Disclaimer: Do I sound like Tolkien? Am I dead? Am I male? Am I a literary genius? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are WRONG! And since the answer to all of those questions is no, that means that I cannot be Tolkien.
(Story) Rating/Warnings: Teen. Rated Teen for Violence, Gore, Disturbing images, Language, Slightly disturbing concepts, Toture. This is not a story meant for kids...at all. Note: the rating for the entire tale is subject to change. Certain chapters will quite likely be rated higher. Further warnings for each individual chapter shall be posted ahead of the chapter.
Chapter Warnings: Nothing too explicit for chapter 1. Mild peril and violence.
Time Frame: SA 1694 (second age). During the War of the Elves and Sauron (the war between Sauron and the Elves that was caused by Annatar revealing himself as Sauron, and attempting to gain a hold of the rings of power. Sauron was defeated in 1701 when a fleet from Numenor landed in Middle Earth). Set a few months before Elrond was stationed in Eregion, and three years before Eregion was laid to waste. Pre-Rivendell, pre-the fall of Numenor.
A/N: So begins one of the longest tales I have written to date. I am afraid that it is not finished (although I have a good bit written and ready to be published), so although I plan for updates to be weekly, I'm afraid I can't make any promises. Thus far, this is also one of the darkest things I have written. It may not seem to be so at the beginning, but like with many things, it gets much darker before it gets lighter. See, I have this strange tendency to whump my favorite characters. And there is practically no good Elrond whump out there. So I decided to change that. And then (like what so often happens), this little, cliche idea decided that it wanted to be a 'big boy', and found a plot of its own, and about a dozen OCs along the way. And thus was born.
A HUGE thanks goes to tonks-quinn57 (here on out referred to as Galeo) for betaing this for me. I honestly am not entirely sure how she stays sane while putting up with my warped and twisted ways. (If you like Twilight, go check out her writing. It's awesome...I think so, and I haven't even read the series).
Well, I hope you like the first chapter of this tale. My plan is to update weekly, on either Saturday or Sunday. I'd absolutely LOVE it if you would let me know what you think (any constructive criticism, any point unclear, a specific thing that you liked, etc.). But most importantly, I hope you enjoy.
~*Chapter 1: Awakening*~
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~Martin Luther King Jr.
It was the laughing and jeering of the orcs that welcomed Elrond as he returned slowly to consciousness. They were raucous and boisterous, being pleased with themselves, and were being none too humble or shy about their endeavors of the day.
Elrond feigned unconsciousness for as long as he could, and simply listened to the racket around him, attempting to gain his bearings. He could tell that he was lying on the ground, and he was bound both hand and foot with thick ropes. A fire flickered a few yards away, and from somewhere close by, a warg howled, the sound rising and falling eerily in octaves.
"A pointy-eared bastard ain't no match fer a Orc," one of the creatures was guffawing, and a great number of hoots and hollers followed the statement. The sound grated painfully on Elrond's ears, and he struggled to remain impassive. The words that rolled from the orc's mouth sounded tainted and poisoned, a corrupted form of language.
"They scattered like rabbits when they saw us, they did," another was saying. Again, Elrond fought to keep himself limp and his face blank of emotion. Even so, he felt a wave of irritation rise within him. Of course the yrch would warp the facts of what had happened, and yet it still upset the elf to hear such slander against his men.
"I could smell their fear," another chortled.
"You could smell it?" a voice cried out with pique. "I could see it."
"Didju 'ear the fair-haired elf as I skewered 'im? Squealed like a pig, 'e did!" A harsh laugh followed the statement, and Elrond felt his gut clench with both anger and sorrow. He could remember all too clearly the sight of blonde Aearech being stabbed through with a viciously barbed spear, and Elrond knew that he would take the sound of the strangled scream and the look of surprised horror with him to his grave.
After that, Elrond blocked out the sounds of his captors as best as he could. He did not wish to hear any more of their boasting or repugnant laughter. He found that ignoring his surroundings, including the discomforts such as the sharp stone that was digging into his hip and the cold that nipped at his bare hands and feet, was the best path. Instead he allowed his mind to wander, still maintaining his relaxed pose as best as he could.
Despite his efforts, his thoughts kept drifting back to earlier in the day, to the incident that had led to his capture. What had gone wrong? What mistake had been made? Those questions plagued Elrond, gnawed at his heart and very soul with dubious and guilty fingers. Finally, he gave into the pull of memory, and allowed his mind to play over the events of the morning.
~ Past – Sunrise of that day~
A light mist crept over the ground in the predawn light, hiding grass, hard packed earth of the road, and small shrubs that were scattered across the landscape alike with a thin veil of pearlescent vapor. Tendrils of the smoky substance eddied and swirled as it was disturbed, and thin fingers wrapped about the knees of the trotting horses. Hills dotted with clusters of rock and copses of trees rose high on either side of the small vale, blocking out all but the faintest tinges of orange and gold that heralded the rising of the sun.
The riders atop the magnificent steeds were both fair and frightening to behold. They were tall and beautiful creatures, and they rode with an innate grace that seemed to deny mortal reasoning. All but one were dark of hair, and the blonde haired one among them wore his tresses in the same style of artful braids as his companions. They were pale skinned, and their eyes shone with an inner fire, kindling silver, blue, and green into burning flames. Perhaps, however, the most unusual, and yet perhaps the most drawing feature about the creatures were their ears, which were not rounded, but were instead pointed.
And yet, even as they were beautiful, the elves were terrifying. Each was dressed in chainmail that occasionally glinted in the predawn light, dark brown breeches, and suede boots. Half of the elves wore helms, which had been crafted to appear as if they had been carved from the leaves of some mighty tree, and these elves carried wickedly curved swords belted to their waists. In either their right or left hands, they also carried a short spear that could double as a lance if the need arose. The bareheaded elves bore quivers upon their backs, their arrows fletched with swan feathers. Each carried a strung bow in one hand, and at their waist was a small knife.
At the head of the column on a dapple gray mare rode a bareheaded, dark haired elf. Like the others, he too wore armor, but his breeches were of a deep blue rather than brown, and a navy cloak was fastened about his shoulders. At his side he bore a slightly curved sword, its hilt a dark wood inlaid with gold vines, but no other weapon was to be seen. It was clear that he was the commander of the troop.
Elrond shifted in his saddle slightly, glancing up at the hills forming natural walls to either side of the winding road. Deep within him, unease began to grow. It was a shadow and a thought that warned of a whispering evil drawing nigh. Of yet, however, the Elf Lord did not understand his misgivings.
Elrond turned slightly so he could see those riding behind him out of the corner of his eye. He found the elf he was looking for, and he beckoned a raven-haired warrior forward. The warrior, who had two knotted golden cords looped around his right shoulder, kicked his bay mare into a canter, and drew abreast of his commander.
"Yes my lord?" the lieutenant murmured in a low tone, slowing his mount so that she paced alongside the gray.
"Asgaladh, does anything seem…amiss?" Elrond asked his second-in-command, his voice pensive.
"No my lord," Asgaladh replied, his brow furrowing in a frown. "Does something trouble you? Do you feel something?" Asgaladh, like the rest of Elrond's men, had quickly learnt to trust both his lord and his instinct, for they seldom proved wrong.
After a heartbeat's pause, Elrond shook his head. "For a moment, I thought that I had felt something, but it is gone now." And yet he did not look convinced, and his gaze darted a little way up the hillside toward a cluster of boulders.
"The scouts have reported naught but clear roads," Asgaladh said, hoping to ease his lord's mind, for he could tell that something was bothering him, whether he wanted to admit it or not.
"Thank you Asgaladh," Elrond said, smiling slightly. "These hills have always set me ill at ease. Perhaps it was simply a change of the wind."
The words had hardly left his mouth when the Elf Lord grunted and fell sideways. Reacting instinctively, Asgaladh reached out and caught Elrond before he could tumble from the saddle. He caught a glimpse of a dark feathered shaft protruding from his lord's shoulder, and for a second, he felt as if time froze still. And then it was as if Angband had been broken open.
The wind shifted, and with it blew the unmistakable stench of death and fear that clung to orcs like a cloak. Elrond's mare reared, already slightly confused and frightened by her rider's strange behavior. From behind him, Asgaladh heard a horse whinny shrilly, and the clinks of hooves as other steeds danced uneasily overtop the hard packed earth. Beneath him, Asgaladh's own mare ground to a halt and stood, quivering.
Out from behind a jumble of large stones and from between the trunks of trees that lined a hilltop slightly ahead of them poured a thick line of dense bodied wolves. The short yips and barks of the wargs echoed throughout the vale, bouncing from hill to hill and out into the open sky that was just beginning to turn pastel blue. They were accompanied by the howling of orcs, who rode on the wargs' backs. With a swift and deadly purpose they bore down upon the group of surprised elves.
"I am fine," Elrond gasped, and pulled himself back into the saddle, forcing his mare to land squarely on her forelegs. He reached over and yanked at the arrow shaft. It came away easily, for it had merely lodged itself in a small dent in his mail, and he cast it aside without a second thought. He would likely have a bruise, but nothing more, and even that would be completely healed within a day.
With the ring of steel against steel, Elrond drew Hadhafang, and held him aloft.
"Swordsmen to me!" he bellowed, shattering the shocked pall that had hung over the troop.
"Archers to the back; take positions along the outcropping!" Asgaladh ordered a second later, after ensuring that his lord was indeed alright. He wheeled his mount and kneed her into a gallop, sweeping around the group of elves and heading toward the rear.
Within half a moment, a skirmish line had formed on either side of Elrond, the horses snorting and throwing their heads as the creatures of shadow neared. The elves gripped their spears tightly, couching the butt of the staff against their armored shoulders, and prepared for the order to charge.
Along the far edge of the road, a small hillock of stone rose up to a copse of trees. The archers quickly dismounted and ascended the rocks, gaining a vantage point where they could shoot down upon their enemies rather than attempting to shoot through the fighting.
It felt to Elrond as if time slowed, and he could both see and hear every minute detail. To his right, a horse snorted and pawed the ground, while to his left one of his men shifted his lance to a better position, the wood scraping against his mail.
"Draw arrows," Asgaladh's clear tenor ordered, his voice calm. The sound of a score of arrows being drawn punctuated the morning air. "Hold!"
Elrond waited for half a second longer, his gaze riveted on the oncoming pack of wargs as they dashed down the slopes. The leader hit level ground, and the elf watched as the orc riding the beast drew a scimitar from his belt, his mouth open in a scream.
One breath longer he waited. A silence, a peace filled him, at odds with, and yet one with the adrenaline that coursed through his blood, warming him and bringing him to life. He could hear nothing but the whisper of air about him, could feel nothing but the cool caress of the wind through his hair. All was still, all was silent – waiting.
"Charge!" Elrond roared, shattering the stillness that had descended on him. The silence about him fell like a curtain, and again he could hear the screams of the orcs and the yelps of the wargs. Beneath him, his mare surged, responding to his command just as the other horses and riders did.
With a thundering of hooves and a wordless battle cry, the elves charged, lowering their lance tips. As one, the wargs lifted a hair raising howl, the earth shaking from their driving paws.
Vaguely, from somewhere behind him, Elrond heard Asgaladh shout, "Release arrows!" and a rain of dark death flew over his head to scatter amongst the oncoming throng. A few of the monsters toppled and fell, crushing their riders, while other arrows found their mark in the eye or throat of an orc. The beast would then tumble from its mount's back, and would be crushed by its brethren. Yet only a few fell, and there was another two to take the place for every warg or rider that fell.
With an almost audible crunch, the two lines connected, and Elrond lost himself in a whirlwind of clanging steel, the screams of the wounded, blood, and death.
~Present – Night~
Heavy footfalls that set the earth quivering brought Elrond back to reality. They would halt every few paces, stay still for a few seconds, then move on again, each time drawing a little closer to Elrond. He waited, listening intently, trying to infer the creature's intent.
The stench of orc washed over him as the thing drew near, causing him to gag slightly. It was an overwhelming mixture of refuse and blood coated over with both hatred and the cloying smell of death.
The orc must have caught a glimpse of the elf's movement, for the creature hurried the last few steps toward Elrond without pausing. It knelt beside him and roughly checked the bindings on his hands and feet, not caring if its claws nicked the tender skin on the inside of his wrist or tore small holes in the fabric of his breeches. Elrond grit his teeth, forcing himself to breathe as evenly as he could. He could only hope that, satisfied with the integrity of his bonds, the orc would move on. It didn't.
The orc grabbed his chin, forcing it up. The foul creature's putrid breath washed over him, filling his nose and mouth, and this time he could not even begin to hide the gag.
Without warning, a fist slammed into Elrond's cheek, snapping his head to the side. His eyes flew open automatically, only to clench them shut again as light assaulted his retinas. A second punch landed directly in his stomach, and Elrond felt the air whoosh from his lungs. For half a second, the only thing Elrond could do was lay there, breathless and unable to see even if he wanted to. After that, he gave up all pretenses of unconsciousness.
The orc grabbed the front of Elrond's tunic and pulled him up off the ground. The elf again opened his eyes, although more carefully this time, and glared at the orc whose face was only a few inches from his own. For the space of a breath, the orc seemed taken aback by the fire in his captive's gaze, and it seemed to him as if the elf blazed with power and light.
The orc growled and, with his free hand, he grasped Elrond's face, its thumb pressing painfully against his cheekbone and its fingers splayed across his other cheek. He shoved his face even closer to Elrond's, his eyes gleaming with malice.
"You trying to challenge me, elf?" it spat. "Or were you just trying to hide like all the other cowards." At that, Elrond twitched. What did the orc mean by saying 'like all the other cowards'? It didn't seem to fit with the circumstances of the battle, which would mean that…would mean that he wasn't the only captive.
The orc chortled evilly at the look of dismay that flickered across Elrond's face before he could stop it. "Ya din't think you were so import'nt that you were the only reason we came, didja?" the orc sneered with contempt. "Why don'tja take a look." The orc forced Elrond's face to the side, directing his gaze downward so he could see the shadowed shapes lying scattered around him. Like him, they were bound, and had been stripped of their weapons, mail, and boots. He could sense that more than half of them were injured, for their fëar flickered weakly, and seemed as if they had been shot through with red, where they should have been a softly glowing gold.
Elrond's face was wrenched back to the front, so that he was once again staring into the orc's hideous face. It was leering at him unpleasantly. "We're gonna 'ave some fun with you," it whispered, as if imparting some sort of secret.
Elrond yearned to say something in retort, yet he knew that it would do him no good. He would only make threats or promises that he knew he could keep, for if he could not keep them, it would only weaken him and whatever power he might be able to gain over the foul creatures. And besides, it would only anger the beast, and would place both himself and his men, for whom he was supposed to watch over and protect, in more a more volatile position than they were already in.
"Oi, Gourdug, what be takin' ye so long?" a new orc grumbled, drawing near. His eyes lit up when he saw Elrond, and his ire seemed to lessen somewhat. "So one of 'em finally be awake, eh?" he asked.
"Aye," Gourdug replied, and sniffed at Elrond contemptuously. "We was just having a nice lil chat." With that the orc dropped Elrond back onto the ground. Unable to break his fall, Elrond landed flat on his back, and for the second time that night, the air was forced from his lungs.
"This be the lordling, ain't 'it?" the other orc asked, bending over to get a better look at Elrond. It gripped the elf's hair and yanked his head upright, while with its free hand, the orc poked and prodded Elrond's chest, stomach, and throat.
Elrond struggled against his bonds, humiliation and, for the first time since he had awoken, a modicum of fear causing him to squirm and fight against the orc's grip. He realized that he was helpless, bound as he was, and would not be able to stop the orcs from doing what they willed with him. Later, and when he had the time to think back on what happened next, he knew that it would have been best for him simply to remain as still as he could
The orc grinned maliciously, and leaned down over Elrond, shoving the elf's head back against the ground, and pressing its other hand against Elrond's sternum. Its nails dug into Elrond's skin with enough force to make it difficult to breathe.
"Ye scareda us, elf?" the orc over him mocked. "Do I make ya squirm?" The creature chuckled darkly. "How about I make ya dance a merry jig? Wouldja like dat?"
Even as Elrond acted, he knew it was stupid. The orc was only goading him, scorning and mocking him and, while the creature was more than capable of carrying out his threats, Elrond knew that it wouldn't. At least not then, not yet. And yet fear somehow mixed with rage, and together the two emotions spurred Elrond on, obliterating reason and logic.
Without sound or warning, Elrond attacked. He snapped his legs up toward his chest, smashing into the orc's elbow. Something cracked upon impact, and the orc let out a pained howl as he snatched his arm away and loosened its grip on Elrond's hair. A fraction of a second later, Elrond was snapping his legs upward from where he had gathered them to his chest. His feet caught the orc in the chest, sending him stumbling back.
Fueled by his anger toward the yrch for killing his people and taking him and his surviving men prisoner, Elrond rolled over and sat up on his knees, turning to face the orc behind him. For the moment, he put Gourdug from his mind, able to concentrate on only one at a time. He lunged upwards, lifting his arms away from his chest and wrapping them about the stunned orc's head before falling back to his knees, dragging the orc with him.
The orc staggered and fell, crashing to the ground with a grunt. Elrond wobbled, but regained his balance, and quickly placed his knees in the small of the orc's back. He lifted his hands away from the orc's skull and gripped its ear. With a savage jerk, Elrond pulled the orc's head savagely to one side. He heard bone snap, and the orc fell limp beneath him.
A clawed hand wrapped around Elrond's throat and tightened. The next second, he felt himself being ripped away from the orc corpse and flung through the air. When he landed, he rolled, before fetching up against a steel-toed boot.
"What's goin on 'ere?" a new, deeper voice growled. The boot that had stopped Elrond's roll cranked back and smashed into his stomach, sending him flopping back in the direction he had come. Elrond merely grunted, unable to make any other sound.
"'e killed Durgil!" Gourdug replied.
Elrond felt hands, once again, grasping the front of his tunic, and he was hauled bodily into the air so that his toes just barely brushed against the ground. He glanced about him, and realized with a twist of his gut, that orcs now swarmed around the prisoners, attracted by Durgil's howls.
"Killed Durgil?" the orc holding Elrond spat with contempt. "An' how'd 'e manage that?"
"Broke 'is neck!" Gourdug spat back, bristling at the other's tone of disbelief.
"Aye, Durgil's dead," another orc called out after kicking the corpse over onto its back. A low murmur of shock and something akin to anger rippled through the small crowd.
"Methinks 'e needs ta be taught 'is place!" an orc hollered. Jeers and howls greeted the suggestion, and the orc carrying him began to walk, dragging Elrond along the ground. The orcs parted, allowing them a clear path toward the fire.
Elrond, unwilling to give up easily, and knowing that no matter what he did now, his consequence would be the same, twisted and fought, attempting to kick or even bite the hand holding him. A blow to the head halted his movements, and he collapsed limply in the orc's grip, stunned.
As they were passing by the other prisoners, Elrond thought he caught a flicker of movement. He turned his head just a little, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of his men lift his head. It was Aravadhor, a young elf just past his majority who had showed great promise in both leadership and with the sword. Aravadhor's eyes widened at the sight of his captain and lord being dragged away by the orcs, and made as if to attempt to gain his feet. Elrond could see the determination in the young warrior's eyes, and knew that he was about to do something stupid, just as Elrond himself had done.
Elrond shook his head slightly, his gaze locking with the Aravadhor's. "Daro," he mouthed. For a second, the bulk of an orc blocked Elrond's view of the young elf, and Elrond hoped fervently that he had obeyed the command. When they moved on past the orc, Elrond risked one final glance back, and with that last look conveyed as much hope and strength as he could, telling the other not to despair, and that he would be fine. He only hoped that Aravadhor had seen it.
Aravadhor sank back to the ground, yet kept his eyes locked on his captain's form as he was dragged into a sea of orcs. The young elf felt his throat tighten and his gut clench, for he knew what was about to happen to his captain. He pressed his forehead against the cool ground, and squeezed his eyes shut as tears threatened to fall. He felt that he had failed his captain, even though Lord Elrond had ordered him to stay still.
And yet, even as he heard the first thumps of leather boots striking flesh, Aravadhor couldn't help but remember the final look that Elrond had sent him. It gave him enough strength to dare to hope that this wasn't the end. Even so, he kept his eyes shut tight, and clenched his arms over his ears so that he would not have to listen to the taunts and the laughter of the orcs as they played.
End Chapter 1