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“You should run.”

Celebrimbor rarely sounded so uneasy, and Talion might have heeded his advice more readily on a normal day.

As for this exact moment, running was not that easy.

Stars spun behind his eyes when his head collided with something solid and wooden, and he staggered back, slapping a hand to his forehead. He’d already been seeing double, and now everything seemed blurry.

Talion could hear the shouts of the Orcs as they came upon their fallen Captain and brethren, and his pulse quickened in panic- they would find him, and they would make him terribly sorry for what he’d done. It didn’t matter how many times or what variety of ways he was killed: The thought of being cleaved in two by a sword, or having a dagger run through his heart, terrified him.

As it was, his heart had already been racing from whatever foul concoction had been on the Captain’s knife. All it had taken was a small slash across Talion’s forearm to poison him, though the effects had thankfully not fully appeared until after he’d defeated the Captain and his horde.

“Should I take over?” Celebrimbor asked.

“You fah nu bettah,” Talion slurred, meaning to say ‘You’ll fair no better’ through an uncooperative mouth.

Where is that bloody shrakh?!

“Have you anything to lose?” Celebrimbor inquired sharply.

Oh, fair enough.

Talion surrendered and Celebrimbor took control.

The act of Celebrimbor fully possessing him always felt a bit like Talion was falling backwards into the cavity of his body, into the space between his bones and his skin. He was pleasantly surprised to find himself a little clearer-headed, a little less nauseous from the working of the poison in his body. Most everything he felt when Celebrimbor controlled his body was reduced somewhat; selfish as it was, at least if they died this way he wouldn’t feel it as keenly.

Celebrimbor did fare a bit better than Talion, managing to move faster and with a bit more coordination than Talion had. But there was unsteadiness there, and while Talion couldn’t read the Wraith’s mind, he could feel a sense of confused frustration there, aggravation at the fact that this body he was controlling was not moving as well as he would like it to. Weak as Talion’s body was, Celebrimbor would not be able to stay in control for very long, and Talion braced himself to resume control when Celebrimbor began to show signs of slipping.

“I must fall back,” Celebrimbor said, voice only somewhat slurred.

“Let me come,” Talion agreed.

There were angry howls behind them, the raging hordes catching up, and two Orcs up ahead who were only vaguely aware of some sort of trouble; in the moment when they were in transition, both Celebrimbor and Talion felt their sword slice through the Orcs’ necks.

Talion nearly fell on his face, a painful stabbing in his gut doubling him over as the Orcs collapsed to the ground. He’d been vaguely aware of some pain in his stomach when Celebrimbor had been in control, but now he felt the full force of it: It felt like he was being disemboweled (a fate he’d endured twice now in his time in Mordor and was, as such, intimately familiar with how it felt to have one’s intestines pulled out).

“We’re nearly at the Haedir,” Celebrimbor encouraged him.

Talion could vaguely make out the massive tower up ahead, and considered with deep dread how difficult it would be to scale to the top of it in this state. His head was still spinning, and there was a sharp throbbing in his head that, compiled with the one in his stomach, made him consider lying down on the ground and just letting the Orcs have their way with him.

“Talion,” Celebrimbor intoned warningly. He only felt a fraction of the pain Talion felt when he wasn’t fully possessing his body, but he didn’t enjoy watching Talion be hacked to death anymore than Talion enjoyed experiencing it firsthand.

And so Talion pushed on, forcing sluggish limbs to move as quickly as possible, feeling like a machine whose chains and pulleys were seconds away from snapping. It didn’t help that he could, much as before, detect Celebrimbor’s anxiety- the Wraith could see how close the Orcs were to them, though he was kind enough not to distract Talion with specifics.

Talion nearly collided with the base of the Haedir, his eyes’ ability to judge distance almost completely gone now, and he quickly, desperately scrambled up the side of the tower, fingers gripping metal and stone clumsily. After he’d reached the first level, something slammed into the wall beside him- a spear, most likely, hurled by the crowd of Orcs that were now dangerously close to the Haedir. None of them would be able to scale it, though, no matter how deft they were- the bright fire at the top would repel them if they tried.

It took about fifteen minutes to climb the Haedir fully, and Talion was blessed with Orcs who apparently had terrible aim with spears and crossbows. One blow could have very easily sent him plummeting back to the ground, and indeed, he’d nearly done so of his own mistakes more than once when his hands failed to find appropriate purchase on the wall.

Finally, finally, Talion reached the top, and collapsed onto his back.

The next several hours were spent in a fever-haze, where colors and shapes spun before Talion’s eyes, and mad sounds echoed in his ears. More than once he found himself suddenly, violently sick to his stomach, and he was forced to roll over and vomit. Also more than once, he found himself temporarily receding into that space he went to during a possession, Celebrimbor trying his hardest (and eventually failing) to take control of him for a time.

When Talion woke to a state of true clarity, he felt like he’d been ruthlessly stomped on by a Graug. He groaned, and a voice answered him.

“Feeling any better?”

Talion pushed himself up. The pain in his head and stomach had dulled to something annoying but manageable, and the only thing wrong with his eyes were how they burned at the sight of his (suddenly) painfully-bright Wraith-friend.

“Did I die?” Talion asked, his voice dry and cracking.

“No,” Celebrimbor said simply, sitting cross-legged a few feet away from Talion near the edge of the Haedir. “You were merely miserable for a few hours.”

Merely, he says, Talion thought with a sort of irritable bitterness, as though he’d had a head-cold and not been on the verge of being poisoned to death.

“What the fuck was on his sword?”

“Something cobbled together from any number of toxic elements,” Celebrimbor remarked. “I don’t think the Orcs are especially picky.” He made a face. “Except for that one that kept screeching about oversaturation.”

“He was an odd one,” Talion agreed, slowly moving to sit as Celebrimbor was. He looked around, and was surprised to find the top of the Haedir entirely clean. “I thought I’d gotten sick,” He said.

“Oh, you did,” Celebrimbor assured him dryly. “You did it about five times, over the edge of the tower. Incidentally, it was also five times I had to forcibly possess you to stop you from going head-first over the ledge as well.”

“Thank you,” Talion said in a voice that was at once sincere and sardonic. He pressed his hands to his temples, head still feeling terribly unbalanced, like he might still be in danger of tipping right over the side of the tower. The feeling would go away eventually, as did every injury he suffered without death, but for now it was a painful annoyance that he couldn’t even remedy by lying down in a bed.

(God, how long had it been since he’d lain in a bed?)

“If it soothes you any,” Celebrimbor drawled, peering briefly over the edge of the Haedir, “I think you managed to vomit on the heads of two patrolling Orcs and one Captain. The Captain had one of those odd helmets with fire nested inside, and I’m fairly certain you doused it. It was very impressive, and they had no idea where it came from.”

Talion started chuckling, if only because Celebrimbor was so rarely funny (intentionally or otherwise) and it was a compelling picture. When one was trapped in a place like Mordor, one took their amusement where they could.

“Are you ready to head out?”

Talion’s eyes rolled shut. Celebrimbor was ever eager to plow ahead with their plan; probably because of the two of them he was the one who didn’t require sleep on occasion.

“Give me another hour or two,” Talion begged. “Then we can hunt down the Captain I vomited on, if you like.”

Celebrimbor smirked. “I suppose that will be worth the wait.”