Authors Note: This story is a Spin-off of my Mael-Gûl universe. It is set before the background of that universe, and it explores one single idea: What if Legolas indeed were to take the ring? Like a lot of the things I write lately, this one has been inspired by a discussion with my reviewer Randy, who has also volunteered to beta for this one. This starts out in the night after 'Respite'.
Warning: Implied slash, m/m, BDSM, torture, non-con and debatable consent. Also, for this story: Gore, horror, and character death. I mean it!
Rated: NC (M) –strictly adults only.
Pairings: Aragorn/Legolas (mainly), Boromir/Legolas (implied).
Beta: The relentless and ever gracious randy_o. Thank you! All remaining errors are my own.
Disclaimer: The universe I play in is not mine, nor are the characters; I just borrow without permission. I make no money out of this. Lord of the Rings and the world of Middle Earth was created by J.R.R. Tolkien and is owned by the Tolkien Estate, and the movies were made by Peter Jackson. My story universe of Mael-Gûl was inspired by Bluegold's story "Bound", which can be found here: http://daemel.freespaces.com/authors.html#blue
I use similar plot ideas with her permission. The idea of the Mael-Gûl, or Rhach e-Maelangwedh (Lust-Spell, Curse of Lustchain) however is entirely mine.
However, this particular story is a very grim AU to my main story universe. You have been warned!
Summary: What if Legolas indeed took the Ring?
Occasionally I work with flashback scenes. Here is a Guide:
// /flashback/ //; ************Time change within a flashback***********; "speech"; 'thoughts'
Dark Mael-Gûl-AU: Murder The Dawn
by Aislynn Crowdaughter
Nothing else but laughter is around me,
No one can heal me,
Nothing can save me,
No one can heal me,
I've gone beyond the truth,
It's just another lie...
Wash away the blood on my hands,
My father's blood,
In agony we're unified.
I never wanted to be
What they told me to be
Fulfill my fate, then I'll be free
God knows how long
I tried to change fate...
Blind Guardian, Mordred's Song.
It is on the sixth day of my journey when the need sets in. I am exhausted; for a week, I have been running on with little rest, and now my body starts to tire. Besides, I have not found restful sleep for even longer, since that night some ten days ago when Estel extended the spell to that Dwarf and the Man of Gondor. It was Estel himself, Aragorn, my master, who did this to me. And yet, that does not change the need that runs through me. I miss Estel. I feel it in my body, in my very bones. To hear his voice, to see his face again, to feel his clever fingers on my body one more time...
It does not help me that I tell myself that he is gone, that I will never see his face or feel his touch again this side of Mandos. That knowledge is bitter within my soul, and it just makes the longing worse.
I keep on running. I cannot afford to linger on my grief, or my desire; I have an errand to fulfill and many more miles to cover... and yet.
Just for a moment I allow my mind to wander, and suddenly it hits me, stronger than before. Estel's face appears before my eyes. Longing runs through me, for his touch, his voice, his body close to mine... the redolent smell of pipe-weed that always surrounded him like a cloak, his scratchy beard, even when it had just been neatly trimmed, his laughter... My body is aflame with desire. I crave him, his touch, his presence, and his absence is is like a sharp, stabbing pain. I see the half-smile on his face, the beckoning eyes, that impish question he asked me at our last night together: 'Do you not want me?' - and I want to scream, to beg, to whimper. Yes! Yes, I want you, yes – but he is not there. He is not beside me anymore, and he will never be again. And I, myself, made sure of that.
I grit my teeth and tell myself that in truth, I should be glad, but the thought feels bloodless and stale within my heart. I am not glad; I crave his presence. I try to make myself recall all those times when he hurt me, when he tortured me; the worst of them that time in Rivendell, before we left, and other occasion, not as bad, but still quite painful.
It does not work. All I can see before my eyes are times when we made love as lovers use to do, when he was gentle and considerate, when he took care to see to my pleasure as well as his own: that time in Gondor, when he nearly killed himself, taking that drug just so he could be with me without causing me pain; those times when he forsook his own completion just to make sure that I would enjoy to be with him; and then, that last night when we were together, when he gave himself to me. The images are vivid. They dance before my eyes, beckoning, taunting... I try to banish them.
My eyes are burning. Unshed tears are welling up within me, choking my breath. Estel! I am sorry, Estel! I did not see another way...
Breathing is hard, now, and my body burns. I long for him, long to be taken. I know that I will have to take rest, soon, try to ease my need as best I can. But I also know it will bring me little relief, and even less respite. For Estel is gone and he will never be with me again.
With all my strength, I shove the images away, try banishing them from my mind, as little as this will avail me.
At least, if I am lucky, it will buy me some more time.
I keep on running.
_______________ 0 _______________
It is the twelfth day of my journey when the pain gets bad, and the visions start setting in. The need has been with me for the last six days; it is like a dull ache in the back of my mind, albeit ever growing. But now, spells of pain begin to trouble me, each step forward opens up another ache, and my stomach churns. My hearts starts racing, and cold sweat gathers on my brow; and I can feel my innards cramp against me.
The pain comes in intervals, some short, some longer; but never leaving me completely. And I know it will grow worse.
It should not be as bad yet! From past experience, I should have more time, at least a few more days before this stage. Either that last extension of the spell done by Estel has tightened the bond, or the exhaustion of my body hastens the workings of the poison that ravages me. But either way, I have less time left than I thought.
I grit my teeth and hasten on.
But not for long; for only after a few moments, I have to stop and fight against another spell.
The pain is excruciating; it runs through me from head to toe, right through my chest, worse than any torture Estel ever put me through, and it steals my breath. And it is not any pain I could banish or ignore, for it is not of the body alone.
The realization hits me as if I would just learn it now, as if it were a new one.
Estel is dead.
My master is dead, and I have killed him with my own two hands.
The pain is acute in my mind. My body screams against me, and my fëa curls in grief.
I am sorry, Estel! I did not wish to do it. I just did not have another choice. I did not see another way. I had to care about my people. Estel... Please Estel! I am sorry! Please, come back to me...
I am sorry. Please, Estel, please... my need is great. Please! Come back and take me!
I cut this thought in shock at myself. He is dead; he cannot hear me. His fëa has long gone to Mandos' Halls; I sent him there, myself. He cannot be around to hear me, or to mock me now.
And yet, I feel as if he would be close, as if I could nearly hear his voice, if I just concentrated. Images assault me, fill my mind, and I can banish them no longer. Estel, on that fateful day in Rivendell, when he stood there, defiant against his foster-father, gulping down the potion that would doom us both. To bind himself to me as much as I was bound to him. To ensure the equality of our bond.
The times when he defended me. The numerous occasions when we fought beside each other, back to back, each one trusting the other as much as himself, as if we were one body, made of two. The times when he was playful, playing jests. The way he defended me against that Dwarf, swearing to me that he would rather kill the Stunted One than allow him to endanger my people. That last night when he gave himself to me, denying his own pleasure...
The images are like a hot blade in my gut, and they make me coil around myself. I am so sorry, Estel!
And yet, if I would have to make that choice again, I would still do it. It was not about you, Beloved. It was about my people...
But he is gone, and there is nothing I can do to change that.
Finally, I can breath again, and the cramps lessen, though they do not cease completely. I start to run again.
But my mind is still in turmoil, and now I do not seem to be capable of calming it again.
I see my comrades, the Hobbits, trusting, defending me against the Dwarf. I see them dying at my hands, the horror on their face, their shocked expression. New pain fills my mind, as fresh as a stabbing blow. I see Frodo's pierced throat, his empty, staring eyes. Brave, noble, gentle Frodo, slaughtered by a friend who betrayed his trust. I see the arrow glancing off his chest again, the second following fast as a thought. I see the chainmail shirt he wore.
That Mithril shirt...
There are other images that enter my mind. I know that shirt, because a long time ago it belonged to me. And the occasion when it was first worn was not one I am eager to recall.
I was much younger, then.
// / A young Elfling, innocent, scared, without any idea why my father sent me and my mother away, on a doomed secret journey through the woods... an attack, Orcs swarming around, everywhere... the warriors of our little escort trying to defend us, their prince and their queen, falling one by one. And in the commotion, mother grabbed me and forced me into the hole of a hollow tree, begging me to be silent, begging the tree to protect me. I never even got to say goodbye. I did not understand that I would never see her face alive again, never again feel her warmth. I did not know.
It took three days until I dared to come out again, feeble and sick, and when I saw the corpses, I collapsed. The Orcs were gone, but I was all alone. My mother... I can hardly recall her face. I can hardly recall what I saw on that glade. I must have buried that memory very deeply, and I am sure that this was for the better. I was found by the warriors of my father soon afterwards and brought back home, and I cannot remember much more of that time, or of the weeks and months directly following. I only know that it took a long time until I had recovered enough to leave my rooms again... / //
I shake my head free of the memories.
To this day, I do not know how my father survived that loss. It must have been the spell that held him and hindered him from joining my mother – that and the responsibility for our people. I was him who taught me that for us, the needs of our people have to come first. In everything.
And yet. Now, I am about to destroy all hope he may have to join with her again, even in Mandos. For if he takes the Ring, he will be damned, as much as I am damned already. To save our people, and to win this war, he will have to doom himself in the eyes of the Valar as much as I have done. In bringing this cursed gift to him, I will destroy him, too.
Pain stabs through me again at that thought, and the hot blade within my innards twists anew.
And suddenly, the Ring is in my mind once more.
'Then why do you not spare him? Claim the power for yourself! You could do it! You are strong, a scion of kings! You have survived worse trials with your mind intact that would have driven others insane. You could claim the power and bend it to your will! And with that power you can stay the poison, stay the workings of the spell. What power Elrond had to cast the spell cannot match the power you would gain through me. Claim me, spare your father, be the new master! You could take sweet revenge on Elrond, could make him feel all what he did to you... and you could still win the war and save your people. Why die in pain and in disgrace? Do it! Do it now!'
The voice is sweet, cajoling, and it is intense. I can no longer close my mind to it. The whispers are a constant presence now within my head. And yet, I cannot afford to succumb to that song of allure, and know I must ignore it.
I know from past experience how far my mind is influenced by the poison at this point, already. No matter that the poisoning should not be as advanced as it is, at this stage, I have been there before. I cannot trust myself. And even less I can trust in my strength to bend that trinket to my will. What if it lies? What if all I would achieve was alerting the Nazgûl to my whereabouts? Then, I would die, alone, still on the way, and the Ring would go to Sauron. And I can barely close my mind to the voice of the Jewelry anymore. How then am I supposed to bend it to my will?
No. I cannot risk it. I knew what was awaiting me; and I need all of my remaining strength to reach my father's halls in time to deliver the Ring of power to his hands.
And I recall only too well the tale of Estel and the Hobbits of their mad journey to Rivendell, hunted by the Nine.
Estel! Pain stabs through me again. His face is in my mind anew, and this time I can even hear his voice.
He berates me.
'Why did you not trust me, Little Leaf? I would have freed you! I would have tried to find a way, to break the spell, to free your people! Why did you have to destroy everything? Why did you not trust me?'
He has the audacity to ask!
Oh, Estel! After all you ever did to me, after your broken promises – remember how you told me that you would protect me? That we would be equals? And yet, I cannot hate you.
I loved you once, you know. I think I even loved you when I killed you. Despite of everything you did to me, I did still love you. It was not for revenge, you know. It was out of necessity! I do regret that it had finally come to this.
The pain evoked by his voice is sharp within me. The grief is haunting, excruciating, and it nearly chokes me. And still, I do not allow me to give in to it; still I run.
I shake my head. No use of arguing with a ghost; a ghost that is not even there. And yet, his ghost is not done with me. Again, my mind is filled with images.
The familiar, slight grief on his face when he had to hurt me again. That look of concern and tenderness whenever he tried to accommodate my needs. The several times when he took me home, risking his head, and stubbornly endured the reprimands of Elrond afterwards, just so I could once more be with my family and see my people.
His self-loathing when he learned that he could not function as a man any longer without inflicting pain. The numerous times when he proved, still proved, his commitment and his concern for me.
I cannot even hide myself behind revenge and anger. I cannot hate him. I tried. But it is not hate I feel, it is loss. The feeling of regret, of grief, is overwhelming.
And yet, I do not allow myself to lose my way, or to slow down. I run.
Every step I take will bring me closer to my father's halls. Every step will take me closer to the Halls of Mandos.
Soon, Estel. Soon. I have but to accomplish this one task, and bring the Ring to him who sired me. Then I can rest, and follow you. Then I might even see you again, for one, last time. Only a few more days.
Then, we can talk.
His face distorts within my mind. Derisive laughter and scathing remarks are resonating in my ears. The Ring's voice is back in my mind, and it scolds me.
'Fool!' it cries at me, 'You killed him! You betrayed him! Do you truly think that he will wish to speak to you? Even should he be allowed to linger until you are there! You damned yourself! You will be damned for eternity!'
I shake my head in disgust. Finally, I manage to tune out the Ring again. And with that, I can finally shut out the visions.
I move on.
__________________ o _____________
I must have run for weeks now; I have no idea how much days have passed, how long I have moved on, for I have lost all awareness of time. I merely register if it's day or night, and if the sun stands high or low already in the sky. All I know is that I must move on, relentlessly, each step after the other. I have been beyond tired for a long time. I am exhausted. Each step is agony. Pain riddles my body without reprieve. My mind is drifting on and off, and always, always, there are voices.
He talks to me.
He talks to me in my head, asking me why I did it, berating me, my choice, my deeds, admonishing me what my deeds will bring upon my people.
And he also reproaches me for my betrayal.
Estel's voice is a constant presence in my mind. No matter that I know he can't be there; no matter that he should by rights be the last one to speak to me of betrayal, given what he told me when our love began. A part of me tells me that I should be angry, that he has betrayed me, too; but that part is weak, and the part that longs for him is stronger. He tells me that the pain I feel is nothing more than I deserve, that it is just a taste of what will come; he tells me that I should hurry on, that he is waiting. His voice is a constant presence, and while it torments me, it also comforts me, for if I would not hear him anymore, it would be worse.
I am coming, Estel. Just a few more days, now. Patience. I am on my way.
Another constant presence is the Ring, with its derisive scorn, its sweet temptation. I cannot shut it out again. Visions of slaughter, of the ones I slew, their horrified cries and pale faces. Images of the Hobbits, at the time they defended me, changing with the view of their pale faces when they knew they were betrayed; their blood is on my hands. There are other visions which I do not care to recall; of the time when I was first enslaved; or what I fear will happen once I arrive. And always, always, Estel, in the times we shared in the past, when he was a child in Rivendell, or later, when we were lovers; or when we stood as comrades, side by side. The images torment me, haunt me, and I cannot shake them. They are like a constant, bleeding wound, and they lose nothing of their brightness, of their sharp relief.
Just a few more days... take another step, another...
I have no clear idea where I am. I just know that finally, the Emy Duir is in the south, behind me, and I've managed skirting Rhosgobel; I do not care to meet Radagast right now. Not with the things I carry. I also avoided coming close to any settlement. I've turned to the east now, entered the forest, and I move on as fast as I still can. A few nights ago I had to take shelter in a tree; the moon had vanished, and the sky was clouded. There was too little light to go on then even for me. The Tree-Song gave me back a little strength, but it brought no reprieve. Nothing will give me reprieve, now, anymore.
Just a few more days, I tell myself. Then I can rest for good.
And still I run. Each step is painful, and every movement brings a new pain. Cramps run through my body constantly, cold sweat is on my brow; I am dying, and I know it only too well. I have been there before.
And again Estel's voice is in my mind, his concerned face, contorted in betrayal. I can hardly stand the hurt in his voice. I do my best to justify myself, although a part of my mind still knows that he is not there. I have been in a constant dialog with him for days.
Please, Estel, forgive me! It is just for a few more days, then I will join you. Maybe, if you have not yet passed on, we will be allowed to talk. Maybe I can explain to you why I had to make that choice, and beg forgiveness. And later, when you have passed on and left the circles of this world, I will mourn you for eternity. Only a few more days...
I do not fear my death. I know that you could never let me die. It was always your greatest fear, that you would cause my death by that foul spell. You could never have let me go. And I had cause also not to wish for my death, although for other reasons.
For had I died, Beloved, another of my family would have taken my place.
It is for them that I have done this. I am sorry!
And yet, I run.
I cannot afford to slow down. I cannot afford to take rest. I cannot afford... to go on, much longer.
But I have to move on and finish those remaining miles, or my deeds will all have been for nothing.
So I move on, although my body screams at me, and my heart aches, and my stomach churns and cramps run through me. I move on.
Suddenly, there is a commotion; shapes are around me, out of nowhere they have come. My knives are out, but those who surround me do not attack. Instead they draw back, horrified. Concerned voices try to placate me.
"Ernil Legolas! What happened? What are you doing here? Why are you alone?"
I need a moment to register that these are no enemies, nor are they just another vision. These are Elves. My people. The warriors of our realm have found me.
I do not recognize any of them, though I know I should. But I am too exhausted. Their faces are nothing to me than a blur. It takes a few more moments until I can grate out my request.
"Quick! There is no time to lose. I must get home. Bring me to my father!"
I am not even sure if I spoke aloud; after all these days, my voice seems not to work. I try again.
But apparently, they have understood, for they nod, and pale. One of them tries to argue, tells me that I need to rest.
I have no time for this. I tell them that I must go there now. At any cost.
And then I start to move again.
Apparently, I am understood, because after a moment, they help me along. Good! They will escort me the last, few miles; and even should I die before I reach my home, they will deliver my body and the things I carry to my destination.
And yet, I do not dare to rest; too much is still at stake. I will not risk failure on the last few miles. I will take rest only after I have finished my journey. So, I stubbornly move on, ignoring any pleas to wait, to slow down for the night, or even sleep. Finally they oblige me.
We move on.
____________ o ____________
I have no clear recollection of the last days. Everything is a blur. I know we moved, and that from time to time someone forced water down my throat; I think we may have gone some way by boat, yet I cannot be sure(1). All I could feel was constant pain, and the knowledge that I could not rest, that I must go on. But now I am awake once more; for finally I recognize this road where we are now, the bridge before me. I have arrived; finally I am home.
I shake their hands off me; the last few steps I will take for myself.
He is there, standing at the gate. My father, summoned from his halls. They must have sent runners ahead to tell him the news, to inform him of my coming. I suppose that we have not been traveling very fast these last few days.
It is hard to still go on, hard to even see; everything around me seems to be cast in sharp relief, in flaring brightness. And yet I see his face, concerned, shocked to see me, I suppose, or at least to see me in this this state. He does not understand; not yet. But I have no time to spare him.
I am dying. I can feel it; my hold on consciousness is loose.
And yet I drag my dying body on, take these last, few, remaining steps. There is one more thing I have to do, an errand that I need to complete before I can let go.
I see him going pale. I'm sorry. I am sorry, Father.
Finally, I stand before him, feel his hands grabbing my shoulders, feel his desperate embrace. He says something, yet I cannot hear it.
No time for this!
I shake him off as gently as I can and sink down on my knees before him. It is not my father, it is my king I have to address now.
He understands, for I can see him straighten. My hands are on my neck. It takes a bit or fumbling; for some reasons, the chain refuses to come loose. Finally, I can get it off. I hold out my hand to him.
For moments, the Ring is in my head again, a burning wheel of fire, searing. Its voice is screaming at me.
'What are you doing? You cannot let me go! I belong to you!'
For a moment, I nearly believe it. It is mine, my own, my precious! It belongs to me! I killed to get it! I cannot simply let it go!
But then, for a last, precious moment, the grip of the ring around my mind weakens again. However briefly, sanity returns. It is over. I am barely alive. The Ring will not avail me.
It cannot bring me back the one I need.
I am coming, Estel.
I let go of the Ring, place it safely in my father's hand.
I see his face, see when realization hits him. See him recoil in horror, hear his voice, tonelessly, without breath:
"What have you done?!"
It takes only a moment; then his face hardens, grows determined. His fist closes around the Ring.
It is done. I have succeeded. I can rest now.
Then, everything goes black.
______________ o _____________
-- TBC --
1) The idea of Legolas and the Elves traveling by boat is borrowed from jael_the_scribe's great story To the Waters And The Wild and used here with permission. I thought it plausible that the Elves of Mirkwood would travel by boat on the woodland rivers, if they could, and it would also explain how they made the last few miles in a short time, here, despite Legolas' condition.
Previous chapters can be found here: Part I; Part II; Part III;
The following chapter can be found here: Part V; Part VI.