18. On The Road
Completely A.U. Legolas slave fic. This story was inspired by Bluegolds story "Bound", which can be found here: http://daemel.freespaces.com/authors.html#blue
I use similar plot ideas here with her permission.
Betareader: Many thanks to Surreysmum, who polished this and made it so much better! All still remaining errors are my own.
Warnings: Slash. M/m, BDSM, d/s, torture, toys, non-con and debatable consent. Very graphic descriptions. Special warnings for this chapter: Implied torture (of the night before).
Please heed the warnings!
Disclaimer: Universe and characters are not mine, but Tolkien's. The idea of the spell, however, belongs to me.
For all other warnings, other disclaimers and author's notes see Story Intro.
-- Part IV: The Quest Begins --
XVI. On The Road
Legolas adjusted his pack for what must have been the fifth time. It was no use. However he shifted the heavy weight, it still hurt where ever it applied pressure to his sore back and sides; as did the straps that he used to carry it. So did the heavy water skin. He could not readjust his quiver, though, and it chafed on his sore and swollen back with every new step. Soon after their start he had sunk in a sort of dizzy, half aware haze, concentrating just on every single step after the other. It was only three hours since they had left Rivendell and he felt exhausted already. The walk was taxing his strength more than he had anticipated, even after the exertions he went through last night.
His stomach was empty, but by now he supposed he would be unable to eat and keep down anything even if he had been offered, because of the persistent feeling of nausea that rested there. He did not know that he was deadly pale, frequently stumbling and that his eyes held a slightly unfocused gaze. His whole face was bathed in sweat, and his lips had withdrawn into a thin, grim and determined line.
Suddenly, there was a derisive and scornful voice beside him.
"If a little walk tries you this much already, Master Elf, then maybe you should have stayed home!"
Startled, he looked around, and it took him a moment to realize that it had been the Dwarf that had spoken and that he needed to look down instead beside him. This lack of awareness earned him another derisive snort.
"I thought you Elves are supposed to have such sharp senses?" the Dwarf drawled. "Obviously not! But you are lucky, Elf, we haven't gone that far! You can still turn tail and run home!"
He sneered. "I suppose this Quest is too much for a weak Elven princeling!"
For a moment, Legolas felt himself vexed enough to search his brain for an equally sneering answer, but then he just gave in to his exhaustion and trudged on without giving attention to the disdainful words and voice. He just didn't have the strength to spare to give the taunting back; he needed all his vigor and his nerves just to stay upright. His subdued demeanor earned him another derisive sneer. Obviously, the Nogoth saw his failure to retaliate as a proof of weakness. But at the moment he could not care less.
'Let him walk after a night of torture with a heavy pack and quiver on his back; then we can talk,' he thought, yet even this thought seemed to tax his mind too much and he simply concentrated on trudging on.
Quick footsteps closed up to him and looking around again he saw the familiar form of his master. "Legolas," Aragorn said and laid his hand lightly on his arm, "a word!"
He looked dismayed and concerned when his slave could not help flinching involuntarily at his touch even though he had been careful not to touch him anywhere where Legolas was bruised or wounded.
"Slow down for a moment, Little Leaf," he continued in Silvain, "stand and let us talk."
Sighing, but obedient, Legolas stayed his steps. He swayed a little when he did, and Aragorn paled and steadied him with a hand on his shoulder. He studied him with growing concern.
"How fares your back?" he asked, still in Silvain.
Legolas gave him an incredulous look. What did he think? He himself had placed the bruises and welts there that now made his slave's back feel as if it was on fire! Still, he had asked and expected an answer, so Legolas replied obediently, also using Silvain: "It hurts, master. Your punishment was quite thorough."
He was a bit astonished to see Aragorn wince and make a face. That had been the intention of it all, had it not?
Aragorn sighed. "I know that it must hurt you, Little Leaf," he said. "Give me your pack, and your water skin. I will carry them for you."
Legolas looked at him without comprehension. "But..."
Aragorn looked exasperated. "Do as I say! Right now you need all the strength you can spare to heal, and heal as fast as you can. You cannot afford to carry more than you must. I will carry your pack for you during the next two days, and also I will take your watches. Do not argue!"
Baffled, Legolas just regarded him a moment, then he finally brought his mind up to speed. Quickly and with a short flicker of his eyes to the watching Nogoth he protested: "But the Dwarf..."
His master uttered an exasperated Silvain curse that actually made Legolas flinch once more.
"I do not care about the Dwarf!" Aragorn spat. "Right now I could not care less what he thinks of you, or of me, or what anybody else will think! You need your strength for other things right now, and you will obey me! He may later see you in a fight or taking up your chores like everybody else, when you are well again!"
Still exasperated, but more gentle, he added: "Please, Little Leaf! Will you stop arguing now and just obey? Before this whole conversation reaches the ears of Gandalf? He speaks Silvain, too, you know!"
Still a bit baffled, Legolas gave him an obedient nod and shrugged out of his pack and water skin. While he handed both to Aragorn he dared to say hesitantly: "But... you said... it was to be part of my punishment..."
To his surprise Aragorn flinched again. Then his master took his pack and water skin and adjusted them on his own back.
"I know what I said, Little Leaf," Aragorn finally answered. "And I am not relieving you of your quiver, am I? still, there is punishment, and there is prudence. And prudence demands that you should not overtax your strength when you have none to spare."
Legolas had the distinct impression that Aragorn wanted to say something completely different, something more personal, but he could for the life of him not guess what it may be; and Estel seemed reluctant to speak clearly. Maybe he did not want to speak too openly while others might be listening. Gandalf came to mind, for one, and they were still close to Rivendell.
Besides he felt truly relieved and grateful. "Thank you, master," he offered. Then a thought came to his mind. "Is this about Glorfindel?" he asked, "Did he ask you to do this for me?"
Somewhere within himself, he felt his heart sink. It had been a warming and comforting thought that Estel might actually care that much, that he might have decided to rethink his judgment, but of course it had been too much to hope. Why should his master go back on his own decisions?
Aragorn closed his eyes. His face showed pain.
"Yes, he did ask me to go easy on you, Little Leaf," he admitted sadly, "but he would not have needed to. I had planned to do this already even before he asked. I just had to wait until we were far enough away from Imladris, so Elrond would have no excuse to change his mind!"
He opened his eyes again and looked back at his slave. "He told me what happened this morning. I'm sorry, Little Leaf."
He held Legolas' gaze for a few moments, saw the slight dizziness and incomprehension there and bowed his head. Obviously, the damage was done. It would take him some time to regain his slave's trust again!
With a sigh he fumbled in his own pack and produced the slim bundle that Elladan had earlier slipped to him. He unwrapped it and revealed a few fresh leaves each wrapped around a thin, triangular form, and a small flask. He unwrapped one of the triangles and handed his slave the wafer. "Here! I know that you had hardly time to eat, and you will sorely need it. And this," he uncorked the flask and handed it to Legolas, "will give you back your strength. Go easy on it, do not drink too much; we shall need it again later and I think it should not be drunk in great amounts on an empty stomach!"
Legolas took the slim wafer in wonder. Lembas! How had his master obtained Lembas?! He did not know Elrond had given them such supplies. Maybe the Lady Arwen...?
Gratefully, he took the slight wafer and took a bite, then munched happily away at it. This would be easy on the stomach and would stay down even though his still persistent feeling of nausea. Then he took the offered flask and found himself treated with a sip of Miruvor!
Gratefully and greatly relieved he took another sip, then handed the little flask back. Aragorn sniffed at it, then took a sip himself and closed it. He smiled. "Save me a bite of the Lembas, too," he said. "Just in case my brothers tried something funny." He saw with dismay Legolas' sudden hesitation to eat and laid a placating hand on his back.
"Do not worry! They will have known that I would eat it, too. I asked them to provide us with some Lembas and Miruvor yesterday evening." A little bitterly he added: "I knew you would need nourishment today."
Legolas looked at him, and for the first time since they spoke a tiny spark of hope and trust dawned again within his eyes. So it was indeed Estel who had thought of this. He had not ceased to care.
Aragorn saw it with relief. He gave the shoulder under his hand a careful squeeze. "Trust me, Little Leaf," he pleaded. "We are away from Rivendell. It will get better now."
Very hesitantly, Legolas offered: "Thank you, master."
They were ripped from their intimacy by a gruff and quite exasperated voice.
"Well, so much for courtesy among the fellowship!" the Dwarf drawled. "Speak something we all can understand! And I did not know that we were stopping for rest already. Is that Elvish Weakling too feeble to wait until we call for an halt? He must be indeed if he can not even carry his own pack. How could it come about that such a Weakling would join such a Quest? Was there no other, stronger Elf to have?"
Aragorn whipped around to face the Dwarf; Legolas glared at the stunted creature. The Nogoth stood there, eyes glittering maliciously and face laid into a sneer, and watched them with derision. It was clear he was exasperated, and as clear that he was aiming for quarrel.
Aragorn regarded the Dwarf with a long, very cool look.
"Not that this would be any of your business, Master Dwarf," he drawled in Common, "but this is not about weakness."
Legolas said nothing. He was trying very hard to appear strong, alert and well.
The Dwarf snorted derisively. "Oh?" he snarled, "Why then do you take his pack?! That dainty Elven princeling is so exhausted from this little walk already that he is swaying on his feet! Just look at him!" he added accusingly and with obvious disgust.
Legolas glared down at him, too angry now to care about his own physical state. Aragorn laid a warning hand on his arm without even looking. Unfortunately he touched a spot that was sore from last night's whipping, and Legolas could not suppress a flinch.
Aragorn pretended he had not noticed. He shrugged. "Legolas had a trying night," he said casually. "Still my carrying his pack is not about weakness. Not his," he gave the Elf beside him a short nod, "or mine." He shrugged his shoulders again. "If you have to know, it is about a bet. I lost, and now I have to carry it for him!"
Legolas' eyes flickered a bit at this astounding lie, but he recovered fast and admirably. "And it is about time you remembered that!" he chimed in. "It is your own fault, Estel! Why did you have to bet on the patience of the Dwarves of all people? I told you that they would disrupt the council..."
Aragorn gave him an incredulous look and rolled his eyes. Trust Legolas to find a way to provoke the Dwarf even further! Yet he answered with faked outrage:
"It was hardly them alone who did it! As I recall, there was a certain Elf..."
Legolas stared back at him, apparently hurt. "Don't you try to wriggle out of this!" he cried, equally outraged, "Did you propose this bet or did you not?!"
Aragorn gave him a disgusted look. "I did," he growled. "And I lost. But having to carry your pack and water for three days, and taking over all your chores and watches is a bit high a price for this. It is hardly fair!"
Legolas eyes were wide. Three days?! That was even more than Estel had offered at first! "Yet it was you who set the price," he nevertheless insisted. "And had you won it would have been my place to do your chores."
Aragorn could not shake the feeling that his slave enjoyed this game of skilfully chosen innuendo far too much. Still, he did not break their game.
"Oh, drop it," he answered seemingly disgusted. "Just don't think I will take up a bet with you again anytime soon. And you can be sure I will get back at you!"
With dismay, he saw Legolas involuntarily wince at this threat, and shrugged. "Just not these next three days," he growled.
Again their exchange was disrupted by the Dwarf who had taken this long to recover from his stunned anger.
"You dare to bet about me and my people?" he growled furiously.
Both the Elf and the Ranger gave him an astonished look. Apparently they had briefly forgotten he was there. Again.
It was the Elf who recovered first.
"Why, yes, we did, Master Dwarf," he said lightly and with a bit of haughtiness, "we are in the habit to bet about a lot of things. Why should you and your people be excepted?!"
Inwardly, Legolas seethed. He was still exhausted, but this new insult and presumption of the Nogoth was too much! The Stunted One was not his master, and he would not show any deference to him unless Aragorn explicitly commanded him to do so!
Aragorn heard him reply and groaned inwardly. Apparently the Miruvor and the Lembas had done a good job of restoring Legolas' strength, if the Elf felt up to baiting the Dwarf already. And he could hardly interfere and stop him now, because this encounter would set some kind of ground rules between the two. If he now called his slave to heel and forbade him to retaliate against the Nogoth, he would ensure Legolas was at the mercy of the Dwarf – and any other member of the Fellowship - for the rest of their entire journey. He had no intention of doing that.
And had he not himself established that they would not let them know Legolas was a slave?
So he decided to give his Elf free rein and play along. And maybe he could find another way to remind Legolas not to go too far...
"Besides, Master Dwarf" he added casually, "it is not you alone among the Fellowship who has figured as the object of a bet already. I seem to recall a certain bet about the state of Gandalf's beard..."
Legolas seemed alarmed and paled a bit. "Not that again, Estel," he pleaded. "You promised! You promised that you would not bring that up again within Gandalf's hearing!"
Aragorn raised a brow. The bet in question had involved an accident with Gandalf's fireworks, some startled rangers and a very grumpy wizard. Whose mood did not improve as he heard Legolas and Halbarad had actually dared to bet how much of his beard had survived the accident (only half of it, to be exact), and had been quite inventive in his retaliation. To this day, it was one of Aragorn's fonder memories, including his cousin's and Legolas' faces at the colour of their hair next morning, and the satisfied smirk of the wizard.
Luckily, both Legolas' and Halbarad's hair had returned to its usual colour within the month. But the memory should serve to subdue his Elf and calm his tongue enough for the moment.
The answer of the Dwarf thwarted his plan. Angrily, the Nogoth growled: "I am sure Tharkun(1) would not be pleased to hear he was the object of your silly bets, and I suggest you, Master Elf, desist henceforth from betting about me or my people! Or will have to cure you from the habit with my axe!"
Aragorn gave the shoulder of his slave under his hand a quick and warning squeeze and felt Legolas flinch. He knew without looking that Legolas had swallowed an angry comeback at the last moment under his warning touch.
Carefully and with a small bow, he said:
"Very well, Master Dwarf. We did not know it was against your custom to bet or be the object of a bet, or that you would feel it to be insulting. We meant no offense!"
Taking his clue from his master, Legolas gave the Nogoth a small bow of his own, although he seemed slightly disappointed.
"We will be mindful of your sensibilities from now on," the Elf said, "as much as possible."
The Dwarf glared at him, and Aragorn suppressed a sigh. "Be careful, Little Leaf," he warned in Silvain, "and mind your tongue! That is quite enough!"
Legolas swallowed and lowered his lashes. He was all too aware of the glittering, malevolent eyes of the Dwarf who missed nothing of his reaction as he bowed his head a bit to his master and subsided.
Haughtily, the Dwarf answered him: "You do that! And in repayment of the offense you caused me and my people you can carry my pack!"
Legolas took a step back, glaring at the Nogoth. He was shocked and speechless. Then his eyes flickered shortly to his master's irritated face and he remembered that the Dwarf could not know of his status and simply tried to humiliate him with his demand. Recovering fast, he offered smoothly and politely:
"I am afraid I cannot do that, Master Dwarf, since I do not recall that I have lost any bet to you. Or that I and Estel would owe you any other debt I could remember."
He cast a quick look at his master, uncertain about Aragorn's reaction. Maybe he would be punished again for this, but he would be damned if he allowed that Dwarf to order him around without a direct command of his master to submit to him!
To his relief, Aragorn seemed similarly outraged at Gimli's demand. His master gave the Dwarf a measuring look and added without missing a beat:
"Still, if you are already tired or your burden, Master Dwarf, I am sure we can add it to the packs that are carried by the pony for awhile..."
Legolas said nothing and kept his face carefully blank. And his master felt that his words to the Dwarf were provoking?!
"Tired?!" the Dwarf cried outraged. "I'll have you know, Master Ranger, that Dwarves can carry more than their own weight for days at need, without complaint or any feeling of exhaustion! Not like that one!" he said derisively, nodding at the Elf.
Glowering inwardly, but carefully hiding it, Aragorn answered mildly: "Yet it was you, not him, who asked to be relieved of your pack."
Glaring back at him, the Dwarf hesitated just for another moment. Then he just growled something unintelligible and trudged on without another word.
Aragorn watched him go, then he turned back to his slave and raised his brows.
"'Dwarven patience'?!" he asked in Silvain. "Did you have to offend him further?!"
Legolas looked down.
"He called me weak," he said a bit defiantly. "Besides, claiming a bet was your idea. And you said that we should act as if we were just friends and I was free."
Bleak despair threatened to close around him. Would Aragorn decide to take that back now?!
Aragorn regarded him for a moment, then he gave the Elven shoulder under his hand another reassuring squeeze. He sighed and nodded.
"And I stand by that," he said. "You may defend yourself and retaliate if he insults you. Just do not go too far. On this journey we all need to stand together, and we cannot do that if the two of you are at each other's throats."
Legolas looked up and met his gaze again, and his eyes held renewed hope and trust. Aragorn saw it with relief. He smiled.
"Very well. At least, this gives me an excuse to relieve you from your chores for a few days, until you are recovered. See to it that you recover fast and as much as you can. Regain your strength. We shall need it!"
Legolas could not help flinching at his master's words and at the small squeeze of his hurting flesh. He simply nodded and bowed his head obediently; and so he missed the brief flash of dismay at his reaction in his master's eyes.
When he looked up again, Aragorn gave him a reassuring smile, then he let go of him and moved on. Legolas followed him. They had to hurry a bit to catch up with the others, who had gained quite some distance while they stood and talked.
Neither of them saw the Dwarf who had stopped a little way ahead to watch their exchange, and who had not missed the flinch of pain the Elf showed whenever the Ranger touched his back. So the stupid, haughty Elf was injured, was he? And still he had been arrogant enough to start on such a journey in his wounded state?
No matter. Gimli son of Gloin did not know a lot about Elves, and he certainly was not interested in the reasons why this particular Elf should do such a thing, but he definitely planned to exploit it!
While he walked, Legolas continued to nibble absentmindedly at the wafer of Lembas his master had given him. The small respite had done much to restore a little of his strength and the Miruvor and nourishment did even more. But most of all he was heartened and reassured by Aragorn's concern and by his master's willingness to spare his strength and to defend him. It was good to know Estel still cared, that his absence in Elrond's study this morning had been just an oversight, a stupid accident, nothing more. That Aragorn's reassurances of this morning were more than just words. That even with the darkness and cruelty his master had shown to him last night, this was still Estel as he knew and trusted him, not some merciless and ruthless inner core of Aragorn revealed at last by the necessity of accepting his destiny, and who could not be bothered any more to keep his word to a mere slave, or even care about him.
Still, it did not change his hurting back, the chafing of his quiver, and the pain every step caused him, and soon Legolas gave up on his musings and let himself slip back into a comfortable numbness, simply concentrating on each step as it came. The walk had led them through some open plain for a while, but now they were back within a copse of close standing trees, and Legolas allowed his mind to drift, aware of his surroundings just enough to make sure he was not stumbling over roots or running into trees.
It was then that he was suddenly ripped out of his stupor by a hard, painful lash to his already hurting back and jumped forward with a startled yell. He whirled around, knives out, and found himself face to face with the Dwarf who was watching him with malevolently, glittering eyes.
"Oh, sorry!" Gimli said, not in the least bothering to hide his satisfaction, "I did not see that twig! Clumsy of me!"
Legolas looked briefly at the twig that had snapped back and hit him, injuring his back, then he regarded the Dwarf with a baleful look. Since Gimli stood behind him, and the twig had snapped back at him from that direction, there was not a trace of doubt that the attack had been deliberate. Still, he recalled Aragorn's warning words, and he could hardly kill or injure the Dwarf for a hurt back.
So he simply swallowed his anger and pain and sheathed his knives again.
"Very well, Master Dwarf," he haughtily replied, "I suggest you watch your way more closely then from now on, and pay more attention to your steps to avoid being mistaken for an Orc, or for clumsy game. But I can understand that for a Dwarf who is used to live in caves a long travel above ground and through the forests might be overly confusing. Still, you stem from the Lonely Mountain, do you not? I hear a lot of Dwarves there are known to have some traveling experience. Was there no more experienced Dwarf to have for such a Quest, if the first day within a forest troubles you already?"
The Dwarf growled at the insult and lunged for his axe, but before he could bring it out or Legolas could draw his knives again and drop into a fighting stance, two of the Hobbits and Boromir caught up with them.
They saw the grim and angry faces of their two companions and looked startled. "Is something the matter, Master Elf?" one of the Hobbits asked- Merry, if Legolas' memory served him – and the other Hobbit frowned at the glowering Dwarf and asked a bit hesitantly: "Gimli?"
Somewhat ashamed that he had nearly let himself provoke into an useless fight so soon after the start of the Quest, Legolas swallowed and straightened.
"It is nothing, Master Hobbit," he replied politely, "just a small accident with a twig." And with that, he gave the Hobbits, the man of Gondor and the Dwarf a small bow and turned around, leaving quickly. He hurried to catch up with Gandalf, who was in the lead of the Fellowship, and took care to avoid Gimli's company for a while.
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Gimli growled and muttered darkly to himself while he trudged on. The attack with the twig on the haughty Elf had been quite satisfying, and he was content with the results. Yes, the Elf was indeed injured. That was the reason, then, why he was so pale and grew exhausted so soon. Gimli was sure he could find ways to exploit this weakness; the stupid Elf would learn the folly of insulting one of Durin's line soon enough. Gimli had had quite enough of that specific family of Elves insulting and pushing his own line around, and he had a slight to avenge. Thranduil's son would learn the errors of his and his father's ways and regret ever crossing Gimli son of Gloin or his family.
Yes, the attack with the twig had been quite satisfying, and the startled reaction of the Elven princeling had warmed his heart. But what the Elf had said...
Gimli knew it had been meant merely as a comeback at his own jeering words, and the witless Elf had probably thought nothing more of it. He probably had forgotten the insults as soon as they left his mouth.
But they stung.
By necessity rather than by choice, Gimli's branch of Durin's line was indeed more experienced at traveling above ground than most other Dwarves could claim. Ever since Smaug the Dragon had expelled the Dwarves, among them Gimli's ancestors, from the Lonely Mountain, over 240 years ago, they had been exiled, forced to wander and to find their succor by settling as guests of other Dwarven colonies or selling their services as they could; even to humans if there were no other employers to have. Only after Thorin Oakenshield took the Lonely Mountain back from Smaug again some eighty years ago with the help of a Hobbit could they settle down in their own home again. Gimli himself was a Dwarf of many journeys, not by choice, but by cruel need. The haughty remark of the Elf had hit a truer blow than the flimsy creature could know.
With grim determination Gimli swore to himself the Elf would pay for that.
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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.