A/N: This is something that I cooked up while trying to write the next chapter for my ongoing story, Smooth as Glass. There are mentions of violence and death in this, and it may get better or worse as the story progresses, granted I receive enough response to continue. Please let me know what you think!

The lady was as pale and still as death, save for her eyes. Wide and tormented, they roamed desperately, seeking familiarity and finding none. The sky was dark; a great monstrous creature had devoured the moon and hidden the stars. Beneath her unclothed form, the grass was cold and wet.

She knew not how long she had lain there, waiting for death to steal her away from her pain. Occasionally, some small hope of rescue would cross her tired mind. But as time passed, she cared less and less for such thoughts, preferring instead the long interims during which her mind was blank, empty. Who would come for her, she who had forgotten her inner song? Naught but a discordant jumble of notes rang in her heart now.

He would come. As the though passed through her mind her apathy was temporarily banished and she sought to hold on to it; one hand rose from the wet ground and groped the air, as though it were a tangible thing. He would find her.

Then doubt crept in. Perhaps he would hurt her too, like they had. Thoughts of them made her cringe. A whimper escaped her swollen lips. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to block out the memories.

He hadn't hurt her. Only they had.

Confused, her mind tried to recall him. There was something special about him, she knew it. But no matter how she tried to bring his face, even his name to her mind, only images of them flickered in her mind's eye. Them, with their dark, twisted faces and cruel hands…She screamed into the night.

The agonized note went on and on, rising and falling but never ceasing. It frightened her, and she closed her eyes, wishing that it would stop. This was not of her doing, this screaming must be coming from some where else. Perhaps the earth itself was lamenting her pain. What if it brought them back? Still it continued.

Finally, the terrible cry ended. Cautiously, she opened her eyes, clamped her jaws together to prevent a recurrence. She felt no better for having given in; only now her throat burned, adding to her injuries. Perhaps they had heard the outpouring of pain. Would they return? Could they resist the temptation of such terror? If they returned, she knew that she could not survive them again.

The wound in her shoulder flared up, sending jolts of searing hot pain down her arm, as though to remind her that it controlled her world now. Without thought to her other aches, she rolled onto her side, desperately putting pressure onto the throbbing gash. They had made this mark with one of their blades.

Poison. She shuddered, curling her legs up to her chest. The dagger had been poisoned. Poison in her blood. Blood. Funny, she could see the blood pooling beneath her. Mixing with the soil and becoming dark. They had dark blood.

He could heal her. Where was he?

Home. Memories of warmth and beauty. Growth and living all around her. The stars silently revealing ancient stories and casting down light as they had since the awakening of the Elves. His arms holding her close and safe. She belonged there. She had been there.

Lulled by this brief peace, she let her eyes close. She was so tired. Before more dark memories could claim her again, she fell into Sleep's welcoming arms.

--

A brilliant flash of lightning lit up everything, highlighting the pitiful naked creature huddled only a few meters away from the slain bodies of her companions. Thunder rumbled like the growl of an animal, shaking the ground with its intensity. She slept on.

Then, with startling swiftness, the sky let loose a torrent of rain. It fell in stinging sheets, startling her awake with painful abruptness. An animal-like sound of bewilderment and hurt came from her throat. Rolling from her curled position onto her knees, she crossed her arms across her stomach. She felt weak, dirty, and so thirsty. Letting her head fall back, she opened her mouth and greedily swallowed as much rain as she could.

The cold water soothed her throat and lent her a little strength. The raindrops stung the angry red knife mark on her shoulder but washed away the blood crusted around it and other minor wounds, which had already begun to heal. She blinked her eyes, peering into the shadows surrounding her.

There was nothing. The darkness was complete, and she could make out very little. Her body had begun to shake with exhaustion, and in her weak state the cold was causing her distress. She shivered, and knew that the feel of cold was a foreign one. Hopelessness overwhelmed her.

"Naneth, lath-nîn a beria!" she wished. A youthful face of exquisite beauty framed by long golden hair appeared in her mind's eye, and she was comforted. At that moment, as she shook with exhaustion, the lightning flashed, and for a brief moment the world was lit with silver brilliance. She saw, to her left, a cleft in the solid face of a rock wall. It stirred some intuition, and she trusted that she would find shelter there. Summoning whatever strength she could from the calm center that the golden woman's image represented, she moved in that direction.

She stumbled on hidden obstacles, finding her bearings only when the lightning shone with its brief glory. When she found the wall, she waited for the light, afraid to journey away from the cleft rather than towards it. Her whole body trembled violently now, bordering on convulsions that threatened to drive her to her knees. The poisoned wound in her shoulder throbbed. An animalistic instinct warned her that she needed shelter, and quickly.

The illumination came soon enough, and she felt great relief. Only a few yards distant was the cleft. She had seen, in that instant of light, her salvation.

The floor was cushioned with naught to give comfort; indeed, the hard rock floor was covered with nothing but stones and dirt. None of this mattered to her, as she collapsed heavily as far to the back of the grotto as she could squeeze. Hidden there, exhausted and weak, she slept once more, partially protected from the bitter wind that would soon carry not rain but snow to trap her within the mountain pass.


(Naneth, lath-nîn a beria – Mother, hear me and answer)