Part 105 – Bittersweet Escape
Chaos engulfed the cave as it seemed all the cave was falling down on the seven surviving members of the company. They rushed through the tunnels up the steps that led out of the ancient elven city. The city that had once stayed quiet and preserved for thousands of years but which was being destroyed. Up the steps and out, the final member of the company made it to the tunnels. Theomin was that last one as he carried Eleswith. He then turned and looked upon the lost elven city as it was destroyed. All of that ancient splendor lost because of his doing. Preserve the lands of Eriador he did but at the cost of destroying all of the wonder and splendor of the underground city. The city where elves once watched the road to the staff. Sadness fell upon his heart as he aided in losing the city and one of the members of his group. And so too did Eleswith look at the place where she took her last gaze at the man she loved and was to then never be seen again. They took one last look at the dying city and then turned.
Through the tunnel where the underground river rushed past fed by the waterfall further up. They rushed up but noticed the waters of the underground river rising. The breaking apart of the cavern blocked the flow of the water, damming it and forcing it to flood the inside of the tunnel they were in.
“Can you stop this flooding?” Sergee asked frantically.
“I cannot see how I can,” Theomin replied. “We must make it out of this cave if we were to not drown.
“Better now than any other time,” Eleswith said mournfully, her eyes glazed over, her muscles weak with pools of tears that grew in her eyes. “Dead I am anyway.”
Theomin continued along the tunnel and followed the rest of the company on their trek up the path that lead to the exit. Up and up they went past the waterfall that fed the river that was currently flooding the cave. They moved as quickly as their weak legs could take them as they struggled up the steep slope toward the entrance.
“Magla,” Theomin called with no energy. “I cannot carry her. She is too much of a weight to carry.”
Magla, who was also grieving for his lost friend, reached out his arms to carry Eleswith. He looked down at her and for once she saw the sorrow that was in his eyes as she shared in that same sorrow. They were friends for many years before even Helesdir met Eleswith. His lower lip quivered as he held in tears of his own. Carrying Eleswith to the door was Magla as Theomin needed his hands free for the door.
As quickly as he could, Theomin finally reached the door. On the door at the very beginning of the tunnel, Theomin placed the frayed portion of the staff on the door and closed his eyes. Muttered some words at the door and at the same time, the staff began to glow a white light as designs of white written runes began to ignite on the doors and a crack began to form in the center from the top to the bottom. Slowly, the doors, which had seemed shut tight, began to reopen back to the moonlit Lone Lands.
The remaining Warriors of Eriador finally passed through the door into the night of Eriador as dust pushed out of the tunnel entrance. They had finally reached the air of day as they collapsed from exhaustion. Sadness overcame them as they thoughts of Helesdir ran through their minds.
Eleswith mourned most of all. She walked to the edge of the cliff of Weathertop and just stared out at the vast expanse of the Lone Lands. It was just at the threshold of morning, still, windless and lifeless. Her face was blank and her body seemed limp, yet she was still standing and staring. In her hands, there was clutched Helesdir’s hat. All that remained of him other than the sad memories of loss. In the distance, there stood the ruins of Ost Guruth, the place she began to feel for Helesdir.
It was long after the loss of Freidrich that Helesdir showed his true cares for Eleswith. Without telling her straight out how he felt, he aided her in her sadness over the loss of Freidrich. Holding her was all he could do to stave off the sadness she showed. But the love was not reciprocated by her. For the longest time, she showed distain for Helesdir and anger for him and all those around her. She gave him not but grief but through it, Helesdir showed not but love. How terribly she treated him and only recently showed her love for him.
She grieved over her folly for not showing her love for Helesdir like she wanted so long ago. So much pain she gave to him for so long that she could not bear how he treated him. She clutched his hat tighter in her arms as it was the last thing that remained of him. She then placed it in one hand and adorned her head with it. She could immediately smell the sweat from his brow the sudden aroma hit her suddenly and she, almost lifelessly collapsed.
All of the emotion, the pain, the longing for Helesdir, the regret for not showing her love sooner, hit her all at once. She fell to her knees and just gave the loudest scream she could which was all she could do to release the pain she had felt. She then collapsed and moaned loudly and cried just as loud. She curled up in the fetal position and just cried.
To her side and all around, Theomin, Magla, Sergee, and Teryndir knelt around. They placed hands on her as Theomin tried to think of something to say but found nothing to tell her as any message of faith would sound insincere and false. He just held her arm and said in the softest tone he could come up with, “Come,” he squeezed her shoulder with care, “Let us continue to our camp.” She did not respond to him or even acknowledge he spoke to her.
Gently, he placed his arms under her and slowly lifted her from her fetal position and then rose up. He walked down the slope toward the camp. The entire time, Eleswith was quiet. Sadly, she only looked up at the stars but not looking at any particular one. Whether by her head resting on Theomin’s shoulder and thus looking up at the stars, or whether she wanted to look up at the stars under her own will, Theomin could not tell. He just continued to look at her eyes as he made the trek down the hill toward their camp.
At last, they made it to their camp. There, the horses stood, unmoved since they were there last. Theomin placed down Eleswith and walked over to Bragga, who had been watching Theomin ever since they arrived in camp. He gave her a hug as Aches rubbed his body against her hoof. Bragga responded by pushing Theomin with her head. “I missed you girl,” he said as a single tear broke free from his eyes. “I feel it has been far too long since I have saw you.”
Estonethiel made a fire quickly as Sergee remembered walking into the Forsaken Inn on the boarder of Breeland and the Lone-Lands. He remembered being drunk well beyond his limit; lost in his regret at leaving the Grey Company at the Forsaken Road. He remembered Helesdir coming to him and saving him from drinking himself to an overdose, which was what he wanted to do. It was Helesdir who saved his life. He could not forget that.
Magla stood down by the fire and stared into it as it was being made. He too was lost in his emotions over losing his one best friend since childhood. He recalled the days chasing each other in the dry brown grassy planes of the Lone-lands, pretending one was an orc and the other chasing him down. He recalled the years they spent practicing the fight and then fighting the orcs for the first time. How exhilarating it was finishing off an entire band of orcs. That life for him was over. Magla knew Helesdir the longest and had the most to lose in his death. He just stared into the fire and held back tears that his one childhood friend was no longer going to be there.
“Tomorrow we I will leave for Ost Guruth and tell of Helesdir’s passing to his family,” Theomin said.
Magla looked up at Theomin, “He has no family,” he said. “No family of his is alive. At the age of seven years he and his family was out near the ruins of Ost Cyrn. They had found a place for us to run around and explore the ruins while his mother, father, and two sisters sat and ate. At was when we were on the second level fighting with our wooden swords that a band of orcs came. The first orcs reported in the Lone Lands for a very long time. They slaughtered his whole family including his two sisters. It was an ambush and by some miracle, we were spared. Helesdir did not share in that sentiment. A year later, he returned with me and another friend. We wiped them out and placed their heads on pikes. The one he thought killed his sisters, he left him on a spike still alive and let him bleed to death. Since then, he hunted orcs here in the Lone Lands. ‘If I am to die, it will never be by the hands of an orc,’ he said.” Magla looked down in sadness. “I suppose he received his wish.”
“Does Helesdir have any close family to be told?” Theomin asked.
Magla looked down and for a moment, it looked as if he was fighting back tears. Looking at Magla was Eleswith and she felt a connection with Magla, “No,” he finally said. “I was his only family he had left. Even those who fought to rid the ruins of those orcs had died by the hand of orcs. Helesdir and I were the last ones to stand against them.” Magla looked down, “Now it’s only me I suppose.”
“That is not true,” Sergee said as he stood up and sat next to Magla. “I know we cannot replace Helesdir, but we will always be here for you and we will always watch your back because you are loved by all here.” He smiled, “We are your family now.” Magla continued to look down at the ground. “Come,” Sergee said. “Let us rustle up some food. I know there are deer here. Help us hunt.”
“I will accompany you,” Esonethiel said. “I feel not but sorrow in this camp and need the air of the land to cleanse my heart.”
The three left the camp with no protest from Magla. Theomin looked with gladness but then looked down. His face turned serious as if a lot of thought was in his mind. Eotheron saw the look on Theomin’s face and came over. “I am glad I still have my brother from Langhold,” he said, trying to lighten the mood of Theomin. “I remember playing the Rohirrim and Bandits game in Langhold. How one of us would be the Rohirrim and chase after the rest of us bandits. with the wooden bat. It would always be Hamlok who cried first.” Eotheron smiled as he was caught up in the nostalgia of his youth. “I wonder if children still play that these days.”
Theomin looked off in the distance, “I do not know.” He stared off into the distance again which concerned Eotheron.
“What is it, Theomin?” Eotheron asked. “Is it the death of Helesdir? Is that weighing down your heart?”
“Yes,” Theomin said, “And no.”
“Then what is it?” he asked but Theomin did not answer. “You have changed, Theomin. You are not the same man who left the Wold.” Eotheron looked away then back at Theomin. “You are not even the same man who went into that cave. What is it?”
Theomin looked down at his feet. He stared for the longest time at the ground before he began to speak, “I suppose it all began when I first touched that staff. What you do not know is that I was away for a long time. How that happened, I do not know.”