17. Chapter Seventeen
When Maglor awoke, he found he was being taken care of. Legolas was washing the wounds that didn’t hurt so much anymore. How long had he been unconscious? He looked around, and then everything came back. He got up from the bed suddenly, upsetting the bowl of warm water that the younger elf was using to soak strips of material. He noted that the material was pink, and he realised that Legolas was using them to soothe Maglor’s cuts. Before Legolas could say a word to him Maglor shook his head warningly. “Don’t! Don’t talk to me! I’m so sorry!” He almost cried then, but he had cried so many times – it never helped.
“What is it? You’ve been asleep for so long I didn’t know if you were going to wake up. Your wounds have almost healed.” The concern in his eyes was too much for Maglor and he went to sit with his back against the wall on the other side of the room, wincing when the rough stone grazed the sore and broken skin. “Maglor…?”
Resting his head in his hands, Maglor closed his eyes. “Leave me alone. Can’t you see that I don’t want to talk to you?” He sat in silence, and he was distantly aware of Legolas stopping Mithedhel from going to him. Maglor raised his knees against his chest and folded his arms over them. He huddled into the hard stone of the wall as if he was seeking comfort there. He couldn’t stop himself remembering, and he felt everything all over again. What had he done?
Oh, he remembered the youth, and the part he had played in his death. And in a way it had been his own murder he witnessed, whatever Hallas’ last words had been. Something about the way he couldn’t stop thinking about that bothered him. It was like a memory that you treasure no matter how awful it is. The idea that Sauron wanted to kill him… he tried to stop thinking about it, focused on Hallas instead, and how he had seduced him at Sauron’s command. But he also remembered what had come afterwards. His ‘punishment.’
He had wanted one of the orcs or uruk-hai to administer it, and he had in fact begged for that, but Sauron insisted, and it bothered him. Why should it bother him? It would hurt just as much, be perhaps a little worse this way. Sauron could be cruel in a way nobody else could. But still, Maglor wished it wasn’t him. He had chosen this purely for the physical pain.
The orcs secured him into position for the punishment. They led him to kneel on the floor and then secured his arms out to either side of him with taut chains. Now he waited for the first blow to fall, but it seemed that he would have to wait a little while yet. Sauron was no doubt ready. The dark lord stood behind him – he could hear the swish of the whip as Sauron swung it experimentally through the air. Still, the wicked crack made him jump, and that made the chains clang and jingle. He felt a slight thrill of fear at being so helpless, and he wanted Sauron to erase that too.
When he had to choose, he had chosen the only thing he could. Something that resembled more of a punishment than any of Sauron’s sadistic games. Something that might have been prescribed by a court for wrongdoing. He knew it would hurt. He wanted it to hurt. But he wondered even now if it would be enough to erase the image of Hallas from his mind.
“Before we begin, I would like to hear you tell me what you are being punished for.” Maglor had almost expected this, and yet for a moment he couldn’t answer. He hadn’t stopped crying, and now his tears ran unchecked down his face. All he could envisage was the youth’s thankfulness and gratitude in the face of his lies. “There are two reasons for me to hurt you, name them to me now.”
“I begged for you to spare his life, Hîr nín.” Now Sauron came to kneel behind him, and he ran his experienced hands over Maglor soothingly, making him sigh in pleasure against his will. It was the last thing he wanted!
“No. I would never punish you for begging.” He paused and Maglor could almost see him smiling. “It suits you to be on your knees before me,” he said in amusement, and then he raised his voice again. “Choose your words more carefully.” Maglor thought about what he had done, and what exactly had been involved. He shivered as Sauron placed a gentle kiss on his shoulder; the touch sent a tingle down his spine. He wanted to say no, to beg for the pain to begin, but he didn’t dare, and then he knew the answer. Maglor cleared his throat.
“I supposed myself important enough to dissuade you from your desire, Herdir.” He waited, for Sauron to tell him if he was right, and the dark lord took his time before speaking.
“Yes, that is good enough.” He reached out to imitate Maglor’s position from behind him, and swept his fingers gently over the length of Maglor’s arms, back into his body and around his waist in a move that made him want to beg for the dark lord to take him. “And the other?” Sauron asked.
Trying to remember, and even trying to think was impossible when Sauron licked at his ear like that. Maglor moaned breathlessly, and then begged. “Please, I don’t know.” Sauron said nothing, and only continued his tormenting, nibbling a little now, so gently. Maglor couldn’t keep it in any longer. “Hîr nín, please hurt me!”
Sauron’s amused laughter tickled against his sensitive ear. “We will not begin until you have recognised your fault.” The torment continued. The dark lord’s hands left his waist and moved down over the front of his stomach, and then his legs, only to scrape his fingernails lightly over the sensitive skin on the inside of his thighs. Maglor felt his body swaying, moving back against Sauron invitingly. He couldn’t help it. And he knew that he would be asking for permission soon if this didn’t stop. Then he remembered.
“I swore at you!” How could he have forgotten that? He hoped, despite how much he longed for punishment, that Sauron would not inflict a torment like that on him for a while. It was strange, because while his body got better at obeying Sauron – it never actually felt any easier to Maglor, and sometimes he thought he would die of want when Sauron was in the mood to tease him.
“Yes, you did,” Sauron agreed quietly, but he finally stopped teasing, and pulled Maglor’s head back by his hair. The kiss was more what Maglor had come to expect, dominating and leaving him in no doubt about their roles here. Even when Sauron didn’t hurt him, there was something of brutality in his actions most of the time. The dark lord released him, moving his hair aside and over his shoulder so that it curled in front of him, exposing the expanse of his back. The dark lord stood and stepped back, and suddenly Maglor felt cold. He shivered unconsciously in response to the cool air as Sauron began to instruct him.
“Now. I want you to keep these things in your mind. These are the things I am punishing you for. You will ask for every strike, and you will decide when it is enough. It that clear?”
“Yes, Herdir,” Maglor said quietly. He took a few seconds longer. And then he wetted his lips with his tongue, remembering what he had done. Seeing yet again the boy in front of him. When he said the next word he spoke loud and clearly.
“Begin.” It sounded like he was giving an order. But before he had time to speculate on it the lash fell. He cried out despite wanting the pain, and the chains rattled as he jerked forward convulsively, trying to get away from the line of bright agony on his back; the sharp, stinging cut. He waited. It seemed to get worse before it got better, unbearable, and Maglor whined helplessly, but then he breathed in deeply as the intensity died down a little to be replaced by the warmth of his blood, and the dull ache of a bruise. He recognised the feel of the whip, and he knew what it looked like. Sauron had many different kinds, but he knew this one just as well as the others. It was a long, wicked looking leather whip. He could almost see Sauron wielding it behind him. Then, with tears in his eyes, he focused his gaze onto a patch of the stone wall in front of him.
“Again,” he said clearly, and again the pain came when he asked for it. It wasn’t easier this time, and he hissed and tried to move forward again. This time he spoke before the injury had a chance to become blunt. He asked for his punishment over and over, and he felt every single strike. Sauron handled the whip fluidly and with devastating precision. The whip was just like him – a cruel and dangerous lover. Sometimes the whip almost seemed to caress him, wrapping around him lovingly, but the sting it left behind made him cry. He knew that Sauron was holding back, that he wasn’t feeling the full potential of the whip’s destructive power. And he surmised, correctly, that it was because Sauron was ensuring he was aware enough to ask again.
Before too much time had passed, Maglor hung limply in his chains. But he wasn’t still. The touch of the whip made him respond even now, made him almost dance, and he obeyed it, helpless to do anything else. He cried, his agony so intense that he could no longer see or hear clearly. His world was only pain, and eventually he forgot to say the word. He stayed quiet, for longer than ever before, and as awareness of his predicament came back, so did the reason for it. Maglor thought he must have already spoken and was waiting for the blow to fall. But he hadn’t. Now Sauron reminded him.
“Enough?” He couldn’t ask for this to stop. So much pain, but it wasn’t enough, and in his mind Maglor knew it could never be enough. Nothing was going to take this away from him. Now that he had a brief respite, he could feel the damage the whip had done. His back felt colder than before. That was because it was wet, he realised suddenly – wet with his blood. But then he closed his eyes, and he saw an image that would never leave him. He spoke.
“Again.” Sauron obliged him. He asked again, and again, and it never became easy, but Maglor fell into a kind of horrible rhythm. It carried on, until he cried out the word every time he felt the whip against his skin. The pain didn’t lessen, but the blows seemed to melt into each other until it was all just a blur. He even forgot what the word was. Eventually, the whip connected with his back and instead of the reflexive shout of ‘again,’ Maglor cried out, almost howling. He sounded like an animal being hurt. All he wanted was freedom, so that he could curl up on the floor and let his injuries heal while he slept.
“Enough?” Sauron asked again, not giving him the time he needed to recover from the blows, demanding that he ask, or ask for it to stop. “Speak.” Maglor groaned and whimpered. In his mind he still saw the youth – it hadn’t worked. He knew that he could never suffer enough to pay for what he had done. He knew that he deserved more. But then he said something that he would both regret and find relief in.
“Enough,” he admitted, giving in, and then began to sob. Sauron gave him a few moments, and then he began to speak slowly, letting his amused words sink in to Maglor’s mind.
“I am gratified that you believe your insults to me were so deserving of punishment. Seventy-two strokes. What is fitting for you, clearly should also be fitting for Legolas when he is well enough.” Maglor gasped. “After all, his crimes are far worse than yours.”
You should have known, his mind screamed at him. Mentally, Maglor relived every single blow, shuddering when he realised that in his desire to be rid of his guilt, he had brought such a cruel punishment upon the young prince. “Do you have something to say?” Sauron asked knowingly.
“No, Herdir,” Maglor sobbed brokenly. Now, for his selfishness, Legolas would pay for his crimes with the boy too.
“The next time I tell you what to think, and what to consider, you will do as I say, won’t you?” It was softly spoken, and Maglor answered instantly, realising that Sauron had known all along that he had disobeyed. Why hadn’t he listened?
“Yes, Herdir!” he cried out, in contrast to Sauron gentle tones. He was almost resentful, accusing, and he hoped with all of his soul that the dark lord couldn’t hear it. Maglor could almost see that cold smile.
Now he felt the dark lord kneel behind him again, he could feel that Sauron was naked, and he pulled Maglor’s hips towards him. He thought he knew what to expect, but then one of Sauron’s hands closed around his throat, squeezing. This act of gentle, quiet menace made him feel more vulnerable than any punishment he could have asked for; held like this, his arms still secured away from his defenceless body. And then Sauron took him. It was rough and violent, fast and brutal, a means to an end rather than an act in itself. The sensation of Sauron moving against him, rubbing against his tortured skin was an agony he hadn’t foreseen, and he cried out.
Sauron’s other hand stroked his member, quickly bringing him to hardness. Maglor moaned at that in protest, and as if to quiet him the hand around his throat tightened slightly and his air was cut off. He couldn’t breathe! Acceptance was something he had learnt, and he didn’t struggle for a few moments. But when the savage domination carried on, and the grip didn’t loosen around his throat, he couldn’t help but fight. But he was still completely helpless, and the chains jangled in the sudden silence as he tried to pull his arms in to get the hand away from his neck. Maglor knew he was in pain, but for the moment he couldn’t feel any of it, everything was background compared with the desperate need to breathe.
He struggled violently to free himself, to escape, and he heard Sauron laughing quietly into his ear. Felt those soft, sometimes generous lips curved into a cruel sneer, and for an instant Maglor wished he could see it. He wanted to see Sauron’s victory over him and his own death in those dark, laughing eyes. He began to feel light-headed, and stars danced in front of him. He started to weaken, and his struggles became vain, feeble attempts to move away. When Sauron breathed the order into his ear, blackness had begun to creep in, and he was no longer aware of what it meant, but his body knew. It was permission to give in, and he did. His fight to get air into his lungs ceased at exactly the same time as he would have chosen not to breathe anyway. Golden white light filled his world as he came helplessly into his Master’s hand, and Sauron climaxed too, the sudden warmth almost seemed made to soothe the fire of being taken so violently. When it was all over, the hand finally left his neck. He was released from his chains, and Maglor fell forward onto the floor.
Maglor lay on the cold stone floor. The world was distant, and silent. Everything was over – the cruel grip around his throat, the domination of his body, his orgasm, and the pain. He wondered, a little too calmly, why when Sauron’s hand was gone his body would not obey the command to breathe. He acknowledged to himself the way his gaze had fallen and fixed on a certain point. A quick flash of himself lying still and useless on the floor, his gaze glassy and vacant, came unbidden to his mind. Was this death? Did it matter? He waited, for what seemed like forever, and then he breathed.
The world moved again, but Maglor hardly noticed. In retrospect he would try to describe this feeling to himself. He would think that the first breath was like water in the desert, that he couldn’t get enough of the air, and that it was heaven – freedom! But for now all such romantic silliness was far away. Maglor was that first breath. It was noisy, whooping; and he sucked at the air forcibly rather than breathed it. His lungs expanded to bursting, and he looked at nothing.
Then, as if to teach him not to be greedy, his body suddenly rejected the breath, expelling it, and he found himself coughing out all the air he had taken in as if he was drowning. He twisted, and raised himself up on one hand, almost crawling forward, while he tried to regain equilibrium and a natural rhythm. His other hand strayed instinctively to his neck, and he was aware of fingering the bruises Sauron had left.
Walking around, Sauron came to stand before him, and as soon as he had recovered enough, and calmed down a little, Maglor kissed his feet. He felt faint, and yet at the same time exhilarated. There was more than one reason to be thankful to his Master, but Maglor had forgotten what it was. He was alive! That one consideration pushed everything else from his mind. He found himself being gently lifted up by his upper arms, and at Sauron’s encouragement he tried to take some of his weight on his feet.
“Now show me how grateful you are.” Maglor’s gaze dropped down through sheer force of habit, and he let his weight go as if he would fall to his knees, but Sauron maintained his grip and held him up. Maglor had seen many demonstrations of Sauron’s unnatural strength over the length of his captivity, and yet somehow the effortless way Sauron could hold his weight always made him feel helpless and in awe. Sauron laughed, low and quiet, and corrected him. “No, not that way. Not this time.”
Oh… Maglor licked his lips and tentatively reached out his hands to cup Sauron’s face. He leaned in closer, and just let his lips brush against the dark lord’s. He did it again, and this time he increased the pressure and opened his mouth a little, enough so that he could flick out with his tongue and lick lightly at his Master’s lips. Sauron gave way before him, and Maglor nervously let his tongue enter the dark lord’s mouth. Their kiss reminded him of how Sauron himself made Maglor feel. Encased in warmth, it could be safety, but he knew nothing was further from the truth. Because he wasn’t in control of this. He was only a servant, as always doing exactly what he had been commanded to do. And more than anything he hoped that he could please Sauron.
He continued the kiss for a little longer, exploring gently, and when Sauron sucked lightly on his tongue, Maglor moaned. He had taken his own weight again, and now the dark lord’s arms closed around him, pulling him closer, but the pain of feeling Sauron’s hands pressing against the ruined skin of his back made him cry out. He broke the kiss. And then with tears in his eyes he said what he needed to say.
“Thank you, Hîr nín,” he whispered. It was almost a croak, and he felt pain in his throat for speaking. Again he put a hand to his neck, and he looked up into Sauron’s eyes at the same time. None of it mattered; he still felt that he owed a great debt to Sauron for something. The dark lord smiled cruelly.
“Are you forgetting something?” Was he? Maglor strove to think what he might have done wrong, what Sauron might still expect of him, and he came up with nothing. But then he did remember something. Maglor moaned as his memories returned, but still he couldn’t let go of the gladness in his own survival. There was no resentment towards Sauron now. He took the responsibility entirely upon himself, and it was too much. He looked up at Sauron one last time, and then he fell... He knew nothing more.
Now he rested his head in his hands, and he tried to ignore what he had to tell Legolas. But he would have to tell him – and soon. Because if he didn’t – Sauron would. He was stopped from his brooding though when a tiny form clambered into his lap, forcing him to let his knees fall flat and making him raise his head to look. Mithedhel. He looked into that little face, and Mithedhel spoke.
“Mag-lor!” he said happily, his green eyes sparkling in pure joy and pride at getting it right. Taken aback, Maglor looked to Legolas. The Prince smiled.
“He began while you were away. I thought –” Legolas stopped, and reconsidered. “I was going to tell you.” Now Legolas actually blushed and smiled again. “It’s his first word. I think he missed you.” Maglor looked down at Mithedhel again, this time in wonder. But then the uruk threw his little arms around Maglor’s neck in a gesture that had become familiar to them both.
“Ahh,” he crooned soothingly, and Maglor couldn’t help but laugh at that. At the same time he sobbed, and it was an incongruous sound. Mithedhel clung to him, and rested his head against Maglor’s chest. “Maglor,” he said again, this time softly. Maglor held Mithedhel close to him, feeling calmer for it, and kissed the top of his head. Then he rose to his feet and carried him back to Legolas. He sat down and looked at Mithedhel for a moment longer.
“Shh,” he told the little uruk hai, raising a finger to his lips. Then he looked at Legolas. It was time.
“I have to tell you something,” he began…
Over the next hour or so he told Legolas about Hallas, and the wolf, and the punishment. And he stopped Legolas when he would have offered comfort. He didn’t know the worst. He would. Taking a deep breath, Maglor went on to explain what Sauron had said when the punishment was over, and at that Legolas stopped reaching out for him.
“I’m sorry.” Maglor shook his head and looked down at Mithedhel again. The little uruk smiled at him sunnily, and raised a finger to his lips, shushing Maglor in an almost perfect imitation of himself earlier. Maglor smiled despite himself. Mithedhel seemed to know to stay quiet though, and he looked up at Maglor curiously.
“I can’t give you what you want,” Legolas began.
Maglor hadn’t expected anything good to come from his confession, and certainly not forgiveness. In fact, if the truth be told he had expected Legolas to blame him, or to accuse him. He felt a little cheated by the quietness. “I know. It’s all right,” he murmured, and that seemed to get him what he wanted, because now Legolas raised his voice.
“No, it’s not! It’s not all right! I know what he did to you – I’ve had plenty of time to look at it!” They looked at each other, and again Maglor wondered how long he had been unconscious, how long Legolas had been caring for him. He watched those blue eyes fill with tears, and he wished he hadn’t said anything. Wished he had left it for Sauron to disclose, but that would have been too cruel. “Maglor, I’m scared.” Now Legolas’ voice was quiet again.
He wanted to reach out and comfort Legolas so much, but he didn’t. This was all his doing. “I’m so sorry,” Maglor let his head hang down. He couldn’t stop what was happening. None of it. He felt so useless. “But you will –”
“Survive.” Legolas finished the sentence abruptly, and nodded. “That’s what I’m afraid of.” He wiped the tears from his eyes, and there were no new ones. “I don’t want to be you,” he confided quietly.
There was a sudden ache in his heart. A dull, hollow ache. “What do you mean?” he asked helplessly, as if he could deny it, even though he knew, deep inside, exactly what Legolas was referring to.
“You must know. You see it, don’t you, what he’s done to you?” Maglor shrugged indifferently, and moved away from Legolas to sit further up the bed, taking Mithedhel with him, resting against the pillows. “What he’s made you into,” Legolas persisted, and Maglor looked away, deliberately ignorant. He didn’t want to have this conversation. He could feel Legolas staring at him, and he refused to acknowledge it. He didn’t have to face this. It was none of Legolas’ business. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” Legolas said at last, softly.
But he was right, and Maglor knew it. He knew he had changed, and he knew there was very little of himself left. Even his brothers would barely recognise him now. What had happened to the singer, the teller of stories, and the carefree spirit he used to own? He didn’t know if he had driven it away himself, or if it had been taken from him by Sauron. But it didn’t matter – it was gone. What was done was done, and there was no way to change it, no going back. No one knew that better than he did. “It’s all right. I deserve it,” he admitted quietly. “It’s true.”
He nearly turned away despite his words when Legolas sat beside him, but then he didn’t. He allowed the closeness, and he put an arm around the young Prince. Even though there was no safety in his embrace, it seemed to calm Legolas, and he rested his head on Maglor’s shoulder, closing his eyes. Mithedhel lay on the other side of him, snuggling into his other arm, and that was when his gaze fell on ‘Athân. The baby was watching Legolas steadily from where he had been left sleeping at the foot of the bed, almost staring, and something in the look wasn’t quite right. He didn’t seem like a child or a baby for a moment. He looked away from Legolas and at Maglor, and then Maglor could have sworn he saw a burning hatred and jealousy in those blue eyes before they became unfocused in a perfect imitation of reverie and innocent sleep. He gasped.
“What is it?” Legolas asked sleepily. Maglor wasn’t sure. It must have been his imagination.
“Nothing,” he said nervelessly, staring at ‘Athân, his heart hammering at what he had just seen. Imagination. He was overwrought, and his mind was playing tricks. It had happened to him before, many times. “Rest, pen neth.” He kissed Legolas’ hair, and the prince fell into a troubled sleep. Maglor watched them all, and he stayed awake with this strange family all around him. It was a family that belonged to Sauron, just as he did, and Maglor wondered if any of them were really his. They felt like they were, but he began to wonder about ‘Athân in his heart. Had he been imagining it?