20. Chapter Fifteen: Armageddon (Cont.)
For once, everything was unfolding as it should.
Saeran emerged from his meditation and cast his gaze over his private sanctum and found immense pleasure in the knowledge that everything had fallen into place. Irina was keeping close watch upon his enemies with the gun in her hand and he derived a surge of warmth that felt somewhat alien inside him, knowing that if he asked, she would happily kill them just to show him her undying love. The Ringbearer in turn was far from happy but the child had not moved an inch from her place at his feet and Saeran was confident that while she believed that he would not harm any of her friends, she would remain obedient.
It would give him great satisfaction to see her face when she learnt the folly of that belief.
In the meantime, he was savoring deeply the sight of Aaron Stone, formerly Aragorn Elessar, coming to the terms with the fact that very soon his pet elf, the offspring of King Thranduil would reach the end of his long existence. He was uncertain of what he would do with Tory Harding but it seemed to him, that she might provide the emotional leverage he needed to keep Fred pliant. Perhaps he would keep her alive for a while once he had dealt with the others being marched to this room, even as the thought crossed his mind.
"We’re almost at the end Aaron," Saeran declared as he stepped off his throne and went to the doctor who was looking worriedly at the elf. "Soon, a new age will begin."
"It’s not over yet," Aaron returned once Saeran was standing over him, aware that the dark lord had a penchant for theatrics.
"Of course not," Saeran said smugly. "You’re expecting Olorin to pull a proverbial rabbit out of his hat."
Aaron did not reply and simply turned his gaze to Legolas and Tory, showing them with his eyes that hope was not lost and they still had one card to play, no matter how bleak things may appear at the moment.
"It’s not over until it’s over, you should know all about that," Aaron turned to Saeran with challenge in his eyes. "If I recall correctly, you amassed a great army the last time round. You had Middle earth reeling from war on two fronts. You should have won. You planned it long enough and yet you still ended up spending a hundred thousand years in the Void. I wonder what that is?"
Saeran stiffened at the reminder of his earlier failure, "I was not what I am now. This time, it will be different."
"Oh come on," Aaron stood up, feeling the need to do this face to face, even though it could get him killed but he had to keep Saeran from thinking too deeply of what alternative they had to stop him.
"From what I’ve been told, you being incorporeal had nothing to do with it. Your mind was still intact even if your body wasn’t. Maybe its simply because when the time came, you were outsmarted. You know what they say, wearing a Yankees cap don’t make you DiMaggio. So maybe calling yourself a dark lord doesn’t mean you’re good enough to play Melkor’s game."
Saeran was still holding Anduril in his hand and he raised it to Aaron’s neck quickly, holding the blade poised over his flesh. "Do not tempt me Aaron," Saeran said in a low voice. "You are nothing to me in the scheme of things, I could kill you now and it would make little difference to how my plans unfold. You would take caution how you address me."
"Temptation is at the heart of what I do too, Saeran," Aaron replied coldly. "If you kill me, I’ll be spared seeing the radioactive hell you’re going to turn the world into and I’m not afraid to die. The question is do you want to kill me and spoil your fun? What’s a great triumph without someone’s face to rub it in and who better to rub it into than Isildur’s heir, the man who beat you the last time?"
For a second, the room became as still as a tomb. Tory’s heart was pounding in her chest as she saw the stalemate between Aaron and David Saeran. Even Legolas who was drifting in and out of consciousness was fully alert, holding his strained breath in anticipation of the dark lord’s reaction.
"You must have been one hell of an analyst," Saeran said breaking the silence when he lowered the weapon from Aaron’s neck.
"You have no idea," Aaron returned, giving Saeran no sign that he was relieved to be still alive.
"You’re right, I don’t want to kill you just yet." Saeran said with a cocky smile, "I supposed I do have a little of the showman in me because I want you to see what I’m going to do this world. I want it be to be the very last thing that you ever see."
Suddenly, they heard the approach of footsteps nearing the door to the chamber. Saeran’s grin became wider as he glanced briefly at it and then at Aaron again. "It do believe your party has arrived," he said, still smirking.
Saeran bid his minions entry when the door knocked a split second later. As it widened, Aaron saw a number of Saeran’s men escorting Bryan, Gandalf, Haldir and Eve into the room. The circumstances of their arrival became painfully clear when Aaron saw the weapons belonging to Haldir, Legolas and Gandalf in the possession of the dark lord’s agents. Bryan and Eve were similarly disarmed and the only one who was allowed to carry anything at all was Gandalf. Apparently they did not believe his staff/walking still posed too much threat. For the first time since his capture, Aaron began to worry whether or not it was possible to carry out the plan he and Bryan devised when the MI6 agent was being brought into Saeran’s presence in this way.
However, seeing Eve again infused him with some sense of hope that despite the darkness of the hour, there was some light he could cling to. Eve's sapphire colored eyes touched his across the room and he saw her face brighten considerably at seeing that he was safe. No doubt, she was just as concerned for his well being as he had been about hers during their absence from each other. His gratitude at seeing her alive and unhurt was soon forgotten because he noticed something in her eyes that gave him reason to pause.
Though she appeared clearly unimpressed by their capture, he could tell by her body language that Eve poised to react. Her posture, the way she walked, all signaled a readiness to spring into action. She reminded him the way in which a jaguar pulled back on its haunches and prepared to pounce. In the last year, he had become acquainted with every aspect of her. He knew that she tossed her hair when she was particularly annoyed. He knew the wistful smile she wore when she decided that she loved him despite the fact that he was trying her patience and he knew the way she coped with dangerous situations and at this moment, Eve’s manner was telling him that something was happening.
Something that was not in the plan.
He shifted his gaze toward Bryan and saw that MI6 agent was in a similar state of preparation. Bryan shifted his gaze across the room in the fraction of a second, taking in the sight of everything with ruthless precision. Aaron knew that this was a trait common to hunters. Eve and Legolas were the same way. Aaron had no doubt that upon entering, Bryan had taken stock of everyone in the room and filed it away for future reference. The only time this methodical observation paused was when he laid his eyes upon Fred. Only then, did the tough mask waver and only briefly. Bryan's gaze rested on Fred and Tory in quick succession and then moved on.
Bryan's presence in the room inspired the first sign of life in Fred’s eyes since Saeran had captured them. The despair in her expressive eyes was replaced by a little smile and even though Bryan could do little more than return it with one of his own, Fred's demeanor seemed to undertake a remarkable transformation. Tory was a little more sedate in her reaction to his arrival, perhaps not wishing to compromise him by letting Saeran know that there was more between them than simple friendship. Considering the pleasure Saeran intended to derive from torturing his enemies, it was probably the most sensible course.
Once the doors were sealed and the prisoners were marched to Saeran, the dark lord emerged from his throne like a king receiving an audience. It was apparent to his captives that Saeran had been awaiting this moment for a long time and was relishing the illusion of his supposed victory. He stepped down from the raised platform, upon which the throne was situated, holding Anduril in his hand. Meanwhile Irina watched from her place, her lord and master savoured the encounter like a tasty morsel.
Aaron, Tory and Legolas were forced to join the others. Legolas was so weak by this point that he needed Aaron's support to stand, a burden that Haldir shared as soon as he was close enough. Aaron found Eve next to him and expressed his joy at being with her again, even under these circumstances, by entwining the fingers of his free through hers. Bryan would have done the same but like Tory, did not want to give Saeran any more power over them than necessary. His eyes softened but a moment when she met his gaze and it was more than enough for Tory to know how grateful he was to see her unhurt.
However, he soon returned his attention to Aaron. The doctor was watching him closely, trying to decide whether or not the plan they had conceived together was still achievable. Unfortunately, Bryan could offer him no assurance.
"Well Olorin," Saeran said pausing before Gandalf, "it has been a long time."
"Not long enough I am afraid," Gandalf returned shortly. "I had thought we were done with you."
"As it has happened on numerous occasions in the past," Saeran smiled, brandishing Anduril as it were a scepter of his power, "the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I am back and this time, I have planned my offensive well."
"That may be," Gandalf returned, "but your offensives are usually flawed."
Saeran laughed shortly and remarked, "stubborn to the last. You were always so implacable in the Timeless Halls, I wonder why you took the form of flesh when you were suited to be an Ent. At least as a tree, you would have an excuse for being so inflexible."
"And you were always too free to bend to the will of Melkor. Even when you were Aule's servant, you were too eager to embrace the music of chaos."
"Means to an end old boy," Saeran replied shrugging off the insult and could not deny that in some part, Gandalf was right, "I suppose that it would be a redundant gesture to offer you the chance to join me?"
Gandalf stiffened, affronted by Saeran's audacity to even ask such a question of him. His blue eyes became dark like the sky that had been suddenly shadowed by clouds.
"I didn't think so," Saeran shrugged not waiting for an answer as he turned away and set his eyes upon Eve. Aaron tensed as the dark lord stared at his fiancée with altogether too much interest for his liking. There was an expression of curiosity and wonder on his face as he studied Eve closely that left Aaron bewildered as well as increasingly alarmed.
"Something I can do for you?" Eve stated in typical character because she was beginning to feel decidedly uncomfortable by his scrutiny.
"You do bear a striking resemblance to her," Saeran said with a quiet voice that could almost have harbored awe.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Eve returned, reminded of how Malcolm had taken an interest in her and was secretly afraid that Saeran might have the same predilections as his master. "I look like Arwen Evenstar."
"No actually," Saeran returned, his eyes still fixed upon her, enjoying in part her discomfiture but also by her startling resemblance to the lady in question. "I was thinking how much you resembled the lady Luthien."
"She is not Luthien," Gandalf stated quickly and firmly, remembering all too well how Luthien had driven Sauron from Tol Sirion during the First Age. In her day, the Evenstar was considered to be the image of Luthien, perhaps even the reincarnation of Melian's daughter. If Sauron saw her as such, he may wish to enact his vengeance of that humiliating defeat on Eve.
"Leave her alone," Aaron found himself saying before he could stop himself. If Saeran put one hand on Eve, not even the fate of the entire world was going to stop him from killing the son of a bitch.
Saeran's gaze lingered upon Eve a moment longer. His eyes were drained of his arrogance and he spoke to her with what was akin to thoughtful admiration. "I would have you sing for me again my lady but I sense that you are not her whose voice filled Tol Sirion with the only music I have ever wished to hear again."
He stepped away from her then and Eve could not deny that she was surprised by his words. For a minute, he had almost seemed sad by the fact that she was not Luthien, an emotion she did not credit a dark lord of being capable of possessing especially when it was not borne out of vengeance. Nevertheless, his departure relaxed not only Aaron and Bryan but also Eve herself. While Aaron had not bothered to hide his outrage at Saeran's interest in Eve, Bryan had managed it rather well though his reaction had the man attempted to harm the New York policewoman would have been no less incendiary.
"Bryan Miller," Saeran finally reached him and raised the sword to Bryan's chest, "you have caused me a great deal of trouble. Thanks to you, the Nine are at this moment somewhere in the shadow world, pulling their collectives selves back together after you blew them to pieces. You have been the wild card who has caused me to expended more resources than I cared to spare at this time. I should kill you now and rid myself of the trouble but I have a feeling the Nine will want that pleasure when they finally restore themselves to me."
"When you plan to destroy this world!" Haldir snapped, "what hindrance he has been to you would be worth its weight in gold."
"You are of no consequence to me," Saeran retorted, not even deigning to look at Haldir because his attention was still fixed on Bryan. "I have better things to do then to spar with one Galadriel's footmen."
Haldir opened his mouth to speak but was silenced by a sharp look from Gandalf, who did not want to provoke the dark lord into acting hastily. At the moment, Saeran's tirade was serving them well but it could easily escalate if the Sauron lost his temper. Haldir frowned, not liking the fact that he had to submit but Gandalf seldom impressed himself so strongly unless it was needed and as Bryan had said earlier, they had to at least feign the illusion of defeat if not surrender.
"But I think I will kill you Bryan," Saeran continued speaking, unaware of he was in part playing into their hands. "I should have taken Caldwell's advice and done it when you refused to let go of your investigation into Black Serpent. However, I always had a weakness for you. You could have so easily been one of mine Bryan. Do you know that?"
Bryan glared back at him and said nothing. If Saeran expected a response, he was going to be disappointed.
"Oh you can try to hide it," Saeran goaded, "but you know its true. Boromir of Gondor was almost mine. I whispered in his ear, I told him that all he had to do was take the One Ring and he could have ruled Gondor as its king, not as a mere steward. He could save his people if he just killed the Ringbearer."
"He did not," Legolas hissed, the elf was so weak he could barely stand but he would not sit by and let Saeran drag his friend's name through the dirt. Boromir had died valiantly and they had all shed tears for him when he had passed. He would not allow Saeran taint Boromir's sacrifice with his venom. "You influenced him but briefly. In the end, he died with honour."
"Honour? Is that what you call it?" Saeran sneered derisively. "You were not there elf and I was, as much as I could be that is. He was ready to tear the Ringbearer apart with his blade, to steal the One Ring like a thief. If it was not for the fact that the hobbit had more spine than I gave him credit, Boromir would have become King of Gondor. The rest of your kind who had not already fled to Valinor like frightened children, would have joined the pyre of bones I would have built in every corner of Middle Earth to celebrate his coronation."
Bloody hell, Bryan thought to himself as he glanced at his watch and realised that it was time, did the bastard ever get tired of hearing himself speak?
Apparently not, because he turned to Bryan once more, "so tell me Son of Gondor, what do you have to say for yourself?"
"Not much," Bryan surprised Saeran by finally responding. "Just two things really."
Bryan nodded glancing at Fred and offered her a silent assurance that everything was going to be all right before facing Saeran again "Firstly, Boromir is dead and gone, his mistakes are not mine. If anything, I’m doing what he should have; I’m going to protect the Ringbearer. You will never get your hands on her and secondly," he directed this at Aaron, "hold on."
"Hold on?" Saeran asked with an arched brow
"Yeah," Bryan grinned as the entire building shuddered with a tremendous roar and everything went to complete hell. "It gets bumpy from here."
The force of the explosion buckled the floor beneath them. There was no way to describe the sound that ripped through the air as the nitroglycerine did its worst, tearing the bowels of Saeran’s castle with devastating efficiency. It was like being in the center of a hurricane, where forces too great to be tamed, danced around them in fury. The polished floor of Saeran’s chamber lifted up in places, great fissures appearing through the marble. Around them, the structure of the building shuddered violently; support beams snapped and hit the floor, splitting the polished stone even further. There was smoke rushing through the cracks as mortar and brick, shook loose and shattered.
Bryan spun around as this confusion threw everyone off balance. The armed gunman whose weapon had been aimed at his back had been similarly disorientated and raised his hand to fire in a vain effort to stop the captive coming at him. Bryan had the advantage however, having planned how he was going to acquire a weapon the moment he became aware of who was standing where in the room. He pushed aside the outstretched arm and shoved the barrel of the gun away from him, before slamming his elbow in mid forearm and snapping the bone cleanly. Through the fallout of noise around them, the man scream was sharp and clear as Bryan took the Uzi from him and without pausing emptied an entire round of bullets into the other men present. The first recipient of this deadly hail of bullets had barely hit the debris-covered floor before Eve took his gun.
When she heard gunfire around her, Tory sprinted forward, her only concern at this time was reaching Fred. The child was clutching the base of Saeran’s chair, frightened by the destruction around her. Tory wasted no time because she saw Irina scrambling towards the little girl. Determined that Fred was going to be no one’s prisoner again, Tory slammed her body against the woman and sent her sprawling across the uneven floor. Irina tumbled over the edge of the platform as Tory hurried past her. The little girl bolted forward without hesitation into Tory’s outstretched arms.
"Come on," Tory said picking her up and racing away from the throne, which was now covered in dust. "Let’s find a shady spot and sit this out," she smiled warmly, planting a comforting kiss on the little girl’s fore head after her ordeal.
Aaron was also in the process of helping a friend to safety. With all the gunfire that was exploding around them, he helped Legolas to the far corner of the room. Haldir was presently introducing one of Saeran’s henchman to the finer points of elvish hand-to-hand combat. The source of his apparent instruction was the thug who had confiscated his and Legolas’ bows during their surrender. After sending the man to the floor with streak of blood across his face, Haldir took up his ancient weapon and began helping Bryan and Eve polish off the rest of Saeran’s thugs in the room.
Aaron looked over his shoulder and found David Saeran exactly where he had anticipated this moment would have him – facing Gandalf the Grey in battle.
"Your plans are about to come to ruin Sauron," Gandalf spoke though no one was capable of hearing his word in the cacophony of gunfire and fighting.
"This is a minor setback," Saeran replied, not about to admit defeat.
"Oh really?" Gandalf stared at him. "You and I were cut from the same cloth, I know you exert control over three who are not here. You cannot fight me and control them."
"You over estimate yourself considerably Olorin," Saeran replied, "I was able to command an army without a body, do you think you pose that much of a challenge?"
"Shall we find out?" Gandalf dared him.
"You are a fool Olorin," Saeran shook his head almost in disgust. "Even if my control wavers today, it changes nothing. There are new pawns to be used every day. When you and the Valar left man to his own, you allowed him to forget that there are powers in this world greater than he, that there is reason to fear the consequences of his actions. He has new gods now but they are silent and impotent. When it serves him, you should see the utter beauty of what cruelty he is capable of doing in the name of his god. It makes my Orcs appear positively tame. If I do not have my kingdom today, I will have it tomorrow because men make it so easy for me to take it. They cannot stop me, no one can."
"Do not be so certain that you are completely untouchable Sauron," Gandalf replied, unaffected by his posturing. "Thanks to you and the presence of your master in this world, my lord has been forced to re-evaluate his position regarding the fate of men. Against Manwe, even you are vulnerable."
"You are lying," Saeran hissed, refusing to believe him. "The Valar have been hiding like children for the past one hundred thousand years. If Iluvutar had a plan for man, the Valar's indifference has ensured that none of it came to pass. Manwe and the rest of those elitists are weak and complacent. The only thing they know how to do is keep a menagerie of pet elves. They would not know how to deal with men and their complexities, where else I do. You tell a good story old man but you have achieved nothing but shown me your desperation. All that will be accomplished today is that you; Olorin will end for all time. I will destroy you."
"You can try," Gandalf said sharply and thrust his staff at Saeran. The dark lord flew backwards into the wall, slamming so hard against the stone that his body left impression in the brick.
"DAVID!" Irina screamed as she watched her lover flung away.
Saeran groaned slightly as he lay against the wall, the indentation caused by the impact holding him in place. "Is that the best you can do Olorin?"
With that Gandalf found himself being flung upwards towards the ceiling. Still clutching his staff, he tried to brace himself for the impact but felt the air forced out of his lungs when he hit the stone hard. The wizard felt his vision blur as every bone in his body shuddered with pain. No sooner than he had felt that crushing agony, he was plummeting to the floor again. This time, he recovered himself enough to gain some control over his descent but it was still not enough to prevent a fresh bout of agony when he hit the floor again.
Saeran was on his feet preparing to attack again but this time, Gandalf was capable of defending himself. The throne behind the dark lord shifted precariously and Saeran turned around just in time to see it flying at him. Dropping to his feet, the bottom of the ornate chair missed him by a narrow margin. It shattered against the floor, sending fragments of wood in all direction. Jumping to his feet again, he faced Gandalf and this time the wizard felt himself spinning in mid air and hurtling towards the open balcony.
"Goodbye Olorin," Saeran called out after him as he flew uncontrollably towards the window.
"Don’t say your farewells just yet," Aaron suddenly appeared behind Saeran and swung the hilt of Anduril against the dark lord’s body. The ornate iron grip struck Saeran’s body hard and drove him to the floor, breaking his concentration enough so that Gandalf’s journey to his death was abruptly halted. Gandalf dropped like a stone and landed mere inches away from the open balcony doors.
Saeran uttered a little groan of pain but his mind was already preparing his retaliatory attack. Aaron’s feet were suddenly swept from under him when the dark lord stood up shakily. Aaron felt the back of his head hit the polished floor and reeled with disorientation from the pain. When his vision cleared as he saw Saeran standing over him, Anduril in his hand, raising the weapon in readiness to strike.
"I had planned to keep you alive but I suppose I will have to be content with your lady," Saeran said softly. "She really is a vision of Luthien and perhaps in time, she will sing for me."
"Like hell you will!" Aaron scrambled to his feet just as Saeran brought down the blade. He felt Anduril slash past him by the barest fraction and the blade cracked the floor with a loud clang of metal. Aaron kicked out his foot and planted it in Saeran’s knee, bringing the man down. Hopefully that would give Aaron enough time to get away. Aaron had not planned to fight Saeran but when he saw what the man was about to do to Gandalf, Aaron was throwing himself into their battle without second thought.
Meanwhile, Eve and Haldir were at the doorway, preventing any more of Saeran’s men from invading the room. The explosion had unhinged one of the doors and left an opening that was vulnerable to penetrated by more of Saeran’s men. Both were barricading the door with a wall of bullets and arrows. Haldir was had not only his own quiver slung over his shoulder but Legolas’ store as well. Eve was firing with two Uzis, her eyes squinting in reaction to deafening roar of discharging bullets that was escaping the barrel of the machine gun. Gandalf was still recuperating from the battle and knew that the only chance they had of stopping Saeran from destroying Arda in a inferno of destruction was if he stood up and went to face the lord of Mordor again.
Aaron had not taken more than a few steps when he felt the same force sweeping his legs from under him. He slammed onto the floor hard and felt more blood escaping from his earlier wounds. He tried to move but found himself being pulled across the floor towards Saeran. He tried to turn around but his efforts resulted in his being spun around again and this time he landed on his chest, feeling his ribs ache at the hard landing. He came to a halt at Saeran’s feet, too much in pain to be able to do anything but to lie there helplessly as he was pulled upright like a marionette with strings attached to skilled puppeteer.
"What were you thinking?" Saeran asked him as he dangled inches over the floor before Saeran. "Did you think that having Aragorn Elessar’s soul would make you equal to me? I could have killed you a dozen times over and considered it only a slight exertion. How dare you presume to think that because I am wearing this shell of flesh that I am one of you? I am nowhere that weak!"
Aaron could watch only helplessly as Saeran held him in his grip, preparing to plunge the sword into his body when suddenly, salvation came with a familiar Yorkshire accent.
"Let’s see about that, shall we?" Bryan stated as he slipped his arm across Saeran’s neck and enclosed the dark lord’s throat in a powerful neck lock.
"What is it this!" Saeran choked out indignantly, as Bryan dragged him backwards, away from Aaron.
Free of Saeran’s hold, Aaron tumbled to the floor, landing on his knees as he saw Bryan keeping a firm grip around Saeran’s throat, holding on for dear life. The enemy stumbled backwards and tried to slam Bryan into the wall in order to be free of the chokehold but the M16 agent was not about to relinquish his grip for anything. Aaron watched as both of them were hurtling towards the wall, with Bryan bearing the brunt of the impact. However, Bryan did not let go.
"Release me!" Saeran shouted, trying to exert his power to dislodge Bryan but the human would not yield. If anything, his efforts made Bryan more determined.
"Not a chance mate," Bryan grunted struggling to maintain his whole against Saeran’s own formidable strength. "Its safer where I am."
Suddenly, Bryan was hurtling across the room. Saeran became more determined to remove Bryan’s viselike grip from his throat and flung him clear across the chamber. Unfortunately, Saeran had not counted on the tenaciousness of the man in maintaining his grip because he was soon making the journey with Bryan. As they rushed towards the wall, Bryan’s eyes widened at the realization that Saeran intended for him to be point of impact. He closed his eyes and braced himself for the collision. However, shutting out the sight of what coming at him did little to lessen the pain. He felt a shoulder pop as he slammed against the stone, causing a pain so intense that Bryan almost cried out but sheer stubbornness kept him from he relinquishing his grip.
"LET ME GO!" Saeran screamed hoarsely as the pressure on his windpipe continued, turning the air in his lungs, stale, with no hope of replenishment.
"Like bloody hell, I will," Bryan retorted, feeling his eyes water from agony. He could feel bone grinding against bone as he moved his shoulder and the sensation was enough to induce a surge of nausea from someone with as strong sensibilities as he.
After slamming against the wall, both Bryan and Saeran dropped to the ground, landing hard on their sides. Bryan kept the pressure against Saeran’s throat, compelling the dark lord to fight for every breath of air. However, Saeran was strong and it was taking all of Bryan’s strength to keep maintain his chokehold. The former lord of Mordor struggled desperately against the strangulating arm across his throat and reacted violently, sending Bryan against the ceiling this time.
If he could not shake the human free, then he would break every bone in Bryan’s body until he was released. Once again, he became an unwilling passenger as Bryan was borne into the air once more. This time, Saeran intended to split his skull open against the stone ceiling and crush what was left of his body into pulp. Bryan saw what Saeran had planned for him and steeled himself for the impact but knew if he could not bear the brunt of it; he was going to die. Unfortunately, it made little difference whether or not he released Saeran to save himself.
Saeran would kill him the moment he was free.
From the floor of the chamber, Aaron saw Bryan speeding towards the ceiling and realised what Saeran intended. If Bryan did not release Saeran, he was going to be killed.
"Gandalf!" Aaron turned to the wizard who was on his feet now, recovering from the battering he had received at Saeran’s hand. "If he hits that wall, it will kill him."
"I know," Gandalf agreed and quickly raised his staff towards them two men.
Instead of colliding into the ceiling, Bryan found himself being dragged downwards. Fortunately, the angle of his descent was not steep and it appeared as if he was being brought to a gradual landing. Saeran was still struggling hard to be free of him but Bryan could sense a weakening in his efforts. No doubt, the dark lord would be finding it incredibly hard to breathe by now. As the floor rushed towards them both, Bryan braced himself for the rough landing and was rewarded for his efforts with a return to the ground that was not quite as fatal as he had feared. Both men were dragged across the debris covered floor and Bryan grit his teeth as shards of rock tore past the fabric of his jacket to break skin.
"Release me!" Saeran demanded again and it gave Bryan some measure of hope that his efforts were beginning to wear upon the ancient spirit because there was just a hint of desperation in his plea.
"Not a chance mate," Bryan hissed as he continued to pull his arm harder across Saeran's throat. He heart the man gasped as more of the remaining air in his lung was forced out.
They had no more come to a stop when suddenly; Bryan was being thrashed from side to side against the floor. Saeran was flogging his body against the polished marble surface, creating new pains across Bryan's body each time he landed. Bryan felt his injured shoulder flaring in agony; fell bruises forming on his back, felt ribs crack and fresh contusions on his skull when his head hit the floor. He knew he was bleeding, he could feel its warm beneath his hair. Saeran slammed his head backwards in a more physical effort to break free; his skull smashed against Bryan's nose and blood was soon running down the Englishman's face.
Aaron saw the terrible pounding that Bryan was taking and hoped that he could handle it. He watched as Bryan hung on to Saeran for dear life, like the rodeo rider who suddenly discovered that the bull he was riding was too much for him. The effect of the chokehold was starting to show on Saeran however. He was no longer using his powers to dislodge Bryan and was trying desperately to elbow him away. Aaron saw some of these strikes connect but Bryan was a man determined and took this blows without relenting. His determination to hold on no matter what proved to Aaron that Bryan was the only one who could do this.
Bryan was trained to kill. He knew how to prolong a death and he knew how to end it fast. The chokehold that was slowly suffocating David Saeran had to be applied very specifically. It could not be a typical strangulation, which was over very quickly. More than just the air passages had to be blocked, the carotid artery had to be damaged enough to prevent sufficient oxygen reaching the brain. Bryan was the only one of them who knew how to do this. As much as Aaron hated to see him enduring this terrible punishment by keeping the arm lock around Saeran's throat, Aaron also knew it was the only way they could end the threat of the dark lord.
He prayed that in forcing this upon Saeran, the lord of Mordor did not take Bryan with him.
Xiang put down the telephone attached to the console bench behind which he was seated; feeling somewhat unsettled by the conversation he had concluded abruptly with his superiors.
He had been in the midst of completing the relay that would initiate the launch sequence despite the fact that it required more than one person to complete the task when the telephone had rung. He should have ignored it but the ringing grew more insistent and made it difficult for him to complete the work, so he had answered it. He soon discovered that the person on the other end of the line was General Tien, his immediate superior and a personal friend and mentor. Tien had been his commanding officer for many years and had been responsible for his posting the Luoning facility.
Of course Tien did not understand, even when Xiang tried to explain it to him. He had told his mentor how the Americans had paid his mistress Ming to trick him into revealing vital secrets about the installation. Secrets, that China had guarded fiercely ever since it began its nuclear program. Because of the Americans, he was no longer a decorated career officer with a bright future. They had turned him instead into a traitor who would most likely be shot once the truth about what he had done was known to all.
Tien tried desperately to convince him that it was all a mistake. Hours after the surveillance report regarding her telephone conversation had reached Beijing; Ming was arrested by local authorities and placed under heavy interrogation. During the sessions, she revealed that she did not at all work for the Americans, but rather for a secret terrorist organization that until now had been the subject of rumor and whispers. She was a creature of the Black Serpent, bought and paid for the span of nearly five years. Her infiltration into his life was so precise that even the powers that be understood that he was not at fault. He had nothing to fear from their retribution.
Xiang absorbed all this information with disbelief because he knew that Tien was desperate to keep him from launching the missiles. The old man would do anything to save the homeland and when Xiang hung up the phone in his ear, there was an instant where it would have been so easy to let Tien convince him that all was forgiven. Unfortunately, whether or not Tien was telling the truth, it made little difference now. His career was still in ruins because he had killed to arrive at this place in time. He had murdered his own people and now he was on the edge of the precipice looking down into a dark abyss from which there was no return.
It did not matter even if he believed Tien that the Americans were not responsible for the oblivion he now faced. He had to salvage what was left of his honor and if the only way to do it was to sacrifice millions, that was a small price to pay was it not? Xiang looked at the keys awaiting him in their respective slots on the control panel. One turn of each key and the world would know that he was China’s greatest patriot, a warrior who dared to sacrifice his life to make a bold exclamation of his nation’s power.
One turn of the key and everything would change, wouldn’t it?
For the first time since he had embarked upon this course, the tiny voice in his head telling him that this was the right thing to do was strangely silent and in its silence, Xiang began to feel doubt creeping in on him.
This was all for the best, wasn’t it?
Bryan felt the wall against his back as Saeran slammed them both into it, using him as a shield against injury. The pain was all encompassing and he wanted nothing more than to release this tiger whose tail he was clinging to very precariously. However, he thought of everyone he cared about, the strange group whom had come to mean more to him in the past week than anyone else in his life these years, with the exception of Frank of course. He thought of Fred, the little girl who reminded him for the first time in too long, what it was like to care about someone else other than himself. He would not let Saeran hurt her. He would endure this agony for all time if necessary to see her free of this monster once and for all. Saeran had murdered her parents and ruined any chance Fred would ever have for a normal life and for that he would pay.
"Bryan," Saeran managed to speak, squeezing his voice past his blocked through in hoarse whisper. The dark lord paused in his struggles and Bryan took the moment to catch his breath. "Let me go." Saeran pleaded, "let me go and I will give you anything you want. You can sit at my right hand and rule at my side. I always had a place for you in my kingdom, you only need to release me to take it."
Bryan could feel the weakness in his body, could feel the lack of air beginning to suffocate more than just his lungs. Saeran's words were slurred, his brain was beginning to shut down by the lack of oxygen. It was almost done but all that black malevolence would not allow the dark lord to admit defeat, not without one last effort to save his life. However, Bryan had to respond to Saeran's efforts.
"There is something I want from you," Bryan said, aware that all eyes in the room were now fixed upon him.
"What is it?" Saeran chocked out a reply, his face was turning a shade purple.
"Fred's parents," Bryan said with a cold smile. "If you can bring them back to life, I might consider it."
Saeran let out a hoarse cry of rage and threw Bryan back into the wall once more, his movements becoming desperate and frantic. If Bryan had been able to look at his face, he would have realised that Saeran's eyes were rolling back into his skull that his gasps for air were reaching crescendo. He clawed desperately at Bryan's arm once more, nails digging into flesh in order to prise it loose but the grip was unrelenting.
"You think this will stop me!" Saeran croaked. "Kill me and I will free of this body, nothing more. Then what are you going to do? You think this pathetic effort is going to save the lives of your precious Ringbearer? When I am finished with her, you will be begging me to kill her just to stop her torment but not before I split your belly open!"
Bryan ignored him, knowing that Saeran's rage was borne out of desperation and futility. The dark lord was becoming weaker, the fight in him waning as his efforts to pound Bryan into the wall become less jarring, until he could barely move. When Saeran's knees buckled, Bryan almost tumbled to the floor with him but the MI6 agent managed to stay on his feet as Saeran became limp in his grip. A final croak escaped his mouth before he fell against the marble. Only when he had landed against the hard floor, his face almost violet with discolouration and saliva running down the corner of his lip, only then did Bryan finally release David Saeran.
Aaron and Gandalf raced forward as soon as Saeran was on the floor. Bryan staggered backwards, stopping only when he felt the wall behind his back and letting it support his weight as he slid down to the floor, exhausted. Around him the fighting had stopped. Smoke was rising through the fissures in the floor. Eve and Haldir were keeping watch at the door, to ensure they were not interrupted even though it appeared that Saeran's men were no longer attempting to help their master. Bryan could feel the heat against the floor and knew that the fire would soon reach them here. They had to leave and soon but not before they dealt with Saeran.
"Bryan!" Fred cried out, appearing from the corner where she and Tory had safely taken refuge.
The little girl ran into his arms before Bryan could warn her that he was hurt. However, the plain simple joy in her embrace forced the thought out of his mind and he held her tight, unable to believe how good it felt to know that she was safe. He looked up as he was holding Fred and saw Tory approach. There were tears in her eyes, tears of happiness that he had survived his ordeal with Saeran. She knelt down next to him as he held Fred, taking his hand in hers and squeezed tight.
"You look terrible," she said with a smile but her eyes were worried.
"I feel it too," he replied, reaching for his nose and wiping away the blood with his sleeve.
"Is he dead?" Tory asked, her gaze shifting her gaze to Aaron and Gandalf were looming over the still form of David Saeran.
"Yeah," Aaron nodded, meeting Bryan's gaze. "He's dead."
"Won't he escape his body?" Tory asked.
"Not if I can help it," Gandalf replied and for the first time, Tory noticed that Gandalf was not merely standing over Saeran but was concentrating hard. His bushy grey eyebrows were noted with focus as his eyes clamped shut. "He is yet to emerge from his shell but it will not be long."
"You have to hold him in there for at least eight minutes," Aaron said as the doctor searched the room for his medical bag. He had seen it with one of Saeran's men when they had brought Eve and the others in. No doubt, Eve had been forced to part with it when they had surrendered to the enemy. It did not take him long to spot the worn leather bad and at the sight of it, Aaron was up and running.
"Eight minutes?" Tory looked at Bryan in question as Aaron went to retrieve his bag.
"Eight minutes, no sooner or its all for nothing," Bryan sighed staring at Saeran.
Aaron returned to them with his medical bag and kneeled down next to Saeran. The doctor reached into the bag after opening it and produced a statoscope.
"What happens in eight minutes?" Tory had to ask.
"I resuscitate him," Aaron explained shortly as he pulled open Saeran's eyelids and examined his pupils in quick succession. "His left pupil is dilated," he commented to no one in particular as he exposed Saeran's bare chest and held the statoscope against his flesh. Aaron listened for a moment before meeting Bryan's gaze. "There's no pulse, he's dead."
"I'm glad to hear it," Bryan replied slackening his posture against the wall behind him, needing to rest. His shoulder ached and he was certain he was covered with bruises and cuts. "Now what?"
"Now we wait for eight minutes," Aaron replied and reached into his bag once more. "That should be more than enough time for irreversible brain damage. Hypoxia should have well and truly set in. He'll be in a vegetative state but that's what we want?"
"But he's telepathic," Tory declared trying to wrap her mind around what Aaron and Bryan had devised long before this moment. "If he's controlling those men…"
"He may be telepathic but he still has to use his neural receptors the way we do. Damage those and it doesn't matter how powerful he is, he won't be able to reach them. When I treated Gandalf, John Malcolm had placed some kind of mental block inside his mind that made sure Gandalf would never remember who he was. It was block I couldn't break and because of it, the Valar couldn't sense him. They couldn't sense his power because it was trapped inside a brain that could no longer project it. What we're doing here, is virtually the same thing. Saeran may be a powerful dark lord but if the body he is wearing is brain damaged, none of that power can escape him."
Suddenly, Gandalf gasped and everyone turned to the old man whose eyes were clamped shut. He was holding his staff in his hands so tightly that his knuckles were turning white from the exertion. Gandalf opened his eyes and uttered in a strained voice.
There was a battle raging, one that none of those in the chamber of David Saeran could see with their eyes but had no doubt of its existence.
The elves could sense the stirring of great powers in their midst, could feel the slight tremors in the physical world of the battle taking place in a more incorporeal realm. It was a contest as old as time, of wills that had lived long before Ea had become a reality. In a place that none could see, Olorin, known throughout the ages, as the Grey Pilgrim, Mithrandir, Gandalf the Grey and more recently Moses, found himself facing perhaps the greatest test of his powers in his long existence. In that shadow realm where none save the Maiar and the Valar could see, Olorin pitted himself against the power of Sauron, chief agent of Melkor and former Lord of Mordor,
To those who lived their lives in their confinement of flesh, the battle was beyond physical world, beyond their ability to comprehend. Sheer will hurling itself against one another, a thrust and parry of power where the would did not bleed but diminished the whole nonetheless. It tore open the fabric of space and time, slashed to ribbons the fragile boundaries of the soul and the world, though unable to see the battle, sensed the destruction and groaned in protest.
"How long?" A distant voice asked.
"Six minutes," came the reply.
It felt like the echo from the bottom of a deep well and though Olorin could only acknowledge its existence in passing. His attention was too fixated on the task at hand.
"What is the point of all this?" Sauron's voice eclipsed all others in his hearing. "You cannot hold me here."
The form of Sauron was a great lidless eyes, breathed in flame. Olorin stared at the angry tongue of flame, burning with intensity and felt himself reeling at the power of the enemy. After a hundred thousand years, he had almost forgotten what it was like to see Sauron in this form. It seemed so much more potent that the bright orb of light that was he in this place
It had been a long time since Olorin had felt this freedom, since the days of before the Second Age when he had first been charged by Manwe to make the crossing from Valinor to Middle, so long since he had assumed the shape of Gandalf the Grey. Power surged through him as he had never felt it before and he knew that in its earthly confinement, he could never truly be all himself. And yet even as the thought crossed his mind, Olorin missed the simple joy of feeling air in one lungs, pf tasting fine wine and having to squint because the sun's rays were too bright for his eyes. These sensations he craved even now and knew he would miss if it were taken from him.
"I will hold you until the end of all if need be!" Olorin bellowed back as his form spread out wide, refusing to allow Sauron to escape him.
"Gandalf, can you hold him?" The voice spoke again "We're almost there!"
Olorin recognise the voice as being that of Aaron's and took courage from the assurance in that voice, hurtling more power at Sauron, driving him back into the darkness. The threshold was within sight, a more fragile layer than most knew that kept the physical world and the realms beyond it apart. If Sauron reached that barrier, he would escape the confines of his body and that would effectively end Aaron's efforts to trap the dark lord. Sauron roared indignantly as Olorin's strength forced him into retreat. The shock of being repelled so forcibly had stoked a fire of rage through the enemy.
"You do not have the power to defeat me!" Sauron shouted and in this place, his voice was like thunder. "Curunir knew his to be true! Why do you think he was willing to serve me?"
"Curunir was destroyed by his own arrogance!" Olorin replied, using his own anger to empower his attacks against Sauron. "It had little to do with you!"
"He was my pawn!" Sauron sneered triumphantly, "I used him by whispering to him in dark, of offering him possibilities that he could be more than just a servant of the Valar, that he could be master himself. It was so easy because he hated you so much!"
"You lie!" Olorin shouted in despair. For years, he believed that the study of evil had made Curunir vulnerable to its trappings. It was a terrible road of self destruction that Curunir had taken because of the One Ring. Curunir was always so confident in himself, he had simply miscalculated his vulnerability to Sauron's master ring. Yet, deep inside, he knew that there was some kernel of truth to Sauron's words that Curunir had envied him. From the debate as to who should be in charge of the order to Cirdan's gift of the Narya, the Red Ring or Fire, Curunir had reason to detest him.
Knowing that he had played some part in Curunir's destruction wounded him and gave Sauron the advantage. The dark lord attacked once again, spewing forth waves and waves of power at Olorin, until he was driven himself to the edge of the threshold. The breathing eyes was surging forward, fire and heat radiating in all directions. Olorin knew that if Sauron escaped, everyone he cared for, whose lives even now hung in the balance would die. Sauron would kill them and those he did not kill would suffer a far greater agony that death.
"Hold on Gandalf!" The voice pleaded through the distance, "just a little longer!"
"NO!" Olorin threw himself into the fray, using every pounce of strength he could muster to prevent Sauron from crossing that gulf. Their forms collided like exploding suns, with such brilliant intensity that there was no one corner of that realm that was not filled with the brilliance of their titanic struggle.
"You cannot stop me!" Sauron shouted as he was hurled back from the edge. "You are not strong enough! You were never strong enough!"
The flaming eye was advancing again, more black power flowing through its form, building into a burst of strength Olorin was uncertain he could withstand. It absorbed all other light around, nourishing itself, until the eye breathed in the fires of all darkness was all Olorin could see. It loomed over him, terrible and awesome, until he was nothing more than a speck in its presence. Olorin saw it and knew that he would end because he could not fight the thing before him.
Sauron spoke, his voice like thunder. "Let me pass or prepare to end for all time Olorin."
Olorin felt fear but he would not stand aside, he could not stand aside. If he died here, if his existence vanished into nothingness, he would go into the afterlife whatever it may be knowing that he had done so for the best of causes.
To save his friends.
"NO," Olorin shouted defiantly. "YOU WILL NOT PASS!"
Sauron reeled with fury and then exploded towards Olorin, preparing to obliterate the servant of Manwe. Olorin held himself firm, ready for the assault and whatever consequences came of it. He saw Sauron coming towards him, until it became his whole world, until nothing else could be seen but his impending death in the fires of that terrible, lidless eye. He could feel the heat against him, could feel the strands of his life being cut. It was a strange disconcerting sensation but there was also great clarity of knowing that one's future was no longer a mystery.
A loud scream of indignation tore through his consciousness and forced Olorin to cast his gaze upon Sauron. The eye was no longer advancing. In fact it was retreating. A force greater than Sauron was forcing the dark lord back into the darkness, pulling the boundary out of his reach forever. Sauron struggled hard against the tide but its power could not be denied and he was actually screaming to be free of the dark tendrils snaking over the crimson flames of his form. It was as if the shadows had risen up and were claiming vengeful spirit for his own, dragging him screaming into the black.
"NO!" Sauron howled in despair. "I will not go!"
Olorin stared for a moment, uncertain of what was happening. He had been prepared to die but it appeared that salvation had come from an unexpected quarter.
"I've given him 50 cc's of adrenaline!" The disembodied voice shouted excitedly.
"Olorin!" Sauron continued to scream as the black continued to swallow him whole, "you cannot do this! You cannot imprison me like this! I am the Lord of Mordor! I am one of you! The Void is better than this! OLORIN, HELP ME!"
"You chose Melkor's for yourself," Olorin found himself saying as he saw the terrible blackness engulfing the crimson flames, until only the slit of an iris could be seen through the dark, "now you must follow him into utter ruin."
And with that, the great eye of Sauron disappeared into oblivion.
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.