Curse of Angmar

Chapter 14

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Elrohir opened his eyes slowly, the fierce ache in his chest drawing him to consciousness.  Darkness was everywhere.  Night must have fallen for when he rolled slowly onto his back the stars winked down on him dimly from above.  He found himself straining to hear if anyone else was near, if there were anymore rocks still falling... anything.  The elf brushed away the strands of dark hair that clung to his face and felt a sharp stabbing in his chest that probably meant he had broken ribs or, at the very least, severely bruised ones.  

He knew he moaned but he couldn’t hear himself.  It was like living in a vacuum and Elrohir had to battle down a small wave of panic as he reminded himself that he could deal with this, he had been for a while now.  That didn’t mean it was easy.  Not having his hearing was like losing half of his world.  He made a joke of it with both of his over-protective and over-responsible brothers to keep them from fretting more than they usually did.  In his heart, however, Elrohir had begun to feel the crushing fear that his hearing might never come back and he would be trapped forever in this cold, silent world, despite what Gandalf had said.  That thought scared him much more than he wanted to admit. 

“Elladan?” He groggily called his brother’s name even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to hear if his twin called back.  They hadn’t been far apart when the slide started... but everything after that point was difficult to remember.  Elrohir looked around as he slowly rolled over again and pushed himself to his hands and knees.  Soft moonlight flooded the plains, aiding his naturally sharp elven eyesight, but he didn’t recognize where he was.  It looked nothing like the gully they had been in before and he realized that somehow, he must have been swept into an entirely different canyon. 

The dizzy nausea that had been his constant low-grade companion since his eardrum injury assaulted the elf with renewed vengeance. Elrohir stopped, resting on his hands and knees for a moment, hanging his head down and trying to put the spinning world back into focus before forcing himself unsteadily to his feet. 

He tried in vain to recall the last few moments of the slide.  A dull throbbing in his head dimly reminded him that a flying stone had caught him square in the temple, dazing him and making the world spin out of focus.  All he vaguely remembered after that were his brother’s arms around him, Elladan’s smooth cheek pressed against the top of his head, his twin's arms cradling the sides of his face.  He could feel breath and movement against his neck as if Elladan were speaking, but of course could not hear what was said.  He felt his brother’s body jerk above him as if it had been struck by something... he realized now that Elladan must have been holding him, shielding the younger twin with his own body. 

Elrohir hadn’t had time or awareness to protest the sacrifice at the time.  Now his fists worked into tight balls as concern ate at him.  WHY did his brother always have to be so selflessly protective of him?  He wasn’t really any younger than Elladan, although his twin had a habit of treating him that way.  

In vain he sought the muddled recesses of his mind for what had followed after, but all he found was emptiness.  The memory splintered away in a dark, rumbling tidal wave of earth and stone moments after he felt his brother jerk and there was nothing until the present.  

“Elladan?” he called again, stumbling forward, trying to figure out which way his twin would have been carried.  “Estel?  Legolas?  Elladan!” he wondered if his voice sounded nearly as small and alone as he felt. 

A slight movement of the stones away to his right caught the elf’s attention and he carefully picked his way across the torn ground, holding his fiery ribs with one arm, the other out-flung to help keep his tenuous sense of balance. 

The movement had come from deep within the shadows cast by a large boulder and Elrohir approached warily.  He was painfully aware that there could be some snarling wolf in there for all he knew and he wouldn’t be able to tell until he could actually see the creature, at which point it would be too late. 

Something dark flowed out across the rocks ahead of him, and for a moment Elrohir thought it was blood and his insides clenched, causing yellow flashes to dance before his eyes.  When the haziness cleared and he got closer however, the elf saw it was not blood, but hair that lay tumbled about on the rocks in the dim and deceptive moonlight.  Long dark hair. 

Scrambling forward and squinting to try to pierce the thick shadows Elrohir dropped to his knees beside the body to which the hair belonged.  “Elladan!” 

Elladan lay on his back, one arm flung out to his side, the other lying carelessly across his chest.  His eyes were closed and a dark stain covered the front of his left shoulder, barely visible in the darkness.  Elrohir touched the darkened fabric and found it moist and sticky, just as he had feared.  When Elrohir called his name again, the other elf stirred and his lips parted slightly as an expression of pain drifted onto his face.  

Elrohir supposed his brother had probably moaned.  Elladan’s lips moved sluggishly and Elrohir thought it might have been part of his name, but it was hard to tell since his brother was obviously not doing well.  Elrohir wasn’t sure if the fact that Elladan’s faint shimmer had not been apparent to him until now was due to his twin’s lack of strength, or his own double-vision.  It was not greatly troubling however, because the twins’ natural radiance was not ordinarily as bright as some elves’ even under normal circumstances.  When they were with Legolas at night the difference was visible, but no one remarked or thought anything about it.  It did not mean anything, except that they were better at hiding sometimes.  Privately, they postulated that it was a birthmark of their mixed blood, although it certainly had not affected their father; but then, there were many things about Lord Elrond that were simply unique. 

Elladan forced his eyes open slowly, registering all the pain that came with consciousness.  He had thought he heard his twin’s voice and sure enough, a dim silhouette slowly wavered into focus above him.  “El...?” he murmured foggily as he slowly dragged himself into a half-sitting position, wincing sharply as his left shoulder screamed at him.  The pain rolled over him in a wave and he had to lie back down again to avoid passing out a second time. 

Elrohir’s hands quickly sought his brother’s injury, opening and pulling aside the blood-soaked tunic and inspecting the nasty gash that ran from Elladan’s collarbone to his armpit.  He must have been gouged by one of the sharp-edged stones when they were caught in the slide.  The bleeding had already stopped and the wound did not look dangerous, but it was sure to be very painful. 

“I’ll be all right,” Elladan murmured, more for himself than his brother as he held his shoulder with his right hand, pushing himself slowly back up.  “Where are Estel and Legolas?  What happened to the bandits?  What...” 

Elrohir pressed his fingers gently against his twin’s mouth, stopping him and causing Elladan to look up sharply.  Elladan found that his twin was looking down at him with a pained expression in his eyes.  Elrohir’s hand left his brother’s lips and moved to touch his own ear.  “El... please, slower.”  The helplessness the younger twin felt showed in his face.  

Elladan swallowed hard, trying to focus around the pounding in his head.  “I’m sorry,” he mouthed as clearly as he could.  “Where are we?” 

Their mental channels were scrambled from the pounding in their skulls, but Elrohir still figured out what his brother was saying; it was the same thing he was wondering.  

“I don’t know,” Elrohir admitted, looking around.  Everything looked so different than it had earlier and the darkness did not help. 

Elladan leaned against the boulder next to him.  The wound to his shoulder had begun bleeding again and he clumsily wadded his torn tunic, pressing it against the open cut.  Elrohir helped him and after a few moments the flow of blood finally eased up once more.  The elf felt weak.  Very weak.  He didn’t realize he had begun to phase out again until he felt Elrohir’s concerned and gentle hand on his good shoulder. 

“El?  El stay with me. You might have a concussion, you’ve got to stay awake...” 

Elladan’s brows furrowed, but it wasn’t at his brother’s words.  His own healer’s instincts told him that in all likeliness, he did have a concussion, but that wasn’t what worried him.  What had his attention was the strange, gravel-shifting sound of someone or something approaching them.  Something heavy.  Far too heavy to be an elf, or even a man. 

Elrohir felt the earth tremble a little under them and clutched his brother’s hand tightly, fearing another rockslide. 

Elladan knew better.  Suddenly a dark, towering form rose up behind Elrohir’s turned back, blotting out the stars and casting them into an even deeper shadow.  

Elrohir saw the shadow fall and the look of alarm that spread across his brother’s face.  Elladan’s lips were moving but they were too rapid to make out so his brother did not try.  Instead he turned, following his twin’s line of vision... up into the scowling, ugly face of the hugest hill troll he had ever seen. 


“Strider,” Legolas’ soft call from the darkness ahead summoned Aragorn down the hill a little more quickly.  Kaldur scrambled along nearby, trying to keep up with the ranger’s long strides.  In the dark, with who-knew-what lurking in these hills, the bandit leader was not so stupid as to take his chances trying anything, especially since if he did escape, all he would end up was alone, bound and helpless.  Right now the safest place for him to be was with these two warriors.  Besides, they had a common goal, they both wanted to find the rest of their missing party. 

The elf was clearly visible even in the dark shadows at the bottom of the hill, his translucent shimmer softly reminescent of the light of the moon and stars above as he crouched on one knee by the base of a large boulder. 

Aragorn picked his way carefully across the loose, rock-strewn ground until he reached his friend, dropping down into a crouch beside him.  They had spent the better part of two or three hours scouring the neighboring ravine where they had believed the twins and most of the bandits to have last been seen, but found nothing.  Here, however, in this ravine, it was proving to be a different story. 

Legolas pointed grimly to what he had found.  Bathed in the shadow of the rock, but still visible in the light cast by the elf, the rocks at the boulder’s base were smeared with fresh, but swiftly drying, blood. 

For an instant Aragorn wanted to freeze, but he forced himself to keep acting rationally and not let fear take over his thinking processes.  

The prince watched his companion closely as Aragorn slowly reached down, touching the blood to his fingers and his fingers lightly to his tongue, testing what manner of blood it was.  A chill shot straight through the ranger’s heart as his keen senses picked out the distinctive characteristics lying beneath the normal, iron bite that all blood carried. 

“It’s elven,” Aragorn confirmed quietly and Legolas could see in his eyes how much that revelation hurt. 

The prince’s hand tightened on his friend’s shoulder.  “They are not here, so they must still have been capable of movement.  That is a good sign, Estel.  We will find them.”  Legolas straightened up, firmly believing what he had said.  They had to find them; they had to be all right.  He knew what losing one or both of his brothers would do to Aragorn.  He knew it would crush the human’s healing spirit. 

Aragorn just nodded, his jaw set in grim determination.  He too, could accept no other outcome but success.  His experienced eyes sought the ground beneath them for tracks, straining to read the signs in the darkness. 

Legolas knew what his friend was doing and remained still so as not to disturb anything while Aragorn moved cautiously around, close to the ground.  His eyes darted about, scanning with a quickness that came from much experience and an extraordinary amount of talent.  The prince himself was very good at tracking in woods and grasslands, especially woods where the trees themselves would speak to him, but these rocky hills were not in his field of expertise, and whatever trail the Dúnadan was untangling was wholly invisible to him.  

Aragorn’s face was dark when he straightened up, his gaze peering away down the canyon ahead of them.  “They were not alone, and whoever they left with, they did not wish to go.” 

The signs of a brief but fierce struggle marked the area very clearly to his eyes.  The tracks of their attacker, however, those were at the same time difficult and alarming.  Difficult because it took him a few moments to realize what he was seeing, as they were not of a kind he had had call to follow very often.  Alarming, because once he realized what he was seeing there was no doubt left about what manner of being had taken his brothers.  

“Trolls...” he breathed the word in shock and anger.  

They were too late.  They should have been here sooner!  The tracks were not old, maybe an hour or so at the most.  They had stood on the opposite ridge of this very valley near the beginning of their search, although there was no way down here from that angle.  His brothers must have been here the whole time.  He realized with a sick heart that this boulder and the way the gorge was shaped rendered this area completely invisible from the opposite ridgeline. 

He and Legolas had both called and called... but that would have done no good for Elrohir, or either of them if they were unconscious.  The ranger wanted to kick himself for not checking this valley first.  Even though he knew the dangers of playing the ‘what if’ game, it was hard to avoid when his family was at stake.  He could only hope that his brothers were still alive, and there was yet time to amend these errors. 

All this was left unsaid however as he quickly began picking his way along the treacherous floor of the rift, following the troll’s distinctive trail.  Legolas was right behind him in an instant and Kaldur, having just made it down the hill, rolled his eyes slightly but hurried after them again. 

“What’s happened, what are we following?” Kaldur asked quietly of Legolas as he caught up, not having been privy to the previous conversation, which had been mostly held in elvish anyway. 

“Trolls,” the elf said succinctly, taking his eyes off of Aragorn’s back for only a moment to answer the question.  “They’ve taken Elladan and Elrohir.” 

Kaldur’s eyes widened slightly in the dark.  “Trolls!” he said with some surprise, quickly lowering his voice when Aragorn turned around and shushed him with some irritation. 

“Trolls...” he repeated again, softer, but still surprised as the threesome cautiously exited the canyon and found themselves going up hill again for some distance.  

“How delightful.  You people run into the nicest sorts of creatures...” the sarcasm in his voice was heavy.  None of them bothered pointing out that the Barrow-wight fiasco was in fact Kaldur’s fault, not theirs; the minds of the elf and the ranger were focused on their task at hand. 

After something over half an hour’s worth of silent running, scrambling and climbing through incredibly tortuous terrain, they caught sight of a distant glow.  Even from this far away and in the dark, Legolas was able to tell them that it was a fire, a large one.  Seated around the fire, were four great trolls.  The trolls obscured all view of anything else immediately behind them, so Legolas could catch no glimpse of the twins. 

Fifteen more minutes brought them up to the base of a hill overlooking the trolls’ camp.  

“Stay!” Aragorn warned Kaldur at the bottom of the incline, before he and Legolas proceeded upward with extreme caution, crouching low to the ground as they moved.  When the crest of the hill came into reach, they both dropped down onto their stomachs and elbow-crawled the rest of the way.  Aragorn found that it was suddenly darker than before as he slithered his way along the shadowy, dew-covered grass and rocks.  Glancing next to him he realized that that was because Legolas had tamped his light down until there was only the barest hint of iridescence hidden within the prince’s pale ivory skin and caught in the waves of his golden hair; he would no longer stand out against the darkened landscape. 

Rocks and unkempt nettle bushes scraped at them as they forced a way through the wilderness, but they pressed on, knowing they dare not stand up and create a perfect silhouette against the starry night sky.  Trolls may not have been the most brilliant of creatures, but they were wary and could be amply observant at times. 

A thick strand of tall scrag grass lay before them and the pair silently worked their way through the twisted base of thickly packed stems, barely rustling the waving cattails overhead.  The weeds provided excellent cover as Aragorn and Legolas stopped on the very top of the hill, clearing pussy-willows out of their line of vision.  

Legolas was aware of Aragorn’s heavy breathing beside him and turned to find his friend resting his head against his clenched left fist.  The ranger’s face was pale and a cold sweat stood out on his forehead.  The elf’s face shadowed with concern as he realized what belly-climbing up this hill must have done to his friend’s injured arm, even if Aragorn was only actively using his good one. 

The elf laid his hand lightly on the immobilized limb, feeling again the unnatural heat there.  He didn’t ask if Aragorn were all right, he knew the ranger would only say yes, and he knew it would be a lie.  He also knew that, sadly, it didn’t matter much right now whether Aragorn was feeling well or not, as this disaster they were caught up in was not going to wait for them to heal.  So instead, Legolas just held Aragorn’s arm for a moment, giving the Dúnadan time to re-gather his strength. 

When the ranger stopped panting quite so heavily and color returned to his face, then Legolas spoke.  “Are you ready to move on?” 

Aragorn nodded, his face still tense, but dealing with the pain.  “At least you didn’t ask me if I was all right,” he murmured. 

Legolas favored him with a small grin.  “I know better.” 

Edging forward a little, they peered out of their hiding place.  From here they had a perfect view of the valley below.  Three of the four trolls were sitting around the fire on rocks large enough to be called boulders; the fourth was rising to his feet.  The creatures were huge, easily as tall as most trees.  They were basically human in shape, but their features were blunt-edged and all their proportions were boxy.  They wore ragged clothing, but their skin was so tough and weathered it was difficult to tell where their hides ended and the clothing began. 

Some species of trolls were basically non-intelligent, little better than huge, cunning and frightening animals.  This was not true of all of their race however.  The really dangerous ones were these, the fully sentient trolls.  Hill Trolls they were often called, simply because they lived in the hills and mountains, making their homes in caves that protected them from the sunlight that was their detriment.  

The creatures carried themselves in a bullying manner and had an evil, squint-eyed cast to their faces that suggested they enjoyed the suffering of those weaker than themselves... and considering their height and mass, that was just about everyone. 

Legolas just watched for a few moments, not completely stunned, but certainly attentive.  He was seeing so many new things lately.  Hobbits... now trolls.  He had heard of trolls of course, but had never seen one before; they were not fond of forests and none had ventured into Mirkwood or crossed his path, although he knew that many lived in the darker corners of the Misty Mountains near their borders. 

Aragorn had seen trolls at least from a distance before and was not put off by their surprisingly massive stature.  In some ways it was ironic that he, in his short life, had probably seen more of the world than Legolas had seen in centuries, the result of the Dúnadan’s incessant wandering. 

Almost immediately, both friends’ attention was drawn to the far side of the camp.  There, strung up by their arms from a great tree branch easily twenty feet or more above the ground, dangled seven figures clearly visible in the light of the trolls’ roaring fire.  The large creatures had apparently found not only Elladan and Elrohir, but the rest of the missing bandits as well. 

Legolas looked at Aragorn and the Dúnadan closed his eyes, knowing what was coming before his friend said it. 

“I hope Valinor is surviving the hurricane,” the prince said dryly, unable to resist the small bit of dark irony. 

Aragorn just scowled and shook his head. 


Elladan labored for breath, his chest heaving as he tried to breathe around the ache of his broken ribs and the tenseness in his chest that having all his weight suspended from his arms provoked.  His injured shoulder felt as if it were on fire, flaming agony through his being and further robbing him of whatever oxygen he could inhale.  He twisted his wrists in their bonds, but only succeeded in getting further cut by the harsh ropes and scraped by the rough bark of the tree that his arms encircled above his head. 

His heart wrenched when he looked at the still, limp form of his brother’s body hanging in front of him.  Elrohir’s head lolled lifelessly to the side and he could tell his twin was unconscious still.  Elladan was already too weak and had not been able to put up much of a struggle when the troll captured them, but Elrohir had, and he had paid dearly for the resistance. 

He and Elrohir were the last two to be caught and so they hung on the far end of the branch, furthest from the tree.  Elladan supposed the five bandits who dangled behind him must have been captured even earlier on in the night, for they had already been here when they arrived.  He worried for Estel and Legolas, although he supposed it was probably very good that they were not here. 

The trolls had been busy building up their great fire for the past half hour or so and the elf had a very bad feeling about their motives.  Now, one of the trolls rose up from his seat and walked towards them, his heavy tread shaking the tree where the prisoners hung and causing Elladan to flinch against the further aggravation of his injuries. 

“Hey, little dainties,” the troll rasped in a deep, throaty voice, talking as one might speak to a flock of chickens, or a herd of sheep, ready for the slaughter.  “How are we holding up hm?  Ready for dinner?  Eh?” 

The creature began pinching and squeezing the prisoner’s arms and torsos, checking the meat on their bones.  The bandits visibly blanched in terror, trying to squirm away but unable to do so as the troll methodically worked his way down the line.  When he reached the last position, Elrohir shuddered and winced under the brutal prodding of his hurting body, dragged groggily back to consciousness by the pain. 

“Oh, little birdie’s awake,” the troll sneered, nursing the bloody gash across the side of his hand that Elrohir had given him earlier.  Before the elf knew what hit him, the troll back-handed his body sharply, making him twist and swing wildly in his bonds, nearly smacking into his brother behind him.  A short, strangled cry resulted from the abuse and Elrohir’s head sank lower against his chest, blood running freely from his mouth and nose. 

Elladan could tell from the rapid, desperate rise and fall of his brother’s chest that his twin had not returned to unconsciousness, but was wishing he had.  

“Stop it!” Elladan raged, almost shouting despite the immense pressure in his chest and lungs.  His eyes flashed fire that would have consumed the troll on the spot if it had been a physical force.  “Keep your filthy hands off my brother!” 

“El...” Elrohir moaned, trying to warn his brother off, but it was all he was able to say as he saw the troll focus on his twin. 

The troll laughed.  It was amusing to him that their little dinner dainties were indignant and fighting back.  He turned his malicious gaze on the elder twin.  “This little birdie has a big mouth...” he grinned, encompassing Elladan in his fist and beginning to squeeze the elf, tightly. 

Darkness hedged Elladan’s vision as all air was denied to his body.  The iron grip of the troll felt as though it was about to snap his ribcage like kindling wood.  He didn’t have breath to cry out, but his face twisted in pain. 

“Maybe you should be the first course, hm?” the troll leered, jerking the elf forward so that Elladan’s blurry vision was entirely filled with his wicked, grinning face.

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