41. Night On Caradhras
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.
Warning: Slash, m/m, BDSM, torture, toys, d/s, *very* graphic descriptions; abuse both physical and sexual. Non-con and debatable consent. special warning for this chapter: none. Please heed the warnings!
Disclaimer: Universe and characters are not mine, but Tolkien's. The idea of the spell, however, belongs to me.
Guide: In this chapter, I work with flashback scenes. Here is a Guide:
// /flashback/ //; ************Time change within a flashback***********; "speech"; 'thoughts'
For all other warnings, other disclaimers and author's notes see Story Intro.
XXXIX. Night on Caradhras
Aragorn was somewhat astonished when he found himself approached by his slave long before his watch was over. The Elf seemed edgy, but determined.
"Please, My Lord," he said, "'Tis much too cold for you to stand alone far from the fire. Let me relieve you."
Hesitantly, Aragorn turned to him and gave him a questioning look. "I agreed last evening to take the first watch tonight," he reminded his slave mildly, "Boromir is right in this. And you need your rest as much as anybody else, Little Leaf."
He cast a concerned look at the tired, tight face of his Elf. Last night when they returned to the camp Legolas was nearly dreaming on his feet. And if Aragorn recalled correctly, the Elf had not found peaceful dreams afterwards, either.
Legolas looked down, then he met his master's gaze again. "I doubt that anyone of us will find much rest, tonight," he said, "and sleep may bring the danger of freezing. But nonetheless I am much more resistant to the cold than you. Please, My Lord, let me take over. You are in need of the warmth of the fire more than I."
Aragorn looked at him and narrowed his eyes. He could tell that his slave was hiding something; something was troubling the Elf's mind. But he knew he would probably not get an answer if he asked, at least not willingly; and right now, he was loath to force the matter. And in truth, Legolas' reasoning was right, although normally Aragorn would not have skirted his duty willingly. But he had other reasons to wish for an early relief from his watch.
There were some questions he wanted to ask the wizard. And he would prefer it if Legolas did not hear that conversation.
So, after a moment, he nodded and briefly touched his slave's arm.
"All right," he said quietly. "You may take over now. But remind me that I owe you for this."
Legolas just nodded and gave him a bow.
Troubled and concerned, but determined not to lose his opportunity, Aragorn decided to let it lie for now.
He gave Legolas a last, quick pat on the shoulder and stepped around him to walk the few paces to the fire, leaving the Elf staring motionlessly out into the night.
_________________ o _____________
Gandalf looked up when Aragorn settled beside him near the fire. His brows knitted.
"Your watch is over already?" he asked with some disapproval.
Aragorn just shrugged. "Legolas relieved me," he said simply. "He insisted." Then he added in Silvain: "I would have words with you."
Gandalf watched him under his bushy brows and assessed him long and carefully. Finally he moved to get a more comfortable position. He took out his pipe.
"It took you long enough to seek my counsel, son of Arathorn," he drawled in the same language, "especially since I assume this is not about the way our company should take on the morrow."
Aragorn held his gaze. "No, it is not," he said. "I need to talk to you about my Elf."
Gandalf's eyes seemed to pierce through him. "I thought so," he said. "What is it that you wish to ask of me? You have seemed pretty determined so far to hand him around, involving everyone else, .but never seeking my counsel."
Aragorn flinched. But then, he squared his shoulders and countered the gaze of the wizard with one of his own.
"Do you really mean to tell me," he challenged, "you didn't know Legolas was under the Mael-Gûl?"
Gandalf's face crumbled and lost some of the sharp expression.
"I knew of course he was a Mirkwood-hostage," he said, "and that he was under the spell. The event when Elrond put him under it was infamous enough, after all! But I thought that he was only bound to Elrond, and maybe his sons, and that the bond wasn't wound very tightly, so it needed renewal only every few decades. I thought Elrond had given him into your care, to serve you between the... feeding of the spell, and would renew the spell himself, as he does with quite a few Mirkwood hostages. And that this was the reason why you and Legolas returned to Rivendell at least every few decades."
He bowed his head and concentrated on his pipe. "I truly did not realize that he was bound to you." Grimacing, he added: "Apparently, I have been a fool. And worse, a blind and deaf fool, at that."
Aragorn stared at him sceptically. "You want me to believe..." he began.
Gandalf looked up at him again and caught him with his gaze.
"What do you wish to hear?" he asked sharply. "You always treated him more as your comrade than your slave, at least when the three of us were together. I knew of course that the two of you were lovers. But Legolas seemed quite happy while he was with you. I simply thought that the Mirkwood prince had been very lucky that Elrond decided to give him into your care."
Aragorn flinched again. He could not withstand the wizard's gaze any longer and looked away. Gandalf wondered at the sudden pain on the Ranger's face.
"And so thought he, at the start," Aragorn said tonelessly, "and so thought I." It seemed as if he wanted to say more, but he merely stopped speaking. He took a deep breath.
Gandalf still stared at him. "You mean to tell me, son of Arathorn, that you agreed to bind the one you loved with so tightly a bond?" he asked carefully and with an underlying sharpness, "even if you knew that it would endanger your lover's life whenever you were merely delayed in feeding the curse you helped to lay on him?!"
For a moment, Aragorn's face was sad and forlorn. Then it turned grim.
"I was a fool," he admitted. "At that time, we were very much in love. We shared each other every chance we got. What bad could there be if that would also serve to feed the spell? What harm could come of it?"
He shook his head. "I claim no excuse for my foolishness, except that I was very young and did not think with my head alone. And when I learned what I had done, it was too late." He stopped.
Gandalf prepared his pipe. Slowly and thoughtfully, he said: "I think, he still loved you, you know. At least until you decided to share him with whoever asked for him the other night."
Aragorn flinched anew. "I deserved that," he said after a moment, grimly. Then, finally, he looked up again and met Gandalf's gaze.
"I did not mean to speak to you about deeds in the past," he confessed. "I mean to ask you if there's any way you know or can conceive to break this accursed spell?"
Gandalf raised his brows. He stared back at the Dunadan in apparent surprise.
"You would do that?" he asked, "If there was a chance? You would have me set him free, even if it meant that he might choose to leave you?"
Aragorn grimaced again. He looked miserable. Still, he managed to say with quiet determination: "Yes. I would have you do it even then. I..." He stopped. He looked down and swallowed, hard. Finally, he looked up again and met Gandalf's gaze.
"Legolas is very dear to me. I... I want him to be happy. Even if that means that he may seek his happiness elsewhere and leave me. I would have him free to choose again, if it can be done."
Gandalf looked at him shrewdly. "And you think he would leave you if he had the choice?" he asked.
Aragorn had to look away again. "How could he not?" he asked, then he trailed off. Finally, after a long pause, he admitted: "I would be happy beyond measure if he would choose to stay with me, but I fear that will not happen. He has been my slave for far too long. I... do not think he would... want to be bound to me... if he was free to go."
Finally, he looked back at the wizard. "Anyway, he needs to be free to have the choice. So, will you look into it? Will you try to find a way?"
Gandalf looked back at him, appraising and deep in thought. 'So you are not completely lost yet, king-of-men' he thought. 'Well, well, well. Isn't that interesting. It seems that there is still some hope left here for men. And you are so sure that if he was freed your Elf would run away. The Mirkwood prince might yet surprise you. Still...'
Aloud he said: "I will. Although we will have to tread with care, since we can't risk stirring the wrath of the two Elven realms too soon; this must be done in secrecy, until we can hope to tread more openly. But do not raise your hopes too high," he warned at Aragorn's intent expression, "From all I know about that spell, it was conceived with the help of one of the great Rings. It may well be that it can't be unmade as long as their power lasts. Maybe this very Quest we undertake will be our best hope to see the curse broken."
Aragorn perked up. "How so?"
Gandalf leaned forward, took a splint from the fire and lit his pipe.
"Well, you see," he said, "the wise are not completely sure what will happen to the Three when the One is unmade. But most think that the power of the Three will fade, and all their works will come undone. It may not vanish all at once; it may take decades or even centuries for their works to unravel. But in the end, all that the Three enforced, may fade. So, if the spell was made with the help of one of the Three, then once the One is unmade it will probably begin to fade and lose its power."
Aragorn let out a long breath. "So if we succeed in this Quest, Legolas and all his people will be free?" he asked.
Gandalf shook his head. "I warned you not to raise your hopes too high," he said. "I hope so, yes, but we don't know for sure. And in any case we don't know how fast it will happen. As I said, it may take decades or even centuries for the last tendrils of that evil curse to fade completely."
The hope in Aragorn's eyes dimmed. "Centuries," he said slowly. "That would be too slow for Legolas. Unless I could convince him to go to Glorfindel, or choose another Elf to whom the spell could be extended when I die."
Gandalf looked at him musingly.
"You assume too much," he warned. "If the curse can indeed be broken, the effect may not be entirely what you hope. It may well be that Legolas, and all the other Elves under the curse, may not survive when the curse is broken."
Aragorn looked at him startled and alarmed. "But – why?!" he asked, "Why should that happen?"
Gandalf took a puff at his pipe. He looked troubled.
"Well, summarize the effects of the spell for me once more, would you?" he invited.
Aragorn narrowed his eyes. Reluctantly, he said: "It makes the... victim dependent on the attentions of his master. The victim has to be... taken regularly, or he will fall ill and die."
Gandalf grimaced, face laced in sorrow. "Yes, and that is bad enough," he said, "and yet that is not all, is it?"
Aragorn looked at him, brows drawn.
Gandalf took a few more puffs of his pipe. "You know, of course, what usually happens if an Elf is forced to endure a physical union?" he asked, "Against the victim's will and own desire?"
Aragorn made a face again. "Rape, you mean," he said. "Yes, of course. An Elf who is raped will die, except under the spell. The spell prevents it."
His eyes widened in sudden understanding.
Gandalf looked at him, waiting.
Aragorn stared back at him. He paled. "The spell prevents an Elf from dying of grief, of rape or a disturbed bond..." he quoted what he once had been told by Elrond. He trailed off. "You cannot mean..."
Gandalf shrugged. "The spell prevents the Elves subjected to the curse from dying from an enforced union, he said, "but to cast the spell, the victim must be taken by force by the one who cast it. And the very essence of the spell means that that abuse must be repeated again and again. So, when the spell is broken, I deem there is a distinct possibility that most Elves who were subjected to it will simply fade."
For a moment, Aragorn stared back at him, dumbfounded. Then he shook his head.
"No," he said, "I do not think so. Legolas is strong. If there was any chance that he would die of grief, or of the rape, it would have been shortly after he was enslaved. But that was decades in the past. Since then, he has not been raped again, at least not while he was in my care and I did not have to share him with my brothers. He will survive, I am sure of it."
He thought a moment.
"And a lot of the other Elves under the spell will survive, too, I think," he concluded, but then he trailed off and did not explain himself further.
Gandalf looked back at the man he had long thought of as the 'Hope of men'.
"What you, Gimli and Boromir did to Legolas just a few nights ago does not count as forced?" he asked.
Aragorn looked away. "I don't think that this will kill him," he said. "And anyway, if we succeed, by whatever means, that night will have taken place weeks in the past. It will not kill him."
He was clearly convinced and reassured by his own reasoning.
Gandalf sighed. "Just do not blame me if it does not turn out the way you hope," he warned. "And there is still a distinct possibility that Legolas will choose to go to Mandos if he has a choice."
Aragorn bit his lips. "I know," he said. "But I don't think he will."
Gandalf looked at him thoughtfully.
"I hope you are right, son of Arathorn," he said, "though for many Elves under that evil curse the way through Mandos may mean the way to healing. But answer me this. Even if all your hopes come true and the spell can indeed be broken, and Legolas survives and chooses to stay, what then? You will still have to marry eventually. You need an heir. You cannot bond to Legolas. And he might well die of grief then, anyway."
Aragorn looked back at him, completely startled.
"I doubt that Legolas, if he had but the choice, would choose to stay," he finally said very carefully. Again, there was pain in his voice, and Gandalf wondered at the source. "But if he did, I would be very happy, and I would hold him dear and cherish him to the end of my days."
There was an odd kind of desperate hope as he said the latter. Still, his voice was laced with pain.
Yet his answer left Gandalf puzzled. "What about Arwen?" he asked.
Aragorn let out a deep breath. "I let Arwen go," he confessed. "I broke our betrothal before we departed for the Quest. Elrond demanded it of me. Arwen will pass over the sea and be safe from pain and harm there."
There was deep pain in his voice and face, and Gandalf looked at him with sympathy.
'So, you acted on your feelings rather than on what foresight told you was the right thing to do, Elrond Halfelven' he thought. 'Where else did you try to avert fate? And will it help, I wonder?'
Still this did not answer his question. So he asked simply: "And if she chose to stay?"
Aragorn's face lit up at the prospect. Then he narrowed his eyes.
"If Arwen stayed, and Legolas chose to stay, too, I am sure we can find an arrangement together. And if she is gone, and I find another wife, the same was true for her. But I do not see what this question has to do with anything."
Gandalf's face darkened. "You would subject Elrond's daughter, or a noble lady of Gondor or Rohan, to this humiliation – to suffer you to have a lover on the side? You would break the laws of the Valar that easily, son of Arathorn?!"
For a moment, he seemed greater than his earthly form, and there was a hint of power surrounding him.
But Aragorn held his gaze, and he, too, seemed greater for a moment, the royal blood of Númenor shining through him.
"Never will I believe," he said quietly and sharply, "that you or the Valar would deny a whole people's chance at freedom just because those people won't fit into the laws afterwards. But should I see myself be forced to break the laws of the Valar in this one point, and take what may count as two consorts instead of one, so be it. I will never deny Legolas. I once swore this to his father. And I will never let him go, unless it were his own choice. The Valar have tolerated the casting of that spell, and the enslavement of the Mirkwood Elves, so I think they are bound to tolerate a bit of untidiness once the spell is broken."
Gandalf's eyes flashed with anger. The surge of power surrounding him became more apparent for a moment, and the other members of the Fellowship, who had not followed the conversation since it was held in Silvain, flinched and started.
"Take care of what you speak, son of Arathorn," the wizard said sharply, "and do not tempt the powers you may yet need. If any of your hopes should come to pass, and if our mission succeeds, it will be only due to the grace of the Valar!"
Aragorn held his gaze. "I am aware of that," he said. "Still – do you mean to tell me, that you would make the attempt to break that spell dependent on how I choose to conduct my love life?"
Gandalf stared at him for another moment, then the power surrounding him seemed to disappear as if it had never been, and he seemed again the familiar old man with whom the Fellowship had traveled so long.
Aragorn, too, seemed to change back to the weathered, grim man they knew.
Gandalf let his shoulders slump a bit. "Of course not," he said, "still, you had better take care not to anger the Valar, son of Arathorn. Something tells me that you will dearly need their help before this quest is over."
He sighed and took another pull at his pipe, but it had gone out. So he leaned forward and got a new splint from the fire to light it again. "Anyway, " he said, "of course I will try. None of us knows what the future may hold. We will see what it will bring us."
He took a few puffs at his lightened pipe, then he looked up again. "Your request honors you. Just do not be too grieved if the outcome is not what you hope for. There are greater forces at work in this world, with greater wisdom than we may fathom, and some ends that may seem sad for us may indeed prove to be for the better. And anyway, it isn't sure yet that I will succeed. You realize, of course, that others before me have already tried to break that spell, and none have yet succeeded."
Aragorn looked at him expectantly, but Gandalf just shook his head. He merely added: "So do not set your hopes too high. I may yet fail."
Aragorn let out a deep breath. "All I ask is that you try," he said. "And I will always be in your debt if you do."
Gandalf looked at him, musingly. "Very well," he finally said. "Now go and relieve that Elf of his watch, will you? Even the Eldar are not immune to the cold, and you both need your rest. I will take the last watch for the night myself." When Aragorn seemed to hesitate, he made a shooing motion.
Obediently. Aragorn gave a little bow and rose. Standing, he bowed his head another time to the old wizard, revently and deeply. "Thank you, Gandalf" he said in Westron, "I am in your debt."
And with that he turned and walked away.
Gandalf stared after him, deep in thought. 'So you are not completely lost yet, Dúnadan,' he mused, 'but you are far along the road to darkness. The laws of the Valar mean little to you compared to your own heart. I wonder if that will prove your downfall, or if it will indeed be your salvation. But in any case, I greatly fear for your heart before the end.'
And for the rest of the night, he smoked on and would say no more.
____________________ o ________________
Legolas stood at the edge of the camp, well out of earshot of the others, and stared unseeing out into the night. For everyone looking at him it must have seemed as if he was intently listening and gazing out into the storm; but in truth, he hardly listened to the howling wind or saw the moving shapes of flying snow. It would have been pointless, anyway, for every noise was swallowed by the tempest out there after just a few paces, and any shape would have been hardly recognizable until it was already on top of them.
Yet he doubted he would have heard anything, even had the night been completely silent. Boromir's words were resonating in his ears: "How could your father, could your people ever agree to terms like that?! I would have rather died than subject myself to that! And so would my city!"
In his mind formed images he had not recalled but deliberately left sleeping for a long time.
// /"No! Don't do that, please! Not for me!(1)"
He heard his own, desperate voice, pleading to get past the grim anger and determination of his father.
Thranduil just went on with his preparations. Drawing lines on the map on his great desk table, he went on: "Mitharas, you take the contingent at the left flank. Hide them well! Belldoron, you hide your warriors deeper in the forest and wait for our signal to come out. And you, Laeghador(2), you will take the right flank and hide there. This time, we will give him an unwelcome surprise."
The warriors surrounding him looked pale and troubled, but determined. They knew this was to be their last stand, and that it would probably end in disaster. But there was not one who thought to protest.
Except their prince.
Legolas tried again. "Please, father, hear me! Stop this! This is suicide. We cannot do this and survive. Not now!"
Finally, Thranduil looked up at him.
"Stop interfering, Legolas! This has gone on long enough. This time we make our stand!"
Legolas shook his head in desperation. "Please, father, no! This is madness! We've lost too many warriors in that battle out at Dale. Too many of the others are wounded! We wouldn't stand a chance!" He held his father's gaze, and could read the pain and the desperation in them. Intently, he tried again:
"Would you risk us all, all your people, after all this time? We are outnumbered. You heard our scouts! That Noldo bastard has his whole host down in the south at Dol Guldur, where he battled the Necromancer, and all the forces of Lothlorien. If he brings them here, we do not stand a chance! Wait at least until our warriors are recovered..."
Thranduil's face was grim. "There is no time! The date he has set is now! And in any case, I have not that time, either. I cannot wait until they are recovered!"
His gaze rested on Legolas with anger and despair. "Don't you understand? You are my last remaining son and heir. I cannot allow Elrond to take you, too!"
Legolas bit his lips and shook his head.
"I am not worth that," he said. "Not your death, nor that of our people. Please, cease this madness. Do not do this. Not for me!"
Thranduil's gaze, grim as it was, lingered on him, and after a moment, it softened.
"When, if not now?" he asked. "My warriors agree with me on this. I cannot let him take you, too."
He took a deep breath. "Do not fear. We will give them a costly fight. And in these halls, our people will hold out for a long time. Here he can not besiege you. Not during the winter, anyway."
He sighed and came around the table to stand before his son. "The Orcs in the north are overthrown. Smaug is gone. You will make a good king, Legolas. If you can only hold out until spring..."
Legolas shook his head. "And if Elrond burns the wood, as he has threatened to do? Then our people starve. We have shared too much of what we had with Laketown. Elrond just needs to set a guard to stop us coming out and trading for more supplies. Then he can wait and take the last of us one by one when we need to come out in spring. He has threatened to put all Mirkwood to the sword if you refuse his demands," he reminded him.
Holding his father's gaze, he took a deep breath. "Please, Adar! One more century may see us strong enough to throw off their yoke. For good. If our people are led by an experienced leader. Under your rule. Not mine."
Thranduil clenched his jaw. "Legolas..."
For long moments, they faced each other. Behind them, one of the advisors cleared his throat. He said hesitantly:
"Maybe it will not come to that. That Noldor bastard has accepted our refuse to hand over the prince before. He may do so again. And we have just done those Noldorim a favor, after all, by decimating the Orcs here in the north. That must count for something! Even Mithrandir said so when he came, and he had been at Elrond's camp before..."
Thranduil's face was grim. "Mithrandir won't be there! He has already left for the mountain passes with that Hobbit. And I ceased to trust in Elrond's sense of justice long ago."
One of the generals spoke up. "At least, we could try to play for time. If we had a just few more weeks to get supplies..."
Thranduil cast him an unreadable gaze, then he turned around and grabbed the desk. He bowed his head and supported himself. They could all see him slightly trembling, holding himself in check with all of his remarkable strength of will.
"I do not have a few more weeks, I fear," he said. "I doubt I have a month."
Legolas closed his eyes.
"Please, Adar, let me go," he said. "You are the one our people need and who can give them hope. They need their king experienced and strong. Not me."
Thranduil turned back to him. "You are my heir," he said. "I cannot let them take you, too! What hope would there remain for us if I let Elrond take my last remaining heir unchallenged?" The nobles in the room flinched under the palpable pain and despair in his voice.
Legolas shook his head. "You have other heirs," he pointed out. "Silivren's oldest son will be a good king, if it comes to that. And with any luck, before the end of the next yen, we may yet be strong enough to make a stand." He opened his eyes again. "Please. Let me do this."
Some of the Sindar nobles in the room looked at him with raised brows. Normally, kingship did not run in the female line, although the house of Oropher itself descended from Elmo, Elu Thingol's brother, through the female line, and founded quite some part of their claim to kingship on that very line of ancestry. But then, most of Thranduil's Silvain subjects looked at things somewhat differently and recognized the noble heritage and claim to leadership of Legolas' and Silivren's late mother, herself one of the highest Silvain nobles of the former Greenwood; a marriage that had been made for love, and had yet considerately strengthened Oropher's rule at the time, even though it had been Thranduil, his son, who linked the families together(3).
Yet none of the present nobles dared to comment on Legolas words. They barely dared to breathe.
Thranduil bowed his head. "Legolas..." he croaked, and again the assembled nobles flinched under his voice.
The prince went down on one knee before his father.
"Please, my Lord. I am your son and under your command, but I do know my duty to the realm. I cannot let my king and father die for me, nor can I let this happen to my people. Please, let me do this."
Thranduil closed his eyes. They could see him tremble, fighting a silent, painful battle with himself.
Finally, he nodded.
"So be it," he croaked out, nearly tonelessly. Then he raised his voice and looked around.
"Leave me alone!" he commanded. "Legolas, you stay. I... I need to take my leave of you, ion(4)." His voice died.
Silently, the nobles filed out of the room, leaving the king and their prince alone./ //
______________ o ________________
Legolas continued staring blindly into the howling night. He had never doubted the wisdom of his decisions then, before, although he had, for a long time, known that he had completely overestimated his own strength to bear all that Elrond might have in store for him, and had known himself for a fool and worse that he had ever thought himself strong enough to deal with it. Without Glorfindel, and Estel, he would have lost his mind and gone stark raving mad quite soon after his enslavement.
But always he had been sure he had done the right thing.
Now, Boromir's words resonated in his head.
'Fool!' a cynical, hateful voice hissed in his mind, 'Your father was ready to end it then and there! Your warriors were ready to make a stand, and you denied them! You are your father's son, he counted on you as his last remaining heir – and you refused him! Refused to do your duty, make a stand, lead your people in the last, desperate battle – and for what? Another yen's worth of humiliation (5)? Coward! You are not worthy to be called your people's prince, your father's son! Was it so much easier, then, to give in and let yourself be enslaved, than to accept your responsibility?'
Inwardly, Legolas cringed under the sudden accusation. 'We didn't have a chance,' he tried to convince himself, 'we would have died! They would have died – all our people; men, women and children. Elrond was ready to kill them all. He would have done so! He would have burned our wood to the ground!'
But the voice inside his head sneered at him. 'They were ready to take the risk;' it sneered, 'they were ready to choose death if that was the only way to freedom! You were your father's heir – they would have followed you, they would have put up a fight! And you have let them down. By your refusal, you convinced your father to give in, bear the burden another yen – and for what? Next yen, Elrond will demand Silivren, or maybe her son – and then your father won't have a son to take over after the unfed spell has killed him. But you were too much of a coward to follow his command. Instead you gave yourself to slavery!'
Legolas bit his lips. 'They live,' he tried to convince himself, 'they live and they are safe. They would have died. We were outnumbered. It would have been suicide. It was the only way.'
But the voice replied: 'Your warriors were ready, then. Who says they will have the same chance again? And whose fault was it that you were outnumbered? Had your father gone through with his plan, you could have given Elrond and his minions a costly fight! But no, you had to convince him to give in, force him to bow his head again and doom your people to another yen of slavery, with your 'noble sacrifice'....'
And with a flash, the memories unfolded in his mind, took him back to that fateful day, forced him to remember.
// / In the end, they had settled on a compromise: Legolas would come along to the yen ceremony, and Thranduil would not bring his host to force a last, desperate stand. But he would not simply hand his son over, either. They would try to get Elrond and his allies to give up on his demand to take Thranduil's last remaining son in light of the recent support the Mirkwood Elves had given to the people of Laketown and Dale and to the Dwarves in the Battle of the Five Armies, a battle that helped to put an end to the threat of Orcs in the north for a long time.
It had been a foolish hope, and it had ended in disaster. As it turned out, Elrond had urged his host on relentlessly and so he had indeed brought the combined troops of Rivendell and Lothlorien up from Dol Guldur in full force and in much less time than expected. He really was ready to burn the woods if he was denied. And it was clear that he just waited for an excuse to do so. Indeed, far from being pleased that Thranduil had taken care of his responsibility as ruler in the north and brought his army up to Laketown and Erebor to intervene as needed, Elrond accused Thranduil of partaking in that war without his permission and just to ensure a part of the dragon treasure for himself. And he insisted that there needed to be 'punishment' for that.
To this day, Legolas could recall the Noldo's sneering face, when Elrond turned to his father.
"I should deny you," the hated Elflord spat, "and let you die, and put your people to the sword and let you watch while your woods are burning!" He sneered "I wonder how long it would take you to die while the spell remains unfed. I think you may yet last long enough at least to watch the spectacle...."
Outnumbered and frozen, Thranduil had stood, face pale and defiant, fists balled, and fought the impulse to end it by attacking Elrond then and there. They were at surrounded and at arrow's-point; he would probably not have been fast enough to even reach he Peredhel before the arrows pierced his heart, but he was nearly beyond caring.
Just then, a noble, silver haired Elf of Elrond's entourage spoke up.
"Elrond," he said, "that would be most unwise. Thranduil is still needed to fight the shadow here, and it would be foolish to let him die. He can be of much better use to us while he is alive."
Elrond hardly looked around. He fixed his hateful gaze on the Mirkwood king.
"You would say that, Celeborn," he sneered, "he is your kinsman after all! But I hardly think we need him anymore. We have just taken care of the Necromancer. Dol Guldur is free and left deserted. And the dragon is gone and the Orcs here in the north are decimated. We can keep balance without Thranduil and his little kingdom well enough. In fact, I wonder if it would not be better if we did."
The silver-haired noble – Celeborn of Lothlorien, Legolas registered – shook his head. "We do still need him," he replied with unshaken calm, "the Necromancer will be back. He was not conquered; he just left Dol Guldur without a fight and withdrew to parts unknown, leaving us to deal with his creatures. And we got far too few of his Orcs as well.
Doubtless, he will return again or send his minions back to that stronghold soon." He sighed and concluded calmly: "Therefore it would be foolish to let Thranduil die. I would advise you find another way of punishment."
Elrond whipped around to him, annoyed, and for a few moments the two Elf lords just stared at each other. Then another Lord of Elrond's entourage, with golden hair, said quietly: "He is right, my Lord. Please! Do let Thranduil live."
Elrond gave him a sour look, as if he wanted to say: 'You, too, defy me then?' - but then he merely turned to the Mirkwood Elves again and fixed Thranduil with his baleful glare.
"Very well, Mirkwood king. So I will feed the spell. But as a punishment for your disloyalty, you will have to give me your last free son. I told you already that I would demand him. Now I see that I will dearly need such as him as a hostage to ensure your doubtful loyalty."
He saw the paling of his adversary's face, the sudden flash of pain, and his face held dark triumph. Clearly and deliberately he went on: "You will hand him over, and he will be put under the spell. If you do not, we'll burn the wood and kill all Mirkwood Elves, and you'll be left to die. For if you deny us in this, it is clear that you have planned treachery and it is better to take care of you once and for all!"
Celeborn intervened anew. "Elrond!" he began, paling, "You cannot..."
But Elrond was adamant. "No," he spat. "I have already told him that before. It is no news to him that he was to give us his son. If he gives him to us now, then I will relent and I will ask no more. But if he does not, we cannot trust him and he would be of no more use to us, anyway!"
Pushed beyond caring and boiling with anger, Thranduil tensed for attack. He was angry and desperate enough to throw all care to the wind and risk a fight, although he had come there only with a small entourage and none of the warriors he brought would survive it.
Not even his own son.
At that point, Legolas could not take it anymore. Standing forth, he knelt again before his father and asked him not to sacrifice their people, but to allow him to go and offer himself up.
Thranduil was choked with grief, and for a long moment, he nearly couldn't answer.
But then, bereft of any true alternatives – because if he refused, they would both die, and Mirkwood's people would soon follow, too – he relented.
Legolas stood and turned to Elrond, suffering the guard taking hold of him.
Elrond regarded him maliciously. "Ah, here you are, little... prince," he said. "I should just take you and deny your father anyway. "
Legolas paled. But the silver haired Elf and the other, blond one both spoke up. "Nay Elrond," Celeborn intervened again, "You gave your word, remember? You said if you got Legolas, there would be no other punishment."
The golden headed Noldo added: "Please, my liege. Let it not be said you went back on your word."
Elrond scowled and glared at Legolas. Then, finally, he nodded. "Very well, Mirkwood spawn" he said tersely, "so your father and your wood will live." He made a pause. "This time!"
Then he gave his guards a sign to drag Legolas away and prepare for the ceremony.
But later, when he put Legolas under the spell, he forced Thranduil to watch the rape and enslavement of his only remaining son./ //
Back in the present, Legolas shivered, inwardly cringing under the assault of the images in his head and the cold, renewed horror they brought.
But the memories assaulting him were not the worst.
'Because of you' the hateful voice accused, 'he went there without his warriors! Because of you, he walked into the trap. Instead of making a last, desperate stand and leading your people into freedom, even if it be in death, you forced him to witness the rape of yet another child – a useless son, who would not live up to his duty as his father's heir when it was needed. And you didn't even manage to protect your people, as you so 'bravely' declared, did you? Do you recall that elleth?'
Cringing, gasping, Legolas tried to bring his mind under control, to banish the voice from his head. He feared he would go mad.
'But you can make it up to them' the thought suddenly sprang into his head. 'You cannot change the past, but you can act now, reverse your mistake, secure the freedom of your people! Take the ring! Bring it to them! Your father is strong enough to wield its power, force it under his will... He would take it for himself and he could end this war at once. Force the Nazgul under his will, send them against Lothlorien, together with their Orcs! Take the warriors to Rivendell, make Elrond cringe and pay for all he's done... Estel took you yesterday. You have three weeks until it gets bad. You can cross the mountain in just one day. The cold does not faze you. The storm does not hinder you. You can run on the snow where others have to trudge through it! You can pass over the mountains like a ghost!'
Shell-shocked and wide eyed, Legolas jerked up, staring into the storm. The voice felt alien inside his mind but he could not close his thoughts to it. The voice went on: 'You could skirt Lothlorien, run up along the Anduin, find one of the settlements of woodmen there, steal or buy a horse... You are fast, and you would not be hindered by any companions. Three weeks would be enough to make it to your father's halls...'
Legolas nearly snorted. 'We are two weeks south from Rivendell. And on the other side of the Misties, there are the Gladden Fields, and the Carrocks, too. I'd hardly make it,' he reminded himself.
But the voice in his head screamed: 'Fool! Coward! What other excuses will you find to skirt your duty to your people? You could make it! You could have made the whole way up from Rivendell without the Hobbits and the other mortals in much less time! A determined Elf, with an urgent goal, could find a way...'
Legolas shook his head, tried to banish the tempting voice from his mind, but the voice wasn't done.
'It would be easy,' it seduced. 'Estel trusts you implicitly. He loves to have you close to him at night. Just a flick of your knife... he would be dead before he knew it. That man of Gondor would let you get close to him for a kiss. Just pretend that you have changed your mind, offer him a taste – you can kill him before he is any wiser. The Hobbits trust you. You can take care of them before they have a chance to scream or raise the alarm. Just shoot the Dwarf, and the wizard...'
Legolas shook. He could see it before his waking eyes – the images filled his mind, as much as he tried to close himself to them: the quick flick of the knife over Estel's throat, the short, desperate buckling of the body when the other blade found his master's heart – the look of shock and hurt betrayal in the eyes before they went dull and sightless... the man of Gondor, slumping when the blade found his heart, his scream drowning in the treacherous mouth that closed over his own... the Hobbits, without unaware of any danger, quickly dying in their sleep before they even knew what happened... Blood on the snow... Two quick shots to take care of the Dwarf and the wizard...
Bile rose in his throat and he wrapped his arms around himself as if to fend off the images and gather his own strength.
"I swore an oath," he reminded himself, "an oath!... To protect the Ring Bearer and all free people with my life – to follow and serve Estel faithfully, under whatever circumstances..."
'Estel betrayed you. He hurt you! You owe him nothing!' the voice hissed. 'And the life of the Hobbit, and whatever promise you gave to him, can't hold weight against the need of your people!...'
Legolas had had enough. Breathing hard, he gathered all his strength, all his considerable will, to force the hateful voice away. For a few moments, he felt as if his knees would buckle, then he regained control and straightened himself. He could not afford to let himself be weakened! He knew his duty, to his master, to the free people, and he knew the promises of the voice for lies. And yet, still the images assaulted him. He pierced his nails into the his palm to try and focus on the pain. If he could have done so without noticing of the others, he would have used one of his blades to cut himself. But they were out in the wilds and he could not afford to let himself be weakened.
Trembling, but determined he stared out into the raging storm.
It was going to be a long night.
______________ 0 _____________
When Aragorn approached his Elf and carefully touched his shoulder, he was not prepared for Legolas' reaction. The Elf whipped around to him, wild-eyed, hands going to his knives. When he realized it was his master who approached him, he blushed and let go of his knives, then bowed his head. Aragorn actually took a step back and raised his hands, palms open.
"Careful, Little Leaf," he said, "you are supposed to defend us from attacks, not the other way round."
Legolas swallowed. "I am sorry, I..." he began, but trailed off.
Aragorn took in his posture and the tension in his body. He narrowed his eyes. He had a very good idea what was happening, but he still carefully took a step closer and took the Elf by an arm. Carefully turning his slave around so Legolas' face was away from the camp, he leaned against him. "What is it, Little Leaf?" he asked quietly.
Legolas swallowed hard. The closeness of his master made him nervous. He could hear the hated voice scream in his head, urging him to move. So easy – it would be so easy... just a flick with his knife, a movement, too quick for the human to avoid – 'what are you waiting for?!' the voice screamed at him, 'you can't allow him to grow suspicious! Just do it! Do it now!!!'
With all his strength, he fought the voice down. Shivering, he choked out: "It... is the Ring, Aragorn, it... tempts me..."
'Fool!' the voice cried at him, 'Coward! Now you have given it away! He will kill you now, take away your weapons!...'
But instead, Aragorn just grabbed him tighter and bowed his head.
"Aye," the Adan nodded, bitterly and grimly. "Me, too."
Legolas looked at him, somewhat startled. But his master didn't elaborate; he just shook his head. "Listen," Aragorn said then, determinedly and quietly, "whatever this thing offers you, do not believe it! It will offer you everything your heart desires, but it will lie. And you cannot gain as much as you would if it is destroyed."
Legolas looked away. For a moment, the thought flickered through his mind to ask what the Ring might have offered Aragorn, but then he decided he didn't want to know. Still, he could not conquer his own pain. Bitterly, nearly too quietly to hear, he choked out: "How would you know?"
He tensed in anticipation of a blow, but Aragorn didn't move. He just looked at him, apparently all too well capable of guessing his Elf's thoughts.
"Listen," Aragorn began again, tiredly and quietly, "I spoke with Gandalf. He thinks that this very quest may be the way to break the spell. He thinks the spell will fade once the One is destroyed."
Legolas looked up at him, wide-eyed and disbelieving, and Aragorn had to look down. "He isn't sure, though. But it is a chance. And if he is right, that is better than everything that thing can offer you."
'How would you know?' Legolas thought. The voice screamed in his head: 'He lies! Do not listen to him! It is just another of his many promises, one of the many he has broken...' - but he paid it no heed. Aloud he asked: "And if he is wrong?"
Aragorn took a deep breath and met his eyes again. He chose not to tell Legolas the whole of his conversation with Gandalf. Better not raise his hopes too high only to have them crushed.
"If he is wrong, and the spell remains unbroken, you remain bound to me. But I promise you this: if this Quest succeeds, and if I truly should fulfill my fate, then I will do everything in my power to help you free your people. You recall what Glorfindel said back in Rivendell? And Gandalf? The Quest may be the way to change their fate. Don't throw away this chance by listening to that cursed piece of jewelry."
Legolas stared at him, dumbfounded. "Estel," he said, "you..."
Then he paled. "You cannot offer this! What about Arwen? You would be forced..." he trailed off. The thought that Aragorn would actually think to fight his future father-in-law was staggering.
Then another thought came to his mind, and he paled even more. "And what about the Lady?" he carefully asked. "We are passing through the Golden Wood. She can read minds..."
Aragorn nodded bitterly. "Arwen will pass over the sea," he said. "I broke our troth before we departed at Elrond's request. And anyway, it is not as if Elrond and Galadriel didn't know this. It was Gandalf and Glorfindel, after all who brought it up, and before we departed. I do not think my thoughts will reveal anything new to her."
He sighed. "But you are right. We should speak about all this no more. Just remember that whatever that thing may tell you, it will lie, and there are other ways to gain that which you hope for."
Legolas stared at him for long moments, too stunned to reply. Then, finally, he asked very carefully: "Estel... why would you do this?"
'He'll lie to you!' the voice cried in his mind, 'Do not believe him! It is all false promises, all lies!...'
He paid it no heed and concentrated instead on his master.
Aragorn bowed his head. 'Isn't it obvious, Little Leaf?' he thought. But he did not say that.
Instead he looked up and very carefully touched his longtime-companion's face. "Because I owe you, Little Leaf," he said. "Because I owe you that much."
He trailed off and would say no more. After a long moment, he sighed and drew a deep breath.
"Come," he said, "Gandalf sent me to relieve you from the watch. He says that he'll take over. It is cold, and there are few hours left until morning. Let us go back to the fire and seek what rest we may find. It will be a long, hard day, tomorrow."
Legolas bowed to him and obeyed. He followed his master to the fire and settled beside him, and they did not speak another word for the rest of the night. After while, exhaustion got the better of Aragorn and he drifted off into sleep. The Elf at his side did not wake him. Only once did Legolas rouse, and in the flickering firelight gazed thoughtfully at the sleeping Aragorn's exposed throat, drawing a gentle finger across it. Then he sighed, snuggled back against his master's shoulder, and after a while he, too, dropped into reverie. The voice in his head was not entirely gone, but at least, for a little while, it was easier to ignore it(6).
____________________ o __________________
-- TBC --
(1) I owe this scene, and some of the arguments provided therein, mainly to my reviewer Randy, who suggested that if Elrond had asked for Legolas to attend at that last yen ceremony and to be handed over, Thranduil would have planned to fight even to the death of all their people rather than handing over his last remaining son. Randy also provided some of the arguments Legolas uses here to talk his father out of this collective suicide, namely the one about the experienced ruler. Thank you!
(2) Sindarin names: Laeghador – Keen Thrower of Spears. Mitharas - Grey Deer. Belldoron - Strong Oak. (OC Names).
(3) All of this is completely made up by me. Tolkien gives no information about the origins of the house of Oropher, except that Oropher was Sindar, the father of Thranduil and king before him (J.R.R. Tolkien, Unfinished Tales (edited by Christopher Tolkien), Allen & Uwin 1980, Harper Collins Paperback Edition 1998, PP. 333ff). So Oropher must have been the founder of the Elven kingdom of Greenwood the Great at the beginning of the Second Age, and we may safely assume that he was a survivor of Doriath and likely had belonged to the late Sindar king Elu Thingol's court. We have no information about his wife, though, or about Thranduil's wife (Legolas' mother), nor any evidence for kinship between him and the royal house of the Sindar (nor do we know anything about the customs of the Silvain Elves).
However, Celeborn calls Legolas 'kindred' when he meets him in Lothlorien in LOTR p. 346, and while he could have spoken generally, I choose to go with the interpretation that he indeed meant blood kin. Celeborn's ancestry as grandson of Elmo is given in UT pp. 302f. If Oropher was indeed from Elmo's line, and thus part of the royal house of the Sindar, this could have given his claim to kingship in Greenwood some added foundation. The idea that Elven kingship normally does not run in the female line was borrowed from the great story The Wisdom of Isildur by Marnie, whose Celeborn-stories are canonically well founded (well, if there is anything like clear 'canon' in this case, considered that Tolkien rewrote the whole story of Celeborn and Galadriel several times) - and besides absolutely to die for!
(4) ion – Sindarin: son
(5) Yen – Sindarin: the elven year, counting 144 human years. In this story, Mirkwood had to give hostages to Rivendell and Lothlorien every yen.
(6) That last image was suggested by my wonderful beta, the amazing Surreysmum. Thank you!
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.