Dark Horizons: 19. Where There is Smoke...

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19. Where There is Smoke...

As Legolas’s mind slowly drifted toward consciousness, the first thing he became aware of was a horrible jarring and an intense pain radiating from his chest.  Instinctively he let out a low moan, attempting to shift away from the horrible pressure.  It did not take him long to realize that this was a very bad idea, as the movement only aggravated the pain, and he once more became limp and still.  His memory of his present predicament returned to him, and he had to fight back yet another moan.

 

He was being carried by an orc, thrown carelessly over the creature’s broad shoulder, the position not helping his injured side one bit.  The jarring sensation came from the orc’s rough steps, and when Legolas at last opened his eyes, it took several minutes for him to see anything but stars swimming across his vision.  Not that there was much to see except the ground and the back of the creature that held him.

 

His hands were tied roughly with a large rope, and though he had long since lost all feeling in his legs, he guessed that they were similarly bound as well.  His head pounded so fiercely that he half expected it to fall off at any moment, and he felt as if he was very near to being sick.  He had eaten nothing but a couple of small wafers of lembas since leaving the city, yet the pain of his injured body was too overwhelming to allow him to feel any real hunger.

 

He decided to ignore his physical pain as much as possible and set his mind to the task of thinking of some way to escape.  He knew the orcs were most likely carrying him back to their lair, back to Malek, and this thought alone was enough to send cold fingers of fear through him.  Once the orcs reached the cave he knew there would be little chance of escape, though if he was completely honest with himself, he knew there was little chance in any case.  He could not understand why Malek had not merely killed him when he had the chance, and he wondered what foul purpose the creature held in store for him.  His thoughts turned unbidden to his dreams, and he had to fight down a rising wave of panic.  He gritted his teeth, using all his self-control to keep from twisting and fighting in a futile attempt to escape.

 

As it was, Legolas could not suppress the shudder that ran through his slight frame, causing the orc holding him to tighten his grip painfully.

 

“Be still, elf,” the creature hissed, his voice full of menace and hate.  “Be still or I will drag you behind me by that pretty hair of yours.”

 

Legolas did not respond, knowing that offering any reply would not go well for him.  He would not be surprised if the orc followed through on his threat out of pure spite and hatred.  He closed his eyes, shutting off the dizzying sight of the ground passing beneath him and trying to force his body as limp and unmoving as possible.  Normally, he would have given the orc as much trouble as he could, disregarding any possible repercussions to himself.  Yet, he had the serious feeling that he would need all his strength for whatever was to come, and angering the orcs into beating or possibly killing him would be far from the wisest thing to do.

 

Legolas instead turned his thoughts to Aragorn, recalling the horror in his friend’s voice as the ranger called out to him the second before he had tumbled from the cliff edge.  He hoped that Aragorn had managed to find Pippin and escape from the mountains, returning to the city safely, bringing news and warning to those that had remained behind.  Legolas’s mind conjured up a picture of Gimli, standing upon the wall with arms crossed, berating him for being so careless as to allow himself to get caught.  He could almost hear his best friend now, the dwarf complaining loudly that he knew he should have come along, especially since Legolas did not know how to take care of himself properly and needed Gimli at his side to keep him from bumping into his own shadow.  The mental picture was so real in Legolas’s mind that he found himself smiling slightly, despite his situation.  If he lived through this, Gimli would surely kill him!

 

Legolas’s thoughts were interrupted by an orc’s shout echoing through the silent night, the sound coming from several paces ahead.  The first shout was answered by another, this one much nearer, and Legolas realized that the company of orcs that had captured him were joining with another group. 

 

He opened his eyes just in time to realize that he was being carried into a small clearing, before the orc that held him roughly tossed him to the ground.  Legolas barely managed to choke back a cry of pain, releasing a soft grunt as his battered body connected with the hard ground.

 

He rolled onto his good side, pulling his knees up in a fetal position in an attempt to ease the sharp pain in his ribs.  He glanced above him, his eyes widening slightly at the crowd of orcs that had gathered around him, their eyes filled with gloating triumph and malice as they stared down at him.

 

Legolas took a deep breath and returned their stares, showing no sign of the fear he felt, his look of calm defiance one that would have brought pride to the highest elven lord. 

 

*******

 

Pippin was still being held tightly by his orc guard, unable to do anything as the new orcs brought Legolas into camp and dumped the elf to the ground.  Pippin attempted to call out to his friend, yet his small voice was completely drowned out by the shouts of the orcs that had gathered around the fallen elf.

 

Pippin immediately began to struggle against his captor, trying desperately to reach his fallen comrade’s side, unsure of how he could help, yet determined to try.  His efforts gained him nothing but a rough slap from the orc who held him, the blow nearly knocking him to his knees despite the thick arms holding him upright.  He gasped in pain, blood beginning to flow from his nose and down his face.

 

He could do nothing but watch in horror and growing fear as the orcs converged around Legolas, laughing and calling out taunts to their victim.  One orc aimed a kick towards Legolas’s head, but the elf moved swiftly despite his obvious injuries, dodging the blow and causing the orc to stumble slightly, thrown off balance.  The creature’s companions laughed at the unfortunate brute, but Pippin found nothing funny about the situation, especially when the orc drew its dagger, face twisted with rage.

 

Once more, Pippin fought to break free, feeling sure that he was about to watch his friend’s death.   The orc that held him didn’t even seem to notice his efforts, the creature as intent upon the unfolding scene as Pippin was, his grip an unbreakable vice around the hobbit’s bound hands.

 

The orc with the dagger lunged forward, pinning Legolas to the ground with one heavy boot against the elf’s throat, the dagger raised and ready to strike home.

 

“No!”  Pippin screamed, giving one last futile jerk, his eyes blurred with tears as he watched the dagger begin its downward journey.

 

Amazingly, it was another orc who came to Legolas’s rescue, stepping forward and catching the arm of his companion, stopping the blade from striking its target.  This orc looked to be a captain, for he was larger than the others, and he held himself with a commanding air that was rare among the goblin race.  He growled something low and menacing at the orc with a knife, wrenching the blade free and pushing the creature backwards.

 

“We take him alive,” the creature commanded, casting a glare around him.  “Those were my orders, and unless you wish to answer to the master, I suggest you obey them.”

 

This command was met by angry mutters from some of the orcs, and nods of agreement from others.  Pippin watched in apprehension as the orcs began to argue among themselves, their voices raised and angry as they began to yell back and forth in their dark tongue.  He was amazed when the orc holding him released him, leaving him to go and join in on the argument. 

 

Pippin’s surprise kept him immobile for only a second before he dropped to his knees and began crawling awkwardly toward where Legolas lay.  The orcs continued to argue above him, the situation looking as if it was drawing dangerously close to blows.  ‘Maybe they will all kill each other and leave Legolas and I alone,’ Pippin thought wryly, barely avoiding being trampled by two of the fighting orcs. 

 

Legolas’s back was turned away from Pippin, the elf still surrounded by two or three large goblins that continued to argue directly over his prone form.  Pippin called out as quietly as he could, hoping to avoid drawing the orcs’ attention, while still somehow gaining Legolas’s.  Luck was with him, for at the sound of his soft call, Legolas glanced over his shoulder, his eyes showing his dismay at the sight of Pippin crawling towards him.  He started mouthing for Pippin to get away, to try and escape, but the hobbit only shook his head resolutely and continued forward, drawing nearer to the towering forms of the orcs that stood over Legolas.  His heart was beating so fast that he was surprised it didn’t pump its way right through his chest.  Every second that passed he expected an orc to turn and spot him, and then it would all be over.  Yet somehow, miraculously, the orcs continued to argue and shout, completely unaware as Pippin worked his way past them, at last reaching Legolas’s side.

 

He collapsed beside his friend, his breath coming out in short rasps that he could not control, despite his fear that their captors would hear it.  Legolas stared at him sadly, the elf’s face unusually pale except for the black stain of blood that ran down the left side of his face. 

 

“You should not be here,” Legolas whispered so softly that Pippin barely heard him.  “Escape while you can.  Go!”

 

Pippin once more shook his head emphatically, glancing around him for a sharp rock he could use to saw at the rope binding Legolas.  “Not without you,” he whispered, just as silently, if a bit more breathlessly, his eyes at last finding what he was looking for.  A pointed rock with a jagged edge lay only a few feet away, and Pippin began to crawl slowly in its direction.  Legolas watched him silently, his body completely still. Pippin’s small frame could move through the darkness without drawing much attention, yet Legolas knew that if he so much as twitched a muscle, the orcs would be upon him.

 

Pippin at last reached the rock, his hand going out to grip the small item.  He was just starting to draw it back towards him when a heavy boot landed on his arm, crushing the limb to the ground and causing him to loose his grip on the rock.  He let out a small yelp of pain, his eyes flying up to the orc towering above him.  The creature glared down at him, reaching and grabbing Pippin by his throat and lifting his small frame off the ground, holding him up before him like a rag doll.

 

“Trying to escape, little one?” the orc sneered, giving Pippin a hard shake.

 

Pippin couldn’t have answered if he had wanted to, the orc’s iron grip cutting off all air to his lungs.  He struggled vainly, his eyes wide and black dots beginning to cut off his vision.

 

The orc laughed, holding Pippin up for a few seconds longer before letting him drop to the ground.  Pippin gagged and choked, desperately pulling air into his starved lungs.  He was not given long to recover before the orc reached down once more and pulled him to his feet.  For the first time, Pippin became aware that the orcs had stopped arguing and seemed to be preparing to move on.  Legolas had been dragged to his feet as well, and the orcs were in the process of tying a short, thick rope to the bindings on his hands.  The elf swayed slightly on his feet, a fresh trickle of blood working its way from the corner of his mouth, and Pippin felt a pang of guilt that his actions had caused more torment to his friend.

 

The orc that held him also began tying a short rope to his bound hands, and Pippin realized that it was a sort of leash.  It appeared as if he and Legolas would be forced to walk wherever they were being taken.  He shot a worried glance toward his friend, thinking that Legolas barely looked able to stand, let alone walk. 

 

The orc cut the rope binding Pippin’s feet, then grabbed his chin, forcing his eyes upward to meet the creature’s cruel ones.  “You fall, little one, and I will drag you,” the orc growled threateningly, a moment before he swept the hobbit’s legs out from under him.   Pippin managed to roll to his side and push himself to his feet a bare second before the orc started away, laughing nastily as he yanked the hobbit after him.

 

The orc company, along with their two captives, began marching up the trail, the orcs laughing and joking with each other as if the argument of a few moments before had never taken place.  Pippin struggled to keep up with his captor’s long strides as well as keep an eye on Legolas.  Despite his worries, the elf seemed to be keeping up just fine.  True, Legolas was lacking his usual gracefulness, and he was limping heavily, but he had yet to fall or even stumble.  This was more than Pippin could say for himself.  Between attempting to keep up and also watching Legolas, he had nearly fallen several times, tripping over unseen roots or stumbling over the uneven ground.  His orc guard, according to his word, had not slowed or even glanced behind him when Pippin stumbled, and it was only luck that he kept his feet and avoided being dragged.

 

The fourth time Pippin glanced behind him, Legolas met his eyes, shaking his head slightly and giving Pippin what was obviously supposed to be an encouraging ‘don’t worry I’m fine’ look.  Pippin didn’t buy into this one bit, yet the ground was beginning to slope more and more upward and the terrain was becoming more rugged, requiring all his attention to keep from falling.

 

Pippin soon lost track of all time, his thoughts focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  He was terribly tired and he realized that he had not slept properly in two days, and only a slightly shorter time since he had eaten properly.  He was starved, and his stomach kept rumbling with a loud demand for food, yet he realized that such a luxury was highly unlikely in his present position. He began stumbling more and more often, his eyelids beginning to drift shut of their own accord.  Only the sure promise of being dragged kept him from collapsing all together. 

 

Just when Pippin was sure that he could go no further, the ground sloped up sharply once more, leading up to the opening of the cave Pippin, Legolas, and Aragorn had scoped out only hours earlier.  Pippin sagged with relief that the journey was finally over, even as his mind baulked at the idea of entering the black hole of the cave.  His thoughts unavoidably turned to the missing member of their company.  He had wanted to ask Legolas about Aragorn, yet the one time he had attempted to speak to the elf, an orc had shouted at him to remain silent, delivering a rough cuff to the side of Pippin’s head along with the order. 

 

The tunnel entrance was guarded by two burly orcs who laughed and jeered when they saw the two prisoners.  Pippin winced inwardly when one of the new orcs reached out and shoved Legolas savagely, calling out a taunt in his rough language.  The elf stumbled back against the cave wall, using the hard stone to keep his balance and  keep upright.  Pippin started toward him, but the orc holding his bound hands yanked him forward, dragging him further down the dark tunnel.  Pippin attempted to look behind him, but the orcs had crowded close, blocking his view of Legolas.

 

The tunnel seemed to go on forever, winding and twisting passageways breaking off in all directions.  Blackness surrounded everything, and even the torches the orcs carried did little to push it back.  Pippin was careful to mark their route as well as he could, trying not to become too disoriented in the black maze.  For the most part, the orcs seemed to be following a straight path, turning neither left nor right. 

 

After several minutes of walking, the company broke from the tunnel into a large cavern, the ceiling of the cave rising abruptly to tower over their heads.  Pippin gaped in wonder; reminded of the large caverns the fellowship had passed through on their trip through Moria.  That memory was not a fond one, and Pippin doubted if this one would be either.

 

The cavern was huge, looking almost round in shape with a high ceiling and jagged walls.  Torches burned along these walls, casting dim light to all but one section of the large cave. Many other tunnel entrances opened into the cavern, giving the appearance of a giant beehive.  ‘A beehive full of orcs,’ Pippin thought glumly, glancing around him.  The cavern was mostly deserted now, however it was quite obviously the camping ground for an army of orcs.  A large army of orcs.

 

Pippin was shoved forward, half dragged and half carried to the center of the large cavern, where he was tossed to the ground.  The leash was removed from about his hands and his feet were once more bound tightly.  Legolas was shoved down next to him, and the same procedure was done with the elf.  Pippin felt a brief thrill as he realized that they were not going to be separated.  Hope flared within him once more.  Surely he and Legolas together could come up with a way out of this.

 

The orcs finished binding them; set two guards, then turned and left.  Pippin stared after them, amazed that they were being left alone with nothing more being done to them.  He turned and glanced at Legolas, the elf’s eyes mirroring his own surprise.  Pippin glanced at the two remaining orcs, then scooted closer to Legolas so that he could speak with the elf without being overheard.

 

“You all right?” he asked softly, still watching the two orcs who had their backs turned to them.

 

“Yes.  And you my small friend?” Legolas replied, just as softly.

 

“I suppose I am as well as can be expected, considering our present predicament,” Pippin answered.  Legolas smiled slightly at this, but did not answer.

 

“Where is Aragorn?” Pippin asked, his voice still soft but rushed.  He expected the orcs to turn around any minute and order them to be silent.

 

Legolas shook his head, his eyes troubled.  He raised his bound hands, wiping at the dried blood on his face.  “I do not know,” he answered truthfully.  “On the trail, the orcs were speaking of additional groups out looking for ‘the other one.’ I assume they were referring to Aragorn, which would mean that he is free, at least for the present.”

 

“Good,” Pippin whispered.  “He can get the others and then come back and rescue us.”

 

Legolas glanced at him, a strange expression on his face, yet he only nodded.  The elf seemed extremely nervous and fidgety, continually glancing around him and swallowing hard.  Pippin knew that Legolas hated caves, and being forced in one under such conditions would be hard enough for anyone.

 

“What do you suppose Malek wants with us?” he asked, hoping to distract the elf from his discomfort.  He had asked the question automatically, but immediately winced when he realized what he had said.  He didn’t particularly wish to speak of what evil things Malek had in store for them.

 

“I expect we will learn soon enough when Malek and his orcs return,” Legolas replied softly, looking at Pippin as if reading his thoughts.  “It is as Aragorn said.  Malek is sporting with us and I suspect we are but another ‘move’ in his game.”

 

Pippin frowned.  “Do you think he will attempt to use us to get at the others?” he asked worriedly.

 

Legolas shrugged.  “Perhaps,” he replied. “Or he may be waiting until he has all of us before he kills us.”

 

Pippin winced and looked away, glancing toward the nearest tunnel entrance, which was easily over fifty yards away.  Escape would be no easy thing.  That was for sure.  Turning back, he found Legolas staring at him intently, an odd expression on the elf’s face.

 

“Pippin,” Legolas whispered, then stopped. 

 

Pippin looked at him expectantly, waiting for his friend to continue.

 

“When the orcs return, they may wish to have some sport.” Legolas’s voice was soft and matter of fact, his eyes saying much more than his words.

 

Pippin felt his stomach sink, a slow sick feeling stealing over him.  He knew of what Legolas was speaking.  Orcs hated elves, and would take any chance to torment them, as Pippin had already seen.  He swallowed hard, refusing to meet Legolas’s eyes, once more desperately searching for any avenue of escape.

 

“Pippin, you must listen to me,” Legolas spoke firmly, his voice still toned low, but with a note of urgent determination.

 

Pippin reluctantly turned to face him once more, not wanting to hear what the elf had to say, but knowing there was no getting out of it.

 

“When the orcs return, no matter what they may do, I do not want you to try and interfere.  Keep as still and quiet as possible and hopefully they will not bother you.”

 

Pippin stared at Legolas in complete disbelief.  “You want me to sit and watch while they…,” he trailed off, too overcome by horror to continue.  “You can’t be serious,” he finally blurted out, his voice louder than he intended.

 

“That is precisely what I want you to do,” Legolas answered firmly.  “It will be hard, but you must.  This has nothing to do with our friendship,” he continued, “but with common sense.  Elves heal swiftly and can endure much more than you may think.  If the orcs were to turn their attention upon you, little one, I do not think you would survive very long.”

 

Pippin stared at Legolas, his mind numbly realizing that his friend had just used the same name for him as the orc had earlier.  Coming from the orc it had been mocking, yet from Legolas it was somehow comforting.

 

Legolas was watching him closely, his eyes intense, a silent plea in them.  “I do not tell you this to scare you, Pippin, but to make you understand.  You must do this for me, my friend.”

 

‘I thought this had nothing to do with our friendship,’ Pippin thought numbly, though he did not say it out loud.  “Maybe they won’t do anything,” he offered lamely, refusing to meet Legolas’s eyes.

 

The elf smiled sadly, his eyes all too knowing.  “You must remain alert for an opportunity to escape.  If the orcs are busy with me, perhaps you will get a chance to slip away.  If so, you must not hesitate.  Do not worry about me.”

 

“That I will NOT do,” Pippin stated firmly.  “And don’t tell me it has nothing to do with our friendship either,” he added before Legolas could argue.  “We will escape together or not at all!”

 

Legolas merely stared at him a moment, realizing that arguing would not change the hobbit’s mind.  He wondered if Pippin truly realized what he had just said, then finally decided he probably did.  The hobbit never ceased to surprise Legolas.  He gave Pippin a weak smile of gratitude, and was rewarded by a return smile.

 

Silence fell over the two companions, each lost in thought.  Several minutes passed before Pippin once again turned to Legolas.

 

“Legolas,” he spoke softly, gaining the elf’s attention.  “I’m hungry.”

 

*******

 

Aragorn almost did not find the cave.  He stumbled upon it purely by accident, the opening mostly hidden by a large patch of scrub brush.  His discovery came not a moment too soon, for he was growing weaker with every passing second, the loss of blood making him lightheaded and drowsy. 

 

Luckily for Aragorn, the cave was just what he needed.  A small tunnel led to a slightly wider cavern, just high enough for him to recline against the far wall, his head barely brushing the roof of the cave.  Another tunnel led from the back of the cavern, offering an avenue of escape should the orcs manage to find his hiding place.  The cavern was positioned far enough from the entrance that only the barest sliver of moonlight invaded the darkness, yet close enough that he could hear anything approaching the cave. 

 

Aragorn was not particularly fond of being forced to sit and wait, yet he knew his body could go no further this night, and out in the open he would stand little chance, especially with orc patrols searching for him.  This cave provided him a hiding place where he could rest and tend his wound while he waited for the light of day.  Once the sun rose, the majority of the orcs would retire to their cave and he would have a better chance of escaping back to the city.  He could only hope that Calembel would be able to resist the attack of Malek and his orcs.  His mind didn’t even want to consider the possibility that they would not.

 

Aragorn let out a tired sigh and sagged back against the cool stone, allowing his body to relax slightly.  He closed his eyes, gritting his teeth against the pain of his mind and body.  He had managed to keep his emotions on a tight leash, yet now they threatened to break free and consume him once more.  He attempted to force his mind into a blank, but it was no use.  His grief and anguish could no longer be contained. 

 

‘Failed.’

 

The single word seemed to echo repeatedly through Aragorn’s mind, ripping at him and tearing him to pieces inside.  He had failed!  Even worse than the fact that he had failed, was the price of his failure.  Legolas had fallen, Pippin was missing, and Calembel was most likely fighting for survival at this very moment!  He had been completely unsuccessful in his mission to learn more of Malek and discover a way to destroy the creature, and he had failed to reach Legolas in time to save the elf.  He had even failed to discover the final fate of both his friends.  Everything had gone wrong, and Aragorn could not stop the feeling that he was responsible, that he should have done something to prevent it all from happening. 

 

His mind was full of visions of Legolas tumbling from the rock shelf, and he could not contain a soft sob of despair and anguish.  Several long minutes passed as Aragorn sat lost within his grief, the pain in his heart completely clouding the pain of his wound. 

 

It took a great effort for Aragorn to pull himself free of his depression and sorrow.  At last, he busied himself tending his wound as best he could in the cramped and dark confines of the cave.  He tore a strip of cloth from his cloak and used it to bind the cut on his side tightly, his actions automatic, his brain still clouded with emotions. When he had finished his task, he settled back against the wall once more, closing his eyes and sighing deeply.

 

He knew it was going to be a long night, even more so because he would have to keep himself awake and alert.  He would much prefer to sleep, for then he would not have to deal with all the feelings of grief and despair that continually battled for control over his mind.  Instead, he busied himself with thoughts of what he would do come morning.  His heart desired more than anything to return to the spot where he had lost Legolas, to finish what he had been unable to do during the night, yet he knew this area was likely to be guarded by orcs.  Continuing his search for Pippin was another option, yet he somehow doubted he would be able to discover any more than he had previously.  He could only hope that Pippin had managed to escape the orcs and work his way back to Calembel. 

 

‘Calembel.’  That was one of Aragorn’s greatest worries, for he knew not whether the city had been prepared well enough to withstand Malek’s attack.  He held complete trust in both Gandalf and Faramir, yet he still ached to be at their side, fighting with them.  He missed Arwen terribly, and mourned for the pain he would cause Gimli when he returned with news of Legolas’s fall.  He prayed desperately that Pippin had reached the city, for he had no desire to carry bad news to the hobbits as well, especially Merry.  He at last decided that the only path open to him was to return to the city.  From there, he could decide what to do next.

 

With this decision made, Aragorn allowed himself to relax a bit more, his mind still sharp and alert for any sounds disturbing the night.  His entire body ached and screamed at him to sleep; yet somehow he managed to remain awake until the first faint traces of morning light could be seen peering through the cave entrance. 

 

Aragorn waited until he was sure the sun had completely risen before he moved to exit his small hiding place.  He could hear the bright songs of birds filling the air, and he breathed deeply of the fresh air winding in through the tunnel.  His muscles screamed in protest at his every movement, and when he finally straightened after crawling out of the cave, his wound sent a shot of hot pain throughout his body.  His hand instinctively flew to his injured side, and he winced when he felt the heat radiating through the bandage from the wound. His tired body had not registered the unusual heat before, and Aragorn thought wryly that he should have expected this.  Orcs often tipped their arrows with poison, and he had been unable to clean and dress the cut properly. 

 

Now, there was no time to worry about bringing the fever down.  He was filled with an urgency to reach the city, and he could wait no longer.  He glanced to the rising sun, gaining his bearings before starting in a southerly direction, back toward the city.  He traveled slowly, his mind on constant alert, and his eyes scanning the path ahead.  He came across several tracks of orcs, yet no other signs of the creatures.

 

It took him well past midmorning before he at last broke free of the mountains, working his way through the last foothills that lay before the plain that ran up to the city.  His movements continued to be slow, but this time due more to his injury than any real alertness.  The fever had spread throughout his body, and Aragorn was struggling to keep his mind clear and his form moving forward. 

 

He was nearing the top of the final hill before the city, when he casually glanced upward, his body stumbling to a halt at what he saw.  He stood frozen for several minutes, his fevered mind taking time to register the sight before him.  When it finally did register, all color drained from his face, and he fell to his knees.

 

A large plume of black smoke was visible over the last rise, snaking its way slowly into the sky.  The dark cloud of smoke was still a fair distance away, its base still hidden by the hill, and yet Aragorn had no doubt of where it came from. 

 

“Calembel.”  The word came out in a horrified whisper, and he was unable to tear his eyes from the giant mushroom rising into the sky.  He suddenly no longer had the energy to even rise.  Calembel was burning, the smoke rising and disappearing into the bright sky, fading as surely as the last of his hopes.

 

Aragorn was not sure how long he remained kneeling upon the grassy knoll, his eyes locked on the heavy plume of smoke rising from the direction of Calembel.  His mind felt strangely disconnected from his body, and he could not force himself to rise.  The fever from his wound raged through him, leaving him feeling empty and weak, and a dark shadow was beginning to cloud his vision.  He was vaguely aware that his body was trembling uncontrollably, despite the raging heat that flowed through his veins.

A part of Aragorn's mind that still functioned, not yet clouded by fever, urged him to rise and continue on.  He attempted twice to push himself to his feet, and twice he failed.  His sickness and despair had robbed him of all strength, and he at last allowed himself to sink back to the earth, surrendering to the great weariness encompassing him.

Just as he neared unconsciousness, his head pillowed by the tall grass, he thought he saw several horsemen topping the hill directly before him.  He blinked heavily, thinking that his mind was somehow playing tricks with his eyes, and he once more gave a valiant effort to rise.  Yet it was no use, his body would be ignored no longer, and just as his mind slipped into darkness, he imagined he heard his name being called, the sound echoing with the pounding of hooves.


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.

Story Information

Author: littlefish

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/11/02

Original Post: 06/26/02

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