Between Darkness and Dawn
Chapter 13: So Hold Me
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Legolas was forced to wear the bridle for two more weeks although he
was eventually allowed water every few days. By the time the
Nazgûl was finally ready to release him, the elf was ashamed of
how very desperate he was to be rid of the cruel harness.
The Witch-king crouched in front of him, considering the bound
elf. He held a bowl of water in his hands, taunting Legolas with
his own helpless thirst. Yrin covertly supplemented the elf’s
meager water ration whenever he could, but it still was never enough.
“Slave, have you learned to mind me yet? Or do you wish to remain
like this for the rest of your stay? I might like that. I
believe you could become accustomed to it, given a few years.
Other creatures do.” The wraith laughed softly. “Creatures
who are significantly more useful than you. What say you,
Slave? Do you wish to keep it?”
Legolas shook his head, his eyes unintentionally reflecting horror at
the thought of being left in the bridle indefinitely. He wanted
it gone. It wasn’t the most painful thing he had endured in his
life, but it was one of the most difficult ones.
This was the reaction the Nazgûl desired. He placed the bowl of water on the stone floor beside them.
“Then you will obey me better? And I shall not hear that vile
language of yours in my home again?” Hooking his gloved fingers
in the cheek strap, the Nazgûl gave the elf’s head a vicious
little shake, as he seemed fond of doing.
Legolas wanted to be defiant. He wanted to spit in the
Nazgûl’s face, but he couldn’t. The truth was he was
desperate to be freed. Unfortunately, the Wraith seemed to know
that. With an acute feeling of sickening shame, Legolas dropped
his head forward and gave a small nod.
“And when I give you your voice back, you will thank your master for
this lesson?” the Wraith pressed, obviously enjoying this far too
much. The bridle wouldn’t kill the elf. He could eventually
be taught to eat certain things around it. If Legolas did not
offer him some serious concessions in return for removing the harness,
then the Nazgûl was just as pleased to leave it on forever except
when he wanted the prince to speak. It pleased his twisted fancy
to see the elf treated like a beast.
Anger made Legolas’ vision haze, but his rage was laced with
despair. The vile creature had him in a hopeless position and was
using the advantage cruelly. Unable to believe that he was doing
this, Legolas nodded again. There was a time in his life when
Legolas would have refused despite the consequences, but age and
experience had tempered his stubbornness. Pride could go only so
far when it was at odds with survival. In his current state he
was of no use to Estel or himself.
Across the room, Aragorn’s heart ached as he saw the defeated slump of
his friend’s shoulders. He had been mortally afraid that the elf
would refuse, knowing his friend’s willful nature. He was glad
when Legolas acquiesced, but he knew the toll it took on the proud
prince. He could clearly see how much Legolas hated himself right
Hot fire burned in the Dúnadan’s chest. Despite what
Legolas had told him, he hated the Nazgûl with a passion that was
unsurpassed. His own torture left him hurting and ill, but
watching the Wraith torment his friend was what kindled Aragorn’s
unbridled wrath. He kept his peace with difficulty. He knew
that any interference on his behalf would only insure the elf’s further
The Nazgûl unbuckled the bridle slowly. He slid it roughly off Legolas’ head, yanking it out of his mouth.
Legolas winced. It almost felt as if the harness had become a
part of his flesh since he had been wearing it so long. His face
ached fiercely where it had been chafed and abraded for so many
days. Blood rushed painfully back to areas long numbed.
Even though it initially hurt, the sensation of freedom was
wonderful. The elf would have never thought that so small a thing
could bring this kind of relief, but it felt marvelous to be able to
close his mouth and move his tongue again, to be master of his own body
once more. He swallowed compulsively, trying to accustom his dry,
abused mouth to working once more. His tongue felt three times
its normal size and responded only sluggishly.
The Nazgûl had not moved away but still crouched before him,
holding the halter. His silent gaze was demanding that the elf
keep his word.
Legolas’ voice was hoarse and scratchy. He could barely get
work. He tried and failed several times to form words and push
them past his injured mouth and dehydrated vocal cords. “I...
thank you for this... lesson,” the elf finally forced himself to
croak. Shame made his pale face flush hotly. Of all the
things he could have been forced to make his protesting body say, that
was the worst.
The Nazgûl’s hard gaze bored into him, waiting for the one thing
the prince had omitted. He gave the bridle in his hand a slightly
menacing shake, reminding the elf how easy it was for the Wraith to
“...Master,” Legolas rasped miserably, his voice barely audible.
He didn’t mean the word, but he said it nonetheless. He had to
close his eyes and drop his head. His eye sockets throbbed dully
with an ache for tears that his dehydrated body could not
produce. He should have been stronger. He should not have
given the evil being what he desired, no matter the consequences.
He felt like he had just sold his soul.
“Good,” the Wraith purred. “Everyone can be taught, given enough
time.” The evil being picked up the bowl of water from the
floor. He tipped it against the elf’s cracked lips.
Legolas was parched, but he hesitated. He did not want to drink from the Nazgûl’s hands.
The Witch-king easily pushed the lip of the bowl between the prince’s
teeth and tipped it, forcing Legolas to swallow or have the water run
everywhere. The instant the liquid touched the elf’s mouth his
body’s strong need for liquid took control and he gulped the water
without much conscious say in the matter.
When the bowl was empty, the Nazgûl straightened up with a
satisfied hiss. He patted the elf’s cheek lightly. The
bridle had left red indents upon the pale flesh and the Wrath traced
one with his thumb. “My slave begins to remember his place.
Legolas dropped his gaze and his head, staring down at the floor. If it were possible to die of shame he might have.
The Witch-king was pleased. He retrieved the bridle from where it
had been set aside and walked to the door of the cell. Being sure
that Legolas could see him, the Wraith hung the contraption on a peg
just outside, in the hall. “I shall keep this near at hand,
Slave. Beware lest I decide you need it again.”
After he was gone, Aragorn watched his friend carefully. “Legolas?”
The elf had not lifted his head and would not meet the human’s
gaze. “I’m all right, Strider,” he murmured with
difficulty. His voice still cracked and broke painfully when he
tried to speak. It was going to take him time to heal and get his
voice back completely, but at least he could speak.
Aragorn knew that was not true, physically maybe, but not emotionally. “They were just words, Legolas,” he said softly.
Legolas did not look up. He appeared unconvinced. “Do you
know how much I suffered once because I would not say those
‘words’?” His hoarse voice was bitter at the memory, bitter and
ashamed. The strangely harsh sound of the elf’s voice and tone
was like a self-inflicted blow. Aragorn flinched.
“I have become weak,” the prince said softly, disgust clouding his cracking words.
“No.” Aragorn refused to let the elf think that way. “You are not
weak, Legolas, you are realistic. I know how you feel, but trust
me my friend, they were just words. You didn’t mean them.
I know that. You didn’t have a choice. I would have done
the same thing.” The ranger tried to reassure Legolas that he had
not committed as horrible a concession as he thought.
“Would you?” the question was filled with such pain. Legolas’ eyes locked with his, begging for a truthful answer.
Aragorn nodded. “Legolas... you haven’t been there when I am
alone with him...” It was the ranger’s turn to avert his gaze.
“You don’t know what he’s forced from me when I can’t take anymore,
when I just want him to stop,” the whisper was ashamed, but honest.
Gathering his courage and trusting that his friend would not despise
him for his own weakness, Aragorn lifted his gaze again and let Legolas
read the truth in his eyes. Let the elf see the echo of those
dark, unspeakable hours when the ranger would scream anything the
Nazgûl wanted, beg any way demanded, just to make the unbearable
The shame in Legolas’ eyes tempered as it mingled with
compassion. Forgiving himself was one thing, but he knew that
Aragorn was totally blameless. “I know what he can be like,” the
elf whispered. “It’s not just the pain, it’s the evil, the
consuming dark. Do not fault yourself.”
Aragorn smiled faintly. “I won’t, if you won’t.”
Legolas’ gaze drifted to the wall. “I will try, Estel,” he said softly. “I cannot promise, but I will try.”
Elrond shifted in a troubled dream. Darkness hedged his
thoughts. Vague and illusive, the sense of evil was remote, but
distinct. It wasn’t often that he was susceptible to disturbances
in the night, but lately he had been seeing things. However, this
was the first time it was so dark. Usually they were just...
strange. The images themselves weren’t always that troubling, but the strong
sense of feeling that accompanied them at times was disturbing.
In his dreams he saw strangers he thought he knew, but could not place,
and the darkness of the night was filled with the soft, relentless
sobbing of a child. At times, in his dreams, Elrond was that
child, crying into his pillow, his body wracked by pain, guilt and
fear. Such was the case tonight.
//The pillow under him was
damp. He was afraid. There was a sound at the door.
It wasn’t locked. He wished it was. Hurt, confusion, fear
and self-condemnation all swirled through him in a frenetic frenzy as
he clutched the pillow, burying his face in it until he couldn’t
breathe. Did he want to black out? Maybe. He did not want to face whatever would come through that door. He was
so alone; so crushingly alone with no one to turn to, no one to
understand him, no one to stop what was happening. Hinges
creaked. Panic surged through his entire body...//
Elrond woke up and found himself staring at his own ceiling. He
didn’t awake with a start or a jolt, despite the intense emotions of
the dream. Rather it was if he had simply opened his eyes from a
Strange. Very strange.
The elf lord lay pondering the dream for several minutes, trying to
place it in his long memory. He had felt certain at first that it
had been conjured up from past experience, but now that he tried to pin
it down he could not locate the reference that he sought. The
first thing his waking mind had suggested, was that his subconscious
was recalling some of the more traumatic moments of his childhood when
he was a prisoner in the dungeons of Himring... but that didn’t feel
quite right. In reality he had been with Elros, but in his dream
he was always alone.
Elrond shook his head and pushed aside the covers of his bed. He
might have expected troubled dreams after the Mirkwood envoys arrived
with Thranduil’s carefully worded shout of alarm at his son’s absolute
failure to return home. What he had not expected was that they
would be so strange. The elf lord pushed his long, dark hair over
his shoulder and let his breath out slowly.
He had often thought that Thranduil tended to overact in many
situations, but he could not blame him for being disturbed this
time. When Elrond’s youngest son had not returned home, he
assumed that Aragorn had gone on to Mirkwood with Legolas. Now he
learned that was not the case and that both of them were missing.
He was not yet ready to panic, but he was troubled nonetheless.
The dark, blank emptiness that met him when he tried to reach out and
touch Estel’s consciousness set him on edge more than he wanted to
admit. There was a cloud gathering and the elf lord could no
longer see into the ranger’s future.
He sighed. Brenyf had been sent back to Mirkwood with Elrond’s
answer to Thranduil’s letter while Raniean and Trelan joined Elladan
and Elrohir in searching for their missing friend and brother.
The additional news that the three Mirkwood envoys had brought from the
Beornings was at the same time reassuring and disturbing. Beoma
and Pejor told them of the attack and the long chase north. That
explained part of the time the ranger and the prince had been missing.
However, if they had all started for home at the same time, why had the
Beornings made it back already when neither Aragorn nor Legolas had
returned? Legolas should definitely have made it back to Lasgalen
by now and Aragorn should at least have been close to Rivendell.
It was all too likely that something innocuous had simply come up to
detain the elf prince and the ranger. It was always something
with those two. All the same, Raniean, Trelan and the twins
intended to retrace the trip described by Beoma as closely as
possible. Hopefully, they would come across one or both of the
missing friends on their way home. At the very least they hoped
to find news of them.
His dream fading into a barely recalled memory, Elrond moved to the
basin on his dresser to wash his face. If only he could shake
this nagging worry...
He cupped the water in his hands, bringing it to his face. As his
eyes, nose and mouth entered the water, everything changed.
Darkness swallowed his consciousness, banishing all light like the
snuffing of a candle. For one supreme moment of panic he
could not breathe nor move. Terror paralyzed him. He was
suffocating, drowning. The sheer weight of the evil screeching
around him was unbearable.
It wasn’t physical. The water had already run out between his
fingers by the time he was jerking backward, disoriented and
alarmed. The water basin fell from the dresser. Almost in
slow motion, it tumbled to the floor. Landing with a startlingly
loud crash upon the tiles it shattered into pieces, spilling water like
a bloodstain upon the rug.
The sound of the breaking ceramic jolted Elrond out of whatever had
taken hold of him. His chest heaved as he leaned against the
dresser. Valar, he wished he could wonder what it was, but he
knew. Somehow he knew. When Elladan and Elrohir almost died
in the mountains as young elves, he had felt it from a distance.
When Arwen’s horse threw her down the ravine and broke her leg, he had
been the first one out of the house. He had a connection with his
children that was deeper than most... all his children.
“My Lord?” Celboril rushed to the room in alarm. Elladan and
Elrohir he expected to be breaking things, but not Elrond. “My Lord!”
the servant’s voice turned even more worried when he saw how white
Elrond’s face had become.
“Something is very wrong,” Elrond said quietly, trying to still his
frantic breathing. He didn’t know how, he didn’t know what and
most maddeningly of all, he did not know where. With the others
he had known where they were, or at least where they had been
going. When he felt the warning, he could act. But this
Elrond released his hold on the dresser slowly. His hand was
trembling. “Estel is... I don’t know. But it’s very wrong,
Celboril. So very wrong...”
Where do I take this pain of mine?
I run, but it stays right by my side.
So tear me open, pour me out
There’s things inside that scream and shout
And the pain still hates me
So hold me... until it sleeps
It grips you, so hold me
It stains you, so hold me
It hates you, so hold me
It holds you, so hold me
Until it sleeps...
Aragorn tried to flail, but he could not. His arms were
his sides, fastened by iron cuffs to the board upon which he was being
forced to lie. His ankles were similarly restrained.
The Nazgûl pressed the wet cloth back over his face, covering the
ranger’s nose and mouth. The human sucked against the cloth,
trying desperately to draw air through the weave of the fabric.
Slowly, deliberately, the Wraith poured water from a pitcher upon the
cloth, soaking it and the ranger beneath. As the water saturated
the fabric, it cut off any chance of breathing
and pooled into the ranger’s mouth and nose. A blindfold around
the ranger’s eyes kept him in the dark. Always, when the
Nazgûl tormented him, he was kept in the dark.
Aragorn choked, trying to blow the smothering cloth off his face; he
could not and wasted air trying. He was obliged to swallow the
water to keep from drowning. Yellow bursts of light clouded his
vision. His lungs screamed. Panic rippled through him in
dark waves he could not control.
The Nazgûl continued pouring water onto the helpless
prisoner. The cloth was fully saturated. The liquid the
ranger could not drink or inhale ran down the sides of the man’s face,
drenching his hair. The Wraith had long ago discovered how
effective simply depriving prisoners of air could prove to be. He
had had good results thus far by using air-deprivation on this
prisoner. One benefit was that he could engage in such methods
for hours without doing the human’s ridiculously fragile body mortal
harm. He intended to continue employing variations of such
tactics for as long as they served him.
The Witch-king pulled the cloth away from the human’s face, allowing
him a few moments of oxygen. The cloth came away soaked with
water and stained with an increasing amount of blood.
Aragorn choked and coughed harshly. His raw throat burned.
He could not stop coughing. He wanted to roll onto his side,
wanted to clear his lungs... but he could not. His back arched
uselessly, his head tossed from side to side as much as the iron band
around his forehead allowed.
“Who are you and what is your purpose?” the Nazgûl’s persistent question pressed the human unmercifully.
Aragorn couldn’t have spoken even if he had wanted to do so. He
was coughing too hard to form words. Right now, he was almost
glad. The ranger feared what he might have said if he could have
spoken. For a few horrible moments his resolution wavered.
He felt like he was dying, but the Wraith continually brought him back
from the edge. It was all the pain and terror of drowning,
relived over and over and over again. He could not take any
more. The darkness around him screamed with a thousand screeching
tones of pain and terror.
The evil world the Nazgûl took him to when he tortured the human
was nearly as unbearable as the torment itself. Twisted, evil
voices shrieked in Aragorn’s head, filling him with terror and
despair. They whispered in his ears, promising death and
defeat. He wanted them to go away. He wanted to scream at
them to leave him alone... but all he could do was choke up more water
“No?” The Nazgûl dipped his pitcher back into the barrel of
water beside him. Pressing the cruel cloth back down over the
ranger’s face he let the steady stream of liquid flow down once more.
Aragorn choked helplessly, his body wracked with uncontrollable jerking
spasms. The demons in the dark rang in his ears, mocking
him. While his body was reduced to its most vulnerable state,
they assaulted his mind. Driving screaming panic into every
corner of his thoughts they slowly robbed him of all rational thought.
Screaming into his own raw, waterlogged suffocation, the ranger
convulsed spasmodically in his bonds. He wanted to die.
“Shh, be calm, it is all right now...” Yrin was trying his best to
pacify the nearly frantic ranger as he and Tinald walked him back to
his cell, but Aragorn seemed past the point of listening to reason.
The ranger’s voice was hoarse, but he was babbling to himself. He
was alternately talking nonsense and begging to be left alone. He
thrashed weakly in their arms. They were carrying him more than
he was walking and their words did not seem to be reaching him.
Tinald looked scared. “What did the Master do to him?” he asked, not at all sure he wanted to know.
Yrinvan shook his head. Tortured the ranger nearly all day is
what he had done. The headservant had not been present and wasn’t
sure of the details, but it wasn’t the first time he’d seen people in
this state. It was an effect the Nazgûl could have on his
victims sometimes. It was both horrible and frightening to
witness. “I don’t know,” was all Yrin said as he opened the cell door.
They sat the ranger down on the floor, but he pulled away from
them. Folding into a ball Aragorn rocked back and forth. He
clutched at his head, his fingers tugging painfully in his own soaked
and dripping hair.
“Shh, come on, give me your arm, Strider. Relax now, relax.
He’s gone...” Yrin soothed, trying to take hold of the human’s arm so
he could put him back in his chains.
“Estel? What’s wrong?” Legolas, still chained to his wall, was
alarmed by his friend’s appearance and actions. The elf pulled
against his restraints, trying to see Aragorn around the two slaves
blocking his view.
Aragorn pulled away from Yrin and Tinald, batting their hands
seemed completely disorientated. Suddenly he fixed a wide-eyed,
pleading gaze upon the two slaves. “Do you hear them?” he whispered
hoarsely. “They’re laughing. Like a million daggers... Make
“Estel? Estel!” Legolas was gravely disturbed by his friend’s
strange words and the unearthly tone of his haunted voice.
“What’s happened?” The prince pleaded for someone to enlighten him and
his alarm grew as he received no answers.
Aragorn seemed to hear Legolas’ voice and tried to bolt towards
him. Yrin and Tinald attempted to hold onto him half-heartedly,
but the ranger’s near frenzy gave him more strength than his critically
weakened body should have possessed. He pulled out of their hands
and scrambled to the elf’s side on his hands and knees.
Legolas was more than frightened when he looked into his friend’s pale
face, he was terrified. Aragorn’s eyes were wide and
searching. Water dripped from the ends of his wavy, matted hair,
drenching the edges of his loose, torn tunic. The human’s hands
trembled as he wrapped them in the front of Legolas’ jerkin.
“Darkness, under the earth... do you know where it is? Do you
know?” the ranger’s voice was haunted and barely understandable.
He seemed to be having a lot of trouble speaking. His shaking
fingers brushed Legolas’ face. They were like ice against the
Legolas’ brows furrowed. He tugged ineffectually against his
chains, trying to touch his friend. Unable to do so, he tilted
his head to the side, trapping Aragorn’s freezing fingers gently
between his cheek and his shoulder. He rubbed the side of his
face against the human’s hand reassuringly. “Know what?
Estel, I don’t understand. Shhh...” he tried to calm the human
with his voice.
“No! No!” the human’s whimpering voice was desperate. “So
loud, so loud...” Aragorn’s words choked off in a sob. He pressed
his face into the supple leather fabric of Legolas’ partially opened
jerkin, his hands bunching in the silky silver fabric underneath.
Touching the elf made him feel safe.
Legolas’ throat tightened painfully. “Oh, Estel...” he didn’t
know what to say. “Yrin? What’s wrong with him?!”
Yrin swore quietly under his breath. “It was the Wraith.
Terror and madness are not the least of his weapons. I have seen
this before. If your friend is strong, it will pass...
Tinald tried to pull the ranger back to his corner, but Aragorn clung
to the prince with frenetic strength. “No! Legolas... don’t leave
me. Don’t leave me alone with
them!” The ranger clutched at the elf’s shoulders and buried his
face against his friend’s chest.
Legolas knew Aragorn was not speaking of the two slaves, but of the
voices in his head that must be tormenting him, even now. The
elf’s heart broke painfully.
“I’m here, Estel, I won’t leave you. I’m here! Yrinvan...
please...” The elf’s pleading eyes sought the older servant’s face as
Aragorn clung to him. Curling into a tight, shuddering ball
against the elf’s side, the ranger resisted all attempts to dislodge
Yrin laid his hand on Tinald’s shoulder, bidding the younger man to
stop. Stepping forward, Yrin pulled a key ring from one of the
large pockets of his smock. Without a word, he unlocked Legolas’
fetters. He knew the ranger needed his friend if he were going to
make it through this.
Dropping his arms gratefully to his sides, Legolas quickly gathered
Aragorn into his arms. He looked up at Yrinvan. “Thank you.”
Yrin just nodded, dropping the keys back in his pocket. “The door
will be locked. Don’t make me regret this,” he warned.
Legolas nodded in understanding.
Tinald retrieved the seldom-used key ring from its peg at the end of
the hall. He locked the cell door from the outside before
returning the keys to their place once more. He did not question
Yrinvan. As long as the prisoners were secured, there was no need
to quibble over how they were restrained. The Master had ordered
the prisoners into the wall chains weeks ago, but he had never
specifically said for how long or that they had to remain there until
he said otherwise. Tinald was beginning to understand the cautious method behind the many
perilous grey areas that his friend and mentor navigated on a day to
day basis. Yrin knew this and was pleased. If Tinald ever
was to take his place someday, it was a skill the younger man would
Now locked in the cell, Legolas rocked Aragorn softly. The elf
spoke quietly to the human until Aragorn finally began to calm a
“Make them go away...” the ranger repeated his plea, quieter this time.
“They aren’t real, Estel. They aren’t real. It will pass,
my friend. Just hold onto me. Hold onto the light,” Legolas
murmured softly in Elvish. He didn’t care about the
Nazgûl’s restrictions. He would avoid speaking his own
tongue in the dark one’s presence, but not when they were alone.
The human’s wet garments leeched water into the elf’s clothing as he
cradled him close.
“I can’t,” the human admitted in a whisper. His voice was frightened. “I can’t, Legolas... I can’t!”
The elf held the human’s head tightly against his shoulder. His
long fingers smoothed the man’s dripping hair while his thumb gently
rubbed over the stubbly bristle on his friend’s jaw. His other
hand clasped Aragorn’s, rubbing warmth back into the icy fingers.
The elf tipped his head forward, letting his warm cheek rest on the top
of Aragorn’s damp head. “Then I will hold onto you,” Legolas assured. “And I won’t let you go. Ever.”
Aragorn pressed his hands to his ears, clenching his eyes shut with a moan. “Make it stop!”
Legolas’ arms tightened around the man. He could feel the
darkness tremor through Aragorn’s being and it made him so angry he
wanted crush something. It did not belong there, it had no
right! He told Aragorn it was nothing, but he knew that was not
true. The Wraith had left this lingering cloud of darkness to
torment the human, trying to drive him mad.
The elf’s face steeled. He would not see that succeed. “Gwanno! Gwanno son!” the elf bit out sharply. “Depart! Leave him!”
The light around Legolas flared out to encompass the ranger, driving
back the darkness here just as he had the night in the
Barrow-downs. In that fleeting moment of radiance, Aragorn looked
catch the elf’s eyes. For a blessed instant the voices fell
silent and he could actually think again.
Legolas brushed his cheek.
“I can’t fight it all for you, Estel,” he whispered, wishing he
could. “You have to be strong. You have to want to fight...
you can, Estel. You can. You are hope, hold to that.
Hold it, mellon-nín, and no shadow can touch you.” The elf placed his hand over the human’s heart.
Aragorn nodded mutely. As the light around them faded back to
normal, he clenched his fists. The evil was still all around
them, but he pushed it violently away from his mind, refusing to give
into the screeching panic that had been claiming him a few moments ago.
The effort exhausted him and he slumped limply against Legolas’ strong
embrace. His body was completely drained. His mind hurt,
his head hurt, everything hurt. Consciousness and reality wavered
in and out of focus.
Legolas simply continued holding him and stroking his hair. At
first the ranger was fitful and restless, but eventually his disturbed
movements stilled and began to calm as the horror of what he had been
through slowly receded. Aragorn was strong, he would get through
this. Still, Legolas’ heart ached fiercely. How much was
his friend expected to take? They had to get out of here.
The elf’s heart ached. He felt responsible in a way. He had
convinced Aragorn to come here, and now they seemed totally unable to
escape the web in which they had become trapped.
Aragorn slumbered in a semi-twilight state for a long time. Finally, he stirred once more in the elf’s arms.
The human blinked a few times, trying to make sense of his
surroundings. Something warm was wrapped around him. He
felt safer and less alone then he had in a long time. Looking up,
he found himself gazing into Legolas’ face. He stopped moving and
smiled somewhat sheepishly.
“Better, mellon-nín?” Legolas’ soft voice was amused.
Aragorn nodded against the elf’s chest. “A bit. Legolas,
how did I get here? I feel... I feel like I made a fool of myself
somehow. What happened?”
Legolas smiled faintly. “Don’t you remember?”
Confusion drifted across the human’s face. The last thing he
recalled was the Nazgûl’s torment. He did not remember
coming back to the cell, nor how it was that he and Legolas were
“I... I don’t know...” he winced in pain and pressed his head tighter against the elf’s shoulder.
Legolas shook his head quickly. “Don’t try, Estel. Don’t
try. It’s enough that you are all right.” Legolas closed
his eyes as he shifted Aragorn to a more comfortable position. It
was just as well that the ranger did not remember. Legolas wished
he would not. The look on his friend’s face earlier had
frightened him. He was afraid he was finally losing the ranger to
Legolas took another glance down at his friend’s weary face.
Aragorn looked painfully weak, but he seemed himself. The elf
whispered a silent prayer of thanks.
Yrinvan was getting a tray ready to bring the prisoners their dinner
when a voice shouting his name from across the kitchen made him look
“Yrin! YRIN!” Tinald was fairly screaming his friend’s name as he raced across the uneven flagstones.
“Tinald! What is it, what’s wrong?” Yrinvan asked quickly,
checking the other man’s forward rush. Catching Tinald by the
elbows, Yrinvan spun him part way around so that the younger servant
was facing him. “Breathe, and then tell me what’s wrong,” Yrin
instructed firmly, alarmed by the panic and pain in his younger
“It’s Ahnna!” Tinald said urgently. Those two words struck icy terror into Yrinvan’s heart.