A Morning Star ~ Chapter 10 of 18 - Captivity
Chapter 2: The Road West
Chapter 3: Questions and Answers
Chapter 4: The End of a Quest
Chapter 5: A New Home
Chapter 6: Decisions
Chapter 7: The Battle of Ridden
Chapter 8: A War Ends and a Journey Begins
Chapter 9: Rohan
Chapter 10: Captivity
Recap: After fleeing Ridden, Ariya made her way to the village of Durlow in Rohan. She resumed her life as a potter, and has taken a young man named Lamir as her apprentice. She now lives with Lamir's large family. After five years in Rohan, Ariya finally understands that she truly loves Duran.
"Is Lamir son of Édren here?"
Ariya looked up from her work to see a Rohirrim soldier standing before her, the morning sun shining through the open door at his back. She could sense immediately that he was not here to bring good news.
"I am here," Lamir said, walking out of the back room of the pottery shop.
"May I speak with you outside, please?" the soldier asked.
"Anything that you can say to me you may say in front of Ariya," Lamir replied. Ariya looked up, pleased that Lamir did not wish to keep secrets from her but fearful for what the soldier was about to say.
"I am afraid that your father was captured by orcs last night, while he was patrolling the lands around Durlow," the soldier said.
Lamir's eyes grew wide and his normal smile quickly disappeared. "What? Why, where did they take him?" he stammered. Ariya was as shocked as her apprentice, but remained silent and allowed the soldier to speak.
"We believe they captured him because of his rank." Ariya knew the soldier meant that they captured him instead of killing him, but was trying not to be too harsh by saying so. She also realized that despite the markings of rank on Édren's armor, the orcs likely did not know he lived in such a small village and was not an important officer. "After they captured him, they headed southeast. There were only two of us and about ten orcs, and we could not stop them." Southeast! Ariya thought. That is in the direction of Mordor!
Lamir said nothing and sat down. Ariya could see that he did not expect to see his father again but did not want to cry in front of the soldier. Suddenly, she had a moment of elven foresight such that she had not experienced in years.
"We can still save him if we leave now," she said, standing up.
"Impossible," the soldier said, wondering who this woman was that would know how to rescue a man from a band of orcs. "They have a half-day start on us already, and to be honest, Édren is likely dead. It has been my experience that orcs seldom keep prisoners for long. Besides, these are Uruk-hai, a breed of orc more strong and fearsome than any other."
"Trust me!" Ariya exclaimed. "My elven blood has allowed me to foresee that he can be rescued if we leave immediately. My foresight has never proven me wrong!"
"We?" the soldier said mockingly. "Do you intend to go after him?" He quickly ran his eyes across her, observing her long braided hair, fair skin, and simple green dress. How such could a woman defeat ten orcs?
"If no one else will, yes," she replied firmly.
"You are mad," the soldier said, and quickly left the shop.
"Ariya, do you mean it?" Lamir asked as soon as the soldier left.
"Of course. But I must retrieve my weapons first," she answered, already heading out the door.
"Let me come with you!"
"No!" Ariya said immediately, turning to face him for a brief moment. The ability to use the bow was one thing, but for a lame man to fight orcs hand-to-hand was another. He tried to argue with her as they hurried back to the house, but she would not relent.
Beros and Renna were sitting at the table holding their son, now a year old, when Ariya and Lamir ran into the house. Lamir explained to them what had happened while Ariya stepped into the other room to quickly change. She donned her tunic and trousers that she wore for sword-practicing and attached her knife to her belt. She then grabbed her bow, quiver, and sword, and strapped them to her back. Finally, she coiled her long braids around her head and pinned them in a knot at the nape of her neck.
When she emerged, Beros already had his sword in hand. "Let me come with you. You will need another sword." Ariya knew that Édren had trained Beros with the sword in the manner of the Rohirrim.
"You may come only if you do exactly as I say," she replied hurriedly. "You cannot foresee the future and I know what I am doing." Ariya did not intend to sound so conceited, for in her haste she did not consider her words, but Beros understood their meaning and agreed.
As they ran out the door to their horses, Ariya did not see that Renna already had tears in her eyes. Renna feared for her husband but knew that she could not stop him from leaving to rescue his father. She held her son tighter, hoping that Ariya's foresight proved true.
Ariya and Beros rode their horses as hard as they could all day and into the night. Beros had planned ahead and brought a bit of food and two water skins, so they only had to stop to allow the horses to drink. The orcs had not taken the time to hide their tracks, and even in the dark Ariya and Beros only had to slow a little to stay on the trail.
Several hours after the setting of the sun they saw the light of a fire in the distance, near a small forest. Ariya's vision was slightly keener than Beros's, and as they drew nearer she could see that it was indeed the orcs' camp. They tied their horses to two trees along the edge of the forest in order to approach the camp unheard. Just before they entered the forest, Ariya whispered her instructions to Beros.
"When I motion to you, stop where you are. I will advance a little closer to the camp and try to kill as many as I can with my arrows first. Once I am spotted and they begin to attack me, try to run into the camp and unbound Édren. Be prepared to fight; I doubt I can kill all ten myself."
With that, they quickly but quietly walked through the forest. When the camp was within sight, Ariya motioned for Beros to stop. He did, and she took a few steps closer and to the left before firing her first arrow.
The arrow struck the center of the watchman's head. When he collapsed, the other Uruk-hai quickly turned to see what had happened. She managed to kill three more orcs before they were able to pinpoint her location, for Beros had confused them by throwing a few rocks into the bushes at his right. Once they saw her, the remaining six ran toward her at once. She hit one more with an arrow before drawing Cul-Rômen.
At that moment, Beros raced out of the trees toward Édren, who was lying by the fire, bound, and intently watching the spectacle. The orcs saw him and three ran toward him. That left two for Ariya to fight. As she deflected blow after blow with her sword, she realized that these Uruk-hai were much stronger and taller than normal orcs. Still, it was not long until she was able to slay them both.
Looking up, she saw that Beros had already killed two Uruk-hai and was fighting with the last one. Ariya ran over to help him and quickly thrust her sword into the orc's back. The Uruk-hai dropped his sword and slowly fell to the ground.
"Beros! Ariya!" Édren cried, so elated that he could think of nothing else to say. Beros untied him, but as Édren tried to stand he promptly stumbled. His son caught him in his arms.
"Father, are you all right?" Ariya could see a large gash on Édren's upper leg. He had tried to bandage it with a strip of his cloak, but she could see that he needed a healer very soon. Neither she nor Beros had the skills to deal with such a wound.
"Beros," she said. "We need to get your father back to Durlow as soon as possible. Go fetch our horses while I wait here with him." Beros quickly ran off into the trees.
"Why did you come after me?" Édren asked after Beros had left.
"I foresaw that I could save you," she answered. "And your fellow soldiers felt that they could not defeat the band of orcs."
"Then I will have to tell them that a woman did what they could not," Édren replied with a weak smile. Ariya could see that he was in much pain.
Beros soon returned with the horses, and Ariya allowed Édren to ride her own horse. She would walk back to Durlow on foot, although she knew it would likely take several days. The decision being made, Beros and Édren rode off as quickly as their tired horses would allow.
Ariya was exhausted but knew that she must leave the orc camp before she could rest. She did not want another band of orcs to find her with ten dead bodies and orc blood on her clothes. She walked through the forest and back toward Durlow. After the sun rose, Ariya found a secluded spot in a small grove of trees far from the orc camp. She lied down and promptly fell asleep.
She awoke to feel a sharp pain in her side. She quickly looked up to see an Uruk-hai towering over her, the tip of his spear pressed against her body. Glancing about, she saw several other orcs standing nearby.
"Who are you?" the orc asked gruffly. "Why did you slaughter our fellow Uruk-hai?" When she did not answer, he jabbed her with the spear.
Ariya knew she had to act quickly. She jumped to her feet and drew Cul-Rômen. Before she was able to swing her blade, an orc struck her head with the blunt side of his sword. She dropped to her knees, temporarily disoriented. Two orcs grabbed her from behind and immediately took the sword from her hands. Before she had time to realize what had happened, she was bound and her weapons were taken from her.
The orc who had originally awakened her, obviously some sort of captain, continued to question her. She refused to answer, not wanting to give Édren or Beros' names in fear that the orcs would seek them out in Durlow. Finally, the orc captain said, "Perhaps we could make you talk under other... circumstances." His wicked grin made Ariya cringe. "It has been many years since we have captured an elf, and a female one at that."
She did not bother to tell them that she was a half-elf, especially since it would not take them long to learn that the only half-elf in Rohan, indeed the only one in all of Middle-earth, lived in the village of Durlow. The orcs began to march, threatening her with spears and swords if she slowed her pace. She counted seven Uruk-hai, and knew that she had no chance to escape weaponless and bound.
She lost count of the number of days that they marched, for the Uruk-hai ran with no regard to the time of day or night. She considered herself strong, but she could not keep up with the maddening pace of the Uruk-hai. On several occasions they were forced to carry her, but only after she had been bound extra tightly so that she would not steal their weapons.
After several days they reached a mountain pass and began to make their way up thousands of stairs. Ariya later learned that it was the pass of Cirith Ungol, but at that moment she only knew that they must be drawing near to Mordor, for she could sense the evil the closer they came to the land. Finally, they exited the stairs and the tunnels that followed to see the tower of Minas Morgul. Again; she did not know the tower's name, but she knew that they had crossed the borders of Mordor. They took her to a cell in a lower level of the tower.
When they threw her through the door of the cell, she lay on the ground, too exhausted to move. An Uruk-hai then stripped her down to the waist, throwing her tunic and undershirt on the floor. He took her hands and looped them through a chain hanging on the wall. She stood facing the wall, her back to the orcs. The captain then approached holding a many-thronged whip, and she shut her eyes in preparation of the beating that was to come.
"This is your last chance to tell us why you killed them," the captain said. She said nothing, and the captain quickly gave her a few lashings. She had never experienced such pain and could not resist the urge to cry out. After only four lashes, the captain paused.
In her weakened, nearly delusional state, Ariya thought that perhaps they would spare her further lashings if she said something. "They had taken captive a friend of mine," she said. "I killed them to free him."
"Then where is this friend?" the captain sneered.
"I lent him my horse, for he was badly wounded."
The captain paused, not sure whether to believe her or not. However, he had been looking forward to the torture and planned to whip her again no matter her response. He asked her again if she had killed all ten orcs by herself, but she would say no more. She feared that if she spoke again, she would reveal her friends' names and endanger their lives as well.
Disgusted that she would not answer his questions, the captain resumed the lashings. Ariya cried out and soon fainted from the pain.
Ariya awoke to find herself lying on the cold stone floor of the cell. The room was empty, and was lit only by a tiny window far above her head. Her hands were bound with a thick rope, but the orcs had dressed her in her undershirt. She saw her tunic lying nearby, but even if her hands were not bound she would not have put it on, for the soft cloth of her undershirt alone felt like it was tearing apart the stripes in her back. The events of the previous days slowly came back to her.
As she lay on the floor trying to sort through her jumbled thoughts, she heard a scream come from the upper levels of the tower. The sound sent a chill down her spine, for she could feel an evil in that screech like nothing she had ever felt before. Her mind could not conjure up what terrible being could have made such a sound. Two more screams followed, and then it was silent once more.
She had no idea how many hours she laid there on the stone. She drifted in and out of sleep, and her thoughts were constantly racing between Rivendell, Ridden, and Durlow. She was not afraid of death; indeed, she had chosen the gift of man, and she would receive it gladly to escape the suffering she knew was yet to come. Rather, she feared for Édren and his family and hoped that the orcs would not discover her connection to them. Her thoughts also returned to Duran--she feared that if she were to die here, he would never know she was gone. She longed to return to him and proclaim her love, and wished that his strong arms could embrace her rather than the cold floor of her cell. If by some miracle of the Valar I can escape this place, she thought, I will return to Duran, regardless of Denya's threat.
As the days passed by, an orc would occasionally slide a bowl of food through the door. It was always some sort of soup or stew, and while Ariya did not know--or want to know--what was in it, she ate it eagerly in attempt to regain some of her strength.
After what seemed like a week to Ariya, when in actuality it was only about two days, the orc captain returned to her cell. This time he came alone. She saw that he was wearing Cul-Rômen and her elven knife on his belt, and she began to grow angry. She stood to face him, her wrists still tied together in front of her body, and he came so near to her that she could smell his foul breath.
"I suppose that your wounds are just now beginning to heal?" he asked with a sinister smile. She said nothing and he continued. "Perhaps it is time that we opened them up again." He suddenly grabbed her and shoved her against the wall, his hands on her shoulders. She nearly fainted from the pain of her wounds hitting the rough stone wall, but somehow managed to stay alert.
The captain then loosened his grip, and leaned close and whispered something in a language unknown to her ears. Ariya seized the opportunity and simultaneously jabbed her knee into his groin and drew Cul-Rômen from his belt. Before he could even cry out, she swung the sword through the darkness and beheaded the Uruk-hai. She then carefully used the sword to cut the ropes around her wrists. She took the belt from the body and tied it around her own waist. Then, with Cul-Rômen in hand, she walked quickly to the cell door to see if any guards were about.
She saw no one, and swiftly made her way down the corridor, trying to ignore the pain in her back. She vaguely remembered the way that she had come in and hoped to find her way out without any orcs spotting her. She ran up the stairs to the ground level, but she soon heard footsteps and ducked through the closest doorway. Turning around, she saw that she was in a kitchen. A small orc on the far side of the room turned to face her, and then started at the sight of the half-elf. With hardly a thought, Ariya grabbed her knife and threw it at the orc, killing him instantly. She quickly walked over to retrieve the knife, musing that she was becoming quite talented in knife-throwing.
She stood for a moment leaning against the countertop, still rather weak from her injuries. She noticed several water skins and some food laid out on the counter. Remembering the long pass of Cirith Ungol, she slung a water skin over her shoulder and grabbed a handful of hard flat-bread, placing them in a leather pouch attached to her orc-belt.
When all seemed quiet again, she quickly ran toward the kitchen door and headed in the direction in which she believed the main door was located. She was amazed at her fortune thus far; she had expected to have to battle several orcs during her escape. However, when she rounded the next corner, she saw the main door with two Uruk-hai guarding it.
One of the Uruk-hai yelled that a prisoner had escaped, while the other ran toward Ariya with his sword drawn. Despite her pain, she managed to deflect his blows and quickly slay him. The second Uruk-hai had left the room, presumably to alert the others. She pushed open the doors and ran toward the tunnels of Cirith Ungol.
Several orcs soon ran out of the tower. When they saw her escape into the tunnels, she heard one of them yell, "You needn't follow her; she won't survive for long in there. Stay here and shoot her if she emerges from the tunnels."
List of Names and Places through Chapter 10
- Ambilë: Ariya's mortal father. Chapter 1.
- Arelen: "Morning Star"; Ariya's Elvish name. Chapter 1.
- Ariya Alayah: Translated as "Morning Star" in an ancient tongue of men; the heroine of our story. Chapter 1.
- Beredhel: "Bold Elf"; Ariya's maternal grandfather. Chapter 1.
- Beros: Lamir's older brother. Chapter 9.
- Cul-Rômen: "Golden-Red Sunrise"; the name of Ariya's sword. Chapter 5.
- Deilen: Duran's brother. Chapter 5.
- Denya: Renya's only son; succeeded his father as King of Ridden. Chapter 6.
- Dunneth: The city-kingdom to which the refugees of Ridden fled. Chapter 6.
- Duran: Advisor to the king of Ridden. Chapter 3.
- Durlow: A small village in eastern Rohan. Chapter 8.
- Édren: Lamir's father; farmer and soldier of Rohan. Chapter 9.
- Eomas: The first city to be attacked by the Northern Tribes. Chapter 5.
- Halamir: Lamir's younger brother. Chapter 9.
- Isilmë: "Moonlight"; Ariya's maternal grandmother. Chapter 1.
- Kalen: A man from Dunneth; leader of a group of archers in the resistance against the Northern Tribes. Chapter 6.
- Lamir: Son of Édren; Ariya's apprentice in Rohan. Chapter 9.
- Land of the City-Kingdoms: A land northwest of Rivendell, consisting of several small cities of men, each ruled by their own king. Chapter 2.
- Lein: Ariya's half-brother, son of Ambilë; a smith in Ridden; killed in the Northern Tribe's invasion. Chapter 2.
- Lindë: Lamir's love interest. Chapter 9.
- Lómion: "Descendant of Dark"; maker of Ambilë's ring. Chapter 4.
- Melwen: "Kind Maiden"; Ariya's elven mother. Chapter 1.
- Nía: Lamir's sister. Chapter 9.
- Peramac "Perry" Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Tanagrim. Chapter 2.
- Renna: Beros's wife. Chapter 9.
- Renya: King of Ridden. Chapter 5.
- Ridden: A city in the land of the city-kingdoms. Chapter 2.
- Selleth: Lamir's mother. Chapter 9.
- Tanagrim Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Peramac. Chapter 2.
Here's the question of the hour: were orcs from Mordor actually raiding Eastern Rohan? We all know that the orcs and humans of Saruman were raiding western Rohan, but what of the east? If there were no orcs in the east, then I apologize for the inconsistency, but I wanted to have Ariya go to Minas Morgul instead of Isengard!