I’m not afraid of tomorrow,
I’m only scared of myself,
feels like my insides are on fire,
and I’m looking through the eyes of
(“Tomorrow” -- SR-71)
Aragorn woke to find that dusk was fading and he was
being carried over
someone’s shoulder. Were it not for the pain in his head and the
fiery numbness of his bound hands he would have thought what had
happened back there in the clearing was all an incredibly bad dream,
but he knew it wasn’t.
Presently he was dropped to the ground and left
there. They still
thought him unconscious, so Aragorn lay unmoving, not anxious to let
them know otherwise, and still unsure of what exactly they wanted with
him. Darkness had fallen not long ago and the orcs who had
captured him moved about their camp, for that was obviously where he
had been taken. From under partially lidded eyes, the young
ranger watched them, but his gaze was more or less centered on the
tall, slender figure who stood out in sharp contrast to the hideousness
of the orcs around him.
Legolas moved like one in a trance, doing what he
was told, but
initiating very little action on his own.
Aragorn still ached where his friend had hit him and
he longed to know
what was going on. What had these people done to the prince to
change him so much? To make him totally forget who and what he
was? And more importantly, what could he do to get back the
Legolas that he knew and whose friendship he treasured?
The young ranger remembered the absolutely dead look
in the elf’s eyes
when he struck him down and resisted a shudder. What if there was
no way to bring him back? Aragorn clenched his jaw.
No. He refused to think of that. He refused to let that be
The young human realized that something was going on
and risked opening
his eyes a smidgen further to see what it was. Several of the
orcs had taken Legolas’ arms and were leading him somewhere. The
Nazgûl stood nearby, watching calmly with folded arms.
Aragorn knew what he was without being told. There was no
mistaking the aura of sheer horror and evil that the Witch King carried
with him like a mantle of darkness.
Legolas did not fight them, but there was a
stiffness in his movements
that suggested he would have liked to resist if he could.
The orcs guided the prince to lie on his back on the
ground and to
Aragorn’s surprise they bound his wrists and ankles, staking the elf
down firmly until he could not move on his own.
His tunic was pushed off his left shoulder and a
bandage that Aragorn
had not realized was there was removed to reveal a healing wound.
Exactly how old it was was hard to tell because elven bodies healed
more swiftly than those of men.
As Aragorn watched, the Nazgûl knelt over
Legolas and the night
seemed to darken around them like a cloud. The elf prince’s body
trembled slightly and Aragorn felt his ire rising swiftly. He
didn’t know what they were doing to his friend, but whatever it was, it
The Witch King roughly re-opened the wound as he had
every night since
Legolas had come under his power. The elf stiffened and choked
back a cry at the pain as a new trickle of red blood welled up from the
injury. He twisted weakly in his bonds, gritting his teeth
against the agony of the Nazgûl’s un-gentle ministrations, for
the flesh around the wound had become highly inflamed and incredibly
tender from the repeated treatments.
Calmly, the wraith pressed something into the
could not see what it was, but from the way Legolas’ body reacted it
must have been evil indeed.
The elf’s body spasmed and jerked, trying to pull
away, but was not
allowed to do so. He moaned softly in pain as the wraith rubbed
whatever dark herb or poultice his evil had devised into the wound,
strengthening his hold over the elf, renewing his control. The
struggle to hold Legolas was far more intense than it would have been
for a mere mortal. A human would have completely succumbed to the
wraith’s power a long time ago, but elves were strong and their spirits
hard to harness, so this was still necessary if the Nazgûl wished
to retain his control over the prince.
“You are mine...” the evil being whispered softly
over the elf.
“You hear only my voice, you think only my thoughts, you feel only the
black breath of Mordor in your body... you are mine.”
Legolas thrashed weakly, but could not fight for
followed the pain and spread slowly through his being, perhaps even
more frightening than the pain had been. When the elf stopped
fighting him, the Witch King knew that the foul medicine had done its
job. Wrapping Legolas’ shoulder up once more he moved away,
leaving the elf lying as still as death in his bonds.
Aragorn’s heart burned. If he had thought it
would do any good he
would have liked to jump to his feet, bound or no, and aid his
friend. But now was the time for cool heads, not impulsiveness
and he knew better than to act before he could hope that it would do
more than bring down more trouble on both their heads.
At least he was able to glean some small amount of
comfort from the
horrible thing he had just witnessed. Aragorn glanced sadly at
Legolas’ still form as several of the orcs knelt to cut the elf
free. Whatever they were doing to him, Legolas was still
resisting, it must not be permanent yet, or there would be no need for
what he had just witnessed. However, Aragorn feared that
something was going to have to happen soon, or it would be too late,
perhaps for both of them.
Sleep eluded the ranger throughout the remainder of
the night. He
had kept a close watch on Legolas. The elf had lain on the forest
floor without moving for the better part of the night. As the sun
barely brushed the tops of the canopy of trees Legolas had stirred, his
eyes seeking out the dark lord.
Aragorn had no idea where the wraith had secluded
itself during the
nocturnal hours. He was alerted to the evil being's approach by
intense gaze. The elf's eyes followed the dark creature as it
paced slowly through the camp towards the ranger.
Aragorn lay very still, hoping the Nazgûl
would think him still
unconscious, but his bluff was called. The wraith sniffed the air
above the man and laughed softly.
"You are awake. Good." He turned his
back on the ranger and
motioned to the orcs near the campfire. The foul creatures made
their way quickly to the wraith’s side, awaiting his commands.
Across the camp, Legolas watched with apparent
disinterest, but inside
the fear for his friend drove the captive elf into a frenzy.
The ring wraith approached the bound human once
more, eyeing him
curiously as two orcs jerked him roughly to his knees. They were
motioned away by a flick of their master’s hand.
There was something about the man that was
different, the wraith knew
it, felt it, sensed it. Could he be the one who carried the Ring,
the one long thought lost? The wraith raised his hand palm
outward towards Aragorn and concentrated.
Waves of darkness swept
around the ranger, numbing his thoughts, stealing his
consciousness. Bands of evil like steel bonds wrapped invisibly
about his chest seeming to search his being for something, something he
knew not of. He began to pant as the pressure and pain increased
and he couldn’t fight off the terrible darkness that swirled out of
control around him. Somewhere inside him, he felt a spark of
resistance welling up, ready to fight, ready to match the evil one’s
will with his own, but at the same moment something inside told him to
wait, told him now was not the time... he didn’t understand.
Unable to endure the wraith’s painful searching any longer he cried out
under the onslaught and collapsed to the forest floor.
Satisfied that the human did not carry his liege’s
Ring, or anything
else he sought, the Witch King took a different tactic with the
man. With a long slender finger he pointed at one of the
orcs. The foul creature stepped forward and bowed slightly.
“Yes, my lord.”
“I may have need of your services. Get the
human up,” the
wraith instructed calmly.
The orc pulled the man back up to his knees with one
hand. With the
other he shook out a cruel looking whip, allowing the leather strips to
fall in front of the ranger’s face as the kinks were worked out of them.
“Who are you?” the Nazgûl demanded, the hood
of his dark,
seemingly empty robes glaring straight at the young human.
Aragorn's jaw tightened but he did not flinch under
gaze. “Strider, Ranger of the North.”
The Witch King hissed shrilly and the orc standing
brought the lash in his hand down sharply across the young man's
shoulders. The many-tongued instrument raked fire across the
Dùnadan’s skin and Aragorn couldn't help jerking slightly.
“Who are you?” the question was repeated, the dark,
empty voice holding
a tone somewhere between perilous impatience and deadliness.
The young ranger schooled his features to
Ranger of the North,” he repeated tonelessly, knowing what kind of
response he would get for that.
Predictably, his words earned him another burning
cut with the
lash. Aragorn gasped slightly through his teeth and rocked
forward a little, but gave no other sign. He knew that it was not
for naught that his true identity had been hidden from even himself for
the first twenty years of his life. Elrond had fully impressed
upon him the seriousness of his situation, and the importance that the
enemy never find out his true heritage, not yet. Not until the
time was right. Aragorn was unsure that time would ever come, or
if indeed he wanted it to, but for now, it was enough for him to know
that a truthful answer to the Witch King’s question would bring about a
fate a hundred times worse than death.
The Nazgûl lord looked down at the kneeling
human with a wary
gaze. Perhaps he was just another man, although being a ranger
was cause enough for the wraith to plan a gruesome demise for him...
yet... there was something about this one. Something that smacked
of Nùmenor, something that smelled too much like elves and a
power behind the dark, determined eyes that the Witch King doubted the
young man himself even understood yet. It was... curious.
“Tell me the truth, Dùnadan, or you’ll wish
you were never
spawned,” the wraith threatened darkly, moving forward until his shadow
fell over the helpless human.
Aragorn felt an involuntary shudder run up his
spine. The mere
presence of the Nazgûl was terror, and far harder to endure than
any torture the wraith could devise.
Aragorn jerked when the whip struck him again, and a
second and third
time in rapid secession. The last two strokes drew blood and the
Witch King dropped one gloved hand down, running the sharp tips of his
fingers along the bleeding welts on his prisoner’s back.
Aragorn was not prepared for the sharp, biting agony
Nazgûl’s simple touch wrought and only half-stifled his cry of
surprise and pain at the icy needles of dread and torment that stabbed
through his already wounded flesh.
The wraith laughed softly and moved his hand away,
slump forward as if released from an electrical charge. The Witch
King’s head turned towards Legolas who stood motionless several yards
away. Glancing down at the human, the dark lord walked over to
The Nazgûl placed his bloodied hand on
Legolas’ cheek, but the
elf prince did not move or flinch, he simply stared ahead with empty
eyes. His will was not his own and he could do nothing to stop
what was happening.
“You know this man?” the wraith asked.
“Yes,” Legolas’ voice was toneless. Inside him
his heart twisted
violently and Aragorn’s blood burned against his cheek, but the
wraith’s hold over him was too strong and he could not battle himself
out of the corner he had been shut into. Some part of him
remembered who he was and he had momentary flashes of lucidity, but not
of control, and always again the black shadow would overpower him and
he would forget once more, lost in the illusion he could not
Aragorn gazed up at his one-time friend, fear
creeping into his
heart. Legolas knew full well who he was, something that was true
of very few people outside his father and brothers. At one time,
he was sure that that secret was safe with the elf prince, but now the
young ranger was sure of nothing. When Legolas looked at him, the
elf’s beautiful silver-blue eyes were dead and completely empty.
Aragorn’s heart sank.
“Then tell me my faithful servant... who is he?” the
wraith hissed, and
if you could have seen the shadow world in which he dwelt, the Witch
King was grinning evilly.
Legolas’ body stiffed slightly, as if there were a
war going on inside,
but none of this showed on his face. For a moment the elf opened
his mouth, then closed it again, his jaw trembling.
The Nazgûl leaned closer, his grip on Legolas’
painfully. His shadow engulfed the captive elf and although his
expression did not change, inside, the prince screamed in pain at the
darkness that was overrunning his will.
“He is Strider, Ranger of the North,” Legolas’ tone
was flat and dead,
but his voice trembled ever so slightly. “He is Estel, an orphan
raised in Rivendell...” the elf closed his eyes for a moment. “He
is nothing more.”
Aragorn resisted the urge to let his breath out in
Desperately, he searched for some trace of his friend in Legolas’ dead
eyes. He found none, yet he had a measure of hope now, however
slim, because for whatever reason Legolas had protected him. He
knew the Prince knew he was Aragorn, son of Arathorn, descended of
Isildur and Elendil and heir to the empty throne of Gondor but, even
though Legolas was obviously under the Witch King’s control, he had not
betrayed his friend.
The Nazgûl backhanded Legolas with enough
force to send the elf
sprawling, his studded gloves cutting the prince’s lower
lip. Legolas re-gathered himself and rose quietly back to
The wraith had no reason to doubt the prince’s
answer, thinking as he
did that Legolas was completely under his power, but there had been a
moment of hesitation in the elf’s reply and it was for that that the
Nazgûl punished him.
Having been raised in Rivendell explained the
elveness he felt about
the ranger at least, and the evil one supposed that was all that he
sensed. After all, all Dunèdain held some of the blood of
Nùmenor in their veins, curse them.
“Then we have no more use for him,” the Witch King
Pulling the long, black-handled dagger from his belt he pressed it into
Legolas’ hand, closing the elf’s fingers around the hilt. “Kill
The elf turned and walked towards the bound human.
The orcs stepped
back, smiling wickedly and laughing amongst themselves.
Legolas stepped in front of Aragorn and stopped, his
lowering to fix on the man kneeling bound in front of him.
Aragorn noted the way that the elf’s fingers
tightened around the hilt
of the dagger until his knuckles were white and trembling. There
was a war going on unseen behind those dead blue eyes but the body in
front of him betrayed none of the torment of the soul deep
inside. Slowly Legolas raised the knife into a defensive
position. He grabbed the ranger by the hair and tipped the man’s
head back, exposing his throat.
“Legolas,” Aragorn spoke softly in the grey tongue
knowing the elven
ears could hear him, “Legolas, you are my friend, I know you are in
there. Fight it - don’t listen to that creature. You are
light, you are not this darkness. Legolas...”
The blade drew closer to Aragorn’s exposed throat
and he flinched
involuntarily, closing his eyes against the sight of his friend.
If Legolas were going to kill him, he did not want the dead eyes of his
friend to be the last thing he saw.
“Please my friend, wake up.” The soft begging
tone of the human
broke the elven heart and something inside Legolas wrenched free.
“No.” The softly spoken word surprised Aragorn and
he opened his eyes
to stare at his friend.
The elf was trembling; his loyalty to the ranger
fighting the hold of
the dark lord and his entire being was in conflict. Shakily his
fingers released their death grip on the morgul blade and the knife
fell to the forest floor, his hand falling limply to his side.
“Legolas?” The ranger tried to stand to his
feet but the orcs had
noticed the change too and had rushed in to press the human back
down. Pinned under the weight of the foul creatures he couldn’t
help the elf when the Nazgûl descended on the helpless prince.
“Slave!” The hissing shriek made the hair on
Aragorn’s neck stand on
Unable to disobey, the elf turned around only to be
again by his master. The blow caused Legolas to stumble. He
caught himself against the trunk of a large tree and the wraith pursued
him, pressing the prince against the tree’s trunk. The Witch King
wrapped his hand around Legolas’ neck and pulled the elf off his feet.
The prince’s eyes widened in fear as his airway was
cut off. The
wraith’s hard glove cut deeply into the soft skin under the elf’s chin
as he was held there, suspended above the ground.
“Did you think I would tolerate disobedience?” the
wraith hissed in
anger. He turned his dark hooded face towards the orcs and called them
to him as he ripped Legolas' tunic from his shoulder, exposing his
Dropping him back to the floor he glared at the
orcs, “Bind him.”
Immediately they pulled the elf’s arms behind him,
wrapping them back
around the girth of the tree and bound him in place.
“You will obey me or you will die.” He closed
the small space
between the elf and himself, the darkness encompassed Legolas’
consciousness, compressing his will with its foul evilness. In utter
torment and darkness Legolas cried out within himself, but his body
would not respond as he struggled against the Nazgûl’s
rule. The bandage was torn from his shoulder and the Witch King
pressed the palm of his hand down against the healing scar, breaking it
mercilessly open once more.
The cry of terror and pain that was forced from the
elf’s lips ripped
through the ranger and he struggled against his bonds. Having
been momentarily forgotten by the orcs, Aragorn rolled over onto his
side, bringing his knees up to his chest and eased his bound hands from
around his back shifting his arms until his hands were in front of
him. He grasped the knife from the ground where Legolas had
dropped it and quickly severed his bonds. Jumping to his feet he
threw the blade into the back of the nearest orc that was holding
Legolas still as the ringwraith practiced his evil art on the helpless
elf, enslaving the prince to the darkness even further.
The orc fell with a shriek and his companions turned
the freed human.
Aragorn glanced around him wildly for a weapon.
There was nothing close
at hand. He looked at the fallen orc and rushed towards the dead
body, grabbing the hilt and pulling the blade from the carcass. The
ranger rolled over onto his back, using the dead orc as a brace and
fought off the first of the orcs that had reversed its course and
followed him back to their fallen comrade. The human ducked a
sweeping arc of the orc sword and thrust the blackened dagger at the
advancing creature, slicing through the monster and stopping his
attack. He kicked the dying orc away and threw the blade down
exchanging it for the creature’s own sword. With fierceness
brought on by survival instincts alone he charged his assailants,
taking them by surprise.
The ringwraith took the moment of inattention and
finished his work on
Legolas. The elf arched against his bonds, writhing with the pain
of the forced poison.
“Strider!” The word was ripped from Legolas'
throat as he suffered
through the mind-altering effects of the darkness.
Aragorn caught a parrying blow on the edge of his
sword, blocking his
attacker's advance. He spun beneath the press of the blade coming
up on the right side of the orc and drove his sword through the
creature's throat, decapitating it. The cry of his friend broke
through his battle frenzy and the ranger whipped around to see Legolas
sag against the trunk of the tree, drugged senseless once more.
He kicked an orc to his left out of his path and ran
towards the Witch
King, intent on destroying the evil being.
The Nazgûl sensed his approach and spun with
an unearthly howl,
viciously backhanding the human. The blow sent the man stumbling
and he lost his footing, falling just inches from the still burning
campfire. The sword, pried from his fingers by the force of
wraith’s strike, flew into the midst of the fire, scattering the wood
and sending sparks flying into the air. Trying to regain his
bearings, Aragorn pressed himself up unsteadily on his hands. His
fingers brushed a heated log jutting out from the fire pit.
Recoiling from the intensity of the flames, a thought struck his
subconscious and he reacted without thinking. Snatching the
burning timber from the fire he leapt to his feet as Legolas cried out
When the dark creature had swept the human out of
its path it had
redirected its anger and hatred at the elf. His orcs
could deal with the human. It would not tolerate disobedience or
treachery from its minions. Bent on the fair being's destruction,
it did not see the ranger approaching unimpeded by the scattered orcs,
until it was too late.
The witch king cut Legolas’ bonds and grabbed the
elf by his wounded
shoulder digging his long nailed fingers into the soft, newly torn
flesh. The prince cried out and his knees buckled beneath him as
pain of the evil darkness swept in agonizing waves through his
body. He only wished it would kill him and ease his
With his free hand the ringwraith grabbed a handful
of the elf’s long
blonde hair and jerked the fair being’s head back so that Legolas was
forced to stare into the faceless mask of darkness.
“I told you to kill that whelp of a human. You
belong to me, elf,
body mind and soul, you are mine and you will obey me. Do it now.”
Fear shot through every fiber in Legolas’ mind and
the dark poisons in
his systems screamed at him to obey. The force of the conflict
within him was a like a whirlwind and it tore at his mind, shredding
his thoughts and setting the very threads of his consciousness on
fire. His body shook with the effort to maintain control.
Deep within him, his loyalty flared briefly and in his last act of
defiance he fixed his eyes on the evil blank hood and replied through
gritted teeth, “Never.” The one word was a mere whisper, but the
strength in his eyes belied his body’s weakness.
The wraith drew him closer, “Then for that slave,
you will die,” it
hissed at him. The creature threw the elf hard to the
ground and pressed his pointed metal boot against the prince’s
chest. He pulled his sword from its sheath, the weapon screaming
as the blade slipped from its metal casing and held the sword above
Legolas, prepared to plunge the weapon into the elf and kill him.
“NO!” Aragorn ran towards the dark apparition;
he wouldn’t allow
the wraith to murder his friend.
The Nazgûl whipped around and glared at the
“Why don’t you kill me yourself,” the ranger growled
wraith. Taking the attention away from his wounded friend,
he circled the Witch King until he stood between the Nazgûl and
the elf. Aragorn pulled the flaming torch in front of him and
held it out towards the wraith, warding off the advancing attack.
The Witch King shrieked and retreated from the flame, seeming to shrink
in on himself. The effect of the fire on the evil being was not
lost on the ranger and he danced forward weaving the firebrand in front
of him. The wraith brought his sword up in a tight arc, trying to
get underneath the fire and cut the torch from the human’s hand.
The flat of the blade snapped sharply against Aragorn’s fingers and
with a cry he released the burning piece of wood. But the wraith
was too close and as it fell the torch brushed the edges of the
creatures black robes, setting the cloth on fire.
Screaming in anger and fear the Wraith attempted to
put the flames out
but to no avail and within moments the fire had consumed his outer
cloak. In panic the foul beast ran off into the woods
shrieking. When the orcs saw their master so easily routed they
quickly took to the forest, abandoning the wounded human and the dying
Aragorn dropped down next to the still elf
brushing the hair away from the elven face he bent close,
talking to him softly in the grey tongue.
“Legolas?” When the prince didn’t respond, the
inspected the wound to his shoulder. It was hot and ragged.
The edges of the skin were dark from the foul poison that the wraith
had injected into his body. Tendrils of black ran under the skin,
spreading away from the cut. Legolas moaned as Aragorn pressed
his hand against the elf’s shoulder feeling the heat of infection
beneath the skin. “Legolas, can you hear me?”
The elf’s eyes flicked open and he gazed unseeingly
at the human.
“I have to get you out of here.” Aragorn
glanced around them into
the forest. There was no telling how soon the wraith and his orcs would
return and the sky looked like it would open up and pour on them at any
“Can you stand?”
Legolas didn’t respond, he simply stared straight
ahead with the same
dull dead gaze that Aragorn had first seen on him.
Large drops of rain began to fall gently around
them, increasing in
frequency as the seconds ticked by. Nothing the human did
provoked any type of a response from the elf and in frustration the man
finally pulled the prince to his feet. The fire sputtered and
died out as the rain turned into a downpour.
“We have to get to shelter!” Aragorn spoke to
the elf even though
nothing he said seemed to get through to him. “Come on,
Legolas.” He grabbed the elf’s arm and drug the prince after him,
collecting his pack and his weapons on the way out of the camp.
They crested a small hill on the far side of the
glade where the wraith
had set up camp and followed the spine of the knoll as far as they
could before Legolas collapsed. Aragorn knelt over him, shielding
him from the rain. He watched in horror as the elf’s eyes rolled
back into his head and his eyelids closed.
The ranger scrambled down the opposite side of the
hill and frantically
searched the surrounding area. In moments he found what he was
looking for and ran back to his fallen friend. Lifting the elf
onto his shoulders, Aragorn stood carefully to his feet and descended
the hill once more heading straight for the partially hidden opening of
a small cave. Once inside he set the unconscious elf down on the
dry dirt floor and quickly stripped Legolas of his wet tunic.
Grabbing his pack he untied his bedroll and used the
soft fabric to dry
his friend, redressing the elf in a spare shirt to stave off the
chill. Shaking out the contents of his pack he sifted
through the assortment of things that he carried with him. He had what
he needed but did he have time? Gathering what dry branches and
leaves he could find, Aragorn started a small fire and filled the tiny
pot he carried with him with water.