15. Chapter Fifteen
Arms were holding him, bringing him back to face hell – and he fought them.
“Shh…quiet.” A familiar voice, hushing him. The darkness, the warmth. He nearly opened his eyes, having fallen into the habit of sleeping with his eyes closed. But then he decided against it as gentle kisses rained down on his face like snowflakes. And it really was true. He had returned to take him away, to rescue him.
“It’s you.” He didn’t need to see to know. He didn’t need to open his eyes because then the dream would flee.
“Yes.” A sudden feeling of grateful happiness. But then sadness. It had been so long, and he had been lonely.
“I knew you wouldn’t forget about me.” The length of time since he had felt this nearness made him weep. And his words would have been an accusation, if he wasn’t so desperate to keep the speaker here with him, close to him. Desperately he clung to the dream.
“I never do, you know that.” The speaker sounded slightly reproachful. His heart felt full. He needed something else.
“Forgive me, hîr nín.” Knowing at last that he might be forgiven, that it might be time to leave here. Frightened that it might be time to awaken.
“Yes, now I do.” Reassurance. Then something cold and hard was pressed into his hand. His fingers closed around it, and he almost cried out when the presence withdrew, forgetting the command to stay quiet, wanting to implore the darkness to stay, to stay with him. It had been so very long. But he was left alone again.
The dream was over, but sleep remained.
He awoke silently, and as was his wont he lay still with his eyes closed, regulating his breathing, hiding his wakefulness from the others, and from Brandir. How long had he been here now? He didn’t know. None of the prisoners had been replaced though, and it had surely been a while. He had become a plaything of Brandir’s, every time he would have fought, every time he would have refused him entertainment was countered by the scared, apprehensive glances of the boy that was more or less left alone now. How could he leave the torment for him to endure? His fate was pathetic enough.
And so he didn’t fight. And Brandir knew why. He had noticed them together, The boy comforting him when he was bleeding and hurt, not understanding that he would heal quickly, only concerned for his pain. How could he leave him to Brandir? He couldn’t.
He shuddered when he remembered the things that Brandir had him doing for the promise to leave the young one alone. And the others went along with him, didn’t they? He couldn’t have won them over to his side now if he had been one of their Gods. They didn’t want to be themselves. It would force them to face their fear. Something they were all trying desperately to avoid. So he became their entertainment. Their distraction. Even the man Beren had taken his turn, and that dispelled the last hope Maglor had of any escape.
He was still tired, and it was a feeling he remembered from before, as if his sleep had been disturbed. He closed his fists, trying to remember that they were only mortal, and that he should have sympathy. It was then that he felt the coldness in his hand. The dream! It hadn’t been a dream at all. He opened his eyes, hardly daring to believe. He lay face down on the floor, where Brandir had left him, and so his hair hid his eyes, and the dagger he held in his hand. He looked at it, and he knew what it was for. He almost threw it from him, as he had once before, so many years ago, but then he groaned in pain when a well-placed kick found its way to his ribs.
Brandir was awake. He kicked Maglor almost casually as he walked past him, and under the concealment of his hair, Maglor’s righteous anger began to burn. He still didn’t move, but he watched Brandir relieving himself on the other side of the cell, the acid stench of his urine finding its way through the air, making him gag. Hate was something he couldn’t help but feel. However much he pitied them, some mortals deserved nothing less than their fate. A short life.
When Brandir walked back towards him, Maglor readied himself. He would have one chance. Just one. It would be enough.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing? Lying around sleeping when I’m already awake. Come on, elf. Wake up. You need to clean me now with that talented mouth and tongue of yours.” He aimed another kick at Maglor. Through the veil of his hair, Maglor saw the look of spite and hatred on Brandir’s face. It made him look twisted. And just before the foot found its way to his ribs again, he made his move.
Turning quickly, he grabbed hold of Brandir’s other foot and pulled it from under him. The surprise of the attack caught him completely unawares, and he lost his balance, falling to the floor. In an instant Maglor was upon him, and he just had time to register the look of stunned disbelief on Brandir’s face, before he plunged the dagger deep into his stomach.
Seething with an anger that had been building up all the time he had been here, Maglor took hold of Brandir’s neck with his free hand. He remembered every despicable act he had been forced to perform, and it lent him a strength that he didn’t believe he still possessed. He stood up, bringing Brandir with him through the grip on his throat. He pressed him backwards, holding him up, until he had Brandir pinned against the wall. And his words when he spoke were full of nothing but contempt.
“I am not your toy,” he spat out. “I am Maglor Fëanorion. I am centuries old – of a race and time you can’t even comprehend.” He gave Brandir a grim smile now, seeing his shock at having someone he thought was his servant turn against him so suddenly. “Did you forget to fear me?”
Blood bubbled up through Brandir’s lips as he tried to utter a word, and it didn’t matter what he wanted to say. Maglor continued over the man’s feeble attempts to speak. “You should be thanking me for giving you an easy way out of here. Now you have only your fading pain to face, instead of your fear.” Maglor smiled again. “Coward.”
Now Brandir managed to speak, and his words were as poisonous as ever. “I hope he never lets you go, elf.” Maglor was furious, and he didn’t even notice the blood that Brandir sprayed over his face and neck when he spoke. He twisted the blade.
“Do you feel that?” he almost shouted. “Tell me!” he demanded, noting for the first time pain in Brandir’s expression. Had it been there from the start?
“Yes!” Brandir gurgled. It was barely a word, spoken as it was through the blood in his throat. Maglor could feel the warmth of the man’s life spreading over his hand and his wrist. He let Brandir go, pulling the dagger from him at the same time, and the man crumpled to the floor. It would be a slow death. A painful death. It was no more than he deserved. He stood over the twitching body on the floor, and hoped Brandir could still hear him through his agony.
“Then experience your death. Like the sun sets, red and lingering, ending in darkness. And know it is the only thing I ever truly gave you.”
With that said, Maglor turned away from his victim, only to have his wrist grabbed by someone. A familiar figure. Tall, forbidding. Sauron.
Maglor dropped the dagger, and it clattered on the ground beside them. Everything was forgotten when the dark lord looked at him. Everything but him. Maglor’s heart lifted in gladness at that dark presence, and all he wanted was to fall into his embrace, to belong to him once more. Sauron’s eyes glittered as he looked at Maglor. He was amused, Maglor realised.
“Ah, still such a romantic, Maglor. I thought your abilities had dimmed with the passing of time.” He smiled sardonically. “‘Like the sun sets…’” he quoted with an extravagant gesture. “Yes.”
Now he was aware of the blood that covered him, because Sauron was aware of it. His gaze travelled over Maglor slowly, then came back to his eyes. “Magnificent.” He looked at Maglor’s hand, and brought it down to his lips to kiss his palm, inhaling deeply at the same time. “Beautiful.”
The word meant something to him. It meant he had done something right, and he celebrated in his heart and soul, ignoring the small voice that cried out against the unnatural feeling. What did that voice matter? It had never helped him, not here. In a deep, hidden part of his mind, he knew that all his troubles stemmed from choosing to ignore that voice. Including his being here. But it was too late now, and he ignored it once more. Every time it grew quieter, and Maglor knew that one day it would disappear entirely.
“This is your doing, mûl vain nín. Look at it,” Sauron whispered, as if in awe, drawing back and letting him go. Maglor looked around him, and the voice was back, crying out loudly at what he had done. Brandir lay writhing in agony, holding his stomach as if he was trying to stop the flow of his life's blood onto the stone floor. The other prisoners had huddled together at the other side of the cell, fear and horror on their faces. It was a moment before Maglor realised that their fear was not only directed at Sauron, but also at him.
He looked down, seeing himself for the first time. He was covered in blood, as if it could hide his nakedness. He saw himself as they must see him. It wasn’t the violence or the blood that had scared them, it was him. The sudden attack, and his words. They had mistreated him because he was different, and they were scared of him, he knew that. He would never appear as dirty or as rough as they did, whatever happened. He must seem like perfection to them. His was the vengeance of an angel.
Why had he done it? They were terrified, and mortal, and he had known all along it wouldn’t last forever, hadn’t he? Nothing lasted forever, even his Master’s anger. But when he looked at Brandir, and he remembered how the man had taunted him, using their word against him… Maglor shook his head. He was not sorry – he didn’t have it in him to feel pity for Brandir. He looked away from it all to Sauron.
Monsters. That is what they were – what they both were. These pitiful humans were the innocents here, and if Maglor was sorry for something, it was that he had destroyed their fragile peace. And then he started, because he realised what he was thinking. He and Sauron were not the same. Maglor couldn’t be like him – it was impossible. “No,” he said, shaking his head in denial.
“Yes,” Sauron insisted. “Taste it.” And then the kiss finally came. It was what he had longed for, dreamed of, hungered after. And he could taste Brandir’s blood in the kiss. Sauron’s lips were covered in it still, from when he had kissed Maglor’s palm. The taste of his death. But being close to Sauron again after all this time made him forget, because he was aware of nothing but him. For a single, timeless moment they were really together. Lovers, Master and slave. Both killers, both of them for that instant conscienceless. But it had to end, and it did. Sauron stepped back again.
“I know what you need, mûl nín.” He sighed, but then smiled, showing the briefest flash of white teeth. “I will be cruel. It will be painful, and harsh, and I will not listen to your screams for mercy. I will not give you absolution. All I offer is pain and suffering.” Maglor simply nodded, accepting it. He needed to be hurt. To pay for his crimes, this newest one most of all. Because if he didn’t, then he was no better than him, no more deserving of forgiveness. His hope wavered, and he knew what he had to do to strengthen it. But then the dark lord continued.
“Or, of course, you could stay here. It will not be the same now. I think they will leave you alone, don’t you?” Maglor looked around him for the last time. There was nothing for him here. And he had never wanted to be alone. He stepped forward.
“That’s right,” the dark lord said with another smile. “Come to me.” Sauron didn’t sympathise with his need for forgiveness from the Valar, but he did understand punishment, all too well. It was what Maglor wanted now, and what he needed. It was something he desired for himself. He would always choose it – surely the dark lord knew that? Maglor almost laughed then in realisation. Of course Sauron knew. He was perfect. Maglor had no secrets from him; his hope was only another tool in Sauron’s hands.
Sauron reached forward and curled a stand of Maglor’s hair around his index finger. He looked at the hair thoughtfully.
“Did it have to be him?” Sauron asked, slightly amused and yet at the same time actually regretful. Maglor gasped and looked into his Master’s eyes at the cold truth. Don’t tell me! His mind screamed. Don’t make me really see this. Outwardly, Maglor was quiet, only a slight trembling at the realisation that he had been right. And every time… it’s me. He saw his own death in those dark eyes – a thousand of them. He shivered.
“Well?” Maglor jumped, realising he hadn’t yet given an answer.
“Yes, Hîr nín. I am sorry,” he said quickly, bowing his head respectfully. And although he expected what came next, he still couldn’t suppress a shudder.
“Of course you are.” Sauron laughed softly. He paused, then dropped the strand of hair. “I think it will do you good to watch, next time.” There was no doubt at all what Sauron meant.
He was back. Maglor didn’t struggle against the feeling. He went with it, breathing deeply and closing his eyes. He swallowed. Sauron liked to see him struggle, but only when it came naturally, and Maglor wouldn’t dare to act for him. Really the only way to please him was to give in. He remembered, helpless to stop the terrible healing of his mind, and he whimpered quietly.
Imagination provided him with a vision of Sauron watching him, and he had to open his eyes, to show the dark lord what was happening to him. But Sauron wasn’t there; Maglor was alone. He had never been alone before, not with this.
“Why?” Maglor whispered to the emptiness, and then he began to cry. His memories were as broken as he was, but he found himself drawn back now, back to the very beginning…
Maglor wandered for so long after it was all over, wishing and hoping for something to change, for something to have been different – but it wasn’t. No matter which way he looked at it, they had been wrong, and now he was cast out. Unforgiven.
He slept when he was tired, ate when he was hungry, and wandered. He sang his lament to the stars at night, to the sun in daylight, and out over the sea as if he would make his voice heard in his homeland. Nothing answered him, until one evening he had the feeling he was being watched. He searched for the presence, but it was invisible, and Maglor feared he might be losing his mind.
Over the next few weeks the feeling didn’t leave him, it only grew stronger, until Maglor was crying out for it to reveal itself and pleading for acknowledgement. He threw himself down at times and lay prostrate on the white sand, whispering his shame for what he had done, accepting fully the terrible responsibility and hoping that it could be forgotten by those more perfect than him.
When the being finally did reveal itself, Maglor had fallen to his knees. He expected one of the Valar, or one of the Maiar, and surely he wasn’t disappointed. The presence had glided towards him in the moonlight, the stars themselves making the white robes he wore shimmer. Tall, and majestic, dark eyes and darker hair. He was ethereal. Maglor had looked up, in a posture of worship, grateful tears in his eyes.
He remembered it all so clearly. The sound of the waves breaking on the shoreline; the crisp, sea air that held the slightest promise of winter in the night. The year was getting late, growing old, and he had stood before Maglor like the promise of spring. Hope. Then he smiled down at Maglor, and something in that smile made him uncertain. It was too broad. But he hadn’t even begun to guess at the truth, he thought the presence was there to explain only why he would never be forgiven.
“Please,” Maglor whispered, for the first of many times if only he had known it. The smile didn’t change, and when he spoke, he reassured Maglor’s frightened soul.
“There is nothing to forgive.” Now he held out a hand, as if Maglor should take it, and he nearly did before the presence spoke again. “Would you like me to teach you?”
The question wasn’t right, it sounded out of place and context, and Maglor faltered, wondering what it could possibly mean. He looked around him. Suddenly the wind seemed to whisper a warning as it moved through the golden leaves of the trees that lined the edge of the beach. The sound of the surf roared in his ears like a scream. He looked up, and it was so dark that the stars themselves seemed to glow brighter for a moment against the blackness of the sky.
“Just take my hand,” the stranger urged kindly. There was such a feeling of power emanating from him, how could he be anything other than what Maglor supposed? Still, he hesitated, waiting for something else, but there was nothing. Maglor took the proffered hand, and then a shock passed through him. The dark lord couldn’t disguise who he was now, and Maglor tried to pull back but it was much too late.
Sauron pulled Maglor to his feet and up against him. Maglor struggled, staring in horror as the white robes darkened suddenly… to black. He couldn’t seem to stop it as the dark lord embraced him, and it was as if he was being swallowed by the darkness.
“No!” he cried out. But it sounded so quiet and hopeless, drowned out by the sea and the wind. Who would hear him? None but his enemy – the enemy, he corrected himself. Sauron pulled him even closer, pressing their bodies together, and Maglor was aware of Sauron’s erection, thick and insistent against his belly. He was insulted by it, sickened, and he tried to break the dark lord’s grip, to free himself, but Sauron was much too strong, unnaturally so.
“Forgiveness,” Sauron mused, whispering into his ear while Maglor fought fruitlessly to get away from his arms. “What you want is already yours.” Maglor knew exactly who he was now, and yet his words had a ring of truth. He didn’t understand them, but somehow he knew they weren’t lies. He stopped fighting the embrace and decided to listen.
“What you need is perspective,” Sauron continued. “I will teach you this,” he looked at Maglor hungrily. “over time. And eventually you will thank me.” Maglor shivered.
Then Sauron laughed for the first time. “Forgiveness can be much more than comfort.” He paused, as if to think. “It can be beautiful.” Maglor didn’t understand, was sure he didn’t want to, and he only looked up at Sauron fearfully.
“You should not have waited for me, alone.” He wasn’t prepared for the dark lord to kiss him, and it took him completely by surprise. It was over before he could begin to struggle. A flash of an impression of soft lips brushing against his, an insistent tongue tasting him, and then it was gone. “So lonely and forsaken.” Now Sauron smiled in the darkness, his voice alight with amusement. “And impetuous. Now you are mine, dannon nín, bÿr nín, mûl nín.”
He wanted to protest, but then the strangest feeling passed through him. He wanted this. Being controlled by magic was a much more frightening concept to him than any of Sauron’s words, and he fought against it, but the desire he felt only became stronger, until he felt weakened, the intensity of it making him swoon in the dark lord’s arms. He was dimly aware of Sauron carrying him away before he escaped into a faint, and the dark lord’s words followed him into his dreams. My slave?
Maglor would never forget the first days, weeks, and months as Sauron’s plaything. And what he remembered was pain. Not that he had been tortured then. No, he hadn’t – despite his wish for punishment. That had come much later. But at first it had hurt to be with Sauron, and that was what he remembered. The dark lord hadn’t wasted an opportunity to show him his place, and Maglor had grown to expect being violated; it was as if Sauron couldn’t get enough of him. And he had learnt to serve the dark lord with his mouth. He was aware that Sauron used magic on him, he was experienced enough to tell the difference, and he saw through it. Sauron used him in every way he could, and Maglor didn’t know which he hated the most. He fell into the habit of preparing himself, and he recalled the exact moment when he realised what that meant – that he was accepting his treatment.
Oh, at first he had fought. Who wouldn’t? But that kind of resistance had to fade eventually. Sauron eroded his will over an unknown period of time; perhaps it had been a year or two. It didn’t matter what Maglor did, Sauron always won, and the times he didn’t struggle were the times that Sauron was less violent. Not considerate, never, not him. But he didn’t hurt Maglor quite so much. He had been taught to yield, and to accept, but he couldn’t remember when Sauron had begun to hurt him deliberately. It crept into his memories, but he did remember the first time Sauron had destroyed him, and taken his sanity. The awakening had been terrible. Screaming, begging for the pain to come back, and all the time Sauron had watched him, studied him, fascinated by his tears, wringing out his anguish with such well-chosen words that Maglor would have killed him – if he could – if he hadn’t been taught to love him.
You could learn such a thing, over centuries, when your only company was your pain and your pleasure. When your murderer was also your lover and your only friend. Sauron encouraged Maglor to confide in him, and he finally submitted to that after maybe five years? A decade? He told Sauron how different things affected him, how much it hurt, how it altered his feelings. He remembered a dark period, when Sauron had blinded him, and that had only brought them closer together. He learned to trust, and to obey the slightest order without question, ruled completely by sound and sensation. Indeed, by the time Sauron restored his sight, Maglor had only acknowledged it with a strange pang of regret that frightened him, and he confessed that too to his Master.
And Sauron was his Master now, in every sense of the word. The escapes which had peppered his early imprisonment were much less frequent now, and only attempted because it amused and distracted Sauron to bring him back – and to punish him. His body and its reactions did not belong to Maglor anymore, but to him. He was a captive, a toy, a plaything. An instrument for Sauron to play when he was bored with the world. And Maglor almost laughed when he reflected – and he realised that Sauron had kept his promise. He had learnt all about forgiveness. What he had learnt above all else was that there was always something new that Sauron could ask of him, there was always another step to take, another cruelty to submit to. He wondered if his being left alone now was the next.
What mattered was not this. He knew what Sauron wanted with him, and he believed with all his heart that it would never be his. The battle in his mind was not between Sauron and him, but between Sauron and the Valar. When the time came, he would be forgiven, and he would be allowed home. At times it was only this belief that kept him alive. He knew that Sauron’s magic would not be enough to stop him fading if he didn’t have something to wait for. And so he waited. Always patiently, but always with hope. And it didn’t matter that Sauron knew of it, or that he used it. It didn’t matter what he did. He would lose in the end.
Opening his eyes again, Maglor prepared himself for loneliness, having no choice but to accept it, but again he was disappointed. He hadn’t looked around him at first, but now he did, and he realised he wasn’t alone at all.
Legolas lay beside him on the bed, turned away from him, curled up as though to protect something. And he looked different. Maglor gasped. While he was away it had happened. He forgot his own suffering then, and looked over Legolas’ shoulder to see. He rested his hand on Legolas’ waist, and he must have awoken him, for he only caught a glimpse of the two children before Legolas turned to face him.
“Maglor!” he exclaimed, reaching out to touch his face. Maglor could have made his name into an exclamation in the same way. He looked so tired and worn out. There were dark circles under his eyes, and there was a look in them that Maglor didn’t like to see – a look of age. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “Can you forgive me?”
Taken aback, Maglor just stared, and then he registered Legolas’ words. “Forgive?” he repeated. “You…?” He remembered how he had felt during the torture, when he had wished for the prince to feel guilty, to deserve his punishment, and he had been so wrong. He didn’t want to see this at all – his guilt. “There is nothing to forgive, pen neth.” He stopped then, a memory catching at his mind again, and he spoke the next words almost in a daze, feeling close to some truth. He could almost say it. “This is not your fault. This is just how it is.” Maglor searched for what he almost knew, almost realised. He knew it was important.
“Still, I’m sorry,” Legolas replied, and it only brought Maglor closer to that elusive something. He dropped his gaze to try and figure it out, and then he saw something else. Something that made him forget instantly. Legolas had a scar. It was fading, and it wouldn’t last, but it was there now. And he saw where the stitches had been. He reached down, letting his hand hover over the wound, almost touching.
“Oh!” Maglor moaned deeply, finally understanding what had happened while he had been away. He remembered Sauron’s words to him: ‘Oh, you don’t want that, mûl nín. Trust me.’ “No,” he shook his head and looked at Legolas, who suddenly shivered.
“Don’t.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “Don’t ask me,” Legolas pleaded. Then he smiled, and Maglor was so gladdened to see it that he smiled too. “Look,” Legolas said, and moved to sit up on the bed so that Maglor could see the babies.
There were two of them. Legolas picked up the first one and smiled down at him. He was a blond elf – the resemblance between them was striking, and Maglor grinned to see them together. He looked at the other. Really, he had never in all his long life seen a creature like this. It looked like the uruk-hai, but it was perfect and unmarked like an elf. He was all those things, Maglor thought suddenly. The little one awoke then and realised that his brother was missing.
In a feat of some skill, the little uruk-hai managed to lever himself up onto his elbows before falling back down. Maglor laughed, and shocked himself with the sound. The little one sighed dramatically and turned over to look. When he saw Maglor he stretched out his little arms demandingly, and Maglor made a move to comply. But then he thought to look at Legolas.
“May I?” he asked, almost timidly in the face of what Legolas had been through.
“Of course!” Legolas exclaimed with a laugh, and Maglor picked up the little one. Now Maglor got a closer look at his eyes, and he drew in a breath.
“He’s beautiful,” he breathed to Legolas, as the little one examined him curiously. Maglor giggled when the little uruk-hai suddenly threw his arms around Maglor’s neck.
Smiling, Legolas watched them both. Then he shook his head. “He’s Mithedhel,” he corrected gently. Maglor nodded, and then his gaze fell on the other, who was still asleep in Legolas’ arms.
“And him?” Legolas looked down at his child and thought for a moment.
“I don’t know yet,” he said with a small smile. “He hasn’t told me, have you?” The child did nothing, only slept, and Maglor wondered just how much of a toll this had taken on Legolas’ mind. Despite everything that Sauron had done to him, he couldn’t imagine what Legolas had been through. And he knew that he had something to keep him here, after all, even if it was only punishment. But what did the young one have? He watched them, and then he realised, and he relaxed a little. Legolas did have them. He would survive. Maglor could only hope that Legolas would continue wanting to live as time passed. Neither of them knew what Sauron’s plans were. But certainly, Legolas would heal, in time. All of his injuries would.
mûl (vain) nín – my (beautiful) slave
Herdir – Master
Hîr nín – my Lord
Dannon nín, bÿr nín, mûl nín – My fallen, my follower, my slave
pen neth – young one
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