25. Chapter Twenty-Five
"It is no trap. They cannot know we are following."
"Legolas. These are not ordinary Yrch; I believe they are Uruks."
They heard a cry in the distance. Haldirriel shivered. Legolas, who had not let her go since she slid in after him, held her close. "Uruks of Mordor?"
She nodded her head, her eyes wide in fright.
"It is a pity we have no Balrog slayer with us."
She turned at the flippant voice behind her. "Rúmil!"
"Haldir is missing?" Orophin asked quietly.
"He was taken," Legolas answered. "I am glad you are here. Do you have a connection with him?"
"I did, but it is gone. I know he is not dead. Haldirriel, you are his bond partner, do you hear nothing?"
"Nothing. I heard the cry; I felt his pain, but nothing more. Legolas?"
Rúmil and Orophin looked at the Woodland Elf in surprise. "Legolas?"
"We are bonded, we three," Haldirriel interjected. "We will speak of it later. Mayhap he is insensible. I do not think him dead."
Legolas, extremely uncomfortable at the gaze of Haldir's brothers, kept his thoughts to himself. The next moment, all thought of discomfort fled. "Where is Gimli?"
Haldirriel paused and turned towards him. "He decided to search on his own. I do not know where he is."
"I should go back. I cannot let him wander alone. He is not..."
"The Elves of Lórien will not harm him," Orophin's tone was sharp. "He will be safe."
Legolas' eyes burned. "He was not accepted on our journey here. What makes you think he is safe?"
"The Lady of the Wood is his guardian. All know that. None would dare touch him. Though my comrades are uncomfortable in his presence..."
"And with his stench," Legolas heard one of the others say. He turned upon the Elf, his blade drawn. "His stench is preferable to yours."
Haldirriel stood next to him, her hand on his arm. "One grows accustomed to his... fragrance and learns to love it." She said pointedly to the slip-tongued Elf. She turned to Legolas, "We must continue."
"She is correct. I am next in line," Orophin opined, "Would you follow me?"
All the Lórien Elves nodded. Legolas nodded also.
"Good. Then we go forward. Haldirriel, they told me you ordered small groups to enter every fifteen minutes?"
"It is a good plan. Let us go forward with our bows strung, though there is not much room here. I will go first, Rúmil will follow, Haldirriel, then Legolas. The rest of you will follow Legolas."
They began walking the tunnel, the stench overpowering. Haldirriel held her hand over her nose. They walked for close to an hour; they lit no torch, for there was enough light for them to see. At least, there had been until they turned a bend. The way was become darker, the stench almost unbearable. They walked another few steps and found the dark blacker than midnight. Haldirriel stopped them. "Legolas," he whispered. "What know you of these spiders?"
"The spiders we fought were all in the open. The stench was never this bad," Legolas stifled a choke that fought to escape. "Though the darkness..." He hissed. "We are very close. The darkness is their webs." He put out a hand and pulled it back quickly. "Hold your hands close to your sides," he commanded and they all obeyed immediately. "The webs are above us, to the right and to the left. They are waiting for us to move a little further, then they will finish spinning. We are in grave danger, my friends."
Haldirriel gave a small cry. "I can feel their hairy legs!"
"We need a torch, Rúmil," Orophin whispered.
The Lórien Elf took one of the torches they had brought with them and struck flint to steel. The torch lit up. Four huge and horrible monsters looked back at them, then shielded their eyes. The Elves' bows sang and the four fell to the ground. The webs, as Legolas had said, were all around them. The thick strong strands were difficult to cut, but Legolas had drawn his blade and began to hew them away from the main path. The others followed his lead.
"There will be more," he breathed. "Many more if Haldirriel's dream is true. And I firmly believe, now that I have seen this tunnel, that she indeed dreamt true. Light more torches."
The other Elves did as instructed. The band began moving forward again, this time with even more caution. "They like to come from all sides; they do not fight as one unit. Keep your eyes open..."
His words were swallowed up in a scream, followed closely by another. Legolas turned and saw two of the monsters behind them. They were winding Elves in their abominable threads. Behind him, Haldirriel and Rúmil had loosed arrows. The spiders fell.
"We must leave these two. The others will free them. They are poisoned, but should live. Let us continue." Orophin began walking forward again, an arrow nocked. "Slowly. I am afraid we will soon need those who follow behind us."
Legolas watched as each member of the party prepared their weapons. He decided to keep his blade ready; others would take out the first onslaught. He would be ready for close quarter fighting.
Haldirriel touched his arm. "I am sorry I brought you to this."
"I would not have missed any part of this... especially the part at the springs." He watched her blush. "Comfort yourself in knowing that we will soon rescue our Haldir and your brother."
She smiled. "I have never fought spiders before."
"You made a good start. Your shot was fair and true. Just keep your eyes open."
Another cry off in the distance made them all cringe. It was the cry of an Elf. Pain and terror-filled cries began to resound off the walls of the tunnel.
"They are killing them!" Orophin shouted. He rushed forward, his little band right behind him.
Legolas tried to stay them; tell them to remain close to each other, but the cries of the captives drew them on. He shuddered and Haldirriel was next to him. "I feel... there is the feel of the Nazgûl here. Though that cannot be; they were all killed when the Ring fell."
"It must be only a taint of Khamûl's shadow. He is dead, Legolas," Haldirriel touched his arm. "He is dead; he no longer dwells here." She waited until he calmed, then moved forward.
Haldirriel gasped. They had come into a huge cavern; their torches barely lit the nearest quarter. But the gasp was not for the size of the cavern nor its darkness, it was for the army of spiders that looked down upon them from the ceiling. Hundreds and hundreds of spiders watched them, eyes gleaming, mouths almost seeming to smile.
A/N - 1) Though Tolkien, in The Hobbit, had the spiders speak, I don't think he continued that aspect when he began writing the Lord of the Rings. I saw no evidence of 'talking' spiders, so I'm saying he probably was embarrassed by this notion and decided it was definitely not the way to go. So I'm not going down that road. Much of the description of the spiders is from The Hobbit, Ch. 8: Flies and Spiders. 2) Khamûl the Shadow of the East was Sauron's lieutenant in Dol Guldur (Nazgûl) http://www.tuckborough.net/otherbeings.html#Nazgul