Part 96 – Daughter of Dale
All around were very tall cliffs all about the deep valley of the worms. Above the tall cliffs, the sky was just as gloomy and gray as before. The smells of the valley were a putrid mix of rotten eggs and the smells of waste water. The liquid all around was of a thick mixture of odd smells and clumps of floating debris; some wood some were other floaters drifting along the surface of the small pond. Soon, blackness closed in around as the hit made her pass out.
Odd sounds filled the sky as an animal began to fly up into the air. It flew way up and fell but tried to fly up again. Soon, another sound came from much closer. A cold-worm crept up and snarled as it salivated. It began to charge but as soon as it was only a foot away it was distracted by the large falling animal from above. It continued to plunge closer and closer and soon the thing fell right onto the cold-worm and slid across the odd pond, forcing some of the liquid over Eleswith’s face as she covered her ears, nose and mouth. A sudden pain in her legs forced Eleswith to scream as the large black beast came to rest on top of her legs, pinning her down. And there she stayed, with the cold-worm’s dead corpse just next to her and the large black drake’s body trapping her beneath. Very soon, it did not hurt much but it was next to impossible to move.
Eleswith looked at the dead cold-worm next to her. The eyes had not shut, nor could they. It had no eye lids. “Well, it looks like you’re here with me,” she said to the dead cold-worm as she slightly joked about the whole predicament she was in, trying to keep in a positive mood. She looked cloer at the cold-worm’s tongue. It looked as though its tongue was long enough to moisten its eyes my slapping its tongue up onto its eyes for moisture. Upon closer examination of the cold-worm, one of the very sharp fangs of the mouth had almost been snapped in half. She reached the sharp fang and grabbed hold of it. She tried pulling it off but had no luck. It was too tough to remove. She then layed down to her back. Her head hurt viciously and she felt a little light headed. Soon, without thinking of closing her eyes, she did so an passed out.
She woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. It was dark all around but something woke her up. It was small pattering of feet came around and passed not too far from where she was. “Cold-worms?” she thought as the pattering subsided. She looked up at the sky. Not one star appeared in the valley she was in. They were vailed by the putrid air all around the valley.
With all her might, she tried to pull herself out of the body of the drake pinning her down. She pushed but found it difficult and painful to try and move herself. The drake’s body was cold as well as the body of the cold-worm. It bothered Eleswith as it was not a comfort from the cold, moist air. If anything, the cold bodies of the worm and drake made the freezing of the bighting air worse.
She looked at her surroundings. Nothing was around her but the dead drake, the dead cold-worm and one of her swords laying just out of hand’s reach of her. She tried to pull herself further to reach the sword and she was only able to touch the hilt of the sword with the very tip of her finger. She tried again and again, both with the same result.
Her head hurt and she soon found herself feeling light headed again. She tried to stay awake as long as she could to try and find something to pry the drake’s body off of her. She reached for the broken fang of the dead cold-worm and tried to break it off again. But much like before, it was almost impossible to break off. If anything, she felt even weaker and found it even more difficult to break off. So she layed there and passed out yet again.
Talking in the distance woke Eleswith yet again. It was muffled but sounded like two men talking. “In time they may have forgotten about you but they are always with you,” the voice said. She did not recognize the voice but she cared not.
The voices continued when whe breathed in all the air she could. She tried to scream out as loud as she could to no avail. Her voice was waisted by the massive creature on top of her. She could hardly make a sound. Two, three, four times she tried to yell out to the two talking but each time only air came whisping out of her mouth. She became more desperate each time she tried and tears began welling up in her eyes. “Help! Help! Ahh!,” she tried and cried but only air came through. She attempted to push the body off of her again but it did not budge. “Help!” she tried again and then listened.
“Come, let us leave this place,” the voice said.
“Okay,” the other voice said. It was Helesdir. Helesdir was there!
The voices began trailing off, “Help!” she tried, “Help!” she tried again and soon, she heard nothing but the sounds of the air whafting through the valley. She began to cry as her hopeful desperation turned to failing and crushing defeat. She tried desperately to move out but each attempt to move proved more painful than the last. She rested and tried to yell out again, and again it proved fruitless. At that point, she finally had the feeling she was going to die there. She stopped pushing on body of the drake and her muscles loostened. She placed her hands above her face as she sobbed ever so softly. Her voice could not scream through, even though she tried and tried so desperately. Eventually she stopped her sobbing. She looked up at the sky and just said softly but loud enough for herself to hear, “Take me.” She closed her eyes and layed silent and still.
“Eleswith?” she heard. It was a man’s voice that was very familiar but could not remember who it was. It was dark and the echo was as if she was in a tunnel. “Where have you gone?” It was a dark room she was in and before here was a door that had a bright light filtering in through the cracks from behind it. She walked toward the door and opened it. The room before her was very familiar, as if her heart was left there long ago. A window was placed on a wall as she looked out from it. Beyond some small old looking houses was a tall snow-covered mountain. The room was very familiar but she could not place where she had seen it.
At the first sight of the man walking into the house, he knew exactly where she was. She was home. It was the last day she was there before she ran away from Dale. That morning her brothers were playing in the street and her mother had made a batch of bread from the wheat yield from the week before. Her father had come back from the fields, dirty and hungry. They sat down to eat as did Eleswith.
“Your brothers are still outside,” Eleswith’s mother said.
“What do you want me to do about it?” Eleswith asked.
“Go call them in. They need to eat,” her mother said.
“You call them in, I’m hungry,” Eleswith lashed back.
“I’ll call them in. I saw them outside while I was returning anyway,” her father said. Eleswith knew he did not want to witness another argument between her and her mother. He stood up and left the house.
“Mind your manners, Eleswith,” her mother said. “You are growing to be a young lady and your attitude will gain you no suiters.”
“I want no suiters, mother,” Eleswith yelled at her mother. “I am going to become a guard or a sentary. I care not for becoming just a maid of the house for some husband I care nothing about.”
“What has gotten into you, Eleswith?” her mother snapped back at her. “Your attitude like this has lasted a year already.”
“I told you of the dream I had of some horrors coming to Dale…” she cried.
“Not that nonsense again,” her mother said.
“But ‘tis true,” she tried.
“There is no worry for us. We have Dale, we have the dwarves and the elves…”
“But that is not enough. I am telling you, something horrible is going to happen…”
“That’s enough!” her mother slammed her palm on the table, the force of which knocked over a cup of water. “Wake up, Eleswith. Move away from your pointless dream and live here where you are needed!” Eleswith as taken back by the sudden aggressiveness from her mother. She had only screamed at her once before and that was so long ago she could not remember what it was about.
Eleswith’s eyes teared up as she stormed out of the room and passed her father and her other brothers as they came in for supper. “Where are you headed?” was all Eleswith could hear as she ran further and further away from her home. She cared not to answer her father as she was too teary to say anything. She finally stopped at the one place she always stayed when she was sad. She sat on the edge of town, staring up at the Lonely Mountain of Erabor and wondered about it. Like many nights before, she thought of the long journey the dwarves and that hobbit made from lands far away to retake the mountain of Erebor again. That was the night she made her decision to leave.
That was the last she would see her family. That night she left and for a moment, she wished she could reach out to touch her mother to tell her how much she loved her and that she was sorry. Sorry for leaving. Sorry for yelling at her and her family. She was a selfish little thing back in Dale. She felt she knew better but clearly did not. She closed her eyes and cried. As she opened them, she saw herself in the Lone Lands.
“Are you ready, Eleswith?” Helesdir asked. He looked at her with a caring face. At the time, she had no idea he had such affection toward her. She did not share the same, though. She was grieving for the man she had killed. “Do you hold your sadness still toward Friedrich?” he asked.
“What do you think?” she snapped at Helesdir.
“Just asking. You seem to be in a better mood,” Helesdir looked over at Magla who was swinging his club, “She’s in a better mood,” he joked.
“Shut up, Helesdir,” she said to him with all bitterness. “You have not a clue what I am going through.”
“Oh, I believe I have an idea,” he said knowingly.
“It’d be better if I just cared not for him and to just forget him. He’s dead and I care not,” Eleswith said.
“That’s quite a plan. I should use that some time,” Helesdir quipped.
“Are we quite ready?” another voice whom Eleswith forgot about. Engled stood there ready to fight as he swung his sword about ready to strike.
Helesdir looked at Eleswith, waiting for her que, “You’re the captain, Eleswith. Wake up.”
“What?” Eleswith asked confused.
“Any time,” Helesdir said.
“Okay then, let us go,” she said angrily. She saw herself leave with Sergee, Magla, and Engled. That was the day Engled was slain by the half-orcs of the Lone Lands. It was also the day she met Theomin up on the hill just west of the orc encampment. She saw Theomin laying on the ground as she came up to him, “Try anything and you’re dead,” she said to Theomin.
He turned but then saw another man. He looked a little frightnened as the whole surroundings of her changed. She was in the middle of Annuminus on the day they retook the city. She saw herself fighting in the battle for Annuminus. That changed scene seemed to intermix with the fighting up on the hill when they ran from the orc infested hill up in the lands of Evendim. She then saw Helesdir as he returned to hand over the Scepter of Annuminus.
“Eleswith?” he said as she thought of killing Teryndir. She saw what she was doing and dropped the sword.
She saw the grounds outside of Fornost and the time they spent in Trestlebridge. She saw the little girl as she looked dead into Eleswith’s eyes as she said, “Wake up,” and then she farwarded to the day outside of Esteldin when she and Helesdir sat watching the sun setting on the western horizon. And it seemed to stop there as she sat next to Helesdir, enjoying his embrace, resting her head on his shoulder.
“I want today to never end,” Eleswith said to Helesdir as she snuggled up to him.
“As do I,” he said as he leaned his head down onto Eleswith’s head. “This just feels right.”
“It does. I had not a clue that you felt this way, Helesdir,” Eleswith said. Her voice was softer than before and a higher pitched. She felt like a happy girl again, no fear or want or war was in her heart. It was only love. Love for Helesdir as she felt his soft arm holding her. She looked at the falling sun while smiling a smile of contentment. “I remember not feeling like this until after I left the Lone Lands.”
Helesdir held her tighter as the cool breeze from the west set in on the Kingsfell. “For me,” he said, “I felt this way before that. When we first met in the Prancing Pony, I could not believe how stunning you were. Not a girl who was flashy like some others and not a girl who was content to serve her life only behind her husband. You were a fighter and a passionate girl. You drew me in with that passion and I felt I have been a slave to you since.”
“A slave?” Eleswith asked half joking and half serious. “I truly doubt slave would be the appropriate word for it.”
“Then what would you call it?” Helesdir asked.
She thought for a moment then said, “I would call it devoted.”
Helesdir smiled with bliss, “That is the perfect word.” He looked into her eyes and Eleswith felt a deep connection to Helesdir. He the said, “Wake up.”
“Wake up?” she asked.
“Wake up,” the little girl from Trestlebridge said to Eleswith.
“Wake up,” she found herself back in the Lone Lands and Helesdir stood there before her.
“Wake up,” her mother told her as she was back in the house in Dale. “WAKE UP!”
Eleswith awoke from her odd slumber. She was back in the valley of the worms. The drake was still on top of her and the other cold-worm was laying dead beside her. She then saw, in the distance, another cold-worm. It was still, not moving even a little bit. She was not sure if it was dead or alive. It just staired at the water only a few yards away from her. Eleswith stayed very still as she kept shallow breaths with only slight movements of her chest. It was difficult to maintain the shallow breathing and soon had to take in a deeper breath. She tried to do so very silently but the sudden movement caught the attention of the cold-worm. With a sudden jerk, it looked over and almost emmediatly charged at Eleswith.
Eleswith tried for her sword but still could not reach it. She then tried to pry off the fang of the nearby dead cold-worm. She yanked and yanked to no avail. The cold-worm descended upon her too fast and soon bit at her arm. Luckly, the chainmail of the tunic she wore prevented the cold worm from bighting down too far into her skin. It only slightly punctured her skin. As it removed its mouth, it ripped the cloth off and tried again at her torso but the same chainmail prevented it from bighting down on her. It ripped off the cloth just as Eleswith yanked off the fang of the dead cold-worm. She then drove the fang into the head of the cold-worm and it let out a squeal as its legs sputtered around for a few moments. She stabbed at it again and again and again until, at last, It slowly lied quietly and still and then soon died.
Eleswith layed back with exhaustion and accomplishment. But she was still caught in the drake’s dead body. It was night time and as she looked up she saw the stars as brightly as she had ever seen. They were no longer vailed but shining brightly with breathtaking clarity. That was when she said aloud to herself, “I have to do this.” She looked around and the tried again to push herself out but again, it did not work. “If not for Helesdir, then for my family in Dale.” She closed her eyes and remembered her last moments with her family, of her brothers, of the Lonely Mountain. “For Dale,” she said. The new strength from her determination to see all of them again envigorated her muscles as she looked around at something to pry herself loose. She tried to reach her sword again but she was only able to touch the tip of the hilt. She then used the fang of the cold-worm to coax the sword toward her. She reached the fang to the other side of the hilt and pulled at it. It moved slightly toward her but that was just enough for her to wrap her fingers around the hilt of her sword and hold on to it. It was exhausting just doing that and she felt her heart race fast. She layed back for a moment or two.
She then slid the sword blade between her legs under the drake’s dead body. Then using the hilt, she pushed up on the sword so that the sword blade was the leverage to slightly raising the body of the drake. It was enough to raise it to allow her legs to finally be free. She pulled them out and freed her lower body from the drake. Then, under the weight of the drake, the sword bent and she let go of the sword. She was finally free from her prison.
Exhausted, she tried to rise up and find her footing. Her legs were in very bad shape. It was difficult to stand up as the pain was too much to bare. She collapsed to her knees but even that hurt. She fell to her back. She knew she could not stand without support. She grabbed her sword, which was already bent. She slid it out from under the drake and then slid it under from the other side. She tried to bend it back straight but did not do so quite as well as she wanted. But it was enough. Though the sword was slightly bent, it had to be enough.
With the sword as her support, she tried again to rise up again. She rose to her elbow, placed the sword down on the ground and lifted herself to her knees. Then once more using the sword as leverage, she pulled herself up to her feet. Finally, she was up and so tried to walk. She took a few steps but her weight was too much for her weak legs to bare. She collapsed and layed there. “What do I do now?” she asked herself. She then looked at the outfit she was wearing. Torn and tatterd it was, filled with holes and broken links of chainmail. Blood protruded from the torn cloth; her blood along with the blood of the cold-worms she slayed while in the pit. She did the only thing that was going to aid her in her trek back out of the valley. She unbuckled her tunic from the front on down and slid open the chainmail of the tunic. The bighting cold was the first thing she felt as she slid the tunic open and then dragged her arms out of it. She then tried to rise up again. That time it was much easier and quicker she rose to her feet. She was able to walk many more steps without the exhaustion of the chainmail tunic she was wearing. “If only I was not exposed like this,” thought Eleswith. She felt very awkward only wearing her undergarments.
She hobbled her way away from the pond that she had been at for the past three days. She looked back at it to, if anything, remember where she had been for the past days she was there. She then took to her sword and hobbled her way toward a slope. She scaled the slope slowly and painfully but carefully. Every step required more determination because of the pain the steps were causing her bones and her muscles. They ached more every step but she had to continue on. She needed to continue on. Her hobbling took her to a familiar sight.
The stone where the company had stayed just before they confronted Nanglangon. It was Nanglangon who had crashed, pinning Eleswith down. “So who killed the drake?” she wondered as she looked back at the dragon’s perch up on the hill. She suddenly had the feeling she stood there too long and before long was continuing down the slope toward the exit. Cold-worm upon cold-worm lied on the ground dead by various ways. Arrows protruded from their heads, heads were smashed, other heads were severed off or run through by a sword. All had been long dead by the time she walked through.
With a couple of stumbles and a few bruises, she finally reached the decline that lead to the part of the valley that lead out. Eleswith used the path of the dead cold-worms to guide her on her way out. She took a few moments to look around and noticed the eggs that had been broken open. Her stomach craved food. “How long have those eggs been there?” she wondered aloud to herself. The eggs looked as though they had been broken for quite some time but her stomach starved. Her head felt light with the need for food or anything to drink. Her fear of being poisoned pushed her from want of the egg and instead she continued on down into the final decline into the first part of the valley that lead into the plains of Eastern Nan Amlug.
With eagerness she pushed herself further and further toward the entrance. Her heart needed to exit the valley but had a sudden feel of something happening. She stopped and looked around. It could not have been that easy. She waited for something to bear down on her like a cold-worm or a drake. Even a warg she was expecting but nothing came. She raised her sword and waited for an impending attack. About a minute or two she waited for the attack. The attack never came. With heartfilled determination she continued on toward the grasses of Eastern Nan Amlug.
“Ahh,” she sighed at the feel of the blades of grass beneath her feet and the smell of the trees that enhabited the forest. The warmth of the sun soothed her skin as it began to rise up over the eastern hills and for a moment she felt that maybe it was all a dream and felt as though perhaps she was still stuck in that mirky pond water pinned down under the drake. She began to worry and looked around thinking that any second she would be pulled back to that reality to where she was almost dying under that drake with not but the company of the dead cold-worm to witness her final breaths. But that never came. The pond of the valley of the worms was in her past and she needed to move on.
With eagerness, she pushed on north from the valley. She passed the tall spires like the teeth of a dragon protruding out of the ground. One by one she passed, easing herself on with each step still hurting but her determination to reach safety pushed her on.
She reached some pond water where large auroch cows were standing near. The water of the pond forced a feeling that Eleswith never felt before in her life. A feeling of absolute need to drink. She pushed herself toward it and fell down to her knees just at the edge of the pond. Her knees were bruised up and hurting but that all went away when she scooped the first drops of fresh water into her needy palms. Quickly, she raised it to her mouth as she began to gulp the fresh tasting water down her throat.
The freshness and coolness of the water envigorated her body and muscles. She felt new life spawning inside of her and her hurts and bruises seemed to fade away. With each gulp of fresh water, the siering pains of the damage that was inflicted upon her faded while new life was born inside of her. With the help of her sword, she lifted herself up off the ground. She took her steps toward the south and then looked up at the hill. Soon, a familiar sight caught her eye. It was Theomin sitting facing the rising sun.
Her heart lifted and a sudden joy shot through her body. Tears formed in her eyes, her breath became rappid and her eyes widened with the sight. She tried to yell to him but her voice was still stifled. He then stood up with a sudden motion. He began to leave the seat he was in and a feeling of dread pushed her to move as fast as she could. She pushed herself and stumbled. She then picked herself up and using her sword she scaled the hill as quickly as her weak body could take her. She scaled that hill with all the might she could handle. When her strength was gone, she pushed herself more and tried again, “Theomin,” she tried but it was still not working. She lept as far as she could, pushed herself further, stumbled but crawled back up and finally, when Theomin was just to pass out of sight, she gathered all the air in her lungs and called out, “Theomin!” she said with a sudden wimper and a cry as she fell to her stomach. The voice she was able to produe was very weak but loud enough for him to hear.
Theomin stopped and turned. He turned to see Eleswith. He saw her as she stumbled on the ground and as he came to her she collapsed. She collapsed because she knew her ordeal with the valley of the worms and the nightmare of that was finally over.