Escape from Mordor

Chapter 2

by Cassia and Siobhan

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When passion’s lost
And all the trust is gone
Way too far, for way too long...
Only in a world so cold.
Only in a world this cold...
Hold the hand of your best friend,
Look into their eyes, and watch them drift away. 

-- Mudvayne

Aragorn’s mind was numb and reeling as he opened his eyes again and sighted in the arrow.  The bow felt strange against his fingers.  He couldn’t leave Legolas, and he couldn’t free him; this was mercy, some voice deep in his mind was stoically repeating.  It was what Legolas wanted, the only kind thing he could possibly do for his friend now.  But the ranger’s hands shook as he stretched the bow back, his heart and mind screaming at him that there had to be another way, overriding the logic that spoke so calmly and begged him through the eyes of his friend.  

Legolas was right, Aragorn knew perfectly well what the orcs would do to the fair being and it was worse than anything that had ever been done to him, more than he could have ever survived.  Aragorn remembered the horror stories his brothers had told him about finding their mother Celebrían after the orcs had captured her... he knew he couldn’t leave the elf prince to the orcs’ mercy for they were totally bereft of it. 

And yet... 

Legolas closed his eyes and whispered softly in elvish, “Thank you mellon-nín. May the Valar see you safely home.  If there is any grace in this world or the next then we may meet again some day, if only briefly.  If Mandos permits, I will wait for you.” 

A sob broke from Aragorn’s lips and he dropped the bow to his side, his will collapsing and the arrow clattering to the floor of the valley.  The orcs were nearing the bend in the canyon - he could hear them.  Rushing forward he held the elf’s face in his hands and gently kissed Legolas’ forehead, wrapping his arms around the elf and holding him for a moment, resting his head against the fair being’s temple. 

“Forgive me.  Forgive me, Legolas, I cannot do it.  I cannot,” he whispered in the prince’s ear. The soft sigh of defeat from the elf tore at the ranger’s heart. 

“I will not let them hurt you, I swear by all that is good in Middle-earth. I will be in the rocks above you and I will come back and free you this very night,” Aragorn promised desperately. 

Legolas was shaking softly; quiet sobs breaking from deep in his chest.  He loved his friend, but Aragorn did not understand that this was not mercy to keep him alive now... not like this... not with the orcs’ threats hovering over him like a hammer about to fall.  Not when his weary heart craved only eternal peace. 

“Do not leave me.”  Aragorn’s hands bracketed the elf’s face, his eyes begging the weary blue ones to trust him one last time.  “Stay.  For me, please, Legolas.  For all the years that we have been friends.  I swear that if they are going to hurt you and I cannot stop them, I-I will end it for you then.  But please, promise me that if it does not come to that, then you will not let go, that you will stay until I can get you free.” 

When Legolas nodded his head the ranger turned swiftly away, grabbing his arrow from the ground where it had fallen and fleeing into the night just as the orcs came into sight of the camp.  The elf could hear the quiet sounds the human made as he climbed the rock wall at his back.  A soft sprinkling of dust fell onto the elf’s head and he looked above him into the dark. 

“I’m here,”  Aragorn’s whispered words were picked up by the keen elven hearing. “I’m right here.” 

With a small nod Legolas let his head hang forward once more as he sagged against his bonds.  For Aragorn, for the sake of their friendship and the emotional devastation he knew his death would cause the human, he would wait... but not for long. 

The orcs spilled back into camp and soon had a roaring fire going in the midst of their dark masses.  The absence of the orc guard had been casually thrown aside as the evil creatures coarsely joked about where he might have wandered off to and why.  The expectation that the guard would return at any moment was easily forgotten as the soldiers began to settle in for the night. 

Legolas had not glanced up once since they returned and Aragorn was getting worried that elf’s despair might overwhelm him yet, promise or no.  The ranger leaned out over the cliff and glanced down cautiously just as a large orc made his way towards the prisoner. 

“How are we, my pretty?” the orc purred as he stepped close to the elf, pressing his face against the prince’s, his hot breath a stench to Legolas who tried to turn away. 

A thick, black, hand caught the elf’s face and held him still as the orc taunted him, “Didn’t think we’d forgotten you, did you now?”  He pulled a long-handled knife from a sheath on his side and ran the cool, pointed blade down the side of the prince’s face, slipping it beneath his tunic and popping the first button off the green suede vest.  

“Not a chance of that... not a chance.”  He slid the knife down and popped the second button off.  “We have so much to do, pretty one, so many screams to hear from that lovely throat of yours,” the orc hissed, his hand tightening against the elf’s neck. 

Legolas’ breath was coming in fast, ragged gulps and he pulled against the manacles, trying to twist away.  The blade dug sharply into his breast bone, pinning him in place and stopping his movements, drawing a small cry from the fair being, much to his captor’s delight. 

Legolas desperately wanted to escape and was silently praying that Ilúvatar would give Aragorn the courage he needed to follow through on his promise.  Above him, the ranger raised up on one knee, his bow strung as he watched the orc tormenting the elf below him.  His anger rose and wrapped through his thinking, shutting off all else.  Legolas had been through too much to have to put up with the dark creature’s stupidity. 

Pulling back on the drawstring the ranger stilled his breath, the head of the arrow moved from targeting the elf to the orc.  He couldn’t kill the prince, no matter how much Legolas wanted him to. There was nothing inside of him that would allow him to do so, unless the elf were being tormented to death with no other way to save him, and they had not yet reached that point as far as the ranger was concerned.  Not while he still had a breath left in him to stand against these foul creatures. 

Breathing in deeply and steeling himself for a fight, the ranger’s fingers lightened up on the string, readying to loose the projectile despite the deadly consequences that would unleash, when an orc from near the fire shouted at Legolas’ guard. 

“Prangtz, damn it! I told you to guard that thing, not talk to it!  It’s not for you!  I want it alive when we get back.” 

Prangtz quickly pulled his knife away and turned around, trying to affect an air of innocence if such could ever describe an orc. “Oh come on, Graghnak, we was just having a bit of fun with it.  It squirms so when you get close.” 

The large orc that Aragorn now assumed was in command took a step towards Legolas’ guard and pointed his sword at the creature’s dark heart, “You leave it alone or I’ll have your head,” he growled at Prangtz. 

“Keeps all the good stuff for himself,” the guard muttered darkly, staring back at his commander before eyeing the prisoner with an evil glare. “We’ll have fun with you later, little elf, don’t you worry about that.”  With a snort of frustration the orc settled himself on the ground facing the fire. 

Convinced his soldier was now obeying him, Graghnak jabbed the point of his scimitar at the orc once more before turning away. 

With a sigh of relief, Aragorn released the tension on his bow and settled back into the shadows, his eyes never leaving the elf below him.  Soft words spoken in elvish drifted up to him on the slight winds that blew through the ravine they were camped in. “Mellon-nín, if you are there, do not forget your promise to me.” 

“I am and I won’t.” The ranger answered so softly he was not even sure that the elf had heard him. 

“It is well,” Legolas whispered. 

Interrupting the nearly silent conversation, the orc that guarded Legolas turned abruptly slinging a small stone at the elf and yelling, “Shut up!  No one is talking to you.”  The black beady eyes of the evil creature narrowed when the prince glanced wearily up at him. “Stupid elf, you won’t be talking so much when we cut your tongue from your head and feed it to the crows, now will you?” 

Closing his eyes wearily, Legolas dropped his head back down, resting his temple against his painfully stretched arms. 

The jingle of keys caught Aragorn’s attention as he watched the scene play out beneath him.  The large orc that had been chosen to guard the prisoner lay down on the rocky ground; a rusted ring of keys hanging from his belt scraped across the dirt as he stretched out. 

The ranger quietly slung his bow over his back and leaned forward intently, a plan emerging in his mind.  He glanced down at Legolas but the elf did not respond.  The camp was quieting for the evening and the orcs had begun to bed down.  Now they just had to wait. 

The orcs were singularly un-restful creatures, grumbling and turning fitfully in their sleep, waking only to sink back into dreams again.  Each time Aragorn thought they might really all be asleep, another one rolled over with half-lidded eyes before falling back to sleep.  It was maddening.  Still, Aragorn crouched patiently in the shadows of his hiding place, watching them and waiting for the opportune moment as the watches of the night crept on.  Finally, many hours later, a kind of peace seemed to settle over the camp and the restless orcs stirred no more. 

Scooping up a small handful of dirt, Aragorn dropped the debris onto the elf’s head, trying to catch Legolas’ attention. 

Legolas shuddered slightly, shaking the dust out of his hair and glancing upwards with a small frown. Communicating in silence with the elf, the ranger pointed at the guard sleeping near Legolas’ feet, making the sign of an ‘o’ and indicating the key ring.  Understanding broke through the elf’s mind quickly and he nodded in agreement, placing more weight on his booted toes and standing up under his bonds, he waited in anticipation for his friend’s approach as the ranger slipped from view. 

It seemed like an eternity before Aragorn crept into the darkened, sleeping camp.  He had waited until none of the captors stirred.  The sounds of their sleep filled the camp with guttural snores and grunts.  The ranger crouched just beyond the circle of light that the fire threw about the orcs.  Legolas’ eyes were fixed on the sight of the human who glanced over the sleeping hulks, looking for anyone who was still awake.  It seemed that all of the evil creatures slept, including the one the human stalked quietly up beside.  What appeared as an unusual lapse in attention was nothing more than the orcs over-confidence, deep within the borders of their own land.  Here they feared no attack, nor any resistance from the heavily bound and hopeless slaves.  It was a fatal error for them. 

Slipping his sharp blade from its sheath on the back of his belt, the ranger leaned over the one named Prangtz, bringing the knife up under the snoring orc’s chin.  With a quick deft move he slit the orc’s throat.  The sleeping beast never even knew that he was dead. Rolling the carcass over onto its stomach, the ranger relieved the guard of his key ring and ran quickly back to Legolas’ side, cautioning the elf to silence. 

They could suffer no mistakes. 

Suddenly the ranger felt incredibly clumsy as he climbed back onto the rock shelf behind Legolas and fumbled with the keys, trying first one then another, urgency hampering rather than helping his attempt.


Movement on the far side of camp startled Aragorn and he pressed himself into the shadows behind Legolas, hiding behind the elf as an orc stood slowly from its sleeping place and glanced around the camp.  The prince immediately dropped his gaze back to the ground in front of him, peeking out through the strands of hair that fell into his eyes.  They both held their breath as the orc watched the prisoner for a few moments.  Satisfying himself that all was well, the creature walked off towards the shadowed perimeter. 

“Don’t move,” Aragorn whispered softly to the elf, his dark clothes blending with the shades of night and the rock wall behind them. “It will be back.” 

Legolas nodded imperceptibly, his body tensed and aching from the position he had been stretched out in for so long. 

Noting his friend’s tensions and distress, Aragorn whispered in the elf’s ear, “Stand on my boots.”  The ranger pulled the prince back a few inches. 


“My boots.” Aragorn kicked the toes of his boots underneath the heels of Legolas’ soft leather shoes, scooting forward until the elf’s body rested against him. “Now stand up and let some of that pressure off your arms.” 

Legolas was surprised to find that he could actually stand when he balanced on top of the ranger’s shoes and he sighed quietly as the pull on his hurting arms was lessened. 

They both tensed as the orc returned, melting into view from the edges of the camp.  It flopped to the ground and was asleep in moments, but Aragorn remained where he was for a bit longer, unwilling to chance that the orc was not resting deeply enough quite yet.  Morning was nearly upon them and with it came an urgency that he could not ignore any longer. 

“All right. I’m going to try again.”  Aragorn brushed the blonde hair out of his eyes and whispered in Legolas’ ear.  The elf nodded and stepped forward, groaning involuntarily as the brunt of his weight was again suspended by his wrists and arms.  

“I only have two more keys to try. I will be quick,” the ranger reassured his friend as he tackled the awkward position, shoving a dirty, rusted key into the opening. 

To his surprise the key turned and the manacles popped open, falling away and banging noisily against the cliff face.  Aragorn cringed at the loud metallic sound but had no time to worry about it as Legolas fell forward, trying to stifle a small cry as his freed arms were released.  The blood rushing back into his stiff limbs was painful but the ranger could give him no respite, not yet. Wrapping his arms around the elf and pulling him gently, but forcefully up from the ground, Aragorn half dragged the prince from the camp.  They had made more noise than he was comfortable with and he eyed the horde warily as they shifted and grunted in their sleep.


Something had woken him, someone stirred.  Graghnak lay perfectly still where he was, listening to the night sounds.  He normally slept soundly in Mordor, as there was no reason to fear here... but something had woken him.  His gaze swept lazily to the line of picketed slaves where they huddled together, uncomfortably trying to catch what little sleep they could. 

Turning to look over his shoulder, the commander of the orc troop glanced to the far side of the camp and spied the empty manacles.  The sun was nearly up and its first filtered rays were brushing the canyon walls, gleaming dully off of the open metal bonds. 

“Get up!” the orc yelled at his men, causing the slaves to flinch and draw closer together. “NOW! Get up!  The cursed elf is gone!” 

The soldiers woke, groggily peering at each other through sleep fogged eyes as they fought their way to their feet, glancing about the camp for the source of their commander’s displeasure. 

Only one orc did not rise.


Within moments the camp was in a frenzy.  Aragorn could hear the orcs behind them yelling and stirring one another on as they separated into two groups, one heading north and one south, trying to track where their escaped prisoner had fled to.  He could hear them hollering at the other slaves, demanding to know what had happened, but the poor wretches claimed ignorance.  Aragorn felt a stab of guilt that he had been unable to free all of them, but right now it was all he could do to try to assure that he and Legolas survived this.  There was little place to hide in the shallow canyon and it was painfully apparent that Legolas could not keep pace with the fleet-footed ranger.  Aragorn surmised that the elf had been beaten more severely than he first thought as the prince stumbled, catching himself on his fingertips without breaking stride. 

Legolas simply nodded at Aragorn’s concerned look, unwilling to spare the breath it would take to reply to the worry that was unconcealed in the silver eyes. 

Hearing their pursuers only heightened the elf’s fear as they ran and he began to pant from the exertion and the toll that the abuse had taken on his body.  He had been starved, beaten, kept in bonds and passed from one captivity to another for almost two months now.  The evil effect of Mordor itself and the terrible beating the orcs had given him again only yesterday had already claimed whatever strength he had left.  The elf’s body was failing him and, although he cursed his weakness, he could not fight it this time.  

Legolas' condition was not lost on the ranger and he began to frantically seek a place to hide. To their right, small scrub brushes grew from the side of the rock face, springing up in the dry dusty canyon.  Their brambly, tangled branches partially covered an overhanging lip of rock, creating a deep crevice that was a few feet high off the floor of the valley – enough for a human and an elf to squeeze into, or at least so the ranger hoped. 

Grabbing Legolas by the sleeve, Aragorn dragged the elf to the side of the gully and fell down near the lip, pulling the prince with him.  He rolled to the back wall of the small overhang and drug the protesting elf in with him, covering Legolas’ mouth with one hand and throwing his cloak over both of them, hoping the color would not vary too greatly from their surroundings.  Orcs were not known to be overly observant and he was counting on that to help keep them hidden. 

In seconds a horde of orcs rushed past, running up the canyon brandishing weapons and yelling as they ran headlong after their supposed prey. 

Aragorn had wrapped his arms around the elf, pulling Legolas closely next to him, trying to shield the blonde hair from eyesight with the sleeves of his coat. 

When the dust settled, he relaxed his grip on the prince and leaned his back against the cool wall behind him.  Legolas sighed deeply and closed his eyes, slowly relaxing as his head rested lightly on Aragorn’s outstretched arm beneath him. 

 “They will be back,” the elf whispered softly. “They will realize that we did not get as far as they will run.”  Opening his eyes slowly, he gazed into the silver ones a few inches from his own. 

“I know.  We’ll stay right here until they’ve all passed by and we can leave after they’re gone.” 

Legolas gasped slightly in surprise and mild pain as the ranger pulled him forward and held him tightly for a moment. 


“Don’t ever ask me to do that again, do you hear me?” the ranger whispered hoarsely into the elf’s ear. “I don’t think my heart could handle that a second time.” 

The elf nodded against the human, “I promise,” he replied wearily, smiling softly and not even trying to move away from his friend.  His body was tired and his mind worn out.  He had hardly slept since finding himself in the slave farms, and little enough before that.  The over-exhaustion was beginning to show in the sluggishness he felt pulling at him. 

Aragorn moved back as best he could.  The ledge above their head was only inches from his face when he glanced up and the crevice itself couldn’t have been more than five feet deep. Stretching out he tried to make himself comfortable.  He was startled to find that in the few moments of inattention, Legolas had fallen asleep.  Using the ranger’s arm for a pillow, he lay on his side facing the human.  Aragorn stopped moving and relaxed, a small smile on his face.  

Legolas slept with eyes closed, attesting to his drawn state, but a faint hint of luminescence had crept back into his pale features, making him look more like himself.  

Aragorn’s heart was no longer racing and the adrenaline in his system was fading as they lay in the darkened recess, waiting. The relief that washed through him made him breathe in deeply, holding back the tears that threatened to spill over his eyelids.  He never wanted to go through that again.  He never wanted to have to see that kind of utter hopelessness in his friend’s eyes, nor hear the proud prince beg for death by a familiar hand rather than face the indescribable horror that the orcs had planned for him.  That image was one that would not leave him and he knew it was going to haunt his dreams for many days to come.  The ranger shuddered slightly, the fingers of his free hand drifting over to rest lightly upon Legolas’ arm.  As the elf slept, he began planning their route of escape.

Hours later, the orcs dragged back past the refugees’ hiding place, their coarse mutterings and talkings waking both ranger and elf.  Legolas tensed and glanced over his shoulder.  The feet of the orcs stirred up the dry dust and it was hard to see if the whole contingent had returned this way or not. 

As the sounds of the troop receded, Aragorn gently pressed the elf out in front of him, slowly pulling himself to a standing position once he was freed of their rocky hideaway.  

“We head north for the Udun.  We will never make it back to the Poros without being caught; there are too many of Sauron’s forces near the slave farms.”  Aragorn leaned out, trying to glance around the bend in the path where the orcs had gone.  “Let us be off.” 

The sun was descending over the hills and soon the valley of Nurn would be cast into shadows.  Although in truth that was simply a darker version of what Mordor called day, as the sky was always cast over with the soot and fumes that collected across the deep basin, making the air a foul stench in the nostrils. 

Aragorn doubted the orcs would move the slaves that night as they had spent the better part of the day chasing down the one they had lost. 

The two companions walked slowly up the valley, heading towards the opening where the hills on either side flattened out.  Aragorn was focused on the ranges beyond the canyon; he could just barely make out more rocky mountains beyond the rift’s opening when Legolas tensed beside him, drawing his breath in with a small gasp and grabbing the ranger’s sleeve. 

His attention redirected, the human stopped and stood dead still.  At the mouth of the rift a troop of orcs had just stepped into the path, having rounded the blind corner and stopped their forward march, as surprised to find their quarry as the elf and the ranger were to be seen. 

Aragorn grabbed Legolas, pulling the elf back with him, shouting to the prince to run.  Unfortunately, the dark creatures were swifter than their prey.  They were only fifty feet behind the two escapees and the hair on the back of the ranger’s neck stood on end when one of the evil beings lifted a horn to his lips and blew a sounding tone on the instrument.  The sound sent shivers skittering down the human's spine. 

The prisoners had been found.