It's been a while. Sorry! But finally, without much ado, here it is: Part VII. Thanks go to randy_o for the wonderful beta work!
Author's 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, non-con and debatable consent; also for this chapter, rape and torture. 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). Also, in this part, Thranduil/others.
Beta: 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
On through the heat
I feel the touch of evil
I still feel
The icy claw in me.
For a decent price
I've banned kindness from my heart
The spirit of all truth and beauty
Pawned for my desire...
Blind Guardian: The Soulforged
It is dawn when we reach the borders of the hidden valley. Even had I not known the way, I would have found it easily. The voice of Elrond's ring has been a steady presence in my mind, and it has drawn me like a beacon. Its master has been fighting me in my thoughts for weeks. I feel his hate and fear inside my mind like a vile song. It is nearly as insistent as the power of the One Ring in my mind, and almost as sweet.
I know they are waiting for us. They have known that we were coming for a long time now. Still, while they are prepared, so are we. We crossed the mountains in a fortnight, and we made sure we are well rested. Our troops are ready to attack.
And I have made my plan with care. I know what strengths they have, how many warriors they could muster. I know which strongholds they can occupy, and how they plan to meet our attack.
Elrond's mind, while he wore his Ring, has been an open book for me, and although he fought me with all his strength, I did not allow myself to be deterred. Despite the horrors he showed me, the revenge he took on the hostages in his keeping, the horrid fate of my poor son while Legolas was in his grip – I did not allow myself to turn back. His fear has been a sweet voice in my mind; his anger, his impotent rage, his constant attempts to shake off my grip were all futile. I know him now, know all his secrets; I took his very knowledge off his mind. I know his preparations. He could not hide himself from me.
And even if that were not the case, I know this valley very well. My son lived here for years. And every time that cursed Dúnadan took him to visit us, I learned more of the layout of its grounds, its strengths and weaknesses.
This war has been coming for a long, long time.
I cast a short glance to my right. This should be the place of my son. I dreamed, oh how I dreamed, I would have him beside me when we took our stand; but he is gone, and the place where he should be is empty.
My eyes find the gaze of my general, and I nod. We move.
We have barely made a hundred yards, though, when a shadow emerges from the forest and steps onto our road. It is a cloaked man, bearing a staff.
I stop my horse, but nod towards my guards. Ten of my men file out and ready their bows. I move forward, taking care not to obscure their aim.
He looks familiar. A wizard, but I know it is not Radagast. The brown wizard approached me when we left our woods. He asked me then to give up the Ring, begged me not to condemn myself to darkness; but when I refused to heed his words, he stepped off the road and let me go. He knew better than to fight me; he had been there, in our woods, when Elrond took our hostages, and my sons.
This one seems different.
The man raises his head and the mists around him seems to part. I recognize him, as I know the face and attitude. . Mithrandir. I know my son had slain this one when he took the Ring; but here he is, returned from death. Wizards are hard to kill, apparently.
“Hail to you, King Thranduil! What are you doing here, bringing war upon your kin? I bid you, reconsider. Stop this madness. The Ring you took is evil. You have conquered he one who held its power; now you ought to end this evil. Heed my words and cease this war. Do not bring bloodshed on your kindred. If you pursue this, the Valar themselves will stand against you.”
His voice is deep, his words seem wise, and the spell they weave is quite compelling. Words have always been this one's special gift. He would convince me, too, if not for the determination in my heart.
His words come centuries too late.
I urge my horse forward a few steps. I am taking care not to obscure the aim of my bowmen, though.
“Mithrandir. Back from the dead, I see. And what interesting counsel you bring forth.”
I straighten myself in the saddle and raise my hand. My archers draw their bows.
“It comes strangely late, I deem, though. Where were you, when Elrond brought war and terror to my woods? Where was your counsel, when he took my sons? When he carried off our people, yen by yen? You dare to confront me now?”
He straightens up, preparing to reply, but I cut off his words.
“Two thousand years you stood idly at the side and watched the rape and the enslavement of my people. And now, when we stand up and fight, you take the side of Elrond? You dare to ask me to forsake revenge and bear our fate and the yolk of enslavement meekly?! I think not!”
I see him shiver, and add harshly: “Stand down, wizard, or my bowmen will send you back whence you came. I doubt the powers will give you one more chance, will they?”
He throws away his cloak, and his garb underneath is white. Light surrounds him.
“No! I will not be deterred, and I will not allow this! Thranduil of Mirkwood, if you do not forsake this road, then you condemn yourself and all the lands to darkness. Saruman the traitor sends his forces your way as we speak. You are but a pawn in this game. Stand down! Or face the wrath of the Valar!”
I know the tidings about Saruman; before we crossed the mountains, the Nazgul came to pay me their obeisance. I sent the lot of them against Lothlorien, with what power Dol Guldur could muster, but their lord, the Witchking, and his second in command, I sent off to Mordor. He will send the army of the Dark Land against the traitor Saruman. If Gondor intervenes, or Rohan, they'll be crushed. I care not what happens to them, but I will not allow to let a wizard take from me what I need to win this war.
Not Saruman, and neither this one.
I feel the power of the Ring, coursing though me. The memories of the former Ringlord are within my mind. Powerful Olorin of Lorien may be, but he who wore the name of Sauron had more power still. And now, that power is mine.
“So do you claim. But are you really their envoy? Or is it the Ring of Fire you want, the one you wore so long and that my son took from you? And what do the powers have to say of Elrond? Stand aside, wizard, or we send you back to the very powers you claim you are speaking for.”
He raises his staff. His power reaches out. I signal my guards, and their bows are singing.
The arrows never reach their target. They flare up in the air and catch fire, burning to ashes before they touch his frame. How did Legolas manage to slay this one?
It does not matter, though. I draw my sword.
Gandalf waits for me. Glamdring strikes out and is parried by my own sword. The wizard's staff is thrust at me. I raise my hand again.
The staff stops in mid-air and shatters into thousand pieces. His sword grows hot within his hand. Gandalf shrinks back.(1)1
Another thrust with my sword on his, and he drops his weapon. His face is drawn and pale. He retreats a few steps. The power inside me reaches out and forces him down. I sign my warriors to take him prisoner, and this time, he does not resist.
“Bind him and keep him prisoner behind our lines,” I tell the guards. “We do not need him interfering. But the Valar did send him back, and he might still have a purpose in their plans. Keep him alive, as long as he does not force you to kill him.”
He shudders. “Do not do this! Your wife, your sons, have gone to Mandos. If you stand down, and destroy the cursed Ring, you may meet them again. In Mandos' halls, or after they are released, it does not matter. But if you continue on this path, then you condemn yourself to darkness! You will be damned, and your name will be forever cursed, as was Feanor's!”
I look at him.
“All my sons, you say? And Legolas?”
Gandalf shudders. “He broke his oath. He has condemned himself.”
I nod. “Then I can do no less.”
I turn, and they led him away. He speaks no more.
Again I give my army the sign to attack. This time we will not stop. Part of my forces have moved forward through the trees. They will take on the troops waiting for us from behind.
A horn is blown to our left. Battle is met.
I bare my teeth. So, now it has begun.
Soon Elrond. Soon, now, we will meet again. But this time, you will pay.
________________ o ________________
When the fight is over, Elrond's house is burning. His library, the scrolls of lore, are aflame. I do not care; what I need to know of his skills, his plans and schemes, and all the knowledge he has of the spell, I can take from his mind. My warriors have been careful to take him alive, along with both his sons. He is scarcely wounded. It cost us much to achieve that, but I need him alive. I want to see him on his knees, to see him suffer. Death would be far too easy a fate for this fiend!
We take care, though, to keep the flames from the healing wing, and from the place where Elrond keeps his herbs. The envoy I sent to Rivendell two months ago, who spoke with Legolas all night, has brought me back a good description of the house. My son was not the only slave they spoke to here, during their stay. And what I took from Elrond's memories confirmed it. It is not idle whim that leads me to spare those rooms. I need the herbs and ingredients he used for his foul art, for I shall make good use of them, before all this is over.
There are no hostages left. We found their bodies. Elrond had killed them all, cast them down off a cliff, when this war and our march began. He showed me as much, already, in his mind, in his attempts to throw me off and to deter me. It did not help him, though. He has only worsened his fate, and that of all who had a part in this.
Most of his warriors are dead, or badly wounded. He had the good sense to send off most of the women to the havens, when he knew I was coming. I do not mourn their loss, except it does limit my options for revenge. But then, I deem, in a way that is a blessing. I do not wish to explore how far I would go, had I those females in my grasp.
Cirdan of the Havens, and Gildor and his Elves, both stayed out of this fight. They did not send me a message of neutrality, but neither did they intervene. Cirdan will have seen to it that the women escape to safety. He will be prepared to fight if I attack him, but that is not my intent. The Havens hold no lure for me. He had no part in subjugating us, and shall have no part in our revenge, save if he forces it upon himself. I sent a message to him, though, demanding he hand back the hostages in his keeping, and warning him not to harm them. He has yet to answer.
Our own losses have been severe, as well, but I do not hear any complaints from my people. There is not one among my warriors who would not freely give his life to win this war, or fight with less than grim determination. Too long have we hungered for revenge, too long witnessed the enslavement of our people. Most of my nobles had on or more of their loved ones taken away, to a fate worse than death. Most of the others have lost friends, or loved ones, too. The loss of hostages has lasted like a vice on them all. They have been eager for this fight for centuries.
They bring me one of Elrond's captains, the leader of his forces. I know this Elf, knew him well even before this madness began and our woods were first attacked by the forces of Rivendell and Lothlorien. Glorfindel. His golden hair – so like my own – is bloodied and matted; he is bleeding from many wounds. They told me he fought bravely, single-handedly killing many of my men, but finally gave himself up when he heard that Elrond and his children had been caught. Loyalty has always been this one's doom.
And yet his first question is not about his lord, or for the dreadful twins. It is for my son.
“If I may ask, where is Legolas, my lord? Is he still alive?”
I resist the urge to kill him on his spot. I can hardly believe he would not know how long Legolas was abroad, and would believe there was still time for him; but his intent seems genuine enough.
“He is not here,” I force myself to say. “It took him all his strength to bring the ring to us. The curse was hard on him.”
He hesitates. “My lord, I would make you an offer. Maybe it is not yet too late. I... I can keep your son alive. If he is close, if there is still some time, then I can do it. And I would, if you were to agree to keep Elrond's sons unharmed.”
I stare at him.
“That is all?” I ask, “What about Elrond himself?”
He must have heard the hard edge in my voice, for he flinches. But then he merely bows his head.
“No. Elrond has brought this reckoning on himself, and I know there will be no mercy for him now. But I plead you to spare his children. I plead you, spare his sons. In return, if I can, I'll save your son.”
He looks up again, and meets my gaze. What he sees in my face has him turn silent and grow pale. He shrinks under my glance. He knows what I will say before I speak; for I see the hope die in his eyes.
Still, the words are like ashes in my mouth. “Legolas is dead. He died soon after my troops left our woods. I felt him pass.”
He bows his head. “I grieve to hear this.”
His voice sounds sincere. I know, my son betrayed this one's trust; I read the oath he was forced to give to him in Elrond's mind, and heard the sorrow about this betrayal in Legolas' delirious ramblings, before they lost all coherence. And yet he still seems genuinely mourning.
Of course, that will not save him. For he has just admitted that he was one of those who designated themselves as my son's masters. Who took him as a plaything, just as that cursed Dúnadan had done.
“Then, I suppose, you will be ready and prepared to pay,” I tell him. “Were there any other of my people you helped to defile?”
He merely shakes his head. He does not speak again.
I give my guards a sign, and they take him away. His death will not be easy.
Nor will be the fate of those he wanted to protect. I have something special in store for Elrond's sons. They will enjoy a taste of what they used to give to others. And so will their father.
Elrond's daughter, Arwen, has escaped my grip. In Elrond's mind I read that he has sent her away by horseback to Cirdan when he knew we were marching, so that she might take ship over the Sea. If I know Cirdan, he will have sent her off by now, on the first ship he could launch. She will be safe.
No matter. I had some plans for her, as well, but since she is gone, the twins will have to suffice. There is a lack in justice; three of my children have been stolen from me, and he will only have to give me two. But I will take what means to mete out justice that are available to me. And he will pay. As much as I can make him pay.
I give my guards the command to begin the preparations. The time for reckoning has arrived.
_____________ o __________
When they bring Elrond, he stares at me in terror. He is tightly bound, his hands before him; but he could not escape even if they were free. He is under the power of his own ring, after all.
His hatred is unbroken. His taunting and his curses have been constant company in my mind. But now, behind his hatred and his wrath, his mind clouds up in terror.
“Good day, Elrond. At last, we meet again,” I tell him. ”I am sure you have been waiting for this moment as much as I have. Do you want to say anything for yourself?” I shrug. “You do realize, of course, that this is time for you to pay?”
He scowls at me.
“You cannot kill me! The spell still keeps you bound! You would condemn yourself!” he sneers.
I look at him, without emotion. “And you believe I care?”
I am already dead. But he will never understand this, and I do not take the time to explain.
“I have need of that ring of yours. I do not expect you will give it up freely?”
He closes his fist and jerks it away. I shrug.
“I did not think so.”
There is an easy way to obtain Vilya from him. My sword sneaks out. A quick stroke, and I slice the hand from his body. His mental scream of despair, suddenly cut off, is sweet inside my mind. The guards hold him fast, preventing him from trying to snatch the severed hand back to himself. So great is his need for the thing of power, that he ignores the pain, the shock of blood-loss, just to get it back. But he cannot break free.
I bow and take the ring from the dead fingers. The blue ice of this thing still burns my hand, but that small pain I easily endure. I have uses for its special power.
But first, I command my guards to cauterize Elrond's bloody stump. I cannot have him bleed to death. I need him alive for what is to come.
Now is the time for revenge.
His wails accompany me while I leave the tent. There are further preparations to be made. And he shall have some time to think about what is to come. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
I have had a long time for this dish to be prepared.
_______________ o ____________
When I next see Elrond, he is much weaker. He has had time to think and wonder. He has been isolated; I have seen to that. He does not know what happened to his people, or his sons. He is soon about to find out, though.
He kneels before me, bound, chained to a post driven in the ground. Two guards stand close to ensure he cannot break free. His stump is fixed in a sling before him. The wound has been cauterized by a glowing blade, and has been carefully bandaged; it has been healing for two days. It must still hurt him, though. A third guard stands ready by the door of our tent. I decided to do this here, out in the camp, just as he himself had it done long ago; I refuse to use the burning ruins of his filthy house. He stares without comprehension. I cannot read his thoughts now, since he has lost his ring, but I can see he has yet to grasp what is about to happen. He watches the two poles rising from the ground without true understanding. Apparently the significance of this is lost to him, but then, I am sure he will recognize it soon.
I smile at him.
“It is time to pay,” I tell him, “and I am sure you will agree that you owe me a lot. Although it seems to me that you still got the better part. But be that as it may...”
They bring his sons.
They have been wounded in the fight, but my men were ordered to capture them alive. And alive they are, though tightly bound and gagged. I have no need now for their foul-mouthed curses, although they will soon have their due chance to scream.
Legolas, in the few times I saw him in years past, told me little of what these two forced on him, nor did he speak much of what was inflicted on him by his Dúnadan. He meant to spare me. But I have taken all I need to know from Elrond's mind, including what he did to Legolas just after he had him captured and enslaved. He took pains to let me see the way Legolas was broken, the way his sons and that cursed Dúnadan later used him as their slave. He gloried in the horrors of his deeds, threw them at me while he still thought he could escape. He hoped that it would break me, would destroy my strength.
He was mistaken.
And now, I have him bound, and his two sons are in my grasp as well. Impassively, I stare at them. These two are far from innocent. And now, it is their time to pay.
I command that they be bound to the poles. Then I turn back to Elrond.
He stares at me, horror in his eyes. Without his ring, I cannot hear his voice in my mind; but I can read his agony right there within his gaze. And it tastes sweet.
“No,” he stammers, pleads, begs, “no! You cannot do that!”
I stare at him, my face carved of stone. I pay no heed to his words.
“There was an elleth, once, I am told. One of the hostages. You punished her for something my son did, in a most striking way. Time to pay up, don't you think? Now – whom of the two do you choose?”
He pales at that, and shakes his head. So do his sons. I can see their faces from the corner of my eye. Their eyes are frightened.
Elrond's face is white, frozen in horror.
“You cannot do that!”
I smile at him, baring my teeth. “I cannot? Watch!”
My executioner – a volunteer, one of the Elves who has lost one of his loved ones as a hostage – steps forth. He holds a thin, sharp blade.
Elrond screams. He struggles with his bonds. “No! No! Not them! Take me instead! Not them! Take me, it is me you want! Please...”
I smile. How sweet, these words, coming from him. I recall them well, spoken another time – but by myself. They did not help me, then.
Nor will they help him, now.
“Oh, do not fear! For you will share their fate. But first, you will witness their punishment – and then, watch me put them under your precious spell.”
He screams, and begs, to no avail. I wait.
“You will not choose? Then I shall decide myself. The left one shall lose his eyes, and the other one his tongue. I do not think they will have need for both in their future duties, although I realize it may spoil their uses. But I trust there will be enough left of them to amuse my guards.”
He wails. “No! Elrohir! Elladan!” He struggles with his bonds. So do his sons, but the bonds holding them are too tight. They can barely move.
I pay them no heed. I give the executioner a sign. The deed is done.
______________ o _______________
It is a day later when I put the twins under the spell. I know how it is done. Elrond's house, and his library, are burnt, but I do not need the recipe; in my mental battles with Elrond, before I took his ring from him, I took the words and the ingredients of the foul curse directly from his mind. He will now have the chance to watch me execute it.
The healing wing is damaged as well, but I have found enough of his herbs and tinctures in the remaining ruins to serve my needs. Some of his instruments of torture have survived as well. I shall see to it that they find good use, when I am done with this.
I put the blue ring on. I shudder under its cold touch, the ice within my mind. Still, it is subject to the power of the One, and I force it under my will with ease.
Despite the burning of the One Ring, now always present in my mind, despite the vast amount of power I inherited from Sauron, I still shudder under the malice, the blue, frozen ice, of Elrond's ring. There would be volunteers among my people who would feel honored if I gave the thing to them; they would gladly take the chance to put the spell on those who now should be given a taste of what they were doing to the hostages from the other side. They have as much reason to wish for revenge, as do I; I could rely on them.
But it would also open up their minds to me and enslave their will. Despite the things I've done, I have not yet sunken far enough to subject them to such. I am glad now that I did not succeed with the Ring given to my son. Legolas' mind, laid open to my will, as Elrond's was under the Ring, is a thought that makes the bile raise in my throat. I hold tight to these last, thin shreds of qualms, because I know once I let go of them, there will be nothing left of me. And then, my people will face but another tyrant.
I hope I can make sure it will not come to that.
But those concerns are for another day. Today, I will exact revenge and cruelty.
The ceremony is done in public, just as Elrond did to my son. There are ten volunteers among my guards who will take part, five for each of the twins, most of them with family lost as hostages. I would have given the honor to partake in the administering of the spell to any of our hostages held in Imladris, who volunteered for that; but there are none. Elrond had them killed, shortly after I conquered the ring.
It did not help him.
I have no experience on how much of the cursed ingredients to use for this vile deed, and frankly, I don't care. I have just taken the amount of the poison he used when he gave Legolas to Aragorn, and added a bit more, for good measure. I also use his instruments, those I found in his apothecary, so often used on hapless hostages before.
I glance over to Elrond, bound and pale, watching in horror. His eyes are wide, his face is frozen. He is not begging yet, though I know he soon will be. His sons are bound tightly between two makeshift poles, bent over, and completely naked. They are barely conscious, still weakened from the mutilation of the day before. Still, they are aware enough to feel what is being done.
It serves them right.
And so, I begin. Even now, with the power of the One Ring coursing through me, I shudder from the blue ice of the other ring, while I touch it on their flesh, cast the spell over their bodies and their minds. But the deed itself feels good. How sweet to hear Elrond's impotent begging, and to know that now, he is the one being forced to watch...
...something screams deep within me, trying to warn me, demands to know what I am doing. Screams at me to cease this, and to stop...
...but the voice is weak. The power of revenge is like strong wine within my head, the screams and pleads of Elrond spur me on. My body floods me with vile pleasure of revenge, and hatred burns deep in me. I thrust on.
When it is done, I step back and give the enslaved sons of Elrond over to the guards. They wail and scream; they are barely conscious anymore, but the spell keeps them within their bodies. I do not care if they survive the night.
I do care, however, that Elrond is forced to witness their fate. I command the guards who hold him in his bonds to take care he watches. It is the last thing he will ever see. Once it is done, he will lose his own eyes.
And afterwards, I will have him gelded. He needs to know that he will never force himself on another Elf, again.
I am aware that in doing this, I condemn myself to death as well; for there will be no one who can feed the spell when my time of need arrives, as it must when the spell runs its course. From this day on, my time is limited. But I would rather face certain death, than have Elrond touch my flesh once more; not even to extend the spell so someone else can feed it. I will not allow him to defile any Elf ever again.
Nor will I do so, myself. I shudder at my deed. Now that revenge is done, my sanity returns. Even though the voice of the Ring is strong inside my head, and tells me what I did was right, my flesh shrinks at the thought of what those I have loved and lost would say if they could see me now. And I am not yet so numbed as to be blind to the cautious gazes and frozen faces of my guards and my retainers, those of them whom I did not draw in on this mad plunge into the abyss of revenge.
Nor am I already insane enough to listen to the voice of paranoia, which tells me to subjugate those who dare to doubt my commands and decisions. I feel the voice of the Ring, urging me to force them to agree, yet I ignore it.
I do not know how long I will be able to resist.
Still. It was about justice, and justice is done.
It is enough.
_______________ o ________________
-- TBC –
1) The outcome of the fight between Thranduil and Gandalf, and the shattering of Gandalf's staff, are directly based on the already quoted passage from HoME, “The War of the Ring” ( London 1990, HarperCollinsPublishers Paperback edition, 2002, P. 401), about the supposed powers of the new Ringlord: “And he could not be slain.” I take this to mean that Thranduil, having conquered the Ring, indeed has the same power as Sauron would have, there. For those who doubt he could stand against Gandalf, I beg you to recall that in the book, and movie, the Lord of the Nazgul himself was capable to shatter Gandalf's staff. Would not he who conquered the Ring and sucked Sauron's power into himself, be at least as powerful as that?
Special thanks go to Randy for providing the idea how exactly Thranduil would exact revenge on Elrond, and suggesting that it would resemble the fate of that poor mutilated elleth in my main story (Mael-Gûl, chapter 29: Past and Present, I: Enslaved). He is, as ever, to the point. The idea is used here with his gracious permission.
Previous chapters can be found here: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI.