Mael-Gûl: 43. Of Wargs and Wizards, Part I

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43. Of Wargs and Wizards, Part I

Authors note:
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. In this chapter, I lift entire passages and quote extensively from Tolkien's book, again, and stay very close to Tolkien's lines. Proper references to the quoted passages are given in the footnotes. Please bear with me!

Guide: occasionally, 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.

_________________________



XXXXI. Of Wargs and Wizards, Part I


Although the two men had thrust a line through the deep snow, it still took them another half an hour to get the Hobbits and the Dwarf beyond the drift. Even though it was easier for the big folk and the pony to pass through the lane, the Halflings could not do it and had to be carried; and Gimli was unceremoniously placed on the pony, despite his protest that he did not need such coddling and could go on his own feet just fine.1

Finally, they had made it and were gathered on the other side of the great drift the men and Elf had worked so hard to break through. At its crest it was double the height of Boromir, but right through the middle of the wall, a passage was cut, partly burrowed and partly smoothed into the treacherous ground, rising and falling like a bridge.

The last of them to arrive was Aragorn, carrying Frodo; but hardly had Frodo touched the ground on the other side of the great drift, when with a deep rumble there rolled down a fall of stones and slithering snow behind them, barring the way they had come and missing the company only by yards.

They all jumped back, then gathered themselves and looked at each other, pale and trembling.

Boromir stared, eyes wide in shock.

"We were just in time!" he said, "If that had happened just a few moments sooner...".

Aragorn's face was grim. "Do not think about it!" he said. "Just let us depart as quickly as we may!"

He seemed as if he was about to say some more, but didn't. Legolas beside him was curiously pale and silent.

But Gimli shook his head and glared at the hostile mountain. "Enough, Enough!" he cried, "We are departing already!"

And as if he had given a signal, and as if Caradhas had been waiting for the assurance that the invaders had been beaten and would not return, the clouds over the heights began to break and the light grew broader.

The company stared at each other disbelievingly, then they began their long and tortuous way down.

As Legolas had reported, the snow soon grew less and they made good time. The morning was now far advanced, and the clouds broke open, giving way to the sun, though the clearing sky and growing light did not do much to heat them. A cold wind flowed down behind them, biting into their damp clothes and chilling them to the bone. In the far distance, they could see dark specks circling in the air.

"The birds again!" said Aragorn, pointing down at them.

"That cannot be helped now," said Gandalf. "We must go down at once. Not even on the knees of Caradhras will I wait for another nightfall."

And with that, he started to walk again, and the company stumbled wearily down the slope they had so arduously labored up the day before. Behind them, the mountain lay unconquered and triumphant. Caradhras had defeated them.

_________________ o ______________


It was a grey and chilly day. The break in the clouds of the late morning didn't last for long, and soon the wind brought fresh, dark clouds down from Caradhras which hung over them gloomily, threatening with rain or worse, more snow. The wind picked up and grew colder, and it bit into them mercilessly. So the company hastened along, intent on getting down from the great mountain slopes lest they let themselves get caught in bad weather again without shelter.

None of them seemed greatly inclined to chatter or merriment. Gandalf seemed grim; Gimli was somewhat more excited, but kept mostly close to the wizard. But he was the only one. Even the Hobbits trudged on glumly, tiredly, without their normal exchange of jokes and banter. As for the two men and the Elf of the company, they did not seem inclined to much talk either.

Boromir trudged on, moodily keeping to himself. From time to time, he shot a musing look at Legolas, who gave no sign he noticed; but he made no attempt to approach or to talk to the Elf. Instead, he stayed close to Merry and Pippin, lending the occasional hand to them, but didn't talk. He did his best to avoid both Aragorn and Legolas, mulling over what Aragorn had told him.

Aragorn kept to himself, too. From time to time, he shot a concerned look at Legolas. The Elf seemed unusually quiet, and while he walked not too far from Aragorn, he engaged in none of his usual scouting or lookout work. He seemed troubled and distracted. Aragorn could tell that something was amiss.

But he recalled only too well the moment only this morning when Legolas had frozen up under him, seemingly expecting to be hurt or punished, and that other moment last night when Legolas had drawn his knives against him. Aragorn had a pretty good idea what was going on; Legolas had said the ring was tempting him, and Aragorn recalled only too well what that cursed thing had offered him, just the day before. Whatever was eating at his Elf, it was probably best if he was allowed to work through it alone.

So Aragorn kept his distance and let his slave be for now. But he made a note to talk to him once they made camp this evening if there was a chance.

It was evening when they found some place where they dared to rest at last in the shadow of a steep hill, and the grey light was waning fast, but at least the hillside somewhat kept the wind at bay. They were very weary. The mountains were veiled in dusk, and the wind was cold. When they had eaten some food and each had a sip of the last of the Miruvor, and they had gathered some strength again, Gandalf called for a council.2

"We cannot, of course, go on this night," he said, "the attack on the Redhorn Gate has tired us out, and we must rest here for a while.3" He sighed. "But then we must go on with all haste. The enemy now knows which way we'll take, or at least he thinks he does. The sooner we reach Moria and cover our tracks again, the better."

Boromir looked sullen. He had said little on the whole way down, and had worn a moody and listless expression most of the day. His mood had not improved come evening, as was true for all of them. Now he spoke up.

"I do not see why we must take the way through Moria," he protested. "I would still opt to take the western road and follow the course of the Mountains up to the Gap of Rohan, and then further up to my city. That road is well known to me, since I traveled it on my way to Rivendell, and it was safe enough when I followed it then. And once we come to the land of Rohan, we may count on help. The Horselords are still friendly to my people." He paused. Then he added: "I do not know much of Moria, but that name has an ill sound in my ears.4"

Gimli looked brittle and opened his mouth to protest, but Gandalf cut him off. Sharply he replied:

"Things have changed since you came north, Boromir," he said. "Have you forgotten what I told you about Saruman? We cannot risk bringing the ring too close to his dwelling. And worse, the birds, his spies, have now seen and reported our path. He will send his Orcs after us, now that he knows our path and may have guessed what we are up to."

The others of the Fellowship were silent. All of them were tired. The Hobbits shifted uncomfortably on their feet. Aragorn stood silent and brooding, apparently contemplating dark, gloomy thoughts, but unwilling to speak of them just yet, and Legolas looked distracted. He wore a frown and appeared to be listening to the wind. Only Gimli seemed engaged and willing to take the wizard's side.

But Boromir was not about to give in easily. He had to try to make the others see reason, at least one more time! So he replied: "How then do we know these mines of yours would still be free? They may be teeming with Orcs, a well-laid trap where the creatures of the enemy are only waiting for us to deliver us to his very plate."

Gandalf shrugged. "You know little of the mines if you liken them to a stronghold of the enemy," he said annoyed. "Moria is none of the Enemy's strongholds, it is a dwelling of the Dwarves of old, and there is hope that it is still free. Most Orcs of the Misty Mountains were scattered and destroyed in the Battle of the Five Armies, seventy years ago. And I have been to Moria once before. There is even a chance that we might find Balin and his Dwarven colony in some deep hall of their fathers there."

Boromir looked mutinous. But Gimli perked up at those words and nodded in approval, his eyes sparkling. He spoke up:

"I will go gladly to the dwelling of my forefathers. Little do you know of Khazad-Dum, Boromir of Gondor, if you compare the halls of my ancestors to the foul dwellings of the enemy, and only your ignorance may excuse you and save you from learning better by the help of my axe! But I forgive you; you may learn better when my cousin Balin welcomes you to his halls!"

His eyes sparkled. Boromir, though, did not look convinced. But before he could reply, Aragorn spoke up.

"I, too, once passed the Dimrill Gate," he said quietly, "but though I also came out again, the memory is very ill. I do not wish to enter Moria a second time."

For a moment it seemed as if he wanted to say more, but then he just shook his head and fell silent again.

"Well, I do not wish to enter it even once!" Pippin said, shuddering.

"Nor me," muttered Sam.

"Of course not!" Gandalf said, "Who would?" Ignoring Gimli's irritated look, he ploughed on: "But what alternatives do we have? With Saruman on our tracks, there is no other way! I tell you again, we have no other choice, unless we go back!"

"I do not see why we would have no other choice," Boromir insisted stubbornly. "We will have to pass close to Saruman either way, unless we go west to the coast and follow the shore line to the Lebennin!"

Gandalf drew his brows together, but Aragorn spoke up again.

"We cannot take that way," he said. "It would take too much time, and there are other reasons..." he trailed off, and his gaze flicked briefly to Legolas, who still seemed rather distracted and not very intent on the discussion. For a moment, Aragorn's brows drifted down, and he frowned. But then he just turned his attention back to Gandalf.

"There is no question that we can't go back, and if you insist on taking the road through Moria, then I will follow you. However, I say this to you Gandalf, and I will say it only once: if you enter the doors of Moria, beware. I feel that great evil is waiting for us there, and the road will prove ill for some of us. It is a desperate path."

Gandalf hesitated. He knew, of course, that Aragorn had foresight, and a vision of Isildur's heir was not to be taken lightly. But before he could reply, Boromir spoke up again.

"And I say I still do not see how that road may avail us!" he insisted. "What say the others of the Fellowship? What does Legolas say, and what say the little Folk? Surely the voice of the Ring-Bearer should be heard?"

Aragorn gave him a surprised and startled look; after their discussion this morning he had surely not expected Boromir to ask for Legolas' opinion; nor would it have occurred to himself to do so.

His brows climbed even higher when, to his astonishment, Legolas said softly: "I do not wish to go to Moria."

But he did not have the opportunity to say anything about that to his slave, because at that moment, finally Frodo spoke.

"I do not wish to go to Moria," he said, "but neither do I wish to refuse the advice of Gandalf. I would opt that we take our rest tonight, and decide in the morning, when we all have rested, not in this gloom. How the wind howls!"

Aragorn, whose gaze had rested somewhat irritated on his slave, started. He could see Legolas come to the same realization in the very same instant, since the Elf's eyes widened, and he breathed: "Estel! --"

Aragorn nodded grimly. He had realized it too. "How the wind howls!" he repeated, "It howls with wolf-voices! The wargs have come west of mountains!"

Gandalf looked grim. "It is as I said!" he stated. "The hunt is on! We will be lucky if we see the dawn. Do you see my point now, Boromir? We cannot hope to travel south to the Gap of Rohan with the wild wolves on our tracks."

Boromir's face was grim, but he refused an answer. Legolas looked pale and disturbed, although Aragorn was sure it was not out of fear of the wargs; after all, they had battled the creatures many times before in the past, and never had the Elf quailed at their attack. Gimli looked grim and determined. The Hobbits looked merely confused, since they had not encountered any of the wolves before; but the reaction of their comrades did nothing to soothe their apprehension.

Finally, Boromir spoke. "How far is it to Moria?" he asked.

Gandalf shrugged. "Fifteen miles as the crow flies, and twenty as the warg runs," he replied. "But we cannot hope to make it there tonight, with the wild packs on our trail."

Boromir nodded grimly. "Then let us seek a place of strong defense," he said, "and do our best to hold out until morning." He made a face. "With any luck, there will still be a question where we go, then!"

None of them felt like adding anything to that statement.

_____________ o __________________


For their defense, the Fellowship climbed to the top of the hill under which they had been sheltering. It was crowned with a knot of old and twisted trees, about which lay a broken circle of boulder stones5. There they made camp and sought some firewood, because secrecy would not keep the hunting packs off their trail now, and fire might be one of their best defenses, anyway. Bill the pony was sweating and shivering, constantly rolling his eyes. Getting the beast up the hill had been hard work under the circumstances; the howls seemed closer now and were constantly audible, and the poor animal was terrified. Sam spent a great deal of time trying to calm the pony and to give comfort, but in the end they could do nothing but tie it to a stake somewhat to the side, in the shadow of two boulders least likely to be climbed by any wolves.

When finally all preparations were done, Gandalf called them together again.

"Legolas, you have the best ears of us all," he said. "How long do you think, until the wargs are here? How far away do you think they are?"

Legolas, who had been listening intently, looked at him startled, as if called out of some disturbing thoughts. Nevertheless he answered politely and softly: "It is hard to say, Mithrandir, because the wind carries their voices far and obscures them; but I think it will take them at least three more hours to get to us."

Aragorn looked at him, irritated by his still subdued demeanor.

But Gandalf just nodded. "Very well," he said. "Then we will set three rounds of watches, so those who can may seek some rest until the hunters arrive. I suggest that you and I will take the first one, as well as Gimli. Aragorn and Boromir have the second watch, together with Merry. Frodo, Pippin and Sam will have the third!"

Startled, the two Men shared a look. They all knew that the third watch was very likely set in vain, since the wargs would have arrived by then. This setting of the watches would mean that the two men and the Hobbits were the most likely to find some rest; the wizard, Elf and Dwarf would find none.

Aragorn opened his mouth to protest, but a sharp, meaningful look of Gandalf silenced him. Understanding dawned. Nodding, he gave a confirming nod to Legolas, then he shouldered his pack and sought a place somewhat to the side of the circle and near a crack between the boulders, where the wargs were most likely to attack once they were there.

Boromir looked at him in irritation, then at the wizard; but then he just shrugged and followed Aragorn's example.

"What was all this about?" he asked quietly.

But Aragorn just shook his head. "Not now, Boromir," he said, well aware that Legolas' sharp ears would catch every word they exchanged. "Maybe later."

And with that he settled his weapons in easy reach and made as if to settle down to sleep for awhile, leaving both his slave and the man of Gondor bewildered and irritated.

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Finally, they had all settled. The Hobbits had placed their blankets closest around the fire. Gandalf sat a bit away from them, closer to another crack between the boulders, and to one side guarding the way to the pony. Gimli stood some way apart, to the other side of the circle, and Legolas had taken post on one of the boulders at the other side, staring out into the night. Gandalf prepared and lit his pipe; then he sat and watched him for a while, silently smoking away.

Finally, he called out to him.

"Legolas, come here and keep me company for a while," he said, "I would have words with you."

Legolas turned to him, startled. Had the Istar felt his earlier temptation by the ring? Worse, had he read his thoughts?!

He sent a quick, longing look in the direction of his master, but Aragorn seemed fast asleep. So, he finally gave up his post and followed the invitation of the wizard reluctantly and with great apprehension.

Gimli, who had heard the wizard's voice, came over, too, but Gandalf shook his head.

"No, not you, son of Gloin," he said. "Do us a favor and walk the perimeter for a while. I need to speak our Elf here in privacy."

Gimli sent a sharp, dark look to the paling Elf, but then just shrugged and growled something unintelligible. He turned around and did as he had been asked to.

Gandalf nodded with satisfaction, then he looked up at Legolas again. He patted the place at his side invitingly.

"Come, sit with me for a while, young Thranduilion," he said. "It is time we had some words together."

Reluctantly, yet obediently, Legolas sat, giving the wizard a polite bow. But then, he avoided his gaze and stared down at his hands.

Gandalf studied him for a while. The Elf seemed nervous. He was looking around every once in a while, nearly fidgeting; something about the whole situation apparently bothered him deeply, and Gandalf did not think it was merely the approaching wargs. He had seen this Elf face danger before, together with his master.

He decided to let it go for the moment.

"We have had little chance to talk," he began, "since we all set out from Rivendell. You have held yourself admirably, so far, especially considering your situation."

Legolas blushed and looked at him questioningly. Mithrandir was not angry about his attack on the Dwarf a few days ago?

Gandalf cocked a brow. "I am sorry I could not stop Aragorn from performing that ritual," he offered quietly. "Tell me, how are you holding out under the competition of the men over you?"

Legolas looked up, startled. He blushed even more and looked down again.

"It is not my place to judge the decisions of my master, Mithrandir," he said. "And he did what he did because he thought it for the best. His wish to keep me safe was why he made that bargain." His face was neutral, and his eyes were guarded.

Gandalf sighed. "You are very loyal to him," he said. "And you may have good reason. Still..." He shook his head and looked up again, his face laced in sorrow.

"You know I always wished I could do more for your people," he said, "but so far there has been very little I could do. Yet this quest might finally be the way to change their fortunes. And maybe there is a way to help you, too."

He saw the questioning look of the Elf and went on: "Your master has asked me to look for a way to break the spell that holds you – if indeed the success of this quest is not enough to achieve that goal."

Legolas looked at him, completely astonished. Gandalf shook his head.

"Do not be too eager, yet," he warned. "There is some danger. It has been tried before, you know, by others I will not name here. But so far, all the attempt has achieved has been to unsettle the spell in those for whom it has been tried, to the point that it could not be fed anymore. All hostages who participated in the attempt died when the need set in."

Legolas paled. "Who-?" he asked, but Gandalf shook his head.

"It's better you don't know," he said. "The question is, knowing the risk, are you willing to take it?"

Legolas stared at him. "How could I not?" he asked. "Anything that could help to free my people..." he trailed off.

Looking away, he took a moment to collect himself.

"That is, if my master is willing to allow it," he finally concluded. "My life belongs to him, after all."

Gandalf made a face, but did not comment. For a while he merely pulled at his pipe in silence.

Finally, he said: "Tell me what you can about the workings of the spell, will you? How are the stages? When does the poisoning starts?"

Legolas bit his lips. He stared at his hands.

"It takes one week until the need sets in," he said, "and three until the poisoning gets bad. The fourth week is the one where I'll be helpless. I do not know for sure how long it will take from that point to death. At least, that was how it has been until now. I do not know how much the bond was tightened again that last time when..."

He trailed off. Gandalf furrowed his brows.

"So, every time the spell has been extended, the bond has been tightened?" he asked.

Legolas nodded.

"Aragorn... my master told me that it is impossible to extend the spell without tightening the bond," he said. "That is what Elrond taught him. He said he has been careful not to draw it much tighter than it was already, though."

He drew a deep breath. "There has not been yet any opportunity, nor need, to test what limits it has now."
He looked away, then his gaze returned to his own hands. He shuddered.

Gandalf's face darkened again.

"Aragorn did you an ill favor, it seems, agreeing to that uncouth 'bargain' as he did," he said. "Had I known that before, I might have tried harder to stop him. Tell me," he demanded then, "how often has the spell been extended for you so far?"

Legolas swallowed. He still looked carefully at his own hands. "Four times," he finally answered. "Elrond... extended it the first time shortly after my... after I was put under the spell, to give me to his sons. At that time, he had set it to a month. When I was given to Estel, he tightened it... to a fortnight."

Gandalf drew his brows together, irritated. "A fortnight? But you said..."

Legolas looked down. He nodded.

"When Aragorn extended the spell again, to some of his rangers, he tightened the bond to the state it is now."

Gandalf looked at him, irritated. "It was Aragorn who tightened the bond so closely?" he asked incredulously. By himself, he thought: 'That is not how you told it to me, son of Arathorn!'

Legolas looked down. He shrugged. Then he looked up again.

"He made a mistake," he said simply. "He... when he extended the spell for the first time, he was not sure how much of the drug involved was needed to do it. Elrond had taught him how to do it, but not in great detail. And he could hardly ask, for obvious reasons."


His voice was bitter. "All he intended was to keep me safe and to ensure my survival if he was severely wounded again, Mithrandir. He never intended to do me any harm. When we learned of his mistake shortly afterwards, he was..."

He shook his head again, face drawn.

Estel's face appeared before his eyes, his desperation when he had discovered what he had done. He had been devastated. It had been very long until he finally forgave himself – or, maybe, until he had learned to better hide his guilt from Legolas.

"It was bad," Legolas concluded tonelessly. "It took a long time until he finally came to terms with it."

Gandalf looked at him sharply and disapprovingly.

"And yet he risked tightening the bond again right now," he observed grimly. "You are quite ready to defend your master, Mirkwood prince. And he is not that careful with your life!"

Legolas looked up at him, startled.

"I am no prince anymore, Mithrandir," he said. "And Aragorn... Estel has studied all he could learn about the curse since then. He knows much more about it now than he did that first time."

Yet as much conviction as he tried to place in his words, he sounded unsure, and his face was troubled.

What if Estel had erred again?

Gandalf sighed. "Then let us hope that he didn't misjudge this time," he said. "But tell me, why did he have the ingredients with him in the first place?"

Legolas flinched a bit, and his face became even paler. But he did not answer, and he looked away again.

Gandalf studied him for a while.

"Did he plan to find another Elf for you before he married Arwen?" he finally asked, very gently.

Legolas flinched again, and Gandalf congratulated himself. But when the Elf finally met his gaze again, his eyes and voice were guarded.

"It is not my place to judge my master's plans, Mithrandir," he said, "nor to ask why he keeps those drugs with him."

But Gandalf could discern that this was not the whole truth, and he could hear the hidden pain in the Mirkwood Elf's voice.

'Well, well, well,' he thought, 'so he knows very well what his master intended. But he does not seem happy about the prospect... oh, son of Arathorn, what have you gotten yourself into? And those you claim to love?'

Aloud, he said: "Fair enough. Then keep your secrets, and his, I presume. In fact your loyalty to your master is commendable – although I am tempted to wonder if he deserves it."

Legolas gave him an indignant look and opened his mouth to protest, but he waved him off.

"Let us not dwell on this any longer," he said, "the night does not get any younger, and I have yet a lot of questions I need to ask. What do you recall of the casting of the spell? Were there any remarkable details you remember?"

Legolas grew even paler. "You... you have not heard the tale?" he asked tonelessly.

Gandalf looked down.

"Of course I have," he admitted sorrowfully, "the event was infamous enough. I do not ask you to retell the whole sordid ritual. Some things I know – the components of the drugs, the... proceedings. And I have of course heard..."

He shook his head and trailed off.

Finally, he said gently: "I know what Elrond did to you. Glorfindel told me of that day, and there were other... sources. Not to mention the rumors I heard. But what I need to know is if there is any component of the spell not at first visible to the eye. What I mean is if there is any component of the spell that has been unique to the times when it was cast and extended by Elrond? Was there any difference that you recall between the times when Elrond first cast and extended the spell, and later when Aragorn did it?"

Seeing Legolas' abashed and reluctant look, he specified:

"What I mean is any detail that seemed extremely... odd, something that smacked of dark magic."

Legolas looked at him incredulously, completely taken aback by the question. Bitterness filled him and cold anger nearly choked his throat. What did the wizard mean with 'something odd'? Apart from the rape, the public humiliation, the tools and drugs, the complete degradation, the induced and forced need?!

He felt the urge to scream, or to jump up and leave this painful inquiry, and his mind shut down at the request to willingly recall the details of that horrifying day when Elrond had forced the curse on him, and of the ritual.

But if it could serve to find a way to break the spell...

Only that prospect held him in his place. So, he grated out a little more forcefully than intended: "The whole spell smacks of dark magic, Mithrandir! I do not see..."

But then he hesitated. Actually, there was one thing that had happened during the first, horrifying ritual and during every later extension of the spell by Elrond, but that had not been there when Aragorn did it. And it was certainly something that smacked of dark magic to him.

"I... don't recall the wording of the spell," he finally said, hesitantly and slowly, "but... there is something as you describe. The blue light."

He saw the wizard's eyes light up in interest and continued hesitantly:

"When... when Elrond..." - he nearly choked on the hated name, and had to pause. But finally, he went on:

"When Elrond first... cast... the spell... there was a blue light that... filled my mind, when... when he first... touched me, and..." He swallowed. Determinedly, he went on: "I could not move. Nor flee, or fight. It... it..."

He shook his head and trailed off. He could not go on; bitterness stayed his tongue.

Gandalf watched him silently, pulling at his pipe, carefully avoiding any comment. Sorrow and disgust at Elrond's malicious curse filled his heart, but he was careful not to make any gesture that could be seen as pressure. So he merely waited for Legolas to continue and remained silent.

"It did not allow me to flee my body," Legolas finally said flatly. "It held me there and froze me, and it was always there when I tried it again – tried dying – later. And... later, when Elrond... when he extended the spell..."

He trailed off again.

Gandalf said nothing but just watched him sorrowfully, listening carefully and waiting for him to continue.

"It was there, then, too," Legolas finally concluded, "every time when he did it. And the inability to move. He can... he can induce it with a mere touch. That is something Estel – Aragorn could never do. Nor... nor his brothers."

He nearly choked on the blasphemy to mention Estel, even Aragorn, in the same breath as Elrond and his twin sons.

But there it was. And he could not deny that that blue light, the hated essence of the curse, was exactly the thing the wizard was looking for.

Falling silent again, he realized that he shivered and angrily he brought his body under control.

Gandalf watched him silently.

'So you have indeed used the power of your ring to devise that evil spell, Elrond Halfelven,' he thought to himself. 'You are far further gone than I realized. And still you let the One Ring go when it was in your grasp. Did you hope that when it was destroyed, the Three would keep their power and the ring you hold would be cleansed of the One Ring's influence? But even so, after the use you made of it, your ring is now most thoroughly corrupted. I wonder if you are fully aware of what you have done...'

He took a pull of his pipe. 'And you, young Mirkwood prince,' he thought, 'I wonder if you are aware with how much longing you still speak of him who holds your heart, despite everything that one has done to you! Aragorn, son of Arathorn, you have much to answer for!'

But he did not say that aloud. Instead, he asked carefully: "And since then, that... blue light has always been there whenever you tried to flee your body?"

Legolas nodded.

Gandalf took another pull of his pipe. He nodded, too.

"That is interesting, indeed," he murmured. Then he fixated the Mirkwood Elf sharply with his gaze and asked gently:

"Did you try it often?"

Legolas started again. Then he quickly looked away. He bit his lips.

After a long moment, he reluctantly replied: "Sometimes. In... in the beginning, I tried it quite often, I fear. But..."

He shook his head and trailed off. His face held shame for his perceived weakness.

Gandalf did not comment on that. Very carefully, he asked: "And since then?"

Legolas still avoided his gaze. But after a moment, he said reluctantly and quietly: "Since... I belong to Aragorn, not anymore. At least, not... willingly."

But he spoke very softly, and he still would not meet the wizard's eyes.

Gandalf watched him silently and thoughtfully. Finally, after a long moment, he asked:

"Are you content then, to belong to him?"

Legolas visibly flinched and looked up, startled. Then he quickly looked away again. What did the wizard intend with this question? He was all too aware of his own, treacherous thought last night and only this very morning. Had Mithrandir guessed what he had contemplated doing? The vision of this very morning came to his mind again, and his stomach churned. Estel!...

After a moment, he finally looked up again, but his eyes were guarded. Very carefully, he slowly said: "I owe Aragorn my loyalty and my allegiance, Mithrandir. It does not really matter what I wish or think."

The wizard watched him, irritated. After a long moment, he blew out some smoke from his pipe and said: "Maybe. But that was not my question."

Legolas looked away again. He took a deep breath. When he finally met the wizard's gaze again, his eyes were clear.

"I am glad and honored I belong to him," he simply said. "Estel... is me a good master, Mithrandir. I had worse."

Gandalf held his gaze and knew that this was all the answer he would get, although he had the distinct impression that it was far from the whole truth. There was pain and sorrow hidden in the Elven slave's eyes and voice, and more than a little regret and bitterness. But it was clear that this was all Legolas would tell him.

He sighed. 'You still love him then,' he concluded. 'Oh, son of Arathorn, what have you done? To whatever end all this will lead, it can only be in heartbreak. And one of you will pay the price for your folly, either way.'

But he said none of this; he simply nodded. Aloud, he said: "I suppose, that is fair enough. But tell me, if indeed we succeed, and either by the success of this Quest, or by other means the spell could be broken, what would you do? If the bond that binds you to him were lifted? Would you leave or stay?"

Legolas looked at him, irritated. After a moment, he replied mildly: "I am still a hostage, Mithrandir. Even if the spell could be lifted, I would have to remain with Aragorn, unless all my people were free."

Gandalf sighed. "Of course," he admitted impatiently, "but what would you do if you were free to go? I mean, if not only the spell was lifted, but indeed, as a result of this quest, your people were free?"

Legolas looked down again.

"Is there hope for that?" he asked.

Gandalf took a pull of his pipe.

"I don't know," he admitted, "but I hope so, yes. You know that I hope, if this Quest succeeds, as an outcome their fate will be changed as well."

Legolas took a moment to reply. Bitterly, he thought: 'You hope. But you don't know. Estel has given me more reason to hope, than you, Mithrandir!' But he felt a warning not to speak too openly, and anyway, if the wizard would truly look for a possibility of breaking the spell, it would be more than foolish to risk igniting his anger.

So he carefully said: "It would be the choice of my master, Mithrandir. If he wished me to stay with him, or leave."

Gandalf studied him. "Even if he was forced to marry?" he asked then, quietly and gently. "You know he has to do it at some point."

Legolas looked away. After a long moment, he replied carefully: "It would still be his choice. I am sworn to serve Aragorn in every way he wants, Mithrandir. It would depend on him. If he sent me away..." he trailed off and Gandalf heard the bitterness and fear within his voice. After a moment, Legolas finished flatly: "In that case, of course, I would have to leave."

But he could not suppress the shudder at these words. Obviously, he could hardly think of a situation in which this would not mean his death.

Gandalf fought down his irritation. He had the feeling that the Mirkwood Elf was deliberately obstructive. But it would not help to lose his temper, now! After a moment, he chose to try a different approach. With fraying patience, he asked: "But if you were free to choose? Would you not wish to go home and see your family again?"

Legolas looked at him incredulously. "Of course I would!" he said, and then, looking away, he finished: "Yes. Of course! Very much so."

Gandalf nodded, finally feeling some spark of satisfaction. 'Then I suppose there is still hope in this' he thought. 'Maybe, if that Dunadan will not show some reason in the end, at least the Mirkwood prince will.'

He took a deep breath. "Very well," he finally said. "I will see what I can do, then."

He fixated the Mirkwood Elf with his gaze and continued very seriously:

"You realize, of course, that we have to tread very carefully in this. For one thing, we will have to wait until after Lothlorien. Until that time, I will merely ask you a few questions now and then. We need to find out more about that curse and seek its weakness. And I am not entirely sure that the spell can be lifted as long as the One Ring and the Three exist. For all I can see it was indeed devised with the help of one of the Three, and it may well be that it can't be broken as long as their power remains. But I will do the best I can. Yet I must warn you, because there is still another danger of which you may be unaware."

Legolas looked at him questioningly, without comment, merely waiting for him to continue.

Gandalf looked at him very seriously. "You told me how the spell prevents you and the other hostages from fleeing your body or dying at will," he said. "If it was truly lifted, nothing would stop you from seeking Mandos at will anymore."

Legolas looked at him incredulously.

"If the spell was broken, I would be free," he said, "and so would they be. Why, then, should I wish to go to Mandos? Why should anybody?"

Gandalf studied him thoughtfully. "Fair enough," he finally replied. "So we will try this once we leave the Golden Wood, then."

Legolas nodded gracefully. "Whatever I can do to help in this, I will," he said, "as long as my master allows it. I wish with all my heart to free my people, and if I can help to achieve that goal in any way..."

Gandalf sighed. "I know," he said. "I was sure you would say this. However..."

But Legolas did not listen anymore. His gaze flicked to the side suddenly, and he stared at the place outside the ring of stones, between two mighty trees. He gasped.

"Mithrandir!--"

Gandalf followed his gaze. There, outside the circle of light of the fire, two yellow eyes stared back at them.

The wargs had found them.


_________________ o _______________



-- TBC --


Notes:

(1) The whole following passage until "Caradhras had defeated them" is closely adapted from the book J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings, 1954-1955, Harper Collins Paperback Edition 1995, Page 286.

(2) This sentence is again adapted closely from the book LOTR, 1954-1955, 1995, Page P. 287. For the whole first half of the following part, I need to stay very close to Tolkien's original lines, although of course I adapted them to fit my purposes. Please bear with me!

(3) This sentence is again lifted directly, from the book LOTR, 1954-1955, 1995, Page P. 287. The following passage is very closely adapted from the same book, pages 287-289, and I have lifted some sentences directly trough the whole passage, while I changed and adapted others. Of course I also completely changed the context, again, and also I took the dramatic liberty to change the intention. The gist is that in the book, Gandalf lets the Fellowship decide which way to take. Here, the decision has been already made, though I gave Boromir leave to challenge it. His viewpoint is quite justified, I think! Aragorn's Bookverse objections to the road through Moria, though, have been cut short here to better fit my purposes. Sorry 'bout that!

(4) Boromir's objections are adapted, but not quoted directly, from the book LOTR, 1954-1955, 1995, Page P. 288. About Moria: The name means literally "Dark Chasm" in Sindarin, which admittedly should be enough to give anyone pause. Bookverse it is not clear if Boromir knows a lot of Moria or not; here I decided that he has no clue. After all, Faramir was the scholar of the two!

(5) This sentence and the one before are again directly lifted from the book, LOTR, 1954-1955, 1995, Page P. 290. From now, I stop quoting and paraphrasing the book as closely for a while, albeit the mention of the poor sweating and shivering pony is lifted from there, too. Please, bear with me.

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.

Story Information

Author: Crowdaughter

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 05/11/11

Original Post: 12/23/06

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