53. The Lady Of Light
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: Mention of torture. Please heed the warnings!
Disclaimer: Universe and characters are not mine, but Tolkien's. The idea of the spell, however, belongs to me. Apart from that, in this chapter I am directly lifting dialogue from Peter Jackson's movie "The Fellowship of the Rings" (Extended Edition) and occasionally also some descriptions and dialogue from J.R.R. Tolkien's book "The Lord of the Rings" again. Both original and closely paraphrased dialogue will be marked with proper reference notes where it is quoted. Please bear with 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.
LI. The Lady Of Light</b>
Legolas set his feet with care. He was alone; Haldir had placed him at the end of the line again, far from the others, and had not given him any opportunity to talk to any member of the Fellowship, least of all his master. When he had returned to the camp, he had heard Aragorn's distressed inquires for him, but all he had managed to get out was a quick "I am here, my Lord," before Haldir had slapped him across his mouth and ordered him to keep silent. He had not been allowed to speak since then.
When morning had come, it had brought him no relief; Haldir had just told him to don his clothes and his gear, and then blindfolded him again before he led him back into the camp. He had not even allowed him to wash. Legolas had done what he could with a cloth dampened with the morning dew, but he imagined he could still feel Haldir's and Rumil's fluids upon his body. Some steps ahead, he heard Haldir and Orophin whispering to each other. He did not understand what they talked about, he could only discern Haldir's annoyed and forbidding tone. Beside him, he heard the steps of another Elf, and time and again a hand stole to his body, touched his side, his back, even his ass. The tentative caresses made him shudder. They were hesitant, shy, and yet oddly hot and greedy; an attitude he had come to associate with Rúmil. From some point further forward he heard the harsh and determined steps of the Dwarf, and Gimli's constant grumble. The noise was a relief to him; it gave him some odd feeling of comfort. Sometimes, he heard Boromir speaking aloud, either addressing Gimli or the Hobbits; but the man of Gondor was too far ahead for Legolas to understand his words, or the answers. Still, all these sounds, breaking the background noises of the forest, were like a life-line keeping him from being overwhelmed by his despair. It was all he could do to hold onto it.
He could not see the sun under the cloth, but from the growing warmth and sense of light around him, it had to be close to noon, when finally, the voices grew louder, and he felt a hand on his shoulder signaling him to stop. For a moment, he felt a surge of panic – <i>did Haldir plan to take him again, here?!</i> - but then he could hear the sound of many voices and the steps of a larger group ahead. They had company.
A voice called out for Haldir, and Legolas heard the Marchwarden's cool answer, followed by a short discussion. After a moment, the new voice addressed the Fellowship directly.
"Welcome, strangers in our land," the newcomer said in slow Westron with a heavy accent. "I bring word of the Lady of the Wood. Your coming has been foretold. You may remove the blindfolds, and walk free as our honored guests from here. The Lady sends you her greetings, and asks you to forgive the precautions our guards took on your path. Any misstep or harm you may have encountered while your mission was yet unknown to us will be addressed and answered for."
Legolas felt gentle hands remove the cloth from his eyes. He blinked, his first sight being Orophin's reassuring face; looking around, he saw his companions, all blinking at the sudden light, standing between a troop of Elven guards. A few steps away stood Haldir with a face like stone. Beside him, an Elven officer gave quick commands, and the newcomers milled about, asking and gaining news from the guards of Haldir's smaller troop. The officer beside Haldir turned his head to Legolas, and his face turned sour as if he had bitten on something nasty.
He stepped forward and offered Legolas a curt bow. "Mirkwood... prince," he began formally and coolly in slow-spoken Sindarin, "the Lady sends you her greetings. She offers her regret for any mistreatment by her Marchwarden and assures you that any complaints you may have will be redressed." His face, though, spoke another language, and made it clear that any complaint of a Mirkwood Elf would be seen as an unbelievable impertinence on Legolas' part. Before Legolas had a chance to reply, the officer gave him the slightest nod and turned away, leaving him speechless.
He looked to Orophin's baffled face, and while he watched, the expression of the other Elf turned grim. "I need to speak with Haldir," Orophin said, and was gone. Legolas turned around and found himself in front of his master.
"Legolas!" Aragorn exclaimed. "How are you, Little Leaf? Are you well?" He grabbed Legolas' hands and held them tight.
Legolas swallowed. He hoped that Aragorn would not notice Rúmil's and Haldir's smell on him; he felt as if he was still reeking from last night. But he held onto his master like a lifeline. "Yes, My Lord," he managed to say, "I am well. Aragorn..."
Aragorn enfolded him in a tight embrace. "I am glad, Little Leaf," he murmured. "I feared for you."
For a moment, Legolas just let himself be absorbed by the scent and presence of his master. Then he stiffened a bit. "My Lord, what happens now?" he dared to ask.
Aragorn let him go, but kept holding his hands. "The officer said we will rest at Cerin Amroth and march on to Caras Galadhon at dusk. It's close – we will be there in just a few minutes. The Lady has sent reinforcements for the northern border, but it seems that Haldir's little bargain did not find her support."
Legolas said nothing. He recalled the icy white light and the voice he had encountered in his mind the other night. He had his doubts about the stance of the Lady, but he did not dare to comment.
Aragorn sighed. "In any case, I am so glad that this is over. Here, Little Leaf – I carried this for you!" He loosened some straps and handed Legolas his pack. "I imagine as soon as we find an opportunity to wash, you might be eager for a change of clothes."
Legolas blushed in shame and looked down. Aragorn's hand touched his burning cheeks. "Don't worry. I know how dearly you must wish for a decent bath – I do so, too. In Caras Galadhon, we will perhaps find the opportunity -"
He was interrupted by Merry and Pippin.
Merry ran into Legolas full force, nearly toppling him; a moment later he was followed by Pippin. "Legolas! How are you? Are you well?" the older of the two Hobbits asked, and the other added: "What did they do to you?"
Then, Boromir arrived. "Yes, how did this bastard treat you, pray tell? After this ranger sold you out, again -" He shot Aragorn an angry stare.
"He did not sell me out," Legolas said quietly. "I offered -"
"Yes, I know – Aragorn said so, too," Boromir snapped. "But he agreed, did he not? And as we now know, it was not even necessary. Haldir had no authority-"
"You should never have had to do that," Pippin said. He turned to Aragorn. "He should never have agreed to let them do that to you!"
Aragorn looked grim. "Can we discuss this in private?" he said tersely, "We are watched!" He nodded to the Elves milling about them, some of whom already looked at them with interest and irritation.
Boromir did not budge. "Let them watch!" he retorted. "After you agreed to let them have your slave, traded for entrance in these woods when it turns out..."
It was too much. The pain and fear of the last few days welled up in him, and Legolas felt too exhausted to deal with Boromir's righteous anger. He very much doubted the sudden benevolence of the Lady; but there was no way he could explain that much to Boromir.
<i>"We did not know that at the time,"</i> he snapped. "Would you have preferred sure defeat and death, and for our whole mission to fail? For that would have been what had happened that night. You did not feel the Orcs who followed us. I did. Did Aragorn not tell you?"
"That is the risk we took when we started out on this Quest," Boromir objected. "You are a warrior. I have seen you fight. Do you want us to shirk any risk that may bring death to one or more of us?"
"I want our mission to succeed!" Legolas retorted bitterly. "Even if that means you think me a coward!"
Boromir shook his head. "No, I don't," he said, "but why you insist on defending this ranger, I will never know!" Angrily, he turned to Aragorn.
Legolas followed his gaze and looked into the stony face of his master. He swallowed. What was he doing? It was not his place... "I am sorry, my Lord," he stammered. "I should not have..."
Aragorn's face looked ashen. "No, Little Leaf, he's right. I should never have allowed it," he said. And with that he walked on, in the direction of the hillside.
Boromir watched him go with knitted brows. "He says that NOW?"
Legolas did not reply. He felt a tentative hand touching his own and looked down into the troubled face of Frodo.
"You are no coward, Master Elf," the Hobbit said, "but you should never have had to do that!" He looked ill. "I am sorry that you had to go through all of this for me." He ran away.
Without another word, Legolas followed in the direction of his master.
_____________ . __________________
Aragorn paid no attention where he was going until he found himself on top of the hill, right under the big, majestic tree that crowned the Naith. He was hardly aware of his surroundings. Instead, he heard again Boromir's angry accusations, saw again Legolas' pale face, the hollow cheeks, the haunted look in his eyes... <i>What had he been thinking? Why had he ever allowed himself to be persuaded to agree to Haldir's outrageous offer?</i>
But that was not all there was to it. He heard again Legolas' quick defense of him, then the sudden cringing and the fear when his slave realized he was attacking one of his betters. Fear of the disappointment of his master, fear of what Aragorn would do to punish him.
He fought down bile. <i>How had they come to this?!</i>
Giving in to his own frustration and exhaustion, Aragorn leaned against the trunk of the big tree. He looked around.
The place was beautiful, as it had been when he had visited it last. The two circles of trees surrounding him stood as if they would always withstand time, as if since the days of Nimrodel nothing could touch their majesty and beauty. The tiny <i>elanor</i>-flowers spotted the grass like little stars. This was the place where he had bound himself to Arwen, all these years ago.
He saw himself again, washed and clean, clad in fine garb, full of hope and good intentions. He had been on his way back from Harad, where he had gotten rid of his addiction to that stimulant that had nearly cost him his – and Legolas' – life. He had been so glad that he had managed to break free from the addiction, relieved he had survived his venture into Mordor, alone, not shadowed by his Elf. He'd been proud that he had managed to find out more about the enemy, and determined to leave Legolas in the hands of Halbarad when he came back, maybe in time find him an Elven master. Somebody who would ensure his survival, and who would not have to hurt him anymore.
And in his determination and intent to give Legolas up, he had met Arwen again, and fell in love with her anew. Beautiful, regal and kind, she had appeared then like the answer to his prayers. He had been flattered and proud when she allowed his renewed courtship, and full of hope when she had finally agreed to pledge their troth. He had thought if it indeed was his destiny to become king, he would find ways around his dark desires, a way to sire an heir – maybe using that stimulant again, since he now knew to use it only rarely; and he would simply have to deny himself his other, darker desires. Legolas would be safe in the hands and care of another. His way had seemed clear to him, at last. He had been so intent on doing the right thing.
That had been over thirty years ago. His good intentions had not lasted that year's summer.
He picked one of the star-shaped flowers. Bitterness welled up in him and nearly took his breath.
"I heard your offer to Haldir that night."
The voice was hesitant and right behind him. <i>Frodo!</i> Aragorn jumped and turned around. "I did not know that you speak Silvan, Master Hobbit," he said.
Frodo looked at him, pale and troubled. "I do not. I could gather just a few words, but what I understood was clear enough," he offered. "I know you tried to spare Legolas his plight. I spoke with Sam and with my cousins. They know you did not give in lightly, too."
Aragorn stared at him. "You told Merry and Pippin I offered -"
Frodo shook his head. "I told them you went to great lengths to spare Legolas what he had to do. That if not for Legolas' insistence, you would have risked turning around." Frodo was pale. "Still – he should not have had to do that. Neither should you. Not because of me." The Hobbit swallowed. "Aragorn..."
Aragorn sighed and rested on his haunches. "No, he should not have," he said. "Frodo... do not blame yourself for Legolas' plight. Or mine. Or for the death of Gandalf. Nothing of that has been your fault. None of it."
Frodo looked away. "Boromir said so, too. He told me I was already bearing a heavy burden, so I should not burden myself with Gandalf's death." He bit his lips. "Still – if not for me, for the thing I carry, none of this would have happened. Gandalf would still be here. Legolas would not have..." he shook his head.
Aragorn closed his eyes. "As Boromir said – we accepted that risk when we set out. Gandalf fell to save us. Do not deny his sacrifice. He would not want you to blame yourself." He did not have the heart to tell the Hobbit that as far as Legolas' situation was concerned, the real danger to the Elf was Aragorn himself.
After a moment, he added: "Frodo? Thank you!" He stood up. "Do you know there is a flet up in this tree? Do you wish to see the way we have come?"
Frodo had the grace to make no mention of the obvious distraction. "Thank you. I would like to see the wood from up there," he said.
Aragorn touched his shoulder. "Come then, Master Hobbit. The ladder is this way."
_____________________ o _________________
Cerin Amroth was just as beautiful as Legolas remembered. The little golden <i>elanor</i> flowers spotted the lush green grass like tiny stars in a bright sky. The warm twilight falling through the canopy of the Mallorn trees filled the inner circle around the old, majestic tree that crowned the center; the tree that still bore the old <i>talan</i> legend claimed king Amroth had once built for Nimrodel. The outer circle of white trees bore no leaves now, although he had seen them in full canopy when he has visited here last. The place felt clean, fresher than the other parts of the wood they had passed through. Even the light seemed gentler and more clear. It was as if a part of the hope and the love of Nimrodel and Amroth still resided here, untouched by the stain and shadow that had tainted even the other parts of the Golden Wood.
And yet... and yet... He breathed deeply, trying to calm himself.
<i>Boromir's disbelieving stare, Aragorn's stony face when he uttered his verdict</i> – what should he do? How could he explain to Boromir his reasoning if even his master did not accept it anymore? As for the sudden benevolence of Galadriel --
"Do you have a moment?"
He turned around. Orophin looked at him, his face troubled.
Legolas bowed to him. "Of course, my lord Orophin. How can I be of service?"
Orophin sighed. "As I told you before, Mirwood prince, I am not your lord. Come, let us sit." After a quick look around for listeners, he settled himself in the shadow of a tree of the outer circle. Obediently, Legolas followed his example.
After a moment, Orophin began: "I need to take my leave of you."
Legolas looked at him. "But – I thought – do you and Haldir not accompany us to the Lady?"
Orophin shook his head. "Rúmil will not go one step further to Caras Galadhon. He does not wish to come close to the Lady. I will accompany him back to our borders."
"But I thought... Haldir..."
Orophin's mouth was a thin line. "Whatever Haldir may have thought, he was wrong. Rúmil has gained her wrath once already. Unless forced, he will not risk coming close to her again. And it is wiser for him, too. She needs Haldir, and will try to keep his loyalty. Rúmil, though..."
Legolas stared at him. He recalled Rúmil's clumsy touches and his needy words, the night before. He felt cold. "My lord Orophin," he began carefully, ignoring Orophin's grimace, "if I may ask... why was your brother Rúmil sentenced in the first place?"
Orophin looked away. "He shirked his duties at the watch."
Legolas stared in disbelief. Neglecting one's watch was a serious offense, even in his own woods – the threat of Orcs and other enemies was too imminent to be ignored. But still, such a sentence... <i>for that?!</i> "What kind of duties?"
Orophin searched his gaze again. "Rúmil was too kind hearted. Do you remember the hostage Saeron mentioned in Haldir's flet? Sûlros?"
Legolas just nodded. Orophin made a face. "Sûlros was in Saeron's personal care, much like you are in that of Aragorn. Saeron... matches the preferences of your master. But Sûlros did something a Mirkwood slave is not allowed; he fell in love with one of his fellow hostages, a girl called Nurlir. They met secretly, mostly at Rúmil's watch. My brother did not hinder them. He did not give them away as would have been his duty, either. He simply tolerated what they did. When they were finally discovered, the two of them decided to rather die than face further punishment, even if the spell should kill them. They ran away. Rúmil allowed them to escape. For that, he was sentenced and punished."
He looked away. "Haldir never forgave him the perceived dishonor. He stood high in the favor of the Lady, and so he asked her for permission to take care of Rúmil's needs himself. He does not need to lie with him to do so, so she allowed it. Haldir blamed the two hostages for this. He did not question the decisions of the Lady. Not even then." His voice was bitter.
Legolas hardly breathed. "What became... of the hostages?"
Orophin looked down. "They were found and surrounded. Nurlir was shot. Sûlros held her in his arms when she died. He... climbed as high as he could on the tree where they had taken shelter, and simply stepped off a branch."
Legolas stared at him, brows knitted. "But..."
Orophin looked up and met his gaze again. "There was a severe punishment of other hostages, to discourage more slaves following their example. But this was not the first time such a thing has happened, nor will it be the last. Many hostages have relatives they do not want to be taken in their stead. Nurlir and Sûlros merely had each other. I do not judge their choice."
Legolas shook his head. "It is not my place to judge them, either," he said quietly. "Orophin - " He stopped, unsure what to say. He still shuddered at the memory of Rúmil's touch last night. And yet... "I am sorry for the fate of your brother," he finally offered.
Orophin held his gaze. "You have a kind heart, Mirkwood prince. I thank you for your words," he answered seriously. "Please remember that you and your mission are our only hope. Remember what I said to you last night. You and your company need to succeed. You need to end this."
And with that, he stood and offered Legolas a bow, and the Elven leave-taking. "Remember that our hopes go with you," he said. "May the Powers guard your way. Have a safe journey!"
Legolas stood as well and returned his farewell. "May the Powers watch over you," he answered. "And thank you. For all you did."
Orophin smiled. "It was my honor, Mirkwood prince. May the stars shine on you on all your ways."
He went away. Legolas stared after him.
"You like him." The voice was gruff, and it spoke Westron. There was astonishment in it as well. Legolas whipped around.
The face of the Dwarf did not betray his thoughts.
Legolas sighed and looked away. "He has been kind to me. He saved my sanity these last few days," he replied tersely. "Is that enough for you, Master Dwarf?"
Gimli harrumped. "Of course," he said noncommittally. "You need not justify yourself to me, Master Elf. So, some of them are decent?"
Legolas sighed again. Tired, he said: "Some of them are. How can I be of service, Master Dwarf?" He looked directly into the Nogoth's face. "What do you want?"
The Dwarf shrugged. "Oh, nothing, nothing," he stated. "Actually, I thought I might be of some help to you. I thought I might keep close to intervene at need, or keep you company, if you wanted."
Legolas stared at him. "To do what?" he asked, although he thought he had an idea.
Gimli changed his stance. "Do not play coy with me, Master Elf," he said tersely. "From the words of that other Elf today it is clear that our hosts decided they wish to keep up appearances. They cannot mistreat you too badly if one of our company is close, right? Not if they do not wish to lose face. And from what you have told me, you are not allowed to fight back yourself. So, as long as one of the Fellowship is close to you, you are safe. Am I right?"
Legolas still looked at him, puzzled. "I am not sure of my treatment here," he said, "but yes, you may be right. But may I ask – why would you do this for me?"
Gimli seemed annoyed. "I still owe you," he said. "Is that enough for you, Master Elf?"
Legolas was still puzzled. "Yes, but..."
Samwise's excited voice cut through his words. "Legolas! Gimli! Come!" the Hobbit called. "Aragorn send me to fetch you. We are going to see the Lady!"
Legolas swallowed. With a sense of dread, he picked up his pack and nodded at the Hobbit. His gaze fell on Gimli. He still owed him an answer. And for the Dwarf to make such an offer...
He bowed. "Yes, that is enough for me, Master Dwarf," he replied. "And thank you!"
___________________ o _________________
Legolas stepped on the platform of the flet with dread. It had been a long time since he last was here, and his memories of the event were not pleasant. Yet even then, he had not felt the icy fear that he felt now. He felt Haldir's gaze, a few steps ahead from him, as if it burned. And the grim and troubled face of his master... Aragorn had not spoken to him again since the short exchange at Cerin Amroth. He wished he knew his master's thoughts, knew what he expected...
Like a cold star in the night, Galadriel appeared, Celeborn at her side. A bright, white light emanated from her, and Legolas felt every thought turn to ice in his mind. He knew that light, had felt it before, in the nights he had been taken by Haldir and Rúmil... He caught himself staring and quickly tried to hide his dread in a deep bow. Yet he could feel her eyes upon him like a frigid breeze.
He dared a look at his companions. A few steps ahead, his master offered the Lady and Celeborn a respectful greeting. Beside him, Frodo stood wide-eyed but silent; Sam beside the Ring-Bearer looked stunned. Merry and Pippin stared with open mouths, obviously blinded by the light that emanated from the Lady. Boromir looked at the Lady of the Golden Wood reluctantly and seemed to shudder. And Gimli – the Dwarf stood rooted to the ground. He seemed stunned, completely taken by surprise. Legolas felt cold inside. He looked down to his boots, tried to clear his mind. He swallowed.
Then, Celeborn spoke, and all thought fled from Legolas' mind.
"Eight there are here, but nine there were who set out from Rivendell. Tell me, where is Gandalf? For I much desire to speak with him! I can no longer see him from afar."*
Legolas shuddered. He could feel the Elven Lord's eyes on him and kept his own eyes firmly down. In the sudden silence, Galadriel spoke, with a voice that seemed to show surprise. "Gandalf the Grey did not pass the borders of this land. He has fallen into shadow!"*
Celeborn turned to her with a sharp look, and Legolas quickly followed his gaze. She had not told her husband? It was said that nothing came to pass in and around the Golden Wood without the Lady's knowledge.
But it was Aragorn who answered her. His voice was bitter. "He was taken by both shadow and flame. A balrog of Morgoth. For we went needlessly into the net of Moria."*1
Galadriel pierced him with a sharp look.
"Needless were few of Gandalf's deeds in life," she said. "We do not know yet his full purpose*. What will come of your sojourn into the mines of the Dwarves has yet to be revealed."
Legolas cringed. He felt her gaze turning to him like a palpable touch, felt his mind probed and his memories sorted one by one. He tried to keep his mind empty, but it was useless. He was caught like a fly in the white, icy light. He trembled. But she simply let her gaze move on, and he dared to breathe again. He risked another look at his companions. Beside him, Gimli looked to the ground, his face unreadable but grave with sorrow. A few steps ahead, Aragorn's gaze seemed fixed to the ground, too. Boromir's eyes, though, were fast on the Lady. His face and gaze showed pain.
Celeborn drew his brows together. "A balrog! Long did we know a great evil dwelled in Moria, but we had yet to learn what it was the Dwarves had woken in the mines. Ill indeed are the tidings it has risen once again!"
Legolas did not dare to breath. <i>Galadriel had read his memories. She knew --</i>
Galadriel's sharp voice cut through his thoughts. "The enemy has pursued you into these woods. What hope you had in secrecy is now lost. The eye of the enemy is fixed upon us."
Frozen, full of dread, Legolas raised his eyes to her. If this was to be the hour of his judgment, he wished to look it in the eye.
Galadriel surprised him. Her clear, sharp voice rang out as she spoke: "We have also heard with great sorrow that upon entrance in our woods your company has not been treated with due respect. One of our Marchwardens acted without authority and overstepped his bounds. We regret this deeply."
Celeborn beside her turned directly to Legolas and bowed. "Legolas Thranduilion, Prince of Mirkwood. Be welcome, cousin, in our woods. It is with regret we hear you have not been treated with the respect due to you."
Legolas stared at him, dumbfounded. <i>He could not mean--?</i>
Galadriel said sharply: "Haldir, Marchwarden of Lorien, step forward."
Haldir, pale and silent, followed her command. His face was unreadable, carved of stone.
Galadriel turned to Legolas. "If you have a complaint to make, Mirkwood prince, speak now. It shall be addressed."
Legolas stood transfixed. He could not believe what was happening. He caught the disbelieving look of his master, as stunned as he was himself, and the expectant look of Gimli. He shot a look at Haldir, who stared blandly ahead, then he turned back to Galadriel.
She caught his gaze. In his mind, she spoke: <i>'Choose with care, Mirkwood prince. Haldir has overstepped his bounds and deserves to be punished. We cannot spare his service as one of our most capable Marchwardens, and so we cannot allow you or your master to challenge him. But there are other ways to have him and his brothers pay for their transgression. If you wish for him to be punished he shall be.' </i>
Legolas stared at her with horror. He thought of Rúmil, of the clumsy touches, of the need... with a sudden flash of insight, he knew. <i>Orophin! She meant to get at Orophin! </i>
He bowed. It took him a moment to find his voice, but when he spoke, it was clear and formal. "I thank you, My Lady, My Lord Celeborn. But Haldir did not treat me unduly cruelly. I would ask for him and for his brothers to be spared, and not punished on my behalf."
He saw his master turning around to him, dumbfounded. The Dwarf, standing beside him, was incredulous. Legolas looked away and met Haldir's gaze. The Marchwarden seemed as shocked as he was himself. He swallowed.
Galadriel spoke again. "You have a generous soul, young Thranduilion; remarkable in one of your kind. So be it."
But in his mind, Legolas could hear her voice like cold, searing ice. "Good. With your offer to Haldir upon entrance in our woods you have done penance for your actions in Moria, and your request to spare him shows that you have learned your place. You will not try to seek freedom again. This is well. Your master may yet learn his lesson, too."
Legolas' mind was frozen. He did not dare to think or speak. Cold with fear of what she might yet decide to do, he finally said: "Thank you."
Galadriel turned to Haldir. "Haldir, Marchwarden of Lorien, you ought to have to answer for your actions, but by the grace of the prince of Mirkwood you are forgiven. Remember that you owe him gratitude."
Haldir offered her a deep, respectful bow, then he repeated the bow to Legolas. He stepped back to his place and stared ahead without another motion.
Legolas still gazed at him. He did not dare to speak or think again. He caught Celeborn glancing at him with interest. He looked away and stared down at his boots. He barely heard Celeborn's next question and Galadriel's reply, yet he saw both Aragorn and Boromir squirm at her gaze. He was relieved when, finally, the audience was over and Galadriel released them from her presence.
__________________ o __________________
The words seemed to resonate within Aragorn's head. He could not believe what he was hearing. It was all he could do to keep his calm, both during the audience and the long way down. But as soon as they had all reached the bottom of the tree again, Aragorn turned around to his slave.
"Why did you spare him, Little Leaf?! You should have demanded satisfaction! I would have challenged him right there. Valar, the way the Lady phrased her offer, I thought maybe she would even have let you challenge him yourself. Why did you let him go?!"
Legolas cringed visibly. He started: "Estel..." - but at that moment Boromir chimed in.
"Yes, why did you spare that bastard? I would have been pleased to take him down for you if you did not claim the privilege!"
Legolas bit his lips. He looked directly at Aragorn, and Aragorn could see the frustration and pain in his eyes. "She would not have allowed it. She spoke within my mind, Estel. She..."
He trailed off and shook his head. Aragorn felt a chill running down his spine. He shot a look at Boromir, whose eyes had grown wide. The Gondorian seemed uneasy; maybe the Lady had silently spoken within his mind, too.
Beside Legolas, Gimli leaned on his axe. "A pity," the Dwarf said simply. "Still, you should not have allowed him to get off that easily. That Elf deserved to answer for his actions. I am sure..."
He trailed off and turned his head, for at that moment, Haldir himself stepped from the stairs and stood before them. He bowed to Legolas.
"You have been generous today, Thranduilion. I am in your debt. If there is anything I can do to repay the favor you showed me today, please let me know."
Legolas exploded. "Leave me alone," he hissed. "There is nothing I would want of you, Haldir, except to never speak to me again. I did not do it for you. You have your brother Orophin to thank for this!"
Haldir visibly paled. He bowed again. "I hear you," he said, "however, my debt to you stands. I owe you."
Aragorn did not wait to see what Legolas would do; he'd had enough. He took two steps, moved in front of Legolas, and let his fist connect full force with Haldir's chin. Haldir flew to the ground, rolled and crouched, obviously dazzled.
Aragorn glared at him. His knuckles hurt, but more than that he felt deep satisfaction. He had yearned to do that for days. "Never, ever again lay a hand on my Elf," he spat. "If you do, in any way, I WILL kill you."
Haldir stared back at him and wiped his chin. For a moment, his hand went to his knife; then, he merely stood up and spat at Aragorn's feet. "Brave words, Dúnadan, if a bit late," he said. "It is a pity Legolas is bound to you. He deserves better."
Then he took a simple step to the side so he faced Legolas again. He bowed a second time. "Whatever you may think of me, I owe you, Thranduilion," he said. "I shall not forget it."
Without waiting for a reply, he went away. Aragorn stared at his retreating back, then he whipped around to his slave again. "What was that about?" he demanded.
His Elf swallowed. But it was Gimli who answered. "Obviously, the bastard was saved by his brother. I assume Orophin is the decent one?" He turned to Legolas.
Legolas nodded. "Yes, Orophin is the decent one," he said. "I..."
Gimli shook his head. "You still should have demanded satisfaction," he drawled. "I am sure the Lady would have known whom she should spare."
Legolas cringed. "Gimli..." he began, but he trailed off. Aragorn felt that chill again. He wondered what it was Galadriel had said. Well, he could ask Legolas about it when they were alone. For now...
"I await your report later, Little Leaf," he said. "Now, let us find a place to make our camp. We all need rest."
Legolas bowed to him. He seemed uneasy, and Gimli shot Aragorn a long, measuring look. Aragorn wondered when the Dwarf had grown so protective of the Elf.
Boromir interrupted their exchange. "We have company," he observed.
Aragorn turned. A few steps behind them stood an Elf, clad in fine garb and without visible weapons. Aragorn had no idea how long he had been there. If the stranger had seen their fight with Haldir, he did not comment on it. He bowed to them.
"The Lady sends you her greetings. A tent has been prepared for those of you who prefer to sleep on the ground. For those of you who would prefer the comfort of a <i>talan</i>, residence shall be provided, too. If you will follow me?"
He turned, and they had no choice but follow on his heels. It was not far. When they finally reached the tent – a luxurious construction spanned before a huge tree – especially the Hobbits looked relieved.
"If you prefer a talan, there is one waiting for you in this tree," their guide offered. "A meal shall be served soon. If you have any wish or need, please call on me. The Lady also invites you to use her own bath house, to refresh yourself. It is that way." He pointed. "Fresh garb has been provided for you, if you wish for a change." He shot a doubtful look at the Hobbits and the Dwarf, though, and Aragorn concluded that the garb for them would need some considerable threaedwork.
Aragorn looked at Legolas. His Elf had visibly brightened at the offer of a bath. He caught the hopeful gaze of his slave, his tentative "My Lord,..." and nodded. "Of course, Little Leaf," he said, "go and take your bath. I shall follow later."
With visible relief, Legolas bowed to him, shrugged out of his gear and left in the appointed direction.
Meanwhile, Samwise set his pack down in front of the tent and turned to their guide. "No offense, Master Elf," he said, "but I would prefer to sleep on the ground, if it is all the same for you."
The Elf laughed. "Of course, Master Halfling. Not everyone prefers the lofty heights, even among our people," he replied. "I trust you will find the bedding down here quite comfortable."
Aragorn did not listen anymore. He shot a speculative gaze up the tree. This was not the flet he had stayed in with Legolas before, but still... he decided against an inspection of the flet for the moment and chose a place to set his pack and gear down. He placed Legolas' gear beside his own and was just unrolling his bedroll when their guide stepped up to him and spoke into his ear. "The Lady asks for your presence, Dúnadan; she wishes to talk to you in private."
Aragorn swallowed and replied with a slight bow. "I shall attend in a moment," he gave back. "Please lead the way."
<i>Time to find out what plans Galadriel really had in store for them.</i>
_____________________ o ____________________
She waited for him in her garden, a spot where the Lady of the Wood grew herbs for healing and for other uses. He knew the place from an earlier visit, when Arwen had showed it to him. Galadriel greeted him graciously and dismissed the guide. "Ah, Aragorn, it is good you join me here. There is much we need to talk about."
He offered her a respectful bow. "About Haldir..."
She shook her head. "It is not him I wish to discuss," she said sharply. "I have to talk with you about your slave."
Aragorn grew cold inside. "Legolas," he said. "What about him?"
She shot him a sidelong look. "You know that Legolas contemplated killing you?"
Aragorn flinched. He did not answer. <i>When...?</i>
Galadriel watched him out of the corner of her eye. "He did not tell you?"
Aragorn shrugged. "He told me he had been tempted by the Ring," he said, "but not how, precisely. I can imagine that it would include something like that." He shrugged again and added mildly: "Besides, I did not ask."
Galadriel looked at him, her expression somewhat bemused. "He contemplated killing the whole Fellowship including you," she stated, "and afterwards taking the Ring and bringing it home to his father, to start a rebellion."
Aragorn repressed a shiver. "I can imagine," he muttered. "May I ask when --?"
"When you were caught in that snow storm at Caradhras," she answered. "But then you entered the mines, and so his plans were thwarted.
Aragorn swallowed. <i>So that had been the reason why his slave had been so upset at Caradhras!</i> He might have succeeded with it, too, if he had followed through on the thought. Still, in the eyes of Galadriel... Looking up at her again, Aragorn said neutrally: "We have all been tempted by the Ring."
Galadriel looked at him with obvious surprise. "You are not going to punish him?"
Aragorn shrugged anew. "Why should I?" he asked. "I know what the Ring offered me. It has also tried to seduce Boromir, and Gimli. None of us gave in. Why should Legolas be any different?" He made a dismissive gesture. "The important point is that he did not do it. I know his skill with knives and bow. Had he wished us dead back then, we would have been. He resisted, as we all did, and I am sure he will do so again. As will we all."
Galadriel raised a brow and looked at him in silence, but he refused to relent. Finally, she gave in. "You have great trust in him," she observed.
Aragorn nodded. "He never gave me reason to do otherwise," he said, and added grimly, "even though I have sometimes given him little reason for such loyalty toward <i>me</i>."
Galadriel did not reply. For a moment, she seemed somewhat disappointed, but she recovered fast. "Your loyalty to him is as great as any like him could wish for," she stated coldly. "He has much reason to hold true to you, as is his duty."
Aragorn flinched again. Galadriel knew about his needs. "He is loyal, and he has my trust," he finally stated.
She pierced him with a sharp look. "And yet in Moria you and Mithrandir tried to break the spell that binds your slave to you?"
Aragorn straightened his back. "Mithrandir and I thought it wise to try and give Legolas release from the needs that govern his survival. His loyalty to me is without question. He does not need the bond to enforce that," he said carefully. "Besides, if our Quest is successfull..."
Galadriel held him with her stare. "I know what it is you attempted," she said. "But you are wrong. Others have tried before to undo the spell, and they have failed. Mithrandir would not have been successful, either." She shrugged. "Your slave has already repented of his ill-advised wish. But even had he not, it would not matter. There is no way for you to give him freedom, Aragorn."
Aragorn did not reply. He did his best to guard his face, even his thoughts. Blandly, he began: "Maybe..."
Galadriel did not wait for his reply. Cold and clear she continued: "Even should your Quest succeed and you destroy the One, the spell will not be broken. The Three are powerful in their own right. Nothing wrought with the help of one of them is easily undone. Elrond is the keeper of one of the Three. Do you think he would have agreed to your quest, had he thought that it would destroy his power? Mithrandir erred when he conjectured that once the One were gone, the Three would fade and all their works be undone." She shook her head. Almost gently she finished: "No. Even should the One be destroyed, the spell that binds your slave will not be reverted or broken. That hope is closed to you both, Aragorn."
Aragorn's mouth went dry. He felt black despair open up on him. Feeling slightly ill, he managed to rasp: "My Lady..."
Galadriel stopped him with a gesture. "I am not Elrond. Your secret is safe with me," she said. "Your loyalty and your commitment to your slave are commendable, Aragorn. You care deeply for the ones you love, and who depend on you. That is one of the reasons why I may yet lose my granddaughter to you. You will stand by Legolas no matter what – he could not wish for a better master. He knows this, too. His loyalty and commitment to you run deep. Why would you wish to uproot it?"
She sounded truly curious. Aragorn fumbled for an answer. He could hardly give her his real reasons. <i>'Because I love him and I want his people to be free' </i> was not something she would accept or understand. Yet she had spoken of Arwen; she knew of his mortality. How could she ask? After a few heartbeats, he began: "I am mortal..."
She looked at him sharply, as if she had guessed this was not the only reason. "He knew that when he chose to be given to you," she said, "just as my granddaughter has to make that choice for herself. It was his choice to commit himself to you. Do you wish to tell me he had no choice in the matter?"
Aragon looked down. Galadriel knew their history as well as he did himself. "Yes, it was his choice too, at the time," he said. He did not add the bitter words that resonated in his mind. <i>Of course, Legolas might not have been clear on what, exactly, he agreed to. </i>
Galadriel nodded. "Then you have to respect it," she stated simply, as if that was the end of the matter.
Aragorn hesitated. "Once I marry..."
Galadriel laughed. It was an eerie sound, and it startled him. "Oh, I know of your arrangement with Arwen," she said. "It may not be my preference, and I would have thought of another solution to your problem, but if she is willing to share your slave with you, that is her choice to make, and it is not for me to interfere. So, why?"
Aragorn stared at her, baffled. He had thought that his and Arwen's pact had been known to them and Glorfindel alone. And yet...
Galadriel looked at him critically, and he knew he had to answer. He looked away. "My needs are hard on him."
She shot him a quick look. "I see," she said. "So that is at the root of your desire. It is his duty to serve you in any way you need, no matter what. But you wish him to be glad, not fearing to serve you as is his purpose. I honor that, for it shows your concern. You have a noble soul, Aragorn." She paused. "There might be a solution for that."
Aragorn drew his brows together. "You mean you could heal..."
Her face was apologetic. "No. I cannot change what has been done – nor can I change your needs. But still, I might have an offer that could solve your problem. You wish to give your slave release from your needs." She paused again. <i>"But what if he would enjoy it?"</i>
Aragorn looked at her, dumbfounded. "You mean..."
Her face was cold, unreadable. "There is a spell. If done harshly, it can be used as punishment. But if done lightly, it could be the solution to your problem. Your slave would no longer have to fear what you have in store for him. Instead, he would crave it, and eagerly look forward to serving your needs. You could have your slave, still bound to you – but he would no longer suffer from the nature of the service you require. The two – or three – of you could be very happy together."
Aragorn stared at her, wide eyed. He felt a growing coldness mount inside of him. And yet...he swallowed hard. "I..." He took a breath. "That is what the Ring offered me," he finally whispered.
Galadriel's face showed disdain. "The Ring would offer that," she said sternly. "And of course it would lie. For it would give you just the power to force his will; and if you took the Ring, why would you want him to enjoy it? But my offer is different. He would truly crave and enjoy his times with you."
Aragorn still stared at her, frozen to his core. The thought to twist his beloved, trusted longtime companion like that, to warp his desires, his very needs, made him feel ill. And yet... If Legolas would truly enjoy what Aragorn craved... if they could truly find pleasure together, without guilt... Maybe he could ask Legolas what he thought of the offer. Maybe... He felt an unwelcome pressure in his loins. He swallowed again. His mouth was dry. He searched for his voice. "My Lady..."
Galadriel narrowed his eyes. "Maybe you need to see a demonstration," she decided. "Follow me!" She turned around and started to walk, beckoning him to follow.
Reluctantly, he followed in her tracks. <i>A demonstration? What-- </i>"Where are we going?"
She did not even turn her head. "I will show you one of the slaves spellbound like that," she said. "A Mirkwood hostage. Be warned, though: In his case, the spell was done as punishment, and given early, before we learned completely to control it. But you can witness how it works."
She lead him down a long, winding path to a high hedge, and entered through an opening between the bushes. He found himself in a narrow corridor, made of thick, impenetrable brush. This was a part of Caras Galadhon where he had never been before, and he wondered that he had never seen it. They passed through a tunnel of woven branches and came to a wooden wall. The door was small and manned by two grim guards.
Galadriel led him to the door. "This is an area for punishments," she warned. "Do not try to come here, alone. Your status would not protect you." Her voice seemed unnaturally loud, and he noticed that they walked in silence. The noise seemed to be swallowed up around them.
He shivered. "My Lady..."
She shot him a look. "Do not wonder at the lack of sound. There are spells to hide this place away, and keep the sounds... inside." And with that, she nodded at the bowing guard, opened the door and led him through. He stepped into a wide glade surrounded by huge trees like a round, wooden circle. Between the trees, large sharpened poles rose from the ground forming a high, impenetrable wall. There were some huts, and some trees standing in the areal; but mostly, the space he could see was empty.
Save for the prisoners.
He could see several thin Elves, naked or clad in ragged garb, chained to a post or held in wooden stocks. Most of them cringed when they spied the Lady, except for those who seemed too hopeless or too weak to even raise their heads. Several of them were sporting evidence of beatings. Galadriel did not even look around. She led him on, straight to the other side of the glade to a place where two posts formed a frame. There was a slave bound fast between them. Obviously, he was just receiving a punishment.
The Elf who meted it out paused when Galadriel approached and gave her a deep bow. "My Lady," he greeted respectfully. "I am just giving our prisoner his last treatment today."
She nodded. "Very well, Badhorant. We are just here to watch. You may continue."
Aragorn watched in horror. For when the prisoner heard Galadriel's voice, he had raised his head; and Aragorn looked at a face grimed with sweat and laced with pain – but eerily similar to the one of his slave. The hair was dirty, but it still showed the light, golden tone Aragorn knew so well. Wide, empty eyes stared at him without understanding. Trembling lips tried to form a word. Then the Elf spoke, with a raspy voice dry from lack of water. "Please," he begged, "more!"
Aragorn felt frozen to the core. For a moment, he had feared Galadriel had acted without his consent, and had already done what she had offered to him. But no – this Elf was more broadly build than Legolas, even though he was pitifully slim, and the hair, while grimy, was a shade too dark. This was not his slave. It had to be one of Legolas' brothers. Speechless and frozen, he stared at the sunken eyes; the greyish skin scattered with red, angry welts; the shuddering, trembling form.
Yet it was not fear that he could see displayed in that face, those mindless eyes. The slave was trembling with need.
The other Elf sighed and raised his whip. "In a moment, Cólaras. You are impolite to interrupt me answering the Lady. This will add to your punishment. You will receive ten strokes more than usual, tonight."
The pitiful, kneeling bundle bound between the poles bowed his head to him. "Thank you, my lord," the Elf said, with genuine gratitude. "Thank you."
Aragorn was surprised he found his voice. It sounded flat in his own ears. "What did he do?"
Galadriel turned to him and shrugged. "This one? Oh, he once tried to start a rebellion among the hostages, inciting them to fight. We had to kill many of them."
She cocked her head. "Of course, in his case the spell was cast for maximum effect. If done carefully, it can be much gentler. It can cause just a mild desire for harsher treatment, or a profound craving, just as you would prefer." She raised a brow. "In fact, I even had considered to offer using a very mild form of it to Arwen, should she have so desired, to make her more receptive of your tastes. But she has found a better solution for that problem, and I welcome her choice."
Aragorn stared at her in disbelief. It was all he could do not to draw his sword and kill her on the spot. He knew he could not do that, not in this wood, not at the center of her power. And yet...
He looked at the mindless ruin of an Elf before him. "I thank you, My Lady," he heard himself say, "I will consider your offer. But I do not wish my slave to be subjected to this spell at this time."
She watched him closely. "Do not hesitate too long," she warned. "It may be easier to do it now, and here. But any way you will decide you should be mindful of his needs as well." She shrugged. "In his case, casting a spell like this on him may be true mercy, and more reasonable than the ill-advised other solutions you have tried."
She turned back to the punisher. "We shall take our leave of you. Please go on." Gesturing Aragorn to follow, she started to walk back to the entrance of the glade.
Aragorn cast a last glance to the slave between the posts. He saw the whip meeting the bound Elf's back, saw the flash of ecstasy and pain on the slave's face, and he felt sick. Forcing his own stomach under control, he turned and followed Galadriel out, through the secret tunnel and the hedges, on the long and tortuous path back to her garden.
"Think in peace, but do not think too long," she said when finally he took his leave. "I have given orders to prepare for you and your slave the special talan you used the last time you were here. It is protected in the same way as the place we have just visited – there will be no sound reaching outside that you do not wish others to hear. You may find that useful."
Aragorn fought for control over his stomach. "Thank you, My Lady," was all he could manage.
She gave him a gracious gesture and dismissed him, and he nearly fled. He was cold with fear.
<i>Legolas! He had to find Legolas!</i>
____________________ o ________________
1In the movie, this is Legolas' line. Here, however, I have given it to Aragorn, for obvious reasons. In addition, I am lifting heavily from the movie in this scene, but I shift around a few important words. I do this with full intention. Please bear with me. All lines lifted directly from the movie in this scene are marked with a star like this.*
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.