10. The Ties That Separate
"I don’t understand why it has to be you!"
Samwise Gamgee sighed as he fastened Sting securely about his waist and pulled on a thick leather jerkin. It was meager protection against the blows of Orcs and the swords of evil men, but it was better than nothing. Taking his cloak—the same cloak that had been given to him in Lothlórien—he fastened it about his neck with the silver-laced leaf brooch of the Galadhrim. It was time and he was as ready as he would ever be.
"I have to, Rosie," Sam whispered, glancing over at his wife with eyes that spoke of deep worry and immense sadness. "Bless me, I can’t sit here and do nothing while others look for Merry."
"But they all left at dawn!" Rosie protested, her face a mixture of anger, frustration, and sorrow. "What can you do that they can’t? You told me yourself that the elves and Strider were the best trackers in the world. Why do you have to go with them? Why can’t you stay here and wait for news?"
"Because Merry wouldn’t stay here and wait," Sam answered, moving toward his wife and gently wiping a tear from her eye. "How can I do any less for him than he would for me? Besides, someone has to keep an eye on Pippin," he added, cracking a weak smile. "You never know what trouble he’ll get into."
As if on cue, a rap sounded on the door to their room and Pippin stuck his head in. "All ready, Sam?" The Took was wearing the armor of a knight of Gondor, and the determination and resolve in his eyes sent chills down Sam’s spine. Pippin had been captured by the Orcs before, and it was made clear by appearance alone that he was not about to let Merry remain in their clutches without making a valiant attempt to free him.
"Half a moment," Sam answered. He turned back to Rosie, his eyes begging for at least understanding if not acceptance. For a long minute, she looked back at him with her heart torn, and then she finally nodded.
"You’ll do what you have to, Sam. You always do," she said, wrapping him in a fierce hug. "Just remember to come back to us. We’ll be waiting for you."
"I’ll always come back to you, Rosie," Sam promised. They stayed locked in an embrace for a moment longer and then Sam reluctantly drew away, wiping a suspicious moisture from his eyes. He glanced around the room and quickly found Elanor, who was playing in a corner with some toys that Elrohir had found leftover from Aragorn’s childhood. Moving toward his daughter, Sam knelt beside her and trailed a gentle, weather-beaten hand down her face.
Elanor looked up at the touch and smiled. "Hi, Daddy." Her small brow furrowed as her eyes took in his cloak. "Where are you going?"
"Daddy has to leave for a little while," Sam answered. "Will you look after mother while I’m gone?"
Elanor nodded, her golden curls bouncing with the movement, and she stood up to wrap small arms around her father’s neck. "Daddy comes back soon," she said firmly before planting a wet kiss on his cheek.
"As soon as I can," Sam whispered, enfolding his daughter in a tender hug and feeling as though his heart would break. "You be good while I’m gone, all right?"
"Very good," Elanor promised.
"That’s my girl," Sam said. He pulled back and smiled at her. "Now mind your mother. If you’re very good, when I come back maybe we can ride one of the big horses."
"With the bush?" Elanor asked hopefully.
"Yes, with Gimli. I’m sure he would like that," Sam laughed, tousling her hair and rising. Elanor giggled and then went back to playing with her toys. Sam sighed and turned back to Rosie. "I’ll be back soon."
"Take care of yourself," Rosie said, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "You’ve been lucky in the past, but that doesn’t mean your luck will always hold."
Sam nodded, hesitated, and then pulled Rosie into another hug. Tangling his hands in her dark hair, he gave her a quick but deep kiss and then stepped away, hastily clearing his throat. "If you need to send word, speak with Elrohir. Like as not, he’ll figure out soon enough where we’ve gone. And if I send word, I’ll send it through his brother. I promise that you’ll hear from me." And with that, knowing he was in danger of never leaving if he tarried even a minute longer, Sam turned his back on his wife and child and hurried out the door.
"You don’t have to come," Pippin said quietly, following Sam as the hobbit all but ran down the hall.
"I can’t sit here and do nothing," Sam said, slowing a bit and allowing Pippin to catch up. "I have to follow my heart. If I’d listened to it up on that pass by Cirith Ungol…" Sam trailed off and shook his head. "I learned then, Pippin. My heart’s smarter than my head. And right now, it’s telling me I have to go."
"Well, I’m glad for the company because the last thing Aragorn said to me before I went to bed last night was to stay in Rivendell, and I don’t know how we’ll explain this to him," Pippin said.
"And what would you be explaining to Aragorn?"
Both hobbits froze and turned reluctantly around to find Elrohir standing casually behind them as though he’d been there all along. And maybe that’s not too far from the truth, Sam thought, remembering several instances in the Fellowship when Legolas would suddenly appear behind them and then mention that he’d actually been there for quite some time.
"Sam?" Pippin prompted, glancing at the other hobbit for an explanation.
"Pippin and I are joining the search," Sam said firmly, getting straight to the point.
Elrohir said nothing for a long moment, studying the hobbits with piercing elven eyes, and then his gaze softened. "Some of us wondered why you were not with us this morning when we set out."
Sam let out a deep breath he’d been holding, and he felt Pippin relax at his side. "Thank you," Sam said, intensely grateful that he would not have to argue his way past one of Elrond’s sons.
Elrohir nodded and smiled. "We have kept some hobbit ponies in Rivendell in the event that your kind should ever visit us again. I see that this policy now turns to our advantage. Come. We shall see to your provisions, and then I will lead you to your mounts."
"We have provisions," Pippin revealed somewhat guiltily. "We raided the kitchens last night."
"Ah, so you were the thieves." Elrohir laughed quietly and shook his head. "Estel suspected it was so, but when you were not with us this morning, we doubted if you had planned that far in advance. Still, you must understand that one does not steal from Rivendell’s larders with impunity." This last was said with a grim look, but Sam caught a twinkle of mischief in the half-elf’s eyes.
"How are we going to be punished, Mr. Elrohir?" he asked.
Elrohir made a show of thinking about that question and then appeared to come to a conclusion of sorts. "You shall not travel alone to join the search parties. You shall take with you a guide. Lord Celeborn shall manage things in my absence and I shall ride with you, for I have need to speak with my brother."
"That sounds like a good punishment," Pippin conceded. Sam nodded in agreement. He had secretly been worried that they would be unable to find the others once they made it past Rivendell’s borders.
"I am glad that you approve," Elrohir laughed with a shake of his head. "Let it never be said that Imladris is unfair in justice. Come, then, since all is in readiness. We shall ride to find our friends." Saying this, Elrohir swept past the hobbits, and Pippin and Sam were quickly forced to keep up with the elf’s long strides as he led them through the twisting corridors of Elrond’s home and out onto the many paths that threaded about the surrounding forest. They were making good progress and Sam had almost figured out just how many steps he needed to take to equal one of Elrohir’s when the half-elf suddenly slammed to a halt and turned, breaking into a jog.
"Why in the Shire are you looking at me? I don’t know what he’s doing anymore than you do."
"Should we follow him?" Pippin asked.
Sam shrugged. "We need a guide, so I don’t think we have much choice. Unless you want to wander around in the woods with all those Orcs."
"No, I don’t suppose that would be a good idea. In any case, getting caught ourselves wouldn’t help Merry." Pippin sighed and shook his head. "I should have been stronger."
Sam blinked, uncertain as to what had brought on this comment. "Stronger? Stronger when?"
"During the battle. I should have seen it coming. Merry’s pony had always been skittish. If I’d stayed closer to him…" Pippin trailed off and turned away, muttering something beneath his breath.
Sam understood all too well what Pippin was going through. Vivid memories of Cirith Ungol came to his mind, and as he had many times in the past, he wondered what would have happened had he not hidden Galadriel’s phial after breaking through the web. Would Shelob have still come after them? Would he and Frodo have been separated? Would the spider’s poison have been spared his master? But Sam had learned—thanks in part to many conversations with Gandalf and Aragorn—that questioning the past did not change it. It was good to learn from one’s actions and it was good to plan for the future, but censure for past deeds had no place in the present. Unfortunately, Sam didn’t know quite how to impart this knowledge to Pippin, and so he did the next best thing. Laying a hand on the Took’s arm, he squeezed it slightly and then tugged. "Let’s follow Elrohir. We’ll get them back, Pippin. You just have to keep believing."
Pippin sighed and nodded weakly, murmuring a quick thanks before turning away. He gestured for Sam to proceed him, apparently not quite trusting himself to speak, and Sam willingly obliged, hurrying off in the direction Elrohir had gone. His sharp ears caught the sounds of Pippin falling into step behind him and he sighed. He would have to ask Strider if he could talk to the Took. But first things first, and before he could get to Strider, he would need to find Elrohir. Setting his senses to this task, Sam hurried down the twisting paths and looked about carefully for the half-elf.
"Sam! Over there."
Sam stopped and followed Pippin’s pointing finger until his eyes rested on Elrohir. He nodded and started to run, but then he stopped, realizing that Elrohir was not alone. Celeborn stood with him, and before both of them were three elves that Sam instantly recognized from his first night under the trees of Lothlórien.
"Is that Haldir?" Pippin hissed at his side.
"And Rúmil and Orophin," Sam said with a nod. "I wonder what they’re doing here. They don’t look too happy."
"Let’s get closer. Maybe we can hear what they’re saying."
Sam shot Pippin a rather disapproving glare. "The last two times I tried eavesdropping didn’t exactly work out for the best. The first time, I had Gandalf threaten to turn me into a frog and fill the yard with grass snakes, and the second time, Lord Elrond sent me off with Mr. Frodo into Mordor."
"But this isn’t Gandalf or Elrond," Pippin reasoned. "Come on, Sam, let’s get a little closer. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?" And without waiting for a response, Pippin took off, darting behind trees and columns while unerringly making his way toward the gathered elves. With a sigh and a roll of his eyes, Sam shrugged and followed, hoping they wouldn’t get into serious trouble for this breach in etiquette.
The hobbits were able to get quite close with a relative measure of safety, for the elves seemed wholly involved in their discussion. And judging from facial expressions, it was a discussion that did not bode well. Unfortunately it was a largely unintelligible discussion for the hobbits because most of it was taking place in Sindarin. And though Frodo had taught Sam a bit of the elvish language before leaving with Gandalf for the Undying Lands, it had been primarily Quenya and Sam’s grasp on it was sketchy at best.
"Now what?" the gardener demanded with an incriminating look at Pippin. "We’re too close to approach them now. They’ll know we were spying."
"We can always back up and come in like we were merely following Elrohir," the Took answered with a shrug. "But let’s stay here for a minute. I want to watch this."
Sam sighed. "We can’t stay for long," he said. "Elrohir will wonder where we’ve gotten to and it won’t be long before he comes looking for us. If he finds us here—"
"Samwise? Peregrin? You may come out now."
The hobbits froze, startled by the sudden summons, and then Pippin shrugged. "Look at the bright side," the Took said with a lopsided grin as Sam gave him his best glare. "At least we’ll find out what’s going on."
Shoving the knight of Gondor before him, Sam made his way out of the foliage and sent a sheepish look at Elrohir. "We were just wondering what—"
"Next time, ask. I would have thought you had learned your lesson long ago," Elrohir answered, though there was no censure in his gaze. He turned back to Celeborn and gestured for the elf to continue.
"As I was saying," the lord of Lothlórien began, speaking in Westron so as to include the hobbits in their conversation, "I have seen this before but it was during the Second Age. I knew not that this ability was kept, though doubtless there are records of it somewhere. When Thranduil’s scout came in, I suspected the cause but feared to make any accusations or judgements. It appears Thranduil’s conclusion was right, though. A Black Númenórean from Mordor is at work, and he has learned from one of the most powerful necromancers known to Arda. His powers have been put to use and we shall be hard-pressed to overcome him."
"Can the darkness over the trail be penetrated?" Elrohir asked.
"Whoever follows the path must clear his mind of all thoughts and simply follow by instinct. It will require keen eyes and an inborn talent for tracking. Second guesses will only cloud the trail, and he who follows must act instantly on whatever impressions he receives. And we must hope those impressions are correct."
"Then it is fortunate we have Estel and Elladan," Elrohir said. "Perhaps they can see in the darkness where we cannot. The perceptions of my twin and the skills of my foster brother may be able to counter this shroud of darkness."
"We must hope so," Celeborn sighed. "But the danger does not stop here. This Númenórean wants something, that much is clear, but I have yet to fathom what. He wishes to make prisoners of the Fellowship, yet I do not understand his purpose. He does not wish us to follow our friends, eliminating the possibility of bait. A demand for ransom or surrender would have been made known to us by now." The lord of Lothlórien shook his head and frowned. "I like this not. His motives are strange to me and until they can become clear, I fear to press the attack."
"Yet we cannot sit here while our friends lie in torment," Elrohir said sharply. "We must act and act quickly!"
"I agree, but what action shall we take?" Celeborn asked. "What awaits us at the end of the Orcs’ trail? What treachery is planned and what shall we face when we again find our friends, if fortune so favors us? Something dark is stirring, son of Elrond, and I fear what may come of this."
"But we cannot wait for answers while our friends are made to suffer. I will not allow it!"
There was silence for a moment as Celeborn and Elrohir glared at one another, but eventually Celeborn looked away and sighed. "You are right, Elrohir. It seems our only option is to follow what clues we have. We will have to find the lair of our enemy, with or without the knowledge we need."
"By your leave, my lords, Rúmil, Orophin, and I can ride to the searchers in the south and tell them of your counsel," Haldir volunteered.
Celeborn was quiet for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, do so. For the trail in the north is too near the trolls for our safety. We shall be better served by following the southern route."
"I shall ride with them," Elrohir said. "Peregrin and Samwise shall accompany us, for I promised to lead them to Estel and the others. Does this seem well to you, Master Hobbits?"
Sam had been attempting to follow the conversation and learn what was meant by the constant references to darkness over the trail, so he was startled by Elrohir’s question. Pippin seemed to have been doing the same, but he recovered from his surprise faster than did Sam. "That will be fine," the Took answered, speaking for both of them. "When do we leave?"
"Immediately," Elrohir said, turning and starting off in the direction of the stables.
"Is this wise?" Celeborn asked ere Elrohir could get very far.
"Do you think any would be able to stop them from following?" Elrohir responded, and Sam bristled at the notion that he and Pippin would be confined to Rivendell. Beside him, Pippin tensed and sent a dark glare over his shoulder at the lord of Lothlórien.
Celeborn laughed quietly, seeing the reaction of both hobbits. "Then I wish you success. Be careful, my friends, for there is much at work here and the enemy’s plans have been laid well in advance."
"Fear not for us, grandfather," Elrohir answered as Haldir, Rúmil, and Orophin joined him. "We shall send word of our findings and I shall begin sending some of the scouts back for rest. Mordor could not prevail five years ago, and it shall not do so now. Come," he said, turning to the hobbits. "There are friends to be found."
"Didn’t I tell you this would all work out?" Pippin asked, hurrying after the half-elf.
"I suppose," Sam allowed. "But all the same, I don’t think I needed to know all that about the darkness. Sometimes it’s better to stay ignorant."
* * * *
Merry’s pounding head was only one of several problems the hobbit discovered as he swam toward consciousness. His shoulder felt as though it had been severely dislocated and only recently popped back into place. He was also shivering violently as though from cold, something which immediately puzzled him. He could sense no chill in the air, yet he continued to shake as though struggling to warm himself. As he became more aware of his surroundings, he wondered if there was another, more elusive coldness against which he fought. His mind seemed to be shrouded in darkness, and he found that attempts at analytical thinking were difficult and almost painful. If he stayed quiet and continued to make observations, he was fine. But the moment he began to conceptualize or question, shadows loomed in his thoughts and it felt as though a huge weight descended upon his chest.
At length, the confused hobbit managed to get his eyes open, and he continued in making his observations, attempting to analyze what he saw and struggling to draw breath as he did so. He was in a room of darkness. He thought he could catch the flickering red of torches on the edges of his vision, but their light was faint and did little to aid him. He lay on his back and his arms were stretched out over his head, chained to the wall by tight, iron manacles. That was interesting. Where had anyone found shackles to fit a hobbit? Forcing his chest to rise and fall as he considered this new oddity and marveling at how calmly he was accepting everything, Merry shifted his head to the side and tried to better examine his surroundings.
There were the torches. Resting in iron sconces along a dank, soot-coated wall, they flickered dimly in a darkness that was not quite natural. By their light, Merry discovered that he was in a cell or prison of some kind. Black, metal bars crisscrossed one another and barred him from a narrow hallway beyond his small room, obscuring the torchlight and threatening to throw the hobbit into a despairing emotional spiral. Whoever had put him here did not mean for him to escape.
Merry wondered if he should attempt to sit up. The chain to his manacles was long enough that he might be able to manage it, but he eventually decided against the attempt. He was tired, aching, confused, and he couldn’t breathe properly. Besides that, there was no compelling reason to rise. At the moment, lying down seemed to be just as productive as sitting up.
A slight moan to his side startled the hobbit and he turned his head a little too quickly. Closing his eyes against the ensuing headache, he forced his mind to think of nothing and felt himself relax as breathing became easier. After a while, the pain subsided enough to be bearable and Merry opened his eyes again, looking to the side once more but doing so at a slower pace.
A small gasp managed to escape him when he beheld who lay next to him. Also lying on his back with his arms stretched out over his head and chained to the wall, a battered looking elf groaned again, seeming to struggle toward consciousness.
"Legolas?" Merry whispered, wincing as his voice echoed in the dank prison. He feared his hushed whisper might bring guards down upon them, but much to his relief, nothing happened. Deathly silence settled over all as the echoes of his voice died away. Slightly reassured by this, Merry tried again. "Legolas? Legolas, can you hear me?"
There was no response from Legolas. The elf had his eyes closed, which meant he was either greatly exhausted, in pain, or unconscious. The hobbit decided it was probably a combination of the latter two, though exhaustion might well play into it. He felt quite weary himself, and the inability to draw adequate breath was not helping matters. Yanking slightly against his chains and feeling no give in the cold metal, he looked back over at the elf and grimaced. He did not want to be the only conscious one in this cell.
"Legolas!" he tried again, raising his voice this time despite the warnings in his heart about keeping quiet and still. "Legolas, you have to get up!" Merry stopped and thought about that for a minute. Considering how they were both chained, it was doubtful if either one of them could stand, though if they stretched enough they might be able to sit. "You have to wake up," the hobbit amended, wondering if it really mattered what words he used since the elf didn’t seem to hear him anyway. "Come on, Legolas," he tried again. "Open your eyes! Just for a moment, at least! Tell me what you think of these accommodations. Maybe you can talk to the innkeeper."
At last, Merry received some kind of response. The elf groaned and stirred slightly, the metal of his chains clinking softly on the floor. Holding his breath while hope flared desperately in his frightened mind, the hobbit watched as Legolas groaned again, louder this time, and turned his head restlessly.
"That’s right," Merry encouraged. "All the way, now. Look at me, anyway, if you can’t manage anything else. I know you can do at least that."
Slowly—far too slowly for Merry—Legolas shook his head, shifted his arms, and eventually opened his eyes. For a long time, he did nothing but blink and stare, seeming to absorb his surroundings. Then he glanced toward the hobbit, the firelight making his gray eyes take on odd overtones of red.
"I’m glad you’re awake, Legolas," Merry whispered with a sigh of relief. "I don’t know how much longer I could have lasted without company. Not a particularly nice room they’ve given us, in my opinion. I think we should see whoever is in charge."
"Perhaps," the elf murmured absently, looking toward his hands and tugging experimentally at his manacles. His sharp eyes flicked over the prison, taking in Merry, the chains, the bars, the torches, and anything the hobbit might have missed. "How long have we been here?"
"I just woke up," Merry answered, still struggling to breathe. "I don’t have any idea as to how long they’ve kept us down here or how long they plan on keeping us here. I just know that I really don’t like this place."
With a grimace, Legolas jerked against his chains again and then seemed to decide that they were not going to move. "Do you know what happened to our companions?" the elf asked after a moment of silence.
Merry sighed and shook his head. "I don’t remember much. Pippin and I came back to help you and Gimli. Sam, Rosie, and Elanor were safely away, and they didn’t need looking after so we though we’d lend a hand with the attack. But my pony had other ideas and somehow I fell off his back. I think I was hit in the head after that, but I don’t really remember." The hobbit sighed again, his frustration evident from his tight jaw and his breath coming in labored gasps. "Legolas, there’s something about this place. Something…something is very wrong."
Legolas frowned and closed his eyes, his expression going blank for a moment. "There is darkness here," he eventually said. "A darkness that seeks to infiltrate my mind. I cannot think without shadows seeking to thwart me."
"I have the same problem," Merry said. "It’s hard to breathe and—"
"Hush!" Legolas suddenly ordered, his eyes flying open and darting toward the bars on the other side of the room. After a moment, Legolas pushed himself backwards, putting slack in the short chain that bound his wrists to the wall. Merry watched him anxiously and copied his movements, wondering what new devilry the elf could sense.
For a long time, nothing happened, and Merry started to relax. But Legolas kept his eyes glued to the other wall, and his expression discouraged any questions from the hobbit. "Orcs," he finally whispered, his face twisting with disgust and hatred. "Orcs approach us."
"Just orcs?" Merry asked, picking up on a strange undertone in the elf’s voice.
"I do not know," Legolas admitted, continuing to listen intently. "But I sense that the orcs hold back as if in the presence of a great commander. Their usual speech is subdued, and I hear tones of respect, strange though that may seem."
"How far away are they?"
"I do not know. I am not familiar with the layout of this place," Legolas said. "But they are close. They are very close."
"What are we going to do?" This was a question that should have asked long ago, but the darkness in Merry’s mind had muddied his thoughts and obvious actions had become obscured. Watching expressions roll across Legolas’s normally passive face, Merry realized with a sinking heart that the elf had not considered the question, either. Apparently the strange darkness was having a similar effect on both of them.
"I do not know," the elf eventually answered.
"That makes two of us," Merry mumbled. How many times now had Legolas just said the words ‘I do not know’? Far too often for my liking, the hobbit thought grimly. And if he doesn’t know what to do or what’s going on, how am I to figure it out? Merry shook his head and then suddenly stiffened as something beyond the cell bars caught his attention. "Do you see that, Legolas?"
The elf nodded slightly, watching as a hint of greater light crept into their room. "Torches. They approach," he whispered, lowering his voice to the point where it was barely audible.
"Are you sure you can’t think up a plan really fast?" Merry hissed back.
"Take no actions of any kind," Legolas cautioned. "Say nothing and do nothing."
That sounded easy enough to Merry and he quickly nodded. "Right. Say nothing and do nothing. Do you think it would help if I pretend to be asleep?"
Legolas shook his head, hissing slightly as this increased his already painful headache. "They know we are awake," he answered. "This shadow over our minds has a source. Whoever or whatever is behind this darkness felt us stir, and deceptions on our part will avail us nothing. But until we know our enemy, we cannot act. For that reason, we must let him make the first move."
"Ah, I see now. The plan is to watch and wait," Merry concluded with a sigh. "I guess I can work with that, but I think we need a better one."
Legolas smiled slightly. "I shall endeavor to prepare a more comprehensive plan when I learn more of our captors," the elf promised. "But until then, do nothing to draw attention to yourself. We may be only pawns in a greater plan, and if this is the case, we might lull them into a false sense of security by appearing meek and submissive."
"I hope you’re right," Merry whispered. "Because I’m hungry and I don’t think they plan on feeding us in the near future."
The elf laughed quietly, though his voice held no real mirth, and then they both fell silent, wary and watchful as the light began to grow brighter. After a short wait, Merry could pick up the harsh voices Legolas had heard earlier, and he was forced to agree with the elf. Having been a captive of the Orcs before, he could attest to the fact that they were always talking and always arguing unless they were threatened with bodily harm. But while these orcs were indeed talking, they were dong so quietly as though they feared to incur wrath. Nor were their tones proud or argumentative. They were hushed and afraid. Merry wondered what could cow an Orc so, and with a sinking heart, he realized he was probably about to find out.
After another few minutes of waiting, the Orcs came into view. Merry tried to count their numbers, but they were moving and jostling one another enough that the hobbit eventually gave up. His best guess numbered around twenty, though, which made the odds ten to one. Not good, he decided. Even for a knight of Rohan and an elf.
Upon seeing the prisoners, the orcs started to jeer and laugh, but they did not approach, staying near the far wall and occasionally glancing out of the room as though waiting for something. Legolas shifted uncomfortably beside him and Merry felt a flash of fear for the elf. Most of the orcs’ jibes were directed at the prince, and if Legolas were given to them for sport, he would not last long.
Then the orcs went abruptly silent, and a shiver of fear took Merry at the same time that a cold darkness seemed to creep over all. The flames in the wall sconces spluttered and hissed, and almost as though he were a part of the shadows, a hooded figure clad in a swirling cloak entered the room. The feeble light glanced off black armor beneath the cloak, and a long, sheathed sword swung from a baldric. Darkness seemed to follow this creature of evil and the torches dimmed until they were barely visible. He turned toward the elf and hobbit, and a flash of eyes could be seen in the shadows of his hood. Merry had the impression of cruelty, malice, and an evil cunning. More shivers crept along his spine and he cast his eyes away, unable to meet the dark gaze that seemed to seer his flesh. The hobbit looked instead toward Legolas, hoping to find some sense of peace, but he froze at what he saw on the elf’s face. Legolas was staring back at their captor with a look of both horror and recognition. The elf’s lips moved in a silent plea to Elbereth, and as he did so, a terrible laugh filled the room.
The cold voice froze the marrow in Merry’s bones, but he quickly had other things to worry about. At the commands of the cloaked figure, the orcs opened the cell door and streamed in, swarming around him. He was released from his chains, jerked to his feet, and his arms were seized and twisted cruelly behind his back. The hobbit choked down a cry when his recently set shoulder throbbed in protest to this treatment. He was shoved forward onto his knees and held by at least three different orcs. A thud and a soft gasp beside him caused him to look over and he cringed at what he saw. Legolas had five orcs holding him, and their gripping hands were forcing his arms painfully high behind his back. A sixth Orc seized the elf’s hair and pulled his head back until it almost touched his spine. A sharp blade rested against Legolas’s delicate throat and bit slightly into the skin, making a thin, red line.
"Move even a little, swine, and I’ll gut you like the elven pig you are," the Orc with the knife hissed.
"Bring them forward," the hooded form ordered.
Merry was dragged unceremoniously to his feet, but if he thought his treatment was harsh, he revised that opinion when he saw what was happening to Legolas. The elf was pulled upward at the same time an Orc with a metal gauntlet slammed his fist into Legolas’s side. There was an audible cracking sound as ribs broke beneath the blow, and the elf’s breath caught as he tried to hold back a wail of agony. His knees buckled beneath him, and for punishment the same Orc delivered a hard blow to the prince’s stomach. This time, Legolas could not forebear crying out as he doubled over, and the orcs laughed, hauling him bodily forward while he moaned in pain.
"Take them to their separate rooms," the figure instructed. "Remember, though, that no permanent damage can be afflicted, and they must have regained consciousness by the time I arrive."
Merry’s heart leaped into his throat, and he looked wildly at Legolas, hoping the elf had received some miraculous, last minute inspiration. But Legolas only looked back at him with pain-filled eyes and labored breathing, and then they were dragged away from one another. Merry’s orcs practically lifted him into the air as they turned him from the elf. Behind him he could hear the muffled sounds of a struggle and eventually he caught the sound of an elven cry. Then something rammed into Merry’s back and he stifled a yelp of surprise and pain only to release a much louder scream when one of the orcs holding his right arm twisted hard and broke it with a loud snap. Fighting against this pain, Merry screamed again when the process was repeated with his left arm. Darkness swam before him as his body began to go into shock, and the hobbit gratefully surrendered himself to blissful unconsciousness where this horror could at least be partially ignored if not wholly endured.
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.