12. Hope for Escape
Arwen was not accustomed to impatience.
As an elf, even during the long years of Aragorn’s absence and Sauron’s growing shadow, Arwen had never truly felt the passage of time. The stretch of many years behind her and the promise of endless years before her should she elect to choose the path of her father made it impossible to completely understand what even the passing of a day meant to men. But now, shorn of her elven immortality, Arwen began to comprehend why men were so quick to act and so easily dismayed by the loss of time. To them, every second was a gift that ought not to be wasted, and the passing minutes she now experienced, each one filled with worry and fear, were a distress and a puzzle to her. Her anxiety over the fate of Legolas and Merry was coupled with her growing awareness of time, and these forces combined to create situation of anguish the likes of which Arwen had never before experienced.
And beyond that, I am pacing! she realized with something akin to horror, noting how her feet had followed a path back and forth between Rivendell’s various balconies. Elves did not pace. At least, elves did not usually pace and the few occasions upon which she could remember an elf pacing were those involving extreme worry and grief. Her father had paced while waiting for Celebrían to regain consciousness after Elrohir and Elladan liberated her from Orcs. Celeborn had paced when the White Council finally acted against Dol Guldur, for his warriors bore the brunt of the work and Galadriel suffered greatly while drawing upon Nenya for power to protect their people. But other than these rare instances, Arwen could not recall that elves paced. Yet she was pacing now and was further disconcerted because of this.
With a shake of her head, Arwen firmly stopped her wandering feet and took a deep breath, attempting to calm her mind. But peace seemed far away and the queen of Gondor was eventually forced to give up her faltering attempts at meditation, resigning herself to the fact that she was anxious, worried, and there was very little she could do about it. But surely there is somewhat I can do to relieve these feelings even if I may not totally rid myself of them, she thought. I am not the first to harbor such fear and frustration, and there must be ways of dealing with this. Mortals have lived with this all their lives. Thinking for a minute or so, Arwen at length decided that what she needed was distraction and purpose. She was doing naught to aid her husband at the moment, and should she engage herself in such a cause, surely her worry and anxiety would abate somewhat. Or so I hope…
Resolved upon this new course of action—and realizing she should have thought of this earlier—Arwen set off on a search for Celeborn and Elrohir. They would surely have some project or task that required her assistance, and even if they did not, speaking with them might calm her nerves to the point where she could find something to do on her own.
Stopping to inquire of a few elves, it did not take her long to discover that Elrohir had left Rivendell with Sam, Pippin, and three scouts from Lothlórien in tow. Curious as to what would cause her brother to leave his appointed post, Arwen began searching in earnest for her grandfather. Information regarding him was more difficult to come by for he seemed to have disappeared after seeing Elrohir off, but after a concerted effort, Arwen eventually found herself before the doors of her father’s massive library.
It had been long since Arwen had entered the library, and she wondered if it had seen much use since Elrond’s departure. She felt certain that Elladan visited this place often, and Elrohir probably joined him, but with the eldest of the elves now gone and the threat of Sauron’s evil destroyed, there were few in Imladris who would have much interest in searching the records of the Ages. Lifting the handles of the tall oak doors, Arwen pulled them open and was greeted by the smell of parchment and leather. It was a familiar smell and a comforting one, for many were the nights she had spent in here at her father’s side, listening to his rich voice relate stories of the past or simply sitting with him as he studied. Oftentimes, Elladan would be with them, and they would talk long into the night, rejoicing in one another’s company and reliving the younger days of Rivendell when Sauron was driven east of the Misty Mountains and it seemed that the darkness could be defeated.
Focus, Arwen told herself sternly with a shake of her head. This is not a time to reminisce of the past but a time to prepare for the future. Nostalgia has no place here. Disciplining her thoughts, the daughter of Elrond stepped into the wide room filled with tables and tall shelves, her eyes sweeping the area for Celeborn.
She eventually found him in a remote corner of the library where the scrolls and manuscripts were so old that the pages cracked and splintered if even the slightest breeze brushed against them. Celeborn was completely intent upon a volume of history before him, and for a moment, Arwen was content to stand quietly and watch as the lord of Lothlórien poured over the ancient book, the title of which had long ago disappeared from the leather cover. Celeborn’s silver hair glistened in the light of a tall window behind him as sunlight flickered through the trees that stood as sentinels outside. Memories flooded through Arwen yet again, and for a brief time, it seemed as though her father had returned and lost himself in the library, seeking the answers to a shadowy riddle or searching for a way to fight the darkness. Almost she could see Glorfindel searching the shelves and selecting parchments that might be of use while Elladan peered over her father’s shoulder and Elrohir brought meals from the kitchen. Then the moment passed, the figures of years long gone faded from sight, and Arwen returned to the present. With a sigh for what would never be again, the daughter of Elrond shook herself slightly and stepped forward, clearing her throat.
Celeborn jumped, and in spite of herself, Arwen could not hide a smile. It was a measure of how involved the other elf was in his studies and also spoke of the situation’s seriousness, yet Arwen could not quite contain herself. She had never seen her grandfather taken by surprise like that, and she wished Galadriel had been there to see it. Celeborn scowled at her for her mirth, but there was no censure in his gaze and more than a little humor in his deep eyes.
"Your father and brothers trained you well. I did not hear your approach."
"You were distracted, my lord," Arwen answered. "I am certain that I could not do it again."
"Are you? I am not." Celeborn smiled and shook his head. "It is well that there were no others here to see that, else I should not hear the end of it. Celeborn the Wise, husband to Galadriel and defender of Lothlórien, taken completely unawares in quite possibly the quietest place in all of Arda—Rivendell’s library."
"You are kind to humor me," Arwen said, pulling up a dusty chair and taking a seat.
"There are those who would call me weak, but I will take kindness as a compliment," Celeborn said, a strange twinkle in his eye. "And you are kind to create allowances for me. But you did not come here to surprise me, or I hope you did not. What is your errand, Arwen?"
"Answers, for one. For another, purpose." Arwen sighed and looked down at her hands where they lay folded in her lap. "I fear that I have become impatient with our lack of progress, and I look to change that," she confessed after a moment, feeling Celeborn’s sharp eyes upon her. "I would learn what we face, and I seek to help us through what means I have."
"You say you are impatient? Strange. Does mortality weigh so heavily upon you?"
Arwen bristled slightly and straightened in her chair. "If I may be permitted to remind you, the king of Gondor and the lords of Imladris are currently in the surrounding forests looking for a large party of Orcs that have—"
"Peace," Celeborn interrupted, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Peace, child, I meant no disrespect. In any case, you are not alone in your impatience." The lord of Lothlórien sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair. "Your brothers also seem to be anxious for action, and Thranduil…Thranduil has never been particularly good at waiting. But I am at a loss as to what you would have me do for you. The others are venting their impatience by searching the woods and wading through shadows. Shall I send you forth to join them? And if so, will you defend my actions to Aragorn when he comes seeking my head for placing you in danger?"
"As for the danger, I am perfectly capable of defending myself should aught happen," Arwen answered with a mixture of pride and indignation. "Aragorn knows that well, though he is by nature very protective. But I had not thought to leave Rivendell, for I know well that my place is not with those who track. I have not been fully trained in the ways of the hunt, and I would hinder rather than help them."
"Then what do you propose?" Celeborn asked.
"I would help you in your efforts," Arwen responded. "You have managed to occupy yourself here in Imladris, and I would share what burdens you have. Surely you have need of some assistance."
Celeborn was silent for a moment and then he smiled. "You have your father’s wisdom, Arwen. And I will readily admit that your help would be welcome here. However, I must warn you that if you struggle with patience, this is tedious work. Do you still wish to aid me?"
"So long as I can keep my mind occupied, I shall be happy," Arwen promised. "And if I may aid you in the process, so much the better. But if I may pose a question ere we begin, why has Elrohir left Rivendell? And what tidings did Haldir bring with him when he and his brothers came back from the north? For I learned of their return yet they seem to have left again."
"Shadows," Celeborn said, his voice quiet and his eyes strangely blank. "They brought tidings of shadows that flow across the ground as water might flow in a meandering river."
"The same shadows that Thranduil’s scouts reported?" Arwen asked.
"I believe so," Celeborn said. "But Haldir was able to give me better details as to the nature and appearance of this darkness. We knew before that it was most likely the work of a Black Númenórean, but Haldir’s words confirmed it. And more than that, they gave me a clue as to the level of expertise and power of the enemy we now face."
"And for what purpose did you send Elrohir south?"
"I did not send Elrohir south. Rather he went south of his own accord after leaving Rivendell in my care," Celeborn corrected. "He was guiding Samwise and Peregrin as well, for they wished to join in the search. Hobbits." The lord of Lothlórien chuckled and shook his head. "Would that Gandalf were still with us, for perhaps he could aid us in understanding the little ones. Great is their courage, and greater still are their hearts. Would that all of Arda could be as they."
"You speak truly," Arwen agreed. "Their ways are simple, but they do not lack for charity or compassion." She smiled, thinking of her own experiences with hobbits, and then turned her mind back to the matter at hand. "Well, now that I have my answers, grandfather, let me see if I can aid you in your own search for answers. Am I correct in assuming that we seek for a way to track in this darkness?"
"Nay, for I have dealt with such darkness before and have sent word with Elrohir as to how this darkness may be defeated."
Arwen frowned, puzzled. "Then for what do we look? Do you have more information of which I am unaware? For I see no leads that we might follow."
"Perhaps not, but a thought occurred to me as I spoke with Haldir and his brothers. I am puzzled, Arwen, that our unknown enemy would seek to make prisoners of the Fellowship. And I am puzzled that he has not made demands of ransom or surrender. He plans something for his captives. He plans something dark that will eventually involve the rest of us, yet his intentions are still a mystery."
"Such thoughts have also occurred to me, but where shall we begin searching?" Arwen asked. "To seek through endless records of possible spells and incantations seems fruitless."
"But the records need not be endless, as you say. There are clues that might limit our search. For example, whatever is planned must require time, for our enemy has gone to great lengths in order to ensure that we do not follow him. He does not plan for us to rescue our friends in the near future. But he obviously means for us to have contact with them again, else he would have killed them already and had done with it."
"This is well and good, my lord, but that does not seem to narrow the field sufficiently," Arwen said. "Nor does it give us a place where our search might begin."
"Then we must start where all searches ultimately begin," Celeborn answered, gesturing to the books in front of him. "We must start with a search for origins. The beginning of a story often holds the key to deciphering the story’s end."
"But for what origins are we looking?" Arwen pressed. "The origins of this shadow? The origins of the Black Númenóreans? Perhaps the origins of Melkor or Sauron?"
"Nay, rather the origins of spells that might be used on prisoners. Spells that require time and spells that would be useful should prisoners ever meet again with their old comrades."
"And an example of these would be…"
Celeborn sighed and turned back to his book. "In truth, I know not. But an answer must be here, and when we find it, we shall know it."
The daughter of Elrond frowned and studied the lord of Lothlórien. "This is unlike you. You know something, do you not? Something is guiding you in this, but you are hesitant to say what."
"Think of it as intuition."
"But you were never one to trust solely to intuition," Arwen said, her brow furrowing with concern and confusion. "That was grandmother’s role. You were ever the practical one, pursuing all possible explanations before accepting the most logical one."
"Then think of this as the pursuit of a possible explanation," Celeborn said, his eyes skimming over a page so quickly that one might wonder if he read the words at all.
"But this is not the pursuit of a possible explanation," Arwen protested. "To all appearances, you are chasing shadows, and if this is truly the case, then there is something terribly wrong." Arwen stopped as a thought occurred to her. "Have you had aught to eat today?"
"I partook somewhat last night."
"And what of sleep?" Elrond’s daughter pressed. "Have you rested?"
Celeborn sighed and looked up at her, his face taking on a look of guarded annoyance. "There has been no time for it. What of you, young one? Have you rested?"
"Did you attempt this behavior when Galadriel was still here?" Arwen demanded, ignoring her grandfather’s return question. "For I know well that she would not tolerate this."
Celeborn chuckled and the irritation vanished from his eyes. "Nay, she was very strict when it came to my health. But even Galadriel could not see everything, and there were times when sacrifices were necessary. Worry not, child, I know my limits. I have passed them before and have no wish to relive the consequences. Now, do you intend to help me or shall you continue in your efforts to distract me?"
Arwen sighed, directed a stern glower at her grandfather, and then took one of the large books from the table. "Tell me again what I should be looking for."
* * * *
Swirling images of pain and torture were the first things to greet Legolas as he slowly journeyed from a blissful void toward the realm of consciousness. It was not a journey he really wished to make, but his body seemed to have other ideas. Despite his fervent desire to remain ignorant of both his surroundings and his situation, Legolas was slowly waking up.
Nor was this waking process a kind one, for the elf was quick to discover that there was not an area of his body uninhibited by pain. Cracked and broken ribs squeezed painfully at his lungs. A strange ringing filled his ears and his head pounded from one too many punches. His back was a raw mass of welts from cruel whips. Burn marks could be traced on both his arms and his legs. His wrists were shattered. His stomach had been deeply slashed by a blade, though Legolas could not clearly remember that happening. One knee was severely wrenched and throbbed ceaselessly. And to top it all off, he was thirsty.
Thirst, he thought to himself with a touch of insane laughter. I am thirsty. Of all the things to notice, I realize that I am thirsty. He idly wondered if he might not also be hungry, but a sudden surge of nausea from his heavily bruised abdomen quickly laid to rest that possibility.
Still, thirst was something he could deal with. He’d been thirsty before, after all, so he tried to concentrate his mind on worrying over that detail. It was his hope that his body’s other complaints might fade into background noise, but such was not to be the case. As he drew closer to full consciousness, the wounds on his back began to sting and throb, demanding at least a small part of his attention. At this point, the elf also realized that his clothes had been returned to him and that sometime during unconsciousness, he’d been dressed. The thought came with a feeling of wrenching disgust, but this were replaced by more immediate problems as Legolas realized that his garments were sticking to the open sores of his wounds. Even the light rise and fall of his chest was drawing pain. This caused an involuntary wince and shudder, which set off more cries from his ribs. He drew his arms down in an attempt to hold his chest and provide some support for his ribs only to have his broken wrists set up a clamor of their own. With something akin to a strangled sob, Legolas attempted to suppress the pain by taking his mind elsewhere, but this only led to further complications as he immediately began contemplating his current situation and his newly revealed enemy.
The Mouth of Sauron…
How had that man survived the fall of Mordor?! Aragorn had personally led a large group of scouts into the forsaken land after its fall, searching for remaining Orcs and dealing death to Sauron’s closest supporters. It was not inconceivable that a few evil creatures had escaped, particularly those who were stationed around the pass of Cirith Ungol or those who were somewhere on the eastern side of the Gorgoroth Plateau. But those who had been in the vicinity of the Morannon…how could the forces of Gondor have missed Sauron’s herald?!
Although, now that he considered it, Legolas couldn’t seem to remember finding the lieutenant of Barad-dûr among the dead. Not that he had looked particularly hard. The grounds had been littered with the dead or dying, and finding one man among thousands had not been very important or very feasible. And it had been generally assumed that the Mouth of Sauron had perished with the fall of the gates, for that was how many of the Orcs and trolls met their end. Apparently, the forces of Gondor had been gravely mistaken. Like the Ring, the elf thought with a painful sigh. It was also generally assumed that Isildur’s Bane had perished from the world, and it was almost too late when we learned differently. Shall we never cease to underestimate the enemy?
Legolas moaned softly in the darkness, trying to banish the memories of the past and concentrate on something else, but neither the present nor the future seemed to be any better. His current injuries rendered him immobile, and if there came a chance to escape, he would be completely helpless. And if this was what he felt like, then—
Legolas stopped himself before he could consider what condition Merry might be in. That the innocence of hobbits should be marred by the cruelty of Orcs was a grievous thing to the elf, and he hoped that Merry had found refuge in unconsciousness long before the torture began in earnest. But of course, Merry would have been awake and aware when the Mouth of Sauron had entered. The Orcs had been ordered to see to that, and they would never dare disobey such a command. And if the hobbit’s meeting with Sauron’s lieutenant had been anything like the elf’s encounter with the dark man shortly after the Orcs had finished their foul games…
Screams abruptly shattered the air beside the elf, and the silence broke into slicing shards of glass that pierced Legolas’s soul with every wrenching cry. Jarred into almost complete consciousness, Legolas flinched violently and tried desperately to lock down his hearing in an effort to ignore the torturous wails that shot up from an abused hobbit. Stricken by the piercing agony in Merry’s voice, Legolas sought to focus solely on his injuries to the exclusion of the outside world, but still the screams rang through. Swoon, Merry! the elf pleaded desperately, wishing he had the strength to speak these words aloud. By the Valar, if there is any mercy left in this accursed world, let him swoon! But the horrible cries continued, growing in volume until Legolas felt his heart would be torn asunder. Loud they echoed off the walls, answering one another in a raging cacophony of sound that threatened to destroy Legolas’s sensitive elven hearing even as his emotions were shredded by the agony caught up in those eternal screams.
And then, just as quickly as they had begun, the screams stopped. For a brief time, silence fell over all.
But Legolas was given no time to wonder at this, for not more than a moment after Merry had stopped screaming, a wave of darkness slammed against the prince, seeking to invade his mind and poison his soul. With elven stubbornness, he struck back, barring the shadow from his thoughts. In a way, this was much like the battle he had fought with the Mouth of Sauron while lying helpless and fettered. Legolas had won during that particular meeting, or so he thought, but he had the uncomfortable premonition that in this encounter, he would not to be so successful.
The darkness came again, this time bringing with it a burning fire that began consuming the prince from within. Legolas heard himself moan despite his efforts to hold back any outward sign of his pain, and he tried to stifle his tongue and retain mastery of his physical reactions. But as the fire intensified and combined with the throbbing pain of his wounds, he eventually lost control and began to scream as Merry had. Still the shadows beat at the walls he constructed around his mind, and still he held them off, but the exquisite pain that encompassed his entire being in flame could not be ignored. It seemed to be taking all the physical complaints of his body and amplifying them tenfold. Wailing in agony, he soon exhausted what strength had been left to him and was forced to retreat to a far corner of his mind in the hopes of retaining an inkling of sanity.
This seemed to be the opportunity for which the shadows had been waiting. Darkness swept over the elf and a new pain entered his body. The terrible fire vanished, but he felt bones begin to move and scrape against one another. Piercing agony shot through his wrists and a great weight pressed down on his chest. He screamed again, lost in shadows and battling vainly against the darkness, but his will was thrown aside and his mind became a void. The darkness had forced its way into his soul and it would not leave without a fight. Blackness crept over him but he could not attain the bliss of unconsciousness because of the physical pain that engulfed his entire being.
And then it stopped. Everything stopped. Silence fell, and the pain subsided. Only the shadow of darkness remained, probing at the prince’s heart and clutching at his thoughts with icy fingers. It was still in his mind, having never left after forcing the elf to abandon the playing field, and Legolas feared he might now never free himself of evil’s stain.
Called by a tentative voice that seemed to reach vainly for hope, the elf opened his eyes and found himself looking into Merry’s worried face. The flickering torchlight soon revealed to him that he was back in his original cell and that he and Merry were once again alone. With a soft sigh, the prince of Mirkwood tightened his jaw and bleakly wondered what came next.
"Legolas, can you sit?" the hobbit asked.
Legolas nearly laughed aloud as his sanity teetered precariously on a ragged edge. Could he sit? With his ribs tearing at his lungs, he doubted he could even give a verbal answer to the question. He took a breath to make the attempt anyway, but he abruptly stopped, puzzled. There had been no pain. Moreover, his head no longer hurt. Even his wrists had stopped throbbing. Slowly, afraid of what had happened, he raised himself up on an elbow.
"I don’t understand it either," Merry whispered. "One minute I’m hoping I’ll die, and the next minute, I’m healed."
"Healed," Legolas murmured, holding his arm out before his eyes. Even in the dim light, he could see that the burn marks and scars had disappeared completely. All the wounds incurred from the Orcs were gone. But why? How? And at what cost? The elf shook his head, still very aware of the presence of evil in his mind. The shadows that now hung over him must have been responsible for healing him, and in his weakened physical and mental state, he had been unable to resist the darkness. And now that it had broken into his mind…
"The door is open," Merry suddenly noticed. "Legolas, they’ve left the door open!"
The elf pulled himself from his thoughts and glanced up. The hobbit was right. The door to their cell had been left open. Neither had the Orcs shackled the two prisoners. Elven instincts on alert, Legolas searched the shadows around them for any sign of movement, but he found nothing. What was going on?
"I don’t like this," was Merry’s whispered contribution.
"Nor do I," Legolas murmured. It was a trap. It had to be a trap. But what was the purpose of such a trap? Did the Orcs really want the prisoner’s to attempt an escape so that they could be hunted down later? It made no sense! Was it some strange lesson in humiliation? A training exercise for mountain goblins? The biggest mistake ever made by Orc security guards? Struggling to make sense of an impossible situation, Legolas slowly got to his feet, somewhat fearful that the healing was only a temporary measure, and then walked forward hesitantly. Still he found nothing. As far as his senses could tell, he and Merry were alone.
"We know one thing at least," the elf said at length. "Pippin and Gimli were not taken by the Orcs. Through means of which we know naught, they managed to escape. If it were otherwise, they would have been kept with us so that we might enjoy one another’s torment."
"That’s good to know," the hobbit said, quiet relief evident in his voice. He walked to the elf’s side as though fearful of being left alone in the shadows. "I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy."
"Yes, it is a consolation of sorts," Legolas murmured, thinking that he had a few enemies upon which he would gladly wish this torture.
"So now that we don’t have to worry about our friends, let’s worry about us," Merry said. "I might not be an expert on Orcs, but I was captured once before and I don’t think that open door is normal."
"I have only hunted Orcs," Legolas said quietly, considering the unlocked cell. "Until now, it has not been my misfortune to fall into their hands. At least, not for any extended period of time. Still, in this we are agreed, insofar as our limited knowledge grants us insight. They are waiting for us to do something. That door was not left open by chance."
"But what are they doing? And why? Is this a sick game to them? It’s as if they want us to leave, but that doesn’t make any sense! Are they just playing with us right now? And if so, why?"
Grimacing with indecision, Legolas moved gingerly toward the open cell door, expecting to be assailed at any moment. But the dark caves remained as silent as ever, and Legolas tried to ignore the way their stillness made the walls seem to close in. He peered outside the cell and looked down the dark corridors, but as before, he could still see nothing. The elf rapidly harked back through long years of exacting training under his father’s stern captains. He had hated them at the time and he could not say he now looked back on them with a great deal of fondness, but he was grateful for their lessons, harsh though they had been at times. Unfortunately, their tutelage was not doing him any good at the moment. They had never discussed the possibility that one’s captor might deliberately leave the cell door ajar.
"I do not know what our enemies want," he eventually whispered, feeling Merry’s presence close behind him. "But I will not turn aside any possibility that we might lead us to escape. Whatever game they are playing, let us see if we cannot beat them at it."
"Then I’m right behind you. I’m good at games, and besides that, I’m hungry again. But I don’t fancy waiting around for a meal," Merry said, and Legolas smiled, thankful that the hobbit trademarks of unquenchable optimism and eternal lightheartedness were holding up well in Merry. They made the darkness easier to bear. "So, which way do we go?" the hobbit wondered.
"One way seems to be as good as another," Legolas murmured, loath to admit that he had no idea which direction to take. "I have been in Orc caverns only once before, and then I did not venture far. But from what I remember of that experience, this network of tunnels will eventually join a larger tunnel, and that tunnel should lead us to the outside world. It is for this larger tunnel that we must search."
"In other words, we wander until we find something promising," Merry translated. "Legolas, I would have thought that someone who has lived as long as you have lived could come up with a plan that sounded a little more encouraging, but I guess I was wrong."
Legolas sighed. "If you have a better idea, Master Hobbit, please feel free to suggest it."
"I don’t or I would," the hobbit said. He stepped out of the cell and stopped as though waiting for something to sound an alarm. "Right or left?" he eventually asked, both relief and worry coloring his voice. "When the Orcs hauled me off, it was to the right. I didn’t notice anything that looked like an exit, but I swooned not long after we separated. By the time I woke up, I was in a little room and the Orcs…" Merry trailed off and shivered. "I’m just glad they didn’t make me stay conscious for very long."
"To my misfortune, I was very conscious for most of the experience," Legolas said quietly with a slight shudder that could not be suppressed. "Alas, I saw nothing resembling an escape for us in the left passage, though there were many tunnels."
"Then let’s go right," Merry suggested. "Maybe there was something I missed while I was unconscious."
"Perhaps," Legolas allowed, though he seriously doubted it. He knew nothing of Orc tunneling techniques, but if they were anything like the dwarves’, the prisons and holding cells would be far from the entrance. Gimli had taken great pains to see that Legolas was intimately familiar with the traditional layout of a dwarven stronghold, and the elf was forced to admit that such knowledge had served him well during his visits to the Glittering Caves. Now he hoped that the Orcs mirrored somewhat the patterns of the dwarves, for if they did, the journey might become easier. "Right it is, then," the elf finally said, stepping forward and taking the lead. "But stay close, my friend. Something evil is at work here, and I fear that we are doing exactly as it would have us do."
"I love the way elves become so optimistic when things are dark," Merry muttered.
Legolas decided not to respond to that. The accusation was accurate enough, in any case, and there were more important things to worry about. Despite the lack of evidence before his eyes and ears, Legolas had the feeling that their movements were observed and, to a certain extent, even encouraged. It was not a comforting notion, but there seemed to be nothing that could be done about it. Choking down a growing fear that they were playing right into the enemy’s hands, elf and hobbit started forward into the darkness.
Author’s Notes: Some of you already know this, so this is for the rest of you. I’m currently in an EXTREMELY intensive language program right now (Arabic, if anyone’s interested) and updates are going to be few and far between until about the middle of August. Sorry about that. That said, please bear with me because I really am trying to get these chapters out for all my stories, including this one. It’s just not happening very quickly, so my apologies.