2. The Mines of Moria
The next day, the two travellers awoke as cheerful as they could be, even though they knew that they would have to reach into a most ominous place. They swiftly packed their belongings and continued on their route to the West, telling with many a jest tales of their childhood amid their foster kin. So engrossed they were to their conversation, that they never realised how swiftly time passed and found themselves on a rocky terrain at the root of a great mountain.
"Well, we have arrived," remarked Ceranos. "This is where the realm of Khazad-dûm started."
Aragorn glanced at the great rocks, only to raise an eyebrow in disbelief. Something was missing from the picture and, no matter how hard he looked, he couldn't find it anywhere.
"There is a gate here?" he asked wonderingly. He knew there should be an entrance here, because he had seen it in maps and even heard people mentioning it before. Yet there was nothing to be seen that even resembled a door.
"Dwarven gates are not made to be seen from the outside. Very practical in time of war, but in our case it is just a nuisance. Hold up your sword and start tapping," Ceranos said, while drawing out one of his hatchets. "If you hear a sound slightly different, let me know." And with that, he tapped with the back end of his weapon on the rocks.
Seeing there was nothing else for him to do, Aragorn started doing the same, having his ears alert for the slightest sound that his own sword would make on the rocky wall. He had started growing tired, when Ceranos called him to his side.
"Do you hear that?" asked the Elf when the Ranger approached him; then tapped again the piece of rock in front of him. Indeed, a somewhat echoing sound reached the Man's ears, so Aragorn nodded with a smile. He truly heard what they were looking for.
Answering with a broad grin of his own, Ceranos dug out from his pack a pickaxe and, with the skill of an experienced miner that he was, he strategically scraped some chips of rock from several places. Soon enough, the rest of the rock pieces collapsed off their place, and the outline of a doorframe was visible before them. In less than five minutes, the rest of the door was revealed; and Aragorn looked with awe at the meticulously carved wood. Although some of the images had faded, he could still clearly see an incredible story unfolding before him: the creation of the Dwarves by Aulë's hand; the Vala getting reprimanded by an obscure shape, which could only be Eru, the One; and ending with the sleep of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarven kindred and their reawakening.
"Behold the Dimrill Gate!" announced Ceranos with a tinge of pride.
The Man turned to look at the fair creature, and he noticed how his face had lit up. The strange Elf was obviously happy to have this chance to see the historical city that had belonged to his foster kin so very long ago. The Ranger watched his companion still looking at the door enthralled and his hands reaching for the handles. But, to the Man's wonder, the Elf froze in his tracks just before his fingers touched them, something clearly making him thoughtful.
"The doors have to be pushed open in order to enter," he said, facing Aragorn. "But before we do any such thing, I feel that I have to ask you one more time: do you still wish to enter Moria, in spite of whatever dangers are ahead?"
Aragorn's grey depths shone with determination.
"You said that you know the way, is it not so?"
"Aye. The architecture of the Dwarven cities, whether new or old, is a knowledge handed down to all Nogrod Dwarves," answered Ceranos, "and to whatever creatures happen to live under their roofs also."
"That is why I know that, if I keep up with you, you will be able to guide both of us out safely. I trust you, my fellow traveller."
Ceranos smiled broadly, satisfied with that answer.
"Then let us not waste any more time. Are you ready?"
The Ranger nodded and placed his hands on one of the large handles. As soon as Ceranos placed his own on the other one, they both gave a mighty heave and pushed.
It took several attempts, but the doors finally opened slowly, the creaking sound that emanated making the two companions cringe. They stepped inside, gaping at the gigantic structures that towered over them and around them.
"It is far more beautiful than I ever imagined," exclaimed Ceranos, his voice no more than a murmur.
However, Aragorn's mind quickly drifted to more urgent matters.
"Do you think the Orcs heard the doors opening?"
"No, I would not count on it," replied the Elf. "From what I can see around here, these halls have been well-looted, so they should be of little interest to them. My guess would be that they prefer the lower levels, despite the shadow of fear that covers them. The fear that initially drove the Dwarves away," he added with a tinge of regret.
"Fear of what?"
Aragorn's comrade sighed, pained by what he had to admit.
"Durin's Bane. A dark creature unleashed long ago by Dwarves seeking mithril. I am afraid that they dug too greedily and too deep, and so awoke it from its millennia of lethargy. That proved the downfall of both Aulë's creations and the great city of Dwarrowdelf. Oh, do not worry," chuckled Ceranos at the Ranger's worried look. "We will steer clear from the halls where it dwells."
"That is comforting," said the Man, breathing out a sigh of relief. "But how are we to do that?"
"Well, the halls are constructed so that the main route leads down, continues on straight and then goes upwards again as we approach the other side. But," the Elf said with a grin, looking at his companion, "there are more paths than meets the eye."
"What do you mean?" asked Aragorn. As far as he could see, there was only one flight of stairs before him, which led only to one bridge and one doorway ahead.
"When we pass the bridge, I will tell you."
It was at that moment that Ceranos searched his pack again and took out two strange large objects. "Take this."
"What is it?" asked the Ranger, eyeing curiously the rod that the Elf handed to him. He felt the one end; and wondered at the grinding surface his fingers encountered.
"A torch, of course!" laughed Ceranos. However, Aragorn's confused look sobered him. "You have not seen a lightening rod before?"
"No," admitted the Man sheepishly. "I have seen torches, but nothing like this. How is it supposed to be lit anyway?" he asked, slightly raising an eyebrow.
"It is simple," the Elf assured him. "You merely strike the rough end on the ground, and friction does the rest."
"Friction?" asked Aragorn again, not really understanding.
"I will show you when the time comes," promised Ceranos.
And with no other word, they started their long march into the dark places of Moria. Soon both the Elf and the Ranger were down the stairs and across the bridge, entering the main section of the once great Dwarven city.
Even though they were several feet below earth, the sunlight still managed to pass through cracks and crevices, thus illuminating the halls that the two travellers passed by and revealing the huge columns that held everything in place. Aragorn couldn't help but notice the numerous corridors that spread out through every hall and he felt glad that Ceranos was with him to guide him surely and swiftly. Had he been alone in such a place he would certainly lose his way, despite his skills as a Ranger.
Meanwhile, Ceranos was always looking up at the reliefs on the walls, not only to find the signs he wished for so as to find his way, but also to admire the extraordinary Dwarven craftsmanship displayed there. While he was growing up, he always listened to his foster kin praising the skill of the Dwarven clans in Khazad-dûm, and now he saw that what they had told him throughout the years was clearly an understatement. It was no wonder that Thrir and Náin spoke with such fondness about this place. He felt his heart filled with disgust and loathing when he thought of the hordes of Orcs prowling through such fair dwellings, defiling them with their presence alone.
Aragorn watched his companion clenching his fist, understanding what was in his mind.
"Perhaps Dwarves will be able to reclaim the city again," he said kindly.
"Perhaps," replied the Elf, smiling at his comrade.
Just then, the fair creature stopped in his tracks and started feeling the wall to his right. Aragorn saw how the Firstborn grinned broadly and pressed his hands against the relief depicted there. An odd clicking sound was heard and, to his amazement, the Ranger watched a part of the wall moving aside like a door to reveal a narrow stony path. Unfortunately, he couldn't see anything else further than that.
"Here, we will need the lightening rods now. Just follow my lead," said Ceranos; and with one swift movement, he struck the one end of the rod he had been holding on the ground.
Aragorn did exactly the same. He had barely touched the rod on the stones, when sparks broke out and a strong bright flame started burning on its end. The Man got so startled that he would have dropped the rod if it weren't for Ceranos grabbing his hand calmingly.
"I have one more rod, but let us not waste this one yet, shall we?" he teased good-naturedly. "Let us go, our ride is that way."
The Man remained still for a while, clearly in turmoil about what he should be surprised at first: the way the lightening rod worked or the "ride" that Ceranos just mentioned. In the end, he decided that his companion was simply too full of surprises to let himself get startled by all of them. With that settled, he quickly rushed to the Elf who had already walked ahead, the lightening rod always held up and burning brightly.
They hadn't walked far, when they suddenly reached a dead end. Indeed, there was nothing but stonewalls around them.
"Looks like we took a wrong turn," remarked the Ranger.
"No, we did not," was the smiling answer. "We will simply go down now."
Aragorn looked at his fellow traveller, trying to figure if he was insane. After all, there was nothing here, not even doors.
Ceranos understood what that look meant and he answered it with a sly chuckle.
"Just hold still, I will activate our ride," he said in an enigmatic tone, putting his hand through a hole on the wall. As soon as another clicking sound was heard, he pulled his hand out again.
Nothing had prepared Aragorn for what was to come next. In an instant, he felt the ground sinking underneath him and he thought at first that an earthquake was happening. It took him some minutes to realise that the only thing moving was the stone slab on which both he and his companion were standing - and it was going downwards!
"What in the world…?" exclaimed the Man, dumbfounded.
The Elf only drew him close to where he was standing, next to the walls.
"Have no fear. This will take us directly to the lower levels."
"Are you certain this is safe?" asked Aragorn, not really feeling comforted.
"Of course! Dwarves have been using these for centuries. They come in very handy, considering the way the cities are built. It will save us some walking and time." Ceranos didn't admit it, but he enjoyed startling his companion and talking about the Dwarves' ingenuity. The pride and love that all Aulë's creations shared for their work had been passed down to him also.
Finally, the stony slab reached its destination and the Ranger quickly alighted, glad to feel stable ground underneath his feet once more. The Elf moved away also and found another lever to activate the elevator again.
"There is no need to leave that to the sight of the Orcs," he said, justifying his action.
"So we are now at their lairs?" asked the Man.
"I am afraid so," admitted Ceranos. "This will be the dodgiest part, since this section of the city will be swarming with them."
"How long will it take us to get through?"
"From this point? It depends. In the best case, it might be almost three days. By the best case I mean provided we do not get lost, something that will certainly not happen; or, more likely, run into trouble."
"Then we had better be careful," said Aragorn, his eyes darting to every direction and squinting them in an attempt to see beyond the dark places that his lightening rod couldn't illuminate.
"Aye, indeed," agreed the Elf, "and we must make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible, so I suggest we do not talk unless we absolutely have to. The rods can be easily thought to be held by Orcs, but our voices will betray us.
Keeping that in mind, they both started walking again. Neither knew for how many hours they walked. They couldn't even understand if it was day or night, because no light illuminated now the halls they passed through but their torches. And after what it seemed a very long march, Ceranos realised that he didn't hear the Man's footsteps anymore and turned to see what was wrong. Aragorn was leaning against the wall and breathing heavily, clearly fatigued, something that made the fair creature hurry back to the Ranger's side.
"You should have given me a sign sooner," he murmured in his companion's ear with concern. "I have more stamina than you and that is why I did not suggest a stop."
"I was raised among Elves, you would be surprised at what stamina I have acquired," replied Aragorn softly in a defensive manner.
"You grew up among Elves, you did not become one," said Ceranos, his jade eyes locking to the man's stormy grey ones, a small smile appearing on his lips. "This is as good a place to rest as any nearby."
The Ranger nodded his acknowledgment wearily and sat on the floor, resting his back against a rock. Ceranos sat cross-legged across him and dug out some cram from his pack to offer to his companion.
However, Aragorn stopped him.
"We will share my food," he insisted. "It will be my way of saying thank you for your guidance."
At first the Elf wouldn't have it, but he soon discovered that Aragorn's obstinacy could easily be compared to a Dwarf's. Thus, he courteously accepted some lembas that was handed to him.
"A few bites are enough," the Man warned him. "So do not eat too much."
Raising an eyebrow in curiosity, Ceranos examined the leaf-wrapped waybread and then, after breaking off a piece, he nibbled it carefully. The Elf certainly liked what he tasted, because in a few moments he had eaten his entire share, something that made Aragorn smile broadly. Ceranos smiled back, but in an instant he stood rigid, clearly trying to hear something.
"What?" asked the Dúnadan softly.
"I thought I heard something," replied the Firstborn, only to prick up his ears again. "And now I hear heavy footsteps coming to our direction!"
Aragorn realised of course that, although Ceranos had grown up among Dwarves, his senses were still as sharp as an Elf's should be. He quickly went for his weapons and drew out his bow and arrow. And as for his companion, he had already grabbed his axe and was now in fighting position.
It was then that the cave troll appeared, letting out a hideous growl in threat towards the two travellers.
"Aim for the underparts!" cried Ceranos to Aragorn, rushing to encounter their attacker. With a few strides, he was near the monster, avoiding gracefully the club it was wielding and at the same time on the lookout for any opening in the troll's defence to strike at. In the meantime, the Ranger started showering their attacker with arrows, following his companion's advice and aiming for the chest and belly.
The Troll certainly never expected that sort of attack by such small creatures; nevertheless he still swung his club in an attempt to hit at least the one that was closest to him. But, he never found his target, the Elf proving too swift for him, whereas the wounds that both the Man and his fellow warrior inflicted on it were getting only more and deeper. Soon, the monster fell down dead, making a great thudding sound as it crashed on the ground.
Aragorn quickly rushed to Ceranos's side. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, do not worry. Luckily for us, it breathed loudly enough for me to hear it," answered the Elf, trying to catch his breath after such a fight. However, he didn't stop to rest, but went over to the Troll to examine it carefully.
Sighing in relief, the Dúnadan only collapsed nearby, exhausted. He could have easily done without that unexpected visitor.
"Well, at least it was not so difficult," he said tiredly, more to himself than to Ceranos.
"Actually," replied the Elf, his eyes still on their dead foe, "that was too easy."
"Too easy?!" exclaimed the Man in utter disbelief.
"And here is why," answered Ceranos, opening the creature's mouth wider for Aragorn to see. "The teeth are too small and soft. This was not a full-grown Troll yet." This only made the Firstborn eyes open wide with realisation and reach for his axe again.
"Get ready, quick!" he cried to his companion.
"What?" Aragorn couldn't see what made Ceranos so nervous all of a sudden.
"Think about it, Strider!" retorted the Elf, exasperated. "When a young one is around…"
Another, greater growl interrupted him and made both of them turn to the door behind them.
"The mother is close," completed the Man slowly, finally understanding.
At that instant, out of the darkness of the hall, came a great Troll, the smell of the blood attracting it to where the Elf and the Ranger were. When the monster's eyes fell on the body of the fallen creature, it let out a great bellow of wrath that echoed through the room and then charged at the travellers, grabbing the same club her offspring had wielded.
Ceranos and Aragorn quickly ducked out of harm's way. In moments, the Elf was gracefully back to his feet and setting himself in a defensive position, whereas the Man was scrambling to his pack to get the sword that lay there, his arrows already spent at the previous fight. However, the club landing only a few inches ahead of him cut him off. Looking up, he saw the monster raising its weapon again, aiming it at him. Aragorn covered himself protectively with his hands, waiting for the blow to fall.
The Troll's roar made him look up again, startled. To his wonder and relief, the great monstrosity was writhing in pain, its hands trying to reach something at its back. As it turned, still roaring, Aragorn saw the source of its pain: a hatchet buried deep on its shoulder blade.
"Nakhu, tarâg!"* Ceranos cried challengingly to the great creature, in one hand his axe and in the other the second hatchet. "Let us see how you fare against an armed warrior!"
The great brute regarded the Elf through eyes filled with hatred and wrath for a few moments, then rushed with large strides at full speed for the kill. Ceranos threw his hatchet straight on the monster's chest, but that did little to slow the frenzied pace of the attack.
Aragorn watched with horror Ceranos standing perfectly still, waiting for the assault. The Ranger understood that his companion was drawing the Troll away from him, giving him time to pick up his sword; but actually intending to fight back against a creature of this size alone was sheer folly! Without losing any more time, he stretched his hand for his scabbard to get to his weapon.
Meanwhile, Ceranos stood frozen, waiting for the creature to reach him. It was only when the monster towered above him and its weapon was ready to crush the insolent warrior that the Elf jumped aside. Landing lightly, he turned around in a heartbeat, both his hands driving his axe behind the creature's knee, causing a severe injury.
The Troll cried out in agony at that and instinctively swung the club around to swat its attacker away. Ceranos saw it coming and jumped backwards to avoid the hit; but he was a moment too late: the club hit him full force on his chest. The impact was immediately followed afterwards by a sickening cracking of bones, and the Elf was sent flying several feet away before he landed in a heap on the floor. Limping due to its wound, the Troll slowly approached the dazed Elf and lifted the club to finish off its prey.
It was then that Aragorn threw his sword with whatever strength was left in him, aiming for the monstrosity's exposed throat. His hands didn't fail him, for the sword flew swiftly and surely to its target, cutting the Troll's life vein. The creature swayed for a few moments, letting the club slip through its fingers; then fell down, already dead before it hit the ground.
The Ranger looked on, breathing heavily, half-expecting the Troll to rise and attack again. But nothing of the sort happened, something that assured him that the danger had finally passed. He then caught sight of the broken form of Ceranos, still lying where it had fallen. Fearing the worst, Aragorn walked to the Elf's side, his muscles trembling after exerting himself so much, and knelt beside him.
To his relief, the Firstborn was alive and even conscious; but it was heart-wrenching to watch him breath in a shallow manner, trying to block the pain he was feeling, tears threatening to fall and only stopped by the Elf's pride alone.
"Are you hurt?" Ceranos asked the Man with an effort.
"No, I am not – thanks to you," answered Aragorn, touched by his comrade's concern, only to add with a sad sigh: "I wish I could say the same for you too, my friend."
"I heard something breaking… and it hurts to breathe," moaned the injured Elf.
"I do not doubt it," replied the Ranger, a wry smile forming on his lips. "Ceranos, I need to see how much damage you have taken at that hit. I cannot promise that I will not hurt you more, but I have to examine you. Do you understand?"
Ceranos nodded his understanding. Slowly and with Aragorn's help, he unclasped his armour and lifted his shirt to reveal his chest. The Man felt the ribs with light fingers as carefully as possible, sensing the Elf tensing and a small whimper flowing out of his lips every once in a while.
"It is as I feared," concluded Aragorn. "You have broken three ribs. I do not think any of them pierced your lungs though."
"That is something. I only wish it did not feel like I have broken more than three," commented Ceranos rigidly.
"Just hold still, I will find something to bind them in place," promised the Dúnadan. Truly enough, he returned back to the Firstborn, holding long pieces of cloth that he wrapped around the Elf's chest with experienced skill. With that done, he then put the shirt and the armour back in place over the bandages.
"Thank you," whispered the Firstborn. "It feels much better now."
"Do not thank me, thank my father for teaching me how to do this," smiled Aragorn.
"If I ever see Master Elrond, I will make sure of that," was his companion's answer, a small smile finally lighting his face. He pushed himself a bit up, gritting his teeth in an attempt to ignore the pain.
"What are you doing? You should stay down!" exclaimed the Ranger, pushing him down again.
But Ceranos would hear none of it.
"That commotion was enough to bring out the dead, let alone the Orcs. We have to continue on, at least enough till we put some distance between this place and us. Give me my axe, it will help me walk."
Seeing that his companion was right, the Man complied at once. He picked up his own pack and Ceranos's belongings as well, then helped the injured creature back on his feet. Even though he handed the double-headed axe to the Elf, he wouldn't give him any of his other things, including his hatchets.
"You cannot burden yourself in your shape," he argued.
"And you can?" objected Ceranos. "You hardly had any time for rest, Strider!"
"At least my ribs are intact, and I do not run the risk of making myself worse by carrying a pack just because I would not listen to advice," remarked the man half-teasing, half-serious.
Ceranos sighed and raised his hand in a gesture of peace, admitting his defeat. Thus they started their march once more, the Elf in the lead, guiding them both to another section of halls that he knew was nearby, and Aragorn behind, carrying the packs and the weapons. They had to make several short stops on their way to rest, since they both realised that they had overestimated their strength; but in the end they reached a secluded room where they could spend a few quiet hours of sleep. At Ceranos's suggestion, Aragorn closed the doors of the entrance and used one of the hatchets to keep them shut, so as not to worry about patrolling Orcs. Using their packs as headrests, they lay down their weary and aching bodies with many a tired sigh.
However, one of them didn't feel like sleeping before he had straightened something out in his mind.
"Hmm?" replied Aragorn, already half-asleep.
"Why did you call me your friend?"
The Man opened an eyelid, the question waking him up slightly.
"Why should I not?" he asked, not really understanding.
"You have only known me for two days."
"And what of it?"
Ceranos fidgeted, clearly nervous. The Man eyed him curiously, now fully awake. Was that timid, shy Elf the same one that fought so fearlessly against the Troll?
"With the exception of Thrir's family, nobody else I have met would be that open to accept me so quickly," explained the Firstborn in a murmur, finally plucking up the courage that seemed to fail him. "I mean, my father could prove overprotective at times because of what I am… or rather, what I am not. Let us face it, Strider, I may not be a Dwarf, but I am definitely not an Elf either. This was why he was always afraid that no other creature besides the Nogrod Dwarves would accept me with an open mind, a fear that I shared with him. Because of that, I have not made a lot of friendships on my rare outings outside the city. And I do not think anybody would want me to either," he added in the end, averting his eyes from the Man's gaze.
Aragorn looked at his companion for a while, then took the Elven hand in his own, making the Elf face him.
"Ceranos, you think I do not know how difficult it must have been for you to grow up among people that were so different from you in so many ways that, in the end, you felt that there was something wrong with you? I grew up among Elves and I came to share their ideas, their way of thinking and language. But, like you said only a few hours ago, I grew up among Elves, I did not become one. And I certainly cannot be considered part of the Men's race either. It is true that we are both something different, but it does not have to be bad either. In the end, it is the heart itself that counts. I have known you for only two days; but, believe it or not, even in so small a time, I managed to learn enough about you to understand that you are a brave and honourable warrior and your skill in fighting and forging can be only compared to your kind soul. You got concerned about my safety more than once; you were ready to share your food with me; and you even stood up against the Troll to assist me. This matters to me the most and this is why I consider you a friend. As for the fact that you have been adopted, I can only say that Thrir would be very proud to have raised a son like you."
Ceranos let these words sink in, clearly touched by such kind words.
"Thank you," he finally said, his eyes locking on Aragorn's once more. "You have truly grown wise among the Elves and this wisdom can only be compared to your skill as a warrior and a healer, a thing so rare nowadays. I am glad to have met you and I am honoured to be your friend."
"As I am honoured to be yours," answered the Man with a smile. His tone, however, changed to concern once more. "Try to sleep. Your Elven power of healing will help you recover, but you need to regain some of your strength as well."
"I do not think I will be able to, but I will try," remarked Ceranos, wincing as he tried to move to a more comfortable position. "I hate it that it hurts so bad. I cannot even smoke," he added in a grumbling tone as he closed his eyes and drew his blanket over him.
Aragorn actually restrained a chuckle at this and finally settled down to sleep too. He closed his eyes, but then he snapped them open again, realising something wrong with the sight of the resting Ceranos.
His companion, an Elf, had his eyes closed.
He watched his friend apprehensively, trying to figure out what to make of that. It couldn't be Ceranos's injuries causing worse damage to his body, he had made sure of that; not to mention that Ceranos's behaviour never showed him a sign that he wasn't healing. He was about to speak to him and determine the cause of this oddity when, at that moment, the Elf's eyelids half-opened to reveal unfocused jade eyes underneath them.
Finally it dawned on the Man. He remembered how in his childhood years he would always try to imitate his foster kin's way of sleeping, keeping his eyes open; a very unsuccessful attempt, since his eyes closed again as soon as he dozed off. It seemed that Ceranos was doing a similar thing too, getting used to sleeping among Dwarves; though it was apparent that his Elven heritage proved stronger and his eyes opened when sleep claimed the Firstborn.
Smiling kindly, Aragorn turned on his side and closed his eyes too. Ai, Ceranos, you never cease to surprise me, he thought, before he was lost in the land of dreams as well.
The pain that was caused as he tried to shift in his sleep awoke Ceranos completely. He let out a small sigh. This rest turned out to be a very weary one indeed, he thought wryly. Even though he was aware that, as an Elf, his wounds would heal quickly, he couldn't help thinking that this was taking too long for his comfort. He hated being so vulnerable and weakened.
The rods still burned from where they had been placed, lighting the room; so his eyes drifted around the place, checking the carved walls and ceiling, seeing that there was nothing else for him to do.
He saw Aragorn fast asleep and he smiled a bit at that sight. He really meant it when he said he was honoured to be the Man's friend, for he saw in him a person that understood him better than anybody else he had encountered outside Nogrod. He had always thought Men weren't to be trusted, considering them just power-hungry creatures, ruthless enough to do anything to gain the power they so desire. Yet, this one was different, and that was perhaps why he had grown so fond of him in so short a time: he was modest, kind, sympathetic and honourable. Probably because of the fact that he was raised by Elves, but all these traits were true nonetheless. He regretted that he had to drag him into such a dark, dangerous place; and he felt rather guilty that Strider had to take care of him, when it should be the other way around – he was the guide after all and the one responsible for their safety.
It was then that he saw the Man shiver and curl even closer to himself, clearly feeling cold. Ceranos looked at the figure, trying to understand what was wrong with the image before him, until it dawned on him.
Strider didn't have a blanket over him.
That had the Elf thinking hard. He knew that his companion had a blanket, he remembered noticing it on more than one occasion. But it was nowhere to be seen now. Perhaps he lost it in all the commotion with the cave trolls? That seemed very unlikely.
Ach, these bandages are too tight, he thought in dismay, his hand trying to reach at his chest to loosen them a bit. It was then that he understood what happened to Strider's blanket – and where the Man had gotten such long pieces of cloth.
Aw, Strider, why didn't you tell me? Ceranos exclaimed in his mind sadly, his eyes falling to his own blanket. Guilt began to eat away at him even more strongly now. You know I would have given you mine had you asked. You know I am not affected by the cold like Dwarves or Men!
In an instant he had uncovered himself and tried to rise with the intention of placing the blanket over his companion. But such was his pain at this that he had to bite his hand so as not to scream. He had to admit sorrowfully that he couldn't help his fellow traveller this time.
I am sorry, my friend, he thought in regret. But Mahal be my witness, I will repay your kindness when I get the chance.Shoving the blanket away, not wishing to keep it while his friend had to suffer the cold of the halls, he closed his eyes and remained still. Humming softly a tune, sleep finally claimed him again, his last thought being his silent promise to Strider.
*Nakhu, tarâg!: Come, troll! (Khuzdul)
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.