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The Prisoner of Dol Guldur
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Part 1

Disclaimer: The characters, the context and the main plot belong to Professor Tolkien, whom I greatly admire. I’m only trying to fill in the gaps he so graciously left for us, fanfic writers, to have some fun. However, the main hero and the individual Mirkwood Elves belong to me.
Rating: Teens
Genre: Horror/Drama
Summary: a terrible discovery after the fall of Dol Guldur
Series: loose sequel to “All Alone In the Night”. Part of “The Trials of a Woodland King” story arc.

Author’s note: beta read by Makamu , whom I owe my most sincere thanks.


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“Beyond the river the land appeared flat and empty, formless and vague, until far away it rose again like a wall, dark and drear. The sun that lay on Lothlórien had no power to enlighten the shadow of that distant height.

‘There lies the fastness of Southern Mirkwood,’ said Haldir. ‘It is clad in a forest of dark fir, where the trees strive one against another and their branches rot and wither. In the midst upon a stony height stands Dol Guldur, where long the hidden Enemy had his dwelling. We fear that now it is inhabited again, and with power sevenfold.’”

The Fellowship of the Ring – Lothlórien (p. 456)

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He knew not how long he had been here. There was no sunlight nor starlight here, no day or night – just darkness and pain. He knew, however, that it had been a very long time he had spent in this wet, fetid underground hole. Long enough to forget almost everything that had been before.

He vaguely remembered a great forest, stretching from horizon to horizon like the green waves of the Great Sea, starlight glittering on the leaves and sunlight shining on the gentle, grassy patches between tall, dark, ancient trees. He remembered having lived in such a tree: in a house built among the strong, smooth, even branches, a rope ladder being the only way down. He remembered squirrels and birds coming to visit and play with him in his chambers, back in another life, when he had been small and happy. But it was more like a fading dream; someone else’s dream, whom he did not even know any longer.

For indeed, he knew no more who he was, what he was, how he got here. He did not even know his own name anymore, though for some strange reason he knew he must have had one once. In his heart, like a fading echo, he could still hear a deep, rich voice, full of warmth and love, calling him by it. He just could not make out the name itself.

Aye, he had known love once. What it had felt like to love and be loved. Yet it had been long ago, in another time, in another life, and when he meant to hear voices from the past, he knew no longer to whom they had belonged.

Sometimes he could even remember that this dreary place, which was his prison – and would be most likely his tomb, eventually – had once belonged to his own people. Ere he was even born, ere it was taken over by dark forces, his ancestors had dwelt here. If he tried very hard, fragmented words of a forgotten song would swim up to the surface of his slowly fading, darkening memory, and he sang softly in the eternal darkness of his dungeon, finding great comfort in them.

O fading town upon a little hill,
Old memory is waning in thine ancient gates,
The robe gone grey, thine old heart almost still;
The castle only, frowning, ever waits,
And ponders how among the towering elms
The Gliding Water leaves these inland realms
And slips between long meadows to the western Sea –
Still bearing downward over murmurous falls…

Yet more and more of the sweet words got lost in the endless, echoless solitude of his imprisonment, and he dreaded the day when, eventually, they all would be lost, forever. His other memories were fading more and more. He could not recall the face belonging to that deep, rich voice that he could still hear in his heart, calling him, although he knew it had been a noble and beautiful one. He knew it, and he still knew what beauty was like – but he could not see that face any longer, not even in his mind.

Nor could he remember the face of the woman whose soft, gentle voice sometimes sang to him in his troubled dreams. He thought it had to be his mother – he still knew what a mother was supposed to be – but when he tried to see her, all he could imagine were vague outlines of a slender shape in green and brown. At least he believed the colours were green and brown… he was not sure any longer what they looked like.

Sometimes he wondered whether he would be blinded completely, should he, by some miracle, be able to leave this dungeon again. Not that that was likely to happen – though his guards must have kept him alive for a reason. A reason he could not fathom. They could not have wanted to use him in a bargain with his own people; had that been the reason, it would have already happened, long ago.

Nor did they ask him any questions. Not any more, that is, although he did have the vague memory of being questioned in a cold, lightless place by some creature colder and darker than the place itself. Not that he would be able to tell them any secrets now, but after that one time, they never even asked. They did not even torture him any longer, unless one considered it a torture to be fed with the sticky sweet rahdak cake all the time and never given enough water to wash it down afterwards. He learned to eat it (and the small craps of dried, raw meat) without protest, trying not to think about the origins of that meat. On rare occasions, the guards gave him a small flask of some very strong draught that burned its way down his belly like liquid fire, and he drank it, for it knocked him to blessed oblivion.

But these unexpected gestures ware rare and far between. The guards never even spoke to him, although sometimes he could hear them talking and quarrelling in their rough and ugly tongue, sitting on the trap door of his dungeon.

It seemed as if everyone but the guards had forgotten about him. And unless the darkness, the filth and the loneliness killed him, he would rot here, forgotten, ‘til the end of Arda. He seemed to remember that his people could force themselves to die by sheer willpower, if there was no other way to escape, but he was too weak, too broken to try even that.

Sometimes memories came up unexpectedly: scenes of a long, vicious battle in some dark, foreign country, his people falling dead all around him like autumn leaves, the pain of being wounded, a strange coldness paralyzing his limbs, starting from the wound and creeping all over his body. That was the last, most vivid memory – he could not remember much after that. The questioning in the icy, stone room. The eerie feeling of having someone who had belonged to his former life close to him, a year ago. Or a hundred years. Or a thousand. He could never figure out when it was. Time was always the same here – one blind, dull now.

He knew he must have been captured shortly after receiving that wound, there was no other explanation – but he had no memories about it actually happening. And he never got to see his chief jailor, not after that first interrogation. All he heard, aside from his own voice, was the quarrelling of the guards, and even that rarely enough, as if they had been ordered to keep out of his earshot.

Nonetheless, he could feel through who knew how many levels of earth and stone when the one in command returned. It was as if an icy coldness permeated the entire place, freezing everything to a numbness of not the limbs only but also that of the mind and the heart. And in such times his old wound caused him great pain again.

At first, he welcomed the pain as something different from the maddening conformity of his imprisonment. Unpleasant as it was, at least it kept his weary mind from slipping away even more. And the uncomfortable sensations, if he focussed on them long enough, could still bring back at least the memories of the battle. Those were not memories he was fond of, but at least he could find some comfort in the fact that his mind had not yet emptied itself completely.

Lately, though, that cold malice seemed to dwell above his dungeon all the time. The pain had become as constant and all-consuming as the darkness and the silence. It ceased to be helpful – it just was. He wondered if he would finally become some mindless beast, losing everything he had been holding to for so long: the awareness of his own existence, the shards of his memories, even his body’s reaction to suffering.

When the stone walls began crumbling down above him, he was nearly gone already. He more knew than felt the sliding soil and broken stones burying him alive, compressing his chest and breaking his brittle ribs, filling his sightless eyes, his ears, his mouth. He welcomed them with the last conscious thought of his slipping mind.

His sufferings had come to an end, at last. Soon, he would be free, leaving this broken shell behind. He would go to the Halls and rest.


Poem quoted from the very first version of Kortirion Under the Trees by Tolkien himself, as it can be found on Page 25 in The Book of Lost Tales, Part 1. The rahdak cake – albeit with different spelling – was borrowed from Enros’ story, One Dark Night.


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