Into the Labyrinth
Chapter 25: Flashing Sword
It was hard for Isorfinduil to believe that he was physically closer to Legolas and Aragorn than he had been in many weeks yet he stood helpless to aid them.
Though it appears as though I will soon join them, he mused silently.
The young Elf's estimations placed The Labyrinth, and likewise the long missing Elf Prince and Ranger, not a mile directly behind his current position in the great forest outskirting Rahma. And although Isorfinduil had been well aware of the risks involved in meeting the inexperienced undercover Labyrinth employee, Kenan, he felt a fool for not being aware of the twelve-man ambush, no matter how accomplished they were. Had he known that their meeting place, The Sleeping Demon bar, was located so close to The Labyrinth he surely would have pressed Kenan to connect with him at some other site.
Noticing that there were now only three guards keeping watch over him, the rest being spread out in the woods behind him or consulting with Lewis, Isorfinduil vaguely wondered whether he should even bother to try and loosen the many knots behind his back. His right arm and hand were completely numb, as though someone had simply chopped the entire limb from his body. He could only reach one knot with his left hand and even were he able to loosen that tie, what could he possibly do about the rest of them?
Then I will untie the one that I can reach and screw the rest, he thought bitterly, and set to work with his left hand.
Only suddenly, he found that a second pair of hands were presently working on the same knot. Startled, he jumped slightly and a gentle hand was laid on his arm to calm him.
"Be still. I am helping you," a voice whispered close to his ear. It was one of the three soldiers who were supposedly guarding him. "We are going to make it look as though you untied these on your own. But once you are free of the ropes, I can do very little else for you. Are you a fast runner?"
Isorfinduil nodded, too relieved at this turn of events to find words.
"Who do you work for?" He finally managed to say as he felt one rope fall away from his stomach.
"Vahlia. Remember that name, she must not be harmed. Long has she been working to bring down The Labyrinth from the inside."
"The Commander may be able to organize his forces as soon as tomorrow. How will we know which men work under Vahlia? And who is the leader of the ring?"
"Alymar and Amadeo Lavi are the leaders. They are twins, you will not be able to miss them. As for Vahlia's secret workers, I will have every man carry with him a white cloth from now on. When Commander Cadell arrives they will tie them about their heads and join you."
A second loop of rope fell away.
"Do you know Legolas?"
"How does he fare?"
"Not well. I will spare you the details, but he is scheduled to fight tomorrow and the Lavi Brothers have promised a spectacle."
"Then I will be sure to bring help by tomorrow."
He had to pause then and wait as a loud burst of thunder shook the heavens. Slowly the noise rolled away from them and Isorfinduil was aware of other voices somewhere behind him in the darkness of the trees.
"…good. Just shoot him anywhere but make sure he gets both or he'll still be a problem."
"What is a shooter?" Isorfinduil asked hastily as the last rope around his chest fell to the ground. His hands were still secured behind his back but he was now free of the tree.
"It's a drug, a sedative. I cannot reach your weapons but you must run now, as fast as you can for as long as you can. We will try to direct them away from you but besides that I can do no more. My prayers go with you."
"Thank you friend, this will not be forgotten," Isorfinduil said and turned slightly to get a full look at his rescuer. But the man had turned his back, holding a stiff pose as he watched the forest. Footsteps approached from behind and lightning suddenly illuminated the forest in a brilliant light, revealing the heavy rain drops as they fell and every man who stood nearby.
The second the light blinked out, Isorfinduil took off to his left, keeping in his minds eye a clear picture of the position of every single tree and adjusting his path accordingly. His vision was completely black but then another flicker of lightning lit up the trees, and then another.
Shouts rang out behind him and he heard the men giving chase. Veering sharply to the right, the Elf pushed through a line of closely knit branches, feeling the dripping wet boughs scrape over his face and arms, and broke out onto a side street of Rahma. It was predictably deserted and he ran past house after house, their windows and doors so completely boarded that he could not even see any light coming from the inside. Mud was sucking at his boots and he heard the thumping and splashing of the dozen guards behind him.
Then, without warning, something sharp pricked the back of his neck and imbedded there. A wave of paralysis rushed through him and he stumbled to his knees.
No! he thought despairingly. His head swam sickeningly and for a moment he feared that he might throw up. Lightning flickered and when he looked up he found that his vision was dim and played strange nauseating tricks on him.
He could still feel his legs, though only barely, and he weakly staggered to his feet, aware that the men were quickly approaching.
"Shoot him again!" He heard Lewis yell over a distant, rolling thunder clap.
"The second one missed, Lewis, and you only sent him back for two!"
Lewis howled in anger and Isorfinduil turned down a side alley, desperately trying to keep his barings and to keep heading toward the Stone Troll inn and the Elrondion twins. He was emmensely grateful for the utter blackness of the storm and even welcomed the lightning, for when a stream of bursts ended the guards were left blind and he could turn in a new direction without their knowledge. His legs were frighteningly weak and several times he found himself lurching sideways into the wall of a building as one of them gave out.
By some miracle, he came to be running at least two roads ahead of the guards when he came upon a store that had been raised slightly from the ground and sat on cement blocks. He stood hesitating for a moment, legs tremoring and heart pounding, wondering whether the men would think to look under it. But then another wave of sickening nausea hit him and, irritated at this foreign weakness, he realized that he could not continue without a rest and so he dropped to his side and scooted under the building.
Elrohir came upon the Stone Troll at a dead run, one hand raised to shield his eyes from the pounding rain. He noticed that everything except the front door had been completely boarded up and sandbags had been placed all along the wall. Rushing indoors, he paused to wring as much water as he could from his hair and clothing before going any farther into Juda Busker's inn. All was quiet inside, save for muffled rustling noises that he guessed was Juda herself tidying up spare rooms and further preparing for the incoming tempest.
Elrohir had taken but a step when the plump, rosy cheeked woman emerged from a back room, wiping her hands on her ever present apron. Noticing him, she heaved a great sigh.
"Oh, well thank heavens. There ye are…"
"Elrohir," the tall Elf offered, understanding that she still could not tell him apart from his brother.
"Oh, yes. Ye know, I should have known it was you, seeing as how your brother's still upstairs. By the way, I think ye might want to check and make sure he's okay, I think something might have been wrong with him. Only I didn't want to disturb him, see. I don't know, lad. I just might be jumpin' to conclusions after all."
"Something wrong with him?" Elrohir inquired, his brows knitting together in concern. He unconsciously glanced toward the top of the stairs. "What do you mean?"
"Well he was just sitting there, not moving. He wouldn't move his eyes. He wouldn't respond to me at all. It was unnatural-like."
Elrohir chuckled, relieved. "Oh no, lady, you needn't fear for him. He must have been resting. We Elves sleep with our eyes open."
Juda visibly relaxed as well. "My, well that's a relief." She patted down some of her wild hair with a hand then paused suddenly, her hand mid-air as though reconsidering. "Although, lad, it still looked as though something ugly happened in that room. The nightstand was broken in half and the candle was knocked over." Her next question was completely genuine, "Is that a part of ye're sleeping habits as well?"
Elrohir did not immediately catch her last comment, as his heart was racing in sudden fear. What had happened while he was gone? Before he allowed himself to conjure any dreadful possibilities in his mind, he darted for the stairs and bounded up them, calling a distracted, "No," over his shoulder.
Shoving the door to their room open, he noticed right away that no one was present. He walked in a few steps, surveying the splintered wood of the nightstand and the dried wax on the floorboards. Turning a complete circle, a piece of paper on his bed caught his eye and he immediately picked it up. Written in Elladan's hand, scribbled hastily, was written:
Brother, I pray you are well and
reach this note unharmed. I am leaving in search of Isorfinduil, who
left after a fight between us and has not returned for some time. I had
another vision, Elrohir, and Isorfinduil is in great danger. Forgive
me, but I can spare no more time to give you the details now. I must
ask you to remain here in the chance that he somehow makes his way back
before I find him. If he does, he will need someone here to help him.
If neither of us return, be cautious and get help from Father. Elladan
Brother, I pray you are well and reach this note unharmed. I am leaving in search of Isorfinduil, who left after a fight between us and has not returned for some time. I had another vision, Elrohir, and Isorfinduil is in great danger. Forgive me, but I can spare no more time to give you the details now. I must ask you to remain here in the chance that he somehow makes his way back before I find him. If he does, he will need someone here to help him. If neither of us return, be cautious and get help from Father.
Isorfinduil woke to voices, only now aware that he'd fallen unconscious. He was half on his side and he noticed that a portion of his face was under water. Every joint in his body ached fiercely but he nonetheless shifted so that his head was above the water. The flood water, mixed with mud and blood, streamed out of his hair as it was lifted clear. He could see extremely little in the darkness under the building but tilted his head in order to try and hear the voices through the pounding rain, raging wind, and sporatic bursts of thunder.
Isorfinduil could barely concentrate, his head was pounding so acutely. He slouched lower to the ground and closed his eyes in an attempt to better focus on the voices.
"…why…street…checked under this buil…-othing there…keep…along another road…-plit up…"
After this exchange the voices faded completely, leading the young Elf to believe that whoever it was had left. It took an incredible amount of willpower for him to begin pushing himself toward the road. Every push seemed to touch some bruise or other and with every passing minute the water seemed to be rising around him. His brain no longer functioned the way he knew it should, thoughts coming slowly and processing even slower.
Finally getting clear of the raised building, he struggled weakly to his knees at the side of the road and stayed that way for a long time, hunched forward. He watched the end of his own hair floating in the floodwater that must have been at least half a foot high. He wanted nothing more than to simply slump down into the mud and succumb to the heavy fatigue that plagued his body and mind from the drug. The desire was made all the more tempting by the agonizing pain that zinged up and down his arm and intensified at his right shoulder. If only he could just let the drug take him over, then the pain would go away for a time.
But a strong voice within him suddenly rose, reminding him of Legolas and Aragorn, who were suffering Valar knew how many similar afflictions. As far as he knew, he was their sole hope of rescue.
Who was he to be on his knees, so overcome by pain and fatigue that he could not rise, while the Prince of his land was the captive of a criminal?
With grunt of pain, Isorfinduil pushed one leg straight to the side and slowly, unsteadily, forced himself upright. He no longer thought of himself or the world around him. He was no longer aware of the storm, the gale force winds that plummeted cold rain into his bloody face or the thunder that blasted into his eardrums. There was only harsh pain and equally harsh determination. He took a step forward.
Elladan Half-Elven sloshed through calf-deep water, not bothering to try and shield his face from the driving rain and wind. He had begun to notice random objects floating by him down the main street of Rahma: a wooden crate, bags of garbage, bushes, and even several sapling trees. Large branches had fallen into the road and on top of houses and businesses at every corner. The tempest, however, seemed to be just warming up.
The Elf of Rivendell slowed his headlong run to search the road. Seeing much of anything was difficult, given the pitch blackness of the sky and the heavy sheets of rain pouring down. He went mostly by lightning strikes, covering as much as he could with his eyes before the light went out and then waiting for the next one. Fortunately, the lightning was becoming increasingly frequent and he did not have to wait more than several seconds between each strike.
His almost frantic search paid off when he caught sight of what he thought was a person far down the road. Dashing forward, he tried to keep his eye on the figure while watching out for branches and such that might block his path. Closing the distance much more slowly than he would have liked, he at least got close enough to conclude that it was indeed Isorfinduil, though the woodlander's apparent condition pushed his legs to an even faster speed. The young Elf's head was lowered against the elements and he was covered from head to toe in mud and blood ran from several places. He seemed to be limping slightly and barely aware of his surroundings.
As soon as Elladan made the recognition he saw in the distance four men racing out from the side of the road, quickly converging on the tattered Elf. The woodlander looked up at them but then simply stood still as though aware that he would not escape them by running. Elladan unconsciously growled in frustration at the distance remaining between them, putting every ounce of his remaining energy into his speed. Adrenaline surged through him as he watched the fastest of the four men make a grab for Isorfinduil. The young Elf stumbled backward out of the first man's reach but straight into the arms of a second man. Only then did Elladan notice that Isorfinduil's arms were tied behind his back, greatly hampering his movements. The second man locked his hands onto the young Elf's arms and then roughly kicked out the back of his legs, sending him down to his knees.
The gap between Elladan and Isorfinduil was now rapidly decreasing and Elladan felt a swell of pride as Isorfinduil, despite his obvious bad shape, reared his head back and slammed it into the face of the first man, who had come too close in front of him. The man fell back with a splash, knocked stone cold, and lay sprawled on the road. But the action seemed to leave the woodlander significantly weaker, as he fell toward the ground himself and remained on his knees only because of the man clutching his arms. The remaining two men rushed up and seized him from the front.
And then Elladan was there, lightning flashing off the cold metal of his sword as he drew it from its sheath. The men were completely unaware of his approach and he made use of it, dashing in close next to one man and slicing the back of his knees open with his blade. Elladan continued past him without even turning to watch as the man toppled backward with a cry of pain. The dark-haired Elf rolled to his left, making quick work of a second man, his sword driving deep into his back. Elladan completed the circuit, spinning up behind the last man - who had a hold on Isorfinduil from behind - and brought his flashing sword down straight through the man's wrists, severing his hands completely from his arms. Isorfinduil lurched forward from the sudden release but caught himself before falling completely to the ground.
The man howled in sheer agony, a howl that was cut short by Elladan's blade cleaving a line through the front half of his neck and severing his vocal chords. In a blur of movement, the sword circled around and pierced the man's heart, sending him backwards onto the ground to die.
Sheathing his bloody sword, Elladan dropped to his knees in front of Isorfinduil, gently pushing the younger Elf more upright so that he might get a better look at his face. Isorfinduil looked up and Elladan saw that his eyes were severely clouded. Recognition and hope flickered in their depths, but were soon replaced by guarded suspicion. Elladan's heart twisted in regret but needing no more than that first glance to see that Isorfinduil needed immediate help, he tucked his arms under the woodlander's in order to bring him to his feet. Isorfinduil cried out suddenly and Elladan quickly eased him back to the ground.
"My right shoulder, Elladan," the young Elf ground out through his teeth. "Please, untie my arms."
Elladan laid a hand on the indicated shoulder, slipping it under Isorfinduil's waterlogged shirt and jacket. He immediately realized the extent of the damage.
"Isor, it's very badly dislocated. We have to reset it very soon."
"I know. Please, Elladan, untie me. This position is nearly unbearable."
Elladan drew his sword once more and moved behind his companion but then stopped, looking back to the Elf's shoulder in concern.
Elladan could hardly stand the near desperation in his friend's voice but nonetheless hardened his resolve to do what he knew was best for Isorfinduil. He circled around to the front again, leaving the Wood-Elf's hands tied tightly.
"Elladan!" Isorfinduil said, obviously greatly disturbed . "For Valar's sake, have you lost your senses completely? I cannot continue on my own like this!"
He sounded and looked so dreadfully tired that Elladan half expected the Elf to fall over at any given moment. Elladan looked straight into his companion's eyes as he replied, "I know, and for that reason you must trust me now. Your shoulder cannot afford to be moved any more than it has been already. I fear that will you fall unconscious and if you do I will have to carry you. If I untie you now it will be difficult for me to keep your arm in place."
Isorfinduil closed his eyes wearily for a moment then turned his head up to the sky, letting some of the rain splatter directly onto his face. Lightning struck nearby, brilliantly illuminating them both and cracking loudly in their sensitive ears. Isorfinduil glanced back down at Elladan.
"Very well," he replied, looking away. "I fear I will fall unconscious as well."
Elladan helped him to his feet, which was so taxing on Isorfinduil that Elladan debated whether he should simply pick the woodlander up right now. The only thing that consistantly stopped him from doing so was the thought of how it might affect the Wood-Elf's pride. But perhaps it was worth it to damage the Elf's pride to do what was clearly best for him…
Fortunately, Elladan's mind was made up for him within seconds. Isorfinduil had bent a knee in order to step forward but his leg would not hold him any longer and it gave out from under him. Elladan quickly grabbed onto him and allowed him to slowly sink to the ground. Seeing the young Elf's eyes closed, Elladan knew that he'd fallen unconscious. He slid an arm under the youth's shoulders and another under his knees and lifted him up out of the flood into his strong arms.
Hey, how proud of me for updating are you guys? This wasn't as bad of a wait as I usually put you through. The explanation: Senoritis. Plain and simple, I have been in school for far longer than can be healthy for any human being. (Don't worry, I'm just kidding. I know you were worried. It'll be okay.) Wow, so I don't know quite what's the cause of this overly goofy mood that I'm in. But it's probably because I had a field trip today to a video festival with six other kids from my school. They were all boys and they are all funny funny kids. I guess a little of their goofy, freeloving nature has rubbed off on me for the time being. Good guys. A little disturbing at times, but good guys. It's hard to be lady-like in their presence. Of course on the other hand, just being female makes me significantly more lady-like without even trying. Awesome.
Cierah – That website sounds awesome! But it seems as though didn't put the link up, so I haven't been able to check it out! I'd really like to, so if you could try to put it in another review or even email, that would be fantastic. I feel honored that you'd want to add my story to your site. Thanks so much for your review, Cierah, I look forward to hearing from you again.
Deana – Wow, girl! Yeah, driving after giving blood can not be good. I was actually considering calling my mother and having her drive me home, but I did okay on my own. I'm so glad you didn't get into a crash! Yeah, I have low blood pressure as well…I can't remember it exactly. But hey, thanks so much for reviewing! And take care of yourself!
Delano – Aw, thanks for the applause! I'm so sorry to hear your computer got a virus. Stupid things. I hope it's better now or at least on its way to being so. Thanks so much for the review! And I can't tell you exactly who will live and who will not! There would be no suspense! You'll find out soon, though!
James – Hey girl, it's awesome to hear from you! I've been wanting to email you for some time. Hey, don't worry, I couldn't even imagine killing off Isor. Honestly, he's my favorite character I've ever created. There's no way he's going anywhere. But of course that doesn't mean he's not going to have a hard time of it…Oh, but I am wicked. Haha, just kidding. Now you must write back somehow, review or email, so we can keep our feeble connection going and get it stronger, like it used to be!
Lunasariel – I'm so glad you like Seon! I was beginning to worry that he'd turn out to be nothing more than a conversation filler. And maybe he is, but I'm happy to see that at least someone likes him. And thanks for the note about the story being too scattered. I hadn't even realized. I tried in the beginning of this chapter to at least sort of review where everyone is and where everything is located. And our heroes will soon be in two main groups again, then soon to be one big group. Again, thank you for making note of that, I appreciate it! And thanks for reviewing!
SushiiSquirrel – Yeah, I'm gonna think twice before giving blood again. I'd have to prepare myself better and do it on a day with nothing planned. Or maybe just not at all. Well anyway, thanks for the review! I'm so happy you think my dialogue is rich! That's a huge compliment. Thanks!
Everyone enjoy yourselves and be safe!