Fairer Sex, The: 8. Chapter Seven: Unmaking

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools

8. Chapter Seven: Unmaking

Despite being unconscious, removing the Prince of Mirkwood from
the confines of his room to the stables were Lothiriel awaited to begin her
spell of unmaking was no easy feat. Unconscious, he was a dead weight in their
arms and it was nearly impossible to move through the halls of the White Tower
appearing inconspicuous. While they were dressed as palace guards, Arwen and
Eowyn knew their disguise was fragile to say the least and could only succeed if
no one paid to close attention to them. Unfortunately, it was difficult to
maintain such anonymity when carrying an unconscious elf in their arms.
Fortunately, it appeared that the guards on duty were keeping watch for four
women, not two guards supposedly taking a drunken elf back to his suite.



Upon reaching the kitchens, they found that it was not as
peopled as before since most of the meals for the banquet had been served and
the servants and cooks were either in attendance at the great hall or had gone
to enjoy the festivities themselves. It was just as well for neither Arwen nor
Eowyn wished an audience as they descended into the sewer passages that would
take them out of the palace, without further observation by even the unknowing
onlooker. As they slowly descended into the dark and rancid depths, Arwen
ensured while one hand was wrapped securely around Legolas, the other was
resting on the hilt of the weapon. Thanks to the acuteness of elven senses,
Arwen was certain that the instant the terrible smell of the sewer assaulted his
senses, Legolas would be roused from his unconscious state.



"I am worried," Arwen declared as they found themselves
surrounded by darkness and the fetid stench of their filthy surroundings.



She could not see Eowyn’s face clearly but Arwen saw the lady
of Ithilien nod slightly, "Melia should have joined us by now."



"Do you think she has been captured?" Arwen asked fearfully as
they carefully navigated the narrow walkway, avoiding the canal of rancid water
that flowed viscously beside it.



"I hope not," Eowyn answered quietly, but could not add
anything further that would discount that possibility. "We are in no position to
help her if she has fallen into their hands," she said gravely.



"Then we must ensure that Lothiriel’s spell of unmaking comes
to pass," Arwen stated firmly, investing her hope on that possibility if the
worst had befallen Melia.



Eowyn did not comment but it preyed upon her mind that if Melia
were indeed captured, the enemy had no reason to keep her alive. A skin changer
could easily replace the former Ranger of Angmar and the Lady of Eden Ardhon and
no one would raise a question of doubt except the husband who was already their
creature. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation meant that even if Eowyn
and Arwen were to abandon their plans to provide Lothiriel with a subject for
her spell, there was no assurance they could reach Melia in time to help her.
Assuming of course, that Melia had fallen into the enemy’s power and was not
simply delayed in her efforts to join them.



Eowyn’s attempt to respond was abruptly cut short when she felt
Legolas stirring in their grasp. Considering how much stronger elves were in
comparison to men, Eowyn braced herself to be physically tested when the Prince
regained his senses. Legolas was not only an elf and superior woodsman but he
was also a battle hardened warrior who had seen more battles in his time then
either Eowyn and even Arwen could even begin to imagine. He was a member of the
Fellowship and even injured, he would be difficult to restrain.



"Arwen," Eowyn opened her mouth to warn the queen.



"I know," Arwen responded automatically, sensing the same
stirrings from the prince of Mirkwood, far sooner than Eowyn herself had felt
it.



Like her human companions, Arwen strengthen her hold upon the
prince, bracing herself for the inevitable struggle that would arise once he
awoke and realized that he was their prisoner. Arwen had no intention of
attempting to use reason with him because she knew that nothing she said to him
would penetrate the cloak placed over his mind by his shape shifting masters. It
was just as well that Melia was absent, Arwen thought to herself. Legolas’ state
of mind once he was awake would not be pleasant.



When the prince finally regained consciousness, he raised his
head wearily and swept his gaze across his surroundings with confused
expression. The shadow of his enforced slumber was still upon his mind and it
took a few seconds before it could clear enough for him to understand where he
was. Arwen knew that this realization was being hastened by the assault upon his
senses thanks to their present route out of the palace. Like her, his sharp
elven senses was not an advantage in this dank and stinking sewer.



"Where am I?" He muttered groggily as he became more aware of
his surroundings.



Arwen debated answering him even though she knew nothing could
prevent the ugly scene about to follow. Eowyn met her gaze with the same
question in her eyes.



"You are with us Legolas," Arwen answered finally with some
hesitation.



"With you?" He raised his head and met her eyes.



As soon as it was made aware to him in whose custody he was,
Arwen felt his muscles tighten and his eyes narrow in calculation. He was
preparing for a fight and Arwen had no wish to conduct one in this place. Her
sword was unsheathed before she could even form the thought and took advantage
of the sluggishness he had yet to discard. Drawing a sword on her old friend was
hard but no harder she supposed than facing her husband and knowing that he was
a stranger beyond her reach. After today, nothing in Arwen’s universe would ever
be so black and white again.



"Do not struggle Legolas," Arwen’s word were measured but
hiding the thick vein of anger that wanted expression. "We are going to help you
though you may not believe it at this time."



"Help me?" He snorted derisively. "You have abducted me Madam,
just as you abducted your son and made yourself a fugitive in your former
kingdom!"



"I did not abduct my son," Arwen returned shortly, reminding
herself that Legolas’ mind was not his own. Every word he uttered was tainted by
the skin changer’s poison in his body. "I simply removed him from his father’s
reach."



"You cannot hide him from the king forever," Legolas hissed.
"When the treaty celebration is over, he will send an army to Imladris to claim
what is his."



The threat to Imladris was clear and it raised some measure of
alarm within her. However, no army had ever been able to breach Imladris since
its establishment because of Elrond’s power over the Ford of Bruinen. Despite
his departure from Middle earth, he had ensured that Imladris would always be
protected until the elves dwelt no longer there. Arwen had no doubt that if the
skin changers were foolish enough to send Aragorn on such a quest, they would
have cause to regret it.



"You know as well as I that he will never enter Imladris with
an army," Arwen retorted. "Besides, I intend to see to it that this situation
never reaches that point."



"None of it is in your control, Evenstar," Legolas glared at
her. "You have only three companions at your side while he is the King of Gondor
with the lords of Middle earth ready to lay their lives down for him, what
chance do you think you have?"



"A far better one than you believe," Eowyn declared. "Or what
you are forced to believe."



"You still believe that we are under a spell?" He started to
laugh. "What delusion you women have. The Easterlings are indeed correct that we
have allowed our women too much freedom in the past."



"Search yourself Legolas," Arwen said sharply, feeling her
anger splitting at the seams when she heard him speak that way. It was a far cry
from the elf she had known for so long, the one with unmeasured kindness as well
as a heart too reasonable to be won over by just prejudices. "Did you always
feel this way? What could have happened to alter your thinking so
radically?"



Legolas blinked and for a moment, Arwen could almost see the
confusion rising to the surface of his blue eyes. It was only brief but it was
clear that she had unsettled him.



"Your words are meaningless to me," he retorted. "I have always
thought this way."



"It was you who taught me how to use a bow and arrow Legolas,"
Arwen reminded him. "Remember? I was but a century old and my father did not
believe it proper that a lady of Imladris should use a weapon. Remember how you
told me that it was foolishness to be unable to protect oneself, even if there
was no need to do. We went to that glade near the river and you showed me how.
You told me that the art of using a bow was not to think of it as a weapon…"



"But an extension of oneself," Legolas whispered.



"Yes," she declared, her heart swelling with hope at his
memory. "You do remember!"



"NO!" He balked violently. "I was wrong! I did not know
better!"



Arwen felt a wave of disappointment and supposed that she
should not have imagined that it would be so easy. After all, she was battling
with words a spell with far more substance then that of simply memory. However,
it did console her somewhat to see that the foundation of his belief had been
shaken by that recollection. A fracture had appeared in the belief that his
thoughts were entirely his own.



"It is not your fault," Eowyn said sympathetically. "Your mind
is not your own Prince Legolas. It has not been for some time now."



"I know my mind!" He shouted back and tried to struggle against
their vice like grip upon him but to no avail. Both women were prepared for his
resistance and Arwen’s blade against his throat was a sharp reminder of his
situation.



"I am certain that you believe you do," Arwen replied as they
continued down the darkened passageway, "but that is not so. Your mind has not
been yours since the signing of the treaty. I knew the exact moment when it was
taken away because I felt it."



"I am no one’s creature!" He declared, repeating the words she
had heard from Aragorn when she had first confronted him about his sudden change
in personality. Arwen wondered if this too was a part of the spell, that when
confronted with the possibility of being under the control of another, the
victim was to produce the same litany of words to convince himself
otherwise.



"Do not worry Legolas," she said quietly. "It will not be for
long."



Inwardly, she prayed that she was not making an idle claim
because this was a gamble they could not afford to lose.



*********



 


Melia’s first impulse was to run.



Unfortunately his grip around her arm was strong and she did
not relish the commotion that would result in her efforts to escape. When she
had chosen to embark upon this charade, she had been forced to relinquish her
crossbow and venture unarmed into the maw of danger. Never did she feel its loss
more acutely than at present, when she was facing an enemy that knew he had her
at a disadvantage. Melia could not imagine how he had seen through her disguise
but supposed a general of his years would be difficult to fool in any instance.



"Let me go or pay the price," she hissed as her eyes darted
about trying to see if anyone had noticed the scene between them. Fortunately,
for the moment it appeared they were alone in the corridor but Melia was not
about to assume that she was in any less danger.



"Pay the price?" He stared at her with a serious expression on
his face, not at all derisive or triumphant, as one would expect of someone in
his position. "I think it is you who are in a position of greater vulnerability
than I, Lady Melia."



"That is a matter of perspective," she retorted, still
struggling to remove herself from his clutches. "Do not doubt that I will not
kill you if I have to. It may sound an alarm but I am capable of this, I promise
you. You certainly deserve it after what you have done."



"I make no excuses for my choices," the general said in a low
voice. "I do not doubt that a daughter of Hezare cannot make good on your threat
but I do not wish to harm you, only to talk."



"Talk?" She stared at him. "What do we have to discuss?"



"That I would be happy to reveal," he returned quietly,
stealing glances around them with just as much caution as she, "at the
appropriate time. I ask you to trust me."



"When skin changers are involved, trust is difficult thing to
give," Melia answered a little unsure of what she should do. Castigliari could
well be a skin changer attempting to discern the whereabouts of her companions.
However, if this were the case, why did he reveal himself to her? It would be
far simpler to follow her unnoticed and discover that information himself.



"I know," he said earnestly. "I cannot make your choice any
easier, not after what has taken place but I do not wish you harm and I must be
allowed to speak."



Melia swallowed thickly, wishing she had more than her
instincts to rely upon in this decision because so much weighed upon it.
Unfortunately, that was not to be and she could not remain in this corridor any
longer because eventually, someone would stumble upon them and wonder what was
transpiring. She made a secret vow that she would not compromise her friends but
she would give him the audience that he was so desperate to have.



"Let us leave this place for somewhere more private," Melia
replied after a moment.



Castigliari’s face revealed his relief at her agreement to talk
but Melia was unprepared to shirk her suspicions that he was not leading her
into a trap, or that he was not a skin changer. She had no special senses like
the elves, to be able to tell if he was deceiving her and that left her feeling
vulnerable, not to mention unsettled as well. The general kept his grip on her
as he prompted her into movement. They left the banquet hall and moved across
the White Tower before finally reaching their destination in the gardens
outside.



"What do you want?" Melia demanded as soon as they were alone.
Over head, the night sky was bursting with color as fireworks stretched across
the canvas in bright flame.



"I need to see the queen," he spoke after a moment using
the tongue of the Harradirim for fear of being overhead. It was no easy thing
for him to betray his king but Castigliari could tell that this alliance with
the skin changers was at the peril of not only the leaders of Middle earth but
all the Easterling people, not just those of Far Harad.



"That is not within my power to grant you," Melia responded,
conceding to his desire to speak the language of Harad. Still, she had no
intention of betraying Arwen, even if she believed Castigliari did not mean them
harm.



"I must see her to tell her what is happening," the general
repeated.



"We have manage to learn that all by ourselves," Melia retorted
harshly. "We have no need of your counsel in this matter."



"I think you are wrong," he declared. "You do not know what
they have planned. You do not know the full scope of their intentions here in
Gondor."



"I know that they are skin changers," she replied. "That the
Easterlings have allied themselves with skin changers."



"That is not true," Castigliari returned, appearing a little
stunned that she knew so much. "Ulfrain has allied himself with the skin
changers. My people have no idea what walks among them."



Melia stared at him in shock, taken back by that snippet of
news. "How could you not know?" She demanded.



"Ulfrain made the alliance," Castigliari explained, "the
Haradirim and the rest of Easterling confederacy has no knowledge of their
existence. I myself did not know until your king and his council were poisoned
by the sektari."



"Sektari?" Melia’s eyes widened familiar with that particular
concoction. It was a favorite during times of celebration and extremely
difficult to come by. "That is the agent that allows this spell to take charge
of them?"



"Yes," Castigliari nodded. "When Ulfrain brought it with us, I
thought it to be nothing more than a delicacy for our western neighbors. It
never occurred to me that it could have any other use."



"It was tainted," Melia mused, able to imagine how things
had unfolded following the signing of the treaty. Lothiriel had been correct.
They had drunk a toast to their alliance, unaware that the contents of their
goblets were tainted and would make them slaves to another creature’s will.
Catching a glimpse at the haunted look in Castigliari’s eyes, she knew what had
transpired was almost as great a shock to him as it had been to the victims.



"It tasted different," Castigliari turned away for poison was a
most dishonorable method of gaining victory over one’s enemies. The Haradirim
believed that meeting the enemy face to face was the only honorable way of
combat. Poison was the tool of a coward and no Haradirim or Easterling for that
matter would employ such methods unless they were completely devoid of honor or
worse yet, Orcs.



"So they killed Ulfrain and took his place at the treaty?"
Melia asked.



Castigliari did not meet her eyes but answered softly, "no,
Ulfrain is still himself. He is not a skin changer. What he has done, he has
done of his own will. He sought to make an alliance with the skin changers so
that we would not be forced to bow down to the Gondorian king. He is proud like
the rest of my people; he believed that accepting Gondorian aid was nothing less
than submitting to defeat. He made the alliance and told no one of if mostly
because he knew our people would be less inclined to suffer the power of another
dark race as it was made to suffer the Orcs because of Sauron."



"Then who is it?" Melia demanded wit some measure of confusion.
The skin changers would not be foolish enough to leave everything in Ulfrain’s
hand. She had believed the skin changer would have been Castigliari but if the
general was not the one, then who else was left?



"Akallabeth," he answered. "It is Akallabeth who is the skin
changer."



Of course, Melia realized. Who else would it be? It made
perfect sense now that she knew. Akallabeth’s subservient manner which had no
other purpose then to engender a feeling of sympathy from everyone present,
particularly the women. Ulfrain’s arrogant manner and his narrow minded view of
what women should be and how he demanded such archaic behavior from his wife,
who should have been treated as a queen but had less freedom then a slave. All
of it had been part and parcel of the deception, manufactured solely for the
purpose of producing every emotion, except suspicion. How blind they had
been.


He saw the realization in her face and sympathized with her
feelings. When he had learnt about Akallabeth, he had been gripped by similar
emotions but by then it was too late to do anything about it. Castigliari was
more realistic than his king at why the skin changers had chosen them to
approach with their alliance. The people of Far Harad in the eyes of the world
were a defeated people; a broken remnant of Sauron’s decayed influence in Middle
earth. So many assumed that without the dark lord to do their thinking for them,
that they were people without direct and hope, that they would latch onto the
first glimmer of power that came their way. Castigliari did not know what hurt
him more; the fact that it was true or that Ulfrain had believed it.



"I know that the skin changers have no greater preference for
us then they do the lords of the western lands. They are motivated by vengeance
and by conquest and my people are but a tool for them. Ulfrain thinks he is
saving us but he has only made it easy for them to conquer us. When they are
done with the Reunified Kingdom and its allies, I am certain that the skin
changers will turn their attention to the Southrons and we will be in the same
position as we are now. I have spent my entire life fighting for the Haradirim,
I will not see the tyranny of Sauron replaced by that of the skin changers."



"Your speech is convincing general," Melia looked at him,
unprepared to discard her suspicions about him just yet, even if she was
granting him this audience. "However, words are not enough to convince me of
your intentions. I will not bring you to my queen unless you are able to give me
good reason to do so."



"I understand your hesitation," he confessed. "In your
position, I would act no differently. However, you and your queen do not have a
great deal of time. By the time the sun rises tomorrow, your king and all the
leaders of Middle earth will be dead."



"Dead?" Melia’s eyes widened in shock, "what do you mean?"



"I mean that Akallabeth’s people are already in the palace and
their plan is to kill all the lords of Middle earth and take their place. They
intend to do it following the banquet. Why do you think they were so insistent
that you women were restrained? When the queen threatened to take her tale to
the war masters, Akallabeth had no choice but to act. The plan had been to take
charge of King Elessar and his council, to use them as puppets until the rest of
the skin changers were in the palace and capable of assuming their forms. Arwen
was the only danger to that plan and that is why Akallabeth moved to restrain
her. Unfortunately, I do not think she counted on your queen being so
resourceful."



Melia did not speak for a few seconds because what she
learnt was too horrible to contemplate. Hours, they had only hours to resolve
this nightmare or else the men that they cared for would meet a brutal end.
Under normal circumstances, Melia would hardly worry about any of them for each
was formidable in their own way but this spell had taken away their ability to
fight. They were helpless and they did not even know that they were being led to
the slaughter.



She thought of Aragorn, the man to whom she had sworn her life
and her allegiance. Even though she was now the wife of his best friend, Melia
would always be a Ranger at heart and the constraints of that former duty
compelled her to defend her king no matter what the consequences. What of Gimli,
who was Legolas’ friend and companions, who had made her first days as the wife
to an elven lord bearable by his humor and irascible nature. She could not bear
to lose Gimli any more than she could bear to lose Legolas. Eowyn would never
recover if she lost either Eomer or Faramir and Lothiriel would be similarly
crushed if she lost her father, Imrahil. It could not be allowed! They had to do
something!



"If you are deceiving me general," Melia shot him a look of
pure venom, "there is nowhere on this earth that you can hide that I will not
find you and make you pay."



"I would not be foolish enough to incur the wrath of Hezare’s
daughter," he said earnestly. "You know now what is to be, what does your queen
intend?"



"I will not discuss it with you," she returned. "I do not wish
to keep you in the dark but you must understand how vulnerable you are. If you
are right and we have only one chance to stop this, then I cannot risk taking
you into our confidence. You are an experienced war master, you know that this
is true."



"I do," he nodded. "I suppose the only thing that I can say is
that when it comes time for the Evenstar to act against them, she can count on
my assistance."



"I will be sure to tell her that," Melia answered. "You should
return to the banquet before you are missed."



"And you?" Castigliari met her eyes.



Melia exhaled deeply before she responded, "I have to tell my
queen that we need a new plan."



************



 


When they finally emerged into the fresh air once more, it felt
as if they had spent an eternity of time in the sewers. Captor and captive took
hungry breaths of sweet air once it was made available to them, taking it into
their lungs in greedy gulps in an effort to wash away the rancid stench they had
been forced to endure during their passage beneath the White Tower. Legolas had
not given them much difficulty during their journey and Arwen suspected that his
injury was impeding him far more than he liked to believe. Wounds to the leg
could be deadly if the arrow struck the correct place and Melia had been forced
to shoot her husband in close quarters during their confinement.



"What do you intend to do with me?" Legolas demanded rather
wearily once they began their stealthy march towards the stables.



"Help you," Arwen said shortly and noticed that even in the
moonlight, he seemed pale. She wondered if he would be able to endure the
unmaking spell Lothiriel was preparing to carry out even as they spoke.



"Help me?" He laughed maliciously, "if you wish to help me then
perhaps you should let me go."



"Legolas," Arwen sighed, not wishing to launch into another
diatribe of convincing him that he was under the control of a shape shifter,
especially when a spell prevented him for giving anything she said credence.
"You and I have known each other for longer than some kingdoms have lived in
this world, I would never harm you or allow you to be harmed in any way, but I
will save you from yourself, no matter what you believe."



"It is not use Arwen," Eowyn replied impatiently. "He is too
much their creature to believe anything."



"You are right that I do not believe you," Legolas retorted.
"But I am no one’s slave."



Eowyn rolled her eyes in resignation and Arwen shook her head
in similar distaste. Neither could blame the prince for his behavior for it was
not his fault. Arwen was rather grateful that Melia was no here to see her
beloved husband in this condition, although she prayed that the Ranger was
already at the stables awaiting them. The fate of Melia preyed heavily on her
mind and Arwen knew that should she fall into enemy hands, they would
undoubtedly kill her since there was no reason to keep her alive.



As if aware of what she was thinking, Legolas suddenly spoke
up, "where is my wife? I thought she would chose to accompany you in this
display of defiance. After all, disobeying her husband and her family seems to
be a habit with her."



"She will be along presently," Arwen said through gritted
teeth, hating it immensely that Legolas could speak with such malice. The spell
that had changed the prince ensured that his soul was tainted with their cruelty
since she could not imagine anything so dark existing inside her old friend.



"Where is she?" Legolas asked, noting the slight tremor in her
voice when she spoke of Melia.



"That is not your concern," Eowyn declared hotly but the truth
was, the lady of Ithilien was just as concerned as Arwen regarding the fate of
the Ranger. She should have caught up to them by now and her continued absence
made them both extremely nervous.



"She is my wife," Legolas hissed. "I am her lord and her
husband. I have every right to know what she is doing."



"And I will be happy to oblige when the skin changers have
discharge their control over your mind," Arwen declared, starting to feel her
temper fray. "However for you own sake Prince of Mirkwood, I would advise you to
be silent."



She punctuated her sentence with a slight stab of her blade
against his skin, reminding him most acutely that he was in no position to make
demands of them.



Legolas fell silent but Arwen could sense the bristling of
hatred in his gait. He had been manipulated to feel only dark emotions and she
knew that if he were free to act, he would not hesitate to harm either her or
Eowyn. Arwen had braced herself for the possibility that she may have to hurt
him if he made such an attempt. It was not something she wanted to endure but
Arwen would not be squeamish if forced into it. Fortunately, the prince chose to
heed her advice and Arwen sensed that this was due to his physical condition
rather than his belief in her determination regarding this matter.



They arrived at the stables and found that Lothiriel had
completed her preparations. She had cleared one of the stables of its hay,
having brushed it clean until one could see the floor beneath. A circle of ochre
was formed on the stone surface, laced with markings that Eowyn could not
identify at all but Arwen was certain to be some ancient form of Sindarin. She
was rather impressed that Lothiriel was able to read it but then the line of
Imrahil and his forebears claim their lineage from the Silvan elf maid
Mithrellas who journeyed with Nimrodel from the southern havens. Indeed
Lothiriel’s beauty had almost an elvish quality about it, as would her meager
powers as a sorceress. While she not a wizard for the only true Istari were
Maiar spirits, Arwen believed Lothiriel might have the understanding needed to
thwart the skin changer’s plan.



Provided the girl believed in herself enough to manage it.


"What is this?" Legolas became animated again when he saw what
awaited him within the stables. Lothiriel was in the center of the circle,
laying out the important ingredients needed to make the spell work.



"Where is Melia?" Lothiriel asked nervously, trying not to pay
too much attention to the subject for her spell of unmaking.



"She did not come back?" Arwen returned her question with one
of her own.



"No," Lothiriel shook her head. "I thought she would return
with you."



Eowyn and Arwen exchanged a brief glance of concern but neither
could do anything to change the situation as it stood with Melia but there was
much to be done in regards to her husband. "We will have to deal with Melia’s
fate later. We must tend to him first."



"Tend to him?" Legolas demanded struggling a little and making
Eowyn glad that they had chosen to bind his hands behind his back before
embarking on the journey here. "What do you intend to do to me!"



"Nothing that will not hurt for too long," Eowyn retorted
shortly, her temperament tested by the possibility that Melia might have come to
harm. She helped Arwen escort the prince to the center of the circle and forced
him to his knees, in front of an earthenware bowl.



"I am not certain I am able to do this," Lothiriel confessed,
feeling more frightened than ever now that the moment was upon her.



Arwen stared at the girl, wishing she did not have to force the
child into this position but they had no choice. Arwen knew nothing of magic and
Pallando was too far away to be of any help. Lothiriel was all that they had in
the way of a wizard and as much as it grieved Arwen to use her in this manner,
they had no other choice.



"Lothiriel," Arwen placed a hand upon her shoulder, "I wish I
did not have to call upon you for this but you are all that stands between us
and Middle earth descending into darkness. I know it is a terrible burden to
place upon your shoulders but I have no choice, you are all that I have to stop
this thing from happening. True magic does not come from books or from the
ability to read spells, it comes from within, from your belief that you can
change the nature of things. You cannot simply try your hand at magic, you must
wield it and be responsible for it. You worked your magic in the past with the
insecurity of a child and faltered. You are a woman grown, despite your
sheltered upbringing. If you were not, you would not have endured what we have
suffered tonight. You stood by us and fought alongside us when it would have
been easier to surrender, that takes courage."



Lothiriel’s eyes glistened with emotion at the Evenstar’s
words. "I will not fail you my queen," she said softly. "If I have to give my
life to succeed, I will see this spell done."



"Good," Arwen smiled, aware that the girl meant it with all her
heart and admired her strength despite her fear. "Now let us proceed."



*************



 


It was going better than the creature called Akallabeth had
possibly believed.



Seated at the right hand of the Easterling king Ulfrain,
Akallabeth felt a deep sense of satisfaction at the progress of the carefully
laid plan that would reach fruition in a matter of hours. Before Akallabeth, lay
the court of Gondor and the nobility of Middle earth, basking decadently in the
celebration of the treaty that unknown to them was meaningless. They danced,
drank, ate and flirted with each other in reckless abandon as the evening was
driven deeper into the night. Some of them were human and some of them were not.
It would surprise the lord of Middle earth to know just who amongst them were
not what they appeared.



Certainly, the king did not feel this way as he sat next to
his wife, displaying the usual adoration that King Elessar was known to show
towards his beloved Undomiel, whom a short time ago had miraculously, appeared
to him in his chambers and begged his forgiveness. Forgiveness that was easier
to give after Akallabeth had whispered in his ear. The same was managed by
Faramir with his wife Eowyn and thanks to the injury sustained by the Prince of
Mirkwood, there was no need to produce a facsimile of the Easterling traitor,
Melia. To court of Gondor, nothing was out of the ordinary and by dawn it would
not matter that the real Evenstar and her companions were at large, their
husbands would be long dead and the skin changers dominion over Middle earth
would be assured.



It did annoy Akallabeth slightly that the queen and her
companions appeared to be so elusive. While it was hardly surprising after their
experiences with the Evenstar at Nargothrond, not even Akallabeth had imagined
the queen could be such an enormous thorn in their sides. Fortunately,
Akallabeth had constructed the plan to dominate Middle earth with a number of
contingencies and those had slipped into place perfectly, despite the
complications caused by the Evenstar. The skin changers had entered the city and
taken their place at court. If the war masters of Gondor knew just how many
shape shifters were inside the Citadel, they would surely raise an army and
storm their own palace.



But they did not know and would not until it was too late.



The prospect of what the dawn would bring left Akallabeth with
a deep sense of satisfaction that both vengeance and their desire to shape their
own future were met. The Evenstar, who had destroyed their world when she had
collapsed the caverns surrounding Nargothrond would find her own world similarly
ruined. She would know how it was to be displaced and when her king lay dead at
her feet and the lords of Middle earth turned their back on her as an imposter,
Akallabeth would be there to finish what was left of the elf. It was something
that Akallabeth looked forward to immensely as did the rest of the skin changers
that were driven from Nargothrond.



There were so many plans to fulfil once the dawn broke. With
their dominance over the Reunified Kingdom assured, they would wreak a bloody
wave of conquest over the rest of Middle earth. There were elven enclaves that
were ripe for the plucking now that the greater majority of the Eldar had sailed
across the street. Former elven strongholds such as Imladris and Eryn Lasgalen
were vulnerable, not to mention the newly established home of the Noldor elf,
Celeborn. Once the elves were done away with, they would find the remnant of
Aule’s children in Erebor. The Easterlings and Haradirim they would leave to
last for their aid to the skin changers plans earned them that much.



The sunrise would see the birth of a new black age.



Akallabeth rather liked the irony of it.



It was during all these grandiose ruminations that something
disturbing happened. One of the threads that bound the mind of Akallabeth’s
creatures tugged sharply in her consciousness. Blinking hard, the queen of the
Haradirim looked about the room, trying to discern what had happened when that
strange sensation made itself acutely felt. Gazing at the king of Gondor,
Aragorn Elessar seemed oblivious to everything but his queen. The Steward Gondor
was paying similar attention to his wife and did not seemed troubled at all.
Akallabeth felt short of breath with a heart pounding so loud, it was quite
possible that its sound could be heard beyond the body.



Someone was attempting to break the spell, Akallabeth thought
with a flash of insight.



This realization corresponded by another insistent pull of the
thread and this time, Akallabeth could feel its tension reaching breaking point.
Whomever was at the other end of that thread would be suffering the effects of
the attempt to sever the bond between them and yet as Akallabeth scanned the
room, there was no evidence on any of those enchanted being in distress.
Akallabeth sought out the faces of Aragorn, Eomer, Gimli, Faramir and Imrahil
and saw that they were oblivious to what was happening. If anything, they seemed
to be enjoying themselves and the celebration immensely.



Wait. One of them was missing.



***********



 


"What is wrong with him!" Eowyn demanded as Legolas started to
cry out, shaking his head in pain as Lothiriel continued with the spell.



Lothiriel did not answer for her mind was too far away to hear
Eowyn’s words. The spell of unmaking was no mere chant to be repeated. It was
the expulsion of dark forces trapped inside a helpless victim and removing it
required care and deliberation, not interruption. Lothiriel had never attempted
a spell as complex as this but she forced the emotion of fear from her being
because the mind of the conjurer had as much to do with the success of the spell
as the magic itself. She could not allow her thoughts to be clouded by failure
or insecurities. So many times in the past, she had filled her heads with
incidental thoughts while attempting to perform magic and resulted in her spells
going awry. She could not make the same mistake. The queen was depending on her.



"I do not know!" Arwen returned just as concerned. She had
joined Lothiriel inside the circle, mostly because Legolas needed restraint.
Eowyn had taken up a sentry position, ensuring they would not be interrupted or
at least give them warning if they were discovered. Legolas was writhing in pain
as the intensity of Lothiriel’s chant increased. Arwen glanced at the young
woman and saw that her eyes were closed and her lips were moving softly as her
soft voice became lost in the cries of Mirkwood’s prince.



There was something in the air, Arwen noticed. It had seeped
into the room like invisible smoke but she could smell it nonetheless. It
reminded her of the fires of Mordor, the pungent smell like rotten eggs. It made
her swallow thickly to suppress her desire to gag at the stench. Returning her
gaze at Legolas, the prince was crying in pain, a very unnatural sound coming
from him. He was doubled over now, occasionally convulsing into an upright
position when a fresh of pain attacked him. Arwen could see that it was taking
all of Eowyn’s control to resist responding to her cries and empathized with the
shield maiden of Rohan on this point. It was taking all her will to harden her
heart to what was taking place.



"Help me!" Legolas shouted at Arwen, snapping her awareness
into the present.


His pale skin was now flushed with red; a fine sheen of
moisture had formed upon it, rapidly turning into slick sheets of perspiration
as the intensity of his pain increased. His hands were bound to his back and
Arwen could seem him pulling at his restraints, as if that would avail him
anything. He managed his words in little more than a grunt before his teeth
fused together in grinding pain and his entire body became taut. Arwen could not
bear to look but because she had done this to him, she could not turn away
either. Tears were running down her cheeks, in correspondence to his own and
Arwen was actually grateful that Melia was not present. The queen had no idea
how the lady would endure seeing her husband in this condition.



Lothiriel seemed oblivious to it all. The young woman was
standing upright; her hands splayed to either side of her body and her
invocation of the spell seemed to have encompassed all her attention for she
made no reaction to either Legolas or Arwen. The words escaping her were ancient
in their origins, a language of Sindarin so old that even Arwen had difficulty
understanding it. She wondered where the young woman had learnt the craft and
then decided that such deep questions were perhaps not appropriate for the
moment.



"Arwen, we can’t let this go on!" Eowyn replied, wearing a
desperate expression on her face because she was not a person that could ignore
the agonized cries of another.



"We must!" Arwen returned anguished. "I cannot bear this but
Lothiriel must be allowed to complete the ritual!"



"We cannot say for certain that she even knows what she’s
doing!" Eowyn returned. "For all we know, she could be unintentionally killing
him! You heard her yourself, she said her spells seldom work!"



"We had have choice!" The queen hissed as she heard Legolas’
cries became shrieks of agony. "You have to keep watch! They’ll be coming soon!"



Eowyn turned her attention to the doorway but appeared torn
between her duty to rectifying their present dilemma and forcing the prince to
endure this agony. With reason winning out over emotion, Eowyn resumed her
duties as sentry, watching for guards who would be attracted by the commotion,
if they were not already. It was difficult to focus on what was taking place
beyond the stable doors when Legolas’ cries of pain left her in torment at what
to do.



"Lothiriel!" Arwen called out to the young mage, finding her
own ability to endure in the face of Legolas’ pain more than she could tolerate
herself. "What is happening to him?"



Lothiriel did not answer and her lack of response drove more
fear into Arwen’s heart regarding the prince’s ability to endure this agony for
such a prolonged period. Arwen had never heard him scream before nor had she
ever seen him in so much pain. Legolas always bore things so stoically. By
nature, he was aloof and emotions seldom showed in his face for anyone, even
another elf to know what he was thinking. Only since his marriage had he started
to emerge from this emotional vacuum that he and so many long-lived elves placed
themselves.



Suddenly, Legolas stopped screaming. However, his face remained
a terrible mask of pain. Still on his knees, his body arched backwards, his head
thrown back in pain. Blood began to seep out of his nose and his eyes were
clamped shut. Arwen’s fear was reduced to panic at the sight of this and any
restraint left inside her snapped at this point, splintering into a thousand
fragments as she moved towards him. Yet even as she approached, Lothiriel’s
words reached its climax and Legolas swung forward, doubling over before a
violent upheaval was heard from the pit of his stomach. The retching sound was
like a loud gurgle and upon leaning forward, expelled violently the contents of
his stomach into the earthenware bowl waiting before him. His chest heaved
violently once or twice as he displaced the alien substance in his body. Then he
collapsed on the floor, his breath coming from him in loud rasps as he lay
exhausted.



Lothiriel opened her eyes then and tumbled to the floor, her
own exhaustion showing as she panted loudly, "is he alright?" She managed to
ask. "Did the unmaking work?"



Arwen could not say for certain. She rounded the bowl, trying
to keep her eyes away from the dark substance that Legolas had ejected from his
body and knelt at the side of her old friend. His lips were stained with the
remnants of the poison and his skin was far paler than should be of any elf. She
placed her hand upon his skin and felt the heat under her palm but it was from
exertion, not from illness.



"Legolas," she called out. "Can you hear me?"



His eyelids fluttered briefly and though he did not open his
eyes, he did nod wearily, "Evenstar….. I hear you."



"Do you know where you are?" She asked softly.



There was a slight pause before he shook his head, "I am in
the great hall."



All three women dared not speak as they looked at each other
and then at the prince once more.



"What is the last thing you remember, Prince of Mirkwood?"



Another pause followed, "treaty. We were drinking a toast to
the treaty."



Arwen let out a deep sigh of relief, her head drooping slightly
from the intense emotion that was coursing through her. Until this moment, their
hopes of freeing Aragorn and the others had been just that, hopes. Now it was a
reality.



"It is good to have you back, old friend." Arwen said placing
her hand on his cheek.



Legolas was still disorientated but he was recovering quickly.
After all, he was an elf. "Was I gone?" He managed to ask.



"Further away than you could possibly imagine," Arwen
answered, aware that explanations would be needed if his memory of what
transpired since the spell had taken him was erased from his mind. After freeing
his hands, she looked over her shoulder and saw Eowyn tending to Lothiriel. The
young woman appeared exhausted but unhurt by her efforts. Arwen was glad of this
since the same procedure would need to be repeated if they were to free the rest
of the men under the skin changer’s power. Still Arwen did not relish seeing
Aragorn endure the same agony.



"Lothiriel," Arwen called to the lady of Dol Amroth. "How do
you fare?"



Lothiriel raised her eyes to the queen, wearing an expression
of awe on her face, "I fare well knowing that I did not fail. I cast the spell
of unmaking and it worked."



Her smile of pride was infectious and had greater ramifications
then just her success as a mage. For the first time since this affair had began,
Arwen could see a way out of their predicament and that gave her a good deal of
hope.



Arwen helped Legolas sit up when suddenly, Melia appeared at
the door. The ranger halted for a moment as her eyes surveyed the situation and
paused when she saw Legolas. The prince’s condition had not improved even though
he was now lucid.



"Mia," he exclaimed when he caught sight of her.



Instead of going to him as Arwen she wanted to, Melia held her
ground. "Is he free of the spell?" She asked cautiously.



"Yes," Arwen nodded with a little smile. "He is free of
it."



Melia’s shoulders sagged considerably with relief but was soon
approaching her husband. Arwen could see their earlier encounter preying heavily
in Melia’s mind and the queen understood all too well the emotions of gratitude
she was feeling at having her husband and her love returned to her at last. It
was emotions that Arwen soon hope to share when they freed Aragorn from the
shape shifter’s spell.



"You do know how to vex me Prince," Melia said after embracing
him.



"What has happened?" He asked, understandably concerned. "I
remember nothing and it appears I have been injured," Legolas remarked glancing
at his leg.



"I am sorry for that," Melia apologized, basking in the
fact that the elf she loved was himself again, not that stranger she had been
forced to hurt. "It was necessary."



"You did this to me?" He stared at her, brow raised with shock.
It was obvious that he was in need of explanations.



Melia looked to Arwen for guidance, uncertain of how much
should be revealed to him. She did not wish him to know that just a few hours
ago, they stood before each other’s as enemies. She did not want to tell him
that he had been the slave of a skin changer or that he had been ready to
deliver her to his masters without a second thought. She knew her husband and he
would feel enormously guilty about his actions, even if it were through no fault
of his own.



"Old friend," Arwen decided to spare Melia that trial and took
up the unpleasant duty herself. "The kingdom is in great peril even as we sit
here discussing the matter. The Haradirim have deceived us. They are in alliance
with the skin changers of Nargothrond, the remnants of Glaurung’s army."



If anything could disperse the lingering fog in the prince’s
mind, it was that revelation. The warrior in him immediately regained full
consciousness and he was suddenly staring at them with all faculties intact and
primed for combat.



"Continue," he urged firmly, his voice hard like flint.



"I will in due course," Arwen returned, "but I must know what
is the absolute last thing that you remember before awaking here?"



Legolas glanced at Melia briefly before considering the
question. Trying to remember was like seeing his memory through a dull fog,
vague and unclear. "I remember the treaty and signing it. There was discussion
about a toast, something called sektari I believe."



"It was poisoned," Melia concluded for him. "I just had a
meeting with Castigliari, the Easterling general."



"What?" Arwen exclaimed.



"He claims that the Haradirim are unaware of the skin changers
among them. The alliance we thought they forged with the skin changers was the
work of Ulfrain and he has told no one. Akallabeth is a skin changer. "



"I knew that there was something about her!" Eowyn hissed. "All
this time, she played us for fools, invoking our sympathy for her when all she
was doing was watching us!"



"Arwen," Melia ignored Eowyn’s outburst and continued her
revelations, "Castigliari told me their plan. They intend to murder all the
leaders of Middle earth under their control and replace them with skin changers
before the dawn."



"Dawn?" Lothiriel cried out in horror, "that is only a few
hours away!"



Arwen let out a sigh and replied with steel in her voice, "then
that is how long we have to think of a way to stop them."



This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Fairer Sex, The overview

Comments

No one has commented on this story yet. Be the first to comment!

Comments are hidden to prevent spoilers.
Click header to view comments

Talk to Scribe

If you are a HASA member, you must login to submit a comment.

We're sorry. Only HASA members may post comments. If you would like to speak with the author, please use the "Email Author" button in the Reader Toolbox. If you would like to join HASA, click here. Membership is free.

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools