It’s such a privilege for me to give
this gift to you,
All I’d ever hope you’d give me in
Is to know that you’ll be there to do
the same for me,
When the tables turn.
--Steven Curtis Chapman
Even though it was only early in the morning the pair of refugees was
worn out, wearied from the continual heat and the press of evil that
occupied the land they were trapped in. They had been walking all
night taking advantage of what coolness the darkness offered.
Amazingly, Mordor did not stir in the darkened hours and their progress
had been uninhibited.
They had encountered little in the dry, dead wastes over the duration
of their long trek. How long it had been they couldn’t even say
anymore. Time seemed to stop and blend together here as did night
and day, fusing into one, long, horrible endlessness with nothing to
break its monotony. There were few signs of life, fewer trees...
and no water.
Now and then they saw orc patrols crisscrossing the terrain and had to
hide. To their great annoyance, they were aware every now and
again that the orc patrol they had escaped from before was still on
their heels. Or at least some of them were. The fugitives
had avoided even letting their hunters get near them thus far, but it
was a constant hassle and the two friends could not believe that the
dark creatures were this stubborn. They did not seem to know the
meaning of the word ‘give up’.
Ahead, the parched land shimmered slightly and the cracks fused
together as they ran down a shallow bank towards where had once been a
small pool of water. Butthat pond had now dried up into
almost nothing more than a cracked indentation in the ground.
“I need to rest for a moment,” Aragorn mumbled as he staggered towards
the edges of the small pond and sank down beside the thin shimmer of
water that yet remained in the bottom of the stagnant pool.
Their own water had run out two days ago and they had been on
incredibly short rations before that. Aragorn’s mouth was dry and
thick feeling; his head reeled slightly from the dehydration that was
taking hold of him.
Legolas flopped down next to the human, his eyes intently scanning the
valley floor for any movement. He was thirsty, but his body had
begun to regain a little of its former strength as he started to heal
and could still outlast a human’s.
When the chain rattled between them and he felt Aragorn moving behind
him he shifted his arm back to give the man more freedom to move
around. He wasn’t paying attention to what the ranger was up to
as he caught his breath and watched the valley floor lighten as the sun
rose in the east.
Quiet sounds behind the elf caught his attention and he rolled over
quickly; Aragorn was drinking from the pool behind them.
“Strider!” Legolas grabbed the chain that bound them and jerked
the man backwards away from the shallow, muddy hole. “What are
you doing?” The elf knelt over the water and smelled it, while
holding the ranger back with his right hand. He grimaced as the
odor of staleness wafted up to him.
Aragorn wiped his mouth on his sleeve and frowned at the elf.
Pushing himself back away from the edge of the pond, Legolas knelt in
front of Aragorn, matching the frown on the human’s face.
“You drank that?” Legolas pointed at the water. When Aragorn
glanced at the pool behind the elf he continued, “You are a
You could not tell that that water is foul?”
Aragorn met the elf’s gaze hesitantly. What he knew with his head
and what his body demanded were two different things. Wagering
death from dehydration against water-poisoning was a tricky proposition
however. He swallowed hard, licking his lips and testing the
taste in his mouth. “It does leave a nasty aftertaste in my
mouth. Are you sure?” The ranger tried to lean over and
smell the water but the elf restrained him.
“I’m not going to drink from it again!” Aragorn protested as Legolas
touched the back of his fingers to the ranger’s forehead.
“I can’t believe you did that!” Legolas sighed heavily.
“You will be lucky if you aren’t sick in a few hours. Can you
“Can I throw up?” Aragorn stared incredulously at the elf, “No, I
can’t throw up! I don’t feel sick. I can’t throw up if I’m
not sick. It’s not just something we humans do you know.” The
ranger was angry with himself. He should have known better, he
should have paid attention, he should have not taken the chance.
He was tired and thirsty and his senses were dulled. He was sick
of this place. It clogged one's brain like dust clogged the
airways, making everything difficult. Trying to support Legolas’
often depressed moods and his own battle against the elements had
completely worn him out.
Legolas sat a foot away from him, staring at the ranger, not answering
the angry tirade.
After a few moments the man spoke up. “I’m sorry,” Aragorn
whispered with a sigh. “I was just really thirsty and I wasn’t much
paying attention...well fine, I wasn’t paying attention at all,” he
confessed, highly disturbed by his own carelessness. “It’s this
place. I hate it here.”
“I know.” Legolas glanced over their shoulder as the sound of
rocks skittering down the high walls resounded quietly through the
“Do you really think it’s poisoned?”
Glancing back at the ranger, Legolas shook his head slowly. “Poisoned
no, but foul, yes. It may make you sick and we have nothing to
counter it with. We’ll need to find you clean water and
“Good luck there.” Aragorn swept his arm around them before
letting it fall into his lap dejectedly. The water had left an
even worse taste in his mouth now and he regretted his actions a bit
too late. Perfect. He’d made a mistake he would have
upbraided one of his greenest new recruits for back when he was a
in Gondor. Legolas was right: this place turned people into
strange, muddled versions of themselves and that was not pleasant.
Legolas shifted his gaze and swept the area behind them again as the
slight sounds of rocks falling from heights once more caught his
attention. “We cannot linger. We are not alone, I fear. Let
us get as far from here as possible until you are unable to travel
well, if that should happen. I pray the Valar that you will not
fall ill, but I am expecting it.”
Nodding in resignation and not arguing with the gloomy prognosis, which
was no more than his own experience told him, Aragorn shifted stiffly
to his knees and gained his feet. He followed dejectedly after
the elf, silently berating himself as they walked steadily towards the
shadow of the stone fence that surrounded the forsaken land.
“Just wait until your brothers hear about this,” Legolas jested
lightly, trying to pick their mood back up again. “A ranger who can’t
take of himself, or tell foul water from fresh...”
“They will not hear, not a
word of it.” Aragorn jerked the
chain between them lightly. “Do you understand? Are you listening
Legolas feigned disinterest as though he had not heard a word that the
human had spoken, eliciting a snort of derision from the ranger.
“Right, with ears like that...” Aragorn let the taunt fall,
laughing as the elf turned a glower in his direction.
“Elf,” the ranger growled back at him good naturedly, giving Legolas a
shove and unbalancing him slightly much to the prince’s amusement.
The wasted desert region of Mordor, known as Gorgoroth, ‘place of very
great dread’, was living up to its name, Legolas thought darkly, as he
plodded slowly on, his right hand tightly grasping Aragorn’s forearm,
steadying the ranger. Even without the direct light from the sun,
the air they breathed was hot and thick. The heat of the noon day
became trapped beneath the ash laden clouds that layered the valley and
made their progress slow, belaboring even the elf as they walked nearer
to the blackened hulk of Ephel Dúath. The hopeless of the
land wore on the travelers.
The poisons in the fetid, stagnant pool that the ranger had drunk from
earlier in the day were beginning to take their toll on him and he
lagged behind a pace. Legolas knew they had only one option now:
they would have to find a way through the walls of Mordor and reach the
outside if the ranger was to recover from the poisoning. They
could not afford to try to go any further north, they had to find a way
out now. Therefore they
had to endure the risks of leaving the
rocky, uneven ranges they had been hiding in and cross the great,
wide-open valleys that led into the foothills of the mountains.
Every pond they passed here in the wretched wastelands was unfit for
drinking; there was no fresh water to be had anywhere. Neither
had they seen any trace of the orcs that had dogged their steps so
tenaciously thus far. The heat and the deadness of the land about
them dulled their senses and they were not prepared for the stealth,
nor the suddenness of their enemies’ attack.
Wiping blonde strands of hair from his face, Legolas slowed his pace to
accommodate the human. Aragorn walked silently next to the elf,
his right arm held tightly about his mid-section. His leather
coat was tied off around his waist; it was much too hot to wear
it. The ranger felt as if he had a fever and that made the heat
so much worse. He tensed with the nausea and ache that came and
went in severity like waves of sickness threatening to overcome
him. Concentrating solely on breathing and walking, the ill
feelings had so consumed Aragorn’s attention that he was caught totally
off guard when Legolas stopped. Faltering midstep, the elf
pressed his eyes tightly shut as he bit back a groan.
“Legolas?” Aragorn moved around his friend and stood in front of
the elf, shaking the prince gently by the shoulders when he didn’t
respond. “What is it?”
Legolas had frozen. A sudden wave of dread had fallen upon his
heart like a curtain over the sun. With a cry the prince dropped
to his knees, his right hand jerking Aragorn down with him as the elf
grabbed his left shoulder.
Unable to understand the source of his friend’s pain, Aragorn leaned
over Legolas, quietly speaking to him in elvish and attempting to pry
the prince’s fingers from his shoulder. At first Aragorn thought
that Legolas had somehow been shot, but there didn’t seem to be
anything physically wrong with the elf. The source of his pain
escaped Aragorn, and yet the prince was obviously hurting.
The ranger glanced around them quickly. There was no one to be
seen, nothing stirred and even the winds brought no sound of
threat. “Legolas, tell me what it is, mellon-nín, or I
cannot help you.” He could not get the elf to look at him and his
Legolas’ eyes flew open, reflecting sheer terror and surprise as he
glanced over Aragorn’s back. Pulling the human down towards him, the
elf forcefully jerked the chain that attached them and grabbed the
ranger’s head, covering it with his hands as he rolled them to the
ground, trying to protect the man.
But he was not fast enough.
Hot, fiery pain lanced across Aragorn’s back and an inhuman scream
echoed in his ears, emanating inches from his face as he was knocked to
the ground by a heavy weight descending upon him from behind. Teeth
ripped through his clothing, tearing into his flesh as he felt Legolas
pull him down and roll them both away. The sound of his shirt
ripping seared through his consciousness as a blast of hot wind swept
past them, leaving a trail of fear in its wake.
“What?” Aragorn barely whispered, rolling to his side and glancing
quickly above them. He was horrified to see a large, black winged
creature, like nothing he had ever witnessed before, wheel away from
their position and climb back into the sooty, grey sky, its evil,
keening cry echoed by a sound that sent shivers of dark fear skittering
down his spine – the shrieking call of an Ulairé.
They had been discovered by a mounted wraith.
Trying to see the damage done to his back, Aragorn twisted around,
grabbing a fistful of the tattered outer tunic he wore, but his
actions were stopped as Legolas stood to his feet, his eyes riveted on
the dark creature wheeling around overhead... and the one who rode
Fire and determination warred with utter horror as the elf watched the
wraith and its mount circling back towards them. He knew who it
was that had found them, knew it with deadly certainty, for this one
was his former dark master; the Witch-king that had tried to enslave
his soul. The familiar touch of that evil was unmistakable and
sent shivers running down his spine. That was why his shoulder
hurt; it ached in memory, pained by the very presence of the one
who had inflicted the wound so long ago and tried to control him
The great, winged beast swooped low over the escaped prisoners' heads,
trumpeting a loud roar. It was alerting the orc patrols on the
ground as to the slaves’ position. The two fugitives wanted to
run, wanted to hide... but in this open, empty wasteland there seemed
to be nowhere to go. The wraith did not come down again to attack
them directly, but seemed content to circle, waiting for the minions it
summoned on the ground to do the dirty work.
“They are still looking for us,” Legolas spoke quietly. Aragorn
glanced from his friend to the sky once more, trying to understand what
had happened. Legolas carefully removed his hand from his
shoulder, checking to see if the old, vanished scar had actually
reopened, it pained him that much. There was no blood, no tear in
his shirt or skin when he looked further, only the memory of the pain
“What is wrong?” Aragorn watched the elf curiously, looking over his
shoulder from time to time at the sky as the dark creature and its
master circled high over them. “What is it?” He focused back on the elf
and when he could get no answer from the prince, the ranger began
gently pushing the fair being in front of him, away from the open area
where they were so vulnerable. “We need to get to shelter. Come
The wraith saw the two beings below begin to run and
altered his plans, completing his wide arc and swooping back towards
“The Witch-king... My shoulder, it is where he cut me. His
presence... hurts.” The elf ground out the words as though even
speaking them was difficult. He stumbled back next to the ranger,
following him numbly.
“It must be because we are in Mordor. It has never bothered you
before.” Aragorn glanced behind them, expecting an orc patrol to come
into sight at any moment. His vision blurred but he pressed
“No, it is his presence.” Legolas stopped and turned his gaze
skyward. “It is him.”
Understanding finally dawned on Aragorn and he stared stunned at the
dark rider. “Then we have to get out of here.” He stumbled
forward as spasms caught his insides, causing him to double over.
Unwilling to be caught by the ringwraith or the orcs, he pulled
Legolas with him. “Quickly, we need to draw closer to the
mountains; the wraith will be unable to attack us from that
position. The creature he rides cannot reach us in their
The elf, however, was no longer listening to his human companion.
Anger flared in his heart and he jerked his friend to a stop, pulling
the unwilling ranger back out onto the flat desert plain. Open
defiance flared in his blue eyes and he stiffly unshouldered his
bow. Aragorn stared open-mouthed at the elf, vainly questioning
his friend’s intentions – they were clear...
Legolas was baiting the wraith.
“Legolas?” Aragorn stepped closer to the elf, positioning himself
behind the prince, tensing in anticipation as the wraith’s mount turned
on his wingtip and headed straight for them.
“This ends now. I will not be frightened, I will not be beaten, I
will not accept this dark invasion of my soul. I’m not running
anymore,” Legolas whispered softly in elvish, speaking as if to
himself. The feelings of fear that had trapped him moments ago
seemed a culmination of everything he had been suffering through since
he was brought to Mordor, and they were emotions that he would tolerate
no longer. The wraith was not his master and never would
be. The darkness would never have him, nor his spirit: not by
force, and not by his placid
consent to simply roll over and die
rather than fight with everything he had left in him.
The evil beast the witch king rode opened its mouth, unleashing a
fearful screaming roar as it dove towards the two fugitives.
“Aragorn!” Legolas called out, readying the ranger as the wraith drew
“I’m here,” the human answered softly, moving in tandem with the
chained prince’s motions. If it had been anyone other than
Legolas, he would have called the idea insane and would be pulling the
with him to the safety of Mordor’s mountain fence. But Aragorn
could see the set of the elven jaw, the defiance that sparked in his
deep blue eyes, and watched carefully for the tell-tale signs of when
he would reach back for the arrows. It was as if Legolas were
visibly casting off some kind of dark chain of despair upon his soul
that had troubled him since the day Aragorn had rescued him.
Somehow, this was important.
The dark creature was almost upon them when Legolas reached over his
head, grasping the arrow shaft Aragorn readied for him and fired at the
mount, slicing through the taut wing membrane and piercing its
The creature screamed, back-beating the air and moving out of range of
the small projectiles. It hissed angrily as the wraith nudged the
beast’s long neck with its pointed metal boots, trying to drive the
creature down towards the two figures. He had recognized the elf
and the elf’s human companion as well, and his black heart wanted
revenge. Elves have long memories; wraiths had longer ones.
“Two, Aragorn, now!” Legolas called to the ranger as he reached
over his head, his fingers brushing the fletchings. The human’s
fingertips left the shafts just as the elf grabbed the arrows and
rapidly fired them at one time, piercing the top wingbone of the
wraith's mount and fracturing the thick supporting bone.
The creature’s wing dropped uselessly to its side and its cries of pain
shook the wasteland. Circling clumsily, the dark beast caught an
updraft from the heated air and wheeled off to the right, heading back
towards the lone peak of Orodruin despite its rider’s wishes.
Echoes of the wraith’s angry cries reverberated through the canyon and
Legolas moaned softly in pain, grabbing his shoulder once more, nearly
dropping his bow. Those bold shots had cost him dearly, but they
were worth the price.
Stepping quickly forward, Aragorn tore his gaze from the dark,
retreating forms; he could just barely make out the creature’s shape as
it fell from the sky. Gently taking Legolas’ weapon from his
he helped the elf over to a small rock, pressing him down upon it and
crouching in front of him.
Before the prince could answer, a lone trumpet blast sounded to the
south of them. Their position had been made by the orc patrols - it was
Aragorn trembled slightly as he glanced swiftly back the way they had
come. He felt awful and knew he was at his limit, but
the alert from the hunting party meant the valley would be swarming
with orcs in minutes. There would be no rest for them yet,
especially if they did not want to have come all this way merely to be
trapped as on their previous escape attempt.
Ignoring the human’s concerns for his well-being, Legolas stood shakily
to his feet and scanned the area for any place to escape their
pursuers. An oddly shaped boulder protruded from the ground at an
awkward angle behind them, near the rising stone fence. Quickly
he led the ranger into the scant cover of its shadow. Here, this
close to the Ephel Duath, the area was strewn with boulders and broken
stones, large shards of rocks that had crumbled from the face of the
interior mountain fence.
Running next to the elf, Aragorn tripped, stumbling to his knees, and
didn’t rise. His back was on fire where the wraith’s mount had
torn him and he could feel the bile rising in his throat once
more. He tried to ignore his illness but it had caught up with
him and, combined with his injuries, it was threatening to overwhelm
The sounds of the hunting party could now be heard as the pack of orcs
ran towards their position. They were out of time and found
themselves in a cruel reversal of their previous failed attempt.
This time it was Aragorn who could barely go on.
Stopping, Legolas quickly but gently tilted the man’s face up, noting
the glassy stare and the heavy, labored breathing. Aragorn needed
attention, but there was nothing he could do out here in the open. If
they were caught, they would not live through their captor’s wrath, of
that he was certain.
Pulling Aragorn to his feet once more, the elf forced him behind a
rock, easing him down in the cool shadow it cast and warily scanned the
sky for any sign of more of the mounted wraiths.
There were none. The one carrying the Witch-king had fallen and would
not rise any time soon. If there were any other wraiths even
present, it would seem that they had left the task of capturing the
prisoners to the orcs. Legolas prayed they would not be
successful as he tried to calm his breathing, crouching down next to
Aragorn and resting against the jagged boulder they were hiding
behind. The elf’s heart still hammered in his chest and he tried
unsuccessfully to ignore the pain in his shoulder as it slowly faded to
a dull ache.
Beside him Aragorn crouched miserably, leaning heavily against the
rockface and concentrating on breathing. He moaned softly and bit
back the dry heaves that threatened him.
Glancing at the ranger, Legolas could see that the man was perspiring
heavily and his face was flushed. Gently he slid his hand under
the drenched locks of dark hair and pressed his palm against the
human’s forehead. Aragorn did not fight him or move away; he
simply closed his eyes and grit his teeth as a wave of nausea swept
over him. The unnatural heat of a fever warmed the elf’s fingers
and he nodded to himself, suspicions confirmed.
“I wish I had died from lack of water instead of this,” the
ranger mumbled darkly.
“I know, but this will pass.” Legolas smiled softly at his friend,
gently laying his left hand on the ranger’s shoulder as he crouched in
front of the man. He knew that they had little time before
Aragorn would be unable to travel. They needed to find shelter
and clean fresh water, preferably far out of the reach of the orcs
A shout to their left startled the prince and he sprang lightly to his
feet, careful of the chain that bound them so he would not force
Aragorn to move with him. Leaning over the ranger and peering
around the side of the rock he spied an orc troop heading slowly their
way. A lone orc preceded the company, carefully inspecting the
hard packed earth – a tracker.
Their trail had been picked up; their secrecy was lost.
There were precious few hiding places this far north in Mordor.
The spires of Minas Morgul towered over them in the not so distant
distance, casting long shadows across the valley as the sun raced
overhead above them in the sky. The north-westernmost edges of
Ephel Dúath rose sharply on their left. The elf surmised
that the large, oddly shaped boulder they took refuge behind had fallen
from the very mountain fence itself eons ago.
The sounds of the approaching orcs diminished in the elven awareness as
Legolas searched his memories. Childhood stories really, myths... tales
told to keep wayward elflings in line... the stories chased through his
thoughts. He smiled slightly to himself as his mind turned back
the years and he could almost hear Raniean repeating the story to he
and Trelan, a story that the older elf’s brother had told him one night
to scare the young elflings. It had worked... but that wasn’t why
the memory came back to Legolas now. No, it was the subject of
that particular story...
In the ages past when even the elves were new to Middle-earth, there
lived an Ainu, named Ungoliant, who had taken up the form of a creature
of spider-shape. Separating herself from the others of her race
she had turned aside and followed Melkor, becoming his accomplice, and
through her the offspring that haunted the lower reaches of Mirkwood
had been birthed.
Some of her children, or so the tales were told, had drifted from
living near the nest. Although the insects were usually of a hive
nature there were a few who ventured out on their own over the
years. One such bold creature was called Shelob. Her
exploits were unrecorded and little was known of her save that she had
found Mordor and a secret passage that ran through the mountain fence
surrounding it, making her home in the labyrinth of tunnels known as
Cirith Ungol. There she lived and from there she terrorized the
surrounding areas, coming out in the dark moonless nights and stalking
the forests for her prey, for little ventured through the tunnels she
called her home... Legolas could almost exactly recall the way Raniean
had jumped at Trelan when he told them that bit, making the smaller elf
start almost three feet off the ground.
Raniean had said that his brother told him that if one were wise and
paid attention to the signs they could actually traverse the tangled
maze of Cirith Ungol and come and go without the dark lord's
knowledge... if they could escape the giant spider guardian. How
a place could ever exist within this evil land and not fall within
Sauron's knowledge was beyond Legolas' comprehension, but if the tales
were true and not just campfire stories that young elflings in
spider-infested woods told to scare one another...
...if they were true then it was in this passage that their last hope
lay, for their route northward had been cut off by Sauron’s minions and
they must either find a way out, or perish right here.
A shout rose from the orcs; the escaped slaves had been found.
"Aragorn, come now." Legolas pulled the human to his feet, trying
to ignore the ranger as he moaned, staggering upright. The elf
slipped his hands under the man’s armpits as best he could and hauled
him to his feet. They were out of time. The pounding of the
orcs' pursuit thrummed in the rocky floor beneath
them. Legolas didn’t even spare their pursuers a glance as he ran
towards the mountain fence trying to judge their position against the
long, dark shadow of Minas Morgul. If the tales were correct,
were close to those dark and hidden paths now, if only he could find
them in time...
It was all Aragorn could do to keep up with the elf. He chanced a
look over his shoulder and stumbled hard. The dark creatures that
chased them were nearly upon them. Legolas was pulled back by the
ranger’s weight as he fumbled to follow the prince. Trying to be
as gentle as possible, but moving quickly, Legolas wrapped his right
arm under Aragorn's left and lifted the man up, pulling him against his
side and half dragged, half forced the ranger to run with him to the
small, angled crack in the wall that he had spotted moments ago.
"Legolas, the orcs!" Aragorn panted heavily, leaning on his
companion. Fear spiked through him as the evil creatures' shouts
and yelling grew louder. They were right on their heels.
"I know. Trust me," the elf whispered breathlessly. The
vertical crevice he had seen from afar loomed larger. It looked
as though at some point in the past a great earthquake had shook the
very foundations of the mountains in this place and split them apart at
the base. The dark crack in the mountain-fence held a sense of
evil that made the elf's heart recoil, but he pressed on.
Easing sideways he ducked down, passing through the larger part of the
narrow opening and dragging Aragorn in after him.
The passage was dark and littered with obstacles; the walls were narrow
and slimy from the condensation that collected in them. Their
pace, hampered by the constricted tunnels, slowed, and Aragorn pressed
closely to the elf that led him as the sounds of their pursuers,
magnified by the confines of the tunnel, echoed loudly in their
Legolas glanced over his shoulder at the human that followed him;
Aragorn's eyes were large in the dim light the elf shed. It was
difficult for the prince to walk with his right hand behind him,
chained to his companion. He was forced to rely solely on his
left hand to sense any obstructions that might block their path.
The elf concentrated on the light that emanated from him naturally,
trying to brighten their dank surroundings with his glow. Trying not to think about the darkness,
the feel of evil or the walls of
cracked and broken stone pressing down from above and in from the
The short tunnel they were running in dumped out into a spacious
cavern. Two of the three exits that marked the cave had been
blocked by debris and cave-ins. Legolas led them straight for the
dark opening directly ahead. They could not slow down and had no
time to catch their breath as orcs poured into the cavern behind
them. The evil beings were used to dark spaces and their eyes
easily adjusted to the gloom that shrouded the cave. However, a
number of their company had quickly scavenged for torches and passed
the flaming branches up the tunnel as they ran. The firelight
cast eerie shadows on the rough walls reaching towards the two that
fled deeper into the bowels of Cirith Ungol.
The tunnel they stumbled through felt odd to the elf. The sounds
of their footfalls were muted and the rocky surface was not hard under
his boot heels. Reaching his hand out cautiously, the elf's
fingers caught in a tangle of sticky fibers, breaking the fragile
threads. Slowing their steps, Legolas glanced into the gloom
of them, his every sense suddenly alert. He recognized this
stringy, sticky substance easily; any Mirkwood elf would.
Something was close, something knew there were others about and, though
it had not yet woken, its slumber was light; its awareness of them was
waking. Legolas could feel it in the air; he could sense it in
the rocks themselves. When his leg brushed a thick, sticky
tendril he froze in his steps, catching Aragorn and holding him
"Shhh...be very still." The elf pressed his free hand against the
ranger’s mouth, whispering quietly to him, "Here, sit for a moment. I
have a plan." Gently, he pushed the human to the ground, ignoring
the ranger’s quiet protests and questions as he stepped over Aragorn so
that he stood on the man's right, forcing the ranger to cross his left
hand over his chest to accommodate the elf. He would need to time
Carefully turning back towards the way they had been headed, the elf
brightened his glow. Just as he had surmised, the soft blue light
caught and fractured jewel-like on a huge silver web that had been spun
across the tunnel's width. The beaded joints of the silver
threading glittered in the darkness like precious stones strung on a
necklace. Like an intricate, worked metal brooch, the webbing
covered every inch of the passage except for a two-foot space at the
bottom of the path where the tough silky strings drew up from the
tension, too taut to close off the passageway. In some ways
this area was similar to Tairach’s lair that Legolas and Aragorn had
destroyed many years ago in Mirkwood, and yet it was also quite
different. The creature that made this web was more cunning in
its design and a greater sense of evil lingered here.
The web was empty, but its crafter was close.
Too weary from running and too sick to put up much of a fight, Aragorn
slumped sideways against Legolas' leg and rested, his breath coming in
ragged gasps. He hadn’t noticed the nearly invisible trap that hung
behind him. He heard the elf slowly unsheathe one of his elven
blades, but had no time to ask what the prince was up to as the tunnel
he faced filled with orcs.
Seeing their prey stopped and thinking they were trapped, the orcs
shouted in glee, pouring into the passageway, too intent on their
success at recapturing the two slaves for their own good.
Legolas slipped the razor sharp edge of his blade against a thick,
sticky cord that ran from one side of the tunnel into a small alcove on
their right. He knew a thing or two about spiders and had a
fairly good idea of just what lay sleeping in that darkened recess; he
was banking on it in fact.
The orcs came in, spilling down the corridor, intent on their prey, the
light of their torches illuminating the tunnel and making the web
nearly invisible in the yellow glow.
Legolas stood perfectly still in the middle of the path, his chained
hand gently resting on Aragorn’s head, his other hand tensing on the
hilt of the blade lying against the taut webbing. He couldn’t
move too soon or the spider would only see him and the human and they
would not be able to escape her. He would have to wait until the
last possible moment.
The orcs came closer and closer, not even giving a thought as to why
the elf would be waiting for them to catch up. Their proximity was
alarming to Aragorn and he glanced up at Legolas, trying to gain his
feet, but the elf held him gently down, hazarding a quick glance at the
It was evident that the ranger was frightened; he knew he didn’t have
strength to fend off the dark tide that surged forward.
“Do not be afraid, no matter what happens. Follow my lead. Keep
your eyes on me. Do you understand me, Aragorn?” Legolas
whispered to the man, knowing the sight of the large arachnid would
throw the human off as he had not had the chance to tell the ranger of
his intent, and their last experience with spiders had not gone
Sleeping soundly in her hidden nest, Shelob never heard the converging
throng that headed her way, for the great spiders do not hear in the
way other animals do. Rather they sense the vibrations of their prey
when the unwitting souls stumble into their nest. Her front
appendages lay across the thread that Legolas broke in one swift
The orcs had come close enough that they had very nearly taken hold of
the two escaped slaves. Legolas jerked his blade through the
thread of webbing, setting up a resonance within the strands of the
Shelob jerked awake, alerted by the vibrations, and scuttled quickly
out of the alcove in the side of the wall, leaping out onto her web,
massive body causing the netting to bow under her slightly as she
tensed, eager to trap her prey.
Legolas dropped to the floor of the tunnel, pulling Aragorn down with
him, their arms tangled together and caught in the chain that bound
them. The elf heard the frightened gasp from the man next to him
and held Aragorn down as the ranger caught sight of the spider,
recoiling from the dark hulk of her body. Partly shielding the
human with his own body, Legolas forced Aragorn flat to his belly on
floor of the cavern and frantically pulled the man with him.
“Aragorn, follow me!”
Wriggling underneath the bottom of the webbing, the prince pulled his
friend through with him, yelling to the ranger to follow him and
emulate his moves, trying to make his voice heard over the chaos that
broke out in the tunnel behind them.
The orcs were so intent on recapturing the elf and the human that the
ones in the forefront slammed into the web as Shelob sprang into its
center. The sight of the dark beast threw them into a panic, but
their thrashing only helped to ensnare them further.
The web bowed under the combined weight of the trapped orcs and the
great spider. The bottommost strand caught fast to Aragorn’s
boot. He jerked backwards as the sticky netting bounced upward,
pulling his leg with it, and he cried out in surprise as he found he
could not break free.