7. Love Will Sustain Us
The orcs watched her day and night. Lost was any hope of secretly plaiting a cord from scraps of her clothing. She studied the ventilation shaft opening, but even if she could climb up and twist herself around fast enough not to be stopped, it wasn’t really high enough up. Even throwing herself headfirst down to the stone floor would probably only result in a bruised head, perhaps a concussion, but probably not enough to kill.
Why hadn’t she simply found a way to drown herself with the drinking water? The narrow mouth of the jug would prevent just sticking her face underwater, but she could have found a way. Now that route too was closed – the watching orcs would force any water out of her lungs in moments.
The days passed, then weeks. Elana’s body healed from the birth. Finally, the day she had dreaded arrived. One morning she was dragged off to the breeding room. It was a different orc this time, smaller, with black, cunning eyes. Day after day it continued. She sank deeper into despair, fearing she would never find a way to escape her fate. Perhaps at least this child would be the last. Many of the women taken away in labor never returned, presumably dead in childbirth. There were rumors among the women that if a labor went on too long, particularly if the woman was weak or had been a troublemaker, that the orcs would slice her open, taking the baby and allowing her to bleed to death. And some of the women who seemed healthy when they first returned, sickened and died after a few days, burning with fever. Elana suspected the dirty instruments of the orcs forced disease up inside the women’s bodies. Certainly at home, where only as an extreme last resort would a midwife consider putting her hands inside a woman’s body, such infections were far more rare than they were here. At least half of the women who’d been here when Elana arrived were dead now, replaced by new captives.
It took much longer this time for her to conceive. Though she supposed she should be glad no new child had yet come into existence, Elana’s emotions were too battered and numb to feel much of anything. One month dragged by, then another. She’d pretty much given up seeking a way to die, and the orcs’ watch over her let up slightly, though they still were alert.
Late one night, Elana was unable to sleep. She tossed and wiggled, trying to find some halfway comfortable position on the hard pallet. Roswyn slept oblivious beside her. Elana got up and paced. She paused by the ventilation shaft, and gazing upward, breathed deeply of the slightly fresher air. Finally she returned to bed and dropped into a restless doze.
She stood in a clearing in a forest. A shaft of golden sunlight fell through the green leaves, and illuminated a small girl. Perhaps three years old, the girl’s face was that of a half-orc, but transformed by the expression of radiant happiness she wore. She ran down a forest path ahead of Elana, laughing. Coming to a stream, she knelt on the bank and splashed the water with her hands, sending glittering droplets high in the air. Leaping up and turning, she rushed to Elana, who knelt to receive the warm body, vibrant and alive against hers. “Mama!” the girl cried excitedly. She gazed lovingly at Elana with huge, liquid brown eyes, eyes unlike any Elana had ever seen, on orc or human.
The scene changed. Now the eyes gazed at Elana from a face grown to young womanhood. She stood, armed with sword and bow, sorrow and excitement warring in her expression. She embraced Elana, her tears wetting Elana’s shoulder. “Good-bye, Mother,” she said. “I love you. And…thank you. Thank you for everything.” She turned and mounted her horse, riding off to join a group of companions, who set off with high hearts and earnest determination, on a quest that would surely save the world…
The dream shifted again. Now Elana gazed into a face old beyond measure, its orc features almost lost in the mass of wrinkles that seamed her skin. But the same eyes shone in the crone’s face, boring into Elana’s soul.
“Have faith,” she said. “Endure. The time is not yet, but it is coming. Your life will have purpose; your suffering will not be in vain. I am with you now. Love will sustain us against all the forces of evil. Sleep, and have peace.”
The dream ended, and Elana sank into a deep and restful slumber.
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.