5. Fight in the Night
`Not this way! Not like this!' A voice screamed in Aragorn's head. `Fight it. FIGHT!'
Yet even as Aragorn's mind tore desperately at the invisible bonds that entrapped him, the dark elf drew back the bowstring and released the arrow.
Up on the hilltop, Legolas watched in dismay as Aragorn first noticed the stranger and called out a greeting. However, unlike his dream, Legolas remained inactive only for a second before sending Shandarell charging down the hill.
The camp at the other end of the valley seemed impossibly far, yet Shandarell, as if sensing his rider's urgency, ran faster than ever. His hoof beats were muted, and he seemed to be flying more than running over the uneven ground.
Legolas watched as the dark shadow threw back its hood, and a shudder ran through him as the creature was revealed. Yet he did not hesitate, reaching back and grabbing his bow and a single arrow.
Even as the elf-creature lifted its bow, pointing it at Aragorn, Legolas raised his own, ignoring the pain in his arm. Beneath him, Shandarell slowed, as if sensing the great evil that was before him. Legolas urged him on with legs and voice, and the brave horse continued forward, although his speed continued to slacken.
The dark elf was taking his time, toying with his frozen prey, and this allowed Legolas the precious seconds he needed. He knew he would need to get very close in order to make the shot in the nighttime darkness.
Two drawstrings were pulled back, and a black arrow was released, its purpose to bring pain and death. Yet only a heartbeat later, another arrow was released, this one with the purpose of life and hope.
Both arrows were shot with deadly accuracy, speeding toward their intended target. Yet only one struck true.
Legolas's shot slammed into the black arrow, sending it careening into the night, a mere foot in front of Aragorn!
Legolas felt a thrill of victory, but it was short lived. With startling speed, the dark elf spun and released another arrow, this time at Legolas.
Shandarell screamed and swerved, and Legolas threw himself sideways, off the horse's back, and away from the deadly path of the arrow.
He hit the ground hard, all the air leaving his lungs, his bow flying from his suddenly numb hand to land several feet away. He immediately tried to rise, but his body wasn't cooperating, and his vision had been replaced by a thousand sparkling dots.
As for Aragorn, the moment the dark creature had turned away from him, the invisible ice surrounding him seemed to shatter. He stumbled forward, gasping for air to fill his starved lungs. Beside him, Gimli fell to his knees, his own harsh breathing filling the air.
Aragorn felt a strong desire to join the dwarf on the ground. A great weariness washed over him, robbing him of all his strength. He looked up just in time to see Legolas fling himself from his horse's back, a black arrow narrowly missing the elf's head.
Pushing the feelings of weakness from him, Aragorn gathered his remaining strength. Drawing his sword, he leapt forward to his friend's aid.
Aragorn's movement brought Gimli back
to his senses. Gritting his teeth, he pushed himself to his feet and drew his
axe. Behind him, he heard the ring of metal as the guards drew their own
swords. Gimli was about to rush forward and join Legolas and Aragorn when a cry
from one of the hobbits caused him to turn.
The four halflings had not been unaffected by the dark elf's gaze. Pippin lay on the ground, a completely dazed look on his face. Merry and Sam were both little better off, though they had managed to make it to their knees. Frodo alone remained standing, and he swayed as if he were about to fall over any second. It was he who had cried out, for he had drawn his blade, Sting, which now shone brightly in the dark night.
Frodo met Gimli's eyes across the flickering flame of the campsite, the same thought running between the two.
"Orcs!" The word had barely left Gimli's mouth when they attacked, swarming out of the shadows, and down off the hills, their howls chilling the blood. Gimli hesitated, torn between the helpless hobbits before him, and his desire to go to Legolas. His hesitation lasted only a second, before he leapt forward. He grabbed Pippin and yanked the shaken hobbit to his feet. "Stand up, for we have a fight before us!"
Frodo helped Merry and Sam up as the rest of the guards circled round. They formed a small, pitiful island against the wave of orcs charging them.
"Stay together," Gimli shouted. "Do not let them separate us! And stay close to the camp fire." He tried to glance over to where he had last seen Legolas and Aragorn, but at just that moment the first wave of orcs reached them. Gimli stuck out with his axe, the force of his blow knocking down two of the creatures. Beside him, the hobbits clustered back to back, striking out at any orc that strayed too close.
Gimli realized that the only thing that saved them from being completely overrun was the fact that the orcs had not stopped to group together. If they had, the little company would have been quickly overcome. As it was, the orcs' attack was scattered. Still, they came upon them in waves, and fight was quickly becoming desperate.
Gimli yanked his axe free from the chest of one orc, then spun and decapitated another of the foul creatures with one blow. All his previous weariness was gone, replaced by the fire of battle. He knew he would not likely survive this battle, yet he intended on taking as many of these foul creatures as possible to the grave with him. Bellowing his war cry, Gimli charged into a group of orcs, his axe hacking left and right.
The hobbits were faring quite well. They hung behind the first defense line formed by Gimli and the guards, taking care of any orcs that managed to break through. The dark blood of the creatures muted Sting's bright glow, but Frodo didn't have the time or inclination to wipe the blade clean.
Beside him, Sam suddenly cried out, dropping to his knees, his hands going to a deep cut above his left eye. The wound was already beginning to gush blood, turning the side of the hobbit's face scarlet. The orc who had dealt the blow lunged forward, intent on finishing the job. The three remaining hobbits leapt to Sam's aid, and so fierce was their attack that the creature fell back from them, before Pippin's blade ended its life. Sam stumbled back to his feet, holding his sword resolutely in his shaking hand.
Another, larger wave of orcs crashed into the small company, sending them stumbling backwards, yet somehow they managed to stay together. However, time was quickly running out for them.
After Aragorn had broken free from his prison of ice, he had
immediately drawn his sword and raced to aid his friend.
He reached Legolas's side, and knelt down next to the fallen elf. His friend was conscious, but seemed to be struggling for breath. His shoulder was bent at an odd angle, and his eyes were glazed and unfocused. Aragorn looked up to the place where his enemy stood.
The dark elf had lowered its bow, and now stood regarding him, an evil smile playing across his face.
As Aragorn once again looked upon the creature, he felt the wave of evil and intense cold try to entrap him a second time. Yet he had broken free once, and he refused to be bound again.
"Has the little elf fallen off his horse?" The question was cold and mocking, and the voice low and full of evil. "I hope he is not hurt too bad. It will take all the fun out of torturing him later on!"
Aragorn rose and met the creature's gaze full on. They were several yards out from the light of the campfire, yet Aragorn somehow still noticed that the dark elf's eyes were completely black, with no sign of pupils. "You will have to pass me first!" he declared, his voice firm and with no hint of fear.
The dark elf merely laughed, the evil sound sending cold fingers of ice down Aragorn's back. Vaguely, he became aware of harsh shouts behind him and the sound of metal clashing against metal. He paid little heed, however, for he was in his own battle, and might as well have been in another world for all the attention he gave to his surroundings. Raising his arm, he lunged forward; his sword sweeping around in a perfect arc aimed at the creature's head.
The elf-creature moved with the speed of a cat, darting out of range of Aragorn's sword, and causing the blade to sweep through empty air.
Aragorn was too good of a swordsman to be thrown off balance by such a simple and expected move. Using his forward momentum, he pivoted on the balls of his feet, spinning smoothly, before coming to rest facing the dark elf. His feet were spread wide, his sword raised before him, his entire body the perfect picture of strength and grace.
Once again, the dark elf laughed, the sound low and mocking. Long seconds passed, as the two merely stared at each other, then the black elf reached beneath his cloak and drew out a long, black sword. The weapon seemed to swallow all the light around it, blending into the dark creature behind it.
"And now, let us find out how long you can stand against me!" With these words, the dark elf sprang forward, quicker than lighting, slashing out with his sword. Yet Aragorn had expected such a move, and his own blade came up, meeting and blocking the blow. For an instant, the two were locked together, face to face, and the evil Aragorn felt emanating from the creature made his stomach turn.
The two flung apart, then came together again in a great flash of ringing blades, before separating once more.
Anyone watching the fight would have had to compare it more to a dance - a wild dance of strength and grace. Aragorn's movements were perfectly timed and perfectly executed, and for a time, it seemed as if he had the upper hand. After the first attack, the dark elf had gone on the defensive, seemingly completely absorbed with fending off Aragorn's attacks, and not mounting any of his own.
Yet no matter how hard Aragorn pressed him, the elf matched him move for move. Several minutes passed, and sweat soon covered his body, despite the cold night wind. It took all his strength to keep his movements even and smooth as his tired body began to rebel against the abuse it had taken this day. His breathing was harsh, and echoed in his ears. Yet even as Aragorn tired, it seemed as if the dark elf gained new strength. His movements became faster and faster.
Then suddenly, without warning, the dark elf switched to the attack, and Aragorn found himself hard pressed to keep that deadly blade away from him. His sword always came up a split second in time to block the other's weapon.
Suddenly, Aragorn realized the truth. The creature was much faster than he. In truth, much faster than anything Aragorn had ever faced before. The dark elf was only toying with him!
`He could finish me anytime he wants,' Aragorn thought, even as once more his sword blocked a blow only a split second before it reached him. He was exhausted, every muscle screaming in protest to the slightest movement. `But I will not allow him to have his way! He will not win with me.'
Even as the thought finished running through his head, Aragorn moved. Not away and back from the creature's sword, but instead, he pivoted forward, right into the path of the dark blade.
The dark elf was so surprised by the daring move that he hesitated slightly, his sword wavering just for an instant. It was just what Aragorn had been looking for. He continued his pivot, gritting his teeth in pain as he felt his enemy's sword cut deeply into the flesh of his ribs. Yet Aragorn had done what he wanted. The dark elf's sword was now on the wrong side of him, and there was nothing between his own blade and the hated creature's unprotected chest.
Aragorn thrust upward with all his remaining strength. Too late, the creature realized his error, and tried to dodge the sword thrust, but for the first time, he was not quite fast enough. Aragorn's blade bit deeply into the dark elf's chest, and the creature stumbled back, hissing in pain, dark blood bubbling out and down its chest.
Aragorn also stumbled backwards, gasping in pain as he felt his own blood soaking his shirt and flowing down his ribs.
Aragorn stared at the dark elf, waiting for the creature's next move. Although he had not managed to kill the creature, he believed that he had managed to grievously injure it. He could only hope he had caused more serious injury than he himself had attained.
The dark elf's next action took Aragorn completely by surprise. The creature began to laugh! At first, just short chuckles, but then it escalated into a full-blown bellow of mirth. Aragorn watched in disbelief, his heart sinking and all hope leaving him, as the wound on the elf began to close, mending itself until all that remained was the spots of blood on the creature's chest.
The dark elf's laugh cut off suddenly, but he continued to grin evilly as he looked at Aragorn. "Do you hear that?" the elf asked softly.
Aragorn once again became aware of the sound of fighting; yet he didn't even have the strength to turn and find its source. All his remaining strength had left him at the sight of the creature's wound closing in on itself.
The dark elf took a step closer. "That is the sound of my orcs, attacking your pitiful company. I am sure the battle will be over soon, and your friends will be nothing but meat for my hungry army's belly.
Aragorn tried to shake his head in denial, but his rebelling body would not even allow that small show of defiance.
"I think I will kill you now," the dark elf continued. "I will do it slowly, for you have caused me great inconvenience. And when I am finished with you, I will allow my orcs to have your little elf friend. I think they would greatly enjoy that, and they should have a reward for their deeds tonight.
"No," Aragorn finally managed, but his voice sounded weak, even to him. He sank to his knees, too weary and hopeless even to remain standing.
"Oh yes. I wonder how long it will take for my creatures to break him. You can ponder that thought as I end your pitiful life." The dark elf raised his sword above Aragorn's head, a malicious smile upon his face.
At the last, Aragorn felt a last stirring of defiance inside himself. If he were going to die, he would at least die on his feet, not kneeling in front of this creature of evil. He gritted his teeth against the pain in his side, and attempted to push himself to his feet.
Yet even before he had managed to rise half way, a great light flared, temporarily blinding him and flooding the entire valley with its warm glow. Aragorn fell back to the ground, and the creature above him let out a shrill cry. It was as if midday had somehow miraculously come to the valley in the dead of night!
Dropping the sword, the dark elf used both his hands to cover his face and eyes against the glare of the bright light. The entire valley was silent, the sound of battle completely gone. Then the silence was shattered by an ear-piercing shriek. The cry still tearing from his lungs, the creature turned and fled into the forest, away from the light.
The last thing Aragorn saw as he slipped into unconsciousness was a figure, standing tall on one of the hills surrounding the valley. The figure was dressed completely in white, that billowed and swept about him in the wind. The light that filled the valley emanated from a single point in the staff held in the figure's outstretched hand.
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.