Escape from Mordor

Chapter 3

by Cassia and Siobhan

First > Previous > Next   

I can’t last here for too long
I feel this current it’s so strong
It gets me further down the line
It gets me closer to the line..

And all these little things in life, they all create this haze
There’s too many things to get done, and I’m running out of days 

-- Three Doors Down

Having heard the trumpet blast, the orcs that had passed by the hiding prisoners earlier turned and headed back they way they had come.  Graghnak led the way, an evil, satisfied grin on his face.  He had no love for any of the creatures that served in his troop but it did not please him to have to report the unnecessary demise of them either.  Prangtz had been an idiot, but someone was going to pay for his death.  Their master did not take news of escapees and lapses of attention lightly. 

The valley they were in was now quickly becoming blocked off from before and behind, leaving the two friends no choice but to turn aside and take their chances with the hills.  Aragorn and Legolas scrambled up the steep incline next to them, their boots sliding and scrabbling on the loose, dry earth as they sought for purchase.  Desperation hastened their frantic movements as they half ran, half climbed towards a low plateau above.  Neither of them wanted to be caught. 

Legolas felt his heart pounding in his chest so hard it made him dizzy.  The mix of physical exertion and fear shot through his injured body, making him tremble lightly.  His injured ribs screamed as he scrambled up the steep grade, shooting sharp knives of pain into his consciousness, but he paid them no mind.  He would run until he died if it kept him away from being recaptured by the orcs. 

Aragorn felt the heavy air stick and choke in his throat, mixing with the dust their wild ascent was kicking up.  Fearful adrenaline drove him up the hill, sometimes climbing more than running.  They could not be captured; he had been a captive of orcs before and the memory was very dark.  Yet even more important to him, he could not let Legolas be put back in their hands.  

The ranger whipped around as quickly as he could without losing his footing when he heard a heavy thud and the scrabble of rocks behind him.  Legolas, far more unsteady than any elf usually was, had lost his purchase on the shifting shale and fallen hard, sliding backwards a few paces.  

The elf barely kept from crying out when his stomach and chest slammed against the ground, cushioned only a little by having caught himself on his hands.  The fall knocked the air out of his lungs and for a moment he couldn’t move or think.  

Aragorn scrambled and slid down the hill back to where his friend had fallen.  The orcs they had nearly run into were now in active pursuit, closing in on them at an alarming rate, and the rest of their company that had been alerted were no doubt not far behind.  He knew Legolas was hurting, but he didn’t even have time to ask if the elf was all right as he grabbed his friend, pulling him up.  He winced slightly as he grasped Legolas’ hands, seeing the blood on the prince’s palms, torn by his fall.  Wrapping Legolas’ arm around his shoulders so he could support the elf’s weight, the ranger dragged the prince swiftly up the hill again.  

Legolas winced at the abrupt movements, inhaling sharply, but motion was quickly coming back to him and Aragorn released his friend as soon as he felt the elf moving under his own power again.  

The orcs’ horn was blowing again as the two hunted beings reached the plateau.  Ahead of them loomed another hill and to their right was a steep drop back into the valley they had just come from.  Down there they could see the dark shapes of more than two dozen orcs rushing to join the ones already on their heels.  This land seemed infested with the foul beasts!  

Turning towards the left, which was their only option, Aragorn suddenly found himself thrown backward, the dark, heavy form of an orc appearing from almost nowhere as it jumped on him.  

“Strider!” Legolas shouted in alarm as Aragorn went down beneath the foul beast.  

Reacting quickly Aragorn tucked his feet up even as he fell, getting his knees between he and his attacker so that when they hit the earth he pushed upward and kicked the orc off, over his head.  

The dark creature grabbed the shoulders of the ranger’s coat as he went over, dragging Aragorn around with him so that the two of them ended up rolling across the slanting ground.  Tumbling to the right they rolled towards the steeper drop back to where they had just come from.  

Legolas ran after them, realizing with frustration that he had no weapons, nothing to fight with.  

The force of their struggle carried Aragorn and the orc off the edge of the plateau.  The small cliff was not entirely sheer and the two combatants landed on the edge, clinging on and struggling with one another at the same time.  

Aragorn felt the orc’s weight dragging him towards the drop and he struck at the fell beast with one hand as he fought to keep his grip on the rocky ledge with the other, his feet swinging free.  It was not a very far drop to the ground, maybe twenty feet at the most, but it was not the fall that worried Aragorn, it was the scores of angry orcs at the bottom.  

The ranger felt his fingers slipping as the loose rocks shifted under his tenuous grip, the weight of the orc still clinging to him dragged him steadily down like an anchor.  Just as his hand began to pull free he felt it caught in a strong, familiar grip.  His eyes shot up to lock with Legolas’ as the elf prince leaned down over the edge to grasp his arm and keeping him from falling.  

“Aragorn, I swear, you should not go near anything that drops off,” Legolas actually found enough breath to say, even if he didn’t have the strength to smile.  It was true.  If Legolas had bad luck with caves, then Aragorn’s misfortune seemed to run towards cliffs.  The strain of holding his friend shown in the tension on his face as the elf focused on pulling the ranger back up.  Settling himself firmly against the rocks that lined the lip of the cliff, Legolas grasped the ranger’s coat sleeve with his other hand trying to find the leverage he needed. 

The orc holding onto Aragorn dug its fist into the ranger’s stomach, kicking the back of the man’s knees, in an attempt to dislodge the human.  Aragorn jerked and his arm slid in Legolas’ grasp as he slipped further down over the edge.  

Legolas bit back a gasp as the combined weight of Aragorn and the orc pulled full upon his injured body; but his hands just tightened in Aragorn’s sleeve.  He was trying to pull his friend up, but the ongoing struggle and his own weakened body was preventing him. 

“Lose the orc!” the elf grit out through his teeth as he felt his hands beginning to tremble.  “I can’t hold you both!” 

Desperation flooded Aragorn’s mind as he struck and kicked at the creature clinging to him with his legs.  If they didn’t move soon it was going to be too late anyway, they were running out of time before their pursuers caught up with them.  

As if in answer to his worried thoughts a dark shape loomed up over Legolas’ head, casting a shadow upon them.  

“Legolas!” Aragorn’s warning did little good.  What could the elf do without dropping his friend? 

The prince cried out as the orc behind him clubbed him between the shoulder blades, knocking him forward and Aragorn felt himself slide further down the drop.  Legolas kicked backward, knocking the creature back a pace.  The fact that the brute had not drawn a weapon on his disadvantaged adversary showed that the orcs were interested in retaking their captives alive.  

“Strider!”  The elf’s long fingers remained firmly enmeshed in his friend’s sleeve, holding bruisingly tight to Aragorn’s forearm and wrist, but he could feel his friend slipping even as the shadow of the orc fell on him again, causing fear to pump wildly through his veins.  

Aragorn kicked viciously at the orc he was tangled with.  “Let go, Legolas, let go!”  The elf had no chance if he kept holding on to his friend.  

Legolas did not waste energy refusing, but his knuckles whitened as he gripped tighter, trying even harder to pull his friend up.  The orc came again and Legolas twisted away as much as he could while still holding Aragorn, lashing backward with his elbow to catch the creature in the chin.  

The angry orc grabbed the elf’s shoulder, trying to drag Legolas backward, away from Aragorn.  A vicious punch to the elf’s already burning stomach made Legolas cry out in pain as his fingers loosened involuntarily.  

Aragorn slid down sharply, starting to fall until Legolas’ hands tightened quickly around his wrist once more, catching him at the last moment and jerking him to a halt.  The jolt was enough to shake the orc clinging to him, and one good kick finally sent the creature tumbling down into the midst of his companions who were watching the battle from the ground.  There were far less down there now then there had been a few moments ago and Aragorn knew that they must be on their way here.  

Rid of the orc’s weight, Aragorn used his free arm to claw at the cliff's edge, straining to swing his legs back up over the lip.  The orc fighting with Legolas inadvertently helped them by dragging the elf backward a pace or two, which gave the ranger just the tug he needed to swing his knee up onto the ledge.  

Quickly scrambling all the way up, Aragorn released Legolas’ hand and the elf was free to turn his full attention on the orc harassing him.  The prince was ill-prepared for a fight, but the orc still never knew what hit him as the previously helpless elf spun quickly to nail the beast in the jaw.  

The orc stumbled back and Aragorn, having gained his feet, rammed into it with his shoulder, pushing it off the ledge from which he himself had recently been dangling.  

The creature fell with a cry, but neither elf nor ranger waited to see it hit the ground; they were already moving again, running back towards their only possible hope of escape.  

Suddenly six or seven orcs spilled into their path.  A moment later half a dozen more came scrambling down the hill to their right while nearly twice that many gained the plateau from the valley below.  

The area was positively teeming with orcs in a matter of moments and all routes of escape were cut off as Aragorn and Legolas were pressed back to back, slowly circling.  The ranger passed his knife off to the elf and quickly unslung his bow, stringing an arrow and loosing a volley into the dark press around them.  Yet more orcs were arriving by the moment, twenty, thirty... the sheer number of the enemy was overpowering and no matter how hard they fought, the pair was overcome by the press of orc bodies.  

Graghnak struck out at the ranger, catching Aragorn’s bow and slapping it aside.  He crushed the weapon underfoot, snapping it in half.  The orc grabbed for the human, who ducked his clumsy move and pulled a sword, backing the orcs up a few paces and widening the circle that surrounded them. 

“Put that down and I won't kill you right here,” Graghnak growled at the ranger. 

Aragorn didn’t respond.  It wouldn’t matter what they did now, they were both dead and he knew it; there was no way out of this, but he planned on taking as many of the foul beasts out with him as he could.  Lunging, he impaled a slower orc on the sharp blade before spinning out of reach and smashing his fist into the hard jaw of another sending the orc sprawling. 

He could hear Legolas fighting as well but the battle with the elf was short-lived and the injured prince was soon overpowered.  He did not posses the strength of his human counterpart right now and what little he had had been spent in the previous struggle.  It frustrated him to no end when his arms were painfully pinned behind him and Aragorn’s elven blade, which the orcs had taken from him, slid roughly under his chin. 

“Stop now or I’ll let them kill the elf.” Graghnak pointed to a place behind Aragorn.  The ranger was standing over a slain orc and had nearly decapitated another when the command rang out. 

Breathing heavily but unwilling to drop his gaze from the large orc commander that stepped in front of him, Aragorn called to Legolas in elvish, “Legolas, is it true?” he asked raggedly, his sword wavering slightly in front of him.  

Graghnak smiled evilly. He was having fun hunting these two down; they hadn’t had this much excitement in a long time.  He would make sure they paid for the blood they had spilt, but the human amused him. 

“I’m sorry, Estel.  Don’t let them take us. Kill as many as you can,” the elf answered. He groaned softly as his arms were twisted tighter behind his back in response to the length of his answer.  Aragorn could not become a prisoner in Mordor.  If the orcs did not kill them both right away... if Sauron’s eye ever turned to rest on the human who had so long been hidden from him and he saw the truth of who the ranger really was... Aragorn’s fate would be far worse than even that which would be contrived for an elf.  

Aragorn chanced a quick glance over his shoulder.  His own blade was held firmly to the elf’s neck.  A thin trace of blood edged it and the orc that held the fair being turned Legolas’ arms a bit harder, just for fun, as the ranger eyed his friend. 

Slowly standing down from his defensive position, the ranger dropped his sword.  He couldn’t watch them slit the elf’s throat. 

Moving swiftly for such a large creature, Graghnak stepped forward and slammed his fist into the side of the man’s head, knocking Aragorn to the ground.  The ranger barely caught himself on his hands as he fell hard to his knees, temporarily stunned.  He winced as his arms were held in a vice-like grip behind him.  He was hauled to his feet and manhandled back to the orc camp. 

Legolas felt terror so dark and deep coursing through him that it chilled his bones .  This was the worst thing that could have happened, the worst.  Now not only he, but Aragorn as well, would be subjected to the orcs’ cruelties.  He wished he would have died rather than get his friend into this kind of trouble.  Aragorn should have either killed him or left him.  Now they were both lost.  

The orcs holding Legolas cuffed him repeatedly as they dragged him along, snarling at him about running away again.  The elf fell frequently under their abuse, but it hardly seemed to matter to them since they were more dragging than guiding him anyway.  

When blood started trickling from the corner of the prince’s mouth, Graghnak gave a silent signal for his underlings to lay off.  The elf looked spent and the orc captain was not ready to have the pretty little trinket die just yet.  Oh he would be more than properly punished for this, but not yet, not until he was strong enough to survive it.  

The human however... that was another matter.  He had trespassed in their lands, stolen one of their slaves and probably killed one of their own.  He was going to need some very immediate attention. 

When they re-entered camp, the body of the guard the ranger had slain still lay where it had died in its sleep.  Graghnak walked over to the dead orc, kicking the corpse with disdain. 

“You did this?” he growled looking back at the pair.  When neither answered, the commander grabbed the human from his underlings and dragged the ranger back into the center of camp, throwing the man roughly to the ground.  Before Aragorn could rise another orc grabbed him by the back of the neck, holding him in place, bent over in a kneeling position, his face only inches from the rocky floor. 

The ranger’s left arm was jerked roughly out to the side and he felt the cold bite of a manacle fasten around his wrist. He stopped struggling when the toe of Graghnak’s boot caught him sharply in the ribs. 

“Lie still or I’ll make you wish you had,” the dark creature growled as he pulled Aragorn’s arm farther away from his body, the metal cuff digging into the soft skin.  He couldn’t turn his head but the ranger could hear Legolas cry out softly and the sound of another manacle being secured.  He only assumed that Legolas had been bound in much the same way as he was.  The rattle of a chain length caught his attention and he flinched involuntarily, thinking the metal links had been brought out to punish them with. 

When his wrist was released by the large orc that had recaptured him, Aragorn tired to pull his arm back in close to his side, but the sudden movement brought a cry of pain from the elf.  With mounting fear the ranger realized they had been chained together.  Struggling underneath the bulk of the weight of the orc that pressed him down, he desperately tried to get away.  

The struggle was useless. 

Graghnak noticed the difficulty his underling was having in constraining the human and he smiled darkly.  Motioning to the elf, he ordered the fair being held down and laughed as he was quickly obeyed.  Legolas was pressed flat to the earth as a large orc kneeled on his back, digging his bony kneecap into the middle of the prince’s back. 

“The new one needs a lesson, you maggots, needs to learn how to mind!” Graghnak grinned evilly.  “Teach him!” he hissed.  

“Strider, be still!”  Legolas could see what the orcs intended and he feared for his friend. 

Held down as he was and unable to breathe properly, the ranger was panicking as the orcs crowded around him. 

“Legolas!”  His muffled cry was cut off as the orcs that converged on him began to follow through on their captain’s commands and tried to subdue the human by beating and kicking him.  

The elf watched in horror as the ranger was completely blocked from his sight.  There was nothing he could do and when he writhed underneath his captor, the orc simply kneeled on him harder, pressing the air from his lungs.  

From amid the teeming tangle of orc bodies Legolas heard Aragorn cry out in pain as the dark creatures battered him without restraint.  

“Stop!  Stop it!  Strider!”  Tears ran down Legolas’ face as he was restrained, unable to aid his friend.  Aragorn’s left hand reached out towards Legolas, frantically.  The elf stretched his right arm out until his fingers barely touched the human’s.  Aragorn desperately latched onto Legolas, unwilling to release him.  His soft cries were muffled by the laughing orcs that surrounded him. 

The orc perched on the prince laughed and taunted Legolas, pointing out that the two prisoners were trying to help one another.  Graghnak looked over the huddle of his minions beating on the man and laughed with dark mirth. 

“Let them,” he said as he noted the way the two beings held on to one another, the chain that bound them together pooling beneath their clasped hands.  “It won’t do them no good.” 

Noting the fun that their companions were having without them, the orcs guarding the slaves left their posts and wandered over.  Purtang, a relatively young orc that had just joined Graghnak’s clan, stumbled forward gleefully having retrieved a large tree limb that was destined for the fire ring. 

As he approached the orcs that pinned the human down he tripped over the feet of the one that held Aragorn’s neck in a viselike grip.  The older orc turned, enraged, and Purtang fell back, dropping the log he held.  The thick wood impacted the back of Aragorn’s skull, smashing his face into the ground underneath him and he lost consciousness, slumping sideways. 

The hand that had gripped the elf’s so tightly went lax and fell from his fingers. 

“STRIDER!”  Legolas screamed his friend’s name, fear flooding his heart with adrenaline he had no way to release.  “Strider!”