Between Darkness and Dawn

Chapter 7: I’ll Carry You

by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next

I know that look in your eyes
I see the pain behind your smile
Please don't hold it all inside
Together we can run to the finish line
And when you are tired...
I'll carry you

I can't walk this road without you
You cannot go it alone
We were never meant to make it on our own
And when the load becomes too heavy
And your feet too tired too walk
I will carry you and we'll be carried on.

-- Rebecca St.James

Aragorn could no longer walk.  He tried, again and again, but his legs failed him, refusing to hold his weight.  Even with Legolas supporting him, the elf’s arm flung around the ranger’s shoulder and the elf’s musical voice a soft, constant encouragement in his ears, Aragorn could not push himself any further.  He seemed to have no more control over his body and his mind was foggy.  Moments of lucidness were becoming fewer and fewer.

Legolas could not stand watching what was happening to his once strong friend.  It tore another wound in his heart every time Aragorn stumbled and fell, blanching in pain as his failing body absorbed even more hurt. 

It was no good, they could not go on this way... but they could not afford to stop either.  The ranger’s rapid decline meant that the end was inevitable if they did not reach their objective soon.

Legolas’ keen eyes sought the growing specter of the dark spire on the horizon.  For what it was worth, they were almost there... if only that realization did not bring such a wave of dread with it.  

Halting, Legolas crouched down to where his friend had fallen yet again.  Aragorn’s skin felt deadly cold and yet his body radiated a fevered heat.  The human trembled and his breathing was shallow.  He couldn’t make it off his knees.  Leaning heavily against the ground, Aragorn closed his eyes.  

“Just a moment... just give me a moment...” his words slurred, belying the pretense of strength he obviously did not have. 

Legolas shifted the ranger’s weight off his hands, supporting the man as he knelt on the stony ground.  Quietly, he reached for the ranger’s right palm, fingering the fading scar he found there.  The elf knew he had to do something or Aragorn would not be kept long in this world.  Part of the elf hesitated, knowing the warnings that came with repeated blood transference.  It was not meant to be a common occurrence.  He was a little afraid of what it would do to both their bodies to force another infusion, but he would risk it for his friend’s sake.

Aragorn saw what Legolas was about to commence and jerked back, out of the elf’s arms.  With what little strength he had, he batted his friend’s hands away from him.  Scooting backward on the cold ground he cowered away from Legolas, shaking his head.  

“No,” the man rasped decidedly.  “No.  Can’t... can’t let you,” he broke off coughing.  He allowed Legolas to hold his shoulders as he choked but would not let the prince get near his hands.  

“Estel, please, it’s all I can do for you...” Legolas pleaded with his friend but Aragorn refused. 

“No, I thank you, dear friend, but... it’s not safe.  Not safe for you.  I need... need you to be strong for me.”  The ranger was having difficulty forming words but Legolas understood what he was saying.  

The ranger eyed the elf hesitantly.  In his current state Legolas would be more than able to physically force him to accept his help, but he could not let that happen.  He saw what the exchange did to Legolas and his healer’s instincts told him it was too soon.  Legolas would do irreparable damage to his own injured body if he tried to share himself that way again so quickly.  

“Don’t try to force me Legolas, I won’t accept it,” he warned and Legolas saw the truth in the ranger’s eyes.  

The elf sighed, accepting Aragorn’s decision reluctantly.  He really couldn’t force it upon Aragorn; both parties had to be willing or it was no good.  

“If you will not let me share my strength with you that way, then at least allow me what I can do for you.  We cannot go on like this.  Haste is of the essence.” 

The elf changed his hold on Aragorn.  He positioned the ranger so the human’s chest, and his weight, rested against the elf’s back.  Wrapping Aragorn’s cold arms so they clasped around his neck, Legolas hooked his own arms around the back of Aragorn’s knees and rose back to his feet, taking Aragorn up with him.  

The elf grimaced sharply, gritting his teeth against the burning pain that flared across his torn shoulder and back muscles as his body accepted the human’s weight as well as his own.  He made sure that Aragorn did not see his pained expression and quickly pushed the agony out of his features.  It was at times like these that he actually thanked his uncle for teaching him how to smile no matter how badly he was hurting.  

Legolas bent forward a little as he stood, letting the ranger’s weight settle more fully against him to get a better grip.  

“Hold on Aragorn.  That’s it, hold onto me.  You’ll be all right,” the elf murmured softly as he began walking again, carrying the ranger as one would carry a child for a piggy-back ride.  

Aragorn was not a light man, but Legolas had the strength of the Eldar to aid him.  Even with his injuries, his friend was not a burden that was too great for him to bear. 

Aragorn’s head lolled against Legolas’ good shoulder as his hands clasped weakly around the elf’s neck.  His lack of protest to being carried worried Legolas greatly; it showed how far gone he already was. 

“Sorry...” Aragorn murmured wearily into his friend’s tangled gold hair.  “I’m sorry, Legolas...” 

“Shh,” Legolas shook his head as much as he could around the burden he carried.  “If you apologize one more time about anything, then you won’t have to worry about the poison killing you.  I will,” he jested lightly.  Aragorn’s arm draped over the bandage on his shoulder was excruciating but the elf slowly blocked his body away from his mind and focused on the task at hand. 

Aragorn snorted lightly.  “You’d be better off...” 

“I don’t think so,” Legolas cut in quickly.  “I need you my dear, thick-headed ranger; my life would be so dull without your presence.” 

Aragorn chuckled weakly; Legolas felt more than he heard it from the body pressed against his back.  Even so, it was a good sound, giving the elf a small amount of hope. 

“Your brothers would agree, I’m sure,” Legolas added, attempting to maintain a steady dialogue with his friend as they walked, wanting to keep the ranger’s mind active.  

Aragorn responded with another soft chuckle.  Now that he did not have to expend so much energy walking, his spirits seemed to be reviving a little.  

“Those two don’t need any help.  You know, I think the last one to carry me like this was Elladan, when I was nine.  I nearly broke my ankle escaping ‘the dungeons’ and he carried me home,” the human smiled faintly at the memory.  “Ada was not pleased with us at all.” 

“The dungeons?” Legolas raised his eyebrows as he carefully picked his way across the craggy earth.  “You have dungeons in Rivendell?  My friend, you missed those when showing me around.”  The elf chuckled. 

Aragorn shook his head a little against his friend’s tunic.  “No, it was a game we used to play.  I loved the old tales when I was a child.  I lacked children my own age to play-act them out with, but fortunately for me, my brothers were usually up to it if it involved some kind of caper.  Although I recall that recreating Fingolfin’s trip across the Grinding Ice in a partially thawed pond one winter was not one of our brighter schemes...” The ranger couldn’t help the warmth that filled his voice when he thought of home and his childhood.  It brought him closer to the light that was being stolen away from him, so Legolas encouraged this train of thought.  

“I can imagine,” the prince chuckled, shifting Aragorn a little higher up his back as he pressed resolutely onward.  “My people had their own tales, including one about a long-ago warrior who discovered enemies planning to attack.  They caught him and put out his eyes, leaving him far away in unfamiliar woods to wander in despair until death should take him.  But he was clever and with the help of the trees he found his way back home again in time to warn his people.  Raniean, Trelan and I invented a game from that where we would blindfold one another and try to find our way around.  Eventually it met with results similar to what must have resulted from your ice-escapades.  Raniean almost drowned and father forbad us from playing that game anymore.  But what did you play in a dungeon?” 

“Two of us would be Finrod and Beren in the pits of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, the other got to be the Werewolf.  I always wanted to be the wolf, but they usually made me be Beren because they said I fit the roll better,” Aragorn chuckled.  “Big children, that’s what they were.  Only, we changed the story, because in our story Finrod didn’t die after saving Beren.  We didn’t have a Lúthien, so in our story Finrod and Beren escaped together, running while the wolf gave chase.  Elladan liked being the Werewolf, trying to catch Elrohir and me... Unfortunately he was a little too good at it and I didn’t watch where I was going, hence the injured ankle.  I felt so sorry for my brothers.  Ada lectured both of them for an hour or more about who of us were supposed to be the elders that knew better than to go crashing around dangerous places like that.” Aragorn smiled distantly at the long ago memories; he loved his family dearly.  

“Truthfully, I always hated that story though,” Aragorn mumbled thoughtfully as his semi-delirious mind followed its own randomly wandering track like a meandering brook.  

“About your brothers?” Legolas was puzzled.  

“No,” Aragorn didn’t have the strength to shake his head.  “About Beren and Finrod.  It was all wrong.  Finrod shouldn’t have died, not for Beren, not for someone who would die anyway someday.  I always hated that.”  The ranger had never confessed this to anyone before, but it had been on his mind more than he wanted to admit since they left Barahir behind weeks earlier. 

Legolas cocked an eyebrow.  “You realize that if Beren had died instead, you would not be here.  Lord Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, Arwen, none of them would be here.  The race of Númenor would never have been, and the world of men as we know it would not even exist.” 

Aragorn sighed quietly instead of a shrug for which he didn’t have strength.  

“I suppose... but I still hate it.  All my life, I have been compared to Beren,” he snorted quietly.  “Even the... impossible way we both fell in love.  When I hear that story I think of...” his voice trailed off.  

Legolas closed his eyes for a moment, realizing what Aragorn meant and understanding afresh some of the reasoning that had gone into the human’s attempt to leave his elven companion behind earlier.  “You think of your brothers or me, and what if it was one of us in Finrod’s place,” the prince finished quietly for his friend.  

Aragorn barely nodded, pressing the side of his cold face against the back of the elf’s warm neck as his head swam dizzily.  “I would never want you to do that for me.  Promise me, Legolas, promise me you won’t ever be so foolish.  Promise me I won’t lose you that way.  I thought I lost you once... It would be a blow worse than death.” 

Legolas did not respond for a few minutes.  He felt Aragorn’s ragged breaths brushing his cheek and stirring his hair in irregular patterns.  He felt the ranger’s body tremble lightly against his... Aragorn was so weak, it was frightening.  

“I... can’t,” Legolas shook his head.  “I can’t promise that, Estel, no more than you would promise it to me.  We’ll make it through this, mellon-nín, somehow... somehow we will.  I believe that.  I need you to believe it too, Estel, please, my hope has never been as bright as yours.” 

Aragorn smiled faintly.  “You’re wrong, mellon-nín,” he breathed quietly.  “If that hope was not inside of you, you would not have survived this long.  Please... hope for me my brother, because I have not the strength for it anymore.” 

Legolas’ eyes clouded with tears and he had to blink fiercely in order to get the landscape back into focus once more.  He could not afford to trip with his precious cargo.  “I will,” he whispered.  “And we will escape this darkness my friend, both of us, together... somehow... I swear it.” 

“Mm, somehow,” Aragorn echoed his weak assent.  “Together.” 

“Yes, mellon-nín, together we can do anything,” Legolas murmured encouragingly as he felt Aragorn’s body go limp against his back, indicating that the human had passed out once more.  

Pausing only to shift Aragorn’s lolling head back into a secure place against his neck and shoulder, Legolas pushed swiftly onward towards the ominous spire of iron and obsidian that grew ever larger before them.  He had hoped that when they got here they could arrive unnoticed, perhaps finding a way to get that which they sought without an outright surrender to darkness.  In Aragorn’s current state however, Legolas knew they stood no chance.  The ranger did not have time for subterfuge, even if they could have tried to escape the watchful eye of the fell beast tracking them from above.  

The elf squared his aching shoulders.  If they had to walk into the mouth of doom, he would do so with his head held high and trust that they would be able to escape again somehow.
For several hours they journeyed on like this in silence, the determined elf and the unconscious ranger.  Angmar loomed large before them and the trees around them began to fail.  Legolas had never felt as exposed as the moment when he walked out of the cover of the trees and into the wide, barren plain of snow and icy stone that lay before the forbidding mountain fortress of Angmar.  

The elf’s grip on his unconscious friend’s knees tightened.  Desperate, nameless fear churned in his gut.  Ahead of him he could see a huge, recessed door in the face of the mountain.  The gaping mouth stood open.  The plain before the mountain was eerily quiet.  

Then, almost without a sound, a black stream of orcs issued from the doorway, streaming towards the two friends.   


From his vantage point high in the mountainous castle of Angmar, the Witch-king spotted his new arrivals when they reached the edges of the granite field just beyond the woods. 

He gazed out the window with sightless eyes and watched as the elf stopped just on the outskirts of the forest.  He did not ‘see’ as he had done in life.  But his unique perspective of being neither alive nor dead gave him the advantage of being able to view living beings as they truly were. 

The elf was a luminous being.  The light he exuded was so pure it almost hurt the Wraith to look at him too long.  He hated the Eldar.  They were everything he was not and never would be.  

The orcs that poured of the castle at his command were dark in his twilight vision.  Blacker than the world around them, they were like a void wave that moved forward to intercept his guests.  

The human on other hand was somewhere in-between the two extremes.  The light that marked him was soft and dim as though unaware of its true nature and calling.  The human was waking to his destiny but it had not yet occurred.  The ranger that lay against the elf’s back on the edges of the steppes was barely alive and his dim light faded even as the Wraith watched. 

The fell beast dove down into the open plain, skirting just above the heads of the orcs as they advanced towards the two newcomers.  The creature skimmed the cliff-face of the castle.  Crying out in a throaty, screeching language it told its master that it had returned with his new slaves. 

Arching upwards, the mount headed for its cave high above and entered its lair with a triumphant scream.  It was pleased to be home where it was warm.

Legolas watched as the winged beast circled the spires of Angmar before returning to its resting place.  He turned his gaze on the advancing orcs warily.  The black tide of creatures had stopped only a few paces away from the elf. 

“You bring that human in and we we’ll let you live a few moments longer, pretty thing,” the leader of the pack commanded, much to the delight of his comrades.  He pointed a wicked looking scimitar at the elf. 

Keeping his eyes on the foul beings, Legolas crouched into a kneeling position, gently allowing Aragorn to slip from his back.  The ranger had not recovered consciousness and right now the prince was glad he had not.  This might not go well. 

Now that they were here, now that he was faced with the prospect of submission to the orcs before him, the prince wasn’t sure that he could.  Everything in his being, every fiber of his body tensed and rejected the very thought.  

Stepping away from his friend, but remaining between the ranger and the orcs, Legolas deftly pulled his twin fighting knives from their sheaths on his back.  He took up a defensive stance.  The elf did not trust the dark creatures.  Never surrender to an orc. It was the first thing that was drilled into every wood-elf warrior’s head from the time they were children.  Orcs had no honor and it was better to die fighting them than to become their toy.  

“Now, we can do this hard, or it can go easy,” the orc leader cautioned the obviously reluctant elf before him.  The wicked being’s grin widened.  They didn’t get much of a chance for a good brawl and it looked like this elf just might give them one.  He relished the idea of killing the fair being; it would be a thrill indeed.  He knew his master wanted these two alive, but if they wouldn’t come willingly...well, then it wasn’t his fault if the elf died accidentally, was it?  Using force was something Retzhrak enjoyed. 

“You will not touch him or I will kill you,” Legolas warned.  His voice was low and his tone was lethal.  He hadn’t come all this way to watch the ranger be destroyed by orcs.  If that was how it would come to be, then maybe it was best if they both died here and now. 

“Very well then, hard it is.  Take them, boys!” Retzhrak gave the command, sending his troop rushing towards the elf.


From his vantage point, the Wraith watched as the orcs tried to take the elf and ranger by force.  He growled softly as the count of dead orcs multiplied rapidly.  He knew that the elf out on the steppes was probably capable of killing the whole compliment of them single-handedly, if trying to protect the unconscious ranger did not impede him too much.  The Wraith had seen the warrior do it before.  Even though he did not care for the lives of his servants, the Nazgûl did not want to lose too many of the creatures.  He could always get more, but he despised useless waste like this.   Besides, he was concerned that one of his idiot minions would land a lucky blow.  He needed the human alive and he intended to at least interrogate the elf himself before he let the orcs have their way with him. 

“Yrinvan!”  Rising from his seat, the Witch-king stormed out into the hallway, seeking out his head servant.  When he found the man instructing a few of the newer slaves in the kitchen, he immediately summoned him. 

The human that stepped into the hallway and bowed low before the Wraith was a tall man.  He had not yet reached middle age, but his dark brown hair was already streaked with touches of grey.  Angmar aged people before their time.  Yrinvan had been in the Wraith’s service the longest of any of his surviving servants.  The man served his master well.  He obeyed quickly and had a sharp, clever mind.  His usefulness had kept him alive. 

“How may I serve you, My Lord?” the servant asked, keeping his eyes averted from the empty black hood that stared at him.  Even at his height, the Wraith towered over the human. 

“Out on the steppes there is an elf and a man, a ranger.  I ‘invited’ them here. Retzhrak was sent to bring them in and he has been unsuccessful.  Go bring them in at once,” the Witch-king ordered darkly.  He handed the man a small glass vial.  “The human will need this soon.  See to it that they are alive and unharmed when you retrieve them, but do not give the human the antidote until they are safely secured in their new quarters.”  

When Yrinvan bowed in compliance, the Wraith stormed out of the passage, heading back for his study.


Yrin stood in the hallway watching the Wraith go.  Visitors?  That meant new slaves, or worse.  Now it all made sense.  

“Oh, Tynair... you had to obey to the last, didn’t you?” he thought sadly.  He understood, but... Sighing deeply Yrinvan turned to leave. 

“Did the Master say that one was an elf?” a quiet voice questioned the headservant.

Yrinvan started and turned back, looking down into the eyes of a young woman who stood behind him.  She was younger than Yrin by no small span, but like the other servant, she too had aged beyond her time.  Her back was stooped from years of abuse and hard life, but her eyes held a glimmer in them that had never been quenched.  It was what had drawn him to her in the beginning and why he had married her here in this terrible wretched place.  She was the spark of light that kept him going. 

“Don’t you worry about it.” He smiled at the woman.  It was best not to let her get started on elves.  “Get back in there before the Master finds you taking a break,” he urged her.  “I can’t afford to have anything happen to you.  Now get.”  He attempted to shoo her away, but she wasn’t intimidated by the taller man. 

“You’ll need blankets and hot food for the newcomers.  You know what it’s like coming to this place.” She eyed her husband wryly, challenging him to argue with her.  They always tried to ease the shock a little for the new ones.  

With a nod, he agreed.  He had the uncomfortable feeling that the Master had plans for these new arrivals that went beyond merely adding more numbers to his slaves, but he kept those thoughts to himself; it would only distress his wife.  He was surprised when she turned back and called another girl out and instructed her to quickly bring blankets and warm food to the cell a level down. 

“Ahnna,” Yrinvan growled out his wife’s name, realizing she intended to accompany him. 

“Go, quickly.” She shooed him in front of her.  “The Master won’t wait long.  If you don’t hurry, those dumb beasts will kill both the newcomers and then you’ll suffer for it.  I won’t lose you because of their stupidity.” 

“What would I do without you to state the obvious, my love?” Yrinvan muttered as he hurried along.  She was right of course.  He knew that and so he ran quickly towards the lower entrance.  He glared at the woman who ran beside him as they headed for the front gate.  His wife could be very stubborn when her mind was set. 

Yrinvan stopped on the castle’s threshold and took in the grim sight across the way.  The orcs were swarming around the elf, but making no headway.  The fair being turned with lighting speed and slit the throat of an orc that had slipped around him and tried to pick up the unconscious human.  Spinning back around, the elf cut a wide swath between himself and the orcs, forcing them back with his double edged blades. 

“Oh, Yrin, it is one of the Eldar,” Ahnna whispered in distress. 

“Go back in, Ahnna,” the headservant commanded, trying to dissuade her. 

“Yrin, you cannot let him be taken.  He will not live in this place, he cannot.  Look at his clothes; he is one of those that lived near my people.  One of the wood-elves, those are their colors.  Look at him,” she implored her husband.  “He is light and this place is darkness.  The Master will destroy him.”  Her voice was strained and it was obvious that this new twist of events distressed her greatly.  “Please.” 

Yrin sighed deeply and kissed her on top of the head.  “There is nothing we can do for them now, you know that.  Go back in.  I know how your people felt about the elves, but you are all I care about.  I will go out and stop Retzhrak before he kills the elf.  Otherwise I can only do as the Master bids.  We’ll talk about this later.” 

“We will talk about it later,” the woman agreed.  She wasn’t going to let him off the hook that easy.  Her lips drew a thin line across her face as she stared at her husband.  Turning to leave, Ahnna nearly bumped into Tinald, a younger male slave that Yrin had taken under his wing after the death of most of his relatives.  He was grooming the other man to take his place when the time came that death finally freed him from this prison.  The two men were good friends and Tinald had come to see if he could be of assistance.


Tinald’s mouth dropped open as he watched the elf fighting the orcs.  Two more dropped dead at the fair being’s feet, one gutted and the other decapitated.  “What are they doing here?” he asked softly.  These didn’t look like any of the new slaves he had ever seen brought here.  

Ignoring the question, Yrin pushed Ahnna and Tinald back across the threshold.  “I’d better get out there. Tinald, go help Ahnna get the room ready for our guests and then both of you get back to work before I have to explain your absences,” he warned them sternly as he stepped out onto the granite walk and approached the fight. 

So it was true.  He had overheard the Master speaking to Retzhrak several months ago about a ranger and an elf that he wanted to question.  If what he suspected were true, then there had been several foiled attempts at gaining the two prisoners already.  What he could want with them the slave had no idea.  There was no time to ponder such questions as the fighting escalated. 

“ENOUGH!” Yrinvan’s voice carried across the rocky way and echoed in the woods behind Legolas. 

Retzhrak heard the command but didn’t call his men off immediately.  An orc on the elf’s right jumped forward, swiping out at the fair being’s legs and trying to catch him unaware. 

Legolas jumped over the low arcing blade and caught the orc’s neck between his knives, spinning hard to the right as they cut through the tough hide.  The orc squealed and dropped dead to the ground. 

“Retzhrak!  I said that was enough,” Yrinvan warned as he finally reached the remaining small group gathered around the elf and the human. 

“All right boys,” the orc leader growled, reining his forces in.  “Let the slave through.”  His words were mocking and arrogant as he glared at the headservant. 

Choosing to ignore the foul beast, Yrin stepped over the dead bodies near the elf and approached Legolas slowly, his hands held out in a placating manner.  He himself knew little of the elves, but Ahnna, who had been born free, had grown up near them.  She had entertained the servants many a nights with tales of her home and the fair beings that occupied the woods nearby. 

The elf stepped back nearer to the ranger that lay behind him.  He watched warily as Yrinvan stepped into the loose circle of orcs and approached him. 

Glancing behind the elf, the servant noted the shallow breathing of the human he protected.  The man was in bad shape and needed the antidote quickly.  He recognized the signs. 

“My name is Yrinvan, I run the Master’s household,” he offered by way of speedy greeting.  Judging from the look of the ranger, they didn’t have too much time for pleasantries.  “If you will come with me, we have prepared a room for you and your friend,” the servant instructed.  He kept his tone even and did not drop his gaze away from the elf’s.  There was only one way out of this alive now for all of them.  If he failed to bring these two in, the orcs would kill them and his master would take out his wrath on his headservant.  That was not a situation that Yrin intended to allow. 

“We do not belong here,” Legolas answered cautiously.  “We cannot go in there.” 

Clasping his hands behind his back, Yrin sighed softly, they didn’t have time to argue. 

“You have no choice,” he answered evenly.  When he stepped forward, the elf raised his blades a bit higher.  Legolas stepped farther back until his boot heels touched the man behind him. 

Nervously the orcs shifted around them, tightening the ring ever so slightly.