12. Chapter Eleven: Gestation
Authors Note: There is an extended sequence in an NC17 rating for Tory's dreams, which I call an Interlude, you do not have to read it to follows the story.
Tory was having a very bizarre dream.
She standing on a balcony somewhere, overlooking a city that resembled very much the images Gandalf had inadvertently put in her head when he was trying to make her believe Aaron’s incredible story about Middle earth and elves in general. It reminded her a little of the older cities in Europe. Certainly, the tall spires and the domed buildings that lay beneath them had great resemblance to the cities of Prague and Brussels. She was looking down at the vista from a great height because the building she was in seemed to be the apex in an expanding series of terraces. Above her, the full moon offered her no answers just more questions.
Tory was dressed in clothes that seemed to fit the period of that ancient past and was surprised by how comfortable they were to wear, despite the preconceived notion that women in such periods suffered intolerably because of impractical clothing. Glancing at her reflection in the glass door behind her, Tory was startled by how she appeared in the sweeping gown with her red hair, flowing over her shoulders like she was the heroine of some terrible Harlequin romance novel. If anything convinced her that she was dreaming, it was this surreal vision of herself.
Staring into the room behind the window, she noted that there was something of a feast being celebrated if her memory about such occasions was accurate. The occasion whatever it was appeared to be something of a celebration. The formal part of the evening had apparently lapsed because guests were moving freely about, mingling with each other. Tory stared in fascination at the face assembled at the long wooden tables as servants ran back and forth across the room, which was obviously part of a castle, tending to the needs of the nobles present. In some ways, this felt like an even more potent dream than what she had experienced at Gandalf’s hands and she wondered why the dreamscape had brought her here.
"Do you tire of the noise as well?" She heard a masculine voice behind her and turned around startled. However, his sudden appearance did not stun her as much as her first glimpse of him.
Tory found herself staring at Bryan, no she corrected herself almost immediately, not Bryan, but rather Boromir. He did not look that much older than his modern day incarnation although the longer hair and beard would lead to that misconception. The differences though subtle were marked to someone who knew how to look for it. Unlike Bryan's, this man's eyes were weary. She had the sense that he had spent a lifetime waging one battle or another and it was starting to take its toll upon him. It saddened her greatly to know that this was only the beginning of his deconstruction.
Tory suppressed a smile as she looked at him in the garb of a medieval nobleman and could not deny that it suited him somewhat. She wondered if her dreams had brought her here because of the suspicion that they would have been in each other’s lives if not for Boromir’s untimely death. Whatever the reason, she could not deny that seeing him felt good, even in this place of unreality.
"Something like that," she remarked unable to think of what else. It certainly could not be the truth. In this day and age a story like hers would probably have her burnt at the stake for witchcraft but then again, this was the times of elves and wizards so perhaps it would not be so incredible after all.
"I would have preferred to leave Minas Tirith without this fanfare," he frowned turning back to the vista of the city beneath them. "My father makes too much of this journey of mine to consult with the elves."
"You're going to see the elves?" Tory asked, wishing she had learnt a little more about this quest where he had lost his life.
"Yes," he nodded. "I have questions only they can answer and I pray it is to the benefit of Gondor because the Nameless One grows bolder each day. He has already assailed the Osgiliath, it will only be a matter of time before he turns his eyes towards the White City."
"You mean Sauron," Tory stated.
"I would not think a lady of your breeding would know of such things," he stared at her with mild surprise.
"You can overcome your fear if you don't have a name for it," she remarked, noting his raised brow at the statement.
"That is a good point my lady," he replied with a hint of admiration in his eyes and appeared to be paying more attention to her now that she had sparked his interest. "I have never heard it put in quite that manner but there is wisdom in what you say."
"Thank you," she said graciously as he studied her with the same penetrating gaze that Bryan had employed to unnerve her.
"If my lady does not object, I would like to call on you when I pass through Anorien after my quest to see the elves is ended. I should like to see you again," the question escaped him rather meekly and Tory suspected that despite the persona of the warrior hardened by years of battle, there was a part of him that yearned for more than just his lot as Steward. She doubted that he had ever been in love or had the opportunity because the weight of responsibility had made it a luxury he could not have until Gondor was safe.
She wanted to say yes, that she would like it very much but Tory knew that there was no return for him, no future for either of them, even if this were not a dream. His destiny was sealed a hundred thousand years before she was born. The woman she had been in that life would go on to marry and have children, but she would do it with someone else, with this moment cherished forever in her heart as a monument to what might have been.
The sorrow of it was more than Tory could bear and she felt a surge of remorse for Boromir of Gondor. It was like a deep well of grief tugging at her, reminding her that he was not really gone and that he waited for her back in the world of the living. Still, the need to stay with this man and talk was powerful indeed. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be because already she could feel the pull of the waking world grow more insistent.
She could not even say goodbye….
"Tory, wake up," she heard Fred’s insistent voice drawing her out of the dream state with its urgency.
Her head throbbed as awareness flooded her psyche and the dream which had been so warm and comforting a moment ago, began to diminish in substance until all she was left with was this intense yearning she could not shirk off even in reaching consciousness. Despite this momentary uneasiness, her mind was quick to grasp that the voice rousing her limbo state had some measure of urgency to it. Where was Fred? The name echoed so loudly in her mind that it snapped her to clarity in less time then it took to open her eyes. Where was Fred? Was she safe? The vague memory of falling returned to Tory as she sat up shakily, aware of the tugging at her arm but had yet to equate it with her panicked question. She remembered hitting her head as she tumbled off some unseen precipice but after that, everything melted into darkness.
"Fred?" Tory answered, finally registering that the hand on her arm was the child in almost as much state of anxiety as she was over her welfare. In truth, Tory's injury was slight even though Aaron might argue that falling unconscious was never to be taken lightly after a fall. However, the pain was dull and aside from that, she seemed to have suffered no further effects.
"Fred, are you alright?" She asked groggily as rubbed the back of her head tenderly. She could barely see the girl because the place was in pitch-black darkness. The only reason she knew Fred was there at all was because she could see the faint silhouette of the little girl next to her.
"I’m okay, are you hurt?" Fred asked worriedly.
"Not enough to worry about," Tory said reassuringly before noticing something very odd about where they were.
She had not realized it before because she was too focused on Fred and the dull throbbing on the back of her skull. However, now that clarity had returned to her mind in more or less full measure, it was dawning on her.
For starters, it was warm. Considering that this was Eastern Europe in the cold part of the year, it was unseasonably warm. She could feel beads of sweat began to form under her turtleneck sweater and it was not a dry heat that was customary for this part of the world in summer, it was a moist, damp heat. It should be impossible especially in this climate but there was no denying it, the air was humid and it clung to her skin uncomfortably. The temperature was almost equatorial, ranging somewhere she estimated between 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. She thought of how she had been freezing in the car earlier that night only to find herself here, perspiring in what felt like a greenhouse.
"Its hot," Fred mirrored her observation.
"Yes," Tory started to stand when something else became apparent. The ground was warm.
At least she thought it was ground. As her palms pressed against it, expecting to feel dirt she was further unnerved by the sense that what she felt was not all rock or soil but something else all together. She thought of the stress ball a colleague had jokingly given her as a gift. It was ball of viscous fluid sealed with latex and when she squeezed it, it became distorted out of shape. The ground she and Fred were presently standing on felt like this. A think membrane of something separated them from the noisome fluid below it. When she pushed down, she could feel the displacement of liquid and the effect produced a ripple beneath them, like a waterbed.
Except not many waterbeds she knew were warm and were kept in caves.
"Fred," Tory said quietly, a horrific suspicion beginning to loom in her mind. "Feel around, my handbag should be around here somewhere."
"Okay," Fred answered obediently and Tory began searching for her handbag in their immediate vicinity.
It could not fallen far, she thought to herself as she ran her hands over the ground, noticing g that it was very irregular. She herself had been sitting on something that was jutting out from beneath the membrane, something that was definitely not fluid. As her hand slid over it, her lack of vision to see what it was did not hinder her ability to discern what it was. Tory almost screamed in fright but restrained herself and her horror because such a reaction would only terrify Fred out of her mind. Trembling hard, she forgot all about her handbag as she reached for it again and shaped her palm around its contours.
It was someone's knee. Someone alive.
"I found it!" Fred's exclamation made Tory jump with fright.
Tory composed herself and moved to the girl who produced her handbag out of the darkness. Tory immediately began rifling through its contents, finding a notebook and her lighter in quick succession. Holding it at the edge of its spine, Tory immediately set alight the pages, in order to save the diminishing fluid of the lighter. The pages caught fire almost immediately and flooded the area with light. The amber glow spread out across the darkness, illuminating the walls of the cavern and creating shadows everywhere.
Tory almost wished it had not because what lay before them was exactly what she had expected only worse.
The cavern itself was large but her discovery revealed that the floor of it was covered in the gelatinous material almost to its boundaries. The substance on the floor was thick and gray, covered with a thin layer of moisture. Tory looked up and saw that the humidity had covered the ceiling with condensation and droplets of water fell to the earth sporadically. Fred seemed to shrink nearer to her and in response Tory slid an arm around the girl's shoulder, as if she needed to feel her to know that Fred was safe, a visual confirmation would not do.
She was suddenly struck by the image of that terrible scene in Aliens, when Sigourney Weaver and her young charge had stumbled into the alien's nest. Unfortunately, Tory found the similarities between their present predicament and Ripley's alien queen to be terrifying similar. Although it was not Geiger's alien that lay beneath the membrane she and Fred were presently staring at, the danger was no different. She remembered the conversation in England, where Aaron had stated that Saeran could not hope to overwhelm the world of men even in the wake of a nuclear war without an army. He was right, mercenaries loved their own skin too much to sit by and watch their master.
She had to give David Saeran credit despite the horror of what she was seeing. He had needed an army but instead of buying one that could possibly turn on him after his nuclear assault upon the earth, he had decided to create one. She stared at her feet and saw beneath the gray membrane, so close that it was almost leaving indentations in the soft material, was a face. It was a face she had recognized when Gandalf had infused her mind with the memories of Middle earth.
"What are they?" Fred asked in a hushed voice.
"Uruk Hai," Tory replied, the words coming out of her mouth without her even questioning how she knew it. "They're Uruk Hai."
"What are we going to do?" Fred returned quickly, her eyes like sapphire orbs as she stared at the field of flesh before her.
"We're getting out of here," Tory said in a hushed voice, frightened that if she spoke louder, she might wake them.
She could see them moving by the ripples against the membrane. Oblivious to everything in their stasis, Tory wondered how many there were as she surveyed the cavern and saw an opening at the far end that was braced by wood and steel. A mineshaft? She thought to herself. The hope flared in her that if that were true; it could lead away from Saeran's mansion and this nightmare that she and Fred now found themselves. She had only a few seconds of light left because the note book was burning close to her fingers by now, however, she was gratified by the fact that she had some idea of which direction they were headed.
Beneath Tory's feet, the Uruk Hai sensed the movement.
Left alone in their state of gestation, their senses were dull. They could sense little beyond the slow moving fluid that surrounded them. They knew that they were many but the beat of each other's hearts slowed by stasis was difficult to hear in their liquid environment. Until the proper stimuli was introduced, they would languish in this state like flies in amber. They had no sense of self other than they were and until it came upon them, had no idea what they needed to escape this limbo that had been their world.
The pounding heartbeat that sliced through their lethargic senses, provoking a mixture of heightened awareness as well as pure simple joy in reveling in senses seldom used were as loud as drums. It did not take them long to focus on the source. Two heartbeats, beating strong and fast, reached out to them like a siren's song, awakening their dormant senses. Though they were eons of years apart in evolution, the orc races had began as elves and though the years had ensured that they were more or less a separate species in their own right, some characteristics of the First Born remained; in particular the sharp hearing and senses.
This hearing told them something was near, something very much alive. Prey.
Tory had to discard the remnants of the notebook when she was no longer able to hold it. The flames had spread to the thick binding which took a longer time to burn but had the benefit of providing some further illumination in their journey out of the cavern. Fred remained close to her as they crossed the gestation chambers, trying not to become overwhelmed by the shape of bodies they could see through the think film of organic material encasing the creatures within. The temperature seemed to have risen as her turtleneck became so wet with moisture that it clung to her back. Looking down, she could see Fred's cheeks flushed red with heat.
They were almost to the edge when suddenly she heard a sound. It was not very loud but Tory knew instantly what it was.
"Fred run!" Tory ordered as the membrane began to rip. She looked over her shoulder and saw the fading embers of the notebook as the pages turned into live cinders. The fire had burned through the membrane and the creature beneath it plunged a powerful fist through the fissure, emboldened by the tear in the sheath. The membrane tore apart like rubber. The last thing Tory saw as the light gave up completely was the splatter of gelatinous fluid through the air as the first of the Uruk Hai broke through.
"RUN!" She ordered Fred who did not need to hear that command again after seeing the same thing.
The little girl sprinted forward as the membrane began to twist and heave all over the place. Tory knew what was coming. The creatures were waking up. Whether or not it was because of the small fire she had started or the fact that she and Fred were simply present, it was an undeniable fact that they were tearing through their organic cages. She knew by sight what they were but beyond the logical belief she ought to be nowhere near when they awoke, Tory knew nothing else about the Uruk Hai. She could no longer see Fred in front of her as the darkness started to overwhelm her and as she ran forward, felt the ground become more and more unstable. They were all starting to wake up.
Suddenly, something wrapped itself around her foot and pulled. The strength of that grip was more than enough to bring Tory down hard. She landed painfully against what she was certain was a shoulder and immediately felt it moving beneath her either objecting to the collision or awakening also. She could not see what had halted her but Tory did not wait to find out. Lashing out a foot, she stuck the first around her ankle and immediately felt it recoil. Scrambling to her feet, she prepared to run again and this time a whole arm reached out from beneath her and grabbed her coat. Tory pulled away frantically, feeling the fabric tear as she freed herself of it.
She took another step forward and felt the air becoming rancid from escaping gasses now that the membrane was tearing across the cavern. The stench was foul and stomach turning. She remembered being at a murder scene once and being forced to endure the stink of a decomposing corpse. This was too similar. She wondered how many of them were being freed and was gripped with the sudden fear that she had heard nothing from Fred.
"Fred!" Tory shouted. She hated being unable to see anything, unable to see even the creatures reaching for her.
"Tory!" Fred's voice cried out. The child was frightened but not in distress, which relieved the woman greatly.
"Where are you?" Tory called out as she felt another hand clawing at her back. She continued forward, her steps ungainly and each time she put her foot forward, she was uncertain whether or not there would be ground to support her. Surely she must have reached the dirt by now? She thought frantically to herself.
"I'm here!" Fred's voice reached for her through the darkness. "I'm on the ground Tory!"
Which meant she was safe, albeit temporarily.
"You stay there!" Tory ordered and struggled her way through the growing number of Uruk Hai awakening in the darkness. "I'm coming to you! Keep talking Fred! Keep telling me where you are!"
"I'm on the dirt Tory!" Fred repeated, "I'm not on the funny ground anymore!"
Tory used Fred's frantic words as a beacon to which she headed. Her own fear was rising as more and more and more efforts were made to halt her progress. Fred kept shouting, the little girl becoming her only light in the darkness. Tory sank her nails into the hand that grasped at her thigh, certain she had drawn blood by the howl of pain that the injury created. She could feel fluid against her skin, could feel it soaking into her clothes. She could hear them howling as they made their emergence and wondered briefly how many other caverns like this really were. She thought of the rooms upstairs, the clean anti-septic corridors that reeked of disinfectant and wondered if that's what Saeran was doing up there, creating his own private army using modern science and ancient magic. She thought that if they stopped her from leaving this place, she would die here.
"Tory," Fred called out again and Tory breathed a sigh of relief because the child sounded very close, almost in front of her. However, her elation at escaping the creatures was short lived when the heel of her boot pierced the membrane and the ground beneath her gave way with a loud tear. Tory barely uttered a scream when she plunged through into the gelatinous slime.
When David Saeran heard that there had been an unexpected visitor to his bastion, he was less than impressed. The Nine had captured the Ringbearer without having the slightest inkling that they had acquired a stowaway during their return journey. Now that same stowaway, a barrister from London no less was roaming freely beneath his domain, having rescued the Ringbearer from the tidy cell he had prepared especially for the child. The leader of the Nine had offered to seek out this intruder but when Irina Sadko had declared that she had seen Victoria Harding escaping into one of the gestation chambers for his army of Uruk Hai, Saeran ceased to worry so much.
The Uruk Hai would no doubt take care of the problem once they felt the presence of life around them. The Uruk Hai with their superior hearing and their naturally aggressive manner would find Miss Harding very tasty indeed, however, what did concern him was the fact that he had no intention of having his vengeance thwarted. The Ringbearer was not going to be afforded so easy a death yet and so he dispatched the Uruk Hai that Irina had brought out of gestation. The creatures were eager for a fight and tasting woman flesh was a good way to blood his newborn minions.
"What about the others?" Irina asked, more than aware that her lover was having some uninvited guests. "They've passed the spiders. They're not far from the main complex."
"Once the trained Uruks have retrieved the child, they can deal with Olorin and his rabble. There are more than two hundred Uruks in that chamber awaking as we speak, unarmed or not, they can provide sufficient distraction to my enemies to ensure that keep out of my affairs."
"Is that all you want to do?" Irina said uncertainly as she regarded him in the dark room at the top of the mansion overlooking the balcony. It was still the middle of the night but she knew that these were his favorite hours. Saeran preferred the dark and often kept late hours. He expected the same of the humans working for him here and during the years of their service to him, had become accustomed to that particular eccentricity. "Keep them distracted?"
"More or less," Saeran said as he sat on the chair that she knew to be his throne. Though he had not spoken it, Irina knew that he considered it as such. The ornate carvings and tall straight back with its somewhat gothic design, not to mention it seemed to sit on a raised platform, seemed to confirm it. It suited him Irina decided because to her he was a god in his own right.
"You aren't concern that they might be a danger to you after?" She asked concerned and took a step towards him. As always, she lowered herself to sit at his feet, like an obedient dog next to a loved master.
"They will be more concerned with other things at that point. The humans most certainly and the elves will wish to return home. Only Olorin will be stubborn enough to attempt to reach me but he will be at a considerable disadvantages at that point."
"It concerns me," she looked at him.
Saeran smiled faintly and brushed her hair with his fingers. He wondered why he indulged himself with her sometimes. It certainly did him no good and at times proved to be quite distracting. However, the human shell he wore craved her touch and often and she had been a loyal and devoted servant, not to mention companion since swearing body and soul to him.
"You should not be," he gazed at her with a smile, "very soon you will sit at my side as more than just my chief geneticist and the creator of my menagerie, you will be my consort."
"Like a queen?" She teased.
"I rule with no one," he said with a predatory smile.
Irina took no offence. She did not expect such because he was a god and mere mortals could not hope to snare one such as him.
"I was sent word today from your European office," Irina replied, wisely changing the subject. "Apparently one of Malcolm's projects has seen some measure of success."
"I thought I'd discontinued most of his expeditions," Saeran answered with annoyance. Melkor was never good at planning and his efforts tended to be scattered. The man was incapable of producing a scheme that was little more than a clumsy tapestry. When he had assumed control of Malcolm Industries, Saeran had found himself going through Malcolm's projects, putting an end to many of them because he needed to consolidate his resources for the grand scheme that was days away from completion.
"Well the expedition team has been in a very remote location for the last eighteen months so I doubt they would have time to issue the proper paperwork for us to be aware enough to halt the funding," Irina explained, having become his associate as well as his lover since Malcolm's demise.
This caught Saeran's interest somewhat, "which one?"
"Project Maedhros," she replied not recognizing the name.
Saeran stared at her for a moment before shaking his head in disgust; "he was always obsessed with jewels."
They had walked for hours and it was starting to feel as if they would never find a way out of the network of mineshafts they had been forced to traverse since being sealed into the cavern by Saeran’s men. The elves in particular were starting to feel the effects of the confined spaces. It appeared that elves were somewhat claustrophobic and though they had so far managed to contain the uneasiness of their situation. Aaron could see they were eager to find a way out of this dark labyrinth of rock. Fortunately, after their encounter with the spiders, their journey through the caves had continued without incident.
The interlude was welcomed especially for Eve who was recovering from her confrontation with her worst nightmare. For Aaron, it had been something of a revelation because he had never seen her afraid of anything and knowing that she sometimes felt vulnerable, made him feel as if he could contribute something to her life, just as she contributed something to his. They walked for what seemed like hours, with Gandalf leading the way. The wizard seemed to know where he was going which was just as well. To Aaron, the mineshafts looked all the same and he was still certain that there was more down here than just spiders.
For awhile they had talked, as if needing conversation to make them cope with the danger they faced but as the trek progressed, all had lapsed into silence. Even Gandalf, who had been commenting about everything, had not spoken in awhile and though it might seem ominous, Aaron knew everyone was reflecting on their own thoughts. However, now that it was quiet, he hastened his pace so that he could talk to Bryan. Something had been on his mind since Craiova but Aaron had remained silent, biding his time and deciding whether or not it was his place to say anything.
"Hey Bryan," Aaron called out coming up alongside the man. "Can I ask you something?"
"Sure," Bryan gave him a sidelong glance, having anticipated this conversation for some time now and was surprised it had taken him this long to broach the subject.
"I know it’s none of my business and you can tell me to butt out except that I probably won’t," Aaron warned with a little smile.
"Fair enough," Bryan retorted, starting to become accustomed to the doctor’s odd sense of humor.
"Look you’re an okay guy," Aaron said first off. "Reincarnation aside, you’ve saved our necks through this more times than I can think and we wouldn’t be any kind of shape to deal with Saeran if it wasn’t for you. You’ve saved Eve’s life and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that but Tory means a lot to me as well. I don’t love her the way I love Eve but my feelings for her are just as strong. I don’t want to see her hurt."
"You’re right," Bryan looked him the eye and replied, "it is none of your business but in deference to the fact you care a great deal for her and that I’m not exactly the ideal suitor, I’ll say this much. I care about her and I won’t hurt her. However, you of all people should know that it doesn’t always work out, even if you do care about each other a lot."
"I know," Aaron had to concede that, "its just that she loved Stuart even though they were divorced and it was bad enough when he was killed so I don’t want to see her hurt again."
"I won’t hurt her," Bryan replied sincerely and he meant it. However he was incapable of expressing his emotions about Tory any more deeply than that. There was a lifetime of walls built around his emotions and he had guarded them too long to ever allow anyone see just how deeply or passionately he felt things. "I’m not promising it will be all moonlight and roses but I won’t hurt her. You can have my word on that."
"That’s good enough," Aaron replied willing to accept that because he sensed Bryan was not one to give his word lightly.
He was about to say more when suddenly, he noted Bryan’s gaze becoming hard and focussed. Following his line of sight, Aaron saw that he was staring at the elves. Both Legolas and Haldir had come to a stop. Legolas’ face showed a mask of concentration as if he were trying to discern something in the darkness.
"What is it?" Aaron asked first.
"I hear something," Legolas said striding forward past Gandalf, "up ahead."
"What?" Bryan’s inquiry corresponded with the MI6 agent reaching for his gun.
"I am uncertain," Legolas confessed, "it is some distance away."
"The rest of you," Aaron looked at Gandalf, Eve and Haldir, "stay here for a moment. We’ll check this out."
"But…" Eve started to protest.
"Just hang back okay?" Aaron replied. "If we get into trouble we’re going to need you to get us out of it."
"We will wait," Gandalf answered in understanding, "be careful."
Aaron nodded in acknowledgement before he followed Legolas and Bryan who were hurrying up the passage, a torch being their only means of light. Of course Legolas saw better in the dark despite the elves’ natural dislike of caves. With the beam lighting their way, Legolas closed in on the sound. It was still muffled and incoherent but distance was adding some measure of clarity to it.
"Someone is screaming," Legolas said after a moment.
"Screaming?" Bryan looked at him.
"Yes," he nodded. "It is still some distance ahead."
Despite being uncertain whether or not they wanted to find what had caused the screaming, the trio continued ahead through the dark and winding mind shaft. The dank air had suddenly become fetid and the temperature seemed to be increasing. All three were dressed for the cold Romanian weather and after delving deeper into the passage, found the effects of the heat affecting them acutely.
"How can it be getting warmer in here?" Aaron asked, not expecting an answer.
"I do not know," Legolas said wiping the perspiration from his brow and trying not to become queasy from the awful stench. "However, the smell turns my stomach though I find it oddly familiar."
Aaron looked at him, "I don’t like the sound of that," he retorted.
"Quiet," Bryan hissed because the screaming was becoming audible to human ears and he was listening closely, trying to make out if investigating it would only bring them into more danger. "Listen…."
Both Aaron and Legolas felt silent and Aaron strained to listened as they continued forward, the tone became sharper and clearer until he was able to identify it. It was definitely screaming but the words were still inaudible to him.
Unfortunately for Bryan, the words were unnecessary because he knew the voice. Bryan stiffened when he heard that distant ear-piercing scream and recognized it almost instantly. Even in the dim light of the passage, Aaron could see his expression becoming ashen. A gamut of emotions crossed his face in a split second, disbelief, acceptance and finally panic.
"It can’t be," Bryan muttered still in a state of astonishment. "It can’t bloody well be!"
"What are you talking about?" Aaron demanded as he saw Bryan burst into a full stride sprint, leaving them behind as he tore down the tunnel like his life depended on it.
"Bryan! What the fuck is it?" Aaron demanded anxiously.
"FRED!" Bryan shouted back without pausing, his voice panicked. "Its Fred! She’s down here!"
Tory tried to scream but there were hands grabbing her through the darkness as the thick, viscous fluid swirled turgidly around her. She felt her stomach heave at the feel of the cold gelatinous substance against her skin and felt it seeping past her clothes. However, she was not alone in this hell and though she was unaware of it, her unceremonious entry into their gestation membrane was a siren song that had them clamoring towards her. The Uruks were disorientated and confused from their sudden awakening and in such straits acted violently. She felt a powerful arm slip around her neck, trying to drag her below.
She struggled hard, hearing Fred screaming after her in terror, unable to answer because the creature was forcing the air out of her throat. She struggled to break free but he was so strong that she barely got his arm to move as she dug her nails into his flesh. The pain only made him shake her about like a doll and made it difficult to remain on her feet. The fluid she had fallen into was not deep, in truth it was no more than waist high but the touch of it against her skin made it crawl with disgust and within reach of these creatures was not a good under any circumstances.
She felt others clawing at her but an angry snarl told Tory that she was a source of dispute as her captors wrenched her away from the grasp of the others. She had no wish to be the exclusive property of any one of these creatures especially when the arm lock around her throat had not slackened. It was becoming harder and harder to breathe and if it kept shaking her each time she struggled, it was going to break her neck. Somehow, she had to break free. With only one way left to her, Tory sank her teeth into its arm and bit down until she broke skin.
The Uruk screamed in pain and shoved her away from him. Tory almost gagged at the taste of Uruk blood not to mention the resinous substance he was covered with. Breaking free from him, she struggled away but the darkness and the struggle had confused her sense of direction and she had no idea which direction to go. She could hear more of them coming towards her, closing in on her and knew that if they converged upon her, they would most likely tear her apart.
"FRED!" Tory cried out, "where are you?"
"I’m here!" Fred shouted frantically, having driven into silence when she could no longer Tory, fear silencing her briefly. "I’m here Tory!"
Tory let out a relief gasp and started towards the direction of the child’s voice. She had to reach Fred; she had to get away from these creatures. Hearing them all around her and being unable to see except in dark silhouettes had heightened Tory’s terror beyond her ability to act. She felt a hand reach for her and slapped it away instinctively, ignoring the others that raked across her back. She was covered in slime, which to a certain extent was useful, because she was too slippery for them to get a firm hold off. However, this would not last and as she heard Fred making noise so that she could find her way to the edge where the little girl waited, she knew that eventually the Uruks would turn their attention to Fred.
Suddenly, she felt her foot hit what appeared to be rock and Tory gasped loudly at the discovery that she had finally reached Fred. She started to climb out and felt Fred’s small hands trying to help her up.
"Come on Tory," Fred said urgently, as Tory struggled to climb out of the pit. The entire cavern began to fill with snarling noises and Tory knew that the rest of the Uruk Hai had finally awakened. If the memories Gandalf had planted in her head were at all accurate, the Uruks were well adapted for the darkness and could most likely see them with far greater clarity then she could see them. She could hear them swirling through the mire, closing in on her.
"Fred, get away from here. Try and find your way to the mine shaft!"
"No," Fred shook her head. "I won’t go without you!"
"Fred, please!" Tory exclaimed as she pulled herself up the edge but the slime on her hand and her body was making this exceedingly difficult. "I’ll be right behind you!"
No sooner than the words had left her mouth, something sank it teeth into her shoulder and dragged her away from the edge, away from Fred’s ineffective efforts to pull her up. Tory let out a short scream as she felt warm blood running down her shoulder, feeling the rising tide of fluid around her. The Uruk was dragging her beneath the surface, his teeth still in her shoulder. The last of her courage gave way at that moment and in her terror, she did not see the flickering beam of a flash light piercing through the mineshaft she had seen earlier. A desperate scream escaped her, filled with terror and defeat.
Bryan entered the cavern with Legolas and Aaron close behind. Legolas had been holding the torch, mostly because he had taken the lead in their exploration. She heard Fred screaming Tory’s name after a gut-wrenching scream filled the cavern and him with dread at the same time. The beam of light found Fred and the child turned towards him, her eyes widened like that of a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car. Her tiny face showed intense relief and she ran towards him, forgetting momentarily that she was trying to help Tory. However, the lapse was temporary.
"Bryan!" She squealed before she even reached him, "Tory’s in trouble!"
Bryan swept his gaze to the writhing bodies near the edge where Fred had been standing and called out because he could not see Tory.
"Tory!" He shouted.
"BRYAN!" A desperate scream ran through the dark.
Without thinking, he jumped into the vicious fluid as Aaron and Legolas reached the edge. Aaron grabbed the torch from Legolas and aimed it in the direction of that frightened scream. Legolas armed his bow immediately and was searching the bodies for Tory and Bryan.
"I see her!" He shouted. "Bryan, she is right in front of you!"
The beam of the flashlight illuminated the space before him and he saw Tory trying desperately to fight off the beast whose teeth were digging into her flesh. Others were clawing at her and Bryan reacted instantly, turning his gun upon the creatures and firing. The first shot echoed through the cavern so loudly it almost sounded like a clap of thunder. A few of the creatures surrounding Tory had retreated at the noise while the unfortunate recipient of the shotgun blast sunk into the fluid, a stain of crimson expanding around him. Legolas’ arrows were soon striking others that attempted to converge upon Tory. Aaron wanted to join the rescue effort but considering the darkness inside the cavern, he could serve better by holding the torch so Bryan could see.
Bryan closed the distance between himself and Tory, slamming the butt of his rifle into the creature that attempted to waylay him one efficient swing. He ignored the sound of crunching bone because he could see Tory being dragged under by her attacker. Unfortunately, Bryan could not fire at this range without harming her and as her eyes met his in nothing less than absolute terror, the MI6 agent felt himself suffused with rage. He moved faster and arrived just as battle to stay afloat began to waver and the noisome fluid was rising around her neck. The creature had released her shoulder and was putting its effort in submerging her when Bryan reached them.
Wasting no time, Bryan jammed the barrel of the shotgun into its face and pulled the trigger. The blast that erupted turned its face into a mass of ruined flesh and blew out the back of its skull. It released Tory immediately and she broke away instantly, coughing loud and wincing in pain. There was blood and fluid running down her shoulder as she tried to compose herself. She was not quite hysterical but the ordeal had taken its toll upon her as the tears ran down her cheeks.
"Come on," Bryan took her by the arm and started pulling her towards the edge. He wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her because she was badly frightened but they were not out of trouble yet.
Tory nodded, shocked by his timely appearance but relieved at the same time. However, pain and fright had robbed her of the ability to speak and was content at the moment to let him lead her out of this nightmarish place. With Legolas covering their retreat with his precisely shot arrows and Bryan treating anyone who attempted to stop them with his gun, they reached the edge she had almost climbed over before the Uruk had stopped her. Her shoulder strung with pain and she knew that the warmth she felt was not merely the disgusting byre of the creature’s emergence. She was bleeding and her shoulder felt as if it was on fire.
Upon reaching the edge, Bryan placed his hands on her waist and hoisted her to the top. Tory scrambled onto the stone ledge, never so grateful to feel dirt under her nails in her entire life. Bryan climbed out after her as Aaron helped her the rest of the way.
"What the hell are those things?" Aaron demanded as he saw Tory trembling so badly, he feared that her mind had snapped under the terrible trauma she had just endured.
"I think they are Uruk Hai," Legolas said with a hint of astonishment in voice.
"What?" Bryan managed to ask as he felt Fred’s arms wrap around him in a joyful embrace.
"Orcs," Legolas replied. "They were dark servants of Sauron during the all the ages of his rein and that of Morgoth upon the earth. I assumed that they had faded away with the passing of Middle earth."
"Tory, are you alright?" Aaron asked, not really listening. "Come on Red," he said insistently. "Talk to me, give me a sign here."
Tory was breathing hard, frightened out of her mind but the stupor of fear that had gripped her was passing because she was no longer alone. She and Fred were no longer alone. She heard Aaron’s voice but knew that it was Bryan’s eyes that were boring a hole through her skin with his intent gaze. "We have to go," she whispered softly, "they’re waking up."
"She is right," Legolas agreed immediately, "let us be away from here now. These Uruks are young but they thirst for blood nonetheless. This cavern is large and it appears that Sauron has grown many of them. This is the army he will used to cover this world in darkness. You were right about that Aaron, he would not risk using humans for what lies ahead."
"Can you walk?" Aaron asked her.
"Yes," she nodded rising quickly to her feet, the imperative to escape cutting through her fear. "I’m damn well walking out of here," she answered, her strength returning to her somewhat.
They hurried out of the cavern, with Bryan carrying Fred in his arms as they put suitable distance between the newborn Uruks and themselves. Making their way through the passage leading away from the birthing chamber, they did not stop until they arrived at an adjoining cavern. Legolas took watch at the mouth of the smaller cave, ensuring that they weren’t followed as Aaron tended to Tory’s wound. Bryan had set Fred down in order to see how she was. Fred appeared well enough but Tory, Tory concerned him greatly.
"What happened?" Bryan asked as soon as the opportunity presented itself. "What are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" She stared at him wondering if he had any idea what she and Fred had been through since they had gone their separate ways. "The next time you reach the brilliant deduction that it is safer for us to separate, spare us! Less than an hour after you left us at the train depot, the Nine came aboard and took Fred. If I had not stowed away in the boot of their car, I would have lost her! You didn’t see where he kept Bryan!"
Bryan did not know what to say. He could see that both of them had been through an ordeal but he was certain that having them leave was the safest course of action. "I did what I thought was best."
"Well don’t!" She hissed.
"Tory don’t be mad," Fred quickly interjected. "Bryan didn’t mean to hurt us."
Tory looked down at the child, Fred’s pleading blue eyes assuaging her anger somewhat. Tory knew that she was behaving like this because she had been frightened out of her wits and needed someone upon whom she could take out her anger and realized it should not be Bryan. He had saved her life and she had seen the fear in his eyes when he saw that she was in trouble.
"I’m not mad," she took a step closer towards Bryan.
Bryan wondered if he ought to retreat because she was glaring at him like a woman who had an extremely bad day and needed something to hit in order to make herself better. Since he could not deny that she was right, that separating had been an inordinately bad idea, Bryan supposed he deserved his medicine. In truth, he was so happy to see her alive and well that he would have endured anything. However, instead of throwing a fist in his face which he somewhat deserved, she wrapped her arms abruptly around his neck and pulled him to her in a passionate kiss.
When she kissed him, Bryan could feel it all the way to his toes. At her most fiery, she tasted wonderful and she devoured his lips with the passion of one who was extraordinarily grateful to be alive. He slid his arms around her waist and pulled her to him, reveling in the feel of her body against him and equally thankful that she was alive and that he had not lost her before there could be anything between them.
"I’m sorry," he whispered, "I shouldn’t have sent you away."
"You thought you were doing the right thing," she answered when their lips had parted.
"I won’t make that mistake again," he said sincerely.
"Too right," she retorted, unaware that Fred was staring at them both, smiling.
Legolas who had been watching the passageway to ensure the Uruks had not followed, raised a brow at the intimacies between Bryan and Tory. The elf went to Aaron and whispered quietly, "did I miss something?"
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.