5. Darkness Endures
Elrohir arrived at the clearing as the sun was slipping behind the trees in the west. He was just in time to witness Estel piercing the neck of the troll with a mighty upward thrust of his sword. Elladan, looking truly proud and impressed by Estel’s abilities, came to stand protectively in front of the young man as the dying troll began to flail about erratically. While Elrohir too felt a surge of pride at Estel’s skill and courage, his heart soared indeed to see the same feelings mirrored on his twin’s face. Perhaps his stubborn brother was finally beginning to recognize what he had long been trying to show him.
Elrohir was quite literally shaken from his thoughts by a tremendous, earth shattering crash. His soft smile was quickly replaced by an expression of utter horror as the troll’s giant hammer impacted on the rocky mountainside above where Elladan and Estel stood and a great torrent of rocks descended upon his twin.
“NO!” As absolute terror replaced rational thought, Elrohir began a mad dash towards the collapsing cliff wall.
He had barely taken the first step, however, when he found he could run no further. Held fast in Glorfindel’s strong arms, Elrohir struggled frantically, desperate to reach his brothers. In response, Glorfindel tightened his hold and spoke urgently: “Do not add yourself needlessly to the casualties! There is naught we can do to stop those boulders!”
Truly Glorfindel was right, as usually he was. Already Elladan and Estel had vanished behind an enormous pile of rocks. Even with elven speed, there was not time to save them. His desperate sprint would only have served to put himself at risk of being crushed as well.
As the avalanche soon subsided to a trickle of shifting rocks, the dust began to clear and all grew eerily silent. The darkness of night had now settled completely over the small clearing in the woods. Glorfindel released his hold and Elrohir sank to his knees. He turned haunted, almost hollow eyes on his commander, his voice nearly devoid of expression as he spoke: “I can no longer feel him.”
Struck by the emptiness reflected in Elrohir’s eyes, Glorfindel paused briefly before he responded, a slight tremor in his voice. “Do you believe him dead?”
Closing his eyes and releasing a shaky breath, Elrohir attempted to bury his fears as he shook his head and started to reply with more certainty than he felt. “Nay, he is not dead. He can not be, for surely I would know. I feel nothing at all, nothing but darkness where normally I sense his presence. I fear that he is gravely injured. I know not of Estel.” As he spoke these last words his resolve faltered and his voice was little more than a sob.
“Then hope remains,” Glorfindel responded firmly as he turned to assess the situation and survey the damage. What he saw left little hope in his heart. The landslide had displaced large masses of earth and rock and now a thick wall of stone covered the cave where Elladan and Estel had stood mere minutes before. To further complicate matters, the troll had unfortunately fallen across the cave entrance and now its massive, rock-covered body served as a further blockade between them and any hope of rescuing the two, if indeed either did still draw breath.
Glorfindel frowned. He and Elrohir could not clear the debris unaided. The body of the troll was far too heavy for them to move on their own; it would have to be hacked into many smaller, more manageable, pieces and each piece hauled away. With that accomplished, they would still face an enormous pile of large boulders that needed to be removed. The task would take the two of them a very long time. Too long.
Glorfindel’s heart constricted with grief at the realization that they would have to withdraw from the cave-in. As much as the thought of leaving Elladan and Estel trapped amongst the rubble pained him, he had a responsibility to all under his command and he knew not how the rest of his patrol fared against the other two trolls. With great sadness he realized that his main objective now was to minimize the number of lives claimed by this ill-fated mission. He could not remain here, engaged in a near futile attempt to rescue two who may well already be dead, while twenty elven warriors under his command possibly required his aid. Hopefully, they could dispatch the trolls with haste, and then he would be free to return with a whole patrol of able-bodied elves to aid in the rescue effort.
Drawing a deep breath, he turned to look at Elrohir. The younger son of Elrond was already attempting single-handedly to remove an enormous boulder from the pile. The expression on his face was a mix of firm determination and utter desperation as he strained under a burden that was far too heavy. Glorfindel was well aware of how this decision would be received. In most circumstances, Elrohir was quite content to take orders; however, he could become most defiant when the safety of those he loved was under threat.
Glorfindel spoke to him with firm authority: “Elrohir, we must return now to the battle. We know not how the others fare.”
For a moment, Elrohir simply looked at Glorfindel as if he had grown another head. Then he responded, his voice harsh and angry. “Surely you do not mean to abandon my brothers? I will not leave them!”
Glorfindel’s voice remained even, but he fixed upon Elrohir a gaze of such intensity that few could meet without averting their eyes. “Well should you know that I would not abandon them, not if any small hope remains. You also know well that the two of us will have little effect against this mountain of stone. We must enlist the aid of our brothers-in-arms, yet they can not come to our aid until all of the trolls are vanquished. We must go now to complete our duty.”
Elrohir did not flinch as he continued his defiance, the fire in his voice not yet quenched. “Go if you must, but I shall not. I will remain and do all that is in my power to reach my brothers.”
Glorfindel’s expression softened and he lay a hand gently on Elrohir’s shoulder. “I am afraid that your power alone is not sufficient against this obstacle, young one. With Elladan and Estel buried amongst this rubble,” here his voice faltered, “you are the only hale healer remaining amongst us. Though I hope it is not so, others may need your skills.”
With these words, Elrohir bowed his head and lowered his eyes at the realization that his brothers-in-arms, elves he had fought with for many centuries, may too be in need of his aid.
Seeing that his words were having an impact, Glorfindel continued: “Even now we are losing valuable time. Let us put an end to this conflict quickly that we may focus wholly on saving all who can be saved. Come with me now, and soon we shall return in force to move this mountain. Then we will not cease our labour until we find your brothers. This I swear unto you.”
Again, Elrohir hesitated, his heart torn. He knew that somewhere amidst this great pile of rubble lay Elladan and Estel, trapped, injured, possibly dying, perhaps dead. How could he simply turn away? As he surveyed the devastation before him, though, he had to admit that Glorfindel spoke the truth. They could not possibly move this massive mound of rock by themselves in time to save his brothers, if indeed they could be saved at all.
With a new resolve, he sent a clear thought into the void where normally he sensed his twin: ‘Hold fast, for I will soon return. Nothing will keep me from you.’ With that, he turned and sped from the clearing with great haste, his desperation adding a swiftness of step that never before he had achieved.
So fast did they run that in mere minutes they arrived again at the site of the battle. Quickly assessing the situation, Glorfindel was most relieved to see no apparent injuries amongst the remaining members of his patrol. The same could not be said of the trolls, for one already lay dead, felled by the skill of his elven fighters.
The second troll, however, fought on with an intensity that Glorfindel had never before seen in its kind and the elves had been forced to adopt a defensive position as the beast rained savage blows down upon them. Of course, all trolls were ferocious fighters, but this one’s behaviour seemed different to Glorfindel’s experienced eye. Its actions were far more deliberate and calculated than a typical troll attack, which, while always vicious, was usually more or less random, fuelled by the beast’s blind rage and its lust for the kill. This troll seemed determined to systematically eliminate all who stood before it and, though the skilled warriors dodged its strikes with elven speed and attempted their own counter attacks, nothing could deter it from its purpose.
The troll had never felt such hatred. Other beasts were there for it to kill, usually to eat, sometimes merely for the pure pleasure of killing. However, now it attacked with one single purpose in its dull mind: revenge. These little creatures with their sharp blades fought back with a skill to which the troll was unaccustomed, but it took no notice of their strikes, so great was its anger and its grief. These things had just killed its brother, and it was determined to avenge its kin, even if that meant its very death.
Elrohir joined in the fray without hesitation. There was no time for reflection, time was of the essence and his brothers’ very lives could be at stake. As he danced about the troll’s massive legs, repeatedly slashing at its thick hide, so great was his desperate need to fell the beast that he paid little heed to the mighty hammer blows crashing around him. The troll was nothing more than another obstacle between himself and the possibility of rescuing his brothers, an obstacle he intended to eliminate with the utmost haste.
Thus, the troll and Elrohir clashed in battle. They were as different as any two on Arda could possibly be: one, swift of mind and body, lean and lithe, fair and good; the other, dim of wit, bulky and slow, fell and evil. However, though they knew it not, the disparate beings had one thing in common: both fought fearlessly and with deep passion, for each fought for the sake of their fallen brother.
The troll released a monstrous roar of anger. Two more of the little creatures had joined the attack against it; one that shone like the sun it so loathed, and one that slashed at its hide with a speed and strength it had never before seen. Though two more would normally not have mattered to it, with their arrival the others fought as well with a renewed vigor and now they seemed to swarm around its legs. It would first have to kill the annoying, nasty little one that kept repeatedly nicking at its thighs, the beast decided as it raised its mighty hammer with focused aim on one particular target.
Elrohir continued to hack at the troll with all of his considerable strength, though he was well aware that his best efforts were having little impact. The troll’s thick scales formed a very effective armour and though he was succeeding in drawing thin lines of black blood, he knew the cuts were shallow, merely surface wounds. He had to find a weakness in the beast’s hide.
Suddenly, he sensed the change in the air as a heavy object came hurtling down toward his head, and his instincts, highly honed through many centuries of training and experience, took over as he dropped immediately to the ground and rolled between the troll’s legs, just barely avoiding the massive hammer as it impacted with the ground. Elrohir frowned as he mentally chastised himself for his inattention to the beast’s weapon. That had been too close. He could not save his brothers if he himself were dead.
As he looked up at the back of the troll’s legs from his position on the ground, a thought struck him suddenly. In order for the beast to be able to bend its knees, the skin directly above the joints would have to be thinner and more supple. With great speed, Elrohir again took up his sword, and with all the strength he could muster he pushed the sharp tip of the blade forcefully through the back of the beast’s knee. His suspicion had been correct, for the skin was much weaker at the thin crease of the back of its knee joint, and his sword sunk deeply into the flesh as black blood gushed from the wound. Despite striking many blows, his elven blade yet held its sharp edge, and with a strength borne of urgency combined with the deftness of his skill, he sliced though the sinews that held the great beast’s knee. Withdrawing his sword rapidly, he quickly repeated his actions on the other leg.
The troll felt the blade piece its leg deeply, and it roared its rage, but it cared not about the intense pain. These little creatures had to die, it had to avenge its brother, and it tried to raise its hammer again for another blow. However, much to its confusion, the beast could not take a step. Suddenly its legs buckled beneath it and the troll found itself falling face first toward the ground.
“Run away!” was all Elrohir had time to shout as he fled with great speed as far as he could from the floundering troll. He desperately wished to avoid a repeat of the tragedy that had befallen his brothers and he was most relieved to see that the others had responded to his vague warning with the greatest haste. All were a safe distance from the massive beast when it fell.
The earth shook with tremendous force as the enormous body impacted on the ground with a mighty crash. Though it would never again stand upon its feet, the troll continued to roar ferociously and lash out with its arms, frantically trying to grab and crush with its huge hands any of the little creatures that dared venture too close. The elven warriors, however, wisely kept their distance from the frenzied fallen beast.
Elrohir was moved by pity for the mighty troll. Though the beast was completely and utterly evil, it had fought bravely and with a passion that, oddly, he found he could somehow understand. No matter how evil, no creature deserved to suffer like this. While the troll continued to fight as best it could, its movements were growing slower and weaker as the blood drained rapidly from its wounds. Elrohir easily jumped upon its massive back and avoided its futile attempts to grab at him as he sunk his sword deeply into the beast’s neck, putting an end to its pain.
Glorfindel immediately rallied his warriors around him. After a quick confirmation that none had sustained any grievous wounds, he related to the rest of the patrol the tragic circumstances in which they had left Elladan and Estel. With great haste, they returned again to the quiet, dark, place where those two were entombed in a massive pile of rock.
With an efficiency borne of many years of command, Glorfindel quickly organized the rescue efforts. Some elves undertook the most unpleasant task of dismembering the body of the troll which blocked the cave, while others, working in pairs, arduously began, boulder by boulder, to move the mountain of rock which lay between them and the ones they sought.
Elrohir tackled the boulders with an intensity born of his desperation and his fear. Still he could not sense the presence of his twin, and it worried him greatly. Nothing would now prevent him from reaching his brothers. He would not cease his search until he had found them, even if it meant removing every rock from the cliff. If he found Elladan and Estel dead, at least then he would finally know with certainty their fate.
As he strained with Glorfindel to lift a particularly large boulder, he gasped and nearly dropped his burden at the sudden return of a very familiar sensation. It was as though a dim light had penetrated the darkness in his mind. Turing eyes full of hope on Glorfindel, he exclaimed in wonder: “He lives! Elladan is alive!”
Quickly, though, his expression darkened again when he sensed the weakness of his brother’s fea. “He is very weak and he struggles for breath. Glorfindel, we must double our efforts! He is running out of fresh air and I fear we shall not reach him in time!”
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.