complied.
Thialfir came over to Lauren, seeing the change in her. “Are you alright?” he asked. Though he had said nothing he had felt the wave of power from her, and had an idea of what had happened. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak, fearing that she would break down from the turmoil inside her. He sat down near a tree while she took out the bandages to tend to his wounds.
Before she began, she knew she’d have no need for them. She ran her hands along the whip marks on his back, a faint smile spreading across her grim features as they disappeared. She felt her skin slice open as the wounds transferred onto her. Now that she had time to think, horrible guilt welled up inside of her. The orcs had attacked them because of her. They must have been the servants of that evil in the shadow world. It had spoken as though she was something valuable that it needed. Her companions meant nothing to it; they could have easily been killed because of her.
Pushing down her guilt, she moved on to the wound in his side, hearing him take in a sharp breathe as she touched it, willing it to close up with new skin, and again feeling the pain as it appeared on her side. Lastly, she touched his shoulder, visualizing the blood stopping and the wound closing, and then feeling her own blood burst from her shoulder and soak her black shirt.
“All done,” she whispered.
Thialfir inspected his shoulder and side, puzzled that the wounds had disappeared.
“How did you do that?” he asked.
“Long story,” she replied and moved over to where Elphir sat, doing much the same thing she had to Thialfir. Once she was done, she still felt the guilt burning away at her, and made sure that she lightly touched each of her companions, ensuring that she took their wounds onto herself.
After she had seen to everyone’s injuries, Lauren excused herself for she still needed to tend to the dagger wedged in her back. She walked into the wood, thankful for its silence. She soon came upon a large stream and stopped to wash her face. She noticed that her new wounds had not closed up as quickly as the ones before, back in Rivendell, but she didn’t care. She reached for the hilt of the dagger, and with one swift motion pulled it free, setting anew the stream of blood. Her soul immediately began to freeze and add to the pain of her body. She was covered in gashes, from which she had saved her companions, but there were too many for her to begin to heal, even without the cursed cold freezing the blood in her veins. She could stand no more, and before she was pulled into the world of shadow, she fell unconscious.
Night had fallen, and still Lauren had not returned. Elphir had grown afraid for her and had started after her. Her trail was easy to follow, and with his anxiety held at bay, he began to marvel at the beauty of this forest. The moonlight filled it, turning every leaf a brilliant shade of silver. He soon came upon the stream, and watched the half lit water rush past. He was filled with peace and his mind became drowsy, but all this was replaced by fear in a heartbeat as he came upon Lauren, sprawled by the riverbank, bloodstained and unconscious. His heart raced as he checked her pulse, relief sweeping through him as he felt the beat, slow but strong and unwavering beneath his fingers. He tried to rouse her, but had no success. As gently as he possibly could, he put his arms about her light frame, and lifted her up, paying close attention to position her head at a comfortable angle. Thus he walked back as fast as he dared, making good time, but ensuring that he did not drop her.
Back at the clearing, Thialfir had assumed that Lauren had long since returned. He had not seen her since she had healed him; he had been too preoccupied with stacking the last of the orc bodies, a task that had taken all through the day and now into the night. Though she was far from his sight, she was not far from his mind. He thought back to the moment when she had healed his wounds, her touch sending a wave of comfortable warmth through him, soothing his aching muscles and closing his wounds. She was no ordinary human. He remembered back to when he and Legolas had first found her, dressed in such unusual garb, covered with burns and sick with fever. The memory of their first conversation also came to him, forcing a smile to his grim face. She had met him word for word, playing along with him as no one had before. She had brought a breath of fresh air to his world. Then came the memory of their meeting in the garden, how she had needed him, feeling the presence of some evil reaching for her. He remembered the way she had felt in his arms, so vulnerable, so frightened, yet with enough strength to fight back. Then she had stepped back, fearing that she had offended him, and regretting that she had shown such emotion. With the last of these memories fading, he lit the final stack of bodies and walked back to the others.
As soon as he arrived, he noticed that neither Elphir nor Lauren were among his companions.
“Where are the humans?” he asked Carasel.
“Lauren had not returned and Elphir went to look for her,” she answered, slightly concerned.
Upon hearing this news, Thialfir started for the trees to head after the two humans, but there was no need. Elphir appeared from the trees, carrying a limp and unconscious Lauren.