Part 122 – The Cruelty of Fornost
“Please, Eleswith,” Helesdir said. He grabbed her hand and held it tight to his chest. “Please, do not push me away. I have traveled so far to see you. I need to hold you, to be with you, to keep you in my arms and in my heart.”
“I cannot stay here with you,” Eleswith finally said to Helesdir. “I cannot leave my friends. I have too much to do and no time to spare.” She looked at Helesdir as he turned and stared off into the woods. “Please understand,” she said. “But I will return. I will find you so we can be one again.”
“You do not understand,” Helesdir said. “If you turn me away, you will forsake us. You cannot return to us. You cannot return to this.”
“But why is this our only chance?” Eleswith asked. “Why can we not remain together after? If I return you will still be here, will you not?”
“No, Eleswith,” he said. “I will not. If you go and aid your friends, like you say you must; you will forsake any chance to have this life. You will never be able to return to me again.”
Eleswith stood for a long while. She did not want to choose. She could not choose. She was broken inside. She missed Helesdir dearly for there was no one, past or present, who was like him. Her sense of needing him was overwhelming and for a few moments, she wanted to stay with him and be with him forever. If that was the choice she was faced with, that was her answer. “So what if I don’t aid Theomin and the group with the retaking of Annuminas?” she asked herself. “So what if I could not aid the people of Trestlebridge. There would be plenty of people who will aid that town in finding their citizens. I have Helesdir before me. The one man I wanted to remain with for all of eternity.” She had the only one she cared deeply about just before her and all she needed to do was say that it was okay to join him. She wanted to say it was okay, but why, she wondered, was it so difficult to say yes to him?
“I…” she could not bring herself to say it though deeply in her heart she was so desperate to be with him. Again, she tried to say ‘yes’ as she spoke, “I…” and again it her words were taken from her as her eyes began swelling with tears. It was so difficult to say ‘yes.’ She began to sob but Helesdir did not turn to console her. He did not wrap his arms around her as she had expected. She felt cold, she felt distant. She wanted to feel his arms wrapped around him like a warm blanket. “Why will you not hold me?”
“Make your choice,” he coldly said.
She looked up at him, as if he was not the same person she loved. She took a step back as she began to regain her composure. She could not believe he would make her choose like that and it was then that her whole feeling toward him changed. “Why should I make a choice?” she asked. “Helesdir would not force me to choose like this. He would hold me and make my decision easier.” Her eyes stopped shedding tears as she began to realize, “You are not Helesdir are you?” she said. “You are some trick. You are some false vision of Helesdir sent to me so I may remain here in the fields.” She pulled back and with her composure back and her will strong, she confidently and unequivocally said, “No, I will not join you.”
It was plain that an anger swelled in Helesdir and a grumbling began to emanate from him as if it was not from a man at all but from some creature or spawn of evil. He then turned and the look of Helesdir took Eleswith by surprise. Instead of the man she loved, a horrid green creature turned to greet her. It was only the skull of a creature baring a helm with two bladed peaks on either side of it.
Eleswith stumbled back and the whole dream of Dale had disappeared. Instead, she was amongst ruins of some ancient city surrounded by pools of misty water. The creature then came after her as she drew her sword and slashed at the creature. It fell to the ground as Eleswith slashed at it again and it lied down on the ground, seemingly dead.
“No,” she whispered as her hopes of Helesdir in Dale had faded. “It was all so real,” she cried. “It seemed so real.” She fell to her knees with her face in her palms as she cried so hard and felt so lonely. She had hoped all of it was real and that she could possibly spend the rest of her life with Helesdir. But it was not to be. Helesdir was dead and so too was her dream to live happily with him in Dale. And such a realization crippled her to the point she had not the will to move. She sat and leaned herself against an old ruin. She cared to not move or even look at her surroundings. All her care and all her happiness were utterly spent and she wept. She wept because she felt alone in her heart and in her mind. She tried to go back in her head to Dale and the thought of Helesdir but it was too hard. The thought was too far away and all she could think of was her anger to the apparitions that invaded her mind and took the one thing she held so dear to her. They took her love for Helesdir and used it against her.
She then realized the power of Fornost. It was not merely ghosts and terrible creatures. It was the temptation of what could have been. It forced her into the fields and into Fornost like a drug and she fell prey to it. As mighty as she believed herself to be, she was brought down by the mere thought of Helesdir and that crippled her heart and her body. Spent of all hope, she lied down on the soil and felt such a weight she could not believe on top of her.
But something happened that drug her out of her limpness. A sound from far away came into her ears. It was the sound of that same little girl she heard before. But she cared not. She began to lose herself in her grief as she slowly slipped into a sleep. But once more the crying came. It woke her but she did not want to rise to the sound. She tried to fall back to sleep but there was that crying again and again she listened to it. She sat up and for a while, she listened to hear it again. But it did not come. She rose up and still listened to it. No sound came.
With a new sense of duty, she looked around and not only was she not in the fields anymore, she was inside the fortress grounds. Far away it seemed from anything she recognized. Only the architecture of the ruins seemed similar to that of Esteldin’s. All around the grounds were pools of water which held some islands of ruins protruding out of them. Also, too was an in closed courtyard with a door at the other end. It appeared the sounds of screaming had come from above.
With every fiber of her body, Eleswith did not want to continue up into the fortress of the evil city. Her need to escape with her life pushed her to want to escape. But inside, she knew what she really needed to do. So, with all her strength, she stole herself and put on a determined face. She pushed herself to run around the water of the courtyard and toward the door which led into the keep of the fortress city.
Inside the ruined fortress, chambers were set on either side with a path that led deeper into the fortress. It seemed as though something had come through and emptied all the chambers of the hall. Dead orcs there were along with dead and rotting trolls inside of its chambers. Within the chambers it was quiet. Not a sound came. Only from the echoes of her own breathing and footsteps did sound come.
She made her way through the main part of the tower toward the back of the chambers. She came to a spiral stare that continued up. Many flights they went. It felt like a very long time she continued up the stairs and up across some floors toward more stairs. She continued up them and then across another level to a large chamber.
Within the chamber, a few pillars had fallen. The walls looked aged and cracked and in some places broken with pieces of earth that had fallen inside the chamber. Among the walls that were broken were also trolls. Trolls that had been frozen in time as if some spell froze them into rock. Four of them guarded the corners of the chamber. Eleswith came close to one of them. She feared to touch the creature but she really wanted to see if it was in fact, only rock. She lifted her hand and began to move it toward the troll. Just as she touched it, a scream came crying out. She retracted her hand with fright but realized it was not the troll. It was the little girl that was crying. The girl was not far away. She ran toward the other end of the chamber, which looked like an exit.
There, at the far end of the courtyard, was a little girl being yanked along by some other worldly specter. It looked like a weight but was terrible to look at. She ran toward the foul looking specter and drew her swords. She yelled to the apparition, “Let her go, foul creature.”
The creature stopped as the little girl looked at Eleswith. It was as if the little girl recognized her because her face lightened up with glee. Without turning, the specter said in a disgusting deep hiss, “Do you mean to order me?”
“Yes, filth,” she said as her voice became shaky. “Let her go or I will smite you.”
“Leave now, woman,” it ordered her. “Do not tell me to let this little one go. I have been calling on her since that father of hers and his family fell in the walls of this city. I need only this child and I will be free of this wretched place. For too long I have been stuck in this forsaken place and this family’s curse has kept me here. So long as her family lives I remain here. I will destroy this child and with that there will be no more remaining of her miserable family. I will be free to roam Middle Earth as I choose. Now leave me be and let me end her life in the only way that will allow me to be free.”
“That will not happen, spawn of evil,” she said with disgust in her voice.
“So be it, woman,” the entity said. It continued on but more foul creatures, much like the one she encountered near the pools of water, flew past the creature. She sliced them down easily as she ran toward the little girl and her captor. But when she ran toward them, they were gone.
Another scream came from below. Stairs led down toward the lower levels of the fortress. She ran down the stairs and across the courtyards after the little girl. “Help!” she yelled to Eleswith but soon after more specters came after Eleswith. Again, she smote them easily and continued after the little girl.
The specter finally stopped in front of a large door. He threw the girl to the side and spoke in its terrible tongue, “You do not give up easily, woman, do you? Give up this chase and I will tell you how you can really find the one you love.” Eleswith’s swords lowered as the specter continued. “That’s right, do you not think I didn’t know who you were when you pursued me? I know where you are from, who you are, and I know what you’ve done. I know how to find your love. Just let me be…” and the specter’s look slowly turned to the likeness of Helesdir and it said in Helesdir’s voice, “…and I will be able to travel Middle Earth with you for the rest of the ages.”
“Helesdir,” she whispered. The look of him was, again, like a warm breeze on a cold night. She wanted to come close to him. She wanted to touch him and hold him, but within her, in her heart she knew it was false. She knew it was only a cruel ruse. But never-the-less, she wanted deeply to be with her man. She came to him as he held out his arms to take her into his. Drops of tears began to stream from her eyes as she came close to him. She then paused and looked up at him. She looked into his eyes as he stared back at her. A sudden thrust from her sword pierced his belly and he screamed a terrible scream, loud and horrendous. She tried to withdraw the sword from Helesdir’s belly but it was stuck. She could not remove it. The apparition’s hands then grabbed her by the throat and held her there. Its hands were ice cold as it squeezed harder and harder to the point where she had no more breath.
“Let the foul stench of death consume you, woman, as it consumed me,” Helesdir said but he did not change back into the specter. “You will not take this chance away from me! You have failed.”
Everything around Eleswith began to fade and blackness was creeping in all around her. Though she was falling to the wrath of the shade, she was content to die for if she did, she would then be with Helesdir once more. He muscles gave out and she began to lie down in the dirt of the courtyard grounds when something happened to the ice-cold grip of the specter. It loosened and all things in the grounds of the courtyard immediately returned.
Eleswith gave out a long-labored breath as her lungs took in air and she coughed and gagged again. She grabbed her throat and looked at what had happened with the specter and behind the ghost, the little girl had ran a blade through the specter’s skull. It began reeling around in pain as it slowly succumbed to the two wounds of both Eleswith’s and Nora’s. Soon, the shade began to fade and the blades dropped. A sudden bang blew out from the specter as it burst into nothingness in its last deadly throws.
The walls, then began to crack and fall. All around, pieces of the ancient fortress city began to break apart and fall in a crumbling mess. In the middle of it all, Eleswith and Nora stood together in fear of what was happening around them. Eleswith, then, felt a need she had not had before. It was a sense to get Nora to safety as fast as possible. She took Nora by the hand and ran. She ran back the way she came but the doorway that led into the tunnels was beginning to fall apart. She had to chance it. She needed to run through the door. So, that was what she did.
Inside, the pillars began to shake and collapse under the weight of the ceiling as pieces of it were collapsing all around her. She took Nora and held her close as she ran down. Down the many flights of stairs. Down to where she could as the stairs shook under her, making it difficult to keep her footing. As difficult as it was, she was able to keep her footing and continued to the bottom where she ran past the many chambers just before the exit of the small ruined building. She ran against it and pounded her shoulder onto the doorway. It did not budge. She kicked it but it still would not budge. She then placed Nora down and ran back and charged toward the doorway. She knew that if that did not work, they would be stuck there and possibly be crushed to death. With all her might she rammed into the door. It broke away and she was outside in the pool-laden courtyard. She crashed down just before the pools as her momentum drove her that distance.
Eleswith got to her knees and quickly looked to see if Nora was okay. Nora threw her arms around her and squeezed her with an embrace she had not felt since Helesdir embraced her so long ago. That embrace was a strong, full of passion and heart. That one was real.
“Thank you,” the little girl whispered and cried to Eleswith. “I will never leave home again.”
Eleswith just continued to hug the little girl tightly as she would a daughter of her own. They embraced or a good long while. But that embrace was then interrupted. Cracks and footsteps began to rumble through the ruined tower. They came closer as Eleswith pushed the little girl behind her. “Keep behind me.” She drew her sword and waited to see who was coming up to them.
Out of the shadows, shapes of men and women came stepping through the dusty rubble of the ruined tower. Men and women, little boys and little girls all came out toward Eleswith and Nora. One person, a younger man with a dark beard and poor clothes looked at Eleswith and then at Nora. With surprise and sadness he whispered, “Nora?”
“Daddy?” the little girl said as a tear dropped from her face. She ran to him as he knelt down and welcomed her into his arms. “I thought I’d lost you,” he said to her as he sobbed. “I thought all of us had been lost.”
The others who looked on at the family looked at Eleswith. One of the men, who looked much like Nora’s father approached Eleswith, “Thank you,” he said. “I know not what brought us here, but it looks like my entire family was taken by this dark entity. For a long time we were imprisoned in those chambers there. For much too long. And we felt as though we would never find our way out. You saved us. I know not how we can ever repay you for the freedom you have given me and my whole family.”
Eleswith looked at the man and gave a smile. She knew how they could aid her and that her part in finding aid to help in the retaking of Annuminas had begun to come to a close.