Siege of Dread

Chapter 4: Paradise Lost

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Elladan bent over the body of a fallen ranger.  The man had been cut down by the orc that the elf had just killed.  The number of wounded was mounting, as was Elladan’s frustration.  It seemed that the orcs were holding them at bay, working hard to keep them from retreating to Rivendell but not necessarily taking any and all measures to slaughter them outright.  The whole situation felt wrong.  And what were all these warg riders doing this far north anyway?  Besides what Halbarad and Aragorn had told them this morning, he hadn’t heard any other reports that said the wargs were on the move again on this side of the mountain, in fact they hadn’t heard anything about orcs in the area for sometime.  What had provoked this attack?  What could these creatures possibly hope to gain from throwing themselves up against the formidable defenses of an elven stronghold like this?  How had they even gotten this near the valley? 

From his kneeling position Elladan watched as a warg rider bore down on his twin, and quickly fired an arrow into the animal’s side, bringing the warg down on top of its rider. 

“Elrohir, we must get the wounded back!”  Elladan called to his brother as his twin rose from tending another fallen elf. 

“What?” Elrohir called back as he turned, his brows furrowed.  His hearing was much improved and on its way to being completely restored, but he was still having trouble picking individual sounds out of the chaotic clamor around them.  He heard his twin’s voice call his name, but everything else was lost. 

“Back!” Elladan gestured towards Rivendell and then to the bodies near his feet.  “The wounded, we have to get them back to the house!” 

“Agreed!” Elrohir responded quickly as the sounds of booted feet racing towards their position alerted them that others were approaching. 

Two wounded rangers were supporting their unconscious leader between them.  Halbarad had been seriously wounded in the fighting and was bleeding freely from a ragged cut to his midsection.  Behind them Moranuen limped slowly, holding his arms across his chest.  His clothes were bloodied and torn.  Several more rangers and elves were with the small group, helping to support them and dragging other wounded with them. 

“Elladan!”  Moranuen called raggedly to the twin.  “We have wounded.”  He stumbled against the elf as the others gathered round.  The front of the elf’s tunic was drenched in blood and he was very pale.  He broke into a fit of painful coughing. 

“Mora!  By the Valar.  You are wounded yourself.”  Elrohir was alarmed by the wet rattle in his friend’s ragged breathing and tried to pry the elf’s hands away from where they were clutched tightly against his chest, but was warded off. 

“There is no time.  We must get back to Rivendell.  Some of these will not make it if Lord Elrond does not see to them.”  Moranuen regained his footing and stepped back from the twins.  In truth he was not sure he would make the return trip, but he felt he had a duty to the ones that were with him, to get them the help they needed.  The injured were no longer any good here and would only get in the way of the fighters.  They needed a diversion so they could slip through the enemy defenses and return. 

Elladan nodded grimly. He read the determination in the other elf’s eyes and moved closer to his long-time friend, “Do not tread the Halls yet, Mora. I would not be the one to tell Estel that you have gone on without him.” 

Moranuen smiled softly, nodding in understanding.  “If the Valar permit it, I will stay,” he promised, swallowing hard and trying to still his heavy breathing, “Find us a way through, watch our backs.” 

“We will,” Elrohir answered as he eased the elf he was tending up onto his feet and allowed another who was not so wounded to take the warrior from him.  He passed his short sword to a ranger that was in better shape than most of the others, keeping only his long blade for himself.  “Go and go swiftly.  We’ll see that you get through.” 

With a small nod, Moranuen led the wounded party out and down the valley by way of a little known trail.  The twins headed back into the fray, routing the orcs and wargs away from the fleeing warriors. 


Lights and shapes danced in front of Moranuen’s eyes; he leaned heavily against the rocks on his right as he stumbled along.  He couldn’t breathe properly.  He had been trying to support one of his wounded companions, but now it was all he could do to support himself.  They made it down the winding path into the valley but he felt his strength waning.  They were so close, he had to get his people through; he could not fail them... 

“Mora?  Moranuen?  Answer me.”  A strong hand gripped the wounded elf’s arm, anchoring him back to reality and Moranuen looked up, startled at who he saw. 

“L-Lord Elrond,” he wheezed slightly.  The elven lord stood before him, his eyes shadowed with concern and compassion.  Elrond had seen the small party struggling its way down the path from a distance and came quickly to their aid, bringing along Celboril and a number of other helpers. 

Moranuen noted with mild, sluggish surprise that a long, curved sword hung by the healer’s side.  He had not seen Elrond take Hadhafang from its decorative mounting on the study wall since... well, ever actually.  But the older elves such as Celboril could trace it back farther.  The number of times that the elven lord had borne his weapon since he returned from the Last Alliance could be numbered on one hand.  It proved just how dark this situation had already become. 

“M-my Lord, things go ill with the others.  The enemies are many.  Glorfindel and your sons... the warriors... holding them back; the rangers have joined as well...” Moranuen’s voice was strained and failing as he tried to report.  “Everyone has been pulled forward to face the threat... I do not think they can breach the valley’s defenses but the cost will be high...” 

The younger elf sagged suddenly forward.  Elrond caught him easily.  The healer saw the bleeding, gaping gash in Moranuen’s chest and caught his breath.  The elf’s lungs were punctured and the rattling sound produced by his labored struggle for air told that he was literally drowning in his own blood.  It was a miracle he had made it this far. 

Swiftly picking the younger elf up in his arms, Elrond gently carried Moranuen back to his house while the rest of his staff assisted the other wounded.  If Moranuen was right, they were in for a very long day. 


From his vantage point, he saw them first.  The orcs waiting his command stopped their conversations and watched intently as Guruth straightened, tensing, his eyes riveted to a point north of them. 

“When we go, be sure none of you touch the river on the way over; it reports to the filthy elves,” Guruth warned as he watched the scene unfolding far below.  These things he knew from much study, from the long preparation leading up to this moment. “I don’t care what you do or don’t see, just follow me and do as I tell you, I will get you in.  Once we’re inside the defenses, everything will become clear enough for you.” 

A small group of elves and men moved out from the cover of the forest and worked their way down into the valley.  The wounded ones, they arrived at last. 

Guruth smirked softly, watching them limp across the stone bridge and into the courtyard.  His smile turned into a sneer as the healer leading them threw the doors wide and ushered the returning warriors and rangers inside. 

“Now.”  The one word whispered command was heard by all that had waited for it the past few hours. 

With a shout the orcs raced down into the rift, blindly following their leader and heading for the Last Homely House. 


Elrond pushed his hair back over his shoulder distractedly as he hurried down the hall.  He and Celboril had set up a triage area in the Hall of Fire, laying the other wounded out alongside Arendur.  Most were seriously injured and he had been required to put the majority of them into a deep slumber so he and his helpers could tend their wounds.  Moranuen was one of the few elves he had not dared put to sleep because his condition was too fragile.  He had finally gotten the young warrior stable, but whether he, or any number of the others, were going to survive, was still an open question.  The healer had not tried to care for these many sick or wounded at the same time since he had aided some of the neighboring human villages during a severe epidemic several hundred years ago. 

Many of the injured elves and rangers here now had survived long enough to receive treatment on the power of the elf lord’s will alone.  It was draining, and unfortunately required that he withdraw a good measure of the support he had been giving the defenders, but Elrond would not lose any of those he had even half a hope of saving. 

So many injured... and the healer feared they were only the first wave. 

Passing swiftly through several chambers, the elf lord entered his small medicine pantry near the back of the house.  The air of the small apothecary was strong with the scent of herbs and spices, giving the place a musky, wholesome smell. 

Elrond’s long fingers paged swiftly through the rows of bottles and sachets of herbs neatly arranged on the pantry shelves.  It was well that he kept such stores of healing on hand; they were going to have need of them this day. 

His subconscious mind registered movement as of someone entering the adjacent room. 

“Celboril?” the elf lord called distractedly as he gathered up a number of vials and dried herbs.  “Send one of the staff that can be spared into the garden and tell them to cull some fresh balium...” Elrond paused, his hands halting above the small pile of medicines he was collecting.  Something not right was niggling insistently at the back of his mind. 

Whoever was in the next room did not answer. 

“Celboril?” Elrond called again, but this time he did not really think it was his steward.  He did not know who was out there, but they were not answering and the strange tingle of warning running up and down the back of his neck put him on edge.  He had never felt this sensation in Imladris before and wasn’t sure what it meant. 

He had left his sword in the foyer as he was not accustomed to wearing weapons around his own home and it only interfered with his work, but strangely enough he was suddenly wishing he had not.  His roving gaze quickly landed upon a small, sharp paring knife used for preparing roots and herbs.  It was the closest thing to a weapon that this room contained. 

The elf lord picked it up and held it in his right hand, sliding it up under the voluminous sleeve of his robe where it could not be seen.  In his left hand he took a small vial of dark, amber liquid off the back shelf. 

Turning slowly he carefully and deliberately strode out of the pantry and into the adjoining room.  There were no windows in this room and the candles had all been put out, leaving it in a muted semi-twilight.  Elrond’s keen eyes scanned the area quickly, piercing the shadows.  It was not a purely natural gloom, of that he was sure.  It was too dark.  At first glance everything seemed deceptively normal, but the elf lord’s senses were fairly screaming at him now, telling him that he was not alone and something was not right. 

A shadow stirred in the far corner of the room, by the door that led into the rest of the house. 

Elrond’s eyes narrowed as his attention focused in on the being that detached itself from the darkness.  His shock and loathing grew as the twisted form of a sneering orc became visible, moving towards him, but stopping a stone’s throw away from the apparently unarmed elf.  Three long scars ran across the right side of the creature’s face, permanently twisting one side of his lips up in an evil leer. 

Elrond cast his senses quickly about him and realized this goblin was not alone.  He could now see or sense at least six or seven more moving stealthily in the shadows of the room all around him, including two that he knew without turning to look, had just moved behind him to block off the pantry door. 

Orcs, in Imladris?  The thought burned Elrond’s mind and his eyes darkened several shades in fury.  He did not waste time on surprise over how the defenses had been breached, that was an alarming puzzle he would have to work out later.  These foul creatures had gone too far to trespass into his very house.  They would pay. 

The elf lord could see a mad flame of blood lust in the eyes of the being before him.  The fact that they were not already rushing him was curious. 

Elrond’s hand tightened on the hilt of his concealed knife.  “What do you want here, spawn of Morgoth?” the elf’s voice was hard with disdain and loathing.  “You are not welcome in my house!” 

The orcs laughed.  The creature in front of Elrond sneered wider and he brought the wickedly notched scimitar in his hand up a little higher.  “What do we want?  We want you, Lord Elrond,” the creature mockingly stressed the elf’s title. 

Elrond did not have time for the shock of that statement to register before all nine creatures rushed him at the same time. 

The elf lord flung the bottle in his left hand into the face of one of the approaching orcs.  The glass shattered, splattering its contents all over the creature.  The orc screamed, clawing at his face and eyes in pain as the liquid inside burned him like fire. 

A swift flick of Elrond’s wrist flipped the knife in his right sleeve out into his hand.  He ducked under the sweeping blow of a scimitar and jabbed the short blade into the orc’s neck, jerking sideways to sever the jugular.  The foul creature grabbed its throat with a gurgled cry and fell back, but Elrond was still in motion as the others closed in more tightly around him.  First blood had been taken and it seemed to heighten the creatures’ frenzy. 

Side-stepping two of the orcs with agile grace, Elrond slit the throat of another.  His blade was too short to be effective anywhere else.  The dying orc flailed and Elrond had to drop to a crouch to avoid his mad gyrations.  Another attacker took this moment to try to kick the elf lord in the back, but made only the slightest contact as Elrond rolled away too fast for them to follow. 

An orc grabbed at the elf lord as he sprung back to his feet, the beast’s dirty, clawed fingernails catching and snagging in the draping, velvety sleeves of Elrond’s robe and jerking his knife arm to the side. 

Shrugging out of his large over-robe in one fluid movement, the velvet sliding easily off of silk tunic he wore underneath, Elrond left the creature holding an empty garment. 

For half an instant as he spun to face his attackers on a new front, Elrond saw the scarred orc who had spoken to him standing by the doorway.  He was not taking part in the fight, but looking on with a self-satisfied smirk.  The dead, personal hatred in the creature’s eyes was chilling. 

Four dead orcs now lay around the elf lord’s feet, but more just seemed to keep coming to take their place.  Valar!  How many were there?  Where had they come from and however did they get all the way in here?  These were questions for which Elrond did not have time to find answers. 

From somewhere else in the house Elrond heard loud cries.  Metal rang on metal and the crashing sound of either glass or ceramics being smashed echoed down the hallways. 

A bolt of alarm shot through the elf lord as he danced away from one of his assailants.  Celboril!  The wounded!  Obviously these orcs that he faced were not the only ones to have breached Imladris’ defenses.  He knew that his staff was loyal and brave, but none of them were warriors, some hadn’t held a weapon in millennia and most never had.  With all the warriors drawn off by the massive frontal assault there were none now in the house itself save the wounded, the women, and those servants who had never had occasion to learn the ways of warfare... and, of course, Elrond. 

Too late he realized that for some reason this was exactly what the orcs had planned.  That the massive warg attack on the valley was merely a diversion to draw Rivendell’s defenses outward, even as the initial warg attacks on the villages had been a ploy to draw the rangers to them.  Why they went to all this effort and what their goal was Elrond did not know, but whatever it was, he intended to see that they failed. 

The elf lord tried to break from the circle he was being contained in, edging the fight closer towards the doorway.  He had given up the bearing of arms a long time ago to focus on the healing side of his skills, but right now he was the only one in this house who had ever been a warrior and his people were in trouble; they were going to need him. 

The dark creatures tried to keep him hedged in, but Elrond was too fast for them, and too skilled.  They had thought to find themselves an easy target in the elf lord but, just because Elrond chose to devote himself to healing now rather than fighting, did not mean that he had not kept himself in form.  The elf lord had lost none of the well-honed skills that made him such a deadly warrior in the Last Great Alliance and even out-numbered with an inferior weapon, he was cleaving his way through the dark forces that sought to bring him down. 

Elrond gained the doorway just as a familiar voice gave a pained cry down the hall.  Concern flashed through his heart and stole his attention for only half a moment.  Unfortunately it was half a moment too long.  The scarred goblin who had yet to join the fight took this opportunity to lunge at the elf lord.  Oddly enough, he was not necessarily trying to kill the elf, but rather, disarm him. 

Elrond rolled with the tackle, not allowing himself to become pinned.  He felt a sharp line of biting pain slice across his right arm as a grazing stroke tore a bloody line through his sleeve from the front of his shoulder to the back of his elbow.  He absorbed the pain, registered it, and then refused to give it any further hold over him as he kicked the creature off and jumped to his feet. 

Momentarily in the clear, Elrond sprinted down the hall towards the sounds of distant battle. 

The white, marble floor of the foyer was slick with blood: the black blood of orcs and the bright, red blood of elves.  A dead orc lay across the threshold, a hearth poker through his skull.  Propped against the far wall was the still body of an elf; one of the kitchen staff whose eyes had been closed to this world in eternal sleep.  The elf lord did not need to stop to check him to know that he was already treading the paths to Mandos’ Halls; his throat had been sliced completely open.    Elrond’s stomach turned.  He had seen much worse of course, but not in his home.  Never had the peace of the Last Homely House been so shattered.  A deadly flame burned hot in his heart.  How dare they bring carnage into this sanctuary! 

Elrond looked around quickly for his sword, but it was not near the door where he had left it earlier.  He could hear the orcs giving chase from behind him and ahead the sounds of fighting continued from further down the passage... from the direction of the Hall of Fire where the wounded were laid out. 

Hurrying forward, Elrond dashed into the hall to find Celboril locked in combat with four huge orcs.  The steward was standing in front of the wounded men and elves bedded down upon the floor behind him, obviously trying to protect them.  He must have picked up Elrond’s sword from the foyer because Elrond recognized Hadhafang’s gleam as she sliced through the air, parrying the dark, rough-hewn scimitar pitted against her. 

Unfortunately she was wielded by one who had never been trained in warrior arts.  Celboril had a fierce heart, but he was obviously outmatched. 

One of the orcs got behind the seneschal who was busy trying to fend off the three in front of him.  Elrond arrived just in time to see Celboril sense the movement at the last moment, and try to turn.  The elf lord was not in time to stop the vicious thrust that caught his steward in the stomach. 

Celboril doubled forward, his mouth opening in soundless expression of shock as Hadhafang fell to the floor with a clatter.  The elf’s hands flew to the bleeding wound in his midsection as the orc ruthlessly kicked the steward backwards, yanking his blade free. 

“Celboril!”  Elrond shouted his faithful friend’s name as he sprang forward.  The orc had just raised his bloody sword to lop off the fallen elf’s head when he suddenly found himself thrown backward by a powerful kick in the ribs.  Elrond knocked the orc viciously away from his friend and scooped up his weapon all in one furious blur of motion.  The orc that had stabbed Celboril was dead before he even started to get up from where he had fallen and his three compatriots followed in remarkably short order. 

Momentarily freed from combat, Elrond dropped down to check on his old friend and faithful servant’s vitals.  Celboril had served Gil-galad his whole life and Elrond had known him since he was but a young warrior proving himself in his new guardian’s halls.  These past millennia Celboril had served Elrond as loyally as he had served Gil-galad before him.  Elrond had never thought it could end this way for them.

The elder elf’s weak pulse was fading fast.  “I-I’m sorry, my lord...” Celboril whispered, his body shaking.  “I failed you...” 

“No!  No, my friend,” Elrond shook his head quickly, forbidding the tears that wanted to obscure his vision as he gently touched his steward’s pale cheek with the back of his fingers.  “You have not failed me.  You have never failed me.” 

“This is going to be such a mess... to clean up...” Celboril almost smiled.  Then his eyes glazed and his breathing shuddered. 

“No...” Elrond’s anguished whisper was choked as he reached for his faithful friend’s bloodied hand. 

With a cry the orcs who had been after him before spilled into the room, following their quarry.  Their numbers had swelled and it seemed that more of their foul brood had come to join the fray. 

The elf lord rose to his feet to meet the dark horde, raising Hadhafang in a battle-ready salute.  If Elrond had been deadly before, he was terrifying now.  Such a fire was in his eyes and a rage in his movements that his attackers almost quailed when he turned on them. 

Hadhafang twirled in the air, biting foe after foe with the deadly sting of death, wielded now with a skill worthy of her lengthy heritage. 

Elrond had locked into full battle mode now and he registered nothing and everything at the same time.  The non-essential details of the world around him faded into unimportance while every move, every breath, every twitch of his opponents filled his senses like a pounding rhythm, guiding his steps as he moved in time with the warrior’s dance of death. 

More orcs filled the room, and more... ten, twenty, maybe thirty of them.  Elrond’s rational mind knew he could not stand off against these ever-increasing odds forever, but his intense focus did not allow room for despair, only action.  Hadhafang sang in her master’s hands, spilling orc blood like water and piling the casualties across the floor like chaff.  Originally, the warg riders had been intent on taking the elf lord alive, but now they hewed wildly at him, intent only on bringing an end to this fight. 

Suddenly a warning cut through Elrond’s focused rhythm. 

“Enough of this!” a harsh voice snarled.  “Keep fighting if you want, elf, but if you do, their deaths are on your head!” 

Elrond whirled around to see who had spoken, but he kept Hadhafang held high, his defenses tense and ready for trickery.  The orc with the scars from the earlier fight had dragged Celboril half-way up by the hair, his ragged blade pressed against the steward’s pale neck.  Celboril’s face was white and his eyes glazed, but his chest still rose and fell with ragged irregularity.  He was unconscious, but not dead. 

“He’s not dead yet, but I can fix that,” the scarred one threatened.  “We can put all these unfortunate maggots out of their misery for you if you so desire, Lord Elrond.”  The goblin nodded his head towards his minions behind him.  The orcs had stationed themselves among the rows of wounded, blades poised to strike the defenseless beings. 

Elrond could see Moranuen struggling weakly against the brute that had him pinned.  The orc jabbed his elbow hard into the elf’s chest and Moranuen gasped softly, falling back with a small moan.  Elrond’s fury simmered with the heat of helplessness.  He could only hope Moranuen’s stitches had not been torn open. 

Only Mora and one or possibly two others were actually awake; most, like Halbarad and Arendur, lay still unconscious and oblivious of their impending demise. 

“At least most of them won’t even feel it, I suppose,” Guruth sneered.  “Not like the little squeakers what are still on their feet down in the cellars.  Little weasels are trapped down there, just waiting for us to come for them.  So go on and keep fighting. While you do, we’ll take care of these worms here and then go amuse ourselves with the live ones.  I think I heard more than a few maidens’ voices down there... we can have lots of fun with them, can’t we boys?” 

Several of the other orcs laughed and cheered their cruel assent. 

Elrond found his breath coming short, but he didn’t know if it was from exertion or from the horrible choices being laid before him. 

“What?” the orc sneered when Elrond did not speak.  “Have you nothing to say?  Not even going to tell us we won’t get away with this?” he mocked.  “Just as well, because we already have.  By the time your precious warriors get back here this house will be in ashes and every last person dead.  And there’s not a thing you can do to stop us... except maybe one.” 

“And what is that?” Elrond asked coldly, his knuckles whitening on the blood-slicked grip of his sword handle. 

“Drop your weapon,” the scarred one smiled.  “Understand this, elf, we’re here for you, not for them,” he jerked his head towards the two-dozen wounded and captive beings behind him.  “But if you want to make things difficult, then we’ll kill them too and enjoy the task.” 

“Don’t... my lord,” Moranuen rasped around the pain of the injuries that were slowly sapping his strength and his life.  The orc above him applied a little more pressure to his wounded chest, cutting off any further thought of speech with a blinding rush of pain. 

Elrond’s blade lowered a few fractions, his concerned gaze darting to Moranuen’s gasping form.  “And you expect me to trust your word that they will not be harmed if I surrender to you?” his tone told just exactly how far he trusted to the honor of orcs.

Guruth shook his head.  “I don’t care whether you trust us or not, maggot.  You’ve got to gamble now and decide what you can and can’t live with.  If you comply, at least they’ve got a chance... but if you don’t, then their end is certain.” 

Elrond felt the energy draining from his body along with his hope.  The orc was right.  He had to face the fact that there was no way he could save any of them by continuing to fight... most likely not even himself in the end, although he personally would rather die in battle than be taken prisoner by orcs.  He didn’t trust the fell creatures for a moment, but if both sides of a choice were ill, then he had to at least go with the one that had some small glimmer of a chance in it, and apparently the orcs knew that as well. 

“Take your time, elf; I’ll just drink this one’s blood while you decide...” Guruth tilted his blade, starting to draw it across Celboril’s neck. 

“No!” Elrond lowered his sword, crouching down to place it on the floor before rising back to his feet, holding his hands out to his sides in a gesture of compliance and surrender.  “If it’s me you really want then you have me, fuiagwaur //filth//.  Let the others go.”

The scarred one laughed as his underlings quickly grabbed the elf lord’s arms, twisting them behind his back and forcing Elrond to his knees.  Dropping Celboril’s unconscious form, the goblin rose and walked towards Elrond. 

“And now they can all die, while you watch,” he sneered, dropping down into a crouch before his prisoner.  “And once we’ve heard every last one of their screams, maybe it’s your turn.  That’s what your precious warriors would have done to us, am I not right?” 

Elrond’s gaze remained stony and unmoved.  He had taken a gamble where either side resulted in death, but he would not let these foul creatures revel in his pain.  “I will never know how a race so twisted could have come from elves,” he said with quiet fury. 

Guruth pushed his face up to Elrond’s, his foul breath assaulting the elf’s senses. 

“You think we’re so different, you and I?” he hissed.  Holding up his left hand, the creature showed his prisoner that he was missing all but his clawed thumb and forefinger.  “What about this then?  Or this?”  He pulled back the shoulder guards of his leather armor to show terrible scars from what must have been a horrendous burn that covered almost one entire side of his body.  “Or this!” he pointed to the scars on his face that Elrond had already seen. 

“These were gifts from your precious warriors who left me to burn with the dead after they slaughtered my entire tribe.  You, Lord Elrond, are going to pay for that, and through you the ones who did it shall also pay.”  The goblin grinned, maliciously pleased with his own evil cleverness. 

“Who are you?” Elrond’s hard, questioning gaze searched the face of his antagonist.  The orc’s eyes were old and full of hatred.  Orcs and goblins were not always entirely immortal, but many still retained a lion’s share of the longevity that Morgoth had maliciously bred into them when he crossed broken elves with the unspeakable dark things back in the far annals of history.  Elrond guessed, and guessed rightly, that this particular creature was very old and had been nursing whatever twisted flame of vengeance was in his heart for quite a long time. 

The goblin grabbed a handful of Elrond’s long dark hair up near his skull, tipping the elf’s head to the side. 

“My name is Guruth, elf.  Remember it well because I want it to be the last thing in your thoughts when you die.  For five hundred lives of men have I wanted to see this day, even before I knew it was your blood that would flow to appease my vengeance.  We didn’t know who they were, our killers, the warriors who drove us from our homes and slaughtered us like chattel.  When they disappeared we slowly crept back...” his grip tightened painfully on the elf lord’s hair, as if he were trying to rip it out of Elrond’s head.  “But I never forgot.  And then, a year or two ago, I chanced to see a face that I have cursed daily my whole life.  I watched them from afar and everything began to make sense.  They weren’t dead, oh no, not them... but then, you know exactly what I mean, Lord Elrond, you always have.  I hope that knowledge sits well with you, because you can take it to your grave!” 

Elrond was beginning to suspect he did know what Guruth was going on about, but even now he still did not know the whole truth.  “They say revenge is best served cold, but if yours has waited so many centuries, than it must be cold indeed.”  The disdain in his tone was evident and he gave no effort to conceal it. 

Guruth smiled ruthlessly.  “Oh no, elf, my rage has stayed very hot.  You think this is not possible?  I think you are wrong, and I can prove it.  YOU think back almost five hundred years elf and tell me if other events that happened then are clear in your mind.  Tell me what you remember.  I’ll tell you what I do... I remember an elf woman with long blonde hair and pale skin.  Such very, very soft skin.  Those stupid elves never knew what hit them.  She wasn’t the only captive we took, but most of them didn’t survive the journey north... they went slow and hard, but she survived quite long.  She survived long enough for us to take her home.  Oh yes... I remember.  I remember the cries of her remaining companions when we killed them in front of her.  I remember her cries in the cave that night... I remember the way she smelled, the way she bled... the way she called your name.” 

All the color had drained from Elrond’s face as Guruth was speaking and a horrible, trembling rage claimed every inch of his consciousness.  It wasn’t possible. All that twisted brood who had taken his wife from him so many years ago were dead!  They were dead! 

“Oh no, my Lord,” Guruth shook his head, as if reading the elf’s thoughts on his face and enjoying his twisted game.  “If you thought we all died you are mistaken... I alone escaped.  And I will kill you, the way we should have killed her.” 

Um-edonnant yn droeg dheleb thaur!” Elrond cursed the creature in horrible terms with all the strength and fury in his burning heart.  He tugged viciously against the hands on his arms.  “If you have a soul may it rot in the deepest pit of torment for all eternity!”  He wasn’t shouting, but his low, trembling voice carried every bit as much venom as if he had been. 

Guruth just smiled, satisfied with himself.  “So you see?  Rage can stay very hot even after all these years.”  He gave the elf lord’s hair one more jerk before releasing him and turning back to his minions.  “Kill them all.  Start with the humans, then the elves.”

The orc standing over Arendur lifted the boy’s head, baring his neck to the blade. 

Elrond’s seething heart could barely contain any more anger and pain than it already did and he twisted to no effect in the iron hands that held him. 

Suddenly, two loud blasts on an orc horn sounded nearby.  Everyone stopped and looked up.  

“Captain, we’ve got to go,” one of the orcs near Guruth said nervously. 

Guruth swore.  That was a warning signal; it meant that some of the elves were returning.  He did not have enough troops with him to face off against any more than a handful of warriors at best... he had not expected anyone to be returning this soon and it hindered some of his plans.  It did not spoil everything, however. 

A wicked grin spread over the creature’s face.  “All right then, let’s go.  Don’t worry, elf, your fun is only delayed, not canceled,” he kicked Elrond in the stomach as he rose to his feet.  “I know a nice cave that has not been used in a long time.  We’ll take him to Daradwayn and show him where we entertained his wife.  We can take our time with you there, maybe find a few friends for you?  That would be pleasant, don’t you think?” 

Elrond had doubled over his knees when kicked, and the orcs instinctually let up on their hold a little.  Guruth’s taunts elicited another burst of flaming wrath and Elrond threw his head back, smashing the nose and jaw of one of the orcs behind him with his skull and twisting out of their hands.  A heavy club slammed into the back of his head as he rolled away and he was unable to dodge in time.  The blow slammed him hard against the floor next to Celboril, causing millions of bright lights to flash before his eyes as the world momentarily darkened. 

Elrond had only moments before the orcs had complete control of him again and he knew he was never going to be able to escape them.  These creatures meant to kill him one way or another, of that he had no doubt.  But if they intended to take him with them, there were some things they could not be allowed to have... some things that should never fall into the hands of darkness. 

Consciousness was being fickle, but with what little clarity he still possessed.  Elrond jerked the blue-jeweled ring off his right hand.  Shoving Vilya into the sweeping sleeves of Celboril’s unconscious form he only hoped the orcs had not noticed the small motion. 

A dozen rough and punishing hands grabbed at the elf lord, catching his shoulders, his hair, anything they could reach.  Blows rained around him as they tried to get the fiercely struggling elf under control once more.  Unfortunately, Elrond was now at a distinct disadvantage and they never gave him the chance to rise.  Three or four powerful kicks to his chest and gut left the elf lord curled on his side, gasping for air and unable to fight back as he was dragged once again to his knees.  

They bound Elrond’s hands behind his back and shoved a filthy gag into his mouth, cursing all the while as the elf lord continued to buck and struggle against them like a man possessed. 

Four alarmed horn blasts sounded from outside. 

“Blast it, you maggots, get him under control and let’s go!” Guruth shouted urgently.  They were running out of time.  They still had to make it OUT of the valley without being spotted. 

Another blow to the back of his head sent Elrond’s world tipping out of focus and effectively subdued him, although he remained conscious as he was dragged to his feet. 

“What about the rest of them?” one of the other orcs questioned their leader, looking over the rows of wounded. 

“Leave them!” Guruth snapped.  “We haven’t got the time.  Besides, we’ve got the one we need. The others will just have to come to us.”  Guruth pressed his face close to Elrond’s one more time, running the fingernail of his mangled hand down the side of the elf’s face.  “We’re going to have fun with you, elf.  Perhaps we’ll even show you the same courtesies we did your mate... if you’re a good elf and live that long.” 

Elrond was dizzy and only barely conscious, but he still jerked away from the vile creature’s touch, his eyes speaking the burning hatred that his gagged tongue could not.  If he lived and were able, he would see each and every one of these brutes dead. 

Guruth looked amused and slapped his prisoner harshly.  “Come on!  Bring him!” he grunted to his minions.  “And I mean alive or you’ll get no share in the fun!” 

Elrond glanced over his shoulder as he was dragged out of the room.  His eyes caught on Celboril’s still form.  He desperately hoped the elf would live. 

//“May the Valar keep you, faithful friend. I have entrusted much to your care over the years, guard for me the last thing I entrust you now and may only the right eyes find it...//  Elrond could only hope that it would be one of his sons to discover the ring he had left behind.  They would know what to do.  If he perished, Vilya was to be taken to Galadriel and its fate fell into the hands of she and Lord Círdan.

Behind Celboril, Elrond could see Moranuen desperately struggling to rise around the debilitating injuries that he had received barely hours before.  The bandage around his chest was soaked crimson again and the younger elf coughed, choking up more blood.  He would gladly die before he let these creatures take his Lord away, but his body was betraying him.  The elf warrior made it up onto his hands and knees but then his strength failed him.  He was unable to force his body to move around the labored spasms of his injured lungs. 

Elrond shook his head warningly, trying to tell the younger being to stop, to not be stupid.  Moranuen was only going to get himself killed, either by pushing himself too hard or by garnering the orcs’ attention. 

Guruth heard Moranuen’s painful coughing and turned, his eyes sparkling with cruel mirth as he saw the injured elf struggling with his own body. 

The orc next to Guruth lifted his bow, about to put an end to the elf’s attempts with an ugly black arrow, but Guruth put his hand on the bow, pushing it down.  “Let the little worm live if he can.  I have a job for him.  If you live long enough, maggot, tell your friends what has happened when they get here.  Tell them all that I have done.  Let them know what fate this one goes to,” he jerked his head towards Elrond as he was hurried out through the doorway.  “It’s a message.  Tell them!  A message for Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen.” 

With that Guruth turned and hurried after the retreating forms of his minions as they hastened to make their exit while they still could. 

Moranuen’s arms buckled under him and he fell back onto his mat with a muffled moan.  Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen... no... oh heaven no he didn’t want to deliver that message.  Yet with each fighting breath he took, he struggled to stay alive long enough to do exactly that.  They had to know.  Someone had to tell what had happened to Lord Elrond.  They had to save him.  This could not happen again... it would destroy more lives than just Elrond’s if it did.
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