9. Morannon Road
To be on watch was a sombre thing. Elladan and Elrohir stood like two grey statues in the night, their cloaks drawn close over their mail and armour. They looked about from a stony hill above Aragorn’s camp, a watchpoint for those with the sharpest eyes and stoutest hearts. At times they turned to view as much as they could with their keen eyes, seeking torches or movement in the drear lands about.
From the high point, they could see the fell vales of the road through the lands that led to the Morannon Gate of Mordor, dim in the clouded darkness. Along the road that led to Mordor, darkness’ forces had written foul runes, or hung high the bones and rotting bodies of fallen men of Gondor. That road passed through a dry land, a dead land, bramble-twined. The plants and very stones grew more troubled and perverted the closer they came to Mordor. Nearer, they could see Aragorn’s company before them, diminished by a thousand men. Aragorn had dismissed the faint-hearted that day.
They stood beside each other. The twain were lovers, and such as valued secrecy. Not only were they both of male kind, they were also the closest of kin, being twins. On the ride from Minas Tirith to the Morannon, they had stolen time to set all unease to rest between them. For they knew the counsel of Aragorn’s command, and that they likely rode to their death before the gates of Mordor. Much had been said and settled, though they stood quiet now. Both had agreed that they should not be distracted from their guarding duty with words of passion or wayward thoughts. Each found a certain peace in the other’s wish to continue with that passion, despite the laws and guilt that barred their incest.
There was no sound in the lands about, not even a breeze to freshen the cold, stagnant air. One of the twain stood with a bow at the ready in his hand, and they both looked upwards at times, tense. They were waiting for the scream of a Nazgûl.
But they heard a crunching on the stony path behind them, and they turned to that instead. “One set of footsteps, but two voices,” said Elladan, lowering the bow.
Elrohir stretched. “That would be Legolas and Gimli.” The twins turned to meet the pair that came to meet them.
Legolas leapt up to the hilltop first, soundless and fluid. “Well met, sons of Elrond. Any luck shooting Nazgûl?”
“No. We have not matched your shot in the dark, Legolas,” said Elrohir. “Our eyes are not as sharp as yours.”
“You both have eyes sharper than mine,” said Gimli, gruff and kindly. “It is for Legolas to look about when we watch, and I shall listen.”
“Gimli has the ears of a fox!” said Legolas, and the Elf and Dwarf both laughed at a private joke.
Legolas grew serious as he stood beside Elladan. “We were told there were two points to guard from here; the sky, where the black beasts fly, and the road coming from Mordor. Is that the track below, going through the darkness?”
“Yes. You can see its light,” said Elladan. There was a dim, sickly glow to the corrupted flagstones stretching into the night.
“A fell road to watch,” Legolas murmured, “The road to Mandos in the past for my kinsmen. My grandfather Oropher perished near here, fighting Sauron’s forces….”
Elladan bowed his head respectfully. “I know the tale of Oropher.”
Legolas smiled. “They still tell it in Rivendell? Excellent.” He missed Elladan’s surprised expression, and spoke on. “It is good to know that others speak of how my grandsire rode against the Dark Lord in the Last Alliance, leading the van, and falling first and bravest.”
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged a look. “Ah. Yes. Great and tragic,” said Elladan.
“My father, Thranduil, has been grieved for his loss as long as I can remember. It was a great part of why I joined the Company of the Ring; the chance to avenge my forefather by helping to topple Sauron,” said Legolas.
Elladan turned to the Dwarf. “What of you, Master Gimli? Do you ride to avenge any of your kin?”
Gimli said but one name. “Thráin.” He stumped his axe handle on the ground, and glared at the pale road below them. “Thráin father of Thorin. He was my father’s liege. Sauron put him to torment in his dungeons.” It was likely that he had heard from Legolas how the twin sons of Elrond rode ever to avenge their mother’s own torment. With Dwarvish discretion, he said nothing, but he gave them a deep look, nodding slowly, solid with approval.
The twins bowed together to him. Elladan said, “We will all ride on to our revenge tomorrow. This night, we go to take what rest we can.” With that, Elladan and Elrohir left.
Their own ears were sharp enough to hear what Gimli said next to his friend. “Almost Dwarvish, those two. As we were saying before, you will help me braid up my hair one last time tomorrow? Good. If I fall for vengeance, I would make a handsome corpse, at least.”
Elladan glanced back as they walked down the hill, beyond their hearing. Their path went between some crabbed oak trees, their winter-dead leaves clinging to them like grey rags. “Handsome corpses.” Elrohir said, quietly. “We shall be lucky if we are, after we fall at the doors of Mordor.” Both twins had been at the counsel where Aragorn and Gandalf had admitted that their challenge against Mordor, while drawing the Eye of Sauron from wherever the Ringbearer roamed, was likely their doom. They had agreed with their father’s message, that the challenge was their path, and they had said they would not turn back.
Elladan stopped walking. “Interesting, is it not, how desperation makes us all the more mindful of the legends of the past.”
“I was glad you did not tell Legolas what they say about Oropher in Rivendell,” said Elrohir. “He would not care to hear what we were taught, that Oropher’s rashness and defiance of Gil-Galad’s command undermined the Elves at the Last Alliance.”
“Who are we to say which version of an old tale is aright?” replied Elladan. “Our grandfather Eärendil – his errand sounded desperate unto madness, to sail over Sea and beseech the Valar. Our grandmother Elwing did strange deeds for love. She is praised, and we hear she had a good fate, but she abandoned our father as a babe, to keep the Silmaril from the Sons of Fëanor and go to Eärendil. So, do we say that Eärendil was a craven or a hero? Was Elwing cruel or wise?”
“Both, maybe. It was the saving of Middle-Earth,” said Elrohir. “Your words make me think of our own tale. It might be said that you and I are ill-starred sinners.” He put his hands on his brother’s shoulders. “But I do not feel that way. You turned all the old tales into questions. It makes me ask what our tale shall be, in the end.”
Elladan sighed. “Sometimes, I wish our tale was different. Not,” he leaned in to whisper, “that we were never lovers; no, not that. I would change the sorrow of us being kin for that of meeting you late in life, a stranger, and mourning the lost time we might have had.”
“That would not be our story, and we would not be ourselves,” said Elrohir. Guarding their affection, he peered about. “Listen, if we are going to speak of this, let us get off this path. These sad oaks make a copse to our left.” The pair slipped in between the trees and stones.
Elladan looked about at the grey-hung branches. They seemed long dead. “I have looked to the old tales all my days. Such tales were the only times I ever heard of desires like ours, kin for kin. Yet even in the tales of mortals, such couplings were always a time long ago and far away, shielding the listeners with that distance.”
Elrohir said, with vehemence, “I don’t give a toss for the old stories. None of them end well. Nor do I care what happened to anyone else. I’ll tell you what I would change about our tale; I would give us some peace. Ever since we came together, death has haunted us. It haunts us now. This is the only honourable road, to fight against Sauron. But we know none of us will survive this mad feint.” He drew back his hood, for he wore no helm.
Elladan saw that his brother’s face was drawn, grime traced along his hard jawline, his hair pressed down and his braid hanging lank. Grief and love smote him. “You are wise, Elrohir. I do not think so, either,” said Elladan, setting the bow and quiver he carried to one side. Then he remained looking down, abashed. “I have not been a good lover to you. I never gave you much peace.”
“You give me the truth,” said Elrohir, reaching out to clasp Elladan’s hand. “It is not easier, but it is better, for who we are. And you let me have what I desired from you.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “I always do the same thing. I am doing it again.”
Elladan blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I ease up to you with touches, you let me, and we fall into lust without saying a word. As if it was not our idea, but some accident.” Elrohir pulled his hand back. “See? I was doing it now. I know why, too; if I do not ask you in words, you will not refuse me with words. You called me a fool for my courage on the Pellenor, but that was nothing, nothing to what it took for me to ask you, that first time.”
Elladan was quiet for a moment, unravelling this. “You are right that…the way you come to me…makes it easier. But I was ever holding back on speaking yes to you, not no.”
“If I asked you now, would you say yes?” asked Elrohir. Before his brother could reply, he rattled on. “You probably think me base for asking. Yet we may never have the chance again. I know, we have not even a shield to shelter us, and six thousand men sleeping near…”
It was far more awkward to break the habit of years, to be asked; to be confronted with the choice. The open door for refusal gave a little honour to acceptance. It was enough for Elladan to say, with a relieved heart, “Yes. It is risky; and I will risk it with you.” It was he who stepped up to his brother, lifted his arms and drew his lover close.
They had kissed briefly to reconcile, hidden in a tent on the Pellenor, but this was different. Here, they would dare all, and their mouths were desperate, thirsty, swallowing each other’s groans of hunger. As they embraced, vambraces and sheaths clanked together, and shaken mail-rings tinkled. The sounds made Elrohir draw back with a curse, looking up. The watchers on the hill-top were distant; the camp was a ways away; but he was still wary. “Our gear makes too much noise. The quietest thing I can do is what I most want to do, anyway.” Elrohir went to his knees and slid his hand beneath the split skirt of Elladan’s chain-mail, up along his lover’s thighs. “I want you inside me, I want to taste you, one last time.” Kneeling close, he pressed his face against the hauberk, warmed by the body beneath it.
Elladan arched back, roused and shaken at the hand stroking between his legs. “I want the same from you. See here!” Elladan shifted the brooch of his cloak. Elrohir expected him to cast the garment to the ground. Instead, Elladan drew up the hood around his face, then pulled the generous cloak shut around his legs and his kneeling brother. As Elladan stood, Elrohir was shielded inside the bell of fabric.
"Marvellous,” said Elrohir, laughing muffled. “If anyone comes on us, they will think us but a pair of catamites –"
“-- which is troublesome enough. At least you shall go unnamed,” said Elladan.
Elrohir embraced him around his waist. The shielding cloak made it close and dark. It did not matter, for he knew the fastenings of Elladan’s clothes as well as his own, even how to loose the curved steel plate shielding Elladan’s crotch beneath the mail. Soon, he used one forearm to hold the mail-skirt up while he devoted himself to kissing and licking at Elladan’s cock.
Elladan, with delicate caution, leaned forwards and braced himself against one of the stunted trees with one arm, arcing so that the cloak still fell to hide Elrohir. He had been armour-bound so long that it was a shock to feel hot breath against his loins, a firm, warm mouth taking in his shaft. Elrohir’s tongue had not forgotten what his lover liked, sliding along his underside, flicking over one sensitive spot. He felt his cock harden. Knowing that he would not have to ignore the tight pleasure of it, that he would have the release he craved with the one he desired, seemed a gift beyond hope. His brother’s name was on his lips, but he forced himself silent.
Elrohir paused and slid back to speak. “A moment. This alone rouses me, and my own codpiece…” Elladan heard buckles undone, then his brother’s relieved sigh.
“No fear, I shall do this for you, soon, very soon,” Elladan whispered. In response, Elrohir devoured him. Elladan’s only thought after that was to urge himself towards coming, for the briefer their pleasure, the less their chance of being discovered. When he felt Elrohir’s hand clasp in a tight ring around his cock’s base, he came, bucking down and then leaning against the tree again, knees weak beneath their armour.
Elladan sank down beside his twin, knees crunching on the stony ground, and leaned forwards to kiss him. Elrohir rested his cheek against Elladan’s. “Would that we had time for everything. But this will do,” said Elrohir, standing.
There was one vulnerable moment, Elladan kneeling before his brother, before the cloak closed around him. Elladan felt that he needed no other refuge than that, even amidst the Morannon. He did as Elrohir had done, parting and lifting his brother’s split mail-skirt with one arm to access the vulnerable flesh beneath it; this left his other hand free for caresses. When Elladan tongued the folded rose of Elrohir’s foreskin, he felt a hand clasp the back of his head. He lingered on the cock-head before him for a long moment, saving the taste and feel in memory, aided by the dark. Then he took Elrohir’s shaft down his throat and milked it with all the art he had.
By his fast breathing, and the heat of his skin, Elrohir was as intent on pleasure as Elladan had been. Soon, Elladan had the satisfaction of feeling his brother spend down his throat, deep enough to swallow with only the barest taste of the seed. The deed done, he regretted for a moment that he had been so fastidious; the salt taste had a clean note, worth lingering over.
Elladan felt the hand behind him shift to his shoulder, urging him up. “My turn to ask for a moment,” he said, and replaced Elrohir’s most intimate armour. “There. Now orcs will have a hard path to unman you.” He stood, and adjusted his own gear as Elrohir smiled. When he was done, Elrohir held his arms out. There was no need for speech, not with how Elladan came to him, coming close slowly so their armour would not clash.
Still close together, Elladan spoke. “If we die, or are taken for torment, that is the end of us. But what if we survive this dreadful feint?”
Elrohir said, “I thought I was the one who asked questions.” He stood back after a last clench. “You have a good point, though. There has been little planning for a retreat from the Black Gate, or for any who might survive battle there.”
“I think that any who live ought to keep on fighting, even if Sauron regains the Ring. If open war is not possible, we may still harry and trouble Sauron’s agents, as we have these past centuries.” said Elladan. “Valar forfend – even if you fall, I would do so, for the both of us.”
“My shade would be glad of it. If you fall, I do the same.” Even discussing the worst, after what had gone between them, Elrohir’s eyes were less troubled. “If such comes to pass, the survivors should also send messengers to the North. Let us speak with Aragorn about this, in the morn.”
They left the refuge of the half-dead copse. When Elladan knelt to retrieve his bow and arrows, he felt a gnarled branch catch against his cloak and brushed it away roughly. The branch did not snap dry, but sprang back, wick beneath its grey bark, unexpectedly alive.
Before he could mention this to Elrohir, his brother spoke. “Look to the West! The fumes are thinned. I can see a star.” They peered up together, and it was so, one star alone and faint amidst the mirk.
“It must be Eärendil’s star,” said Elrohir.
Elladan’s knowing eyes gauged its position in the sky. His loremaster’s mind was less than certain of that; it might be, and it might not. After looking up for a moment, he reached to clasp his lover’s hand. “Yes. It must,” he agreed.
* Story is set during the ride from Minas Tirith to Mordor in the ROTK chapter, “The Black Gate Opens.”
* Oropher = Legolas’ grandfather. Oropher led a force of Wood-Elves of Mirkwood to the Last Alliance in the Second Age. Unwilling to follow the elvish leaders, he led his troops out to fight before the signal was given, and he and many of his host were killed. “The History of Galadriel and Celeborn,” Unfinished Tales.
* Eärendil and Elwing = The really short version: the grandparents of Elladan and Elrohir. They were both half-Elven and half-mortal. At the end of the First Age, Eärendil sailed over Sea to ask the Valar for help against evil. Elwing jumped into the Sea, carrying a potent magical jewel, a Silmaril but abandoning her infant sons Elros and Elrond, to keep the jewel from someone trying to take it from her. Eärendil and Elwing managed to reunite and, after asking the Valar for help, Eärendil was set to sail the sky in a magical boat, carrying the Silmaril as a star. Sourced from The Silmarillion. Also referenced in Bilbo’s song in the chapter “Many Meetings” of FOTR, “Eärendil was a mariner…”
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