And There Were Three: Chapter Nineteen

Fiction By Clare Marie // 11/13/2009

Tortei walked quietly up to Elinor and touched her arm.

“Elinor?” he said gruffly. Elinor said nothing, only stared with glassy eyes. Her breathing was heavy and her face pale. Tortei watched her for a moment and tried to talk to her; but she showed no sign of recognition. At last Tortei signaled his companions to come closer.

“Help me make a litter for her,” he ordered, pointing to the looming tree branches. Silently they nodded, and while Tortei held Elinor's arm firmly and sang a soothing song, the rest gathered a large pile of evergreen branches and tightly tied them together. Tortei noticed the Zarwin-ring in Elinor's hand, but he said naught.

The companions dragged a litter over and helped Tortei to gently lay Elinor down on it. She made not a murmur. They began carefully to lift her, when one of the dwarves - I think his name was Grantei - pointed out that they could not leave the Southern men behind, especially not unguarded. Tortei appointed two other dwarves to bind the men together, if alive, and keep watch on them until he should return; if dead, they would give them a proper burial. Then they again bore Elinor up, and picked their way back to the road. They took great care not to stumble and disturb the girl. Her eyes remained glazed over and she stirred not; yet she started to whimper.

Their way was easier once they reached the road, and they walked faster, eager to be home. The moon still shone brightly. Every few hundred feet they switched hands, and so they moved slowly and steadily down the well-worn, ancient stone path. The intimidating forms of the Black Hills drew closer bit by bit.

Tortei suddenly stopped and listened. He thought he had heard footsteps coming up the bend of the road. Looking about him, he realized his companions had heard the same thing, for they all were still. They glanced at each other, and quickly set Elinor down. Whipping their axes from their belts, they planted their feet well apart stoutly. They could perceive only a small company approaching. Protectively, they stood in front of Elinor and waited.

Clump-clump, clump-clump.  Nearer drew the steps and they became louder. The dwarves were startled to hear soft but insistent cries: Elinor! Elinor!  Again they looked at each other, confused and scared. Perhaps it was a group of witches who lived in the forest, and came out at night to seize unsuspecting victims. Tortei alone seemed unabated.

“Hold your ground,” he grunted and gazed steadily ahead. The cries grew in volume, and the footsteps seemed to fall more swiftly. The company gripped their weapons tightly. Elinor stirred and emitted a shriek. The dwarves jumped and started to sweat; Tortei rushed to Elinor and begged her to be silent. But she screamed all the more and squeezed her eyes shut, throwing herself around on the litter. “Courage,” Tortei told his companions, though he himself despaired.

At Elinor's scream, the footsteps halted, then rushed toward them. Around the bend of the road appeared about four or five dwarves, with a tall figure the company could not discern leading them. They stared dumbfounded as the approaching group hailed them frantically and waved their arms above their heads. Drawing nearer, Tortei's band saw that Chot the Gatekeeper and Ropsy were among them, and the tall figure was Eltar. Tortei and his company were so relieved they cheered. Eltar pushed himself forward, panting, and throwing the hood of his cloak back. Underneath his eyes flashed determined.

“Tortei!” he shouted, almost crying. “Tortei, have you seen Elinor? She disappeared, and we have been searching for her, and we thought we heard her scream, and-”

“She is here,” interrupted Tortei, unusually excited and nervous.  Eltar followed Tortei's gaze. He threw himself down beside Elinor. She was weeping and shaking and groping, trying to grasp something. Eltar grabbed her hands.

“Elinor, I'm here! I'm here. Oh Elinor, I'm here.”  She grew quiet, and clung desperately to his hand, tears coursing down her cheeks. Eltar glanced up at the silent Tortei. “How did this happen?” he managed to say. Tortei shook his head incredulously.

“This is how we found her,” he answered softly. Eltar stroked his sister's hands and spoke to her. His voice seemed to calm her down, and she relaxed.

 

*~*~*

 

“How is she?” Bettle entered the sickroom quietly and laid his hand on Eltar's shoulder. The boy looked up with a wan face beside his sister's bed.

“Better,” he answered, “but she still is so quiet."

“Have you an idea what happened?” Bettle asked, sitting down in a chair.

“None; though I did find this clenched in her hand.” Eltar held up Elinor's ring. It shone pale in the dark of the room. Bettle frowned, took the ring, and scrutinized it.

“Where did she get this?” he muttered, half to himself. Eltar shrugged and looked quizzical. The king nodded and handed the ring back to Eltar. “This ring,” said Bettle, “is made of the metal Zarwin, an extraordinary ore, precious to us dwarves. Some believe it to be magical, and I am one of those.”

“But what could it do?”

“I am not sure. There are many different opinions on the matter, such as the theories that Zarwin can summon thunder and lightning, or suck the life out of any living creature nearby. I have given this matter some thought and great study, and I believe it can do more than one thing.” Eltar scratched his head.

“Do you think,” he said thoughtfully and eagerly, “it could strike people - or other things - down?”

Bettle nodded again. “One common opinion," he replied, “is that Zarwin will use great force and powerful magic to protect its owner from great danger, without its master invoking its aid; though how it could sense this is a mystery.”

“Is this what happened with Elinor?”

"I think so, lad."  They gazed at one another, turned to Elinor, and watched her ponderingly. A cool damp cloth lay across her head, for she was warm and sweating; her fingers ever groped for Eltar's, yet her eyes remained closed. At last Bettle stood.

“I will search the kingdom for any information concerning a flowered Zarwin ring,” he said, handing the jewelry back to Eltar. “In the meantime, if she wakes, try to get as much information out of her as possible.”

A sense of desperation settled over Eltar as the door closed. He walked about the room, sighing, fingering the ring again and again. He felt sick if he glanced at Elinor at all, so he turned his gaze instead to the window. The sun was thinking of rising, with fluffy pink clouds as his heralds. It was a rather lovely sight, for the clouds settled around the peaks of the mountains and sailed down their sides in wispy strands, and at the mountains' feet, all was wet and grey. Cranes flew through the mist, and sparrows were twittering their greeting. Eltar leaned against the wall, feeling the presence of peace in the morning's beauty.

“Eltar?” whispered a weak voice, startling him out of his musings. He turned, and saw Elinor's eyes open and wondering. He knelt swiftly at her side.

“I'm here, sweet,” he said with a renewed brotherly tenderness. She smiled and laughed faintly.

“Wonder of wonders!” she breathed. “If I knew you were going to call me 'sweet' when I was ill, I'd be sick more often.” Eltar chuckled, well knowing Elinor was on the mend, because of her return of humor. She slowly pulled herself into a sitting position and removed the cloth from her head.

“Was I dreaming?” asked she, staring at the cloth as if it were a long-forgotten treasure. Eltar hesitated, for he knew not what to say. She directed her eyes toward him, a little scared. “No...no, I wasn't, was I? I was afraid of that. Why is it that the most lovely experiences are always dreams, and the most horrible ones are real?”

“I don't know, sweet,” said her brother (calling her 'sweet' once more because she liked it so), “but what happened last night?” Eltar rested his elbows on the bed and leaned his chin on his hands. Elinor sighed and lay back on the pillow. Closing her eyelids, she thought for a moment.

“Was it really only last night?” she asked, opening the lids again.

“Yes,” answered her brother.

“Then how did I get well so fast?”

Eltar's eyes sparkled. “I fed you a bit of the blue herb aunty Syla gave me; in mutton soup.” (If you do not remember this blue herb, reader, I suggest you turn back the pages and reread chapter six.)

“Mutton soup?” cried Elinor, laughing heartily now. “Ugh! I detest mutton soup, didn't you know that? A good thing I was unconscious of it! But I didn't know the herb could heal sickness as well.”

“Neither did I; but it seemed, from what Syla told me, that the herb could do great healing in many things, so I tried it.”

“You took that risk?” inquired Elinor, sitting up again in surprise. Eltar blushed boyishly.

“Well, it was for you,” he answered, somewhat shy. Elinor looked awkward, and there was an embarrassed silence. Eltar scratched his head, and began laughing because Elinor had a mischievous look upon her pale face.

“Aren't we tender today?” she teased him, grinning wickedly. Eltar whereupon stood up, somewhat indignant, and ordered Elinor to behave, “or I'll drag you outside, sick or no, and roll you down the hill.” At that, Elinor turned pale with real grief, turned from Eltar and sat with her face toward the wall, rubbing her trembling hands nervously. Eltar's smile vanished.

“Elinor?” he asked. He sat quickly on the bed beside her, deep blue eyes searching her face. “Elinor, I was only joking.” She tried to give him a reassuring smile.

“I know, Eltar,” she replied. Her frightened eyes met his. “It's just that - what you said - reminded me of something.” She told him of what had happened the night before, from when she left the fortress to her mad escapade into the forest. Her hands found it necessary to have an occupation while she was speaking, and her bedclothes got rather wrinkled from so many squeezes.

“It was stupid of me,” said Elinor, “to go alone into an unknown forest, so near to dusk. But I don't know what came over me, and you know how impulsive I am. Of course I got lost right away, and it was totally dark. I was scared, Eltar.” The brown eyes filled with sudden tears, and the red lips shook. “I've never been alone in a forest at night. There was...well, eventually I saw a light in the distance. I thought, I knew it was you; so I ran to it. Eltar, when I got there, I saw who the light belonged to: Southerners. I ran right in their midst, and they tried to hold me and tie me up. Probably they wanted me for questioning,” (shudders) “but I wouldn't have any of it. I fought and kicked and screamed. I thought it was hopeless, when suddenly there was a great noise. I-I can't describe it, and it frightened me more than the men. I thought a dragon - or something worse - was going to dart out of the black clouds above and snatch us all away to its lair. Then a white light sprang high into the air, almost simultaneous with the noise. The Southerners all flew back, crashing against the trees and landing hard on the leaves. They made no sound, not a cry or anything. That also terrified me. I guess I must have swooned, because I dreamed I heard your voice, and when I reached out for you in my dream, you were there, and you held my hand. Next thing I knew, I was here.”

Eltar laid his hands on Elinor, and gently helped her to lie down.

“You need some rest, sweet,” he whispered, stroking her hair. “Go back to sleep, and we'll talk about this later.” Elinor submitted silently, closing her eyes. She fell asleep almost immediately. Eltar kissed her softly on the brow - something he would never have dared to do if she was awake - and stole out of the room to consult with the King.

 

*~*~*

 

Meanwhile, in Myriada, war was kindled.

Comments

Oh, Clare! I like this a lot!

Oh, Clare! I like this a lot! You have a good style of writing, coupled with humor (I can't seem to work much humor into my books *sighs*). I really like the things about Zarwin stones. It reminds me a little of Mithril, though I don't know why. :) :) :)

Laura Elizabeth | Fri, 11/13/2009

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The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

Just one typo--it should be

Just one typo--it should be "simultaneously with the noise," not "simultaneous with the noise." But it was lovely other than that. I especially love Elinor--she's so very dear, and I like the way you protray her interactions with Eltar (who's also a very endearing character). By the by, I think it's nice that your heroine has brown eyes. :-)

Annabel | Sat, 11/14/2009

Cool! The Zarwin stone is

Cool! The Zarwin stone is neat, it reminds me of a mix of Galadriel's ring and mithril, with something uniquely your own thrown in too. I really hope that you keep including Bettle in the story, I just think he's the coolest character ever!

And I meant to say this in one of my other comments on this story, but somehow forgot--applause for making your hero and heroine brother and sister! That's unusual and neat.

I'm so envious of your voice and Mary's...you both have this wonderful, old-timey author voice that reminds me so much of Tolkien or Lewis. Not fair!! All I can seem to get is this blunt, straight-forward modern voice.

How's NaNoWriMo?

Heather | Sun, 11/15/2009

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Laura: Thank you!  I'm glad

Laura: Thank you!  I'm glad you don't think the humor is too corny or stupid...I try my best to make it the opposite.  Yes, actually, when I was writing I was thinking "hmm, this reminds me of mithril."  I didn't really mean it to be; it just happened. :)

Annabel:  Thanks for pointing that out.  I'm afraid I will probably discover many typos when I go through this book again and edit.  And thanks for thinking Eltar and Elinor are dear. :) 

Heather: I would like to stick Bettle in more, but I'm not too sure I'll be able to.  It's too bad, but we'll see.  I'm not finished yet, so he might make an appearance now and then! :D 

Thank you!  Personally, I like it when books use brother/sister or cousins or something like that for their heros rather than lovers.  So I'm glad you appreciate it. :)

Why, I think your voice is wonderful!  To tell the truth, I kind of envy your style of writing...it just seems freer than mine.  Thanks though. :)  Tolkien and Lewis are two of my favorites, so that's definitely an honor! 

NaNoWriMo is going pretty good!  It's definitely ALOT better than it was some days ago.  I'm still behind, but I now have 15,677 words.  I'm very proud of myself. ;D  I didn't think I'd get this far!

Clare Marie | Wed, 11/18/2009

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"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

This is the best chapter

This is the best chapter yet!  It's getting really intense.  When are you posting the next one?

Bridget | Sat, 11/21/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya