Siege of Dread

Chapter 6: Take this Out of Me

by Cassia and Siobhan

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Innocence, innocence,
innocence lost
all souls want it back
some uncover the cost...

--Steve Taylor

The house was in sight at last, thank the Valar.  Elladan shifted the weight of the elf leaning on his shoulder.  The other warrior was trying not to be a burden, but a badly turned ankle that was possibly broken was no light matter.  Elladan himself had only cuts and some wicked bruises, but getting back down into the steep valley with their wounded comrades had been a long and painful process. 

Behind him, Elladan heard Elrohir whispering encouragement to the young Dùnadan he was supporting. “We’re almost there, see?  Just hold on,” Elrohir’s voice was gentle and encouraging; carefully free of his sorrowful fear that the light of the young man he was almost carrying was going to be snuffed out like a candle in the wind at any moment.  The boy was barely as old as Aragorn when Aragorn first met Legolas.  Elrohir hated to lose them this young.  Babies.  Just babies. 

Elrohir stole a sideways glance at Glorfindel who walked to the twins’ left, carrying yet another wounded and unconscious elf in his arms.  The elder elf was quiet, but Elrohir could tell he was helping to support the younger warrior in his arms with his own strength, as Elrohir had often seen his father do... as he was trying to do with the boy he was helping. 

It was a sad group that made its way back to Rivendell today.  The losses and casualties were grievous, such as had not been seen by this peaceful vale since the Second Age. 

“Almost there,” Elladan murmured as they drew nearer to the beautiful and welcoming vista of his home.  At least some things were still as they should be. 

The warg attack had finally been routed and driven back, although at the last it seemed almost as if they had received some unknown signal to withdraw, so quick was their retreat.  Elladan could not shake the disturbing feeling that they had not so much won the fight as been allowed to disengage.  Yet that was highly unusual.  Orcs did not retreat unless on the point of defeat, preferring to ruthlessly destroy their enemies while there was still any chance of bringing them down and, while the elder twin hated to admit it, they had been doing a pretty good job of bringing the elves and rangers down. 

A cautious rear-guard, on the lookout for any trickery or reappearance of their enemy, had been assigned to patrolling the outer perimeter around the valley and envoys had been sent to Strayton to see if they had also been attacked, although at the moment it seemed that Rivendell had been the sole recipient of the onslaught.  Another curiosity to be tucked away for a later date: why would the raiding orcs attack an elven stronghold while a much more vulnerable human village was barely a day’s journey away? 

Elladan felt that there were disturbing answers to these questions hovering just out of his grasp, but for now that would have to wait.  Their focus was on the wounded.  Rivendell was a place of peace, a haven, not a fortress and the warriors who made their home in this valley were few now in comparison to the elder days.  The border guard they had posted required nearly all the available warriors who were yet uninjured.  That left only a small handful to accompany Elladan and Elrohir back to their father’s house with the wounded.  Most of them were also nursing injuries, although of lesser gravity than some. 

Elladan wondered in which category Aragorn and Legolas would fall when they reappeared.  He was sizably disturbed that he had not seen them yet, but the fighting had been very widespread and they could be some distance away by now; there were many warriors who had not yet returned. 

It gave him a mental chuckle to consider the long-suffering look that would grace his father’s features if either his brother or the elven prince were once again unceremoniously dragged home by the other; an occurrence not too uncommon over the long years of their friendship.  Elladan never for a moment considered that they might not reappear eventually; he could not.  However, once the wounded were taken care of, if Elrond had things under control, he would certainly beg leave to go search for them. 

The elder twin’s relief at being home quickly began bleeding away into apprehension as they neared the house.  Something felt wrong. 

“Something is not right,” Elrohir echoed his twin’s thoughts in a whisper.  “I don’t... don’t hear anything.  El?” the younger twin was not yet ready to trust his newly restored hearing and looked to his brother to see if he were merely missing something. 

Elladan was frowning.  He didn’t hear anything either and realized that that was part of what was bothering him.  No birds, no murmur of movement from within the house, no sound of feet pattering in the halls nor the soothing tones of his father’s voice as he tended the injured... nothing. 

No, there was something, only just detectable to the elven hearing. A dripping sound. 




No one could say why, but the small sound sent a hard chill through them all. 

Elladan and Elrohir’s free hands dropped immediately to the hilts of the swords at their side. 

Glorfindel’s face creased into a deep frown.  He set the elf he was carrying down carefully, keeping one hand on him.  “Leave the wounded here,” he said quietly.  “Something is amiss.” 

Elladan and Elrohir concurred with that assessment all too well.  Quickly they eased their charges down to the ground.  By unspoken agreement, the golden-haired elf lord remained with the others to protect the wounded if need be while Elladan and Elrohir proceeded cautiously forward. 

Every inch of the courtyard was a familiar haven to the twins, so why now did the hair on the back of their necks stand on end and their bodies tingle with unexplainable warnings of doom?  There was a shadow over their home as if the pristine essence of Imladris had somehow been violated and even the trees and plants quivered with the shock. 

They could not yet see the front of the house, shaded from their view by the artistic arbor pathway, but something on the ground caught their attention.  A dark, crimson stain spread across the glistening white flagstone path from around the blind corner, a deep red trickle that could have been only one thing. 

Both twins’ hearts jumped up into their throats and lodged there, almost choking them. 


Rushing forward with swords drawn they turned the corner, catching the first glimpse of the main entry to their home... and then froze in horror. 

Black and crimson mingled freely on the cobbles before the entry and a great, hulking orc body lay dead in the partially open doorway.  The creature’s hideous blood was pooled around him on the landing, draining slowly down the stairs... drip... drip... drip... 

Elrohir felt sick.  Not here.  Not here in his home... 

Elladan felt a blinding slash of rage burn through him.  What had happened?  What had happened here? 

From inside the house the sound of a weak, struggling cough shook them from their momentary daze. 

The two elves unfroze their feet and hurried on again, stepping over the hideous orc body with revulsion and noting with sorrow the slain elf across from him. 

Elladan gripped his sword tighter.  He and Elrohir exchanged looks, the fire in Elrohir’s eyes for once nearly matching his brother’s.  Someone was going to pay for this violation of their home. 

The coughing drew them quickly to the Hall of Fire.  The great hearth flickered low, but the light it cast still filled the room, dancing upon the rows of deathly still elves and rangers.  

For half a horrible instant the twins thought they were all dead, but then they saw the rise and fall of breath leaving the bodies and knew that, although injured, these beings at least still lived. 

Their attention was immediately drawn to the scene in the front of the room.  Moranuen was on his hands and knees.  The bandage around his chest was soaked deep red and he was unnaturally pale.  He knelt next to Celboril’s still body, obviously having dragged himself there with great effort.  He had pressed a wadded corner of the steward’s robe against the older elf’s bleeding stomach wound, but the effort had been too much and Mora was doubled over, coughing helplessly and gasping for air he could not find.  One of the wounded Dunédain who was awake was trying to work around his own injuries to go to Moranuen’s aid, but was not able to move very fast. 

“Mora!” the twins shouted in alarm, almost at the same time.  Rushing forward they dropped to the ground next to him. 

Elladan gently scooped Moranuen’s heaving frame into his arms, holding the other dark-haired elf gently and lending him strength.  Laying a hand on Mora’s chest he tried to figure out how to best help ease his friend’s breathing. 

Elrohir took over the pressure on Celboril’s wound that Moranuen had been struggling to provide.  It was a praiseworthy effort, the younger twin noted as he quickly worked to stabilize the beloved household overseer.  Moranuen’s actions had probably saved Celboril’s life.  Elrohir winced as he got a better look at the jagged, gaping wound beneath the blood-soaked layers of the older elf’s clothing.  It was not good, but it did not have to be fatal.  Already the younger twin’s hands were in motion as he worked to save the other elf’s life. 

Elladan was doing the same for Moranuen.  “Mora, Mora what happened?” he asked with disbelieving concern as he pulled away the bandages around the other elf’s chest to reveal the split stitches.  The small length of tubing Elrond had carefully placed to keep Moranuen’s injured lungs from being pressured into collapsing had been dislodged. 

Moranuen couldn’t speak enough to answer, and Elladan didn’t expect him to at the moment.  The injured human had now made his way over. 

“What’s happened here?” Elrohir turned the question on the ranger while Elladan laid Moranuen down carefully, working with urgent haste to fix the damage that the orcs’ rough treatment and Moranuen’s own movements had done to Elrond’s life-saving handiwork. 

The man shook his head blankly, frustration and pain in his eyes.  “I-I don’t know... there were orcs... but it’s not clear... I remember seeing Moranuen, I wanted to help.”  The human looked ready to collapse again. 

“Shh, be still, it’s all right, don’t injure yourself any further,” Elrohir said quickly.  Getting to the bottom of these grievous issues was going to have to wait until Moranuen and Celboril were stabilized.  He didn’t hear or sense any orcs in the house, but with the chaotic confusion of what was normally such a peaceful place, it was hard to be sure. 

“Ada?  Ada!” Elladan called for their father as he worked.  They needed help... where was Elrond?  Surely he could not be far; he would have answers to all these questions.  Where was he?  “Ada!” 

Finally realizing he would not get an answer, Elladan switched names.  “Glorfindel!” 

The elf in question had heard the earlier commotion and was already on his way into the room by the time Elladan called.  The few uninjured elves carried their wounded comrades with them.  The Balrog Slayer took one look around and knew that something gravely wrong had happened here.  Although not nearly as severe or devastating, it brought back memories of the brutal destruction of Gondolin all over again. 

“I will check the house.”  The elder warrior left without waiting for a response, leaving the twins to their vital work and assuming responsibility for making sure there were no longer any enemies about. 

By the time he returned the wounded had all been stabilized and were resting more or less comfortably, except for Mora who violently refused to let Elladan give him a sleeping potion to ease his suffering. 

“No... must... speak, must... listen to me!” The frustrated elf struggled with his limited air intake.  He wasn’t fully conscious or lucid, but Elladan was not going to push him, since he very well could be one of the few people who knew what had happened here right now. 

“Shhh, all right, all right, Mora, but you must be calm.  Slowly, breathe slowly,” Elladan soothed, his hand resting on the injured elf’s freshly re-bandaged chest, willing it to rise and fall steadily. 

Elrohir looked up from where he was assisting another warrior with one of the last wounded elves they had brought back with them.  Celboril had been cared for, although he was still unconscious and they had not yet moved him to rest with the others, waiting for more linens to be brought for bedding.  The younger twin looked up when Glorfindel returned, his eyes questioning. 

The elf lord gave his head a shake.  “The house is clear, as are the grounds; whatever ill brood did this is gone.  There were only two casualties.  Most of the others seem to have shut themselves up in the cellars, where the orcs trapped them.  I freed the passage to the cellars and sent them for more supplies to aid you,” Glorfindel reported quickly, but distractedly.  Whom he had not found was what bothered him. 

Elrohir nodded.  The servants that Glorfindel spoke of arrived even before he had finished.  Soon, to the twins’ relief, they had more than enough help to get their wounded comrades comfortably settled and tended.  Elrohir stood and stretched his aching back, before he stooped to pick up Hadhafang from where it lay on the floor, not far from Celboril.  From the way it looked, he assumed Celboril had dropped it when he fell, but that didn’t answer the nagging question in the back of his heart... why did Celboril have it and where was their father? 

With the help of one of the servants, Elrohir prepared to carefully move Celboril to a more comfortable place with the other convalescents. 

“Did you find Father?” Elladan voiced his brother’s thoughts, his eyes shadowed with worry as he looked up at Glorfindel from Moranuen’s side.  The injured elf had a death-grip on his hand and Elladan was not about to leave if Mora was unwilling to let him go. 

Glorfindel shook his head.  “There are signs of fighting everywhere, but of Lord Elrond...” he did not know, and was hesitant to guess. 

“Orcs,” Moranuen rasped softly, squeezing Elladan’s hand and trying to get his attention.  His breathing had finally gotten back under control and he was more lucid than earlier. However, the elf didn’t have much strength left in him and what he had was failing fast; he had to make them listen before unconsciousness claimed him.

“Shhh,” Elladan touched his lips gently, thinking his friend was still delirious.  “I know, Mora, they’re gone now, they’re gone, it is all right.” 

“No!” Moranuen shook his head emphatically, although the word came out only as a whisper.  “No... not... not all right.  L-Lord Elrond... they took Lord Elrond!” 

“What?” Elladan leaned close, his face paling.  He hoped he had heard wrong, or that Moranuen did not know what he was saying.  “Mora, what do you mean?” 

“They took Lord Elrond... prisoner.  Took him with them... the orcs.” Moranuen put it as plainly as he could, his laboring breath breaking his sentences up oddly. 

Elrohir gave a small cry.  At first Elladan thought it was because of what Moranuen had just said, but a moment later he knew that was only partially true. 

When the younger twin had lifted Celboril, something had fallen out of the steward’s clothing.  After laying Celboril down on the pallet prepared for him, Elrohir had gone back to see what it was.  This he discovered at the same time that Moranuen’s horrible news came out. 

“Elladan,” Elrohir hurried to his brother’s side.  Unclenching his hand he revealed the object lying on his palm. 

Both brothers were pale as death as they stared at the small, blue-gemmed circle in Elrohir’s trembling hand. 

“Vilya...” Elladan could barely gasp the word out.  It seemed as if all the air had left his lungs, leaving him suffocating more surely than even the iron grip of a hill troll, a comparison he was qualified to make. 

Elrohir’s eyes were written with deep, uncomprehending shock.  He had never seen the powerful Ring of Air off his father’s hand, never.  There was no way he would have allowed it to be taken from him unless it was removed from his dead body. 

“He was alive... Mora, was he alive when they took him?” Elrohir’s voice was strained.  He closed Vilya in his palm again, the smooth edges of the ring digging painfully into his flesh as he clenched his fingers tightly. 

“Yes, he, he surrendered to... save us, I’m so sorry, so sorry, he should not have, I am sorry...” Moranuen murmured over and over, still grief-stricken and guilty at having been helpless to act as he was forced to watch his Lord taken away. 

“It’s not your fault, Mora,” Elrohir said quietly, still unable to completely shake the shock and disbelief that lent an air of surrealism to this devastating news.  “Father did what he thought was right.” 

Elladan was having a little less trouble grasping exactly what all this meant, and his heart withdrew from the stabbing pain that that understanding gave him. 

There was only one reason Elrond would have willingly abandoned Vilya, and that was if his father were convinced that he was not going to come back from whatever he was going into.  Some said that was why Vilya had passed to Elrond in the first place.  That Gil-galad had had a portent of his own imminent doom before that final battle in Dagorlad, and had the foresight to entrust the powerful ring to the younger elf whom had become close as a son to him.  Whether that was true or not, Elrond’s abandonment of the ring in this case could mean nothing else.  The far-sighted elf lord anticipated his own death and that thought shook Elladan to the core of his being. 

Moranuen was still speaking.  “They said to tell... they said...” his difficulty in repeating the lead orc’s message was not due entirely to his injuries.  “They meant to take him to... to Daradwayn, like your mother,” he whispered softly, pressing his eyes shut against the horrified pain that immediately flashed across his friends’ faces at his words.  “They said... it was a message.  A message for Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen.” 

Elladan couldn’t think around the rushing pounding that filled his head as his vision darkened with the heavy load of the crushing rage and fear that pressed down upon him.  No, not again... not again... 

Elrohir’s stricken face hardened into chiseled stone.  “This cannot be allowed to happen.  They have gone too far.”  His voice was quiet but lethal. 

Elladan squeezed Moranuen’s hand one more time, rising quickly to his feet by his brother and exchanging looks with his twin.  A fire of loss burned behind their eyes that would not be denied. 

Elrohir took a deep breath.  “They want Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen?  That can be arranged.” 

“No...” Moranuen shook his head, his heart aching.  He knew the history of pain that this whole situation was dredging up.  “El... you cannot.  Dehlfalhen and Glamferaen are dead.  You know that better than any.  Let the dead rest in peace.” 

Elladan smiled slightly, but without any true mirth.  “No, they aren’t.”  His voice was clipped.  “They’re very much alive and I know exactly where to find them.” 

The twins turned to the door but stopped when they found themselves nearly up against Glorfindel whom they had forgotten about.  The elf lord did not try to dissuade them from their chosen course of action.  The twins were not children and he had no right to govern their deeds; besides, any such attempt would be useless at this juncture. 

“You will take no one with you on this path you are choosing?” The question was quiet, but somber. 

Elrohir shook his head once.  “Everyone here is needed.  There are no guarantees that this is not simply another trap, as every move of our enemies has been thus far.  We dare not leave Rivendell open to further attack by drawing away what defenses we have left in place.  Besides... if we are to wake Glamferaen and Dehlfalhen... it is better us two go alone.” 

Elladan carefully took Vilya from his brother’s hand and pressed it into the palm of the golden-haired elf lord.  “Watch over Rivendell.  Watch over our people until we return and guard this with your life, as I know you will.  If we return we will be bringing our father back with us... if we do not... it will only be because none of us return.  In that case you must take Vilya to Lothlórien and see that it is given to the Lady Galadriel.  Do you accept this charge?” 

Glorfindel nodded.  At moments like these it was very clear that for all their usual youthful energy and playfulness, Elladan and Elrohir were every inch the Lords of Rivendell that their heritage made them. 

“I do accept, I will watch over them until you return, all of you.  May the Valar watch over all your paths, no matter how dark the road.”

The twins accepted the gracious words of parting, but their minds and hearts were already a hundred miles away, treading the path that was swiftly opening up before their feet to swallow them.  Their responsibility to Rivendell duly taken care of, the pair hurried for the door.  They had already lost precious time, they could afford to waste no more.  Both of them wished that Aragorn and Legolas were here, but perhaps it was just as well that they were not, considering what might lie ahead.  


Closure is closer
Take this out of me,
Take anything you need.
I'll still breathe; I'll still breathe.
Fading thinner but still it's haunting me
Can't find the words to say to the angels
That took you from me...

--Die Trying

Elrond’s breath frosted sharply on the biting air as he leaned against the rock wall behind him.  He couldn’t feel his hands anymore and his healer’s mind dully told him that a prolonged loss of circulation to those areas could cause permanent damage after a while... however he doubted the orcs intended to let him live long enough for that to become a problem. 

A sharp, vicious blow made the elf lord wince and double forward.  Staked out as he was he could not move away from the abuse and would not cower in front of his tormentors anyway.  Another sharp kick in the ribs and Elrond had to steel himself against a searing flash of pain that suggested something that had already been broken was being jabbed inward. 

The orcs were paying him only passing attention right now and he knew it.  He had suffered the full brunt of their interest earlier, when they had first stopped for a small respite in their hasty retreat from Imladris. 

The orcs had moved swiftly and they were high up in the mountains now where the days were still warm, but the nights became desolate and biting.  The orcs would rest only a short time before pressing on again towards their destination and Elrond wasn’t sure if he should be glad of the reprieve or not. 

Guruth was shouting angrily at some new group of orcs that had just joined them.  Elrond watched with dull disinterest. 

“You idiots!  You withdrew too soon!” Guruth yelled angrily at the underlings standing before him.  “We almost got caught down there in the valley!” 

The orcs in question growled something about thinking they had received the signal, which resulted in a lot more shouting.  Presently Guruth pulled his sword and beheaded two of them. 

Tmarkz was glad that he was not the one who had ordered the retreat, having been busy chasing the ranger and the golden-haired elf at the time.  However, given his leader’s current mood, he wasn’t about to tell about the failure of that little venture right now. 

Sullen silence fell over the rest of the group, but no one challenged the old, scarred orc. 

Elrond noted numbly that Guruth must hold a position of fear and respect among the other orcs because they let everything die down after that.  Pity, would have been much better if they all decided to slaughter each other right now. 

“Enjoy your rest while you can, elf!” Guruth stooped suddenly next to the healer, grabbing Elrond’s long, brown hair and banging his head back sharply against the wall.  “More fun later.” Dropping Elrond’s head again he stalked away.  

The freezing air made the elf’s bruised and aching lungs contract painfully with each breath. A slight shudder ran through his body.  It was all so strange... he had never felt cold like this before. 

He closed his weary eyes looking for strength, but what he saw was her face.  Those deep, deep, blue eyes, framed by the wispy strands of gold that always inevitably worked their way free to hang about her face... they danced when she laughed.  He remembered that.  Remembered it so clearly it hurt. 

“You’re so serious, melethron... smile for me...” Celebrían’s teasing face swirled its way from the deep recesses of his heart, hovering before him.

Elrond did smile.  He always smiled for her.  “I am weary, melethril,” he whispered to the growing darkness.  He knew she wasn’t real, he knew he was starting to hallucinate, which meant he was probably sliding into shock... but those were things his head knew.  Right now he’d rather listen to his heart.  “I think I will be seeing you again sooner than we thought, dear one...”


 Aragorn had lost all track of time.  There was nowhere to stop, nowhere to rest.  Water and darkness stretched out to a monotonous, uncomfortable eternity.  His body told him he had already missed more than one night’s rest, perhaps a lot more, he had no way of knowing any longer.  It grew increasingly difficult to put one foot in front of the other as he battled the current that always wanted to sweep him away.  The water was chest high now and freezing cold.  The current had picked up again although the two friends were battling its pull.  He feared that perhaps this had not been a good idea after all... how far did these tunnels go?  Would there ever be a way out? 

Behind him in the darkness, Legolas was singing softly.  He had been for the last few hours.  It comforted Aragorn to hear as much as it comforted Legolas to sing.  The elf was doing very well for being in a cave under these circumstances and Aragorn was glad. 

The ranger stumbled.  He was so cold, so tired... the current tugged his feet out from under him and he felt the icy slap of the water closing over his head. 

Strong, firm hands on his shoulders checked his forward rush and Legolas dragged his friend quickly back to the surface.  The elf braced his feet against the jagged, but slippery floor of the subterranean aqueduct and hugged the human against him until Aragorn got his feet underneath him once more.  The elf ignored the searing ache in his leg where the arrow had cut him.  It hurt more than he was willing to admit, but he was more worried about his friend. 

Legolas frowned.  Aragorn’s body was too cold in his arms as the chilly water continued to sap the Dùnadan’s strength.  The man was having a hard time getting back on his feet as he clumsily stood up with the prince’s help. 

“Are you all right?” the elf murmured quietly, not releasing the ranger just yet. 

Aragorn shivered, but nodded with a thin smile.  “Just a little tired.” 

Legolas was still concerned.  They had been walking for a long time, at least two days, perhaps more.  The elf would have no trouble pressing on for as long as it took to get them out of this hole, but he knew the limitations of his human friend, whether Aragorn wanted to admit them or not. 

“Come.” Legolas hooked Aragorn’s sodden coat in his fingers and guided the ranger back the way they had come a small distance.  Battling the current rather than walking with it was a little difficult, but they managed. 

“What?  Where are we going, Legolas?” Aragorn protested, not understanding what his friend was thinking.  He did not resist, however, sincehe didn’t really have the strength to resist. 

Presently they returned to a place where the water was shallower, only up to their thighs. 

Pressing Aragorn up against the wall so that his back was to the tunnel, and his front was held firmly against Legolas’ body, the elf effectively supported the tired human’s weight as the dark water swirled about their legs. 

Aragorn felt the welcome warmth of Legolas’ body heat sap some of the numbing chill from his weary limbs as the elf held him securely.  He couldn’t help shivering now and was glad for the small respite. 

Legolas tipped the ranger’s head forward a little so that it could rest on the elf’s shoulder, smiling softly at Aragorn’s puzzled, questioning gaze. 

“Rest, mellon-nín, sleep if you can.  I will not let you fall,” the prince assured quietly.  There was nowhere that Aragorn could possibly lie down to rest without being covered in water, so the elf presented the only other solution he could contrive. 

Aragorn appreciated the offer but he hated to put the elf out this way or drain his friend’s strength when they were already in a place that he knew weakened the wood-elf.  “Legolas, you can’t just stand there and hold me...” 

“Why not?” Legolas cocked an eyebrow.  “You always forget I don’t need as much rest as you, human,” he teased lightly.  “I just want to get out of here as soon as possible, but if you drown or I have to rescue you that will slow us considerably, agreed?  So rest now and regain your strength.  We will move faster when you awaken.”

Aragorn wanted to protest, but he really was drained.  Whether it was because his own body was shutting down or the result of a suggestive command that the wood-elf had learned from Lord Elrond, the ranger found himself sliding swiftly towards the even darker blackness of sleep. 

Legolas felt Aragorn’s body relax in his arms and settled the human more comfortably against him, perfectly prepared to hold him safe from the current and cold until Aragorn’s body had sufficiently replenished its energy stores.

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