A Lesser Treason
2. Love Grows Bitter
But love grows bitter with treason.
A glorious sense of power surged through Elrohir at the thought of what he could achieve. With the Ring he could do anything – he could eradicate every orc ever spawned from the face of Arda; could obliterate every trace of their evil taint – so that they could never harm another again. He could vanquish Sauron for ever, and all his followers as well. There were men whose hearts had been corrupted too: Easterlings and Southrons, and men of Rhûn and Harad. There were the Corsairs, and even remnants of the Black Númenoreans. He could change them, convert them and bring them back to the light – and if they would not change, then it would be a simple matter to make them change.
And what then?
There was a still, small voice of calm speaking clearly in his mind. Will you kill all those who defy you? Those who argue or disagree with you? What will you do next? Where will it end?
With his hand still outstretched towards Frodo, Elrohir froze; the moment of clarity breaking through the haze in his mind. What was he doing?? He hesitated, fighting against the desperate impulse to rip the Ring from the hobbit's neck, and fling him over the cliff. His hand clenching into a fist, he shuddered, sickened and horrified by his murderous thoughts.
Slowly his arm fell, and he buried his head in his hands with a gasp. "No," he moaned softly.Frodo, apparently oblivious, had moved a little ahead, and Elrohir heard him turn and return swiftly to his side. "Elrohir? Are you well?" he asked, his voice full of concern. The spinning images danced through Elrohir's mind again as he struggled for control: Aragorn victorious, Arwen – beautiful, immortal – at his side. As he resisted the deadly temptation, the scenes slowly changed, and he saw the truth – Elladan, Elrond, Aragorn, even Arwen – all dead at his hands; Imladris in ruins; the wholesale slaughter of those who would not follow him.
Take me! The voice came again, in one last desperate attempt to lure him into action. Yet he knew now that it was action that would lead to murder and madness, and the destruction of everything he loved and believed in. "No," he thought simply. "I will not."
He lifted his head, and shook it slightly to clear the fog that the Ring's evil whispering had left behind. Frodo stood at his side, staring at him in worry, one hand resting on his arm. "Elrohir?" he asked again. "You're shaking. What's the matter? Do you want me to find someone, and get help?" The hobbit was clearly frightened; on the verge of bolting – whether to flee or seek help, Elrohir could not tell – but his natural kindness won over his fear.
Elrohir felt another surge of guilt – he did not deserve this kindness – and took a deep breath, shaking his head. "Forgive me, Frodo," he said softly. "Thank you for your concern. I felt – a little unwell for a moment. It has passed, though. Do not trouble yourself – it is nothing." The lie tasted bitter on his tongue, but he knew he must hide the truth – for now, at least.
He found his hand reaching for Frodo again, and this time made no effort to stop it. Touching the hobbit gently on the shoulder, he smiled. "You should leave here – it is late, and it will be dark beneath the trees. Hurry, and do not stop."Even as he spoke, he heard a faint voice calling from the path below them. "Mr Frodo? Master? Are you still up here?"
Elrohir turned towards the voice thankfully. "Do you hear that? It is Sam, looking for you. I expect he is coming to tell you that it is nearly time for the evening meal."
Frodo blinked at him uncertainly, as if he was coming out of a trance. "Sam?" He cocked his head, listening, then smiled. "Sam! Up here!" he called. They could hear Sam coming – puffing and panting up the hill – long before they could see him, but soon he emerged from the shadows.
"Well I never!" he gasped. "What are you doing all the way up here, Mr Frodo? You didn't ought to go wandering off like this! Even if you are with company," he added, spotting Elrohir.
"It's all right, Sam," Frodo reassured him. "This is Elrohir, Elrond's son. He won't let anything happen to me."
Sam nodded at him. "Thank you, sir, for looking after my master." He turned to Frodo again. "Well, I came to tell you that it's nearly suppertime. And as we're off tomorrow evening, and I reckon we won't get no more proper supper for a long time, you don't want to miss it!"
"Supper? An excellent idea! Lead the way, Sam." Frodo glanced over his shoulder, still concerned. "Elrohir? Are you coming with us?"
Elrohir shook his head. "I will stay here awhile. I will see you later, perhaps." He watched in relief as the hobbits vanished beneath the trees. Frodo's voice drifted back to him.
"Do you know, Sam, I had the oddest feeling just now! You'd laugh if I told you what I thought! But poor Elrohir doesn't seem very well – perhaps we ought to tell Elrond. Now then, what's for supper? Mushrooms?"
Slowly their voices faded away, and Elrohir was left blessedly alone. He stood in stunned silence, then walked slowly back to the rock where he had sat before, staring out over the darkened valley unseeingly. He was appalled at his earlier thoughts, and could scarcely believe the shocking images he had seen. It was not the fact that the Ring would try its wiles on him that so revolted him, but that he would listen to it, even for a moment.
And he had done more than just listen to it. He had come close – so very close – to committing murder and theft. Had he really been about to take the Ring? Could he really have thrown Frodo to his death? And what then? Would he have seized Vilya as well? Where would it have ended?
The images he had seen unnerved him. Was the Ring truly luring him with what he most desired? Did he really crave power, glory and dominion over others? Did he really want Elladan to bow before him? The things he had seen revealed a disturbing aspect to his nature that troubled him deeply.
The questions raced through his mind, followed by more sickening images – his father's blood on his hands; Elladan dead at the end of his sword; Celebrían recoiling from him in horror and terror; Arwen weeping over Aragorn's body before slowly taking up his sword and facing her brother in hopeless defiance. Shuddering, he dropped his face into his hands again, and drew a deep breath.It had not happened.
For his own peace of mind, he had to cling to that thought. It had not happened. Some shred of sanity and sense had remained and pulled him back from the brink. Another image rose in his mind, a picture of his mother – not as she had been in the last days, pale and listless, nor as she might have been had Vilya healed her. It was an image from his earliest memories, when she had simply been 'Nana', when she had hugged and kissed him, drying his tears as she soothed the pain of a grazed knee. "Forgive me," he whispered softly into the night. "Forgive me."
How long he sat there, reliving the scenes the Ring had shown him, the promises it had made, he could not tell. Slowly he felt another call to his soul, but this was not tinged with darkness as the siren song of the Ring had been. There was an inevitable familiarity about it.
Elladan appeared from beneath the trees and crossed to the cliff top. "Elrohir?" he called quietly. "I sensed your tension earlier. What is wrong?"
Elrohir made no reply at first, and Elladan dropped to one knee beside him. "Elrohir?" he repeated softly. "What is wrong? When you did not appear at supper I came to find you. I know you are troubled – why? What has happened?"
Without looking up, Elrohir finally answered. "I … I think I tried to take the Ring from Frodo."
Elladan made no reply, and Elrohir looked up to see his twin staring at him in shock. "What?" he repeated incredulously.
"I tried to take the Ring," Elrohir said in a low voice. "At least, I nearly did – it was so close, Elladan! I could have taken it so easily – and taken his life, too. It was there, within my reach …" He shuddered again.
Elladan opened his mouth to speak, closed it, then finally said flatly, "But you did not."
Elrohir shook his head. "No. I came to my senses just in time; realised what I was doing. But it would have been so easy…" he finished bleakly.
"And Frodo? What of him? Is he all right – yes, for I saw him at supper," Elladan answered his own question. "He seemed no different from usual. They were eating mushrooms," he added inconsequentially. There was silence for a short time, while Elladan seemed to be trying to think of something to say. He stood, and began to pace along the cliff edge. Suddenly he turned back sharply. "Elrohir, how could you allow it to sway you!" he exploded.Elrohir flinched, and dropped his head. He said nothing; there was nothing he could say.
Elladan groped for words again. "Why?" he asked at last.
"Why?" Elrohir repeated bitterly. "It seemed so clear, so obvious at the time." Hesitatingly, he began to explain some of the images the Ring had shown him. "It found all the petty rivalries and jealousies from when we were children; all the times in my life when I wished I could have – should have – done something different." He sighed, then looked up at Elladan. "I have to tell Father about this. The Ring is dangerous – far more dangerous than I ever imagined, El. Of course he knows how powerful it is – but I wonder if even he realises just how deadly the Ring is. I have to warn him."Elladan said nothing. In silence, they walked down through the steep wood to the valley. All the while Elrohir was conscious of his twin, a pace or two behind; eyes fixed on his back in burning accusation. Elladan's rejection of him hurt, far more than he had ever thought possible. It was painfully obvious that this time Elladan did not understand – how could he? – and it brought a desperate sense of isolation. He could feel his twin's shock and disappointment, and his sense of shame grew. How could he have been so easily swayed by the malice of the Ring? How could he not have sensed the evil that pervaded the images he saw; the innate wrongness in them?
As they reached the house he slowed his pace, wishing he could delay the moment when he would have to tell his father. He dreaded the disappointment and disillusion he would see in Elrond's eyes; the anger and condemnation that would be revealed at his treacherous thoughts. In one moment of weakness he had lost everything, and had only gained the loathing and revulsion of his father and brother, the two in all of Arda whose good opinion mattered most to him.
Steeling himself, he raised his hand to knock at the study door. Behind him, he heard Elladan – who had been silent the whole time – give a great sigh, and felt his brother's hand clasp his shoulder in support; warm, comforting, and immensely strengthening. "Courage, little brother," Elladan murmured. "I am with you."To Be Continued
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