Part 119 – Trials of Eleswith
The hours of the day waned as the sun had already set over the western horizon. Only the moon illuminated the fields that laid out before the gates of the ancient fortress of Fornost. A light mist hung in the hills of the ancient land, slightly obscuring the light of the moon, giving the land a sickly strange ethereal glow.
The land itself was dim, dark and a sense of foreboding hung in its misty air. The dark mounds sported the occasional patches of grasses that sprouted all about the small hills of the field. With the grasses, trees grew from the sick land. Ill trees they looked as though the boughs and branches could not grow in the land that was so starved of fertile dirt. Spiking from the panicles of the trees was the starved branches, bare of any leaves as they shot straight up as if they were old petrified watchmen with spears in hand, glowering at any passerby that happened into the land.
Carefully and with alert warning, Eleswith made her way north from Trestlebridge. Her fear of needing to continue into the fields were realized when she could find no trace of the little girl anywhere near where they last found her only a few weeks earlier despite her desperate attempts to search the whole valley near the Greenway Road. Her only choice was to continue into the Fields of Fornost, which she so desperately did not want to do.
So up into the fields she went. She searched over the mounds and around the small ruins that dotted the landscape of the fields. Every so often she would hear the howls of an animal, sometimes far off, other times close by. More than her fear of the fields was the fear that she would fail and not be able to recruit the men and women of Trestlebridge. Her fear too was the peril that little girl, Nora, had been facing. That fear drove her into the fields and forced her to stay there, despite the almost crippling fear she was feeling.
A strange piece of clothing made her stop and dismount from her horse. She tied her horse to one of the very few nearby trees as she went to investigate it. It was a scarf lying hung on a nearby ruin. She ran to the scarf and picked it up. She then looked down at the ground and saw a few small tracks sunken into the soft ground. Those tracks looked to lead deeper into the ruinous fields.
She tried to follow the tracks as they continued deeper into the fields but they soon faded away and were difficult to follow. With frustration, she decided to turn back but soon found it difficult to find where she was. She could not follow the tracks back because they were not in the soil any longer. In the midst of the fields, she was lost. She could not recognize any of the surrounding hills or ruins as they all looked the same.
Still, Eleswith could not give up. She continued looking for Nora despite not knowing where she herself was. She continued up until she came to a tall wall that was carved into the face of the cliff. She looked around, wondering if the little girl would come to that spot, hoping she would find someplace familiar. She searched the small ruins that were just next to the wall but soon she heard a familiar voice. It was a whisper that she heard back when she just left the bridge of Trestlebridge. The whisper was that of Helesdir. She had to shake off the sound as she thought it had to have come from inside her head. She tried to push it aside and continue her search for the little girl.
The ruins proved not but a depressing absence of anything living. She left the ruins but upon her leaving, she heard the same whisper again. It was even louder and more vigorous than before. It could not be Helesdir, there was no possible explanation for his voice being heard. Again, it had to be in her head. She ran from the ruins and felt the absolute need to find her horse and leave the fields. She ran up and down the many mounds of the fields, past the many cement caskets and funeral towers that inhabited the lands. Soon, as if a miracle, she found her horse. She rushed to it and began to mount it but soon heard the voice of Helesdir from just behind.
“Eleswith,” it whispered, “why will you not look at me?” She placed her head on the saddle of her horse. As she had her head down, she placed on foot on the stirrup of the saddle as the voice began again. “Eleswith, please, turn and look at me.”
She closed her eyes and began to cry as she said, “This is not real, this is not real.”
“Please, Eleswith,” the voice said, “this is real and I am right behind you. Why will you not look at me?”
“Who are you?” Eleswith asked.
“What do you mean?” the voice said, “I am Helesdir. Can you not recognize my voice?”
“I can recognize your voice, but you are not Helesdir,” she said. “I watched Helesdir die.”
“But did you really watch me die?” the voice said. “The doors closed in that dungeon. I live because of the beasts that were in that room. Their attempts to kill me eventually saved me. I made my way out of the rubble of the hill and found that you and the rest of the company were gone.”
“If that is true,” she said wanting to test the voice, “what piece of clothing do I possess that belonged to you?”
“Of course, Eleswith,” the voice said, “It is my hat.”
With that true answer, she turned and there, not but a few feet from where she was standing, was Helesdir. It was indeed Helesdir. From his brown leather coat to the soft strands of his brown hair. He looked on her with his blue eyes, kindly, affectionately, as he approached her. “I have waited to see you for all this time.”
“Why did you not come until now?” Eleswith asked as she inched herself forward, wanting desperately to run into his arms.
“I wanted to,” he said. “I wanted to so badly. But you had left and I had not a way to get back to you. So I tried Esteldin. You were not there. I tried Trestlebridge, I could not find you. The next stop for me was Annuminas. I had to return there to find you because I knew you would return to Annuminas. That was today. And now here you are. Here, in the fields of Fornost I have found you.”
A tear fell down her face. She was so overcome with emotion that in order for her not to fall to the ground, she had to fall into his arms. She ran toward him and for the first time, she felt his embrace again. His arms wrapped around her like a blanket and she smiled. She smiled so hard that her muscles in her face began to ache, but she did not care. Her eyes streamed tears as they poured all the way to the ground.
“I missed you so much,” she finally said. It took her so long to say that as she had not the ability to speak she was so overcome with emotion. “I needed to see you, to feel you, to hold you. Why did you do what you did? Why did you risk your life?”
“Does it matter now?” Helesdir said. “We are here now. I have you and you have me.”
“Yes,” she said, completely happy with being with Helesdir, “Yes, we have each other.”
Helesdir pulled her away from her horse and led her into the fields. He held his arm out as she wrapped her arm inside it and leaned herself against him. She kept her head on his shoulder as they walked through the fields of Fornost. No longer did she feel the fear that she held inside of her. Instead, the fields seemed like a greener place, filled with more vibrant colors and the trees were thicker and more beautiful. The skies, which seemed before like they were bleak and filled with fog were turned a bluish tinge, as if the dawn had come and it was already midday.
From the height of one of the hills, they stared out. For once in a long time, she felt at peace and at home. Not since she left Dale did she feel any place was home. Now, her heart was pleased that she was finally home in the arms of Helesdir.
Soon after, as they continued walking, it was as if they had walked thousands of miles because they had reached a tall solitary peak. It was the Lonely Mountain and they were in Dale. She looked around her, stunned at what she was seeing. “How did we make it here?” she asked.
“We were already close to it,” Helesidr said. “You knew not how close we were to Dale.” He stopped and held her by the shoulders as he looked deep into her eyes, “Is this not where you wanted us to go?” he asked her. “Did you not want to go and live in Dale with me?”
“I did,” she said, “I do.” She looked around with wonder but confusion, “I cannot believe we’re here. We’re here in Dale.”
“You are not here,” Helesdir said, “We are here. Just be glad we are here together. It has been a long time since I felt you by my side. I needed to feel you. I needed to hear your voice and to smell your hair. Please, let us stay here. Let us raise our child and let them play in the streams. Let us grow old here and allow our children to have grandchildren of their own.”
“Yes,” she said wistfully, “let us do that. Let us grow old. Let us have children so they may play in the trees near Dale and swim in the rivers. Let them meet the dwarves and the elves who live so near to us.”
He held her tightly and she held him too. They embraced as she looked up at the Lonely Mountain and then at the city of Dale. “I missed Dale so much. I cannot believe we are here. I cannot believe you are here with me,” she said as she looked on at the mountain. Her thoughts then turned and doubt began to grow, “I am in Dale and you are too,” she repeated. She stood back from her embrace with Helesdir, “Please tell me this is not a dream.”
Helesdir, with a shocked look, stared at Eleswith, “How could this be only a dream? Can you not see your mountain, can you not feel my embrace or smell my hair? This is real, Eleswith,” he said. “and I will never let you go again.”
She looked on at the mountain but a crushing feeling began inside of her. First like a soft feeling like apprehension but then grew to a crushing blow to the stomach. “This is not real,” she said. “None of this is real.”
“This is real,” Helesdir tried to assure her.
She remembered the little girl that she needed to find in the fields. She began to cry again as she knew what she had to do. She needed to do it for the sake of the people of Trestlebridge and for the help she needed to render to her friends. “I need,” she said as she her heart sank, “I have to go. I need to help my friends.”
“Please,” Helesdir said, “Don’t go. Stay here.”
“I can’t,” she said as her heart hurt deeply, “Please, let me do what I need.”
“You need not do anything,” Helesdir said, “You are here with me. That is all you need.”
“That is not all I need,” she said as she pulled away from Helesdir’s embrace.
“Why do you pull away?” Helesdir asked with anger. “Are we not meant to be together?”
“We are,” she said but her feeling of fear began to grow, “but I cannot stay. I need to look for a little girl. I need to return to Fornost to look for her.”
“You need not go,” Helesdir said as he grabbed her wrist forcefully.
“Stop, Helesdir,” she said as fear began to grow.
Helesdir’s eyes burned with anger but then fell to sadness as he let her go, “I am sorry. I know not what came over me.”
“Please, let me return here after I am finished,” she said. “We can then stay together.”
“We,” Helesdir said, “We cannot.”
“What do you mean?”
“We cannot return here together,” Helesdir said. “This all but a dream. Stay here with me and we can be with each other for as long as this world lives.”
“This is not real? None of it?” Eleswith asked.
“But it is real,” Helesdir said. “This is real in your heart. If you choose to stay here, you choose to stay with me. We will live here eternally together. But if you choose to stay, this,” he said as he approached her and grabbed and held her hands, “all of this will be taken from you and the whole life that you hoped to have with me will be taken from you.”
“I…” she said as she tried to understand what Helesdir was saying. The actualization of the fear that began to swell inside of her was tormenting her as she could not say a word.
“Please stay with me,” Helesdir said, “Please remain here with me and I promise you that for all eternity our souls will be locked together as one.”
Her eyes were wide as she felt the full force of the decision she needed to make. Her breathing became shallow and her face turned a pale color. “I…” she tried to say as her heart was being torn in two. “I…” she tried again as she felt the sense of duty but the pull of love. “I will stay with you,” was what she wanted to say and she was about to say when she heard something that caused her to pause. It was the sad voice of a little girl’s cry.