9. Chapter Eight: The Iron Fortress
Eve was dreaming.
Her dreams were not usually so vivid but on this occasion, it swirled around her head with such clarity that she felt almost like a participant instead of a mere spectator. She was walking along a bridge overlooking the most beautiful landscape she had ever seen. It was as if someone had taken a Monet and given it life. Pristine cascades of water flowed from mountains covered in lush shades of green. Colour filled her senses as she gazed at a sky that was vibrant with shades of blue and amber. Air that was cool and refreshing entered her lungs as she took a deep breath, so different from the dusty and chemically contaminated atmosphere of the modern world.
Once across the bridge, Eve found herself entering a wood inhabited by magnificent looking trees, shrubs that were seemed almost alive with their bright and colourful flowers and equally exotic wildlife oblivious to her trespass in their domain. Eve walked across the velvet like grass beneath her feet, thinking that she had wandered into a fairy tale. Every little girl who owned a Barbie had this fantasy, she thought with a hint of cynicism. She was still admiring the unreal beauty of the place when she heard a man's voice singing. Strangely enough, she understood every word he was saying and sought out the voice to satisfy her curiosity.
What she found was Aaron.
At least she thought he was Aaron. He was younger, not long out of his adolescence. She estimated that he was twenty if that. However, it was difficult to tell because his hair was longer than what she was accustomed to seeing and he sported a beard. His clothes reminded her a little of what the elves were wearing and he carried a sword at his hip. He raised his eyes to her and stopped singing abruptly, his gaze locked on hers for the longest time. He appeared mesmerised.
"Tinúviel, Tinúviel?" He finally called.
"No," she shook her head, beginning to comprehend that he was not Aaron. He would not be Aaron for a hundred thousand years. "My name is Eve."
"Eve," he smiled and when he did, Eve saw the Aaron she knew.
"Estel I was called," he answered, unable to move his eyes from her.
That boyish look of adoration in his eyes was one she was starting to recognise very well. She had seen Aaron look at her in the same way, though with not as much unabashed infatuation. She supposed he had good reason for being so damned cocky, Eve thought with a frown as she remembered how confident Aaron had been around her, he probably has it as bad as this kid and had fate on his side. .
"Who is Luthien?" She asked
He stared at her with surprise but then proceeded to relate the tale of Beren and Luthien, lovers who had endured all kinds of terrible trials to be together, even though she was an elf and he was human. As Eve listened, she realised that Undomiel, the Evenstar that Elladan kept referring to, was an elf and Aragorn who was her husband was human. Had this been where it began for the two of them? Would the odyssey that would see them finding each other a hundred thousand years in the future begin here? There was something about this moment that felt like a turning point. Her dreams had brought her to this place, like it was bringing her to the so many others of late, even in waking dreams. It was as if her subconscious mind was prompting her to remember the person she had been.
Had she loved him so much that she was willing to die for him? To give up the immortality that was the due of all elves, to live out a human existence that was savagely short in comparison? Eve looked at the young man staring at her, who would go on to be a king and a healer and knew instinctively, that what he would become in the future was because he loved the woman called Undomiel. Eve was glad that Undomiel had loved him just as much and she reached for him, her hand caressing his cheek as she felt another pang of need for Aaron. Even though this boy looked like him, Eve knew that this was not her Aaron.
She was still thinking this when, the world around started to collapse around her.
"Eve..." she heard him cry out with alarm but he and his voice became distant as she was ripped away from his world forever.
Eve shouted as she woke up with a start.
For a moment, she could only lay there breathing hard as her mind acclimated her to the fact that she was very much in the waking world again and not some fairy tale world of the past. However, once this realisation settled upon Eve, her memories of this reality returned with a vengeance and everything that occurred prior to her falling into darkness swept through her mind with the force of a tidal wave. Everything that had happened to her, the attack on the lodge, the dart she felt in her back and the blackness that overwhelmed her flashed through her mind in a split second and drove the hard edge of fear into her being.
Her first impulse was to jump out off the bed but that thought was soon quashed when she took stock how she felt. She also noticed that she was no longer wearing her own clothes and was wearing a thin silk nightgown that sent a blush of colour to her cheeks when she realised that someone would have had to undress her to put the thing on. The effects of the tranquilliser dart had yet to wear off and she could feel the heaviness in her limbs and the slight dizziness as she attempted to ease off the bed. Realising that she would get only worsen her situation by making an ill advised attempt to escape, Eve chose instead to take stock of her surroundings and regain her faculties before considering her next move.
Her eyes swept around the room and she tried to remember when she had seen a place furnished in the same way. The floor was polished black marble and the décor was very much in the spirit of Dali or Sartor, with its surrealistic paintings and its bizarre looking sculptures. The furniture was little of it there was, came in dark colours that added a nihilist slant to the place. While some would consider it stylish, Eve found it to be clinical and sterile. The thought sparked Eve's memory of John Malcolm's office and with that recollection, told her without doubt where she was.
Almost in anticipation of her realisation, she heard his voice breaking the silence and startling her at the same time.
"Detective McCaughley," John Malcolm announced his presence in the room.
If it was not for the drug, there was no way he could have entered the room without her being unaware but then Malcolm was not exactly what he appeared to be. She turned sharply to the direction of his voice and saw that he was crossing the floor towards her. Despite the fact that he looked like a man, Eve knew that he was more than that. While she was unsure exactly what he was, Eve did not doubt the danger she was in being so close to the man. She wished she had a gun because he was regarding her with a decidedly predatory gleam in his eyes, a look she had seen within the eyes of too many murderers and rapists. Eve struggled to maintain her composure even though she felt even more helpless than ever. It was a feeling she was not accustomed to and she did not like it very much.
"Mr Malcolm," Eve said coolly, noticing that he was carrying an arrow in his hand. She hid this observation as well as her recognition that the arrow was the same as the one she had seen Legolas carrying. Her heart sank at the thought that he was in possession of such an item. Did that mean he had captured Aaron and the elves as well?
"How did you sleep?" He asked smoothly, lowering himself next to her on the bed, an action that immediately told Eve that she was right to compare him with a rapist. Eve had been around men long enough to know that he wanted her and that realisation scared her more than anything else about her situation.
"Considering I was shot by a tranquilliser dart? Not well," she said abruptly, hiding her anxiety with sarcasm. "Where is Moses?"
"Moses?" He stared at her and then chuckled slightly as if enjoying some private joke, "is that what you're calling Olorin?"
"I thought his name was Gandalf?" Eve exclaimed involuntarily and saw his brow arch in surprise. She knew immediately she had made a grievous error by volunteering that name.
"Now how could you know that?" Malcolm asked, his eyes narrowing in calculation as his gaze pierced her skin with such intensity, it might have drawn blood.
Eve cursed under her breath at her own stupidity for letting that slip, "he must have mentioned it while we were playing gin. You know how it is."
"I seriously doubt that," he said with so much confidence that Eve no longer held any doubt that Aaron was right, that John Malcolm was responsible for Moses' condition.
"Perhaps you learned his name from whomever own this," Malcolm retorted smoothly, holding the arrow up for her to see.
"An arrow?" She looked at him with indifference.
"Its an arrow inscribed in the language of the elves," he stated firmly, his gaze boring holes into her skin with its intensity. "You do know what elves are don't you?"
"Those little guys working for the shoemaker?" She said sarcastically.
Malcolm reached out and grabbed her by the hair with such speed that Eve was barely able to register the movement until he was holding her face inches away from his, with the point of the arrow pressing hard against her cheek. She could feel it on the verge of breaking skin. His eyes were almost black with menace and as Eve was forced to stare into them, she could very well believe that Malcolm was some dark creature born of an ancient world.
"This was made by the First Born and I will know how it came to be here in this day and age. I can make this pleasant Eve or I can make it agonising. The choice is yours," he hissed, lowering his hand enough to brush his knuckles against her bare thigh.
Something inside Eve snapped at his touch. The tranquilliser might have dulled her reflexes but the rush of adrenaline and her fear compensated nicely. Eve slammed her palm into his face and grabbed the hand holding the arrow, forcing it away from her as she used the momentum to jump off the bed. Her limbs still felt heavy but she had recovered enough to sprint for the door. Eve did not look back at Malcolm as she raced towards freedom when suddenly she felt a great force slam into her body. The power of it was violent enough to send her sprawling towards the hard floor.
Through the pain flaring through her as she hit the marble floor, Eve saw Malcolm climbing off the bed, wiping a smear of blood from his lips.
"When this is done Eve," he spoke to with a chilling tone as he approached her, "we will have plenty of time to get to know each other and then I will show you how much pleasure there is to be gained from pain."
As he said those words, Eve prayed that she could escape before she was forced to experience what he meant by that, first hand.
The moment it appeared through the broken window of Eve's horseless carriage, the elves knew precisely what they were seeing before them. Aaron was oblivious to it and so did most of the inhabitants of this city but for Legolas, Elladan and Elrohir, the sight of it made them shudder inwardly. They had heard tales of it from the more ancient members of their race and were grateful that they were not born during the time when the Dark Enemy had ruled the world. Middle Earth had not seen its like since the destruction of Beleriand and even though Baradur held its own sinister presence, it had never quite compared to the sheer terrifying nature of Angband or Morgoth's Iron Fortress.
As they approached the structure that Aaron had been calling the Monolith, the elves knew without doubt that this was the seat of Melkor's power in this world. They could feel its darkness emanating through the air, filling their lungs like thick dark smoke. The building was a tower made of stone and glass but its construction was the personification of the Iron Fortress. For the first time since arriving in this strange new world, the elves felt real fear because they had not counted that the enemy they would be facing would be Morgoth. It had taken the might of the Valar to depose the tyrant aeons ago. What chance did they have?
Aaron had no idea the thoughts running through the minds of his companions as he drove Eve's battered T-Bird towards the Monolith because he was too busy running through the insane plan he had in his head to retrieve the woman that he loved and his patient. His plan, such as it was, had been borne partly out of desperation and the belief that it was just insane enough to work. Also, he was certain that Sandra Collins was expecting him to make some foolhardy attempt at a rescue. While she was not far from the truth, Aaron was certain that she had no concept of just how much destruction he was willing to cause in order to get Eve and Moses back.
"Are your seat belts on?" Aaron turned to the elves, trying to ignore the fact that they were staring at the Monolith like it was the gateway to hell. Considering what he knew about Melkor, Aaron supposed that it was completely understandable. After all, they probably knew better than he did, was Malcolm truly was and of what he was capable.
Legolas looked at him after a moment, tearing his eyes away from the structure before him. Aaron had brought the car to a halt at the kerb before the tower of dark glass. The elf reached for the strap across his body, feeling somewhat anxious that Aaron had requested that they be bound to the inside of the carriage so firmly. However, he was certain that his concern had more to do with the fact that they would soon be facing the dark enemy, not any experience within this mechanical carriage.
"Danger," Legolas stated, casting another glance at the Monolith when his eyes met Aaron's again.
"No kidding," Aaron nodded in agreement before leaning over the elf to ensure his seat belts was on firmly.
Once the healer was content that they were all firmly strapped into their seats, Aaron reached for Legolas' hands and placed it on the dashboard.
"Brace yourself," he explained, trying to clarify his request with some gestures but he was confident that when the time came, the urgency of the situation and the elves' dislike of cars would cross the language barrier.
"You too," he looked at Elladan and Elrohir, expecting them to do the same.
"Aaron, what?" Elrohir asked, unable to endure the suspense any longer. Elrohir had a terrible premonition that Melkor was not the only danger they were facing. Aaron's insistence on their need to wear these uncomfortable straps had provoked Elrohir's suspicion as well as concern.
"Trust me," Aaron retorted under his breath as he faced the wheel again, "you don't know want to know."
His expression alone was enough to induce more worried concern on their face as he sat forward in his seat and placed his hands on the wheel. Once he started the T Bird's engines, there would be no going back, for any of them. Aaron wondered how he had gone from respected psychiatrist to a lunatic about to wages seven kinds of hell on a corporate giant with three elves and a T Bird loaded with a lot of optional extras. He supposed it did not really matter how he had come to this, only that he was here and he was going to rescue Eve and Moses or die trying.
The rumble of the car caused his passengers to instinctively grab something as the vehicle prepared itself to surge forward. Aaron took a deep breath, waiting in anticipation as the dial on his speedometer made its steady ascent. The car's engines were roaring so loud that he could feel its vibrations through the seat. Legolas was staring at him worriedly, trying to discern what he was doing. As it was, the elves had no love for cars and this was not alleviating their fears any.
"This is why we wear seat belts," Aaron replied as he jammed his foot on the accelerator and sent the car flying across the sidewalk onto the kerb.
The T Bird sped through the sidewalk, causing pedestrians to jump out of the way with shouts and curses at his reckless driving. Most simply scurried out of the vehicle's path, particularly when it was coming at them with the speed of a juggernaut. The car jolted dangerously when it reached the first in a small series of steps. While making the bumpy climb up some steps, Aaron was treated to a wide range of words he was certain elves did not use in polite company. The T Bird groaned as metal scraped against concrete and something disengaged from the underside of the car, which Aaron was certain, was Eve's muffler. Fortunately, the car crossed the uneven terrain quickly and relatively unscathed, though the same could not be said for his passengers.
Once the T Bird reached the concrete walk in front of the building where workers gathered to have lunch on benches or feed the birds, Aaron shifted the vehicle into a higher gear and forced the accelerator all the way to the floor. The T Bird raced forward, a tonne of unstoppable metal with a lunatic behind the wheel. By now, people were sensible enough to stay clear of the car as Aaron tore through the walk towards the main doors of the building.
"Keep your head down!" Aaron ordered instinctively and as the elves saw the building rushing towards them, needed no understanding of his words to obey.
Aaron turned his head away as the car smashed through the revolving doors, demolishing it in a spectacular explosion of glass and metal. The front of the T Bird suffered considerably but there was enough steel in its frame to ensure that it was still capable of being very formidable. Aaron vaguely heard people screaming as he forced his way into the lobby of the building. He paid them little attention as he swung the wheel around and aimed the nose of the car at the security desk and the guards who were staring at the unfolding scene with nothing less than shock.
Aaron shifted the car to a lower gear and slammed his foot on the pedal again, racing towards the men who were in the process of unsheathing their guns from its respective holsters. The T Bird continued its onslaught and sped towards them, crushing glass and debris under its wheels as it closed the distance between the armed men. For an instance, Aaron had this terrible fear that they would not leave, that they would instead attempt to gun him down. Fortunately, the sight of the car bearing down on them at great speed ended that question and Aaron released a sigh of relief when he saw them running for cover.
"What in Elbereth's name is he doing?" Elladan swore as the carriage continued its destructive course throughout the front lobby of the Malcolm Building.
"I think he was trying to surprise them," Elrohir replied, deciding that if he were not free of this accursed vehicle soon, he would not be responsible for his actions.
"He surprised me!" Elladan retorted.
"He has a plan!" Legolas declared, refusing to think that Aaron had completely lost his mind. Of course he was also accustomed to Aragorn's thinking and part of what made the King of Gondor such a formidable warrior was the fact that he was never predictable. Legolas was not sure that he was happy that Aaron still possessed this trait.
Aaron did have a plan. Once he had sent the security guards running, he took the car to the elevators at the far end of the lobby. Pulling the T Bird to an abrupt halt outside one of the doors, he unbuckled his seat belt and turned to the others.
"Let's go!" He shouted as he jumped out of the front seat.
The elves were more than happy to comply as they unfastened themselves from the carriage and quickly exited without further protest. Aaron grabbed the knapsack he had secreted in the back seat of the car and searched the debris covered lobby for a safe place to put it. The doctor saw a pot plant that had been upended at the far end of the room and immediately raced towards it as his companions collected themselves after their automotive ordeal. It took no more than minute before he returned to them and pressed the elevator button.
"Legolas," he called to the elf that was already arming his bow with one of Nicky's arrows.
Legolas nodded in acknowledge and took aim as the first elevator door slid open. The blond elf stepped into the small space with Elladan, Elrohir and Aaron, his eyes still trained on the target even as Aaron pressed the buttons to close the doors.
"NOW!" Aaron shouted as the doors started to slide towards each other.
Prior to their arrival here, Aaron had told Legolas what he needed to do with the explosive tipped arrow. While Legolas still appeared unclear on how one arrow was going to aid them in their effort to create enough chaos to enter the building unnoticed, he nonetheless trusted Aaron's judgement and was more than ready to act, now that it was time for him to play his part. Releasing the bowstring, the arrow flew past the elevator doors and struck the rear section of the wounded T Bird, in the exact place where Aaron had showed him.
The last thing they saw before the elevators closed the lobby to them was the arrow striking its mark and turning Eve's beloved T Bird into a fireball. A wall of flame rushed towards them as the doors slid to a close and the elevator began its journey upwards. The floor shuddered a little from the shockwave but nevertheless continued without hindrance. Aaron could only imagine what damage the exploding car had caused, however, he had a good reason for his actions. He had wanted to clear the building quickly, without giving away the rest of his plan. His dramatic entry through the lobby of the building had ensured that everyone in the area would leave while he was carrying out his onslaught with the T Bird.
"Well that went alright," Aaron looked at his elven companions and saw that Elrohir was still rather shaken, while Legolas and Elladan were frowning at him.
"What?" The doctor declared innocently. "I told you it was going to be rough."
"You danger, driving! Idiot!" Elladan snorted.
"Oh that," Aaron grinned. "That's why I told you to wear seat belts." He replied making a slashing gesture across his body from shoulder to hip.
Legolas' answer was to repeat the same gesture across his neck and retort, "no more driving."
"Fine," Aaron replied, deciding he was not about to deal with sarcastic elves considering their present situation.
However, the elves were no longer listening to him. Aaron's eyes widened as he saw something settle shadow like over their faces. Legolas was pressed against the wall, his hand clutching his bow so tight his knuckles were almost white. Elladan and Elrohir were in no better condition as they wore expression of real anxiety on their faces, even more so then when he was ramming the T Bird through the lobby of the building. All three were taut with fear, as if something terrible had gripped their hearts with a black fist and would not let go.
"What is it?" Aaron demanded with grave concern.
"Danger," Legolas managed to say, his gaze sweeping briefly across the space within the elevator.
"Where?" Aaron asked puzzled, confused because he could sense nothing.
Elrohir's eyes dropped to the floor of the elevator floor at the same time they all felt the sudden shift in the motion of the car. Instead of going up, the elevator was suddenly going down and fast.
"Hell!" Aaron cursed and immediately began jabbing at buttons to keep the elevator from continuing its downward journey. However to no avail. He had lit up almost every button the on panel, however the elevator was stubbornly refusing to stop at any of the floors. Aaron watch the digitised screen on the panel showing them the floors they were passing and felt his stomach hollow as they approached the ground floor where they had began. Security must have some kind of override control, he thought with dismay. He pulled out the gun he had tucked away in the knapsack and prepared himself for a fight. The elves that were still affected by the danger they were sensing in the elevator had recovered enough to follow suit by brandishing their weapons in readiness.
The panel was no longer registering what floor they were on but Aaron sensed they were going down much farther than the basement parking lot. The seconds stretched into minutes and the elves seemed even more anxious as the time stretched. Aaron could not blame them. He had not foreseen this happening and wondered if it was necessary to play his trump card a little sooner than expected. However, the question became moot when the elevator came to a jolting halt and sent everyone tumbling to the floor.
"This contraption is going to kill us far sooner than Melkor!" Elladan hissed as he picked himself up from the floor and brushed his hair out of his face.
"Calm down," Legolas barked since he was more concerned with getting out of their confinement rather than the mechanics of this box they were trapped in. "I do not think this...device is customarily so unsafe. If not, Aaron would not have led us here."
"You have too much faith in him Legolas," Elrohir snorted as he picked himself up from the floor.
"I seemed to recall that you both had a great deal of faith in him one time," Legolas' tone turned hard as stone.
"That was he was the Dunedain," Elrohir returned, angry enough to rise to Legolas' challenge. "He is not that man any more."
"Hey!" Aaron's voice interrupted their 'discussion' before it became any more heated, "some help here?"
The healer was attempting to pry the door open but was not having much success since he was using his fingers. Legolas immediately stepped forward, producing his dagger and sliding it between the crack of the door to pull it apart.
"Thank you," Aaron added softly as he helped Legolas widen the gap the elf had managed to produce thanks to the dagger. By the tone of the argument the elves were having a few seconds ago, Aaron assumed that Elrohir had not been impressed by the turn their plan had taken. Aaron could not blame his vitriol and guessed by the manner in which Legolas tried not to glance Aaron's way as they argued, that Elrohir was questioning his ability to lead them in this rescue mission.
"Friend," he said just as quietly. "Always. Even idiot."
Aaron let out a short laugh but he was hiding the effect the sentiment were having upon him especially when he felt Elrohir coming forward and patting him on the back, in a conciliatory gesture. The elf looked somewhat guilty for doubting him and Elladan offered Aaron a small smile, indicating solidarity to whatever Aaron planned to do next. Forcing away the emotions churning through him at their renewed confidence, Aaron turned back to the door.
"Let's get the hell out of here," he said firmly and meant it.
It was time to find Eve and Moses.
The sprinklers activated while Eve was attempting to discern what had been the cause of the sudden tremor that rocked through the building.
She pressed her face against the glass window, trying to see what was happening on the lower floors and could only see smoke rising from below. People were running from the base of the structure like ants after a rock had been thrown at their anthill. Even though she could not hear anything from her prison, she could see the pandemonium erupting in the courtyard below. There was a fire in one of the lower levels, Eve guessed, because she could see the smoke billowing past the window. It was inevitable that the building fire protection systems would kick in shortly after. Since the destruction of the World Trade Centre, city engineers had become almost fanatical to ensure that every precaution was taken against any kind of calamity.
As the water sprayed throughout the room, Eve soon realised that it was her one chance to escape. Hurrying towards the door she knew was almost certainly locked and guarded by one of Malcolm's thugs, Eve watched her step to keep from slipping on the smooth marble floor. She had not been able to find her clothes and had this terrible feeling that Malcolm believed she would not be needing anything but what she was wearing during her stay in his company. The thought of what he had planned for her made the usually unflappable policewoman shudder in disgust and fired her determination to escape at all costs.
She reached the door just as the knob started to turn and took up a flanking position just as it swung open. Eve held her ground, knowing that she would have only one chance at this. A tall man in a dark suit slipped past her, trying to find her through the hiss of water spraying through out the room. The visual and auditory distraction gave Eve a small advantage and she took it with both hands as she brought her hand down on the back of his neck in what could only be called a classic 'karate chop'. While the strike did not have the power to render him unconscious, it knocked him off balance and Eve threw a flying kick into the small of his back, propelling him forward.
The slippery floor finished the rest off the job when he lost his footing and landed face first on the smooth marble. Through the low hiss of the sprinkler system, Eve heard the terrible crush of bone as his nose shattered, sending bone fragments in all directions. His body was slapped so hard against the floor that Eve was unsurprised that he did not move again. She did not even waste time checking to see if he was alive. All she wanted was the 45 in his hand.
By now she was soaking wet, with hair plastered to her face and the nightgown plastered to her skin. She thought absurdly as she stepped out of Malcolm's private suite into the corridor leading to the elevator that she would be the first woman to fight off a dark lord looking like a contestant in a wet t-shirt contest. She prayed they did not find her like his if she was killed. The indignity of it was too much for her feministic mentality.
There was no one in the corridor and Eve strongly suspected that everyone was too busy trying to deal with fire in the floors below. Hopefully she could get lost in the evacuation process before Malcolm and his people knew that she was gone. In any case, Eve was going to avoid coming into direct contact with the man when she knew what he was capable of. The only thing that had saved her from his wrath after her attempt to escape was his desire to find the elves. Eve could not fathom why he was concerned about the trio when Moses had the same telekinetic ability as him and was a more formidable threat. The elves, with their ability to sense danger and possess hair that would put Vidal Sassoon out of business, were more or less normal. Despite their immortality, they could still be killed.
Why would Malcolm be so concerned about them?
A question for later, Eve decided as she ran past the elevator and made her way to the fire stairs. Right now, she had to find out where they were keeping Moses and if possible, rescue him without being caught herself.
When they finally opened the doors of the elevator, Aaron almost wished they had not.
A wave of hot, humid air rushed into the cool confines of the elevator car, carrying a fetid stench that immediately made the elves wince in disgust. For once Aaron pitied their superior sense of smell because if he could barely control his own gag reflex, he had no idea how they managed it. Beyond the bright, fluorescent lights near the elevator, was a dimly lit world where there were shadows everywhere. The immediate area outside the elevated was paved but as Aaron took a few more steps, the concrete paving discontinued and he found himself on dirt.
Gazing upwards, he could see the ceiling of the place and it was not reassuring concrete but rather a composite of rock and dirt. Stalactites hung from the ceiling like serrated teeth and as Aaron delved deeper into the cavernous enclosure they had suddenly entered, he heard what sounded like the swirl of water.
"Aaron," Legolas called out softly.
Aaron looked over his shoulder and saw that the elves were even tenser than he was. Legolas had armed his bow, while Elladan and Elrohir were holding their swords in striking pose. Their eyes were hard and set as if they expected to go into battle at any second and their grim visage only prompted him to reach for his gun and feel the security of its steel within his grip.
"Stay," Legolas spoke further and the tone of his voice indicated that it was not a request.
"What is it?" Aaron looked around and found it was difficult to see. They were in a very large cave, that much was certain because its boundaries were so big and the light which was coming from the service lamps around the elevator area was not quite enough to illuminate all of it.
"Danger," Legolas said flatly.
Aaron heard the swirling once again. He looked towards the direction it had come and took another step forward without thinking.
"Aaron!" Legolas snapped sharply. "STAY!"
"We can't stay here," Aaron protested, wanting to get out of this place so they could resume their search. "We have to find the others."
Legolas did not answer because like Elladan and Elrohir, he knew there was something in the darkness and it was coming for them. It was alive and drawing closer, Legolas could feel its warm breath being carried on the waves of hot air that filled this cavern. The stench that was so unbearable to them was without doubt the rancid smell of rotting flesh. This cave was home to something terribly vile, something that needed to feed.
The elves' palpable fear made Aaron nervous and he gazed into the dimly lit cavern, trying to see what was out there but could hear nothing except for that damnable swirling of fluid that was gnawing at him to be explained. The smell alone was stomach turning and Aaron who had been in surgery, who had seen dissections and body parts being emersed in formaldehyde could not help but feel sickened to the pit of it as he tried to recognise what could produce such a rank odour. The humidity in the cavern left a fine sheen of moisture on their skin and Aaron puzzled at the hot house temperatures, considering this was New York in early spring and while it was not exactly freezing at this time of the year, it was not meant to be this warm either.
"Legolas, can you feel it?" Elladan asked.
"Yes," the former Prince of Mirkwood nodded. "It draws nearer."
"We should go," Elrohir advised.
"Where?" Legolas turned to him. "That contraption brought us here, I highly doubt that it will take us away from it."
All four turned to the new sound as they heard its scratch across the dirt surface. The shadows seemed to move and Aaron decided that perhaps Legolas was not so wrong after all, that there was danger here and it was closer than then he could possibly believe. The doctor took a step back, retreating to join the others when suddenly; something lashed out of the darkness and wrapped itself around his waist. Aaron had barely time to register what had happened before he felt the air beneath his feet as he was lifted off the ground.
"AARON!" Legolas shouted as he saw the beast for the first time.
It was dripping with water and glistened under the dim light of the cavern but there was no mistaking what it was. Legolas had not seen it's like in almost a hundred thousand years, not since the Fellowship was forced to flee into the Mines of Moria to escape the fearsome beast. Its tentacles moved like lashes and flayed through the air as it waved the limb coiled around Aaron about, intending to disorientate its prey enough for the eating.
"Is that what I think it is?" Elladan asked as they ran towards the beast.
"Yes, yes!" Legolas nodded arming his bow. "It is a watcher!"
The watchers had been created at the same time that Melkor had established his kingdom in Angband. Within his Iron fortress, the dark lord had given life to some of the most terrifying creatures to ever walk the earth. Among these were the great spiders of whom Ungoliant was the first, the balrogs, the dragons and a host of other monsters that would continue to terrify the Eldar and the other races for centuries to come. It should have been no surprise to any of the elves that Melkor would have created more of these beasts to safeguard his new kingdom in this world.
Meanwhile, Aaron was coming to grips with his situation, that is being readied to be swallowed by a creature that looked a good deal like a giant octopus except this one had the musculature for terrestrial movement and was presently widening its jaws full of enormous teeth. The doctor was fighting the urge to scream, determined to calm himself despite his terrifying situation. However it was difficult to do so when faced with the fact that all it would take for this thing to kill him was one snap of its jaws while it was gulping him down. Remembering he had a gun, Aaron pointed the weapon at the creature's open mouth and emptied a full round into its gullet. The beast roared in pain as the bullets tore through its flesh but while it registered the pain, its bulk was such that bullets did very little damage to it.
Aaron saw Legolas firing an arrow into the limb that was coiled around him. The projectile dug deep into the creature's flesh and had more effect on it than Aaron's bullets. It reacted to the pain by shaking Aaron even more violently than before and the healer was certain that if he did not get eaten, he was going to break every bone in his body from the shuddering he was being subjected to. His gun was empty and even if he had another magazine, there was no way he was going to be able to load the weapon anyway. Elladan ran forward bravely and swung his sword in a wide arc across the tentacle holding Aaron. The beast roared with agony and Aaron suddenly found the ground rushing up to meet him.
Black blood flowed from the severed tentacles, spurt of it creating a spray as the watcher slammed another tentacle at Elladan and sent the elf flying. Elrohir was quick to move to his brother side as the behemoth surged forward towards him. Aaron scrambled free of the limb that had held him, searching the dark for the backpack he had dropped when the thing had snatched him off the ground. It did not take long to find it and Aaron raced towards it as Elrohir slashed wildly at the tentacle reaching for Elladan who had struggling to recover from his impact against the cave wall.
Aaron was about to lend his bullets to the fight when he noticed what Legolas was doing. The archer was calmly arming his bow with one of the explosive tipped arrows, despite the fact that barely metres away from him as a very enraged monster about to kill them all.
"Help Elladan!" Legolas glanced at Aaron long enough to say and the doctor was not about to argue with him. Aaron hurried to Elladan who was bleeding profusely from a gash across his face as Elrohir battled to keep the tentacles from snatching them both. The elf showed just how effective he was with a sword as his strikes tore through flesh and caused the beast to flay its severed limb in agony. Elrohir was trying to avoid being swatted aside as he defended his brother and there was more than one occasion when he was almost taken himself.
"Elladan," Aaron wrapped his hand around the elf's arm and helped him to his feet. Half of Elladan's face was smeared with blood but the wound looked a good deal worse than it actually was. "Go!" Aaron gestured to the elevator. "Now!"
Elladan nodded and stumbled away as Aaron took position next to Elrohir and fired at the beast repeatedly. The creature seemed to flinch away from the bullets and was now turning his attention towards Legolas who was alone and was so far doing nothing to harm it. Aaron who knew what Legolas was planning grabbed Elrohir's arm and pulled the elf towards the elevator, hoping that it was suitably far enough away from the creature to keep them safe.
"Legolas!" Aaron called out as he saw the lone archer standing face to face with the creature. "Come on!"
Legolas paid little heed to Aaron's call for help because he was too busy taking aim at the watcher's most vulnerable spot, its mouth. The thing was snapping its jaws wildly, anticipating a meal and Legolas had every intention of feeding it, though the beast would not find it at all palatable. He released the arrow and saw it fly through the darkness. No sooner than the arrow had left his bow, Legolas turned on his heels and sprinted toward his companions.
The explosion was not as fiery as the one that had encompassed Eve's car but it was more than sufficient to tear apart what passed for the watcher's skull. Blood and charred flesh splattered the walls of the cavern as the creature stopped moving in a dead heap. Its huge tentacles slapped against the ground as it met its fiery end, its head alive with flame and flooded the chamber with much needed illumination. As the light filled the cave, they were able to see the large pool in the centre of it that had been the watcher's home for who knew how long. However, none of it was as chilling as the mound of bones had been collecting through the years, no doubt the remains of the victims Malcolm had send down here to meet a grisly end.
Legolas was still marvelling at the power of these arrows, even if they were more destructive than he liked. While he was rather awed hat he had managed to put down such a deadly beast so easily, he was more grateful that his friends had come out of the affair relatively unscathed. Glancing over his shoulder briefly, he saw Aaron tending to the wound on Elladan's forehead while Elrohir hovered nearby, reluctant to leave his brother's side.
The fiery remains of the beast had allowed Legolas the opportunity to examine their surroundings closer. He would prefer avoiding the metal contraption that had brought them here and find a more conventional means of leaving this place since they would have more control over where they were going. One thing Legolas had observed since arriving in the new world, the more labour saving devices man created for himself, the more opportunities there were for things to go completely awry.
Skirting the edge of the beast's flaming body, Legolas moved deeper into the cavern and deduced that it had been a fully contained subterranean chamber that Melkor had linked to the surface by means of the metal contraption that had brought them here. However, the watcher like most beasts needed air to breathe and Legolas searched for another opening that might act as an air passage. The fire was starting to die and if it were not for his superior eyesight, he might have missed completely a small aperture at the far end of cave.
"Aaron!" Legolas called out.
Aaron dressed the wound on Elladan's head as best he could and joined Legolas when the elf called after him. Legolas was staring hard at something in the distance.
"What is it?" Aaron asked.
"That," Legolas pointed at it and Aaron followed his gaze to see what he was staring at.
"That my friend," Aaron said with a smile as he saw the access way for some undoubtedly ancient and forgotten civil works project, "is our way out of here."
Eve stayed out of sight, as best as a woman dressed in a sheer nightgown could during an emergency situation with people tripping over themselves to leave the premises. She made her way down the fire stairs and was grateful when the only people she saw were Malcolm Industry employees filing out of their offices further down the staircase. Eve was certain that if Moses was being kept anywhere, it was in the floor where John Malcolm's office was located. The bastard would want to keep his prize close to him.
Eve knew how dangerous this was and if she had any sense, she would be making her way out of here. Malcolm's questions to her indicated that he did not know where the elves were which meant Sandra Collins had not captured them when she and Moses were taken. If the elves were safe then chances were good that Aaron was as well. That thought alone filled her with a deep sense of relief. The idea that he was hurt had the potential to harm her as badly as she had been when she lost both her father and her brother.
It was a sad but undeniable fact, Even thought as she emerged into the corridor where Malcolm's office was located, that she was in love with Aaron Stone. Why else would she be risking more than just her life to recover the patient he was so determined to protect? She supposed that she had been fighting it ever since she learnt that he was her husband in a past life, but in truth it had not been that much of a fight. It had only been less than two days ago that they had kissed for the first time and almost every waking moment since then had been filled with thoughts of him and how she was not about to play into the hands of fate by falling in love with him.
Talk about denial.
For a few minutes, Eve remained hidden in corner of the corridor, waiting for the opportunity to act so she could be assured of a reasonable amount of success. Despite her desire to free Moses, Eve could not deny that Malcolm frightened her, more than she had ever been in her whole life. Fear was not something she was accustomed to. In her line of work, she resigned herself to the fact that death could be a consequence of the job and she had accepted it as most police officers did. However, this was different. Malcolm would not just kill her. He would hurt her in ways she dared not even imagine and after seeing humanity at its worst, Eve could imagine quite a lot.
Footsteps against the wet floor made her shrink further into her hiding place. She remained out of sight when suddenly she saw one of Malcolm's dark suited thugs walking past her. Eve waited until he was a few steps ahead before she crept up behind him and jammed the barrel of her gun into the small of his back.
"Move and I'll see to it you're eligible for disabled carparking for the rest of your life," Eve hissed and pushed him against the wall.
"What do you want?" he asked worriedly, all too aware of the barrel against his spine.
"You know who I am?" Eve ignored his question and asked one of her own.
"Yeah," the man replied shortly.
"Good, then you know I came in with old man," Eve retorted, her eyes cautiously aware of everything thing going on in the corridor. "Where is he?"
"I don't know," he answered swiftly, too much for it to be the truth.
"Listen," Eve said very slowly. "I am having a really bad day. Aside from the fact that I've been drugged, kidnapped, told that I'm going to be love slave of some kind of dark lord and I mean the Darth Vader kind, I've also had to run around this place in completely inappropriate clothing, so don't misunderstand me when I say that if you don't tell me where he is, I am going to blow your fucking head off!"
Her words were sharp enough to penetrate and she could see the shudder rippling through him following her words.
"Alright, alright," he submitted unhappily. "I'll take you to him."
"Thank you," Eve replied, prompting him into movement by jabbing him forward with the gun barrel. "I'm glad you decided to see things my way."
It felt as if they had been climbing forever and Aaron was starting to think that they would never reach the surface again. The access hatch took them through the systems of underground water mains, electrical lines and other utilities required for a structure the size of the Monolith. All through their exhausting climb, Aaron was coming to grips with the fact that he had almost been eaten by a creature that could not possibly exist, living for who knows how long beneath New York City and feeding on the helpless victims Malcolm delivered to it.
His limbs were aching by the time they emerged from the long shaft into the basement carpark. Thankfully, emergency services were concentrated on the ground level of the structure where the fire had either been put out or was still raging, Aaron honestly did not know. He led the elves to the service elevator which he was certain would not be scrutinized as the elevators in the main lobby. In any case, they had no choice. Their detour to the bowels of the earth had cost them greatly and the margin of time left for them to utilise their earlier distraction was dwindling.
The elves did not appear happy to enter the elevator again but Aaron did not give them much of a choice as he stepped into the car and waited for them to join him. Legolas followed without question but Aaron could see the concern on his face.
"We have to find Moses," Aaron said to them, knowing that they understood English a good deal better than he spoke it. "We have to take the fastest way there."
"Gandalf," Legolas reminded.
"Yeah, Gandalf," Aaron nodded, supposing it was time to remember that Moses had a name.
"Aaron, Melkor danger. We must stop," Elladan replied, struggling to make himself understood.
"I know," Aaron answered and said nothing more as he pushed the button on the elevator and hoped this journey toward the upper levels of the Monolith would not be as eventful as their last attempt.
In truth, Aaron was not looking forward to finding Gandalf because he knew that none of them would be able to stop Melkor, not if even half of what the old man had told him was true. There was only one way for this to end and it was a course Aaron did not wish to take nor could he confide to the others until moment was upon them. He could not even confide in Legolas because Aaron was not entirely sure that Legolas would understand and Aaron did not have the words to explain it as well.
Aaron just prayed that he was right because if he were wrong, then he would doom them all to death.
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.