Between Darkness and Dawn

Chapter 10: So it Begins

by Cassia and Siobhan

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The tip of a boot woke Yrinvan out of a dead sleep.  Tinald stood over him, glancing nervously about them. 

“Go to sleep,” Yrin growled. 

“It is midnight.” Tinald’s hesitant answer brought the other fully awake. 

Grabbing the thin blanket he slept on, the servant jumped to his feet and pelted down the stone hallways with Tinald following quickly behind.  He was out of breath by the time he reached the massive wooden doors and threw the small metal plate open, looking quickly about the tiny room. 

“Tinald!  The light, bring it here.” 

Yrinvan grabbed the light from his friend’s hands, shoving the blanket at the other as he tried to see the prisoner. 

“Ranger!  Ranger?” he called into the darkness.  There was no response.  Setting down the lamp he fumbled with the keys that hung on one of the pegs by the door and pulled the entryway open. 

Tinald gasped quietly as he leaned around and glanced into the cell.  The blanket slipped from his fingers. 

Slowly, Yrinvan knelt in the snow.  The ranger was curled in a fetal position, his head tucked into his chest, his sweat slicked hair iced firmly to his features.  The man’s lips were tinged a frightening shade of blue and the color of his skin matched the snow under him. 

“Is he dead?” Tinald asked, his voice barely above a whisper. 

Yrinvan had seen many a servant end his time in Angmar in such a fashion.  He hated it: it was such a waste.  Carefully, he touched the prisoner.  Aragorn was cold to the touch, too cold, but the slave pressed on, feeling the man’s jugular for any signs of life.  A slow, erratic beat pulsed beneath his fingertips and Yrin sighed in relief. 

Turning quickly, he pushed Tinald out of the way and grasped the blanket where the other had dropped it on the ground.  Moving further into the cell, Yrinvan carefully stepped over Aragorn and began to sweep the snow away from the man, draping the blanket over him. 

“He lives yet.  Help me, we have to get him out of here.” Yrinvan ordered. 

Tinald’s eyes went wide with fear and he glanced up and down the passageway, expecting the Wraith to appear from the shadows at any moment and condemn them all on the spot. 

“We dare not!”  He swallowed hard, shaking his head as Yrinvan’s gaze snapped up to meet his.  “Do you know what the Master will do if he finds us helping them?  Remember what happened to Tavin?  We heard him screaming for a month before the end!  A month, Yrin!” 

Yrinvan’s gaze was unmoved.  “Do you know what the Master will do to us if this one dies while under our care?  You heard him earlier.  This is just the beginning.  He wants him alive.  I don’t know why, but he needs him for something.” 

Gently, Tinald touched Yrinvan’s hands, stilling the other’s urgent movements.  “Master ordered him in here; it won’t be our fault if he dies.  Yrin, perhaps it is better that he does not live.  He is nearly gone.  Let him go.  Would you want to come back to this place?”  He swept his hand behind them, indicating the dark lord’s house.  “That would be mercy.” 

Yrinvan glanced down at the ranger.  The man’s breathing had become shallower as he worked to save him.  Perhaps Tinald was right; what kind of future did the man have?  It was better to die a quick death than to endure the long torment of their Master’s malicious attention.  

And yet... 

He remembered the desperate way the elf had pleaded for his friend.  They seemed very close.  The ranger had at least one thing for which to return to the living and he was not sure he should take that choice away from him yet. 

With a shake of his head, Yrin pulled the ranger up against his chest and wrapped the blanket around the cold body.  “It will always be our fault, Tinald.  Remember that, because it will never be his fault, trust me.  Help me get him back to the elf’s cell.  I’ll tell the Master myself.” 

When Tinald hesitated Yrin glared at his friend. “Do you really want him to suffer the same fate as your brother?  He must have a family somewhere; at least he has a friend.  Wouldn’t you have done anything to bring Givon back, to even have a few more days with him?  Help me.” 

With a sad sigh of resignation, Tinald moved forward and helped his friend pull the ranger into a standing position.  “I hope you are right and that the Master is in a good mood.  As for friend and family... you are all I have now, Yrin.  I am not sure these two are worth this risk.” 

“It will be well, Tinald.” Yrinvan kicked the door shut and walked slowly up the passageway, supporting the ranger between them.  “I know what I’m doing.  Trust me.” 


Legolas paced from one end of the small cell to another.  Back and forth, back and forth... there was some amount of hollow comfort in the repetitive motion.  

There was no sleeping tonight, not when worry for Aragorn’s well-being ate at his heart constantly.  The human’s clothing lay folded neatly in a small pile near the back of the cell, far from the reaches of anyone who might enter.  They would have to take them from him.  Legolas stood in the cell staring out the high window that served as a vent for the prison.  Cool air fell through the narrow slit but the thermal heating system kept the prison at a decent temperature.  It was much the same design as they used in Mirkwood, harnessing the natural warmth of the thermal flows beneath the mountains.  That reminded him of how much he missed home.  His father must be worried sick about him by now.  He hoped Thranduil could someday forgive him if he never came back... Despite what his father thought, he hadn’t chosen for it to end up this way. 

The elf sighed.  He knew that wasn’t quite true.  Actually, he had chosen this path.  Estel had tried his best to leave him behind, but he did not regret his decision to follow his friend anywhere, even into this eternal darkness.  He hoped his father could forgive him, even if Thranduil might never understand. 

“Take care of Ada, Raniean.  You’re the only one who can.  Trelan, make sure Raniean doesn’t forget how to laugh, you know how he is.  Please someone take care of my ketrals.  Don’t just put them out in the woods; they aren’t used to the wilds anymore...” Legolas mentally commended his family, friends and responsibilities into one another’s hands.  He didn’t mean to entertain a defeatist mentality, but it was strangely comforting at the moment.  He could not hold onto his worry for all of them as well as his worry for Aragorn and their situation here at the same time - one had to be temporarily laid to rest.

 The door to the cell scraped open slowly and three figures stumbled into the dimly lit chamber. 

The elf had been prepared for anything, even for the chance to attempt an escape, but the sight that met his eyes was far from anything he had imagined. 

Aragorn’s unconscious body was supported between Yrinvan and Tinald.  A thin, worn blanket was draped around his unclothed upper body.  Ice shimmered in his hair and clung to his pants and boots; he was coated in a powdery covering of snow.  What scared the elf more than anything was that it seemed his friend was not breathing.  The human’s slightly parted lips were blue and his skin was alarmingly pale. 

Yrin spoke first.  “He’ll need your help if he’s to make it.  I’ll have Ahnna bring up some heated water and some soup if there’s any left.  You’ll need to get him warm and fast.  I’m sorry,” he apologized quietly as the elf stepped forward quickly and accepted the ranger from the guards.  The prince wrapped his friend protectively in his arms and pulled him back into the corner, away from the humans who had brought him. 

The look in the elf’s eyes nearly broke Yrin’s heart.  He’d seen that same haunted gaze before on so many faces.  That combination of fear for a loved one and condemnation towards those who had done this... the barely masked question of how these slaves could be so cruel. 

Dropping his gaze from the accusingly piercing blue eyes, Yrinvan draped his arm around Tinald and led the man out of the room, quietly closing the door behind them.  The truth was they had saved Strider’s life tonight, but that never absolved them of the blame of endangering him in the first place.  Yrin was used to that fact. 

Legolas could hear their voices through the thick door as he gently laid Aragorn down. 

“I’ll go tell the Master, you return to Ahnna and ask her to fetch the things I told the elf we’d bring.” 

“Yrinvan...” Tinald’s voice wavered.  He was afraid, but not for himself.  He was bitterly terrified of losing the other man.  Legolas recognized that familiar ache in the human’s voice all too well. 

“Don’t worry, my friend,” Yrinvan assured quietly.  “The Master will understand and if he doesn’t...” 

Legolas couldn’t see the big man shrug but he recognized the tone of his voice – a man on the verge of giving up, a man with no hope. 

“Make him understand.”  Tinald’s whisper was barely heard by the prince as the two humans walked off in separate directions. 

The servants wanted to help them.  That revelation gave him hope.  Yrin had thus far been decent towards them, but the fact that he seemed to have taken such a risk in bringing Aragorn back to the elf surprised Legolas.  Perhaps there was still room for a ray of hope for them yet. 

Quickly, Legolas grabbed the ranger’s clothing from the corner of the room and draped the heavy leather coat about Aragorn’s shoulders as he pulled the human more comfortably into his arms.  He needed to get the man warmed up and wakened. 

Holding Aragorn against him, Legolas briskly rubbed his friend’s arms and legs, brushing the snow and ice from his body and clothing.  Aragorn was freezing to death; the elf recognized the symptoms by now. 

He laid his cheek against Aragorn’s cold face, rocking the man gently and talking to him.  The ranger started to shiver in his arms, small tremors at first and then more violent shudders followed as the elf’s body heat began to warm him. 

Aragorn’s breathing became more labored and disrupted by the shaking of his warming body.  Legolas clung to him tighter, pulling the coat and blankets over the two of them to trap their heat beneath the coverings.  He winced.  This was going to be painful for the man.  Waking would not be pleasant. 

“Wake up, mellon-nínTolo, come on Aragorn, come back.  We’ve survived worse blizzards than this, mellon-nín, you can’t walk out on me now,” Legolas whispered sadly.  He did not notice when the door scraped quietly open and a small, stooped-over woman entered hesitantly.  Gently rocking his friend, the elf continued to whisper in the grey tongue, encouraging the human to fight and return to him.  He would not be able to continue living in Angmar with the Witch-king if Aragorn left him.  He had come this far for his friend alone; if and when Aragorn forsook this world, Legolas would follow.  It was not defeat or despair; it was simply a fact.  Legolas would not linger to become like Yrinvan and Tinald, good souls trapped by evil they could not hope to escape.

A soft touch on his arm startled Legolas and he shied from the contact, pulling Aragorn more tightly against him.  The ranger moaned softly as the elf shifted him. 

“Legolas...” Aragorn whispered repeatedly as the elf gently shushed him. 

Beside the prince, a human woman knelt.  She was disheveled in appearance.  Her hair hung in dark tangles around her face, but her eyes held a spark that had not yet been quenched and Legolas noted it before she quickly dropped her gaze.  She carried a steaming bowl of soup and a pitcher of warmed water.  Carefully she set them down near the elf and wordlessly removed a strip of cloth from her belt.  Dipping the fabric into the warm water she moved forward hesitantly, asking for permission with her eyes. 

Legolas watched her guardedly, not releasing the man he held.  The prince didn’t move as she pressed the blankets aside and lifted Aragorn’s right arm.  Placing the now heated cloth against his armpit she lowered the man’s arm and repeated the processes on his left side. 

“Do this here as well.”  The woman quietly instructed, touching the inside of Aragorn’s arms where they bent at the elbow.  “It will help him recover.”  She placed the blankets back over the man and shifted Aragorn in Legolas’ arms, pressing the human’s chest against that of the elf.  Aragorn’s chin rested on Legolas’ shoulder and he held the man’s face close to his own. 

“Hold him closely; your body will heat him better that way.”  Standing stiffly the woman backed slowly away, “Talk to him.  It will hurt when consciousness returns and this is a fearful place in which to wake.”  She pushed the soup bowl closer to the elf with the tip of her worn shoe before turning to leave. 

Hannon le, Ahnna.”  Legolas whispered softly. 

Startled by his words Ahnna turned and bowed slightly.  “Avo bedo o hannad, hîr nín.  You are most welcome, my lord.” She answered just as quietly, unwilling to meet the elf’s gaze.  The words were halting, as if dredged from long distant memory, but they were perfectly understandable, even if ungrammatical.

Turning, Ahnna left quickly, although she could hear the prince calling her back.  The woman’s response had surprised Legolas as much as seeing a wood-elf that first day on the plains before the mountain had surprised her. 

Aragorn stirred against the elf, coughing as consciousness pulled him back to the present.  Speech continued to elude him however.  Aragorn felt restrained.  He could not move and it frightened him. 

Legolas felt the ranger tense in his arms and softly began to speak to his friend once more, leaving the mystery of the woman behind for the moment. 

“Estel.”  Legolas rubbed the ranger’s back in a soothing pattern as he talked.  “You are safe now.  Just relax.” 

The ranger’s teeth chattered as he drew in shaking breaths, trying to still his body that was trembling with the effort of returning to normal temperature.  Aragorn cried out softly, burying his head on Legolas’ shoulder. 

“It hurts, Legolas,” he ground out through gritted teeth.  His fingers and legs had begun to warm up and the painful tingling of his blood circulating through the cold extremities sliced through his awareness. 

There was nothing the elf could do to lessen Aragorn’s pain.  Moving carefully, Legolas removed the wet cloths from the ranger’s armpits and dipped them back in the warm water, placing them on the sensitive skin of his inner elbows and forcing the human to cross his arms to keep the fabric in place. 

“Felt better when I was sleeping.”  Aragorn chattered, trying to still the tremors in his body. 

Legolas smiled softly as he glanced down at the human he was holding.  “Yes, I can imagine how good it must have felt sleeping in the snow,” the elf teased lightly.  He brushed the wet, tangled locks of hair away from Aragorn’s face.  “Considering it is the second time I know of that you have been found thus, I could think you wanted to make a habit of it.  At least the cold seems to have halted the poison for a little bit,” he said, noting that the dark tendrils spreading from Aragorn’s shoulder wound had actually receded a little. 

With a snort of laughter Aragorn smiled, his mirth turning into a grimace as he clenched his eyes closed and turned his face towards his friend.  He let the elf’s heat warm his cheeks; it was the only part of his body that didn’t hurt at the moment. 

The door to the cell clanged open harshly and darkness descended in the room, dimming the light from the lamp and blotting the stars out completely.  Legolas held his breath, pulling Aragorn instinctively closer to him. 

The Nazgûl stepped into the chamber and glowered at the elf and the ranger.  The pitcher and soup bowl were just behind Legolas.  The elf pulled the edge of the blankets over them, hiding them as the Witch-king entered.  He did not want Ahnna, Yrinvan or Tinald into get in trouble for showing them kindness. 

Yrinvan stepped in behind the Wraith and glanced around his master at the two occupants in the cell.  He was slightly relieved to see the ranger turn slowly towards them and glare at the Witch-king.  He had been a little worried that it might have been too late anyway. 

“You live?”  The words chilled the room by degrees and Aragorn involuntarily began to shiver again.  “That will be the last act of mercy you witness in your stay within my palace.  If the poisons don’t kill you first your stubbornness to my lordship over you will.” 

The dark hood turned towards the servant that edged alongside the Wraith.  “Slave?”  The Witch-king questioned. 

Yrinvan dropped immediately to his knees, touching his head to the floor before looking up to acknowledge his master. 

The word and the force behind it brought back painful memories to Legolas and he sucked his breath in, flinching as the dark power of the Nazgûl brushed through him. 

The Wraith did not miss the elf’s reaction. 

“You remember your name as well.” The Nazgûl turned back at the elf, dark amusement in his voice.  “Good,” he purred before turning back to the other human. 

“You were right in your decision, Yrinvan. I will let it go unpunished...this time.”  He pushed the man out of the cell by the darkness that encased him like a cloak.  “Next time you try to decipher my will without asking me, you will not be as fortunate.  Remember that.”  The door to the chamber closed and the shadows fled from the room, following their master out into the hall. 

“I will come back for you later.”  The echoes of the Wraith’s voice resounded down the passageway, laden with dark promises.  “Pray I call for you before the poisons do their work.” 

The room was silent for a long time as the inhabitants of the cell rested in the shared warmth of their body heat.  Legolas finally broke the stillness by scooting the bowl of soup out from underneath the edge of the blankets. 

“I think I have never hated an enemy as I hate him,” Aragorn whispered.  He was worn out and did not even fight it when Legolas tipped the soup bowl to his lips.  Lying in the elf’s arms he simply drank the warm, thin broth, feeling it all the way down to his stomach. 

“Do not hate him, for he feeds on hate.  Pity him,” Legolas answered quietly, after laying the bowl back on the floor.  He gently touched the back of his fingers to the ranger’s now flushed cheeks, redirecting Aragorn’s gaze.  “He was a man once.  Now he is dead but cannot rest.  He can kill our bodies, but where we will find light and hope again on the other side there will be only terror for him.  There is no place for him in Mandos’ halls or beyond.  His soul is corrupted and will find only agony beyond the circles of the world when it is released.  He will live out eternity in the Void with his master.  He exists in torment and it is all he will ever know.”  Legolas knew of what he spoke.  What kind of creature might he have become if he had remained the Nazgûl’s thrall? 

“I will not pity him.”  Aragorn glanced up at his friend.  It was a terrible fate, true, but one that the Nazgûl had at one time chosen for himself.  No one had forced him to accept one of Sauron’s rings and swear allegiance to the darkness in return for power and supposed eternal life. 

“Very well,” Legolas answered softly.  He picked the bowl back up, forcing the ranger to take another sip.  “But you should not give him your fear either.  Hate and despair are his chief weapons.  He wants you to lose yourself to them so they will destroy your soul and then he can win.  Faith and hope are what he cannot fathom and cannot stand up against.  That is why and how we must resist him.” 

Aragorn’s eyes fluttered shut and he breathed deeply as his body gave into its weariness. 

“He cannot overcome hope,” Legolas spoke softly, talking to himself now.  “And together we will make sure that hope is not lost.” 

Setting the bowl down once more he gently cradled Aragorn’s head with his free hand.  Soft humming filled the cell.  The sweet, low tune filtered through the heating vents, carried on the warm currents of air, and the servants on the floor just above the prison heard a sound they had not imagined they would hear in Angmar – an elf singing a lullaby to warm his friend’s heart. 


Legolas held Aragorn all through the night, but morning came too soon.  Dawn brought Yrinvan back into their cell.  The servant moved quieter than most men Legolas had ever observed, but it seemed as if all his movements were tinged with sorrow.  The elf admitted to still feeling angry with anyone who would willingly serve the Witch-king, but he knew that he of all people should have some understanding about what it meant to be the slave of a Nazgûl. 

Yrinvan pressed his hand against Aragorn’s forehead, judging his temperature before he urged him to his feet.  The slave did not allow the orcs that accompanied him to enter the cell this time. 

“You must come,” Yrin said quietly. 

Aragorn started to rise, but Legolas’ arms tightened around him.  “He almost died last night; you cannot expect us to...” 

Yrin straightened up.  “It does not matter what I think or expect, don’t you understand?” his voice was flat, but there was a little bit of regret behind the words.  “The Master has sent for you, you must come.” 

Aragorn struggled to sit up.  He didn’t want to go, but it was not a choice that any of them had to make. 

Legolas tried not to react as badly today, but it was no easier than the day before when he and the ranger were separated, save that they had expected it this time.  Again, Legolas was left to wait in the hall while Aragorn was taken into the dark study. 

Yrin remained with the elf, letting the orcs go ahead with Aragorn. 

When the doors closed behind the ranger, Legolas closed his eyes and let his head rest against his bound hands.  Wasn’t it enough that he had been here once?  Did they have to do it all over again?  He bit the inside of his lip.  The orcs were not with them this time, so he risked speaking to his guard. 

“What is going to happen today?” the elf asked quietly, trying to keep any bitterness out of his tone.  “What will they do to him?” 

“I don’t know,” Yrinvan admitted.  “You must not worry about him so much.  You need to worry more about yourself.  The Master will send for you soon.” 

“He is my friend,” the elf said with a slightly flinty tone. 

Yrinvan looked at him long and hard.  The elf didn’t understand the way things were here.  “He is your weakness.  And you are his.” 

Aragorn found himself standing before the Nazgûl a second time.  The experience was no more pleasant than the first.  If anything, he was weaker now, his body worn down from his experience in the ice cell.  Of course, that was exactly what the Witch-king had intended. 

The orcs pressed him to his knees, holding him in place as the Wraith considered his captive.  “I trust you enjoyed your evening?”  No one could say that the Nazgûl did not have a twisted sense of humor. 

Aragorn closed his eyes.  He gathered his strength.  It was hard to find. 

“I have had better,” the ranger admitted dryly.  The orcs did not allow him to lift his head and he did not feel up to fighting them.  So he stared straight ahead, watching the Nazgûl’s gloved hands.  There was something almost evilly mesmerizing about the way the joints on his gauntlets flashed and clacked like fish scales in a dark lagoon. 

A thin, silver rod rested in those hands.  A short, narrow ribbon that might have been made of leather hung from the tip of the rod, falling down to dangle above the tops of the Nazgûl’s sharp-toed boots.  Something about it made Aragorn uneasy. 

“Good.  Then perhaps you will be in a mood to answer my questions honestly this time.”  His hand came to rest heavily on the ranger’s shoulder. 

Aragorn could not resist shuddering at the evil touch.  The reaction obviously pleased the Witch-king who emitted a low hiss of satisfaction.  His grip tightened, causing the human to gasp sharply. 

“We shall start with something simple,” the Wraith purred, driving his sharp thumb against the poisoned wound.  He knew the ranger was already past time for more antidote, but he had no intention of giving him any more yet. 

At an order from their master, the orcs holding Aragorn removed his outer jerkin and tunic. 

“And the bandage too,” the Wraith instructed. 

Aragorn shivered slightly from the cold in the room as Legolas’ carefully applied bandage was roughly peeled back from the semi-healed wound.  The dressing clung to the injury and he winced as the orcs yanked it away.  A small trickle of blood ran down his chest from the swollen injury.  Glancing down he was disturbed to see that the blood was tainted black.  His wound seemed to be visibly darkening in the presence of the Nazgûl.  The pain of it throbbed like a living creature inside his body. 

The Witch-king looked down at the human.  He turned the rod in his hands over slowly. 

“I could take you into my world, mortal.  I could pierce your heart and destroy everything you ever were, erase it and form you anew in the shadow... Perhaps I shall.  But not yet... there is much I want to know about you first.”  He circled Aragorn with deliberate steps. 

“I promised to start with something simple, and so I shall.  Who are you?  What is your name?” 

Aragorn’s gaze fixed on the stone wall across from him.  He had been through this once before with the Wraith.  “I told you years ago.  My name is Strider, ranger of the north.” 

The Witch-king sized Aragorn’s chin, gripping it tightly in his gloved fingers and tipping it up to stare into his dark hood.  “And I think you remember my response to your answer then, mortal,” he hissed.  He unfurled the flexible end of the rod in his hands and dragged it slowly up the side of the ranger’s neck. 

Aragorn’s face twisted in unexpected agony.  There was more to the instrument than met the eye because the sheer, pulsing pain its mere touch imparted was staggering.  The human gasped, closing his eyes until the rod was removed. 

“That is not a proper name.  I would know who your sire was.” The Nazgûl’s voice was toneless, but demanding nonetheless. 

Aragorn gauged his next words carefully.  He did not wish the Wraith to become too convinced he was hiding something about himself, but neither did he wish to give too much away. “My parents perished when I was a child, I never knew them.  I was fostered in Rivendell for a time under Lord Elrond’s care.  The elves call me Estel.  My own race calls me Strider.” 

The Wraith considered this information.  “You are a leader among your people?” he questioned. 

Aragorn flinched when hesitation bought him a sharp snap across the back of his shoulders with the ribbon-end of the Nazgûl’s rod. 

“Yes,” he grit out between his teeth, knowing there was no good denying what the Nazgûl could eventually find out through his own sources if he tried hard enough.  “I am one of the captains of the northern Dúnedain.”  The human downgraded his position a bit. 

“The elf, who is he?” The Nazgûl was wary of how easy he was obtaining answers to his questions.  Something inside him doubted their truthfulness.  There was something about this man that was more than he presented himself.  He was a wielder of power.  The pupil of a Wizard perhaps?  The Wraith had reason to believe that this human had been friendly with Gandalf the Grey... what had the Istar been teaching him?  Why did Wizards and elves count this human among their number? 

“Legolas is a wood-elf from Mirkwood.  He is my friend,” the human answered warily.  He dared not lie because he did not know how much the Wraith already knew, but neither would he give away anything harmful.  He was very aware that the Dark One was testing him. 

“Then answer me this, Dúnadan,” the Wraith pressed.  “What were you and he doing in Mordor?  What were you and he doing in the Barrow-downs disrupting my people and destroying their homes?  These are the actions of a spy... but why?  What do you hope to achieve?  What are the elves and the Istari planning?” 

Aragorn licked his lips.  His head was spinning.  He needed more antidote, it had been too long since the last dose.  “I went to Mordor to save my friend, and the Barrow-downs were an accident.  We are not spies and to my knowledge no one is planning anything.” 

Three leisurely strokes from the Nazgûl’s excruciating instrument made Aragorn hunch forward against the hands of the orcs that held him captive.  He hissed in pain.  He hadn’t thought the Nazgûl would appreciate that answer.  The ironic thing was it was the truth. 

“You would have me believe...” The Wraith struck him sharply. “That it is coincidence that you have darkened my path so many times?” He struck the human again, this time drawing a thin line of blood.

 “Say rather, extreme bad fortune,” Aragorn gasped through clenched teeth.  The actual blows themselves were sharp and left small welts, but it was the strange, hot charge that crackled from the rod which made the contact unbearable.  

“Your bad fortune, mortal, was the moment you decided to lie to me, for that is all I have heard from you,” the Nazgûl growled.  

Aragorn’s fists balled tightly and he let his head drop forward as the Wraith punished his unsatisfactory answers with a cruel, thorough switching.  Moving from back to front, the Nazgûl did not spare the ranger’s chest and stomach.  He paused over the human’s slowly oozing wound.  Very deliberately, he pushed the end of the rod into the jagged cut. 

A ragged scream was torn from Aragorn’s throat, although he did not even remember opening his mouth.  Dark electricity pulsed through him, altering the rhythm of his heartbeat and searing through every cell in his body.  The Wraith twisted the rod cruelly, wringing another hoarse cry from his helpless captive.  When he pulled back, Aragorn slumped forward limply, unable to even kneel on his own for a few moments.  

The Nazgûl leaned in close to the trembling prisoner, close enough that Aragorn’s heaving breaths stirred the tattered edges of his cowl.  “I think you will answer more truthfully after you have been better trained.  I had hoped that yesterday might have taught you something and we could avoid all this... but if you do wish to be difficult, I can oblige.”  A cruel amusement echoed in the evil being’s tone.  

Aragorn had only a moment for the ripples of terror to chase one another up his spine before the Wraith plied the rod to him again and rational thought was banished in favor of blinding agony.