27. Chapter Twenty-Seven
"Can you see him, Orophin? He is over there. Nay! It is not him. I cannot find Haldir!"
"Wait till the battle is over, Legolas, for the Valar's sake, wait till the battle is over. There are too many to stop now and search."
Legolas' eyes turned wildly towards Haldir's brother. He nodded briefly. "I will wait." Tears filled his eyes until the spider that was ready to bite Rúmil came close to him. He let fly his blade and the spider fell. Rúmil smiled, waved, and ran a little forward into the heart of the fray. Orophin followed his brother.
An Elf shoved past him and laughed, "Keep out of the way, Greenleaf, or we will run you through."
His heart lurched. It truly was Elladan. That meant Elrohir was close by, for never were the brothers separated. "How came you here?" he shouted.
"We were passing through and saw the Dwarf looking lost and forlorn," Elrohir quipped as he slaughtered two spiders in quick succession. "We have a soft spot for Dwarves and stopped to help. It appears we made a wise decision."
"Thank you," he whispered before throwing his knife. "Gimli has fallen," his voice broke.
Elrohir laughed. "Then he will be fine. Never fear, Legolas. That Dwarf is too tough for any mere spider to take him down. Believe in him, friend. He lives."
"Use your bow, Elf," Elladan interrupted, "Stay back a little and hit them ere they reach us. You are faster with a bow than any of our swords."
Legolas nodded and stepped back. He pulled three arrows from his quiver, held two in his hand while he nocked the third. After felling three of the spiders, he laughed aloud. "Caught up in the battle. Forgot about my bow," his face flamed in mortification.
"That is why we came," Elrohir shouted. "You obviously need our help." Another spider fell to the deft blade of the Imladris Elf.
Legolas watched, then ran forward. 'We are all going to end up wrapped and strung from the ceiling. At least Haldirriel is away.'
Mahtan cried out as the spider lunged towards Haldirriel. She heard and swung around, her sword gleaming in the sunlight that came from the mouth of the tunnel. They were almost free, she wanted to scream; she would not die here, not this way. The sword's whoosh alerted the spider and it climbed away from the blade. Haldirriel followed it, cleaving it in half.
Mahtan ran forward. "Come! Only a few more steps and we will be out of here."
Haldirriel looked behind her one last time and gasped. "They are coming! We must hurry!"
Mahtan crashed through a newly spun web that covered the entrance to the tunnel; Haldirriel reached out her hand and he grabbed it and pulled her through. They sat on the grass for a moment, trying to catch their breath, when Mahtan cried aloud, "They have not stopped. Run, Haldirriel. I will hold them till you escape!"
She stood as quickly as she could, pulled her bow, and nocked an arrow. "I will not leave you. Draw your bow! We have not time..."
They were upon them in an instant, three great hairy-legged beasts. Haldirriel managed to get off one arrow before the spider overtook her. She stabbed at its eye with her bow; her knives were sheathed. The creature screamed, but did not stop its onward rush. The bow stuck out of its eye and waved back and forth as the beast moved forward, as if caught in some macabre dance. She had just a moment, but a moment was all she needed. She pulled her knife and plunged it into the beast's neck. It fell soundless at her feet. She looked up, stance ready for the next attack, but none came. Mahtan had killed the other spider.
She sank to the ground and wept. Her guard quickly knelt at her side. "Are you hurt? Did the spider bite you?"
"Nay! I am all right. Tired, too tired for such a short battle."
"Your heart is still in the cavern. Let us away. We must seek help as quickly as possible." The Lórien Elf turned and ran into the arms of another. He pulled his knife and held it before him, his eyes open in wonder. "Who are you?"
"Amroth of Eryn Lasgalen. I lead a patrol of these woods. Who are you that you deem yourself worthy to trespass on these lands?"
"Mahtan of Lórien and this is Haldir..."
"Haldirriel," the Elf brought his hand to his chest. "Long it has been since you have been home." He raised his eyes, lowered in respect, and his brow furrowed. "You look slightly disheveled, if I may say so. Is there a problem?"
She laughed aloud. "There is. How many in your patrol, Amroth?"
"That is enough. There is a stronghold of Yrch and spiders where this tunnel leads. We have been trying to clean it out. Might you and your warriors help us?"
"We will. But let me send a messenger further north. There are other patrols. We do not leave the woods untended."
"Would you ask them to come to our assistance also? There must be at least three hundred spiders and I do not know the count of Yrch."
"I will send the message and leave one of my company here at the entrance to show the way."
"Leave at least two for the spiders have no fear."
"Let us be off now, then," Mahtan said in frustration. "We must return and help find Haldir."
"Legolas is looking himself, Mahtan. If any can find him, Legolas will."
"Prince Legolas is with you?" Amroth asked, incredulously.
"He is and Marchwarden Haldir has been captured by Yrch. We must go now else I fear for the worst."
The Wood Elf nodded, sent a messenger off, posted two guards, and motioned for Mahtan and Haldirriel to move forward. Within moments, they found themselves back in the cave, this time, with reinforcements. They encountered no spiders as they moved slowly forward.
He closed his eyes, waiting for breath to return. He had hoped it had been a dream, but it was not. He was a prisoner. He had been searching for the tunnel's entrance; Yrch had attacked. His warriors had stood their ground, but there were too many. His sword had been ripped from his arm. He pulled his knives; they did not save him. He hoped they were not lost. A sour laugh escaped his lips. He hoped he was not lost.
Filaments of webs surrounded the bodies that were close to his, but he had not been so wrapped. Through the fog of pain, he looked about him. There were at least a dozen others fettered to the wall alongside him. Some were his companions, most were not. He moaned as he thought of those lost and his head dropped in sorrow.
"Haldir," a whispered word brought his head up again. He looked about. His second, Galathil, smiled. "I am glad you live, my Lord. I had feared. You did not move."
"Have you an idea where we are?"
"In some Valar forsaken part of Dol Guldur, I believe." The Elf shivered. "The spiders have been busy, as you can see. I do not rightly know why we are tethered to the wall instead of hanging from the ceiling, cocooned."
"It is because you are now slaves of the Yrch. The spiders get the leftovers."
Haldir looked to his left and saw an Elf that he remembered. "Galdor," he whispered in horror. "You are a captive?"
"I am. I was carrying a message to Thranduil from my Lord, Círdan. I was caught," the bitterness in his voice echoed the bitter twist of his mouth.
"Were you alone?"
"Nay. My men are hanging from above us. All of them. Of the twenty that accompanied me, I am the only one left with the strength to still do the will of the Yrch."
A great noise from the other end of the cavern interrupted them. "Legolas!" Haldir cried in joy. But at that very moment, Yrch came, unshackled them, and moved them off, down a tunnel and away from the battle. Too weak to offer any resistance, the Elves obeyed.
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