The King's Vineyard, Chapter 11
|Rating:||R for mature sexual content (later chapters)|
|Disclaimer:||I am only borrowing Tolkien's elves for story-telling purposes and am not seeking profit or glory from their use. Well, maybe glory, but certainly not profit!|
|Timeline:||In the years following the Battle of the Five Armies in Bilbo's story and before the Ring Quest in Frodo's.|
|Summary:||A young woman and her uncle travel north from the inland sea of Rhûn to Esgaroth seeking employment at the Elvenking's vineyard.|
|Feedback:||Please sign our guestbook or write to to firstname.lastname@example.org|
At first, Gorst made Cella walk on her own directly in front of him, with her wrists in his grip behind her back. He held his other hand over her gagged mouth. But she kept tripping him up, for she dug in her heels and pushed against him every step of the way. For a furious moment, he had to let go of her hands and she had swung wildly at him before he had recaptured both of them and had them held in front of her instead.
Satisfied, he picked her up from the ground and carried her before him, draped over his forearm with her fists pressed up under her breasts. Immediately, his unlucky shins were given a demonstration of what two good feet attached to two strong presser's legs can do when they are allowed to swing freely and kick.
Although he grunted in pain every time she connected a blow, he otherwise seemed unaffected by her kicking, and she could feel that her heels were being bruised and banged up against his thick legs, but she would not stop. They moved through the soggy vineyard rows where her dress kept catching on the bared sharpened branches of the storm battered vines, and she could both hear and feel it being torn in several places as he wrenched the fabric free.
She could not see below his large hand over her mouth but she could hear his feet sloshing through puddles as well as feel the water splashing up to dampen her legs and the tattered hem of her dress. The moist smell of the good wet earth filled her nostrils and brought her back to her senses. Her blind panic and fear was replaced with rage. For the first time since he had grabbed her on the veranda, she could smell him and her nostrils were filled with the scent of fear dripping off of him. The stench enraged her even more at the thought of it covering her skin and hair.
But, instead of fighting harder, Cella stopped altogether and went limp. After he had traveled along for several paces without being battered by her heels, Gorst began to relax his stride and walk more normally. After a few more steps, she snaked one of her feet in between his knees, hooking it as well as she could behind one, and then yanked her foot forward, and almost had it twisted off from the bottom of her leg when he stumbled and fell on her.
There was a searing shock wave from her ankle, and then she nearly fainted when her entire leg was cruelly turned and bent beneath both of them as they landed together to one side on the muddy ground. The pain traveled from her hip to her toes. Her screams were muffled by the rag in her mouth and she wished in vain that the Elfking was there to help her. Clearly, sharply, within her mind, his handsome moonlit face appeared in front of her the way it had when he had arrived the first time Gorst had grabbed her.
But, tonight he was not there, and she was picked back up, moaning with pain as her injured leg was continuously jarred, and carried along further away from the safety of the vineyard. Gorst carried her down a hill and then through a drainage ditch where her feet trailed under the water and then splashed back up to the other side. Finally, he took her behind a small grove of trees that marked one of the boundaries of the Elvenking's lands, and threw her to the ground.
After she spat the nasty tasting rag from her mouth, and drew a breath to scream, she was stunned into a gasping silence when Gorst opened up the curved blade of a grape-cutting knife and held it in front of her face; his shaking hand made the metal flicker dully in the fading light of the dying day. Even as obviously afraid as he was, she had no doubt he would use it.
"You think yer too good for the likes of me, don't you now, darlin'?" He hissed, his eyes wild, then grew bolder and sneered at her. "Well just look at you now!" He shouted it triumphantly as he stood over her, laughing. "I seen you up there at the overseer's table, thinking yer too good to sit with the rest of us. You fancy them girly Elves, that's plain. I doubt they'd look at you twice the way yer all mucked up now!"
As he stood there mocking her, she sat up but could not move any further. Her twisted ankle felt as if it was being stabbed with a red-hot poker. She cried out when she tried to crawl away and was prevented because her entire leg throbbed agonizingly at the slightest motion. It made her feel dizzy and sick and robbed of every ounce of her strength.
Gorst knelt down and, after pushing her backwards onto the soggy turf with the knife held in front of her face, sat on top of her with all his weight. His massive thighs held her still beneath him as he settled himself down on her hips, painfully crushing her injured leg. Cella dug her hands into the muddy soil and wanted to throw some of it into his ugly lust-filled face, but she waited. She kept her eyes on the blade in his hand.
"Word around the vineyard is you ain't never had no man, is that so?" His voice was low, insinuating and stomach-turning. He held the knife to her cheek; she could feel the sharp tip gently grazing her skin and she closed her eyes. He pressed it harder and repeated, louder, angered, "Is that so?" There was a stinging sensation where the blade sat against her face that made her afraid to nod for fear she would puncture herself against it. And she could not open her mouth to respond, either. Instead, she kept her eyes shut and whimpered.
"I'll take that as a yes," he whispered with his face almost pressed against hers, his breath was hot against her cheek, and then he stuffed the rag back into her mouth and warned her not to spit it out again. She could feel his weight momentarily being lifted off of her and instant relief from the crushing pressure as he raised himself back up to a kneeling position. And then the skirt of her gown was pulled up to her waist, baring her completely. Desperate as she was, every muscle in her body seemed to have become rigid as she screamed again against her gag. Reflexively, involuntarily, her hips tried to jerk away and she felt the tip of the blade against her cheek poke into the flesh.
"Careful darlin'," the brute above her chuckled. "You don' want to make me scratch up this pretty face now, do you?" She went limp again. The knife was removed from her cheek and her eyes opened almost against their will. She had to resist the urge to lift her hand to touch her face where it stung.
"And I guarantee that you won't never look at one of them airy fairy folk again when I'm done with you, nor they at you...," he was muttering almost more to himself than to her while he unbuttoned his pants and withdrew his engorged manhood. She felt like she would faint again as she watched him prepare himself, but even as she grew numb she kept her eyes open for she could not stop staring at the shaking blade in his hand.
But his voice cut off in a soft grunt and only gasping squeaks emerged from his lips as the knife fell to the ground while he grabbed at his neck. His eyes seemed to grow wide with surprise, then even wider. Two other hands, large hands, were wrapped around his throat, beneath his own frantically working fingers, clutching his neck tightly from behind as he desperately tried to remove them. Then she heard a loud crack, and Gorst went limp. He had breathed his last and the Elfking warrior yanked the body completely away from her with a howl of pure rage before he knelt, plucked the rag from her lips and gently held her in his embrace.
"You came," she sobbed, pushing her face into his shoulder as he held her, "I can't believe you came for me." She felt sick. The earth and sky seemed to be tilting and rocking beneath and above her at the same time as she lifted her head to see his face, which would not come into focus.
"You called me," he answered in a matter-of-fact manner as he stood while he lifted her off of the mud. The shock of pain from her briefly dangling leg turned into a blanket of merciful blackness that covered her entirely. She woke briefly while he was carrying her up some torch lit stairs, and she looked up at him, awed. His hair resembled burnished liquid gold in the warm flickering glow; his face was grim and purposeful.
"You came," she said again, or tried to. Not much more than a feeble croak was emitted. The pulsing ache from her injured foot and leg seemed to fight against her as she struggled to stay awake and alert.
"Do not try to speak, you are safe now," he replied. "Soon you will feel no more pain." But she could not have replied if she wanted to, for a roaring had entered her ears and she felt as if flames from her foot were traveling up her leg and through her body. And then a cloud of gray mist seemed to engulf her and she knew nothing more.
Tumbling, tumbling, Cella felt out of control and was ceaselessly tumbling, no matter how hard she tried to slow herself and swim out of the mist. She could not reach the surface of complete consciousness, but could only touch upon it at times. There were muffled voices coming from blurred faces, all swimming above her, far above her, and she wanted to hear them and see them clearly, but she could not.
When her dress was lifted to expose the lower part of her body, she threw her fists wildly and felt them striking flesh before they were gently subdued and held down.
Her leg was lifted and turned; the pain made her scream, then sob. Then there was the warmth, the familiar warm tingling that emitted from those hands, as they moved down her leg from the inside of her thigh all the way down to her foot. Bliss.
And then those fingers pressed against her face. It hurt.
"Be still, Celiel, do not move," a voice was saying. But the friendly mists did not frighten her anymore, and she no longer wanted to swim out of them to listen to the voices or see the faces. She wanted to fall into these formless warm clouds that swirled around her so cozily and were lifting her now, gently holding her, and rocking her ...she slept.
She was lying on her side and before her face was a wall of dark green satin, or so she thought at first, in her disoriented state, when she awoke. As Cella followed the fabric up with her eyes she finally had to turn over to lie flat on her back. It turned out to be a curtain that was attached to a wooden canopy that sat atop four thick posts and covered the bed she was in.
Slowly, she raised herself up on her elbows but could not see anything of the room, except for a small area by the foot of the bed, where the curtains were drawn back on one side. Through that opening she could see a patch of blue sky through a window. The drapes made a soft sibilant whispering noise as the breeze moved them gently. Birds were singing and she could hear voices in the distance, and the normal sounds of the vineyard in operation. It was a new day.
A distinct noise from beside her, on the other side of the closed drapes, made her jump. Although a thrill of fear coursed through her, she stayed still, the sound had stopped. A soft rustling that indicated the presence of someone or something that moved briefly before settling down.
"Who's there?" she asked, but her throat was dry and not much came out above a strained whisper. But that was enough.
"Cella?" It was Uncle Dwain. The curtain was partially drawn away and there he stood, next to the bed, looking down at her, searching what he could see of her with his eyes as he clasped his hands together fretfully. "How are you feeling, child?" His voice was surprisingly meek and he seemed almost afraid to come too near her. She sank back down on the pillow and tried to reply, but only coughed because her throat was too dry.
"Thirsty," she managed. Within seconds he was pressing a drinking bowl into her hands, and she had to rise up to sip at it so as not to spill. Accidentally, his fingers brushed hers and she recoiled, splashing her hands and the sleeve of a sleeping gown that she realized she was wearing, but only after she plucked the damp fabric away from her skin while her uncle went to fetch a towel. She had never before slept in a gown with sleeves.
"I'm sorry, uncle," she said sadly but she could not lift her eyes to him even when he handed her a cloth to wipe herself with. "Where is he?"
"The Sheriff is here, they're all downstairs." Cella felt a spasm of fear and tears filled her eyes. "Don't worry, don't worry, child," her uncle reassured her. "They won't be coming to talk to you or bother with you. His Worship won't hear of it, not yet in any case." He leaned over her for a moment and she trembled without understanding why. "There," he said. "I set your drinking bowl on this shelf; now you can reach for it when you're thirsty again."
Behind her was a great carven headboard, with shelves and drawers. She had not even noticed it until that moment. As she studied it all the way up to its top, she saw that there were carvings on the inside of the massive bed's roof that arched overhead, of trees in six separate squares.
"Thank you, uncle. Please, don't go away," she added when she saw him withdrawing and the curtain sliding back into place. He left it partially open and she could see more of the room, although there was not much to see from her vantage point besides more of the window, small puffy clouds dotting the sky, and the far wall.
"I'll be sitting here, next to you," he promised her. "I have been all along." She knew that was true, his was one of the blurry faces that had swum above her, one of the muffled voices that had called her name and pleaded with her to hold still. And she also remembered, even if she had not been fully aware at the time, of how she had been repulsed by his touch and shouted at him to leave. And even though she felt ashamed of her behavior, she was not truly sorry for only wanting one pair of hands on her. She may have pushed Uncle Dwain away, but now she was glad he did not go too far after all.
After a while, as Cella stared upward not actually thinking about anything, she realized she was seeing the same tree carved above her, just repeated six times. But each carving represented the way that it would appear at a different time of the year and had something about it that was unique for the season. She recognized the simple words carved in delicate Elf runes beneath each representation: firith [fading], iavas [autumn], rhîw [winter], echuil [stirring], ethuil [spring], and laer [summer]. Accordingly, the tree carvings went through every stage from nearly leafless, to bare branches, to snow covered, then with small leaf buds, fully leafed, and lastly, bearing nuts. The detail was a marvel. Her father, who had taught her the names of the Elvish seasons when she was a young girl, would have loved to have seen this, were he alive.
From out of nowhere, a wave of raw emotion washed over her. She could feel tears behind her eyes, and a swelling sensation in her throat and chest. But she was afraid to give in to it for fear it would drown her, and she would never recover from allowing herself to fully feel it. Cella stared at the trees, noting every single tiny leaf, or nut, or tiny bird that sat on a branch, and repeated the Elvish words in her mind: firith, rhîw, echuil, ethuil, laer, and iavas, over and over again until the tide of blackness receded and she could breathe properly again.
"I am sorry, uncle, for how I acted." Now that she was fully awake she felt there was much that needed to be said. And she could not say anything because there was too much to say, and there were no words to say any of it with.
"There, there, I know you couldn't help yourself, brother-daughter. You were in shock last night, and revertin' to feral instincts, or that's how His Worship said it." But Cella barely heard him, for despite her intense focus, the lovely carved trees she depended upon to divert herself with had started to waver and blur. There was something else wanting to come into her mind; two eyes wide and staring ...she whimpered and turned over onto her side again, curling her legs up to her chest and pressing her fists against her eyes.
Cella did not want to see that vision. She struggled inwardly to replace the ugly picture with a different one, but she could not bring the Elfking's face clearly enough into her mind to block the hideous one out. And now there was another image to join it, a knife blade, shaking and glinting in the last light of the dying day.
"No," she moaned. "Please... no."
"Cella? What is it, brother-daughter?"
"Is the Sheriff here to arrest the king?" she asked, terrified to learn the truth. "Is he in trouble?"
"No," came the firm reply, but it was not her uncle who answered. Cella's heart lightened instantly and she sat up straight to pull back the curtain beside her head and saw the Elfking standing there. "I should have killed him the first time he touched you," he continued. "But I was advised to seek justice for you through the proper channels." He spat out the word 'proper' as if it was a curse word. Behind him, hesitating in the doorway, stood the Sheriff and someone else, who she could not see clearly, was standing behind him.
"It was good advice that, what your counselors gave you, my lord," said the portly Long Lake lawman. "Considerin' Gorst had never attacked no one before and we all had to give him the benefit of the doubt..." The man's voice trailed off uncertainly when the Elfking looked over his shoulder and stared across the room at him. Seated in a chair beside the bed was her uncle Dwain, but he stood now and faced the doorway.
"Just how did that monster get out of your jail yesterday in the first place?" he shouted angrily. "And get hisself all the way out here last night and attack my Cella, how did that happen? That's what I'd like to know!"
"Uncle, please, don't..." whimpered Cella as she felt panic begin to overcome her. She reached her hand out toward him.
"My good men, now is not the time or place for this type of discussion," interrupted a smooth voice she had never heard before, although she knew who the Elf was who was speaking as he entered the room, maneuvering around the bulky Sheriff to do so. It was Nandirn and his quiet voice and calm demeanor brought murmured apologies from both her uncle and the lawman.
"I advise you to take your personal differences elsewhere," said the gray-clad Elf. And then, to the Sheriff, he added, "His Majesty and his ... ward will be ready to answer your questions on the morrow, perhaps. Until then, I must ask you to leave. Neither of them are going anywhere, I give you my word."
Cella struggled to understand what Nandirn was talking about and how he could speak with such authority for the Elvenking. But no one else seemed surprised or offended.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am," apologized the Sheriff. "When you feel better, I might have a few questions." he looked at the two Elves before continuing, "But they can wait."
"Very good," said Nandirn. "We will send word to you."
"Wait" commanded the Elfking as he reached into his tunic. He casually tossed a small pouch to the Sheriff, it landed in his hand with a distinct 'chink' that told of coins contained within. "I suggest that before you unwittingly unleash any more miscreants on an unsuspecting public, that you buy some new locks for your jail cell doors, and hire more men to stand guard." The man opened the sack and his eyes grew wide with amazement when he saw what was contained within.
"There's enough here to build a whole new jail, my lord," his voice was strained with disbelief.
"If you insist," replied the Elfking through clenched teeth. "Then by all means, build one. Better yet, build two. Just leave this room. Now." Nandirn gestured to the door and the man left hastily, after thanking the monarch and apologizing again to Cella before he did so.
"If you will excuse me, Your Worship, I have a few words to say to that Sheriff before he goes." With that said, Uncle Dwain left the room. Then the gray-clad Elf bowed and departed silently behind him. Cella sighed with relief once the room was empty and she was alone with the Elfking. All of her nameless fears and dreads were gone as long as he was beside her, and she felt safe again.
And it was not in the least bit difficult to look him in the eyes now when she smiled up at him. In fact, she could not remember what it felt like to be afraid of him.
To be continued in Chapter 12
Posted: August 26, 2004
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"Long live Thranduil, great Elf-king of Greenwood!"