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Somewhere in this darkness
There’s a light I cannot find,
Maybe it’s too far away...
Or maybe I’m just blind.
Maybe I’m just blind...
--Three Doors Down
Darkness. Light. Darkness. Sounds.
Shapes. Colors. Pain.
The world seemed two-dimensional and strange. The only thing that
was constant was the pain.
A small, dark room swayed
oddly. Miserable people in chains were packed together so close
one could barely breathe.
Hot, scorching mid-day sun and the
sneering faces of men and orcs. Dozens of slaves were being
bought and sold. He was one of them.
The lone elf attracted a lot of
attention and the orc captain who bought him had paid a pretty price to
the Corsairs who were selling.
Groggy and fighting the half-drugged unconsciousness he had long been
kept under, Legolas’ mind and memories were clouded and hazy at best,
but some things he remembered with vivid clarity.
The orcs’ hands on his arms and
shoulders as they slapped him into even heavier sets of chains; their
whips cruelly kissing his reeling body as they forced all their newly
purchased slaves to run for hours. Dropping in exhaustion only to
be kicked and clubbed, his face was rubbed in the dirt and his parched
mouth filled with choking dust.
The orcs kept the elf apart from the other slaves. He was not for
the slave farms, they said, not to be wasted chipping rock or working
furnaces; he was theirs. Their toy. That’s why they bought
Legolas’ head began to clear as the dark haze of drugged senselessness
wore slowly from his body, but even as it did, he half-wished it would
not. At least when he was drugged some part of his mind could
pretend that this was a nightmare only in which he was living, and
someday he would wake from it... but as clarity returned he became very
aware that from this dream, there was no waking. No hope of
escape. No hope of anything.
The dark creatures often pressed their captives hard, but seemed in no
great hurry themselves. Today they had made camp at noon and did
not appear interested in moving on again for reasons that the slaves
could not guess and did not care about anyway. Usually orcs
traveled almost exclusively at night, but in Mordor day and night were
often blended into one unending, gruesome twilight and the orcs
journeyed at will.
The reprieve from travel was all well and good, until the orcs became
bored. They quickly decided that most of the slaves were no
fun. They shrank in horror and started crying and shivering if
the fell creatures even looked at them. There was some sport in
that, but it grew tiring quickly. The elf on the other hand... he
was a different matter. He did not cringe from them, no matter
how much he may have wanted to do so, and his steely grey-blue eyes
refused to show emotion. That however, did not last very long.
Legolas had tried not to cry out, just on principle, but he was too run
down to be very stubborn and before long the orcs using him as a
punching bag were wringing frequent sounds of pain from his hurting
body. They beat him for no reason other than sport and delighted
in finding new and inventive ways to hurt him, telling him to get used
to it, for he could expect this sort of thing regularly now that he was
Curling over his burning ribs as much as his bonds allowed, the elf
shuddered as the big orc captain grabbed his shoulder. The
creature’s clawed fingers dug sharply into the not yet fully healed
welts left from Denethor’s questioning, which now seemed a life-age
ago. Legolas’ body was healing much slower than was normal for an
elf but, under the circumstances, that was not too surprising.
The orc rammed his fist into the helpless elf’s stomach, eliciting a
cry of breathless pain as his fingers tightened on the slave’s
shoulder, squeezing the joint so tightly that the clawed fingers left
deep bruises in the soft flesh, nearly dislocating the bones.
Running his other hand through the elf’s hair before tangling in it and
tilting the captive’s head sharply to the side the hideous creature
leaned close and whispered darkly in Legolas’ ear. It delighted
the orc to tell the slave in gruesome detail exactly what they had in
store for his future, and what it meant to be theirs.
Legolas’ ragged breathing accelerated. He shuddered helplessly,
blood running down his chin, unable to even hide the utter terror the
horrible, twisted words evoked. If there was a living hell on
earth, he had found it.
The orcs laughed at his obvious distress and the one holding his hair
knocked his head hard against the stone wall next to him.
Darkness came again as consciousness faded and the elf prince welcomed
The next thing Legolas was aware of was that murky evening had finally
fallen and with it blessed release from the torment of his captors who
were now nowhere to be seen. The elf leaned forward heavily,
allowing his wrists to hold up his weight. While he was senseless
they had apparently switched him back into the cliff-mounted manacles
they seemed to favor when camped, but they had not carried through on
any of their worst threats, not yet. He knew, however, that it
was only a matter of time.
The cool night air brushed his face gently; caressing the hot bruises
and bringing him slowly back to the moment, and the pain. He only
hoped that somehow the orcs would tire of him quickly and end his life
soon. He could take no more of their sick games and vicious
abuse. The malevolent hatred they bore him made life positively
unlivable and the elf’s spirit was withdrawing from the weary, hopeless
world he was trapped inside. He had simply been through too much
in too short a time.
The Corsairs had given Legolas precious little chance to recover from
the painful interrogation he had gone through at the hands of Denethor
and Castamir before their own rough treatment began to drain his
strength anew. In the condition he had already been in, there was
not much left to drain; and now the orcs were bent on teaching him new
and even more horrible definitions of the word pain...
The soft sounds of footsteps alerted the prince that someone was coming
and he let his head fall forward, unwilling to watch as the black
creatures returned. He could not endure much more.
Into this night I wander, it’s
morning that I dread;
Another day of knowing of the path I
fear to tread...
Stealthily, Aragorn crept into the quiet valley. Jagged crags and
rocky fissures loomed dark and foreboding in the inky starlessness of
night in Mordor. The heavy, sulfuric air did not lighten when
night fell and the moon did not appear, although the landscape grew
darker. A red, sickly glow that seemed to hover on the horizon
was the only light by which to see.
This was the one place on Middle-earth that Aragorn had never been and,
if he had had any choice, he would certainly never have come. But
somewhere in this foul land he knew that his friend Legolas, prince of
Mirkwood, was being held captive. That was an intolerable
Aragorn had left Pelagir behind and followed the Poros River into
Mordor, all the way to the loathsome slave farms surrounding the inland
sea of Nurnen. There was no doubt that this was where the Corsair
ship had docked and off-loaded its cargo, selling the unfortunates in
its hold to the motley collection of orcs and evil-looking humans who
ran this corner of the Dark Lord’s lands. The ship itself, now
empty of all but the crew, had still been in the harbor. The
hardest part had been finding out to what group the elf had been sold
after arriving here, and where they had gone.
Aragorn had known better than to tangle with orcs or Sauron’s corrupted
human thralls. The Corsairs who had done the selling, however,
were another matter. The slavers had finally divulged what they
knew, but it had taken some creative
convincing. He winced as he thought about the heavyset slave
seller he had threatened. In all honesty he would have followed
through on all his threats if the man had not confessed to having sold
Legolas to an orc group that was headed north, towards the rock
quarries and smelting furnaces closer to Barad-dûr. An elf
was a very rare slave indeed and he had unwisely bragged about the
price the prince had fetched. It had taken all of Aragorn’s
restraint not to kill the man outright, but the slaver would definitely
think twice about ever selling another Firstborn in his markets.
After finding out their direction, it hadn’t taken the ranger long to
track the orcs who had apparently bought Legolas, as well as most of
the Corsairs’ other Gondorian prisoners. The fell creatures had
tarried a small while after making their purchases apparently for,
according to the signs he followed, they only had a day or two’s head
start on him at the most.
Silently, Aragorn shifted the weight of his weapons on his back.
In addition to his own bow and quiver he carried a second parcel.
One he considered very dear. Legolas’ bow, quiver and
knives. He had liberated them out of the clutches of the same
slave traders from which he had wrung Legolas’ whereabouts. Valar
willing, he would soon be able to return them to his friend once more.
The ranger traveled through the barren wastelands silently and alone,
easily tracking the orc horde that journeyed north. They made no
effort to hide their path and seemed in no great hurry. So it was
that this evening, Aragorn finally managed to overtake the host.
When they stopped for the night he waited until the orcs left, leaving
one of their own to stand sentry. They had no reason to fear
enemies in this land. No one dared oppose them under the eye of
their lord, so their guard was lax.
With the element of surprise on his side, Aragorn’s blade cut easily
through the dark creature that had remained behind in camp, watching
over their lone prisoner and the pickets that held the other newly
Quickly Aragorn dragged the dead body out of camp, moving it behind a
rocky shoal and shoving the corpse under a shallow, natural shelf
formed by the stone. He was hoping the orcs would think nothing
of their companion being missing, and perhaps even entertain the
thought that the guard had wandered off for a moment to take care of
some bodily need. Besides, Aragorn was banking on the fact that
the slave drivers were overly confident and would never expect anyone
to ever attempt to free slaves inside the fences of Mordor. Most
orcs were not known for their great attention to detail, but the ranger
still wanted to put as much land between the campsite and he and
Legolas as quickly as he could after he rescued the elf.
Running silently back towards the camp after disposing of the body, he
approached cautiously. The human slaves on the picket lines
cringed in the nearly spent dusk, afraid of the man who had just
attacked their guard, and yet glad to see an end to one of the dark
creatures. They did not speak for fear of drawing more of
Sauron’s minions back early from their midnight errands.
The encampment was butted up against a black, looming cliff that cut
across the valley through which they traveled, hedging them in on their
left and making any escape impossible. There were only two ways
to run: south, back to the slave farms, and north to Barad-dûr,
where they were being taken anyway. Out on the wasted plains to
their right, the orcs roamed, making sure that Mordor was safe and
scouring for wood for the fires. Hopelessness was etched into
every face that turned towards Aragorn.
Pity rose in the ranger’s heart but as much as he wanted to help them,
they were not his immediate goal. His eyes fastened onto the
sight of the prisoner the orcs had singled out, the one slave that they
were keeping for themselves, for their own twisted pleasures. His
long strides took him quickly to the captive’s side.
This lone being had been separated from the others, his arms stretched
far above his head and placed in manacles that had been driven into the
rock face at his back. His booted feet barely touched the floor
of the rocky valley and his head hung forward, his unbound hair
obscuring the view of his bruised face. His breathing was shallow
and consciousness came and went. His captors had already had fun
with him earlier in the evening, that much was obvious. As night
drew on, however, they must have had other duties to be about and left
him for later.
To Legolas it felt as though breathing itself was too great a
burden. The evil of Mordor weighed down his spirit and the
brutality of his tormentors had nearly driven it from his body
altogether. He had lost hope and it seemed that his world had
narrowed down to all that was contrary to his kind. If Alcarin
had wished to send him to the worst fate possibly conceivable, he had
succeeded. If his life had been miserable before, in Gondor, it
had been nothing short of hell since the Corsairs had pressed him into
Legolas drew another ragged, labored breath. That part had been
hard. The last Corsair he had had dealings with, way back in
Dorolyn... it did not bear remembering. Fortunately the elf had
been unconscious a good deal of the time and remembered very little
before the pirates sold him into slavery to the orcs. However,
the little he did remember merely served to deepen his despair.
His Corsair captors told him that the battle he had been taken in was
lost and the Gondorian captains had been executed. He had no way
to know that the men were lying. Only a thin thread of hope that
had been stretched too far kept him hoping that Aragorn had survived
and waiting for the rescue that he feared would never come.
While it was true that elves were immortal, it was less widely known
that when sorrow had so consumed their hearts that no hope for the
future was left, the fair beings could simply give up their life of
their own free will and it was this that Legolas, heir of Thranduil,
was considering at this very moment. For the first time since he
was quite a bit younger, the elf found that he did not wish to continue
on in Middle-earth. Every breath had become a weariness and he
ached for rest he could not find.
The gentle touch of hands on his face caused the prince to flinch and
move away from whomever it was that had approached him. He could
not handle much more before his heart gave way. He was already on
the brink; the slightest push would tip the scales.
“No.” The whisper was involuntary and the elf hated the fact that
he had spoken at all, but there was nothing left in him. No
strength left to be proud or stubborn, and he was terrified of not
knowing when the orcs would demand of him that which he would rather
die than give.
“Legolas.” Aragorn’s voice was soft and wavered slightly as he
tenderly tipped the elf’s head up, brushing back the dirty, disheveled
hair, exposing the proud, bruised cheeks and pain-glazed eyes.
“It is I, Estel. The orcs are out on patrols and we need to leave
now. Can you walk my friend?” The ranger drew his breath in
with a soft hiss as Legolas gazed back at him with glazed,
uncomprehending eyes; the orcs or Corsairs must have been exceedingly
cruel and it shot a white hot blade of anger through his heart.
“Aragorn?” The elf frowned, trying to concentrate on the human,
trying to decide whether the man in front of him was real or just a
dream created by the dying desire within him to continue holding onto
life. A small rush of hope shot through his defeated heart.
Aragorn had not perished as he was told/ he knew it could not have been
The human reached above the elf’s head, trying to jerk the manacles
from the rock face, his breath warm on the prince’s face as he turned
and whispered into Legolas’ ear, “Yes, and I am going to get you out of
here, before the orcs return.”
“Can’t.” Legolas whispered breathlessly as the reality of his
situation crushed back down on him, seeming now all the more heavy and
dark for having had a momentary touch of hope. “These plains are
crawling with orcs. I already tried... we wouldn’t get far.” The fair
being’s voice was raspy from thirst and long days of making no sounds
save those of pain.
“The big one has keys... no other way.” Legolas was glad to see
his friend, relieved that Aragorn was alive... yet a heart that had no
spark left to it could not be thrust back to life so quickly and the
elf held little hope of his own escape; he knew all too well the myriad
of problems confronting such a venture. He would not see Aragorn
throw his own life away attempting the untenable.
“There’s always another way, there has to be.” Unable to pull the
chains free, Aragorn retrieved a small dagger from his boot and tried
to pick the locks, but the blade was too large to fit into the narrow
keyhole. Besides, these manacles were orc-make so their fasteners
almost always resisted attempts to be opened with ought but the key
designed for them.
Legolas was trying to get his attention, but Aragorn began chipping at
the rock face, desperate to release his friend before they both ran out
“Aragorn.” Legolas shook his head slowly, glancing at his friend
out of the corner of his eyes, “Aragorn!”
When the ranger stilled his frantic movements and stepped back in front
of the elf, he heard what had alerted the prince. The orcs were
returning. They were still a ways off, but even Aragorn’s
heightened human hearing could detect them, so they were already too
close for comfort.
“I have to get you out of here!” Aragorn desperately tried to pry
the rocks away from the huge metal bolt that held Legolas’ manacles so
firmly in place. Stepping lightly up onto a natural ledge to give
himself a better advantage, he wedged his blade into the hard rock,
trying to pry it free. They had only minutes before the orcs came
into view of the camp. Their coarse joking and talking already echoed
eerily through the small canyon.
“No. NO!” Legolas struggled against the chains that held him,
“Aragorn you can't let them take me with them again. They are not
going to turn me over to Sauron’s slave masters; they intend to keep
for their own. Please. Don’t let them.”
Jumping lightly down in front of the prince, Aragorn took the elf’s
face in his hands and drew close to the fair being. “Do not
worry, I will not leave you. We’ll get another chance to get you
free. I will get you out of here, I swear it, but you have to
promise me you will be strong and hold on for me.”
A hard knot formed in his throat as the elf slowly shook his
head. As much as he wanted to do as his friend asked, he knew it
was beyond his power. “I cannot. I cannot anymore.
Please, end it now.” Legolas asked him softly.
“I’m trying, it wont budge.” the ranger choked on the words, “I’ll get
you free I promise. I just need more time.” He attacked the
rock once more with a vengeance, pulling on the chains and digging into
the stone with his dagger. If Legolas asked him to stay then he
would face all the orcs in Mordor if necessary rather than leave the
elf alone. He had never seen Legolas this hopeless and
frightened. It burned his heart.
“It is not possible, there are too many and we are in their lands,
their stronghold. Mordor.” He uttered the word like a
curse. “Do not leave me to them; do not let them find me alive
when they return.” The prince’s hoarse voice was earnest.
“What are you asking me?” Aragorn looked swiftly over his
shoulder; the shuffling gait of the orcs could be clearly heard.
A cold knot formed in his stomach as the ranger glanced back at his
friend and noticed for the first time that the elf’s light was very
dim... no, it wasn’t just dim. It was gone. He could see in
Legolas’ eyes that the prince had already given up and a swell of
heartache made his throat burn. “No, my friend, don’t worry. If
you ask it I will stay and fight them. I swear I’ll not leave you.”
“I’m not asking you to stay with me Aragorn, I’m asking you to end it.”
Legolas’ tone was frighteningly calm and yet heartbreakingly
pleading. “End this nightmare for me now, before it becomes more
than I can bear. Please, Estel.”
Realizing finally what the elf really meant the ranger shook his head
in denial. “No... Legolas, you cannot ask me to-”
“But I do! Please Estel, give me this last gift. Let it be by
your hand, not by theirs once I am broken. If you have ever loved
me, end this.”
“I intend to, but not that way.” Tears welled unbidden in
Aragorn’s eyes. Frustration at his own helplessness and the fear
of losing his friend were overwhelming. His voice trembled
slightly. He could not do this. He could not take the life
of his best friend. His heart would break...
“No. Now, mellon-nín.
Now. Before they return. Use your bow.” The elf’s
eyes were locked desperately on the ranger’s. “I am ready, but I cannot
endure with them any longer. It is time for me to go, my spirit
has become too weary, I cannot abide here anymore. Please help
me. Free me. Do not leave me here with them. Do not
leave me at their mercy again. They are orcs; you know what they
will do to me as an elf. If you have ever been my friend you will
do this for me. Please, do not make me beg you.” Tears fell
quietly from the elf’s huge eyes. Aragorn knew he was already
The ranger simply shook his head as the elf implored him to end his
life. How could he refuse such a plea? And yet how could he
honor it? Aragorn couldn’t breathe. He had told Legolas not
so very long ago that he had never seen the elf take a hurt that went
beyond his body to wound his spirit, but when he looked in the prince’s
eyes now, pain and hopelessness were all that was there. Was it
possible? Was his friend really so far gone that life could not
hold joy for him anymore? He had heard Elladan and Elrohir speak
of their mother and how that had happened to her... Oh Valar, no, not
Legolas... not by his hand... If it was mercy it was a cruel one.
“Listen to me, there is no other way. Do it now!! They
return!” Legolas’ silently mouthed the word ‘please’, terror
springing fresh into his despairing, hurting eyes. He feared what
this night might bring a hundred times more than he feared the unknown
realm of death.
Aragorn gazed into the deep blue eyes and noted the dark weariness that
threatened his friend’s life. He had seen the elf through many
life-threatening injuries but, at this moment, seeing Legolas’ eyes
totally devoid of any spark of life or hope, he had never been more
afraid of losing the prince. He knew elves would give up life if
sorrow overwhelmed them and he could tell that Legolas had given in and
was on the brink. The abuse at the hands of the Gondorians and
then the Corsairs, not to mention what horrors the orcs had in store
for him were too much and his friend was going to leave this world with
or without his help. The only question was how much pain the elf
had to suffer through before he found that escape.
“Please...” Legolas’ hopeless eyes begged for a merciful release.
Stepping back, the human blinked away the tears falling freely down his
cheeks. Unslinging his bow he quickly strung an arrow, aiming for
Legolas’ heart. He knew that if this arrow flew, he would kill
part of himself as well. He would forever have blood on his hands
that a river of tears could never wash away. “Legolas...” he
breathed, his voice hitching, agonized.
“Please!” Legolas mouthed the word again, his gaze silently imploring
his friend to not force him to continue to beg, but to let him go with
some dignity left.
Aragorn closed his eyes and drew the bowstring back, his heart tearing
in two with the motion. “Forgive