III 1050 Second Ender
He watches the orc fall. Watches the toothy necklace snap and fly to the ground. Watches the shoulder twitch once, twice as the body jolts violently in the air and twists, and the thick blade misses the elf's back by a hand. He watches the Brute crash, great body delving deep grooves into the earth as momentum carries it sliding to an abrupt halt. The elf jerks in surprise and brings its weapon around with a blur.
He blinks in the rain. Then he turns his head almost slowly to his stomach and stares steadily at the hole sliced from his belt to his ribs. The thick muscle is split wide, and round and glistening, entrails pulse, crowding the wound as his blood blushes black and trails to the ground. The javelins slide off his back as the straps across his chest snap, cut, under their weight.
He raises his head and presses a hand against the hole and looks toward where the elf has been. The creature is gone but the Brute is still there, crumpled in the mud, its necklace half-buried under its head, the thick shaft snapped in its back.
A curse streaks loud through the air. His eyes swing away from the corpse, and he watches his assailant spin, caught stark in a brilliant burst of lightning, to meet the rapid blur of the Old One's weapon. Their blades ring clear in his ears, and he can smell the sweat, elf and orc, on their bodies even as the rain washes it away.
He drops to his knees, his hand clenched tight to his skin. The rain is cold around him, puddling in the footsteps that mar the soaked ground. Thunder crashes across the sky and the snaga shatter the puddles as they thrash desperately to parry the flickering blades of their enraged opponents. The enemy flows easily with the rain, familiar with the land, eyes molten steel, aflame with anger. And even as the weaklings, the snaga glob-hai, fight and slash and scream, he can taste their fear and smell the urine mix with their blood.
He rolls onto his back and grabs a fistful of mud. It oozes thick between his fingers and drops heavy onto his chest. Lifting his head off of the ground, he wrenches his hand out of the wound and in one quick motion crams the other into it, packing the mud forcefully into the gash. His body tenses, jaw stiffening. Quickly he scoops up more, shoving it, stuffing it until it is full. His chest heaves against the pain, and he finishes, breathing heavily. His hand glistens black as lightning flares across the sky.
The words are screamed in the guttural black language. The Old One snarls, saliva frothing from peeled lips, the skin flapping wet at its neck. It roars against the night, scarred voice drowned in the thunder and crashes and jagged cries.
Eyes blazing, the elf presses forward and speaks in its own tongue, voice cutting, low.
"Pedich lín methed, lhug."
They meet in a dark blur of flesh and metal, pulsing angry in the night. Back and forth between the trees, caught in a brief, intense struggle. The Old One shrieks another challenge, wrenching its crooked body through the rapid, well-known steps of battle's dance. Then its head is whipped off, and the cry abruptly silenced.
He watches the body fall, flinging mud that splatters across the elf's face. The creature pauses briefly, hair a matted web plastered to its forehead, water trembling against its jaw, and he can see the feral gleam in its eyes. Then the elf is gone, springing forward to chase the fight south.
He tears himself with a sucking lurch from the ground and rolls to his feet. Fire explodes under his ribs. His shirt clings sticky to his skin, and as he moves, he feels it pull, stretching at the edges of his wound. With a sharp glance, he scoops up one of his fallen weapons, and darting around the Old One's body, plunges into the foliage. He keeps low, melting easily with the shadows, the bark of the trees slick against his skin. The snaga are scattered in broken heaps, slumped against dark trunks, distorted, ruined, useless. Some spasm, choking in the mud, drowning in puddles. One drags itself shuddering through the rain. It vomits before it collapses, and he hears it grating breaths as he ripples past through the clash of the storm.
The rain falls hard across his face. He can feel it cold, running down his neck, across his spine. Light flashes bright and he sees briefly one of the humans, cringing terrified, curled deep in a hold, mouth drawn tight in murmuring prayer.
"Tiro andu! Celai an eryd!"
The voice rings clear, a command in their tongue. The shadows of several elves flit faint through the branches and he sees the human shrink further into the hold, shaking violently. Lightning catches the elves flickering against the sky. Their eyes glitter with bestial intensity. They sweep past the hidden man, and a moment later, angry shafts hiss through the rain and several fleeing snaga skid wet to the ground.
He skirts up an embankment, slick with mud, and begins to move faster, angled limbs rolling into a stretched rhythm. Cold, his hilt beats steadily against his leg. The nets hang, dripping, frayed, out of the branches, slashed to tangled threads. They splay viciously with the wind and several sag with dark loads that leak black, trickling over the threads like dew caught on a web.
Beyond them, the stag's bones are flung and trampled under the mud, snarled with the day skins and what remains of the bread. Its antlers have been shattered and lie lost in broken pieces among the twisted limbs of the fallen. The humans are sprawled halfway out of their tents, feathered shafts long in their bodies, armor half-on, plinking useless in the raging storm.
He sweeps over the bodies, pressing steadily forward, feet sweeping smooth across the ground. His torso is trembling. Shifting his free hand across his body, he holds it hovering over the caked gash and the clinging shirt but does not glance down.
He sees the trench as it blooms, gaping in front of him, and he angles sharply to edge along its side. Its floor churns now with gurgling water, a dark rush that swirls madly over the feet and hands and heads that clot its path. Corpses are wedged in the bottom and sides. The water butts roughly into them and they sway, tremoring under its force.
He passes them quickly, regarding and dismissing them within the same moment. The noise of battle is muffled, buried under the rumbling thunder and thick drip of rain. He hears water. Water rushing. Water falling. The creak of his leather and the rhythmic bump of his hilt and pack.
A bellow explodes near, tearing jagged like raw stone through the trees.
"Curse you, scum of the dung pits! I will not die here tonight!"
Violent, hacking thuds fight the storm.
"I will not die!"
The air shudders with the gargled shriek. Something crashes against the trees, shaking the earth, beating angry against his ears. He keeps his rolling stride, tracking the struggle by sound as he moves. The sodden earth sucks greedily at his feet. He tightens his hand slightly around his weapon but does not pause to glance toward the sounds.
A body stretches twisted in front of him, half-in, half-out of the trench with its feet shaking in the water. Lightning flickers and catches it jagged white. He stops. His hair clings thick to his back.
The Man is on the ground. Its hand is curled under it, clasped around the scarred hilt. The face is stained with dirt, the mouth open, broken teeth streaked dark. Its back is split wide, its body hinged crooked. His eyes flick to the human's face, then back down to where a bit of ribbon shows crushed under its chest.
The wind whips violently, pressing his shirt closer to his body. He watches the ribbon tremble under assault of the rain. It shudders, flexing delicate, its color drowned now beyond the point of recognition.
He shifts to start forward again, his limbs rippling one after the other, and he moves to slip past the Man, eyes lingering momentarily on the pallid face.
Lifting his head, he switches his focus back to his surroundings. Then he pauses.
Buried under the layers of the storm, he can hear the distinct but faint sounds of the battle still raging. But around him, an uneasy tenseness reigns. He can no longer hear the struggle.
With the quick, precise movements of a cat he turns, searching the shadows. For a moment, nothing appears. Then an elf lopes, breathing heavily, out of the trees, eyes intent on some distant point across the trench. Its hand, arm, face glistens slick black. A slender blade hangs loose in its hand, painted so thick with blood that the tip dips heavily downward.
It sees him and stops and their eyes meet.
In that gaze, he catches the full brunt of the wild energy that tremors through the creature's veins. It is a primeval strength channeled from generation to generation, caged and tempered by an easy, unfaltering grace. The world suddenly shrinks to the space trapped between them.
He slowly uncoils his muscles, rising steadily from the ground. With grinding snaps, his spine twists itself straight. Long, lean, his legs stretch, his torso stretches, and his shoulders roll back, and he stands, towering at his full height, body proud and hard under the storm, shirt fluttering useless, and water cascading sharp, stabbing white from his corded limbs.
He keeps his weapon relaxed in his hand and stares down at the elf.
Recognition flits brief across the creature's face, and in that moment, something approaching fear claims its features. It tilts its chin slightly upward. Then the expression vanishes and it shifts its weight warily, bringing its blade forward with the casual tension of an experienced fighter.
A bolt of lightning blooms in the sky, electrifying their silent contact. He lunges.
Sweeping low with his javelin, he propels himself forward, jamming it into the ground. The elf jerks its sword down. He leaves his weapon stuck in the mud and slides under the creature's blade, popping up behind it, and in one violent movement he catches the elf's body, draws his knife, and slits its throat.
The bolt of lightning just touches the ground.
He feels its warmness flood across his hand, and the scent of its blood crashes rich through his nostrils. The body stiffens. The slender blade falls. He uncurls his hand from around its chest and lets it slip almost gracefully to the ground.
Red beads at his fingertips. He stands over the warm elf, in the cold rain. Its blood stains him, marking him victor, like all of the others have. Slowly he frees his posture, and his spine snaps back into place as his muscles relax. He wipes his knife clean. The blade whispers deftly back into its sheath.
He waits for the satisfaction that comes with their deaths. He waits under the storm.
Turning, he searches the elf's face and stops, caught by the glassy eyes. There is nothing in them.
Suddenly that isn't right.
Moving, he scoops up his javelin and vaults over the trench, cutting a graceful arc through the sheets of water and landing silent on the other side. He plunges south, running whipped by the forest branches. Mud dribbles out of his side and thick down his leg as he runs, mixed black with his blood. The gaping hole pulses with each stride. He presses a red hand to it.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.