Heart of the Storm – Chapter One

I have a fondness for fan fiction and back in the early 2000’s I even tried my hand at writing Lord of the Rings fanfiction.  More accurately, I might describe Heart of the Storm as Lord of the Rings meets Pride and Prejudice.  These pieces have never really seen the light of day outside of a small circle of friends, but sometimes a writer has to take some risks. . .

It was a perfect early spring morning. The last of winter’s snow melted in small frosty puddles, leaving patches of fresh mud along the forest floor. Underneath a bed of autumn’s fallen leaves, fresh blades of grass poked through with determination in sprigs of bright green. The air was fragrant with the smell of fresh earth and the earliest of spring buds. Sun dappled weak golden rays through the trees, giving the copse of trees a soft glow. The air was starting to warm slightly, reminding the forest of the lazy, fertile summer days that were ahead.

Nevlotwen of Lothlorien had often trod these woods, thinking of them as her own. She knew each tree, each stream, each clearing as well she knew her own name, her own native tongue. Any disturbance quickly caught her attention. Nevlotwen, or Storm as she was more commonly called, knelt on the soft cool ground, examining the clues provided by the forest around her. That she was not alone in this remote part of the forest on the outskirts of Lothlorien was clear. Her keen senses informed her that another had passed this spot not long ago—she could see crushed blades of grass and a partial footprint in the mud before her. The print was that of a slender foot in the soft boots favored by her people. She was unable to assess whether the foot had belonged to a male or female, but the print suggested that whoever had left the print had been stumbling unevenly. Perhaps even fleeing for their life.

Storm’s sense of smell picked out the faint odor of blood. It was fresh and rich and elven. She also picked out the odor of Orc blood. She wrinkled her nose—it was not a pleasing smell. She could smell it coming from several different directions. She wondered with foreboding what happened here this morning. Orc sightings had become more common in this part of the woods—too common in her opinion. The increase of Orcan activity had become so worrisome that she rarely ventured this far from the City of Galadrium by herself anymore. Very few Lothloriens ever ventured this far away from the city unless on scouting patrol. Some uneasiness of mind, some sense that something of import would happen here today had driven her to this area so close to the borders of the outside world.

Storm had passed this spot many times on scouting duty and on her own explorations. She preferred the woods to the formality and closeness of the Lothlorien court. Storm loved Galadrium deeply but found the confines of the city and the company of her cousins beyond her endurance much of the time. Storm had no patience for the hours Alkorewen, Bulefaniel and Bragolampaiel could spend discussing the latest fashions or court gossip. Her Aunt Galadriel and Uncle Celeborn had long accepted Storm’s restless nature and no longer tried to control her comings and goings— they asked only that she check in at least once a fortnight when her soul sought the solitude and quiet of the outer woods, sooner if she saw anything on the borders that caused her concern. There would be no tranquility for her here this morning, however—elven blood had been shed.

Storm crept quietly scanning her surroundings, assessing the situation and the danger.  She heard only the usual sounds of the forest: the chattering of birds, the soft rustle of a squirrel on a branch, the gurgle of a nearby stream.  Raising her eyes upwards in another sweep of the terrain, she grimaced.  An Orcan arrow protruded violently from a tree trunk to her left, about five feet above the ground. The injury in the tree’s trunk was raw and new.  She felt the stir of misgivings both for her own safety as well as that of the other elf who had made their way past this spot not so long ago.  Storm was deadly with a bow and arrow and well able to protect herself with sword, knife, and fist, but she had no desire to stumble onto a well-armed party of Orcs on her own.  In her experience, Orcs rarely traveled alone.  Where there was one Orc, there were usually ten nearby.  Where there were ten, there could easily be twenty.  Although Orcs preferred the cover of darkness, as their eyes were very sensitive to light, an Orc in the dimly lit forest would still be a formidable foe, capable of striking a living target with their black, wicked arrows.  Although she sensed no malice in the air surrounding her, she smoothly drew a long elven bow from her back and quickly notched an arrow.  She waited tensely in a crouch, straining her ears and nose to tell her what her eyes currently could not.

Storm extended other senses as well— senses considered unusual even for one of her kind.  Since birth, Storm had been unusually sensitive to the physical and emotional pain of others.  Her cousins whispered behind her back that it was due to her “tainted” blood— Storm’s father had been half-human, his own sire of the dying race of the Dunedin.  Storm knew that mortal blood had long been co-mingled with elven blood in their family of Lorien but it made no difference.  She was not a favorite among her female cousins in Lothlorien and they were happy to use whatever ammunition available to belittle her.  Fortunately for Storm, elves were never sick and rarely suffered from injuries.  Instead, she had spent her childhood rounding up injured birds and animals whose pain she could sense from miles away.  Their pain and suffering had been unbearable to Storm and she would be heartbroken whenever she encountered an animal beyond help.  At first, her aunt and uncle had been at a loss at what to do with their orphaned niece and her menagerie of injured woodland creatures.  As time went by, it became clear that Storm had the powers of a healer, and she began training long before her maturity.  Her cousins’ still expressed jealousy over this perceived “special” treatment, but Storm believed deep in her heart that her aunt and uncle were motivated by fear of what other injured creatures she might drag into Lothlorien if she did not receive strict training and supervision.  Six-year-old Storm would have thought nothing of trying to treat a cave troll if it were injured and did not give off an aura of clear malice.

Long years of training had taught Storm how to harness her abilities; they were now something she could control at will rather than them controlling her.  She spread her senses out in wider and wider arcs, seeking both the presence of Orcs and the unknown elf.  Several hundred yards to her left, Storm could sense pain and suffering in one of her own kind.  He was unknown to her, not one of her fellow scouts as she had first assumed.  The elf had been badly injured, and her healer’s sense told her he would soon die without assistance.  Extending her senses a little further, Storm’s nose picked out a smell that she knew to be dead Orc.  She had had a few face-to-face encounters with Orcs, and concurred with general opinion— the only thing that smelled worse than a live Orc was a dead Orc.  As she sensed no signs of pulse or breathing from the putrid mass, she began to silently but swiftly approach the area where the injured elf lay unconscious, bow and arrow at ready in case the Orc still had friends nearby.   Storm was not a foolhardy or reckless creature.  She was well aware that they were living in dangerous

Read Chapter Two

© Christine Elizabeth Ray – All Rights Reserved

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