Escape from Mordor

Chapter 6

by Cassia and Siobhan

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It’s such a privilege for me to give this gift to you,
All I’d ever hope you’d give me in return
Is to know that you’ll be there to do the same for me,
When the tables turn. 

--Steven Curtis Chapman

Even though it was only early in the morning the pair of refugees was worn out, wearied from the continual heat and the press of evil that occupied the land they were trapped in.  They had been walking all night taking advantage of what coolness the darkness offered.  Amazingly, Mordor did not stir in the darkened hours and their progress had been uninhibited. 

They had encountered little in the dry, dead wastes over the duration of their long trek.  How long it had been they couldn’t even say anymore.  Time seemed to stop and blend together here as did night and day, fusing into one, long, horrible endlessness with nothing to break its monotony.  There were few signs of life, fewer trees... and no water.  

Now and then they saw orc patrols crisscrossing the terrain and had to hide.  To their great annoyance, they were aware every now and again that the orc patrol they had escaped from before was still on their heels.  Or at least some of them were.  The fugitives had avoided even letting their hunters get near them thus far, but it was a constant hassle and the two friends could not believe that the dark creatures were this stubborn.  They did not seem to know the meaning of the word ‘give up’.  

Ahead, the parched land shimmered slightly and the cracks fused together as they ran down a shallow bank towards where had once been a small pool of water.  Butthat pond had now dried up into almost nothing more than a cracked indentation in the ground. 

“I need to rest for a moment,” Aragorn mumbled as he staggered towards the edges of the small pond and sank down beside the thin shimmer of water that yet remained in the bottom of the stagnant pool.  

Their own water had run out two days ago and they had been on incredibly short rations before that.  Aragorn’s mouth was dry and thick feeling; his head reeled slightly from the dehydration that was taking hold of him. 

Legolas flopped down next to the human, his eyes intently scanning the valley floor for any movement.  He was thirsty, but his body had begun to regain a little of its former strength as he started to heal and could still outlast a human’s.  

When the chain rattled between them and he felt Aragorn moving behind him he shifted his arm back to give the man more freedom to move around.  He wasn’t paying attention to what the ranger was up to as he caught his breath and watched the valley floor lighten as the sun rose in the east. 

Quiet sounds behind the elf caught his attention and he rolled over quickly; Aragorn was drinking from the pool behind them. 

“Strider!”  Legolas grabbed the chain that bound them and jerked the man backwards away from the shallow, muddy hole.  “What are you doing?”  The elf knelt over the water and smelled it, while holding the ranger back with his right hand.  He grimaced as the odor of staleness wafted up to him. 

Aragorn wiped his mouth on his sleeve and frowned at the elf. 

Pushing himself back away from the edge of the pond, Legolas knelt in front of Aragorn, matching the frown on the human’s face. 

“You drank that?” Legolas pointed at the water.  When Aragorn glanced at the pool behind the elf he continued, “You are a ranger!  You could not tell that that water is foul?” 

Aragorn met the elf’s gaze hesitantly.  What he knew with his head and what his body demanded were two different things.  Wagering death from dehydration against water-poisoning was a tricky proposition however.  He swallowed hard, licking his lips and testing the taste in his mouth.  “It does leave a nasty aftertaste in my mouth.  Are you sure?”  The ranger tried to lean over and smell the water but the elf restrained him. 

“I’m not going to drink from it again!” Aragorn protested as Legolas touched the back of his fingers to the ranger’s forehead. 

“I can’t believe you did that!”  Legolas sighed heavily.  “You will be lucky if you aren’t sick in a few hours.  Can you throw up?” 

“Can I throw up?”  Aragorn stared incredulously at the elf, “No, I can’t throw up!  I don’t feel sick.  I can’t throw up if I’m not sick. It’s not just something we humans do you know.”  The ranger was angry with himself.  He should have known better, he should have paid attention, he should have not taken the chance.  He was tired and thirsty and his senses were dulled.  He was sick of this place.  It clogged one's brain like dust clogged the airways, making everything difficult.  Trying to support Legolas’ often depressed moods and his own battle against the elements had completely worn him out. 

Legolas sat a foot away from him, staring at the ranger, not answering the angry tirade. 

After a few moments the man spoke up.  “I’m sorry,” Aragorn whispered with a sigh. “I was just really thirsty and I wasn’t much paying attention...well fine, I wasn’t paying attention at all,” he confessed, highly disturbed by his own carelessness.  “It’s this place. I hate it here.” 

“I know.”  Legolas glanced over their shoulder as the sound of rocks skittering down the high walls resounded quietly through the desolate valley. 

“Do you really think it’s poisoned?” 

Glancing back at the ranger, Legolas shook his head slowly. “Poisoned no, but foul, yes.  It may make you sick and we have nothing to counter it with.  We’ll need to find you clean water and quickly.” 

“Good luck there.”  Aragorn swept his arm around them before letting it fall into his lap dejectedly.  The water had left an even worse taste in his mouth now and he regretted his actions a bit too late.  Perfect.  He’d made a mistake he would have upbraided one of his greenest new recruits for back when he was a captain in Gondor.  Legolas was right: this place turned people into strange, muddled versions of themselves and that was not pleasant. 

Legolas shifted his gaze and swept the area behind them again as the slight sounds of rocks falling from heights once more caught his attention. “We cannot linger.  We are not alone, I fear.  Let us get as far from here as possible until you are unable to travel well, if that should happen.  I pray the Valar that you will not fall ill, but I am expecting it.” 

Nodding in resignation and not arguing with the gloomy prognosis, which was no more than his own experience told him, Aragorn shifted stiffly to his knees and gained his feet.  He followed dejectedly after the elf, silently berating himself as they walked steadily towards the shadow of the stone fence that surrounded the forsaken land. 

“Just wait until your brothers hear about this,” Legolas jested lightly, trying to pick their mood back up again. “A ranger who can’t take of himself, or tell foul water from fresh...” 

“They will not hear, not a word of it.”  Aragorn jerked the chain between them lightly. “Do you understand?  Are you listening to me?” 

Legolas feigned disinterest as though he had not heard a word that the human had spoken, eliciting a snort of derision from the ranger. “Right, with ears like that...”  Aragorn let the taunt fall, laughing as the elf turned a glower in his direction. 


“Elf,” the ranger growled back at him good naturedly, giving Legolas a shove and unbalancing him slightly much to the prince’s amusement. 


The wasted desert region of Mordor, known as Gorgoroth, ‘place of very great dread’, was living up to its name, Legolas thought darkly, as he plodded slowly on, his right hand tightly grasping Aragorn’s forearm, steadying the ranger.  Even without the direct light from the sun, the air they breathed was hot and thick.  The heat of the noon day became trapped beneath the ash laden clouds that layered the valley and made their progress slow, belaboring even the elf as they walked nearer to the blackened hulk of Ephel Dúath.  The hopeless of the land wore on the travelers. 

The poisons in the fetid, stagnant pool that the ranger had drunk from earlier in the day were beginning to take their toll on him and he lagged behind a pace.  Legolas knew they had only one option now: they would have to find a way through the walls of Mordor and reach the outside if the ranger was to recover from the poisoning.  They could not afford to try to go any further north, they had to find a way out now.  Therefore they had to endure the risks of leaving the rocky, uneven ranges they had been hiding in and cross the great, wide-open valleys that led into the foothills of the mountains. 

Every pond they passed here in the wretched wastelands was unfit for drinking; there was no fresh water to be had anywhere.  Neither had they seen any trace of the orcs that had dogged their steps so tenaciously thus far.  The heat and the deadness of the land about them dulled their senses and they were not prepared for the stealth, nor the suddenness of their enemies’ attack. 

Wiping blonde strands of hair from his face, Legolas slowed his pace to accommodate the human.  Aragorn walked silently next to the elf, his right arm held tightly about his mid-section.  His leather coat was tied off around his waist; it was much too hot to wear it.  The ranger felt as if he had a fever and that made the heat so much worse.  He tensed with the nausea and ache that came and went in severity like waves of sickness threatening to overcome him. Concentrating solely on breathing and walking, the ill feelings had so consumed Aragorn’s attention that he was caught totally off guard when Legolas stopped.  Faltering midstep, the elf pressed his eyes tightly shut as he bit back a groan. 

“Legolas?”  Aragorn moved around his friend and stood in front of the elf, shaking the prince gently by the shoulders when he didn’t respond. “What is it?” 

Legolas had frozen.  A sudden wave of dread had fallen upon his heart like a curtain over the sun.  With a cry the prince dropped to his knees, his right hand jerking Aragorn down with him as the elf grabbed his left shoulder. 

Unable to understand the source of his friend’s pain, Aragorn leaned over Legolas, quietly speaking to him in elvish and attempting to pry the prince’s fingers from his shoulder.  At first Aragorn thought that Legolas had somehow been shot, but there didn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with the elf.  The source of his pain escaped Aragorn, and yet the prince was obviously hurting. 

The ranger glanced around them quickly.  There was no one to be seen, nothing stirred and even the winds brought no sound of threat.  “Legolas, tell me what it is, mellon-nín, or I cannot help you.”  He could not get the elf to look at him and his worry mounted. 

Legolas’ eyes flew open, reflecting sheer terror and surprise as he glanced over Aragorn’s back. Pulling the human down towards him, the elf forcefully jerked the chain that attached them and grabbed the ranger’s head, covering it with his hands as he rolled them to the ground, trying to protect the man. 

But he was not fast enough. 

Hot, fiery pain lanced across Aragorn’s back and an inhuman scream echoed in his ears, emanating inches from his face as he was knocked to the ground by a heavy weight descending upon him from behind. Teeth ripped through his clothing, tearing into his flesh as he felt Legolas pull him down and roll them both away.  The sound of his shirt ripping seared through his consciousness as a blast of hot wind swept past them, leaving a trail of fear in its wake. 

“What?” Aragorn barely whispered, rolling to his side and glancing quickly above them.  He was horrified to see a large, black winged creature, like nothing he had ever witnessed before, wheel away from their position and climb back into the sooty, grey sky, its evil, keening cry echoed by a sound that sent shivers of dark fear skittering down his spine – the shrieking call of an Ulairé. 

They had been discovered by a mounted wraith. 

Trying to see the damage done to his back, Aragorn twisted around, grabbing a fistful of the tattered outer tunic he wore, but his actions were stopped as Legolas stood to his feet, his eyes riveted on the dark creature wheeling around overhead... and the one who rode it. 

Fire and determination warred with utter horror as the elf watched the wraith and its mount circling back towards them.  He knew who it was that had found them, knew it with deadly certainty, for this one was his former dark master; the Witch-king that had tried to enslave his soul.  The familiar touch of that evil was unmistakable and sent shivers running down his spine.  That was why his shoulder hurt; it ached in memory, pained by the very presence of the one who had inflicted the wound so long ago and tried to control him through it. 

The great, winged beast swooped low over the escaped prisoners' heads, trumpeting a loud roar.  It was alerting the orc patrols on the ground as to the slaves’ position.  The two fugitives wanted to run, wanted to hide... but in this open, empty wasteland there seemed to be nowhere to go.  The wraith did not come down again to attack them directly, but seemed content to circle, waiting for the minions it summoned on the ground to do the dirty work. 

“They are still looking for us,” Legolas spoke quietly.  Aragorn glanced from his friend to the sky once more, trying to understand what had happened.  Legolas carefully removed his hand from his shoulder, checking to see if the old, vanished scar had actually reopened, it pained him that much.  There was no blood, no tear in his shirt or skin when he looked further, only the memory of the pain surfacing. 

“What is wrong?” Aragorn watched the elf curiously, looking over his shoulder from time to time at the sky as the dark creature and its master circled high over them. “What is it?” He focused back on the elf and when he could get no answer from the prince, the ranger began gently pushing the fair being in front of him, away from the open area where they were so vulnerable.  “We need to get to shelter. Come on.” 

The wraith saw the two beings below begin to run and altered his plans, completing his wide arc and swooping back towards them. 

“The Witch-king... My shoulder, it is where he cut me.  His presence... hurts.”  The elf ground out the words as though even speaking them was difficult.  He stumbled back next to the ranger, following him numbly. 

“It must be because we are in Mordor.  It has never bothered you before.” Aragorn glanced behind them, expecting an orc patrol to come into sight at any moment.  His vision blurred but he pressed on. 

“No, it is his presence.”  Legolas stopped and turned his gaze skyward. “It is him.” 

Understanding finally dawned on Aragorn and he stared stunned at the dark rider.  “Then we have to get out of here.” He stumbled forward as spasms caught his insides, causing him to double over.  Unwilling to be caught by the ringwraith or the orcs, he pulled Legolas with him.  “Quickly, we need to draw closer to the mountains; the wraith will be unable to attack us from that position.  The creature he rides cannot reach us in their shadow.” 

The elf, however, was no longer listening to his human companion.  Anger flared in his heart and he jerked his friend to a stop, pulling the unwilling ranger back out onto the flat desert plain.  Open defiance flared in his blue eyes and he stiffly unshouldered his bow.  Aragorn stared open-mouthed at the elf, vainly questioning his friend’s intentions – they were clear... 

Legolas was baiting the wraith. 

“Legolas?”  Aragorn stepped closer to the elf, positioning himself behind the prince, tensing in anticipation as the wraith’s mount turned on his wingtip and headed straight for them. 

“This ends now.  I will not be frightened, I will not be beaten, I will not accept this dark invasion of my soul.  I’m not running anymore,” Legolas whispered softly in elvish, speaking as if to himself.  The feelings of fear that had trapped him moments ago seemed a culmination of everything he had been suffering through since he was brought to Mordor, and they were emotions that he would tolerate no longer.  The wraith was not his master and never would be.  The darkness would never have him, nor his spirit: not by force, and not by his placid consent to simply roll over and die rather than fight with everything he had left in him.  

The evil beast the witch king rode opened its mouth, unleashing a fearful screaming roar as it dove towards the two fugitives. 

“Aragorn!” Legolas called out, readying the ranger as the wraith drew swiftly closer. 

“I’m here,” the human answered softly, moving in tandem with the chained prince’s motions.  If it had been anyone other than Legolas, he would have called the idea insane and would be pulling the other with him to the safety of Mordor’s mountain fence.  But Aragorn could see the set of the elven jaw, the defiance that sparked in his deep blue eyes, and watched carefully for the tell-tale signs of when he would reach back for the arrows.  It was as if Legolas were visibly casting off some kind of dark chain of despair upon his soul that had troubled him since the day Aragorn had rescued him.  Somehow, this was important. 

The dark creature was almost upon them when Legolas reached over his head, grasping the arrow shaft Aragorn readied for him and fired at the mount, slicing through the taut wing membrane and piercing its wing. 

The creature screamed, back-beating the air and moving out of range of the small projectiles.  It hissed angrily as the wraith nudged the beast’s long neck with its pointed metal boots, trying to drive the creature down towards the two figures.  He had recognized the elf and the elf’s human companion as well, and his black heart wanted revenge.  Elves have long memories; wraiths had longer ones. 

“Two, Aragorn, now!”  Legolas called to the ranger as he reached over his head, his fingers brushing the fletchings.  The human’s fingertips left the shafts just as the elf grabbed the arrows and rapidly fired them at one time, piercing the top wingbone of the wraith's mount and fracturing the thick supporting bone. 

The creature’s wing dropped uselessly to its side and its cries of pain shook the wasteland.  Circling clumsily, the dark beast caught an updraft from the heated air and wheeled off to the right, heading back towards the lone peak of Orodruin despite its rider’s wishes.  Echoes of the wraith’s angry cries reverberated through the canyon and Legolas moaned softly in pain, grabbing his shoulder once more, nearly dropping his bow.  Those bold shots had cost him dearly, but they were worth the price. 

Stepping quickly forward, Aragorn tore his gaze from the dark, retreating forms; he could just barely make out the creature’s shape as it fell from the sky.  Gently taking Legolas’ weapon from his hand, he helped the elf over to a small rock, pressing him down upon it and crouching in front of him. 


Before the prince could answer, a lone trumpet blast sounded to the south of them. Their position had been made by the orc patrols - it was too late. 

Aragorn trembled slightly as he glanced swiftly back the way they had come.  He felt awful and knew he was at his limit, but the alert from the hunting party meant the valley would be swarming with orcs in minutes.  There would be no rest for them yet, especially if they did not want to have come all this way merely to be trapped as on their previous escape attempt.

Ignoring the human’s concerns for his well-being, Legolas stood shakily to his feet and scanned the area for any place to escape their pursuers.  An oddly shaped boulder protruded from the ground at an awkward angle behind them, near the rising stone fence.  Quickly he led the ranger into the scant cover of its shadow.  Here, this close to the Ephel Duath, the area was strewn with boulders and broken stones, large shards of rocks that had crumbled from the face of the interior mountain fence. 

Running next to the elf, Aragorn tripped, stumbling to his knees, and didn’t rise.  His back was on fire where the wraith’s mount had torn him and he could feel the bile rising in his throat once more.  He tried to ignore his illness but it had caught up with him and, combined with his injuries, it was threatening to overwhelm him. 

The sounds of the hunting party could now be heard as the pack of orcs ran towards their position.  They were out of time and found themselves in a cruel reversal of their previous failed attempt.  This time it was Aragorn who could barely go on. 

Stopping, Legolas quickly but gently tilted the man’s face up, noting the glassy stare and the heavy, labored breathing.  Aragorn needed attention, but there was nothing he could do out here in the open. If they were caught, they would not live through their captor’s wrath, of that he was certain. 

Pulling Aragorn to his feet once more, the elf forced him behind a large rock, easing him down in the cool shadow it cast and warily scanned the sky for any sign of more of the mounted wraiths.  

There were none. The one carrying the Witch-king had fallen and would not rise any time soon.  If there were any other wraiths even present, it would seem that they had left the task of capturing the prisoners to the orcs.  Legolas prayed they would not be successful as he tried to calm his breathing, crouching down next to Aragorn and resting against the jagged boulder they were hiding behind.  The elf’s heart still hammered in his chest and he tried unsuccessfully to ignore the pain in his shoulder as it slowly faded to a dull ache. 

Beside him Aragorn crouched miserably, leaning heavily against the rockface and concentrating on breathing.  He moaned softly and bit back the dry heaves that threatened him. 

Glancing at the ranger, Legolas could see that the man was perspiring heavily and his face was flushed.  Gently he slid his hand under the drenched locks of dark hair and pressed his palm against the human’s forehead.  Aragorn did not fight him or move away; he simply closed his eyes and grit his teeth as a wave of nausea swept over him.  The unnatural heat of a fever warmed the elf’s fingers and he nodded to himself, suspicions confirmed. 

“I wish I had died from lack of water instead of this,” the ranger mumbled darkly. 

“I know, but this will pass.” Legolas smiled softly at his friend, gently laying his left hand on the ranger’s shoulder as he crouched in front of the man.  He knew that they had little time before Aragorn would be unable to travel.  They needed to find shelter and clean fresh water, preferably far out of the reach of the orcs hunting them.  

A shout to their left startled the prince and he sprang lightly to his feet, careful of the chain that bound them so he would not force Aragorn to move with him.  Leaning over the ranger and peering around the side of the rock he spied an orc troop heading slowly their way.  A lone orc preceded the company, carefully inspecting the hard packed earth – a tracker. 

Their trail had been picked up; their secrecy was lost. 

There were precious few hiding places this far north in Mordor.  The spires of Minas Morgul towered over them in the not so distant distance, casting long shadows across the valley as the sun raced overhead above them in the sky.  The north-westernmost edges of Ephel Dúath rose sharply on their left.  The elf surmised that the large, oddly shaped boulder they took refuge behind had fallen from the very mountain fence itself eons ago. 

Eons ago... 

The sounds of the approaching orcs diminished in the elven awareness as Legolas searched his memories. Childhood stories really, myths... tales told to keep wayward elflings in line... the stories chased through his thoughts.  He smiled slightly to himself as his mind turned back the years and he could almost hear Raniean repeating the story to he and Trelan, a story that the older elf’s brother had told him one night to scare the young elflings.  It had worked... but that wasn’t why the memory came back to Legolas now.  No, it was the subject of that particular story... 

In the ages past when even the elves were new to Middle-earth, there had lived an Ainu, named Ungoliant, who had taken up the form of a creature of spider-shape.  Separating herself from the others of her race she had turned aside and followed Melkor, becoming his accomplice, and through her the offspring that haunted the lower reaches of Mirkwood had been birthed. 

Some of her children, or so the tales were told, had drifted from living near the nest.  Although the insects were usually of a hive nature there were a few who ventured out on their own over the years.  One such bold creature was called Shelob.  Her exploits were unrecorded and little was known of her save that she had found Mordor and a secret passage that ran through the mountain fence surrounding it, making her home in the labyrinth of tunnels known as Cirith Ungol.  There she lived and from there she terrorized the surrounding areas, coming out in the dark moonless nights and stalking the forests for her prey, for little ventured through the tunnels she called her home... Legolas could almost exactly recall the way Raniean had jumped at Trelan when he told them that bit, making the smaller elf start almost three feet off the ground. 

Raniean had said that his brother told him that if one were wise and paid attention to the signs they could actually traverse the tangled maze of Cirith Ungol and come and go without the dark lord's knowledge... if they could escape the giant spider guardian.  How a place could ever exist within this evil land and not fall within Sauron's knowledge was beyond Legolas' comprehension, but if the tales were true and not just campfire stories that young elflings in spider-infested woods told to scare one another... 

...if they were true then it was in this passage that their last hope lay, for their route northward had been cut off by Sauron’s minions and they must either find a way out, or perish right here. 

A shout rose from the orcs; the escaped slaves had been found. 

"Aragorn, come now."  Legolas pulled the human to his feet, trying to ignore the ranger as he moaned, staggering upright.  The elf slipped his hands under the man’s armpits as best he could and hauled him to his feet.  They were out of time.  The pounding of the orcs' pursuit thrummed in the rocky floor beneath them.  Legolas didn’t even spare their pursuers a glance as he ran towards the mountain fence trying to judge their position against the long, dark shadow of Minas Morgul.  If the tales were correct, they were close to those dark and hidden paths now, if only he could find them in time... 

It was all Aragorn could do to keep up with the elf.  He chanced a look over his shoulder and stumbled hard.  The dark creatures that chased them were nearly upon them.  Legolas was pulled back by the ranger’s weight as he fumbled to follow the prince.  Trying to be as gentle as possible, but moving quickly, Legolas wrapped his right arm under Aragorn's left and lifted the man up, pulling him against his side and half dragged, half forced the ranger to run with him to the small, angled crack in the wall that he had spotted moments ago. 

"Legolas, the orcs!"  Aragorn panted heavily, leaning on his companion.  Fear spiked through him as the evil creatures' shouts and yelling grew louder.  They were right on their heels. 

"I know.  Trust me," the elf whispered breathlessly.  The vertical crevice he had seen from afar loomed larger.  It looked as though at some point in the past a great earthquake had shook the very foundations of the mountains in this place and split them apart at the base.  The dark crack in the mountain-fence held a sense of evil that made the elf's heart recoil, but he pressed on. 

Easing sideways he ducked down, passing through the larger part of the narrow opening and dragging Aragorn in after him. 

The passage was dark and littered with obstacles; the walls were narrow and slimy from the condensation that collected in them.  Their pace, hampered by the constricted tunnels, slowed, and Aragorn pressed closely to the elf that led him as the sounds of their pursuers, magnified by the confines of the tunnel, echoed loudly in their ears. 

Legolas glanced over his shoulder at the human that followed him; Aragorn's eyes were large in the dim light the elf shed. It was difficult for the prince to walk with his right hand behind him, chained to his companion.  He was forced to rely solely on his left hand to sense any obstructions that might block their path.  The elf concentrated on the light that emanated from him naturally, trying to brighten their dank surroundings with his glow.  Trying not to think about the darkness, the feel of evil or the walls of cracked and broken stone pressing down from above and in from the sides. 

The short tunnel they were running in dumped out into a spacious cavern.  Two of the three exits that marked the cave had been blocked by debris and cave-ins.  Legolas led them straight for the dark opening directly ahead.  They could not slow down and had no time to catch their breath as orcs poured into the cavern behind them.  The evil beings were used to dark spaces and their eyes easily adjusted to the gloom that shrouded the cave.  However, a number of their company had quickly scavenged for torches and passed the flaming branches up the tunnel as they ran.  The firelight cast eerie shadows on the rough walls reaching towards the two that fled deeper into the bowels of Cirith Ungol. 

The tunnel they stumbled through felt odd to the elf.  The sounds of their footfalls were muted and the rocky surface was not hard under his boot heels.  Reaching his hand out cautiously, the elf's fingers caught in a tangle of sticky fibers, breaking the fragile threads.  Slowing their steps, Legolas glanced into the gloom ahead of them, his every sense suddenly alert.  He recognized this stringy, sticky substance easily; any Mirkwood elf would. 

Something was close, something knew there were others about and, though it had not yet woken, its slumber was light; its awareness of them was waking.  Legolas could feel it in the air; he could sense it in the rocks themselves.  When his leg brushed a thick, sticky tendril he froze in his steps, catching Aragorn and holding him still. 


" very still."  The elf pressed his free hand against the ranger’s mouth, whispering quietly to him, "Here, sit for a moment. I have a plan."  Gently, he pushed the human to the ground, ignoring the ranger’s quiet protests and questions as he stepped over Aragorn so that he stood on the man's right, forcing the ranger to cross his left hand over his chest to accommodate the elf.  He would need to time this perfectly. 

Carefully turning back towards the way they had been headed, the elf brightened his glow.  Just as he had surmised, the soft blue light caught and fractured jewel-like on a huge silver web that had been spun across the tunnel's width.  The beaded joints of the silver threading glittered in the darkness like precious stones strung on a necklace.  Like an intricate, worked metal brooch, the webbing covered every inch of the passage except for a two-foot space at the bottom of the path where the tough silky strings drew up from the tension, too taut to close off the passageway.  In some ways this area was similar to Tairach’s lair that Legolas and Aragorn had destroyed many years ago in Mirkwood, and yet it was also quite different.  The creature that made this web was more cunning in its design and a greater sense of evil lingered here. 

The web was empty, but its crafter was close. 

Too weary from running and too sick to put up much of a fight, Aragorn slumped sideways against Legolas' leg and rested, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He hadn’t noticed the nearly invisible trap that hung behind him.  He heard the elf slowly unsheathe one of his elven blades, but had no time to ask what the prince was up to as the tunnel he faced filled with orcs. 

Seeing their prey stopped and thinking they were trapped, the orcs shouted in glee, pouring into the passageway, too intent on their success at recapturing the two slaves for their own good. 

Legolas slipped the razor sharp edge of his blade against a thick, sticky cord that ran from one side of the tunnel into a small alcove on their right.  He knew a thing or two about spiders and had a fairly good idea of just what lay sleeping in that darkened recess; he was banking on it in fact. 

The orcs came in, spilling down the corridor, intent on their prey, the light of their torches illuminating the tunnel and making the web nearly invisible in the yellow glow. 

Legolas stood perfectly still in the middle of the path, his chained hand gently resting on Aragorn’s head, his other hand tensing on the hilt of the blade lying against the taut webbing.  He couldn’t move too soon or the spider would only see him and the human and they would not be able to escape her.  He would have to wait until the last possible moment. 

The orcs came closer and closer, not even giving a thought as to why the elf would be waiting for them to catch up. Their proximity was alarming to Aragorn and he glanced up at Legolas, trying to gain his feet, but the elf held him gently down, hazarding a quick glance at the man. 

It was evident that the ranger was frightened; he knew he didn’t have the strength to fend off the dark tide that surged forward.  

“Do not be afraid, no matter what happens.  Follow my lead. Keep your eyes on me.  Do you understand me, Aragorn?”  Legolas whispered to the man, knowing the sight of the large arachnid would throw the human off as he had not had the chance to tell the ranger of his intent, and their last experience with spiders had not gone well. 

Sleeping soundly in her hidden nest, Shelob never heard the converging throng that headed her way, for the great spiders do not hear in the way other animals do. Rather they sense the vibrations of their prey when the unwitting souls stumble into their nest.  Her front appendages lay across the thread that Legolas broke in one swift move. 

The orcs had come close enough that they had very nearly taken hold of the two escaped slaves.  Legolas jerked his blade through the thread of webbing, setting up a resonance within the strands of the web. 

Shelob jerked awake, alerted by the vibrations, and scuttled quickly out of the alcove in the side of the wall, leaping out onto her web, her massive body causing the netting to bow under her slightly as she tensed, eager to trap her prey. 

Legolas dropped to the floor of the tunnel, pulling Aragorn down with him, their arms tangled together and caught in the chain that bound them.  The elf heard the frightened gasp from the man next to him and held Aragorn down as the ranger caught sight of the spider, recoiling from the dark hulk of her body.  Partly shielding the human with his own body, Legolas forced Aragorn flat to his belly on the floor of the cavern and frantically pulled the man with him. 

“Aragorn, follow me!” 

Wriggling underneath the bottom of the webbing, the prince pulled his friend through with him, yelling to the ranger to follow him and emulate his moves, trying to make his voice heard over the chaos that broke out in the tunnel behind them.  

The orcs were so intent on recapturing the elf and the human that the ones in the forefront slammed into the web as Shelob sprang into its center.  The sight of the dark beast threw them into a panic, but their thrashing only helped to ensnare them further. 

The web bowed under the combined weight of the trapped orcs and the great spider.  The bottommost strand caught fast to Aragorn’s boot.  He jerked backwards as the sticky netting bounced upward, pulling his leg with it, and he cried out in surprise as he found he could not break free.