The next morning when the sky was still pink with the rising sun, Aragorn awoke. Beside him Gimli still slept, snoring loudly and Legolas stood a few feet away. He was gazing out over the never ending land in deep thought.
“They are far, far away.” he said sadly, turning to face Aragorn. “I know in my heart that they have not rested this night. Only an eagle could overtake them now.”
“Nonetheless, we shall follow as we may.” Aragorn said bending over Aragorn as he shook him awake.
“Come, Gimli. We must make haste.”
“Can’t even get a descent night’s sleep when we do stop to rest.” Gimli grumbled.
* * *
It was late in the evening with the moon glowing brilliantly above Rivendell as Elrond stood at his small, rounded balcony. He had just communicated with Galadriel through a special connection of the mind which they were able to use. She had informed him that Silvren had arrived safely in Lothlórien and had departed not too long ago. As much as this infuriated him he was glad to know that Silvren was safe.
A gentle breeze filtered through the air and rustled the multicolored leaves of the surrounding trees. It was nearly the end of February and they had been gone a little over two months but it seemed much longer than that. Elrond had barely spoken to Arwen since his confrontation with her in Silvren’s room. Elrond sighed heavily as he tried to relax his mind; he swore he could feel himself aging at a rapid pace. He had always sworn Silvren would be the one to give him grey hair and though she never had he felt as if his whole head would be grey by the end of the quest.
As he stood there gazing off into the distant his thoughts drifted from Silvren to Arwen. She hadn’t seemed herself of late and it bothered him. He knew she was still madly in love with Aragorn and that she was slowly losing herself from the elven world. She was no longer radiating with beauty and her cheerful smile was often absent from her porcelain face. He also noted that she wore heavier clothing or a shawl or cape with her dresses which hinted at the fact she was feeling the cold of winter. Elrond knew that unless he sent her west he would lose her forever.
Anariel sat in the Hall of Fire sewing a cloak for her father’s birthday. She wore her hair back in a long herringbone braid with several lose strands falling around her ears and neck. She wore a soft red and yellow dress of a heavy material with long slightly tapered sleeves. The soft crackling and popping of the fire in the nearby fireplace comforted her as her fingers flew across the light yet sturdy material.
Several other elves and Bilbo sat in the room talking quietly amongst themselves while Bilbo dozed off and on. The soft sound of elven boots walking across the stone floor towards her caused Anariel to glance up from her work.
“Good evening, Elladan.” smiled Anariel.
“May I join you?” Elladan asked.
“Of course you may.” Anariel said as she moved her belongings off the chair next to her. “Was there something you needed?”
“Not really, just someone to talk with.” he answered as he sat down beside her.
“There was something I wanted to tell you.” he added nervously.
“I’m listening.” Anariel glanced over into his eyes, her heart fluttering at his words yet faltering at his tone.
“What?” she asked in utter bewilderment.
“I’m leaving.” Elladan repeated.
“Why? When? Where are you going?” Anariel asked as her stomach began to feel heavy with illness.
“Because I need to help my sister and brother. They need assistance and I am going to help them.” he informed her.
“When are you leaving?” she asked with growing concern.
“In two days.”
Anariel glanced around the room as she caught her breath, still trying to believe what Elladan told her.
“I-” she started but found she was lost for words.
“I know you weren’t expecting this and I’m sorry.” Elladan reached over and took her hands into his.
“I love you and I don’t want to leave but I have to. If everything goes well we can get married as soon as I return.” Elladan spilled his emotions.
Anariel didn’t know what to say as she stared at her hands in embarrassment. She knew she liked Elladan more than a friend but she wasn’t sure if she had strong feelings for him as he did her.
“I need to be alone.” Anariel quickly muttered under her breath and then quickly hurried away from him and the Hall of Fire.
A knot of sadness developed in Elladan’s stomach as he watched her hurry away. Elladan glanced around and noticed she had left her sewing materials behind. He decided that he would take them to her room and leave it outside her door. As he gathered up her belongings and walking out of the hall he wondered if he would see her before he left.
* * *
Silvren gasped as her body hit the hard ground and Uglúk began binding her ankles again. She was glad to finally get some rest from running as the two hobbits were flung to the ground beside her. Uglúk had forced her to run all day with no food and no water. She had run until she stumbled over her feet and collapsed to the ground. Uglúk finally made an Uruk pick her up and carry her on his back. She remembered the Uruks had ran throughout the rest of the evening and all throughout the night. The time had passed very slowly to Silvren as she tried to think of something to help her pass the time but failed to do so. All she could to was gaze out at the dark land and wonder what the future held. The rest of the journey she had no memory of. She felt humiliated and wished she had the strength to escape but she was too tired to dwell on either thought.
All around them orcs and Uruks were grunting and gasping for air. “We’re not going no further until we’ve had a breather.” one of the orcs gasped.
“Get a fire going!” Uglúk ordered and several orcs stomped towards the nearby forest.
“Merry!” Silvren heard Pippin whisper and she lifted her head to see him inching towards her and Merry.
“I think we might have made a mistake leaving the Shire, Pippin.” Merry whispered wearily.
“Are you and Lady Silvren all right?”
“Yes, Pip, we’re fine.” Merry answered.
“Just a little sore and very hungry.” Silvren groaned as she over at Pippin.
“Well, that’s good.” Pippin replied.
Silvren couldn’t help but smile as she laid her head back down on the stiff, dry grass, her body aching with every move. She tried not to listen to all the shouting and cursing going on round them as the orcs busied themselves.
The night was cold and still as they laid there under the hazy sky. The sound of axes chopping wood could be heard over shouting and cursing and then a distant loud moaning sounded from the woods. Silvren shivered at the eerie sound and lifted her head to see the hobbits do the same.
“What’s making that noise?” Pippin asked Merry as they stared with wide eyes at the dark forest.
“It’s the trees.” Merry said, propping himself up on his elbows.
“What?” Pippin asked looking over at him.
“Have you ever heard of the trees of Fangorn Forest? About Ents?” Silvren asked Pippin, still watching the trees as a shiver ran up her stiff back.
“No.” came Pippin’s soft reply.
“They are old, very old and very much alive.” Silvren whispered too amazed to explain the whole story to them.
“Do you remember the Old Forest on the borders of Buckland?” Merry asked softly. “Folks used to say there was something in the water that made the trees grow tall and come alive.”
“Alive?” Pip whispered.
“Trees that could whisper…talk to each other,” he continued in a low voice, “and even move.”
Silvren laid her head down as a terrible throbbing began to run through her head. The throbbing had been coming and going over the past few days. She didn’t know why it happened but she wished she could stop it. The cramping in her stomach had ceased for she had slowly grown accustomed to not eating. With a heavy sigh, Silvren began to wonder what would happen to them once they reached Saruman’s tower.
“I’m starving.” she heard one of the orcs grumble. “We ain’t had nothin’ but maggoty bread for three whole, stinkin’ days.” he complained as he threw a piece of dark bread to the ground in disgust.
“Yeah.” A small skinny orc with pale blue skin, pointy ears and a high-pitched voice agreed. “Why can’t we have some meat?” he said, his gaze falling upon Silvren and the hobbits as Silvren propped herself up on her elbows, their eyes meeting. “What ‘bout them? They’re freshh.”
“They are not for eating.” Uglúk growled as he walked towards the pointy-eared orc.
The small orc stared at hungrily at the captives and chomped its teeth together as Uglúk and another Uruk dragged Silvren and the hobbits to their feet.
“What ‘bout their legs? They don’t need them.” Grishnákh asked as Merry and Pippin glanced down at their legs. “Oh, they look tasty.” he hissed as he took a step forward.
“Get back, scum!” Uglúk demanded, shoving Grishnákh back into the small group of hungry orcs. “The prisoners go to Saruman alive and unspoiled.” he growled.
“Alive? Why alive?” Grishnákh asked as he looked them over. “Do they give good sport? I bet the She-elf does.” he hissed and licked his lips at Silvren as several as his buddies laughed.
Silvren’s face remained expressionless as she stared at the orc. Inside she was gaping in horror and fear, her nerves trembled uncontrollably at the thought of his crude words. She did her best to gulp back her fear as she prayed that they wouldn’t touch her.
“They have some Elvish weapon. The master wants it for war.” Uglúk said.
Silvren’s heart skipped a beat and her mouth grew dry at his words. He knew that if the hobbits didn’t have it then she would have the alternative ring he could use, but the orcs didn’t know that. She knew that she couldn’t let the orcs know what she carried and what the two hobbits didn’t carry for then the two hobbits would be dinner.
“They think we have the ring.” Pippin whispered to Merry.
“Shh! As soon as they find out we don’t, we’re dead.” Merry warned him.
Silvren heard a horrible noise from behind them and turned to see the pointy-eared orc coming towards them.
“Just a mouthful… a bite of the flank.” he sneered as he brought his sword up Uglúk’s sword swing through the air above Merry and Pippin’s head as the orc’s head his Merry’s shoulder and tumbled to the ground beside him. The orc’s body fell to the ground behind them, black blood spilling everywhere and staining the yellow grass.
“Looks like meat’s back on the menu boys!” Uglúk shouted as other shouts and cheers spread throughout the orcs.
The three captives were pushed backwards, out of the way as the orcs tore the flesh and meat off the orc’s bones. They could hear the sickening sound of bones crushing under the orc’s heavy weight.
Silvren and the hobbits fell to the ground and watched as the orcs tore apart the body of what used to be on of their own. Out of the corner of her eyes, Silvren noticed Uglúk plop down on the ground and watch the orcs. She noticed that there was something different about him, that something had come over him in the past few hours. He didn’t seem so scary looking or cruel to her or the hobbits. In fact he was slowly beginning to be kinder to them and not just because of his orders.
“Pippin!” Merry hissed as he and Silvren began crawling towards the woods. “Let’s go.” Slowly they inched their way across the dry, tall, stiff grass towards the gloomy forest. But before they could get far, a foot slammed down on Merry’s back and Pippin rolled over on to his back, the tip of an orc’s sword just above his throat.
Silvren turned her head around to see Grishnákh kneeling over them with his sword in hand. “Go on.” he hissed. “Call for help. Squeal.” he seethed as he knelt down and grabbed Pippin’s face. “No one’s gonna save you now.” he said as he raised his blade in the air.
Suddenly his eyes grew wide and an unearthly squeal came from him as he dropped his sword and fell over backwards at Uglúk’s feet. Silvren sat up and felt around her boot for her knife and to her luck they hadn’t taken it. “It is not safe for you to be among us.” Uglúk said, it shocking statement to all three captives. “You must hurry.”
Silvren fumbled with her knife for a while trying to take it out and quickly but carefully began cutting the bonds around her ankles.
“Pippin!” Merry shouted as Men from Rohan came riding into their camp, shooting and killing orcs from atop their horses.
Uglúk turned to see the horses approaching and then turned back and cut the bonds around Merry’s wrists and then Pippin’s. Once the rope had fallen to the ground they quickly began untying the bonds on their ankles as Uglúk turned around and stood guard. Silvren hopped to her knees and bent over Grishnákh’s sword and began sawing the rope that held her wrists together. Uglúk moved out of the way as a rider and his horse came towards them.
Pippin rolled over onto his back as the horse reared above him and he screamed in terror. He quickly rolled out of the way as the horses’ hooves came down on to the ground where he had been lying. Pippin and Silvren crawled over to Merry and noticed that Uglúk had bent shot in the shoulder with an arrow.
“Hurry and get out of here.” Uglúk breathed.
Silvren had a strong feeling that there was something different about Uglúk, something good. She scrambled to her feet as Pippin helped Merry off the ground. She grabbed Uglúk and pushed him towards the woods. “Follow me.” she said to the two hobbits as she hurried Uglúk past any obstacle and towards the deep, dark forest.
“What are you doing?” Merry asked Silvren. “Have you gone mad? He’ll kill us.”
“No he won’t.” she replied.
As the four darted over the yellow grass, something grabbed Merry from behind and yanked him backwards. Silvren and Pippin turned to see Grishnákh holding on to his belt as he lay on the ground with an open wound from Uglúk’s sword in his back.
“The belt!” Pippin shouted when he saw Grishnákh was holding on to the belt. Merry undid the metal clasp and ran towards the other three as Grishnákh threw the belt to the ground and howled in anger.
“Run!” Merry shouted.
Merry ran in front of Silvren and Uglúk, leading the way into the dark forest that loomed in front of them. They ran through the dark, tangled forest over the jutting tree roots and rocks. Grey lichen hung from the trees like an old man’s beard and dry leaves littered the ground beneath their feet. They ran until the four of them could run no more and collapsed to the ground.