Between Darkness and Dawn

Chapter 12: Reluctant Allies

by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next

The long hours of torture blurred together after a while.  Aragorn did not remember losing consciousness.  He did not remember being taken down and brought back to their cell.  When he awoke he did not know where he was and all he was aware of was his pounding headache.  For half a wonderful moment, he thought he was home and half expected Elrond or one of his brothers to come check on him presently, to see if he was feeling better.  Then he opened his eyes and reality crashed down upon him once more. 

His blurry eyes struggled to bring the dim room into focus.  The first thing he could see was Legolas’ faintly luminous form across the room from him.  The elf was sitting against the wall.  Manacles on short tethers of chain held Legolas’ arm’s up a little above his head.  A thick iron collar around his neck, also tethered to the wall behind him, provided a third point of restraint.  Aragorn saw for the first time the ugly bridle that still marred the elf’s fair face.  The cruel, bulky harness was crusted with blood where it dug into the prince’s skin and looked terribly out of place upon the fluid lines of Legolas’ body. 

The prince’s eyes were closed but he must have only been conserving his strength because, when the faint sounds of Aragorn stirring reached his ears, his eyelids lifted.  Clear blue orbs looked out from under his dark lashes, fixing the ranger in their gaze.  It looked as if the elf wanted to speak, but of course he could not.  

Aragorn automatically tried to go to his friend’s side, but found he too was restrained.  His own hands were fixed to the wall above his head and he realized the weight upon his shoulders was an iron collar similar to the one around Legolas’ neck.  It seemed that their days of freedom in the cell were over for the time being.  The Nazgûl was not pleased with them. 

“Legolas?” the ranger rasped his friend’s name and was momentarily surprised that he could.  He swallowed raggedly, feeling how sore his mouth and throat were, both from the gag and, more shamefully, from his own screams.  A wave of dizzy weakness made the human’s vision waver.  The Nazgûl’s long torment had taken its toll on his strength. 

Legolas inclined his head towards his friend.  His large, sad, blue eyes spoke the concern that his muzzled tongue was not allowed to voice.  The prince made a soft, murmuring sound but had to stop and close his eyes again for a moment.  His tongue was cut and swollen.  His whole mouth felt afire from dehydration and the chafing of the cruel bit. 

Aragorn’s face clouded with pain, this time for his friend rather than himself.  Unlike true horse bridles, there were no guard-rings to keep the snaffle from pinching and cutting the corners of the elf’s delicate mouth.  Aragorn could barely stand to look at Legolas’ face.  The ranger hadn’t realized he had looked away until he felt himself compelled to look back once more.  Legolas’ eyes were boring into him, intense in their concern.  “I’m fine,” the human whispered hoarsely, knowing his friend’s unspoken question. 

Legolas snorted softly.  

“All right, so I have been better,” Aragorn admitted with a weak attempt at a smile.  He wanted to ask if Legolas were all right, but aside from it being a stupid question there was no way the elf could answer him.  

Footsteps in the hall heralded a visitor even before the door to their cell scraped quietly open.  Yrin paused in the doorway for a moment before he entered.  Aragorn could see the evil glint of orc eyes in the hall peering in through the opening.  It was a small mercy that the dark creatures remained outside and only the human entered the room.  

Yrinvan set the tray he carried on the floor and unlocked one of Aragorn’s manacles, freeing his right arm.  He placed a cup in the ranger’s free hand and pushed it towards the man’s lips.  “The Master allows you a little more antidote.  Drink.” 

Aragorn did drink, ignoring the bitter taste of the medicine.  He knew by now to be grateful for all he could get.  Not having it was excruciating.  Yrin gave him a mug of soup, some bread and water to wash the potion down.  When the ranger finished, the servant locked his arm back into the wall restraints.  Gathering up his tray, the man prepared to leave.  

“Wait!” Aragorn croaked in quiet alarm.  “What about Legolas?” 

A brief look of sorrow and perhaps even guilt flittered quickly across Yrinvan’s face.  “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.  “I am not allowed to give him anything.  Those are my orders.”  His gaze flickered to the orcs in the hall.  The Nazgûl trusted him with his household and the orcs obeyed the human over them, but they also hated him and would gladly report any disobedience directly to the Witch-king.  Yrin walked a very dangerous tightrope.  

“But...” Aragorn began to protest.  

Yrin shook his head decidedly, forestalling any argument.  “I’m sorry.  I truly am,” he said before leaving and shutting the door behind him.  

Aragorn leaned his head back against the wall.  “Legolas, I’m sorry...” he murmured his own apology, his eyes seeking those of his friend.  He felt guilty having eaten and drunk when the elf was being forced to go without.  

Legolas shook his head quickly, his brows furrowing.  He did not want Aragorn feeling sorry for him.  All things considered he was better off than the human.  He wasn’t poisoned and he wasn’t the one who had been tortured by a Nazgûl for the past few hours.  Legolas was just glad that Yrin had been allowed to see to Aragorn.  He was not worried about himself.  He only wished he could tell that to the ranger. 

Aragorn’s head was spinning and he felt as if he had been slow roasted over a hot fire.  Almost every inch of his skin was on fire.  Last night he had been frozen, today he had been burned; the contrast was too much for him.  The Nazgûl’s long ministrations had left him hypersensitive and the very air itself was painful.  

Suddenly he felt a faint tug on his consciousness.  A moment later he recognized Legolas’ presence.  His eyes flew open, expecting to somehow see the elf next to him.  

Of course Legolas was still chained to the opposite wall, but his eyes were fixed intently on the ranger. 

Aragorn felt it again, the faint but distinctive feel of Legolas’ consciousness brushing his.  It was a reassuring touch and he relaxed slightly as unconsciousness slowly claimed him once more. 

Legolas watched his friend’s body slump back against the wall again, the ranger’s head falling to his chest.  Aragorn was worn out.  Whether he wanted to admit it or not, so was Legolas.  The elf automatically tried to lick his parched lips.  Of course he couldn’t.  Legolas sighed and leaned his own head back against the wall.  He had a nasty suspicion that their stay in Angmar was only going to be getting worse. 


Night had fallen hours ago and the castle slept.  The orcs prowled the lower levels, keeping the hallways clear of servants.  The nights were theirs.  They had free roam of Angmar when the darkness settled in.  They had been restricted from the servant’s quarters and the cells but otherwise were free to roam at will.  They did not require the aid of glow globes or light to see their way in the dark.  They belonged to the night; they were most comfortable there.  A group of four shuffled down the stone passage outside the cell that housed Aragorn and Legolas.  They didn’t bother with the captives; they had been told to leave them alone.  The orcs were talking amongst themselves, joking about a cruelty they had been privileged to hand down earlier in the day.  Such things amused them.  They did not amuse the one who hid in the shadows of an alcove in the passage not fifty feet from the newcomers’ cell.

Ahnna waited until the sounds of the orcs had diminished.  Yrin would be terribly angry with her when he found out where she had been. Right now, she didn’t care.  She wasn’t too pleased with him either. 

She had heard disturbing things about the two newcomers.  Her position and duties fell with the kitchen staff or cleaning crews.  She had nothing to do with prisoners and the Nazgûl’s affairs, as her husband did.  She had learned a long time ago not to ask Yrin about what he did when they were apart, or what he had seen when he was with the Nazgûl.  Yrin never would tell her and she could see it pained him when she asked.  Yet there was gossip, even here in Angmar, and rumors trickled down to the women.  They were fully aware of the cruel nature of the one they served and she had heard whispered tales about what the Nazgûl was doing with the elf and the ranger. 

Breaking her own rule and asking Yrin for the truth behind the rumors had gained her nothing except an irritable husband.  So she had taken it upon herself to find out how they fared.  Yrin was dispensing antidote to the slaves tonight and would be back late, giving her plenty of time to sneak into the cells unnoticed. 

Quietly, she crept to the cell door and eased it open.  She hardly made a sound as she gazed into the small room.  The tiny lamp they were afforded barely lit the interior.  

Alerted by the small sounds, Legolas blinked and turned towards the cracked door. His luminescence cast a pale blue light gently around him.  It reflected dimly upon the cruel bit that protruded from the edges of his mouth.
“Oh, hîr nín,” Ahnna whispered in horror.  It broke her heart to see the elf in this state.  He reminded her of the others, so long ago.  She could still remember their fair faces and musical voices, the way they had laughed and humored the little human child in their midst.  Seeing one of them like this felt like having that precious part of her childhood desecrated.  She had thought there were some things in the world that the evil which had taken her life away could never touch.  She had been wrong.

Legolas recognized the woman as Yrin’s wife.  He looked away in shame.  He knew what he must look like.  Her words were gentle and filled with pain, but he could not stand her pity.
Seeing the elf’s torment, she moved farther into the room.  Bowing low and touching her hand to her heart she swept it out before her in the formal greeting of the elves.  Quietly she continued speaking, “Sîdh hîr nín, sin ú-innas brona an-uir. Gwestan. Peace, my lord, it will not last forever.  I promise.”

The elf’s blue eyes latched onto her, his heart soothed momentarily by the sounds of the Grey Tongue.  As it had been the first time, her speech was somewhat slow and halting, but she had obviously had a very good grip on the language once.  The way she spoke was like a school girl reciting a carefully practiced phrase.  The small question in her tone was asking if she got it right.  

Legolas would have smiled if he were able. 

The soothing speech woke Aragorn.  His chains rattled against the stone wall behind him as he shifted and turned toward Legolas. 

“Legolas?” Aragorn called groggily to the elf.  “Is that you?” 

Startled, Ahnna pressed into the corner of the small room. 

Aragorn saw the shifting movement and shied away from it, fearing the shadow that he could not identify. “Who are you?” the ranger questioned fearfully. 

Before she could answer, their attention was drawn to the elf as Legolas kicked out at Aragorn, trying to silence the man.  Understanding quickly what the elf wanted, the man closed his eyes and rested his chin on his chest as though he was sleeping.  He slowed his breathing and relaxed in the manacles. 

The door scraped open and two orcs leaned in, glancing between the elf and the ranger.  Legolas had turned his head away from the door as he was want to do and feigned sleep.  The orcs often came and looked in on the prisoners.  They were not allowed into the cell but that did not prevent them from verbally tormenting the captives often.  Tonight they simply glanced inside.  Grunting in satisfaction, the door was pulled shut, revealing once more the form of the small woman cringing behind it in the corner. 

Ahnna glanced fearfully at the door and crept back to the threshold, testing the handle to make sure the orcs had not locked it.  It wasn’t common for them to lock the door when the prisoners were in shackles but it wasn’t unheard of either.  Fortunately, they had not.  Slipping the thick door silently open the woman pressed back into the hallway with one last look in at the elf. “Forgive us,” she whispered and then disappeared.

Stealing stealthily out of the lower level she headed for the servants quarters.  As she climbed the back steps up to the common space her ire rose steadily. 

“Who was that?” Aragorn questioned softly once the woman had left.  He had been unconscious when Legolas met the woman before and did not know she was Yrin’s wife.  He did not expect an answer from the muzzled elf, but his friend was watching him closely.  

Was that hope in the elf’s eyes?  He had barely heard the woman say something about ‘not lasting forever’.  Had she been speaking of their captivity?  He wanted to believe she was.  At the very least, it seemed they had more sympathizers to their cause.  That was always good. 

Aragorn leaned his head against his arm and sighed.  He wished Legolas could talk to him.  He wanted to hear the elf’s voice. “You are going to have a lot of explaining to do when that thing comes out,” the human teased quietly. 

Legolas tried to smile around the bridle but was unsuccessful.  Instead he simply nodded.  No one was looking forward to getting rid of the cruel harness more than he was. 


When Ahnna reached the servants’ level and stepped inside the open living space, a shadow detached from the wall on her right and stepped into her path.  Yrin towered over his wife, his arms crossed over his chest and his lips pressed into a tight, thin line.  The small woman started, but recovered quickly and glared up at her husband.  The fire in her eyes matched his and her hands moved to rest on her hips. 

“Woman, where were you?”  Yrinvan questioned Ahnna angrily. 

“Where you should have been,” she replied hotly.  “You did not tell me that they had been so...” her voice trailed off.  Both the elf and the ranger had obviously been seriously abused.  “You knew, didn’t you?  Did you do any of that?”  Her voice rose slightly and Yrin grabbed her arm, dragging her into the semi-privacy of the servants' kitchen.  

“Shh!  You had no business going down there,” the man hissed.  “You do not have permission to be on those levels!” 

He didn’t answer her question.  He never answered her questions.  Ahnna regretted having asked it in the first place.  She knew better than to say things like that.  It was just that sometimes she couldn’t reconcile the caring man she loved with the heartless role she knew he had to shoulder.  

“Have you seen what the Master has done to that elf?” The woman demanded.  She knew he had.  

“Ahnna, you could have been found out.  Do you know what would have happened to you?”  Yrin tried to use logic on the woman, knowing full well that she was beyond listening to him.  He had seen that look in her eyes before.  He tried to soften his voice in an attempt to placate her as her frown deepened. 

“He is an Eldar, Yrinvan Tormiand!”  

The man cringed at the use of his full name.  Ahnna was not going to listen to his reason.  He understood her fascination with the memories of light and beauty she associated with elves.  There was nothing light or beautiful about this place and the memories were special to her.  Right now however, he was not in the mood for her elf fixation.  Turning away from the woman he paced to the far end of the kitchen, running his hands through his short, graying hair.  He hated his job, his life, this place and right now most of all he hated the one who had caused this conflict between them – his master. 

“He looked bad, Yrin.  There’s no way he can eat around that thing.  You carried only one plate out of the kitchen earlier, I saw you.  When was the last time he was given food or water?”  The woman pressed her husband.  She didn’t follow him as he walked away, but kept talking.  “Why is the Master doing this to them?  What have they done to him that he wishes to destroy them?” 

“The Master doesn’t want either of them dead,” Yrin finally relented.  He didn’t discuss his work with his wife, but he could tell there would be no living with her now unless he gave her some answers.  “He thinks they are spies or something worse.  He wants to question them.  The elf made him angry.  He wouldn’t... He wouldn’t obey and now the Master intends to break him,” the man’s voice was softly.  His back was still turned to his wife and he closed his eyes tightly as images of what he had witnessed in the Nazgûl’s chambers earlier came to his mind.  He carried too many memories like that. Sometimes he found it hard to sleep at night. 

“Break him?” Ahnna repeated incredulously, “Do you know what happens to an elf when you break them?  They die!  Yrin you have to...” 

The head servant rounded on Ahnna.  He was sick of her acting like she was some kind of authority on elves.  He understood her concern, but what did she want from him? 

“To what?  What would you have me do?!  What Ahnna?  Tell the Master that I think he’s making a mistake and he should just let them go?  I’m sure that would go over very well.  Maybe I should give you to the Nazgûl in place of the elf, or perhaps Mahdi or Larnis?  How about Tinald?  Maybe I’ll just throw him to the Wraith instead!” His voice rose as he lashed his frustration out at the only person available.  

“Lower your voice, Yrinvan,” Ahnna cautioned, glancing around them worriedly.  She walked around the island station to her husband’s side and glanced up into the dark brown eyes that frowned down at her.  “I understand the situation.  I just... I would that there was something we could do.  I don’t know why, but I feel differently about these two than any of the others we have seen come through.  We can’t let them die.” 

Yrin leaned back against the counter behind him, closing his eyes.  

“Now you even talk like the elf.  He says that the ranger is a healer and he could create the antidote for us if we would help them.”  Yrin cringed after he spoke.  He hadn’t meant to tell her that, it would only get her going again.  


“And what? Everyone who comes in here begs for his life or the life of his family.  Nothing makes them any different from the rest and few of them are alive today.  Their promises are empty, desperate attempts to escape.  Can you blame them?  They would promise the world if I would let them go.  But I can’t.”  He opened his eyes and stared down at the green orbs that held his gaze.  

Gently touching her husband’s arm with a small hand, Ahnna nodded.  “Of course not.  But, Yrin, you should know that if the elf said the man is a healer, then he is.  The Eldar are not given to lying.”  Her voice was a mere whisper.  “I’m not asking you to do anything stupid.  The last thing I want is for you to get yourself killed.  Just... help them, for me.  I know you have a heart, Husband; does it not still ache when you see your kindred in pain?”

“He is not my kindred,” Yrin spoke the lame excuse knowing it was unacceptable. 

“He is a living being, a creature of light.  He is your kin as surely as Tinald is. He does not deserve to be tormented, nor does his friend,” Ahnna pleaded. 

“Does anyone?  Yet that doesn’t stop it, Ahnna.  Wishing does not make it so - neither does dreaming.  And neither does getting oneself killed,” the man’s voice was hushed.  His tone was sad and resigned.  With a sigh, Yrin turned Ahnna towards the door and pushed her out ahead of him.  He handed her a vial of antidote and encouraged her to drink.  When she was done he re-pocketed the tiny glass container. 

“I’ll see what I can do, all right?  I can make you no promises, you know that,” he warned her as they moved into the common area and headed to their small, door-less sleeping room.

His children were snuggled together under a heavy blanket lying on top of the thermal vent opening.  Larnis was small for ten years of age, and Mahdi was big for three.  The older boy held his little sister protectively in his arms, his chin resting upon her curly head.  They were born slaves, like Yrin had been.  Ahnna remembered times of light and life in a world so far removed from here that it seemed a fairy land.  Yrinvan had no such memories, no real idea what freedom meant beyond what his wife had told him and what his heart secretly craved.  He had not been born in Angmar, but his parents had already been slaves when they were brought here.  Everyone wants to give something better to their children, but Yrin knew they would be lucky if they lived long enough to inherit even his sorry lot here.  

He let his hand skim lightly over his children’s heads.  They slept soundly tonight.  They always did after medicine doses.  It seemed to affect the young ones that way.  They were so little, so defenseless, and yet already they were addicts, dependent upon the Wraith’s brew to keep them alive.  It made Yrin’s numb heart ache. 

Lying down beside his wife in the darkness, he stared into her eyes, wondering how he could risk his family for the two strangers.  When he returned the smile Ahnna laid on him, he wondered how he couldn’t.  She was right; his heart had begun to die in this place.  Perhaps the elf had told the truth, but was it worth the risk?  He was not sure and, despite what his wife had said, he was not yet ready to trust. 

Holding Ahnna closely to him, he thought long into the night.  Every day his walk became harder.  Every day there was more to consider and greater fears to overcome.  He wondered idly how long he would have the strength to keep facing them.


Aragorn came to fear footsteps in the hall.  More often than not they preceded the Witch-king.  Almost daily now, Aragorn was dragged from their cell for another session with the Nazgûl.

After that first time, Legolas was usually not allowed to be present.  The elf’s bridle had not yet been removed, nor had the restriction on his eating and drinking been lifted.  The Witch-king did not make idle threats.  He would force the elf to concede to him or he would destroy him slowly. Aragorn missed the musical sound of his friend’s voice.  He wondered if the Nazgûl realized just how much he had taken away from them when he stole Legolas’ ability to speak and sing.  He probably did. 

Legolas hated his enforced silence, but even more he hated watching Aragorn dragged out of the cell day after day and being helpless to stop it.  Every time they brought him back, the ranger looked worse.  Today Aragorn couldn’t seem to stop shaking.  

The Nazgûl dropped him in the middle of the room and Aragorn dragged himself into his corner, pressing his trembling body back against the wall.  Yrin was there to put the human back into his manacles and Aragorn accepted even the chains readily if it got him farther away from the Wraith.  Today had been particularly hard.  He hadn’t even been beaten this time, but there were some things just as terrifying.  He had spent hours gagged, bound and blind, trapped upside-down in a box barely big enough to accommodate his body.  The claustrophobia had been terrible. Aragorn could still break into a cold sweat just remembering. 

The Witch-king laughed at how desperate Aragorn was to get away from him.  Then he turned towards Legolas.  He silently appraised how the elf was enduring.  Legolas’ eyes were acquiring a glazed sheen.  His breathing was rapid and shallow.  His lips were badly cracked.  It had been four days since he had been allowed any water.  His body was showing the signs of severe dehydration.  

Satisfied, the Nazgûl swept out of the room.  In another day or two he would consider allowing the elf to drink again.  He didn’t want the creature to die; he had plans for him.  It would be a shame to lose the prince before he received an answer to his latest communication with Dol Guldur.  

When the Nazgûl left, Yrin remained behind to give Aragorn his meal.  The human ate and drank because he knew that denying himself would not help his friend, but he could not help feeling guilty anyway.  He was really worried.  Food Legolas could do without, almost indefinitely sometimes, but water was a problem.  The elf had already gone longer than many humans could have survived, but every night the sound of Legolas’ breathing in the darkness was becoming more rapid and uneven.  The prince was sleeping with his eyes closed and dozing very often. 

“Please, Yrin,” Aragorn begged the servant quietly.  “Please... my friend, he needs water.  The Wraith is killing him.  No one has to know.” He inclined his head towards the closed door.  They were alone in the cell.  “Please.” 

Yrin hesitated for a few indecisive moments.  Glancing quickly at the closed door, the servant made up his mind.  Crossing the room he placed the water pitcher in his hands against the elf’s dry lips.  “Drink, but swiftly, please,” the human urged.  

Legolas did not have to be told.  His thirst had become unbearable.  He gulped the water desperately, feeling welcomed moisture in his dry mouth for the first time in days.  It was painfully difficult to swallow around the bridle because of his trapped tongue and the way he could not fully close his mouth.  Water dribbled down his chin and wet his tunic, but he tipped his head back and choked most of the liquid down any way he could.  The rim of the pitcher clanked sharply against the metal pieces of the harness as the elf struggled to drink.  The sound was painfully loud in Yrin’s ears, but he forced his hands to steady.  He carefully tipped the pitcher until it was empty.  Legolas managed to drink most of it, although a fair amount ended up spilling down his front. 

The door to the cell opened without warning.  Yrin jerked back so quickly he nearly dropped the pitcher and had to fumble to keep it from crashing to the stone floor.  Panic made his movements clumsy.  He knew he was a dead man.  

Fortunately for them all it was not the Wraith or any of the orcs that entered the room.  It was another human.  His dark, worried eyes darted about the cell, taking in the situation.  He quickly pressed the door shut behind him with a soft click.  

Yrin looked relieved and let the empty pitcher hang loosely from his fingers as he leaned against the wall for a moment.  “Tinald, you scared me near to death.” 

“I should think so.  What are you doing?  You know what the Master said!  What if someone other than I had come in?” the other servant remonstrated, glancing nervously towards the door at his back.  He leaned against it a little harder as if to prevent that very occurrence.  

Yrin ignored his subordinate’s question.  He already knew he was a fool.  “Why did you come?  Is anything wrong?” 

Tinald nodded with a grimace.  “The orcs have gotten into a brawl again over something.  I was going to let them just fight it out amongst themselves.  With any luck there’d be a few less of them.  But some of the other slaves got pulled in and they’re in trouble.  We have to break it up quickly.  They won’t listen to me.” 

“I’m coming.”  Yrinvan nodded, swiftly scooping up his tray.  He paused long enough to gently dab away the glistening trails of moisture on the elf’s chin with his sleeve.  Then both the slaves left. 

Aragorn watched them go.  This place was such a contradiction.  He wished he could discuss it with Legolas.    He missed conversing with his friend.  He still talked to the elf, but Legolas could not reply.  Looking over, Aragorn caught the prince’s gaze and he realized the elf missed it too. 

Legolas felt a bit better after the water and shifted in his bonds, trying to ease the muscle spasms seizing his back and arms.  His dehydrated mouth tingled and burned after having been wetted.  He saw how the man’s trembling slowly eased.  The prince knew that the Nazgûl wanted to make the ranger feel isolated, even when they were together in their cell.  Legolas hated that he could do nothing, not even speak. 

The silence was deafening and oppressive.  It seemed to scream with everything the Nazgûl could take away from them, weaving a tapestry of despair about their hearts. 

Aragorn drew a shaky breath.  The cell was dim and he was afraid to close his eyes.  Too often lately he was forced into the terrifying blackness of the Nazgûl’s torment.  Silence and darkness had become his enemies, but he could not escape them, not even here.  The ranger focused on Legolas, the only semi-bright spot in the room.  He drew in another breath, this one more determined.  He could not escape them, but he could fight back. 

“Legolas, did I ever tell you about the time Elladan and Elrohir brought a wounded bear cub home and tried to hide it from father?” he asked.  His voice was weak, but his tone spoke of happier times.  Legolas could not speak to him, but the ranger would fill the silence between them if he could.  

The prince smiled a little around his bridle and shook his head.  Actually, he had, but he liked hearing Aragorn’s voice, it didn’t matter what he talked about. 

Aragorn smiled as he launched into the tale.  The darkness couldn’t have them.  Not yet.