Mael-Gûl: 51. Into the Wood

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51. Into the Wood

Authors note:
Completely A.U. Legolas slave fic. This story was inspired by Bluegold's story "Bound", which can be found here: http://lotr.adultfanfiction.net/story.php?no=10373

Betareader: many thanks to the wonderful Nancy and the most generous and always encouraging Randy! In addition, my thanks go to Lethe and to the kind people at Lizard's Council. Thank you!!! All still remaining errors are solely my own.

Warning: Slash, m/m, BDSM, torture, toys, d/s, *very* graphic descriptions; abuse both physical and sexual. Non-con and debatable consent. Special warning for this chapter: Implied Non-con and gang-rape. Please heed the warnings!

Disclaimer
: Universe and characters are not mine, but Tolkien's. The idea of the spell, however, belongs to me.

Guide
: Occasionally I work with flashback scenes. Here is a Guide:
// /flashback/ //; ************Time change within a flashback***********; "speech"; 'thoughts'

For all other warnings, other disclaimers and author's notes see Story Intro.


_________________________


XLIX. Into The Wood


Sam was awakened by a quiet noise. He started and lifted his head; he had not even noticed that he had nodded off. He sent a quick look to the edge of the platform – his stomach churned at the slight trembling of the wood under him, and at the black abyss that loomed beyond. How could Elves feel comfortable here, so far above the ground? But that was not what had woken him.

He looked around and saw Aragorn passing over to the place where he and Legolas had left their packs and bedrolls.

Aragorn's face was stern and betrayed no emotion. He was alone. Without a word or any look around, he bent down, took his pack, unrolled his bedroll and made as if to settle down.

Sam swallowed. Beside him, Frodo's head came up, and on Frodo's left, Merry and Pippin sat up. They shared a concerned look. Then Pippin blurted out: "Where's Legolas?"

Aragorn did not turn around. Pippin paled. After a moment, he asked hesitantly: "Is he -?"

Beside him, Merry drew his brows together. Boromir's face darkened.

Aragorn did not answer. After a moment, Gimli asked: "What about the Orcs? Did you get them?"

Aragorn cast him a short look. "Yes."

"And Legolas? Is he hurt?" Pippin persisted. He received an elbow to the ribs from Merry, but he did not stop. "Is he -"

"No," Aragorn replied. His face was set in stone.

"Then where is he?" Boromir asked in a tone that bore no deflection.

Frodo moved. He sat up, and his face grew troubled. "You – you left him with..." He trailed off.

Aragorn looked at him, face laced in pain, but before he could answer, Boromir was on his feet and tore into him.

"He is with Haldir, is he not?" he hissed. "You left him with that arrogant Elf! How could you do that?"

In an instant, Aragorn drew close to him and grabbed his jerkin. "Keep your voice down," he hissed back. "I do not know how many of these guards here understand Westron! You do realize the keenness of Elven ears, do you not?"

Boromir did not budge. His voice was grim and full of heat, and it betrayed his disgust. "You sold him out, did you not?" he growled. "You traded him for entrance into these woods."

Aragorn ground his teeth. "No, I did not sell him out," he said quietly. "He offered himself. Haldir would not let us in, and would not accept any other price. And Legolas did not wish to risk the lives of the Hobbits." He shook his head. "He knew the Orcs were close, and sensed their number. I've seen them, Boromir. They were too many for us to take on alone. We would not have lasted the night."

Boromir pushed him away. His hands wandered down to his sword. "And so, you simply let him take the brunt and traded him off?" he asked with disbelief. "Is that how you deal with those under your command, Dúnadan?"

Suddenly, Aragorn was close to him again, nearly nose to nose. "Mind your tongue, Boromir, if you wish to keep it," he snarled. "You were quick enough to demand your share when it was your turn." His voice was cold and low, and held an edge sharp enough to cut glass. "I do not think that you are in any position to take me to task here."

He pushed the Gondorian away and looked around. His eyes fell on the frozen expressions of the Hobbits.

Sam felt heat growing in his own face. His fists were balled at his sides, and he had a hard time finding his breath. Looking to his master, he saw Frodo's pale, white face. Beside him, Merry and Pippin wore expressions of horror and disgust.

Aragorn bit his lips and turned back to Boromir.

"What would you have me do?" he asked, his voice low. "We are in the realm of the Lady of the Wood, remember? If we rebel, if I rebel, not only Legolas himself will have to pay, but also his people. There are other hostages here. Have you forgotten all he told you, already? Have you forgotten what I said to you? It was his choice! I would have dared the night outside the woods. But he knew that we could not risk it. Do you think I like this any better than you do?"

"You were ready enough to lend him out before," Sam heard his own voice. He was shocked, but at the same time too angry to care. Aragorn turned to him and gave him an irritated look. Sam flustered. "Well, you were," he said.

Aragorn drew a breath, but before he could reply, Boromir added: "I thought he was under your command?"

Aragorn took a deep breath. "He is," he said, "but that does not mean that I ignore his counsel. Legolas' senses are quite keen. And he was right."

"We faced those Wargs back in Eriador unaided," Gimli threw in.

Aragorn shot him a look. "We had Gandalf with us, then," he said.

Silence answered him. Even Sam felt unable to muster a reply. At his side, he could hear Frodo draw a sharp breath.

"So, how long will he be there?" Gimli finally drawled.

Aragorn looked back at him. "Three nights, at least," he said. "Until we all reach Caras Galadhon. That was the bargain." He bit his lips. "Believe me that I do not like this any more than you. It was not my choice. I tried to fend it off. But for the moment, we can do naught but play along, as bitter as this is."

Boromir stared at him. "When all this is over," he said slowly, "and if we all survive this quest, believe me that you will not be my lord. And if it is the last thing I do, I will make sure that you will not reclaim the throne of Gondor."

And with that he turned away.

Aragorn said nothing. He bowed his head and turned back to his pack. Without another word he rolled himself into his bedroll.

Slowly, the others followed. Gimli was the first to turn to his own blanket. Merry and Pippin settled down, but Sam could still hear them whispering in a heated discussion. Boromir stood at the edge of the flet and stared out into the night, wearing a grim expression.

Sam settled down. It took a long time to calm his blood, and he could not help but turn to his master. "This is a fine pickle we have landed ourselves in," he said. "Poor Master Legolas. I cannot believe that excuse for a Ranger would do that to him." He paused when he saw Frodo's pained expression.

"Don't judge him too harshly," Frodo whispered.

Sam stared at him. "But, Frodo, you can't mean--" Frodo's expression gave him pause, and he trailed off.

Frodo shook his head. "I do not understand much of the dialect they speak," he said quietly, "and most of it made little sense to me, until now. But if I understood correctly, Aragorn indeed tried to fend off Haldir."

"Well, seems he was not trying very hard, was he?" Sam snapped.

But Frodo only shook his head again. "I am not sure of that. If I understood correctly..." he trailed off. After a moment, he whispered: "It sounded to me as if he even offered himself." He turned away. "Just so they could protect us. Protect me." He shuddered. "I do not know how I could ever bear something like that."

With that, he huddled himself deeper under his blanket and fell silent.

Sam shuddered. He did not know what to reply to that.


______________ o _________________



Legolas was awakened by a gentle shake. Light seeped into his consciousness. It was day, already?! He rolled around, half expecting a blow, and looked up into the friendly face of Orophin.

"Good morning!" the Lothlorien Elf said, "You must get up. It's past dawn, and we will move on soon."

Legolas looked around. The furs beside his own were gone, and the leather blinds which had covered the windows last night were rolled up, now. Haldir and Rúmil were nowhere to be seen, although the curtain to the third room was still down. Rising quickly, he found his clothes folded neatly lying at his side. His gear and weapons lay beside them, including his filled quiver. He gave Orophin a puzzled look.

"I brought your arrows," Orophin said by way of explanation.

Legolas looked at him, dumbfounded. "You went out last night, to..."

Orophin shook his head. "No. The Elves who took care of the fallen Orcs retrieved them. They gathered all arrows still fit to be used. Yours have different fletching." He smiled. "I just thought you could use them. You killed a great number of Orcs last night."

Legolas nodded. He was at a loss how to reply. "Thank you," he finally managed. He reached for his clothes.

Suddenly, Orophin's head shot up, and he turned to the door. Then, Legolas heard it, too. Steps, entering the platform of the talan; several feet, if he was not mistaken.

Orophin turned back to him. "Quick, get dressed! These are not my brothers. We have company!"

Legolas obeyed without question. With quick, secure moves, he donned his clothes, leaving his gear aside for the moment.

The door opened. A group of Elves entered, led by the officer Legolas had seen leading the guards who had escorted Aragorn the night before. Behind him, several other guards followed.

The officer stopped a few paces away and gave Legolas and Orophin a leering gaze. "Greetings, Orophin," he said. "I see you had your fun already with this slave Haldir took from the Dúnadan last night. In fact, that is what I am here to discuss with your brother. Where is he?"

Orophin rose up, his face stormy. "What do you want now, Saeron?"

The officer smirked at him, but before he could reply, someone said: "Hold!"

Legolas looked around. The curtain at the back of the room parted and Haldir stepped in, Rúmil on his heels. While Rúmil still looked nervous, Haldir gave no such impression. His face was haughty and unreadable. "Well met, Saeron," he said. "I thought you were at the talan with our guests. What do you want?"

The officer gave him a challenging look. "I came for a part of the bargain you made with the Dúnadan. That Mirkwood slave is exquisite. He should earn his keep, and the protection of his company, by serving more of us, not merely you and your brothers. I came to claim my share." He nodded at the guards behind him. "And that of my men," he added.

While he spoke, Saeron sized Legolas up with a short, suggestive gaze, then raised his eyes back to Haldir. Legolas cringed inwardly at his words, but he knew better than to show any reaction. He could not entirely suppress his shiver, though.

Saeron saw it and smiled. Legolas did his best to calm himself. He looked back at Haldir.

Haldir raised a brow. "That bargain was mine to make," he said calmly, "mine and my brothers. Whatever gave you the impression you would get a share of it? If you need the service of a Mirkwood hostage, I am sure there are a few others around for you to use. Merillas is lovely and might be shared by her master. A few others should be close by, too."

Saeron smirked. "You know as well as I that Orthadir will not share Merillas for anything," he said, "and Nimrildir is wounded, though his master owes me. Sûlros... is not here, anymore." A brief shadow flew over his face, too quickly gone to read it correctly. Without pause, he continued: "You know what happened to him. In any case, it has been a long time since we had a new slave at our bidding. A warrior grows lonely in his nights." The challenge in his eyes deepened. "It is not fair that you should take your pleasure while we have to listen and envy. You ought to share! Especially since it is well known what kind of preferences his master has. This slave is used to harsher handling."

At Legolas' side, Orophin balled his fists and readied his stance. Haldir's face had closed and turned to stone while Legolas watched. Rúmil, hiding behind Haldir's back, had turned pale. He stared at the officer and swallowed.

Saeron saw it and smiled darkly. "Or maybe I should ask instead for your brother Rúmil," he said. "He should be ready for some rough play again soon, should he not?"

Rúmil cringed. Legolas felt his own eyes widen and watched him slink further back into the other room, but more than anything, he was struck by the expression on Rúmil's face. Among the horror and disgust, he could read desperate desire – and NEED.

He could not believe what he was seeing.

It could not be. Rúmil was free, he was no slave, he was one of Haldir's brothers. He could not be under the spell, could not --

Haldir was moving. Fast as lightning, he closed the distance to the officer and struck him, a full blow to the face. Saeron flew through the room and crashed down on the floor, the whole talan shuddering under the impact. Haldir was over him in a moment, grabbing the fallen officer's shirt and half lifting him from the floor. "Listen," he hissed, "you keep your hands off my brother, or I WILL kill you! Slowly. You will leave him alone, and neither will you have a share of this slave. I do not want to see you so much as look at him! He's mine for the time being, to do with him as I please, and if I see you lay a hand on him, I will make sure you lose it."

Saeron cringed under Haldir's grip. His face was defiant. Blood spurted from his broken nose, and his teeth were gritted. With a quick move, he broke Haldir's grip and pushed him away. He rolled back and regained his footing, nursing his bleeding nose with one hand. The other hand was balled into a fist. His eyes glared. "The Lady will hear about this!" he growled.

Haldir straightened, his face cold and unyielding. "Just as well. Run off to her and complain. But as long as you serve under my command, you will follow my orders, and you will keep your hands off my family." He gave him a sharp nod. "Now, back to your post. You will stay here to guard the borders, while I accompany our guests to Caras Galadhon."

Saeron gave him a look of pure hatred, but he noticed that he stood alone. The other guards had taken a step away from him and left him exposed. So, he merely spat on the floor and turned, and a moment later, he was gone. The other guards hesitated.

Haldir rounded on them. "What are you waiting for? Back to your posts! We will break camp and march off to Caras Galadhon within the hour!"

The guard standing closest to him bowed and left the talan. The others followed. As soon as the door closed behind them, Haldir turned to Legolas. He gripped his shirt, hard.

"Not a word to anyone about what happened here, Mirkwood slave!" he hissed. "Do you hear me? You will speak to nobody about this! Especially not to your master! If you do, you WILL regret it!"

Legolas did not know what to say. He swallowed.

Haldir glared at him. "If I hear one word – one single word – by anyone who was not here about this, I will make sure that you will regret it. And so will any other hostage I can get my hands on. And if you tell it to your master, I will make sure he cannot share it further. Do you understand?"

Legolas felt the blood drain from his face. He nodded. "I understand," he whispered.

"You will keep silent! Swear it!"

"I swear," Legolas said. "I shall not speak about what happened here to the Fellowship, or to my master."

Haldir let him go. "Good. Now, don your weapons. We will leave in a moment.

Legolas obeyed without another word.


__________________ o _________________



The way down the Tree seemed endless. Legolas concentrated carefully on his hands and feet. He did not dare let his gaze wander; the beauty of the sun-filled forest was lost to him. Only once in a while he dared to cast a quick look up to Rúmil, who climbed down above him, or to Orophin, who came last on the stepladder. Whenever he looked up, Rúmil kept his eyes on his hands. He seemed shrunken. On the other hand, Orophin rarely let his eyes wander off his brother.

Legolas looked back at his own hands. He did not dare to look down to Haldir. What if the Marchwarden changed his mind? What if he handed him over to Saeron? The mere thought made bile rise in his stomach, and he tried to stop thinking about it.

Finally he reached the ground. The forest around him was silent. Haldir stood nearby, but Legolas could not see any of the other Elves. He stepped away from the tree trunk to make room for Rúmil and Orophin. It took a while; the stepladder was hauled up and Legolas assumed they secured it in a convenient place further up the tree.

Suddenly, he felt a rough grip in his hair, pulling him back. Haldir stood behind him, forcing him to bend back, speaking directly in his ear. "You did amiably, last night," the Marchwarden said. "Very sweet! I look forward to the next few days I will have you. It will take some time to get to Caras Galadhon. And who knows? Maybe the Lady will be so displeased with Aragorn, that she will decide to give you to me. You would like that, would you not? You were that eager to offer yourself – one might think you have tired by now of that Ranger. I bet he could be persuaded to extend the spell to me. Wouldn't you like that?"

His hand sneaked around and found Legolas' crotch. He squeezed.

Legolas shivered. He suppressed a gasp and forced himself to stand perfectly still. The harsh grip to his maleness hurt, but even more he feared Haldir's claims might be true. What if the Lady decided to give him to Haldir permanently as punishment for his insolent wish to be free? What if she decided that Estel could no longer trusted to keep him in his place? And had not Aragorn brought him here in part to search an Elven master for him who could keep him alive after Aragorn was gone? What if he gave him to Haldir? Estel could never bear the thought that once he was gone, Legolas would die. What if he decided that Haldir was their best choice?

And Haldir was right – he *had* offered himself. Had done so even against the wishes of his master. What if Aragorn did not want him anymore? And what if he didn't? It would be nothing more than Legolas deserved. This was his place, this was what he was good for, and what he owed – to be used in any way his masters wished. And yet – an endless row of nights like the last, again and again, being used like a thing, whenever it struck Haldir's fancy... and maybe, once Haldir lost interest, he would then be lend out to the other guards, like a trophy, again... He swallowed a sob. Well, it was not his choice to make. Whatever happened, his part was merely to obey.

Haldir gave his crotch a last squeeze and let go of his hair. "What a good little slave," he observed, "I look forward to the next few nights." And with that he stepped away. Legolas could see his grin. It seemed wolfish.

Then, finally, Rúmil and Orophin reached the ground, and Haldir turned to them. "There you are," he remarked. "That took a while." He turned around. "Let's go – it is a long walk to Caras Galadhon."

The other two did not answer, but simply nodded. Haldir moved on without another word. While Legolas followed him, he felt the prickling of hidden eyes on his back.


_____________ o _____________



Aragorn studied the ground at his feet. It was better than looking at his companions; the four Hobbits and Boromir treated him with baleful glares, whenever he dared to lift his eyes in their direction. And Gimli... he could feel the glare of the Dwarf like a hot iron in his back. He fidgeted, casting an uncomfortable gaze at the six Elven warriors surrounding them. The guard who kept him company had told him that such strong security was needed due to the several Orcs that had escaped last night, but Aragorn suspected they had more to do with his persistent protests. He bit his lips and fought against the bile residing in his throat. Little Leaf....

A hiss from Boromir alarmed him, and the quiet chatter of Merry, Pippin and Sam suddenly ceased. He looked up.

There stood his slave, pale, slumped, carefully looking down. Aragorn could see no injuries on him, but still Legolas looked the worse for wear. Aragorn took a quick step in his direction, tried to catch his gaze, but as if on command one of the guards placed at his side stepped up and in his way. He glared at the man and tried to sidestep him, but was stopped by the guard at his left. In the same moment, Haldir stepped forward and smiled at him.

"I hope you had a pleasant night. Today, we will be on our march to the Lady. I trust that you and your companions will respect our rules," he said coolly in Westron. "These woods are dangerous for strangers to our lands and customs. We fought a large company of Orcs last night, who followed you into these woods. We cannot guarantee your safety if you stray off the path or break our agreements."

As he spoke, he directed a brief glance upward to the trees surrounding them. Aragorn followed his gaze, and felt a shiver down his spine. He spied two Elves with bows up in the branches. He did not doubt that there were more he did not see.

With a deadly glare at Haldir, he nodded. "We thank you for your hospitality and will accept your rules," he said. He felt as if he was choking on the words, and his voice sounded like gravel even to himself. But what choice did he have? His gaze fixed upon Legolas. "Little Leaf..." he whispered.

Legolas raised his head to give him a brief glance, but then he quickly looked away and down again. Aragorn frowned. He took another step in Legolas' direction, but was stopped again by the guard who blocked his way. Fuming inwardly, he stayed where he was.

Boromir, standing close beside him, had no such qualms. Quickly, he sidestepped the Elven guard and took a step in Legolas' direction. "Are you well?" he asked, "What did they do to you?"

But Legolas did not answer. Aragorn saw him cringe and bow his head even more. Legolas cast a quick look at the Dwarf – and to Aragorn's surprise, Gimli shortly shook his head and nodded to the Hobbits. Legolas looked at Aragorn. His gaze seemed troubled, and Aragorn quickly repeated Gimli's gesture and then spread his hands. He saw Legolas swallow and look down again.

Boromir seemed oblivious to that exchange. Since he got no answer from his quarry, he turned to Haldir himself. "What did you do to him?!" he demanded.

Haldir narrowed his eyes and subtly changed his stance. His hand moved in the direction of his knife.

Aragorn knew he had to intervene. "Boromir!" he said. The Gondorian warrior turned to him, ready for an attack. Aragorn hid his concern and just nodded pointedly in the direction of the two visible bowmen. "Peace! We are under the protection of the warriors of Lothlorien," he said. "We can't afford a fight." He nodded nearly imperceptibly at Frodo, who stood a step apart, gazing at Legolas with a troubled expression.

Boromir followed his gaze and made a face. His mouth formed a thin line, and his jaw was set, but he stood down.

Haldir smiled. "That is settled, then. Follow me," he said, and turned to depart.

Two of his guards stepped up to Aragorn and closed him off from any way to walk the few steps to his slave without a fight. They did not say a word, but he was sure that they had clear instructions. He had no choice but to follow Haldir. Still, he hesitated while he left the glade, and kept an eye on Boromir and Gimli. After a moment, Boromir, with a last concerned glance at Legolas, turned around and followed Haldir. He, too, was immediately joined by two guards. But Gimli stood a moment longer, arms crossed, looking at Legolas; then he turned, and his gaze seemed ready to burn holes in Haldir's back. But finally, he started to walk.

So did the Hobbits. Legolas was the last in the row, flanked by two of the Elves with whom he had arrived. Aragorn recognized them as Haldir's brothers.

During the walk, the guards took special care to keep the warriors of the Fellowship separate and did not allow them to change their place in the line. They did not seem to care about the Hobbits, though. To Aragorn's satisfaction, Merry, Pippin and Sam took full advantage of that fact and surrounded Legolas regardless of the guards at his side. Aragorn heard their concerned questions and chatter, and Legolas one-syllabled answers, too quiet for him to understand, but at least his slave was not alone. He breathed a little lighter.

And yet... even across the distance, he could hear Legolas' reluctance to reply, could hear the subdued tone and avoidance in his voice. Guilt boiled in his stomach, and he had to fight against the urge to simply deck his guards and walk over to his slave. He knew for sure that if he dared to start a fight, they would all die, picked off one by one like game by the guards above; and even on the slim chance that they won, there were still the other hostages. If they started a fight, Legolas' kin would have to pay for it. If he risked harm to them, Legolas would never forgive him.

'Oh, my little Leaf!' he thought. 'I should never have listened to you! What have I done? What have I done?'

The one voice he could not hear among the Hobbits was that of Frodo. Looking back, he saw the Ring Bearer walking alone, a few feet in front of the others around Legolas, head bowed and shoulders slumped. One or two times, Frodo looked back to his cousins and the Elf, but then he quickly looked away and down again. His face was as troubled as Aragorn felt himself. Yet he did not speak and kept his solitude.

Aragorn frowned, but he could not concentrate further on the Hobbit. His musing was interrupted by a change in the wood around them and the growing sound of a fast-flowing river. He knew his path again, now; they had returned to the shores of the Silverlode, and he could not distinguish the voices of the Hobbits anymore, nor could he discern Legolas' quiet answers.

For a while, they followed the river southward, here and there discovering the prints of Orc feet in the ground; apparently, the previous night some of the Orcs indeed had come that far in their attempts to escape from the battle. But soon, Haldir turned aside from the path and led them down to the bank of the river.

"The Silverlode is deep and cold, up here," he said, "and it moves swiftly. We cannot wade across, and there is no bridge. But we will cross it easily enough. Wait here!"

He let out a whistle, much like a bird, and on the other river bank an Elf stepped out into the morning sun and looked at them. Haldir took a rope from his back pack and threw the bundle over the stream, keeping hold of one end. The Elf on the other side caught it and fastened his end around a tree. Haldir followed his example, stretching the rope tight over the river. He ran along it to the other side, exchanging a few words with the Elf beyond, and then ran back.

Aragorn glared at him. "You can walk that road easily enough," he said, "as can Legolas, and maybe even I. But what of the others of our company? Do they have to swim?"

Haldir looked at him with obvious amusement. "No. We have two more ropes, and will fasten them in appropriate height so your companions can cross over, too. Although they should take care not to fall off." And he let his gaze rest for a moment on the Dwarf. Gimli returned his gaze without a blink.

Haldir shrugged. His eyes wandered over to the Hobbits and rested on Frodo. "But with care your companions should manage," he said, then nodded to one of his brothers to get to work.

Soon, the three ropes were secured across the stream. Aragorn set out first. He did not risk walking the single rope free, as he had claimed. He had managed that trick before but with less baggage, and he did not wish to give Haldir any more reason to mock. He was glad when he arrived safely on the other side, and turned to watch the others crossing after him, Boromir gingerly and carefully, Sam nearly dropping from the rope a few times, and Merry and Pippin astonishingly sure-footed. Gimli surprised him; the Dwarf held the rope at his shoulder tightly, but his feet on the rope under him were sure and balanced. Aragorn wondered at that, then recalled that the Dwarves, as miners, had to cross a gap or two at times.

Then came Legolas, and Aragorn's heart nearly skipped a beat. His usually nimble Elf, who would have run the rope with ease at other times, set his feet hesitantly and at one point nearly missed a step, having to grip the second rope tight not to fall into the stream below. Legolas caught his balance, stood for a moment and then quickly made his way over the remaining distance. When he had finally reached ground again, Aragorn ran to him; and this time, he did not allow himself to be detained.

He grabbed Legolas arm. "Little Leaf!" he breathed. "What is it? Are you well?"

Legolas looked up at him, eyes wide. Aragorn could not read the expression in his eyes, but his Elf seemed startled – and was there a glimpse of relief? But then, Legolas quickly looked away.

"I am fine, my Lord, I just..."

Then, Haldir was there.

"You are clumsy these days, Mirkwood spawn," he said. "Such a pity, because I always thought you'd make a good warrior with the proper training."

Aragorn turned to him, hand at his sword, but Haldir cut him off.

"Be that as it may, we have no time for further talk. We need to get going, as the Lady will wish to see you and your company as soon as possible. And I am sure you will come peacefully, as we agreed?"

He gave a quick look at the trees around them, and Aragorn fumed. He could not see any guards in those branches, but he was sure that they were there. Beside him, Legolas took a startled look at Haldir, then looked down again.

Aragorn bit his lips. "Of course," he said. "Yet I wish to walk together with my slave. I missed him last night."

Legolas shot him a quick, grateful glance, but Haldir shook his head.

"You may not," he said in Silvan. "He is ours for the next three days. We have an agreement, remember?"

And he gave a nod to his two brothers, who stepped up to take Legolas back into their midst. Aragorn opened his mouth to protest again, but Legolas spook up.

"I am fine, my Lord," he said quietly. "Aragorn, I am fine."

It did not sound convincing to Aragorn's ears, but Legolas gave an imperceptible nod at the trees around them, and so he subsided. "Just three days, Little Leaf," he breathed. "Be strong."

Legolas looked down again, and did not answer.

Haldir, on the other hand, stood unmoved as if he had not heard the exchange.

They all stared at him – the Hobbits, Boromir, the Dwarf and Aragorn himself; all but Legolas, who kept his head bowed and looked at the ground. But while Boromir and the Hobbits directed glowering glances both at Haldir and at Aragorn, and one or another pained glance at Legolas, Gimli held his eyes firmly directed at Haldir, as if his gaze could burn him to the ground.

The Marchwarden held his stare for one challenging moment, then he turned to the others of the Fellowship and returned their gaze. One after the other, they looked down and avoided his eyes. All except the Dwarf.

Haldir returned Gimli's gaze for another heartbeat, then he broke the stare.

"Now it is time to keep the other part of our agreement," he said. "It has been long since outsiders have set foot in our inner realm, and never was it trodden by a Dwarf. As we have agreed the night before, the Dwarf will go blindfolded. The others may go free for a while, until we come nearer to our dwellings."1

ragorn started. "What? We didn't --"

But his voice was cut off by Gimli, who now directed a glowering glance at him. "That bargain has been made without my consent," he said. "I will not bow to it."

Haldir shrugged. "Then you can go no further."

Gimli nodded. "Good. The hospitality of these woods has been lacking anyway. Aragorn, I say to you again, it was a mistake that we entered here. We should go back."

Aragorn cringed and shot a quick look at the branches around them. He could see nothing; if there were Elven guards around, they stayed hidden. The other Elves, though, those who understood Westron, glared at the Dwarf and clenched their weapons more firmly. In turn, Gimli grabbed the handle of his axe. But Haldir stood unmoved.

"You have entered the realm of the Lady," he said. "And you must be brought before her. You cannot go back." He gave a short look to the other shore of the river. "Besides," he added, "there are hidden sentries behind you in the wood now, whom you cannot see. You would never get past them and out of our woods alive. You must be presented to the Lady, and accept her judgment."

Aragorn glared at him for a moment, then he stared at Gimli. They could not risk a further escalation. He had to end this, and quickly.

He shot a quick glance at his slave. Legolas stood, head bowed and shivering; he seemed unaffected by the whole exchange. Aragorn felt deep concern for him. Yet he recalled how uneasy his slave had seemed under the gazes of the Hobbits, and how reluctant he had seemed to reply to their queries. Maybe it would be best to give him some retreat.

Still, to put them all so deeply into Haldir's hands... but then, they were at his mercy, already, anyway.

Aragorn calmed his face. "I do not recall any bargain concerning Gimli to be blindfolded," he said coolly. "But it is hard on the Dwarf to be singled out. So I say, we will all wear blindfolds while we pass through these woods, and we trust that you, Haldir, will deliver us safely to the Lady and to Caras Galadhon. I am sure you will honor the word and mission of Elrond of Rivendell, and the trust and alliance between our realms."

And with that he turned to Haldir and gave him a piercing glance.

Let's see if you'd really dare to bring harm to an envoy sent by Elrond, as well as to his adoptive son!

Haldir returned his look incredulously.

So did Legolas, who quickly raised his head with a startled expression."But – My Lord, we have trodden this ground before," he dared to say. "We are no strangers, here." He shot a quick glance at Haldir; he seemed terrified.

"Daro!" Aragorn cut him off sharply, and Legolas cringed as it he had been hit. He bowed his head again. Aragorn saw the glares of the Hobbits, but ignored them. In a milder tone, he said: "If I am still to lead this company, you must do as I bid. And I deem it best that we will be treated all alike, and all be blindfold, even I and Legolas, although it will make the journey slow and dull."

It was Boromir who protested. "What?" he asked. "You trust them to lead us blind? After -"

Aragorn just stared at him. "They kept us safe last night," he said. "We have to trust them." He shot a quick look to the trees around them, trying to convey that they had no choice. "There is no reason to risk a fight when we are among allies."

Boromir held his gaze for another moment, then he shot a disgusted glance at the branches around them. Finally, he subsided.

Haldir looked from one of them to the other, then he shrugged. "Very well," he said, "so be it."

Before his own eyes were bound, Aragorn could not help but steal a last look at Legolas, and he cursed himself.

The face of his slave seemed frozen.


________________ o ________________


Legolas set his feet with care. It was awkward to walk through the forest without sight, just led by smell and noises and the occasional quiet command of the guards; but he had been forced to do things like that before, and so he managed. He did not really fear walking into a tree; while he could not understand the song of the Mallorn trees around him, he could still hear their voices, and that was enough to guide him around them at need, and while the cloth blocked his sight, he could still tell if they were walking under thick canopy or through a meadow. The song of all living things around him was enough to direct his feet. Still, every now and then, his foot caught in a root or in thick undergrowth, and he felt clumsy and helpless.

He was not alone in this. All around him, he could hear the muttering and the quiet cursing of the Fellowship, whenever one of them stumbled over a stone or found their feet caught in a bramble. The Hobbits – and his master – seemed to have the least problems, but Boromir's and Gimli's constant grumbling nearly drowned out the noises of the wood. He could identify them all by voice and tread alone. Gimli did not even try to guard his steps; his heavy boots hit the ground with force, and whatever root or undergrowth was in the way either bore him no resistance or got crushed. Boromir stumbled awkwardly ahead, and Legolas could hear his constant cursing. It made Legolas cringe. He thought back to the morning, to Boromir's aborted attempt to defend him; he wished he could help him now, but there was nothing he could do. The Hobbits, especially Merry and Pippin, were astonishingly silent, and Legolas suspected that they had secretly shed the cloth or pushed it up so they could scan the ground. The quiet steps of his master, unusually clumsy, but still sure for the tread of a man, were far ahead of him, impossible to close up to. His guards had made sure to place him at the end of the company again, and the distance was growing farther.

He felt awkward and isolated. He wished he would have been allowed to walk close to his master, but Haldir had placed Aragorn at the head of the line, and all the Fellowship between them. In addition, they had made sure to place more guards close to the warriors of the company. Legolas himself was guarded by a couple, and while he suspected that his guards were Haldir's brothers, he was not sure. Every now and then, he felt an Elf step close to him, and a hand sneaked out to touch his ass, follow the lines of his back or chest, or even sneak between his legs. He shivered when that happened, but he did not dare to resist; when he had tried to fend those touches off, he had been hit and Haldir's sharp voice hissed in his ear that he should recall the promise of his master. Haldir's touches he had learned to identify: they were harsh, demanding and intimate, and he got little warning. But sometimes the touches were accompanied by a snigger, or they were clumsy and awkward, and still uncomfortable. These, he feared even more; he suspected Rúmil, or worse, some other guards. There were other rare occasions, when a hand just touched his arm in a calming manner, directing him around an obstacle or caught one of his hands and gave it a small, quick, reassuring squeeze. He suspected Orophin behind these occasions, but again he was not sure.

And all the time he could hear the whispering of the other guards, and sometimes he caught them making a joke about the coming night.

Legolas shivered again, and tried to concentrate on where he set his feet. He yearned for Aragorn, even his rather cruel games, but it would be a long time until he could hope to go back to the hands of his master.

He dreaded the night.


__________________ o _________________


TBC -


Notes:

1) This sentence, and parts of the following passage, loosely paraphrases the equivalent passage in the book, Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, HarperCollinsPublishers,London, Paperback edition 1995, pp.338 cont. However, I have given the scene my own spin, of course, and also added some phrases from the movie.


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

Story Information

Author: Crowdaughter

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 05/11/11

Original Post: 12/23/06

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