22. Chapter Twenty-Two
“You will show us?” Maglor asked uncertainly, wondering if this was some kind of trick. The hastily whispered assent scared him too though, and he wondered what the cost of their help was. He looked towards the bed and saw it was too late anyway. Legolas was sleeping with his eyes closed. It had begun. He couldn’t carry the Prince from this place, and even if he could, what difference would it make to the pain in his soul?
But then he noticed a shimmering in the air between them as the ghosts hovered around the Prince. Maglor stood up, already drawing in a breath to demand that they leave him alone, but then Legolas awoke.
Legolas was awake, but not truly conscious, and he began to speak strange words that had Maglor completely confused until he realised what they were. The words were names. And the shimmering became clearer in front of his eyes until he could see them filing past Legolas, leaning to whisper into his ear. Their names. And every one Legolas repeated, committing them to memory for a reason, a reason that was becoming clearer and clearer to Maglor.
The price for their aid was really nothing, and he almost cried for them. For what they wanted was so simple, and so moving. They wanted their names to be taken to the outside world. They wanted their fate to be known. It was heartbreaking.
When every name had been repeated, Legolas awoke properly. The terrible pain was still in his eyes, but it seemed he could no longer give in to it. Perhaps it would return when he had fulfilled his part of the bargain, but Maglor hoped that other things would encourage him to stay by then. Because now it would finally happen. There was a way out. The ghosts had explained it to him. Now all that remained was for one of them to show the way.
Silently, Legolas followed Maglor through the fortress. He knew who he was really following. He could still hear their voices in his head, their presence in his soul. They had kept him from sleep, from nothingness. Their grief was so much more insistent than his, and he could do nothing but obey. He hadn’t spoken a word to Maglor, but he didn’t need to. They would escape then. And maybe when all was said and done he could be left in peace once more. Legolas really didn’t care about escape any longer, but he found he did care about what they wanted from him.
It seemed there was no preparation for their journey, no gathering of possessions or useful items. It all seemed so rushed, and so there was barely a moment to think of the children, but he thought of them anyway. Poor Mithedhel, nothing could replace him. And as for ‘Athân… Perhaps he had been bound to be left behind. He was Sauron’s child too – and it seemed he was happy with that. It had hurt to hear the truth, but he couldn’t deny it. He was weakened and pathetic in this place.
If the choice had been his though, he would never have left while ‘Athân was still alive. How could a parent ever give up on a child? But then the voices were talking to him, begging him to tell their story to the world outside, and he knew that he had to do it. And so now he followed, and he was silent, alone with his thoughts.
He was surprised when they took a path through the fortress that led downwards. He had assumed they would be led to the great doors. Maglor didn’t seem surprised at all though, merely resigned, although he seemed to get nervous as they passed several doors on what turned out to be the lowest level.
Eventually they came to a door that could quite easily be just another cell, but when it was opened there wasn’t a room behind the door, only a wide passage. Legolas looked around, and saw their companions standing with them. For the first time he realised that Maglor couldn’t see them, that they were only revealed to him. And now he knew they couldn’t go any further. One of them reached out to touch him, but stopped before those cold fingers would have brushed against his skin. They were bound from going any further. Legolas simply walked forward into their midst, ignoring the escape route, ignoring Maglor, and ignoring his own feelings for the moment.
He wasn’t aware what was said to him, but when the ghosts left he was filled with purpose, and he turned to Maglor as if to say that it was time to go. They had no guide from this point on, and it was never going to be easy.
The passage became a wide tunnel carved into the volcanic rock beneath the ground. There were few torches to light the way, and as they walked they realised that this place was much more than a rarely used tunnel – it was a labyrinth. Occasionally there were small rooms set off the passages that offered scum-covered water, and very rarely – food. They tried to head in a constant direction, but it soon became clear that they were counting on luck to show them the way out.
It must have taken weeks. Stolen hours in the quieter places for them to sleep – one at a time. Every now and again they were forced to hide from companies of orcs, although the way was a lot quieter than they had any right to expect.
Maglor was astonished to find that the tunnels were real. He had thought they were a desperate dream. He had also thought there were no real surprises left, but he was astounded by this. In scale it was a gigantic undertaking, and yet it must have been made while he was with Sauron. After all, Sauron had brought him here. Comparing the tunnels to the giant fortress, however, made him realise that for someone such as Sauron, something like this was nowhere near unfeasible. Barad-Dûr itself had been built not once, but twice. For his Master this wasn’t impossible at all.
As the time went on and on, both of them succumbed to despair, passing through phases where the going was slow because they could quite easily be wandering in here for years. At other times they seemed to almost run through the place, taking turns and junctions without any kind of pattern – just wishing to find something that looked different. But nothing seemed to change. Then, after an unknown amount of time wandering in the darkness, they found steps that led up.
They considered. Although there were stairs here – it clearly wasn’t the end. The passage they were standing in continued on past the stone staircase. After some thought they decided to continue on, reasoning that it could only lead them further away from the fortress, and closer to the edge of Sauron’s land. When they found stairs again, they were much smaller, and this time the tunnel did end. There was nothing for it. Hesitantly, they walked up. It wasn’t as easy as Maglor had thought. It seemed that they must have been headed downwards even though the labyrinth had seemed flat because there were so many stairs. It must have taken at least a day to climb them.
When they reached the top, they emerged into a small brick building without windows. They had hardly made a sound, and still they didn’t speak. They explored the building in silence, and came to a main hallway. The door was before them. It was so small! Before they could cross the hall to get to it, Maglor had a terrible feeling, and he turned to Legolas in fear. The familiarity of the feeling drained any hope he might have had.
“He’s here,” Maglor whispered urgently. Legolas froze, and turned to look at the other elf questioningly.
“I just know, pen neth, trust me, I can sense him.” Legolas nodded once, silently, to show he understood, and then almost cried out when Maglor suddenly pushed him against the wall so that they were hidden in the shadows.
Maglor held Legolas’ palms against the wall, and he smiled a little when Legolas clasped his hands. They were so close, each could feel the other’s heartbeat, racing wildly. Their lips were nearly touching, and Legolas could almost forget where they were, and what was happening, until a voice broke the spell.
“You’re hiding from me. It won’t work. Come out, Legolas.” And now there was a different kind of magic in the air. At the sound of the summons, Legolas’ sense of fear and self-preservation vanished. His eyes half-closed, and his hold on Maglor’s hands went slack. He moved a little, ready to walk away from their hiding place. He felt Maglor’s grip on his hands tighten, and he looked into the other elf’s eyes without comprehending for a moment. Then the insistent, panicked look in Maglor’s eyes brought him back, and Legolas almost sighed in relief. Had he really been about to give them up?
Before he could answer that question Sauron spoke again, but this time his words had a different effect.
“Maglor, dannon nín, speak to me.”
Maglor closed his eyes as if in desperate prayer and rested against Legolas so that their foreheads were touching. He held on to Legolas’ hands tightly as if he were holding on to his own life. But still, he drew in a breath, and Legolas knew if he didn’t rescue his companion, it would all be over. Without giving it another thought, he tilted his head and kissed the other elf. Their kiss was the same as it had always been; silent, unhurried and serene. They connected with one another in a way that no other race had, and as they stood together, lost in each other, the shadow passed by them.
They emerged cautiously after a long period of time just waiting. Sauron did not return, and so, feeling safe at last, the two elves ventured out. The small door led outside, and it was so bright that they spent some minutes in the shade of the building’s entrance until their eyes became accustomed to the light again. Legolas hadn’t realised how far they had come. This was further than the edge of Mordor, well beyond the massive gates. Perhaps this building was a secret exit, used for spies, or other servants than orcs. If he looked back he could see the dark, dry land behind them. But he didn’t have any heart for looking back. Before him were the first trees of happier places and freer lands. Legolas ran to them, all forgotten except joy.
Immediately he knew that these were not the same cursed woods. There was life all around, even at the very end of winter. Promise danced lightly on the very air. There were tiny buds on the trees; snowdrops grew in the more sheltered places, seeming to advertise spring. Daffodils! Even in the cold, and the bare understated winter there was enough colour to drown the senses. A single red squirrel paused where it was digging and looked up from the green moss-covered ground, before flashing away to climb the nearest tree, away from the strange being who was simply stood smiling at it, almost laughing. Life! He looked back at Maglor.
If this seemed wondrous to him – how must it seem to Maglor? He had been shut up for so long. Kept away. Maglor looked around him as if he didn’t believe what he was seeing. Taking his hands, Legolas drew him forward slowly into the trees and Maglor reached out to touch them, as if in shock that they really existed. He looked at Legolas and shook his head slightly, a smile beginning to show itself. It was the first true smile that Legolas had seen the other elf give, and he couldn’t help but answer it.
“Free,” Maglor whispered quietly, as if to speak the word with any strength would make the world around them disappear. He suddenly looked around again, suspiciously, as if certain that he had broken some spell, and the trees would vanish like smoke on the breeze. Legolas laughed.
“Free!” He shouted it, and the trees remained. But they shouldn’t linger. He knew a way to make this fun though. Legolas began to run through the wood, casting a glance back as if daring Maglor to follow him, and he did.
They ran for hours, exhilarated, drowning in the outside, in the blessed cold, and the crisp, fresh smell of the season. Drunk on freedom, the strong winter sun reminding them that they had escaped. That they were free! When they were tired they found a sheltered place to stay near some large rocks and built a fire. Maglor had almost forgotten such simple things, and to rediscover them was a pleasure in itself. He was thousands of years older than his companion, but an observer would have been forgiven for assuming Maglor was the younger. His eyes danced with joy and happiness at every one of his rediscoveries.
It was cold, but it wouldn’t bother them. Not now. The cold couldn’t hurt them, and after the continual unnatural warmth of Mordor, both of them thought they would never tire of it. They ate the small amount of fruit and nuts they could find, and then simply sat in the dusk, watching as the world went to sleep. Their thoughts naturally turned to Mithedhel and ‘Athân. They didn’t need to speak, but after the joyous day melancholy stole over them as the twilight drew closer. They both shed silent tears for Mithedhel, and cried too for the corrupted spirit of ‘Athân. Maybe they would fade with the light, Maglor thought. Out of the shade and shelter of Sauron’s will – free – maybe there was a price to pay. Would the truth come crashing down on them, crushing them under its weight? Suddenly Maglor jumped. He looked up curiously, and instantly the childish joy was back.
“Legolas!” His voice broke and he looked down, shaking his head. But then he looked around him and stood up, holding out his hands out to the air. “It’s snowing!” Maglor breathed. He looked at the Prince, but Legolas had already made the discovery for himself, and he was like Maglor, standing with his hands held out to the flakes as if to catch and keep them. They marvelled at it together, but dark was fast coming, and night found them huddled together next to the fire for warmth. Maglor rested his head on Legolas’ chest, who kept watch, and he looked for all the world younger. It was breathtaking to see him now. He wasn’t the same elf who had lived under Sauron’s hand. No. He really wasn’t. Legolas smiled in the firelight and kissed Maglor’s hair tenderly.
When morning came they were asleep in each other’s arms. Legolas cursed himself when he awoke. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but at least there was no harm done. Even the fire still burnt quite brightly. After a few more branches were laid on it, it gave off as much warmth as they could wish to wake up to. Overnight the world around them had turned white. Legolas was sure he had never seen snow settle so fast. He left the still sleeping Maglor for a while to walk out in it and stare.
Action was required though. Legolas used the knife they had stolen to turn a largish branch into a rather crude spear and went to the nearby stream. He came back half an hour or so later with a couple of particularly slow moving fish. Perhaps they were just as struck by the sudden snowfall as he was. Whatever. It was breakfast.
By the time Maglor awoke, the air smelt pleasantly of cooked fish, and he inhaled deeply. Then everything came back and his smile was radiant. “Free!” he exclaimed to himself, as if the word was all he needed to survive. Legolas nudged him with a little laugh.
“Breakfast,” he said, pointing out the fish he had caught and cooked while his lover slept in. He was beginning to wonder about the basis of their relationship now that they were away from Sauron, and out in the world together, but soon he didn’t. Maglor ignored the food and leaned over to kiss him deeply, pushing him back so that he laughed. But Legolas gave in to the treatment and allowed Maglor to have what he wanted.
He found himself pressed to the ground, beyond the reach of the fire so that the deep snow was behind his back, and he saw Maglor’s eyes widen as he took in the scene. He didn’t let Legolas up, but simply rested on him and examined the snow on the ground. Legolas moved a little as if to throw the other elf off, and then he smirked mischievously. While Maglor was busy paying attention to the snow, Legolas picked up a largish clump of it with his hand. Then he threw his arms around the other elf, rubbing the snow into his back as punishment for keeping him prisoner on the cold ground.
Gasping loudly, Maglor lay flat on Legolas and buried his head in the Prince’s blond hair. “You will pay for that,” he threatened, and then ruined the effect of his words by giggling. They fought in the snow like children, laughing and for a while forgetful of just what they left behind. The snow still fell on and around them. They tumbled and wrestled, disturbing the pristine expanse of white. A deer watched them for a while – elves playing in the snow – it wasn’t unnatural. Then a snowball flew past her, and she bolted, leaving the elves to their fun.
It should be his by now. The fact that he couldn’t find the ring bothered him. It more than bothered him. He couldn’t even see it, and yet it should be easy to find. It was partly him, after all. He should be able to feel for it. Why… where was it hidden? And who was hiding it? Did they know what it was?
The questions came back again and again, and they infuriated him. There were never answers. He almost stood, thinking that at a time like this he wanted something else. The elf would soothe this horrible uncertainty. Sauron couldn’t bear uncertainty – especially not when it concerned him. Yes… the elf would make him forget. And what is more, Maglor would thank him for the opportunity. But then he remembered.
They were gone. Oh, he needed to let them go, but he had wanted to keep Maglor. After all this time, all these centuries – no – millennia. Now he was alone once more, and it actually felt strange. Sauron smirked, although there was no one to see him. Did they really believe their hiding places had been good enough to keep them from him? He could sense them; smell their scent, hear their frantic breathing when he had come too close. Sauron shook his head, and paid attention to the Palantír again. He narrowed his eyes, and waved his hand across it, forcing it to show him something other than the endless search for the ring.
A different scene presented itself immediately. There they were. Playing. The elf was lying back in the snow now. Flakes of it had settled on his hair and eyelashes, and once more Sauron appreciated Maglor’s beauty. It wasn’t too late, even now. He had a sudden vision of the wolf, running through the winter snows, tracking them, and when he found Maglor he would… Sauron closed his eyes and silently reminded himself why he should leave them be. Legolas had to escape, and Maglor…
Far better to allow him freedom now, and to have him back, than to never let him see the truth at all. Sauron laughed at his own thoughts. What he meant was that Maglor should see the lie he had been living with. The Valar might very well forgive him, and in fact Sauron suspected that for centuries they had just been waiting for him to ask. But like all deities they were cold. And Maglor would find out that they made unreasonable demands. They hadn’t been watching him at all. Sauron would surely have known if they were. No, they hadn’t been paying attention, and when Maglor reached the point of asking, what would they say? He looked into the Palantír once more, and then spoke as if the elf would hear him.
“They are waiting for you, mûl vain nín. They will offer you a dream, such a beautiful dream and you will want to share it. But you will see what they try to hide.” He smiled, but he wasn’t really amused; perhaps he actually felt a little sympathy. His voice became low and quiet. “They forgot about you, Maglor. They gave you up to me without a single word of protest. Here, with me, you have always been alone. And had the choice been theirs, they would have left you here forever.” Maglor did not hear his words, and so he continued playing, carefree and happy. Sauron smiled a little when Maglor laughed, and dragged Legolas to the ground to cover him with snow. Maglor would remember whom he belonged to in time. It was what he wanted above all else, to have the elf with him alone. He grew tired of the way his slave always had to think of them. There should only be one concern on his mind. When this was over, it would be exactly the way Sauron wanted it. He continued speaking.
“They will ask you for something in exchange for the dream, although they will phrase it as a gift. They will demand to heal your soul, to take away everything I have done. They will want you to forget about me, and make you what you once were. What you have endured means nothing to them, and they will require you to give it up.” He leaned forward very slightly, never letting his eyes wander from the stone, staring intensely. “It has taken most of your long life to walk the path I chose for you, to become mine in every sense of the word. I alone appreciate your suffering, I alone take pleasure from it, and therein lies your reward too.” He paused. “You will return to me.” Sauron knew that Maglor would be happy to forget. But he would find it difficult nevertheless. They would ask to take away his experience. In a way, they would require a death of sorts. No one would agree to that, least of all Maglor – the elf only wished to find death at one person’s hands – his. Satisfied, he waved his hand over the stone, and a dead, black cloud settled over its eye on the world.
Getting up, Sauron wandered the halls, finding himself at last before the door to that room. But the elf wasn’t within. Not ready and waiting to please him. Sauron hesitated. It wasn’t loneliness. Absolutely not. It was… breaking a habit. He entered the room anyway and sat for a while on the bed. He inhaled deeply, and realised that he could still smell the elf in this place. He resisted the temptation to lie down and bury his face in the bedclothes. This was not loneliness. He began thinking of all the things he had done, and knew that it was enough. Maglor would be back, and when he returned he would be here forever – by choice.
His mind turned to other things then, and he thought about the half-uruk. Was there potential for the child to serve him in some way? When he grew he would be like the uruk hai, but more capable of planning. Perhaps it was time to find out.
Mithedhel awoke from the strangest dream. The little uruk had never really known cold, but he shivered now in his cell. Light suddenly flooded the room when the door opened at last, and Sauron walked in to study him. Mithedhel snarled at him. He had heard Maglor cry when he had been led away by Golrakh, and Mithedhel was sure that he had done it. Golrakh had put him here, and left him alone for so long where it was boring. That wasn’t like him, and Mithedhel could only assume that his current boredom was Sauron’s fault too.
Of course, he wasn’t completely alone. Sometimes ‘Athân visited him, and his brother brought what he called ‘books,’ that were full of all the words Maglor had taught to him. But the best parts were the pictures – Mithedhel didn’t think he had ever seen anything so beautiful. Books! What a brilliant idea! He had wondered why Maglor hadn’t shown them to him before, but ‘Athân said that Sauron didn’t allow Maglor to have books. His resentment towards Sauron grew.
But, true to his personality, there were times he couldn’t stand to be near his brother, times when the beast was upon him. And at those times he was left alone to shout and scream, and claw at the heavy door with his fingernails, desperate to be let out and to get to the uruk hai who alone understood him like this. But now, it seemed, his existence was about to change again.
As he studied Mithedhel, the dark lord had a gleam in his eye. He smiled as if he liked what he was looking at, and he reached out, only to suddenly draw back with a pained cry when the young uruk sank his sharp teeth into the dark lord’s hand. Sauron stood well back for a few moments, while his face appeared to change, but then it didn’t. He breathed loudly in the small cell, and when the flitting shadows left his features he looked at Mithedhel with narrowed eyes. The little uruk snarled again. The dark lord nodded to himself, and sneered at his own foolishness, then turned and left, but the door remained open.
Just as Mithedhel had decided to venture to it, someone else strode in. He sighed rather obviously when he saw it was only Golrakh. He wanted Maglor back. He had a question that needed answering. But then he ran to Golrakh when the uruk hai opened his arms and felt himself carried out of the cell and back to the uruk hai living quarters.
“Elves are gone. You belong to us.” He had never heard Golrakh speak elvish before, and Mithedhel opened his eyes wide. What else did he know? Maybe… But then what he had said struck Mithedhel and he wrinkled his brow for a moment before bursting into tears.
“Dead?” Mithedhel asked in a little voice when he could stop crying long enough to speak again. Golrakh shrugged, and the little uruk was inconsolable. Maglor was gone! His father was gone! He was sure it was all Sauron’s fault. Any other child would have cried and become quiet – but not him. He needed a fight, and when they got back to the large room that Golrakh and his company occupied, the uruk hai found it took a good long while to exhaust him, and when they did he still didn’t seem at ease. Golrakh didn’t understand why it should affect him so much. After all, what were the elves? But he tried to do something for the little one. He gave Mithedhel a drink, and then let the little uruk shove him around for a bit. Eventually, he quietened, and then he asked a question that had Golrakh completely stumped. He had no idea where it had come from.
“What is snow?” Golrakh knew the answer; it was only Mithedhel’s asking of it that had him wondering. He replied with confidence in the black speech.
“It falls white from the sky.” But that didn’t seem to satisfy Mithedhel, and he sighed dramatically at the disappointing answer. Golrakh thought about it for a while, and then spoke again.
“It is cold.” At that Mithedhel suddenly smiled, as if he was seeing something other than the filthy room. He stood up and held out his little hands, turning around slowly in circles, his bewitching green eyes shining.
“It falls,” he repeated, as if he finally understood. “It is cold.” Then he looked around, straight at Golrakh. “Snow!” he exclaimed, as if it was an answer to some question. Golrakh shrugged helplessly, confused at Mithedhel’s sudden strange behaviour. “It’s snowing!” he insisted, and one of the more stupid uruk hai nearby looked up at the ceiling as if expecting it to come falling down on them all. Mithedhel laughed at that, and then flung himself at Golrakh happily. Golrakh didn’t know what it meant to Mithedhel, but when he thought, he knew it would probably be snowing out there.
“Yes, it’s snowing,” he said with certainty, glad that the young one seemed to be calm again at last. “Silly little Snabokh,” he said, calling Mithedhel after his other father, with what would pass for tenderness here, although the set of his face wasn’t so far removed from a snarl. Mithedhel began to drift off to sleep again, happy to know what he was dreaming of, and what it meant. Elves playing in the snow.
From nowhere, he remembered something Maglor had once told him about dreams, and he smiled to remember it now, his waking mind almost gone. Some would say they are telling you the truth.
And those kinds of dreams filled the world. While Mithedhel dreamed of snow, ‘Athân dreamed of being close to his elven father. Maglor and Legolas shared a waking dream of freedom. Sauron, however, had nightmares. He dreamed of losing, of never finding the ring, and before too much time had passed, he rose from his bed to stare into the Palantír again, looking for something. And when he became frustrated and angry – he was alone.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.