Part 64 – Against Time
Estonethial was much like a typical elf. Slender, just as tall as Theomin, the typical ears, and pale soft clean skin. Her glimmering hair, black as night, stretched down to her shoulders. She sported a bow and quiver and two swords to her sides, much like a typical elf huntress. But that was where the similarities ended. Her cloth was not like the rich fabrics warn by the elves but much like mortal men would have, much poorer quality with colors much more dull than the vibrant colors the elves have warn. It seemed she carried herself not as an elf would, but more of a woman of the race of men.
She jumped down off the tall mossy glade rock, landing softly with ease and walked to Theomin as she looked at him with no expression. Unlike the walk of elves, how they seem to glide about the ground, she walked up to him with a more demure posture. She smiled at Theomin and Theomin was entranced. “Mae Govannen, traveler,” she said. Though she seemed more human than elf, her voice was soft, much as an elf’s, almost singing as she continued, “Your friend in Ost Forod. His wound cannot be healed by any craft or potion mortal men possess. I can aid him but in return you must aid me.”
“I will do anything, kind elf,” Theomin said, breaking from his transfixed state as he snapped back to why he was truly in the glade.
“Of the aid you shall render, I cannot now tell. The task that must be done first will not be an easy one. We need the weed athelas, a mortar and pastel, the cleanest waters of the lake Nenuial, and a flak of what mortal men call alcohol. The alcohol must be strong; the strongest you can find, distilled down to almost pure alcohol.”
“Where can I find such items?”
“Pure water can be found in the rivers that feed into the lake. At the Even-rills, such waters flow from the frozen lands of Forochel. The alcohol may be found in Rantost. A group of tomb robbers had recently been removed from there. Perhaps, in their states of drunken lunacy, they had some alcohol amongst their items. Weed may be easy to find and I believe Lithuifin came upon some not far from here. He can find that item himself but the water and the alcohol you and I can procure with little effort.”
“You and I?” Theomin asked.
“Yes, man. Have you a problem with that?” she asked.
“I have not an issue,” he said, the feeling of slight hostility coming through her speech. It almost felt like he was speaking with Eleswith.
“Then let us go. Your friend is slipping into the shadow world. We have not much time.”
Using a small boat, the two rowed across the small river that fed into the lake and quickly disembarked and headed up the path up the slope, following the north shore of the lake. Through the afternoon they jogged with a quick pace up the slope, tiring out Theomin fast yet Estonethiel looked as though she had not been winded in the least. Sweat poured through his forehead as the heat of the sun and the uphill running tired him out so quick that he had to take a breather half way up the slope.
“Do not hinder our pace, man of the north. Your friend has little time,” Estonethiel said as she looked back to Theomin.
Theomin, out of breath, looked up at her, “Give…me a…moment. I need to pause here…for a time.” He placed his hands on his knees and tried to slow his breathing, breathing in deeply and out slowly.
“Your friend is slipping away from this world. If the dark poison continues to course through his veins for too long, it would be too late. After a time, there are only two I know of who can aid him. One, Elrond Half-Elvin in Imladres. The other is the Lady Galadrial who resides in the land of Lorien. Both are too far afield to reach before he completely turns. We must continue through the pain of exhaustion to reach the clean waters of the Even-rills.”
Theomin knew she was right. His body was still in pain from the fighting the day before and still in pain from the attack from the mysterious creature. But no matter what, he knew he had to continue on, through the pain. He ran up further just behind the elf, pushing himself harder until she too stopped. They were close to the falls just before the river poured into the lake.
“Here is where we are to extract the waters.” She knelt down as she removed a vial from a small bag that sat on her side. She dipped it into the clean river ever so gently. “While I do this, watch for a foul men called the Gauradan.”
Theomin removed his sword, “What are these Guaradan?”
“They are a particularly bad race of men,” she said. “They seemed as though they were once great men but have since devolved into a race of evil creatures, idolizing nature. Idolizing nature is an honorable duty, but these men corrupt it. They bend its beauty toward whatever way suits their black hearts.” She removed the vial from the river and held it up. She shook the vial and peered into the beauty of the clean, sparkling water. “I have what I came for. We must be on our way.”
She placed the vial into her small bag and ran down the slope. The run down was much simpler than running up. They were both faster and less stressed. Though it was easier, the muscles on Theomin’s leg started to ache as he was using the same muscles the mysterious animal tore into the night before. The pain was becoming too agonizing but he needed to continue on through the pain, just as Estonethial told him not long ago.
After a short time, they reached the boat. They paddled it toward the Eavespires. There, the other elves gave her the mortar and pastel and a batch of the weed tied with a thin rope by the stem. She then quickly ran toward the boat as did Theomin. “Come, we have not much time.”
They quickly paddled toward the island of tomb robbers called Rantost. After a while of rowing, they noticed it was not abandoned. As they closed in, tomb robbers started to yell to the others, “A boat! Ready yourselves.” It was barely heard as it was so far away. But not sooner than he said that did Estonethiel draw her bow and shot one hiding behind a bush. She let loose another two arrows faster than a blink of an eye, felling two by a fireside, clearing the shore for them.
As they reached the shore, she sprang off the boat and told Theomin, “Search for a bottle of alcohol. It should not be difficult as I can smell it on them. But hurry. My feeling says that there are more coming who are alerted to our presence.”
Theomin searched as quickly as he could through the belongings of the tomb robbers. There was not much but a few trinkets here and there. “I cannot find any.” Theomin said.
“Too late, they are here,” she said as she shot two tomb robbers advancing on them. Theomin removed his sword and sliced through one who advanced very quickly on him before he saw a red cloaked being coming from afar.
Estonethiel turned to see the being coming up to them. It removed a fell sword from its cloak and let out a screech that made Theomin’s heart sink. The elf ran and kicked one of the ruined walls, letting some of the loose blocks fall between the red cloaked being and them. Two more men of Rantost advanced on Theomin from the other side as he sliced through one of them and Estonethiel shot an arrow through another’s head. “There!” she said. “Grab the gourd!”
Theomin grabbed the gourd, which felt half full. He opened it up and sniffed the contents of it. The putrid smell of alcohol hit Theomin’s nostril as he winced with displeasure. “It is alcohol.”
“Jump onto the boat,” she said to Theomin as she ran and gracefully jumped onto the boat. Theomin followed and pushed the boat away from the shore of the lake. As they left, the horrible creature screamed again, seemingly in anger that the two got away.
Half surprised and half exhausted, Theomin said happily, “We made it!”
“Do not count on this as a victory just yet. You need to paddle us to the other shore while I prepare the draught.” Theomin started to paddle toward the other end of the lake while she worked on making the draught for Taidir. She pulled out all the ingredients and quickly formed a fire. The fire was so fast, Theomin did not see how she did it but it was a quick flame of which she delicately placed the vial atop. She then prepared the batch of weed, placing it in the mortar and smashed it down into a fine powder. The Even-rills water started to boil and she poured the alcohol from the gourd into the vial of water. Then using beautiful elven language, she spoke in a way that sounded like she sang in a chant over the mashed down weed. She blew on it and raised it up and with one hand she held the mortar and the other hand she waved over it, as if casting some spell on the powder of weed. She continued to chant the words over and over as she poured the powder of the weed into the boiling water and closed the vial. She carefully placed a lid on it and, still chanting, she slowly turned it upside down and then upright again, slowly mixing the contents of the vial until it finally became a very light blue mixture. It looked as if it had a slight glow to it, but it could have been from the lack of sleep and the setting sun’s rays being bent by the liquid in the vile, casting a glow to it.
“Now we have yet to give it to your friend,” she said to him. “I will aid you now in rowing the rest of the way.”
As the sun started to slowly set in the west, they finally reached the other side of the lake. Much to Theomin’s surprise, there were orcs about the edge of the lake. “Estonethiel,” he said, “These are the very same orcs that we met up with and who shot my friend.”
“These orcs are not of Angmar, like I was thinking,” she said, “These are of the south. But that Cargul we met up with on Rantost was of Angmar. Something is happening in these parts that goes ill for the men of the north.”
“What should we do?” asked Theomin.
“We need to cut our way to the town. It is very important we give this to your friend before he becomes much the same as that creature we saw on the island.” They quickly jumped off the boat and sliced through the orcs on the bank of the river. Though they were quick about it, they were also quiet, trying to sneak up to the path that led up the slope of Parth Aduial. With the few orcs that were about the side of the hill, it was not that difficult to slice through them. The two stopped, though, when they heard growling not far from them. Estonethiel drew her bow quickly and shot right into a bush. The growling stopped as they heard a thud.
“What was it?” Theomin asked.
“I believe it was much the same creature that attacked you. The creature was a shadow warg. Such creatures were driven off months ago. They are back and I fear if we found this one so easily and the one that attacked you last night, their numbers are starting to grow.”
“How do you know it was not the same one?” Theomin asked as they started back toward the town.
“The one that attacked you was only a young one. I could see that by the size of the wound on your leg. This warg I just killed was a fully formed adult shadow warg. If it sliced into you, you would not have just bled out, you would have died within an hour if it did not already maul you to death.”
They finally reached the outskirts of the town. Yelling could be heard from inside when the two finally reached the gate. It was not only yelling from Taidir, but also arguments from the men of Ost Forod. “Let us pass,” Theomin said to the guard. Without argument, he let Theomin and Estonethiel through.
They both ran down the path and up the stairs to his friend who was yelling horribly. Estonetiel quickly removed the drought from her bag but as they reached Taidir, he was not alone. One of the men who eyed Theomin held Taidir by the hair. The healer yelled to the man, “Stop! He can be helped!”
“Back!” the man said to the healer. “Ted!” he yelled to one of his companions. “Deal with her!” Without a beat, he slapped her on the cheek and she fell down to the ground.
“Wait! We can help!” Theomin yelled to the man holding Taidir. “Let us help!”
The man holding Taidir by the hair and yanked his head back. “You will not help. Step away!”
Estonethiel pulled her bow and an arrow fast within the blink of an eye, “Wait!” Theomin told Estonethiel, holding out a hand to hault her, “Where is the Arbiter?” Theomin asked. “He can handle this.”
“He is over there,” the healer sadly said, holding her cheek in pain from the slap.
Theomin looked over to see a man slumped down with his back against the wall. He had passed out with a gash across his head. It looked as though blood had been pouring on his head for a while. “What happened?”
“He tried to stop them,” the healer said, “but he threw a rock at his head,” she said as she pointed at Ted, the man who struck her.
“We will not be stopped,” the man holding Taidir said. “We are taking this matter into our own hands. He will not endanger us any longer! We heard you before you departed. A group of orcs are out there. He will continue to yell and he will get us all killed. I am stopping him for good.”
“We are here to help. My elf friend can aid him,” Theomin tried to assure the man. “Just put down your weapon and let her help him.”
“I can see how she’s helping,” he said, looking at the elf with distain, “she will allow this ranger to cry out while the rest of us sit by and do nothing. That will NOT happen. I will save us all. Not you and certainly not the elf!”
“Trust me. If you have no trust in the elf, trust me. I am not an enemy and I have just as much stake in the orc threat as you do. Those orcs are far from here. The only fear we have here is the fear you are putting on my friend and the rest of this town.” He approached the man and held out his hand trying to calm him down, “Now calm yourself down and lower your weapon.”
The man holding Taidir looked at Theomin for only a few seconds but which felt like hours. The grip on his sword loosened just a little bit when he finally said, “No,” and sliced the throat of Taidir. The sound of Taidir yelling turned to the sound of gurgling as Taidir had lost all of his ability to breathe in, drowning in his own blood and becoming weak in the knees until he finally started to collapse on the floor, holding onto his neck. Blood squirted out from between his fingers as he clenched his neck.
“No!” was all Theomin could hear from himself as he sprinted toward Taidir to catch his fall. Theomin caught him and held him in his arms as an elven arrow passed him up and pierced the throat of the man who held Taidir, slicing straight through to the other side. The man, with no effort of any kind, just looked blankly at the elf who shot him and stumbled back, falling on the floor with his back on the wall. As he passed away, he maintained the same look he had when he was shot.
All Theomin could do was hold his friend in his arms as he watched him gasp for air. Taidir stared up at Theomin, still shocked as he tried to breath and struggling but slowly losing the battle. Much like the night before, he struggled and struggled until at last, his body went limp and the last throws of effort shook his body until he finally gave in and succumbed to his wound.