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Elana's Tale  by Elana

Chapter 6 – I Have to Die

Roswyn was worried about Elana. At first, weak from loss of blood considerably greater than the normal bleeding following a birth, it was understandable that she would only lie on her pallet. But she refused to even talk, turning her head away and staring blankly at the wall. Now two weeks had passed. The blood had diminished and had now nearly stopped. Her breasts, that three days after the birth had turned rock hard and painful, leaking drops of milk, softened again and dried up, gradually returning to normal. But Elana was still sunk in a black depression. She picked at her food, eating little. She answered only in monosyllables when Roswyn spoke to her. After the first week, when the orcs again began dragging her to the exercise room, she plodded along, staring at the ground or straight ahead, refusing to engage in the conversation with the other women that had previously been the high point of their days.

Elana’s despair circled over and over again in her mind. She felt utterly helpless. Soon she would again be raped, and after a brief respite, another child would be torn from her and sent to face unspeakable abuse. Then again, and again, and again, and… For herself, Elana felt she could perhaps find the strength to endure, to survive, to hold on to hope that the seemingly impossible rescue would someday come. But the thought that every year another baby would be sacrificed to the lust and greed of the orcs was intolerable. She could not let it happen. And she knew there was one way she could prevent it, though the thought sickened and terrified her. But finally, she could hide in despair and denial no longer.

Late at night, curled together for warmth on their pallets, Elana whispered to Roswyn, “I have to die.”

Roswyn twisted around and angrily pushed her away. “Well, if you can’t take it anymore, don’t expect me to try and talk you out of it. Though I thought you were different. I guess ‘no matter what’ didn’t last very long.”

“No, it’s not that.” Elana was stung by the bitterness of Roswyn’s words. “I don’t want to leave you alone. It’s just I can’t let them use me to make another baby. I can’t let them have another child of mine.”

“They’ll just use others to breed instead, so it’s not like you’ll be saving the world or anything.”

“No, you don’t understand, I can’t let them take my baby!”

“Baby? You actually think of those things as babies? Why should you care for the nasty little bits of orc-filth? They belong with the rest of the orcs!”

Elana knew Roswyn could never understand. She shook her head and turned away. But her resolve grew.

After a long silence, Roswyn spoke. “It’s not so easy, dying. They don’t let us have anything sharp. You might be able to make a noose, if you tore your garment in strips, but the fabric is rotten and would probably break. They know well enough to keep anything dangerous away from us – do you think you’re the first? They cut all our hair after one girl strangled herself with her own braid. As soon as they figure out that’s what you’re trying, they’ll watch you day and night. So you only have one chance.”

Elana nodded, thankful that Roswyn would not interfere. She had a plan. One way of death was open to her, though it would take enormous willpower to follow through with it.

The next morning, Elana ate no breakfast. She didn’t drink any of the stale water from the jug. Roswyn looked at her, then without comment ate Elana’s portion in addition to her own.

By lunchtime, Elana was very hungry, but again left her food untouched. Roswyn forced down as much of the raw cabbage and peppers as she could, but some was left. The orc guard looked at the remains sharply, but did not comment.

By the end of exercise time, Elana’s mouth was parched and her legs were weak. Back at the cell, the wilted cabbage leaves seemed a fine feast, calling her to partake. But she lay on her pallet and faced the wall. The smell of the supper stew when it came was almost unbearable, and her belly hurt with a dull ache. The bowls were especially large and full, and Roswyn was unable to finish both portions. The orc guard took away the leftovers.

Elana slept restlessly, dreaming of clear flowing streams singing of deep, refreshing drinks. Her mother’s kitchen appeared, filled with the rich scents of Elana’s favorite meals. Soft, fresh bread baked in the oven, and a chicken roasted on a spit over the fire. Marbrona stirred together honey and blackberries, and poured them into a pie shell. Then she saw the pie baked, its sweet dark juices spilling out over the crispy, flaky crust. She could taste the tartness in her mouth.

“No!” the dream-Elana cried, and spat out the bite of pie. She ran, blindly, down endless stone corridors. Then she ran full-tilt into an enormous orc, who held aloft an infant by one leg, slapping it and laughing. She spun away, but everywhere were hundreds, thousands of orcs, striking the crying babies they dangled far out of reach. The cries and the hideous laughter rang in Elana’s ears as she sat up straight, awakening from the nightmare.

In the morning, the orc guard brought the usual breakfast of dry brown bread. He sat Elana’s portion in front of her, then stood and waited. Elana wondered if her would try to force feed her. If he did, she could make herself vomit it up again. She turned away.

The orc nodded sharply, then without a word turned and seized Roswyn. He threw her to the floor, pulled out his short whip, and methodically began lashing her back.

Elana stared in horror, uncomprehending, too shocked to move. Finally, Roswyn turned her face toward Elana. “Please, Elana, eat,” she grated between clenched teeth.

Several more blows struck before Elana understood. Then she snatched the bread and stuffed a piece into her mouth. The orc paused, whip upraised. He watched as Elana choked down the whole loaf. Then he gestured curtly toward the water jug, and watched until Elana had drunk deeply. Then, with a kick at the motionless Roswyn, he lowered his whip and left.

“Just remember, if you try that stunt again, I’ll be ready,” he told them, then slammed the gate.

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