Author’s Note: Sorry if this chapter is a little long winded, as it goes through how the rescuers found the orc dens in the Misty Mountains. It is also a little dodgy as I had not much time to edit and I did not want the parts to be too far apart. Otherwise, hope you enjoy it!
Sunrise, Redhorn Pass, Misty Mountains
Two prominent figures, one dressed in the green and brown of Mirkwood, the other the light blue and silver green of Rivendell, stood upon one of the high steppes of the Redhorn Ridge, whilst seven more were preparing for another day of tracking on the steppes below. A wide flat area lit brightly by the morning sun but shadowed by the evening, the clear blue sky and warm sun of a spring day of the Misty Mountains made it easier to see the vastness of the Misty Mountains in relation to the Redhorn Pass.
The evening before, the search party of Lothlorien had met up with Dinros and the party of Rivendell, along one of the narrow passes of Redhorn, also known as Caradhras, that the entourage of Rivendell would have taken to get to the other side of the mountains. Each of the members dressed in their travel and ranger wear, searched the mountainside for the entourage, and even though it was subzero temperatures, the party did not even feel a chill, instead glad that the sun was upon the mountainside lighting their search. The snow on the pass showed no tracks, as the night before a medium cover of snow had fallen, hiding all possible leads that could have been found that day.
“Has there been any progress on picking up any tracks?” Legolas asked the youngest son of Elrond.
“Not much,” Elrohir answered, his expression grim. “We tracked them as far as this ridge, and the fact the snow was quite heavy last night did not help in matters.”
Both elves stood watching over the horizon, when their hearts froze. A gentle breeze blew and with it a high-pitched resonance echoed through their sensitive ears, and a feeling of absolute fear wash over the both of them. Both comrades turned and looked at each other.
“Did you hear that?” Legolas asked Elrohir. “The winds seemed to bring it in from the north east,” he noticed, as he turned his head to the ridge above them.
“Aye,” Elrohir nodded.
Elrohir quickly ran to higher crags and looked out towards the north along the Misty Mountains deep canyons. Trying to get a better view of the northern caverns, Elrohir climbed several more steppes of the ridge, before coming to a prominent peak on the mountain, looking over towards the peak of Fanuidhol in the distance.
Another high-pitched sound reverberated through the mountains, this time much clearer. Legolas joined his comrade on the peak as Elrohir looked in the direction of the sound and saw nothing but the shadows of the two mountains of Caradhras and Fanuidhol. He then spotted a glittering within the rocks that lined against the mountain cliff-side of Caradhras, spanning into the West, when the sun shone brightly upon it.
“Prince Legolas? Is it me, or is there something there?” Elrohir pointed to the cliff.
Legolas focused on the crag of rocks his colleague pointed out and saw something shimmer in the sunlight.
“There is something there,” Legolas agreed. “Something metallic.”
“Very well, I will lead the others up here and we shall investigate,” Elrohir volunteered, before moving back down the mountain to alert the other elves.
Leaving their horses down on the main pass of Caradhras with the four Lorien elves, Bellurion, Oiovenya, Felormil and Dinros, the remaining scout group of five moved up the mountain to the labyrinth of rocks that Elrohir and Legolas spotted from afar.
Approaching the crag, the rangers, Elladan and Elrohir, both noticed a disturbance of the snow leading into the warren, in which the previous snowfalls failed to cover.
“There has been a disorder in the patterns of snow,” Elladan said, as he pointed to the disturbance patterns in the snow. “Something happened here.”
As the scouters proceeded further into the warren under Elladan’s lead, a foul smell began to touch their sensitive noses.
“Smells like orc,” Haldir grimaced. “We must be getting close to something.”
Following the tracks, they came to a narrow pass against the mountainside, leading to another crag of jagged rocks on the other side.
“They should have crossed here, for this is where the tracks suddenly end,” Elladan said. “And the smell of orc is getting worse.”
“This must be where the entourage escaped to from the Red Horn,” Elrohir commented, as he began noticing disturbed elf footsteps in the shadowed snow, along with orc. “They were followed by orcs.”
“But why take such a treacherous path?” Figwit asked. “Should they have not headed towards the valley back into the East?”
“They must have not been given a choice,” Haldir answered. “Menel was leading the entourage and he would have not taken this route if he was not forced to.”
“It must have been a very difficult decision then,” Legolas remarked. “These rocks are like a maze. One wrong turn and you are done for.” He then spotted something glittering in the sunlight near one of the tall rocks against the mountain.
Approaching the object, Legolas pulled out only half of an Eregion long sword. The others approached him from behind and stared in shock of the sword.
“That is Ariane’s long sword,” Elrohir whispered. “This must be what we saw from the other ridge. By gods I do hope she is all right.”
“What in the heavens happened?” Figwit remarked, as he bent over uncovering more shards of the broken weapon and held them in his hands. “She must have put up an amazing fight if her Eregion blade broke like this.”
“She is alive,” Legolas hoped under his breath as he twisted the hilt of the broken blade around in his hand. “She has to be for her blade to be like this.”
“Do not be so certain Legolas,” Haldir said, his tone grim, looking off beyond the rock.
Haldir gestured to the mountain wall behind the tall rock. The wall was splattered with dried blood and the ground was clearly disturbed, with orc tracks everywhere.
As the group approached the wall, they almost fell over by the smell that met their noses.
“Whoa! What a stench!” Elladan remarked, as he looked about for more clues as to what happened there.
Looking about, the two rangers, Elladan and Elrohir tried making sense of the tracks that had been left in the snow as they bent down and felt the ground near the blood stained wall.
“My mother’s body was here,” Elrohir said in alarm. “She was injured.” Elrohir quickly followed orc tracks around the site and came to another spot with blood on the snow this time. “Another body was here, a male elf. And Ariane’s body was here,” Elrohir breathed as he noticed the smaller female body in the snow. “My gods, they were on the defensive.”
“Two males fell here,” Elladan pointed to another spot in the snow. “There were at least four guardians with them.” Elladan then came to the edge of the small clearing and stopped. “And these are where the tracks end. No bodies, so therefore they must have been carried away.”
“But where are the bodies of the other guardians, then?” Figwit inquired. “There were twelve when they set out.”
“The orcs must have thrown the bodies over the cliff side,” Elladan answered, but still shook his head in confusion. “But even then, we should have been able to find some trace of them.”
“The snows were heavy early this morning, but I think it is safe to say that this is a positive outlook in our search,” Haldir concluded.
“Yes, but what worries me is the sudden disappearance of all tracks from this position,” Elrohir replied, scratching his chin. “There are numerous tracks all in around, but get past the outer rocks, there is nothing. We should have least picked something up in the shadows of the rocks where the snow did not fall.”
“This stench of orc is very strong around here though,” Legolas said, grimacing. “Maybe there is some sort of cavern that we have missed on this side of the mountain. Is there any cave or inlet that lies this side of Caradhras?”
“Nay, we have not been up here since 700 years,” Elladan answered. “This is a very remote and treacherous area, recommended to only be used as an urgent exit. There could be patches of quick sand and we would not even know about it.”
“But you may be onto something, Legolas,” Haldir said, nodding his head in what looked like enlightenment. “The smell has to come from somewhere. Maybe that is where we will find Lady Celebrìan, Ariane and the others.”
“We should split up then,” Elladan suggested. “We get to cover more ground that way. Hopefully, we can find out where this awful smell is coming from and find my mother and the others.”
“Very well,” Haldir said, before turning to Elrohir and gesturing to the outer area. “Elrohir, go with Legolas and scour the other side of this mountain and below us if possible. Elladan, Figwit and I will search this side of the mountain and above. The sun is getting higher, so we will make it a point to meet back here when the sun hits the tallest peak of Fanuidhol. If you find anything, whistle out the eagle cry. The mountains should carry the sound.”
The entire group then nodded in agreement and then began searching around the area for more clues, Elrohir and Legolas quickly trekking across to the other side of the mountain as the other three made their way around the area they had just found.
As the morning turned into afternoon, the elves had searched high and low for a cavern or inlet that might hold the key to finding their lost loved ones. The stench of orc had not relented at all for either group as they searched. The time came for when the sun hit the tallest peak of Fanuidhol and they were to meet up again, both parties came back frustrated and disappointed.
“Any clues?” Haldir asked, Elrohir and Legolas.
“Well, apart from the occasional rock throwing, nothing,” Elrohir responded sarcastically, shaking his head in dismay.
“How about you?” Legolas asked, clearly annoyed.
“The stench has neither relented nor made us feel any better,” Figwit said.
“This just does not make any sense!” Elrohir burst. “The orc tracks should not have ended here!” Elrohir gestured strongly to the area where the orc tracks did end. “There must have been some orc tracks in the shadows of the mountains, but there are not!”
“Calm down, brother!” Elladan scolded. “We cannot have this outburst. We need to think of what other possibilities there are and find mother and the others!”
“Elladan, what are the other possibilities?” Elrohir retorted. “We have no bodies, no tracks. Only a foul stench that I want to kill the source for! This is so frustrating!”
“Wait, wait. Let us look at this logically,” Figwit said in a soothing voice. “For all we know Ariane and Lady Celebrìan and the others could be dead, because knowing orcs, they do not particularly like our kind.”
“Well I am not ready to accept that,” Legolas voiced intently. The entire group from Rivendell looked at him as if to say `Why?’ “No one should be left to orcs regardless,” he finished.
“I agree,” Elrohir nodded, his eyes eyeing his companion suspiciously.
“Wait. On the other hand, they could still be alive in which we have a responsibility to find out whether that is true or not,” Figwit concluded.
“So in demonstration of the possibilities, I think it is wise that we continue to search for them,” Haldir suggested. “But we should continue it somewhere else, since here we have had no such good tidings.”
Nodding in agreement, the scouters were about to leave and search elsewhere, when Legolas observed an oddity in the surrounding mountain stones. A giant shadowed rock above them, peculiarly slanted against the mountainside caught his attention.
“Hold on!” Legolas commanded. He then pointed to the rock formation in question. “That rock form, has anyone noticed the strangeness of it before?”
The entire group turned to where he was pointing too and stared. Elrohir quickly made tracks for the rock form and manoeuvred through several large stones before approaching the rock and realising the shadow was actually an opening to a cavern into the mountain.
“It is an opening into the mountain,” Elrohir confirmed. “The shadow is hiding a cavern entrance.”
Anticipation ran through the group as all four remaining scouts joined Elrohir at the cavern entrance in moments.
“These shadows are very deceiving,” Figwit commented. “I would never have found this.”
“Come, let us find out what is in this hole,” Haldir suggested, as he took the lead. “Hopefully this is what we are looking for.”
Entering the cave cautiously, Haldir, Elrohir, Figwit, Legolas and Elladan, descended deeper into the cave. The spot of light of the entrance began to recede further and further away as the smell of orc became stronger.
Their light bearing eyes took a while to adjust to the darkness of the cavern, but was soon soothed by another faint light coming from the end of the tunnel. Careful not to make a sound, the five elves approached the light and soon came to a ledge that looked down upon a dim flame lit corridor. The stench now as almost unbearable, but all the elves beared it, as they knew this would be where they would find what they were looking for. Realising that this was the clue they were looking for, they were about to stop and discuss a plan, when a faint unusual screech came from the depths of the cave.
“Orcs!” Legolas whispered. “I would know that cynical sound anywhere.”
“How on Middle-earth did the orcs get these dens here without anyone noticing?” Elladan whispered to himself.
Elrohir approached the edge and looked further over and found that the ground was not too far off and observed the dimensions of the dens. He then turned to the others.
“The ground is not too far off,” he confirmed, very softly. “If we stand in the corridor and hold up our arms, someone from this ledge could pull us up.” He then leaned further over the edge and turned his head left and right. “The corridors seem fairly deserted, but for how long who knows.”
“Are there any other ways down, or is this ledge our only option?” Haldir asked.
“I think this ledge is our only option, Haldir,” Elladan said. “This has been our best lead so far. To lose it will be wasting time. We seemed to have come down a vent into the dens and to look for an entrance will be suicide.”
“All right, we must not tarry long then,” Haldir began. “Here is the plan. One of us must stay behind here and guard the entry and exit post, so as to make way for an easy escape. Elladan and Elrohir, do you have the rope?”
“Aye,” Elrohir said, lifting the light Elvish silver rope that was hanging from his utility belt.
“Good. I suggest you both go looking for your mother. Figwit you must go along too as you are the healer,” Haldir commanded.
“As to be expected,” Figwit agreed. “What happens if we get trapped or found out?”
“Let us hope that does not happen,” Haldir hoped. “Legolas, it is up to you whether you wish to stay here or go. Which is it to be?” he asked quickly.
“I will go and find Ariane and the others,” Legolas answered firmly.
“Very well. Elrohir, the rope,” Haldir asked for as he held out his hand.
Haldir then took the Elvish rope and looked over the edge one more time for safety, before tossing one end over the edge. Finding a large stable rock that they had passed a fair way back, Haldir quickly tied a noose around it and then gestured for the twins to go forth.
Once everyone, except Haldir had reached the orc den corridor, Haldir whispered to the four elves.
“Once you have rescued Lady Celebrìan and the entourage and brought them back here, whistle softly so I know it is you so I can help you up.”
Everyone nodded and then began sucking in their stomachs, trying to get used to the orc stench that filled the corridor. Drawing their preferred weapons, the four elves softly walked down the deserted dimly lit corridor looking carefully about them ready to strike anything that came in their way from the shadows.
To be continued…