Beta: The Incomparable Anarithilen who just won 3rd place in the 2011 MEFAs
Chapter 42: Aícanaro
Battle was intense and loud. The clanging steel and shouting was deafening for the black tide rushed from the Morannon, stormed against the hard pressed Men of Gondor. There were so many dead. A hard cold wind tore across the seething mass and Legolas glanced up to the iron grey sky where first one, then another, and another of the Nazgul's gleaming sinuous beasts folded its wings and plummeted to the earth. They landed one after another with a whump, skidding carelessly through the battling Orcs and Men. The Nazgûl moved amongst them then, and Men scrambled away from their great swords and their cold voices brought death.
Firing arrow after arrow, until his muscles burned and he knew there were few arrows left, Legolas saw Elrohir fall beneath the onslaught of a huge troll, saw him scrambling wildly and coming up with nothing but a wooden buckler. Heart pounding with fear, Legolas reached back and grasped an arrow, knowing this was the last one. He sent it soaring, saw the troll falter and its great fist scrabbled at its throat. Relief surged through him when he saw that Elrohir had turned and was still fighting when suddenly, a great Uruk slammed into Legolas himself. He crashed to the ground, his bow was torn from his grasp and thrown far from him. Swift as lightning he drew his blades as he rolled back to his feet. The Uruk roared in his face and pounded the earth with the mace it carried in one hand.
Both he and the Uruk watched each other for a second, weighing each other up, calculating. The huge creature was heavily muscled, half again the height of Legolas and its mouth was already stained and wet with red blood.
'Azgar-snaga!' Its little eyes glinted at its find and it stretched it lips wide in a horrible smile that showed its sharpened yellow teeth. ' So far from home, what is left of it. The Eye has something special planned for you.' It slowly it drew a shorter blade, wicked, jagged-toothed...A drop slid slowly down the blade.
'You do not frighten me, pushdug,' Legolas snarled back, never above a little Orc speech. He showed his own teeth at its rage and their blades clashed loudly. The Uruk was agile and more intelligent than an Orc. It watched him carefully, testing his strength, finding his weakness. It launched itself at him again and this time, pressed him hard, the clanging blades fast and loud.
The venom gleamed and Legolas wondered briefly it was to kill quickly or merely to slow the blood, to slow him so he could be captured. An image flickered across his thoughts, of his own body bound and straining, lashed beyond endurance and panting...
Suddenly the Uruk lunged forwards, whirling round and its mace swiped through the air towards Legolas. He dodged it quickly and leapt away as the Uruk slashed with the poisoned blade across and down, its coarse black hair like ropes whipped around. Legolas blocked it. The Uruk stepped back and again, they watched each other, assessing speed, agility, strength. And as he did, Legolas caught a glimpse of Aragorn fighting away to his right. The Man was exhausted. Legolas could see his strokes were slower and heavier and even as Aragorn wiped the sweat from his eyes, he slipped suddenly and in that moment a huge hill troll out of Gorgoroth thundered down onto him and raised its hammer, pounding down onto Aragorn's shield.
Calculating, the Uruk noticed his moment of distraction and launched itself at him. Legolas caught the short blade between his own crossed knives and shoved at the Uruk, drove it back enough to whirl, sweeping his twin blades below and above its jagged sword and into its chest and belly. The Uruk roared with pain and fury, spitting and cursing him in its own foul tongue. A hot stink as its rubbery entrails spilled out. It clutched itself with one hand and as it crashed to the ground, it lashed out with the blade.
Legolas drew back, not wasting his own energy and turned to run to Aragorn's side when he felt it. The slightest nick on his arm and a sudden burning sensation on his skin sinking into his blood. He glanced down in surprise at the scratch, and saw a slow black thread ease through the beaded blood. In horror he stared at the blood and then down at the Uruk, its bloody mouth was open and maddened yellow eyes glazed already.
Such a little scratch, he thought, but his eyes were already drawn to Aragorn and the huge troll out of Gorgoroth which pounded its war-hammer against Aragorn's buckling shield. Aragorn was slowly, slowly crushed by its vicious onslaught; his parries were heavier, slower, weary. The troll knew he was finished and lifted its huge, iron-shod foot to stamp upon the Man and grind him into the bloody ground.
Legolas launched himself at the troll, leaping over a fallen and grasping Orc, he seized the crossbow it still clung to and saw with frightened glee a bolt still lodged in it. Never had he been so glad for a crossbow, for the bolts were powerful and he barely paused to aim and fired into the troll's head. It rolled its head back roaring, and stumbled back.
'Aragorn!' he shouted again and relief flooded him when he saw the Man struggling to rise.
At that moment a thin wail pierced the air and Legolas glanced up in horror. He saw how the Nazgûl had gathered their dark folds about Elrohir. His heart faltered for he did not know which way to go; he looked first at Elrohir and then at Aragorn. And then, putting duty before his heart, he turned away from where Elrohir struggled for his life, fought against the darkness for his soul, and ran towards Aragorn.
Legolas shut off all thought, and simply ran and leapt like he had never done before. Seizing the troll's great leather harness, he hauled himself up onto its massive shoulders, and plunged his blades as hard as he could into its neck. It screamed and writhed and shook itself frantically, hot blood spurted up from the great artery and spattered over Legolas. Then he was thrown from its body and landed hard on the stony ground, the breath knocked out of him so he gasped and could not breathe. He lay flattened, clutching his chest and lay stunned.
'Elrohir!' shouted Elladan, swinging wildly with his sword and slashing through anything that stood in his way, his sword flashing in the strange silver-black storm light. But ahead of him, where Elladan desperately sought to reach, the darkness coalesced, took shape and gathered around Elrohir where he had fallen. He thought he heard a Voice in the air, deep, deeper than the thunder and it spoke the black speech and pushed the armies of Mordor onwards with a terrible will; they were bewitched, ensorcelled, their will no longer their own if it ever had been. It was as if the mass of orcs were merely a limb extended from the Tower to swipe away the flies that bothered it.
A huge mountain of slack flesh and muscle lumbered before him, a hill troll, wielding a buckler such as Elrohir had grabbed, and a club. It roared and quivered with unaccountable rage.
'I do not have time for this!' Elladan shouted furiously, and leaped and slashed across its throat. Hot black blood gurgled over its fist where it clutched the wound.
Elladan leapt over its quivering mass and then he was amongst the great winged beasts where they clustered. They stretched their sinuous necks and snapped at him as he ran between them, his sword held above him and slicing, hacking and slashing at anything that came near him. Above him, shadows stretched out great wings and his heart sank, expecting boulders and stones to rain down. Instead there was a flash of gold and a cry of the great eagles from the mountains; they swooped down over and amongst the Nazgûl beasts, talons outstretched. Someone had shouted the eagles were coming, he remembered now.
Elladan did not pause but darted between the struggling knots of Men and Orcs. He caught sight of Aragorn, struggling to his feet from beneath a huge troll and suddenly Elladan himself slipped on the bloody mass beneath his feet, a slippery mess of entrails that steamed and stank...he went down heavily and as he scrambled to stay upright, his fingers caught on something that almost leapt into his hand.
A darkness seemed to descend on him, shadows stretched and distorted, and suddenly the Dark Tower seemed to be aware of him. It was like the Eye had shifted its focus and searched. In his hand he felt a thrum of power and dark lust. Something thrilled through him. It had tasted the iron tang, the delight of blood. It thirsted still.
Elladan almost dropped it for it was a serpent of darkness and betrayal and he wondered how had it fallen from his brother's hand? But it seemed to curl, coil about his hand and hiss, the dark runes he had never noticed before writhed and entwined about the blade. He stared at it, slowly realising what power he held, and slowly, as if mesmerized, he sheathed his own frost-bright sword.
It dawned on him then, that Elrohir was without a weapon. Despite its dark lineage, never before had Aícanaro slipped from his brother's grasp, not even in the deepest battle. Why now? Elrohir must already be lost if Aícanaro had abandoned him; the Nazgûl would not suffer the sword to survive if it fell into their hands. It was too great an enemy to risk amongst them, he knew. And it had come to him instead...
Suddenly the thin wailing deepened, darkened and in the thunder that growled and rumbled around the mountains, he heard again the dreadful Voice and this time, the words were more distinct and he glanced down at the dark-bladed sword and wondered if he could now hear the words because Aícanaro enabled him to.
The great roaring of battle grew like a storm, or a wildfire devouring the forest, consuming everything. Crimson fire leapt in great flashes and bolts from Barad-dûr, as if a giant in black armour were hurling fire bolts into battle.
Horror drove Elladan hurtling at an Orc that stood between him and the Nazgûl. He thrust Aícanaro into its belly and barely paused in his panic, shoving it away and pushed through the jostling seething mass of Men and Orcs that blocked his way. The sword sang, its blade thrummed, an edge of steel in the wind.
'Elrohir!' he shouted. A thin scream pierced the noise of battle, rose above the clashing swords, the moans of the dying and injured and the hoarse cawing of the snapping beasts. And suddenly he was through.
The Nazgûl were gathered about a shape huddled at their feet; it moaned and struggled weakly. Darkness rippled and wavered like water and there was again, that voice, darker, deeper that uttered the dreadful curse that would bind Elrohir forever to the will of their Master.
ash nazg gimbatul...
A dull gleam showed him the iron crown they forced upon Elrohir. In that moment, Elladan felt a power that coiled and writhed. Aícanaro. Its unearthly metal could strike through any earth-born iron and he lifted the great sword and struck out in a wide arc at the circling Nazgûl.
He clashed with the blades that whirled about to meet it, great swords held high and two handed, clanged against Aícanaro. Sparks flew from the great swords and the Nazgûl drew back, hissing and peering at the black weapon. He felt the sword thrum with delight; it hungered for the darkness of the Nazgûl, sought to quench its thirst on their power.
He lunged forwards with renewed hope but the wraiths seemed reluctant to risk Aícanaro's wrath, remembering Khamûl's fall perhaps, for they each fell back before the edge of that black metal. The wind fluttered the edges of thin black shrouds and it felt like the battle had fallen away too, the noise and din dying away in the smoke and vapour.
In the quiet that was left, he saw a dark figure rise slowly from the earth, tall and strong, with long silk-black hair lifting on the wind. A dull gleam on its brow, an iron crown and on its hand gleamed a ring with a crimson jewel, like an eye.
Elladan barely gasped, a dreadful pain in his chest pressed down upon him. Elrohir.
His brother's grey eyes were hard as flint, as steel, and his noble, stern face impassive, implacable. In his hand a blade gleamed dully. A Morgul blade. Elladan knew he was doomed; he could never strike down his own brother. The Nazgûl had anticipated that and sent Elrohir against him.
'No. No...Elrohir!' Elladan heard his own voice moan and he shook his head, a pang squeezed his heart. 'Elrohir, fight this! You are NOT Nazgûl, you are NOT one of them.'
...Ash nazg thrakatulûk...
And it was not the Nazgûl that spoke. Richer, deeper, like darkness itself, that Voice again in the thunder, insinuated itself into Elladan's heart, seeking him just as it had pursued his brother He fought it.
...agh burzum-ishi krimpatul...
The Voice resonated, echoed, with the beat of his blood in his ears, with the beat of his heart, in his bones...Bound. In darkness...
He fought it but he wanted to kneel before his brother. Elladan gripped Aícanaro. He strove to stay in his place, but his feet moved as if he were no longer in control. He felt himself bow and Aícanaro was still in his hand. The Voice was resonant, like the Song.
...agh burzum-ishi krimpatul...
A flash of dull metal and Elladan fixed his frightened eyes upon the Morgul blade now wielded by his brother, Lord of the Nazgul.
Come. Vassal. You will be Nine.
No! Not this. To die by his brother's hand, to be captured himself as a wraith.
Elrohir raised the Morgul blade high and Elladan gripped dark Aícanaro, he could not move, a will stronger than his, stronger than anything, a Maiar's will kept him in place and the Nazgûl circled them both. Darkness roiled about them and there were dark chanting voices, words scattered like spider webs across his skin.
...agh burzum-ishi krimpatul...
He felt the cold breath of the Nazgûl drawing close now and closer. Their naked hunger...and Aícanaro rang like a glass goblet with their closeness but Elladan could not lift it, could not wield the black blade.
Aícanaro...this time thou shalt not survive. This time thou shalt melt in the heat of the One.
It was so hot, as hot as Oroduin. The darkness was limned with red fire which grew brighter and brighter and he could not turn away, or raise his hands to his face.
I see you.
A sense of absolute terror struck him and he felt a wetness at his thigh. A great Eye opened high, high up in the darkness that was Barad-dûr but its brightness, its dreadful Power searched and pierced the dark like a spear, lit Elrohir so he was like the Barad-dûr itself; a black-clad warrior lit by red fire so his armour no longer gleamed with mithril's purity, but a crimson fire that reflected the fire of the Eye. Elladan cowered before him. Rávëyon.
Nine you are again. Bring me Ash Nazg.
Elrohir raised the Morgul blade and Elladan thought he saw a tremor in his lifted hand, saw his brother blink but slowly, inexorably stepping towards Elladan. Crimson lightning caught on the blade and Elladan watched breathless as his brother approached, his eyes hooded and dark, the Morgul blade gleamed dully in his hand and his knuckles were white. He was tense and coiled and Elladan could see the fight.
Elladan stilled himself. Held Aícanaro lightly, feeling the sword tremble, for Aícanaro recognised the hand that had held him for centuries, had brought him back out of the vault into the light once more, and the sword seemed to speak.
Rávëyon...Lord. I will not be bound.
Legolas gasped, clutching his chest and lying on his back where he had been thrown by the death throes of the troll. He rolled, panic-stricken and breathless, onto his side and found himself face to face with a dead soldier of Gondor; the man's mouth was open and his eyes staring and his throat had been ripped out. Gory tubes and veins trailed from the gaping hole in his throat and blood spread thickly over his lower face, neck and chest. Legolas recoiled in horror, and even though he still could not breathe, he scooted away quickly.
Suddenly a clawed hand caught his shoulder and dragged him round.
'It's alive!' shouted a gleeful voice. Orcs' grinning faces leaned over him, darker, shadows and light, even more horrific than usual and their yellow teeth lengthened into fangs.
He recognised the slow poison must have a hallucinogenic effect similar to spider venom, but it didn't matter now anyway.
It is over, he thought and was annoyed with himself for being so careless. His knives were still thrust into the troll's twitching, quivering corpse not far away. Too far, he thought wearily, and gasped for breath that would not come. His lungs were burning and he blinked against the falling darkness and the fire that spread slowly through his arm now. He hoped Aragorn was all right.
There were sheets of white light flashing in the sky all around him, above the gathered Orcs. One approached him, leering, and gave him a hard, hard kick in the belly, shouting something in its own wicked tongue and another kicked his at his head...and though he rolled and covered his head with his hands, he still saw white stars explode and he thought he heard thundering. An Orc kicked him again and there was a frightening pain in his side and stomach and he felt a bubble of blood in his throat. A blade was raised high above him. It flashed in the lightning and plunged towards him...
...clattered on the armour of the dead Man lying next to him. The Orc toppled over and suddenly the others turned too and were met by a mighty cry 'Baruk Khazad! Khazad ai-menu!' Black liquid sprayed everywhere and gobs of black gore spattered his face.
Legolas almost wept as a strong square hand reached down to him. Warmth of a forge, comforting as a hearth, reached down into him, poured into him where Gimli grasped his hand.
'Are ye going to lie around like that all day?' Gimli asked. 'There's work to be done and here I find you taking your ease!'
Gimli's great war axe was spattered with blood and stringy black stuff looped and dripped over the blade. His face was smudged with rust coloured blood and one earth-brown eye was half closed but they still gleamed like jewels. He bared his white teeth and dropped his gaze to the blood-soaked sleeve of Legolas' tunic. He reached down to touch it briefly, Legolas winced for it felt like fire.
'It's slow. Not like spider venom...' Legolas gasped and rolled to a sitting position, recovering his breath. He was not sure if his belly hurt more than his head where the Orcs had kicked him with their iron-shod feet.
Gimli met his eyes seriously but did not speak at first. Then he said, 'Mail armour.' The Dwarf tapped his own dwarven hauberk. 'Does nothing but slow you down, does it? You Woodelves will never learn.' But his eyes were deep with concern.
With a curl of distaste, Legolas took the water Gimli held out to him and poured it over the wound as if it might do any good. He then tore off a strip of cloth from his already frayed sleeve and swiftly tied it above the wound using his teeth and other hand. It would have to do. He had had worse before in his long life, and this would slow the poison even more in spite of his exertion. Later he might even be glad of it, he thought wryly, remembering images of flames and blood and sex.
There was no time to think about any of that now, nor did he want to, hoping it was but the Nazgûl's cruel malice that played on suspicion and fear. Around them, the battle raged and Men and Orcs were locked in battle that so quickly, so easily they were being beaten back.
'He is on his feet, up there.' Gimli nodded towards the hilltop. 'Now, get your weapons. We need to stand.' Gimli reached down and pulled Legolas to his feet.
Everything hurt; his ribs hurt when he breathed but at least now he could breath a little better. His head was still reeling from the pounding given him by the Orcs but at least they lay dead at the feet of the Dwarf. But the slow fire spread up his arm towards his heart regardless of the tourniquet, such as it was. Legolas limped towards the dead bulk that was the troll, pulling his knives from its flesh. His chest and head felt crushed, pain-filled and he felt a warmth trickle down into his eyes and wiped it away. His hand came away red but he thought he looked no better than Gimli.
'You look terrible,' he observed to the Dwarf. But Gimli did not grin back. Instead, and more worryingly, he patted Legolas' arm gently and led him towards the hillside. Above, they could see Aragorn ordering the last defence.
Aragorn stood tall in spite of the imminent defeat, the wind whipped his hair into his eyes and pulled his cloak out behind him but Legolas thought he saw a star on his brow and there was majesty in him in spite of the blood and dirt. He thought he heard the sough of great wings...but it was different from the Nazgûls' reptiles. It carried the sound of the wind in the high mountains, of snow and crisp high blue skies...
'Come Legolas. We need to join Aragorn,' Gimli pulled his arm more urgently now but Legolas looked up because the eagles were above him now and their great wings were golden, catching the molten lightning, wheeling above, diving at the grounded reptilian steeds who could only snap and wail. Strangely he wanted to go amongst them, for the hides gleamed silver and smooth... He blinked slowly, realising the poison was making him slow, making him see things differently.
The wind was hot, fiery, like a great forge and the smell and taste of iron and copper in the air. Like blood, Legolas thought and the soft ground squelched a little beneath his feet. It had been stony when he fell, he thought slowly staring at the ground. It seemed dark and red and rich where before it had been thin dust.
'Come, Legolas!' Gimli shouted anxiously once again. Legolas turned slowly. The ground shook and saw that a pair of trolls pounded towards them, clenched in their meaty fists were huge flanged maces, each one the size of a Dwarf.
'Too late, Legolas! Stand!' Gimli grabbed his arm and flung him round, pulled his arms in front of him so the knives were before him. Legolas stared at the way the lightning poured liquid fire over the runes engraved on the white blades. The words seemed to dance on the white metal.
And then the trolls were upon them. Elf and Dwarf fought back to back, but it seemed to Legolas that time had slowed and everything poured over him and nothing hurt. His body acted out of instinct, watching for the moment the troll smashed at him with the mace and then ducking beneath their blows and slashing hard at the softer skin round the knees, belly, the groin, the thighs. There were eagles too, he slowly realised, diving at the trolls' heads so the trolls lifted their hands to protect their eyes and the Elf could reach below and drive his blades beneath them, gutting them. He heard Gimli's war cry as if from very far away and he turned slowly to watch the Dwarf swing his axe in a great arc and cut open the chest of the troll so it fell back with a horribly gurgling cry.
Above them, the lightning raged and thunder rolled around and around. A sheet of white fire lit the hilltop, tinged red and the red grew deeper, stronger, overwhelming the white fire. His head was still filled with ringing from being kicked, and Legolas thought he heard huge, crashing, titanic voices in the thunder itself.
He paused to listen for a moment but Gimli shouted to him and he shook himself in time to draw his blades across the throat of an ugly Orc and turned to block a thrust from behind him. He stumbled unbelievably and felt Gimli reach back to pull him upright. Legolas shook his head slowly, for he could no longer see as clearly as he should. He glanced around him, blinking slowly, and saw Gandalf, standing high on the hill, beneath the black banner that streamed out in the hot scorching wind. Gandalf's white robes flattened about him, red flames seemed to flicker over him though there was no fire near, his hair streamed back, pulled back, and it seemed the wind tore at him like teeth.A Voice called through the thunder...
Legolas felt his hands slippery with blood and he gripped the blades more tightly and whirled and slashed. His head swam and before him, the wave of Orcs shimmered and it seemed to him that Barad-dûr was a relentless titanic warrior clad in obsidian armour, looming over the field of battle, reaching out to crush the West, to pound them into blood and dust. A red lidless Eye flamed in its black helm. Against it, stood Gandalf, and he sent a bolt of white fire, hurled it against the invincible black armour of Barad-dûr.
Legolas turned his face briefly towards Gandalf one more time as the tide of Orcs pressed upon the Elf and Dwarf and he felt Gimli slip. He knew he was shouting but could not hear himself, could not hear anything but the storm of Voices, of Powers, like the roll of thunder.
Long since I heard you speak my name...Aürušur you once called me.
White fire, sheets of lightning surrounded him, blazed through with red and great bolts of flame leapt from Gandalf's staff and sped towards the Tower. Legolas glanced upwards and thought he saw the light grow and build to suddenly explode skywards in a spiraling stream of Song. His heart had never heard anything more lovely and tears streamed down his face for he never would again, he thought. Great chords struck and crashed against the darkness and discord. The Song, the Music rose up in great waves and he thought of it breaking like huge silver waves against the impregnable Barad-dûr as he fought and fought and fought, and was slowly, inexorably beaten back by the huge wave of Orcs, like a landslide, Gimli at his side.
And then, a great chord, like a deep bell...resonant with power and longing. Like the call of the Ring. A pulse...trembled through the air, rippled through the earth...
It was a cry. Of loss and yearning.
Elladan felt himself seized and thrown to the ground before his brother. The claw hands that grasped him were cold and he felt as if ice was driven through his veins, towards his heart. His blood became sluggish and his thoughts slowed like a great river turning to ice. He raised his eyes slowly upwards to see his brother and he seemed to tower above him, a great warrior clad in armour turned black by the darkness and twilight. A manifestation of Barad-dûr itself. Elladan could no longer see his brother's face and Elrohir moved slowly as if compelled.
Elladan caught his breath as his brother wavered where he stood before the Brethren, the Nazgûl. He could see more clearly now; Elrohir's eyes were squeezed together and his lips thinned in pain. His free hand raised as if detached from himself and he reached, grasping, towards Elladan, towards Aícanaro. He hesitated, and then drew his hand back, lifted his hand to trail his fingers strangely over the iron crown. It gleamed dully.
He took a hesitant step forwards, compelled, and then faltered...his eyes cleared momentarily and his hand lifted again, dipped as if it were too heavy.
'Elrohir!' Elladan whispered, for it was so hard to form words, his own tongue felt slow and his thoughts were like ice, like the glaciers of the Helcaraxë. 'Elrohir...'
Elrohir raised his head slowly. His eyes gleamed for a moment and rested on Elladan. There was an imperceptible lift of his mouth and Elladan felt his heart soar with sudden hope. His fingers gripped Aícanaro and the sword thrummed with a dark power, still thirsty. As if Aícanaro had somehow cleared his own mind, Elladan watched intently, saw how Elrohir's weight shifted slightly, the whiteness of his knuckles around the Morgul blade and the tightening of his mouth. He tuned his own body to his brother's...
'Ai Elbereth,' he whispered, and a slow still part of him trusted Elrohir, called upon their rich blood, their own incipient power to resist, as had Luthien, Elwing.
A sudden bolt of brilliant light launched from the hilltop, arcing high above, and thrust into the ground nearby. The Nazgûl spun towards it, shrieking furiously and he saw Elrohir explode from their dark sorcery. In that one moment of inattention, Elrohir hurled the Morgul blade, screaming past Elladan towards the Nazgûl that held Elladan. The blade streaked cold air past Elladan's cheek and he was released abruptly. Struggling to his feet, and without thought, without pause, he lifted Aícanaro. With a rush of delight, the sword flashed and hurtled like a flaming bolt into the Wraith. The blade clashed against the iron armour beneath the thin black shroud and he felt the armour buckle and give. Aícanaro sang with wild, blood thirsty delight and he thrust deeper. The Nazgûl writhed and shrieked and the shroud seemed to incinerate, blazed skywards in a wailing, shrieking stream of shadows that fled upwards into the furious wind that swirled and shrieked.
The Brethren surged about Elrohir now with furious cries, their thin wailing shrieks deafening, chilling the blood and reaching deep into marrow, squeezing the heart. Elrohir opened his mouth and a terrible cry came from his lips, of anguish and pain as if he struggled against some great terror and iron will, and then he fell silent.
Abruptly the shrieking stopped.
The Brethren turned wildly towards Barad-dûr. For a moment, everything was still and Elrohir dropped his hands and then, like the Brethren, he too turned to stare feverishly at the Black Tower.
Hot fiery wind pulled at the thin shrouds of the Nazgûl, so they streamed like shadows. Dust swirled and the ground began to tremble. The Nazgûl lifted their terrible voices in a wailing chorus of fury and fled towards the great beasts who were restless and agitated, lifting their blunt reptilian heads on long sinuous necks and scenting the wind. The Nazgûl leapt astride their beasts and the great wings unfurled. Huge haunches bunched and the fell beasts sprang into the air, lifted on the wind that blew furiously from the West.
Elrohir leapt after them and Elladan caught at him, still clutching Aícanaro, wrestling him to the ground.
'No! No, you cannot go with them! Elrohir, come back to me!' he cried. Struggling against him, Elrohir punched him hard in the face and Elladan recoiled but he did not let go. He beat Elrohir with the hilt of Aícanaro and though Elrohir struggled, he could not shake free but dragged them both towards the one remaining beast, which stretched its great wings and crouched ready to fly.
'Ash nazg!' Elrohir shouted like one delirious. 'Gimbatul!' He dragged Elladan after him, the scorching wind tore at them, pulling back their long black hair, swirling the red-limned dust in great clouds.
The Brethren were already hurtling back towards the Tower and the remaining steed gave a blood-chilling cry, and gave a mighty leap into the air, flapping its great wings it circled and circled and Elrohir screamed in fury. Elladan felt the earth shake beneath his feet and grabbed at Elrohir. He seized at the iron crown and tried to force it from his brother's head.
'Take it off, Elrohir! Take it off!'
'Never! Though the Tower falls, I will remain...' He turned and shoved Elladan away from him, and stood tall and strong. His face was hard, like flint and the crown seemed lit by a red glow from the Tower. 'I see now! You want it for yourself!'
Elladan sprang at him then and wrestled with his brother. He grasped the iron crown, and tried again to wrench it from his brother's brow. Elrohir gripped it strongly and Elladan pounded his brother's hand with the hilt of Aícanaro. And then suddenly it was in Elladan's hand, so cold it burned.
He hurled the crown away as far as he could. It arced brightly, a flash of red and fell to the ground. Elrohir gave a cry and sprang after it.
Elladan launched himself and brought Elrohir down. 'Give me the Ring!' he shouted and the two brothers went down again, rolling, punching, kicking in the dirt, insensible to the Trolls and Orcs that looked up startled and then fled the rumbling, lurching ground.
'I will see you dead before I let you become as they!' Elladan shouted above the thundering, crashing wind that tore at them now both where they struggled on the ground. Suddenly Elladan felt the ground give a little beneath him. He stared. The ground was opening up around them, great chasms and crevices were cracking open in the earth.
He looked around suddenly alarmed. The wind roared from the West, through the open Gates, over the Mountains and huge rainclouds churned after it. A great chasm opened up only yards away from them, yawning wide, like the earth had simply dropped away. Far, far below, the darkness swirled and twisted and from its depths came a tumult of fell voices, howling and the wind poured into it, pushing everything foul and corrupt into the chasm. It seemed to Elladan there were immense horns blowing and a pronouncement of Doom. He tore his riveted gaze away with great will and fixed fastened upon the face of his brother who looked at him in terror and love.
'It is the Void!' he whispered in horror. 'Take off the Ring, Elrohir. Quickly.' He grabbed at Elrohir's hand where they lay entangled. The wind pulled at them both and suddenly they were dragged along the stony ground towards the chasm. Elladan lifted Aícanaro and dug the blade into the ground, holding on for their lives. 'The Ring. Take it off, Elrohir! Take it off!'
'I cannot! It will not come!' Elrohir shouted furiously and Elladan suddenly knew the truth of it; it would not easily release him for it would be swallowed into the Void. The wind tore at them both and Elladan felt his hand on the hilt of Aícanaro slip slightly.
Then Elrohir looked upon him with such love and he felt him open his hand. 'Let me go, Elladan.'
'No! I will not let you go!' he shouted and gripped him harder. Raindrops splashed heavily onto his skin and made his fingers slippery. He felt a thrum nearby, a coil of power. Aícanaro slid deeper into the trembling ground but the earth fractured around it and sank a little.
Elladan scrambled forward as far as he could against the hurricane that dragged at them both, but Elrohir's hand felt so cold, like burning. The wind caught Elrohir and tugged and pulled and ripped over them both. The ground splintered beneath Aícanaro and they were both dragged along the stony ground towards the chasm.
'Elladan! Let go!' shouted Elrohir, bawling above the roar of the wind now. 'It will take us both...I cannot take it off unless you let me go!'
'No...' Elladan heard his voice sob but it was true. 'Reach up. I will take it from you and throw it into the Void. Reach!'
Elrohir's face turned up to him in desperate love and shook his head at first. But Elladan saw he knew there was no other way and he reached up and his fingers caught on the circle of cold fire.
And he thought how easily he could slip the Ring from Elrohir's hand now, and let go; the Void would take Elrohir. It was no more than he deserved after all. He himself was pure and would be spared...He barely noticed how easily it slipped from Elrohir's hand then and ...
And suddenly Elladan was dragged and torn by the wind and Elrohir had pulled Aícanaro from his grasp and seized Elladan's shoulder. The wind still tore at them both but it seemed to swirl and eddy around them, pulling their long silk-black hair into one long plume, lightning flashed in their grey eyes.
'You would take it from me now?' Elladan accused angrily. But Elrohir pulled him back from the chasm.
'Throw it into the Void, Elladan,' his brother's voice came and he felt wrapped in crimson warmth. But how could he?
'Elladan...it has you now.'
Suddenly Elladan looked at the small circle in his hand though the wind buffeted and tore at him. The Ring's red gem glowed angrily, furiously, brighter, hotter and there in the East rose a huge shadow, impenetrable, lightning crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the whole field of battle and stretched out towards the brothers, reaching a vast threatening hand as if to take them to drag them into darkness with it. It leaned over them both at the very moment Elladan tossed the Ring away from him and Elrohir raised the black metal blade high above his head and struck down upon the Ring with a terrible force.
There were sparks and a flash and something hurled away, sucked into the Void. The great shadow writhed and twisted and spiraled in a great wind that sucked it down and down into the great blackness of the Earth and Elrohir was there, clinging to him still and the last Ring, Angmar's ring was gone.
The earth still shook and trembled and the wind still tore at them but it had lost its malicious edge, as if the wind merely sought to return all that was evil to the Void and now the Ring had gone, it was content to leave them.
Elladan looked up and great fat raindrops splattered on his face. Boulders rattled and rumbled around them and he realised they were beneath the landslide that Legolas had been standing upon when they had galloped back from the Gate. He thought they had travelled further. He felt Elrohir slide his arm beneath his shoulder and haul him to his feet.
'Come, we must make for the hill. I think we will be safer standing with Gandalf.'
They saw the great golden eagles flying swiftly towards the fallen Tower and they leaned against each other, stumbling over the slain as they made their way over the collapsing earth and up the hillside. He tasted salt and knew that he was ridiculously weeping and laughed because his heart was lighter than it had been since the One Ring had been uncovered. He heard shouting and turned his head to see Men wildly waving and shouting. He smiled and pulled Elrohir's head closer to his chest and kissed the top of his head.
Legolas had listened, amazed, felt in his blood the slow pulse. Like a hammer had struck a huge bronze bell, the note resonated, throbbed, trembled, shimmered in the air, pulsed outwards and everything slowed...the Song had changed. The notes spiraled, grew, spiraled wider and soared and soared into a crescendo. A huge infinite Song that lifted and curled and swelled and wheeled about Barad-dûr... He thought it must be the effect of the poison that was pulsing hot in his veins now.
Legolas looked down at his feet and saw the dust tremble and his eyes widened. Suddenly Gimli grabbed his arm and pulled at him; they sprang away, from one patch of trembling earth to another, up the hillside towards Gandalf and Aragorn. Gimli moved with unexpected agility, picking a sure-footed path up the slope, away from the collapsing ground. Around them, surviving Men too were scrambling up the slopes, clambering over the piles of corpses, slipping on the blood for many bodies were slick and wet.
There was a roar from the Gates of Mordor, as if from the throat of one colossal titanic creature, and Legolas glanced back over his shoulder, thinking a Balrog had been unleashed as the Enemy's final desperate weapon. He stumbled and fell hard against Gimli but the Dwarf was like the earth and stood strong.
'What new devilry is this?' Gimli muttered in a horrible echo of Legolas' own thoughts as he pulled Legolas to his feet. The sky whirled above Legolas, glowed red and gold and he narrowed his eyes against the glare for there were gold streaming stars shooting up into the sky... like a river of gold that spurted high into the skies...he looked for shadows and flame for it came from Mount Doom.
There was a storm of blinding flashes, crimson lightning, from Barad-dûr itself, like the sun had exploded, and red flaming bolts shot into the air. The roar grew louder and louder until Legolas thought the mountains would fall and the earth crumbled beneath them...
But the Song soared...triumphant. So he frowned. It could not be a Balrog if the great spiraling notes crashed in a symphony that thundered with victory and the discord twisted and melted. Legolas felt his heart would burst. Could it be true? He thought Oromë must be sounding his horns, that Ulmo had released the tempest, and the winds tamed by Manwë had been thrown free into the skies.
He realised that Gimli had stopped, had let go of Legolas' arm in astonished wonder and was gazing upwards. Legolas blinked for his eyes were blurred and the world rocked under him. He stumbled again and Gimli caught him. When he looked up, there were tears in Gimli's eyes.
'They've done it,' he whispered. 'They've done it!'
Time finally undid the sorcery that bound Barad-dûr; the first great slabs of masonry slid slowly and crashed onto the trembling, shifting earth that opened to receive it. Barad-dûr shattered like obsidian glass.
Legolas blinked again but his eyes couldn't focus...
'Frodo and Sam,' cried Gimli, holding Legolas upright for he had slipped and sat hard on the shaking ground. 'They've done it! Legolas! They've done it!'
And then suddenly the air was filled with the sound of rushing wings and shouting and there was a blur of gold and white. Gandalf was astride one of the great eagles and with him were the other eagles and they sped towards Mount Doom. The triumph died on his lips and he felt Gimli grip his arm.
'Pray they live,' Gimli murmured and his fingers began to move in those mysterious little gestures Legolas had seen but twice before.
Legolas could not move for all he could think of was two small hobbits clinging together at the last, in that river of fire that poured from the mountain. And he joined Gimli in his own desperate prayer.
Gimli glanced down then at Legolas and seemed to notice for the first time that his head lolled to his left a little and his eyes were glazed. 'Suppose we best get you to Aragorn, get that cut sorted out,' he said gruffly but his eyes were anxious and he began shouting for help.
'...'s only a scratch,'Legolas tried to say but his mouth would not move and his tongue felt thick. 'Feels like spider venom...makes you sleep...'
Mairon- In some of Tolkien's earlier work he refers to Mairon as Sauron's original name.
Aürušur -From valarin (source: Ardalambion) stem word: gawa meaning devise or craft + rušur - fire.
And of course:
Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
pushdug: Orcish word of contempt. Dungfilth. I don't think Legolas would shy away and cower from the Black Speech. Soldiers often use their enemy's words against them and Mirkwood would do that.
'Azgar-snaga! - Snaga- slave. Azgar is the shortened form of Azgarâzir –The Nazgul's name for Thranduil, whom they hate more than any other ruler for his defence and war against them in Dol Guldur. Although it was the White Council that overthrew Sauron as the Necromancer at the end of The Hobbit, Thranduil it was who continuously fought them. Literally "wage war" cf. azaggara - at least all this is true in my version.
So...next chapter: I am not quite sure whether to extend it a little and let you enjoy the suffering or just cut straight to the Field of Cormellen. Feedback on this will help me to decide how much more of this there is.
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.