48. Shadow and Flame
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 the wonderful and encouraging Namarie! Thank you!!! All still remaining errors are solely 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 some dialog from Peter Jackson's movie "The Fellowship of The Ring" (Extended Edition), again. Lifted dialog will be marked like this*. 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.
XXXXVI. Shadow and Flame
Legolas adjusted his pack and strained up to help Pippin climb the steep path at the place where several stairs had crumbled. He managed a smile back at the Hobbit in acknowledgment of Pippin's whispered thanks, then he stooped to grab for Sam. Why the wizard insisted that they had to take this path, instead of any other, he had no idea. Maybe, a long time ago, the stairs hewn into the rock had been a comfortable climb and secure to walk on, but long since, they had suffered from falling rocks that left them shattered and crumpled at some places, with wide gaps to brave or – as it was here – with just the naked remaining rock left for as far as a man could reach. Too smooth for a Hobbit to climb, and too high for the Halflings to reach beyond the missing steps. And yet, Gandalf insisted that they take this path, and that the greater folk should help the little ones along. So, Legolas had helped Frodo, Merry and Pippin to climb up, and now readied himself to assist Sam in the same way. Only Gimli, the Dwarf, had outright refused any help and climbed the gap with astonishing nimbleness. Legolas supposed that his people were truly at home here in the heart of the living stone.
Legolas shivered. The exhaustion and lack of sleep had long caught up with him, and he felt the tiredness in his very bones. It did not help that his mind was in confusion, and that he could feel the palpable tension among the fellowship, between the Hobbits and the men, between Aragorn and Boromir, and, not the least, between himself and his master.
Aragorn did not talk to him. He had not spoken to him all day and had even avoided his gaze most of the time. Now and then, Legolas got a glimpse of his drawn face, his jerky movements, betraying his lack of sleep. But most of the time, the Ranger kept to himself, and to the back of the company, sharing the rear-guard with Boromir, as in the days before. Legolas was glad of it. Early in the morning, when the company set out, he had noticed his master's brooding mood, and had resolved to walk at the head of the line again, in the company of the wizard and the Dwarf. And yet. During the day, he had felt more than once his master's gaze on him. But so far, Aragorn had not spoken to him all day, nor had he sought him out or called him to his side. It made Legolas uneasy. And yet, he had done nothing wrong! He had done only what his master had commanded him to do...
The Hobbits had picked up on his disturbed mood and had shielded him firmly from the two men of the group. Once, during the midday meal, when the whole company gulped down a handful of dried fruit and cram, Pippin had taken Legolas aside.
"Are you all right?"
Legolas had nodded and assured the concerned Halfling that he was well, that the two men had done nothing to hurt him and there was no need to be concerned. It has taken some time before Pippin was satisfied, and Legolas was not entirely sure he had convinced him. But thankfully, afterwards, the four Halflings had let him be, except they had still firmly placed themselves between him and the two men. Apparently, Pippin and his cousins did believe him, and at least they respected his privacy.
Except he was not all right. His mind was in turmoil, and even the thought that he had been ordered by Aragorn himself to seek out Boromir did nothing to soothe it.
Again and again, the memories of last night kept creeping up on him, filling his waking thoughts. Boromir's smiling eyes, his admiration, his gentle hands... the smooth, well-formed body under his fingers... the voice of the Gondorian, asking his permission, soothing his guilt... again and again, as much as he tried to banish the memories, they kept creeping in, filling him with warmth, but at the same time adding to his inner turmoil.
He belonged to Estel! He was the property of Aragorn, he was not supposed to desire or even to think of another! And yet, Aragorn himself had sent him to the man of Gondor. Still...
But he did not love the man of Gondor. He did not desire him. It was Estel who still owned his heart. And yet, whenever he tried to picture Estel, in his better moments, the two of them not playing games but making love, all he could see was Aragorn's desire when he promised him a night full of cruel games, his harsh voice, commanding him to kneel, or to be silent, his hands meeting out another punishment... he tried to banish these thoughts, to cast them away and concentrate on their path, but they came back.
He tried to concentrate on better memories. On Estel, taking him to see his home again, on Aragorn's concern, his tenderness... It didn't work. Legolas cast a glare or two in the direction of Frodo. He suspected that the burden the innocent Hobbit wore was responsible for his inability to calm his thoughts, but be that as it may, it didn't help. He seemed incapable to calm his mind. It was maddening. The grief and guilt threatened to smother his breath, and nearly made him scream.
But Aragorn himself had ordered him to seek out the man of Gondor...
Shivering, Legolas tried once more to concentrate on the task at hand. Sam was heavier than the other Hobbits, and the pack he wore – with all their cookware the Halfling had rescued from the pack of Bill the pony – was unbalanced. The Hobbit had a hard time to reach the helping hands of the Dwarf above, even with Legolas' assistance. Then the pack suddenly tore open, pans and cauldrons tumbling out. Suddenly there were strong, nimble hands, catching the falling cookware, securing the torn pack, and together, they managed pushing the Hobbit up to the other side of the stairs, where Gimli caught him. Merry bowed down and helped to keep the pack in place, and with his and Pippin's assistance, Sam managed to free himself of the torn bundle and mend the gap as best as possible with spare cloth and some straps. He would have to sew it in the evening.
Legolas turned to the man beside him and looked into the face of his master.
He started. Then he checked his own reaction and gave Aragorn a respectful nod. The urge to speak, to beg for a word, even for a gesture was nearly overwhelming, but he quelled it. It was not his place...
Aragorn gave him a curt nod, but avoided his eyes. Then he looked around to Boromir, who stared back into the darkness of the cave behind them with intense concentration.
Legolas followed his gaze – and thought he saw a movement, faint in the dark, but too big to belong to a mere rat; he also thought he heard a faint rustle. All turmoil driven from his mind, he reached for his bow.
A hand on his arm stopped him.
"Leave it," his master whispered. "It's Gollum. He has followed us all day. He is no danger, though, and Boromir and I keep watch on him. Don't alert the others."
Legolas looked at him, a little startled. These were more words than he had heard from Aragorn all day! And yet...
He gave his master an obedient nod, but could not help himself. "Estel -"
Aragorn silenced him with a curt shake of his head. "Not now, Little Leaf," he said hoarsely.
Legolas caught a glimpse of his eyes. They were dark, and in turmoil, looking tired and haunted.
But quickly Aragorn looked away again and gave his slave a nod to follow the others, up the missing steps. Legolas hesitated, but Aragorn merely shook his head and impatiently repeated his mute command.
Wordlessly, Legolas obeyed. But the grief inside his chest threatened to drown him.
If only there would be a way around that spell, around the need to feed it... if only Aragorn would not need to hurt him to keep him alive...
______________ o ______________
Gandalf looked up when Legolas approached him. The rest of the Fellowship had settled down to sleep. The wizard had volunteered to take the first watch again. He had outright refused the offers of the men or the Elf to take a watch tonight, and given the other two to Frodo and Gimli.
So, he was mildly astonished to see the determined face of the Elf. "Mithrandir, I would ask for some of your time, if you would, please," the Elven slave said politely.
Gandalf nodded invitingly. Legolas sat down.
"I would ask you to try breaking the spell," he began in a quiet voice.
Gandalf looked at him with curiosity. "Right now?" he asked. "I thought we had agreed to wait until we left Lothlorien." He seized the Elven slave up with a keen gaze. "I don't think..."
Legolas looked down. "I would ask you to try it now," he said. "I am aware that it might cause some trouble when we reach the Golden Wood, if you have success, but..." he blushed and fell silent.
Gandalf drew his brows together. "Legolas," he began testily, "you know I promised to try this, to you, and also to your master; but I would rather do so once we have left the Golden Wood behind. I do not think it wise..."
Legolas looked up at him, imploringly. His gaze was haunted. "Please!" he said, "I need you to try, now! I..."
Suddenly, there was a quiet tread behind him, and Legolas fell silent. He looked startled.
"Do it," Aragorn said quietly. "If there is a possibility to break the spell, then do it now."
Legolas turned around to him, baffled. "Estel!" he breathed.
But Gandalf stared at the Ranger with narrowed eyes. "Before we reach Lothlorien, son of Arathorn?" he asked. "Are you sure? Even should I be successful, Galadriel will not like that. What if they claim you have overstepped your rights in regard to a Mirkwood hostage, and demand Legolas back from you?"
"Legolas is not just a hostage in my care," he said evenly. "He is, by law of Rivendell, my slave, my sole property, without conditions or reserve. He was given to me as a gift, without stipulations. If I decide I want him freed of the spell, given the spell can be broken, then that is my decision alone. It will not change his status in regard to me."
His hand closed possessively over the shoulder of his slave. "They cannot claim him back."
Legolas flinched. Gandalf shot Aragorn a sharp look.
"So you say, son of Arathorn, that even if he was freed from the curse, Legolas would remain your slave?" he asked.
Aragorn shrugged. He held Gandalf's gaze without flinching. "Yes," he said grimly, "as long as it is necessary to protect him."
Legolas shivered. Gandalf glared at the Dúnadan. But Aragorn did not relent. He held the gaze of the Istar evenly.
Finally, the wizard pursed his lips.
"Very well," he said, "I shall try it then. But I cannot work on the spell with you hovering here." He gave the Dúnadan an imperious nod. "Leave us alone! At least for the moment!"
Aragorn bowed to him. "I will take over your watch," he offered. "I shall be close."
And with that, he gave the shoulder of his slave a last, reassuring squeeze and turned around. He went over to the other side of the camp and took his post, staring out into the darkness of the cave, his back to them.
Gandalf's eyes followed him for a moment, then he turned his attention back to Legolas.
"Very well," he said, still with some irritation. "Let us begin. Calm your mind. I wish you to concentrate on me and nothing else."
Legolas swallowed and nodded obediently. He did his best to calm himself, to clear his mind of thoughts, concentrate on the voice of the wizard...
He could practically feel the power build in the deceptive form of the old man before him, could feel the mind of the wizard enter his own and explore the bonds that held him... could feel the will seeking his release...
Quite suddenly, his perception shifted, and he could see Gandalf in the way he normally ignored, the way of the other world, beyond the veils of the flesh.
The Istar seemed like a beacon of light, bright, sharp, only thinly veiled by the deceptive appearance of his chosen form. And close to the middle of that form, where the chest would be, he could see a red fire, like a ring, powerful and yet not a part of the other light. It gleamed with a power of its own, but somehow that power seemed bound, dangerous, not entirely clean... It seemed ruddy, out of place...
Legolas shuddered. He felt the will of the Istar coil and tighten. Then Gandalf spoke, at the same time in the outer world and directly in his mind: "I release you from this spell!"
The brightness flared, but at the same time, there was another light to counter it. Blue, icy light flared in the back of Legolas' mind, numbing, freezing, fighting back. He gasped. The coldness stole his breath, closed around his heart, pressed his chest together... He stifled a scream, and felt the power of the wizard surge against him. The blue light flared back, not giving ground. The bright light flared brighter...
... and suddenly, there was another power there. Dark, ancient, evil, ruddy and fiery, drawing closer. Searching...
With a start, Gandalf released him, and Legolas was thrown out of the trance back to the physical world. They sat opposite each other, staring at each other, startled.
The Elf found his voice. "Gandalf! What was that?"
The old wizard stared back at him, nearly as shocked as he was. "I am not sure," he said, "I am not..." but he fell silent, and he looked as shaken as Legolas felt himself.
"Do you think it has noticed us? Should we move on?" Legolas asked.
Gandalf hesitated. For a moment, he looked as if he was listening, but then he shook his head. "I cannot feel it anymore. It has definitely felt our power, and it is awake now; but I do not think that it has found us yet."
He shook his head. "Fool that I am! I knew it would be dangerous to try this here, and yet I let myself be talked into it! I am clearly losing my mind in my old age!"
Legolas shuddered. "It was my fault, Mithrandir," he said. "If I had just waited..."
The wizard glared at him. Impatiently, he said: "Nonsense! Do I look as if I had been forced by you to try this here, by a drawn blade? No! It is true that the demand was foolish; but who is the greater fool, the fool that asks a foolish thing, or the wise who follows the demand although he should know better? No. The fault was mine!"
Then he shook his head again and made a face.
"Anyway, that can't be helped, now. We cannot go on, tonight; the Hobbits are exhausted, and so are the men. And so are you, my dear Elf – no, do not deny it! I have watched you these last few days, and I doubt you have found as much rest as you needed!"
Legolas bowed his head. He did not answer.
Gandalf nodded grimly. "We must risk waiting for the morrow and have an early start, and hope that whatever evil power haunts our steps will not find us before we leave these mines!"
Legolas was pale.
"If I had been more patient..."
Gandalf glared at him.
"No use to mourn that, now. The deed is done! But we shall not try this again until we have brought some distance between us and this place, and until we have safely left Lothlorien!"
Legolas looked at him.
"So you will try again?" he asked.
Gandalf made a face. "Of course! Once we have left the Golden Wood and are safely away from the close range of Dol Guldur as well. But, Legolas, you need to understand that even then, I am not sure at all that I can break this spell. Clearly it has been cast with the help of one of the Great Rings. It may well be that the only way to break the spell is to destroy its source."
"The One Ring?"
Gandalf looked troubled. "Maybe. I do not know if that alone will suffice. It may be that along with the One, the Three will have to be destroyed, too."
But he looked troubled by that thought, and Legolas could well understand why. Never would Elrond agree to destroy the ring which was his source of power! Nor would the owners of the other two Elven rings likely agree to this plan, and Legolas thought he could guess who the keeper of at least one of the others was. The Lady of the Golden Wood was feared for her power not only in the physical world...
"No use to speculate about that, now. Off you go! Find some sleep. You are no use to us dead on your feet. And release that Ranger of his self-appointed watch! The two of you need your rest as badly as any of us!"
He made a shooing gesture, then busied himself with his pack, searching for his pipe.
Legolas bowed. He rose and made his way over to his master.
______________ o ______________
Aragorn sat, his back to the sleeping Fellowship, staring out into the Darkness of the cave. Legolas approached him with trepidation.
"My Lord..."He swallowed. "My Lord, Gandalf sends me to release you. He says he takes the remaining watch over again, beginning now."
Aragorn looked up at him. "In a moment, Little Leaf," he said. He narrowed his eyes. With a quick gesture, he invited his Elf to sit down beside him. Mutely, Legolas obeyed.
Quietly, his master asked: "Did it work?"
Legolas looked down. He shook his head.
"No, My Lord, it did not work. We had to stop. Worse..." he trailed off, his mouth dry. How to tell Aragorn that his foolish request had put the Fellowship in danger?
"There was... an evil presence. It stirred. I fear..."
Aragorn made a face. He nodded.
"I know. I felt it, too," he said. "We had better make haste tomorrow and do our best to leave these mines as fast as we can."
Legolas swallowed. "I am sorry, My Lord!" he said. "I brought danger down on us. I..."
He trailed off. Aragorn's hand settled on his shoulder, squeezing, then moving on to the back of his head, caressing his hair.
"Nonsense, Little Leaf! I asked him to try this, too. I thought..."
He trailed off and shook his head. "Do not blame yourself for this," he said hoarsely.
Legolas looked up at him, hesitantly.
"You are not angry?"
Aragorn looked at him and caressed his face. "How could I?" he asked. "It was I who brought up the idea. I was the one who first asked Gandalf to try this, remember?"
Legolas nodded. For a moment, he simply enjoyed the soothing touch of his master's hand on his face, hich hair, the back of his neck...
After a moment, he began carefully: "Estel... about last night..."
Aragorn looked away. The hand caressing Legolas' head stopped and was withdrawn.
Legolas felt its loss keenly.
"Do not fear, Little Leaf," Aragorn said hoarsely. "You heard Boromir last night. You did nothing wrong. What he gave, was given in friendship, and you did just do what I asked you to."
His voice broke. "I just wished --"
He went mute.
Legolas could not stand it anymore. He broke the distance, taking his master in his arms. "Estel," he began, "I -"
But Aragorn shook his head again. He turned to his slave and returned the hug. For moments, he could not speak.
Finally, he said: "It is all right, Little Leaf! I just wish I could give you what he can. I wish I would not have to..."
He broke off again.
Legolas shivered. He did not dare to say anything. He just returned his master's hug, wishing for all he was worth that this moment could last, that Aragorn's wish could come true, that there would be a way for them to be together as he had been with the man of Gondor...
After a moment, he began again: "Estel..." - but he trailed off again. What could he say? That he belonged to Aragorn, not to another? That it was Estel who he wanted and longed for, not the man of Gondor? All this was true, of course, but still...
'Oh Estel,' he thought desperately, 'don't you see you make it harder for me to endure your needs if you insist on showing me what I cannot have with you?'
Taking a deep breath, he finally finished: "Would you – would you hold me, Estel?"
Aragorn sighed. Complying wordlessly, he held him fast, stroking absentmindedly over his back.
Finally, he spoke again.
"Do not grieve, Little Leaf!" he said in a broken whisper. "Right after we leave Lothlorien, we will try this again. Gandalf will break the spell; he will find a way. And even if he cannot, then we shall finish this Quest and see the Ring destroyed, and with it any power that was used to cast this curse. We will destroy it! And you will be free. You'll see!"
He swallowed. "Until then..." His voice trailed off again.
Legolas said nothing. He just hugged him back.
"Estel," he said finally, "may I sleep in your arms again, tonight?"
Aragorn drew back a bit and looked at him, bemused. After a moment, he stole a kiss.
"Of course," he said. "Of course you may!"
And with that, he released his slave from his embrace and made to rise. "Let's try and get some sleep. We will need to have an early start, tomorrow."
Legolas bowed to him and followed his lead. That night, despite the looming darkness and the distant whisper of flames grazing the edges of his dreams, he found rest again, huddled closely in the arms of his master.
______________ o ______________
As Gandalf insisted, the company started early the next day. Gandalf urged them to make haste. He did not tell them the reasons for his sudden haste, but his stern mood and his palpable restlessness transferred themselves to the rest of the company, and so no one protested his increased pace. They followed him through the hewn tunnels, steep flights of stairs and labyrinthine paths in gloomy silence, hurrying on as fast and quietly as they could, and did not take a rest until after another flight of steep, high stairs, Gandalf suddenly stopped, stared for a moment at the three opening tunnels before him, and finally said bemusedly: "I have no memory of this place!"*1
The company settled down around him while he sat and tried to figure out their path. Legolas leaned against a rock close to the two Edain. He shivered. He could feel the surrounding darkness again, like a creature, on the prowl, waiting for the right moment to pounce. It felt like something alive, something evil... the urge to move, to hurry on, was overwhelming. But he could do nothing about it, so he waited.
To distract himself, he concentrated on his master. It was clear that at some point during the last two days – when, he did not know – Aragorn and the man of Gondor had agreed on a truce between them. There was an air of tolerance between them, nearly of camaraderie and understanding, and apparently it extended to himself. Maybe they had found common ground on the basis of the wish to protect him. He did not know what to make of the thought, but for the moment, the absence of the former tension between the two men was a relief.
He knew that both of them were aware of the creature Gollum, who had trailed their path 'til now. He did not know if the Dwarf or any of the Hobbits were aware of him, but he was sure Gandalf knew. His suspicions were confirmed when Frodo suddenly started, staring out into the dark, then turned and quickly made his way to Gandalf. Legolas followed the quiet conversation about the creature who had once been the keeper of the One Ring for a moment, then he stopped listening. It was not his business, after all. Instead he concentrated again on his self-appointed watch, trailing the surrounding cave with his eyes and ears as best he could. He shivered again. It was not as if the darkness was absolute, anyway. They were close to another place where one of the openings to the outside let in some light, and obviously, outside of the mountain it was now bright day. And yet, he felt as if the walls of the cave were closing in on him. His sense of approaching danger screamed at him, increasing by the minute, and remaining still and rooted to the spot became harder by the moment. He debated if he should warn his master – but surely, Aragorn had to feel it, too, he could not be ignorant... He was about to bow down and alert Aragorn, when to his relief he heard Gandalf's voice:
"Ah! It's that way!"*
And with that, the old wizard stood up and chose one of the three tunnels.
Legolas was on his feet as fast as their guide. He did not even hear the exchange between the Istar and Merry; he was just so relieved that they were moving on, he did not care about the reasons. He could still feel the danger coming closer, but it emanated mainly from the middle one of the three tunnels. In fact, he wondered why Gandalf had not felt this, too, and sooner. If they were lucky, perhaps they could still be faster than the evil searching for them, perhaps they could escape these mines unscathed...
Then they were in a wide, open space again, dimly lit by a distant beam of light, and Gandalf raised his staff with the words: "Let me risk a little more light!"*
The tip of the staff flared, hurting their eyes for a moment; then, their eyes adjusted, and Legolas gasped. They stood at the edge of a great hall. Not a cave; this room was crafted, not natural. And they were surrounded by a forest of pillars, regular, majestic, stretching far above their heads to great heights, many yards upwards, like great trees. All of them were carefully smoothed and exactly formed, and wore strange runes which Legolas recognized as the cirth letters from his home; but he could not understand any of the inscriptions, for they were in a language he had never heard or read. At the top and the base, the runes were accompanied by geometrical figures, stern but beautiful, even though they were very far away from the images and sculptures resembling natural forms Legolas knew from his home.
He took a deep breath. The enormity of the hall was nearly enough to banish even his unrest and his sense of lurking danger for a moment. This was like nothing he had ever seen! He barely heard Gandalf's satisfied statement:
"Behold! The great realm and the Dwarf-city of the Dwarrowdelf!"*
But he did hear the awed breath of the Dwarf beside him, his sigh: "Khazad-Dûm!"
Legolas kept silent in respect. Finally, he could understand what the Dwarf admired so in these mines, the ancient dwelling of his people. Even infested with darkness and with lurking evil as they were now, these halls were magnificent.
All too soon, Gandalf lowered his staff again and dimmed the light. "Let us move on. I have to make clear at which level we are, so I can find the way to the outside. It should be not far from here, anymore!" he said.
Legolas looked around in wonder. There were more halls like this one above and below them, then?
Soon enough, though, he was distracted from his admiration again by his increasing sense of danger and urgency. However magnificent these halls were, they had to leave them behind them and fast! So he was rather irritated when suddenly, Gimli beside him gave a great shout and ran to an opening at the side of the hall, where one of the great beams gave light.
Gandalf shouted: "Gimli!"*, but the Dwarf did not hear. He ran into the room and fell to his knees. Legolas noticed the long-decayed bodies of Dwarven warriors lying about.
Slowly, in uncomfortable silence, the Fellowship followed the Dwarf through the open doorway.
It was a doorway, Legolas registered, scorched and showing evidence of battle in the past, but still intact, with thick wooden doors at both sides. The room behind it was high, but small, compared with the great hall they had just left, and had once been a carefully crafted chamber. The walls were covered in cirth runes, and there was something that must once have been a well at one side. At two ends, there was an second level at the walls. But in the center of the room, where the great beam coming from a window to the outside lead, there was a form that could only be one thing: a tomb of stone. Legolas' people did not bury their dead in stone, they put them to rest in the forest at need. But he had seen such tombs in Rivendell. The grave of Aragorn's mother came to mind...
Gimli was kneeling before the bier, declaiming words Legolas could not understand, apparently a prayer in his own language. Boromir stepped behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Gandalf read the inscription on the tomb. It was in Sindarin, so Legolas could read it, too. Still, they all listened to Gandalf's voice as he read: "Here lies Balin, son of Fundin, Lord of Moria. He is dead then. It's as I feared!"*
Legolas looked around. The chamber was littered with broken, decayed bodies. It was all too obvious that this was what finally had become of the rest of Balin's colony.
He barely registered that Gandalf had taken a scorched, damaged book from one of the bodies and began to read. His sense of danger, his unrest, caught back up with him. Could they not feel that whatever evil was lurking in these mines was coming closer? That they could not afford to delay, but had to leave now, and with no time to spare?
He finally turned to his master, who stood beside him.
"We must move on! We cannot linger!"* he pleaded.
Aragorn looked at him and nodded. "Not now, Little Leaf," he whispered back. "Give them a moment."
Legolas could not belief his ears. Didn't Estel feel it, too? Did he really could not sense the danger, increasing by the moment?
Urgently, he tried again. "Estel -"
But in this moment, the whole chamber resonated with a horrible crash. They all jumped. The noise was deafening after the silence of the mines, and it went on, and on, never stopping...
Finally, it ceased. After some heartbeats, all eyes turned to Pippin, who stood beside the well, where now the corpse that had been sitting on the edge sat no longer.
Then Gandalf barked: "Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity!"*
Legolas did not wait to see if the chastised Hobbit gave any reply. He could feel the evil presence that had lurked at the edges of his consciousness all day suddenly perk up, purposeful, drawing closer, ready to pounce. Ignoring all decorum, he turned to Aragorn again and hissed: "Estel! We must leave! NOW!!"
Aragorn turned to him, but before he could react, they all heard it: a resonating sound, rhythmic, coming from the well. Drums! First there was just one beat, then the rhythm was picked up by other drums. Shouts answered. Legolas could hear running feet, getting closer. Suddenly Sam gasped aloud: "Frodo!"*
Looking, Legolas could see the half-drawn little sword of the Ring-Bearer gleaming blue, warning of the approaching danger. "Orcs!"* he hissed, and Aragorn beside him threw the torch away, barking orders to the Hobbits. Boromir ran to the doorway and jumped back just in time to avoid the two arrows which embedded themselves mere inches from his face. He drew the doors shut. Turning to Aragorn, who had closed up with him to help barring the door, he sighed: "They have a cave-troll!"
Legolas threw two large, old axes over to the two men, who used them to barricade the door. Now that he was on the edge of battle, his mind cleared and became calm again. Finally, the nerve-stretching threat that had haunted the back of his mind all day was gaining shape, a shape he could combat and act upon. Orcs they could handle! He refused to think about the other darkness he had felt; they would deal with that when it came upon them. For now, it felt good to be finally able to do something.
Soon he stood beside his master, bow drawn, arrow ready, as they had faced uncounted battles before. Boromir stood on his other side. They watched the door tremble under the thrusts of their attackers, watched the wood giving way and splinter... as soon as there was a hole big enough for the enemy to shoot through it, Legolas loosened his arrow. A yell told him that he had met his target. Aragorn followed his guide, then the enemy was through, and Legolas let fly arrow upon arrow at the attacking Orcs. Soon they were too close for arrow-range, and his knives were out to defend himself. Then there was a growl and a loud bang, and the doorway was shattered. The troll came in, dragged on a chain by his masters. Legolas sent an arrow its way, but the shaft did little damage to the creatures thick skin; all it managed was angering the beast. Legolas retreated. Against the troll, his knives were useless, and he could contribute more to the battle from a place where he could fire his bow again. He climbed one of the pedestals, beside a great pillar, and picked out Orc after Orc with his arrows.
All the while, he kept sight of his master as best as he could, keeping his back guarded. He watched as Aragorn and Boromir worked together to distract the troll from Sam, and winced when Boromir suddenly found himself facing the angry beast and taking a blow that threw him through the chamber. He was relieved when the man of Gondor came up alive. An Orc made ready to kill the momentarily helpless man. Legolas let an arrow fly, but Aragorn beat him to the kill with a thrown knife. He did not see the troll turning on him. Legolas gave a warning shout - "Estel!" - but then the troll was distracted by a thrown axe, and turned against the new attacker. Gimli was standing on the sarcophagus of his cousin, wielding his axe against every Orc that came into his reach. He threw his other throwing axe against the beast, and it came upon him with a roar. His great hammer came down, shattering Balin's tomb to pieces. Gimli was thrown back, but he was on his feet again in an instant. Legolas admired the grace and agility of the stunted creature, who moved fast and nimble despite the heavy armor he wore. The troll came after him, but was angered by the Orcs, who tried to get hold of its chain again. The beast got rid of them with his great hammer. The dwarf chose this moment to attack again, and was thrown aside by a blow that would have killed any other creature. But the Son of Aule merely landed on his back and took a moment to get up again. The troll closed in and raised his weapon for the killing blow.
Taking desperate measure, Legolas sent a shot with two arrows at the troll. The impact did no great damage to the beast, but drove it back, giving the Dwarf time to get up and get away. Then, Legolas lost sight of the battle for the moment, because some of the Orcs had finally climbed his pedestal and attacked him at short range. He dispatched them quickly.
A shout warned him and he turned around just in time to duck away from the big chain the angry troll was hauling at him. He could do nothing but to duck the whirling metal two more times. But the third time, the chain missed and wound itself around the pillar.
That gave Legolas an idea. Stopping the chain with his foot, he ran up it in an instant and climbed the creatures back, sending two arrows at once directly at his skull point-blank.
It was no use; the skull of the thing was too thick even for this impact. Legolas jumped off just in time to escape the flailing arms which grabbed for him. At least he had the satisfaction that the creature hit itself with his own weapon, in an attempt to stop the pain. He retreated to a safe distance, seeking another place from where he could wield his bow.
For moments, he lost sight of the others, fighting Orcs which had come too close. Finally, he broke free, looking around again from a place above where he could post himself – when he heard his master's desperate voice from across the chamber. "Frodo!"* At the same time he heard the answering scream of the Hobbit: "Aragorn!"
Legolas turned around and watched in horror. The troll had found the Ring-Bearer. It was standing over the helpless Hobbit, poised to strike. The deadly hammer was above its head, ready to come down. In an instant, Legolas sent an arrow at the beast. The shaft glanced off from the creatures back without doing any harm. The troll did not even notice.
In the next moment, Legolas saw Aragorn jump between the creature and the Hobbit, wielding a spear he must have found somewhere. His horrified scream "Estel!" got swallowed in the noise of the battle. Aragorn rammed the spear into the side of the beast, and really forced it back, but then he was hit by a terrible thrust and flew away against the wall. He crumpled down and lay motionless.
Legolas stood frozen in horror. He watched his fallen master intently. Surely, in a moment, Aragorn would wake, would move, would rise up again... But he could see not even any heaving of the chest. The troll was driven back by a rain of stones Merry and Pippin were throwing at it, and Frodo scrambled over to the lying man. He shook him, but to no avail. "Aragorn!" he urged. "Aragorn..."
Legolas' mind screamed in denial. Estel!
It could not be. Not after all this time! Estel could not be dead, could he?
Shaking off the shock that had stunned him to the spot, he quickly began to make his way over to his beloved, but he was thwarted; suddenly, there were more Orcs in his way, attacking, ready to kill. Legolas killed them nearly without thought. He had no time for this!
He heard Frodo's groan and pained gasp at the same time as the impact of the spear. Glancing over, he saw the Hobbit pierced by the spear the troll had plucked out of his side. Sam screamed. Then Merry and Pippin jumped the troll from the pedestal on which they stood and stabbed at him, sitting on his back. They did it no great harm, but they distracted him successfully from Frodo's crumpled form.
Legolas cast another glance over to his master. Aragorn lay far too still. He had not woken. Legolas could see not breath, no sign of life.
He turned to the troll again with grim determination.
It was decided then. He would die, maybe not in this chamber, but in the following weeks. He would go on and aid the Fellowship to his best ability, until withdrawal and the poison sapped his strength and took his life; then he would follow in his master's steps. He had failed in his task to protect Aragorn, to protect Estel; now he would pay the price.
But that would come later. For now, he had his master to avenge. He had a troll to kill.
Poised to shoot, bow drawn, he waited for his chance.
______________ o ______________
The troll fell. Legolas stood, proud and tall, over the felled foe. Yet despite his success, he felt no real triumph. All he felt was growing emptiness. Estel was gone!
He nearly missed Sam's gasp behind him, "Frodo!"* followed by a pitiful groan and the relieved exclamation of the gardener: "He's alive!"*
Legolas hardly reacted. So the Ring Bearer had been lucky then. Still...
Then he heard a voice that brought his head around.
"You should be dead! That spear would have skewered a wild boar!"*
Legolas whipped around and saw a sight that took his breath away. Aragorn was kneeling beside the recovering Ring Bearer, carefully checking for hidden injuries, despite Frodo's protest that he was all right. In response the Hobbit opened his shirt and showed the Mithril shirt that had saved his life; a shirt that Legolas knew only too well. But at the moment he could not care less about that forsaken corselet. He hardly heard the comment of the Dwarf. In three fast steps he had closed the distance, squatting down beside his master, grabbing his back.
Aragorn looked up, surprised, as he felt himself nearly crushed from behind.
"Estel!" Legolas whispered. "I thought..." He did not finish what he meant to say, just hugged him harder. Sudden pain reminded Aragorn of the battering he had just taken, and he gently broke free. "Careful, Little Leaf! You are about to finish what the troll started," he joked, and Legolas let go of him at once. Aragorn turned back to Frodo.
A sharp shriek and the noise of many running feet cut through the moment of relief. The Orcs were back!
All the company were on their feet. Flatly, Gandalf commanded: "To the bridge of Khazad-Dum!"*
And they ran. Out of the shattered doorway, through the hall, dimly lit by the beam of light that ended at the door, through a forest of pillars, each looking the same, the clamor of their enemies behind them. Except that it was not merely behind them; the Orcs seemed to come from everywhere, like insects swarming out of their holes, even climbing down the pillars from some cracks in the roof. Soon the Fellowship was surrounded, facing a wall of bodies who snarled at them and swung their weapons threateningly.
Legolas asked himself why they didn't attack. At this place, the Fellowship had no cover. A few well-placed arrows and they were done in.
Then there was a distant growl and the Orcs shrieked in fear.
Legolas started. He was as irritated at the sudden panic of their attackers as the others, but he was more disturbed by the sudden surge he felt of the surrounding darkness closing in, and of approaching evil. He turned to the direction of the noise, and saw a distant glow of flames, of ruddy, glowing fire...
The Orcs around them shrieked and fled. In moments, they were gone, leaving them alone.
Legolas turned his bow in the direction of the new danger. He felt the evil emanating from the sheen of flames like a living thing, felt it drawing closer, felt the evil presence he had sensed all day in the back of mind, at the edges of his consciousness, awake and ready, closing in to strike. The sheer power emanating from the approaching presence was staggering. The darkness and the malice it gave off froze him to the ground...
And suddenly, he understood. He paled and lowered his bow.
So that was what he had brought down on them with his foolish request to be freed of the spell! This was what he had felt during that failed effort, the power he had woken with the attempt he asked of Gandalf. The surge of power Gandalf had used on him last night had been all needed to alert this evil to the presence of the Fellowship, and must have drawn it to them like a beacon in the night. After that foolish deed, there was no way that they could have escaped it.
What a fool he had been!
He hardly heard Gandalf beside him, did not need to hear the wizard confirm what they faced.
"A Balrog!" Gandalf said. "A demon of the ancient world."* He shook his head. "Now I understand..."
He drew a deep breath. "This foe is beyond any of you! Run!"*
They pelted down the hall, to the far end, the roar of the beast close behind. The hall opened to a wide space – and suddenly, there was no ground before them. Boromir, in the lead, flailed for balance and nearly fell, weighted down by his momentum and his heavy shield. Just in time, Legolas reached him, grabbing him and hauling him back. They fell backwards, Boromir landing on top of Legolas. The torch was lost to the chasm.
They scrambled up and stared. The gap was huge. It stretched far above and down to depths unimaginable, and it went on and on to both sides, far wider as the hall they had just left. The chasm was as wide as the great hall, and it went down to depths beyond imagination. Stairs led away to the side, up to levels above, and down to those below. Far down, they could see fire; several of the deeper levels must be burning. The flames gave a reddish glow, enough to light their way, but not enough to really fill the hall with light. The heat was staggering.
Strangely, there was hardly any smoke. There had to be some shafts somewhere in the levels below that worked like a chimney.
The Hobbits arrived. Legolas reached for them, ready to assist them if they fell, but there was no need. They managed to stop themselves just in time; so did the Dwarf. Last were Aragorn and the wizard.
There was a short argument between them. Gandalf shoved Aragorn away, pointing him to the far end of the gap, where they could see a thin, single bridge spanning the chasm, several levels below and half a mile away. "Do as I say! Swords are no more use here!"*
On they ran, down the steps, level for level, off the wall and over stairs supported by huge pillars, which rose from ground hundreds of yards below and shook under their feet. The roar of the beast was in their ears; the whole hall shook, and behind them great rocks broke loose from the roof of the cave, falling like deadly missiles to the depths below them. On and on they ran, until they were forced to a sudden stop. Before them part of the stairs spanning the pillars had broken off, leaving a gap far wider than a man was tall. They hesitated.
Legolas breached the gap with one, nimble jump. He turned and beckoned. "Gandalf!"
The wizard followed. Together, they turned back to the men, ready to catch whoever braved the gap next. Boromir hesitated but a moment. He turned to the Hobbits.
Spears rained down on them, barely missing, crashing at their feet. Arrows followed. Looking up, they saw several Orcs, aiming at them from a gallery high above.
Legolas' bow was out, and his shot did not miss, despite the distance. After a moment, Aragorn followed through.
Boromir grounded his teeth. There was no time to lose! "Merry! Pippin!" Grabbing the two Halflings, each in one arm, he braved the jump. He barely made it; Legolas and Gandalf caught him and his precious cargo and pulled him onto safe ground. New arrows rained down on them from above. Legolas fired back again. Aragorn turned to Sam.
He threw the Halfling over the gap, and Boromir caught him safely; but when Aragorn turned to Gimli, the Dwarf refused.
"Nobody tosses a Dwarf!"*
And he jumped. He sailed over the gap and nearly made it; but his feet barely reached the edge of the other side, and he fell back. Only Legolas' quick reflexes saved him. The Elf grabbed his beard, despite the loud protest of his quarry, and quickly pulled him up. He looked over to his master – and froze.
Whether it was due to the strain on the withered stone, or to the trembling of the hall, the stairs under Aragorn's feet crumbled. Great chunks of the old structure broke away, nearly taking the Ranger with them. Over the crumbling stones, Aragorn scrambled up to safety. Finally he could pull himself back up to Frodo. Then he stood, facing Legolas, on the other side of the gap.
A gap that now was far too wide for any man to jump.
Legolas stared back at him in desperation.
The gap was nearly twice as wide now than it had been before. It was far too wide even for him to jump. And they hadn't any rope.
Why did they not bring rope?
Helplessly, he stared back at Aragorn, at a loss what to do. Estel! Estel would die! And there was nothing he could do about it!
Aragorn turned to Frodo, and Legolas knew what his master was about to do. He would throw the Ring-Bearer over to them and send them off, ready to stay behind and face his doom – and certain death - alone. Grief and denial warred in Legolas chest. He waited, ready to catch the Halfling from his master.
Maybe, when Frodo was safe, he could try to brave the jump; it was far, but maybe not impossible; he might just made it... at least, then Estel would not be alone... they could try to find another way to safety...
But before Aragorn could pick the Hobbit up, a massive rock fell from the ceiling and smashed the stairs behind the pillar that supported him and Frodo.
For a moment, everything seemed frozen. Then there was the awful sound of shattering stone. The pillar that supported Aragorn and Frodo groaned under the strain of its own weight, then the shaft broke. The pillar swayed, dithering, held in place by its own weight for a few, precious moments...
Legolas stared, rendered immobile. He wanted to scream, but no sound came out. He watched in horror as Aragorn and the Hobbit tried to counter the swaying of the stone under their feet in a doomed attempt to keep the shaft in place - then Aragorn leaned forward and motioned the Hobbit to do the same. And truly, unbelievingly, the massive shaft began to fall, not to the side, but forward, towards safety, breaching the gap and crashing against the remaining part of the stairs, and with a gasp of pure relief Legolas caught his master in his arms and pulled him to safety. Beside him, Gandalf did the same with Frodo.
There was no time to celebrate, or even show relief. In the next moment, they continued their mad race down the stairs, and to the bridge that held the way to safety.
______________ o ______________
The company reached the level of the bridge. A broad platform, like a huge entrance hall, opened to the deep chasm that blocked the way to safety. The only way across, a narrow, long arc of stone, seemed impossibly thin and fragile.
Flames rose before them, erupting from the hall that bordered the platform. The heat was staggering; it stole their breath away. Suddenly, an impact shook the ground under their feet, and the flames rose as if in greeting. A loud roar; and finally, they saw the beast they had tried to escape.
It was huge. Darkness and shadow seemed to shroud it like a cloak, although it gave off heat and breathed flames. Legolas cringed under the dark power surrounding it, an evil purpose, sickening and overwhelming and as solid as a wall of stone.
For moments, he was frozen, spelled into place, as was the whole company around him; then, Gandalf's cry broke them all free of the ban, and he could move again.
"Over the bridge! Fly!"*
They ran, towards the narrow bridge, over the thin arc of stone that crossed the chasm, not daring to look back, not daring to look down, just intent to reach the dubious safety of the other side. Legolas took the rear. The others of the Fellowship were before him, save only the wizard. Only when they all had safely crossed the chasm, did Legolas dare to turn again.
He stared in horror.
Gandalf stood in the middle of the bridge and faced the demon. His cry of challenge filled the hall. "You cannot pass!"*
The Balrog rose to its full height. Flames rose from its form; great wings like shadow spanned out on each side of the hall. Its very substance seemed to be of flames and shadow. But even more frightening was the power rolling off from it in waves; the sense of cruelty and malice was overwhelming.
Legolas paled and nearly dropped his bow. Glorfindel had fought that?!
He felt his blood freeze in his veins. Immobile, incapable to move, he watched as Gandalf challenged the beast. The wizard seemed impossibly small against the demon towering over them, and yet, despite the giant wings, the beast made no attempt to just jump over the gap. The power of the Istar, veiled most times, surrounded Gandalf like cold fire, no less fierce than the darksome power of the demon. Legolas watched as the demon drew a sword out of its very form and brought it down on the Istar, only to be repulsed. Then, Gandalf raised his staff high and brought it down on the bridge.
"You shall not pass!"*
The demon snorted and stepped forward on the arc of stone.
And the bridge gave way under him. With a cry like the groaning of breaking stone, the beast fell into the chasm.
For a moment, Gandalf stood unmoving on the remaining half the broken arc, looking after the falling form, then he sighed and turned. But in that moment, a whip of fire rose from the depths and wound around his foot. He was ripped down, grabbed the stone in desperation for a heartbeat – and then he was gone. His cry followed him.
"Fly, you fools!"*
Legolas could do nothing but obey his command. For a moment, he looked into the frozen face of his master, who stared after the wizard as if turned to stone. But he had not the chance to stay or to react, because he was dragged away – he did not know by whom – and pushed toward the stair that led off to the gate. Behind him, he could hear Boromir's cry: "Aragorn!"*
Arrows rained down on them. He looked back, and finally, Aragorn began to move. Following his master's lead, Legolas ran up the stairs and off to the outside.
He did not know how he made it out of the gate; he could not even recall any of the way. Outside, it was bright day. The sudden light was like a blow, blinding his eyes, rendering him sightless. He walked on, blindly, not caring where he went.
Gandalf had died. And he had taken his one chance at freedom with him.
Worse. It was his fault that Mithrandir had fallen. It had been his impatience, his wish to be rid of the spell, that had caused the wizard to use his power, and thereby wake the beast and draw it to them. Without Legolas' impatience, the company might have reached the outside undisturbed. His foolishness had nearly doomed them all.
Legolas stared blindly into the light and knew that he did not deserve to be freed. He did not deserve to be free even should their mission, by some mad chance, still succeed. He did not even deserve to be Estel's slave. He was a liability to his people. All he was good for was to be a plaything and a pet, a whore to be used and thrown away at need. He had been a fool to ever believe himself worthy of anything more.
While his eyes slowly adjusted to the sun, Legolas knew that he would never attempt to be freed again.
______________ o ______________
-- End of Part VIII --
-- TBC --
(1) All dialog from this point to the end of the chapter, with rare exceptions, is taken directly from the movie "The Fellowship Of The Ring" by Peter Jackson (New Line Cinema 2001), Extended Edition. The lifted dialog is marked with an *. However, I added my own interpretation to the scenes, of course. 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.