Part 4

by Cassia and Siobhan

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"I too once passed through the Dimril Gate, but although I also came out again the memory is very evil. I do not wish to enter Moria a second time." -- Aragorn, in the FotR book.


    Legolas sank forward against the rocks, letting his forehead fall forward to rest against their rough, cold surface. "Aragorn," he whispered quietly, pain, both physical and emotional, stealing his breath away from him.
    Suddenly a faint sound made the elf’s head come up and he listened intently. There... there it was again, clearer this time! Hope filled him once more as he was able to distinguish the sound for what it was: a voice calling his own name. Aragorn!
    Legolas called back, but without the benefit of elven hearing, Aragorn did not seem to be able to hear his friend as clearly as Legolas could now hear him.

    Aragorn’s fall had ended in near pitch-darkness. His head throbbed and his ribs ached. He could see nothing, but could feel the rocks that blocked his way. With a sick feeling he remembered seeing Legolas fall and called his friend’s name repeatedly. He quickly found that trying to dig his way out was just as useless as Legolas’ attempts to dig his way in. There was no moving the mass of stone that had fallen between them.
    When the ringing in his ears finally began to clear, he was able to hear his friend’s voice, faint and almost impossibly far away to his human hearing, but definitely there. Aragorn felt a dizzying wave of relief sweep through him upon finding that Legolas was in fact still alive and breathing.
    "Aragorn, are you all right? Where are you?" Legolas’ voice filtered faintly through to him. The elf had to repeat the question several times before the ranger was actually able to make it out.
    "I think so," Aragorn called back, knowing that Legolas could probably hear him a lot better than he could hear Legolas.
    It was true, Legolas now had no trouble hearing Aragorn’s words and they seemed to him only slightly muffled, as if they were standing on opposite sides of a mere wall instead of opposite sides of five tons of stone.
    "I’m alone in the dark," Aragorn shouted back, his voice laced with a certain amount of dry humor at his friend’s rather useless question. "I can’t see a thing and there’s about a million pounds of rock in front of me, other than that I have no..." he stopped abruptly. Inexplicably, Aragorn found that he was beginning to be able to see the stones under his hands, and it was not because his eyes were adjusting to the dark. "Wait, it’s not so dark now..."
    Turning quickly, the young man saw torchlight approaching swiftly from up the passage behind him. For an instant it crossed his mind that this tunnel he found himself in now was not the same one he had been in earlier. The walls were rougher and clumsily hewn, not like the other dwarf-work they had seen here. A moment later those thoughts were banished from importance when the twisting torchlight rounded the corner and he was able to see from whence it originated.
    The young ranger’s eyes widened slightly and a cold chill shot up his spine as more than two-dozen orcs and goblins spilled around the corner. They pulled up short when they saw the human and the jumble of stone behind him.
    "And I’m not alone. But I think I’m in trouble," the last part was spoken softer, but Legolas’ sharp ears still caught it and the elf stiffened, able to hear the tone of apprehensive fear in his friend’s voice.
    Aragorn drew his sword quickly, clenching the hilt tightly in his hand. Trapped in this dead-end tunnel with scores of enemies blocking the only way out, the young man knew his chances were very slim, but he was prepared to take as many of them with him as he could.
    With a cry, the orcs rushed him.

    "Aragorn what’s happening? What’s wrong?" Legolas called, but his friend did not reply and the elf heard a more frightening sound answer his question instead. The horrible sound of orc voices, many of them, and then the metallic clang of weapon meeting weapon.
    Helpless frustration swept through Legolas as he realized what was happening. It was impossibly infuriating to know that his friend was fighting for his life not more than fifty yards away and he was powerless to help.

    Grim determination burned in Aragorn’s eyes as he turned, twisted, parried and spun to keep up with the wicked pace of the assault his attackers launched at him. He slew orc after orc, but more just kept coming, hedging him in, leaving him no room to maneuver. The acrid taste of fear bit at the back of his throat, although he tried to deny its presence.
    Bringing his sword up he caught an orc on the long blade, felling the ugly beast. His options were growing slim and in an attempt to maneuver better in the rapidly decreasing space he moved back towards the rockslide behind him. His fear escalated as he saw more orcs press into the tunnel.
    The tales his brothers had told him surfaced in his mind. He remembered the unspeakable things they had recounted upon finding their mother trapped in an orc lair. Their warnings echoed freshly in his mind, ‘never be caught by the orcs, we may not be able to reach you in time’. Now he found himself trapped with no one able to reach him and his chances for survival were closing in on him like the hordes that pressed him back.
    Unable to watch his footing, Aragorn stepped on a small bolder, catching the rock with the side of his boot causing him to lose his balance. A goblin rushed him and the ranger threw himself at the oncoming creature, but the misstep was critical and he twisted painfully as his ankle buckled underneath him. His enemy took advantage of the slip in his concentration and tackled the human. Aragorn fell under the attack of the goblin and was pinned in place by the beast’s weight. His enemies cheered and rushed him as another goblin joined the first and pulled the human to his feet.
    The two goblins threw Aragorn roughly onto the ground on his face. Kicking the young man’s shoulder viciously, they flipped him onto his back. Several wargs had been brought in and one of them snapped at the prisoner with its long, wicked teeth, straining against the end of its chain. Aragorn couldn’t help flinching and trying to jerk further away from the beast. The orcs found this immensely amusing and held their captive still, pinning him down on his back and laughing.
    "Stubborn little thing!" they jeered. "Make nice tender food for our pets, hmm?" The orc holding the warg’s leash let the beast surge forward. The warg pounced on Aragorn, its claws catching and tearing the young man’s tunic, its gleaming fangs and dripping mouth snapping and snarling only a few inches from his face.
    Aragorn could not keep the terror out of his expression as he tried desperately to scoot further back, away from the wolf-like creature, but his captors did not allow him to do so. They laughed harshly at his fear, letting their hold slip a little on the creature’s restraint, giving the warg even closer access to their frightened prisoner.
    Aragorn’s heart hammered in his chest as he pulled his head as far back as he was allowed, feeling the hot, rancid breath of the snarling creature on his chest brush against his face as the warg strained against its leash to get at him. For all Aragorn knew they truly intended to feed him to the wargs and that was not an end he would have chosen.
    "He’s too scrawny to make a decent meal," the orc holding the warg’s collar jeered cruelly, finally pulling the beast back, away from their prisoner’s prostrate form. It wasn’t actually true, but the orcs did not intend to kill their captive just yet, they had merely been playing with him.
    Dragging Aragorn to his knees, they held his arms at his sides. A vicious kick in the stomach doubled the young man over and his long, dark hair hung in strands about his face as he sought to regain his breath.
    One of the larger orcs, named Velugulv, crouched in front of Aragorn, taking a chunk of the young human’s hair in his hand. Yanking the ranger’s head upright and tipping it to the side he cocked his own to match, leering evilly at the prisoner. The orc sniffed in almost animal fashion, as if he were smelling Aragorn to confirm what his eyes told him.
    "Now the dwarves are sending humans to spy on us? And children at that?" the evil being grinned wickedly, poking at Aragorn’s youthful, soft-edged features that had not yet fully slimmed out or hardened into the face of an adult man.
    Aragorn glared angrily at Velugulv, but said nothing. He guessed that at this point silence was probably the best policy.
    "What are you doing down here, little rat? Skulking about? Looking for our passages? Trying to thwart us?" the orc’s voice turned steely as he glanced at the blocked passageway, which he seemed to hold Aragorn responsible for.
    "Wait, I recognize him..." one of the orcs shoved his way past the others, stooping down to get a good look at Aragorn’s face. Thlurglol’s eyes slitted in recognition, hissing as he pulled back in anger. "This one was with the elf! The ones I only just told you of! Who sealed Lûzbuk and the others in their cave and left them to rot! I saw it with my own eyes."
    "Was he now?!" Velugulv scowled darkly, fixing Aragorn with a dangerous gaze. "I thought I smelled elf-stench about him!" It was ironic to hear these foul, reeking creatures talk about ill odors.
    "Trying to do the same to us were you?" Velugulv demanded, twisting his hand painfully in Aragorn’s hair and giving the prisoner’s head a vicious shake. "Busy sealing up our tunnel-work too are you?!"
    Aragorn winced and pulled his head back a little. He was beginning to understand what had happened, and what had caused the unfortunate cave-in. "It was not my doing, there was a cave-in. Your tunnel-work has made the passage above unstable and it came down." He kept his voice steady, but he could not keep his racing pulse from pounding in his ears. He doubted he would be believed anyway, and he was right.
    "Liar!" the orc backhanded Aragorn sharply, cutting the ranger’s lip with the edge of his hard, spiked glove. "Well you’ll not succeed. We have been working on these tunnels for weeks now, a little obstruction like this will be soon be cleared again!"
    "But if the dwarves know we are tunneling under them, then our element of surprise is already lost!" the orc who had spoken before snarled unhappily.
    "Shut up, Thlurglol!" Velugulv snapped at the other orc. "We’ll make a new plan. After all, we have one of them now; one who can tell us exactly where the dwarves have set up their pitiful stronghold. We’ll tunnel up from under them and have them all for supper yet!"
    Aragorn really did not like the way this conversation was going, and when Velugulv’s eyes turned back to him he caught his breath at the malicious hatred he saw mirrored in their dark, sunken depths. "You’ll have no problems telling us where the dwarves have set up their secret stronghold, now will you, young one?" the orc ran his claw-like fingernails lightly down the young ranger’s cheek.
    Aragorn’s mind whirled emptily and he felt a sick feeling like a cold, sinking stone in his stomach. He wouldn’t have told these wicked beings anything they wanted to know anyway, but in this case he honestly had no clue what they were talking about. If the dwarves had a secret stronghold here in Moria that they had fortified and would retreat to if pressed, he had no more notion than did his captors of where it could be found.
    "I don’t know," he shook his head, already knowing they would not believe him anymore than they had before.
    Velugulv grinned maliciously, dropping Aragorn’s head and rising from his crouch. "I hoped you’d say that. Come boys, the little rat won’t squeak, let’s loosen his tongue for him!"
    Aragorn tried in vain to battle his rising terror as he was dragged roughly to his feet. The orcs held him firmly between them as they roughly tore his shirt off him, stripping the young ranger to the waist. Slamming him face-first against the damp, cold wall of the tunnel, they yanked his arms out to the side. Two of the orcs’ crude, makeshift tunnel supports stood almost exactly even with his wrists and they bound him securely to them, staking the young man against the wall and rendering him even more helpless than he already was.
    Thlurglol thrust a cruel looking, multi-pronged whip in Aragorn’s face, fingering the knotted ends of the lash with a wicked grin. "This tickler’s got a pretty bite, how ‘bout we let it play on you for a while. Tends to make the stubborn ones very talkative."
    "I told you I don’t know anything about any dwarf stronghold," Aragorn ground out between his teeth, his breathing coming quick and fast. "You may not believe me, but it’s the truth, I cannot tell you what I do not know!"
    The orcs just laughed. "We’ll see about that! We’ll see what it takes to make little birdie sing!" In truth, they would have tortured their prisoner just for sport and spite even if they had wanted nothing out of him.
    The stinging lash raked painfully across his bare shoulders and Aragorn drew his breath in sharply. Another stroke quickly followed the first and then another, and another.
    Aragorn pressed his lips together hard, jerking slightly as the painful blows fell but refusing to make a sound.


    On the opposite side of the wall, Legolas’ heart wrenched in fear for his friend when he heard the orcs begin their questioning. It was horrible, being able to hear them, to know what was happening and be so helpless to stop it.
    The elf heard the brave timbre of Aragorn’s voice when he tried to make them see that he did not know what they wanted of him, but Legolas knew his friend was afraid, who wouldn’t be? The orcs had a nasty reputation concerning what they did to those unlucky enough to become their prisoners.
    The prince heard the orc’s cruel threats and taunts, followed by the ugly sound of a whip hissing through the air and finding flesh. He had never felt more powerless in his entire life.
    The last thing he wanted to do was to have to stand here and listen to this, but his options were sadly limited. The truly aggravating thing was that while Aragorn and the orcs were close enough for the elf to hear them, they could be miles and miles out of his reach. Moving this pile of stone could be impossible, and would take days even if it were. Days Aragorn did not have. The only hope Legolas had of getting to him at all would be to hope that when Rill and Rullyra got back with help, the dwarves would know of another way to reach the other side of the collapsed passage. He had to hope that there would be some way from there to reach his friend.
    The hissing snap of the whip wrenched a muffled grunt of pain from Aragorn’s throat and Legolas clenched his teeth until his jaw hurt; raw, bubbling rage seething like a dragon in his chest.
    Melkor take it all, where were those dwarves?! Legolas was not willing to leave unless he knew that there was some way he could get to his friend. If standing by and listening was all he could do, he would do it no matter how badly it hurt him inside.


    Aragorn couldn’t help his gasps of pain presently. The orcs were cruel and thorough at their work and the pain that was exploding across his senses was quickly becoming too much for him to handle silently.
    Pressing his forehead against the wall and screwing his eyes tightly shut he tried to hold the agony inside him, but it was too much and too searing for him to completely control. His lungs burned from holding his breath in an attempt to stave off the pain and his back was on fire from the abuse.
    The young ranger felt a keen wave of burning shame sweep over him when the pain finally wrenched a choked cry from his lips. He wanted to be stronger than this, he did not want to give any quarter to his tormenters, but his body betrayed him and he could not help crying out in pain as they continued to whip him mercilessly.
    The orcs laughed and jeered at him, delighted that they had finally broken through his stoic silence.
    Aragorn refused to listen to their cruel taunts and evil jokes. He didn’t need their condemnation, he had plenty of his own for himself.


    Legolas slammed the side of his good fist against the pitiless rocks that separated them, passionately hating his own helplessness.
    Aragorn’s cries went straight through him, nearly driving the elf insane. If he could have torn through the earth that separated them, he would have, but there was nothing he could do. Nothing.
    Tears of frustration and heartache glistened unshed in the elf’s eyes. He swore silently to himself that if he ever got his hands on the orcs who were doing this to his friend, they were going to pay a terrible price for their cruelty.


    Aragorn’s chest was heaving with silent sobs he could not hold back when Thlurglol finally let the bloodstained lash fall still at his side. But the orcs were far from finished with their prisoner.
    The young man leaned heavily against the wall for support and when Velugulv cut one of his wrists free he sagged slightly, until the orc roughly wrenched his arm around. Flipping Aragorn around so that he faced his tormenters, with his back to the wall, they roughly tied him again, cruelly pressing his bleeding back against the rough stones behind him and eliciting another moan of pain from their captive.
    "The stronghold, where?!" Velugulv snapped harshly in the young ranger’s pale face.
    Aragorn closed his eyes, his breathing ragged. "I don’t know." His voice was roughened with pain and hopelessness. They would never believe him. It probably wouldn’t matter even if they did. Yet he had to wonder how much more of this he could take.
    "Not talking yet? Well we’ll change that." An iron fist slammed into his stomach, doubling him over against his bonds. His head was jerked back up again by the hair and Velugulv laid a curved, wicked-looking knife against the young man’s throat. The orc leered as he ran the tip of the weapon lightly down the side of Aragorn’s face, before letting it drop down to his chest. Pressing down suddenly so that the knife bit into the young man’s flesh he dragged the knife slowly from Aragorn’s shoulder to his collarbone, leaving a thin trail of blood across the young human’s damp, clammy skin. The foul creature grinned wickedly as his captive tensed and grit his teeth under the bite of the steel. "That’s all right, we have something special for you."
    Velugulv rattled off a command in the black tongue that Aragorn did not understand, but by the gleeful reaction of the other orcs, he guessed it meant something bad.
    A few moments later Thlurglol uncorked a small, black bottle and pressed it against Aragorn’s lips, fairly shoving the neck of the vial into his mouth. The small taste Aragorn got was stomach-turning and he was certain that if they wanted him to take it, he did not want to. Turning his head away, he clenched his jaw shut, refusing to drink the evil potion.
    Of course, the orcs did not take kindly to that at all. Thlurglol grabbed Aragorn’s head and held it still while Velugulv forced the bottle to his lips once more. Suddenly socking the young ranger in the midsection, he purposefully knocked the air out of the prisoner’s lungs. Reflexively, Aragorn gasped for breath, and when he opened his mouth, Velugluv tipped the bottle, forcing him to drink in order to breathe.
    Aragorn coughed and choked helplessly on the hideously foul liquid and felt it burn all the way down into his stomach.
    The orcs stepped back, waiting for the poison they had administered to take effect. It did a few moments later.
    Sharp pain lanced through Aragorn, doubling him over from the intensity of it. The poison raced through his system, wreaking havoc on his already weakened body. He retched miserably, but his body refused to expel the nasty toxin.
    His captors laughed evilly.
    Aragorn’s head spun as every nerve in his body felt like it had been set on fire. He trembled softly, uncontrollably, extreme nausea washing over him again and again. The horrid concoction was not fatal and would not kill him, but at the moment Aragorn almost wished it would.
    "The little rat doesn’t like our brew," Velugulv snarled with evil amusement. "Well we’ve got more where that came from! You want a second dose, or you want to tell us where your skulking dwarf friends are hiding themselves?"
    Aragorn’s head lolled against the wall behind him, his breath coming quick and uneven between clenched teeth, but he did not attempt to answer. There was no point.
    "All right then!" Velugulv and Thlurglol forced another dose into him and Aragorn quickly discovered that no matter how badly he thought he had hurt before, it was a hundred times worse now.
    When the orcs started to beat him, the young human had no strength left to deny expression to his pain. His captors toyed with him, taking turns pummeling their prisoner and enjoying making him scream.


    Legolas pressed his eyes tightly shut, sinking to his knees by the wall and resisting the urge to press his hands against his ears to block out the sound of his friend’s pain. Hot fury burned inside the elf, mingled with crushing pain and self-condemnation. It was true that there was nothing he could do, yet having to stand by helplessly like this made Legolas feel incredibly guilty.
    He wished he could reach Aragorn. Wished he could give him strength if he could not give him aid. Darkness pressed down on him as he knelt there alone in the empty vastness that was Moria, with only the painful cries of his young friend to keep him company.
    He had not felt so incredibly wretched or hopeless in a very long time and he was sure that Aragorn was feeling much worse. If he could not give him anything else, Legolas wished at least to try to give his friend hope. Give him the knowledge that he had not been forgotten.
    Taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm his own rapid heartbeat, Legolas began singing softly in the darkness, slowly letting his voice rise and hoping that it might somehow reach Aragorn through his pain with the only thing Legolas had to offer, however slim it may seem: hope.

    "A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
    silivren penna mìriel
    o menel aglar elenath..."


    Aragorn hung limply forward against the bonds that held him, his breathing ragged, his body shaking. He couldn’t ever remember being in this much pain in his entire life. It seemed as if that was all there was and all there would ever be and in this evil darkness any light and hope seemed impossibly far away. The dark drug they had given him sought to wind itself around his heart and poison him with despair, attempting to break his spirit.
    Another fist slammed into his side. His vision hazed yellow. He wished he would pass out, but he did not.
    Faint and far away, he suddenly thought he heard something... something beautiful that reminded him there was more to life than pain and darkness.

    "Na-chaered palan-dìriel
    o galadhremmin ennorath,"

    The lovely, lilting elvish words carried faintly to his ears. It sounded like Legolas’ voice, but Aragorn didn’t know whether it was, or whether he was hallucinating or imagining them, but he didn’t care because the song penetrated the dark haze that had been growing about his mind and his heart, holding at bay the despair that wanted to break him.

    "Fanuilos, le linnathon
    nef aear, sì nef aearon!"

    Aragorn knew the song, he had heard it many times in Elrond’s house and it took him back to the bright, happy times, sitting in the Hall of Fire and listening to the elves’ merry-making...
    He drew in a sharp breath as cruel, punishing orc hands brought him back to the reality of the moment, but they could not chase away the small measure of inner strength that he had regained.
    Velugulv halted for a moment, his eyes narrowing sharply as he too heard snatches of the muffled singing. Thlurglol and some of the other orcs clapped their hands over their ears, snarling in consternation as the fair tongue assaulted their senses.
    "I don’t know what you’re doing, but stop it!" Velugulv snapped harshly at Aragorn, but the young man just grinned grimly through his pain. It was gratifying to see something irk his captors.
    "Stubborn slug! We’ll fix you!" Velugulv lost his patience with Aragorn’s continued defiance of them and struck him roughly upside the head, slamming the young ranger’s skull back into the wall behind him and opening a nasty gash along his temple.
    For a moment bright flashes crowded Aragorn’s vision and then the world went dark as merciful painlessness claimed him at last.

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