Between Darkness and Dawn
Chapter 7: I’ll Carry You
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I know that look in your eyes
I see the pain behind your smile
Please don't hold it all inside
Together we can run to the finish line
And when you are tired...
I'll carry you
I can't walk this road without you
You cannot go it alone
We were never meant to make it on our own
And when the load becomes too heavy
And your feet too tired too walk
I will carry you and we'll be carried on.
-- Rebecca St.James
Aragorn could no longer walk. He tried, again and again, but his
legs failed him, refusing to hold his weight. Even with Legolas
supporting him, the elf’s arm flung around the ranger’s shoulder and
the elf’s musical voice a soft, constant encouragement in his ears,
Aragorn could not push himself any further. He seemed to have no
more control over his body and his mind was foggy. Moments of
lucidness were becoming fewer and fewer.
Legolas could not stand watching what was happening to his once strong
friend. It tore another wound in his heart every time Aragorn
stumbled and fell, blanching in pain as his failing body absorbed even
It was no good, they could not go on this way... but they could not
afford to stop either. The ranger’s rapid decline meant that the
end was inevitable if they did not reach their objective soon.
Legolas’ keen eyes sought the growing specter of the dark spire on the
horizon. For what it was worth, they were almost there... if only
that realization did not bring such a wave of dread with it.
Halting, Legolas crouched down to where his friend had fallen yet
again. Aragorn’s skin felt deadly cold and yet his body radiated
a fevered heat. The human trembled and his breathing was
shallow. He couldn’t make it off his knees. Leaning heavily
against the ground, Aragorn closed his eyes.
“Just a moment... just give me a moment...” his words slurred, belying the pretense of strength he obviously did not have.
Legolas shifted the ranger’s weight off his hands, supporting the man
as he knelt on the stony ground. Quietly, he reached for the
ranger’s right palm, fingering the fading scar he found there.
The elf knew he had to do something or Aragorn would not be kept long
in this world. Part of the elf hesitated, knowing the warnings
that came with repeated blood transference. It was not meant to
be a common occurrence. He was a little afraid of what it would
do to both their bodies to force another infusion, but he would risk it
for his friend’s sake.
Aragorn saw what Legolas was about to commence and jerked back, out of
the elf’s arms. With what little strength he had, he batted his
friend’s hands away from him. Scooting backward on the cold
ground he cowered away from Legolas, shaking his head.
“No,” the man rasped decidedly. “No. Can’t... can’t let
you,” he broke off coughing. He allowed Legolas to hold his
shoulders as he choked but would not let the prince get near his hands.
“Estel, please, it’s all I can do for you...” Legolas pleaded with his friend but Aragorn refused.
“No, I thank you, dear friend, but... it’s not safe. Not safe for
you. I need... need you to be strong for me.” The ranger
was having difficulty forming words but Legolas understood what he was
The ranger eyed the elf hesitantly. In his current state Legolas
would be more than able to physically force him to accept his help, but
he could not let that happen. He saw what the exchange did to
Legolas and his healer’s instincts told him it was too soon.
Legolas would do irreparable damage to his own injured body if he tried
to share himself that way again so quickly.
“Don’t try to force me Legolas, I won’t accept it,” he warned and Legolas saw the truth in the ranger’s eyes.
The elf sighed, accepting Aragorn’s decision reluctantly. He
really couldn’t force it upon Aragorn; both parties had to be willing
or it was no good.
“If you will not let me share my strength with you that way, then at
least allow me what I can do for you. We cannot go on like
this. Haste is of the essence.”
The elf changed his hold on Aragorn. He positioned the ranger so
the human’s chest, and his weight, rested against the elf’s back.
Wrapping Aragorn’s cold arms so they clasped around his neck, Legolas
hooked his own arms around the back of Aragorn’s knees and rose back to
his feet, taking Aragorn up with him.
The elf grimaced sharply, gritting his teeth against the burning pain
that flared across his torn shoulder and back muscles as his body
accepted the human’s weight as well as his own. He made sure that
Aragorn did not see his pained expression and quickly pushed the agony
out of his features. It was at times like these that he actually
thanked his uncle for teaching him how to smile no matter how badly he
Legolas bent forward a little as he stood, letting the ranger’s weight
settle more fully against him to get a better grip.
“Hold on Aragorn. That’s it, hold onto me. You’ll be all
right,” the elf murmured softly as he began walking again, carrying the
ranger as one would carry a child for a piggy-back ride.
Aragorn was not a light man, but Legolas had the strength of the Eldar
to aid him. Even with his injuries, his friend was not a burden
that was too great for him to bear.
Aragorn’s head lolled against Legolas’ good shoulder as his hands
clasped weakly around the elf’s neck. His lack of protest to
being carried worried Legolas greatly; it showed how far gone he
“Sorry...” Aragorn murmured wearily into his friend’s tangled gold hair. “I’m sorry, Legolas...”
“Shh,” Legolas shook his head as much as he could around the burden he
carried. “If you apologize one more time about anything, then
you won’t have to worry about the poison killing you. I will,”
he jested lightly. Aragorn’s arm draped over the bandage on his
shoulder was excruciating but the elf slowly blocked his body away from
his mind and focused on the task at hand.
Aragorn snorted lightly. “You’d be better off...”
“I don’t think so,” Legolas cut in quickly. “I need you my dear,
thick-headed ranger; my life would be so dull without your presence.”
Aragorn chuckled weakly; Legolas felt more than he heard it from the
body pressed against his back. Even so, it was a good sound,
giving the elf a small amount of hope.
“Your brothers would agree, I’m sure,” Legolas added, attempting to
maintain a steady dialogue with his friend as they walked, wanting to
keep the ranger’s mind active.
Aragorn responded with another soft chuckle. Now that he did not
have to expend so much energy walking, his spirits seemed to be
reviving a little.
“Those two don’t need any help. You know, I think the last one to
carry me like this was Elladan, when I was nine. I nearly broke
my ankle escaping ‘the dungeons’ and he carried me home,” the human
smiled faintly at the memory. “Ada was not pleased with us at
“The dungeons?” Legolas raised his eyebrows as he carefully picked his
way across the craggy earth. “You have dungeons in
Rivendell? My friend, you missed those when showing me
around.” The elf chuckled.
Aragorn shook his head a little against his friend’s tunic. “No,
it was a game we used to play. I loved the old tales when I was a
child. I lacked children my own age to play-act them out with,
but fortunately for me, my brothers were usually up to it if it
involved some kind of caper. Although I recall that recreating
Fingolfin’s trip across the Grinding Ice in a partially thawed pond one
winter was not one of our brighter schemes...” The ranger couldn’t help
the warmth that filled his voice when he thought of home and his
childhood. It brought him closer to the light that was being
stolen away from him, so Legolas encouraged this train of thought.
“I can imagine,” the prince chuckled, shifting Aragorn a little higher
up his back as he pressed resolutely onward. “My people had their
own tales, including one about a long-ago warrior who discovered
enemies planning to attack. They caught him and put out his eyes,
leaving him far away in unfamiliar woods to wander in despair until
death should take him. But he was clever and with the help of the
trees he found his way back home again in time to warn his
people. Raniean, Trelan and I invented a game from that where we
would blindfold one another and try to find our way around.
Eventually it met with results similar to what must have resulted from
your ice-escapades. Raniean almost drowned and father forbad us
from playing that game anymore. But what did you play in a
“Two of us would be Finrod and Beren in the pits of Tol-in-Gaurhoth,
the other got to be the Werewolf. I always wanted to be the
wolf, but they usually made me be Beren because they said I fit the
roll better,” Aragorn chuckled. “Big children, that’s what they
were. Only, we changed the story, because in our story Finrod
didn’t die after saving Beren. We didn’t have a Lúthien,
so in our story Finrod and Beren escaped together, running while the
wolf gave chase. Elladan liked being the Werewolf, trying to
catch Elrohir and me... Unfortunately he was a little too good at it
and I didn’t watch where I was going, hence the injured ankle. I
felt so sorry for my brothers. Ada lectured both of them
for an hour or more about who of us were supposed to be the elders that
knew better than to go crashing around dangerous places like that.”
Aragorn smiled distantly at the long ago memories; he loved his
“Truthfully, I always hated that story though,” Aragorn mumbled
thoughtfully as his semi-delirious mind followed its own randomly
wandering track like a meandering brook.
“About your brothers?” Legolas was puzzled.
“No,” Aragorn didn’t have the strength to shake his head. “About
Beren and Finrod. It was all wrong. Finrod shouldn’t have
died, not for Beren, not for someone who would die anyway
someday. I always hated that.” The ranger had never
confessed this to anyone before, but it had been on his mind more than
he wanted to admit since they left Barahir behind weeks earlier.
Legolas cocked an eyebrow. “You realize that if Beren had died
instead, you would not be here. Lord Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir,
Arwen, none of them would be here. The race of Númenor
would never have been, and the world of men as we know it would not
Aragorn sighed quietly instead of a shrug for which he didn’t have strength.
“I suppose... but I still hate it. All my life, I have been
compared to Beren,” he snorted quietly. “Even the... impossible
way we both fell in love. When I hear that story I think of...”
his voice trailed off.
Legolas closed his eyes for a moment, realizing what Aragorn meant and
understanding afresh some of the reasoning that had gone into the
human’s attempt to leave his elven companion behind earlier. “You
think of your brothers or me, and what if it was one of us in Finrod’s
place,” the prince finished quietly for his friend.
Aragorn barely nodded, pressing the side of his cold face against the
back of the elf’s warm neck as his head swam dizzily. “I would
never want you to do that for me. Promise me, Legolas, promise me
you won’t ever be so foolish. Promise me I won’t lose you that
way. I thought I lost you once... It would be a blow worse than
Legolas did not respond for a few minutes. He felt Aragorn’s
ragged breaths brushing his cheek and stirring his hair in irregular
patterns. He felt the ranger’s body tremble lightly against
his... Aragorn was so weak, it was frightening.
“I... can’t,” Legolas shook his head. “I can’t promise that,
Estel, no more than you would promise it to me. We’ll make it
through this, mellon-nín,
somehow... somehow we will. I believe that. I need you to
believe it too, Estel, please, my hope has never been as bright as
Aragorn smiled faintly. “You’re wrong, mellon-nín,”
he breathed quietly. “If that hope was not inside of you, you
would not have survived this long. Please... hope for me my
brother, because I have not the strength for it anymore.”
Legolas’ eyes clouded with tears and he had to blink fiercely in order
to get the landscape back into focus once more. He could not
afford to trip with his precious cargo. “I will,” he
whispered. “And we will escape this darkness my friend, both of
us, together... somehow... I swear it.”
“Mm, somehow,” Aragorn echoed his weak assent. “Together.”
“Yes, mellon-nín, together we can do anything,” Legolas murmured
encouragingly as he felt Aragorn’s body go limp against his back,
indicating that the human had passed out once more.
Pausing only to shift Aragorn’s lolling head back into a secure place
against his neck and shoulder, Legolas pushed swiftly onward towards
the ominous spire of iron and obsidian that grew ever larger before
them. He had hoped that when they got here they could arrive
unnoticed, perhaps finding a way to get that which they sought without
an outright surrender to darkness. In Aragorn’s current state
however, Legolas knew they stood no chance. The ranger did not
have time for subterfuge, even if they could have tried to escape the
watchful eye of the fell beast tracking them from above.
The elf squared his aching shoulders. If they had to walk into
the mouth of doom, he would do so with his head held high and trust
that they would be able to escape again somehow.
For several hours they journeyed on like this in silence, the
determined elf and the unconscious ranger. Angmar loomed large
before them and the trees around them began to fail. Legolas had
never felt as exposed as the moment when he walked out of the cover of
the trees and into the wide, barren plain of snow and icy stone that
lay before the forbidding mountain fortress of Angmar.
The elf’s grip on his unconscious friend’s knees tightened.
Desperate, nameless fear churned in his gut. Ahead of him he
could see a huge, recessed door in the face of the mountain. The
gaping mouth stood open. The plain before the mountain was eerily
Then, almost without a sound, a black stream of orcs issued from the doorway, streaming towards the two friends.
From his vantage point high in the mountainous castle of Angmar, the
Witch-king spotted his new arrivals when they reached the edges of the
granite field just beyond the woods.
He gazed out the window with sightless eyes and watched as the elf
stopped just on the outskirts of the forest. He did not ‘see’ as
he had done in life. But his unique perspective of being neither
alive nor dead gave him the advantage of being able to view living
beings as they truly were.
The elf was a luminous being. The light he exuded was so pure
almost hurt the Wraith to look at him too long. He hated the
Eldar. They were everything he was not and never would be.
The orcs that poured of the castle at his command were dark in his
twilight vision. Blacker than the world around them, they were
like a void wave that moved forward to intercept his guests.
The human on other hand was somewhere in-between the two
extremes. The light that marked him was soft and dim as though
unaware of its true nature and calling. The human was waking to
his destiny but it had not yet occurred. The ranger that lay
against the elf’s back on the edges of the steppes was barely alive and
his dim light faded even as the Wraith watched.
The fell beast dove down into the open plain, skirting just above the
heads of the orcs as they advanced towards the two newcomers. The
creature skimmed the cliff-face of the castle. Crying out in a
throaty, screeching language it told its master that it had returned
with his new slaves.
Arching upwards, the mount headed for its cave high above and entered
its lair with a triumphant scream. It was pleased to be home
where it was warm.
Legolas watched as the winged beast circled the spires of Angmar before
returning to its resting place. He turned his gaze on the
advancing orcs warily. The black tide of creatures had stopped
only a few paces away from the elf.
“You bring that human in and we we’ll let you live a few moments
longer, pretty thing,” the leader of the pack commanded, much to the
delight of his comrades. He pointed a wicked looking scimitar at
Keeping his eyes on the foul beings, Legolas crouched into a kneeling
position, gently allowing Aragorn to slip from his back. The
ranger had not recovered consciousness and right now the prince was
glad he had not. This might not go well.
Now that they were here, now that he was faced with the prospect of
submission to the orcs before him, the prince wasn’t sure that he
could. Everything in his being, every fiber of his body tensed
and rejected the very thought.
Stepping away from his friend, but remaining between the ranger and the
orcs, Legolas deftly pulled his twin fighting knives from their sheaths
on his back. He took up a defensive stance. The elf did not
trust the dark creatures. Never surrender to an orc. It was the
first thing that was drilled into every wood-elf warrior’s head from
the time they were children. Orcs had no honor and it was better
to die fighting them than to become their toy.
“Now, we can do this hard, or it can go easy,” the orc leader cautioned
the obviously reluctant elf before him. The wicked being’s grin
widened. They didn’t get much of a chance for a good brawl and it
looked like this elf just might give them one. He relished the
idea of killing the fair being; it would be a thrill indeed. He
knew his master wanted these two alive, but if they wouldn’t come
willingly...well, then it wasn’t his fault if the elf died
accidentally, was it? Using force was something Retzhrak enjoyed.
“You will not touch him or I will kill you,” Legolas warned. His
voice was low and his tone was lethal. He hadn’t come all this
way to watch the ranger be destroyed by orcs. If that was how it
would come to be, then maybe it was best if they both died here and now.
“Very well then, hard it is. Take them, boys!” Retzhrak gave the command, sending his troop rushing towards the elf.
From his vantage point, the Wraith watched as the orcs tried to take
the elf and ranger by force. He growled softly as the count of
dead orcs multiplied rapidly. He knew that the elf out on the
steppes was probably capable of killing the whole compliment of them
single-handedly, if trying to protect the unconscious ranger did not
impede him too much. The Wraith had seen the warrior do it
before. Even though he did not care for the lives of his
servants, the Nazgûl did not want to lose too many of the
creatures. He could always get more, but he despised useless
waste like this. Besides, he was concerned that one of his
idiot minions would land a lucky blow. He needed the human
alive and he intended to at least interrogate the elf himself before he
let the orcs have their way with him.
“Yrinvan!” Rising from his seat, the Witch-king stormed out into
the hallway, seeking out his head servant. When he found the man
instructing a few of the newer slaves in the kitchen, he immediately
The human that stepped into the hallway and bowed low before the Wraith
was a tall man. He had not yet reached middle age, but his dark
brown hair was already streaked with touches of grey. Angmar aged
people before their time. Yrinvan had been in the Wraith’s
service the longest of any of his surviving servants. The man
served his master well. He obeyed quickly and had a sharp, clever
mind. His usefulness had kept him alive.
“How may I serve you, My Lord?” the servant asked, keeping his eyes
averted from the empty black hood that stared at him. Even at his
height, the Wraith towered over the human.
“Out on the steppes there is an elf and a man, a ranger. I
‘invited’ them here. Retzhrak was sent to bring them in and he has been
unsuccessful. Go bring them in at once,” the Witch-king ordered
darkly. He handed the man a small glass vial. “The human
will need this soon. See to it that they are alive and unharmed
when you retrieve them, but do not give the human the antidote until
they are safely secured in their new quarters.”
When Yrinvan bowed in compliance, the Wraith stormed out of the passage, heading back for his study.
Yrin stood in the hallway watching the Wraith go. Visitors?
That meant new slaves, or worse. Now it all made sense.
“Oh, Tynair... you had to obey to the last, didn’t you?” he thought sadly. He understood, but... Sighing deeply Yrinvan turned to leave.
“Did the Master say that one was an elf?” a quiet voice questioned the headservant.
Yrinvan started and turned back, looking down into the eyes of a young
woman who stood behind him. She was younger than Yrin by no small
span, but like the other servant, she too had aged beyond her
time. Her back was stooped from years of abuse and hard life, but
her eyes held a glimmer in them that had never been quenched. It
was what had drawn him to her in the beginning and why he had married
her here in this terrible wretched place. She was the spark of
light that kept him going.
“Don’t you worry about it.” He smiled at the woman. It was best not to let her get started on elves. “Get back in there before
the Master finds you taking a break,” he urged her. “I can’t
afford to have anything happen to you. Now get.” He
attempted to shoo her away, but she wasn’t intimidated by the taller
“You’ll need blankets and hot food for the newcomers. You know
what it’s like coming to this place.” She eyed her husband wryly,
challenging him to argue with her. They always tried to ease the
shock a little for the new ones.
With a nod, he agreed. He had the uncomfortable feeling that the
Master had plans for these new arrivals that went beyond merely adding
more numbers to his slaves, but he kept those thoughts to
himself; it would only distress his wife. He was surprised
when she turned back and called another girl out and instructed her to
quickly bring blankets and warm food to the cell a level down.
“Ahnna,” Yrinvan growled out his wife’s name, realizing she intended to accompany him.
“Go, quickly.” She shooed him in front of her. “The Master won’t
wait long. If you don’t hurry, those dumb beasts will kill both
the newcomers and then you’ll suffer for it. I won’t lose you
because of their stupidity.”
“What would I do without you to state the obvious, my love?” Yrinvan
muttered as he hurried along. She was right of course. He
knew that and so he ran quickly towards the lower entrance. He
glared at the woman who ran beside him as they headed for the front
gate. His wife could be very stubborn when her mind was set.
Yrinvan stopped on the castle’s threshold and took in the grim sight
across the way. The orcs were swarming around the elf, but making
no headway. The fair being turned with lighting speed and slit
the throat of an orc that had slipped around him and tried to pick up
the unconscious human. Spinning back around, the elf cut a wide
swath between himself and the orcs, forcing them back with his double edged blades.
“Oh, Yrin, it is one of the Eldar,” Ahnna whispered in distress.
“Go back in, Ahnna,” the headservant commanded, trying to dissuade her.
“Yrin, you cannot let him be taken. He will not live in this
place, he cannot. Look at his clothes; he is one of those that
lived near my people. One of the wood-elves, those are their
colors. Look at him,” she implored her husband. “He is
light and this place is darkness. The Master will destroy
him.” Her voice was strained and it was obvious that this new
twist of events distressed her greatly. “Please.”
Yrin sighed deeply and kissed her on top of the head. “There is
nothing we can do for them now, you know that. Go back in.
I know how your people felt about the elves, but you are all I care
about. I will go out and stop Retzhrak before he kills the
elf. Otherwise I can only do as the Master bids. We’ll talk
about this later.”
“We will talk about it later,” the woman agreed. She wasn’t
going to let him off the hook that easy. Her lips drew a thin
line across her face as she stared at her husband. Turning to
leave, Ahnna nearly bumped into Tinald, a younger male slave that Yrin
had taken under his wing after the death of most of his
relatives. He was grooming the other man to take his place when
the time came that death finally freed him from this prison. The
two men were good friends and Tinald had come to see if he could be of
Tinald’s mouth dropped open as he watched the elf fighting the
orcs. Two more dropped dead at the fair being’s feet, one gutted
and the other decapitated. “What are they doing here?” he asked
softly. These didn’t look like any of the new slaves he had ever
seen brought here.
Ignoring the question, Yrin pushed Ahnna and Tinald back across the
threshold. “I’d better get out there. Tinald, go help Ahnna
get the room ready for our guests and then both of you get back to work
before I have to explain your absences,” he warned them sternly as he
stepped out onto the granite walk and approached the fight.
So it was true. He had overheard the Master speaking to Retzhrak
several months ago about a ranger and an elf that he wanted to
question. If what he suspected were true, then there had been
several foiled attempts at gaining the two prisoners already.
What he could want with them the slave had no idea. There was no
time to ponder such questions as the fighting escalated.
“ENOUGH!” Yrinvan’s voice carried across the rocky way and echoed in the woods behind Legolas.
Retzhrak heard the command but didn’t call his men off
immediately. An orc on the elf’s right jumped forward, swiping
out at the fair being’s legs and trying to catch him unaware.
Legolas jumped over the low arcing blade and caught the orc’s neck
between his knives, spinning hard to the right as they cut through the
tough hide. The orc squealed and dropped dead to the ground.
“Retzhrak! I said that was enough,” Yrinvan warned as he finally
reached the remaining small group gathered around the elf and the human.
“All right boys,” the orc leader growled, reining his forces in.
“Let the slave through.” His words were mocking and arrogant as
he glared at the headservant.
Choosing to ignore the foul beast, Yrin stepped over the dead bodies
near the elf and approached Legolas slowly, his hands held out in a
placating manner. He himself knew little of the elves, but Ahnna,
who had been born free, had grown up near them. She had
entertained the servants many a nights with tales of her home and the
fair beings that occupied the woods nearby.
The elf stepped back nearer to the ranger that lay behind him. He
watched warily as Yrinvan stepped into the loose circle of orcs and
Glancing behind the elf, the servant noted the shallow breathing of the
human he protected. The man was in bad shape and needed the
antidote quickly. He recognized the signs.
“My name is Yrinvan, I run the Master’s household,” he offered by way
of speedy greeting. Judging from the look of the ranger, they
didn’t have too much time for pleasantries. “If you will come
with me, we have prepared a room for you and your friend,” the servant
instructed. He kept his tone even and did not drop his gaze away
from the elf’s. There was only one way out of this alive now for
all of them. If he failed to bring these two in, the orcs would
kill them and his master would take out his wrath on his
headservant. That was not a situation that Yrin intended to allow.
“We do not belong here,” Legolas answered cautiously. “We cannot go in there.”
Clasping his hands behind his back, Yrin sighed softly, they didn’t have time to argue.
“You have no choice,” he answered evenly. When he stepped
forward, the elf raised his blades a bit higher. Legolas stepped
farther back until his boot heels touched the man behind him.
Nervously the orcs shifted around them, tightening the ring ever so slightly.