Between Darkness and Dawn
Chapter 12: Reluctant Allies
First > Previous > Next
The long hours of torture blurred together after a while. Aragorn
did not remember losing consciousness. He did not remember being
taken down and brought back to their cell. When he awoke he did
not know where he was and all he was aware of was his pounding
headache. For half a wonderful moment, he thought he was home and
half expected Elrond or one of his brothers to come check on him
presently, to see if he was feeling better. Then he opened his
eyes and reality crashed down upon him once more.
His blurry eyes struggled to bring the dim room into focus. The
first thing he could see was Legolas’ faintly luminous form across the
room from him. The elf was sitting against the wall.
Manacles on short tethers of chain held Legolas’ arm’s up a little
above his head. A thick iron collar around his neck, also
tethered to the wall behind him, provided a third point of
restraint. Aragorn saw for the first time the ugly bridle that
still marred the elf’s fair face. The cruel, bulky harness was
crusted with blood where it dug into the prince’s skin and looked
terribly out of place upon the fluid lines of Legolas’ body.
The prince’s eyes were closed but he must have only been conserving
his strength because, when the faint sounds of Aragorn stirring reached
his ears, his eyelids lifted. Clear blue orbs looked out from
under his dark lashes, fixing the ranger in their gaze. It looked
as if the elf wanted to speak, but of course he could not.
Aragorn automatically tried to go to his friend’s side, but found he
too was restrained. His own hands were fixed to the wall above
his head and he realized the weight upon his shoulders was an iron
collar similar to the one around Legolas’ neck. It seemed that
their days of freedom in the cell were over for the time being.
The Nazgûl was not pleased with them.
“Legolas?” the ranger rasped his friend’s name and was momentarily
surprised that he could. He swallowed raggedly, feeling how sore
his mouth and throat were, both from the gag and, more shamefully, from
his own screams. A wave of dizzy weakness made the human’s vision
waver. The Nazgûl’s long torment had taken its toll on his
Legolas inclined his head towards his friend. His large, sad,
blue eyes spoke the concern that his muzzled tongue was not allowed to
voice. The prince made a soft, murmuring sound but had to stop
and close his eyes again for a moment. His tongue was cut and
swollen. His whole mouth felt afire from dehydration and the
chafing of the cruel bit.
Aragorn’s face clouded with pain, this time for his friend rather than
himself. Unlike true horse bridles, there were no guard-rings to
keep the snaffle from pinching and cutting the corners of the elf’s
delicate mouth. Aragorn could barely stand to look at Legolas’
face. The ranger hadn’t realized he had looked away until he felt
himself compelled to look back once more. Legolas’ eyes were
boring into him, intense in their concern. “I’m fine,” the human
whispered hoarsely, knowing his friend’s unspoken question.
Legolas snorted softly.
“All right, so I have been better,” Aragorn admitted with a weak
attempt at a smile. He wanted to ask if Legolas were all right,
but aside from it being a stupid question there was no way the elf
could answer him.
Footsteps in the hall heralded a visitor even before the door to their
cell scraped quietly open. Yrin paused in the doorway for a
moment before he entered. Aragorn could see the evil glint of orc
eyes in the hall peering in through the opening. It was a small
mercy that the dark creatures remained outside and only the human
entered the room.
Yrinvan set the tray he carried on the floor and unlocked one of
Aragorn’s manacles, freeing his right arm. He placed a cup in the
ranger’s free hand and pushed it towards the man’s lips. “The
Master allows you a little more antidote. Drink.”
Aragorn did drink, ignoring the bitter taste of the medicine. He
knew by now to be grateful for all he could get. Not having it
was excruciating. Yrin gave him a mug of soup, some bread and
water to wash the potion down. When the ranger finished, the
servant locked his arm back into the wall restraints. Gathering up his tray, the man prepared to leave.
“Wait!” Aragorn croaked in quiet alarm. “What about Legolas?”
A brief look of sorrow and perhaps even guilt flittered quickly across
Yrinvan’s face. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I am not
allowed to give him
anything. Those are my orders.” His gaze flickered to the
orcs in the hall. The Nazgûl trusted him with his household
and the orcs obeyed the human over them, but they also hated him and
would gladly report any disobedience directly to the Witch-king.
Yrin walked a very dangerous tightrope.
“But...” Aragorn began to protest.
Yrin shook his head decidedly, forestalling any argument. “I’m
sorry. I truly am,” he said before leaving and shutting the door
Aragorn leaned his head back against the wall. “Legolas, I’m
sorry...” he murmured his own apology, his eyes seeking those of his
friend. He felt guilty having eaten and drunk when the elf was
being forced to go without.
Legolas shook his head quickly, his brows furrowing. He did not
want Aragorn feeling sorry for him. All things considered he was
better off than the human. He wasn’t poisoned and he wasn’t the
one who had been tortured by a Nazgûl for the past few
hours. Legolas was just glad that Yrin had been allowed to see to
Aragorn. He was not worried about himself. He only wished
he could tell that to the ranger.
Aragorn’s head was spinning and he felt as if he had been slow roasted
over a hot fire. Almost every inch of his skin was on fire.
Last night he had been frozen, today he had been burned; the contrast
was too much for him. The Nazgûl’s long ministrations had
left him hypersensitive and the very air itself was painful.
Suddenly he felt a faint tug on his consciousness. A moment later
he recognized Legolas’ presence. His eyes flew open, expecting to
somehow see the elf next to him.
Of course Legolas was still chained to the opposite wall, but his eyes were fixed intently on the ranger.
Aragorn felt it again, the faint but distinctive feel of Legolas’
consciousness brushing his. It was a reassuring touch and he
relaxed slightly as unconsciousness slowly claimed him once more.
Legolas watched his friend’s body slump back against the wall again,
the ranger’s head falling to his chest. Aragorn was worn
out. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, so was Legolas.
The elf automatically tried to lick his parched lips. Of course
he couldn’t. Legolas sighed and leaned his own head back against
the wall. He had a nasty suspicion that their stay in Angmar was
only going to be getting worse.
Night had fallen hours ago and the castle slept. The orcs prowled
the lower levels, keeping the hallways clear of servants. The
nights were theirs. They had free roam of Angmar when the
darkness settled in. They had been restricted from the servant’s
quarters and the cells but otherwise were free to roam at will.
They did not require the aid of glow globes or light to see their way
in the dark. They belonged to the night; they were most
comfortable there. A group of four shuffled down the stone
passage outside the cell that housed Aragorn and Legolas. They
didn’t bother with the captives; they had been told to leave them
alone. The orcs were talking amongst themselves, joking about a
cruelty they had been privileged to hand down earlier in the day.
Such things amused them. They did not amuse the one who hid in
the shadows of an alcove in the passage not fifty feet from the
Ahnna waited until the sounds of the orcs had diminished. Yrin
would be terribly angry with her when he found out where she had been.
Right now, she didn’t care. She wasn’t too pleased with him
She had heard disturbing things about the two newcomers. Her
position and duties fell with the kitchen staff or cleaning
crews. She had nothing to do with prisoners and the
Nazgûl’s affairs, as her husband did. She had learned a
long time ago not to ask Yrin about what he did when they were apart,
or what he had seen when he was with the Nazgûl. Yrin never
would tell her and she could see it pained him when she asked.
Yet there was gossip, even here in Angmar, and rumors trickled down to
the women. They were fully aware of the cruel nature of the one
they served and she had heard whispered tales about what the
Nazgûl was doing with the elf and the ranger.
Breaking her own rule and asking Yrin for the truth behind the rumors
had gained her nothing except an irritable husband. So she had
taken it upon herself to find out how they fared. Yrin was
dispensing antidote to the slaves tonight and would be back late,
giving her plenty of time to sneak into the cells unnoticed.
Quietly, she crept to the cell door and eased it open. She hardly
made a sound as she gazed into the small room. The tiny lamp they
were afforded barely lit the interior.
Alerted by the small sounds, Legolas blinked and turned towards the
cracked door. His luminescence cast a pale blue light gently around
him. It reflected dimly upon the cruel bit that protruded from
the edges of his mouth.
“Oh, hîr nín,”
Ahnna whispered in horror. It broke her heart to see the elf in
this state. He reminded her of the others, so long ago. She
could still remember their fair faces and musical voices, the way
they had laughed and humored the little human child in their
midst. Seeing one of them like this felt like having that
precious part of her childhood desecrated. She had thought there
were some things in the world that the evil which had taken her life
away could never touch. She had been wrong.
Legolas recognized the woman as Yrin’s wife. He looked away in
shame. He knew what he must look like. Her words were
gentle and filled with pain, but he could not stand her pity.
Seeing the elf’s torment, she moved farther into the room. Bowing
low and touching her hand to her heart she swept it out before her in
the formal greeting of the elves. Quietly she continued speaking,
“Sîdh hîr nín, sin ú-innas brona an-uir. Gwestan. Peace, my lord, it will not last forever. I promise.”
The elf’s blue eyes latched onto her, his heart soothed momentarily by
the sounds of the Grey Tongue. As it had been the first time, her
speech was somewhat slow and halting, but she had obviously had a very
good grip on the language once. The way she spoke was like a
school girl reciting a carefully practiced phrase. The small
question in her tone was asking if she got it right.
Legolas would have smiled if he were able.
The soothing speech woke Aragorn. His chains rattled against the
stone wall behind him as he shifted and turned toward Legolas.
“Legolas?” Aragorn called groggily to the elf. “Is that you?”
Startled, Ahnna pressed into the corner of the small room.
Aragorn saw the shifting movement and shied away from it, fearing the
shadow that he could not identify. “Who are you?” the ranger questioned fearfully.
Before she could answer, their attention was drawn to the elf as
Legolas kicked out at Aragorn, trying to silence the man.
Understanding quickly what the elf wanted, the man closed his eyes and
rested his chin on his chest as though he was sleeping. He slowed
his breathing and relaxed in the manacles.
The door scraped open and two orcs leaned in, glancing between the elf
and the ranger. Legolas had turned his head away from the door as
he was want to do and feigned sleep. The orcs often came and
looked in on the prisoners. They were not allowed into the cell
but that did not prevent them from verbally tormenting the captives
often. Tonight they simply glanced inside. Grunting in
satisfaction, the door was pulled shut, revealing once more the form of
the small woman cringing behind it in the corner.
Ahnna glanced fearfully at the door and crept back to the threshold,
testing the handle to make sure the orcs had not locked it. It
wasn’t common for them to lock the door when the prisoners were in
shackles but it wasn’t unheard of either. Fortunately, they had
not. Slipping the thick door silently open the woman pressed back
into the hallway with one last look in at the elf. “Forgive us,” she whispered and then disappeared.
out of the lower level she headed for the servants quarters. As
she climbed the back steps up to the common space her ire rose steadily.
“Who was that?” Aragorn questioned softly once the woman had
left. He had been unconscious when Legolas met the woman before
and did not know she was Yrin’s wife. He did not expect an answer
from the muzzled elf, but his friend was watching him closely.
Was that hope in the elf’s eyes? He had barely heard the woman
say something about ‘not lasting forever’. Had she been speaking
of their captivity? He wanted to believe she was. At the
very least, it seemed they had more sympathizers to their cause.
That was always good.
Aragorn leaned his head against his arm and sighed. He wished
Legolas could talk to him. He wanted to hear the elf’s voice.
“You are going to have a lot of explaining to do when that thing comes
out,” the human teased quietly.
Legolas tried to smile around the bridle but was unsuccessful.
Instead he simply nodded. No one was looking forward to getting
rid of the cruel harness more than he was.
When Ahnna reached the servants’ level and stepped inside the open
living space, a shadow detached from the wall on her right and stepped
into her path. Yrin towered over his wife, his arms crossed over
his chest and his lips pressed into a tight, thin line. The small
woman started, but recovered quickly and glared up at her
husband. The fire in her eyes matched his and her hands moved to
rest on her hips.
“Woman, where were you?” Yrinvan questioned Ahnna angrily.
“Where you should have been,” she replied hotly. “You did not
tell me that they had been so...” her voice trailed off. Both the
elf and the ranger had obviously been seriously abused. “You
knew, didn’t you? Did you do any of that?” Her voice rose
slightly and Yrin grabbed her arm, dragging her into the semi-privacy
of the servants' kitchen.
“Shh! You had no business going down there,” the man
hissed. “You do not have permission to be on those levels!”
He didn’t answer her question. He never answered her
questions. Ahnna regretted having asked it in the first
place. She knew better than to say things like that. It was
just that sometimes she couldn’t reconcile the caring man she loved
with the heartless role she knew he had to shoulder.
“Have you seen what the Master has done to that elf?” The woman demanded. She knew he had.
“Ahnna, you could have been found out. Do you know what would
have happened to you?” Yrin tried to use logic on the woman,
knowing full well that she was beyond listening to him. He had
seen that look in her eyes before. He tried to soften his voice
in an attempt to placate her as her frown deepened.
“He is an Eldar, Yrinvan Tormiand!”
The man cringed at the use of his full name. Ahnna was not going
to listen to his reason. He understood her fascination with the
memories of light and beauty she associated with elves. There was
nothing light or beautiful about this place and the memories were
special to her. Right now however, he was not in the mood for her
elf fixation. Turning away from the woman he paced to the far end
of the kitchen, running his hands through his short, graying
hair. He hated his job, his life, this place and right now most
of all he hated the one who had caused this conflict between them – his
“He looked bad, Yrin. There’s no way he can eat around that
thing. You carried only one plate out of the kitchen earlier, I
saw you. When was the last time he was given food or
water?” The woman pressed her husband. She didn’t follow
him as he walked away, but kept talking. “Why is the Master doing
this to them? What have they done to him that he wishes to
“The Master doesn’t want either of them dead,” Yrin finally
relented. He didn’t discuss his work with his wife, but he could
tell there would be no living with her now unless he gave her some
answers. “He thinks they are spies or something worse. He
wants to question them. The elf made him angry. He
wouldn’t... He wouldn’t obey and now the Master intends to break him,”
the man’s voice was softly. His back was still turned to his wife
and he closed his eyes tightly as images of what he had witnessed in
the Nazgûl’s chambers earlier came to his mind. He carried
too many memories like that. Sometimes he found it hard to sleep at
“Break him?” Ahnna repeated incredulously, “Do you know what happens to
an elf when you break them? They die! Yrin you have to...”
The head servant rounded on Ahnna. He was sick of her acting like
she was some kind of authority on elves. He understood her
concern, but what did she want from him?
“To what? What would you have me do?! What Ahnna?
Tell the Master that I think he’s making a mistake and he should just
let them go? I’m sure that would go over very well. Maybe I
should give you to the Nazgûl in place of the elf, or perhaps
Mahdi or Larnis? How about Tinald? Maybe I’ll just throw him to
the Wraith instead!” His voice rose as he lashed his frustration out at
the only person available.
“Lower your voice, Yrinvan,” Ahnna cautioned, glancing around them
worriedly. She walked around the island station to her husband’s
side and glanced up into the dark brown eyes that frowned down at
her. “I understand the situation. I just... I would that
there was something we could do. I don’t know why, but I feel
differently about these two than any of the others we have seen come
through. We can’t let them die.”
Yrin leaned back against the counter behind him, closing his eyes.
“Now you even talk like the elf. He says that the ranger is a
healer and he could create the antidote for us if we would help
them.” Yrin cringed after he spoke. He hadn’t meant to tell
her that, it would only get her going again.
“And what? Everyone who comes in here begs for his life or the life of
his family. Nothing makes them any different from the rest and
few of them are alive today. Their promises are empty, desperate
attempts to escape. Can you blame them? They would promise
the world if I would let them go. But I can’t.” He opened
his eyes and stared down at the green orbs that held his gaze.
Gently touching her husband’s arm with a small hand, Ahnna
nodded. “Of course not. But, Yrin, you should know that if
the elf said the man is a healer, then he is. The Eldar are not
given to lying.” Her voice was a mere whisper. “I’m not
asking you to do anything stupid. The last thing I want is for
you to get yourself killed. Just... help them, for me. I
know you have a heart, Husband; does it not still ache when you see
your kindred in pain?”
“He is not my kindred,” Yrin spoke the lame excuse knowing it was unacceptable.
“He is a living being, a creature of light. He is your kin as
surely as Tinald is. He does not deserve to be tormented, nor does his
friend,” Ahnna pleaded.
“Does anyone? Yet that doesn’t stop it, Ahnna. Wishing does
not make it so - neither does dreaming. And neither does getting
oneself killed,” the man’s voice was hushed. His tone was sad and
resigned. With a sigh, Yrin turned Ahnna towards the door and
pushed her out ahead of him. He handed her a vial of antidote and
encouraged her to drink. When she was done he re-pocketed the
tiny glass container.
“I’ll see what I can do, all right? I can make you no promises,
you know that,” he warned her as they moved into the common area and
headed to their small, door-less sleeping room.
His children were
snuggled together under a heavy blanket lying on top of the thermal
vent opening. Larnis was small for ten years of age, and Mahdi was big for
three. The older boy held his little sister protectively in his
arms, his chin resting upon her curly head. They were born
slaves, like Yrin had been. Ahnna remembered times of light and
life in a world so far removed from here that it seemed a fairy
land. Yrinvan had no such memories, no real idea what freedom
meant beyond what his wife had told him and what his heart secretly
craved. He had not been born in Angmar, but his parents had
already been slaves when they were brought here. Everyone wants
to give something better to their children, but Yrin knew they would be
lucky if they lived long enough to inherit even his sorry lot here.
He let his hand skim lightly over his children’s heads. They
slept soundly tonight. They always did after medicine
doses. It seemed to affect the young ones that way. They
were so little, so defenseless, and yet already they were addicts,
dependent upon the Wraith’s brew to keep them alive. It made
Yrin’s numb heart ache.
Lying down beside his wife in the darkness, he stared into her eyes,
wondering how he could risk his family for the two strangers.
When he returned the smile Ahnna laid on him, he wondered how he
couldn’t. She was right; his heart had begun to die in this
place. Perhaps the elf had told the truth, but was it worth the
risk? He was not sure and, despite what his wife had said, he was not
yet ready to trust.
Holding Ahnna closely to him, he thought long into the night.
Every day his walk became harder. Every day there was more to
consider and greater fears to overcome. He wondered idly how long
he would have the strength to keep facing them.
Aragorn came to fear footsteps in the hall. More often than not
they preceded the Witch-king. Almost daily now, Aragorn was
dragged from their cell for another session with the
After that first time, Legolas was usually not
allowed to be present. The elf’s bridle had not yet been removed,
nor had the restriction on his eating and drinking been lifted.
The Witch-king did not make idle threats. He would force the elf
to concede to him or he would destroy him slowly. Aragorn missed the musical sound of his friend’s voice. He
wondered if the Nazgûl realized just how much he had taken away
from them when he stole Legolas’ ability to speak and sing. He
Legolas hated his enforced silence, but even more he hated watching
Aragorn dragged out of the cell day after day and being helpless to
stop it. Every time they brought him back, the ranger looked
worse. Today Aragorn couldn’t seem to stop shaking.
The Nazgûl dropped him in the middle of the room and Aragorn
dragged himself into his corner, pressing his trembling body back
against the wall. Yrin was there to put the human back into his
manacles and Aragorn accepted even the chains readily if it got him
farther away from the Wraith. Today had been particularly
hard. He hadn’t even been beaten this time, but there were some
things just as terrifying. He had spent hours gagged, bound and
blind, trapped upside-down in a box barely big enough to accommodate
his body. The claustrophobia had been terrible. Aragorn could
still break into a cold sweat just remembering.
The Witch-king laughed at how desperate Aragorn was to get away from
him. Then he turned towards Legolas. He silently appraised
how the elf was enduring. Legolas’ eyes were acquiring a glazed
sheen. His breathing was rapid and shallow. His lips were
badly cracked. It had been four days since he had been allowed
any water. His body was showing the signs of severe dehydration.
Satisfied, the Nazgûl swept out of the room. In another day
or two he would consider allowing the elf to drink again. He
didn’t want the creature to die; he had plans for him. It would
be a shame to lose the prince before he received an answer to his
latest communication with Dol Guldur.
When the Nazgûl left, Yrin remained behind to give Aragorn his
meal. The human ate and drank because he knew that denying
himself would not help his friend, but he could not help feeling guilty
anyway. He was really worried. Food Legolas could do
without, almost indefinitely sometimes, but water was a problem.
The elf had already gone longer than many humans could have survived,
but every night the sound of Legolas’ breathing in the darkness was
becoming more rapid and uneven. The prince was sleeping with his
eyes closed and dozing very often.
“Please, Yrin,” Aragorn begged the servant quietly. “Please... my
friend, he needs water. The Wraith is killing him. No one
has to know.” He inclined his head towards the closed door. They
were alone in the cell. “Please.”
Yrin hesitated for a few indecisive moments. Glancing quickly at
the closed door, the servant made up his mind. Crossing the room
he placed the water pitcher in his hands against the elf’s dry
lips. “Drink, but swiftly, please,” the human urged.
Legolas did not have to be told. His thirst had become
unbearable. He gulped the water desperately, feeling welcomed
moisture in his dry mouth for the first time in days. It was
painfully difficult to swallow around the bridle because of his trapped
tongue and the way he could not fully close his mouth. Water
dribbled down his chin and wet his tunic, but he tipped his head back
and choked most of the liquid down any way he could. The rim of
the pitcher clanked sharply against the metal pieces of the harness as
the elf struggled to drink. The sound was painfully loud in
Yrin’s ears, but he forced his hands to steady. He carefully
tipped the pitcher until it was empty. Legolas managed to drink
most of it, although a fair amount ended up spilling down his front.
The door to the cell opened without warning. Yrin jerked back so
quickly he nearly dropped the pitcher and had to fumble to keep it from
crashing to the stone floor. Panic made his movements
clumsy. He knew he was a dead man.
Fortunately for them all it was not the Wraith or any of the orcs that
entered the room. It was another human. His dark, worried
eyes darted about the cell, taking in the situation. He quickly
pressed the door shut behind him with a soft click.
Yrin looked relieved and let the empty pitcher hang loosely from his
fingers as he leaned against the wall for a moment. “Tinald, you
scared me near to death.”
“I should think so. What are you doing? You know what the
Master said! What if someone other than I had come in?” the other
servant remonstrated, glancing nervously towards the door at his
back. He leaned against it a little harder as if to prevent that
Yrin ignored his subordinate’s question. He already knew he
was a fool. “Why did you come? Is anything wrong?”
Tinald nodded with a grimace. “The orcs have gotten into a brawl
again over something. I was going to let them just fight it out
amongst themselves. With any luck there’d be a few less of
them. But some of the other slaves got pulled in and they’re in
trouble. We have to break it up quickly. They won’t listen
“I’m coming.” Yrinvan nodded, swiftly scooping up his tray.
He paused long enough to gently dab away the glistening trails of
moisture on the elf’s chin with his sleeve. Then both the slaves
Aragorn watched them go. This place was such a
contradiction. He wished he could discuss it with
Legolas. He missed conversing with his friend.
He still talked to the elf, but Legolas could not reply. Looking
over, Aragorn caught the prince’s gaze and he realized the elf missed
Legolas felt a bit better after the water and shifted in his bonds,
trying to ease the muscle spasms seizing his back and arms. His
dehydrated mouth tingled and burned after having been wetted. He
saw how the man’s trembling slowly eased. The prince knew that
the Nazgûl wanted to make the ranger feel isolated, even when
they were together in their cell. Legolas hated that he could do
nothing, not even speak.
The silence was deafening and oppressive. It seemed to scream
with everything the Nazgûl could take away from them, weaving a
tapestry of despair about their hearts.
Aragorn drew a shaky breath. The cell was dim and he was afraid
to close his eyes. Too often lately he was forced into the
terrifying blackness of the Nazgûl’s torment. Silence and
darkness had become his enemies, but he could not escape them, not even
here. The ranger focused on Legolas, the only semi-bright spot in
the room. He drew in another breath, this one more
determined. He could not escape them, but he could fight back.
“Legolas, did I ever tell you about the time Elladan and Elrohir
brought a wounded bear cub home and tried to hide it from father?” he
asked. His voice was weak, but his tone spoke of happier
times. Legolas could not speak to him, but the ranger would fill
the silence between them if he could.
The prince smiled a little around his bridle and shook his head.
Actually, he had, but he liked hearing Aragorn’s voice, it didn’t
matter what he talked about.
Aragorn smiled as he launched into the tale. The darkness couldn’t have them. Not yet.