Lapsus Memoriae (Rávamë's Bane: Book 1)

Chapter 5: Muddy Water & Matted Hair

I woke to the feeling of a troll hammering a tire-iron against the side of my head.

Or at least it certainly felt like that was what I was being subjected to.

Every beat of my heart was accompanied by a dull thudding pain against the inside of my skull. I didn't dare open my eyes, but a little shift of my weight told me I was lying on something much comfier than the hard ground of the forest. My pounding head was also being supported by something that felt far too soft and comforting to be the rough cloak I'd used as a pillow. I rolled onto my side, half burying my aching face in the wonderful softness and slowly opened my eyes.

I was lying on what looked like an elaborate sleeping cot, in a room flooded with so much light that I though I might still be outside. When my eyes finally did adjust, I found myself looking around at a room which might have resembled a recovery ward in a hospital. Only, this hospital looked like it had been modelled on an Alphonse Mucha painting.

Everything was polished wood, carefully wrought stone, and soothing earthy coloured fabrics. The tall arching windows didn't have glass at all, and the breeze blowing dried leave in from outside was gently rustling long gauzy white curtains that fell all the way to the floor. Simple cots covered in white silk sheets were lined up next to each other along the room, all of them empty except for mine.

"I knew it, I'm dead." I mumbled and just gazed in awe at the sight around me, barely noticing myself sitting up on the cot, "I've died and woken up in a cliche."

"Finally, your eyes open."

I almost jumped out of my skin to see a tall dark haired woman in a long navy blue dress standing in a doorway, watching me with interest.

She was stunning. And I meant that in every literal and metaphorical sense there was. She had the kind of face that didn't look real it was so perfect — utterly flawless pale skin, coal black hair that fell past her waist, and almond shaped eyes the deepest and most vibrant shade of blue I'd ever seen. She reminded me of something out of a Renaissance painting of a Greek goddess hanging in the Louvre.

'Da Vinci would have sold his soul to paint her portrait.' I thought past the haze of awe at realising where I was, and who I was likely gawking at. The beautiful elven woman smiled warmly at me.

"I trust you are feeling better?"

"Urrrh…" I responded cleverly. Always ready with a witty retort, that's me. Her smile widened, a laugh dancing behind her incredibly blue eyes.

"My name is Arwen." She introduced herself, confirming my starstruck suspicions at who she really was — not that it did anything to lessen the sudden lapse of my language faculties. I just continued to stare at her like a dumb struck moron. I tried to speak, but a sound more akin to a startled mouse came out of my mouth. I coughed and tried again.

"I'm Eleanor." I said in a tiny voice.

Arwen Undomiel, the Evenstar of Imladris, beamed at me again. It was mercifully less overwhelming the second time around.

"I know." She said.

I must have given her a less than comprehensive look, because she laughed lightly and added, "Estel gave us your name when you arrived. Although, I suppose you know him better as Aragorn."

I sat up a little straighter, ignoring the pain that shot through my head.

"Aragorn?! He brought me here? Is he here?" I paused in my rapid fire questions to let my battered brain catch up, "Wait, how long have I been asleep?"

"Two nights since you arrived. For a time it seemed like you might never wake." Arwen answered me promptly, crossing the room to set down a tray I hadn't even noticed she was carrying. It held a clay jug of water, a small ceramic flask, a tall glass, and what looked like a couple of bread rolls on a plate. She set it next to me on the nightstand, plucking up the small flask and unstoppering it before handing it to me.

"My father asked that I give this to you once you'd awakened. It tastes better than it smells, I promise."

"Your father?"

"The Lord in who's house you currently reside."

'Yes, dummy, both of which you already knew. Engage your brain before you make an even bigger tit of yourself.' My unhelpful internal voice scolded me, and I serenely ignored her.

I held the innocent little bottle experimentally up to my nose the smell was so pungent it almost enough to make me gag. Good lord, I hoped she was right. Not wanting to look childish in front of my world-be-nurse, I held my breath and gulped down the vile smelling concoction as quickly as I could. Thankfully it did taste ok, aside from being slightly too sweet. The moment the liquid touched the back of my throat, all my muscle aches and stiffness all but vanished into pleasant and relaxed warmth. Even the pounding throb in the side of my head was reduced to only a mild discomfort.

"Wow," I coughed and eyed the empty bottle, impressed, "That's some good stuff."

"A mix of miruvor and some other medicinal herbs my father's recipe." Arwen clarified, handing me a glass of water which I gladly quenched my suddenly dry throat with, "Do you feel well enough to bathe? I imagine you would feel more comfortable in conference with the Lord of Rivendell if you were clean and appropriately dressed."

I finished gulping down my second glass of water and wiping my mouth before looking up at her, perplexed.

"Conference with who?" I wracked my brain for the memories of when I'd read the about Rivendell in the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings, "You mean the Lord of Rivendell as in Lord Elrond? Lord Elrond wants to see me? Why?"

"Well, he was responsible for healing your head wound. Though all he told me was that he wished to speak with you once you were well enough." She replied, gesturing to where my head had been throbbing earlier.

Well, that explained why I was still alive then. I'd been sure that I'd finally gone the way of the Dodo when the river had crashed down onto me. If it really had been Lord Elrond who'd healed me, it seemed only right that I should thank him for bothering to put me back together again.

I looked dubiously down at myself. My arm had been cleaned and bandaged neatly at least, but I was still filthy, and still wearing the mud covered dress I'd been found in over a week ago.

"Yeah, I think maybe I should get clean first."

Arwen led me to the end of a passage and into a small bathroom that was surprisingly modern compared to what I'd been expecting. Well, by modern I mean that it had running water, a mirror and a decent sized brass tub, which was good enough for me. I dazedly thanked her for her hospitality.

"You are very welcome. I will return once I have found you some suitable clothes." She chimed with a light smile, and glided off down another passageway.

The second I'd shut the door, I ran the water as hot as I could get it, dumped an entire bottle of sweet smelling liquid into the tub, and started peeling off the tatters of my old red dress. I must have stunk something awful, because the dress was all but stuck to my body with dried sweat and mud. It took a good five minutes to get out of the damn thing, and by the time I was, the tub was almost full.

Sighing blissfully, I finally sank myself into the almost scolding hot water, being carful to keep my injured arm safely on dry land. I'd only just noticed that it wasn't stinging anymore; and when I carefully started unwrapping the bandages to inspect it, I found that the skin underneath wasn't half as bad as it had been the day before. The skin was still a bit inflamed, but the blisters and gross peeling skin had all gone.

Well, that was odd. Even if I'd received fancy elf treatment for my injuries, I'd never heard of burns healing quite that fast on anyone before…

I was so lost in though that I almost fell out of the tub when a light knock came from the other side of the door.

"Élanor?" Arwen's soft voice came from the other side of the door, "I have a dress for you. May I enter?"

"Um… ok." I replied, sinking a little deeper into the water until only my bare shoulders were exposed above the bubbles. She entered soundlessly, laying a silky looking gown out on a chair before coming over to inspect me. She plucked a cloth from beside the tub, wetted it, and gently turned my face towards her.

"Lets find out what you really look like under all that dirt, shall we?" She said with a kind smile, and carefully began cleaning my face.

I instinctively drew my knees up to my chest, feeling deeply self conscious about my nakedness beneath the foamy bathwater, especially when the bubbles began to subside with the dirt. Arwen hardly seemed to notice though. After she's finished with my face, she busied herself with lathering my filthy tangled hair with lemon scented soap, being carful to avoid the painful bump on the side of my head.

She spent a full hour working on getting me as clean as possible, patiently scrubbing and rinsing my hair and face until the water around me had all but turned black with the dirt. Despite still feeling embarrassed at being tended to by someone who made most supermodels look hideous, I was grateful for her help; and very, very happy to be clean again.

"There we are, that's much better." She sounded pleased with her work. Helping me out of the tub and into a soft white towel, she sat me down in front of a small vanity table and immediately started going to work on my knotted hair. That's when I found myself looking directly into the first real mirror I'd seen since I'd been stranded here.

For a moment, I didn't recognise the girl staring back at me.

She had slightly wavy chestnut brown hair that fell just past her shoulder blades, still slightly damp and tangled from the bath. She had a soft oval face, not overly lovely but still pleasant, with a small mouth, a pronounced cupid's bow, and a dimple in one cheek. Her eyes were the only thing that were immediately familiar — jade green with a tiny band of gold around the pupil.

My eyes.

It was me. I was different, but I was still me.

I wasn't nearly lovely enough to hold a candle to Arwen, but there was a new kind of smoothness to all my features that I had definitely not possessed before. My face was suddenly void of blemishes, lines or dark circles. It took me several moments before I managed to pry my star struck gaze from my own reflection, and mentally smack myself back into sense.

Good grief, what was wrong with me? Since when had I turned into a damned ageing-cream commercial?

The next thing I knew, Arwen had finished combing and drying my hair, and had decked me out in a long mint coloured dress made of some silky fabric I'd never seen before. On a her, I'm sure it would have looked perfect. On me, the hems were about two inches too long. I had roll up the sleeves over my hands, and hold the silky fabric of the skirt up off the floor to keep from tripping over it.

Satisfied that I looked presentable, Arwen led me out of the bathroom and through the house. I followed her on bare feet, trying and failing to hide my sheer awe at the wonder of my surroundings. And that was just the hallways and atriums we passed through. I hardly noticed when we finally arrived at a large set of oak doors, and jumped a little when she knocked twice, and opened the door into a large study.

"Adar," She announced softly, giving me a gentle encouraging nudge into the room, "She is ready to see you now."

Lord Elrond was bloody tall.

Tall, regal, dressed in fine silk robes, and just as difficult to describe as his daughter had been. His face looked older somehow, and yet no less perfect or weathered by time. His hair was dark and straight like hers, but was neatly braided back in a long fishtail. His dark eyes practically oozed eons of wisdom and knowledge, and they were curiously surveying me as I hovered like a nervous chipmunk near the door.

I'd thought Aragorn had been imposing. Now I suspected if he were to stand next to the Lord of Rivendell, he would have looked like a school boy.

There was something uncanny about the man that brought both a feeling of familiarity and unquestioning respect — an odd thing to feel since I'd never set eyes on him in my life. It seemed sensible enough to be polite, though I had no idea what the custom was with the elves and greetings.

Did I bow? Curtsy?

I ended up giving an awkward little wave and felt instantly stupid. He just smiled at me, amused, and it made his face look infinitely younger and less intimidating.

"Élanor, I am please to see you well again." He said, his tone of voice kind and soothing to my frazzled nerves.


Apparently when Aragorn had relayed my name to the elves the pronunciation had got a little lost in translation. Both he and Arwen put a lot more emphasis on the "el" sound than I was used to hearing, and it made me wonder if my name actually meant something in elvish.

"Yeah, I'm feeling much better." I fumbled to find words that seemed appropriate, "Thanks for, you know… healing me." A silence rang thick in the air for a long moment as the towering elf lord surveyed me from in front of a massive bookcase he'd been perusing before I entered. For a fleeting moment I had ridiculous urge to jokingly ask if he had anything by Oscar Wilde on the shelves, but managed to kick myself back into sense at the last second. "Arwen said you wanted to see me about something." I said, shifting nervously from foot to foot.

"I wished to see how well you were recovering." He beckoned me over to a set of high backed chairs in front of a happily cracking fireplace. I skittered over and plopped down inelegantly into one, and Elrond sat facing me with an intrigued look. "But I also wished to hear the story of how you came to be in the forest for myself. Aragorn has told me much, but also said you spoke strangely when he found you, and of things he had no knowledge of."

My stomach dropped and I groaned internally. I hadn't thought of what I'd say in this situation.

I didn't have a believable backstory to draw on, made up or true. There was no way I could tell the frigging Lord of Rivendell that the reason I didn't have a backstory was because I was from an entirely different reality. Of all the things to come in useful in later life, I'd never expected the childhood obsession I'd had with one of my favourite fantasy books would be it.

If only I had the encyclopaedia-like knowledge of Tolkein's world I'd had as a teenager.

But I didn't. So I lied.

"I… was travelling." I started slowly, wracking my brains for the vaguest, most congruous story I could, "I got separated from my party somewhere in the forest, and found shelter in that cave. I must have eaten some bad mushrooms or something. I was delirious, that's why I was talking to strangely when Aragorn found me."

Elrond just looked at me. His face gave away nothing, but his eyes bore unblinkingly into mine. Then his gaze turned suddenly hard as stone and icy cold, and he said: "You're lying."


I just stared at him, my jaw working feebly, and feeling very much like I was back in school sitting in the headmaster's office. I tried to form a reply, but my throat had gone bone dry.

"I would hear the truth from you, now." He said, calmly, but firmly — his stare pinning me to my chair like a butterfly to a card. I tried to think up something sensible I could say in response to being so easily caught out. Anything. But instead my panic took the reins and I started rambling.

"What else was I supposed to do?!" I blurted without thinking, frustration and fear warring for control inside me. "There's no point in telling you! There's no way you'll believe me! Hell, I barely believe me!"

Elrond's gaze softened very slightly, and it was enough to take the pressure off and let me relax a little. He didn't look away, but he reached towards a tray on the desk and retrieve a decanter along with a small glass. Pouring a shallow amount of amber liquid into the glass, he offered it out to me and I automatically accepted it.

"Child, I have been alive for two ages, and have seen and heard more than you can imagine, let alone comprehend. There is little in this world that surprises me any more." He told me in a matter of fact tone, then leaned very slightly forward in his chair and fixed me with that unsettling stare again. Only this time, there was blunted by the finest trace of amused curiosity, "Try me."

So I told him. Just like that.

I told him everything.

I told him about my entire life. My university, my friends, my home in the English countryside, my childhood of traveling from country to country with my dad's position in the army. I talked about everything I could think of, from the towering buildings of London to the 'bizarre customs' of its people, like single women living alone, going to college, and all children being made to attend school. Every now and then, he would ask short pointed questions, and I answered every one as honestly as I could — adapting things like phones, cars and electricity into phrasing that I hoped would be easier to understand.

The one thing I didn't tell him was about Tolkien's books. That Middle Earth wasn't supposed to be real at all. It was just a story. How in hell could I have explained that I had knowledge of the future of this world, because in my world the history of Middle Earth was a series of popular fantasy stories? That was a rabbit hole I had no intention of going down if I could help it. My memories of the books were hazy at best anyway. I told him about my last day on Earth. I talked about my job, the party, and how I couldn't remember anything beyond walking home in the freezing cold.

I pretty much spilled my guts to him; and all the while he just sat there patiently, listening to it all. By the time I finished telling him about how I'd woken in the cave, the fire had started to die in the hearth, and he was watching me with an expression I couldn't read. A long silence hung in the air like a dense cloud once I'd finished.

Finally, he said, "You are either a very skilled liar, insane, or telling the truth."

Immediately I opened my mouth to declare that I wasn't lying this time, but he held a hand up to indicate he wasn't finished.

"If you are a liar, you are a painfully terrible one to present me with such a fantastical explanation." He said plainly. I bit my tongue hard to keep from pointing out the magnificent irony of that statement, and he continued. "I gauge that you are too sound of judgement to be a true mad woman. Which leaves us with only one explanation: you are being truthful with me."

I just stared at him. I was probably in danger of catching flies my mouth had been hanging open so much lately.

"You believe me? Just like that?" I asked, dumb founded.

Elrond gave me a dubious look and arched an eyebrow, "Is there a reason I shouldn't?"

"I don't know. It just all seems… so insane." I trailed off feebly.

"And yet, clearly you are not." He paused, "Although Aragorn seemed to think you may have been suffering from some kind of intoxicated delirium when he found you. You apparently couldn't stop laughing for quite some time." He rose gracefully from his seat to pour himself a glass from the decanter as well.

I realised that I'd been so enraptured with my rambling that I'd neglected my own glass, which was still sitting in my hand. I took a tentative sip, and the warm taste of honey and wild flowers rolled over my tongue. I hadn't even realised how tightly wound I was until I felt my shoulders begin to relax with the alcohol.

"You claim to be born and raised in a world where you are human, yet you very obviously reside in the body elleth now." He continued with a much softer and less accusing tone than before as he took his seat in front of me again, "Do you have any memories other than those from your previous life? Anything that might indicate who you might be in Arda?"

I tried to ignore the unsettlingly nauseous feeling that stirred in my gut when he said "previous life".

"Arda?" I asked, not immediately recognising the name.

"This reality. Middle Earth." He explained patiently.

"Oh," I mumbled, feeling a little silly for not already knowing that, "I don't know. I mean, I haven't really stopped to think about it until now."

"Then perhaps you should." Elrond nodded and gave me an expectant look. It took me a second to catch on, but I understood that he meant for me to do. I swallowed my mouthful of wine and closed my eyes. I thought hard, pushing back all the memories I knew where mine, and tried to focus on anything that I might have overlooked for the past few days. Anything that was unfamiliar, like it didn't belong. At first, there was nothing. Only dark shadows and shapes, just like in the dreams I'd been having recently before coming here.

Then something odd happened.

I noticed that I could hear something. Actually hear something. It was crackly and quiet, like the sound of a badly tuned radio being played in another room. But it was there. I tried to focus on it, pushing everything else away to the back of my mind until the sound was all I could hear.

It got only a little louder and a little clearer, but it was just enough for me to catch a single word, "Rah…Rah-va-mae. Rávamë."


I opened my eyes briefly to find Elrond was sitting forward in his chair with a mixed expression of interest and deep thought on his face. I nodded slowly at him, shutting my eyes again and rolling the name around in my mind to see if it jarred anything else loose.

"I remember that name, but… it's not mine, it's someone else's… but I can't remember who's." I gave a huff of frustration, dropping my hands from where they'd risen to either side of my head, and opened my eyes again, "That's all I can hear. There's nothing else."

"You're sure that is the name you remembered? You couldn't have misheard it?" The elf lord asked me seriously.

I thought for a moment, the memory coming back as clear as if I was replaying a recording in my head. "No." I said slowly, listening carefully to the syllables of the word following through my mind, "No, I'm certain. Does that name mean something?"

"I'm afraid not." He said quickly. Maybe a little too quickly, "None that would give any clue as to who you truly are at least."

The crushing feeling of hope slipping away must have shown on my face because he looked down at me with an almost pitying look in his old eyes.

"You're certain you can't remember anything else at all?" He asked me again gently.

I didn't dare tell him about the sardonic second personality who seemed to have taken up residence in my head. That only seemed likely to have earned my a one way trip to the nearest looney-bin, if elves even had such a thing.

"No," I mumbled softly, unable to keep the hopelessness out of my voice, "That's all. There's nothing else."

He paused, for another long moment, and the space between each of his sentences seemed to stretch on forever.

"I'll admit, your situation is one I have never encountered before." He said at last, "Physically you are an elf, there is no debating that. Yet mentally, you are adamant that the place you belong is somewhere else. Somewhere you seem desperate to return to. Logically, it stands to reason that discovering who and why you are here in this world should allow you to find a what brought you here."

The guy had a really roundabout way of saying it, but I think I understood what he meant. I was here, in Arda. There was no getting around that now. I had no idea why or how, but if I could figure who I was in this reality by digging up my current body's missing memories, then that might provide a clue as to how I got here.

And how to could get home.

A tiny spark of hope rekindled in me, growing into a little flame at the mere suggestion that I might be able to get home after all. I peered down into the last of my wine thoughtfully, my fingers tracing anxious circles on the sides of the cut crystal.

"So, if you're right, then all I have to do to get back is figure out who I was before I woke up in that cave." I asked, refusing to let the tiny flame of hope in my chest fizzle out.

"I believe so."

"Ok then, how do we do that? There has to be something I can do remember quickly."

Elrond gave me an inscrutable look over the top of his glass, "Unlocking the mind is not as simple as unlocking a door or opening a book, Élanor. It will take time and perseverance."

My stomach did a back flip behind my ribs, "How much time?"

"Months. Perhaps years."

"Years?!" I spluttered, almost spitting out my mouthful of wine. He nodded once, and I slumped against the back of my chair, my stomach going from doing tumbles to contortionist manoeuvres at the thought, "But you're a master healer aren't you? Isn't there some way to… I don't know, magically shake the memories loose?!"

I felt stupid just saying it, but I was scrapping the bottom of the barrel for ideas. Elrond just looked at me with a mildly frustrating mix of patience and pity.

"Whatever magic or trauma there is concealing your memories from your conscious mind, it is not within my power to undo. To try may cost you your sanity, and that is a risk I would not take even if you were willing." He explained, his tone firm and unyielding. I knew before he'd even stopped speaking that I was never going to be able to argue with him. I felt close to tears.

"Then, what am I supposed to do?" I demanded, suddenly angry, "I can't get home, I can't contact anyone for help, and I can't even remember who I'm supposed to be here!"

Elrond paused for another agonisingly long moment, steeling his fingers in front of him thoughtfully. If he kept this waiting game up much longer, I was going to damn well throw myself from the nearest window just to see how he'd react.

"If there really is no place else you may go, then I would bid you remain here in the safety of Imladris." He said suddenly, catching me by surprise.

"Stay here?" I squeaked around the knot in my throat.

"You would be a ward of my house. Until your memories resurface, or as long as you choose to remain, you would be under the protection and hospitality of Rivendell." He explained, obviously catching on to my complete ignorance of what he was offering, and even then it took a long minute to really sink in.

He was offering to let me stay here, in Rivendell.

"You would do that, for a complete stranger?" I heard myself ask before I could think, "Why?"

Lord Elrond gave me a look of practically paternal reprimand, but I could see the tiny smile tugging the corner of his mouth. "I believe the more polite response would be to graciously accept."

"I am!" I caught myself, realising that I'd almost screamed the words at him, "I mean… thank you, Lord Elrond. But that still doesn't answer my question. Why?"

Elrond just continued to smile at me slightly sadly, as if I had asked a question that only a simple child might ask, "You are in need, and as far as you know, alone in this world. It is within my power to provide you with shelter. What else would you have me do in good conscience?"

Something nagging in a dark little corner of my brain was telling me that he wasn't telling me everything, but I ignored it. I didn't have any other choice but to trust him anyway.

Then I suddenly realised I'd forgotten something, or rather, someone crucial.

"Where's Aragorn? Is he ok?"

"Calm yourself, he's fine. He left at dawn this morning." Elrond told me, and I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. Barring Arwen, and now Elrond, Aragorn was the only other person in this weird and wonderful world that I'd had the chance to talk to. He might not have been all that easy to converse with, but he was real, and he was the nearest thing to a friend I had here — a pretty sobering thought, considering he'd almost skewered me with a sword a few days ago.

Elrond rose from his chair and walked over to a large oak desk on the other side of the study. He opened a drawer and withdrew something small and wrapped in slightly dirty cloth, "He did leave you this before departing, with a cautionary word for you to not to lose it again."

He handed it to me, and I unravelled it curiously from it's wrappings. Something slightly heavy and metallic fell into my lap.

It was a dagger. A sheathed hunting dagger. The same one I'd used as a mirror when he'd first told me I was a she-elf.

I couldn't help it.

I started laughing. And then I started crying.

Three hours later, I sat alone on my cot with a candle burning down next to me on the nightstand; my sheathed hunting dagger resting in my lap.

Arwen had shown me back to the infirmary shortly after I'd finally managed to stop sobbing into Lord Elrond's robes. The poor man. He'd been incredibly forgiving of my meltdown in his study. He didn't complain once, even when I left a damp tear-stained patch on the front of his pristine silk robes. He'd just patted me awkwardly on the back like I was a small child, all while I sobbed and hiccupped. Eventually I'd reined in my emotions and calmed down again.

I was relieved to be alone after that. Arwen had offered to sit with me after she returned me to my temporary quarters, but I'd politely declined, insisting that I needed time to think. And I did.

"Months. Perhaps years."

I couldn't get that one sentence out of my head. I could be stuck here for years, at least according to Lord Elrond.

The thought caused me equal amount of excitement and pain, now that I'd had a chance to get the panic out of my system. I was the Ward of Imladris now. I had the chance to experience Middle Earth first hand, see and experience things I'd only dreamt about at a child and teenager. I would literally be living one of my childhood fantasies…

But I wouldn't be able to see my family, or my friends, or my home.

I'd been going to college overseas for years, so I was used to living on my own far away from my family — but they'd always been there when I'd needed them. The thought of not having my parents a quick phone-call or a few hours airline flight away was…

A dull pain appeared in my chest, just under my breastbone. I clenched a hand unconsciously over it, my eyes stinging but no tears coming. I doubted I had any left. I knew that the ache was nothing to do with my physical injuries.

Then another thought struck me: what if I ended up being here for so long that… I forgot them? Could that happen? Could I ever really forget my parents? My little brother? My friends? My home?

'No,' I told myself adamantly. I wouldn't let myself do that, no matter how long I was stuck here.

I wasn't going to forget.

I hastily got up from the bed, and started rummaging around in the drawers of the nightstands looking for something reasonably pointy as an idea formed in my head. A few minutes of searching and I found a small letter opener in the third drawer down — not exactly what I'd been hoping for, but it would do.

I stayed up almost till dawn that night, carefully carving eight important words into the polished wooden hilt of my hunting knife, my only possession, before finally drifting off into exhausted sleep.

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