Shadow: 15. XV

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15. XV

"Father! Father! Do come in! You'll catch the death of a cold!" the young lady's voice resonated above the noise of the storm.

The maiden sighed and ran out from the shelter of the wooden house to where her father was attempting to hastily collect the skins that he had hung out to dry earlier in the day. She carried a cloak, and draped it over her father as she reached him.

The rain did not relent in its fury, and instead seemed to beat down with a greater burst of energy. The daughter quickly helped her father gather up the skins.

"Alas! My skins!" the woodsman lamented as they entered the relative safety of their dwelling. "They are of no use now!"

"Do not worry, Father. I am sure they can be saved." She took off his cape, and hung it out to dry in front of the fireplace, and the skins followed suit. After that, she whipped out a dry cloth started to dry the drenched old man. He pulled off his boots wearily, and sunk down into the rickety armchair.

The old Hunter sighed heavily. He yet to reach three score, but his hair had already turned snowy-white. Deep wrinkles entrenched on his face like canals. His face was leathery, as one who was accustomed to the elements, and his formerly proud eyes were downcast. His movements were slow and strained, as age caught up with him; hands callused with labour and toil, joints stiff with wear and tear. Nearing his twilight years, he still had to work as hard as he was twenty, to support his tiny family.

The room was furnished simply. A roaring wooden fire was blazing in the fireplace, and a large pot with simmering contents hung over the dancing flames. Enticing fumes of pot roast wafted up from the food being cooked. A small dining table was set for two, ready for dinner. Coarse plates and cutlery were used, the terra cotta chipped at the rims, the colour long since faded. Curtains, threadbare and frail, hung sadly over the windows. The furniture was old and weathered, made by the woodsman in his prime. The armchair was the only exception. Bought at a market of fleas, it had been lugged through the forest by an ancient mule on the back of a broken cart. The journey had taken the better part of two days. It was the family's most prized possession. Even though the leather had long since lost its shine, the cushioning was still soft and comfortable.

In spite of the dilapidated condition of the house, it was spotlessly clean. The attentions of the girl had left the occupants of the room dust-free, and not a single cobweb was in sight.

She walked over to the pot with its contents hanging over the ambers and scooped ladles of pot roast. More aromatic smells drifted up and stimulated the olfactory senses of the old man. Gastric juices within his stomach turned it into a knot, and he got up and seated himself at the table.

"Father, do be careful! It is hot, you might scald yourself!" the young lady chided as she watched the old man wolf down his food.

"Yuvinel, don't worry! Some hot stew is not going to get the better of me!" the old man chuckled.

A sudden banging was heard on the door.

The maiden frowned. They never had visitors. Perhaps it was a traveller who needed a respite from the elements. She got up and headed towards the door.

"Open up! Open up in the name of the Lord Marnor!"

Both father and daughter paled. Yuvinel turned and stared at her father, uncertainty and fear in her eyes. The old man got up and walked to the door. He did not want his daughter to face the undoubtedly armed men outside.

He opened the door. The sight that greeted him chilled him to the bone. Flashes of lightning illuminated a group of soldiers of about two dozen. They were all stony-faced and grim. He recognised it as the look of men from a disciplined force mindlessly carrying out orders. Their long spears were cold and glinting, and their shields were pale and menacing.

"Gamlor, son of Gronlé! You are under arrest for refusal to obey orders!" the leader of the man dictated, his face an expressionless mask.

Gamlor trembled furiously upon hearing the words. The leader held out a pair of metal chains out in front of his face. The old woodsman collapsed to the floor, as if it was too much for him to take.

"We are under orders to take your daughter back with us too!" the leader continued, before stepping forward to clasp cold metal against flesh.

A sudden blow struck and hit his stomach causing him to double over, winded. Gamlor had launched himself at the leader with surprising agility and strength. The man gave out a loud cry, and his followers responded, leaping forward, trying to contain the man who seemed as if he had gone mad.

"Yuvinel! Flee! Flee!" the woodsman cried to his daughter as he held them back successfully.

The maiden stood still, rooted in horror, even though a few soldiers were making their way towards her.

"Run! Remember me, and avenge me!" the old man screamed, frenetic.

Yuvinel responded, stung by the urgency of his tone. Picking up the pot hanging over the fire, she threw it at those who had entered the house. They screamed in anger and pain as the hot contents splashed over them.

Making use of the diversion, the maiden fled through the back. Once outside, the full force of the rain hit her. Raindrops flung themselves upon her with unrelenting fury as she ran through the woods she knew so well. Her mind was numb with confusion and the cold. The shouts of her pursuers faded slowly as they rapidly lost her trail in the labyrinth of trees.

On she ran, mindlessly. Thoughts ceased to come to her, and all she heard in her mind were the calls of her father. To run away. To avenge him. Avenge him.

The thunder crashed and set her eardrums ringing. The lightning flashed and lit up the trees. The environment which had previously been so inviting and invigorating to her suddenly seemed so hostile. Every root was out to trip her, every branch to fall and crush her.

The manic strength that drove her gradually gave way to fear. Muscles seized up and spasms worked their way through her body. The weariness enveloped her entire being, and she felt her legs give way. Rain continued to pour from the heavens as she passed into darkness.

***** A/N: The (relatively small) forest mentioned in here is a figment of my imagination, which is separate from Eryn Galen. I would place it about 10 miles south of Beorn and just West of the Old Ford on the Anduin.

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.

Story Information

Author: fael bain

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Kings

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/10/05

Original Post: 09/21/03

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