Aragorn lay awake in bed. He couldn’t sleep.
With a deep sigh he
turned over and gazed unseeingly out the huge picture window opposite
his bed. The light curtains had been left open and they blew
gently in the soft night breeze. But even the quiet sounds of the
valley couldn’t calm him this night. He closed his eyes in
frustration and forced himself up in bed, pushing the sheets away from
his upper body. He could take it no longer; he couldn’t just stay
here while Legolas was out there somewhere captive to orcs.
And what if he’s already dead?
The little voice inside his head wouldn’t quit
asking questions, awful,
horrid questions that brought up deep, painful memories. No
matter what he did, he couldn’t silence them. He still remembered
the way the orcs smelled, they way the whip bit into his skin, the way
he wished they would just kill him and end the cruel pain... and
Maraen had said that the orcs had taken Legolas. He kept hearing
her repeated phrase, “They took him. They took him.”
Quietly, the ranger collected his things and quickly
conversation he had had with his father earlier reverberated in his
mind, rebuking him. He wished the last time they had spoken had
not ended in an argument, but there was nothing he could do about that
now. His heart was already too heavy. Shrugging into his overcoat
he stole silently out into the hall.
Growing up in Rivendell he had learned early on as a
where and where not to step on the wooden floors to keep his exit from
being noticed and he expertly crept across the threshold, soundlessly
making a quick stop in the small room where his father kept the
medicines and poultices. Grabbing a pouch of the leafy athelas that
Elrond had instructed him in the usage of earlier that day, he stuffed
the potent medicine in his knapsack and stole back out.
Pressing his hands firmly against the front doors
Aragorn slowly pushed
them open just enough so he could squeeze out between them, carefully
shutting them from the outside.
For a moment he considered fetching a horse from the
yards but the
sound of the animal’s hooves would surely wake the household and he
wanted a decent head start before they came looking for him.
Aragorn glanced back up to the open windows of
finding the one that shuttered his father’s room. Their last
conversation came to mind again unbidden -
“I am going to
find him.” Aragorn
turned and resolutely headed for the door after he and Elrond had left
Elrond placed a
firm hand on the
young ranger’s shoulder, stopping him. “Let us wait until Maraen
awakens. Perhaps it will be that she can tell us more of what
happened to Legolas. Do not be so quick, my son, to rush into danger.
do not know who her attacker was.”
“We know it was
orcs father, what
more needs knowing?” Aragorn looked around them in frustration,
“I can’t just leave him there!”
“And I did not
suggest that you
should. In the morning we will be able to question Maraen.
Then you and your brothers, with the prince’s friends, can go out well
prepared.” He held up his hand to forestall the argument that his son
was trying to interrupt with, “Prepared for what you will face.
It may not simply be orcs. It sounded as though there was
something else. Besides, Estel,” Elrond took the boy’s chin in
hand and redirected the silver eyes that had sought the floor, “no orc
could cast such a darkness over a soul as to pull them into the shadow
realm. I fear there is much more to her story than we have heard.”
His father’s eyes
had held an unknown
fear to them even as he spoke the words but the shadow passed quickly
and he smiled gently down at the human who stood next to him.
helplessness radiated from
Aragorn. “He is my friend.” The words were soft and driven and he shook
his head, breaking eye contact with the elven lord. “I cannot
just wait. You cannot ask me to. You don’t know what they do to
elves...” Even as the words left his lips he regretted them and he
glanced quickly at his adoptive father, hoping that somehow the elf had
not heard him.
But the pain was
there, showing that
the elf had, and Elrond simply nodded, “Yes, my son. I do.” How
could he ever forget the sight of his wife when his sons had brought
her home...? The elf turned his gaze back to Maraen’s room,
“Please, Estel, be patient, wait.”
“I’m sorry father
I didn’t mean to...”
Elrond shook his
head, “I know.
Don’t worry my son, you are simply upset over Legolas, that I
understand also.” He draped his arm around the boy’s shoulders,
pulling him close, and walked with him down the hall. “Let us go
see to Estelle before Celboril calls us for dinner.”
With a heavy heart
followed. He knew he would never be able to obey his father, but
he would try.
“Forgive me father. I will return with
Legolas, I promise you
that.” He whispered quietly into the night, standing for a few
moments longer to stare at his father’s room before turning and running
swiftly up the path from Rivendell and heading out towards the place
where he had found Maraen.
He had in mind to track back from where he had
discovered her. In
the shape she was in, even though she had been in the woods several
weeks, she couldn’t have gone far. He had a hunch he would be
able to pick up Legolas’ tracks if he could just find the last place
she had been with the elf.
Using the light of the stars and the full moon he
had nearly gained the
meadow where he had found Maraen by the time the sun was blushing the
skies a soft shade of pink.
“Father!” Elrohir ran into the dining hall,
interrupting the morning
meal. He had been sent to fetch his younger brother to join them.
“He is not there!”
Elrond simply stared at the young elf. He had
known, known in his
heart that his youngest son was going to go out after Legolas on his
own and now he chided himself for not being more aware last night.
“You do not think he has gone after Legolas on his
own do you?” Elladan
cast a worried glance at his father, already knowing the answer that he
Trelan and Raniean had stopped eating.
Trelan’s fork clattered to
his plate as he listened to the conversation. “We must go after
Elrond raised his hands and stood to his feet, “No
one is going
anywhere.” He sighed deeply and returned Elladan’s worried gaze, “Estel
has an eight hour lead on you at least. If he has tracked back to
where he originally found Maraen then he will already have left that
area. Let us eat, and when we are done I will question the girl
more on Legolas’ captors.” The younger elves began to protest but
Elrond’s tone turned firm, “Listen to me. Whatever put that girl
and her child under such a dark spell was not an orc. No orc can bind
another to Mordor in such a way. You need to know what you are up
against, just like I warned your brother.” The elder elf turned
away from the group seated before him, “That young one will be the
death of me.”
“He needs to learn to listen a little better,”
darkly. “I think I’ll beat it into him when I get him back.”
“If we get him back,” Elrohir spoke softly.
“Don’t,” Raniean stopped the self-berating,
“Strider is a smart ranger, I saw that when he was in Mirkwood on more
than one occasion. As strange as it sounds, I believe that he’s
got a better chance of finding Legolas than anyone other than maybe
Trelan and I. And we will be out searching for the both of them.”
Elrond turned back to the table and eyed the warrior.
“Eat,” Trelan spoke around a mouthful of fruit.
“You’ll need your
strength. Raneian is correct.” The small elf raised his
eyebrows at the twins, trying to encourage them. “You think you have it
bad, imagine having to tell Lord Thranduil his son is missing.” The
warrior rolled his eyes and smiled at Elrond.
“He’ll have our heads,” Raniean continued the
thought for his friend.
Elrohir snickered softly from his side of the table
and leaned forward,
“Its really not so bad, we get it all the time here. Estel is
forever getting us into trouble.”
“Estel is?” Elrond re-seated himself and smiled at
the twin. “Funny I
was under the impression that it was the two of you who were always
getting him into trouble. Or at least that’s what he says.”
“Just another thing to beat him for when I get a
hold of him.”
Elladan’s mood had not improved, his worry getting the best of him.
“Uhm...father, perhaps you can keep Elladan here
with you. He
might not be very helpful and I’d hate to drag Estel home half dead
again because he got to him before you do.” Elrohir leaned
towards his father trying to evade his brother’s reach.
“You have a point, my son.”
“Father!” Elladan stared at the elf lord wide-eyed.
“Eat, all of you.” Elrond smiled and swept his
hands over the
table indicating the still untouched food. “You all will be going so
that I may have some peace and quiet in this house – for a bit anyway.”
The laughter about the table broke the dark mood
that had fallen, but
the father’s heart was still tight with worry as he thought on the
safety of his human son.
Aragorn knelt in the still moist grass. The
dew hadn’t quite
dried on the green blades as his keen eyes searched the small
glade. This was where he had originally found Maraen. He
needed to know where she had come from before that morning.
Carefully he paced the exterior of the glen, his vigilance finally
rewarded as he approached the south side; the branches of a tender
sapling growing on the edge of the meadow were broken, the sap from its
damaged outgrowth had caught a stray hair from the one who had passed
this way and it was auburn, definitely Maraen’s.
Easily the ranger spied the outline of her booted
foot in the dirt
beneath the trees and began to follow the weaving trail off towards the
west – deeper into the forest.
The Nazgûl couldn’t have been more pleased
than if he had found
Sauron’s desire himself. It was long since anything they could do
had been able to affect any of the Firstborn and, if this were indeed
successful, then his master would be very pleased with him. He
watched the elf prince quietly from where he stood. It was time
to test his latest servant and see just how far the elf would obey him.
“Elf,” the wraith's voice hissed soothingly, “come
Legolas placed his food on the forest floor and rose
gracefully in one
swift motion, moving to stand before the dark lord. The silver blue
eyes were dead of emotion as they locked on the faceless darkness
beneath the wraith's hooded countenance.
“Do you see that orc on the far side of the fire,
the one with the axe?”
Legolas turned and looked in the direction indicated
gazing back at his new master, “Yes, my lord.”
“Kill it.” The nazgul folded his arms across
his chest and waited.
Turning, Legolas watched the orc who stood in shock,
surprised by his
master's command but at the prodding of his companions he gleefully
took up the challenge. The elf was unarmed and the orc had a debt
to settle with this one anyway. Killing the fair being could
actually be fun.
Inside Legolas balked. As much as he hated
orcs, there was no
reason to kill this one. It was just something the dark lord
desired for his own pleasure and he had no want to please the
wraith. But the part of Legolas that balked, that was still
himself, was weak and small. It was as if his very control over
his own body and his consciousness had been pressed back into a small
prison locked inside his mind and there was no way out. He could
see, he could hear, he spoke, but the words were not his own – he in
essence did not exist as the free being he once was. He was truly
owned by Mordor’s minion and the thought horrified him.
The elf moved towards the orc, unfazed by the jeers
and taunts of the
creature's peers. He had not been given a weapon to dispose of
the being but it did not seem to matter as he coldly stalked the orc,
circling the dark creature, moving just outside the arc of its swinging
blade. Easily he spun and ducked every jab and swing the orc
threw at him, slowly wearing down his opponent.
He waited until the orc had raised the axe blade
once more and charged
the foul creature. Every bit of Legolas’ memories, strengths and
combat skills had been commandeered by the evil poisons in his system.
His body reacted to his master's command as he slammed the orc
backwards off balance forcing the creature to stumble over the stones
of the fire ring and fall into the pit. As the orc tumbled
backwards into the fire the elf wrenched the axe from the creature's
hand and threw it into the beast’s chest before he had a chance to even
Legolas screamed inside his own head but no one paid
him any attention,
no one listened, no one cared and he was forced to watch in muted
silence as he walked back to the nazgul and kneeled. He spoke,
even and dead, “As you commanded, my lord.”
The orcs in the camp had grown silent at the defeat
comrade. Their tiny eyes latched onto the dark lord for
The Nazgûl’s high pitched laughter rent the
air causing icy fear
to shoot through Legolas’ soul but his body did not flinch. “Well
done, my servant. Yes, well done.” He turned his hooded
gaze on his orc minions, “Let that be a lesson to you. The elf
will come to no harm unless I say so. Understood?”
The orcs stood dumbfounded.
“Is that understood?” the wraith asked again, his
seeming to darken and grow and the lethalness in his voice was chilling
Legolas cringed inwardly. If only he could
die. He almost
did not care what happened to his shell of a body. He begged
Iluvatar to free his soul.
Aragorn had found the rocky shelf that Legolas had
made his last stand
in front of. The ranger inspected the ground about the edges of
the tiny plateau that butted up against the cliff, noting the trampled
down plant life and the very obvious prints that were uniquely
orc. But the set of boot prints he was crouched over now confused
him. Whoever had occupied this spot had stood in one place and
watched the entire proceedings of what had happened. The edges of
the imprints were deeper than those of the orcs and the boots were
oddly shaped, seeming to be of plates of metal riveted to one
another. Whomever had accompanied the orcs was also apparently
their leader for his prints had overlapped those of the orcs as they
came into the glade and they had been the last to take their leave when
the company had left with Legolas heading out in the opposite direction.
A slight chill made the ranger shudder and he
glanced around him to see
if the trees stirred from a breeze, but the glade was still, deathly
still and the feelings of lingering darkness caused thrills of fear to
skitter up his spine. Something had definitely gone wrong and his
friend had been in the middle of it. His father had been right,
something far more evil was afoot here than merely orcs.
It didn’t take him long to pick up their trail and
track the orcs
back. Their path was muddied and even after all these weeks the
grass had not grown back over their footprints as though the very
forest itself detested their presence.
Aragorn couldn’t remember ever seeing orcs this far
north and he
trailed them all afternoon, nearing their camp by sunset.
The forest grew deathly quiet around him and he
frowned as his keen
hearing picked up the sounds of many feet heading his way.
Quickly, the ranger concealed himself in the brush on the side of the
path and waited.
Several orcs stalked by his position; obviously it
was a hunting
party. But what caught his attention was the elf that walked
unbound in their midst, seemingly at ease with the foul
creatures. He was relieved that Legolas was in fact able to walk
and still alive, but puzzled at the same time. What had they done
to the prince? He needed to free his friend and quickly.
Waiting until the hunters had passed him by, the
ranger attacked them
from behind; the element of surprise was on his side as he cut down the
two creatures bringing up the rear.
The commotion Aragorn's attack had caused halted the
hunting party and
they turned in confusion towards the human.
Legolas stopped and looked over his shoulder.
In his mind he
almost cried for joy as his tortured consciousness caught a glimpse of
the human, but his body simply stood and watched the melee as his
friend slew orc after orc. The elf was so relieved that the
ranger had survived being drug over the falls that if he had been able
to he would have cried. He had never thought to see Strider again
and now he was forced to watch as orcs attacked the human
relentlessly. Unable to help, Legolas beat against the prison of
his mind until his agony had nearly numbed him senseless.
"Slave." The Nazgûl’s dark call drifted
to the elf caught
on the winds by his sharp ears. The wraith had heard the
disturbance and was coming with more orcs, "Return to me."
The elf prince turned casually and walked away from
the man who was
fighting for him, calling his name repeatedly.
Aragorn was completely surprised. He watched
as Legolas walked
away under the darkness of the trees - confusion sweeping through
him. But he had little time to ponder what was wrong as another
orc stepped near him, attempting to cleave through him with a
wicked-looking scimitar. The ranger caught the scimitar on his
spun beneath the locked weapons, sliding his sword along the length of
the blade and driving a sweeping lethal blow to his opponent's
side. The orc dropped dead to the forest floor.
Under the cover of the trees in the fading afternoon
light the wraith
watched the human as he fought with the orcs. The man's display
of lethal combat was almost as stunning as the elf's had been but not
nearly as graceful. Legolas approached his liege and inclined his
"Bring me that human, he interests me. I will return
to camp and await
Legolas nodded and walked back towards the small
open area where he had
left the orcs fighting the human, another contingent of orcs at his
As the elf stepped into the glen the ranger felled
the last of the
creatures that had rushed him. The entire hunting party lay dead
at his feet, their bodies decorating the small meadow. The ranger
was breathing heavily and his eyes widened as he saw the elf walking
"Legolas! Thank Iluvatar you are all right."
Aragorn had not
noticed the dead, glazed look his friend laid on him as he moved closer
to the elf, nor had he glimpsed the orcs that trailed the prince.
"Quickly, before more come." Aragorn spoke breathlessly as he
turned to lead his friend away. "What happened to you? When
I saw you with all those orcs..."
His question was cut off as Legolas grabbed his
wrist, stopping his
retreat. Confused, Aragorn turned back and glanced around them,
"What? What is it Legolas?"
The orcs encircled the two friends, trapping them in
area. Even though he was winded, the ranger had no doubt that he
and Legolas could take them on and escape unharmed, but when he glanced
up into the eyes of his friend his heart stopped and his mouth dropped
open in silent question.
Legolas' bright blue eyes were dead, dead and
glazed. This was
not his friend that he had known. It was Legolas’ body, but there
was no recognition in the glassy stare.
"Legolas?" The elf didn’t seem to hear Aragorn
as he pulled the
ranger with him toward the far side of the grassy meadow, his fingers
tightening on the human's.
“Legolas, what are you doing?” Aragorn gazed
worriedly between his
friend’s blank eyes and the elf’s iron grip on his wrist - dread
clawing at his heart. “What’s wrong?”
“My Lord wants to see you, you must come with us,”
tonelessly, his grip tightening even harder on the young ranger’s
arm. The orcs moved in closer.
Apprehension and wariness blossomed into near panic
in Aragorn’s chest
at the icy deadness he saw clouding his friend’s countenance. “I
did not know that the Prince of Mirkwood answered to anyone save his
father and I have not heard that he was near,” a hard edge crept into
the young man’s tone.
“When a Nazgûl calls, you do not keep him
waiting,” the iron bite
in Legolas’ voice was chilling. At that moment, the young ranger
barely recognized his friend and fear flooded through him.
Aragorn tried to wrench his arm away in horror, but
Legolas held on
tightly, spinning him around and twisting it painfully behind the
ranger’s back, refusing to set the younger being free.
“Since when do you serve the shadow of Mordor,
Legolas?!” Aragorn spat
darkly, somewhere between uncomprehending anger and breathtaking
There was no answer, but the elf started to bind the
behind him. Reacting quickly, Aragorn bent sharply forward,
ignoring the pain that shot through his twisted arm and rolled Legolas
over his back, wrenching free.
In an instant the orcs were on him. Drawing
his sword, Aragorn
crossed blades with them, whirling as he fought and dispatching two of
them. Then suddenly he was face-to-face with Legolas. For a
few split seconds, he had a clear path and could have taken the elf
down with a stroke. With any other foe, Aragorn would not have
hesitated, but this was not a foe, this was his friend... or at least
so he had thought to this point.
The Dùnadan did not strike, he could not, but
that moment of
hesitation cost him the battle. Legolas did not pause, but yanked
the sword out of the ranger’s grip and struck out with an open
palm. His blow caught Aragorn’s chin and mouth, knocking the
young man to the ground. In an instant, the remaining orcs were
on Aragorn. They bound him securely and dragged him back to his
feet, but Aragorn’s eyes never left Legolas.
“What’s happened to you, Legolas?!” Aragorn
demanded, caught between
anguish and anger. “What have they done to you?” He refused
to believe that his friend would ever willingly betray him like this,
yet the empty look in the elf prince’s eyes scared him.
Legolas did not answer, but turned away. “You
must come. He
“I’ll be damned if I will!” Aragorn exploded,
struggling like a wildcat
against the orcs that held him. He had never met one of the
legendary nine ringwraiths before and he had no desire to do so now,
especially not if they wanted to do to him whatever they had done to
Legolas stalked back to where the orcs were trying
to subdue their
“I don’t know what they did to you Legolas, but
you’ve got to snap out
of it! This isn’t you!” Aragorn pleaded desperately with his
friend. “I know who you are, you are not this darkness! You
are Prince Legolas of Mirkwood, son of King Thranduil, not the thrall
of some dark lord, not the servant of the Nazgûl! Come back
For an instant something flickered across Legolas’
eyes, something akin
to pain, anguish... but the deadness quickly took its place once again
and before Aragorn knew what had happened Legolas lashed out sharply,
striking the young ranger so hard that the world swirled black before
the Dùnadan’s eyes and he fell back in the arms of the orcs that
held him, unconscious.