Between Darkness and Dawn
Chapter 18: Tear Me Open, Make you Gone
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The ranger twisted in Tinald’s grip, trying to see back into the cell.
“No! Legolas...” he protested hoarsely. He had promised
himself he wouldn’t let his friend be hurt again, but here they were
and there was nothing he could do. He turned his burning gaze
upon the Witch-king. “You said your business is with me, leave
The Nazgûl laid his hand upon the human’s shoulder, sending
chilling shivers of pain and darkness throbbing through the ranger’s
body. “I will do as I please, Slave. Only when you realize
this will your life get easier,” he threatened. “Your lessons
begin again. Come.”
Tinald almost had to drag Aragorn down the hallway and the slave did
not relish doing it one bit. He didn’t blame the ranger for being
angry and afraid. If he were subjected to what these two were
going through, he would have taken Yrin’s offer of an easy death a long
The Witch-king led them back to his work room. Aragorn’s eyes
searched the chamber as the doors closed behind them. His gaze
roved restlessly over the shelves of bottles along one wall and tried
not to light upon the various dark and wicked looking instruments that
lay upon the tables. He tried to catalogue everything, looking
for anything that would help them when the time came to escape.
It gave his mind something to focus on besides the way his heart was
hammering in his rib cage.
The Nazgûl picked up the pear-shaped gag and walked towards the
ranger, his boots clacking menacingly against the stone floor.
Instinctively, Aragorn backed up a pace, his jaw muscles
tightening, unfortunately backing him up right into
Tinald. The servant placed his hands on the ranger’s shoulders,
as much to steady him as to restrain him.
The Witch-king nodded at Tinald. He did not need to voice his command; his slave knew what he wanted.
With a barely audible sigh, Tinald kept one arm wrapped around the
ranger’s chest while his other slid up to Aragorn’s jaw. The
ranger’s stubbly beard scratched Tinald’s fingers as he firmly gripped
each side of the man’s jaw, pressuring him to open his mouth.
Aragorn started to struggle when Tinald’s grip tightened. The
position they were in held his mouth close to the ranger’s ear.
“Please don’t make me force you, Strider,” the slave whispered sadly. “He will only make it worse for you if you do.”
It went against Aragorn’s grain to acquiesce, but he knew what lay
ahead and it was better not to make it any worse than it had to
be. Closing his eyes, the ranger tried to relax and allowed
Tinald to manipulate his jaw open.
Aragorn’s eyes flew open again and he nearly choked when the cruel gag
was pushed too roughly into his mouth. His already abused jaw
muscles ached fiercely and he had to resist the urge to retch as the
thick, leather ball pushed too far back against his throat.
The Nazgûl calmly fastened the straps of the device behind the
ranger’s head, holding the gag in place. The Wraith leaned close
over Aragorn’s shoulder, the edges of his dark hood brushing the
ranger’s hair. The sharp ridges of his metal gloves dug into the
soft flesh of the ranger’s throat as the Nazgûl cupped the chin
of his muzzled captive.
“I grow tired of your pointless resistance. When I give you your
tongue back, you had better have something useful to say to me today,”
the Dark One hissed in the ranger’s ear.
Aragorn shuddered involuntarily. A moment later the dark hood
followed, covering Aragorn’s head and blocking out all light.
This time, an additional hood was placed over the normal one and the
ranger’s senses suddenly started screaming in panic. The second
hood was thick and tightly woven. It was tied off around his neck
and the ranger realized he could not breathe through the heavy
fabric. He started thrashing wildly, but the Witch-king’s hard
hand clamped on his shoulder stopped him.
“I wouldn’t waste your breath that way if I were you, Slave.
You’ll kill yourself if you keep struggling,” he informed calmly.
Aragorn quieted, knowing it made more sense to conserve air, but still
unable to quell the shaking panic burning in his chest as he had to
struggle painfully for each breath. The air in the wicked hood
had quickly become thick and warm. The ruthless gag in his mouth
already made breathing difficult. The added impediment of the
second hood made his knees weak and his head swim.
The ranger was dragged across the room. His hands were cut free
and his shirt was removed. After that, his hands were pulled
before him and bound again. He could not see and only barely
heard what was happening. Aragorn was too intent on the struggle
for air to notice much at first. When he was nearly yanked off
his feet, suspended by his arms stretched painfully above him, he
noticed. His shoulders screamed in protest and his injury flamed
hotly. The ranger cried out, only to be muffled and choked by his
unforgiving gag. The sudden expelling of air from his lungs was
too much. Aragorn couldn’t replace it fast enough and bright
yellow lights flashed before his eyes as his chest heaved wildly.
He was suffocating.
Tinald knew he could not even flinch unless he wanted to share the
prisoner’s punishment. So he only cringed inwardly as the ranger
thrashed weakly in the cruel bonds. The harsh, gasping sounds
from behind the mask were hard to endure. The ranger was in real
trouble and the Nazgûl did not seem to care.
“Master... I think he’s suffocating,” Tinald said quietly. He
bowed as he spoke and hoped it sounded like an observation, rather than
The Wraith murmured his agreement in an unconcerned fashion. When
the ranger’s thrashing ceased completely, he tugged the outer hood off
the man’s head.
Barely conscious, Aragorn felt the air flowing about his face and into
his lungs once more. His chest expanded spasmodically, sucking
air greedily into his starved body. He gasped so hard he nearly
hyperventilated. His mind cleared momentarily. Then he felt
the suffocation hood slide down over his head again and the panic began
anew. He moaned a desperate protest as the hood was tied off
again, but tried to maintain better self control this time, conserving
his oxygen as best he could.
Aragorn felt hot points of agony suddenly springing up across his skin,
burning his back, sides and chest as if he were being touched by a
million tiny flaming coals. The pain caused his heartbeat to
speed up, demanding more oxygen he could not get. Terror and pain
made his world spin out of control as the ranger sobbed for air behind
his cruel mask.
The Witch-king deliberately sprinkled the dark liquid from the vial he
held across the ranger’s exposed flesh. It burned like white-hot
iron and left small, red marks wherever it touched the human, yet
inflicted no serious damage. Pain and terror were the Witch-king’s goal, not death... not yet.
Again, the Wraith removed Aragorn’s hood just before the ranger could
pass out, allowing him a few moments of air before plunging him back
into a dark, airless world once more.
Slowly the evil creature drew lines of exquisite agony across the
ranger’s exposed flesh with his painful tonic, eventually making the
human scream around his muzzle. Still, the Nazgûl was not
satisfied. He pushed Aragorn very hard today, continuing the
slow, deliberate torture until the ranger could not cry out anymore.
Then he untied the bottom of the suffocation hood to allow some air inside, but left it on the ranger’s head.
Aragorn’s whole body was trembling. His thoughts were one long,
confused blur of pain. His shoulders burned like they were being
pulled out of his sockets, and his mouth was so sore from clenching
around the gag that it felt raw. He was drained and breathing was
still a desperate struggle. He waited in fear of what the
Nazgûl would do to him next, but nothing happened.
The uncertainty was almost as unbearable as knowing what was
coming. Aragorn’s head rolled back as he struggled to keep
breathing and was left to wait, dangling and choked, for the
Nazgûl’s next whim. He could hear the sound of movement in
the room and knew he was not alone, but no one spoke and no one touched
him. As time dragged by, he began to realize that the Wraith
simply intended to leave him there for a time, as he had before.
The ranger resisted the burning tears behind his eyes. He knew
that if he started crying, the congestion would choke him.
Tinald stood uncomfortably on the far side of the room as the
Nazgûl busied himself with something on another table, ignoring
the ranger still dangling painfully in the corner for the time
being. The slave had not been dismissed so he had to remain.
Presently there was a knock at the door. With the Nazgûl’s permission, Tinald admitted the newcomer.
It was Rhzaq. The small orc shifted uncomfortably in the doorway,
obviously uneasy around his Lord. “Master, they... they, the
others... wanted me to tell you that we can’t reach the lower
levels. Everyone who goes down to get the shiny plant doesn’t
come back. They say the... the thing is awake.” Fear was
palpable in the creature’s voice, although it was hard to tell if it
was over his bad tidings, or because he was the one to have to tell the
Tinald felt a little sorry for Rhzaq. The other orcs always made
him be the one to give the Master bad news. The slow-witted orc
had received the brunt of the Nazgûl’s displeasure more than once
as a result. He had good reason to be afraid.
The Nazgûl’s presence darkened into his version of a scowl.
“Fool!” he fumed. “Your filthy friends had no business awakening
that which should be slumbering! Too long you have already
delayed. You,” he addressed Tinald now. “How fare the other
Tinald licked his lips nervously. “Most are well, Master.
But some have not had any antidote in quite awhile. They... they
need it soon, if it pleases you.”
The Wraith was not satisfied with any of this information. He
turned back to Rhzaq. “Tell those slobbering idiots who sent you
that they had better get me what I need by tomorrow, or I’ll feed you
all to the cave trolls! Do you understand me?”
Rhzaq gave a frightened little squeal and backed further out the door. “Yes, Master!”
“Wait,” the Wraith commanded, halting the orc’s flight. He
glanced at the ranger, knowing the human could probably hear
them. “How fares the elf?”
Rhzaq studied the ground. He had not taken part in his comrades’
torment of the elf, but he had been present. “He does not scream
much, but Retzhrak says his blood tastes sweet.” There was no
emotion in the words. Rhzaq’s limited mental capacities did not
leave him with the same ravenous appetite for pain as the rest of his
species and he didn’t really understand the other orcs’ joy in brutal
Aragorn’s ragged breathing hitched visibly at the report and the Nazgûl’s rumbling hiss was pleased.
“Good... now go!” he brusquely dismissed Rhzaq who left without
delay. “You too.” The Nazgûl indicated that he meant
Tinald. “Find Yrinvan. This shortage has gone on too
long. Tell him to prioritize the servants. Cull those with
lesser uses; they shall receive no more treatment. If he wishes
to ease their passing I will allow him a small amount of death water
for them. But only IF he does not take too long with the list.”
“Yes, Master.” Tinald swallowed the bitter lump of horror in his
throat and bowed obediently. Only after he had quietly shut the
door behind him did Tinald allow his fists to clench and his face to
darken. Not another purge... the slaves dreaded times like
these. They were rare, but Tinald could still remember the last
one. Yrin would be devastated to hear this news. It was the
hardest for him because he was the one who had to choose. The one
who had to try to figure out what life was expendable in order to meet
the Nazgûl’s cruel quotas. It had nearly crushed Yrin last
time. Tinald wasn’t sure how his friend would handle having to do
Back in the laboratory, Aragorn was stunned by the callous cruelty of
the order. His body trembled in agony and his heart ached for
Legolas, and for the slaves. This was a dark, dark world they
were in, and he feared he would not survive it much longer. They
had to act soon... if only he could figure out how.
It was hours later that the Nazgûl finally cut Aragorn down and
removed his hoods. The ranger rolled painfully onto his side,
panting as he was finally allowed to breathe unrestricted. With
ungentle fingers, the Wraith removed the unbearable gag. Aragorn
found he could barely close his mouth now, his jaw muscles had seized.
“Now, think carefully about your answer, mortal,” the Witch-king warned. “What are you hiding from me?”
Aragorn’s body was still trembling. He could not take much more
of this treatment. The dark force of the Evil One’s strong will
wrapped itself around his consciousness, pressing him for an
answer. He felt his defenses wavering... but there was nothing
there to reveal.
“I-I’m... I’m not...” he rasped with difficulty, his abused mouth
giving him trouble speaking. At the moment it was the
truth. He had taken Legolas’ advice to heart and his mind was
blank. Whatever secrets he had were back in their cell, in the
elf’s care. He had nothing to give the Wraith.
The pressure on his reeling mind intensified and Aragorn squirmed on
the floor, trying to tuck his head into his chest as if he could
protect it from the painful mental assault. The Nazgûl was
not content to batter his body, but assaulted the ranger’s mind with
“Then you have not learned your lesson yet,” the Nazgûl said coldly, pulling Aragorn’s head up to re-gag him.
The human struggled weakly against the strong grip on his hair, panic
consuming every inch of his awareness. “No!” he protested, no
longer above pleading. “No! I-I don’t know what you
want! I can’t... there’s nothing to tell... Don’t! Not
again, please not again...” he begged, almost sobbing as his body
The Wraith saw his wavering resolve, and for the first time did not
entirely doubt the human’s words. Perhaps he had been wrong after
all. There may be nothing more to them than he had already
discovered, or at least there may be nothing more that he could
discover from the human until the ranger had completely given himself
“Then will you serve me?” the Nazgûl whispered low, pausing with
the gag hovering in front of the ranger’s face. His probing
consciousness tugged at Aragorn’s, asking the ranger to bare his mind
to him, to accept him as Lord. To become immersed in his will as
surely as Yrinvan, Tinald and his other serfs. “Will you end all
Aragorn hesitated, frozen between two different choices that both led
to terror. But the Wraith saw the rejection in Aragorn’s eyes,
felt the tenacity with which he was hanging onto his mental
borders. He knew what the human was choosing. He was still
“Very well then,” the Nazgûl said darkly. Replacing the gag
and hoods upon the human who was too weak to fight him now, he dragged
Aragorn back to his feet. “Then I see you still have much to
Aragorn couldn’t stop the tears behind the mask this time, even as he
felt the dangerous congestion making breathing even more
difficult. He was spent. If the Nazgûl wanted to wear
him down and break him, it was finally working.
He didn’t remember when the Wraith had grown bored with him. In
fact Aragorn didn’t remember much of what had happened when he felt
Yrin’s hands lowering him to the ground. The hoods were removed
and the servant eased the gag out of Aragorn’s mouth. Reflexively
the ranger tried to breathe in deeply and swallow. His body
reacted violently as a coughing fit took hold of the man, nearly
choking him. His throat was too dry and parched and his mouth was
severely bruised from the long day of enduring the gag. He nearly
retched but there was nothing for his body to expel.
Yrin eased the ranger slowly to his feet. Aragorn was anything but steady.
His knees gave out and the ranger pitched into one of the Nazgul’s
tables, dumping the contents onto the floor as he tried to maintain his
Yrin grimaced and quickly began picking up the fallen items strewn
about the lab, placing them back on the table exactly as he remembered
Aragorn pressed himself up onto his hands and knees. His fingers
brushed a long, thin, metallic tine. Glancing up he noted that the
attention of the Wraith and the headservant were not on him at the
moment. Quickly he slid the spike into his boot before slowly
regaining his feet. He had no idea what uses the Nazgûl had
for the tool, but he knew exactly what he was going to do with it if he
were ever given the slightest chance.
Yrin’s hands grabbed him around the waist and pulled him up, helping
him to walk back down the hall to the cell. The Nazgul followed
closely behind them, gauging the prisoner. It was painfully
obvious that the ranger was nearly broken.
So tell me why you’ve chosen me?
Don’t want your grip, don’t want your greed!
I’ll tear me open, make you gone
No more can you hurt anyone
And the fear still shakes me
So hold me, until it sleeps...
Legolas hung forward, suspended by the chains around his wrists.
The orcs had finally departed, but they left the blindfold in place and
he could see nothing. He had been in worse pain in his life, but
he could not deny that the foul creatures had been very thorough.
They seemed to have a lot of practice inflicting maximum amounts of
non-lethal pain and the elf wondered dully if the Witch-king let them
practice on disobedient slaves. Judging from things that Yrin had
said, he suspected that was indeed the case.
The elf wiped the blood running down the corner of his mouth on his
shoulder because it was the only thing he could reach. He hurt,
but he was more worried about Aragorn right now. The ranger was
the one that the Nazgûl was trying to break, and Legolas knew
what that was like. He was afraid for his friend. Very
The elf lost track of how long he sat in artificial darkness, but it
must have been most of the day. Aragorn was not returned and he
received no visit or word from either Yrinvan or Tinald. Legolas’
When the door finally opened, the elf looked up out of habit, even
though he could see nothing. He did not need to see to know that
the Nazgûl had entered. The dark chill the creature carried
with him was one that the elf could never forget or mistake.
The blindfold was pulled from his eyes at last and the elf could see
that the Nazgûl was not alone. Aragorn was slumped in the
Wraith’s grasp. Yrin stood quietly in the doorway with several
orcs just behind him.
Aragorn looked terrible. His bound wrists were bloody. His
disheveled tunic hung open. His lips were swollen and his face
flushed. Worse than anything else though, was the glazed and
semi-vacant look in his eyes.
The ranger’s weary gaze slowly fixed on Legolas. A small flicker
of anger and pain flashed through Aragorn’s bloodshot eyes as he saw
the new cuts and bruises marring his friend’s body. Yet when
Aragorn looked into the elf’s eyes, all he read there was concern for
him. It was wrong, so wrong... This was what Aragorn feared
most. What he had feared all along. The ranger had accepted
he might not survive this situation, but he dreaded taking Legolas down
“The human is almost as stubborn as you, elf,” the Nazgûl said
calmly. He knew Aragorn was near breaking, but he wanted to make
sure that the elf was there to see it happen. “Almost.” The
cruel smile that was not visible became evident in the Wraith’s tone.
Pinning Aragorn roughly up against the wall, the Nazgûl pressed
his palm against the ranger’s wound. Rubbing back and forth in
small, agonizing movements he increased the flow of sheer evil flooding
the ranger’s senses.
Aragorn’s face creased with agony. His mouth opened in a silent
scream, but a small whimper was all that escaped his lips.
Legolas surged against his restraints. He yelled for the
Nazgûl to stop, even though he knew he wouldn’t. He
couldn’t stand seeing Estel hurt this way. His heart thudded with
anger and terror. The terror came because he could tell from the
distressed waves radiating from Aragorn’s body that the Nazgûl
was dangerously close to the truth. Aragorn was breaking.
“Lasto beth nin, mellon-nín! Ú-caro leithiach estel-lín!
Listen to me, my friend! Don’t let go of your hope!” Legolas
called out to Aragorn. He risked having to endure the bridle
again for speaking Elvish in the Nazgûl’s presence, but at the
moment he did not care.
Aragorn’s head lolled to the side. It was too hard to fight
anymore. The Nazgûl’s abuse and the poison that raged in his
system were wreaking havoc with his resolve. He could hear
Legolas yelling, calling to him, and fighting against his bonds.
He couldn’t stand to see the elf tormented any further, there had to be
a way out of this... at least for one of them.
In an instant he knew what that way was and chose his path without
giving it a second thought. He had no strength for
The Witch-king’s fingers tightened on the ranger’s shoulders as he held
the human up before him. The Wraith shook the man hard, watching
carefully as the Dùnadan’s defenses literally crumbled before
“Will you serve me now, or shall we keep going with your
‘lessons’? Or perhaps the elf has more to learn,” The Wraith
whispered seductively, turning the human around so that he faced
Legolas. One metal-gloved hand held Aragorn’s chin, forcing him
to look upon the beaten elf. “His tongue is still untamed. I have
much more to teach you both.”
“No.” The word barely slipped from Aragorn’s parched lips. “If you want
me this much, you can have me.” With that pronouncement the
ranger went limp in the Nazgûl’s grip. He stopped fighting
and gave in to the toxins in his system. Aragorn’s eyes glazed
over. He slid to the floor of the cell when the Wraith released
him, slumping against the wall behind him, wrapped in a dark stupor.
The Nazgûl’s dark consciousness rushed to envelop his vulnerable
mind. It wrapped around the Dúnadan’s memories, fingering
through and discarding them one by one... all but the one that remained
safely in Legolas’ keeping.
Aragorn jerked convulsing under the mental ravaging. He
himself into a tight ball in the back of his mind and hid himself away
behind a thinly veiled memory of the time he had found Legolas in the
Witch-king’s grasp. He knew the Wraith wouldn’t bother sorting
through those memories - the Nazgûl had lived them. His
conscious thought was shredded and torn under the evil assault.
Closing himself off, he waited and concentrated on breathing.
Legolas held his most intimate secrets. The rest, the Nazgul
could have, save for the ones of his love for his family, the ones that
kept him alive. Those he held onto possessively, waiting out the
evil tide that tore through his mind.
The Nazgûl hissed slowly. So... this Strider really was
just a ranger, the adopted son of Elrond of Imladris. The Wraith
still really couldn’t understand why a powerful Lord would take on such
a burden, but something from his distant memory told him it had to do
with a foolish emotion called love. With malicious satisfaction
the Witch-king withdrew from his victim’s mind. It may not have
been the most satisfactory answer, but still... holding captive the
offspring, or at least foster-offspring, of the Lords of two of the
most powerful Elven realms was not a small thing either. He would
make them both useful to him somehow.
Aragorn slumped to the floor, released from the evil presence that had
held his mind captive. His body was unresponsive to him for a few
minutes and he simply lay against the cool stone, trying to still his
Legolas stared at his friend silently, in shock. He opened his
mouth to speak, but no words came. The ranger stared straight
ahead, barely even blinking, his breathing was shallow and slow.
There was no life in the grey eyes that stared out at the elf.
The human was hollow... gone. The elf shuddered. Was that
what he had looked like when the Wraith had him years ago? It
certainly represented what he had felt like.
When the Nazgûl spoke, it startled Legolas. He flinched,
trying to pull away from the black apparition that moved to stand
between him and his friend.
“You are next, elfling. I know what I am up against in you, but I
am patient. The two of us... we’re not like the human. We
have all the time in the world. Even if it takes years, I will
have you again as I once did. The choice will be yours, whether
you will be a formidable warrior against my enemies, or just a broken
thrall good for training the orcs. It depends on how far you push
me,” the Nazgûl taunted, crouching down in front of the
restrained elf. Legolas jerked away from his touch, trying to see
around the evil creature and catch Aragorn’s eyes again.
“Don’t worry about your friend, he has found his true calling,” the Nazgûl said with cruel amusement. “Slave!”
Behind the Wraith, Aragorn stirred and came groggily to his
knees. It was strange really, how they always knew who he was
speaking to, considering the Nazgûl usually called all his
thralls by the same title. Yet when he was speaking to someone,
there was no doubt in their mind as to whom he was referring.
The Nazgûl’s attention never left Legolas. “He has learned
his lessons. You have yet to accept yours. I believe I
forbade you to speak that loathsome tongue again... yet you defy
me.” The Wraith rose and pulled the wicked bridle off the peg by
the door where it hung.
Legolas glared at the evil being with pain-filled defiance. He
did not fear what the Wraith could do to him. And he could not
believe that Aragorn was truly gone.
The Nazgûl did not bridle the elf himself, but handed the
contraption to Aragorn after he cut the binds around the man’s
wrists. “I believe you have seen how this goes on. Do
it. Give our rebellious friend the tightest setting possible.”
The ranger accepted the harness and knelt in front of the elf. The Nazgûl watched his every move like a hawk.
Legolas’ heart clenched tightly in his chest as he realized that his
friend was going to be the one to do this to him. No, he told
himself. It wasn’t his friend; this was not Aragorn. No one
understood that better than Legolas. Aragorn no longer had a
choice. The elf tried to hold onto that knowledge as the ranger
slipped the leather straps behind his head.
Legolas searched his friend’s face, his eyes, pleading to find
something he recognized there. Aragorn’s empty gaze would not
meet his as the ranger slid the front of the bridle down over the
prince’s face. He pushed against the elf’s lips to get them to
admit the sharp bit. Legolas was in too much shock to resist and
allowed the ranger’s thumbs to guide the barbed piece of metal over his
teeth and into his mouth. The bit settled much farther forward
than it had the last time he had been forced to wear it and it clanked
painfully against his teeth. It seemed the ranger was fumbling
slightly trying to cope with the abuse he had just endured.
Legolas could feel the way Aragorn trembled through the ranger’s
fingers that rested on his cheek and jaw. The human’s body was
still reeling. Sadly, Legolas had to hope that now that the
Wraith had what he wanted, he would at least allow Aragorn to return to
Once the bit was in place, the ranger cinched the side straps of the
harness. Dutifully obeying the Nazgûl’s orders, he
ratcheted the clasps a few notches, increasing the pressure on the bit.
Legolas tensed with a small moan of pain as the unforgiving, barbed
metal dug into his tender flesh. He tasted blood in his
mouth. His eyes filled with tears and he turned his head away to
hide them. It was not because of the pain, it was because of who
was causing him the pain. He knew it wasn’t Estel’s choice.
He knew he had once done much worse by the ranger under similar
influence, but it still stung.
The Nazgûl was pleased. The elf’s reaction to these events
was better than he hoped. “You serve me well,” he purred in
Aragorn’s ear, crouching behind the ranger so he could look over his
shoulder at the elf. “I think, elf, I shall let him see to all
your instructions from now on. With the proper training he could
be a very formidable disciplinarian.” The Witch-king noted the
pained, horrified expression that darted through the elf’s eyes faster
than it could be stopped. The Wraith reveled in the torment.
The Nazgûl too, could tell that Aragorn was still shaking.
Pulling a small vial from inside his robes, he administered a partial
dose of antidote to slow down the human’s decline.
“Prove to me I can trust you, and you will be given more, until you
almost don’t feel the poison anymore, like the others,” the Wraith
promised as Aragorn sank shakily back against the wall. His body
was still trying to recover from the breaking process.
“Now, stay here, but do not touch the elf. I just want him to see
what you have become, so he knows what will happen to him,” the Witch-king instructed.
Smiling in satisfaction at the broken ranger, the Nazgûl rose and
left the cell, slamming the door shut. Humans were not as
resilient as the Eldar. He had known he would be able to break
through the Dùnadan’s defenses; it had only been a matter of
time and patience and he had plenty of both. Through the ranger he
would be able to break the elf as well, given more time. This
newest achievement pleased him and he anticipated the prospect of
spending more time exploring the ranger’s mind. He would
doubtlessly know many very interesting things about the Rivendell elves
that could be used against them. Once he had the elf’s
submission, the same could be true for Mirkwood, although he would do
that only at the last. An elf’s mind was not as easily penetrated
as a human’s and it would leave scars that would impair his elven
slave’s abilities. That was why he hadn’t done it in the first
place when he had him years ago... but he hadn’t known whom he held
then either. Perhaps, when the time was right, he would share
these two with his own Master, a gift of appeasement until that which
he and the other Wraiths searched for, was found.
Stepping out into the hallway, the Nazgûl ignored the servant
that stood waiting for him. Yrin could be seen just outside the
door, a pained expression on his face before the entrance banged closed.
“Leave them alone until I return. Perhaps now the elf will
realize that there is no use fighting me anymore,” the Wraith
instructed as he stalked down the hall, leaving his servant and his
newly acquired slave behind.
Legolas scooted as far forward as the chains that bound him would
allow. The manacles bit deeply into his wrists and the collar
threatened to choke him, but he would not relent. The ranger
still lay half slumped against the wall, across the small cell from the
elf. Legolas wanted so badly to reach his friend, to try and
break him out of what was happening. He knew it was possible - it
had to be! He had come back once; he had to believe that Aragorn
“Estel?” he fought to speak around the cruel intrusion in his mouth and
found that this time he was actually able to. The bit was not far
enough back in his mouth to hamper the formation of words. It had
not been properly placed. It was painful but not impossible like
it had been last time. The spikes of the bridle cut his tongue as
he wrapped it around the cold bar ignoring the blood he tasted when he
called to the man. There was no answer, not even a response from
the dull-eyed ranger slumped in the corner. “Estel!”
Legolas fought the chains that held him fast, silently cursing his
helplessness. It could not be true, the Nazgûl could not
have won; Legolas wouldn’t let him.
“Estel, please listen to me. Listen to my voice as you bade me to
listen to yours so many years ago.” The prince’s words were
hampered and unclear, but he struggled to form them anyway.
“You have to hold on, you have to fight, you cannot give in to him for
me, or anyone else. You must fight this! I know what you
are enduring mellon-nín... Estel!” The elf’s tongue and
the corners of his mouth bled freely from pulling against the barbed
restraints, but he did not pay attention to the pain.
Outside the cell, Yrin stood and listened as the elf raged against his
bonds, begging his friend to wake up. He knew it was useless, he
knew that if the Nazgûl had truly broken the ranger there would
be no hope for his recovery. He had seen such things before, too
many times to recount. Humans did not live as long once they were
broken, so the Nazgûl did not feel it necessary to break all his
slaves if they could be bent to his will through fear, coercion or
other methods. But those he did break were never the same.
They became like the orcs: brutal and uncaring, delighting in whatever
pleased their twisted Master. It was considered a fate worse than
Yrin could not stand to witness this anymore. He had his own
heartbreaking tasks to carry out. Quietly, he walked away, trying
to block out Legolas’ painful, tearful pleading.
“Mellon-nín, don’t do this,” Legolas desperately searched
Aragorn’s face for some spark of the man he knew, for some sign that
his friend was still in there, yet he found nothing but
emptiness. The elf choked back a sob. “This is not the way
it was supposed to be! You made me promise you that I would never leave
without you. You made me swear to never give up my life again for as
long as you lived. If you are truly gone and have left me here to
the Nazgûl’s desires, I cannot keep that promise anymore.
Estel, please...” Legolas’ voice trailed off in a whisper as the tears
rolled down his cheeks. He could not speak anymore. His
mouth was now too badly torn and it hurt too much to keep fighting the
The human across from him sat dumbly, unmoved by the words or emotions.
The prince didn’t know how long they sat there. He didn’t know
how long he struggled against his restraints. How long he fought
the biting pain in an attempt to speak, to reach his one-time
friend. How long he alternated between begging and demanding that
his friend fight what was happening. Time had utterly ceased to
have meaning for the elf. All Legolas knew was that he was suddenly
very alone. He did not think he could bear it if the Nazgûl
followed through on his threats and forced the ranger to torture
him. He could endure under any other hand... but not Aragorn’s.
Darkness deepened the shadows of their cell and Legolas shivered
uncontrollably as the door to the prison was thrown open and the
Nazgûl stepped back inside. The dark being did not speak
this time. He simply glanced from the elf to the ranger.
Neither had moved and now he was convinced that neither would.
This had been a test. If the ranger was able to be swayed by his
friend, as the ranger had swayed the elf so many years ago, he intended
to catch that now. But it was not so. The human had not
moved a muscle nor even recoiled at his approach. With a quiet,
cruel laugh he left his prisoners alone for the night and retired to
With a defeated sigh, Legolas leaned back against the cool stone wall
behind him and closed his eyes, unable to stop the tears that streamed
down his cheeks. It was truly over then. They had lost.