Siege of Dread
Chapter 8: Hidden Doors and Visible Fears
The sounds of the approaching orcs could be heard now in the
cavern. Legolas prepared for the coming fight, pulling his bow
from its place on his quiver. He turned back towards Aragorn only
to find the human wading back into the pool.
“What are you doing?” the elf whispered incredulously. “You cannot think to go back out the way we came in?”
“No, that will never work,” Aragorn responded hastily, his tone
preoccupied and soft. “Here, come, quickly!” Holding his
hand out to the elf he dropped down off the steps, the water rushing up
to mid-chest as he balanced on the natural shelf. “The rocks,
they form a small platform here under the water; we can hide under the
shelf until the orcs are gone.”
Light spilled into the cave from the torches the orcs held as they
shuffled into view. Pushing one another out of the way and
telling coarse jokes, they made their way toward the pond. The
water rippled slightly and the orc holding the torch watched the
lapping waves curiously. As the ripples stilled and the dark pool
fell back to its gentle rolling, the dark creature shrugged and pushed
his warg back from the surface where the beast had been lapping up the
clean, cold water.
“We refill the stores first and then you may drink your fill,
Shehlzak,” he reprimanded the creature, pushing the warg’s muzzle away
him. The beast's low, rumbling growl was rewarded with a
none-too-gentle smack and the animal backed away to pace the edges of
the underground shoal. The warg showed his teeth, but
Below the water, the sounds were muted and distorted. Aragorn
stood next to Legolas, holding himself submerged by wedging his body
into a crevice that was protected from view by an outcropping of rocks
near the base of the lowest step. The light from the torches
above played in odd, broken patterns across the top of the water as the
orcs dipped bucket after bucket into the pond.
The elf watched the surface cautiously, waiting for the light to
recede. He could hold his breath a lot longer than any human, but
he did not like the position they had been put into; one small slip and
their whereabouts would be given away.
Aragorn, however, was not having it as easy. He had learned to
hold his breath for almost five minutes; an ability that had its roots
of learning in his brothers’ mischief, but his adrenaline had
heightened his heart rate and he required more air than he had
originally thought. He tried to calm himself, but the feelings of
suffocation coupled with the crippling claustrophobia of the position
they were caught in overrode his senses, claiming his focus and
control. He closed his eyes and pressed back against the rocks
behind him, looking for a distraction to ease the pressure building in
Seeing his friend’s discomfort, Legolas grasped the ranger’s wrist tightly, forcing the human to focus on him.
Finally, their wait came to an abrupt end when a small contingent of orcs raced into the room.
“Tmarkz! Guruth has returned!” the orc messenger told his superior.
Tmarkz turned casually and glanced at the regiment that poured into the
room. He ran his hand down the mane of the growling creature that
stood next to him, quieting the warg's grumbling.
“And...?” he questioned the underling. “Did they find what they were looking for?”
“Not exactly, but they did find something.” The answer roused the
laughter of those around them as a cruel smile lit the dark hearted
being’s face. “Guruth says he has a companion for the prisoner and
quite a tale for the fire tonight. He says you’re to come.”
With a simple nod, Tmarkz signaled to his company and the orcs left the
chamber, carrying as much water as they had already retrieved in large
caskets tied to the backs of several wargs. Their croaking
laughter could be heard echoing down the hallway as Aragorn shot to the
surface of the pond, boosted by Legolas who pushed the human up onto
the first landing of steps.
Shelzahk froze mid-step, glancing over his left shoulder. The hair on
the warg’s back stood on end and he growled out a question to his
handler. Tmarkz stopped and listened carefully; he rarely doubted
his mount’s sense of hearing and smell; the beast was nearly always
correct. He had just decided to go back and check the pool room
when a second messenger raced towards them, urging them quickly back
into the main chamber. Guruth needed help setting up traps near
the entrance of the cave. With a small shrug, the orc petted the
warg’s broad back, shouldering the animal back down the hallway with
promises of fresh meat.
Unconvinced, the creature followed its master into the main dwelling
under the mountain; it never went well between them if he
disagreed. Something had been back there and Shelzahk intended to
find out exactly what, but it could wait. Wargs could be very
patient when they wanted to be.
Aragorn gasped for breath and climbed slowly out of the water.
Legolas stood near the tunnel, listening to the orcs retreat, trying to
catch phrases and words from the disjointed conversations that drifted
back to him. He didn’t dare get too close for fear of the wargs'
picking up his scent. The beasts’ senses were nearly as sharp as
an elf’s and it would do them no good to get caught in this place with
no way out.
“What do you hear?” the ranger asked as he gained Legolas’ side. He was
bitterly cold and trying not to shiver as they stood on the threshold
of the darkened passageway. His breath ghosted on the air as he
“You are freezing; we need to get somewhere warm.” Legolas' alarm
heightened as he turned back towards his friend. The man was briskly
rubbing his arms in a vain attempt to stave off the chill caused by
staying so long submerged in the cold, mountain water.
“We will. But I want to know what they are talking about.” Aragorn
nodded up the tunnel, emphasizing whom exactly he meant. “Could
you hear anything?”
Legolas sighed wearily; he hated to tell the ranger what he had
overheard. “It seems they have prisoners. More than one, I’d
wager; it sounded like someone else was just brought in.” The elf
watched the human carefully as Aragorn’s movements stilled at the
news. His brows narrowed in concern. Being a captive among
orcs was one of the worst fates he could imagine and if these were the
same creatures that had attacked his home, it was possibly someone from
“Who?” the ranger wanted to know.
With a shake of his head Legolas’ gaze dropped to the floor. “I do not
know. It was hard to tell. One of them mentioned a friend
for the prisoner and it sounds like they are preparing to fortify their
position. They are setting traps into the surrounding forest, to
keep someone out I imagine; I couldn’t quite hear everything and much
of it was in their own disgusting tongue.” Glancing back up, the
elf met the ranger’s hard stare. He knew what Aragorn was
thinking and how he would have felt had these orcs just returned from a
raid on Lasgalen. “I’m sorry, Estel.”
Aragorn gripped Legolas’ arm gently and nodded in understanding, “Let
us go find out who was captured and see if we cannot free them while we
take down this evil lair.”
“Agreed.” The elf’s grim features lightened slightly as he smiled.
“However, I think we may need help if they have numbers here like we
encountered in the woods. They have wargs as well and if we are
not careful they will scent us. We must go cautiously.”
Legolas grabbed the ranger’s sodden jacket, stopping his friend’s
forward rush, “And we need to find an alternate way out in case we
cannot reach the surface through the orcs’ lair. If what you say
is true and this place is of dwarven construction, there will surely be
a back door. You remember what Balin told us about how strongly
the dwarves felt on that subject.”
Aragorn didn’t really remember, it had been so many years ago. He
was mildly surprised that Legolas did, considering how glazed-over the
elven prince had appeared whenever the Moria dwarves had held forth on
the finer points of their society. Apparently Legolas was a
better listener than he gave him credit for.
“If the orcs have made this their home, won’t they know about any other doors?” Aragorn could not help asking.
Legolas cocked his head to the side, considering this. “Very
possibly. But it is more likely these foul creatures have not
been able to find it, or use it even if they have found it. At
least it would be wise to check.”
With a nod, Aragorn moved aside and let Legolas lead him up and out of
the pool room. His heart was overrun with a mysterious fear for
whom the orcs might have taken and his body was drained from the cold,
wet journey. The result of both factors was that his mind was not
thinking as clearly as the elf’s and Aragorn knew that, so he was more
than glad to let his friend take the initiative.
The smoothly carved tunnel through which they cautiously progressed
showed signs of decay. A dwarf dwelling was built to endure, but
orcs had a habit of destroying almost everything they touched,
including their own habitations. The walls showed scorings and
claw marks where the wargs had gotten into scuffles with one another
and refuse littered the passageway.
Legolas’ heightened senses were almost a curse to him here and he had
to fight the urge to gag on the stench as they slid slowly along the
darkened tunnels, carefully mapping the passages in their mind for
After a few long minutes of creeping forward, Legolas stopped, crouching
in a darkened switchback. The concave curve was shadowed in an
odd mist that clung tightly to the ground and seemed to crawl up the
wall. Cool air fell from somewhere above as Legolas stepped
closer to the strange sight. A vent high up in the natural rock
allowed the fresh air to fall into the cave. Moisture brought in
by the air turned to mist as it dripped through the layers of sediment
and the natural rivulets that ran from another water source far
The fresh air coming in was a relief, but that was not the only thing
that drew the elf thither. There was something about it that
pricked the prince’s memory. Something about mist curtains that
he had heard from the dwarves a long time ago. He wished now that
he had paid better attention. Legolas swiped his hands through
the mist, testing it. The rock wall did not continue on just
behind it as one might have assumed from the way it looked. There
was more passage behind the vapor.
Sounds of the orcs could be heard just around the bend and Aragorn
inched past the elf as Legolas drew one of his blades silently from its
sheath on his back. His keen sight pierced through the veiled
mist into another passage. Not having noticed that the ranger had
moved on without him, he whispered his intentions to the man.
“Aragorn, this is it, I think, the back door. I remember Rorin I
think, saying something about the use of mist curtains like this in the
olden days of the dwarves...” He pressed through the swirling vapor
tendrils and walked down the short tunnel to a dead end.
Here the walls and floor were swept clean of debris. The stench
of orcs did not linger in the air. It seemed that the orcs did
not frequent this area as much as the other passages, and that was no
great wonder. There seemed to be nothing here worthy of a second
For half a moment Legolas thought he must have been wrong as he glanced
at the dark, barren stone walls around him. Risking a little more
light, since he was somewhat protected from sight by the mist curtain,
Legolas increased his natural incandescense a few shades, illuminating the
rocks around him in a faint blue glow. Something in the rocks
directly in front of the elf glittered faintly.
Reaching out, Legolas’ fingers gracefully traced the delicate patterns
etched into the stone, now just barely visible in the blackness.
The swirling pattern seemed to form the outline of an invisible
door. Although he could not see it, the prince felt sure that
what appeared to be solid rock was indeed a Dwarven door, created
by the skill of the dwarves and perhaps sealed by the magic of the
elves as was often found in works from the elder days before the
friendship between most Elves and Dwarves had cooled into a mistrustful
A few moments later, Legolas spotted the ancient Elvish script that
flowed around one edge of the concealed doorway. Rubbing it with
his fingers as if to make it clearer, the elf’s brows knitted in
concentration as he tried to make it out. The runes in use were
old, almost archaic now, and the tongue was definitely Quenya.
An sahtatalyë i lúce o naugrim ar eldar querelye anto rôm ar quenelye lambello i naugrim... then the words became totally unfamiliar as the language switched from Elvish to Dwarvish. The final line again was Elvish: Ar i andor quenelye lambello i eldar.
Legolas frowned. Quenya was not commonly known in his father’s
realm since it had been so long a forbidden language among his
father’s people. He had learned a little of the ancient elven
tongue only in passing when he was being taught the roots and history
of language. The fact that Quenya had been forbidden immediately
made it attractive to his young mind and he had learned a fair amount
before eventually forgetting all about it and moving on to other
things. Any other experience with that ancient tongue had been
picked up from his association with Aragorn and books in Lord Elrond’s
house. He had a sharp mind though and felt that given a moment to
think, he could figure it out. The runes were a little more
difficult, but he got the main idea. The words were instructions
for opening the door. The real trick would be deciphering the
Dwarvish, of which he knew none. Perhaps Aragorn would
know. As strange as it was to admit, the human would probably
know more of the ancient tongue of the Noldor than the Wood-elf did.
“We can escape through here, Estel,” he whispered. “As soon as we
decipher these phrases it should open and close upon command.”
Legolas started and turned when silence met his revelation. Aragorn was nowhere to be seen in the tunnel behind him.
“Estel?” Running quickly back the way he had come, Legolas turned
into the main passageway, his footsteps undetectable as he raced up
behind his human companion.
Aragorn had nearly gained the entrance to the main chamber. He
inched along the right hand wall in the shadow of the tunnel’s bend,
listening intently as he moved slowly towards the opening. The
warm glow of firelight danced against the far wall in oddly shaped
patterns as orcs and wargs passed in front of the burning fires inside
A light touch to the ranger’s shoulder caused him to turn
fully around in his tracks, his hand held out to stave off an
unexpected attack. Legolas bit back the smile that curled his
“Who did you think would be following you?” the elf questioned,
his voice barely audible above the raucous laughter coming from the
“You scared the life out of me.” Aragorn breathed in deeply and
then flinched as the crack of a whip resounded through the
tunnel. Ignoring his friend’s question, he quickly moved to the
passage opening and peered out, whispering to the elf what he had so
“They do have prisoners.” Aragorn ducked back and pressed hard
against the passageway as a drunken orc wove unsteadily past the
opening. “They are elves.” His voice held the slightest tinge of
distress. “I believe from what they have said that one of them is
Glorfindel. He was captured in the hills nearby. They
believe that having him here with someone they call ‘the other one’
will draw someone else to them.” Aragorn turned back towards
Legolas, a puzzled look on his face. It was a frightening thought
to consider that these orcs had somehow managed to capture the Balrog
Slayer, but more than a little confusing who exactly they could prize
as a bigger catch to be using Glorfindel against. “I don’t
understand. I’m going to take a look. Maybe we can free
them,” he answered Legolas’ cautioning frown.
Edging back towards the tunnel opening, Aragorn peered inside.
The cave was filled with orcs lounging near several fires, sprawled
against their resting wargs or arguing with one another over vats of
their obscene draught. A group of orcs gathered around the
prisoners in the right hand wing of the cave, obscuring his view.
Darting to the left side of the passage, Aragorn stepped partly out of
the tunnel. The interior of the room looked as though it had
suffered from a massive earthquake, possibly the one that had shaken
Rivendell some years past. Whenever it had happened, a column had
dislodged from the vaulted ceiling and crumbled to the floor, leaving
troll-sized boulders scattered about the interior. One such large
stone had crashed down near the tunnel opening and partly blocked the
entry. It was in the shadow of this rock shard that Aragorn
stood. From his new vantage point, he could just barely make out
the golden hair of an elf that was being tormented by his captors.
“Is it Glorfindel?” Legolas questioned quietly from his own hiding place across from Aragorn.
“Yes, I believe it...” The ranger’s face went ashen and he gasped as
the orcs moved enough for him to see both the captives that hung from
the twisted rope manacles across the room. “Oh by the Valar.”
The change in Aragorn sent a wave of panic through Legolas.
“What?” He glanced between his friend and his limited view of the
room, trying vainly to see what the human could. “Aragorn, what is it?”
An orc with a grotesquely scarred face punched a dark-haired elf in the
stomach, doubling the Noldo over. Wrapping blackened, clawed
fingers in the elf’s long hair, Guruth pulled Elrond back upright and
leered at the elf lord. A crude, thick blade played under the
proud elven chin, taunting the healer.
“So, shall we continue with you or entertain... what, the captain of
your guard is he?” Guruth drew nearer to Elrond and the elf
grimaced, closing his eyes and looking way. He shuddered slightly
as he tried to breathe around the pain wracking his body. It
struck him oddly that the orcs thought Thranduil was one of his own,
but he did not argue.
“No answer, my pet?” The edge of the knife drew a harsh line along
the underside of Elrond’s jaw. Seeing he would get nowhere, the
orc slammed his elbow up under the elf’s chin, snapping his head back
against the rock wall behind him. It was all Elrond could do to keep
from crying out.
“Stop it!” The other prisoner demanded, seeing the brutal treatment of the orcs.
Legolas started, his heart hammering in his chest. He knew that
voice. “Aragorn...?” His question faltered as fear tingled
Guruth swept his blade up quickly, severing Elrond’s bonds. The
elf fell limply to the floor, unable to stand up under the abuse his
body had taken.
Aragorn could take no more. He couldn’t believe his eyes and the
horror that wrapped through his mind had stifled all coherent
thought. Unable to watch his father beaten, he darted forward.
Strong arms wrapped around his waist, halting him mid-stride and
dragging him back into the passageway. Legolas rolled to the
ground, fighting the human he held as he moved back behind the bend in
the tunnel to hide the sounds of their scuffle.
“Let me go!” Aragorn hissed dangerously. “I have to get them out of
there. They can’t hurt him anymore. Legolas let me
go!” He fought the hands that held him down. “You don’t
“No.” The elf was strong enough to hold the human at bay but was
unwilling to hurt him, “No! Stop struggling.” he whispered into the
man’s ear even as he tightened his hold on the ranger, effectively
pinning him with his weight. “Stop it. Stop and
think! We’ve been here before, my friend. If you go in there
you will be killed. There were at least five hundred orcs and half
as many wargs.”
With a sob of defeat Aragorn stilled beneath the elf, unable to meet
his friend’s gaze. Of course Legolas was right, Aragorn knew
that, but seeing Elrond in that cruel situation had nearly stolen his
reason away for a few moments.
“Now, tell me what you saw.” Legolas released the ranger and pushed
away from him, resting his back against the tunnel wall. “Who is
in there? Was it Glorfindel?”
Aragorn answered with a shake of his head. He sat up and pushed
the hair away from his face, glancing down to the gravelly floor
“I did not think so.” Legolas’ gaze wandered back to the tunnel opening, “That was not his voice.”
“No, it was not.” Pressing himself up, Aragorn stood slowly to
his feet; tears glimmered in the corners of his eyes. “It was...”
his voice trailed off as he walked back towards the main hall, “It was
Legolas’ hand on his arm stopped his forward movement, causing him to
turn slowly back to his friend. “Tell me,” the elf
whispered quietly, already shocked by the news.
“Elrond is in there and he is not alone.” Aragorn took a shaky
breath and steadied himself, gently gripping his friend’s arms, “Your
father is with him, Legolas. Somehow the orcs have captured him
and they have somehow apparently mistaken him for Glorfindel.”
Legolas’ mind reeled. He had known that was his father’s voice
but had not wanted to believe it true. Why would Thranduil be
here, so far from home? How in Arda had he managed to end up a
prisoner? Surely he would not have been alone wherever he went...
how had this happened? It was unthinkable. What could have
possibly forced the king to leave his kingdom? “Are you sure?”
“We have to get them out of there.” Aragorn repeated quietly, he knew
Legolas hadn’t heard him the first time. The elf was obviously as
stunned and horrified as he was at the unexpected revelation.
Whatever the elf was going to say was cut short as shouting erupted
from the main room, drawing both friends’ attention. The orcs
were fighting amongst themselves; something had happened.
Guruth smirked as he toyed with his prisoners. It was fun to
watch the two of them try to defend each other. Elves could be so
selflessly stupid at times; he wondered how their race had survived as
long as they had. A kick to the prone captive on the ground
brought a shout of warning from the golden-haired elf still bound to
the wall even as Elrond cautioned him off.
Stepping nearer to the Sinda elf, Guruth held the proud face in one
gloved hand, his long, claw-like fingernails protruding from the torn,
leather tips. Thranduil didn’t flinch. Guruth smiled, his
grin feral and evil. The fire in this elf’s eyes was still
blazing and unbroken; it would be fun to change that.
Commotion at the front of the cavern drew his attention away and Guruth
stepped back, giving Thranduil a moment of peace. The elf lord
glanced to the floor where Elrond lay, forgotten for the moment amongst
their captors. Of all the beings he might have expected to
encounter here, the Lord of Imladris was definitely not one of
them. Thranduil was sadly confused about what was going on and
who exactly these creatures thought he was, but right now survival was
the main priority, answers would have to come later.
A small scouting party of orcs tumbled into the chamber, fighting and
arguing amongst themselves. One soldier held two distinctly
elvish blades in his hands. He pushed his way to the front of the
group, silencing them with an angry shout and approached Guruth.
The orc leader’s eyes narrowed and he scowled as the scout walked
forward. “What is this? Report.” He barked out the
command causing the room to fall silent, the inhabitants flinching
slightly at the disapproval in his voice.
The orc plunged the two swords tip down into the rocky earth floor,
leaving them stuck quivering in plain sight of the captive elves. “Two
elves came up through the gap. They’re dead. One of
Rhezsharb’s traps got them a little too well,” the orc scout informed
his leader. “The filthy squeakers got stuck like pigs on a
spit. Belzg thinks they mighta been the Elf Lord’s sons.
They was identical of face.”
On the ground, Elrond’s already pale face whitened to near
ghostliness. For a moment his gaze remained transfixed upon the
familiar twin blades before he pressed his eyes shut, curling into
himself and turning his head towards the cold stone floor. Those
were Elladan and Elrohir’s swords, he knew them at a glance, and his
heart shattered within him.