By Starlight

Punished

Chris sat up rubbing the back of her head as she slowly looked around. Everything was almost blindingly white and covered in thick mist. At first she didn’t recognise where she was, it seemed to be a room made of stone but, it wasn’t fully solid and if you looked at the right angle you could see straight through. After a moment she realised that she was not looking down at the hands of the vessel she had inhabited for the past four months, no she saw her hands. In this strange ghostly place she was herself. Then she stood and walked over to the window to see if she recognised anything. What she saw was truly beautiful, never had she seen anything before, it was a city. A beautiful gleaming city that seemed to be made of the same strange stone as the room she was in. but as wonderful as the place seemed there was something about it that didn’t feel right; apart from the see through stone walls. Then as she gazed out the window it clicked. The blissful silence was because there was no one else there. Chris turned and looked back into the room, that she now noticed was also fully furnished as some kind of library, and looked over at Varda who stood silently watching her. Before Chris could even ask where they were Varda raised a glowing hand pointing to the window. Following in the direction Chris looked over the ghostly city and straight at… Minas Tirith?

“This is Osgiliath?” She asked slightly unsure.

“An echo of the beauty it once held.” The ethereal woman answered with all the grace and melody Chris had become accustomed to hearing but there was something else at the edge of her words. Anger? Disappointment? It was hard to tell.

There was a long pause before either spoke again. Chris knew what this was about and reluctant to get into trouble for something that could have been avoided if Varda had wanted to. With this thought in mind Chris spoke.

“Look you brought me here. I didn’t ask for this. You killed me! You are in no position to judge Varda. You fucked up, I fucked up. I’d say we’re even.” She spoke quickly wanting to get everything out and by the time she had finished the first sentence she was fidgeting and looked everywhere but the place Varda stood. Chris couldn’t bring herself to look at the woman, Valar, god-thing that had so monumentally screwed up her life. “And! Why haven’t you Valar gotten rid of Morgoth yet? We’ve been in Middle Earth for around four months now! What have you been doing? Drinking tea? Prancing around in merry little god fields in togas with harps singing ‘we are gods’!” By this point she was pacing nervously and absently wondering if she could wear a hole in a ghost floor.

“Are you finished?” Varda asked after Chris had been quietly pacing for a few minutes.

“Yes.” She said shortly as she continued to pace with anger simmering beneath the surface.

“Good.” The Vala spoke with power emanating from her voice. “I may have brought you here without your permission but you and Elle agreed to my quest. You knew the risk of falling prey to Morgoth or the Ring’s influence was there. I kept nothing from you.”

“There was no choice! It was your quest or death! What kind of choice is that?!” Her voice rose as she continued to pace and fidget.

“It was the only choice I could offer with the circumstances we found ourselves in. My stars were not sent out to kill you, they were supposed to ghost your and Elle’s fëar away in a dream so I could contact you without such a one sided deal.” The Vala spoke softly as if regretting what had transpired leading up to the quest.

“Ha! You see! You messed up! You weren’t supposed to kill us, I wasn’t supposed to try and take the Ring, accidents happen! You’re a god! A God! If you messed up what chance do I have? I’m human! We are all about temptation! Have you never heard of Adam and Eve?!” She said getting more and more irate with every pacing step she took as she stewed in her fury.

“No I am unfamiliar with your realm’s culture and I am no god. I am a Vala.” Varda clarified as she swept through the swirling mists and sat in a plush looking ghost chair.

“What’s the difference? No, don’t explain I don’t care!” Chris was speaking in overemphasising gestures that seemed to make her rants louder with every rebuttal.

“Chris. Stop this. You failed your quest in the worst way possible. You must stop deflecting your shortcomings onto me.” She said leaning forward in her chair attempting to make Chris see the sense in her words but was swiftly rebuffed.

“My shortcomings. My shortcomings! You are the one that killed us! I didn’t kill anybody. I didn’t even succeed!” Chris shouted wildly grasping for anything that would give her the upper hand in their dispute.

“You can no longer be trusted around Frodo or the Ring but I will not condemn you to death unless that is what you wish.” Varda spoke the last gently as if not wanting to make a small child cry.

“What do you think genius?” Chris snapped irritably as she crossed her arms and continued to pace.

“I think you are frustrated at yourself. You were unable to handle the responsibility you were given and will not accept your failure.” The ethereal woman said sagely.

“Can I go now? Are we done here? I have had more than enough of listening to you.” Chris finally said wanting this whole ordeal, and her failure, to be over with.

“Very well, if that is your wish, Chris. You should know that the privileges afforded to you are now relinquished. The link between you and Elle will be severed and your defences stripped. You will be alone.” Varda said with an annoyed tone as she rose from her seat and stood towering above Chris.

“You’re a spiteful god you know that?” Chris spat at the indignant face of the Vala that had ruined her life… that had ended her life.

“You are a spoiled child unfit for my presence.” She said in a tone of finality. “Oh, and as I am kind I have purged the fell beast’s poison from your veins.”

“Poison? What poison?” Chris asked frantically to the air as Varda and the beautiful Osgiliath faded into the swirling white mists.


Consciousness came slowly to Chris as the brightness left her vision to be replaced with dark skies and scarred buildings. She still had light spots in her vision, like she had been staring up at the sun, and it took a few minutes for her eyes to readapt. Her gaze travelled down to her hand, no not her hand, Eadgyth’s hand, the hand Varda had fashioned for their mission.

Then out of nowhere a thumping pain started at the back of her head. She tried to sit up but that caused more pain. It felt like every nerve in her body had exploded and was shouting at her for attention. She tried to raise her left hand to her head but she couldn’t move it without setting her blood on fire. A strangled groan made its way from her chapped lips as she tried to stay as still as possible.

How long had she been unconscious? Had Frodo, Sam and Sméagol already left? The thought of being left behind after that conversation with Varda was causing her to panic. The fact that said conversation meant she would no longer be able to go with them was being ignored by Chris.

The almost silent sound of footfalls on stone was the only indication of his approach but Chris was too distracted to notice. It was only when she felt gentle fingers on the back of her head that she realised she was not alone. Instantly she swatted his hand away with her mobile hand before regretting the movement it caused the rest of her body.

“What the hell are you doing?!” She yelled still angry from talking to Varda mixed with the pain she felt but the words were slightly slurred and wreaked of pain.

“Your injuries need to be tended to Eadgyth.” He reasoned as he returned to looking over the injuries she had managed to accumulate in one swift moment.

‘Oh, he knows my name. Not an orc.’ She thought relaxing slightly. Then she looked over at the man who had moved on to looking at her leg. He was tall, his hair dark and wearing the garb of one of Faramir’s rangers. That explained how he knew her name. He glanced up at her and she noted his eyes were a soft grey that flitted over to her shoulder. The one she couldn’t move.

“They are mainly flesh wounds and your shoulder is dislocated so it is safe to move you but you need to see a healer.” He said simply as he gently helped her to her feet. She was still dizzy and groggy from her bout of unconsciousness but the pain had settled a bit so she could at least hobble down to the nearest healer.

“Does my rescuer have a name?” She asked as he placed her arm over his neck and placed his hand on her back in case she fell. Slowly they made their way forward and towards the steps she had seen Sam tackle Frodo down.

“Mablung of Ithilien, I did not expect you to remember the face of one of your captors as you seemed preoccupied with the Captain.” He said with his eyes forward and no sign indicating he was teasing her. Slowly they made their way down the stairs and found Frodo, Sam and Sméagol all looking thoughtful and sad.

“What are we holding onto, Sam?” Frodo asked as if he was ready to give up on the world before the gardener helped him to his feet.

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.” Something seemed to pass between the hobbits, hope rekindled, and even Sméagol seemed moved by Sam’s little speech.

“I think at last we understand one another, Frodo Baggins.” Faramir said upon his approach with a new found respect for the halflings.

“You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go, your life will be forfeit.” Warned Madril; the ranger who had approached Faramir upon their arrival in Ithilien.

“Then it is forfeit. Release them.” Faramir spoke determined that he was doing the right thing for everyone. Sam shrugged the rangers hand from his shoulder as Frodo looked up at Faramir with a glad gleam in his eyes. Deciding that she was going to completely disregard her conversation with Varda she shuffled forward still leaning heavily on Mablung.

“Thank you Faramir, but we really should go now.” After the words flowed from her mouth she realised that all who surrounded her had an incredulous look on their face, even Sméagol looked a little taken back.

“But Miss Eadgyth you’re injured how could you come all the way to Mordor with us?” Sam asked with concern in his voice.

“Because Sam… because Sam I swore an oath. Back in Rivendell, you were there and Frodo was there and I was there.”

“We do not want to put you in unnecessary danger Eadgyth.” Frodo said hoping to convince her to stay.

“Eadgyth, you would only serve as a burden.” Faramir said gently as he scanned her injuries, he had some skill as a healer and knew her wounds were not fatal but he needed a closer look and to make sure they wouldn’t get infected.

“You’re taking me captive again? I thought we’d moved passed this Faramir. I’m sick of rope and blindfolds.” She whimpered before she processed what she had said causing her to giggle slightly.

“She has a head wound Captain.” Mablung told Faramir as he looked between the Captain and the woman giggling beside him. “It could be serious.”

“Take her to the healing tent.” He murmured before turning his attention back to the Halflings. “Follow me.”

The party seemed reluctant to move before saying their finals farewells to each other, some not knowing whether they would see each other again. Chris wasn’t sure what to say, four months was a long time to spend constantly in company with someone and she wasn’t sure when but at some point along the way she had stopped seeing them as mere characters. Now, they were her friends.

“Frodo…” She paused at first unsure how to get what she wanted across “I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to apologise for, you kept us safe and tried to save me.” Said the Ring-bearer, who seemed sad that she could no longer journey with them “Thank you for all you have done for us.” His words made her heart tighten, he had thought she was trying to save him and not take the Ring.

“Even though we didn’t agree on some things I’m glad you came with us. I’m not sure how far we would have gotten without you.” Sam spoke with his eyes staring directly into hers as if willing her to believe him. Chris didn’t know what to say, she really just wanted to hug the hobbits but it didn’t seem like that was going to happen.

“Sméagol,” The grey creature looked up at her, she had grown attached to the good side of him and was unsure what to say for she knew he was to die if the mission was to succeed. “Try and stay good.” Was all she could think of before Faramir ushered them to their escape route.

It was then that Chris split with Frodo, Sam and Sméagol as Mablung led her away towards a small tent containing a cot, a stool and a satchel with herbs poking out of the half closed flap. Gently she was laid down on the simple cot and told to wait to be seen to. The flap of material told her that Mablung had left, just like Frodo, Sam and Sméagol and just like Elle. There sat in the airy healing tent Chris the weight of Varda’s words.

‘You will be alone.’


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