Part 91 – Lovers Loss
The darkness of night turned to pale early morning light in the valley of the worms. Soft light from the east shone on the high craggy rocky cliffs of the pass in the Ram Duath. It penetrated the bleak fog of the rift as the cold damp mist of the valley settled on the cliffs and rocks strewn about the valley.
Bleak as the rift in the Ram Duath was, the ground of the valley was much more bleak than that. Hundreds of dead cold-worms littered the rocky floor of the rift; killed off by Theomin, Estonethiel, Magla and Sergee. Along with the worms, the bodies of drakes also littered the ground here and there. By far not as many as the worms themselves, but there were many.
Eotheron ran up the ways of the valley, following the path of dead cold-worms that was layed before him as a guide to the trail the company had taken. Through the morning, not a single cold-worm came from any path in any way. It was as if they had all been wiped out by Theomin and his group. And yet, eggs still layed in their nests throughout the edges of the valley, untouched by the group.
Eotheron looked at the eggs with a sudden pondering eye. Not yet have they hatched from their shells and not yet have they wrecked havoc on the men and women of the North Downs. But so too could they come to the lands of the north and kill and eat the people and animals of the north at will. Eotheron saw the damage they did to men and women alike. Dead souls of men and elves were scattered here and there around the vale of the worm dens. Dangerous worms they were; deadly they could be. With no more thought on the subject, of course he would end the lives of the unhatched worms. They were too dangerous to all in Eriador.
So as he continued on his search for Helesdir and Eleswith, he stomped on eggs left without guard from any cold-worms. Some still were far from hatching, mainly liquid they were along with a large dark-yellow yolk that sat within the egg. But along with some of those eggs, there were still others that held worms just about ready to hatch. With an uncaring boot he stomped on the heads of those worms that had the most ability to grow and do harm. With the heel of his boot, he ended any threat of worms or drakes and he researved no remorse for the lives of baby worms he ended.
Hundreds there must have been throughout the rest of the morning. His boots and lower pant legs seemed smeared with the insides of the destroyed eggs. Egg after egg smashed and smashed again, almost to the point of enjoyment. In his mind, he knew with each dead egg he was helping men, women, elves, and dwarves alike in Eriador. A savior he felt he was to them just by destroying the eggs left behind by the worms. Some bore thicker ooze that Eotheron woud just scrape off his boot on to a nearby rock.
He did this until he came to a point where he saw a fork in the road that led down a slight decline down into a lower part of the valley. There were dead worms down that path but far fewer than on the main path he was on. He looked ahead on the path and saw far more dead worms then back down to the lower part of the valley. He felt his path had to continue that way. So that way he went.
He descended down the ramp as the cold damp air clung more thickly to his clothes. The stench of the air also grew much more potent too in the lower parts of the valley. Every now and again there was a dead cold-worm but not in numbers to the extend as the paths above had. He had hoped his quarry had gone the way he was following.
The sounds of the surrounding valley were stranger than those above. More creeking and sounds of the wasts of ditritus hung all around the valley. The walls were high, sharp, and more ominous. Here and there sat small puddles of liquid. Small pools of stuff Eotheron did not want to investigate. The closer he got to those pools, the smellier the surroundings got. Much less eggs sat in the wastes of that part of the valley. Almost as if the cold-worms themselves did not want to inhabit those parts.
Eotheron was not sure he took the right path. It was not until he found a hat. It was a hat that he remembered one of Theomin’s companion’s wearing. He had to be on the right path. All about the hat stains of blood dotted the rocky floor. He continued along the path and as he did so he removed his swords, ready for any attack.
Smart it was to remove his swords as not moments after, a large company of cold-worms descended upon Eotheron. “Is that all?” he jokingly said before he confidently sliced through each one, ending the lives of them so fast it took only moments. More descend upon him and he ended them just as fast. He shook his head with disappointment as he wished there was more of a challenge.
He looked to see where they were coming from and it seemed as though it was from a cove close to a bend in the road. He ran over to it as more cold-worms marched against him. He ended them and then continued on into the cove. A stack of cold-worms seemed to be at the end of the cove, which as he approached, it seemed more like a small cave. There was a strange sound that came from the end of the cave. Eotheron went deeper into the cave and ascended the small hill of worms to find a poor wimpering person in a dark leather coat panting and cowering in fear.
Eotheron gave a slight sound of throat clearing. The sound must have startled the man as he stood up quickly with his swords ready. Upon seeing it was not a cold-worm the dropped his swords and then dropped to his knees. Eotheron removed his cowl and tucked it into his belt, “I am sorry to bother you,” Eotheron said in the most respectful way, “but are you one of the travelers who came with Theomin’s group?”
The man looked at Eotheron. His eyes were dry as if he had been full of tears for the longest time. Bags hung under his eyes because of no sleep and his body looked limp. He only nodded and whispered in a low tone, “Yes.” He wimpered again but tried to collect himself. “I came looking for the one I lost but I found not but death here. Death all around here. Bones of dead men, severed parts of those dead men scattered throughout this forsaken place. What good is it to come here. She is gone. My Eleswith is gone.” He looked at Eotheron and gathered himself again, “I am Helesdir of the Lone Lands.”
Eotheron gave a slight smile, thinking the man would not believe where he came from. He only said, “I am Eotheron and I was sent to find you. Please take my hand and I will lead you out of this terrible place.”
Helesdir gave a long look at Eotheron. He had the look of longing in his eyes. A sudden fear seemed to strike his heart. “I am looking for Eleswith. I am looking for her. I cannot leave here until l…I find her.”
“Your search is fruitless, my friend. You find nothing but death here because that is all there is. Death. And upon your unwillingness to return with me, that is all you will have. Death,” Eotheron said plainly as if to convay the truth to Helesdir. “Come with me and you will live.”
Helesdir stayed for a few moments. “I cannot.” He paused, “I cannot leave.”
“Okay,” Eotheron said. “Then this was a waste of my time and I will need to leave you here in the grave of your own choosing.” He started to leave but stopped and turned, “Oh, and I found your hat.” He flung it to Helesdir as it landed on the ground and rolled to Helesdir’s feet. Eotheron turned and began to leave the cave with Helesdir in it.
Helesdir watched as his only savior began to leave. His heart raced with the fear of being left behind and that fear pushed him over his loss and made him yell out, “Wait!” he yelled as Eotheron turned. He picked up the hat from the ground and finally said, “I will come with you.” Helesdir placed the hat on his head and closed his eyes and breathed in a sigh of disappointment in himself. The two, then, left the cave as more cold-worms fell upon them. “Oh no,” Helesdir cried in defeat. With little effort, Eotheron sliced through the onslaught of worms like they were nothing more than a stick of butter left out on a hot day. It seemed just as easy for him to end the lives of the worms as it was to breath.
As Eotheron sliced through the last one, he looked at Helesdir. Helesdir looked at Eotheron with queer eyes but all he said was, “Are you coming?”
Helesdir looked with his jaw agape with absolute awe at the display Eotheron showed Helesdir of the might he possessed. He looked up at Eotheron, “Who are you?”
Eotheron just gave a slight chuckle, “I am Eotheron. And I am here to rescue you.”
So they ran out as quickly as Helesdir’s legs could allow them to. His left pant leg was stained with blood as he ran as quickly as he could to catch up to Eotheron. “I can’t,” he panted, “I cannot keep up.” Blood dripped onto the valley floor. “I cannot keep up with you. You’re too quick.”
“Then we will slow our pace. I know you are injured and that is your blood I saw on the ground a while back. We must keep our wits about us as there may still be some worms or even a drake or two about this land.”
They continued on and turned their path toward a slight incline. Not far from the incline was a pool. On the far side of the pool was a large black scaley mass laying there and still. It did not move and seemed as though it was dead.
“That is it,” Helesdir said. “That’s the dragon. The one Theomin spoke to.”
Eotheron looked at it. “How did it die?”
“I know not,” Helesdir admitted. “At a point of battling the cold-worms and looking for…” he paused to catch a sudden feeling of sadness before quenching it and continued on, “looking for Eleswith, I heard a large crash and a loud thud. I had wondered what that was as I felt the earth shake with it. I wondered if the whole valley came crashing down. It was not the whole valley but only one body. It was the body of the dragon. Naglangon was his name. And it seems now that he is dead. What ended his life and why he was killed is a mystery to me. If I had not lost such a great friend, I would feel so much more joy and revel at his death.” He looked down as tears dripped from his eyes. “Alas there is no feeling of joy. I have only this feeling. The feeling of sorrow for my fallen Eleswith.”
“I too had that same feeling. I watched my friend fall to an orc arrow. As that arrow pierced my friend, my heart was purged from my breast and I felt not like I could breath. He was my one true friend back from where I was from and to watch him fall like that…” he paused, “I had not the reason to continue on.”
“What gave you the ability to go on?” Helesdir asked, searching for hope.
“Even though I slew the wretch who shot the arrow into my friend, I felt not the feeling of satisfaction. I could not have that feeling because in the end I knew I had lost my one good friend.” He shook his head, “I guess it never really leaves you. It becomes apart of who you are. You do not leave it, that feeling you have when you lose someone close to you. You just need to find a way to live with it as apart of you.”
“How do you live with it?” Helesdir searched for an answer.
“I know not. I know not how to live with it. Would that not be just a simple answer? Just to live and forget it. I wish I knew. But with life still happening around you, life still goes on around you and the thought of that person lingers in your mind. The land and all of its people may have forgotten about them, but you have not. In time you may think of that person less but they are always with you. They may haunt your dreams now and again and you may feel the loss just as great all over again. But the memory of that person will live on though you. Only a disservous would you do to that person if you give your life looking for that person. Live for her like I live for my friend. Live for her like she would live for you. Come, let us leave this place.”
Helesdir gave a few gasps of sorrow when he finally said, “Okay.”
The two ascended the hill which Eotheron had gone down earlier that day. The two traveled through the valley of dead worms. It was so quiet and still. A queer feel to the valley felt as if the spirits of all the fallen heroes who entered the valley and died there were watching them leave. They skirted their way around all the surrounding dead cold-worms as Eotheron said as they quickly made their way out, “Can you feel that? I feel a presence but not that of an ominous one.”
“I can feel it too,” Helesdir said. “I feel warmth. For once in this place I feel calm. At peace. Can it be that this is the feeling I was hoping for? Can it be the peace I had hoped? The peace you told me about?”
Eotheron stopped and looked at Helesdir. “I do,” he said with a smile. “I really do.”
The two continued around the bends of the dead worms and drakes and finally reached the floor of the valley. “This is it. We are close to the threashold of the valley.”
Helesdir looked back at the valley and all of its steep cliffs surrounding the valley. “I suppose this is it. I suppose this is the last I will lay eyes on this place. I am glad to leave it. As terrible as this place is, though, it is where my heart will forever stay. I will miss you, Eleswith,” he said as he and Eotheron finally departed the valley of the worms.