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Through Different Eyes  by Nurayy

1st place (shared with another story) at Teitho Contest nov/dec 20, challenge 'Gems and Jewels'. My thanks to all who voted for the story! And to my faithful beta Ruiniel; you're always great!

This version is slightly differing from the one I entered at Teitho, as in the ending I added some few lines alluding to my OC from a longer story I posted on ffnet and AO3.

It is somehow a sequel to the previous chapter 'Flames and Vile Men'.

This follows mainly movie verse where civilians sought refuge at Helm's Deep, but as in the book verse, there are no elven reinforcements at the Battle of the Hornburg.

Words can not tell...

The air in the caves felt damp and hollow, heavily reverberating with unnatural thunder. She had always been afraid of thunderstorms when the rain dashed upon their sturdy wooden house, and bolts of lightning struck the night-sky sending deep shudders through air and ground. Yet now she would have given anything to sit in her cosy little cottage, watching the storm raging outside, securely wrapped into a soft woollen cover, the fire crackling reassuringly in the small hearth…

But their house was no more. There would be no going back, no reassuring warmth from that little hearth, no evenings snuggled together under soft covers… never again.

Instead, she peered out from under her mother's arm, as she held her and her sister tight, covering their ears with the palms of her hands when the rumbling thunder would get threateningly loud. But it did not really help stifle the sound, because the whole mountain and the air within seemed to quaver. Her mother cried, and it frightened her. She was not used to seeing tears on those soft, familiar cheeks. Mother was strong. And this was not right. Mother did not fear thunders nor storms, this was something else completely. And she knew what it was. She was only a child, but she was old enough to understand, that this was way worse.

The women around them held their children, in the same way her mother held her and her sister. Fearful eyes, wide open – and with every shudder; the screams of the children, the broken voices of mothers wanting to soothe but failing while trying to hold their own tears at bay.

It had begun early that night…

The burg had turned to near frenzied chaos. The men's faces were grim as they hurried around, gathering weapons and armour. But what frightened her most was the fear she saw in their serious eyes. - What was about to happen, she wondered, if even the men were terrified?

She watched the confusing images playing out while she clutched at her mother's skirt.

And then between all the disconcerting sounds of confusing voices and calls, rattling of carts, and clattering of metal, she heard a raised female voice. Immediately her attention was peaked, as she recognized that the voice belonged to the fair Lady of Rohan. The niece of the King, the princess.

"Let me fight!" She heard her say out loud and insistent. And between all the shapes moving about, she tried to get glimpses of the maid standing determined before the captain of the guard; her eyes flashed and the fine lines of her jaws were resolutely set as she pierced the man with a fiery glare.

Still clutching to her mother's gown the child stared at the woman with the flowing long hair in awe. So the princess knew how to fight, and it was obvious that she wished to go to battle, for them, for her people… The small girl set her mind, even within her next breath, that someday, when she was old enough, she would learn how to fight, and be fierce and valiant like her princess.

"My Lady! Please! Do not insist! This is an order from the King! You must stay with the women and lead them through the caves should need arise! There is no way to refuse this order." The captain said with finality, his voice strong and even. And then he turned his back on her and left to his business.

The young Lady said nothing. She did not hold him back, but her face was somber at first, and then revealed emotions she was probably forcefully restraining, as she stood there in the midst of people, watching the soldiers gathering all men and boys they saw fit to fight. She raised shaking hands, pressing them upon her brow and eyes, bending her head, only for a second. When she lifted her head again there was moisture pooling in her eyes, and she looked angered, desperate and sad altogether.

The writhing sobs of a woman next to them tore the girl's mind away from the Lady of Rohan.

"No," the woman begged, her voice torn with distress, "Please!... He is only twelve!" She reached out her hand for her boy as they took him with them.

He glanced back to his mother, confusion and fear on his young face when she let out a desperate wail.

"Mother!" he called, "Do not cry, I will return!" his clear, child's voice rang over to her as if wanting to soothe the frightening despair of his mother.

In the same moment, the girl felt a presence, and a soft light was cast on the stone. She lifted her gaze and not far from her she saw the elf. The being with hair of fine flowing silk, and stormy, clear, almost transparent eyes. The being she had admired earlier that day as if he were a figure out of a great tale.

And now, there he stood again, solid and real, tall and slender, his fluid motions brimming with strength. His pale hair and skin faintly glowed against the shades of dusk on the dark grey stone.

Her gaze lingered on him. He glanced their way, eyes filled with grief while taking in the image of the woman beside them, who then collapsed to a sobbing heap.

The elf pressed his eyes closed as if wanting to reject what he had just seen, and when he opened them again, the clearness was gone, their blue dark and blurred, and his nostrils flared. The straight, fine lines of his beautiful face now stood out hard as he shot an accusing look at his companion.

The man with the dark, unruly hair. He was a ranger, the people had said, but he had those strangely clear eyes of the elves, and he was meant to become a great King, she had heard from the talks of the people. His handsome face was stern before the events unfolding. But he did not look like a King - surely not yet - in his worn-out clothing and dirtied skin.

At the dark, piercing glare of the elf, the man closed his eyes as his chest rose and fell in a deep sigh. Then his features briefly softened, and he bit his bottom lip. Sadness flickered almost imperceptibly through the clear silver of his strange elven eyes. But then he turned away, reassuming his way across the place directing the work to prepare for the fight.

The man and the elf passed by the Lady Éowyn of Rohan, who still stood rooted to the spot, disbelief and defeat darkening the profile of her fair face.

The ranger nodded at her with respect. And the elf shortly paused in his tracks, standing before her, his gaze showing deep understanding. "This is beyond my comprehension, my Lady."

Actually, the girl thought, she was not close enough to hear what he spoke in a soft tone, but she was observing the elf so very intently, that on his lips she was sure she had read those words. He then brought his hand to his chest bending his head in an acclaiming gesture, before he moved away from the Lady, following the ranger. Only now she noticed the dwarf at the elf's side. The sturdy, short being patted his tall friend comfortingly on his back, and she thought she had heard how he had called him 'lad'. It was an affectionate gesture meant to soothe.

The Lady of Rohan looked silently resigned. But soon after she stirred, determined in her new purpose. She gathered them, women and children, guiding them towards the safety of the caves.

Her mother had bent to the crying woman beside them, trying to calm her, trying to help her rise. Although carrying her sister, and having the girl clutched at her skirts, her mother sustained the despairing woman as they moved along.

The girl stared around, at the boys and men being supplied with weapons and armour; those were no soldiers! Their gazes were wavering, insecure, and so many afeared.

The stronghold that had appeared to her a saving haven when they arrived, now had turned hard and cold and set before looming doom. - What place was this, where children had to fight, prying bitter tears from usually strong mothers?

She managed to get a last glimpse of the elf in the crowd. Her heart eased only that small little bit, to find a tiny thread of hope in his unnaturally fair image. She thought of his eyes, how they had seemed unreadable when first she had seen him. But then tonight she had read in them grief and doubt, anger even - but never fear… she had seen no fear in the elf's eyes! And she clung to his formidable image.

The tension in the caves hung thick like a wet blanket, the lingering fear peaked to the point of choking them. Every scream, every sob tore the unbearable heaviness like lighting, as though cutting through flesh and bone, constantly accompanied by the terrible thundering from the battle outside getting ever closer.

She did not know where to look. She did not want to see the devastated faces of the people around them. She snuggled into the warm protection of her mother. But her strong mother trembled. Glancing upwards the girl tried to catch sight of her face, but when a tear fell onto her cheek from above she dropped her gaze; she did not want to see her mother weep.

In her mother's other arm lay her little sister. To her great relief, she was deeply asleep. She wondered how the cute little bundle could sleep so completely unaware and untouched by all the terrible noise around her; if the exhaustion from her injuries had brought her to that point, or if the healer's ministrations had worked wonders on her body and mind, that in all the tumult she was now the only one peacefully slumbering. She did not know what it was, but she knew that she was so very grateful, that at least her baby sister did not have to suffer this fear, and the girl wished that she too could just close her eyes and escape into a dream, anything, any place but this.

She tried to recall the image of the elf. She saw him standing on a wall nocking and releasing arrows with his great bow. His eyes gleaming, clear blue and lethal. And then the same eyes became clouded and grey like a storm, as he fought surrounded by dark, blurred beasts she could not - would not – properly discern. He moved with speed, almost unnaturally, wielding white knives flashing bright in between the darkness. She saw blood, bodies falling, broken on the ground. She saw a tumult of men and crude steel, rushes of blurred beasts too hideous to recognize.

But there was no sound. She heard nothing but muffled, nearly deaf, thickness. - Where was the elf? - She had lost sight of him in the maelstrom of battle. She opened her eyes but kept them glued to the ground, and she noticed that she was holding the palms of her hands pressed to her ears. She heard only the soft dulled murmurs of the people around her.

And it was good to not hear it all. The most terrible noises were the soft, yet constant, keening sobs of the woman who had had no choice but to let her boy go to battle. She had stayed close to them ever since the soldiers had separated her from her child, ever since her mother helped her to rise and stumble along with them to find shelter in the cave, while her boy would fight unprotected out there. And like her, there were so many others crying for their sons, their brothers, their husbands, their fathers out there, where the thunder hailed from.

She studied the ground, the stone beneath them, of a delicate light green colour. She lifted her eyes, only to let them drift a bit further away, avoiding the people but following the intricate shape of the stone, curious and sleek, and in a way steadfast and comforting. And then, when her gaze returned to look down at her own feet, she saw it; a tiny stone, oval and light green as its surroundings, with a thin white line running all around it.

And she dared uncover her ears and reach for it. It felt comfortably smooth between her fingers.

Without hesitation, she placed it into the hand of the crying mother beside them.

"This is for your boy," she said, eyes still to the ground, "What is his name?" she then asked shyly, lifting her eyes to seek those of the woman.

The woman had stopped crying, surprised. Staring at the gem in her hand her lips formed the name of her child, "Gram," she said with emotion in her voice, "His name is Gram."

The girl glanced at the woman with the wide, expectant eyes of a child as the woman's gaze swept from the stone to her.

"Then give this to Gram, when he returns." She simply said and saw how the mother's fingers closed around the pale green gem.

"Thank you," the woman said, her voice slightly shaking, the stone firm in her hand, "Thank you, my girl!"

"His name means 'fierce', does it not?" the girl continued.

"Yes, it does," the mother said, lost in thought, "And fierce he is, my boy. His dream is to join the Éored when he is grown. He is good with the horses, and he just started sword training. I pray that it might be enough to keep him alive."

It was a small hopeful moment, soothing and quiet between the sobs and the crying. And the girl decided that she would no more listen to the heartbreaking and fearful wails around her. Her eyes searched for more beautiful, quiet stones, and there she spotted another one just a little bit farther away. This one differed in shape and colour; more flat and jagged at the edges and its green was slightly darker than the one she gifted to Gram's mother, and it was lovely speckled with white in between.

She needed to get it, but as she slipped out from under the protecting arm, her mother reached out to hold her back, her grasp almost frantic.

"Please Mother," she called out, too loud, "I wish to do something at least, I want to help as I can." Her mother looked scared to free her from her hold, and the girl felt regret for shouting at her. She felt like she might have hurt her. So she said softly "Forgive me, mother. But please let me do something for them!"

Her mother released her, hesitantly, and the girl took a few steps to reach for the little stone. She turned, holding it out and stumbling towards her mother, "look how beautiful, mother!" she said eagerly. "There are more, you see, let me find them! They are for the brave men and boys fighting outside, for when they return. I will give one to each of them, please let me do this!"

Her mother glanced at the stone and then into her daughter's eyes fondly, "It is beautiful indeed, darling."

She hugged her child tightly, struggling to appear strong while unable to hold back the tears. She seemed to not want to release her again from her embrace.

But then the girl felt a hand on her shoulder, and her mother slowly let go. They both looked up to the young woman in surprise. It was the Lady of Rohan, gazing at them, her eyes bright and comforting. She gave a curt nod and spoke to her mother.

"If you permit, I would take her just around the corner there. There is something I would like to show her. I know this place well, I used to play here with my brother. We will not go far and I promise to return her safely to you."

While she spoke, she smiled softly, yet it was a sad smile the girl thought. The Lady of Rohan looked sad, but oh so beautiful, and the girl could not believe it was real that she was so close, speaking to them, gifting them with her attention.

Her mother seemed similarly in awe because all she did was to nod without uttering a word, eyes wide and staring at the lady.

"What is your name, little one?" the Lady Éowyn asked.

"Sorwyn." She answered.

"Well, Sorwyn, I will show you something you might cherish. Would you like to come with me and see?"

Sorwyn nodded excitedly, glancing shyly towards her mother, and her heart eased even further as her mother nodded quietly and reassuringly at her.

And so she went with the princess, her tiny hand firmly held within the slender and strangely strong one. On their way, the Lady Éowyn whispered conspicuously to her.

"You know, I understand very well, that you wish to do something to help them. I will show you a secret. My brother and I used to collect gems as a game when we were children. There are beautiful ones in these caves, like the ones you found. We used to venture far, where the colours are rich in variety. We cannot go there now, because your mother would worry. But I know there are more of these stones scattered there where we used to play. They are lying there, since then, waiting for you to find them."

Sorwyn glanced at the Lady, wide-eyed and as she then stood still and released her hand, the child went off to search the cave floor. Tirelessly she bent and collected the gems which looked special and lovely to her. As if the more she would find the more of their people would return from battle. Every stone she found had its own beauty and hope, as she thought at how she would place it in their hands; the calloused hand of a soldier, the shaking frail hand of an elderly man, or the soft, slender hand of a boy. The gems were patiently waiting for them.

The whole time, the Lady Éowyn watched her, while also keeping watch on the other people as was her duty.

When her small leather pouch was filled, and also all of her pockets, the girl was finally satisfied and with a soft smile reached the Lady Éowyn, who escorted her back to her mother.

She paid no more heed to the thunder shaking both stone and air, and even now she forced herself to ignore it completely.

"Look what I found!" She blurted out.

She opened her pouch and plenty of small stones tumbled out, of different shapes and colours; some were grey streaked with white, others greenish, some jagged, some sleek, bigger and smaller, from rose to purple, to blue, to green, they shimmered slightly, not one looked like the other. And in the midst of them was a crystal, slightly larger than the other stones and neatly chiselled in shape, gleaming, transparent and clear between them.

"This one is for the elf!" She said determinedly with a serious mien. She carefully reached for the crystal and held it up so that it reflected the light in bright beams upon her cheeks.

"The elf, have you seen him...?" Her gaze searched her mother's, and then that of the woman, the mother of Gram, "He is a being like the ones in the tales, in the legends. He will not fall! I know that!"

"And this one," she pointed her finger, her tiny face beaming, "This one is for him; two beautiful stones for Gram. He will return to receive them!"

Godliss, Gram's mother - because that was her name – smiled between tears, as she gently cupped the child's face. "Gratitude, my little Sorwyn, from the depths of my heart! You bring such hope."

The time they waited in those caves seemed unending, but now Sorwyn had her stones weighing in her pouch at her belt, and in her pockets, and it balanced the weight from the fear and the sorrow filling the cave. Those stones even muted the thunder and the screams, when her fingers ventured to feel the different shapes, while her other hand firmly clutched the crystal.

It was morning when the terrible thunder ceased. She was tired and she would have wished to sleep. Her eyelids were heavy as she stumbled along close to her mother and out of the cave, driven by the crowd. She blinked into the crisp morning light. The sun was shining brightly. They had won, she heard the people say. But then the Lady Éowyn's voice cut through the calls and the murmurs.

"Do not bring the children further down!" she warned, "Our losses are high, and there are bodies all over the ground of both friend and foe. My brother and his men have returned," she said, voice shaking with emotion, "they are working, but do not make the children see…"

Sorwyn was confused and frightened by the tumult unfolding around her, soldiers carried the injured into the burg, some of them were hurt themselves, and most looked starkly strained. Healers materialized out of the crowd, and hurried about, taking up their work.

Godliss had almost turned mad with unrest, now that she was so close to knowing if her boy was among the living or the dead, she could barely breathe, and it took Sorwyn's mother much effort to calm her.

Boys rejoined their mothers, husbands their wives, and fathers hugged their children tight. There were reunions and tears of joy, and at times desolate screams when a long-dreaded message of certainty reached its destination.

Godliss was crying again and would not cease, watching out for a sign of her boy, on every side, with each new arrival.

And then, in between the people standing or hurrying about, kneeling or lying on the ground, Sorwyn spotted the elf. He looked slightly dishevelled. His pale skin was dirtied and sprayed with dark blood, but still, he starkly stood out, tall and fair, moving towards them in long strides, carrying in his arms a slight, still form.

She heard Godliss cry out beside them. The woman stumbled and fell to her knees, holding out her arms towards the elf and his burden.

The elf lowered the boy to the ground with great care, cradling his head into the lap of his mother.

"He is alive, my Lady," he spoke softly, his voice warm and soothing, "He will live. He has taken a blow to the head, but he is conscious. Talk to him, he can hear you!"

And Godliss kissed Gram's face, wetting his cheeks with her tears, sobbing incessantly.

"Mother…" the boy whispered.

Godliss could hardly speak between the sobs, "I'm here… my son… I am here!"

She looked at the elf through her tears, and she shook her head very slowly as the words would not come, her eyes filled with emotion.

"From deep in my heart I understand; you do not have to speak." The elf's velvety voice reached her, "I have to go back to help where I can. My friend promised he would come to see him. His hands will help heal him." He added reassuringly. - He meant the ranger with the elf-eyes. Sorwyn had heard that he was also a healer.

But before the elf could turn and leave, the girl stood already behind him, pulling slightly and insecurely at the dip of his tunic, calling for his attention.

"Please, wait-"

She gathered all her courage and timidly lifted her gaze to meet his.

"I-" she stammered, "I- want to thank you…" she managed. Her heart hammered wildly, and she felt her face become oddly warm. And then hurriedly she added, before the courage might leave her, "…for fighting for us, and bringing Gram back to his mother!"

The elf went down on one knee so that he could see her at eye level. But still, he was taller than her.

She fidgeted with her pouch until finally, she managed to untie the string.

"I have collected these for the men who fought so bravely out there." She opened the small leather satchel for him to peer inside.

His gaze was endlessly soft, the blue in his eyes deep and warm when he looked back at her.

"What is your name, my child?"

"Sorwyn," the girl said as she smiled.

"Sorwyn," he repeated thoughtfully, and she found that it sounded so different from his lips, so... important.

"What does it mean?" he asked.

"It means sorrow and joy." She knew the meaning of her name, but she had never really thought about it.

The elf looked into her eyes so deeply that she got the strange sensation that he saw her very soul, and she thought that never before had she felt such an intense gaze.

"Your name is beautiful. It could not suit you better. You bring joy into the midst of sorrow!"

She fidgeted again as her hands trembled with excitement, rummaging in the pouch.

She held out the crystal for him. "This one is for you, it is the clearest, and brightest, and so different from the others."

She saw him swallow and blink, as he accepted it into his long slender hand from her tiny, soft one. He stared at it and ran a finger over the smooth, limpid surface. And then he held the clear stone to his heart, taking a deep shuddering breath, gazing at her. She saw moisture welling in those almost transparent eyes. His lips slightly trembled.

"Do... elves cry?" she asked, staring at him in wonder, genuinely concerned.

His lips still quivered as he finally answered, "Yes, they do, my child... they do cry!" And he closed his eyes, allowing a clear rivulet to slide down his cheek, and leave a clean streak on his dirtied features.

"This-..." his voice faltered, "I- do not have words..."

She could not believe that the elf's voice stumbled.

He took a deep steadying breath before he spoke again. And this time he smiled, warming her heart.

"This is the most precious jewel I have ever received."

Feeling happy and encouraged Sorwyn then said: "Wait- I would ask you something," She reached into her pocket and revealed a perfectly smooth, dark-grey, almost black, gem cupped in her hand. It held a mild pearly shine.

"This is for the healer with the dark eyes. I saw you speaking to her... She soothed my sister's pain. Please, can you give it to her?"

The elf's lips parted in a silent gasp, and so, worriedly, she quickly added, "Did I do something wrong, my Lord?"

He slowly shook his head, frowning, "No, penneth. You have done everything right!"

He briefly closed his eyes, pressing the stone in his hand until his knuckles turned white, his soft breath slightly hitched.

"I will give it to her, my child. If ever I meet her again - I will give this gift to her."

"I thought the gem looks like her eyes." The girl said, relieved, and smiling shyly.

"It does, little girl, it truly does! - Go now, Sorwyn, go and share those great little gifts. They will bring joy and help your people heal."

The girl nodded, then watched the elf as he turned from her and moved away, lost in the crowd until he disappeared from her sight.

Éowyn wears not the title of princess, but in the little girl's mind she is princess.

Thanks for reading! I would LOVE to read your thoughts!

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