Walking in Darkness
By Kink (Mink and Jink)
They clashed as they fell into the deep.
Darkness wavered with the simmering heat of themountain's core. Legolas could not breathe, fighting even as deathrushed swiftly to meet him on the jagged teeth of rock in the chasmbelow.
Down they plunged through to the fiery heart,until at last he and his foe both struck not rock but a steep sandyslope. Legolas stumbled, the wrenching grasp of the creature suddenlygone as he heard its howl of frustration. He quickly oriented himselfand came to a stop at the edge of a precipice, moments away fromplummeting down into what he could see was a roiling volcanic lakebelow. He turned, determined not to let fear take him.
The beast had stayed itself as well. It stoodslowly and regarded him in its cruel red gaze. Great muscles heavedwith deadly promise as it held its ground, watching him.
Swiftly, he drew his daggers, trying to focushis mind and shun its foul presence which seemed now stronger thanthe fumes of the mountain. His lips moved faintly, uttering a prayerfor his companions so far above him.
Legolas held aloft his weapons.
Its glowing eyes flickered at the long knives.It snorted in disgust.
The words slid through the thick air and lingeredlike smoke. This is what had so plagued him, there upon that precipice.Reaching past blood and bone to touch his mind; all of this endlesstorment that was their journey. Despite the span of his years, aUruk-Hai had been merely legend to him, a chilling rumor of whathad befallen the Unwilling of his people, turned orc, then this,this greater perversion. Old evil, older than middle earth or thestars that lit its nights.
Legolas staggered and his hands began to shake.
Bereft of its weapon, his enemy swung out witha mighty arm. Like a cat, he dodged, lashing up and into the bodyof the Uruk-hai. IIt howled in rage, clamping its great fist downonto Legolas's hand, but he held to the blade buried deep in itsslick
The touch brought an onslaught of pain, turninghis wrist and arm cold and numb. The sensation flooded into hishead filling up behind his eyes like a cloud enshrouding the sun.
He cried out, ripping his hand away as the otherknife plunged into Its chest. Its enormous mass shifted unsteadilyon the narrow precipice. He kicked swiftly forward, intent on drivingIt over the ledge. With a guttural growl it struck out blindly catchingthe light fabric of his cloak on its claws. Legolas stumbled downover the edge into the lake below.
Their impact sent a hot sulfuric tide lappingwith a hiss onto the rocks. Foul water seared his eyes and burnedhis lungs. He felt the crushing grasp of the Uruk-hai close aroundhis throat. It lifted him clear out of the burning lake and draggedhim towards the craggy shore. As though amused, the Uruk-hai releasedhim and he staggered slightly, gasping and choking. Legolas toreat his eyes, wiping away the painful sting of the acidic water.He blinked rapidly, his entire body shuddering and tense.
Great clouds of steam rose from cracks in theground, shrouding his enemy from sight. He knew without seeing thatit was moving fast around him, heard its grunting breaths, scentedits foul sweat. A flash of motion from behind reawakened his senseswhite hot. He whirled, lashing out with his fists into the sea ofsulfuric mist. Back he fell, bruised from the effort and glaringup with pure outrage in his watering eyes. The Uruk-hai was toyingwith him. He heard its voice in his mind, steady and cold.
He sprang to his feet but the creature had aspeed to match his own. Its grip crushed his throat, holding himas he fought. With all his boundless strength he struck at its torso,tearing the flesh of his knuckles against the unyielding skin.
With astonishing speed, it slammed him hard andback against the cavern wall. It growled deeply, its black lipscurling to reveal its fangs. The Elf's face was hard and unrelenting,only his pale eyes betraying his fear.
The beast, now so close, let its mind pour freelyinto his, allowing no barrier between them to mar its foul putrescence.He gasped when he felt the first violent shudder pass through him,his back arching sharply against the next as all his senses fellprey to it.
Its broad snout was at his chest then at hisneck, the hot breath terrible on the bare skin of his throat, themassive paw clasped over his mouth stifled his cries of revulsion.
The Uruk-hai inhaled in a long shuddering breath,its long tongue flashing out from behind its sharp teeth and lickingthe pale flesh under his eyes. Time slowed, his sight wavering asif seeing through the haze of a dream. Then before his eyes therecame a strange thing. The grotesque visage of the monster meltedaway, leaving in its wake a wholly different being. A shining circletof stars adorned the fair brow. Smooth white flesh like his own,ancient eyes bluer than the sea gazing at him with the wisdom ofthe Eldar.
The Elf felt his strength drain like water eatenby the ground. Who was this ethereal being before him? His quakinghand came up in wonder to touch the fair skin but the blue eyessharpened to crimson and shifted madly, contorting back into thecrude mask of the Uruk-hai. This creature had been an elf once,now tainted by Sauron? To be instilled with such evil and yet forcedto exist? Legolas felt himself overwhelmed with a grief so stronghe would have collapsed if the Uruk-hai was not holding him fast.It saw the pity in his eyes and reflected back such rage that theair itself crackled.
"Ah!-" Legolas felt the sharp stabof his own dagger push hard and fast, sliding into the flesh ofhis shoulder and past to grind into the stone at his back. The painflowed and met the agony that flourished in his mind. His slantedeyes fluttered closed, his breath short and almost gone. The Elf'sbody sagged, supported only by the long, cruel shard of the blade.
The voice of the Uruk-hai rang out victorious.
He did not know the way.
Aragorn knew only that he was traveling down.
He bent to the ground, intently searching forsign of the Elf's footstep. It was no easy task for the light feetof Elves barely touched the ground when pursued.
"Legolas, if he still stands, would notleave so bright a mark upon this hard earth." He murmured tohimself.
And if he had not walked this path at all, heshuddered to think what had befallen him at the hands of the Uruk-hai.Time was pressing. He stopped in the gloom, his chest heaving. Onlythe futile sound of his own labored breath met his ears.
It would be useless searching for Legolas inthis maze of caverns. With the wizard's aid he might have faredbetter but the rest of the party was too far above to reach by shoutingalone. He could only pray they had found some haven far away fromthis place. His thoughts grew dim for it would go ill indeed ifthe Fellowship were broken here. Yet he sensed that Legolas, ifhe could be found, was still living. Aragorn made hard his heart.His breathing slowed and his head cleared. He closed his eyes asone listening to something far in the distance.
It struck him without warning, like lighteningripping the sky. Pain that made him stagger to his knees, one thatwas not his own, but borne through another. It flashed again makinghim cry aloud from the horror of it. He slumped against the crumblingwall clutching his head.
The small part of him that shared his blood sangthrough his veins like an ignited flame. He could feel the rapidbeating of an Elvish heart, and the corrupt power that rushed toencircle and crush it. The warrior at once felt the draw of thecall, intended or no, and followed it through the darkness likea beacon.
He stumbled forward suddenly more certain ofhis way.
He would find him.
In places deep and secret dwelled the Uruk-hai.These chambers in the earth were unseen as yet to any being savetheir kind. When the Dwarves had in their ignorance dared venturepast these vaulted passages, they had met their doom. The rumblingpleasure of the Uruk-hai reverberated as it prowled through thelegions, which bit and snapped like hungry beasts at its hard wonprize.
The Elf still motionless on its shoulder bledfreely down its arms, the once clear mind clouded and dim. It borehim to its lair, the ground scattered with many bones--of dwarf,of man, even of its own kind.
It let its burden drop down to the scalding ground.The Uruk-hai growled and roared at two lesser orcs, bickering overthe right to slice one delicate ear off of its head for keeping.They yielded to the powerful stare down of the Uruk-hai only aftercruelly cutting a long pale braid of hair for spoils.
Its thoughts wove in and out of his own, stealingvisions from the woodlands of his home, honing Its search and lingeringon his people. Seeing the majestic trees reaching under the softshine of the heavens invoked a wave of such horrible anger, it explodedin the Elvish mind like a rotted gourd, forcing him to cry out inagony.
The Uruk-hai curled a fist into the blood soakedjerkin, the once ivory embroidery now dark. It pulled the anguishedface to Its own. Was there still defiance in the beautiful makeof his up turned eyes? Behind the torment, a desire to fight?
Indeed, the Elf glared back up into Its fiercegaze, a line of blood running down the white skin of his chin fromhis mouth. The fair eyes flickered and faltered but retained theirwill.
The Uruk-hai would break it.
Aragorn's journey through the low caverns wasnot silent. Liquid rock flowed behind these walls, as steady andunyielding as the dwarf hammers that had once labored there. Ashe descended lower he could hear the steady hiss and snarl of thebeasts that had come to dwell in its shadows. He had to change hispath many times to avoid the heavy tread of the creatures that roamedeach lightless corner and recess of the mines.
He emerged into many great and vast halls, somepiled to the ceilings with the dusty tomes and text of the dwarfsthat once reigned here. Some held nothing at all but the cursedsilence and decaying bones.
He did not linger to wonder at the marvel orthe shadow, he moved at a run the burning spark of Legolas' fearurging him on. He had spent so many breathless moments in the uncertaindark that when he slid deftly down on his side on what was oncea stair, and turned a crumbled corner, the sudden fire of torchesstunned him. He adjusted his eyes and realized he was standing inan atrium. Breathless, he stood staring at the forks in his path.Four separate tunnels yawned around him, east, west, north and south.
The steady light that had led him here was nowonly a faint shimmer and he balked, fearing he had lost his way.He closed his eyes, trying to sense which direction favored it.
But there was a scent of death here which filledthe space and he frowned at its potency. It was not the now-familiarstench of orc. This was a new scent. In his haste he had becameconfident that he had left the foul legions all behind. Yet he knewwell that threats other than orcs roamed these halls.
His eyes narrowed on the tunnel directly beforehim, glimpsing a heavy shape moving in the shadows.
This was ill luck, indeed. He did not want thehoards to hinder his path when time had grown so precious. He waitedwithout breath for the loping shape to approach, sword at the readyfor many foes. But it was neither party of orc nor goblin.
A cave troll. Its might equal to that of both.
He had only time to see the enraged troll charge,its roar thundering in its wake. Its footsteps shook the walls andrattled the bones scattered about on the ground.
The enormous creature moved swiftly for its size,cornering him. He had nowhere to flee and he could not outrun atroll. It would pursue him through the tunnels until he collapsedfrom exhaustion. No, he must engage it here.
It swung its heavy stone club and Aragorn duckedback against the stone wall. Bits of shattered rock crumbled downwhere his head once was. Aragorn's blade was drawn, facing the cavedweller now circling him. It charged again, its heavy fist seekingto crush him into the earth. His sword whistled in the air, nickingits tough hide. It bellowed in pain and anger, fury burning in itseyes.
Aragorn easily avoided its strong though clumsilyplaced blows. But his repeated strikes of his sword, as deep andswift, did little to impede the monster and only added to its rage.Deftly he threw a dagger at its massive skull, and it met its mark.While the troll bellowed in agony and made to pull the knife fromwhat had once been its eye, Aragorn's blade slashed the thick graythroat and a fount of black blood gushed forth, its rotted snarlgurgled and sprayed from behind its hideous hand. The ranger circledit warily as it swayed, sure that it would soon fall.
It was then he heard the steady stomp and hissbehind him. Too late he turned, sword raised to see two more cavetrolls bearing down on him, drawn by the clamor of the other's enragedhowls.
He felt the wall at his back as he struck it,then the sharp stone on his face when he fell to the ground. Hestruggled to force his body to obey him, but bright lights flashedbehind his eyes, his face hot with his own blood. A gigantic handclosed over his leg, but instead of ripping him from limb to limb,he felt himself being slowly dragged.
Down into the tunnels, away from the meager light,his last thoughts before he spiraled into unconsciousness were notof his own pain, but the knowledge that he was not dead yet andneither was his purpose.
It had not bothered to bind him. Legolas triedto will his ebbing strength to his arms, to push himself uprightbut it was as if his mind and body had been cleaved in two. Theone would not obey the other.
He was forced roughly to his knees, looking downat the ground. Were it not for the long arms of the Uruk-hai, heknew he would have collasped. The enormous beast was squatting behindhim, holding him upright with one massive hand beneath his chest.
His wounds, grave as they were, seemed now painlessand far away. He shook, held in a strangely gentle
embrace as though he were an object of curious study. Its languagewas guttural and hideous to him.
It let him drop to the ground and with a jerkhe felt his tunic ripped from his back. The clawed hand pressedbetween his shoulder blades as if to wonder at the fragile makeof its cousin. Claws raked mercilessly over the bare flesh of hischest and stomach, its hot breath in his hair behind him. It remainedsquatted over him and tore away the soft leather of his breeches.
Its mind touched his as Its hands ravaged hisbody. Both violations overlapped and entwined, until Legolas couldnot distinguish where one ended and another began.
It snorted and shifted on its haunches, listeningto his feeble moans and then let its touch roil forth again, deeperstill, eroding the fragile hold Legolas had on what control wasleft to him and then suddenly, the Elf could hear it speak althoughno words were uttered.
thing. of. light.
Legolas felt his eyes roll back and his verybreath stop as the bitter sensation of the hatred which had festeredin the deepest pit of Lord Sauron's realm poured through him likea vile fount.
Through it there was a great pleasure the beastfelt. Its haunches shook as it leaned down to sink its teeth intothe back of his wounded shoulder with an animal's need. It ran itshot mouth over his wounds, savoring the blood, tearing further atthe delicate flesh.
you. will. know. me.
He had known pain sharp enough to cut the mindfrom the body. And now he shut his consciousness to the raging ofthe beast though his flesh felt the harsh thrust of its body andthe daggers of its claws. A rush of the Uruk-hai's intent made hisface burn with its want. "No-nooo.."
in. you. feel. you.
Legolas moaned when the flood struck him againand again, no longer withdrawing completely but like a rank tidethat ebbed and flowed through his body. It took him slowly and hardas he cried out again and again, yearning for the oblivion whichnever came.
Roaring fires flared and crackled beneath sootycalderns. Cooking fires. The bubbling caldrons did not hide theharsh cries of prey, animal and desperate that rang through the dank halls.
Awareness crept slowly upon Aragorn. He couldonly open one eye, the other sticky with blood. Barely, he couldmake out the red flicker of fire, its frantic wavering hectic andmaking him dizzy with the throb of the wound on his head.
His numbed senses were choked by a thick heat,his hair damp in his eyes. Spumes of vile steam erupted from therock making the air thick as blood. It bore down on him like a massweight, scalding what he took into his lungs.
He tried to right himself from the awkward andpainful position he was half sitting, half laying in. But an agonizingpressure on his throat stopped him, choking for more of the hotfoul air. His hands were free and he shakily put them to his neckwhere he found a tightly fastened metal band, fingers feeling therusted bolts securing it to the rock behind him. He pulled at thethick metal band until his fingers bled on its ragged edges. Butit held fast.
He calmed his breathing and focused his eyes,blinking through the blood.
There were dozens of metal bands attached tothe rock beside him. the dead and the rotting, mostly skeletonsof dwarf and human, some goblin. Half eaten and some nothing butspine and skull.
The orcs preferred their flesh still living.
How fortunate for him.
He closed his eyes, ignoring the deep ache thatpounded through his head.
I will not die here. Scraps for these beasts.
The noise of orcs met his ears and he lay limpin his bonds, watching them through eyes half-lidded. They weretalking greedily to each other and he caught the words for "meat"and "quarter" in their coarse prattle. Rough hands wereon him, sharp claws tracing on his skin which half of him belongedto whom, as a pig is butchered for market. Anger smoldered deepin his chest. It took all of his strength not to let fly his rageas their foul hands touched him. He waited until the noise of theirbickering shifted and they were gone, left to some other task.
Weakly, Aragorn saw his sword tossed amongstthe weathered bones, cast aside like rotted firewood. Pillaged weaponsclattered to the floor along with it. Orc blades, broken refusethey would melt down to re forge, and his sword, its value lost.But it was not the scabbard of Anduril that drew his attention now.He peered at two strange objects which lay like two shards of lightagainst the blackened steel of the orc weapons.
Elvish blades, their sharp edges dark with dryingblood.
The steady beat of his heart and his pain soundedlike a drum, steadying him, making his focus acute and finer thana knife's edge. Then he found that small unknown magic he held beingonly mostly man, and he touched what he sought again.
....and the gate opened.
It poured into him with the fury of a storm.His body stiffened, unprepared, and he saw the face of the beast,felt the touch of its breath, the crushing grip of its claws. Itall flowed forth, the rage of many thousands of years burst intoeach moment of the change, each slash of the sword towards and intothe fair flesh of what it once was, destroying the beauty that hadforsaken it. He was being changed. His thoughts were embedded inchaos, words that were not his own whispered around him.
And then, as fast as it had come, it was gone,the cooking fires roared up and the heat radiated out as if to devourhim.
He opened his eyes, and Aragorn exhaled his heldbreath in a ragged scream.
Even after he knew it had bled from his thoughtsas his blood did his wounds, he still heard the cry. That painedsound which had pierced his heart the third day in Moria.
Aragorn started, his reawakened mind angered.Legolas was near. Where his body lay now he knew not but he prayedthat it and the spirit within were still one.
The Uruk-hai watched the fragile rise and fallof the pale chest as he breathed, waiting for the pain to return.Or for death. But it had no such intentions. Weak as this body was,what use was this flesh decayed to it or its Master? It listenedto the erratic whisper of thought, wanting to feel his fear whenthe pain came suddenly nearer with a terrifying speed that madethe Elf bite his lip to stifle his scream.
It would not slaughter one such as this. Theblood was too precious. This being whose gentle eyes could not witnessthe savage or ill born without weeping was completely subdued, unseeingand lost.
With its gruesome hand, it took up a crudelycarved drinking horn. Prying his mouth open, forcing his head backto swallow the vile potion the Uruk-hai had drained from its ownwounds.
dark. in. you.
The Elf choked on the burning fluid that rusheddown his throat. The Uruk-hai saw the lights that surrounded hisforest home dimmed and the fires of Sauron rushed up to devour thebranches. Where the mind descended, the body must soon follow.
The will and the courage which had before seemedso powerful had dwindled to something like a hairlike thread ofsteel, one which the Elf clung to desperately to remain himself.
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