Don't Wake Me Up Chapter 12
Well, I am trying to update as soon as possible, and started this chapter four days after posting the previous. Hoping to finish this part soon!
To The Death
"This way." Belanor says, guiding me through the forest. It is not so much a forest as a swamp. It is dark and the ground is muddy and black in places. I haven't been here before, there was never any reason to come. There is nothing to hunt here, and there are no herbs or plants that I cannot find elsewhere. This place is dead, and I never asked why. It seems that I should have. In fact, it was foolish of me not to.
"There is a cave not far ahead. I don't know what lies within. Ready yourself, this might not end well." His tone is grave, but I suppose that's to be expected. We find the cave just as Belanor said we would after a short run. It is about nine feet tall and six feet wide, and built into a rock face. With one final glance towards the noon sky we enter the cave. We move silently, shrouded in shadow. I grab an arrow from my quiver and nock it before drawing my bow partially. We continue in, and I am surprised by the slope of the cave. It dips down rapidly and I step carefully, not wanting to slip. After the many months spent running and climbing, I can traverse the cave with ease.
After several minutes of walking, the slope begins to lessen, and the cave floor begins to level out. The walls that were wide and tall begin to narrow, and I begin to feel mildly claustrophobic. I try to look straight ahead, instead of at the dank cave walls that are covered in moss and lichen. As we progress further and further into the cave my heart beats faster and faster. Something feels wrong, and I can't quite place it. I look back at Belanor who is right behind me, and he too seems uneasy. I suppress the feeling and continue walking.
The cave widens quite suddenly, and I am faced with a large room that is dimly lit by torches. The ceiling looks to be about twenty feet high, and the room fans out on either side for quite a ways. We start walking in slowly, eyes scouring every shadow.
"Curious, an elfling and a human wander into my domain." Calls a hissing voice from the shadows. A scraping sound follows the hiss, and it sets me on edge. I try to locate the source but due to the size of the room the voice echoes. I cannot place it.
"For some time I have observed these creatures wondering; where have they come from? Why are they here? Now it all makes sense. They have come to STEAL from me!" The voice rises to a keening wail and I grit my teeth, my grip on the bow tightening. There is a long pause filled with the rattling breath of the creature.
"The wicked creatures will never steal from me! NEVER!" Once again the creature shrieks and I can finally see it. It wanders into the torchlight and I feel myself pale in horror at the sight of the creature before me. I don't know what it is, and I cannot begin to imagine what it used to be. The creature has long claws with paper white skin that is loose about its frame and laced with mottled blue black veins. It has bulging eyes that are whitish and has tattered robes pulled about its hunched and twisted form. It is grotesque to say the least and I feel my stomach turn. Belanor looses an arrow at the creature and with a flick of its wrist the arrow disintegrates.
"Oh! So it wants to kill me does it? Oh no, that won't do at all!" It darts forward and we draw our swords. My eyes narrow and I rush towards it daringly. It lashes out with a clawed hand and I dodge, then see something dripping from the nails. No doubt a poison or venom of some kind. I slash in a forward arc and the creature dives past me, switching to all fours and dashing across the floor. This thing is tougher than either of us realize, and fear begins to ensnare me. What if we can't beat it?
Belanor and I move closer together and watch the creature as it cocks its head at us. It studies us intently with its dead eyes, sending chills up my spine. I grip my sword more tightly, and stare down the creature. I will not let it best me. I cannot. Not just for the Fellowship, but for me. After all this time I have found a strength within myself. I will not give up now, not after all I have been through. My fear vanishes and I snarl angrily at the beast. It rushes forward and lunges at me. I parry the blow before kicking it with my left foot. It makes contact with a sickening crunch and I leap back while Belanor stabs forward after me. The creature has recovered enough at that point to dodge and then attack using it's claws. Belanor twists out of the way with ease and the creature backs up a bit, its rattling breath somewhat labored.
It begins an incantation and I dive. Lightning strikes the place where I stood. I leap to my feet and look over at Belanor. He seems shaken up and I suspect the lightning might have left him a glancing blow. My attention returns to the creature who is deep into casting another spell. I grab a knife from my belt and launch it at the thing just as it finishes the spell. The creature moves just enough that the dagger only nicks it and suddenly I am thrown back. I hit a wall and am dazed, unable to move. I gradually shake off my stupor and refocus on the battle. The creature is bleeding and is currently advancing on Belanor. I stand on shaky legs, trying to regain my balance and full range of motion. Once I finally sort myself out I pick up my sword which was lying a few feet away and return to the battle, intent on finishing it.
Belanor and the creature are engaged in a furious battle and I charge forward. He ducks a blow and punches it viciously before bringing his sword down in an overhand chop. The creature moves closer to Belanor, dodging the blow and stepping behind him. Belanor rolls forward and I slip in behind him, attacking the monster. I feint a strike to the left before stabbing the monster in the side. The blade sinks in deep. The monster screams and claws me, scratching me from just below the inside corner of my right eye to the far right side of my jaw. I cry out in pain and fall back. I clutch my face in agony and feel the burn of the venom. It isn't too deep or wide, and for that I am grateful. The beast is now looking rather pitiful, and Belanor moves to finish it off.
He walks over to it, a look of disgust on his face. He readies his sword and I see the beast tense. It springs forward before I can scream a warning. It leaps at his throat, biting like an animal. I rush towards it, stabbing it until it dies. I haul it off Belanor and toss it aside. I look down at him as he takes gasping breaths and feel something within me break. I can't lose him. I spent over a year of my new life with Belanor. He saved my life and gave me a purpose. His eyes meet mine and I realize that it doesn't matter if I can't lose him. It's happening either way. I gently touch his face as he coughs up a small amount of blood.
"Please stay with me, come on Belanor. Please." The words are torn from me and even I am surprised by the desperation in my voice. He smiles weakly, and I know that smile. He knows he's going to die. Just like I do. I just can't accept it.
"This is my home now Elsira... I was, was never going to leave it anyways. Wouldn't know how. It's better that, that I die here." His words are ended by a coughing fit and I feel the tears gathering in my eyes. They slide down my cheeks and he reaches up weakly to brush them away. He gets a faraway look as he brushes them from my cheeks with the pad of his thumb and I close my eyes for a moment. When I open them his gentle eyes meet mine.
There is something I must do for him before he dies. I cannot let him die without granting him this one thing that he asked from me before, when I was unable to give it. I wipe as much blood from my face as I can and then lower my mouth to his. I kiss him and my eyes close. The bitter taste of iron fills my mouth and this just makes me cry even more, because it is his blood that I taste. I finally break the kiss and he smiles weakly and mouths the words "thank you" before the light leaves his eyes. An agonized wail escapes me and my head falls back. Tears streak my face as I cry brokenly over the still body of my fallen friend.
I stumble to my feet as the smell of death begins to permeate the room. I run from the cavern, his gentle smile lingering in my mind. He was so human, so real. He wasn't all that intimidating or overly handsome, he was approachable and kind. I finally make it out to find the sun high in the sky, on the eastern side. It's morning out here, the time has caught up. I make my way from the dark part of the forest and to a nearby stream. I crouch beside it, splashing water onto my face. For a moment I almost expect to wake up. I almost expect to see Belanor beside me, laughing at me for thinking I had lost him. I look, and see nothing but empty forest. The cut burns and I wash it gently, cleansing the venom from it. I cannot ease the pain within my heart so easily.
I feel a peculiar strength fill me, and a ghost of a whisper echoes through my mind. My magic fills me once more, and I can feel it surge through my body. It feels like a storm within me and I fight to maintain control. There is a great clamor within me as my magic settles and then it is over, leaving me breathless.
What happened? I left your mind and could not reenter. The sound of a voice in my head besides my own is surprising after all this time. I hesitate, and instead of trying to explain my thoughts I allow her full access to my mind. Images appear within my mind, starting the day I entered this place and ending at Belanor's death. I sit, unable to speak for a long time. I find myself crying once more, though I do not remember when I started.
We should leave this place. We should. I know we should. The others will be waiting for me and yet, I almost don't want to leave. I'll have to avoid my-his home when I leave. The memories would be too much to bear. Rea crawls from my pocket and grows to her normal size. She looks at me expectantly and I stand up.
I realize that I probably should have checked the cave, as there could have been powerful magical items but I can't. I can't go back in there. I don't want to see his eyes, his lifeless eyes. The thought makes me cringe and I feel silent tears slide down my cheeks. I lean against a tree and cry, overwhelmed once more by the loss of my friend. Thoughts of Boromir and Gandalf enter my mind and I am reminded that he is not the first, and he will not be the last. With that I stand straight once more and wipe my tears. The ache is still there, but a sense of duty replaces my sadness. I owe it to those still alive to toughen up and move on. It is what Aragorn would do.
"Aragorn, where are you?" I send the thought to him now that the link has been restored. I wait a long moment, and begin walking. I head towards the edge of my confinement, hope blooming within me.
"Elsira, I thought you were dead. The link was broken and after two full days without a word... I had lost hope for your survival." I hear his voice echo in my mind and I nearly cry with joy and relief. It's him. The knowledge that I will soon be able to talk to him makes me feel as though everything will be ok in the end.
"It's a long story, and one that I would much rather tell in person. Have I missed much?" I reply, walking faster. I break into a run as I see the edge and as I run through it, unrestrained joy fills me. I am free, and I am forever changed. I have new scars, both physical and mental, I have memories both good and bad, but all this is comfort, because I know that I will never forget.
"We found someone. Someone that I think you will enjoy meeting. We also found Merry and Pippin. We're nearing Edoras now, though when we arrive I will ride out and meet you somewhere. For now, head northeast." His voice brings comfort once more and I heed his words, correcting my direction. I walk for hours and the sun begins to sink down towards the horizon. There is a ridge in the distance, and I make my way to it. It is a clear landmark and it will make it easier for Aragorn to find me. As if summoned I hear his voice.
"We have arrived in Edoras. Where are you?" I look around for nearby landmarks. I spot a forest and recall what Belanor taught me about the world. If I recall, that is the Fangorn forest. "I'm on a ridge overlooking the Fangorn forest." I reply, jogging towards it. My armor is slightly heavier than the lightweight clothes I normally wear when running, but they do not hinder me. He breaks the link after a long moment and I reach the top of the ridge. I sit down and look out over the world. My stomach growls and I realize that I haven't eaten since breakfast. I sigh, I've gotten quite used to regular meals it seems.
I sit, waiting as the sun goes down. I watch as the sun sets, turning the sky a variety of vibrant colors. I cannot help but the smile that creeps onto my face at the simple beauty it brings. Even in times of great darkness and sorrow, there is always this one source of joy. Each dawn is a new beginning, and each dusk, an end. It is time I close the book on my old life once and for all. I need ask no more questions about it, nor do I need to long for it. I am here, and I shall stay here. For better or worse.
Done! A short but dramatic chapter filled with lots of changes! Sorry about the length It had to be finished by tonight or it wouldn't be finished for several weeks by my estimate. I would like to thank several people for their support. Firstly, Danyele. She reviewed every chapter with what appeared to be her honest opinion. Thank you Danyele. Also, a big thank you goes out to MyFriendsAreMyPower, LOTR Lover, elfcat and Sarah. . You guys are awesome and encouraged me to make sure that I updated. Last but not least, I want to thank decayednotion. Her review made my day and that alongside the reviews of the others I mentioned is what helped me update as soon as I have. Thanks again for your support and I hope I continue to impress.