"Sort of like, a grim reaper concept? Like he is death?"
This made Legolas laugh, and Silvia blush. Ashton, though, completely serious and persistent on his conclusion, acted oblivious to their doubtfulness. Legolas attempted, again, to explain the power of Sauron, the major villain in this tale. Ashton and Silvia listened contently as they moved through the clearing, but Luke was not so eager. He couldn't find the will to care about any of their troubles, nor could he muster any fake interest. So he lagged about behind the company, sword drawn and eyes fallen to the ground. His ease dropping faded as well, and he listened to only the wind in the trees.
"This air, it is heavier than in the North, wouldn't you say?"
Luke blinked, his gaze catching a second pair of boots that strolled up beside his own. Aragorn. The only other fellow who wore the same leathers as Luke did. He sighed.
"Is it?" Luke muttered.
Aragorn nodded, "You, of all people, should know about the air in the North. Such pureness on the shores of the lake, Evendim holds limitless tranquility."
Luke's attention was grabbed for only a second, before it fell into idleness again. "Evendim" He tested the words on his tongue, "Is that where I am from?"
Aragorn offered him a knitted brow look, but Luke did not take much notice. There was a gruff laugh and then Aragorn replied, nonchalantly "Yes, as far as I my knowledge holds… That is where you are from" He paused, "Perhaps the darkness stole some of your memories?"
Luke scoffed, "The darkness did no such thing."
There was a proudness in his statement that made Aragorn cringe, but naïve Luke could not hear his own egoism. Aragorn clicked his tongue, "The darkness, dear friend of the North, is nothing more than a blanket. The oblivion within the dark, of course, is the unknown that haunts every man in his sleep. It does not matter how fresh, or clean or pure your air is… The unknown takes all souls in their unconscious."
Luke leveled his gaze with Aragorn's, "My air is different" He told the gruff looking man.
Aragorn sighed, "You taste our air, now. Do not restrict your lungs from breathing, just because the air is not yours." With a stern look and a half smile, Aragorn trotted ahead. He met Gimli and Legolas at the front, and murmured something to them both. Soon, the fellowship broke into a sprint as they dove for the woods ahead.
Perhaps there had been a whisper that urged the men to hurry along, but Luke decided they just couldn't bear to see anyone enjoy a break from the mental and physical strains of the journey. So, they took to the forest for cover and quickly as if there were an army in their pursuit. Luke found that thought frighteningly possible.
Most dove head first when they reached the tree line, but Luke hesitated. There was a wall that only he could see. Transparent and weak, but the world behind it stirred and shifted as if he were peering through a waterfall, the image blurred by the stream. Luke blinked, trying to clear the hallucination. It did not fade. He swatted at the wall, but it did not break or part. And so he stood there, listening to the running footsteps of his fellows disappear into the thick brush. He watched the dwarf vanish from sight, trailing the others by a stretch. Then he was alone, at the border of the ominous forest, his mind falling blank. Something about these woods struck a bone rattling fear.
Luke then realized there was many things to be afraid of.
The goblins in the mines, the orcs in the fields. Luke dared a glance over his shoulder. The clearing was wide, long and open. It was empty, but Luke could picture the monsters leaping out of the tree cover on the opposite side. He could see the ferocious wolf-like creatures' bee-lining it for his throat. His grip tightened on his sword, but what real hurt could it inflict? Luke barely knew how to hold it, never mind get any use from it. His only protectors had just disappeared into the deep wood, and Luke was lost as to what he would do next.
He turned back towards the forest edge, where the shadows danced through the canopy and the whispers pulled him near. His angst held him back. The anger that curdled in his gut and twisted his limbs restrained him. He swallow his distrust and the wall evaporated. It frightened him how quickly thoughts could change, but he had no time to be frightened. Luke broke into a nervous jog, the thick eeriness pressing down with every step deeper into the singing wood.
And the thickness grew. It was in the air, on the breeze, it swayed through the trees and pressed down on Luke from all sides. It was a power that sizzled and sparked around him, and though he could not see it, he felt it in his bones. Lost and disoriented, he kept walking straight or as straight as straight could be. He felt uneasy, as if the trees had eyes to watch his every move.
But it wasn't the trees who were watching.
Gimli whispered many horrible things, as he always did. This time, he spoke on an enchantress. A witch in the wood, an elf like Ashton and Legolas, but blessed with terrifying powers. He said she could take you under her spell simply as you looked upon her, and Silvia thought that was unfair.
Silvia was very tired and she felt as if her knees would give out with each weary step. Her tricky mind was no longer spinning with plots to destroy her enemies back home, or methods to entrap her most recent crushes as it normally were. Her mind was tired, too tired to think. Her body was sinking deeper into exhaustion, and Silvia could not muster the strength to resurface her determination.
She sighed, and peered over her shoulder to look towards Luke. "Hey Luke, did you-"
Silvia blinked, she stopped dead in place. "Luke?" He wasn't there anymore. Had he passed her? She looked about frantically, her heart dropping. Luke was nowhere to be found. "Where is Luke?" She said, drawing out the words slowly and trying to keep her voice from wavering. A dark panic rose in her throat, and she felt her heartbeat quicken.
Ashton and Legolas bounced about at the front of the company, like two high-strung deer, an endless energy pulsing through them. Aragorn and Boromir trailed, whispering amongst each other. Gimli and the Hobbits scurried about just behind Silvia. But Luke was not present.
"Stop" Silvia exclaimed.
They ignored her.
"Please, stop, Luke is gone and I need to find-"
"Well, here's one dwarf she won't ensnare so easily," Gimli was babbling about. He stumbled past a panicked Silvia and continued ranting on, without giving her a moment's notice. "I have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox"
Three arrowheads dawned down upon Gimli, appearing from behind trees and out from the underbrush. Silvia whipped her head around to see blurs of moving creatures diving out from the shadows, and encircling the fellowship. Soon enough, there were several figures enclosing her, drawn arrows aimed for her skull. Her heart sunk, and the panic to find Luke faded into blood curdling fear for her own life.
Quickly, she recognized their attackers. They were all elves.
Men and women alike, tall, beautiful and unearthly. Silvia was frozen in place, afraid to move to either side in fear of an arrow lodging itself inside her skull. Her gaze flickered through the sea of elves, curving over a frustrated Gimli and the terrified group of hobbits. She met her target quickly, as his eyes had also been searching for hers. Firstly, she had thought to look towards Ashton, but the gaze she met was not Ashton's at all. It was Legolas'.
She found a strange comfort in the look he offered her. In the faint, easy smile that he forced onto his lips. It was kind, genuine and reassuring, but Silvia saw right through it. He was scared, they were all terribly frightened of the guardians that surrounded them. But unconsciously, Silvia heard the singing of the unknown, residing deep within this wood where she knew they'd soon be forced to go.
And soon enough, Luke realised he'd been walking in circles. Jumping at the same shadows, resting under the same trees and finding the same eyes in the darkness time and time again. The sun was frighteningly low in the sky, and there were no more rays of light piercing the canopy to distract him from the troubling voices in his head.
Luke may be lost, but he certainly wasn't alone.
For the fifth time since he'd entered the wood, Luke stopped and sat at the base of a tree, an idle attempt to gather his thoughts. He didn't think much, really. He just sat, and listened to the forest stir around him. He listened until all of the sounds blurred into one constant noise. The silence sung him to comatose and Luke felt his exhaustion creeping into view. But he had to keep moving, he couldn't risk a nap when there were so many unknown threats everywhere he went. He could die before he awoke.
And so he stayed on his feet, his burning legs dragging him over the underbrush and through the maze of roots and trees. The sky was on fire when he finally reached the stream. You would think this would be a miracle, finally, a river to follow through the forest. Instead, it enraged him. He had seen this stream before, four other times, he'd been to this same drinking pool time and time again.
Luke stared at the water, black and ferocious as the rapids fell. His fingers curled into fists.
With all his might, Luke turned and kicked a stone as hard as he could. The small rock went flying out of view, "AHH!" Luke howled with rage. His face was hot with frustration and he could barely hold himself upright.
Still, his fury pushed him on and as Luke drew his sword and spun around to lash out at the tree behind him, something grabbed his wrist.
Luke was wrenched off balance, slamming hard into a solid form behind him. The edge of a blade was held against his throat. Luke sucked in a sharp breath between clenched teeth. "Shh…" A female voice cooed, "You'll wake her"
Luke was far too exhausted to struggle, "Who? The wood?" He snapped back.
The girl laughed, a soft and mocking laugh. "Silly boy, the forest never sleeps"
"Then who?" He growled.
With a voice as smooth as silk, the girl cooed, "Nimrodel" Luke's gaze immediately flashed to the water in front of him, the stream had suddenly picked up. The rapids had grown angrier and in a split second, the river had gone from calm and docile, to a monster of flourishing current. Luke's jaw fell.
He was shaking, stress and weariness and terror washing over him all at once. "Who are you?" He hissed.
"You shouldn't be here" The girl said, sternly, ignoring his question. "You need to leave" Her voice was distressed and the hesitation to follow could only mean she was frantically searching her thoughts. What was she talking about? Luke couldn't leave. He needed to find the fellowship, he needed to find Silvia and Ashton… He would die in this world alone.
"No" Luke gasped, "No, you don't understand! Please! I need to find my friends!" He shoved against his captor, elbowing her hard in the stomach. She didn't flinch, she had a steel core and her arms held him with the strength of a dozen men. Who was she? What was she? Luke gritted his teeth, and continued to struggle.
"Stop that!" The girl commanded, annoyance fleeting in her tone. She shifted and drove her heel into his foot. He yelled out, and soon after, a gloved hand clamped over his mouth to keep him quiet. He gnawed at the fabric, trying to bite down on her skin. "Shut up!" She fumed, "God, you're so loud"
God? Luke thought, he hadn't heard anybody use that word. Luke wasn't a believer himself, but in this realm, he doubted anybody even considered a god… He shook his head, what did it really matter to him. "Let me go" He seethed, a mouth full of leather between his teeth.
Instead of shutting him down right away, as he'd expected, the girl considered this. She took a moment before answering, and when she did, she began with a defeated sigh. "It would be unwise to run…" She told him. He wanted to scoff at her, but he figured that wouldn't be the best approach… He sighed.
"I won't" He replied, faultlessly.
She said nothing else before she shoved him away from her. The lie brushed off Luke's shoulder and the second he was free of her clutches, his boots pounded against the forest floor. He made a mad dash for the river, planning to leap over it and hide somewhere on the other side.
An arrow whistled past his right ear. It lodged itself into the tree directly in front of him.
Luke stopped dead, nearly stumbling into the raging water. His heart was pounding, but everything seemed to still as his gaze focused on the arrow.
"Stupid" A voice growled behind him, "Always so stupid"
At first, he thought she was a ghost and he wasn't far off. A silver shadow against the blue burnt wood. She wore a snow white tunic that gleamed in the moonlight. Her cloak fell around her, sparkling silver and dancing in the breeze. A hood was pulled over her masked face, shadowing what was already hidden. The only part that wasn't covered in silver or snow was her eyes, and at this distance, they looked black as a night's starless sky. She was just as tall as he was, but much thinner and much stronger. She had a wooden bow in her clutches, the string drawn back with an arrow loaded and targeted on him.
She smiled. With her eyes that is.
Something about her smiling eyes took Luke off-guard. His heart began to pound, again, in his chest. His fingers were numb, and he found himself mesmerized by the blackness in her eyes. But it wasn't something new and exciting and magical, her smile was different. And Luke could have sworn he'd seen it before.