The city of Calembel lay bathed in a sea of golden light cast from the setting sun. The earlier rain had left many small pools of water that caught and reflected the light like a thousand sparkling diamonds. To the west of the city, a multitude of colors danced upon the surface of the Ciril, twisting and undulating with the slow flow of the river.
At another time, this scene would have been one of perfect peacefulness and tranquility, as the citizens of the city used the evening hours to relax at home, enjoy a fine dinner, or sit quietly before the early evening fire. Now, however, all pretense of peacefulness had left the city. Houses remained dark and shuttered, and the only people visible on the streets were soldiers scurrying about on various tasks. The entire city had taken on an air of silent and ominous anticipation.
Gandalf stood atop the North wall, his restless gaze never resting on one area for more than a few seconds. His long white robe fluttered and twisted in the soft evening breeze, unnoticed by the wizard, who wore a small, preoccupied frown. Much had been done to fortify the city, and although Gandalf knew there was still a lot to do, he held higher hopes for the ability of the defenders to hold out against Malek’s larger force.
Gandalf’s gaze flickered down to the field before the city wall, where Faramir was busy with a large group of soldiers preparing defense lines for the upcoming battle. The Steward had worked tirelessly throughout the day. When he wasn’t working on the defense of the city, he was busy encouraging and heartening the soldiers. After Malek’s show of strength the previous evening, the army of Gondor had desperately needed someone strong to hold them together and help them gather their courage. With Aragorn gone, this task had fallen to Faramir. The Steward had been there for the men, just as he had countless times in the past. It seemed to Gandalf that all it took was a simple smile or nod from Faramir, and the soldiers were once more ready to throw their fate to the wind and defend the city at all costs, even that of their lives.
There were very few men to whom Gandalf gave complete trust and respect. Aragorn was one, and Faramir was quickly becoming another.
Gandalf’s gaze moved once more, following the curve of the wall directly below where he stood until his eyes fell on yet another who had given so selflessly to the defense of a city that was not even his own. Gimli had also been working faithfully throughout the day, not even taking time to stop and get some rest. With the aid of a small group of men, the dwarf had reinforced the north gate and fortified many of the weaker spots on the wall.
Gandalf let out a small sigh and allowed his eyes to wander further from the city, scanning the base of the Ered Nimrais before turning his gaze west, to the sparkling rainbow of the Ciril. The river looked strangely calm and peaceful, showing no signs of the great chaos and confusion that had surrounded it just hours earlier as every craft or vessel that could float was used to evacuate the women, children, elderly, and wounded from the city. Far down the river, Gandalf could just make out the small forms of the last of the boats as they disappeared around a corner of the waterway. Now, all that remained within the city were the defenders and a few civilians who had decided to stay and help in whatever way they were able. ‘And a few who remained even when they should have gone!’ Gandalf thought somewhat wryly, his eyes returning once more to the field before the city, where a small form scurried here and there on different errands.
The boy, Dar, had absolutely refused to leave the city, putting up such a fight that he had left one soldier limping and another with a black eye when they had tried to force him onto one of the boats. Luckily, Gandalf had been passing nearby at the time and had come to the boy’s, or perhaps the soldier’s, rescue. He had agreed to let Dar stay within the city until his father’s return, as long as the boy helped out by running errands or delivering messages. Dar had been only too willing to agree, and Gandalf was fairly sure the boy would offer to help out in the battle as well, if given a chance.
‘And so the young are left to defend the city while those who are older and hold a larger responsibility flee!’ Gandalf thought bitterly, anger drawing his thick eyebrows together. He had just learned that the coward Merton and his two snake advisors had slipped from the city on one of the boats. Not only that, but they had used the entire vessel to carry the Mayor’s lavish belongings, refusing to allow any others on the boat, and forcing the women and children to wait even longer to be evacuated. This so enraged Gandalf that he had to force his mind to think of other things.
Gandalf stood silently upon the wall for several long minutes, barely registering the fact that Gimli had climbed and joined him. The two stood in silence for a while, watching the orange ball of the sun begin it’s descent behind the mountain.
“Where are they?” Gimli at last spoke up, his voice pitched low. Gandalf looked at the dwarf sympathetically, knowing of whom Gimli was speaking, and also knowing that the dwarf had merely spoken his thoughts out loud and did not expect an answer. Gimli was not even looking at him; instead his gaze searched the growing darkness before the city, as if searching desperately for some sign of his friends.
After another several minutes had passed, Gimli looked at the wizard, his dark eyes filled with concern. “Do you think something has happened that is keeping them from returning?”
Gandalf shook his head slowly, his eyes also flickering out toward the dark shadow of the Ered Nimrais. “I am afraid that there is a thousand different things that could be keeping them,” he said quietly, “and not all of them bad, either. We will just have to wait and see.”
“I hate waiting,” Gimli muttered to himself.
Another long minute of silence followed before Gimli once more spoke up, his voice so quiet that Gandalf had to strain to hear him. “I have the strangest feeling that something is very wrong. I can’t explain it, nor can I make it go away. I fear for our friends.”
Gandalf could only stare at the dwarf in surprise, wondering at Gimli’s sudden pessimistic attitude. He did not take Gimli’s dark premonitions lightly, and his own fears began to build within him.
Gimli suddenly let out a low, raw laugh. “Knowing Aragorn and Legolas,” he said lightly, “They will show up with the whole of Malek’s army hot on their tails, and we shall be forced to rescue them.”
“Then we must be ready,” Gandalf said seriously, his hand going up to absently stroke his beard. “And we must hope that they have learned something that will help us defeat this dark army and its master.
Arwen straightened gracefully from the act of replacing a bandage around the leg of one of the soldiers. Most of the seriously injured had been evacuated, and only the ones the healers had feared moving remained. She glanced around, her gaze drifting up and down the rows of beds. Only a quarter of the beds were filled now, yet Arwen knew the number would be much greater after tonight.
She sighed and glanced out the nearest window at the setting sun. She was somewhat surprised at how late it was, for it seemed to her only a couple of hours had passed since Aragorn had strode in to tell her of his plans and bid her farewell. Since that time, she had not had a single moment to herself, busy tending to the wounded men and helping prepare for the upcoming casualties.
Now Arwen found herself staring at the sinking sun, her thoughts turning to Aragorn. She wondered if he had returned yet, then quickly discarded the idea. She was sure he would have come and told her upon his immediate arrival back into the city. She frowned with worry as the darkness outside grew, and she tried to push away the sudden sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
A loud moan from one of the beds on the other end of the room yanked her from her dark thoughts. Swiftly pushing her worries aside, she made her way to the bed of a young soldier who had suffered a bad cut to his abdomen. Despite the best efforts of all the healers, including Arwen, the wound continued to bleed, slowly draining the life from the young man. The bandage was once more covered with blood, and Arwen set to the task of changing the cloths and making the soldier as comfortable as possible. Pain filled eyes looked up at her as she worked, and Arwen felt her heart wrench as she realized there was really nothing to be done to save the young man. She placed her hand upon his forehead, feeling his clammy skin and listening to the short rasps of his breath, her heart weeping even as she tried to force an encouraging smile to her lips.
She finished changing the bandage, than turned and retrieved a small cup of water. Holding the water to the young man’s lips, she lifted his head slightly, allowing him to sip the cool liquid. When she had finished, the soldier reached out and grasped her hand tightly, his eyes filled with unspoken emotion. Arwen smiled down at him gently, tenderly brushing a stray lock of his hair from his brow as she softly began to sing. The words of her song were in her own language, but the simple melody seemed to fill the small room, soothing and calming the hurting occupants. The low moans slowly died until the only sound filling the room was the elf princess’s sweet voice.
Arwen sang for several minutes, feeling the tight grip of the soldier slowly loosen as he drifted toward sleep. She finished her song, then quietly rose and moved toward the next bed.
“That was beautiful, lady Arwen,” a quiet voice spoke up behind her.
Arwen turned and smiled down at Merry, brushing an unruly lock of hair back from her face. “Thank you, Merry,” she said quietly. “Did you find out anything?”
Merry dropped his eyes and shook his head. “No,” he whispered softly.
Arwen hid her own disappointment and tried to cheer the small hobbit. “I am sure they will all be just fine,” she said encouragingly, glancing once more toward the sinking sun. “We must give them more time.”
Merry just nodded and did not answer.
“Where are Sam and Frodo?” Arwen asked curiously.
Merry at last raised his eyes from the floor and met Arwen’s gaze. “Faramir set up a place where the soldiers can go to rest and get something to eat,” he explained, “Sam and Frodo are helping out there.”
Arwen nodded, then continued to work her way down the beds of injured soldiers. Merry followed after, helping the elf princess by fetching fresh bandages or water. He liked having something to do. It kept his mind off his worry for Pippin and the others. Yet the further the sun sunk toward the horizon, the more worried Merry became, until he was unable to keep his mind on his task. He nearly spilled the water twice, and Arwen had to call his name several times before she managed to get his attention.
Merry smiled at her apologetically, but it was obvious that he was greatly troubled. “I’m sorry,” he said self-consciously, unable to meet Arwen’s eyes. “I just have this horrible feeling that something dreadful has happened, and that I am never going to see him again,” he explained in a choked voice, trying desperately to control his emotions.
Arwen knelt before him, placing both hands on his shoulders. “You must not give in to despair, Merry,” she said softly, “for if you do, than Malek has won!”
Merry nodded, blinking rapidly to clear his eyes of moisture. “I know,” he whispered. “It is just so hard. I do not understand how you can remain so calm.”
Arwen laughed softly, her eyes showing a deep sadness. “It is not easy, my small friend,” she replied gently. “Yet I have had years of practice while this is still new to you. Have faith, Merry, for if we do not look to the future and prepare, there may be no future.”
Merry felt himself shiver at her words, but he quickly pushed aside his feelings of despair and looked up at Arwen with fresh determination. “What do you want me to do?” he asked quietly.
Legolas moved swiftly and silently through the mass of heavy boulders and underbrush that marked the small trail he was following. His eyes remained focused on the ground beneath him as he searched desperately for any sign of Pippin among the tracks of orcs. He guessed that he had traveled only some fifty yards away from the spot where Aragorn and he had split up, yet the path he followed twisted and turned so much that the small glade was lost to sight.
He could sense the presence of orcs nearby, yet not so near as to cause him immediate alarm. His bow remained strapped to his back, but he held one of his knives before him, his entire body tense and watchful for anything out of the ordinary.
He did not like the fact that he and Aragorn had been forced to split up, yet he could see no other way. The sun was sinking fast, and there was simply not enough time to explore both orc trails together. This way was more dangerous, yet if it allowed them to find Pippin, or at least find out what had happened to him, than it was worth the risk.
Legolas continued on, the ground beneath him beginning to climb upward. A few yards further down the path, the tracks led onto a high, rocky shelf. Legolas swore softly, as he realized the hard rock would make it nearly impossible to find the orc tracks, let alone any sign of Pippin. He glanced about him, uncertain whether to press on in the hopes of picking up the trail on the other side of the shelf, or turning back. He did not want to turn back if there was any chance of missing Pippin, yet wandering around with night fast approaching was neither safe, nor wise.
Legolas remained motionless for a few moments, indecision tearing at him. He could only hope that Aragorn had had more luck than he had. ‘And if not…’ Legolas did not allow himself to finish the thought.
He glanced to his left, where the path fell away in a steep drop off perhaps twenty yards from where he stood. The ledge looked over the valley he had just come from, as well as offering a wide view of much of the land around him. Legolas moved closer to the edge, hoping to see some sign of Aragorn, or perhaps the orc party he hunted. He was careful to keep the setting sun to his back, the bright glare offering a shield in case any unfriendly eyes were turned upward to the rock shelf.
When Legolas reached the edge of the rock face, he dropped to his knees, his eyes searching the valley below for any sign of movement. His sharp eyes perused every dark shadow and every clump of trees for some sign of the enemy. Everything in the valley seemed completely still and calm, and yet Legolas sensed that something was out of place. An unnatural quiet had settled over the mountain, and he felt a strange tenseness in the land about him.
Legolas remained kneeling at the cliff edge for several more minutes before his senses alerted him that he was no longer alone upon the rock face. He rose and turned swiftly, raising his knife, his eyes scanning the shadows of the path he had just come up. Before he could even consider finding a place to hide, a cloaked form came into view around a bend in the trail, heading straight toward where Legolas stood.
Legolas tensed, and then suddenly relaxed, his knife lowering to his side as he recognized Aragorn. His friend was walking with his head bent toward the ground, and Legolas knew that he had not been spotted yet. He frowned, wondering why Aragorn had followed him. Perhaps the man had found something, yet why had he not whistled as they had planned.
‘Something is not right,’ Legolas thought as he continued to watch his friend’s approach. He found it very strange that Aragorn had yet to look up from the path, and all his senses seemed to be screaming at him that something was wrong. He looked behind Aragorn, thinking that the ex-ranger was being followed. Nothing moved on the path behind his friend, yet Legolas could not shake the feeling that something evil was approaching.
His frown deepened as Aragorn turned from the main path at exactly the spot that Legolas had earlier, still without raising his head. “Aragorn,” he called out softly, trying to get his friend’s attention.
Aragorn paid no attention to Legolas’s call, but continued walking forward with bowed head.
“Aragorn,” Legolas repeated, this time a little louder, his voice echoing with his uncertainty.
Still Aragorn strode forward with no sign that he had heard Legolas, and with head still bowed to the ground. He was now only a couple of yards away.
Legolas was truly becoming alarmed, and his raging senses were confusing him. He found himself raising his knife once more and taking a small step back, aware of the drop off directly behind him. “Aragorn,” he said one last time, his voice firm and controlled this time, and full of demand.
At last, the figure before him raised it’s head, and Legolas found himself staring deep into the blackest eyes he had ever seen as a wave of cold evil washed over him and fought to entrap him in a prison of ice.
‘Malek,’ was Legolas’s only thought as he fought to free himself from the cold settling over him. The creature, still in Aragorn’s form, was slowly approaching, a long knife held in its hand, an evil grin upon its face. Legolas fought against panic and forced himself to remember Aragorn’s words on how to free himself from Malek’s evil stare. With a great effort he wrenched his eyes from the creature approaching and flung himself to the side.
The ice around him seemed to shatter and the next thing Legolas was aware of was landing hard on his side upon the ground, his knife miraculously still clenched in his fist. He did not stay in that position for long, instinctively rolling onto his knees and raising his knife above him, just in time to block the downward thrust of Malek’s weapon.
Legolas’s arm shook with the force of the blow, yet with a great effort he thrust back, knocking Malek away from him and giving him the precious seconds he needed to gain his feet. Malek stood a few paces away, an evil expression on his face, a mix of glee and hate. Legolas could not help the feeling of horror that washed over him at seeing such an evil expression through the features of a friend. He had to remind himself that it was not Aragorn with whom he fought, but a creature of complete evil.
“Time to play, elf,” Malek hissed, and Legolas felt a shiver run down his spine.
Malek sprang forward once more, dagger sweeping out, and only Legolas’s lightning reflexes kept him from being cut in two. He sprang back, sweeping out his knife to parry Malek’s next attack, then stepped forward to begin his own assault. Every movement was quick and precise, as the two combatants began a fluid dance of attack and retreat. Legolas was somewhat surprised to find that he and Malek seemed evenly matched. At least, Malek was forced to go on the defensive just as much as Legolas was. This seemed extremely odd to the elf, for he knew all about Aragorn’s fight with the creature. He wondered at first if Malek was merely toying with him, as he had with Aragorn, and yet it did not seem so to him. He was not given the opportunity to ponder this, however, for the fight with Malek was taking all his concentration and effort.
He twisted smoothly away from yet another attack, dancing backward a few steps before pressing forward once more. He ducked a swing of Malek’s knife, coming up under the blow and slashing out at the creature’s arm. Malek hissed as the elf’s knife cut a shallow groove along his arm, and he backed away a few steps, staring at Legolas with pure hatred.
Legolas considered pressing forward, using the advantage of first blood to throw his enemy off guard, and yet he also desperately needed a brief respite with which to catch his breath. The two combatants regarded each other warily from a few feet apart, their chests heaving and sweat evident on both faces. Legolas realized with a thrill of hope that Malek was not healing himself, and he could only attribute this to the fact that the sun was still out. Malek did not have all his powers.
At last Malek smiled cruelly, lifting his arm and licking the slow flow of blood from the cut. “It has been a while since I’ve tasted elf blood,” the creature hissed. “I shall enjoy killing you and feeding upon your sweet blood.”
Before Legolas could respond, the figure before him began to change, the form of Aragorn melting away and being replaced by something much more hideous. Legolas’s features twisted with horror as the form of Malek was revealed to him for the first time. The creature stood upright upon two legs, and two arms hung at its side, yet all semblances to humans stopped there. Malek’s skin was completely black and hung upon him like some leathery scale. His arms were longer than any humans and seemed to bend at two joints instead of one. Long hands ended in four sharp claws that thrust forward like knives. His head was formed much like that of a dog, with a long, ugly muzzle, a high forehead, and pointed ears. Dagger sharp teeth glinted in the fading light as Malek leered at Legolas, and hate-filled eyes glowed almost yellow.
Legolas raised his knife, pulling his second blade from its sheath, a myriad of emotions running through him all at once. He was surprised that Malek had dared attack while the sun was still out, and he was certain that Malek’s reduced powers were due to this fact. He was also certain that each minute the sun sunk lower, Malek would gain more power until he once more became invincible. Legolas had to find a way to destroy him before that time. He was being offered an opportunity to rid the world of a horrible creature, and he could not fail.
Legolas saw a glint in Malek’s eyes, and knew the creature was about to attack once more. He took a quick step back, filling his lungs and letting out a shrill whistle, the sound carrying the message of urgency and danger. He prepared to whistle yet again, but Malek attacked once more with growing intensity, and Legolas soon found himself fighting for his life. He set his mind fully to the task of defeating the creature before him, or at least holding him off until help could arrive.
‘If help arrives,’ Legolas thought, desperately hoping and praying that Aragorn had heard his cry for aid and would arrive in time.
Behind the two struggling combatants, the sun slowly inched further and further toward the horizon.
Aragorn had only gone about one hundred yards down the trail when he heard the sharp whistle. He had been heading steadily east, following the trail of orcs and searching for any sign of Pippin. As of yet, he had found no sign, and the further he went, the slower his steps became as an odd feeling had come over him. He could not explain the feeling, yet he had found himself strangely reluctant to go on.
Now, his entire body stood frozen and tense, listening. The whistle had been distant, yet the message clear, and Aragorn remained motionless only a moment before turning and beginning to race back up the path he had come. He ignored the branches and brush that tore at his clothes, and his feet seemed to barely touch the ground in his haste.
He reached the clearing where he and Legolas had separated and only took a moment to orient himself before taking off again down the path Legolas had gone. His heart was racing and he barely paid attention to the land around him in his haste to reach Legolas. He listened carefully for another whistle, yet when he heard nothing, his fears only grew.
He found that he had to slow his pace somewhat to make sure that he was indeed following the right path. He unsheathed his sword, using the sharp blade to hack away any brush or branches that got in his way. He grew more desperate to reach Legolas as each second of silence passed, and his breath came in short, sharp gasps.
He had gone about fifty yards from the clearing when the ground began to slope upwards, the path clearing a bit. Aragorn picked up his speed once more, debating whether or not to call out to his friend. He guessed that he was nearing the place where the whistle had come from, and he kept alert, his eyes searching each side of the path for any sign of Legolas.
Aragorn rounded a tight corner of the path, and then froze at the sight before him. Thirty yards down the trail, balancing perilously on the edge of a steep drop off, Legolas was locked in desperate combat with a dark creature. It took only a second for everything to register in Aragorn’s mind before he was moving once more, calling out his presence to Legolas.
Legolas heard the call, but was too busy fighting for his life to respond or even turn and look toward Aragorn. He had been right, and as the sun had sunk lower, Malek had seemed to grow stronger, forcing Legolas more and more into the defensive. The elf was covered in sweat and blood from numerous cuts, and yet he felt a wave of relief hit him as he heard Aragorn’s call. He glanced desperately toward the sinking sun, knowing that time was swiftly running out.
Malek also had heard Aragorn’s call, and the creature let out a hiss of anger. Legolas thought he saw doubt flicker briefly in the creature’s eyes as Malek also looked toward the sun.
“Now your game is over,” Legolas gasped, his sharp ears picking up the sound of Aragorn racing toward them.
Malek hissed for a second time, and then a strange light entered the creature’s eyes. Legolas felt a thrill of warning a second before Malek leapt forward once more. Legolas slashed out with his knife, cutting deeply into the skin of Malek’s chest, yet the creature seemed to hardly notice as he closed in on the elf and wrapped him in a bear hug.
Legolas felt all the air leave his lungs at once, Malek’s weight driving him backwards. He heard Aragorn’s shout of warning a second before he felt the ground give beneath his feet.
Aragorn was still several yards away and could only let out a shout, watching in horror as Legolas, still wrapped in Malek’s arms, tumbled from the rocky face and disappeared from sight.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.