Siege of Dread
Chapter 10: Unraveling
I can feel my heart beating faster
I can tell something’s coming down
But if it’s gonna make me grow stronger then...
Bring it on
Let the lightning flash,
let the thunder roll,
let the storm winds blow...
Bring it on
Let the trouble come,
let the hard rain fall,
let it make me strong
Bring it on.
--Steven Curtis Chapman
“Peace, Legolas,” another, similar voice replied as two hooded and
cloaked elves stepped into the light. The dim glow they shed was
completely covered by the dark, velvet cloaks they wore.
“Elladan?” Aragorn stood to his feet as first one then the other
shed their hoods revealing the dark-haired twins that he had feared
lost to him forever.
“We heard you talking about us, little brother, and came to make sure you
could find your way home,” Elrohir teased as he stepped into the
human’s embrace. There had been a few long minutes when he had
thought he would never see the human again.
Ignoring the comments, Aragorn pulled his brother tightly against him,
breathing in deeply and trying to still the emotions that raged inside
of him. He had not wanted to believe his brothers lost and relief
washed through his weary heart as he spoke softly into his brother’s
ear, “I thought you were dead.”
Elrohir smirked slightly. “Fortunately our supposed demise was
not as certain as our enemies might have hoped... Although it was a
near thing,” he commented in a softer tone as he saw his younger
brother’s eyes straying in concern to the long, jagged cuts that ran
down the side of his face and neck. Elrohir unconsciously touched
the wounds. “It’s all right, Estel, El already cleaned them, they
“What happened?” Aragorn wanted to know as he turned and hugged Elladan
as well. Elladan had also obviously been hurt, although less
visibly. When he embraced Aragorn it could be seen that his right
forearm was bandaged.
“We were stupid enough to walk into an orc trap is what happened,”
Elladan came down hard on himself as usual. His eyes turned
distant. He had honestly thought that he and Elrohir were as good
as dead when the trap dropped out from under them.
//The two elves fell into the
darkness. Elladan crashed into a thicket of sharp-tipped spears,
snapping several of the shafts where he struck them. The elf felt
a sharp, biting pain in his arm and side as he finally crashed to the
ground. Elrohir landed almost on top of him. The pit was
deep, far deeper than was necessary, but the orcs seemed to think that
deeper was better.
For a moment the twins were too
stunned from the fall to move. An orc head blocked out some of
the fading light from the mouth of the hole far above.
“They dead?” a voice asked.
“Don’t know...” the orc looking down
had trouble telling from the top. The twins lay in a tangled
jumble of broken spears and spreading blood. “They look
dead, but we can’t take no chances...” the dark creature edged over the
lip and began trying to climb down the side of the hole.
Elladan felt Elrohir begin to stir against him.
“Shhh... don’t move,” he whispered
almost soundlessly into his brother’s ear, hoping that Elrohir could
hear him. He knew they would never make it out of this pit alive
if they had to try to fight the orcs down here, with so many of them
out there. Right now playing dead was their best option.
Elrohir stilled and did not move
again. Elladan hoped that most of the blood he could dimly see
around them was coming from the throbbing gash across his inner arm and
that none of it was his brother’s. From the way they lay, he could
not see if his brother was hurt or how badly. At least they had
managed to avoid being impaled.
The orc attempting to climb down slid
on the loose dirt walls, discovering that the trap had been a little
too well made. With a shrieking squeal the creature lost his
handhold and fell backward into the trap. He was less fortunate
than the twins. One of the spears jabbed into his back, skewering
through the orc’s body.
The creature screamed and flailed,
snapping the spear and throwing himself sideways. Unfortunately
this only threw him onto two more of the wicked projectiles. One
of them pierced his dark heart and he finally went still.
Elladan tried not to breathe because he feared he would gag as the putrid scent of orc blood filled the air.
The orcs above swore loudly and there
seemed to be a scuffle as the orc in charge tried to get someone else
to go down for the bodies.
“I ain’t going down there! They’re dead, let ‘em be!”
“MAGGOT! I’m not going back to
Guruth empty-handed or not able to say for sure that they's dead.
Now you get your worthless carcass down there or I’ll throw you down!”
Apparently the orcs did not have any
rope with them, Elladan thought numbly. He wanted to shift and
put some pressure on his freely bleeding injury, but he dared not.
Finally another orc appeared over the
rim of the pit and reluctantly began climbing cautiously down into the
deep hole that they were no doubt regretting was so deep now.
This one made it to the bottom of the
pit, stepping dispassionately over the broken body of his fallen
comrade. The punctured body had muddied the bottom of the pit in
dark blood, lending more finality to the scene of carnage.
Picking his way around the spears
that had not yet been broken or knocked down, the orc crouched by the
two unmoving elves. Elrohir was on top and the orc roughly jerked
the elf’s head up. Head wounds bleed prodigiously and Elrohir had
several. The fair being’s face was smeared with enough blood to
make it look as if his whole head could have been broken open.
The orc smiled as it pressed its filthy, gnarled hand under Elrohir’s nose to see if he drew breath.
Elrohir held his breath and remained limp, intentionally slowing his heart and doing his best to feign death.
Grunting, the orc rose, picking up
the elves’ weapons from where they had fallen a few feet away.
Tossing them up to his companions topside, the creature flung them out
of the pit.
“They’re dead. I say we take these back as tokens for Guruth, and let them rot like they deserve,” he called up.
“Nothing doing. You bring the
bodies up like you were told. Hurry up, we haven’t got all bloody
day!” his superior snarled from overhead.
The orc muttered dark curses under his breath and hoisted Elrohir none-to-gently onto his back.
It was all Elrohir could do to not wince and remain limp.
Elladan felt sick when the orc picked
up his brother. If they were carried out of the pit, they could
only take this ruse so far... although at least once they were out he
supposed they stood a better chance.
The orc found it difficult trying to
climb out of the pit with his new burden and panted dark curses the
whole way as he slowly edged up the steep sides. Finally he
reached the top.
“Give me a hand here you lazy wor-”
the snarled insult to his companions was never finished. From the
bottom of the pit, Elladan couldn’t see what happened, but somehow the
earth the orc had his feet braced against simply crumbled.
Weighted down with his load, the orc scrabbled to hold onto the edge,
but without success. Half a moment later he was tumbling back
into the pit, taking Elrohir on another downward journey with him.
They bounced off the pit wall and
landed with a crash at the bottom. There was no shriek this
time. The orc was killed instantly, his body pierced and his neck
Elrohir was lighter and that was an
advantage, but he still hit hard, his skull impacting against the
earthy stones at the bottom of the pit and momentarily stunning
him. The orc broke most of the spears in their path and that was
the only thing that saved him.
Elladan felt his heart stop
beating. Elrohir lay on his face several paces away, partially
draped over the orc’s broken body. One bloody spear protruded
from the back of his brother’s cloak.
Shouts from above heralded the dismay
of the orcs at this turn of events and a lot of shouting broke out
about whether anyone else was going to go down into the death trap.
“I ain’t going down there, I don’t
care what you say! You want the whole lot of us to end up a great
bloody lot of carrion on spits? A nice prize for the vultures
that’d be! Look at ‘em, the bloody worms is obviously dead. If
they weren’t before they are now,” one orc gestured down at Elrohir’s
seemingly impaled form. “I say we take the swords and go back
home. There’s nothing more to do here.”
Because no one wanted to be the next
to go down into the pit that had already claimed two of their kind, the
majority of orcs sided with that opinion and eventually Elladan’s keen
ears heard the horde move away.
Not wanting to risk moving too soon,
Elladan remained motionless for many long minutes until he was
convinced that no one was going to change their minds and come back.
Shifting to his hands and knees he
dizzily gripped his arm, stanching the blood flow. Scrambling
over to his brother’s side he gently and worriedly touched his
shoulder, trying to turn Elrohir over.
“El? El are you all
right? Oh Valar...” he murmured, frightened by the shaft that
seemed to be protruding from his twin’s body.
Elrohir moaned and shook his head,
shaking his hair out of his eyes, although the dark locks continued to
cling to the blood matting the side of his face. He grinned up
into his brother’s face nevertheless.
“Just a little stiff,” Elrohir
returned quietly. “It could have been worse.” He tried to
sit up only to find himself pinned by the shaft through his
cloak. Lifting his arm he stared a little wide-eyed as he
realized that the spear had passed just under his armpit, between his
arm and his body. A little higher or to either side and he would
have been seriously hurt. As it was, all it had done was graze his
side and go through his cloak.
Elladan helped his brother pull his cloak free and agreed quietly. “A lot worse.”//
“Elladan?” Aragorn’s concerned voice shook the elder twin out of his
memories and Elladan realized that he had been lost in his own thoughts
for a moment.
“Are you all right, truly?” the ranger’s eyes narrowed in trepidation
at his brother’s lapse in attention. “I was so worried... I
didn’t want to believe them when they said you were both gone, but they
were so sure it was you...”
“Who? Estel who are you talking about?” Elladan grasped
Legolas' forearm in greeting as he questioned his sibling. “How
did you get out here?”
“The orcs,” Legolas answered for his friend, his eyes shadowed.
“We stumbled upon their lair,” Aragorn continued, still distressed over
recent events. “We found a back door they do not know about but
we must hurry; we have no time to spare. They have father, and
King Thranduil is with them as well. By some miracle the orcs are
leaving them alone tonight but it will not last. Come! Quickly!”
He tugged at Elrohir’s sleeve trying to pull the elf with him.
“Estel, what are you talking about?” Elladan questioned, trying to
figure out how Legolas’ father had ended up in this conversation.
“You’ve seen Father, you know where he is?” Elrohir asked, disbelieving. His eyes filled with concern and dread.
“Wait a minute,” Elladan was catching up slowly with the conversation,
“You saw father, you were in Daradwayn and escaped? How?”
“What do you mean Thranduil is with him?” Elrohir frowned at the ranger, glancing between Aragorn and Legolas.
Legolas held up a hand for silence, “Please, let us explain. Estel...” the prince pointed at his friend to continue.
“We were chased by the wargs into the basin at the fall’s head.
There was a dwarven water tunnel behind the falls, just like the ones
that father used to tell us about. We followed it to an
underground lake, and from there to a room filled with orcs and wargs,
the same ones that attacked Rivendell. They have Father and they
also have Thranduil, how we do not know. They must have overrun
Imladris to capture Ada, but as for why Thranduil is here...” Aragorn
shrugged and glanced at Legolas who merely shook his head.
“It is doubtful they attacked Mirkwood as well; that is much too far a
journey from here. Perhaps they were on their way to visit
us...? It does not matter now. What does matter is that we
were able to escape through a back door that the dwarves had carved; it
is sealed by elven magic. I doubt the orcs even know it is there.
We can use it to access the tunnels once more and free Ada!”
Aragorn’s explanation tumbled out quickly. His heart was still
aching at having left Elrond unconscious and in the grip of orcs who
were obviously tormenting him. He was anxious to get back.
If his brothers were here, then the odds were improved enough to
attempt a rescue, in his mind at least.
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged odd glances; the news seemed to hold no
surprise for them. They realized that Aragorn, having not been
present, had no idea what had happened at home. Elrohir gently
removed the ranger’s hand from his arm as Elladan quietly addressed
“Yes, the orcs did overrun Imladris. They could not get past us
in battle, but a small, secret force invaded the valley while we were
all drawn off. Some of the household staff were killed and
Celboril was badly injured... I hope he will survive, but I do not
know. You and Legolas must return home and help Glorfindel see to
the wounded, Estel, there are many. Elrohir and I will continue
Aragorn shook his head incredulously. “Don’t be ridiculous, El. We
stand a much better chance together. Why do you think Legolas and I
came looking for help in the first place?”
Elladan was not about to budge. “No, Estel, you’re going home. It’s best. Please trust us.”
Elrohir flipped his hood back over his face and pulled his cloak
tightly about him. “We will return to you if we are able.”
Taken back by the strange change in their manner and the suddenly cold
tone of his brother’s voices, Aragorn glanced between the twins before
turning a puzzled look on Legolas.
“I’ll not be returning without my father,” the elf prince replied in a
tone just as cool as that with which the other two elf lords had
dismissed him. He did not understand what was going on, or the
twins’ sudden reluctance to allow them to help. He respected
Elladan and Elrohir, but they were not his big brothers, or his lords. They had absolutely no say over his actions and the prince
did not take kindly to their behaving as if they did.
“You cannot go with us,” Elrohir replied quietly, trying to soften the
blow. “You do not understand. This was started a long time ago
and is something that only Elladan and I can finish.”
“That’s not true.” Aragorn stepped forward, trying to glimpse his
brother’s eyes. Something was not right. “Besides, you
can’t just ignore the fact that however it has come to pass, Legolas’
father is involved now as well. We can help you; we know where
the back door is! It will take all of us to free our fathers, but
we can do it if we work together.”
“This is not your fight,” Elladan replied. He would not meet the
human’s questioning gaze. He wouldn’t take his little brother
into this mess that they had started. “It is ours. It
always has been. We think that things die and are forgotten, but
they are not, maybe they never can be. That seems to be what this
whole bloody affair has been to prove. Those orcs asked for
something and they’re going to get it,” his voice was tense with barely
compressed anger. “I’m sure Legolas will do as he pleases,
although I wish to goodness he would go back with you. But I will
not have you mixed up in this little brother. It is not your
Legolas stepped back, realizing that this was suddenly a very personal
family fight. He had no intention of leaving his father with the
orcs or of relying solely upon the elven twins to free them, but he knew
better than to intrude into the siblings’ quarrel as Aragorn’s tone of
voice dropped and he drew closer to his brothers.
“This is about Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen isn’t it?” Aragorn asked
darkly. “I know the stories, but that was long ago and the
situation was different. I am telling you, there are too many and
with prisoners they have the advantage. You cannot just walk in
there and expect to walk out again. We need to work together!”
“You don’t understand, Estel, this is beyond you. It is something that
we should have taken care of long ago.” Elrohir knew the human
would not understand and tried to soften what Aragorn perceived as
rejection and foolishness.
“It is insanity!” Aragorn’s voice raised a notch in volume, “I have
seen what waits for you; you cannot do it alone. What do you
think, that I cannot handle myself? Do you know how many wars I
have been through now? I am not just your little brother anymore;
I can help you. Why won’t you listen to me?!”
Estel reached out and touched Elladan’s arm, trying to soften his voice
and his frustration. He could tell his brothers were
hurting. “I know what this place must bring back, I know what you
are up against, but this is not just your fight anymore. There is
Legolas and his father to think of and you have me now. It is
different; you don’t have to do it alone this time. I know it
hurts, but the dead can rest if you let them.”
“No, no, Estel, you don't know!” Elladan said sharply, his eyes
simmering with a burning rage Aragorn had never seen in their lively,
grey depths before, and certainly never seen directed at himself.
“You speak of a past you cannot possibly know or understand. You
have no idea! You weren't there! You weren't even
born! You’ve heard stories, but you didn’t see it! You
didn’t carry your mother’s torn body out of that orch-hole! You
didn’t feel her sobbing and shaking in your arms, cringing even from
the touch of her own sons! You didn’t see Father nearly destroy
himself to save her... only to find that he couldn’t save her, not
where it mattered.” Elladan shrugged off his human brother’s touch
roughly. “I won’t lose Father that way and I won’t lose you
either. You are a liability we cannot afford, Estel. You
will be no help where we are going. You don't know what they'll
do, what they’ve done!”
No one spoke for several seconds and the look of hurt on the ranger's
face nearly broke Legolas’ heart. Aragorn opened his mouth to
speak but no words came out. He shook his head slowly as he tried
to get his breathing under control, tried to hide his emotions.
He was unsuccessful. He knew Elladan. He knew that the
elder twin lashed out, sometimes violently, when he was scared and
hurting. But that didn’t make the stinging, verbal slap to the
face that his brother had just delivered hurt any less.
The human glanced over at Legolas and the elf could see the tears
threatening to spill over. The prince knew that the ranger held
closely to his heart all that his brothers said, more than perhaps they
Aragorn's soft words surprised them all. “Yes. Oh, yes I do
know.” His voice wavered with intense emotion as he continued.
“Because if they can make an elf whom you know is stronger than you can
ever hope to be, beg for death from the hand of a loved one rather than
face them again, they are incapable of no small cruelty. I have
seen more of orc brutality than I ever dreamed possible.”
Legolas did not flinch at the reference, his eyes reflecting his steady
compassion on what the three brothers were going through. It was
true. Orcs had nearly broken him and Estel had been treated to
the full horror of that fact. It made his heart ache to consider
Lady Celebrían in their hands, although he had barely known
her... and even more so Lord Elrond, who he had by now come to know and
respect so well.
Aragorn swallowed hard as he glanced back at Elladan, “I may not know
first-hand what they did to Mother. I may not have seen it with
my eyes, but I have seen it in your eyes, in the fears that haunt you
still whether you want to acknowledge them or not. It is there in
the shadow that passes over your souls any time that orcs are
mentioned. I have seen the scars you carry that you try so hard
to hide.” He touched his heart and looked over to where Elrohir
stood; the elf's eyes were large in the starlight and filled with pain.
“Did you think I would never hear the stories?” Aragorn’s voice was
quiet now, and gentle. “Or that I wouldn’t put it together?
Do you honestly think I don’t know who Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen are?”
The ranger locked his eyes on Elladan’s, “Sword of Dread...” before
turning to stare at Elrohir as he whispered the twins’ pseudonyms,
“Bane of Orcs.”
Surprise and shock registered on the elven faces as they listened to
the human recount their hidden history. It was well known that
the twins had rescued their mother, and had taken to orc hunting and
riding with the Dunèdain after her departure. Yet little
was said of it in the Last Homely house. The casual listener,
such as Legolas had been, did not usually make the connection between
these facts and the dark and bloody tales of Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen
whose exploits were told only as ‘long ago’ and not set in a specific
“I have heard the stories told round many a campfire and not only elven
ones either. Halbarad filled me in on the details many years ago;
the tales of the Dunèdain do not forget the identity of the two
elves that rode with them, nor their mighty deeds. I know of the
fire in your blood and what put it there. I know more than you
give me credit for; you are not the only ones to have suffered at their
Elrohir found the emotions that pounded in his heart alien and
startling. Perhaps it was a foolish wish, but they had never
wanted their little brother to know the depth of the deadly rage that
had consumed them after they had brought their broken mother home. He
feared what Estel would think of them after hearing of their ruthless
killing sprees. It was one thing to say that they had hunted
orcs... it was another to know the details. To know how far it
They had driven every one of the evil creatures from the mountains that
surrounded them, from here to the Redhorn pass: hunting them down,
killing them with out mercy, pursuing them relentlessly... taking
pleasure in their deaths. The hatred for the vile beasts had
culminated and hardened when their mother had left for the Undying
Lands. Her loss was more than they could bear and they lashed out
in the only way that they knew how.
Elrond had not restrained them. He had been so lost in his own
grief that he did not see what was happening to their hearts, or that
just retribution was turning into something that was eating them alive,
and so the twins had gone unchecked. It had been many years now
and yet the renewed pain felt as familiar as if it had all been just
yesterday; the memories were so clear. He slowly removed his hood
and stared at the human before him.
No one in Rivendell considered the twins to be killers for what they had done, no one save the twins themselves.
Neither Elrohir nor Elladan regretted killing all those orcs. The
creatures were evil and had to be destroyed. In fact they
regretted now that they had obviously missed some. The truth was
they would do it again if the situation were repeated... and yet they
desperately did not want to revisit those dark places in their souls
where killing had ceased to be protective or necessary and had become
something satisfying. The shame of how close they had walked to
the edge in those dark days was a blot on their memories... and yet
they knew it was all right there, a righteous anger waiting to turn
into dark vengeance as this new pain ripped old wounds wide open once
more, viciously tearing sensitive hearts that could not take the loss
of another parent in the same cruel manner.
As though reading their thoughts, Aragorn continued, his voice even
softer now, “I knew it was you when first I heard the tales, even when
I was very young. I was so proud of you both and so saddened that
you were hurt in such a way. You are not murderers. Your
spirits are gentle, I know your hearts.” The ranger stepped forward and
pressed the palm of his left hand against Elrohir's chest. “The
free peoples do not fear you, but the spawn of Mordor has good cause
to. Yes, I know what they have done and what they are capable of.
I see the scars of it in my family every day and I hate them for it as
much as you do.”
The human could see his brothers feared his condemnation, but how could
he ever think that of them? He knew that, as always, they judged
themselves and their own failings far too harshly. Orcs were not
like other creatures that one might have pity upon; they were bred in
malice and wholly evil. They were creations of darkness and there was
no redemption possible for them.
The soft light of the moon traced the tear tracks down Aragorn's face
as he stared at his older brothers. “I am very afraid of what they will
do to Father and I was unable to
stop them when I had the chance,” the ranger admitted brokenly.
He still felt guilty about being stuck under a mountain when his family
needed him, and then for having to leave Elrond behind in the
Tears glistened on Elrohir's cheeks as he pulled Estel against him.
Elladan swallowed roughly, touching Aragorn’s shoulder. “I am
frightened too,” the elf admitted quietly. “More than I have ever
been and I took out it on you, as I too often do. I did not mean
what I said.” Elladan laid his hand on Aragorn's back as he
leaned against his brothers, his forehead resting gently on Elrohir's
temple. Quietly he asked for forgiveness, “I am sorry, please
forgive me, Estel. I should not have called you a liability... I
simply do not want to lose you too. I-I... I do not think I can
walk this road again,” he admitted in a shame-filled whisper.
“None of us want that, El,” Aragorn nodded against his brother’s
shoulder, reaching out his arm and pulling Elladan in tighter. He
was well acquainted with his elder brother’s protective streak.
Elladan pressed his eyes shut. “No, Estel, I mean, I really cannot,” his soft words had turned hoarse, tortured with the emotion
he was trying to hide. The elder twin felt as if he were toppling
towards a void. Since his mother’s brutal torture, he had only
felt something akin to this once before: when a demented man named
Mannyn, hell-bent on revenge against Aragorn, had nearly caused the
slow and painful death of his youngest brother. Elrond had seen
that rage building in his son again and reached out to help him.
In the end Elladan had pulled himself back from the brink of the
abyss. Elrond’s calming presence and love had always been there
to bring Elladan back... until now. Some part of the elder twin’s
heart was filled with the fear that he was not strong enough to weather
a second loss of this nature. He feared he would lose himself in
“Then it is true?” The soft question startled the small family
and Aragorn looked over his shoulder at Legolas. The elf prince
stood staring at the twins with an oddly disturbing, open gaze. So
many things that had been puzzling about this entire affair made sense
now. “Aragorn, why did you not tell me?”
“I’m sorry Legolas, it-” The ranger started to explain his silence on
the subject, but Elladan interrupted and spoke for him.
“It was not Estel’s story to tell. I think you can understand,
Legolas, when I say that there are some things which are left silent by
those that know the truth, either from love, or respect.”
Legolas did understand, only too well. When he first met Aragorn
many years ago, he had been shocked to find that a stranger from
Imladris had heard more about his past in Dorolyn than his own people
were allowed to recount. It was easy to consider something
forgotten if it was unspoken, whether it truly was forgotten or not,
but it was the fact that Elladan and Elrohir’s stories had not been
unspoken, merely changed, that puzzled the prince.
“Yes, the tales are told,” Elladan answered the prince’s unvoiced
question. “We don’t learn from the past if it is hidden, although
long ago the storytellers started changing the names and details, using
what the orcs called us instead of our proper names out of respect for
our wish to forget that part of our lives. Some find the stories
inspiring I suppose, many call Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen heroes.”
The older elf smiled at his human brother. “But I like to think
that usually, when the story is repeated, it is for the training of the
younger generation... so they do not have to follow the same hard roads
to understanding that we did in our younger years.”
Elrohir took over the explanation at this point, “They are considered
part of the songs of the glory days of the elves but there was no glory
in them. Not from our point of view. They were dark days
full of sorrow and hatred and they nearly consumed our family.”
The younger of the twins turned to the human and smiled softly.
“It was on one such excursion to eliminate a small resurgence in the
orcs near Rivendell that we found Estel. His presence under our roof
did much to heal our hearts.”
“Our people say that Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen are dead because we
chose to let them be no more. I suppose El and I almost let
ourselves believe it was true. Let them die with the stories...
it was easier somehow. They are times that we would forget but
cannot. I am Dehlfalhen and I cannot change that.”
Elladan finished the retelling quietly, his gaze searching the ranger’s
and the prince’s. He looked for condemnation for their
self-perceived wrongs, but found none.
“Then it is time that we put them truly to rest,” Legolas spoke
softly. “We all have secrets that we pray the Valar protect, but I
think it is Ilúvatar’s will that these things come out into the
open that they may be healed, and sometimes healing can only come
through another.” He glanced meaningfully at Aragorn. The
ranger nodded in answer, knowing exactly what the elf was talking
about. It had taken them years to fully heal from all the
emotional scars that decorated their hearts and through their mutual
friendship they had begun to bring about a restoration in the world of
elves and men.
“If that is the case,” Aragorn smiled at the elves, “and I think that
it is, then you will be needing help.” Crossing his arms
resolutely he glared at the twins. “So, shall we lead you to the
back door of Daradwayn? Or would you like to go looking for it
A short chuckle from Elrohir broke the uncomfortable silence,
shattering the awkwardness of long-kept secrets that were now
exposed. “By all means,” he answered, grabbing the younger human
in a headlock and dragging him out of the clearing as they headed for
the base of the mountain. Laughter echoed in the small meadow and
the night seemed to lighten ever so slightly.
They walked for a few moments before Legolas stopped them. “Daradwayn is not as stable as it once was.” He glanced between
the elves and the ranger as he worked through his thoughts. His
words tumbled out quickly. “There are far too many orcs and wargs
and in that cavern for the four of us to survive battle with.
“But you have a better idea don’t you?” Aragorn stepped closer to
his friend, his mind running swiftly down the same paths as the
elf’s. “What if we use the orcs against themselves?”
“Exactly!” Legolas nodded, their thoughts merging into the same battle strategies.
“What are you two thinking?” Elladan glanced between the friends,
his brow furrowed. People said that he and Elrohir were bad about
finishing one another’s thoughts and leaving others out of the
conversation, but Estel and Legolas could be just as problematic.
“Daradwayn was affected by the earthquake we had some years ago.
Do you remember it?” Aragorn turned to his brothers, explaining
what he and Legolas were thinking. When they nodded he continued,
“The interior of the cavern withstood the quake, but there was damage.”
“Perhaps exterior damage as well if we are fortunate. It is not
as stable as it was in the days of the dwarves.” Legolas injected.
“You are thinking of Moria aren’t you?” Aragorn questioned him further.
“Yes. Moria and Shellen’s Fallow actually. Do you still
remember what Balin, Rorin and the dwarves taught us?” Now the
prince and the human were talking simply to one another. Their
close association over the long years had bred in them the familiar
ability to understand what the other was thinking often with just a
glance or a motion.
“Yes, I remember, and if there is a distraction within for long enough
we can de-stabilize the entrance to the cavern.” A thin, humorless
smile spread across his face as Aragorn talked over the plan with
Legolas. “And if we can draw part of them out, we can use their
own traps against them.” He remembered that the orc scouts
had mentioned setting traps around the perimeter. “They were set
for the two of you, to trap you. But we can change that and make
them lethal and turn the orcs into them.” He glanced between his
Elladan and Elrohir raised their eyebrows. Oh yes, they were well aware of these orcs’ penchant for making traps.
“Legolas can show you the back door and get you inside. Then you
must wait and stay hidden so he and I can work on the cavern from the
outside. When we are through we will draw as many as we can out
the front before bringing down the caves. As soon as the
commotion starts, you must free Father and KIng Thranduil and escape
out the back, the way you’ll have come in.”
“That doesn’t leave much room for error does it?” Legolas questioned softly.
“No.” Aragorn glanced at the twins, his gaze full of the questions he could not bring himself to ask.
“We can do it,” Elladan replied confidently. “If you get us in
and distract them, we will free our fathers and take down their den.”
“Daradwayn will be no more.” Elrohir whispered. He nodded slowly when Elladan glanced at him.
“Then it is settled.” Legolas led them back through the trees, running
at a slow pace as he spoke. “I will get you inside and then it
will take Estel and I a bit more time to set up things from our
side. So you’ll need to wait for us.”
“We will wait,” Elrohir answered, his voice echoed by his brother who added softly, “Unless things get out of control.”
The prince stopped at the side of the mountain near what appeared to be
new growth in between the remnants of an old rockslide. The white
fletchings of his arrow were buried in the long grasses that grew up
the side of the mountain. “Then we shall pray that they don’t.”
With a soft command from the prince, the door swung silently
open. The twins eyed him oddly at what he had said to open it,
but Legolas just shrugged. They weren’t his doors; he couldn’t
help what they considered passwords. The twins walked cautiously
inside, drawing their weapons as they passed into the tunnel.
Aragorn grasped Legolas’ forearm.
“I will find their traps and mark them for you. Look for me above
the entrance and hurry quickly, I will need your help.” Aragorn
tightened his grip on the elf’s arm.
“I will show them what they need to know and join you soon,
mellon-nín.” With a nod and a small smile, Legolas entered
the mountain passage after the twins. At his bidding the door
resealed itself and Aragorn found himself suddenly alone.
It took a lot longer to cover the distance between the front of the
cave and the back from the outside than it did from the inside. Aragorn
hurried to cover the distance as quickly as he could. The
orc traps were difficult to locate in the dark, but once he got there,
Aragorn methodically swept the forest in front of the cave
opening. Most of the contraptions were ill-made and hastily
thrown together. It did not take long to move and re-rig the
snares so that instead of catching the foot of an elf, the length of
black rope would pull taut at the snap of a twig and catch the
unsuspecting wayfarer at the neck. An orc running through the
forest could easily snap his neck on such a trap now that they no
longer knew where they were.
Suddenly Aragorn pressed himself close to the ground, letting his dark
overcoat blend with the surrounding night. He held his breath as
an orc sentry stalked past. It was the fourth one he’d had to
dodge while going about his work. These orcs were more watchful
than most he’d dealt with, but the ranger was very good at staying
under their scope of attention nonetheless.
There were several traps in the form of intentional rockslides near the
sides of the cave opening. Aragorn moved the triggering
mechanisms and easily overloaded them until their payload was
lethal. Nets strung between small saplings, bent to near breaking
and used as springs, were replaced with quickly fashioned wooden spears
that the ranger had created by using downed branches and breaking them
to produce sharp tips.
Pits that had been dug and marked by the orcs were re-camouflaged by
the human and the orcs' own markings erased so the black creatures would
fall prey to their own evil devices.
The only traps that the ranger had not been able to turn useful were
three strange mires he had encountered. Apparently, holes had
been dug into the ground and were filled with a foul mixture of the
orcs' own creation: mud diluted and mixed with water, sand and forest
debris. The result created a highly unstable patch of ground that
had been cleverly covered with leaves and fronds to hide its
existence. Aragorn had accidentally stepped into one such patch
of concealed mud, having totally missed the tell-tale signs that the
trap existed, so well covered it had been. Immediately the thick,
barely congealed concoction shifted beneath him, throwing the ranger
off balance and sucking him in, covering his leg up to mid-thigh before
he even realized what had happened. Had he stepped onto the trap
with both feet he would have been pulled under with no hope of escape.
Throwing himself down onto the ground behind him, he twisted around
until he lay on his stomach. Catching hold of a low growing tree
branch he had been just able to pull himself out of the quagmire.
For several minutes he simply stared at the black pit of faintly
rippling mud. The silt calmed almost immediately, the leaves
trapped on its surface once again hiding the trap and making it appear
as though it were simply part of the forest floor. Never had he
encountered such a thing, not even in his time among the orcs in Mordor.
Cleaning the mud off his boot and legging as best he could, Aragorn
quickly began marking off the perimeter of the unnatural bog. It
would do them no good if Legolas or one of his brothers fell into the
pit in the chaos that would ensue after the escape was begun. He
found two more of the insidious pits at strategic locations around the
cave’s entrance. It hadn’t taken him long to recognize them once
he had known what to look for and he marked them quickly with a pattern
of stones and leaves that only his brothers and Legolas would
Making his way back to the first sinking pit he had found, Aragorn
began to grow concerned about Legolas. The prince should have joined
him by now. They needed to start working on how to bring the cave
entrance down. He had a pretty good idea about how to proceed,
having staked the whole area out, but he would need help for his plan
to work before the night was over.
A soft glow through the trees, barely perceptible to one who was not
looking for it, drew the ranger’s attention and he darted forward to
Legolas crept through the night-darkened forest easily, his eyes and
ears long accustomed to such forays. The darkness no longer held
any terror or obstacle for the elf. The nights were as simple to
walk through as the days. The trees about him spoke to him of
roots to watch out for, the rivers sang of their expanses and the night
winds brought him the scents of his enemies hidden in the mountains,
and the smells so familiar to him of the person that he sought.
Aragorn was close and approaching from the west. The elf turned
towards the path the human was on and picked up his pace.
The ranger realized with growing horror that Legolas was headed
straight for one of the orcs’ quagmire pits. He reached the far
side of the covered pit and skidded to a stop. The elf was
halfway across the orc trap. A smile spread over the elf’s face
saw his friend and he slowed his step.
The smile on Legolas’ face slipped as the ranger stared in shock at him.
“What is it?” The elf ran lightly toward his friend, his feet barely
touching the top of the sticky mud below. The coagulated silt
stuck to the bottom of his boots and he noticed for the first time that
something wasn’t right. Picking up one foot Legolas frowned as
the mud below him made a sucking sound, slipping stickily from his
shoe. “What is this?”
“Legolas!” Leaning out Aragorn grabbed the prince by the arm, jerking
him away from the pit and putting them both safely out of harm’s
way. “What were you thinking?”
“What are you talking about?” Legolas questioned, as he looked over his
shoulder, watching as the ground undulated oddly before settling back,
its deceptive layer of forest debris giving a false sense of steady
ground beneath. “What was that?”
“Are you all right?” Aragorn was having a hard time accepting
what had just occurred. He had fully expected to watch as his
friend fell into the pit and was pulled under. “Didn’t you see my
markings?” The ranger’s fear made his voice harsher than it would
have normally been.
“It seems as though I did not.” Legolas turned his full attention
back to the human. Rarely did the man reprimand him with such a
tone of voice. He recognized the underlying fear and questioned
his friend, “Just what were you marking? I found all the
others.” The elf was about as confused as the ranger was.
“This is what I was marking.” Aragorn picked up a hand-sized rock
that lay near him and tossed the stone onto the top of the mud
pit. The ground beneath the stone sunk in causing slight, thick
ripples to move out towards the edges of the trap. In seconds the
rock had disappeared from sight and the false ground was deceptively
still once more. The ranger was watching the elf carefully, his
gaze a cross between reproach and awe. “Legolas, you walked across
that and never fell in.”
Turning back once more to focus on the ranger, Legolas noted the dried
mud that caked Aragorn’s right leg, tracking up above his knee.
His friend had been caught in this trap before.
“Aragorn, I am sorry to have frightened you. It was not my
intention. Obviously the orcs are unaware that a trap like that
is ineffective for catching elves. We tread too lightly.
You have seen your brothers and myself walk on top of the snow, have you
not?” Legolas looked his friend over more carefully, trying to
see if he had been injured in any other way.
“You scared the life right out of me.” The ranger breathed in
deeply letting the tension flow out of him. “Don’t do that again,
walk around them for my sake.”
With a quiet laugh, Legolas pushed the human ahead of him, moving them
away from the orc trap. “I promise. I did see the other
traps, you’ve done a good job of reworking them. Elladan and
Elrohir are waiting for our signal at the tunnel’s entrance into the
main chamber. Our fathers are resting and most of the inhabitants
of the cavern sleep.” The elf walked his friend closer to the
mouth of Daradwayn, talking softly to redirect the ranger’s thoughts
and re-focus him on their task at hand. “Now, tell me have you
found a way to bring down the cave entrance? Were we right about
“We were, my friend, and luck is with us.” Aragorn grasped
Legolas’ sleeve and drew the elf with him, racing for the northern side
of the cave’s opening, but being careful of the prowling sentries.
There, by the light of the stars, Legolas could see a break in the
thick canopy of trees that spread high above them. One very old
tree had grown away from the denseness of the forest, bending its
large, thick trunk away from the others and seeking the open
light. In doing so it had grown at an odd angle; the tops of its
uppermost branches scraped the mountain above the cave opening.
The tree, however, was in the last stages of its life. Having
separated itself so from the others, its root system was not connected
with the roots of the trees around it, in the interweaving fashion of
its kind. Interconnecting their roots helped the trees weather
the storms that ripped through the vales on this side of the mountains
and fought off the erosion brought on by the melting snows every year.
Now, nearer the base of the crooked tree, Legolas could see that the
root ball had been exposed. It would only take one good wind to
bring the old tree down. The precarious way it bent placed it in
the perfect position to release an avalanche of rocks down upon the
cave entrance. If it were destabilized properly, the whole cavern
Legolas reverently placed his hand on the rough trunk of the
tree. He hated to take from the forest, to kill anything that
lived within it without cause, but Aragorn was right, they would need
to topple this tree to bring Daradwayn down on itself. So there
“Well, what do you think?” Aragorn asked cautiously after a few minutes
of silence. He hated to rush his friend, but time was no longer on their
side. The edges of night were fleeing and it would soon be
morning. They had a good hour’s work ahead of them and no more
time to spare.
“It is well. The trees know we need their aid and this one’s time
has come. He wants to help us.” Legolas stepped away from
the ancient giant and turned his attention to the rocks that surrounded
the cavern opening. “You do realize though that we will probably one
day become known as the great cave destroyers don’t you?” the last was
Aragorn grinned sarcastically and shrugged. “If something works,
it works. I think I can live with that. So long as we don’t
mention it to too many dwarves, we should be fine.”
Daradwayn lived up to its reputation. The entry to the cave was
fouled by the orcs that lived in it. Large rocks littered the
front of the low-hung opening. The grasses and living things had
pulled back from the entrance as if repulsed by the creatures that
occupied it. The light from the nearly spent fires inside barely
reached the outer lip and the slight stirring of the orcs and wargs
could just be heard.
“We must work fast.” Aragorn stepped to the right of the cave as
Legolas leapt to the top of the opening on the left. Working
their way in a crisscrossing pattern, they easily identified the stress
cracks in the mountain’s foundation as well as the areas of least
resistance to a well-placed landslide.
When the tree was released, its thickest part would take down the rocks
that braced Daradwayn’s entryway and hopefully cause a chain reaction
well into the cavern itself. At the very least it would seal the
orcs in their den; they would hopefully never be able to escape.
It would take work, but it wasn’t impossible.
After some time of swift and difficult labor, Aragorn wiped the sweat
out of his eyes, pushing his hair back from his face as he looked up at
Legolas across the way, wondering how far his friend had gotten.
The elf placed a stone wedge in a natural crack in the rock face and
further stressed the widening tear by pounding the stone down
harder. Blue eyes met the ranger’s silver ones and the prince
nodded slightly. They were nearly ready.
Before he could question Legolas further, the elf flattened himself out
against the face of the cliff, motioning for the ranger to follow
suit. A dark shape flowed out of the cave entrance. A warg
had awakened and was sniffing the pre-dawn air. Something had
disturbed its sleep and it was curious.
Hugging the side of the cliff, Aragorn tried to make himself as
invisible as possible, barely breathing as the beast turned to look
over its shoulder at the mountain that towered above it. Small,
dark eyes narrowed as the creature watched intently, trying to see
through the early morning mists and gloom that clung to the forest
floor and coated the sides of the hill. Legolas had dampened his
glow until it was barely imperceptible. Stealthily he strung his
bow, ready to fire if the warg gave way their positions too
early. They needed the element of surprise on their side.
A call from inside the orc den startled the beast out of its
concentration. With a growl it moved back into the interior, the
hair along its shoulders still standing on edge. It didn’t
appreciate being called away, something felt wrong... but the smaller
beings were not to be trifled with. So long as the orcs were kept
content, then the wargs were well fed and for the most part that was
Releasing the tension on his bow, Legolas replaced the arrow in his quiver.
“It is time.” He mouthed the words silently to the human who was watching him carefully.
With a nod, Aragorn scrambled down the hillside and leapt lightly onto the mud-and-rock strewn entry of Daradwayn.
This was the risky part of their diversion. It had been agreed
that Aragorn would be the decoy since Legolas was the better shot and
would be able to fell a greater number of the creatures as they flowed
out of the cave than Aragorn could.
Once he had a sufficient number of orcs on his trail, the human would
release the tree that would trigger the rockslide. The old trunk
was held upright now with a length of elvish rope; it would take but a
single pull to release it.
Legolas made his way into the trees that bracketed the front of
Daradwayn. When he was in position he signaled Aragorn: a
single arrow embedded into the dirt near the human’s left foot.
Grabbing the shaft, Aragorn strung the arrow on his bow and ran into
the mouth of the cave.
Elladan and Elrohir had waited patiently through the watches of the
early morning, keeping an eye on the orcs and the wargs within the
cavern. The two young elven lords went unnoticed as the
inhabitants of the cave slept through the night. Orc sentries
stood guard near the front of the cave, but no one was watching the
back. Waiting had been no easy task and the twins had only just
fallen into the rhythm of the uneasy peace that hung in the orc den
when a lone figure burst into the main room, shouting in elvish.
Aragorn skidded to a stop inside the chamber filled with sleeping orcs
and wargs. He buried Legolas’ arrow in the first dark hulk he saw
and repeatedly fired arrows into the sleeping throng until the whole
cavern was in an uproar.
Staring in shocked disbelief, Elladan turned towards Elrohir who was
gaping open-mouthed at their younger human brother. “He takes
after you,” the younger twin whispered as the cave erupted in
chaos. They had been expecting a signal, but not one quite like
Orcs and wargs stumbled over one another trying to gain their feet and
stop the barrage of arrows that fell on their sleeping comrades.
In seconds the occupants of Daradwayn were chasing the ranger out into
the woods in a frenzied rampage spurred on by shouts from their leader.
“Bring me that upstart human! We’ll have him for breakfast or
I’ll let the wargs eat anyone what lets him get away,” Guruth
shouted angrily as he kicked the carcass of a dead orc out of his path.
Taking advantage of the melee caused by the ranger, Elladan and Elrohir
sped stealthily out into the cave, keeping to the edges and heading for
the momentarily forgotten prisoners.
Thranduil caught sight of the twins first and redirected Elrond’s gaze
with a nudge, keeping quiet to keep from giving away their rescuers.
“Elladan! Elrohir!” Elrond said quietly, but with great joy
as he glanced between his two very alive sons. Waves of relief
brought tears to his eyes as Elladan grasped the elf lord’s bound hands
tenderly in his own. Quickly kissing the top of his father’s
head, Elladan slipped his knife through the orc rope and severed
Elrond’s bounds. Elrohir swiftly did the same for Thranduil.
“Are you well, King Thranduil?” the raven-haired elf asked softly,
casting quick glances over his shoulders as he released the elven lord
from the orc rope, “Can you stand? We are here to get you out.”
“He is injured.” Elrond spoke softly, answering before Thranduil could.
“No more so than your father.” The blond-haired Sinda retorted
quickly, standing slowly to his feet and rubbing his wrists.
Truth be told, he knew he was in far better shape than Elrond was.
Any possible answer was cut short as Thranduil shoved Elrohir aside and
ducked, rolling onto his shoulder and coming up into a standing
position a few feet away from the Noldor elves. An orc spear was
embedded in the cavern wall inches from where Elrohir had stood moments
ago. They had been discovered.
“Go!” Thranduil shouted over the noises in the cavern. “I will
follow you!” He had seen how weak Elrond was, despite what the
Noldo Lord had wished him to think. Elrond would not be able to
move swiftly and Elladan and Elrohir were going to have their hands
full. The Elvenking dropped into a ready stance.
The twins quickly pulled their father to his feet and pelted for the
opening to the tunnel that led to the back door. Elrond could
barely stand on his own and the twins had to half-carry him between
them. The healer’s face whitened as his broken bones were grated
painfully together, but pushed himself to keep moving.
For a moment through the swirling chaos Elrohir’s gaze caught on the
faint glint of two familiar sword handles. The twin blades that
had been taken from them earlier were stuck upright in the cave floor
across the cavern. They were too far away to retrieve and the
elves had no time, but strangely Elrohir felt no loss over that
knowledge, despite what a personal thing an elven sword was.
Elladan caught his brother’s fleeting glance and nodded slightly as
they hurried Elrond on between them, into the passage leading to the
back door. “It’s fitting,” was all he said. Maybe
Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen could finally find peace here, where it all
Thranduil stood his ground, covering their retreat and gaining them the
precious moments they needed to escape. A small party of orcs
charged the Elvenking even as more swarmed after the fleeing Noldor
elves, cutting off any chance for Thranduil to follow.
Stepping into the upward swing of the first orc to reach his position,
Thranduil rammed the beast hard in the diaphragm with his good
elbow. The orc fell to one knee and the Elvenking wrenched the
creature’s scimitar from its black fingers, cleaving through the orc’s
thick neck before the creature fell to the floor. Yet for every
orc Thranduil slew, more took their places; the battle was overwhelming
as he pressed towards the opening of the cave.
Outside, Legolas’ deadly arrows from the treetops felled wargs and
riders alike as they exited the cavern. He cleared the way around
Aragorn as the human stumbled beneath the blow of a warg rider.
The meadow before Daradwayn was a sea of confusion as the cavern
emptied out onto the plains before the forest’s edge.
Aragorn battled his way to the far side of the meadow and had nearly
reached the tree, intending to trigger the cave’s collapse, when he
glimpsed blond hair just inside the entryway.
“Legolas! Your father!” the ranger called up to his
friend. Thranduil was trapped just inside the short tunnel
leading outside, his back pressed against the cavern wall. He had
made it nearly halfway through Daradwayn, but there would be no
escaping as the dark mass of orcs surged around him and blocked him
Glancing back up into the trees, Aragorn was slightly shocked to see
that Legolas had already leapt to the forest floor and nearly gained
the mouth of the cave. The elf prince’s blades flashed in lethal
circles of crimson-black and silver as he cleared a path before him.
The fear of losing his father heightened his adrenaline and fueled his
attack. He had learned long ago that adrenaline was a powerful
drug in times of danger and allowed him to accomplish things he thought
he would not be able to do and survive things he should not have been
able to survive. He just had to have a goal, and right now he had
a very compelling one: he was locked onto the sight of his father going
down beneath a dark wave of orcs. Yet even focused as he was, he
realized that they were tarrying longer than they could afford.
Soon too many of the dark creatures would be outside the cave; they
would not be able to handle them all.
Sparing a quick glance back to see how Aragorn fared he called to the
ranger in elvish, “Bring it down, Aragorn! Bring it down now and do not
wait for me!”
The ranger watched as his friend disappeared into the darkened mouth of
the cave. The morning light was just beginning to paint the
mountainsides in the warm tones of early day, a fact that was lost on
the human. He did however catch the dulled glint of orc steel as
a scimitar swept in his direction.
Moving on instinct, the ranger ducked and spun around swiftly, bringing
his own sword up and into the chest of an orc that had crept up behind
him. Pulling his blade free, Aragorn leapt over the dead carcass
and raced up the side of the cliff to the tether that held the ancient
tree in place. With a quick tug and a shouted command he bid the
rope release. The tough silken threads unwound obediently and the
trunk of the tree began to tilt slowly sideways, gaining speed as it
crashed across the rocks, tearing the mountain-face with its
Small boulders loosed by the cascade of dirt and tree branches broke
free of the cliff and bounced down the side of the hill, crashing into
larger stones and creating a chain reaction. In moments it seemed
as though the whole rock face was sliding down the mountain toward the
opening of Daradwayn. The tree splintered from its roots,
snapping from the weight of the rocks and crashing down upon the upper
lip of the mouth of the cave. The natural stress cracks that the
ranger and the elf had further aggravated groaned and shook under the
built up tension and the repeated pounding of the boulders that
careened off the mountain.
Below, the orcs and the wargs outside of the cave raced into the woods
to escape the rain of stones that pelted them. A few were struck
and never rose. Some of the fleeing orcs fell to their own traps
that had been turned on them and the cries of orc and beast alike could
be heard through the early morning. Several, either unaware of
the mud pits their comrades had dug or forgetting about them in their
confused panic, were sucked beneath the surface and never found.
All of this was lost on Aragorn who had jumped free of the tree trunk
and entered the forest to escape the falling rocks and debris.
His eyes were glued on the cavern entrance. Dust from the
landslide was quickly settling, the cries of the wounded and dying were
subsiding but there was no sign of Legolas or Thranduil.
Seeing that the worst was over and thinking that their attempts to
bring the cave down had failed, Aragorn raced towards the opening of
Daradwayn. He stopped in his tracks as an eerie groaning sound
resounded through the forest. Glancing above him to the structure
of the cavern, Aragorn could see the mouth of the opening quiver
Their attempts had not failed; Daradwayn was indeed collapsing.
“Legolas!” Aragorn called a warning to his friend as small rivulets of
stone began to rain down from the interior of the tunnel and the ground
beneath his feet shook with strain of holding the mountain steady.
Legolas had thought his heart was going to stop when he heard Aragorn
call out to him that his father was trapped near the entrance. A
million fears had raced through his mind in the few moments it had
taken him to fight his way into Daradwayn. In truth most of the
orcs he met were trying to get out and the wargs were as intent on
escaping as their riders were. By the time he had reached him,
Thranduil was backed against the wall by a pack of wargs. Legolas
had dispatched their riders easily and gone after the evil mounts
Sweeping low with his twin blades, he cut the legs out from underneath
an orc that leapt at him even as he bodily shoved his father behind him
and out of the way of an attacking warg.
“The cavern is not stable. We must leave!” he shouted over the
chaos and press of orcs as his crossed blades easily slit through the
throat of another attacker. A warg charged the two elves, coming
at them from Legolas’ left. The prince pushed his father swiftly
down the passage towards daylight even as he deftly grabbed his bow and
fired an arrow point blank down the gaping maw of the beast. The
warg fell over on its side, sliding to a stop near the elf’s feet.
There was no time to think, no chance to regroup and no reprieve as
Legolas kept up the incessant attack on the press of orcs and
wargs. The cavern shook about them, the rocks and ornately carved
columns groaned with the weight of the mountain. He knew that
Aragorn had released the last trap and the cavern would fall in on
itself in moments. They had been correct. Daradwayn had
suffered under the last earthquake and it would not withstand this new
With semi-conscious effort Legolas pushed any feelings or fears about
being caught in yet another cave-in out of his mind. His father’s
safety was what was important.
Aragorn’s shouted warning could just be heard over the din from the
cavern entrance; they were out of time. Showers of dirt and small
rocks rained around the elves as they raced for the open mouth of the
cave. The orcs beside them were no longer intent upon keeping the
elves imprisoned as their own survival instincts took over.
Ignoring their commander’s shouts, the orc host made a mad dash for the
safety of the outdoors.
Guruth was incensed. How had this happened? What the bloody
hell were his sentries doing out there? Sleeping on their jobs to
let anyone get this close?! He would not admit it, but he had not
counted on Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen to approach him by stealth, nor
indeed at all after their reported deaths. The elven warriors he
remembered had bothered little with trickery, seeming to prefer
engaging the orcs head on, recklessly ignorant of their own
mortality. Immortal they might be, but the orcs had found that
elves could die upon Mordor scimitars as easily as any other creature
that walked in Middle-earth.
Guruth spun around quickly, searching the cave for the elven
prisoners. They were nowhere to be seen and chaos ruled
everywhere. A few moments ago he had seen the two elves he hated
the most for only a moment. Chaos had kept them apart but he
would find them. He would find them...
Mrdhdúk appeared at her master’s side. Guruth’s commands
were being ignored, his warriors were fleeing and their home was coming
down around them. It was time to leave. The large warg
skittered sideways as a column crashed to the floor behind her
rider. They needed to flee as well if they wanted to
survive. She nudged the orc again, wincing ever so slightly as he
turned angrily towards her.
Understanding what his mount desired, the orc captain vaulted onto the
back of the beast and urged her for the entryway. The warg riders
never rode their mounts into the cavern as the tunnel was too low, but
it mattered little at the moment. If they were going to escape
alive they would need all the speed Mrdhdúk could muster.
The warg bolted for the cavern mouth, dodging the boulders that now
fell from the vaulted ceiling. Ancient, ornately carved Dwarven
artwork fell like lethal rain from the columns and the upper levels,
choking the air with dust. Through the black sea of orcs around
him, Guruth could see two blond heads bobbing as Thranduil and Legolas
fled for the entry way. Leaning low he whispered in his mount’s
ear and pointed out the escaping prisoner. If he lost everything
this day, he would not lose his revenge.
Leaping forward, Mrdhdúk used her powerful hind legs to catch up
to the elves. Guruth was forced to lean low against the warg’s
powerful back as the bone armor he wore scraped the top of the low
ceiling in the tunnel entryway. He pressed his face against the
coarse, thick hair on Mrdhdúk’s back, her scent a familiar smell
in his nostrils. He smiled wickedly as they came up beside the
Kicking out, Guruth caught Legolas alongside the head, slamming the younger elf into the older one.
Legolas’ vision exploded into lights and flashes. Completely
caught off guard by the sudden attack from behind, the prince stumbled
under the unexpected blow, tripping into his father and nearly going
down beneath the press of orcs around him. Thranduil barely
caught his son, dragging the stunned elf to his feet and holding him
tightly as they fought their way out.
The groaning of the collapsing cavern had grown and the rocks now
roared as they crashed into the cave, bringing Daradwayn down upon
itself. The orcs trapped inside had no chance of escape as the
tunnel collapsed beneath the weight of the mountain. The
passageway exploded outward, showering the glen and the surrounding
forest with debris and bodies.
Aragorn was standing near the opening, felling orcs and riders as they
fled, looking desperately for any sign of Legolas or Thranduil.
The dark press of beasts trying to escape the dying cave had kept him
at bay, not allowing him to fight his way to his friend’s side.
When the tunnel exploded he was thrown into the forest, away from the
mountain, by the blast.
The ranger was thrown backward through the air until he was suddenly
checked by a tree. His head and body connected with the trunk
with a sickening crack. One rending wave of pain flashed through
him before nothingness swallowed him whole. His body crumpled to
the ground and he didn’t move. A gash near his eye covered his
face with blood in moments.
Legolas and Thranduil were not entirely clear of the cave mouth when
Daradwayn came down on itself. They were knocked off their feet
and flung wildly forward, a deadly hail of flying stone surrounding
them. Legolas, still recovering from Guruth’s attack, was slammed
against the wall next to them. His head connected solidly with
the stone and consciousness fled instantly.
Thranduil grabbed Legolas’ shoulders, curling protectively over the
younger elf’s vulnerable head and chest and trying to shield his son
with his body as destruction rained around them. Thranduil did
not remember what struck him, did not remember losing consciousness,
all he remembered was holding Legolas as the world went black.