Siege of Dread
Chapter 3: A Moment Long in the Making
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You have always been my safe home.
I walk, I run, I burn out into you...
You have always been my safe home.
My whole world has moved on.
I know what I am and I’ll always be,
your reality, is better than I could dream.
All my fears turn from black to white
and I’d stand and fight
the whole world for you.
Aragorn woke because of a soft swish of movement somewhere
nearby. His senses swung suddenly to life and he registered a
flood of things at once. It was dark, the room was cool, if not
cold, and he felt a little stiff from sleeping in an unusual
position. There was also someone nearby... no, not just nearby,
his keen senses told him. Right next to him and moving stealthily
as if wishing not to wake him. He felt the soft brush of fingers
against the collar of his shirt and half-assumed that either Legolas or
his brothers were attempting to do something to him.
Swift reflexes kicked in and his hand shot up, catching the unknown
presence by the wrist in a firm grip. He opened his eyes to find
himself looking into the last set of eyes he had expected to see.
“Ada?” he blinked a little blearily. Lord Elrond was kneeling on
the floor by the ranger, leaning over his human son. The ranger’s
grip on the elder elf’s wrist held him in place, but his elven father’s
eyes were as gentle as they were amused. In his lap, Elrond held
a nearly re-filled bowl of cherries with his free hand.
“Peace, Estel,” Elrond said quietly when he saw that his youngest son’s mind was not quite as fully awake as his body.
Estel quickly released the elf lord’s wrist, rubbing his eyes.
Elrond smiled and plucked up the berry nestled in the folds of
Aragorn’s shirt collar that had been his earlier goal. He dropped
it into the bowl on his lap, gathering a few more out of the cushions
around Aragorn with quick, graceful movements.
Aragorn realized that the house was still and quiet. It must be
far into the late watches of the night now, and he and Elrond were the
only two remaining occupants of the hall.
“Ada?” Aragorn tried to clear the sleep from his voice, but Legolas was
not the only one who had enjoyed more than a fair share of wine at
dinner last night. The ranger was not actually hung over, but he
was somewhat groggier than usual and his head throbbed a bit.
“What are you doing?”
Elrond chuckled, a soft, rich sound. “Keeping you from an
hour-long lecture by Celboril tomorrow morning. I thought perhaps
he should not be the one to wake you... especially since... well, let
us just say that Legolas and your brothers left you in a...
compromising position,” he gestured to the bowl and the cherries that
he had now very nearly completely cleaned up.
“Figures...” Aragorn chuckled too, stretching and sitting up, rubbing his temples with a small moan.
Elrond’s gentle hand came to rest on his shoulder, steadying him.
He had very nearly let the little joke go, as it would be quite amusing
indeed to hear just how loud Celboril would be when he discovered
Aragorn sleeping amid a mess of cherries, stems and pits. But the
elf lord had had pity on the human, judging that loud shouting was
probably not the best thing for his youngest to hear tomorrow
“You don’t have to do that, Ada, I’ll get it,” Aragorn tried to take the
bowl from his father, but Elrond pulled it away from him, squeezing his
“No, Estel, it’s all right. I will do it. It is not often
anymore that I must clean up after my children... but I find that
rarity makes the experience less arduous than in the past.” His
warm smile was as light and teasing as it was loving.
Aragorn tried to protest but nearly fell sideways off the cushion he
was sitting on. Elrond caught him with a laugh and easily helped
the human up onto his feet. “Time for rest, Estel. I think you
will find your own bed preferable to the floor, I will take care of
this. Go on, rest now, my child.”
Aragorn smiled lopsidedly, finding his eyelids difficult to keep
open. Bed sounded deliciously good right now. “Are you
Elrond smiled. “Yes, Estel, I’m sure. Now go on and go lie down before you fall down.”
“Yes, Ada,” Aragorn wavered for a moment, before stepping forward and
giving his father a hug. “Thank you, Ada.” The human hoped
his elven father knew he wasn’t speaking just about the cherries.
He meant for everything. For the way the elf lord had opened his
home to the orphaned human, for the way he had given him not only a
place to live but a family to belong to, for always being there for
him, for loving him.
Somehow, Elrond did know. He gave Aragorn a small, tight squeeze
before turning him firmly towards the hall leading to his
bedroom. “Good night, ion-nín. Good night, my son.”
Aragorn smiled one more time. “Good night, Ada.”
A sudden thumping sound echoed hollowly through the silent halls of
Imladris, causing both Aragorn and Elrond to pause and listen. A
moment later it came again and they realized that someone was knocking
on the front door... no, pounding, that was a better word to describe
it. Someone was pounding urgently on the huge double doors in the
main hall that had long ago been secured for the night.
“What in Arda...?” Elrond murmured, setting the cherry bowl down on one
of the tables as he walked swiftly out of the feast hall.
Aragorn adjusted his intended course, trailing his adopted father down
the darkened passage ways that led to the foyer. His weariness
receded quickly as his reflexes took over and he readied himself for
whatever they might find. The human could not imagine who would
be knocking so loudly at this hour of the night... it could only mean
trouble. He snatched a low burning candle from one of the wall
sconces along their route to aid them should they need it, although
both father and son knew their way around this house well enough that
they could have traversed it with their eyes closed.
Elrond worked the bolt on the door with a single fluid motion and
pulled the portal open, peering out into the starry night to see who
had come to his doorstep at this hour.
Two shadowed figures stood in the archway, one leaning heavily against
the other. When they stepped forward into the light of Estel’s
candle, both the elf lord and the human recognized them immediately.
“Halbarad, Arendur, what’s happened?” Aragorn pressed immediately as
the two rangers entered his father’s house. He assumed they were
there for him.
Halbarad was supporting Arendur and the dim candlelight played faintly
across dark, red stains on the young ranger’s torn tunic. The
older ranger walked the younger across the threshold carefully.
He inclined his head respectfully towards Elrond.
“I’m sorry to disturb you at this hour, my Lord. I would not have had my
mission been less urgent,” he apologized. “I fear that Arendur
needs greater help than I can give him and it could not wait.”
Elrond waved the apology off quickly. “My house is open day or
night to those who have need, Halbarad. Come in and be welcome.”
The elven healer was already checking the younger of the two
“Aragorn,” Halbarad turned his gaze upon his leader. “I had hoped to find you here.”
About this time Celboril arrived. His room was near the front of the house and the knocking had awakened him.
“Celboril, prepare a place for Arendur while I examine him,” Elrond
requested of the seneschal. The elf lord pressed his hand against
the youth’s pale, clammy cheek, making a quick decision. “Bring
bedding and bandages to the Hall of Fire, we will lay him out there for
the moment. His body is cold, we must get some warmth back into
him.” Elrond knew that the only fire still burning at this hour
of the night in his house was in the great hall, so that was the best
place for them at the present.
“Come, Halbarad. Aragorn and I would hear your news while we help your
friend,” Elrond added to the other ranger as he helped shoulder some of
Arendur’s weight, leading them away.
Elrond worked swiftly over the boy and once they were assured that
Arendur’s life was no longer in serious jeopardy, Halbarad told his
“Aragorn, you recall that I had to leave you after the Barrow Downs
incident because wargs were plaguing some of the cities we watch
over? Well I met up with a few of the others on my way there, but
by the time we reached the cities the wargs had moved on, leaving a
line of ravaged villages heading north. We followed them as
quickly as we could, trying to catch up with them and stop their
unchecked spree... unfortunately, that seemed to be exactly what they
wanted us to do. Two days past we tracked them into a canyon and
they led us into an ambush. It was not just packs of foraging
wargs as we thought; they were working with orcs and had designs more
clever than we had given them credit for. Many of our people were
killed, many more wounded. Most are being cared for on the
outskirts of this valley, but for Arendur I was gravely concerned, so I
brought him hither with me. The wargs have disappeared, for now,
but I am disturbed that they would attack us in this area that has been
safe for so long. They are a threat that must be dealt with and I
came to request your aid in that endeavor.”
“And you shall have it,” Elrond nodded as he wound bandages around
Arendur’s wounds. “I shall summon as many warriors as can come at
first light. They should be ready to leave by the following day
at the latest. Will that help you?”
Halbarad nodded gratefully. “That would be well. You have
my thanks. It may be that the foul beasts have already retreated
to their haunts in the mountains, but if they are still at large in the
valleys they should be dealt with if possible.”
Aragorn nodded, it was never wise to leave a threat like that standing
if it could be avoided. “When the warriors are ready, I will
accompany you and them.”
Elrond smiled at both rangers as he rose, laying a blanket gently over Arendur’s now unconscious form.
“Yes, and if you go we can rest assured that Legolas and your brothers
will follow. But tonight you all must rest. I shall have
Celboril prepare a room for you if you wish Halbarad, but Arendur
should stay here by the fire for now,” the elf lord offered.
“Thank you, but I will stay with Arendur,” Halbarad shook his head, touching the youth’s matted curls gently.
“Then I shall have Celboril bring bedding to make you comfortable
here. And you, my son,” he turned to Aragorn who looked prepared
to stay and keep conversing with Halbarad, “Are going to get some
rest now and let them do the same, are you not?”
Aragorn smiled wryly at his foster father, sharing a quiet laugh with Halbarad. “Yes, Ada.”
The darkness of the woods concealed him as he stood on the edge of
ridge in the predawn. His breath ghosted on the air as he watched
the house settled in the large valley far below. Lights in the
huge, ornate windows were lit one by one, casting their warm glow on
the courtyards and outer regions of the gardens that surrounded the
Away down in the secluded rift, movement stirred in
various quarters, as if some kind of muster were underway. A dark
grin quirked twisted lips into a smile.
“You see?” he whispered into the fading darkness. “What did I
say? You strike against the rangers and the elves will rush out
to help them... the fools.” He wanted them to gather; he wanted
them all in one place, but did not intend to give them time to be
It had been centuries that he had waited for this very day. He
glanced at the barely brightening sky, a few hours more wouldn’t
hurt. Next to him a large, black form padded up quietly and
stopped, squinting down into the valley. The animal barely
resembled its distant cousin, the wolf, from which it had long ago been
bred. It nuzzled the smaller creature that was fixated on the
house below. Distractedly, the orc reached over and scratched the
fur around the warg’s small ear. A deep rumbling purr issued from
the creature’s throat.
“Today you will hunt,” he spoke softly to his mount. “Today you will feast on elf.”
The warg mumbled a staccato growl, testing the air with its sensitive nose.
“I don’t see anything,” A voice interrupted the rider’s conversation
with his mount as a second warg-rider approached. “Just a vale
shrouded in morning mist. Your eyes must be keen.”
It was true, Guruth’s senses were incredibly keen for an orc, but he
knew this was not the case at the moment. Without acknowledging
the other in any way, the lead orc answered calmly as though speaking to
a child. “No, Tmarkz, you do not see it because they do not wish
you to see it. The old elf who lives there, the Healer, he is
very powerful. They hide this valley, make it not to be seen by
eyes like ours... but they cannot hide from me. I have touched
one of them, I have seen into their collective souls. It took
many years, but I learned to see it clear as day. It’s
there. Look harder...”
Tmarkz blinked, slowly, he began to think he could see vague shapes
moving in the mist, but only barely. “The ones you seek, they
have not been heard from in years, are you sure they live there still?”
“Yes.” Guruth patted the warg next to him and folded his
black, gloved hands across his chest. “I know they do.”
Tmarkz watched his captain for several long moments. All orcs
possessed naturally long life, but Guruth was the oldest orc he had ever
met, indeed, the oldest that any of them had ever known.
Horrible, mauling scars covered his body and they all believed it was
his hatred for the elves and his desire for revenge alone that kept him
alive through the many things he had survived. Few even knew the
tales from his past, but Tmarkz did. The scars he bore had
twisted Guruth’s face into a cruel mask that matched the dark depths of
his blackened heart. This orc was a leader to be feared, one to
be followed without question, and follow him they had. It was no
small thing that the dark creature could hold his minions to his will
so tightly that they would prepare to attack what seemed to them an
empty valley, doing battle with an enemy their eyes could not yet
Tmarkz glanced behind him into the forest that braced the edge of the
cliff. A massive contingent of orcs, wargs and riders rested
beneath the darkened canopy, their camps stretching away out of sight
as they sat gathered around the now dead fire rings, drinking and
entertaining each other with tales and displays of strength.
They were a mixed lot to behold, this army that had formed under
Guruth’s leadership, drawn by his promises of plunder and mayhem.
Over half came from the southern mountain passes, regions that Guruth’s
kin had once called home. Yet many, many more had been added to
their company as Guruth slowly gathered to him the scattered remnants
of the northern goblins who had been left leaderless and bitter after
the disastrous battle on the slopes of the Lonely Mountain several
decades ago. Some had even wandered thither from much further
south, leaving the protection of the Dark Land for a life less
structured, but no less driven.
For years now, Guruth had trained his company for this moment, for this
blow that would shatter the peace of the valley below... for this
revenge. And it would be sweet. Very sweet.
“We will start with that group. They shall be our bait.
There, see?” The older orc’s voice brought Tmarkz’s drifting
attention back to the deep, mist-clad rift.
Tmarkz saw nothing, but didn’t want to say so. Guruth grinned, he
knew that the underling was still blind to what he was watching, but
liked the fact that he was not ready to question his authority.
A party of elves on foot and horseback was leaving the courtyard.
They crossed the bridge that spanned the Bruinen and headed for the
woods north of the orcs' position.
“Just wait, Tmarkz, you’ll see them in a moment,” Guruth purred softly,
tracking their progress with his dark eyes. Beside him, Guruth’s
warg rumbled softly in her throat. She didn’t have to see the
elves; even this far away she could smell them.
A few minutes later, Tmarkz started as he saw the group of hunters
emerge from the fog as they left the protective confines of the valley
behind and became fully visible to even his untrained eyes.
Guruth’s warg growled, a low warning sound as Tmarkz’ mount crested the
small ridge and glanced down at the hunting party that was just
disappearing into the woods. His focus was drawn to the large,
matriarchal warg but she was not interested in his attentions and
nipped at his shoulder, sending him skittering backwards. The
hair on her neck and back stood on end and she stiffened when he
approached again more slowly.
Much like her master she was, a leader among her kind to be
feared. This pack of wargs was hers. Most of the cubs that
followed with the pack were hers. She tolerated no challenges to
her authority and put down every usurper that vied for her
position. Now was no different and she was not interested in the
younger male’s advances; she wanted to track the elves.
When the last of the elven company had faded into the woods and were no
longer visible to the naked eye, Guruth turned his attention back to
his second-in- command.
“Tmarkz,” he barked the orc's name, “Get your mount under control.
I don’t want them fighting today; I want them single-minded.
Guruth walked past the other warg rider as Tmarkz grabbed his warg by
the ear and turned the large creature away from the matriarch, pulling
the beast alongside him and chiding the warg. The creature bared
its fangs and rumbled at being checked, but did not buck the smaller
being’s authority, for now.
“Were they in the hunting party?” Tmarkz asked as he jogged to
catch up with his leader. He did not feel the need to specify
what ‘they’ he meant. He doubted that Guruth had thought of much but them for the past few years. Tmarkz’s warg, Shelzahk,
having had enough of being chastised, had sulkily joined the others who
were bedded down on the outskirts of the orc encampment.
“It was hard to tell, but if they weren’t they will surely be in the
muster.” Guruth stopped walking and eyed Tmarkz. “There was a
ranger with the hunters though, and a younger golden-haired elf.
Not the older one who lives here, but the younger one whom I have seen
only rarely. When it is here it keeps company with the ranger;
I’ve watched them. They are much too friendly with the elves
here. Kill them both; make sure they are dead. It is also
time to end our trouble with the rangers, they’ve served their
purpose. There are a few of them in that section of the woods
there, the ones that we allowed out of the last ambush. See that
they do not escape again, kill them all. They can track us and I
won't have them ruining this. No one will ruin it this time.”
Tmarkz nodded and started to move in step with his captain when the
older orc turned on him, grabbing a fist full of the other’s jerkin and
pulling him close, “Do NOT kill our quarry should you find them
first. If anyone kills them I will feed him to the wargs.” His
voice was low and dangerous as he gave his orders. “They are for
Nodding in understanding, Tmarkz stumbled slightly backwards as Guruth
released him. “What if they are not here? What if we cannot
Turning a feral grin on his second-in-command, Guruth answered, “Don’t worry about that. If they escape capture they
will still come to us. I intend to make sure that they will have
no other options.”
Kicking out the only remaining fire, Guruth rallied his troops.
It was time to move out, the element of surprise was with them and he
had waited long enough.
“Tmarkz, take all the wargs and half their riders. The other half
will come with me and Shelzkahz will lead those on foot. You know
my mission. The rest of you will go with Tmarkz and draw the
elves and rangers away from us. You may kill all of them...”
Guruth turned towards his second-in-command and raised an
eyebrow. Did the other remember his warning?
“You may kill them all but the ones Guruth described to you last
night. You will recognize them by their weapons if nothing else
should you meet them. If you kill the wrong elves, you forfeit
your life. Understood?” Tmarkz instructed as he had been
instructed. When an affirmative roar met his ears he
continued, “A ranger and a golden-haired elf are with them.
The master wants them especially dead. All rangers we encounter
should find us as their last encounter.” He laughed evilly,
evoking an affirmative round of cheers.
“Then go! We’ll wait your signal before we make our move.” Guruth
patted his warg affectionately on her flank, “Go on, Mrdhdúk,
lead your pack out, make me proud.” The warg snarled, barring her
fangs and charging off in the direction that the hunting party had been
seen. The riders mounted their steeds quickly as the pack of
wargs followed their leader.
In moments, Guruth and the remaining orcs were standing alone beneath the trees.
“How long do we wait, my lord?” an orc soldier asked, glancing uneasily down into the shrouded valley below.
“Until I tell you differently,” Guruth answered coldly, walking back to the ridge
and resuming his vigilant watch. They dare not risk getting too
close to any of the areas that the elves patrolled. Not
yet. They had a few more hours to kill before the elves of the
hunting party called for help and then, when Rivendell had emptied of
its warriors and all the sentries had come running to the scene of the
slaughter, then... He nodded to himself and smiled as he thought
through his plan. Yes... then it would be time. It was
worth waiting for. Getting his hands on them was worth waiting
The cold air carried his frosted breath out over the valley. Soon it would carry the scent of blood as well.
Legolas stopped, holding up his hand and calling for silence. He
looked around, wondering what it was that had caught his
attention. He saw nothing but waving, whispering trees
surrounding them. The hunting party was well out of the valley
now, out in the wilder-lands surrounding Imladris.
The prince had gladly joined the party that morning. It had been
weeks since they had gone out with the other elves. They had been
staying near the house of late and recuperating slowly from their
Legolas had already fully recovered and both the twins were mending
well. Aragorn too had finally recovered from the bruises and
breaks he had sustained, although he healed more slowly than his elven
companions did. Legolas was surprised when he realized how much
time had slid by so quickly since they had come home from their little
wight hunting expedition.
Home... Legolas almost
laughed. It wasn’t his home, but there was something about this
place that invited everyone to think of it thus.
Indeed, the months had passed swiftly under the rafters of the Last
Homely House, the days uncounted, the hours unnoticed. Time
seemed to nearly stand still in the peaceful dwelling. It wasn’t
until Celboril had complained about the storehouses being bare that the
younger elves had even considered going back out to hunt again.
It had been good to lay their weapons aside for a while and not have to
fear what waited around the corner.
They had put their trip off several days already, but now, with the
prospect of being on the move tomorrow with Halbarad and the other
warriors being called up, they could delay the hunt no longer.
They would never hear the end of it when they returned if they left
while the pantry was still in need of refilling.
Now that they were out in the forests again, Legolas realized how much
he had missed them: the whispering of the trees as he walked, the feel
of the ground beneath his soft booted feet. However, the deeper
they went the more it sounded as though the forests were warning them,
cautioning, trying to dissuade them from moving forward and the
messages he was receiving were confusing.
“What is it?” Aragorn mouthed the words silently to his friend as he gained the elf’s side.
Pointing into the trees and then pointing at his ears, the prince
wordlessly told the ranger that the woods were speaking to him.
His frown gave indication that the message was not a good one.
Unease stole over Aragorn as he glanced quickly about them. The
elven hunting party had fanned out over the nearby hill in search of
game and the few hunters he could see were waiting for a signal from
the human or the Sinda elf that it was safe to proceed.
The signal never came.
Without warning, Legolas shoved Aragorn aside and fired an arrow into
the woods on his right, quickly restringing another as the forest
erupted with sounds and chaos. Wargs charged them from the side
and orcs rushed from every direction, attacking the hunting party.
Where had they all come from? How had they gotten so close so
silently? These were questions that they did not have time to
ponder as the dark wave crashed into them.
“Elrohir!” Aragorn yelled to his brother as he cut down an orc,
spinning aside as the dying creature tried his best to kill the ranger.
Unprepared for the dark tide, they were sorely outnumbered as the woods
were flooded with the evil beasts. They needed help and they
needed a diversion. Needed it quickly. Aragorn had faced
down some incredible odds before, but he was no idiot; he knew that the
small hunting party would never survive this vicious and overwhelming
Knowing what his brother was asking for, Elrohir leapt into the nearest
tree, scaling its heights and breaking through the leafy canopy.
Facing towards the rift that he could barely see from his position, he
placed a horn against his lips and blew three rapid blasts on it.
The sound echoed through the hills and rang down into the vale far
Elrond, standing on the veranda with Glorfindel discussing how many
warriors should be sent to the aid of the Dunèdain, heard the
signal. His head snapped up sharply, alarm sparkling in his
Three blasts, sharp and urgent.
It was the most dire distress call they possessed, used only in cases
of great emergency. That in itself was alarming enough... even
worse however, was that he recognized the call as having come from one
of his sons' horns.
In moments Rivendell was thrown into action. The already
assembling elven warriors heard the distress signal and hurried to
Lookouts on the ridges saw the battle taking place from a distance and
observed with shocked horror the wave upon wave of dark creatures
pouring out of the forest. Unless something happened, the hunting
party would be overwhelmed in mere minutes. Already they were
being rapidly forced back towards Rivendell. After they fell,
there would be no barrier to keep the dark tide from sweeping down into
the valley beyond.
The sentries’ signal horns took up the urgent call, echoing their own message to every corner of the vale.
“Wake! Wake!” the clear signal of the message horns rang out. “Peril is upon you, defend your homes, defend your lives, make haste!”
Elrond gripped the wrought metal railing of the veranda. He had
not heard the sentries ringing such a dire message in years.
Millennia even, not since the dark days before the Last Alliance when
Rivendell had almost been overwhelmed.
Glorfindel’s head was cocked to the side as he listened intently to the
wildly clamoring tale of the signal horns. “The valley is in
peril of attack,” he breathed, almost disbelieving as he turned his
gaze back upon the dark-haired elf across from him.
Elrond’s grim face said he already knew... and somehow, his children were out there in the forefront of it all.
Glorfindel did not need to wait for instructions; he already knew what
to do. Vaulting the veranda railing to save the time of passing
back through the house, he hurried out towards the knots of elves
swiftly forming in the courtyard beyond. He saw Moranuen and
called to him, beckoning the younger warrior to him as he shouted out
commands to the others.
Just because Rivendell had not seen war in several thousand years did
not mean it had forgotten how to fight, or that it was unprepared.
As soon as the call went out, everyone who could took up weapons and
headed out to find the hunting party, and the attackers. The
stable hands released all the remaining horses and the animals met up
with the warriors on the cobbled bridge. Snorting and nickering
they urged their fair riders to hurry and mount them so they could be
away towards where the distress call was still crying for help.
Suddenly Elrohir’s horn fell silent, although the other warning signals continued to clamor.
Elrond closed his eyes for a moment. His fingers played lightly
across the ring on his hand. Always, he maintained a watchful
protection around the whole valley, but right now his children, and the
threat, were outside of Rivendell and outside his reach.
Stretching himself and pulling some of his attention away outward he
extended his reach to the woods beyond his realm that were shuddering
at the turmoil tearing them apart, at the spilling of the blood of the
elves they loved so dear. Elrond’s hands tightened as he tried to
send more of his strength and protection towards the violent battle now
taking place. Valar protect them, please, protect them all.
Glorfindel and Moranuen led the assembling elves in the direction that
Elladan had told them they were heading earlier that morning with all
haste. A sizeable war party had been gathered in a matter of
minutes, speaking well of the efficiency with which Rivendell was
prepared to deal with such an emergency when it arose.
Elrond walked quickly through the house, making his way to the
courtyard. He stood on the flagstone steps watching the last of
the warriors head out. He had an ill, unsettled feeling that he
could not pinpoint, a darkness that touched deep memories flitting
across the past, but simply would not light. With a deep sigh he
turned and walked back into the house. He should be prepared for
As he crossed the threshold, a darkness swept behind him and the elven
lord turned quickly, expecting to find someone or something behind
him. The courtyard was empty and quiet. There was no one
there. The birds sang softly in the trees overhead. He
raised his eyes to the hills across the way and tried to pierce the
darkness of the forests. There it was again... a familiarity with
evil that he should not have felt.
Guruth stood on the far side of the cleft, watching the healer through
slitted eyes. A feral grin spread across his face as the elf
finally turned back and walked into the house.
“What? Do you see him?” a slight, stooped-over orc standing just behind Guruth asked softly.
“Then we go now?” the raspy voiced creature asked, his enthusiasm getting the better of him.
“No.” Guruth shifted his stance and watched the northern
woods. Soon they would be returning, the wounded ones. Then it would be the perfect time. “We have but a little more
waiting,” Guruth answered softly before turning a wide grin on
his companion, “and then we will go.”
The response garnered a guttural laugh that silenced the woods around them.
The woods were choked with orcs and wargs. Fighting them in
forests was proving deadly. The wargs blended in well with the
darkened undergrowth. Most of the elves had taken to the trees to
better deal with the threat, but Aragorn and his elven brothers had
remained on the forest floor in an attempt to cut off the attack from
the ground. They had lasted much longer than they should have
against these odds. The elves were proving their worth in battle
and an unseen force seemed to be aiding them as well, confusing
their enemy and slowing the dark creatures’ movements. It was a
subtle effect, but noticeable nonetheless. Elladan and Elrohir
knew enough to sense their father’s handiwork from a distance, even if
no one else recognized what it was that was helping them.
A second horn resounded through the woods, followed quickly by a
third. There were two parties coming to their aid now.
“Who?” Legolas shouted to Aragorn as he kicked a dead orc away from
him. Spinning viciously into a third, he slit the creature’s
throat with his elven blades.
Aragorn was locked in a hand-to-hand battle with a warg rider that he
had knocked from its mount and did not answer. The orc had gotten
the upper hand, pinning the man on his back and holding him down with
his weight. He pressed his short-bladed scimitar close to the
ranger’s throat. The small, black-handled blades were favored by
the warg riders who made it a point to keep them razor sharp.
Seeing his friend in trouble, Legolas strung his bow and targeted the
orc’s back. His shot went wild as a warg barreled into the elf,
blindsiding him. The beast knocked the prince down and rolled him
underneath its bulk as it charged past him.
Springing back to his feet, Legolas watched as the wolf-like creature
turned and skidded to a stop on the dew-wet grass. Aragorn had
finally turned the tables on his opponent. Placing his booted
feet against his attacker’s abdomen he kicked the orc over his head and
rolled away, grabbing his sword from where it had fallen in the
The warg’s attention snapped to its rider as it saw its master free of
the human. At a gesture from its master, the warg darted towards
the orc. Aragorn raced to Legolas’ side in the span of a
heartbeat. Time slowed as the orc leapt onto his steed’s back and
the two dark creatures turned towards the elf and the ranger.
Thoroughly fed up with the warg, Legolas was prepared. He strung
two arrows on his bow and leveled them between the warg's eyes.
His stance was solid and he let the breath leave his lungs, steadying
his aim even further. Aragorn flipped his hunting knife in his
hand, catching it on the blade edge and flung the weapon at the orc
rider. His knife cut through the air, streaking towards the
advancing threat. Still Legolas waited, counting the seconds,
watching everything unfold as if in slow motion.
Aragorn’s blade hit the rider square in the throat, throwing the orc
off the back of the warg. The larger beast, aware that he had
lost his master, faltered for a heart beat, enough of a hesitation for
the elf. Legolas’ fingers barely moved and the long bow
reverberated with the release of the arrows. The projectiles
struck the warg through its thick skull and the beast fell dead a foot
from its intended prey.
Breathing hard, Aragorn glanced around them. For the moment, the
fighting seemed scattered away from their position. He clasped
Legolas’ shoulder and smiled weakly at the elf, “Nice shot.”
Another blast from a horn calling for help echoed to their left,
bringing Legolas back to his original question.
“Who else has come?” He glanced behind, them wary, tense.
“The first call was from Rivendell.” Aragorn pulled the elf with
him as he raced towards the northern glens just beyond the ridge where
they were. “The second was the rangers'. The rest of
Halbarad’s party was camped out here somewhere nearby.” He called
over his shoulder and faltered, his footsteps slowing as watched half
the company of warg riders split from the fight and head for he and
The elf saw the horror reflected in the human’s eyes and followed his gaze.
Tmarkz had seen the ranger and the golden-haired elf that Guruth had
pointed out to him earlier attempting to flee from the fight.
Calling Mrdhdúk and spurring his own mount on, he routed half
the wargs and their riders, calling to them to make sure the pair did
not escape alive. If he had learned anything from the years of
service to Guruth, it was to make sure his leader’s wishes were
Legolas reacted faster than his friend, grabbing the ranger and racing
down the gully on their left. There was no fighting an onslaught
that massive; they would both be killed. The elf could just see
the water’s head from where they were. If they could reach the
lake before the wargs, they could possibly put the body of water
between them and their pursuers. He heard the large animals
crashing through the forest behind them, racing alongside and just
reaching the open glade before them.
“Run, Aragorn!” the elf cried as they raced down the incline
toward the shallow part of the river that flowed from the deep pool
beneath the Bruinen’s head. The thunder of the falls filled their
ears, mixing with the pounding of their own hearts and making them shout to be heard.
Suddenly, their plan of escape was blocked as a large female warg leapt
onto the bank, her hind legs just stopping her large body from skidding
backwards into the lake. More warg riders appeared on the edges
of the glade, seeming to materialize out of the mists that rose from
the banks of the lake where it touched the rim of the forest.
Backing up slowly, the ranger bumped into Legolas. Instinctively
he grabbed the elf’s sleeve as the two of them retreated warily.
With their backs to the deepest part of the lake and every other
direction crawling with wargs and orcs, all avenues of escape had been
effectively cut off. The ring of black creatures tightened
menacingly around them.
Aragorn’s foot splashed into the lake behind them and he held on tightly to Legolas as he steadied himself.
They could retreat no farther. They were trapped.
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