Dark Horizons: 18. Capture

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18. Capture

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.

 

Time seemed to stand still, then speed up as the sun’s last rays disappeared behind the horizon, casting the land in the darkness of night.  Aragorn’s cry of warning and dismay echoed through the mountains as he stumbled forward, his eyes glued disbelievingly to the spot where Legolas had disappeared over the cliff edge.  His heart seemed to have stopped beating, and he struggled to breathe past the knot of fear that had formed in his throat.  ‘Too late,’ his mind screamed, ‘I’m too late!’

 

His entire body seemed to have gone numb, and as he neared the edge of the cliff, his steps slowed of their own accord.  He dreaded what he would see; yet at the same time, he had to know. 

 

Aragorn was still a few steps away from the cliff edge when he heard loud shouts coming from the opposite end of the rock shelf.  He whirled, his body instantly becoming alert as he made out the forms of several orcs making their way across the rocky outcropping in his direction.  A strange rage seemed to suddenly fill his veins, coursing through him like the uncontrollable torrents of a flooded river.  His grief and anguish seemed to coalesce, building and forming into a bitter fury, completely blocking out all thought and reasoning.  He raised his sword, letting out a hoarse shout and strode forward to meet his enemies.

 

The small company of orcs that rushed toward him were not prepared for the vehemence of Aragorn’s attack, and they were soon falling back before his wrath.  For his part, Aragorn was barely aware of the orcs around him as he swung and hacked at them with his sword.  His mind was fighting a battle of its own, trying to break clear of the swell of emotion that boiled dangerously throughout his body.

 

Aragorn was not sure whether minutes or hours had passed when he suddenly found himself alone upon the rock shelf once more, the ground around him littered with the bodies of dead orcs.  He was covered in sweat and blood, though whether the blood was his own or his victim’s, Aragorn was not sure, nor did he particularly care.  His breath came in hard gasps and his entire body seemed to tremble with unreleased emotion. He could distantly make out the sound of more orcs racing up the path towards him, shouting to each other in their harsh tongue.  He stood waiting for them, a fey light in his eyes and his bloody sword raised and ready.

 

It was at this time that a soft breeze swept through the mountains, carried from the lower plains and smelling of life and freshness.  The gentle gust of air seemed to whisper soothingly through the trees surrounding the rock face before continuing on to wrap around the lone man, caressing his face and chasing away the foul stench of death and blood.  Almost unwillingly, Aragorn drew in a deep breath, the cool breeze filling him with a strange peacefulness as his sword arm lowered and his body relaxed.

 

It was but a moment, which was quickly shattered by the approaching shouts of orcs, yet it was all that was needed.  Aragorn raised his sword once more, but the fire that had previously run through his veins was now gone, his reasoning slowly returning.  He could tell from the shouts that the approaching orc party was much larger than the first, and too many for him to defeat on his own.

 

Aragorn knew that he had two choices; he could stay and fight, in which case he would surely perish, or he could flee.  His mind baulked at the idea of running, yet somehow he knew it was really the only choice.  Someone had to get news of what had happened back to Calembel, and Aragorn seemed to be the only one left.

 

This thought caused a wrench of grief so strong it bordered on physical pain, and Aragorn had to fight down his anguish once more.  ‘Do not think,’ he told himself firmly, ‘Do not feel.’  He had to survive, if not for himself, then for those that awaited back within the city.  ‘If they do not fall this night, as well,’ he thought bitterly before he forced his mind blank once more.

 

The shouts of the orcs were drawing nearer, and Aragorn knew that he had to get out of there fast, or there would be no escape at all.  He glanced over his shoulder, back the way he had come.  There was something he had to do before he left, something he had to find out, despite the dread that stole through him at the very idea.  He turned and began working his way swiftly back toward the cliff edge, still fighting to keep his mind free from the torrent of emotions that ripped at him.

 

He had only taken a few paces, however, when an arrow flew from the darkness and clattered loudly to the stone directly behind him.  Aragorn whirled as a hail of others followed the first arrow, the black darts bouncing and clattering off the rocks all around him.  Aragorn swore, and then began to run toward the cliff edge once more, trying to ignore the shafts in his desperation to find out what had happened to Legolas. 

 

This, however, was not to be.  Aragorn had only taken a few more steps when one of the arrows found their mark.  He stumbled forward, a cry involuntarily leaving his lips as the arrow slammed into his side, tearing a deep gash through his flesh.  The force of the blow nearly knocked him to his knees, and his hand flew to the wound, feeling the warm flow of blood over his fingers.  The arrow had only grazed him, yet the cut was deep and was already bleeding heavily.

 

Aragorn realized that while he remained upon the rock shelf he was an open target, and the closer the orcs got, the better their chances of hitting him, even when shooting in the dark.  He had to reach the cover of the path, and soon, or there would be no escape. 

 

Giving one last glance toward the cliff edge, Aragorn let out a sob of frustration and pain before turning and racing back toward the path he had come up earlier in his search for Legolas.  He knew that he could very well be racing straight into another orc party, yet he had to take that chance.  Hearing the sound of the orcs in hot pursuit, Aragorn pressed forward even faster, gritting his teeth against the pain in his side.  Arrows continued to land all about him, and Aragorn tensed, expecting one of the black darts to strike him any second. 

 

Yet somehow, miraculously, no more of the arrows found their mark as Aragorn at last reached the relative shelter of the path.  His wound was sending burning fingers of fire up his side, yet he forced himself to continue running, slowly leaving the shouts of the orcs behind. 

 

He raced on for several minutes, his senses alert for any sign of orcs before him while still paying attention to those behind.  As soon as the ground leveled out, he left the main path, slowing his pace just enough to weave silently and carefully through the boulders, scrub, and underbrush surrounding him.  His breathing was ragged, and the pain in his side was growing in intensity.  He could feel the slow trickle of blood down his ribs, and he knew the wound would need tending to soon, before blood loss made him too weak.

 

As the minutes dragged on, it took all the skills Aragorn had learned as a Ranger to remain ahead of his pursuers and to hide his trail.  He kept his mind a careful blank, refusing to allow any thought or emotion to steal his senses.  He knew it would be a miracle if he somehow managed to survive the night.  He was alone and wounded in mountains that literally swarmed with orcs, and he could feel himself getting weaker and weaker with each passing moment.

 

Stumbling to a halt beside a giant tree, Aragorn leaned back against the support, closing his eyes and breathing heavily.  He listened carefully for any sound of those that hunted him, yet he heard nothing.  Still, the night was far too quiet, and Aragorn knew that danger remained close. 

 

He took the opportunity of his brief rest to carefully examine the wound on his side as well as he could in the dark.  The cut was deep and ran diagonally down his left ribs, fresh blood oozing out with every breath he took.  His tunic was stained dark with it, and Aragorn realized he would have to be careful not to leave a trail of blood for the orcs to follow.  Of course, if they drew close enough, they would not need a trail, for the scent alone would lead them directly to him.

 

 ‘I will just have to make sure they don’t get close enough,’ Aragorn thought grimly, raising his head and looking around him.  It was difficult to see far in any direction, due more to the uneven terrain than the darkness of night.  The tree he rested against stood alone amidst a small thicket of underbrush and tall grass that poked their way up through the hard ground of the mountain.  The tree looked mostly dead, it’s bark rough and its branches showing few signs of life.  Aragorn studied it closely, searching for any way to use the tree’s height to further extend his vision.  The nearest branch sturdy enough to hold his weight towered at least ten feet above the ground, and Aragorn knew it was too far to even attempt, wounded as he was.

 

‘If Legolas were here, he could make it up this with no effort.’  The thought had come unbidden and Aragorn winced.  He knew the torment this line of thought would bring and so he savagely thrust it aside, focusing once more on his own survival.

 

In the distance, he could just make out the dark shadow of a high peak rising to his left.  Pushing away from the tree, Aragorn began making his way in that direction, deciding to work his way back toward the rock face of the mountain in the hopes of reaching a deep cave or cavern in which to hide.  He knew that the longer he remained out in the open, the slimmer his chances of survival became.  He had to find shelter, and fast.

 

Shouts and loud horns began blaring distantly back from the direction he had come, and Aragorn pushed his tired body into a fast jog.  His eyes scanned the tall rock face before him, searching for the dark opening of a cave where he could retreat and tend his wounds, both those seen and unseen

 

******

 

Falling…

 

It was strange, but he had no memory of that.  No memory of the endless seconds it must have taken as his body hurtled toward the ground.  Nor did he have any memory of actually striking the bottom.  It was as if his body continued to float in air, separated and distant from reality.  His mind drifted somewhere between awake and unconscious, his thoughts skipping across the black void like small stones across a still pond.

 

A slow tingling swept through his body, feeling as if a thousand small needles were poking into his flesh.  The sensation was not painful, but it wasn’t particularly comfortable either, and he instinctively attempted to shy away from it, retreating back into the deeper blackness of his mind.

 

Several minutes passed before his mind began to drift once more toward consciousness, encountering the tingling sensation yet again, but this time unable to retreat from it.  The closer he drew to complete wakefulness, the more intense the sensation became, changing from mere uncomfortable to painful.  The needles, which had seemed soft at first, now seemed to be stabbing into his body, leaving no part of him untouched from their fierce attack.

 

Legolas groaned, his eyelids fluttering slightly, his entire body on fire.  Everything hurt, and as Legolas once more gained consciousness and his memory returned, he could not keep back yet another groan.  His eyes fluttered open, then immediately shut as a wave of nausea struck him.  He swallowed hard, fighting down the bile that rose in his throat.  Several minutes passed before he was once more able to open his eyes, then several more seconds before the world stopped spinning and tilting in his vision. 

 

Legolas could tell by the darkness around him that the sun had set some time ago.  Even so, his vision seemed unusually dim, a fact that sent a surge of fear through him.  He could barely make out his surroundings, and even had it been dead of night, his vision should have been keener than that.  His head ached terribly, merging with the pain from the rest of his body.

 

Legolas squinted upward, making out the dim outline of the cliff rising above him.  He was amazed that he had lived after a fall from such a great height, and he supposed he owed this to the fact that he had somehow managed to fall on a thick patch of fern growing near the base of the cliff.  Large boulders and hard rock surrounded the patch on both sides, proving just how lucky he had been.  If he had fallen just a few more feet to either side, he most likely would not have survived. 

 

Distantly, he wondered what had happened to Malek.  He was fairly certain the dark creature had fallen from the cliff with him, yet his senses told him that he was now alone.  He seriously doubted that the fall had managed to kill Malek, yet this made him wonder where exactly the creature was, and why he had not finished Legolas off while the elf lay unconscious?  Had he thought Legolas dead?  It didn't seem likely that he would have left without first making sure.  A thousand questions ran through Legolas's mind, and had no answer to any of them, so he decided to put them aside for the time being.

 

Gritting his teeth in pain, Legolas set about discovering the extent of damage to his body.  He closed his eyes, relaxing into the thick bed of fern, and stealing himself against the pain he knew was coming.  Then, slowly, starting at his feet and moving up, he began to systematically flex and squeeze the muscles of his body.  The process was a slow and painful one, and Legolas kept his eyes squeezed tightly shut throughout the whole ordeal, his breath coming in and out in short rasps.

 

His entire body was obviously quite beaten and bruised, yet the majority of his pain seemed to focus on three spots; his left knee, his right side, and his head.  Taking a deep breath, Legolas pushed himself into a sitting position, fighting off the dizziness and nausea that once more assailed him.  He raised a shaking hand to his head, wincing when his fingers came in contact with a large lump above his left temple.  When he once more lowered his hand, his palm came away wet and sticky with blood. 

 

Legolas glanced around him, moving his head slowly so as not to aggravate the throbbing pain in his temples.  He spotted a large boulder resting a few feet away and began to scoot his reluctant body in that direction.  When he at last reached it, he reclined his body painfully against the rough stone, taking a few minutes to catch his breath before conducting a more thorough examination of his injuries.

 

His tunic was torn and dirty and the skin appearing through the rips was bruised and scratched.  Legolas skimmed over these lesser wounds, moving on to the spot on his side where pain radiated with every breath he took.  Gently he lifted his tunic, examining the wound.  A bruise about the size of Gimli's head covered his ribs; the skin already turned a bright blue and purple. From the pain each breath caused, he reasoned that the ribs beneath were seriously bruised, if not broken.  He could vaguely remember striking against an outcrop of rock during his fall, and guessed that this wound was a product of that encounter.

 

Letting out a painful sigh, Legolas continued his inspection, running his hands carefully down his left leg until he reached his knee.  He could already tell the limb was horribly swollen, and he wondered vaguely how he would manage to walk with a wrenched knee.

 

He knew that he had already remained in one place far longer that what was safe, especially with Malek and his orcs wandering about.  He still could not understand where Malek had gone or why the creature had left him untouched; yet he was not about to question his good luck so far.  Nor did he intend to press that luck.  He had to find a place to hide and spend the night, for he knew his time was swiftly running out.  He could sense orcs nearby, and knew they were drawing closer with each wasted minute.  He was worried about Aragorn, and hoped the ranger had managed to find Pippin and work his way to safety.

 

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Legolas prepared to rise.  It took him three tries to gain his feet, and when he was finally standing, he feared he would pass out again.  Black dots danced across his vision and his head pounded so painfully he felt like throwing up.  To top it all off, his knee was sending fingers of fire up and down his leg, throwing him off balance as he tried to keep his weight off the injured limb.  It was a miracle that he managed to remain standing as he swayed back and forth, trying to fight off the screaming complaints of his body.

 

When he had at last managed to somewhat gain control of his body, he glanced around for something he could use as a staff or crutch to aid his walking.  He found a long branch lying a few feet off, and managed to limp to it, then somehow bend over and retrieve it.  This simple task left him drained and pale, and he once again wondered how he would manage to escape from this place and find some shelter.

 

He could sense the orcs drawing nearer and nearer, and his eyes desperately sought for any sign of his weapons.  His luck remained with him, for he was able to find one of his knives, half hidden in the same bed of fern in which he had landed.  He searched for his bow, yet could find no sign of the weapon.  This greatly upset him, for the bow had been a gift from Galadriel, lady of Lorien, and he had treasured it dearly. 

 

Realizing that his continued search was merely wasting precious time, Legolas reluctantly set out away from the cliff, heading east along the easiest path he could find.  His entire body screamed in protest at every step, yet somehow, Legolas managed to continue on, stumbling forward and nearly falling on several occasions.  He could feel his body radiating with unusual heat, and knew he had a fever, a testimony to how badly he had been hurt.  Elves very rarely caught fever, and when they did, they were able to heal quickly.  His usually graceful movements were slow and choppy, and his sharp mind and senses were quickly becoming fogged with pain.

 

It was partly due to this fact that Legolas did not hear the band of orcs until they were nearly upon him.  When his mind at last registered their presence, he looked around him wildly, searching for a place to hide.  Unfortunately, his pounding head was not prepared for the quick movement, and he stumbled back as his vision suddenly went black.  He managed to catch himself against the trunk of a tree, unable to stop a hiss of pain as his weight landed on his bad leg.  He could hear the steady tramp of the orcs moving down the trail toward him and he once more looked around for a place to hide.

 

Too late.  The lead orc rounded the bend in the path, stopping short as he caught sight of the lone elf leaning against the tree directly before him.  This orc was soon joined by its companions as they stood regarding their find.

 

Legolas raised his knife, blinking rapidly in an attempt to clear his vision.  He had neither his balance nor his wits about him, and the lead orc must have sensed this, for he smiled maliciously, motioning to his companions to fan out and flank the elf.

 

Distantly, Legolas realized that he was in a lot of trouble, as he desperately tried to come up with a plan of escape.  However, it seemed as if a dark cloud had settled over his mind, affecting both his thoughts and his vision.  The faces of the orcs were nothing but blurs as they crept closer, and Legolas had to fight down his rising panic.

 

He swiped out with his knife, hoping to keep the creatures at bay, yet they only laughed at his feeble attempt, dodging his swing and creeping in closer. 

 

It was almost pitiful; a lone, injured elf, attempting to fight off nearly a dozen large, heavily armed orcs, with only a single long knife to aid him.  The fight did not last long, as all the orcs converged upon Legolas at once, driving the elf to the ground and easily disarming him.

 

Pain and exhaustion warred within Legolas, leaving little room for fear as he waited for the final blow that would end his life.  When several seconds had passed and still the blow had not come, Legolas at last raised his head, looking up into the smirking face of the orc captain standing above him.

 

"Get up," the orc snarled nastily in his own tongue, the words sounding harsh in Legolas's ears.

 

When the elf made no move to obey but merely stared blankly up at him, the orc captain reached down and tangled his hand in the long, blond hair.  With a cruel yank, he forced Legolas to his feet, motioning two of his companions forward to hold the elf upright.

 

Legolas fought to keep from crying out at the combined pain of his head injury, and the agony from his leg.  He refused to give the orc captain the satisfaction of knowing how badly he hurt.

 

The orc reached forward, grabbing Legolas cruelly by the chin and forcing the elf to look at him.  His sharp nails dug into the soft flesh of the elf's jaw, and the orc smiled as Legolas involuntarily flinched.

 

"Where is your companion?" the orc captain demanded, gripping his prisoner's jaw even tighter.

 

It took Legolas a few seconds to realize that the orc was speaking of Aragorn.  A thrill of hope ran through him; if the orcs were looking for Aragorn, it meant the ranger had not yet been caught.  He met the orcs dark eyes with a defiant gaze of his own, his jaw firmly clenched.

 

The orc’s eyes narrowed.  He released Legolas's jaw a second before his fist slammed into the elf's side, directly over his bruised ribs.  Legolas could not stop his cry of pain, and he would have doubled over had he not been held upright by the two orcs on either side of him. 

 

The orc captain laughed, grabbing Legolas's chin once more and forcing the elf's pain clouded eyes upward.  "Know this, elf," he hissed maliciously.  "My master sent me out to retrieve you and bring you back to him.  A few minutes with him, and you shall quickly loose all your arrogance.  You will bow at his feet and beg for mercy."

 

Legolas met the hate filled eyes of the orc, attempting to hide the fear that ran through him at the creature’s words.  "I will bow to no one," he grated out, his eyes still flashing with defiance.  He tensed, expecting another blow, yet to his surprise, the orc merely laughed.

 

"We shall soon see," the orc replied, reaching out and placing his thumb firmly against his prisoner's chest.  Slowly, never losing his evil grin, the orc began to apply pressure, pushing his finger up beneath Legolas's sternum and against the elf's lungs. 

 

The pain was excruciating, and Legolas was unable even to cry out as the pressure built.  His eyes blurred with tears of agony, and the last thing he heard before he lost consciousness was the evil laughter of his orc captors.

 

*****

 

Pippin huddled quiet and miserable beneath the leaves of a giant tree, his cloak wrapped about him in a feeble attempt for warmth.  The hobbit remained completely motionless, fearful that any movement would merely draw the attention of his captors. 

 

Both his hands and feet were firmly bound by a thick rope, the cord digging painfully into his skin and making it impossible to find a comfortable position.  Not that he would have dared move anyway. 

 

After his capture, he had been bound, thrown roughly over an orc’s shoulder, carried for several hours, and at last tossed unceremoniously beneath this tree.  The orcs had set a single guard over him, and then for the most part ignored him.  Not that Pippin minded.  He much preferred being ignored to the alternative.  He was surprised that the orcs had not just killed him, and his mind quailed at the thought of what else they planned to do to him.

 

Unbidden, his mind went back to the last time he had been captured by a band of orcs.  The memory was not a very nice one, and Pippin did not look forward to repeating the experience.  Then, he had had his best friend Merry with him, and the two had found a way to escape.  Now, however, alone as he was, he doubted there would be any chance of that.  He wondered what Merry would say if his friend knew of his present predicament.  At last, he shook his head, for he knew exactly what Merry would say.  He would call Pippin five kinds of fool and then refuse to speak to him for a week.

 

'Not that I wouldn't deserve it,' Pippin thought glumly. 'After all, Gandalf would say that I brought this all down upon my own head.  No one forced me to leave the city and follow Aragorn and Legolas.  I should have known that something like this would come of my foolish actions.  Now, I might not see any of them again.'

 

This thought was almost too much for Pippin, and he quickly forced his mind to something different. 

 

For a time, he kept his thoughts busy trying to figure out why the orcs had merely captured him, and not killed him.  However, his mind kept imagining worse and worse possibilities until he had to force his thoughts away from this as well.

 

His thoughts kept turning to Aragorn and Legolas, and his concern grew for his two friends.  He had been attacked shortly after they had entered the cave.  Pippin reckoned it to have been at least four hours ago.  The company of orcs had caught him unaware, yet he had fought bravely, managing to kill several of them before his capture. 

 

Now, however, he was worried about what Aragorn and Legolas might do when they exited the cave and found him missing.  He hoped that they would assume he had headed back to Calambel, yet somehow he doubted it.  Given time to think, Pippin realized that this all looked a little too much like a well planned trap, and he hoped that he was not being used as the bait to capture Aragorn and Legolas.  That would explain why he was still alive.

 

Pippin shook his head angrily, trying to fight back tears of frustration.  If anything happened to Aragorn and Legolas because of him, Pippin would never forgive himself.

 

He sat huddled quietly for several more minutes, his mind on these things, when the orcs around him began to move restlessly, murmuring to each other in their foul tongue. 

 

Pippin shifted nervously, watching the orcs beginning to mill about, all of them facing away from where he sat.  He briefly entertained the thought of escape, but before he could make any plans, his orc guard reached down and yanked him to his feet by his bound hands.

 

'It looks like we’re finally moving out,' Pippin thought resignedly.  Yet his guard remained motionless, gripping him tightly and staring in the same direction as his companions.  Pippin followed his gaze, realizing that something was moving through the trees toward the little party.  A desperate hope ran through him, and he watched the trees as intently as the others, wondering if his rescue was near at hand.

 

His hope faded, however, when one of the orcs in the party called out something and was immediately answered by a similar call from the forest.  Pippin watched with growing disappointment as a troop of orcs broke from the trees and began making their way toward the orcs that held him.

 

Suddenly, the hobbit stiffened, a cry of dismay falling from his lips, his eyes glued to the approaching party of orcs.  As they drew closer, it became obvious to Pippin that what he had seen was not a mistake, as he had dared to hope.  With this realization, his shoulders drooped and all hope abandoned him like the leaves abandon their trees come winter. 

 

His soft sob of despair was lost to the lonely night, completely drowned out by the orc's wild cheers of victory.


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.

Story Information

Author: littlefish

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/11/02

Original Post: 06/26/02

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