A/N: Thanks to my mom, for being extremely nice about beta reading, to my reviewers, for reviewing (), to Diana Wynne Jones for inspiration, and of course the Professor himself, for writing about Middle Earth. Obviously, this is his world. I’m just borrowing it.
I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods…..
–Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Taurion unbolted the iron grille. Beyond it was the path, and beyond that the bridge. I prayed that we could make it from the isle without being questioned. It was only a matter of time before my strength gave out and the disguises collapsed.
The grille swung open and I stepped outside, taking a deep breath and trying to focus completely on the spell. It was pitch-black night, and a frigid wind was blowing from the north. I cautiously began to follow the path along the clifftop. Taurion closed the grille, and reaching through the bars bolted it. He turned and caught up with me.
The path was rocky, narrow, and ran precariously on the cliff’s edge. At its foot the Sirion was pounding over jagged rocks, sending up plumes of icy spray. Even so, with the treacherous footing and darkness it was not long before the torches marking the bridge was in sight. But by then I was shaking and my breath was coming shallow. I was nearly drained. “Taurion?”
He stopped. “Yes?”
“You’ll have to do the talking at the bridge. I can’t – ” I struggled to hold the spell and explain “- I can’t manage it. The spell – ”
“You could let it down for a minute,” he whispered.
“No!” I shook my head. “That would be worse – bringing it up again takes more. I can’t-” I took a shaking breath, “can’t go much farther. Just tell them anything. Go.”
Taurion took the lead, and I followed, concentrating fiercely, so fiercely that I barely realized when we reached the guard at the bridge. He stopped us, and asked a question. I saw his lips moving, but heard nothing. Everything was blurring as I clung to the spell with the last strength of my mind.
I don’t remember how Taurion convinced the guards to let us cross. I only know that just the instant before we reached the far shore my will failed, and the orcs could see us as we truly were. The last thing that registered upon my mind was falling as I realized that I had failed yet again.
Taurion felt it the instant the disguises dropped. He turned to look at Morien – what in Arda was she doing? – and found that she was crumpling to the ground. Behind her, thirty yards away, the orcs had seen the Elves.
Taurion cursed under his breath and caught the limp she-Elf as she fell, mentally shaking himself for not seeing how much of her strength the spell had drained. She had said that she could not go in for long, but not she was close to blacking out.
The guards had rapidly recovered from their shock by then, and were running across the bridge, intent on recapturing their prey. They would reach the Elves in a matter of seconds. Taurion didn’t have a choice. He lifted the unconscious elleth and ran.
It was the dead of night, and the moon was a narrow sliver of light in the velvet-dark sky. Taurion could barely see where he was going. The faint outlines of the mountains were just visible several leagues away, outlined black against the distant stars, but the ground beneath his feet was nearly invisible. He seemed to be on some sort of road, worn flat by the tread of Morgoth’s creatures.
Taurion glanced over his shoulder, and saw the torches of his pursuers about forty yards behind. He had put some distance between them, but not nearly enough. Normally he could have outdistanced the orcs easily, but between carrying Morien and having spent two months in the dungeon he was tiring.
He kept running, though he knew he couldn’t go on indefinitely. Morien was limp in his arms and he wondered how much she had put into the spell. Too much, most likely – she was obviously not one to faint over small matters. She’d recovered quickly after being hurled into a stone wall; now she showed no sign of awakening.
Taurion stumbled over a rut in the ground. He’d managed to keep the distance between himself and the orcs steady, but he needed to get off the road. He was too easy to spot, even in the dim starlight.
He put on a last burst of speed, getting as far ahead as he could and putting a hulking mass of rock behind him. It blocked the orcs’ view as he veered sharply to the left. He prayed that in the darkness his departure from the road would go, for a little while, unnoticed.
The ground was broken, strewn with stones and pitted. Taurion stumbled on for a few dozen yards as the orcs’ torches appeared on the road, behind him. They did not seem to have realized that he was no longer on it. But all the same, he needed cover.
A patch of denser darkness opened before Taurion’s feet. It was a narrow ravine. He climbed cautiously down the steep slope, searching for any sign of another being. He couldn’t see the end of the gully, but there was no sound except the wind.
Taurion decided against searching the entire ravine. It was the safest place that they could hope for, and if there was another occupant, which he doubted, there were probably worse things to be found elsewhere.
One of the rock walls was deeply undercut. It was not ideal, but its overhang would shelter them for a time. Taurion couldn’t go much farther. The air somehow seemed polluted, so very unlike the soft clean scent of Doriath’s trees that he had always known. In this land the wind was not refreshing, but a harsh deadened blowing. Struggling through Gorthaur’s territory gave a strange aching tiredness, of both body and soul.
He set Morien down carefully aganst the ravine’s side, and draped his cloak over her. Her own, the ragged, worn, black orc garment, would be little good in the frigid night. Taurion had been brought up to protect females of his race, and despite Morien’s fierceness and martial skill his natural chivalry won out. Besides that, he knew that with her in full strength their chances of making it out of Gorthaur’s territory were, beyond doubt, far better.
Taurion leaned back against the rock wall, closing his eyes. He wondered why Morien had not escaped from Tol-en-Gaurhoth long before. She knew the passages; she could disguise herself; she had no difficulty dispatching guards. It should have been easy to get out. And she so obviously hated it.
And yet she had said that she’s been there a long time. Something in her expression then had forbidden further questioning, and Taurion had let the matter lie. Now, though, he wondered. That orc, Graku, had known her, and he’s sensed a long enmity between them. Graku’d said something about the boss – Gorthaur?- putting up with her, and her trying to defy him, and not killing someone – an Elfling, at that – but he’d also called her an………..assassin? But not killing? That would explain her imprisonment, for disobeying Gorthaur, but if she’d been there a long time, as she’d said……..Taurion shook his head. The pieces just didn’t fit.
The eastern edge of the sky was beginning to lighten. More time had passed in his musing half-doze than he had realized.
He looked at Morien; there was just enough light to make out her still-unconscious face. Her eyes were open and unfocused, and there was a streak of grime – or blood – across her cheek. Even though that would explain the ease with which she slipped through the shadows and killed the two guards, she did not look like an assassin. But somehow he couldn’t see her killing for Gorthaur. No Elf would do that. Then again, she was like no Elf that he had met before. She moved in a bitter fierceness – or was it a fierce bitterness? – and something had extinguished the starlight in her eyes. Though they were not empty of emotion they were as completely dark as a deep and unreflecting well. Something had happened to her, but what?
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