Even in the Barrows she could rest in the manner of Elves. She closed her eyes, laid her cheek on her knees, and descended into dreams. Into some dark place.
It was dark in the cell, very dark and so quiet she could hear her heart beating in her chest like a metronome and she lay on her back as well as she could with the chains twisting around her ankles and wrists.
She didn’t know how long she had been down here this time, she listened to her blood rushing through her veins, to the deafening silence in her ears. There was no light here. Or perhaps there was and she had been rendered blind.
She closed her eyes, tried to muster up some memorized history, some tale of some far distant place. They left her food sometimes, once a day or once every other day, or once a week, or once an hour. Always the same thing. Maybe they had only left it once. Maybe she had only been in here this time for an hour.
The sound of her heartbeat was interrupted. The door was opening and for the first time in so long she saw an outline of light. She didn’t sit up, merely laid there, but she could see the man with the scar on his lip come in and the door was left open, light poured in and reflexively she covered her eyes against even the dim, flickering torches. The man’s footsteps were soft and he stood over her. Even if she could not see him behind her closed eyes she could feel him.
The chains of her arms and legs fell away and she stood, as expected, still covering her face. They walked.
There were stairs up and the air became… freer and fresher. She had been captured in the still cold late-winter of the forest, but now it was… warm. There was so much noise, she could hear the world around her and even beneath it her heart, still beating. There was shouting here, dogs, she ventured to open her eyes onto a great stone courtyard through which they passed. And then through a gate. To the paved road, then off to a forest path. The world was a dazzling green and the air was warm here, it enveloped her, caught the red color of the strange robe he had made her wear. In the dark of the cell it had been comfortingly warm but now outside in summer it was oppressive.
The world passed in a blur of colors as her eyes struggled to adjust, she lowered her hands again, dutifully trailing behind the man. It was only them and the trees. They passed to a clearing and she could hear a bird singing somewhere in the trees. A bird. There were still birds. The man carried a strange object in his hand, wrapped in black cloth. She frowned, looking around at the clearing and now her eyes settled on a vague shape among the leaves. She focused on it, golden hair, slender face lying still and breathing barely amid the leaves… a Wood Elf. And if he lay still his eyes roamed about in terror, wide awake, paralyzed.
“Nothing helps the constitution like fresh air, don’t you find Raenarcam?” The man asked, beginning to unwrap the object in his hands.
She didn’t say anything, merely stared at the Wood Elf on the ground. When her eyes rose she found a beautiful knife laying on black cloth in the man’s hand. Slightly curved, beautiful… Her knife, the knife her father had made her. The knife lost when she had been captured… He gestured out with it, gestured for her to take it. She hesitated a moment and with a trembling hand took it and held it. It fit in her hand, it had been made for her…
She stared down at it and then up at the man and then hesitatingly at the Elf on the ground. The knife shook in her hand.
“The Elf, Raenarcam,” he said in a strange tone, a commanding tone. She took a few steps toward the paralyzed Elf. She couldn’t stop herself, she knew what he wanted her to do… she knew.
She knelt down beside the paralyzed Elf, the knife in her hand, and she looked in his eyes. They ceased roaming the forest, they fixed on her. Terrified.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, so low he probably could not hear her. So low she could barely hear herself and maybe it was a prayer and not even meant for him. But when she raised the knife and slammed it down she did not hit his heart as she had intended. Rather it crashed into his stomach and all of a sudden he was not paralyzed at all but let out a pathetic whimper, crying out, arms thrashing.
The knife came out, she stared down, her breath caught in her throat. She held it still in her hand. All of a sudden the man was standing over her and he bent down, looking over the dying elf, blood spreading over his robe. “You could heal him,” he whispered, looking over the dying elf.
She knew the words for that… she knew them. She knew the words that mended skin and preserved the life of the failing. She knew them. But he would hear and he would learn and he would…
She still held the knife. She could drop it, she could preserve him.
She stared at him. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered again and with sudden effort, sudden swiftness, she plunged the knife where she had intended, into his heart, and twisted. And near as she was to his chest it felt like the world stopped and she could hear his heart cease and the blood cease running through his veins. She dropped her forehead to his chest. “I’m so sorry…” she repeated, she had to say something. Anything. Anything but the words the man wanted to hear. Because as soon as he could hear them he would rip them from her just like all of the others.
The woods were still for a minute and as she pressed her forehead to his chest the familiar pin-prick of pain began up her spine. The forest evaporated and she awoke sat still in the tent in the Barrows.
She stared at the canvas tent-side and listened to her own heartbeat like a metronome.
She had forgotten the Wood Elf in the clearing.