A Traitor's Dues



The Masks of Imlad Gelair - Part 6 Complementary material for this story. Spesifically Nethrida's nightmare)

Imlad Gelair had changed.  One moment a bridge... The second the sound of howling Wargs... The whizz of arrows all muffled, distant... Like she was underwater yet she breathed in and exhaled in fright. The abrubt switch in landscape made she trip and fall. But ever the soldier she reached behind her to draw her sword only to gasp upon realising the scabbard was empty...

A moment of panic gripped her but then she spots the hilt of another sword not far from her. She reached to grab it and pull it to herself, only to realise she was holding the hilt of her sword, Shrouded Glory... Or what was left of it. She shrieks in terror upon realising that the blade was broken, sundered near the hilt, leaving it useless, to be discarded on the ground, forgotten..

She drops the hilt and stands up, with increased clarity she now understood where she was. The ruined towers. The sounds, the view, there was only one place she could've been in such a dire, hopeless situation.

She was in Fornost... To do what she always intended to after fleeing Gondor.

An orc cackles somewhere. Neth turns around to see an Orcish archer in the distance, the vague sound of a bowstring snapping when an arrow is fired, the sound of an arrow thwipping in the air. It'd be over soon...

And then there was darkness. An endless abyss surrounded her in every direction, the towers of Fornost gone the sounds of battle replaced with whispers... Voices calling to her,  words she could almost understand. She felt herself, no arrow had struck her, yet she was almost certain this was the afterlife.

She takes a single step forward, and that is when the pain struck her. Pain almost unbearable that shoots up her leg, reaching every part of her body, a sensation unlike nothing she's felt before.
There is a loud shriek of pain and Neth drops onto her knees. Shivering struggling to breathe after such immense sensation, when the echo of her shriek faded she could hear the whispers again, and this time she did understand some of the words.

"Traitor..."

"...Arrogance..."

These two words repeated over and over, and she shook her head "N...No..." came a weakened whimper as she forced herself up... Or perhaps was compelled to stand up, she did not know anymore. Once upon her feet she took another step forward in the endless abyss.

And that is when she screamed in pain again as her hand flared up, like flames on exposed flesh she clutched onto her wrist and fell back down to her knees. The burning sensation enveloping her entire left arm and would not subside no matter how much she flailed and screamed.

"You killed us..."

"Traitor's reward..."

"Price of arrogance..."

The words continue to become more clear, and louder as Neth suffered in the throes of this unknown agony. When it finally subsided she was laid on her back in the dark ground, tears pouring from her eyes. Her body trembled and she struggled to breathe and remain aware.

"Failure of a Captain..."

"Justice fulfilled..."

"... No rest..."

And then she understood. The price of arrogance... Not sending her scouts forward, the blind trust in the intel. Left in the dark. She grit her teeth and shook her head. "N...no... I... I didnt mean..." she managed to call out, but the void offered no response. And that is when the pain struck again.

She screamed and clutched her midriff as she felt the sting, as if something was plunged through her stomach, twisted around and no matter how much she thrashed and kicked, it did not subside. And then it happened again...

And again...

And again...

The voices ringing in her ears. calling her fate justified... The price of a traitor, a coward's judgemt as she laid there on the ground, feeling how her life was slowly fading away from her as the pain continued to grow.

But before the end came she could see someone, far beyond the empty void. A familiar figure. She attempted to reach out to her, but her limbs would not move. As this familiar form finally turned around Neth saw not the kind face she had expected. But a silvery mask, void of any features.

And then... she stood in the open air. And felt the pleasant weather the valley of Rivendell, heard the river roar beneath them, and saw her friends, loved ones all around her. Equally confused, equally horrified.

Yet she couldnt fully shake off the words she had heard in the empty void...