8. Ch. 7: Trickling Hope and Hallowed Children
Chapter 7: Trickling Hope and Hallowed Children
She clutched at her mount's neck, holding close as the wind flapped about her. The ride was swift but time was not to be wasted and she felt as if it had been. How long had it been? Two, three days? Maybe more. Time had seemed to stop, but maybe it just went by too fast for her to notice. That is what Death does, she thought, it numbs you.
It was not long before she arrived in Imladris, dull and unresponsive to the calls of the Elven guard. "Who are you?" She spoke not a word. She dismounted, stumbling to the ground. With a pat on her mount's leg, she released him, watching with slight dismay at his parting. "Stand and show yourself!"
Struggling, she stood only to become faint. What was happening?
"Who are you?" they demanded. There were three of them; their metal gauntlets reflected the sun in a dizzying manner. She passed a hand over her eyes and spoke in a soft voice.
"I am Alatar, wife of Suladân, mother of the Shamsa. I wish to have council with the Lord of Imladris." It was then her body chose to give up after many sleepless days. It was just dark, just so very dark.
"…just like your daughter, Alatar," the bleary voice of Elrond pierced the silence that swam about in her head. Everything felt dizzying, swirling continuously.
When she could finally find her voice, she whispered, "What are you talking about?" Her eyes opened slowly, the blue irises quickly finding his own dark ones. She regarded him curiously, her eyebrows drawn together, before she decided it was him, giving him a weak smile. "My lord."
"The lovely Eruain was laying here, much like you, about three years ago." He moved his hand from its spot on the bed to his lap, ushering a sigh out. It would break his heart to tell her that Eruain was abducted not even a fortnight before Alatar's arrival. So much had to be told to her and so much time had been lost.
That peeked her interest. The thought of seeing her daughter again was tantalizing and she had almost forgotten about what happened back in Harad. "Where is she? Where is Eruain?"
Elrond hesitated. Before speaking, he helped her sit up, which she was struggling slightly at. "Alatar, I'm sorry. She's gone." The sadness in his eyes was only an ounce of what she felt as he told her, "Annatar's servants, the Nazgul, took her. My sons did the best they could to save her, but she was already in the hands of the Dark ones."
"You let her be taken?! She's all but dead! What if she was yours?! What would you feel like if she was your child?" She wailed, fits of tears intermittently broke her voice.
"My son, Elladan, wished to pledge his life to her. He wanted to spend eternity with her. She was like my own. Do not tell me I cannot sympathize with you. I love her like I would Arwen." Elrond stood, his head turning towards the window. A shadow stood, silent and patient. "Come into the light, my friend. She may not wish to see you, but you need to be here for this discussion. You too, my son. I know you are eavesdropping outside the door. Come here."
Elladan and Glorfindel appeared from their respective hiding places. They came and bowed to Elrond and then took their places standing beside him. "Milady," Elladan acknowledged with a nod.
"Alatar –" Glorfindel started before she cut him off.
"I do not want him here. I do not welcome his presence."
"It matters not," Elrond explained, "He acted the role of guardian and father to your daughter while she was here. He holds partial responsibility for your daughter's disappearance."
"I knew you had a hand in this. You betrayed me once. It is no different now."
"Has my hold over your heart changed into harshness that is equated to the hatred that lives in the very depths of Udûn? Or is it you fear what your heart still feels?"
"We will not talk about our distant past. I do not wish to hear it! You will tell me about Eruain. You will tell me how you let her slip through your fingers like you would water." She furiously looked away from him, into the distant night. Wishing that Eruain was yet alive and that she was safe was a fool's wish, but a wish that only she could hold onto. It would keep her sane.
"We were coming back from a mission. From the borders of Mirkwood." It was Elladan who took the lead. "From what I gathered, she left Rivendell to come meet us on the road. Something drew her away from the path, something even my elf ears and eyes could not hear or see. We passed by each other, not even noticing. When I found she had come to find us and had not, I organized the search party. We went as fast as we could, but it was too late. We arrived only a little behind her. She was already in the clutches of the Mouth."
Alatar turned her gaze on Glorfindel again, holding him responsible. "You let that thing take her! My daughter! And you pretend that she is your daughter! A real father would stop at nothing to get her back!"
Glorfindel snatched her arm quickly and pulled down the sleeve. "A real father would not abuse a child's mother." Anger flowed like lava, seeping into her core. She yanked her arm away; Suladân had not made the marks.
"It was not Suladân," she whispered, "but Pallando."
"What happened?" Elrond sat once again. He had seen turmoil explode in the South, but what from?
"He told me to run. I didn't though, at least, not quickly enough. They found out that Pallando was an enemy before me; I do not know the exact details about how they did, though. They drug her screaming away from me. She grasped so tightly to my arm, it was her last touch. I did nothing." She closed her eyes in pain. How could she have done that? "They came for me and tied me to a pole. I had to watch as they tortured her. I can still see every arc of the whip and watch the glass and pottery pieces tied to it rip through her skin. They shaved her head and made shallow cuts all over her face. At least seventeen men raped her. She bled and bled. But that's not the worse part. They…" Fierce sobs consumed her.
"You don't have to say any more," Elrond lied. Truthfully, he needed to know what happened. It would be better to know.
She regained some stability, some control, and started again. "They tied ropes around her wrists and ankles." Her hands weakly circled around her wrists, mimicking the motions of wrapping rope around them. "They attached the rope to the saddles of the horses we kept." Threatening to cry again, she grasped Elrond's hand and clenched tightly. "They took one of the children, a little Haradrim, maybe no older than six and told me that if I didn't give the order for the horses to gallop they would kill the child."
Some thought, a foreign thought, appeared inside Elrond's mind. It did not seem like his own. Was Eru Ilúvatar communicating with him? She holds the lives of children more hallowed than anything.
"I couldn't let him die. I couldn't let the child die. I couldn't; he was innocent," she mumbled. Incoherent thoughts spilled from her mouth and they watched her succumb to terror and guilt. "I gave the order." She gagged a little and tried with all her might not to vomit. "I screamed 'Lerkud'." She broke down again. "The horses bolted. Her scream, it echoes, it never stops. Her limbs were ripped off, blood everywhere." As if she was drowning, her breaths became short and shallow. Shuddering, she whispered, "And they bathed me in her blood."
Glorfindel, who had been pacing, stopped and stood the farthest away from her. He could no longer help her. She didn't want him. "How did you manage to escape?"
"I didn't, at least not at first," was the weak reply. She struggled to regain composure and when she did, she continued. "They told me to run. That I had an hour to navigate my way out of the village and surround desert before they came for me. Fortunately, the eagle I had called came and was waiting at an oasis. I cleaned off her blood, mounted and didn't stop running."
They did not say a word, but let her sob. They couldn't imagine how she felt. Couldn't fathom that she never that her face was the last face that Pallando ever saw. To give that order. To be drowned in her blood. When was the world ever going to stop being terrible? Was terrible even a word they could use? Was it such an understatement?
"Suladân is Sauron's ally." This whisper was what shattered the world.
And it also vibrated within Gondor.
I cannot start this letter with words that can express what I feel and I know they won't do it justice. But please, I wish to inquire that you are in good health and you have found Gondor tolerable.
I am writing to you from Imladris, or you might know it as Rivendell. The person delivering this letter has my utmost trust and will not harm you or my mission. Which brings me to the reasons why I am writing you: to explain our mission, Eruain, and the situation in Harad.
A long time ago, your mother and I were charged with the task of espionage. We were to spy on Sauron. For all the years I lived in Harad, this is what I did. Eruain helped me with these tasks. You mother probably did not tell you the entirety of our mission, but I expect you would have figured it out.
I am sorry.
How many times can I say it so that it gains meaning? Each time I pen it, it just doesn't express my sorrow or grief.
Your mother is dead. I gave the death sentence myself. The Haradrim whipped her, raped her, shaved her head, and cut her face. They tied ropes to her limbs and attached them to the saddles of four horses. And brought a child to me. They said if I did not give the order for the horses to run, they would kill the child. He was innocent. I gave the order and her limbs were ripped from her body. They bathed me in her blood and told me to run. And I did.
My heart has shrunken, my soul cold. With the passing of your mother, I have died several times over, shivering into the dead of night with not a thought but a mural of vivid memories of her murder.
I am sorry.
Eruain may be dead. The Shell of Sauron has taken Eruain as his bride. From Elrond's foresight, we have come to understand that she has conceived a child by him. We fear her mind is being polluted.
There is no hope.
Suladân has allied with Sauron.