20. Chapter Twenty
They stayed in uncomfortable silence. Maglor sat on the floor and rested his head against the wall, while Legolas busied himself with ‘Athân, and there was nothing he could do about it. He wondered how long it could last. Sooner or later the child would hurt Legolas – Maglor was certain of it. Would Legolas fade? He kept turning these thoughts over and over in his mind until the door was opened, and Golrakh stood waiting for ‘Athân. But then he stepped aside, and a small figure came rushing into the room and flung itself at Maglor. Stunned, he could do nothing but catch Mithedhel. He was safe! And he was back! Maglor thanked all the Valar he could remember, and all of Sauron’s warnings fled from his mind as he held the young uruk close to him.
“Maglor!” Mithedhel exclaimed and returned the embrace wholeheartedly. Then he looked around. “Hello, Ada!” he said as a seeming afterthought. Legolas was staring as if he couldn’t believe his eyes – and then he smiled in relief.
Mithedhel’s words came out in a rush as though he had been waiting to speak them for hours. “Where were you? Why didn’t you come? I was so bored!” He frowned at Maglor accusingly, as if he were responsible for the lack of entertainment. “I need to know some things,” then he quietened his voice, but not enough, “and Golrakh is stupid!” Maglor caught the surprised look of the uruk hai and couldn’t stop himself from laughing.
“What things?” he asked indulgently, as he checked that Mithedhel was all right. He wrinkled his nose a little when he realised that Mithedhel had been drinking again. He reeked of it!
The little uruk gave Maglor the most serious look he could muster. “Why do dreams lie to you?” Maglor only smiled mysteriously.
“Some would say they are telling you the truth.” Mithedhel raised his eyebrows in disbelief, and Maglor found himself giggling again.
“No.” He shook his head. “I’m not big yet,” he said regretfully, stretching out his arm as if to check the length of it. Then he looked at Maglor again.
“Why can’t I see colour in the dark?” He didn’t even pause for the answer. “Why have I got green eyes?”
“Ah, that is because your grandfather has green eyes.” At that Mithedhel actually nodded sagely, as if the knowledge Maglor had given him then was wisdom. Maglor shook his head. Mithedhel leaned in close to whisper to his teacher, and this time he was quiet. The misplaced politeness made Maglor smile again.
“Why does Golrakh smell?” he asked. Maglor looked up and met the uruk hai’s gaze with a barely perceptible nod of thanks. The uruk looked back at him for a moment and then smiled at Mithedhel with too many teeth.
“He drinks too much,” Maglor whispered back meaningfully. “Amongst other things.” Unfortunately, Mithedhel completely ignored the hint.
“Why didn’t you come to get me?” he asked then, looking genuinely puzzled, and Maglor sighed.
“I can’t follow you anymore, pen neth. I am forbidden.”
“Forbidden?” Mithedhel echoed.
“I’m not allowed,” Maglor explained, and then his gaze fell on ‘Athân. He and Golrakh had still not left, and quite suddenly he felt he was putting Mithedhel in danger by talking with him like this. He stood up with Mithedhel in his arms.
“So?” asked Mithedhel, plainly uncaring whether it was allowed or not.
“So…” Maglor said simply, carrying the young uruk over to his father. Legolas reached out his arms to take his son, and Mithedhel began to struggle.
“No!” he shouted. “I missed you, Maglor. I thought you would be happy to see me!” His brow wrinkled the way it always did when he was upset, and Maglor looked away, forced himself to look away.
“I am, pen neth,” he said. “I really am. But I can’t be…” Mithedhel began to cry. Cried for him, but he couldn’t do anything about this either, and Maglor began to wish he was anywhere else. That Sauron played with him, he could live with – and did. But that he played with the children was unbearable. Maglor couldn’t watch, and yet he couldn’t do anything else.
It had been too easy to escape Golrakh. The other uruk hai who were awake didn’t keep a close enough watch, and in all the confusion and noise, it was easy for him to leave. A few months had passed since the first time Maglor hadn’t come to get him from the uruk hai. At first he had tried to stay put – but it was so boring! Maglor wouldn’t even teach him anymore, and all his father was concerned about was ‘Athân. Not that he minded. His brother was not like him. And besides, there were times he just couldn’t stay. Times when he had to fight and play. And at those times there was one place he needed to be.
So he had begun to creep off at night again. ‘Athân asked him why he did it, but as much as Mithedhel tried to explain, his brother never really understood. When he realised that his brother would still run away, ‘Athân had sighed and explained to him about the kinds of dangers out in the fortress, and Mithedhel had listened carefully. He knew to ignore the whispers of the ghosts, to flee from any shadows that moved, and to keep out of Sauron’s sight should he see him. There were other things too, but none of them were near him now. ‘Athân had taught him to recognise them. He was alone here.
Sometimes all he wanted to do was explore, and that need had become greater just lately. The world was too small for him; he couldn’t be kept in! He wouldn’t! Golrakh was just as bad as his father was sometimes. He tried to keep him close until he took him back to their room in the morning. It annoyed Mithedhel no end, who thought that it was likely no one in this entire place understood him. He remembered Maglor telling him about trees. Perhaps if he got out of here he could see one. Would it be ugly? Maglor had said they were pretty, but also green. How could anything that big and green be pretty?
For now, just exploring was enough for him though, and in his mind he began to map out the parts of the vast fortress he had seen. Soon though, the corridor he was going down began to look boring. There were nondescript doors set into each side. All of them were locked. Except for one at the very end. That one was open, and Mithedhel heard voices when he strained his ears. Creeping silently closer – he listened. It was ‘Athân! But he was saying something wrong.
Mithedhel listened and crept, until he could see, and when he saw into the room, it was Sauron who decided to speak.
“No! Again!” The dark lord was shouting, and he saw that it scared his brother. Mithedhel wasn’t frightened, and yet ‘Athân had told him he should be scared of Sauron. “You will remember these things, Ezelpathân! I have a long, long time to teach them to you.” ‘Athân was pale and trembling as he looked up at his father, and it confused Mithedhel who stood watching. “Should we run out of time, then I will make some for us. You will know these things if it takes millennia. Again. Answer the questions before you.”
Continuing to listen, Mithedhel wondered what it was Sauron was trying to teach his brother. None of it seemed to make sense, and then they spoke a language Mithedhel didn’t recognise, but he realised he knew what they were saying nevertheless. He had to get away from here! He had to find his way back! Mithedhel must have made a sound, because suddenly Sauron turned to glare at him. ‘Athân saw him too. There was alarm in his eyes, and he only said one word before Mithedhel headed back towards safety as fast as he could.
It had taken forever but at last it was in sight. Mithedhel had been running and running. Sauron only walked behind him, but somehow he didn’t seem to get any further away. When he entered the room, he headed for the one person that would keep him safe. He threw himself at Maglor.
“Mithedhel!” But then Maglor must have seen his distress. “What is it?”
He tried to say it, what he had seen, but he had no breath left, and soon it didn’t matter, because Sauron must be here already. He hadn’t been far behind. Mithedhel screamed and buried himself in Maglor arms. “Don’t let him get me!” he panted. And then he hid his face again.
They looked at each other, and it was clear that Maglor had just as much idea as he did about Mithedhel’s strange behaviour. What had happened? Don’t let him get me? Him? Legolas had a very bad feeling, and he saw that Maglor shared it.
“Shh,” Maglor said, kissing Mithedhel’s hair while the child shook and trembled in his arms. But there was no soothing him, and there was no wonder. Sauron had followed him here.
“Give him to me, Maglor.” Both of them looked around then, and he was there. Already he came forward, his hands outstretched, and Maglor backed away with Mithedhel in his arms, shaking his head.
“No.” Maglor said it quietly, but he could have shouted. Nothing would have stopped Sauron coming towards him, and the dark lord’s intentions were too clear to be mistaken. Maglor carried on speaking, magnificently undaunted. “I will not. You can not ask this of me.” He held Mithedhel closer to him, and continued moving back, in defiance rather than fear. He was more beautiful than Legolas had ever seen him before in this moment. For the first time Maglor stood tall and straight in the face of Sauron’s advance; his red hair shining like fire in the torchlight. He must know there was no hope, and still Maglor managed to look as if he could refuse – and win.
Orcs had followed, and now they grabbed hold of Legolas, who looked to Sauron, and was then frightened by what he could see in the dark lord’s eyes. Challenge. He screamed to be let go and fought against the orcs, but they just held him still and out of reach of his son. When Sauron spoke, everything stopped to listen, including Legolas.
“I can’t? But I do, Maglor,” he stated, sounding frighteningly persuasive. He had reached them, and he touched Mithedhel, who had been crying, but was quiet now. For Legolas it was a moment of foreboding, to hear that voice fall silent. He could hear Maglor’s breathing, see the fight in his eyes when he looked at Sauron. Mithedhel buried his face in Maglor’s neck as Sauron reached to place a gentle hand on either side of Maglor’s head. “Don’t make me force you to give him up,” he advised quietly, and Legolas saw Maglor’s eyes fill with tears even as he shook his head. He wouldn’t make it!
“No!” screamed Legolas frantically, but neither of them heard him. They were lost in something else, a silent battle that Legolas wasn’t a part of. He fought the orcs holding him so violently that he felt the muscles of his arms and legs tearing, but still it was no use.
“Don’t make me force you to give him up.” Sauron’s gaze was intense, and it seemed he chose to speak directly to Maglor at this moment, because he saw the things that Sauron would do to him in his anger. Staring into his Master’s eyes, Maglor saw all that, but still he shook his head. He was sure and certain for what seemed the first time in decades. This was one thing Sauron couldn’t take from him so easily. He wouldn’t willingly give Mithedhel up to him for any price. Tears came to his eyes for the young one though, because how could he win? All he could do was make it difficult, and Maglor despaired.
But then suddenly the battle didn’t exist outside. Maglor felt Sauron’s presence in his mind, and he fought it. Every ounce of psychic energy Maglor had, he used to turn the dark lord away. But it was no use. He came back with renewed vigour, the tendrils of his overpowering will like stubborn fingers in his mind, making him forget everything, trying to make him give in to the unthinkable. Letting Mithedhel go. The tears began to fall, an outward sign of the strain he was under, and while Sauron fought with him in this intimate way, Maglor saw some of his thoughts too, and he knew that the dark lord himself believed that to win like this was unfair.
It didn’t matter why, and Maglor had no time to examine the idea that Sauron was capable of mercy. But he knew that he could appeal to it, and he did…
“Please,” Maglor said imploringly after a minute or two of struggle, looking into his Master’s eyes as if asking for permission. To give in? To keep him? What difference did it make, really? It was over. Sauron smiled at him, and his hands moved down over Maglor’s cheeks gently, and then over the little uruk’s body, until he was holding Mithedhel under the arms.
“Just let him go,” he said soothingly, almost crooning as Maglor’s grip began to falter. Legolas watched, and he moaned, somehow knowing it wasn’t even going to come to a fight.
No! Maglor felt what was happening. He barely had time to register that his appeal hadn’t moved Sauron at all before the voice was commanding him. Maglor denied it, he pushed that dark presence from his mind again and again, and yet somehow he wasn’t winning. He felt his hold on Mithedhel loosening against his own will, and inside he screamed. This was more than pain. This was fury again at last, something Maglor hadn’t felt for centuries.
His aimed his devastating anger at Sauron with all his will, letting him feel the force of it, and something flickered in the depths of his dark eyes. Maglor hoped for regret, but he knew what it was. He had seen it so many times before. Sauron enjoyed the challenge, enjoyed his resistance. And when he realised that, Maglor knew why he was going to lose. He knew why his treacherous hands obeyed Sauron before they obeyed him. It was so simple, and his anger turned upon himself then. He had simply spent too long giving in to him, obeying him. Doing Sauron’s will was more than a habit; it was even more than an addiction. It had become an unalterable part of him, and he could no more disobey than he could stop breathing. He would give Mithedhel up… and it would be his own fault.
“That’s right, mûl nín,” Sauron breathed, taking the weight from him. “Good.” Maglor cried silently as Mithedhel was taken from him, oh, so gently, and he still couldn’t break the eye contact. Until that is, Mithedhel was passed to a waiting uruk-hai. He followed the progress of his protégé with his eyes, refusing to look back at the dark lord even when Sauron took hold of his arms to keep him from falling. Legolas sobbed as Mithedhel was taken from the room, heartbroken. And Maglor was no better. He watched until there was nothing to see before he looked back at Sauron, and when he did he didn’t really see him anymore.
“Why do you cry? You know there is nothing I cannot take from you, don’t you, mûl nín?” Maglor only murmured Mithedhel’s name quietly, and Sauron shook him a little. “Don’t you?”
“Yes, Herdir,” came the trained response. Sauron still held Maglor up, and his pain was so vibrant and striking, it was as if Sauron held it in his hands. Once more, Maglor was perfectly broken, tantalising in his despair. He pulled Maglor closer, and then the elf seemed to recognise him at last, because he shook his head at the lust in his Master’s eyes.
“No!” When Sauron leaned in, Maglor turned his face away to avoid the kiss and Sauron actually laughed. Again, Legolas saw the cold, sickening truth in his eyes. Challenge.
More roughly, Sauron pulled Maglor close to him; the dark lord’s arms encircling him so that he couldn’t move, and then he simply took what he wanted. Legolas watched, and he could see that Maglor was fighting. His muscles jerked convulsively as he fought to free himself of Sauron’s iron grip, but he hardly moved. The dark lord forced his mouth open cruelly with the pressure of the kiss, so that Legolas realised it must hurt. He could see Sauron’s tongue push into him, and the kiss continued for a minute or two in the same vein before something changed.
His mind was a house, and Maglor retreated from the windows in haste. He no longer had any will to see what was outside. He ran further in, away from any chance to glimpse the world, opening and closing doors behind him. It was a strange house. The furniture was familiar, almost haunting. Every now and again an object caught his eye as he passed, and at least once he was sure a bright sparkling gem distracted him – but that was impossible. There were pictures on the walls of the halls he hurried through. Places he knew, people he had loved and people he had hated. He didn’t slow for any of it.
The house seemed to be infinite, and Maglor walked quickly inward, the rooms he passed through were windowless, and the light grew dimmer as he progressed. The things around him were indistinct now, dim shapes and faces flashed by him in the gloom. He still recognised the shape of a harp now and again. But then the house did have a centre, and it wasn’t until Maglor finally reached it that he realised he was being followed.
The last door behind him flew open, to reveal him, and Maglor cringed back, hoping the darkness of this last safe place would hide him. But of course it didn’t. Sauron walked towards him slowly, looking around. He picked up an ornament from a table and examined it closely before smiling and putting it back down again. Suddenly Maglor was jealous. He couldn’t see the things in this room clearly, and yet somehow Sauron could? He made a sound of surprised resentment, and Sauron advanced on him again, the curious ornament forgotten once more, as it should be.
“If you stay here, Maglor, you will become as grey and dull as the things around you.” Sauron swept an arm around, to indicate the forgotten pictures and once dear possessions that were now impossible for Maglor to see clearly. Perhaps it was only the dust and the dark. Or maybe they truly had faded, like things left too long in the sun, their colour bleached out and their edges softened until they were only vague impressions of what had once been. “Come back with me.” No. It was his first thought. Let him become and belong to this room then, he didn’t care. He didn’t want to look outside again. He would rather stay here, and let the sharp edges of existence blur until he couldn’t remember himself. He would forget here, already he couldn’t remember what it was that had made him flee, only that it was something he couldn’t face again.
“You don’t have to remember. I can make you forget.” His promises had no meaning, because he still wanted Maglor to go back out there. And then Maglor realised something. Sauron couldn’t force him to go back. He couldn’t drag him through this place. The house belonged to him, was him in a way. He relaxed then, knowing that he was safe even when Sauron was near him. He couldn’t be made to do anything now. For some reason that was important, and it was good.
Still, he couldn’t help but fight when Sauron embraced him, although the way he held Maglor was threat enough. He couldn’t make Maglor come back, but he could force other things on him, and his struggles were in vain. He felt the kiss, and he fought that uselessly too, his own wishes seemed to have no effect on what was happening. Sauron stopped for a moment.
“Stop fighting. If you would truly forget, then I can only help.” Lies! Maglor shook his head slowly, mistrustfully. Something had happened out there. Again, he turned himself away from the memory, frightened that he would find himself back at the windows staring out helplessly. He wanted to stay here. And it was in that refusal to remember that Sauron’s lies worked on him. He wouldn’t allow himself to recall the reasons not to trust, and so instead he remembered his surrender. Didn’t he always trust Sauron? He always knew what to do.
“Let me help you. Be with me.” And then the kiss began anew, but this time Maglor responded to it, safe in the knowledge that Sauron was not trying to take him back. That indeed, he was encouraging Maglor to stay here where it was safe, where he could trust, and where this was what he wanted. Yes. Surrender. Maglor closed his eyes.
Slowly, Maglor’s struggles ceased, and he even began to respond. The tight hold of Sauron’s arms softened, so that the dark lord could run his hands over Maglor’s back and buttocks, while his plaything moaned and reached up, standing on tip-toe, only to wind his arms around the neck of his enemy. They looked like lovers to Legolas – they were. Maglor actually seemed hungry now as he submitted to Sauron’s demands, and just as he had truly given in to the kiss, it ended.
Sauron pulled back only enough to end the touch, and Maglor licked his lips with his eyes closed, looking desperate and needy.
“Tonight will be easy for you. You have pleased me.” Maglor’s eyes flew open and he stared wildly around him as if confused, but then a look of utter betrayal was in his expression and his gaze moved back to Sauron.
“No! Why? You promised!” What did that mean? Legolas thought. Sauron ignored Maglor’s outburst, and instead continued to speak; the cold amusement almost too much for Legolas to take, and he knew it must be worse for Maglor.
“I can be whatever you wish, mûl vain nín, do anything you desire. A reward.” Maglor moaned a ‘No’ but again Sauron ignored him, clearly enjoying the cruelty of his words. “Just speak.”
Maglor looked into his Master’s eyes and said something Legolas didn’t expect. It made sense, but it sounded as though there was more meant by the plea than what he could see.
“Let me go.” It was quietly spoken in complete defeat, and Maglor didn’t even flinch when Sauron laughed at his request.
“No!” he said in return, with malicious joy. The dark lord smiled for a moment longer. “Something else.” Legolas didn’t need to hear the unspoken plea. It was there in Maglor’s eyes, clear as day. Kill me. Again Sauron laughed. “Not that either. You know the rules.” Now he smiled coldly. “Would you like me to be cruel?”
Maglor managed to smile faintly. Somehow he managed to look victorious in spite of what had happened, and suddenly Legolas knew why. He watched as a look of peace stole over Maglor’s face, and heard his last, quiet words. “I don’t care.” He said the words as if they were a realisation instead of a feeling. Sauron’s eyes narrowed, and then he caught Maglor as he fell. “I don’t care,” he whispered again, and then he was unconscious.
Sauron stood with Maglor in his arms, frozen for a while in rare indecision. He thought fast, and he felt his anger rising, but that would not help him now. How could this happen? How could events turn against him this way? He looked down at Maglor, unconscious and at peace. “Escape?” he hissed. “Is that what you think?” But the elf didn’t answer him. There was far too much to deal with, too much at stake – the little uruk hai must be silenced first, before he could address this.
Laying the elf down on the bed gently, he looked to Legolas. “You. Watch him.” He thought he was showing remarkable restraint. Turning to the orcs, he addressed them next. “You. Watch them,” he said, gesturing at the two elves. Maglor would have to wait, but there was no escape – not after all this time. Sauron looked down on Maglor for a single moment before leaving the room then to seek out Mithedhel.
“Hold my hand!” ‘Athân grabbed hold of Mithedhel’s hand and they looked at each other. “Why were you there?” he asked in frustration. “There’s an entire fortress… but you had to be there?” Mithedhel simply shrugged carelessly in the way that he had, and ‘Athân had to restrain himself from shouting. If he shouted they would fight – and Mithedhel would win. His brother had way too much practice.
‘Athân glared at the uruk hai until they moved on. He assumed they wouldn’t have long to wait, and in his mind he forced himself to be calm. Where else would Mithedhel run to but Maglor? And how could Maglor help his brother with this? ‘Athân truly did dislike Maglor, and it wasn’t just because his father had encouraged him. The elf was not really an elf anymore. He saw how easy it was for his father to control him, and he despised Maglor for that because it was something he recognised in himself.
As much as he was Legolas’ son, he was Sauron’s son too, and he hated to be manipulated, but he knew his father too well by now to doubt that he was treated any differently than the elves. He resented Sauron for instilling him with a hatred for Legolas though. Now it was something he couldn’t shake off. And maybe sometimes he did pity them both, but it was the same pity he would reserve for an animal. They were nothing. That had been his first lesson.
But he feared his father. Not in the same way that Maglor and Legolas did. He feared Sauron in the same way he feared lightning. So powerful, so destructive, but beautiful and deadly… and as well as the fear, his father’s plans sometimes took his breath away. He knew what his fate was, and so in a part of his soul he was glad he could despise Legolas too. But now he had to forget all that, because Mithedhel had seen, and he knew exactly what Sauron intended to do to him now. ‘Athân felt his resolve waver when he saw his father walking towards them, but he couldn’t be swayed.
Making sure that Maglor didn’t follow Mithedhel all over the place was different. His brother endangered himself, and he sort of understood why. Yes, it was different. And he enjoyed the feeling of power it gave him to scare Maglor at last. It brought him closer to his father, and he wanted that, wanted his approval so much sometimes that it hurt. This wasn’t going to gain it him. But this was different. His father would no doubt want to silence Mithedhel in the easiest way – he would want to kill him. And while ‘Athân could live with Mithedhel’s foolishness getting him into trouble, he couldn’t stand by and watch while Sauron murdered him.
Knowing his fate was helpful. Sauron had indeed taught him well as regards the way he manipulated those close to him. Now ‘Athân would use that same knowledge against him. He took a deep, steadying breath.
“Stop.” He almost jumped himself, knowing he had begun, but then he pulled Mithedhel to stand behind him. He watched Sauron halt in sheer surprise, and then the dark lord gave a short laugh.
“Don’t get in my way, Ezellpathân,” Sauron warned, and ‘Athân felt a sudden rush of confidence when he realised that his father had been right. You did indeed know in the first instant when something was going to go your way. The feeling made his nerves quieten, and his fear vanished completely. He smiled then.
“Or what?” He almost laughed when his father’s expression darkened, but then a little of the fear returned. He would be made to pay for what he was doing – but at least he would win. “I won’t let you do it, father. He has done nothing.” Sauron’s eyes narrowed as he considered. ‘Athân saw it, and he was unmoved. But then instead of trying anything else, his father got straight to the point.
“What are you bargaining with?” he asked, too mildly, and ‘Athân stared back at him defiantly, seeing the trick for what it was. After all, Sauron had showed it to him.
“Not much,” he admitted, and then smiled when he saw his father frown. Again, the thought flashed through his mind that he was going to pay for this, but he ignored it. “I know you can force me to do most things. I know at times you will.” The frown deepened in suspicion. ‘Athân carried on. “And so I don’t say I won’t learn. And I don’t say I won’t remember.” He paused. “But there will come a time when I am out of your reach, and you will need me to obey you at a distance…” He didn’t finish the thought, but left it between them, unspoken.
He didn’t expect his father to laugh, but he did. He stood his ground and pushed back the nervousness. “I have been teaching you well.” The laughter stopped. “But you are not so important, Ezelpathân. I should kill you both and begin again.” ‘Athân stood and waited. He had no argument to save his own life. He could only hope that his father would not want to make the last year or so a waste of his time. For a while they stood, waiting while Sauron considered. When his father spoke again, ‘Athân smiled. He had won. “You already know you will pay for this,” Sauron stated coldly.
“I know.” And I don’t care.
“I will not allow him to jeopardise anything. You know that.” ‘Athân nodded, and waited for the compromise. “He will have to be locked away.” No more adventuring then. Still, it was better than death, wasn’t it? ‘Athân thought about his brother’s innate curiosity, and wondered. But still he nodded.
“Yes, father.” The deal was made.
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.